Monday, August 24, 2015

Review: Ransom Canyon by Jodi Thomas


Not long before RWA, I discovered that Ms Thomas had a new series, Ransom Canyon, coming out with Harlequin. Even though the first book was slated to be released on August 25 - one month after the conference - I was hoping that somehow, she'd have the book available at the publisher signing... Guess what? She did!!! I think I first saw Wendy holding a copy and was so excited, I made a beeline to Ms Thomas to get my own and literally did a happy dance in front of her, LOL.

I figured since I was so excited to get the ARC, I should read and review it for its release. Plus, you know, there's always a thrill when you post a review before or on its release :) As if you're helping out the authors, but also your fellow readers by sharing your thoughts :)

Enjoy!


Ransom Canyon by Jodi Thomas
published by Harlequin (HQN Books) in August 2015
Rancher Staten Kirkland, the last descendent of Ransom Canyon's founding father, is rugged and practical to the last. No one knows that when his troubling memories threaten to overwhelm him, he runs to lovely, reclusive Quinn O'Grady… or that she has her own secret that no one living knows.

Young Lucas Reyes has his eye on the prize—college, and the chance to become something more than a ranch hand's son. But one night, one wrong decision, will set his life on a course even he hadn't imagined.

Yancy Grey is running hard from his troubled past. He doesn't plan to stick around Ransom Canyon, just long enough to learn the town's weaknesses and how to use them for personal gain. Only Yancy, a common criminal since he was old enough to reach a car's pedals, isn't prepared for what he encounters.

In this dramatic new series, the lives, loves and ambitions of four families will converge, set against a landscape that can be as unforgiving as it is beautiful, where passion, property and pride are worth fighting—and even dying—for.
Genre: Contemporary romance
Series: Ransom Canyon, Book #1

The Story: The blurb is pretty accurate. In Ransom Canyon, we're introduced to the small town of Crossroads, in Texas, situated in Ransom Canyon. It's what you'd imagine from a town surrounded by ranches - rugged. For a better understanding of the town and its origins, you can read Ms Thomas' e-novella prequel, Winter's Camp.

Ransom Canyon basically consists of three storylines that take place at the same time and intersect. The main one is about 43 years old rancher Staten Kirkland. He's been raised by his grandparents on the ranch and loves his land. Unfortunately, he's been plagued by lost - his wife to cancer seven years ago and his teenage son to a car accident, five years ago. Staten believes he can't love, can't be happy anymore. And when he's filled with grief and stormy feelings, he finds solace in Quinn O'Grady's arms... but unbeknownst to him, after five years, things are about to change.

The other two storylines are secondary and will most probably be continuous threads in future books. You have Lucas Reyes, a 17 years old boy with a good head on his shoulder. He is working his butt off to save money for college and has the next four years mapped out. Unfortunately, they don't include a romance with the sheriff's daughter... but friendship, that's another story. As for Yancy Grey, he's a 25 years old con who's just been released from prison. Yancy is ready to put his past behind him and starts new in a place where nobody knows him. Ransom Canyon and its elderly community seem to be a good pit stop, a stepping stone for him... but of course, your past always finds a way to catch up with you.

My Opinion: While I was very excited for Ms Thomas' new book, I was also a bit apprehensive because the blurb and set up of Ransom Canyon reminded me a lot of the Harmony series. All the reviews and actually reading Ransom Canyon confirmed my fear... but you know what? In the end, it didn't matter because Ms Thomas' writing and voice are so different from everyone else. Even if Ransom Canyon echoes the Harmony books, it's still very unique and enjoyable :)

