Friday, January 30, 2009

Little CJ interviews Jill Sorenson & Contest

Jill Sorenson’s romantic thriller, Crash Into Me, was released this past Tuesday, January 27th. Crash Into Me features “one too-tough female agent, one too-hot male suspect, and a head-on erotic collision.” (!!!)

First, the blurb:
One streetwise undercover agent will do whatever it takes to catch her man....

Ben Fortune may have gone into virtual seclusion after his wife's murder, but he was still the world's most famous surfer, known as much for his good looks as for his skill on the board.

He's also a suspect in a series of brutal murders. FBI Special Agent Sonora "Sonny" Vasquez has been sent undercover to the elite beach community of La Jolla to make friends with Fortune.

With her fierce beauty and take-no-prisoners attitude, she's more than equipped for the job. But all too soon she and Ben have collided in an affair that is both intense and irresistible. Could this sensual, wounded man really be a killer? And could falling in love blind Sonny to the greatest danger of all?
Little CJ: Okay congrats on your release, and the great reviews you’re getting. I was especially interested in this bit from Publishers Weekly:
"(A) high tension romantic thriller...culminating in a page-turning climax. Despite the mystery, the real tension comes from the emotional relationships, full of explosive sex and terrible secrets."
First off, I want to know more about this explosive sex. Because it sounds like something I’d definitely enjoy reading about. Can you elaborate please?

Jill Sorenson: Thanks for the congrats, Little CJ! And thanks for inviting me to chat with you. I’m a big fan of Carolyn Jean’s blog. It’s pretty weird to be talking about sex with…whatever you are…but here goes.

By “explosive sex,” I think the reviewer meant the sex scenes are super hot and exciting! Which is a great compliment. In romantic suspense, the relationship between the hero and heroine often takes a back seat to the suspense plot. Not so in CRASH. It’s heavy on romance and loaded with sex. But all of the rockets going off are metaphorical. Hope I haven’t disappointed you. : )

Little CJ: First off, Jill! I’ve been hanging on Carolyn Jean’s wall for nearly FOUR decades! I may look young, but I’m betting I’m older than you. So feel free to spill ALL the JUICIEST details. Now, how about the page turning climax? Is that what I think it is?

Jill Sorenson: If you think it’s the high point of action near the end of the book, then yes. It is exactly that.

Little CJ: Hmm. No, that’s not what I thought it was. Okay, anyways, I loved your excerpt where your heroine, Vasquez, kicks the ass of her jerk-off trainer Mitchell - POW! - and then he like, cheatingly gets on top of her ‘cause he’s MAD a chick kicked his ass - BOO HOO! -And then this:
He was aware of her breasts crushed against his chest and the soft apex of her thighs, an inviting warmth beneath him. She might not fight like a woman, but she felt like one, and although he willed his body not to, it began to respond to hers. He was enjoying dominating her a little too much.

[…yada yada yada, an exchange where she jokes that he has a three inch wang and then…]

Mitchell grunted. "Keep wiggling, Vasquez. Those three inches will turn into six." For a moment, she looked startled, as if she'd only just realized he'd been flirting with her. Before she could shield the reaction, her unusual eyes betrayed her panic, and Mitchell experienced an intense surge of satisfaction. Vasquez couldn't dislodge him, because she sucked at wrestling, and now he'd found her secret vulnerability: she was afraid of men.
Little CJ: This guy sounds hot, too. I know he’s not the hero, but will she have sex with him as well as the surfer?

Jill Sorenson: Sorry, Little CJ. No.

Little CJ: Okay, your heroine Vasquez has a secret vulnerability - she’s afraid of men! - and then she hooks up with a hot surfer who might be a killer. SHEEEIT! Details, sister!

Jill Sorenson: Ben Fortune, the surfer hero, is a tortured widower, very much in love with his late wife. At the same time, he’s drawn to the Sonny (Vasquez). With her, he feels a spark of interest he hasn’t experienced in years. There’s something dangerous about her, and he likes it. Ben is a thrill-seeker and a bit of a masochist.

Sonny prefers to stay in control. She’s had bad experiences with men, causing her to be guarded, physically and emotionally. As a suspect, Ben is supposed to be off-limits, but Sonny can’t resist him. He’s charming, persistent, and determined to have her. Plus, he’s got a smoking hot surfer bod. His devotion to his teenaged daughter, and his guilt over being an imperfect husband to his late wife, make him all the more attractive.

Little CJ:
Mmmm, tortured widower, very much in love with his late wife. That sounds good. And I’d guess he has some skills on the board, too. Do you catch my meaning? Can you tell more about that?

Jill Sorenson: I guess I’ll say he’s good with his stick? (That’s slang for surfboard) Without getting into specifics, I try to be creative and realistic when I write sex scenes. I don’t plan a set number of encounters, pages, or positions. Like, oral on page 152, or from behind on 310. I’d rather just let it happen. There’s one scene in CRASH, for example, in which a heated argument leads to sex against the wall. Soft and sweet isn’t my style, but I don’t shy away from revealing tender feelings. I think love scenes work best when they progress in a natural way and reflect the characters’ (often turbulent) emotional states.

Little CJ: Jill, now, you and I have something in common: I understand you skim around in books and read just the sex scenes sometimes. So do I! Carolyn Jean is always like, You have to read the buildup or else you don’t get the full effect, blah blah blah. But sometimes a girl just wants to get right to it, you know what I’m saying? Am I right?

Jill Sorenson: (blushing) I wish I didn’t do this, because skimming ahead ruins the book for me. I think it’s my passive-aggressive way of tackling the TBR pile. When a book sits on the shelf too long, I’m more likely to skim it for sex. Carolyn Jean is 100% right—the buildup makes a sex scene more satisfying. But I can enjoy the straight-into-it, too. : )

Little CJ: Well, I bet that sex against the wall scene is more satisfying if you read the heated argument first.

Now, I understand we’re giving away a copy to one random commenter, as long as they promise to write something about it within ONE MONTH from when they get the book (on a blog, or if not a blog, then Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or even comments on a blog.) Jill, Is this open to anyone in the world, or just U.S.?

Jill Sorenson: It's open to anyone! Thanks Carolyn Jean. And Little CJ, of course! It was great fun.

Little CJ & Carolyn Jean: Thank YOU, Jill!

Crash Into Me is available NOW at pretty much any decent bookstore. Visit Jill and learn more about Crash at her website. Her next book, a stand-alone romantic suspense with Bantam Dell, is called Set the Dark on Fire.

