Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Eagerly Awaited June Books

Thursday, May 15th, 2014

In terms of subgenre, our tastes are all over the place this June. Both Lauren Willig’s latest historical as well as some romantic suspense from Jill Sorenson are catching several of our eyes. And then of course there’s the latest installment of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, as well as an assortment of other historicals, contemporaries, paranormal, category novels, you name it. How do you want to start your summer of reading?

Title and Author Reviewer
That Summer by Lauren Willig That Summer by Lauren Willig Lynn, Lee, Caz, Lea, Rike, LinnieGayl, Alex
Backwoods by Jill Sorenson Backwoods by Jill Sorenson Heather, LinnieGayl, Heather, Rike, Maggie, Lynn
Written in My Own Heart's Blood by Diana Gabaldon Written in My Own Heart’s Blood by Diana Gabaldon Mary, Blythe, Mary, Alex
Shield of Winter by Nalini Singh Shield of Winter by Nalini Singh Cindy, Alex, Maggie
Weekends in Carolina by Jennifer Lohmann Weekends in Carolina by Jennifer Lohmann Dabney, Lynn
How to School Your Scoundrel by Juliana Gray How to School Your Scoundrel by Juliana Gray Caz, Lee
The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith Jean, Blythe
Scandal's Virgin by Louise Allen Scandal’s Virginby Louise Allen Mary, Rike
City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare Shannon
Baby, It's You by Jane Graves Baby, It’s You by Jane Graves Haley
Dreamweaver Trail by Emily march Dreamweaver Trail by Emily March Lee
Wicked Temptation by Zoe Archer Wicked Temptation by Zoe Archer Caz
Avenge Me by Maisey Yates Avenge Me by Maisey Yates Dabney
To Scotland With Love by Patience Griffin To Scotland With Love by Patience Griffin Lee
A Long Time Gone by Karen White A Long Time Gone by Karen White Shannon
Small-Town Redemption by Beth Andrews Small-Town Redemption by Beth Andrews Rike
Take my Breath Away by Christie Ridgway Take My Breath Away by Christie Ridgway Mary
All I Want is You by Toni Blake All I Want Is You by Toni Blake Haley
Nine Months to Change His Life by Marian Lennox Nine Months to Change His Life by Marian Lennox Caroline
Grim Shadows by Jenn Bennett Grim Shadows by Jenn Bennett Lynn
The Lost by Sarah Beth Durst The Lost by Sarah Beth Durst Maggie
A Dream of Desire by Nina Rowan A Dream of Desire by Nina Rowan Caz
Save the Date by mary Kay Andrews Save the Date by Mary Kay Andrews Lee
The Lemon Orchard by Luanne Rice The Lemon Orchard by Luanne Rice Shannon
The Devil of Clan Sinclair by Karen Ranney The Virgin of Clan Sinclair by Karen Ranney Mary
Stormy Persuasion by Johanna Lindsey Stormy Persuasion by Johanna Lindsey Mary

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…)

What’s Your (Guilty) Pleasure?

Friday, April 25th, 2014

cuttingedgeAs I was reading A Wedding by Dawn, a book I had to admit was pretty bad, I also noticed that I was sort of enjoying it. Not because it got better (because eventually, it kind of did), but because it was kind of ridiculous. What do I mean by that? Well, the heroine is determined not to marry the hero, who has come looking for her in Malta because her dad has promised him 50,000 pounds if he marries her. She escapes (so many times I lost count) throwing herself into increasingly ridiculous situations and almost deciding several times that losing her virginity to a random stranger would be a great idea. Ridiculous. And yet, so silly and ridiculous that I didn’t mind reading it. Somewhere along the line, silly books have become a new guilty pleasure.

I’m not sure this was always the case. Early on in my reviewing career, think I took myself more seriously, and I think I probably took romances more seriously too. Funny was great, but silly? Weren’t we too intelligent and important for that? I scoffed at madcap Regencies by Emily Hendrickson and Sandra Heath, wondering why we hadn’t gotten beyond such ridiculous fare. On the other hand, I felt no guilt liking funny regencies by Diane Farr or Emma Jensen.

I’m not sure what changed. It isn’t my grading, because something truly ridiculous would rarely merit higher than a C in my book. Nonetheless, I find myself kind of enjoying the occasional stupid heroine or far-fetched plot line. You know, the stuff that verges on parody with cross-dressing heroines who manage to fool people, silly will provisions, zany bluestocking archeologists and the like. I can’t in good conscience recommend them per se, but I don’t exactly mind reading them either – probably because I am laughing too hard.

