Tuesday, November 25, 2014

GIVEAWAY: A Shade of Vampire audio book, by Bella Forrest (download), ends 12/2

A few of you might remember my reviews of Bella Forrest's A Shade of Vampire series - the series currently has 8 books, and I've reviewed up until book 6 as of yet.

A Shade of Vampire is now out on audio book, and I have one free audio download for one of my lucky readers to win. Audio books are perfect for those who might not have time to read, but definitely have time when working out, driving, or doing similar activities where you have your phone or MP3 player on hand.

Official synopsis:
When Sofia Claremont was kidnapped to a sunless island, uncharted by any map and ruled by the most powerful vampire coven on the planet, she believed she'd forever be a captive of its dark ruler, Derek Novak.

Now, after months of surviving an endless night, the morning sun may soon rise again for Sofia. Something has possessed Derek's heart and he offers her a gift no human slave has ever been given in the history of his cursed island: escape.

High school, prom and a chance to move on with her life now await her.

But will she be able to forget the horrors that steal her sleep away at night? ... or the feelings that haunt her for that tormented prince of darkness?

The Shade of Vampire series is one of my favorite, and I'm glad to be able to share it again with my readers.

Here's a sneak peek of the beginning of the book:

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Leaving Time, by Jodi Picoult, ends 12/5

Virgil starts to laugh. "You're telling me you are a hack?"

"It's worse. Because I wasn't always." I look at him. There is a green mask around his eyes, a reflection from the mirror, as if he is some kind of superman. But he isn't. He's flawed, and scarred, and battle-weary, just like me. Just like all of us.

Jenna lost her mother. I lost my credibility. Virgil lost his faith. We've all got missing pieces. But for a little while, I believed that, together, we might be whole.

We cross into Delaware. "I don't think she could have picked two worse people to help her if she tried," I sigh.

"That's all the more reason," Virgil says, "to make it right."

I am a huge fan of Jodi Picoult's books, and this one was no exception. She does extensive research to make sure her books are factually accurate, and because of that, each one is very detailed about something specific: in this case, the main character's mother, who is missing, was a scientist who worked among elephants.

Official synopsis:

For more than a decade, Jenna Metcalf has never stopped thinking about her mother, Alice, who mysteriously disappeared in the wake of a tragic accident. Refusing to believe that she would be abandoned as a young child, Jenna searches for her mother regularly online and pores over the pages of Alice’s old journals. A scientist who studied grief among elephants, Alice wrote mostly of her research among the animals she loved, yet Jenna hopes the entries will provide a clue to her mother’s whereabouts.

Desperate to find the truth, Jenna enlists two unlikely allies in her quest. The first is Serenity Jones, a psychic who rose to fame finding missing persons—only to later doubt her gifts. The second is Virgil Stanhope, a jaded private detective who originally investigated Alice’s case along with the strange, possibly linked death of one of her colleagues. As the three work together to uncover what happened to Alice, they realize that in asking hard questions, they’ll have to face even harder answers.

As Jenna’s memories dovetail with the events in her mother’s journals, the story races to a mesmerizing finish.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Guest Post - Linda Appleman Shapiro, author of She's Not Herself: A psychotherapist's journey into and beyond her mother's mental illness

Why I chose to tell my story as a memoir instead of fiction

Although I offer the back story of how I came to write this memoir in the Afterword of the book, I'll answer your question as honestly and clearly as I can. I'll start by offering my belief in the importance of knowing oneself, acknowledging one’s strengths and talents, and recognizing ones's weaknesses and deficits.

I realized at some point that fictionalizing my story was not in the cards for me. My ah-ha moment came with the feeling that telling my own story in the form of a memoir might allow others to feel less isolated. Whether they had grown up with a parent, sibling, or child suffering from mental or physical illness, my hope was that they would better grasp the consequences of their situation by identifying with mine.

I also knew a couple of other things to be true for me:

To write about the same subject for a psychological journal would have been far easier. It would have been a combination of research and anecdotal stories from my family and from all the families I’ve treated. But I felt compelled to write a memoir instead and to share my story by showing how each of us survived -- despite the pain and the trauma – and leave readers with my first-hand experience of knowing about love, loss, and loyalty, along with the darker sides of life that shaped who I am but do not define me as a victim.

