Friday, May 31, 2013

Armchair BEA: Blog Development

From Armchair Bea....

"The purpose of the conference is to foster "blogger development"--and clearly, that development can go in a variety of directions! Today, we're inviting you to talk about your approach. Have you branched out into your community? Do you partner with other bloggers? Have you gone "pro" or tried generating some income through your blog? If you're a long-term blogger, how has your online personality developed over the years?"

Shamefully enough I'd have to say the thing I'm worst at is blog development. I started Reading Amidst the Chaos waay back in 2007 as an evolution to a very small idea: connecting my friends with the books I was reading and recommending those that I thought they'd enjoy too. It started simple but I let it linger for a year or so, and when I came back to it I was a total n00b with no idea what I was doing.

I had to kind of learn, by seeing and reading what other people were doing, what format was going to work for me. What kind of reviews I wanted to write and which ones I thought I could consistently provide. It's an ever changing process I think, and while I'm happy with the look of things at the moment anything could happen. 

Still, even if things haven't changed all that much around here, I've found that much more to follow out THERE. I don't always comment, but there are some incredible bloggers out there and Tweeting with them, asking questions, just dropping in to see what's up has been great. I kind of think of myself as this little blog over here in the corner of the great big book blog-o-sphere, especially it's not pro and I'm not expecting that to change anytime soon, but I can still contribute and be as active a part of the community as I want to be. 

Over time I've added a Facebook and a Twitter, other ways in which I can communicate with people, and for right now I think that's a enough. I've considered starting a little personal fund, for design overhauls of RAtChaos and Good Red Herring, but I think the first step would probably be to buy the dot com's right, lol? I don't wanna get ahead of myself here!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

things I'm thinking about

I have finished nothing new and exciting lately, and even if it was sitting on my desk in front of me I'm not sure I could read it. I'm stressed. Life stressed from so many angles it's making me irritable and it's difficult to read books and give them a fair review when I'm in this mood. A couple of things on my plate? Loving a Prince Charming by Danielle Monsch and Scent of Darkness by Christine Dodd - completely different from each other but neither are catching my attention. And I can't say it's a criticism to either of the authors; I have got to get over this hump and soon, dammit!

To deal with all that I've decide to take a moment today and focus on the things that are/should be making me happy. 

1) Dragon*Con - 91 days people! The Hyatt will be taking its lovely chunk of change from me on June 1st, which makes it ALL THE MORE REAL. I have at least a couple costumes in the works (both that make me over the moon excited) so hopefully focusing on Labor Day Weekend will help me. 

2) Dim Sum - what's a happiness list without food? Some friends and I
will be venturing into Silver Spring on Sunday for some of the best dim sum in the DC area. Best part? Roast pork buns! (and turnip cakes, and fried rice steamed in leaves, and dumplings.....)

3) Nordstrom Half Yearly Sale - I'm actually kinda poor right now, what with the hotel price and plane tickets for my sorority's convention in August, but I'm a sucker for a deal. I'm not sure if/when I'll have the budget to buy all the things I want (Kate Spade metallic silver and yellow neon heels I'm looking at you) but Taylor Brand dresses in the $50-$80 range? That'll work for now!

4) Speaking of buying things, I have $10 in HauteLook credit! This never happens for me ok? Just let me bask. And be super discerning about what I use it on because shipping is no joke and I do not want to send it back!

5) xoJane and xoVain - when I'm busy and distracted for some odd reason I also find myself super bored, maybe because I'm trying to ignore all the things? Whatever the reason these two websites help a LOT, with witty writers and articles on cool stuff (mostly female related).

And that's it folks, so tell me - What's making you happy right now?

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Armchair BEA - the beginning! (sorta)

Design credit: Sarah of Puss Reboots
I might be late to the game but I'm not out! Thanks to Always With a Book's posts on Armchair BEA I've been inspired to take an active part (or as an active part as I can) in this year's Book Expo America. I can't be there in person, in fact I'm so bogged down in my 1.5 jobs that I barely have time to read at the moment, but I take such joy in the book blogging community that I knew I had to give it a shot. 

