Sunday, July 13, 2014

Sunday Soup - July 13

Sunday Soup is... a little of this, a little of that, not too much work, and hopefully a tasty result.

Soup Dish:  on my mind this week...
A lot of interesting links about the ongoing Hachette vs. Amazon battle and where the author and reader interests lie. There is a ton of rhetoric out there about who is the bigger monster, and I cannot claim to understand all the nuances.  But the most compelling article I've read lately on the topic is this one from Joe Konrath. In particular, the information he exposes around one reason that Hachette *may* be digging in on terms is the issue of retail discounting:
If you want to understand what a party is doing in a negotiation, a good place to start is with their public statements. In this case, we know exactly what Hachette was planning to do in this negotiation because they published their strategy. In a letter to the federal court in the ebook antitrust case, believe it or not. When the proposed final judgment for Apple was announced, it included a provision that prohibited Apple from entering into agreements that would limit its ability to offer retail discounts.
The Big 5 are saying that as soon as the two year "cooling off" period is over, they want to get rid of retail discounting. Literally their only objection to the Apple settlement is that it will leave one ebook retailer who must maintain the ability to discount. The Big 5 have been waiting for two years for a chance to get rid of retail discounting. And take special note of that word "unilaterally". That means that the Big 5 each have to negotiate independently with their retailers.
I don't know about you guys, but I really like being able to bargain shop occasionally for e-books.  I do pay full price on release day for some authors that I love, but I also am more likely to try an unknown author for 99 cents than I am for $7.99.

I am not lovin' Bloglovin. I've followed links to several blog posts lately that were somehow(?) syndicated with this app, and it pops up a large header that consumes about 20% of my available vertical reading space.  Presumably this would go away if only I would sign in to a service I know nothing about and cannot find out about unless I log in. I'm feeling cranky about the sheer number of services/apps I need to log into lately and I am not automatically creating accounts for everything.  So if you are using this service, be aware that it is an obstacle for cranky people like myself.

And while I'm at it, those of you who use jumps in your articles are putting up another barrier for me.  I read most of my blogs in a feedreader (Feedly), and I only click through maybe 5% of the articles that I get a teaser for.  I know you have your reasons for doing that -- ad revenue and clicks are one -- but that is a big reason I love the feedreader. I get all those annoying flashy-blinky-scrolling ads filtered. Just so you know.


What I'm reading

I have been loving the Kit Rocha series so much, I don't know why it didn't occur to me until recently to check out the books by the same team under their other nom de plume, Moira Rogers. I picked up Crux early last week and positively devoured it. I'm pacing myself on new purchases, considering the staggering size of my TBR pile, but that series just jumped high up on the list. Absolutely loved it.  

This review at Herding Cats and Burning Soup (great name!) caught my eye, and I've added The Bottom Line to my "to be acquired" list. I'm always on the lookout for a good contemp author to try. (disclosure: link goes to the original blogger's affiliate link, seems only fair.)

I bent my "no review copies" policy for Memory Zero by Keri Arthur. This is book one of a new series and I totally loved it. It does bear a strong resemblance to the Riley Jenson series in pacing and pattern, which in my mind is all to the good. The heroine is a tough police detective with latent paranormal abilities, and after attending a couple of sessions at RT14 with Diana Rowland, whose bio includes similar police work and also writes UF, and I couldn't help kind of picturing her as the heroine, Sam Ryan. It is available for pre-order, and if you liked Riley, you'll be a fan of this series as well.

I was on such a good roll with paranormals that I decided to pick up a physical book that had been gathering dust on my shelf: The Last Mermaid from Shana Abe. I love Abe's writing soooo much. It's been a bit slower read, partly I think I just read physical books more slowly than e-books, and partly because the language is worth lingering over.

Outlander Watch... Och. I canna wait for Jamie and Claire onscreen.

With the premiere of the TV show less than a month away, the buzz is really heating up. First up, the scoop about when and where from Entertainment Weekly. Next, a very nice photo gallery from Yahoo TV (although I was a little disappointed in the lack of really new images). Finally, an interview with Starz' CEO, who is hardly impartial, but it's nice to see that kind of excitement.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Sunday Soup - July 6

Sunday Soup is... a little of this, a little of that, not too much work, and hopefully a tasty result.

Soup Dish:  this week I'm dishing about Seattle bookstores...

