One-Quote Review: Giving It Up by Amber Lin

  • Giving It Up by Amber LinTitle: Giving It Up
  • Author: Amber Lin
  • Series: N/A
  • Genre(s): Contemporary, Suspense
  • Publisher:  Loose Id,  June 2012
  • Source: Amazon, $7.99 ebook (now $6.39)
  • Length: 308 pages
  • Trope(s): Angst, Guilt Issues, Single Mother, Gangsters
  • Quick blurb: Struggling single mother gets more than she bargains for when she hooks up with a gangster’s brother.
  • Quick review: Not quite what I expected, but great writing and a fantastic single mother heroine.
  • Grade: B+

I wanted him for my own, and that wanting was like a chant in my head. A greedy, futile chant.

I wasn’t expecting all the suspense-y stuff, but I loved the depth of the characterizations – in particular, the actually truly realistic and believable single mother heroine. And her kid is not a plot moppet prop. I know, right???

One-Quote Review: The Short and Fascinating Tale of Angelina Whitcombe by Sabrina Darby

  • The Short and Fascinating Tale of Angelina Whitcombe by Sabrina DarbyTitle: The Short and Fascinating Tale of Angelina Whitcombe
  • Author: Sabrina Darby
  • Series: N/A
  • Genre(s): Historical (Regency)
  • Publisher:  Avon Impulse, June 2012
  • Source: Digital ARC provided by the publisher via Edelweiss ($0.99 ebook)
  • Length: 100 pages
  • Trope(s): Beta Hero, Courtesan, Wounded Soldier, Tormented by Guilt
  • Quick blurb: Reclusive war hero’s mother hires courtesan to seduce him out of the ruined castle he’s restoring.
  • Quick review: A bit predictable, and a fairly implausible HEA, but the writing is all passion and emotion.
  • Grade: B

Their nakedness seemed right in the soaring space of the great hall. Stripped of all its earthly trappings, the luxurious and glittering material goods for which she’d strived the last five years.

This novella has temporarily restored my faith in historicals – and in Avon’s Impulse line.

Also: “indolent nakedness” is now on my list of favorite phrases, right under “erotic spectacle.”

One-Quote Review: Lady Amelia’s Mess and a Half by Samantha Grace

  • Lady Amelia's Mess and a Half by Samantha Grace (Sourcebooks Casablanca)Title: Lady Amelia’s Mess and a Half
  • Author: Samantha Grace
  • Series: N/A
  • Genre(s): Historical (Regency)
  • Publisher:  Sourcebooks Casablanca, June 2012
  • Source: Digital ARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley ($4.99 ebook)
  • Length: 416 pages
  • Trope(s): Beta Hero, Widow, In Love with BFF’s Spouse, Big Misunderstandings
  • Quick blurb: Widow reunites with her first love. With a bunch of Big Misunderstandings.
  • Quick review: When I found myself liking the “wanton” BFF and her doofus lover better than the heroine and hero, I figured it was time to stop.
  • Grade: DNF

“Is this for me? Delicate fingers walked down his skin and circled his shaft.

Officially DNF’d at 62%. We had yet to reach whatever the big Big BIG Misunderstanding was going to be, and I didn’t feel like plodding through the remaining third of the Mess – each “conflict” was telegraphed loud and clear a chapter (or even a few paragraphs) before it happened.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Status updates….

07/18 – 20%

Not much going on yet besides the usual.

07/18 – 20%

I had to page back a full chapter to remember what was going on. This is not a good sign.

Lady Amelia’s Mess and a Half by Samantha Grace

“How YOU doin’?”

07/18 – 29%

Anachronism Fail: “…but they weren’t playing tiddlywinks under there.”

07/18 – 29% (part 2)

Question, re: “…screeching like a Morrigan.” Would a Regency aristocrat have knowledge of Celtic mythology?