Posts started yesterday with one introducing yourself - and your blog - through five questions. I guess that means it's time to sit back, relax, and prepare to learn a little bit more about the Dana behind RAtChaos :).

Have you previously participated in Armchair BEA? What brought you back for another year? If you have not previously participated, what drew you to the event? I've never participated in Armchair BEA before but I think this past year or two I've become more interested in the discussions happening behind the scenes of publishing and blogging and activities like this help me stay connected. I want to know what's going to happen to Barnes & Noble, or how Amazon is changing the world of purchasing, or that public libraries might be going extinct, etc. - I'm a lover of books who recognizes the world in which those books exist is changing and Armchair BEA sounded like a fun event that in conjunction with Twitter and other mediums would keep me informed.

Tell us one non-book-related thing that everyone reading your blog may not know about you. I have a problem with Spring dresses. A serious problem I tell you, that causes my closet to look like Easter threw up on it every Spring and Summer. I hate sweating and the heat but if I can throw on a cute fit and flare dress - maybe with a petticoat even? - then I am a really happy camper. That said it's probably no surprise that I love Dita Von Teese.

Name your favorite blog(s) and explain why they are your favorite(s). I read way too many to have really 'favorite' favorites, but here are a few that I love checking in with on a regular basis:

Dear Author - who could not love Jane and the community she's created? Her and her reviewers are in depth, methodical, and engage their audience in the kind of conversations I could never sustain and I love catching up with them. 

ALPHA Reader - Danielle at ALPHA Reader is another reviewer whose passion I could never emulate but inspires me to do all that I can. She connects authors with readers and writes incredible reviews about books from across the world. 

Smexy Books - I read some smexy books but I don't think anyone could do what Mandy does. Eye candy galore with a wit and humor that I admire - her blog is in my eyes very different than mind and it's part of why I lover her. Variety is the spice of life!

What literary location would you most like to visit? Why? I would sell an organ to live in Shelly Laurenston's Pride world. It's just like ours but with kick ass people and the kind of shapeshifter alpha love that I could totally get behind. There are few authors on my autobuy list that have me laughing out loud the entire time and yet still somehow be envious of the heroines - but Laurenston's one of them and I love her for it.

What is your favorite part about the book blogging community? I am never going to find all the good things to read. Ever, lol. I'm ok with that and have even started to accept the quirks of how I read the things I love (I've had Steel's Edge sitting on my shelf since it came out but have I read it? No. Something about it being the last of the series and emotionally draining at the same time has me feeling unprepared to face it - and I LOVE that author! It's weird.). Book blogging simultaneously makes me feel less lonely in my weirdness and also keeps me up to date on what I should/could be reading next. Even when I feel behind or like I'm letting down the people who check in with me, reading blog posts and staying connected on Twitter makes me feel like one of the 'in crowd' and that's an awesome thing. 

Design credit: Nina of Nina Reads

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Crystal Gardens by Amanda Quick

Novelist and professional companion Evangeline Ames has rented a cottage in the outskirts of Little Dixby, far from the London streets where she was recently attacked. Fascinated by the paranormal energy of nearby Crystal Gardens, she finds some pleasurable diversion in sneaking past the wall to explore the grounds. And when her life is threatened again, she instinctively goes to the gardens for safety. Lucas Sebastian has never been one to ignore a lady in danger, even if she is trespassing on his property. Quickly disposing of her would-be assassin, he insists they keep the matter private. There is plenty of whispering about him already, with rumors of treasure buried under his garden, and occult botanical experiments performed by his uncle — who died of mysterious causes. Immediately sensing each other’s psychic talents, as well as their mutual desire, Lucas and Evangeline find themselves with an even more pressing concern. Whoever tried to have her killed will try again. But who would want her dead? With Evangeline’s skill for detection, and Lucas’s sense of the criminal mind, they soon discover that they share a common enemy. And as the dangerous energy emanating from Crystal Gardens grows stronger, they realize that to survive they must unearth what has been buried for too long.

