J to tha M: What We’re Reading

We’re Back – the Worldbuilding Edition

J:  Hey, have you read the Irin Chronicles series by Elizabeth Hunter?2930716970_644598079b

M:  yep. You must have lent me the first one (The Scribe), and then the first and second (The Singer) both went on sale a little while ago, so I bought both

J:  The third is out. The Secret

M:  She does great worldbuilding

J:  yeah she really does

and there’s enough…supported information with her mythology

M:  I love when the worldbuilding not only pulls you in and feels like a true alternate reality, whether fantasy, paranormal, dystopian, or even contemporary just with different rules

J:  When an author not only makes me feel like I’m RIGHT THERE in the story, but also that the story could be right here with me, that’s what I love

Urban fantasy just absolutely kills me for that reason.

I’m not escaping to a new world… I feel like those characters have lived right here beside me the whole time

M:  makes you excited and curious and want to know more, even to live in that world

or know the characters personally

the curiosity and intrigue is the best, though. That’s when I know I’m reading something that’s a winner for me

J:  That’s what I loved so much about Twilight, actually

I mean, yeah, the gaspy, will-they/won’t-they romance, pain of teen love thing

she did that really well

but she also made me think, if only for a little while, that the guy next to me at the supermarket could possibly be a vampire

and that’s what I loved so much about Brigid Kemmerer’s Elemental series, too

and why I got super sucked into Elizabeth Hunter’s Irin Chronicles

(well, everything I’ve read by her so far, but most recently the Irin Chronicles)

M: yeah, it’s the intriguing wish fulfillment-fantasy-believability-intrigue thing

and it’s amazing when it is done well

and consistency is so important *coughJRWardcough*

I really enjoyed Hunter’s worldbuilding in both her series

made me want to know more and figure out the mystery. And cheer for a relationship for the MCs

J:  It’s amazing how much more I forgive when the world is solid

like, I believe the characters

and accept their flaws

and love them anyway

things that would piss me off beyond all belief if in a contemporary romance set in the here and now

I don’t know why I’m more likely to forgive, but I am

*coughEdwardCullencough*

M:  Haha. Yeah, that’s an interesting point, really

because it’s not real and we’re already plausibly suspending disbelief, maybe?

J:  perhaps

but if you presented me with a contemporary realistic fiction YA about a boy who crept into a girl’s bedroom to watch her sleep, I’d throw the book out the window

M:  Exactly. Actions, reactions, situations in those made-up worlds don’t make me twitchy in a lot of instances where they would in a contemporary

J:  and the same was kind of true in Hunter’s Irin books

she writes strong females, yes

but sometimes strong to the point of being careless or stubborn

M:  that’s fairly typical for most romances – and a lot of other genres, too

makes the plot easier to forward

add conflict

but yeah. it gets annoying

I just find it an interesting thing that we forgive stuff in alternate reality stuff we probably wouldn’t in straight contemporary

but that’s a whole different subject and blog post

J:  Well, with Hunter’s Irin world, it was much like the vampire world in that I really felt like an Irin or Irina could be next to me

or *gasp* what if I’m part Irina?

she made the characters real in spite of their fantastic nature

and she revealed things in such a logical way that I never felt she was withholding information for drama’s sake (which is also probably another blog)

and so much of her world consisted of real places here – foreign to me, but still real

and so vivid in their descriptions that I felt I’d seen them before

M:  I think that’s such a huge thing, making the reader have that feeling of “maybe I could be one, too”

that ordinary person having hidden “special”

tapping into that inner fantasy

J:  she really does that so well

M:  I’ve read a couple that I was all fangirl over the worldbuilding lately

J:  do tell

M:  one was Ilona Andrews’s new Hidden Legacy series – the first. Called Burn for Me

Have to admit I’ve never read anything by her (them? It’s a hubs and wife team), but I shall remedy. Heard a lot of good things about her Kate Daniels UF stuff

but the Hidden Legacy series is about magicians, like wizards. Which is my fantasy superpower, so that was all win

and she did it so well, when sometimes it can be so eye-rolly

did a great job explaining not only how people came to have the powers (although I do admit I’d like to know more) and also building a whole social structure and hierarchy based on magic ability

and the hero. siiigh. one of my fave kind

J:  you do love the alpha heroes

M:  enigmatic, clever, arrogant, super powerful, and watching how the female MC makes him more “human”

