Monday, October 28, 2013

Book Review: A Blaze of Sun

A Blaze of Sun, by Bella Forrest (A Shade of Vampire #5).

I tried to shake it off as we spent more time together that night, but I just couldn't. When we ended up in his couch and he began to tug at my shirt to expose my neck, my heart sank when I realized what he was doing. He didn't ask for my permission or consent. He just bit into my neck and began feeding on my blood.

As I sat there, feeding his body pressed against mine, his teeth sinking into my skin, I couldn't help but wonder: If he never becomes mortal, is this how it's going to be like? Is this going to be what life is like?

For the first time in a long time, I saw him as a predator and I, his willing prey.

Bella Forrest is back with book 5 in the A Shade of Vampire series, and I was eager to continue reading about Derek and Sofia's love story. I'm so glad that the author usually sends me ARCs (Advance Reading Copies) of these, because it's beginning to be one of my favorite vampire series, as well.

Official synopsis:
vampires, supernatural, YA booksWelcome back to The Shade...

"Of course you know who I am. I'm a daughter of the darkness just as surely as you are his son..."

Ever since his brief encounter with Emilia at The Shade, Derek's thoughts and dreams have been haunted with images of the mysterious, beautiful brunette. Plagued with guilt, he struggles to understand why he is so drawn to this dark stranger from his past.

When Emilia suddenly appears again on the island, Derek is both terrified and intrigued. But this time, he is determined to involve Sofia and discover who this woman is.

If only Derek and Sofia knew, Emilia is a mystery that should be left undiscovered...

-

**This review may contain spoilers if you have not read the others in the series**

In this installment of A Shade of Vampire, Derek and Sofia are desperately searching for the cure - her father Aiden said that they found it and that it worked on Ingrid, Sofia's mother, but it did not. Derek is pressing Sofia to get married, as well, since war may soon be coming to The Shade, and Sofia wants to marry Derek but thinks it may be too soon.

This was the first novel in the series that was told from POV's other than Sofia's and Derek's, and at times it made the book a bit "scattered"; however, it was interesting to get perspectives such as Kyle's, a vampire in love with Anna (another "immune" like Sofia), and other characters. This novel also explores Derek's relationship with Emilia, who is a daughter of The Original (one of the first vampires ever), and we find out a secret about her that I definitely did not see coming.

The love story between Derek and Sofia is still strong in this novel, too, even though they each face new challenges individually.

I can't wait for the next book in the series!

4 stars out of 5.

*Disclosure: I was given an e-copy of this novel to review by the author. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

Check out my reviews of all the novels in the series!
#1: A Shade of Blood
#2: A Castle of Sand
#3: A Shade of Vampire
#4: A Shadow of Light

Thursday, October 24, 2013

GIVEAWAY: Mom Among Chaos birthday celebration, including gift cards, a signed book, and more - ends 10/30

To celebrate our blog anniversary and
having 1500 fans we are hosting a Michigan giveaway for all of our
local fans.



Co-hosted by these blogs:

Prize pack includes these items and
more:
3 hours of free childcare
gift card
gift card

Signed book, Nail cones, bookmark,
BlastPain Center free treatment pass, Focal Point studio gift card,
& TV store gift card

Not pictured: Back to Basics
Little Box of Big Fun 3-D Art Kit (made locally!)

Enter now! Ends 10/30.

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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Book Review: Fangirl

Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell.

There were drawers built into a wall. Levi knelt over one, then ducked out of the room - the doorway was at least an inch too short for him - and Cath sat down carefully on the love seat. The fabric was cool beneath her. She ran her palm along it, some kind of slick cotton with nubby swirls and flowers.

This room was worse than she thought.

Dark. Remote. Practically in the trees. Practically enchanted.

A calculus test would feel intimate in here.

Rainbow Rowell continues to impress me book after book after book. This is her third book, and I have reviewed all of them: Attachments, the recent Eleanor and Park, and now Fangirl. Not only that, but she's a nice person as well - I've tweeted with her several times about her books. I gave Attachments and Eleanor and Park 4.5 out of 5 stars each, but I may have to up my rating with Fangirl, as it's my favorite of the three books.

