Tour’s Books Blog

December 30, 2009

Happy New Year!

Filed under: Editorial,General,Musing on life,Observations and Comments — toursbooks @ 8:08 pm
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It seems hard to believe that the first decade of 2000 is coming to an end.  It’s been a decade of change for me, for my family, and for our country.  Perhaps one of the things I remember most clearly, other than 9/11 when I stood on the roof of the building where I worked watching New York City disappear in a cloud of dust on a beautiful fall day, is a moment of personal clarity two months later.  I worked for decades in corporate America and had a job I used to like.   The changes within the company caused me so much stress I had to have a thallium stress test on my heart just a month or so before 9/11.  I had planned to skip the rest of my vacation days that year so I could finish a project I was working on for a product launch.  Though I lost no family or close personal friends, I knew far too many who did.  I decided life was too short and I was taking off.  Thanksgiving 2001 found me sitting in a lovely large villa on the island of St John in the US Virgin Islands.  It was a real last minute arrangement and many people had canceled their vacations, which is how I ended up with that villa.  I recall sitting there dividing my time between reading and gazing at the beautiful view of Chocolate Hole.  I was puzzled because I felt something was missing.  That’s when it hit me – for the first time in nearly a year I had no chest pains.  I slept well and for more than 5 hours a night.  I didn’t even realize it then, but I had decided to do what I had longed to do for several years, quit my job and go to work for myself.  (more…)

December 23, 2009

Happy Holidays Everyone!

Filed under: Asleep at the wheel,General,Musing on life — toursbooks @ 5:54 pm

Between shopping, errands, and way too much reading, I haven’t had much time to do any reviews, but after Christmas I promise I get to a bunch of erotic romance I just read – brand new ebooks and some older print books from Ellora’s and Samhain.  Haven’t found anything at Loose-Id or Siren for awhile.  Too many ‘novellas’ and shorty stories at high prices and too many m/m that I’m not fond of.  Not worth it to me.  So I have read a few good ones, a few so-so ones, but no completely ghastly ones – so far.  There’s still plenty of time to find rock bottom.

The first anniversary of this blog will be in February and I feel like I’ve done more with my reading this year usual.  I’ve enjoyed exploring new genres, new authors, and new-to-me authors.  The folks over on PaperbackSwap’s Mystery/Thriller virtual box have been a wonderful group and offered great ideas for new reads.  I even found readers with tastes much like my own – and an intense dislike of the too-cute-for-words cozies that are overwhelming the market.  Makes one long for another Raymond Chandler.

Christmas for me is a time for family.  We don’t vacation over the holidays, though some years have found me in places like New Zealand, Singapore or Japan.  I found vacationing over the holidays away from family wasn’t much fun.  Older and maybe a little wiser, though not much, I do spend Christmas with them these days.  There are far fewer of us now.  The older generation has died and we find ourselves in the vaguely surreal position of being the ‘older generation’ – a sobering thought.  The only time I really feel older is when my arthritis flares up – or I look too closely in the mirror!  But there it is, the circle of life.  So I will travel to Massachusettes and have a white Christmas.  I’ll do the cooking – though I no longer do the elaborate food orgies I did in my younger years when many generations gathered for Christmas.  Back then, I’d start cooking Thanksgiving week and not stop still after New Year.  I’d rather set my hair on fire than do that today!  Yes, I still enjoy cooking now and then, but not like I used to.  Life changes. Now our goal is trying to prevent going into a coma from all the goodies we consume as we play games and engage in a kind of competitive construction of a Lincoln Log village.  We have acquired thousands of logs from the ’50’s to the ’70’s, though we try and keep them as early as possible.  We let our imaginations run wild and construct buildings and stories to go around the finished buildings.  From modest beginnings, it now takes us about 20 manhours.  We takes photos, show it off and tear it all down and store the logs again for next year in 4 days.  It keeps us amused, out of serious trouble, prevents arguing (OK – mostly we just argue about the construction), and keeps me from have a football withdrawal seizure.  Why am I the only real football fan in the family????????  Then we break for pie, ice cream and old Charlie Chan movies on DVD.  Later it’s cards, Yahtzee!, or Clue.  Repeat previous day and throw in more food, chocolate and dessert.

