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1. Spotlight and Giveaway: Filthy Rich by Dawn Ryder

This morning I have an excerpt and giveaway for Filthy Rich by Dawn Ryder.  Enjoy!

Filthy Rich By Dawn Ryder

Sourcebooks Casablanca

Erotic Romance

February 3, 2015

ISBN: 9781402287152

“Tantalizing” – RT Book Reviews on Out of Bounds

SHE’S FIGHTING FOR CONTROL…

Celeste Connor swore that she’d never be a victim again. After the hell of her abusive ex, the last thing she needs is to be under another man’s thumb. But when she catches the eye of fiercely dominant Nartan Lupan at her best friend’s wedding, Celeste finds herself drawn into a glittering world of wealth and power that has her body aching and her mind reeling.

HE’S FIGHTING TO MAKE HER HIS…

Nartan is a filthy rich businessman who works hard, plays harder, and doesn’t take no for an answer—and he wants Celeste with a hunger he’s never before felt. He’ll do whatever it takes to have her. But Nartan didn’t expect that he’d want still more…

Buy links: Amazon | Apple | B&N | BAM | !ndigo | IndieBound

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.

Connect with Dawn Ryder: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Excerpt from FILTHY RICH by Dawn Ryder

A howl woke her.

Celeste sat up and looked around the room.

The sun had finally gone down sometime after ten. Now the stars were brilliant, and a yellow moon was casting an amazing level of light in the nighttime hours.

There was a whimper and then another long howl.

Alaskan wolves.

She could sleep when she got back to Southern California.

She got up and hurried into her jeans. Only the range light was on in the kitchen, but with so much moonlight coming through the windows, it was easy to get to the mudroom and lace up her boots.

She opened the outer door slowly, sliding through to keep from moving it too much. A howl sounded, so much louder now that she was outside. She pressed the door shut and knelt down.

The starlight illuminated the wolves. At least six of them were pawing the ground as they moved along the road that connected the house with the test facility offices. Those offices weren’t even in sight.

But the wolves were.

And so was Nartan.

He was crouched down twenty feet away. Her breath caught as she took in the way he blended with the moment. The wolves made yipping sounds as they came closer, smelling the road and the air as they went.

Nartan lifted his hand and beckoned her toward him. Her steps seemed too noisy, the crunching sounds grating on her ears. A wolf looked toward her and she froze.

Nartan beckoned again, turning to look at her.

The animal was still fifty feet away, but it was looking toward her. She bit her lower lip, afraid of spooking the animal.

Nartan closed in on her, moving right up next to her.

“He can smell you. You’re upwind. Come down here with me. He won’t worry about you then.”

“Oh…”

Nartan clasped her hand and pulled her down to where he’d been. He lifted his head, judging the wind. The wolf let out a yip and joined the rest as they scratched at the dirt and one another. Two of them would circle another, lowering their heads and yipping. The wolf in the center was the one who lifted its head and let out a long howl.

“The alpha…” Nartan whispered.

He had his arm draped around her, his scent filling her senses.

Why did he smell so good?

Not that it really mattered. He was still as pond water but his skin was warm. His attention was on the wolves, but she felt like it was on her as well. He shifted just a bit, and inhaled next to her hair.

Fresh from bed, it was a soft cloud. She reached up, self–conscious about how messy it was. He caught her hand and stopped her as the alpha looked at them. The animal’s eyes were pools of moonlight. Its mouth was open, giving her a glimpse of its long canine teeth. It made a low sound before pushing its front paws out and stretching its neck up and tilting its head until its nose pointed at the moon. A long, mournful cry filled the night.

It felt like she was suspended in time. They might have been anywhere, in any year.

“Lower your head.”

He tucked his chin and cupped her nape.

“To show submission…”

Celeste stiffened. Nartan chuckled in a bare whisper next to her ear. “To the alpha.”

She bent, the wolf watching her before losing interest and moving along with the pack.

Nartan massaged her neck, his fingers working the stiffness from the muscles as she straightened. “Well done.”

It felt like there was innuendo in his comment. But maybe she was just being too sensitive.

To–be–dealt–with list.

She drew in a deep breath and forced herself to relax. The wolves were moving away now, heading toward a forested area. The alpha looked back at them before it disappeared into the timber.

“That was amazing,” she whispered.

Nartan’s hand was under her hair, the touch so intimate that she was loath to pull away. He threaded his fingers through her hair, pulling his hand free as he finger–combed the strands. He watched her as he did it, his eyes reflecting the moonlight just as the alpha’s had.

He was in his element.

Call it cheesy or lame but she couldn’t shake it.

So she rose, backing away from him as he stood. His shirt was open all the way down his front, his jeans sagging low on his waist because he didn’t have a belt on. And his feet were bare.

“Aren’t you cold?”

He slowly smiled and extended his hand. “Judge for yourself.”

She started to reach for him and froze. Indecision held her in its grip as the wind blew her hair around. One of his dark eyebrows rose as she hesitated.

Chicken…

She reached out and touched him. Allowed her fingertips to rest on his forearm for a moment that felt like a mini eternity. It ended when he twisted his arm around and captured her wrist. He stepped up to her, pulling her toward him. She could have broken the hold, if she was able to think.

Which she wasn’t.

Her brain seemed to have shut down. Somehow, she was caught in a storm of sensations, completely unwilling to think about anything. She simply wanted to experience the moment.

Well, it was quite a moment.

Rich with scents and sensations that were intoxicating. His breath teased her ear and then her cheek. A shudder shook her, sending a tiny gasp through her lips. Nartan took advantage of her parted lips, pressing his down on top of them and tasting them slowly.

God, how long had it been since she’d been kissed?

Pleasure flowed through her, gaining strength like a flame catching a wick. Sure, she knew that a candle was for lighting, but until it was lit, the memory of how bright it could shine was dim.

She stepped back. Startled by how much she liked his kiss.

She wanted more.

A hell of a lot more.

But she turned and headed back into the house before she could do anything impulsive.

Moon madness. That was all.

Only she wasn’t really sure if she would ever be sane again.

Rafflecopter Giveaway for 3 copies of OUT OF BOUNDS by Dawn Ryder:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The post Spotlight and Giveaway: Filthy Rich by Dawn Ryder appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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2. Friday Feature: Racing Hearts by Laura Lascarso




He wants to honor his father’s legacy; she wants to prove her father wrong. 

18-year-old Jesse is still grieving from the loss of his father to cancer when he learns his mother has lost her job. All too soon, Jesse, his little sister, and his mother might be put out on the streets. 

Jesse hears of a local car race sponsored by his father's nemesis, Shep Bradley, and the prize money might be enough to keep Jesse’s family from losing their home - if he can win it.

When Shep’s own daughter Brooke asks Jesse to build her a racecar against her father’s wishes, Jesse accepts. After all, he needs the money.

Coming February 10 through Leap Books.

Here's a teaser pic to get you ready for this book:


Want your YA, NA, or MG book featured on my blog? Contact me here and we'll set it up.

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3. My Heart and Other Black Holes: Review + Giveaway

This isn’t really a Kim Book.* Although, to be fair, if Kim Books usually involve incredibly heartfelt portrayals of our deepest humanity infused with humor and hope then perhaps I am about that also. Maybe. Every once in awhile a book comes along that crawls right into your heart and rends your ventricles. This is one of those. [Okay so there are moments where I’ll get a bit meta and personal. In ways that don’t really flow with the review but are important if you’d like an auxiliary/personal touch so I’m putting them behind spoiler brackets. When you see spoiler brackets it’s me being personal.] This is the story of Aysel (like uh-zell, rhymes with gazelle) who has longed to escape from the shadow of her father’s horrific crime for years. And of Roman who is living with an unimaginable grief. Both live trapped in the mire of isolation and... Read more »

The post My Heart and Other Black Holes: Review + Giveaway appeared first on The Midnight Garden.

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4. All the Bright Places: Review

I’m a black sheep with this one, you guys. (Baa.) But I was really underwhelmed by All The Bright Places. I suspect I will be in the minority here, so, you know, your mileage may (and probably will) vary. But this book features a number of things I don’t care for: most prominently, I don’t tend to like books where one character changes another character’s life (by being irrepressibly quirky, or by teaching them to see the boring old world around them with new eyes, or by being impossibly good) , leaving main character changed for good and with a renewed sense of hope and potential. You know – it’s where characters aren’t important in-and-of themselves but are important for the transformative effect they exert on other people’s lives. (Think of the manic pixie dream girl, something along these lines.) And … All the Bright Places was a bit like this for me. I... Read more »

The post All the Bright Places: Review appeared first on The Midnight Garden.