Official synopsis:
teens, coming of age, fanfictionA coming-of-age tale of fan fiction, family and first love.

Cath is a Simon Snow fan.

Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan . . .

But for Cath, being a fan is her life — and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.

Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.

Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words . . . And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this?

Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?

And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?
-

First off, Cath was supposed to be an only child - but instead her mother, who leaves them at a young age, has twins, and instead of thinking up two names, she names them "Cather" and "Wren" (Catherine - get it?). Cath and her sister Wren are obsessed with the Simon Snow series - think Harry Potter-esque - and Cath likes to write "fanfic," or "fic" for short, about Simon Snow. Cath actually has a huge following on FanFixx, a fanfic site, but when she and Wren go to college, Wren abandons writing fanfic, and it's up to Cath to keep going with the story.

Harry Potter was actually mentioned once in Fangirl as a separate series, which was funny - Simon Snow does have a vampire in it but otherwise it reminded me a LOT of the Potter series. I really liked how the author jumped around between Cath's fanfiction, the actual story, and the "actual" Simon Snow stories (excerpts from them, anyway) at the beginning of chapters - it made for an interesting read.

I would recommend this novel to anyone, really, but in particular, people who remember those first heady days and weeks of college and trying to fit in, as well as have relationships - whether it be with your roommate or the opposite sex. In addition, Rowell's previous two books took place in the '80s and '90s, but this novel takes place in the 2011-2012 school year which is relatively recent, and although some of the pop culture references might not be as relevant in a few years, I enjoyed them in the meantime.

The only thing I didn't like about this novel was the ending - I wanted more of Levi and Cath! I doubt there will be a sequel but I would definitely read it if Rowell ever decided to write one.

5 stars out of 5.

*Disclosure: I received a copy of this novel for reviewing purposes. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own. 

Monday, October 21, 2013

GIVEAWAY: $200 Paypal cash + signed copies of Michael Phillip Cash books, ends 11/3

Michael Phillip Cash, author


Welcome to the $200 Cash Giveaway!

Sponsored by Michael Phillip Cash

Michael Phillip Cash authorSeventeen year old Arielle is at a crossroads in her life. Disenchanted with her father, she is testing the boundaries of his trust by dating someone he does not approve.

Under the moonlit sky in Long Island, Arielle and her boyfriend meet beneath the infamous hanging tree. The couple's destiny is rooted to the five spirits in the tree whose lives and deaths are determined by an ancient curse. Will her future be determined by the past or will Arielle's choices alter the course of her life?

Find out when you read The Hanging Tree by Michael Phillip Cash!

Michael is the best selling author of Stillwell: A Haunting On Long Island and his debut novel, Brood X.

The Hanging Tree is his first novella. To celebrate the release, Michael would like to offer one fan $200 Paypal Cash and signed copies of his books Stillwell, Brood X and a kindle download of The Hanging Tree!




Enter to win $200 Cash via PayPal as well as signed copies of Stillwell, Brood X and a Kindle download of The Hanging Tree

$200 cash giveaway

Complete the tasks below to earn entries into this giveaway.
Refer your friends using your unique link at the top of the Rafflecopter for even more chances to win.
One winner will be chosen at random from all valid entries.

Open Worldwide.
Ends at 11:59pm EST on November 3rd, 2013.

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This giveaway was coordinated by Giveaway Promote.
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Sunday, October 20, 2013

Review + Double Giveaway: S.E.C.R.E.T. and S.E.C.R.E.T. Shared, ends 10/28

S.E.C.R.E.T. Shared, by L. Marie Adeline.

Walking towards Magazine Street, I marveled at the fact that I had just made contact with two incredibly sexy men whose own fantasies S.E.C.R.E.T. might unlock. And if they were amenable and discreet, they'd be trained by one of the Committee members. Then they'd be lined up with a lucky candidate, perhaps Dauphine. I glanced around the park, now packed and buzzing with fit joggers, cute dads and hot cyclists. Had these men always been here and I'd never noticed them before? Or were they noticing something in me for the first time?

