Looking for Readers! I want YOU!!!

… >.> To review. I’ve never done a throwback post but – hee. Time for that always yes? Also I put a lot of work into the below.

What am I looking for as a starting point for a reviewer? I listed a number of “sources” for you to look into. Here: the reviews I’ve posted on this site are a great indication. I also actually have a general format – more guidelines than hard rules, but mostly I do NOT want plot summaries or book reports. That’s what the blurb – and you know, actually reading the book is for.

If you’re interested, contact me. We’ll talk and hope it’s a good fit. Got questions? I’d love to hear from you. If you’re not interested – do you have a friend who might be? Share the love!

Thanks – and let’s do this!!! 😀

ETA: Guest reviewers welcome! <3 [Seriously, I have enough ARCs and requests to drown me. And you. And you too in the back. Let’s make EVERYONE happy! More reading! More reviews! More love!] 😉

SNAHM: Yasmine Galenorn

Hi friends – I’m … still here. It’s been … a year, huh. Lots going on. Lots. Let’s just move right along. I have to say straight up, this post is a year late, and it’s on me. It is entirely, absolutely, 100% on me. My apologies. My apologies to you, my apologies to Ms. Galenorn. I messed up. I did want to share her post though – but also note – it was written almost a year ago, it should have gone up at that time. I will say, I definitely think it’s still relevant. (In fact, maybe it was meant to be – to be posted now considering…)

So without further ado … Yasmine Galenorn

I want to thank Limecello for asking me to write a blog post on diversity/being a writer of mixed background. The world of media’s been filled with a lot of controversy this year—well, every year, I guess, but this year I’ve noticed it more.

And I’ve been thinking about the concept of diversity in books, movies, etc., a lot because this relates to me directly—as both an author, and as someone who has a mixed heritage background. Maybe I don’t look it…my Irish side seems to comes out a lot stronger than my Cherokee in my looks…but yes, I am mixed blood and honestly, it has never played a big part in how I think about myself. Probably because of that very fact—nobody bothers me about it because hey, I look white, to be blunt. No, I get attacked in other ways.

It hit my mother though, right where it hurts most, with family. With her husband’s family (my stepfather). And I knew it hurt her because when she was alive, she talked to me about it. I’d like to say he stuck up for her, that he put a stop to his mother treating my mother like a second-class citizen, but I can’t, because he, himself, was a racist though he would never have accepted that fact. But honestly, when you marry someone who is part Native American and then refer to NAs as “warhoops” and Hispanics as “wetbacks”…I’m sorry, you’re racist. When you won’t let your wife drink any alcohol because she’s part Native American, you’re racist. And so on.

Anyway, I had a long, long post written with all sorts of examples and I deleted most of it and decided to rewrite…just a blunt post.

I’ve seen so much ugliness in the past few years on the net. I’ve been called a whore/slut because my female characters are unapologetically sexual and lead alternative lifestyles. I’ve been trash-talked as a writer because of my looks—because I’m fat and unapologetic about the way I choose to dress, about the fact that I have a wonderful marriage, and that I’m successful and not ashamed of myself. Apparently, size has something to do with how well the words come out of my brain, according to a subset of trolls. I’ve seen friends get death and rape threats due to speaking out about the nature of being a female who writes science fiction and fantasy.

Enough. Just. Enough.

I no longer care about making my valid arguments and refuting the idiots because: Diversity? Whether it be in gender, color, size, sexuality, it’s not going away, people. The “good old days with family values” only existed for a minor subset of society. Women were struggling for equality. People of color were struggling for equality. L/G/B/T people were struggling for equality. The only ones who weren’t struggling with some form of discrimination were white men.

So here’s the thing: yes, you have less power when you share that power around. You have less power over others. That doesn’t mean you don’t have the power to shape your life into awesome…

What does it mean? This:

  • It means you can’t beat your wife.
  • You can’t rape your date.
  • You can’t terrorize the neighbors because they’re black.
  • You can’t pass over someone for a job simply because he’s Cherokee.
  • You can’t spit on a woman entering the military because you think she can’t handle the training.
  • You can’t deny Jim and George the right to marry.
  • You can’t pass over Linda for a promotion just because she’s fat and you would rather promote the size 4 blond so you can ogle her boobs.
  • You can’t force the local pagans to attend your church or to stop practicing their religion.

IOW: You can’t deny others basic rights simply because you don’t like them, you don’t agree with their religion, or you think they won’t serve you or that they are less than you. And, to be blunt, if you have a problem with this, I suggest you reexamine your ethics because…sorry, you’re wrong.

