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1. Friday Feature: Who R U Really? Book Birthday & Elixir Bound Sale and Giveaway


It’s a BOOKBirthday!
The birth of a debut book is often a long labor of love, and Margo Kelly’s Who R U Really? is no exception. Margo finished the first draft of the manuscript in 2010! More than four years later, more than four title changes, and way-more-than four revisions … it has finally arrived! WAHOO!

*.-*.-**throws confetti**.-*.-*
When Thea discovers a new role-playing game online, she breaks her parents’ rules to play. And in the world of the game, Thea falls for an older boy named Kit whose smarts and savvy can’t defeat his near-suicidal despair. Soon, he’s texting her, asking her to meet him, and talking in vague ways about how they can be together forever. As much as she suspects that this is wrong, Thea is powerless to resist Kit’s allure, and hurtles toward the very fate her parents feared most. Who R U Really? will excite you and scare you, as Thea’s life spins out of control.

“Kelly has painted a realistic picture of how a smart girl can get caught up in something dangerous online. … Guaranteed to give readers goosebumps.” -- School Library Journal.  (http://www.bookverdict.com)

“Thea’s mistakes, while frustrating to encounter, are frighteningly plausible, and the relationships among characters are well–fleshed out, especially between mother and daughter. Kelly’s first novel is a suspenseful page-turner.” -- Kirkus Reviews (www.kirkusreviews.com)

Who R U Really? published in hardcover and e-book versions by Merit Press (F+W Media) on September 18, 2014.

Buy online:

You can also enter for a chance to win a copy in the Goodreads giveaway here.

*.-*.-**throws confetti**.-*.-*

Margo Kellyis a native of the Northwest and currently resides in Idaho. A veteran public speaker, she is now actively pursuing her love of writing. Who R U Really? is her first novel. Margowelcomes the opportunities to speak to youth groups, library groups, and book clubs.

Follow her online:
Twitter: @MargoWKelly

Scheduled Appearances:
September 26, 2014 – 5pm – Book Signing at Hastings in Meridian, Idaho
September 27, 2014 – 4pm – Book Signing at Hastings on Overland in Boise, Idaho
October 3, 2014 – 7pm – Book Launch Party at Hyde Park Books in Boise, Idaho
October 11, 2014 – 4pm – Book Signing at Barnes & Noble in Boise, Idaho



That's not all! 



My fellow writer friend, Katie Carroll's YA fantasy, Elixir Bound, is on sale (ebook version) for only $.99 until September 27th. And there's a giveaway on Goodreads for a signed paper back. First, here's her book:




Katora Kase is next in line to take over as guardian to a secret and powerful healing Elixir. Now she must journey into the wilds of Faway Forest to find the ingredient that gives the Elixir its potency. Even though she has her sister and brother, an old family friend, and the handsome son of a mapmaker as companions, she feels alone.

It is her decision alone whether or not to bind herself to the Elixir to serve and protect it until it chooses a new guardian. The forest hosts many dangers, including wicked beings that will stop at nothing to gain power, but the biggest danger Katora may face is whether or not to open up her heart to love.




Ebook on sale for $.99 until September 27:

Prefer paperback? Enter the Goodreads giveaway here.

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2. Review: Falling Into Place

Falling into Place by Amy Zhang. Greenwillow Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. 2014. Review copy from publisher.

The Plot: Liz Emerson, a high school junior, has crashed her car into a tree.

She planned it, oh so carefully, to look like an accident.

It wasn't.

Now, as she lies in the hospital, hovering between life and death, Falling Into Place examines just what led her to that fateful moment.

The Good: Falling Into Place has some seriously beautiful writing. I dog-eared (yes, dog-eared, don't tell) so many pages to mark passages where the language knocked me off my feet.

"But that afternoon, in the abandoned field by the elementary school, Liz pretended that they were. In love. She lied to herself. Her world was almost beautiful. She didn't care that it was false."