Matilda's words rang in my mind: You're coming into your own. I see it.

Recently, I was able to read both S.E.C.R.E.T, and S.E.C.R.E.T. Shared, its sequel, and I think I might have a favorite new series. The series is in the erotica genre but is not just sex - the story itself is compelling, as well - and I was glad I had the sequel to start reading immediately after I finished the first one.

L. Marie Adeline, giveaway

Synopsis for S.E.C.R.E.T:
Cassie Robichaud’s life is filled with regret and loneliness after the sudden death of her husband. She waits tables at the rundown Café Rose in New Orleans, and every night she heads home to her solitary one-bedroom apartment. But when she discovers a notebook left behind by a mysterious woman at the café, Cassie’s world is forever changed.

The notebook’s stunningly explicit confessions shock and fascinate Cassie, and eventually lead her to S∙E∙C∙R∙E∙T, an underground society dedicated to helping women realize their wildest, most intimate sexual fantasies. Cassie soon immerses herself in an electrifying journey through a series of ten rapturous fantasies with gorgeous men who awaken and satisfy her like never before. As she is set free from her inhibitions, she discovers a new confidence that transforms her, giving her the courage to live passionately. Equal parts enticing, liberating and emotionally powerful, S∙E∙C∙R∙E∙T is a world where fantasy becomes reality.

Synopsis for S.E.C.R.E.T. Shared:
(Warning: contains some spoilers if you haven't read the first book)

"I, Cassie Robichaud, solemnly swear to serve S.E.C.R.E.T. to the best of my abilities. I will do what is necessary, what is right and what is within my power to assist in the execution of sexual fantasies for our participant(s)..."

And so begins S.E.C.R.E.T. II, which opens with Cassie's initiation into this mysterious organization, one that helps women experience their most potent sexual fantasies. Cassie spends the next year as a "S.E.C.R.E.T. member-at-large," not quite a guide, she'll assist Committee members (including two new ones, Kit DeMarco and Angela Rejean) in recruiting men and helping to execute a new inductee's fantasies.

After a false start with the first potential inductee, Cassie makes the acquaintance of Dauphine Gray, a 31-year old who works at the Funky Monkey vintage clothing store on Magazine Street in New Orleans. Geeky, gawky and easily distracted, Dauphine has no idea how attractive she really is because her face is forever in a book. Reading is her passion, music is her pleasure, and Dauphine's all but given up on sex, especially after a painful rejection that still haunts her. Then Cassie and the women from S.E.C.R.E.T. show her it's possible to reignite that flame.

Meanwhile, Cassie must work through her resentment over losing Will to Tracina and their future baby. But when paternity questions surface, Tracina threatens to expose Cassie's S.E.C.R.E.T. membership to the one man both women love. Will Tracina expose Cassie to Will, and if she does, what will he make of his secret love's S.E.C.R.E.T. life?

This is a review of S.E.C.R.E.T. Shared, so you may want to just skip to the bottom if you are planning to read both - and I definitely recommend reading the first book before the second!

In the first novel, we meet Cassie Robichaud, who has been lonely for a first time. Her first husband was not a nice man, and they split up; soon after that, he died in a car accident. She's approached by a woman who tells her about S.E.C.R.E.T., a group that fulfills women's fantasies - specifically, women like Cassie, who have been unloved or lonely for quite a while. Cassie finds herself immersed in the group, but still harbors a crush on her boss, Will, who is dating Tracina, her coworker at the diner.

In S.E.C.R.E.T. Shared, Cassie and Will's relationship has turned tenuous, and Cassie decides to stay in the group to be a mentor to a new recruit, Dauphine, whom is much like how Cassie used to be with men. The book is told in the first person, same as S.E.C.R.E.T., but Cassie and Dauphine alternate chapters.

The first book was great, and I wanted to know more! The series is going to be three books, as well, so I still have a mini cliffhanger on my hands after finishing S.E.C.R.E.T. Shared. The story was very well told and it's easy to relate to Cassie and also Dauphine.

