Winter Reads

Yes, it’s the first day of winter here. Below are a few winter reads I’d recommend if you’re in the mood (or too hot in the Northern Hemisphere!). However, so many books with a winter theme are Christmas books; I tried my best to find a mere handful of others!!

The Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas

The Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas

The Winter Bride by Anne Gracie

The Winter Bride by Anne Gracie

Never Too Late by Robyn Carr

never-too-late-a-novel-by-robyn-carr

Now, this one has “Christmas” in the title, but I still consider it a regular winter book. Also – it’s one of only two or three books out of a few thousand I’ve read that literally moved me to tears:

A Virgin River Christmas (Virgin River #4) by Robyn Carr

Catching Up

I’ve fallen A LONG way behind with my review books, and because of that, haven’t had as many reviews in recent months (those bloody trips to Europe! 🙂 🙂 ). I have around thirty books I didn’t manage to review before their release dates, but sometimes you just want to read something you bought for yourself.

So, here are the books I’m reading at the moment. They’re all out now.

The Cornish Escape by Lily Graham

Any Day Now (Sullivan's Crossing #2) by Robyn Carr

The Girl from the Tyne by Melody Sachs

Wounded at the Lake The Wounded SEAL Trilogy by Mitzi Pool Bridges

Romance Passes the Bechdel Test

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Good read on Heroes and Heartbreakers the other day: Romance Passes the Bechdel Test.

For those who don’t know, the Bechdel Test was basically created to determine whether a form of entertainment respects women. it judges films, television shows, books etc. on whether female characters are more than their relationships with men:

The rules now known as the Bechdel test first appeared in 1985 in Alison Bechdel’s comic strip Dykes To Watch Out For

…two women discuss seeing a film and one woman explains that she only goes to a movie if it satisfies the following requirements:

1. The movie has to have at least two women in it,

2. who talk to each other,

3. about something besides a man.

Romance – sometimes justifiably (*especially* books in the Young Adult and New Adult genres) – cops some criticism for not passing this simple test, meaning the female characters only exist to fight over guys.

However, this article argues something slightly different.

If I think of my favourite romances? Yes, the fact they are called ROMANCE means men play a big part in them, but plenty of authors also make the female friendships and relationships very important.

Secrets of a Summer Night by Lisa Kleypas

Think, for example, Lisa Kleypas’ Wallflowers series (or any of her books, actually – historical or contemporary). The female connections come long before the romantic relationships with men do.

Sugar Creek by Toni Blake

Toni Blake’s books are first and foremost about female friendships.

never-too-late-a-novel-by-robyn-carr

Think of Robyn Carr’s small town stories. She actually calls come of her books “girlfriend books” because the women’s connections come first.

The Autumn Bride by Anne Gracie

How about Anne Gracie’s wonderful stories with sisters and friends? The Autumn Bride doesn’t even introduce the hero until 1/4 of the book is over, but we have plenty of time to meet the series’ four heroines and watch them go to hell and back together.

Dangerous in Diamonds by Madeline Hunter

Madeline Hunter works very hard on female AND male friendships. It is one of the reasons she is one of my absolute favourites.

I recently unfollowed some men online because they were sharing “jokes” about women. Memes about how there’s no point trying to understand women – because women do, and ‘that’s why they hate each other’.

Ha, ha, ha, ha…. or not.

I see (and hear from some people, too often of “a certain generation”) about how women are all bitches, and women hate each other, and women this, and women that. As though men are better specimens because they were born with different equipment dangling between their legs.

It’s not true. Just because women might sometimes be more emotional about some situations – well, that’s because so often women care more, and look after their families better. Every family emergency and death I’ve been part of recently? It was the women diving in and doing the hard work, caring for sick family members, supporting each other, organising funerals, making the phone calls and writing the cards.

I like any article that celebrates that instead of scorning it, and hope to see more of this on romance and women’s fiction sites.

The Week: 12th – 18th December

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Our summer roses, still managing to grow, despite some hot, sunny days.

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Summer Sunset

So, this week, after more than 1.5 years, Daniela’s murderer and rapist was sentenced, after finally being forced to confess (and after being filmed running from police after being recognised). He didn’t get the worst sentence, but he did get a couple of decades.

