Tuesday, May 31, 2011

"How To Walk A Weenie Dog" by Penelope

1. Announce you are going for a walk. Use your "stern" voice.

2. Lucy runs away and hides.

3. Find Lucy hiding in the bedroom. Attach leash.

4. Lucy rolls over on her back.

5. Drag Lucy through the house on her back, effectively using her as a mop. Make sure to get dust in the kitchen.

6. Attempt to pull Lucy out the door.  

7. Once you accept the fact that the dog will not roll over, lift her in your arms.

8. Walk for approximately 40 ft, then put weenie dog on the sidewalk and say "Time to walk, Lucy." Again, use "stern" voice.

9. Lucy sits down on sidewalk.

10. Lift dog and carry for 40 more feet. Lucy closes eyes and gets in a quick nap.

11. Put weenie dog on sidewalk and tug gently on leash. Try embarrassing her. "You are the laziest-ass dog in the world!"

12. Dog lies down on sidewalk.

13. Do not give up! Carry dog for 40 more feet. Put her down. Jog in place. Say, "Doesn't this look fun? Let's walk!"

14. Lucy sits on her ass and looks at a blade of grass.

15. Neighbor drives by and yells out of car window "Nice walk!" Laugh at stupid joke.

16. Get to half-way point of walk. Put Lucy down. Lucy pees and poops on unsuspecting neighbor's lawn. (Don't forget poopie bags for clean up).

17. At this point, Lucy realizes she is half-way home. She commences her "walk"....sashaying down the sidewalk, swishing her tail back and forth in a very sassy manner.

18. Praise dog. "Good girl, Lucy!"

19. Get home. Lucy starts 3-hour nap to compensate for the 5 minutes of exercise she was forced to endure.

20. Repeat procedure every day of your life.


Happy Walking,

Tuesday Morning Updates: Boy Bands, Reading Blahs, And Johnny Jump-Ups

Here are my totally random updates, in no particular order....(okay, well maybe the first one is the best!)...

1.) I'M GOING TO THE NKOTBSB CONCERT THIS SATURDAY WITH MY SIS! (I don't often use all caps, but I thought that tidbit of news deserved it). Should a 44 year old suburban housefrau be embarrassed to attend a concert with a bunch of over-the-hill former boy band cuties, who are now bald, out of shape, and can hardly sing worth a lick? Hell no! Can't wait! These guys are adorable--they might get sort of breathless when they try to sing and dance at the same time, but they still got the moves, baby. (Pass the ice pack!).

2.) I am in a reading funk. I hate that! First, I finished the trio of Elizabeth Lowell beardy hero books. I loved the first two, Untamed and Forbidden. But the last one, Enchanted, was a super big bummer.

Reading books about raped heroines is not my favorite, but sometimes it's okay if.....(a) the rape is not described in gory detail, and (b) the "healing" part is appropriate for a "rape" book (in other words, don't have a rape victim get it on with a BDSM master, etc.) and (c) the HEA is really satisfying. My major problem with this book is that the Big Misunderstanding went on WAY too long...practically until the bitter end of the book. First, the hero thinks his intended bride is a frigid virgin (Misunderstanding). Then, he thinks she's a slut who had an affair with a knight (Misunderstanding). And after she tells him the truth....that she was drugged, brutally raped by the knight, and then humiliated by her father and priest, who did not believe her, her husband still refuses to believe her. Talk about adding insult to injury. This poor woman has been crushed by betrayal, and her stupid freakin' husband won't believe her. (This is after the heroine has risked her own life to save her husband!). I seriously wanted to kick his ass. She doesn't earn his trust until almost the end of the book, and by then, I already hated him.

3.) I absolutely adored the book Warrior by Zoe Archer. So, I was really looking forward to reading Scoundrel, the second installment of the Blades of the Rose series. Just wasn't feeling it this time. The first one was magical. This one felt flat. I made it to 35% in, and I gave up. I might just skip this one and go straight to Rebel (#3) which I heard is great. We'll see. :^(

4.) Continuing with my "bearded hero" theme, I read Yours, Mine and Howls by Kinsey Holley. The hero is a bearded werewolf. (I totally approve of bearded werewolves). Anyhow, there were some things I did like about the book, but overall, it was really bogged down by too much werewolf pack political stuff. And way too many characters. It sort of reminded me of Shelly Laurenston's series. (I think I'm the only person on the face of the earth who doesn't like that series.) Too many characters, too much crap about how everyone is related, inter-related, etc. Criminy. Just give me some hot wolfy lovin' and I'm happy!

5.) I always read an excerpt of any "new-to-me" author I'm checking out. Wanna see what kind of writer she is. What I discovered this weekend is that certain things might throw me off when reading an excerpt. Stuff like....grammatical errors, typos, and phrases like "carpet muncher" and "shoving his c*ck into her chatterbox." hee hee hee....are you kidding me? I can safely say that any excerpt with the term "carpet muncher" in it is automatic grounds for the "never gonna buy" list. "Carpet muncher" is just....not....that romantic. Oy.

6.) My window boxes look fab! I will post photos soon. Got a huge flat of Johnny Jump-Ups to add in, and then they're done. They're my favorite part of gardening!

7.) Coming up soon (the week of June 13), I will be hosting a Celebrate New England party on my blog. I have incredible give-away baskets from some amazing New England romance authors...including books from Jessica Andersen, Caroline Linden, Annette Blair, Pat Grasso, Meg Maguire, Judith Arnold, Mia Marlowe, Sherri Erwin, Barbara Wallace, Marie Force, Amber Skyze, Ashlyn Chase, Shirley Ann Howard, Kate George, Kristan Higgins and more! Get ready to rumble!

Hope everyone had a nice weekend,

Friday, May 27, 2011

Happy Weekend From Penelope (and Troy and Gabriella)!

from right now
gonna use our voices and scream out loud
Take my hand;
together we
will celebrate!

Happy Memorial Day Weekend!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Welcome to "P" Magazine!

Welcome to "P" Magazine, The Penelope Magazine! With Penelope on every cover!

