Thursday, August 25, 2011

Review: Rednecks 'n' Roses

Rednecks 'n' Roses
Rednecks 'n' Roses by Judy Mays

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Well, crap on a cracker. I'm on page 33 and I think I've said WTF about five times already. The plot is that romance writer Amber has inherited a house in the boonies from her great-aunt and it comes complete with a hick vampire. Amber discovers the existence of said vampire when she finds what she thinks is a dead body in the bathtub. It's actually the hero, Rusty Nipple (I swear ta God), and he's not too pleased about her intrusion in his life. Amber, on the other hand, thinks this is the greatest thing since sliced bread and immediately starts plotting ways to turn Rusty from a hick to a more traditional vampire & peppering him with research questions.

Yes, she wants to dye his hair black and convert him from drinking deer blood to drinking human blood. WTF, WTF! She wants him to start eating people?!? What the hell kind of heroine is she? Then, THEN, the reader discovers that Rusty is impotent, the assumption being since he's been converted. But wait! He thinks about Amber and bam! Little Rusty is back and we're treated to this: A single tear rolled down his cheek and disappeared into his beard. “Buddy, you’re back!”

In the next scene that Rusty and Amber share together, Amber begins to enlighten Rusty about all the things he's doing wrong, and Rusty basically tells her that he's the vampire & she doesn't know what the hell she's talking about. You said it, Rusty. I mean, if Rusty was an ethnic character, Hispanic or Black or whatever, and Amber starts 'educating' him on how his 'kind' is supposed to act? Readers would band together and trample this book into the dust.

And it doesn't stop! Amber just keeps being a, a, species-ist? racist?, JUDGMENTAL, person to the point where she shaves off his beard while he's sleeping because "Vampires weren’t supposed to have beards." This chick is insane. And Rusty apparently likes the crazy because little Rusty keeps making appearances!

Then there's a scene in a bar where Amber proceeds to sneer at every aspect of the local culture and doesn't believe that Rusty could've gone to college because "Rednecks don’t go to college." It's only until she's confronted with Rusty's sire, a 'traditional' vampire, that she says, hey, maybe a vampire who prefers animals isn't that bad after all.

I don't know what happened here. I mean, Mays is a good writer. And it's not like the book was littered with grammatical errors or typos. Really, it's all Amber's fault. She's an awful, awful person and Rusty is quite sane, despite his vampirehood. Why on Earth would you be attracted to her, Rusty? WHY?

I'm giving this two stars because maybe it's supposed to be tongue-in-cheek and I just completely missed that. Or maybe Amber should just be beaten with a tolerance stick. You decide, or just save your money and read the Ellora's Cave 'Heat' series instead.

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Perception, me, and Erin McCarthy's Flat Out Sexy

This is not a traditional review. I put off writing about Flat-Out Sexy because there wasn't much I could think of to say about it. A decent introduction to the series, interesting bits of NASCAR stuff here and a story that made sense. Woohoo. Don't you wanna run right out and grab it? It's better than I'm making it sound, buut something happened last night that made me re-evaluate how I saw the book.

An online friend of mine is a very talented artist and she's working on drawings for a new show. She showed me a rough draft of a take on Red Riding Hood and I said, in my own bluntly honest way, "I love it all but the nose. It's disproportionate." She's known me for a while so instead of being all "well, screw you and the broom you flew in on," she just said, "Thanks. But some people do have big noses."

And I thought about that statement. I enlarged the picture. Looked at it. Shrunk it. Looked at it again. And came to the conclusion that I still felt it was too big. However, I had to question why I felt that way. I realized that the rest of the drawing is perfect. The clothes are gorgeous, the background is evocative, and the feeling of wariness that the subject is experiencing just wafts from the drawing. Her face is beautiful, her eyes seem real, and then there's that nose. I've seen a lot of my friend's work and I expect every new piece to be beautiful. To have a so-called ugly element was jarring to me and my assumptions of what her work should be. In short, my perception of what I thought the work should be colored how I looked at it and, you know what? Some people do have big noses.