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5. Book Review: Purity by Jackson Pearce

Title: Purity
 Author: Jackson Pearce
Series:  N/A
Published:   6 March 2014 by Hodder
Length: 224 pages
Source: publisher
Summary : A novel about love, loss, and sex -- but not necessarily in that order.
Before her mother died, Shelby promised three things: to listen to her father, to love as much as possible, and to live without restraint. Those Promises become harder to keep when Shelby's father joins the planning committee for the Princess Ball, an annual dance that ends with a ceremonial vow to live pure lives -- in other words, no "bad behavior," no breaking the rules, and definitely no sex.
Torn between Promises One and Three, Shelby makes a decision -- to exploit a loophole and lose her virginity before taking the vow. But somewhere between failed hookup attempts and helping her dad plan the ball, Shelby starts to understand what her mother really meant, what her father really needs, and who really has the right to her purity

Review: Shelby promised her dying mother that she would listen to her father, love as much as posible, and live without restraint. She's done quite well in the five years since then, but when her father wants to arrange her part in a purity ball, in which she promises her purity to her father, which is essentially no drugs, drink or sex. Shelby doesn't want this. So she tries to find a loophole; if she has sex before then, she won't have purity to give. Thus begins a five week search for someone to lose her virginity to.
I wanted to read this obok because commentry on the value of virginity and women in society is an important one to me, and I quite liked Sisters Red, even though I knew from the presmise that this would be completely different. 
The characters are funny, not particularly bright, but the friendships are nice and supportive, even if the end “revalation” isn't that surprising or enjoyable. I liked watching the relationship between Shelby and her dad develop.I think Shelby could have developed more.
I like the fact there's humour throughout, without which Purity would be much less lighthearted, and either too sad or too serious.
I find it a bit weird that Shelby goes from not really caring about sex to wanting to do it without caring about who it is as long as they're not diseased. Sure, the possiblity of lack of sex for years is obviously going to make her try and find someone, (it would me if I were in that situation) but there are other ways she could have dealt iwht it, and other parts in the novel when she could have done something else.
I like the fact that faith is a theme. It's not there too much to make it into a preachy book, but it did add a bit of depth to Shelby.
Finally, I just want to ask; since when was “listen to” synonymous with “completely obey”?

Overall:  Strength 3 tea to a book that opens discussions for lots of things.


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6. Love Letters to the Dead: review

Months ago, I had to put Love Letters to the Dead down because it was making me so desperately sad. Almost a full year later, I read the last half of it with a lump in my throat and tears dripping down my face. This is a profoundly moving meditation on grief, written with rare sensitivity and the kind of prose that nearly stops your heart with moments of quiet, anguished beauty. I cried throughout the book because there are so many small moments that so keenly observed bewilderment and pain, as well as anger and recklessness in the face of abandonment. This is a slow, contemplative, and occasionally blurry book, but it so skillfully weaves past and present together that when a devastating moment comes late in the story, it took me a minute to realize what was actually happening. My heart aches for this kind of intense, complicated... Read more »

The post Love Letters to the Dead: review appeared first on The Midnight Garden.

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7. Deeper: Review

If you’re a reader whose interests tend towards (angsty, challenging, occasionally sweet) romance, I can’t recommend Robin York’s Deeper enough. To be clear, this is absolutely not a book for young readers. Deeper definitely falls into the New Adult genre, and as such, is one of the best New Adult novels that I’ve read in the past year. (My favorite of the year is probably Leah Raeder’s Unteachable, which Wendy reviewed a few months ago.) Although I’m still trying to find my bearings in NA lit in general, I like Robin York’s work quite a bit. (This is probably because she is also romance writer Ruthie Knox, who is a person you should read if you like contemporary romances.) Anyway. Here’s what I liked about Deeper (despite what seems to me to be an awful-ish title, and not just because it’s also the title of a lesbian romance novel that is crazy bad). If you’re interested in NA and... Read more »

The post Deeper: Review appeared first on The Midnight Garden.

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8. Review: Perfectly Good White Boy

Perfectly Good White Boy by Carrie Mesrobian. Carolrhoda Lab. 2014. Review copy from publisher.

The Plot: Sean's starting his senior year at school not quite sure about, well, anything. He and his mom had to move out of their home into a crappy rental, so "home" isn't really home. His amazing summer girlfriend has left for college, breaking up with him first.

He has a few good things in his life. Like his friendship with his coworker, Neecie. And he's figured out how an average student with no hopes for any type of scholarship can get out of town: join the Marines. Which no one expects, in part because Sean isn't telling anyway.

A year in the life of an average, not so average teen boy.

The Good: Sean, Sean, Sean. I just -- he's just such a teenage boy. And that's what is so terrific about him: he's no one special. And in being no one special, he's very special.

Sean's family has fallen apart, including the move into the rental, and Sean does the best he can. He's neither super son nor super slacker.

Sean's summer relationship with Hallie is amazing and sweet and so obviously a summer romance and here's where things get interesting. Because Hallie breaks up with him because COLLEGE. So of course she does. And Hallie is -- a good girl. Excited about school. And here is where I love the writing, because of what becomes obvious about Hallie even though this story isn't about Hallie, it's about Sean. But -- and it takes a long time for Sean to realize this through his own pain and hurt and want and lust -- it's clear that college isn't what Hallie thought it would be or should be, and at first she comes home to use Sean and physically connecting with him, and later it's clear that she's even more lost than that. And even through Sean's pain and anger, and even when Sean sees Hallie as much as a source for sex as anything else, Hallie is always a whole and complete teenage girl. Even when Sean doesn't see it, the reader does. (I mean, at times I hated Hallie for hurting Sean yet at the same time..... I want more of her story, of the stories for kids admitting that college is not the happy-ever-after that people think it is.)

And then there is Neecie, and Sean's becoming friends with her, and maybe something more. And it's just another example of complex people, and Perfectly Good White Boy having even the secondary characters be whole people.

One more thing: I also love Mesrobian's way with words. "It was like she'd never been caught at anything and didn't know how to be sneaky, almost." And it's clear that she's a good girl but who thinks she is being bad, and that he's gotten away with a thing or two, and it tells so much in so few words.

Oh, I lied. One more one more. I also love how matter of fact Sean's choice of joining the Marines is. I'm not sure what other books takes the reader through all the steps that a high school senior takes in joining up, and does so in a non-judgmental way.

Yes. A Favorite Book Read in 2014.

Other reviews: Cite Something; Just a Couple More Pages; Bibliodaze.


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: Perfectly Good White Boy as of 12/31/2014 10:42:00 AM
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9. Nine pieces of thought-provoking philosophy

Despite what some may believe, philosophy is prevalent and holds a great level of importance in today’s society. It allows us to examine the most fundamental issues that we face as self-aware beings and apply them to a variety of different topics, from free-will to politics to interpretation. To get you started on your own road of contemplation, we’ve compiled some thought-provoking ideas from David Edmonds’s and Nigel Warburton’s Philosophy Bites Again:

Headline image credit: The Thinker. Photo by Dan McKay. CC BY 2.0 via Flickr. All slideshow background images CC0/public domain via Pixabay or CC BY 2.0 via Flickr (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7.1) (7.2) (8) (9)

The post Nine pieces of thought-provoking philosophy appeared first on OUPblog.

0 Comments on Nine pieces of thought-provoking philosophy as of 1/4/2015 3:17:00 AM
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10. Review: Worth the Fall by Claudia Connor

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

If a blogger friend hadn’t recommended Worth the Fall, I would have skipped it.  The pregnant heroine and all of those little kids… yeah, not my cup of tea.  Despite my reservations, the characters managed to charm me within the first few pages.  I breezed through this book and had a hard time putting it down, so if you decide to give it a try, plan your time accordingly Smile

Matt, a sexy SEAL, is on leave, and he’s bored out of his mind. The only reason he’s on this stupid beach vacation is because his cousin lassoed him into it.  His female companion is irritating the hell out of him, and he’d rather be working on his fixer-upper house, not wasting time with an air-headed beauty.  During a jog along the beach, he’s pelted in the back by a water logged football, and his life changes forever.

Jack, the young boy who threw the football at him, desperately wants someone to play catch with.  When Matt learns the boy’s father is dead, he feels sorry for him.  He comes from a large family, and he can’t imagine not having his parents there for him.  When he sees Jack’s gorgeous and very pregnant mother, he’s fascinated.  She’s like a mother duck with a flock of ducklings; Abby has four young children and another on the way.  She’s sweet and funny and he wants to get to know her better.

Abby has had a tough life.  Orphaned when she was a young girl, she’s only known heartache as she was abandoned time and again by the adults in her life.  She met her husband, thought she was in love, and married young.  It didn’t take long before she realized that Josh didn’t love her, and she didn’t love him.  He was hardly ever home, and she was left to raise their kids by herself.  When he died six months ago, nothing really changed.  She was still alone, still taking care of herself and her children.

Then along came Matt.  I have to say, Matt is the perfect guy.  As Abby referred to him, he’s a hero, always ready to dart out to save someone.  He’s a man of his word, he’s honorable, and he’s honest.  He also feels empty and he knows that something is missing from his life, but he doesn’t know what it is.  Then he meets Abby and her flock of ducklings and it’s crystal clear to him – he wants a family and he wants it to be them.

