Thursday, March 31, 2011

ARC Review of The Reluctant Nude by Meg Maguire



The Reluctant Nude by Meg Maguire





I have been seduced by a most alluring book.

It didn't seduce with flash or bling.

It had no pissing werewolves. No shapeshifting Orca whales. No explosions in outer space.

It had bread and cheese and coffee and wine. Alluring characters who were prickly and real and layered and lovely, seductive in a most charming and subtle way. It had a hero who was French, and sexy, but also quirky and odd and delicious. It had a heroine who was impatient and short-tempered and insecure and vulnerable. Their love developed slowly, as the artist chips away at his model's stony exterior, as she finally opens herself up to be loved. Slowly, seductively, wonderfully real.

I actually felt as though I were falling in love as I read this book. That has never happened to me before. I wasn't merely reading about these characters. I was falling in love just as they were--anxious, uncertain, joyful and happy.

There are not many authors who can capture the simple moments. Mary Balogh can. She can take a simple gesture, a moment, a scene, and transform it into something incredibly powerful, emotional and lovely. Which is why her books are so very romantic and satisfying.

Meg Maguire has this magic, too. She has the uncanny ability to transport the reader into her literary world, seduce us with her story, and make us feel the power of a loving connection. She takes simple moments and imbues them with incredible romantic intensity.

Her hero, Max, is extraordinary. One of the best heroes I've seen in romance. He is not your typical character. He is slightly odd but so charming and endearing, I fell hopelessly in love with him. Her heroine, Fallon, is less appealing. She is a prickly hedgehog. But the way Max coaxes her into opening up for him--in every way--is so wonderful, you are cheering for their happy ending. And worried about what will, or will not transpire, at the end of this book.

The plot is not really important here. It's the characters and their blossoming love that make this story sing. The storyline gets somewhat ridiculous at the end of the book, and unneccessary in my opinion. Max's heroic nature doesn't need to be revealed by any grand gesture. It's revealed in the smallest detail, in the way he loves Fallon.

I am just amazed by Maguire's talent, and by the lusciousness of this story. The ending is superb. I cried with the beauty and balance and perfection of it.

Although I have professed my dislike of contemporary romance repeatedly, I think this author might be swaying me over to the dark side. Her books are addictive, seductive, and powerful. I just can't get enough!

I fell in love with this book. It's going on my Top 10 Favorites List. And Max is definitely going on my Favorite Hero List.

Grade: A+

P.S. This book will be released on April 5!


Blissfully happy and jonesing for a French coffee,
Penelope

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

In Praise Of Big, Curvy Girls


Let's face it. Most girls in Hollywood look like a bag of bones. They probably rattle as they walk down the street, dressed in their size "0" low-rider jeans. 

How refreshing to see a big, curvy girl embracing her sexiness and beauty. Queen Latifah is one. Love her! Kirstie Alley is another. Although I don't normally watch Dancing With The Stars, I did take the time to watch a clip of Kirstie Alley's debut.

Here it is if you haven't had a chance to see it yet....





Following this adorable debut, George Lopez, Butthead Extraordinaire, made incredibly insulting remarks about Kirstie, comparing her to a pig.

Yep, a pig. (He's a winner, all right!)

Anyhoo, when I first watched this clip, I didn't think, Whoa, she looks big. She looks chunky. How old is she?

Here's what popped into my head...."She looks freakin' fantastic!"

I love that she is wearing a sexy, tight dress. I love that she is self-deprecating, funny, sassy and has some sweet moves. I love that she is a big, curvy girl and still rocking a sexy look.

I have a soft spot in my heart for romance novels about big, curvy girls. For the same reason I love Beauty and the Beast books. True romantic love does not get hung up on physical imperfections or flaws. It is about loving the very soul of another person. Their true beauty will be seen, regardless of scars or size-18 hips.

Night Play, by Sherrilyn Kenyon, was one of the first romance novels I ever read. It made me fall in love with paranormal romance. It made me fall in love with shapeshifting werewolves. Vane Kattalakis is a big, hunky, gorgeous, courageous, loyal werewolf. He falls instantly in love with Bride, a plus-size gal who is self-conscious about her appearance. He doesn't see her as chunky, flawed, or imperfect in any way. He sees a beautiful and desirable woman. I just adore this book. (And the first scene of lovin' in the dressing room is off-the-charts smokin' hot! Whew!).

I like the fact that the standard, traditional "romance" heroine (Barbie Dolls R Us) has been replaced with women of all sizes, shapes and colors.

I'll leave you with one of my all-time favorite movie quotes....from the movie Beauty Shop, starring Queen Latifah.

Gina: Vanessa, do these pants make my butt look big?
Vanessa: Yeah, they do.
Gina: Good!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Brown Is Beautiful


Guess what Penelope is thinking about today? Beards? Nope. Romance novels? Not really. Gardens! Yep!

Finally, the snow has melted, and all of New England is.....brown. But brown is very, very beautiful. Why? Because it's not white. As in, covered with 7 feet of freakin' snow.


The only snow remaining is this dirty, gross pile in my neighbor's driveway. Our yard is finally free and clear!

Color coding for New England in March....

White = Hideous
Brown = Beautiful
Green = Nothing Short Of A Miracle

My courtyard garden is brown.....


My vegetable and herb garden is brown.....


Here is the one spot of green. God bless chives, bad-ass herb!



