Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Contest Judging Round-Up

For the second year in a row, the Orange County chapter of Romance Writers of America asked me to be their "Top Pick" judge for the annual Book Buyers Best contest.  This is a published authors contest with nine categories.  Entered books go through a first round of judging and score sheets are filled out.  My job as "Top Pick" judge is to read the 1st Place winners in each of the nine categories and pick the best one.  It's a ton of reading, but as far as contest judging goes it's fairly easy.  I mean, I don't have to fill out any score sheets.  Just pick the best book, in my ever so humble opinion.

Like all contest reading it was a mixed bag.  There were books I really didn't think were all that great.  Then there were the nothing memorable either way, merely OK books.  And then there were the books that featured something that "stuck" with me.  For the sake of this round-up I'm going to talk about those books; the Wendy Graded B and C books (alas, no A reads this year in contest judging!).  And, of course, I'm including the book I selected as Top Pick!

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1420131923/themisaofsupe-20
Here's a perfect example of why I like to contest judge even though it can be a time suck.  Gentle on My Mind by Susan Fox is a book I had never even heard of, and the author does some really interesting things with this story.  On the surface it looks and smells like your typical small town contemporary, but it's got some grit underneath the surface.  The heroine is in her 40s, single, and trying to put her life back together after climbing out of a bottle.  She turned to alcohol to self-medicate, and she's finally been properly diagnosed with bipolar disorder.  She's managed to patch together a relationship with her formerly estranged, now married (she was a teen mom) son and is living a quiet life.  Until the (younger) hero, an undercover cop, crashes his motorcycle into her white picket fence.

So the issues I had with the story were mostly the hero (he's an undercover cop and yet the heroine suggests to him he might want to alter his appearance to "fit in" in town. Really dude?) and some back-story, info-dump in the first chapters.  It's the heroine here who is interesting.  The self-medicating issue with her alcoholism is not one you see every day in romance.  Also she's very aware of her bipolar disorder, monitors her medication, sees her doctor regularly etc.  These "interesting issues" you don't see in romance novels every day continue toward the end.  [SPOILER] Heroine gets pregnant.  She's older, has a mental illness, and is just repairing the damage she's done to herself and her relationships. Abortion is actually thought about and discussed. The heroine isn't necessarily "overjoyed" with this news.  She's, naturally, worried.  Was kind of refreshing to read a book where the heroine didn't spout off any "I'll always have a piece of him" BS. [END SPOILER].

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B00H2WZZY0/themisaofsupe-20
The Plus One Chronicles by Jennifer Lyon is a self-published, erotic romance novella trilogy - now available in a box-set.  The heroine is a former scientist pigeon-holed into that career thanks to the family business.  She's always felt like a fraud compared to her genius parents and older brother.  Then she survives a brutal attack.  She now runs her own bakery and is trying (and mostly failing) to get back to normal.  To not be so scared all the time.  And then she meets the hero, a former MMA fighter turned gazillionaire, who is very interested in making her his "plus one."  Because, you know, he doesn't do relationships.

So the hero is, frankly, pretty standard here for stories of this ilk.  There's nothing particularly memorable about him, in my opinion.  But again, it's the heroine who makes this trilogy.  She's got an ex-fiance she's broken things off with, a strained relationship with her parents, and she's tired of feeling helpless.  Sure, she'll be the hero's "plus one" for however long it lasts - but in exchange she wants self-defense lessons.  Yes, the hero does "save her" to some extent, but she's actively working to save herself - and that's what I liked about this series.

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0765336863/themisaofsupe-20
Let me count the ways I am totally burnt-out on paranormal romance.  So it's pretty remarkable really that I enjoyed Prodigal Son by Debra Mullins as much as I did.  It's highly readable (even for those of us with burn-out!) and I thought it was an extremely strong showing for an author whose entire backlist, up until this point, was in historicals. 

The hero is a bounty hunter and a "seer" - descended from a survivor of Atlantis (yes, that Atlantis).  His ability to "see" people across time and space makes him darn good at his job - until he's hired to find a car thief who jumped bail and he can't "see" him.  What the heck?  The heroine is that car thief's stepsister and since she put her condo up for bail she has a vested interest in finding him.  She eventually runs into the hero and they join forces.  What neither of them know?  Wayward stepbrother stole something other than a car and there are some Very Bad Men gunning for him.

