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“Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.”  ― Winston Churchill

Reblogged from Shelf Awareness Pro

Reblogged from Bettie's Books:

Amazon vs. Suppliers: Demands on Disney, HarperCollins Prep

The dispute between Amazon and Disney that became public over the weekend--and includes no preorders on Disney movies--is over more than pricing, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Citing "a person with knowledge of the matter," the Journal said Amazon wants Disney to pay the difference when Amazon meets below-cost offers to consumers from bricks-and-mortar stores like Wal-Mart.

The dispute "also encompasses promotion and product placement on the Amazon website," the paper said.

---

A Forbes story called "HarperCollins Continues to Prepare for Battle with Amazon" put the publisher's many recent moves in the context of preparation for negotiations with Amazon "sometime in the next year." The company, Forbes said, has been "taking steps to build and strengthen alternate retail channels, grow in size and create new business lines both to bolster its existing position in the market and protect its future."

The moves include its purchase of Harlequin, the launch of a consumer c-commerce website, distribution of e-books through Scribd and Oyster, experimenting with bundling print and e-books--and yesterday's announcement about increasing marketing money for independent bookstores (see story above).

Dedicating this to 87% of self-pubbed authors in the New Adult and Contemporary Romance categories on Amazon.   

Reblogged from The Surly Dragon:

Pretty much, yep.

Reblogged from Lornographic Material:

[REBLOG] How To Push Past The Bullshit And Write That Goddamn Novel: A Very Simple No-Fuckery Writing Plan To Get Shit Done

Source: http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2013/02/20/how-to-push-past-the-bullshit-and-write-that-goddamn-novel-a-very-simple-no-fuckery-writing-plan-to-get-shit-done

Flouncing as the new author sales tool

Mistress M of S & M's Book Obsessions nails it.  

Pimp My Booklikes Design Giveaway!

Reblogged from Parajunkee:

It is that time again! Time for a chance to PIMP your booklikes blog. You know you want it!!!

 

Win a Custom Booklikes Blog Desgin

 

 

 

 Check out the last winner - what do you think? Pimped?

 

Just enter the giveaway using the hand-dandy rafflecopter widget. Check below for all the deets.

 

Extra bit of awesome. If this giveaway reaches 1K entries - another winner will be added. That means two people will have their booklikes blog pimped. Here is hoping, right? If I only get 100 entries, I will form a support group for rejected designers. Anyone can join...

 

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Design Giveaway Deets:

 

  • $150 Value
  • Can not be exchange for another design
  • Design will be completed with specs provided by winner
  • Design will be installed by me, but I will need access to your booklikes account
  • There is no follow or purchase necessary, but it is offered to gain extra entries
  • A winner will be picked within 48 hours of content ending and will be messaged in the Booklikes DMs, if no response is given within 48 hours, another entry will be picked
  • If entries pass 1k another booklikes design will be added.

 

 

Accepted Fate: 1

Accepted Fate - Charisse Reid, Clarise Tan

A tedious slog thanks to pages and pages of exposition. The characters don't speak, they pontificate. Paragraph after paragraph is devoted to describing every single detail, from buckles on shoes to color of eyeshadow. Punctuation errors are common, homophone errors too. The grammar made my head hurt. If you care about the state of written English, stay away.

The story is boy meets girl on summer vacation, boy leaves girl behind to move home, girl ends up moving to boy's hometown, cliffhanger. The only thing original about the book are the character names: Kinzleigh, Ryland, Breyson, Londyn, Presley (girl), Briar (boy), Madleigh, Callea, Konnor. If a character has a popular name spelled normally, there's a very good chance he/she is less than virtuous. There's very little tension; everyone adores everyone else aside from the evil ex-girlfriend and the men who instalust after our heroine (which make the hero angry, natch).

Lots and lots of slut shaming in this one, although nearly every character engages in casual sex as a matter of course so why the name calling? Either you own your sexuality or you don't, and if you do then stop using your sexual freedom to call everyone else a whore. The girls are all cheerleaders, the boys are all football stars, so if you are looking for a more nuanced depiction of gender roles, go elsewhere. In fact, the hero's and heroine's life goals are to be an NFL player and NFL cheerleader respectively.

I finished this because the other reviews referenced the ah-mazing cliffy - well, it's amazing all right. Amazingly far-fetched and disregards the known laws of physics.

This book needed a date with a very good developmental editor and a terrific copy editor before being uploaded to the 'Zon. There are a few moments of genuine emotion that make the reader care, but they are few and far between. And the expository, clunky prose renders them all but invisible.

Fall (Seaside Novels) (Volume 5) - Rachel Van Dyken

2.5 stars.

This isn't as egregiously...stupid...as The Bet, the last Van Dyken book I attempted to read (I'm fascinated by why some authors are so popular and must apparently still beat my head against a wall.)

But neither it is a win.

