Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Master, by Kresley Cole - Review

Title: The Master
Series: Game Maker
Author: Kresley Cole
Publisher:  Simon & Schuster/Gallery Books
Release Date: February 17, 2015 
Reviewing: Commercial Trade edition
Reason for reading: Love Kresley Cole, and received print copy from publisher

The Short Answer 
Total rave!

The Blurb (from Cole's website)
A need colder than Siberian winter meets an attitude hotter than the Florida sun in #1 New York Times bestselling author Kresley Cole’s sultry new Game Maker novel.

Rich, irresistible politician/Mafiya boss Maksimilian Sevastyan prefers tall, obedient blondes to fulfill his…complicated desires. That is, until the icy Russian encounters a disobedient brunette whose exquisite little body threatens his legendary restraint.

Catarina MarĂ­n was a well-off young wife until her world fell apart. Now she’s hiding out, forced to start working as an escort in Miami. Her very first client is beyond gorgeous, but when he tells her what he plans to do to her, Cat almost walks out of the door.

After their mind-blowing encounter burns out of control, the lovers crave more. If they escape the deadly threats surrounding them, can Maksim overcome his past–to offer Cat his future? Only then will she tempt him with what he really wants: her, all tied up with a bow.
The Whole Scoop
To be honest, the whole "powerful but angsty young billionaire with BDSM inclinations meets sassy ingenue" erotic romance sub-genre is not necessarily my favorite.  I don't seek it out.  I've read a few here and there and liked some of them OK, but as a group... eh.  They tend to either have not enough character or not enough plot, relying on the erotic scenes to bring the readers.

This one though... if you only read one "powerful but angsty young billionaire with BDSM inclinations meets sassy ingenue" erotic romance this year, it really should be this one.  If you read two, maybe check the first one in the series (I haven't read it yet, but I'm gonna-- plus it's on sale as of this writing).

What really makes this story work for me is the heroine.  She has a fantastic backstory, over the top and yet still believable.  The way she foils the hero's every expectation and every prediction is a genuine pleasure-- she just leaves him reeling at every turn.  She does nothing that she's supposed to, nothing that he wants her to do -- but she's everything he needs.

This is where I would normally pull a favorite quote -- and I love the way they banter -- but the best stuff is imbedded in the very very X-rated erotic scenes and it would make me blush too much to excerpt them here.

Speaking of the sexytimes, I will say that this is another place where the heroine shakes up expectations.  She refuses to conform to Maksim's script--which is pretty much everybody's script since 50SoG came out--and I really love that (I see what you did there, Ms. Cole).  She's not the tiniest bit submissive; she's much more in the mold of the hair-tossing, anachronistically feisty heroines of the old-skool historicals-- but without the TSTL temper tantrums and bad decisions. (Also, no sex-on-horseback scene... although the topic does come up. So to speak.)  He totally reels her in with mind-blowing sex... but then, she does the same to him.  It's just utterly fun and yet still moving and they really are just a perfect match for each other.

I don't love New Adult.  I just don't. I'm 48 years old, I have a teenaged daughter, and sophomoric party-animal behavior like getting drunk and barfing is more of a turn-off than any kind of entertainment for me. There was a bit of that here, and it was a bit of a downside, but it was pretty minimal.

I also felt like Maksimilian's dominance and scariness were mostly in the blurb.  He was verbally cruel to Cat at times, which generated some big-mis style conflict, but I didn't really see him as a ruthless mafiya boss.  Compared to Cat's sizzle and sparkle, he was a bit flat as a character. Although I gotta say, he um, pulls his weight? as a character in the erotic scenes.  Very nice.

Series Handicap
I haven't read the first one, and I didn't find it to be a problem at all.  We do get some time with the first book's couple, at their wedding, so I think fans of  The Professional will be pleased about that, but I didn't feel like I was missing anything important to Maksim and Cat's story.  The third brother got a bit of sequel baiting as The Most Damaged Of Them All, and Natalie's colorful party-girl BFF Jessica got some page time too.  Love the girl-on-girl dialog with those three. 

Bottom Line
This book is not for anyone who is at all squeamish about explicit pillow talk, but whether you're looking for a hot erotic or a snappy fast-paced contemporary with a bit of suspense, a bit of angst, and metric ton of chemistry, you won't be disappointed.

Here's a pic of the gorgeous author and myself from RT14 in N'awlins.

Even Better Bonus: 
Headphones would be a good idea here, if you're at work or have impressionable children around:

Friday, December 26, 2014

Catching Up - No Excuses

Greetings, book people!