I really liked

she’s all “you can’t do that” and he’s “um, well, I just did, soooo…”

a lot of fun, and not super romancey, more tension and character and worldbuilding

but the tension between the two is so well done, I didn’t need the straight-out sexytimes

and that’s delicious in itself

and she’s a great heroine – smart, capable, not stupid

J:  oooh, I actually prefer the tension and chemistry to straight-up romance, too

not so much the back and forth type, but the type where it builds naturally

and everything the hero says makes me just swoon

because I know that’s what the heroine has to feel

M:  well, he’s not blatant swoon – he’s privileged, arrogant, powerful

which sounds ick, but flaws so skillfully done you can see the heart in him

so when he does caring or swoony things, much more impact

and he holds all the power, literally in his magic and money and social status, etc., but she has more important things to teach him, like being decent and human and family and true caring

a lot of character development for both, which is so fun to see

it’s just total win in my opinion

J:  I’m on board.

M:  and dammit, I want to be a wizard

J:  hahahaha

I felt like that after Harry Potter (okay. I still feel that way sometimes)

M:  another one that I found really interesting was The Others series by Anne Bishop. The first book is Written in Red, the second Murder of Crows, and I’m about to start the third, Vision in Silver

and I could see why I totally got into the Ilona Andrews series, because, you know, wizards

but the Bishop series is about shifters. I’m not usually a shifter fan much at all, but these are good

great mystery and tension, and the word and rules she’s built are so different

J:  how did you end up reading it if you’re not a fan of the theme?

M:  I’d read a couple of reviews and rec’s on blogs, so I figured I’d give it a shot

and the whole world and social hierarchy between humans and the Others – so unique

the shifters are the top of the food chain and just suffer humans existing in their world

and it’s not just animal shifters, but elements and seasons and stuff

and more about the slowly building tension and relationship between the two MCs in this one, too

a lot of action and mystery and intrigue, great character development

but the worldbuilding – so good and thorough

J:  yeah, I really can forgive just about anything when it happens in a really great fictional world

M:  she did such a good job with not just the world but the different characters and interactions

a really vulnerable female MC that needs protection for damn good reasons that slowly unfold, a strong alpha male MC who finds himself all messed up with what’s happening but tries to do the right things

a true alpha in my opinion

and all the amazing imagination of animal and element shifters, how they’re shown and personified

it’s a winner

I like urban fantasy, but I also need that romantic element – just adds so much. and when the slowly building tension is done well, and the developing close caring just goes on and deeper, I’m all in

J:  well, you sold me

I’m gonna start with the wizards first, though. I’ve had a craving since Harry Potter

grown-up wizards are just too hard to pass up

M:  yeah, I really enjoyed that one

I liked the writing style better

not that I wasn’t hooked with Bishop’s series or anything, just sometimes I had to push a little, you know?

Where I just ate the Andrews one up

plus, snarky, arrogant adult wizard. Yeehaw

J:  I need a bookstore therapy session

Amazon will probably have to do

M:  I need therapy for my Amazon one-click addiction. Speaking of which…

brb

photo credit: hammer cuddle via photopin (license)

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J to tha M: What We’re Reading

2013: What We’ve Read and Liked. A lot.

medium_4186292315J:  Our favorite reads of the year. First, I should thank you for getting me to read again

it’s been a fun year

and I’ve been amazed at how much time I actually have to read when I make myself do it

