Sunday, March 22, 2015

Guest Post: Using Real Locations in Fiction

Written by: Dana Michelle Burnett

When I’m reading a novel, one thing that really makes me feel connected to the story is the setting. Is it believable? Does it fit the story?

There are several books out there where the setting feels almost like an additional character. First coming to my mind is The Witching Hour by Anne Rice. The Mayfair house is as much a part of the story as the ghost that haunts it. Another example would be The Shade from A Shade of Vampire series by Bella Forrest, where the island is crucial to several elements of the story.

When I set out to write The Gifted and The Damned, I knew that I wanted the story to take place in a small town that had an old time, almost out of time, feel to it. As with my last two series, I chose Corydon Indiana, but this time for a very different reason.

It wasn’t the Civil War era homes that drew my attention this time. The entire town has feel of permanence. You can feel the history almost oozing up from the sidewalks. It made me wonder if it wouldn’t be possible for another, more paranormal history, to exist there as well.

Using an actual location gave a sense of reality to my work. If I was having trouble with a certain chapter, a quick walk through downtown Corydon would help me connect with my story and put me back on track.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Vanishing Girls, by Lauren Oliver, ends 3/30

I have the feeling of finally hitting ground after a long fall. The breath goes out of me and yes, weirdly, I feel a sense of relief, of finally touching solid earth, of knowing.

This is it: somehow, in these pictures, the mystery of the accident is contained, and the explanation for Dara's subsequent behavior, for the silences and disappearances.

Don't ask me how I know. I just do. If you don't understand that, I guess you've never had a sister.

I finishing Vanishing Girls yesterday while on my work lunch break, and in the final few chapters, everything I thought I knew about the book went completely out the window. It probably didn't help that I was tired that day, too, and it took me a minute or so to wrap my mind around the twist that occurs at the end of this story. I'm a fan of Lauren Oliver's books in general, but this one had a twist that I did not see coming.

Official synopsis:
New York Times bestselling author Lauren Oliver delivers a gripping story about two sisters inexorably altered by a terrible accident.

Dara and Nick used to be inseparable, but that was before the accident that left Dara's beautiful face scarred and the two sisters totally estranged. When Dara vanishes on her birthday, Nick thinks Dara is just playing around. But another girl, nine-year-old Madeline Snow, has vanished, too, and Nick becomes increasingly convinced that the two disappearances are linked. Now Nick has to find her sister, before it's too late.

In this edgy and compelling novel, Lauren Oliver creates a world of intrigue, loss, and suspicion as two sisters search to find themselves, and each other.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Before I Go, by Colleen Oakley, ends 3/27 {2 winners!}

I pick it up and watch my hand curiously - as if it's a rebellious, petulant child that's acting of its own accord - and heave the entire plastic cup, green liquid and all, across the room where it smacks the cabinet beneath the sink. Green slop sprays the maple, the fake Saltillo tile, the baseboards. The cup then hits the floor where it rolls to rest at the foot of the refrigerator. 

And in the silence that follows, the stupid therapist's voice from the stupid first time I had stupid cancer once again rings in my head:

Your anger is grief wearing a disguise.

I slump back against my chair.

My anger is all over my kitchen floor.

I received this book sometime late last year, I believe, and it was sitting on my shelf for a while. I'm very glad I eventually got to read it, however, because it was both heartbreaking and wryly funny.

Official synopsis:
A heart-wrenching debut novel in the bestselling tradition of P.S. I Love You about a young woman with breast cancer who undertakes a mission to find a new wife for her husband before she passes away.

Twenty-seven-year-old Daisy already beat breast cancer three years ago. How can this be happening to her again?

On the eve of what was supposed to be a triumphant “Cancerversary” with her husband Jack to celebrate three years of being cancer-free, Daisy suffers a devastating blow: her doctor tells her that the cancer is back, but this time it’s an aggressive stage four diagnosis. She may have as few as four months left to live. Death is a frightening prospect—but not because she’s afraid for herself. She’s terrified of what will happen to her brilliant but otherwise charmingly helpless husband when she’s no longer there to take care of him. It’s this fear that keeps her up at night, until she stumbles on the solution: she has to find him another wife.

With a singular determination, Daisy scouts local parks and coffee shops and online dating sites looking for Jack’s perfect match. But the further she gets on her quest, the more she questions the sanity of her plan. As the thought of her husband with another woman becomes all too real, Daisy’s forced to decide what’s more important in the short amount of time she has left: her husband’s happiness—or her own?

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Book Review: Beautiful Secret, by Christina Lauren

I ran my hand through my chin-length, choppy hair. "It looks like it does every day."

Pippa snorted. In truth, I'd spent way too long getting ready this morning, but I needed the confidence today.

Because just like she said, today was Thursday, my favorite day of the week.

On Thursdays I got to see him.

It's been a while since I've done an "advance" review of a book (before it hits stores/Amazon) and that's not because I am hoarding piles because I don't have books to review, it's because I have SO many books to review that I often get behind on reviewing. When I received Beautiful Secret in the mail, though, I read it a short while later, because I know I usually devour any and all books by Christina Lauren, and usually very quickly, too.