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Good to see this week that the frighteningly pro-Russian and anti-Ukrainian (even after MH17!) Dutch finally ruled the large collection of ancient gold artifacts from Crimea, that were on display in the Netherlands when Russia invaded Ukraine, must go back to Ukraine. Sure, it’s about the only thing anyone has done to help since the invasion and annexation of Crimea, but it’s something – for once.

so-another-year-of-russian-aggression-and-another-year-our-christmas-cards-to-relatives-cannot-reach-the-warzone-where-russia-is-still-invading-ukraine-not-that-it-makes-the-news-anymore

Another year, and another set of Christmas cards to Ukrainian family returned because of the war with Russia.

My review of More Than Friends (Kendrick Place) by Jody Holford

more-than-friends-kendrick-place-by-jody-holford

My review of Pony Express Christmas Bride (Saddles and Spurs) by Rhonda Gibson

pony-express-christmas-bride-saddles-and-spurs-by-rhonda-gibson

Book-Based Christmas Movie

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What I’ll be picking up this week.

under-the-christmas-tree-a-virgin-river-novel-by-robyn-carrbring-me-home-for-christmas-a-virgin-river-novel-by-robyn-carr

Cover Love

Bound by a Scandalous Secret

One of the funnier titles with “Christmas” in it…

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Robyn Carr for Christmas

Yes, I feature her every year (multiple times a year!), but there’s a reason for that!

Robyn Carr writes small town romances (as I’m sure you all know), but she is an author with a voice that tends to stand out from the rest, hence her immense popularity. A Virgin River Christmas is my favourite of her Christmas books. It is sad as well as hopeful, and so different to my summer experience of Christmas I really appreciate it.

However, I think any of her Christmas books are worth a go.

A Virgin River Christmas by Robyn CarrBring Me Home for Christmas by Robyn Carr

‘Tis the Season by Robyn CarrMy Kind of Christmas by Robyn Carr

Contemporary Romance for Christmas

This is not a comprehensive list, or even an original one.

I tend to recommend the same handful of books every Christmas, but if you’re looking for a contemporary romance for Christmas, here are a few suggestions.

The Way Home by Cindy Gerard

Review

The Way Home by Cindy Gerard

A Virgin River Christmas by Robyn Carr

A Virgin River Christmas by Robyn Carr

A Kirribilli Christmas by Louise Reynolds

Review

Christmas Reads A Kirribilli Christmas by Louise Reynolds

Simply Irresistible by Jill Shalvis

Review

Simply Irresistible by Jill Shalvis

 Holiday Sparks by Shannon Stacey

Holiday Sparks by Shannon Stacey

A Cowboy for Christmas by Lori Wilde

Review

A Cowboy for Christmas by Lori Wilde

Bringing Maddie Home by Janice Kay Johnson

Review

Bringing Maddie Home by Janice Kay Johnson

Christmas in Cold Creek by RaeAnne Thayne

Review

Christmas in Cold Creek by RaeAnne Thayne

My Kind of Christmas by Robyn Carr

Review

My Kind of Christmas by Robyn Carr

Kentucky Christmas by Sarah Title

Review

Kentucky Christmas by Sarah Title

A Cold Creek Christmas Surprise by RaeAnne Thayne

Review

A Cold Creek Christmas Surprise by RaeAnne Thayne

Reasonable expectations of authors.

A lot of readers say they never start a book series until the final book is written, but the only times I’ve done that have been by accident, when I discovered a series later that other people did.

There are plenty of series, such as those by J.D. Robb and Robyn Carr, that you’d never experience if you waited until the end.

Sylvia Day Crossfire Series Books 1-4

However, then there are those series that were meant to be a certain length from the outset, and the author struggles to deliver.

Books take a lot of work, much more than most people give authors credit for. However, I think there’s a point you reach where it’s reasonable to be annoyed with an author when they drag their feet.

I am deeply in love with Sylvia Day’s Crossfire series, even though it’s not only not my usual sort of thing, but also has at least one subpar book to it. It was supposed to be a trilogy, but then Day dragged it out, and now it’s supposed to be concluded in five books.

Except – we still don’t have book five!

Day has had a busy year. She was here in Canberra for the convention in March, and then all over Australia on a book tour after that. As soon as she got back to America (I follow her Instagram) she was making appearances on television shows all over the country. Then there were more conferences and conventions to attend.

However, a brief glance at any reviews or discussion forums for this series reveal almost all her fans are frustrated, bordering on angry, or they’ve just given up entirely.

How long is it reasonable to expect your readers to wait for a promised book? Is it okay that the fifth book in this series was originally supposed to be released months ago, but as of October 2015 still doesn’t have a release date set? Worse, it was promised for 2015, and now even the release year has been revoked!