Here are Penelope's Gardening Plans for 2011....

  • Transplant potted fig tree into the ground. I'm sick of getting one $%#^* fig per year. I think if I put it in the courtyard garden, I should get a nice yield of fruits.
  • Attempt some new-for-me veggies: sweet potatoes, onions, bok choy or other Chinese veggies.
  • Try my quirky Lemon Extravaganza Garden this year: all yellow and white flowers (some edible, such as Johnny Jump-Ups, etc), lemon herbs, lemon tomatoes, and lemon tree. I've been wanting to try this out for a while.
  • Giant pumpkin patch with mini pumpkins and gourds.
  • Tons of greens (since they are now a major part of my diet): Boston bibb, mesclun mix, etc.
  • Add in: dahlias, star clematis, maybe lilacs (white and dark purple).

In addition to gardening, I am also thinking about Spring Vacation. In just a few short weeks, my family will be going to Captiva, Florida. Which brings up another important application of the phrase "brown is beautiful".....here is the color coding situation for my family:

5 Members of Penelope's Family....

  • Hubby = Brown (Filipino)
  • Son = Brown (Filipino)
  • Daughter = Brown (Filipino)
  • Dog = Black and Tan (Dachshund)
  • Penny = Pasty White Girl

Sun exposure is clearly not an issue for Lucy, the dachshund.




Last time we went to Sanibel (2009), my husband, son and daughter turned delightful shades of color ranging from honey-dark chocolate.



In preparation for this trip, I will be purchasing copious quantities of SPF 495, long-sleeved shirts, long pants, a big floppy hat, sunglasses, zinc oxide for my nose, and a beach umbrella. I also wrap my exposed skin up in towels, thereby resembling a mummy on the beach. And I watch from the safety of my shady spot while the rest of my family frolics on the sunny beach.

&%*$&#^@^@&$*%*$*%&%&!!!!!!!!

Otherwise, I end up looking like this.....



Brown is Beautiful. Lobster Red is Painful.


Anyone else planning a spring garden? Going somewhere fun for spring break?


Happy Spring,
Penelope

Monday, March 28, 2011

100% Pure Beef




I've been thinking about author branding. JR Ward is the cracktastic brotherhood writer. Annette Blair is the quirky paranormal author. Eloisa James is the lush historical writer. Christine Feehan is the one-lifemate-for-cavemanish-Carpathians-lots-of-velvet-sheaths author.

Initially, I attempted to brand myself as the "Santa Claus" writer....my website looks like a Christmas festival, with holiday decorations, gingerbread, and of course half-naked Klaus brothers. It was a good, solid idea for an initial branding concept, something to set me apart from the masses (since no one else is writing about the five sexy sons of Santa Claus as a long-term holiday series).

Somewhere, over the last year and a half, my "persona" (which is an odd bipolar mix of Penny and Penelope) has morphed into something altogether....different. Yes, I am still the "Santa Claus" author. But I have added a few other characteristics to my "brand."

If I was thinking about getting a brand imprinted on my arse, here are some possibilities.....

  • Loves Beards
  • Weenie Dogs Forever
  • Chlorophyll or Bust
  • Heart Attack Survivor
  • I-Hate-Roarke-Brigade
  • Herbs Are Not Just For Smoking
  • Wussy And Proud Of It
  • Grammar Police
  • Martinis For Everyone
  • Promo Princess
  • Humble Opinions Are For Pansy-Asses
I am sort of digging this eclectic mix of personality traits. Yes, perhaps, it is too complex for a nice tight branding concept. But for better or worse, it's who I am. At least for right now.

Any ideas about branding? If it works? Who does it well? Is it even necessary? Maybe 100% pure beef is the only way to go.

Happy Monday,
Penelope

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Breaking News: Quirky Lady Victoria Morgan Wins Golden Ticket!



OH MY GOD! OH MY GOD! OH MY GOD!!!!!!!! (Hold on a second, gotta catch my breath. I have been jumping up and down and screaming and doing silly dances which are embarrassing my children).

Quirky Lady Victoria Morgan, historical romance writer extraordinaire, defender of Roarke and Outlander, talented artist, and all-around fantastic person, got nominated for a Golden Heart award yesterday. Her novel, Changing Fortunes, has been nominated in the Historical Romance category. This is the highest honor an unpublished author can get from the RWA. I am ridiculously happy and excited and cannot wait for Nationals this year. I have a feeling this golden ticket is going to turn into something very special for Vicki, and hopefully all of you will get a chance to read this magnificent book very soon.

P.S. A word of advice....If you meet Vicki at Nationals, please don't make any disparaging remarks about Roarke or Outlander.

YESSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!! GO, VICKI!!!!!!!!!

Just slightly excited,
Penelope

Friday, March 25, 2011

Beard Of The Day


I decided I have been remiss in ignoring men of color for my Beard of the Day post (except for Worf, the African-American/Klingon...hee hee!).  For goodness sake, my own beloved hubby is Filipino (although sorely lacking in facial hair, but he more than makes up for it by being an adorable guy with a big-ass brain.) So, I decided to search for hot Asian dudes with beards. Guess what I found?

Takeshi Kaneshiro, the Japanese/Chinese singer/actor/model who starred in Red Cliff, a movie by John Woo. The top and bottom photos are from the film....he is rockin' the Asian goatee-style beard. Nice!

