Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Book GIVEAWAY: Hush, by Karen Robards, ends 1/9/15

Hush is being released today, and two of my lucky readers can win a copy!

Official synopsis:
When Riley Cowan finds her estranged husband Jeff dead in his palatial home, she’s sure it’s no coincidence. The police rule it a suicide, but Riley thinks someone’s out for blood—specifically someone Jeff’s father ripped off in one of the biggest financial fraud cases of all time. She suspects that someone is trying to send a message to Jeff’s father: Tell me where the money is, or everyone you care about will die.

Riley’s in-laws might be billionaires, but she’s afraid that not even their dirty money can protect her from an irate investor who will stop at nothing to get his hands on his misappropriated cash. Enter Finn Bradley, Philly-based FBI agent and Riley’s love interest from way back when.

Finn agrees to help Riley, and the two reignite sparks they both thought were extinguished long ago. But can they discover the killer’s identity in time, before he resurfaces—and strikes again?

Dubbed an “exceptional storyteller” by the Chicago Tribune and “one of the most popular voices in women’s fiction” by Newsweek, Karen Robards’s latest action-packed novel will keep you glued to the pages until the final, shocking conclusion.

About the author:
Karen Robards is the author of more than forty novels and one novella. A regular on the New York Times, USA TODAY, and Publishers Weekly bestseller lists, among others, she is the mother of three boys and lives in Louisville, Kentucky.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Book Review: Last Call, by Alice Clayton

This is the beginning of the end of this love story. Where girls are beautiful and boys are handsome and cats are rock stars. Where friendships endure and relationships mature. Skirts are flippy and emotions are trippy and everyone gets a happy ending ... don't they?

This novella is the last book in the Cocktail series by Alice Clayton. I reviewed Wallbanger back in October 2013, and I have Mai Tai'd Up to review but haven't been able to read it yet. The second book, Rusty Nailed, focuses on Simon and Caroline as well (characters in the first book), and the third and forth, Screwdrivered and Mai Tai'd Up, focus on different couples in the same Simon/Caroline realm.

This one, Last Call, wraps up Simon and Caroline's story, but I found that you didn't need to have read Rusty Nailed to enjoy this one, though I do recommend reading Wallbanger to have some sense of their back story.

Official synopsis:
From NEW YORK TIMES & USA TODAY bestselling author Alice Clayton, known for her “deliciously addictive” (The Book Vixen) novels, this Cocktail series novella reunites readers with Caroline and Simon from the wildly successful Wallbanger.

Simon and Caroline are back for another round of baking, banging, and big life changes. Settling in, but never settling down, Caroline has finally struck a balance between the professional and the personal. As one of the top interior designers in San Francisco, she travels all over Northern California between nook time with Simon.

Perpetual globetrotter Simon has cut his frequent flyer miles in half over the last year, preferring to balance his professional and personal life, as well.

The next step in their lives seems preordained—toasts, veils, and the aisle of rose petals. But when an accident on a photo shoot in Southeast Asia brings Caroline the most terrifying phone call she could ever imagine, she has to ask whether “till death do us part” is a more realistic prospect than faces most couples.

It’s been a grand adventure, and Caroline and Simon wouldn’t go out without the best surprise ending ever. One part sexy, one part laughter, a dash of exotic locales, and one pink nightie, mixed with passion, and you’ve got Last Call. Served with a side of Clive.

In case you're wondering - Clive (in that last sentence) is their cat.

I found this to be a cute and easy read. In Wallbanger, Caroline meets Simon, her next-door neighbor with whom she shares a wall, and whom always seems to have a harem of women showing up at his door. Their meet-cute ends with them (SPOILER) falling in love, and I assume their relationship is explored more in Rusty Nailed.

In Last Call, all of their close friends are either pregnant or getting married, and it leads Caroline to ponder if she and Simon should take that step too. It makes her nervous even thinking about it, but she soon realizes she loves him and doesn't want to lose him.

Even though this series is classified as "erotica," compared to other erotica books I've read it's rather tame in that regard - I'd classify it as maybe PG-13 rated, if it was a movie. So if you're looking to get into the genre but don't want to dive in, so to speak, the Cocktail series would be a good fit.

