Sunday, January 22, 2012

MONSOON MUST: Unlawful Contact by Pamela Clare

They call it a keeper shelf for a reason. Sometimes I forget this, when I'm a new book glut, buying, reading quickly, finishing and on to the next. I'll wonder why I let the dusty paperbacks clog my shelves. But, the beautiful thing about e-readers is you don't have to look at cluttered shelves. The books just stay there, quietly waiting for that moment when my brain goes, oh yeah. And I simply must re-read. That instant. And I can. All without waking the baby I'm rocking or leaving my warm bed late at night.

I re-read when times are stressful. I read lots of great books. But there are the beloved ones that can suck me just like it's the first time all over again. Only better. Last week was a hard week, but re-reading Pamela Clare made it better. This is my review of Unlawful Contact from a year ago, and it all holds true, but what it doesn't capture is the brilliance of Clare's ability to milk emotion from her characters. I knew exactly how things worked out, yet I still got teary and choked up for them.

Some women have old movies they watch again and again and cry to. I have my keeper shelf. What's the one book that can make you cry again and again? Or movie?

Unlawful Contact (I-Team, #3)Unlawful Contact by Pamela Clare
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

4.5 stars. Clare just keeps getting better. She takes on several tropes that I sometimes dislike--reunion story, felon/talker-ish hero, kidnapping, and lying to friends/family, but makes them work beautifully together in book so heartbreaking and compelling that I stayed up way, way, way too late not really able to see a way to a happy ending for these two--I *knew* they would get one of course, but the suspense was so real and Clare did an awesome job of making me believe that neither Hunt or Sophie believed that there would be a HEA. Clare's blistering hot love scenes continue to be among the most inventive I've read, especially in RS. However, VERY MINOR SPOILER, there is nothing sexy about road head to me--with so many traffic fatalities each year, I have a hard time buying into the sexy factor of playing around while Hero is driving. It would have totally worked for the plot and characters to have them pull over and finish rather than have us all grateful that hero didn't manage to take out a bus of senior citizens :P But, the other love scenes more than made up for this. I do indeed love a hero who has been abstinent for a long time (Tessa Dare's Twice Tempted by a Rogue has one of my very favorite abstinent-for-far-too-long heroes). I'm making peace with Clare's style of jumping from one POV to the other without warning--I've decided that like Julia Quinn, her voice is so strong and the story so compelling that I can just let go of this nit-pick. SPOILER: Because we spend 95% of the book absolutely convinced that hero and heroine can't be together, I found the ending veered a little too much to the opposite direction and was a bit too improbable and sticky-sweet, but it was very cute, and I loved these characters enough to totally have wanted things to work out like they did, but it was all a bit too convenient. I'm probably in the minority of readers, but I would have been okay with a HEA that included a little more reality and a sense that their HEA may be more challenging than others, but that they (and we the readers) can expect to triumph over those challenges. Overall, I absolutely loved this book, and I'm sitting on my hands, trying not to buy book 4 as my $ are fast running out.

View all my reviews

Monday, January 16, 2012

Top Ten Books for Readers Who Are New to M/M Romance

This week's top ten theme from The Broke & The Bookish is "Top Ten Books I'd Recommend To Someone Who Doesn't Read X."
Since my big genre discovery of 2011 was m/m romance, I bring you: Top Ten Books for Readers Who Don't Read M/M Romance. I've tried to give examples of which books might work for which readers! I've included links for the titles I have reviewed on here. (Note as Top Ten has a number of YA reviewers: Like the vast majority of books I review these have varying degrees of explicit love scenes--I've tried to specify, but my personal tolerance may be different than yours. If you are under 18, you probably want to skip these. If you only read YA or only books with closed-door love scenes, try one of the more mild titles I reccomend! You might be pleasantly surprised.)

