Tag Archives: kristen ashley

Audio Book Madness

10 Nov

The Collector N RobertsRock Chick K Ashley

 

I have to admit to being a little bit late to the whole audio book thing. I only started a few years ago when the traffic and commute to work started becoming unbearable and I needed something to take my mind off the daily grind. I THEN discovered just this year that I could download these books straight onto my phone and listen to books WHILE DOING THE HOUSEWORK. My house has never been so clean and I now clean up (semi) cheerfully while someone tells me a story.

As a sidenote, I also like the fact that now I can listen with earphones and therefore don’t have to turn the volume way down during sex scenes because of the very real fear that some stranger will hear the moaning and groaning and look at me like I’m a freak…

I’ve written before about my absolute love of Ilona Andrews and how much I adore the Kate Daniels series- in both the written and audio formats. Renee Raudman, the narrator of this series is so fantastic and I got real book hangover just from listening to these books. After finishing the last book in the series I went in to mourning for a day and then was like a junkie scrounging for the same kind addictive hit. I  decided to go look for a Kristen Ashley book to go for something very different but also has that cracktastic quality and I’m so glad I did!

Audible gave me a big discount on the price of the books since I had already purchased the Kindle version so off I went into Rock Chick land. As Shirleen would say- Oooowee! I glommed onto these audio books and listened to all 8 in one month. Yup, you heard it, all EIGHT in ONE MONTH.

Susannah Jones, the narrator of the books, was very good with handling all the different characters and voices and was a younger, happier sounding narrator which fit into the whole vibe of the books perfectly. She was excellent at injecting the fun neurosis into the female characters- especially their panicked self-talk when they know they’ve gotten into trouble. I have to admit that coming off Renee Raudman’s narration and the way she did all the different voices so distinctly I sometimes felt that Susanna didn’t differentiate characters as well especially between books but that’s more about how good Renee was than any sort of lack on Susanna’s part.

I again went into mourning after finishing the last book, Rock Chick Revolution but cheered myself up trying to decide who of the Hot Bunch was my favourite. Book boyfriend fantasies aside, the next book I put into my phone was The Collector by Nora Roberts performed by Julia Whelan. Props to this reader for doing really good guys’ voices. There is nothing more distracting than a girl trying to sound like a guy and doing it badly but Julia did it so well it added to the story rather than detracting from it.

I am such a fan of Nora’s work but have to admit that I when I first read it I liked this book but didn’t LOVE it the way I did say, Birthright or Angels Fall or Naked in Death. The funny thing is that I am halfway through the book now and am utterly drawn into the story in a way that I wasn’t when I read it. It’s again proof positive that you pick up things listening to a book that you may have missed reading it.

So it looks like this love affair of mine with audio books although a late bloom may end up being an enduring one. I have only ever listened to books I’ve already read so am interested in seeing what happens when I listen to a book before reading it. Do you have any recommendations for audio books?

RFG Recommends: The Promise by Kristen Ashley

2 Jul

Blog Tour Graphic (1)

I used to HATE first person point of view, if it was written in first person I’d put the book down no questions asked. Reading Kristen Ashley books has made me do a 360 so fast I accidentally whipped my arm around and slapped myself silly for having such an unfounded prejudice.

I now thoroughly enjoy first person point of view when it is done well as it gets me so deep into a character’s head and way of thinking that I always feel the need to take a few deep breaths to return to reality when the book is done. I especially love being in the heads of KA’s female characters. I thoroughly enjoyed being in Frankie’s head – every single dramatic, kind, smart, passionate, hot-blooded part of it.

Here’s the blurb at the back of the book:

Since his brother’s death, Benny Bianchi has been nursing his grudge against the woman he thinks led to his brother’s downfall. He does this to bury the feelings he has for Francesca Concetti, his brother’s girl. But when Frankie takes a bullet while on the run with Benny’s cousin’s woman, Benny has to face those feelings.

The problem is Frankie has decided she’s paid her penance. Penance she didn’t deserve to pay. She’s done with Benny and the Bianchi family. She’s starting a new life away from Chicago and her heartbreaking history.

Benny has decided differently.

But Frankie has more demons she’s battling. Demons Benny wants to help her face. But life has landed so many hard knocks on Frankie she’s terrified of believing in the promise of Benny Bianchi and the good life he’s offering.

Frankie’s new life leads her to The ‘Burg, where Benny has ties, and she finds she not only hasn’t succeeded in getting away, she’s doesn’t want to.

