Monday, May 31, 2010

Happy Memorial Day!

Happy Memorial Day!

I hope all of you are having a wonderful weekend. I am currently re-reading Saving Grace by Julie Garwood, and entertaining four frolicking children....hee hee! We will be heading out to the pool shortly, where I will be hiding under an umbrella with my romance novel while the kids swim like little fish.

All My Best,

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Reading Update

I am having a good reading streak! I finished Goddess of the Hunt by Tessa Dare this week, and I loved it. Not a lot of's all about the characters. (Which is fine with me!) I also just started an ARC of Annette Blair's newest mystery, Death by Diamonds, and it's adorable. I love Annette's snappy, fun "voice" and her wonderful descriptions of the vintage clothing make me wanna go shopping in a big, bad way.

Emily Bryan's newest book, Stroke of Genius, is out and I added it to my TBR pile. Also, fellow Quirky Lady Samantha Wayland's first novel is out next week! Go, Sam! It's an awesome hot and spicy menage story called With Grace, which will be released by Ellora's Cave on June 4.

Here are some summer releases I am jonesing for...

And, for your viewing pleasure, here are some photos of my spring garden...the peonies have finally bloomed!

Happy Reading,

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Ack! Ack! Ack! (Review of Changeless by Gail Carriger)

Changeless by Gail Carriger

ACK! (We'll get back to that in a minute).

I am officially a Gail Carriger addict. In a million years, I could not imagine finding a series that is so perfectly suited to my personality. Carriger's writing is the perfect blend of humor, satire, history, sexiness, imaginative steampunk inventions, paranormality, and let's not forget the stunning outfits! (hee hee hee)....

The characters are delicious. The mystery is filled with chills, spills (and I do mean that literally), and suspense. The "soulless" heroine is beyond divine...practical, hilarious, determined and madly in love with her new werewolf husband (although reluctant to admit it). The hero is rough (ruff!), gruff, sexy and Scottish. The chemistry and dialogue between the two of them is off-the-charts fabulous. In fact, my only teensy, tiny criticism of this book is that I thought Carriger kept Alexia and Lord Maccon apart for too long. By far, my favorite scenes in the book are when the two of them are together, exchanging verbal volleys.

I am also getting into the spirit of the whole steampunk thing. The crazy inventions are the perfect backdrop for this sort of story. I love Alexia's's the ultimate symbol for her: a combination of ruffles and pragmatic scientific invention, lethal weapons hidden behind a feminine and ridiculous contraption.

And now for the ack!!!!!!! I will not spoil the ending of this book for any new readers, but Holy Macarena! The ending was a heartbreaking jolt and anxiety-producing moment that had Penelope screaming "Noooooooo!" and realizing that it is going to be a very long wait until September 1 when Blameless comes out. ACK! The end is definitely a brilliant move by the author. I personally love "cliff-hanger" style endings. Even though this isn't exactly a cliff-hanger, the anticipation for the next book has been successfully established. ACK!
Grade: A

Carolyn Crane and Gail Carriger are my two new writing idols!


Friday, May 21, 2010

Beard of the Day

Here's a in "Star Wars" classic! Liam Neeson, who has a delicious, buttery accent and a tall, commanding presence that makes me swoon, had a rockin' beard in The Phantom Menace (which happens to be my favorite part of the series). The scene where Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) fight Darth Maul is one of the most bad-ass, coolest action sequences ev-ah. The music, the intensity, the double light saber. The cool martial arts. I especially love the part when they first see Darth Maul, and they both remove their coats simultaneously, turn on their light sabers, and get ready to rumble. Are you kidding me?!!!!! It is so fabulous! I could watch that scene a million times (and I probably have...just ask my 12 year old son).

Anyhoo, Qui-Gon Jinn's beard is the ultimate Jedi expression. It's screaming "Come on, Evil Empire, I'm ready to kick...your...butt!"

As for my reading update....I had a DNF this week which I will discuss later...I feel a rant coming on about poor word selection in erotica, unsuccessful integration of suspense storyline with sex scenes in erotica, and too much repetition in erotica. Basically, I'm about to rag on erotica, can you tell?

The good news is...I am currently reading Changeless by Gail Carriger, and I am in love, love, love with this new-to-me author. Soooooooo great!

