TBR Challenge – On the Edges of Our Seats

huntinghuman It’s been a while since I read a paranormal that felt fresh. For that reason, I was especially happy to read Hunting Human as I dove into the paranormal side of “paranormal or romantic suspense” for this month’s TBR challenge. This book is a 2011 release from Carina Press, and after reading it, I was rather disappointed to find that author Amanda E. Alvarez has apparently not released any other books. That’s a real shame because even if Hunting Human isn’t perfect, I’d give it a very solid B. My romance picks don’t often haunt me, but this book both made me smile and made chills run down my spine.

The chilling part starts early as we meet heroine Lizzy Williams in eastern Europe with her best friend Rachel. As they leave a bar and head for their hostel, the sense of foreboding increases. The reader just knows that something horrible is about to happen to these two happy young women, but reads on, powerless to stop it. When several men they encountered at the bar kidnap the duo and throw them into a van, my heart sank. I was horrified, but also so gripped by the story that I just couldn’t turn away. Continue reading

AAR Staff Top Ten Favorites: Dabney’s Picks

RMBIt was the summer of 2008 and I, a passionate reader, had my first Kindle. It was magical–a device you could just push a button and get books, as many as you could find and afford, and read to your heart’s content. I’d had the thing for a couple of weeks and was perusing the Amazon Kindle page. I can’t remember if it was free or it was the most downloaded book of the day but that day I decided to buy Karen Marie Moning’s Darkfever. At the time, I hadn’t read a romance novel for over thirty years. That book sucked me in and I still haven’t been spit out. I had a problem, however. I wanted to read more romance but had no way to figure out which ones sucked and which rocked. Thank the gods for the internet. A few clicks and, boom, I discovered AAR. For the next two years, nearly every romance I bought I found through AAR and its Power Search feature. I discovered quickly that I loved well-written romances that were, well, hot. Continue reading

Speaking of Audiobooks: Bits of Audio News

Kinsale-FlowersfromtheStorm-shadow(1) Quality versus Quantity

With more and more romance audiobooks flooding Audible these days, it’s not all that easy to locate those audios that may be of particular interest to you. Just two years ago, the romance audio pickings remained slim with proven narrators performing the majority of titles. As with the eBook market, I imagine most readers/listeners understand that increased selection doesn’t necessarily mean increase in the number quality titles.

Of course, with this tremendous increase in audio titles, it only makes sense that there is an increase in the need for narrators as well. Unfortunately, this also means publishers are looking for the most affordable way to bring those narrations to their doorstep and home studios provide them with such. Combine an untrained narrator with a home studio with no director, and the consumer pays the price of an unsatisfactory listening experience.

The result? The percentage of overall quality narrations has decreased with untrained narrators performing not only those numerous new-to-us authors but also well-known authors with backlists just now releasing in audio format. Since successful audio purchasing requires the combination of a talented author (who speaks to you) and a gifted narrator who effectively delivers, it’s more challenging than ever to find these winning combinations. Fortunately, Audible provides an easy return service. If an audio isn’t working for you, return it and state your reason.

Keeping this in mind, Speaking of Audiobooks will now mention a few titles each month that should prove to be exceptional while cautioning listeners on a number that may prove to be disappointing. I hope you will join in and share with us those that are exceptional listens or utter disappointments. Continue reading

AAR Top Ten Picks – Laurie Gold’s Picks

castles Note: Laurie Gold has graciously agreed to share her Top Ten picks here this week. Longtime readers here will remember that Laurie founded All About Romance, and you will see many columns and reviews from her in our archives. Though Laurie retired from AAR in 2008, she now contributes to Heroes and Heartbreakers, and still has plenty of opinions on books. – Lynn
———–

When Blythe asked me to write this blog, she sent me a link to AAR Reviewer Maggie’s entry. I immediately liked it because, like Maggie, I have an impossible number of favorites from which to choose, and thought her idea of sampling from among subgenres was smart. Here, then, are my top ten romances, culled from historical, contemporary, paranormal, and romantic suspense subgenres, with funny, sad, and an erotic option thrown in for good measure. And to make it perhaps more useful, more than once I went for a less well-known author/book. Continue reading

AAR Staff Top Ten Favorites: Cindy’s Picks

Hi, I’m Cindy, I have been doing AAR Reader polls with LinnieGayl and Lee for the last 7 years, and now I help with the updating of the Special Title Listings with Rike and LinnieGayl. It would be fair to say I love reading lists, my favorite lists being AAR Readers’ lists of favorite books. Now, ask me to rank my favorite romances and I freeze up. But I’ve learned from the best how every list created by a reader may have some caveats attached. I loved reading Jenna and Maggie’s lists because each came at it in different ways. Jenna took Pride and Prejudice off the table – it is just her very favorite book, it’s a classic and almost always ends up on a reader’s top romance ballot, so she posted it as a given. Maggie spoke of the books that created a journey to her reading preferences today and she mentioned the very first series book she read that would be considered an emotional favorite but left it off her final list.