The world-building here is in line with urban fantasy.  It's a world we recognize as an everyday world, it's just inhabited by people with "powers."  The Atlantis angle was interesting, there's a nice chemistry between the main couple, and the series-itis (this is the first book in a trilogy folks) is there, but not too annoying (the hero's siblings are on tap for other books).  If you're looking for a new paranormal, Burn-Out Girl thought this was very solid.  It's pricier as a trade paperback, but it got very good reviews in the trade journals (including a starred review in Publisher's Weekly), so your local library may be an option.

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0451239679/themisaofsupe-20
And now ::drumroll:: we have the Top Pick Winner!  Sweet Madness by Heather Snow and the third book in a trilogy.  The heroine's husband committed suicide.  This tragedy, coupled with survivor's guilt, lead to her work helping to treat veterans returning from the Napoleonic War.  The hero is a veteran from that war, and is suffering from what we now know as PTSD.  He's in such a bad way that he as been committed, although given his title and family he's hardly in a "snake pit."  He's also her cousin by her first marriage and when his mother asks her to help, she agrees to go visit him.  She sees him for the first time since her wedding at the hospital, stark raving mad, naked, and being subdued by orderlies.  Ahhhhh, romance!

This is likely a book that would drive historical purists up one wall and down the other.  However I appreciated it for how the author plays with her history without completely running off the rails.  Yes, a heroine in the early 19th century running around as amateur shrink would be unlikely - but the survivor's guilt angle worked for me.  Also her idea for helping soldiers is "talk therapy," which hardly strains at the seams.  I also liked the window into mental illness treatment during this time period.  Let's face it - the hero has money and power, even if he is believed to be totally mad.  That affords him a certain lifestyle, even if he is institutionalized.  My only real quibble is a bit of a throwaway line, where I felt that the heroine's husband (obviously "not well") is demonized a bit for the way he treated her.  I could see that rankling some readers, and while it rankled me a bit - it didn't detract overall from the story which I felt was very interesting and a different take on what we typically see in a Regency.

And that's it!  The four books that stuck with me in various, positive ways, during the course of my contest reading.  While I didn't find an "A" read this year, I did run up against some interesting books that I may not have read otherwise.  Which really, is why I keep signing up to judge contests every year even with my TBR Pile of Doom.  There's nothing quite like stumbling across a good book that you otherwise may have never found.

Monday, October 27, 2014

More Unusual Historicals & Two First Looks

I'm finding my wee lil' corner of the Interwebs a trying place to be at the moment because of....well, all the "stuff" going on and the fact that I have felt genuinely blindsided by all of it.  Plus, I'll be frank - there's stuff going on in Real Life right now.  Yes, residents of The Bat Cave are fine.  It's just "family stuff" - sick relations, dying relations, relations getting "old" in general - nothing that everybody else doesn't deal with in their day-to-day lives.  Needless to say though it's left me feeling tired, drained and my will to read has left the room.  And I really, really need to read since I know getting lost in a good book is exactly what I need.

I know....whine, whine, whine.  Please pass the cheese.

In the meantime, I've had several posts go live over at Heroes & Heartbreakers that I have failed to blog about.  First up is a round-up of unusual historicals for October.  For the record, six of the featured titles are in my TBR.  I might have a problem, ahem.

I also did two First Looks: Tempted by a Cowboy by Sarah M. Anderson and Snow Angel Cove by RaeAnne Thayne

The Anderson is the second book in a series featuring an American brewing dynasty and it's good folks.  As in, really, really good.  It didn't pass my "must reread someday" test so not an A, but it's a high B+. Oh, and since I read this before reading the first book in the series?  I can attest that it stands alone just peachy.

The Thayne is a small town contemporary Christmas story that starts a new series, but is loosely connected to a previous series.  If the thought of reading yet another small town contemporary makes you want to drive nails up your arms - well, this one probably isn't going to change your mind.  But if you can't get enough of small towns?  If you're looking for a warm and fuzzy, cozy Christmas read?  This one may be worth checking out.  It was the very definition of an "OK" read for me.  Didn't love it, didn't hate it, but would easily recommend it to readers who lean that way.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Retro Review: When Love Walks In by Suzanne Carey

This review of When Love Walks In by Suzanne Carey was first published at The Romance Reader in 2000.  I rated it 4-Hearts (B rating) and gave it a sensuality rating of PG-13.

