Friday, August 25, 2017

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Autoboyography, by Christina Lauren {ends 9/1}

Light bursts behind my closed eyes, so intensely I nearly hear the popping sound. It's my brain melting, or my world ending, or maybe we've just been hit by a meteor and this is the rapture and I'm given one last perfect moment before I'm sent to purgatory and he's sent somewhere much, much better.

It isn't his first kiss—I know that—but it's his first real one.

When I heard that Christina Lauren (one of my favorite author duo pairs) was writing a book about a same sex couple, I was intrigued—all of their other books focus on heterosexual couples. As with all of their novels, this one ended up being a great read, and readers will definitely root for Tanner and Sebastian, the couple in the story.

Official synopsis:
Book review and giveaway: Autoboyography, by Christina Lauren
Fangirl meets Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda in this funny and poignant coming-of-age novel from New York Times bestselling author Christina Lauren about two boys who fall in love in a writing class—one from a progressive family and the other from a conservative religious community.

Three years ago, Tanner Scott’s family relocated from California to Utah, a move that nudged the bisexual teen temporarily back into the closet. Now, with one semester of high school to go, and no obstacles between him and out-of-state college freedom, Tanner plans to coast through his remaining classes and clear out of Utah.

But when his best friend Autumn dares him to take Provo High’s prestigious Seminar—where honor roll students diligently toil to draft a book in a semester—Tanner can’t resist going against his better judgment and having a go, if only to prove to Autumn how silly the whole thing is. Writing a book in four months sounds simple. Four months is an eternity.

It turns out, Tanner is only partly right: four months is a long time. After all, it takes only one second for him to notice Sebastian Brother, the Mormon prodigy who sold his own Seminar novel the year before and who now mentors the class. And it takes less than a month for Tanner to fall completely in love with him.

I didn't know much about Utah and the Mormon community before reading this book, and now I'm curious to know more. I did know that Mormons don't drink, and apparently that extends to any caffeinated beverages, too, not just alcohol; and that a large portion of Mormons live in Utah near the Salt Lake City area. But Autoboyography delves completely into the world of the Mormon church and what their beliefs usually entail, as Sebastian's family is LDS (Latter Day Saints) and he is expected to follow their "rules."

What makes the other main character (Tanner) here even more interesting is that his family isn't unfamiliar with LDS and the Church: his mother grew up LDS, and then when her parents ex-communicated her gay sister, she left, and hasn't talked to them since. I actually would have been interested in hearing more about this storyline, too, though we only get bits and pieces of it.

Both Tanner and Sebastian are intriguing characters, as is Autumn, Tanner's best friend. Tanner is actually bisexual, and Sebastian is gay, but in the Church, being gay is definitely frowned uponthe rules are pretty interesting, as "being" gay is allowed but "acting" upon homosexual "urges" is not. There's a scene in the book when Sebastian's parents are discussing an LDS kid who married his boyfriend, and they say something like "his poor parents"which Sebastian and Tanner then overhear.

This book is a teen love story but not your typical one, and although (semi-spoiler?) the characters do get a HEA, it takes a while for them to get there.

Autoboyography will be in stores and online on September 12th. 4 stars out of 5.
{Click here to pre-order}


One of my lucky readers will win a copy of Autoboyography!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Friday, September 1st, at 11:59pm EST, and winner will be chosen the next day and notified via email, and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner will be chosen.

U.S. residents only, please.

Good luck!

Autoboyography, by Christina Lauren

Friday, August 18, 2017

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Good Widow, by Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke {ends 8/28}

But in moments like these, this man's love, or lust, or even his affection—she was never quite sure what to call itbuoyed her. When he looked at her just like that, she knew she'd do anything he asked. She might have even jumped off that bridge with him, as long as he'd held her hand on the way down. She questioned him almost as much as she revered him. But right then, in the Jeep hugging the side of this mountain, the unpaved road so riddled with potholes that she was getting carsick, she felt like they could overcome anything together. That the world could be theirs.

That's probably why she took off her seat belt. And decided to lean in close and breathe her secret into his ear. She could have simply called out her confession over the wind, but she needed to deliver the news gently. The rest of their lives together depended on it.

I had been wanting to read The Good Widow (and it has been sitting in my TBR pile for a while, too) because I am a big fan of Fenton and Steinke's other books - I really enjoyed The Status of All Things, which I read two years ago, as well as Your Perfect Life. Although I didn't like The Good Widow as much as Status, it's still an interesting read.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Good Widow, by Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke
Elementary school teacher Jacqueline “Jacks” Morales’s marriage was far from perfect, but even in its ups and downs it was predictable, familiar. Or at least she thought it was…until two police officers showed up at her door with devastating news. Her husband of eight years, the one who should have been on a business trip to Kansas, had suffered a fatal car accident in Hawaii. And he wasn’t alone.