Abby is suffering with serious trust issues.  Never having had a stable home and then having an emotionally distant husband, she has erected walls around her heart that at first seem insurmountable.  How is Matt going to get her to trust him and make her believe that he wants nothing more than to be with her?  He’s a handsome young guy with so many more options than a woman who is six months pregnant!  Before starting Worth the Fall, I was skeptical.  How could the author convince me that dashing Matt would make the perfect match for Abby?  I was convinced about a third of the way through the book, and I wanted to shake Abby and make her get over herself.  Then I wanted to pat her on the head and tell her everything would be okay if she would just give Matt a chance. 

Worth the Fall is a feel good romance with a hard won HEA.  I thought it dragged a little near the end, but I did enjoy meeting Matt’s large family, as well as the wedding finale.  Both Matt and Abby helped each other work through their issues and learned to step outside their comfort zone.  The kids didn’t even annoy me!  I liked this so much I have the next book in the series, Worth the Risk, cued up on my Kindle.

Grade:  B / B+

Review copy provided by publisher

From Amazon:

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.

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11. Novella Review: One Mad Night by Julia London

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

I decided to read One Mad Night because I thought the description sounded cute.  Two advertising executives trapped in together during a blizzard?  Could they put their animosity aside during their forced togetherness?  Or would they make each other miserable?

One Mad Night is a cute read, but I had a problem with Ian’s lie of omission.  Both he and Chelsea are competing for a large national account, and Chelsea’s supervisor, one of the managing partners (and complete scumbag), has all but promised the account to her.  If she gets it, she’ll finally have that corner office she’s been slaving for, as well as be a new partner.  She’s been working long hours for six long years for this recognition from her employers.  She’s watched as one idea after another was credited to someone else, and she’s not going to let hot-shot Ian steal her thunder.  What Chelsea doesn’t know is that her employers have already decided to give Ian the account, as well as the partner slot, without even having the decency to hear either of their pitches.  Yeah, that sucks, big time!

Ian has been attracted to Chelsea since he jumped ship from his previous advertising firm and accepted the carrot that his new bosses dangled in front of him.  With the promise of a huge paycheck and an eventual partnership, it only made sense to take the new job.  He and Chelsea are at odds from day one, in part because of her competitive nature.  As they compete for accounts, they both grate on each other’s nerves.  Chelsea definitely started the game of one-upmanship; she felt threatened when Ian started winning accounts that she felt should have been hers. 

When the blizzard blows into town, shutting down the subway system and causes massive power outages, Chelsea and Ian are trapped in the office together.  As the evening wears on, Chelsea begins to see that Ian isn’t the pompous ass she thought he was, and Ian realizes that Chelsea isn’t as uptight as he thought.  They actually have fun raiding the boss’s fridge for frozen dinners and breaking into the firm’s bar.  One thing leads to another, and with the help of her overpriced shoes, Ian and Chelsea act on their attraction.

If Ian hadn’t known that he was getting the account, or had told Chelsea about it upfront when she suspected that he knew more than he was letting on, I would have enjoyed this story better.  Instead, I felt that he took advantage of her and that they weren’t  on a level playing field.  It seemed that every male in Chelsea’s life took advantage of her, from Ian to her employers, and it made me mad.

I did enjoy how the ending worked out, and liked the mostly light tone of the novella. 

Grade:  B-

Review copy provided by publisher

From Amazon:

A delightful new contemporary romance novella from New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Julia London.

One winter’s night a blizzard sweeps across the country, demonstrating that fate can change the course of lives in an instant…and fate has got a sense of humor.

Chelsea Crawford and Ian Rafferty are high profile ad execs in cutthroat competition for a client. When a major winter storm puts New York City on lockdown, the two rivals have to make it through the night together-oh, the many ways in which opposites attract…

The post Novella Review: One Mad Night by Julia London appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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12. Book Review: The Bubble Wrap Boy by Phil Earle

Title:  The Bubble Wrap Boy
The Bubble Wrap Boy by Phil Earle review at Death, Books, and Tea
Author:   Phil Earle
Series:    N/A
Published:   1 May 2014 by Penguin
Length:   272 pages
Source: library
Other info: Earle has also written Heroic, Being Billy, and Saving Daisy
Summary :  All my life I've been tiny Charlie from the Chinese Chippie, whose only friend is Sinus, the kid who stares at walls. But I believe that everyone's good at something. I've just got to work out what my something is...
Charlie's found his secret talent: skateboarding. It's his one-way ticket to popularity. All he's got to do is practice, and nothing's going to stop him - not his clumsiness, not his overprotective mum, nothing. Except Charlie isn't the only one in his family hiding a massive secret, and his next discovery will change everything. How do you stay on the board when your world is turned upside down?

Review: Charlie Han is the boy from the Chinese takaway shop, with an overprotective mother and only one friend, Sinus. He plans to find the one thing that will improve his reputation and make his life better, and then he finds it. Skateboarding. However, due to said overprotective mother, he needs to keep his new hobby a secret. One day, he answers the phone to find another member of the family also has a huge secret. These secrets may bring them all together or tear them apart.
I didn’t know what to expect from this really, other than a chinese main character (bringing my total of memorable chinese main characters I’ve read up to four :D) and great things (mainly due to Jim).
It starts off really lighthearted, with a lot of comedy stemming from Charlie’s huge clumsiness and the freidnship that Sinus and Charlie have.  The characters are well developed. Sinus by the end also has secrets and it’s pretty awesome when they come out.  Charlie’s mother is highly overprotective,  but luckily it’s not part of being an overbering non-academic tiger mother; instead, there’s a very good reason and once we learn that reason we see a new side to her and understand her more.
I really liked the fact that family plays a huge part in theis novel. I was not expecting it to be that emotional but the revelation of the secret and all the interactions following made me smile and ugh I can’t describe the happiness from some of the scenes and the sadness from some others and  you just need to read it.
I’d call it a coming of age story because of some of the themese carried through it: the learning ot become more open  with your family, the wanting to make a new identity, the dealing with a major upheaval for the first time in one’s life.
It’s an open ending, which I didn’t like for this because I felt it ended too soon. I’d have liked to know more about Charlie’s mother’s reaction, and the aftermath within the school. However,   Charlie’s costume at the end. Perfect.

Strength 4 tea aka 4 stars at Death, Books, and Tea

Overall:  Strength 4 tea to a mostly funny, but also serious,  coming of age book.




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13. Love Is the Drug: Review

I’ve had my eye on Love Is the Drug since I first heard of it. I haven’t read Alaya Dawn Johnson’s first young adult novel, The Summer Prince – a post-apocalyptic novel set in Brazil that features queer relationships – but it’s been on my to-read list for awhile. (Peyton, however, has a great review of The Summer Prince here on GoodReads. Check it out!) Anyway, I figured Love Is the Drug would be catnip for me. I love post-(or almost-but-not-quite) apocalyptic fiction. I love fiction about bioterrorism. And I love YA fiction that features diverse characters. Also also, I will happily read anything that is sold as “such and such meets Michael Crichton’s The Andromeda Strain.” Thank you, I will take two of those. And on that front, Love Is the Drug did not disappoint. Refer to the blurb once again; it is absolutely all of these things. It is def fiction about... Read more »

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14. Review: Complicit

Complicit by Stephanie Kuehn. St. Martin's Griffin. 2014. Reviewed from ARC from publishers.

The Plot: Two years ago, Jamie's older sister was sent to juvenile detention. She'd burnt down a neighbor's barn, killing several horses and injuring a young girl who'd tried to save those horses.

Rumors have always swirled around Cate: she was that type of personality, that attracted and repelled and fascinated. And now... now she's been released.

Jamie is afraid, to be honest. He's put that all behind him, what happened with Cate. What she did. He's been seeing someone to help. He lost his best friend but he's rebuilt his life, flirting with a cute girl at school, continuing to get good grades.

What will Cate do, now that's back?

The Good: This is the type of book that is so hard to write about!

Jamie tells the story. He tells what he knows and what he remembers. And that is the sticking point. Jamie is an unreliable narrator.

The story as he knows it, the story as he tells it: Cate and Jamie were the children of a teen mother, struggling to make ends meet. When they were little, about six and eight, she was murdered. Jamie has little memories of his mother, or her death -- just hazy details, of their small basement apartment, of her living on the edge, the type of life that led to her death.

And then the miracle: after months in the foster system, Cate and Jamie were adopted, kept together, by a rich couple who were looking for older children to replace the ones they had lost. At first, young Cate is the one who seems to adjust easily, being happy, taking riding lessons. It's Jamie who is lost and sullen and doesn't quite connect, until he's sent to a therapist and things get better and Jamie gets better. Like the lost son, he takes piano, He calls his adoptive mother "Mom."

