TBR Challenge: The Earl I Adore by Erin Knightley

February’s TBR Challenge was “Recommended Read (A book recommended to you by another reader/blogger etc.).” I blame this one on John (@DreamingReviews) who reviewed it for Heroes and Heartbreakers. “Heroine plays the oboe” = FASTEST ONE-CLICK EVER.

Yes, I played the oboe. Full-on band geek. You are not surprised.

  • The Earl I Adore by Erin KnightleyTitle: The Earl I Adore
  • Author: Erin Knightley
  • Series: Prelude to a Kiss
  • Published: Signet, January 2015
  • Source: Purchased
  • Length: 336 pages
  • Tropes: Big Misunderstanding, Deep Dark Secrets, Music Nerds, Mean Girl
  • Quick blurb: The heroine plays oboe. The hero sings opera. There’s some conflict-type stuff but I didn’t pay attention to that because MUSIC-SWOON.
  • Quick review: To quote the hero describing the heroine, it’s : “…a glass of champagne. Effervescent, light, and sweet.”
  • Grade: B

“You make me want to learn more Italian,” he murmured, offering her a small private smile.

“You make me want to listen to more opera,” she replied….

This was just charming. I’m going to be lazy and just tell you to read John’s review, because he really captures the feel of it. I never would have even looked at it without his recommendation — the title and cover just scream “wallpaper.” It does skirt the boundaries of fluff, but the wooing-with-music scenes are quite swoon-y, and I may have needed a tissue or two at the end.

And, of course, I bought the first in the series, featuring a pianist and her grumpy neighbor, and I’m impatiently awaiting book three with the Chinese heroine who plays the zither. THE ZITHER. I’m not kidding.

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More on the I Was a High School Oboe Player….

Why did I play oboe, you ask? Because I started out on the clarinet, but my two best friends were always first and second chair and I got sick of competing with them. Only two oboes, so I’d never sit lower than second chair — and I only had to practice once a week.

True story.

“The double reed is quite tricky, and it can be a lot of effort to get the sound just right, so we oboists tend to have exceedingly strong lips.”

Oboes cost $1200 for a “cheap” student model. Reeds cost $12-15 each. Strong lips, indeed.

Audiobook Update

Hild by Nicola GriffithI gave up on Hild. Again. I found the early chapters about her childhood fascinating, and I’m looking forward to the Kickass Abbess years (is that blasphemous? She was pretty kickass, and not just for a nun). But the Extended Road Trip of Political Paranoia with the king has painfully slowed the pacing. Maybe I’ll go back to the ebook and skim ahead a few (dozen) chapters. I should like this book. I should love this book. Why don’t I like this book??? It’s starting to kind of piss me off.

Sleeping Beauty by Judith IvoryMy Author Crush on Judith Ivory continued with Sleeping Beauty — a bit darker and more melancholy in atmosphere and tone than Indiscretion or Beast, but still very much Ivory’s distinctive, seductive voice. I have Black Silk queued up on Scribd, and Untie My Heart lingering in the TBR somewhere. I might need another listen to The Proposition to go full circle – but I might have to skip that damn ending.

The Winter Sea by Susanna KearsleyI kicked off my Susanna Kearsley Binge and why in the hell did I have book anxiety over these??? I was leery of the woo-woo stuff, but holy cow, Kearsley does it exactly right. I started with a traditional read of The Shadowy Horses, which I’ve been sitting on for years —it was one of my very first ebook purchases. It was goooood. I bought the audio version too (of course).

The Firebird by Susanna KearsleyAnd then I listened to The Winter Sea and The Firebird — and they were everything everyone else said. Stunning. Characters, world-building, pacing, everything. I kept thinking how “cinematic” the storytelling was, and I don’t mean that it sounded like a screenplay — which is the exact same reaction I have to every Mary Stewart book. One notable audio thing: the narrator’s accent for Nicola in Firebird sounded exactly like Lady Mary on Downton Abbey. Every single vowel. The Rose Garden is in the queue.