"Had the world always been like this? Why had it seemed so much kinder when she was younger? Why had it ever seemed beautiful?"

In some ways, Falling Into Place is the mirror-image of Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher. In Thirteen Reasons Why, Hannah explains her suicide by naming the people who hurt her, who let her down, her gave her no reason to live. Liz's story, also is a list of the reasons she gives herself for aiming her car at a tree... except her reasons are not things done to her. No, Liz's reasons are the things she did to others.

A small aside: if you don't like any spoilers, go no further. Because my conversation will be mainly about the characters and who they are, and aren't, and for some that may be too much.

I'll be honest: Liz is a difficult person to feel sympathy for. Or, at least, it was difficult for me to feel any sympathy for her. I began liking her, the way you would any character, but as the way Liz treated others piled up, action upon action, I just -- couldn't. I felt sorry for her mother, as her daughter's life hung in the balance, because that is a terrible situation to be in. But Liz herself.....

Liz is the type that hurts people because she can. Because she feels it's better to hurt others first, before they can hurt her. Because she has some own deep childhood wounds -- a father who dies tragically, a distant mother who cannot connect either emotionally or physically with her only child. She is, inside, a hurt and jealous child: "It made her remember that there had once been a time when she was in love with the sunshine and the wind and each brief flight. It was like watching the sky change colors, his playing. And then it made her jealous, because Liz Emerson was never at peace like that. Not really. Not anymore."

Liz both recognizes what she does and hates what she does yet cannot stop herself; she knows she does hateful things but does nothing to stop or make amends. She thinks she cannot fix what she does, so she doesn't even try. Instead, her solution is to end herself. "She looked around and saw all of the broken things in her wake, and then she looked inside herself and saw the spidering cracks from the weight of all the things she had done. She hated what she was and didn't know how to change, and half an hour before she drove her car off the road, she that despite all of that, she didn't have enough force to stop the world from turning. But she had enough to stop her own."

And... despite the glimpse into who Liz is, and seeing those who both love her and forgive her, despite not wanting her dead, I find I cannot feel much for Liz. I feel for those who she breaks: there's at least one suicide, plus a handful of teens whose lives get sidelined with pregnancy, drug use, failures. It's nice that we see at least one of her victims put aside Liz's actions and words, see her vulnerability, forgive her, and get on with his own life instead of letting Liz ruin his whole future -- but it wasn't a real balance. Not to me. And Liz herself had nothing to do with it. One of her good friends thinks, "she doesn't remember when she turned into such an awful human being" and the friend is thinking about herself, but it could be about Liz, and the thing is -- they are awful. And they feel bad about it, when it all comes crashing down....but where do they go after that?

These are the teens who I hope against hope that the real life teens I know never, ever encounter. And that if they do -- they are the type who don't care what the Lizs of the world think or do.

What is frustrating about Liz is the obvious: her world, the world she wants to escape, is her own creation. She sees a cruel world because of who she is; and that Liz has shaped her reality to be her is something she doesn't recognize. She doesn't see that she can stop it by changing how she sees the world: by looking, once more, for the beauty she saw as a child.

But what matters about Falling into Place is not what Liz learns or does not -- it's what the reader figures out. That the reader realizes, like one of Liz's targets, that just because someone like Liz is "never careful with her life or anyone else's, and in her disregard was a coldness, a deep cruelty, a willingness to destroy anyone, everyone", there is no reason to let Liz destroy everything: "he found that there were still beautiful things in the world, and nothing could ever change that." What the reader can also see, as Liz's full life comes into view, that Liz's world is also the sum of her own choices, her own times of going for cruelty and power instead of understanding and kindness.

What also matters about Falling into Place is the language. It's beautiful writing, that makes the ugliness more bearable -- much like Liz herself looks for beauty, yearns for it. I look for the beauty in Falling into Place. And I find it, in how the story was told. In how the pieces fall into place. And how, finally -- I do find, underneath it all, that I have sympathy for Liz, after all. In how she and her world spun so far out of her control that she felt like there was only one answer.