In case you're wondering, S.E.C.R.E.T. stands for how the fantasies should go - at the end of each fantasy, each woman gets a charm to add to her S.E.C.R.E.T. bracelet, and you will have nine charms total at the end:

Safe, in that the participant feels no danger.
Erotic, in that the fantasy is sexual in nature, not just imaginary.
Compelling, in that the participant truly wants to complete the fantasy.
Romantic, in that the participant feels wanted and desired.
Ecstatic, in that the participant experiences joy in the act.
Transformative, in that something int he participant changes in a fundamental way.

Fans of erotica novels or really any novels that tell a good story and are a little sexier than usual will enjoy these books. I would give both novels 4.5 out of 5 stars.

*Disclosure: I received copies of these novels for reviewing purposes. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.


GIVEAWAY:


I have both S.E.C.R.E.T. novels to give away to one of my lucky readers! Enter via the Rafflecopter form below. Contest will end on Monday, October 28th, at 11:59pm EST, and the winner will be notified via email on October 29th. Winner will have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner will be chosen. U.S./Canada only, please.

Good luck!

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Thursday, October 17, 2013

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Early Decision

Early Decision: Based on a True Frenzy, by Lacy Crawford.

Anne felt a familiar twist in her belly. She already had her students for the year, here in Chicago, and one girl commuting from Minnesota, as well as the set of kids she'd know only by their e-mailed essay drafts and teeth-pulling phone conversations, not to mention the classroom full of immigrants' children she volunteered with on the weekends. But Anne loved to feel in demand - who didn't? - and she imagined that behind this woman's trembling voice was a frightened, harried teenager whose life she might actually improve. Anne needed to hear more.

Early Decision is the Nanny Diaries of the collegiate world - Anne works with extremely privileged, rich children, for the most part, as a "private college admissions counselor," mostly keeping them up to date on application deadlines and also extensively editing their essays. The author of this novel, Lacy Crawford, was a private college counselor as well, and the novel is based on her experiences.

Official synopsis:
Lacy Crawford, college admissionsIn Early Decision, debut novelist Lacy Crawford draws on 15 years of experience traveling the world as a highly sought-after private college counselor to illuminate the madness of college admissions.

Working one-on-one with Tiger-mothered, burned-out kids, Anne “the application whisperer” can make Harvard a reality. Early Decision follows five students over one autumn as Anne helps them craft their college essays, cram for the SATs, and perfect the Common Application. It seems their entire future is on the line—and it is. Though not because of Princeton and Yale. It’s because the process, warped as it is by money, connections, competition, and parental mania, threatens to crush their independence just as adulthood begins.

Whether you want to get in or just get out, with wit and heart, Early Decision explodes the secrets of the college admissions race.
-

I found this novel to be interesting. I myself applied to seven colleges, three in-state (UM, MSU, WMU) and four out-of-state, including an Ivy (Brown, Northwestern, Brandeis, and Tufts); I was rejected from 3 of the 4 out-of-state ones (I received an admission letter to Brandeis only), but perhaps if I had the money to hire a private admissions counselor like Anne, I might have been able to get into some of the others.

At times, this novel was tedious to get through, but most of the time it was an enjoyable read. Anne is actually only 27, not that far removed from college herself, and although she is great at what she does, her personal life is a mess - she's dating an almost-famous 40-year-old actor, who lives in L.A. (she lives in Chicago) and occasionally visits her, and although her business is semi-lucrative, she wishes to be more accomplished like her peers (to have a "career").

This novel also reminded me a bit of The Devil Wears Prada, in that Anne's clients sometimes ask her to do outrageous things - one student forgot to press "SUBMIT" on his Common Application online, and his mother asks her to go to their house on New Year's Eve to do this for him, as they're out-of-town on a ski vacation.

I'd recommend this book for anyone who enjoys novels like Prada or Nanny Diaries, or anyone who is interested in the college application process in general.

3.5 stars out of 5.