According to the book blurb, if you look up "British" in the dictionary, Jamie Jaymeson's picture would appear. That's odd, because he acts and sounds like a teenage Valley Girl. (I lived in the UK. I know.) There is nothing British about him.

Jamie is supposedly an A-list celebrity with three hit films under his belt, which is why his agent sends him to cool his heels in a small Oregon town instead of, oh, getting as many film offers as possible before Jamie's celebrity cools as would happen in real life. See, Jamie got caught with three scantily clad girls who were "taking pills" (just how did photographers manage to capture the girls in the exact moment when all three of them were taking pills? How does one photograph "taking pills" in the first place?). And based on this one photograph, everyone in Hollywood has decided that Jamie is a risk (even though in real life, they would laugh off the photo and base their willingness to work with Jamie on whether he was easy or difficult to work with on his last films). So we're already in cloud cuckooland, and not the really cool cloud cuckooland seen in The Lego Movie.

Last summer, Jamie had an unconsummated fling with Priscilla, a good girl pastor's kid, so of course the small town where he is sent to cool his feels is the same town where she lives. Priscilla is perky enough, even though her parents are numbskulls who don't pay fire insurance or maintain working smoke alarms. You gotta give her props for surviving to her eighteenth year.

Or is she eighteen? Because at some moments, she is bantering like a twenty-six year old, while at others she comes across as a twelve year old who still believes in Santa.

Jamie - because he is a teenage Valley Girl - pretends to be someone named Jamie Hudson on Facebook with the express purpose of getting close to Priscilla online. She - because sometimes she's a twelve year old who still believes in Santa - of course falls for it. While at the same time fending off the supposed celebrity. Jamie has lots of time to put into his charade because he does none of the things you would expect someone of his stature to do: read scripts, negotiate endorsement deals, work with his investment manager to manage the money he made off his earlier three films, nada.

Some of the bantering between Jamie and Priscilla is cute and enjoyable. The only problem is that it is bantering that would feel natural coming from a twenty- or thirty-something, but reads forced when it's supposed to be a eighteen year old speaking. At other times, both characters act like immature brats.

Still, the book is far more readable than most self-published New Adult stuff. Again, the banter can be adorbs. And I am so over instalove. So it was refreshing to read a book that moved the characters to friends first before the OMG UR MY MOON AND STARZ 4EVAH I WILL DIES IF NO U IN MY LIFE.

I just wish more careful thought and care had been given to the characters. For one thing, there's no reason why they need to be so young; this story would work much better if both characters were at least able to drink legally. If Jamie and Priscilla were consistent and three dimensional, and if the plot were built around them instead of the characters being forced into the plot, this would have been a four or even five star read.

Billionaire Bound: My Billionaire Boss, Part 1 (A BDSM Erotic Romance)

Billionaire Bound: My Billionaire Boss, Part 1 (A BDSM Erotic Romance) - Emily Cantore

Look, I get it. It's smut. Reality doesn't enter into the picture. Pizza boys don't really "deliver" in real life, appliance repairmen don't really "fix" what ails a bored housewife, and highway patrol officers don't let you off because you got them off.

But this is sooooooo ridiculous, so out of the realm of any remote resemblance to life on planet Earth, it's only redeeming quality would be if it was supposed to be a satire of the billionaire erotica trend. Alas, it's far too earnest and plodding and absent any spark of wit to hope that was the author's intent.

And it's not all that sexy, either, if the reader was hoping to skip right to the smut.

We're asked to believe that someone hired to be a lowly records clerk is suddenly promoted to executive assistant to a billionaire businessman who actively runs a successful conglomerate. Not only does she not have the skills, she doesn't interview for the job and she is given no choice to refuse it. She then meet cutes her boss, who is all demanding and dominant (but of course) and insists she calls him "Sir." Oh, and she spills her vibrator out of her purse at his feet because who doesn't take their vibrator to work with them as a matter of course?!

But maybe this company has a Sex Toy Tuesday, like Casual Friday at other offices. It certainly explains why the billionaire has a hidden bar - no, not the kind for drinks. The kind subs apparently hang onto when being punished by doms. Either that, or he likes to practice his pliés in secret. And obviously, the sexual harassment policy at this office is absolutely nonexistent.

So...she screws up nearly every task he gives her, he tells her not to sit down before mere sentences later waving her to a chair, and then he comes over all Bluebeard by telling her not to go into his office without permission (because executive assistants to billionaires never, ever need to be in the executive's office to fetch papers and other items when the billionaire isn't around.). But oh noes, she's misplaced her vibrator! And guess where it might be?

But again, I get it. Who wants reality with their erotica? Except that when the characters are cardboard and the sex is tepid, it only makes the ridiculous scenario stand out that much more.

First Chance: Rock Romance #1

First Chance - A.L. Wood

If I could give negative stars, I would.

