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)

J to tha M: What We’re Reading

Reading as a Distraction from Real Life Shenanigans

medium_2832163100M:  distract me from wanting to throw up

J:  We can worry about writing and blog stuff when you’re back on track, if you want

unless you want to vent about how crazy stuff is

M:  I don’t wanna

I wanna go suck my thumb and rock in the corner

trying to buy this house has now reached the ridiculous. Giggle maniacally and then start crying ridiculous.

Due to lame mortgage guy being less than diligent performing his duties and weaver of not-so-true tales

But hey, I found a good new-to-me author

J:  oh, do tell

M:  Tamara Allen – she does m/m, but non-explicit. More fade to black

J:  interesting

M:  Amazing feels

great characters, detail, did I say all the feels?

J:  heh. you did

I am interested

M:  I read her novella (it’s free), If It Ain’t Love, and then one she had on sale, Downtime

Read them, and was “huh. that was good”

but now I can’t stop thinking about it and smiling

such good residual happy feels, so I just bought another – The Only Gold

J:  I am getting the free one as we type

M:  good feels in that one. Liked Downtime even better

Even more after I finished it, although that sounds a little weird

J:  it doesn’t at all

I love a book I can’t stop thinking about

M:  Huh. Downtime is not available on Amazon for kindle anymore. I just got it. Free on Smashwords, though

J:  it’s been so long since we really chatted that I can’t remember what I’ve read since then

I read the Kit Rocha you sent me, Beyond Pain

I did like that one the best so far

M:  the books in that series seem to get better as they go, which is unusual

J:  I’ve read a couple you rec’d

read the YA succubus one – Static

cute. I liked it.

M:  Yes, cute. easy read

J:  Read Eight Christmas Eves. Loved that one.

M:  I really liked that one

loved her character development in such a short story

J:  I knew where it was going, but I didn’t mind. in fact, I cheered because of it

M:  yes, yes

J:  oh! I read the latest Catherine Bybee, Fiance by Friday

M:  you said you liked

my mom read those and said they were cute

J:  I did. I think it’s my fave of that series so far

this hero was alpha and beta combined

very quiet, reserved, and ferocious

I  liked him a lot more than the others

Cute series. you’ll understand why I picked it up with the first story

heh

M:  I read part of another series – Songs of Submission by CD Reiss

it’s a serial/installment thing, though. Not a fan of novellas ending just to get you to pay 2 or 3.99 to see what happens next, but she had the first three of a seven book set bundled at a decent price

the first one – Beg – was free, so I tried.

J:  good?

M:  Yeah. I did go on to buy the first three bundle pack, and the fourth was free, as well

really pretty good for that kind of genre – erotica, rich hero, poor heroine

but well-written, sexy, and the heroine has a ton of backbone

J:  oh, that’s a nice change

M:  not the usual Mary Sue “oh my god, is that a penis? Ew, spank me with it.”

J:  hahahaha

I love you

I did read another cute trio in one book bundle

it’s an opposites attract thing

hang on…oh, heh

Opposites Attract by Cat Johnson

and I read Bit by the Bug by Michelle Pillow

cute but a little too long

M:  ooh, I haven’t heard of those

J:  the trio was really cute

short and satisfying

M:  I think you’d like the Downtime m/m book. the one guy is geeky sweet

I read a Lori Foster that was on sale, Run the Risk. I like her for good escapism reads. Like her heroes, and this was/is on sale for 1.99 kindle

I’ve read a shit ton

J:  I don’t know her stuff…

M:  another m/m by Josephine Myles that was good, Handle With Care

J:  you have been reading a lot

M:  Drawing the Line by Kimberly Kincaid – predictable, short, but easy read

J:  I like short. what’s that one about?

M:  A cop and witness he’s protecting

Read Kiss of Fire by Rebecca Ethington – YA paranormal, interesting first of a series. Writing eh but the story was compelling

another YA that was free. The writing was really only okay, way too Twilight-clone, but I read through the three books – bundled

Blood Like Poison or something like that

skimmed through, mostly. she did have me wanting to know what happened

a couple others that were DNF – boring or too repetitive

J:  YA is a little sad lately

everything looks the same

M:  ooh, a Sandra Brown that was good – Envy. Interesting structure. Also on sale for 1.99

ugh, so many of the YA and NA are so much the same

I read a review of one – on Dear Author, maybe? – that talked about how so many are about kids dealing with adult problems

which happens, of course

but what about kids having kid problems? Interesting thoughts

J:  well, you know how I feel about it

I like to write real kids

maybe not real problems *cough* psychics

I really worry Oracles will be soundly trounced when it starts making the rounds because they’re actual kids