In Flat-Out Sexy, the hero, Elec, was a dumbass teenager and wound up with a STD. It wasn't caught in time and he wound up sterile. He can't have kids. He wants 'em, but he can't have them, which is why he views Tammy and her kids as a perfect situation for him. I really liked Hunter and Parker. In fact, in a perfect world, they'd get their own books someday. Parker, her son, reminds me of Harry from Jennifer Crusie's Bet Me, but I digress. McCarthy doesn't make light of Elec's sterility, but neither it is a big deal. It's just part of who he is and the life he has. If one of my friends came to me and said, "This guy I've been dating for a while just told me he's sterile," I wouldn't tell her that it's a deal breaker. I'd tell her he's clearly serious about her and she needs to think hard about if she sees a future about him. Of course, if they'd been dating for a week, I'd tell her to make him wear a condom anyway.

So where am I going with this? Well, I realized that, as I was reading the later books in the series, I was expecting the announcement that Tammy was pregnant. By Elec. Who McCarthy made quite clear can't have kids. WTF, self, WTF? I suspect the problem here is that Elec clearly wants kids and therefore my subconscious feels that a miracle should happen. I mean, I didn't have a problem with Cal and Min deciding they never wanted kids. I was agreeable to the idea and Bet Me is one of my favorite books. However, it appears that my perception of a fictional happily ever after is that the main characters, who've I become invested in, get whatever they want. In Elec's case, this means kids. McCarthy does an excellent job of demonstrating the relationship between Elec and Tammy's kids, and she continues to build on that in the later books. He's a natural born father and he should get a baby if he wants one, dammit! Yet some people have big noses and some people can't have kids. Facts of life. You take the good, you take the bad... (Sorry, I couldn't resist).

To boil it down, apparently my perception of art, whether it be a line drawing or a book, is that it should be better than reality. This makes me a bit of a hypocrite because I've always demanded a logical framework for the books I read. I spent about fifteen minutes once, figuring out how magical powers could be genetically passed down the female line. I made one of those chart things and muttered to myself things like "it would have to be recessive on the x chromosome and the father would have to be a carrier with a similar genetic lineage, but obviously enough generations removed from the original population to avoid inbreeding." I did all that for magical powers, but my view isn't broad enough to accommodate cute girls with big noses or sterile heroes who want kids.

I didn't have much to say about Flat-Out Sexy when I first read it, but it proved to be the catalyst for a dose of self-awareness. This is why I love romances. They're about all different kind of relationships and if you look hard enough, you can always find some truth buried beneath the fiction.

Review: Hot Finish by Erin McCarthy

Hot Finish (Fast Track, #3)Hot Finish by Erin McCarthy
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'm giving Hot Finish 3 stars. It would probably have been less, but I don't want to torpedo the book's rating. The main reason I feel this way is the book's very first sex scene. I didn't like it. I would go so far as saying it affected my opinion of the characters. It's not that I thought they weren't a good match, but I didn't want to hang out with them. I didn't have a problem with Suz or Ryder in the first two books, but their interactions here rubbed me entirely the wrong way.

Ryder calls Suz a 'sexy bitch' after oral sex and McCarthy writes:

"And he used to call her sexy bitch all the time. It was a term of endearment some women might not like, but she loved it. It had told her that Ryder got her and her sense of humor, and he always said it with a grin, a satisfied smile, or an indulgent exasperation." -page 110
This is one of those times when I understand what the character is trying to convey, but I don't get it. I don't understand it. I think it's demeaning and it doesn't even happen again, although they have sex multiple times later on in the book. So why include it at all?

In addition, I found the sex scene between pages 113-119 to be jarring. I think the problem was that Suz and Ryder are basically an established couple. Sure, they're trying to find their way back to each other, but they already have a comfort level as a couple that allows them to be, um, a tad more raunchier than you would expect to find in a non-erotica romance.

