Sunday, March 30, 2008

Enchanting Pleasures

Boy, oh boy. Planning and hosting a bachelorette party sure distracts a girl from her reading. Cleaning, menu planning, gift and goodie bag shopping, creating dirty Mad Libs. Ah, the fun and debauchery. Last night was a rousing success, but the drag queens are done dancing and the alcohol has all been consumed. Back to real life. Back to my reading.

After visiting many of your blogs and reading through scads of reviews, I headed to my local branch of the Chicago Public Library last week armed with a shopping list of sorts. Titles and authors filled the paper. Among the authors listed was one I had seen mentioned a number of times: Eloisa James. I was looking for a change of pace. A girl can only read so many paranormal romances before she starts to burn out. There were only two titles available on the day of my visit. After a small debate with myself I settled on the book I just finished reading.

Title: Enchanting Pleasures
Author: Eloisa James
Genre: Historical Romance

Gabrielle Jerningham cherishes the portrait of her betrothed, the perfect Peter Dewland...until she meets his commanding older brother Quill. But it is Peter to whom she has been promised. And how can she possibly transform her voluptuous, outspoken self into the poised gentlewoman Peter requires?

When Gabby's shocking d├ęcolletage plunges to her waist at her first ball, Peter is humiliated. But Quill comes to the rescue, to the peril of his heart. An accident years before has left Quill plagued by headaches--the kind that grows more excruciating with strenuous exercise. Needless to say, this hardly bodes well for siring progeny. But the very sight of Gabby leaves Quill breathless. One forbidden kiss and Quill vows to have her, headaches--and Peter--be damned! But it will take a clever man--and a cleverer woman--to turn the tables on propriety and find their way to true love....

This was my first exposure to the writings of Ms. James. After seeing so many positive comments and reviews of her work, I knew I need to give her a shot. What if she was the favorite author I had simply yet to discover?

I am conflicted over how to review this book. It took me a little while to truly get into the story. The beginning was a wee bit tedious. Gabby comes to England, miniature portrait in hand, to marry Peter. Whom she has never met. Whom she is terribly in love with... because he has gentle eyes. OK, she was a sheltered, young girl raised in India by a single father. I will not judge her too soon. I mean, her father was a cold-hearted meanie. She deserves a handsome young man with kind eyes.

She is met (eventually) at the docks in England by her future brother-in-law, the very obvious hero of our story. Why is it obvious? Well, Peter (her fiance) is a vain, flighty, smack-me-over-the-head-with-the-obvious-stick gay man. His love for his tailor is only eclipsed by his love for his mother. Let's just say Peter is one big offensive stereotype. Simply put, he's a queen. That is fine. It makes the reader immediately root for Quill. (Yes, the hero goes by the name Quill. Why? Well, you would too if your given name was Erskine.) Anyhow, it wasn't until Peter accompanies his mother to Bath (and is out of everyone's hair) that I started to enjoy the story.

The middle of the story, in which Quill and Gabby's relationship begins to blossom, is quite fun. Gabby is a trifle annoying. Sweet, oblivious, inept. But she means well. Quill is heroic and scarred. We, the readers, feel for him. We want to heal him. It really is a shame that The Sex lands him in bed with a three-day migraine. Actually, kudos to Ms. James for accurately depicting the possible symptoms of migraine headaches. They can be nasty bastards, and she is spot on here. Makes me wonder if she suffers from them herself. Despite the potential repercussion of having The Sex, Quill is drawn to Gabby. They have a few lovely, hot moments together. MMmmmm. Nice. With Peter out of town, it is up to Quill to begin showing Gabby about London society. In amongst all of their canoodling, you meet a handful of secondary characters. Sophie Foakes, Duchess of Gilse, is probably my favorite. Color me pleased to discover she had her very own book. She is spunky, fun, and just a bit scandalous. She goes to great lengths to support her friends. For those who have read this book, I laughed out loud at the "incident" at Gabby's first ball. I love Sophie! The other characters who I adored (and wished they had a full book of their own) were Lucien Boch and Emily Ewing. Such a lovely little side plot.

