Sunday, April 28, 2013

Three Days Until Camp NaNo Comes To A Close...

And I'm trying to take deep, calming breaths, because I can finish this. Right? I should, by Tuesday, have hit my word count goal of 30K for the month of April. (This was 30K words in addition to the 38K the WiP already had when I started )  Right now I think I am about 6500 words shy of this goal. I bet you can guess what I will be doing the next couple days.

Because of my need to get lots of words down (and preferably words that don't completely suck) I will do a fairly short (at least for me) week in review.  On the blog this week I reviewed the following:

Conviction by Nicole Edwards (Club Destiny, #1): I rated this 3 stars. It was good, but I did have some issues with it that I go through in my review. I will be reading other books by this author though in hopes that the issues I had with the narrative improve.

Star Crossed by Kele Moon (Battered Hearts, #2): 5 stars for this one. This was such a great mix of romance and the suspense plot was great. It had be on the edge of my seat towards the end. The main characters were so adorable but they could certainly burn up the sheets.

As for my ROW80 goals, here's how I did:
  • Write every day: I did write every day however much of my writing was in the realm of revising. As I am getting close to the end of Camp NaNoWriMo I have been going through my WiP and seeing where I need to add missing scenes. This is exciting and terrifying since it basically means that, yep, I have my third book done. This will also mean that for the rest of this ROW80 Round, I will be focused on revisions and edits of this WiP and Wanted. (The latter is close to being done though, thank goodness!) But still, after years of not ever finishing the books I've begun to write, now to have one submitted to publishers and two drafts complete and moving to the revise/edit phase, well, it's a bit overwhelming. 
  • Review minimum of 3 books per week via the blog or GR: I was able to hit two of these this week. I also finished reading two other books that I am in the process of writing reviews for. So I guess two out of three ain't bad.
  • Post my Sunday ROW80 update: Done!
  • Complete all outstanding grading: Um, erm...just ignore the stack of papers on my desk.  
  • Prepare final exam: In progress. 
  • Work out twice per week: I am super excited to say that I got in two workouts. I am still taking it slow, doing yoga and stretching routines as opposed to heavy cardio, but still, working out is working out! In addition to that I worked in the garden for an hour this morning before it got too hot out: pulling weeds, transferring plants from area to another, shoveling, watering, and well, other garden-type things. I don't know if that counts as a workout but ya know, I was wiped out after and muscles I didn't even know I had were aching (in a good way). 
My goals for next week are the same. Classes are winding down so this week and next I will be hip deep in grading students' research papers, final exams and calculating grades but I will do my best to get my daily writing in! I hope everyone is having a great round and see you around the ROW!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Book Review: Star Crossed by Kele Moon (Battered Hearts #2)

Title: Star Crossed (Battered Hearts #2)
Author: Kele Moon
Publisher: Loose Id LLC
Publication Date: July 3, 2012

My Rating: 5 out 5 Smoking Hot Stars!

This is the second book in the Battered Hearts series, focusing on MMA fighters (current and retired) and the women who love them. I liked the first in this series, Defying the Odds a lot but this second book, Star Crossed, is a huge 5 star read that I could not get enough of.

From Goodreads:

Heavyweight MMA fighter, Romeo Wellings comes from the hard streets of New York where his family ties to the mafia cause him nothing but pain. His life takes a surprising detour when he crosses paths with the twin sister of his long time enemy. After a steamy one-night stand, he faces the fight of his life, but it’s not in the cage. The secret relationship that blooms between Romeo and his real life Juliet has him battling his family and a dark past rather than let her go. 

The only lawyer in her hometown of Garnet, Jules Conner is also a volunteer Sheriff’s deputy and co-owner of a successful MMA training center. Strong and dependable, Jules is always there for those who need her. Until one forbidden night in Las Vegas with Romeo leaves her feeling so alive she can’t stop reaching out to the sexy, bad boy of MMA, even knowing the forbidden love affair could jeopardize everything.

As the tide rises against them and the people they love work at keeping them apart, Romeo and Jules hold onto a dream for a better life together and vow to go down fighting rather than accept a tragic ending.

My Thoughts:

I cannot begin to tell you how much I loved this book. I mean, I'm going to tell you, of course I am. This is a book review after all. But it's hard to find the words to describe how freaking amazing this book is. Let me try to explain what I mean. Those who know me (or have looked at my Goodreads "read" shelf) will notice that I read a lot. I also re-read a lot. I have a ton of books on my Kindle app and my Nook that I still have not read. And don't get me started on the paperback books I have or the ones I get from the library. But despite all these there are times, like the last two weeks, where I have trouble finding a book that really grabs my attention. I have done a lot of re-reads of faves lately because everything I picked up was just "blah".  Either it was too much sexy and not enough plot, or too much inner dialogue and not enough action/communication.  I just couldn't find books that grabbed me.

But this changed when I realized I had yet to read Star Crossed by Kele Moon. As I mentioned earlier, I had read the first in this series and liked it a lot.  I gave it 4 stars on Goodreads. I figured this would be around the same in it's awesomeness but Romeo and Juliet surpassed all my expectations.