Other reviews: Scott Reads It; The Perpetual Page-Turner; Queen Ella Bee Reads.




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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3. Review and Giveaway: What I Love About You by Rachel Gibson

 

Review:

I haven’t read a Rachel Gibson book in ages, so I was eager to dive into What I Love About You.  I loved this book and could not put it down. Blake is a flawed hero, a “raging a**hole” according to heroine Natalie, and he’s only two steps above a Cro-Magnon.  He’s suffering from PTSD, and he’s an alcoholic, 62 days away from his last drink.  He’s also a bundle of rage; he doesn’t feel that his family is supportive, they keep ragging on him about the littlest things, and all he wants is a little peace and quiet.  Hiding out in his new home in a remote Idaho town, he’s determined to beat back his demons without any help from anybody.  He’s not a wuss, after all.

What he gets is daily aggravation from the little girl next door  a tiny pest with ninja-like skills of stealth.  Her pretty mom takes offensive with how Blake talks to her daughter.  I don’t know how I’d feel if someone told my kid he shit bigger than her, so I had to excuse her for giving him a piece of her mind.  The sparks fly between them, and both of them pretend to want nothing to do with the other.  Blake has to concentrate on beating old man Johnny, and Natalie is a single mom, working hard to provide for her daughter.  One puppy bomb later, though, and they are sharing custody of Recruit Sparky, much to Natalie’s dismay.

Natalie has been burned badly by the man she loved since high school.  After struggling to become pregnant, her husband leaves her, running off with a twenty-year-old – and a large portion of the money he’s been entrusted to invest for his clients.  Now he’s serving time in jail for embezzlement, and Natalie is still trying to put her past behind her.  She’s not having much luck, however, and her first priority is now the true love of her life, her daughter Charlotte.  The grumpy next door neighbor is a pain in the butt, but as long as he stays on his side of the property line, they won’t have any trouble.  Too bad she can’t keep Charlotte from ambling over to pester him.  Repeatedly.

I thought What I Love About You was a great read.  It’s one of the best books I’ve read this year.  I loved how fragile both characters were, and how they both had to learn to trust in themselves and others again.  Add in one annoying kid and a rambunctious puppy, and you have a recipe that never fails to please.  Blake is a gruff, crass hero, and I loved him.  He tells it like it is, and goes after what he wants.  He doesn’t always come across as the kind of guy you’d want to wake up next to for the rest of your life, not at first, but his rough edges are smoothed by the end of the story, starting when he befriends the little girl who lives next door.   This pushed all the right buttons for me, and I highly recommend it.

 

What I Love About You

Truly, Idaho # 3

By: Rachel Gibson

Releasing August 26th, 2014

Avon Romance

New York Times bestselling author Rachel Gibson returns to Truly, Idaho, and to the fate of sexy SEAL Blake Junger
GIMMEE A B-R-E-A-K!
Ex-high school cheerleader Natalie Cooper could once shake her pom-poms with the best of them. But she’s paid for all that popularity—her husband’s run off with what’s left of their money and a twenty-year-old bimbo named Tiffany. Leaving Natalie to manage a photo store and having to see some pictures she, well, really shouldn’t.
GIMMEE A S-H-O-T!
Then she comes toe-to-manly chest with Blake Junger. Exiled to a remote cabin in Truly, Idaho, Blake wants nothing to do with anyone. Instead, he’s determined to struggle with his demons and win—all on his own. But the last thing he needs is Natalie distracting him with her luscious curves and breaking down the barriers of his heart.

GIMMEE YOUR H-E-A-R-T!

Can be read as a standalone. Returns to Truly, ID and is about the second Junger twin, Blake Junger.

