Book Reviews

First Person Yumminess!

Escort.jpg

I don’t read a lot of first-person point-of-view stories. This is a hazard of being a professional editor in “real life”—it’s very hard not to notice flaws in first-person pov. It’s hard to do well, in my opinion. But oh, when it’s right…WOW!

There is one author I believe is pretty much the master at first-person pov, Skye Warren. Her books are lyrical, engrossing, sexy…everything you could want in any story. But it goes deeper, into the heads of her characters, in a way I’ve never read anywhere else.

I also like that she has edgy heroes, men who aren’t necessarily on the good side of the law (and of course I’d love that—look at Levi in ASSASSIN’S MARK!). Her latest book, The Escort, is phenomenal. I don’t know if you’ve seen it, but check it out. It’s written from the pov of the hero, first-person, and oh my God, I could not get enough of Hugo! I think you’ll love it too. 😃

*And YES, for those of you that are worried, Hugo is indeed a male escort. NO, there is no cheating, and he is not with another woman, on or off the page, after he meets the heroine for the first time. Rest easy! (Now go read it! 😝 )

http://www.skyewarren.co

#Watercooler Wednesday: What I've Been Reading

What better to talk about around the proverbial watercooler than our latest great find, right? I admit that I tend to be behind everyone else on the latest great book -- I spend so much time writing and working (editing other authors' stories), that I don't often get time to dive into a book for pleasure, but this past weekend, laid up with a stomach bug, I scrounged through my TBR pile and pulled out a book that ended up being the best I've read in a while.

Behind This Mask by Meghan March

*

He loves me, and he doesn’t even know my real name.

The limelight that follows him could expose everything I’m hiding.

But even knowing the risks, I can’t force myself to stay away.

I’m going to break his heart, but mine will shatter right along with it.

Will we lose it all when I reveal what’s beneath this mask?

*

Has anyone read this book? If you haven't, go get it NOW. I can't tell you how hard it is for me to lose myself in a book without mentally editing it like I do for my day job, but not here! Meghan does a fantastic job of immersing us in the characters and their problems and quirks and pain and joy. I already have the second book in the series, Beneath This Ink, and I can't wait for a free day to devour it!

Okay, that free day might be a long time coming, but at least I have what I know will be a good book to sink my teeth into when it finally comes!

What about you, dear readers? Have you been surprised by an unexpected romance find lately? Tell me about it -- I want to know so I can go check it out too. A TBR pile can never be too tall, you know. ;)

~ Ella

What I've Been Reading: Dungeon Games

Dungeon Games (Masters & Mercenaries 6.5)Lexi Blake

Obsessed

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.

What I've Been Reading: Cell by Stephen King

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. hardcover_prop_embedArtist 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!

~ Ella

What I've Been Reading: Hot Pursuit by Lynn Raye Harris

HotPursuit_270x427Hot 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!

NGWN Reading Club PicIf 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.

 

What I've Been Reading: Azagoth by Larissa Ione

1001DarkNightsAzagoth_200For 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...

Azagoth.

Lordy.

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:

Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, All Romance Ebooks

~ Ella

Where in the World Is Ella? ~ Part 2

We continue my trip around the blogging world with a few more visits this week. Check it out -- and don't forget, some giveaways are still open! Christmas-003Babbling About Books

Katiebabs is graciously hosting me on November 7th to discuss my take on the "write what you know" mantra for writers. You get to see how much of Teach Me really is "what I know." :)

BlogButton_zpsf8c811b9Ramblings from this Chick

I visited RftC to talk about why we love tough-guy heroes. Soldiers (like Conlan), cops, firefighters, MMA fighters...why do these tough heroes make us weak in the knees?

RftC is also hosting a giveaway, a copy of Dirty Little Secret and Naughty Little Christmas -- it's two books for one entry! :) Giveaway ends November 14th, so check it out ASAP.

