Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

Lola and the Boy Next Door is a companion novel to Anna and the French Kiss. I got AatFK last year when Amazon promoted it for free on Kindle and loved the hell out of it. But I have a serious weakness for YA lit. So when LatBND came in from the library I just about squealed.

Blurb from author's website because the review is a little long-winded:

Budding designer Lola Nolan doesn't believe in fashion . . . she believes in costume. The more expressive the outfit - more sparkly, more fun, more wild - the better. But even though Lola's style is outrageous, she's a devoted daughter and friend with some big plans for the future. And everything is pretty perfect (right down to her hot rocker boyfriend) until the dreaded Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket, return to the neighborhood.
When Cricket - a gifted inventor - steps out from his twin sister's shadow and back into Lola's life, she must finally reconcile a lifetime of feelings for the boy next door.

Lola's adopted and I love that her family is not a traditional mom-dad-kid family. Her dads aren't written as stereotypical gay men, voguing and shrieking FABULOUS at the top of their lungs (if that's you, that's awesome, but it's not everybody). They have a loving, stable relationship and they are very (very) protective of Lola. They aren't presented as Other but just as a regular family, like it's nothing remarkable (because it shouldn't be treated as if it were). Realistic portrayals of non-traditional family units are important.

I also love that Lola is in  charge of her own sexuality/desire*. She's having sex with her boyfriend and although she doesn't love sex yet, she's confident it will be pretty awesome with practice (because she's researched it, FTW!). It's refreshing to see depictions of teen sex (the sex itself is off-page) that are neither glamorizing nor demonizing nor shaming. Lola is having the sex and her best friend isn't but neither one is judging the other. Also, Cricket is inexperienced and no one judges him about that either. The one thing that I would have liked to see addressed was protection, both for STI's and pregnancy. It is never referred to by anyone in the book and Lola never thinks about it, which I find both weird and a little off-putting (especially considering her family history; if you read the book you'll know what I mean). I think the reader is meant to assume that at least condoms are being used, but in a book for/about teens, it's an important topic to S-P-E-L-L O-U-T. (For what it's worth, I don't like to read adult romances, especially contemporaries, where safe-sex practices aren't at least being discussed by the people sexing it up. It's irresponsible not to include that stuff in the story.)

Despite all of that goodness, I didn't always love Lola (I did seriously lust after her clothes though). She's sometimes selfish and immature but since she's 17 and she does grow up a bit as the book progresses, it's cool. I'd rather a protagonist with some flaws than a Mary Sue. Overall, I think the writing and the story itself and Cricket, because if I were still teen-aged, swoon, were enough to overcome my occasional objections. But if I'm going to be perfectly honest, I may be judging a little harshly because Cricket sounds so great.
As a whole, this book covers a lot of difficult topics that tend to make adults scream "Won't someone think of the children!?!?" like infidelity, teen sex, some drug use, homosexuality, etc., etc., but for the most part I think it does a pretty good job of being honest and forthright without being preachy (unlike this review). And it also doesn't overwhelm with the Very Important Subjects.

Should you read this? Yep, you should. Especially if you like romantic YA. Also read Anna and the French Kiss. 

Buy It . Borrow It . Skip It

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

Series: Unnamed trilogy
Previous book in series: Anna and the French Kiss
Next book in series: Isla and the Happily Ever After (forthcoming)
P.O.V.: First person, present; single narrator
Language: Pretty clean with a couple of dingers
Sexxxoring: Off page

*ETA: Regarding sexual agency, the way I framed that makes it sound as though Lola's sexual agency is entirely to do with her having the sex. This is not true. Her friend who is not having the sex is also expressing her own agency; she is not sexing it up because she has shit to do (i.e. college, etc.) and wants to concentrate all of her energy on that. There isn't really a lot a background related to her first experience (the fact that her BF is 22 to her 16/17 is worthy of squick and grossed me out a bit) but the tone of the whole book makes it seem that she is having the sex because she wants to. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

I read this (Oct 16-31 2011)

Here's the rest of October, because I know you were waiting with bated breath (no, it isn't baited, that's dumb).

Fantasy/Urban Fantasy

Wolf Moon by Charles de Lint: I am ambivalent about this. That is all I have to say.

Sunshine by Robin McKinley: Buffy-esque, which is a good thing, but the lady-protagonist was kind of annoying? And I didn't understand anyone's motivations. I think it needs a second book, I didn't really like the ending.

Dead on the Delta by Stacey Jay: Not everyone's cup of tea, but I liked it a lot.

Young Adult

Vanish by Sophie Jordan (Firelight, Book 2): I really disliked Firelight and I think I may have disliked this more. And goddamnit, yet another cliffhanger.


Jinxed by Inez Kelley: More erotica than romance but with more interaction between the characters outside of a bed (or wherever). The dude-pro gets a little creepy sometimes, but it was a fun read over-all. Nothing to write home about but not a regretful waste of time.

Pleasure for Pleasure by Eloisa James (The Essex Sisters, Book 4): My favorite of the series because Josie is sarcastically funny and Mayne sounds super-hot and I enjoy a love-by-surprise plot. The end is a little weak (as in cutesy) but it's still lots of fun.

Prince of Midnight by Laura Kinsale: I love this book. I especially enjoy how the dude-pro is the one who falls easily in love and the lady-pro is the one who is resistant and spends most of the book denying her twue-wuv.

Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas (The Wallflowers, Book 3): I can never decide if I love this one or Scandal in Spring more. If you like Lisa Kleypas, this series is a good one.

Girl From Mars by Julie Cohen: Yes, yes, yes.

Secret Fire by Johanna Lindsey: I'm just going to have to admit that I am probably going to read everything she's ever written. Lindsey's books aren't really good at all but I can't seem to stop myself.

Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase: Mmphh, yes.

The Gunslinger's Untamed Bride by Stacey Kane (Brides, Book 2): Oh westerns, I secretly (not-so-secretly now) love you.

Kissing Comfort by Jo Goodman: I liked this a lot, but I'm not really sure why. The first 1/2 of the book is slow. The latter half is where pretty much all of the romance happens and it wasn't totally convincing but I pretty much spent the whole time sighing wistfully. Also, Comfort's relationship with her uncles was pretty awesome. I'm not going to dissect it.

Delicious by Sherry Thomas: Meh, I really liked Not Quite a Husband, but I thought the writing here was not nearly as good and the characters were kind of boring. Also, food porn is not really my thing. I'll try another by her because I hope this one was just a fluke.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

I read this (Oct 1-15, 2011)


The Soul Mirror by Carol Berg (The Collegia Magica, Book 2): Um, a really good book, but it was a job to read. It was too...something. I had the same issue with the first book. If you prefer fantasy that's more cerebral then you'll probably like this.

Contemporary Fiction

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese: I enjoyed it quite a bit but it was so long that I was practically dancing when it was over.  


An Offer From a Gentleman and Romancing Mr. Bridgerton by Julia Quinn (The Bridgertons, Books 3 & 4): I love, love, love the Bridgerton series and AOFaG is probably my favorite of the bunch. I love most of Julia Quinn's books and this series is arguably her best work.

Seven Secrets of Seduction by Anne Mallory: Nope, boring. And the writing was mediocre. And way too much page-time was spent on the lady protagonist. And the romantic relationship was not believable. And...I'm sure there was more. But that's quite enough.

Almost Heaven by Judith McNaught: This was probably the fourth time I've read this since I bought it (which was early this year). It's like crack or something. 

Isabella by Loretta Chase (The Trevelyan Family, Book 1): Short and sweet and perfectly romantic. Not racy like her later novels, but it's one of the books I re-read when I'm bored or feeling indecisive about what to read next.

I Love the Earl by Caroline Linden: I remember enjoying it, but that's pretty much it. That's not quite a ringing recommendation, is it?

Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie: I love this book SO MUCH, despite the overabundance of Chicken Marsala. The whole thing is funny and fun and sexy. If it wasn't for the length of the book, it would be another of my in-betweens.

Once a Princess by Johanna Lindsey (Cardinia Royal Family, Book 1): I honestly don't know why I keep reading Lindsey, the only novels of hers I've truly liked were Defy Not the Heart and The Heir. Since my library has all of her books available digitally, I think maybe I'm hoping to find another gem.

Vengeance in Death by J.D. Robb (In Death, Book 6): 27 books to go and I already want to hit myself with a hammer. (Romantic Suspense)

Visions of Heat by Nalini Singh (Psy-Changeling, Book 2): I had the same problem with this that I had with the first book. The writing is technically good and the premise is interesting, but I feel zero interest in the characters. ZERO. I may not bother with the rest of the series (thankfully each book is about different characters, so the compulsion to know everything is not there).  (Paranormal Romance)

Young Adult

So Silver Bright by Lisa Mantchev (Theatre Illuminata, Book 3): I loved Eyes Like Stars (Book 1). I liked Perchance to Dream (Book 2), but it was super weird. So Silver Bright was somewhere in between. A lot of it made no sense to me, but I was happy to be reading it. And the covers are extra-purdy. Made me nostalgic for my angsty-goth teen days (not really).

Fire by Kristin Cashore (The Seven Kingdoms, Book 2): I like this book, but I loved, loved, loved Graceling (Book 1). Fire is more of a prequel/companion novel and was different in tone from Graceling, but it was an interesting read. Definitely read Graceling first. Both books have independent lady-protagonists, a little romance and lots of intrigue. 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Halfway to the Grave by Jeaniene Frost

I picked this one up from Amazon when it was on promo and I am mighty glad I didn't pay full price for it. I feel awful enough for having paid $1.99. And the sample chapter did not allude to the awfulness of this book.

Catherine Crawfield is half-vampire/half-human. Her mom was attacked and raped by a fanged menace and after an abridged pregnancy, out popped Cat. Apparently, Cat has been atoning for her existence by hunting and killing vampires. She trolls area bars, snuggles up to vampires (she has a special sense about these things, plus the vampires have really pretty skin,  please excuse me while I vomit in my mouth), taking them for a ride (not like a super-sexy naked ride, although that is what the vamps think they are getting), and then staking them (not a nice way to treat your date). Anyway, on one of her vigilante missions, she tries to mack it to Bones (he is English, super-hot, likes to drink blood). Bones takes up Cat on her offer, kicks her ass, and then recruits her (Bones happens to be a vampire bounty hunter, yes a vampire hunting other vampires for money, some things don't change even if you stop breathing).  The rest of the book is about Cat learning how to fight, posing as bait for vampires, going to college, whining about having to wear extra-revealing clothes, blah blah, not-sexy sex, implausible fight scenes, noble sacrifice, The End.