CONTEST DETAILS: Just leave a comment to enter the contest (closes Monday 2/2 at 11:59 pm). Winner will be announced Tuesday, and you'll have until Thursday night to get your contact info to me if it's not obvious from your comment. If you don't want to be entered, but still want to comment, just say that in your comment!  

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

What Do Women Want? Carolyn Jean & Little CJ discuss the NYT article

So did anybody see the New York Times Sunday Magazine article, What Do Women Want? I would suggest checking it out--very fascinating, all about women and desire, and figuring out what turns women on and why.

Little CJ: Oh yeah? Did they figure out why cartoon porn movies where hentai elfs are tied up by robbers and ravished are so hot?

Carolyn Jean: What are you talking about?

Little CJ: Oh. Uh, never mind.

Carolyn Jean: Well, actually the article is sort of about that. It seems that women are aroused physiologically by a wider range of stimuli than men.

Little CJ: Like what?

Carolyn Jean: Well, in tests that measured subjective (reported) and objective (bodily) response, men were predictably aroused by photos of men and women having sex, women and women have sex, and a naked woman exercising.

Little CJ: Well hot diggity damn! There’s a shocker.

Carolyn Jean: But women were physically aroused when shown scenes of men with men, women with women and women with men. They were more aroused by an exercising woman than a chiseled-faced, strolling man, and even aroused by the sight of bonobo apes having sex.

Little CJ: Mmmm, bonobo apes.

Carolyn Jean: But they generally reported only being aroused by the men and women having sex. They would not tell all. Or, they didn’t realize.

Little CJ: Bonobos are hairy all over.

Carolyn Jean: There are a number of interesting perspectives on forced seduction, which of course people argue about a lot here on the blogs as far as storylines in romances. One researcher speculates on how physical arousal (as opposed to mental arousal) during forced seduction relates to evolutionary biology. It was totally fascinating.

Little CJ: I’m into Cornelius, from Planet of the Apes. I think his hands would be super leathery, like really hard gloves, don’t you think so? But really furry, too.

Carolyn Jean: You have been hanging on that wall too long.

Little CJ: Well over three decades, dude!

Carolyn Jean: So you like to say. Meredith Chivers, psychology professor at Queen’s University in Ontario, suggests that, while the actual experience of forced seduction isn’t wanted, such fantasies offer “a pure glimpse into desire” and suggest it comes out of a “wish to be beyond will, beyond thought, to be all in the midbrain.”

Little CJ: Midbrain. Whatever. I like the leather outfits that Cornelius wears. A lot. Do you know what I’m saying?

Carolyn Jean: Marta Meana, a professor of psychology at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, suggests that women’s desire “is not relational, but narcissistic and that it’s 'dominated by the yearnings of “self-love,” by the wish to be the object of erotic admiration and sexual need.' Quoting from the article:
A symbolic scene ran through Meana’s talk of female lust: a woman pinned against an alley wall, being ravished. Here, in Meana’s vision, was an emblem of female heat. The ravisher is so overcome by a craving focused on this particular woman that he cannot contain himself; he transgresses societal codes in order to seize her, and she, feeling herself to be the unique object of his desire, is electrified by her own reactive charge and surrenders.
Little CJ: But it would be weird to kiss him, because he kind of has that snout. But you never know. It could be advantageous in certain ways.

Carolyn Jean: *shocked look*

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Little CJ interviews LB Gregg... & a POV winner!

Whoops! It took me long enough to declare a winner in my Palace of Varieties contest. Which is very un-Minnesotan of me. The winner, chosen numerically at random by my husband shouting from the other room is:

So Jenre, send your address to me here at carolyn7000 (at)!

Crazy Li'l CJ's Big Interview with LB Gregg!

Also, Crazy little CJ is interviewing author LB Gregg over at DIK Island today! Come and get in on the fun!!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Black Ice & Joss Whedon v. Chris Carter

Great moments from last night's reading
Black Ice by Anne Stuart

Quick plot summary:
So there's this woman, Chloe Underwood, a poor American book translator living in Paris. Then she gets a lucrative weekend gig translating at a business conference in a remote chateau. She thinks she's translating for grocery exporters, but they're actually arms dealers.

It's sort of funny the way Chloe is constantly thinking, Wow, they are really passionate about produce, and it sure is lucrative! When one uses the term legolas (a missile or something) she's like, what is that? And they tell her it's a kind of sheep.

Anyway, they come to not trust her, and one of them is ordered to kill her, but another killer, Bastien Toussaint, drags Chloe away, "and the next thing she knows she's on the run with the most terrifying and seductive man she's ever met. What were his motives — and would she live long enough to find out?"

There are a several things I'm really enjoying and admiring about Anne Stuart's writing. Item one today, item two later.

Item one that I'm enjoying: Anne Stuart lets things go a little too far.

Anne Stuart is totally not nice to her characters, and I love that. Really, the awfulness of the situations this heroine got plunged into surprised me--in a good way. Because in a lot of books I read that have a danger element, it's more like, the whiff of danger is the danger.

Maybe I'm not used to suspense, but even in urban fantasy, I feel like, aside from Laurell K. Hamilton, nobody lets things get quite very bad. Oh, though I suppose JR Ward had--was it Bella?--in a kind of hole/prison in the lessers' complex. That was somewhat harsh. Anyway, Anne Stuart went pretty far--not hugely far, but farther than I'm used to--and I really appreciated it!

A Joss Whedon digression that vaguely relates to this book
You know who is the ultimate master of letting things go far and get bad? Joss Whedon. I'm not likening Anne Stuart to Joss here. Let me repeat: this book is not Joss Whedony! I mean, few authors are even in Joss' ballpark. But the point is, he lets characters go evil, and slaughters them if he feels like it. The man killed off his main character, after all. Twice!

My husband and I used to have these fawning conversations about Joss Whedon, and we'd frequently compare him unfavorably to Chris Carter, who created the X-Files. Not that that was a bad show, but Chris Carter held things back and was really stingy about parcelling out secrets and information, and about letting big things happen, as if he thought he shouldn't blow his wad all at once or he'd run out of plot stuff. We called that creative scarcity thinking. (We're both writers, so we get a little nerdy that way.)

Anyways, our hero Joss has - oh shit, I can't remember the name we had for it - something like creative abundance thinking, where he just does huge, major, wild, seemingly series-ending things, as if he has total faith that his reservoir of ideas will never go dry. And indeed, it never does.