People, this book is nowhere ready to be published. This book is an affront to the English language. This book is a disgrace to literature and publishing and anything that involves putting two or more words together to make a coherent sentence.

I know there are some misguided souls out there who feel that negative book reviews should be outlawed and reviewers should "think of the feelings of the poor little author who slaved away."

Well, who thought of ME? Who thought of the poor reader who got sucked in by five star reviews (all those reviewers are now on notice with me - I can't trust you to review "Hop on Pop," much less a novel). If you don't want negative reviews, DON'T PUBLISH SHIT. 'Nuff said.

I don't care that this book is currently free on Amazon and didn't cost me any money. It cost me time. I don't want it to cost the time of others, so I finished it so that my suffering might save others.

And if you don't believe me just how stinky horrible this is? Here's just a small sample of the "prose:"

Until five years ago, Layla and I were staying at my house having a movie night while our parents went to a sit down fundraiser dinner raising money for abused children. Our parents were always supporting charities. They were fortunate to have money beyond their wildest dreams. I also donate quarterly, mainly to charities for children or music programs, in memoriam of them.

I still don’t know all the details, nor do I want to. I think it would fuck me up even more if I did.

Recalling that night. It was late, way past our supposed bedtime, when we heard a knock at the door. I paused the movie we were watching and answered the door. It was a police officer. He introduced himself as Officer Petty's. He asked if I was Natalie Wright. That being me of course I said yes. He then asked if Layla was there and if we would come with him.

I should have known something was wrong when he wouldn’t tell us why we were on our way to the hospital. In fact, he wouldn’t tell us anything at all. When you tell someone that their parents are deceased and that her best friend’s parents are in surgery, you don’t want them to be alone.

When we entered the ER he asked me if I wanted to see my parents’ bodies, that's how we broke the crushing news.

Wood, A.L. (2014-01-23). First Chance (Rock Romance) (p. 2). . Kindle Edition.



My eyes, my eyes. They can never unsee the damage done to the English language.

And in what reality is a fifteen year old told her parents are dead by being asked if she wants to see the bodies?!?!?

Meanwhile, just a few horribly written paragraphs later:

Apparently our parents had a few drinks and thinking Layla's father was the least drunk, he drove them home. Speeding down the road he lost control of the car causing the vehicle to crash into a guard rail, and my parents were then thrown from the car. EMTs found my parents bodies about fifty feet away from the car. They were pronounced dead on the scene. Layla's father, Brian, was going at least seventy miles an hour and not one of them were wearing seatbelts.

Wood, A.L. (2014-01-23). First Chance (Rock Romance) (p. 3). . Kindle Edition.



So, um, when the narrator said she didn't know all the details because it would fuck her up...I guess she does indeed know all the details. *headdesk*

Something is indeed fucked up - oh yeah, it's the current system that allows stuff like this to be put on sale (yes, I know this is currently free. But the sequel ain't).

It gets worse:

Need to know every step of the narrator taking a shower, because it adds so much to the story? Sure!

I turn the shower on choosing to let the water warm up for a few minutes, usually I face a strong shock to my system by getting in and just turning the shower on. A stream of icy cold water is a fairly easy way to wake up quickly. Not taking time lingering under the showerhead, I wash my hair and body with speed and step out of the shower, drying my body off then wrapping the towel around my hair. I walk back into my bedroom.

Wood, A.L. (2014-01-23). First Chance (Rock Romance) (pp. 8-9). . Kindle Edition.



I'm so happy she knew to walk back to the bedroom, aren't you? Keep in mind that the book's story hasn't really started yet. This is all still prelude. And...yawn...such an exciting prelude it is. Don't worry, the excruciating exposition isn't over yet:

Having sat my clothes out on my bed I pick the black designer dress and examine it. It ends at the knee, acceptable. I throw on a pair of flesh colored hosiery and black strappy high-heels. Unwrapping my hair, I run my fingers through it, combing out any knots I find. Then grab my handbag and walk out into the living room. Layla's there alone. Thank God, I didn't want to be a third wheel making an uncomfortable dinner. She’s ready, jacket and all.

“All ready?” Layla asks.

I nod. Making my way out of our apartment while she locks up. A few seconds later she joins me in the elevator making our decent to the lobby of our building. I question her about the new guy, she answers evasively. That’s how I know it’s another unserious fling. Exiting our building we start walking to the car garage across the street.

Wood, A.L. (2014-01-23). First Chance (Rock Romance) (p. 9). . Kindle Edition.



Don't worry, I won't quote more because THE EXPOSITION GOES ON FOR THE NEXT FOUR CHAPTERS. I kid you not. And the story doesn't really kick off until Chapter 7.