My guess is mid-2016 if we’re lucky, and by then a whole lot of fans will have jumped ship.

Of course Day isn’t the only author to put their readers through this, but this is the one I care about at the moment.

Fiction genres, and especially romance genres, are fickle and change fast. While I hate comparisons being made between Crossfire and Fifty Shades (because I love one and despise the other), they are from the same recent trend. It seems though that the trend is heading right on out of fashion.

Grey by E.L. JAMES2

The Fifty Shades movie was widely panned (and I can’t blame people with that awful cast!), and it seemed to spell the beginning of the end for the angsty-kinky-billionaire-romance fad. E.L. James’ attempt to rewrite her Fifty series from Christian’s perspective was not well-received.

Life and Death Twilight Reimagined (Twilight #5) by Stephenie Meyer

People are looking for something new. This is going out of fashion as surely as teenage vampires did; just look at how well Stephenie Meyer’s attempt last week to revive her flagging Twilight franchise went.

If we don’t get the final Crossfire book soon, Day will have missed the boat.

I can’t tell authors what to do with their lives, but when you’ve crafted a hugely popular series, I promise you, readers would rather have the next book than see you doing yet another publicity tour!

The Week: 13th – 19th July

Canberra MH17 Service 26th July 2014

It has been one year since Russian terrorists shot down MH17. So much has happened since then, and since we organised and hosted the service for all the ambassadors and politicians. I can’t believe it has already been a year, and at the same time I can hardly believe it has already been a year.

Amber+Lounge+Fashion+Monaco+JPp_EMOvc1Ol

RIP to Formula One driver Jules Bianchi, who died at the beginning of the weekend. I was watching the race from Barcelona in October last year when he had his horrific crash, which eventually led to his death. I have never seen such a frightening crash.

I typed 36 000 words of a manuscript this week – Monday to Friday. 36 000 words! I think that was a little too much for five days.

As far as reading went this has been a pretty lacklustre week. I started a number of very “blah” books, and even searching all over NetGalley I was having trouble finding anything to get excited about. Maybe the August – October time period isn’t the best for new books… I still seem to be reading a lot of Western historicals, which is nothing like my usual fare. Maybe I need the change.

These aren’t ads, they’re screenshots!

Irritatinggooreadsads1Irritatinggooreadsads

I’m finding Goodreads unusable at the moment. While I know you can use software to block annoying ads, I don’t see why I should have to for this ONE site. These ads above are animated, meaning the creepy-looking women move nonstop in them, and they are on EVERY page. It makes Goodreads look like some dodgy torrent site, and it’s too distracting to post there.

High quality ads, too. Because we *totally* use the word “Mom” here in Canberra. Yeah, sure.

Those “Strong Heroines”

US Navy SEAL Training.

Cover Love

Sugar Creek by Toni Blake

My review of Shadow of a Doubt (The Tangled Ivy Trilogy #2) by Tiffany Snow

Shadow of a Doubt (The Tangled Ivy Trilogy #2) by Tiffany Snow

My review of Outlaw Hearts (Outlaw Hearts #1) by Rosanne Bittner

Outlaw Hearts (Outlaw Hearts #1) by Rosanne Bittner

My review of Beauty and the Rake (The Rookery Rogues Book 3) by Erica Monroe

Beauty and the Rake (The Rookery Rogues Book 3) by Erica Monroe

My review of A New Hope (Thunder Point #8) by Robyn Carr

A New Hope (Thunder Point #8) by Robyn Carr

A New Hope (Thunder Point #8) by Robyn Carr

A New Hope (Thunder Point #8) by Robyn Carr

After losing her child, Ginger Dysart was lost in grief. But since moving to Thunder Point, a small town on the Oregon coast, and with the help of her cousin Ray Anne, Ginger is finally moving forward. Her job at the flower shop is peaceful and fulfilling, and she’s excited to start her first big assignment, assisting with the Lacoumette wedding.

In spite of her lasting heartache, Ginger finds herself swept up in the pleasure of the occasion. But the beauty of the Lacoumette farm and the joy of the gregarious family are ruined by an unfortunate encounter with the bride’s brother, Matt. Struggling with painful memories of his own recent divorce, Matt makes a drunken spectacle of himself and Ginger when he tries to make a pass at her, forcing Ginger to flee the scene in embarrassment.

But when Matt shows up at the flower shop determined to make amends, what started out as a humiliating first meeting blossoms into something much deeper than either of them expected. Discovering they have a lot in common, they form a solid friendship, though everyone around them worries that Ginger will end up with a broken heart yet again. But if Ginger has the courage to embrace the future, and if Matt can finally learn to let go of the past, there may still be hope for a happy ending.