When Cate enters her teen years, things change. Jamie, the younger brother, looking on, doesn't understand why but suddenly Cate is the trouble maker, pushing boundaries, drinking, smoking, boys, and then, of course, the barn fire. And now she's back, reaching out to Jamie, and acting as if there's more to the story. That there's more that Jamie knows.

Jamie wants to know what she knows.

That's the story Jamie is telling us. Between the lines, though, the reader sees another story. Of a lost child. Of someone who has learned to act the right way, to give the right responses. Of the growing concern that part of Jamie's acting the right way includes what he is, or is not, telling the reader. Of trying to figure out how much of what he is saying about Cate is real. And of trying to understand Jamie, and who he is, and what he's done.

This is a suspenseful, psychological drama about a mentally ill teen. Who that teen is, and what they do, is a question that will leave the reader guessing.

A bit of a disclaimer: this is the type of book that I only like when done well. Unreliable narrator, unlikable characters, questions left for the reader to answer -- I am so picky about these things that usually my short-form response is that I don't like these things when the truth is that I do like them, I'm just very particular about how such books are crafted and written. And Kuehn in Complicit? Does it so well it's a Favorite Book of 2014.

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

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

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15. Interview with Sawyer Bennett, Author of ALEX

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

[Sawyer Bennett] Empathetic, funny, creative, honest, procrastinator

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

[Sawyer Bennett] Alex is the first book in my new series with Loveswept, called the Cold Fury Hockey Series. Alex Crossman is a professional hockey player with the Carolina Cold Fury. He’s a bit damaged, a little bit of an ass, and completely averse to developing relationships with people. He’s one of those men that you just want to “fix”. Sutton Price is a social worker that gets sort of gets stuck with Alex to create an outreach program for at-risk youth. Both of them have traumatic backgrounds, but both of them let it shape them differently in their adult lives. This is very much a book about Alex’s journey to really find himself and let the past go. Oh, and it’s pretty steamy and romantic as well!!!

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

[Sawyer Bennett] The concept was easy. I’ve written a few indie books about hockey players that were well received and figured an actual series would be fun. The characters for this story very much grew organically, but I started with this very basic concept… Alex Crossman is a professional hockey player that hates playing hockey. I mean… how messed up is that? I knew I could fashion an interesting story of growth and redemption from that concept.

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

[Sawyer Bennett] Honestly, I loved writing Alex’s voice most. This is dual POV, and I loved writing “asshole Alex”. It’s fun to sort of let go and make a guy distasteful and then try to redeem him later.

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

[Sawyer Bennett] Honestly, not much. I mean, there are some serious issues involving drug addiction and abuse, and I will admit writing the epilogue made me cry a bit. It’s totally my type of swoon, but this book flowed pretty easy for me.

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

[Sawyer Bennett] What A Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong (which is also my favorite song)

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

[Sawyer Bennett] My underwear! Ha ha. Okay, that’s not necessarily true so I’ll say my cell phone! I can’t stand not being able to have access to the digital world.

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

[Sawyer Bennett] Picture of my dog, a bottle of papaya scented lotion that I just noticed and have no clue where it came from, and a check dated August 28th that I just noticed I forgot to deposit.

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

[Sawyer Bennett] Without a doubt it would be the President of the United States. I wouldn’t care who was in office at the time, just the acting President. I’d like to be in charge and have all that power (and stress) for just one day.

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

[Sawyer Bennett] OMG! Black Lies by Alessandra Torre. I read it over a month ago and it’s still plaguing my thoughts.

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

[Sawyer Bennett] I love to read but I don’t have much time for that. I have an 8 month old baby girl so I spend most of my free time with her. The best is when she falls asleep on my chest. *swoons hard*

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

[Sawyer Bennett] I love interacting with readers. They can reach me at:

www.sawyerbennett.com

www.facebook.com/bennettbooks

www.twitter.com/bennettbooks

sawyer@sawyerbennett.com

Alex

Cold Fury Hockey # 1

By: Sawyer Bennett

Releasing October 14th, 2014

Loveswept

Blurb

USA Today bestselling author Sawyer Bennett scores big-time with the first novel in a sexy new series hot enough to melt the ice.
Hockey star Alexander Crossman has a reputation as a cold-hearted player on and off the rink. Pushed into the sport by an alcoholic father, Alex isn’t afraid to give fans the proverbial middle finger, relishing his role as the MVP they love to hate. Management, however, isn’t so amused. Now Alex has a choice: fix his public image through community service or ride the bench. But Alex refuses to be molded into the Carolina Cold Fury poster boy . . . not even by a tempting redhead with killer curves.

As a social worker, Sutton Price is accustomed to difficult people—like Alex, who’s been assigned to help her create a drug-abuse awareness program for at-risk youth as part of the team’s effort to clean up his image. What she doesn’t expect is the arrogant smirk from his perfect lips to stir her most heated fantasies. But Sutton isn’t one to cross professional boundaries—and besides, Alex doesn’t do relationships . . . or does he? The more she sees behind Alex’s bad-boy façade, the more Sutton craves the man she uncovers.

Link to Follow Tour: http://www.tastybooktours.com/2014/07/alex-cold-fury-1-by-sawyer-bennett.html

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/21794306-alex?ac=1

Goodreads Series Link: https://www.goodreads.com/series/125350-cold-fury-hockey

Buy Links

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Alex-Cold-Hockey-Novel-Carolina-ebook/dp/B00JTCH5RQ/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1410967793&sr=1-1&keywords=Alex%3A+A+Cold+Fury+Hockey+Novel

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/alex-sawyer-bennett/1120019672?ean=9780553393002

iTunes: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/alex-a-cold-fury-hockey-novel

Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/alex-a-cold-fury-hockey-novel

Order: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | iBooks | Kobo

Author Info

USA Today bestselling author Sawyer Bennett is a snarky Southern woman and reformed trial lawyer who decided to finally start putting on paper all of the stories that were floating in her head. Her husband works for a Fortune 100 company which lets him fly all over the world while she stays at home with their daughter and three big, furry dogs who hog the bed. Sawyer would like to report she doesn’t have many weaknesses but can be bribed with a nominal amount of milk chocolate.

Author Links

Website: http://www.sawyerbennett.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bennettbooks
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/bennettbooks
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6950682.Sawyer_Bennett

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16. Guest Post and Giveaway: Julie Brannagh, Author of Covering Kendall

Please give a warm welcome to Julie Brannagh!  She’s here to share a Top Ten list about Drew, her hunky hero from Covering Kendall.

The top five ways Drew McCoy of COVERING KENDALL unwinds after a game

Drew’s workplace isn’t a cubicle in an office or on a construction site. He spends his Sunday afternoons from September until February each year playing in front of 70,000+ screaming fans. Drew loves what he does, but it’s tough for him (and many other pro football players!) to unwind after a game. Here’s the top five things Drew might be doing shortly after he walks through the front door of his house on a Sunday night…

  1. Drew’s a little hungry after chasing some other team’s quarterback around Sharks Stadium for three hours. As a result, he might be out for dinner with one or more of his teammates.

Zach Anderson stopped by his locker as Drew picked up the overnight bag he brought to home games.

Hey, come on out with us. We’re going to Jak’s Grill in Laurelhurst. Cameron’s meeting us there, too,” Zach said. He grinned at Drew. “You know you want a big, juicy steak and a beer.”

It sounds great, but I think I’m going to have to pass this time.”

Other plans, huh?”

You could say that. Give your woman a hug from me.” Drew got to his feet and gave Zach an elaborate handshake. “I’ll see you tomorrow morning.”

  1. Drew loves to read. He owns an e-reader, but prefers the feeling of a book in his hands. A comfortable chair and a new book might be just the thing he needs right now.

Drew stopped on the way home and picked up a to-go dinner. He’d watch some mindless TV, have a beer, and go to bed early with the book Kendall had given him.

He pulled into his garage, disabled the alarm system, and walked into his house. He dropped the overnight bag in his laundry room. He’d unpack it later. He moved through the kitchen and turned into the hallway by his front door to scoop up the book he wanted to start reading.

As he picked up the plastic bag with the two books, he heard a phone ringing. He unfurled the top of the bag, pulled the phone out, hit “talk,” and said, “Hello?”

Is this Drew? It’s Kendall Tracy. You have my phone.”

  1. Maybe a visit to a warm, sunny climate might improve his mood.

Drew rubbed his hand over his face and let out a groan. His concern about how he could return her phone in the most convenient way possible wasn’t self-serving at all. It had nothing to do with wanting to see her again, or spend a few more minutes chatting and laughing together. He’d go to the same lengths for anyone else.

He shook his head and muttered, “No, I wouldn’t.”

  1. Drew McCoy: Overgrown Boy Scout to the rescue.

She moved back, pulling the door open enough for him to step inside. He moved over the threshold into her house. They were still staring at each other, and she licked her lips. He tried and discarded twenty things to say to her in his head. Maybe he should keep things light. He reached into his pocket, pulled out her cell phone, and handed it to her.