M:  well, hopefully it’ll find those who want real kids

refreshing

Speaking of which, I need more coffee. I shall refrain from supplementing with Kahlua while I wait for today’s mortgage fire drill emergency. Sigh.

brb

photo credit: underminingme via photopin cc

Book Review: Never Google Heartbreak by Emma Garcia

Guest Review and Commentary by Eva Pugzlyte

book review never google heartbreak emma garciaVivienne Summers got dumped by her fiancé, Rob, thrice, yet she prefers to look at it as being “on a break” and is certain he will return to her with the wedding ring and she can finally start living the perfect life as Rob’s wife. Clearly Viv doesn’t make the same mistake twice. She makes it thrice, just to be sure. As much as I wanted to shake her – because, Hello! Girl, you are you blind or stupid or both? This guy is clearly no good and you deserve so much better than this! – I couldn’t help but feel an embarrassing solidarity with her, because even though I’ve never even been close to the altar, I’ve been there. My girlfriends have been there and most likely youve been there, too. Oh you’re a “strong independent woman who don’t need no man”? You’ve so been there and don’t even try to deny it.

So there is Viv, in her crappy “temporary” (whatever you want to tell yourself) apartment, so deep in denial that it’s about to cross the core–mantle boundary of the planet. After all he just needs time to realise he can’t live without her and then he’ll be back. In fact she will show up at their mutual friends’ wedding looking fabulous and show him what he’s missing. (Oh boy…) And then he calls and tells her he’ll be with someone and for a moment I was really sure she had seen him for the bastard he is (even if we’re only on page 55 of 339), but instead she decides to bring a date, too (I can’t watch this…).

Enter Max Kelly, a six-foot-two, scruffy, dark curly-haired, poetry writing, motorbike riding, guitar playing, Irish painter, who happens to be Vivienne’s best friend. (Viv, is he single? Why is he single? Can I have his number? Oh my God, what happened to your hair?!) Five minutes  with Max and it’s already plainly obvious he’s in love with her and mercilessly friend-zoned. (Oh please. Yeah sure, Viv, he’s not friend-zoned. And Guantanamo Bay is an all-inclusive holiday resort.)

Let’s skip to the wedding and Rob’s someone, an urban goddess shrouded in class and sophistication. (I understand you need a drink, Viv, but I really don’t think that’s a good idea. Oh that’s definitely a bad idea… Max, do something!)

The next several chapters are spent anaesthetising the previous chapters with vodka, champagne or a near lethal combination of both, breaking every glass in the flat and crying herself in to a stupor, achingly familiar to that time I spent a Saturday in bed with a bottle of wine and half a rainforest worth of tissues bemoaning a guy who dumped me via text message (Wait. What? I admit nothing.) In my mind I unconsciously start singing All by myself…

In the meantime she starts a website about heartbreak (because there seem to be a lot of brokenhearted people on the internet), while trying to keep her own head as well as that of her dim-witted assistant above water as they both are at danger of losing their jobs. And worst of all everyone around her seems to find sex or love or even worse…both. Even her nana! Is there anything worse than lovesick people all around you when you feel like your heart has been dug out of your chest cavity with a spoon? And then she picks up her last stuff at her ex’s house, her ex-house, which has been re-decorated by his now fiancée and she’s fighting with her best girlfriend (Here, Viv, you definitely need this drink more than I do.) and the hurt is so great she would do anything, anything, to not feel it even if it’s for a span of 30 seconds and Max is there like a gorgeous, rogue,Irish morphine patch and she surrenders to it (I don’t blame you, Viv. I resent you slightly, but I don’t blame you) and for a little while she can breathe again, but then Rob returns from their “break” and he’s on one knee and he’s holding a diamond ring, her diamond ring (Don’t you even think about it, Viv! Do you hear me?!) and it’s all she ever thought she wanted, but why does it feel so out of place in her flat and her life all of a sudden? And where is Max?

