Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!


Hope that everyone has a wonderful day...

Lots of love,

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Review: TAKE ME HOME by Inez Kelley

Review for TAKE ME HOME by Inez Kelley

I had a tough reading round-up last week. A couple of books that were highly recommended to me which basically had heroes who were complete and utter jerks.

I'm not on board with that. Male characters can be flawed, real, domineering, and have integrity at the same time. You can't just call any old guy a "hero." A real hero has to earn that term. Earn it.

Okay, enough about that. Let's move on to this sweet book!

I have been looking forward to this one for a LONG time. Why? IT'S ABOUT A LUMBERJACK! Even though Matt corrects the heroine every time she uses that term. He's a modern man--ergo, a lumber man/logging manager. Lumberjack is an old-fashioned term.

What I liked...I LOVED all the fascinating research about the lumber industry, the maple syrup industry, the setting. Kelley really did her homework and it shows. This book is X-tremely lumberjacky...lots of chopping and sawing. Yee haw! (No beard, but there was scruff!)

I also really liked the cast of supporting characters--the camaraderie with the male friends had fun, realistic dialogue.

The hero is a REAL hero. He is tortured by a difficult past, but has integrity, honor, loyalty to friends and family. When the heroine needs him, he is there in a flash, even after they have a huge falling-out.

The heroine is sweet and looking for a place to put down roots. But she is also determined to make her own business successful, and she's a hard-worker. I liked that a lot, too.

The first half of the book was bogged down by too much sex, and it took a while to get into a groove. But by the second half of the book, it became an emotional, romantic journey--reminded me a bit of Robyn Carr's Virgin River Series, with the same small town feel, group of friends-like-family, gorgeous setting.

The ending was satisfying and romantic. And sexy (maple syrup was involved).

What I didn't like...

There was a typo in the first paragraph, on the first page of the book. Come on Carina Press, you can do better than that. I find it amusing that so many people are constantly giving self-pubbed authors crap about their lack of editing, but most of the time, I'm finding typos in traditionally published books.

My main problem with this book was...the sex. The hero and heroine come off as complete horn-dogs at the beginning of the story. There are times I don't mind that, but in this case it was jarring and felt forced.

The premise for this story was fantastic--woman buys property that hero lost to foreclosure, not realizing her new dream home is part of some extremely painful memories for the man she is falling in love with. The main storyline is solid, and their relationship (minus the sex) was believable. But the initial sex scenes felt gratuitous to me. Unless it's an erotica, casual and graphic sex scenes are not adding anything to the story. And this book really felt like romance.

The only love scene that made a lot of sense to the story was the final one in the maple syrup shack. It was sexy, emotional, fit the story perfectly.

I'm not sure if publishers are pushing their authors to add extra sex scenes that don't make a lot of organic sense to the story, or if authors think they need them "to sell." Whatever the reason, I've read a good half dozen books within the last couple of months that had sex scenes that did not complement the story going on.


In conclusion, I thought TAKE ME HOME was a romantic and satisfying story. It had a bit too much sex for Vanilla Penny, but the lush setting, fascinating details about the logging industry and maple syrup process, and solid main characters and secondary characters, made this a strong beginning for the series. I'm looking forward to reading more by Inez Kelley.

Grade: B

Happy Chopping,

Monday, November 25, 2013

Monday Updates From The Crew

It's Turkey Week!

So I'm busy with the most important task for the Thanksgiving holiday.

No, not the menu.


I will let you know when I find the most perfect, magical, alcoholic beverage I can.

In the meantime, here are some updates from the crew....

FROM STEPHANIE: Stephanie participated in a 5K race in 28 degree weather this past weekend. "I never run, not even to the drunk bus when I was in college. But the cold was totally worth it since my cousin got engaged at the race. Her fiancé even had a special runner's bib made for number 143--I LOVE YOU. They are adorable! Then we drank all day, since all of the races we participate in end at a bar. Priorities, people, priorities!" 