*Disclosure: I received a copy of this novel for reviewing purposes. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

GIVEAWAY:

Enter via the Rafflecopter form below. Giveaway will end on Thursday, October 24th, at 11:59pm EST, and winner will be contacted on October 25th via email. Winner will have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner will be chosen. 1 print copy available, and U.S. only, please.

Good luck!

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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Swimming with Maya, ends 10/23

Swimming with Maya, by Eleanor Vincent.

"Am I crazy? I ask. "I've never felt like this before ..."

"You are crazy, he says calmly, "and you will be for a while. But that is normal when you lose a child." I stare at him, wild with fear over my own suicidal impulses.

"Were you like this?"

"Yes, on and off for a long time."

He must see the fear in my eyes.

"One thing I can promise you," he says, squeezing my hand, is that this feeling will come again, but it will never be as intense as it is now. Each time you go down, you go a little less deep."

You're going to need some tissues for this book, a memoir, but it is a great read. It focuses on Eleanor Vincent, who lost her daughter Maya in the early '90s due to a freak accident - Maya gets thrown off a horse, and hits her head - and how she and her other daughter, Meghan, cope with the aftermath. It's written simply but elegantly, and some parts will make you cry, while others will make you smile.

Official synopsis:
Eleanor VincentSwimming with Maya demonstrates the remarkable process of healing after the traumatic death of a loved one. Eleanor Vincent raised her two daughters, Maya and Meghan, virtually as a single parent. Maya, the eldest, was a high-spirited and gifted young woman. As a toddler, Maya was an angelic tow-head, full of life and curiosity. As a teenager, Maya was energetic and independent - and often butted heads with her mother. But Eleanor and Maya were always close and connected, like best friends or sisters, but always also mother and daughter.

Then at age 19, Maya mounts a horse bareback as a dare and, in a crushing cantilever fall, is left in a coma from which she will never recover. Eleanor's life is turned upside down as she struggles to make the painful decision about Maya's fate.

Ultimately Eleanor chooses to donate Maya's organs. Years later, she is able to hear Maya's heart beat in the chest of the heart recipient. Along the way, Eleanor re-examines her relationship with her daughter, as well as Eleanor's traumatic life as a child and young woman. In a story that has been called "heartbreaking and heart-healing," Eleanor Vincent illuminates the kind of courage, creativity, faith, and sheer tenacity it takes to find one's balance after unthinkable tragedy.
-

I was in the midst of reading this book on October 4th, when I came across a part in a chapter saying Maya's birthday: also October 4th. In a fiction book, one might not think anything about this, but my heart contracted then for the author, Eleanor, because she was no doubt missing Maya that day - as this book is a real story, with little or no embellishments, about her daughter's life and, ultimately, her death.

This book was originally published in 2004, but now is available in Kindle format, with an Afterword. The Afterword details events from 2005 through 2011, and I was glad to read about them, as they pertained to Meghan's life and also others who are mentioned in the story.

Eleanor Vincent has an MFA, and you could see this while reading the book: the writing flows very easily, yet she never loses sight of the purpose of the story - illustrating Maya's life and also giving a bit of Eleanor's own background. Eleanor had a hard childhood but this made her determined to be a good mother, and she and Maya had a very close relationship. We know what this book is about before even reading it, based on the synopsis, but it doesn't make it this any less difficult after Maya suffers from her debilitating fall; while reading this memoir, the reader will go through the emotions that Vincent herself goes through.

4 stars out of 5.

*Disclosure: I received an e-copy of this book for reviewing purposes. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.


GIVEAWAY:


Enter via the Rafflecopter form below. I have two copies of Swimming with Maya to give away to my lucky readers!

The contest will end on Wednesday, October 23rd, at 11:59pm EST, and the winners will be emailed on October 24th and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner(s) will be chosen. Giveaway is open to all but U.S. residents will receive print copies of the book and non-U.S. residents (including Canada) will receive e-book copies.

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Sunday, October 6, 2013

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Audrey Bunny, ends 10/21

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe would be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Audrey Bunny is a children's book that deals with uniqueness, and one scared little bunny who believes that no one will "take her home" because she has a mark on her. She then meets a little girl who names her Audrey and loves her unconditionally, although Audrey still tries to cover up her mark, at first.

