Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Musing Mondays - #WhyIReadRomance days 7-9 | #30DaysofReadathon days 29-27 | thoughts on book clubs

Musing Monday, September 11, 2017

Musing Mondays is a weekly meme that asks you to choose one of the following prompts to answer:

  • I’m currently reading…
  • Up next I think I’ll read…
  • I bought the following book(s) in the past week…
  • I’m super excited to tell you about (book/author/bookish-news)…
  • I’m really upset by (book/author/bookish-news)…
  • I can’t wait to get a copy of…
  • I wish I could read ___, but…
  • I blogged about ____ this past week…

I'm super excited to tell you about Parajunkee's #whyIreadromance event & the 24 hours of Dewey #readathon #30daysofreadathon event

I decided to nix daily posts in favour of grouping a couple of days together at a time so this is going to be a slightly longer Musing Monday post than normal.

Day 7 - Best Happily Ever After

The Darkest Seduction (Lords of the Underworld #9) by Gena Showalter

At long last, New York Times bestselling author Gena Showalter unveils the story of Paris, the darkest and most tormented Lord of the Underworld.

Possessed by the demon of Promiscuity, immortal warrior Paris is irresistibly seductive — but his potent allure comes at a terrible price. Every night he must bed someone new, or weaken and die. And the woman he craves above all others is the one woman he'd thought was forever beyond his reach... until now.

Newly possessed by the demon of Wrath, Sienna Blackstone is racked by a ruthless need to punish those around her. Yet in Paris's arms, the vulnerable beauty finds soul-searing passion and incredible peace. Until a blood feud between ancient enemies heats up.

Will the battle against gods, angels and creatures of the night bind them eternally — or tear them apart?
After eight, EIGHT, books of build up Gena Showalter FINALLY resolved Paris's storyline in 2012, 4 years after introducing him in The Darkest Night in 2008. The reason that Paris's story out of all of the Lords (and out of all the happy endings I've read) is, in my opinion, the best happily ever after is partly because of how long he had to suffer. Paris is the Keeper of Promiscuity so he starts off as a sex fiend ladies man, but then he meets Sienna and everything changes for him. She's taken from him too soon and he devolves into a books long depression that has all of his friends concerned for his immortal existence. He becomes addicted to drugs and danger and everything sets his anger off. So the fact that he manages to actually get a happily ever after with Sienna in this book is soooooooo incredibly satisfying.

Day 8 - Most Kickbutt Females

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
The year is 1945. Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is just back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon when she walks through a standing stone in one of the ancient circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach—an “outlander”—in a Scotland torn by war and raiding border clans in the year of Our Lord...1743.

Hurled back in time by forces she cannot understand, Claire is catapulted into the intrigues of lairds and spies that may threaten her life, and shatter her heart. For here James Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior, shows her a love so absolute that Claire becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire—and between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives.
Claire doesn't necessarily do a whole lot of physical ass-kicking, there is a little bit of that, but that's not what makes her the most kick-butt female. She's tough, resilient, adaptable, resourceful and clever. She doesn't lose her head in emergency situations. Claire actually saves Jamie almost, if not just as often, as she saves him. Jamie does acknowledge her as an equal mainly because of her cleverness and resourcefulness. She kicks butt because she manages to not only survive travelling back in time 200 years but because she begins to thrive in her new time.

Day 9 - Best Thrills...

Betrayals by Kelley Armstrong
When Olivia's life exploded--after she found out she was not the adopted child of a privileged Chicago family but of a notorious pair of convicted serial killers--she found a refuge in the secluded but oddly welcoming town of Cainsville, Illinois. Working with Gabriel Walsh, a fiendishly successful criminal lawyer with links to the town, she discovered the truth about her parents' crimes in an investigation that also revealed the darker forces at work in the place that had offered her a haven. As if that wasn't enough, she also found out that she, Gabriel and her biker boyfriend Ricky were not caught in an ordinary sort of love triangle, but were hereditary actors in an ancient drama in which the elders of Cainsville and the mysterious Huntsmen who opposed them had a huge stake.
     Now someone is killing street kids in the city, and the police have tied Ricky to the crimes. Setting out with Gabriel's help to clear Ricky's name, Olivia once again finds her own life at risk. Soon the three are tangled in a web of betrayals that threatens their uneasy equilibrium and is pushing them toward a hard choice: either they fulfill their destinies by trusting each other and staying true to their real bonds, or they succumb to the extraordinary forces trying to win an eternal war by tearing them apart.

