Monthly Archives: March 2015

The Human Connection

I don’t attend many in-person author events. A lot of this is a personality thing. I’m a classic introvert. It takes a lot to pry me away from home and hearth. Also, I hate to drive. So events need to fit in with my husband’s work schedule.  Of course, my solitary existence is aided and abetted by the World Wide Web. Thanks to email, Facebook, Twitter, and my website, I have plenty of friends I’m in contact with on a daily basis, people I haven’t seen in decades…or maybe have never met in person.

Nevertheless, real-time contact is important. It helps keep us human. And gives us a reason to do things like bathe, brush our teeth, comb our hair! Whenever an online friend visits Las Vegas, I try to at least meet for coffee and a chat. Over the past year, I’ve also made an effort to get out more in general.

Me at the Paseo Verde LibraryLocal Authors Showcase

Me at the Paseo Verde LibraryLocal Authors Showcase

This past Saturday I had the good fortune to be included in Paseo Verde Library’s Local Author Showcase. The library put on a great event. I shared a table during the morning session. Not only did I get to connect in person with some Facebook friends, I also met some new faces. We were allowed to sell our books, but I never go to one of these things expecting to make a sale. It’s more a chance to meet readers and talk books. It also helps me remember that my work has a destination past just the trip from my brain to the page.  Those sales numbers emailed to me every month represent real people who’ve taken a chance on me.

 

My table at the 2015 Paseo Verde Library Local Authors Showcase

My table at the 2015 Paseo Verde Library Local Authors Showcase

 

I certainly hope that they finish my books feeling that they’ve come out ahead.

The Paseo Verde event is likely to be my last in-person event for a while. Being a temperate-weather person living in the desert, I go to ground from May through late September. It’s a time to enjoy the air conditioning and dig deeply into my writing and catch up on my reading. With any luck, it’ll be an early autumn…

Just in time for the Las Vegas Valley Book Festival in mid-October.

 

 

 

My First Video Review!

This is my very first video review…raw…uncut…all “ummms” and throat clearing included. What I like about this process is that it allows for a spontaneity that isn’t possible with even the most enthusiastic written review. Words on the page (or screen), however thoughtful and honest, are inert. It’s all, “I loved/hated this product and here’s why.” A linear, intellectual exercise. What this video shows is a kind of goofy human being interacting with a real item (a pretty cool goal planner) that she’s invited into her real life.

I’d like to make video reviews a regular feature of the blog. It will be a learning process. For example, this video file is too large for this particular site. That’s why I’m providing a link, so you can view it on Amazon. Videos uploaded directly to the blog will have to be less than half the size. I guess that will force me to be get to the point fast!

Also, for now only print books will get video reviews. My current e-reader is an older Kindle with a black-and-white display. That means e-book covers don’t shine in all their glory. Hopefully I’ll upgrade at some point.

VIEW REVIEW HERE

Review: STRANDED WITH THE WOLF

A blizzard strands a curvy personal assistant with her alpha-wolf boss, who isn’t as indifferent to her as he seems.

Stranded With the Wolf (A BBW Paranormal Romance)

Stranded With the Wolf

I went back and forth about purchasing this book. The description piqued my interest, but some of the reviews put me off. More than one reader had a serious problem with the hero crossing the line from alpha into just plain mean. Believe it or not there is a difference, and it can make or break a story for me. I decided to take a chance and see for myself, figuring that I could always return the book if I couldn’t finish it.

Boy am I glad I took a risk.

Sara Allen is no doormat. She’s unsure of herself and uneasy in the situation she’s thrust into. This is natural. Especially since she’s entertained romantic fantasies about her boss. She can’t quite trust that the romantic vibe he’s sending (a pretty clumsy one, by the way) isn’t just wishful thinking on her part. Sara is quirky and funny. She’s quick to laugh at herself, but not in a cruel way.

Jarod is a pill. No doubt. He’s a little too pleased with himself in general. He does seem put out by the fact that his fated mate is something of a Plain Jane. There are points where I wished Sara would kick him in the shin and say, “Listen, buster, there are plenty of other hot wolves in this fictional universe. Go make yourself another pretend billion and leave me alone.” But isn’t that the point of romance fiction? Sexual tension?Conflict? As long as the rough edges resolve themselves satisfactorily, we’re fine.

By the end of this book all of Sara and Jarod’s edges are worn smooth.

That said, the sex is well done. There’s great pacing. The erotic parts do not overshadow the rest of the book.