I’m sure you have your traditions – old and new.  Visits to relatives, or sitting on a beach with palms trees and umbrella drinks, or racing down a ski slope.  Go forth and enjoy!  Make memories – large and small.  Don’t worry about that disaster, it will be one of those things that you’ll remember later and say, “Well, it couldn’t be worse than ………………”  It’s not about the gifts, it’s about enjoying your friends and family – or at least not smothering them in their sleep.  It’s about putting the cheap Christmas tree balls at the bottom of the tree so the dogs and the kids won’t break the expensive ones from when you were a kid.  It’s about wrapping gifts at 2AM and getting up again at 5AM with excited kids.  It’s about ohhhhing and ahhhing over ugly handmade gifts that are all heart and no talent.  It’s eating too much, not sleeping enough, leftovers that last for days and staying upwind of the aunt who who wears too much perfume.

So to anyone who drops by here, I wish you a Happy Holiday – for whatever holiday you might be celebrate.  Be safe and happy, I hope you enjoy your friends and family – and a good meal!

December 21, 2009

Three Books by Lisa Marie Rice – Hot Romantic Suspense

Lisa Marie Rice is one of the authors doing ‘erotic’ romantic suspense.  Possibly the best right now is Shannon McKenna,  and others include Cherry Adair, Lori O’Clare, Denise Agnew, and naturally Lora Leigh.  The biggest problem with most romantic suspense is the extreme Alpha male characters, the overuse of ‘fragile, delicate, helpless’ female character, and most importantly the astonishing lack of technical research.  OK, many writers evade this by creating their own ‘world’, but the moment their characters start using real world weapons, its about as realistic as the fact that the heroes, usually in their mid to late 30’s, have near permanent hard-ons for the heroines.   Yes, there are exceptions – Anne Stuart, Suzanne Brockman, Tara Janzen and many other mainstream romantic suspense writers do a pretty fair job of their research and judiciously use the Alpha male/helpless female trope.   Another problem is the fact that romantic suspense tends to be a catchall category with books that range from  paranormal, to make-believe quasi-government agencies, to shades of Blackwater private spies/mercs, to using very real spec ops groups in the military and various government agencies.  The degree to which the reader can believe in story will vary a LOT.  For the sake of a story line, I do understand why some things are changed.  An example, in the SEAL books by Suzanne Brockman, she keeps her SEAL Team 16 together for a long time.  In real life, that doesn’t happen.  Military moves the men around based on their expertise and the need for any specific operation, but you can’t build a series of books based on that, so you ignore it.  I’m OK with that.  Some of the suspense writers make such glaring errors it ruins the whole book for me. (more…)

December 16, 2009

Short Review – Vampire’s Witch by Rebecca Airies – Erotic Romances

So part of this is catch up with some ebooks I bought I earlier this month.  I rarely read holiday anthologies, but this year I have several to get thru and I’ll review one before Christmas.  I’ll be away the end of the month, but releases are slowing down, so I’ll be able to too what’s what in erptica when I’m back.  Here we go with a pair for this week.

  • Title: Vampire’s Witch
  • Author: Rebecca Airies
  • Type: Paranormal erotic romance
  • Genre: Vamps and witches
  • Sub-genre: Witch turning vix (vampire witch) works with hot vamp to take down rogue
  • My Grade: C+ (3.5*)
  • Rating: PG-13 to NC-17
  • Length and price: Sold as a novel for $5.95;  est, about 55,000 words, short novel
  • Where Available: ebook available at Elloras Cave
  • FTC Disclosure: ebook purchased on publisher website

Vampire’s Witch, a recent release from Ellora’s Cave, is new paranormal contemporary romance.  It a decent read, but not gt great or über sexy.  I haven’t read many books by Ms Airies, but I did read her Fire Prince’s Bride, an alternate world ménage romance, and enjoyed it enough to give another one a try. I’ve come to have somewhat limited expectations of books sold by the usual erotic romance outlets.  Of all of the, Samhain seems to offer the best quality while other run more hit and miss.  With little interest in m/m erotica or books geared to BDSM content, I do go through dry spells.  Recently, several of my usual sites seem to have a glut of m/m books and the rest have been rather short novellas/short stories (I find the vast majority of the short stuff unsatisfying and overpriced), or just had nothing to appeal to me.  Besides, I spent a small fortune on various books sales, including the one at Ellora’s Cave, so I have plenty of older titles to entertain me.  Still, I do love paranormals, so I bought Vampire’s Witch. (more…)

