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<<August 2014>>
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1. Review: Hate To Love You

Hate to Love You by Elise Alden. Carina Press. 2014. Review copy from publisher. New Adult.

The Plot: Paisley has a "slutty reputation" (her words) but is still "technically" a virgin. Technically isn't good enough: Paisley is pregnant.

Paisley meets her sister's fiance, who is as snobby as Paisley's sister. It's mutual annoyance (but also attraction) from the start.

Which is why Paisley pretends to be her sister and sleeps with the fiance, James.

Paisley doesn't have a supportive or loving family. Which may explain why she slept with James. It also explains why Paisley decides to share the truth - she slept with James - at the wedding reception. It also explains why she decides to tell a lie -- that James is her baby's father.

All hell breaks lose, helped along by the cell phone videos of her epic announcement. In the aftermath, Paisley gives her baby to James and leaves.

It's seven years later, and Paisley is back. Determined to establish a relationship with her son. But will James forgive her?

The Good: Let's start with I LOVED THIS BOOK. If the plot sounds like twelve kinds of soap opera meets a Lifetime movie meets a Syfy show, you'd be right and that's what makes it AWESOME and AMAZING.

First, yes, it's a traditional New Adult book which means plenty of sexytimes.

Now, as I get into things, you may be saying, but Liz, you're telling me too much! Spoilers, sweetie. Actually, all the information above? The reader knows that from the start! Part of why I loved this book is even thought I knew what was going to happen, I still had to turn the pages, wanting to know why and how it was going to happen. About half of the book is explaining just how James and Paisley ended up in bed together; and half is Paisley, seven years later, trying to get her life back.

The first half: I won't go into too many details about the epic night, except to say heavy drinking and black out curtains so that the bedroom is total darkness. (I KNOW.) (And if right now you're thinking about things like logic, like "wait, how can he be so drunk that he can't tell this isn't his fiance's body, that's just not making sense," part of the answer is "Caroline is such a good girl that he wasn't getting any action before this so he didn't know.") (I KNOW.)

The kind of middle, the wedding reception where she announces she slept with James and is having his baby, is noteworthy because of the videos people take of her. Not only does the video go viral, but it inspired a lot of people to use important family occasions to announce secrets to their families. Also on video. EPIC.

In a nutshell, first-half Paisley is a bit of a mess. There's a reason why she has a "slutty reputation" (I really hate the word slut, but Paisley uses it, so it's here in quotes), and that is slowly revealed. (Semi spoilery - there is a tragic backstory AND her family is just awful.) (No, seriously, so awful that by the end, any sympathy I had for Caroline was gone.) In a way, the disaster of the wedding reception and losing her son and her family wanting nothing to do with her is the best thing to happen to Paisley. She leaves England and in the seven years (which aren't shown in the book) Paisley sobers up, continues her education, and gets her act together.

Once back in England.... let's just say this is the type of book that the only job in the entire country that Paisley can get is at the place where James works. Working for him. (I KNOW).

So the second half is Paisley trying to prove to James she's changed, yet there's the attraction with James, and FEELINGS and SEXYTIMES.

But Liz, you may be saying. I get the soap opera and Lifetime references, but Syfy?

Did I mention the kind of psychic powers that Paisley has, and the sort of psychic connection she has with James?

Yes, this book had a lot going on. But you know what? I kept turning the pages. I wanted, no, needed, to find out what happened next and why and how. Paisley was working against such a stacked deck, was such an underdog, that I was understanding of her self-destructive behavior and hopeful that she'd have a happy ending. And at the same time... this was a roller coaster of "what the hell just happened" and I really enjoy that type of book!

Other reviews: Dear Author; Harlequin Junkies; Shh Moms Reading; Confessions from Romaholics.

Amazon Affiliate. If you click from here to Amazon and buy something, I receive a percentage of the purchase price.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

0 Comments on Review: Hate To Love You as of 8/28/2014 6:03:00 AM
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2. Friday Feature: Queen of Someday Trailer Reveal

I am super excited to finally reveal the book trailer for

Queen of Someday: A Stolen Empire Novel

Before she can become the greatest empress in history, fifteen-year-old Sophie will have to survive her social-climbing mother’s quest to put her on the throne of Russia—at any cost.

Imperial Court holds dangers like nothing Sophie has ever faced before. In the heart of St. Petersburg, surviving means navigating the political, romantic, and religious demands of the bitter Empress Elizabeth and her handsome, but sadistic nephew, Peter. Determined to save her impoverished family—and herself—Sophie vows to do whatever is necessary to thrive in her new surroundings. But an attempt on her life and an unexpected attraction threatens to derail her plans.

Alone in a new and dangerous world, learning who to trust and who to charm may mean the difference between becoming queen and being sent home in shame to marry her lecherous uncle. With traitors and murderers lurking around every corner, her very life hangs in the balance. Betrothed to one man but falling in love with another, Sophie will need to decide how much she’s willing to sacrifice in order to become the empress she is destined to be.


What people are saying about Queen of Someday:

"Love, betrayal, adventure and hard decisions that have no "right answer"... Russian Court is an exercise in "survival of the fittest" and Queen of Someday is a beautiful start to the journey of an innocent young girl growing into one of the greatest leaders of all time." ~June Stevens, author

"I was caught hook, line and sinker with this novel about a young girl's battle in a world that seems perfect on the surface, but is sinister and twisted underneath. I think one of the reasons I loved this book so much is because there was no fantasy or paranormal element the book. I would have loved it just as much if there had been, but to see that somewhere seemingly so safe could be so deadly, without a hint of magic or witchcraft, was haunting." ~Bonfire Book Reviews

"Queen of Someday" is a guilty pleasure read. Just like CW shows and Lifetime movies, it's full of drama, scandal and betrayal. And I just couldn't look away. I found myself gasping and grinning maniacally at every turn. Sophie's schemes delighted me in a way that made me question my own sanity. I enjoyed "Queen of Someday" in the same way that one enjoys CW shows; the melodrama is strangely addictive, but I'm embarrassed to admit exactly how much I enjoyed it." ~The Nerdy Journalist reviews

And be sure to enter the giveaway!

Can't wait to see more? Queen of Someday is available for pre-order here, and will be available everywhere October 7th 2014.

*The footage is courtesy of KK Studios, and the layout and transitions are by Courtney Knuckles and Clean Teen Publishing.

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3. Review: Ketchup Clouds

Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher. Little Brown. 2013. Reviewed from ARC. (Note: the paperback is coming out in Fall 2014, and will be renamed Yours Truly; the book will also have a new tagline, see the second image.)

The Plot: Zoe is writing letters, letters to America, to a man on death row.

She is writing him, because "I know what it's like. Mine wasn't a woman. Mine was a boy. And I killed him three months ago exactly."

No one knows. So Zoe is at home, going through the motions of her life, being the daughter her parents expect, the older sister her younger sisters expect, the person her friends expect.

But it's eating at her, what she did, what she didn't do, what happened three months ago. She has to tell someone.

So Zoe picked someone like her. Someone who knows what it likes to have killed someone. Someone who is being punished.

The Good: I have to admit, the "writing letters to a convicted killer in prison" was not the pitch that won me over.

What won me over was hearing it was the winner of the 2014 Edgar Award. I love a mystery!

What made me fall in love with this book was the sympathetic, tragic, and realistic triangle between Zoe and two brothers. It's the type of thing that on paper, that intellectually, you can say doesn't make sense; shouldn't happen. But Ketchup Clouds takes us, slowly, through Zoe's life, through the year, and it breaks my heart. Because it not only makes sense -- at each point, I nodded, agreeing fully with Zoe's emotions and choices.

Max Morgan is popular and handsome and cool, and Zoe is smart enough and self aware enough to know that the attraction is partly being flattered, partly lust. There's a hot boy who likes her, and she likes him back. "He actually sounded nervous. Max Morgan. Nervous because of me."

What Zoe doesn't know is that the handsome mysterious boy she has been flirting with is Max's older brother, Aaron. Aaron is just an boy she's seen and been attracted to at a party, and really, that moment of flirting isn't reason to not kiss Max. When she doesn't know Max is Aaron's brother. And of course, by the time she knows, it's too late. She's kissed Max, she's enjoying whatever it is she has with Aaron, she doesn't know what to do, she doesn't even know if Aaron likes her back

And it's Zoe's first boyfriend, her first relationship. And I just loved it, even forgetting every now and then that it would end in death.

I also liked Zoe's family: Zoe's mother is overprotective, meaning she's not someone Zoe can confide in. Zoe's family was so fully and lovingly drawn, and complete, with it's own story. As Zoe lives with her secret, the two brothers and what happens, she learns about some family secrets and gains a better understanding of her parents' lives and choices. And how you can live, eventually, with the things you think would break you.

There was such a sense of sadness, and living with grief, that I'd hand this to anyone looking for If I Stay readalikes.

Cover change: I love that they kept the design. As for the title, Ketchup Clouds is one of those titles that makes perfect sense after having read the book, but I think Yours Truly with the line "some girls get away with murder," better sells the book to readers.

Amazon Affiliate. If you click from here to Amazon and buy something, I receive a percentage of the purchase price.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

0 Comments on Review: Ketchup Clouds as of 8/14/2014 5:36:00 AM
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4. Monday Mishmash: 6/16/14

Happy Monday! Here's my mishmash of thoughts:
  1. The Monster Within Release Tomorrow!  Tomorrow is the big day! I wrote The Monster Within the first twelve days of 2012, and I signed with Spencer Hill Press the following September. It's been a long wait, and I'm so excited to share Sam and Ethan's story with you all. 
  2. Face of Death is the Kindle Big Deal  Face of Death is part of the Kindle Big Deal June 13 through June 28th! That means you can grab a copy for only $2.99! Get yours here. Oh, and Touch of Death is now only $2.99 as well since the full series is out. :)
  3. Out on Submission  Today my YA contemporary written under my pen name, Ashelyn Drake, goes out on submission. I'm excited and nervous!
  4. Father's Day  I hope all you dads had a great Father's Day. I didn't get to see my dad, but I we'll celebrate another day. I did have a nice day with my husband, daughter, and my in-laws though.
  5. Revisions  I'm finishing up revisions on a YA title my CPs got back to me last week. My goal is to send it to my agent in the next couple of days.
That's it for me. What's on your mind today?

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5. Interview with Michele Summers, Author of Find My Way Home and Giveaway!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Good morning, Michele!  Describe yourself in five words or less.