A girlfriend gave me this book saying she loved it because it felt so familiar (She has definitely been there). I took it with a smile, yet expecting it to be the thirteenth chick-flick in a baker’s dozen and I ended up pleasantly surprised, because Viv isn’t perfect (Sorry, Viv, I love you but you’re a mess). Viv is you. She is your best friend. She is your colleague. She’s the random girl you’re sharing an elevator with. You laugh with her, you cry with her, you root for her, you scold her. You have imaginary arguments with her in your head and then you make up with her. She’s the voice in your head. She is the worst of you  and the best. She’s iconic. And that’s what makes this book so enjoyable.

Oh and Max is a sweater made out of sexy boyfriend material. (Yes, he’s yours, Viv. Let a girl dream… Get another bottle of wine, will you? Night’s young.)

Book Review never google heartbreak by emma garcia

About the Author

Emma Garcia has completed an MA in Creative Writing at Roehampton University and has published three children’s books (Boxer books). NEVER GOOGLE HEARTBREAK is her first adult novel loosely based around her own experiences of being in her thirties and single in London, of being dumped, getting over it, falling in love and getting married. She has worked as a waitress, technical assistant, chambermaid, sandwich designer, product manager, illustrator and teacher, and spent a long time travelling and working in Asia.

She lives in Yorkshire with her husband and three children, and is currently working on the second book in the series, OMG BABY.

About the Book

Top tips to get over a broken heart
Don’t embarrass yourself in front of your ex
Avoid sleeping with your best friend
No drunken dialling!
… And never, ever Google heartbreak

After her ex-fiancé Rob breaks off their engagement for the third time, Viv knows she needs help to get over it. And, as she searches through tales of heartbreak online, inspiration strikes – she needs to set up her own website! A one-stop shop for the broken-hearted.

However, the advice she begins getting on it doesn’t seem to be helping her win Rob back. On the contrary, it seems to be pointing her in the direction of her best friend and partner-in-crime Max.

But where is Max when Viv needs him most? Will Rob ever see the error of his ways?
And, ultimately, is there a search engine powerful enough to stop us getting our hearts broken… or to stop us breaking anyone else’s?

About the Reviewer

Thinker. Dreamer. Independent. Observer. Night owl. Frank. Stubborn. Easygoing on the surface, but shy underneath. Prone to sarcastic remarks. Ticklish. Lover of arts. Foodie. Would never exchange the feel of paper under her fingertips for an e-reader. Often talks in references. Could eat her weight in licorice. Secretly suspects her house is trying to kill her and shall deny every accusation of klutzery on her behalf. Is known to on occasion name inanimate objects and oftentimes can’t decide whether she loves something because it’s beautiful, or whether it’s beautiful because she loves it.

J to tha M: What We’re Reading

In Which We Go From Bitching to Snot-Sobbing

2010-10-04-DeadPoetsSociety1989CD2.avi_003839798J:  What’s up today? You’ve had marketing on the brain

M:  Ugh. No fun. Let’s talk fun. What have you been reading – that’s fun. Plus, I’d like to readdress my feelings on the Kristen Ashely Rock Chick books at some point

J:  I don’t know if I’ve read much I could crow about lately

everything’s been just…nice

I read another Entangled Bliss

part of a series or collection by Sara Daniel

Cute

M:  I haven’t heard of her

J:  I’d read another that was also cute but the end was laugh out loud while also a little swoony

so I gave this one a shot

and it was just cute

then I read one of the novellas in my quest for the hottest geeks

um, shit

what was the name?

Gaming for Keeps

good. lots of good tension

but another of those where the characters had to out-geek each other with all their nerd references

M:  again, too much of a good things sometimes isn’t good

That’s exactly what I ran into with the Rock Chick series

J:  nope

really he was an alpha who knew a lot about geeky things

M:  ohh, yeah, that’s not a true geek hero

although an alpha who knows geeky things sounds pretty good to me

J:  oh well

siiiigh

you know what I want

that guy who’s adoring and tongue tied and maybe a terrible dresser

M:  haha

we have such different tastes

J:  but underneath he’s strong and funny and a perfect partner

and he says those things that make you swoon inside because you know it’s not a line

you know it’s exactly what he means

and that he had to really work hard to get the words out, to put himself out there

and he loves fiercely, though shyly

yeah

anyway

Rock Chick and too much of a good thing

M:  haha

yeah, but actually too much of the exact same thing

exact

same

thing

and I mean, the same scene, setting, dialog – almost letter for letter

just different book title and different character names

I guess I should have figured when I noticed all the books have almost exactly the same cover, just different colors

and that exactly reflects the contents

bottom line is, I read I think through the sixth or seventh one in the series

and I did enjoy enough to buy at full price and keep reading

but I facekindled when I got to that exact same dialog and setting and topic scene

word for frickin word

J:  *grumble*

it’s the same thing Evanovich did

M:  well, it’s worse than Evanovich

at least with Stephanie Plum, it actually IS the same character, so acting and talking and using the exact same style is acceptable

J:  oh!

these are all different Rock Chicks?