Again, I'm not likening Anne Stuart to Joss, but rather giving the extreme example of letting things go bad, which I appreciated here. I'm not going to say where it happens, but it happens a few times. She lets things go bad danger-wise and romance-wise (in a relatively limited way, compared to Joss, but more than in my usual reading material). It was cool!

Pain in books: is it enough?
Not physical pain, but stress and suspense pain. Sometimes when I'm reading paranormals or even UF, and the heroine is in danger, and I think, Oh, shit! But then I actually think to myself, it's okay, she'll be out of danger in two seconds. Like, authors don't really put you through much. Not that Anne Stuart totally does, but she goes slightly further.

As long as I'm talking TV a little here, you know what show puts a person through something? The Shield. OMG, that is such an intense show in a great way! You go through so much suspense-wise, it's goddamn excruciating.

Anyway, I'm completely of two minds on this. My pleasure loving side doesn't want authors to increase my pain and suspense, but part of me knows if they did, the resolutions would be sweeter. Anyway, Anne Stuart had a good balance for a book that's basically romance. Though it could just be that I don't read a ton of suspense romance stuff (do they all do this?)

I love a morally questionable character!
Stuart also lets things go far in the sense of characters being sort of extreme...or more, extremely gray-area. Like, Bastien is a cold killer tired of the game, but even after he meets the heroine, he's half willing to let her die.

I love that! Frankly, I don't need my characters to be moral paragons. I want to read about more questionable heroes and heroines. Ooh, there's an upcoming post right there!

Tomorrow or the next day: item #2 I like about the Anne Stuart experience.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Interview with James Lear PLUS two contests!

Sayuri and I were so excited to actually get an interview with James Lear, the author of five incredible erotica novels (as well as works of literary fiction under an alternate pen name). Lear has been called a “major literary pornographer” by SX/XX Magazine, Sydney and was named Writer of the Year in the 2008 Erotic Awards.

We really loved Palace of Varieties. (See our chat/review/lovefest about it in the post from yesterday.) So without further ado:

Q: Ok, so first off, were did the idea for PALACE OF VARIETIES come from?

James Lear: It’s a combination of TRILBY by Gerard du Maurier, LE PERE GORIOT and ILLUSIONS PERDUES by Balzac, and a general interest in backstage novels like JB Priestley’s LOST EMPIRES etc. The action is mostly set just across the road from where I live in South London – there really was a South London Palace of Varieties, a very busy popular music hall that closed down around WW2.

Q: Although there is much dirty sex in PALACE OF VARIETIES (which we love) is there a moral center of the book for you? Is it Keiran? Albert? Paul even?

James Lear: Of course – it’s Paul. His moral journey is what the book is all about. I don’t really believe in moral absolutes, at least not in real life, and so Paul’s journey from innocence to experience is the main thing.

Q: Did you have a specific artist in mind when you created the character of Boleslavsky?

James Lear: Not particularly, but there were a lot of artists around at that time who kind of fit the bill. Physically he’s based on an ex lover of mine. Nearly all the characters are based on men that I’ve known, or seen, in real life.

Q: The ending of PALACE was quite ambiguous. Will we ever get a sequel?

James Lear: There may be a sequel one day, if there’s enough demand to make my publisher think it’s worth while. But no, I would never, ever write about the trenches. I have far too much respect for the men who went through that to touch on it in this context.

Q: You seem to write all your novels in the first person and they are all historical, do you have any plans to write outside this genre? (I'd LOVE to see some gay vampires ...gothic horror porn. Winner.)

James Lear: My erotic stuff is all first person period. It’s what I like doing, and it’s what I do well. I may one day do a contemporary one but I kind of doubt it. And there are masses of other writers working in the gay horror porn genre – it’s just not my thing. For me, sex has to be totally rooted in reality or it just isn’t sexy. I love vampire movies and vampire fiction, and other horror stuff (I worship Stephen King), and while I recognise that there’s a strong erotic element to it, it’s not something I’m interested in writing myself.

Q: Do you have set rules within your 'universe' that you stick to when writing?

James Lear: Yes but they’re more technical things than otherwise, and I’m not going to give away the tricks of my trade. I would just say that I won’t eroticise violence, and I won’t do anything that degrades homosexuality. I try always to show sex as something positive and joyful even when it gets quite filthy and dirty. Also I try to give the reader a good deal of build-up and context to every encounter, because that’s what makes it sexy. And strong narrative, character development and LOTS OF HUMOUR.

Q: Do you have a favourite character that you have written? Are any of them based on people you know? (We won't tell, honest.)

James Lear: They’re all based on people I know, every single one of them. My favourite character is probably Mitch Mitchell in THE BACK PASSAGE and THE SECRET TUNNEL because he’s such fun, but in terms of characterisation it would be Paul in PALACE OF VARIETIES.

Q: What's your favourite thing about writing erotic fiction?

James Lear: It’s good fun – I wouldn’t do it otherwise. It’s good to work in a field that’s kind of marginalised – it means you are really reaching out to new audiences. I like giving strong literary qualities to a genre that is often lacking in those qualities. I enjoy playing with the characters, and taking established literary models and infesting them with such. But above all I love the interaction with readers and fans who are so enthusiastic and appreciative. I never expected it, and it blows my mind.

Q: I know THE SECRET TUNNEL came out just last November but are you working on anything else just now? Can you give us a little sneak peek?

James Lear: Yeah – you’re getting a reprint of THE LOW ROAD which was my first ever novel, at the end of this year – it’s set in the aftermath of the Jacobite rebellion, it’s basically a filthy reworking of RL Stevenson’s KIDNAPPED and it’s great, I really love that book. Then I’m about to start working on the new Mitch Mitchell mystery. I can’t say much about it at this point but it’s my attempt at a classic “closed room murder” in the manner of Christie and Ngaio Marsh. It reunites Mitch with Morgan and some other characters we’ve met before and it will be filthy and funny and, I hope, a proper whodunnit.

Q: You say you love the interaction with your fans, are you surprised you have so many straight female readers, and has it changed your approach at all?

James Lear: No it hasn't changed my approach. I stick to what I know. This is genre fiction, and so there are certain rules and formulae that make it work – and which obviously appeal to women as much as men! But I wouldn't start tinkering with it – if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Q: Although your books are erotica, they have a strong romantic element too. Have you ever read any romance novels?

James Lear: Not Romance with a capital R, as in the genre. But my new Rupert Smith has a very strong love story in it.

Q: Aside from the whole two-orgasms-a chapter thing, do James Lear and Rupert Smith otherwise share the same sorts of literary goals? Do they have the same writer- heroes?

