Saturday, April 14, 2018

What Grabbed My Attention




I know I've been absent from the Saturday Seven - I needed a bit of time to come up with something to write about.

It's not always easy to find a different angle that has yet to be done. I think I might have found it.

As you've probably guessed from my previous posts, I have a HUGE bent towards the paranormal, fantastical and fantasy.

What grabs me often is the title of the book, or the back-cover synopsis or even the authors themselves. Rarely does the book cover alone make me buy or read a book.

This first book to pop into my head was How to Marry a Millionaire Vampire by Kerrilyn Sparks. The title inspired me to pick it up, the back-cover synopsis prompted me to buy it. I have read practically every book Ms. Sparks has written. What a ride that series was. Now, she has a new series and, because I was so happy with the previous one, I gave it a whirl. Yes, it's the author herself that had me buying into the new series. She still rocks!



This book broke my rules of not making decisions based on a cover. Karen Marie Moning's Kiss of the Highlander showcased only the bottom of a man's face. For a long, long time, book publishers only showed this model's arms or in this case, his lips. How often does a reader get a visceral reaction just from a man's lips? I did. Oh, wow did I ever.

I read every title in that series and couldn't wait for more ... until she shifted focus with that Fever series she has going. I read it because of the author. I kept reading because of the mystery of one of the key characters. I stopped reading it once the two protagonists finally admitted loving each other and that made me happy, but at the same time, the book had taken a dark turn. I haven't read another book since. Every back cover synopsis or blurb I've read since confirms my belief that the series is too dark, hopeless and unpleasant for my tastes.

For this next book, Undead and Unemployed, I thought the title was clever. The synopsis was also unique which is good because I was never a fan of the cover artwork. So, the title is what made me pick it up, and the heroine, Betsy sounded original. The book was funny, punny and a hoot. So, I got the first book in the series, enjoyed that too and continued to read the others in the series for quite a while. I stopped because Eric, the hero, drove me nuts. The feeling like their relationship was on a never ending gerbil wheel finally got to me. And I stopped. Until I reached that point, however, I laughed and giggled during every book.

The next book that grabbed me wasn't based on the title or cover but the synopsis. Slave - The Cat Star Chronicles by Cheryl Brooks sounded really unique. A few survivors from a planet that no longer exists because some dude with Darth Vader syndrome blew it up? Add in that the heroes' very interesting sexual talents were ... definitely different. I ended up reading the entire series and I enjoyed every single one. I was actually sad to see the series end.


And then there was this, Pooka in my Pantry by R.L. Naquin. How could I pass up a title like that? How about the first book, Monster in my Closet? Then came Fairies in my Fireplace. I have read every single book in that series and it was totally engaging. They take turns being humorous and serious but always highly imaginative. Sure, the titles grabbed me but the stories kept me.

An unusual book caught my eye one day, Infected: Prey (Infected, #1) by Andrea Speed. In that book I met Roan and fell a little in love with the character. It's M/M, yet not. What I mean is, this book was more a mystery with lots of suspense, investigations and unique challenges for the main hero, Roan. To a reader it's quite clear that Roan and Paris are two guys who really love each other despite or in spite of their health challenges. Due to a virus, hence the 'infected' reference, Roan can turn into a ferocious lion. The cost is rather high and debilitating. But the guys' physical expressions of love and lust were mostly behind closed doors. I think what hooked me was the best part - there was PLOT, substance and damaged, fallible characters that made an impact. I've gobbled up the books in the series since. The book had the best synopsis hook and I'm so glad I discovered it. So title and synopsis were the key elements that grabbed me.


Last but not least was this title that grabbed me, Size Matters by Robyn Peterman. The cover was certainly quirky, but it was the synopsis that clinched it. When I read Hasselhoff, Bigfoot, and Sasquatch hunters, it was an immediate buy. How could I not? I laughed and laughed and had a riot of a good time reading it. I tried other books in the series because of this one, but none had the same high-powered comic level Size Matters did.

So, those are samples of what, as a reader, grabs me most. I think the conclusion is, it's a toss up between title and synopsis.

What about you? What's your favorite hook?

Oh, and please visit the other contributors to the Saturday 7 - it's a great way to discover new reads!!!