I assumed it was all the same character

M:  these books are all about different characters, but they all act exactly the same. the writing style is exactly the same. their speech patterns and thoughts, actions and words, behaviors

all exactly the same

oh yes, each book is about a different couple

well, different names. slightly different situations – but only slightly

J:  I felt Evanovich’s other series were Plum in different places with different names

the Motor Mouth and the whatever the one with Diesel is

I didn’t even finish the one book I picked up

and I frickin’ LOVED Plum for a long long time

M:  yes, she does have a style. and style is okay. The Rock Chicks were Exactly The Same

J:  wild

I hate that for you. You were so into it

M:  yeah, the first one in the series was awesome. the second one was great. Even the third I really liked

but I was starting to think…weird. all these couple argue about the same thing, in the same way, with the same behavior and habits and ticks and thoughts and ideas and…

wait a minute

it is all the same

AND THEN

I read about the newest and supposedly last book of the series that just came out this week

and I heard she did a self insert into the book

J:  oh nooooooo

M:  oh yes nooooooo

J:  Clive Cussler!

M:  yes

she hinted that one of the minor secondary characters had leaked stories about the Rock Chicks and the Hot Bunch (a whole ‘nother >.< there about that name)

but this character figured they wouldn’t mind or notice (a whole ‘nother plot point that is >.< after she’s built their personalities throughout the series, but okay)

and so this secondary character decided to write books about them, and her pen name is Kristen Ashley

J:  I’m really confused

M:  Yeah. Exactly. So I really think it’s a good idea for me to not read the last one

J:  it’s probably okay if I stay that way

M:  well, I’d recommend reading the first two or four

and I really recommend reading her not-self-published book I read – Own the Wind

a lot of what I found “huh” in her earlier stories was absent in that one

I’m really glad I read that first, and I will buy the second, Fire Inside

and like I mentioned in my mini review thing on Saturday, I loooooved Knight

J:  well, I hope her whole “same story, different cover” doesn’t carry over to other series

M:  yeah. anyway

I’m in the mood for a snot-sobby story

J:  O.O

I’m never in the mood for those

M:  haha – I know

J:  but I’ve heard The Fault in Our Stars is a good contender

or did you already read that one?

M:  I even just looked through Harper Fox‘s backlist. She does great sobby m/m

I haven’t read the Fault book

I want more relationship snot sobby, not I’m-sick-and-dying sobby

J:  I kind of have a hard time picturing you snot-sobbing

not gonna lie

M:  you do have a point there

I can’t think of the last time a book made me snot-sobby

J:  I get teary-eyed over geeky love confessions

so, let’s be honest, a tearjerker isn’t a great idea for me

M:  Not like Dead Poets Society

J:  oh God

I tear up just thinking the title

M:  that makes me ugly cry every damn time

J:  ugh. I cried when the dog died in Grey’s Anatomy. stop.

M:  but I do like reading a snot-sobby that gets a tear in my eye. maybe rolling down a cheek if it’s really good

I think Harper Fox was the last one to do that

No, wait

Definitely Ben Monopoli

J:  ugh

sobs

but I love him

I did sob

you know this

trying not to wake the husband at 2 am ’cause he’d think I was crazy

M:  Ben needs to publish another book

J:  he said he’s working on something, didn’t he?

oh the sequel to Porcupine City

which will take years

yearssssss

M:  let’s go bug him

brb

Book Review: Sweet Sacrifices by Gloria Davidson Marlow

Guest Review by Kerry A. Hartjen

Sweet Sacrifices Is a Sweet Read

Sweet Sacrifices by Gloria Davidson MarlowDon’t you just love it when a book surprises you?

Sometimes the surprises begin with the first line, but sadly, they end there as well. Other times, the surprises just keep coming from cover to cover, and keep the reader guessing what will happen next.

Gloria Davidson Marlow’s “Sweet Sacrifices” belongs, I am happy to say, in the second group. A tale of love requited and unrequited, of mysteries and intrigues, and of layers and layers of family secrets, it kept me not only interested but entertained throughout.

