Auld Lang Syne

Good lord, my reading challenges just flew out the window.
2013 started off great for reading romances... really it did!

The TBR Challenge 2013 at the Super Librarian's (but I'm signing up for the 2014 challenge),
Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge (maybe I can do 50 books in 2014?),
Trying to post twice a week (ok, that will be trickier...)

Everything seemed great and then...

I blame all of May through August. Some of the best months for summer reading, and I just blew it.

On top of my other Herculean 2014 goals, I'll really need to do better about carving out more reading time.  And I need to be more stringent with my DNF intuitions; if the book isn't going well - just stop.  No more wasting time by avoiding a crummy book.  If it's not meant to be, just let the book go.

Ciao ciao 2013!  

Here's to an HEA romance-filled 2014!


A Holiday (not) to Remember (by Helen R. Myers) -- FAIL

I truly wanted to love this one...


I saved this Harlequin Special Edition romance from LAST YEAR.  It's from November 2012, and it was advertised to me as part of the "holiday" line of romances.

Since I didn't get to it last year, I saved this one - totally anticipating the day when I could read about her saying "I do," and then pulling the ring box off the pizza - like the most delicious topping of all time, cheese dripping all over the place - but she doesn't give a shit because she's so damn happy! - but NOooOo. This one was bland as all hell.

I will probably never remember the story. I don't even remember their names anymore. I know they were in Texas and there was real estate drama 'bout his ranch he inherited or whatever - and it was just awful.

I will only remember the cover. With the pizza solitaire engagement.

Also, not that it matters to every reader ever, but there are constant/consistent errors about the Marines and the USMC, so everything automatically feels fake to readers who will know.  There is also most ZERO chemistry / romantic development between the characters - suddenly we're in love and we can't stop thinking about each other, right?  I got three-quarters of the way through this book, and I realized too late, "Wait, this isn't getting good at all..."  I skimmed as much as I possibly could on each page - still nothing.

And lastly: This doesn't take place during the Christmas season at all.  It ends right before Thanksgiving.  WTF.

I had to give it one star on Goodreads.

Massive disappointment.

I want my four bucks and four hours back.


So Tough to Tame (by Victoria Dahl)

The Mac n' Cheese of romance reads.

Comfort food contemporary read.  Will not disappoint and there's no crazy ingredients to upset your stomach/taste buds.

So Tough to Tame by Victoria Dahl

Conflict  Reputation ruination and soulmate salvation.  The reputations were already ruined in the past, but it's still a fresh concern (and arguably - at one point, every character in this novel has a moment where he/she is concerned for his/her reputation).  The soulmate salvation isn't as "drastic" as that seems (as if it would be for a paranormal) but Charlie Allington and Walker Pearce reconnect and fall in love at just the right time in their lives. Timing is everything, eh?  They've definitely got it, because they were both unhappy and now they've got their HEA.

What I loved:
  • Average guy hero
  • Organic writing-style; feels like you're there talking to a friend - real language
  • Again, it's just a really GREAT contemporary read. I can recommend this to any one of my female romance reader friends and I'm pretty sure they'd really enjoy it.
Why do I empathize with this heroine?  Charlie is the sort of girlfriend you really want to help out.  She has been dealt some bad cards with the jerk relatives, psycho bosses, and scumbag exes, but she is still smart and doesn't let any crap keep her down. Never once did I feel frustrated with her. She has the strong enough emotional intelligence to look at her past, move forward from that, and focus on her present situation adjusting to life back in Jackson Hole. And she champions the hero into following his passion, and well, it's so refreshing just to read a book about genuinely good couple (despite all their mistakes) finding their HEA, not in a saccharin overdose sort of way either.

Overall:  Victoria Dahl has a new fan in me. Christ, is she funny! I've never been to Jackson Hole, but this one makes me want to go, and I'll pick up the remaining books in her Jackson series, also.

Jackson Hole, WY: Lookin' all rustic and wintery
(Sadly, not my pic - it's from some Visit WY website or something.)


Intro to October Update

What I've been up to in the past two months:

Since the beginning of October, I've been trying to reach that healthy balance between the "non-fun" and "fun" (grown-ups call this the "worklife balance", but it simply does not exist).

Writing for Heroes and Heartbreakers has been the best respite from anything "non-fun" and "non-life", so on to more blogging and reading!
  • I was fortunate enough to do a First Look review for Mary Jo Putney's Sometimes a Rogue (Awesome!) which came out in late August.  Mary Jo Putney has a new fan in me!  To date, this is the most action-packed historical I have read (and I know there are more out there); our heroine is kidnapped in the first chapter -- and then -- she pukes on the bad guys.

  • Talking about bathrobes ... in romances. Like bathrobes - that ratty towel-thing hanging on the back of your bathroom door... it's in your romances.  Whenever there is a bathrobe, boning love is sure to follow.

And my TBR challenge is still suffering, along with my GoodReads challenge (four months behind, holy crap)... but I'm working on it.


Forgive & Forget (by Heather Ashby)

Forgive & Forget (Love in the Fleet, #1)
water color covers?! - nice!!

Forgive & Forget by Heather Ashby
Conflict: ... more than one here - Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire / Big Secret / Reputation Ruination

Simple Background: If you are "enlisted" in the military you can't be in a relationship with anyone who is an "officer"/superior, etc. So basically, no romances with your boss.  (Of course, it is more complicated, and I am told that lovers in the military will find ways around this, at the risk of losing their jobs, etc. - so this is the bulk of the reputation ruination conflict.)  This goes hand-in-hand with our heroine being a huge liar.

