Saturday, April 20, 2013

'Love at Absolute Zero' by Christopher Meeks

 Official Summary:
...[A] comic romance about Gunnar Gunderson, a 32-year-old star physicist at the University of Wisconsin who's determined to meet his soul mate within three days using the Scientific Method. As he channels his inner salmon for speed dating, he accidentally steps on the toes of a visiting Danish schoolteacher--and his life turns upside down.

In an effort to be as thorough with my exploration of the romance genre as possible, I decided that the last book I'd subject myself to peruse would have a male author. It seemed only fair, really, ...even a tad bit scientific. So after a quick spin through some Goodreads recommendations I landed firmly on 'Love at Absolute Zero' by Christopher Meeks, a title where the scientific method is called out by name in the synopsis. The premise seemed lighthearted enough, promising a splash of comedy and the plot seemed to consist of more than "girl meets boy and girl drops panties." To say the very least, it appealed to my substance-demanding side, and apropos given the summary, so I gave it a whirl.

So what were my findings? Well, some of you may be a sight bit disappointed to learn that it hasn't managed to make a romance genre convert out of me but it did help to reinforce a very important lesson, a lesson that's taken a few titles to truly solidify: Not all romance novels are bad. The trip through "Romance Land" also helped me to identify a couple of titles, and authors that I may actually seek out in the future.

But enough about the genre as a whole and more about this work by Meeks, eh? It's a solidly written work that kept my interest up until the very end, rooting for Gunnar and his mission to find a soul mate from right around page one. And let's just say that while focus of the story does eventually stray from this ludicrous three-day soul mate discovery, it shifts to a much realer, soul searching exploration that still managed to keep me chuckling. It has a diverse cast of supporting characters that never feel superfluous to the plot and a wonderful sense of place and honesty that I haven't come across particularly often.

Bottom Line: If you're a fan of books like 'Flat-Out Love' by Jessica Park this one will resonate with you. With it's offbeat sense of humor and brutally honest depictions of the kinds of people that can make up a life, it's well worth the time spent. If, however, you're more of a "girl meets boy and girl drops panties" kind of reader, well, it's probably not your cup of tea.

Monday, April 15, 2013

'The Wild Ones' by M. Leighton

Official Summary:
The darling daughter of a champion Thoroughbred breeder, Camille “Cami” Hines has a pedigree that rivals some of her father’s best horses. Other than feeling a little suffocated at times, Cami thought she was happy with her boyfriend, her life and her future—until she met Patrick Henley.  “Trick” blurs the lines between what Cami wants and what is expected of her—and he just happens to be so sexy she can’t keep her hands off him. While they both know that Trick would lose his much needed job on the ranch if anyone finds out, they can’t resist the lure of their scorchingly hot encounters. But when Trick stumbles upon a note from his father, it triggers a series of revelations that could ruin what he and Cami have worked so hard to overcome. It turns out there’s more to Trick’s presence at the ranch than either of them knew, and secrets with the power to tear them apart…  

Author M. Leighton comes up as a recommended writer fairly often in the reading circles I frequent. I even reviewed Madly, another title of her's, here on TTP a number of months ago. That title was actually pretty good (if anything it was too short), and even though I've never had the chance to read further in the series it's something I do plan on getting to when I have a slightly shorter stack on the TBR pile.*

That said, The Wild Ones didn't leave me inspired to read any more of this series. You see, this book was filled with characters that I just wanted to throttle for their lack of courage, commitment or general intelligence - Cami in particular needed a big slap in the face for being an indecisive, cheating idiot who calls her father 'Daddy' (gag). A weak female character that let's him, and for that matter every other man in her life, make all the decisions for her. Let's put it this way - if she were a real person I'd get annoyed just talking to her for five minutes at a bus stop. Trick on the other hand was only slightly less obnoxious - at least he has goals and seems to have some level of morals (that he's constantly breaking with just about every interaction he has with Cami) even if he's basically thrown out his initial goal of completing vet school by the end of the novel.

Bottom Line: Why are books like this so popular? I guess if all you're looking for in your next read is a trite and contrived love story than go ahead and pick this one up. If you're more like me, and you like the characters in the books you read to grow and have bigger obstacles than a girl caught in the throws of a "but my Daddy doesn't like him as much as this other guy" whinefest, than don't go near it with a ten foot pole. 