Their communication throughout the book was awful. Suz was very defensive and seemed to treat Ryder worse than he deserved. Ryder seemed bewildered most of the time, like he had no idea what would set Suz off or what to do about it. And I'm sorry, and maybe it's because I'm single, but the big fight & the reason behind it? Suz was running scared and latched onto it as a pretext to extricate herself. Frankly, I found it to be rather immature behavior.

Hot Finish follows the other two books chronologically, so it takes place during NASCAR's off-season. I didn't know NASCAR had an off-season and I also don't know what "intensive training for Daytona" (pg.39) entails. I would've liked to find out. Aside from Ryder's profession as a driver, there was really no other 'sporty' element to the book. It's disappointing all around, but I'm willing to acknowledge that maybe after the awesomeness that was Hard and Fast, Hot Finish simply couldn't measure up.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Review: Hard and Fast by Erin McCarthy

Hard and Fast (Fast Track, #2)Hard and Fast by Erin McCarthy
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have mad love for this book and it boils down to one thing: the hero, Ty, has dyslexia. He can barely read. Ty has created workarounds to hide this fact and relies heavily on his assistant to cover his ass. Yet it's crystal clear, just by virtue of how logical his workarounds are, that he's intelligent. He just can't read. The only other book I've read that featured a hero who couldn't read is Skin Heat by Ava Gray and that hero had mad scientists muck around in his brain (Percy Jackson doesn't count because he can read in Ancient Greek). No, Ty is just a famous, sexy, modern-day NASCAR driver who simply can't read that well.

Ty hides this fact because he's ashamed of it, which I totally understood, given his fame in this day and age. However, I felt like he doesn't dwell on it. He accepts it and moves on with his life. Part of Imogen's (the heroine) appeal for him is her intelligence. Ty feels his dyslexia makes him her inferior, but he goes for her anyway! He doesn't let his disability stand in the way of something he wants. His insecurity regarding the dyslexia does eventually trip him up, in true romance novel fashion, but in the end, he handles it like a man.

Imogen is indeed crazy smart and I could relate to her, especially her angst over her thesis. I loved how honest she was and her disdain for any kind of game-playing. There were several points where McCarthy could've fallen into romance cliche, but she skillfully avoids it by having Imogen using logic and good communication skills. There have been countless times when I've rolled my eyes at some spectacularly boneheaded move on the heroine's part, like not telling the hero about that phone call from that guy or pretending she can do something when she can't. Imogen is better than that.

I would have liked to seen just a bit more on behind-the-scenes on the NASCAR front, although I loved the scene where Ty takes Imogen to the garage to see his car. In addition, the only real conflict comes rather close to the end of the book and, therefore, gets wrapped up fairly quickly. Still, I highly recommend this book.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Review: Slow Heat by Jill Shalvis

Slow Heat (Pacific Heat, #2)Slow Heat by Jill Shalvis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I preferred Slow Heat over Double Play. The heroine, Sam, and the hero, Wade, were prominent in the first book so I already had a good understanding of who they were. The pretext for them to get together was also established in Double Play. You could probably get away with not reading Double Play first, but I feel like you won't enjoy Slow Heat as much as you would.

The main reason I liked this book was Wade, pure and simple. He's funny and charming in Double Play and he's even better here. I adored the imagery of this hotshot baseball player, dressed in a luxury suit, sitting on the lawn and eating a Big Mac. What we learn about his past adds to his complexity.

Sam, by contrast, isn't as well drawn. We are supposed to feel she is struggling to form her own identity separate from her father and her family. However, she already feels like a pretty distinct character so the tension there is lost. I did love the relationship she develops with her nephew as well as Wade's interactions with the kid. I think I would have also liked a skosh more of Sam and Wade as an established couple, especially since they'll be raising her nephew together.

It doesn't appear, at time of writing, that Shalvis is adding another book to this series. That's a shame because too many sport romances concentrate on football or hockey. I found another book at the library, Extra Innings, that I checked out, and I still have Changing the Game to read. I've opened Changing the Game once or twice, but something about the opening chapter is putting me off. I think I don't like the heroine. In the meantime, I'm revisiting Erin McCarthy's NASCAR series. I'm going to another baseball game next week so I'll probably finish the baseball books then!