The House at Tyneford by Natasha SolomonsI’m now listening to The House at Tyneford by Natasha Solomons. There’s not a lot of subtlety or emotional investment yet — just the expected upstairs/downstairs conflicts. It could be the first-person POV from the young and spoiled heroine is what’s making it feel shallow so far, but hopefully as she matures the intensity of the story will pick up.

For My Lady's Heart by Laura KinsaleThe Kinsale binge is proceeding as well – I liked For My Lady’s Heart, but it required some Hild-esque heavy listening (is that A Thing?) and I need a rather lengthy breather before starting Shadowheart. My Sweet Folly and Lessons in French are in the queue; Uncertain Magic is screaming at me from my wishlist, but it’s also triggering the Book Anxiety (because of the woo-woo stuff), so I might need some reassurance on that one.

TBR Challenge: Free Agent by Roz Lee

My first #tbrchallenge — woohoo!

  • Free Agent by Roz LeeTitle: Free Agent
  • Author: Roz Lee
  • Series: Mustangs Baseball, #0.5
  • Published: State of Mind Publishing, May 2013
  • Source: Purchased
  • Length: 65 pages
  • Tropes: BDSM, Insta-Lust, Insta-Love
  • Quick blurb: Star ballplayer hooks up with new sub
  • Quick review: *YAWN*
  • Grade: D

“If you sign the contract tomorrow, we’ll seal the deal with a good fuck. How’s that?”

Yeesh. It’s a good thing this was a freebie, because it’s got every possible erotica cliché. I annotated every other paragraph with a variation of “Of course.”

  • Honey-blonde hair hung in soft waves over bare shoulders, framing fine features, porcelain fair skin, and blue eyes. [Of course.]
  • It was as if she saw past his defenses, right to his soul. [As he’s eye-fucking her while she’s fingering herself. Before they’ve even spoken. Because OF COURSE.]
  • Brooke licked her lips…. [Of course she did. How else would he know she’s horny?]
  • “…say yellow if you need a minute before we continue, red if you can’t take anymore.” [Because we all need BDSM 101 in every.single.book.]
  • Glossy pink petals framed a perfectly shaped slit. [Of course it’s perfect. Duh.]
  • …the most amazing orgasm of her life. [At their first actual encounter at the dungeon. Of course.]
  • He’d claimed a part of her no one else ever had—her heart.  [After their first encounter at the dungeon. And they’ve only shared first names. Of course.]
  • Now, she understood. The real pleasure came from pleasing her master, not the other way around. [*yawn*]
  • ...until he met Brooke, he hadn’t truly understood the submissive partner held as much power—perhaps more—than the dominant one. [*YAWN* Will this be on the quiz?]

Other random thoughts/observations:

  • There is zero character- or relationship-building. These people are completely cardboard and interchangeable with every other bad erotica I’ve read.
  • Might have been a D+ if not for the pluralizing-with-an-apostrophe egregiousness (“two single Dom’s looking…”) throughout.
  • The meet-cute occurs at a munch. Yes, a “munch.” I cannot believe I’ve never come across that term before.
  • The contract is “Concise and well written with headings, subheadings, and bullet points.” She wonders if a secretary prepared it for him. [No, really.]
  • The word “slurping” is used.
  • Secondary character is a sub named Candy. There are dessert jokes.
  • The characters contradict themselves ALL THE TIME, sometimes even within the same sentence. “Punishment is not intended to be pleasant” — but then he teases her about being a pain slut and yammers on about how sexy her moans are. “I don’t enjoy leaving those marks” — but, um, dude, YOU’RE A DOM WITH A FLOGGER.

I was hoping for something quick and fun to prep for a Spring Training baseball theme. I’ll keep looking.

The 2015 Page O’ Wishful Thinking

Alternate title: I Have a LOT of Good Intentions

girl-reading-with-pug-charles-barber1My 2014 had a lot of comfort reading, and a lot of weekends-with-no-kids binge reading, but very little reading-to-review. I think that slow-down was partially due to my growing obsession with audiobooks; I tend to read traditional books very fast, and audiobooks force me to slow down and hear every word and immerse myself in the language. That kind of wallowing is great for Heyer and Kinsale and the Austen/Eyre/Gaskell classics, but it’s also made me rush through too many genre reads, and ignore longer books, in order to accumulate that sense of accomplishment in knocking down the TBR.