I believe this belongs to you,” he joked.

Her fingertips lingered as she took the phone out of his hand. He felt the tingle all the way up his arm.

  1. If all else fails, a visit from someone special might work.

Drew was interested in watching the TV program, but he couldn’t stay awake. It had been a long day. He usually was in bed by ten on game days. He held up his phone to see what time it was: Ten forty-four. Hopefully, his mom and dad were sleeping now. He shoved his phone back into his pocket and heard someone knocking on his front door.

It was pretty freaking late for the guys to drop by and see if the cake was all gone. Maybe one of them left their phone at his house. He hurried to the front door and looked through the peephole.

Kendall looked back at him.

Drew has a few more ways of unwinding after a game. You’ll have to read COVERING KENDALL to find out what they might be!

Again, thank you so much for inviting me to visit, and Go Sharks!

Covering Kendall

Love and Football # 4

By: Julie Brannagh

October 21, 2014

Avon: Impulse

Blurb

Kendall Tracy, General Manager of the San Francisco Miners, is not one for rash decisions or one-night stands. But when she finds herself alone in a hotel room with a heart-stoppingly gorgeous man-who looks oddly familiar-Kendall throws her own rules out the window…and they blow right back into her face.

Drew McCoy should look familiar, he’s a star player for her team’s archrival the Seattle Sharks. Which would basically make Drew and Kendall the Romeo and Juliet of professional football…well, without all the dying. Not that it’s an issue. They agree to pretend their encounter never happened. Nothing good can come from it anyway, right? Drew’s not so sure.

Kendall may be all wrong, but he can’t stop thinking about her and he finds that some risks are worth taking. Because the stakes are always highest when you’re playing for keeps.

Link to Follow Tour: http://www.tastybooktours.com/2014/08/covering-kendall-love-and-football-4-by.html

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/21805397-covering-kendall?from_search=true

Buy Links

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Covering-Kendall-Love-Football-Novel-ebook/dp/B00JDKBU1Q

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/covering-kendall-julie-brannagh/1119471858?ean=9780062363817

Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/covering-kendall

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/covering-kendall/id852754397?mt=11  

Author Info

Julie Brannagh has been writing since she was old enough to hold a pencil. She lives in a small town near Seattle, where she once served as a city council member and owned a yarn shop. She shares her home with a wonderful husband, two uncivilized Maine Coons and a rambunctious chocolate Lab. When she’s not writing, she’s reading, or armchair-quarterbacking her favorite NFL team from the comfort of the family room couch. Julie is a Golden Heart finalist and the author of contemporary sports romances.

Author Links

Website: http://www.juliebrannagh.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JulieBrannagh
Twitter: http://twitter.com/julieinduvall
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7127296.Julie_Brannagh?from_search=true

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17. Guest Post and Giveaway: Jenny Colgan, Author of Christmas at the Cupcake Cafe

This morning, Jenny Colgan shares Issy’s must haves for the kitchen.  Be sure to enter the giveaway for a chance to win a digital copy of Christmas at the Cupcake Café!

Issy’s Top 5 must haves:

*A good mixer. Kenwood, the British brand is the best: they also come in gorgeous colours!

*a cooling rack. You need to get air under your cakes to finish baking them properly when they’re out the oven!

*a measuring jug. Sometimes you don’t even need to get the scales out if you can approximate from the jug and it’s an easy cake!

* a skewer to poke in and see if your cake is done

* springform cake tins. These are the ones with the bottoms that come out. If you’re clumsy like me, they’re a godsend!

 

Christmas at the Cupcake Café

Cupcake Café # 2

By: Jenny Colgan

Releasing October 14th, 2014

William Morrow

Issy Randall, proud owner of The Cupcake Cafe, is in love and couldn’t be happier. Her new business is thriving and she is surrounded by close friends, even if her cupcake colleagues Pearl and Caroline don’t seem quite as upbeat about the upcoming season of snow and merriment. But when her boyfriend Austin is scouted for a possible move to New York, Issy is forced to face up to the prospect of a long-distance romance. And when the Christmas rush at the cafe – with its increased demand for her delectable creations – begins to take its toll, Issy has to decide what she holds most dear.

This December, Issy will have to rely on all her reserves of courage, good nature and cinnamon, to make sure everyone has a merry Christmas, one way or another. . .

Indulge yourself and your sweet-toothed friends with Jenny Colgan’s new novel, simply bursting with Christmas cupcake recipes and seasonal sugar-fuelled fun.

Link to Follow Tour: http://www.tastybooktours.com/2014/09/christmas-at-cupcake-cafe-cupcake-cafe.html

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13596423-christmas-at-the-cupcake-caf?ac=1

Buy Links

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Christmas-at-Cupcake-Cafe-Novel-ebook/dp/B00K53EH56/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=8-1&qid=1410452461

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/christmas-at-the-cupcake-cafe-jenny-colgan/1113460040?ean=9780062371188

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/book/christmas-at-the-cupcake-cafe/id524415333?mt=11

Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/christmas-at-the-cupcake-cafe-1/zhaR2ygNd0ie4dITpEBkPA

Author Info

Jenny Colgan is the author of numerous bestselling novels, including Christmas at the Cupcake Café and The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris, which are also published by Sphere. Meet Me at the Cupcake Café won the 2012 Melissa Nathan Award for Comedy Romance and was a Sunday Times Top Ten bestseller, as was Welcome to Rosie Hopkins’ Sweetshop of Dreams, which won the RNA Romantic Novel of the Year Award 2013. Jenny is married with three children and lives in London and France.

Author Links

Website: http://www.jennycolgan.com/
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/jennycolganbooks
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/JennyColgan
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/39272.Jenny_Colgan

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18. Review: Crossover

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2014. Reviewed from ARC.

The Plot: Twelve year old twin brothers, Josh and Jordan Bell, are basketball players just like their father. And just like their father, they are GOOD.

Josh loves basketball and words; he is the one telling the story, in a sequence of poems organized by sections as if it were a basketball game, starting with Warm Up, moving on to First Quarter, and ultimately ending with Overtime. His father loves music, giving Josh the nickname Filthy McNasty after a favorite song.

His twin, Jordan, is JB, and loves basketball and betting.

The Crossover takes the twins through a basketball season, ending with an important game. And while this is a book about basketball and basketball players, it is also a story about brothers, a father and sons, a family. The two brothers complement each other on the court, a great pair leading their Junior High team to victory after victory. Their parents are loving but strict, with complications because their mother is also their Assistant Principal; their father, who played professional basketball, is a stay at home father who coaches his sons. And then there is a new girl in school, who Josh likes but before he can say a word, it's his brother who is dating her.

The Good: I'm on a roll of reading good books lately!

I loved Josh, his poetry, his love for his dad, his brother, basketball, words. Oh and his hair: he's proud of his locks, just like his dad wore when he played, and conflict with his brother starts when Josh loses a bet to JB -- a bet that allows JB to cut one of those locks off. There is also competition and jealousy, but those feelings are hidden deep inside Josh, only coming out in full force when JB begins dating. The feelings are so hidden, and the parents are so into reinforcing the brother bond, that these emotions are ones that Josh has a hard time understanding. Their father pushes both sons to be good basketball players, but he's individually pushing them: there is no setting one brother against the other.

If I talk more about the twins' father, it's because of the strong basketball bond between the father and sons. The father stopped playing years ago, explaining to his sons that he saved his money and is happy being with them full-time. As the twins learn, it's a bit more complicated than that: an injury ended their father's career. Health issues continue to plague the family; there's a history of hypertension, and their father has a huge distrust of doctors and hospitals so refuses to see one. (And yes there is foreshadowing there.)

One thing I really liked about The Crossover is that it's a book about two typical kids -- readers will see themselves in Josh as he struggles with his love for his brother but also his jealousy; with wanting to play basketball; enjoying being good at something; practicing to become better. Having a father who is loving and caring; a mother who is also kind and loving but knows when to be strict. Parents who value their sons' education as much as their basketball skills. It's a story played out in towns and cities everywhere.

Another Favorite Book Read in 2014!

Other reviews: The New York Times review; Stacked; Clear Eyes, Full Shelves; Bookshelves of Doom.







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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19. Review: The Doctor’s Fake Fiancée by Victoria James

 

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

When Victoria James asked if I wanted to review her latest release, I had to think about it for all of about 2 seconds.  I have read and enjoyed the other Red River books, so I was eager to jump into The Doctor’s Fake Fiancée.  I’ll admit that I’m always nervous to accept requests from authors, because what if I don’t like their book?  I’m happy to report that once I started this one, I wasn’t concerned about that any longer.  While not every aspect of the story worked for me, most of it pushed all the right buttons.