Official synopsis:
From best-selling women’s author Angie Smith (I Will Carry You, Mended) comes this sweet children’s book about a stuffed animal named Audrey Bunny who fears her imperfections make her unworthy of a little girl’s love. She'll learn the truth soon enough, and young readers will learn that everyone is special and wonderfully made by God.




I thought this was a wonderful book, especially for children, as it talks about how you shouldn't be afraid to be yourself. It does have religious tones, including a "more discussion" section at the end, but overall I didn't think it was very religious - anyone regardless of your religion would enjoy this book, and enjoy sharing it with your child or grandchild.

The pictures were also very well-drawn in this book, and it's a hardcover children's book that would make a great addition to any collection.

You can win a copy of Audrey Bunny by entering via the Rafflecopter below! Contest ends on Monday, October 21st, at 11:59pm EST, and winner will be notified via email on October 22nd and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner will be chosen. U.S./Canada only, please.

Good luck!

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Friday, October 4, 2013

GIVEAWAY: Timbuctoo and Scorpion Soup, by Tahir Shah, ends 10/19

Tahir Shah's newest novel, Casablanca Blues, is in stores on October 18th, and to celebrate, I have a giveaway of two of his previous novels, Timbuctoo and Scorpion Soup.

Timbuctoo synopsis:
Tahir ShahAt the height of the Timbuctoo mania, two hundred years ago, it was widely believed that the distant Saharan city was fashioned in entirety from the purest gold.

One winter night in 1815, a young illiterate American seaman named Robert Adams was discovered half-naked and starving on the snow-bound streets of London. His skin seared from years in the African desert, he claimed to have been taken to Timbuctoo as a white slave. Closing ranks against their unwelcome American guest, the British Establishment lampooned his tale, and began a campaign of discrediting him, one that continues even today. An astonishing tale based on true-life endurance, Timbuctoo is one of greatest love stories ever told.

Scorpion Soup synopsis:
Tahir ShahAs a child I was told stories from morning till night. I was told stories about genies and witches and about great birds that could carry away elephants on their wings… and stories about distant kingdoms and magical lands ruled by warrior-kings. I was told stories of good and bad… and stories of hope and others of despair. I was even told stories about stories. And all the while, I listened, amazed.

The more I listened, the more my mind worked. And the more I came to understand that these stories had a power about them, a secret life-blood all of their own. They were magical instruments, secret machineries that could alter states of mind and change the way we think. Stories are part of the default programming of Man. They are within us all, born into us, and they make us who we are – they make us human. Since earliest childhood, I have feasted on these stories, especially those contained in The Thousand and One Nights. A treasury of storytelling and culture that is in itself a labyrinth of worlds, The Nights conjures realms more fantastical than any other I know.

What I like best is when there are tales concealed within tales – interwoven, complex, mesmerizing to the senses and the soul. To descend down through the layers of stories is to be reborn, into a dominion of fantasy, one touched by real magic. Scorpion Soup is a small hymn to The Thousand and One Nights… and to the stories that have made me who I am.


GIVEAWAY:


Enter via the Rafflecopter form below. The contest will end on Saturday, October 19th, at 11:59pm EST, and the winner will be emailed on October 20th and have 24 hours to respond, or a new winner will be chosen. Both books are print copies, and Timbuctoo is a limited edition hardcover with pull-out maps. U.S./Canada residents only, please.

Good luck!

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Thursday, October 3, 2013

Book Review: Wallbanger

Wallbanger, by Alice Clayton.

Unreal ... More spanking and then the unmistakable sound of a male voice, groaning and sighing. 

I got up, moved the entire bed a few inches away from the wall, and huffed back under the duvet, glaring at the wall the entire time.

I fell asleep that night after swearing I would bang back if I heard one more peep. Or groan. Or spank.

Welcome to the neighborhood, Caroline.

