Tag Archives: Books

Julia Quarterly Reading Post! (2.0)

I can’t believe it’s been four months. And yet is has been. Aish. You guys, welcome Julia Broadbooks! 😀

I’ve always thought I wasn’t much of an erotic romance reader. I mean, I downloaded the sample of The Book That Shall Not Be Named, and didn’t even make it to the end. I wasn’t offended; I was bored. Which is how many of my erotic purchases end up: unfinished because I never really connected with the characters. But in the last couple of months I’ve been trying to push myself out of my comfort zone, reading-wise and otherwise. I guess I’m a victim of all the hype too since in the past few months I’ve tried a few much talked about erotic romance/erotica books. Boy, am I glad that I did!

After reading so many glowing comments (in particular from Jane at Dear Author) about Liberating Lacey by Ann Calhoun , I bought it, kind of thinking I wouldn’t finish it. I could not have been more wrong. I loved this book. I finished it a couple of days, and immediately started reading it again. The sex in Calhoun’s book is singe your fingertips hot and plentiful, but she never skimps on the emotion. To me, this read like a category novel – the conflict was all internal as the hero and heroine face their flaws and their fears and fight through them for their HEA. Watching two characters who I love figure out how much they love each other makes for a really satisfying read.

In a totally different vein, I downloaded a free ebook by Cara McKenna (the alter ego of Blaze author Meg Maguire) who I follow on twitter. She’s so fun to chat with that I wanted to give her books a try. Backwoods is a short, erotic, m/m book. It’s also a crazy dirty book. These characters have the high octane angst going on. These aren’t things I gravitate toward in my reading, but this title really worked for me. I was so invested in these characters that I couldn’t put the book down. I was in awe that McKenna could draw me in and make me care so damn much about Shane and Gabriel. I’m not sure this type of book is going to become a huge part of my reading diet, but I’m really glad I read this one and I have another short (Curio) by McKenna waiting for me.

The other books I been reading are mostly series romance. I’ve been pretty fascinated watching Entangled Publishing develop their different lines. I’ve read a couple of handfuls already and I’m curious to see how each line is going to develop its own style. I’d considered them similar enough to Harlequin’s lines, but while reading Wife for Hire by Christine Bell, it occurred to me that the differences between the two publishing houses go deeper than just the covers. Bell’s novel hits all the series requirements: fake marriage, shorter length leading to a more concentrated story, a strong internal conflict the hero and heroine have to work past to have their happy ending. But there were enough differences that it really stood out to me. There’s a bit of a light suspense subplot which was a fun change, but the big thing was the tone and the author’s voice. All through the book, even to resolution at the end, there is a certain playfulness to the book, that was really different and worked well for me here. Perhaps, stuck in my rut, I’m not reading enough new authors at Harlequin?

In my quest to broaden my horizons, I picked up new author Kathy Altman’s July SuperRomance title The Other Soldier. I don’t usually read military themed books, but I’d read a very early first chapter of her book and wanted to see where she was going to go with her story. On leave for a month Reid finds struggling Parker, whom he widowed. How do you work through that? Altman never cuts Reid any slack. Parker isn’t feeling forgiving. In fact she is everything but. She is angry and bitter but desperate to stand on her own. Ever so slowly over the course of the month, the pair has to work through their anger and guilt in order to find happiness together. I especially appreciated the portrayal of Parker’s daughter who feels so real, right down to her inability to catch a ball. There is even a sweet secondary romance that runs parallel. In the coming months SuperRomance will be adding to the word count of the line. With a nearly novel length and such complex story lines, these books really blur the boundary between single title and series.

Freshly purchased on my Kindle app I have The Sweetest Thing by Jill Shalvis (yes, I am that far behind), Shannon Stacey’s latest All He Ever Needed. I have a couple of historicals from Carolyn Jewel’s backlist, Confessions from an Arranged Marriage by Miranda Neville and Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake by Sarah MacLean because even though I’m not reading much historical romance at the moment, I can’t quit buying them. I blame the covers.

The other upcoming book I am super excited about is Megan Mulry’s November 1st release A Royal Pain. Because I’m absurdly fortunate, I got my hands on an ARC and I can tell you it is one of my favorite books of the year. Witty and smart with a hero to die for and a heroine I want as a best friend. It will be well worth the wait.

Julia’s Reading Post

Hello Friends! Today we have Julia visiting with us! For those of you who have been around for a while – Julia used to comment with some frequency, if I recall correctly. Anyway, we also “chat” on twitter – and as you know I’ve been trying to find reviewers. I wanted to trick recruit Julia – but she refused. She did, however, agree to do quarterly (?) – it’s 4:01 AM so I’m a bit slap happy and non-high-brain-function-y and too lazy to search the calendar – posts about the books she’s reading! So here she is! The very first one!

What I’ve Been Reading

The first books I can remember being swept away in were fairy tales. I had a hardcover edition of the collected Grimm’s Fairy Tales. I read them all repeatedly, as though through repetition I could pull myself a bit further into their world. From there I found other folk stories and the ancient myths – the Greek and Roman, Norse and Egyptian, Bulfinch’s and Hamilton’s.

