Romantic Geek Girl

Danielle Monsch takes you through the softer side of geek

Archive for the tag “Book Review”

Book Review – Beer and Groping in Las Vegas by Angela Quarles

Feierabend BierWhen I come across someone whose tagline is Geek Girl Romance Writer, well, you can see why I’d be interested, right? *Looks up at Title of Blog*

Angela Quarles is a proud Browncoat and namedrops Ada Lovelace. Right there I know her geek credentials are in order. And when I read the blurb for her book Beer and Groping in Las Vegas, I knew I had to check it out.

Can a djinn and a magic slot machine bring two geeks together?
Riley McGregor is a geek trapped in a Good Ole Boy body and as owner of a microbrewery, smart chicks never look at him twice.
Rejected by a geek who wanted to “trade up,” Mirjam Linna would rather immerse herself in work than be the girlfriend-of-the-moment. Stranded in a Vegas hotel, she makes a wish—a night of hot sex with the man of her dreams. It’s granted. She agrees to dinner, but afterward, she’ll say thanks, but no thanks, and see what’s on the SyFy channel. But when they meet, they’re surprised to find they had a shared connection in their past. Sparks fly as these two learn to be in the moment, be themselves and find love.
Fans of Star Trek, Star Wars, Monty Python, Firefly and Marvin the Martian will enjoy this romantic comedy.
I point out that this is a very short story. I make mention of this because after some consideration, I’m pretty sure all of the problems I have with this story circle back to that short length and the author needing to fit the story into a small wordcount.
You know how you’ll be reading and a character will do something or say something and it makes you cringe, and you’ll think to yourself, “No way. No one does that. I’m willing to do a little suspension of disbelief, but this is pushing it.” Then you realize, the character had to make those very awkward, out-of-character, no-one-does-that choices, because if they didn’t, there wouldn’t be a story! That’s the vibe I got at the beginning. The downside of this, of course, is instead of a fully realized character you are left with a 2D rendering. It makes it hard to get invested into the story.
Next problem is it takes awhile for the hero and heroine to meet. Even as quickly as the author tries to get through the set-up, it’s a decent percentage of the story, which leaves less time for us to get to know our happy couple AS a couple, which lessens the sexual  tension and the happy, squishy feelings – both of which are vital when reading a romance story.
Finally, while I very much appreciated the geek touches of the story (Guest appearance by George Takei!) and I ‘got’ the humor, once again it was an aspect that broke the romantic/sexual tension of the H/h. Now, this is fine in a longer story where we can ride those hills and valleys of love/lust and indeed, it ends up making it a better story. But for a story of this short length, it wasn’t hills and valleys as much as rollercoaster whiplash, and it meant I wasn’t invested in this couple and really couldn’t care less what happened to them – not the feeling you want at the end of a romance.
Now, the good points, because I don’t want to leave on a total downer, and indeed, I don’t think this author deserves that. I do think the author can write well. I enjoy the humor immensely, and in a longer story with a better balance between romance and humor, I see her killing it. And I do think with a couple stories under her belt, she’s going to settle into a very unique voice that will nicely combine geeky elements with romance, which is a very welcome development to those of us with the same nerdy leanings.

Bottom line – The length is what ultimately hurt this story. The (necessary) set-up kept the H/h apart for too long for such a short story, so they had no time to show the chemistry that really makes a romance work. There are geek references galore to make all of us nerdy-at-heart do imaginary leaps of delight, and enough humorous situations so you’ll have a smile on your face a few times while reading, but in the end it’s not enough to overcome the book’s romantic weaknesses. My Final Grade? C-

You can find Angela Quarles at her website, on twitter, her blog, and on facebook.

Book Review – Generous Fire by Olivia Waite

Just a heads-up, the book being reviewed is an erotic romance.

This is a very naughty, very short story that plays on a real-life fact – that to cure *female hysteria*, doctors in the late 1800’s created what is now known as the vibrator.

The hero and heroine are a Headmaster and schoolmarm respectively, and they use this new invention purely for scientific study. Well, except that once it starts being used, scientific study goes out the window.

The book opens with a homage to Charles Dickens that made me sit up and go, “Cool!” The writing style channels the spirit of Jane Austen – if she wrote a lot spicier, that is.