December 13, 2009

Book Review: SPQR XII: Oracle of the Dead by John Maddox Roberts

  • Title: SPQR XII: Oracle of the Dead
  • Author:John Maddox Roberts
  • Type: Roman Mystery
  • Genre: Decius Caecilius Metellus series; wise cracking sleuth
  • Sub-genre: Roman politics and murder as Cesar rises to power
  • My Grade: C+ to B- (3.5*)
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Length and price:  Full novel, about 90,000 words, for $10.11 on sale, $14.99 cover price
  • Where Available: Anywhere books are sold
  • FTC Disclosure: Purchased from online bookseller

I’m always anxiously awaiting the latest installment in the excellent SPQR series by John Maddox Roberts.  I’ve been a fan since he first started it back in the early ’90’s.  It’s taken all the way to book twelve for me to be disappointed.  In Oracle for the Dead Decius Caecilius Metellus and his wife Julia, Cesar’s niece, are lingering in Campania region where we left them in Under Vesuvius.  Post dinner conversation with the local politicians turns to local temples the Oracle of the Dead that’s nearby.  Julia wants to visit, so off they go.  They come upon a temple of Apollo first as it shares the sacred grounds with the oracle.  Though Apollo is Greek god long established in the region, it is the seen aspect of Apollo as the avenger that is worshiped here.  Behind and beneath Apollo’s temple is the Oracle dedicated to the Greek goddess Hecate, usually associated with ghosts.  First they visit the white robed priests of Apollo and next they go with the black robed priestess of Hecate.  After drinking wine likely spiked with herbs, the party begins the decent into a cave supposedly on the banks of the river Styx.  Wading into the water as directed by the high priestess, Decius asks about Cesar and the Senate.  Insistent, he steps further and something grabs is ankles.  It’s the body of Eugaeon, the high priest of Apollo. (more…)

December 10, 2009

Book Review: Casting Spells by Barbara Bretton

  • Title: Casting Spells
  • Author: Barbara Bretton
  • Type: Chick-lit Paranormal Romance
  • Genre: Love conquers all
  • Sub-genre:  Witches, wizards, vamps
  • My Grade: C+  (3.2*)
  • Rating: G
  • Length and price: Full novel – about 90,000 words for $10.08, but remainders available
  • FTC Disclaimer: Book purchased from online bookseller
  • Where Available: Everywhere books are sold

The light contemporary paranormal romance has some elements of a cozy mystery, but hasn’t got enough mystery to be called one.  Chloe Hobbs is the very human and unmagical daughter of a long line of witches who have acted as guardians of the small and decidedly magical town of Sugar Maple, Vermont.  Chloe is holding one of her many knitting classes that have become famous among the knitting community as is her yarn shop.  As she’s teaching some visitors and two townswomen some knitting tricks, a stunningly beautiful woman comes to the window.  At first she appears naked, but then Chloe realizes she’s wearing an expensive and very thin dress.  Suzanne Markham, despite her beauty, seems strangely sad and Chloe relents and sells her a shawl that she has for display only.  Next morning life in the village will change forever when the woman is found drowned in a local pond, apparently the victim of a tragic skating accident. (more…)

December 8, 2009

Short Reviews: Two Erotic Romances

It’s the time of year for publishers to release their holiday titles, most of which aren’t worth the money, so I’m buying very little new releases.  Wicked Pleasures came my through a sale at Ellora’s Cave, but Red Shadow is a new release, one of very few I’ve purchased lately.  Ellora’s Cave is having it’s famous end of the year sale.  Yesterday there were 23 pages of print books to choose from, and today it’s down to 22, so go grab some of your favorites while they’re still available.  There are a number of Denise Agnew titles for her Special Investigation series, a few by Shelly Munro and some other popular authors including Reese Gabriel and Shiloh Walker and Joey W Hill.  For $4-$5.50, worth a close look.