(Hmmm. "P" Magazine doesn't sound so good. Way worse than "O" Magazine.)

Okay, never mind. Scratch that. I don't think people want to read a magazine about pee, I mean "P"!!!

Yes, I am making fun of Oprah. Since all of media news is devoted to her this week. I think it's hilarious how she is on the cover of every issue of her magazine. And her magazine has her initial. It's cute, it's clever, it's.....egomaniacal.

The truth is, I have never actually watched her show. Not because I have anything against Oprah. I don't watch any daytime talk shows. Or morning talk shows. Or late-night talk shows. Or awards shows. I have a weird anxiety about watching people on live TV. I get nervous and clammy, worried they are going to embarrass themselves on national (and/or international) television. I like pre-recorded shows with laugh tracks. You know nothing embarrassing will happen, and you even have built-in cues so you know when to laugh. It's very convenient.

Anyhow, I fell asleep last night with wet hair, and when I woke up, my hair looked like Bon Jovi from 1984. (See above photo). And I thought....I should post this on my blog!

Here is my reading update.....I am having a crazy re-reading week. Just finished re-reading all three books in the Lucy Monroe "Ranger" series. Ready, Willing, and Able. (Cute titles!) They have ridiculously alpha, ex-military heroes who have a hard time differentiating between lusty, possessive obsessive attraction, and romantic true love. It's all so confusing! And I also just re-read Honor's Splendour by Julie Garwood, one of the greatest romance novels of all time. With another alpha male hero who refuses to believe that he is actually falling in love with his wife.

Now, I am off to the plant nursery to purchase stuff for my window boxes and veggie/herb garden. And I think I might jump back into Zoe Archer's series today.

Hope y'all are having a good week! Big Hair Forever!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Plant Of The Week: The "Bloody Mary"

Actually, this plant is not really called the "Bloody Mary". It's Bleeding Heart, or Dicentra spectabilis. However, my 8 year old daughter always forgets the name, and calls it a Bloody Mary, which I think is hilarious. It's one of my favorite spring flowers.

As a result of 100 days of rain (only slightly exaggerating), my garden is lush and gorgeous right now....

The hostas are up, the clematis is growing, the hydrangea is covered with tons of buds. My herbs all survived the winter....chives, santolina, lemon balm, oregano, thyme, mint. Everything looks great. I even have one lone fig growing on my fig tree! Hooray!

Happy Wednesday To All!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

It's Romance, People! Romance!

I divide the world into two types of people.

People who can laugh at themselves.

And people who can't.

What I have noticed, in all of my infinite wisdom, is that certain people (regardless of their job status, family background, or financial standing) are blow-hards. They take themselves way too seriously.

There are certain folks who should take themselves seriously.

The president of the United States should definitely take himself seriously. A cardiac surgeon who is about to perform a complex surgical procedure should take himself seriously. A social worker who makes decisions about abusive families should take herself seriously. People making life and death decisions, involved in nuclear physics, and FBI agents should take themselves seriously.

The romance biz....well, let me put it this way. Our genre includes such tropes as missing babies, Sheikhs, and forced seduction. The covers of our books have half-naked guys on the front, liberally slathered up with oil. Our fans have tattoos of fictitious vampires on their bums. In the great scheme of things, I don't think the romance industry ranks up there with medicine, the space program, or law enforcement.

Now, don't get me wrong. I think that the authors who create these books are incredibly hard-working and talented people. I have the utmost respect for my colleagues and all the agents and editors and publishers involved in making this industry successful. It is a very lucrative industry, and it supports a lot of workers. But we can't forget this is an entertainment field. Just like sports, film, and music. These are big business, big money makers, but entertainment nevertheless. Which is why I love actors/musicians/athletes who recognize the absurdity of what's going on around them, vs. the actors/musicians/athletes who buy into their own hype.

Sean Diddy can't laugh at himself. (Have you ever seen a photo of that guy smiling? Seriously?)

Johnny Depp can. And does. All the time.

I love folks in the romance industry who can make fun of themselves, have a good perspective on life, and realize that vampires aren't real.

And, I'm sort of fed up with the romance folks who think they're all bad-ass and "King of the World." For Christ's sake, we have Fabio on our book covers, people! Fabio!

This is a typical scenario at my house....My husband gets home from work and asks how my day was. I tell him I was working on a sexy scene in my WIP. I ask how his day was. He tells me a patient almost died on the table, and he saved his life.

My husband saves patients' lives. And maybe when those people are recovering, they'll read a romance novel for entertainment.

Gotta keep things in perspective.


Monday, May 23, 2011

Do You Judge A Book By The Book Or The Author?

For a very long time, my husband and I had a big disagreement. He refused to go to any movie with Cher in it. Why, you ask? He had an "irrational" dislike of Cher....my own quotation marks. Because I happen to like Cher. I think she's sassy, campy, sometimes kooky. All things that I like, and my husband (apparently) did not.

We argued about how you should only judge an actress on her acting ability, and not on the fact that she might wear inappropriate clothing "in real life." My feeling was, at that time, that an actor or singer or author should be judged solely on his creative talents, and any information that may be clouding the issue (he's a philanderer, she's a slut, he's a cheater, "in real life") should be left out of the equation.

And then came the whole "Tom Cruise Debacle."

I saw my share of Tom Cruise movies when I was younger. I followed his personal exploits in the entertainment news. But the deal-breaker for me was the photograph of Nicole Kidman being wheeled out of the hospital after having a miscarriage. Alone. Because her douchebag husband had dumped her and left her to suffer through a heart-breaking loss all by herself. Miscarriage is a touchy subject for me. The only thing that got me through my long string of painful miscarriages was the amazing love and support from my husband. (We now have two fabulous adopted kids, by the way).

After that, I decided never to watch another Tom Cruise movie. (My husband smirked.....See, now you know how I feel about Cher).

I was no longer judging Tom on his acting ability. I was judging him on something else. Right or wrong, I was allowing some other factor to cloud my decision to see one of his films.