This entire series is full of thrills, but as we get further into the series the stakes get higher and the stories get even more thrilling. Betrayals is the most recent entry having been released in August of last year. It definitely delivered on the thrills front. With her boyfriend wanted for murder and her bost/best-friend/potential-3rd-side-of-a-love-triangle is a little bit tempted to let him take the fall so he can have Olivia all to himself again Olivia's life is clearly complicated and she's caught right in the middle of everything. The mysteries that swirl around this whole series deepen and simultaneously get more revealed in this book. It's very exciting.

I'm dropping a cut because this post is getting super long...

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Strictly Come Dancing 2017 Week One

It’s Week One! It’s Week One!

Yes Strictly is back on our screens finally and the dancing can begin.  Two weeks ago saw the launch show where the celebrities were assigned their pro partners for the series.  There were some blatantly obvious ones such as Aston Merrygold being partnered with Janette Manrara, she’s the only dancer small enough to match him, he’s not the tallest of guys.  Also obvious was the pairing of Ruth Langsford with Anton Du Beke.  Poor Anton, he always gets the (how shall we put this diplomatically) older lady/outsider.  Past examples are Judy Murray, Anne Widdecombe and Jerry Hall who come immediately to mind so we had all but predicted Anton to get Ruth.  Following the pairing up show, a couple of partnerships interested me right off the bat.  AJ, who was one of my all time favourites last year with Claudia, has been paired up with Molly King of The Saturdays so I am predicting great things for them.  Also, I have taken to Charlotte Hawkins as well and she has the lovely Brendan Cole so I will be watching them with interest also.

So off the celebs went to be put through their paces ahead of their first dances, safe in the knowledge that they cannot be eliminated in their first dance and will at least get to perform twice.  Two weeks training flew by and here we are with baited breath for the opening numbers and fifteen performances to look forward to.

If I listed all of the performances this would be an exceptionally long and boring post, so I will just pull out some of the highlights (and lowlights) from Week One.  I was impressed with Alexandra Burke’s dancing of the waltz however, she is going to get right on my nerves as a person. It’s a shame because I love her partner Gorka.  Brian Conley, Simon Rimmer and Ruth were poor as was the Reverand Richard Cole.  Unfortunately, I have a horrible feeling the Reverand is going to be the new Ed Balls and people will vote to keep him in, the trouble is I’ve seen performing seals at the zoo with more rhythm and grace than him so I hope he goes early on.

Despite being top of the leaderboard from the judges, Aston just didn’t do it for me.  He was good but he seems overconfident and cocky, winking at the camera and just comes across as though he thinks he has this in the bag.  I hope he doesn’t. Nothing against his dancing, I just prefer other couples.

Having high hopes for Molly an AJ from the start, I was left disappointed as their Jive was not as impressive as I had hoped for but it is a difficult dance and it is week 1 so there is room for improvement.   I think the problem with the jive is that Ore Oduba has set the bar so high after his amazing week 4 performance last year ( I seriously think that’s the dance that won the series for him).  Having said that there was one other Jive performed this week and it was FABULOUS!  Mr Joe McFadden, you are my new favourite and I am backing you all the way to the finals!  Such cheekiness and for a week one jive, my hat is off to you!  Thank goodness Katya has a chance this year.  You could tell she was a great choreographer with the routines she had to come up with dancing with Ed Balls so now she has someone with a bit more going for him, it’s her chance to shine.

Speaking of shining, a real dark horse was Debbie McGee.  Now I mentioned Anton getting the older ladies.  Ruth is not the oldest performer at age 57, Debbie McGee is at the age of 58 (okay I know, not much in it but still).  There may only be a year between their ages but their talent is light years apart. Whereas Ruth struggled to make it through her waltz, Debbie McGee sizzled her way through an explosive and stunning Paso Doble.  Her partnership with Giovanni was electric and she was dancing better than someone half her age.  It just goes to show age can be just a number.  She can go far in this competition.

So the leaderboard looked like this after everyone had taken to the dancefloor for the first time.