Hope everyone has a wonderful weekend,

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Super Quickie Review of the Highly Rockable Book Soulless by Gail Carriger

Soulless by Gail Carriger

I honestly don't care what steampunk means. I don't care what "genre" this book falls into....comedic steampunk paranormal/fantasy romance? Who the hell cares?

All I know is the second I started to read it, I realized I was falling in love with this book. It has everything I could ever want in a novel...excellent writing, awesome tongue-in-cheek humor, fantastic characters, super sexy chemistry, a nice little mystery, spine-tingling suspense, and my favorite....the juxtaposition of historical formality/scientific discovery/serious paranormal politics with rough and growly werewolf urges, ridiculous vampire couture, and a prim and proper soulless heroine who is torn between following protocol and having hot sex with her werewolf-y nemesis.

Dude, it just doesn't get any better than this.

I am still smiling with happiness, and I fell asleep last night with my Kindle in my arms. Dreaming about werewolves. Ken you get it?
Grade: A+++

A Happy, Happy Day in Penelope-land,

Saturday, May 15, 2010

How Do You Feel About Alien Sex?

I'm actually feeling pretty good about it right now.

I just finished reading Solange Ayre's Star Bride series...One Thousand Brides, Bride Reborn, and Bride's Holiday Gift. I liked this author so much I also got Wizard's Woman--seriously, that Kindle is deadly! I inhaled these 4 stories in 24 hours.

Ayre's "aliens" resemble earth boys in many ways, but they also have a few differences. Furry ears, a pelt of fur on their backs, a cylindrical-shaped penis head, and a really good jumping ability (these guys would kick ass in the NBA). Also, they can't have an orgasm unless their female partners do....hee hee...rock on, Aliens! Ayre does a great job with her world-building...the aliens are similar enough to humans so that they are not off-putting in any way, but different enough to be fascinating (kissing is not in their sexual repertoire, so the brides have to teach!).

The aliens kidnap 1,000 human brides to save their race. I love the fact that they choose only plus-size women, who they consider the epitome of beauty and sensuality. These women from earth, who were so self-conscious about their appearance and worth, are now worshipped by the alien men, and made to feel gorgeous and desirable. Love it!

Even in a shorter format, Ayre does a fabulous job creating these characters and making their love stories believable. She pulls you right into the story, makes you care about the characters, and incorporates the very sexy love scenes perfectly. I hope she is planning more books in this series...I want me some more alien lovin'!!!!

Also, I thought Wizard's Woman was excellent. It has a lot of elements I really older man/mentor, a younger apprentice (who is hiding her real identity), and hot diggity dog....the wizard has a goatee! Sexy, baby.

Ayre is such a good writer that I barely flinched with subject matter like exhibitionist sex (which would normally turn me off) and a bit of dom/submissive stuff in Wizard's Woman. I don't read a lot of erotica, but I really enjoyed this author. She includes a good story, fascinating characters, and a real emotional connection with her love scenes.

Rock on, Solange!

Grades: A-/B+....Penelope definitely recommends!

Wondering how I can get on that alien ship,

Friday, May 14, 2010

Beard of the Day

Beard of the Day goes to.....Robin Hood! It sort of goes without saying that Robin was way too busy stealing from the rich and giving to the poor to have time to shave. Come on.

Russell Crowe is a fine Robin. Here are some more...

Kevin Costner gets an "F" since he's clean shaven. Give me a break.

This is Jonas Armstrong in the 2006 BBC television version of Robin Hood. Love his beard, his sexy and mysterious look. Oh yeah, A+!!!!

Finally, here is Kermit as Robin Hood. Unfortunately, frogs cannot grow beards. Sorry, Kermit, I think Russell Crowe kicks your green butt (although Miss Piggy might disagree!)

Happy Weekend!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Quickie: A Romance Amuse-Bouche

For those of you not obsessed with Top Chef (What the hell are you waiting for!!!??? Start watching it! It rocks!), let me first define "amuse-bouche"-- according to Wikipedia (the center of the internet universe and source for all vital information...hee hee!) it is a "single, bite-sized hors d'oeuvre." It should excite the taste buds and give one a sense of the chef's cooking approach. But is it satisfying? Only one bite? That's a tall make it sparkle, make it delicious, make you excited to see and taste more from this chef.