James Lear: No, totally different. I actually have three literary personae now. James Lear does the erotica, Rupert Smith does what I would describe as comic literary fiction, and the third one who makes his debut in summer does big commercial blockbusters. The next Rupert Smith novel MAN'S WORLD comes out in November of this year and it's a story of the gay world now and the gay world 50 years ago, it has a very strong love story and is very sexy and funny but it's not ABOUT the sex in the way the Lear stuff is.

Q: I love the covers of your books, I think they are beautiful, masculine and fun. I know you wrote a biography of John S. Barrington, was it your idea to use those poses etc or was it just serendipity on the publisher's part?

James Lear: It was totally from the publisher who found the fantastic photographer. All those models are now living with me, by the way, as personal love slaves. But yes I'm very interested in the photographic representation of the male nude having done a lot of research into it. A lot of that material surfaces in MAN'S WORLD – half of it's set in the 50s/60s when male physique photography was very popular and very dangerous. A lot's based on true stories.

Thank you so much to James Lear, who very graciously "answered all of our rubbish questions" as Sayuri so aptly put it.

The author’s latest, THE SECRET TUNNEL, as well as THE BACK PASSAGE, PALACE OF VARIETIES, HOT VALLEY and more are available at most major booksellers, including Amazon UK or direct from Cleis Press with free shipping if you're in the U.S.

  • First chance to win: Comment here to be entered to win a brand new copy of Palace of Varieties for yourself. No geographical restrictions. Closes at 11:59 PM on January 24th, CDT.
  • Second chance to win: Go over to Sayuri's Book Pron and leave a comment lucky winner will win Hot Valley!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Palace of Varieties LOVEFEST!!!

A chat between Sayuri and me! Update: We decided not to split the chat, so this is part 1 & 2!

Sayuri and I both read Palace of Varieties by the great and amazing James Lear recently (a book aptly described as "The gay, raucous and raunchy adventures of a hunky, horny naïf in 1930s London") and decided to do a chat review. This is part one. You'll find part two over at Sayuri's blog, Book Pron.

Carolyn Jean: I loved this book. I just loved it. And, it's this level of sort of surprising and dirty stuff, but it didn't feel dirty. Like, it was dirty, but not DIRTY yucky. But SUPER dirty in a delightful way. I just enjoyed the hell out of it.

Sayuri: Although I have to admit there was a level of kink in this that didn't appeal to me...The Golden Showers...ewww

Carolyn Jean: Right, that is not appealing, but the way the main character Paul was so full of gusto to just be fucked and do anything.

Sayuri: I know, Paul was just really curious and just wanted to get as much sexual experience as he could. It helped for his job after all. Did you like the historical setting?

Carolyn Jean: I really did. I really appreciated sort of learning about that period. It was nice that it wasn't regency, or contemporary.

Sayuri: Yeah, it kind of keeps it in 'fantasy' mode as well. There is no mention of condoms etc but then there no easy lube option either! *G* I love how EVERY guy is into sex with him. Ultimate fantasy fulfilment.

Carolyn Jean: Oh, totally! There are really no women here. You're right about the fantasy thing. I wonder how accurate that is, with men sort of "out" trolling for men to pick them up. Also, do you think the father kicked him out and was cruel to Paul because he was gay? I wasn't sure at the beginning if Paul identified as gay. Just suddenly he's getting ravished by—was it 2 guys?—in a train station bathroom.

Sayuri: No, I don't think he was thrown out for being gay, but I am sure there is mention of the fact that he has always found guys attractive...or that might have been Hot Valley.

Carolyn Jean: I don't think there was mention here at all. But maybe that's the world here. Like, you wouldn't mention it because it's not so unusual.

Sayuri: Yeah, It's almost like he is gay by opportunity. He got paid for doing the guys in the toilet and saw that there was money to be had. I am sure at the beginning money was the main contributing factor to his choice of work

Carolyn Jean: Right, though I had the sense he would probably be doing it for free. That it was opportunity at first, and soon enough he'd do it for free.

Sayuri: Yeah, there is the passage in the book where he details the differences between the guy prostitutes and the women. That women it's always a job but the guys start seeing the sex as an end unto itself and the money is a fringe benefit. But this is what I love about James Lear, by rights, I shouldn't like or identify with a young male prostitute who is only looking out for himself, but I do.

Carolyn Jean: Yes, I remember that passage. And you really get a lot of psychological insight here, even with minor characters. It's not all one fuck to another, even though it is. It's such a rich book. I think James Lear is such a clear, simple writer, but so clever! I loved how in Paul's first encounter, with that guy, Mr. Newsome, Paul had to try to not act to eager. And what a quick learner he is.

Sayuri: Yes! But I also felt a little bit bad for him cause he might have had a completely different life had he not learned his lesson so quickly. I would still read and really enjoy this book, even if there was no dirty sex in it. But the sex is fun. He writes these characters that just love to fuck and don't apologise for it. But you are right there is a lot going on in this book, even with all the sex. What was your favourite part? Did you enjoy Paul at the beginning when he was slightly naive and eager or later when he was more jaded?

Carolyn Jean: Ooh, that is a good question. I think I enjoyed him at the point of leaving that Russian when he felt so ashamed about what they did to that fellow who worked at the tailor's. I loved those high points of self-awareness. But there are so many great parts to choose from. How about you?

Sayuri: Oh, that was one of the most uncomfortable scenes in the book and I really didn't like Paul then, but then neither did he. I think one of my favourite scenes was later in the book when he meets up with Kieran again and lures him to the hotel. You got see Paul at his best and his worst in that encounter, I think. And then later when Kieran takes him home when he hits the skids.

Carolyn Jean: Oh, totally! That scene was so intense! I mean, Paul was so conflicted, and sort of driven in a slightly diabolical way, but his self-awareness was poignant. Yeah, that hotel scene. Okay, I was sort of confused about Kieran at the beginning. Was Kieran gay or what? Why did he let Paul suck his cock? What did you make of all that at first?

Sayuri: You know, in the JL books I have read, it's kinda of explained that 'straight' guys see this as just horseplay, a way to get their rocks off cause the girls won't do it. No self-respecting good girl would suck a guys cock, right? So the blow-jobs and mutual masturbation are kind of accepted. I think Kieran was attracted to Paul but didn't know what to do about it. It was also probably a vanity thing, he knew that Paul was into him and then when Paul started drifting away, he realized he missed him. I think it's pretty much the kind of 'rules' of the worlds that James sets up.