I seem to have taken an unplanned hiatus from blogging and nearly all social media.  Life happens, and sometimes the fun stuff takes a back seat for awhile.  I have followed a few of the industry dust-ups from a distance but have avoided getting too emotionally invested, just for the sake of my blood pressure.

So what have I been doing in the meantime?

A few years ago when I decided to change jobs, I posted that job hunting and then the learning curve at the new place seemed to occupy the same brain space as blogging -- or at least, it crowded out what capacity I had for blogging.  I have confirmed that this is a repeatable phenomenon.  I changed jobs again this past September, and part of me thinks I was crazy to do it.  My old job was kind of cushy, with lots of people I really enjoy.  The new job is far more challenging, and the environment is super corporate and formal by comparison.  I'm not totally comfortable.  But at the old job, I was a big (ish) fish in a small pond, and there was nowhere really to go.  I get nervous if I plateau for more than a couple of years; IME that is not good for a career in tech.  So, onward I go!

Another thing that happened this fall was that I signed my daughter up for a First Lego League team.  This has been an incredible experience for her, but wow, is it a lot of work and a lot of time.  We lucked into a really great coach but this activity has literally soaked up 80% of my weekend days for the last three months.  I'm not very productive in the evenings after a workday, so it's been hard to get my normal stuff done.

On top of that, I had a couple of quilting projects that I had been putting off that needed to be done in time for Christmas.  I've pieced several quilt tops and I really enjoy that, but I've never actually quilted the layers together before (I hired that part to be done on the previous projects) and was more than a bit intimidated by the process.  The good news is, both quilts were completed and made the recipients very happy.  I'm divided on whether I would do it again or not.  It's definitely not my favorite part of the process, but I'm the kind of person who dislikes things that I'm not good at.  I was enjoying it more toward the end when I was getting better, but the time crunch made it really stressful.  Ahh well.  Live and learn.

Oh, and we have a new bathroom!  We have been without a tub for longer than I like to admit, with all of us using a small shower stall in the basement 3/4 bathroom.  I was brushing my teeth one day and the heavy soapdish tile just fell right off into the tub.  The tile had allowed moisture behind it, causing the backerboard to become wet and moldy.  So anyway, the tl;dr version is that we finally pulled together the resources to remodel the bathroom and I'm so very pleased with the result.  It took longer than it should have -- as these things always seem to do-- but we have a pretty shiny new tub & shower with beautiful tile work.  And it's not like I did any particular work on it, but it was somehow exhausting anyway.

No excuses, no apologies, just a chat to catch you up on the doings around here.  My reading has been somewhat curtailed too, but since it's been so long, I still have a long list that I could review or at least gab about a bit.

Hope you've all been well and enjoying your various winter (or summer, for those Down Under) end of year holidays!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Sunday Soup -September 7

Sunday Soup is... beatniks, home improvements, and a winner from Jeaniene Frost

Soup Dish:  on my mind this week
I'm still trying to put my house back together. My daughter is reluctantly sorting through large piles of toys and possessions, and I am reluctantly tackling a Defcon 4 Laundry Situation. On the upside, I have implemented a New Penalty for a certain house rule that has been pretty much ignored, which is "if I catch you, you owe me an hour of chores of my choice." So that bought me a nice cleaned up basement room yesterday.  In addition, I managed to partially disassemble a closet system in my master bedroom so that I could fit a shoe organizer onto an upper shelf.  Like that damn mouse with its damn cookie, I need to go back to Home Despot for a shelf bracket to shore up the structure that I demo'd.  Wheeee. On the upside, all my shoes have happy little paired up homes now.  w00t!

I had a fun conversation on Twitter this week that I thought about Storifying, but the disclaimer about using it with Twitter says that you are allowing it to post to your Twitter account. I don't like that, so phooey on Storify. The convo was about beatniks, the high point of which was me posting this youtube clip from Laverne and Shirley, and having it reposted by the Simon and Garfunkle fan account, which totally made my day.

Loved this post from Wendy The Superlibrarian about romance, love, sex, and inspiration.

What I'm reading

I got a copy of The Beautiful Ashes by Jeaniene Frost via RT, and while I sort of missed the boat for an advance review, I hope to put one up soonish. The short story is, I really really liked it. Angel/Demon stories are kind of hit or miss for me (Meljean Brook: Hit; Larissa Ione: Miss) but this one totally worked. I hesitated to read it because I'm not really a fan of the NA genre (does anyone else automatically read "Not Applicable" for NA ?) but I was pleased to find out that the only thing NA about this book was the heroine's age, which is twenty. To me it read as straight-up urban fantasy with a very strong romantic/sexual tension element.  It does have a cliff-hanger, sequel-bait ending, but in a most delicious way.  The story resolves, but the resolution turns out to open up a whole new can of worms.

