Wednesday, March 28, 2012

WWR Wednesday- a new weekly feature!!!

Since the title, and theme, of this blog is What Women Read I thought it might be appropriate to start a special Wednesday segment.  It will highlight one reader/author each week who will share with us just what that woman reads (genres, authors, etc.) and what will make her read a book.  So to kick off this new feature I will share my answers to these questions.

What does this woman read?
As you may have noticed base on my posts on this blog, I love a good romance.  It can be steamy or sweet.  It can be contemporary, historical, paranormal, suspense, or a combination of any of the above. I am trying to branch out lately and spread my reading wings, but I do default to Romance time and again.  Outside the genre I find enjoyment in Urban Fantasy, Science Fiction, Fantasy, children's literature, young adult, and the occasional straight up fiction.  I dipped my toes into the graphic novel pool recently and would love to try some more in the genre. It is a rarity that I will pick up a non-fiction book.  Reading for me is escapism. History is often too dry to distract me from the stresses in my life, so I need the excitement I find in good fiction.  That is not to say I will never find a NF book that I would love. I have been told repeatedly that I need to read No Reservations by Anthony Bourdain. I think, if I actually sit down and read it, I would likely fully enjoy his writing, as I find him to be quite entertaining.  That is what reading is to me, at the end of the day. Entertainment. The very best kind.

What turns you on as a reader?
For me it is all about the characters. Whatever the conflict is in the story, the characters have to be ones with which I can connect.  I don't need to fully understand them or identify with them, but I do need to feel a connection. If I dislike one of the protagonists it is almost a guarantee that the book will be a DNF.  Female leads in Romance must be strong enough to hold their own against the hero. She should also be strong enough to stand on her own. She should not be completed by the hero. She should be complemented.

As for specific tropes, there are a few that will grab me every time. Friends become lovers, lovers reunited, shifters (werewolves, etc.), the Beauty and the Beast theme, unrequited love.  As I type this I realize that many of these tropes provide the characters with a shared history.  I think this helps lend more credibility to the characters if the story moves forward quickly.  It provides a whole basis, a foundation, on which the relationship has already begun to be built.  Oooh, this also works in the "enemies" become lovers trope, just in a different way.

In all genres, world building is essential for me as a reader.  Create a richly textured world in which your characters live and I want to stay there.  This is especially true for books in a series.  If an author can write protagonists with whom I connect in a vividly created world, you have me hooked for your series.  Heck, I'll even go dig up your back list while I wait for the next installment in the series!  Authors who have been imminently successful at this are Patricia Briggs, Nalini Singh, Meljean Brooks, Julie James, and Suzanne Brockmann.  There are many others, but those are just to name a few.

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If any of you out there are interested in being a guest on an upcoming WWR Wednesday please let me know. I have someone special in store for you next week, and I am ever so excited to see what she shares!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Alpha Instinct by Katie Reus

I know I have one of Katie's books on my shelf at home. It has been gathering dust for AGES. WHY, oh why have I not read it yet?  I saw a review of Alpha Instinct on another blog and the plot just grabbed me. I am so glad I loaded up on my Kindle.

Title: Alpha Instinct
Author: Katie Reus
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Format: ebook
Series: book 1 in her new Moon Shifter series

Synopsis:  Ana Cordona has been a strong leader for the lupine shifters who survived after all the males and most of the females in her pack were mysteriously poisoned. As tough as she is, with no Alpha male, the pack is vulnerable to the devious shifter Taggart, who wants to claim both their ranch and Ana as his own. When Connor Armstrong comes back into her life, promising protection, it’s almost enough to make Ana forget how he walked out on her before—and reluctantly accept his offer to mate.

The minute Connor sees Ana again, it reawakens a raw hunger. He must have her for his bondmate—his wolf cries out for it. But his human side knows he must proceed with caution because of their complicated past. If he is to truly have her body and soul, he must go beyond his burning desire and win back her heart. Whatever it takes, he is determined not to leave her side again.