Anyway…I’ve seen too much online over the years to make me truly ever trust anybody I don’t know personally. Because those anonymous trolls and flame baiters? They aren’t bots. They are real people. Maybe the neighbor next door. Maybe the person you pass on the street. And they’ll smile to your face, and turn around and harass and hound and attack in private when they think nobody’s watching. When they believe they can get away with it. They’re cowards, but they’re dangerous cowards because sometimes, they take their hatred into the streets with guns. Or they beat up their girlfriends. Or they bully a little black girl just because they can.

So ya know…Enough.

Take a deep breath and decide—what do you want people to remember you for when you’re gone? Do you want to make the world a better place? Start by speaking out when you hear someone making a racist joke. Don’t sit by while the guys in the locker room talk about date-rape. Just stop adding fuel to the fire or enabling it by remaining silent.

Maybe I’m preaching to the choir…but if the choir doesn’t keep singing, all of this crap will slide back into acceptability. And it will just go on. And on. We can change things…one person at a time. One family at a time. But it starts with us. With the person in the mirror.

Yasmine

SNAHM = Smithsonian Native American Heritage Month

Hi friends! Remember how I used to try to celebrate each month, line up guests, and do all the things?

Well, my “give a damn” broke a while ago, but I definitely still want to do something. Something that makes me happy though – that is positive, that isn’t a burden. And, allows for interaction.

So from now on, I’m going to start each Smithsonian Heritage Month with a post, a list, and an open call.

What do I mean? I’ll let you know when it is a Heritage Month.

Since this site is heavily romance slated, I also want to celebrate romance authors who are POC according to month. November is Native American Heritage Month. These are the authors *I* know to be [at least in part] Native American. Check out their books! Support these authors! 🙂

In alphabetical order:
Pamela Clare
Isobel Carr
Cynthia Eden
Yasmine Galenorn
T.J. Michaels
Sharon Sala
Dee Tenorio

If you know of any more please let me know! I’d love to add to my list – and be prepared for suggestions for future and other Smithsonian Heritage Month posts! <3

Review: The Man Behind the Mask by Barbara Wallace

Mary’s review of The Man Behind the Mask (Best Friends Series Book 1) by Barbara Wallace
Contemporary Romance released by Harlequin January 7, 2014

The Man Behind the MaskA weekend to change everything…

Delilah St. Germaine fell for New York’s most in-demand bachelor, Simon Cartwright, the moment she began working for him. Four years later, her heart still flutters every time he saunters into the office—much to her frustration. He’s so far out of her reach it’s embarrassing!

Thrown together with him for a working weekend, Delilah glimpses the cracks in Simon’s glittering facade. Now she’s tasted the sweetness of his kisses, she’s determined to uncover the secrets he’s hiding and learn who the real Simon Cartwright is. But will innocent Delilah’s life ever be the same once the truth is revealed?

Boss/secretary isn’t a trope I pick up often since the lawyer in me is usually screaming, “Lawsuit! Lawsuit! Don’t do it!” Occasionally, however, it finds its way onto my Kindle. The blurb caught my eye because it has an unrequited love element which is something I do enjoy. I thought this novel would be lighthearted and quick but, boy, was I mistaken. What I got was so much better!

Deliah is the stereotypical ugly duckling. She views herself to be as boring as plain yogurt. But right from the start, she’s kind, amazingly organized and a hard worker. It’s that dedication to her own professional success that has left her lonely on Saturday nights. That and the massive crush she has on her boss. She believes he’s out of her league – smart and handsome with a revolving door of beautiful socialites to keep him company. Despite her feelings, which she’s never shared with anyone – not even her closest friends – Delilah and Simon make a great team. Together, they’ve built up their advertising company with Deliah being Simon’s necessary and non-expendable right hand.

Simon is completely obvious to Deliah’s feelings for him. He’s not self-absorbed or unkind, just unobservant. He’s stuck Deliah in the “do not touch” box and automatically believes she sees him in the same way. He respects her, enormously, and appreciates her hard work. Along with his clear professional lines, he’s also uninterested in having any kind of long term relationship. He dates women who expect little from him because that is all he wants to give. Normally, this attitude would bother me but Simon reads as a really nice guy. Like a really nice guy. He’s not arrogant or conceited. He’s simply a man who knows what he wants and what he doesn’t, what he’s willing to give and what he isn’t.