My favorite storyline was Staten and Quinn's. They took me by surprise a little because of their ages ^_^; I've always preferred characters in their 20s to mid-30s, simply because I connect better with them. So when I started Ransom Canyon, I did a double-take and started doing some maths in my head to figure out Staten's age... and yeah, both were over 40 and therefore not in my usual age range. Then, there was the fact that Quinn was Staten's late wife's best friend. The widower falling in love with his late spouse's best friend is a common premise... and unfortunately, not one of my favorites ^_^; It's always hard to overcome the death of a loved one, but when you fall in love with someone so close, there's the added guilt, the sense of betrayal on both parts and the whole "we can't be together/I can't fall in love with you" baggage. Oh, I've read some good books with this premise, but as a whole, it's not one that I usually seek. However, I shouldn't have doubted Ms Thomas because of course, she had a different take on it :) I loved Staten and Quinn's romance because it was slow, gradual and oh, so private and intimate. There was such a bond between Staten and Quinn, a trust that you rarely see nowadays in romance because everything happens so quickly. I'd say Staten and Quinn's romance lacked the passion of a lusty, new relationship... but it was so powerful because of their intimacy - and I'm not talking simply sex. Their romance started off with Staten finding solace in Quinn's arms, his heart frozen by tragedies and I enjoyed his awakening. Also loved Quinn's character... such strength under her shyness and so much understanding.

I also enjoyed the other characters and their storylines. I'm looking forward to Lucas' growth and see what he'll become in the future. I liked his maturity and the goals he's set out for himself. There's a definite romance shaping up between him and Laurie, the sheriff's daughter, and I hope it won't be as long-winded as Reagan and Noah in the Harmony series. I'm still not sure about Yancy. He's an interesting character with a surprising innocence/naiveness for an ex-con that made him a bit unrealistic to me. Perhaps when his character is more developed and I see where his storyline is heading, I'll like him more.

Ransom Canyon definitively had a ranching atmosphere and to my surprise, I enjoyed it a lot. In the book, Lucas said: "To put it simply, Kirkland was a rancher and Collins was a businessman." It's exactly the same thing here - the ranch was an integral part of Ransom Canyon, feeling-wise and story-wise, and not just a setting... and I liked that. While Ms Thomas' towns are fictitious, there's always a down-to-earth feeling to them usually communicated through the characters' limited means. A lot of other authors address poverty, slow economy and resourcefulness in their books, but it never reaches me as much as when Ms Thomas does it. In Ransom Canyon, it really hit home through Yancy's character with his humble goals, dreams and riches. And the prominent ranching atmosphere adds another dimension, a ruggedness to the down-to-earth feeling that is perfect for this new series.

My Grade: B+.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Review: Magic Shifts by Ilona Andrews

Wooohooo, a review! Perhaps not the most original book to review at this time, but hey, it's a start! Hopefully, there'll be more in the near future. In the meantime, enjoy!!

PS - Spent a very boring week-end. Nothing to really blab about :P You?


***Warning: This review contains spoilers. Read at your own risk***

Magic Shifts by Ilona Andrews
published by Berkley (Ace) in August 2015
After breaking from life with the Pack, mercenary Kate Daniels and her mate—former Beast Lord Curran Lennart—are adjusting to a very different pace. While they’re thrilled to escape all the infighting, Curran misses the constant challenges of leading the shapeshifters.

So when the Pack offers him its stake in the Mercenary Guild, Curran seizes the opportunity—too bad the Guild wants nothing to do with him and Kate. Luckily, as a veteran merc, Kate can take over any of the Guild’s unfinished jobs in order to bring in money and build their reputation. But what Kate and Curran don’t realize is that the odd jobs they’ve been working are all connected.

An ancient enemy has arisen, and Kate and Curran are the only ones who can stop it—before it takes their city apart piece by piece…
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Kate Daniels, Book #8

The Story: I was going to skip this part, because I tend to be lengthy and most of the time, I'm just re-wording the blurb ^_^; However, this blurb is pretty good at being vague and saying nothing relevant about the story. Then again, it's proof that most of us will pick up the book regardless, simply because of 4 words: Kate, Daniels, Ilona & Andrews LOL.

Here goes... Magic Shifts opens up with Kate, Curran and Julie settling in their new life, new neighborhood. Since Curran stepped down from being the Beast Lord, there is a three months period for the separation to be done. That means all of Curran's investments and money will be separated from the Pack, anyone from the Pack wanting to join Curran and Kate will have to settle their affairs as well, etc. It also means that during this period, Curran and Kate cannot go to the Keep, cannot involve themselves in Pack business and cannot try to convince people to follow them. While Curran doesn't miss being the Beast Lord, he misses making things function... and let just say business at Cutting Edge is not enough to keep him busy.