Katie Porter's Own, the debut in a new Special Ops erotica series. I hit a snag early on with this one, but because the author has a good track record for me, I gave it a second chance and did enjoy how the relationship developed.  Thumbs up.

I'm still slogging through a mediocre contemporary which I am stubbornly refusing to DNF because I have A Plan in mind for a future post. I killed a quick 80 page novella for the same Plan which was OK. End tease.

Outlander Watch... Och. Jamie and Claire onscreen, fnuh.

Still delighted. Last night's cliff hanger kind of outraged me, and I know what happens next.  Sheesh.  I do see why some people are complaining about it being slow. The tensions within the clan are fairly subtle. I think the best part of this series is watching the unspoken interactions -- the heated looks & body language.

Note: this post contains affiliate links.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Rock Addiction, by Nalini Singh - Review

Title: Rock Addiction 
Series: Rock Kiss, Book 1
Author: Nalini Singh
Publisher:  TKA Distribution/Amazon Digital
Release Date: September 9, 2014
Reviewing: eARC from Netgalley
Reason for reading: Nalini Singh is a huge favorite of mine

The Short Answer 
To be honest, I was a little disappointed.

The Blurb (from Singh's website)
A bad boy wrapped in a sexy, muscled, grown-up package might be worth a little risk…
Molly Webster has always followed the rules. After an ugly scandal tore apart her childhood and made her the focus of the media's harsh spotlight, she vowed to live an ordinary life. No fame. No impropriety. No pain. Then she meets Zachary Fox, a tattooed bad boy rocker with a voice like whiskey and sin, and a touch that could become an addiction.

A one-night stand with the hottest rock star on the planet, that's all it was meant to be…
Fox promises scorching heat and dangerous pleasure, coaxing Molly to extend their one-night stand into a one-month fling. After that, he'll be gone forever, his life never again intersecting with her own. Sex and sin and sensual indulgence, all with an expiration date. No ties, no regrets. Too late, Molly realizes it isn't only her body that's become addicted to Fox, but her heart…
The Whole Scoop 
Just this morning, my Twitter feed included a quote attributed to Henry James: "The only classification of the novel that I can understand is into that which has life and that which has it not."

I checked the quote attribution, because that's how I roll, and it turns out that the actual quote is "the only classification of the novel that I can understand is into the interesting and the uninteresting." (based on two different archives of the full text of "The Art of Fiction").  There are numerous documents that attribute it the other way, but they are not the primary text. Just so you know.

However, the apparently incorrect version of the quote intrigues me more as a reviewer and a reader. And I think it sums up a bit of the difficulty I had with this book. It just didn't have the life, the crackle, that I associate with Singh's paranormal romances.

The characters were on the cardboard side to me; the heroine a meek everyday librarian with a tendency to run when scared, and the hero a blustery, occasionally over-stepping alpha male.  While the characters are technically beyond New Adult age, it had that feel to me because the heroine was quite young and inexperienced, and there was also a surprising amount of sex -- bordering on erotica-level heat and frequency.

The book falls naturally into two sections, the division of which is a bit spoilery, but I I liked the second half better.  The pacing picks up, the action picks up, and I liked the scenes with the other band members.  On the downside, there isn't a compelling plotline here to keep things moving -- it's a very internal, overcoming-our-issues story, which works great when you love the characters, but doesn't help if the characterization isn't working 100%.

The Bottom Line
Lots of people are loving this title so maybe I just had an off day, and I suspect there is no way the average Singh fan is going to bypass it no matter what I say. And honestly, I will most likely pick up the next book in this series, but I have to hope that it works a little better for me.

Around the Blogosphere
Romance Reader At Heart
Book Swoon
Feeding My Addiction

Monday, September 1, 2014

Summer Soup - September 1

Sunday Summer Soup is... summer's end, the ethics of heroism, The Muppets, some indifferent reading. Another Sunday thrown off by holidays...

Soup Dish:  on my mind this week, and a few favorite links

Well, we're winding up summer around here. School shopping is done, orientations have been had, and the first day of school is Tuesday. Yesterday I took my older daughter to Bumbershoot to see Panic! At The Disco, which was a surprisingly (to me) great show. Earlier in the week I took my younger daughter to see The Princess Bride, the last of the Movies In The Park for this summer.  AND, still working on replacing outlets and things like that. Woohoo, DIY!