The romance in this book was slow burning, but I loved every minute of it. It was also unexpected. Simon has some dark demons – darker than I thought from looking at the cover and reading the blurb. A business trip forces him to face them and he fights it every step of the way. At the same time, he and Deliah are growing closer and, as his feelings grow for her, he is terrified she will find out – and it will change how she thinks of him. For Deliah, the change isn’t as dramatic but it’s no less impactful. Once she starts to catch glimpses of the real Simon, she understands the man she had a crush on doesn’t exist. Her fantasy fades and when reality takes it place, she doesn’t run or hide. She meets the challenge head on, and for that, I loved her all the more.

I have nothing bad to say about this book. Literally nothing. It was perfect from start to finish and I’m marking as one I will re-read if I fall into a book slump. Yes, it was that good.

Grade: A

You can read an excerpt of the book here or buy it here.

 

Review: Playing with Fire by Kate Meader

Mary’s Review of Playing with Fire (Hot In Chicago Series Book 3) by Kate Meader
Contemporary Romance released by Pocket Books September 29, 2015

As the only female firefighter at Engine Co. 6, Alexandra Dempsey gets it from all sides: the male coworkers who think she can’t do the job, the wives and girlfriends who see her as a threat to their firefighter men, and her overprotective foster brothers who want to shelter their baby sister at all costs. So when she single-handedly saves the life of Eli Cooper, Chicago’s devastatingly handsome mayor, she assumes the respect she’s longed for will finally come her way. But it seems Mr. Mayor has other ideas…

Eli Cooper’s mayoral ratings are plummeting, his chances at reelection dead in the water. When a sexy, curvaceous firefighter gives him the kiss of life, she does more than bring him back to the land of the living—she also breathes vitality into his campaign. Riding the wave of their feel-good story might prop up Eli’s flagging political fortunes, but the sizzling attraction between them can go nowhere; he’s her boss, and there are rules that must be obeyed. But you know what they say about rules: they’re made to be broken…

Enemies-to-lover’s is a trope I can never get enough of. It’s also one that’s difficult to pull off well. This book (sadly) has been languishing in my TBR pile for months and months. Had I known how good it was, I would have read it much sooner!

Alexandra – called Alex by everyone except Eli – is one tough lady. She’s smart, loyal to a fault, mouthy and quick tempered. Not from lack of trying, she’s also having terrible luck in the dating department. All the frogs she’s had dinner with can’t manage to make it past the first date. To make matters worse, the one man she finds irresistible is the same one she can’t stand. When her past mistakes come back to haunt her, she’ll have to make a deal with the devil.

Eli is arrogant, domineering and has a decidedly backwards view of the world. He believes women shouldn’t be firefighters (probably also cops, Marines, etc. You get the picture). He’s a former Marine himself, a POW, and the current mayor of Chicago. With the re-election too close to call, he’s in desperate need of a ratings boost. Too bad it comes in the package of a fiery red-headed, female firefighter.

These two were perfect together. From the first chapter I was hooked and couldn’t get enough. Everything Eli gave, Alex turned it right back. The banter was fantastic, the chemistry electric. It was clear from the first page, the two of them were sniping at each other but under all that antagonism was real attraction. The pacing was well done and there was constant movement forward. As their walls started breaking down, and feelings became real, both of them didn’t shy away from addressing their different points of view.

My only complaint is with the final conflict. It felt a bit over-the-top. Alex reacted in a way I found immature and, while she apologized, she wasn’t the one groveling. Eli’s choices to get Alex back were more than what should have been required. In the end, I didn’t feel Alex grew in the way she should have but Eli did.

Overall, I enjoyed this book and will definitely pick up another by this author. And this time,  I won’t let it linger on my TBR for very long!

Grade: B

You can read an excerpt here and buy a copy here.

Review: The Asset by Anna del Mar

Mary’s Review of The Asset by Anna del Mar
Romantic suspense released by Carina Press on February 1, 2016

The AssetAsh Hunter knows what it is to run. A SEAL gravely injured in Afghanistan, he’s gone AWOL from the military hospital. Physically and mentally scarred, he returns home to his grandmother’s isolated cottage—and finds a beautiful, haunted stranger inside.

Like recognizes like.

Lia Stewart’s in hiding from the cartel she barely escaped alive, holed up in this small Rocky Mountain town. Surviving, but only just. Helping the wounded warrior on her doorstep is the right thing to do…it’s loving him that might get them both killed.