07/19 – 33%

Anachronism Fail AND Bullshit Alert: A character described as a befuddled buffoon is somehow a skilled practitioner of acupressure (yes ACUPRESSURE, or possibly reflexology)), curing widow’s migraine using pressure points on her feet. Of course, he must remove her stocking to accomplish this, so it’s really just a ploy to get up her skirts.

07/20 – 60%

Bullshit Alert: Two hours after proposing to heroine, hero informs his father. Dear old dad pulls out a Very Special Ring that he JUST HAPPENED TO HAVE IN HIS POCKET. A ring that belonged to the father’s Mysterious First Wife.

I Write Snark. About Books. Not Authors.

I posted a few comments on HuffPo Books and tweeted a few (well, a lot of) things yesterday, so I figured I should out myself a Mean Girl (for those who didn’t know that already) and point any newcomers to related documentation in the interests of transparency and accountability:

The “Hell Yeah!” Snark-O-Rama

The Lessons Learned from the “Hell Yeah!” Snark-O-Rama

A little more backstory about the “Hell Yeah!” Snark-O-Rama
(links to Dear Author Thread of Doom)

The Cowboy’s Princess Wife
(in which I aim my Darts of Mockery at the small-press publisher, who later removed the book from their online store, Amazon, B&N and ARe)

Lady Alexandra’s Excellent Adventure
(in which I aim my Darts of Mockery at a Big Six publisher for insulting my intelligence)

Galley Proof by Eric Arvin
(Not as many Darts, but enough to qualify for Mean Girl Status; scroll down to the middle for the snark – but keep reading….)

If you have anything to say – good or bad – I encourage you to leave a comment. I do not (and have not and never will) suppress any comment, with the sole exception of any that include personally identifiable information.

I’m @kelly_instalove on Twitter, KKJ on Goodreads, and you can also email me: kelly d0t instal0ve at yah00 d0t c0m.

One-Quote Review: Wrestling with Jesus by Stephen Osborne

  • Wrestling with Jesus by Stephen OsborneTitle: Wrestling with Jesus
  • Author: Stephen Osborne
  • Series: N/A
  • Genre(s): Contemporary, M/M
  • Publisher:  Dreamspinner Press, April 2012
  • Source: Digital ARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley ($5.38 ebook)
  • Length: 210 pages
  • Trope(s): Beta Heroes, Big Misunderstanding (heh)
  • Quick blurb: Small-time pro wrestler hits the big-time when his under-hypnosis recitation of the Sermon on the Mount in Aramaic is sold to the tabloids.
  • Quick review: The author was able to pull off the satire, but the head-hopping and character inconsistencies drove me crazy.
  • Grade: C

“All I know is that I tried hypnosis to stop smoking, and the next thing I know I’m in a tabloid proclaimed as the reincarnation of Jesus Christ.”

The satirical premise was inspired (heh), with some truly funny scenes and dialogue. If only the rest of the writing held up – every character, no matter how minor, gets a POV, and the language of the internal monologuing is often inconsistent with the character. I kept comparing the main characters to Larry and Al in J. L. Merrow’s brilliant Muscling Through, and Randy and Kyle are just pale imitations.

One-Quote Review: Mercenary’s Perfect Mission by Carla Cassidy

  • Mercenary's Perfect Mission by Carla CassidyTitle: Mercenary’s Perfect Mission
  • Author: Carla Cassidy
  • Series/Category: Romantic Suspense
  • Genre(s): Contemporary, Suspense
  • Publisher:  Harlequin, May 2012
  • Source: Digital ARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley ($2.99 ebook)
  • Length: 217 pages
  • Trope(s): Insta-Love, Plot Moppet, Evil Twin
  • Quick blurb: Mercenary falls for damsel in distress while saving idyllic town from the clutches of his Evil Twin.
  • Quick review: Once again, I manage to join a series already in progress.
  • Grade: B-

He was shocked to realize he somehow wanted to be the hero she’d never had in her life, the man she could depend on to get her son back, to make her world right.