[Michele Summers] Funny, blunt (in a good way, I hope), sarcastic (not always good), creative and loyal!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about Find My Way Home?

[Michele Summers] Find My Way Home is the first in the Harmony Homecomings series. My heroine, Bertie Anderson wants nothing more than to move away from her small, hometown and make it big as an interior designer. She’s only three weeks away from reaching her goal when she’s given the challenge to redesign the old Victorian in town she’s always dreamed about. But there’s a catch: she has to finish in three months with the reward of a huge bonus if she does. No probs. Easy peasy. Except her client is Keith Morgan, retired professional tennis player and bad boy of Miami.

Keith has moved to Harmony with a huge chip on his shoulder (along with a lot of guilt) in hopes of changing his life and making a better one for him and his ten-year old daughter. What he doesn’t expect is the small town quirkiness he encounters, his aunt’s ultimatum to get married in three months, and his uncontrollable attraction to his maddening designer, Bertie. Lots of sparks and laughs!

[Manga Maniac Cafe]  Can you share your favorite scene?

[Michele Summers] Gosh, so many. How do I choose? I absolutely adore the ending, but I won’t give that away. But it makes me laugh and smile every time I read it. Near the beginning, one of my favorites is when Keith takes Bertie to the Dog, the local diner for the first time, and he’s shocked by the crazy, colorful interiors. He insults Bertie, who designed the interiors, with his commentary and the evening goes downhill from there.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What gave you the most trouble with the story?

[Michele Summers] Making the hero, Keith’s anger and resentment from his major life changes come across without making him unlikable. Trying to convey his apprehension, without sounding too bitter, was a real challenge for me. I hope I nailed it!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What’s one thing you won’t leave home without?

[Michele Summers] Unfortunately, these days, it’s my cell phone…I guess we all live in fear of leaving it behind. But, I also have an obsession with hand lotions…keep them everywhere, in my handbag, car, desk top. I wouldn’t leave home without it.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Name three things on your desk right now.

[Michele Summers] Waterford ring holder to hold all my jewelry when I’m typing. My Bem wireless speaker for music and, wait for it…backscratcher. My back always itches and it comes in handy!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What’s your favorite snack when you’re working on a deadline?

[Michele Summers] I’d like to be all healthy and say baby carrots with hummus, which I do eat on occasion, but when a deadline is looming I crave sour gummy candy…particularly Haribo Sour Spaghetti. (sounds gross, I know). The sour pucker wakes me up! If you have any on hand…don’t hesitate to send it over. ;-)

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you could trade places with anyone for just one day, who would you be?

[Michele Summers] Again, I’d like to be noble and wise and say something like, Oprah or Ruth Bader Ginsberg. But really, I’d like to trade places with Hugh Jackman’s wife! Just for one day…come on, I don’t think she’d mind!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] You have been granted the use of one superpower for one week.  Which power would you choose, and what would you do with it?

[Michele Summers] It’s a bird, it’s a plane…it’s Superman! I think I’d want to fly. Amazing aerial view and I could get where I needed to go with no traffic.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are some books that you enjoyed recently?

[Michele Summers] First Love by James Patterson: touching story with lots of humor.

Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick: even better than the movie…thought provoking.

How A Lady Weds a Rogue by Katharine Ashe: interesting and different and well-written.

The Bride Says No by Cathy Maxwell: again different, but well-written…kept me up all night!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?

[Michele Summers] Readers can connect with me at: www.michelesummers.com where they can sign-up to join my newsletter and hear about new releases, contests and more. Also,

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Michele-Summers/549145438478629

Twitter: https://twitter.com/michele_summers

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7274198.Michele_Summers

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/michelesummers5/

Thank you for the opportunity to be with you today. It’s been such fun and I hope you enjoy reading Find My Way Home.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

Interior decorator Bertie Anderson is almost ready to say goodbye to small-town life in Harmony, North Carolina. She’s excited about living her dream life at her new job in Atlanta, the design capital of the South. She just has one last job to do…

Keith Morgan is ready to leave life in the fast lane (a.k.a., Miami) for a quiet life where he can raise his ten-year-old daughter. Unfortunately, his new lifestyle is threatened the moment he lays eyes on the decorator his aunt hired to help him create his dream home—the curvaceous temptation that is Bertie Anderson. As Bertie begins to turn his house into a home, will he find his way into her heart before it’s too late?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Debut author Michele Summers writes about small-town life with a Southern flair. She loves to knit and has her own interior design business in Raleigh, North Carolina.

US addresses only, please

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The post Interview with Michele Summers, Author of Find My Way Home and Giveaway! appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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6. Guest Post: The Contemporary Comeback

Industry Life


Kelly Fiore

Kelly Fiore, author of x

Kelly Fiore, author of Taste Test and Just Like the Movies

Don’t call it a comeback!

Okay, fine. You can.

However, I’m a little inspired by my main man, Prince, who, when Justin Timberlake busted out “Sexy Back,” just shook his head and said, “Sexy never left.”

Contemporary never really left, either. Some of the greatest contemporary YA books I’ve ever read were written right at the height of the Paranormal/Dystopian boom. Stephanie Perkins’ first two books, Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door came out around the same time as Mockingjay and Divergent, respectively. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles, and The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson all found success in the wake of Twilight. So, contemporary never really left. I think it’s just speaking a little louder these days.

In dystopian, and particularly post-apocalyptic, storylines, I think there is a considerable draw to a world that has collapsed in on itself and has to start all over again. The idea that a person or group of people need to rise up and become a force to be reckoned with. As readers, we like underdogs – of course we do. Essentially, there is nothing better than a comeuppance.

But, sometimes, the end of the world is all about perspective. What we feel is a crisis might not look that way from the outside – a good contemporary novel can delve into that idea and can explore that inner implosion. In dystopian or paranormal genres, you often watch the world literally fall apart. In many contemporary novels, the world can fall apart and no one ever sees a thing. From the outside, a character will look “perfect.” That’s the way we, as humans, can disguise our truth.

Amy Reed does a wonderful job of this sort of inner implosion in her novel, Clean, which uses an alternating narrative of five different characters in a rehabilitation facility. By studying the inner monologues of these characters, we’re able to see the trials and missteps that brought them to where they are and that made them who they are. There is less world building, less focus on setting. But there is a heavy reliance on narration that enlightens the reader, that sparks empathy and sometimes frustration.

So, when the call to arms is internal – and the only war is against one’s self – a writer has no choice but to explore the insides more than the outsides. There isn’t a world war, but there are battles to be waged. They’re just a little quieter and often have more room for emotional baggage.

I think this is part of the reason why The Fault in Our Stars by John Green has become such a phenomenon; it slips right into the space vacated by explosions and good vs. evil and creatures that are created to destroy our race. Cancer, while treatable in many cases, is a far more poignant and unavoidable reality in our world than werewolves or cyborgs. Looking at the struggle of Hazel and Gus, watching love bloom in a place where, admittedly, there isn’t going to be a happily ever after, is gut-wrenching. But, isn’t that, too, an illustration of the aspects we love in YA literature? The idea of people banding together and rising up against a force that is bearing down on us. How is Hazel and Gus fighting against their disease different than Katniss and Peeta fighting against the Capital?

So, is contemporary having a comeback? Maybe. Maybe we’re all just opening ourselves up a little to the vulnerabilities of what’s immediate or true. But that doesn’t change the fact that there are beautifully written dystopian or paranormal novels, books that are eye opening and life changing and can completely wreck you. Moreover, there are dozens of books with touches of otherworldliness that are contemporary in most ways, but add just a dash of something else – something that seems a bit more magical. Sometimes, that’s the way we add hope.

Here are a few of my favorite novels that I feel are contemporary, but also include subtle and successful touches of paranormal, magic, or dystopian themes*.

  • Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King
  • Liar by Justine Larbalestier
  • If I Stay by Gayle Forman
  • Going Bovine by Libba Bray
  • Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
  • The Freedom Maze by Rebecca Sherman

*Just to clarify, it is purely my opinion that these novels have undercurrents of something more than a mere contemporary label.

Kelly Fiore has a BA in English from Salisbury University and an MFA in Poetry from West Virginia University. Her first young adult novel, Taste Test, was released in August 2013 from Bloomsbury USA. Her second book, Just Like the Movies, launches July 22nd college composition in Maryland, where she lives with her husband and son. Kelly teaches college composition in Maryland, where she lives with her husband and son.

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7. Review: If I Stay

If I Stay by Gayle Forman. Dutton, a member of Penguin 2009; SPEAK, imprint of Penguin 2010. Review copy from publisher.

The Plot: Mia is in a coma.

There was a car accident.

She can see what is happening around her, but she cannot interact. She is not dead but she is not alive.

Her family is dead.

It's all her choice, whether to stay with the living. But what will her life be like, if her family is gone?

The Good: Confession: I did not read this when it first came out, in 2009. I skipped to the end of the book to find out her choice, then read other things.

Then I saw the trailer. And Chloe Grace Moretz's performance as Mia. And just from the trailer, I cried more than I cried in The Fault in Our Stars. Even though I have a pretty firm rule to not read books before movies, I broke the rule. In part because the trailer already seduced me into wanting to see the film version, and in part because even though that "read the end" moment had told me the ending, I wanted to know more about Mia and how how she got to that moment.

Looking for a book to make you cry buckets? Then this is the book for you. Yes, from the start you know there's been a car accident and her family is dead. You'd think that would mean, no tears because you already know the worst. So, why cry? Because If I Stay proceeds to flashback to Mia's family and OHMYGOD I love her parents. I want them to be MY parents. Mia is a teen who had a great, supportive family. Page after page just shows you the depth of what she has lost.

Page after page of If I Stay is also showing the depth of what Mia has to keep going: her best friend, her boyfriend, her music, her other family members. Her boyfriend! Adam, like Mia, is a musician, but entirely different music so that music isn't necessarily something they share. What they do share is respect and love and fun, and wow, Adam. I just loved him.

Seriously, Mia before the accident had a great life.

Reinvention and starting over is often the subject of novels, and there is something curiously appealing about suddenly having a clean slate. Typically, though, this is a fairly positive process in that it's a character's choice and what they are leaving is a place and people that they can return to. Vacations, holidays, changes in mind, all that means that what is left isn't really gone.

Mia is faced with a choice: does go back to a world where her life and the people in it will always be "behind" her? She was worried about the impact and changes leaving for college was going to be, and suddenly she has to face a life where those she thought she was leaving have left her.