+++++

When Cate McDonough was 17 years old she fell hopelessly in love with misunderstood Daniel Finn. Everyone in small town Beckwith, Ohio, thought Danny was no good, including Cate’s parents. Even though they had forbidden her to see him, she continued to do so. In fact, Cate and Danny were so crazy for each other they planned to elope.

Of course, their elopement didn’t go according to plan, and Cate’s parents caught up with them. The marriage was annulled and Danny left town for good, leaving Cate behind. When she discovered she was pregnant, her parents convinced her to marry local boy Larry Anderson and pass the baby off as his. The two wed quickly, and moved to Minneapolis.

Fast forward 17 years and Cate is a young widow with a teenage son. She has lied about Brian’s age since his birth to cover up the fact that Daniel Finn is his biological father. She has since moved back to Beckwith and is a high school English teacher. When she learns that Danny is back in town, her world and her fragile lies are placed in jeopardy.

Danny is now a powerful executive working for the corporation that bought Beckwith Tool and Die. It’s his job to recommend to the corporation whether or not to expand operations at the current site or move to a different location. The plant is the town’s main source of support, even employing Cate’s father. It’s feared that Danny will destroy the very town that scorned him as a youth.

But Danny’s reason for taking the assignment is to see Cate. He was devastated by her marriage to Larry, and wants some answers. Will Cate and Danny be able to work past their misunderstandings and renew their love? Will Cate tell him about Brian? How will Brian react if he learns the truth?

The child-he-never-knew-he-had story has been around the block more than a few times by a variety of authors. Carey takes a familiar story and infuses it with such angst and heartache, that I immediately was sympathetic to Cate’s plight. I understood the choices she had to make once Danny was out of her life and she found herself alone, pregnant, and a prisoner in her own home.

There were parts of this story that initially nagged at me, especially Cate’s relationship with her parents. Her father emotionally and verbally abuses her at every turn, and her mother is too weak to go against her husband’s tirades. As I was asking myself, why does Cate continue to associate with these people? - Carey offers up a wonderful explanation. And when I thought I was going to have to endure a spineless heroine who wouldn’t stand up for herself against a bully father - Carey gives her a spine. There are several moments where Cate fights back with her own verbal punches, and it had this reader standing up and cheering for her.

The ease in which Cate and Daniel resume their relationship was a bit hard to get past. Seventeen years is an eternity in my mind, and while Cate does hesitate a bit, Daniel jumps right in. However, it is a terribly romantic concept for first loves to be reunited even after all the struggles they have endured, and it was this notion that allowed me to sit back and enjoy the ride.

Readers who enjoy secret child and lovers forced apart stories will love to sink their teeth into this one. Daniel and Cate resuming their teenage love affair, Cate’s struggle with the truth and the people it would hurt, plus her heated battles with her father pulled at this reader’s heartstrings. An emotional read that will have more than a few readers grabbing for the Kleenex.

+++++

Wendy Looks Back: I cannot say for certain but this may have been my first ever category romance read.  If it wasn't the first?  It's pretty darn close.  I remember really liking it, and it is one instance where I recall the secret baby plot working well for me.

It's funny what sticks with me sometimes.  Prior to rereading my review I recalled a few things about this book: 1) the author's name 2) secret baby plot and 3) that cover.  Seriously, how EPIC is this cover art?  It's literally been seared into my brain since 2000.

Carey has a long category backlist dating from the late 1980s to 1990s.  This book appears to have been her last published work - now 14 years ago.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Retro Review: The Sex on the Beach Book Club by Jennifer Apodaca

This review of The Sex on the Beach Book Club by Jennifer Apodaca was first published at The Romance Reader in 2006.  I rated it 4-Hearts (B rating) with a sensuality/content rating of R.

+++++

Holly Hillbay is a private investigator working in the coastal town of Goleta, California. She’s a former cop, tough as nails, and needs money. A lone operator (that’s the way she likes it) she just lost her bread and butter client thanks to her ex, Brad The Cad.

However, things are looking up. A husband who thinks his wife is cheating on him has hired her. If she is, then hubby can invoke a clause in their prenuptial agreement. He thinks the lovely Tanya is stepping out with bookstore owner, Wes Brockman, so Holly infiltrates Wes’ book club to get the dirt.

Almost immediately Holly realizes that hubby is off base. Tanya isn’t diddling Wes, she's playing footsie with lothario Cullen Vail. Even worse, Wes is really cute and Holly’s dormant libido kicks into overdrive. He wants to spend more time getting to know her, but she’s playing hard to get. Then Cullen turns up dead in Wes’ locked bookstore and he hires her to work the case.