I loved Juliet. At first I thought, "Okay, a book with the MCs named Romeo and Juliet; please let this not be hokey." And I am happy to say it was not in any way cheesy. It's freaking perfect. I loved Romeo with his shady past and his love for his Juliet and I loved even more how much Juliet wanted to give Romeo happiness and love because he deserved it and had to struggle so much in his life. Their relationship was not ordinary by any means. The book picks up after the end of Defying the Odds and we see just how Romeo Wellings and Juliet Connors met, went to dinner and well, progressed from there. The two weren't able to be together as much as they'd like, at least in the beginning. But seeing how they made this work and began to fall in love even across the miles was the sweetest thing I ever read.  

What about the all important hotness and sex factor? Well in a word, or a few, that was super, smokin, hot. The phone sex, the video chat, the actually being together. Holy freaking smokes people! Have some ice water nearby. Or your guy. Because Kele Moon knows how to write a sex scene that not only oozes sex but has emotional depth as well. This is not easy to do so I give her serious props for that.

I mentioned that the plot was tight, right? I think I did. And it was. I loved the back story of both Romeo and Juliet, and the relationship Romeo had with his brothers, and Juliet had with Wyatt (her twin), was one of love and complications. These complications didn't make it easy for Romeo to be with his Juliet, and at one point I really thought things were going to go south for them.  The fight they had? And what Wyatt did? Ohmigod, I was freaking out! I needed to know what was going to happen and then when it all came to a head?! Frakin A, Ms. Moon, next time just punch in me face, because seriously I was getting all teary eyed and wondering what the hell had happened!

The next book in this series is about Wyatt and Tabitha. I am anxiously awaiting this one cause Wyatt needs some serious lovin' and an HEA.  And just, fyi, after reading this, Kele Moon is going to be getting her own shelf on my Nook Color. And I'm also going to glom her backlist. Like seriously glom people because I have a new fave author!  ♥  This book, and the first one too, will also be going on my Nook's "re-reads" shelf. (See! I am serious guys. I don't re-read all my books. Only a small portion, so the fact that this gets included is a big deal. Well, okay not really, but it's a big deal for me. :D )   

So the bottom line is if you love MMA, or just hot guys in general, strong women, solid story lines  and a tightly written (and well edited) book, you might want to check out this author. I would suggest reading the stories in order so you know the players and what happened at the end of the first book which bleeds into the second.  Also, for those wondering, neither book has a cliffhanger in regards to the main couple. (And thank goodness cause cliffhangers... *shudders*).

Here are the purchase links:  Amazon / Barnes and Noble

*I received an ARC from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.*

Monday, April 22, 2013

Book Review: Conviction (Club Destiny #1) by Nicole Edwards

Conviction (Club Destiny, #1)Conviction by Nicole Edwards
Publishing Date: July 29, 2012
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I am having a hard time rating this. A really hard time. So let me break it down a bit. First, the sex is well, seriously hot. Like even I was all "Woah" a few times at what the main couple were doing so if you are at all squeamish about intense sex, menage, a 4some, and even some m/m action between two other characters, well, this might not be for you. And even though I was all "woah" it didn't make me stop reading. (I've been reading Stephen King and other horror novelists since I was 12, so seriously people, not much bothers me, whether it's sex, violence or whatever.)

What is making me bring this down from a 4 star (because seriously, I liked the story, I liked how Logan was trying to get Sam to lose some of the tight control she had on her entire life) and had me wavering at the 2 star rating (meaning it was okay), was the narrative itself. There was a lot of head talking. Don't get me wrong, I get that this happens in narrative such as this, but it was just too much. And I also did not like how Sam kept running, refusing to communicate with Logan at times, even by phone. This pissed me off and made me want to slap her, hard. Or tell Logan to go find someone else, someone who is more deserving than Sam. I get she was hurt by a relationship in the past, I get she was cautious, but going incommunicado after everything they went through (Especially towards the end of the book) just was not cool.

Oddly, even though I liked Logan, it was his twin brother Luke, who intrigued me the most. I can't wait to read his story and I really hope that there is less intense head talking and more, well, talking, talking. :D  Overall, a good read and I look forward to reading more from this author.

*This book was a self-purchase and I was not in any way compensated for, or even asked, to review this book. All opinions are my own*

View all my reviews

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Little Progress This Week: A ROW80 Update

Tragic, sad, gut wrenching  horrifying, terrifying and finally triumph as the manhunt for the perpetrators of the Boston Marathon ended. And then there was the explosion in West, Texas that occurred, killing many volunteer firefighters and EMS workers. Again: tragic, sad, gut wrenching, horrifying and terrifying. My heart goes out to those affected by these tragedies and they are all in my thoughts and prayers. Also, to the cops, firefighters, EMS, federal officials, members of the military and other heroes and heroines who do the hard work every day of trying to keep us safe: thank you for everything you do. I don't say it enough, but I should. And after this week and seeing these men and women run towards the danger instead of away from it -just like so many did on 9/11- I plan on saying it more often.

