J to tha M: What We’re Reading

We’re Baaaaaaack!

poltergeist_theyre_back1-300x178J:  Yay, M got a new house! I’m so excited for you, I won’t even grumble about how much I missed you

(I missed you)

M:  I missed me, too. Sheesh.

hubs and I have had probably the most stressful weeks ever

and we’ve been through a lot

J:  I dunno… Things were pretty nutty here, too

funny how it all happened at once for both of us

My job loss, your lying sack of crap mortgage guy…

M:  but, we took everything they threw at us and made it work. We were not defeated!

and the new place is amazing, so…

J:  Exactly. We both came out on top. Your awesome house, my awesome list of clients that allow me to be self-employed once more… I have no more complaints. for now.

M:  now, no more excuses not to write

J:  ha!

M:  except for, you know, all the remodeling, the other job, life in general…

J:  life would be amazing

on the upside, we can now carve out some time for writing, reading, and FFYW

I know you didn’t go without books during your absence

I’ve got a list a mile long, so yours is probably twice that

M:  I read a bunch

not as much as usual, maybe

that tells you how stressed out I was – I couldn’t even read there for a couple weeks

J:  I picked up more novellas through my craziness

shorter=finished

M:  I did read a couple good ones. I just finished one I think you’d like – Betting on You by Jessie Evans

J:  that sounds familiar. I wonder if I looked at it already?

M:  hero left and hurt heroine, now he’s back to own up to his mistake and try to make it up to her

I think it’s still free

pretty good. I liked both characters. A little too much of “made him feel” and “making her feel,” but that’s pretty minor

other than that, writing was good, too

it’s a series, and I’ll definitely get the second

J:  oh, I have looked at that one

I’m glad you liked it

M:  I’d rec

and I won a copy of Skye Jordan’s Reckless on Michelle’s blog (MsRomanticReads). I’d had it on my to-read list after seeing the blurb

I really liked. The conflict had me wanting to shake the heroine a little bit, but the story was great and really sexy, and she made it all work.

I very much recommend. I may have to do a review of it for the blog

J:  as you mention, I’m going to goodreads to mark them

I’ve been on an Entangled Brazen kick, I think

I read a cute little series by Katee Robert

Two Wrongs, One Right

Chasing Mrs. Right

and Wrong Bed, Right Guy

all cute

and some stuff by Christine Bell

M:  I enjoyed the ones you rec’d – the two Delphine Dryden ones – How to Tell a Lie and Art of the Lie. I love her heroes. And Friday I’m in Love by Mari Carr

I’ve read a couple by Carr, and they’re good, light, fun reads

J:  I want to read the rest of that series by Carr

but I need to be rich

the Kindle versions are over $5

M:  ugh. I hate that.

oh, Riptide Publishing is having a birthday sale. If anyone is reading Anne Tenino’s m/m series, they’re on sale

I loved the first book – Frat Boy and Toppy, but the rest were pretty pricey

but I may have to sneak in a couple since they’re on sale

J:  Oh, you’ve mentioned those

I’m still not in an m/m mood

M:  those are fun, cute, and sexy when you are

oh, and the last in the CD Reiss series came out on Monday – the Songs of Submission series – called Sing

I was really looking forward, and…it was okay. not what I expected

went down the drama llama route, and I was hoping for the same intensity as the rest of them

so the characters and writing was still as good as the others, but the plot arc, eh

I’ll read more of hers. she’s starting a new series about the hero’s sisters, and the first one sounds good

J:  I did start the first one

M:  I liked. and I’m not usually a fan of the serial thing. I did start reading when 6 of the 7 were complete and only had a couple weeks to wait for the last

but I really did enjoy the characters and story

J:  it’s on my list to read tonight

I fell asleep just after starting.

not a comment on the book. it was 2:30 am

I should have been asleep anyway

M:  I read The Satyr’s Curse by Alexandrea Weis, and it was okay

J:  Okay, you read a lot more than I did

M:  I really wanted it to be really good – the plot was intriguing and the writing wasn’t bad, but…I probably won’t buy the rest in the series unless they’re free or on sale.

