On GoodReads? Let’s Gab!

Kindle1This one will be a shorter post today. I wanted to remind anyone who follows me to connect with me on GoodReads, as well. It’s a great little community and an awesome spot to simply start a dialogue with like-minded readers who enjoy similar books. A little birdie told me that you are likely to see me as a GoodReads author out there myself sometime in the not-so-distant future. Will keep you posted on that! For now, click here to stop by for a visit and friend me on GoodReads so we can get down and dirty talking about our favorite books. And let me tell you: I have an eclectic bunch of titles – from plays to novels, existential literature and classic fiction to young adult and my growing obsession with contemporary romance, and most recently, a new addition, some exploring of the erotica genre.

In fact, I’ve just added a few book reviews today of Cameron’s Lincoln‘s last two books in the Holiday Heat Series, TIDES OF LUST and OCEANS OF DESIRE. Cameron is going to be a guest blogger in a few weeks, and if you are a romance reader who has been looking for opportunities to stretch your reading interests in some new directions, one area that seems to be growing in popularity especially with restless romance readers is the more heat-inspired, erotic romance genre. Writers like Lincoln, Paige Thomas and Chase Boehner are starting to garner some serious attention from readers who don’t normally dip in the erotica pool.

Lately, reading in general has been a real challenge for me. I have several books on my Kindle that I pre-ordered and awaited their arrival with great frenzy and yet there they sit now, patiently waiting for me. They include BEAUTIFUL STRANGER by Christina Lauren (the second installment in that popular series) and as of this morning, THIS GIRL, the eagerly anticipated third book from Colleen Hoover (love her!!) to follow two of my absolute favorite books SLAMMED and POINT OF RETREAT.

Finding the time to steal away for a little pleasure reading has been quite a feat. In fact, I started the very eagerly awaited WALKING DISASTER by Jamie McGuire several weeks ago, follow-up to the popular and much-adored (moi included) BEAUTIFUL DISASTER.  Between my work schedule and getting my own book ready to publish, as well as the mixed reaction on my part to the sequel, it’s been slow going. I’m almost done and frankly, can’t wait to be finished. And that reaction surprises me tremendously. Hmm. To be fair, haven’t technically finished yet. You’ll just have to read my GoodReads review when I complete it to find out the ultimate verdict.

So…don’t be a stranger. Let’s shoot the breeze about our favorite authors and titles – old and new – and celebrate the geeky bookish fools that we are. *hoists large banner* Letting the book-reading freak flag fly high…WOOT WOOT!

Happy reading (oh yes, indeedy!)
ck

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CHRIS’S CORNER Welcomes Guest Blogger Karen M. Hanks: Celebrating Indie Authors

Happy Friday, everybody! This is that time of the week I look forward to most. Not just because I typically open a bottle of wine by the end of the day, though I will say that is something that has suddenly perked up the little corners of my lips a tad just thinking about it. Mmm.

Oooh, but not tonight. How could I forget! I have a date with three other ladies to see a musical parody of Fifty Shades of Grey onstage here in Tampa Bay. Should be divine. The fella playing the Grey-like creature is supposed to be quite divine, too, and…ahem…blush-invoking. Sigh. It’s going to be a fun day, all-day, yes indeedy.

But the real reason for my joy is that on Fridays I get to invite a friend over to CHRIS’S CORNER, my new weekly guest blog feature. This week, I’m especially excited because I had an unexpected opportunity to meet this lovely woman last month when she visited from the Great White North to take in some fabulous spring training baseball in my fair state of Florida. Karen M. Hanks is a talented writer who recently teamed up with her friend and poet S.A. MacNeil to launch a new blog So The Story Goes, specifically designed to promote the words and people behind today’s world of independent publishing.

I asked Karen if she wouldn’t mind stopping by to share what inspired the two young women to dedicate their time and energy to championing the spirit and work of independent authors across genres. And I know when she’s done, you’ll want to skidaddle over there to learn more about independent publishing and to see who’s in the spotlight this week at their site.

You can follow Karen on Twitter here. And be sure to follow So the Story Goes on Twitter, as well.

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KarenHanks

We at So The Story Goes were graciously asked by the lovely Chris Kuhn to write about the allure of the indie writing community and thought we’d start with how we came around to creating our blog, one that celebrates indie writers and why we love them so much.