Then, someone from the Pack goes missing and Kate and Curran are solicited for help as the clan Alpha isn't deploying all the efforts for a search and rescue due to personal reasons. Hordes of ghouls are appearing, reanimative metamorphosis occurs... and of course, it's all connected. But how? And is it an attack against Kate because she claimed Atlanta or more personal?

My Opinion: Let's start with a disclaimer. I read Magic Shifts in one seating which usually is a good indicator of how good a book is. At the same time though, I stayed up way past my bedtime, which means I was pretty tired when I got to the conclusion of the book... and I wonder if it didn't affect my enjoyment of the book. Perhaps I should have stopped and gotten some rest instead of powering through it. However, what's done is done and here is how I feel about this book.

Overall, I enjoyed and liked Magic Shifts... but it wasn't my favorite book in the series. This is book #8 and at this point, we all know what to expect from a new installment - lots of action, lots of sarcasm and a good mystery involving some magical element or deity. And that's what we got... but I felt like Magic Shifts lacked some of the intensity that made Magic Strikes, Magic Bleeds and Magic Slays winners for me. Don't get me wrong, there were some great action, but in comparison to previous books, the action sequences were short... and it screwed up the pacing of the story. With a Kate Daniels book, we're used to fast-pacing, but there were a lot of down times in Magic Shifts. In other words, Magic Shifts was a transition book and it felt like it. I'm not saying I didn't enjoy seeing Kate and Curran playing house, adapting to their new normal - because I did - but it came at a cost and that cost was the action and the mystery.

I thought the mystery in Magic Shifts wasn't as complex as in previous books. I never felt that Kate and her entourage were truly threatened. Perhaps it's because the menace Kate has faced in the past couple of books was more personal and this one wasn't really connected to her. Also, I have to say, I was pretty disappointed at how the whole thing unfolded in the end. The answers came too easily, just falling into Kate's laps.

I did have a few LOL moments as usual. I just love Kate's humor :) And I'm giving two thumbs up to Ms Andrews for the secondary characters because she limited their appearances, but also kept them true to themselves. What I mean is no matter how much us, fans, love and gush about certain secondary characters, Ms Andrews doesn't make them more lovable to please us... and that takes guts in my opinion. And I'm not going to lie, I wished we'd have seen more of everyone, but this book was pretty focused on Kate and Curran and that was the right choice, given it's about their new beginning. Also, the ending was very interesting, opening up new directions :)

My Grade: It's going to be a B for me. There are always high expectations for a new Kate Daniels book and Magic Shifts just fell short a bit by lacking of ompf. Still, I'm really excited for the next book and can't wait to see where Ms Andrews takes us :)

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Catching up, annual BBQ and another signing event!

Alas, no review yet... but it's coming!! Soon hopefully LOL. There's just so many books I feel I should review, so choosing one is hard. Then, writing the actual review... but I figure once I've written one, it'll be like getting back on a bike, right? Right?!

Anyway, this is just another rambling post. What can I say, I like to share my life with you guys :P Although, there is some books stuff coming up later!!

First, Ames is back! Yep, she has a new blog! I was going to mention it in my last post, but forgot ^_^;; Bad, bad me... So click here to find her new digs (my sidebar link list has been updated). If you've missed her, make sure to let her know! Plus, she's written her own recap of our NYC trip, so you get to see it from a different POV! Almost like a romance novel :P

Otherwise, I've been busy settling back into a routine... which hasn't been easy for multiple reasons. I started work last Tuesday - Monday being a holiday. I was lucky, because both my boss and supervisor were on vacation, so I came back to a quiet environment... Except that I had stayed up till 1am to read Magic Shifts by Ilona Andrews. Not my smartest decision ever... Let just say I was a little tired and really didn't want to be at work.