Because of the events this week I, like so many, have been restless. I moved through the week as if on autopilot, getting my work done, reading, always keeping an eye and ear on the news, and trying to get some sleep. I say trying because my insomnia came back with a vengeance this week. This tends to occur whenever I'm worried or anxious and well, what can I say: this was a week full of worrying and anxiety. From this point on all I want the world to experience is that which includes rainbows and unicorns  

So how did I do with ROW80? Well, not great. My progress is seriously lacking. This means I am way behind on Camp NaNo too. I guess I better get my butt in my chair today and get my fingers
moving. Here's how I did:
  • Write every day: So much for maintaining the progress I'd been making both on my Camp NaNo project and the revisions/edits of Wanted. I wrote Monday and Tuesday and for about 30 minutes yesterday. Yeah, I sucked this week.
  • Review min. 3 books per week on the blog and/or GR: I only achieved one book review this week and that was Enslaved by Shoshanna Evers. I received this ARC via Netgalley. I did read this week, but they were comfort re-reads for me. I need to get on this goal though because I have so many books I need to read and want to review. 
  • Post a Sunday ROW80 Update: Done
  • Catch Up On Grading: Well, I have about half of it done. I don't know if I can finish them today either but I am going to try and get through at least half of the half. 
  • Work out once per week: I didn't get a full workout in this week. Well at least not all once. Because of work, my niece's first softball game of the season and the wacky weather, I had to resort to short bursts here and there. Not ideal, but it's better than nothing I guess! 

Next week my goals will be:

  • Write every day
  • Review minimum of 3 books per week via the blog or GR
  • Post my Sunday ROW80 update
  • Complete all outstanding grading
  • Prepare final exam
  • Work out twice per week

I've added a few other things to my goal list and I am hoping that I can get back on track starting today. I hope everyone has a quiet, calm, and relaxing week with nothing but sunshine, roses and those rainbows and unicorns I mentioned. Have a great week!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Book Review: Enslaved by Shoshanna Evers (Enslaved Trilogy #1)

Title: Enslaved (Enslaved Trilogy #1)
Author: Shoshanna Evers
Publisher: Pocket Star
Publication Date: April 8, 2013

My rating: 3 out of 5 Stars

From Goodreads:

From a red-hot erotica writer comes an original eBook—a sensual romp across the playgrounds of the unbelievably rich and extremely sexy.Elisabeth Anderson has seen Trevor and his friends at the infamous Manhattan BDSM club WhipperSnapper, where everyone calls them the BAD Boys, for “Billionaire Arrogant Doms.” The BAD Boys—Trevor Brooks, Marc Wilde, and Roman Chase—are aptly named; they’ve made money hand over fist due to their aggressive investing at the Brooks Wilde Chase Fund. These guys are so rich they can get away with anything, or so the rumors go.

Trevor gives Elisabeth full reign of his estate in Westchester, letting her do as she pleases. He has only two rules. Rule One: she must obey and submit to him while she is living in his house. Rule Two: always answer the blue cell phone. She’s happy to oblige, because being with Trevor makes her want to obey, to love him the way he seems to be falling for her. But Elisabeth’s never been good at being the quiet sub; she's feisty and gets off on the punishments more than she does by pleasing Trevor.

Elizabeth can’t submit to Trevor the way he needs her to, so his friend and business partner (and fellow BAD Boy) Roman takes her in hand. But love triangles can have sharp edges...and somebody’s bound to get hurt.

My Thoughts:

Yes, Ms. Evers, triangles do have sharp edges. And yours hurts! Gah! I don't normally shout at my Nook since, well, it's an eReader, not an actual person. But you achieved this feat. I was glaring. I was grinning, I was glaring again while yelling at Elisabeth and Trevor. And then yelling at Roman! Then my mouth dropped open, and I was all "oh, wow. No. GO TO HIM!" And then finally I was smiling like a dork. I mean, people, this was a serious freaking roller coaster and half the time I didn't know if I was at the top of the hill or the bottom, but I definitely was enjoying the ride!

Let's get into the meat of this book. We have a heroine who has been released by her Master. Why you ask? Well you'll have to read it to find out but let's just say that the two are able to part ways yet remain friends. In fact, her former Master remains very concerned with Elisabeth and her well being. I didn't think this would work-him being her former Master and all, but given the circumstances it worked. And when he released her, he made sure to find her a Master who would take care of her and hopefully give her what she needed. This is where Trevor comes in, with his oodles of money, cars and a huge house. Oh, and horses too! And did I mention that we also had Trevor? Cause yeah, that's really all we needed. He was hot and just, wow. Trevor is quite the Master to his Elisabeth. *waggles eyebrows* (Or tries to be. More on that later!)

What about Elisabeth?  Elisabeth was a little off for me, character wise, but eventually I got her. And what I saw was a woman who liked to be bad, or as she called it, a brat. Trevor was not looking for that kind of fun though. So while things, I thought were going okay, well things happened and suddenly, there was another man involved.

Well, that certainly can complicate matters, can't it? And poor Trevor! He was in such a bad position. He wanted Elisabeth so much but she had so much to learn! And the one person who could teach her, and the one person he thought he could trust, was one of his best friends, Roman.