For those who might be tempted, here is the "plot" (and I use the word lightly) in a nutshell:

Natalie Wright is a sophomore at the Berklee College of Music (which should totally sue for slander for its depiction in this book). Her best friend Layla drags her to a rock concert, where the headliner is the hit band fronted by lead singer Ryan Steele. Ryan, because he is a major douche, pulls Natalie up on stage to humiliate her because she appears disinterested in the concert (apparently Ryan has super vision that can penetrate the stage lights and see into the audience). But the joke is on him. Natalie tells us, "Unbeknownst to him I can sing, I've been compared to some of the best female voices of all time." But of course, Mary Sue Natalie.

Natalie runs off after she duets with Ryan. Layla, because she is the world's most insensitive and catty friend, waltzes backstage and tells Ryan Natalie's name. Ryan is then informed by his manager that the band MUST hire an intern from Berklee. Ryan in turn blackmails a professor into ensuring Natalie will be the intern because all New Adult "heroes" must exhibit super scary stalker tendencies.

Natalie takes the internship because otherwise she will fail her already completed courses (says no college, EVER). Soon she's on tour with the band, sleeping on their bus, because this book already doesn't have a toehold in reality so why introduce believable situations now? A love triangle is introduced in the form of Liam, a rather sweet and beta-ish band member so of course he stands no chance with Natalie, the Desired By Every Man Who Sets Eyes On Her.

Meanwhile, paint by numbers Natalie sees the tortured artist deep in Ryan's soul that no one else can, although that doesn't stop her from behaving like a scared rabbit every time he stalks sees her.

Of course, this all heads to where you think it will head, with very little conflict or character development. And it is DISTURBING, y'all, when Natalie finally gives him to Ryan:

“I have no reason to talk to you. Unless it’s about my internship or the tour. We have nothing to say to each other.” I say shaking my head showing that this isn’t up for discussion. Suddenly I am pushed back. Ryan shoving his way into my room. Locking my door behind him, this man clearly has an issue with the word no. Either he doesn’t know the meaning or just doesn’t listen.

“What in the hell do you think you are doing? Ryan, I think we played this game earlier and it ended just as it should have.” I say, slowly putting space between us and wrapping my arms around myself with chills zapping at my skin.

“You see, Minx, this is where I think you are wrong.” He says, coming at me.

Glint in his eye, and a sloppy stumble in his step. I keep backing up until my legs hit the bed. I know there is nowhere else to run. I’m stuck in this position. Ryan holding the expression of a hunter on his face, and I am his prey.

Wood, A.L. (2014-01-23). First Chance (Rock Romance) (pp. 122-123). . Kindle Edition.



Dude, SHE SAID NO. And he pushes her. He physically intimidates her.

THIS IS WRONG. THIS IS NOT SEXY. Look at the language - the exact same words could lead into a scene depicting rape.

STOP THE STUPIDITY, AUTHORS!!!!!! Being physically coerced by someone who "doesn't know the meaning [of the word no] or just doesn't listen" IS NOT AROUSING. PERIOD.

Except when you are a numbskull New Adult heroine with less agency than a hamster.

And OF COURSE she's a virgin. She doesn't tell him, he just tells. "I’ll be damned that some part of me was overjoyed there has been no one before me in her."

And OF COURSE she has an orgasm that causes her to, well, not pass out but fall asleep. Hmm. Usually falling asleep during sex is NOT considered a sign of great lovin', but whatevs. He's pretty proud that he "fucked her to sleep."

When Natalie wakes up, he's gone, there's a big misunderstanding when Natalie finds another woman in HIS room (Ryan went to Natalie's room because someone else is using Ryan's room for a foursome), and so Natalie does the only thing a smart, educated, privileged girl does: ODs on Oxycodone. Like you do. The cliffhanger end.

STAY AWAY IF YOU VALUE YOUR BRAIN CELLS.

Strangely Normal

Strangely Normal - Tess Oliver "Strangely Normal" is the wholly charming tale of Eden Saxon, a recent high school graduate who planned on attending college on a scholarship only to learn that, thanks to circumstances outside her control, she didn't qualify for one. Her school counselor offers her a way to make money for school: Finley King, the daughter of a rock legend, needs a companion for the summer. Before long, Eden is leaving the rundown apartment she shares with her parents and much younger sisters for the gated splendor of a Beverly Hills mansion. But it isn't the slamdunk job Eden thought it would be. Finley isn't the only resident of the palatial estate. There are Finley's older brothers to contend with: happy-go-lucky Cole, and brooding artist Jude. And Finley isn't the happy, cheerful girl she appears to be, either. Eden soon has her hands full navigating the undercurrents of the King family.

There are a LOT of things to like about this book. First, it is a welcome departure from the usual sturm und drang of most New Adult/edgy Young Adult romances. Yes, Eden comes from a background that is less than picture perfect. Her parents had her when they were sixteen, her dad can't hold down a job, her mom thinks nothing of driving her kids to school with a joint in her hand. In other books, this is an excuse for the heroine to be, at the minimum, messed up and teetering on the edge. But not Eden. Her parents might be screw ups, but they love their kids and each other. It's refreshing to read about a family that isn't picture perfect, but doesn't make you want to call Child Protective Services and a whole phalanx of psychologists.

