A Willful Woman…

Thoughts about books from a romance addict.

More BINGO!

I got the best prize for winning, incidentally — I got to name a square on the next card! See if you can guess which one when it comes out. :-)

My second (top across) BINGO.

7 Deadly Sins: Crosstown Crush by Cara McKenna. I had mixed feelings about this one. It’s very good at explaining a complex kink, and especially the effect of that kink on the unkinked partner. Also — TMI time here — I found it extremely hot. But there’s very little in the way of characterization — couldn’t help comparing it McKenna’s much meatier Unbound — and the ending didn’t satisfy me at all. Seemed like everyone got shafted in some way, and not the good kind.

Heart in Your Throat: Dead Heat by Patricia Briggs. Had a very, very scary scene. I didn’t like some of the previous books all that much, but Briggs is settling into a good couples continuation groove here.

Laughter: Act Like It by Lucy Parker. In my previous BINGO.

OIIA Party Dance: Tangle of Need by Nalini Singh. Has a huge celebration for a previous couple. I really liked what she did what the fated mates thing here!

You Read a Spoiler, A Fairy Died: Through the Storm by Beverly Jenkins. Not too bad a spoiler really, because it didn’t happen the way I expected.

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TBR Update

My thoughts on Carved in Stone are now up at Heroes and Heartbreakers.

A 30 year old book about romances and racism… that couldn’t still be relevant, right?!

 

 

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J is for Through the Storm by Beverly Jenkins or H is for History

I actually started this because I hear Jenkin’s latest, Forbidden, is really good, and its hero Rhine is introduced here. Word is it’s fine to read Forbidden as a stand alone, but there is some interesting background on Rhine, a former slave who is passing for white. He falls out of the story early on, but lingers poignantly in his sister’s memory:

“Rhine crossed her thoughts often. Had he found peace? If she passed him on the street, would he acknowledge her or walk past her with the nonseeing eyes of a White stranger?”

This is also a sequel to one of Jenkin’s most beloved books, Indigo, and the start of a series about the hero’s brothers.

Through the Storm is a Civil War/Reconstruction era romance about a biracial woman named Sable, who escapes slavery and joins a camp of “contraband” slaves which is run by the Union army. The commander of the camp is one of a very few black officers, the charming, wealthy, rakish Raimond LeVeq. Despite some obstacles, they find happiness together while both fighting tirelessly for the rights of “the race.”

I’m not usually a big fan of historical fiction (as opposed to historical romance) which seems to generally focus on long ago and far away politics, war, and royalty. Although this is definitely a romance, it also includes a great deal of history — history which is much closer to our time, and also about ordinary people. I was fascinated by some of the small details that so tellingly show the realities of slavery: for example, the mansion Sable originally lives in was built by slaves to have numerous hidden passageways for eavesdropping, a vital source of information for people who had no voice in their own lives. Sable’s connection to her roots is also a small but intriguing part of the story, as she is not only the granddaughter of one of the Firsts (the people originally captured and sold, rather than born in slavery) but has royal blood. There’s a touch of mysticism to the story that springs from the spiritual beliefs of the Firsts.

As a romance, this is a touch old skool at times — Raimond “charmingly” manhandles Sable at one point — but their relationship is almost entirely consensual and tender. There is a betrayal/Big Misunderstanding but even at his most angry, Raimond never goes beyond sharp words and trying desperately to ignore Sable. The hardest parts to read, aside from descriptions of gruesome wartime medical practices, are the ugly racist attitudes of the book’s villains.

I didn’t love the prose, which is in a very plain, declarative style without much in the way of description. I found it flat and thin at times, and some of my romantic expectations were thwarted. (When Raimond discovers he had misjudged Sable, he doesn’t say a word about it!) The beginning and end are nail-bitingly suspenseful, however, and I enjoyed the cozy in-jokes that develop between the couple, around their sensual “discussions.”

“Looking down, he kissed her sweetly and said, ‘Being parents has cut deeply into our discussion times.’

‘I know. We haven’t lectured each other in over a week.'”

This isn’t my first Beverly book, and even though I preferred Destiny’s Surrender, I have a new appreciation for the way she brings lesser-known history — and happy endings — to light. On to Forbidden!

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B.I.N.G.OOOOOOOOOOO!

When we do this at camp, everyone hugs when we get to OOOOOOO. It’s adorable.

So anyway, there’s a reader bingo game going on and I just got bingo!

My books:

Laughter: Act Like It by Lucy Parker. Very funny, British style.

Red: Carved in Stone by Kathleen Eagle. Red shirt on the cover. And you could say the heroine’s depictions of Indians in her historical fiction made the hero see red. Oh crap, I just realized this was a choice chock full of potential racist faux pas. I swear that didn’t occur to me until just now.