This is exactly the way I approach a "quickie" story. It is sort of a teaser--it should give you a sense of the writer's voice. Is it funny? sexy? wicked? dark? You should finish wanting to read more from the author. It also needs to be satisfying all on its own. A delicious, tasty morsel!

First of all, let me just say that I consider anything less than a full length novel a quick story. Technically, a "quickie" is probably only 5,000-20,000 words in length, but I am also including novella length stories, which are usually 40,000 words or less.

It's not really fair to judge a quickie based on the same criteria as a full length novel. There are certain limitations to writing this type of story. It's a huge challenge for a writer. In 40,000 words or less, you have to squeeze in a believable and satisfying love story and make your characters come alive. Do you have time to pack in a story arc? Character arcs? Probably not. So, your characters better sing, and their love story better pop off the page. Even writing an erotica quickie is more difficult than it seems. Just throwing in a bunch of sex scenes isn't enough. If there is no emotional connection in the story, it doesn't "sing" for me.

If you're successful, you have achieved amuse-bouche nirvana. If you're not, your story will fall flat.

This brings me to one of my all time favorite reads, Emma Holly's The Night Owl, which is part of the Hot Blooded anthology. It is astoundingly good, and every time I re-read it, I am amazed by this story. It has larger than life characters. It is beautifully written. It is incredibly sexy. It has humor, awesome secondary characters, and even a nice hunk of conflict thrown in for good measure. I absolutely adore this damned novella. You totally get Emma Holly's voice from this short story, and it is the perfect amuse-bouche for her upyr (vampire) series. It leaves you curious about the rest of the characters and their history. In my opinion, it is the most successful example of a "quickie" in the romance genre that I have read.

Just wondering if any of you have read a good quickie lately that you found satisfying, delicious, unexpected. Please let me know.


Friday, May 7, 2010

Beard of the Day and Gardening Update (Hee hee..that's a weird combination!)

Happy Friday! Time for Beard of the Day. Here's Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who has an extremely masculine scruffy beard, with the just the right amount of salt and pepper. He also has those super intense puppy dog eyes that are hard to resist.

Now, you're probably wondering how I'm going to segue into the gardening section. Well, here I go.....

Just imagine you're diligently working on your herb garden, when Jeffrey Dean Morgan suddenly appears, wearing faded blue jeans, a tight T-shirt and a gardening tool belt. He gazes at you with those gorgeous hazel eyes and says, "Excuse me, ma'am, do you need some help in the garden? I have this nice, long, hard....trowel." He whips a trowel out of his tool belt and starts digging the compost.

Oh yeah!

What? Well, maybe that's stretching it a little bit, but anyway....

My kitchen herb garden is starting to bloom...I have oregano, chives, sage, lemon balm, thyme and lots of edible Johnny Jump-Ups in every color. I highly recommend growing some of these sweet can throw them on a salad, in a pitcher of lemonade, or on a fruit platter. This weekend I'm heading to my favorite nursery to get basil, tomatoes, etc. My daughter Natty (who is 7) planted the peas, lettuce, radishes and beets in our veggie garden last weekend. Now, I just have to figure out how to keep the bunnies out of the garden!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Interview and Give Away with Sandra Sookoo!

One of my favorite sub-genres in romance is "light" paranormal. I love the idea of taking a typically dark subject matter (like vampires, werewolves, demons, etc) and making it...funny! And sexy, and sweet. Sandra Sookoo manages all that and more with her new release Demons and Stilettos Are A Girl's Best Friend. The hero of this story is a demon/IRS agent, and he is absolutely fantastic! (Please check out Penelope's review here).

I'm tickled to have Sandra with us today for an interview and give away--one lucky commenter will get some goodies from Sandra, including a stiletto shaped luggage tag, bookmarks and postcards, so please leave her a message.

1) Hi Sandra! One of my favorite combinations is romance and humor! I love witty, cute romances...they always make me happy. I laughed out loud a ton while reading Not Just Make Believe. Your sense of humor is fabulous, and the physical comedy in that book is really funny. Do you have to work at it, or is it natural? Are you a jokester in real life? Do you love watching movies that are romantic comedies, have slapstick humor, etc? What's your favorite? (Also, do you write some "serious" stories, too...without the humor?)