M:  when you look forward to it

I still maintain you can’t write if you don’t read

for a whole myriad of reasons

plus, just the whole experience and worlds reading opens

I love

J:  for me, I didn’t think I could write if I did read. because I wanted all my free time to go toward writing

of course, I still only read just before bed

so more often than not, I pass out before I even open the kindle app

but I’m getting there

M:  I’ve read so many book this year, I’d be scared to keep count

but a few stick in my mind as favorites

J:  I’m guessing a few of those favorites will match mine

M:  Kate SeRine’s Transplanted Tales series, of course

Red, The Better To See You, Along Came a Spider

J:  yep

if I named a number one, that would be it

M:  Yes. Downloading Red was one of the best things I did this past year

and still my best example of how offering free days for your ebook works big time

I love everything about that series and her writing

jeebus, her imagination

J:  the connections she makes

and the leaps that don’t end up being leaps at all

Nate is still my number one hero for the year, but he’s closely followed by Ivan from Delphine Dryden’s first in the Science of Temptation series, The Theory of Attraction

because geek

M:  Kate does great heroes. All three so far are great.

And I did like Ivan, too

but the Transplanted Tales series just has it all, in my opinion. Solid writing, amazing world-building, great characters, hunky heroes, intriguing plots

can’t go wrong

and, I’ve rec’d to a ton of people and haven’t heard that even one didn’t enjoy

my mom actually went and ordered the print copies from her local bookseller to have and hold, she enjoyed so much

J:  well, plus Kate’s super nice

M:  oh, yes. that’s just a bonus

Great series and an author who is so, so nice and genuine

she deserves all the good

J:  I agree

what’s next?

M:  Ben Monopoli, of course

Homo Action Love Story: A Tall Tale was just a huge, rollicking romp

J:  oh, I finally read it!

M:  and?

J:  oh, I loved

silly question

I don’t know why I forgot to mention

I read it a couple months ago while we were kind of on hiatus

M:  I think Boots McHenry gets the award for best character name ever

J:  I have to agree with you there

but if I were to choose my favorite of his three, you know I’d go with The Cranberry Hush

M:  all his books make the list

so many feels, and such amazing diversity in his writing while still maintaining that level of response

J:  I’ve not cried so hard reading a book in ages

M:  to me, that’s the sign of a good writer

J:  also, nice guy

M:  also very nice guy, yes

J:  but seriously. Sobbed.

M:  amazing story

J:  who’s next?

M:  well, I know you didn’t read, and I have some things to say about this one

J:  off you go

M:  Lover At Last by JR Ward

J:  oh yeah

M:  I loved and hated this one – I have such complicated and conflicting feels

I love Qhuinn. Love him. One of my all-time favorite fictional characters

But JR Ward. Argh. The Black Dagger Brotherhood has become so frustrating

I loved this one because Qhuinn finally got his HEA

but, the completely outrageous lack of research and expectation of suspension of disbelief – the plane scene, for example. So outrageously wrong in so many ways.

And…his and Blay’s story had so much potential to be amazing. Super amazing, with all the feels, because he’s such a complicated character that feels so much himself (and did I mention amazing? ‘Cause he is)

I can’t help feeling it missed the mark in living up to all that

J:  sometimes it’s hard to live up to the potential, especially if there’s just SO MUCH potential

M:  well, I know there was a lot of expectation for this particular book

but this series started out with great emotion and feels, but has kind of gone away from that as it continues

I mean, as I’m reading, I could actually note the scenes where the opportunity for something amazing was there, but just wasn’t developed

not just an overall sense of overhyped expectation not met, if that makes sense

J:  it does

I’m sad it didn’t quite hit the mark

but sounds like it still left an impression

I have the first one in the series, Dark Lover, packed in my laptop bag for tomorrow, btw

M:  worth the read

the series and characters are so great and so frustrating at the same time

my mom and I call it the “Yay! Factor”

you know it’s wrong and stupid, but…”Yay!” You’re so caught up, you don’t care.

J:  well, I’ll finally know what all the fuss is about

M:  we could do months worth of chats on both the awesome and the wtf-ery of that series

J:  heh

let me get caught up

I’ll let you know after I read the first

anything else on your list for the year?

M:  I’m really enjoying Kit Rocha’s Beyond series, as far as erotica

Beyond Shame, Beyond Control, Beyond Pain so far

I know you weren’t as enamored, but I’m hooked

And CD Reiss’s Song of Submission series was a good alternative to Fifty, right up until the last part of the serial/series – book 7

I disliked so much, it ruined the whole experience. Big bummer.