As You Wish: More Than A Convenient Marriage by Dani Collins. A free space for a book I kind of regret wasting my time on. Good plot, but very claustrophobic and naval-gazey.

Hero/ine: Kiss of Snow by Nalini Singh. I like how both characters are very powerful, in their own ways.

Mnom Mnom Mnom : Him by Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy. Not because it’s about two hot guys. Because it’s about purple skittles. Sadly, I didn’t love this.

 

7 Comments »

TBR Challenge: Carved in Stone by Kathleen Eagle

The theme: “We love short shorts.” This is a category romance, though not actually super short. (251 pages.)

Why this one: Dunno, really. I don’t have many categories aside from Harlequin Presents. I’m feeling kind of pressured and this looked like a quick read. It was, though not entirely easy.

I’m afraid I’m gonna bait and switch here. I actually found this book so interesting, I decided to write about it at “Heroes and Heartbreakers,” and I don’t think I can manage two posts. So I’ll just say that it’s an adventure story, and another thoughtfully written Indian man/white woman Eagle romance, and while I didn’t love it, I found many aspects of it charming or fascinating. I’ll put a link in to the post when it’s ready.

 

 

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By Request

Pictures of my inner 12 year old’s office. Sorry for the crappy picture quality. The light and dark lavender of the walls doesn’t come across at all.

Let there be pretty!

Let there be pretty!

 

Matching wall decoration and pillow, made by my mom.

Matching wall decoration and pillow, made by my mom. Favorite Harlequin Presents handily nearby.

 

Curtains by mom, stars by Ikea.

Curtains by mom, stars by Ikea.

 

Craft by a friend.

Craft by a friend.

 

Gotta be pretty everywhere!

Gotta be pretty everywhere!

 

Watched over by Totoro in every season.

Watched over by Totoro in every season.

 

Ugly cupboard, spraypainted by my husband.

Ugly cupboard, spraypainted to prettiness by my husband.

 

And inside... my print TBR!

And inside… my print TBR!

 

Old friends keep me company.

Old friends keep me company.




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Fun With 2015 Stats

I wasn’t feeling gung-ho about doing one of these, but then Jamie of The Perpetual Page Turner set it up so nicely, it seemed a shame not to try. But I reserve the right to leave some a whole hell of a lot of spaces blank, because my memory isn’t what it used to be.



stats

Number Of Books You Read: 313 including audiobooks. (Yikes! This really shows how addicted I’ve been to computer games. My phone died near the beginning of the year; in 7 days of 2016, including several in which I felt too sick to read much, I’ve read 9 books.  I won’t be downloading those games again.)

Number of Re-Reads:  15 (I suspect this will grow in 2016.)

Genre You Read The Most From: Most likely contemporary romance and/or category romance.

 

best

1. Best Book You Read In 2015?

Nonfiction: Neurotribes by Steve Silberman

2015 romance: For Real by Alexis Hall

Backlist romance: Maybe This Time by Joan Kilby. Really a personal choice, because I loved the treatment of post-partum depression in a heroine so much.

2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?

Winter Oranges by Marie Sexton. Such an evocative cover and premise, but I found it very unconvincing as a fantasy, because the emotions of the characters seemed so unrelated to what was going on. I don’t know how it scored so many rave reviews.

 3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read?  

For Real, for reals. I hated the cover (sorry Alexis!) and wasn’t particularly interested in the plot.

 4. Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read (And They Did)?

I don’t really push books much. I know I sparked some interest in Whose Baby? by Janice Kay Johnson, but I don’t know if it led anywhere.

 5. Best series you started in 2015? Best Sequel of 2015? Best Series Ender of 2015?

Series: In the Middle of Somewhere by Roan Parrish. Really looking forward to more about the other characters.

Best sequel — or really, prequel: A Midnight Clear by Emma Barry and Genevieve Turner. Loved the setting and the characters.

Best series ender: Hero of my Heart by Teresa Hill. (I assume this is the series end.)

 6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2015?

Janice Kay Johnson

7. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?

8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?

Forbidden by Charlotte Stein

 9. Book You Read In 2015 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?

Dunno, but most likely a Harlequin Presents. :-)

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2015?

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertallii

11. Most memorable character of 2015?

Henry Page from the “Playing the Fool” series by Lisa Henry and J.A. Rock

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2015?

The Monk Downstairs by Tim Farrigton; I’ll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson

13. Most Thought-Provoking/ Life-Changing Book of 2015?

Without question, Neurotrotibes.

 14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2015 to finally read? 