  • Title: Wicked Pleasures
  • Author: Nelissa Donovan
  • Type: Erotic paranormal
  • Genre: Alternate world; elves and magical creatures
  • Sub-genre: Myth and magic merge
  • My Grade: C+(3.3*)
  • Rating: xx
  • Length and price: Short novel
  • Where Available:  ebook at Ellora’s Cave
  • FTC Disclosure: print book purchased from publisher

Wicked Pleasures starts off reading like a boink-fest, but the story starts evolving into something more, not a LOT more, but more.  Selena DeLaPlaya is taking a well earned break from years of college by Scotland with her best friend.  She gets dragged off to a re-enactment of some ancient rite that’s acting as her friend’s graduation party.  Somehow she goes from dancing around a bonfire to flat in her back in a jungle like area with a godlike commanding her to pleasure herself.  Compelled and bespelled, she does so.  The two are found by  Serosen, a Prince and a Night Ranger guardian.  He berates Du’an for bringing over a female from Earth, and makes him leave her.  Du’an is no more than gone when a princess of the faeries appears and insists he leave the woman.  He refuses and says he will send her back thru the gate to her home.  The faerie screeches at him about how she must die and he knows this woman must be protected.  There is a war on between the various kingdoms of the ‘elves’.   He leaves with the woman slung over his should. (more…)

December 6, 2009

Book Review: Pursuit of Honor by Vince Flynn

  • Title: Pursuit of Honor
  • Author: Vince Flynn
  • Type: Action Thriller
  • Genre: Mitch Rapp CIA Op series; betrayal and death
  • Sub-genre: Terrorists and assassins
  • My Grade: D+ (2.5*)
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Length and price:  Plus novel – 100,000+ words
  • Where Available: Available as a hardcover everywhere; paperback release Aug 2010
  • FTC Disclosure: Book purchased from online bookseller

Vince Flynn burst onto the action/thriller scene with a terrific book about revenge called Term Limits.   He introduced Mitch Rapp, an undercover op and assassin for the CIA in second book, one of my personal favorites, Transfer of Power.  His books have increasingly become a kind of a protracted editorial and justification for his personal political beliefs and Pursuit of Honor reads more like an editorial than an action/thriller.  That part wouldn’t be so bad, but he makes two fatal errors – the first is, Mitch Rapp is never wrong, the second more grievous error is forgetting his readers want AN ACTION/THRILLER STORY!  There was a time when Vince was an automatic buy for me, then after 9/11, with each subsequent book, there was less and less of interest and more and more about the power struggles in Washington, DC.  I stopped buying him until I could either get his books as remainders – or from a book swapping site. (more…)

December 3, 2009

Somebody Hit the Snooz Alarm

Filed under: Asleep at the wheel,Editorial,General,opinion — toursbooks @ 2:07 pm
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I feel like I’ve been swimming in a sea of mediocre books lately.  It isn’t limited to genre either.  There are a slew of mysteries due for release in January – hardcover, of course – that I’m lusting for, but right now I’m just depressed over my inability to find an excellent read.  Over on PBS (Paperpack Swap) they mentioned a big book sale at  Oh wow, did I go nuts.  No, the books I wanted the most weren’t there – big surprise – but a lot of others were.  I went crazy twice.  Once doing mystery/thrillers and whatever paranormal books on my wish list that I could find.  Then I went back and ran amok in the fantasy section – or wizards and nonsense as my brother dubbed it years ago.  Raymond Fiest, Robert Jordan and many others.  Soon, over 30 new hardcovers cost $2-3 dollars each will add to my alarming pile of to-be-read books. (more…)

December 1, 2009

Book Review: The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson

  • Title: The Girl Who Played With Fire
  • Author: Stieg Larsson
  • Type: Mystery
  • Genre: Complex multi-character story; investigative journalist
  • Sub-genre: Social commentary on sex trade, social injustice and corrupt political systems
  • My Grade: B- (3.8*)
  • Rating: PG-13 to NC-17
  • Length and price: Plus novel; over 100,000 words
  • Where Available: any bookstore
  • FTC Disclosure: ARC acquired from an online book swapping site

In September I reviewed The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and commented on the how the book was used as platform for social commentary on various facets of corruption within Sweden’s social systems.  In The Girl Who Played With Fire it is a combination of morally corrupt people and fundamentally flawed systems that created the tragedy that forever changed Lisbeth Salander, the girl with the dragon tattoo.  As with Dragoon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire seems less a true mystery than a kind of vehicle for the author to explore his take on the failure of the various social and protective services in Sweden through greed, corruption and indifference. (more…)

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