And then I found romance. The spun sugar sweetness of Barbara Cartland, Harlequins that I scoffed like M&Ms and the dense, velvety stories of Judith Krantz (And we had to discuss her because they are making a pilot of Scruples.  Squeeeeee!)

From there I was dragged by school and my bibliophile father into the Great Books. Contrary as I was, I surprised myself and fell in love with so many of them. But not Ethan Frome: still hate that.

But eventually I found myself coming back to romance. One of the things I love about romance is the great variety of stories in the genre. Despite that, I read in great chunks. Bundles of vampire books and then an armload of historicals followed by a stack of hot and steamy.

The last few months it has been mostly contemporary romances – and mostly series romance at that.

There was the justly praised All They Need by Sarah Mayberry.  This book is an example of what Harlequin series do well. The book opens with both the hero and heroine involved with someone else. When they meet sometime later, the heroine Mel has been beaten down by the unending censure of her bastard of an ex-husband.  The hero is weighed down by worries of his parent’s illness. They both have been pretty bruised by life, as people are by the time they are well into adulthood. What I loved about this book is the way Mayberry’s characters cautiously step closer to each other while wrestling with their past. None of the pain and sadness is glossed over here, and yet, there was such a thread of optimism winding through their story that I never once doubted that a HEA awaited them. This is why she’s an autobuy author for me.

Barbara Wallace’s The Cinderella Bride has an irresistible cover, but what really sold me on this is the first scene in the book of the heroine doggedly waiting in the cold and rain, determined not to be defeated, or at the very least, not to give up. From that first scene I adored Emma for her gentleness coupled with her steely resolve. Sometimes romances with a boss/secretary theme have a relationship that is so unbalanced that it’s uncomfortable. Despite the difference in their positions, Emma is clearly a match for Gideon and I appreciate the fact that they didn’t ignore their business relationship as the romance blossomed.  I loved the blend of fairy tale Harlequin Romance magic and the realistic feel of the story.

I’ve glommed onto Liz Talley’s backlist and just read her first novel for SuperRomance, Vegas Two-Step. This really is a romance in two steps. The first half shows good girl Nellie letting her hair down in Vegas. She and Jack meet and quickly fall for each other in Vegas. Then Nellie goes back home to her small town. In the second half Jack follows her there determined to win her over. This is the part that really won me over. I adore the stories where the hero and heroine fall hard and fast, but sometimes it’s hard to buy into their happy future together if they’ve only known each other a week. Here I got the best of both worlds – the rush of true love overtaking Jack and Nellie and then the surety of watching their relationship move solidly into a real world happily ever after.

The Getaway Car is a short nonfiction work by Ann Patchett about writing. At least it’s ostensibly about writing. It isn’t anything so unwieldy as craft lessons. Instead it’s a series of lessons on how to carve out a writing life, or really, any authentic and meaningful life. Ms. Patchett tells stories of facing down doubts and wrong turns and if you’re very lucky, finding one or two souls to guide your way. All of this in her wonderful prose that reminded me of the romance and the terror of staring down a blank page.

The top of my TBR pile is Ann Patchett’s State of Wonderthe new Mayberry title More Than One Nightthe last of Shannon Stacey’s series (Yours to Keep), and Lisa Kleypas’ new contemporary Rainshadow Road. But I think I see a turn ahead in my reading road. Thea Harrison’s latest book Oracle Moon, the next Alpha and Omega book by Patricia Briggs (Fair Game), a new title from Darynda Jones (Second Grave On the Left), and I think I might be ready to tackle the fifth book in the Chicagoland Vampires series (Drink Deep) . I’ve been warned it doesn’t end happily. Meep!

Anyone have anything else I should add to my TBR pile? What great book have you read that I shouldn’t miss?

Guest: Sarah Mayberry talks Keeper Shelves

Look who we have visiting with us, you guys! It’s Sarah Mayberry!!! Hold on a sec – *squeeee*  – okay. Just had to get that out. 😉 If you’ve never read anything by Ms. Mayberry before, you simply must. I read her Blaze books and was hooked. Whenever someone looked at me and said “Well I don’t read categories because they’re a horrible.” I’d respond, “Go read a Sarah Mayberry and come back and say that to my face.” (There are a few*coughs* many other authors on that list too, of course.)

My Keeper Shelf

Before I start, a big thanks to Limecello for having me here today – I love talking to romance readers and readers in general. In fact, the love of reading is pretty much what I wanted to talk about today.

People who love to read have a lot of stuff in common. We all know what it’s like to be so entranced with a story that when life calls us away before it’s finished we spend the intervening time with one ear/eye on the conversation/event/job at hand while the rest of our brain is back in the story, wondering what’s going to happen next. We all have massive TBR piles (and we know that TBR means To Be Read without asking!) and Keeper Shelves. And we all have our own personal metric for what makes a book good, bad or awesome.

