Archive for the ‘Babble’ Category

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I’ve been reading romance almost exclusively for over twenty years. It’s my genre of choice, it makes me happy, and it’s never been a “guilty pleasure.”  I love it and I get as excited to talk about romances as I do about reading them. Which makes twitter one of my favorite places. I follow authors, editors, and other readers who share my addiction. While there, I’ve noticed I’m rarely in the majority of tweeters on what’s popular or what are big pet peeves in the genre. This doesn’t bother me because variety is a fabulous thing and the romance genre is big enough that we can all find things we love but a thought occurred to me a few days ago : What if there was an author reading those twitter conversations that wanted to write or had already written a story packed full of what others dislike and decide to ditch it? What if it was a book I would LOVE? And since I’m more than a little selfish, that led to these confessions 😀

1.) I love the alpha billionaire hero. Love him. He can even be an ass but he has to be a redeemable ass. I do think the genre is over saturated with them right now and that makes finding the good ones a little more difficult but when I do, it is oh so sweet. I also like beta heroes. And blue collar heroes. Really, I like them all but the billionaires do hold a special place in my heart.

2.) I like the Mary Sues! Not in every book of course but sometimes they are exactly what I want to read. Lisa Marie Rice is a perfect example. Many times while reading her books, I expect the woodland creatures to materialize beside the heroine, dancing and braiding her hair. But they work for me and I don’t question the things that make me happy.

3.) I am a complete and total whore for the preggo heroine story. I’ve been known to purchase books without reading the blurb just because of the baby bump on the cover. So it will probably come as no surprise that I also like epilogues that have the heroine pregnant.  Before anyone yells at me, no I don’t think that every couple needs a child to be happy or fulfilled but it makes me happy to see the badass hero all mushy over the upcoming addition to the family.

4.) I see a lot of reviewers say they didn’t like a certain book because of how over the top it was. That’s actually a selling point for me. Nothing makes me happier than crazy over-the-topness. We’ve seen this go horribly wrong, like when Mad and I book dished Eye of the Storm by Monette Michaels but that’s a theme I will go back to and try time and again, hoping to find awesomeness.

5.) I hesitated to include this since this has been a lighter post and this is definitely on a more serious note but I felt it should be included. Dear Author has a post titled Realistic Depictions of Rape in Romance that has stuck with me all day. It’s well written and has left me very conflicted about my own opinions on the subject.

I think I’ve read just about every depiction of rape in romance. I read the rapist heroes of the 80s and celebrated when those became an endangered species. I’ve read the “magic penis cures all” and fumed. And I’ve read the ones where the heroine accepted help in her recovery and the hero was a fantastic support system. Some have made me sob and others have infuriated me. But through them all, none have been a trigger for me until I read Fault Lines by Rebecca Rogers Maher in the fall of 2012. I became physically ill while reading this book but I didn’t recognize what my body was telling me. I fell into a depression afterward that lasted for over two weeks and started having panic attacks again for the first time in 10 years. The nightmares lasted for months.

I shared this so I could say, for purely selfish reasons, that this reader doesn’t want that much realism in romance. There is definitely a place and a need for those books in this genre and if it helps even one person through the struggle, then that is fantastic but it’s not for me. I’ll stick with the ones that show the happiness and love that can come later. And now I know I have to be more cautious when reading this theme.

So there are my confessions. What themes or tropes do you love/hate that the majority seems to disagree with? Also, if you are a writer with an over the top alpha hero and a pregnant Mary Sue heroine, hook a girl up please. I will buy that thing so fast, heads will spin 😉

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Recently, an author who has become a new auto-buy for me announced that she will be starting a street team. My heart sank and it took everything I had not to respond with PLEASE, FOR THE LOVE OF BABY KITTENS, DON’T DO IT! Why the strong reaction, you ask? First, let’s take a look at what a street team is.

The street team…

Long ago, before the age of digital books, a street team was simple. They went to book stores, passed out bookmarks and front faced books on the shelves. That last part may not have been exactly kosher, depending on the store, but that’s what they did. Things are different now. Street teams mostly promo books online. They tweet, FB, blog and review the books. The purpose of a street team is to spread the word about the author’s new book. In return, most street team members get ARCs, swag, sneak peaks at future books, etc. Good idea, in theory, but then it goes a little sideways.

The problem…

Let’s say Author Sue decides she needs a street team. She puts out a blog post, tweets and Facebooks an all call. “Hey, readers! Sign up here to promo my upcoming book and I’ll give you free stuff!” Let’s say 35 readers respond and now Author Sue has her very on street team full of eager readers ready to spread the word. The problem – Author Sue has just attached her name and business to 35 strangers. She doesn’t know the details of what they do or how her name is going to be used.

