Friday, November 19, 2010

"Rakes and Radishes" by Susanna Ives

Disclaimer: The review version I read was an ARC obtained via NetGalley.

Contrary to what some may believe, writing a review is not an easy task.  It entails much more than just saying "I hated this book" or "I loved this book".  Writing a review is further complicated if the person writing the review does not exactly know what to make of her reading experience of a particular book.  I am facing such a quandary as it pertains to "Rakes and Radishes".  You see, the book is well written, it definitely is historical romance in the classic sense of the word.  However, when I started reading the book I had a certain expectation.  I thought that the book was going to be, if not an outright comedy, that at least, it would have strong elements of, at the very least, light humor.  Frankly, what little I found of humor in it (and please bear in mind humor is an extraordinarily subjective element), disappointed me, because the conflict and the angst I found through at least one third of the book pretty much annulled any attempt at levity I may have found.  Frankly, at this point, I am having a hard time remembering if there was anything in the book that actually did make me smile (aside from the happy ending).

I do have to say that I finished the book rather upset, because I felt (and still feel) that the title is misguiding.  It has taken me over a month to write these words because I thought it would not be right to write a review that could turn out to be rather unfair to the author due to my own expectations about the story.  My review is going to be rather short for this reason.  The last thing I want is to end up being unfair, as I am fully aware that my own expectations colored my reading experience.

The story involves a young woman, Henrietta, who fancies herself in love with her cousin.  When her cousin gets engaged to another woman, she decides that she has to win him back.  To do so, she comes up with a scheme and convinces her childhood friend, the Earl of Kesseley (Kesseley) to help her.  Pretty much she wants Kesseley to seduce her cousin's fiance, so that she can then show her cousin that it is her whom he really loves.

Overall, the heroine, Henrietta, was not particularly appealing.  It was not until about two thirds into the story that she became a sympathetic character in my eyes.  She did suffer for her own selfish behavior.  Kesseley, on the other hand, started as a very sympathetic hero, but when he decided that he was fed up, he went to the the extreme opposite of the spectrum.  He turns into such a jerk that frankly, even when the heroine was not exactly perfect herself, I was wondering why in blazes did she take him when he came back to her.

I did have issues throughout the book.  I felt there was a bit too much angst and drama for my taste, particularly since, as I indicated above, I was expecting something entirely different to what I actually encountered.

Frankly, though I didn't think the book was bad and I was able to finish it, truth of the matter is that, well, I can't say I enjoyed it either, though I did read the whole story.

I will pay a bit more attention the next time I actually request a review copy of any book.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

I feel kinda duped

Here's the deal:  I was looking at the books available at NetGalley and this historical romance called my name.  Just judging by the title, I honestly felt that if it wasn't an outright comedy, at least, it would have a strong humorous element.  To make the story short, it didn't have a strong humorous element.  As a matter of fact, more than 2/3s of it involved the conflict between the main characters, and it wasn't a "fun" type of conflict, if you know what I mean.  Mind you, in romance a book is supposed to have a conflict, so that is not what I am complaining about either, but as I said, I was expecting something entirely different and suffice it to say, though I finished reading the book, I can't say I liked it... and I think that feeling is mostly because I did feel disappointed,  The book reminded me more of Brenda Joyce's style, whose work I read when I am in the mood for it because, well, I find her style a bit dramatic, for lack of a better word. 

Anyway, now I am sitting here, typing this, and trying to figure out how to write that review.  *sigh*

Monday, October 18, 2010

"Eternal Prey" - Book 3 of the Gods of the Night series by Nina Bangs

Disclaimer: The review version was an ARC obtained via NetGalley.

Time and Setting: Portland, Oregon, present day


Utah Endeka thinks about one thing and one thing only: to avenge the death of his pack mate, Rap, at the hands of vampires.  He hates vampires with a passion and now that is pretty much all he lives for.

Lia, born human, is used to work harder and push herself to the limit.  As the daughter of a vampire queen of sorts, she was largely ignored by her mother, which motivated her to spend most of her life pushing herself to be tougher and to use her brains to compensate for being a weakling human.  She wishes to become a vampire, but her father, who is human, has convinced her to wait a little bit longer.  However, much bigger forces are at play.