(Also, word on the street is that Stephanie ate Thai food this weekend, which is unbelievable if you knew her self-imposed food restrictions).

FROM PENNY REID: Penny celebrated her 4-year old daughter's taekwondo belt graduation by playing Star Wars with the kids. She then took the bundles of activity up to their grandparents' house. The rest of the weekend was a blur of alcohol, naps, doughnuts, and erotica (books).

(Only books? wink, wink).

FROM NICO: Nico watched a depressing British movie called Weekend, which was totally not her style. Thankfully, she also found an AMAZEBALLS web series, It Could Be Worse and binge-watched the entire hilarious and cute season 1 (15 7-minute episodes). *smacks lips* It was delicious! A crab Benedict may have been on the menu for Sunday brunch, and boy is she glad she's back in San Francisco, the land of Dungeness crab! She snuck in another Amy Lane-lite book, SUPER SOCK MAN, and thought it was pretty dang cute, too.

Nico also put together a new blog post on her author site to introduce a series of cartoons that will be teasers for her new story, Different Strokes!

(Thai food, doughnuts, and crab! My food sucked this weekend! *Penny Sr. seethes with jealousy*)

FROM PENNY WATSON: I watched Stonados on the Syfy channel, which was so freakin' bad I fell asleep half-way through. It was about giant rocks flying through the air and terrorizing the good folks of Boston. (Yes, that was totally as ridiculous as it sounds). The funniest part of the movie was when the scientists were looking at their data. You could tell they were concentrating really, really hard because they kept squinting. (Do you think they teach that in acting school? Hmm.)

I also just started reading TAKE ME HOME by Inez Kelley, about a LUMBERJACK! Yipppeeeeee!

That's it for now! Happy Thanksgiving Week,

Friday, November 22, 2013

Review of MAKING FACES by Amy Harmon (A Penny Reid Review)

Today's review is brought to you by Penny Reid...She is our Indie Author Correspondent. Both Pennies (that would be Penny Sr--moi--and Penny Jr--Penny Reid) are big supporters of the indie movement in publishing. We are always on the look-out for awesome self-published books. Here is Penny's latest update, a.k.a. PENNY IN A NUTSHELL...

Take it away, Penny!

Review for MAKING FACES by Amy Harmon

Category on Amazon, Kobo, B&N, Apple = Contemporary Romance
This book’s actual category = Literary Fiction 
Reminds me of = Prayer for Owen Meany

WARNING: Do not read this book while flying on a plane sitting next to a judgy, disapproving man who is giving you no elbow space and who has no Kleenex tissues because:

This book was recommended to me by Jenny the Book Sojourner and now I have to add her to my Festivus card list and send her a thank you bouquet of flowers.


But, this book (I feel) is misclassified as a romance. This is actually literary fiction. Yes, there is a romance in the book. But this book is so much more. It is about families, a community, coming of age, relationships, death, sickness, unfulfilled desire, suspense, acceptance, God and faith.

Needless to say, Amy Harmon is an outstanding writer. She is a story teller, my favorite kind of author. She is also a perfect example of why the independent movement (self-publishing) is the best thing that has happened to publishing since the printing press.

I recommend this book to anyone who likes fantastic books.


Other self-published books I’m reading:
Geoducks Are for Lovers by Daisy Prescott 
Marking Time by April White


Penny Junior--Thanks for this awesome review! I also dislike judgy people on airplanes. I recommend wearing a giant potholder dress for protection. 

Happy Weekend to everyone,
Penny Sr.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

It's The Elfin Apocalypse! The Klaus Brothers Series ON SALE FOR 99 CENTS!

The Christmas season is upon us! Time for a special holiday treat!

I recently got the rights back for The Klaus Brothers Series from my publisher, and so I re-released SWEET MAGIK (Book #2) with a brand-new cover, compliments of Penny Reid. I LOVE IT!

