Archive for the ‘Reading’ Category

A Little Bit of Book News for the Holidays

Tuesday, December 24th, 2013

christmastree Maybe it’s my lack of affection for the massive consumption side of Christmas(or my resistance to being anywhere near a mall between Thanksgiving and New Year’s), but for some reason, I always find myself coasting into those last few days before Christmas just a bit unprepared. Even as I resist the gift frenzy, I do find myself with an affection for holiday romance, listening to carols on Pandora, and maybe feeling a bit more festive as I wander the internet. Here are some of the interesting reads I’ve found in my travels lately:

– For those who completely missed out on their internet/social media ruling, there was A Kerfuffle last week. I thought about writing a blog piece to cover this trainwreck of a piece by Palash Ghosh and the backlash that ensued, but in the end decided that there really wasn’t too much to say that hasn’t already been said by me or other bloggers in the past – not to mention Laurie and some of the romance authors and reviewers who were online way before some of us writing today. Quite frankly, after having seen romance readers mocked in the press for years, this round of looking down on romance readers has a feel of “same condescension, different jackass” about it. (more…)

Chick Lit/Women’s Fiction Recommendations for Best of 2013?

Friday, December 13th, 2013

loveliestchocolate LinnieGayl: One of my favorite categories in AAR’s Annual Poll is Best Chick Lit/Women’s Fiction. In most years I’ve read several books in the category and have a hard time deciding which book to vote for. This year is different. With just one month before polling begins on January 13, I realize that I haven’t read a single chick lit or women’s fiction book that I would consider voting for in the 2013 Annual Poll.

So I decided to take the advice we give readers: Do a power search at AAR. For Chick Lit titles published in 2013 that didn’t produce very helpful results; only Katie Fforde’s A Perfect Proposal, which received a B- from Maggie, has been reviewed this year at AAR.

A power search for best Women’s Fiction yields more titles published in 2013, including the following that interest me: (more…)

Really?

Friday, December 6th, 2013

Warning: This post is full – chock full – of spoilers for Just One Evil Act.

Fun fact: Elizabeth George taught English at my high school. I never had her as a teacher, and she wouldn’t know me from Adam, but the fact that she taught my school when her first book was published was the reason I read it, and nearly all her others. At this point, she’s been publishing and I’ve been reading for a quarter century, which I guess makes me old and her older. I went through a mystery-reading phase in junior high and high school, but obviously it’s not my primary genre of choice – or I’d be publishing All About Mysteries instead of All About Romance. Nonetheless, I’ve stuck with Elizabeth George because I liked her characters and settings.

But now, half way through Just One Evil Act, I think I might be done. I’m not sure if I’m even going to finish it, though maybe one of you can talk me into it if you promise me that things turn around. If you’ve kept up with George, you know where the problem started – with the death of Lady Helen and her unborn child at the hands of a young gunman. Has anyone in George’s readership truly forgiven her for that? I doubt it. I figured I forgave her more readily than most, since I pretty much kept reading (with the exception of What Came Before He Shot Her – because I couldn’t have cared less what came before he shot her). But I’ll defend Careless in Red, which revolves around the grieving Thomas Lynley, as a good book, even though I was still pissed about Helen and the baby. But then he started nailing his bitchy, alcoholic boss (who oddly enough actually seems to be a better person in Just One Evil Act) and pursuing an unlikely and only borderline interesting liaison with a roller derby-playing veterinarian. This didn’t really help my interest any.

But what’s made me stop cold (and here is where the huge spoilers begin, so if you want to wait so you can be disappointed and annoyed yourself, feel free to stop reading here) is the behavior of Barbara Havers and Taymullah Azhar in the latest book. Basically, Azhar plots to kidnap his daughter and spirit her away to Pakistan, and when I stopped reading, Barbara had just found out about it and was about to lie to her superiors (including Lynley, who over the course of the series has repeatedly gone to bat for her) and cover for him. Really?