Mia's going to be facing a life where no one shares her childhood memories. Or family jokes. Without the love and support of her parents.

Is that a life she wants? Is what she has left enough reason to stay?

I LOVED this book. Love, love, love. Who cares if its a 2009 title? It's a Favorite Book Read in 2014. Also -- I can't wait for the movie.

Amazon Affiliate. If you click from here to Amazon and buy something, I receive a percentage of the purchase price.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

0 Comments on Review: If I Stay as of 7/25/2014 12:28:00 AM
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8. Friday Feature: Black Ice by Becca Fitzpatrick

Sometimes danger is hard to see... until it’s too late. 

Britt Pfeiffer has trained to backpack the Teton Range, but she isn't prepared when her ex-boyfriend, who still haunts her every thought, wants to join her. Before Britt can explore her feelings for Calvin, an unexpected blizzard forces her to seek shelter in a remote cabin, accepting the hospitality of its two very handsome occupants—but these men are fugitives, and they take her hostage. 

In exchange for her life, Britt agrees to guide the men off the mountain. As they set off, Britt knows she must stay alive long enough for Calvin to find her. The task is made even more complicated when Britt finds chilling evidence of a series of murders that have taken place there... and in uncovering this, she may become the killer’s next target. 

But nothing is as it seems in the mountains, and everyone is keeping secrets, including Mason, one of her kidnappers. His kindness is confusing Britt. Is he an enemy? Or an ally? 

My thoughts:
It's no secret that I love the Hush, Hush series. Becca Fitzpatrick is one of my favorite authors, so when I found out this book was going to be given out at BEA, I had to have it. (Special thanks to Dan Cohen for making sure I got a copy since I missed the actual book drop.) This book is very different from the Hush, Hush series, but I was still sucked in.

Britt is an interesting character. At times she comes across as being very dependent on the men in her life. I didn't like this part of her personality. But there are other times when she's extremely strong and the men in her life depend heavily on her. Showing both sides helped the reader to see how Britt grows as a person throughout the book. I was really glad to see her moments of strength because without them, I would have had a hard time rooting for her.

I did love how Britt put totally set herself up for trouble, first agreeing on a trip with her ex-boyfriend, who happens to be her best friend's older brother, and then by claiming a total stranger is her new boyfriend just to save face and having her ex confirm her story. Luckily that stranger goes along with Britt's lie, and isn't she surprised when her truck gets stranded in a snow storm and she winds up on that very same stranger's doorstep. ;)

From there, trouble begins and Britt isn't sure who to trust, especially since there is a murderer on the loose. I admit, I figured out who the murderer was early on. *Sigh* I'm really cursed when it comes to figuring out plots before I'm supposed to. But anyway, I still really enjoyed the book and highly recommend it.

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9. Review: Where She Went

Where She Went by Gayle Forman. Dutton Books, 2011. Review copy from publisher.

The Plot: Sequel to If I Stay.

So, um, spoilers for If I Stay.

Three years ago, Adam's girlfriend, Mia, was in a terrible accident.

And now? It's been years since they've seen each other. Mia left for college, and moved on with her life. Adam eventually did the same. Now, they are both successes, he a rock star with an actress girlfriend while Mia is a rising cellist. They haven't spoken to each other in years.

And then they meet. Almost strangers.

The Good: If I Stay was told from Mia's point of view, in a place between life and death, as she struggled with the question of whether or not to stay with the living, despite the tremendous loss of her family in a car accident.

I loved If I Stay: I cried, cried about how perfect and flawed Mia's family was, cried at the decision she had to make, cried at her choice to go on, alone. I picked up Where She Went expecting it to pick up Mia's story and to find out about what happened when she woke up.

Where She Went was not what I thought it would be, but instead was what I needed it to be.

It is Adam's story, after three years have passed. To my shock, Adam and Mia have broken up. And as I read and found out more, it clicked, what Where She Went was about:

Grief. And living with loss. And rebuilding. And those things, those are terrible, horrible, the world has ended moments. Just because Mia chose to go on, didn't mean that she woke up and was the same person. It didn't mean that it was somehow easy to know how to navigate having no mother, no father, no brother. And just because Adam and Mia were everything to each other, it didn't mean that they were, at that moment, the best thing for each other.

So Mia walked away from Adam, because her grief and loss were hers. And if I had to place a bet onto why this is three years later, and why it's not by Mia, my bet would be that what Mia went through was too raw and awful and confusing. Where She Went is a punch in the stomach, and had it not been told when and how it was, it would have been even more overwhelming. Instead of being hard to read, it would have been impossible to read.

With Where She Went being Adam's story, the reader can also see and experience and appreciate Adam's own loss. No, it's not the same as Mia's, but it is a loss. He loved her family, he loved Mia, and then he was left without that and without knowing who he was without her.

Sometimes people are meant to be together, but that does not mean they are meant to be together always. Or forever. And I'm glad that not only does Where She Went explore that, but it also gives two people a second chance. They needed to be apart. But can they come together, again?

In many ways, I liked this book better than If I Stay. So, yes, a Favorite Book Read in 2014.

Amazon Affiliate. If you click from here to Amazon and buy something, I receive a percentage of the purchase price.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

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10. Friday Feature: Who R U Really?

To celebrate the cover reveal for Who R U Really? Margo Kelly is giving away TWO Advance Reader Copies of the book! Visit www.margokelly.net to enter by Sunday, May 11, 2014!

by Margo Kelly
Merit Press -- September 18, 2014

Thea's overprotective parents are driving her insane. They invade her privacy, ask too many questions, and restrict her online time so severely that Thea feels she has no life at all. When she discovers a new role-playing game online, Thea breaks the rules by staying up late to play. She's living a double life: on one hand, the obedient daughter; on the other, a girl slipping deeper into darkness. In the world of the game, Thea falls under the spell of Kit, an older boy whose smarts and savvy can't defeat his loneliness and near-suicidal despair. As Kit draws soft-hearted Thea into his drama, she creates a full plate of cover stories for her parents and then even her friends.

Soon, Thea is all alone in the dark world with Kit, who worries her more and more, but also seems to be the only person who really "gets" her. Is he frightening, the way he seems sometimes, or only terribly sad? Should Thea fear Kit, or pity him? And now, Kit wants to come out of the screen and bring Thea into his real-life world. As much as she suspects that this is wrong, Thea is powerless to resist Kit's allure, and hurtles toward the same dark fate her parents feared most. Ripped from a real-life story of Internet stalking, Who R U Really? will excite you and scare you, as Thea's life spins out of control.

About the Author:
Margo Kelly is a native of the Northwest and currently resides in Idaho. A veteran public speaker, Margo is now actively pursuing her love of writing. Who R U Really? is her debut novel and will be published by Merit Press in September 2014. Margo welcomes opportunities to speak to youth groups, library groups, and book clubs.


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11. Interview with Tamara Morgan, Author of If I Stay and Giveaway

Tamara Morgan’s latest release, If I Stay, hits shelves today!  She dropped by the virtual offices to chat about her new book.

[Manga Maniac Cafe]  Good morning, Tamara!  Describe yourself in five words or less.

[Tamara Morgan] Constantly seeking laughter.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you share your favorite scene from If I Stay?

[Tamara Morgan] Oh, that would be the scene where the hero and heroine (and most of the downstairs staff at Montgomery Manor) go play laser tag together. I love when my couples get a chance to kick back and play. So many times in romance, we’re focused on the angst and conflict…we forget that a large part of falling in love is simply having fun.

The couple that laughs together, stays together. I firmly believe that. :)

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What gave you the most trouble with the story?

[Tamara Morgan] Oddly enough, it’s the upper crust of the Montgomery Manor crowd that causes me kinks. The entire series is about the class differences and drama between a rich hotelier family and the staff members who serve them. I’ve got the downstairs staff all figured out…anyone who plays laser tag and wears jeans and T-shirts is my kind of people.

But once you head upstairs, I’m kind of at a loss. I had to spend hours researching expensive clothes and shoes and cars. I don’t know how some authors write nothing but millionaires. Millionaires are hard!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What’s one thing you won’t leave home without?

[Tamara Morgan] My phone. It’s not a very inspired answer, but I need constant access to my Words with Friends account or I get twitchy. I have like 20 different games going at all times.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Name three things on your desk right now.

[Tamara Morgan] If by “desk” you mean “my lap,” the answer is: my computer, a blanket, and the dog.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you could trade places with anyone for just one day, who would you be?

[Tamara Morgan] Oooh, this one is tough. I feel like I should pick someone important and all-powerful to prove what a thoughtful person I am, but I’d probably be Amy Poehler or Mindy Kaling. I’d love to work on set of either one of their shows (and maybe even help write an episode, HINT HINT).

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are some books that you enjoyed recently?

[Tamara Morgan] Right now I’m in the middle of Austenland, which I’m really enjoying for its humor and quirkiness. I saw the movie last year, but the book is so much better (isn’t it always?).

Next up on my TBR list is the newest JL Merrow book, Relief Valve. She’s one of my favorite authors, so that book is going to be a treat for getting my own edits wrapped up and put to bed. I have to parse out my favorites that way, or I’d never get anything done!


Author: Tamara Morgan

Release Date: May 12, 2014

Publisher: Carina Press

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Book Cover: Attached

Author Photo: Attached


Ryan Lucas would rather be anywhere but Ransom Creek, Connecticut. After losing his high-adrenaline career as a Hollywood stunt driver, he’s had to tuck his tail between his legs and take up employment as a chauffeur for the Montgomerys, a wealthy hotelier family.

Amy Sanders has returned home to Ransom Creek to take over her mother’s former position as nanny to the Montgomerys—bringing her close to dashing Jake Montgomery once again. She grew up with a major crush on Jake, and it’s not easy to leave those feelings behind, even though her friendship with the hard-edged family chauffeur, Ryan, has a sizzling undercurrent of undeniable attraction.

Amy’s determined to prove to Ryan that life at Montgomery Manor isn’t all bad, but each time they draw closer Jake swoops in. Amy is torn between two men—and two worlds. And Ryan is rapidly coming to learn that if he wants to make Amy his, he’ll have to prove to her that life downstairs can be everything they both want.