Apodaca puts her Samantha Shaw mystery series on hold with what is being coined a “romantic mystery” for the steamy Kensington Brava imprint. Since hot sex has been cropping up in her mystery series of late, this isn’t too much of a stretch.

Holly truly carries this story. She’s a strong woman hiding behind a chick with a gun attitude. She’s been hurt terribly by Brad the Cad, and by the abandonment of her mother, so she talks a good game and never cries. Crying is for sissies. While some readers might find the tough girl act a bit thick at times, the fact that Holly is self-sufficient is a welcome breath of fresh hair. She’s still feminine, although she hates dresses and high heels, but she can take care of herself. She doesn’t need Wes to rescue her, and she’s darn good at her job.

Wes is, naturally, hiding a big secret – and when the dead body shows up in his business he’s spooked. He thought his past was behind him, and while he had nothing to do with Cullen’s murder, he can’t ignore the fact that the body was left where he would find it. So was his bookstore just a convenient scene for the crime or is Wes in danger? And while he does not trust cops are far as he can throw them, he suspects immediately that Holly will do right by him. So he cajoles her into taking him on as a client by doubling her regular rates.

The sexual tension here is very good, as is the dialogue. The opening chapters are a bit bumpy because the author immediately jumps into the story with both feet, and has a tendency to compare her characters to celebrities (Wes is described as resembling George Clooney). However, things perk up with chapter three, when Holly’s older brothers (both cops) show up. This first appearance of Joe and Seth tells readers more about Holly’s character than her first scenes with Wes. She’s the little sister who grew up being a tomboy to two older brothers. They taught her to be tough, and she wards off their meddling with smart aleck comments.

The mystery is well thought out, although the author occasionally tips her hand. Not only is Holly trying to figure out who killed Cullen, she’s sparring with her sleaze-ball ex and trying to figure out if Wes is in danger. There are quite a few balls the author has to juggle and she ties up all the loose ends well in the end.

With a title like The Sex on the Beach Book Club, readers can expect to find a fun, sexy beach read between the covers. Never mind that Brava is publishing it in the throes of winter. It won’t change your life, or alter your emotional consciousness, but it’s a sure bet for readers suffering from the winter blues or a wicked holiday hangover.

+++++

Wendy Looks Back: There was a stretch in the mid-00s where Kensington Brava experimented with publishing fun, sexy romantic suspense.  I read a few of them, and while they didn't change my life - they could typically be counted on to serve as ideal "Calgon, take me away!" reads.  Apodaca was a natural fit for this concept, having written a handful of books in her sexy cozy (I know, oxymoron) Samantha Shaw series, also for Kensington.  However, looking to infuse more romance into her work, she gradually made her way over to the Kate Duffy edited Brava line.

Apodaca is still writing these days, under this name and as Jennifer Lyon.  She's strayed away from mysteries, but continues to work in paranormals and sexy contemporaries (categories and single title).

Friday, October 24, 2014

Retro Review: The Shadow Side by Linda Castillo

The review of The Shadow Side by Linda Castillo was first published at The Romance Reader in 2003.  I rated it 4-Hearts (B rating) with a sensuality/content rating of PG-13.

+++++

Dr. Elizabeth “Eli” Barnes is a dedicated scientist who has spent the last 10 years working on the latest wonder drug. Valazine was designed to help people with previously untreatable forms of depression. It is a drug that has made Eli’s career – she is to be the recipient of the Distinguished Woman of Science Award. It should be the highlight of her life; only Detective Adam Boedecker shows up to ruin everything.

Adam is the very definition of a burnt-out cop. On leave from the Chicago PD after taking a bullet in the head, he endured months of excruciating physical therapy. As if that weren’t enough – his wife leaves him for his best friend, who just happens to be his former partner. Then the call comes that his older brother, Michael, was the victim of a murder/suicide. Seems Mike killed his pregnant wife then turned the gun on himself.

The fact that Michael would do something so heinous is inconceivable to Adam. Therefore, even though he is on leave, he does a little snooping and finds out that his straight-arrow brother was taking Valazine for depression. Adam then discovers other instances where previously nonviolent people, who had been taking Valazine, were later perpetrators of violent crimes. So, he hops in his truck, and drives to Ann Arbor, the home of Roth Pharmaceuticals and Eli Barnes.