Really? Can’t Barbara maintain her integrity? She’s had a rough go of it. She’s not wealthy. Her only family left is her mother, who suffers from dementia. She’s dumpy and unlucky in love. Can’t she at least have the courage of her convictions? And Azhar has already abandoned one family so he could pursue a flighty, attractive woman. On what planet are his actions here okay? Like Lynley and Barbara, He’s not the person I thought he was.

Which brings me full circle to the reason I read romance: I like happy endings. I realize that real life is not all sunshine and rainbows, and that real life happens after you get married and ride off into the sunset together. I’ve been married for almost 25 years myself, so I also know real life includes arguments about spending, kids who get in trouble and do stupid things, and plenty of laundry and job stress. But I also like books where all those things happen to people and they work it out together. Call me a cock-eyed optimist.

So tell me: Has anyone else read this? Will something happen that will turn my opinion around? Or should I just go compensate by baking cookies, watching The Holiday, and reading some dependable Julia Quinn?

TBR Challenge – Can’t Escape the Hype

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013

exclusivelyyours This month’s TBR Challenge was to find a book that got inescapable buzz. As it turns out, I have had one sitting in my Kindle for ages, waiting for that perfect time to be read. When Carina Press launched back in 2010, one of their debut titles, Exclusively Yours by Shannon Stacey generated lots of chatter almost from the beginning and it filled my Twitter stream for months. In fact, this title generated so much buzz and so many sales that it ended up being picked up for reissue in print by HQN. As it turns out, it ended up being the perfect companion for me as I sat through my 3 hour glucose test(ah, the joys of pregnancy.) If you like single-title contemporaries, this one is a cute, light-hearted read. I’d give it a B+ for the huge smile it left on my face.

The basic set-up is this: Hero and heroine fall in love in high school. Heroine wants a life outside of small-town New England and she takes off for the West Coast, where she starts to build a career for herself writing for celebrity tabloids. Hero, meanwhile, goes on to become a famous author and also notoriously reclusive in his private life. (more…)

Adults in Young Adult

Friday, November 15th, 2013

YA stack AAR is – and will remain – primarily focused on the adult romance genre, but we often foray into other areas of publishing as books catch our interest that we think might catch yours, too. Young Adult fiction(and New Adult, for that matter) has become a tremendous force over the past decade or so, and many AAR reviewers have been swept up in the wave. In the interest of indulging and sharing our love of YA literature, Caroline Russomanno and Jenna Harper are launching the Young Adult Corner, a series of posts discussing YA titles and topics of interest. So, if there’s anything YA-related that interests you, let us know in the comments.

Perhaps the first step is to talk about what, exactly, makes something a “Young Adult” title. There seems to be much debate, particularly with the rise of the New Adult category. Given the fact that 55% of YA books are purchased by those over 18 (Publishers Weekly), a clearly “adult” demographic. (more…)

The Wait is Over – Here are Your 2013 Top 100 picks!

Monday, November 11th, 2013

The wait is over! We are pleased to announce the results of our Top 100 AAR Romance Poll here(and we also have a more printer-friendly version.)

In the past, and quite possibly right this minute, when we’ve posted the results of the Top 100 Polls and the Annual Reader polls a frequent reaction for our readers has been, “I didn’t vote for any of those books!” So we thought it might be fun to see how the AAR staffers’ Top Ten romances matched up with the results of the 2013 Top 100 Poll. We suspect the results are probably similar to how many of your results matched up, meaning some yes, some no, some none at all.

Of the Top Ten books chosen by readers in the 2013 Top 100 Poll, AAR staffers’ combined choices matched up with four books: Romancing Mr. Bridgerton was chosen by three staff members (13%), and Lord of Scoundrels, Slightly Dangerous and Outlander by two staff members (9%).

Of the other Top Ten books, Devil in Winter, Flowers from the Storm, Dreaming of You, and The Viscount Who Loved Me only appeared on one AAR staff member’s Top Ten list, while The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie was not listed on anyone’s Top Ten, though it did show up elsewhere in our Top 100 ballots. Meanwhile, the book that garnered the most votes (5) by AAR Staff members was J.R. Ward’s Lover Awakened which landed in 34th place.