Buy Links

Amazon – http://amzn.to/1nuCkhy

Barnes and Noble – http://bit.ly/1fvImt8

iTunes – http://bit.ly/1jFHqKg

Author Biography

Tamara Morgan is a contemporary romance author of humorous, heartfelt stories with flawed heroes and heroines designed to get your hackles up and make your heart melt. Her long-lived affinity for romance novels survived a B.A. degree in English Literature, after which time she discovered it was much more fun to create stories than analyze the life out of them.

Whether building Victorian dollhouses, consuming mass quantities of coffee and wine, or crying over cheesy 1950s musicals, Tamara commits to her flaws like every good heroine should. She lives in the Inland Northwest with her husband, daughter, and variety of household pets and only occasionally complains about the weather.

Social Networking Links

Website – http://www.tamaramorgan.com

Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/tamaramorgan

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/AuthorTamaraMorgan

Twitter – https://twitter.com/Tamara_Morgan


Amy scooted out from underneath Ryan and got to shaky legs. Giving in to the indulgence of a backward glance to find him staring openmouthed at her, she lifted her shirt off and tossed it to the hallway floor.

“What are you doing?” he asked, his voice gruff.

She kept moving, an extra sway in her hips as she unbuttoned her shorts and shimmied them off her hips. “Leaving you a trail of bread crumbs in case you get lost along the way.”


She reached behind her and flicked open her serviceable white cotton bra. The only way to dress up that kind of bland plant material was to dangle it enticingly from one fingertip, which she did as she reached her door. It wasn’t locked—unless someone wanted to steal her ancient ten-pound laptop or her collection of Old World maps, there wasn’t much to take—so she pushed it open and slipped in.

One. Two. Three. Four. She flicked on the lights, assuming Ryan was right behind her. Five. Six. Seven. Was he seriously not going to follow her in here? Eight. Nine. Nine and a half.

She slipped out of her panties—more of the same boring white cotton, though at least they had bits of scalloped lace at the edges—and tossed them out the open door.

Nine and two-thirds. Nine and three-quarters. What the heck came after that?

“Goddammit.” Ryan stormed through the door and tossed all her clothes onto the floor. “Are you trying to kill me?”

He stopped, suspended in a swirl of desire that hit him from all sides, holding him momentarily aloft. In his haste to somehow find the ability to both walk and gather up Amy’s clothes, he’d forgotten that he held all her underclothes. Nothing stood between him and her completely naked body except distance and air—both of which mattered for absolutely zero.

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12. Review: Pointe

Pointe by Brandy Colbert. G.P. Putnam's Sons, an Imprint of Penguin Group (USA). 2014. Reviewed from ARC.

The Plot: Theo's life is in a good place. Some would say a very good place. She's one of the top ballet dancers in her class. She has good friends and a boy who is interested in her. The heartache and problems of the past -- the breakup with her first love, her best friend disappearing and feared dead, her parents' overreaction to Theo's resulting depression and eating issues -- are in the past.

The past comes back, fast and furious.

Donovan is found. Alive. It's been four years and Donovan is alive and coming home. Relief and joy and tinged with something else: fear.

Because Theo recognizes the face of Donovan's kidnapper. She knew him by a different name, but she knew him.

He was the boy she loved, the person who broke her heart when he left her. It's the same man.

Everything Theo thought she knew, about Donovan, about her old boyfriend, about herself, is about to be turned inside out. At least she still has ballet, but how long will that last, when people find out?

The Good: The Good? Everything. Everything is good.

Theo is such a complex, amazing, interesting young woman.

Readers of this blog may remember, I like to keep notes as I read -- I sketch family trees and timelines, jot down ages and names. As I'm sketching this out while reading Pointe, I realize what Theo does not. Oh, I also realize it because I'm old, a grown up, I'm not a teenager. When Theo was with her first love, Trent, the person she loves and believes was wonderful, Theo was thirteen. And Trent was eighteen.

Theo was crushed when Trent disappeared on her, and had few people to confide in because there were so few people who knew about Theo and Trent. Donovan was the only person, actually, who knew. Now that Donovan has been found, Theo learns not just that Donovan was with Trent, but that Trent's real name is Christopher. And that he's thirty. Which means that not only did he lie to her about his name, he also lied about his age: instead of being eighteen, he was twenty-six. And she was thirteen.

And here is one reason I just flat out adored Theo: through all this, she's thinking "what about me" and "what does this mean to me." She dances around what all this means to Donovan, wondering mostly if Donovan ran away with Christopher and voluntarily stayed with him.

Part of what I loved about Pointe was how long it takes Theo to come to the place that you, the reader, does.

What Theo had wasn't love; it never was. But her love for Trent (well, Christopher) was such a part of Theo's identity, that she just cannot look at the facts, the numbers -- she has to deal with the emotions. Her love. And because she has to believe that what she had was real, when she looks at Donovan she believes about him what she believes about herself: that the then-thirteen year old Donovan had a choice, a choice about being with and staying with Christopher.

Donovan has been silent since his return home, not leaving his house, not talking to anyone, including Theo. No one knows Theo's secret. And part of Theo is very happy -- and very relieved -- at Donovan's silence.

From the outside, Theo looks put together and strong. You'd have to be, to become such a talented dancer. Pointe is clear about the dedication it takes to reach the place that Theo is now at. The reality? Then, she was a thirteen year old girl swayed by the attentions of an older boy, wanting to be loved, wanting to make him happy. Now, it turns out, is not that much better. Hosea, the boy she likes, is her age, goes to her school, but, in addition to being the local drug dealer, is dating someone else.

Theo doesn't quite realize the parallels between the two loves of her life. Oh, the present boy is age-appropriate and also power-appropriate. They are equals. Which means that what the present relationship shows the reader is what Theo thinks is mutual affection and respect and love; what she'll put up in order to get what she thinks is love; what she'll settle for.

As you can see from all those paragraphs, what intrigues me the most about Pointe is the relationships and emotional journey of Theo. There is so much more! Hosea, for example, is a fully realized character, and may be the nicest, sweetest, drug dealer cheater in book history. I so understood why Theo likes him and wants him, even as I realized that it was much less clear cut than Theo believes.

Theo is one of the only black kids in her dance class, in her school, in her neighborhood. Donovan was only of the others. This matters, in that it shows her relationship with her peers. What it means when the topic of segregation comes up in school, and she is asked to give examples of what that meant to her family.

And of course this is a mystery: what happened to Donovan? What, if anything, should Theo say about what she knows? And it's a story about being passionate about something as all-consuming and physical as ballet.  And it's about friendship, I haven't even mentioned Theo's two best friends, Sara-Kate and Phil. Or Theo and eating, and what she eats and why, and how that is part of who Theo is rather than the only thing.

Because this is such an elegant, complex book this is one of my Favorite Books Read in 2014.

Other reviews: Stacked; Slate Breakers; Los Angeles Review of Books.

Amazon Affiliate. If you click from here to Amazon and buy something, I receive a percentage of the purchase price.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

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13. Friday Feature: Snip, Snip Revenge (Review)

Genre: Contemporary Romance  Word Count: 64, 185  ISBN: 978-1-77130-816-8  Editor: JC Chute  Cover Artist: Sour Cherry Designs

Beautiful, confident Tabby Karim has plans for the winter: nab a role in her school’s dramatic production, make the new boy Michael hers, and keep bigoted Heather—with her relentless Ay-rab comments—at bay. When a teacher’s lie and her father’s hastiness rob her of her beautiful hair, her dreams are dashed. The fastest barber in Miami Beach has made her look practically bald. 

With all her pretty hair gone, Tabby doesn’t believe she fits the feminine role she’s auditioning for. Michael is still interested in her, but he’s playing it cool. Heather has taken to bullying her online, which is easier to do with Tabby’s ugly haircut. Tabby spearheads Operation Revenge, which proves satisfying until all of her problems deepen. After messing up, she sets to make things right.

My thoughts:
This book has an array of emotions. At first, Tabby is full of confidence. She thinks her long hair, which is the envy of most girls in her school and catches the eyes of most boys, makes her a beauty that can't be ignored. But when a lice outbreak hits her school and Tabby's least favorite teacher diagnoses her with lice, everything changes. Her father takes her to a barber and has all her hair chopped off. I felt terrible for Tabby because she didn't even have lice. Tabby's emotions roller coaster after this. I won't give spoilers, but Sharif shows us all sides of Tabby as she tries to figure out who she is without her beautiful hair.

I really enjoyed seeing Tabby grow in this story. There were times when I wanted to reach into my Kindle and shake her, but at the same time I felt bad for her and understood where her anger was coming from. Sharif really handles the emotional aspects of this story well, and because of that I read this book very quickly. I think Sharif has a winner here.

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14. Monday Mishmash 5/26/14

Happy Monday! Here's my mishmash of thoughts:

  1. BEA!!!!  I'm heading to BEA Thursday morning! Here's my schedule if you're going to be there and want to find me: Thursday-3pm signing at the Spencer Hill Press booth (2567) for The Monster Within. Friday-7:30am author breakfast. Friday-4pm signing at the Swoon Romance (PDZ638) for Perfect For You (writing as Ashelyn Drake).
  2. Memorial Day  Happy Memorial Day! We're spending the day packing up our house for an addition that is going to take place right after BEA, weather permitting.
  3. The Monster Within Monster Giveaway  Don't forget to enter the MONSTER giveaway for The Monster Within. The giveaway is open until June 17th when The Monster Within releases and you can tweet each day for additional entries. Enter here!
  4. Deadlines  I'm trying to meet the last deadline I have before BEA. It's been another crazy month for me with deadlines, but BEA will be a great reward when I'm finished. :)
  5. New teaser for The Monster Within  Check out the latest teaser for The Monster Within. This one focuses on Sam and Ethan.

That's it for me. What's on your mind today?

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15. Review: We Are The Goldens

We Are the Goldens by Dana Reinhardt. Wendy Lamb Books, an imprint of Random House. 2014. Review copy from publisher.

The Plot: Nell and Layla. Two sisters so close, in age and friendship, that as a toddler Nell thought she and her older sister shared a name: Nellayla.

Time passes, and things change, but Nell, fifteen, is convinced one thing does not: the sisters Golden. Their parents divorce? The sisters survive and thrive. High school? Even though Layla is two grades ahead, her younger sister is always welcome and invited.

At first, high school is exactly what Nell expected and hoped. She is Layla's younger sister. Nell gets on her sister's soccer team. Nell gets invited to junior parties.

But something is wrong. Something isn't quite right. Is it just Layla growing up, growing away from her sister? Or is it something more?

