Sunday, October 30, 2011

Frost Moon and Blood Rock and reader perceptions

Dr. Anthony Francis is an inventive author who has created a fascinating alternate Atlanta filled with a paranormal underworld that includes vampires, werewolves and...magical tattooists!  Dakota Frost is a master of her art and one of those unusual people, an ethical magic wielder.  Her tattoos are much sought after and the power for them comes from within her.  She has an interesting coterie of friends and associates to call upon that give a wonderful flair to the tales that are presented in Frost Moon and Blood Rock and both of these books are quite entertaining.  My favorite scene is her manipulation of the watch tattoo (yes, you will just have to read the story).  My NOR review for the former is still pending (will update when it is posted) but the latter is at this link

The following is a mini-rant so if you are not in the mood, it might behoove you to move on to something else.  (-:

Now, occasionally I wander around looking for new releases or alternate pseudonyms for the author that I am currently reading and out of professional curiosity I sometimes look at the general trend of reviews.  I am always very startled to discover those that are diametrically opposed to my views so naturally I scan through to see what the issues are for that particular reader.  I guess that personally I tend to skim past items that I consider a little icky (e.g. I am not really fond of gory scenes and will avoid movies that have blood spurting everywhere--much to my younger brother's chagrin-- but I just speed through that kind of description in the books that I read without dwelling on the scene).  I am afraid that the scenes in these works that several readers found quite offensive didn't even impinge on my radar.  Part of the issue seems to be that the main character is, gasp, bisexual!  And her former lover is into kinky sex scenes.  Then, she is propositioned by a young weretiger whom she scares off by pretending to reciprocate her attention.  And....that evidently equated to the author being some kind of agenda-promoting pedophile?  NOT!  I am not sure how people forget that these are stories they are reading, not biographies or encyclopedias or reference works.  Do bad things happen in the stories?  Yes, otherwise there is no conflict or problem to be solved or whatever.  Do people in our society have all ranges of sexual preferences?  Yes, of course they do.  Are some of them objectionable?  Of course.  But to tie in bisexuality with pedophilia?  How did we go there?  Fans of Joey Hill, Kim Harrison, etc. would be pretty surprised to discover that strange fact about their favorite characters.  I guess we'll just have to continue saying, "different strokes for different folks" but I may have to start taking the time to do Amazon reviews as well so that there are alternate viewpoints posted as well, lol.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Succubus Revealed plus perceptions and preconceptions

Richelle Mead’s latest tale is Succubus Revealed and it was a great addition to the inventive Georgia Kincaid series.  The oddity of a succubus who has reservations about the requirements of her job as well as a permanent relationship with a lover who is willing to give up portions of his life essence in order to be with her gives individuality to this series.  The conflicts between what Georgia is being told by her superiors and what is actually happening provides a mystery that her interesting coterie of friends (who include vampires, an angel, and a nephilim among others) decide they must investigate.  I’m a little disappointed in the ending but hopefully things will change somewhat in the next in the series.  My Goodreads review is at link 

I have been on a glut of paranormal romance for the past few months.  The genre has exploded and it is getting pretty difficult to keep up with my regular favorites while adding new authors who each have their own series underway.  Part of it is my own fault because I try (try, not necessarily succeed) to read at least some of the previous works in a particular series so that I am not reviewing the current novel completely lost when references are made to past events.  Many of the books can stand alone and are enhanced by having read the prequels and others are just so intricate that one is pretty much lost when thrown into the middle.  This desire for completion keeps my library requests pretty active so it’s a good thing that I have two different library systems to draw upon.  Then there are the other newly released books that I am not fortunate enough to capture for review that I try to catch as the library catalogues them.  I really hate to read a book after someone has eaten their snacks or even worse, smoked while reading it so I try hard to be first in line for new releases.  The drawback is that the books can’t be renewed because there is usually a long line waiting for them...which becomes an issue when there are several to be read within the two week or three week checkout time...and there are others to be reviewed.  Yes, sometimes I bite off more than I can chew! 

Please only continue if you are over 18 years old.