Then, early last week, two events got my adrenaline pumping. The first one was finding out there was a book signing event happening in Montreal!! Seriously, how did I not hear about it earlier? Have I been living under a rock?! Oh wait, I probably wasn't on the right social media. Ugh. Anyway, what matter is that I did not miss it - phew. So here are the details. The event is called "Romance Author & Reader Event" aka RARE and this year, it's taking place in Montreal on September 12!! It's organized by Amy Jennings, Adriane Leigh and Teri Maxwell. Honestly, I have no idea what, how and why... All I know is that Sarina Bowen is going and so, I must be there as well!! LOL. I've become a die-hard fan of Ms Bowen last year. While Ames and I never got around to post our Best and Favorite of 2014 recap, we did discuss it and Ms Bowen was my choice for best new-to-me author and best author for 2014. Heck, I had Ms Bowen for favorite NA book, m/m book, new-to-me series as well as two other categories. And my fangirl level has only gone up after reading Him by Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy which was only a few days before finding out about this signing. Talk about timing!! So there you go, I'm going to RARE 2015! There's actually going to be quite a few authors:

Unfortunately, I have not read many of them ^_^; Besides Ms Bowen, I have read one book by Christina Lauren, Daisy Prescott and Jennifer Probst. I know Emma Chase has a new release coming out at the end of the month and that one, I was planning to give it a try :) Laura Kaye is an author Leslie has recommended to me on many occasions, so now would be a good time to listen to her. And I've been curious about Tiffany Snow. Any other authors you strongly recommend, that I should absolutely read before the signing? Let me know!! Because seriously, there are many authors and I know I won't have time to read everyone! I've also decided to volunteer for the event. I think it'll be interesting to live it from the other side, especially since I'm local :P So far, I've had a lot of fun hanging out on the FB page LOL.

Also in September is a get-together with my American second-cousins. The one hosting is the one who got married a couple of years ago. Ever since her wedding, the six of us have kind of reconnected and so, we decided to get together :) She lives near Baltimore... and my sister and I debated driving or flying. In the end, because it'll be so short, we chose flying to save time. So it was finding a cheap flight with the right hours for the right price. Since 4 of us are flying in, we wanted to coordinate time and airport. So that was stressful and exciting all the same. And with me, planning a trip to the States and a book signing, it feels like I'm going on vacation all over again LOL.

Finally, this past Saturday, I once again hosted our annual BBQ. It was very laid-back this year... but it still got me stressed. No matter how many times we're having it, the fear of not having enough food is always there. Also, what should I buy, what should I not buy... and so on ^_^; And of course, we ended up having too much food as usual. I'm on my third day of eating BBQ leftovers and seriously, I cannot do it anymore!! LOL.


So that's what I've been up to :) What about you?

Monday, August 03, 2015

RWA 2015 Haul

Well a recap of one of my trips would not be completed without a post about the books I brought home LOL. So here we go!

I'm not going to do as last time and list and comment on all the books I got, because you know, we'd be here for ages ^_^; They say a picture is worth a thousand words and I think in this case, it's true :) Here are several thousands words :)

Let's start with the Literacy Signing:


Yes, the Literacy Signing was crazy... but in an organized fashion. The authors were seated alphabetically for the most part and during those two hours, I managed to visit everyone I wanted... and more :) I'm always surprised, because you think that two hours is way too short, how am I going to see everyone?!? But you do! Unless you line up for the big authors - Nora Roberts, Nalini Singh, etc., then you might run out of time. Otherwise, you're good ;) I probably walked that room twice actually. And most authors don't have a queue. If they do, then I usually come back.

My best advice for the Literacy Signing: have a list of authors that you absolutely want to see. RWA puts up the list of authors present early on their website so you can make that list. It's a good guideline to have because it'll keep you centered :)

Another good advice I received from Wendy on my first Literacy Signing is if you want the latest release of a particular author from Avon/Harpercollins, grab it at the Literacy Signing... because chances are, they won't have it at the publisher signing as they usually give away the previous release or even, two books ago release. That's why I got The Duke and the Lady in Red by Lorraine Heath and Catch a Falling Heiress by Laura Lee Guhrke. And good thing too, because indeed, they didn't have it at the publisher signing. My best "catch" though was Once Upon a Rose by Laura Florand. She is now self-publishing her books, so she didn't have many copies at the Literacy Signing and apparently, ran out of books very quickly. So happy she was my first stop! Now, I'm kicking myself because I should have been greedy and gotten a copy of All for You. Oh well :P

I have to admit though, most of the books I got on the Literacy Signing weren't on my list ^_^; I did go to most authors on my list and asked them if they were going to be at the publisher signings. Then, I picked up books that caught my eyes... and that's how I got When a Rake Falls by Sally Orr. How could I resist the necklace? LOL.

