Tag Archives: Special Guest

Special Guest: Birthday Girl Sonoma Lass!

Hello my friends! It’s birthday month, and a Saturday, which must mean it’s time for a reader post. Beyond that, today is Sonoma Lass’s actual birthday – so everyone please wish her the happiest and best of birthdays! I also hope you’ll answer her question, because I’m curious as to what you have to say as well. <3

In looking over the list of books I’ve finished on my Kindle lately, I see less genre romance than I expect. I’ve started and then abandoned more than I care to admit, and I’ve put my head down to finish a couple because I wanted to review them. And I realized, somewhat belatedly, that the problem I’m having is one that I almost never mention in the reviews I write. So here it is: I am tired of beautiful people.

I know that one aspect of romance is the fantasy – two people overcoming obstacles and finding true love, in a way that many people in real life never manage. Depending on the sub-genre, a lot of those obstacles may be ones that most readers will never face. And I have heard reader after reader say that they want to read fantasy characters in their romances – beautiful, talented, extraordinary people falling in love.

BUT I have also heard readers say that they wish for more variety in the genre – including older main characters, fat main characters, and others who aren’t beautiful in the conventional way. And I do see some of those books, but mostly I see beautiful people. And that’s getting dull.

Now, some of these beautiful people don’t realize that they are beautiful – we get ugly duckling storylines, or books where the heroine has low self-esteem and doesn’t know that she’s gorgeous. But in the end, these are still books about beautiful people. Not what I want.

I myself am not beautiful. I’m not “ugly,” and when I was younger I had a conventionally “good” body, facility with make-up, and reasonable fashion sense. So while I’ve never been “the pretty girl,” I’ve never felt repulsive either. The key thing is, I have never felt that a man was interested in me based on first on my looks. But the men who have loved me have found me beautiful TO THEM; they love me, and they love my face and my body because they are the package in which the woman they love is wrapped. The handful of times in my life that I’ve felt really “in love,” that’s been part of it, and certainly is in my current long-term relationship.

My partner is a good-looking guy. He’s not a “hottie,” a hunk, or matinee-idol handsome, and he’s put on a few pounds since turning 50, but his is the dearest face in the world to me. I can appreciate conventionally attractive men, but they don’t make my heart flip over the way he does. Because I’m in love with him, and so however he looks is how the man I love looks, if that makes any sense.

In my mind, that’s a much greater thing: loving someone so much that whatever package they come in is dear to you. That means that if they gain weight, go bald, get sick, have surgery, or just plain get old, they don’t have to worry that you’ll stop loving them, because conventional, external beauty wasn’t a big part of the picture in the first place. I want to read about that kind of love, because that’s the kind of love that I can believe will really last.

It’s not that I never see these stories; just not enough of them lately. So what do you think – do you prefer beautiful main characters? Are there particular books that you think are relevant here? Do you have recommendations for me???

[Fabulous post, thank you! And happy birthday SL!!!]

Special Guest: Squenn

Lovelies, the fact that it is May makes my brain hurt. That, and my head hurts from being baked all day. Which at least in this case doesn’t matter, because it’s the third Saturday of the month, so as usual we have our special reader guest of the month!

Good day all!  My name is Jennifer and the lovely Limecello has given me time to chat with her followers.  She should know better!  Here is just a little about me:

I love books! Shocking I know.  I also have a major addiction to shoes.  It really is an illness as I buy shoes and then have nothing to wear them with.  I am a marathon shopper.  I will shop whenever I can, at work, home, on my iphone, just about anywhere.

So, enough about me and my issues.  I have a question that has plagued me for some time now.  I am the type of reader that can only read one book at a time.  For those out there that read more than one at a time, HOW DO YOU DO IT????  How do you keep the stories straight?  I get confused enough as it is without the added book(s) thrown in.

Someone please help me understand this craziness!  It boggles my small mind.

What are your thoughts?  Are you a juggler or a one at a timer?

Inquiring minds need to know!  Well, probably just me, but you never know who else is out there wondering the same thing.

Thanks to Limecello for allowing my crazy rambling on her blog.  You can come and visit me at my blog.  I have reviews of books, as well as things that I find cool.

Keep on reading!


Confess! What are your reading habits? [And if any of you would like to – or be willing to – be featured as a special reader guest, please do let me know! <3] Incidentally, those aren’t covers Ms. Jennifer told me to put up. There were no suggestions so I just picked what I’d like to read soon. 😀 Hopefully they aren’t too far out there!