And, even though this photo has him clean-shaven, I had to include it because he is so smokin' hot while dripping with water. Yowzah!





Happy Beardy Friday,
Penny

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Thursday Morning Updates


1.) I am currently reading Leader of the Pack, by Leighann Phoenix. It was recommended to me by one of my favorite fellow readers at Goodreads (MelissaB!), with this warning...."This book is too long." Fiddlesticks, I thought. I'm a fast reader. I can handle that. Well, in spite of a typo on the first freakin' page, more head-hopping than at a Head Hopping Convention (couldn't come up with something for that...sorry!), and some slightly "squicky" (Melissa's term) hybrid-shapeshifter moments (think animal-human sex moments.....or maybe not, if you don't want to lose your breakfast), I am still sort of liking this book. But, I'm at 52%, and there has already been a major climatic battle scene, death, and resolution. And we're only half-way through the book. I guess the author is going to make a second conflict/resolution to keep this baby going. I'm exhausted, but I'm not giving up!

2.) I am also reading Mia Marlowe's Touch of a Thief. Mia kicks arse at opening sentences. Here is the beginning of this book....I was hooked instantly!

"On any given day, someone writhed in exquisite pleasure at the home of the most sought after courtesan in Amjerat. Unfortunately for Captain Greydon Quinn, on this day it wasn't him."

The premise for this story is fabulous, the writing is fantastic, and I can't wait to finish it. I wish I had more time to read! Fiddlesticks!

3.) The jumped-the-shark-a-long-time-ago-crack-addicting-vampire-series has a new book coming out soon. But Tohr isn't in it! Fiddlesticks!

4.) I am working on my childrens' summer camp schedule. This involves researching camps for swimming, skating, chemistry, doll-house making, nature, bike-touring Cape Cod, cooking, and art. Remember when we used to hang out and play kick-the-can all summer? I do. Fiddlesticks!

5.) Thursday's Word of the Day: Fiddlesticks!

Happy Reading,
Penelope

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Update for Amazon Romance Community Members




In response to an inordinately high number of consumer suggestions, Amazon is implementing the following changes to our Romance Community Message Boards, effectively immediately.....

1.) We have added a "wackadoodle" button to the posts. Any member who accumulates in excess of 50 "wackadoodle" votes will have mental health self-help books added to his/her book suggestion list.

2.) We are abolishing censorship with regards to cuss words... as long as * buttons are included in said words. For example, c*ck-s*ck*r would be appropriate. However, if the stars are omitted, the word will be blacked out on the screen.

3.) Similar to Goodreads, pop-up boxes will now appear before posting. After checking "author" or "reader" the following terms of agreement will appear. Please check the box next to I Agree, or No Freakin' Way before continuing to the message boards.

(A) For "authors".... "I do solemnly swear not to pimp my books, regardless of origin of publication (independent digital format, traditional publishing house, or skanky erotica e-publisher)."

A scarlet "A" will appear next to your screen name to identify you as an author. These terms may also appear underneath the screen name... Indie, Trad, Skank.

(B) For "readers"..... "I do solemnly swear not to confuse the words 'heroin' or 'heroine' in my posts."
      
A scarlet "R" will appear next to your screen name to identify you as a reader. Any reader who abuses the English language excessively (misspelled words, incorrect grammar, lack of subject/verb agreement) will have the term "Illit" for "illiterate" appear beneath your screen name.

After agreeing to these terms, you will be permitted to post on any thread within the community. Rude, obnoxious behavior, name-calling, mud-slinging, and general pandemonium are still permitted.

4.) Due to overwhelming confusion as to terms and emoticons, an index will now be available to help clarify these words. Ex: Shill, troll, DIK, :^O, etc.

5.) Amazon will not permit members to change their screen names to BDB-inspired monikers. (See "Black Dagger Brotherhood" in the aforementioned index). For example, Linda to Lhinda, Jenny to Jhenny, etc. We are unable to accommodate the high volume of requests for these changes at this time.

Sincerely,
The Powers That Be At Amazon

Monday, March 21, 2011

"V" is for Vicious

No one warned me about JD Robb fans. Geez, I make one teensy, weensy little criticism of Mr. Roarke Suave (you know, the whole metrosexual pansy-ass thing), and next thing you know, I'm being accosted in a family restaurant by a rabid fan who takes great umbrage at my review. Great, great umbrage. She scared me. In fact, I am rescinding my review.

Naked In Death by JD Robb. Grade: C-/D+ 
New grade: B
OK, just kidding, it's really B+
A!!!! A++++

I have totally changed my tune about Roarke. Lub him, and the whole button thing. Right on board with that. And the wine, and the coffee. He's manly. I want a "I Love Roarke" button for my blog.

(shifts eyes nervously.....)

"V" is for vicious. And vitriol. And vengeance.

Singing a brand new tune about Roarke, my new fictional boyfriend,
(Hiding under the dining room table)
Penelope

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Penelope's Advice To Authors Who Don't Like Beeyotchy Reviewers...



I think this backlash against reviewers is getting a little bit out of hand.

Here's some advice for authors who don't like nasty reviews.....

That book you've been working on? The one that's 397 pages long? Researched, edited and filled with your blood, sweat and tears?

Don't. Publish. It.

That's right. Take the whole thing, and stuff it under your bed, with the dust-bunnies, and those big, fluffy, hideous slippers from Target. And leave it there.