While the Literacy Signing was the first event that kicked off RWA, those weren't my first books. Nope, the first books I got were the ones in the registration bag (on the left of the owl).


Other instances you get free books aside from the publisher signings are at the keynote sessions and in the goody room. From the keynote sessions, we got On a Night Like This by Barbara Freethy, two books in Julia Quinn's Bridgertons series and two books by Nalini Singh - combinations of Angels's Blood, Slave to Sensation and Visions of Heat. Besides the Barbara Freethy book, I only took home Slave to Sensation because of its new cover :) I've been coveting this new cover as it fits with the rest so much more than the original purple cover ^_^;

The bulk of the free books you get at RWA are from publisher signings. Basically, each publisher gathers their authors and provide books for them to sign for attendees. Usually, there will be two publisher signings at the same time and they last about 1.5 hour. It is possible to go to both publisher signings and get most books, but it's really a balancing act. In this case, knowing which authors write for which publishers will help you in your decision making.

The first face-off: Avon vs. New American Library (NAL). I elected to go to NAL first because 1) there was a particular book I really wanted, 2) the line was shorter at NAL and 3) I had gotten the books I wanted most from Avon at the Literacy Signing. Anything else I was getting was bonus. I also know that Avon give e-books and as such, you're less likely to run out of books.


The book I really wanted at NAL was Something to Prove by Kimberly Lang. I read the blurb and for some reasons, just really wanted to read it. I was also really excited to meet Erin Knightley and am happy I got Rising Fire by Terri Brisbin.


For the Avon signing, I pretty much went wild with the ebooks (3rd picture). Even though I drove to NYC, I was very conscious that I had limited space in my trunk. Sure, I wasn't restricted as those who flew and decided not to ship back books... However, remember, I didn't drive down alone. We were 4, we had gone shopping and 3 of us had definitively over-packed ^_^; So yes, e-books are definitively great!!

Later that day, there two more publisher signings - Kensington and Indie. I'm still very picky on self-published books, so that was an easy decision for me. I'm most happy I got The Daring Exploits of a Runaway Heiress by Victoria Alexander. Ironically, she didn't have that book at the Literacy Signing, but did have it for the publisher signing. Go figure. Was also very happy to get my hand on Fire Me Up by Kimberly Kincaid. Oh and To Win Her Love by Mackenzie Crowne because I had seen that one while looking up new releases but didn't expect to find it at RWA considering it's from Lyrical Press, Kensington's e-book line.


I did go to the Indie book signing and got Finding Pride by Jill Sanders (picture of the book is with the Montlake books). Ms Sanders had her son with her and they were such a cute pair, him handing out bookmarks and her, signing books :)

On the second day, there were 6 publisher signings. Yep, it was a busy day!

The first session was Harlequin vs. Grand Central Publishing. I lined up for Harlequin, did a quick tour to get the books I really wanted. Then, went to Grand Central Publishing. The reality is that Grand Central Publishing signing had less authors than Harlequin, so it was easy to get the books I wanted and then, go back to Harlequin. Poor Lauren Dane, she was signing in both!! So I think she did 45 minutes at Harlequin, then 45 minutes at Grand Central Publishing. I had miss her on my first tour of Harlequin, so when I came back I went to get her books... Only to find out she had gone to Grand Central! So I got her books and followed her back to Grand Central Publishing LOL.


My most exciting moment? Getting an ARC of Ransom Canyon by Jodi Thomas. I found out recently that she had a new series coming out with Harlequin at the end of August and was wondering if she would have the book at the publisher signing... and guess what? She did!! So happy, I think I danced in front of her LOL. Of course, that means I need to read it before the end of the month :P I loved meeting Robyn Carr, Kristan Higgins, Susan Andersen and Sharon Sala. I have followed those authors in Harlequin for a long time :P Also, kudos to Harlequin because they were really prepared. Each authors had tons of books for the signing.