First off, thanks for having me on your blog. Second, I love making people laugh. The world is depressing enough. Laughter can fix it. So that’s how I write. Do I work on it? Not really. It’s a natural thing. I call life as I see it, with a sarcastic slant, and I’ve been known to crack people up around me at functions and different things. It’s just me. So, yeah, I guess you could say I’m a jokester. Any romantic comedy with tons of humor is great for me. I also love watching stand up comics. Favorite movie? Enchanted is good, The Wedding Planner, I could go on and on LOL

And yes, I do write serious stuff. Some of my historical pieces and a few paranormal stories have a darker side, too.

2) I've read 2 of your books, Not Just Make Believe and Demons and Stilettos. Both have a heroine with a "snarky" attitude going on--maybe a little bit sarcastic, self-effacing, likes to cuss like a sailor! Do you like writing first person POV? Is that your favorite approach? What's up with the snarky heroines? Do you ever write a sweet, shy heroine? other types? Or do you find the snarky ones offer more conflict, more sexual tension, more comedic elements, etc.

Demons and Stilettos is written in the third person. Not Just Make Believe is one of two books written in the first person. The other will be out in August called Wedgie Tales and Panty Lines and it’s loaded with humor. Demons just needed to be written in the third so I could get the hero’s POV. Do I like writing in first person? Yes, but editors don’t really like reading it LOL In fact, my funny paranormal The Art of Fang Shui was originally written in the first person but then I converted it to third before shopping it around to publishers.

Snarky heroines have spunk and a staying power no matter what’s thrown at them and I think they use humor as a weapon or to hide behind sometimes. All my heroines have faults and flaws that make them more approachable I think.

3) Okay, the thought of rewriting a book from first person to third makes me want to cry. I can't believe you did that! Yikes!

You are seriously the most prolific writer I know! I can't believe how many books you've released this past year. (What's the grand total?)...Do you just work on one book at a time, or many simultaneously? If you do a lot simultaneously, is it hard to jump back and forth?

LOL I have had 5 books released this year so far. Prolific? Maybe. Some of them are shorter pieces so that makes a difference. If I’m stuck on a long piece, sometimes I’ll work on a shorter piece to clear my mind. The last book I wrote was 92K and I only concentrated on it because it was intense. And I loved it LOL It’s not really hard to jump back and forth. I’ll do a chapter in each, but it just depends on the piece.

4) Do your story ideas pop fully formed in your head, or just nuggets that need to be expanded at a later date? (By the way, I think making your demon hero an IRS agent is absolutely brilliant! What a great idea...I totally loved it!) Do you plot or pants your books? What's the hardest part of writing for you...dialogue, description, love scenes, or do you love them all?

I’m actually a big believer in outlining and plotting ahead of time. Does it change along the way? Yes, of course. But, it’s like a map for me and that way, I don’t get lost in the story and off the rails. Sometimes a whole scene will come to mind. Other times, it’s like fitting puzzle pieces together. You can’t rush a book. The hardest part? It really depends on the book. Love scenes are a pain sometimes to put into a book because I just don’t want to deal with them sometimes LOL If I had to say, it would be fight scenes, but again, it all depends.

5) Do you feel like you're in writer mode all the time....can't shut it off? My husband thinks I'm nuts because we'll be in the middle of a conversation and all of a sudden I run off to the office to jot something down! hee hee.....

I am in writer’s mode all the time. That’s the nature of being a writer. Life inspires. A snippet of conversation, a picture, whatever it is can jog your brain and off you go LOL I’ve gotten into the habit of talking about my plots and books with my husband. He’s been a huge help on some of the places where I’m stuck or doubting.

6) How did you first get interested in writing? What was your first creation? (that sounds sort of like Frankenstein doesn't it?)

LOL Books were what got me interested in writing. That and wanting to escape a less than stellar childhood. I wrote my first “book” at the age of ten. It was an epic fantasy about knights who were the boys in the neighborhood LOL Needless to say, I burned it when I was a teenager and don’t even get me started on the soppy, gag-me stories I penned during that time!

7) Ha! I have some seriously melodramatic poetry I wrote during the teenage years. My ex-boyfriends were a great source of inspiration!