JRSHeaderJust Romantic Suspense

On Just Romantic Suspense, I'm talking villains instead of heroes. What makes a good villain? What makes my villains perfect to hate?

What I've Been Reading: Crazy For Her by Sandra Owens

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. ella sheridan, author, writer, romance author, erotic romance, contemporary romance, romantic suspense, sandra owens, crazy for herThat 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!)

~ Ella

Dirty Little Secret Reviewed by LaSR

5 Star Rating LASRA great new 5 STAR review from Long and Short Reviews for Dirty Little Secret! "This story completely captured me from the very beginning and kept my attention until the very end. Cailin has a naughty side that no one but Alex ever got to experience, and once he got a taste, he did not want to give her up. I can honestly say that the relationship between those two was something out of my fantasies."

See Peppermint's full review here:

Dirty Little Secret by Ella Sheridan.

~ Ella (or One Very Happy Author :) )

Want To Read Teach Me Early?

ella sheridan, author, writer, romance author, contemporary romance, erotic romance, romantic suspense, Teach Me, Advance Review Team, book reviews, new releaseTEACH ME, the first book in my Southern Nights series, releases October 28th. I’m anticipating that day almost as much as the arrival of my firstborn -- okay, maybe not quite that much; she was two weeks late, after all. :) But this is a very exciting day, and I need help making it truly spectacular — and you can help me do that! How? By joining my Advance Review Team.

That’s right: ADVANCE. You get to read Teach Me before it actually releases. What do I require in return? Only one thing: an honest review posted on release day.

That’s it.

Interested?

Awesome! Here’s what you do.

1. Sign up for my newsletter if you haven’t already. Only members of my mailing list get the opportunity to join the Advance Review Team. You will continue to get only one e-mail a month from me. No spam! Just news, once a month.

2. Once you’ve signed up for the newsletter, send an e-mail to ellasheridan.writer @ gmail (dot) com with the Subject: “Advance Review Team”.

3. What do you have to tell me to get picked for the team? Only one thing: that you want to read and review my books. That’s it! If you want to read advance copies of my books, and are willing to post a review on release day, nothing else is required. :)

ella sheridan, author, writer, erotic romance, romance author, contemporary romance, romantic suspense, Teach Me, Advance Review Team, book reviewsOkay, once you’re a part of the team, what then? It’s simple.

1. I will send out an e-mail when a new release is coming up.

2. Shortly after, you will receive an ARC of the new book in the e-format you prefer. (Approximately three weeks before release.)

3. You read the book. Awesome, right?

4. One day before release, you will get a final e-mail from me. That reminder e-mail is to let you know your review should be posted to Amazon and any other e-book retailers or sites you feel comfortable posting to (Goodreads, B&N, etc.), on the following day. You can even write it ahead of time and have it ready to copy and paste on release day.

That is all. Oh, and there might be occasional prizes…

Now, does this mean I want a guaranteed 5 star review? No. I want an HONEST review. Once a new book goes up for sale, your reviews help the book get noticed, help others find it and decide if it will fit their reading tastes and needs. One of the greatest gifts you can give an author (aside from buying their books) is a book review. Receiving a review on one of my books is a privilege I don’t take lightly!

Now, are you ready to join? Believe me—if you want to read an advance copy, you want to start now! Teach Me is already getting awesome props from beta readers. It’s a don’t-miss opportunity. Not to mention, it gets you on the team before books two and three come out in December and February, and you get to read those too!

So what do you say; are you interested? Sign up for the newsletter and then shoot me an e-mail quick, because arcs for Teach Me will be going out to my ART members by October 7th.

~ Ella

And don't forget, I'll reveal the official cover for Teach Me on September 28th!

What I've Been Reading: Tempting Her Best Friend by Gina Maxwell

ella sheridan, author, writer, romance author, erotic romance, contemporary romance, romantic suspense, what I've been reading, gina l. maxwell, tempting her best friend, what happens in vegas, entangled publishing, fun romanceLet'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. ;)

~ Ella

What I've Been Reading: The Mackenzie Series

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. ella sheridan, romance, linda howard, mackenziesBut 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 Mountain

Mackenzie's Mission

Mackenzie's Pleasure

Mackenzie's Magic (novella)

A Game of Chance

ella sheridan, romance, linda howard, mackenziesThis 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!