Saturday, March 10, 2018

The Black Holes of Romance Books




My mind has taken a bizarre twist today. I have two sons. Boys find body humor hilarious. I think we all did as kids but as adults, we supposedly grow out of it. Yet, no matter our age, 8 - 80, when a toot occurs in an incongruous arena and takes us by surprise? We revert to the inner child and giggle, snicker or disguise our laugh with a cough. No matter what, we tap into the humor. Yes, it might be embarrassing for the tootee, but it's hard to keep a straight face sometimes.

Romance stories tend to gloss over or outright ignore the basic things we do. Sometimes, daringly so, an author will include it. If they include the scene just right, it can be hilarious. But that's the exception to the rule. For most, they simply don't exist! The black holes of romance.

1) Lovers wake up in the morning and immediately proceed to engage in passionate kissing. Some actually dare to mention 'loving his or her smell'. Really? Morning breath has fans? It's a great scene when an author can make that moment funny. There are a few books out there that address this. Most just ignore it. Personally, I find it very hard to ignore. Oral hygiene is one thing that tends to fall into a black hole.

2) It goes by many names but I'll just refer to it as 'toots'. Rare is the book that can mention it in a comic sense. There's only ONE book that comes to mind and it's The Corset Diaries by Katie MacAlister. It was the first occasion I had ever seen a toot used in hilarious context and the memory of it remains to this day. Otherwise, it's another black hole when it comes to romance stories.

3) Burps. I'm not talking about burping babies, or manly belches after consuming beer. I'm referring to scenes in a romance book where the natural result of eating or drinking fast never happens. Have you ever opened your mouth to say something and a burp bursts out? How about meeting the parents of your date at a nice restaurant and a burp makes a loud entrance? Burps happen. Often at the most innocuous of times. Yet, I don't read about it in romance book scenes. Burps all fall into a black hole.

4) Brushing teeth. There are some who do broach that subject. A few call it by name, many refer to it as 'freshening up'. But to have a his and hers teeth brushing scene? It's not really romantic, is it? So, unless it's put in there as a means to get beyond 'morning breath', it's not really put in there. IRL we all do it but since it's fantasy, heroes and heroines have perfect teeth all the time. Unless it's the book How to Marry a Millionaire Vampire by Kerrelyn Sparks. Ms. Sparks made a vampire needing a dentist, funny. Otherwise? Another black hole moment.

5) A long shower without sex. Seriously. Most of the stories I've read fall into two categories - long showers for sex, alone or with others, OR they are the fastest dang events in history. If a heroine has long hair and she takes a shower, HOW can she be 'ready in 10 or 5 minutes"? When I freshen up, it's shower, drying, teeth, and body function (you pick the order), perfuming and/or powdering - HOW can that be done in less than 10 minutes? Of course the hero looks at the heroine with appreciation and compliments her on how sexy and well put together she is. Seriously? My hair would be a limp rat down my back, I'd probably still be damp and will have toothpaste stuck to the side of my mouth. And makeup? Forget it! So, realistic bathroom procedures go down into a black hole.

6) Meals. They are always perfect. They always have the best, fresh ingredients. They are always ready in minutes, no matter how complicated they are. And what's with always making this pasta Bolognese dish? From the recipes I've checked out, it's not exactly fast and I would NOT just happen to have the ingredients on hand. That would take planning. But, in romance stories, they never plan and their omelettes never turn into scrambled eggs. Having a kitchen experience I can relate to in a romance story is nonexistent. A culinary black hole.

7) I can't think of one book that I've read in the past 5 years that even has a hero or heroine blowing their nose (without being sick), having an embarrassing nose goblin or sneezing in a realistic manner - you know the kind, it sort of echos, has moisture torpedos zooming across the room at mach speed and you feel dizzy with relief afterwards, which quickly morphs into embarrassment when you notice everyone is looking at you? Never happens in romance books. A nose's antics are definitely black hole-worthy.

I think the only author that even approaches tackling some of this black hole list in her books and makes them funny is actually Katie MacAlister. I'd be curious to know if you have found other authors who ingeniously, and perhaps even hilariously, interweaves some of this list in the course of telling their romance story. If so, please share. I'll add them to my TBR pile. It would be nice to find out the black hole in romance isn't as deep as I thought.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Make a Movie!!