All of that being said, the last quarter of the book nearly ruined the read for me. Throughout the beginning with the pining and the burning, the kissing and the near skirt tossing, Gabby issued nary a word of objection. In some cases she was quite forward for such an innocent miss, provoking Quill into kissing her. Why is it, then, that she suddenly starts thinking that sex with her husband is a sin? Where the hell did that come from? Confusion! Stubbornness rules the roost. Not surprising, as it often does in romance novels. I had a BIG problem with a decision that Gabby makes towards the end that put the final storyline into action. Bad form, Gabby, bad form. Quill had every right to be angry. What the character did was wrong. So very wrong. You could see the ending coming a mile away.


The whole omg-she-might-die-and-I-only-just-realized-that-none-of-this-matters ploy felt like a cop out. I felt as if the author had painted herself into a corner with these two and had no other idea of how to get them out of the emotional spot she had put them into.


Taking all of that into account (the good, bad and ugly), I feel I need to give Eloisa James a chance to shown me what she's got. I am going to look for Sophie's book. I already like her, so maybe that will help. As far as Enchanting Pleasures goes, there were some enchanting moments. Overall, it did not leave me feeling gah-gah. I have not discovered my favorite author I never knew about. It was by turns sweet, frustrating, amusing, annoying, and entertaining. If she had kept her momentum going and devised an ending that did not make me want to throttle her characters, this book would have a solid B+ or even A-. Sadly, the ending is what it is.

Grade: B- good middle, good writing style, ending that made me want to throw things

Friday, March 28, 2008

Announcement: Book Club (the first)

Alright, my friends, here it is. The big reveal! OK, maybe it is not that exciting. Or maybe it is! muah ha ha!!!

As I mentioned in my first post on this here blog, I am starting a book club. A book club? you ask. Yes, a book club. Somewhat like the one Oprah "hosts", but less annoying. I don't claim that the books I choose will ever qualify as "high quality literature." Actually, I guarantee they won't be.

Here is how it will work:

-I will post the title of the book and a "read by" date
-On that date I will post a discussion thread for the book
-We all share our thoughts on the book

OK, I admit it is a bit simple at the moment. Part of me feels like we should have discussion questions and such, but that just seems like too much work right now. Come on! A girl can only juggle so many events and ideas at one given time (new blog, real life, my best friend's wedding, teaching.)

Here is what we will read:

Enchanted, Inc.
by Shanna Swendson

From Publishers Weekly
In her first mainstream novel, romance writer Swendson puts a Harry
Potter–inspired twist on the standard tale of a smalltown girl in the big city, with lively if saccharine sweet results. Fish-out-of-water Katie Chandler suffers in her thankless job as assistant to marketing manager "Evil Mimi," worrying that maybe she just can't hack it in New York City. Will her colleagues ever consider her anything but a hick? For a girl from Texas, the Big Apple is stranger than a foreign country, but she discovers that the weird things she notices are signs of real magic afoot. Her "small-town honesty and common sense" soon land her a new job at Magic, Spells, and Illusion Inc., which traffics in
benevolent sorcery. "You... are of the rare breed who can neither do magic nor be influenced by magic. You see the world as it is," an MSI executive explains. With her clear-sightedness—plus business acumen gained working for her family's feed-and-seed store—Katie will play a pivotal role in MSI's magical battle against a malevolent competitor. From sanitized descriptions of New York City life to hunky wizards and fairies on the subway, this book is pure and innocent fantasy, suitable for preteens or readers hungry for a cotton candy read.

Read by date: April 18th

This means you have three weeks to read about Katie and her adventures in NYC. I have a confession. I have already read this book once. This will be a reread for me. I even contacted Shanna last week about using her book. Who knows, maybe she will stop by and drop us a comment. I hope you will join me in this!

Thursday, March 27, 2008


I am just about ready to post the very first title for the What Women Read book club. I have spoken to the author and received her "You go girl!" stamp of approval. I myself already have a copy on hand. There is one small problem, though. What in the world should I call the book club?

The WWR Book Club sounds so... boring. If we were going to stick to a single genre (bodice rippers) I would say The Big O Book Club. This first title just does not fit that description. I'll be honest, it is more of a chick lit title. Amazon oddly categorized it as Urban Fantasy. (If you read it with me you will understand why I say "oddly.")