Grace is a single mother struggling to raise her son without help from anyone.  Her mother, her only source of support, passed away, leaving her with no one to rely on.  Her ex walked out on her while she was pregnant, and even her father is a distant memory.  He walked out on her, too, when she was a young girl, leaving her mother to raise her by herself.  Grace has never had much, but she works hard and provides a loving home for her son. 

The story begins with a terrible car accident; both Grace and Christopher are trapped in her car, with the fiery wreck of a truck threatening to blow at any moment.  Thankfully, Dr.  Evan Manning comes to their rescue, saving both mother and son.  Evan and Christopher are injured during the ordeal, and Evan’s surgical career is over. 

A year later, Grace has managed to locate Evan.  She wants to thank him for saving her and Christopher.  Evan is filling in at the clinic in his hometown of Red River, and he’s hating every minute of it.  He longs for the fast-paced environment of the ER.  The slow pace of the clinic, and the nosy patients, are driving him batty.  He’s not much of a people person, and one of the things he missed least about his hometown is how everyone feels the need to know everyone else’s business.  He’s even so grumpy that the clinic’s long-term receptionist quits and walks out on him.

When Grace and Christopher appear, he’s less than pleased.  He doesn’t want to remember the accident that robbed him of his career.  But then he realizes that maybe their timing is perfect.  He needs a replacement receptionist, and Grace has worked in clinics previously.  He offers Grace a job, as well as a temporary gig – all she has to do is pretend to be his fiancée.  He’s applied for a job as the CEO of a chain of plastic surgery clinics.  It’s not the high pressure excitement of the O.R., but it should be challenging and keep him from losing his mind  to boredom.  To cement the position, he needs a wife.  Or a fiancée.   The company is very family oriented, and he wants all the leverage he can get, so Grace’s sudden appearance is timely.

This was probably the weakest plot point for me.  Grace is unemployed and has rent to pay and a young child to take care of, so I can see her being desperate enough to go along with Evan’s proposal.  He offers her a place to stay, offers to pay the rent on her Toronto apartment, and will even spring for a new wardrobe, because his fiancée is expected to look sophisticated and fashionable.  He’s a complete stranger, and yes, while he did save their lives a year ago, she doesn’t know him, and she can’t be sure that he’s trustworthy.  While I do love the fairy tale simplicity of this set up, I am just too suspicious accept him at face value this early in the game.

What I enjoyed most about The Doctor’s Fake Fiancée was Evan’s growth from a self-absorbed man who put his career before everything else in his life, into a man who learned the importance of family, friends, and roots.  Evan thought that all of the answers to his dissatisfaction with his life would be found in Toronto, as the CEO of Medcorp.  Nothing else mattered to him but snagging that job.  Not his brothers or their wives or their children, or the many people who tried to get him to open up to them and accept how important he was to the community.  For such a smart guy, it takes him an awfully long time to realize what really mattered, and that a big fat paycheck and a lifetime of shuffling around papers wasn’t it.  Evan’s life before he met Grace was so empty and devoid of emotion, it’s no wonder he had a hard time connecting with his own feelings.  They had gone dormant, and it took the shock of a loving woman and a rambunctious boy to jolt them back to wakefulness.

The Doctor’s Fake Fiancée is a sweet, feel good read.  I enjoyed the Red River series,  and the author has become a favorite on my reading list.  I’m looking forward to seeing what she comes up with next.

Grade: B

Review copy provided by author

From Amazon:

Their marriage bargain is just what the doctor ordered…

Former surgeon and self-professed life-long bachelor Evan Manning has one thing on his mind—to reclaim the career that a car accident stole from him. But when he’s forced to return to his hometown of Red River, Evan comes face-to-face with the gorgeous woman who’s haunted his dreams for the last year—the woman he rescued from the burning car that injured his hand. Now Evan needs her help. In a month, he’ll have the job opportunity of a lifetime…he just needs a wife to get it.

Artist Grace Matheson is down on her luck again…until she walks into Evan Manning’s office. When her sexy former hero hears that she needs work, he offers her a job and a home—if she’ll pretend she’s his fiancée. Grace knows she shouldn’t fall for him. Once the month is up, Evan will be back to his old life. But the more time they spend together, the more real their feelings become—and the more likely heartbreak is.

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20. Review: Gracefully Grayson

Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky. Hyperion, an imprint of Disney Book Group. 2014. Reviewed from ARC.

The Plot: Grayson Sender is twelve years old.

Grayson is lonely, even surrounded by classmates, even at home, living with cousins, an aunt and uncle.

Grayson is lonely in part because of Grayson's parents death years ago, leading to Grayson being the odd child out at home.

Grayson is lonely because Grayson cannot connect with others because Grayson is hiding the most important part of who Grayson is.

In Gracefully Grayson, Grayson gradually gains trust and friends until Grayson can reveal the truth: that Grayson is a girl inside. Grayson is a transgender girl.

The Good: I'll be honest Grayson broke my heart, because of how lonely she is. Of how unable to connect with those around her.

At school, Grayson tries out for the play and takes her first step towards her true self by asking to play the part of a girl. One of the happy-tear moments I had was -- spoilers -- when the cast welcomed Grayson, became her friend, treated her like they'd treat anyone else.

Then there were the sad-tears of those who bullied Grayson, and of Grayson's aunt who believes that Grayson is in part causing the problems by not continuing to hide her truth.

And I cried at all the things Grayson did, in hiding. Doodling pictures of girls, but doing it in such a way that people wouldn't know. "If you draw a a triangle with a circle resting on the top point, nobody will be able to tell that it's a girl in a dress. To add hair, draw kind of a semicircle on top. If you do this, you'll be safe, because it looks like you're just doodling shapes."

Loving glitter pens and being prepared with lies to explain why she has the purple and pink ones.

Wearing a sweatband to pretend it's a hairband.

Pretending basketball pants and a t-shirt are somehow a gown, with the wide pants a full skirt.

And how important it is to Grayson, to anyone, to have their own truth by the truth others see. That it's harmful, the years and the lies of pretending to be something other than who she is.

At the end of Gracefully Grayson, someone tells Grayson that "I know it may feel like there are people who are against you, but I want you to remember that most people in the world are good. Look for the people who extend a hand to you. And when they do take it." This, in a nutshell, sums up the book. There are people against Grayson, for various reasons. But there are just as many good people in Grayson's world.

And the question left to the reader is this: is the reader one of the good ones? Does the reader extend a hand to those around them?

I'm making this one of my Favorite Books of 2014, because it is such a beautiful book and Grayson is such an endearing twelve year old.

Links: author interview at Diversity in YA; Bookfabulous Review; Robert Bittner Review at Gay YA;



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

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21. Review: How We Fall

How We Fall by Kate Brauning. Merit Press. 2014. Reviewed from ARC.

The Plot:  Jackie's feelings for Marcus are intense, but she tries to hide it. Oh, they flirt, and yes, there are stolen kisses. So why can't they just both admit that it's more than flirtation, why not go on a real date?

Jackie's afraid, afraid of what people will think. Marcus is her cousin. And, to make matters more sensitive, or at least Jackie more sensitive to what people will think, their families share one home. They live under the same roof.

Jackie has few people she can trust or turn to. Her older sister is at college; her parents wouldn't understand, or worse, would over react. Her best friend, Ellie, has disappeared and it's beginning to look like Ellie didn't run away but was kidnapped, or worse.

Breaking up with Marcus, or, rather, stopping things, doesn't help. Her feelings don't just go away, and seeing him with a new girl,, Sylvia, makes things worse. So Jackie tries seeing someone new, Will.

Jackie begins to pore over all emails and messages from Ellie, hoping to figure out what happened to Ellie. And she's surprised when a name turns up in an old email: Sylvia. Could Marcus's new friend have a connection to Ellie and her disappearance?

The Good: How We Fall looks at love and lust and desire. Jackie knows full well what other people are going to think about her and Marcus being together, and I'm sure there are readers who won't be able to get over the first cousin romance. As Jackie points out, though, it's not illegal; and at most, it means that in some states they wouldn't be able to marry. There was something so sweet, and heart-breaking, to have Jackie both trying to deny her feelings and love for Marcus, while doing searches to find colleges in states where marriage is possible. Add to it that Jackie is keeping her emotions and thoughts so close, from fear, that she hasn't shared this with Marcus.

Jackie's attraction to and love for Marcus is clear, and while the story is told from Jackie's point of view, it also becomes clear that what he feels for Jackie is true. On one level, How We Fall is, simply, about star-crossed lovers.

The star-crossed is made more complicated by the unique housing situation. About two or three years earlier (Jackie is now 16, Marcus a year older), the two families decided, for several reasons, to combine households and move in together. For Jackie and her older sister, that meant moving from California to rural Missouri. Her father, a lawyer, now does legal consulting from home; her mother works at the library. Her uncle works in a lawn and garden shop and her aunt takes care of the home, which also involves a working farm.

