So, Have You Read Any RITA Winners?

rita_award The 2012 RITA winners were officially announced on the last full evening at the RWA convention, on July 28, 2012. Many of us like to compare the winners to what we have already read and AAR reviewers are no exception.

Here are the RITA winners:

Best Paranormal Romance –Dragon Bound by Thea Harrison

Best Romance Novella –I Love the Earl by Caroline Linden

Best Novel with Strong Romantic Elements – First Grave on the Right by Darynda Jones

Best Historical Romance – The Black Hawk by Joanna Bourne
Continue reading

Arranged Marriages: Pixar vs. Sherry Thomas

handsThere were many things I loved about Sherry Thomas’ Ravishing the Heiress, secondary characters notwithstanding.  The writing.  Fitz and Millie.  The writing.  (Can you tell I love it?)  But there’s one particular aspect that stands out, and that’s how Ms. Thomas treats an arranged marriage.

I saw Pixar’s Brave the same weekend that I finished Ravishing the Heiress, and the contrast could not have been greater.  In the first, Scottish princess Merida rebels against her mother, traditional feminine pursuits, and the whole idea of an arranged marriage.  Forget embroidery, and to hell with marrying one of the chieftain’s sons to keep the clans together – Merida will win her own hand in marriage.  I’m not giving anything away if I tell you that by the end Merida will have reached a new understanding with her mother and learned the value of compromise – but she sure ain’t married either.

Things are different in Ravishing the Heiress, besides the obvious differences in audience (it’s a romance) and form (it’s a novel – duh).  Millie loves Fitz, and Fitz loves someone else.  But does Millie refuse the marriage because she wants to marry for love, and wait until he recognizes his love for her?  Nope.  Millie’s family wants social standing and Millie has been groomed for this her entire life; and Fitz needs to restore the decrepit estate.  So Millie goes through with it.  And it takes eight years – read that, eight years – before their relationship becomes true love.

Continue reading

Who Are You? And Who Needs to Know?

CNSPhoto-Simpsons Everything I’ve ever written or posted at AAR has been under my own name. My real one. Since I’ve been doing this for well over a decade and have an unusual name, I figure I am about the easiest person to find on the internet. You google me, you get me. I made the choice early on, and I’ve always been comfortable with it. But we have several staff members who use a pseudonym. Reasons vary; for some it’s a professional issue, for others a privacy one. Honestly, when a reviewer wants to use an assumed name I don’t feel the need to ask them why. I don’t really care what you call yourself as long as you are professional.
Continue reading

eBook Lending – A Reader’s View

kindlebook Last week, I mentioned that certain publishers won’t let libraries lend their eBooks. To bring it home more, if you are looking for romance eBooks by Sherrilyn Kenyon, Lora Leigh, Keiran Kramer published by Macmillan Publishing at your local library or Simon & Schuster’s authors such as Jayne Ann Krentz or Sabrina Jeffries, don’t waste your time looking because their eBooks are not available for lending. If that is not enough, Penguin, which only offered backlist eBook titles for library lending, announced that it is terminating its contract with OverDrive, the library digital vendor, and starting February 10 will cease to offer any of its eBooks to libraries.
Continue reading


mobile Six months ago, I left my life in Washington, D.C. and moved to southern Alabama to work at a day center for the homeless. I am doing a one-year service program called the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, and I am halfway done. It’s been different than anything I’ve ever done before. I love what I do, even though it’s draining and I see awful things and hear terrible stories. I love my clients, even if they do things that I find, at best, inadvisable and at worst, appalling.
Continue reading

And…the Annual Reader Poll Begins!

voting_m-300x225 It’s the beginning of a new year and many of us readers are looking forward to the next must-have title by our favorite authors and those wonderful cherry-on-top moments of discovering a new auto-buy author during 2012. We know this time is special and fun, and we ourselves are basking in the newness of it all. And yet, we need your help in looking back at the books you loved and those that left you wanting so much more from last year, 2011. Today is the start of our 16th AAR Annual Reader Poll .

The Annual Reader Poll has a long tradition at AAR, and is one of the highlights of the year for many readers. It is a time when AAR readers pick the best and worst reads of the previous year. This is your poll and your moment to help us determine what you think readers should have noticed and passed on in 2011. There are many AAR readers who keep charts and know exactly what titles and characters they will be entering on their ballot. If you haven’t kept a reading chart (and there are just as many readers who don’t), you can always use the Power Search function at AAR to search for reviews from the 2011 reading year. In Power Search you can search by genre, reviewer, year published, grade, and a host of other areas that should be helpful in preparing your ballot.