Going through life feeling totally victimized is not a way to live. It doesn't allow for real joy to be experienced. There isn't a positive way to be productive without moving through and beyond traumas. I say that without any intention of minimizing the effects of trauma, but with the knowledge that unless professional help is sought, or some means of healing are found, those of us who were, more or less, robbed of a childhood and parentified at too early an age, or others who lost their innocence to terrible forms of abuse . . . will never be able to climb out from under the despair that was imposed upon us.

So, while being a psychotherapist/addictions counselor for the past 30+ years and having written critical papers throughout my college and graduate school years, I’d never created stories from whole cloth. That’s an art form that takes knowledge and talent that I’d have to live many more years to develop. Knowing that from the start, I knew that I would never be writing a novel. I’ve been an avid reader since as far back as I can remember, and I loved reading biographies every bit as much as novels. In fact, for many years, I considered books to be my dearest and closest friends. But I’d never taken a creative writing course and I knew that for me to tell my family’s actual story, I needed to do so in the form of a memoir. To place it in a fictional setting would not have been authentic and would not have been the most effective way to tell my story.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Quick Pick: Stars in Their Eyes, by Lauren Blakely

  • Opening lines: He would be here any minute.
    I was ready for him.
  • Reason I picked up the book: It sounded like a cute rom-com of sorts.
  • And what's this book about?
  • William Harrigan wants one thing – to stay in L.A. past college graduation. With a student visa set to expire, the clock is ticking. When he lands a gig that pairs him with the beautiful blond spitfire Jess, he’s scored his best shot at living out the American dream. Winning her trust would be a whole lot easier, however, if he didn’t have ulterior motives... But there’s no faking the intense attraction between them. Try as they might to resist each other, soon sparks are flying, as they devise a plan to sneak into the ceremony. But when Jess' new celebrity client raises the stakes, she starts to smell blackmail, and soon she and Will are chasing down cheating directors, staking out clandestine trysts, and making fake IDs, all while sneaking scene-stealing kisses and hot nights together. The audience loves a happy ending, but in a town where everyone's acting and no one's playing by the rules, can Jess and William find their own ever after in time?
  • Favorite paragraph: 
He was crossing the street and walking towards me, all six foot and then some sexiness of him. He had the look, all right. The jeans, the loose and sexy tee that hinted at his abs, but didn't reveal too much, the nicely toned arms on display, those eyes like a stormy sky, and that lopsided grin that I wanted to lick and kiss and smack the hell off his too-fine face.
"Fancy meeting you here," he said, and then flashed a smile. I wanted to arrest him for the smile. It was the sort of grin that should be outlawed for being impossible to not adore.
  • Recommended for: Anyone who likes a quick, fun read. 
  • Something to know: This book is actually part of the Caught Up in Love series, but each book follows a different couple, though some of the characters show up in a few of the books. I want to read Far Too Tempting now because it follows Matthew, William's brother, and how he met and fell in love with his wife.
  • What I would have changed: Part of the ending is a little too convenient, but it's also very cute. Not sure how I would have changed it, though.
  • Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars.
  • Where can I buy this book? Click here.

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

Thursday, November 20, 2014

GIVEAWAY: The Life Intended + The Sweetness of Forgetting {Kristin Harmel}, ends 11/30

Kristin Harmel's newest book, The Life Intended, hits shelves on December 30th, but you could win your copy before that - as well as a copy of The Sweetness of Forgetting, also by Harmel.

Official synopses of both books:
{The Life Intended - click here to pre-order}
Finding love once is a gift. Finding it twice – young widow Kate Waithman understands just how lucky that is.

A music therapist in New York City, Kate is newly engaged to a handsome, successful man. Life should be just about perfect, except that suddenly Kate is having unsettling dreams about her first husband. In those dreams, Patrick didn’t die on that terrible night twelve years ago, and he and Kate have a daughter, Hannah. The feelings and images are so vivid, so right, that Kate doesn’t know what to think. Is Patrick trying to tell her something, or is she just afraid to grasp this second chance at happiness?

Slowly, piece by piece, Kate’s dream world hands her clues. And as she puts them together, what she finds are unexpected revelations about trusting herself, about hope after heartache, and about Patrick himself. Most of all, Kate learns that even in loss, love never really leaves, but waits to guide us exactly where we need to be.