I don't have any new holiday stories this year, so I thought it would be nice to offer the first two books on sale...

SWEET INSPIRATION (The Klaus Brothers Series #1) 
SWEET MAGIK (The Klaus Brothers Series #2) are 
 99 cents at these locations...

Sweet Inspiration (Book #1)... Read more about this book here!

Amazon -- 99 cents
Barnes and Noble -- 99 cents
Kobo -- 99 cents

Sweet Magik (Book #2)... Read more about this book here!

Amazon -- 99 cents
Barnes and Noble -- 99 cents
Kobo -- 99 cents

I've seen warnings on some erotica, so I thought I would add one here for my series. Ready?

THE KLAUS BROTHERS SERIES contains scenes with elves, x-treme Christmas spirit, Santa Claus, the North Pole, sex-in-a-sleigh, magic, old-fashioned romance, and very sweet scenarios. It requires a willing suspension of disbelief, a love of beards, and is enhanced by the addition of a gingerbread latte.

Good luck!

I've made up a couple of fun Etsy treasury collections to celebrate!

ELF cookies from lorisplace, Etsy

Peppermint holiday earrings from JarosDesigns, Etsy


I decided the rest of the series will be novellas. Coming up next...Sweet Adventure (#3) is Sven's story. I added a new one just for Gregor and his true love called Sweet Cinderella (#4). And the final novella is Sweet Destiny (#5), which is Wolfgang's story.

I'm hoping to get SWEET ADVENTURE out for next xmas, 2014.

Please spread the word about this awesome sale. HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

Love yinz,

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


Review for The Winter Courtship Rituals of Fur-Bearing Critters by Amy Lane

A review by Nico Jaye

Hi romance readers! I'm Nico Jaye, and I'll be popping into the site with some m/m (a.k.a. male/male) romance reviews.

With the holiday season coming up, Penny has me thinking about (i.e., drooling over) gingerbread men and peppermint spice lattes. I can't get enough! Ahhh! *slurps peppermint cocoa* *ahem* While Penny's in the midst of reading her Christmas-themed stories, I figured I'd swing by to share an m/m romance Christmas rec of my own. :)

Amy Lane's The Winter Courtship Rituals of Fur-Bearing Critters is a cute, sweet, angst-free novella of adorable and yarnfully-awesome proportions.  It's filled with character, from the narrator Crawford's gruff ways to the gentle hand with which he cares for his alpacas to the titular courtship rituals he engages in to woo his new neighbor. I adored it and thought it was just the thing to snuggle up with for a nice little dose of winter holiday joy.

In the m/m romance world, Amy Lane is known for her angst-filled stories, and this novella is a nice break from that trend.  I'm definitely not an angsty reader—in fact, I'm pretty allergic to it – ACHOO!—and this one hit just the right mark for me. It's heartwarming, and, if you haven't read m/m romance before, then I think it'd be a great little introduction to the m/m romance world.  There's a sexytimes scene in it, but it's not terribly explicit.  It's also at a point in the story where you'll be celebrating that the two men finally got their signals in tune and opened their hearts to each other.  :)  In addition to two wonderful men finding love, you'll also read about quirky side characters, winter prep in the Colorado Rockies, and yarn-related awesomeness.  There may even be a scandalous knitting pattern included at the end of the book. ;)

This story was super sweet and lighthearted, and I look forward to enjoying it for many holidays to come. Hope you all are having a great holiday season! Keep an eye out for more m/m Christmas-y goodies from yours truly. :)

Making merry with menfolk under the mistletoe,


Thanks so much, Nico, for this adorable review. This book sounds RIGHT UP MY ALLEY. I can't wait to read it!

(I am trying to imagine a scandalous knitting pattern...hmmmmm................)

Happy reading,

Monday, November 18, 2013

A Perfect Rant

So I did a couple of things last night that are pretty rare for me.