“Sweet Sacrifices” is, at its core, the story of a poor, beautiful young teacher who falls in love with a handsome stranger, believes that she has married him, becomes pregnant, is betrayed by him, and is then coerced into marrying his brother in order to insure that her infant son has a better life, and a better father, than she did.

Oh — and it also turns out the man she thought she had married, as well as his entire family — are enormously rich. And loaded with family skeletons in a variety of closets.

Admittedly, that is a gross oversimplification of the story. But should you decide to read this book (and I really think you should, especially if you like romantic suspense novels), I don’t want to give away too much of the plot.

Ms. Marlow has populated her novel with a cast of characters that seem to grow in depth and believability the more we get to know them. There are heroes and there are villains, of course. But the author rises above the mundane and predictable by giving her characters multi-dimensional personalities. She elevates them from the world of the cardboard stereotypes that populate the books of many less talented writers, into the realm of believable, individual people.

Another pleasant surprise for me was that “Sweet Sacrifices” has an almost gothic feel to it. There is a sense of oppression, of captivity and isolation that is so much a part of gothic literature. There is also the hint, and even the reality, of madness. Things are not as they appear. People may — or may not be — who or what they seem to be. Danger and betrayal lie around every corner, and the danger keeps growing.

That is another thing I enjoyed about this book: the way that the story kept developing, and how just when I thought I had it figured out, the author would throw in a clever twist, some new bit of information that spun the plot in an unforeseen direction. And her plot twists are not just random devices tossed in as a gimmick to hold the reader’s interest. Once they have been revealed, they make perfect sense and fit seamlessly into the storyline.

I love it when a book comes along and surprises me. When it leads me on a winding path filled with growing suspense and increasing tension from page to page, and pays off with dividends in the end, I love it even more.

“Sweet Sacrifices” did all that, and did it very well.

***

“Sweet Sacrifices” is available directly from the publisher at:

www.TheWildRosePress.com

Sweet Sacrifice by Gloria Davidson Marlow

About the Author

Gloria Davidson Marlow is the author of several romantic suspense novels. She resides in Northeast Florida with her husband, works as a paralegal at a local law firm, and spends as much time as possible with her three grandsons. Visit her blog or her website to learn more. You can also follow her on Twitter.

About the Reviewer

Kerry Hartjen is a former magician/clown/actor and an award-winning writer. He is a supporting member of the Horror Writers Association, a former member of the Dramatists Guild of America, West, and a graduate of The Hollywood Scriptwriting Institute. His poem “Homecoming” has just been published in the fourth issue of the online literary journal, HelloHorror.com. Kerry currently lives on a small island midway between Seattle, WA, Vancouver, B.C., and Victoria, B.C. with his wife and their cat, Max. His blog can be found at: www.raviolithewriter.com .

J to tha M Review: What M’s Been Reading

Our scheduled review and reviewer couldn’t make it today, so you get me again.

M Talks Kristen Ashley. And I Like

own-the-wind-2-3_4So, yeah, I’m may be late to the Kristen Ashley club, but boy, I have arrived. I’d heard her name and good things about her stories but never picked one up. Most of what I’d heard rumblings about was her Motorcycle Man books, and to be honest, that only slightly intrigued me. For no particular reason, really, other than I’ve simply never read any motorcycle club books or even watched Sons of Anarchy (although I have listened and grinned at J spouting all things Charlie Hunnan). But then, Ashley’s new Chaos series novel, Own the Wind, went on sale, and I do love a sale on a reputed good book, so I went and checked it out.

You all know how I love a well-written bad boy alpha hero with a heart of gold. Yep, sold. And swoon.

And, oh, Shy was. Swoony and alpha bad boy in all the good ways and a big old heart who loved his woman, no ifs, ands, or buts about it. Yep, I got the starry eyes over him. And Tab was a great strong heroine who stayed true to herself while working to accept growing up and everything Shy was without wanting to change him. I love that, too.

Ashley has a unique writing style that took a little getting used to, but I fell right into the characters and story. The change in POV, and going from first to third in those changes, did throw me a little, but she didn’t use that often and while the technique did pull me out a bit, nothing that really bothered me. Also the time skipping ahead, the chapter and section breaks starting with “Three months later…” “Six Weeks later…” Wish that could have been smoother, but overall, very minor pulls out of the story and the story and characters were well worth the read.

