Book reviews

Posted: February 11, 2013 in Book Reviews

Over the past month, I was in search of some inspiration and I always look for it in other people’s work. Reading makes you the best writer you can possibly be, and so when I find myself in times of twisted fingers, I read.

Sadly, that is not always a good thing.  Sometimes, these books make me want to scream. Sometimes they make me want to cry. But every once in a while, I do come across one that is decent, even worth a second read, if I had nothing better to do.

So, today, I will be doing some reviewing. I am mean, I am ruthless and I am going to nit pick.

Temptation by K.M. Golland

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In one word – meh!

In stars – smack dab down the middle of 2.5/5

If you get past the industry standard head hopping, (which makes my skin crawl and makes me feel someone is hitting me over the head with a 2×4) you will discover some interesting writing (albeit horribly edited – but it comes with the territory of being a Smashwords book and I am certainly not the one to talk).

Heroine, Alexis, has been a stay at home mom for nine years and has finally decided to go back to work. She gets a job as a concierge at a hotel and despite of being happily married, she falls for her hot, rich and suave (aren’t they all) boss.

She meets him by accidentally spilling some drink on him, covering both of them in brown liquid, after which he takes her to Versace and buys her a $4000.00 dress. Reaaaaally… okay, then, moving on. If you can get passed this ridiculous gesture, things get a bit more realistic and reasonable afterwards.

My biggest issue is that this is a trilogy and – get this – this book does not actually end. Newsflash lady, this is not a trilogy, it is one book in three parts. “A trilogy is a set of three works of art that are connected, and that can be seen either as a single work or as three individual works.” (Source: Wikipedia) This book most certainly cannot be seen as an individual piece. There is nothing more annoying than reading through 70,000 of predictable story and not getting a satisfaction of a predictable ending. Not that I don’t know what will happen, but still, when, like me, you are a glutton for punishment and actually read this crap, you at least want to finish the job.

The second book (or should we say, part 2 of the same story) is announced in March, but needless to say, I am done with this.

Follow That Dress by Cherrie Mack

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In one word – standard!

In stars – 3.5/5

There’s nothing special about this book. It is a spin on Indecent Proposal, where a hot shot CEO needs an arm candy for an event and propositions one of his employees to fill the role of his girlfriend for two weeks, after she accidentally smears frosting on him in a local coffee shop. (I swear, I do not go looking for romance/chicklit/erotica novels that start in a coffee shop on an adversarial note, but it is amazing how many chose this particular incident for a start – yeah, really original. Right up there with “she flung herself into his arms…” or “waited with baited breath…”)

One great thing about this book is that, given it’s Liquid Silver, which is a subsidiary of Atlantic Publishing, it is professionally edited and thus you do not have to deal with typos, run on sentences and plot issues that stem from not writing a book in order.

The conflict arises in a form of an ex girlfriend and an ex wife and I always find these incredibly weak, because in this day and age, unless it’s a YA novel that takes place in grade 10, it is nearly guaranteed that there will be some exes on both sides. So, my dear characters, deal with it.

The other part that bugged me was that this guy was supposedly kinky in a 50 Shades of Grey kind of way, but you would never know it, as it never actually happens. You just ‘hear’ about it. I find this a terrible stupid part of the story as 50 Shades Of 50 Shades are freakin’ popping everywhere now.

Also, she does something at the end that is seen in a positive light by the hero, but for which I, if I were in his shoes, would have chopped her head off. It was ridiculous. You’ll see. Well, if you decide to read it, that is. But it was a high school move to say the least.

But, I am willing to let this go and call it a decently predictable, reasonably well edited and an okay short novel.

Unplugged - J.P. Grider

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In one word – refreshing!

In stars – 4/5

So, here’s why it’s refreshing. It’s written from a guy’s point of view, which is novel in this genre to say the least. That is, when there’s no head hopping. And, in this book, there’s almost no head hopping. Almost. We do get glimpses on what his love interest is thinking in a form of letters to her dead husband. But they are not too revealing and they are certainly not in every chapter. Okay, I can deal with this.

Tagg Holland is a former rock star who is trying to get over a horrible death of his wife, who got into a car accident after she found him in bed with another woman. nearly a decade later, his dad, who is also a famous rocker, decides it is time for band to get back together and his mom, who is a famous actress, hires a personal trainer for Tagg to help him get body in shape and his life in order. He falls for the trainer, she cleans him up, but given they both have issues, it is not easy for either of them to start a relationship.

Premise is decent, it is decently written and amazingly for Smashwords, actually even decently edited. It gets a pass on the basics.

Why not 5 stars?

Problem number one – totally subjective, but this is my review – there’s too much God in this book.

Problem number two – they bring up September 11th in the worst possible way.

Problem number three – the side story has paranormal characteristics (though it is not) and it unravels  in the stupidest way you could imagine. It’s contrived to the max – all so that the characters are absolved of any potential bad feelings they may have. Oh give me a break. Life is shit, learn to deal with it. When you do something dumb in life, the universe is not going to make sure that things happen so that you don’t feel bad. This is why I hate this ‘happily ever after’ crap.

