So I took a little detour with my reading this month. I've been doing a lot of nonfiction reading lately. One day my sis, Dani Wade, sent me a text: "Go get this book!" The book? Writer's Doubt: The #1 Enemy of Writing (and What You Can Do About It) by Bryan Hutchinson. And you know what? She was 100% right.
Derek Brighton has become one of Dallas’s finest detectives through a combination of discipline and obsession. Once he has a target in his sights, nothing can stop him. When he isn’t solving homicides, he applies the same intensity to his playtime at Sanctum, a secretive BDSM club.
I finally got in a little reading last weekend! Reading is one of the things that falls off my list when I struggle to find time for everything, but I took a Saturday for myself and read Stephen King's Cell from cover to cover. What did I think? Well, as a romance author, I have to say my reactions were mixed. Artist Clayton Riddell had been in Boston negotiating a successful deal to sell his comic book project. His joy at finally hitting it big is shattered by an event called The Pulse which causes all those who were using their cell phones at the time of The Pulse to become zombies attacking and killing anyone in their way. Fortunately for Clay, he does not own a cell phone. In the panic to get out of Boston and find his way home to his wife and son in Maine, he is joined by Tom McCourt, a man he meets in the meleé immediately following The Pulse and a young girl, Alice, who they rescue from being killed by one of the “crazies.” The story follows their terrifying journey, avoiding capture—and worse—by the “crazies” who are beginning to “flock” and are led by one they call Raggedy Man as they attempt to reach Maine and a place called Kashwak which they hope will be their salvation.
This is the first Stephen King novel I've read. It's been something on my to-do list for a long while, but other than reading On Writing, I haven't delved into his writing. I've seen almost every movie version, though. :) And since I began reading the books of Jonathan Maberry (and enjoying them immensely) -- and since it was a book on hand (my daughter had a copy) -- I decided this was a good start.
The story itself, I really did love. It was exceptionally well plotted, the characterization was spot on, and the ability to make even the smallest, most repetitious actions interesting was phenomenal. King has long been lauded as a master author, but I did not realize quite how seamlessly that skill played out on the page. I didn't necessarily care about the characters immediately, but I wanted to understand what was happening to them. They were interesting, and as time went on, I found myself rooting for them, living through their eyes, feeling what they felt despite the sparsity of language.
And that was where I wavered.
I've heard it said that King abhors adjectives and adverbs. I did find them used only rarely. King's style is bare, almost more of a report than a retelling, though what he is reporting are thoughts and feelings. Descriptions aren't flowery or overstated, but the details King chooses to focus on bring the entire scene to life. They're just right. It's very interesting -- and very different than what I was used to. The romance genre doesn't work that way, and I think a romance novel written in this style would never have worked. And yet, with the subject and the genre of Cell, King's style enhanced the other elements of the story instead of taking away from them. He let us focus in on what was important, not everything around us in the story.
Oh, one caveat: Cell ends on a cliffhanger (and since there's no book two, you never find out what ultimately happens with Riddell and his son, though the state of the world itself is pretty clear at the end). I had a heads-up that this was the case before I read the story, so I was prepared for it. Others who weren't warned told me they wanted to throw the book across the room. :) Be warned ahead of time!
So, did I enjoy it? I did. Not in the way I'd expected, but I did. I will definitely try another, maybe The Stand, since they are remaking the movie version. Next, though, will probably be Lisey's Story (since I already own a copy, and since it's about a writer). But for next month, I'll be returning to romance, I think. I have to switch it up, doncha know!
Hot special ops soldier. Woman in need. A past they'd both like to forget. A passion that makes it impossible. What more could you ask for? I'd put off starting this series because, like me, Lynn Raye Harris writes military/ex-military suspense with a Southern touch. It's hard to read in the same genre you are writing and not have bleed-through, so I waited until Trust Me was finished before starting this series...
And I'm glad I did, because I needed a free weekend to finish Hot Pursuit! This is book one in Harris's Hostile Operations Team series. Here's the blurb:
The last man she ever wanted to see…
Evie Baker’s luck just ran out. Thanks to an ex-partner with organized crime ties, she’s lost her restaurant, her money, and nearly all her self-respect. Forced to return to her hometown and work as a shampoo girl in her mother’s salon, she doesn’t think her luck can get any worse.
But then someone starts shooting at her, her sullen baby sister is suddenly missing, and the high school heartthrob who stole her heart—and her virginity—is the only man big enough and bad enough to help.
Might be the only one who can save her…
Captain Matt “Richie Rich” Girard can’t afford to get involved. He’s already on the verge of a court-martial after a Top Secret op gone wrong, and he’s been ordered to stay out of trouble while he’s home for his sister’s wedding.
But when Evie’s ex-partner turns up dead, staying out of trouble is the last thing on Matt’s mind. He failed Evie once before; he can’t fail her again. If he’s going to protect her from a killer, and find her sister before time runs out, he’ll have to risk his entire future—and both their lives—to do it.