Second, Eden is a charming, smart and perceptive narrator who rarely, if ever, feels false or forced. She has just the right amount of street and life smarts to be believable as an eighteen year old, yet she never falls into the festivals of stupid behavior we see from other NA/YA heroines.

Third, the King family is just as charming and strangely normal as Eden's family. Too often, life in a famous & rich family is depicted as a dysfunctional hellhole. The Kings aren't Leave it to Beaver or even Modern Family, but they also love and support each other. Again, it is incredibly refreshing in a sea of books with highly manufactured high drama.

The romance between Eden and Jude is slow to develop - no instalove here! - which also adds to the believability as well as the fresh feeling of the book. And for those who are tired of clinical descriptions of Tab A sliding into Slot B, the feels are all here, just not the mechanics.

The reason for four stars instead of five is that the book had several typos, confused homophones and punctuation errors. Nothing too jarring - I've certainly seen much, MUCH worse - but enough to make me wish a good editor had gone through the book so it would be as polished as it deserves to be. In addition, the final scenes didn't punch as much impact as they should have. Again, some careful editing and attention to detail could have made this book sing, instead of fall rather flat at the end.

But overall, a pretty enjoyable reading experience, especially compared to the same old, same old New Adult offerings out there.

Just One Night (Just One Night, #1)

Just One Night - Elle Casey

 

Book serials are currently popular even as the television daytime soap dies a long, protracted death. I tried the H.M. Ward serial but the typos, spelling errors and lack of basic punctuation skills threw me out of the first installment. So I decided to try this one.

I'm happy to report that in this serial kick-off, the writing mechanics are more polished, even if homophone confusion occasionally sets in (psst: the word meaning someone is using discretion is "discreet." "Discrete" means individual and separate) and there are repeated instances of "I do not think this word means what the author think it means" (this was most jarring when the heroine's breasts were referred to as "cloying." While yes, cloying means sweet, it's a pejorative - sweet in an overly saccharine, disgusting way. NOT a word usually used in reference to sexytimes. Just sayin').

However, for all the basic ignorance of the rules of written English on display in the H.M. Ward installment, at least it had conflict between the two characters upon which to hang a story that might be worth the $56736.89 or so spent in acquiring its apparently never ending parts. Unfortunately, when it comes to this first installment of Just One Night: there's no there there (with apologies to Gertrude Stein).

Jennifer No Last Name is a thirty-five year old real estate agent (mental age: eighteen) living in a generic, unnamed US city. Her boyfriend/boss dumped her for a real younger women, not one who just acts much younger, and Jennifer decides the best way to get on with her life is to have a hot one night stand with a stranger from the internet because, reasons. Even though her previous one night stands have ended in tears. Even though her boyfriend destroyed her faith in all males. No, a one night stand will bring perfect bliss and restore her trust in men - because one can perfectly predict glorious no-strings sex from an ad on the internet and one phone screener. Whatevs, just go with it.

Jennifer takes great care to protect her identity, using a post office box and a pay as you go throw-away phone so she can't be tracked down by people who might misinterpret her actions. Let us hope Jennifer never writes a book review on the internet, however, as taking the same precautions to protect her identity online apparently makes her a bully.

William Stratford (bet his middle name is Shakespeare) is a newly arrived British transplant to generic, unnamed US city. He says he doesn't come from privilege, but he's the new CEO and son of the company's founder, so you do the math (also? I am always so happy when American writers decide to take on the British class system. *grabs popcorn*). Since the story is told in alternating first person POV, we are privy to the working of his mind, which is oddly stuck in the 1950s with references to gossiping secretaries and objectifying every woman he meets (when he needs to think unsexy thoughts, he conjures up old women with beards and warts, instead of, oh, say, cricket scores). His inner voice is full of stilted diction which I guess is supposed to indicate he is British but only comes across as if he has a major stick up his arse.

William is apparently a serious workaholic but at the same time Daddy has to hire his assistants for him, which begs the question of just how effective William is as a manager. And his assistant is a doozy, who takes it upon herself to set her boss up with internet dates. Not only that, but she can't use IM properly. William wants to fire her for all the wrong reasons and keep her for all the wrong reasons. But then, he believes that implementing IM in the office is a mark of how cutting edge he is, when IM has been a staple of office life since the last decade. In other words, I do not buy him as someone capable of running a shoeshine stand, much less a multinational conglomerate. But whatevs, go with it.