Oh, you know how Avon gets a thumb up for having e-books, well Harlequin gets two thumbs up from me. Not every author had e-books to offer, but the ones who did? Well, they had this cool app that allowed them to personalize the e-book itself, like a real book signing, and then, send it to you via email. So when you open the e-book, after the cover, there's a page with the autograph:


 Isn't that cool? I got 5 books that way.

 

I do hope that in the future, Harlequin considers extending this app to their other authors :) Even though it was a bit awkward to sign on an iPad and it might be a bit more time-consuming, it's just awesome because it's like a real signed book!


In Grand Central Publishing, I'm really happy with all the books I got. I feel like in the past few years, I haven't picked up as many books by Grand Central Publishing as I used to. However, it seems like Grand Central is doing a re-emergence. I don't know if it's their covers that are more eye-catching or the blurbs that are more interesting or what, but I'm really excited to read the books I got :) By the way, V.K. Sykes turns out to be a husband and wife team from Ottawa and they were just the cutest.

 In the afternoon, we had Berkley vs. Pocket. For this one, I chose Berkley first just because I know I read a lot from them.

Obviously, Nalini Singh and Nora Roberts were two must-see authors for me. I'm really happy I waited for the publisher signing to see Nora Roberts because the line was shorter and I got paperbacks instead of hardcovers. I love hardcovers, but truth is, I couldn't wait for RWA to get Nora Roberts books, so I already owned the HCs ^_^; I'm lucky I got the Jayne Ann Krentz!! I skipped her line the first time around, went to Pocket and when I came back, there were only three copies left! Snagged one presto! Got to meet Thea Harrison as well. I can't remember if she was at RWA in 2011, but it's hard to believe that 4 years ago, she would have been an unknown author almost as Dragon Bound came out in May 2011. Last, but not least, it was lovely to meet Lisa Bingham. I did come across her book when I was looking for new releases, but I didn't remember her till I saw her at the Literacy Signing and promise myself to find her at the publisher signing.


Okay, so I am shocked I only got three books at the Pocket book signing. Actually, I got more than three, but the others were for friends. Still, only three books?! I admit that the publisher signing is kind of a blur at the moment so my only explanation for the little amount of books I got is the authors present at the signings are not ones that I read ^_^; I remember there were many historical romance authors and I've been kind of keeping away from those. Also, after Harlequin and Berkley book signings, I was a bit less impulsive because I was worried about space ^_^;

The last two signings of the day were St. Martin's Press and Sourcebooks. This one was an easy decision: St. Martin's Press.

Suzanne Rock is an author I've been meaning to try, so I was happy to see her at the signing. I've read the first two books in the New York Saints series by Melanie Scott, so picking up Lawless in Leather was a no-brainer. The Diane Kelly book, I actually got at the Literacy signing - oups :P Still, I enjoy her other cosy mystery series and been meaning to start this one :) Finally, I have come across the blurb of Summer on Lovers' Island by Donna Alward and am so happy I saw the book at the signing.


For some reasons, I am not a huge fan of Sourcebooks. I just don't seem to click with the stories... except for their YA. Those I love... and that's why I have high hopes for Powerless. I'm also glad I went because I picked up Sharon Sala's new book - for some reasons, I thought it was with Berkley or Grand Central Publishing and had been disappointed not to see her in those. Lucky I walked in when I did, because she didn't have many copies left. And I have heard really good things about Sara Humphreys from a co-worker, so that's why I picked her book.