After finishing The Mystery Woman I decided to impose upon my public library again and backtrack to Crystal Gardens - which turned out to be a great decision. In my opinion Crystal Gardens is stronger than The Mystery Woman both in plot and character development; Evangeline and Lucas spend more significant time together and when his family descends to make sure that propriety is being observed they're forced to reveal parts of their past in way that brings them closer together. The only one I could have done without was maybe Luca's aunt, but since she was a vehicle for his sister and then eventually his brother to be introduced I can't say she was completely unnecessary. 

The suspense/mystery elements of the book were also fun to read. The whodunnit might not have been hard to figure out but there were enough strings around to other plots that while the ending wasn't uncharacteristic for Quick's work it was still enjoyable. Going back definitely has me excited about going forward - I might have to wait but the Ladies of Lantern Street will be worth it.

Overall Feeling - B+

Series - 1) Crystal Gardens 2) The Mystery Woman

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

It Had to Be You by Jill Shalvis *ARC Review*

Ali Winters is not having a good day. Her boyfriend left her, everyone in town thinks she's a thief, and now she's about to be kicked out of her home. Her only shot at keeping a roof over her head and clearing her name is to beg for help from a police detective who's as sexy as he is stern....

After a high-profile case goes wrong, Luke Hanover returns to his hometown for some peace and quiet. Instead he finds a bombshell brunette in a heap of trouble. As he helps Ali put her world back together, the pieces of Luke's own life finally seem to fall into place. Is this the start of a sizzling fling? Or are Luke and Ali on the brink of something big in a little town called Lucky Harbor?

I've said it before but with Jill Shalvis I rarely regret it, quirky characters are my favorite when it comes to contemporary romances. I can find drama when I want it, but pleasant small town stuff, the stories with main characters that deserve the happiness life is bringing them, are the ones I pick up again and again and are the bread and butter of my bookshelves. 

Luke is getting a lot of flack as the former lead detective on a murder case involving a senator (which thankfully we don't get into a whole lot) so the last thing he needs, obviously, is free spirited 'searching for herself' Ali, who's just found out what a loser her ex-boyrfriend really is. Sounds like a rom-com starring Katherine Heigel right? Luckily things stay light, even when Ali's accused of theft, and Luke is able to start putting himself together as he realizes how much faith family and friends (old and new) still have in him.

It's cute ok? Go read it :).

Overall Feeling - B+

Series - 5) At Last 6) Forever and a Day 7) It Had to Be You (out 5/28/2013)

**Title requested from NetGalley** 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

i can barely take care of myself by Jen Kirkman

"You'll Change Your Mind."

That’s what everyone says to Jen Kirkman— and countless women like her—when she confesses she doesn’t plan to have children. But you know what? It’s hard enough to be an adult. You have to dress yourself and pay bills and remember to buy birthday gifts. You have to drive and get annual physicals and tip for good service. Some adults take on the added burden of caring for a tiny human being with no language skills or bladder control. Parenthood can be very rewarding, but let’s face it, so are margaritas at the adults-only pool.

Jen’s stand-up routine includes lots of jokes about not having kids (and some about masturbation and Johnny Depp), after which complete strangers constantly approach her and ask, “But who will take care of you when you’re old?” (Servants!) Some insist, “You’d be such a great mom!” (Really? You know me so well!)

Whether living rent-free in her childhood bedroom while trying to break into comedy (the best free birth control around, she says), or taking the stage at major clubs and joining a hit TV show— and along the way getting married, divorced, and attending excruciating afternoon birthday parties for her parent friends—Jen is completely happy and fulfilled by her decision not to procreate.

I Can Barely Take Care of Myself is a beacon of hilarious hope for anyone whose major life decisions have been questioned by friends, family, and strangers in a comedy club bathroom. And it should satisfy everyone who wonders if Jen will ever know true love without looking into the eyes of her child.