In the past, we didn't know diddly about authors' real lives. They lived up on a mountain top somewhere cranking out novels for our reading pleasure. Now, thanks to Twitter, Facebook, blogs, message boards and the like, we have personal access to them every single day.

Which could be a good thing. I "chat" with certain authors on Twitter who are clever, gracious and fun. I love their books, and I am impressed with their public persona (which may also be their private persona, not sure).

However, this can also be a bad thing. Some authors have exhibited extremely poor behavior in public. Dissing other authors. Dissing reviewers. Becoming defensive, rude, and insulting to readers. Perhaps revealing "TMI"....I don't need to know when folks are menstruating, for example (hee hee!).

The new rules about self-promotion on the Amazon message boards have created a whole new dilemma for me. Lots of writers are (publicly) discussing how to "trick" readers, "sneak" in their promotion, circumnavigate the new rules. (Unfortunately, this includes fakes reviews, tagging, etc, a lot of sleazy stuff that makes me uncomfortable). One of the authors I saw contributing to this conversation was someone I read in the past. I really wish I hadn't seen this side of her, because I did truly enjoy her work.

Unfortunately, I don't think I'll be able to read any of her stuff again.

Ignorance was bliss in this case.

Right or wrong, I can't separate the "personal" side of authors and their writing talents. Which means that my barrel filled with "rejects" (Mel Gibson is in there, keeping Tom Cruise company) may be growing bigger and bigger. I'm just not comfortable giving my business to writers who are sleazing around, insulting folks, and/or dinging the reviewing community.

Thank God there are still many professional authors who seem to understand that good manners count for something. Cause they do count for me.


Friday, May 20, 2011

A New, Beardilicious Discovery! Elizabeth Lowell and her Medieval Series!

Thanks to the wonderful members of the newly formed Romance Forum Refugee group at Goodreads, I have a huge new list of romance novels with bearded heroes! Dark beards! Blond beards! Dark staches, too! Yee haw!!!!!!!

And thanks to their recommendations, I discovered a new-to-me romance writer who appears to love beards as much as I do. All of her heroes are hairy! Beards, staches, nice furry chests.....yowzah! I am now the official #1, A++ Fan Of Elizabeth Lowell. Where have you been all my life, lady? Her Medieval Series was originally published in the 1990's, so these are "oldies but goodies" which have eluded me until now.

As soon as I read this sentence, I knew this was the book for me....

"Dominic stroked his closely clipped mustache and black beard as he studied her."



So far I have sucked down the first two books of this series...Untamed (#1), and Forbidden (#2). Coming up next is Enchanted (#3), Simon's story.

All beardy goodness aside, these books are fabulous. Even if they didn't have beardy heroes (whimper, whimper), I would still be in love with them. They are incredibly emotional, intense, sexy historicals. The characters sing...both hero and heroine. The lush settings are beautiful. I am totally digging all the cool stuff about falconry. And the endings are so romantic and satisfying....these are off-the-charts romantic. These books have some of the most swoon-worthy dialogue I have ever seen in a romance novel.

There were only a few things that bothered me. One was jarring POV changes, which I got used to pretty fast. The second thing is the drawn-out misunderstanding (in both books) about the heroine's state of innocence. Nevertheless, I found these books spell-binding, could not put them down.

The second book, Duncan's story, made me fall in love with "The Stache"!! Check out this sentence....

"When his breath and mustache brushed over her sensitive fingers, it gave her a pleasure so great that she trembled." (me, too...hee hee hee!)

My only truly horrified moment was when Dominic shaved his beard off right before his wedding (NOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!). I just pretended that scene didn't happen.

So, guess what I'll be doing this weekend? Reading about the blond-bearded Simon. He better not shave his beard off before his wedding, or I'm gonna get peeved.

Untamed: Grade A
Forbidden: Grade A

Penelope: Grade A (Ha haa, just kidding...oh, what the hell, I deserve an "A" too!)

Happy Weekend,

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Surreal Moment Of The Week

I met a girlfriend for lunch this week. We got together at a new shopping plaza, which is an "outdoor mall" complex. It's pretty cool. It's set up like a charming little town, with huge pots of flowers on every corner, and bricked walkways for pedestrians. As I was heading to the restaurant, I realized that super loud music was being piped into the plaza. Which was sort of weird for an outdoor space. But the even weirder thing was....they were playing Xanadu by Olivia Newton John! Haaaa haaaa! At an astronomically loud volume. Piped in all over town! It was one of those super strange, surreal moments. I actually stopped on the sidewalk, paused for a moment, said (out loud to no one in particular) "Holy shit. This is Xanadu! I'm having a 1980's flashback!" And then I continued on my way.

Anyhow, needless to say, I am now having a 1980's inspired musical week. They just don't make 'em like this anymore. (Thank God).

Here, for your viewing pleasure, is the wackiest wack ever.....Xanadu!

All My Best,

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Review of Jane Slayre by Sherri Erwin

Jane Slayre by Sherri Erwin and Charlotte Brontë

First, let me say that attempting to do a mash-up of a well-beloved classic takes a ton of guts. Blood and guts and green goo, too. It is a huge undertaking for several reasons. One, folks don't like authors messing with their favorite classic books. Two, seamlessly blending the old text with new text is quite a challenge. Not only does the author need to adopt a new "voice" (that of Charlotte Brontë), but the new material must be incorporated into the classic manuscript in a flowing, non-jarring way. Three, you know damned well that folks will be comparing your book to the classic, which must be intimidating in the extreme. Finally, you have to "make it work" in the immortal words of Tim Gunn. Which is to say, mix horror with historical romance, and make it entertaining, clever, and satisfying.

Having just read the original Jane Eyre for the first time, I was really looking forward to seeing a new twist on the classic. Jane Eyre charmed the pants off me....I loved the romance, I loved the melodrama, and I adored the heroine. I also love quirky unexpected twists in my reading material--taking a children's fairy tale and turning it into a BDSM erotica, creating a book that mixes historical romance with steampunk paranormal comedy (Soulless by Gail Carriger), sexing up the Santa Claus myth (my own book, Sweet Inspiration). So, mixing horror (zombies, vampires and werewolves) into a classic piece of literature seemed like a heavenly proposition to me. Shaun of the Dead is one of my all-time favorite movies. Horror and comedy go together like chocolate and peanut butter, like Sonny and Cher, like Dean Martin and a martini. It's a fabulous combination!