Special Reader Guest: Liza Brown

You guys! I’m so excited that this is Liza’s first guest post! (As in post post – not review.) Isn’t that awesome?! She’s a well established member of the romance community, but I know we definitely don’t all “know” each other. So this is a little bit more about her. I also can’t believe it’s already the third Saturday of the month. Eek! But yay for another special feature on a romance reader! I hope you all give Liza a lovely and warm welcome! <3

I have to first say thank you Lime for inviting me to be a guest on her blog today. Other than doing a guest review for another blog once, this is my first time being a guest where I talk about me. Lime told me to talk about anything I wanted to talk about, so since I know we are all readers, I thought I’d talk about my love of reading.

I was very lucky to grow up in a house where books were loved. My aunts and uncles started giving me books as soon as I was born, and my parents and grandparents always encouraged my love of reading from a very young age. My mom joked when I was little that she taught me how to read before I started kindergarten so she didn’t have to read Green Eggs and Ham to me anymore. I was the kid who read the back of the cereal box every single morning at breakfast. Even once I could read books on my own, my favorite part of the day was when my dad would lie on the floor between the twin beds in my room and read a chapter or two before bed each night. He read Little Women, all of the Little House books, and many other classics to my sister, brother and me that way.

Trips to Walmart usually equaled me coming home with at least one new book. The librarian in my elementary school knew my favorite authors and would put them on hold for me so I could reread my favorite books over and over again. When I was about 10, I started sneaking behind to sofa to read my mom’s Harlequin and Silhouette romances. I say I was sneaking, but since my mom was usually in the room, not much sneaking going on. I still read what would be categorized as “Young Adult” novels while exploring the pretty tame Harlequin and Silhouette romances until I was about 13. At that point I was introduced to historical romances. I’m pretty sure I read every single book Jude Deveraux wrote while I was in high school. While romances have always been my first love, Stephen King was also a big part of my high school reading. In fact other than books for school, Jude Deveraux and Stephen King were my go-to authors for a while.

While I was in college, I took a big break from reading for the most part. I don’t know if it was because I was too busy with school or partying or both. I just know for about 4 years, I don’t remember really reading much of anything not related to school. I worked full time and took classes each summer, so didn’t get to read much then either. I remember reading some Harlequin and Silhouette books because they were really fast reads that I could read during lunch breaks. I moved home for a couple of years after college, and there really is not much to do in my hometown…okay, make that nothing to do, so reading once again became a huge part of my life. I still liked to read mysteries and thrillers, but my true love was and still is romances. At this point I mostly read contemporary romances, with the occasional historical romance. Once I moved away from home, I had easy access to a bookstore and with the suggestion of some very helpful bookstore employees branched out into pretty much every genre of romance.  My bookshelves are full to overflowing with books by some of my favorite authors. I’m pretty sure I own every book ever published by Roxanne St. Claire, Nalini Singh, J.R. Ward, Jill Shalvis, Carly Phillips, J.D. Robb, Tessa Dare, Victoria Dahl, Nora Roberts, and many other favorite authors. I was one of those people who said I’d never switch from print to digital…then I bought my first kindle. I now have my original keyboard kindle, a paperwhite, and a Fire HD. I read almost everything on my kindle, and generally on read print books when I get them from the library. I still buy favorite authors in both print and digital. 😀

I am never without a book, either physical or digital or both. It’s kind of funny that many of my closest friends aren’t readers. However, I was lucky enough to meet so many reader friends on-line thanks first to blogs, and then both Facebook and Twitter. I’m luckier still since I get to see those reader friends in person at least once a year at the RAGT in Cincinnati in June. My reader friends totally get me and my need to read, since they all feel the same way about books.  I am currently counting down the days until I can spend time with all my reader friends. We always have the best time talking about favorite books, authors, and especially sexy heroes from books. (Pssst A Week to be Wicked – one of my favorite books of 2012 is only 99¢ on kindle right now!!!)

So how about you? Have you ever had the pleasure of meeting Liza before? If not – let’s talk about her post! Have you been to any conferences? Met people? How did you get started reading romances? Which authors are your favorites? Come on – we all love to dish about romance!

Special Guest: Fedora

Friends, we’ve got a totally awesome post from Fedora today! She’s a lovely reader I’ve met online at various places. I definitely don’t get to talk to her as much as I’d like to, but I’m glad to have finally pinned her down for a guest post. 😀 She was really nervous about it, so I hope you show her some love.
Also? She’s amazing – we’ve got another post coming (hopefully later today) about my annual charity drive, and we didn’t even discuss and – and look at what she wrote! *big hugs to Fedora*

Hi, I’m Fedora, and I’ve probably met some of you already! That’s one of the lovely things about the Internet and how the online world has been a great thing for us readers! I’m a wife, mom, and life-long reader, and thanks to the dawning of the Internet/electronic age, I’ve been blessed with an ever-growing TBR and so many friends that I’ve yet to meet in person. 🙂

Although it’s a little early for Thanksgiving, I think it’s never too early to be grateful and I also think it’s never the wrong time for kindness. One of the things that I do love about the Internet is that in some ways, it’s truly made the world a smaller one, in a good way. Not only can we make friends with all kinds of people in all kinds of places, we can use our connections for good.