For my Saturday Seven I thought it would be cool to join in the book-to-movie memes that are out there. Somewhere along the way, I'm sure, like me, you've finished a book and said, "This should be made into a movie!" Whether it be a Whodunit, fantasy or romance, there's something that gave my imagination a definite buzz of excitement. The funny thing is that a couple of them actually made it to the big screen years after I read them. It was like rediscovering an old friend - except the books were always better. **grin**

1)   My very first major book that I was enamored with was read in high school, Dune by Frank Herbert. There was something grand about the whole plot, concept and cast of characters. No matter that it took place in deep space, the base nature that all humans have plays out in glorious weirdness. Starlog Magazine, a publication I devoured like candy as a kid , chronicled the ups and downs of bringing it to life. It was a long road and it finally happened. It think the movie focused on the creepy, sadistic weirdness that was House Harkonnen in too much detail for my liking. In that regard, the book was better. But the Sandworms? Ooooh, that was so COOL!!! I never saw the most recent remake - how can you improve on Kyle MacLachlan and Sting??














2)   Another book that made a great movie was The Day After Tomorrow. There were a few minor differences between book and movie but the tidal wave scene still is one of the best special effects done and I know my imagination could never have created that intense a visual as the movie version. Wow. In that, the movie was better than the book, so I'm glad someone recognized the potential.









3)  Then there was Krull. I'm not sure if the movie came first and then the book, or the book was written following the movie to capitalize on the association, but no matter, the book had details the movie couldn't grasp. The romance between a prince and princess is the ultimate romantic tale especially when it's against impossible odds, a race against time and a formidable foe. The movie is cheezy, sure, but I love it anyway.














4)  Now, I've heard rumors that finally, FINALY the Dragonriders of Pern will be made into a movie. Why did it take so long? That series influenced many a writer, and caused kids to dream big and imagine the possibilities of other worlds. I just hope Hollywood doesn't screw it up by slipping in earth society checklists and instead keeps true to Anne McCaffrey's vision. It's the best!














5)  A movie that SHOULD be made would be based on Sarah Morgan's Sleigh Bells in the Snow (O'Neil Brothers). It would be perfect as a Hallmark Movie. Heck, I'd BUY the movie if it was ever made, especially if it was true to Ms. Morgan's creative vision. That novel is the definition of romance and has been on my keeper shelf since 2013. Love, love, LOVE that book!!!














6)  A novel that was made into a movie recently that totally surprised me was The Wrong Bed: Naked Pursuit by Jill Monroe. I READ that Harlequin story years ago and when Jill announced that it was a movie on Lifetime, I was frantic. I didn't get that channel!!! Fortunately, Lifetime had different online outlets and I was able to watch it on my PC. BEST TIME EVER! Of course, the movie took a few liberties with the original story but still, a Jill Monroe book made it!!!! I was so thrilled!!!














7)  I know that the Sookie Stackhouse Novels by Charlaine Harris was made into an HBO miniseries and at first, I was so excited. But HBO totally screwed it up. The books were ten times better!! So, although it should be my number seven, I'm going to switch to another world that has been built up over a span of years starting in 1999. Next year will be TWENTY YEARS. A movie or series would have to tone down the sex of course, as the scenes are strongly erotic in nature, but the concept of Carpathians vs vampires, vampire hunters and mages, and very strong leading female characters with serious skills and talents could be an amazing onscreen sensation. The language, customs, romance, healing chants, music and mountainous vistas and forest scenes could be a visual feast of the senses. I believe Christine Feehan's Dark series should be made into movies or a miniseries- but they better let the author have control of her characters. The Dark series has survived 2 decades for a reason! And it's not what Hollywood thinks they know. They understand diddly.












At least with today's Saturday Seven, I'm not 100% paranormal. Sort of. **wink**

Please see today's Saturday Seven at LASR to see everyone else's great posts today!

Thanks for visiting. :)

Saturday, February 03, 2018

My Leading Men




Good morning!

Today's post is going to be a quick one. I was invited to go outlet shopping with a group of friends. When they took me to the new outlets at Foxwoods two months ago, it was my first time going to such a thing. They were aghast.  I was a 'shopping outlets virgin'. They have taken up the challenge to cure me. LOL

Anyway, I was thinking about heroes who take charge and I had no problem coming up with seven.  The dilemma was choosing which ones.  That's a nice puzzle to solve.  So, here are the men who lead me during my romantic getaways of imagination.