To use Jackie's words to describe her aunt and uncle: "Uncle Ward's opinions were a junk drawer combination of conservative family values, generous interpretations of self-restraint and normalcy, and questionable ideas Aunt Shelly found on the internet." Ward and Shelly have six children, ranging from twin toddlers to Marcus, the eldest.

The families share a home -- this isn't sharing land, or a building. It's using the same kitchen, the same living spaces, and trying to balance their values. It's not always easy; you can tell that sometimes Jackie's mother (Ward's sister) is biting her tongue about Shelley's judgments and rules. (Let's just say that Shelley isn't a fan of TV or movies while Jackie is looking to major in film in college.) Jackie has also gone from youngest child of two to an eldest child helping not only with chores, and selling their farm produce, and helping in the gardens and with the animals, but also babysitting her younger cousins.

Still, the families make it work. They are happy and functional; but it's also a financial decision. They are living a lifestyle, and in a home, that requires four adults working. But, to be honest, working "less", with a better quality of life, if that makes sense. Look at the father: he can return to law, but he's happier being a consultant. Jackie's mother is happy working at the library, but if the families split, she'd need to get a better paying job. I really loved that this book included this non-typical living argument, and that the arrangement works. And, I also think that more and more readers are going to identify with teens in home situations that are non-traditional.

As you can tell, the love story and the setting is what really captured my attention. There is also a mystery going on, the mystery of Ellie's disappearance, and I liked how this was handled. Jackie is not Veronica Mars; her friend lurks in the background, something that Ellie thinks about but, especially at first, doesn't obsess over. It's as time goes by, and it turns into a murder investigation, and Marcus's new girlfriend is revealed to have a link, that Jackie finds herself actively trying to learn more about Ellie's life to figure out what happened.

There is also Jackie's own new boyfriend, Will. One of the reasons I like Will is he ends up being such a good, understanding guy. Seriously, whether in real life or a book, when a person is confronted with a situation when they can be cruel or they can be kind -- when they can be judgmental or understanding -- when they be angry and lash out,or listen and be a friend? And they choose kind? It just makes my day; it reaffirms that people are good. And that was Will. Someone who is good.

Also, Will is cute. I said that How We Fall is also about desire, and that's true of Jackie and Marcus and Jackie and Will. Jackie is trying to figure out what she wants, and what she feels, and what is love, and what is love -- and it's a bit messy, made messier but the awkwardness of the situation and her thinking she is protecting everyone by not admitting to her feelings for Marcus. And then here is Will and yes he's fun to kiss cause he's older and hot and even with all this he is just such a good guy. And I love that this book shows the complexity of feeling, emotion, and desire that a teen girl feels.



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

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22. Spotlight and Giveaway: Sealing the Deal by Sandy James

SEALING THE DEAL by Sandy James (November 4, 2014; Forever Yours E-Book; $2.99)

After losing her sister, Bethany Rogers needs a shoulder to lean on more than ever-though she never expects that shoulder to belong to her new boss . . . 

Bethany has been in love with Robert Ashford since they were teachers at the same high school. After Robert leaves to start his own construction company, Beth puts her feelings aside to focus on her goals. When she finally lands a gig as a part-time designer, she is shocked to find her new boss is none other than Robert . . . and he’s hotter than ever. But Bethany’s happiness is short-lived when she receives word that her sister has been killed in combat.

With the success of building homes for one happy family after another, Robert is finally ready to settle down. When Beth is left to care for her nine-month-old niece, Robert can’t help but step in. And before long, the trio are inseparable. Yet convincing the cautious, bereaved Beth of letting him in proves difficult-but Robert will give everything he’s got for the chance at his own happily ever after.

Buy Links:

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iBooks

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Amazon

About the author:

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

Social Media Links:

Website

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Goodreads

Excerpt:

So warm and sweet.

Shivers ran the length of her body as Beth smiled, loving the way Robert was nuzzling her neck and rubbing her hip. Heat bloomed low in her belly, fanning through her as she wiggled her backside against the groin pressed hard against her.

“Hard” being the key word. The erection was easy to feel, even through their clothing. She wriggled again, loving how he growled against her skin and then ran his tongue around the shell of her ear.

His hand covered her breast, squeezing lightly before returning to her hip. Even more heat shimmered through her. She arched into his touch with the fleeting thought that it had been so long since she’d been with a man.

Years, actually.

But this man? This was the one she’d wanted for a long time, longer than she was willing to admit to herself. She’d always kept her distance, drawing clear lines between her and her colleague, who then became her boss. Besides, he’d never shown an interest in her before. Ever.

She’d only seen him with Barbie dolls. There had been more than a few. Come to think of it, she’d never seen him with the same one twice. Robert was a player, and Beth hated players.

So why this strange fascination?

Robert’s warm lips were on her neck again, and he hoarsely whispered, “Bethany…”

Until he’d said her name, she’d wondered if he was just in the throes of some erotic dream and had reached out to conveniently find a warm woman lying next to him. But he wanted her. Bethany.

The fire inside her flared to an inferno. She needed to show him how she felt, hoping he’d bare some of his own feelings in response. “Robert…”

His insistent hand on her hip turned her to her back. Then his body blanketed her, and his lips settled on hers. With little prelude, his tongue thrust deep into her mouth.

Beth couldn’t have stopped herself if she’d wanted to. And she sure didn’t want to. Returning the ferocity of his kiss, gliding her tongue over his, she looped her arms around his neck and arched into him.

His scent—masculine with a touch of pleasant, spicy cologne—intoxicated her. His taste was quickly becoming familiar, and when his knee nudged her legs apart, she welcomed him and the way his pelvis settled between her thighs.

The kiss continued, a chase of tongues that went on and on. Robert slid his hand over her breast again, squeezing with the perfect amount of pressure as he pressed his hips into her core.

This was going to happen. It was really going to happen.

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23. Spotlight and Giveaway: Cowboy Up Box Set

 
Enter to Win
$20.00 Amazon Gift Card

 

Cowboy Up
A Contemporary Western Romance Box Set
By: Allison Merritt, Vickie Taylor, Leslie Garcia, Melissa Keir,
Autumn Piper, Sara Walter Ellwood, & D’Ann Lindun

 
 
Seven men as tough as the west…


Seven women who know how to…



Cowboy Up

A boxed set of seven romantic novellas by seven award-winning authors experienced with writing about the men of the West.


Get Now for ONLY $0.99

 

Always, Cowboy by Allison Merritt

The past is better left behind, unless it offers a brighter future.

Brody Longtree’s first love was bull riding, but he loved beauty queen Libby Dempsey equally as hard. When she turned down his marriage proposal, everything from his rodeo career to his love life went to hell. His love ran too deep for blame, so he made the best of what life threw at him. Things finally get back on track…and then she almost runs over his dog.

When her pageant dreams died in an embarrassing display of nerves, Libby made a new, cowboy-free life for herself. One where she could train other girls who want to be pageant princesses. One that doesn’t give her any reason to dwell on what might have been with Brody until his dog bounds into her heart. And she bounds into Brody’s bed.

Despite the differences in their lives, they mesh together, the way Brody always knew they would. No matter what, he’s waiting until he’s certain Libby is ready to get married before he asks again, but their relationship comes under fire when one of her friends reveals a secret about a little girl Libby is awfully attached to—a girl who’s the right age to be Brody’s daughter.

Allison Merritt


Cowboys Don’t Cry by Vickie Taylor
 
A broken cowboy with nothing left to lose…except his heart.

Dash Connaway is hell-bent down a highway to nowhere. But he can’t outrun fate. Just a few months ago, he’d had a new album shooting up the country music charts, a luxury tour bus prepped for gigs in 39 cities, and a live-in girl friend he’d been thinking of asking to marry him. Now he’s just another drifter with an old guitar, a beat-up pickup, and a dog named Bill for a bed mate…until he meets Maggie McCain.

Maggie isn’t your ordinary Oregon rancher. She’s more into organic gardening and hand-spinning yarn from the fleece of her prized alpacas than breeding stinky old cattle. She’s a nurturer, a giver, so when Dash steps into her life from nowhere, she’s ready to trade in her solitary existence on the farm in favor of a husband to grow old with and a passel of children to care for.

But when she learns the real reason for Dash’s commitment to life on the road, she’s faced with a difficult choice and a lesson in the fallacy behind the old saying “Cowboys don’t cry.” Only time will tell just how potent the healing power of love can really be.

Vickie Taylor


A Cowboy’s Heart by Leslie Garcia

Teenage lovers torn apart by betrayal. Have seventeen years changed everything—or nothing?

Star-crossed lovers in their south Texas hill country high school, torn apart by a best friend’s lie, a mother’s cold hatred, and a father’s lack of trust…

High school junior Illy Kingston turns to varsity football star and cowboy in training Gil Salas when her father, a Border Patrol agent, is killed under suspicious circumstances.

Their hormone-fueled, all or nothing affair ends when betrayal tears them apart.