Alright, so the story itself, not so new/interesting. That's fine, I don't need extra-special-shiny-new thing. But the writing? GODAWFUL. The flow is jerky, the dialogue is stilted and stiff, and the sex is boring, boring, and more boring. Cat is only an okay character; she's not totally offensive and she's not totally sympathetic. I spent a lot of the time annoyed at her but that may be due to the fact that she's 22 and acts like she's 7. Bones sounds kind of hot, but he's not a convincing character despite his semi-tragic history. 

I cannot 
understand how this series managed to make it to six books and spawn a spin-off series. I know Ms. Frost's writing has improved since this was published but sweet baby Jesus, why did people keep reading after this? I'm going to read the rest of the series because I have book-OCD (and my threshold for pain is clearly far too high) but if I had read this before the rest of the books were issued, I would have been happy to throw this one off of a cliff. Or into a fire. Or off of a cliff and into a fire.

Final Reckoning

Should you read this? GOD no. Save yourself.

Buy It . Borrow It . Skip It

Halfway to the Grave by Jeaniene Frost
Series: Night Huntress, Book 1
Next book in series: One Foot in the Grave
P.O.V.: First person, past; single narrator
Language: Salty
Sexxxoring: A few sexy scenes with semi-frank language

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

So apparently, November is read-an-amazing-book month. I had just finished Daughter of Smoke and Bone (I give it a bajillion stars, if you were asking) and I was perfectly astonished to have the next book I read be just as amazing (in an altogether different way).
The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus per­formers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.
I know The Night Circus has been hyped unbelievably but I have to say that I loved, really loved this book. Everything about it appealed to me: the magic, the romance, the whimsy and fantasy, and the utter bizarreness of it. It's definitely not a plot-driven story; I knew how the contest would end (in a general sense, although the specifics were fun) and it's not really character-driven either. It's the prose and imagery that really impel the whole thing. The imagery is seriously incredible (an aside: I am terrible at actually imagining imagery, right? But I felt like I was seeing everything. Or like I was remembering a place I had visited. This is a pretty cool thing for me because it happens so rarely). 

I usually enjoy when a story is told in a nonlinear fashion but here I felt like the timeline jumped around too much? Because even though each event is happening years apart, the way the story flowed just
felt linear. Having to keep in mind that this one thing happened four years before this other thing but only two years after this new thing was a little jarring. I kept having to refer to the chronology at the beginning of each chapter and it broke up the experience for me. But really, this was my only complaint. 

Final Reckoning

Should you read this? Yes, go buy it now. This is another book that you should 
own physically  because it's just really beautiful.

Buy It . Borrow It . Skip It

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Series: n/a
P.O.V.: Alternating 2nd person, present/3rd person, present
Language: Mostly clean with a couple of dingers

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

This isn't a real review. I'm going to post the synopsis, squee a bunch and then faint. I'm not lying about the fainting.

This is a really difficult story to summarize. If you reveal too much, it ruins the suspense and the blurb doesn't really do it justice. But blurb is what you get because I am lazy.
Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky. 
In a dark and dusty shop, a devil's supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.
And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war. 
Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she's prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands"; she speaks many languages--not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she's about to find out.
When one of the strangers--beautiful, haunted Akiva--fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?
You're thinking "Angels, bah, BORING", right? WRONG. I mean, yeah sure angels, whatever, but not like JESUS angels, more like alien species angels. So, give it a chance, ok? OK?

I've read Laini Taylor's other books and loved them (I am super pissed that Putnam has elected to not continue with the rest of the Dreamdark series; screw you, Putnam). But this book blew them all out of the water. It's romantic, mysterious, magical, melancholy, surprising, insert-complimentary-adjective-here. Every time I thought I had a handle on the story, it went all twisty. And even when I figured out the who, the why and how of it surprised me. Also, the writing itself is beautiful.

Generally, I finish one book and IMMEDIATELY start a new one, but here I had to give myself a short break so I could let the story settle in my brain. I know I'm gushing so I'll allow that I do have a couple of complaints; the third-person narration is mainly focused on Karou and Akiva but occasionally jumps to minor characters. But not consistently, so when it happens, it takes a second or two to adjust (by which point we have switched back to Karou or Akiva). Also, the pacing in the first two-thirds of the book is really spot on but drags a bit in the last third. The big reveal was wonderful and interesting, but I think the flow of the story suffered because it took so forking long.

Final Reckoning

Should you read this? YES, a million times, YES. Buy the hardcover, this is one of those books that needs to be read on paper. I borrowed my copy from the library, but I'm going to buy one this weekend (it's
Support A Small Business Saturday!). I may actually buy both the digital and physical versions, just so I can have it with me always. The only other book I've done that with is Daughter of the Forest. You should go read that too.

Buy It . Borrow It. Skip It

It's the first book in a trilogy which I'm assuming will be named "Daughter of Smoke and Bone". I have no real idea, the author's website doesn't actually say much.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Series: Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Book 1 of 3 (projected)
Next Book: Who knows? It's not mentioned anywhere on the author's site
P.O.V.: Third person, past; omniscient

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Girl From Mars by Julie Cohen


Okay, I made myself wait a few days to post this review so I could get over my squeeing and maybe write something that approaches objectivity. This was a mostly successful endeavor. Anyway, blue-haired socially awkward geek girl, comic books, romance, Star Trek? In the same book? It's like it was written just for me. And really, I must stress that the cover is one of the coolest covers I've ever seen. The only thing that could make it better is tentacles.