What's next on the horizon for you? Any new projects that you are really digging right now?

What’s next? Wherever my imagination takes me I suppose. LOL Actually, I’m in the middle of outlining a brand new full length project. This time it’ll be a fantasy with romantic elements and humor. I hope it goes over well. After that, or during that depending, I need to write a short piece that sort of bridges two other books.

8) Since I have a quirky ladies blog, I have to ask....What are some of your quirky characteristics?

Quirks? I love to brew coffee for the scent but hate drinking it. Love to make steak for my hubby but don’t like eating it. I don’t like flip flops because I don’t like things between my toes LOL and the smell of cat food turns my stomach LOL Is that quirky enough? Oh, one last thing. I base a lot of my humor on…well…real experiences in my life. I can’t make some of this stuff up!

9) I can't drink coffee anymore, but every morning my husband brews up Starbucks French Roast and the whole house smells delicious. Although it seriously tortures me since I can't drink it!

Last question! I know you are really into cooking. Could you part with a favorite recipe? Something you love to cook? I love cooking with fresh herbs and Indian spices. Always gets me in a good mood.

LOL I do love to cook. If I’m stuck on a plot point in a book, I head to the kitchen because it helps my brain to work out the problem.

I asked Sandra if she would part with a favorite recipe and she graciously agreed! Yippee!

Sandi’s Turkey Meatballs

Heat oven to 375 degrees


One pound of ground turkey. Dark or light meat, it doesn’t matter

¼ cup grated parmesan cheese

¼ cup dried bread crumbs

1 large egg

½ red bell pepper

½ small yellow onion or one whole shallot

1 teaspoon parsley

1 teaspoon hot sauce

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

½ teaspoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon of you favorite grill seasoning

Salt and pepper-dash of each

Dump meat into mixing bowl to come up to room temperature.

In medium frying pan, sauté bell pepper and onion/shallot in 1 teaspoon olive oil until soft and tender.

Set aside to cool.

Once cool, add to meat. Add rest of ingredients then mix until just combined with hands. Do not over mix. If too wet to roll, add a bit more bread crumbs.

Roll into walnut sized balls.

Brown in skillet on all sides, then transfer to the oven. (move meatballs into an oven safe baking dish if your skillet can’t go into the oven.)

Bake for 20 minutes or until meat is no longer pink, depending on the size of the meatballs.

Serve with any sort of pasta, or eat alone.


Yum, that sounds delicious, Sandra! Thanks so much for the recipe and the fun interview.

Faithful Readers: Don't forget to leave a comment if you'd like a chance to win some fun goodies!

Here's a blurb and excerpt from Demons and Stilettos...enjoy!...

Anne Jenkins never believed there was a heaven or hell but when she’s rescued from a runaway horse by a guy who claims he’s a demon, her freak detector goes off. She demands proof and the leather-clad biker sets some local wildlife on fire. She starts to trust in a hurry.

Gregg Carter, bound to the Devil for all eternity because of an audit gone wrong, seizes the opportunity to take possession of Anne’s soul as a way to please his boss. What he didn’t count on was the fact that his libido would take the one-way bus to crazy town as he gets to know her better.

Trouble is, Anne and Gregg spend so much time trying to hide their true selves from each other, they can’t escape the attraction that builds between them. But everyone knows demons and humans don’t mix, and neither can two people who have no futures.


Anne glanced around, looking for hidden cameras just in case her friends were attempting to punk her. Seeing nothing but red and gold leaves that shook in the slight breeze, she turned back to the biker. “You’re serious, aren’t you?”

“You bet. Now, I need you to sign here testifying that I did indeed save your life and prevented the early termination of such. Because I did, the payment for my deed is one human soul, to be rendered due and payable within thirty days of the receipt of said services.” He held the pen out to her. “I do have other clients today.”

“I can’t just give you my soul. I don’t even know exactly where in my body it’s located or how a person goes about parting with it.” She took another drink. “Besides, don’t I need my soul in order to function? I’m pretty sure it’s not like an appendix or something.” Flutters filled her stomach when the smile he’d flashed earlier morphed into something smoldering and sexy.

“A human soul is only valuable if you know how to use it. To sweeten the pot, I’m prepared to give you three wishes.”