It was charming, it was sex-ay… and it was way too short. The story is billed as a romance, but with the very short length it was impossible to give any depth to the characters, let alone believe in these characters falling in love. While I enjoyed what was there, the lack in this area made it impossible to give it a higher grade.

Bottom Line – Clever writing with a wink and a nod to Dicken’s A Christmas Carol elevate this naughty Victorian short story. However, it’s too short, reading like the final chapters of this couple’s courtship than a complete story of its own. Because of this, it’s impossible to get fully invested into the story.

My final rating? B+

You can find Olivia Waite at her Website, on Twitter, or on Facebook.

Book Review – Somebody Tell Aunt Tillie She’s Dead by Christiana Miller

At the beginning of this whole, surreal journey, I had no idea you could be evicted from your body as easily as you could be booted out of your apartment.


“One of the problems with being a witch is when you ask the universe a question, it generally gives you an answer. Or at least enough of one to ruin a perfectly good week.”

And thus with not one but with two killer opening lines, Somebody Tell Aunt Tillie She’s Dead begins.

Writing a line like that – let alone two lines – takes skill and craftsmanship. With much anticipation, I began reading.

Mara is a witch living in Los Angeles. She’s a witch, but she’s very leery of magic for many a reason, and she tries to keep it to the smaller stuff that can’t come back to bite her.

Around her 27th birthday, she’s about to get kicked out of her apartment by her fundamentalist Christian landlady.

So she worries over it and talks smarty-pants with her gay best friend and fellow magic user,Gus.

And then Gus talks her doing some magic against her will.

And then something bad happens, and she has bad dreams and bad feelings about what is about to come, especially since *dum dum dum* her mother died at the age of 27.

And then she frets and talks smarty-pants with Gus.

Then the landlady comes back to reiterate witches are evil and she’s still evicted.

And then Gus reassures her, and talks her into doing magic against her will.

And keep going like that through the first half of the book.

Let me stop here for a bit. This is not going to be the most complimentary review, so I’d like to say right now what I liked and give the story it’s due. The author has a fantastic voice with dialogue, especially that “you are a pain but I love you” dialogue that occurs between long-time friends. The book has that everyone-is-crazy humor, sort of reminiscent of the early Stephanie Plum books, and the author does it well. And as shown by those opening lines, the author knows how to string together a sentence in a clever way.

Now to the problems. The biggest one is the story has horrific pacing. The above back-and-forth takes almost half of the book (and this is novel-length, so that’s a lot of between friends bickering). The first few rounds between Gus and Mara were fun and had me smiling, but when we got to a third of the way through the book and that was all that had happened so far, I was getting frustrated. Bickering does not a story make.

Once we got to around the 40% mark and still no story forward momentum, I put the book down… and ended up forgetting about it.

Not long ago I came across the title and went, “Oh yeah, I’m in the middle of that, aren’t I?” I actually debated with myself if I wanted to restart it again. But I remembered what I liked about the story and the fact that sometimes the second half of the book might be better than the first, I decided to go forward and finish the book.

About the halfway point we get to the heart of the story:  Mara inherits her Aunt Tillie’s cottage far, far away from LA. Once there, Mara deals with colorful locals, the ghost of her Aunt (who may/may not have her best interests at heart) a love interest, and the possibility the house itself wants to kill her… or worse.

I wish I could say the second half makes up for the first, but that’s not the case. Because of the over long set-up, this part of the story is rushed. There is so much tossed into it that the story is superficial – we’re never really given a chance to absorb anything, so we don’t have any deep feelings for what’s happening.

Also, Mara goes from being a character in her own right into taking specific actions because she needs to do them or else the story won’t work. Multiple instances I thought to myself, “Would the character I saw in the beginning do this?” From my point of view, the answer was usually no. Again, because of the rushed nature of the second half of the book, the author wasn’t able to convince me of these changes. Also, in this part of the book Mara deals with her issues surrounding her Mother, but once again, everything is so rushed that what should have been poignant and added some depth to the story was barely a blip on my screen.

The humor that served so well through the first half of the book becomes a detriment in the second half. Humor can be used to increase tension and dread, but in this case, the author was not able to pull that off. Instead, the humor turned what should have been high tension instances into shoulder shrugs.