Things are about to get HOT in the bayou!
Suspense can go one of two ways, easy on the romance and heavy on the suspense, or heavy on the romance and easy on the suspense. Harris straddles the fence very well. There's a strong mystery, figuring out why Evie is being targeted, why her ex-business partner winds up dead. Matt has his own worries and family obligations pulling at him, warring with his need to help Evie and, ultimately, to be in bed with her. Instead of Evie being the female in danger, it's her teenage sister who has been kidnapped, and together these two have to figure out what they need to rescue her.
The book moves at a fairly good pace despite the history between the two main characters that needs to be worked out and the cast of secondary characters that populates the small town of Rochambeau, Louisiana (and makes it come alive). That many people sticking their noses into this couple's business while they're trying to hide/solve a kidnapping might have made for a cluttered and confusing story, but Harris handles it well. I didn't feel that "I wish this would hurry up" feeling I sometimes get with contemporary romances; I just wanted myself to hurry to the next page!
The sexual tension between Matt and Evie is strong. I would've like a bit more on-screen "action," maybe, and certainly it would have taken me longer to get over the aftermath of Matt's leaving after taking her virginity than it did Evie (I might've wanted him to squirm on that hook a bit longer, or maybe for Evie to feel it a bit deeper), but then I tend to prefer a darker, more angsty read. This book is lighter but enjoyable, and overall their relationship works well.
I'll definitely be reading book two!
If you enjoy these inside looks into what is on my reading list each month, you might like a new venture I've started with Nice Girls Writing Naughty's reader group. The final Saturday of each month, I'll be hosting the Nice & Naughty Reading Club featuring a romance we all read, then discuss on the blog. For more information and to find out what book we are reading this month, check out my blog post on the site HERE.
For those of you who don't know, paranormal is my first love. And also for those of you who don't know, I run terribly behind in reading! I buy books when they come out, but getting a chance to actually read them? Well, sometimes it takes me a while. So over Christmas, though I haven't read the later books in the series, I was jonesin' for some paranormal and opened Azagoth by Larissa Ione. Now, this is how far behind I am: I read the first of the four horsemen books. (Don't ask me how long ago that was! :) ) I actually own all the books in this series, but that's as far as I've read. I really want to read more, but see last week's post as to why I haven't yet. Anywho...
Why did this book totally do it for me? I'll tell you: Even though it's a novella that relies somewhat on the history of the series (totally readable even if you haven't read the others, though), I LOVED the hero. Why? Because I'm a sucker for a bad boy who seems bad without remorse, but whom we discover, in the course of the story, is in fact the way he is for very good reason. When a hero seems unlovable but we get to go on the journey with the heroine to find out exactly why he is, that's my favorite kind of story! It's the kind of story I try to create in my paranormals, and Larissa does it magnificently here.
Want to read more? Here is the blurb from Larissa's website:
Even in the fathomless depths of the underworld and the bleak chambers of a damaged heart, the bonds of love can heal…or destroy.
He holds the ability to annihilate souls in the palm of his hand. He commands the respect of the most dangerous of demons and the most powerful of angels. He can seduce and dominate any female he wants with a mere look. But for all Azagoth’s power, he’s bound by shackles of his own making, and only an angel with a secret holds the key to his release.
She’s an angel with the extraordinary ability to travel through time and space. An angel with a tormented past she can’t escape. And when Lilliana is sent to Azagoth’s underworld realm, she finds that her past isn’t all she can’t escape. For the irresistibly sexy fallen angel known as Azagoth is also known as the Grim Reaper, and when he claims a soul, it’s forever…
Now, this story is a novella (part of the reason I picked it, so I could finish it in one or two sittings). As I said above, you don't have to read the previous books to understand this story; Larissa adds just enough detail that you can figure out what happened in the past and the various connections, the relevant ones. And Lilliana, the heroine, isn't a pansy -- I like that about her too. Strong men need strong women to stand up to -- and with -- them. The scene where she stands up to her ex was enjoyable too! :)
Azagoth is a must-read and will definitely stay on my Kindle! You can pick up your copy here:
It's terrible when you have to schedule reading time so you can write a blog post. That's what has happened to me over the past few months. In order to write my monthly "What I've Been Reading" posts, I've had to schedule reading time -- not because I didn't want to read, but because I simply didn't have time. I hesitate to go into the "why" for fear of sounding, well, why-ney. :) But the truth is, life's been kicking my butt. Getting TRUST ME out by Christmas has been my number one priority, and unfortunately, my writer brain has not been cooperating. Of course, neither has my kids' sports and school and orthodontist schedules, my husband's work schedule, my work schedule (that's right; I work a day job in addition to writing)... You get the drift. In fact, for a little while I feared TRUST ME would not only be late releasing, but would not release at all. Everyone has those times when the avalanche descends and you wonder if you'll make it out alive.
