Monday, March 30, 2015

Quick Pick: Breakwater Bay, by Shelley Noble

  • Opening lines: Alden wasn't supposed to take the dinghy out today. That's the last thing is dad said when he left for work that morning. "Don't go on the water. There's a bad storm brewing."
  • Reason I picked up the book: It seemed like a fun "beach read," and it also takes place in Rhode Island, where my relatives live and one of my favorite places.
  • And what's this book about?
  • An abandoned baby, a glorious old Newport mansion, and awakening romance combine in Breakwater Bay, an engaging story that echoes the flair, humor, and emotional depth of Kristin Hannah's popular novels.

    Preservationist Meri Hollis loves her latest project, restoring one of Newport's forgotten Gilded Age mansions. And with summer approaching, she'll be able to spend more time with her Gran on the Rhode Island shore. She has a great job, a loving family and she's pretty sure her boyfriend is going to propose on her thirtieth birthday.

    But everything Meri believes about family, happiness, truth and love is shattered when her family's darkest secret is exposed.

    Thirty years before, Meri's neighbor and friend, Alden Corrigan, took his father's dinghy out to fish. In a sudden storm, he rushed to help a woman stranded on the breakwater. She was just a girl . . . a very pregnant girl who disappeared soon after they reached safety-But not before she left behind a very special gift.

    Now that the truth it out, life will change for everyone in Breakwater Bay, and Meri and Alden will have to make decisions that could insure their future together . . . or separate them for good.
  • Favorite paragraph:
  • Meri hesitated when they reached the kitchen door. Alden opened it and nudged her inside, shutting the door behind her. Then he shoved his hands int he pockets of his rain slicker and began his solitary walk home.

    Was his promise to that poor girl fulfilled now that Meri knew? And when had his promise changed from obligation to joy?
  • Recommended for: Anyone who enjoys a quick read. Also anyone who knows/loves Rhode Island; most of the book takes place in Newport, which I had visited in October 2013, and I loved reading the descriptions of the mansions and the Cliff Walk, since I had been there ... funny, too, since I had just published this guest post about using real locations in novels.
  • Something to know: The author, Shelley Noble, mostly writes "beach reads" - I reviewed another of her books, Beach Colors, back in 2012.
  • What I would have changed: I hated the ending. It was way too short ... you can extrapolate what happens after, but I wanted to know more. This is the type of book where you know the ending almost from the beginning, but I still am interested in seeing how the characters get there. 
  • Overall rating: 3 out of 5 stars.
  • Where can I find this book? Click here.

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

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
February 28
March 1
March 2
March 3
March 4
March 5
March 6
March 7
March 8
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.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Quick Pick: Captivated By You (Crossfire #4), by Sylvia Day

  • Opening lines: Icy needles of water bombarded my overheated skin, the sting chasing away the clinging shadows of a nightmare I couldn't fully remember.

    Closing my eyes, I stepped deeper into the spray, willing the lingering fear and nausea to circle the drain at my feet. A shiver racked me, and my thoughts shifted to my wife. My angel who slept peacefully in the apartment next door.
  • Reason I picked up the book: I've read the other three books in the Crossfire series (Bared to You, Reflected in You, Entwined with You) and had enjoyed them.
  • And what's this book about?
  • Gideon calls me his angel, but he's the miracle in my life. My gorgeous, wounded warrior, so determined to slay my demons while refusing to face his own.

    The vows we'd exchanged should have bound us tighter than blood and flesh. Instead they opened old wounds, exposed pain and insecurities, and lured bitter enemies out of the shadows. I felt him slipping from my grasp, my greatest fears becoming my reality, my love tested in ways I wasn't sure I was strong enough to bear.

    At the brightest time in our lives, the darkness of his past encroached and threatened everything we'd worked so hard for. We faced a terrible choice: the familiar safety of the lives we'd had before each other or the fight for a future that suddenly seemed an impossible and hopeless dream...
  • Recommended for: Anyone who enjoys erotica or books like Fifty Shades of Grey. This series doesn't really focus on BDSM (Gideon is into it, but his wife, Eva, is not) but they definitely have a dysfunctional relationship.
  • Something to know: This is not the last book in the series, I believe. I'd recommend reading the other three books in the series before reading this one, too. 
  • What I would have changed: It probably didn't help that I picked up and put this book down on a few separate occasions, but I had more issues "getting in" to this novel than I did the other three in the series ... not sure why, though. 
  • Overall rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.
  • Where can I buy this book? Click here.
    {And the others in the series:
    Bared to You (book 1), Reflected in You (book 2), Entwined in You (book 3)}

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

GIVEAWAY: Manwhore (Manwhore #1), by Katy Evans, ends 3/10

Katy Evans' newest series, Manwhore, will be in stores on March 24th, and you can win yourself a copy here first!

Official synopsis:
Is it possible to expose Chicago’s hottest player—without getting played?

This is the story I've been waiting for all my life, and its name is Malcolm Kyle Preston Logan Saint. Don’t be fooled by that last name though. There’s nothing holy about the man except the hell his parties raise. The hottest entrepreneur Chicago has ever known, he’s a man’s man with too much money to spend and too many women vying for his attention.

Mysterious. Privileged. Legendary. His entire life he’s been surrounded by the press as they dig for tidbits to see if his fairytale life is for real or all mirrors and social media lies. Since he hit the scene, his secrets have been his and his alone to keep. And that’s where I come in.

Assigned to investigate Saint and reveal his elusive personality, I’m determined to make him the story that will change my career.

But I never imagined he would change my life. Bit by bit, I start to wonder if I'm the one discovering him...or if he's uncovering me.

{click here to pre-order Manwhore}

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