Remind me to remind myself that nobody else cares about the depth and breadth of my unreads. It’s not a competition. It simply doesn’t matter.

What matters is finding books that matter to me, and participating in discussions, and writing about why I love reading, and endeavoring to elucidate those ephemeral emotions that emerge whilst engaging in erudite entertainments.

Wow. I haven’t alliterated like that in a long time. And with vowels! Damn, I’m good.

ANYWAY. So here’s my plan that’s not an Official Plan because that would totally negate everything I bloviated about above.

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The Insta-Love Annual Sappy Holiday Romance Binge: The Historicals

It’s still the holidays. YES, IT IS. Because I’m the only one in the office at the dayjob.

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Now on the DIK Shelf….*

A Cowboy for Christmas by Lacy Williams

  • A Cowboy for Christmas by Lacy WilliamsTitle: A Cowboy for Christmas
  • Author: Lacy Williams
  • Series: Wyoming Legacy, #5
  • Published: Harlequin Love Inspired Historical, December 2014
  • Source: NetGalley
  • Length: 288 pages
  • Tropes: Faith, Forgiveness, Redemption, Angst-O-Rama
  • Quick blurb: Former bad boy tries to make amends with boss’s daughter for a horrific accident
  • Quick review: Lovely. Just lovely. *~*HAPPYSIGH*~*
  • Grade: A

“I thought, for a moment, that you might kiss me.” She rushed on, a fountain of words babbling out of her. “And I know you didn’t want to. I know you said we’re to be friends, and I didn’t want you to think that had I had any expectations, because I don’t—”

Three strides brought him to her, but it wasn’t until he took her upper arm in his hand that she went silent. Looking up at him, she could see his face was like a thundercloud, eyes stormy.

“You think I don’t want to kiss you?” He grated the words, as if it was hard to speak them.

“I know you don’t.”

“You don’t know anything.”

He reached for her, and before she could even think that she should push him away — that she didn’t want a pity kiss from him — he’d cupped her jaw, his calloused palm sliding along her cheek and sending sparks flying like a summer cowboy campfire….

It was like putting a match to tinder.

By the time I finished the first chapter, I was THERE. Book Trance. I can’t reveal too much without spoilers, but this book is a master class in angst as a plot device. And character- and relationship-building. And describing panic attacks and agoraphobia. And portraying struggles with faith. Also, there’s a puppy rescue.

I read a few of Williams’ earlier books on Scribd; they were on the OK-but-not-memorable scale. After finishing Cowboy, I bought the entire Wyoming Legacy series — I’m giddy about seeing how she’s evolved as a writer. Let the Author Binge continue!

*As soon as I update that page. Remind me to do that. DONE!

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More inspies….

Married by Christmas by Karen Kirst

  • Married by Christmas by Karen KirstTitle: Married by Christmas
  • Author: Karen Kirst
  • Series: Smoky Mountain Matches, #5
  • Published: Harlequin Love Inspired Historical, October 2014
  • Source: NetGalley
  • Length: 288 pages
  • Tropes: Faith, Forgiveness, Redemption, Marriage by Scandal, Angst Lite
  • Quick blurb: Former bad boy must marry woman whose life he disrupted with an unfortunate accident
  • Quick review: And…I bought the rest of the series.
  • Grade: B

I read Kirst’s The Husband Hunt first — a charming friends-to-lovers story. This one was really enjoyable too; the basic premise is very similar to the Williams book, but the difference in tone and voice make these completely unique reads.

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The 2014 Page O’ Lists

In no particular order….

Favorite historicals:

2014_Historicals

Fave contemporaries:

2014_Contemporaries

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Author Binge: Teri Wilson

An impulse download from the library, and now I’m waiting very impatiently waiting for February because I neeeed the one with the ballet dancer.