So my big book news of the week was the Diana Gabaldon signing that happened in Seattle.  Over 600 people attended. She was an absolutely delightful speaker, and the Forest Park Third Place Books did a wonderful job accommodating a HUGE number of fans on an unseasonably hot day. If you have a chance to hear her speak I highly recommend it-- but only if you like hearing slightly off-color stories about Scotsmen in (and out) of kilts. I am so looking forward to the Starz production of Outlander this August, and getting a chance at a fan-girl moment was a great way to increase the anticipation:


On a side note, Third Place Books has an extensive Romance collection, easily rivaling the local Barnes & Noble stores and my late lamented Redmond Borders {moment of silence, please}.  If you've been reading along at Alpha Heroes since the very beginning, you may remember this very early rant about indie bookstores and romance, specifically Elliott Bay Books, the best-known Seattle indie.

I had this brief interaction on Twitter recently, and decided to give EBB another chance:



Promising, right?

So yesterday, the kids and I made an outing of it, and hit Elliott Bay Books along with other nearby destinations: Molly Moon ice cream, Everyday Music, and the Ghost Gallery.  My kids found plenty of books to tempt them in the huge children and young adult sections, but the romance section was a bit less prominent.  Here's what the Fiction section looks like:


Nice space, isn't it? It's beautiful, really, a lovely place for a bibliophile to hang out in.  I compressed the photo (and it was already a little hazy, the lighting was tricky), but if you have a very sharp eye you might see placards directing you to Fiction, Science Fiction, and Mystery, but where's the romance?

Oh. Here it is.


Oh, not that WHOLE case, silly.  Just the bottom three shelves. The two shelves above it are erotic romance.  There are two more shelves above THAT for, I believe, fiction overrun/overstocks. No placard.  At a generous guess, I'd say half the titles were classic romances from the 90s. Crusie, Garfield, Devereaux, McNaught.  Good picks, but not exactly current. The other half were recent releases, across a fair spectrum of historical and contemporary. So, um, "growing." OK. It's bigger than it was in 2008, when it was ZERO. So... sure.  That's growth.  However, I'd say there's a long way to go before Elliott Bay Books convinces me that it wants my business.  In the meantime, I'll be at Barnes & Noble.  Or Amazon. Or Third Place Books.

What I'm reading

Downloaded and devoured The Saint, by Tiffany Reisz. I really enjoyed the story, as I do most all of Reisz' work, but I will say -- a lot of the material has already been told from other points of view, I think mostly from The Mistress (don't quote me though, they're starting to blur.)  The flashbacks to Nora and Soren's early days are interspersed with a present-day lover that has a bit of a squick factor.  It mostly didn't bother me, because fiction, but I could've done without it. It feels like Nora cannot relate to anyone unless she's banging them, and that's starting to feel kind of icky. Not to be overly critical though -- there was plenty to like. I particularly liked Nora and Soren's discussions of sex and theology. I think Reisz managed to show the electric connection between the 15-year-old Eleanor and the 29-year-old priest without making it ugly, and that is not easy. Reisz does witty, innuendo-laden banter very well, and I loved how that worked with the cold, serious, uber-self-controlled Soren.

I finished The Windflower, and I'm hoping to post some thoughts on it later this week.

The Bastard, by Inez Kelley. I picked this up after a random tweet from Mandi, and liked it quite a bit. It's the first in a paranormal series about angels and their fight with Satan himself for supremacy.  The world-building is quite complex, and involves super-good-guys from the historical rolls, but also -- unexpectedly -- some super-bad guys too, who are fighting for personal redemption as well as all of humankind. The theory is that when you've got to fight some ultimate evil, it couldn't hurt to have some warriors who aren't above getting down and dirty.  I will say that my eyebrows went up a little bit on learning who these "heroes" were, and I felt like their human sins were sort of waved away with a bit of "hey, that was then, and I'm really sorry," and also, "oh, you know how history exaggerates," but I'm willing to wait and see how their individual stories go.

Heavy Metal Heart, by Nico Rosso. This was another author I wanted to stalk, er, I mean, familiarize myself with before RT.  While I won't say this novella blew me away completely, I did like the world setup and the author's description of the actual magic that is created by the characters' music was incredible. Book 2 came out in March, and I might just pick it up. Maybe I'm just a sucker for a satyr rock star.

Outlander Watch... Och. I canna wait for Jamie and Claire onscreen.