Carolyn Jean:
Oh, that totally fits with this. Can I ask you, are all Lear's books like this, or do they vary a lot? I couldn't believe the variety of experience and emotion here. I think with a lot of erotica, it’s like, you hit a point and it’s as far as the book can go. You know, like, it builds to something ultimate and then the show is over. But Lear just NEVER quits and it's always fascinating. So, is that true across his books, too?

Sayuri: Yeah, pretty much. I found the 'Mitch ' Mitchell books (Back Passage, Secret Tunnel) just as intense in characterization and nuanced as Palace of Varieties but with a much more light-hearted approach. Much more comedy in those books but then they are farces as well as homage’s to Agatha Christie and the such. Hot Valley, was much more like Palace of Varieties in tone and substance but for me, it lacked the kind of emotional insights we gained into Paul's character. I really didn't connect with the two main characters in Hot Valley at all. I liked Palace of Varieties much better even though it feels like there is twice the amount of sex in this than in his other books.

Carolyn Jean: So this is your fave?

Sayuri: No, overall, Back Passage is still my fav. But Palace of Varieties comes a close second. After reading Palace of Varieties, are you going to read anymore?

Carolyn Jean: Oh, yes! Back that you said that. I remember somebody on my blog was saying, maybe this isn’t the right book for a first m/m book, after she read stuff on Amazon. But I would say, even though this book is vastly dirty, I have to say, the spirit of it is really kind of pure and uplifting. Like, it's dirty, but it has such a good heart. I have read erotica that feels dark, you know? But this was the opposite.

Sayuri: I think the frank descriptions of the sex and some of the more kinks in this would probably put off a first-time reader of m/m. Plus the difference is this is m/m erotica written by a man, for gay men. So there is none of the 'normal' conventions of m/m romance. I would agree with you, even though there are copious amounts of dirty sex, it's not about domination or degradation at all. It's not twisted like that. In fact, apart from the golden showers (shudder) and some exhibitionism there isn't really that much kink in this at all. Cause gay sex isn't a kink, it's just sex....G. It's hot sex, but just sex.

Carolyn Jean: Okay, but back to that golden showers thing, did you not so love how shocked Paul is at the idea of it, that this guy is suggesting this (and I was shocked too. And I couldn't stop thinking about his clothes! Like, at first, oh, no! His shoes must be full of piss! Then, Oh, no, his pants!) But then by the end, they are both laying in puddles of other people’s urine, and Paul is happily peeing right into the guy’s mouth. I would never have thought I could be so entertained by a piss scene. (Ahem, and I don't mean with 2 orgasms.)

Sayuri: yeah, you're right, it was fun...not sexy but fun.

Carolyn Jean: I want to talk about [NAME EDITED]. What did you make of that romance arc?

Sayuri: Ok, to be honest, I was probably as shocked as Paul at the end, when [NAME EDITED] told Paul he loved him. I never really saw it and it felt out of the blue to me.

Carolyn Jean I agree. I mean, the narration sort of hinted at it, but I never saw hints in the actions of [NAME EDITED]. When I look back, I think, okay, that was some tough love, and Paul did come out a better person for his hardship, I suppose. But yes, it felt out of the blue.

Sayuri: I suppose it was right because the story was told from Paul’s POV and he had no inkling so I suppose it's only right we have no inkling either. However, I did feel the ending was rushed...and maybe also set up for a sequel?

Carolyn Jean: I was totally wondering about that! We have to ask Lear. I would love to see Paul in the army. Though, I have to think it would be a much grimmer book. Paul is sobered, you know? This book was like a coming of age. And WWII was such a horrible war. I mean, they all are, but you know. Yeah, the ending did feel rushed. But I would've read on with this character!!!

Sayuri: Paul was definitely a great character and I loved his 'voice' in the book. I'm not sure it would be possible to have a erotic book about a soldiers sexcapades on the front lines though. If anyone could do it, James Lear could.

Carolyn Jean: Anyway, the two different artists. Wasn't that fun?

Sayuri: Yeah, I liked how the book was set in 'the arts'. Theatre and art world. I also enjoyed seeing another side of that. The guys weren't all screaming queens etc. but normal. I have to admit to hating the Russian artist though. He was a dick. He definitely made Paul earn his money.

Carolyn Jean: Yes, the Russian was quite a character! I hated the Russian mostly once the tailor thing happened, but before that I was okay with him. I sort of wondered if the character was based on somebody real. And that first scene with the paint. Paul was so inventive. Paul is such a survivor. I look back at your comment on if that war book could be pulled off, and maybe it could by Lear. Would you ever read this book again? I almost would. I think, on the level of pure writing, it's incredible!

Sayuri: You know, I never really thought of Paul that way, but you're right, he is a complete survivor. And really smart. He was a really complex character that I loved. As for reading this and other James Lear books again, I have read them all multiple times. (And not for just the sex…) Even Hot Valley, which was not my favourite. I think all his books are incredible on some level. I find his writing incredibly smart and intense. He knows his craft. I don’t know the first thing about writing but even I can tell that. His books are so easy and such a pleasure to read. I have never had to struggle through a chapter. You know how some books, you know you are reading? You have to force your eyes along the page and sometimes you have an internal dialogue going on in the back of your mind separate to the book. Not with Lear. It's almost like the story pulls my eyes forward without my volition. Or the words jump right into my brain and form pictures without even trying. Ok, that sounds really kooky.

Carolyn Jean: Not at all! I totally know what you mean. The book grabbed me by the throat. I often stayed up really late with this one. It was so hard to put down.

Tomorrow: An interview with James Lear, PLUS contests to win James Lear books!

You can buy Palace of Varieties from most major booksellers, as well as Cleis Press (US buyers get free shipping, too!)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Do you see any hidden gems?

I was at one of my used bookstores today looking at the romance section thinking, I bet there's something I should buy here, but being I'm a relative newcomer to romance, I just don't recognize it. 
Luckily I had my trusty camera.  

So? Have you read any of these and would you heartily recommend them?  It must be heartily, because it's not like this is one of those super cheap stores. These books are generally half off.

There were a couple Suzanne Brockmans.  I was thinking about those. But are they out of order?  

As you can see, it's not the best bookstore. The buyers are these super fantasy guys who have a really snobby attitude toward romance. I've tried to sell books there before. They refused to buy some Sookie books, telling me that they just aren't popular. WHATever. Serves me right for trying to sell them anyway!!!