As you can see from the blurb above, this is the story of Frankie and Benny (and doesn’t that sound like a movie title?). We first met Frankie and Bennie in the book “At Peace” which is the story of Violet and Cal and is one of my favourite KA books of all time. Frankie and Benny have a long and complicated history- Frankie is the former live in girlfriend of Benny’s dead brother. Did you get that? Frankie was the girlfriend of Vinnie Junior, Benny’s older brother. Now, Frankie loved Vinnie very much but Vinnie was one of those guys who always wanted MORE. A result of this wanting more was that he got himself tied up with the mob and a result of THAT is that he got himself killed.

Vinnie’s family, a close-knit, slightly eccentric Italian family, loved their son ( he was a bit of a douchebag but a very loveable one from all accounts), were grieving and somehow ended up blaming Frankie for Vinnie’s unfortunate choices. Poor Frankie was cast in their minds as the money hungry girlfriend pushing their son/brother to have more, do more, be more because it was easier than dealing with the fact that Vinnie was lovable but weak. Frankie, being Frankie loved them and took the blame for 7 years. SEVEN YEARS y’all! That is a very long time to be putting up with that kind of treatment and as this book opens Frankie is well and truly over it.

Unfortunately, she had to go and do something heroic- she saved Violet from a mad man and got shot for her efforts. I won’t go into the whole family history here because that’s part of “At Peace” and if you haven’t read it yet, you really should. This book reads so much sweeter if you did read the previous book as it ties in nicely, but if this is the first Kristen Ashley that you are reading then:

• You’re fine as the back story and all the other characters are explained really well anyway so you can start here
• You are one lucky duck as KA has a MASSIVE backlist that you can now go through. Hurrah!

As I’m sure you can guess from reading the background of the story, a lot of the conflict here is internal. It’s Benny and Frankie getting over their shared and respective pasts to try and be together. The fact that Frankie was dating one brother and then another was one of those issues and I’m really glad KA did not gloss over how awkward it was or what other people thought about it. Frankie in particular had a lot of old issues that she needs to deal with as her family life was extremely dysfunctional. Frankie for me was a quintessential KA heroine in that she may have been a little messed up and imperfect but underneath was a heart of pure gold.

But let’s talk about Benny for a moment. Benny was described in the book as having chocolate brown eyes, dark hair and a ripped body. Throw in close family ties and the ability to cook and I think I may have just found me my newest book boyfriend. If I had a complaint it would be that when I read the book the first time I found him to be almost a little TOO perfect in the beginning. But when I read the book the second time (yes, I have read it twice I enjoyed it that much) I realized that I was seeing Benny through Frankie’s eyes, Frankie who had her supremely narcissistic douchebag father and ex- kinda douchebag boyfriend as male role models. There’s a scene in the book where Benny’s looking for something for her and she freezes in place expecting him to blow up and get frustrated and angry with her when he can’t find it. Instead he finds it, hands it to her and goes off to work. It’s a small thing and most women would probably take that for granted, but Frankie having the history that she does, doesn’t.

Benny is terribly affectionate and understanding especially in the first part of the book where Frankie is still recovering from her gunshot wound and the whole Bianchi family is still feeling very guilty about their past treatment of Frankie. Don’t get me wrong, KA doesn’t write beta heroes. Benny is still 100 percent pure alpha who knows what he wants and is not afraid to demand it, but he doesn’t have any asshole moments as big as Joe Callahan for example. If you’ve read the Rock Chick series I would say he would be closest to Ren – not because they’re both Italian but because they both understand their women very well and work very hard to keep them.

What I love about Kristen Ashley books is the way she balances out realism and pure fantasy. On one hand you have serious emotional and psychological issues that each character has to work through. On the other, you have these larger than life characters that manage to run you through a gamut of intense emotions through some oftentimes improbable scenarios.

Along with the drama and fire and flash, there are little pockets of realism like Benny keeping Frankie’s lip gloss in his pocket because she didn’t want to bring a bag to their date or Frankie making sure that she had a lot of chips in her house because Benny has a fondness for them. The importance of calendars in Benny’s life is also something that I found very beautiful in its simplicity.

My biggest complaint about the book would be that I wasn’t sure that the external conflict at the end of the book was really needed. I really enjoyed seeing Frankie and Benny with each other without the bad guys being thrown in. That said; I did appreciate how the external conflict meant that I got to see some characters that I love from previous books. I won’t spoil the surprise and tell you who shows up but I have to admit that I squealed like a star struck teenage fan girl in the presence of her favourite boy band when I read some of the familiar names on the pages of my e-reader. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. This was another cracktastic KA book for me! The Promise will be published on July 8, 2014 and pre-order links are up at most e-book sellers.