Official synopsis:
When Ruby Miller’s boss announces he’s sending her on an extended business trip to New York City, she’s shocked. As one of the best and brightest young engineers in London, she knows she’s professionally up to the task. The part that’s throwing her is where she’ll be spending a month up close and personal working alongside—and staying in a hotel with—Niall Stella, her firm’s top urban planning executive and The Hottest Man Alive. Despite her ongoing crush, Ruby is certain Niall barely knows she’s alive…until their flirty overnight flight makes him sit up and take notice.

Not one for letting loose and breaking rules, recently divorced Niall would describe himself as hopeless when it comes to women. But even he knows outgoing California-girl Ruby is a breath of fresh air. Once she makes it her mission to help the sexy Brit loosen his tie, there’s no turning back. Thousands of miles from London, it’s easy for the lovers to play pretend. But when the trip is over, will the relationship they’ve built up fall down?

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Becoming Rain, by K.A. Tucker, ends 3/9

Becoming Rain Tour banner

I am thrilled to bring you the Review Tour for K.A. Tucker's BECOMING RAIN! BECOMING RAIN is a New Adult Romantic Suspense novel, and the second novel in K.A. Tucker’s Burying Water Series, published by Atria books, an Imprint of Simon & Schuster. 

Becoming Rain Review Tour
February 27
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March 1
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Becoming Rain teaser 1

A lump forms in my throat. A person needs to be a solid judge of character in my job. I'm an excellent judge of character. I sense that Alex is a genuine person, and that my target did something monumental for her. 

"Sure, okay," I lie. I'm not here to ease her conscience or to take care of Luke.

I'm here to do the exact opposite.

And for the first time, that makes me ill.

Which tells me that I've broken one of the most basic rules of undercover work: don't get emotionally attached to your targets.

I was excited to get the chance to review this book, because it's the follow-up novel to Burying Water, which I reviewed last September. She's also the author of the Ten Tiny Breaths series, which I've also reviewed, and which I highly recommend. Becoming Rain has a few cameos from the Burying Water characters, too, and exists on the same timeline, thereabouts.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Book Review and $25 Family Christian GIVEAWAY: The Berenstain Bears' Country Cookbook, ends 3/14

*Disclosure: I received a Family Christian certificate for this book review. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

I was a big fan of The Berenstain Bears' book series when I was young, and so I was happy to be given the chance to review their new cookbook!

Official synopsis:
The Berenstain Bears' Country Cookbook is the perfect gift for any child or Berenstain Bears fan! Bear lovers everywhere are sure to find favorite recipes for fun food - ranging from Bear favorites that use honey and berries for pie, to a delicious stew, and even some Berenstain favorites like Jan Berenstain's famous green lasagna.

Featuring breakfast, lunch, main meal, and dessert recipes as well as kid-friendly cooking tips such as food and measurement conversions, this is sure to become a go-to cookbook for delicious and fun recipes kids can cook with an adult.

My original plan after reviewing this cookbook was to give it to a friend who has kids, or perhaps a friend of my mom's, but I'm actually going to keep it for myself! Most of the recipes are easy to make, but there's a few in here that were surprising, too, like quiche. The Coca-Cola Cake (called Cola Cake) looks fantastic, too, and I hope to make it sometime soon for a birthday or another event. 

Quick Pick: Black Ice, by Becca Fitzpatrick

  • Opening lines: The rusted Chevy pickup truck clanked to a stop, and when Lauren Huntsman's head thumped the passenger window, it jolted her awake. 
  • Reason I picked up the book: The cover was intriguing, and it sounded like a good read.
  • And what's this book about?
  • Danger is hard to resist in this sexy thriller from Becca Fitzpatrick, the New York Times bestselling author of the Hush, Hush saga.

    Brit Pheiffer 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.

    Britt is forced to guide the men off the mountain, and 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, and everyone is keeping secrets, including Mason, one of her kidnappers. His kindness is confusing Britt. Is he an enemy? Or an ally?

    Black Ice is New York Times bestselling author Becca Fitzpatrick's riveting romantic thriller set against the treacherous backdrop of the mountains of Wyoming. Falling in love should never be this dangerous.
  • Favorite paragraph: 
  • Something about the morning sunlight slanting through the tree, and the moonshine's spell wearing off, made the memory of last night surge back with horrifying clarity. I lay stiffly on the ground, aghast as every detail of my actions flashed across my  mind. 

    I'd made out with Jude. The man who'd held me captive. That he was hot and sexy and protective of me was irrelevant. 
  • Recommended for: Anyone who enjoys YA (Young Adult) books, or a good mystery/romance. 
  • Something to know: This is a standalone book. 
  • What I would have changed: The ending seemed a little too convenient. Otherwise, though, I really liked this book - it keeps you guessing as to whether Becca's kidnapper is a good guy or not, and she references Stockholm Syndrome more than once while she internally debates this, too.
  • Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars.
  • Where can I find this book? Click here.