On My Wishlist #3





On My Wishlist is a meme in transition!

Up until now, this very popular tradition has been hosted by Book Chick City. Next week, the linky will be up at Cosy Books.

In the meantime, we all seem to be sharing our addiction through the comments at Cosy Books. Mucho thanks goes to Book Chick City for starting this popular book blog meme and to Cosy Books for stepping up and continuing the love.

I’ve got so many books incoming this week, I’ve been trying to keep the wishing to a minimum. It’s not easy, and it will probably break out in a rash next week. But in the meantime, there’s this one book I’ve seen on other people’s wishlists (there needs to be an acronym for that, maybe OPW?) that I can’t resist.

The Dirty Streets of Heaven by Tad Williams
Bobby Dollar #1
Sept. 4, 2012
Urban Fantasy

Tad Williams wrote some of the best books I ever read. I still have my print copies of The Dragonbone Chair, The Stone of Farewell, and To Green Angel Tower. That epic fantasy series was awesome, and I’ve always meant to re-read it. And I adored Tailchaser’s Song. But I never made it to Otherland, although my husband liked the series and we do have them. I have high hopes for this urban fantasy series because it’s Williams and I love a good, gritty urban fantasy. We’ll see what happens. The cover is awesome!

Stop the presses! I have an update on a previous wishlist title! If anyone out there agreed that Liz Williams’ Worldsoul sounded like an awesome book, it is now available on NetGalley.



3 Star Ratings: the Authors and Publishers Turn

Today it’s the authors’ and publishers’ turn to  speak out (or write out!) on the topic of those 3-star ratings.

Since I’m a proud member of the SFR Brigade, I asked some SFR authors over at the Brigade to send me their thoughts about what it’s like for them when one of their books receives a 3-Star Review. Here’s what they sent:

Heather Massey, author of Queenie’s Brigade and the new Clockpunk Erotica The Watchmaker’s Lady, and also the pilot of the SFR-focused blog The Galaxy Express, had this to say:

A book review, any review, is for readers. A review represents enthusiasm for the written word and I applaud those who take the time to do them. It’s an invaluable service.

What does a three-star review (or its equivalent) mean to me as an author? It means that with so many book choices available these days, someone has chosen to not only read one of mine, but also enjoys sharing his or her thoughts about it with other readers. That’s a very special honor.

It also means (to me) that I delivered an entertaining and/or thought-provoking story, one that the reviewer found worth analyzing even if all of the elements didn’t work for him or her. And what didn’t work for him or her might work for other readers—or vice versa. I find these types of discoveries fascinating. I appreciate the chance to discover impressions about my stories that I could only learn through the eyes of a reader. Once I send off a story into the world, it belongs to them.

Diane Dooley, the author of the SFR novellas Mako’s Bounty and Blue Galaxy, said something slightly shorter and pithier, but equally to the point.

On 3 star reviews: A three star review means someone liked your book. They didn’t love it or hate it. Nothing wrong with that!  I’ve had enough one and two star reviews to appreciate a three star. I guess it’s all in your perspective. Writers who whine about a three star review really need to toughen up and get over themselves.

And A.B. Gayle, the author of the recent SFR space opera novel Isolation, reflected more of the ambivalence that many reviewers sense when we give a 3-star rating in her response to the question.

Such a hard topic actually. I angst about a “3” rating, but it does depends on the reviewer. Some are tougher than others and rarely give high ratings, so I do look at their averages and what else they give high and low ratings to!

Going by the definition it means they like the book, but many use it to indicate “meh”. A lot depends on if they back it up with a review and say why they didn’t score it higher. That’s what I want to know. It may not be their “type” of book or didn’t meet their expectations. Always a killer. Some split it and rate plot/characters/writing separately and then average them. I like that type of feedback.

Theoretically ratings are for other readers to rank a book against what else that reader has read so their friends can work out if they want to read it.I find it difficult to remember that and just use it as a yardstick on my writing. Which I know is wrong, but I can’t help it. In a nutshell, I see it as a “pass”, a “C”, and I was one of those students who went for “B”s and “A”s.

And what do the publishers have to say?