  1. When Tony met Adam by Suzanne Brockmann Who will love it? Regular readers of the Troubleshooters series probably already bought this. Her other m/m couple Jules & Robin was my first fictional m/m couple other than a few coming of age YAs. Other romantic suspense and military romance readers will love this short novella. The only love scene is short, not very explicit (but boiling hot nonetheless!). Proceeds from the novella's sale are benefiting HRC which make a fabulous first m/m read!
  2. Promises by Marie Sexton Who will love this? Fans of first person contemporary and character driven contemporary. Think Diane Chamberlain and others who use first person POV on occasion for an intimate, subtle character portrait. There's certainly plenty of lighter moments, but it's not a comedy like a lot of first person chick-lit. This was my first "real" m/m romance and it's absolutely an all-time top ten books for me. I love this entire series. The love scenes are on par with a Harlequin Blaze. Readers of contemporaries with explicit love scenes won't be shocked here. I also love her Sinners & Saints which is a 3rd person, dual hero POV novel that should appeal to Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Nora Roberts, Susan Wiggs, Bella Andre fans. If you love a romance with a big, meddling family backdrop with plenty of angst thrown in among a lot of lighter moments, this book will join your keeper shelf.
  3. Bad Company by K.A. Mitchell--Who will love it? Fans of Victoria Dahl, Julie James, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Susan Donovan. This is another friends-to-lovers tale and a great intro to the amazing voice of K.A. Mitchell. Most of her other titles are closer to erotic romance with a higher percentage of love scenes. This only has a few love scenes towards the end of the book, on par with other contemporary romances. If you are ready for a little more heat, I think the other best example of her voice is Diving in Deep which opens an addictive series set in Florida. (Great Dear Author review here).
  4. Prove it by Chris Owen--Who will love it? Readers of Susan Wiggs, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Julia Quinn--character driven saga with lots of humor and great secondary characters. This might be one of the best intro to m/m for most readers. It's a friends to lovers tale that manages to span two decades in a novella while keeping crisp pacing. (Great Dear Author review that made me buy it here).
  5. Mercury Rising by Daisy Harris--Who will love it? Fans of lighter paranormals like those by Katie MacAlister, Erin McCarthy and others will love her greek god parody. Her extensive backlist includes mermaids (and meremen!), zombies, and sharks. She writes both m/m and m/f titles, so she's a great choice for someone new to the genre. The m/f subplot in Mercury Rising provides a lot of funny moments. With two love stories to juggle, the book provides plenty of love scenes. I think readers of light, hot paranormal won't be shocked ;)
  6. Dance with Me by Heidi Cullinan--Who will love it? Erotica Fans who want a little more meat (pun so very intended!) with their sexy will really love this--Lorelei James, Cara McKenna, and Megan Hart fans would all find something to love here. Angst fans unite. Tortured heroes ahoy! Both heroes have had their former lives ripped from them. Ed is learning to live with a serious injury and Laurie is figuring out how to live with a crippling choice that took away his love of dance. This is the tamest Cullinan title I have read, and it's still burning hot. (Dear Author review that made me click buy here).
  7. Improper Holiday by K.A. Mitchell--Who will love it? Regency readers will welcome this novella. It's very hot, but readers of sexier regencies like Elizabeth Hoyt shouldn't be shocked. If you are looking for a less steamy historical m/m read, I almost put Alex Beercroft here.
  8. Camwolf by J.L. Merrow. Who will love it? Regular readers of werewolf and paranormal will feel right at home here. But, as most of you know, I'm not usually much on the fur and fangs, and I still loved it. The love scenes are on par with most hot paranormal--short, explicit but not overly graphic. (The Dear Author review that made me set aside my werewolf prejudices here).
  9. Song of Oestend by Marie Sexton. Who will love it? Fantasy readers will adore this. Fans of Deadwood, Firefly (imagine a romance set on one of the lawless border planets), magical realism and subtle paranormal will adore this. A sweeping friends to lovers tale, this one is Sexton's most epic work. It's also her hottest by a long shot--very explicit love scenes with some BDSM themes. But they are beautifully tied to plot and character.
  10. Snowball in Hell by Josh Lanyon--Who will love it? Mystery fans, noir fans, lovers of 1950s detective stories and art house films. This is a mystery first, romance second, with a very angsty, period appropriate 1940s romance with subtle love scenes. A bit more explicit than cozy mysteries for sure, but on par with others in the suspense genre.
Have you read a m/m or LGBT love story? Do you have a favorite title?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Payday! How I buy books

How do you buy your books? Have your buying habits changed recently? I'm going to start a new feature about which books I buy and why. A year ago, I had never read an e-book. I got most of my books through the library and through used book sales, especially through our Friends of the Library sales and through the local buy/sell/trade used store. Supermarket paperback racks were my guilty pleasure and how I tended to pick up most new books. I would estimate that I spent around $20-$40 a month (occasionally more!) on books. I also did paperback swap for awhile but stopped when I was spending far more than my average book budget on shipping costs.

