One-Quote Review: The Sweet Girl by Annabel Lyon

The Sweet Girl by Annabel Lyon

  • Title: The Sweet Girl
  • Author:  Annabel Lyon
  • Series: N/A
  • Genre(s): Historical (Ancient Greece)
  • Publisher: Knopf, June 2013
  • Source: Public library (Overdrive epub)
  • Length: 256 pages
  • Trope(s): Daddy’s Girl, Bluestocking, Orphan, War & Peace, Gods & Goddesses
  • Quick blurb: Aristotle’s brilliant and cosseted daughter is unprepared for real life when Alexander the Great’s death disrupts their household.
  • Quick review: Odd and uncomfortable.
  • Grade: D+

Herpyllis says when a man is at ease his testicles are tender, but when he’s excited they go wizened and tight. I don’t know if she’s trying to give me the world or take it away.

This short book attempts to tell a big story with tragedy and treachery and sinister deities (and yes, magical man parts are involved), and it isn’t very successful.

The modern YA voice, combined with the Fancy Allegorical Lit-Fic Pretensions, had me disconnected from beginning to end. Just because you CAN use first-person present-tense and anachronistic language to show off your textbook-level grasp of Greek history and mythology doesn’t mean you SHOULD.

As with The Pianist in the Dark, I want this story told by a different author. I’m not the right reader for this book — and I have no clue who the intended audience is.

Lord and Lady Hetheridge Mysteries by Emma Jameson

Ice Blue by Emma JamesonBlue Murder by Emma JamesonSomething Blue by Emma Jameson

  • Title(s): Ice Blue, Blue Murder, Something Blue
  • Author: Emma Jameson
  • Series: Lord and Lady Hetheridge Mysteries
  • Genre(s): Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
  • Publisher: Lyonnesse Books, March 2011
  • Source: Purchased ($3.99 for Kindle)
  • Length: 170-200 pages
  • Trope(s): Age Gap, Smartass Heroine, Repressed Hero, Cops, Misogyny & Racism, Murder & Mayhem
  • Quick blurb: Veteran (and titled) Scotland Yard inspector’s world is turned upside down when he brings a foul-mouthed young female onto his team.
  • Quick review: Hooked by the brilliant characterization, stayed for the bloody stuff.
  • Grade: A- (for the series so far)

The first book in this series popped somewhere in my Amazon recommendations soon after it was published, and I LOVED it without even realizing I’d read the author before. Emma Jameson is a pseudonym of Stephanie Abbott, aka edgy m/m author S.A. Reid (Protection, Something Different). I’m always blown away by writers who can successfully switch genre and voice, and Abbott/Jameson/Reid appears to be phenomenally good at it.

The author labels the Lord and Lady Hetheridge books as “cozy” mysteries, but with the metro London setting and the prickly, smartass professional detective heroine, these books don’t have that Miss Marple/Jessica Fletcher vibe I associate with cozies. There’s just enough blood-and-guts gore and police procedural stuff to sustain the “cynical urban cops” atmosphere, with a few suspenseful gun-in-the-face moments and a charming serial killer to keep everyone from getting too jaded.  Book two, Blue Murder, has a particularly good twisty bit at the end.

For me, however, this series is all about the characters.

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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.

More Harlequin Categories: Intrigue, Special Edition and American Romance

In which I reference an Alfred Hitchcock movie and fuss about more misogyny-disguised-as-romance.

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Wrangled by B.J. Daniels

  • Wrangled by B.J. DanielsTitle: Wrangled
  • Author: B.J. Daniels
  • Category/Series: Intrigue; Whitehorse, MT: Chisholm Cattle Co., Book 6
  • Genre(s): Contemporary, Suspense
  • Publisher: Harlequin, June 2012
  • Source: Digital ARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley ($2.99 ebook)
  • Length: 217 pages
  • Trope(s): Cowboys, Kidnapping, Serial Killer, Friends-to-Lovers, In Disguise
  • Quick blurb: Something involving a cowboy and a cowgirl, with some wacky not-really-suspenseful crime stuff.
  • Quick review: If this finale book had this much Chock-Full-Of-Crazy, I don’t think I’d survive the entire series.
  • Grade: C

“But that kiss? I was just fulfilling a promise I made you before you moved to New Mexico. Remember?”

The happy couple….

Dakota Lansing is an orphaned cowgirl playing host to her Surprise Step-Sister. Zach Chisholm is a cowboy who…um…I don’t really remember, but he’s definitely a cowboy because his last name is Chisholm and he drives a pickup.

The setting….

The 8,000,000-acre  (approx.) Chisholm Ranch near Whitehorse, Montana, which conveniently features a mysterious graveyard, numerous villain-proof hidey-holes and a water cistern that becomes vitally important to the plot.