So, what do you think? Sure, it's just a name, but... it is the NAME!!! Help a girl out. Send me suggestions. I need your creative input. Trust me, I am no good at this sort of thing. You would not believe how long it took me to come up with my fairly boring blog title. Let's make this name interesting!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

He put his what where?

Euphemisms. The bedrock upon which the romance novel is built. Whether it be his "velvet sheathed love sword" or her "dewy love petals," the world of romance is full of them. It is a rare author that employs the words penis and vagina. Why is this? Those are the proper terms for the male and female genitalia. A rose by any other name, and all that jazz. I know, I know, there is just something lacking in the sexy department to read "he gently licked her vagina." So instead we get the euphemism. It is in treacherous waters that an author navigates when employing the sexual euphemism. If the prose becomes to flowery or embellished the reader is liable to start to giggle...or gag. It quite kills the mood. One the other hand the sudden use of "penis" or the much harsher word "cock" can stop a reader cold. Moods begin dropping like flies.

It is not just anatomy that receives this creative rewording. Oh, the many ways I have seen the act of sex described. Such a plethora of verbs I have never seen before: thrust, push, slide, grope, impale, cram. Yes, you read that correctly. Cram. As in, "he crammed me." (You can thank the lovely Sunny for that contribution.)

It is amazing how each author treats the same subject, some more successfully than others. There is the creative sex. The hawt sex. The gentle love making. The crazy monkey lovin’. And the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad (and incredibly improbable) sex.

So I ask you this: What was the worst euphemism you have had the misfortune to read? Who do you think has found that perfect balance in language to create an effective sex scene? Have you ever come across an author who has scarred you, nearly causing you to flee from the genre with all due haste?

Monday, March 24, 2008

On the Prowl

Title: On the Prowl (anthology)
Author(s): Patricia Briggs, Eileen Wilks, Karen Chance, Sunny
Genre: Paranormal Romance/Dark Fantasy

On the Prowl is an anthology of paranormal romance novellas. Like most anthologies, there is a mix of the good and the bad. I tend to have a love/hate relationship when it comes to this format. I often feel as though I am getting stuck with someones second rate short story that the publishing house stuck in there in order to fulfill a contract obligation. Other times, I have been delighted with discovering a new-to-me author nestled in amongst those who are more established. The novellas usually seem to strike a balance with one another so that, in the end, I put the book down feeling as though the book was worth the purchase. I'm not sure I can say that with On the Prowl. Let me break it all down for you:

Alpha and Omega by Patricia Briggs
The werewolf Anna finds a new sense of self when the son of the werewolf king come to town to quell unrest in the Chicago pack- and inspires a power in Anna that she's never felt before.

The synopsis is mostly accurate. Charles is the son of the werewolf in charge of all of the packs in North America. Bran is basically like the president of the werewolf clans. There is a deeply developed hierarchy and political structure to the world that Patricia Briggs has created. Charles comes to Chicago by order of his father, the Marrok, to investigate an issue that was brought up the the first of the Mercy Thompson novels, Moon Called. While connected to an existing series, and the springboard for another, this novella was a strong stand alone story. I must confess, I bought the book purely so that I could read Alpha and Omega. It did not disappoint. I loved it. Actually, I may need to reread it tonight!

Inhuman by Eileen Wilks
Kai has a secret gift of sensing thoughts and desires. What she senses in her neighbor, Nathan, could be dangerous. Because he has a secret gift, too, and it's about to be let loose.

This was my first foray into the writings of Ms. Wilks. It was entertaining. I felt that it was a bit unfair to have put it in the book directly following the Briggs novella. There was no way that it would live up to Alpha and Omega. That being said, I enjoyed the chemistry between Kai and Nathan. I wanted to learn more about them. The first half to two thirds of the story was the strongest (character building and crime solving.) I wasn't entirely in love with the ending. I'm not sure if the ending was the part that most pulled on the universe Wilks had developed in her World of Lupi series. Apparently, Kai and Nathan appear in the recent installment of the aforementioned series, but only in a small capacity. If they were given their own book I would be all over it. I just don't know that I am sold enough on her writing to read the four previous books in order to catch glimpses of these two folks.

Buying Trouble by Karen Chance
In a New York auction house, a Lord of the Fey crosses paths with a fiery redheaded mage named Claire. But in this strange underground society, the rarity up for sale is Claire herself.