*Not that it ever manages to shrink to anything smaller than sky scraper proportions...  and with a re-reading of the Southern Vampire novels first and foremost on my mind in prep for the final book coming out in less than a month (sqeeee!) it's probably not happening for awhile yet - but I will get there. At least that's what I keep telling myself.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Guest Post : SYTTENDE MAI - by St. Bende & Part of the 'Elsker' Blog Tour!

Hei hei.  I’m ST Bende, and I enjoy baking, skiing, watching IndyCar races, and all things Scandinavian (but not fish).  I love writing about Norse mythology, and my debut series, THE ELSKER SAGA, has just released from Entranced Publishing.  It’s great to meet you!

Since ELSKER’s release coincides with Syttende Mai, Norway’s independence day, I thought I’d share one of my favorite Scandinavian celebrations.  On May 17th, Norwegians get together to celebrate their country’s independence.  Those lucky enough to have bunads -- traditional outfits distinguished by region, and passed down from generation to generation -- wear them proudly.  My favorite is the bunad of Trondheim, with its pale blue and silver fabrics and red accents.  *sigh* 

If you happened to be in Norway in May, you’d find children’s parades, with cherubic celebrants proudly waving their flags.  And in communities across the world, those of Nordic descent get together to honor their heritage.  I’ve gone to several celebrations, some more structured than others, but my favorite is an informal event held on a field.  Friends of Norway gather, some in their beautiful bunads and others in picnic-attire, all with flags in hand and Ja Vi Elsker (the Norwegian national anthem) on their lips.  After a blessing, revelers queue up behind a local high school band and march around the field three times.  The parade has no spectators since everyone’s marching together, waving flags, telling stories and laughing.  Those with extra energy go for a fourth lap.  Afterward, everyone enjoys hamburgers and Norwegian waffles (so, so good), handmade crafts and the three-legged race.  It’s simple, joyful, and absolutely perfect.

I always mark Syttende Mai with a fresh batch of Norwegian waffles.  They’re the perfect blend of sweet and savory, the ultimate comfort food.  I’ve served them to everyone from toddlers to great-grandparents, and they’ve always been a hit.  Waffles even play a bit role in ELSKER, so I included my favorite Norsk waffle recipe on the last page of the manuscript.  I wasn’t sure if it would make the final cut -- who puts a recipe in their novel? -- but my editor kept it in.  *Thank you, Eden Plantz!*  Hopefully you’ll love it every bit as much as I do.  Oh -- if you’re feeling rebellious, try using Nutella instead of a tart jam.  It’s not traditional, but boy, howdy is it delicious.

THE ELSKER SAGA is available now from Entranced Publishing.  
TUR, the prequel, can be downloaded for free at
ELSKER, Book 1, is available from Entranced, Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Author Bio:
Before finding domestic bliss in suburbia, ST Bende lived in Manhattan Beach (became overly fond of Peet’s Coffee) and Europe… where she became overly fond of the musical Cats.  Her love of Scandinavian culture and a very patient Norwegian teacher inspired The Elsker Saga.  She hopes her characters make you smile and that one day pastries will be considered a health food.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

'Broken at Love' by Lyla Payne

Official Summary:

When a knee injury ends twenty-year-old Quinn Rowland’s pro tennis career, he’s not only dumped by his hot Russian girlfriend but ordered to attend college by his disinterested billionaire father. A rich kid who’s not used to being disappointed by life, Quinn and his sociopathic half-brother Sebastian create a frat house game intended to treat girls how they see them—as simple game pieces to be manipulated for their pleasure. College sophomore Emilie Swanson knows Quinn’s reputation—after all, he did send one of her sorority sisters into therapy earlier in the semester—but the game and his charm bring them closer together and soon she starts to believe there’s more to Quinn than people think. But what if the more is something darker than a game of toying with emotions and breaking hearts? Quinn and Emilie might be falling for each other, but there are secrets he’s not ready to tell—and lifestyle changes he’s reluctant to make. She willingly stepped on the court, but if Emilie finds out she started out as nothing as a pawn in Quinn and Sebastian’s twisted game, she might never forgive him. To his surprise, Quinn finds that he might finally care about someone more than he cares about himself…even if that means letting Emilie walk away for good.

