Michille: Beach Reads 2020 (and before)

His Lady to ProtectI’m a week late to post for the start of the summer season with the holiday weekend behind us wherein lots of folks (idiots) in my area and around the country headed to the beach. For our non-US friends, Memorial Day in the US is a federal holiday for remembering and honoring people who have died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. It is currently observed on the last Monday of May, which means a lot of Americans have the day off (and head out of town or have a cookout).

With beaches on the mind (or currently in my imagination), I was thinking about beach reads for this summer. I’m not heading out anytime soon because having 100,000 Americans die of COVID-19 (that we know of) scares the crap out of me, especially since I was dog sick in January just after returning from a 2-week trip to China. Pneumonia makes me one of those ‘vulnerable population’ folks. But I will probably have some time to put my nose in a book despite the new crazy workload created by this pandemic (and I’m just so incredibly thankful that I have a job that I can still do [albeit 12 hrs a day]). Continue reading

Michaeline: Review: From the Moderne Vampyre Genre

Accounting ledger in French which is also the cover of the book; title in Dynatape

*The Utterly Uninteresting & Unadventurous Tales of Fred, the Vampire Accountant* by Drew Hayes. (Image via Amazon US.)

I’m not a huge fan of vampire stories, but it turns out I really like the ones where Everyman (or Everywoman), the unspectacular and messed-up mortal, gets turned into a vampire. There’s just something about that juxtaposition of cool immortality with lingering mortal uncertainty that really interests me.

I loved the first few MaryJanice Davidson’s Undead series with Betsy, Queen of the Vampires – in the first book, Undead and Unwed, a former Bridget Jones-type gets thrust into the Vampire lifestyle after an accident. And What We Do in the Shadows is a sweet movie about vampire “sharehouse” in Wellington, New Zealand. (I’m referring to the 2014 film; I didn’t know about the 2019 TV series until now. See? Blogging has some great side benefits!)

Now there’s another vampire world I can add to my list: I just read The Utterly Uninteresting & Unadventurous Tales of Fred, the Vampire Accountant by Drew Hayes and had a lot of fun!

All three of these vampire universes share characters who are very much aware of the vampire tropes, and how they (as vampires) turn tradition on its head. They don’t want to be evil bloodsuckers, and their main focus in life isn’t their next meal, but trying to “live” an undead life with a degree of comfort – and they want to be better people.

Fred is particularly aware in many ways that he’s part of the Vampire Story. He thought he’d turn into a suave and effortlessly cool vampire after waking up under a dumpster drained of his blood, but Continue reading

Jilly: Free Books for Honest Reviewers

If you’re a regular visitor to 8LW, chances are you’re an avid reader. Would you like to get your hands on the latest releases, for free, before they hit the market? If you’re willing to write an honest review of the book on Amazon, Goodreads or a similar platform, chances are you could do just that.

In today’s ultra-connected world, most savvy bibliophiles use reviews to help them decide whether to click the button and buy the book. Which means that most savvy authors will do everything they can to make sure their book has a good selection of honest reviews. Starred ratings are useful, but a paragraph or two describing what worked—or didn’t—for the reviewer is invaluable. It’s as important to warn off the wrong reader as it is to attract the right one, because word of mouth works both ways and the last thing an author wants is a disappointed reader.

So how do authors find these treasured reviewers? Sometimes through carefully cultivated “street teams”, but often by using a reputable ARC (Advance Review Copy) organization such as NetGalley, Hidden Gems or Booksprout.

It’s not permitted for an author to buy reviews, nor is it allowed to give a reader a free book in return for a review, honest or not. However, publishers large and small are allowed to pay an ARC organization who will match advance copies of their books with eager readers. The readers are not paid and are not required to review the books they receive—but as you may imagine, readers who reliably post insightful reviews are in great demand, while those who take the freebies and post anodyne one-liners, or nothing, aren’t likely to stay on the list for long.

Told you that to tell you this: there’s a huge demand for good reader/reviewers. Continue reading

Jilly: Sara Whitney’s Tempting Heat

An unexpected upside to becoming a writer is that I find myself reading books written by friends, and friends of friends. I love seeing people I know become debut authors and then go on to build their lists. There’s something thrilling and insider-ish about being part of their adventure.

