Thursday, May 26, 2011

Summer Reading

With the unofficial start of summer upon us, I thought it would be fun to take a look at some upcoming romantic suspense novels that are sure to delight! And, yes, that means I've finally found a few great new RS books to talk about. (There may be more added later, but here's an early summer rundown.)

I've already read these fantastic stories:

1. Beg for Mercy by Jami Alden (June): If you're a fan of Karen Rose or Allison Brennan than this one is for you. Megan Flynn's brother, Sean, has been sentenced to die for murder, but Megan knows he's innocent. Too bad no one is willing to listen, including her one-time boyfriend Detective Cole Williams -- who arrested Sean in the first place. When a series of murders begin with a shocking connection to the crime Sean has been imprisoned for, Cole takes notice. But is it too late to save Megan? This is the first book in a series by Alden.

2. Cover Me by Catherine Mann (July): The remote wilderness of Alaska is the setting for an action/adventure tale penned by one of military romances best authors. Sunny Foster has spent the last dozen or so years living in a small enclave in the remotest part of Alaska. The town has one big rule -- if you leave you can't come back and you can't tell anyone about the town. But when Sunny is "rescued" by pararescueman Wade Rocha during a storm — though it may be her who is saving him — it becomes clear that someone has an agenda and will kill to see his plan come to fruition. Can an elite military group, one sexy hero and one very self-reliant heroine save the day? And will a town have to give up its isolation for the greater good.

And I'm looking forward to reading:

You Belong to Me by Karen Rose (June): Since I've yet to read a book by Rose that I haven't liked, I'll say this one is a surefire winner.

Cold Touch by Leslie Parrish (July): Parrish (aka author Leslie Kelly) has been getting some great buzz from this book. This is perhaps her darkest book to date, but Parrish has a way with characters and plot that makes this one a must-read. (This has a bit of paranormal to it.)

Inside by Brenda Novak (July): Novak is a consistently strong romantic suspense author, and judging by just the books opening pages, this story has all the making of another winner. The hero and heroine are instantly engaging and the hero's got a compelling backstory that drives much of his actions. If you loved the romance in Prison Break between Michael and Sarah, you're sure to appreciate this one.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Is It Just a Bad Book?

I’m in the middle of reading a new romantic suspense novel that comes out soon and is written by an author I’ve read occasionally over the years. The premise sounded quite good — the hero lost his first wife to tragedy and is now a single dad trying to help his young daughter, and the heroine, who has her own issues, is related to characters in one of the author’s previous books — so I was eager to give it a try.

I'm more than halfway through the book and I’m really wondering if I should continue. The writing is repetitive and preachy —  dialogue exchanges between various characters seem more like they are designed to give readers an education in whatever topic is relevant to the story at that point. The same words and phrases are used so often it's hard to tell which character is speaking since they all mimic each other. Also, lots of nonessential information is repeated over and over again, it feels like the author is beating readers on the head with it.

For instance, early on in the book, the characters are bemoaning the fact that most people don’t feel a sense of community anymore. That they no longer look out for their neighbors. Why does the author, through her characters' discussion, keep harping on how people don’t care about their friends and neighbors? Apparently the only place where neighbors watch out for neighbors is in the town where the book is set.

Later when the hero and heroine are discussing a potential new drug treatment to help some of the characters deal with their fears, the exchange sounded so unrealistic, it seemed more like a promotional brochure for the drug than a natural discussion between the characters.

Other problems concerned the heroine’s connections to secondary characters — like the cousin who appears out of nowhere in the middle of the book and yet conveniently lives right nearby. (For the first half the book I thought she was making a break from everyone she knew.)

Additionally, the heroine's backstory is that she was attacked and was in coma at some point. The heroine is very concerned that no one in town find out about it, but as a reader, I understand why she thought her job would be in jeopardy if people knew. Also, as this was a big part of the heroine's backstory, the scene where she does tell the hero is surprisingly brief. Even if this event happened in a previous book by the author, no one should have assumed everyone reading this new book would know the details.

There are many more examples that I could give, but won't.

So the question I have as I ponder whether to finish the book is this, who is ultimately responsible for the problems with this book? It seems to me that someone should have been able to point out that a woman in her eighties probably wouldn’t greet another woman by saying “Hey!” Likewise, when both the hero and heroine say “Listen” as a transition in one scene, with a paragraph or two of each other, shouldn’t a red flag have gone up?
I am not blaming the editors, as I know editors are extremely hard workers, I just wonder what happened in this particular case. Why this book  — which really did have a great premise — just seemed to fall through the cracks.

So tell me, when you come across a problem in a book, be it in characterization, dialogue or action, what do you do? Keep reading or move on?

Monday, May 2, 2011

Soap Opera Charm

Having recently moderated the Behind the Scenes of a TV Soap Opera panel at the RT Booklovers Convention in Los Angeles, I was more than a bit dismayed to learn that ABC cancelled two of its three daytime dramas — All My Children and One Life to Live. (For those playing along at home that leaves General Hospital as the network’s only daytime serial, on a network that once had at least five series running back in the Ryan’s Hope/Edge of Night or Loving days.) Many people have called the move idiotic and I can't disagree. While I strongly believe that soaps need to evolve and grow — anyone who believes soaps are finished should check out how well telenovellas do ratings-wise — I think there were definitely things that could have been done and should have been done both on and off screen to help continue these shows. So while fans rally and call the network, I've got a gift for all you who have loved daytime dramas over the years — a reading list of books (old, new, biography, novel and YA) to help you relive the good ole days of daytime.

Stirring in Salem and A Secret in Salem by Sheri Anderson (Days of Our Lives tie-in)
The Secret Life of Damian Spinelli by Carolyn Henessy (Diane, General Hospital, a tie-in novel)
All That Glitters by Kristi Andrews (a fictional YA book series from the 1980s about the teen stars of a soap opera)
Diva Las Vegas by Eileen Davidson (Ashley, The Young and the Restless, this book is part of the actress/author’s Soap Opera Mystery series)
Robin’s Diary, by Judith Pinsker and Claire Labine (based on stories from General Hospital)
Dark Shadows, the Salem Branch by Lara Parker (Angelique, Dark Shadows)
Soap Opera by Eileen Fulton (Lisa, As the World Turns)
Soapsuds by Finola Hughes (Anna, General Hospital)
Oakdale Confidential by Alina Adams (an As the World Turns tie-in novel)
Guiding Light: Jonathan’s Story by Julia London and Alina Adams (a GL tie-in novel)

Afternoon Delight: Why Soaps Still Matter by Carolyn Hinsey, editor of Soap Opera Digest
Changing Shoes by Tina Sloan (Lillian, Guiding Light)
As My World Still Turns by Eileen Fulton (Lisa, As the World Turns)
I’m Just Sayin’: Three Deaths, Seven Husbands, and a Clone! My Life as a Daytime Diva by Kim Zimmer (Reva, Guiding Light; Echo, One Life to Live)
Like Sands Through the Hourglass by Susan Seaforth Hayes and Bill Hayes (Julie and Doug Williams, Days of Our Lives)
All My Life by Susan Lucci (Erica Kane, All My Children)
All My Children, the Complete Family Scrapbook by Gary Warner; General Hospital, the Complete Scrapbook by Gary Warner: One Life to Live: Thirty Years of Memories by Gary Warner
Days of Our Lives, 45 Years, a Celebration in Photos by Greg Meng
All the Days of My Life (So Far) by Allison Sweeney (Sami, Days of Our Lives)
Deidre Hall’s Kitchen Closeup by Deidre Hall (Marlena, Days of Our Lives)

What's your all-time favorite soap opera moment?