Representing the Publishers Perspective, we have the PR Manager for Curiosity Quills Press, Verity Linden:

When one of our books gets a 3-star, it tends to be either the best kind of review, or the worst, rarely anything in between! Option one, it is someone who liked the book overall but had certain issues with it. These tend to be great feedback, broken down into what they liked and what they didn’t, which often gets used in the editing process for that author in future. Option two, the other half of 3-star reviews, where the book has elicited the worst kind of response possible – bland indifference, damning with weak praise. I would almost rather someone hated the book and told us why.

Overall, my opinion of 3-star reviews is about as mixed ‘6 of one, half a dozen of the other’ as… well. A 3 star review!

Last, but not least, a comment from from Eugene Teplitsky, Operations Director  of Curiosity Quills Press:

In my experience, 3 stars tend to be those reviews which either fall into that frustrating category of people who praise, prase, PRAISE the book in the text of the review, and then give 3 stars without saying why they docked us – OR – people who were sadly unimpressed with the book to swing either way. For me, this is pretty bad, actually, because it means we 1. failed to impress a reader enough to make a conclusive decison that they loved it, and 2. failed to piss them off enough with a hard-hitting divisive twist to make them REALLY hate it. Intead, it fell into the realm of MEH.
I do not like the realm of MEH. I do not like it, no sirreh.

I think it is fair to say that no one likes the realm of MEH. No one at all.

The recipients of those 3-star ratings have pretty mixed “ratings” on the ratings. But there is one common thread. Everyone who receives those ratings is very interested in the “why”. Without the “why” the “3-stars” can look a lot like “realm of MEH” from the receiving end.

With the “why” it can be great feedback.

But let’s hear from other authors, publishers and reviewers out there. What does a 3-star rating mean to you?
Here are all the blogs participating in this event:

Review Tour: Brightarrow Burning + Giveaway!

When your people are struggling for survival, love is the last thing on your mind, especially if your job is to kill the brother of the only man you’ve ever loved.

That simple plot description becomes a multi-layered fantasy romance in the hands of Isabo Kelly. Her Brightarrow Burning gives readers not just a steamy romance, but also a compelling portrait of a heroine caught between duty, desire, and the gut-instinct to trust someone she’s known all her life, even when recent events say she shouldn’t. The story boils with added fire of the human desire to live fast in the face of imminent death, and a truly addictive partner.

More on that in a minute.

Brightarrow Burning shows a world in shambles. A powerful race of Sorcerers invaded Layla’s human city just a few short years ago. The Sorcerers draw their power for their spells from human pain, so they capture and torture Layla’s people for their fuel.

The humans thought the nearby Elven Kingdoms were their allies, but the Sorcerers were clever. Divide and conquer is an old trick. The Sorcerers bargained with the elves first, promising power and riches, and the elves stayed neutral in the Human/Sorcerer conflict.

Without elven weapons, the humans had no chance.

Then some of the elves started trading weapons to the Sorcerers. With the neutrality broken, the more enlightened elves were able to start trading with the Layla’s people again. That enlightenment meant they had never been beguiled by the Sorcerers’ claims; they knew that as soon as the humans were conquered, the Elven Kingdoms were next.

Layla is an archer, one of the best shots the humans have. With elven weapons, she can disrupt a caravan of captives, and sometimes assassinate its guards. But she has a special assignment.

One elven lord has been betraying the secrets of the human city to the Sorcerers since the day they arrived. The elves used to be their friends, and had free entry into the city. Layla’s assignment is to kill that elf.

Although Althir may have betrayed the humans, his brother Ulric has been a friend of her family’s all her life. Now that Layla is a grown woman, the feelings she has for Ulric are anything but familial.

It won’t stop her from killing his brother. But Ulric might.

He’s suddenly there, every time she turns around. He says he wants to protect her. Even more, he says he wants to love her. But Layla fears that the real reason Ulric is there is to protect his brother.

After all, where was he before she started to target his brother? He disappeared for years, and suddenly he’s back. It can’t be a coincidence.

And then Ulric adds the addictive compulsion of elf-fire into this already combustible mix, and all hell really does break loose!

Escape Rating B: For a short novella, this story packs a surprising amount of emotional wallop into it. Equally surprising, it manages to tie up its major loose ends, as least as far as the hero and heroine are concerned.