Last Call will be in stores on January 6, 2015 - click here to preorder. 4 stars out of 5.

The Cocktail Series

*Disclosure: I received a copy of this novella to review. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Suspicion, by Alexandra Monir, ends 1/5/15

I should have remembered what I learned firsthand years ago - that it only takes one night to transform a place; that a single event can crumble a stalwart structure and strip a home of a decade's worth of happy memories. But I never imagined it would happen twice. I let myself be taken in by Rockford once again, and even now, as I long to escape, I'm no match for the land. It pulls me under, seeping into my skin, until I don't know where I end and it begins. Maybe that's what it means to tie your identity to a place: it can betray you, shatter your illusions - and yet you can't stay away.

This novel is based on the book Rebecca, which I haven't read, but I very much enjoyed Suspicion. The reviewers on Goodreads have been rather harsh on the book so far, but I liked how it combines supernatural/paranormal elements with an awesome setting (England) and has a Princess Diaries flair to it (a "commoner" becoming a duchess).

Official synopsis:
Mysterious. Magnificent. Creepy. Welcome to Rockford Manor.

"There's something hidden in the Maze." Seventeen-year-old Imogen has never forgotten the last words her father said to her seven years ago, before the blazing fire that consumed him, her mother, and the gardens of her family's English country manor.

Haunted by her parents' deaths, Imogen moves to New York City with her new guardians. But when a letter arrives with the news of her cousin's untimely death, revealing that Imogen is now the only heir left to run the estate, she returns to England and warily accepts her role as duchess.

All is not as it seems at Rockford, and Imogen quickly learns that dark secrets lurk behind the mansion's aristocratic exterior, hinting that the spate of deaths in her family were no accident. And at the center of the mystery is Imogen herself--and Sebastian, the childhood friend she has secretly loved for years. Just what has Imogen walked into?

Combining a fresh twist on the classic REBECCA with a spine-tingling mystery and powerful romance, SUSPICION is an action-packed thrill ride.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Quick Pick: Accidents of Marriage, by Randy Susan Meyers

  • Opening lines: Maddy ran her tongue over her teeth, imagining the bitter taste of a crumbling tablet of Xanax. After a gut-wrenching day at the hospital, nothing tempted her more than a chemical vacation.
  • Reason I picked up the book: I very much enjoyed Meyers' previous two books, The Comfort of Lies and The Murderer's Daughters - I gave both 4.5 or 5 stars out of 5.
  • And what's this book about?
  • Accidents of Marriage explores a topic rarely shown in fiction: the destruction left in the wake of spouse’s verbal fury. Ben never meant to hurt Maddy. He never imagined his recklessness would lead to tragedy. Maddy is a social worker trying to balance her career and three children. Years ago, she fell in love with Ben, a public defender, drawn to his fiery passion, but now he’s lashing out at her during his periodic verbal furies. She vacillates between tiptoeing around him and asserting herself for the sake of their kids – which works to keep a fragile peace – until the rainy day when they’re together in the car and Ben’s volatile temper gets the best of him, leaving Maddy in the hospital fighting for her life. Randy Susan Meyers takes us inside the hearts and minds of her characters, alternating among the perspectives of Maddy, Ben, and their fourteen-year-old daughter. Accidents of Marriage is a provocative and stunning novel that will resonate deeply with women from all walks of life, ultimately revealing the challenges of family, faith, and forgiveness.
  • Favorite paragraph: 
Cobalt-blue wedding goblets glinted from a glass self - the cups they'd used for their first sip as a married couple. A Jewish tradition. The glasses were not so much expensive as precious, and thus behind glass, taken out each anniversary. Last year Gracie spent an hour getting the room just right for them. Candles. The table cleared of clutter. Two pressed white napkins.
Ben walked to the cabinet, opened the door, and took out the deep-blue glasses, leaving two clean circles int he dust. He carried them to the table. the faceted crystal shimmered in the sun. He lifted the glasses high and tapped them together. Music. Glass music, Gracie called it the last time he and Maddy toasted. 
He clinked them again and again. He clinked them until the music was no longer sweet. He clinked them until the glasses ground against each other. He slammed them harder and harder until finally he threw one against the wall and watched it shatter. 
  • Recommended for: Anyone who likes reading family dramas.
  • Something to know: I started reading this book for my book club, and it wasn't that great at first, but it slowly improved throughout. 
  • What I would have changed: I'm not sure, but the novel didn't flow as well as the author's last two. I overall did enjoy it, but the beginning was just okay, and then once a pivotal event happens in the novel, the story gets more interesting.
  • Overall rating: 3 out of 5 stars.
  • Where can I buy this book? Click here.