Disclaimer: I received this book as an ARC in exchange for a review

Meh books and Alphaholes

25 Feb

Reaper's Legacy Knight

I’ve been really disappointed with all the books that I’ve read in the past few weeks. It’s been a good long while since I’ve read any that made me want to write about it squeeing in delight… and I want to squee my way through a book, dammit.
I think the problem with me this past month is that I have gone for the free books and the .99 cent (or so) books on Amazon thinking to save myself some money. What HAS happened is that I have bought heaps of books that I then skimmed and then promptly forgot about or simply did not finish (DNF). This resulted in me spending more than I would have if I had just bought a few really good books at a higher price point that I could really enjoy. It’s like when you’re eating at a buffet with a lot of not-so-good food and you keep eating and eating and eating looking for that taste you’re looking for, not finding it and then feeling slightly ill afterwards. That is how the past few weeks have been for me in terms of reading- too much meh stuff that has left me feeling vaguely dissatisfied.
(This is not to say that you can’t find some really amazing books out there for free or cheap, I’ve just had really crappy luck with them these past few weeks)
The other thing that I am seeing with some of the books that I am reading is the emergence of a breed of heroes I call the alphahole. I know that the whole imperfect, grittier hero is a hot trend at the moment but I find myself getting exasperated with it. What the heck is so wrong about a nice guy? You know, one who does NOT have a stable of prostitutes that he makes his money with or one that does NOT call women bitches or whores?
I’m a HUGE fan of alpha heroes. I love their take charge attitude, absolute belief in themselves and their need to take care of their women. LOVE. THEM. However, lately I’ve found that some authors disturbingly blur the line between an alpha and an alphahole (which is basically an alpha asshole). I get that there is this movement towards realism and angst. I get that they’re trying to portray heroes that are in stark contrast to sickeningly perfect, gorgeous, intelligent, billionaire, philanthropist heroes of the past. For me though, there’s imperfect and tortured and there’s just being an abusive, misogynistic pig.
I’m learning that there are certain things that I just will not accept in a hero. Salty language and dirty talk? No problem. Being derogatory to a woman and calling her a whore, slut etc and then justifying it to the heroine saying it’s okay because I’d never do that to YOU? Not okay. A man hitting a woman? Never okay.
I read a book recently where the hero was absolutely APPALLING to women. He had no respect for them aside from them being receptacles for his magic wang. He would call them bitch and forcibly evict them from his house, throwing their clothes out- after taking them home with him the night before! How in the world is a man like that hero material? This hero THEN goes on to say that yes he would hit a woman if she was “asking for it”. Arrrgh. Just typing that made me so mad! And it makes me even more mad because he then says he would never treat the heroine like that because she wasn’t a slut like all the other sluts he slept with. Given that he actively participated in the aforementioned activity this would make him a hypocrite of the highest level.
Being imperfect, sleeping around, having a tragic past, being surly and not too good with social situations- these are all fine and I can live with those. Being in any way abusive even if that abusive behaviour is not targeted towards the heroine, I’m sorry I simply cannot stomach. As a psychology major the whole “Oh baby I treat OTHER people like shit but I would never treat YOU like that” really pisses me off. I get that some of the romance heroes of old may have been a little too perfect but do I really want to read about a hero who is a pimp? Uh, NO.
There are authors who push the envelope of the alpha male but manage to pull them back right before they cross over that invisible line for me into alphahole. A really good example of this would be Kristen Ashley’s Chaos MC boys who are really rough around the edges but never cross over this line for me versus those in her Unfinished Hero series (Knight, ugh!) and Joanna Wylde’s Reaper’s Legacy which was a good book overall, but there were moments with the hero that left a really bad taste in my mouth. He is SO never going to be one of my book boyfriends. Although that cover is admittedly really nice to look at.
What do you think about this new trend in alphahole heroes?

December 2013 Reviews and Recommendations: Ilona Andrews, Kristen Ashley, Kristan Higgins, Suzanne Johnson and Anne Bishop