(No, I didn't work out at the gym.)

(No, I didn't cook dinner...ha ha! Funny.)

(No, I didn't flat-iron my hair.)

What I did is...

A. Read a PRINT book. Carumba!

B. Read a mainstream contemporary romance.

C. Read my first ever Kristan Higgins book.

Last night I was stuck in bed because Lucy my weenie dog fell asleep on my lap and I didn't have the heart to move her.

So I reached over to my nightstand to grab the first thing I could for reading material. I had a stack of books I got at the NJRWA conference, and right on top was THE PERFECT MATCH by Kristan Higgins.

I wanted to DNF the book pretty much right away. The whole beginning felt very contrived (gyn appointment for 35 year old...EGGS ARE DYING, HURRY UP AND GET A MAN), accidentally getting caught naked in front of wanna-be boyfriend's parents while attempting to seduce him (EGGS ARE DYING, HURRY UP AND GET A MAN), and it goes on.

And if you think I'm over-doing the EGGS thing, let me tell you that the EGGS have a deep POV in this book, in italics, from beginning to end.

Yes, the EGGS have a POV.

Now, I get it. This is humor. This is also the main reason why I don't read very much mainstream contemporary romance. The whole "my eggs are dying I must find a man" plot device is not that successful for me. I know. For a big chunk of women's fiction and contemporary romance, this is a go-to plot device. We're getting older, we're getting desperate. Yada yada yada. Just doesn't work for me.

But what REALLY doesn't work for me is the TSTL heroine. And this heroine, although a successful business woman, has not one, but two BEST FRIENDS who are complete assholes.

She keeps saying how her best guy friend is "a nice guy" when in reality, He uses her for casual sex, is totally clueless about how in love she is with him (sure, I believe that), and just weeks after she asks him to marry her and he rejects her, he gets ENGAGED TO HER BEST GIRLFRIEND. And he's all..."You're okay with this, right?"

That's your best guy friend? Really?

And now for THE OTHER BEST FRIEND. Her bestie gal pal, who consoles her after this paragon of masculine virtue rejects her, is really an insecure back-stabbing bitch who steals her life-long crush, seduces him, gets engaged to him, pretends she's carrying his baby, and has the UNMITIGATED GALL TO ASK THE HEROINE TO BE HER MAID OF HONOR AT THEIR WEDDING.

That's your best girlfriend? Really?

This is another plot device that seems good on paper--HEY! Let's have the best girlfriend and the life-long crush get together and squash the heroine's hopes and dreams and scare her dying, 35-year-old eggs.

On paper, yeah, good.

But in reality, if you're a person who has such incredibly bad taste in friends, is totally clueless about people you think are "nice" actually being "assholes" and then CONTINUING TO BE NICE TO THEM AFTER THEY KEEP TREATING YOU LIKE makes you look bad. Really bad.

Too Stupid To Live-Bad.

Also, I'm not even going to get into the fact that the heroine DECIDES TO MARRY A PERFECT STRANGER TO HELP HIM GET HIS GREEN CARD even after HE IS A TOTAL JERK TO HER AT A BAR.

(Another winning plot device).

But he has a sexy British accent, so there is that.

And then the hero saves the heroine's life not once, but TWICE!

1. Heroine almost dies by drowning.

2. Heroine almost dies by fire.

(If there had been an earthquake, that could have been the perfect triumvirate of near-death, water, and fire.)

And then, after the hideous best friends crushing her, two near-death experiences, her eggs screaming for mercy, and her new man telling her he does not love her thereby crushing her poor soul yet again, we finally get to the end.

What I wanted...

1. Asshole friends to be publicly humiliated.

2. A super-satisfying HEA for the hero and heroine after going through hell.

3. A nice sex scene would have been good.

What I got...

1. Asshole friends storyline NOT RESOLVED. They are having problems, but we never hear about what happens to them. Um...really? After all that business, there is NO RESOLUTION.