But Taggart and his rival pack are not their only enemies. A human element in town is targeting shifters. Their plan not only threatens Ana and Connor’s future, but the lives of the entire pack…

Since the death of her parents and nearly two-thirds of her pack, Ana has had to be strong. She has had to be the emotional and physical strength of the women remaining in her care.  With no men males left in their midst, the women's hold on the territory is tenuous, at best.  With threats from the neighboring pack, Ana is about at the end of the line when ghosts from the past suddenly reappear, just in the nick of time.

Connor loves Ana.  He has loved her for the past 50 years, leaving her behind did nothing to dampen his ardor. How could it when finding her so many years ago meant finding his true mate?  Connor has returned and he is not alone.  Once a loner, he now heads his own pack of Alpha warriors.  With Ana in need of an Alpha, Connor grabs the chance to have what he wanted so long ago: a life with the woman he loves.

If you are looking for a light read or if you don't want a story full of tension and tragedy.... just walk away.  If you crave the angst of thwarted love given a second chance this is your book.  If love strong characters who can stand on their own, but find strength in each other, this is the book for you.  If you are looking to get hooked on a new series with dark overtones, great world building, and a well structured over aching series plot, THIS IS THE BOOK FOR YOU!  Ana is facing the threat of her neighbor Taggert (a shifter no sane person wants to meet) while at the same time dealing with the loss of so many of her pack mates. Added to this is the continued hovering threat from an outside source.  Many possible culprits are thrown your way. A few who make sense as the villain, but you hope Ms. Reus has plotted a less obvious outcome.  Don't worry, she doesn't go the obvious route. I love that the reader gets closure at the end for the central plot lines, but the Big Bad is out there, ready for the next book in the series. You could read this book and walk away feeling as though you got answers at the end.  But why would you walk away from a series with such a strong start??!?!!?

Katie has so many threads running through this book.  You know she is going to pick up a new one and give the others a tug in coming books.  The addition of so many Alpha warriors into a pack of all women gives the potential for many books and much angst to come.  I, for one, greatly look forward to this.

Now I can't wait to get home and dig out the other book I own penned by Ms. Reus. I know I am in for something fantastic.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Last Call Kamakaze by Moira Rogers

As I mentioned in my last post, I am striving to expand my reading habits a bit with this revamp of WWR.  I read my first graphic novel. I am listening to an audio book written by two authors I have yet to read (a non-romance that I will review when I am done.... squeee! SO GOOD!)  

I have stuck pretty much with romance and UF for a long time.  They tend to hit all the right buttons with me.  I decided to stretch a little farther in the hat and steamy direction and downloaded an erotic romance. (I think that is what it qualifies as, but I am fuzzy on where some of the lines are defining these sub-genres.)

Title: Last Call Kamikaze
Author: Moira Rogers
Genre: Erotic Romance(?)
Format: ebook
Series: book 1 in the Last Call series

Synopsis: Zoe Bennett is an inexperienced werewolf in the grip of her mating cycle. With no pack and no mate, Zoe must brave the supernatural crowds of Last Call, the bar where your drink order tells everyone what you need.

Kamikaze: Werewolf in heat, looking for a temporary mate

The chase is on, and security specialist Connor O'Malley intends to win, if only because the sweet young woman at the bar looks unprepared for what the night might bring, in and out of the bedroom. Little does he know that, when he catches her, he may not be satisfied being just a temporary mate.

Hoo, boy!  Steamy is a good word to describe this story.  There is no question that this book crosses into the erotic zone.  The main objective of the story is the sex, however, Ms. Rogers (or the two women who form the author "Moira Rogers") builds into the story a fantastic connection between the two characters.  I have tried reading erotica in the past and just couldn't get into it. Sex scenes are great, but if there is no depth to the characters or I don't sense a connection developing, I just can't buy in.  In Kamikaze I was completely sold. Yes it gets hot FAST. Yes, there is some smexing in there that does not regularly appear in the romances I read. I didn't care. The scenes were well written, the two characters actually talked to one another between bouts of incredibly hot sex, and there was world building. I was impressed by this. The story was short and focused on the physical, but Ms. Rogers laid enough of a foundation that you can begin to see the world in which Last Call exists.  The bar itself, Last Call, is an incredibly clever vehicle for the sexy romps. A bar catering to Others where the drink menu includes, not just specialty drinks, but the message said drinks delivers to the crowd.  You order up an encounter along with your alcohol. 