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

Friday, December 19, 2014

Quick Pick: The Afterlifer's Tale, by Philip Kadwell

  • Opening lines: I am making my way down a dry creek bed when I stop and crouch by a patch of cattails. When traveling in the wilderness of the Afterlife it is good discipline to occasionally hide and count to sixty while scanning the track you just came across. That is when the Eaters will reveal themselves, flicking soundlessly over the ground, their greenish outlines quivering like amobas.
  • Reason I picked up the book: It's kind of sci-fi, to an extent. I've always been curious about how people interpret the Afterlife, too.
  • And what's this book about?
  • While hiking in the Michigan countryside on a bright January afternoon, Jack Avery decides to cut across a frozen pond. It is too late when he realizes his mistake. The ice breaks up under his feet and he falls into the frigid water, quickly losing consciousness.

    Coming to at the water’s edge, Jack has no memory how he got there. A warm breeze wafts over the pond. The honeysuckle trees nearby are in full bloom. Inexplicably, it seems like a pleasant day in July.

    A tall lanky stranger approaches and introduces himself as Cowboy. He tells Jack that he has died and is in the Afterlife. Jack refuses to accept his fate and stalks off to find his way home. Along the path, Jack encounters the beautiful, dark-haired Olivia; Hector, a physicist; Audrey, a young woman with psychic powers; and Bishop, a grizzled, born-again war veteran. They all have gone through the experience of dying and awaking in the Afterlife.

    After discovering how to manipulate a mysterious sphere that lies half-buried in the sand, Jack devises a daring plan to escape from the Afterlife. But not all goes as intended. Jack has a bigger destiny to fulfill, one that involves the evolution of humanity itself… and answers the biggest question of all: the ultimate meaning of Creation.
  • Favorite paragraph: 
"I want to report my vehicle being vandalized," I say.
Finally, at a lower pitch, and not so cheery: "Sir, we're answering your call as a courtesy. There's nothing we can do for you. You realize, of course, that you are in the Afterlife." 
I take the cell phone from my ear and stare at it for a moment.  
  • Recommended for: Anyone who likes TV shows like Resurrection (one of my new favorites), who is curious about the afterlife and/or "Creation," or who likes a good read.
  • Something to know: The book has just been re-released on Amazon, and it's been edited and retouched a bit.
  • What I would have changed: Nothing I can think of. 
  • Overall rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.
  • Where can I buy this book? Click here.

    *Disclosure: The author of this book is the father of one of my friends, and he self-published this novel. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Book Review: The Life Intended, by Kristin Harmel

I can smell salt in the air from the coast nearby, and I reach instinctively for the silver dollar hanging from my neck as I think about how Patrick and I threw a coin into the ocean just blocks from here after we got married. A thank-you to the universe for the best thing that ever happened to me, Patrick said. I wonder if you're allowed to ask the universe to refund your coins when life doesn't turn out the way you planned.

I'm not sure if I've read any of Kristin Harmel's books before this one, but I definitely plan on reading more now. The Life Intended was a fast read that I could not put down - in fact, I was supposed to be reading a book for my book club but started this midway and then had to finish it - and it should appeal to most readers.

Official synopsis:
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.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Author Interview + GIVEAWAY: When Angels Sing (book) and Angels Sing (movie), ends 12/19

Just in time for the holidays, you can win a copy of the film Angels Sing from me, as well as a copy of the book (When Angels Sing) as well! The movie has some great actors in it too, such as Harry Connick Jr., Connie Britton, Kris Krisotofferson, Willie Nelson, and more.