I'm grabbing the blurb from Amazon because I am feeling too lazy to sum this up myself. It's not wholly accurate but it's good enough.
"I, Philomena Desdemona Brown, do solemnly swear to forsake all romantic relationships . . ." It's not like the vow, made by Fil and her three nerdy male best friends, seemed much of a big deal at the time. Frankly, Fil wouldn't know romance if it hit her in the face, and with her real love being her artist job at Girl from Mars, the comic whose heroine has never had a love interest, she doesn't exactly mind being relationship-free anyway. Until her world is rocked to its core when one of her long-standing quartet and Girl from Mars herself both unexpectedly fall in love. Is it time to give in to temptation and finally fall in love?

I may be a bit biased because it was basically like reading about myself, except I'm not white, English, or an artist. And the blue hair, not since I was twenty. But the socially inept geeky girl bit? ABSOLUTELY. 

The tone of the whole story is mostly wistful, because Fil doesn't want to be alone but she is fighting her attraction to her nemesis (she didn't know he was her nemesis until way after they met). The writing style is really simple and lovely, no flowery nonsense. And the dialogue is great.

I would have liked to see more growth from Fil as a character because she was definitely lacking in the self-awareness department and had a bad case of pretend-it-doesn't-exist-itis, but she did eventually grow up/out a bit. Also, even though Dan (our nemesis/love interest) sounds awesomely hot and nice, he was a bit flat. A lot of the Fil/Dan interaction took place off-page and it left me a little doubtful of the romance. But maybe that's because everything is from Fil's POV and she doesn't really get it either. I don't care, I still love this book.

Final Reckoning

Read this: Yes, you should. As a matter of fact, I'm going to take my own advice and read it again tonight.
Buy It . Borrow It . Skip It

Girl From Mars by Julie Cohen
Series: n/a
P.O.V.: First person, past; single narrator
Language: I am pretty sure it was clean but honestly, my memory can't be trusted
Sexxxoring: Maybe two or three scenes with super vague naked business

Monday, October 31, 2011

Dead on the Delta by Stacey Jay

I bought this because the Kindle version was being offered on promo (still is, as of today) and the story is  set in a world with murderous mutant fairies. I figure this was an excellent use of four bucks.

Encapsulate This

When fairies turned out to be real and  and also hungry for human blood, Annabelle Lee turned to alcohol to smooth her way through the horrors. She lives in rural Louisiana collecting specimens for the FCC (Fairy Containment and Control) because she's one of the few who are immune to fairy venom (it turns you bonkers, sick or dead, or all three, in that order). She also assists the local police department when they need to recover evidence in fairy infested areas. When Annabelle helps the cops find the body of a young girl with no marks of fairy contamination, all signs point to murder. And then the rest of her life explodes: her sexy-cop boyfriend wants to get serious, her ex-boyfriend-turned-FBI-agent comes to town to investigate the murder, and her closest friends are suspects. All Annabelle wants is a drink. Or five.

Ruminate on That

Annabelle is pretty much a fuck-up. She's a (barely) functioning alcoholic, she's a bit of a coward, she's terrible at personal relationships, and she's practically a professional procrastinator (hello alliteration, how are you?).  She's unlikable. REALLY unlikable. But, perhaps perversely, I like that. I was definitely annoyed by her perpetual ignore-it-till-it-goes-away attitude and she made a number of really ridiculous choices, but by the end of the book, I could see that she was growing up. And that's a gratifying journey to watch/read. 

The story-universe is pretty much our universe but with bloodsucking fairies and magic. There isn't really a need for a lot of world-building, but some would have been nice. How did the fairies mutate? That is a major question that was left hanging. Maybe it'll be picked up as the series progresses.  Otherwise, the writing is pretty solid and Annabelle has a distinctive headvoice that is fun/funny. The wrap-up was a bit rushed and tied things up a little too neatly but I am definitely looking forward to the next book. 

Final Reckoning

Read This?  Yes, especially if you are looking for a departure from the usual vampire/shifter urban fantasies. 

Buy It . Borrow It . Skip It

Dead on the Delta by Stacey Jay
Series: Annabelle Lee, Book 1
Next Book in Series: Blood on the Bayou, forthcoming 2012
P.O.V.: First person, present; single narrator
Language: Salty

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Metamorphosis

Screw actual reviews. These are fun.

(wakes up, is a giant bug) Oh dear. I appear to be a giant bug. I am surprisingly OK with this. Damn, I’m late for work.




Um, guys, it’s still Gregor, so chill. I’ll feed him and clean his room.


Cool. Hey I like crawling on the wall. Move the furniture.

(moves furniture)


(throws apples, debilitates Gregor, like, somehow?)

Ow, Dad. Seriously. What the fuck.


Hey, we don’t have any money anymore because our breadwinner is now a giant bug. Let’s get jobs.

(gets jobs)

And bring in gross boarders, too.

(brings in gross boarders)

We are gross! We leave shit everywhere! Hey, crazy sister girl! Play the violin so we can heckle!

(plays violon)


You guys are assholes. Here, look at me, I’m a giant bug.