The premise of this novella intrigued me. The potential is huge! The story started off well, but Ms. Chance had enough plot ideas to fill at least one, if not two, full books. I wanted to reign in the story, there was just too much going on. It was decently written, but burdened down by an excess of action. As a reader I simply felt overwhelmed. I did not hate it, but it did not inspire love, either.

Mona Lisa Betwining by Sunny
Among the children of the moon, Mona Lisa is of a Mixed blood- part Monere, part human, and destined to be alone. Then she meets a man who could be her salvation- or her downfall.

I love to read. If not, why would I be here? I have read good books, awful books, and everything in between. What I rarely do is put down a book without finishing it. But GOOD GOD! this was awful!!! I don't think I was even able to finish the fist chapter. Where was this woman's editor? Seriously! If she did, in fact, have an editor she needs to fire them. Acuter? He "crammed" her? What??!!!?!?! The grammar was atrocious. Her word choices and the voice she has developed left me wanting to scream. I have read fanfic that was written far better than this. FAR better. I peeked at a sex scene (which I hear is overabundant) and cringed. You know, I am planning a bachelorette party for this weekend. I was going to write a Mad Libs for some entertainment. The sex scenes in this novella are so bad, I just might use one of them for the Mad Libs. Come on, ridiculous sex made hilarious through random word replacement? I think we may be able to make improvements that Sunny's editor was not able to effect.

Grade: The entire anthology- C Patricia Briggs' novella on its own- A (The last story just killed my rating of the whole thing. Just horrid!!!)

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Servant: The Awakening

Title: Servant: The Awakening
Author: L.L. Foster
Genre: Paranormal Romance

Back cover:
To most people, demons look like regular citizens. But Gabrielle Cody has the ability to see these creatures as they really are-and the responsibility to destroy them. Hers is a special purpose, a divine obligation, and a heavy burden.
Detective Luther Cross finds himself attracted to Gaby even as he becomes suspicious of her proximity to a murder victim. Despite his mistrust, he tries to offer her a enderness she's never experienced and doesn't dare accept.
For Gaby senses that another malevolent presence is watching her, stalking her. As desperately as she tries, Gaby cannot find the source of this menace. But again and again, she is drawn to an abandoned hospital surrounded by an aura of sickness and suffering and something more-an unimaginable evil.

Take one serving of fantastic author Lori Foster and add three heaping cups full of paranormal action. Blend together and bake until done. Seems like a foolproof recipe, right? Then someone please tell me how this all went so terribly wrong!!!

I love Lori Foster. Her Contemporary Romances are fun, fresh and full of likable characters. You want to get to know them. You want to be like them. You want to have all kinds of hot monkey sex with them. Somehow, in changing her pen name and stepping into a new (to her) genre) she lost her wonderful characterization. OK, I will admit that Detective Luther Cross has potential. He has many of the qualities I enjoy in Ms. Foster’s writing: strength, determination, loyalty, emotion, passion. All these traits were shown to us on a surface level. There was a decided lack of depth to Cross, and other characters in the story. The one quality of his that I absolutely did not understand was the fact that he was so drawn to the "heroine." I did not like our protagonist. I understand she has The Gift and that it is a great burden. God calls her, using sever pain as a motivator, to hunt down and destroy the evil on Earth. The problem is that Gaby is so antagonistic and mean I can not empathize with her. Quite honestly, her behavior and thoughts border on scary psycho killer territory. I just could not buy into the characters or their relationship.

One other problem that I had with the book was this continuous feeling that Foster was trying to change her writing. Perhaps she wants to give her para rom books a slightly different voice. That is fine. Completely understandable. At times, though, I got the impression that she made overabundant used of her thesaurus. Seriously. Some of the word choices in this novel perplexed me. She would never choose to use these words in her other novels.

One bright note, here. I did enjoy her action scenes. She found her rhythm in those passages. There were moments of interaction between characters that I enjoyed, as well. There just was not enough depth and development of those characters. Nothing made me like them. Nothing made me feel invested enough that I will go out and find the sequel to this novel.