In listing my favorites I originally made the rule that no author could be on the list more than one time. It forced me to think in a different way. Ask me to list my top 10 favorite Anne Stuart books and it would be agonizing, but to only allow one book made me look for the very best of each author’s work. I then promptly broke my rule because one author surprised me and showed me she could make any situation work. And finally, knowing this list wasn’t etched in stone helped me to move forward because I know tomorrow I can change my mind. With that, my list: Continue reading

This is Dedicated to the One I Love…

dedication Long before the Internet with authors’ webpages, blogs, Facebook, and Twitter, I knew quite a bit about the authors whose books I read. I knew the names of their best friends, husbands, and children. I was able to surmise when they divorce, and when they remarried. I could tell when their children got married, the birth of grandchildren, and the death of a loved one. I knew their interests and hobbies from the environment to rescuing pets, knitting or four wheeling. And many times I knew of the struggle to get published, or family disapproval of their chosen genre. I discovered all this from just opening the book and reading the dedication page.
Continue reading

Eagerly Awaited in July

Every month, the staff here at AAR send me their lists of books on the new release list that they are eager to try. Going over the July list was extra fun because there were four new releases that clearly caught the attention of many. As I went through my emails, I wondered which book was going to hit the top slot. Would it be the new release from Loretta Chase or would it be Anne Stuart, Mary Balogh or Meredith Duran? In the end, Mary Balogh’s book won out with 11 AAR staffers declaring their anticipation of its arrival, but the books by Loretta Chase, Meredith Duran and Anne Stuart followed closely on its heels. In addition, as you can see from checking out the release list and our picks, July is looking like it could be a pretty good month.

300

Title and Author Reviewer
The Secret Mistress by Mary Balogh The Secret Mistress by Mary Balogh Blythe, Dabney, Rike, Heather S., Jean, Heather B., Maggie, Lee, Sandy, Pat, Jacqueline
Silk is for Seduction by Loretta Chase Silk is for Seduction by Loretta Chase Sandy, Rike,Leigh, Dabney, Lee, Heather B., Wendy, Jean. Heather S., Jacqueline
A Lady's Lesson in Scandal by Meredith Duran A Lady’s Lesson in Scandal by Meredith Duran Lynn,Jean, Blythe, Jane, Wendy, Heather B., Rike, Lee, Heather S.
Shameless by Anne Stuart Shameless by Anne Stuart Jean, Sandy, Lea, Jacqueline, Dabney, Lee, Pat, Heather B., Wendy
Heartless by Gail Carriger Heartless by Gail Carriger LinnieGayl,Maggie, Blythe, Jean, Rike
The Dark Enquiry by Deanna Raybourn The Dark Enquiry by Deanna Raybourn Rike, Lee, LinnieGayl, Jean
One Summer by JoAnn Ross One Summer by JoAnn Ross Leigh, LinnieGayl
This Perfect Kiss by Melody Thomas This Perfect Kiss by Melody Thomas Dabney, Lea
Give Me a Texas Outlaw Give Me a Texas Outlaw by Jodi Thomas, Linda L. Broday, Phyliss Miranda, and Dewanna Pace Pat
Cold Touch by Leslie Parrish Cold Touch by Leslie Parrish Lynn
Black Heart Loa by Adrian Phoenix Black Heart Loa by Adrian Phoenix Wendy
Sunset Bridge by Emilie Richards Sunset Bridge by Emilie Richards Leigh
Just Let Go... by Kathleen O'Reilly Just Let Go… by Kathleen O’Reilly Rike
Inside by Brenda Novak Inside by Brenda Novak Lynn
A Summer Reunion by Kasey Michaels, Sarah Mayberry and Teresa Southwick A Summer Reunion by Kasey Michaels, Sarah Mayberry and Teresa Southwick Leigh
Bayou Bodyguard by Jana DeLeon Bayou Bodyguard by Jana DeLeon Rike
The Creed Legacy by Linda Lael Miller The Creed Legacy by Linda Lael Miller Pat

The Appeal of the Villainous Hero

villain Notes from the Underground, written by Fyodor Dostoevsky begins with the famous opening line, “I am a sick man… I am a wicked man”. In the novel, Dostoevsky creates a hero who possesses all the characteristics of a villain: sarcasm, disillusionment, and a general lack of care for the well being of others. The hero is in actuality an anti-hero, a man who acts like a villain, but who ultimately possesses a core of goodness to redeem himself through words and actions.
Continue reading

In Defense of Darkness

darklandscape Earlier this year, Leigh blogged about liking lighter romance. I enjoyed her piece and it got me thinking about my own views on tone in the books I prefer to read. I certainly don’t mind humorous romance or laugh out loud slapstick in the least. The book within a book from What Happens in London is one of my romance reading highlights! However, I have a soft spot for the dark and angsty, or at least the dramatic and serious, and many books on my keeper shelf feature heroes and heroines who really had to work for that happy ending.

Continue reading

Vive la France!

France_Paris_Night1This subject has been on my mind for a while, but two recent-ish blogs got me writing: Joanna Bourne’s musings on the topic, and Lynn’s request for Italian-set romance novels.

See, I love France.  I love the food and the art and the cinema.  I love the cobblestone streets strewn with leaves and dog poo alike, and I love the mega-stores and tiny boutiques.  I appreciate their massive anal attitude towards their language, and am utterly envious of French women who all seem born with the Instant Style Gene.  Whenever I go to France, the minute I step off the plane, I feel like I’ve come home.

In other words, I don’t get the semi-automatic “anti-French, anti-revolution bias” that Jennie at Dear Author says is “common to most everyone but the French”, but that, honestly, I think is really only common to English-speakers.  (Stereo)typically-speaking.  So I’m happy whenever I read a book that’s mainly set in France.  (The temporary excursions just, somehow, don’t count.)  Pre-Louis XIV is pretty thin on the grounds, but there’s always Susan Carroll’s witch series, starting with Silver Rose, and the second book of the Renaissance Lymond Chronicles by Dorothy Dunnett.  In the pre-Revolutionary 18th century there are Georgette Heyer’s classic These Old Shades and Anne Stuart’s recent Ruthless.  Turn-of-the-century, I’ve read Susan Johnson’s Forbidden and Judy Cuevas’ Beast, and heard amazing things about Bliss and Dance. All are really good books.

Continue reading