Aston Merrygold & Janette Manrara 31
Debbie McGee & Giovanni Pernice 30
Joe McFadden & Katya Jones 29
Davood Ghadami & Nadiya Bychkova 27
Alexandra Burke & Gorka Marquez 24
Molly King & AJ Pritchard           23
Charlotte Hawkins & Brendan Cole 22
Chizzy Akudolu & Pasha Kovalev 21
Gemma Atkinson & Aljaz Skorjanec 20
Johnny  Peacock & Oti Mabuse 20
Susan Calman & Kevin Clifton    20
Simon Rimmer & Karen Clifton 17
Rev Richard Coles & Dianne Buswell   17
Brian Conley & Amy Dowden                16
Ruth Langsford & Anton Du Beke         16

So these scores will all roll over to next week when we will see our first elimination.  A rule of Strictly is if you performed a ballroom dance in week one then in week two you must perform a Latin number and vice versa.

Last years Strictly was my favourite so far, I’m hoping this year will live up to my high standards.

Keep Dancing!

Saturday, 23 September 2017

#30DaysofReadathon - 30 days to go until the Dewey 24 hour #readathon

I swear to god I am not a masochist! I know you're probably thinking I am crazy signing up for another challenge in 2017 given that I still have 5/6 to complete by December 31...but that's the beauty of this challenge! Dewey's 24-hour read-a-thon is a 24-hour event to read as much as humanly possible in that 1 day time period. This is actually perfect for helping me to plough through some of my challenge items!! Apparently, this particular read-a-thon (which happens on Saturday, October 21) marks the 10th anniversary of the annual read-a-thon. To mark the celebration the read-a-thon people are running a lead-in event, which I have elected to participate in. It's a countdown using different categories to showcase books participants like as you can see from the list of topics in the above below.

30. Favourite book

It is the summer holidays, and one night Harry Potter wakes up with his scar burning. He has had a strange dream, one that he can't help worrying about...until a timely invitation from Ron Weasley arrives: to nothing less than the Quidditch World Cup!

Soon Harry is reunited with Ron and Hermione and gasping at the thrills of an international Quidditch match. But then something horrible happens which casts a shadow over everybody, and Harry in particular...

I have a lot of "favourite" books, but even among all those favourites the entire Harry Potter series stands out as my absolute favourite. And if I have to highlight only one book from the series and say "That, that one right there is my favourite." then it's going to be Goblet of Fire. It used to be Prisoner of Azkaban but that changed with the most recent re-read of GoF earlier this year. In my most recent read, I realised the GoF is my favourite because so much more happens in it. It's the first of the long Harry books and it sets the stage for everything that is to come in OoTP, HBP, and DH. It does a really good job of setting that stage. All the shit starts to hit the fan and you really start to see a lot of growth and development in most of the characters in this one.

Friday, 22 September 2017

#WhyIReadRomance Day 6 - most emotional destruction

a Parajunkee event

The romance that most destroyed my emotions

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

"I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, then all at once."

Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel's story is about to be completely rewritten.

Insightful, bold, irreverent, and raw, The Fault in Our Stars is award-winning author John Green's most ambitious and heartbreaking work yet, brilliantly exploring the funny, thrilling, and tragic business of being alive and in love.

I don't think John Green new that he was writing a capital R Romance novel when he wrote this. Obviously, he knew he was writing a romance novel, the romance between the characters being at the centre of the story and the plot, but I don't think he intended or understood that it would fall into the Romance genre. At least 7900 other people (myself included) on Goodreads consider this a Romance novel and have shelved it as such. But I think if you asked John, he would probably waffle about it before agreeing that yeah we're right it's a Romance novel, not just a novel that happens to have romance in it. I've spoken at least twice before about how much this book destroyed me, so I'm not going to repeat myself. The total emotional destruction this book causes the reader is without question which is to be 100% expected given the subject matter. Even though you know what to expect going into it, that doesn't stop it from completely gutting you when the end happens.

#WhyIReadRomance Day 5 - most feels

a Parajunkee event

The romance with the most feels

Henry “Monty” Montague was born and bred to be a gentleman, but he was never one to be tamed. The finest boarding schools in England and the constant disapproval of his father haven’t been able to curb any of his roguish passions—not for gambling halls, late nights spent with a bottle of spirits, or waking up in the arms of women or men.