Link to Follow Tour: http://www.tastybooktours.com/2014/06/now-booking-tasty-virtual-tour-for-what.html

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/19099609-what-i-love-about-you?from_search=true

Buy Links

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/What-Love-About-Truly-Idaho-ebook/dp/B00H1UFLDS/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1406676705&sr=1-1&keywords=What+I+Love+About+You+%28Truly%2C+Idaho%29

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/what-i-love-about-you-rachel-gibson/1117542217?ean=9780062247391

Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/what-i-love-about-you-1

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/what-i-love-about-you/id771697623?mt=11#

Author Info

Rachel Gibson lives in Idaho with her husband, three kids, two cats and a dog of mysterious origin. She began her fiction career at age 16, when she ran her car into the side of a hill, retrieved the bumper, and drove to a parking lot, where she strategically scattered the car’s broken glass all about. She told her parents she’d been the victim of a hit and run and they believed her. She’s been making up stories ever since, although she gets paid better for them nowadays.

Author Links

Website: http://www.rachelgibson.com/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/RachelGibson

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/33952.Rachel_Gibson

Rafflecopter Giveaway (Two Print Copies of WHAT I LOVE ABOUT YOU)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The post Review and Giveaway: What I Love About You by Rachel Gibson appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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4. 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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5. Review: Wildlife

Wildlife by Fiona Wood. Poppy, an imprint of Little, Brown. 2014. Reviewed from ARC.

The Plot: It's time for the "dreaded term" that is an "outdoor education camp." Nine weeks away from home, in the middle of nowhere, just you and some classmates and teachers.

Sib -- Sybilla Queen, 16 -- will be going. It's both dreaded and looked forward to, and she'll be going with friends and teens she's known her whole life. And all that time away from home! Things aren't quite what she expects, though, when she starts a romance with popular Ben Capaldi and her best friend Holly veers between jealous and supporting.

Lou, also 16, is new to the school and the group. She stands out, not just for being new, but for also not caring if she makes friends or enemies. Instead she sits back and observes. But if she's not willing to let people into her life, can she really tell others about how they're living theirs?

The Good: Wildlife - first, for the record, every year there is one book whose name I just repeatedly get wrong. This year, whenever I say Wildfire, know I mean Wildlife.

Wildlilfe alternates between two stories: Sib and Lou. Sib's story is about the girl who before school starts gets her braces off and has her acne clear up -- you get the idea. The cosmetic changes are even more amped up, because she posed for her aunt's advertising campaign. A glammed up version of Sib is what introduces her classmates to the "new" Sib -- except it's still the same old Sib, inside.

The New Sib now has a new boyfriend, Ben, and she is both flattered and scared by that. Yes, she likes him, but it's her first real boyfriend and she's just not sure what she wants or how she wants to be. Her best friend, Holly, is there, always being supportive and telling Sib the way she should be treating Ben.

Here is Sib describing Holly: "Maybe I need to explain that Holly's mean is not really meant to be mean -- it's just Holly! And you get used to it!." The reader doesn't need Lou seeing the Sib/Holly friendship to realize the relationship is toxic, and unhealthy, and Sib has no idea that Holly is that mean.

Lou's boyfriend died. It's probably best to get it out there, up front. She is still grieving and isolated, keeping the world at arm's length. Her moms think that the "outdoor education campus", nine weeks in the "wilderness," will somehow help. (While Lou hasn't attended the school before, one of her mothers went as a teen.) Lou's story is one of grief and loss and recovery, and putting together ones life. She's slowly drawn into the world she finds herself in, not through the other girls in her cabin -- Holly has marked her as an enemy, an outsider -- but through Michael, Sib's other best friend.

This is not a book where Lou and Michael fall in love, or where Lou finds new love. No, it respects Lou's loss and the time, the long amount of time, it takes when a loved one dies. What Michael and Lou offer each other is more important: friendship and acceptance. Lou needs that, even if she won't admit it, and Michael needs it, because he has to go through the pain of seeing the person he loves -- Sib -- happy with someone else.