Fin assigns Lia to work as Utah's "human", which does create certain issues due to Utah's hatred of all things vampire, and Lia's determination to become a vampire in the near future because of her heritage.  However, neither one can deny the very strong attraction that develops instantly between them.

Although both characters are quite sympathetic to the reader, I have to admit that this time around the main characters didn't engage me as much as the main characters in the previous two books in the series did.  I can't exactly pinpoint why.  I think that it has to do with the very quick pacing of the book, the different plot points that were included, and the further development of the universe the author is building in the series, all of which really didn't give a lot of room for lots of character development.  Though the relationship is definitely the central point, I'd dare say it was slightly more plot driven, or at least, that was the case as I perceived it.


This time around the hunt for Zero's minion, Seven, takes place in Portland, Oregon.  Apparently, there is a rogue vampire wreaking havoc, believed to be related to Seven, and as a result, Fin (leader of the Eleven), establishes an alliance of sorts with the vampire leader, Adam.  Utah, who has been on a vampire killing rampage, is sent over as a token lackey for Adam.  Lia is the human assigned to accompany Utah at all times (humans in the vicinity of the Eleven helps keep them "concealed" from non-humans), this provides an advantage, though, as she knows everything about vampires, their hierarchy, rules, strengths and also their weaknesses.  Utah isn't exactly happy about having a "babysitter"... and much less a vampire lover type...

Ms. Bangs further develops the universe that she started in the first book, allowing the readers further glimpses into Fin, the origins of the Eleven, and the existence of other supernaturals, not just shifters or vampires.  I find all this fascinating.  However, anyone new to the series, will be better served by starting the series from book 1 and continuing in the intended order of the series.  By now, there is a lot going on in terms of the background story arc involving Fin, Zero and the Eleven, and it can get fairly confusing for some, particularly if they are new to the series.  The sex scenes are hot, which is standard for Ms. Bangs.  They do not distract from the story and they can even be outright skipped without affecting the reader's enjoyment of the story. 

Overall, if I gave ratings (which I don't) this book would be the equivalent of a round B in my personal opinion.  The story moved quickly and as fans have come to expect from this series, it didn't drag at any point. The characters were not, in my personal opinion, outstanding, but they were appealing.  This is a book that I would definitely recommend, even to those not familiar with Nina Bangs' work, but who enjoy paranormal romance.  On a side note, Ms. Bangs writes delightful lighthearted paranormal romances, however, this series is not lighthearted by any stretch of the imagination.

Author's website:
Publisher's website:

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Dissatisfied with the current state of romance

I've been reading romance in one form another since I was 16 years old. My first real romance was The Flame and the Flower by Kathleen Woodiwiss - can you say "bodice ripper". There was Rebecca Brandewyne, Roberta Gellis and a few others who I have either lost track of or outgrown. Then I discovered Nora Roberts - she was the first author I read whose stories and characters seduced me. They flirted, they laughed and danced and when they fell in love, so did I. I never wanted to leave their world. From Nora I progressed to Elizabeth Lowell, Linda Howard and Jayne Ann Krentz who started at Harlequin and Silhouette. I've followed them through the years from publisher to publisher and genre to genre. These women, along with Jenny Crusie, are a chosen few, whose books I will rush out to buy to this day. I've followed them from paperback to hardcover without a qualm. I've added and subtracted authors from my list of must reads, want to reads and might reads.

I immersed myself in Erotic romance, when it first started and over the years I have watched it morph into an entity that I think has gotten out of control and lost it's way. I've read traditional, historical, fantasy, shapeshifters, aliens, elves and ghosts. I've delved into anime, yaoi, m/m (male/male), multiple partners and even some (f/f). I hate chick-lit. As far as I am concerned, it's a string of pages of whining, selfish drek, written about self-absorbed, spoiled brats. I could care less if they couldn't buy that pair of designer shoes, or take that trip to Europe because their rich, equally whiny, self-absorbed boyfriend/husband/girlfriend, found someone else with an original thought in their heads. And I'm at a loss. There is so much out there that is awesome, some that is mediocre and, unfortunately, a whole lot that's just garbage.