Ok, I have gotten off on a tangent (as usual).  I was starting to say that I had been reading a preponderance of paranormal romance (PNR) although I always have the occasional Regency Romance, Science Fiction or Suspense and plenty of Erotica in my TBR pile.  I tend to read relatively spicy Erotica but even though there has seemed to be an increase in the number of menage stories in my recent reading pile, I have shied away from strictly M/M or F/F stories because I wasn’t sure how comfortable I would be with those type of stories.  Looking at the selections of books awaiting reviews, I have noticed that there seem to be a large number of works characterized as GLBTQ (which I think stands for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual or queer) which reflect that the relationships are not traditional heterosexual ones and although they do get reviewed, sometimes it takes awhile.  So, gulp, I requested a M/M anthology.  I then attended a chat which featured several erotica authors and became interested in the works of a particular author who serendipitously had a work up for review in the next week which was listed as M/M.  It was a good story but had some inconsistencies which tend to irk me when I am reading so I contacted the author and asked if he would be interested in corrections.  He said yes and I sent them off but his response to them was so abrupt that I was a bit depressed because I really didn’t want to give offense, just to help improve the story.  The next day he actually contacted me again because he wanted to thank me for my review and told me that he had other things going on the day before that made him a bit abrupt.  I think I was worried about his reaction and he may have been worried that I was going to trash him in my review, especially since this was outside of my normal comfort zone.  Anyway, water under the bridge...

It is always a little dicey criticizing somebody’s hard work...and I am a terrible busybody...but when I wear my reader’s hat, if I run into too many errors, I sometimes give up and don’t finish (unless it’s a review book that I have to finish) but I certainly try not to read more books by the same author.  So I mean well and often my overtures are rebuffed but occasionally someone pays attention to my suggestions.  I even have the honor to have been specifically requested by a published author to help with his editing/proofreading for his next novel!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Cover Me and writing tasks

Just finished Cover Me by Catherine Mann.  Wow!  Great story, engaging characters and I'm still cold from all of the harsh weather in Alaska (even though it's in the high 80's where I am).  A wonderful example of military romance that I learned about from reading the SOS Aloha Blog when Kim featured this book ( link ), prior to that I had never heard of PJs (pararescue jumpers) outside of something that I steal from my husband to wear to bed!  Ms. Mann has obviously done extensive research and provides mutliple intriguing tidbits (green footprint tattoos in honor of the big green helicopters used initially) to give realistic details in her exciting romances.  Can't wait until the next one, Hot Zone (no, not the disease-laden one) comes out in December 2011, not to mention the next one after that which features a dog trainer!   My Goodreads review link

For those interested in the writing is a blast!  I can't believe how little has been charged because Linnea Sinclair puts a tremendous amount of time and effort into helping us learn to dissect what's important in a novel.  I still feel like a fish out of water amongst all of these published authors but Ms. Sinclair is helping me understand why I am so fond of her own books as well as how to analyze why I am immediately caught up by some novels yet easily disenchanted with others.  Thus far we have analyzed tropes and opening paragraphs (it is startling to realize that many agents/publishers/critics can tell by the first 3 paragraphs whether a work is going to be worth reading!) and are now moving on to telling vs. showing.  Ms. Sinclair has an engaging teaching style and provides pertinent references (there goes the book budget) and concrete examples and I highly recommend her classes to anyone interested in writing or refining their writing skills.  Kudos to her also for the upcoming movie based on her book The Down Home Zombie Blues!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Contests, giveaways and surveys...oh my!

I am an incurable contest entrant.  The problem is the intermittent reinforcement.  I am sure that the percentage of contests that I win is relatively low...but that occasional prize more than reinforces my addiction.  My most startling prize was a trip to a NASCAR race in Brooklyn, Michigan.  My husband and I joined other prize winners on a private plane that whisked us off to a place that I had never heard of and introduced me to a sport that I had only tangentially been aware of.  My only explanation is that I must have been aiming for the second prize (which I assume was a television)!  It was an interesting experience and I was able to get through quite a few books while watching the cars go 'round and 'round and people-watching. 

I also complete surveys but have reached a saturation point.  It seems that every store and fast food restaurant provides a receipt that offers a bribe for feedback and then there are the online survey companies...Toluna, Zoom Panel, e-rewards, etc.  and the mystery shopping (I particularly like Mysteryguestinc. but became disenchanted with most of the others I have tried--a blog for another day).  It's funny, I can write my opinion very assertively but very rarely do I initiate face-to-face confrontations.

