Books are cheaper than heroin, but they DO add up....

Amy, Carrie, Chanin and Sarah buy (and read and review) their own stuff. They've been known to shop around from dealer to dealer looking for the best price. If you're interested in slipping them something to try out, just contact us.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

A Wicked Thing by Rhiannon Thomas

A Wicked Thing by Rhiannon Thomas is a Young Adult re-imagining, or, maybe more a sequel to, Sleeping Beauty. Short review is that I'd recommend it with a few caveats...

I like re-tellings as a rule. It's always fun for me to see a different take on a familiar story, and though I love Disney, I don't take their versions of the fairy tales as the untouchable definitives. Ms Thomas does a nice job of imagining what it really would be like to wake up with all around you gone, in the future, with a prince you didn't fall in love with, but who merely kissed you. In this version, the castle didn't sleep, so her family is gone. Many princes had tried before to wake her - the one who managed it doesn't seem particularly worthy, and why would she love him immediately? Why would he love her?

Add to that a kingdom that's been in civil war since her father died, the current king with dubious motives, and a girl who doesn't seem to even know herself, and it's a good story. Add in some other romantic possibilities and a witch, and you've got a really good plot.

However... Maybe it's just a function of Aurora not being on an even keel herself, but I had a harder time connecting to her than most main characters. I get that there is conflict between her mother's (echoed by the current queen's) strictures, being raised to be a perfect princess, and her own sense of right and wrong. But I found her to be wishy-washy and therefore kind of annoying. Maybe that's the Disney lover in me, but if she's going to be a spunky heroine, be one. Perhaps I'm just impatient. I will say that this aspect was when the book dragged for me. She'd do something fun or thoughtful, then agree to do nothing and that led to a lot of sitting in her room, thinking. So, that's where I'd disagree with the editorial review on the product page that says it's a "dazzling" story.

Also, we are clearly going to get a sequel. I don't mind sequels. In fact, as I say in lots of my reviews, I actually adore series that involve long character development arcs. But those that I adore can always stand alone, with a clear beginning and end, even if you jump in out of order. Sadly, Ms Thomas seems to go with the "Empire Strikes Back" school of sequel thought, without a definitive ending, and that just ticks me off.

Overall, I was entertained, though, and I'll keep an eye out for the next. There is a good possibility going here, and the writing skills aren't bad, so I hope the next will improve a little.
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Monday, March 9, 2015

Fun Romantic Thriller - Do or Die by Suzanne Brockmann

I was offered, through my Vine membership, an ARC of Suzanne Brockmann's newest book, but it was on the leftover list, so it is actually now available to everyone already!

I picked it because I was a fan of Ms. Brockmann's Troubleshooter series, to a point. I probably didn't read the last three or four, after some of my favorite characters found their happiness.

One thing I love about that series was that couples' stories often lasted over an arc of 2-4 books, with maybe one focusing on that couple and relationship, but the stories lasted. I love, love, love character development over the course of a series, and Ms. Brockmann delivers. Thankfully, I see shades of this in this first installment of "Reluctant Heroes."

The core cast is new to me, at least, and the main story couple was certainly no one I recognized (though again, I missed the last few of the old series.) We have someone call Jules, but he doesn't even have a speaking cameo. ;) One of the main sidekicks knows Ric and Annie, and I know they were at least introduced in one of the last Troubleshooters books I had read. But, since this is a "reset" so to speak, new readers won't be missing anything. People know people we don't know ourselves, and since the familiar names' backstories don't come into play, they just come off as extras to a new reader.

This book has Brockmann's trademark fast pace, bloody action scenes, and hot romance. I cared about the main characters, and liked that they are not perfect. I'll be very interested to see where she goes with the core group that she introduced - there are a lot of fun possibilities for future stories.

I would have liked to know a little more about Phoebe, the main heroine. Unless she is a carryover that I didn't get to, the trademark character development is actually missing for the main protagonist. We got a lot more backstory on the people who will probably be covered in later installments. I liked Phoebe a lot, but wasn't sure quite where she was coming from. We're told she's a good lawyer, but there's not much proof there. We are shown, in detail, that she's a great improv actress, and that's awesome, but why? How? And after being slightly reluctant to get involved, I felt that her sudden devotion to the mission was a little unexpected, or at least under-explained. I would have liked to have known more about her and her motivations.