I am thinking of taking a break from all of it. Well, I was thinking about it, but I am a voracious reader. I can't go a day without opening a book and at least reading a few pages. How do you just stop reading? How do you abandon something that has seen you through love, heartbreak, grief, happiness and the everyday blahs. A book to me is a friend, who doesn't care if you gain a few pounds, cry on their shoulder, yell at them or think their insane. A book doesn't judge you, it doesn't hate you. It's always there when you need it and hopefully always satisfies you.

I read romance to escape and reaffirm my belief that love is real, it's possible that someday my prince/sheik/billionaire/cowboy/pilot/space warrior/navy seal will come, sweep me off of my feet and we will live happily ever after.

Can I give all of that up? I don't know...who knows, tomorrow I might discover a new author who will re-awaken my love for the genre that I fell in love with.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Now how to write those reviews...

Now that I am "officially" reviewing again, I am finding myself with a quandary of sorts: do I read the whole book first and then write the review (that's what I did with my first review posted to the blog) or do I take notes as I go along.  I am inclined to just read the whole book first and then write the review.  For someone that wrote reviews for quite a few years, this sounds ass-backwards, but the thing is that way back when, my reviews were short as that was a requirement from the websites/publication I wrote reviews for.  Now that I am writing the reviews for my own entertainment, I do want to give a bit more detail and make them different to what I was used to.

The many ways in which I like to complicate my life and make something that should be simple, a headache... yay me  ;)

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Oldies but goodies

As I have mentioned numerous times, I started reading romance when I first discovered erotic romance.  I know it probably sounds a bit weird, but that is exactly how I discovered romance almost ten years ago.  However, my "taste" for erotic romance started waning about four years after I discovered the sub-genre, and I would dare say it pretty much disappeared about three years ago.  To put it bluntly, I started getting disappointed and quite bored with it, not to mention the fact that a lot of what is sold these days as erotic romance, is either erotica or porn, definitely NOT romance (erotic or otherwise).  This got me into thinking about the good ol' days in which I just couldn't get enough of erotic romance.

Back then there were only a couple of epublishers of the genre.  Ellora's Cave, Liquid Silver Books, Zumaya Publications (via their imprint eXtasy Books).  Of course, Ellora's Cave was my favorite.  Back then they didn't have a set schedule and they were not the big operation that they are now.  Fans like me, would check the website on a daily basis, hoping that there would be new releases for that reason.  Many of us used to hang out, so to speak, in the old Ellora's Cave chat yahoo group (not the current one, the current one was restarted after a big brouhaha by which the original group was deleted).  Many of us were fascinated with the fact that we could actually talk to our favorite EC authors there.  I did meet a lot of great people there, and also met there author Judy Mays, who to this day, I consider a close friend even though we have yet to meet in person.  Those really were fun days and fun times were had by all.  Good memories. 

Anyway, I decided that I am going to post reviews to some of my favorite titles.  They, of course, will be old releases from way back when.  Some of them may not be even be available for purchase any longer.  However, I have kept all of the ebooks that I've purchased over the years, so I intend to re-visit some old favorites for purposes of posting my thoughts on those titles.  I will also talk about some old favorite series, some of which were discontinued by their authors -- sad is me  :( 

Stay tuned for the Oldies but Goodies posts.


Saturday, September 25, 2010

Closing a chapter of my life

I started reviewing in the spring of 2003.  This was shortly after I first discovered romance (in the form of erotic romance).  I managed to get involved with three different review sites.  During the summer I ended up getting involved with a fourth one.  About ten months after I got involved with the latter, there was a crisis.  As a result, I stepped into the plate, and kept the operation running for a while.  Eventually I was made co-owner.  This week, after almost two years of pretty much wanting to leave, I finally took that step and presented my resignation.