Issues? A couple. Point of view is omniscient. We get inside both Jarod and Sara’s heads. This provides useful clues to character and motivation, but it can be disorienting at times. A third person POV, with the changes marked by chapter or even scene breaks, would have offered a smoother read. Also, there are multiple proofing blemishes. Not serious grammatical issues. These are small but obvious errors that should have been picked up during the final edit. In such a short book, they got irritating at times.

Overall, though, I enjoyed the story and the characters so much that I’m willing to overlook the editing. Jarod has a couple of brothers. At some point, I’d very much like to meet them on the page!

Review: THE CURSE OF THE FATES

* I received a Kindle copy of this book from the author in return for a fair and honest review.

A young girl fears she’s cursed when she suddenly loses her hair.

The Curse of the Fates

The Curse of the Fates

There is so much to like about this book. Lottie is just lovely. Her shock when she wakes and finds her beautiful hair all over her pillow is palpable. Her confusion, embarrassment, anger, the need to blame someone or something, is all real and natural.

Lottie’s attempts to hide her situation from her friends and family–and how they rally around her when they discover the truth–adds a hopeful note to a disturbing situation. Also, the way Lottie struggles to decouple her appearance from her essential self, which at such an age is incredibly difficult, pulled at my emotions.

To be honest, the text could benefit from a little more editing. But the story is powerful, and the illustrations bring Lottie’s world alive. I would recommend THE CURSE of the FATES to parents and to those educators and medical personnel who serve children learning to cope with alopecia.

Review: CATCHING CASSIDY

A good-time guy faces an abrupt awakening when his parents die leaving him and his twin sister in charge of their seaside bar. Things get even more complicated when he realizes he’s in love with his best friend.

Catching Cassidy (Harborside Nights, #1)

Catching Cassidy

One of the things I love most about Melissa Foster’s books is her ability to create an entire community of likable, engaging characters. This first book in her new Harborside Nights series gives us yet another great ensemble cast. We also get a fun cameo from veteran Foster couple Dane Braden and his fiancee Lacy Snow. Of the new arrivals, Cassidy and Delilah both shine. They are warm, earnest, and real. Even Wyatt is appealing in a “like to smack in the head” way. The beach town setting is beautifully built detail by detail. I could imagine myself right there.

I love that there is more going on this book than a romance. There’s all the hard stuff that comes with loss. Grief. Unfinished personal business. Struggling to make sense of grownup life…when you’ve barely grown up.

Cassidy waits a little too long to accept the truth about her New York plans. I also didn’t buy that after everything her parents have put her through she’s still prepared to pounce on any bone of attention and affection they might throw her way, even if it puts her very new relationship with Wyatt at risk. But these are very small blips in an otherwise great New Adult romance.

CATCHING CASSIDY is a fun start to a promising series. Can’t wait to see what happens with the rest of the gang!

Review: THE LIFE-CHANGING MAGIC OF TIDYING UP

Life works better when everything is in its place.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing

I approached this book more as a cultural study than a how to manual. I enjoyed the peek it gives into contemporary Japanese life–like the idea of collecting little “fortunes/blessing” tokens from shrines and monasteries. How they can pile up and actually become powerless after a year as the luck is used up. Little cultural details like this are more interesting than much of the tidying advice. Not that there aren’t some useful tips on tackling your mess. Kondo’s assertion that it’s better to have one huge clear out than to try to do it piecemeal has a lot of merit.

Kondo’s authorial voice was the biggest negative for me. Her tone tips the balance from enthusiastic to strident. I’m not sure I believe she’s been a fanatical tidier since age five. Or the part about making “studies of organization” at age eight. It’s just a little too outlandish. And the long, long section on “how to fold” got tedious.

I did enjoy Kondo’s ideas about the spirit inherent in inanimate objects, and how that spirit impacts our daily lives. Also, her focus on understanding what our stuff really means to us is important. We give our clutter such power over us, over our mood and our self-image. Kondo’s book is a good reminder that our personal space and the things we allow into it matters.

Review: BEAUTIFULLY AWAKE

A social worker recovering from a personal trauma finds herself pursued by a neurosurgeon who is as mysterious as he is passionate.

Beautifully Awake (Beautifully Awake, #1)

Beautifully Awake

Lili Porter is lovable from scene one. She’s cute and kooky and incredibly vulnerable.The sexual tension is old-school hot, probably because we stay in Lili’s POV for 99% of the book. This is so refreshing. We get to experience her attempts to make sense of Chase’s strange hot-cold behavior firsthand. Sometimes it’s fun NOT to know everything that’s going on in both leads’ heads.