Watch the latest trailer (for Australian TV) here: Den of Geek

And a bit of a behind the scenes video at Cinema Blend

__________________________
That's it for this week -- hope you had a spectacular 4th, if you go in for that sort of thing, and that one way or another, your July is off to a good start.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Hate to Love You, by Elise Alden - Review

Information
Title: Hate to Love You
Author: Elise Alden
Publisher:  Carina Press
Release Date: June 2, 2014
Reviewing: ebook, complimentary at RT14.
Reason for reading: a fair amount of buzz.

The Short Answer 
At the risk of being overly cutesy: I hated to love it.  And I mean that.

The Blurb (from Amazon)
Despite my slutty reputation, I was technically a virgin at eighteen. But it turns out all those sex-ed teachers aren't just trying to scare you. The faint positive on a budget pregnancy test sent me spinning, moments before meeting my sister's snooty new fiancé.

Shaking hands with upper-crusty James was like downing a triple shot of vodka. Dizzy with desire, confused by my body's reaction, and shocked by the possessiveness flashing in his eyes, I deceived him that night and told the world at their wedding reception.

The truth?

I slept with my sister's fiancé. Hot and sweaty, all night long in a room so dark he couldn't tell I wasn't her.

The lie?

Said fiancé is the father of my child. The one I signed over my rights to just before he was born.

That was seven years ago.

It's time to come clean.

The Whole Scoop
This book started out pretty much totally unlikeable for me. I thought the premise was gimmicky and the heroine is a train wreck, with a crude vocabulary and a cruder life.  I almost gave up on it in the first chapter when Paisley found it necessary to explain to me about her extraordinary nipples:
I've got to tell you about those little suckers.  I am cursed with the longest nipples in the world.  Even Marcia says so, and she's seen them in all shapes and sizes at the hospital. Mine are ginormously freakish. They sit on a large circle of dark pink and just wait for me to brush against something or get cold or...

I looked at James.

Aroused.
I don't know if this was supposed to be funny or what, but I found it off-putting. In fact, I found Paisley's whole character off-putting.

But then it turned out, that was kind of the point.  I got just enough of a glimpse of Paisley's vulnerability to keep me engaged through the serious train wreck of Part 1. Similarly, James was snide and condescending and generally awful, but then he would do or say something with a genuine kindness that made me willing to stay on for just a few more pages.

OK, so then part 2 seems promising -- Paisley has managed to get her act together; gotten away from her toxic family and carved out a profession for herself. She's back in London, and wants to be a part of her son's life.

And then I have another headbanging moment, where she applies for a job at James' place of work, under a different name, and, just, SERIOUSLY WHO DOES THAT? AUUGGHH.  I didn't like this plan at all.

But somewhere in here, the story and characters started to turn around for me. It is partly because the author feeds us Paisley's backstory in just the right way that it doesn't feel like excuse-making, but it feels like a maturation, for us as readers, in the same way that Paisley matures and begins to cope with it. But even more so, I think it was the kindness in James than anything else, and I know I've said that before. But when Paisley came back and had her act mostly cleaned up, it was easier for him to be kind to her.  And for all the crudeness and wrongness of their first hook-up, their chemistry is ELECTRIC, to mix a metaphor, and the author pulls off the lightning-strike magnitude of their attraction. 

The best thing about this romance is that we have some of the most imperfect non-vampire characters EVAR, with shipping-container-sized baggage, and they work through it. And win.

And that is a well-earned Happily Ever After.

Around the Blogosphere
Dear Author (oo, Jane does not agree with me at all)
Maryse's Book Blog
Harlequin Junkie
Britt's Book & Life Blog


PS: Okay, I just cannot NOT say this, even though it doesn't fit anywhere in the flow of the review.  PAISLEY IS A MIND READER.  That's right. If she can look you in the eyes, she can READ YOUR MIND. Except when she can't, which happened at times with James, for no apparent reason. (Also, HE CAN READ HER MIND TOO. It was not clear whether he could read everyone's mind, or just hers.)  This element of the book was, in my humble opinion, COMPLETELY STUPID AND THE WORST THING. If I gave starred ratings, I would knock off an entire star because this is so stupid. It made it much much harder to take the story seriously. Please don't let this ever happen again. 

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Sunday Soup - June 29

Sunday Soup is... a little of this, a little of that, not too much work, and hopefully a tasty result.