For Jacks, laying her husband to rest was hard. But it was even harder to think that his final moments belonged to another woman—one who had left behind her own grieving and bewildered fiancĂ©. Nick, just as blindsided by the affair, wants answers. So he suggests that he and Jacks search for the truth together, retracing the doomed lovers’ last days in paradise.

Now, following the twisting path of that fateful road, Jacks is learning that nothing is ever as it seems. Not her marriage. Not her husband. And most certainly not his death…

The book is told from a few different characters' perspectives, both past and present, which is what keeps it intriguing. We open with Jacqueline ("Jacks," to her friends) finding out that her husband has passed away in a car accident—and, oh yeah, it was in Hawaii, and he was supposedly in Kansas, on a business trip. She quickly finds out that he was having an affair, with a younger woman named Dylan, and soon Dylan's fiancee, Nick, shows up at her doorstep.

He proposes that they go to Maui together and try to retrace James and Dylan's last steps, in order to attempt to find out more about the affair and how they ended up careening off a steep cliff into the water below.

Kind of crazy, right? Jacks needs answers, though, so she agrees to go with him.

There's a twist at the end of this novel that I sort-of saw coming, but the way the authors laid it out was pretty good. It was interesting to see Jacks' chapters from before the accident, too, as well as when she first met James—we hear from both her and Dylan, and we see how Dylan ended up meeting James and how their affair started.

I did feel like this novel wrapped up a little too neatly at the end, but I can see how it would logically end that way, as well.

3.5 stars out of 5
{Click here to purchase - free for Kindle Unlimited users!}

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


Two of my lucky readers will win a copy of The Good Widow - enter in the widget below.

Giveaway will end on Monday, August 28th, at 11:59pm EST, and winners will be notified via email the next day, and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner(s) will be chosen.

U.S. residents only, please.

Good luck!

2 paperback copies of The Good Widow

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Address, by Fiona Davis {ends 8/27}

Review by: Karen Doerr

“You must have seen many changes during your stay here.”
“More than you know. This place used to have a tenants’ dining room, down on the main floor, though the food got less interesting after the war, and they eventually closed it down. By then the tailor had moved out, as had the laundry and maid service. No one valued what a special place this was. In the sixties, I remember, before it became a co-op, you could rent a seventeen-room apartment with six bathrooms and eight working fireplaces for six hundred and fifty bucks a month.”

I had a hard time putting this book down. This is my first experience with Fiona Davis’ work. According to an interview, she was influenced by the Goethe quote “Music is liquid architecture; architecture is frozen music.” The author added another layer to this by turning the architecture of The Dakota into prose.

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Address, by Fiona Davis
Official Synopsis:
After a failed apprenticeship, working her way up to head housekeeper of a posh London hotel is more than Sara Smythe ever thought she’d make of herself. But when a chance encounter with Theodore Camden, one of the architects of the grand New York apartment house The Dakota, leads to a job offer, her world is suddenly awash in possibility—no mean feat for a servant in 1884. The opportunity to move to America, where a person can rise above one’s station. The opportunity to be the female manager of The Dakota, which promises to be the greatest apartment house in the world. And the opportunity to see more of Theo, who understands Sara like no one else...and is living in The Dakota with his wife and three young children.

In 1985, Bailey Camden is desperate for new opportunities. Fresh out of rehab, the former party girl and interior designer is homeless, jobless, and penniless. Two generations ago, Bailey’s grandfather was the ward of famed architect Theodore Camden. But the absence of a genetic connection means Bailey won’t see a dime of the Camden family’s substantial estate. Instead, her “cousin” Melinda—Camden’s biological great-granddaughter—will inherit almost everything. So when Melinda offers to let Bailey oversee the renovation of her lavish Dakota apartment, Bailey jumps at the chance, despite her dislike of Melinda’s vision. The renovation will take away all the character and history of the apartment Theodore Camden himself lived in...and died in, after suffering multiple stab wounds by a madwoman named Sara Smythe, a former Dakota employee who had previously spent seven months in an insane asylum on Blackwell’s Island.

One hundred years apart, Sara and Bailey are both tempted by and struggle against the golden excess of their respective ages—for Sara, the opulence of a world ruled by the Astors and Vanderbilts; for Bailey, the free-flowing drinks and cocaine in the nightclubs of New York City—and take refuge and solace in the Upper West Side’s gilded fortress. But a building with a history as rich—and often tragic—as The Dakota’s can’t hold its secrets forever, and what Bailey discovers in its basement could turn everything she thought she knew about Theodore Camden—and the woman who killed him—on its head.

If somebody had told me I’d enjoy a book based around a building in New York, I would have thought that they were nuts. I had never heard of The Dakota before this, although I took some time to read over its history after I finished The Address. While I enjoy historical fiction, I tend to stay with the stories based around more famous periods of time.