So, did it work? Well, Erwin made a few improvements on the original in my estimation. The pacing is much faster in her book and the story flows better. The incredibly long-winded bits of narrative and dialogue (especially from Rocky McRochester) in the original were at times painful to slog through. Although you get used to it. But for modern readers, we're not really used to that sort of pacing. Erwin's mash-up still manages to keep the "flavor" of the original (with the lush description and heart-felt dialogue) but moves it along at a brisker pace.

Also, let's face it. The original Jane Eyre is not a funny book. Jane's journey is emotionally draining and painful, but wonderfully romantic at the end (just like a good romance should be!). It could have used a bit of comedic relief, which Erwin provides in a most hilarious way. Jane doling out round-house kicks to vampires, lopping off zombie heads and getting sprayed with green goo, and sharpening her wooden stakes, are all wonderful additions to the original story.

I must admit that part of the "magic" of the original book was lost in this version. But two things made it a big winner in my opinion. One is that Erwin kept the ending intact (the HEA)....with a paranormal twist of course. (Poor Rocky McRochester has a bit of furry werewolf-y problem which Jane takes care of). The ending of this story is just as fabulous and satisfying as the original. The most excellent change to the original is how Erwin has transformed Jane into a butt-kicking monster-slayer. It was truly difficult to read about how powerless Jane is at the beginning of Jane Eyre...being abused by the Reeds, Brocklehurst, etc. In Erwin's version, it doesn't take long for her slaying tendencies to kick in, and it empowers her, and the reader, in a fantastic and oh-so-satisfying way.

There were a few things that bothered me. One was having Helen turn into a zombie...I saw that one coming, but since Helen's death was one of the most touching and emotional moments of the original book, I didn't think it was the best place for a comedic reference. Also, some of the best bits in this book are the funny lines....and there just weren't enough of them. There is a time and place for restraint, and a zombified version of Jane Eyre is not one of them! Erwin has a great sense of humor, and I would have liked to see it slip off its leash a bit more. Also, it occurred to me that some juicier love scenes would have been fun. I think Erwin could have taken a few more liberties with the original text, and pushed it a bit more over the top.

All in all, I found this book to be a fun and entertaining twist on the classic Jane Eyre. If any heroine was ever meant to be a butt-kicking vampire slayer, it is certainly intrepid Jane. I am now inspired to read Pride and Prejudice and all the kooky new versions of that book, too!

Grade: B+

Happy Days,

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Celebrities (And Authors) Behaving Badly

Even though it is in extremely poor taste, I like to visit certain websites that gossip about celebrities. Hey! I also visit websites about birding, dachshunds, and gardening tips, so I'm not all bad! Anyhoo, here is my take on the latest wackadoodle celebrity behavior....

1.) Mariah Carey wins Diva Of The Year. She insisted that her own music be playing while her babies were born. hee heeeeeee...... I know some celebrities have big egos, but that's gotta be right up there. I'm wondering what music selection she will choose for diaper changing.

2.) Jesse James. What can I say? After betraying his wife in spectacular fashion, he decides to write a book detailing the intimate moments of their lives, so he can cash in on her pain and suffering. What a stand-up guy. I love his excuse....Millions of guys cheat on their wives! What a winner. Well, Sandra may have made a whopper of a mistake when she married that schmo, but her adorable newly adopted son is a sweet pea. Go Team Sandra!

3.) Oh, Terminator, how could you? Arnie cheated on his wife with "the help," fathered a child, and kept it secret for ten years. I'm sort of amazed he could keep that a secret. But it's really not surprising. Just disappointing.

4.) When asked about his parenting style, Brad Pitt joked "I beat my kids regularly. That seems to do the trick." Ba dum bum. Okay, not really funny, but good try, Brad. By the way, he is looking REALLY badly lately (see photo below). What happened to Brad Cutie Pie?

5.) As many of you know, I frequent the Amazon Romance Message Boards. The big, breaking news recently is that Amazon finally decided to crack down on the spamming authors and force them to promote only in a designated "Meet The Author" area. These authors are now howling like wounded animals, accusing Amazon of infringing on their right (or is that "write"?) to free speech (hee hee!), convinced that they will never sell another book if they aren't free to pimp on the Ami boards. I have never seen such a bunch of whiners in my freakin' life.

I speak about promotion for writers, and honestly, the behavior I see at those boards could make up a "What Not To Do" reality television show. (Hey, what a cool idea!!!!! We could have hours of footage of folks working on their WIPs, sucking down diet Coke, and.....never mind. Bad idea.) The authors are fighting with readers, each other, complaining, whining, and offering up way too much personal information. Whatever happened to behaving in a "professional" manner? Whey do they feel entitled to free advertising at Amazon?

I published my first book with a very small publisher and had to do all the promotion for it myself (just like those indie authors). And guess what? I worked my ass off, contacting book bloggers, scheduling guest blog posts, blog tours, interviews, reviews, running contests and giveaways, creating a website, purchasing advertising spots, promoting myself (in a good way!) on Facebook and Goodreads, attending meetings, conferences and workshops. My book wasn't even available initially at Amazon, but nevertheless, I still managed to make a bestseller list at Fictionwise during my release month. Why? Because I worked my ass off, that's why! I researched appropriate bloggers who liked my genre and didn't force my book down anyone's throat. At gunpoint. With insults hurled at them.

One word comes to mind when I venture over there: unsavory. And I like Britney! So that's saying something.

On the reading front....I am heartily enjoying Jane Slayre. There is something extremely satisfying about Jane kicking some zombie ass instead of getting crapped on all the time. I love that!