Soon, Ash realizes he’s not the only one tormented by the past. Pushing the limits of his broken body, testing the boundaries of her shattered soul, he’ll protect Lia until his last breath.

I picked this book up while it was on sale. I’m a sucker for a wounded warrior story and romantic suspense is my most loved genre, so it was an easy purchase. I didn’t read any of the reviews on this book beforehand but I probably should have. What I thought I was buying wasn’t what I ended up with.

Lia is sequestered away in a small town from someone horrible. I learned, from the blurb, that it’s the cartel but it’s not actually stated in the book until much later. She’s dealing with an extreme case of PTSD. She and the hero literally meet over the barrel of a shotgun. She’s so terrified of the stranger in front of her, Lia doesn’t even notice he’s on crutches. So yeah, her PTSD is bad. But Lia is also kind and has a soft spot for anyone in need. Once she realizes Ash is in serious pain, she does her best to help him – even while respecting his boundaries. He adamantly refuses to let her take him to the hospital and, after he passes out on her, Lia figures out a way to treat him anyway. She’s resourceful and smart, a heroine I connected with immediately.

Ash was the perfect offset to Lia. He’s grumpy and gruff, direct almost to a fault. He’s also dealing with a bad case of PTSD but has a much better handle on it than Lia. As a Navy Seal, he’s used to pushing through the pain but the raging infection in his foot is more than he can handle. The hospital isn’t an option – the doctors want to amputate and Ash knows he won’t ever be able to return to active duty if that happens. With no family left, he has no one to care for him. Accepting Lia’s help isn’t easy, but it’s better than the alternative and Ash knows it.

The first 60% of the book flows quickly but reads more like a contemporary romance than a romantic suspense. There was no indication whatsoever that anyone from the cartel was after Lia. She experiences some problems – with her neighbors, at the bar she works at – but her reactions were over-the-top and seemed directly associated to her PTSD.

So, okay. Fine. Romantic suspense is a broad genre and, depending on the author, the book can be packed full of trouble or have only a drop. In this case, the characters were great and the writing was smooth. I was invested in the story despite the fact that I originally wanted a suspense.

Then the suspense finally showed up and it ruined everything.

From the very beginning, Lia knows (even if the reader doesn’t) that a dangerous individual is hunting her down. Yet, she never, ever says a word to Ash. The entire time he’s recuperating in her home, he is in serious danger but completely unaware of it. Her decision rubbed me the wrong way when I realized the risk she’d put him in without giving him the choice – especially after he’d recovered enough to go somewhere else.

Once Lia finally shares her problems with Ash, he makes some decisions that caused me to dislike him. A lot. He repeatedly refuses to allow Lia into his plans but his actions have serious consequences for her. Lia isn’t much better. She’s so determined to protect everyone around her, she ends up making some TSTL moves. The couple I’d fallen in love with in the first half of the book never ended up working together and that was a huge disappointment. Additionally, the book takes a dive into some pretty gritty stuff that didn’t really fit with the rest of the novel. Lia’s backstory was dark – really dark –and its described in brutal detail. So be sure to check the trigger warnings on Goodreads.

Ultimately, this book didn’t work for me. I really loved the first half, however, and would be willing to try another by this author – just not another romantic suspense.

Grade: D

You can read an excerpt here and buy a copy here.

Guest Review: Shanna by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss

Paige’s review of Shanna by Kathleen Woodiwiss
Historical romance released by Avon in 1977, republished in 2016 as part of their Diamond Anniversary

ShannaFrom New York Times bestselling author Kathleen E. Woodiwiss comes one of her most iconic and beloved romances of all time…

A pact is sealed in secret behind the foreboding walls of Newgate Prison. In return for one night of unparalleled pleasure, a dashing condemned criminal consents to wed a beautiful heiress, thereby rescuing her from an impending and abhorred arranged union.

But in the fading echoes of hollow wedding vows, a solemn promise is broken, as a sensuous free spirit takes flight to a lush Caribbean paradise, abandoning the stranger she married to face the gallows unfulfilled.

Ruark Beauchamp’s destiny is now eternally intertwined with that of the tempestuous, intoxicating Shanna. He will be free . . . and he will find her. For no iron ever forged can imprison his resolute passion. And no hangman’s noose will keep Ruark from the bride— and ecstasy—that he craves.

Originally published in 1977, Shanna tells the tale of a spoiled little rich girl and the convicted criminal turned bondsman (which is a nicer way of saying “slave who works to pay off their debt and eventually can go free but are treated like trash by anyone with a title”) whom she marries in order to gain a name. Why does she do this? To get her father off her back, because she’s so spoiled that every man she meets, she finds fault with. She even rejects one because his shirt is fraying a bit at the edges.