The worldbuilding is pretty neat, too. This is a dark and gritty war-torn fantasy world. We see just enough to know why Layla’s and Ulric’s relationship has such a damn hard time getting started, and where Layla’s trust issues come from.

I would love to see more of this world, it’s got the kind of possibilities for future storytelling built into it that remind me a little of Shiloh Walker’s Veil series.

If you prefer your elves dark and tortured, your women warriors, and your road to romance rocky, you’ll enjoy this book.

Isabo will be giving away a $25 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to one randomly drawn commenter during the tour.

  • To be entered, just leave a comment along with your email address.
  • One commenter will be chosen randomly from all the comments made at each tour stop, so the more tour stops you make comments at, the greater your chances of winning! A list of all participating blogs can be found here.
  • Giveaway ends at 11:59 PM CDT on 3/30


3 Star Ratings: the Reviewer’s Perspective

What does it mean to a reviewer to give a 3-star rating?

This post is part of the 3-Star Rating Event organized by Bitten by Paranormal Books. Today’s post, not just here but at all of the participating blogs, is the opportunity for the blogger/reviewers to talk about what it means when they give a book a 3-star rating, or the equivalent for their blog.

On Reading Reality, 3 stars would be an Escape Rating of C. That doesn’t mean a “Gentleman’s C” like they used to award at Ivy League schools (possibly still do), but, as it says on my review policy:

C: Good fun.  I enjoyed the time I spent with the story and/or characters.

So a C means I had fun. To me, that’s pretty important. I read genre fiction, it’s supposed to be fun! If I give a C that means the book succeeded. But, but, but, there was something that kept it from doing more than working beyond that most basic level of giving me a pleasant escape for the time it took me to read it. And my review is going to explain whatever it was that kept the grade from being higher than a C.

What makes a story a C rating, at least to me?

I have a tendency to give a C+ rating to novellas that I enjoy a lot, but frustrate me because I want more than I got. I can see that there should be more story, or more backstory, or more worldbuilding, and it got left “on the cutting room floor”. While I recognize that the author may have needed to make a word count requirement, as the reader, what I feel is that I liked what I got, but that the story cries out for more depth, or breadth or length, or all of the above.

I gave Break Out, by Nina Croft, a C+ rating. I also named it one of my best of the year. But only along with its sequel, Deadly Pursuit. Together, the two books had the worldbuilding that neither quite managed alone.

Sometimes my willing suspension of disbelief won’t let me go past a C+. Lust in the Library was a C+ book, not because it wasn’t fun, but because I know too much about libraries. Any real librarian who behaved like the librarians in that book would get fired.

Some stories get a solid C because while I enjoyed them once, and might recommend them to another reader of the same genre, they don’t rise to the next level. C and C+ books are generally terrific mind-candy, but don’t have the elements that would make me recommend them to readers who are not already fans of that particular genre. But whatever makes them C-rated books, the review explains it, usually in glorious technicolor detail.

But it’s just one reviewer’s opinion. YMMV.

Tomorrow, each blog will post comments they’ve gathered from authors about what they think and feel when their work receives a 3-star rating. More comments are always welcome, so that purple comment link at the bottom of this post, please click it and send me your thoughts on this subject. Or email me at marlene (at) readingreality (dot) net.

As a reader, what does a 3-star rating mean to you? I’d love to know what review readers think about the ratings!

The links to all the blogs participating in the 3-star rating event hop are listed below. Check them out to see what other reviewers had to say about this murky subject.



Engaged in Wickedness

From the description of Engaged in Wickedness, it looked like Jade Lee’s introductory novella for her new Bridal Favors series would merely be a purely engaging frothy romance. But the desperate purpose behind Lady Gwen’s wickedness gives this historical romance a surprising depth.

The story does have what seems like a typical start. It could have been whipped out of the Regency, and with a few updates, taken place anywhere and anywhen.

A young woman tests, in fact over-reaches the rules of her station, seemingly out of a spirit of adventure. She seems adventurous to her tamer and more conventional peers, who listen avidly to the tales of her adventures, safely after the fact.