The Good: I've been on such a roll with loving the books I'm reading!

Nell, the younger sister, is telling the story. Nell, who seems their story as one: we are the Goldens. This is not Layla's story, not a story of growing up, growing older, growing away. This is the story of the one left behind: Nell.

Barely two years separate the girls; they only reason they are two grades apart is when they were enrolled in school.

Layla is older, and living her own life, but she's also keeping secrets from her sister.

And, as usual, I adore Reinhardt's writing and complicated families. Layla and Nell are the children of older parents; their mother was over 40 when they were born, Layla the result of IVF and Nell the surprise baby, the old-fashioned way. Their parents later divorced. They are well off enough for private school, but not for Layla to have the car she wants.

Early in the book, Layla has convinced her mother to allow her to stay home during a family vacation, a yearly spa weekend with the girls, their mother, and their grandmother. Nell is suspicious of Layla, and Layla's reasons (so much homework!) and surprised that her mother allows it. Her mother later says, "It was only a matter of time before her private life became more important than what she does with her family. It's part of growing up. It'll happen to you too, it probably already is happening to you. And that's okay. It really is, even though I'd much prefer for you to always be my baby."

And while I like that the mother understands her elder daughter's growing independence, and wants to support it, what I love is what the mother says next: "It's okay. Because someday you and your sister will do exactly this. You'll come to an airport somewhere to pick me up and all you'll want to do is be with me, with someone who knows and understands you, and we'll spend the whole weekend talking." Maybe it's because their mother came to parenthood at an older age, when she herself was more mature. Whatever the reason, she gets the long game of parent/child relationships, and realizes and accepts that a child moves away but will come back.

If only it was that simple, for Nell and Layla, that their relationship is changing and that Nell has to adjust and not cling to the past.

Spoiler, here. Necessary. Not entirely a surprise, as it's in the story summary and publication data. It's not just that Layla is getting her own interests or wants distance from her sister, it's not that she is becoming an individual rather than a sister or daughter. It's the why it's happening. Layla is involved with her teacher. He is why there are secrets.

Poor Nell: at first it seems as if she's just the clinging younger sister, who won't give her sister breathing room, who can only identify herself as sister. Except she realizes there is something more, and this puts Nell in a difficult, impossible situation. How does she support Layla? How does she show her love? Is it by keeping Layla's secrets, remaining the one person Layla can trust?

Losing Layla -- because even at best, Layla's new focus is her new boyfriend -- leaves Nell a bit adrift. She has her best friend, Felix, and there is a boy she has a crush on, Sam. Layla putting up distance pushes Nell into exploring her own interests, doing things that Layla wouldn't do.

Here's the thing about Nell and Layla: maybe, because Nell has always had Layla, she hasn't had a girl friend. She has Felix De La Cruz, who is a best friend and, maybe, something more. But Nell has a crush on Sam -- and wow, I just loved how wonderfully We Are the Goldens depicts that crush, that hoping for something, then hoping for something more. And Nell is left to navigate her feelings and emotions almost alone, because Layla is all about her own love life and Felix wants to be a good friend but he has his own things to deal with.

This is not Layla's story. There are parts of it Nell will never know, so the reader will never know. It is Layla's story through Nell's eyes and experiences, but more importantly it is Nell's story. And her story is about growing up, and growing apart, and choices.

And lucky me! Another Favorite Book Read in 2014.

Other reviews: BiblioSmiles; The Lit Girl; Books & Cleverness.

Amazon Affiliate. If you click from here to Amazon and buy something, I receive a percentage of the purchase price.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

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16. Interview with Dawn Ryder, Author of Out of Bounds and Giveaway

[Manga Maniac Cafe]  Good morning! Describe yourself in five words or less.

[Dawn Ryder] Takes orders from a parrot.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about Out of Bounds?

[Dawn Ryder] I haven’t let Dawn Ryder out for a bit. She’s my naughty inner child and writes very erotic books. Out of Bounds is a merging of a great story and spice. Under my other pen name, Mary Wine, I love to write tales that are rich in details and twists and turns. Out of Bounds has this deeper story but all the fiery passion too.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you share your favorite scene?

[Dawn Ryder] “Sabra Donovan, analyst, master’s in bio fuels. Correct?”

It sounded as if he only added the last word as a courtesy. There was certainly nothing questioning in his sharp gaze. He knew exactly what he wanted and intended to get it. The pure abundance of confidence was mesmerizing.

“I think you have me at a disadvantage,” she muttered.

Pleasure flashed in his eyes. His lips twitched up just a tiny fraction, almost too faint to measure, but she saw it. In fact, she was sure he wanted her to notice. He wasn’t the sort who apologized for anything.

Arrogant too.

He was—and completely unashamed of it.

“I’m your boss.”

She stepped back, something inside of her recoiling. The hot curl of excitement was lingering in her clit, so she wasn’t really sure what it was she objected to, only that complete submission was out of the question. It wasn’t a conscious thought, but something she felt on a very personal level.

His eyes narrowed, somehow becoming more sensuous, more determined.

“Excuse me,” he offered softly. “Tarak Nektosha, your employer.”

She was a complete idiot. He wasn’t Japanese; he was Apache. Lawless, savage, and exactly like the line of vehicles his company produced.

“I require someone to help me cut the ribbon,” he clarified.

“Oh…” She glanced back at the waiting table. The press was positioned near it, their hands on their cameras, more than one was casting an impatient look toward Tarak. “Sure.”

As far as a professional response went, it lacked a lot. But saying “yes, sir” just seemed too submissive. A large part of her flatly rebelled. It was a system-wide rejection, one she was sure she hadn’t experienced before in her life. No man had ever unleashed such a bundle of emotions inside her.

Or so much heat.

Get a grip, girl…

And fast too. It was her frickin’ boss.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What gave you the most trouble with the story?

[Dawn Ryder] Getting Sabra to get past the fact that Tarak was her boss.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What’s one thing you won’t leave home without?

[Dawn Ryder] Hummm…I guess saying my cell phone is a little too impersonal. So, I guess it’s an iced tea. I tend to live on it and always fill a cup before I get into the car.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Name three things on your desk right now.

[Dawn Ryder] Iced tea, plot book-where I scribble down all my details about my work in progress, and a hand blown glass paper weight. It reminds me of a fire work, frozen in time.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you could trade places with anyone for just one day, who would you be?

[Dawn Ryder] Angelina Jolie….that woman is insanely attractive. A total fem fatal.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] You have been granted the use of one superpower for one week. Which power would you choose, and what would you do with it?

[Dawn Ryder] It would be to clean up the environment. I’d spend that week blasting away ocean waste and water pollution and gathering up all the bits of plastic that sea birds are eating.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are some books that you enjoyed recently?

[Dawn Ryder] The Cross Fire books by Sylvia Day. Totally love them! I also read one Cynthia Eden’s and it was good!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?

[Dawn Ryder] On Face Book, the evil time vortex or through my website DawnRyder.com.

Power may be best when it’s shared…

He’s used to dominating…
Tarak Nektosha is a self-made man, against all odds. He accomplished that by making sure he’s the one in charge, both in the boardroom and in the bedroom.

She’s taking her power back…
Sabra Donovan has ambition to spare and energy to burn. So what if her last lover was a disappointment? She’s never going to be anyone’s plaything ever again.

Sabra’s outstanding performance at a corporate photo op attracts Tarak’s attention, and the lines begin to blur. What happens when the one on top surrenders and the one used to obeying begins to call the shots?

Author Bio: Dawn Ryder is the erotic romance pen name of a bestselling author of historical romances. She has been publishing her stories for over 8 years to a growing and appreciative audience. She is commercially published in mass market and trade paper, and digi-first published with trade paper releases. She is hugely committed to her career as an author, as well as to other authors and to her readership. She resides in Southern California.

-Author website: http://www.dawnryder.com/books/out-of-bounds/

-Buy Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Books A Million | IndieBound | Indigo

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17. Interview with Elley Arden, Author of Marrying the Wrong Man and Giveaway

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Good morning, Elley!  Describe yourself in five words or less.

[Elley Arden] Optimistic, Idealistic, Sensitive, Emotional, and Creative

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about Marrying the Wrong Man?

[Elley Arden] Marrying the Wrong Man is a story about second chances and redemption. It’s the happy ending for a couple of people who made some bad decisions and walked away from what they wanted and needed all along. These are flawed characters. Big flaws. The hero is an alcoholic. The heroine was a cheater. She left town on the heels of her scandalous behavior. Years later, they are in many ways—important ways—different people, but one thing remains the same. They still love each other. But can they trust each other, especially when the heroine returns to Harmony Falls with the hero’s little girl?

[Manga Maniac Cafe]  Can you share your favorite scene?

[Elley Arden] Sure! This scene captures the playful passion between Morgan and Charlie:

He flashed a not-so-innocent smile, and—zap!—something hot and strong laced the air between them.

She must’ve felt it, too, because she stepped back. “I should go. Help Corbin and Hannah.”

She was going to pretend like nothing happened there, too.

“Hold on.” He grabbed her wrist, and she froze. “This is not working for me.”

“What isn’t?” she whispered.

He let her go and stepped back into his office, crooking his finger. “Come in here and close the door.”

Her eyes rounded, but then her lips twitched. “Ask me nicely.”


Morgan followed him into the office, but she kept her back glued to the closed door. “Charlie, I want you … ”

He raised a hand to cut her off. “I like that sentence.”

She gave him a cocky look. “There was more to that sentence.”

“There doesn’t need to be.” He stepped forward, touching the tips of his boots to the tips of her shiny black shoes, and then he leaned in until their bodies brushed. “I can’t pretend like nothing is happening.”

“Me neither.” She wrapped her arms around him and covered his mouth with hers.

Immediately, the door shook on a knock, and they broke apart. “Chef, the produce delivery guy is here.”

“I’ll be right there,” Charlie called.

“Okay. Should I call Morgan? She’s late.”

Morgan covered her mouth as Charlie smirked and tucked a hand between her legs, slowly drawing his thumb over her core with firm pressure.

He barely held in a chuckle. “Nope. I’m sure she’s coming.”

“You are so bad,” she whispered.

He bobbed his eyebrows and kissed her again.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What gave you the most trouble with the story?

[Elley Arden] The hardest part of writing Marrying the Wrong Man was getting past the backstories of both characters. There was a lot of dishonesty and immaturity to work through. I worried readers wouldn’t be as forgiving as I apparently was. But, real people have serious flaws, so why shouldn’t characters?