The shelving conundrum: alive and well at USBs, huh?
The fantasy sci-fi section is like nine miles long, but that's where you can find authors like Kelley Armstrong. Don't you wish this shelving crisis would get solved? I'm not exactly happy there's chick lit in here, for example. In a way, I guess you could consider these few shelves to be the women's ghetto of the store.  

Can you see them now?
Does this work? If you click on the pictures, can you see the titles?  There have been complaints they are too small.   

Friday, January 16, 2009

Are you a literate wanker? Little CJ wants to know!!!

A guest post by Crazy Little CJ with POLL (see sidebar).

Carolyn Jean is reading two books right now: Marly's Choice by Lora Leigh (won from Barbara! Thanks Barbara!) and Black Ice by Anne Stuart.

She was reading Marly's Choice first, and she got about halfway through, but it was so hot, she just had to put it aside and trade it off with something of a cooler temperature.


She found the plot darkly compelling. Compellingly shocking. Poor feeble Carolyn Jean. She'll go back to it. She acts all pure, but enjoys being shocked and titillated. Anybody who reads this blog knows she is a great enjoyer of erotica.

The Marly's Choice plot is awesome if you ask me: It's like these three guys from a crazy family, and they basically raised this girl/foundling as a kind of sister/niece. She is now home from college, and one of them is in love with her and vice versa, but there's some secret she doesn't know. Carolyn Jean is beginning to suspect the three brothers are some sort of a package deal. Flight, hotel and rental car. All inclusive. And that, I believe, is only kink #1.

Nicola recently did a post on Lora Leigh books which both Carolyn Jean and I thought was great. Nicola had some plot and character complaints about Lora Leigh's military man books, but then this:
So why keep reading? Well, the same reason we all go back to that mythical bad boy: the sex.

I don’t just mean the explicit erotic scenes. Leigh also writes erotica and her love scenes are hot, explicit, x-rated. Although I haven’t read all of her books, I believe it’s safe to say that her trademark is writing relationships with a power struggle, physical and emotional.
Yay Nicola! Anyway, this is definitely true of Marly's Choice. It's all very hot and power-struggly. Which brings me to:

Exhibit 2: Carolyn Jean read the following in a piece in the Independent by author Rupert Smith (a.k.a. James Lear), who wrote Palace of Varieties, a rollickingly dirty book that she and Sayuri will soon be team reviewing. Smith notes:
Erotic fiction has a purpose, and it's not a very highbrow one. James Lear's novels are designed specifically as aids to masturbation: two good orgasms per chapter for younger readers, one for the over forties. Each encounter gives the reader a variation on the theme, keeping the interest fresh. The plot exists to carry the reader from one orgasm to the next.
The reason why dirty books remain in the shadows is very simple: the book trade is not comfortable with masturbation. Books in which children are abused, women murdered and men brutalised crowd the shelves of WH Smith. Books in which consenting adults enjoy each other for the healthy entertainment of literate wankers do not.
Most friends of The Thrillionth Page seem to read across all subgenres, from the tamest historical to some seriously smutty stuff. James Lear suggests we're masturbating every other chapter.

Poll at left!
Late at night, in her trash-addled mind reading her porn, Carolyn Jean frequently wonders about this. Is he right? Are all her little friends masturbating? TWO orgasms a chapter? Or is he more talking about men. I say, what better use of a google poll than this? Please, put her out of her misery! Oh, and "J" - feedburner will be disabled for this. So you can feel free to tell all!

Images (except little CJ) from wikimedia; poll allows more than one answer.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

How does she get away with it? A review of Dark Desires

I never really expected Dark Desires After Dusk by Kresley Cole to become one of my favorite books of 2008, but it has. (See post below.) Because I loved it!

I alternately devoured it and horded it, a sign of the ultimate crave book. Like the ones before it, Dark Desires is an enthralling tutorial in big plots, big personalities and dizzyingly high stakes.

Miriam over at Rape and Adverbs wrote a pair of posts here and here that I really agree with on this book. This post here echoes and builds on some of her points.

Quick plot rundown:
Basically, Demon Cade has finally hooked up with Holly, his fated mate, the one woman in all the world and all eternity he can find true happiness with. Unfortunately, it’s his job to deliver her to an evil metallurgist in order to win his and his brother’s kingdom back, something he’s quested after for eight centuries (and it was his fault they lost the kingdom in the first place!) See Miriam’s fine rundown of more ways that the stakes are pushed high, and that everything is extreme and huge.

The characters:
Like Miriam, I love how opposite the hero and heroine are. He’s a big slob, and she’s a total OCD clean freak/arrange-things-in-threes gal. He’s a sex maniac and she’s a virgin…make that extra virgin: she doesn’t even watch or think about sexy things.  This extreme balance of personalities makes their interactions crackle. It's just plain old fun.

Also, Cade is wonderfully unheroic in that he tries to get out of making the hard decisions. He wants his kingdom AND he wants his true mate. So he tries to find ways to have both, instead of making a hard choice. For example, he teaches Holly how to fight, vaguely hoping that if he does end up delivering her into the clutches of the metallurgist bent on raping her, maybe she can fight him off. Not a standup guy!

Meriam was slightly annoyed by Cade. I can see it. I’ve had that with Cole heroines—I’m thinking Emmaline in A Hunger Like No Other, where I sort of suspended my annoyance because I was enjoying the book so much. These extreme character pairings make the interaction sizzle, but the flip side is that people can get fed up. I really admire how Cole works this balancing act.

Sometimes I marvel at Kresley Cole books.
So okay, Cade and Holly are on this road trip and, as a non-sexpot girl, Holly has nonsexpot underwear. But not for long, because Nix, who is delivering a few things from Holly’s home, replaces Holly’s normal underwear with thongs and black lace stuff. Because Nix says Valkyries like that sort of thing. And Holly HAS to wear them because they’re her only underwear. I wouldn’t let many books/authors get away with that. On numerous levels.

And hello, the hero Cade is delivering the heroine to freak in a castle who intends to rape her and forcibly impregnate her, and Cade is gleefully happy her comfy underwear has been replaced by racy things and thong stuff. These are just two sort of random examples of the crazy outrages of this book.

I mean, really!
How does Kresley Cole get away with this stuff? I think, for one, she allows the heroines, especially this one, to call attention to the insanity of it all, to sort of inhabit the point of view that many readers probably have deep inside their alpha-hero addled minds:
“I’m going to react,” he said. “Even if you’re not my usual type.”

“Usual type? Oh, let me guess. Swimbos with more breasts than brains?”

He hiked his broad shoulders. “My kind prefers tarts with a little more meat on their bones so they can take a demon’s lusts.”