Dude, Gregor, why don’t you just fucking die already? Christ.




Monday, October 24, 2011

I read this (Sept 16-30, 2011)


The Raven Queen by Jules Watson:  It should have been super interesting but the story was so bogged down by little details that it was kind of a chore to read. The pacing was off too. Every time I started getting involved, the storyline would jump. I'll try another by this author, hopefully it'll be better. 

Clementine by Cherie Priest (The Clockwork Century, short story): I think I am done with this series. I liked Boneshaker but each successive book I've read has gotten more and more boring. And there were ZERO zombies in this one. Zombies would have made this more fun.

Emergence by David Palmer: I more-than-liked this but less-than-loved it. Go read it.

Urban Fantasy

Under Her Skin by Jeaniene Frost, Ilona Andrews and Meljean Brook: Actually, I enjoyed all of these stories, which is pretty rare for an anthology. Of the three, Brook's "A Sheep's Clothing" was the best. Andrews' "Grace of Small Magics" was also good, and I would like to read more in this setting. I've only read one other (short) story by Frost and "Pack" was fun but not quite engrossing (even for a short story). None of these take place in any of the authors' previously established universes. 

Hexed by Ilona Andrews, Yasmine Galenorn, Allyson James and Jeanne Stein: I only borrowed this for the Andrews story "Magic Dreams" set in the Kate Daniels universe. It's a side-story for Dali and Jim. Good fun. Reading "Ice Shards" by Galenorn was a real chore and I don't plan on trying anything else by her. I started "Double Hexed" by James, but I quit when one character called another character (I'm paraphrasing here) a "tranny mess" and no one said jack about it. I don't give a shit if it's an enchanted mirror or a dragon or what-the-fuck-ever, that's a fucked up thing to say. I was so pissed that I didn't even bother trying "Blood Debt" by Stein.

Young Adult

Un Lun Dun by China Mieville: Kind of a cross between Neverwhere by Gaiman and the Fern Gully movie. I happen to like those two things, so a good time was had by all (namely, me).

Stargirl and Love, Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli: A sweet coming-of-age story told in the first book by the dude-protagonist and continued by the lady-protagonist in the second. Both were really wonderful, but I felt kind of disappointed by the endings because even though they ended well, they didn't end where I wanted them to. 

Graphic Novel

Back on the Street by Warren Ellis (Transmetropolitan, Vol. 1): Uh, yeahno. I don't get the appeal. Also, Mr. Ellis, I am changing your name so I don't keep confusing you with Garth Ennis. Because I do this ALL THE TIME. 


Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake by Sarah MacLean (The Ralstons, Book 1): Seriously, that is like THE WORST TITLE EVAR. It is trying way too hard. Anyway, this was a cute story, nothing extra-special. I had to look at the synopsis to remember what it was about but that's fine. I like fluff.

Turn It Up by Inez Kelley: Pretty sexy, friends-to-lovahs story. In this one, it's the dude-pro holding off on the sex to establish the relationship with the lady-pro, which is a nice change of pace, but I thought that the insistence on marriage (by the dude) was pretty harsh. He just told his lady-friend that he LOVE-loves her, as opposed to loves her and is pissed that she isn't on board 1-2-3? And the lady-pro's about-face on the baby-making was weird and unconvincing. I liked the book despite the issues. 

Deceived by Bertrice Small: Um, this was terrible, even for an old-skool romance. I haven't read anything by Bertrice Small before and this is probably going to be my only foray into her books.

The Many Sins of Lord Cameron by Jennifer Ashley (Highland Pleasures, Book 3): Yes, yes, yes.

When Venus Fell by Deborah Smith: A interesting story with a prickly-but-likable lady-pro. The romance doesn't really start until late in the book, but it was a very nice read over-all. 

A View to a Kiss by Caroline Linden (Bow Street Agents, Book 1): Good intrigue and nice tension between the lady/dude. The dude leads the lady on (not in the usual way) and that isn't so nice, but I really enjoyed reading this.

Ransom by Julie Garwood (Highland Lairds, Book 2): The writing was occasionally a bit flat, but the story itself and the romance was nice enough to overlook it.

Captive of Sin by Anna Campbell: A really dark, emotional romance. The lady-pro is escaping from an abusive family and the dude-pro has PTSD and they both have to deal with the effects of that. Unfortunately, I think that the ending really undermined the strength of the story. It felt rushed and unrealistic. 

Unlocked by Courtney Milan (The Turners, short story): A really lovely story with the dude-pro redeeming himself of previous asshole behavior and the lady-pro learning to stand up for herself. 

An Unwilling Bride b Jo Beverly (Company of Rogues, Book 2): I don't really know how I feel about this. It starts off well, but the (serious*) issues between the lady-pro and dude-pro are resolved too quickly and without any real consideration. The last quarter of the book took an unexpected and unbelievable turn that made me sort-of sorry I read any of it. (*There is a violent encounter between the dude and lady that was not cool, not at all.)

Moonspun Magic by Catherine Coulter (The Magic Trilogy, Book 3): Nope, terrible, stay away. Gross dude-pro, silly lady-pro, EVIL TWIN. The evil twin thing is why I picked this up, but blech, both twins were assholes. The whole point of evil-twin stories is that one is a GOOD GUY and one is a BAD GUY. Not "one is a super-asshole" and "one is a moderate-asshole".