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What’s one thing you won’t leave home without?

[Elley Arden] It’s pathetic, but I can’t and won’t leave home without my iPhone. I would turn around and go get it if I ever forgot it. Thankfully, it’s always by my side. It’s like an extra limb. See, I told you. Pathetic.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What’s your favorite snack when you’re working on a deadline?

[Elley Arden] Oh! Chocolate is my favorite deadline snack, which would partially explain why in the last year while publishing eight books I’ve gained an obscene amount of weight.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Name three things on your desk right now.

[Elley Arden] On my desk right now, you will find a can of Martha Stewart Sharkey Gray interior paint, a clothes iron, and a framed inspirational quote of Mother Teresa. It’s an interesting collection of things, because I rarely use my desk for writing. I mostly write at my dining table.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you could trade places with anyone for just one day, who would you be?

[Elley Arden] Hmm. This is hard! *thinks, thinks, think, thinks, thinks* If I could trade places with anyone for just one day, I’d be … *thinks, thinks, thinks, thinks, thinks* You know what? I’d pass on that opportunity. I really would. I love my life, and I could never willing lose a day of it.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] You have been granted the use of one superpower for one week.  Which power would you choose, and what would you do with it?

[Elley Arden] I’d choose the ability to teleport myself to anyplace I wanted to go, and I’d spend the week spontaneously traveling without the drama of security checks and jet lag.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are some books that you enjoyed recently?

[Elley Arden] My daughter got me into Divergent and the rest of that series. It’s normally not my thing, but I’m hooked (and more than a little in love with Four). I’m also enjoying reading and discussing the books with her. It’s definitely a bonding activity.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?

[Elley Arden] Readers can “at” me on Twitter @elleywrites, and they can leave comments on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Elley-Arden-Author/540667649278016), but I also love connecting by good old-fashioned email, which is elley@elleyarden.com.


Second chances don’t come around often, especially not in a town known for its scandals, and almost definitely not with the one that got away, but Morgan and Charlie get theirs in Elley Arden’s latest Harmony Falls novel, MARRYING THE WRONG MAN. Will they take the chance and make it work? This is a story that’ll tug at the reader’s heartstrings!

Want to learn more about MARRYING THE WRONG MAN? Be sure to check out this exclusive interview with Elley Arden!


Author: Elley Arden

Author Location: Pittsburgh, PA

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Release Date: May 12th, 2014

Word Count: 50,000 words

Publisher: Crimson Romance

Format: Digital eBook


Synopsis: Morgan Parrish returns to Harmony Falls after her spectacle of an almost wedding and her father’s colossal fall from grace. She’s broke and infamous. But that’s nothing compared to the secret she’s been keeping.

Life is finally on the upswing for Charlie Cramer. He’s sober and chef of Chargrilled Bistro. But his peace is shattered, when the woman he loves—the woman who left him—shows up in town with shocking cargo: the baby he’d begged her to keep and raise with him.

When fate steps in and Morgan takes a job working in Charlie’s bistro, things heat up—in and out of the kitchen. Can they learn to trust each other enough to love again? And is that love enough to keep them up when everyone else is trying to tear them down?

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Add MARRYING THE WRONG MAN to your TBR pile on Goodreads!

Other books in the Harmony Falls series:


Goodreads | Amazon| Barnes and Noble | iBooks


Goodreads | Amazon| Barnes and Noble | iBooks | Books-A-Million | Powell’s

About Elley Arden:

Elley Arden is a born and bred Pennsylvanian who has lived as far west as Utah and as far north as Wisconsin. She drinks wine like it’s water (a slight exaggeration), prefers a night at the ballpark to a night on the town, and believes almond English toffee is the key to happiness.
Elley writes provocative, emotional, contemporary romances, where Mr. Not-My-Type ends up being Mr. Right.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Win some awesome prizes:

A $15 gift card for Amazon or Barnes & Noble (winners choice) plus a signed copy of Crashing the Congressman’s Wedding AND Battling the Best Man! (US residents only)

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18. Writer Wednesday: Book Expo America 2014

BEA!!! Okay, I still haven't come down from my BEA high. This is seriously my favorite event. Why? Because I always get to hang out with really awesome writers and bloggers and publishing people. Man, I love my job.

So, here's a recap of my BEA 2014 experience:

First, check out the awesome Spencer Hill Press signing chart. (Do you see my name?)

And here I am signing The Monster Within ARCs. Photo courtesy of the very awesome Miss Dvora Gelfond.

Fellow horror writer Charles Day stopped by to get an ARC of The Monster Within.

I got really amazing triquetra necklaces for my book, which we raffled off in baskets and during the signing. I don't think I'm ever taking mine off. It's so pretty!

And here's the beautiful Jennifer Allis Provost who made the triquetra necklaces for me because she's that awesome.

Brooke Delvecchio is one of the most adorable people ever. I love her.

Here I am with Richard Shealy, one of my copy editors.

Here I am with Jessica Porteous, Lisa Amowitz, and Elizabeth Langston.

My agency sister, Vicki Merkel, attended my signing. 

Vikki Ciaffone is not my editor at SHP but I love her.

And I got to meet Eliza Tilton in person finally too! And I met J.A. Ward.

I also had a signing as Ashelyn Drake for my upcoming YA contemporary Perfect For You. Swoon Romance was awesome about getting people to stop by my booth to pick up signed postcards and talk about the book. I also had two amazing dancers (Yes, I said dancers.) bringing people in. A special thanks to Dorothy Dryer and Dan Cohen. You two are the best cheerleaders ever! 

After knowing Rachel Harris online for years we got to meet in person!

Okay, and this has nothing to do with my signings or meeting people, BUT… I finally got to see Rick Riordan!!! Thank you to Dan Cohen for making sure I got a picture of Rick this time. 

AND…I got Becca Fitzpatrick's new book! Yay! I'm so excited to read it. I loved the Hush, Hush series. I have to thank Dan Cohen for this one too because he totally snagged me a copy early and I didn't even have to wait in line.

I had to leave early on Saturday because the train schedule changed and we are having work done on our house and had to be home for it. I was sad to go and am already counting the days until BEA 2015!

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19. Novella Review: Love for Beginners by Sally Clements

May Contain Spoilers


I picked up Love for Beginners because I had a short window of time open in my reading schedule, and a story about a mechanic sounded like fun.  I have enjoyed quite a few Entangled novellas, so I was eager to jump into another one.  While I occasionally had trouble connecting with the characters, I found this an entertaining afternoon read. 

Melody and her friends run a garage, and it’s shop policy to employ only female mechanics.  After Alice breaks her ankle, though, Mel and Betty are run  ragged trying to keep up with repairs flooding the shop.  Alice’s brother, Heath, agrees to fill in for her, and the women are so desperate for help they agree.  Mel has reservations, however.  Heath has a reputation of being a ladyslayer, and the one time they met, he didn’t impress her.  She resolves to keep her distance while he’s working with them, regardless of how charming or good looking he is.

Betty has other plans, though, and sets them up on a date, under the guise that the women are treating him to dinner for helping them out.  Betty promptly backs out, leaving Mel with hostess duties.  She gamely wines and dines their new employee, surprising herself by telling him things she’s never confided to anyone else.  She spills her greatest secrets to him, and for the life of her, can’t figure out why.

Mel has a real hang up with men, stemming from her mother’s constant harping that men are not to be trusted.  Since Mel was raised by her mother, without any assistance from her father, a man she’s never even met, she understands her mother’s distrust of men.  Her dad left them high and dry, and when she asks questions about him, her mother stonewalls her.  Whatever happened must be bad, and in order to save herself from similar heartache, Mel is very cautious in her relationships.  While she wants someone to spend her life with, she wants an equal partnership, without any of that messy sex stuff.  After a disastrous relationship when she was younger, she thinks that maybe her mom knows that she’s talking about, and that men are not worth trusting.

While the story seemed clichéd at times, I did enjoy it.  Heath agreed to help Alice out because he doesn’t want to follow in his father’s footsteps and take over the family repair shop.  He wants to be a photographer, and he’s trying to work up the courage to let his family know.  While he’s helping out at Mel’s garage, he’s also planning on working on his portfolio.  He has the chance of a lifetime to make his dreams come true, and he’s not going to waste it.  When Mel offers to help him with his photography, the two spend more time together, and they can’t help developing feelings for each other.   Can Heath convince her that he’s worth taking a risk on?

Both Mel and Heath are dealing with intense family pressure to follow the path their parents set out for them, and both of them decide that they don’t want to continue down it.  Mel’s mother is suffering from clinical depression, and her illness is causing her daughter a lot of grief.  Mel grapples with her frustration with her mother’s behavior, and the negative fallout from it.  When her mother finally comes clean about her father, Mel’s world view is shattered.  Everything she thought was the truth was a lie, and now she realizes that she has to take a chance on making her own happiness, or face losing the new love she’s finally found for herself.  I loved the ending!

Grade:  B-

Review copy provided by publisher

From Amazon:

She needs a lesson in love, and he’s the perfect teacher.

Mechanic Melody Swan is looking for a man who can share her hopes and dreams, but she swore she would never lose herself to passion. When sexy Heath Starr agrees to temporarily sub in the Under the Hood garage for his sister, Mel sees the perfect opportunity to enjoy being with a man without becoming attached.

Heath came to Meadowsweet to photograph nature, not find a hookup, especially since his last relationship ended in disaster. He vowed he’d never break another woman’s heart, and in turn, protect his own. Still, when Mel offers to serve as his outdoor guide, he can’t refuse.

Mel may say she’s only looking for right now, but her body is speaking a whole different language. And Heath’s viewfinder is drawn to her time and again. When the two find themselves isolated in a rustic cabin, they could both break their promises if they aren’t careful…

The post Novella Review: Love for Beginners by Sally Clements appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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20. Book Review- Love Letters to the Dead

Title: Love Letters to the Dead
 Author: Ava Dellaira
Series:  N/A
Published:  1 May 2014 by Hot Key Books
Length: 327 pages
Source: publisher
Other info: This is Ava’s debut
Summary : It begins as an assignment for English class: write a letter to a dead person - any dead person. Laurel chooses Kurt Cobain - he died young, and so did Laurel's sister May - so maybe he'll understand a bit of what Laurel is going through. Soon Laurel is writing letters to lots of dead people - Janis Joplin, Heath Ledger, River Phoenix, Amelia Earhart... it's like she can't stop. And she'd certainly never dream of handing them in to her teacher. She writes about what it's like going to a new high school, meeting new friends, falling in love for the first time - and how her family has shattered since May died.