Ah, Roman. Roman, Roman, Roman, you beautifully broken man. I thought Trevor was my favorite but once I saw inside Roman's poor, messed up brain, my inner good girl went all "awwwwwww" and I immediately wanted to find Roman and fix him. Badly. His book won't happen until the third book though so the author is has effectively hooked me into these delicious men she's created. We have Marc to tide me over when his book is released in May.  And tide me over he will. Or tie me down. I'm fine with either.

Back to Roman. Roman was able to get inside Elisabeth's head and show her that being a brat wasn't her being submissive. He showed her what true D/s was (or his version of it). Elisabeth did well under his care, but well, it caused feelings. And feelings cause complications. And all I could keep saying to my Nook was "But Elisabeth, Trevor loves you! He's waiting for you!!" She didn't respond. Obviously. She isn't real! See Ms. Evers?! See what you've done to me?! Kudos to you for tying me into knots and freaking me out! *sighs* Anyways,  by the time I got to the end I was calmer. And more than satisfied with the end. Now, is it May yet?

Here are the purchase links: Amazon / Barnes and Noble

*I received an ARC from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.*

Sunday, April 14, 2013

A Busy Week With Lots of Reflection & Writing

I debated whether to post my week in review. The 14th of April is always a hard day for me. It's the  anniversary of when my grandma passed away and so I've been out of sorts since I woke up. Actually, I've been out of sorts for the past week. It doesn't seem like it was 6 years ago. In fact it feels very much like it was yesterday. But I will try not to dwell on the sad and instead try to enjoy the sunshine she brought to Central New York today. Well, I think she brought it. She loved spring after all and was always outside with her flowers. And it makes me feel a little better thinking she is the reason for the sunshine.

Because of the above, add in some things going on work, catching up on grading, writing, and having to do my taxes, I've been a bit more reflective -and busier than is usual- this past week. This meant that, although I was present on twitter and getting writing done, I didn't get to post many reviews this week. This makes me all sad face but I was so busy I just couldn't fit it all in. This week things should go back to their regularly scheduled programming though. I've even got some reviews in the hopper to keep me on track.

In terms of reading and reviewing, here's what I did:

Book Review: Hard Evidence by Pamela Clare (I-Team, #2)

I also read the second book in J.R. Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood series, Lover Eternal, on Goodreads. Oh my freaking goodness. Rhage. He is my new number 1 book boyfriend ever. EVER! So damn bad ass yet sweet. I cried. And cried. I will be getting the third book from the library in the next week or so, hopefully, so we will see what happens with Z. He's a scary MoFo, but I can't wait to read his story.

I feel like I am forgetting to mention a review or something else I've read but oh well. My head is scrambled today. Next week I will be much more organized and not sound like a crazy woman. I promise. (Well, I'll at least try! :D )

Okay, so now on to my ROW80 update. I don't have too much to say since things are moving forward at a good pace so I will just go through these quickly:

  • Write every day: Done! I am a little bit ahead on my Camp NaNo project (yay!) and I am now halfway through the revisions of Wanted. I have added a few scenes towards the end to wrap things up and need to write those out, but all in all, it's looking good. Writing every day is a challenge  Some days the words just don't want to come, but I make sure that I sit down and do something. Even if it's on some other WiP, or notes in my outline. Just a little bit each day makes such a difference and seems to keep the creativity flowing. 
  • Review min. 3 books per week on the blog and/or GR: So, I definitely hit two. But I swear I did another one on GR, I just can't find the thing. It's really driving me nuts. I will have to go through my Kindle archive and my Nook to find what I had read.
  • Post a Sunday ROW80 Update: Done!
  • Catch Up On Grading: Everything that the students handed in as of last Monday has been corrected. I have some worksheets to go over from Wednesday and their test from Friday, but other than that I am on track! YAY!!!
  • Work out once per week: This is getting easier. I did a yoga workout (easy level) and took a short walk, keeping my inhaler handy, just in case. I am hoping that, after this week, I can up this to three again. Or maybe two per week, then three, and so on. I am just glad my breathing has improved a heckuva lot from when I was sick because I really miss working out. (Did I just say that?! Out loud?! OMG, someone check and see if I have a fever!)

Next week my goals will remain the same, cause why change something that isn't broken, right? I hope everyone has been having a productive round so far and I look forward to seeing how everyone has been doing when I check around the ROW tomorrow! Have a great week!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Book Review: Hard Evidence by Pamela Clare (I-Team #2)

Title: Hard Evidence (I-Team #2)
Author: Pamela Clare
Publisher: Berkley Publishing
Publication Date: October 1, 2006

My Rating: 3 out of 5

From Goodreads:

Investigative reporter Tessa Novak witnesses the murder of a teenage girl--and believes Julian Darcangelo committed the crime. But Julian is actually an undercover FBI agent on the trail of a human trafficker and killer. Tessa's report has brought them closer than either one of them could have imagined--and put both of their lives in danger.