The other thing I liked about Kamikaze was the characters.  Zoe and Connor are both werewolves, which help the reader believe they could form an attachment so quickly.  "Sensing you mate" won't forgive bad writing, but it can give good writing a boost so that suspension of dibelief can move you forward more quickly.  Both of the characters were smart, geeky, quirky individuals. I loved this.  Neither of them was your typical hot, sexy paranormal being. Hell, Connor convinced Zoe he was the male she should spend the night with by telling her that with him she would at least be with someone who understood her incredibly geeky t-shirt (computer tech humor.)  This charmed me. I had enough computer engineering friends in college to appreciate this, and to have it endear the book to me.

I really enjoyed this book.  Short, hot, and with a sweetness to it that will let you finish with a sappy smile on your face.  In fact, I enjoyed it so much I just loaded up the next book in the series. Oh yeah, to make this even better?  Kamikaze is a free ebook.  The others in the series are just $.99  A cheap good time? You can't beat that!

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Thanks to those of you who stop by here at WWR.  I know I was absentee for a long time.  I appreciate you heading over this way again! I feel as though I am still getting back into the groove of reviewing.  My reviews seem to end up shorter than average compared to others of you out there in the blogosphere. Let me know if there are any particular types of details you would like me to expand on in the future when reviewing.  Thanks again!

ETA:  ARGH!!! I can not for the life of me figure out what is wrong with the formatting on here.    Sorry about the oddly highlighted white section. IT WAS NOT INTENDED!  (Ironic that the characters in the story I reviewed are computer techies and I am having technical difficulties. Grr!)

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol (my first foray into the world of graphic novels)

One of my goals in rebooting this blog is to broaden my reading habits a bit. I love romance.  That will never change.  Why should it?  Whether it is contemporary, suspense, paranormal, historical, or some other flavor, I just love it.  I do venture outside the genre on occasion and would like to do so more often.

To that end I tried something completely new to me.  My boyfriend is a big fan of manga, comics and graphic novels. He talks to me about the ones he is reading and I have begun to develop an appreciation for the genre.  I have been thinking of dipping my toes in the water and was given a perfect opportunity.  The art teacher at my school is, not surprisingly, a huge fan of the genre.  He and I often talk during our prep periods since my desk is housed in his classroom. He is wonderfully patient to share his space with me since I am “on a cart” at my school.  He is also wonderfully generous and lent me a graphic novel. I don’t think he could have picked a better book for me to start with. He definitely had paid attention to types of movies and entertainment I talked about. 

Title: Anya's Ghost
Author: Vera Brosgol
Genre: graphic novel, fantasy
Format: hardcover

As a newbie to the genre this book was perfect. Not only is it a standalone so that I didn’t feel like I was getting into a commitment with a long series, but the story was great.  What I loved is that the characters are so real. Forget about the ghost for a moment.  The main character, Anya, was so much like some of my old students that it was scary. Anya is a fairly well-adjusted teen with your basic self-image problem.  She fears growing round and cuddly like her adorable Russian immigrant mother.  She wants to catch the attention of the super cute sporty boy, but is disgusted with herself for being so typical as to be crushing on the popular boy. One who is, “the kind of boy teen movies tell you to like.”  I have taught this girl. Hell, in many ways I was that girl. She is awkward, though not a nerd. She is neither cool nor an outcast.  She and her friends exist in the middle ground that so many of us were part of.  Basically she is a realistic teen character.

The cast of secondary characters is great. Anya’s mom is flighty. English is her second language which causes little misunderstandings.  She is studying for the US citizenship test. Anya is proud of her mom for doing this and helps her to study.  Her mom believes that Benjamin Franklin was once president.  When corrected she declares that had he been president maybe our country wouldn’t be so messed up.  She is wonderfully round and comforting, a mother who would have snuggled her kids and wiped their tears away with her sleeve.