This book started out pretty well but petered off into something I consider amusing but not laugh out loud funny. It's probably not complimentary to Ms. Kirkman but I can't help but compare this to Jenny Lawson's Let's Pretend This Never Happened. I don't read enough humorous nonfiction to have much else to compare it to and I think it's the best example of why I didn't connect to this book more: personal connection. 

Kirkman spends a lot of time showcasing different scenarios of how her friends/family put her on the spot regarding her decision to not have children, but once the humorous part of the story ends not much else seems to happen. She gets married and gets divorced - both with almost not back story - and doesn't ever seem to come to grips with her own decision. Maybe my confusion comes about from being a bit more bitchy about the whole thing, but by the end I just wanted to tell her to get a grip, it's your life, live it as you want.

Shrug. It's ok - but check it out from the library.

Overall Feeling - B-

Series - None

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris *HERE THERE BE SLIGHT SPOILERS*

There are secrets in the town of Bon Temps, ones that threaten those closest to Sookie—and could destroy her heart....

Sookie Stackhouse  finds it easy to turn down the request of former barmaid Arlene when she wants her job back at Merlotte’s. After all, Arlene tried to have Sookie killed. But her relationship with Eric Northman is not so clearcut. He and his vampires are keeping their distance…and a cold silence. And when Sookie learns the reason why, she is devastated.

Then a shocking murder rocks Bon Temps, and Sookie is arrested for the crime.

But the evidence against Sookie is weak, and she makes bail. Investigating the killing, she’ll learn that what passes for truth in Bon Temps is only a convenient lie. What passes for justice is more spilled blood. And what passes for love is never enough…


The final Sookie Stackhouse book. I feel like there should be a drumroll or some suspenseful music to herald in this book, since it's been released with so much damn fanfare. Yes it's the end of a hugely popular series that has spawned a mostly hugely popular TV show. Are violence and death threats necessary? Absolutely not. They are never EVER necessary because you know whose book this is? THE AUTHOR'S. And she can damn well do whatever she wants with it.


The book itself in my opinion? Mediocre. It read as if Harris felt she needed to bring back every bad guy or suspicious character for one final showdown - or showdowns - and Sookie's personal story suffered for it. What you end up with are a lot of characters, a lot of unseen actions, and suddenly everything's just over. I was 80% of the way through when I realized that all of this other crap had gone down but Sookie was no closer to her HEA than before. Maybe it's my personal preference for romance, even/especially if its of the paranormal variety, but things ended up rushed and while I applaud Harris's choice to end her novel on a 'maybe' note instead of having Sookie jump in with both feet into another relationship, there could have been much more finality for all of the characters we've known and loved instead of all this 'whodunnit' stuff.

Overall Feeling - C+

Series - 11) Dead Reckoning 12) Deadlocked 13) Dead Ever After

Thursday, May 9, 2013

True by Erin McCarthy

Awkward girl meets scorching-hot boy…

When Rory Macintosh’s roommates find out that their studious and shy friend has never been with a guy, they decide that, as an act of kindness they’ll help her lose her virginity by hiring confident, tattooed bad boy Tyler Mann to do the job…unbeknownst to Rory.

Tyler knows he’s not good enough for Rory. She’s smart, doctor smart, while he’s barely scraping by at his EMT program, hoping to pull his younger brothers out of the hell their druggy mother has left them in. But he can’t resist taking up her roommates on an opportunity to get to know her better. There’s something about her honesty keeps him coming back when he knows he shouldn’t…

Torn between common sense and desire, the two find themselves caught up in a passionate relationship. But when Tyler’s broken family threatens to destroy his future, and hers, Rory will need to decide whether to cut her ties to his risky world or follow her heart, no matter what the cost… 

Reason why I'm probably not going to read anymore New Adult:

1) Trying to picture these characters as their real ages made me feel like I was reading about babies
2) Heavy, emotional problems like these that still attempt to end in a HEA confuse me because their future seems so unlikely 
3) I'M SKEEVED OUT by their ages. I'm sorry. I can't. I thought I could handle adult sex with physically adult characters and I've had to face the facts that I need people to be 24+, please and thank you. 