My Thoughts:

Before I get into the issues I had with the second book in the I-Team series, let me just say that I did like this book. I really did. Three stars means, for me, I Liked It and I Will Read More of This Series/By This Author. Three stars does not mean that I didn't like it or wouldn't recommend it. In fact it means the opposite. It was steamy and the mystery was well written. The suspense element was there and I definitely stayed up late reading this because I wanted to see what would happen next. So three stars definitely means I liked it and am really looking forward to jumping into the third book soon!

Okay, now on to the issues I did have with the book.  First, Tessa cried all the freaking time.  I get it. The story was upsetting, she was having PTSD from what she witnessed and even if she hadn't seen what she did, having a bunch of crazy people after you and trying to kill you, well it's upsetting. And honestly, a heroine that cries a lot never bothers me. I mean, people, I cry at commercials and Lifetime movies, so I am not one to talk. But for some reason, Tessa really got on my nerves with the crying all the time.   After awhile I wanted to kick her! I think that I could have handled it if, when she was crying, she didn't suddenly (and sometimes inexplicably) flip flop in the next second and be all "I can do this. I can be strong." And then start blubbering again.

I also took issue with her righteous indignation that the cops held the documents for a week before releasing them. She kept going on about how it was wrong etc, but I mean, they weren't doing it to obfuscate justice. they were doing it to give them a lil bit of time to stop the killer and oh yeah, save her freaking life! I mean, a little gratitude and understanding would be the nice thing to do. Or at least something like "I know Chief and Julian, you don't want me to end up raped and murdered nor do you want to give the real bad guy the heads up your closing in. So I'll give you X amount of days to do that before I have to release the information via the paper." Cause if someone was gunning for me, and my life was in serious danger, then I'd do this. It seems more realistic than acting like a righteous defender of freedom of the press and then, because of that attitude nearly getting the people trying to save your life killed. (Yeah, that part really pissed me off. She knew, she knew, not to go there. And she did it anyways. Knowing what could happen. This was a TSTL moment that I had a hard time getting past.)

Now let's talk about Julian. I liked him a whole heckuva lot.  Julian hated himself for awhile and I understood why he did. He had a pretty bad childhood that scarred him. But sometimes he'd say something that really hurt Tessa (the "I'm not a babysitter" really pissed me off) and then they never really talked about it. I mean, I don't remember him apologizing to her. Like at all. Maybe it happened and it was when Tessa was on a crying jag and I missed it (I do admit, I skimmed over some of the crying jags) but I don't remember it. And when he sent the coffee pot back, that bothered me too. It kinda said "nice knowing you", ya know? I know he had to get the task force together but still, it was kind of heartless and made me a tad annoyed with him. But of course, Julian being Julian he made up for this. Eventually. But like so many alpha-type heroes I don't think they know how to speak an apology, I think they give their apologies in orgasms. And far be it from me to complain about this cause ya know, an orgasm, well that's better than any "I'm sorry", isn't it?  *shrugs*

The epilogue was great and was glad to see they didn't rush into babies. Neither of them was ready for that. I also liked to see story-line throughout with Tessa and her mom. Even though I had my issues with this book, it was still well worth the read and I will be reading the rest in the series!

Here are the purchase links: Amazon / Barnes and Noble

*This book was a self-purchase and I was not in any way compensated for, or even asked, to review this book. All opinions are my own*

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Writing, Reading & Reviewing, Oh My!

It's the first Sunday check in for the second round of ROW80 and time for my Week In Review post. I love these posts because I can look back and see that, yeah, I have gotten things done.  Sometimes I am so busy during the week I don't take stock of it all. So having a day to do that helps me see that I am moving forward, even if it is slowly. Of course there are still things to be done, but hopefully I can keep up the momentum next week.

So let's review what I've been up to this week. I reviewed two books this week on the blog:

Dirty by Megan Hart: This book took me by surprise. I mean, here I thought this would be just another romance with a HEA. Boy was I wrong. Sure there is a love story but talk about gut wrenching...holy hell. This threw me for a loop but it was so worth it.

Own The Wind (Chaos, #1) by Kristen Ashley: This was a fantastic book and totally lived up to my expectations. Loved it and Shy is seriously one of my favorite heroes ever!

I also reviewed three other books on Goodreads. One of those books was a real gem that I had on my kindle app. I reviewed Neanderthal Seeks Human by Penny Reid on Goodreads. If anyone is looking for a well-written, sweet, and hysterically funny book, this might be for you. I absolutely loved it.  I have been gushing about this book to fellow readers all week. Seriously, I don't think I have been this thrilled about a new author in a long time.

I also found via someone's tweet a post that anyone who is a writer and/or nearing the time to publish -however you choose to do it-, or even if you have already published something, may find very helpful. Cara McKenna wrote it over at Wonk-o-Mance and there is a lot of good advice there but most important, I think, is where she talks about balancing the author-stuff (my words) and the writing, and not letting the author stuff get in your way, or get you down.