My friend The Romance Bookie highly recommended Wallbanger in her review, and I was excited to randomly receive a copy in the mail a few weeks ago. It ended up being a cute story, although some parts weren't entirely to my liking.

Official synopsis:
Alice Clayton
Definitely an intriguing cover ... 
Caroline Reynolds has a fantastic new apartment in San Francisco, a KitchenAid mixer, and no O (and we’re not talking Oprah here, folks). She has a flourishing design career, an office overlooking the bay, a killer zucchini bread recipe, and no O. She has Clive (the best cat ever), great friends, a great rack, and no O.

Adding insult to O-less, since her move, she has an oversexed neighbor with the loudest late-night wallbanging she’s ever heard. Each moan, spank, and–was that a meow?–punctuates the fact that not only is she losing sleep, she still has, yep, you guessed it, no O.

Enter Simon Parker. (No, really, Simon, please enter.) When the wallbanging threatens to literally bounce her out of bed, Caroline, clad in sexual frustration and a pink baby-doll nightie, confronts her heard-but-never-seen neighbor. Their late-night hallway encounter has, well, mixed results. Ahem. With walls this thin, the tension’s gonna be thick…

In her third novel, Alice Clayton returns to dish her trademark mix of silly and steamy. Banter, barbs, and strutting pussycats, plus the sexiest apple pie ever made, are dunked in a hot tub and set against the gorgeous San Francisco skyline in this hot and hilarious tale of exasperation at first sight.
-

Caroline and her girlfriends in this book kind of reminded me of the women in Sex and the City - always hanging out and gossiping. I really liked how the author included some other POVs (other than Caroline's) in the novel, as well as texts between many different characters and other conversations. There was one chapter where we get to snoop on their thoughts, but that one went on a little long, in my opinion.

The main male character in this book, Simon, was definitely a "book boyfriend" as well (one you'd like to exist in real life ...), and he and Caroline were great together. I will say that I was surprised to learn at one point that she is 26 (my age) and he's 28 in the novel - she has a great job and fantastic friends and apartment, and I had assumed she was in her early 30s, for some reason.

This novel is good if you're looking for a light, fun read (I'd say "summer read" but it's already October, ha), and it does have my recommendation overall - however, I was hoping it would have been a little better than it actually was.

3 stars out of 5.

*Disclosure: I received a copy of this book for reviewing purposes. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Guest Post: Jonathan Hop, author of Journey to the Middle Kingdom

Jon Hop is a friend of mine who will soon be self-publishing his graphic novel Journey to the Middle Kingdom, using a Kickstarter campaign to garner funds for it. Here is the Kickstarter link, and also a guest post from him about the writing process.

Starting at the end


Jonathan Hop
Hello denizens of "Books I Think You Should Read." My name is Jonathan Hop and I will be interrupting your regular scheduled programming today to talk a bit about some strategies to finally get words on paper and finish that manuscript you've been dreaming up in your head for the past six months, but have yet to actually put on paper. I have a technique I've developed to cure writer's block, or at least, to make it not so bad.

I just finished writing the script for my up-and-coming graphic novel “Journey to the Middle Kingdom.” I'm funding it through Kickstarter and getting the campaign underway October 8th. I'm super excited for that, but I was also super excited to finally be done with the script after having experienced chronic writer's block. I could not put a word to the page during the entire month of June to save my life. I remember just staring blankly at the computer screen for hours, finding creative ways to procrastinate (“Ain't nobody got time for that”) and found myself just wasting time. I hate that. What was the problem?

Sometimes when we write we have a bunch of scenes in our head that we want to just cram into the book without thinking of how to connect them all. Even if we get some sort of outline going, we still have to make sure that the characters can stay in character and the storyline doesn't collapse into an endless black plot hole. I mean, there is always Deus Ex Machina to save you, but really, who wants to resort to that?

What I do is start at the end. When I was writing the script for “Journey to the Middle Kingdom,” I already knew exactly how I wanted the book to end. I also had some interesting scenes that I thought were just plain cool or moved the story along. So what I did, was after writing the beginning of the script, I skipped straight to the end and starting writing backwards.