Well, I have, but only because I made some tough decisions. And one of those was making time to read.
Last month in Birmingham I heard Sylvia Day speak. It was at a readers' luncheon, and of course she talked about reading. Or rather, her lack thereof. She discussed how, when she ended up in a crazy publishing schedule that took every ounce of time she had, she couldn't squeeze in the minutes and hours it took to read. And when it came time for a particular deadline, she realized that the book that was due just...wasn't going to happen. She was done, dried up. Her creativity was taking her nowhere with this story, and she didn't think it ever would. In fact, she didn't think she'd ever write another story. Ever.
So Sylvia contacted her editor and gave her the bad news. After much discussion and pushing off of deadlines, Sylvia said her editor finally asked one all-important question: When was the last time you read? (A book that wasn't yours was implied.) And Sylvia told her, I don't remember. So her editor gave her an assignment, not to finish writing, but to go read. It was the spark Sylvia needed to see the light on her own story and find her well of creativity again. She read other writers' novels, eventually finished her own book, and rediscovered a piece of herself in the process.
As a writer and a woman (mother, spouse, sibling...), I think I fell into the trap many women fall into: that something we find pleasure in is unimportant. My kids spend hours a day playing video games and reading books and watching TV/movies, and I WORK. Day in and day out, I work, because that's what a good mom and wife does, right? But my need to write was going nowhere. And then I heard Sylvia speak and realized, other than my scheduled monthly posts, I haven't read a book for pleasure in...I can't remember when.
For a writer, it simply isn't possible to sustain your creativity without nourishment. And for a woman, it isn't possible to sustain your supportive, positive, hard-working attitude without taking time for yourself as well as others. I knew that, but the tyranny of the urgent was louder than what I knew, until the urgent couldn't be taken care of because there was no fodder for the fire. TRUST ME wanted to be written, but I wasn't giving myself enough fuel to sustain the creative need. We have to feed ourselves, body and soul, if we hope to continue feeding others. I wasn't doing that, but now I am! And it is oh so sweet to find that place of comfort and pleasure again. :)
Reading again has made a huge difference in my life and in my writing. And next month, I'll share again some of What I've Been Reading -- without the whole scheduling thing. I hope you are nourishing yourself too, taking care of you so that you can take care of others. So tell me, what have YOU been reading? What else do you do to feed your soul? What difference does that make in your life?
Many of you know that I finalled in the RWA Golden Heart contest in 2013. While I didn't win, I did have the privilege of becoming part of a wonderful group of ladies (and fellow finalists) called the Lucky 13s. And one particular Lucky sister, Sandra Owens, has an awesome new contemporary romance with Montlake out that I just had to read: Crazy For Her. That he is in love with Dani Prescott, his best friend and SEAL teammate's wife, is a deep secret Logan Kincaid keeps close to his heart. On their last mission in Afghanistan, Evan Prescott is killed in battle. With his dying breath, Evan begs Logan to take care of his wife and child.
It's been close to two years since the death of her husband, and Dani Prescott is living in Asheville, North Carolina with her daughter Regan. When a stalker threatens, she turns to the most dangerous man she knows. Logan Kincaid.
There are many reasons why Logan believes he's not good enough for Dani. His secrets are as dark as the underside of a rock. The best thing he can do for her is catch the stalker and then get the hell out of her life.
Of course, when love is involved things have a way of not going as planned.
When I say Crazy For Her is awesome, I really mean, it was awesome!
That awesome starts with one word -- SEALs! As soon as I saw that Logan was a SEAL, I had to read this book. I mean, who doesn't love a SEAL hero? And Sandra doesn't disappoint. Logan is incredibly tough, surviving a horrendous childhood and watching the woman he loves marry his best friend, Evan. He lives through his friend's death and bears the burden of his guilt over the whole situation as only the strongest man could, with complete stoicism. And even though we're in Logan's thoughts and hear his tender side a bit, we never lose the feel that he is one tough you-know-what. ;)
Y'all know I'm totally hero focused when it comes to books, but Sandra's heroine is just right for Logan. Dani is strong in her own way. She's taken care of her baby by herself since her husband died in battle, she's gotten through horrific grief, but she's finally come up against an obstacle she can't overcome: a stalker who claims to be her dead husband. She needs Logan's help to keep her child safe. Even more important, she needs Logan for herself. The passion between the two sizzles with tension, and when they finally come together, it's not without a few surprises and the most satisfying use of an outdoor patio in the rain that I've ever encountered. ;)
But what's the absolute best part of Crazy for Her? The baby! Or more specifically, Logan with the baby. There's just something about a big, strong soldier cuddling a baby that just...melts your ovaries. :) And when we're in Logan's thoughts and he's watching Dani nurse her child? Gah! It's awesome. I also like that though Evan has died and some time has passed, there's not this sense that he's forgotten. When Dani sees Logan with her child, she can't help but grieve the fact that Evan will never get to hold their daughter. There is a good balance here between focusing on the relationship between Dani and Logan now and remembering the person both of them lost.