Ms. Foster, I beg of you, please go back to our big, hunky pro-fighter heros. Give me another Simon or Gregor. I just can’t take another 292 pages of Gaby. And for the sake of you readers, could you ask Berkley Press to label these book correctly? A Paranormal Romance this is not. You tried. Oh yes, you tried to give Gaby and Luther some chemistry. It just seemed to get buried beneath the shouting, punching, and running away.

Boy, I wish I had picked a different book for my first review. I usually love the books I read. I promise! Next time... oh next time, we shall see words of praise. Words of PRAISE, I say! (Eloisa James better not make a liar out of me!)

Grade: C-

Friday, March 21, 2008

A sure thing

We all have our go-to authors. Those gals (and guys!) who we know, without even cracking the spine, have provided us with another surefire, fun book to read. These are the authors who tempt us to make yet another book purchase despite the 50+ titles in our TBR pile. It is because of them that we shell out over $20 for a hardcover edition instead of waiting for the paperback release. They leave us broke, but endlessly entertained. We do not loan out their books, for the risk of never getting them back is far too great. Authors of this ranking inspire us to read more and even, in the dark of night, to contemplate putting pens to paper (or fingers to keyboard) to create our own stories. Sadly, they are often the ones who keep us from writing by commandeering our time devouring their works.

This list of authors is personal. Each reader has their own literary idols. Personal taste, style and exposure help to shape that in each one of us. Because we are ever evolving and adapting to our worlds, our lists are not concrete, but fluid and changing. Each new book we read holds the potential to point us in a new direction. Who wrote this? I must read more!
I could never rank my authors, putting one above another. My reading preference for the moment is influenced by mood and surroundings. One day I may yearn for action and adventure, a week later unknown worlds and creatures. My list is a loose corral of scribes who I read in turn, each stepping to the head of the class as my mood permits. Who is on this list you ask?

Lisa Kleypas
Garth Nix
Patricia Briggs
Suzanne Brockmann
Julia Quinn
Lori Foster
Linsay Sands
Chritina Skye
Tara Janzen
Shanna Swendson

That is my 10. There are so many more. Names that are eluding my grasp at the moment. Names that will rotate in someday soon because I read another of their books and could not put it down. Names I do not know yet because I have not had the pleasure of reading their work.

That is my 10. Who are yours?

Thursday, March 20, 2008

In the beginning...

For the avid reader there is no end to the literary options available: fiction, mystery, true crime, sci-fi, biographies, military histories, travelogues. The written word connoisseur could spend hours perusing the shelves of their local bookstore, finding endless opportunities for entertainment. Yet there is one aisle of books into which we slink like a thief. It is among these books that we feed our guilty pleasure. With cover art that ranges from from sedate to scintillating, we sneak these titles to the cashier sandwiched between magazines and greeting cards. Despite the potential for embarrassment (raise your hand if you have ever had to bob and weave your way out of the romance aisle in order to avoid running into one of your students...yeah) we continue to return to these shelves time and again. Romance, intrigue, passion, angst. These books deliver them all. We love them. We devour them. We DO NOT read them on the train during our daily commute. That is where our chick lit selection come in to play. Chick lit (or "romance light") gives us a hero, a heroine, and some romance, but in a safe-for-the-work-place delivery. We love these darlings, too. How could we not?

Herein lies a problem. There are so many books we can get our hands on (bobbing and weaving not withstanding). How does a girl find the book that is right for her? How do we sift the good from the bad? The hot from the not? The "it's so bad I love it!" from the "it's so bad my brain has melted (and not in a sexy way)!"? Sure there are hundreds of sites out there on this here Internet that provide you with reviews. You could check out any of those. Heck, I do. So what is special about What Women Read (WWR)? Well, I don't know. Hey, I'm being honest here! I am not an author or an editor. My opinion is not in any way that of a professional. I am, however, a reader. A romance junkie. So here on WWR I would like to share reviews and commentary of books that span the whole women's literature spectrum (fiction to chick lit to the good old steamy romance novel.) In addition, (and this is something I like to think may be unique-ish to this site) I would love to have a book of the month. A book club for women who love romance, angst, intrigue, and passion. I hope you will join in because, quite frankly, arguing with myself over the quality of the latest Nora Roberts book can get quite boring. Share you thoughts, your ideas, and your book recommendations! Please! This girl needs some new reading material!