J:  oh, I started that one

but didn’t go past the first

M:  no? Didn’t like?

J:  I think maybe the hype for BDSM?

I dunno

because I loved Del Dryden’s stuff

but it wasn’t the same old thing, either

M:  what were your faves?

J:  well, definitely Kate and Ben

and then my little geek love kick brought me to Delphine Dryden’s The Science of Temptation series

which I just adored

but that’s because I do love the betas

M:  I really liked the first one of the series

I haven’t read the rest, but I will

J:  and then I loved Charlotte Stein’s Control and Power Play

again, beta heroes

M:  I don’t think I’ve read those yet

J:  I enjoy her a lot

very deep pov

takes a bit to get used to it

feeling EVERYTHING the heroine feels

but then you’re so deep you can’t get out

M:  I read another of Charlotte Stein’s that was like that

did take a little getting used to, but I enjoyed

the one with them on a boat – Curve Ball

J:  oh, shit. Elizabeth Hunter

how could I forget?

Her vampire series, Elemental Mysteries, was excellent. A Hidden Fire, This Same Earth, The Force of Wind, A Fall of Water

but her new book and series The Irin Chronicles, is just wow

The Scribe

I loved

cannot wait for the next one

M:  I enjoy her stories, too

J:  I liked them enough to buy them for my mom

I don’t usually do that

the only other author I’ve sent her way is you

M:  there is a meandering-ish quality to her stuff that keeps her just on the edge of making my fave of the year list, I have to admit

I can’t quite put my finger on it

J:  have you read The Scribe yet?

it had a slow start, but all those things that made me pause in the vampire series were smoothed out in this one

M:  I did, and I liked

maybe too much time spent in the character’s heads? I’m not sure

J:  perhaps

but then we really know the character, too

M:  definitely a new fave author

J:  something she seems to like to do is make the good guy appear to be the bad guy in the beginning

I think that might be the extent of my faves this year

M:  I do like the good guy/bad guy juxtaposition

a couple new-to-me authors I’m looking forward to reading more of next year

Karen Rose – I read her You Belong to Me, romantic suspense

really liked it

and Rebecca Zanetti.  I had a ton of love for the first in her Sins Brothers series, Forgotten Sins, up until one certain scene that seemed just way over the top for me, and then the story and heroine took a completely different turn. So weird. The first 2/3 I loved a lot. Last 1/3, not so much

but I’m definitely looking forward to reading the next in the series, Sweet Revenge, to see if it is as awesome as the beginning of the first book

J:  I choose stuff based on what’s in front of me at that moment

so I don’t even know what I’m looking forward to

I know there’s more from Kate SeRine coming

and Ben has a novella out that I need to get

M:  the next two in the Transplanted Tales will be out in 2014

J:  I’ll be all over those

M:  Grimm Consequences – more about Nate and Red

and Gideon’s book, Ever After

J:  guh. Gideon.

M:  Wait. Whaaaaat? Ben has a novella out?

the hell? and how did I not know?

J:  erm

I forgot to tell you?

Stag: A Story

M:  well, if that isn’t the perfect brb ending, I don’t know what is.

gonna go order.

brb

Happy Holidays, everyone!!

photo credit: shawncalhoun via photopin cc

J to tha M: What We’re Reading

Discover New Books

bad hockey romance

© Orangeline | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

J: I read a book last night

I wanted to stop, but I couldn’t sleep

so on I read

it was cute

tired trope, but still cute

M: Oh, yes?