J:  Ooh, know what I’m excited about?

Elizabeth Hunter has a new one coming out soon called The Scribe: Irin Chronicles Book One

Not from the Elemental Mysteries

but it still looks pretty damn good

I think October 15

M:  I saw that a while back. I will definitely check it out

J:  impatiently waiting

Let’s see… Christine Bell, Down for the Count

read that one last night

liked it a lot. the heroine was a bit neurotic, but it actually made her cute

and jeebus, Galen

I’m a fan

I want more Galen books

she’s the author of Dirty Trick — sexy nickname for Patrick

M:  good hero?

J:  yeah. he managed to be sweet, hot, understanding, patient. you know. perfect.

it was a left-at-the-altar trope

M:  I do love a good hero

J:  oh, and he’s a boxer

ugh. he gets her a necklace with a boxing glove charm and asks her if she knows why. she says, “because you’re a fighter.” and he says, “No, because you are.”

M:  ooooh, good one

I like

what I don’t like is that it’s raining again. Weird for Seattle, I know.

good for staying in and writing, though. Gonna curl up in my corner and try to finish Rory.

brb

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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: J Brings Up Goodreads

And Off We Go…

medium_6478709717J:  So, what about Goodreads? good or evil?

M:  I’m not on it much

J:  But many readers are. what about readers who go straight to the bad reviews before deciding if they want a book?

how relevant are the reviews on Goodreads as compared to those on Amazon?

Are they even relevant at all?

Does goodreads serve a purpose in that readers can share books with friends the way they would by word of mouth, or has it become useless because of shameless marketing?

M:  I think it’s a balance like anything else

I don’t think bad reviews tank a book–unless they’re ALL bad

It’s hard for authors to read bad reviews–we’ve all been there

but, looking at it from a purely reader standpoint, it’s true that most bad reviews actually help convince me to buy a book

it’s weird, but I think most readers don’t trust the gushy, glowing reviews

what with the pay for review scandal and the realization that a lot of people get friends and family to leave reviews

and some (not all) of the more professional review sites seem to be somewhat…how shall I say..biased toward giving good reviews

J:  It’s hard to give a bad review when you get a free book

M:  I skim through the 3, 2, and 1 star reviews to see if what people are saying are things that seriously bug me

I find those actually more honest and informative for the most part

of course, there are trolls, and they seem to be on Goodreads more

but I think I can tell the difference, as can most readers

J:  I think Goodreads does serve a purpose

in that readers have a place to give honest opinions and writers have a place to share their work

but as with everything, it’s been abused in many ways

M:  yeah. that happens when human beings get involved in a social group atmosphere

and I think it started with the intention of just being a sharing and talking about books you read

but it’s become such a commercial marketing tool, too

and wearing both a reader and writer hat, I can see both sides

but it’s kind of a shame, because now it’s hard to trust any reviews you read–to take them at face value

I mean, we’ve touched on this before. I’ve see author groups where everyone passes around a copy of their book to everyone in the group and they all leave reviews for each other

(and not just Goodreads groups)

and books get a whole bunch of reviews

and yes, they say they don’t expect or require a good review, but…

J:  I agree. In those circles, they’re all often friends

and as much as I tell people your book is awesome, they know I’m your friend

M:  I mean, if you give an honest not-five-star review of a book that didn’t appeal to you, what are the chances other people in the group are going to ask you to read theirs, or want to give your book a good review, honest or not

J:  and there is that

M:  and how many readers who aren’t writers know this is what’s happening? they just see a bunch of high reviews and think they’re from people who just picked the book up on their own and decided to review

reviews have just become goal numbers, like a lot of things

how many followers

and to me, if you’re just looking to increase numbers and improve algorithms, you’re losing what books should be at the core

simply writing a story that appeals, or reading and sharing the same

J:  And also take some of the joy out of writing them

M:  exactly. and reading them

I saw something the other day, where a blogger reviewed a book, and then at the end, encouraged people to go “like” her reviews on Goodreads and Amazon

