Archive for the ‘Jean AAR’ Category

Peddling Visions of Beauty

Tuesday, July 1st, 2014

STnude11382555281.tifThree weeks ago the weather turned, and I opened my closet to find some light summer skirts. No such luck –  I’d put on weight, so the old ones didn’t fit, and the others were too heavy for humid 27 degree weather. So I went shopping. I chose a mall and went with an open mind and larger than usual budget – I’m in my thirties, I want fairly good quality that’s not going to break the bank, and I have a body shape that can be difficult to shop for, vertically challenged and horizontally inconsistent. So yeah, I wasn’t expecting to find $10 skirts.

After three hours I was ready to do my head in. I’d run the gamut from Walmart to the Bay to Banana Republic, but I was a victim of Fashion, which this year seems to be either maxi dresses or skirts that just barely cover the vulva. And when skirts did fit me, in size and style, they were asking for something outrageous. $90 for a flipping polyester skirt, which I damn well know was made in an overcrowded Cambodian factory? No way. So I did what I should have done from the start: I went to a secondhand store and got 4 skirts of different styles for $30.

I went home feeling a curious mixture of fury and elation. $30 including tax, for a variety of work-casual skirts of different cuts and colours? Major back pat. But that I could literally not find anything suiting my age, body type, and budget in a mall of over 100 stores? Enraging. And I am hardly at an extreme. I live above the poverty line. I am able. I am not “plus size”. I am neither young nor old.  All of that should, theoretically, allow me run of the mall. But in fact I was screwed because Fashion allows for all of that except the most important: choice. (more…)

Interview and Giveaway with Sharon and Tom Curtis

Monday, April 28th, 2014

9781455573288_p0_v1_s260x420Sharon and Tom Curtis. The husband-and-wife team started writing in the 70s and stopped writing in the 90s, and since then some of their books – especially the pirate romance The Windflower - have entered into legend. Hyperbole from a fan? Well, if you haven’t yet read the Curtises, who publish as Laura London, you’ve got your chance. Grand Central is reissuing all but two of their stories, which includes tomorrow’s release of The Windflower. To celebrate, we have an interview with the authors, and we have three (3) Advanced Reader Copies of The Windflower to give away. To put your name in the draw, just comment below before 11:59PM EST, Wednesday April 30, 2014, and we’ll pick three winners. (Unfortunately, because of the cost of postage, this contest is only open to those in Canada and the USA.)

And now without further ado, Sharon and Tom Curtis. – Jean AAR

You’re a writing duo!  I know of a few others in the business (fantasy author Ilona Andrews immediately comes to mind, although I know there are other collaborations), but there aren’t that many because, I imagine, it must be difficult finding someone whose style meshes with yours, much less turn into something even semi-coherent.  And your books are more than coherent – they’re magical.  How did you decide to start writing together, and why romance novels?

Tom and I were married in our teens, and we were both huge Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer fans. In our midtwenties, I started telling Tom that I wanted to write a regency romance. I wanted to live in that world in my imagination. One afternoon, I sat down at the typewriter and wrote the first page and a half of A Heart Too Proud. When Tom came home from work, he was excited to read it, and said “Hey, it sounds like a real book.” Tom wanted to join the fun, and so that evening, we began to write as a team. We can’t thank you enough for calling our books magical. What a wonderful compliment! Good feelings. (more…)

The results of the AAR Top Ten Lists are in and the winner is….

Monday, October 7th, 2013

loverawakenedBack in April, we began, on each Tuesday, publishing a reviewer’s Top Ten list. There were no rules other than the books be in the romance genre. Over the next five months, we published twenty-three lists. Out of the 230 entries, we listed 201 books. We hit every genre (although we have a definitive fondness for historical romance), and waxed upon the works of 121 authors. After every one had weighed in, only one book garnered five–the most–votes: J.R. Ward’s Lover Awakened. (more…)

AAR Staff Top Ten Favorites – Jean’s Picks

Tuesday, May 14th, 2013

See, I knew that signing up for this blog would cause me a headache. How are you supposed to choose the top ten romances that rock your world? How? How? (At the back of my mind I have the Baha Men singing along, except it’s “How do you choose now? How, how, how, how?” Great. Hence the headache.)

Anyway, I figured the only way I can keep sane is a) recognize that I won’t hit them all, and b) acknowledge that if I am actually stuck on a desert island with only ten romance novels, I’d go crazy anyway, no matter what I chose. (Unless I chose, like, the Koran, Paradise Lost, and Journey to the West. Then maybe I’d not go all loopy.)

I decided that what I’d probably crave the most is variety, a little bit of every genre to suit every mood. It actually turned out to be relatively easy once I’d decided on this, looked at my Top 100 list, scanned my shelves, and sliced through the different categories. I’m happy with my choices – they’re all different in setting, subgenre, writing style, and character. I’ve also read each of them at least twice – I’m a serial re-reader, so I know when something works for me, when it doesn’t, and (most of important of all) when it stands up to the test of time. (more…)

Thank You, Roger Ebert

Monday, April 8th, 2013

roger-ebert-11 Around the time that I discovered the internet as a place of leisure, and not just research, I discovered movie reviews. I found it hugely satisfying to read movie reviews in the major publications – the New York Times, the New Yorker, Rolling Stone. It was like sitting in on a cinematic round table with the leading lights of the film critics’ world. Some of their reviews were near works of art, literary pieces in their own right, offering insights into films that I couldn’t possibly dream of, and sometimes didn’t understand. I reacted to films and I could analyze my response, but not on the same level.