But much as Laurel might find writing the letters cathartic, she can't keep real life out forever. The ghosts of her past won't be contained between the lines of a page, and she will have to come to terms with growing up, the agony of losing a beloved sister, and the realisation that only you can shape your destiny. 
Review: Laurel's sister died. Laurel is told to write letters to someone dead as an assignment. Laurel writes to Kurt Cobain. And then  to Elisabeth Bishop. And then to Amelia Earhart. And then to lots of other dead people as she tells the stories of ger life and those of others around her.
I was expecting this to be good because I'd heard lots of people say how brilliant it was.
This is very similar to Perks of Being a Wallflower, which kind of make sense considering Chbosky is "a dear friend and mentor" of Dellaira. And considering Perks broke me with its beauty and feelings, I should have enjoyed this.
sadly,  I didn't. It's repetitive. Laurel goes on a lot about what X dead person is doing or what their family is doing or what a situation would be like if that person was involved. it's ok to start, boring by the end.
The writing style goes from really simple like the part where she describes getting dressed and eating lunch at high school, and random words and metaphors and things to describe something that is being made to seem much more important than it actually is.
The Perks similarities. Oh my gosh they were endless. Coming of age angst? Check.  Epistolary form? Check. Queer friends in hiding? Check. Even the thing with Billy, which  while I understand it's important to not gloss over these things, didn't work for me because I just wanted to scream "this is a female led attempted copy of Perks and it isn't working at all."
Why didn't it work? For one, it's hard to imagine it happening in these modern times, at least since Amy Winehouse died, and there's something about the tone that puts it in a weird time setting. Then there's the fact that the plot didn't hold my interest.
The romance was of the "he's cool and doesn't talk but he will to me" variety, and ugh no. I didn't feel like anyone really developed. I just didn't care for the characters and felt no emotions for any events at all.

Overall:  Strength 2 tea to a book that had everything I should have loved, but just didn’t work for me.

0 Comments on Book Review- Love Letters to the Dead as of 6/7/2014 11:41:00 AM
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21. Interview with Marie Harte, Author of The Troublemaker Next Door and Giveaway


[Manga Maniac Cafe] Good morning, Marie! Describe yourself in five words or less.

[Marie Harte]  Funny, entertaining caffeine addict.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about The Troublemaker Next Door?

[Marie Harte]  Maddie, an independent and hardworking woman, loses her job unexpectedly, throwing her life into a tailspin. Then she loses her lukewarm boyfriend. She’s in a “men suck” frame of mind when she meets Flynn McCauley, the poster boy for male perfection. Through family and friend connections, they continue to run into each other. They spend a lot of time not dating, then having sex, then not dating while having sex. Until Flynn wants more from the stubborn redhead. Maddie thinks she wants more too, but she’ll have to overcome her fears for a future with Flynn. (And I soooo wish I was Maddie.)

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you share your favorite scene?

[Marie Harte]  I love their first kiss.

Silence settled between them, one fraught with a tension Flynn could only describe as sexual. He would have been content to stare at her all day. She had a darker complexion than he would have expected on a redhead. Not pale, her olive skin turned a delightful pink when she was embarrassed. Her face could have graced any of the magazines stacked neatly on her coffee table, yet her nose had a smattering of freckles at the bridge that stopped her short of perfection.

And her eyes… He was drowning in them, caught in the amber color that looked gold one minute, deep brown the next. He wondered what she saw when she looked at him. Did she feel the attraction? Was his interest flattering, or was he one more creep like all the rest who no doubt fell at her feet when confronted with such beauty?

“I should put these in water,” she said in a husky voice that made him want to take her in his arms and carry her upstairs.

“Yeah.” He cleared his throat and followed her into the kitchen, unable to look away from her curves. Man, that ass just begged to be held. “Ah, so the reason I stopped by. My mom and dad are having a picnic next Saturday and wanted to invite you guys. Think you all could swing by around two?” He hadn’t confirmed the date or time yet, but he knew his mother wouldn’t say no, and whatever she wanted, Dad agreed to.

“Oh. A picnic?”

“A barbecue.”

“I’d say I have to check my calendar, but not anymore. I’m free for the immediate future.” She paused. “Man, that doesn’t sound good, does it?”

“You being free?”

“Me whining about my job again. I’m done with that. I’d love to go to a barbecue. I haven’t been to one in years. That’s really nice of your parents.”


“I can’t answer for Vanessa or Abby, but if they’re not working, I know they’d love to be there.”

“Great.” Good, great. She reduced him to one-word answers. He couldn’t think about more than her mouth, watching her form each word with those plump, red lips. She’d been so soft yesterday, and that brief kiss had given him some wet dreams last night. Hell, he hadn’t come in his sheets since he’d been a teenager. But this morning he’d had to dump his sheets in the washer before joining his family for church. Church—talk about a buzzkill. Yet here he stood, across from the object of his fantasies.

“You okay, Flynn?” She frowned. “You look a little funny.”

“Mike told me to leave you alone,” he blurted.


“Cautioned me not to screw over his neighbors, because he didn’t want to deal with a bunch of annoyed women.”

“What do you mean?” She took a step back and bumped against the counter.

He closed the distance between them and caged her between his arms. It gratified him to hear her breathing as raspy and uneven as his. “I know you hate men. That you had a crappy day on Friday. And that you have some things to iron out. I just wanted to thank you for yesterday. Nothing more than that. Okay?”

She licked her lips, and he forced himself to keep an inch or two between them. Fucking her on the counter would have to wait, because her roommates would be back soon.

“Thank me for apologizing? But you don’t have to—”

“Yes, Maddie. I do.” She didn’t understand. He did have to, or he’d lose his ever-loving mind. His lips met hers, and he forgot his own name.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What gave you the most trouble with the story?

[Marie Harte]  The title. I had originally titled it A Flair for Flynn, then Casually Yours. Sourcebooks asked for a bunch of title possibilities, and they came up with The Troublemaker Next Door—which I love!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What’s one thing you won’t leave home without?

[Marie Harte]  My iPhone (but only in case the school calls about my kids)

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Name three things on your desk right now.

[Marie Harte]  My monster pen holder, my coffee warmer, my glasses

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you could trade places with anyone for just one day, who would you be?

[Marie Harte]  Thor. Just for a day.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] You have been granted the use of one superpower for one week. Which power would you choose, and what would you do with it?

[Marie Harte]  Teleportation. I’d go to all the places around the world I haven’t been to yet but want to visit. Rome, Egypt, London, Sydney, Tokyo, and too many more to count.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are some books that you enjoyed recently?

[Marie Harte]  Jennifer Estep’s Poison Promise, a reread of Dragon Bound by Thea Harrison (a fave)

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?

[Marie Harte]  Via my website, Facebook, and email


About the book

A Publishers Weekly TOP 10 ROMANCE for Spring 2014

It’s been the day from hell for Maddie. Instead of offering a promotion, her boss made a pass. She quit, then got dumped by her lukewarm boyfriend. As the fiery redhead has a foul-mouthed meltdown, her green-eyed neighbor Flynn McCauley stands in her kitchen…completely captivated.

He was just there to fix the sink as a favor. He’s not into relationships. She’s done with idiots. But where there are friends…sometimes there are benefits. And sometimes the boy next door might be just what you need at the end of every day.

Welcome to the rough-and-tumble McCauley family, a tight-knit band of four bachelor brothers who work hard, drink beer, and relentlessly tease each other. When three independent women move in next door, all hell breaks loose.

US addresses only, please

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22. Book review- A Kiss in the Dark by Cat Clarke

Title: A Kiss In The Dark
 Author: Cat Clarke
Series:  N/A
Published:  3 April 2014 by Quercus
Length: 384 pages
Warnings: brings up sexual assault

Source: publisher
Other info: Cat has written Entangled, Torn, and Undone which I read and reviewed. She also wrote Falling, a shorter story, which I read and enjoyed.
Summary : When Alex meets Kate the attraction is instant. Alex is funny, good-looking, and a little shy – everything that Kate wants in a boyfriend. Alex can’t help falling for Kate, who is pretty, charming and maybe just a little naive… But one of them is hiding a secret, and as their love blossoms, it threatens to ruin not just their relationship, but their lives.
Graph: This is a new feature I am trialling which I will use when my opinion of things or levels of devices like scares, tension, interest, fun, laughs (anything really) fluctuate  throughout a  book.  Tell me what you think of it and if I should do more.
Review: Alex gets to know Kate via the internet. Alex meets Kate at a concert. They start going out. They're perfect for each other. Except Alex is a girl (I don’t feel bad for telling you that because we learn this within the first 15 pages). And Kate doesn't know.
Cat Clarke is one of the authors whose name guarantees I'll read a thing. I wasn't sure what to expect from this, but it was totally different to anything I may have wanted to expect.
Cat Clarke always manages to write perfectly real characters, and those in A Kiss in the Dark are no exception. they interact and react well, and all  the  minute of emotions that Alex and Kate feel about being in love is valid and accurate.
I am in love with all characters in the Before. Alex slightly less than Kate because while I see why she would do that, it's quite a big thing to not be open about, and I prefer my romantic couples to not have secrets this big. I didn't like Kate in the After. I get it, finding out your boyfriend is a girl is quite big and she has the right to be upset with Alex for keeping such a big secret. But I really dislike people who do what she did. she redeems herself in the closing pages, but still. My favourite character was Jamie  Alex's brother. He's supportive, a bit funny, and loyal. I found Astrid a little annoying.
The best thing in this was the tension, especially in the first half. From the moment Alex chooses not to tell Kate she's a girl, and they go out, as the romance builds, which I think is one of the most adorable things ever despite my general wariness of romance when they’re keeping such huge secrets from each other, you’re just thinking ahead to what's going  to happen when she finds out; so every kiss and every smile they share, is slightly tainted by the fact you just know it’s going to broken and you just have to keep reading to see how it goes. and  then ohmigosh Cat puts in 14 words that ramp up the tension so much and then it all happens and ugh perfectness. The day I read this, I highly disliked school. It stopped me reading this.

Overall:  Strength 5 tea to a to a truly unputdownable book.