Both of us are writers in our own fields of interest – as for me, fiction writing, and S.A. in poetry. As many of us do, we turned to Twitter as a way to share our work and connect with other writers. During times of writer’s block and other frustrations, we were simply looking to find a person or two who might like to read what we were working on and even offer support. But what we came across was a seemingly endless world of indie writers, all very friendly and all so passionate about what they did. So we decided to read one of their books. Soon, one book turned into ten, which turned into twenty, and now the list keeps growing every day. Not only were these books wonderfully written, thought-provoking and fun to read, but the authors were always so grateful when you’d tweet them a little note telling them how much you loved their work. We were hooked!

SoTheStory

As we continued our exploration through the indie world, we realized how hard these writers truly work. They take on the role of designer, publicist, and social media director, working their butts off every day to get their names out there and yet so many people are missing out on these literary gems simply because they don’t know where to find them. Thus, how the idea for So The Story Goes was born. We wanted to create a place where we could promote indie writers of all genres, somewhere indie writers could turn to when they wanted to share their latest piece. A place where, if someone was looking for something new and fresh, beyond what the bookstores sell, they could find it.

Don’t get us wrong – we still love reading books by well-established, big five published authors and would enthusiastically recommend their books, as well. One of our favourite Canadian writers, Sylvain Reynard, has recently had his books picked up by Berkeley. But his stories started out as Twilight fan fiction that gained great momentum thanks to readers that believed in his writing. And through his success, he has always maintained a connection with his fans, always gracious in his interactions with them. It’s this connection and camaraderie that make the indie community such a wonderful place to be. If we can help an indie writer succeed by building their fan base, that’s fantastic. But if we can open a reader’s eyes to a new writer they may never have heard of otherwise, that’s even better!

So The Story Goes features weekly book recommendations, poetry installments, and exclusive interviews and excerpts by indie writers from all over the world. You can find us at www.indielitgems.wordpress.com

My Recent Book Reviews

Ever since some of my friends learned that I was writing my own novel, I get one question more than any other (besides “how’s the book coming along?”) —- and that question is:

So what are you reading?

BookSpines

Sometimes I stop and give them the lowdown. Other days, during those crazy deadline-drowning weeks, I send them the link to my Goodreads profile page and suggest that they friend me there to keep up with my latest reading adventures. But since some of my recent titles read have been some much talked about titles across Twitter and Facebook, as well as on the “Want to Read” lists on GoodReads, I thought I’d share reviews about these recently read books.

Keep in mind that when I do a review I do not provide you a plot summary or a mini-book report. Hell, if you want to know what it’s about, just go to Amazon.com or barnesandnoble.com and look it up. You can find everything you want to know about the book itself there. I provide a review focused on the reading experience – what I think of the characters, how believable the plot structure was and what I liked or didn’t like about the various components like dialogue, tone, use of characters, etc.

So if you’re expecting a Cliffs Notes version combined with a  critique, quit reading now. You won’t find what you’re looking for. But if you are looking for an honest unsolicited reader’s opinion that’s SPOILER-FREE (because I am completely committed to preserving the pristine joy of the reading experience), read on! I will not ruin it for you here by sharing too much plot information or reveal any big twists or character developments, you can rest assured.

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Beautiful Bastard by Christina Lauren   (**** out of ***** stars)

I had just experienced a “drought” in my steady downpour of reading just prior – having started another book two weeks earlier and hitting a stalemate. After finally picking it up again and finishing it that morning, I was ready to get back into my steady diet of romance books. Yes, I was ready for my nightly dive into a new title and despite all of the others I had recently purchased and downloaded on my Kindle, this had to be the one I chose next.

I was amazed how over the place my emotions were during this book. [Click here to read the full review.]

Hot Ticket by Olivia Cunning   (**** out of ***** stars)

For the first time in a long time, I found myself trudging through a book’s beginning. Why? Why was that, I wondered. I had always enjoyed Olivia Cunning’s sharp-as-a-tack writing and dialogue, steamy portrayals and fun, sexy, rockin’ characters.

Maybe after going full-throttle reading for so many months – practically a new book finished every day or two – and being weighted down with so many client assignments to finish at one time, I might have experienced a sudden struggle with ANY book I picked up and delay as I did with this one. [Click here to read the full review.]

Collide by Gail McHugh   (**** out of ***** stars)

So I picked up this book not because anyone recommended it to me, but because I kept running into it during my book title perusal. I couldn’t figure out why. Each time I would read the description, it sounded interesting enough but for whatever reason, I didn’t buy it.

Earlier this week, I gave in. I heeded the signs and made the investment. And it turns out…that was a great decision. [Click here to read the full review.]