But Lady Gwen is the daughter of an Earl, and the rules she is flouting are the staid and unbreakable conventions of the haut ton. What rules are those? She likes to sneak off into darkened corners and shadowy gardens with men, and let them kiss her.

This is dangerous behavior. If she is caught, she will be ruined in the eyes of the ton. Her father’s station will not save her. And Lady Gwen simply does not care anymore. Flirting, and being caught, just a little, is the only thing that fills the emptiness of her life.

But one man is watching her. Sir Edward Murray has come to London to find a wife. And Lady Gwen is just the wife he wants. This slightly reformed bad boy has found his responsible side since the death of his father six years ago. Before he assumed his baronetcy, all of his plots and schemes were focused on getting into trouble. Since then, he’s been too busy successfully managing his estate.

Now, now he’s spent all his time in London crafting one plan after another to ensnare Lady Gwen. Little knowing that she is all too ready to be caught.

All he has to do is quit plotting and really, really see her. But by the time Edward finds Gwen’s true depths, she discovers all of his plots and schemes.

Can recklessness and deception lead to lasting love?

Escape Rating B: At the beginning of the story, Gwen seems to be a very shallow person, and the reader wonders why one would sympathize with her. She’s not just a flirt, she’s actively self-destructive, and for no particularly good reason. Gwen seems to be running around a ton ball looking for someone to compromise her reputation, and her family is nowhere in sight.

Lucky for Gwen, this part doesn’t last long. As we meet her family, it starts to be clear. Gwen’s family is clinically dysfunctional, and things are being concealed from the world. Gwen is acting out of stress, because she can’t cope anymore.

She needs to be rescued, but that risks exposure. So instead, she’s looking for ruin, because adventure makes her feel alive for a few minutes. She’s searching for danger. And it makes sense. Finding Edward is the best thing that could happen to her. Gwen needs a bad boy with a respectable facade. It just takes her a while to realize it.

Figuring out just how bad he can be is what makes the story fun.


Bloggiesta 2012: To-Do, Ta-DAH!

Thanks to a post over at Felicia the Geeky Blogger’s Book Blog, I found out about Bloggiesta before it happened. This is SO much better than lamenting about it after the fact.

What’s a “Bloggiesta”, you may ask?

A fiesta of Blogging, of course!

Specifically, it’s a fiesta weekend devoted to getting all the pesky stuff on one’s blogging “to-do” list done. Most of us, including yours truly, spend our blogging time writing the blog. Maintaining the “behind the scenes” parts tend to take second (sometimes third and fourth) place.

And we all get bitten by the old saying, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”. But just because the blog isn’t exactly “broken” doesn’t mean the place couldn’t use a little sprucing up.

Bloggiesta  is being organized by It’s All About Books (lovely name for a book blogging site!) The general goals of Bloggiesta, as stated on the sign up post, are:

  • to spend time that weekend (as much or as little as your schedule allows) working on your blog
  • to create a to do list to share on your blog and link up with other participants
  • to hopefully participant in several mini challenges and learn something new
  • to connect with other participants through blog hopping or twitter
  • to make new blogging friends!
  • to come away at the end of the three days with a spiffed up blog!

But those of us participating also have to come up with some specific goals we plan to tackle during the Bloggiesta, which is this weekend, March 30, March 31 and April 1. (I hope that April Fool’s Day inclusion does not prove to be prophetic for anyone.)

The great thing about the Bloggiesta is that we will all be able to help each other, and cheer each other on. Blogging is a somewhat lonely occupation. (And yes, I’m stalling so I don’t have to state my goals. I’m getting there, I’m getting there!)

  • Finalize the plans for my Blogo-birthday celebration April 4-5!!!!!!
  • Fix up my blog’s Facebook page
  • Update my review policy page
  • Add an advertising policy page
  • Check out triberr
  • Create a page for collecting my challenge progress
  • Add Networked Blogs back to my sidebar
  • Check out Mister Linky for WordPress (should the Virtual Nightstand be a meme?)
  • Write an advertisement for an associate reviewer

Whew! That’s probably enough of a list. This is going to be fun. Or work disguised as fun. Or fun disguised as work.

Lots of good stuff will get done. Bring on the Bloggiesta!