Continue reading

In Search of the Real Regency

Regency In my search for good historical reading, I’ll admit that I’m sometimes guilty of something. I’ll moan about Regency-set historicals as a shorthand for “historicals with idiot twit leads, wallpaper settings and stupid gimmicks that make me crazy.” And I know that’s not fair of me. The Regency period itself has much to recommend it, and modern-day silliness dressed up in poofy gowns was certainly not what it was all about. I don’t dislike the Regency period as a historical era; it’s more that I’ve read too many books that claim this time period as their setting even though one would never be able to discern this from the text of the book itself.
Continue reading

Speaking of Audiobooks: December 2011 Releases

s LoverIt’s time to take a look at December’s romance audio releases and I imagine something will catch your interest.  When I compare our unabridged new releases list today to our 2009 December unabridged list, I see that there are twice as many on today’s list!  Either I’m better at finding new releases or the production of romance audio has increased significantly.  I think it’s some of both!

We also have seven reviews including Meljean Brooks’ The Iron Duke, Lisa Kleypas’ Midnight Angel, Christine Feehan’s The Twilight Before Christmas, Lisa Kleypas’ Stranger in My Arms, Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ Nobody’s Baby But Mine, Anne Stuart’s Shameless, and Suzanne Brockmann’s Harvard’s Education.

Transcript Available for Narrators Forum

A written transcript of our Narrators Forum will be available this week.  Although you can read the forum in its entirety in the discussion area of the column, I know some desire to read the forum and the following discussion in one easy-to-read document.  Please email me and give me your name and email address if you desire a copy.

I must take a minute to state how thrilled I am with not only the forum but the discussion between readers and narrators after the forum ended (and it continued for days).  If you didn’t check back in after the first day, you missed some great discussion.

Audiobook Romances on Sale in December

Continue reading

It’s Hot Guy Friday!

I’ve had one stinking week, complete with jury duty and the kind of work stress it’s hard to even think about.  So, what better way to end a week than with our first annual celebration of Sandy’s Top 10 Hot Guys (November 2011 Edition)!

Seriously.  I just can’t even think about writing a serious blog at this point, so here goes:

jonJon Stewart because funny is always sexy and when you add a massive brain, his appeal is off the charts.

dennisDennis Haysbert because I really do fantasize sometimes about what it might be like to be in his good hands.

alexAlexander Skarsgard because he’s Eric.  ‘Nuff said.


Josh Dallas because he makes a perfect Prince Charming.

ralph,jpgRalph Fiennes because my memory is long.

alanAlan Rickman because of that voice.  And just because.

matthewMatthew Fox because, despite current evidence regarding an unsavory personal life, he played heroic Jack Shepard.  Perfectly.

RyanRyan Gosling because he is beautiful and talented and really should have been Sexiest Man Alive.

hughHugh Jackman because even though I’m not entirely convinced of his sexuality, he seems to be a great guy who loves his family and takes great joy in what he does.

And, finally, the perennial Hot Guy pick, the one, the only…

georgeGeorge Clooney. Because he is hot, of course, but also because he is smart and committed to doing good in the world.  What’s not to love?

So, I hope everyone enjoyed our frivolous little walk down Hot Guy Lane.  Do you agree with my choices?  Do any make you hurl?  Is there anybody I forgot that absolutely, positively needs to be on this list?

- Sandy AAR

P.S. I thought I set up this post so that each photo would be featured next to each guy, but, gosh, Word Press didn’t cooperate and I really don’t have the patience to try and fix it.  (See previous reference to hellacious week.) And, gee, who needs any help identifying these guys, anyway?

Steve Jobs: You Are Still the Coolest

YouTube Preview Image

We’ve all heard the news by now:  Steve Jobs has resigned as CEO of Apple.  Though he will still be involved with the company since he’ll serve as Chairman of the Board, it’s fair to say that his day-to-day involvement with the company is at an end.

Back in the late 80s (gulp), I arrived at my first day on the job at an advertising agency and they sat me down in front of a Mac. I remember one of the first things I did that day was to take a tutorial designed to show me how to use the mouse.  A mouse?  What the heck was that thing and how did it work?  I soon learned.

Ever since that day I have been a certified Apple geek. For the most part it was a lonely little world, consisting of me and my ad buddies against the world. When I first joined AAR over 10 years ago, I was the only one on a Mac and it caused problems.  But I was unconcerned.  I knew the Mac was better and everybody else would eventually come around.

Then along came the iPod and all that changed.  The iPod not only revolutionized the way we listen to music, but it brought new people into the Mac fold.  Suddenly, we were no longer an exclusive little group of dedicated diehards.

Then came the iPhone.  And the iPad.  And the rest, as they say, is history.

Continue reading