We know William is British because he says things like cheerio, loo, totty and cuppa, even if the slang feels like someone bought a book entitled, "The Wacky Things What English People Speak" and sprinkled them here and there. He also narrates things like, "My nostrils slowly extend to either side as my color rises. This is how a British gentleman expresses his extreme distaste," as if we all refer to ourselves by our nationality when in our own heads (I make the side eyes at the book. This is how an American female expresses, well, side eyes). My favorite is when William, TWICE, explains where he is from: "Hammersmith, part of the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, west of Charming Cross" (says no Londoner, EVER. Or I'll demand that HM Revenue & Customs pay me back all the taxes I've given them over the years). And even if people announced their council/borough in conversations with strangers, what makes William think Jennifer has any idea where Charing Cross is? But whatevs, go with it.

William doesn't need an assistant chosen by Daddy to pull women for him, of course, but he does need some eye candy on his arm at an upcoming charity ball because that makes it easier to network, supposedly. Even though once they are at the ball, Jennifer is whisked away to wife-and-girlfriend-land and isn't involved with the menfolk business at all. The bird-brained assistant included Jennifer's "one night stand only" proposition in her pile of potential internet dates and the rest is history. Well, by history I mean they meet, some Pretty Woman-esque sequences take place but without the ethically squicky prostitution angle (or is there, if a man buys you a $2000 dress with the anticipation being you'll have sex with him at the end of the night?), they have glorious missionary position sex, she gets dressed and leaves. Done.

It's a perfectly...okay...short romance story, with some nicely hot sequences. The problem, and it's a huge honking one, is that there is NO conflict. There is no reason why Jennifer and William can't be together, especially once they meet and decide the other is their favorite flavor of sex on a stick. There is some lip service paid to William's workaholic habits and Jennifer's mistrust of men, but these obstacles are more flimsy than one-ply toilet paper in the rain and already easily discarded in the course of this installment. Jennifer's insistence on a one night stand is arbitrary and artificial and there's no reason to stick to it, except, gee, how can one make lots of money off gullible readers without writing more installments?!

No thanks. I can get a professionally edited book with conflict, character goals and motivation - and that understands the difference between discreet and discrete, not the mention the meaning of cloying - for under $8. If I'm going to spend that money on a book, you'll find me looking for a name publisher on the spine, where my hard-earned cash buys me a vetted story (not to mention one with a definite end in sight).

Break (Billionaire New Adult Romance)

Break (Billionaire New Adult Romance) - Vanessa Waltz, Vanessa Waltz


Yet another book by which I am puzzled by all the five star raves.

I found the book to be poorly written. The awkward word choices and syntax threw me out of the story repeatedly. The hero is rather unlikeable, the emotions are told instead of shown, and the end result is tedious. There are plenty of decently written books out there. This is not one of them.

TRIGGER WARNING: The heroine was raped and abused by her foster brother starting at age 10. She has at least one flashback to the attack. And the hero's magic touch heals her. "With every kiss, I was being healed. It was as though Luke was reaching inside my core and mending my pieces back together."

Jessica is a recent college graduate who want to be an "editor" with little to no demonstrated understanding of what that means. Understandably, no one wants to hire her to be one, and Jessica is broke, broke, broke. Jessica is also far too good to take any other kind of work: "I needed a job. I had no desire to return to retail." Oh noes, not retail! She also turns up her nose at applying at Chili's or other restaurants, even though the only thing we see her actively engaged in is cooking and planning meals for a homeless soup kitchen. She does zero writing or even reading, despite whining about wanting an editing job. So srsly, working with food seems perfect for her.

Jessica is also too good for San Francisco's mass transit system ("The seat cushions were old and stained, and if you didn’t have a seat, then people with varying degrees of hygiene crammed against you. I sat down as if the BART seat was a pincushion and recoiled as someone next to me coughed") even though I used to ride BART regularly and it's pretty decent.

So of course, what is a starving college grad who is above working in retail or food service to do? (Aside from stealing, which she does from her former college's library?) Sign up on an escort service website, natch!

And who immediately clicks on Jessica's profile and wants to hire her? A gorgeous twenty-something billionaire. But of course!

Luke pays Jessica to pretend to be his girlfriend so his cantankerous dying father will think Luke is settling down and thus worthy of inheriting five billion dollars. Which is the trope that launched a million Harlequin titles, but here it falls flat. Part of the problem is that there is little chemistry between the characters. We're told Luke is a hot alpha male, but his actions and words resemble a petulant little boy, especially when it comes to his father. The author doesn't give him his own voice, and he and Jessica sound alike - to the point where Luke even exclaims, "Oh my God, we have to see it" like a good Valley Girl. And when his father tells Luke he has to dump Jessica or be cut out of the will: Luke DOES IT. And he only comes back to her after his father dies - and then he whines about receiving only $500,000, even though he had plenty of his own money. Luke is a major douche.

The romance that follows is poorly developed, and even worse written. Although an editor is credited on the book, the author might want to ask for her money back.

"I discretely wiped my eyes as Luke sat down in front of me."

Yeah, that's the wrong homophone. You want discreetly.

"Natalie opened her mouth but I changed tact with lightning speed."