Here on 8LW we’ve shared the excitement surrounding the publication of Jeanne’s Touched by a Demon books and Nancy’s Harrow’s Finest Five series, and we’ve enjoyed interviews with some of Jeanne’s fellow Golden Heart alumnae. This week was another first for me: the debut of Sara Whitney, one of my Golden Heart classmates.

Tempting Heat is a contemporary second-chance romance novella set in Chicago, with the two main characters stranded in forced proximity during an epic snowstorm. I really like those tropes. Second-chance stories raise the emotional stakes quickly because the characters already have shared baggage for the author to play with, and forced proximity adds extra pressure because the characters literally have nowhere to go—they have to face Whatever Went Wrong first time around.

An unexpected downside to becoming a writer is that I find it hard to lose myself in a book. My inner editor starts offering critique and before I know it I’m assembling a list of things I’d tweak or change or rewrite instead of enjoying the story. So I was ridiculously happy to find myself immersed in Tempting Heat, sharing Finn and Tom’s long-overdue reconciliation-cute.

The story starts when Fiona (Finn) discovers a half-awake, hungover Tom emerging from her flatmate’s bedroom some hours after said flatmate departed to deal with a work emergency involving a weekend-long trip to Las Vegas, and just as a gigantic snowstorm shuts down all transport options. Continue reading

Michaeline: Book Review: Jackie Lau’s Man vs. Durian

Handsome Asian guy holding a durian fruit

Image via Amazon

I’ve talked about Jackie Lau here at Eight Ladies before; I was impressed with Ice Cream Lover, a book about ice cream, Canadian love, and a grumpy but adorable Asian-Canadian hero who meets a bicultural Ice Cream Queen. (Both the heroine and the ice cream are bicultural.)

That was Book Two in the Baldwin Village series, and Book Three, Man vs. Durian, was just released on August 27, 2019. Jackie writes fast, and she writes well – an amazing combination for readers who devour books and want more.

The marketing tags for Man vs. Durian promise a fake relationship, a very sweet hero, a grumpy heroine, and lots of food – and the book delivers on all counts.

First, I really like to have food in a book – good food, bad food, food that provokes emotions and socially smooths the path for our characters. Jennifer Crusie’s Bet Me revolves around chicken marsala and doughnuts; Lois McMaster Bujold invented the delightful and talented cook, Ma Kosti, with her little chocolate desserts of plutonium-like density. Food, written well, taps another level of our consciousness, and gives a story depth and heft.

Second, a fake relationship – in other words, the good old “marriage of convenience” trope in modern form – is also something I enjoy. In this case, Valerie (our heroine) has disappointed her mother on both the professional and the biological empire fronts (no boyfriend, no marriage, no grandchildren being the logical progression). Harassment made her quit a job she liked in computers, blacklisting prevented her from finding a new one, and a sucky boyfriend, straight from Reddit’s Relationship Advice pages, soured her on love. She’s now scooping ice cream in the shop from Baldwin Village Two, sorting out her options, and she’d like to get her mother off her back.

On the spur of the moment, she invents a Peter – who is not only a male boyfriend, but a children’s doctor. And, as fate would have it, Continue reading

Michaeline: Making the Best of a Dystopian Timeline

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Images via Wikimedia Commons)

In preparation for Margaret Atwood’s new book, The Testaments (officially released Sept. 10, 2019), I re-read two classic dystopian novels. I finished George Orwell’s 1984 on Sunday, and Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale on Tuesday, then read right through The Testaments (the sequel to THT) on Wednesday.

That’s a whole lot of dystopia, folks. Fortunately, I survived the experience unbowed.

Orwell’s 1984 is THE fright novel about totalitarian systems. His vision is broad and deep, and his prose (generally) is economical and delivers its truth bombs with great precision. This is the book that gave us doublespeak, Big Brother and a clear way of talking about the rise of totalitarianism – in fact, he infodumps two chapters of a pretend totalitarian how-to manual in the last third, and it’s still a page turner. It’s not recommended for folks who need a happily-ever-after – Orwell’s book is bleak, and the only happy ending is death, and the government is stingy with even that. Continue reading