But, overall, I flew through this book within 24 hours and will definitely look for the next. If you're expecting a trademark Brockmann romantic thriller, I think you'll be happy. If you're looking for something deeper, you're up the wrong tree. Pin It

Rock Hard by Nalini Singh

(I received an e-ARC for this book from Net Galley.)

Guess what comes out on Monday!?!

Do you know?
Can you guess?

I can. Not. Wait. for all of you to read Nalini Singh's Rock Hard*.

It's a bit of a side trip of a Rock Kiss novel--related to the stories of Schoolboy Choir but not actually focused on the band.

Instead, Rock Hard, gives us the story we've all been dying to read since we first met Charlotte (and learned of the dreaded T-Rex) in Rock Addiction**.

Business suit, rugby ball
Hint, hint
Really. Any two characters who meet over a hurled stapler and the realization that a presume prowler is really the new boss are two people I need to know more about.

Charlotte, who we first met as Molly's loyal best friend in Rock Addiction, is a records clerk at the headquarters of an ailing department store chain in New Zealand. Gabriel is a retired rugby star turned corporate savior. Charlotte is bright and hardworking; she's actually doing the work of two, but surviving a prolonged assault has left her so timid most people don't realize it. T-Rex, err, Gabriel is known as a no-nonsense, hardworking executive. He's also smart enough to notice that all the work his assistant turns in originates at Charlotte's work station.
This is how the author
is promoting the book.
Smexy, indeed.

Gabriel then puts both Charlotte and the assistant through similar interviews to see who really knows the details of the work being done. It's Charlotte, naturally, and Gabriel is just about hooked. She's shy and wears shapeless clothes, but Gabriel knows full well that smart women are his catnip. (The catnip bit is in his own--um, the author's--words.) So he fires the assistant, promotes Charlotte, and goes about getting to know the new assistant that he now wants to know very, very well.

Rock Hard navigates the issues of finding balance between a hard-charging dominant T-Rex and a courageous and brainy mouse. The characters both have traumas from their youths to overcome, and, of course, the issue of separating work life from personal life.

Like all Nalini Singh stories, this is a well-written, sexy romance with characters I want as friends in real life. I know you'll like them, too.

*I've reviewed other books by Nalini Singh here and here.
**Sadly, I must've slipped into a fugue state after I read Rock Addiction because I didn't review it.  But I should've.  Go read it.

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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Risking It All by Kati Wilde

(I received a free e-ARC of this novella from the authors for review.)
Yeah, I understand your conflicted feelings.

Perhaps you have a bit of a crush on Jax from "Sons of Anarchy"*.

Perhaps it's more than a bit.

And perhaps you're more than a little lost without the show.

Then I have a series of erotic novellas just for you.

Kati Wilde writes about the Hellfire Riders, a motorcycle club in the Pacific Northwest. The novellas are part of a coordinated effort with two other authors, Ruby Dixon and Ella Goode, to, in their own words, "write the kind of romances we love to read." Which would be romances that include strong women, alpha males and hot sex and danger.

Risking It All  was just released last week, and I devoured it.  It's the second book of three featuring Lily and Jack.  It's a standalone story; you can jump right in. (But the first one's sexy, too, so you may as well get them both. Betting It All is free right now while Risking It All is 99 cents.)
Very steamy.

Lily and Jack are both more than a little messed up from dysfunctional childhoods, but they're also smart and loyal and oh-so-hot together.  Risking It All has them trying to navigate their own issues as well as as the threat of a rival motorcycle club.

It's a quick read--in part because you won't want to tear your eyes from the page and in part because the author wants to give you just a tasty bit--90-ish pages.

To date, I've read all of the Motorcyle Club novellas, and Kati Wilde's are my favorite.  All of them are fun (and hot), but I find Kati's characters to be more fully developed and her alpha males a little more enlightened.  (So my Jax obsession is definitely obsession-lite.)

*For the uninitiated, "Sons of Anarchy" was a show that ran on FX about a family and its (in a?) outlaw motorcycle club.  That's Jax pictured above. He's no Prince Charming, but many, many women have seen him more than once upon a dream. Pin It

Monday, March 2, 2015

Fizz by Ted Wright

(I received a free e-ARC of this book from Net Galley.)

This is me. Trying to put together a video presentation.
Clearly, I'm an idiot.  But clearly, teaching tools have changed.

I teach marketing.

That's my day job.

And trying to get my students ready for a career in marketing is a bit of a challenge right now.