3 Star Rating Event — Opinions Wanted

Dear Authors And Publishers,

Tell me what you think when you receive a 3 Star rating! (At Reading Reality, that’s an Escape Rating of C)

Reading Reality is participating in the 3 Star Rating Event hosted by Bitten by Paranormal Romance. Here’s the rundown on the event.

In March we are going to tackle the often controversial 3 Star Rating, what we call One Good Howl. Thursday, March 29, 2012, will be for book reviewers to discuss in detail and educate our followers, authors and publishers on what a 3 Star rating means to us since so many people seem to react differently to seeing this much maligned rating. It is also an opportunity for our followers to tell us in their comments how they feel about reading, or the possibility of reading, a book we have given a 3 Star rating.

– * Bitten By Paranormal Romance

On Friday, March 30, I’ll put together a post with selected quotes from selected authors, and publishers, containing their honest thoughts about what it means to them receive a 3 Star rating on their work.

Any authors or publishers who are interested in expressing your opinions on this matter for the March 30th post, please send me an email with the subject of “3 Star Rating Event Author Request” to marlene [at] readingreality [dot] net or here.

Ebook Review Central, Samhain Publishing, February 2012

Samhain Publishing’s list for February 2012 is, as usual, long and extremely diverse.

On the one hand, we have the sweetness that Samhain’s Retro Contemporary romances bring to the line in Kane and Mabel. On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, or perhaps at several opposite ends, we have the chills and thrills of their Horror line, represented by Genesis of Evil, and the naughtier sides of romance, from their Red Hots (I wonder, do they want us to think of hot dogs, or not, with that particular warning label?) like Off Limits and Reckless Territory. Those titles even sound hot.

But which titles will be featured this week? Let’s see what we have here…

The number one title stole the top spot and the souls of its readers. The hero, or perhaps anti-hero is a better term, is a soul collector who lands himself on demon death row for betraying his demon boss. His attempt at suicide by demon hunter results in a rescue by a virgin white witch looking to rid herself of a curse that guards her virginity. And she’s found the one demon hunter who would be more than happy to help. If this sounds familiar to you, that’s because it’s Getting Familiar With Your Demon, by Jodi Redford, and reviewers (and there were plenty) gave it high marks. Be prepared to lose yourself in Redford’s series That Old Black Magic, because Demon is book 4. But this looks like a great place to get lost.

If romantic comedy is more your style, then check out the number two selection for this month, Tamara Morgan’s Love is a Battlefield. This first book in her Games of Love series (yeah, a first book in a series!) is a tale about two sets of re-enactment fanatics fighting over the same territory for their “games” who end up having some games of their own. This sounds utterly delicious, the Jane Austen Regency Re-Enactment Society going to war with the Highland Games athletes, with the men in kilts. What does a proper Highlander wear under his kilt? This story provides a sexy, and funny answer to that question.

The last title featured is acclaimed by all the reviewers for its charm, its emotional depth and the painstaking research that went into it. The book is A Private Gentleman by Heidi Cullinan. This historical male/male romance takes place in the mid-19th century, and is much more than a simple love story. Or even more than a complicated love story, for that matter. The story is about love that reaches beyond class boundaries, but even that’s been done before. What captivated the reviewers was the way this story dealt with issues of disability, addiction and childhood abuse, and how the love between the two heroes eventually helped them come to terms with their pasts, their present and their possible future.

Ebook Review Central will be back next week with our four-in-one issue. We’ll see begin April by highlighting February from Amber Quill, Astraea Press, Liquid Silver and Riptide Publishing.  Come back next week!

What’s on my (mostly virtual) nightstand? 3-25-12

The Virtual Nightstand is way for me to give a shout-out to books that are coming out in the next week or so that are on my TBR (To Be Reviewed, in this case) list.

And, since I tend to do a lot of my reading in bed at midnight on my trusty iPad, when I finish a book I take a virtual look at my Virtual Nightstand to figure out what the heck I’m supposed to be reading next!

And speaking of next…what’s on that Nightstand this week?

There are two books I’ve been really looking forward to.