J:  siiiiigh

M:  so now, not only are authors looking for more and higher numbers, so are reviewers

and I’m not completely naive. I know the great and mysterious Powers That Be tend to look only at those kind of numbers – whether you’re a reader or writer or a whatever it is you do

higher numbers give you more power and influence in whatever world you play in

but it’s still kind of **sigh**

J:  It’s hard not to clamor for them when you know that’s what others are looking at

You want to be above it. outside of it

M:  it’s hard not to get caught up in all that and lose sight of the joy of reading and writing

but I still cling to my version of the fluffcloud that if you write an appealing book, all those numbers will follow

J:  it’s just hard to trust that when you’re not sure how people are finding it to begin with

M:  and I say “appealing,” not “good,” because different people’s definition of “good” varies

J:  sure, one person tells one person, etc.

but Goodreads was supposed to be a way to get it to that one person

M:  an author can scrounge up 30 or 40 5 star reviews from friends or professional circles or whatever, but not 500 or 1000 (not saying that authors with 30 or 40 5 star reviews are doing this, but you know what I mean)

those are the books that I trust appeal to a wide audience

that’s the kind of book I want to write

the kind that as soon as you’re done, you want to talk about it and tell everyone

I love that feeling, and, man, it would really feed my own personal happiness to be able to give that to others

so I try to make that my goal

J:  Well, I tend to think your book rests in that category

but it hasn’t been seen by enough people yet

again. people probably don’t listen to me when I talk about it because I’m your friend

M:  well, thank you. It’s a start, and I’m always wanting to learn more, do better, put more emotional oomph into the next thing I write

I want to make that connection I feel after reading a story that really hits me

J:  the thing is, every book has “issues”

depending on who’s reading it

I mean, Twilight, which I’m prepared to admit hooked me, had stuff that pissed me off. made me roll my eyes or question my attachment

there’s always something

no matter what you do or learn, you can’t make everyone happy

M:  no, and that’s hard to accept, especially when you read that critical review

but what one person doesn’t like might float another’s boat

and it doesn’t always make sense, simply because everyone is different

I mean, I can read two books that have similar issues, whether grammar, structure, plot or character development

and in one book, I can’t get past it

but in another, even though the issues are similar, the story or writing or characters hit that chord

and I can overlook those same issues that made me DNF the other book

so…I’ve just decided it’s magic

J:  sometimes

M:  you can’t necessarily define or explain or reason, but you know when you read if it’s there or if it isn’t

J:  look how much you actually had to say, even though you’re not on Goodreads much

M:  not much was actually about Goodreads, though

J:  Goodreads is just the tool

heh. tool

M:  Goodreads, Amazon, the whole review thing

the whole chasing numbers thing

I think that’s my dissatisfaction with a lot of social media

it’s not about communication so much, but chasing numbers. making yourself feel important, powerful, liked

J:  As long as you don’t let it blind you to the fun

M:  exactly

J:  you don’t have to succumb to the numbers game

M:  but I think a lot of people do

J:  and still use Twitter for fun

M:  if you find that kind of thing fun, see

and some people don’t

J:  I find talking to you on twitter fun

M:  I don’t find talking on twitter particularly fun

sometimes it is

but it just ain’t my thing

J:  no worries

M:  I like talking to you, just not on twitter. heh.

I love chatting and communicating with other readers, writers, everyone

Just not on a forum where everything has turned into something else. Am I using the right words? Good content? The right hastags? bleh.

When I chat with someone, it’s because I want to and enjoy it, not because I should or have to. If that makes sense.

J: Sorry if I knocked you off your fluffcloud. You’re so rarely up there.