I don't consider myself a usual reader of romance... they don't really do it for me. It's my usual opinion the stories are very rarely unique and aren't made of much more than the sum of their summaries. And while it could be argued, with enough evidence to drown me I'm sure, that the stories I've most enjoyed have romantic elements, the books bent on bedroom antics have a tendency of falling pretty low on my list of recommendations (when they make it on that list at all).

But when the author of something I've come to respect, enjoy and strongly recommend for another genre* goes rogue to publish her first "New Adult" romance - well sign me up in support of the new venture. Romance genre be damned because I'm coming for a visit!

Anyway, all the kidding aside, I was pleasantly surprised by 'Broken at Love' by Lyla Payne. The story of Quinn and Emilie was engaging, gritty and even playful at times. Good enough for me to put aside my usual angst-engulfed, rich boy with issues hate, because he was tempered with the strong, level headed Emilie. Good enough for me to sit back and enjoy watching these two overcome their obstacles together and, almost more importantly, apart. Great enough for me to put the story of Quinn and Emilie falling in love above the bedroom antics.

Bottom Line: Even though this one is a more, ahem, mature read, I'm tempted to recommend this to you if you enjoyed 'Callum & Harper', but you may want to skip over it if you're still too young for a rated R movie ticket. Not sure how die-hards of the romance genre would feel about it, but from an outsiders perspective, the focus of this lies title squarely on telling a story of compassion, growth and budding love making it definitely worth the read.

*An author reviewed a glowing review here on TTP mid-February under a different moniker for one of the best YA dystopia/fantasy series I'd picked in a long, long while.

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Thursday, April 4, 2013

'Scarlet' by Marissa Meyer

Official Summary:

Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, returns in the second thrilling installment of the bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She's trying to break out of prison--even though if she succeeds, she'll be the Commonwealth's most wanted fugitive. Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit's grandmother is missing. It turns out there are many things Scarlet doesn't know about her grandmother or the grave danger she has lived in her whole life. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother's whereabouts, she is loath to trust this stranger, but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her. As Scarlet and Wolf unravel one mystery, they encounter another when they meet Cinder. Now, all of them must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen Levana, who will do anything for the handsome Prince Kai to become her husband, her king, her prisoner.  


Oh boy - I love this! Oh boy, oh boy, oh - I really, truly, absolutely, love writing reviews like this! It's reviews, well more importantly the titles that inspire these reviews, that keep me reading and keeping this blog in the first place. But I should stop gushing like a little girl and get on with it.

When the first book in the series, 'Cinder', hit shelves, it caught my attention with its simple, gleaming red high heel cover, it got added to my TBR pile and spent about six months staring up at me. Eventually, I got around to it and I couldn't put it down. I stayed up and polished it off in about five hours... on a work night. I fell in love with Cinder and the strangely dystopian world in which she was forced to exist.

So you can imagine how excited I was to find out that 'Scarlet' by Marissa Meyer was already in the works. I was giddy even - and I don't get giddy all that often... seriously, that just doesn't happen too often. But even the giddy wore off and turned into self-doubt.

Was book one really as good as I thought it was? Was I drunk on a late night reading high? Would book two keep the same pacing? Would it have the same charm?

And what do I do when I start to doubt a title? Or, even more pointedly, don't want a "book two" to ruin the awesomeness that is it's "book one"?

Well - I stall. I stall even though I'd pre-ordered this title on the day I finished 'Cinder' and the title appeared on my Kindle just a day short of two months ago. But I didn't have the nerve to crack it open until only a week ago. What a big mistake that was. Honestly, I spent months worrying about absolutely nothing while I should have just been a big ball of excited energy. No, if you must know, I didn't have the stamina to finish it in an all night reading bender, I did get through it in two (much shorter) sittings.

Bottom Line: Fairy tales, romance, dystopia, androids, robots, spaceships and aliens (well kinda aliens)... Do you like any of these things? How about just a hankering for one of the best fairy tale refreshes in existence? This one is a must.

I mean it.

Click here to pick up 'Scarlet' (Lunar Chronicles #2) and add it to your TBR pile immediately!