This isn't a book about Sib and Ben falling in love. Sib and Ben's relationship is important, and I loved how Sib sorted out all her own complicated feelings about Ben. She's attracted to him, she wants a relationship, but she's also not quite sure about him or herself. Ben's a decent enough guy, but he's a teenaged boy. He doesn't pursue Sib until after she's glammed up. He and Sib are put together in a heightened time and place, the intensity and isolation of the wilderness experience. Out in the real world, would they have anything in common? And does that matter? One thing I love about Sib is that, when it comes to Ben, part of Sib realizes all this. But part of her is also young and new to relationships so she is unsure just what she wants from Ben and how to proceed, both emotionally and physically. So Wildlife is about their relationship, yes, but Wildlife is about a more important relationship.

Wildlife is a book about the friendship between Holly and Sib. Sib is in some ways a passive girl. It's not the type of passive of someone who doesn't know what they want; it's the passive of someone who is content with what they have. So content that it's not that she lacks strong feelings about things, but that she doesn't care so let Holly take the lead. It's like the old deciding where to go for dinner: it's not that the person who says "I don't care" doesn't care, it's that they have no real strong urge for Italian or pizza or hamburgers or Indian, they just want food, and if you care, find.

It's the type of passive that allows Holly to be the leader, and for Sib to go along with it. It's what some people call "too nice." But here's the thing about that type of "nice." It is genuine. Sib truly loves, and forgives, Holly.

Holly is a wounded girl: from the start, Sib explains that part of her tolerance for what Holly does is that she, Sib, knows the "real" Holly. What the reader (and Lou) sees is a girl who has gone from acting mean to being mean. A girl whose own insecurities and need for popularity and acceptance means that she's not afraid to push others around, and push other's buttons, to get what she wants. Holly is the type of girl you don't want your child to be friends with: not because she's dangerous, but because you know at some point, she's finally going to go too far and hurt your child emotionally. And much as I grew to hate Holly, I have to confess: given her own emotional wounds, I wonder if Holly at some point will "grow up" and stop hurting others to make herself feel better. I wonder if she will ever become self aware. Still, that is just wondering --in the meanwhile, I want those who Holly hurts to stay away from her because they can't fix Holly. Only Holly can.

Wildlife is about Sib and Holly's friendship slowly, messily ending. Just as the boarding situation helps Sib and Ben's relationship progress, it also helps Sib and Holly's friendship implode.

Oh, the reason I put "wilderness" in quotes earlier is that this isn't tents and camping. There are cabins, and meals, and toilets, and showers, and classrooms. It is in the middle of a wilderness area, with opportunities for tents and camping and no toilets or showers. Like many experiences, it's a very controlled "wilderness." It's also a great time for all the teens to practice being grown up and older with a safety net. They are away from home, yes; but there are still rules and teachers and chaperones around.

This is one of my Favorite Reads of 2014, because of the character growth and the dynamics between people.




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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6. Interview with Claudia Connor, Author of Worth the Fall and Giveaway

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

[Claudia Connor] I asked my family for help on this one. Weird. Tired. Fun. Loving. Hungry. I’d say that’s pretty accurate.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about your book?

[Claudia Connor] Sure. Worth The Fall is a love story, plain and simple, though love is never simple. Abby and Matt are two people with no other reason to be together and lots of reasons to be apart. Matt’s a Navy SEAL hero with skills, badassness and an intense sense of responsibility, but he’s also a man with so much love to give. He’s just never found anyone he wanted to give it to. Until Abby. But Abby’s been left all her life and knows she can’t watch another person walk away.

So it’s about falling in love, making choices and taking chances. It’s also about believing you’re enough, believing you’re worthy of what’s being offered. I absolutely LOVE these characters. I spent three years with them before I ever considered writing their story, then almost three more years writing it. Any minute of any day I can pop into their lives, be a fly on the wall. It’s like watching your favorite movie that never ends! Hopefully when people read the book they’ll feel the same.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

[Claudia Connor] I don’t really feel like I come up with anything or create anyone, as odd as that may sound. I only try my best to write down what I see and fill in any blanks the characters leave. Though sometimes those blanks are more like craters. Black holes. I watch and listen and write down what they say and do and hope I do them justice.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

[Claudia Connor] The characters. I could stay with them forever. Even though it was hard, there was so much love between Abby and Matt it always felt good to be with them.