I know I’m a bit of an ostrich—I don’t like to watch the news and rarely read the papers. I don’t care to hear about the bad stuff—I guess if that makes me a fool, then so be it. It isn’t that I don’t think bad things are happening—alas, they are a part of reality, but I don’t feel I need to put them front and center in my life or the life of my family.

What I WOULD love to hear about is the good things—what is one kind thing, one generous thing someone has done for you or you have done for someone else recently? One great thing about the world we live in today is that we can truly reach out and touch someone else (remember that commercial? No? Feelin’ old here ;)) without leaving our homes. A heartfelt thank you that needed to be said. Words of encouragement just as someone’s feeling really down and out. Even a giftcard or gift shared with another person. Or just a hilarious post on FB that’s cheered you.

Some of the causes, groups, or people that most touch my heart are ones that support children, families, the military, and of course, reading. There are local ones that our family supports throughout the year, but a few that are farther reaching include:

Paperbackswap is a way to trade books you’re done with for books you want; they regularly also have ways to share books with schools in need, military personnel, and so on. I joined PBS years ago because DH thought it’d be a great way to get rid of some of the books in the house, and well, I wouldn’t say that we now have fewer books—we just have more books that we actually want to read 😉

Another for us readers is Operation Paperback, which works directly to connect military personnel with books to keep them company.

This one focuses on serving military families, who make huge sacrifices on our behalf every day: Operation Home Front

And I recall Reading Is Fundamental advertising even from when I was little.

And while it’s key to hook kids on reading, there are adults who need that same gift. ProLiteracy addresses adult illiteracy and helps get these people the lifechanging help reading provides.

I personally also like the work that Partners International does, especially with women and children. Plus they have a cool Harvest of Hope catalog which is very fun for our kids to go through, especially as we’re heading into the giving season.

So, what is near and dear to your heart? Please share either a group or an instance with us, and let us know how we can help, too! (I have books and swag I’d love to share with at least one of you—that’ll help me, too! My husband is often ready to toss my packrat self into the street ;))

I embedded the links to the organizations into the organization names – so just wanted to point that out to you in case you wanted to look for them. Thanks! (Also, as such I take full responsibility for weird sentences etc.)

Special Guest: Pam! (aka VanillaOrchids)

Hi friends! We’re back with a special reader guest post! Yes! Can you believe it’s the third Saturday of the month?! Eek! I can’t! I always tell people I have the best blog readers – and I firmly believe that. Pam sometimes visits here, and she is definitely a great example. I’d love to feature more of you! Anyway, here’s Pam! (And, I’m going to be a massive jerk and hijack her post for a minute – I’ve actually been on hiatus-ish since the beginning of August. I’ve gotten thousands of emails, and have still over 1,000 unread right now. I know I owe a lot of people responses, and more importantly prizes – and I’m doing my best to get on that. Please continue to be patient, and accept my apologies!)

… And now I must apologize to Pam for being all “me me me” – luckily, she like the rest of you, is awesome, and I’m sure she understands. So without further ado, meet an awesome member of the romance community! A reader! <3

Hello everyone! First let me just say thank you to Lime for taking a chance on me and giving me this opportunity to write a post for her blog.

My name is Pam, although I tend to go by the username VanillaOrchids online. Until sometime in 2009, I didn’t like reading. I rarely ever read a book just for the fun of it. That was until I read the Twilight Saga series by Stephenie Meyer. You see, two of my sisters and two of my nephews and I went to see the movie Twilight when it was released. The movie was okay, nothing spectacular. I enjoyed it for what it was. While the credits were rolling, my sister Linda proceeded to tell me that the movie is based off of a book and the book is way better. Then she offered to give me all four of the books in the series to read.

Fast forward about six months. The power went out because of a storm so I thought I’d give one of the books Linda gave me a try. Well, she had given me two books from the Vampire Diaries series as well, and since those books were smaller reads than the Twilight books, I started with one of those first. I probably didn’t get five pages into it before I said forget it! It’s been so long since then, but from what I remember, I felt that the Vampire Diaries book was written for little kids. I found it childish. Because of that, I gave all of the books (including the Twilight books) to my sister Patty in case she wanted to read them. Patty couldn’t go the Vampire Diaries books either but she did start on Twilight. So then one day while she was still working on Twilight she tells me that it isn’t like the Vampire Diaries books and that she thought I’d like Twilight. When she was finished with it, she gave it back to me. I had it done in two days and wanted book 2 … like now! LOL Patty gave me book two though she wasn’t finished reading it, but she knew that I’d have it read quick enough. I had all four books read in a week.