“Tarts?” Her jaw slackened. “My God, you’re the most misogynistic man I’ve ever met. I bet you also like your tarts barefoot and pregnant.”

”Nah, I like them barefoot, on birth control, and always available in my bed.”

She sputtered.
I would also refer you to Meriam’s choice of excerpt, where Holly rants about another aspect of the setup.

I think there’s another reason Cole gets away with these extremes, and that’s because she does it in a playful way. I always get the sense that this is an author who throws caution to the wind in the name of fun and play, and it reduces the seriousness of everything the way a cartoon can make, say, smashing a guy over the head with a mallet merely wacky (though these books are not cartoon-like at all, and they don't seem like they're trying to be funny, another thing I LOVE about them.) Though at the same time, few romances I read directly call attention to feminist issues of any sort.

It also seems like Cole herself is having a great deal of fun, and that lightens the reader experience, too. Though that authorial fun thing might be deceptive. This writing seems easy and breezy, but I’m guessing it’s the result of careful plotting and hard work. Or not!

Anyway, I can’t wait to read Kiss of the Demon King !!! The whole Immortals After Dark series is an instant auto-buy for me. There's a contest, too! See my sidebar or here.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

My laboratory-proven book ranking process & 2008 faves

I was working on a post on how I didn’t expect Dark Desires After Dusk to be one of my top five favorite books released in or around 2008, and then I realized I never listed my top five here on my blog, and then I realized I never say how I even judge a book.

Needless to say, Cade will be waiting another day for his post.

So, my top 5, alphabetical, not faves order:
  • Dark Desires after Dusk by Kresley Cole
  • Death of a Pirate King by Josh Lanyon
  • Demon Moon by Meljean Brook
  • The Spymaster’s Lady by Joanna Bourne
  • Sugar Daddy by Lisa Kleypas
**Little CJ and I discussed most of these at Book Smugglers last week, so I won't do it here.

How did I determine these? Pure readerly experience.
By my system, a poorly written book can fare better than a well written one, just if I take a fancy to it. And if a book has something I personally hate, it can be the best book in the world and it will nevertheless get multiple vicious stab wounds which, as anybody who watches real crime TV knows, is not at all random, but a sign of strong feelings. I don't often assign the "ranks" below as grades when I discuss a book, but it's how I arrange them in my mind.

Book experience ranking levels:

Love affair: I crave it, it takes hold of my mind, it has me in its thrall. Very rare. The Spymaster’s Lady is the only one above that was a full Love Affair, even though it didn’t have the character interplay that makes a book perfect for me, described below in my last post. I didn't care. I loved it.

Passionate crave read: Almost a love affair, but not quite. A passionate crave read is full of excitement and magic, and when I’m not reading it I wish I was. Paradoxically, though, I often try to read slow to make the goodness last. I totally did this with Dark Desires.

Damn fine read: This is a rollicking good read that I look forward to. This might be a B+ for me. Most books I talk about here fall into the damn fine read range.

Serviceable: The book generally works, nothing special. Good enough to finish. Some serviceable books take me forever to finish, others are page turners but still, merely serviceable.

Hostage situation: I want to leave but it won’t let me go because I have to find out what happens goddammit! Extreme measures during a hostage situation may include skipping chunks, reading only dialogue or the first sentence of every paragraph.

ROI situation: (return on investment) This is where I force myself to finish a book because I invested a lot of time in the reading of it before I realized I wish I wasn’t reading it. Typically, a serviceable book will convert to an ROI situation when I'm pretty far along.

The cautionary tale: A DNF (did not finish) I still read a bunch of and get a lot out of, because it’s like a warning or lesson for me as a writer: don’t let this happen to your hero. Pay attention to the build up or you'll have this problem. This sex scene leaves me cold because of that problem. I read such a book with the sort of attention I give to scenes of car crashes or fires. A primal instinct forces me to look for a while, and then it’s like, enough.

The mercy kill DNF: This is a DNF due to boredom. Set gently on floor with a sigh.

The multiple vicious stab wound DNF: This is a DNF due to an intense negative reaction. If it’s a book I actually own, it usually involves some physical abuse, like hurling it across the room.

Speaking of top books of 2008, I still have my running list going here. Let me know if you have a list for me to post. I just added an interesting one last night: the best selling fantasy, which includes a lot of urban fantasy, from Best Fantasy Stories.

The two lower images from Wikipedia commons.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Devil in Winter wrap-up

Well!! Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas turned out to be every bit as enjoyable as everybody says. Especially the character development and interaction. I also learned sort of interesting things about the period in London, and it was a thrill to have Sebastian St. Vincent pay a visit to Ms. Bradshaw, who I remember from my time reading about Nick Gentry in Worth Any Price, the one other Kleypas historical I’ve read.

One of my favorite things for a historical to do
One of the things I most admire in a historical, or really any romance, is when the hero and heroine complete each other, bring out the best in each other and push each other to grow in really character-based ways.

I know that’s sort of duh! and the whole point, but I don’t feel like I fully experience it all that often. Lord of Scoundrels is, to me, one of the most memorable examples of it being done so beautifully: bright, discerning, Jess recognizes and appreciates the hidden goodness in Dain, and beastly-but-wounded-boy Dain brings out the romantic side and softness in Jess while challenging her in a new way, and they don’t just fall in love, they move to a higher place for knowing each other.

I thought Devil in Winter did this really well, too. Idle, rakish Sebastian, a man who's wasted his charm and intelligence on social puffery suddenly has something new to live up to with Evie, someone to take care of, a woman who isn’t jaded and trusts in him, (or, at first, is at least forced to trust in him). And wallflower Evie is forced to utilize her inner strength and is drawn out of her shell by her being with him, and comes into her own. You can see it early in the loss of her stammer, and later in the difficult choice she has to make [trying not to do spoilers] regarding the doctor’s advice, and in her standing up to Sebastian in so many ways.

Back to the ring thing
I’m glad now that I did that post on the ring thing about whether a man would truly get extra lusty from the glint of his wife’s wedding ring (see Men, arousal and the ring thing below). The whole MINE trope.

Looking backwards from the end, I feel like it kind of worked for Sebastian, because he’d never been in a position to care for anything or anybody, and his involvements with women, including his mother and sisters, had always been fleeting. As his pal Westcliff puts it, "Sometimes the fractures in two separate souls became the very hinges that held them together." Which brings me to…

Another thing I like in novels: friendships
Westcliff provides a great character foil for Sebastian, deepening our understanding of the hero here by his observations. I love when they are in the carriage going to [I won’t say] and Sebastian gets into talking about the club and finances and things, and it’s obvious that both men are aware of this change: Sebastian used to prattle on about scandals and so forth, and now he’s involved in real things. Evie’s friends also remind us of Evie’s journey, with their protective instincts and their surprise.