The Final Piece by Maggi Myers (**** out of ***** stars)

I wasn’t sure what to expect with this book by Maggi Myers. I have not read anything by the author before and the book came as a recommendation from a friend with similar reading tastes. It was a lovely surprise even though it broke one of my cardinal rules of books that I enjoy – I have a really difficult time when books separate my lead characters for great lengths of time. Simply put, it bothers the crap out of me!  [Click here to read the full review.]

Ten Tiny Breaths by K.A. Tucker   (**** out of ***** stars)

This was suggested to me by a friend, and I am so glad that I took the suggestion. It was a nice departure from some of the previous books I’ve been reading.

Most of all, I was excited to be introduced to a lead female character that I genuinely WANTED to know more about. In TEN TINY BREATHS, we meet Kacey Cleary – she’s strong, funny, smart and determined, and she’ll do anything to protect her sister. She truly is someone that, as a reader, I am ready and willing to invest some emotion. [Click here to read the full review.]

This Man by Jodi Ellen Malpas   (** out of ***** stars)

Oh boy.

Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy, OH BOY.

I’m gonna get creamed for this one, I’ll just bet, because everybody loves THIS MAN by Jodi Ellen Malpas. The book itself and “this” man, Jesse Ward. Everybody, I think except maybe…me.

Okay, now here’s the kicker – you’re staring at my 2-star rating and probably already hate me if you are one of the many obsessed fans of this book, but I do have to confess: yes, I bought the next book and yes, I even read it. And I’ll probably buy book 3. So how the hell did that happen when I gave it a 2-star rating? A deserved rant, I must admit. [Click here to read the full review.]

Beneath This Man by Jodi Ellen Malpas   (*** out of ***** stars)

So did you notice the change… since reading my review of the first in the THIS MAN Series?

It graduated from 2-star to 3-star. So I guess this means I liked it more, huh? Nah. Then I must have liked Jesse more, right? Definitely not. Ava more? Not a chance.

No, I didn’t enjoy it more but I was more intrigued, because while I had a clue where the author Jodi Ellen Malpas was going to take us, I truly had no idea to what extent the reader would go. I felt the first book reminded me too much of FIFTY SHADES OF GREY and its plot structure. So I didn’t know what to expect with book 2. [Click here to read the full review.]

Rule by Jay Crownover   (**** out of ***** stars)

I was forewarned that if I had an early e-book version of this novel that I might be subjected to typo-a-plenty. And that I was. But am happy to report that apparently there is a newer, cleaned up version of it now available.

I enjoyed this book from the beginning. It was nice for a change to read about some characters that already had a backstory but whose dynamic between them was evolving instead of the usual love-at-first-sight, instant orgasmic reaction that I witness in most of the books that I read. And gah, I’ll admit – still do enjoy…damn, I’ve become an easy target, haven’t I?!  [Click here to read the full review.]

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What are the latest titles that you’ve been reading and would you recommend them? I’d love to hear from you. Feel free to comment here or email me at chris@kuhnstories.com.

Happy reading!
ck

My Latest Love Affair with…GoodReads

Okay, so it didn’t take long for me to become obsessed.

Or is it addicted?

When does an obsession become an addiction? Any of my psychology majors out there want to chime in on this? Feel free to psychoanalyze and expound.

I was introduced to GoodReads last fall, and at first, I thought, ‘whatever will I use this site for?’ That was when I was reading a book a week – maybe. If that. Now, I’m reading a book every day or other day. And not surprisingly, it now holds a special place – sigh – in my heart. I have discovered new titles and authors that I wasn’t aware of, and this has been probably the greatest gain of all. It’s given me a place to connect with other readers to share thoughts about what we did and did not like about the characters and plotlines introduced to us. Since I’m not a member of any book club, it’s served as a perfect outlet for this besides Twitter and my wonderful tweeps there who I so enjoy bantering with about our book bohunks and gushing about authors who listen to their fans. (“You like us…you really like us!” we’ve exclaimed on more than one occasion).

GoodReads

I know that I must return to Pinterest and go re-discover the joys on that site again – and I will. Someday. But right now, my heart and my head is here…on GoodReads. Leaving reviews and swallowing hard whenever I have no choice but to choose 1-star or 2-star, not an easy task but sometimes it simply reflects reality. (I cringe every time wondering what rating people will select for my book once it’s published, and all of those insecurities come flooding back…breathe deep, Chris. Breathe deep…No matter how many people like it, someone will give you a 1-star rating and you know this. So brace yourself.)