Ramblings, A.K.A., God, I'm tired.

I am tired, the kind of tired that's a mixture of minor sleep deprivation and boredom. I'd be okay if I had something to keep me stimulated, but since classes haven't started yet, it's kinda dead here in the ILL department.  In about five minutes, I'm either going to start perusing Sporcle for a language-based game or I'll downloaded something from NetGalley.

I should concentrate on filling up my GoodReads reviews, but I'm too tired to be articulate at the moment. It would be all 'Book ok, heroine a little whiny, not enough sports stuff.' Maybe that should be something I do here instead of 5 minute reviews: Reviews in 30 words or less. I'll have to think on it.

I just went to Sporcle and took this clever Typing Test. I messed up a bit because it took me a while to figure out where to look and to leave off the punctuation at the end of the line, but my score was 65 words per minute. A little more awake now.

Heading to Barnes and Noble after work today. My best friend, who used to be a merch supe at Borders until the first round of layoffs, now does receiving there. So I'll be taking advantage of our friendship to pick up Blood Bound by Rachel Vincent (read a .pdf of the first chapter here). Since I'm no longer on the front line of what's new and incoming, I'm relying on GoodReads to keep my TBR list handy and FictFact to help me keep track of what's coming out when.

I finished The Chase by Erin McCarthy and I think I'm just about done with sport books for the time being. I still want to finish those three baseball books I have pending, but I think I'm going to try to tackle some new stuff next. I have a slew of things out from the library, including two YAs I wanna read: Forgotten by Cat Patrick and White Cat by Holly Black. White Cat's been out for a while, but YA always fell low on the priority list while I was Romance Expert-ing. I've been seeing good things about Forgotten so I made sure to snag it the last time I went in.

A coupla more things before I get up to stretch my legs and try to the juices flowing. Let's do it in list format because now I'm feeling lazy.
  1. It appears I am, in fact, done at Borders. I will remain 'on call,' but it's unlikely I'll work again as the liquidators are making a very big push to increase sales. They definitely want to be done by the end of September. 
  2. If you have any saved personal information, like a credit card or email, at, us employees suggest you delete it ASAP. Customer information is up for sale right along with the website.
  3. Also, if you haven't already twigged to the pattern, the liquidation prices drop every Thursday or Friday. If there's nothing in particular you want, you're better off going on Monday-Wednesday as there's less chance of a crowd.  The warehouse is empty now so whatever product the store has, that's all it's going to get. The stores never got anything that was published after liquidation was announced so if you're looking for new books, you're SOL. Use this opportunity to boost your backlist reading  or replace old copies that may be falling apart.
  4. Barbara Vey has a statement about Sandra Hyatt, written by the Romance Writers of New Zealand, up at her blog. No real new information, but it has everything in one spot now. 
  5. I think the GoodReads glitch is mostly fixed now, but I'm going to be hand-posting reviews for the time being, at least until I finish the sport romances. Follow @lionessbkshelf to get a tweet when a new entry goes up. 
  6. There's 8 days left to enter my Cynthia Eden giveaway!

Review: Double Play by Jill Shalvis

Double Play (Pacific Heat, #1)Double Play by Jill Shalvis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Double Play is more, how do I put this, serious-ish than Kate Angell's Richmond Rogues books. Angell's books have a more light-hearted tone than Shalvis's books.

Double Play focuses on two of the more potentially negative aspects of baseball: the relationship between the players and the media, and the usage of performance-enhancing drugs. The heroine, Holly, is a reporter/blogger doing a feature on the hero's team. The hero, Pace, basically wants nothing to do with her. *gasp* Conflict!

Angell does a better job of incorporating baseball scenes, but Shalvis demonstrates that the media can be a double-edged sword for the media. I liked the fact that Holly made friends with the players, but she wasn't about to compromise her ideals. I would've liked a bit more emphasis on her isolation so that when she finally decides to set down roots, it had more impact.