Hope Yinz All Have A Happy Day!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Review of Mind Your Own Beeswax by Hannah Reed

One of my favorite things is "light" mysteries...no blood and gore, just a cute storyline, and if there are recipes at the end of the book, I rejoice. I love Annette Blair's Vintage Magic Mysteries, which combine a cute paranormal heroine (who can "read" vintage clothing) with a fun New England setting. I'm a big fan of the Goldy Culinary Mysteries, which follow a caterer in Colorado, and are chock full of delicious recipes at the end of the book. 

So, I was pretty stoked to discover a new-to-me mystery series called "A Queen Bee Mystery" by Hannah Reed. It has a spunky and determined heroine who is becoming a beekeeper, an adorable small town setting, and some quirky characteristics that I really loved. 

  • One: There are bullets in here! (No, not those kind of bullets! These kind of bullets...The big black dots at the beginning of the sentence.) I am a compulsive list-maker. I have daily to-do lists, goals for life to-do lists, writing to-do lists, and camps-for-my-kids to-do lists. I am a big supporter of lists! In every mystery series, there are sections of the book where the characters sort of hash out the clues, and reorganize their thoughts. You could do this using dialogue. Internal deep POV. Whatever. Hannah Reed just skips all that rigmarole and uses bullets. Love it! I think this is hilarious! She also uses bullets to give us information about beekeeping, facts about morel mushrooms, and pros and cons of Story getting more involved with her boyfriend, for a few examples.
  • I love small town settings and quirky characters. Story has a cute honey shop, filled with gossipy neighbors, young and old. Her boyfriend is a sexy cop. The villain is an old nemesis from high school. This is the perfect setting for a mystery!
  • I am way into learning stuff when I read. (I mean, when I read non-educational books that aren't about turfgrass or something like that.) Since I am an avid gardener, I found the whole beekeeping theme fascinating. One of the plot points is about Story's bees "escaping" their hives to look for larger accommodations. She has to follow the colony and coax them back to her house. It's very cool!
  • As is typical for this type of mystery, there are "romantic elements" but no real romance. Big bummer! Story's boyfriend is a sexy cop, and I wish there had been more romance in the story. But this wasn't a romance, so I can't complain. (Much).
All in all, this was a fun, light read. The mystery was nice and compact. The setting was sweet, the quirky characters were plentiful, the boyfriend was hot, the story was informative, and there is even a foot fetish thrown in for good measure. (hee hee....seriously!). There's also a recipe for Honey Trail Mix Cookies at the end of the book, and they look yummy. I will definitely be reading more of these cute mysteries by Hannah Reed.

Grade: B+

Jonesing for a honey bun!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Beard of the Day

Well, I am certainly glad that Blogger is finally back up and running....sheesh! Otherwise, I would not be able to post about the World Beard and Moustache Championship going on right now. 150 contestants from 15 countries are in Norway this weekend competing in such categories as....Full Beard, Full Beard Natural, Freestyle, and Partial Beard. (This photo is of Jerem Feltman, from Alaska. If you couldn't tell.)

This contest cracks me up. There is a lot of trash-talking going on. Seriously. Check out this link with a fun slide show.

I am still reading Mind Your Own Beeswax by Hannah Reed. It's a sweet little mystery. Next up is Jane Slayre by Sherri Erwin. Hopefully I'll start that this weekend.

Happy Weekend Reading To All!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

"You're Like The Sweetest Candy, Baby"

Every once in a while, someone in my household (usually my husband or son) will ask me this asinine question.....

"Why don't you get rid of the books in the basement?"

Ha! Never! I respond. One of the greatest parts of having a romantic fiction addiction is "The Re-Read." Yep. I go through crazy jags re-reading all of the Cynster books by Stephanie Laurens. All of the Dark series by Christine Feehan. All of Julie Garwood's historicals. All of Amanda Quick's historicals. Re-reading romance novels is emotionally satisfying. Returning to a book that you know makes you happy, fulfilled, inspired.

The "Re-Read" caters to my emotional state at the moment. Do I need a good laugh? I'll read an Amanda Quick. Do I need lush historical romance? I'll read Stephanie Laurens. Do I need an incredibly cheesy, over-the-top, alpha male-dominated contemporary that equates anal sex with true love and is peppered with lines like "You taste like the sweetest candy, baby"??

Well, then, I'll re-read Wild Card by Lora Leigh!

I know. I should be ashamed. This book is totally ridiculous. But for some God-awful reason, it is one of my favorite re-reads. The hero is a horny Neanderthal, the dialogue is the cheesiest stuff around, and the whole premise that bum lovin' is the ultimate form of intimacy (which is a theme oft repeated in Lora Leigh books) is just utterly, ridiculously insane.

And yet, I love re-reading this book.

What does that say about me? Welllllll......I think the reason this book is so appealing is that I love alpha males. And Noah, the military horndog hero, is alpha with a capital "A".....(for "ass"??...hee hee...just kidding about that).

So, go ahead and laugh at me. I can take it. I love re-reading this cheesy cheesefest, and I am not ashamed.

Much. :^)

Happy Reading,

Monday, May 9, 2011

Monday Morning Updates: Vampire Slayres, Bumblebees And Amish Lovin'

I am still riding a romance high after finishing Jane Eyre over the weekend. Sigh. Oh, Rocky McRochester, how I love yinz!

I had a very nice Mother's Day weekend...my husband and kids surprised me Saturday night with 3 bouquets of flowers, a mini chocolate cake, and a sushi dinner. Sunday morning my 8 year old daughter made me breakfast in bed...all by herself. She brought me peanut butter toast, a cup of coffee with cream (just the way I like it!) and a vase of flowers. So cute!

Here's what's next on my reading horizon.....

Also, this week....hot date with the hubs to see Thor! It's Hammer Time, Baby! :^)

Happy Monday,

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Review of Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre

Review of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

I read a lot of books growing up. Classics like To Kill A Mocking Bird, David Copperfield, and Ethan Frome. I read poetry and Shakespeare and angsty YA stuff like Judy Blume's Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret. But my reading journey of days gone by did not include Charlotte Brontë or Jane Austen. Not sure why. I guess my strict private school deemed them unnecessary for my literary education. Never realizing that I would grow up to become a romance writer and reviewer, and that Jane Eyre was probably one of the most important books I could ever read.