I am ridiculously fond of the Muppets.  I'm exactly in the demographic for the original Sesame Street, and I still think The Muppet Show from the second half of the 70s is one of the best family shows ever, bar none.  Also the Siberian prisoners singing "Workin' in a Coal Mine" is pretty much the funniest thing I've seen all year.  So when Bookriot featured the Muppets' best literary references, you know it was one of my favorite things.  While we're on the topic, The Monster At The End Of This Book is still one of the best, most-fun-to-read-aloud kids' books ever.  I hope it never goes out of print.

On a more serious note, there are a couple of articles colliding for me: The Overdetermined Hero by Liz McCausland, wherein I feel uneasy about the heroes I love to read about, and in fact, have named this blog for:
If we want to claim that reading romance empowers women–and many people do–we have to acknowledge that it can disempower us too. No one has to think about the appeal of the stalker-alpha, of course. But I do wonder what we’re afraid to look at when we evade the questions he raises.
In another article, Jessica Wise posits that literature in fact, changes reality, which has some interesting commentary but isn't very well supported as far as I can tell.  For instance, she says:
Whether you’re reading Harry Potter or Great Expectations, you’re reading the kind of plot that inspired Darwin. Yet recent studies show that his theory might not be the whole story. Our sense of being one man or one woman (or even one species) taking on the challenges of the world might be wrong. Instead of being hard-wired for competition, for being the solitary heroes in our own story, we might be instead members of a shared quest: more Hobbit, than Harry.
but I couldn't find any supporting links or references either in the transcripted article or at the original Ted Talk video (possibly because I'm a Ted Talk n00b, having only watched a few vids and not tried to engage at all).

Both of these articles made me think of Jayne Ann Krentz's Bowling Green speech, to which I've referred before, about how the traits ascribed to popular heroic tradition (whatever that may mean in context) tend to have survival value.  Sadly, it seems that the publicly available transcript of the speech has been taken down, but the gist of it is, today's genre fiction (and historically speaking, most fiction that speaks to the common public) promotes optimism - courage, valor, honor, integrity, love.

I kind of want to get the three of them on a panel to talk about romance heroes.  With water balloons, or something.

What I'm reading
The list is a little thin this week; lots of non-reading things going on!
Finished an ARC of Nalini Singh's new contemporary, Rock Addiction.  Watch for a full review on Thursday.

Also blew through another ARC that was super-amazing but won't release until late October, so I'll be coy about the title.  You're gonna want it.

I'm in the middle of Tall Dark and Cajun, by Sandra Hill. I'm thinking of doing a mini-feature on Cajun heroes-- does anyone have a favorite? 

I started a couple of titles that ended up stalling out a little for me; I'm not calling them DNFs just yet but I dunno. They're both BDSM romances but both of them hit "oh please, really?!" bumps for me.

Outlander Watch... Och. Jamie and Claire onscreen!

Yup, still loving this show.  My only critique is that I found the 1940s music playing during the Castle Leoch scenes to just... not work for me.  But eh.  You gotta love Dougal, right? Such a shady, nuanced character.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Thursday Thirteen, Edition 34

So many series, so little time.  I have such a giant backlog of physical and e-books piled up, I am trying very hard to be virtuous/thrifty about buying new books.  But in the meantime, my favorite authors KEEP PUBLISHING NEW BOOKS.  Augh.  I will never catch up.  Here's a snapshot of where I am with some awesome series (in no particular order):

Thirteen Next (for me) Books In Series:

1. Blood Games, The Chicagoland Vampire series, by Chloe Neill
2. River Marked, the Mercy Thomson series, by Patricia Briggs
3. The Undead Pool, The Hollows series, by Kim Harrison
4. Naamah's Blessing, the Kushiel's Legacy series, by Jacqueline Carey
5. Tricked, the Iron Druid series, by Kevin Hearne
6. Magic Breaks, the Kate Daniels series, by Ilona Andrews
7. The Kraken King, (all parts*), the Iron Seas series, by Meljean Brook
8. Out of the Darkness, the Offspring series, by Jaime Rush
9. Crossroads, Southern Arcana series, by Moira Rogers
10. The Mage in Black, the Sabine Kane series, by Jaye Wells
11. Darkness Rising, the Dark Angels series, by Keri Arthur
12. Dark Skye, the Immortals After Dark series, by Kresley Cole (I'll be honest, I'm waiting for this one to come down to mass market pricing)
13. Sixth Grave on the Edge, the Charley Davidson series, by Darynda Jones

And a bonus,  Night's Honor, the Elder Races series, by Thea Harrison which I'm technically, not behind on as it's not out quite yet...