What I'm Reading: Hard As It Gets by Laura Kaye

ella sheridan, romance, writer, author, erotic romance, what I'm reading, laura kaye, hard as it gets, hard inkTattoos. Special Forces. A damsel in distress. What could be hotter than that? In this first book in Kaye's Hard Ink series, absolutely nothing. Becca Merritt goes head to head with Nick Rixey when her brother disappears, leaving only Nick's name as a clue for help. I have to admit, shocking as it was, Nick's hard-ass attitude in the first scene was enough to wet panties, just because you knew all that badness would eventually be channeled into taking care of his woman. Yum! For me, Nick was the driving force behind enjoying this book, though his sexy, tortured teammates came a close second. And the dog. The bit about the dog was hilarious -- and I am not a dog person by any means.

Here's the blurb from Kaye's website:

Tall, dark, and lethal...

Trouble just walked into Nicholas Rixey's tattoo parlor. Becca Merritt is warm, sexy, wholesome--pure temptation to a very jaded Nick. He's left his military life behind to become co-owner of Hard Ink Tattoo, but Becca is his ex-commander's daughter. Loyalty won't let him turn her away. Lust has plenty to do with it too.

With her brother presumed kidnapped, Becca needs Nick. She just wasn't expecting to want him so much. As their investigation turns into all-out war with an organized crime ring, only Nick can protect her. And only Becca can heal the scars no one else sees.

Desire is the easy part. Love is as hard as it gets. Good thing Nick is always up for a challenge...

ella sheridan, author, writer, romance, erotic romance, what I'm reading, laura kaye, hard ink, hearts in darknessNow, I have to admit, while I enjoyed this book and all its alpha-male abundance, I did not enjoy it as much as I did Hearts in Darkness, which is a stand-alone novella that got me interested in Kaye's writing. She has a way with wounded, tough-on-the-outside, gooey-on-the-inside heroes that just works for me, and HiD was a phenomenal example of that -- I highly recommend it. Then again, I enjoyed HAIG, too. It took me less than a week to read, which is always an indicator of how much I'm enjoying something. I have so little time to read that, if you haven't hooked me early, I have to set the book aside. I kept going back to this one, even reading on my iPhone occasionally. And I definitely plan to read the rest of the series: The second book, Hard As You Can, featuring teammate Shane, has just come out. Book three, Hard To Hold On To, will be out in August.

There you have it! If you're looking for tough heroes with wounded bodies and hearts, look no further...or should I say, harder? ;) Oh, just go buy it already! And don't stop reading till you get to the scene where the guys sing on the stairs. You'll know it when you get to it -- and you'll probably roll on the floor laughing as hard as I did!

~ Ella

What I'm Reading: The Night Prince Series by Jeaniene Frost

ella sheridan, romance, author, writer, erotic romance, paranormal romance, what I'm reading, jeaniene frost, night prince, vlad, leila, once burnedI admit I'm just now starting on this series, which began in 2012, for one very good reason: I hate first-person point of view. I'd heard several people raving about Jeaniene Frost -- totally deserved, by the way, and thank you, thank you, thank you, M. V. Freeman! BUT...I wouldn't pick up her books because it takes a very good writer, with just the right touch, to allow me to enjoy first person. Kristina Douglas (a paranormal pseudonym for Anne Stuart) is one. And now Jeaniene Frost. Her prose is compelling. To be honest, I can't put my finger on why -- it's clean, almost feeling too concise and uncluttered, abrupt, though it isn't. Not normally what I enjoy; I admit to preferring a more descriptive voice. But I couldn't put it down. I've really enjoyed finishing it, and I'm looking forward to reading more. (Hurry, hurry, hurry! :) )

