Would you have made it?

sybilSometimes the right book can really get you thinking about a question. In this case, the right book was actually a novella, Danelle Harmon’s The Admiral’s Heart. The premise is that the heroine ends her relationship with the hero when they are both young – without explaining why - because she’s allergic to dogs. He has a beloved dog, and she doesn’t want to force him to choose between them. This got me thinking about not only about the idea of choosing between a pet and a highly allergic person, but also about people with allergies and how they might have fared in a more rural society.

I can’t think of too many historical romances that mention people with allergies. In fact, besides the Harmon heroine, the only one I could come up with was the father of Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton family, who I am fairly sure died of an allergic reaction to a bee sting (though it’s been a few years, so I’m not 100% sure on that). I don’t know whether people have more allergies now or we just hear about them more. Or perhaps people who had severe allergies were just considered “sickly” and no one knew what was wrong? Either way, it’s not something you read about often. Continue reading

Not You too, Barnes & Noble…

bandnWhen I was growing up, my dad always gave me books for my birthday. Children’s books when I was little, and more literary fare when I was a teenager – books he’d read himself and loved. He worked in Manhattan and bought books home from the Barnes & Noble there. I still remember what the bags looked like (brown and white), and how excited I was knowing that inside them I would find books for me. Once or twice I actually got to go pick out my own books, in that New York City store that seemed huge. It was the seventies, before the era of the big box book retailers, so our options closer to home were limited to mall bookstores and one or two small independents. Continue reading

Reviewer’s Choice 2012

It’s that time again – the time of year when the AAR staff weighs in with our pick for best romance of the year. This column is a yearly event for me, and I’ve been writing it for so long that I couldn’t remember when I started writing it (so I checked. The answer? 2001! I couldn’t believe it either). I always enjoy hearing our staff gush, and I always find something I should have read already.  After reading Dabney’s top picks for this year, I’ve decided I need to read more novellas.

At the risk of sounding like an old lady who begins every sentence with “Back in my day…” I feel like we’ve seen a lot of changes over the years. Gone are the days when virtually half our staff voted for the same book (Suzanne Brockmann’s Over the Edge). We’re a diverse lot these days, and the highest number of votes any book got was two. And maybe I’m also becoming a pushover, but I let two reviewers make more than once choice. Sad to say, this was also a year when many of us didn’t feel like we had a lot of choices. Lots of us read good books, but had trouble coming up with great books. And that’s a trend I’d love to see turn around in 2013. Nonetheless, we picked our favorites and found books to recommend. If you missed any of these, read fast; our annual poll ends January 20 at midnight. Continue reading

Finding the Time

December was a horrible reading month for me. Not because I was reading bad books; I liked what I read. It was a bad month because I read so little. I finished one review book and half of another (which I basically liked, but couldn’t seem to get through), and managed one book sheerly for pleasure. It had to be the least I had read in recent memory, and it felt dismal.

It got me thinking about when we read. Both during the days and the years. When AAR was younger (and so was I), I was a stay at home mom. The first year I reviewed I easily knocked out 8-10 books/reviews a month, a pace that astounds me now. I had three kids, but no paid job, and my husband worked a lot of nights and weekends at the time, so it wasn’t like I was exactly out on the town, either. I’m not exactly sure how I did it, because little kids are a lot of work – but they must have slept sometimes, because I was polishing off a book every couple of days. I’d read over a hundred in a year.

Sometimes I would get the question: “How do you find the time to read all those books?” I admit to feeling pretty smug about it at the time. “I read them while you’re watching TV,” I’d think. To some extent, that’s true. I’m still astounded by the amount of TV many people can take in. But as the years have gone on and my reading speed has diminished accordingly, I’ve had to acknowledge that TV is only part of the story. A full time job can cut down on your reading time considerably, and the world of online attractions has expanded exponentially. I’m capable of losing a lot of time keeping up with facebook and twitter, and we won’t even mention my little scramble habit. Oh, and I started a new job with a longer commute, so that shaves off some reading time too.