But given I read books that are far…far worse, I must be fair and say that this is a reasonably decent book and it was definitely worth $2.99.

Just The Sexiest Man Alive - Julie James

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In one word – good!

In stars – 4/5

So, much like Unplugged, this book was sought by me for the sole purpose of reading a book on the same subject as mine, i.e. a romantic relationship between a celebrity and a mere mortal, including a legal aspect of the story.

The heroine has a really good head on her shoulders. She is a lawyer from Chicago, who is on a work term in her firms’ LA office for a duration of a trial on sexual harassment. She is sexy, smart, reasonable, not down on her luck and most important of all – not too stupid to live.

Jason Andrews is world’s hottest movie star who hires her firm to help him prepare for his next role in a legal thriller. And, let the games begin.

Why not 5 stars, you ask – there’s so much head hopping in this book, it makes your head spin. It’s not just him and her, we get side characters’ POV and the antagonist and the whole thing is just one big mess, leaving all forms of anticipation out of it. Way too much POV switching. I get it that people like to get the romance from both sides of the story, but this takes the cake.

One last bad thing about this book, is that it is REALLY expensive. At $10.53 for a Kindle edition, this is not only almost double its paperback version, but also, way out of price range of a normal novel in this genre. But having said that, this author has more than one book and I would even be willing to pay the price, but her POV schizophrenia has me giving her books a wide berth.

Exquisite – Ella Frank

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In one word – decent!

In stars – 4/5

I refuse to give 5 stars to any book that cannot stay in one point of view. I don’t care how much this is acceptable in the romance genre.

Again, there’s nothing special about this book. It’s ok. It has a hot shot and suave man, a smart, normal heroine and a love story. It’s nothing special, but I also can’t really say anything that is really bad about it. It’s ok. Apparently, this is a book one in a trilogy (this one is an actual trilogy, all the books end and can stand on their own), but I read the reviews of the second book and it turns out this one is the best. Also, I don’t really care about the characters that much that I need to read more mediocrity about them.

So, I am leaving it at that.

Crossing Hathaway – Jocelyn Adams

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In one word – Fabulous!

In stars – 5/5.

This is, bar none, THE BEST book in this genre I have ever read. I loved it so much that I actually wrote an email to the author.

So, what better way to review this, than to tell you exactly what I said to her and what she said to me.

Hello Jocelyn,

I must admit, this is my first fan letter ever. I am also gonna be blunt (at times).

I read quite a bit of romance/erotica genre and have been a reader of Liquid Silver Books for years now (though on and off). I write it myself, though much more as an avocation and I have never been so taken by a book in this genre that I actually contacted the author.

Crossing Hathaway rocks fuckballs!

Everything in this book, down to fuckballs, just simply rocks.

So, if you’d like to stop reading now, you can, cause that just about sums it up. :-)

However, since I love to drone on, I am compelled to elaborate.

I was sick yesterday and on Liquid Silver, I can buy pdfs with my PayPal account connected straight to my bank account, with my iPad, from my bed. No need to fetch my credit card. I am also an uber geek! So I came across your book. And I passed it cause I don’t often give Liquid Silver more than 20,000 words per story. If It sucks, I really don’t want to wade through 80,000 words worth of cavity inducing dialogue to get through the story, or to the sex (depending on the mood).

And so I read the first short and it was ok, though it had a gag-me-with-a-spoon ending. And then I read another and it was meh, though it had its moments. By this time it was 11 am and I had an entire day ahead of me in bed with my iPad. And I plunged into Crossing Hathaway.

Best. Decision. Ever.

First of, you made him so repulsive in the beginning, I was envisioning Fifty Shades of Grey gone wrong. (I didn’t actually read this book, but I can imagine.)  I have read a lot of this stuff and recognition patterns kick in very often. But you surprised me by making the chemistry based on meritocracy as opposed to <insert a vanity noun here> or I-need-to-make-you-submit-RAWR! Awesome.

The references span generations of nerdoms: the padawans, The Skeletor, Sheldon Cooper! 

Your main character is not TSTL (too stupid to live). Perhaps, some editors believe that most of the characters in these books are not TSTL, but let’s remove the warning labels and see what happens. I have certainly rolled my eyes or snorted my fair share. Eva rocks!

Though Ben gets a little too sappy too quickly for my taste, (as he clearly does for Eva) I am willing to let go of that. :-)

Brent is fabulous, Cam (I also have a Cam in my book, though it’s short for Camillo and he’s a Brazilian limo driver) is clueless–way to hang a lantern on that one–and the rest of them just fit! 

I love the dialogue in the sex scenes. It moves them the fuck along without them being giant walls of text filled with sexy adjectives. I often skip these crazy WOTs, but I didn’t skip yours. Cause you had your characters interacting and if you skipped the descriptions, you miss the point! Even if the point was minor, or a joke or whatever. Made me read back! Good on you!