J:  I liked the hero so much I kept going

Falling for Her Fiance by Cindi Madsen

one of those BFFs turned lovers while pretending to be engaged things

M:  I’m not a huge fan of the fake marriage or engagement trope

but I am willing to overlook a lot if I like the hero

J:  he was the everyguy

and the heroine was one of those girls I couldn’t get mad at

she had her personal issues, her reasons for holding back, but they weren’t the usual madness

they were more family and financial, which was a breath of fresh air

of course, there was past-love drama

but they weren’t villains

and the hero, adorable and likeable, just kind of fell softly

hints at how he was protective of her before realizing his feelings

how he’d drop everything for her, but not in a whipped, she-demands-it way

M:  ooh, I do like that

J:  so yeah. They were very likeable

I rooted for them

and she spends most of the story thinking he’s still in love with his ex and tries to do the right thing by letting him go

because, believe it or not, his ex is actually a nice person

M:  that’s a nice change

J:  see?

there wasn’t a thing about it that made me >.<

even as used as the trope may be

M:  I can read it if it’s done well and with originality.

make me believe, you know?

J:  yes

then there was Kathryn Quick’s Ineligible Bachelor

Also another BFF turned lovers

also cute and well done

also an adorable hero

though there was some “we hate skinny bitches”

but it worked, because, well, who doesn’t believe women who go on reality shows are looking for attention?

M:  that sounds fun and different

J:  it was cute

you know me and my fluffcloud

don’t mess with it

M:  I do tend to take a blowtorch to your fluffcloud sometimes

J:  you do

M:  I read a couple this week, but there were issues – suspension of disbelief, editing, the slightly overdone/predictable/typical dramz

but they had all the feels and really swoony heroes

Listed by Noelle Adams and Translation of Love by Alice Montalvo-Tribue

I think one was 99 cents and one was free

so, worth the shot

J:  ohhhhhh, Listed. A bucket-list marriage

bucket-list books are always iffy

M:  The heroine suffers from a mysterious virus that will kill her in 3 months

hence the suspension of disbelief. it was a little convenient, but it was explained better than I’d anticipated later in the book

J: and a reformed bad boy

fully reformed or just simmering under the surface?

M:  Oh, yes, the hero – Paul – was great

and it wasn’t insta-love or sex, but nicely developed

and he was just super swoony

super rich, of course, also convenient

but the story was pretty well-written and had a lot of feels despite that

J:  did you finish Elizabeth Hunter’s new one – Blood and Sand – already?

M: Almost done. I’ll finish this afternoon

seeeexyyy

I wasn’t sure what to expect, but yeah

I really like. That was my winner of the week, hands down

J: Also, August can’t get here soon enough for the next Kate SeRine

M: Hah – so you liked the first two in the series?

J:  jeebus, yes

M:  I love her imagination

J:  seriously

I want to roll around in it

plus her heroes are delicious

utterly

M:  They are. So sexy and masculine without being all Alphaholey

J:  yes! gah

Nate in RED was just so

so

*shiver*

dangerous and dark and sweet and…

I loved Seth in the second book, but for some reason, Nate spoke to me

the whole loving from afar thing always gets me

M:  Nate was such a perfect balance of studly and vulnerable without going too far in either direction

it’s hard to hit that perfect balance in a romance hero

how we like to see men that are sensitive but still *men*

and it seems I’ve read too many lately that have been way wrong

J:  hahahaha

the sobbing hockey player?

M:  ugh

I hate to speak ill of anyone’s hard work, I really do

especially when I know other readers are enjoying it, even if I didn’t

but…yes. I had to bail when the hero is on his bedroom floor in a ball sobbing and clutching the ring he was about to give the heroine moments before The Big Misunderstanding

and the hero’s sister, because she’s mad he hasn’t called her in two months, kicks him in the gut so hard he spends the rest of the scene puking

O.O

and >.<

Who does that?

J: I know you want me to read and form my own opinions, but life’s too short

M:  Well, a lot of people really like it, and that’s cool. It just wasn’t for me. I was barely hanging on until that point, but that was my “I’m out” moment

I don’t mind some Misunderstandings, as long as they’re somewhat reasonable and believable

but when they make me throw my hands up and be all “normal people do not DO that!”

but again, I do realize a lot of the time that’s just me

I have a tendency to, you know, ask questions, listen, and talk to people before I throw a total conniption and refuse to have any contact with them for months

J:  exactly

M:  although I haven’t had a good conniption in a while.