When do I read now? Every night, and usually during my lunch. I don’t work every day, of course, but my days off are usually filled with errands and miscellaneous AAR work – not, unfortunately, reading. If I’m exhausted at night, I don’t necessarily get a lot of reading done, even if I am enjoying my current book. I’d like to turn this around and carve off more reading time, but I’m not really sure how to make that happen (really, I still don’t watch that much TV). Maybe the best solution is to go on more vacations, because I read like there’s no tomorrow on an airplane.

What’s your experience with this? Are you at a time in your life where you read a lot or a little? What factors in your life influence your reading time? And when, exactly, do you find the time to read?

Post Traumatic Romance Reader Syndrome

While I was reading a book last week – a good one, one that I was really enjoying – I found myself reacting in an unexpected way. The book was swimming merrily along, with a hero and heroine I liked and a plot I enjoyed. Then they are caught in a somewhat compromising position, and the hero proposes. The heroine doesn’t say yes immediately, and that’s where I lost it. While I hesitate to compare myself to someone who spent a year in combat and then hits the ground when there’s a loud noise…well, that’s almost where I was, metaphorically.

All I could think immediately was: “What? Is she really going to say no to him, even though she’s attracted to him and down to her last guinea? You’ve got to be kidding me! I can’t handle this anymore!” If I’d waited two seconds, I’d have found out that she soon says yes. She reasons out her response, thinks it out, weighs her options – and says yes. Continue reading

Reading about Reading

For my last book club meeting, we all read biographies – any biography. While I had enjoyed some biographies in the past (I loved David McCullough’s biography of John Adams), I don’t really gravitate toward them; usually if I am reading one it is because someone else chose it for book club. I hemmed and hawed over my choice until I spotted a book that caught my eye: The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure. It’s more of a memoir than a biography, but to me it was close enough to be on topic. Better yet, it was of high interest to me because it was essentially someone else talking about her reading life.

That was, in fact, the main draw for me. Almost as much as I like to read, I like to talk about reading, hear about reading, and read about reading. And discussions of childhood reading are probably my favorites. I like to know what drove other people to read what they did, and why they loved their favorite childhood books. Continue reading

Publishing News: Avon Social Reader

Avon released the following announcement Tuesday concerning their new social reader app:

The Avon Social Reader
New App integrates with Facebook to allow advance excerpts, sharing, and DRM-free purchasing

New York, NY – October 16, 2012 –Around the world, women are reading in new ways, often online or on a device, and sharing what they read via social media outlets. In many cases, Facebook has become a key part of the equation. Consumers are spending hours each day browsing the latest headlines while interacting with their friends, families and acquaintances through the platform. Now, leading romance publisher Avon Books is piloting a free Facebook app, AvonSocialReader.com , which will give readers the chance to read excerpts from Avon’s latest books, share their favorites with friends, and discover new content based on what their friends are reading. Up to 20 percent of each book will be available to read, and once a book is browsed in the app, a person can choose to have that book show up in their News Feed or timeline for friends to see. There will also be clickable buy links to DRM-free editions of the selected Avon books from allromanceebooks.com. Consumers can also choose to purchase DRM-enabled versions of the books at other online retailers.

A recent online consumer survey indicated that romance readers are highly active in the digital arena, purchasing e-books and sharing information via social channels. Many of the respondents pointed to Facebook as being the center point of their social/digital sharing world. “Many are using apps to share the news stories that they are reading online instantly with their friends,” says Liate Stehlik, Senior Vice President and Publisher of William Morrow and Avon Books. “The recent word-of-mouth phenomenon surrounding Fifty Shades of Gray confirms that women are talking about the books they are reading in equal measure. Thus, Avon worked to create a simple way for friends to connect on Facebook over the books they are most passionate about.”

She continues, “The Avon Social Reader is a fun, user-friendly way for readers to sample an interesting mix of excerpts posted to this Facebook app every month, and then virally spread the news about what they are reading via social media.”