Lothaire (Immortals After Dark #12). He was a villain for many books in the series. A true anti-hero. There was something tantalizing about him.  Even though Darth Vader was redeemed in the end, Lothaire kept more true to his character so he never really turned into a goody-two-shoes.  Watching him fall in love was highly entertaining, yet Ms. Cole had a way of humanizing him enough to make him a great leading man. He grew on me. LOL

                         
Seth from Ms. Duvall's Immortal Guardians.  He doesn't have his own HEA yet.  I'm not-so-patiently waiting for it.  Seth is a very unusual hero as he leads and cares for a unique collection of humans.  Why he's so vastly different, what makes the humans he cares for so precious, and the lengths he'll go through to protect them blows my mind.  He seems lonely, he has this internal pain I want to heal, but Seth being Seth, puts everyone's needs before his own.  He's mysterious, powerful and capable of great compassion. 

                                                                   

Rogan from Ilona Andrews Hidden Legacy Series.  He's such a BAD bad boy, he's delicious.  He's powerful, stubborn, manipulative in amazing ways, and he has never loved or been loved, ever. Watching him find a happiness that is unique to the kind of being he is, was an awesome experience!

                                                                   
       

Lucien Argeneau by Lynsay Sands.  He's the big boss, the one all the Immortals fear. He's the perfect straight man. Yes, he shoulders a LOT of responsibility and he carries himself with a stoic, powerful demeanor - but his brethren love to poke him every chance they get - when they deem it safe to do so.  As much as I respect his character, I giggle too.

                                                   
Gregori, the Dark One from Christine Feehan's Dark series.  His HEA is in the 4th book of the series., Dark Magic.  He's a very powerful, scary and spooky Carpathian. He appears many times throughout the series as their most powerful healer and fighter.  He captures my imagination when Ms. Feehan describes him. So when he falls for Savannah, it's a beautiful thing.  Another thing I like about him, he never runs from a fight.
                                               
Vlad.  I' was introduced to  him in the first book, Once Burned, in the Night Prince series. Yes, he's basically Dracula BUT like nothing I'd ever read before.  I ADORED his character - dark though he was.  Ms. Frost created a very seductive hero and of course, the heroine is just as unique as he is.  It's a trilogy so there's plenty of twists and turns.  Vlad isn't a 'I love him" character - there were times I wanted to smack him because he is just SO his own man, arrogant, commanding and very possessive with the woman he eventually falls in love with.  Why he's so commanding, his back story, is explosive in how it touched my heart.  Life made him what he is, but Leila introduced the softer emotions. 

                                                                     

Ian MacKenzie in The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie by Jennifer Ashley. I read his story way back in 2012 and it's stayed with me all these years.  Ian has what we now know as Asperger's. His character made such a huge impact that any book in the series that Ms. Ashley writes is always better simply by the virtue of Ian being in it.  I adore, love, want to hug, Ian. His story brings to life the power of love.  He's a terrific, stellar and wonderful hero.
   
                                                           

So, those are my favorite leading men.  If I read Nora Roberts, chances are one of her men would make this list as so many people rave about a certain one.  But I don't so he's not here. ;)

Who is yours?

If you want to see the place that created the Saturday Seven, go here.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

The Appealing Oddness of Paranormal Romances




My past posts are amazingly bent towards paranormal/sci-fi/fantasy romances. So, I thought I'd share the 7 reasons I prefer them over others. Just so you know, I do read other genres, but none spark my imagination more than alternate realities and universes.
                                                 
 

1) Worldbuilding - whether it be Lynsay Sands, Kerrilynn Sparks, Terry Spear, Dianne Duvall, Jennifer Ashley, Robin D. Owens, Gena Showalter, Christine Feehan, Nina Bangs, Ilona Andrews, Erin M. Leaf, Sandra Hill, Alanea Alder, Mimi Jean Pamfiloff, Jayne Castle, Alexandra Ivy, R.E. Butler and scores of others - their imaginations have created a different reality with its own rules, social structure, challenges, lifestyles, and unique methods to finding their mates/loves that lead to the coveted happy ever after. No matter if it's in outer space or a variation of our own Earth, or a combination of both, the possibilities are endless.

2) Being surprised. I enjoy the intrigue of the unknown, and the comfort of being able to relate to the hero and heroine no matter how odd their environment. I like seeing the 'human' side of things even among non-humans and the unexpected means of courtingship and claiming. That makes me think of the series by Cheryl Brooks. Those first few books in the series contained lots of surprises.