Because I have news for you. If you're gonna get your book published, people are gonna read it. Some folks will love it. And some folks will hate it. And some folks will review it.

Some reviewers will be kind and gracious and lovely and gently suggest that the author "might want to work on her POV changes which were slightly jarring to the reader."

And some reviewers will be snarky-ass beeyotches from hell who think your hero is a metrosexual pansy-ass. And worse.

If you're going to get your book published, grow a pair.

A really, really big pair.

This business is not for the faint of heart. Just ask any sculptor, or painter, or poet, or motorcycle designer, or anyone who is in a creative field and puts his or her stuff out in the public. Some people are nice. And some are not.

Quit yer whining, and belly-aching, and complaining, and threats, and intimidation, and judgments about reviewers who are "doing it right" and "doing it wrong," who's "professional," or "unprofessional," or just plain mean.

Get your ass in the chair, and write your book. Own it. Believe in it. Take the good with the bad.

Here are your choices: Live in a shack in the mountains of Vermont, write your books on an old-fashioned typewriter, and keep your manuscripts hidden away from humanity. Or....send out query letters. Put yourself on the line and open to rejection. From agents, from publishers, from reviewers at RT magazine, from Joe Schmo Reader at Amazon.

Look at it this way. If one person reads your book, and likes it....that is a very cool and amazing thing. Chances are that more than one person will read your book and like it. You have created something that entertained, touched, evoked, aroused, tortured, made a difference. So what if someone else didn't like it.

Some folks think Picasso is a God, and some people think he's a hack.

If you've decided to become a romance author, suck it up. Criticism is part of the job-description.

Reviewers are no different than anyone else. Nor are authors. Some of us are nice and some are blunt and some are honest and some are ass-kissing groupies. It would be a boring world if we all had the same opinions, and expressed them in the same way.

And for those of you who think I'm being harsh, I'm an author, too. I've gotten bad reviews, bad ratings, been given advice such as "You'll never get this book published," "You really should take the Christmas out of this story," and "Readers don't like bearded heroes." It made me work harder, it made me more determined, and it made me realize that....yep, some readers don't like bearded heroes. They shouldn't read my book. They probably won't like it.

But some folks do.

Enough with the mud-slinging, reviewer-dinging, sad song-singing. (High fives all around for that one! Woo!). Let's just get back to writing books, shall we?

Penelope

Friday, March 18, 2011

Beard of the Day


Today's post was inspired by Underworld. Scott Speedman was a tasty little morsel in that movie. He was also a regular on the TV show Felicity (anyone remember that one?). Here are some cool tidbits about Scott...

1. He used to be a competitive swimmer. (I'd like to see him in a speedo.).
2. He lived most of his life in Canada. (I'd like to see him in a lumberjack outfit).
3. He tried out for the role of Robin in Batman Forever. (I'd like to see him in some tights).

Here are some more excellent beardy photos of Scott.....



Nice cropped hair style, with scruffy beard.




Looks like he just rolled out of bed. :^)


Happy Hairy Friday,
Penelope

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Lover Unleashed, aka Unkhool, Son of Ghouging Rheaders Ehverywhere



The Kindle version of JR Ward's Lover Unleashed is available for preorder at Amazon for $14.99. 15 bucks for an ebook!!!!! Thanks a lot, Penguin Publishing. This feels uncannily like Barbara Streisand charging $300 for concert tickets. Yeah, we like you, we might even love you, but gouging your fans is the ultimate in "unkhool." JR Ward and all authors who have loyal, steadfast fans, please stand up and say something to your agents, your publishers, and your readers. We don't deserve this.

Phenelope, Dhaughter of Ehxasperated Bheyond Bhelief Whith Eh-book Phrices

Stumpy, Bumpy and Chunky


(I know....I am getting out of control with my blog titles....I just can't help myself!)


Mindless Wednesday Updates....

1.) Bumpy: I think my #^$&%* blood pressure medicine needs to be adjusted. I passed out this morning and banged my head on the door frame. Ouch! That freakin' hurt! Since I'm exercising so much my blood pressure is low....maybe too low. Criminy. Now I have a bump on my head. Oy.

2.) Chunky: I was thinking about Chunk this morning. You know, Chunk from the movie Goonies. If you have never seen this movie, check it out. This is an adorable adventure film for kids, starring a young Josh Brolin, Kerri Green (Vassar gal!), Corey Feldman, Joey Pants (as one of the bad guys) and many other actors you'll recognize who are now all grown up. I love the sweetness and simplicity of this story. And I adore the chemistry between Chunk, the chubby kid obsessed with his next snack, and Sloth, the "monster" turned teddy bear. There are so many hilarious quotes from this movie, it's crazy. Every time this movie is on TV, I have to watch it. (Sort of like Jaws). It's an addiction.

3.) Stumpy: Actually, there are no stumpy-legged pirates in KT Grant's book The Prince's Groom, but it made for a good blog title. There is, however, an adorable bald, bearded, salty, sexy, older pirate with gray hairs and a loving heart. Yippee! Even though I am not a big reader of M/M stuff, I decided to give this story a go, and I am so glad I did. For one thing, KT Grant does not write humpity-hump-hump style erotica. Her characters fall in love, and there is a sweetness to them I crave in my erotica stories. This is a sequel to The Princess's Bride, about Thomas the exiled prince, and Martin, the craggy pirate who loves him. Grant excels at building the tension in her storyline....I was biting my nails as the wicked villainess and villain hatched their diabolical plan. And she does a superb job with her secondary characters, and moving past clear black and white storylines, to create suspenseful drama and difficult emotional choices. Martin is so adorable, I love him! This is my kind of erotica....loving, emotional, lusty and sweet. Grade: A-

ETA: Wanna see Chunk all grown up? Here is actor Jeff Cohen now...oh, he's got a beard! Yay!