Anne snorted while she took another drink. Water shot through her nose, and tears stung her eyes. Not exactly the sort of thing that would impress a bike-riding minion from hell—not that she wanted to impress him. Damn, I must be desperate if I’m trying to catch the interest of an alleged demon.

Wiping the drops from her face with the back of her hand, she stifled another round of laughter. “Three wishes, huh? Like a magic genie?”

“No, it’s an added bonus, an incentive. Think of it as a supplement to the contract in order to cushion the blow of my taking your soul. You have thirty days to accept the offer, but be aware there are some conditions.”

“Is saving me from impending death one of the wishes?” The whole conversation felt so weird and beyond normal that Anne suddenly knew how Alice felt in the Lewis Carroll story.

“No, but at least you’re paying attention.” A smile curved his lips. “You can use the wishes on yourself or others, but they must be used in the time allowed. You can’t save them. Also, until you exhaust the wishes or they expire at the end of the specified term, I will be your constant companion—”

“I thought you had other clients?”

He huffed his disapproval. “I have a very loose schedule. Anyway, if you do not use the wishes by the end of the thirty day period, you forfeit them, and I still take your soul.”

“That doesn’t sound very fair.” Anne frowned. Fear made her insides clench. “What if I don’t agree to any of it? I mean,” she snorted from the absurdity of the notion, “it really is pretty unbelievable.”

A shadow of annoyance crossed Gregg’s face, and his expression grew dark with anger. “It doesn’t matter. I saved your life. Therefore, you owe me. I can reset recent events and leave you to die, or I can take your soul, and you’ll still die, but at least you will have lived it up for thirty days. What’s not to get?”

Publisher’s website:

Book video:

Happy Romance Reading to Everyone!


Sunday, May 2, 2010

Quickie Reviews: Beauty and the Feast and Demons and Stilettos

Since I haven't gotten into a "JR Ward"-y mood yet, my copy of Lover Mine remains unread. I know, I know. I'm getting to it! In the meantime, I have been reading a lot of other books.

First is Beauty and the Feast by Julia Barrett. I'm obviously someone who recognizes the sensuality of food...I made the hero and heroine of my first novel (Sweet Inspiration) pastry chefs. When I saw Mandi's review for Beauty and the Feast, I knew I had to read it. The heroine is a caterer and the hero falls in lust with her before they've ever met, just by tasting the incredible meal she has prepared for him. Holy Mother...the food descriptions in this book are to die for! Check out the first course...chilled melon soup: "...pureed honey melon, a tiny bit of sea salt, a few splashes of a light German Riesling, a squeeze of lime, half a seeded Serrano chili, cilantro and a bit of palm sugar..." Starving yet? You will be if you read this baby. Make sure you have a gourmet snack and a nice bottle of wine on hand. I am not kidding.

I love the fact that Barrett has these characters becoming interested in each other without them even meeting. Just the sound of their voices over the phone peaks their interest. Then, Gabe smells Eva's scent on his pillow and knows she's laid down on his bed. He starts falling for her after eating the sensual meal she has created for him. This is a great way to start the romantic tension in a book....using other senses to create an attraction between two characters.

Here's a quote that sums it up best...."His interest in Eva Raines had once again grown in direct proportion to the size of his erection, the erection induced by the images tasting her food brought to mind."

I really loved this sexy book...I loved the characters, the setting, the food descriptions (of course). It was adorable, right down to the recipes at the end. Bravo, Julia Barrett!
Grade: A-

What's the perfect job for a demon? How about an IRS agent? Is that a great idea or what?

Sandra Sookoo has written another winning story. This one is sexy (yee haw!), has her characteristic comedy, and also an incredibly sweet and romantic ending that I absolutely loved. Although the heroine Anne was a little bit too snarky for me at the beginning of the story, the selfless act she does at the end of the book redeems her in my eyes. And Gregg, the demon/IRS agent, is simply wonderful. Sookoo does an amazing job transforming him from a jaded, cynical demon into a man who falls unwittingly in love. My only beef is that it was too short...I wished it had been longer! Grade: B+

Sandra will be visiting Penelope's on Wednesday for an interview and give-away. Please stop by!

My reviews for Burning Lamp by Amanda Quick and Knock Me For A Loop by Heidi Betts will be up later in the week.