So, yes, I really did enjoy this book, and it's gotten some rave reviews as well (not just mine!). I would highly recommend checking it out here, and maybe some of Sandra's other books as well. She's pretty versatile, with historical romances alongside her contemporaries. Oh, and the sequel to Crazy For Her, coming out early next year. (Yay!)
Let's just say, this summer hasn't been the easiest for me. In fact sometimes I thought my to-do list was trying to drown me. :) So to say that I needed a little lightening up was a drastic understatement. And my good friend Gina L. Maxwell's new release, Tempting Her Best Friend, did just that!
If she had to dress like Nightclub Barbie for a few days to get Dillon to see her as a woman and not some asexual being, then that was what she'd do. Anything to ensure success for Operation: Damn, Aly's Hot and I Totally Want To Do Her.
I quoted this line on Facebook too, probably because it almost made Coke shoot out my nose. This is the kind of snarky humor Gina provides -- and that I love. I'm not your typical romantic comedy reader, and I admire those writers a great deal because humor is so hard to get across, but Gina just has the right wit for my funny bone. :) Putting the hero in a Tarzan costume and dumping him in the midst of a horde of ravenous romance readers is hilarious. There's just so much about this book that is fun that I spent most of the time sniggering behind my Kindle while I waited for my kids to finish all the activities I'd dropped them off for around town. Yes, I got a lot of sidelong, oddball looks, but who cares -- I was enjoying a book! I think you would enjoy it too.
And lest you think that humor is all this book has going for it, think again -- the sex is hot and steamy and intimately emotional. Gina is known for her intensely erotic love scenes, and Tempting Her Best Friend delivers on that front as well as it delivers on humor.
Her vision started to blur at the edges until all she could see was the ruggedly handsome face above her. So much like the friend she'd known her whole life, and yet so very different. As her brain struggled to reconcile the old and the new, her body shorted everything out that wasn't necessary for surviving a tactile flood of epic proportions.
She vaguely heard herself repeatedly begging for "more" sprinkled with the occasional commands for "faster" and "harder."
Alyssa had never been one to talk during sex. She'd always thought it was because she wasn't one to lose her composure, even in the bedroom. Apparently she'd just never been given the proper inspiration.
Tempting Her Best Friend is the first book in Entangled's new Lovestruck line, and while I'm the first to admit I don't usually enjoy "category" romance, this book doesn't read category to me any more than Gina's other books do. It's a fun, flirty read with characters I related to, and their journey into love was supremely satisfying to this reader. You can check the book out today (because it releases today -- woot!) at Amazon for only $0.99. The sale price is ONLY FOR THIS WEEK, so get it while you can!
Don't forget, if you’d like to keep up-to-date with all the exciting things I've got going on these days -- besides taking time out to read great books! -- be sure and sign up for my newsletter. I'm not quite as funny as Gina, but I do promise man candy that will make you smile. ;)
I'm a re-reader. As much as I love getting my hands on hot new books, I also re-read books on my keeper shelf again and again. One of my favorite oldies-but-goodies is the Mackenzies series by Linda Howard. Sometimes we think we invented the Special Forces/ex-military alpha-male hero. But no. Linda Howard's men are the epitome of the alpha male -- and they do it oh so well.
There are four books and a novella in this series. In reading order, they are:
Mackenzie's Magic (novella)
A Game of Chance
This family of alphas began with their patriarch, Wolf Mackenzie. He lives on Mackenzie's mountain, and only innocent schoolteacher Mary Potter can pull him away. As loving as he is rough, Wolf teaches Mary a few things not found in a classroom. His sons -- all of them -- are built on the same model. The lone daughter, Maris, is tough as nails and meets her hero head on. The entire family is a force to be reckoned with, individually and as a collective.
It's hard to pick a favorite, but I'd have to say Mackenzie's Pleasure probably tops the rest for me. First, the hero's name is Zane. I mean, really. His name alone is over-the-top sexy. He's a Navy SEAL. Check two. And he's turned on by watching his pregnant wife drink 7-Up. Who doesn't want their man finding them sexy when they're pregnant -- or when they're drinking a soft drink? ;) When Zane comes close to losing his life and is forcibly separated from Barrie, the emotion on the page is off the charts -- and when they come back together? So is the heat.
These stories are still available on Amazon in anthology form, and are worth every penny. If you like a cross between the bastard heroes of old and the not-afraid-of-emotion heroes of today, check out Howard's Amazon page here. She's a master at creating memorable stories you'll go back to read again and again -- just like I do!