Lastly, here's how I did on my ROW80 weekly goals:
  • Write every day: Done!! I was surprised how easy it was to get back in swing of writing every day but I did it. At least this week I did. I am on track, so far, with my still untitled Camp NaNo project. But not only that, I've also worked about one-third of the way through my first round of revisions on Wanted.  As I've gone through both WiPs I have also added to my outlines where necessary and updated information. Now if only the plot bunnies would go hide in the forest until I am done with these WiPs everything would be perfect! 
  • Review a minimum of three books per week (either posted here or on Goodreads): Done! 
  • Post Sunday ROW80 Update: Also, done! 
  • Catch up on all grading by the end of the week: I'm all caught up other than papers that students handed in on Friday. I will be working on those this afternoon so I can start Monday with a clean slate. Hopefully.
  • Work out once per week:  I did get a short walk in. I am still not at 100% from my bout of pneumonia so I am still taking it slow. Doctor's orders and all that. 
At this rate my Round 2 goal of finishing revisions and edits of Wanted will be done in no time. I am not moving up my finish date though. Right now it's set for the end of the round and I will keep it there. This way I don't feel the pressure and I just do a little bit of revisions/edits each day.  Slow and steady wins the race, right?  As for next week's ROW80 goals, they will remain the same.

I hope everyone is having a successful ROW80 and for those participating in Camp NaNo, see you around the camp fire. I'll bring the s'mores! :D 

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Book Review: Dirty by Megan Hart (Dan and Elle, #1)

Title: Dirty (Dan and Elle, #1)
Author: Megan Hart
Publisher: Spice
Publication Date: March 1, 2007

My rating: 4 stars out of 5

From Goodreads:

This is what happened... I met him at the candy store.

He turned and smiled at me and I was surprised enough to smile back. This was not a children's candy store, mind you--this was the kind of place you went to buy expensive imported chocolate truffles for your boss's wife because you felt guilty for having sex with him when you were both at a conference in Milwaukee.

Hypothetically speaking, of course.

I've been hit on plenty of times, mostly by men with little finesse who thought what was between their legs made up for what they lacked between their ears.

Sometimes I went home with them anyway, just because it felt good to want and be wanted, even if it was mostly fake.

The problem with wanting is that it's like pouring water into a vase full of stones. It fills you up before you know it, leaving no room for anything else. I don't apologize for who I am or what I've done in--or out--of bed.

I have my job, my house and my life, and for a long time I haven't wanted anything else.

Until Dan. Until now.

My Thoughts:

This book was not was I thought it would be. Here I thought I would be reading a story about two damaged people finding each other and their HEA.

Uh, yeah. Not so much.

What I got instead was one of these most heart-wrenching, emotionally gripping novels I've read in a long time.

Sure there, is sex. And some it is kinky. (Okay, a lot of it is.) But this book is not about sex. It's not just about Elle and Dan and their journey together. No. It's more than that. It's about a heroine who is so badly broken, so scared, and so in need of love and the journey she has to take to love not only Dan, but herself as well.

This was a romance but not a traditional one. this was hard. this was ugly. and it had little to do with the hero who was fantastic. it had t do with a broken heroine...a truly broken heroine...who had to find herself and fix herself before she could find her happiness.

Dan was a great hero. A freaking saint for what he had to go through to get through Elle's walls. Elle hated herself. And I mean she really, seriously, absolutely hated herself. She was not your typical heroine who was 'fixed' at a glance or touch by the hero.

This was hard to read but well worth it. I've read other books by Megan Hart and I love how she matches a love story with emotional, gut wrenching plot. Her books are not easy reads. They touch on difficult topics that most people don't want to talk about and Dirty is no different. Child abuse, sexual abuse, suicide, alcoholism, cutting are just a few of the topics touched on in this book. It's not comfortable. It's not all rainbows and unicorns. In fact, there are very few light, happy moments where the over-arching -and heavy- theme of the book is not present. But in the end, to see ELle grow and begin to love herself, the difficult journey to Dan and Elle's HEA was more than worth it.

This is the second book by Megan Hart I've read and I really like her voice. The writing is tight and the editing was well-done. I am looking forward to reading more books by this author.  Note: Dirty does not end in a cliffhanger.  (I hate cliffhangers. Loathe them actually. So trust me, I would tell you if it did.)  There is a novella length story about Dan and Elle and what happens after the end of this book. I think it's a sort of epilogue though I'm not entirely sure since I haven't read it. Yet. :D

Here are the purchase links: Amazon / Barnes and Noble

*This book was a self-purchase and I was not in any way compensated for, or even asked, to review this book. All opinions are my own*

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Book Review: Own the Wind by Kristen Ashley (Chaos #1)

Title: Own The Wind (Chaos, #1)
Author: Kristen Ashley
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication Date: April 2, 2013

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

From Goodreads:

Tabitha Allen has a not-so-secret crush on Parker "Shy" Cage. Shy thinks he knows the path Tabby's on and it isn't a good one. So he decides to teach her a lesson to lead her to the right path.