Well, my dear friends, I have rectified this horrible literary oversight.

Big thanks to Sherri Erwin--author of Jane Slayre, a literary mash-up of Jane Eyre and zombies and other fun stuff. After attending her workshop at the NEC conference, I decided I wanted to read her book. And before I tackled it, I needed to read the original text.

The Big Kahuna Of Romantic Fiction.

The Precursor To Romance Novels Everywhere.

With The Greatest Strong-Willed, Determined, Impassioned Heroine Ever Created...

And The Most Long-Winded, Brooding, Melodramatic Hero Ever To Grace The Pages Of A Novel.

As I read Jane Eyre for the first time, it finally dawned on me where the "formula" for romance novels originated. With Charlotte Brontë. All of my super favorite themes in romance can be found in this luscious tale.....a horribly disfigured hero healed by the power of love. A downtrodden heroine forced to forge her own destiny by her wits and inner faith. Crazy, melodramatic twists and turns in the plot. Overwrought dialogue, evil villains, pages and pages of lush description.

This is the precursor to modern soap operas, modern romance. And the truly astounding and amazing thing is that it was published in 1847. The timelessness of this tale, the universal message....about the conquering power of love and romance....sent chills up and down my spine as I finished this wonderful book.

While the message may be timeless, the "voice" is certainly not modern. There are endless pages of introspection, descriptive narrative, melodramatic dialogue, etc. This is not a fast-paced, modern story. This is old-fashioned romance at its best.

Jane is a fabulous character. She is filled with intelligence and a strong sense of morality and justice. She realizes from a young age her lot in life is unjust. At first she quietly accepts it, but as her outrage about her unfair circumstances begins to grow, she finally lets loose all of her true inner feelings.

How we cheer for her when she finally vents her emotions! We suffer through her indignities, her beatings, her humiliation with the Reeds, with Brocklehurst, and then lap up the tiniest bits of kindness from Miss Temple, Mr. Lloyd, her friend Helen. Brontë has created an incredibly strong, willful female protagonist, which is a fascinating accomplishment considering this book was published in 1847. Jane is the heroine we all aspire to be...thoughtful, determined, intelligent, loyal. She is the quintessential heroine, the basis for all romantic heroines in modern times.

This book does not disappoint with the over-the-top melodrama either. It puts General Hospital to shame. The over-zealous religious villains! The brooding hero, who waxes on (and on and on) about himself. The ridiculous plot, which includes hidden lunatics, a wedding from hell, evil relatives, kind relatives, religious missionaries, fiery death and destruction, etc. etc. This plotline is especially ridiculous: Jane flees Rochester after getting the shock of her life, gets on a random coach, ends up hours and hours away from Thornfield, stumbles into a home begging for food, and they just happen to be her long-lost cousins. And then she just happens to find out that her long-lost uncle kicked the bucket and left her tons of cashola. Haaa haaaa! Okay, so there wasn't an evil identical twin hiding a secret baby in the attic, but that's pretty damned good, anyway!

The most successful romance novels take us to the depths of despair (hell, poverty, torture) and then reward us with love. Brontë has that part down pat! Rocky McRochester (my nickname for Edward Rochester, the hero of this tale) reminded me of Sydnam from Mary Balogh's Simply Love. At the end of this book, he is totally broken....physically maimed and filled with hopelessness. His salvation is love; pure, sweet and joyful, Jane Eyre's love sets him free. So wonderful!!!!!!

Brontë makes us hate Rochester for a while, too. I was pretty pissed off at him during the house party, while the Ingrams shunned Jane and treated her like dirt. She hid behind the curtain like a wallflower, watching the man she loved "court" his intended bride. I kept waiting for him to jump to Jane's defense, but he never does. Later he admits he did this on purpose, to test her love for him...the big-ass schmo! He is filled with remorse at the end of the book, and I love how Jane forgives him. She is astonishing.

I also love that she refuses St. John when he offers her marriage without love. He says he is offering her purpose for her life, but without love or romance. She refuses. She knows she deserves more, and she's right. Rock on, Charlotte Brontë! Somehow Jane knows she can combine her practical side and her emotional, romantic side. And she refuses to settle for less.

I love Jane!

This is a gem. I can't wait to read it again.

I am really looking forward to Jane Slayre. Taking something this old-fashioned, melodramatic and romantic, and adding a dose of the ridiculous....zombies! Oh be still, my beating heart!

I can't wait to dive into all the film versions of this book. Any suggestions?

Grade: A

The Newest Member of the Rocky McRochester Fan Club,

Saturday, May 7, 2011

I'm Getting Older, Too......

"I really don't care if anybody buys it, and I really don't care if everybody steals it. What I need is to make a record for me, the artist." 

Stevie Nicks, about her new album (from The Boston Globe, 5-7-11)

I guess I have something in common with Stevie Nicks besides the big, blond hair.  

I don't write for the book sales.

I don't write for the publishers or the agents or the editors.

I don't write for the reviews.

I don't write for the awards.

I don't write for the bestseller lists.

I don't write for the money.

I write for me.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Can We Talk? A Roundtable Discussion With Book Blogging Weenies

Gertrude: So, ladies, the topic for today is the legitimacy of non-professional, romance-reviewing book bloggers on the internet....

Bertha: Huh?

Ditzy: Bertha, turn up your hearing aid, sweetie.

Gretel: That's the topic? I thought we were discussing Oscar, the dachshund who lives on Lewis Street....

Heidi: Ha! Oscar is such a horn dog, isn't he?

Gertrude: Ladies! Please! This is a serious topic. Try to focus. Ada, what is your opinion about the validity of non-professional reviews?

Ada: What an asinine question. Everyone is entitled to an opinion. How does one go about becoming a "professional" reviewer, anyway?

Brigitte: Is there a doctorate program at Yale for romance reviewing? I would love that.

Gertrude: No, I'm sorry Brigitte. There is not a doctorate program at Yale for romance reviewing.

Brunhild: Ada is right. This is an asinine topic.