About the movie:
Harry Connick, Jr. stars as Michael Walker, who, as a child, wished every day was Christmas. That is, until a tragic accident crushed his holiday spirit. Thirty years later, Michael still can’t muster any joy for Christmas, despite encouragement from his playful wife (Connie Britton) and well intentioned parents (Kris Kristofferson and Fionnula Flanagan). But when his young son (Chandler Canterbury) faces a tragedy, Michael needs to make amends with his past. A mysterious man named Nick (Willie Nelson) gives Michael a gift that instills in him the courage to find the Christmas joy that he lost.

Website: www.angelssingmovie.com

About the book author, Turk Pipkin:
Writer and actor Turk Pipkin has had a career like no other. A former stand-up comedian who gave up performing after a long run on the road with Rodney Dangerfield and many others, he's since published eight books, including two well-received novels, and written a hundred hours of primetime television. He's also traveled around the world for thirty years, writing as he journeyed for a dozen national magazines. In his latest incarnation, Turk can be seen as a recurring character in the third season of HBO's hit series, "The Sopranos."

Interview with Turk Pipkin:

1. How did you get the idea to write this Christmas story for your daughter?

I wrote When Angels Sing as a Christmas present for my both my daughters and for the rest of my family. I had thought a lot about the connections between family and Christmas traditions, and thought it would be great to use some of our own family traditions as background in the book.

2. Did you have any say/influence over the movie (ie, who they casted, the script, etc)?

Other than writing the novel, my main contribution to the film was to lend a hand on casting. I'd always thought Willie Nelson would be perfect to play the role of Nick, a mysterious man who may or may not be St. Nick. Likewise for Kris Kristofferson, a former army pilot, to play the grandfather. Other friends like Connie Britton, Lyle Lovett, Eloise Dejoria and a great host of wonderful Texas musicians also ended up in the film. Director Tim McCanlies deserves a lot of credit for realizing the musicians like Bruce Robison, Marcia Ball and Charlie Sexton would be great on camera.

3. You yourself are an actor as well - are you in the movie at all?

Most people know me as an actor from my role as that idiot narcoleptic guy in HBO's The Sopranos. In general, I get cast for a little comic relief - no surprise since I used to be a juggler and a comedian (and because I'm 6'7" tall). In Angels Sing, the great Texas singer songwriter Bruce Robison plays Harry Connick, Jr.'s brother, and I played the part of Uncle Theo, who is one of those close family members we all have at Christmas that no one seems to know who or how he fits in. It's a small part but I had a lot of scenes with Kris Kristofferson and the rest of the family. I'd made a couple of movies in the past with Kris and Willie Nelson, and any time you're working with those guys, life is treating you good.

Friday, December 5, 2014

If I Stay, by Gayle Forman: Book vs. Movie Adaptation

*Disclosure: I received If I Stay on Blu-ray combo pack plus a copy of the novel in exchange for this post. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

I read the novel If I Stay by Gayle Forman back in 2010 or '11, and recently picked it up again to reread. I also was able to see the film adaptation of the book back in August 2014, and I reviewed it over on my film blog.

I was glad I reread If I Stay recently, because I had completely forgotten there were so many differences between the movie and the book adaptations.

Here's a quick synopsis of the story:
credit: deliciousreads.com

Just listen, Adam says with a voice that sounds like shrapnel.

I open my eyes wide now.
I sit up as much as I can.
And I listen.

Stay, he says.

Choices. Seventeen-year-old Mia is faced with some tough ones: Stay true to her first love—music—even if it means losing her boyfriend and leaving her family and friends behind?

Then one February morning Mia goes for a drive with her family, and in an instant, everything changes. Suddenly, all the choices are gone, except one. And it's the only one that matters.

If I Stay is a heartachingly beautiful book about the power of love, the true meaning of family, and the choices we all make.

I gave the movie 3 out of 5 stars, but would like to watch it again to re-evaluate; sometimes my initial impressions aren't always correct, or my opinions can change upon a second viewing.

I had forgotten that the movie is very different from the novel upon which it's based, in this instance. Both the book and the movie show Mia's life in flashbacks (in the present, she's struggling for life in the ICU) but the movie is a little more choosy on what it shows from the book material. One great scene in the movie involved Mia playing cello, Adam (her boyfriend) playing guitar, and everyone jamming out at a BBQ at her house, and this is included in the book as well.