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

[Claudia Connor] Hmm…I guess I’d have to say the hero. I hate to point fingers fingers at Matt, but he had a lot to work out. And then there’s the whole men can be difficult thing:)

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you had a theme song, what would it be?

[Claudia Connor] Ooh…That’s a tough one and it changes hourly, even minute to minute. Okay, I’ll admit, I even googled How To Find Your Theme Song. LOL It was a fun test but I’d never even head of the songs it suggested for me. Maybe…Wish You Were Here, Pink Floyd. I’m not sure the song describes me in any way, but it’s always stuck.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Name one thing you won’t leave home without.

[Claudia Connor] During the day, my phone, my lifeline to the world. Over night, my little pillow, affectionately known as Baby Nino. It was in my crib when I came home from the hospital and I can count on one hand the nights I’ve slept without it. Where I go, Baby Nino goes. And yes, that includes my honeymoon.

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

[Claudia Connor] Diet Coke. Empty mug. Laptop. And twenty-seven other things but you only asked for three;)

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

[Claudia Connor] Back up dancer for J. Lo. Of course that would require a certain amount of talent. But, hey. It’s a dream.

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

[Claudia Connor] Waiting On You, Kristan Higgins. It Happened One Wedding, Julie James. And a re-read, Safe Harbor, Christine Feehan

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

[Claudia Connor] I love watching TV. My husband and I have gotten into a habit of finding a show then watching the entire thing straight through a couple of episodes each night. We recently flew through every season of Game Of Thrones and just finished both seasons of Vikings. Now we’re sad. My all time favorite show was Alias. I own that and have re-watched with each of my daughters when they hit their teens. I LOVE going to movies. Gladiator is my all time number one favorite movie. I think at last count I’d seen it 14 times. If you haven’t seen it, GO NOW. I promise you will thank me!!! And of course, I love to read. Though there aren’t many hours in the day, not even on the weekend, that I’m not working, thinking, plotting, rewriting, or driving my children to activities.

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

[Claudia Connor] I’m in all the usual social media places. In addition to the ones below, they can find me on Pinterest. I have a special board for each book, always great for procrastination:)

http://claudiaconnor.com

https://www.facebook.com/ClaudiaConnor

https://www.goodreads.com/claudiaconnor

https://twitter.com/Claudia__Connor

Thank you so much for having me!

Worth The Fall
The McKinney Brothers # 1

By: Claudia Connor

Releasing September 9th, 2014

Loveswept

Blurb

Prepare to be swept away by a talented debut author with a passionate, powerful story to tell.

They meet on a beach. . . . Abby Davis isn’t wearing a skimpy bikini or sipping umbrella drinks, not when she’s busy chasing around four little ones. And Matt McKinney isn’t looking for fun—he’s a Navy SEAL, a grown man with a long list of missions . . . and fallen brothers.

They only have a week. . . . Abby has brought her children to this beach to start over, to give them the enjoyable memories they deserve. Matt’s been sidelined by a combat injury, and haunted by the best friend he lost and the promise he made: to remain a SEAL—focused and dedicated. This leaves no time for what he’s always wanted: a family.

But a week is all it takes. . . . Matt opens her heart while Abby soothes his soul. And though they plan to say good-bye when the week is over, something magical happens on that beach, something neither can forget. Something utterly, completely worth falling for.