Ceremony in Death by J.D. Robb (In Death, Book 5): Meh is about as much excitement as I can drum up. It wasn't awful, it wasn't great. It's easy to read, sort-of entertaining and over quickly. 

Erotic Romance

Switch by Megan Hart: Normally, I quite like Megan Hart's books but Switch isn't one of them. It rubbed me the wrong way (har, pun) on pretty much all counts. The lady-narrator is NOT A NICE PERSON. Which, whatever, I don't need to be best friends, but she was terrible to pretty much every other character in the book. And a mega-douche-bag liar. And the sex was boring. BORING. I didn't think Megan Hart was capable a writing a boring sex scene, but there it was. Go read Broken instead, it's both one of the hottest erotic romances I've ever read and one of the saddest books (period) I've ever read.

Paranormal Romance

Maiden Flight by Bianca D'Arc (Dragon Knights, Book 1): God, this was awful on pretty much every level it's possible to be awful on. Terrible writing, flat characterization, boring plot, unbelievable romance, rote sex scenes. I finished it but only because it was short. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

I read this (Sept 1-15, 2011)

I've decided to split my monthly reading list in twain since August's post was absurdly long and September's post was proving to be just the same. 


Sirens and Other Daemon Lovers, edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling: It took me a month and a half to finish this anthology. The quality of stories was so uneven that I couldn't concentrate.  Even (especially?) the stories by authors I love were disappointing. 

Wolf Who Rules by Wen Spencer (Elfhome, Book 2): Tinker, the first book in the series, is written entirely from Tinker's third-person POV. This book includes Who Who Rules' POV, which added some dimension to the current story and the back-story. I enjoyed this book because it illuminated some of WWR's choices but Tinker's wishy-washiness only got MORE annoying.  Plus, the story turned unexpectedly metaphysical. 

Contemporary Fiction

Mesopotamia by Arthur Nersesian: Elvis impersonators, murder and mayhem make an entertaining story but the writing itself was kind of bland and the characterization was practically nonexistent. I don't regret reading this one but I definitely won't be reading anything else by this author.


Fairest of Them All by Teresa Medeiros: Like I said last month, Medeiros' writing is competent and her stories are fun, but the romance is sometimes less than believable. This particular story was occasionally over the top and the mystical aspect was irritating.  

Prisoner of My Desire by Johanna Lindsey: The setup was ten kinds of fucked up. The lady-protagonist has to rape the dude-protagonist (believe me, I WISH I was making this up) in order to keep her step-brother from killing her mother. When the dude-protagonist escapes, he finds the lady, kidnaps her and revenge-rapes her. Then they fall in love. WTF Johanna Lindsey, seriously WTF?

Bride of a Stranger by Jennifer Blake: Major snooze-fest with no sexy bits to make up for the boring plot. At least it was short. 

Talk Me Down by Victoria Dahl: A romance novel about an erotica author? Yes, please. I don't always like contemporaries, but I think Dahl is really great at them. The stories can seem a little superficial sometimes, but I like her characters a lot and I get the romance, you know? And the sexy business is hot.

Marrying the Marquis by Patricia Grasso (The Flambeau Sisters, Book 3): I was not expecting a romance with paranormal elements and I had to keep checking the synopsis to see if I had missed something. The story and writing were okay, I guess, but I was so thrown by the ESP junk that I just couldn't settle down to the book. 

Fire Dance by Delle Jacobs: This was a well written, absorbing story with only a few blips, but it just dragged on and on and on. I enjoyed reading it but it could have been 15% shorter (I have no idea how many pages it is, it's only available digitally). But you should try it, it's only .99 cents.

The Goodbye Summer by Patricia Gaffney: The main character was a bit floppy to start and was occasionally outshone by the secondary characters. The tone of the whole thing was a little melancholy and a little hopeful and very sweet. It was nice while it lasted but I kept waiting for something to happen and then... it was over. It isn't quite a romance novel but it isn't quite chick lit either. 

Lessons From a Scarlet Lady by Emma Wildes : Good writing, steamy love scenes, fun premise. I was sometimes more interested in the secondary love story, but overall, it was pretty much exactly what I want from a historical romance.

My Lord Scandal by Emma Wildes (Notorious Bachelors, Book 1): The intrigue keeping the main characters apart was a little oooh mysterious, but I enjoyed this as much as I did Scarlet Lady. 

The Texan's Touch by Jodi Thomas (Texas Brothers, Book 1): Um, what? The whole thing was way too coincidental. AND the writing was flat. This is the second Thomas book I've read and I just don't get the appeal. 

Urban Fantasy

Magic Slays by Ilona Andrews (Kate Daniels, Book 5): Fuck yes. I need say no more.

The Neon Graveyard by Vicki Pettersson (Signs of the Zodiac, Book 6): A lot of this book was spent whining about/rescuing the love interest and not quite enough time was devoted to the battle with the nemesis, but overall, I think this wrapped the series up well.  The series as a whole was fun, but Joanna was often unlikable and she never really seemed to learn to look before leaping. If you want UF with no vampires, this one is for you.

YA Fiction

Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr: I really don't know how I feel about this one. It's a coming-of-age story and it's a little uncomfortable and there is no concrete ending. But it's compelling and well written. I felt this way about Sweethearts too. 

