August 18, 2015

Mini Review: Pairing Off by Elizabeth Harmon

Three words: Russian figure skaters! If that's not enough for you, here are some random thoughts that I hope will convince you.

Cover description: On the top half of the cover a man and a woman in winter gear smile at each other and are about to kiss; on the bottom half of the cover and a pair of figure skater are on the ice. The background is red.
The good:

The leads, Anton and Carrie, are smart, kind people who know what they want and work hard to get it. The hero is sweet and vulnerable; the heroine is self-aware and driven. Despite what the prologue suggests, theirs is a slow-burn romance that’s built on mutual respect and friendship. There are lots of interesting details about figure skating and the sport world, yet they are so well integrated into the plot that they never feel obstructive. I don’t know if the author has ever been to Russia (I haven’t, so I’m not a good judge of authenticity) but the story is incredibly atmospheric and evocative. Last but not least, the first half of the book is filled with amazing tension which makes for an emotional and gripping read.

The bad:

This book has an “other woman” and she only functions in one mode: mean. The hero is in a relationship with her for a huge chunk of the book. He doesn’t cheat on her with the heroine, but he’s obviously conflicted on account of her being so damn evil! There’s some mild effort put into justifying her actions, but frankly, those efforts were about making him look good rather than adding nuance to her character.

August 13, 2015

Friendship and Intimacy in Molly O’Keefe’s Tempted

Cover description: A man and a woman dance while backlit so we only see their shapes, and they're placed against a mountain background.This book is good! I don’t know why I’m so surprised since everything Molly O’Keefe writes is magic, but I don’t like westerns, so I didn’t expect to love this one so much or, to be honest, to even read it. But I bought it on release day to support a favorite author, took a look at the first page, and didn’t put it down until I finished it.

Here’s the blurb so I don’t have to describe the plot:

Denver, 1869  
Annie Denoe has fought hard for her independence. She has a new life and new freedom as the assistant to a doctor, and though she risks both propriety and her safety, she is determined to be happy in a life on her own.  
Steven Baywood is trying to rebuild his shattered life, even though the ghosts of his harrowing stay in Andersonville prison still haunt him. He craves Annie and her quiet strength, but he can't give her the love she deserves. When a tragedy changes everything for Annie, can Steven find peace with his past in order to give Annie a future?

August 12, 2015

DNF Review: Brown-Eyed Girl by Lisa Kleypas

Cover description: a brunette, thin woman wearing a a little black dress, partially covers her face with a bouquet.I really liked all three Travis books, but I was never invested in a potential Joe story, because I always got the impression that Ms. Kleypas had no interest in writing it. That didn’t stop me from being really excited when the new book was announced, however. In fact, I was so excited that I was honestly taken by surprise by how half-assed and under-baked this book felt and by how poorly it fits a series that was filled with larger-than-life characters and delicious angst.

Avery, our heroine, is very good at her job as a wedding planner, but emotionally scarred by an irresponsible, philandering father and a failed relationship with her ex. At a wedding where she’s busy doing her job, she meets hunky, yet tender Joe Travis. He pesters her throughout until they have what she believes (and wishes) to be a one-night stand. But Joe, whose main character trait is knowing best, decides that he wants her and proceeds to spend half the book relentlessly and inexplicably pursuing her. She gives in, he introduces her to his family, she’s super insecure so there are a lot of mixed signals indecision on her part, and… I didn’t read the last 15% of the book, but I bet something external happens to make her realize that what she really wants and needs is Joe. I know this because the previous book had a romantic conflict that resolved itself by a shoehorned external circumstance instead of actual communication, so why expect something different here? Also, the event that forces Avery’s hand is set up early on in the book.

August 11, 2015


I put an exclamation mark there to convey a cheerful mood so it doesn’t look like I’m closing up shop, but I am making a couple of changes to the blog, the first one being that I’m back, kind of. But I don’t want to deal with the pressure of writing the more traditional reviews, so I’ll be posting more round-up posts and reviews that don’t follow such a structured format. Or maybe it will all remain the same. All I know is that I really want to blog again, but I didn’t want to just post a random, surprise review tomorrow after months of silence, so hence this mini-post to give you the heads-up that I am, in fact, back. Kind of.

March 26, 2015

Full Disclosure

By now I’m sure everyone knows that Jane from Dear Author came out as author Jen Frederick. This revelation has caused, and will continue to cause a lot of pain, anger, and disappointment (to say the least). So I wanted to come clean about my role in it.

A couple of years ago Jane emailed me to ask if I would help her with a secret project, when I said yes, she explained that she had written a New Adult book and asked if I would read it and told her my thoughts. I was happy for her, so I beta-read the book. After that, I also read the second book she wrote, Unspoken, and some chapters of books 3 and 4. I never had any issues with her writing a book, and I understood the reasons why she wanted to keep her identity secret.