Soup Dish:  book people are talking about..
Changing the focus of this a little - other book people out there do a much better job than I do of reporting the kerfuffles, so this will just be my little editorial corner. Links that caught my eye, and what I think about them, stuff like that... 

The Convoluted Calculus of Rating Books My initial reaction to this article was to go all kitty-butt-faced on this and think HOW VERY WRONG it would be to rate books in such ways. It then occurred to me that perhaps this was a tongue-in-cheek article and meant to be funny.  Or possibly both -- ie, the author perhaps does give a book 5 stars if:

“My friend loves this book and if she happens to see my rating, I want her to think I loved it, too, even though maybe under normal circumstances I would’ve given it three stars. Because she cares what I think, obviously, and it super matters that we have exactly the same feelings about everything all the time.”

... and thinks it's a really funny truth about book blogging.  I see comments that are laughing and agreeing. I don't know, maybe I'm having an Asperger moment, but I don't see the humor in it at all.  Of course, it's one of the reasons I don't rate books; I find myself unable to be that objective or consistent.  But I've been thinking about a system that would be something like this:

5- Strong recommend to any fan of the genre, auto-buy author
4- Loved it, will seek out this author again
3- OK, might read this author again but would not go out of my way.
2- Would actively avoid this author.
1- DNF, would recommend everyone avoid this author. (it would be pretty rare for me to say this about a book, but it seems like maybe a useful boundary.)

I feel like this is a scale I could use pretty consistently. I dunno.  I'm in the "musing" phase.

I absolutely loved this article about the social and evolutionary value of storytelling.  The neuroscience in there is fascinating, too:  "a story is the only way to activate parts in the brain so that a listener turns the story into their own idea and experience."

This came out a couple of weeks ago, but I'm behind, and it's the first time in a long time that an article about romance novels has given me an itch to read up on ancient Greek philosophy: Argue for Your Wonk -- so it needs to be included here.  Will I read Aristotle this summer? I just might!

A new to me blog with a nice rundown of some favorite UF series -- everything that's on here that I've tried, I've really liked, so I'm going to have to check out the rest of them, obviously.

What I'm reading
The Windflower, by Laura London. You may recall that I went to a certain effort to snag this paperback at RT. I'm three-quarters or more through it as of now, and enjoying it very much. There's nothing at all subtle about this writing; it's just drenched in sexual imagery and tension from page one.  There is a level of descriptive detail in this book that I haven't seen in ages, and I am really loving it. It does make for a slower read, but it adds to my ability to imagine myself inside the story.  Another thing that I love about "old skool" romance-- and this book in particular does it really well-- is the development of complex secondary characters.

Having Her, by Jackie Ashenden. I really enjoyed this quirky couple, particularly the heroine. While I'm not a fan of the "desperate to lose my V-card" trope, that was probably the only negative for me. There's a BDSM element in the story, and refreshingly, it doesn't overwhelm the characters or the relationship they build -- it's well-done but it's not the focus.  Kara is a comic book artist, with candy-colored hair, facial piercings, and combat boots, while Vin is overbearing and overburdened. In a tiny way that I didn't care to think about too hard, Kara reminded me a little of my teenaged daughter and her interests and choices of self-expression, and I thought it was nice to see that population represented in romance.

Elemental Pleasure, by Lila Dubois. I think this one came on the thumb drive from RT14. It is very hard to keep all of those straight! An interesting fusion of menage and Illuminati-style conspiracy theory, the premise is that a very powerful secret society dictates three-way marriages among its members, using its influence and power to convince really smart and high-potential young individuals to join up.  It's not totally convincing, but I liked the characters and I'd give another book in the series a whirl for the fun of it.

Own the Wind, by Kristen Ashley. With Jessica's recent review in the back of my mind, as well as some recs from my book-club ladies, I grabbed this up from my RT14 stack (mass market format). In spite of their current popularity, I think this is the first "MC" (motorcycle club) romance I've read, too.  I liked it OK, and I didn't mind the level of detail that Jessica mentions. The oddest thing that struck me was the structure of the story - brief vignettes from the hero's point of view over the course of several years, until their adult interactions really start, and then most of it from the heroine's point of view, still with jumps in time of weeks and months. Overall, I don't mind Ashley's style, but I don't think I'm up for any more of her MC books. I don't really like the way women are portrayed in this "lifestyle."

That seems to be about it for this week... (let's just assume there are a tidy conclusionary couple of sentences here.  I don't seem to be able to come up with anything right at the moment.)