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23. Book Review- Model Misfit by Holly Smale

Title:Model Misfit
 Author: Holly Smale
Series:  Geek Girl #2
Published:  26 September 2013 by Harper Collins
Length: 356 pages
Source: netgalley
Other info: I kind of enjoyed Geek Girl (review here). Picture Perfect is coming in June.
Summary : “My name is Harriet Manners, and I am still a geek.” Harriet knows that modelling won’t transform you. She knows that being as uniquely odd as a polar bear isn’t necessarily a bad thing (even in a rainforest). And that the average person eats a ton of food a year, though her pregnant stepmother is doing her best to beat this. What Harriet doesn’t know is where she’s going to fit in once the new baby arrives. With summer plans ruined, modelling in Japan seems the perfect chance to get as far away from home as possible. But nothing can prepare Harriet for the craziness of Tokyo, her competitive model flatmates and her errant grandmother’s ‘chaperoning’. Or seeing gorgeous Nick everywhere she goes. Because, this time, Harriet knows what a broken heart feels like. Can geek girl find her place on the other side of the world or is Harriet lost for good?
Review: The book begins when Harriet is doing a modelling job. And then rushes to her  physics GCSE. This essentially sums her up from Geek Girl. Then it’s summer time, but none of her friends can stay around. It looks like it’s going to be the worst summer ever...until she goes to Japan to model for Yuka. Which would also involve seeing nick. Which would be good if they hadn’t recently broken up. Over in Japan, Harriet, despite knowing lots of things like how any nerve cells are in the brain and the chances of dying in a plane accident, she still has a lot to learn.
When I started this, I immediately decided it was better than Geek Girl because I didn’t want to punch Harriet (I really hated her voice to start with, but then got used to it and started liking it).
Harriet is a bit more mature here, having to figure out where she fits in her family, standing up for herself and being independent.
There’s some new characters here, models Rin and Poppy. who both provide different things, and the return of favourites like Yuka and Nick.
I’d have liked to see more of the family side of Geek Girl.  I get that half of it is in Japan, but the family is my favourite thing about this series because they're written so realistically,  and big drama things in the first half are happening and then we leave them so I’m hoping that in book three, we see them again.
I like the use of flashbacks to reveal what happened between Nick and Harriet. Current plotwise, it was hard to see what was happening until the end.

Overall:  Strength 3.5 tea, a bit more a 4, to a second book in a series that is growing on me.

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24. Review: We Were Liars

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart (Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House). 2014. Review from ARC.

The Plot: Cady, nearly eighteen, had a terrible accident two years before. She is still recovering, still not herself. Cady is hoping that a summer spent with her three best friends, the "Liars," will make things better. Or, that it will be a start to being the person she used to be.

Love, friendship, loyalty, family. This is what Cady thinks she is returning to. Cady thinks her summer will be about healing and friendship, brought to her by being with those she loves.

Instead, she is going to learn the truth.

The Good: Cady tells us her story, and she frames it not in who she is but in who her family is. "Welcome to the beautiful Sinclair family. No one is a criminal. No one is an addict. No one is a failure."

She is a Sinclair. And "we were liars."

The Sinclairs are a rich family. No, even richer than that. Her grandfather took family money and made even more. Each of his three daughters has a trust fund. The family summers on an island, an island that is home just to the family. In addition to the family home, each daughter has her own house. No one else lives on the island, well, except for the help during the summer. Oh, they are rich, and beautiful, and privileged.

It all looks so picture perfect. Part of that perfection is the tight, best friend bond between Cady and her cousins, Johnny and Mirren. Each the eldest child of one of the three daughters. They are together each summer, reuniting from the places and lives they live during the rest of the year. Gat, the nephew of Johnny's mother's boyfriend, joins the group. Somehow, four becomes the perfect number and each summer is better than the year before. Until Cady's accident.

We Were Liars is Cady's return to the island, to her best friends, after almost two years away, because of her accident and her parent's divorce. Her accident has caused terrible migraines and memory loss; she is an unreliable narrator, to say the least. That she and her friends were called the liars is another clue to how much, and when, they should be believed.

Part of why I adored We Were Liars is because Lockhart does such a beautiful job of creating the nostalgia a teenager feels for their childhood, and of the magic of innocent summers. Even if you're not a privileged teen going to a private island, childhood and summer and friendships are true for all of us. Before there is a chance to be wrapped in that warm cocoon of memory, though, We Were Liars lets us know that how we remember childhood does not mean that is how our childhood was. There are hints from the first that the perfect family is not perfect, but as Cady's summer passes, and as she begins to remember the events of two summers ago, the flaws and cracks of the family are revealed. (It is, in essence, what happens once you move from the children's table to the adult table at family holidays.)

Is the grandfather loving, or is he using his money to control his daughters and grandchildren? Is Gat, the almost-cousin, included among the Sinclairs or is he always an outsider because of the color of his skin? Are the sisters close, or competing to get more of the family money? And what secrets do the cousins keep from each other? Are Cady and her cousins fated to repeat the familiar family patterns, or can they break the bonds of family ties?

This exploration of identity, of the truth behind the illusion, was wonderful. It may be heightened because the money is more, but the Sinclairs are hardly the first or only family who wonders what the neighbors think; who don't discuss unpleasant truths; who fight over a family heirloom because it represents love. A first read may result in thinking the Sinclairs are so wealthy that they and their problems are "other," too removed, but as time passes and Cady and her family haunts you the way they did me,  you realize -- the problems are the same for many of us.

I first wrote this review after I read the book, and in rereading it, and remembering Liars, there is more I want to say. I kept on thinking about the Sinclairs and their money, and gradually thought less about the wealth and more about the privilege. How the privilege both gave the Sinclairs opportunities but also limited when, and how, those chances were pursued. And that the exaggeration of that privilege -- so much money! servants! travel! their own island! -- is necessary to show that privilege exists and what, exactly, it means.

I loved the language Lockhart uses in We Were Liars. Here is Cady, describing her beloved "liars": "Mirren. She is sugar. She is curiosity and rain. Johnny. he is bounce. He is effort and snark." Gat: "He is contemplation and enthusiasm. Ambition and strong coffee." Truth be told, I'd love to have Cady describe me, her choice of words are so perfect.

Cady's secret. Her accident, and what happened, so that "the last two years [were spent] in a shell of headache pain and self-pity." I don't want to reveal too much, because what matters is not just "what happened" but when, and how, Cady remembers. Remember the "we" were liars -- so it's not just Cady's own secrets.

I adore Cady, her voice, her character. That she is an unreliable narrator makes it that much better. And the plot, the structure, of trying to understand, along with Cady, just what happened. And here's a confession: I cannot say, at the end of the day, that I liked Cady. But I can say I loved her.

This is a Favorite Book Read in 2014. (Technically, yes, I read the ARC in 2013, but work with me, people.)

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25. Spotlight and Giveaway-The Bottom Line by Sandy James


THE BOTTOM LINE by Sandy James (May 6, 2014; Forever Yours E-Book)

When life gets tough and love is hard to find, four friends take their troubles to lunch. Surviving a failed marriage and an illness that almost takes her life, high school teacher Mallory Hamilton needs the Ladies Who Lunch more than ever . . . 

After a year of upheaval, Mallory has had her fill of change-with one exception. Her house is a disaster, and she wants it fixed. Hiring a contractor to finish the projects her ex-husband started will help her banish the past so she can return to the life she had before everything went awry. But her contractor is sexy, sweet, and single, which threatens the peaceful, solitary life Mallory has planned for herself.

Ben Carpenter has had a hard time raising his daughter without his ex-wife’s help. His new client’s projects will give him the extra income he needs, not to mention afternoons alone with a gorgeous woman. Though their attraction is undeniable, Ben sees the fear and pain hiding in Mallory’s beautiful eyes. But how can he help her if she won’t let him in? Ben can fix just about anything-but can he fix Mallory’s broken heart?

Buy Links:

Amazon – The Bottom Line (The Ladies Who Lunch)



About Sandy James:

Sandy James lives in a quiet suburb of Indianapolis with her husband. She’s a high school social studies teacher who especially loves psychology and United States history. Since she and her husband own a small stable of harness racehorses, they often spend time together at the two Indiana racetracks.

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“How old are you, Mallory?”

“You really aren’t afraid to ask questions, are you?” Trying to lighten the somber mood that always accompanied a discussion of her disease, she grinned. “How old do I look?”

Was he growling? Good Lord, that’s all she needed: a guy with a bad temper and no sense of humor. “Do we really have to talk about this?” she asked.

The waiter interrupted, bringing them their entrees and grating more cheese on her fettuccine and Ben’s spaghetti Bolognese. She’d had no idea what “Bolognese” was when he’d ordered it, but from the looks of the food, it was a lot like regular meat sauce.

“Is there anything else I can get for you?” the waiter asked Ben.

“Mal?” Ben asked. “Need anything?”

“No, thanks.” She twirled her fork around, gathering the fettuccine into a small ball. “This looks wonderful. Nothing like fresh pasta. The box stuff always comes out kinda clumpy when I make it.”

“You need to add some olive oil to the water and wait to drop the pasta in until the water is already boiling. I always make my own pasta instead of using the crap they put in boxes.”

“You really do know how to cook! Most guys can only do one dish. Figured chili was yours.”

“You doubted me?”

She put her fork down against the side of her plate. “Look, Ben… I’m not sure exactly what I believe about you.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“We’ve known each other a couple of months, but we don’t really know each other.”

“That’s why we’re on another date. To talk. To see if we click. After those kisses—”

So that was the catalyst, the kisses they’d shared. The ones she’d let get entirely out of hand.

Why were all men so preoccupied with sex?

Her heart sank at the thought that he’d only asked her out to get in her in bed. “I’m not having sex with you.” The words came out much louder than she’d intended, and a few heads turned their way. “Sorry. I just… If the only reason you asked me out again is because of kissing—”

“Hotter-than-hell kissing,” Ben corrected. “But that’s not why we’re here. You’d recognize that if you’d drop your firewalls long enough to—”

“Firewalls? What firewalls?”

He leaned back in his chair and simply stared at her for a moment. “You’ve been through hell this year, haven’t you? Maybe I’m expecting too much too soon.”

That made absolutely no sense to Mallory. “What exactly were you expecting, Ben?”

“A chance.”

“A chance to do what?”

“Make you love me.”

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The post Spotlight and Giveaway-The Bottom Line by Sandy James appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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