All in all, 46 of the books in the final Top 100 were actually picked by at least one AAR staff member.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on the final Top 100. Did any of the titles on your ballot make the final Top 100? Which authors or titles were you surprised to see or not to see on the list?

And what about the “Best of the Rest,” or the titles in positions 101-200? Check back here over the next month for some additional analyses of the Top 100.

– Lee, Cindy and LinnieGayl

Wonderful Reading Quotes

Friday, October 25th, 2013

grouchomarx Reading is beyond a doubt my favorite hobby. You probably wouldn’t be reading this blog if it wasn’t one of yours as well. One of the many things I love about books is finding words that express what I feel. So often authors concisely say in a few lines concepts I have been struggling to give words to. Over the years many of those lines, or rather quotes, have made up a large part of the thread from which I weave my beliefs and behaviors. But some I collect just for fun. And among those just for fun favorite quotes are pithy comments about reading. I am surprised – and delighted – at how I find them everywhere. For example, I was tickled when in the film Ratatouille brother Emile asks hero Remy, “You read?” in an accusatory voice. His slightly defensive response? “Well, not excessively.” Yep, I’ve been in that defensive position myself when someone asks, “Is that another book?” in much the same tone you would ask, “Good Lord, is that heroin in your pocket?” (more…)

TBR Challenge – Things That Go Bump in the Night

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013

everywheresheturns This month we’re reading romantic suspense and paranormals for the TBR Challenge. I’ve been gradually packing up for a move over the past month, so finding a book that (1)fit the category and (2)wasn’t boxed up posed something of a challenge in itself. As a result, I ended up reading the first romantic suspense I came across, Debra Webb’s 2009 release Everywhere She Turns. I don’t recall buying this one and all I can say after reading it is that it wasn’t just an average, run-of-the-mill thriller. This one was bad, even offensively bad at times. If I read this for review, I’d give it a solid D-.

So, what do we get in this story?
– misogynist villain killing women? Check.
– heroine with a chip on her shoulder who has returned home from the big city? Check and check.
– skanky villain sex? Check
– hero from the heroine’s past who might still have the hots for her ? Check (more…)

I’m Never – No, Never! Getting Married

Friday, September 27th, 2013

no-weddingNick is a romance hero. He’s never – no, never! – going to get married. You can see why, of course; you need conflict to drive a plot forward, and if Nick sees Elizabeth, falls in love with Elizabeth, proposes to Elizabeth, and marries Elizabeth without a hitch you’ve got one short (and probably not all that interesting) book. A hero (or somewhat less frequently, heroine) who is never – no, never! – going to get married can provide that hitch in the relationship that makes for a good conflict and interesting reading. Well, except when it’s totally lame. If there is one knee jerk conflict that authors like to turn to, this is it. I see it more often in contemporary novels, likely because birth control is widely available and modern sexual mores more permissive. But if pops up fairly often in historicals too, usually for different reasons. I can hardly open a book without running into Nick or one of his ilk. Since the my most recent read with a marriage phobic hero got on my last nerve, I decided to provide this helpful list of acceptable and unacceptable reasons to never – no, never! get married. (more…)

Pondering Reviews, Community – and a Bit of Goodreads

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013

bookscommunity Even before all the fun and games started at Goodreads over the weekend, I found myself thinking quite a lot about reviewing, community and boundaries. This piece from Liz over at Something More started it. Her arguments in favor of writers reviewing one another made me think. On the one hand, I’ve known some authors who have expressed discomfort with the idea of writing in-depth, critical reviews of other romance novels because they fear that they either (1) would not be able to be objective or (2) would not be perceived as objective. Romlandia can be a small world at times, so I understand those concerns. I can also see the difficulties for authors not wanting to damage relationships or hurt their own careers. Then again, as a reader, I would love to see authors who know their craft reviewing books and telling us what they really think of them. Such reviews would carry much more weight with me as a reader than a glowing cover blurb that does little to tell us why Author X thought this book was “such a fun read!” (more…)