2. Hero and heroine make up in the hospital in about 5 seconds. Not kidding. This is ONE page of the book. After all that angst, ONE FREAKIN' PAGE. Not satisfying.

3. No sex scene.

So now you know what I didn't like about this book.

But there was something I DID like.

The romance.

The hero is absolutely fantastic. He has an adorable British accent, I loved his flawed character, he is crazy sexy. He is the man. Their romance worked, in spite of the gimmicky plot devices that threatened to destroy an otherwise lovely romantic story.

I read this book in one sitting, desperate to finish and find out what happened, to see the H/h get their happy ending. And that's a big deal. That's what romance is all about.

My conclusion about Kristan Higgins...

1. Skip the generic, over-done, not believable, gimmick-y plot devices.

2. Focus on the romance.

3. One melodramatic near-death catastrophe would be sufficient.

As you can tell, I am pretty conflicted about this book. I loved the romance and couldn't put it down, but I was beyond frustrated with many character and plot issues.

I'm not sure if I'll be reading any more KH, but that could be more of a result of me not loving mainstream contemporary romance than a reflection of the author.

If any of you have a favorite KH book, especially one that is not so frustrating to read, I would love some recommendations.

What a way to start the week,

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


A Review of Friends Without Benefits by Penny Reid

***Review written by STEPHANIE KAY, New Ultra-Excellent Crew Member at Penelope's Romance Reviews***

(I will be announcing and introducing the whole new crew very soon, but please give Steph a warm welcome today and feel free to heckle her. I always do!)


Penny Reid has done it again with her second novel in the Knitting in the City series. 

I loved Janie and Sir Quinn McHotpants from her first book, Neanderthal Seeks Human. In fact I believe I read the entire book in one day. I swear I do work. It must have been a weekend. And then I quickly friended Penny on Facebook. She is just as hysterical as her characters.

So when I saw that she was releasing Friends Without Benefits earlier than scheduled, I quickly downloaded it. Unfortunately it was a Tuesday, and I had to work, so it took me a day and a half to read. I took a lot of breaks that day!

I absolutely adored Elizabeth and Nico “The Face” Manganiello. Penny’s characters are so quirky and real. I can picture them walking right off the page. And believe me, you want to see Nico in person! 

Yummy Joe Manganiello…maybe they are brothers. Now that would be an awesome gene pool!

Her characters are hysterical and intelligent. There is nothing I hate more than a “too stupid to live" heroine, you know, like that dumb blonde trying to run away from a killer. Well Elizabeth is definitely not that. She is smart and witty. She definitely has her issues and thinks she’s a hardass, but she’s really a big ol’ softy inside. And she actually knits!

She and Nico have a long history and I was rooting for them from the first page. And I’ll admit I had tears in my eyes by the end of the book. 

And Nico. **insert sigh here**

I love this type of hero. He’s strong, protective, and he has been in love with Elizabeth since they were kids. Not to mention he makes apple fritters while just wearing a pair of black boxer briefs...seriously needs to be turned into a movie just to see that scene!

You will laugh your ass off. The writing moves seamlessly and her dialogue is fantastic. I enjoyed learning new terms like "complisult" (a compliment mixed in with an insult). I will have to find a way to use that in a conversation at some point!

Favorite banter: “The baby is yours”—“Why couldn’t you just yell fire”—“It’s illegal to yell fire if there isn’t one”

And the best part of the book: “The Choose Your Own Adventure” Sex Scene. Genius! 

In Neanderthal Seeks Human there is all this crazy sexual tension and then a closed door sex scene.  It’s like if you order a chocolate lava cake and then when you are about to get to the best part, instead of ooey gooey chocolate, you just have more cake.

I personally want to read an open door sex scene.

Well now I had the chance. There are two chapter 22s, a closed door sex scene or an open door sex scene. Clearly, I skipped right to the good stuff! If only those Choose Your Own Adventure books had given me those options, I might have read them.