The Night Prince series centers around the vampire Vlad, who is the original Dracula, and a psychic named Leila who -- get this -- is a carnival performer. Yes. I didn't think it would work either, but it did! The first book in the series is Once Burned; here's the blurb from Frost's website:

She’s a mortal with dark powers…

After a tragic accident scarred  her body and destroyed her dreams, Leila never imagined that the worst was still to come: terrifying powers that let her channel electricity and learn a  person’s darkest secrets through a single touch. Leila is doomed to a life of  solitude…until creatures of the night kidnap her, forcing her to reach out  with a telepathic distress call to the world’s most infamous vampire…

He’s the Prince of Night…

Vlad Tepesh inspired the greatest  vampire legend of all—but whatever you do, don’t call him Dracula. Vlad’s ability to control fire makes him one of the most  feared vampires in existence, but his enemies have found a new weapon against  him – a beautiful mortal with powers to  match his own. When Vlad and Leila meet, however, passion ignites between them,  threatening to consume them both. It will take everything that they are to stop  an enemy intent on bringing them down in flames.

ella sheridan, romance, author, writer, erotic romance, paranormal romance, what I'm reading, jeaniene frost, night prince, vlad, leila, twice temptedThe book drew me so much I immediately bought book two, Twice Tempted. This book begins with Leila leaving the emotionally closed-off Vlad -- which is a good point about this series: Frost does a lot of those "Do Not Do This!" things most of us have been told is the death of a story. Vlad is no clean-cut alpha hero. No meditation for him when he's stressed; no, he tortures people. He's so emotionally constipated that Leila leaves him. Why doesn't he go after her? He says later he thought she was bluffing. Yeah, constipated. Leila's not your typical heroine either -- the torture she suffers in book one is pretty unpalatable. But her knowledge of '80s pop rock is a thing of beauty. :)

I cannot wait for the third and final book in this series to come out. I highly recommend the first two books in the meantime, so go check them out. Now!

Don't make me take a page from Vlad's book and impale you.

~ Ella

What I'm Reading: Kresley Cole's MacRieve

ella sheridan, kresley cole, reading, macrieve, immortals after dark, paranormal romanceWow! That's all I can say. I first read Kresley Cole years ago when A Hunger Like No Other, the first in the Immortals After Dark series, came to bookstores. I loved it, but I could never get into the whole "race" thing that took over the next few books. I could see how an Olympic quest would be interesting, but for me, I just couldn't get into it. Fast-forward to this past year when I saw Cole at RWA Nationals in Atlanta. She won her 2013 Rita Award and was inducted into the RWA Hall of Fame. I admit I paid special attention because Unbroken, my paranormal romance, was nominated for the Golden Heart. I remember looking up at her on the stage after I'd lost in my category, wondering if I'd ever even publish, much less be nominated for a Rita.

ella sheridan, paranormal romance, kresley cole, macrieve, immortals after darkThough Unbroken is still on hold, I have published--and, I'm happy to say, I've read a new Kresley Cole book. :) And it  has me blown away and shown me what I have to strive for. The book is MacRieve, about a damaged werewolf and his innocent half-Lorean mate. It is truly awesome. Knowing I was uncertain about the series, I picked up MacRieve reluctantly, but I couldn't resist the cover (isn't he yummy?!?!). And what was between the covers was far more pulse-pounding than the guy staring out at me from the front of the book! Here's the description from Cole's website:

A BEAST IN TORMENT

Uilleam MacRieve believed he’d laid to rest the ghosts of his boyhood. But when a brutal torture revives those ancient agonies and destroys his Lykae instinct, the proud Scot craves the oblivion of death. Until he finds her—a young human so full of spirit and courage that she pulls him ba ck from the brink.

A BEAUTY IN CHAINS

Seized for the auction block, Chloe Todd is forced to enter a terrifying new world of monsters and lore as a bound slave. When offered up to creatures of the dark, she fears she won’t last the night. Until she’s claimed by him—a wicked immortal with heartbreaking eyes, whose touch sets her blood on fire.