The book itself and the story is ok, the family drama and bad boy meets good girl tropes are both things I tend to be ok with in my contemporary romances. Personally I had problems balancing their ages with their parents, and the fact that because they were young the parents were really applicable and at times detrimental to their desires. Combine that with roommates/friends who pull one of the most bullsh*t moves I've read about it in a while and Rory continues to be friend with them? Sorry, the ending was cute and I hope the best for the characters because they're pretty likable, but this was just not my kinda book.

Overall Feeling - C-

Series - None (?)

Monday, May 6, 2013

The Mystery Woman by Amanda Quick

Beatrice Lockwood, one of the intrepid ladies of Lantern Street, is in the middle of a case when her past comes back to haunt her.  Joshua North, a former spy for the Crown, has come out of a self-imposed retirement after a disastrous case that left him scarred and forced to use a cane.  He is hunting the villain who is blackmailing his sister.

The trail leads him to Beatrice who is his chief suspect.  But when he realizes that she is not the blackmailer they set out to find the real extortionist.  Passion flares between them as they dodge a professional assassin.  Meanwhile a mysterious scientist intent on resurrecting his dead lover using an ancient Egyptian formula for preserving the bodies of the dead is also hunting Beatrice. He is keeping his dead love perfectly preserved in a special, crystal-topped sarcophagus filled with the special fluid.   But he needs Beatrice's paranormal talent to activate the reviving properties of the preservative in the coffin.  Time is running out for everyone involved.

The two cases collide at a mysterious country-house filled with artifacts from ancient Egyptian tombs.  The drama concludes in the mad scientist's laboratory where Joshua discovers that the past he thought was dead is still very much alive -- sort of.

I usually gravitate to Ms. Krentz books under her Jayne Castle pseudonym but for a historical The Mystery Woman wasn't bad. It's got Krentz's usual tricks, a forthright heroine and a hero with a dangerous past, but the story is still interesting to read. 

Beatrice's connection to her psychic abilities and Josh's vehemence that he doesn't have them is a familiar dynamic but one that works for me. I mean the book summary says a lot about what happens, so let me say in the end this was entertaining but not terrifically different from anything else Krentz has done. It was good enough that I've put the first book on hold at the library and will be checking back in with these characters in the future. If you like Krentz you should like this!

Overall Feeling - B

Series - 1) Crystal Gardens 2) The Mystery Woman

Thursday, May 2, 2013

April in Review

What the heck people - it's May (imagine that Justin Timberlake picture that's been up all over Facebook cause I don't wanna post it). How did this happen?!

DC is bouncing between a million different temperatures, my allergies are killing me, and somehow I'm super busy. Again. Or still, I'm really not sure about that.  I did manage to find time to get my butt down to Duke for my 5th year Reunion but in addition to have a grand time, the baby faces currently walking around campus made me feel SUUUPPPPPEEERRRR old. I did get in one last time at my favorite Tex-Mex places of all time and demolished the following:

Worth all the calories :D

I guess with that intro no one's surprised by the short list of books below. I wish I had time to read more and probably more books that I want to read but all in all I can't say I'm totally dissatisfied. At least I got some books in!

Scarlet by Marrissa Meyer (B)
Impulse by Moira Rogers
It Had to be You by Jill Shalvis (review coming soon!)
Lush by Lauren Dane  (A+)
Kitty Rocks the House by Carrie Vaughn (B-)
Bed of Roses by Nora Roberts
Coming Undone by Lauren Dane
Never Enough by Lauren Dane
Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg (B+/A)
Whiskey Beach by Nora Roberts (B-/C+)

My favorite of the month? Most fun has to go to Lush by Lauren Dane, most inspirational to Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg - go read them both!

P.S. -  My thoughts on that German fan who released the ending of Harris's last Sookie book? BAD FORM MAN. I can resist the internet ok, and you will NOT ruin it for me!