In order to meet my guilty pleasure needs, it really needs to be so bad it’s good. And lord knows, it can’t be boring. Boring doesn’t qualify. It also works best for me in romance. I recently attempted to get through Clara and Mr. Tiffany, an historical fiction novel, for my book club. I let myself stop after fifty pages of tortuous prose, stilted dialogue, and flat characterization. It was ridiculous alright, but it was no pleasure.

At the risk of opening a can of worms, I’d put the Fifty Shades books in the guilty pleasure category. Granted, I was laughing too hard at the end of the second one to bother with the third, but the point is that I was laughing.

One of my guiltiest pleasures is our own bad reviews. Sometimes when I can’t sleep, I’ll look up old D and F reviews in the database and read them for hours, laughing at how funny they are (because even when a bad book is hard to read, the review is often fun to read and write).

My family’s cinematic guilty pleasure is The Cutting Edge. If you’ve never seen it, you’re missing some of the cheesiest dialogue ever written. It’s a romantic comedy featuring a washed up hockey player and almost washed-up figure skater who skate their way to (presumably) an Olympic gold medal in pairs skating – and of course, fall in love along the way. It’s horrible. And yet brilliant. If you don’t love lines like: “There are two things I do well…and skating’s the other one”…well, you’re probably a better person than I.

How about you? What’s your guilty pleasure, whether cinematic or bookish? And do you like a good, silly book once in a while?

Eagerly Awaited May Releases

Monday, April 21st, 2014

With new books from Jo Goodman and Julie James, May is shaping up to be a month that just might be hard on the wallet. And let’s not forget, the legendary historical, The Windflower is finally being reissued in May. After hearing about this book my entire reading life, I’m curious to see if it’s as good as they say. What about you? Looking forward to anything this May?

Title and Author Reviewer
In Want of a Wife by Jo Goodman In Want of a Wife by Jo Goodman Lynn, Dabney, Jean, Lea, Melanie, Pat, Heather
It Happened One Wedding by Julie James It Happened One Wedding by Julie James Lea, LinnieGayl, Heather, Caroline, Caroline, Maggie, Mary, Alex
Midnight Crossroad by Charlaine Harris Midnight Crossroad by Charlaine Harris Mary, Pat, Maggie, Caroline
Dreams of Lilacs by Lynn Kurland Dreams of Lilacs by Lynn Kurland Lee, Alex, Pat, Caz
It Takes a Scandal by Caroline Linden It Takes a Scandal by Caroline Linden Dabney, Mary, Caroline, Caz
Far Gone by Laura Griffin Far Gone by Laura Griffin Heather, Lee, Maggie, Lynn
The Windflower by Laura London The Windflower by Laura London Caroline, Lynn, Shannon
The Witch of Clan Sinclair by Karen Ranney The Witch of Clan Sinclair by Karen Ranney Mary, Melanie
How to Lose a Duke in Ten Days by Laura Lee Guhrke How to Lose a Duke in Ten Days by Laura Lee Guhrke Alex, Lee
Lawless by HelenKay Dimon Lawless by HelenKay Dimon Dabney
Fair Play by Deeanne Gist Fair Play by Deeanne Gist Maggie
The One and Only by Emily Giffin The One and Only by Emily Giffin Shannon
Searching for Perfect by Jennifer Probst Searching for Perfect by Jennifer Probst Haley
To Charm a Naughty Countess by Teresa Romain To Charm a Naughty Countess by Teresa Romain Caz
Possession by JR Ward Possession(mas-market reissue of hardcover) by J.R. Ward Shannon
Flying by Megan Hart Flying by Megan Hart Heather
Dark Serpent by Kylie Chan Dark Serpent by Kylie Chan Caroline
Otherwise Engaged by Amanda Quick Otherwise Engaged by Amanda Quick LinnieGayl
One Night to Risk It All by Maisey Yates One Night to Risk It All by Maisey Yates Dabney
Breakable by Tamara Webber Breakable by Tamara Webber Pat
The Collector by Nora Roberts The Collector by Nora Roberts Lea
The Secret Woman by Victoria Holt The Secret Woman(reissue) by Victoria Holt Lynn
Noble Intentions by Katie MacAlister Noble Intentions by Katie MacAlister Melanie
Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris, 1932 by Francine Prose Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris, 1932 by Francine Prose Dabney

TBR Challenge – Modern Love

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

returntotomorrow When I saw that this month’s TBR Challenge category called on us to read a contemporary romance, I found almost an embarrassment of choices. Did I want to go mainstream or inspy? Small town or big city? Something serious or more chick lit in tone? In the end, the setting drew me into Return to Tomorrow, a 2010 re-release of a 1990 title.

The premise of this novel is definitely not run of the mill. The characters were all shaped by their experiences in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War, and even 20+ years on, the author shows how the war affected them. Rachel McKendrick spent years in a prison camp in Laos, and not surprisingly, has a lot of emotional issues to work through. After her rescue, she never intended to return to the region but a promise made to a priest she respected deeply brings her to a refugee camp.