The storytelling….

Yowza. In-Disguise Serial Killer Out for Revenge, with bonus Prison-Escapee Minions.  Surprise Step-Sister coerced into doing something illegal that never really made sense. Heroine and Hero identify Surprise Step-Sister’s birth mother with two phone calls and one brief road trip. Surprise Step-Sister and Heroine abducted by Serial Killer. Last-Second Rescue aided by an Airplane Chase, a la North by Northwest:

North by Northwest plane scene

Kinda like this. But not really.

It’s all very exciting. And when I say “all,” I mean there’s a LOT of shit going down on the Old Chisholm Homestead.

Even without reading the previous five books in the series, the identity of the Disguised Serial Killer is blindingly obvious – but really, who the hell cares, because it gives us plenty of fun “Hey, yoohoo, the villain is RIGHT THERE, dumbass!” moments.

The romance….

Hmm…let me think for a moment…. I believe there was some smooching and maybe some under-the-clothes touching at some point, but then The Crazy took over.

The recommendation….

I went with a C grade because this book fulfilled most of my expectations of an over-the-top Harlequin Intrigue suspense plot, but the romance got lost in the dust.

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Fortune’s Perfect Match by Allison Leigh

  • Fortune's Perfect Match by Allison LeighTitle: Fortune’s Perfect Match
  • Author: Allison Leigh
  • Series/Category: Special Edition; The Fortunes of Texas, Book 954 (approx.)
  • Genre(s): Contemporary
  • Publisher: Harlequin, June 2012
  • Source: Digital ARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley ($2.99 ebook)
  • Length: 218 pages
  • Trope(s): Beta Hero, Secret Baby (kind of)
  • Quick blurb: Sophisticated city girl and scruffy small-town guy, with some baby drama
  • Quick review: Nothing spectacular, but I enjoyed it.
  • Grade: B-

“Problem is—” his fingers slowly inched upward, “I usually make a habit of doing things that aren’t smart.”

The happy couple….

Emily Fortune is the VP of advertising for her father’s telecom company, and she’s desperate to become a mother like her sisters. Max Allen is a brooding airport manager and pilot-in-training who had to give up the Secret Baby That Wasn’t Really His. (Don’t worry, that’s not a spoiler.)

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One-Quote Review: Redemption of a Hollywood Starlet by Kimberly Lang

  • Redemption of a Hollywood Starlet by Kimberly LangTitle: Redemption of a Hollywood Starlet
  • Author: Kimberly Lang
  • Series: The Marshalls, Book 3
  • Genre(s): Contemporary
  • Publisher:  Harlequin (Presents Extra), June 2012
  • Source: Free from the publisher via NetGalley ($2.99 ebook, $4.99 MMPB)
  • Length: 192 pages
  • Trope(s): Movie Stars, Parental Pressure, Manwhore, Slut Shaming, Misogyny
  • Quick blurb: Slut-shamed Hollywood princess attempts a comeback in a film produced by the ex who led her down the path of wickedness.
  • Quick review: Promising premise, but the execution was a huge missed opportunity.
  • Grade: D

“I think we’ve proved that you can raise hell and people will still respect you, but I can’t. It’s a horrible double standard, so I’ve worked very, very hard to clean up my act.”

The set-up for the oh-so-promising premise was there, but the story never even came close to being the “redemption” I was looking for. The HERO was the one who needed to get his head out of his ass, not the titular Hollywood Starlet. Exalted Manwhore + Slut-Shaming = Misogyny Wins Again.

Lessons Learned from the Hell Yeah!/Dear Author Madness

Or, where do I go from here?

Jane at Dear Author is amazing. The Dear Author reader community seriously Kicks. Ass.

Little Tales of Misogyny by Patricia HighsmithI’m attempting to genuflect and suck up at the same time. Is it working?

I still can’t believe Jane published even one of the Hell Yeah! reviews, let alone all four. My stream-of-consciousness snarkfests weren’t (aren’t) even remotely close to the Dear Author brand she’s carefully built over many years, and I can only say that I’m honored to be even a teeny tiny part of her empire.

When I sent my guest review of Book 1: Cowboy Heat to Dear Author, it was purely in fun – the Simile Sex was just too hilarious not to share. I enjoyed writing that one so much I threw myself into the second book of the series. It wasn’t until I visited the author’s blog that I realized I had flung myself off the Cliffs of Romance Insanity. I couldn’t let it go. I just couldn’t.

And Jane let me drag the DA readers down with me. Unbelievable.

Thank you, Jane, for publishing my reviews and for your support of my rantings, and thanks a zillion times over to everyone who read the reviews and to those who took the time to comment (pro or con). Romancelandia ROCKS, and I don’t know what I ever did before I crossed the border into this weird and wonderful world.