Lessons After Dark by Isabel Cooper is a loose sequel to her breakout debut No Proper Lady. No Proper Lady was a romance that handled the time-travel, the romance and the magic right. I wasn’t the only reader who loved it (see review), this one was recognized with bunches of awards. I can’t wait to see if the magic continues.

Zoë Archer’s Skies of Fire is the first book in her new Ether Chronicles. The author says it’s steampunk, which makes it doubly appealing. I’ve really enjoyed both her historicals and her SFR, so her steampunk should be good. I got this one from Edelweiss with very high hopes.

I requested Legacy and Wrath by Denise Tompkins from Samhain. Wrath, the second book in The Niteclif Evolutions, is due out next week. This looked like an interesting suspense/paranormal romance series, and since I wanted book 2, I had to get them both.

A Tryst with Trouble by Alyssa Everett is a Regency Romance, and is the author’s debut. I requested this because it looked like fun. A rake and a wallflower join forces to solve the murder of a footman, because each believes that the other plans to pin their murder on a hapless but not murderous member of their respective families. The comedy of errors leads to true love by strange pathways, of course!

I was invited to get the galley of Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers at NetGalley because I went to PLA. I think librarians or conference attendees got a widget. But I’m starting to hear some very good buzz about this YA historical romance that seems to mix a lot of deliciously nasty political intrigue with just the tiniest bit of magic. Sounds like it could be fantastic.

And I have a mystery! No, really. Skeleton Picnic by Michael Norman looked good when I saw it on NetGalley. It reminded me a little of the Margaret Maron’s Deborah Knott series, only with a male protagonist. What I didn’t see (and didn’t check, my bad) was that it was the third J.D. Books mystery.

On April 6, Reading Reality will be hosting a stop on the Isadora DayStar Blog Tour for Book & Trailer Showcase. This will be a review stop on the tour, so I’ll be reading Isadora DayStar by P.I. Barrington this week so I have my review ready. P.I. Barrington will be giving away 2 copies of her science fiction novel.

Don’t forget the Brightarrow Burning Blog Tour  stops at Reading Reality on March 29!


And because I want to be a complete tease, April 4 is Reading Reality’s blogoversary and April 5 is my birthday. There will be a celebration. Here at Reading Reality. Is blogo-birthday the word? Whatever it’s called it will happen.

Watch this space! There will be further announcements.

Mondays come sooner. Ebook Review Central tomorrow!

In My Mailbox #2

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren as a way for bloggers and readers to share the books they bought, borrowed or received that week.

When this meme started in 2008, I suspect the mailbox was an actual mailbox, whether or not it looked like the one in the graphic. For me, the mailbox is mostly an email inbox. But the principle still applies.

And sometimes it’s real mail. You’ll see.

Ebooks I received from their authors or publicists:

Wreck of the Nebula Dream by Veronica Scott
A Hint of Frost by Hailey Edwards
Intangible by J. Meyers
Lowcountry Punch by Boo Walker
Third Rate Romance by Tim Martin
The Mine by John A. Heldt

Ebooks I received for reviews for Blog Tours (Tour company name in parens):

Wanted: Handsome Alien Abductor by Myra Nour (BTS)
Staring into the Eyes of Chance by Kay Dee Royal (Bewitching)
Finding My Faith by Carly Fall (Bewitching)
The Zurian Child by Jessica E. Subject (Sizzling PR)
Sunrise Point by Robyn Carr (Little Bird Publicity)
The Great Outdoors by Becky Moore (Sizzling PR)


One new assignment for Book Lovers Inc.

Auraria by Tim Westover




Five from NetGalley. I’ve been trying to resist but the April Carina Press books were posted, there was lots of SFR or SFR-ish, and I caved. And Pern was the first SFR I ever read, so yes, Sky Dragons does fit in this list.

Sky Dragons by Todd McCaffrey
Desert Blade by Ella Drake
Darkest Caress by Kaylea Cross
Zero Gravity Outcasts by Kay Keppler
Cruel Numbers by  Christopher Beats






And nearly last, one steampunk from Edelweiss

Tarnished by Karina Cooper




Last, but definitely not least, the big box I shipped from PLA arrived. I haven’t opened it yet, because, well, it’s under the cat. She thinks I got it for her!