For me, that measure is whether it made my chest ache. Now, I’m not talking cardiac pain here ( at least, I hope I’m not!). I’m talking about the physical sensation of tightness I get in my upper chest when I am reading a book that has engaged my emotions so deeply that I literally feel pain for them. Usually this is because the writer has done a great job of showing me the characters’ inner pain – the conflict within them that stops the world (and the hero or heroine) from seeing who they really are. Well motivated, deeply felt emotional misunderstandings absolutely kill me and almost guarantee a book a place on my keeper shelf.

Don’t get me wrong, I love light and fluffy, funny stuff, too. That’s another way to make it onto my Keeper shelf – make me laugh out loud. Even better, make me laugh out loud AND want to share the relevant passage with my husband so he can enjoy it, too. But generally speaking, it’s a deep emotional engagement with the story that really hooks me into a book.

Because it’s what I like to read, it’s also what I try to write. I spend a lot of time thinking about my characters before I start in on the first chapter. I don’t do checklists like some ‘how-to’ books advise – frankly, I’m not too fussed about what my heroine’s favourite color is! – but I do think about their relationships with their parents and siblings, what their school years were like and how they view the world. I think about events that have shaped that view, too. Pivotal things like childhood trauma or a messy divorce or a horrible romantic break up. I want my characters to feel as though they have a life before the book came along and that that life will continue once the last page is read. I want readers to feel for these people I am creating, because I certainly do. I don’t consider my work done as a writer unless I cry at least once while writing a book. Sometimes it’s more than once. Some books, I cried every time I went over certain scenes or passages as the book made its way through the production process.

But I also try to make readers laugh in amongst all that angst and emotion, because that’s what I like, too. The ups and downs and absurdities. Life is like that, don’t you think? And that’s what I try to convey.

The heroine of my current release, More Than One Night, wound up being one of those characters who really touched me as I wrote. Charlie is such a staunch, solid person, so determined to do the right thing by everyone, but she has such a warped view of her place in the world because of a withholding father who never showed her that she was loved. Charlie has spent her adult life trying to be worthy, looking for connection and, when she fails to find it, blaming herself. I found her incredibly moving to write, because who of us has never craved the love and approval of a parent, and who of us has never felt unloveable on some occasion? (If you’re reading this and thinking “me” in answer to that question, I want your childhood and your self esteem!)

If More Than One Night makes it onto some keeper shelves because of the emotion I have invested in this story, then I will be a very happy and humble writer, because I know that means the story will be re-read and will live long in a reader’s memory, in the same way that my keeper books live long in mine. Whenever I want a guaranteed good read, I peruse the shelf for something that suits my mood and settle in for some good times. Because I know I’d be curious if I was reading this blog by another author, I’m going to share a few of my favourite keeper books with you. I adore Lisa Kleypas’ Blue Eyed Devil and Smooth Talking Stranger. Kristin Higgins Just One Of The Guys gets me every time. I adore Victoria Dahl’s Lead Me On and Mary Balogh’s The Secret Pearl  nearly killed me I wanted the hero and heroine to get together so much. There are more, but I won’t bore you.

I’d love to hear what makes a book a keeper for you. Is it heartfelt angst? Smokin’ hot sexy stuff? Laughs? Silliness and escapism and fun? And what books are on your keeper shelf?

I’m giving away two copies of More Than One Night today. All you have to do is comment to be in the running. Looking forward to reading your responses.

Sandi’s Post: On the hunt…How do you find a new release?

Hi everyone! Do you know Sandi Shilhanek of Fresh Fiction fame? Well, she’s a friend and she’ll now be doing a monthly guest spot! The last Saturday of each month? A reader post by Miss Sandi! Yay! (Last week Sandi switched places with Jessica, who had been vacationing in Ireland, that fancy girl.) So everyone, please welcome Sandi now, officially. 😉

Recently I went to the bookstore to see what new titles were out.  I saw two my Lori Foster that I was aware of, but hadn’t yet decided if I was going to buy in print or for my Kindle.  Other than that I didn’t see much that was really calling my name.

Later that same week I had tea with the wonderful ladies of the DFWTeaReaders.  Naturally one would think that because we are tea and readers groups that talk would consist more of the latest greatest books, than anything else.  It should surprise no one that while we do discuss books, life and gossip comes first and foremost.

O.K… I’m getting sidetracked.  When talk eventually turned to books the name Sharon Sala came up.  I can’t even remember when I first discovered Sala, but I was a fan for a long time.  Then for me at least her writing took a turn that I just didn’t care for, and even though I continued to support her by buying books, I just couldn’t make myself read them.

Come 2010 and the release of her Storm Front trilogy, and I was once again   reminded of why I love Sala.  That brings me to 2011 and the release of her new trilogy, The Searchers.  I read the first one Blood Stains, and was eagerly awaiting the next, Blood Ties.

Well, to my surprise I found out that I had my release dates wrong, and Blood Ties was available!  I don’t know how I missed it when I went to the bookstore, but I did.  I was like I have to go home and buy it for my kindle so I can read right away!

So this brings me to my question of the day…how do you find out about new releases?  Do you have a favorite website you stalk?  Do you have friends who have similar tastes and keep you informed?  Do you wander the bookstore aimlessly just hoping that something says buy me and read me?