From: jae@jaesmagicalemail.com
To: dani@danisresplendentemail.com
Sent: Tue 10/11/2011 9:28AM
Subject: har

Have you seen the search terms page for the blog?
One of them is "vampire magical vagina books". Seriously, I don't even know what to say.

!!!! HOLY FUCK YOU GUYS. We love all of you.

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Many Sins of Lord Cameron by Jennifer Ashley (Check out those abs!)

So I mentioned in my August reading list that Jennifer Ashley writes really hot, emotional, beautiful romances. This is very, very true. A lot of what I like about the Mackensie series is that none of the ladies are virginal ingénues (at least at the point that we are introduced to them). Beth, Isabella, and Ainsley all have real sexual agency and that is both refreshing and rare in a historical romance. In many of the romance novels I’ve read, the sexually experienced women tend to be portrayed as man-eaters or evil bitchez who would sell their mamas for a dollar.  Also, the dudes, while very typical romance-dudes on the surface (unrepentant rake, profligate wastrel, general douche-canoe), have very real personalities and motivations.

Encapsulate This

When Ainsley Douglas, a lady-in-waiting for Queen Victoria, is caught sneaking around Lord Cameron Mackensie’s bedchamber (again) by none other than Lord Cameron himself, he decides to use the situation to seduce her (sort-of again). While Ainsley was only looking to recover some potentially embarrassing letters that have been stolen from the Queen, she knows that after their first meeting six years ago (wherein she was first caught sneaking around his room) she is dangerously susceptible to his wiles. And no matter how much she wants to succumb, she can’t afford to risk a scandal. Cameron is willing to lure her but he may end up caught in his own trap… (I don’t know how cover copy writers do this, it is so annoying)

Ruminate on That

So, the writing is lovely, the characters are sympathetic, the romance itself is (mostly) believable, and the sexy bits are steamy (Lord Cameron and his lady like the dirty talk). But what is best about this novel is the characterization of the main protagonists. Both Cameron and Ainsley have had some traumatic events in their lives that give them real emotional depth. Even though I thought Cameron was being weird with his “You are the only good thing ever, in the history of everything” attitude towards Ainsley (before they really came to know each other), the story just felt emotionally authentic.

What made TMSoLC intellectually interesting is a common theme turned sideways. While many authors have made use of the distressed damsel, this time it’s the dude who was the victim of domestic abuse and the wife who was the tormentor. I’m not fond of violence as a catalyst in a story, but I think that Jennifer Ashley managed to cover DV and what is essentially PTSD with real sensitivity. (The three Mackensie books to date feature Asperger’s, alcoholism, and domestic violence and the subjects are treated seriously and not sensationally.) 

The story isn’t perfect, there are a few sub-plots that distract from the romance and emotional connection, and the story wrapped a little too neatly. I also think that the portrayal of the first lady Cameron was heavy-handed. She was described as promiscuous, psychotic, violent, and then seemed to be suffering from post-partum depression. I would have liked a more nuanced view of her character because, but since it was the Cameron/Ainsley show I guess it made sense not to spend a lot of page space on tertiary characters.

Final Reckoning

Read this, yes, but even the happy bits are a little heavy. If you prefer light and fluffy romances, go read a Julia Quinn book.

The Many Sins of Lord Cameron, Highland Pleasures, Book 3

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

I read this (August 2011)

I apologize about the length of this in advance. I may start doing this post bi-weekly to cut down on the wordiness.

Fantasy/Urban Fantasy

The Hidden Goddess by M.K. Hobson (The Native Star, Book 2): If you haven’t read The Native Star, don’t even bother with this, I read it only a few months ago and I was occasionally lost. However, you should definitely read these two. Magical alternate-history with some steam-punk flair. Awesome and weird.

Dead, Undead, or Somewhere in Between by J.A. Saare (Rhiannon’s Law, Book 1): A middle-of-the-road necromancer/vampire pair-up. Not an original spin but decently written. It’s indie-published so it’s cheap and that’s probably the standard by which I am judging it (it was only .99 when I bought it). I’ll get around to the recently-released sequel, but it barely ranks on my list of priorities.

Magic Burns, Magic Strikes, and Magic Bleeds by Ilona Andrews (Kate Daniels, Books 2-4): Yes, go read these right now. No, really, RIGHT NOW.

Historical Fiction

Settling the Account and A Second Chance by Shayne Parkinson (Promises to Keep, Books 3 & 4): The four books follow a group of people living in New Zealand in the late 1800’s to early 1900’s. The story is well written and interesting but there is so much of it (3 of the books top out at 500+ pages) and there isn’t really a plot. The story managed to be engaging despite the almost ridiculous amount of every-day minutiae included but it is a serious time investment.


The Madness of Lord Ian Mackensie by Jennifer Ashley (Highland Pleasures, Book 1): Ms. Ashley writes some seriously hot, beautiful romances. Instant-lust-that-is-really-love gets the story started, but watching the characters move toward each other is incredibly rewarding. The second novel in the series is Lady Isabella’s Scandalous Marriage and the third is The Many Sins of Lord Cameron (I sure do love romance novel titles, barf). This series tends toward dark and the issues the characters deal are heavy so if you prefer romances that are fluffy, this probably won't appeal.

My Darling Caroline by Adele Ashworth: Nothing about this worked for me. The language was too modern, the lady-protagonist was too perfect, the dude-protagonist was annoying. Doubt I’ll be reading anything else by this author.