When I first got my Nook, I linked my account to my credit card. Um. Can we say BIG mistake? That little one click button is so darn seductive. My book buying shot through the roof. I was nursing an infant and up with him a lot of nights. There was A LOT of book buying going on. Then we went all Suze Orman on our credit cards. We're working at being 100% Credit Card debit free in 2012. This means that my Nook money now comes out my cash. The same cash I feed the babies with. So I'm pickier these days about what I buy. I'm so fortunate that I am able to buy books at all. I know in this economy many, many people are relying completely on libraries and freebies for books. And far too many mamas are worried about what to feed their babies period, let alone how to squeeze a few extra books into the budget. So my little budget dilemma about how to feed to my e-book addiction? Such a first world problem.

About a week away from payday I start counting days until I can breathe a little easier and not ration the chocolate. And I can usually count on having a little extra to buy books, so I spend the days up to payday making little lists of books and shuffling my wishlist. Especially if I am going to buy agency* priced books, I do it on payday. I can pick up 99 cents bargains anytime, but when I'm shelling out a fair amount (for me this is over $5, over $3 in lean months), I make myself wait. Mostly I fail at this, but I only buy books after I've read the free sample. Even 99 cent books, I still read the sample. I can usually tell within 5 pages if a book will work for me at all. Not always a guarantee I will finish it, but pre-nook my DNF ratio was very high--probably 60% or more some months. Now my DNF ratio is more like 10%.

With non-agency priced books, I try to watch for sales over at All Romance E-books and fictionwise so that I can collect more for less money. I also watch Dear Author and Books on the Knob for alerts on bargains on the higher priced books. If you have a rooted nook or android device, you can collect both Nook & kindle bargains. I need to re-root my nook. Which sounds far dirtier than it is! But, many of my favorite authors write for agency publishers and are worth their $7.99 price tag even if I have to budget for it.

So what am I buying or thinking of buying this payday?
  • Elisabeth Naughton's Wait for Me. At $3.99 this is a steal and had I not committed a multitude of budgetary sins I would own it now. I adored her "Stolen" Romantic Suspense trilogy.
  • Marie Sexton's Blind Space--One of my most favorite M/M authors has a new release this month & it's a futuristic sci-fi, but it doesn't look to have freaky aliens. And it's by her, so it's pretty much an auto-buy for me. I loved her Song of Oestend and I don't read very much fantasy at all.
  • Zoe Archer's Chain Reaction. Apparently this is going to be my space opera month. I adored her Collision Course (my review here) and can't wait for this title. If you like blistering heat, kick-ass heroines, lots of butt-kicking action, you'll want to try her!
  • Shoshanna Evers's Bedhead. This is erotica with a bald heroine. A bald heroine. I've read the sample and my fingers are itching to read it. I love Evers's fresh voice.
  • Laura Griffin's Snapped. This has languished on my to-buy pile too long. It's agency priced so I keep moving over it in favor of two or three less expensive titles, but I need a Griffin fix pronto.
  • Elosia James's When Beauty Tamed The Beast. I read the sample chapters of this contained in her freebie short Winning the Wallflower released around the holidays. I loved the sample and have been waiting to click buy.
  • Beth Williamson's Backlist. Um. Okay. Not in my budget, but I read and adored Bounty (which I'll try to review) and I want to read the rest of that series. She is my new western historical crack. At Samhain's decent prices, I might be able to squeeze two in, especially if ARe has a holiday weekend deal. Victoria Dahl, Marie Force, and Inez Kelley are three other authors whose backlists I'm working through & will be picking up if a sale presents.
  • Celia Grant's A Lady Awakened. Everyone I know is reading & loving this, so I'll be downloading a sample to consider this unusual regency.
  • Miranda Neville apparently has a virgin, nerdy hero. In a regency. I'm downloading samples of her series.
Grant, Neville, and Williamson are example of a twitter fueled purchase. Sasha White saw that I was reading a different Beth Williamson book and tweeted that her favorite is Bounty, which I then got a sample for and bought. Maisey Yates and others were discussing virgin heroes. She could not stop talking about Neville IN ALL CAPS. I noted others chiming in with their love and was intrigued. Grant's release day had my tweet stream full of glowing reviews from friends I trust. NOTE: This is others talking about a book, spontaneously. This is how social media fuels purchases. I do not buy because someone says "buy me!" I buy when a lot of my friends say "I bought it and it is awesome." I love it when my auto-buy authors post when they have a new release out because it simplifies my searching. But random "Buy me" tweets just don't work on me. I buy from my auto-buy authors and backlist of authors I really liked. I buy others based on reviews and buzz from readers I trust. I occasionally buy from promo like RWR ads. I have bought books recently because of twitter interactions--interactions being the key word. I rely on the sample to tip me over into "buy."