There she meets Brett “Tiger” Jackson, a man with a dangerous reputation. Tiger fought in the war and has stayed behind working a variety of shadowy jobs and living among a trusted group of expats who, like him, never could quite return home after the war. Rachel’s brother back home knew and trusted him, but on the ground in Thailand, he has a reputation as a dangerous drug smuggler. There is obviously more to him than meets the eye, but readers are only slightly ahead of Rachel in learning this. (more…)

Jonesing for Jocks

Monday, March 31st, 2014

David BeckhamCurrently I am assiduously avoiding sports. Literally. Much of my family is in another room swearing at the television as my husband’s alma mater fights to move forward in the NCAA tournament. In the time they’ve cared deeply about the outcome of this game, I have chatted on Twitter, painted my nails a lovely shade of grape, bought two, actually three, new romances based on recommendations from my Twitter feed, and burned a pan of sweet potato fries. (more…)

I Wish You’d Come Back Revisited

Friday, March 28th, 2014

 What a difference two years makes.  Almost to the day two years ago I wrote a blog about authors, or author styles, I wished would come back to us readers.  I wasn’t planning to revisit the blog, but as I was browsing the Overdrive website today I saw something that made my eyes pop: Laura London, aka Sharon and Tom Curtis, will be available on eBook on April 1st.The Windflower (more…)

Because…Romance Novel!

Friday, March 21st, 2014

james-macarthur_57154759Years ago, I used to do aerobics with an aspiring writer. One day she told me about the book for young readers that she was working on, which involved a villain who went back through time to take Joseph out of the Christmas story. “That’s interesting,” I said. “Why?” It turned out she had never thought about “why,” or what his motivation was, or what he was accomplishing by his actions, or what difference it made. But she told me she was glad I asked. No one had ever put it that way to her.

Sometimes snark can be our stock in trade as reviewers. We have genres we deplore, stock characters that we consider ridiculous, and tired tropes we hate (and at AAR, we privately used to make fun of the word trope, which we considered pretentious until we started using it all the time too). But the fact is, that when a good author uses any of these, we can buy into it, because that’s what good writing and characterization is all about.

Not everyone has that level of persuasiveness, of course. Sometimes, it makes complete sense in the author’s head but doesn’t stand up to even a small amount of scrutiny, like my friend’s Joseph-napping story. Sometimes the author just fails utterly to convince the reader of the character’s motivation. We understand what the author was trying to do, but it isn’t believable to us. Or, to paraphrase a long ago reader on our message boards, “we get it, but we don’t buy it.”

I think we see this both in contemporaries and historicals. In contemporaries the tough-sell premises include elaborate will stipulations (“You can’t inherit the family ranch unless you live here for one year with Bill, the handsome foreman, because romance novel!”) and marriages of convenience (Come on, it’s 2014). Thankfully I think we’re kind of moving away from sheikhs, whose allure utterly escaped me (“Come with me, my beauty, and live in my awesome country where women can’t drive! It’ll be great!”). In historicals the classic tends to be the heroine disguised as a man. I always like when the hero is completely fooled by this ruse and confused by his burgeoning same-sex attraction, then has sex with the heroine the minute he discovers the truth.

Sometimes it can be so over the top that it becomes fun and we just don’t care. Did anyone else watch Swiss Family Robinson as a child? My sister and I watched it obsessively for a while. Not only does it feature the aforementioned cross dressing, there is a long scene at the end where they throw logs at hordes of pirates, all of whom are easily felled even though they vastly outnumber the Swiss Family. The production values were bad even to the 80s eye, but it was fun anyway. And besides, I wanted to live in that tree house, preferably with Fritz (the picture above was my favorite scene). There are plenty of modern book equivalents to that. Do I really believe that the wealthy Roarke runs his empire just fine on no sleep and has plenty of time to assist Eve in every single investigation? Not really. Does it matter? Not really.

But I also think a really good author can simply sell us on the tough sell, even though long time readers can get a little jaded. There have been a few times in recent months when an author has made me buy into a premise I don’t usually like. I’ve seen people carry off romances with socially unequal heroes and heroines, Big Secrets, Big Misunderstandings, prostitutes, and thieves. None of these are favorites with me, but if you can sell me on the characters’ motivation, if you can make it make sense, then I’ll go along for the ride. My most recent example, Meredith Duran’s Fool Me Twice, had three of those things, and it still worked for me.

And when don’t those themes work? Pretty often. You have to have a reason you’re not sharing your Big Secret, a reason you became a prostitute, and probably a convincing villain for your Big Misunderstanding. We’re not going to buy it if you just use romance novel shorthand and depend on the hard work of better writers who have gone before.