Unfortunately, he was wrong and his actions wound Tabby, breaking her heart. It's Tabby who then teaches Shy a lesson about casting judgment and Shy Cage learns what it feels like to be invisible. But when tragedy strikes and Tabby's heart is broken again, Shy does what he can in the background to help. Trying to forget her heartbreak, Tabby finds herself in danger. To keep it secret from her biker family, the Chaos Motorcycle Club, she calls Shy to rescue her. But when she lets him back in, she gets much more than she bargained for.

Proceed with caution. This review includes spoilers.

Loved loved loved. Beyond freaking loved. I read this over a week ago when I got the ARC and people let me tell you I never was so excited in my life! Now, I know. You're all probably out there rolling your eyes all "Of course she loved it. She fan girls over KA the same way she does over Mal and Firefly." But seriously. I have to admit with this book I was worried. First Tabby is young, about 22 or 23 in the book. I was worried if KA could reel in Tabby's younger voice, and maturiry in some ways, realistically given most of her heroines are late twenties plus. And I also worried that, since this was her debut with a traditional publisher, an editor would take away her amazing  detailed, descriptive voice. So weith trepidation I loaded it on my Nook and dove in head first.

Why did I doubt KA? She nailed it. Tabby was young, she was wild and Shy messed up big time trying to get her to straigthen her life out. Both Shy and Tabby suffered for this mistake. But they also both grew up, grew apart and then were brought back together in a friends to lovers that had me tearing up at several points. And I think that part, the section where Kristen Ashley writes Shy and Tabby re-connection  Shy helping her, being there for her as her friend, was amazing  Shy held himself back for Tabby. He let Tabby work through her emotions, the tragedy she had to go through, and waited.

But Tabby was almost too late. And that part nearly killed me. The confrontation between Shy and Tabby, ohmigod. My heart stopped. I couldn't breathe. And then he left! And then, she was leaving. And I was all, oh no she didn't! But she did! But then Shy got word and thank god stopped all that nonsense. I was so freaking relieved.

Seriously. Kristen Ashley can make your heart thump, your eyes burn with tears and your gut hurt from laughing all in the same book. This is not an easy feat. and this is why she is my hero, biotgh as a reader and a writer. As a reader I want to read stories like this-feel good, sweet, sexy, romances with a happily ever after that leaves me grinning like an idiot for days. And as a writer I want to know how to make my readers feel like that. (Well, when I get some. I'm not published. Yet. lol)

One other aspect of the book I liked was the way Kristen Ashley did the time jumps. Sometimes as a reader it is hard for me to grasp the ides of insta-love in about 2 weeks and the characters are already planning for weddings and babies. Now, in some books and with some characters I can deal with this and even is some Krsiten Ashley books it's believable. But with Tabby and the loss she experienced I was so glad to see MS. Ashley take a slow, measured progression of the two, taking Shy and Tabby from barely speaking to friends, to lovers. It didn't feel rushed and it made the story that much sweeter for me. We see the growth of both main characters, as well as the good times and the bad that they experience.  There are times jumps here and there (sometimes only a week, or a day,. sometimes 2 months, sometimes longer) but the time doesn't effect the story or the characters other than to show just how well Shy and Tabby fit together.

Shy's back story was tragic, heartbreaking and brought tears to my eyes, but he was so controlled and mature about it. Sure he freaked at one point and I was worried he was going to go all SOA on the guy, but he pulled it together, for Tabby, for his brother  and for himself. I like seeing that maturity in a character and not someone who goes off all half cocked and has to beg for forgiveness all the time.

Okay, so now I need to talk about Tack and Tyra. Many of you know that I love the book Motorcycle Man. Tack is my favorite book boyfriend. He is in so many ways the ideal alpha male. I didn't think my love for him could ever, ever, wane. But oh Tack. He fraked up in this book.  In fact, I was so angry at Tack and Tyra I had to put my Nook down and do some meditative breathing exercises. I was pissed at Rush too. Those judgmental ba%&$#*@! It took me a lot longer to forgive them, Not calling her girl back? What was that about? And then the confrontation at the Clubhouse? Oh no Tack, do not even go there. Tabby has a seriously big heart because I think I would have held that grudge a lot longer if that happened to me and my guy. I was really disappointed in their reaction, but eventually, redemption was made and well, I am back to loving Tack. Sort of. *glares at the Motorcycle Man cover on my Nook*

There is an overarching mystery, which I knew would have something to do with Natalie the moment she was seen on the page, is interesting and has me waiting impatiently for Fire Inside, which is now releasing a whole month early (June, 2013 *squeeeeeeeeeeeeeee*) .  Benito seems like one serious bad ass given what he is a part of, and the last bit, from Tack's point of view, freaked me out a little. He seems to know that this could go bad. Really bad. And Tack thinking that, well hell. I think this means we're all in for a rough ride.

Lastly, let's talk about the hotness factor. The steamy scenes? Well they are scorching. I'm always impressed with Kristen Ashley and how well she can convey emotions during these scenes, but with Shy and Tabby, well holy hell, those two have some serious stamina. But it wasn't just about the sex. These two characters brought forth the intensity of their emotions for each other and I liked that just as much as the steam factor.  I did think they were a tad tamer than some of her other books but I'm not sure if this was a conscious decision or editorial.

