July 27, 2012

Big Sky Country by Linda Lael Miller (Parable, Montana, Book 1)I was over halfway through this book when I realised I didn’t really care what happens to the characters. This one is DNF for me.

Joslyn Kirk returns to her hometown to make restitution to victims of her stepfather’s crime. Years ago, he defrauded a lot of people and Joslyn finally has the means to repay the debts that her stepfather couldn’t. Not everyone in the town has forgotten or forgiven.

Town sheriff Slade Barlow finds himself the heir to one of the most successful ranches in town, thanks to his estranged father who never once acknowledged his illegitimate son when he was alive. This puts Slade at odds with his half-brother, Hutch, who feels that the ranch is his birthright and can’t understand why Slade refuses to sell Hutch his half of the property.

Joslyn conveniently finds herself living next door to Slade. They’re attracted to each other, but there’s tension because she’s also good friends with Hutch, who was her high school boyfriend. Meanwhile, Joslyn’s best friend, Kendra, seems to have some kind of history with Hutch.

And that’s where I got up to before I gave up.

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July 20, 2012

Gone Girl by Gillian FlynnA tightly plotted and fast-paced book that’s difficult to put down—even if I knew it would not necessarily end very happily.

Nick Dunne comes home on his fifth wedding anniversary to find his wife gone. Amy appears to have been abducted in suspcious circumstances. The police immediately suspect him—did he or didn’t he?

Amy has left detailed diaries implying that she may have had a certain fear of her husband. Nick seems like a really nice guy—like he could never have done it despite the cracks in their marriage—but external evidence and his secrets—like why does he keep thinking, in great detail, about his wife being bashed on the head in the kitchen?—may prove this wrong. But what really happened?

This summary gives no justice to what this book turns into over the course of a riveting story. I really can’t say anything more without giving away spoilers. This is one cracker of a book that lives up to all its hype.

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July 13, 2012

Enchanted by Alethea KontisA book for people who enjoy fairy tale retellings with a twist.

Sunday is the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter. In a large family she is much overlooked, and she spends her time writing stories, which have a tendency to come true. Sunday can only write about the past, because she’s afraid of what may come true if she writes about the future.

She meets an enchanted frog in the wood behind her house and begins to share her stories with him. She and the frog become fast friends, and one night, when she kisses him goodbye, he turns back into a man. Except he’s really the prince of the kingdom, and when she meets him, she doesn’t know who he is. How will he ever get her to fall in love again?

This story is more than it seems. Alethea Kontis builds a world where every fairy tale you’ve ever heard of exists and has been integrated to the story in such a way that even the characters themselves know about it. (Oh, it’s a talking frog. It must be enchanted. Or remember that girl who pricked herself on a needle? Well actually…) If it were not for the richness of the language and the way the stories are told by Sunday, the narrator, you could almost feel like you were gossiping with the neighbours about the girl down the road who got pricked by the spindle. I quite enjoyed Kontis’s fresh spin on fairy tales, where everyone is aware of what might happen and takes care to make sure it doesn’t…although that doesn’t always work either.

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July 10, 2012

Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James

If you don’t understand the appeal of the Fifty Shades trilogy, then please stop pretending to recommend books to FSoG readers when you’re actually recommending books to readers who are not them.

Here are some of the most frustrating things about the Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon:

1. The term ‘mommy porn’. Enough said.

2. Booksellers who snigger about how terrible it is while promoting it to within an inch of Christian’s, um, tie.

3. ‘If you like Fifty Shades of Grey then you’ll like…’ reading lists that demonstrate how badly genre fiction is understood by the literati in Australia. (Or I could be less gracious and say it’s snobbery, but I’ll give them the benefit of doubt.)

Look, I get it. I’m stuck on chapter two of my 50 pages of Fifty Shades challenge because of the awkward prose, vacuous heroine and creepy hero. I get that this book isn’t going to win literary awards. I get that there are a bajillion better written books out there that booksellers, publishers, editors and authors would love to foist on readers.

Believe me, I get it.

But the thing is, the people who love the Fifty Shades trilogy aren’t in it for spectacular writing. They’re not even in it for salacious bondage scenes.

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July 6, 2012

The Watchmaker's Lady by Heather Massey (The Clockpunk Trilogy, Book 1)A novelette that contains some of the most fascinating themes I have ever read in a romance, let alone an erotic specfic, and leaves behind a strong and inspiring sentiment.

I am receptive to just about any story—it doesn’t matter what it’s about, or how morally ambiguous or taboo it is, it’s all in how it’s written and presented. The Watchmaker’s Lady certainly makes for unconventional reading, challenging the traditional notions of a romantic story, as it involves a deeply loving and sexual relationship between a man and a doll.

That’s right, a doll.

The exploration and exploitation of the fetish isn’t exactly new in fiction, but it’s arguably a daring premise in the romance genre. I’ve put it quite crudely just now, but don’t go pulling repulsed faces yet. The Watchmaker’s Lady does have a man and a female automaton having sex—lots and lots of sex—but this is no typical fetish story. Author Heather Massey assures us that ‘if you dig a little deeper beneath the kink you’ll discover a heart-warming romance between two soul mates’.

