Rachel Vincent

Listorama: 11 Romance Novels for Clever Ladies

Recently, The Mary Sue--a website I have deeply conflicted feelings about--posted a super-ignorant, click-bait-y piece about romance novels and romance readers.

Rather than rebut the silliness (because what's the point), I thought I'd offer some recommendations for clever ladies looking to try out the genre, want to try a new subgenre of Romance or who want to revisit it after an absence. I'm not an expert, but I've read reasonable widely in the genre and appreciate that it is, in many ways, a deeply feminist field of offerings, particularly in recent years. 

The following are 11 smart big-R romances (read: happy ending of a central love story, as defined by the Romance Writers Association) I recommend for Clever Ladies who are interested in the genre. Keep in mind that there's just about something for everyone in this genre, so if there's not something that's up your alley on this list, there's probably something out there--leave a note in the comments and I'll see what I can do. 

Listorama: 11 Romance Novels for Clever Ladies

Listorama: 10 Favorite Fictional Couples

It’s been ages since I’ve posted one of my beloved “List-o-Rama” posts, and I can’t for the life of me recall why I quite creating them. In honor of Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d revitalize Listorama and bring a few of my favorite fictional couples.

Some of these are from straight up romances, while others are from novels with significant or memorable romantic elements. No worries, though, all of these picks have either a happy ever after or a happy for now ends--no one gets hit by a bus at the end in an attempt to make the novel appear to have more literary significance. 

Listorama: 10 Favorite Fictional Couples

Review: Oath Bound (Unbound #3) by Rachel Vincent

The third (and supposedly, final) installment in Rachel Vincent's Unbound series, Oath Bound was one of my most anticipated novels of the year. The unusual, mob-style world and distinctive, yet not overwhelming, paranormal elements have made this series one I've enjoyed immensely, and recommend often.

​Fortunately, Oath Bound met my expectations and while I didn't love it as much as the second book in the series, Shadow Bound, it equalled the quality of the gripping first novel, Blood Bound. However, for an alleged final book in a series, I was definitely left feeling that there was quite a bit more needed in order for the series to achieve closure (though as with the previous books, the story itself comes to a satisfying ending). 

Note: I have made every attempt to not spoil either of the two previous books in this series. While this novel would be best read after reading Blood Bound and Shadow Bound, it could be read as a standalone.​

Here's quick primer on the Unbound world: The best comparison I can make is to Holly Black's Curse Workers series (which I also highly recommend). Some people are Skilled, and are able to utilize their Skills for a specific purpose, such as tracking people with just a name, teleporting via dark spaces, jamming tracking skills, binding contracts in a way that they're unbreakable or seeing future events. Like in the Curse Workers series, these talents are often commandeered by crime families, whose organizations exploit the Skilled for the benefit of their criminal enterprises. These organizations are ruthless, and the particular city these novels take place in are ruled by two rival, ruthless syndicates: Tower and Cavazos.

The Unbound series explores the theme of free will quite extensively, as that's the most valuable commodity in this world.

​Each of the books in the Unbound series are told from two first-person points-of-view. In Oath Bound, one of those points-of-view is Kris, the brother of Kori, who was a narrator in Shadow Bound, and Kenley, an important secondary character in both this novel and the previous installment. The other narrator is a new introduction, Sera, who's the secret daughter of Jake Tower, former leader of one of the Tower syndicates.

Review: Oath Bound (Unbound #3) by Rachel Vincent

List-O-Rama: Thinking About Summer Reading

Summer reading tends to be feast or famine for me.

My work schedule gets a bit weird, so I alternate between no free time and loads of it. As a result, I tend to be a bit more random with my reading choices (which is saying something, since I specialize in random and don't keep a reading "schedule" like many folks do) and binge on series or authors and try a lot of stuff out that piqued my interest that I previously passed up due to business, etcetera.

Here are a few (actually, a whole lot) of books I'm thinking about tackling this summer.

Darkest London Series by Kristen Callihan

I picked up the third book in Kristen Calligan's Darkest London Series at ALA earlier this year, not realizing that it was part of an ongoing series (I started reading Winterblaze and was promptly confused). I find myself more and more intrigued by historical fantasy (is that what the sub-genre is called?) and this one while having pretty trashy covers, comes highly recommended by several folks whose taste I trust.

Amazon | Goodreads

The Paranormal YA Series Enders

I have a weird habit with series endings: I kind of hate them. There's so much pressure for series to end "right" and in the case of paranormal YA, since there's not a lot that I love, love, love, with Jeri Smith-Ready's Shade trilogy, Rachel Vincent's lengthy Soul Screamersseries and Kim Derting's Body Finder quartet, it's not just series ending stress I'm facing--I'm also looking at not having a lot left in the genre that intrigues me.