Monday, June 23, 2014

Vixen in Velvet, by Loretta Chase - Review

 Information
Title: Vixen in Velvet
Author: Loretta Chase
Publisher:  Avon
Series: The Dressmakers
Release Date: June 24, 2014
Reviewing: Advance e-copy
Reason for reading: Received a copy from the publisher in exchange for a fair review. Also, I adore Loretta Chase.

The Short Answer 
Strongly recommend!  The characters are sharply drawn, with individual quirks, and the unfolding story is very much about the two of them finding their way to each other.  I especially love the way Lisburne's growing feelings are shown through his observations about Leonie. For example:
Dressmakers always had sharp things about them -- scissors, needles, pins. He had an odd sensation of having wandered inadvertently into danger.
And another one, just for fun:
He was, however, distracted by the stormy picture Leonie Noirot made, in a maniacally feminine concoction of white muslin: the swoosh of the billowing sleeves and the way the overdress-- robe -- whatever it was -- lifted and fell against the dress underneath and the agitated flutter of lace.  Her bosom rose and fell, the embroidery and lace like white-capped waves on a tumultuous sea. 

It was only a woman in a pet, by no means an unfamiliar sight.  all the same, he had to take a moment to slow his breathing to normal and drag his wits out from the dark seas into which they were sinking.


The Whole Scoop
Although this is the third in a trilogy, it stands alone, with no series plot arcs at all. Former characters get an occasional mention, but nothing that went before has a bearing on this story.

It is sometimes hard for me to find new things to say about a favorite author. Sometimes I prefer to just purchase my own copy of the book and read it purely for pleasure, without worrying about how I might review it.  In this case though, I was overcome by temptation and accepted the review copy.

As I expect from Chase, the characters are the main delight; the dialog sparkles; the trademark humor, offset by human frailties is there. So what can I say about this book, in particular, that I haven’t said about Chase’s work before?  A perfectly objective reader might find the plotting a bit weak. There are a few somewhat muddled threads about a society makeover, a poet, a charity, a scandal, and a bet. But the interactions between Leonie and Lisburne upstage these at every turn. The way they notice each other. The way they learn each other. It’s lovely and entirely romantic, and it totally works for me.

What underpins all these moving pieces, I think, is a story about beauty: what it means, how it is perceived, and how it is valued.  When the couple meets, it is at a viewing of a beautiful painting by Botticelli, and the hero and heroine are described as similar to the subjects of the painting.  The makeover thread is about changing society’s perception of a young woman from lackluster and clumsy to regal and desirable.  The poet in the story has been eviscerated by critics, yet his work is tremendously popular with the young women of the season – perception and value. And of course, Leonie's livelihood depends on making women feel, and be perceived as, beautiful.  I have many bits and pieces highlighted in the story supporting this idea, but one of my favorites is when Lisburne, in his pursuit to understand Leonie, discovers the Noirot sisters' charitable efforts to train young women (with otherwise dismal chances) at the sewing professions. Leonie shows him the wares that the girls have sewn and are offered up for sale:
[Lisburne speaking]  "Look at them. Little hearts and flowers and curlicues and lilies of the valley and lace.  Made by girls who've known mainly deprivation and squalor and violence." 

She considered the pincushions and watch guards and mittens and handkerchiefs. "They don't have Botticelli paintings to look at," she said. "If they want beauty in their lives, they have to make it."

"Madame," he said, "is it necessary to break my heart completely?"
In discussing the trilogy with friend, she was troubled by the nobleman-shopkeeper pairing.  Historically speaking, a shopkeeper is an entirely different matter than a governess, or a gently-reared girl fallen on hard times, or most of the variations on Cinderella tropes found in Regency romance.  I will say that this is pretty easy for me to suspend, but possibly not for everyone. What I see in this trilogy is the effort that Chase goes to to elevate the Noirot sisters from shopkeepers to artists.  From seamstress to couturier. To make the readers feel that these dresses, and the entire wardrobes, are indeed, works of beautiful art.

In the way of our beloved romance genre, these threads about beauty come to happy endings: the scandal mitigated, the ugly duckling has her transformation, and even the poet gets his girl.

The Bottom Line
If you need a plot-driven, fast-paced, action-oriented story, this might not be for you. But if you are interested in an exploration of character,  in watching attraction bloom gradually, with a bit of social commentary as a backdrop, there is no better author to bring that to you than Loretta Chase.