Chase is a good alpha, but the author(s) do cross into cliche-land with him. Okay, they try to work it so that his wealth adds plot points, but his back story is a little too over-the-top tragic. And his parents are too evil to be believable. Rich-and-Evil seems to be the parental trend in recent contemporary romances.

A bigger issue for me (and the reason I didn’t rate the book five stars) is that the end drags on for two or three chapters too long. Also, putting the resolution into an “epilogue” that is then in Chase’s POV was jarring and just an odd authorial decision. In terms of how it functions in the narrative, it isn’t an epilogue at all. It’s the LAST CHAPTER. It doesn’t help that once we’re in Chase’s head, this brilliant surgeon and humanitarian sounds like a Frat boy. This annoyed me, because the most of the book is so good.

Despite overshooting the mark at the end, BEAUTIFULLY AWAKE is one of the better books I’ve read in 2015. The twists are plentiful and unpredictable and the heroine is wonderful.

Review: BEAUTIFUL REDEMPTION

An FBI agent married to her job falls for her new boss, a man with a complicated past and plenty to hide.

Beautiful Redemption (The Maddox Brothers, #2)

Beautiful Redemption

Tension starts right from the opening scene. The various plot lines–Liis/Thomas romance, search for internal leak, Thomas’s recruiting of his brother Travis–mesh well. The Thomas/Cammie thing dragged on too long, but I thought the same thing when I read BEAUTIFUL OBLIVION. His treatment of her in that book doesn’t support his current broken heart. And Liis gets a little annoying with her “I love you, but I love my career” whining. This isn’t 1950 or even 1990. A woman can be in law enforcement AND have a good relationship. However, these were only minor irritations in an otherwise good book.

It was fun getting to meet the characters from the previous books, especially the Maddox clan. There’s also a hint of trouble with yet another one of the brothers. Seriously, it must be a genetic thing that the Maddox cure for relationship trouble is drunken cheating. Thomas is the only one who seems to have escaped this character weakness. He’s uptight and closed off, but he’s honorable to a fault.

I’d rate Beautiful Redemption the most romantic and emotionally rich of McGuire’s books to date. There’s a great mix of romance and suspense, and the ending is dramatic but not over the top.

A new favorite.

Review: BEAUTIFUL OBLIVION

A bartender involved in a long-distance relationship finds herself falling for a childhood friend.

Beautiful Oblivion (The Maddox Brothers, #1)

Beautiful Oblivion

BEAUTIFUL OBLIVION is book one of Jamie McGuire’s Maddox Brothers series, a spin off of her hugely popular Beautiful series about college student Abby Abernathy and underground fighter Travis Maddox. There are three books (two novels and a novella) in that series. They didn’t quite light a fire in me, so I started this book with some reservations. But one of the things I liked about the Beautiful series was the relationship Travis had with his family. I’m glad I gave this a chance. It turned out much deeper and more fully developed than the Beautiful books.

Cammie is a strong protagonist. The scenes with her family show how honorable AND vulnerable she can be. Trent Maddox is funny and, except for a period where he reverts into a promiscuous ass, his pursuit of Cammie is relentless. There is a lot of sexual chemistry here, as Cammie fights her attraction to Trent and at the same time is drawn more and more into his world.

It didn’t take me long to figure out who Cammie’s California mystery man really is. The whole torn-between-two-lovers thing dragged on a little. I did enjoy the final resolution. Lots of drama and angst.

The timeline of this novel overlaps the events in the Beautiful series. This gives readers a whole new window on those books and a fresh take on Abby and Travis. The epilogue raises as many questions as it answers, but it also made me look forward to the next book in the series.

Review: TRAINING THEIR MATE

When a young real estate agent’s attempt to kill the rogue shifter who raped her mother fails, she must rely on the protection of two wolfy brothers who are drawn to claim her as their own.

Training Their Mate (Pack Wars, #1)

Training Their Mate

This short erotic tale (book one of a series) started out really well. Brothers Trax and Dante Field are great foils for one another. Dante is fun and easy going. Trax is a tightly wound control freak. There’s a lot of tension as they butt heads over just how much to tall Liz about their nature and their emotional connection to her. Also things get suspenseful as the brothers attempt and fail to capture Harvey Crouch.

It did bother me that the author gave no clear answer about WHY Crouch singled out Liz’s mother and returned to attack her again years after the initial series of assaults. I know this is book one, but the next volumes focus on other main characters, so there seems no real reason to hold back this info.

Trax’s manic need to control his environment and his sexual partners undermined his strength as a romantic lead. At times his behavior bordered on creepy. Also, the conclusion irritated me. It’s not a true cliffhanger, but the abrupt lead-in to book two was clunky and awkward.