But as Monty embarks on his Grand Tour of Europe, his quest for a life filled with pleasure and vice is in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and traveling companion, Percy.

Still it isn’t in Monty’s nature to give up. Even with his younger sister, Felicity, in tow, he vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt that spans across Europe, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores.

Oh god did this book ever give me the feels. Up and down, up and down! This book was stressful on my feels in a REALLY good way. I could really empathise with Monty throughout the entire story. I think that's why anytime he put his foot in his mouth or dug his hole a little deeper, especially with Percy, that I would get sent on an emotional roller coaster ride and have to put the book down for a few minutes. And Monty spends a LOT of time in this book either putting his foot in his mouth or digging himself a hole.So this is definitely a book of many feels, happy, sad, concerned, thrilled, annoyed, angry and anxious. I enjoyed every minute of it.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

#WhyIReadRomance Day 4 - most empowering/empowerment

a Parajunkee event

The romance with the most empowerment/that is the most empowering

Dragon Actually by G.A. Aiken

It's not always easy being a female warrior with a nickname like Annwyl the Bloody. Men tend to either cower in fear - a lot - or else salute. It's true that Annwyl has a knack for decapitating legions of her ruthless brother's soldiers without pausing for breath. But just once it would be nice to be able to really talk to a man, the way, she can talk to Fearghus the Destroyer.

Too bad that Fearghus is a dragon, of the large, scaly and deadly type. With him, Annwyl feels safe - a far cry from the feelings aroused by the hard-bodied, arrogant knight Fearghus has arranged to help train her for battle. With her days spent fighting a man who fill her with fierce, heady desire, and her nights spent in the company of a magical creature who could smite a village just by exhaling, Annwyl is sure life couldn't get any stranger. She's wrong...

G.A. Aiken is really, really good at empowering her female characters in the Dragon Kin series. A lot of them are badasses to start with but not always, and the ones that aren't physical badasses she does a great job of empowering them in other ways. Dagmar who is introduced in the third book of the series, for example, is the smartest of all of the characters and the absolute best at strategy but she starts off living in a place where none of that matters just because she is a woman, so her empowerment comes through being able to get out of that environment and going somewhere where they encourage her. Dragon Actually is the first book in the series and I would argue that it is the best of all of them at empowering its main character. Annwyl starts off as being a good warrior but she also has a really dark backstory of abuse at the hands of her brother and father. Her empowerment comes through Fearghus's mentoring and training. He helps her to be able to deal with that past and channel it so that she can take on her brother and father and free herself from them. 

#WhyIReadRomance Day 3 - best fairy-tale romp

a Parajunkee event

The romance with  the best Fairy Tale Romp

Jingle Spells: Naughty or Nice?\She's a Mean One\His First Noelle\Silver Belle by Vicki Lewis Thompson, Rhonda Nelson, Kira Sinclair & Andrea Laurence

To protect Christmas, this family of wizards will have to use a whole different kind of magic…
Part of the Winter clan, the Evergreen family is considered magical nobility. While Evergreen Industries in picturesque Gingerbread, Colorado, might look like an ordinary office building, this is where the magic of Christmas unfolds. Above Santa's workshop, the Evergreens hold court, manage Christmas and, sometimes against their will and better judgment, fall in love. When it comes to love, the Evergreens know that sometimes you have to play a little naughty to get exactly what (or who) you want from Santa. Celebrate the holidays with Evergreen siblings Cole, Ethan, Dash and Belle in this enchanting collection from New York Times bestselling authors Vicki Lewis Thompson and Rhonda Nelson, Kira Sinclair and Andrea Laurence.

This is actually an anthology of four novellas. The four novellas actually go together. They are all about different members of the Evergreen family, who as you can see from the summary above, are responsible for Christmas. That's what makes it a fairy-tale romp for me. It's not about a princess or a retelling of a classic fairy-tale with added romance elements. But how can a collection of stories that feature Santa Clause himself, not to mention elves, and the magic of Christmas not be considered a fairy-tale? It's such a campy collection of stories and I loved it. I really don't know what else I can say about it beyond that. It's a Harlequin Nocturne so it's got tropes that you'd expect it to have. It's just a nicely written and entertaining romp with fairy-tale elements and that's all I was asking of it so expectations met!