Too Good to Be True by Kristan Higgins.

 15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2015?

I realized far, far too late that I can’t imagine God ever creating a man like this, and then making it a sin to love him.

From Lead Me Not by Anne Gallagher.

16.Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2015?

Shortest is probably one of the “Shadowhunter Academy” ebooks. Longest is probably Neurotribes.

 17. Book That Shocked You The Most

Fairest by Marissa Mayer; I’ll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson

18. OTP OF THE YEAR (you will go down with this ship!)

What is the opposite of a OTP? I hate hate hate Simon and Isabelle (“The Mortal Instruments”) together. I think they just got paired off because they were leftover and I don’t think they suit at all.

19. Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship Of The Year

20. Favorite Book You Read in 2015 From An Author You’ve Read Previously

The Understatement of the Year by Sarina Bowen.

21. Best Book You Read In 2015That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure:

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2015?

Rex from In the Middle of Somewhere by Roan Parrish.

23. Best 2015 debut you read?

In the Middle of Somewhere by Roan Parrish.

24. Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year?

I’ll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson

25. Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read?

26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2015?

Quite a few, but notably Fairest by Marissa Mayer.

27. Hidden Gem Of The Year?

Sharing Space by Nina Perez.

28. Book That Crushed Your Soul?

Fairest by Marissa Mayer

29. Most Unique Book You Read In 2015?

 

30. Book That Made You The Most Mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?

book-blogging

1. New favorite book blog you discovered in 2015?

2. Favorite review that you wrote in 2015?

First look at Blue-Eyed Stranger at Heroes and Heartbreakers.

3. Best discussion/non-review post you had on your blog?

Also at Heroes and Heartbreakers — the piece on love and ownership in Madeline Hunter’s medievals.

4. Best event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, memes, etc.)?

I know I’ve done some fun stuff on twitter, but it all completely escapes me. :-(

5. Best moment of bookish/blogging life in 2015?

All the support I got after leaving Dear Author.

6. Most challenging thing about blogging or your reading life this year?

Being too depressed to read or blog.

7. Most Popular Post This Year On Your Blog (whether it be by comments or views)?

All the meta posts about disclosure. :-(

8. Post You Wished Got A Little More Love?

None, this year, which is kind of nice. Though also reflects that I haven’t been blogging that much, I guess.

9. Best bookish discovery (book related sites, book stores, etc.)?

10.  Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year?

I completed the TBR challenge every month, and I believe kept to my personal rules each time!

looking-ahead-books-2015

1. One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2015 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2016?

Listen to the Moon by Rose Lerner. (This is technically a 2016 release, but I had an early ARC.)

2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2016 (non-debut)?

The next book in the Diviners series by Libba Bray.

3. 2016 Debut You Are Most Anticipating?

I don’t know of any.

 4. Series Ending/A Sequel You Are Most Anticipating in 2016?

The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater. I think this is the end of the series, and I’m waiting to catch up when it’s all done.

5. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging Life In 2016?

To read and write for fun and only do as much as I feel like doing.

6. A 2016 Release You’ve Already Read & Recommend To Everyone:

Haven’t read any yet.

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I’m Free!

After more than a year, I was feeling really burnt out with doing the m/m roundup, so I passed it on to another blogger. (She listed Alex Beecroft’s The Reluctant Berserker as one of her favorites of last year, so I think it’ll be in good hands!) I’ll still be writing for “Heroes and Heartbreakers” when I have a good idea for a post.

Basically this means I am totally free from having to care about new books anymore! Man, what a glorious feeling! Not that I won’t still be interested in some of them, but I can read completely by mood now.

I’m celebrating by reading Fever Pitch by Heidi Cullinan. :-)

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I is for In Hope’s Shadow aka S is for Shafted

In Hope’s Shadow by Janice Kay Johnson

(Minor spoilers)

This is a sequel to Yesterday’s Gone, an excellent book about an abducted, abused child who is finally found as an adult. Johnson is very good at taking “shocker” plotlines and making them into thoughtful stories that plausibly delve into the emotions of the situation. (Whose Baby, about a mother discovering her daughter was switched at birth, is also very good.)

The follow-up concerns Eve, a foster child who was adopted after Hope’s abduction, and who has always felt like a poor replacement, never truly secure in her parents love. (They aren’t entirely without blame for this, but they do love her.) Her “sister’s” return brought up a lot of jealousy, and it didn’t help that she was found by, and immediately adored by, the cop Eve had been dating. (There are hints of “Laura” — Seth fell for Hope’s age-progressed photo.) As this book opens, Eve has established a friendship with her new sibling, and her remnants of jealousy over Seth don’t survive her blossoming relationship with his gorgeous coworker, Ben.