Shade Series on Amazon | Goodreads
Soul Screamers on Amazon | Goodreads
The Body Finder on Amazon | Goodreads

List-O-Rama: Thinking About Summer Reading

Podcast: What the hell is "New Adult"?

We're back with another installment of the Clear Eyes, Full Shelves podcast! In this episode we ask a lot of questions about the idea of "new adult" fiction.

Is it a genre? Is it a category? Is it even a thing in the real world beyond the internet? Why are most of the New Adult novels seemingly contemporary romance with 18-24 year old? What types of books would we like to see come out of this trend?

As an added bonus, we both reflect on what we were like during that tumultuous--and hilarious--time in our lives. e'd love to hear your thoughts on what you'd like to see from this trend.

You can listen by steaming the audio in this post, by control- or right-clicking the "download" link or subscribing in iTunes. (If you're an iTuner, we very much appreciate your rating the podcast--it helps us show up in searches.)

Thanks for listening!

Podcast: What the hell is "New Adult"?

List-O-Rama: Tangled Like/Love/Lust That Doesn't Suck

I know, I know... the love triangle is everyone's favorite trope to hate. But sometimes... just sometimes, it's kind of fun/intriguing/compelling.

Here are a handful of like/love/lust triangles that I've enjoyed--seriously.

The "Summer" Series by Jenny Han: Belly, Jeremiah, Conrad

Triangle Type: The Classic - Two Brothers Heart One Girl; Girl Hearts Two Brothers--Yo, It's Complicated!
This series not only features a love triangle (and it's really "love") because Belly really cares about both brothers, Jeremiah and Conrad, and they care about her. Their shared history of summers spent together at the shore makes the complexity of the relationships completely believable--it's achy and the dramatics are irresistible. Read my review here.

Amazon | Goodreads

List-O-Rama: Tangled Like/Love/Lust That Doesn't Suck

List-O-Rama: Beginner's Guide to Awesome WTFery

A couple of weeks ago, I detailed my favorite fictional Awesome WTFery. I love explosions, random ghosts and fake relationships with a possibly unhealthy passion. Much of my love of WTFery manifests itself in my movie and television watching, but it creeps into books too. 

Are you wanting to delve into a big of Awesome WTFery escapism? Here are a few I dare you not to secretly devour.

The Lux Novels by Jennifer L. Armentrout (Entangled Teen)

Why It's Awesome WTFery: Hot aliens live in West Virginia, hijinks ensue. 
Bonus Points: Sex-Positive YA; No Love Triangle

I just blew through the first three Lux novels by Jennifer L. Armentrout, and while I'm not normally ​one to be embarrassed by my reading, I'm not exactly proud of not being able to put these books down. The plot of these (marginally) sci-fi young adult urban fantasy romance series is incredibly absurd and has continuity issues, but damn... the plot just moves along at a swift clip and Armentrout manages to make the reader care about snarky teen book blogger Katy and her good-looking pain-in-the-ass alien neighbor Daemon. 

Amazon | Goodreads

List-O-Rama: Beginner's Guide to Awesome WTFery

List-O-Rama: Five 2013 Releases I've Already Preordered

There’s something crazy-making about forthcoming books by authors I love.

I obsess over their release dates, cover art, blurbs—and I know I’m not alone in this. Since I discovered the whole preordering thing a couple years ago (yeah, I was late to the party on that one), I take special care to preorder books I’m hotly anticipating in order to ensure that I’m not going to somehow miss one I’m hotly anticipating. Even though we’re barely into fall of 2012, I’ve already pushed that preorder button on five books coming out next year. 

Falling for You by Lisa Schroeder

Falling for You, Lisa Schroeder - January 1

When I first learned that Lisa’s next YA novel was not going to be in verse, I was a bit bummed out—The Day Before is one of my favorite reads and I just adore her approach to the verse format. However, now that I’ve come to terms with it, I’m actually very excited to see what she’ll do with a traditionally formatted novel. Lisa described this book as mysterious and about “darkness and light,” which really intrigues me, since that’s a theme I usually enjoy in novels. I have to admit to muttering some not-very-grownup words of jealousy when I saw half of Twitter talking about how they snagged ARCs of this one at ALA this year—and I rarely come down with ARC Envy Syndrome. 

{Amazon | Goodreads}

Gayle Forman, Just One Day - January 8

I really liked If I Stay, but Where She Went is one of my favorite reads ever—I was just completely gutted by Adam’s story. I was lucky enough to hear Gayle speak at a little event in Seattle this year and was really impressed with her thoughtfulness and insights into storytelling, so I’m an even bigger fan now. Like the If I Stay series, her next two books will be a duology form two different characters’ points of view, and I really like that style. I’m even more excited that this series is going to deal with the transformative power of travel, because that’s something that was very important to me at the time I was the age of the main character in Just One Day.