Which leads me to book giveaways.  Not only are there the blogs that I have become interested in but most of the author's mailing lists include a link back to their site and a large percentage of them offer a monthly contest.  Then there are all of the sites that have multi-author offerings, e.g. Night Owl Review blogs link1 and link2   Fresh Fiction link  Writerspace link  and the Goodreads First Reads giveaway link to name only a few.

However can a person carve out enough time to read???

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Viscount Breckenridge to the Rescue

First I should offer the warning that I am a Stephanie Laurens fan.  I probably have most, if not all of her books, and have been collecting them since she first began writing about the Cynster family many years ago.  Her latest series is a trilogy about the Cynster sisters and the first volume is called Viscount Breckenridge to the Rescue.  It was sweetly romantic just as most of her books are and I thought about the reasons I am such a fan of her tales.  I enjoy the fact that her heroines like to think for themselves and are determined to have their way without worrying too much about Society's dictates.  The reader is guaranteed that deep love is going to be the basis for the relationship between any couple and the males are just automatically tailored to be over-protective and alpha males who can be "trained" with the right incentives.  Some people get tired of the formulaic trends but I think that Ms. Laurens does a wonderful job of creating new conflicts and interesting situations as the Cynster family continues to grow exponentially.  I do admit that I don't really have the pedigrees mapped out but there is a chart in the beginning of most of the books for those who are concerned with that sort of thing.  I just enjoy the chance to sigh over a wonderful romance for a few hours and I look forward to the next in the series.   My Night Owl review is at this link

Monday, October 17, 2011

Learning opportunities and Lightborn

I have previously posted about some of the wonderful resources available through the library (link) and one of those is for learning foreign languages (I am trying to learn French) but I recently read about a different online program at which uses a gardening analogy for teaching a new language.  It is still in the beta stage for some things and I am not sure how many languages are available but it is quite interesting to work with.  It starts with the premise that new words are seeds and they gradually morph into plants that move into the greenhouse and out to the garden.  So far, I am much better at reading the French and translating into the English definition but much poorer at the reverse!   My biggest obstacle is the tendency to revert to the high school Spanish vocabulary that I am much more comfortable with but I do feel that I am making some progress.

I have also signed up for a writing class being taught by a favorite author, Linnea Sinclair.  I feel sadly out of place because as far as I can tell, the majority of participants are published authors and although I have the thrill of having seen a couple of my reviews on the cover of a book, my name is not cited...I am not in the same league as most of these people.  We started today and it was startling how much the first homework assignment panicked me. 

Now the question is, why did I take on both of these tasks at the same time?  I have French words swirling around in my brain which is fretting about learning how to refine my writing style and I also have to write reviews for five books due within the next four days!  Somehow, I don't think that I am going to get my other library books read before they are due.  Which brings me to Alison Sinclair's Lightborn, the sequel to Darkborn.  I enjoyed it immensely but was very disappointed to reach the end and relieved that I have the final book in the series (Shadowborn) to be reviewed in the near future. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Cat in a Vegas Gold Vendetta and other cat detectives

I think that Carole Nelson Douglas struggled a bit to come up with the title that started with a "v" for the newest Midnight Louie story but I guess that she didn't want to use vanilla since it would contrast so starkly with the noir theme.  Cat in a Vegas Gold Vendetta continues with Max Kinsella's search for his missing memories and I find it ironic that two different mystery series are at the "v" stage (Kinsey Milhone seems to be searching for Vengeance) but their main characters are at such different stages of their lives.  The series is getting a bit too convoluted with its dangling threads that seem to be getting more tangled instead of smoothing out. 

I always enjoy the antics of the felines in Douglas' tales but their travels are getting a bit too farfetched and the condition of the Persian sisters was appalling and uncharacteristic given how attached Savannah Ashleigh was to them previously.  The furry detectives of this series are quite distinct from the pampered and vocal felines (Koko and Yum Yum) that populate the Lilian Jackson Braun tales, the Rita Mae Brown trio (Mrs. Murphy, Pewter and Corgi friend Tee Tucker) that talk amongst themselves while they help their human or the truly communicative trio (Joe Grey, Dulcie and Kit) from Shirley Rousseau Murphy.  The human element keeps Midnight Louie busy trying to keep his roommate safe and happy but he uses his customary efficiency to marshal whatever resources he can generate in order to rescue his less fortunate brethren in yet another noir Vegas mystery. 