The book also gives a lot more backstory on Mia's best friend, Kim, and her feelings towards Adam; in the movie, we see how they initially meet, at their school (he's a rocker in a band, she's a cellist) and certain parts of their relationship, but not all of it.

In the novel, Mia finds out she got into Julliard before her car accident, also, and in the movie, I believe someone opens the letter for her (I think Adam does, but not 100% sure on that) and finds out that she was accepted, while she's still in a coma.

The novel also ends rather abruptly, although I'm not sure how else Forman would have lengthened the ending. Did you know there's a sequel, called Where She Went, that's from Adam's point-of-view? I read that as well, but back in July 2011 - I recommend that to fans of the movie or book, if you want to know more about Mia and Adam.

So should you read the book, or see the movie? I'd actually recommend both, as I really enjoyed the book - it's a fast read - and I overall liked the movie too. Because they are so different, the order in which you watch/read them doesn't particularly matter, either.


{To buy both If I Stay and Where She Went: click here}
{To buy the movie on Blu-ray combo pack: click here}

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

GIVEAWAY: Owning Violet, by Monica Murphy, ends 12/10

Owning Violet is the new book out by Monica Murphy, and the first in her new Fowler Sisters series.

Official synopsis:
New York Times bestselling author Monica Murphy begins a sexy new contemporary romance series— perfect for fans of Christina Lauren and Emma Chase —that introduces three sisters born to wealth, raised to succeed, ready to love, destined to make waves.

I’ve moved through life doing what’s expected of me. I’m the middle daughter, the dutiful daughter. The one who braved a vicious attack and survived. The one who devoted herself to her family’s business empire. The one who met an ambitious man and fell in love. We were going to run Fleur Cosmetics together, Zachary and I.

Until he got a promotion and left me in the dust. Maybe it’s for the best, between his disloyalty and his wandering eye. But another man was waiting for me. Wanting me. He too has an overwhelming thirst for success, just like Zachary—perhaps even more so. He’s also ruthless. And mysterious. I know nothing about Ryder McKay beyond that he makes me feel things I’ve never felt before.

One stolen moment, a kiss, a touch . . . and I’m hooked. Ryder’s like a powerful drug, and I’m an addict who doesn’t want to be cured. He tells me his intentions aren’t pure, and I believe him. For once, I don’t care. I’m willing to risk everything just to be with him. Including my heart. My soul.

My everything.

You can purchase Owning Violet here, either in e-book or paperback format. 

Stealing Rose (book #2) will be out on March 3rd, 2015, and Taming Lily (book #3) will be out on July 7th, 2015.

Monday, December 1, 2014

ReZoopie Book + GIVEAWAY: 4-pack of tickets to Wild Lights at the Detroit Zoo {2 winners!}, ends 12/8

Do you have trouble getting your kids to eat their fruits and veggies? I'll admit that even now, at age 27, I am sometimes picky about what kinds of veggies I eat.

Door to Door Organics has partnered with the Detroit Zoo to create a fun, colorful ReZoopie® cookbook to help you tempt your kids into eating healthy fruits and vegetables, just like their favorite animals.

You can get the cookbook for FREE by clicking here.

I was able to try Door to Door Organics recently too, as some of their fruits were in a swag bag from the Dearborn blogger event I attended, and the persimmons in particular - which I had never actually tried before - were very good.

If you are a new Door to Door Organics customer, you can use the promo code DETROITZOO to get $10 off your first order, too.

A bit about Wild Lights, at the Detroit Zoo:
Experience the magic of the Detroit Zoo in winter as you take in the lights and the sights and enjoy holiday entertainment and activities for guests of all ages. More than five million LED lights will illuminate trees, buildings and more than 100 animal sculptures throughout the front of the Zoo. Wild Lights will be held from 5:30 to 9 p.m. November 22-23 and 28-30 and December 5-7, 11-14, 18-23 and 26-31. Live entertainment, arts and crafts, ice carving and the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibit will add to the festivities. Seasonal refreshments, Wild Lights souvenirs and photos with Santa “Paws” (until December 23) will be available for purchase.

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