{The Sweetness of Forgetting - click here to buy}
A baker in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, must travel to Paris to uncover a family secret for her dying grandmother—and what she learns may change everything. The Sweetness of Forgetting is the book that made Kristin Harmel an international bestseller.

At thirty-six, Hope McKenna-Smith is no stranger to bad news. She lost her mother to cancer, her husband left her for a twenty-two year old, and her bank account is nearly depleted. Her own dreams of becoming a lawyer long gone, she’s running a failing family bakery on Cape Cod and raising a troubled preteen.

Now, Hope’s beloved French-born grandmother Mamie, who wowed the Cape with her fabulous pastries for more than fifty years, is drifting away into a haze of Alzheimer’s. But in a rare moment of clarity, Mamie realizes that unless she tells Hope about the past, the secrets she has held on to for so many years will soon be lost forever. Tantalizingly, she reveals mysterious snippets of a tragic history in Paris. And then, arming her with a scrawled list of names, she sends Hope to France to uncover a seventy-year-old mystery.

Hope’s emotional journey takes her through the bakeries of Paris and three religious traditions, all guided by Mamie’s fairy tales and the sweet tastes of home. As Hope pieces together her family’s history, she finds horrific Holocaust stories mixed with powerful testimonies of her family’s will to survive in a world gone mad. And to reunite two lovers torn apart by terror, all she’ll need is a dash of courage, and the belief that God exists everywhere, even in cake ...

Monday, November 17, 2014

GIVEAWAY: If I Stay Blu-ray and paperback copy by Gayle Forman, ends 11/25

The If I Stay Blu-ray combo pack + DVD will be in stores tomorrow, November 18th, but you can win a copy here, as well as a paperback copy of the novel!

I reviewed the movie back in August at my film blog, and I gave it a Yes review. I read the book a while back, too, and it was also very good. 

About the movie:
ChloĆ« Grace Moretz and Jamie Blackley shine” (Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune) in this romantic film based on the best-selling novel. Seventeen-year-old Mia Hall (Moretz) thought the hardest decision she would ever face would be whether to pursue her musical dreams at Juilliard or follow a different path to be with the love of her life, Adam (Blackley). But what should have been a carefree family drive changes everything in an instant, and now her own life hangs in the balance. Caught between life and death for one revealing day, Mia has only one decision left, which will not only decide her future but her ultimate fate. Also starring are Mireille Enos and Joshua Leonard as Mia’s parents, Kat and Denny, and Stacy Keach as Gramps.  Rounding out the main cast are Jakob Davies as Mia’s little brother, Liana Liberato as her best friend, Gabrielle Rose as Grandma, and Aisha Hinds as Nurse Ramirez. 

The Blu-ray and DVD have many special features, as well, including audio and music commentaries, and Beyond the Page interviews with the cast/crew and Gayle Forman.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Book Review: Under the Egg, by Laura Marx Fitzgerald

It was the find of the century.

Or so I thought at the time.

This was back when a great day meant finding a toaster oven on the curb with a sign reading WORKS GOOD. Or scoring a bag of day-old danishes (slightly stale), which taste like heavena fter months of plain oatmeal.

Manhattan's treasures are't hard to find. You just have to look.

This novel was a fun read - a mystery story combined with themes of friendship and others. I've read From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, admittedly a long time ago, and the book claims it as influence in its synopsis; I do remember that Mrs. Basil was a mystery of sorts too, and this novel included some historical events as well.

Official synopsis:
Under the Egg book review
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler meets Chasing Vermeer in this clever middle grade debut.

When Theodora Tenpenny spills a bottle of rubbing alcohol on her late grandfather’s painting, she discovers what seems to be an old Renaissance masterpiece underneath. That’s great news for Theo, who’s struggling to hang onto her family’s two-hundred-year-old townhouse and support her unstable mother on her grandfather’s legacy of $463. There’s just one problem: Theo’s grandfather was a security guard at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and she worries the painting may be stolen.