A FULL MOON ON THE RISE

With enemies circling, MacRieve spirits Chloe away to the isolated Highland keep of his youth. But once he takes her to his bed, his sensual mate becomes something more than human, evoking his savage past and testing his sanity. On the cusp of the full moon, can he conquer his worst nightmare to save Chloe . . . from himself?

You know me, I like dark and gritty and emotional. MacRieve was certainly a roller coaster ride in that respect. The characters felt and felt deeply. What woman wouldn't want to heal MacRieve's wounded soul? The things he has endured were horrific, but you can't heal what you don't know, and Chloe can't break down the walls her mate has put up between them. Cole has a talent for throwing together characters who are diametrically opposed, in the most believable ways, and then letting their differences wreak havoc on them. I thought MacRieve was as wounded as he could get at the beginning, but oh no, the worst was yet to come. His story touched my heart and made me cry. And though I typically focus more on the male character, Chloe tore at my heart too. I even enjoyed the soccer talk (Chloe's a pro soccer player), though I pretty much hate sports. :)

So, run, don't walk to pick up MacRieve. There's even an audio excerpt on Cole's site. This book has certainly turned my eye back toward this series. I guess now I'll have to see how long it will take me to read the other books. ;)

~ Ella

Zombies, Plagues, and Head Shots...Oh My!

ella sheridan, romance, jonathan maberry, joe ledger, dead of night, countdown, zombiesHello, my name is Ella and I'm a romance junkie. But that's not a romance picture over there on the left, is it? That's because recently I've been so focused on my own writing that reading romance has stressed me out more than it has helped me relax. One day, totally fed up with reading my old "keeper" romances for the billionth time, I pulled out my Kindle and did something I really don't like doing: I went shopping. And brought home zombies.

Really, I'm not kidding. I am a huge fan of World War Z (the book AND the movie), and so I started looking at zombie books. And ran across Jonathan Maberry's Dead of Night. I was hooked immediately. Being a romance writer, I wasn't sure I would like the commitment-phobic heroine, but hey, there were zombies, so I read it anyway -- and actually came to like her. :)

At the end of Dead of Night, there was a short introduction to Maberry's Joe Ledger series. The series begins with "Countdown," a short-story introduction. I immediately loved Joe Ledger's "voice." He is a hero both strong and fallible, horrified at what he has to do but doing it without flinching. He is human and, at times it seems, a superhero. I could identify with his pursuit of martial arts to gain control of his life after a tragedy nearly destroyed him as a teen. I could follow his thinking and relate to the fact that he didn't always "get" the science (which thankfully is explained in fairly simple terms!). He is gritty and raw and broken and heartbreakingly deadly (and makes more head shots than I think is probably realistic, lol). This was no romance, but I loved it!

ella sheridan, romance, zombies, jonathan maberry, dead of night, joe ledger, assassin's codeThe series begins with zombies, but it doesn't stop there. Plagues, secret societies, conspiracies out the wazoo. It's a smorgasbord of evil with Joe in the middle. And Joe deals with it all the best way he can, which is not to say he brushes all the death and dismemberment off. The man has a therapist on speed dial, for goodness sake! And for good reason. :)

Sometimes, we need a change. We need to step out of our comfort zone and broaden our horizons and feed our creativity with something different. I'm glad I did. And I'm glad there are six books in this series, because I'm hooked. For Christmas vacation I went through the first three, so thankfully there are still some Joe Ledger adventures to fill my downtime in the coming weeks.