But there was one critic whom I read for his own sake, not the publication’s reputation, and that was Roger Ebert. I’d never seen his shows, either with Siskel or with Roeper, so I only know Ebert’s voice through his writing. And his reviews changed me. (more…)

Pandora’s Box: A Lady Never Lies

Friday, September 21st, 2012

ladyneverlies And Pandora’s Box is back again! This time around, Blythe Barnhill and Jean Wan are taking on a European historical by debut author Juliana Grey. In A Lady Never Lies, Lady Morley has fled to Italy to escape creditors and there she meets inventor Phineas “Finn” Burke. Each of the two, and their traveling companions, are staying in a remote castle in Tuscany. With an unusual setting and a backstory involving the invention of motorcars, this book stood out among recent historical romance offerings.

Blythe: I chose A Lady Never Lies by debut author Juliana Gray for two reasons: 1) she was a brand new European Historical author I’d never tried and 2) I happened to have two copies on hand. Well, from my end, it was a happy accident. I really loved the book. I had no idea that it was set in 1890 – in Italy, no less – and featured a hero who designed electric cars. I am predisposed to like novelty, so this suited me down to the ground. Then I ended up liking the hero and heroine as well. But what did you think?
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Fall Non-Romance Preview

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

j_k_rowling_casual_vacancyYeah, I read non-romance.  Not much, but I do.  That being said, with romance reading and review books, plus grad school coursework, I have to be really choosy with what I read.  At the same time, I’m determined to branch out from romance and YA, and I’m going to make it my goal to read at least one non-romance book each month.  Since fall is big publishing season, here are three non-romance books that caught my eye, in no particular order:

The Casual Vacancy, by J. K. Rowling

Her first book since Harry Potter.  There is no way this is not going to be a publishing phenomenon, and canny for her, she’s going into adult contemporary fiction.  It looks good though – satire and small town secrets, and all that – and I like the cover.

Sweet Tooth, by Ian McEwan

Ian McEwan does 1970s espionage and romance.  Needless to say, I doubt it’s going to end happily, but I’m really, really looking forward to this one.  Features an Oxford mathematician as a heroine, who gets recruited by MI-5 and falls in love with the guys she’s spying on.  It’s already out in Canada (although not until November in the States), and the reviews are fantastic.

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Serial TV and Books: Another Perspective

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

sherlock1The other day on After Hours, I blogged about my love for the TV show Sherlock, and remarked it’s basically the only TV I watch, and like.  This is not the first time I’ve made the remark, online or in person, and 99% of the time, people probably look at me like I’m nuts, pompous, or both.

I once had a conversation with my friend about True Blood (I flatter myself that I converted her to the books, even though I haven’t read them), and we had this conversation about me not watching TV.  “Wait – you don’t watch TV, I accept it, even if I don’t get it (because there are some damn good shows on TV, Jean, and you’re missing out, but never mind because you’re weird).  But you haven’t read the books?  How can you read romance and not read the Sookie Stackhouse series?”

Good question, Eva.  And looking through my bookshelf, reading history, and preferences, I think I’ve narrowed it down.  It’s not series that I don’t do, per se – it’s the serialized, episodic, plot and character development surrounding a central cast of characters over a long period of time that I can’t stick with.

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Books with Buzz: Nalini Singh Interview and Five-Book Giveaway (Contest Closed)

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012

tangleThe minute I read Nalini Singh’s Slave of Sensation, I knew we had something special in our hands.  In the intervening six, short years, Nalini has published fifteen stories in her thought-provoking Psy/Changeling series, each of them gritty, passionate, and loads of fun.

With this month’s release of Tangle of Need, we took the opportunity to ask Nalini a few questions, and she’s coming along with some free books in tow.  Five lucky readers will have their pick of any one book from the previous 10 books in the Psy/Changeling series (not including Tangle of Need – sorry), and all you have to do to enter is comment on this post by Friday, June 8, 11:59 p.m. EST.  We will notify winners by email on Saturday morning, and they will have 24 hours to respond.  If we don’t hear from a winner within that time, a new winner will be selected.  If you review for another Web site or blog, please don’t enter.  Unfortunately, only residents of the U.S. and Canada are eligible to enter.

Now, on to Nalini!

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Transitioning to YA/Teen: It’s Harder Than It Looks

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

InfinityThe other day I was doing my semi-regular rounds on the Internet, checking author  Web sites, seeing what they’re up to.  Well, color me surprised when I saw that an author – whose books I used to love but who has fallen waaaaay off my radar after a string of duds – is publishing a Young Adult/Teen book.

After my eyebrows shot up, they went down again pretty quickly, and upon reflection I couldn’t say I was exactly surprised.  Many authors try new directions for various reasons, but oftentimes when they change genres, they change names for a complete disassociation with their former lives.  So Anne Stuart becomes Kristina Douglas (historical to paranormal), Lisa Marie Rice turns into Elizabeth Jennings (erotic to suspense), Candice Proctor writes as C. S. Harris (historical to mystery), and Patricia Cabot is now more commonly known to the world as Meg Cabot (historical to teen), to name only a few.

The latter marks a trend that I’ve seen grow slowly but surely.  We don’t see too many authors transitioning to historical, probably because 99% of romance authors start writing historicals.  And there isn’t much of a jump from historical romance to paranormal or suspense.  But YA/Teen?  I feel like it’s happening a lot.  A cursory search and scan of the bookshelves yielded, just to name a few, Kelley Armstrong, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Richelle Mead, Gena Showalter, Rachel Vincent, Mary Jo Putney, Shana Abe, Sophie Jordan, Roxanne St. Claire, and Kathryn Smith writing YA/Teen fiction, some under pseudonyms.

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