Great premise and good writing, but I would have enjoyed it much more as a longer stand-alone novel instead of part of a series.

One-Quote Review: The Harder They Fall by Trish Jensen

  • The Harder They Fall by Trish JensenTitle:  The Harder They Fall
  • Author:  Trish Jensen
  • Series/Category: Previously published in Harlequin’s Love & Laughter series
  • Genre(s): Contemporary
  • Publisher:  Bell Bridge Books, June 2012 (originally published June 1997 by Harlequin)
  • Source: Digital ARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley ($4.99 ebook)
  • Length: 202 pages
  • Trope(s): Insta-Lust, Lust in the Workplace, I Hate You Except When We Kiss
  • Quick blurb: Klutzy MBA disguised as a waitress tries to prevent her father from selling family restaurant chain to Studly Millionaire.
  • Quick review: An un-funny rom-com that shows its 1990s origins.
  • Grade: DNF

She switched tactics. Smiling, she batted her eyelashes. “Can’t we be friends?” she asked sweetly.

Made it about 20% and didn’t see any hope of ever liking the annoying heroine.

The Measure of Katie Calloway by Serena Miller

  • The Measure of Katie Calloway by Serena B. MillerTitle:  The Measure of Katie Calloway
  • Author: Serena Miller
  • Series: N/A
  • Genre(s): Historical, Inspirational
  • Publisher:  Fleming H. Revell Company, October 2011
  • Source: Amazon, $9.68
  • Length: 316 pages
  • Trope(s): Trust Issues, Guilt Issues, Very Convenient Coincidences, Beta Hero, Damsel in Distress
  • Quick blurb: Wife fleeing abusive husband finds sanctuary – physical and spiritual – in a Michigan lumber camp.
  • Quick review: Miller is a relatively new inspie author, and I think this is a good effort – but not quite award-worthy.
  • Grade: B-

The Lord of rain and sky and earth and fire had heard the prayers of the women and children and rough loggers and had chosen to save them.

This RITA-nominated inspie had a fantastic setting and compelling characters, but between the Info-Dumping and the Very Convenient Coincidences, most of my notes and highlights were of the “oh, really?” variety.

I was also bothered by passages like these:

…She found herself almost envious of her own former slaves. They were now free, but there would be no war fought to emancipate her.

…She soon found out that most plantation wives were as trapped as the slaves who served them.

Read the full review at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books >>

Cheap is Good, Free is Better

I’m going to try to make this a recurring feature, because I have a kajillion freebies and 99-centers in my stupidly overwhelming TBR queue.

These are all Kindle books, but none are Amazon-only. Images link to Goodreads.

*~*~* FREE *~*~*

If It Ain't Love by Tamara Allen

If It Ain’t Love by Tamara Allen
M/M romance set in Depression-era New York City.
EVERYONE should read this because it’s FLAWLESS.

Beautiful Mess by Lucy V. Morgan

Beautiful Mess by Lucy V. Morgan
Goofy housemates help jilted heroine rebound.
This is UTTERLY HILARIOUS and RIDICULOUSLY SEXY.

Still Life with Murder by P.B. Ryan

Still Life with Murder by P.B. Ryan
First in the Gilded Age/Nell Sweeney
historical mystery series, with a
kick-ass governess/detective heroine
and one of the best flawed heroes ever.
AND…the other books are only $3.99.

Maid for Love by Marie Force

Maid for Love by Marie Force
First in the McCarthys of Gansett Island series
– this is my favorite because of the chemistry
between the hero and reluctant heroine.

Safe With Me by Shaina Richmond

Safe With Me: The Beginning by Shaina Richmond
First installment of a serial erotic romance –
the complete series is available for only $4.99.
READ THIS because is it SEXY AS ALL HELL
and the writing will SUCK YOU IN.