*this was published in 7 or 8 parts as a serial, and is showing available on November 4 as a compiled novel.  w00t!

Find more Thirteeners at Thursday-13.  Participants are welcome and encouraged to leave links in comments.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Sunday Soup - August 16

Sunday Soup is... Summer activities, a contemporary hit-list, and a dash of Outlander debrief.

Soup Dish:  on my mind this week...
Last Sunday's Soup was pre-empted by a very hot, very dusty day at the local Renaissance festival.  Although we don't go all out with costume and accessories and fake accents, as a family we make it a point to go every year, have a bottle of sarsaparilla soda, buy a trinket or two, and watch the spectacles.

I've also been doing a bit of handyman stuff around our house this summer-- painting rooms and installing dimmer switches and new outlets.  Stuff like that.  I'm feeling very pleased with myself, but the blog has been part of the time tradeoff there.

I've also been in the midst of changing some things up personally, nothing bad, but it's had me unsettled and distracted.  All of which is not to be defensive about not posting more, but just chatting about what I've been doing instead.

What I'm reading
There is a lot to catch up on, given my negligent posting, but I think the theme for this week's reading is FABULOUS CONTEMPS! Some really good stuff here:
Currently in the middle of Skinny Dipping, from Connie Brockway's backlist.  So funny. I wish she had done (or would do) more contemporaries.

If I Stay, by Tamara Morgan. I got this one from Carina Press at RT.  I think I saw a mention of the author on Twitter, and that was enough to tip me into trying out the title, and I'm really glad I did.  I'm always interested in finding new contemporary authors, and I really loved this one.  The style reminds me a little bit of Kristan Higgins, without the dogs.  I'll absolutely be reading more from Morgan.

When I heard Victoria Dahl's latest Jackson Hole title, Looking for Trouble, was out, I hit it like it owed me money (or something like that.)  Dahl's contemporaries are getting hotter and hotter and this one scorches.  I love how she takes a near-fantasy encounter for both of them and pushes it into a Happily Ever After.

I picked up Beauty from Pain by Georgia Cates, based entirely on the title (make of that what you will).  Well, that and the freebie pricing, I suppose.  It turned out to be not quite what I expected.  Overall I didn't love it, but it had some good moments.  It had a cliff-hanger ending which annoyed me, a la 50SoG, and I probably won't pick up the follow-up.

In non-contemp reading...

The Sekhmet Bed, by L.M. Ironside. I picked this up because a friend of mine knows the author, and told me, "she writes your kind of books."  I was sort of expecting a romance, which this wasn't, exactly, but I did like it quite a lot.  There are three more books in the series, but this one chronicles the marriage and rise to power of a particular Pharoah's wife.  I am not at all an expert on Egyptology, but the author writes convincingly of everyday life in 1500 BC Egypt. 

Beyond Addiction. Kit Rocha delivers again.  I can't say enough good things about this series.  If I gave ratings, I'd give the whole series six out of five stars.

Outlander Watch... Och. Jamie and Claire onscreen-- it's here, it's here!!
Would you laugh at me if I told you that part of my home-improvement spate this summer is about getting the TV room into a condition that I can stand, so that I could watch this show?  Well, go ahead and laugh. ;-)

I've fixed up the lighting, cleaned up a mess of accumulated junk, done a long-overdue update/swap of our cable boxes, added a console table behind the sofa (because the configuration of the room doesn't really allow for a coffee table, and bought a rug. We have a wire storage shelf in the room with a collection of things with no better home, and I very cleverly attached a pretty shower curtain all around the edges with S-hooks.  It sort of looks like we have a shower stall in the corner of the room now, but at least the junk is hidden.  Also I stole the matching ottoman back out of my husband's office. Next up, is a good scrub of the floor, adding in the rug pad (it arrived 4 days after the rug), and putting up some art on the wall.

I'm finding that I don't really need to dissect and analyze and share about watching this show.  I'm enjoying it tremendously.  I'm glad I re-read the book last month and I think the casting and the chemistry is amazing.  I don't want to dissect it and nitpick it. I don't want to argue with people who aren't enjoying it; I'm sure there are faults to be found, but DON'T CARE. I'm not interested in rational, measured discussion and really, I'm not particularly interested in OMG SQUEEEE DON'T YOU LOVE IT TOO!?

So if you've been wondering what I think of the show, now you know.  And you know where I'll be at 9:00 pm on Saturdays for the next few weeks.


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