M: Right? Here’s my swandive off the fluffcloud

brb

 

photo credit: Arek Olek via photopin cc

Book Review: Lessons Learned by Sydney Logan

Novel Review by Vicki Kay

Book review for Fight for Your WriteSydney Logan’s book, Lessons Learned, has plot lines right out of today’s headlines: school shootings, bullying, and teachers accused of having affairs with their students. All subjects we read about and ask ourselves, “How can this happen?”

Ms. Logan’s book addresses those questions. She writes from the perspective of the witness, the bullied, and the accused. Sarah Bray, who leaves her urban teaching position after witnessing a school shooting to teach at the small town high school she attended. Matt Stuart, the Sycamore High School quarterback, who is bullied. Lucas Miller, a new teacher looking for a fresh start.

Although an interesting idea, the characters were difficult to identify with. I had to stop and check the genre, wondering if it was YA, then go back and check Sarah and Lucas’s ages. Their mannerisms, actions, reasoning, and behavior all seemed more teenager than responsible adult. This feeling was only strengthened as the story went on, as none of the adults reacted in a way I could relate to, not only to the situation playing out among their students but also between themselves.

Sarah’s reaction to Matt’s hints for help and attention were more those of a contemporary, a friend rather than a teacher or adult authority figure. Her interactions with Lucas were also more of an immature teen testing hormones and boundaries. Would two adults really park and make-out in the back seat of a car–two new-hire teachers in a small town who know they were trespassing on property where the owner would strongly object and be on the lookout for such shenanigans? And it was really hard to believe they were so overtaken by lust for each other they would take the risk at that point but then are able to control their amorous activities in private on other occasions as the story progressed.

Sarah giggles. A lot. Lucas’s eyes shine, shimmer, twinkle, and ghost over things. He whispers softly and sadly. A lot. I loved how protective and kind he was, how caring, but I just couldn’t buy into their romance. I didn’t get the intensity of their connection or any real intimate tension.

Okay, those are my personal hang-ups. But would a high school principal really do nothing to protect the safety of a student? If not morally or ethically, then certainly legally, no matter his personal beliefs.

Ms. Logan has put much thought into this book and does a good job of showing what the consequences of your actions or inactions can be. I just wish the characters were as strong as the issues.

Book review for Fight for Your Write

About the Book

A young girl needs to spread her wings, but a young woman needs roots.

English teacher Sarah Bray never thought she’d return to Sycamore Falls, but a traumatic event at her inner-city school leaves her desperate for the sanctuary of home. By returning to her roots, an older and wiser Sarah hopes to deal with the demons of her present and confront the ghosts of her past.

She discovers a kindred spirit in Lucas Miller, a teacher from New York with demons of his own. As the newest faculty members at Sycamore High School, they quickly become friends – bonding through Lucas’s culture shock and their mutual desire to build new lives. When they open their wounded hearts to each other, their friendship effortlessly evolves into romance.

Their love is put to the test when Matt, the quarterback of the football team, shares his deepest secret with Sarah. When the conservative community finds out, Sarah and Lucas – along with the town of Sycamore Falls – are schooled in the lessons of acceptance, tolerance, and love.

About the Author

Sydney Logan is an Amazon bestselling author and holds a Master’s degree in Elementary Education. With the 2012 release of her first novel, Lessons Learned, she made the transition from bookworm to author. Sydney has a very unhealthy obsession with music, and her iPod is filled with everything from Johnny Cash to Eminem. She is also the author of two short stories: “Mistletoe Magic,” available exclusively on Amazon Kindle, and “Stupid Cupid,” which is featured in the Romantic Interludes compilation. When she isn’t reading or writing, she enjoys playing piano and relaxing on her front porch at her home in East Tennessee with her wonderful husband and their very spoiled cat.

Her second novel, Mountain Charm, is slated for a summer 2013 release. Visit Sydney’s website, follow her on Twitter, check out her Goodreads profile, and find her on Facebook.  

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Vicki Kay, who loves to travel but hates to fly, lives in the Midwest with her husband. A dog lover and avid book lover, she has passed those traits to her two daughters, both of whom she is incredibly proud. A former majordomo for a small advertising company, she is now all things grandma.