Siobhan, Anya’s best friend is this very androgynous tomboy who can talk Anya into all kinds of mischief.  Smoking in the school bathroom? Check. Climbing out the window during an incredibly boring lecture? Check!  Another classmate, Dima, is everything Anya fears people see her as: a geeky immigrant who can’t navigate the social niceties of him new home country. Then there is the ghost.  At first she seems to be a fairly sweet girl with a sad story.  I won’t give details so as not to spoil the story, but let’s just say that all is not what it seems. 

This book does more than tell the story of Anya meeting a ghost. It is so much more.  This is a beautiful story of family dynamics, friendship, the longing for acceptance, and personal evolution. Anya’s eyes are opened throughout the story. She is forced to see past the social mask of her peers. She develops a stronger sense of self and a deeper appreciation for the friends in her life. You put the book down at the end and feel that the character is going to continue forward as a better version of herself. 

I HIGHLY recommend Anya's Ghost to both experienced and virgin graphic novel readers. The wonderful style of Ms. Brosgol's art is clean and fresh, paring with the text in a way that makes it a bit magical. Go! Buy it! You will love this book.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

I Dream a Dream

I have this coworker with whom I like to chat.  She teaches the after school program for our 4th graders, a rambunctious group, if ever there was one.  She and I are both major foodies. Many a conversation has centered around a new restaurant we tried or recipes on the docket for that evening's meal.

I realized yesterday that we have passed into true "work friends" territory when our conversation turned to movies and the actors who, well, just do it for us.  She admitted to not understanding the appeal of Christian Bale, but finally "getting it" in regards to Brad Pitt when she watched Troy.  I admitted my unaccountable crush on Edward Norton.

I can't fully account for all of the twist and turns in the conversation, but I do remember that we touched on one of our favorite 80's shows, Beauty and the Beast.  Ron Perlman in make up strangely holds more appeal than when he is out of make up.  Tim Curry in Rocky Horror Picture Show (creepy!) lead us to a discussion of more men and musicals we loved.  How we went from Tim Curry to Hugh Jackman is still a bit of a mystery.

At the top of my list of favorite musicals is Les Miserables.  As some of you may know, it is FINALLY being made into a movie musical.  I can not express the level of glee I had upon this discovery. Seriously.  I then started to hear news of casting.  Ah, yes.  This is how we got to this part of the conversation.  Hugh Jackman is set to play Jean Val Jean. I am pleased with this bit of casting. He is lovely and has plenty of Broadway experience.  Javert is going to be portrayed by Russell Crowe.  I am going to reserve judgement on this news.  We shall see.

For a while I was livid.  LIVID, I say.  Why?  Well, early casting announcements included Taylor Swift as Eponine.  She is sweet and all.  I don't mind my students listening to her inoffensive lyrics. I just don't want her playing my favorite character in my favorite musical.  Just... no.  Thankfully, producer Cameron Macintosh stepped in a vetoed that idea. New casting was announced and the villagers rejoiced.  I shall endure Anne Hathaway as Fontine and find rabid enjoyment over Helena Bohnem Carter as Madame Thenardier.

To prepare myself for the musical joys that await us all I snagged myself a copy of the 25th anniversary concert performance of Les Mis. It is SO wonderful.  Well, if you ignore Nick Jonas.  Otherwise it is phenomenal. Lea Salonga sang I Dream a Dream in such a way that even my boyfriend (sweet, patient man) was impressed with the performance.  So for your listening/viewing enjoyment, I give you Les Mis.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Giving Chase by Lauren Dane

Title: Giving Chase
Author: Lauren Dane
Genre: contemporary romance (with some suspense)
Format: ebook
Series: 1st book in the Chase brothers series

Synopsis: Maggie is fed up with the guys in town. Small town life just doesn't give a girl many options for romance. The men are all either married, gay, an ex, or not worth the time. Well, with the exception of the Chase brothers. Those boys are hot, but so far out of her league that Maggie doesn't give them more than a panting... Er, passing thought. 

Then Shane Chase dumps cheese fries all over her. 

Shane acted like a complete ass after bumping into Maggie. He knew is was an accident, and all his fault, but something about that woman got under his skin. Whatever it is, she caught his attention. She caught his brother, Kyle's, attention, as well. Two Chase boys chasing after her? What is a girl to do? When Shane suddenly turns skittish and Kyle steps in with serious intentions, Maggie knows there is no choice. 