Once I did that, I realized I needed extra characters, especially antagonists, to make the story flow, and I could just add them in without worrying. If I had done the book in chronological order, then I might have hit snags and ended up not knowing what to do to bridge one scene with the next. For example, in “Journey to the Middle Kingdom,” the three main characters (Jason, Sabrina, and Michelle) travel back in time to ancient China and receive magical calligraphy brushes from the Jade Emperor to help them on their quest. Once I got to this point, I went to the end where I put in the cliff hanger I had been dreaming up for months. When I wrote it, I thought about what scene should come before it. When I went scene by scene, but backwards, I realized that the plot was too straightforward, and that to make it more interesting, I had to add more characters. The story wasn't interesting until there were more antagonists and more monkey wrenches thrown into the plans of the main characters.

If I had done the script from beginning to end, I may have gotten to the end, but the plot would have been flat and I would've stared at my keyboard until three in the morning, perusing the embodiment of endless fascination that is “Bored.com” instead of getting the script done. My tip? Start at the end. You'll see things in your story you would never have otherwise seen if you do it the plain jane chronological way.

Thanks to Jon for the guest post! And remember you can click here to access the Kickstarter.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Guest Post and Giveaway: Klout Score, by Susan Gilbert

Klout score
Susan Gilbert
Susan Gilbert is the author of Klout Score: Social Media Influence, How to Gain Exposure and Increase Your Klout, and has graciously agreed to do a guest post about Klout and social media. You can also win an e-copy of her book below. 


Over the last ten years social media has exploded at a phenomenal rate, and has become the dominant force on the Internet today for authors, brands, and businesses. Social networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Instagram, and YouTube are now essential to be a part of. But with so many people congregating in one place how do you distinguish credible and high influencing users? The answer is simple: social measurement.

In 2008 Klout was born in San Francisco, and has become the standard for showing an individual or company’s social influence. With its unique algorithm, the service has had its share of debate, but has seen a restructuring of its measurement along with added services over the last three years.

What Klout does is that it takes into account your online activity through your social media accounts. Klout scores are calculated on a 90 day running average, and range from 0 to 100. The value of interactions with your social community directly affects your influence and credibility.

Currently the top sources of Klout score measurement include Twitter, Facebook, Google+ profiles, LinkedIn, and Instagram. It is important to connect all of your social networks as this will factor into increasing that number.

Klout pays specific attention to your interaction with people, especially those who are high influencers in your area of expertise. Depending on your industry, Klout allows you to list topics of influence like the example here:

Susan Gilbert


The growth and expansion of Klout and the number of users is growing, and with recent changes to user profiles this makes them even more prominent. And in just the last two years Business pages have been integrated along with the addition of Klout Experts, which is posted to Bing, and allows individuals and brands to showcase their expertise. Klout is becoming more important not just for marketers, but also for employers looking for potential new team members, authors establishing credibility, and brand building.

Klout has demanded our attention, and like it or not we must pay attention to its measurement of influence. I explain much more about how to get started, what Klout can do for your brand or business, and much more in my new eBook, KLOUT SCORE: Social Media Influence, How to Gain Exposure and Expand Your Klout Score.

With KLOUT SCORE you will see social measurement as a way to build your own reputation, which will help open new doors of opportunity and influence.

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Book Synopsis:

Klout is a social media measurement tool and KLOUT SCORE: Social Media Influence will explain in easy to follow steps why it is important to be aware of Klout and how to use it effectively.

What this book will do for you:
● Understand what Klout is and how to get started

The Beginner Guide approach:
● Clear step by step instructions
● Learn by doing, start working right away
● Leave out the boring bits
● Inspiring, realistic examples give you ideas for your own social media


Enter to win your own copy of Klout Score! Entries accepted via the Rafflecopter form below. The contest will end on Sunday, October 20th, at 11:59pm EST, and the winner will be emailed on October 21st and have 24 hours to respond, or a new winner will be chosen. Book is an e-book and is available in ePub, Mobi, or PDF form.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Elizabeth has read 2 books toward her goal of 70 books.
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