I didn’t know what to do with myself then. I wanted more to read but didn’t have anything. Eventually I started buying books on eBay or in stores. There probably hasn’t been a day that’s gone by since then that I’ve not been reading. Then late last year I had created a blog, more for myself really, to keep track of books that I wanted to read or have read, my favorite authors, etc. Then when I started to write book reviews, I decided to use the blog for that instead. That’s also about the time that I paid attention to other people’s reviews of books that I was interested in reading.

Recently I started reading a series of historical romances. After I finished the second book in the series, I went to Goodreads to mark the book as finished. While there I saw a one star review for the book that I’d just read. Here I was thinking the book was good. One of things that the person mentioned was the historical inaccuracies within the book. I’m sure the author did plenty of research and knows a lot about the time period, but in my opinion, it’s a work on fiction, it doesn’t have to be so strict with the historical details. But that’s just my opinion. And the primary complaint was that in that time a woman would not be without a chaperone. That might be true but can you really write an interesting love story when the two main characters never have a moment alone to be steal a kiss or a touch? Ah well, what do I know, I’m not a writer. 🙂

So anyway, I’m just happy that I now have a love of reading. And maybe with time I’ll get better at reviewing books. As for the whole blogging thing, I doubt that my book blog will ever really take off, and I’m fine with that. It’s a place for me to post reviews or graphics (which is another hobby of mine) or whatever I feel like. I don’t ever want it to feel like a job. I’ve known all too well what that’s like since I’ve had a website online for nearly 15 years now.

One last thing while I’m here. Awhile back on my blog I asked people for book recommendations. Not one person posted any. LOL So if Lime doesn’t mind, I’d like to ask the visitors here what book(s) you recommend? In return, I’m offering one winner an ebook of their choice (up to $5) from Amazon.

Thanks again to Lime for allowing me to ramble on for a bit. 🙂

Something Old, Something New by Special Guest: SonomaLass

Hi Friends! This post has been a long time coming. Ms. SonomaLass was actually supposed to take place last year, but SL actually had wrist surgery, so we rescheduled. So everyone give her a warm welcome! She has a really interesting post with a question I’d love to hear you answer too.

Last month over on my blog, I reviewed Robin Lee Hatcher’s Kiss Me, Katie for the TBR Challenge. The thing that everyone who commented, either on the blog or Twitter, seemed to find most interesting was that this book was rewritten and re-released by the author eight years after it was originally published. Hatcher shifted to publishing with a Christian publisher, and she chose to “redeem” (her term) some of her books for that market. The conversation got me thinking, and talking to other readers, about the larger picture of re-released romances and what, if anything, the author does to the book before setting it before a new audience.

Re-issuing books is not a new phenomenon. Nora Roberts’ publishers, for example, love to put out her older titles again (and again), sometimes with new titles and covers, so that she developed the NR logo to distinguish new releases from re-releases. But as digital publishing platforms make it easier and cheaper to get books into the hands of readers, we’re seeing and will continue to see an increase. Authors whose book rights have reverted to them, in particular, can re-package and -release those books, rather than leaving them to the used book market.

An author who chooses to re-release an older work faces choices. She needs a new cover, for one thing; cover art and cover copy usually belong to the original publisher. And depending on the age of the book, and the author’s own writing habits, she may not have a digital version of the manuscript, which means that one will need to be created. The technology for doing that results in numerous errors, so even a previously proofread and edited book will need to be proofed again. All of that can be outsourced, and the book can then be released in a new edition that is essentially the same as the older one, at least between the “covers,” if that’s what an author wants.

What happens, though, if the author doesn’t want that? If she looks over her older work and cringes, seeing how much better (in her own mind, anyway) she’s become as a writer? Or what if editorial decisions were made about the book that she wasn’t happy with, or the author has become aware of errors she made when writing the book? Should the author release the book “as is,” or rather, “as was”? Or should she rewrite/revise/improve it?

Most authors seem to be happy just releasing the books repackaged but not revised; this is the logical economic choice, because the time spent revising the older book would be time taken away from writing a new one, and it represents even more investment (cover art and proofreading aren’t cheap services) that needs to be recouped to make the re-released title profitable. And most readers seem fine with that; as long as they know they are buying an older book, they tend to be reasonably forgiving if it isn’t quite what they’re used to from the author more recently. I admit, I’m interested in the exceptions to that.