These are all loosely related, but work as stand-alones. If you’re not an inspie reader, be prepared for some brief on-page praying and a few earnest Bible verse conversations.

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Sleigh Bell Sweethearts

  • Sleigh Bell Sweethearts by Teri WilsonTitle: Sleigh Bell Sweethearts
  • Published: May 2012
  • Source: Purchased
  • Length: 224 pages
  • Tropes: Small Town, Wacky Inheritance, Dreams Deferred, Mr. Grinch, Tragic Past, Dogs
  • Quick blurb: Newly-licensed pilot is grounded by an unexpected inheritance.
  • Quick review: A whole lot of funny business and some seriously sweet smooching.
  • Grade: A

“Are they always so quiet? I feel as if I’m looking at a dream…something that’s not quite real.”

He took a sidelong look at Zoey and felt a wholly unexpected flicker of connection with her. “They typically don’t make much noise. I think they like the cold. They seem happy to run and play most of the time.”

Then she opened her mouth, and the moment was gone. “You mean play reindeer games?”

This was my squee-fest on Twitter:

Sleigh Bell Sweethearts by Teri Wilson

Palmer the Reindeer also has an expensive public display of affection with the wooden Nativity scene on the courthouse lawn.

I loved the Christmas Eve Full Schmaltz Ending with every cell of my cheesy, sappy heart. There may or may not have been an unexpected Santa suit involved.

And in case you were wondering, people will pay $300 an hour to rent a reindeer. And both genders have antlers, but boy reindeer lose theirs after rutting season, so antlered reindeer at Christmas are female. Girl power!

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Alaskan Hero

  • Alaskan Hero by Teri WilsonTitle: Alaskan Hero
  • Published: May 2013
  • Source: Public library (and then purchased)
  • Length: 224 pages
  • Tropes: Small Town, Just Passing Through, Danger Zone, Grumpy Gus, Dogs
  • Quick blurb: Coffee shop owner makes world-renowned rescue trainer rethink his nomadic lifestyle.
  • Quick review: Falling in love over dog training  = here, take all my money.
  • Grade: A-

Her Bible was still new enough that the spine cracked when she opened it. She hadn’t really expected to find anything inside that would speak to her situation, but the book itself — the heaviness of it — was always a comfort.

She hadn’t been quite sure what she was looking for. Something along the lines of “Blessed is she who kisses a handsome man by mistake” would have been nice.

And this was me on Twitter a few days earlier:

Alaskan Hero by Teri Wilson

There’s a really, really good Total Drama Moment. And then more smooching.

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Alaskan Hearts

  • Alaskan Hearts by Teri WilsonTitle: Alaskan Hearts
  • Published: May 2012
  • Source: Scribd
  • Length: 224 pages
  • Tropes: Small Town, City Girl, Grumpy Gus, Tragic Past, Dogs
  • Quick blurb: City-girl journalist and her Pomeranian-in-a-purse take on a bearded Alaskan sled-dog racer.
  • Quick review: Just the right amount of humor, angst and smooching, with a great backstory about dog sledding.
  • Grade: B

He cupped her face, tipped her chin toward his and paused. In that sweet moment of anticipation, he gave her one last lingering look. “I’m going to kiss you now. Doesn’t that sound better than learning to shoot?”

She nodded wordlessly.

And he lowered his lips toward hers.

This one is quite a bit heavier on the Bible verses, but it’s also a bit heavier on the angst — the hero has a Tragic Past that had me cringing and nearly in tears. Because, you know, dogs.

Speaking of dogs….!

When Clementine bent to scoop the unruly dog into her arms, she caught a glimpse of a pair of mismatched eyes peering out at her from ice-covered shrubbery nearby. One blue, one brown, she recognized them instantly as sled dog eyes. She’d never seen any other kind of dog with two different-colored eyes before.

Have I mentioned that *I* have a husky mix with blue/brown eyes? I may have posted a few pics on Twitter….

Pokey and the bunny she loves a little too much

Pokey and the bunny she loves a little too much

I love it when authors write books JUST FOR ME.