Jane made a lot of mistakes, though, some of them very serious and perhaps unforgivable, and in hindsight, keeping it a secret was one of them. There were things I didn’t know, other things that I wrongly assumed, and some implications that never even crossed my mind until yesterday. I went from surprise to see DA reviewers feeling blindsided by the announcement, to appalled when I read about the times the books appeared on DA, and felt even worse when I read about the authors loops on the Passive Voice letter. And today I’m heartbroken after seeing the effects this is having in people who trusted Jane and Jen and in people who, regardless of how they felt about Jane and DA, are seeing the community suffer so much damage. I’m sad and disappointed for the role I played in this and for not voicing my concerns. I don’t regret supporting a friend, and I believe Jane always had the best intentions, but intentions don’t take away the pain or make the deception less bad.

I accept the consequences this will have for me, the blog, and my relationships with many people I like, admire and respect. And not only do I understand the criticism and anger, I think it’s entirely justified, and in many ways I share the feelings being expressed. I know this is probably a lousy apology/announcement, and you don’t have to believe or trust me, but I don’t want anyone to feel dismissed by what I’m saying here. I’m no longer Jane’s beta-reader, and I’m saddened by how many relationships have been damaged and for the breach of trust. I'm still sorting out my feelings and what this means for me.

Finally I want to make a few clarifications:

I don’t know who else knew. I made some assumptions that were proven wrong yesterday, but I always only discussed the books with Jane alone.

I sincerely like the New Adult... whatever it is (genre, sub-genre, etc.). I have been critical when I thought the book(s) deserved it, and when I've praised a book it had nothing to do with Jane or her books. You can check all my NA reviews here if you're curious. I've also been talking about NA since before I knew Jane had written a book.

I haven’t read the books Jane co-authored with Jessica Clare, in fact, I learned about them when I saw the first one on Goodreads. I also didn’t know about the Berkley deal until the publisher sent me its monthly ARC email. I say this because I’ve talked about how much I like Clare’s Games series, and I want to state as clearly as possible that those tweets and comments were motivated by my enthusiasm and nothing else. I’ve had a couple of interactions with Jessica Clare on Twitter (most of them were me asking her about new releases), but that’s as far as our relationship goes. I also never promoted or mentioned Jane’s books either here on the blog or in social media; I only mentioned the first one on twitter once during release day and I stated that I knew the author and that I had beta-read the book.
I’m not an author (aspiring or secret); I have no issues with authors who also review; I used to review for Heroes & Hearbreakers, which is sponsored by McMillan, but I stopped because I didn’t have the time. I’ve always been honest in my reviews and online interactions. I don’t beta-read for anyone else, and I have no inside information on any other book by any other author. My relationships with the authors and other industry members I follow go as far as what you see on twitter.

One last quick note: I won’t be online much until Sunday night, so I probably won’t have time to reply to comments until then, but I’m not ignoring anyone and you can always reach me through email. If this post seems rushed, is because I wanted to have it out in the open as soon as possible.

Thank you so much for listening.

March 23, 2015

Because It's Never Too Late: My Favorite Books of 2014

Image description: two open books one on top of the other on the foreground and a stack of books on the background.
Image Credit: Abhi Sharma

I don’t know about you, but I always thought that January  February  March needed more “Best of” lists. I mean, why so greedy, December?  Why do you hoard all the lists? Since I’m contrary like that (and didn’t have time to write this thing in December when I should have and then the months kept passing and it became The Beast to Be Defeated! GAH!!!) and because it’s never too late to annoy people with my choices, today I present you with my The Most Memorable List of Bestest Books that Ever Booked in 2014. It’s not going to be predictable or repetitive at all, so get ready to be blown away by so much awesomeness!

On a more serious note I must say that I always have good reading years, so you won’t hear me complain about having a hard time finding good books or coming up with ten titles to put on the list, but this year my productivity was so lacking and my reading so scattered, that even now, after I’ve had time to think about what I read, what I loved and why, I can’t even find the energy to remember. So memorable is a good way to describe these books, because they were the ones that first came to mind when I was having a hard time mustering the enthusiasm to blog.

December 17, 2014

Romance and the Other Woman: Maybe this Christmas by Sarah Morgan

Cover description: A man carries a woman while they kiss. They are wearing winter clothes and it's snowing.
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

Warning: Unannounced spoilers, proceed with caution.

This post should be my “Best of/Favorites” list, but I just need to accept that, if the list is happening, it will be in January. I read many great books this year, but I don’t have the energy or time to put a decent post together. So instead, you get a review that I’ve been trying to write for over two months, but hey, it’s a Christmas books, so at least there’s that.

Here’s the deal: It is a truth universally acknowledged, that in a series featuring a bunch of hunky brothers, the most compelling one always goes last. This means that even though I loved the first two books (book one being my favorite) Tyler, the final brother, was always there, lurking and tempting us with the promise of a great final book. And although yes, the book was compulsively readable and almost impossible to put down, what started as a combination of anticipation and joy, slowly transformed into a ball of uncomfortable feelings, to the point where I’m not sure whether the unputdownable (<-- a real word, believe it or not) qualities of the book came from my original expectations or from the sheer trainwreckiness (<-- not a real word, sadly) of the story.
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The books reviewed here were purchased by us. If the book was provided by the author or publisher for review, it will be noted on the post. We do not get any type of monetary compensation from publishers or authors.