But danger is lurking in town. Maggie has captured the attention of another man. One who won't take no for an answer and takes exception to Maggie's growing love with Kyle.

This was my first time reading Lauren Dane's work so going into it I really had no expectations. I was in the mood for a contemporary, and a series about gorgeous brothers? Perfect! Shane, Kyle, Matt, and Marc are skirt chasers. Lovers of women who are enjoying variety. Hey, a reformed rake is always a great hero, so I' m not complaining. I liked the brothers. I loved their mother. Strong, loving, meddlesome. She is your typical Southern momma. Almost too typical, but the stereotype worked for the story. Maggie is the history teacher at the local high school. Being a teacher myself, I am a sucker for heroines in my field of employ. She is sweet, but has the worst inferiority complex. You find out that her mother is Evil Mom. The character is so awful that I had a difficult time buying it. She is a former beauty queen who is obsessed with beauty and image. Someone so focused on how she appears would never say and do some of the things Maggie's mother did in public. Particularly in front of one of the most important families in town. I understand, though, that this character's actions are such so that the reader can see why Maggie so strongly doubts her self worth.

I liked the characters and the small town life. I liked the overall idea of the book. Unfortunately, there were elements that kept me from becoming full immersed in the story. Some of them were things that would not bother all readers. There are certain words that will immediately pull me out of a story if they are overused. Pussy can be cute for a cat. It can be sexy when used occasionally in an extra hot scene. When it is the only word used to describe a woman's anatomy, and it is used multiple times in a paragraph, I start to cringe. Like I said, my issue. Many readers won't care.

There was also the whole aspect of her being involved with one brother and immediately jumping into a relationship with the other.  It bothered me at first. I had a hard time with her going from crying over Shane to getting physical with Kyle. I think if there had been some time between the two relationships (although she barely started dating Shane) I would have been ok with it.

The overall pacing pulled me from the story. It felt a bit as though there was this great story full of so much potential, but it was packed into a format that was far too short. Often there were times I stopped and thought, "wait, I want more here!" Important events were mentioned almost in passing. I think if the story had been given a longer format it would have had room to breath and grow. You could have seen Maggoe and Kyle fall in love in a gradual, real way.  It would have brought the story from average to quite good. Instead of feeling rushed (wait, the bad guy is obsessed to the point of stalking her after only two dates?) you could have gotten a story with not just great characters, but great suspense.

I didn't hate this book, I promise! It was a nice, quick read. There was enough in it that I enjoyed that I am curious to read book two. Enough that I will give the series a second chance. I mean, those Chase brothers are pretty yummy.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Fresh Look For a Fresh Start

I have been tinkering all morning on this blog. I figured that if I am going to make a fresh start then WWR needs a fresh look.  It is quite a different look than before.  No moobs in the header.  Gone is the bright color scheme.  Actually, it looks a bit dark around here.  I'm not entirely sure if I like it. The header is rather bland, but the background seemed to need something simple over it.

What do you think of the new look? Any suggestions?  I am certainly open to any ideas!

Friday, March 9, 2012

A bit of a fresh start and thoughts on a library

To kick off the relaunch of this blog I decided to do something that I am quite embarrassed I had yet to do. I officially move to New Jersey back in July, settling into my own apartment in October. (Bless my patient boyfriend for dealing with my crap scattered all over his place until my job situation was finalized.) I have all of the necessities here and finally live in an apartment that I was allowed to decorate as I wished, even painting the walls a lovely bright teal color. I have my haven to come home to at the end of the day. Certain "extras" have yet to be established five months later. No cable. No Internet. I enjoy using them at my boyfriend's place, but can survive without at home for now. Trust me, the Internet connection is coming soon. VERY soon.

 Today I decided it was time to fill in one of the blanks here in Jersey. I headed out and got myself a library card. After for living in Chicago for so many years I have grown used to a very specific library experience. I hadn't quite realized how ideal it was. The location near my old apartment was new. Shiny, clean and new. The books were in great condition. The staff was wildly diverse. There was one gal around my age who was hip and funky and always commented on my wonderfully juvenile bacon and eggs book bag. Some of the librarians were stern or cranky, while others were friendly and happy. It was a place where I would have loved to work. Oh, how I miss the Wicker Park/Bucktown library.