[NOTE: My spellchecker suggested "necromancer" as a correction for "Romancelandia."]

For the record…..

Before I get to my Lessons Learned (see below – no new flowcharts this time, sorry), I need to state emphatically that I truly believe that ANY author who publishes ANY work of fiction is much, much braver than I am. It takes BALLS to write stories and let them loose in the world for readers like me to glom onto.

And despite my sometimes (oh, all right, often) rage-filled reviews, I include authors l didn’t connect with in my admiration. I love writing, but I know I could never muster the courage, commitment and skill to it takes to breathe life into characters, settings, plots and HEAs. Any writer who can arouse my interest and passion gets my applause.

Including – and especially – Sable Hunter.

She’s accomplished more as a writer than I ever have or ever will, and it’s obvious that she not only has found her niche with fans, but also listens and responds to them. She thanks every Goodreads user who posts a positive review, and beyond two “thumbs down” ratings on my vicious Amazon review of Book 3: Her Magic Touch, there has been NO backlash from her, her publisher or any of her fans. Zero.

All those reader-hating YA authors and their Flame War Fangirlz can take Classy Author Deportment Lessons from Sable Hunter.

That, of course, is making the huge assumption that she is aware of any of this.

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Her Magic Touch by Sable Hunter – The Full Review

  • Her Magic Touch by Sable HunterTitle: Her Magic Touch
  • Author: Sable Hunter
  • Series: Hell Yeah! Book 3
  • Genre(s): Contemporary, Erotica
  • Publisher: Self-Published, October 2011
  • Purchase: Amazon, $4.99 (YES, I paid $ for it)
  • Tropes:  Insta-Love, Virgin Heroine, Cowboy Alpha Male, TSTL, Simile Sex
  • Quick blurb:Misogynistic daredevil asshole, paralyzed in a motocross accident, hires ugly voodoo priestess, who doesn’t know she’s really a guardian angel, to restore his manhood. Also, celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse makes a cameo appearance.
  • Quick review: Continuing Adventures in Epic Assholery and Virgin Sacrifice: In Which Sable Hunter Mistakes Misogyny for Romance
  • Grade: F

NOTE: I’m deleting the separate posts with my “read along” status updates because I was lazy and copy/pasted them into the full review…. And because I figured I should try to contain all the bitchiness within a smaller blogographical area. I’m leaving the Bad Sex roundup intact.

At the end of the Hell Yeah! Book 2 review, I mentioned that a few glimpses of the main characters of Book 3 made me cautiously optimistic that we would finally get a grown-up female worthy of being called a “heroine.”

I was wrong. So very, very wrong.

I also bitched and whined about the misogyny in the previous book, but Oh. Dear. God.

This was worse.

Therefore, I’m subtitling this review:

Continuing Adventures In Epic Assholery And Virgin Sacrifice: A Misogyny Manifesto

NOTE: For the purposes of this review, I’m defining “misogyny” as:

  • Infantilizing or otherwise demeaning and marginalizing women;
  • Inferring or stating outright that life without a man is not worth living;
  • Demonstrating double standards regarding male and female sexuality (e.g., manwhores rewarded with virgins);
  • Depicting assertive female characters as sluts;
  • Referring to female characters as “fresh meat”;
  • Repeatedly comparing female characters to abused or abandoned animals; AND/OR
  • Depicting a woman in premature labor serving coffee and doughnuts to lazy-ass men who are perfectly capable of getting the fucking coffee themselves.

It can be a little confusing, so here’s a handy dandy flowchart. Also available in printer-friendly PDF. It’s even color-coded for extra impressiveness! (Yes, I have a day job. Shut up and keep reading, and stop picking on me because I worked really hard on this and now you’re hurting my feelings.)

But wait, there’s more! In addition to the character inconsistencies, eye-rolling “coincidences” and inane detail we’ve come to expect, we also get a whole muddle of unnecessary paranormal nonsense – all of which completely distracted me from the Bad Sex. And of course that just sucked all the fun right out of this, officially making it the Absolute Worst Book I Have Ever Read.

(No, I have not read The Book That Shall Not Be Named, because I refuse to pay $10 for a crappy self-pubbed ebook. I only budget $5 for that sort of thing.)

Let’s get this over with – I need to cleanse my brain with… Something. Anything.

WARNING: This review/diatribe contains irrelevant analogies, bad sports metaphors, gratuitous musical interludes, self-indulgent run-on sentences (heh) and buckets of righteous indignation (it’s a manifesto, duh), with definite overtones of Mean Girl. It’s also very long, so I hope you brought snacks.

Read the full review at DearAuthor.com >>