And so it is, but it does take some digging.

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July 2, 2012

Handpicked by Siew Siang TayA mixed bag—the characters aren’t sugar-coated, but the plot and characters lack depth, and I’m not entirely sold on the ending.

This review is part of the AWW2012 Reading and Reviewing Challenge. Click here for a list of books I’ve read so far.

It’s taken me three years to finally read this story about Laila, a mail-order bride from Malaysia looking for a better life in South Australia with a man she’s known for a year via letters.

On one hand, the plot intrigued me. The term ‘mail-order bride’ is often pejoratively used, and I wanted to see its portrayal by Malaysian Australian author Siew Siang Tay. On the other hand, I wasn’t sure I’d like the ending.

When Laila leaves her family in Malaysia in order to marry a man she’s never met, her father all but disowns her. But she has bigger dreams than an arranged marriage and life in a farm, and when she lands in South Australia and finally meets Jim, she’s overwhelmed with happiness.

Until she sees the caravan.

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June 29, 2012

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers (His Fair Assassin, Book 1)A fresh, new series that will appeal to teenagers and adults alike. Also, killer nuns, historical intrigue and romance!

Ismae is the 17-year old daughter of Death. Rescued from her life and delivered to the Convent of St Mortain, she is trained to be an assassin. Her mission is to protect the Duchy of Brittany’s heir, Anne, from her many enemies. Ismae is sent to court to kill the traitor set on destroying Anne’s future but finds that all is not what it seems.

I loved this book. First of all, there are killer nuns. Ismae is rescued from her father (who was always pissed that death sired a child with his wife) and sent to the convent. She discovers a natural expertise in poisons and learns how to kill people with different weaponry. I love how the nuns have their own talents, and how their many weapons are hidden in what I feel are realistic ways under their clothing. (Anyone ever seen an action movie and wondered just where the women put those giant guns under their mini-skirts? (No, not that giant gun!))

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June 26, 2012

I’ve been struck this week by the dreaded winter lurgy, and as you do when you’re bed-ridden and have a medical certificate exempting you from housework of any kind, I’ve been scouring my bookshelves for my favourite comfort reads.

You know those books—they’re not just keepers, they’re keepers guaranteed to put you in a happy place. They’re books that never age and that you continue to enjoy even after the hundredth read. The best ones let you revisit the emotional highs and lows of that first read, even though you know exactly what’s going to happen next.

Here are some of my favourite comfort reads:

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June 22, 2012

If you landed on this page after googling any variation of the following: erotica, Krissy Kneen or Triptych, I’ll take a wild stab and guess you saw Jennifer Byrne Presents: Erotica, aired on the ABC last Tuesday.

You’ve probably also realised that this is a blog whose main preoccupation is genre fiction. And not just any genre—one of the most maligned of them all: rrrrrromance.

But wait! Don’t leave! Romance writers and readers have been writing sexy stories for a while now. And yes, I concede that some of the prose is purple, but if a more literary style is your preference, well, we have them, too!

Shocking, I know.

Call me an opportunist, but here’s a list of romance(ish) titles and authors for readers looking for great sex, great writing or—even better—both!

Broken by Megan Hart

Broken by Megan Hart

Reasons you should read this book:

1. Megan Hart’s writing is luscious. This is as close to literary fiction as you’ll get in erotic romance.

2. The story doesn’t fall strictly in the romance genre—in fact, the romance between the two protagonists is probably the weakest part of the book. It’s everything else that will tug at your emotions.

3. The heroine is married to a quadriplegic. And yes, she loves him.

You can read my review of the book here. Here’s the blurb:

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June 18, 2012

BOOKMARKED is the name we gave to our paper.li journal, but since not everyone is on Twitter and not everyone on Twitter likes paper.li, I thought I’d run an adhoc omnibus of links on the blog to highlight links and news that might be of interest.

Author Monica Jackson has passed away

Last month, I found out via Karen Scott that Monica Jackson died from complications after surgery. This is a great loss for the romance community.

I remember Jackson from some passionate comment threads at Dear Author around race and diversity in romance, back before I started this blog. I didn’t know her  well, but I do remember reading a comment she wrote, which completely changed how I read those comment threads. I can’t remember her exact words—I think it was to do with tone and why it’s okay for commenters to be angry and passionate—but she made me think about my own behaviour, and it was a turning point for me as a blogger and as a participant in the romance community. You can read Karen’s tribute post here.

Charlaine Harris — Australian tour

Charlaine Harris, bestselling author of the Sookie Stackhouse series will be touring Australia in July, followed by New Zealand in August. Tour details are still to be confirmed. She’s definitely scheduled to be at Tru Blood 2 (July 28 in Sydney and July 29 in Melbourne), but given the ticket prices I’ll take my chances on a local bookshop appearance. You can stalk her event calendar for details as they become available.

Guilty pleasures

SMH TV has made available for free a romance documentary called Guilty Pleasures:

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