Gertrude: Well, what exactly do we think are appropriate credentials for romance reviewing?

Bertha: The ability to read?

Gretchen: Chintz wallpaper and bowls of potpourri in the bathroom.

Brunhild: I took a Russian novel class at Vassar.....does that count?

Elise: I'm wearing glasses....I look very professional.

Frieda: Wearing glasses does not make you a professional book blogger, Elise. You have to get paid to be a professional.

Elise: Paid? Who is getting paid for this? Certainly not I. Could you please pass a doggie biscuit?

Gertrude: Frieda is correct. True "professionals" are paid for their opinions. For example, a reviewer for the New York Times, or something along those lines.

Gretchen: Well, I have read thousands of romance novels, I have a degree in English Literature from an ivy league university, and I wear pearls and pumps every day of my life. Just because I don't get paid for my reviews doesn't negate my opinion. I consider myself a "true professional."

Hedy: I'm a romance writer. That makes me a pretty good judge of romance writing, I suppose.


All the doxies laugh uproariously!

Gertrude: (Rubs a tear from her eye). Oh, good one, Hedy! Seriously, girls, any other opinions?

Elise: I like Oscar. I don't mind that he's a horn dog.

Gertrude: Elise!

Brigitte: Well, there are some professional reviewers I really like and respect. But also some I disagree with. Same with the "amateur" book bloggers/reviewers. I don't think it matters if someone is being paid or not. Everyone has his or her own opinion, and sometimes I agree and sometimes I don't. I heard Oscar is seeing Lucy, the golden retriever who lives on Avon Avenue.

Gertrude: Any other thoughts on the subject? About book blogging, not Oscar.

Brunhild: I agree with Brigette. Whether or not a reviewer is "professional," i.e. getting paid for reviews, is neither here nor there. The book blogging community is providing an invaluable service to romance readers world-wide. They read. They opinionate. They entertain. They argue. They post photos of naked men....

Gertrude: Oh! Brunhild! Please attempt to stick to the topic at hand. Although I must admit that I enjoy photos of Daniel Craig in those boy-short swim trunks just as much as the next dachshund, that's not really the point of this roundtable discussion.

Ditzy: Anyone can leave a review at Amazon or Goodreads or any other variety of places. Those folks are not getting paid, but are encouraged to leave reviews of books they've read. So who really cares?

Gertrude: Good question. Evidently, some folks do care. Not that those opinions will stifle our book blogging activities in the slightest. I, for one, am looking forward to reviewing Dogs and Goddesses in the near future. It has a hyperactive Jack Russell, a placid Newfoundland, and....get this....a neurotic dachshund. Ha! Neurotic!

Heidi: Why are dachshunds always portrayed as neurotic? That really peeves me off!

Elise: Well, I think we should all adopt glasses, pearls and pumps. We'll look like professional reviewers, even if we're just romance-reading weenie dogs. Hear me, sistahs?

Gertrude: We could also get license plates that say B-YOTCH BLGGR.

Gretchen: Love....it! I want one!

Gertrude: All right, Ladies. This will conclude our latest roundtable discussion. All in favor of posting naked photos of Oscar on our blogs, please raise your right front paw!

Ruff, ruff, ruffity ruff ruff!!!!!

Happy Blogging,

Rocky McRochester: A "Jane Eyre" Virgin Meets Rochester For The First Time

"But I tell you—and you may mark my words—you will come some day to a craggy pass in the channel, where the whole of life's stream will be broken up into whirl and tumult, foam and noise: either you will be dashed to atoms on crag points, or lifted up and borne on by some master-wave into a calmer current...."

Rocky McRochester sure likes to talk, doesn't he? I'm at approximately 30% with Jane Eyre, and loving every melodramatic minute of it! I can't believe I never read this baby before. As soon as I'm done, I'm rushing out to watch the new film version.

With The Utmost Sincerity,
Penny McPaddlepuss

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Mini Pizzas On The Grill

One of the best parts about spring/summer is getting back to the grill. Even though my diet has drastically changed over the past nine months, grilling is still a big part of our family dining plan. For the easiest dinner ever, we grill some sort of protein (chicken, salmon, steak, etc) and a bunch of veggies (my favorites are zucchini, tomato, red onion, eggplant, asparagus, mushrooms, corn). I make my "grilled veggie salad".....just take the grilled veggies, chop them up, toss them with some olive oil and a dash of balsamic vinegar, and serve on a bed of greens.

Making flatbread pizzas on the grill is also easy and fun for the kids. It's an excellent choice for a party, since the kids can choose their own toppings. I buy fresh pizza dough at the grocery store (some places have whole wheat dough available, but I prefer the white dough for my pizza....*hangs head in white flour shame*). I put out bowls filled with toppings next to the grill, and we make each mini pizza to order. I have red sauce, mozzarella cheese, basil and chopped ham for the kids (mini ham and cheese pizzas!), and more sophisticated stuff for the adults. Here is my recipe for Greek-Style Flatbread Pizza....

Penny's Mini Greek Pizzas!


*Store-bought fresh pizza dough, divided and rolled into mini circles (5-6" wide), sprinkled with olive oil on both sides, and salt/pepper if desired
*Chopped artichoke hearts
*Crumbled feta cheese
*Chopped good Kalamata olives
*Chopped fresh oregano (or basil, chives, any herb you prefer)
*Fresh lemons
*Arugula greens, chopped
*Olive oil
*Boneless, skinless chicken breast tenders marinating in lemon juice and olive oil

First, take the chicken tenders, throw them into a ziploc bag with juice of one lemon and some olive oil, salt and pepper. (I skip the salt!). Let this marinate for a bit. When you're ready to start cooking, put out bowls with all of the ingredients next to the grill. Grill the chicken tenders first, let them cool, then shred or chop into small pieces.