So how about you? What will you be buying in the next week and why?

*Agency Priced books = the books from the big publishers who all agreed that the price of a mass market paperback e-book would be $6.99-$9.99 & sometimes more. These books don't usually go on sale and aren't usually available for discounts and coupons at the independent retailers.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Starting block!

I am bouncing up and down excited today because I have committed to doing the Winter Writing Festival over at the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood. It is open to everyone, regardless of your writing goals. YOU get to define how you earn points. For me, I decided that 1 point would =

  • 1,000 words OR
  • participating in one #1k1hr OR
  • joining one Ruby sprint OR
  • one “rest” day a week OR
  • one hour plotting/outlining/revising OR
  • one contest entry submitted OR
  • 500 words WIP + blog entry or 20 minutes exercise
See that? I made blogging part of my goal. It goes without saying that reading will occur. That's right up there with eating. It's the blogging about the reading versus being lazy and just tweeting. And I'm all aflutter at the return of NBC's the Voice (Blake Shelton eye candy!) and PBS's Downton Abby (swoon!) and a few date night movies also loom (please if the toddler gods cooperate) so I should have plenty of blogging fodder.

What are you most looking forward to this winter? Shows? Upcoming books? Movies?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Top Ten Authors I Wish Would Write Another Book

I found this meme thanks to Debbie's World of Books posting on twitter. Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is-Top Ten Authors I Wish Would Write Another Book (debut authors, authors who seem to have taken a hiatus, OR for those who read classics authors you wish would have written another book before they passed). I loved reading the lists of other bloggers, including Deb's--I share her wish for more Garwood historicals!

  1. Judy Blume--The Summer Sisters was her last major adult contemporary, and she hasn't done new YA in a few decades. I adore her and wish her backlist was triple the size!
  2. Norma Klein--She passed away at age 51 in 1991, and her presence is still missed in the YA genre. She grandmothered in controversial contemporary YA along with Judy Blume. I wept when she passed as her novels kept me company during dark teen years when I would have loved one more book.
  3. Jane Austen--There isn't a romance reader around who doesn't want one more Austen. One more *real* Austen, not Mr. Darcy fan fic or re-tellings (both of which can be great)
  4. Susan Kay Law--The Paper Marriage easily makes my personal top ten list of best romances. Ever. I *adore* this book. And yet, she hasn't published anything new in almost five years now and has a very small backlist. Which makes me very sad.
  5. Ann M. Martin--She is still publishing some including a Babysitter's Club prequel this past year, but if I had ONE book wish it would be for an adult follow-up to The Babysitter's Club. I would adore a chance to see where Claudia, Kristy, Mary Anne, and Stacey ended up as adults. Her publishing schedule has markedly decreased as she gets older, and I miss her classic contributions to the Y.A. genre.
  6. Megan Whalen-Turner -- fudging a bit here because she *is* still writing, but with years between each little gem of perfection. I want another before I finish each, but no one does it better than she. If her muse requires three years to achieve perfection, then I probably shouldn't quibble :)
  7. Liz Carlyle--she's still publishing, but she's moved away from straight regencies into paranormal historical. I want the straight regencies back. So many of hers are on my keeper shelf.
  8. Suzanne Brockmann--also still publishing & still on my auto-buy list, but she ended the Troubleshooter Series to focus on a paranormal trilogy. I want the troubleshooters back. To the point of lighting candles :)
  9. J.K. Rowling. I want more books set in the Potter Universe. More books period.
  10. Shirley Jackson. Before there was Erma Bombeck, there was Shirley Jackson best known as a short story writer and paranormal literary fiction novelist, but before her tragic early death at 46 in 1965 she published two nonfiction gems--Life Among the Savages and Raising Demons. Both are out of print but so, so worth tracking down. I wish she had had the chance to finish out her story fully. If you like Erma Bombeck, you will love Jackson's razor sharp wit, with a subtle undercurrent of what it means to be mother & a writer & a educated woman at the same time. I would have loved Jackson to have the chance to deliver more witty observations. Seeing the 70s through her eyes would have been priceless.
Who do you wish would write another book?