My Night Owl Review is at Cat in a Vegas Gold Vendetta

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Unquiet and anthologies

Lately, I seem to have been reading several anthologies...which makes it really difficult to keep track of storylines!  Usually I try to read different genres so that I can keep the characters apart but there are so many great anthologies out lately that it's difficult to focus on just one.  The Unquiet features five excellent authors who are able to pen stand-alone tales that still fit into their ongoing series.  J.D. Robb has her inimitable police detective of the future, Lieutenant Eve Dallas, who is so intriguing because she has risen from the ashes of her horrible childhood and become a formidable investigator who is so very competent at investigating crimes yet endearingly baffled by social interactions.  My favorite quote from the series is in this short story....(Eve) “What do you want?”  (Nadine Furst) “A man of amazing sexual prowess, great sensitivity, stupendous abs, and the face of an angel.  Toss in a wicked sense of humor and stupendous wealth, who adores the very ground I walk on.  Oh wait, you already have him.”   What a wonderful description of that hunk of manhood...Roarke! 

All of the tales conjure up lovely tales that have that eerie elements yet still are richly romantic.  It is difficult for authors to cram enough into a short story to make it interesting enough to tempt one to look for the series or other works by that person without being so confusing that the reader is overwhelmed by details.  Each of these authors does a great job of continuing to write entertaining stories within the theme of this anthology series (which also includes The Other Side, The Lost, Suite 606, Dead of Night, Bump In the Night).  I really enjoyed McComas' His Brother's Keeper as a frustrated ghost tries to get his message across and I was really entertained by the "psychic" in Gaffney's Dear One
My NOR review:  The Unquiet

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Gamble and Dick and Felix Francis

I fell in love with Dick Francis' books while attending college and worked my way through the series expeditiously.  I waited impatiently every year for his new gift to the Queen and Queen Mother so that he could continue to educate me about occurrences behind-the-scenes in British racing even as he tantalized with his sometimes uncomfortably graphic torture scenes.  I admired his phlegmatic heroes who faced hard decisions and continued to do the "right" thing without agonizing over their actions even as I was enlightened about the grit and determination required to be a successful jockey in a very competitive sport.  I have always wanted to learn to ride a horse but unfortunately am very afraid of the fall that I could experience from such a height since I have the stature, if not the personality, of a jockey.  My mind boggles at the idea of trying to saddle a being who can knock me over with its head, let alone control where we are going!  Maybe one of these days I will muster up the courage to get on a small pony...

Gamble is an intriguing look at the world of finance (with a few pithy comments about the state of America's self-regulation or lack thereof) with the author's trademark flavoring of the British racing world.  The gradual buildup of tension even as the main character fears his personal life is about to crash and burn is mesmerizing even as one feels the loss of his chosen vocation and how it flavors his life since he continues to visit his beloved racetracks even though he can no longer experience them up close and personal the way he used to.  Another enjoyable tale.
Goodreads review:  Gamble

Friday, October 7, 2011

Spider's Revenge and the Elemental Assassin series

Jennifer Estep has a fascinating set of characters in her "Elemental Assassin" series and Spider's Revenge is the conclusion to this story arc that includes Spider's Bite, Web of Lies, Venom, and Tangled Threads.  Gin Blanco is the main character and was trained as an assassin by her mentor who also encouraged her to learn about the art of cooking which she has honed at the diner called the Pork Pit.  The main characters have the ability to manipulate various elements such as ice, stone, air and fire and Gin can go from chilling a drink using her hand to blocking a bullet or a punch by changing her skin texture.  Estep has a deft hand at creating interesting situations and can make the reader crave a delicious barbeque sandwich even while marvelling at such things as a goth dwarf or her sister who has a beauty parlor/healing salon.  The overall unifying theme of spiders travels through the stories from the rune that is burned into Gin's palms which gave her the alias that she uses as well as the incentive to seek revenge for the tragedy that shaped her life.  There is significant tragedy in the backgrounds of many of the characters and the final book does a very nice job of tying together the threads that make up the web of Gin's life without making this a final ending point.  My Night Owl Reviews can be found at:
Spider's Bite
Web of Lies
Tangled Threads
Spider's Revenge