One exception, of course is Hatcher — she says on her web site that “Many of my earlier novels contain elements that are contrary to what I hope to share with readers today.” She goes on to say, “I have “redeemed” some of my earlier fiction, giving them a second chance to become the books I wish I’d written the first time around.” While Hatcher’s case is an extreme one, I wonder how many other authors will take the opportunity of re-release to make the books ones they “wish” they’d written.

Another exception is Pamela Clare, whose perspective is the opposite. Her second historical romance, Carnal Gift (2004), was cut by 100 pages to fit the publisher’s length requirements. When her rights reverted in late 2010, she says on her blog, “I was so excited because it meant that for the first time I would be able to share with you the story I had written. The story that was published has never felt like my books. How could it with more than 20 percent of the pages gone?” Her approach was simple: “I opened up the original, uncut manuscript, gave it a fresh edit, and made it available to my readers as an ebook.” Clare’s “author’s cut” is, in her mind, the book she DID write the first time around.

Clare and Hatcher are both pretty straightforward with their readers about their changes; Hatcher changed the title to Catching Katie, while Clare clearly identifies the new version of Carnal Gift as the “author’s cut.” I think that’s very important, so that readers know they’re getting a different book. Of course the work is the author’s, and she has every right to make changes, but I do think it’s good to be clear with readers about the differences between older and newer editions.

Just as I’d be troubled by a freshly edited re-release that wasn’t clearly labeled as such, I don’t like it when an older title is released without being clearly identified as such. If readers are mostly pretty understanding about the differences they’ll encounter in an older book, they might be upset to purchase a “new” title by a favorite author, only to find that it’s a re-released title.  One recent example I encountered (hardly unusual) is Barbara Hambly’s Open Road Media re-release, Bride of the Rat God. When I received it for review, I didn’t know that it had originally been published in 1994, and it wasn’t clear in the edition I received. I mentioned it to a friend who recognized the title, and a quick look at reviews on the book’s Amazon page confirmed it, but it still wasn’t mentioned in the book’s description.

So what do other readers think? Do you want authors to revise their backlist works before re-releasing, or would you rather read the book “as was”? Have you had any surprises, pleasant or otherwise, now that there are so many re-releases available digitally?  I’ve just scratched the surface with these examples, and I think it’s a really interesting aspect of where we are in publishing today.

Special Guest: Annette C!

Hey you guys! The very fun and special Annette C is wrapping up my birthday month! (I mean, come on, she’d be special if for no other reason than she’s here on the last day of June, right?) 😉 I “met” Annette on twitter way back when, and she’s always been incredibly nice and super sweet. I got to meet her in person at RT10, and she’s basically the reason I attended the conference.

Fun, right?! So now I’ve dragged her out of hiding (she’s been on a hiatus of sorts) and here she is, sharing with all of us! So let’s give her a warm welcome. 

I have an addiction… To series’ reading.  When Lime reminded me I promised her this, I racked my brain thinking over and over about all the things I read, what should I discuss, what would others find interesting… or agree with… Ok, perhaps even just understand without thinking I am a nutter ;). Everything kept coming back to the fact that most of what I read are series’. I love them, am totally addicted to them.

I have the complete Harry Potter series, hard covers, first edition.  I was one of those you would hear moaning and groaning on twitter about just. How. Long. Two years is when waiting for the final book in Karen Marie Monings Fever series…. I was also one of those you saw happy dancing all over the Internet when the day finally came that it was released. I utterly refuse to start a series unless I have all of them that are published to date. Refuse to read a book, even if I am half way through it, as soon as I find out its a series.  I will put it down, set it aside and start ruthlessly gathering the rest. Craziness right?

But c’mon. How can you not love a series! Jude Deveraux has so many amazing ones, I wouldn’t even know where to start… But I know that every time I re-pick up one of her series, I truly feel as though I have come home to visit old friends. Christine Feehan… Have mercy. Imagine putting down Dark Prince, never to have another carpathian to drool… I mean, meet :).  Devastating!  What makes it even better is the fact that throughout most series’ you get visits from old friends from earlier in the series. Even with spin offs! I would be so upset if Katie MacAlister never let us know what antics Jim the demon dog was up to. Like, seriously upset… I really do love that dang demon dog.

There are so many more things that I could list spouting my love for series, but then I do believe I would be rambling… So, though I have listed some of my favorite series’, I will close by listing a couple more.