On a side note, men's friendships are just a world I like to read about it because I don't know it. Maybe they're not represented accurately in Romance, but what do I care? As long as they have the ring of verisimilitude, I'm in.

One thing I wonder
How did this cover happen? Don’t get me wrong, I really like it, and I can take it places without getting sideways look. No embarrassing man-titty or half-undressed woman.

Images from Wikimedia commons.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Men, arousal, and the MINE! thing: a DIW question of the day

I am still really enjoying Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas! I know I’ve said this before, but I just always feel so lucky that there is this sort of endless stream of fabulous books. Especially for me, coming late to historical romance. Sure, most of us are running out of money, but at least stories aren't running out!

Question of the day
Note: Not a spoiler. Nuthin here you wouldn't learn from the back blurb.

Okay, I have been thinking about this passage on page 85 (I’m actually way beyond that page, but I’ve been thinking about it for a day or two). It opened some questions to me.

Let me set the stage: Evie and Sebastian are travelling back from Scotland the day after the wedding and morning o’ sex, and this is that evening, another stop along the road to London. They’re in their room and Sebastian is bathing. Evie has already informed him they won’t be having sex anymore, just as they’d agreed. And then this:
He was pleased to observe that some of her composure had vanished as he bathed. Her color heightened as she took an undue interest in the patten of the quilted counterpane on the bed.

As she traced a pattern of stitches with her forefinger, the gleam of the Scottish-gold ring caught Sebastian’s eye. He experienced a strange reaction to the sight, a nearly overwhelming urge to go over to her, shove her back on the bed, and take her without preliminaries. To dominate her, and force her to admit his ownership. The rush of primal lust was more than a bit alarming to a man who had always considered himself civilized.
It was the way the ring played into everything that got my attention here. In this passage, part of his lust is sparked by the idea of their union, or his possession of her. I know our vampire, lykae and other friends get off on the mine concept, but I always chalked that up to a paranormal phenomena. Here, the sort of mine thinking plays a major part in arousal.

I read it to my husband and I asked him about the ring/lust connection:

Husband: Noooo.
: The glint of a ring would never play into a man’s lust for a babe.

: What if the man was on his way to falling in love with her?

No no no. Seeing the ring would have as little to do with lust as a unicorn flying across the sky.

What if it was in a time when men had more sort of ownership over women, they were more possessions or chattel?

I could see a mind working up to it, but not instantly, like,
Ring! then Sex! There’d be more steps.

Please don’t think I’m dogging Kleypas or this book. I frankly enjoyed this passage, and I am really loving the whole book. The day these books match up to reality is the day they start sucking. Even though that's sort of what this question is--does the ring/lust thing have any basis in reality, in male psychology.

Anyway, as my husband reminded me, does not speak for all men, and what's more, heroes come in all dispositions. But I wonder about other people’s take on the ring being hooked into Sebastian’s surge of lust.

Here are my possible explanations:
  1. The ring/lust thing is something specific to Sebastian’s character. After all, he also takes to the gambling hall once it’s his, whereas before, he couldn’t be bothered to do much of anything except be a rake. Maybe Sebastian just gets really activated by connections to things.
  2. This just shows the difference between the regency male and the contemporary male, and the how women were seen and treated, and the way the male was aroused. (But then, if that is true, is the ‘mine’ paranormal gang sort of regency in disguise?)
  3. It’s just part of the whole fantasy thing of romance. In romance, men just get off on their bond/link to women at a far higher degree than they do in real life.
  4. Men really do get into the mine thing, but the husband of CJ is naturally a far greater connoisseur of beauty and babe-ish-ness than other men. *ahem*
Please advise!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Newsy updates that are possibly only interesting to me

Egg Timer update
This technique is REALLY working out! I'm so excited. I've never made a New Year's Resolution before that I even remember a few days later. However, this is more than a resolution, it's a system.

Renee from Renee's Book Addiction turned up an even better egg timer - behold. When the time is up, a chick appears in the bottom half of the egg and a voice says, "Time to check the scrambled tofu." You can change it to say something different, but Renee is keeping hers as is, and so am I, because it's kooky! Find it here.

What I have learned from people's New Year's Best of Lists
I am such a slow reader. People have read way more books than I have and they all look wonderful. Scroll 2 posts below for a running list of these lists or click here. Anyway, thanks to the generosity of certain lovely gift certificate gift givers, I am going to do a haul at Barnes and Noble, including:

Pleasure Unbound by Larissa Ione - It seems like everybody has this on their list.
Blue-Eyed Devil by Lisa Kleypas - Even more people have this.
Your Scandalous Ways by Loretta Chase

And possibly:

Scream for Me by Karen Rose
Unlawful Contact by Pamela Clare
Also, but not from lists:
Lessons of Desire by Madeleine Hunter - recommended by Joanna Bourne
Veil of Midnight by Lara Adrian - I LOVE this hot series!
Dreaming of You by Lisa Kleypas (OMG, I had by Derek Craven before. But that's why I'm reading it, to see what all the Derek Craven fuss is about! I may read this next.)

I may do the haul in 2 chunks, because I HAVE to get the newest from Kresley Cole, Kiss of a Demon King, which is out in February.

Related question
I am giddy to think of these books! Hey, on Scream for Me and Unlawful Contact, am I starting in the middle of a series when I shouldn't?

What I learned from a Wall Street Journal article today
Bookgirl, a woman I follow on Twitter, alerted her followers to this interesting Wall Street Journal article on publishing industry. It's sort of about blockbuster psychology, but one of the things I got out of it was how reading is a social experience, and people always want to read books other people have read.

I think I am totally guilty of that, so I'm going to try to read lesser read books now and then. So, two unknowns, at least to me I may include in my haul:

Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn reviewed here by Brie. This is a historical mystery suspense with the best first sentence ever:

"To say that I met Nicholas Brisbane over my husbands dead body is not entirely accurate. Edward, it should be noted, was still twitching upon the floor."

Mélusine (Doctrine of Labyrinths, book 1) by Sarah Monette reviewed here by Renee. It's about a court magician and a thief and assassin in a magical city. That's a bad description, but my egg timer already went off!

Don't forget to vote for Book Binge for best review blog! Vote here.