List-O-Rama: Five 2013 Releases I've Already Preordered

More Mini Reviews: Two Paranormals I Actually Liked

Continuing my acceptance that I’m not going to write thorough reviews of everything I read, I thought I’d share my thoughts on a a couple of paranormal novels I read and liked (and we all know I’m a bit reluctant when it comes to paranormal). 

Before I Wake (Soul Screamers #6) by Rachel Vincent

Before I Wake (Soul Screamers #6) by Rachel Vincent

You’re not lost, Kaylee. You can’t ever be lost, because I’ll always know where you are. And if I’m not there with you, I’m on my way, and nothing standing between us will be standing for very long.

Despite that I liked Rachel’s Shifters series and love her Unbound series, I was hesitant to start reading her series for the YA crowd about a teenage banshee and her adventures fighting Netherworld creatures with her pals. However, six books in and I’m now a big fan. The first couple of books were mediocre reads for me, largely because Kaylee, the main character, was kind of a frustrating character in terms of maturity. However, around book three (My Soul to Keep), it dawned on me—that’s kind of the point, Kaylee’s growing up, maturing. Now that I get that, I really like how this series has unfolded.

More Mini Reviews: Two Paranormals I Actually Liked

{List-O-Rama} Memorable Reads: 1st Half of 2012

How has half a year gone by already? Seriously, 2012… slow down!

I thought I’d use this Sunday’s List-O-Rama to round up some of my most memorable reads thus far in 2012—and I am going to bug Laura, Renegade and Sandra to do the same. (We’ll see if they cooperate, the CEFS contributors are not known for their blind acquiescence.)

Published in 2012

Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler

YA Novels

Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler - This is definitely my favorite Sarah Ockler; I definitely connected with dynamics of growing up in a small down. {Review | Amazon | Goodreads}

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green - This book has been rather divisive, but I loved it—and I really affected by the TFiOS tour stop I attended.  {Review | Amazon | Goodreads}

Something Like Normal by Trish Doller - SLN is a book I’ve been recommending left and right to people—especially those who are afraid of reading YA. It strikes a perfect note of authenticity. {Review | Amazon | Goodreads}

 

{Review} Shadow Bound by Rachel Vincent

 

Note: I have made every attempt to write this review free from spoilage about the first book in the series. 

It was with both trepidation and excitement that I cracked open* Shadow Bound, the second book in Rachel Vincent’s Unbound urban fantasy series.

Excitement because I adored Blood Bound, the first book in the series.

Trepidation because, well, I adored Blood Bound, the first book in the series. 

You know how it goes: When a series starts out strong, it sets the bar high. This was doubly the case with Shadow Bound because the main characters in the second book differ from those in the first. I loved Liv and Cam in Blood Bound, their story was incredibly compelling, and Kori (one of Shadow Bound’s main characters) did not impress me in the first novel. She was and unlikeable. 

However, I enjoyed Shadow Bound even more than the first book in the compelling and creative Unbound series.

Taking place in world in which some humans are (un)lucky enough to possess highly-valued abilities and mob-like syndicates rule, Shadow Bound finds Kori Daniels, a shadow walker (basically, she can transport herself and people she’s touching via darkness), suffering the consequences of her role in the events of Blood Bound. Jake Tower, leader of one of the major synidcates, has deprived Kori of the darkness she craves and subjected her to terrible torture (it’s quite painful to read, even though nothing is described in detail—it’s just so harrowing).

{Review} Shadow Bound by Rachel Vincent

{Book Matchmaker} Matt Wants Books with Action, Sex and Violence

Okay, okay… so that headline is a tad inflammatory, but since I’ve known our latest Book Matchmaker victim volunteer since we were freshmen at good ol’ Canby High School, I’m going to take the opportunity to embarrass Matt, a fan of urban fantasy, adventure and Star Wars, just a bit.

Side note: when we were in high school I knew that Matt was nerdy, but I had no idea how incredibly nerdy he was until he filled out our Extremely Scientific Questionnaire. I mean, we were both in the Advanced Nerding Classes, but still… ;-)

Matt’s responses:

YA or Adult: Surprise Me

Genres: Action/Adventure, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Urban Fantasy, Mystery/Thriller, Magical Realism

Narrator/Style: First Person, Third Person, Multiple POV, Graphic Novel or Graphic Elements, Present Tense, Past Tense, Male POV, Main Character or Narrator, Female POV, Main Character or Narrator

Swoon Factor: 2

Gross Out Factor: 4

Smut Factor: 4

Fluff Factor: 4 

Fave Authors: Clive Cussler, Tom Clancy, Patricia Briggs, Kim Harrison, Orson Scott Card, Anne McCaffrey, Vicki Pettersson: Sign of the Zodiac, Hunger Games, The Call of the Wild, Harry Potter, the Star Wars novels. I am a guy: I like action, sex and some violence in my stories. I am also a tad whimsical, and like to believe there is more out there than what we see in our everyday life.