Link to Follow Tour: http://www.tastybooktours.com/2014/07/worth-fall-mckinney-brothers-1-by.html

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/21469653-worth-the-fall?from_search=true

Buy Links

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Worth-Fall-McKinney-Claudia-Connor-ebook/dp/B00J1IQX4E/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1407203839&sr=1-1&keywords=Worth+the+Fall

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/worth-the-fall-claudia-connor/1120019663?ean=9780553390919

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/worth-the-fall/id841778887?mt=11

Author Info

Claudia Connor attended Auburn University, where she received her undergraduate and masters degrees in early childhood education, and completed her studies in Sawbridgeworth, England. Always a lover of happy endings, she enjoys movies, reading, and spending her days putting on paper the stories in her head. She lives near Memphis, Tennessee, with her husband and three daughters.
Author Links

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/claudia.connor.18

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Claudia__Connor

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8058866.Claudia_Connor

Rafflecopter Giveaway ($25 Gift Card to eRetailer of Choice and Digital copy of WORTH THE FALL)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The post Interview with Claudia Connor, Author of Worth the Fall and Giveaway appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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7. It's Release Day Times Two!

Today I have not one but TWO books releasing into the world! First up is my YA contemporary romance, Perfect For You.

Seventeen-year-old Meg Flannigan isn’t very self-confident, but what girl would be after her sophomore-year boyfriend dumped her by making out with another girl in front of her locker? 

Now a senior, Meg catches the eye of not one, but two gorgeous guys at school. Sounds good, right? What girl wouldn't want to be in Meg's shoes? One cute boy happens to be her boyfriend, and the other? Well, he wants to be. And Meg? She's torn between Ash, the boy she's been with for nearly five months, and Noah who is pretty irresistible. 

But Meg is playing with fire. Pitting two boys against one another, even if she doesn't intend to, could end badly if she isn't careful. PERFECT FOR YOU is a teen romance from bestselling author Ashelyn Drake, where one girl will risk everything to find her perfect match.

Check out the opening pages below:



Need to know what happens next? Click here to buy the book for only $2.99 on Amazon.

Up next is Into the Fire, a YA romantic fantasy.
Seventeen-year-old Cara Tillman’s life is a perfectly normal one until Logan Schmidt moves to Ashlan Falls. Cara is inexplicably drawn to him, but she’s not exactly complaining. Logan’s like no boy she’s ever met, and he brings out a side of Cara that she isn’t used to. As the two get closer, everything is nearly perfect, and Cara looks forward to the future.

But Cara isn’t a normal girl. She’s a member of a small group of people descended from the mythical phoenix bird, and her time is running out. Rebirth is nearing, which means she’ll forget her life up to this point—she’ll forget Logan and everything they mean to one another.. But that may be the least of Cara’s problems.

A phoenix hunter is on the loose, and he’s determined to put an end to the lives of people like Cara and her family, once and for all.

Here's a video of me reading the opening pages:



You can get more of Cara and the other phoenixes for only $3.19 on Amazon or $3.49 on B&N.

Look for a SWAG and gift card giveaway this Friday! 

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8. Book Review- We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Title: We Were Liars
 Author: E. Lockhart
Series: N/A  
Published:   13 May 2014 by Hot Key Books
Length: 240 pages
Source: library
Summary : A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.
Review: Cady is one of the Liars, the younger end of a family that meets every summer to spend the holiday at the summer home. At some point, she loses her memories.  Two years later, she wants to find out what happened.
I was really looking forwards to this and everyone really enjoyed it and watching somep ople's reactions during the liveread made me think it was going to be amazing. Sadly for me it wasn't.
I think I missed something at the start but I really don't get why everyone loves this. It's slow. The writing, while stripped back in places, seems boring too. The story doesn't seem to go very fast, and the forbidden love aspect is not my favourite as a trope anyway and this book didn't change my mind on it.
I didn't connect or like any of the characters. They seemed too detached from me and I didn't really care what happened to them. Cady is a bit whiny and the rich WASP background comes through and she comes off as pretentious in places, something I'd had enough of with Leo from The Go Between which I read at the same time.
I really enjoyed Gat's comments on race and racism, being Indian and surrounded by white people. The repeated retellings of fairy tales were also really good.
I also think that the style, full of metaphors and winding around, is the kind of thing that could be praised in a literary sense. It just wasn't my kind of thing.
The ending is good, I suppose. It didn't seem like a huge thing to me though, and when it was revealed, I just shrugged and read on. I think it's because I disconnected with the whole story so I didn't really care.
Overall:   Strength 2 tea to a book I didn’t get into at the start which meant I didn’t enjoy the whole thing.