I decided to have a little fun and sign up for GoodReads’ 2013 Reading Challenge, where I set my goal at 50 books this year but have already knocked off 7 and it’s not even mid-January. Holy crap. At this rate, I’ll be done with 50 by spring probably! Yowzah.

I am also starting to interact more with other participants on the site – commenting on reviews, following others’ reviews as well as my favorite authors. I long for the day when someone might be selecting me on this site as one of their favorite authors. That’s what I aspire to. A writer can dream…

But…in order for that last vision to happen, I have to publish my first book, and in order to publish, I need to finish writing it. So that is what I’m off to do right now. Continue it at least… Chapter 12 awaits. In the meantime, if you’d like to connect with me on GoodReads and become one of my GR friends, click here to visit my GoodReads profile page. While there, you can check out my latest book reviews (I’m still catching up on some of the previous books read last fall but am consistently reviewing from this year forward.)

My last book review is on M. Leighton‘s Down to You follow-up, Up to Me, which I just finished this morning. So click here to read that most recent book review.

Happy reading!

ck

What Makes Lead Characters Compelling?

It’s a question writers never stop asking themselves, and it’s a question that I think readers don’t consider: they just know. They are either drawn to them or they aren’t.

I’m currently building the lives of several characters but primarily a lead female protagonist and her potential love interest, a male. Ultimately, I want readers to root for these characters, I want them to wish they could take them out to lunch or go to a movie with them. I want them to fall in love with them.

And interestingly, I am finding that the most difficult thing is painting a picture that feels real and honest while also creating the complexities of a character so that they are worthy enough of the reader’s love but still human enough to make mistakes and disappoint them, too. After all, who has a best friend or lover who doesn’t disappoint at least some of the time? Besides,  many of us set unfair or unrealistic expectations in the first place! So I find it’s a fine line to walk, and since I can’t walk a straight line when I’m sober or traverse a balance beam without plummeting to the ground, it hasn’t always been easy but it is my personal mission.

I completely realize that some authors couldn’t give a rat’s ass if you like their lead character and in fact, may not care either way or instead may want you to totally despise the character. But as for me, no, I want you to discover things you love about each of those characters the further you delve into their stories as they unfold.

hOne observation I’ve made and recently touched on in a GoodReads book review of J. Redmerski’s Edge of Never was that I’ve noticed in the genres that I’ve been exploring recently (namely, contemporary romance and erotica), I am finding myself much more engrossed in the background, dialogue and livelihood of the male protagonists far more often than the female protagonist, most of which are the leads in these stories quite often. Sure, people care about Anastasia Steele but it is the potential casting of Christian Grey that has led to a social media melee of sorts. I truly believe we may have to put some women “on watch” when that much-anticipated casting news is announced, because I do believe the “wrong choice” in their eyes could send some readers over the edge. It won’t be a wrong Ana but a wrong Christian that will do that.

As I pointed out in my review where I bring up this subject, there are some authors who simply know how to build complex, fascinating characters regardless of gender – I name Colleen Hoover (Slammed, Point of Retreat, Hopeless) and Rebecca Donovan (Barely Breathing, Reason to Breathe), specifically, and add Redmerski to the list based upon my one and only read so far.

It’s so important to me that my readers want to hear what “she” says – in this case, Cate – as much as what “he” says, and that would be Oliver. (You’ll meet him soon, too.) I am going to confess something right here, and if you’re reading this and have experienced the very same thing, will you do me a favor: will you admit to it, too? Because I have to know that I’m not alone here. Sometimes…not always but sometimes, I am so smitten and carried away with the male lead and so underwhelmed by the female lead that I catch myself racing through “her” parts of the story that don’t involve my “book boyfriend” to accelerate the pace of the read so I can get back to the words and antics of said studly fellow.

Am I alone in this affliction? Again, it is not always and I’d prefer not to say which books because I fear the wrath of their loyal fans, but I have had this happen to me with at least three major series, two of them, long-time chart-topping series, in fact. Frankly, I’m not even sure that I like the woman I’m supposed to be rooting for in these books but the men positively intrigue the hell out of me (and for some readers who use Pinterest to enthusiastically share quite provocative photos of actors and models who they envision in these roles, these men clearly “rock their world,” too).

But the afternoon’s rolling away from me, and I must return to my own book-in-progress. I’d love to hear your thoughts as readers and authors, for those who care to comment, on not only what makes a character compelling to you but also any of your own observations in the romance/erotica genre. Do you too see a growing trend toward building what may perhaps be viewed as more intriguing and engrossing male protagonists than female leads? I’m curious to read your thoughts.

Thanks for reading.

ck