I can tell you from personal experience what they are likely to do. Maybe I have 3 reading friends that are on that street team. Friend A posts on FB about Author Sue on the first morning. I click the link, I’m intrigued by the blurb. I preorder the book. Then friends B and C post, too. Then all 3 do it again around lunch time. Then once again that night. Have to make sure they reach everyone, regardless of what time they are online. That’s 9 promos on day one. But, wait. I follow these reading friends on twitter and they did they same thing there. Bump that up to 18 promos. And they repeat that pattern every day. By mid-week, I have cancelled my preorder. The promos keep coming. By the end of the week, I have seen 126 tweets and FB statuses about Author Sue’s book and have decided I never, ever want to read any of her books.

That’s not counting the RTs I see on twitter from other members of the street team, the promo emails that are forwarded to my email, or the overzealous members that add me to Author Sue’s Street Team Facebook page without my permission. In the span of one week, I’ve went from pre-ordering a book to never wanting to hear the author’s name mentioned again, all without Author Sue saying a word.

Street team members, if you are reading this, know your reach. If you have 200 friends on Facebook, those are the only people you are reaching there. Talking about the book three times a day, every day, doesn’t change that. Same for twitter. Have 500 followers? That’s all your “Buy this book!” tweets are reaching. All you are doing with the ceaseless promotion is alienating the friends and followers that used to care about what you had to say.

Authors, this is your business. Be careful when entrusting it to a bunch of strangers. And if you do, make the rules clear and know how your name is being used. Your street team won’t be the ultimate loser when it all goes sideways.

As for me, I’ll sit over here with my fingers crossed, hoping that I won’t be spammed to death with street team promo about my new auto-buy author. There are way too many books out there for me to spend money on something that annoys me.

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The conversation has arose many times in Romanceland about how social media is blurring the lines between authors, reviewers, and readers. A lot of valid points have been raised. Can a review be honest if you are friends with the author? And what is considered a friend? Is it exchanging friendly tweets with the author? Where is the line? It’s a messy subject and I hope this post can clarify where Mad and I stand and give others a chance to weigh in on it. Because maybe we are wrong. It’s been known to happen.

Between the two of us, we have blurred the lines until they are tiny. We are both beta readers, moderators for author yahoo groups, and have friends who make their livings by writing books. Mad is also the assistant of many authors. Then we have this blog where we post about hundreds of books every year. Blurred lines? Without a doubt. It’s a balancing act to stay honest about our love of a book and maintaining the trust the blog visitors have given us.

For example, I stumbled across the Southern Arcana books by Moira Rogers through twitter. I loved the first book and reviewed it. I exchanged tweets with the authors on twitter, more books came out, I did more reviews. Then I was asked to beta read a couple of their books and the reviews stopped. Shortly after, Mad became their assistant. Moira Rogers is still welcome to guest blog at Novel Thoughts (all authors are welcome for promo posts) but we both feel it would be a conflict of interest for us to review those books. That’s where our line is. I have given my opinion about the book prior to publication and Mad is being paid to promote them. There is no way for either of us to be unbiased.

I’ve seen reviews by beta readers/assistants to a specific author and I don’t trust that review. I’ve also seen the “I’m a reader first!” argument and it just doesn’t fly for me. It may not be fair but I’m skeptical when I see that.

Then there is the line between friends and friendly. For me, a friend is someone who I talk with outside of social media. We talk about everything. They know personal things about me that won’t be put out for all the internet to see and I know the same about them. When it comes to an author friend, I won’t review their books. Period. If I loved it, will readers really believe me? And if I hated it, I’m not going to write a review that could potentially cost my friend one single sale. I love my friends and want them to succeed in the career they love. It’s a lose/lose situation and one I don’t feel is ethical. Is that fair of me, as a blogger and reviewer, to not tell others about a book I disliked? To me it is, but others may feel differently.

Now we are at friendly and this is where is gets messy for everyone. I’m “friendly” with a ton of authors. I follow them on twitter, maybe they follow me, I ask questions about their books, they laugh at me when I accidentally kidnap a strange cat thinking it’s mine, just random stuff. I’ve written both positive and negative reviews of those authors’ books. Earlier this year, I was reading a truly horrible book and tweeting about it. Misery loves company and I was miserable. Shannon Stacey offered me an ARC of her upcoming book if I would just stop my current read. She sent it to me with no requirements. She wasn’t looking for a beta read or review. She sent it to me because she’s nice (and possibly because she never wanted to see another tweet about a heroine with flatulence.) I read it, I loved it and wanted to tell everyone about it. When it was close to release day, I posted my review. I didn’t feel conflicted about posting that review at all.

That’s not the only time Mad or I have gotten a book just because. And usually, we’ll post reviews for those books. But what happens if someone sends either of us a book just because and we don’t like it? It hasn’t happened yet but what if I get the book I hate? Not just “certain elements didn’t work for me” but that rare book that sends me into a rage? Will I post a negative, snark filled review about a book that was sent to me by someone who was just being nice? I’m leaning towards no. And does that make it unfair for to give the honest good reviews?