31 Dec

The Christmas season was crazy busy this year what with my other half being out of the country and with me being alone with my two toddlers. You would think I would be too busy to read and in a way I probably didn’t read as many books as I would have if hubby had been here as I had to do all the housework and Christmas shopping etc on my own. However, because I really felt the need to decompress at the end of the day, I found that no matter how tired I was I couldn’t NOT read. Television just didn’t cut it for me. The only thing that got my brain to slow down and take a breath was to read. Good, bad or ugly it didn’t matter, I had to get in a solid half hour of reading at night in order to fall asleep. That being said, the bad books probably were more helpful in the falling asleep part as the good ones would keep me awake all night because I just had to finish!
After a totally kick ass November in terms of new releases I found not as many books to get excited about in December. I re-read all my Ilona Andrew’s Kate Daniel books and fell in love with them all over again. This is a great urban fantasy series, with great dialogue, a seriously kick ass heroine and fascinating world building. I love the romance between Kate and Curran although I find the series more of an urban fantasy with a little romance thrown in rather than the other way around.
I also read the latest Kristen Ashley Fantasyland book, Broken Dove. I love this author and am constantly entertained by her books. This wasn’t one of my favourites of hers and I have to damn it with faint praise and say it was okay. I really loved the first three books though so I would still recommend the series. In direct contrast to the Ilona Andrews books, I find this series to be more of a romance with a fantasy element.
I started Suzanne Johnson’s Sentinels of New Orleans series with the first book, Royal Street. I was attracted to this book as it wasn’t about shapeshifters or vampires although they do make appearances in the books- this series is about wizards. The first book didn’t have much romance in it although to be fair there is a little triangle shaping up quite nicely. The world building and the premise were very interesting. It was good enough to have me buying the 2nd and 3rd books in the series so I can see how things turn out.
In terms of contemporary romances I also read a lot of Kristan Higgins’s back list. Although I found her older books to be borderline chick lit I find that I really enjoy the voice of this author. Her writing is consistently good and her characters likeable, self-deprecating and funny. I would recommend her to fans of Susan Mallery and Jill Shalvis.
My favourite book of the month has to be Anne Bishop’s Written in Red. Anne Bishop is best known for her Black Jewel books which are firmly in the fantasy romance category. Written in Red is an urban fantasy romance. She writes about the Terra Indigene or Others who are children of the earth or earth natives. This term refers to a whole raft of supernaturals such as the sanguinati, the shapechangers and the elementals (these are basically your vampires, shape changers and weather controllers but slightly different as all authors like to put their own spin on things). These Others are the superior race of the world and it is only because they allow humans to co-exist with them that humans are living on their land at all. The main character of the book is Meg, who is a human who is running away from other humans and ended up with the Others. I was a little uncomfortable in the beginning with how clear it was that the Others consider humans to be MEAT. Again, other authors touch on this but Anne Bishop really made it clear that humans are food to these Others down to human meat being sold at the local butcher! This book was one I could NOT put down and I cannot wait to read the next book in the series.

Random Fan Girlness November 2013

25 Nov

HAIYAN

First off I have to admit to being a naughty little fan girl about adding new entries the past couple of weeks. I was so caught up in that awful typhoon that hit the Philippines. My heart goes out to all the victims and their families. In spite of a lot of things that went wrong with relief efforts, the generosity of the human spirit from all around the world was also so beautiful to see.

ARCHANGEL’S LEGION

Another thing that delayed adding to the blog was that I decided to do a review of Archangel’s Legion by Nalini Singh and because I loved it so much I took a lot of time writing the review as I wanted to do it justice. I also have to sheepishly admit that I got so excited about the book while I was doing the review that I had to read the book again (for research purposes mind you). And THEN because I read that book I was reminded of how awesome all the OTHER books were in the series and yup, total romance fan girl moment, read the whole series all over again. FYI there are now 6 full length novels in the series, so you can imagine that this took a bit of time.

COPYRIGHT LAWS

As mentioned earlier, November was a good month for me as a lot of my favourite authors released new books. This brought home a bit of a sore subject with me however- the fact that Australia and New Zealand have delayed releases as compared to the US. There are some books that I can’t even purchase if I don’t live in North America and this is SO FRUSTRATING for me- especially in this age of ebooks. I could understand a delay in terms of shipping actual hard copy or printed books overseas but when a digital book can be ordered, paid for and downloaded in less than 2 minutes I really can’t understand the delay. I know from reading posts that this is due to copyright laws being different for North America and the rest of the world but as a consumer it is maddening. Hmph.

ARCs

I’m really new to the blogosphere but have been following other romance blogs such as Dear Author and Smart Bitches Trashy Books for years and therefore have picked up some of the lingo. One term that I picked up and totally envied is ARC or Advanced Readers’ Copy. A call came out recently for bloggers to put their hands up for ARCs for some Christmas anthologies and thinking it couldn’t hurt, I did and I got them! Total romance fan girl moment! I was absolutely thrilled to bits and can’t wait to read and review them!

BOOKS I THAT I READ WHEN I SHOULD HAVE BEEN WRITING

  • Susan Mallery’s A Fool’s Gold Cookbook
  • Kinked by Thea Harrison
  • Nalini Singh’s Guild Hunter Series (again)
  • Sealed with A Curse: A Weird Girls Novel by Cecy Robson
  • A Cursed Embrace: A Weird Girls Novel by Cecy Robson
  • Born Wild: Black Knights Inc by Julie Ann Walker
  • Jagged by Kristen Ashley
  • Play it Safe by Kristen Ashley
  • One Perfect Night by Bella Andre

Reviews to follow!