And now, as I wind down this review, I need to talk about my man, Hopper. So many folks on the GR boards was freaking out that Hop was a cheater, how could Kristen even think of making him a hero and well, blah blah blah. I was a staunch defender of Hop and vowed not to judge him until I heard his side of the story. And not to say I told you so, but well, I did.  I knew, I just knew that KA would not have made Hop a cheater.  Kristen Ashley made perfectly clear that, like I surmised, he was technically not with his wife when he slept with that whore from Motorcycle Man. *Cue Ross on Friends. "We were on a breakkkkkkkkk!*

Oh and I can't leave without mentioning the cameos. There are a lot of freakin Denver cameoes that had me squealing all over the place. I won't say who but let me just tell you I nearly fainted at the mention of the first Denver bad ass, and then, the scene towards the end, I was Kermit-flailing all over the place. I know, getting all these guys working together is going to be so much hotness and awesome my Nook might burn up by the end of this series.

I wonder who book three will be about. (We know the last book in the series will be Rush)  It could be Joker, or maybe one of the older Chaos boys. Or Lan maybe? Not sure. But seriously, Joker has me intrigued. There is something about him that. Oh and the reference to SAMCRO had me giggling since I love that show to pieces.

All in all this was a great story and well worth the wait. I can't wait to explore more of the Chaos world and June can't come fast enough!  I am giving props to KA for a great publisher choice and to her publisher for letting Kristen Ashley be who she is and let her awesome light shine through.

Here are the purchase links:  Amazon / Barnes and Noble

*I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.*

Monday, April 1, 2013

A New Round And New Goals (Sorta): ROW80, Round 2

Before delineating my goals I need to do a quick recap of my plan for 2013. When I posted my goals in January for Round 1 I set about making a year long plan and then broke down my goals from there for Round 1, and then ever further into weekly goals.  I plan on doing this same thing as I start Round 2: evaluating my 2013 plan, seeing what I've done and what still needs to be accomplished, and then outlining my goals from there into Round specific goals and then weekly goals. This, for me, was an effective strategy last round so why change what clearly isn't broken, right?

So let's review. In January I wrote that in 2013 I wanted to send out my first complete novel length book to publishers.  I used the first round to learn to write query letters and synopses that don't totally suck (though I still hate them. I loathe them even. Abhor! Well, you get the idea...) and well, I hit send about a week ago, sending off my MS to a few publishers  I think I would rather be in a cage with a very hungry and pissed off zombie than go through that again, but well, hopefully it gets easier the more I do this.

One of my other goals for 2013 dealt with sending off Wanted to publishers by mid year 2013.  I am on track to have it ready sometime in June or July but I am obviously going to wait to see what happens with my first book and then adjust if necessary. Either way, part of Round 2 will be focused on this book and getting it ready for query or self-publishing. My other 2013 goal was to finish my GR reading challenge and well, I'm moving right along on that so need to talk about that as of now. The last of my 2013 goals was to organize my billion and a half unfinished WiPs and outlines and make a WiP plan. Well, this is a work in progress itself. I'll get there. Eventually. *grumbles and sulks*

Overall it looks as if my 2013 plan is working out well. So given the progress I've made so far here is what I want to accomplish by the end of this specific ROW80 Round:

  • Complete Camp NaNo in April: My goal is a minimum of 30K words on my WiP for the month. I hope to have a title soon but til then, well, it's my Camp NaNo project. (Note: This isn't a from scratch project for NaNo. I had about 30K words written on it already. By the end of April hopefully this book will be complete, or at least close to it.)
  • Finish revisions and edits of Wanted:  This is the one I finished in November for NaNoWriMo but then put aside. I had hoped to finish revisions in Round 1 but evil queries and synopses got in my way. EVIL I SAY!  So now it's time to finally dig into the revisions and finish this. 

My last set of goals are those outlined each week and are more micro in nature as I work towards accomplishing the larger Round 2 and year long goals. These may change from week to week depending on work projects and other things going on.  This week my goals are as follows:

  • Write every day: whether this is revisions of Wanted, writing on my Camp NaNo project, notes for my outlines, or on some other WiP, I am committing to writing every day. *nods for emphasis*
  • Review a minimum of three books per week: I slacked off last week from being so sick. Pneumonia will do that to a person apparently. But this week, well it's time to get back on the horse. 
  • Post Sunday ROW80 Update
  • Catch up on all grading by the end of the week
  • Exercise: I am going to start out slow and try for once a week. It's not a lot I know, but the doctors want me to take it easy while my lungs heal up and since I'm still not 100% I need to be really careful here. I'm thinking some relaxing yoga to start might help and then hopefully I can move to more active cardio in the next couple weeks.
As you can see, for me, staying organized is key. And I have found that separating my goals into a year plan, then smaller chunks accomplished via ROW80 Rounds and within that, goals outlined every week, I am able to stay on track and not get overwhelmed.  At least, that is the hope! And speaking of writing, I am off to write a bit more as I have a few more scenes I'd like to finish tonight.  I wish everyone a happy start to the second round and good luck with your goals!