I highly recommend these tales if you like kick-butt heroines who can love just as fiercely as they fight and have plenty of characters around them who deserve their own tales even as they enrich the life of the main character.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Allyson James' Dragon Heat and Mortal Temptations and follow-up on Daring

It was an Allyson James day...for some reason both titles arrived at my local library at the same time although I usually try to space different books by the same author out more  (unless they're part of the same series) so that I don't get too jaded about the story.  She is a prolific author and actually writes under several pseudonyms, including Jennifer Ashley and Ashley Gardner.  I had not read other works written by her in this persona and confess that I wasn't terribly fond of a couple of titles I had read by her Jennifer Ashley persona so I was a little apprehensive but I am glad that I tried other of her works.  Mortal Temptations (my Goodreads review) starts with a great scene (after all, who wouldn't be fascinated to find an injured winged being who looks like a hunk and is readily accepted by one's cat) and continues with an intriguing story that blends eroticism and paranormal elements and features a hunky snow-leopard as well.  I thought it jumped around a bit too much and the villains are pretty two-dimensional but it was a good light read as was Dragon Heat (my Goodreads review).  I have been a dragon fan since Anne McCaffrey converted me in the mid 1980s and Allyson James' version are sensual and entertaining...after all, who wouldn't be fascinated with a dragon who is addicted to late night television?  I thought Malcolm was a bit inconsistent but will have to read his story before passing final judgement.

I was tickled to receive a response to my Night Owl Review of Mike Shepherd's most recent novel, Kris Longknife: Daring from the author himself because he indicated that he approved of my analysis although he was disappointed that I hadn't mentioned the budding romance so that is evidently going to be further addressed in subsequent works.  I was conflicted about it so I decided that the less I said in the review itself, the better.  It always flabbergasts me to hear from authors although most of them have been more than gracious when I stand in front of them tongue-tied.  Kim (from the SOS Aloha blog) told me that authors are flattered when one approaches them with compliments about their works but I always worry about impinging on their privacy (projecting, I guess).  Having grown up in Southern California, there are plenty of "personalities" around but I have never been an autograph hound, preferring to take photographs instead.  Then there's also the fear that they'll remember when I've given a less than flattering review and throw something at me...

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Kris Longknife: Daring and space opera

Ok, I confess, I am still exhibiting avoidance behavior and not finishing the onerous task that I have been procrastinating about for months (yes, I have not finished my taxes!).  I did manage to finish my review books although my moderator very kindly extended the deadline on one of them since I was really set back by the migraines this week...can you say psychosomatic influences?  I did manage to finish reading about the latest adventures of Midnight Louie and get the review finished but it ruined my almost perfect record of on-time submissions.  Enough about that, the latest Mike Shepherd tale of Kris Longknife: Daring was another example of rollicking good space opera.  Kris is up to her usual exploits, exploring space and turning preconceived notions on their heads but this time she has a far greater mix of factions openly involved rather than delivering her information second or third-hand through the spy network.  There is a bit too much carnage for me in this tale (a frequent problem with space operas) but I enjoyed the self-deprecating humor and the repartee that is characteristic of the princess and her shipmates.  I am not quite sure I think that the budding romance is believable but I will withhold judgement right now.  My Night Owl Review is at:

I had the wonderful opportunity to chat with another excellent sci-fi author, Linnea Sinclair, when she came to town for the Romantic Times Reader's Conference this year and she dismayed me with the statement that females tend not to read science-fiction because they don't think they will understand it.  Aaarggh!  How do we expect to get ahead in science and technology if half of our population thinks like that?  I thought we had made great advances when authors no longer had to pretend they were male (e.g. Andre or Andrew Norton) to get published in the sci-fi field.  I began reading Heinlein, Asimov, Clarke in junior high (that will date me since it is an outdated term) and never quit.  I admit that I skip over the sections in current novels that are devoted to describing the armament and how much of what was required to blow up what quantity of beings/ships/buildings, etc.  but I do that whether I am reading sci-fi or an action adventure tale.  It saddens me to think about that vicious cycle...fewer readers means a smaller audience for really good authors which means fewer minds are stimulated to think outside of the box...where will we go from there?