0 Comments on Book Review- We Were Liars by E. Lockhart as of 9/11/2014 1:18:00 PM
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9. Friday Feature: Into the Fire and Perfect For You Release Week SWAG Pack Giveaway!


I have two young adult novels that released on September 9th! Yes, two! They are both Ashelyn Drake titles. For those who don't know, Ashelyn Drake is my romance pen name. The first is a YA romantic fantasy called Into the Fire.
Seventeen-year-old Cara Tillman’s life is a perfectly normal one until Logan Schmidt moves to Ashlan Falls. Cara is inexplicably drawn to him, but she’s not exactly complaining. Logan’s like no boy she’s ever met, and he brings out a side of Cara that she isn’t used to. As the two get closer, everything is nearly perfect, and Cara looks forward to the future.

But Cara isn’t a normal girl. She’s a member of a small group of people descended from the mythical phoenix bird, and her time is running out. Rebirth is nearing, which means she’ll forget her life up to this point—she’ll forget Logan and everything they mean to one another.. But that may be the least of Cara’s problems.

A phoenix hunter is on the loose, and he’s determined to put an end to the lives of people like Cara and her family, once and for all.

Goodreads
Amazon
Barnes and Noble



The second is a young adult contemporary romance called Perfect For You.
Seventeen-year-old Meg Flannigan isn’t very self-confident, but what girl would be after her sophomore-year boyfriend dumped her by making out with another girl in front of her locker? 

Now a senior, Meg catches the eye of not one, but two gorgeous guys at school. Sounds good, right? What girl wouldn't want to be in Meg's shoes? One cute boy happens to be her boyfriend, and the other? Well, he wants to be. And Meg? She's torn between Ash, the boy she's been with for nearly five months, and Noah who is pretty irresistible. 

But Meg is playing with fire. Pitting two boys against one another, even if she doesn't intend to, could end badly if she isn't careful. 

Goodreads
Amazon



To celebrate the releases Ashelyn is giving away a SWAG pack that includes:
  • A flame pendant from Into the Fire
  • a phoenix button
  • a heart bracelet from Perfect For You
  • $5 Amazon Gift Card
You know you want to enter, so fill out the rafflecopter. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Want to be a phoenix in the third and final installment of my Birth of the Phoenix series? Now you can be! Check out my Into the Fire challenge!

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10. 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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11. Novella Review: Love for Beginners by Sally Clements

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

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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12. 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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13. 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.”

“Good.”

“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.

“Why?”

“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

marieharte.com
https://www.facebook.com/marieharteauthorpage
marie_harte@yahoo.com

About the book

A Publishers Weekly TOP 10 ROMANCE for Spring 2014

SHE’S SWORN OFF MEN
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.

UNTIL HE THROWS A WRENCH INTO HER PLANS
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.

INTRODUCING…THE McCAULEY BROTHERS
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

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The post Interview with Marie Harte, Author of The Troublemaker Next Door and Giveaway appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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14. 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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15. 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

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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

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16. Guest Post: The Contemporary Comeback

Industry Life

by

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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17. 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.



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

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18. Friday Feature: Black Ice by Becca Fitzpatrick


16059938
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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19. 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.


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

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20. 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

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21. 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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22. 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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23. 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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24. 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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25. 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.”

“Please.”

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!

Title: MARRYING THE WRONG MAN

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

ISBN:9781440579639

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:

BATTLING THE BEST MAN:

Goodreads | Amazon| Barnes and Noble | iBooks

CRASHING THE CONGRESSMAN’S WEDDING:

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

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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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