Happy Wednesday!
Penelope

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Hot Mess: Review of Pack Challenge by Shelly Laurenston


Pack Challenge by Shelly Laurenston




This book is a hot mess.

I have never before encountered an author who creates such unlikable characters. Cripes!

The first book I read by Shelly Laurenston was Beast Behaving Badly. The heroine was one of the most irritating, hyper, unlikable characters I've ever seen in a romance novel. (For the record, I thought the hero-polar bear was adorable, thank God).

But that was before I read Pack Challenge. In this book, the hero, the heroine, and all her side-kicks, are equally horrible. The hero Zach is horny and single-minded, and totally lacking in any leadership qualities as far as I could see. He is supposed to become the alpha male of the pack, but he spends the entire book worrying about getting it on with Sara, the heroine. Not such a hot leader. He borders on being disrespectful to her because of his extreme horniness, something I don't like in my heroes.

Sara, the heroine, is a sarcastic, snarky bitch. She is emotionally stunted due to her upbringing by a vengeful and hateful grandmother. She is so immature (as are her best friends) I thought perhaps I was reading a YA book. Speaking of the word "bitch"-- Sara and her 2 side-kick girlfriends, Angelina and Miki, spend most of the book insulting each other, calling each other "whore," "bitch," and other terms of affection. Their maturity level appears to be stunted at the tweenie-I'm-10-years-old-level. Miki and Angelina's other favorite activity is getting into slapping, screaming fights. I wanted to bang both of them over the head with a cast-iron skillet.

I am flabbergasted by this book. It is well-written, the pacing is excellent, the storyline was engaging, and the shapeshifter paranormal aspect was superb. I love shapeshifter books, and Laurenston does a great job with the animal instincts and pack behavior. But it's extremely difficult to stomach a book where the major characters are unlikable jerks.

The worst part of the book for me was the final-declaration-of-our-love scene. Zach is attempting to tell Sara he loves her (which is freakin' hilarious, since all these two have done for the entire book is ball each other...how the heck they've "fallen in love" has escaped me), but he keeps getting distracted by the sight of her naked arse. Sara answers a ringing phone, and has a chirpy conversation with her bud about how Zach is trying to profess his love for her. Cute, right? No, not really. Not charming, not cute, unless you are maybe 8 or 9 years old. These two are now the alpha leaders of this wolf pack? This pack is so totally screwed.

After just finishing Molly Harper's adorable werewolf book, this one fell flat for me. The humor and characters were too immature for an adult paranormal romance. If anyone knows of a Shelly Laurenston book where the characters are more likable, speak now or forever hold your peace. I'm willing to give her one more chance, but I want a sure thing. (If the hero has a beard, that would be a bonus! hee hee).

Grade: C+

Stymied,
Penelope

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Girl Crush, Boy Tush, Fairy Tale Rush



For some reason, the SyFy channel has been on an Underworld-kick. I can't stop watching it! Kate Beckinsale is absolutely amazing as the vampire warrior chick. She is super sexy, seductive, kick-ass and stunningly gorgeous. Those poor werewolves and vampire schmoes don't stand a chance with her. If I was a guy, and she was a girl (oops, she is a girl) and I wasn't married, and she wasn't married, and I wasn't a vampire or werewolf she wanted to stab with a sword.....I would totally ask her out on a date.

I finally gave up on the Bearotica book. I was willing to overlook the overabundance of sticky, hairy, disturbing images and bordering-on-pornography-sex-scenes, but I just can't overlook plain old bad writing. Some of these stories were horribly written...with major POV issues, the tenses jumping all over the place, etc. Geez, if you're gonna write beary, hairy porno stories, at least make sure your POV stays consistent. Is that too much to ask? (2 stars)

Fairy Tale Lust was another bust. I was excited to read it, since I totally dig stories that are funky twists on fairy tales, but this was all over the place. Some of them were okay, but some were very odd. I like it when there is a strong reference to the original fairy tale, and many of these were not recognizable as any traditional story. I did like the juxtaposition of paranormal next to modern next to traditional. The editor did a nice job mixing them up within the anthology. However, most of the stories felt too short and rushed to me. (3 stars)

Next up on the reading horizon: Pack Challenge by Shelley Laurenston--I'm giving her another try. The Prince's Groom by KT Grant--I'm going to attempt another M/M story...I hear one of the characters has a beard! And, Zoë Archer's Scoundrel. I can't wait to get back into this series!

All My Best,
Penelope

Monday, March 14, 2011

A Stomach Is An Organ That Digests Food: Just Sayin'



I have been reading a lot of erotica lately. Namely, Bearotica: Hot and Hairy Fiction, and more recently, Fairy Tale Lust: Erotica Fantasies for Women. I will be discussing these books at a later date. Today, I would like to discuss something that has been driving me crazy. Maybe it's because I used to be a biology teacher. Maybe it's because I'm a fan of horror movies. Whatever the reason, I need to point out a common error I have been finding in these erotica stories.