Collision Course by K.A. Mitchell

Collision Course by K.A. Mitchell
M/M romance with a truly memorable couple.
This is my favorite K.A. Mitchell.

Georgiana Darcy's Diary by Anna Elliott

Georgiana Darcy’s Diary by Anna Elliott
My second-favorite Austen spin-off.
Trust me, this is really enjoyable.

Pole Star by Josephine Myles

Pole Star by Josephine Myles
Fun novella about a stripper who
finds love in the emergency room.

The Wary Widow by Jerrica Knight-Catania

The Wary Widow by Jerrica Knight-Catania
I’ve enjoyed all her books, and this is my
favorite – even though it has twin-switching.

Intentions of the Earl by Rose Gordon

Intentions of the Earl by Rose Gordon
This isn’t my favorite by Rose Gordon,
but it’s a good kick-off to the better sequels.

*~*~* 99 cents *~*~*

The 51st Thursday by Mercy Celeste

The 51st Thursday by Mercy Celeste
This M/M romance is STEAMY – and not just
because the heroes are trapped by a hurricane.

The Governess Affair by Courtney Milan

The Governess Affair by Courtney Milan
*~* SWOON *~*

Once Upon a Winter's Eve by Tessa Dare

Once Upon a Winter’s Eve by Tessa Dare
I have MAJOR author crush on Tessa Dare.
And she JUST KEEPS GETTING BETTER.

The Hanover Square Affair by Ashley Gardner

The Hanover Square Affair by Ashley Gardner
First in the Captain Lacey Regency Mysteries series
by the author also known as Jennifer Ashley.
Wounded war hero becomes a reluctant investigator
– great secondary characters and a kick-ass
love interest who appears in a later book.
This first one isn’t my favorite, but the damn
series JUST KEEPS GETTING BETTER.
AND…the other books are only $2.99 or less.

The Temporary Earl by Blair Bancroft

The Temporary Earl by Blair Bancroft
Really good Regency with a non-titled
hero and a smart-ass heroine.

Second Son of a Duke by Gwen Hayes

Second Son of a Duke by Gwen Hayes
Hayes is a noted YA author, but I
wish she would write more like this.

The Lesson Plan by Jackie Barbosa

The Lesson Plan by Jackie Barbosa
Holy CRAP, this novella is SMO. KING. HOT.
I’ve read this at least five times.

Her Sudden Groom by Rose Gordon

Her Sudden Groom by Rose Gordon
My favorite by this author because of
the deliciously nerdy and clueless hero.

First Impressions by Josephine Myles

First Impressions by Josephine Myles
Yeah, that author crush thing again,
because she makes the “strangers
on a train” trope work like magic.

Storming the Castle by Eloisa James

Storming the Castle by Eloisa James
I wish all her books were as romantic
and tightly written as this.

One-Quote Review: Complete Faith by Sue Brown

  • Complete Faith by Sue BrownTitle: Complete Faith
  • Author: Sue Brown
  • Series: Morning Report, Book 2
  • Genre(s): Contemporary, M/M
  • Publisher: Dreamspinner Press, April 2012
  • Source: Digital ARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley ($5.38 ebook)
  • Length: 240 pages
  • Trope(s): Coming Out, Cowboys, Virgin
  • Quick blurb: Preacher inspires young ranch hand to come out of the closet.
  • Quick review: Not a lot of emotional depth considering the race and religion themes.
  • Grade: C

The pastor of St. Mark’s was a walking wet dream as far as Tommy was concerned: smooth chocolate skin that fascinated him, and huge dark eyes that seemed to know everything there was to know about him.

I LOVED that one of the heroes was a gay black preacher, but the characters and storytelling seemed really simplistic and superficial, and even the sex was perfunctory. I was expecting a lot more emotion, both romantically and spiritually – Marie Sexton’s Between Sinners and Saints set my expectations, and Complete Faith just felt completely lackluster in comparison.