Dislikes: Victorian, Elizabethan, anything that doesn’t use common language; I don’t care much about nonfiction; I read to be entertained and “turn my brain off.” Twilight makes me want to throw up because it’s too teenage-girl-angsty. No horror, please. 

The Results:

Unholy Ghosts by Stacia Kane

Stacia Kane’s Downside Ghosts Series (Adult Urban Fantasy)

Dude. This series. It’s completely effed up and awesome, as it follows drug-addicted witch and ghost hunter Chess during the Ghost Apocalypse. This is a rough series, with Serious Consequences™ around every corner. 

 

{Book Matchmaker} Matt Wants Books with Action, Sex and Violence

{List-O-Rama} Three Urban Fantasy Series Worth Starting

I don’t know about you, but I get series fatigue. (I know Laura agrees with me on this one!) And, in one of my favorite genres—Urban Fantasy—the series is The Standard. (Has there ever been a stand-alone UF novel? Seriously… it’s okay to end a story after 400 pages!) So, when a series piques my interest, I usually wait until there are two or three books before getting started, because I hate the wait for the next part of the story—especially if it’s cliffhanger-tastic at the end of each novel. 

However, I’ve succumbed to temptation and discovered a three series that are only one novel in that are worth starting! Each of these series had their first book release in 2010, and have sequels hitting the shelves this year, so you won’t have to wait too long if you enjoy the first book. 

Unbound Series by Rachel Vincent

You guy! Rachel Vincent’s books are like Pixie Stix laced with extra sugar—once I start, I cannot put her books down. She’s even made me break my, “No YA Paranormals” rule with her Soul Screamers series. But, as much as a (somewhat guiltily) enjoyed her Shifters series (it took me about ten pages to get over the WTFery of the concept of werecats; werewolves I’m cool with, werecats are another thing altogether), her new series with Mira is in an entirely different stratosphere (it’s actually what started me on my Epic Rachel Vincent Binge last fall—I read all of her books in about six weeks). 

{Book Matchmaker} Shelly Needs Some Reads

You may have noticed a new page on Clear Eyes, Full Shelves: Book Matchmaker.

This will be an irregular series in which we try to help you find your next favorite read! It’s pretty simple. You fill out a very thorough, scientific survey, and we apply proven analysis techniques to determine books that will be a good match. 

Our first victim lucky participant is Shelly, who is the owner of a very cool sewing pattern business and author of a nifty book called Sewing for Boys. She’s also the inspiration for this series. I met Shelly on an airplane about a year ago and we started talking books. One thing led to another and I ended up making her an extensive list of books she’d enjoy. 

Well, she’s read all those and is back for more! 

Shelly’s Responses to Our Questionnaire

YA or Adult: Surprise me!

Genre: Contemporary, Action/Adventure, Fantasy, Paranormal, Mystery

POV & Narrative Style: First Person, Third Person, Present Tense, Male POV, Female POV

Swoon Factor: 3

Gross Out Factor: 3

Smut Factor: 3

Fluff Factor: 3

Favorite Books and/or Themes: “Hunger games…fun simple read with a unexpected storyline. Patricia Cornwell books—I like a good crime novel. All the books you have recommended to me to far :)!! [Mercy Thompson, etc] I love a good twist or a “NO WAY” moment. Bring on the drama”

Hated Tropes/Themes: “I can’t deal with a book that take 780 pages to get to the point. Historical novels. I can’t deal with a book that takes 780 pages to get to the point.”

{List-O-Rama} Five Dealbreakers

Editor’s Note: Today we’re introducing another one of our regular features, “List-o-Rama,” which is part opinion, part airing of grievances, part miscellany. 

I really try to be an open-minded reader. I’ve tried loads of genres and authors I assumed I wouldn’t like and have found gems that really speak to me. With that said, I have a few absolute reading dealbreakers. You know, those things that just leave you saying, “No, no, no.”

Dealbreaker #1 Controlling, domineering Alpha-male, characters. 

Now, you may be saying,

“But Sarah, you love Urban Fantasy, which is full of this character type.”

Which would be a true statement.  

However, the UF that I love has actual consequences for this sort of behavior. For example, in Patricia Brigg’s marvelous Mercy Thompson series (Goodreads, Amazon), Adam has to learn to keep his domineering tendencies in check—it’s a key part of his character development. The same goes for Jeaniene Frost’s incredibly fun Night Huntress series (Goodreads, Amazon), in which Bones (that name still kills me after following this series through a slew of books) has to change his behavior because he can’t call all the shots anymore. So, really, I’m fairly forgiving as long as there are consequences and a change in the behavior for this character type.