Tack, not tact. It's a sailing term. To change tack is to change your position relative to the wind.

Under my jeans I felt the bulge of his erection, livid against my thigh.

I do not think livid means what you think it means. Also, I don't think you mean "under my jeans," which denotes that somehow the erection was, well, under her jeans - which would be a rather tight fit. Try "though my jeans" next time.

He groaned and leaned forward, his lips plucking my breast and his fingers scraping my shoulders, the thin bra straps drooping down my arms.

Plucking? A) ouch and B) either her breast has feathers or his lips are plucking her breast off her chest. So, eww in addition to ouch. Also? Drooping is generally not a word you want to put into readers' heads while describing sexytimes.

The author also has an annoying habit of using contractions that don't exist: "C'min" for "come in" and "I'ssa" for "it's a." And then there are her problems with time. The book begins just prior to Thanksgiving and ends two weeks before Christmas. So...maybe four weeks, top, being generous. Yet somehow Jessica and Luke talk about being together "for months," and when they are separated at one point, it's for "weeks." Maybe Jessica is Canadian and we don't know it, which would put Thanksgiving in October, but the time passage still doesn't fit. Meanwhile, Luke has a magic private jet (which somehow requires a plane ticket...the author didn't do her research about how private jet travel works) that can go from San Francisco to London in just over the space of eating dinner. Man, I wish I had that jet when I was traveling on a regular basis between the West Coast and Heathrow. Not even the now retired Concorde flew that fast.

I could go on, and on, and on, but I'm already depressed about the general state of literacy in the United States.

Suffice to say this book is an easy pass.

Heating Up the Holidays 3-Story Bundle (Play with Me, Snowfall, and After Midnight): A Loveswept Contemporary Romance

Heating Up the Holidays 3-Story Bundle - Lisa Renee Jones, Serena Bell, Mary Ann Rivers As the title says, three story bundle.

First story: PLAY WITH ME by Lisa Renee Jones. Two stars.

Been there, read that, got the t-shirt years ago. Plucky down-on-her-luck heroine (PDOHLH) magically manages to land a job with hot hunky billionaire businessman (HHBB) despite having no relevant experience. PDOHLH insta-solves mega crisis that is crippling HHBB's corporate empire. PDOHLH and HHBB then have inappropriate sex (or at least, inappropriate according to every HR training seminar I've attended). It's HAWT but hey, he's her boss and sleeping with one's secretary is rather, well, frowned upon by society. HHBB gives PDOHLH a posh new job better suited to her abilities, but she insists on staying on as his assistant because...reasons, I guess. Like it's easier to boink in the boss's office without being interrupted by the secretary when you're the secretary. PDOHLH still manages to do the job she turned down, however, so don't you worry. Because that's how PDOHLH rolls.

At least the author was smart enough to gloss over the thinly manufactured black moment, courtesy of PDOHLH being inexplicably and utterly stupid, as the thinly manufactured opportunity for drama that is was.

As for holidays, I think they mentioned Thanksgiving? And made a vague reference to still being together at Christmas. But calling this a holiday themed story is a loooooooooooooooooooooooong stretch.

Thank the Kindle for the next story, which made up for all the deficiencies in PLAY WITH ME and then some.


SNOWFALL by Mary Ann Rivers. Five stars and extra heaping helping of silver, glittery star-shaped Christmas decorations. Maybe even the Star of Bethlehem for good measure.

This was unlike any other romance novella I've read before. OK, maybe it bore a slight resemblace to THE STORY GUY, also by Ms. Rivers, in that it shared the previous novella's gorgeous, lush language and wholly real, wholly dimensional characters. And made me cry. Ahem.

I'm not going to ruin SNOWFALL by writing a description. Just go and read it. Yes, you can see the big reveal a mile away, but even though I thought I knew where Ms. Rivers was going, she still managed to keep me guessing and wondering how the characters would resolve their relationship(s). Really, really, evocative, wonderful writing that is at once thoughtful, insightful, sad, funny, optimistic yet tinged by jaded realism - I loved it.

As for the holidays, the story is set during the Christmas season, with all its contradictory joys and sorrows. The holiday informs and permeates the story but the day itself is rather incidental. Really nicely done, Ms. Rivers. Bravissima.


AFTER MIDNIGHT by Serena Bell. Four-ish stars. Really more like three and three quarters. But let's round up.


Nora and Miles meet at a New Year's Eve party and share a mind-blowing, senses-awakening, one true love kinda kiss. But they are separated before they can even exchange names. A few months later, thanks to the magic of social media, they hook up again. But Miles has A Big Dark Secret (thankfully, quickly confessed) and Nora has Trust Issues Due to Her Asshole Ex. Despite the explosive sex, they part.

And then it's New Year's Eve again and guess what...