What do you read outside of the romance genre? Anything else "float your boat"? I know a lot of writers who read YA novels for fun. Or maybe, like me, you enjoy dark and gritty. Which is it? For now, I'm off to spend my last night on vacation with Joe... ;)

~ Ella

 

Taking the Dread out of the Dreaded Book Review

Ella Sheridan, amazon, book review, romance, erotic romanceI've been reading a lot of articles lately about releasing a new book (for obvious reasons). One of the biggest pieces of advice for readers that I've seen? Review books. Now, I have to admit to rarely reviewing books, so I felt a little hypocritical asking others if they like my new book, would they please leave a review. I mean, I'm a writer as well as reader, I know how all of this works, and yet I'm still intimidated by the prospect of posting a book review somewhere. So, in the interest of making the book review easier and a lot less intimidating for all of us, me included, let's look at some of the reasons readers might be afraid of the dreaded book review, and how we can maybe get past that to support our favorite authors:

1. Leaving a book review takes too much time.

Ella Sheridan, logo, barnes and noble, book review, romance, erotic romanceThis is probably the number one reason most people don't leave book reviews. I mean, who has the time to write out an "essay" about a book and then go through the process of posting it? I'm busy! I do think writing out long, detailed reviews with summaries of the plot and everything you liked, including examples, would be time-consuming. The truth is, though, that most people looking at reviews don't have time to read all that any more than you have time to write it. They want to know: is this book good and why. That's all. You can write a couple of sentences or a couple of paragraphs, but you don't have to summarize the book or even use examples if none come to mind. Let's face it, some other reviewer has already been detailed enough for ten reviews, more than likely, so including all that information isn't necessary. Just include the basics; that makes a review easy for you to write and easy for others to read.

2. What if it's not perfect?

So what? I know, I know, this is hard for me to accept as well. I'm a writer; I want everything I write to be perfect. But the truth is, even published books aren't always perfect. Books go through multiple rounds of edits, both with the author and through the publisher, and still they come out with mistakes. It happens. A published book is important. How important is it for a two-paragraph review not to contain a typo? It's not. Get your idea across, and stop worrying about being perfect (she says, pointing her finger at herself!). Which is more important: writing a pristine, literary-journal-worthy review, or supporting the author you want desperately to write more books? I lean toward the latter, and so letting go of my dreams of pristine literature posted in the Amazon review section must go by the wayside. Remember, we don't have time for that! (See point #1.)

3. What if I make the author feel bad?

It's okay not to like everything about a book. It is. As an author, I can tell you that I appreciate an honest review, even if you didn't like everything about my book. And that whole, "If you can't say anything nice, don't say it at all?" Really, it's the nice that matters, and I don't mean in what you include; I mean in the language you use. If there's a criticism, saying it nicely is key. We are all entitled to our opinions, and they are as numerous and varied as belly buttons and, you know, other stuff I won't mention. It's how you say something that matters. We've all heard the horror stories about boards on review sites wanting authors dead and flamers targeting books with one-star reviews. Are you that person? No? (Good!) Then you have nothing to worry about. Be yourself; be nice; be honest. That's all that matters.

4. What if other reviewers "target" me?

Ella Sheridan, goodreads, logo, book review, romance, erotic romanceBack to those flamers. I must admit, things like this scare me. It's a form of cyber bullying that has become so popular on the Internet today, as if the fact that you are safely behind a computer monitor and keyboard gives you the right to hurt the feelings and even the livelihoods of others any way you want. I don't believe that. But I also don't believe that the vast majority of readers target books and authors and other honest reviewers. That's why I finally decided to venture onto Goodreads. Because as much as there are those bullies out there in cyberspace, there are many more lovely readers who just want to get to know their favorite authors, or authors who could become favorites. I'm one of them, even though I have a book published--I'm a huge fan of certain authors. Reading about them and getting to know them makes me giddy! And I refuse to allow the worst of people to keep me from doing that.

So what can you do about the dreaded book review? Forget those essays you had to write in high school and college. Get familiar with various sites, and find one that you like, where you feel "safe." Read a book you love. Then go online and post a paragraph about what you liked. That's all. No worrying about doing it right or perfect or what others will think. Be honest. Be nice. And be supportive of your favorite authors. I know that's what I intend to do. :)