The small-town residents are barely more than cut-outs, and the love interest isn’t. It felt like the author needed a male body (I can’t say more without going into major spoilers but anyone reading the book knows what I mean) and threw him in there. The only love story in this book was the love between a woman and her Gay Best Friend Forever.

And the ending – what was that? In all honesty, by that time, I just wanted it over and was like, “Fine. Good luck everyone.”

Bottom line – This author creates wonderful dialogue and fun supporting characters, and her humor speaks to me. On the other hand, she has no idea how to pace a story, she spends too much time on things that she shouldn’t and way too little time on areas that need more in-depth exploration, her characters tend to be a little superficial, and she hasn’t learned how to use her humor to amplify the tension – instead, the humor dilutes it. Will I read her again? Yes, but I would want to know who her editor is first.

My final grade? D+

You can find Christiana Miller at her Website.

Book Review – Sleeping with the Wolf by Maddy Barone

We have werewolf stories (still?) We have post-apocalyptic stories (yawn…) We have time-travel stories (is this the 80’s?)

But how often do you see a post-apocalyptic time-travel story featuring werewolves? Huh, huh? Yeah, I got your attention now, don’t I?

In the year 2014 our heroine boards a plane with the intent of going to the concert that will propel her to the big leagues of country music stardom, only to have the plane crash en route. Many die, many others are hurt, and the ones who are still standing divide themselves so some stay to care for the wounded while others walk to find help – because strangely, no authorities have come to rescue the passengers…

Carla, she of the singing career, realizes her life has worse problems than a mere plane crash. She is kidnapped and brought to a town. There, she hears the ugly truth. The year is 2064, society suffered through an Armageddon wiping out huge amounts of people, and maybe worst of all, men outnumber women about 100 to 1 and women are treated like property.

Carla is put up as a prize in a Bride Fight, and there she learns one last piece of crazy on top of the crazy she’s been dealing with – that werewolves are real, and their leader Taye wants her for his mate.

I’m not normally a post-apocalyptic person, but I liked the twist on this one. My hubby still messes with me because we went to a weekend wedding that was held at a boy scout camp – which featured cabins complete with plumbing and running water – and when it was over I told him I had no desire to rough it like that again. So the idea of a modern woman being thrust into a world without plumbing, electricty, cars, electronics, or any other of the myriad things we take for granted intrigued me. I wanted to see how she’d deal with that.

I’ll tell you what, Carla handled it a heck of a lot better than I would. There were some grumblings and “It’s not fair!”, but basically in a week-ish she had gotten with the program. While I acknowledge that she wouldn’t be throwing hissy-fit after hissy-fit with what we knew of her character (a pragmatic woman who has no problems rolling up her sleeves and getting to work) I still thought her acceptance was too easy.

Actually, that kinda sums up my thoughts on the book as a whole. Even though the set-up is a natural for high emotion, the way the characters handled the various challenges and events was distinctly low-key and smooth. Even the “fated mate” trope was laid-back. Sure, Taye knows Carla is meant to be his from the first, but beyond a couple of growls we don’t really feel the edge that usually accompanies that particular trope. It took him awhile to realize he might like her and want her around other than for sex.

And Taye? Probably the most beta Alpha Wolf you’ll ever meet.

For all the insane set-up, this is a gentle, almost soothing romance and by no means what I was expecting. It took me a little time to readjust my thoughts and realize what I assumed would be happening and what was on the page were two different things. Once I got on board, the story went smoother for me.

Taye is more of a gentleman than most guys I meet in daily life (sorry guys, but it’s true). He is bewildered on what women want – understandable, because he really hasn’t known many in his life. And a source of humor in the book is how the wolf pack deal with Carla coming to live with them since most of them have never been around a woman before.

The sexuality and sensuality are not high in this book. Yes, there is sex, but to my mind it was mild (granted, I write hot/spicy to erotic romance, so adjust your expectations accordingly). This book is not about sensuality or lust, it’s about a gradual falling in love with someone and being ‘grown-up’ enough to accept that your life is not going to be what you wanted it to be and moving on.

Bottom line – Once I adjusted my expectations and got into the rhythm of the book, I enjoyed it. While I feel the story was light on conflict and Carla accepted her new life a little easier than was realistic, it is a nice contrast to the high-octane werewolf stories that dominate the genre.

My final grade? B-

You can find Maddy Barone at her Website, on Twitter, and on Facebook

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