brb

J to tha M: What We’re Reading

Series, Serials, and Cliffhangers

series, serial novels, and cliffhangers

Dudley Do-Right, created by Alex Anderson

J: so, I’m currently about 50% through the fourth book in Elizabeth Hunter’s series

Elemental Mysteries

and our stalking paid off

she has agreed to a guest post

M: You read three books in a week? Woo-hoo! They must be good

J: um, yes

they’re really addictive

I know I need to read up on The Painting of Porcupine City so our interview with Ben Monopoli doesn’t spoil it for me

so that’s next. I promise

M: That’s one of the things that makes series so fun. If you like them, you can pick up the next.

fun for both the reader and writer to stay in an intriguing world

J: yeah, but I’m not a fan of the cliffhanger thing. There are a few reasons for a cliffhanger, and none are good

the first is that you’re too wordy to fit everything in one book, so you split at a vital point

the second is that you aren’t sure if you created a compelling enough story to keep readers coming back for more

so you have to trick them

M: Some cliffhangers are good, to build suspense, keep the reader wanting to turn the page. I love a good cliffhanger when used like that.

What I’ve found annoying is those books that are written to end on a huge “cliffhanger” for the sole purpose of getting you to buy the next. You get 130 pages for 2.99 and the story just ends in the middle of the scene, so you have to pay another 2.99 for the next 130 pages if you want to read the rest of the story.

And then you find out there are like four “books” in the series like that

to me, those aren’t really cliffhangers. Those are just ending in the middle of a scene.

J: there is that, too

M: There are the serial novels, which is a much better alternative

I mentioned a couple I’m reading a week or so ago

Where you pay one price and get installments automatically delivered to your Kindle

J: I could get behind something like that. Would be like a TV show

M: but you know in advance the (reasonable) full price and when you’ll get the next episode

J: yeah, instead of getting to the end and finding out you have to fork over more money

M: exactly. You can make a fully informed choice from the beginning

J: i love a good series, though. I love an epic story that requires more than one book to tell

M: I wonder if the new interest in the serialized novels is a reflection of the proven popularity of fanfiction. They do follow a similar format

J: I thought that, too

are they all dramatic and soap opera-y?

do you hear “dun dun dun!” in your head when you finish an installment?

M: some are, just like any book

J: She turned to see who was at the door and gasped.

tune in next time!

M: it’s like the ending of a chapter, though. They’re ended that way to keep you turning the page

whether it’s a serial or a traditional book

J: well, I can get behind it because you know what you’re getting when you go in

M:  In that format, a cliffhanger is, I don’t know, more accepted. Expected.

When one just ends only to sucker you into buying the next…I’m not 100% sure how I feel about that, but mostly no likey

J: accepted because you know the rest is coming

I really no likey

and usually enough to abandon ship

M: Yeah. I read one like that recently. Thank goodness the first one was free – which is a whole ‘nother subject, I think. And the story was fairly good, but then, it just ended in the middle of an action scene, and the next book was 2 or 3.99. And the next, and the next.

J: >.<

M: And even though I did like the story and would have liked to read more and see what happened – oh, hell no.

J: I feel you

M: I was annoyed

as both a reader and a writer

J: and I bet a lot of people agree with us

except, of course, the authors who exploit their readers in this way

M: and then there are those novellas – which are really popular right now – that just…end

J: oh, I’m a fan of the novella. bite-size fun

M: I like them, too. I mean, I understand the shortened nature of them and how difficult it can be to get in enough character and story development, but it’s just frustrating, to enjoy a story and characters so much, for the author to have done such a good job with the rest of the story, and then…

wah, wah, wah wahhhhhhh

J: but if you have to end without an ending, you probably should have made it a full novel

M: or, you know, come up with a better ending

J: oh, yeah

or that

what I think is a fun idea are the novellas centered on side characters in a series

M: Oh, I like those, too. It’s like a special surprise bonus to revisit a world you loved and characters you want to know more about. I think it’s cool that ebooks seemed to have opened that up as an option. made it more viable.

Oh, hang on. I need to see who’s at the door

brb

**gasp**

Tune in next week!