Usually, I loathe the Lie-by-Omission in my romances.  Grinding my teeth throughout the pages.  But this one held my interest because it involved a lot of policy and regulation - trying to find a loophole in the rules, while also feeling the angst of "I really love you, but we can't be together" - and that ties into the Reputation Ruination.  The heroine sailor Hallie and hero "officer" Philip fall in love. Hallie painfully breaks off their hot summer romance/passion (while he's still clueless that she is enlisted) and now she has to avoid him even more... because they're doing a tour of duty on the same aircraft carrier.  The possible reputation ruination that could result from the romance makes Philip "understand" Hallie's dilemma just a little bit, and it's (putting this very lightly) easier to forgive her lie-by-omission.

There's also the "big secret" plot twist when a ghost from Hallie's past reveals an ugly truth that she is forced to deal with -- on top of all her stress that she's currently facing.

Oh, and there's a terrorist trying to blow up the carrier.

Things I loved:

  • Policy, policy, policy - tell me all the rules, then break 'em!
  • Description of life on the carrier
  • Good tension building scenes
Why do I empathize with this heroine?
I appreciate that she is a hard-worker and wants to pursue a career in journalism, but lie-by-omission is still a big no-no for me.  She should have come clean BEFORE things got hot and heavy with Philip, and it was selfish of her to do so... plus, if it were the hero taking advantage of the situation, I would've closed the book.  My curiosity for the plot line kept me going through this one though - and I genuinely wanted her to have her HEA.  (And yes, I obviously felt bad for her being on the carrier with the terrorist.)

Overall:  As a regular civilian, I thought this would be a good read for any romance fans wanting an inside look of the Navy life.  (Fair warning: if you really dislike reading about terrorism in any way, you might want to pass on this one.)  I AM looking forward to Ms. Ashby's continuation of this series.


He liked it, and he put a ring on it...

Engagement + new job = less time for reading and blogging.  

But, this is a brilliant motivation for me to read (or re-read) a bunch of engagement/bride/wedding related romances.  I looked at my GoodReads shevles and there's so much with "bride" or "engagement" or "wedding" in the title.

And because I'm about to be even more broke (weddings can be 'spensive...) there are tons of these books already in my TBR pile (so I won't have to spend more money on books) -- and I'll chip away at my TBR.  Which reminds me the TBR Challenge 2013 has been suffering... time to catch up.


Baby's 1st M/M romance: Cut & Run (by Urban & Roux)

In honor of DOMA being ruled unconstitutional by SCOTUS, I'm finally getting around to posting my 2013 TBR Challenge book (from LAST month - *hangs head in shame*) - and HOORAY!

Overall, politically speaking, I personally don't care which side of the bread you butter your toast - I just want people to be happy and have HEAs.  (And now Urban-Roux can work on a super HEA for our heroes.)

(WARNING: Heavy amounts of M/M rom-angst inside!)

Cut & Run by Abigail Roux

Conflict: extreme M/M rom-angst plus a serial killer is on the loose... (I can't call it friends-to-lovers since Ty and Zane really weren't friends to begin with...)

I already mentioned this one for Heroes and Heartbreakers, but I'm giving it a stand-alone review because --good Lord almighty this has tons of rom-angst.  I'm reading along, thinking, "Wow, Urban-Roux gives good suspense..." and then a few chapters later, I'm thinking...

...this is still a romance novel, right?

But in a GOOD way!  Cut & Run did such a great job of keeping me invested in all the plot angles (and so stressed over what was going to happen) that I can certainly see why they have a huge underground legion of fans (aka "the Minions") and why my friend Alicia Obsesses with a capital "O".

Ty is a combat-veteran former Marine (super elite force recon, so his unit was the big swinging dick of the USMC, etc.) and now he's the brilliant FBI Special Agent tough-guy.  And he's HYPER-observant, so any sudden movement means your ass is getting pounced!  Then there's Zane who is more introverted/book-smart and clean-cut, but he's got a super dark past (mostly involving his tragically-deceased wife and his "habits").  They are oil and water.  So they don't exactly "mix", but they're a perfect duo!

We have the following:
- bombs
- homoerotic tension
- lots of "classified" stuff
- drugs
- guns
- loads more homoerotic tension
- more drugs and alcohol
- prostitutes
- and [highlight for slightly spoilierish]:  I will NEVER think of  POE the same way again. Ever.
- the psycho-est of all serial killers
- homoerotic. tension.

In case I can't make the homoerotic angst any more clear/apparent.  Imagine if you could bundle up and concentrate all the intensity and drama of your most obsessive high school and/or college crushes - into a super potent extract - and that is like the heart-crushing feelings between Ty and Zane.  It's kind of a bromance too... I remember feeling really concerned that even as work-partners, Ty and Zane weren't getting along.  And I'd feel all stressed out that someone hurt someone's feelings, and it was just odd - as if I demanded them to get along better, and be more cooperative, because they were co-workers.

All of it just worked so beautifully.  For my first M/M rom-angst (romance?) it was superbly completed with a HFN (happy-for-now) ending.  But like I mentioned above, maybe we can get some M/M wedding bells for Ty and Zane...

Things I loved:
- "Alcoholics don't recover"  (Shattered my heart into a million pieces to read it, but it's true.)
- Ty's got his Ka-bar.  (Every Marine loves his Ka-bar.)
- "crazy ass recon boys" with their dragon skin body armor  (They can be pretty cocky.)
- USMC tattoo
- "You're a big softy" = Viagra in the coffee
- "something highly alcoholic that looks like water" = Wednesday night special

Overall:  I would recommend this to anyone interested in reading an M/M - or to see what an angsty M/M is all about.  (Or for fans of suspenseful who-dunnits, splashed with lots of homoerotic tension.)