So here’s my nickel’s worth of free reviewer advice: You can go one of two routes. The first is to go big or go home, a la Swiss Family. If you are going to have a beat a bunch of armed pirates, you should probably have them do it with a nine year old on an elephant, a log booby trap, and…wasn’t there a zebra? Or have your twenty-seven year old, Fifty Shades of Fucked Up anti-hero make more money than Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, because your whole story is already silly anyway.

Second route: Sell it. Have a reason your villain is taking Joseph out of the Christmas story, or your heroine is stealing documents, or your dashing, rich hero refuses to marry. A reason that makes sense and holds up to scrutiny. There are no shortcuts with this, and your reason can’t be “Because Romance Novel”.  Believe me, we’ll know.

 

 

TBR Challenge – New to Me Books

Wednesday, March 19th, 2014

fairshine I went back to “Sunday” in the Back to School Challenge this month, to read the second of the books I’d chosen for that day.

The prompt was

- Read a book that has in its title the word “Sunday”, “Sun”, “light”, “shine”, “hot, “star” or “day”, or any variation of these words, or a word you think might have a similar connotation.

and I’d chosen a book by the British author, Sylvia Thorpe called Fair Shine the Day, which is a piece of historical fiction with romantic elements set during the time of the English Civil War. This period of English history seems to get a lot less attention than Tudor times, the Regency, or Victorian eras when it comes to historical romance and I can’t quite work out why. There’s plenty of actual history to get one’s teeth into, and of course, that whole Royalist/Puritan divide is, I’d have thought, a romance writer’s dream. (more…)

Eagerly Awaited April Books

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

Sarah Mayberry, Carla Kelly, and Kristan Higgins all have many fans among our staff and since they all have new releases coming out in April, we were looking over that April release list with anticipation. If you are one of the many fans of the Pennyroyal Green series, you will be delighted to know that the latest installment is due that month. And, as you can see, there are a variety of other books out there catchout our eyes as well. What do you want to read?

Title and Author Reviewer
Her Kind of Trouble by Sarah Mayberry Her Kind of Trouble by Sarah Mayberry Lynn, Dabney, Heather, Lee, Mary, Caroline, Rike, LinnieGayl, Pat
The Wedding Ring Quest by Carla Kelly The Wedding Ring Quest by Carla Kelly Blythe, Heather, Lee, Caroline, Pat, Lynn, Rike, Mary
Waiting on You by Kristan Higgins Waiting on You by Kristan Higgins LinnieGayl,Lea, Mary, Jenna, Alex, Heather, Maggie, Lee
Between the Devil and Ian Eversea by Julie Anne Long Between the Devil and Ian Eversea by Julie Anne Long Dabney, Mary, Heather, Lee
Silence for the Dead by Simone St. James Silence for the Dead by Simone St. James Maggie, Lynn, LinnieGayl
After the Scandal by Elizabeth Essex After the Scandal by Elizabeth Essex Caz, Dabney
Prince's Fire by Amy Raby Prince’s Fire by Amy Raby Caroline, Melanie
The Day He Kissed Her by Julianna Stone The Day He Kissed Her by Julianna Stone Dabney, Lynn
Unlacing Lady Thea by Louise Allen Unlacing Lady Thea by Louise Allen Rike, Caz
Three Weeks With Lady X by Eloisa James Three Weeks with Lady X by Eloisa James Alex, Dabney
A Courageous Ride by Andrew Grey A Courageous Ride by Andrew Grey Pat
Night Diver by Elizabeth Lowell Night Diver by Elizabeth Lowell Heather
For the Right Reasons by Kara Lennox For the Right Reasons by Kara Lennox Rike
Heaven's Queen by Rachel Bach Heaven’s Queen by Rachel Bach Jenna
London's Most Wanted Rake by Bronwyn Scott London’s Most Wanted Rake by Bronwyn Scott Caz
It's Complicated by L.A. Witt It’s Complicated by L.A. Witt Pat
Moonlight on My Mind by Jennifer McQuiston Moonlight on My Mind by Jennifer McQuiston Caroline
Fire Inside by Kristen Ashley Fire Inside(mass market reissue of digital release) by Kristen Ashley Mary
A Shocking Delight by Jo Beverley A Shocking Delight by Jo Beverley Rike
Her Soldier Protector by Soraya Lane Her Soldier Protector by Soraya Lane Caroline
The Winter Bride by Anne Gracie The Winter Bride by Anne Gracie Lee
Sharing Heart by Ken Murphy Sharing Heart by Ken Murphy Pat
Shards of Time by Lynn Flewelling Shards of Time by Lynn Flewelling Melanie