A New Hope (Thunder Point #8) by Robyn Carr

This is not a series you pick up anywhere. It meanders along from book one, picking up characters along the way. You could read A New Hope out of order, but you wouldn’t get the same satisfaction from it, especially as the characters from the last book get almost as much page time as the hero and heroine of this one.

What Robyn Carr does better than almost any author is actually show her characters falling in love. These are realistic relationships about people you believe really exist. I think Carr has got even better at this recently, with her characters having a few more flaws and screwing up occasionally. They’re likeable but they’re not perfect.

The Thunder Point series is not the same at the Virgin River series, but each has its merits. I do sometimes get the Thunder Point characters a little mixed up, but the series is interesting in other ways. I like that there’s more ethnic diversity in this series, though see my complaint below!

Mostly, I like how this is the real world. It’s interesting, and it’s fun to read, but these characters aren’t romance stereotypes.

I could have done without the secondary plot about the mother of the last book’s heroine and the Russian coach. Not only did this Ukrainian not want to read it, but these are characters who were out of place in this book!

Additionally, I REALLY could have done without the slur on Ukrainian food (yes, authors, borscht might be eaten in Russia but it is actually of Ukrainian origin, the same way pasta, pizza and sweet and sour pork might be eaten in the US but they’re not American foods!). When that part came along I gave up on reading the Russian coach subplot entirely.

A five star read for the main romance, but if I have to pick an overall rating, it has to go lower than that.

Review copy provided by NetGalley.

I’m Bored!

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I do a lot of my reading while I’m exercising, and recently I’ve started dreading that time of day.

Not because I don’t want to exercise, but because I don’t want to read.

I’d love it if publishers could enforce a rule for a year. Ban these terms:

Billionaire. Navy SEAL. Bluestocking. MMA Fighter. Cowboy. Duke.

PLEASE! Let’s see what authors can do when their comfort zones are taken away!

I have a few dozen review books I can’t even bring myself to start, and I have a pretty good idea that I could write reviews for them without even reading the first page. Actually, I could save even more time and just copy and paste an old review for a different book. It would still be accurate.

Robyn Carr Virgin River Series

When Robyn Carr’s Virgin River series got everyone excited, publishers decided that from then on they were only going to accept books that were exact copies of that series. I loved Bella Andre’s fire-fighter themed romantic suspense series, and was really looking forward to the final book. Only to discover it had become another VR-style small town romance.

Wild Heat by Bella Andre

Book One

I later found out Andre got dumped from her publisher because they didn’t want her suspense books, because – you know – People Only Want To Read Small Town Romances.

Then publishers started telling us all these ridiculous theories about why People Only Want To Read Small Town Romances. They blamed it on everything from the US economy to the war in Iraq.

I call BS on that. The reason Virgin River was popular was because Robyn Carr wrote great books. But you know what? I didn’t want to read everyone else trying to rewrite Virgin River!

Suzanne Brockmann revolutionised suspense when she wrote her Navy SEAL series in the late 90s and early 2000s. If you’re only going to read two or three SEAL books in your life, choose from The Defiant Hero, Over the Edge and Out of Control.

The Defiant Hero by Suzanne Brockmann

However, just because Brockmann wrote something brilliant doesn’t mean every single other hero in every single suspense or contemporary book from here on has to be a SEAL. I’ve just come across a series that’s about SEALs who go on a holiday cruise together, and there they all meet women and fall in love with them, and there’s some BDSM involved, and CAN ANYBODY TELL ME WHAT THIS HAS TO DO WITH THE MILITARY??

Secrets of a Summer Night by Lisa Kleypas

Not to mention the huge number of historical romances I’ve read in the last few years where authors have pretty much stolen scenes from Lisa Kleypas‘ books. They’ve quite literally written Kleypas’ scenes, but with just enough changes that it couldn’t be called plagiarism. No originality. Just “more of the same”.

I hate that publishers think that just because someone wrote a book that was good, for the rest of eternity ONLY that exact book can be written and published.

The romance industry has made SEALs into a joke. I go out of my way to NOT read about them anymore, even though military romance is a genre I used to love to pieces (and still do with a few authors). Seeing yet another series coming out that’s attempting to be Virgin River 2.0 makes me want to cry.

I can’t believe it, but at the moment I’m almost sick of reading. And that is entirely the fault of today’s publishers and editors.