Donna Grants’ Highlanders… O.m.G… Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson, Sharon Sala & Heather Graham (ok, seriously just read them, anything by them… Everything by them) Dean Koontz’s Odd Thomas…  Elisabeth Naughton, Alyson Noel, Jennifer Estep, C.S. Lewis, Jane Austen, James Michener…

Oops, what was that I said about not rambling… Sadly this isn’t even an 1/8th of my favorites… So if you haven’t read these yet, run … run and get every one of them, because they are just *that* awesome.  So… Enquiring minds and all… What are your favorite series’?

Erm and… *angelface* I might have chosen random covers from series, just because. >.> Hope Nettie’s head doesn’t explode… ;X
And on a personal note, a huge, heartfelt thank you to Annette for her patience. We’ll all pretend this went up at the normal time, shall we? And cross out fingers July is better while letting out a breath of thanksgiving that June is ending.

A Primer on Scandinavian Crime Fiction AKA Special Guest: Keishon

My name is Keishon and I’m a romance reader whose latest interest in Scandinavian crime fiction prompted me to shut down my old blog and start a new one devoted to nothing but crime fiction. I started reading crime fiction when my favorite romance writers started disappearing on me (Laura Kinsale and Judith Ivory for starters). So, I started branching out and reading mystery and discovered that some mystery novels had a very strong romantic subplot in them that I enjoyed and I wanted to read more of these. Over the years, I’ve noticed that there are quite a few mysteries that feature some sort of romance in them but some authors do a better job than most. Also the subject matter sometimes would be too taboo for romance which was another plus for me leaving the nest. Let’s talk about: Scandinavian crime fiction.

Are you interested in reading Scandinavian crime fiction and don’t know where to start? I hope to offer you some titles of interest to get you started. What do you all know about Scandinavian crime fiction? Did you know that the roots of this sub-genre started with Sjöwall and Wahlöö? They wrote the popular Martin Beck series set in Sweden. There are ten books in the completed series that started with Rosanna. Well most people credit them for starting the trend but the interest didn’t really gain momentum until Stieg Larsson published The Millennium Trilogy.  Then people started throwing out other authors of note in this area, Henning Mankell and Peter Høeg (Smila’s Sense of Snow). I haven’t read any of those authors yet but I’ll get there.

Meanwhile, I want to share with you some of my favorite writers. You see, I have a specific interest in reading European crime fiction. Why? There are several reasons I can list right off the bat: atmosphere.  I love a book that lays out the landscape and weather and makes both a significant part of the story. Novels like these tend to give you a good sense of time and place. I have authors I can recommend who add these elements to their stories and do this very well. Johan Theorin leads the pack of authors who writes/sets most of his stories in different seasons (winter, autumn and spring). His loosely connected quartets of books that start with Echoes from the Dead is set off the Baltic Sea have minor supernatural overtones and are character driven stories.

Second, I like stories with intelligent plots that don’t, preferably follow convention. Karin Fossum would fit that bill as her stories tend to focus more on the effects crimes have on regular people or she can be seen to spotlight regular people making bad decisions. She tends to humanize her characters even the bad ones. Her books are definitely atypical but there is violence that varies from book to book.

Sometimes themes are not all that original and have included at times the age old battle between men and women but what I’ve mostly read has heavily relied on revenge or scorn. I don’t much care for serial killers so I tend to avoid those at all costs. Although, in the right hands…I must mention Arne Dahl’s Misterioso, which featured a serial killer targeting the titans of the business industry in Sweden. The lack of evidence instigates the police to create a task force just to find him. Very action paced novel with a large cast of characters but I didn’t have a problem keeping up.

Do you like a strong female protagonist? Well, guess what? You can find a bunch of them in Scandinavian crime fiction. Asa Larsson is one author I personally love. Her debut novel, Sun Storm (The Savage Altar, UK) gives you two strong female protagonists: a workaholic attorney, Rebecca Martinsson and Anna-Maria Mella with a husband and kids and you see her juggle between having a successful family life and a career as a detective.  The author made both women very strong characters in her four book, continuing series set in Sweden. You shouldn’t miss her. Cravat: Her books have been labeled as having animal cruelty in them and I understand the complaint but I didn’t have an issue with that nor did I see that as being prevalent. The author herself is an animal lover and I don’t ascribe the actions of fictional characters to that of the creator. YMMV.