A perfectly fine story that breaks zero new ground and is paper thin when it comes to plot. But Ms. Bell's voice saves this from being the same old, same old. Her characters are engaging, the dialogue witty, and the descriptions fresh and fun to read. A nice way to while away an hour or so reading, even if it has the staying power of cotton candy.

The holiday is obviously New Year's Eve, and the story would have to find another way for the characters to swap spit and discover the love of their life without the New Year's Eve kiss at midnight tradition, so, yeah, it's pretty important. Also, Ms. Bell perfectly describes the ambivalence of the newly single on New Year's Eve, and how everyone scrambles to position themselves for the best kissing partner possible as the clock counts down.

So to sum up: Skip PLAY WITH ME, read AFTER MIDNIGHT if you need to kill some time, and turn off the phone, put the closed sign on the door, and savor SNOWFALL.

Four stars for collection as a whole.

Sweet Home

Sweet Home - Tillie Cole

Dear authors,

If you are British, and you must set a book in a specific American location, then, for the love of anything that you hold dear, DO SOME BLOODY (for the Brits) FUCKING (for everyone) RESEARCH.

Let us count the ways in which this book is just WRONG.

1) Our "heroine," Molly Juliet Shakespeare (I know, I know) is a 20 year old graduate student at the University of Alabama.

Yet somehow, Molly is housed by the university with undergraduate students.

Yeah, but NO. Graduate students have their own housing.

2) Molly is the TA, but is introduced as a fellow student by the professor.

Yeah, but NO. She is not taking the class as a student.

3) Molly is instantly challenged by your typical nasty mean girl bitch who basically tells Molly - someone the bitch just met - that Molly is a pathetic loser. In front of the entire class.

Yeah, but NO. Even mean girl undergraduate bitches understand that graduate TAs DO ALL THE GRADING. So mean girl bitch - in the real world - would have just gotten herself a big fat failing grade. Or at the least, a warning and a referral to the student conduct council. Most schools - and I have to believe 'Bama would be the same - have a code of conduct for students and the mean girl stepped over it.

4) Molly's undergraduate roommates take Molly to pledge a sorority.

OK. Words fail me to describe just how RIDICULOUS this scene was. No sorority rush works this way. The pinning takes place first (?!?!) and THEN the rounds of parties?!? And the final party is not some sort of a preference night, but a toga party?!??!! (Because Animal House is SO 2013.) And Molly's SENIOR YEAR roommates are finally getting into a top sorority despite failing to make the cut three years in a row?!?!?!

No. No. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.

5) Molly's Goth, senior year roommate wants to be in a sorority because she thinks this will make her a cheerleader. At 'Bama. At the start of the fall semester

Let's look at this set up again. A SENIOR wants to be a cheerleader. Even though football season should already be in progress by this date, and the cheerleaders would have been selected long before. Also, we're talking 'BAMA. Where football is a religion, and cheerleaders aren't far behind.

6) The pledges are initiated by kissing a boy and guessing what he just ate.

I'm going to let the horror of this sink in. As if this wouldn't get the sorority kicked off campus before one could utter "Roll Tide." Also, sorority initiation? Is more than just a kiss and keg (and like a keg would be involved in the first place!)

7) I'm stopping before I get to the football. Because from what I've heard, Tilly's depiction is more rage inducing than her sorority mishegas.

Look, I get it, this is supposed to be some big swoony if paint by numbers New Adult romance. (Although the characters are more caricatures than three-dimensional humans. The prologue flashback to Molly's childhood is saccharine and on-the-nose, and was wholly unnecessary. Molly is your usual "woe is me, I'm so ordinary and nerdy" NA heroine, while the hero, Romeo (I KNOW, I KNOW) is defined by his abs more than anything resembling actual personality. Everyone says "darlin'" and "ain't" all the time and drop the "g''s off the end of their sentences so the reader knows we are in the SOUTH, doncha know. I'm surprised Scarlett and Rhett don't show up just to rub that in more. And the Americans are all white, privileged and/or incessantly horny because, reasons. Like that the book is written by a Brit whose closest association with the US, apparently, is that she watched an episode of Friends and the aforementioned Animal House.

But all these nitpicks are, y'know, apparently superfluous to the FEELS and the HAWTNESS and the OMG SQUEE.

And I suppose this is revenge for authors such as Raine Miller getting everything about life in London wrong.

But here's the thing. I can't turn off my self-literacy respect. I just can't. Maybe others can, but I can't disregard the fact that I love to read and I love authors who care deeply about their stories and who work hard to craft them to the best of their ability. And when I read something like this, something so obviously slap-dashed together to cater to a hot market without any care for the reader's reading comprehension ability and need to suspend disbelief -

- I see red.

So, SRSLY, authors, DO SOME BLOODY FUCKING RESEARCH in your haste to join the Great New Adult Money Grab Rush.

DNF. I lived in the UK. If I wanted to be around Brits who get everything about life in the US wrong but think they know everything because they watched an hour or two of telly, I would have stayed there.