A stomach is an organ that digests food. See Diagram A....


Diagram A


A belly, or abdominal muscles, or abs look like this.....(see Diagram B)....



Diagram B (Courtesy of Marky Mark)


A "stomach" is not sexy. See Diagram C.....


Diagram C


Abs can be very sexy. See Diagrams D, E, and F.


Diagram D (Thanks, Hugh)




Diagram E (Thanks, Joe)



Diagram F (Yeah, it's the werewolf kid)


This is an unbelievably common error made in erotica, and it drives me nuts. There is nothing remotely sexy about someone licking another person's stomach (see Diagram A). No one can have a "flat stomach"....it is just not biologically possible. Nor is running your fingers over someone's stomach (unless you are a serial killer with a butcher knife). Here are some examples from the books I've been reading....


"...hair fans across his broad chest and tapers down his stomach."

"...his c*ck twitched, his nice tight stomach tightening again before her eyes."

"He began to come upward, licking her stomach and then her chest."

"I run my fingers over the taut skin of his stomach, pushing slightly to feel the shape of the muscles beneath."

"I squeezed a blob of shampoo into my bushy p*bes and lathered up my stomach and chest hair too."

"Golden-brown fur ran in a line down his muscled stomach and into his leather breeches."

"....as my own hard c*ck jumped against my stomach....."

Etc, etc, etc.



Honestly, I don't mind reading an erotic story with tons of mindless sex, unless I get to one of these sentences, and then all I can think of is......"Ewwwww! that is just....not.....possible!"

I am hoping that by educating erotica writers world-wide, this serious literary problem will be addressed.

I am also thinking of starting a side-business called "Penelope's Writing Tips and Rules of Grammar for P*rno Writers" which will include alternate terms for "stomach" and genitalia. As well as reinforcing the whole subject/verb agreement issue. Stuff like that.

Hope everyone is having a happy start to the week,
Penelope

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Review of How To Flirt With A Naked Werewolf by Molly Harper


How To Flirt With A Naked Werewolf by Molly Harper

Oh boy! I forgot how much I love this author. Her humor, her writing, her cute first person POV heroine with the great one-liners. This book was just what the doctor ordered to erase the disturbing bearotica images from my traumatized brain.

First of all, the cover is adorable and original in the world of romance novels. Love it! Second of all, this story is set in Alaska, home of many big, burly, hairy guys. And bears.

(Hmmm. I didn't realize how many similarities this book has with Bearotica: Hot and Hairy Fiction. Disturbing.)

Anyhow, right from the beginning of the book, I knew I was going to like it....

"Our conversation was interrupted several times by locals who approached me to introduce themselves. Well, local men who approached me to introduce themselves. Big, burly, and in most cases barely shaved, they were polite, even courtly, as they sidled up to my bar stool......" (Hold on a minute while I check air fare to Alaska.....)

OK! I'm back. Too expensive.

The premise for the story is great....a city girl escapes to Alaska to start a new life free of her hippy parents' interference. The hippy parents and Mo's atypical upbringing are hilarious. The werewolf hero, Cooper, is sexy and protective, although we don't really get to know him well enough in my opinion. And the icing on the romance novel cake? There is a dachshund in this book! An argyle-sweater-wearing, bear-fighting weenie dog. Super epic win!

Harper's humor is her strong point. The story soars when Mo is making funny observations about life in Alaska. As the story skips to more disturbing material (bloody werewolf deaths, an attack on Mo, etc), the story is not as effective and the pacing sometimes drags. I also thought we didn't get to know Cooper well enough. He spends a lot of time scowling and brooding, (and of course having fantastic sex with the heroine), but not enough time getting to know her.

In spite of these shortcomings, I loved the story. I was worried about Alan, the rejected suitor looking for love in the wilds of Alaska, and Harper wrapped up that loose end in a sweet and tidy way. (Which involved purchasing mega-packs of condoms at Bulk Wonderland...hee hee!).

This is a sweet, fun story, and I'm looking forward to reading the next one in the series, The Art Of Seducing A Naked Werewolf.

Grade: B+

Penelope

Friday, March 11, 2011

Beard of the Day



Another Boston boy for Beard of the Day! Mark Wahlberg has had a varied career...rapper, underwear model, ruffian, actor, boy band dancer, etc. I like the fact that he has reinvented himself...no longer a trash-talking hooligan, but now a respected actor and family man.

As for the beard sitch, he is rocking it! It totally goes with his rough and rugged good looks. This is no refined pretty boy. He's been around the block a few times, and it shows. I likey!

Here's another photo of Mark from the film The Perfect Storm...love that movie!


I guess if you're caught in the middle of a hellacious storm at sea, your cool beard is gonna get really, really wet. Oh well.

Happy Hairy Friday!
Penelope

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Mindless Musings and Updates from Penelope




1. I am permanently traumatized by the bearotica book. I need eye bleach. I need brain bleach. I need bleach bleach. Oh. My. God!

2. There is going to be a reality TV show about the "world of competitive facial hair growing".....Who knew facial hair-growing was a competitive sport!? Do you think the men will have cat fights like the Real Housewives Of NYC???? I can't wait to watch this. It's called "Whisker Wars." Yee haw!