Last Night’s Scandal by Loretta Chase (The Carsington Family, Book 5): I have said before that I love this book. I LOVE THIS BOOK. 

Fast Women by Jennifer Crusie: I wanted to love this book, it’s all noir-ish, but the lady-protagonist rubbed me the wrong way. I generally like strong, assertive women (both in books and IRL), but I just couldn’t get behind Nell. Also, I didn’t believe that the lady/dude relationship would last. I am extra sad because I love Jenny Crusie so much.

The Care and Taming of a Rogue, A Lady’s Guide to Improper Behavior, and Rules of an Engagement by Suzanne Enoch (The Adventurer’s Club, Books 1-3): Solidly written, enough suspense to be engaging, believable romance. The lady-protagonists were all remarkably similar, but maybe you wouldn’t notice if you didn’t read them consecutively?

Passions of a Wicked Earl by Lorraine Heath (London’s Greatest Lovers, Book 1): I liked this one because of the emotional journey the characters take. The lady-protagonist starts as a bit of an ingénue, the dude-protagonist starts as an unemotional, uncompromising douche-wad, but they have some decent growth throughout the story. The writing was occasionally a little flat, and the end was frankly wtf but overall, a nice way to pass the afternoon.

What a Gentleman Wants by Caroline Linden (The Reece Family, Book 1): The setup was really far-fetched and the suspense aspect felt a little forced, but I liked the lady/dude combo enough to ignore the shortcomings. Caution: Plot Moppet.

For Your Arms Only by Caroline Linden (Bow St. Agents, Book 2): Too much emphasis on the intrigue, not enough on the romance. Snooze-fest.

Defy Not the Heart and Joining by Johanna Lindsey (Shefford’s Knights, Books 1 & 2): SBTB had posted about which Johanna Lindsey novels a person would recommend for someone unfamiliar with Lindsey. A popular recommendation was Gentle Rogue, part of the Malory series, and one I didn’t like (flat characterization but I may revisit it anyway). The only other Lindsey I had read was Silver Angel which is full of some amazing wtfery. But I REALLY liked Defy Not the Heart. It’s got most of the orly? that old skool romances have but without the rape. Joining is basically the same book, 15 years later. Head strong, unconventional lady-pro, over-bearing but good-at-heart dude-pro, heads clash, true love, blah blah blah. Fun the first time, less so the second.

The Heir by Johanna Lindsey (The Reid Family, Book 1): Sweet and believable romance between the lady-pro and dude-pro. I do like how the villainess gets both her comeuppance and a bit of sympathy but I wish that the women were more than just character foils to show how awesome the lady-pro is.

Lady of Conquest, Thief of Hearts, A Kiss to Remember, and The Bride and the Beast by Teresa Medeiros: I keep running into the same trouble with Medeiros, the stories are competently written and the arcs are fun if not always original, but I rarely buy the relationship between the lady-protagonist and the dude-protagonist. Of the four, I liked Thief of Hearts best.

The Dangerous Viscount by Miranda Neville (The Burgundy Club, Book 2): Again, good writing and good storytelling, but I didn’t always believe the lady/dude relationship. And both the lady and the dude were kind of shitty people. The first book, The Wild Marquis, was better.

Nobody’s Baby but Mine by Susan Elizabeth Phillips: Fuck no, this book is horrible. Besides bad writing, the characters are shitty people doing really shitty things to each other. And did I mention bad writing? STAY AWAY.

The Bargain by Mary Jo Putney: A lot of perspective hopping and the premise is morbid, but it’s decent. Not great but better than average.

Not Quite a Husband by Sherry Thomas: Really well written and a really wonderful emotional connection between the two protagonists. And the way the story unfolded and revealed the character motivations was lovely. Read this now. There is a related book, Delicious, which I haven’t yet read but it’s on my short list.

Glory in Death, Immortal in Death, Rapture in Death by J.D. Robb (In Death, Books 2-4): I said last month that I understand the appeal of these and that’s still true. But if you are going to read this series, do NOT read them in rapid succession. It makes it more apparent that it is the same story over and over again. Formula is thus: Somebody dies, Eve Dallas goes on the case, she has lots of sex with Roarke, she meets someone new who is not actually a suspect, investigation, emotional breakthrough, aforementioned new person is the murderer. Dum dum dum. The fifth book steps away from that, but I’m sure book six will snap right back. I’m probably going to keep reading these for awhile, but my interest is already starting to wane and I’m betting that by the time I hit book 15, I’ll be raging about how much I hate these books.

Mad, Bad, and Blonde by Cathie Linz (West Investigations, Book 1): DNF. I got a quarter through the book before I couldn’t take anymore.

YA Fantasy

A Great and Terrible Beauty, Rebel Angels, and The Sweet Far Thing by Libba Bray (The Gemma Doyle Trilogy): DNF. I struggled to finish books one and two. I COULD NOT make myself finish the last book. I tried to but I hated the narrator and all her friends and they made such ridiculous decisions and ARGH, what a waste of time. I wanted to like it because the narrator and her friends are struggling against a really prohibitive era (Victorian) for women and pushing against the status quo and taking power into their own hands (magically speaking, mostly) but they were so un-likeable that I wanted to shake them until their heads fell off.

ETA: Deleted post by accident, my bad