TBR Challenge: Doukakis’s Apprentice, by Sarah Morgan

This month’s TBR Challenge them is “Lovely RITA,” a book that won or was nominated for a RITA (Wendy helped us find them). I had a handful of contenders in my TBR, but I dismissed the ones that are later in a series I haven’t started, because I’m a bit obsessive about reading in order. My initial plan was to read Laura Drake’s The Sweet Spota second-chance romance that won best first book last year (gosh, she’s been busy since then), just because almost no one I know read or talked about this one. But I was short on time because I’m getting ready to go on vacation, so I went with Sarah Morgan’s Doukakis’s Apprentice, a Harlequin Presents.

Morgan writes my kind of Presents: on the light and comic rather than super-angsty side. I’d never call her books parody, but I think she relates to the conventions of the line somewhat the way her heroines relate to her heroes: the heroine may roll her eyes at and gently mock his alpha machismo, but she’s attracted to it, too. Reading a Morgan Presents, I always feel like she’s saying to the reader, “Yeah, this is kind of over the top, but isn’t it fun?” And because of that attitude, I find that it is. Doukakis’s Apprentice was a delight, even when I was rolling my eyes at the 100th description of Damon Doukakis’s broad, broad shoulders and the way he “wore his masculinity like a banner, overt and unapologetic.” It’s over the top, yes, and it is a lot of fun. Continue reading

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Recent Reading: Summer Escapes

I’ve been reading in fits and starts: some days I read for hours, others I don’t open a book. I can’t really explain why my reading mojo is so erratic, but part of it is reading a number of books that started slowly but then really sucked me in. I’m calling these “summer escapes” because they immersed me in their worlds.

Uprooted, by Naomi Novik

I’d like to write a full review of this one, but I had an ebook from the library and returned it as soon as I finished, since others were waiting. I like Ana’s review at things mean a lot, though I’d say my feelings were more mixed. If you want a sense of the plot as context for my random comments, read it! I agree that Novik successfully builds from a quiet coming-of-age story to an epic fantasy–and then returns to a quieter note, and I too appreciated the way the “man vs. nature” theme of the Evil Wood gets reconsidered as the story goes on. But I definitely preferred the quieter parts of the story (this is almost always true for me. It’s like super hero movies: I like the origin story/discover your powers part, and then it’s all giant special effects action scenes and I get bored). Uprooted‘s battles used magic in some original ways, but there’s a certain sameness to the rhythm of battle scenes, and I found myself skimming as they took over the book. I did like that Novik acknowledged the cost of slaughter, though this wasn’t fully developed; it made the battle scenes less cartoonish. So often battles seem to have stakes only for the protagonists and everyone else is treated by the narrative as cannon fodder. Continue reading

Posted in chicklit, fantasy, non-fiction, review, romance | Tagged , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Reading List: Late June

Both my children are finally out of school for the summer and I’m celebrating on this (very warm) Saturday by decompressing: I’ve spent most of it reading, sipping iced drinks, and looking for a cool spot. So here is a lazy blog post on what I have been, am, and might be reading and listening to.


Nadia Bolz-Weber, Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner and Saint

I read this book by a “tattooed, foul-mouthed” Lutheran woman pastor because Marilyn of Mean Fat Old Bat mentioned it on Twitter. I liked it, though I found it a bit . . . not superficial, exactly, but brisk. A lot of the chapters felt like extended sermons, which is not a bad thing–but sometimes I wanted more development to the reflections. Bolz-Weber has the good preacher’s gift for finding a telling anecdote and drawing meaning out of it. And there were moments in the book that really struck home for me. For example:  Continue reading

Posted in mystery, non-fiction, review | Tagged , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

TBR Challenge: The Lotus Palace, by Jeannie Lin

June’s TBR challenge theme is “More than One” (multiple books by this author in your TBR). I was spoilt for choice since I have a bad habit of being caught up on buying an author even when I’m not caught up on reading her.

Given my struggles with last month’s challenge book, I wanted something I’d love, so I narrowed it to two authors: Jeannie Lin and Molly O’Keefe. Here is where I admit, shame-faced, that while I had read and loved one book by each, and then bought a lot more books by each, I had still only read the one. They are both way overdue to be pulled from the TBR. My choice of Lin’s Tang-dynasty historical The Lotus Palace was sparked by reading her blog post on not seeking reviews, because she’s an author I think deserves a much wider audience. (Don’t worry, Molly O’Keefe, I plan to get to one of yours soon).

So how did it go? I loved it.  Continue reading

Posted in review, romance, romantic suspense | Tagged , , | 16 Comments

Unpopular Opinions

This week saw yet another “what’s wrong with Romance” post. If those posts are written to a script, so is Romanceland’s response, and indeed the predictable cycle followed:

  • tweetstorm erupts
  • critical comments posted on article
  • [optional for online only-publications: half-assed-apology/justification, invitation to Romanceland to write a romance-positive post–for nothing, of course]
  • takedown posts written by one or more bloggers
  • Romance-positive hashtag created; and
  • (Romanceland’s solution to every problem) Books Recommended

It’s not my purpose to criticize these responses, exactly. I’ve done many of them myself (which is why I use the universal “we” in what follows. It might not include you). But I think that Romanceland finds these “what’s wrong” posts useful, so much so that if they didn’t exist, we would have to write them ourselves . . . under a pseudonym.

Because when a post gets some things very, very wrong (Fabio hasn’t been on a cover in decades, and actually it’s quite easy to find a romance novel without a rape in it, and it always was, even in the “bodice-ripper” days), we don’t have to ask ourselves what it might have gotten right. When it makes sweeping generalizations, we can reply with the same. We don’t have to think critically from within the genre about popular tropes or about how we construct the Romance community, because we’re oh-so-busy fending off wrong-headed attacks from outsiders.

Here are some questions we’re not asking: Continue reading

Posted in genre musings, Romancelandia | 36 Comments