3. I am stoked for Top Chef tonight. Anyone else addicted to that show? I am really bummed Dale, the Filipino Kick-Ass Chef, got dinged already. But I love Richie...he is so uptight, he doesn't even smile when he wins. He sort of does a half-smirk. He's like the crazy professor with his liquid nitrogen concoctions. Rock on, Richie!

4. Speaking of yummy food, check out this delicious looking recipe for pork and soba noodles at Full Fork Ahead. I am thinking of making a vegetarian version this week.

5. Is anyone else sick of these topics? Charlie Sheen, the YA mafia, indie-authors-turned-millionaires, how e-books will take over the world and cause widespread death and destruction and the end of modern civilization. I am.

Happy Humpday,
Penelope

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

1001 Ways to Use A Jar Of Honey



Thanks to a slightly diabolical subliminal suggestion by Kate at Babbling About Books and another throw-down by Mandi at Smexybooks, I fell off the "no-more-kooky-books-for-me" bandwagon. Sigh. Yes, that's right. I actually bought a book called....

Bearotica: Hot and Hairy Fiction.


It's a collection of erotica short stories about gay men who love "Bears".....you know, big, masculine, hairy, gay guys. Okay, so this is problematic for several reasons. One, I'm not a huge fan of erotica....I like romance much better. And two, I don't really read M/M stories. But the hairy, beary part was just too good to pass up.

There are 17 stories in this collection, including such titles as "Honey," "Bubbacious," and "Fuzzy Butt." (Stop laughing).

I have only just started reading this book, but so far I've concluded....

1) Mandi and Kate have a mean streak.
2) Eating lunch while reading bearotica is a really bad idea.
3) Even Penelope has her limits about hairy dudes.

I will keep you updated about my progress, which hopefully will not include long-term therapy. But it might. After finishing the first story, I had the distinct urge to curl up in a blanket and read Dr. Seuss.

Happy Tuesday,
Penelope

Monday, March 7, 2011

Review of Caught On Camera by Meg Maguire




Caught On Camera by Meg Maguire




I don't like contemporary romance.

I don't like blonds.

I don't particularly like Harlequins (unless I'm reading a "Sheikh" book as a joke).

So, it was with quite a bit of trepidation that I accepted an ARC from Meg Maguire. It's a Harly. With a blond guy. And it's a contemporary romance.

And then I looked at the cover.

Now, most of the time, a cheesy cover is something that would make an author cringe. Not a good thing. But in this case, the cover made me smile. First of all, there is a hilarious sub-title on the front cover that says "This show is getting x-rated"...hee hee! Then, you notice the camera strategically placed over the dude's crotch. And finally, the hero himself...he looks so damned naughty, with his shirt hanging open and a very wicked look on his face. How I love this cover! I quickly changed my tune about reading this book and couldn't wait to dive in.

Well, what I didn't expect was how addictive a writer Meg Maguire is. I literally could not stop reading this book. I ignored my children as they pleaded with me to serve them food and beverages. I ignored my weenie dog who was whining to go outside to do her business. I refused to do the laundry, pay the bills, or answer the phone. I inhaled this book from cover to cover.

My conclusion: Harlequin is very, very lucky to have Meg Maguire as an author. She took a somewhat hum-drum concept (a wilderness survival guide and his sidekick PA stuck in the woods during a snowstorm) and transformed it into an addictive bit o' romance crack. I usually get pissed off when there's too much deep POV from the characters, but Maguire gives the reader the perfect amount of POV...so we get to know the characters and their motivations. Both the hero (a sexy, scruffy Australian survival host) and the heroine (a Boston gal who has fled her past and relocated to California) are fully-formed, intriguing characters. The sexual tension in this book is fabulous. The love scenes are just the way I like them....intense, very sexy, and emotional. The pacing is absolute perfection, which is why the book was so addictive. As the story escalates, and the romance escalates, the reader gets sucked deeper and deeper into the narrative. Most excellent!

What I usually don't like about contemporary romance is that it's just too close to real life. I read romance for escape, not to be reminded of things like financial anxiety, job stress, or sucky relatives. But Caught On Camera included topics like survival guilt and family neglect with just the right touch. Maguire shows us what makes her characters tick, but doesn't overdo it. And best of all, she shows us how the love, affection, trust and partnership between these two characters make them both better people. That's what romance is all about.

I really, really loved this damned book.

Grade: A

Looking forward to my next Meg Maguire fix,
Penelope

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Poetry Throw-Down For Mandi




Mandi issued me a throw-down. To use all eight quirky topics in one post. I can't resist a challenge, so I made up this poem:




There once was a mime who lived in a tree,
He wore no bloomers, so all could see....

His manly parts, he was mocked and teased,
He was so embarrassed, he started to wheeze...

His bud, a leprechaun, gave him advice,
"Try wearing speedos! They'll look really nice!"

He tried on a pair, they were very bright pink,
As he strutted about, he got a wink....

From a lumberjack, who was just passing by,
"Those speedos are sweet. They caught my eye."

A clown on a unicycle rolled by the tree,
He observed to a platypus, "There ain't much to see."

The mime huffed away, the insult stung bad,
None of his girlfriends had ever seemed sad.

The Easter Bunny arrived with some candy,
"Better watch out! That lumberjack's randy!"

So, the mime scampered back up his tree super quick,
He didn't want any more comments about his poor d*ck.