I enjoyed the way Ashley handled the character growth while keeping true to their personalities and who they were at the core. A refreshing change from many romance plots, where often the alpha hero tuns into a whipped pile of whatev to prove he loves the heroine, or she becomes a doormat because he’s so hot. Both Shy and Tab did things they came to realize were mistakes, accepted their own failings as well as the others’, dealt with them, and moved on. Ashley is able to show you both sides of a situation, put you right in a character’s head and make you feel  their thoughts and actions are the right ones, then make you see the errors of their ways right along with that character, see both sides, balance and deal with them, and then move forward right along with the hero and heroine.

I also really liked the way she handled the “outing” of Tab and Shy’s relationship. They tried to keep their burgeoning feelings quiet to settle in and be comfortable themselves first, but when they are inevitably found out, instead of groveling for everyone’s forgiveness, Ashley had them handle it head on, stand up for themselves, point out how it’s no one’s business who they sleep with, they have no obligation to tell everyone who they’re sleeping with, and it’s no one’s place to make judgements about what they choose to make common knowledge about who they’re sleeping with. Bravo! So refreshing and yay! And even better, Ashley addresses both sides, showing how their friends and family could still be upset- and make that sound reasonable, too – that they felt they should hide their relationship for any other reason that those Tab gets into their shit about. I was cheering the whole way through that scene. I love getting pulled in and taking a side of one character, only to have the author skillfully show the other side, and have you cheer for them, too, and then take in the entirety of the whole situation. I wish we all had that ability in real life, and I don’t just mean writing about it.

So, yeah. I loved Own the Wind and will definitely by the next in the series, Fire Inside, and then go buy the precursor, the Dream Man series.

6538757What I did buy after finishing was another Kristen Ashley book that was on sale, Rock Chick. I liked this one, too. Reminded me of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series, but better, and Linda Howard’s To Die For. Light, silly, sexy, and fun. Ashley gives great bad boy alpha heroes. I’ll definitely continue on with this series. Each features different characters but includes old favorites, and they sound just as sexy-heroed and fun as the first.

And then. Looking through more of Ashley’s back list, what do I see? A series of anti-heroes? Be still my heart. I mean, I love a well-written bad boy alpha hero, but a bad boy alpha anti-hero? My excitement and joy knew no bounds. So, I bought Knight, and oh yeah. Very nicely done. Sexy and uncomfortable and wow and amazing and holy shit all in one. Not for the faint of heart, but if that’s your kink like it is mine, you’re in for a ride. I’m still a hot mess and conflicted and loving it all at once.

41S8guclCULAshley shows great versatility in her ability to go from a tough guy motorcycle club, a light hearted comedic romp, and a darkish erotica, although her heroes have a strong common thread of that bad boy dangerous alpha. Her unique writing style quirks and dialog style remain a little too similar throughout the 3 1/2 books I’ve read so far despite the vastly different sub-genres. That hasn’t really bothered me too much yet as it is different, fun, and sexy, but we’ll see as I read more into her backlist.

With more than twenty books in her backlist, I think you’ll find one that intrigues and I definitely recommend giving her books a shot if you haven’t already. If you have, give J and I your thoughts on what you’ve read and what you’d recommend a latecomer to the Kristen Ashely fanclub.

About the Author:

Kristen Ashley was born in Gary, Indiana, USA and nearly killed her mother and herself making it into the world, seeing as she had the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck (already attempting to accessorise and she hadn’t taken her first breath!). Her mother said they took Kristen away, put her Mom back in her room, her mother looked out the window, and Gary was on fire (Dr. King had been assassinated four days before). Kristen’s Mom remembered thinking it was the end of the world. Quite the dramatic beginning.

Nothing’s changed.

Kristen grew up in Brownsburg, Indiana and has lived in Denver, Colorado and the West Country of England. Thus, she’s blessed to have friends and family around the globe. Her family was (is) loopy (to say the least) but loopy is good when you want to write. They all lived together on a very small farm in a small farm town in the heartland. She grew up with Glenn Miller, The Everly Brothers, REO Speedwagon and Whitesnake (and the wardrobes that matched).

Needless to say, growing up in a house full of music, clothes and love was a good way to grow up.

And as she keeps growing, it keeps getting better.