Pace doesn't want to talk to Holly and feels the need to hide pieces of himself from her, but, by extension, he is also hiding them from the reader. As a result, we don't get to know him as well. Shalvis touches on his relationship with Tucker and Redd, but Pace's strongest and clearest relationship in the book is with Wade.

< spoiler >I wanted to see how Tucker and Redd were woven into the fabric of Pace's life to heighten the tension of the eventual revelation that Tucker and Redd were supplying the players with the drugs. Tucker was indirectly responsible for the black mark on Pace's record and I wanted the sense of betrayal to be dripping off the page. < /spoiler >

I'd classify Double Play as a bit better than Angell's books, just because it focuses on one couple and has more of a linear story. However, it's worth noting that, despite their common baseball theme, Angell and Shalvis are very different authors.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Sandra Hyatt

I did a really crappy  review of Under the Mistletoe by Maureen Child and Sandra Hyatt back in June as part of my attempt to read most of the RITA nominees. I don't read a lot of categories, and I'm pretty sure this is the first  Sandra Hyatt book I've read.

Sandra Hyatt passed away suddenly on Sunday evening, NZST, while attending the Romance Writers of New Zealand conference. According to a post on the RWNZ's Facebook wall, the cause of death was ateriovenous malformation (AVM), which is usually remains undiagnosed until after death.  The RWNZ also posted on Sandra's Facebook wall with funeral information. Fans of the author are also leaving condolences  for her family on the wall as well.

It feels like there has been a lot of surprising passings in the romance community lately. Debbie Macomber's son passed away in early August. Beverly Barton died suddenly in April of heart failure. I also somehow missed the fact that Jennifer Rardin died on September 20, 2010 and I didn't find out until the beginning of this year.

However, I think the reason this untimely death has captured my attention because of this exchange on Twitter. Sandra's last tweet, at 2:54pm on August 17th, reads:
Off to pick up from the airport, who's just flown forever to get to NZ.
Sue tweeted at 6:39pm that same evening, including a TwitPic that showed Sue & Sandra grinning into the camera, backlit by bright New Zealand sunshine.

That picture resonated with me because, thanks to my google-fu, I get the impression that Sandra really enjoyed writing and loved the romance community. She was excited and looking forward to the conference she was about to attend. Sandra had a handful of books under belt and was presumably writing or getting ready to write more. She seemed happy. But one day she's smiling in the sunshine, three days later, she's gone.

I hope Sandra really was happy and that she leaves behind no regrets. Blessings and good wishes for her family in their time of grief, and sympathy to everyone else left behind.

Review: Sliding Home by Kate Angell

Sliding Home (Richmond Rogues, #4)Sliding Home by Kate Angell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a re-read for me. I saw it at the library when I went to pick up Strike Zone and I figured, 'Eh, why not?' Now that I've read it directly after Strike Zone, the improvement in Angell's writing is clearly evident.

Once again, there are two couples featured in the book. Kason and Dayne are the primary couple, reinforced by the cover blurb. The secondary couple is Revelle and Rhodes. In Sliding Home, Angell does a much better job of keeping the couples apart and of allowing the primary couple to be at the forefront for most of the book. I really liked the male characters. The antagonistic relationship between Psycho and Kason was excellent. It was nice to see them act like adults to get the job done, but not automatically become buddy-buddy.

The strongest parts of the books are, in my opinion, the baseball scenes. This time around, we get a look at the promotions office and a small glimpse on how an athlete ends up advertising for a company. The owner of the team cracks the whip a bit and how injuries affect a team. I also liked the fact the team spent most of the book on a losing streak. It felt real, given how many 'veterans' were injured. In addition, it was a clever way to introduce a new batch of characters.

I have a total craving for more baseball romances now. I will have to see if the library has the Jill Shalvis books and I found Boys Of Summer on Amazon. Changing the Game is also in my TBRs, but maybe I'll re-read Erin McCarthy's NASCAR series. The one good thing about losing my job at Borders is that I have a lot more time to read now...

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