Eli is not about to listen to some cop who is spouting threats. She has devoted her life to Valazine, oversaw the clinical trials herself, it’s just not possible that it’s a killer. Besides, what is to say it’s the drugs' fault? Isn’t it possible that the mental illness these people suffered from was to blame and not the treatment? However, when she learns of more evidence, and it appears that someone is out to silence her, Eli begins to suspect that what Adam Boedecker is telling her just may be the truth.

Adam and Eli seem to be polar opposites on the surface, but they are cut from the same cloth. Adam may be a blue-collar cop – but he’s also a man suffering from the betrayal of two people he trusted and the ramifications of the shooting. The head injury altered his personality to a certain degree, and left him the victim of debilitating migraine headaches. He’s been living in a hole for the last three years – not venturing out to his job, let alone on a date.

Eli devoted her life to science in order to help people. As a teenager, she was a witness to the horrors of depression, and those images still haunt her to this day. She herself is a little lost, unwilling to get close to anyone beyond friendships. While she’s no shrinking violet virgin, Adam does attract her on a baser sexual level that she hasn’t experienced with the other men in her life – and it scares the hell out of her.

The suspense angle isn’t much of a puzzler. By the very complicated nature of medical research and drug trials, it’s evident that something is afoot at Roth. While the author does throw in a nice little red herring, the conclusion doesn’t really come as too much of a surprise. The romance takes a little more time to build, but I found it very credible. Adam has the personality of a wounded animal, and it’s emotionally satisfying to watch him come to terms with his growing feelings for Eli. These scenes were easily the highlight of the book – featuring some deep emotion and well-written dialogue exchanges between the two. It was gratifying to read their happily ever after.

The Shadow Side is an enjoyable page-turner. The suspense didn’t always have me on the edge of my seat – but coupled with the interesting characters and emotional romance, I found it nearly impossible to put this book down. With her second single title release, Castillo has penned a very solid effort – making hers a name to look for while browsing those bookstore shelves.

+++++

Wendy Looks Back: I remembered this to be a very solid read although the finer details had eluded my memory until I reread my review.  Castillo has since moved on to mainstream suspense, and has written five books in her Kate Buckholder series - featuring a police chief in a small Ohio town who was raised Amish.  I recently DNF'ed the first book in that series on audio (ho-hum narrator and I was unmoved by the heroine's desire to keep, literally, a deadly secret) but it reminded me of this old review, and the fact that I've still got a couple of Castillo's romantic suspense titles buried somewhere in the depths of the TBR Pile of Doom.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Retro Review: Come What May by Leslie LaFoy

This review of Come What May by Leslie LaFoy was first published at The Romance Reader in 2002.  I rated it 4-Hearts (B grade) with a sensuality content rating of PG.

+++++

Claire Curran might as well be all alone in the world. After the death of her father, she’s left at the mercy of her Uncle George - who finds it nearly impossible to tolerate his headstrong, unconventional niece. The fact is though that Claire is a smart, resourceful girl, even if she is a bit of a headache. So for the last several years she has been traveling abroad, seeing to her uncle’s numerous business dealings.

Her latest travels have taken her to colonial Virginia where she learns the extent of her uncle’s distaste for her. Seems one Wyndom Rivard owes her uncle a rather large of sum of money and he’s calling in his marker. Unfortunately, Wyndom is completely useless and the job of cleaning up after him is left to his brother, Devon.

Devon is one step away from debtor’s prison and has been valiantly trying to keep the family estate, Rosewind, afloat. It hasn’t been easy. His mother, aunt, and brother are notorious spendthrifts, and Devon has to walk the very thin line of frugalness and public hospitality. Naturally, he cannot pay his brother’s debt, which means he has no alternative but to accept Uncle George’s ultimatum. He’ll call off the debt if Devon will marry his niece.

This doesn’t make either Claire or Devon happy, but they see no alternative. They decide to enter into the marriage on the understanding that they will annul it the minute they receive word that the debt is forgiven. It’s never that easy in Romance Novel Land though. The couple soon find themselves attracted to each other, and the plot soon puts their newly discovered, if unvoiced feelings, to the test.

If Romance Writing 101 classes ever exist, Come What May should be required reading simply because of Claire. I loved this heroine. She’s smart, practical, hardworking, resourceful, and utterly wonderful. No, not feisty - smart, and believe me there is a difference. I liked her so much that if it were possible jump into a fictional book, I would want to be friends with this woman.