J to tha M: What We’re Reading

Too Much (or Not Enough) of a Good Thing?

medium_5795161232J:  I’m trying to think of the stuff I’ve read lately

My nerd kick led me to Nerd in Shining Armor

ehhhhh

and Love Kinection

better than ehhhh but still not everything I ever dreamed of

I should actually say Shining Armor was cute

but not what I expected

and the author of Love Kinection took too much pride in the nerdiness, but the story was pretty cute

M:  Oh yeah? I like the titles

J:  It was just a big dump of the geekiest things the author could think of

like she polled people for ideas and then threw them all in there

pop culture references galore

you know how I feel about those

besides dating a book…

I mean, there was Buffy, Star Wars, Star Trek,

stuff I’ve never heard of, comic books, nintendo, nerdy references that only nerds get, joss whedon, conventions. it never ended

that was Love Kinection

cute story. cute hero

too much nerd

M:  it’s a fine balance, like the alpha bad boy/alphahole. Too much is sometimes…too much.

J:  yeah. I would have loved the story otherwise

and the Nerd in Shining Armor was like “what else can we get these guys into?”

psychic brother, psychotic boss, heroine from the hills of Tennessee (little offensive there, too, though I know there are people like that here), color blind hero, set in Hawaii, plane crash, overprotective mother

the hero was adorable, just as I’d hoped

and adoring, like the shy guys are

but I sighed a lot

M:  I finished the Alpha Bad Boys 7 book pack – 99 cents when I bought

I liked the Olivia Cunning stories, I’d read her again

and Shayla Black’s story was good. Worth buying for those three stories alone

Started out good with those, but the rest I pretty much skimmed through

like, major skim

J:  assholes instead of alphas?

M:  snoozeholes

J:  hahahahaha

M:  the stories from the third one on did not hold my interest

not so much alpha or enticing

I mean, I was expecting some serious, bordering-on-alphahole heroes, and none of them really were

I was a bit disappointed. Maybe my idea of alpha bad boys differs, though, so…

J:  I can’t handle alphaholes

M:  I like a certain amount of arrogant alpha

as long as they have a good heart

these weren’t heroes I’d pull together specifically for a collection of that title, but that’s me

and there is a difference between an alpha bad boy and an alphahole

so there’s that

but these were just…romance heroes

and not that they weren’t good heroes, but just not what I get excited about when I think of alpha bad boys

J:  I feel like I’ve read more than just the geek ones lately…hmmm

M:  I read a couple of Entangled Brazen that were/are on sale to celebrate their birthday

all were pretty good

Game for Marriage by Karen Erickson – football player hero marriage for convenience/bolster his reputation. I’ve read a few by her lately and they’ve all been pretty good

Officer Off Limits by Tessa Bailey – hostage negotiator hero who falls for his boss’s daughter, forbidden romance angle. I’d read more of her stuff

I started One Night with a Hero by Laura Kaye, military hero one night stand turns into next door neighbor and related complications

only a little ways in, but so far so good. I’ve read a few of hers before, too, and they’re all  solid good-old sexy romance.

J:  Ooh, an Entangled one comes out today about a geek

must go buy

M:  read a couple m/m that were free and pleasant surprises

Reaching the Edge by LM Somerton. On sale for 80 cents

and Yes, Sir – a free short erotic novella that was pretty steamy and decent. I’d read more from both of them.

I read a couple of Skye Warren books, too

they were solid, but very different subject material. dubious consent, non-consent, that very dark side of erotica. Definitely not for everybody.

J:  holy crap. when do you read?

has it been that long since we chatted about books?

M:  I’ve read a ton. the past couple of weeks have been hella stressful and distracting

so I read if I can’t write

the one click ordering is so dangerous

J:  I agree with that. I ration myself

hahaha

not myself. my books. my money

or I’d never do anything

M:  I tried, but fell into the purposeful delusion of “oh, it’s on sale. That doesn’t count.”

and wheee

I can find lots of good books on sale

but I do have a new house and lots of fun remodeling to pay for soon, so…

budgeting sucks

but then, “it’s only 99 cents. What’s 99 cents?”

times fifty

J:  it’s a lot if you buy one a day

exactly

M:  I figure I’m doing good with one a day

I mean, I don’t buy coffees or anything. No Starbucks on the island.

right? heh

J:  that’s how I justify my pedicures

lol

I don’t buy handbags or shoes, so….

M:  yeah, those aren’t my crack

Buying books? Oh, yeah.

Speaking of which…

brb

photo credit: Domiriel via photopin cc