With the help of some unusual new friends, Theo's search for answers takes her all around Manhattan, and introduces her to a side of the city—and her grandfather—that she never knew. To solve the mystery, she'll have to abandon her hard-won self-reliance and build a community, one serendipitous friendship at a time.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Virgin, by Radhika Sanghani, ends 11/11

Life as an adult virgin is more complicated than you might think. Obviously it is normal, there are thousands of us, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. Choosing when to have sex is a completely individual decision, and everyone is different. Some people choose to wait till marriage, and some just want to wait for the right person. Others are religious, and others are just too busy being successful in every other area of their lives to worry about something as minor as intercourse.

At least, that's what the Internet said when I Googled it the second I got home from the doctor's office.

This book was hilarious, and I'm pretty sure everyone can relate to it, or even parts of it, at one time in their life or another. Ellie is a 21-year-old university student, and is also a virgin, something she'd like to change. All of her friends have already lost their virginities, most when they were 16 or 17 years old, and she wants to lose hers before she graduates from college.

Official synopsis:
Okay, I admit it ... I didn’t do it.


This is normal, right? I mean, just because everyone I know has talked like they’ve already done it doesn’t mean that they’re telling the truth…right?

It’s not like I’m asking for that much. I don’t need the perfect guy. I don’t need candlelight or roses. Honestly, I don’t even need a real bed.

The guys I know complain that girls are always looking for Mr. Right—do I have to wear a sign that says I’m only looking for Mr. Right Now?

Sooooo…anyone out there want sex? Anyone? Hello? Just for fun?

I am not going to die a virgin. One way or another I am going to make this happen.

Hey, what have I got to lose? Besides the obvious.

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Written in the Sand, by T.A. Foster and Mary-Kathryn Craft, ends 12/18

This was the last place she should be. The absolute last place. She woke up this morning in hot and dusty Dallas, and now she was standing outside of the Dock House while boats rocked in their slips.
The wind whipped through her hair. She hesitated. This was all wrong. She shouldn't be here, but she had to know. She had to see him again.

She pushed open the door, her heart in her throat, her palms dewy with perspiration, her breath fevered.

Was any of it real, or was it all just a flash of summer heat?

This is the story of Blair and Maggie, recently graduated college students who decide to housesit for a beach house one summer before they have to start their "real lives" (new jobs in different cities). They've been roommates for a while, and they're looking forward to rooming together one last time before they split up (Blair to Dallas and Maggie to Charleston). They're looking for summer flings, as well, but they don't know that their respective flings will start turning to real feelings by the end of the summer.

Official synopsis:
Blair is determined to stay on course. Her reporting career is waiting for her if she can just make it through summer on the island.

Justyn knows not to get attached to tourist girls breezing through town for only a season.

Maggie wants to cherish her last few months of summer freedom. So what if she has to keep a tiny secret to make sure everyone around her stays happy?

Reid doesn’t have time for romance. His new business must succeed, no matter the cost.

This summer everything is about to change. All those carefully laid plans might shift faster than the tides. When these four start spending time together, the island nights get hotter than the sun-drenched days. Trying to stay untangled and unattached is easier said than done when the one thing you want is standing right in front of you.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Book Review: Dirty Rowdy Thing, by Christina Lauren

I open my mouth, saying, "I should ..." and pointing vaguely north, toward home.

He nods, watching me put everything back on before he pats a heavy hand on the bed. "Harlow, you shouldn't run off." Pushing to sit at the edge of the mattress, he says, "Stay. Let me ... fuck, I don't know. Set up a bath for you, or ... just stay here. It was intense. Wasn't it intense?"

It was. It was so intense that I'm suddenly second-guessing everything that brought me here.

As I gather my things to leave, I'm not sure if being with Finn is an escape, or a new dangerous obsession.

This is the second novel in the Wild Seasons series, the first being Sweet Filthy Boy, which I reviewed back in June. Despite the somewhat R-rated title names, all of Christina Lauren's books are great reads, and I always enjoy reviewing them; I made it through this novel in about two days flat.

Official synopsis:
Despite their rowdy hookups, Harlow and Finn don’t even like each other ... which would explain why their marriage lasted only twelve hours. He needs to be in charge and takes whatever he wants. She lives by the Want-something-done? Do-it-yourself mantra. Maybe she’s too similar to the rugged fisherman - or just what he needs.

credit: Christina Lauren Facebook page

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