Around the Blogosphere
Long and Short Reviews
Addicted to Romance
Feminist Fairy Tale Reviews
Love Saves the World (she picked my favorite quote too!)

Friday, June 13, 2014

Summer Soup

Does your scheduling go all to hell in the summer? Mine sure does...

Soup Dish:  book people are talking about...
Amazon vs. Hachette. You don't need me to tell you about this; everyone is talking about it. I see this as another spasm in the death-throes of the 20th-century publishing model. Everyone involved in this industry is going to see their role adapt or die... or get lucky.  I think for a time, readers may be winners, but if Amazon is allowed to become a monopoly, that won't serve anyone well.  Yet no one is stepping up as a serious competitor in the ebook arena.  Why is that? I love my Kindle, and I love how easy it is to access thousands or even millions of books through Amazon...

BUT, on the other hand, I have music that I have purchased in 4 different formats (wax, cassette, CD, mp3...) and I refuse to do that with books. If a second format is required, it will be paper, and I won't require a device to read it.  More likely, since we're talking about text, people will find a way to strip off the DRM and import it onto any basic text reader.  I have zero ethical qualms about that, regardless of what it says in the fine print about my rights to read it on other devices or media, particularly if Amazon or anyone else feels that device lock-in is a good way to get me to pay for the same work multiple times.  No. I'm not talking about making dozens of copies or sharing more than I would a physical book, but I feel that if I've bought the book, I should be able to read it on whatever media I want to.


What I'm reading
Yeesh, it's been a long time since I've recapped my reading.  Two months! That's a lot of books. I think I'll stick to the highlights.

Most recently, I just finished First to Burn, by Anna Richland and liked it very much. I met Ms. Richland at RT and ended up sitting next to her on the flight home from DFW to Seattle. I'm afraid I may have distracted her a bit from the editing she was supposed to be doing on the second book in the series. The series features a cadre of warriors who were accidentally immortalized while fighting the Grendel alongside Beowulf.  Although I found the paranormal aspect of the worldbuilding to start a little bit slowly, the really unique bit of this book is that the hero is a military Special Forces officer, and a large part of the story takes place while the main characters are deployed in Afghanistan.  Ms. Richland writes about military life with authenticity and a great ear for the dialog.

Another RT introduction landed me with the book Stone Guardian, by Danielle Monsch. The premise is that an apocalyptic event crashes multiple dimensions together, allowing supernatural and magical creatures access to our world, with a lot of scary violence ensuing. I enjoyed the world-building quite a lot but I had a little trouble connecting with the characters, particularly the heroine. She vacillated between super-sweet and sarcastic wise-cracking, which felt inconsistent to me and undermined the romantic chemistry. I may at least sample the next one though because I do find the world intriguing.

A lot of people have been talking about Laura Florand, so I decided to give her a try. I thought the books were overpriced, so I managed to get a copy of The Chocolate Thief through the library. I suspect the main attraction of Florand's work must be the sensual way she writes about chocolate, because that really is wonderful, and her writing overall is perfectly fine. However, I didn't like her characters at all.  The author shows us the hero's vulnerabilities, but instead of endearing him to me he just seemed both pompous and insecure. But the heroine was much worse. A poor little rich girl, her life's dream is to expand the family's mass-produced chocolate dynasty (think the Hershey family) with a line of exclusive high end gourmet chocolate. Although the author attempts to convince us that she's a business genius, her meeting and approach with the hero-- the best chocolatier in Paris, and therefore the world- are completely ridiculous. We are then apparently supposed to feel sorry for the spoiled wealthy heiress who didn't get what she wanted. I DNF'd it.  Also, not for nothing, but it was almost impossible for me to figure out the reading order for this series.  Aggravating.

I'd been meaning to try Jade Lee ever since RT12, because she was such a great personality.  It took me awhile to get around to it, but I finally downloaded and read The Devil's Bargain.  I did finish this one, but I struggled tremendously with the premise. I pretty much hated it.  The hero is a viscount who has fallen on hard times, and hits upon the thoroughly disgusting scheme of pimping destitute women into the marriage market. More specifically, the market as a second (or third, or whatever) bride to an elderly, wealthy man who would like to have a well-trained hooker/wife available, now that his duty to God and country is done.  In some ways, it's rationalizable: these are women who would be left in desperate circumstances.  The viscount arranges for a marriage settlement and provides a "guaranteed product" to the grooms.  He knows the vices of the grooms in question and will not "do business" with the more depraved. However, the training of the young women, while falling short of actually divesting them of their virginity, was humiliating and degrading and I just could not get over my ICK factor.  Surprisingly, I did like the way the twist resolved the seemingly irreconcilable black moment. I would try a different book by this author but it would depend on the premise.