I laughed my fever shaken butt off, out loud, to myself.

Really well done!

Anyways, I could go on, but suffice it to say, I am rereading my favourite parts.

Hope you have as much fun reading this email as I did writing it and thanks for making the sick day go by faster!

Cheers

And her reply

Hi,

I think this is the best email I’ve ever gotten, and will probably end up printed and on my wall.   Yeah!  I’m so glad you enjoyed the book and were entertained for a while, because that’s why I do this thing in the first place.  I’m an impatient reader, so I don’t spend a lot of time describing in any of my books to get you to the point faster.  J 

You have left me smiling from ear to ear, so thank you for that.  Happy reading!

Cheers!

Jocelyn Adams

Breaking The Rules

Posted: December 4, 2012 in Comments

When I started writing Sugar Free, I read a lot about writing. Since I have no formal education in fiction writing or any kind of writing for that matter, I searched for articles online, read books and industry publications in order to have a modicum of reasonable assumptions and know what the basic rules are.

What I found was that the rules that are imposed onto a romance novel writer are not reasonable, so this blog post is about how I break them. Most of them.

Rule #1

Heroine and hero should ‘dislike’ each other at the beginning

Well, despite the fact that I did not particularly like my own husband when I met him, this is a stupid and unrealistic rule. I opted for indifference and apathy. Which is far more likely and realistic. How many times in your life did you start dating someone whom you ‘disliked’ when you met him. I didn’t think so.

My hero is a bit pompous, but it comes with the territory of what he does. My heroine is dismissive of him, but we are far from calling it hate and she full on admits that he is attractive and that it takes an effort not to give in, I do realize that that you might think this is a par for the course, but if I were to strictly follow the rules, this is not how it should go.

Rule #2

It’s ok to switch points of view – head hop – in order to let the reader know what is going on

For the love of all that is holy and dear in the world of fiction writing, it is NOT OK TO HEAD HOP. If you cannot tell a story from one point of view, then give up writing right now. This whole, she likes him but won’t tell him and he likes her, but thinks she does not like him and reader sitting in suspense and trepidation as to when the two of them will get a clue makes me want to gauge my eyes out with sharp objects. Pick a point of view and stick with it. Mostly, pick a heroine’s point of view and tell a story from her side. No head hopping. Part of a great story is the fact that we do not know what the other person is really thinking or feeling until they say it in dialogue or do something that POV character observes.

Confession: There are two scenes in my book where I switch to generic narrative and describe a scene that does not have a heroine in it. But you do not get into anyone’s head nor are they too common to be annoying. I, also, will probably rewrite it to remove them all together, but there were two key parts of the story I am not sure how to convey without it. We’ll see.

Rule #3

There should be a happily-ever-after ending

In historical romance novels, maybe. But, boys and girls, this is 2012. And if you are, like me, writing a contemporary romance novel, I really freakin’ do not want to see an engagement two weeks into dating. Really? Do you actually know people that get engaged two weeks into dating. It’s not sweet, it’s stupid! It’s idiotic, it’s unrealistic and NOBODY can relate to it. Which brings me back to gauging my eyes out with sharp objects.

In the interest of not bastardizing the genre completely, let’s settle on happy-for-now. I.e. all the conflict is behind them and they are free to have a relationship and enjoy each other’s company.

Rule #4 (My least favourite one and the one I break in spades and gladly)

After they meet, your hero and heroine should only have eyes for each other

Maybe it’s just me, but this contradicts rule #1. Seriously, how many women do you know that hold the torch for the guy they dislike? Who came up with this shit? They say life is stranger than fiction, but this takes the cake. And the reasoning is, if you break this rule, then you cannot guarantee happily-ever-after for all characters in your book. So? It’s not supposed to be all peaches and caviar for everyone. Modern day women do not necessarily want to be woed by the romance. They want to relate to the characters and be entertained. Perhaps, sometimes in their life, they met a guy that they liked and he went on a date or slept with someone after they met. Hey, guess what, this shit happens all the time. So, it has also found its way into my book.

Rule #5

The heroine must be a miserable fuck (at least in love) and the hero should be flawless and unconditionally forgiving

(less of a strict rule than a personal observation of the genre)

Well, Paula Abdul may have said that opposites attract, but flawless heroes make me want to drown puppies in gasoline. And don’t even get me started with unconditional forgiveness. NO! In Sugar Free, they are both miserable fucks, who call each other on their bullshit. Cause that is what normal people do. Cause that is what God intended for 30 something singletons to feel like. At least the God in my book.

So, there you have it boys and girls. You can tell me to go away as you like your romance novel genre the way it is, unrealistic, overtly sugary so that you can forget your own troubles and experience a happy ending. But imagine how much better you will feel when things work out in a story you can relate to, with characters that act like humans and not some automatons generated by the genre.

What do you think?

Sit tight!

Posted: October 28, 2012 in Uncategorized

I am in the process of explaining how this is going to work. In the meantime, you can read Sugar Free Chapter 1 and for the moment, assume all rights reserved. But that will change!