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Fresh Start & Old Memories

Yes, I know it's been awhile. BUT one of my new year's resolutions is to blog twice a week. At least. And Fall 2011 totally kicked our family all over, but it's a fresh new year and things look sunnier.

My fall was defined by the death of my beloved Grandmother. A few days ago was the 25th anniversary of the death of my Grandfather. She never remarried, never dated, never took off her ring, never stopped referring to herself occasionally as Mrs. His Name. Every year of my adulthood I called her on that day. It felt empty to not have that moment to honor her lasting commitment to him. This is why I read Romance. Why I write it. Why I watch it. Because occasionally, true love does happen and it truly does last for a lifetime.

I thought I would mark my return to the blog with sharing the tribute I wrote for my grandmother's memorial. I would not be the reader I am today without her. Indeed, I found it difficult to contemplate blogging about books again without honoring her :

A Patchwork of Books

My Nana will live on in the stories that I and my mother tell my children about the remarkable life of the indomitable Great-Nanny. While my mother plies Miss T with stories about Nana’s early years (“Tell me again about little Great-Nanny in the Big City!”), most of my stories and memories of Nana center around books. In my mind she will live on in the scent of old books, the weight of a library bag filled with treasures, the unexpected gem waiting on crowded shelves, the low, warm glow of a bedtime reading lamp, and the taste of tea sipped while listening to stories.

I would not be the person I am today without my summer visits to stay with Nana. Every visit, we would wake up my first morning in New York to eat raisin bran and coffee cake juniors before heading to the library. On my earliest visit, we spent the morning in the tiny red used book shop she owned before heading to the library. That she was in possession of such a treasure trove elevated her to super hero status. The whip of air filled with car exhaust and exotic pizza and Chinese food scents and the hum of traffic along her busy street always let me know I’d arrived far from my tiny Midwestern town. The day I was allowed to make the three block trek on my own as a young teen was not unlike the rush most teens get sliding behind the wheel for the first time.

However, my favorite memories are the times she would take me. Several years she signed me up for the summer reading program. She was proud of her town's library renovation in a way that only an active supporter of the library could be, letting me explore the stacks to my heart’s content. She helped me find the books of her childhood and ones she’d read to my mother as well as unexpected discoveries for both of us. The summer she read me the Borrowers series is one of my most treasured memories. She had a screen house in the backyard that year, forever linking the little people with the scent of Avon bug repellant for me.

I checked out the picture book, The Patchwork Quilt by Valerie Flournoy, enough times to dog ear the pages on my own. Nana loved reading me the gentle story of the grandmother who made a quilt of her memories for her granddaughter. For me, Nana’s life is a patchwork of stories—the ones she would tell and the ones she helped me discover. Many of my favorite authors were discovered the year my uncle brought boxes and of paperbacks to live temporarily in Nana’s fireplace room. Lazy summer days spent in her guestroom with stacks of books, rustling plastic library covers and candy-box paperbacks littering the pink spread, were among the happiest moments of my adolescence.

I will see her every time I take Miss T and Mighty Z to the library, every time I read them stories with her gentle voice echoing in my head, every time I support the cause of literacy and public libraries, and every time I read myself to sleep thinking of the years I would pass by her room or by her chair, discovering her asleep with the light on, book on her chest. My memories are a patchwork of colorful book covers, of a house filled to the brim with books waiting for readers, and of a woman never too busy to uncover a great tale.