So, the last day, there were two signings left. These were individual publisher signing, meaning they weren't held at same time. The first one was Ballantine Books, i.e. Random House publishing. Surprisingly, they didn't have many authors present... Laura Moore was the must see authors at that signing for me :) They also had their LoveSwept books in printed ARC for the signing. That was cool, but at the same time, the paper used is different and so, the books were really heavy ^_^;


Last, but not least, Montlake Romance, i.e. Amazon. I'm familiar with a few authors only... so most of the books I picked were Ames' suggestions and also, the covers :P


***

 And there you go, all the books I got. In case you are curious, here is the final count:

127 print books + 35 e-books

Yep, that's pretty insane ^_^; At the start, I thought I was doing so much better than in 2011 where I just took everything... that I was in control and restrained myself. I mean, the first two publisher signings, I had less than 20 print books... Not bad at all. And then, I really don't know what happened LOL. But yeah, end result is that I have 5 print books less than in 2011... and back then, the publishers hadn't started given out e-books ^_^; So not too much restraint. Especially when you consider that I left a box of books behind to the NJ bloggers. Although in my defense, I think there were more authors this year... Just saying. The good news is out of those 162 books, I have already read 15 books - almost 10%!! And since I came home, I read two more :P Hopefully, I'll do a better job this year than in 2011. And I think I will. I was really careful this time around to take books I really wanted to read - that's why you're seeing so much contemporary romance... So we'll see.

And of course, aside from books, I brought home a ton of swag. I thought I'd share with you some of the cool ones :P

The stuffed dog was courtesy of Diane Kelly and is the K9 dog in her series. We call her Brigit because that's the name of the character and had a lot of fun with her as Ames, my sister and V brought her with them on their sightseeing tour of NYC :P I'll try to share some of those pictures with you all. I got a cowboy cookie cutter from Lisa Bingham and I know we'll use that one :P I think the spatulas and measuring spoons were cool ideas. Oh, we also had a lot of fun with those purple rulers. They changed to bright pink with heat (you can see a bit on the 2nd picture). Pins are always fun... Carina Press/Harlequin had 6 and the one saying "My TBR pile is bigger than yours" was in very high demand. I thought #teamHEA was cool too. Love the Keep Calm and Hoard Books as well as Nalini Singh's mini. So that's just some of it, but I thought I'd share with you :)

Phew, sorry for the long post. Hope you enjoyed it!! Now, next, going to try to review a book :P

Thursday, July 30, 2015

RWA 2015 and NYC trip!

Hello everyone!

Yep, I'm alive! I survived RWA 2015 and my NYC trip! We drove back home on Monday and I've been settling back slowly into a routine :P I'm not going to do a day-by-day recap because that'd be too long for you and me... but I wanted to share some thoughts and pictures of the whole experience :P

RWA 2011 was such a great experience for me, that I knew I'd do it again. I chose this year, because it was once again held in NYC. Being able to drive to the conference is a definite plus because I get to save on airfare and can also bring back all the books I want :) Plus, I get to visit fellow bloggers Hilcia, Christine and Mariana :) Accompanying me this time around was my sister Emilie, my friend V and Ames. My sister and V have visited NYC many times, but always like to come back. As for Ames, NYC has always been a place she wanted to see... Plus, being there at the same time as some favorite authors and fellow bloggers, it was perfect timing.


As usual, we managed to squeeze in some outlet shopping... but the real focus of the trip was NYC and RWA 2015. One of the most memorable moments of the trip was the Jimmy Fallon Tonight Show taping. My sister is a big fan of Jimmy Fallon and we've been trying to go for years... but it never worked out. This time though, the stars aligned and not only was Jimmy Fallon taping while we were in town, but I managed to snag some tickets!! Wooohooo!!! There's a whole process to get tickets and even then, it's hard ^_^; We went to the taping with Ames and Rosie. I was a bit disappointed that we were in the last row, although we still had a good view. However, in the end, we were able to high-five Jimmy Fallon, so I guess those were actually good seats LOL. And bonus, not only we got to see the taping with guest stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Josh Gad and James Bay, but at the end, they also taped scenes for a movie - Conner4Real - with Andy Samberg! So we got to see that as well :P If we're lucky, we will be in it!!


Last time I was attending RWA in NYC, I didn't really get to sightsee ^_^; The days during the conference start really early, even more so now that the keynote speakers are scheduled at breakfast instead of lunch. If you go to every publisher signings, it leaves you very little time to actually attend to workshops and panels... and then, you want to hang out with your friends. This time, I was hoping to do a bit more... So I managed to go to the High Line Park with my crew as well as Rosie and L.B. Gregg. Also managed to go to the Empire State building and do a night tour bus. Not bad, no?