Years, later, Illy returns home, at loose ends after her disastrous marriage to a reality show rock star ends with an embarrassing photo gone viral and a divorce.

When Gil and his mounted Border Patrol make an unannounced civic call at a local elementary school, Gil is shocked to see Illy lurking in the shadows, threatening to upend his existence once again.

The old passion still burns—but neither can go back to the innocence of their high school affair. Illy swore never to love a man wearing a uniform that didn’t involve jeans, a western hat, and boots. Gil has a price on his head.

And star-crossed love doesn’t usually work for cowboys, either.

Leslie Garcia

The Heartsong Cowboy by Melissa Keir
 
Can two people, one horse and the power of love cure a little girl?

Angela French blames herself for her daughter’s lack of voice. Determined to do anything to correct the situation, she seeks out Jake Kyncade, the owner of The Heartsong Ranch.

Jake Kyncade hides his own sorrows behind his no-nonsense demeanor. Helping children becomes one way to correct his past. Using equine therapy, he sets out to make a difference.

Can Jake help Angela’s dreams come true or will Jake’s past bring more heartache? Will love save them all?

Melissa Keir



Cowboy Trouble by Autumn Piper

She’s decided to make some bad choices this weekend.

Susie Howell has always done what her family expects of her, but they don’t know about the divorce papers she’s just signed, or the secret torch she carries for sexy ranch hand Cash. When keeping the secret gets to her, she flees her brother’s wedding reception. Determined to live a little, she swipes the nearest truck from the ranch and heads to Sin City.

Cash Acosta has worked hard for everything he has, and nobody is taking off with his truck. When he sees it driving away, he jumps in—and becomes the unwilling passenger of a ready and willing woman he’s forbidden to touch. Hell-bent for trouble, the boss’s sister has already earmarked him as one of her “bad choices”.

And Susie intends to get what she wants.

Autumn Piper

Chasing a Cowboy by Sara Walter Ellwood

He’s running from heartbreak. She’s chasing after love… Their hearts will never be the same.

Paige Morgan has lived her entire life in the glare of her fraternal twin sister’s star. Although the sisters are as different as sun is from the moon, Paige fell in love with the same man as her famous swimsuit model sister. When country superstar Chase Jordan is dumped at the altar by her twin, Paige sees an opportunity to go after the one thing of her sister’s she’s always wanted.

She finds Chase in Cabo San Lucas nursing his broken heart in the true country song fashion—with a bottle of Jose Cuervo—and reminds him of the desire he once felt for her. Will this singing cowboy change his tune as they set the tropical nights on fire? Or will Paige be the one singing the blues when her sister shows up wanting her man back?

Sara Walter Ellwood

Cowboy Bred, Cowboy Born by D’Ann Lindun

Freedom or family? Only love can make the choice.

Photographer Alannah Murphy refuses to be tied down. She watched her parents struggle to hold onto their dairy farm until it killed them. The mere thought of the same fate makes her shudder. When she meets rancher Sterling Gentry she has to face her fears, or lose him.

Sterling Gentry longs for someone to hand his ranch down to. Like his father before him, he has sacrificed everything to hold onto the land his ancestors settled. But finding Ms. Right proves harder than he imagined. Then he meets Alannah Murphy with her big city ways. How he can ever take a chance with a woman exactly like his mother, who abandoned him when he was a child?

Despite their determination to stay the course they’ve each chosen, attraction pulls them together as steadily as a nail to a magnet. Can these two find a way to mesh Alannah’s need for freedom and Gentry’s desire to hold onto his land?

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24. Guest Post and Giveaway: Tina Wainscott, Author of Wild Nights

Welcome Tina Wainscott back to the virtual offices!

Top 5 things you would never find in Saxby’s duffle bag by Tina Wainscott

Saxby Cole is a Southern charmer, dubbed the “prince of Cole, Louisiana” by the ladies in his hometown. While he was supposed to head up his family’s grill company, Sax is all about doing bigger things … like fighting for his country. And now, fighting for justice outside the bounds of the law. He’s been told, since he was knee-high to a mudbug, that Cole men are incapable of monogamy, so Sax is committed to never committing and breaking a lady’s heart.

I’m going to let Sax himself tell you the Top 5 things you would never find in his duffle bag:

“One of those protein bars. Haven’t found one yet that tastes like food and doesn’t remind me of MRE’s—meals ready to eat. That’s the stuff we ate when we were deployed, like spaghetti in a bag. If I’m throwing a snack in there, it’s a Snickers bar. Chocolate, caramel, and peanuts … all good.”

“Sweatpants. Not that I’m a prima donna or anything, but baggy ole sweats are just damned ugly. And I don’t like them on a lady either.”

“Flip flops. While I’m no pretty boy, I do value a classy pair of shoes. Flip flops are for girls, sissies, or surfers.”

“A care package from my sisters. Man, did I get teased about that when I was in the SEALs. They’d pack obnoxious things like nose hair clippers, a portable urine holder, and homemade cookies with smiley faces on them and goofy sayings. It was sweet but embarrassing at the same time.”

“A CD with a love song mix. I don’t do mushy music. For one thing, if I’m with a lady, it gives her ideas. And it makes me kinda sad, too, that I won’t have that ‘everlasting love’ thing. You know who has sexy music without it being obvious? Led Zeppelin. Yep, some Zepp, some Kings of Leon, a little Maroon 5, and we’re rockin’.”

 

Wild Nights

The Justiss Alliance #3

By: Tina Wainscott

Releasing: Nov 4th, 2014

Loveswept

Blurb

The courageous men of USA Today bestselling author Tina Wainscott’s Justiss Alliance series never give up and never make a promise they can’t live up to—especially when love is on the line.

The only commitment Saxby Cole has ever made is to the SEALs. He follows a long line of Southern charmers who swear monogamy isn’t in their blood. He’s never met a woman who made him want to swear his allegiance—until, while undercover for a Justiss Alliance assignment, he finds a woman who makes him think twice.

When Jennessy Shaw’s boyfriend dumps her right before their vacation to a hedonistic Caribbean resort, she goes without him to explore her wild side. Throwing caution to the wind, she propositions Saxby—only to suffer his gentle rejection.

When she wakes in Saxby’s room with no memory of the night before, Jennessy discovers his real purpose: to sniff out an operation where women like her are drugged and prostituted to resort guests. She goes from victim to his investigative partner . . . but getting too close to the sexier-than-sin Saxby may be her wildest move yet.

Praise for the Justiss Alliance series

“Tina Wainscott delivers high-octane suspense and red-hot romance! Full of edge-of-your-seat action and red-hot passion, Wild on You is a souped-up roller coaster of a page-turner.”—Julie Ann Walker, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Black Knights Inc. series

“Bad boys breaking rules and hearts and dishing up justice—Tina Wainscott nails it!”—New York Times bestselling author Cindy Gerard

Link to Follow Tour: http://www.tastybooktours.com/2014/08/wild-nights-justiss-alliance-3-by-tina.html

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22234180-wild-nights

Buy Links

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00KAFVOGE?ie=UTF8&tag=randohouseinc-20&linkCode=xm2&camp=1789&creativeASIN=B00KAFVOGE

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/wild-nights-tina-wainscott/1119471240?ean=9780345548368&itm=1&usri=9780345548368&cm_mmc=Random%20House-_-Wild%20Nights-RandomHouse-9780345548368-_-Wild%20Nights-RandomHouse-9780345548368-_-Wild%20Nights-RandomHouse-9780345548368

Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/wild-nights-6

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/wild-nights/id877158042?mt=11

Or, Purchase at Amazon | Barnes | iBooks | Kobo

Author Info

USA Today bestselling author Tina Wainscott has always loved the combination of romance and suspense, because nothing complements falling in love better than being hunted down. The author of more than thirty novels and novellas, Wainscott creates characters with baggage, past hurts, and vulnerabilities. They go through hell, find love, and, at the end, find peace in who they are and everything they’ve gone through. And isn’t that what everyone wants?

Author Links

Website: http://www.tinawainscott.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tinawainscottbooks
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Tina_Wainscott
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4731539.Tina_Wainscott

Or,

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

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The post Guest Post and Giveaway: Tina Wainscott, Author of Wild Nights appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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25. Every Breath: Review

There are perhaps some things you should know about me before I embark on this review: I am not traditionally a fan of either contemporary or mystery I am not a fan of the popular BBC series Sherlock nor any other Sherlock adaptation I really do not like bad boy love interests I freaking adored this book When I saw that my friend Gillian was absolutely losing it over the ship in this book I knew I had to get my hands on it ASAP! And boy, did she not let me down! It’s going to take something really special to get this SFF loving gal to even read a contemporary let alone love it. Congrats, Ellie Marney. You succeeded in spades. Man, how good is the characterization in this book? I loved Rachel so much. It’s rare that I think that a character in YA comes across as an... Read more »

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