We haven’t touched on authors also reviewing. Are they believable? Is it right? Do authors’ opinions hold more sway than average readers? Once upon a time, that answer was yes for me. If an author I enjoyed recommended a book, I was all over it. With experience came wisdom and I’ve learned to pay attention to what other books that author likes. Just because I like what she writes doesn’t mean I like what she reads. But newer readers may not have that experience to fall back on. So is it ethical for an author to review? My opinion is I don’t care one way or the other but I’m curious about others’ thoughts.

So what about you? Where are your lines as a reader, reviewer, or author? Do you automatically dismiss a review if you’ve watched the reviewer chat with the author online? Would you feel betrayed if you bought a book based on a review and later found out the reviewer had a business relationship with the author? Or is it really buyer beware?

And more importantly to us personally, is it possible to wear the hats of beta reader, author assistant, friend, blogger, and still keep the reviewer’s hat?

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New York Times Best Selling Author Mary Burton’s 2011 Valentine’s Day Recipe

Whether she’s writing a bestselling romantic suspense novel or baking up a storm in her Rich­mond, Virginia kitchen, Mary Burton doesn’t do anything half-heartedly—and that includes her 2011 Valentine’s Day recipe, Merciless Peanut Butter Brownies. This year she’s created a combo that’s mercilessly indulgent and deadly delicious. Go ahead! Feed it to your honey—by hand—on Valentine’s Day!

Mary Burton’s latest books SENSELESS and MERCILESS (out January 25th) have just been published.


Merciless Peanut Butter Brownies Love at First Bite

Brownie Batter:

½ cup (1 stick) of butter
1 cup of cocoa
1 teaspoon of brandy
2 cups of sugar
½ teaspoon salt
4 eggs
1 egg yolk


1/3 cup of peanut butter
1/3 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 teaspoon brandy


8 oz of melting chocolate

Melt butter and pour over cocoa in a mixing bowl. Add in brandy, sugar and salt. Mix in eggs and yolk. Set batter aside and mix together peanut butter and confectioner’s sugar. Form into balls. Evenly spread half the batter in a baking pan. Arrange peanut butter balls on batter. Cover with remaining batter. Bake for 35 minutes. When the brownies have cooled pour melted chocolate over them and let set. Slice and enjoy!

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I do not usually make New Year’s resolutions for a reason. I never stick to them and then I feel like a loser but this year is going to be different. I’m setting realistic goals for something that is near and dear to me. Reading!

In the past, I have been quite content to surround myself with auto-buys, comfort reads, and rereads. That’s my happy place and maybe I shouldn’t rock the boat but I feel like I need to. I’m sure I’m missing out on some great books.

My two reading resolutions are simple:

  • Read more new-to-me authors
  • Read outside my comfort zone

I am making progress with this. I’ve read/am reading 15 books so far this year and 5 of those have fallen into the resolution categories. That’s not a lot but I’m taking baby steps!

New-to-me authors

Dominique Adair

I started off the year reading the three books in the Jane Porter trilogy. They were short, hot, and fun and were a great introduction to this author. Plus, the first book is free on kindle right now. That’s a bonus. And I’m counting all three books toward my resolution.  😀

Lena Matthews

Doesn’t that cover just make you say “Aww”? I’m sucker for the pregnant heroine story line. Add in a couple working through their problems and I’m a very happy camper. I enjoyed this one a lot and plan to look for more books by Ms. Matthews in the future.

Stepping outside the comfort zone


A few months ago, I received an ARC of WILDERS’ MATE by Moira Rogers (blurb and excerpt here). It is steampunk and I’m not ashamed to admit that freaked me out a little. It is in a historical setting (which I very rarely read) with a fantasy (which I never read) feel to all the inventions and lifestyle. Imagine my surprise when I liked it! The romance was the focus, it had a dose of paranormal, and the world was explained in a way I understood. This was easily a 4 star read for me so I started to feel a little more comfortable with this genre.

Which led to my second book of the year…

THE IRON DUKE by Meljean Brook

(Also new-to-me author)

I saw this book on just about every “best of 2010” list around. I’ve had trusted reading friends recommend this book to me. And, like I said, I enjoyed the one steampunk book I’ve read. This one should have been a slam-dunk, right? Not quite. I spent the first few chapters totally lost. There was a lot of terminology used that I didn’t understand that wasn’t explained until later (a “bugger” is not what you are thinking it is) and all the very intricate world building dragged it down a little for me. I can understand why a lot of people are fans of THE IRON DUKE but it just wasn’t for me. However, I do plan on buying the next book when it comes out in hopes that it will be faster paced now that I understand what I’m reading about.


UNDERCOVER by Lauren Dane

This is my current read. I’ve read all of Ms. Dane’s books except this series. It’s sci-fi, futuristic, and it’s not even set in this world. UNDERCOVER is so far outside my comfort zone I can’t even see it from here. But it’s a Lauren Dane book, it’s a menage, and I’ve made it to chapter seven without scrambling for a comfort read. So far, so good!

What about you? Did you make any reading resolutions? And have you read any awesome books that might fall in my resolution categories? I need recs!

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