The Bayonne Public Library is housed in an old building with fantastic architecture. I so wish the interior lived up to the exterior. Ok, the foyer has fabulous marble floors and there are some cool murals on the wall of the hallway leading to the children's library. There is just such a sad... old feeling to the place. The staff fulfilled the stereotype of old, frumpy and cranky. Boy howdy. It was the first library that I wanted to leave. You usually can't get me out. The organization of the rooms was confusing and the books were shelved on their sides, spine up so that they could fit into spaces that were not tall enough. You couldn't read the titles to see what was there. The main fiction section was full of dusty, torn hardcovers that made my heart ache. Thankfully I discovered the new book section. You could hear my sigh of relief echo though the room. There was a decent selection, enough that I was able to snag a few for the next week or so. I came home with a lovely, if small stack of precious including

Veil of Night by Linda Howard

Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella

Breaking the Rules by Suzanne Brockmann

And for my daily commute to and from school I snagged the audio version of Good Omens by Terry Pratchet and Neil Gaiman.

 Libraries like this make me sad. There is so much potential in that building. With some elbow grease and organizational skills it could be a great library. New (but not the most recent releases) and old books should be shelved together. Separate sections for certain subgenres would help patrons. I clearly remember there being separate romance, mystery, and sci fi sections in libraries I have patronized in the past. Signage is needed and the poor, beautiful children's section needs to host some events. The young adult section should not be hidden in the back of the audio/visual room. Geez! Don't they know that YA has been a hot genre for years? I'm sure they are suffering from a lack of funding. I fear that the bigger deficit is in initiative. Everyone there seemed so tired. I wish I could go in and shake things up. Give them all a dose of excitement and energy. They have books! So many books! They could be awakening minds, turning children's imaginations away from video games and into worlds of imagination. It is libraries like this that make me want to get my MLS so I could get hired and whip the place into shape, inject some life into the organization. Shouldn't a library be full of people? Shouldn't it be a centerpiece for the community?

The potential is there, Bayonne, but what are you going to do to reach it? Does anyone have ideas on how the community could take action?

Thursday, March 8, 2012


Hello? Um....hello? Anyone out there? Wow. Isn't this site neglected? Who is responsible for this terrible oversight? Oh, wait. That would be me. Oops. Looking at the date on the last post I made shows that it has been nearly two years since I wrote anything on here. I would like to say that some hugely miraculous event has prevented activity on this blog. Sadly, it has simply been life, work and a seriously lack of Internet connection at home. For two years? Yeah, pretty much. Moving across the country and teaching at schools with high needs tends to take a lot out of a girl. I have been reading, however. Some new books, many a beloved reread. I like to think that this site has been sitting here waiting for the book that so engaged my mind that it demanded to be written about. I finished that book last night.
Firelight by Kristen Callihan has so many elements that work for me. It pushed all my buttons, in a good way. You have Lord Archer the dark, mysterious tortured hero. He holds everyone at bay, hiding the tragic results of an experiment gone wrong behind an eerie black mask. He is wonderfully strong, yet horribly vulnerable. He yearns so desperately for love but feels that he is unworthy. He is a fabulous mix of the Phantom and the Beast. (two archetypes that I will read in an instant.). The heroine, Miranda, is strong and feisty. This is no cowering miss. In fact, she is nearly fearless in regards to her own safety. You learn she has a very good reason for this. These two characters balance one another. Their strengths and weaknesses make them intriguing. Their faults make them seem very human, yet their "gifts" lend them the extraordinary. There is a mystery plot to the book involving ancient mysteries, murder, and some gruesome slice and dice. It kept me interested through the middle where the romance seemed to take a back seat for a short while. I felt that the mysterious source of Archer's disfigurement was different from what you have read in other tellings of this type of story. This book would be considered an Historical Paranormal Romance. That's a mouthful. It is also wonderful. I highly recommend this book to any and all fans of the genre. For a debut novel I am wildly impressed. I am eagerly anticipating the upcoming release of the second book in the series. Mmmm... Historical werewolves!