Do you like police procedurals with psychological suspense? How about giving Jo Nesbo a shot as he seems to be very popular right now and sells all over the globe. He writes the Harry Hole series set in Oslo, Norway. I like Jo Nesbo because his plots are tight and he loves adding elements of misdirection and suspense. Of course his main character is a bit of a cliché – a romantic loner, a maverick who fights his demons with alcohol. He’s disliked by some of his co-workers and he has problems with authority figures. Harry tends to throw us some surprises every once and awhile. He’s a man of routine. He loves to test out his new partners. There’s a subtle romance in the series as he has a thing for single mother Rakel and her young son, Oleg. Jo Nesbo’s books are always character driven and the violence can be pretty bad but the level of violence varies from book to book. There is a very interesting subplot that included three books in the series that dealt with police corruption. It starts with The Redbreast and ends with The Devil’s Star. Jo Neso seems to be well versed in American pop culture and politics, foreign politics and wars. I always feel like he knows his subject matter very well errors aside. Alas, the best book in the series has yet to be published in the U.S. It is The Redeemer  and can stand alone very well.

There is one last author I’d like to give a shout out to and that would be Arnaldur Indriðason. His stories are set in Iceland and feature yet another loner but more melancholy detective  – Erlendur. He has a continued embattled relationship with his drug addict daughter, Eva Lind. I think the author does such an excellent job of joining the personal life of his character with that of the everyday working of murder cases which tend to be old murder cases. Arnaldur Indriðason writes what he describes as “social criticism.” I’ve read three of his books already and they have been consistently strong stories. The first book in the series is Tainted Blood (or Jar City) and as I write this there is a new book coming out in the UK, Black Skies (2012) to continue the series.

Scandinavian crime fiction contains some commonality: most of these stories tend to be very bleak and melancholy. Do you mind dark stories? They tend to be very dark and also very atmospheric. Exotic settings are another plus. It’s the cheapest way to travel to say Norway or South Africa. If you enjoy Scandinavian crime stories, please share some of your favorites. I’m bound to have missed some. Thanks.

Special Reader Guest: Stacy!

Another Saturday in June, another special reader guest post! (Confused? It’s explained here.) I “met” Stacy on twitter, and then in person at the Reader Author Get Together in 2010. She adores giving me a hard time… but I like her anyway. ;P

Hi all.  My name is Stacy and I am a life-long romance reader.  The devious, er, lovely! Limecello here asked me about a million years ago to write up a post.  It’s finally time to pay the piper.  So here goes…..

I started reading teen romances probably around 8 or 9 years old, and eventually graduated to my mom’s adult romances soon thereafter.  See, like most of us, I was always an insatiable reader, glomming everything in writing from magazines and books, to cereal and Kleenex boxes that told brief stories.  I grew up in the country and did not have easy access to a library, but we did have the book mobile that showed up every week or so, and when I ran out of books to read between visits, I would sneak my mom’s “grown-up” books, thinking she didn’t have a clue.  But of course she did, she knew just about everything (like the time me and my brothers started setting fires…but that’s way off-topic) yet obviously didn’t feel they were risque enough to keep away from me.  However, thinking back to some of those scandalous passages, I would say they make even some of today’s stories pale in comparison.  It was one hell of an education.  I distinctly remember one story that involved a cucumber and- ahem! I digress.  (Though I wonder whatever happened to that book….)

Anyway, I read romances for a variety of reasons.  I think stories about relationships can be the most complex, and the most interesting.  People are fascinating, and watching two dynamic characters dramatically fall in love amidst a zombie apocalypse or slowly yet engagingly transform from friends into lovers in a quaint small town is actually quite wonderful.  Nothing can beat that.

One thing I really enjoy about romances is that, in the 25+ years I’ve been reading them, the storylines have evolved tremendously.  Back in the 80’s, the majority of the books, whether they were historicals or contemporaries, almost always had a virginal, naive heroine and a rugged, arrogant hero.  In most cases, there was a significant age difference between the two, generally where the hero was 15-20 years older than our nubile heroine.  And the heroine always ended up being dependent upon the hero to save her from something – a lecherous uncle, war, losing the family home, you name it.  And once all the obstacles were overcome and “twu luv” was realized, the birds sang, the sky was filled with brilliant rainbows, and nowhere on earth was there a greater or stronger love to be found.  Nowadays, romance novels are less fairy tale and more love story.  Women are independent, some older than the hero, almost all able to take care of themselves because they have a working brain, employment, and the confidence and ability to support themselves.  It isn’t about needing a man.  It’s about finding someone who enhances your life.  And perhaps the two get married, or maybe they never even get around to declarations of love.  You just know that by the end of the book, these are two people who have discovered an equal partner, and maybe one they will spend the rest of their life with.  Or not.  And that is quite okay.  Happily Ever After has become Happy For Now.  Not every story needs to be about soulmates.  As I’ve gotten older and collected my own experiences, I am completely open to either of those options.  It’s what makes life exciting.