Devon is an intriguing hero, because he is being pulled in many different directions. He’s desperately trying to keep the family estate afloat, but is getting no help from his family, who continually whines about the lack of baubles and extravagances. On the brink of bankruptcy, he has nothing to offer a wife, or so he thinks, and this largely makes up his internal conflict involving Claire.

Come What May is a largely plot driven novel. The author writes in several obstacles for Claire and Devon to struggle with including, visiting politicians, unsupportive relatives, impending war and a witchy other woman. These episodes keep the story moving along at a brisk clip, and further allow the couple to explore the depth of their feelings. My minor quibbles revolve around some of the secondary characters. The other woman, and Devon’s aunt are one-dimensionally nasty and the few slave characters present are relatively saintly. However, I did enjoy seeing these various secondary players through Claire’s eyes. This practice did add depth to Devon’s mother, brother, and Mary Margaret, an Irish indentured servant.

I currently have two other Leslie LaFoy novels buried in my to-be-read pile. You can bet that I’ve moved them up towards the top of the heap. With a truly magical heroine, world-weary hero, and an all too infrequently used colonial setting, Come What May is one of the better historicals I have had the pleasure of reading this year.

+++++

Wendy Looks Back: I've always been relatively indifferent to colonial settings.  I blame this spending my school years getting the Revolutionary War crammed down my throat for half the school year with the rest of American history passing by in a blur.  That said, I know many romance readers who adore the setting and it's not a terribly common one to find - today or back in 2002.  To this day when someone asks "Anyone know a good colonial romance?" - this is the first book to pop into my head.

LaFoy wrote several well-regarded historicals and her last book on record is a Silhouette Desire from 2008.  After that?  Nada.  Sad indeed as my experience with her work was always quite solid.  In fact I still have a few of her titles buried in the ol' TBR Pile of Doom.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Getting Back To Center

Little Miss Crabby Pants really is tired.  I'm loathe to admit it, but the incident of an author stalking a reviewer and then getting a podium at The Guardian (of all places) has knocked me low.  I'm sure some of you are reading this and thinking, "Really, Wendy?  It has nothing to do with you."  Except, you know, really it does.

Fifteen years ago I was a wee lil' Super Librarian with training wheels.  I was in my early 20s, and the ink on my MLS degree wasn't even dry.  I had grand plans in college to stay in academia (I know, it is to laugh!) and fell into public libraries quite by accident.  The accident being, "Holy cow, I needs me a job!"  Which is how I fell into collection development.  Totally by accident.  Lo and behold, I loved it.  I also realized (quite quickly) that my knowledge of the romance genre was 20 years out of date.  You mean they're not all bodice-ripping rape fantasies?!  Who knew?

Getting educated on the genre began to happen when I discovered The Romance Reader (now defunct).  I started reading books that got 5-Heart reviews (A grades) and got hooked.  It helped I was reading nothing but gems.  I thought to myself, "I love these books!  I want to review these books!" and I contacted the editor, sent in some sample reviews and got hired.  What a great way to learn about the genre.  It was liking diving right into the deep end.  Oh sure, I probably should have spent my time reading mammoth backlists of Roberts, Krentz, Garwood and so on - but there's something to be said about immersing yourself deep in the waters of midlist and debut folks.  Oh the gems I read!  The new authors I discovered!

Up until the end (when burn-out hit), those years at TRR were a joy.  Yes there were kerfuffles.  Yes there were times when people got caught with their panties down.  And while it seemed epic at the time?  Compared to authors stalking reviewers (!!!) it seems positively quaint now.

In response to this troubling incident many blogs are going "dark" until Monday, October 27.  Every blog is handling this differently.  Dear Author has kicked it off with an Open Thread for Readers post encouraging reader discussion on our favorite topic: books!  Book Binge is getting back to basics to talk about our mutual love of reading.  And so on and so forth.

As for the Bat Cave?  Now seems like a good time to dip into the personal archives and post some retro reviews from my TRR days.  Original publication dates on these reviews range from 1999 to 2007.  It seems a good way to get back to my personal center.  To remind myself that sharing books, my undying love for stories, should be something simple and untainted.  And the fact that has been tainted makes me angry enough to spit nails.  In the end I'm sure this blackout probably won't make a darn bit of difference to the industry, to supporters of The Stalker etc.  But it's a simple way for me to get right with myself again.  To realign my head space. To rediscover why I've been blathering on about books online for the past 15 years (other than having no life).

I like it.  It's as simple and complex as that.