Truth of the matter is that, in the beginning, I liked doing what I was doing and being involved with the whole operation.  However, over the past two and half years it turned more into a chore than something that was fun to do.  My sense of responsibility, however, was interfering and I kept changing my mind over and over again.  After dealing with the asshat author [boy, I do love that word ;) ] I realized I was pretty much done.  I had been unhappy for a while and the only thing I was getting was stress, and for what ... what I was doing wasn't even paying me a salary or any sort of compensation except in the form of self-satisfaction.  And to be blunt, I don't even like erotic romance (or at least most of it) any longer.  There is too much trash coming out from too many writers (I would not even call half of them "authors" as it's too big a hat for many of them) tagged as erotic romance, and I entirely gave up on it, except for those authors whose work I've liked for years.

Either way, I finally made the decision and I have stepped down and leaving the newsletter, for good.  I have a few "projects" that need to be completed, but I don't foresee that it will take me past October 31st to be over and done with them.  I know that my decision to leave will likely push the owner to make a big decision, but frankly, if it comes to that particular decision, I think it will benefit everyone.  Working for the newsletter became extraordinarily burdensome after a while, to be honest.  It was not a "fun" thing to do anymore ... it was a f***ing JOB with no other compensation except self satisfaction.  Though I do not regret having been involved with it, I think that had I even suspected how it was going to turn out to be, I would have never accepted the tag of "co-owner".  Of course, hindsight is 20/20 and I did bring this upon myself.  I was just too stubborn to accept reality.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Author asshattery

Recently, AztecLady of the blog Karen Knows Best, vented up a bit about reviewing.  As I was reading the blog post I got a rather interesting email from someone I will refer to as asshat author.  The author demanded, in an insulting, derogative, demeaning and arrogant manner that we remove the reviews of her books.  Of course, anyone reading this has guessed by now the reason why.  Since the three reviews (by two different reviewers) were less than glowing, of course, the reviewers do not know how to read.

Anyway, the exchange was rather interesting.  When I am dealing with people that are not all there, my answers are usually short and to the point for obvious reasons.  I copied her publishers.  Her reply was a LONG ranty email calling me names (bully, unprofessional, yadda yadda).  The few things that I said went right over her head despite them being very straightforward.  She got a lot of wind from a 5-6 short sentences email reply (which is the actual length of my email to her).  Yes, I did call her "unprofessional".  That was rather unprofessional of me, but frankly, she should be grateful the matter was not handled by my co-owner, as of right now, she'd likely have  a bunghole on her forehead as well as a second one on her ass.

Anyway, she's also the sort that needs to have the last word.  Not only did she email me yet again, even after I told her to "do as you deem fit" and pretty much implying "I am done".  She did proceed to post in her blog how shitty the review site is. At least she follows through with her promises  :>


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Abusing the "romance" tag

As I am doing my blog round (I only have time to read about 4 of them, in all honesty) I stumbled upon a comment in one of them, which most definitely was promo.  The post in question was a one sentence touting the "wonderfulness" of a book entitled "Soul Mate".  It pissed me off so much to see that comment that no, I am not bothering to post either a link to it or the author's name.

Pretty much the website describes the book as being a contemporary story involving the involvement of a female adult teacher and an underage boy in one of her classes.  I am sorry, but this is not "forbidden love" this is a story involving an adult and an underage (as in not of legal age) individual.  Just because the adult is a female, doesn't make it a romance.  Just because the adult is a female doesn't make it any less wrong than if it was a story involving a male teacher and an underage girl.  Bottom line, this is not romance, no matter how the author wishes to present it.

The romance genre continues being "exploited" in this manner whenever someone wants to sell a book that has some sort of romantic relationship in it, and the individual decides that since romance is the best selling genre in fiction in general, that's the easy way to get the bucks.  Call it fiction, for crying out loud, but don't call it a "romance".  Do these people really think that romance fans fall for this crap?  If someone does not believe that romance readers are not stupid, all they need do is research a bit online and they will find a good deal of author asshats that tried to pull that crap on romance fans and then had the balls to argue with the intended audience in romance forums like that in Amazon when they were slammed.