So after a couple of these disappointing reads, I thought Sarah Mayberry might be the antidote I was looking for. I started The Other Side of Us on the plane to RT14, and happily, I was right. I really liked that both characters were at a point in their lives where a romantic entanglement was just a really, really terrible idea-- him VERY fresh from divorce, and she recovering physically from a bad car accident. If you were best friends with either of these people, you'd be telling them, "sure, have some fun, but this is not the moment to get serious!"  Great chemistry; resonant, three-dimensional characters; and grown-up (but not perfect) emotional give and take. Strong recommend.

That's about a third of the books I've read since the last update, but it seems like a good stopping place.  Hopefully I can get back on track with more regular Sunday Soups.  RT14 really did inspire me to keep on blogging, and I'm going to try to get back to reviewing too.  I have some thoughts about the upcoming Loretta Chase book and I'm working through the biggest #wtf book I've read in a while; also known as Hate to Love You by Elise Alden. Angela James of Carina Press called it a "divisive" book at RT and I can see why. It just kind of begs to be talked about.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Love You To Death, by Jackie Uhrmacher - Review

Information
Title: Love You To Death
Author: Jackie Uhrmacher
Publisher:  CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Release Date: September 22, 2013
Reviewing: Paperback
Reason for reading: Received a copy directly from the author at RT14. Alcohol was involved.

The Short Answer 
Flawed, but fun.

The Whole Scoop
Whatever you do, don't read the blurb.  It's a total spoiler for what I thought was the best twist in the story. Because the book was handed to me, and I read it amidst much chaos, somehow I got to the end without reading the blurb on the back and I think my reading experience was much better for it!

Here is as much of the blurb as you should read:
Killing husbands is a hobby for best friends Jill O'Connor and Elle Cooper. Everything changes when Jill marries Marcus Reed, husband number four. Eight years after they first met and three months into the marriage, Jill begins to wonder if maybe he’s the one man worth sparing.
Despite the heroine and her sidekick being serial killers, I still found them endearing, with a curious sweetness under the wise-cracking black humor; I mean, take a look at that cover art. It's a perfect encapsulation of the book: a little gory, a little silly, and doesn't she look like she's having fun?  The sympathetic serial-killer hook works because you just can't take this story seriously enough to call it "problematic."

I loved how the tension built between Marcus and Jill, on several levels. He plays a mental game with her, AND rocks her sexual world, but I loved how that wasn't enough for Jill to just fall for him. He really works for it, and so does she. Love You To Death is a RomCon Reader crown finalist, so I'm not the only one who enjoyed it.

Where it fell down a little bit for me was that as killers, the girls didn't seem very... competent. They talked a lot, in public places, about their plans. They kept some kind of scrapbook or binder with notes and plans and "how to" type articles, I guess, which totally alarmed me on their behalf.  Also, the facts of the story arc didn't hang together quite right for me.  The book opens with Jill feeling torn about offing her newest husband. It isn't until pretty deep in the book that it comes out that she has known him for a long time, since before her killing career began, and that felt confusing to me.  There was also some nonsense in there about a birthday party and about a dozen completely extraneous secondary characters. I do not know what Ms. Uhrmacher did about editing, but I think a good beta reader or a content editor could have made this book stronger.

Do note that this is a 100-page short piece; more of a novella than a traditional single-title work.  It moves along quickly and you're likely to finish it in one or two sittings.  I think the shortness works in its favor - I'm not sure the tension could have been sustained over a longer page count and I felt like it ended in a very satisfying way.  There is definitely some sequel-baiting going on and I'm looking forward to Elle's story next.

Bottom Line
If quirky black humor is your thing, I would strongly recommend this. Humor is VERY subjective, but the first two or three pages are available as an excerpt online, and I think they are a good representation of the novel. If you like them, then pop for the 99 cents and give it a read! I look forward to seeing more from Uhrmacher.

Around the blogosphere:
Fiction Vixen dueling review (remember, don't read the blurb!)
Bitten by Books, with a much better synopsis and no spoiler


 

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