Another thing I am extremely happy to see is the continued increase in gay romances.  And…it’s about damn time!  Love is love, and I especially enjoy reading romances about two men, especially if it’s two extremely masculine and sexually aggressive men.  Oh baby.  *fans self*  Admittedly, I have not read much lesbian romance, and the reason being is, I confess, I read romance mainly for the drool-worthy men.  But if it’s a compelling story and gets positive feedback from fellow readers, I would love to read it.  In fact I should really make it a point this year to seek them out.  Who know what gems I have been missing because I have been so focused on the guys.  A romantic story, told well, will make my heart flutter, regardless who the characters are.

The last thing I would also like to address about my love of today’s romance books is  the varying levels of sexuality you can find out there in today’s stories.  I admit I like a more sexually explicit storyline.  Other readers prefer less.  Nothing wrong with that at all.   We all have our comfort levels.  The one thing I feel is most important is that others should not be ashamed of their sexuality.  It is not something to ridicule or sneer at.  Case in point: I never thought I would say this, but I actually enjoy reading books with a BDSM theme to them.  And by that, I do not refer to the recent phenomenon 50 Shades of Grey trilogy, although I know they are quite popular these days, what with local radio personalities sharing passages on the air.  In recent years, through social media and meeting other book lovers, I have actually gotten to know some people who are involved in BDSM relationships.  Some of them have become good friends of mine.  Chicago has quite an active kink community, and in taking the time to educate myself on the lifestyle, I have really come to understand a lot about the dynamics of these relationships, and I have a healthy respect for anyone who exists within a healthy, honest, and consensual partnership.  And because of that, I like knowing there are books out there that appeal to everyone’s personal preference.

The world of romance novels is a vast, complex, interesting and ever-evolving one.  I cannot imagine ever being bored in what this genre – and all the subsequent subgenres attached to it – has to offer to its readership.  In fact I look forward to all the fantastic stories that are yet to be told.  So authors, please, keep on writing.

Sincerely & with much love,

Stacy ~

What are your thoughts? Has your reading journey been anything like Stacy’s? When did you start reading? What are your genres of choice? Got any book recommendations for us? 😀

Special Guest: Kelly!

You guys!!! Today we have yet another incredibly special guest with us! My friend Kelly, who is a romance reader, and this is her very first ever blog post! I kinda had to nudge her into sending me this because she was all nervous. Personally I think she did fabulously, and I hope she’ll blog here again! So everyone please give Kelly a warm welcome and show her some love!

I have been debating with myself as to what I should write about.  Seeing that we just kicked off a brand new year, one would think I should take a trip down memory lane.  But to be honest, I have no idea what the first romance I ever read is.  Must have made quite the impression.   And I know it’s also already been done.
And because I am not a fortune-teller, predicting the future isn’t a good idea either.  Therefore, I prefer to focus on the here and now.  So, with that in mind, I am going to do my take, so to speak, on getting to know you, with a twist.  🙂
         At present I am about 2/3 of the way through Silk is for Seduction by Loretta Chase.  Someone please tell me why I haven’t read more Loretta Chase.  She writes smart, strong heroines.  No namby-pamby, simpering ladies here.
      Obviously at the moment, I am typing a blog post  😉     What I want to do, is give props to some of my fave new shows this year.
Two Broke Girls (CBS – Monday  8:30)  Caroline’s dad is basically a Bernie Madoff type and now Caroline has had to resort to working as a waitress in a greasy spoon and ends up rooming with her cranky co-worker, Max.  Max is an aspiring cupcake baker and since Caroline has a finance background, the two are doing their best to save enough money to open their own shop. This show can be a bit crass and may even border on vulgar, but, it always makes me laugh.
Revenge (ABC – Wednesday  10:00)   Who hasn’t dreamed of destroying anyone/everyone who has ruined their life?  This show proves that while revenge may be sweet, it doesn’t always go as easily nor as smoothly as planned.
Person of Interest (CBS – Thursday 9:00)   This show is hard to describe.  A machine spits out the name/number of someone who is about to be involved in a crime.  Only problem is, you don’t know if said name/number is the victim or the perp?
      This one is harder for me than the others.  I listen to a little bit of everything.  Top 40, Oldies, Country, Classic Rock.    From Adele to Elvis to George Strait to ZZ Top.  🙂
     Ummmmm …  I nuked a chicken chimichanga for lunch.  Does that count as cooking?  😉
     Thankful that it is yet again another weekend!   🙂
So now it’s your turn!   Who/what are you reading, watching and/or listening to.  Any good eats?  Either at home or out?  What are you thankful for?   I am always looking for new ideas and inspirations.   Inquiring minds or maybe just I, want to know.    <G>