All in all, I thought it was a great fun read and I can’t wait for the next installment, Sandra’s story, Love Hacked.

Grade: A


THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU Stephanie for this great review! I was lucky enough to beta-read this book several times before publication, but I haven't seen the Choose Your Own Adventure sex scene, and I REALLY want to see that. 

I'm feeling adventurous!


Friday, November 8, 2013

The Bucket List

Wooden Bucket

Bucket With Flowers

Rusty Bucket

Fire Bucket

Blue Bucket

Halloween Bucket

Patriotic Bucket

Bucket O' Beer

I know. I'm a smart ass. I just thought that would be funny. A REAL bucket list. So, here's my actual bucket list...

1. Go to Alaska and pan for gold, see a glacier, and see an Orca whale.

2. Get a cottage in Vermont and live there with three weenie dogs: One smoothie, one wire-haired, and one long-haired.

3. Get these Carhartt pants...

OK, that's enough goofiness for Friday! Hope everyone has a great weekend.


Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Meaning Of Life (Hint: Answer Is BIG HAIR) And Other Observations from the INDIE AUTHOR SYMPOSIUM

Penny Watson and Marie Force at the INDIE AUTHOR SYMPOSIUM

Some more observations, comments and photos from the INDIE AUTHOR SYMPOSIUM...

1. Had this interesting conversation with Jessica Andersen/Jesse Hayworth in the ladies' room, following my talk LOUSY TO LOVELY. I discussed how my original LUMBERJACK IN LOVE book cover made the Lousy Book Covers website, and folks all over the world enjoyed making fun of me.

Jess pointed out that folks love it when other people flub up.

She is sooooooo right. The thing you have to decide is...are they laughing AT you or WITH you? I decided to make fun of myself. It always ends better that way.

                Before                                                            After

2. A woman came up to me during conference and asked me if I had just attended the NJRWA meeting. I said yes. She said, and I quote, "I recognized you from your hair."


So excellent. Branding via BIG HAIR. Works for me!

Big hair is fierce!

3. One highlight at conference: KT Grant and Victoria Morgan waxing on and on about Roarke and his buttons and how great he is, and I was ducking under the table since Vicki once tried to take me out at Bertucci's when I made the unfortunate statement "I hate NAKED IN DEATH."

Buttons 4-Evah!

4. Highlight #2: Penny Reid wearing a giant potholder. (Don't ask). Also known as "The Hooters Incident."

Penny and Penny: Big Hair and Big Hooters

5. I loved that we had all kinds of success stories. On one side of the spectrum is Marie Force, who took her traditional publishing success and a big pile of unpublished manuscripts, and basically steamrolled into Amazon and grew into an empire. On the other side is Penny Reid, who had never written a novel before, and had the "magic snowball" effect: a teeny tiny 5+ star book started at the top of the mountain, and rolled all the way down, gathering fans and readers and ending up on the Amazon bestseller list.

Reach for the magic snowball!

6. Both Marie and I had the same basic formula for success.

Marie's sound bite: THE BOOK IS KING.

My sound bite: ALL PATHS LEAD BACK TO THE BASE OF THE TRIANGLE. (The base of the triangle is YOUR WRITING).


7. Here are a couple of recap posts about the conference...

TOP TEN Take Home Messages from the Independent Author Symposium (Penny Reid)

My Takeaway from the Indie Author Symposium (AC James)

8. Some photos!

Penny chatting on and on and on....

The Last Supper With Super Talented Authors
(Penny #1, Stephanie, Bobbi, Kate, and Penny #2)

Stephanie With The Power of Curls!, Bobbi With The Power of Silken Perfection!, and Victoria Who Is Cute As A Button (one of Roarke's buttons?)

HUGE THANK-YOU to everyone who attended this year. I hope to see many more of you next year...tentative dates are Oct 24-25, 2014.


All my best,