When I told one of my friends that I was getting ready to read a Woodiwiss novel, she got super excited and told me that Ruark (how do you pronounce that, anyway?) was her very first book boyfriend and that I was just going to love him.

I didn’t. At all.

When we first meet him, he’s rude and gruff. I suppose it’s understandable because he’s in prison for a crime he says he didn’t commit, and then after she strikes a bargain to marry him, she finds a way to screw him over (I told you she’s a spoiled brat). So, of course he’s pissed. But the thing is, he’s already calling her “my love.” How is that possible? He’s known her for what, a day? Sorry, I don’t buy instalove. Not even in historical romance. Or maybe especially in historical romance, because back then men were expected to court women for some time. Granted, this isn’t the typical HR, but still.

I was supposed to have this review to Lime by 5/28. It’s now 6/6. For that, I’m truly sorry, but it really did take me that long to read this book. Usually I can power through a novel in a single day (I read the last few Harry Potter books all on release day, making my roommate think I’m insane), but I had the worst time getting into this book. I didn’t really have much interest in the characters until about 70% into the book—after they’re captured by pirates and Shanna starts showing that she’s growing up a little bit, and she’s got some backbone.

For the life of me, I still don’t understand why Ruark loved her from the beginning. She was like a Katy Perry song. Hot one minute and cold the next. If I were him, I would’ve gladly walked away the first time she told me to sod off. I’m too old to play games. And (I know I already said it, but it bears repeating) she’s such a spoiled, childish, selfish brat! But apparently, her beauty excuses all that…or something. I swear, every single person that she came across in the book talked about how gorgeous she was. It got to the point where my eyes hurt from rolling so hard every time I read about her beauty. She was such a [expletive deleted] every time she got near Ruark that I wanted to slap the supposed pretty off her face. Every sexual encounter between Shanna and Ruark ended with her calling him names and accusing him of taking advantage of her. Um, there were quite a few times that she went to him, if I recall correctly. And she’s the one who struck the original bargain, which included them spending the night together “as husband and wife.” She screws him over, berates him, and teases him, denies him his rights as her husband even as she gets viciously jealous when he even looks at another female (though he’s so head-over-heels for her—for whatever reason—that he barely notices anyone else exists). What does he see in her?

At 672 pages, there is far too much book. I found myself skimming through the endless description of trees and landscape and clothing. I almost felt like I was reading the romantic version of Moby Dick. So. Many. Words. And it’s soooo slow.

I feel the need to draw attention to the insane amount of references to rape in the book. Performing a search on my Kindle, there are eight different instances where rape is mentioned (although that doesn’t count the times it’s referenced indirectly), most of which are Shanna afraid she’s about to be raped or Ruark talking or thinking about it. A few examples that I highlighted:

“It was all Ruark could do to hold in check the urges that flooded him and to keep himself from simple rape.”

“Madam, rape does have its rewards, even if they be one-sided.”

“She rose from the bed and sought cover, aware that she must garb herself or face the prospect of rape.”

“Perhaps she seeks from me some violence so she can have reason to hate me.” (Shanna is wearing a sexy nightgown found in the bedroom they’re essentially trapped in while they’re with the pirates.)

I was so disturbed by these casual mentions of rape that I talked about it with Lime. I also noticed that my friend who’d told me she loved Shanna was re-reading a Woodiwiss book as she took time off from her own work. I looked through the comments, and noticed that someone said the books were rather “rapey” but they still loved them. *jaw drops* Whaaaat?

If a book were written like this nowadays, the author would be slammed with hate mail and the book would receive a million one-star reviews. Long, ranty posts would appear on Facebook and on blog posts about the mistreatment of women in fiction and how rape is never okay—not even to joke about. But apparently, it was okay enough in 1977. As it stands now, Shanna has 3,536 five star reviews, 2,409 four star reviews, 1,365 three star reviews, 409 two star reviews, and 174 one star reviews. It boggles my mind that so many people loved this book so much. To each their own, I suppose, but I just can’t get behind a book that nearly bored me to death with a heroine that I wanted to stab in the throat, and a hero that was basically a doormat (who excused, if not glorified rape in his thoughts).

Going on Limecello’s grading scale, I’d give Shanna a D (can I give it a D- ?) only because the last 30% was slightly entertaining.

Grade: D

You can buy a copy here.