This was a very engrossing read, and as thoughtful, in its way, as the first book. But I found it a real letdown because I felt that Eve continued to be shortchanged in her own story. Her mother never really acknowledges some of ways her grief impacted on Eve — it’s up to Eve to realize she’s been foolish and unfair.

But it’s her relationship with Ben that is really the carcinogenic cherry on top of the diet sundae. Their first dates make me think of the horrible ones a heroine might go on before meeting Mr. Right. He is constantly hurting her, in a “nice guy” way. And he is ambivalent towards her, and yearning for his e-wife, almost to the very end of the story. 

“And yeah, he felt nothing but relaxed acceptance and even anticipation about where they were heading. He’d succumbed without much of a fight, he realized, in part because he hadn’t liked the bachelor lifestyle. He had no hankering to sample a different woman a week.

Gaze resting on Eve, he smiled. He couldn’t get enough of her, in bed or out.

Only the memory of the expression on Nicole’s face shadowed his mood.”

So… he finally, more than 90% into the book, is willing to consider a future with Eve. Because being a bachelor isn’t that great. And even then, he’s still thinking about his ex.

(SPOILERS) When his wife asks if they can try again, he does reject her, but without saying a word about Eve. Instead, Eve has to say it for him:

“‘Then what did I tell Nic?’

Old fears and new collided with the sense of self-worth she had been accepting — a confidence Ben had something to do with. [How, I can’t imagine.] And… was that a smile in his voice?

‘I think — ‘ her voice cracked, but she managed to steady it ‘– you told her you were sorry, that you’re actually madly in love with this spitfire of a woman who keeps you looking beyond the obvious.’

Ben laughed, the skin crinkling beside his very blue eyes, the creases in his cheeks deepening. ‘You’re right.'”

No, actually, you’re completely wrong, because he didn’t say one word about you.  And after mooning over his ex for the whole book, he really, really needed to.

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TBR Challenge: Miss Chartley’s Guided Tour by Carla Kelly

The theme: A holiday romance. I… don’t have any, at least not in the print TBR. Just not much of a fan. (That thud you heard was Wendy fainting.) A Signet Regency is sort of Christmassy just by juxtaposition, right? Coincidentally, Miss Bates reviewed this one last year.

Why this one: I was feeling depressed over the news and thought a Kelly book would be heartwarming and comforting. I did not pick the right one.

I believe this is the third Kelly I’ve chosen for the TBR challenge, and it’s the first of them I’ve found disappointing. The plot is certainly compelling: Eight years previously, Omega Chartley was left at the altar by the man she loved. (You know this is old because there’s no separate book for her brother, Alpha.) She never knew why; we know only that it had something to do with him covered with blood and horror. When Omega finds her vacation from teaching taking a very odd, adventurous turn, their paths cross again.

There were a number of problems with this one. Although there are certainly instances of Kelly’s way with a carelessly wonderful phrase — “it’s amazing how rapidly one well-brought-up person can go to the dogs,” thinks Omega about herself — much of the prose is kind of spare and awkward, especially in the action scenes. It was also a weird blend of farcical and deadly serious, and it’s hard to say whether there are more implausibilities or plot holes.

And the hero is…  very challenging. Matthew did any number of awful things — as he tells Omega he has two things to confess, “One is terrible and the other no better,” and frankly, I think he was underestimating. It was through weakness and drink rather than overt cruelty, and he is genuinely remorseful, though not so much he doesn’t keep making nasty, unwarranted snipes against Omega when they’re reunited. And I do think he gets a decent, if somewhat understated redemption.

But he only appears halfway through the story, and the second half of the book focuses more on a suspense plot than on cementing the relationship between him and Omega, so it was hard for me to feel the happy ending was truly established. There are some very sweet scenes showing how much he missed her while they were apart, but I would have liked to see more of them learning each other’s new selves.

Although the story has very upsetting elements, it includes many goodhearted characters, including a brave and delightful little girl named Angela. If you’re a fan of precocious children in stories, you’ll adore this.

Addendum: A while after this, I read Kelly’s Season’s Regency Greetings, and that was just the sort of wholesome, cozy read the doctor ordered. (Dr. Cook, of course!) It’s two short Christmas stories about two misfit Regency heroines: one is a proper British governess who is also half Egyptian; the other is a titled heiress who’s just learned she’s actually the adopted illegitimate daughter of a seamstress. Her story is quite heartbreaking, since she’s not only lost her place in life but also the people she considered her parents. Both find amiable misfit men and fall swiftly and charmingly in love. There are sad and even awful elements of the stories, but the overall mood is uplifting.

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