The End

Desperate For Spring



As I perused Whole Foods the other day, this lovely beer caught my eye. My all-time favorite beer in the world is Magic Hat #9....it's from Vermont, and it tastes like apricot. Win! Anyhoo, this was a new selection from the Vermont brewery, and it looked so....so...so very spring-y. Colorful, festive, and just what the doctor ordered. Since I am a sucker for cool packaging, I bought it. (My hubby was most appreciative!)

My consensus: the beer is good, but I'm not sure it tastes like "spring"....in fact, I think it might sort of taste like winter. It's an amber lager, very heavy and robust. Something I would imagine a lumberjack who just finished splitting some logs might drink (and he would probably have bulging biceps in a thin T-shirt, thighs the size of tree trunks, and of course a huge-ass beard...just in case you need visuals for that...heh heh!).

Anyway, my husband and I enjoyed the beer, but I was still sad and jonesing for spring. So, my sweet hubs snuck out of the house and surprised me with a bouquet of yellow tulips. ♥☺♥☺

Reading update: Just finished a re-read of Amanda Quick's Wait Until Midnight. I love AQ...she is a master of the romance genre, and this book has got everything...engaging mystery, quirky heroine, and sexy, clever and masterful hero. Kate from Babbling About Books just did a post about villains you are rooting for, and it reminded me of this book. The heroine, Caroline, is a novelist and she models the villain in her latest book after the hero Adam (which irritates him no end). Suffice it to say, the villain becomes the hero, and the hero the villain, by the end of Caroline's book. This is a great read...I totally recommend it!

Finally, my darling 8 year old daughter has become my blogging assistant. I asked her yesterday if she could think of some "quirky" topics for me to write about for The Quirky Ladies blog. She asked what quirky meant....I said something different and funky. She said, "You mean weird?" I said, sure. Here is her list of topics for me to write about.....

1. Mime
2. Bloomers
3. Unicycle
4. Clowns
5. Speedos
6. Platypus
7. Leprechauns
8. Easter Bunny

Now, that's quirky!

Happy Weekend,
Penelope

Friday, March 4, 2011

Stache of the Day


Last night I watched the tail-end of Tombstone, starring Kurt Russell as Wyatt Earp, also Val Kilmer, Sam Elliott, Bill Paxton, Thomas Haden Church, Jason Priestley, Michael Biehn and more. What a cast! Unfortunately, I didn't see the whole thing, but I was lucky enough to watch the final bad-ass scene where these four guys rock out.

First of all, I forgot that Val Kilmer used to be sexy. He looked fantastic here, unlike his new pudgy, pasty self. Second of all, I usually hate staches without the beard. There is something too 70's-pornish about the whole thing. But this movie might have sold me on the stache thing. The scene where these four guys walk down the street, all in a row, wearing bad-ass black dusters and staches-that-mean-bidness, is phenomenal. Totally hot, totally rocking, totally making me re-think the stache-on-its-own coolness.

I also loved their hats. I want one.

Here's a great photo of Russell and Kilmer....



Holy Guacamole! How yummy are these two guys? hee hee....


Happy Weekend To All,
Penelope

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Tuesday Morning Updates: Alpha Men Gone Awry, Shopping In The Bargain Basement, and Zombies In Love







Happy Tuesday Morning!

Here are updates....

1.) I decided to start a "bearded hero" shelf at Goodreads! As I compiled my list, I realized that Lora Leigh's classic book Wild Card has a bearded hero. (The heroine keeps getting tell-tale beard burn! hee hee). Lora Leigh is a master at creating alpha heroes gone awry. And the women they love. And call "Baby".....way too many times. And then insist that the path to true love is "through the back door." I am laughing my way through the book! Baby!

2.) There is an interesting post and discussion going on at Bob Mayer's blog about pricing e-books. As I watch the pricing for books fall...from $18? for hard-covers, to $5-$8 for paperbacks, to under $5 for e-books, to $3, then $2, then $1, then .99, I wonder......how low will we go? .25? a nickel? a penny? There is no going backwards now. Readers will not accept $10 for a book price. We have created "monsters" of our own making....readers with the expectations that books aren't worth a buck.

I find this depressing as hell. Is there any other artist/inventor/film-maker, etc, who toils away for years and years, puts blood, sweat and tears into creating something, and the final product is worth....

99 freakin' cents. Not even a buck.

I don't think so.

Yeah, I know, if you sell a million copies (who's selling a million copies?), then suddenly your life's work has more value. But still.

For self-pubbers, this whole thing may be a gold-mine. But for those who choose traditional publishing paths, it's going to become a nightmare. There is simply no way the traditional publishing industry can support agents, editors, publishers, booksellers, and authors, with books that cost .99.

Good luck with that.

ETA: Gotta love Twitter. I just found my long-lost-twin-on-the-same-page-as-I-am-about-this-stuff...Andrew Shaffer. Here is a link to his blog post.... How Much Is Your Time Worth?

3.) I am fervently hoping and praying that the zombie/romance thing goes away soon. I cannot imagine a less complementary pairing of genres. For God's sake, there is nothing remotely romantic about body parts falling off and consuming human flesh. Who came up with this lam-o idea? Zombie romance, be gone!


Hope everyone is having a good start to the week. Happy March 1st! I am about to dive into another ARC by Meg Maguire. Yee haw!

Love yinz,
Penelope