The flatbreads need to be grilled on both sides FIRST, then you add the toppings and quickly heat it through. This goes very quickly on a hot grill, so watch them like a hawk or they will burn. Put the circles of dough on the grill, when they start to puff up and brown, flip them and grill lightly on the other side, then remove from the grill and place on a cookie sheet. Place arugula greens on the pizza, then scatter chicken, artichokes, feta, olives, and herbs on top. Sprinkle a bit of olive oil and lemon juice and S/P on top to taste. Put the pizza back on the grill to heat the toppings. If you are worried about the bottom burning, you can put a piece of foil underneath to protect the dough while the toppings melt. Remove from grill when heated through. These can be served individually, or cut into triangles as an appetizer.

We have a big tub on our deck filled with beers (for the adults) and juice boxes for the kids, and hang out munching these yummy pizzas.

Happy Munching,

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Reading Updates

This must be confession week. First, I readily admit to hating weddings. Second, I confess that I have never, ever, in all of my days, watched Survivor. It seems dumb, dorky, and totally contrived. I bought Wicked Games on a Twitter recommendation, and when I realized it was a Survivor-type contemporary romance, got pissed off. Well.....in a moment of boredom, I decided to give it a go. And I loved it, in spite of its reality-television-based premise. I am quickly becoming a Jill Myles fan. This was a fun, quick read, filled with sexy island time and a totally satisfying romantic ending. I still have no interest in watching Survivor, but this book was probably way more entertaining. I think I will try one of Ms. Myles' paranormal romances next....maybe Gentlemen Prefer Succubi?

Next up, on the reading horizon.....Jane Eyre, which I downloaded for free on my Kindle. I'm starting with the classic, then tackling the mash-up Jane Slayre by Sherri Erwin. I also got another M/M recommendation from Mandi, Tigers and Devils by Sean Kennedy. This one sounds sweet and romantic, so hopefully I won't bail in a panic (flashbacks of bearotica are popping into my head....hee hee!). 

On a Debbie Downer note, I have decided not to attend the national RWA meeting this June. :^( 
I barely survived the NEC meeting this past weekend, and that was a small, quick affair, unlike the jumbo extravaganza in New York. As much as it pains me to admit this, I'm not the same person I was pre-heart attack. Some of that is good (I'm 45 pounds lighter) and some of it is bad (I'm totally exhausted from my meds). I am still planning to attend the New Jersey RWA conference in the fall, especially since I will be able to do my first book signing there (yay!). 

Hope everyone is having a fun reading week! Let me know!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Conference Wrap-Up

What a great weekend! I am feeling refreshed, invigorated, inspired and grateful beyond belief for such excellent friends and colleagues. The New England Chapter Let Your Imagination Take Flight conference was a resounding success in every way. The location (Salem) was adorable, the company was exquisite (old friends and new friends), and the raspberry cosmos were quite tasty. Here are some high points....

1.) I sheepishly admit I did not attend too many workshops. I volunteered a lot, schmoozed a lot, and hung out with Matt the Bartender (he was a cutie pie). Anyhoo, I did attend one lecture that was a super epic winner. Sherri Browning Erwin discussed her mash-up book Jane Slayre, and a group of about 6 women had a fun convo about horror, romance and the "zombification" of literary classics. I am giving myself a new spring reading assignment: I'm going to read Jane Eyre (the original), then Erwin's mash-up (Jane Slayre), then Charles Dicken's Great Expectations (or maybe the cliff notes...hee hee!), and then Erwin's werewolf-y adaptation, Grave Expectations. Since I am grading myself on this assignment, I already know I'm getting an A+! Can't wait to read Erwin's book!

2.) Carolyn Sullivan, a member of the Rhode Island Romance Writers, gave gorgeous animal tarot cards to everyone. Mine is a rocking wolf with this enigmatic directive for the upcoming year...."Listen to your inner wisdom and enjoy the gift of freedom." I have no clue what that means, and I don't feel particularly wise, but perhaps this will prove to be prophetic somehow. I'm game!

3.) I may have slightly over-imbibed on Saturday night (ahem). I started out with heart healthy red wine, but things quickly progressed downhill from there (at one point I was making up new cocktail names with the bartender Matt....his coconut rum fruit punch drink was renamed "A Little Touch Of Florida"). This culminated in a surreal trolley ride at 11:15 PM, careening through the streets of Salem with a tour guide pointing out interesting sites and giving us historical tidbits about the city. At least I think that happened. It was all pretty much a blur.  :^)

4.) Best part of the conference....my awesome buds! So great to hang out with the Quirks, and see Heather, who did her most excellent impression of Nora Roberts, Natascha from New York (we chatted about paranormal romance and the kidlets!), and some new girls who we cruelly called "newbs" and hopefully didn't permanently traumatize. Good times!

5.) Funniest Moment: My sorry attempt to say "chick lit"....and I wasn't even drunk that time. Haa haaa! (Chit lit, chit lick, chick lick???? oops! heee heee).

6.) I had a great time volunteering at the Editor/Agent Appointment area. You know, the place where everyone looks like they're going to puke at any moment, waiting for their lifetime hopes and dreams to be crushed by a bitchy agent from hell. I tried to lighten the moment by doing jazz hands and fist pumps. Hopefully that helped to distract everyone.

7.) I got a book with a talking weenie dog in it. Hmmmm.......

8.) Final profound observation...

I found a $20 on the floor. One of those moments in life when you have two paths to take, and you must make a choice. The angel on one shoulder whispers "Hand the money to the bartender, do the right thing, don't pocket that cash....." And then the devil on the other side says "Keep the cash, bitch! Do you know how many martinis you can buy with that thing?" Well, I handed the cash to Matt. I wasn't sure if whoever lost the money would come back to retrieve it, or if Matt would be getting a really big tip that night. An hour later, at dinner, our conference chair announced that one lucky person at our table would be winning the most magnificent vase-of-candy centerpiece, that looked like Willy Wonka-on-crack had designed. (I had been coveting that sucker since I first spied it). And guess what! I won! (I may have been a bit too exuberant with my excitement, but I blame it all on the "Little Touch Of Florida" cocktails).

My philosophy about life, which has been sorely tested of late, was reinforced by this event. If you do something good, it will come back to you. Lesson learned: Don't keep the twenty. Get the candy instead.

All My Best,