Because we've moved away from the broadcast model of promotion.  Everyone has more than three TV channels.  In fact, most of us my students don't actually watch television anymore.  They might watch television shows, but they stream them.  All that means any "formulas" for promotional success are outmoded and outdated.


Because my students should know a lot about digital media.  And they only know enough to be dangerous.  They use it as consumers--not as creators, not strategically.

So, I'm constantly looking for information--blogs, books, videos, Storify--to help me get them prepared for a career of changing technology and change consumer habits.

And so I read Fizz: Harness the Power of Word of mouth Marketing to Drive Brand Growth by Ted Wright.

I'm glad I did.

At the heart of Fizz is the firm belief that good companies with good products have good stories to tell their customers.  And, equally importantly, that customers (and employees) are smart and can be trusted with more than sound bites of information.

This here book contains solid advice
 for both large and small organizations.
The author walks through the power of influencers (the people you want telling other people about your brand), how our consumption habits have changed, and finding your brand's story.

So basically, we walks through the what, the why and the how, and he does it for both large organizations and small.  He also explains that word of mouth is neither easy or free, but critical to a brand's success.

Why most casual readers aren't looking for a good marketing read, I'd definitely recommend this for small business owners, and it'll be required reading in class.

High praise, indeed!

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Sunday, March 1, 2015

Two (!) Books out of my (Chanin's) Norm - and, gee, I didn't love either...

I got this one thinking it's a history of scientists trying for the truth. Turns out, it's one modern scientist's memoirs of her activism. Interesting, but not what I thought...

This is my Vine review, which was rated 3 stars (it's OK):
I honestly can't decide between 3 and 4 stars here. This was a pre-publication free choice from the Vine program, and I admit that I must not have read the full description of the book before I chose it, or the description was vague enough, that I thought this was going to be an historical review of some of the Age of Reason scientists and their fight with the established thinking of their day.

Not even close.

These are the memoirs (let's be honest about the genre) of the author's research and fights for what she sees as true results in the face of unpopular results or political correctness. The author is a PhD and her focus is the research into the history of science, having done her dissertation on the treatment of so-called hermaphrodites in Victorian England. This research put her in the eyes of activists in the 1990's who were fighting for better care and treatment of the (surprisingly large number) kids being born with differing sexual organs today.

From that very involved activism, she moves on to trying to clear the air around a transgender study that apparently tore that community in two, leading to her researching some other scientists who had produced, from her view, largely popularly misunderstood and attacked studies, and finally she did some work on the use of an unproven drug for the possibility of preventing some interest issues.

While it was nothing like what I expected, it was compelling. My best friend is a PhD and professor, so I have been fully aware that academia isn't all cooperation and love for some time. However, other people's train wrecks can certainly be entertaining, and so I definitely wanted to see how these played out.

This is not scientific writing; it definitely reads like a biased memoir. While she assures us that the science is good for the friends she defends, she doesn't do anything to prove the science. She is an historian, after all. She certainly takes her digs at the opposing view holders from the transgender debate, and I certainly don't know enough to know if she's correct. I can see her point, and she's persuasive, but I'm skeptical in general. Nonetheless less, it's interesting.

I am not, in general, a memoir reader. I might not have picked this had I realized that was what it was, as opposed to an actual history of science. I certainly learned something, so I don't regret reading it, but I also don't know if I really "liked" it enough for the four star rating. And I do think the title and subtitle are trying to grab an audience that the book doesn't match.

And then there was this one, also either misrepresented or misunderstood:

My Vine review, also for 3 stars (it's OK):
I can't call this book as comedic. I just can't. So, part of my rating is certainly influenced by the fact that I really kept waiting for the "hilarity" that, in my opinion, never shows up. I found the book to be more depressing than anything else. If there is humor, it's the small smirk type, which, to me, isn't hilarious.

I couldn't connect with the characters at all, and while the major part of the plot is that Giovanni doesn't have his own personality, I would prefer to feel something for a main character. I can't even feel much sympathy towards his journey to find that missing personality. I didn't like the surrounding cast, I couldn't really find anyone to care about, and that, for me, made it a slog, no matter how well it was written.

To be fair, had it been described as I see it, I would not have chosen this book to review. Once we choose a Vine product, however, we have to review it, so I feel it worthwhile to say that if you (like me) prefer a non-ambiguous setting, expect a comedic book to be more like movie comedy, and tend to stay away from memoirs, this book isn't for you, as it isn't for me. I gave it three stars because it at least seems like an original idea to me, and the author writes well as far as descriptive work and grammar. Pin It