I don't doubt for a second that those books sell at least a few copies, but you can rest assured that those copies are sold either because those buying it were curious and wanted to see for themselves, or because the individuals in question were after the titillation factor or had some sort of "fantasy" and like reading that sort of story.  That some of them may be romance fans, I guess so, however, you are definitely not going to get a best seller out of it by tagging the word "romance" to it, contrary to popular belief, lovers of the genre are not stupid.

Sorry, but I am totally FED UP and SICK of that sort of BS.

<end of rant>

Friday, September 3, 2010

"A Little Bit Wild" by Victoria Dahl

Disclaimer: I purchased the book.

Time and Setting: Victorian England (Lincolnshire, 1847) 


I have to admit that one thing that had me a bit worried was the way the heroine was described in some reviews I read. I do tend to prefer the "proper" lady type of character, even if the lady in question is older chronologically speaking or someone with sexual experience but who is not particularly promiscuous. So I picked up the book not entirely sure if I was going to be able to get past the first chapter. As you have probably guessed by now, I was quite happy when I didn't find myself put off by Marissa.

Marissa is in her early 20s, but despite her age and the way she behaves, she does come across as somewhat naive, believe it or not. She doesn't know herself, she doesn't really understand lust and her own impulses, she's somewhat spoiled though not exactly bratty. She's also intelligent and she does care for her family despite her being the sort that responds to her own lusty impulses, though some may argue that giving headaches to her mother and her brothers isn't exactly the way to show that she cares.

Jude is in his late 20s. He is big, brawny and described more than once as flat out "ugly". He looks like a brawler more than anything else. He's the bastard son of a Duke, though his father recognized him and embraced him as his. He had a good life while living with his father and though he is a bastard, he's fine with his lot in life. His mother is a French courtesan.

I can't recall when was the last time that I read a hero that was sensuality incarnate. He's flat out SEXY. I loved that his sensuality was almost palpable. Another thing that I loved about him was that he truly accepted Marissa as she is and even liked her for being how she was, having noticed her "wildness" when no one else seemed to. Apparently Marissa was considered a paragon of propriety... but Jude knew better. I think I now have Jude at the top of my list of favorite romance novel heroes. I truly fell in love with him. I felt for him when, almost at the end, he is suffering because of a few things Marissa said without really thinking.


I don't think I need to go into a lot of details about the story. Marissa, in one of her impulsive moments, loses her virginity and gets caught by her own family once the act is over and done with. Though the man that took it wants to marry her, she refuses as she's not in love with him and much less, after he pretty much reveals that he planned to ruin her in order to force her into marrying him (she had rejected his proposals twice). As the family discusses what to do and decide that the only viable solution is to have her find a proper suitor and fast, Jude steps in (he's a close friend of Aidan's, one of Marissa's brothers) and offers to fill in that role. He likes the York family and has been attracted to Marissa for quite a while, though she never noticed him at all. She couldn't even remember who he was even though they had been introduced in the past. She pretty much didn't take any notice of him because of his ugliness, as she tends to prefer "pretty boy" types.

The story unravels as they get to know each other better and Jude endeavors to make Marissa want him for a husband, because he wants her for keeps.

The story also has a bit of suspense almost at the end, the conflict between the couple happens almost at the end as well and is resolved rather quickly, though it did not bother me at all, I hate melodrama.

The author's writing style flows nicely and I didn't feel that the story dragged/bored me at any point.

Although the sex scenes didn't depart from the current standard in mainstream historical romance, they were nicely written as well. I really didn't feel that there needed to be more sex in the story to make it work, though.

Overall, I really enjoyed watching Marissa grow as a character and also how she learned the difference between lust and love, when she realized that she had fallen in love with Jude. Though I am not exactly sure Jude was exactly in love with Marissa at the beginning of the story, it was definitely a certainty midway through the story. I would have loved to learn more about his past and also to see Marissa's meeting with his mother.

I am looking forward to the next installment in this series, though from what I could see online, I am in for a LONG wait, as it doesn't come out until next year :(