3) The claiming. Yes, I know it's been done to the point of overkill, that moment when the hero or heroine catches a whiff of a particular scent that can only mean one thing - mate. In reality, humans marry hoping that their union will be one for the record books - celebrating 50, 60 or 70 years together until death does them part. Alas, for many people, it's not to be. Yet, we never lose hope.

In paranormal romances there is that tantalizing idea of nature providing a spark which points them in a guaranteed direction. For them; it's more than hope, it's seeking what they intrinsically know for a fact, an assurance that there is someone special for them. They know without a doubt when they cross paths. Their hope is more along the lines of fate making them stumble upon each other at just the right time. In my most favorite romances, the hero is (steared or steered?) towards his mate but it's not a given. He has to work for it; woo her, impress her, convince her, romance her and maybe even protect or fight for her. I'm not a fan of whiff-grab-mark-have sex and call those steps 'romance'. No, I want the protagonist to EARN the privilege of their mate's love, devotion and trust. I need a meeting of the minds, a clash of circumstances, a plot to overcome and conflicts I can relate to, before they rumple/tear/burn up the sheets in physical expression of passion, lust and love. The claiming can be by bite, marking or some other mystical manifestation and it's always super steamy, exotic, erotic, and the best part - forever.

                                         

4) Meeting non-humans. This is where an author's creativity can shine. Can gargoyles, dragons, elves, fairies, were-wolves-cats-bears-rabbits find love? Yes. I've read about were-skunks, were-moose and were-beavers. I read about aliens that are truly reptiles-tails included, beings that have an extra arm, or two, and aliens that are essentially blobs that can take whatever form they wish. I've seen aliens turn into madmen because they've not found their mates in a certain time frame - and the heroine has a huge undertaking in saving him in time from permanent insanity with the power of her love. Like I said before, paranormal/sci-fantasy offers unique situations that will never be found in straight contemporary or historical romances. Those genres have set parameters and rules that must always be kept in mind. Non-humans have no such constraint except what the author chooses for them.

5) Sex. Yes, paranormal and sci-fi/fantasy romances offer varied levels of heat - spicy to erotic, and odd or unusual courtship practices. Aliens and paranormal beings do it better. They always seem to know what and how to touch, bite or lick. :) I don't like books where the only plot is how many sex scenes can be squeezed in between a thin vehicle that claims to be a story conflict. I need my emotions involved, I need to be invested in the characters. I need to care. When the criteria is met, the books have a solid chance of going on my keeper shelf. The bedroom door doesn't have to be blasted all the way open but I like being seduced the same time as the heroine. I like when the sensual buildup, tantalizing teases, and near misses culminate in the satisfaction of seeing the protagonists succumb to their passions. When done right, paranormal romance sex is fun.


6) Alien landscapes and cultures - This pertains more to sci-fi/fantasy stories. Obviously this is part of #1, Worldbuiding, but it's the descriptions that are the showcases here. If an author can describe to me what the protagonists are seeing, and I can clearly visualize the scene, then it's worth noting. One author who can illustrate that talent is Elsa Jade because there is this one story that takes place on a hostile planet. The flora and fauna described, as well as a specific predator, knocked my socks off. Of course, there are magically guarded pockets on Earth that are doorways to a supernatural culture that is hardly benign to its denizens. Leave your earthly humanity at the gate because a whole new world is described to take you away from normality.
                                                         
 

7) Pure romantic escapism - Those three words say it all. I don't need a book to educate me on heavy subjects that dog my steps in real life from television, news radio or newspapers. I want to escape the negatives, the stress, and my worries of dealing with every day drudgery and crisis. Take me to another world, another culture where their conflicts are removed from my own. Show me heroes and heroines who are falling in love despite their unusual circumstances. Show me a romance with a happy ending to lighten my day, a story that makes me feel good, and a book that takes me on an adventurous roller coaster of emotions that culminates it the good guys winning and the bad guys getting what they deserve. Romantic escapism is my mental vacation. Paranormal/Sci-Fi/Fantasy pulls me out of my world and sends me into uncharted destinies. The lure is impossible for me to resist.


Paranormal romances may take me to odd places with quirky characters, but they are always entertaining. Love is their end goal. The pursuit of love and a solid happy ever after are such appealing hooks, I'm a pushover.

Now I get to ask you. Of my 7, which one speaks the most to you? Do we have anything in common?

This post is due in large part to Long and Short Reviews - A site where I've discovered so many new authors while browsing their reviews, it's a favorite of mine. I'm happy to be a part of their Saturday Seven.