Partnering with allromanceebooks.com allows Avon, for the first time, to offer a DRM-free option to their authors and readers, “a publishing capability many of them had asked us to pursue,” Stehlik says. The files can be delivered as secure Adobe ePub -book editions. Bestselling author Tessa Dare expresses her excitement, saying, “I know that DRM can be a frustration for honest, paying readers who just want to purchase and read books on their preferred devices. Avon’s experiment will help me reach a new segment of the digital readership.” New York Times bestseller Cathy Maxwell says, “I’m excited that readers will now have a new way to get the inside scoop on our books – and what a great, easy way to share with all of their friends on Facebook!”
The Avon Social Reader is intuitive and easy to use. Fully integrated within Facebook Platform, the app enables readers to flip from status updates to a book excerpt that a friend is reading with one quick click. The more they use the app and interact, the better it gets!
The Avon Social Reader will be launched out via Facebook today, with excerpts and buy links for the following titles:

· A Blood Seduction: A Vamp City Novel by Pamela Palmer
· A Lady by Midnight by Tessa Dare
· A Night Like This by Julia Quinn
· A Scandalous Scot by Karen Ranney
· A Warrior’s Promise by Donna Fletcher
· A Week to Be Wicked by Tessa Dare
· After the Abduction by Sabrina Jeffries
· Chosen: A Dark Breed Novel by Sable Grace
· Confessions from an Arranged Marriage by Miranda Neville
· Darkness Becomes Her by Jaime Rush
· Dark Desire by Christine Feehan
· How to Be a Proper Lady: A Falcon Club Novel by Katharine Ashe
· Lady Alexandra’s Excellent Adventure: A Summersby Tale by Sophie Barnes
· Last Vamp Standing by Kristin Miller
· Lyon’s Bride: The Chattan Curse by Cathy Maxwell
· Mating Season: A Cabin Fever Novella by Alice Gaines
· Nine Lives of an Urban Panther by Amanda Arista
· Once Burned: A Night Prince Novel by Jeaniene Frost
· Perilous Pleasures by Jenny Brown
· Sins of a Virgin by Anna Randol
· Skies of Fire: The Ether Chronicles by Zoe Archer
· Tarnished: The St. Croix Chronicles by Karina Cooper
· The Art of Duke Hunting by Sophia Nash
· The Way to a Duke’s Heart: The Truth About the Duke by Caroline Linden
· Under a Vampire Moon: An Argeneau Novel by Lynsay Sands
· Wanted: Undead or Alive by Kerrelyn Sparks
· When Dreams Come True by Cathy Maxwell
· Wicked Road to Hell: A League of Guardians Novel by Juliana Stone
· Winter Garden by Adele Ashworth

Facebook® is a registered trademark of Facebook Inc.

More information about The Avon Social Reader is available online at Avon’s Facebook page, www.facebook.com/avonromance or via the direct link, www.AvonSocialReader.com .

What are your thoughts on this news? Is this a social platform you will use? Something you never knew you needed until it was there? Is the idea of substantial excerpts or DRM-free purchasing something that will draw you in? Or are you already tapped out on social media and sharing?

Is This Our Collective Fantasy?

My workout playlist runs to guilty pleasures, and Whatever You Like is among the guiltiest. I prefer this more indie, Joan as Policewoman version to the TI original. In case you’re not interested in listening – or unfamiliar with the words – the message in a nutshell is “I find you attractive and want to sleep with you, so I will buy you stuff. Expensive stuff.”

I got to thinking about this during the summer when I read two books with uber-rich heroes back to back. Both of them are household names: Roarke from the long running J.D. Robb series, and Johnny come lately Christian Grey from Fifty Shades. Roarke is of course the classic. He owns half the planet and plenty of stuff off the planet. In the earlier books, he was always working, wheeling, and dealing. Lately he seems to have enough time to own the world and serve as expert consultant, civilian on Eve’s cases. It’s a nice gig, if you can get it.
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Pandora’s Box: A Lady Never Lies

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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What I Read on My Summer Vacation

I am one of the most regimented readers I know. I follow the same pattern every month: I read three books for review, read my book club book, and use whatever’s left of the month to read whatever I want to read. It sounds rigid, but I’m an order muppet, and this schedule nearly always suits me. In fact, I believe I’ve only taken a month off from reviewing twice in fourteen years. Last month was one of those. With various stresses in my life, I’d had little free reading time over the last several months, and I decided I needed a mental health break. So I allowed myself a month full of the heady freedom most adults experience all the time, and spent July reading whatever struck my fancy. Here’s what I read (mostly) for fun and just for me:
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