 We also managed to go to a Broadway show: Finding Neverland. I'm not a fan of Peter Pan, but I actually really enjoyed this one. The stage was awesome and some of the scenes were just breathtaking. My only complaint though was the volume... I had difficulty catching every word during a song because the music seems to be too loud. Still, great show in my opinion.


So this was NYC for me. Ames, V and Emilie actually saw a lot more :P It's funny because Emilie and I are used to being on the go during trips. I guess we're also fast walkers. Ames and V were troopers!! But after a couple of intense sightseeing days, I think Emilie has broken Ames' feet :P

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What about RWA? Overall, my experience was positive :) However, I do have some mixed feelings about it. I'll try to expand on those later...

For now, let's start with the Literacy Signing. It was crazy! LOL, but super well organized! There were close to 500 authors present for the Literacy signing, so you can imagine... I love how they did the queue this year. The Literacy Signing was on the 5th floor ballroom and we were directed to the 6th floor ballroom for the line-up. There were actual chairs so instead of standing, we could sit! That was really brilliant! We were also divided into section: A, B, C, etc. And when the signing started, they called one section at a time to make their way down the 5th floor ballroom. Everything was smooth and prompt. So, really big kudos to the organizers for thinking this up. I think each section was made up of approximately 100 persons and I know they started to fill section F. So 600+ people going to the signing to meet authors... Wowzer! I think this year, the Literacy Signing raised about 48000$ for charity, so that was awesome :)

Lining up for Literacy Signing

The Literacy Signing!

I managed to make it to all three breakfasts :) This year, the keynote speakers were Barbara Freethy, Julia Quinn and Nalini Singh. All three speeches were interesting... although I think Ms Freethy was the most enlightening. She talked about how she had to re-invent herself many times because of romance trends and why she decided to self-publish. Really interesting. Ms Quinn talked about how authors cannot please every reader and Ms Singh, about her first RWA experience and friendships in the industry.



The most disappointing thing for me this time around is I wasn't able to make it to many workshops/panels... mainly because I chose to go to the publishers signings. They were 12 publisher signings and for most of them, two were held at the same time... so technically, 7 seances. I was able to make it to a few, but I wished I could have gone to more.

Laura Griffin & Brenda Novak on RS


Robyn Carr chat and Sharon Sala chat

Alas, I missed the RITAs. It was a tough decision, but I elected to spend time with Ames and V and did the night bus tour. I was seriously tired anyway and so many of the books nominated, I haven't read.

So, RWA... Honestly, I feel I didn't enjoy RWA this time around as much as I did in 2011. However, I don't think it's the conference itself, but more me. RWA 2011 was a new experience and so it was awesome. This time not being my first rodeo, well, it changed things. Also, the circumstances are different. I'm still reading a lot of romance books, but am not as involved in my blog, am less plugged in the blogosphere. I went to RT and RWA and I prefer the atmosphere at RWA better because it's quieter, less chaotic because it is a professional conference. It's meant to be for people in the industry, but at the end of the day, I'm not part of the industry. I don't feel comfortable to run up to one of my favorite authors and gush to them in the lobby, elevator or hall. I think it'd be easier to do so if I was at RT where there's a lot of fans, but at RWA? Also, I'm a small blog and I like to stay away from all the drama and kerfuffles. I like having a little distance between me and authors... I write on my blog how much I love them and their books, but I seldom send mail... Most of them, I don't follow on FB or Twitter. As a result, I don't have much of a relationship or connection with authors and I think it makes it hard when I'm at RWA because nobody knows who I am. Don't get me wrong, everyone is very nice... but you can't help but wonder if you belong.

For now, I'm thinking I'd like to attend one more RWA that is not held in NYC... because the attendance is just sooo high in NYC. I'd like to see if it's different when it's being held elsewhere :P I'd also like to do another RT... and then, I think I'd be good :) Because there are just so many times you can meet your favorite authors before these meetings are no longer special... Speaking of meeting authors, I was so happy to get to see  Nora Roberts and Laura Florand!! Definitively one of my highlights of RWA 2015.


And of course, it's always nice to reconnect with friends :)