The author sets up two timelines, one from the 1880’s and the other from the 1980’s. One could argue that the death of John Lennon, which happened in 1980, is the Dakota’s greatest claim to fame. However, I found the older setting more interesting. Maybe it’s due to my lack of knowledge about this era in general, but I found myself drinking in every little detail about a world where the Upper West Side is considered the middle of nowhere. While I did find the modern story arc more relatable, I rushed through those chapters trying to get back the more alien world of the 1880’s. But one does not need to be a history nerd to enjoy it. I would recommend this book to anyone who, at some point, felt like they were in a situation that they did not deserve.

My only complaint about The Address was how one timeline got a fairy tale ending. We went into the story knowing that one of the main characters would have a tragic outcome, so I can understand why the author would want the other be a contrast. However, both have a very extravagant feeling to them. I think a sharper distinction would have been made had the more upbeat ending been a bit more realistic and less sunshine and roses.

4 stars out of 5.
{Click here to purchase}

Karen K. Doerr is a vocal advocate of the “It’s Called Soda, Not Pop” movement of Southeast Michigan. She can usually be found in Korean barbecue restaurants.


One of my lucky readers will win a hardcover copy of The Address!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Sunday, August 27th, at 11:59pm EST, and winner will be notified the next day via email and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner will be chosen.

U.S. residents only, please.

Good luck!

Hardcover copy of The Address

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Quick Pick book review: Emma in the Night, by Wendy Walker

Book Review: Emma in the Night, by Wendy Walker
  • Opening lines: We believe what we want to believe. We believe what we need to believe. Maybe there's no difference between wanting and needing. I don't know. What I do know is that the truth can evade us, hiding behind our blind spots, our preconceptions, our hungry hearts that long for quiet. Still, it is always there if we open our eyes and try to see it. If we really try to see.

    When my sister and I disappeared three years ago, there was nothing but blindness.
  • Reason I picked up the book: SheSpeaks gave me a free e-copy of the book, and the synopsis sounded interesting.
  • And what's this book about?
  • From the bestselling author of All Is Not Forgotten comes a thriller about two missing sisters, a twisted family, and what happens when one girl comes back...

    One night three years ago, the Tanner sisters disappeared: fifteen-year-old Cass and seventeen-year-old Emma. Three years later, Cass returns, without her sister Emma. Her story is one of kidnapping and betrayal, of a mysterious island where the two were held. But to forensic psychiatrist Dr. Abby Winter, something doesn't add up. Looking deep within this dysfunctional family Dr. Winter uncovers a life where boundaries were violated and a narcissistic parent held sway. And where one sister's return might just be the beginning of the crime.
  • Recommended for: Anyone who likes psychological mysteries, or stories about dysfunctional families. 
  • Favorite paragraph: I stood frozen in the woods, filled with terror that I would fail. And there was so much as stake. They had to believe my story. They had to find Emma. And to find Emma, they had to look for her. It was all on me, finding my sister.

    They had to believe me that Emma was still alive. 
  • Something to know: I really, really enjoyed this book - I read it over the course of two 1.5 hour plane rides this past week. There is a twist that the end that I kinda/sorta saw coming, but the details of it were very well-thought out. 
  • What I would have changed: Nothing that I can think of.
  • Overall rating: 5 out of 5 stars.
  • Where can I find this book? Click here to order on Amazon.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Sandcastle Empire, by Kayla Olsen {ends 8/20}

The enemy wore sheep's clothes for many years before it bared its fangs and went for blood.

Fathers. Brothers. The barista who made your daily latte, the guy behind the fish counter at the grocery store, the girl in Sephora who taught you how to line your eyes. All seemingly unconnected, until one day they were a force.

After Zero, it all made sense: the neon fliers stapled to telephone poles, the #wolfpack hashtag everyone assumed was a fandom of some sort, the pendants people wrote off as a passing trend. The signs were all around us, but we were too wrapped up in our own lives to really question them.

Which, I guess, was their point. It was a good point, at its heart, albeit a bitter one—that too many people were out of touch with reality, floating on the hard work of others who were killing themselves just to survive. That too many of us were too entitled, too ungrateful. Too used to all we touched turning to gold.

They weren't altogether wrong. 

This is a long book (about 455 pages) so I will admit that it took me a few weeks to finish; however, some twists pop up near the end of the novel that caught my attention, and the book does finish strong.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Sandcastle Empire, by Kayla Olsen
Before the war, Eden’s life was easy. Then the revolution happened, and everything changed.

Now a powerful group called the Wolfpack controls the earth and its resources. And even though Eden has lost everything to them, she refuses to die by their hands. She knows the coordinates to the only neutral ground left in the world, a place called Sanctuary Island, and she is desperate to escape to its shores.

Eden finally reaches the island and meets others resistant to the Wolves. But the solace is short-lived when one of Eden’s new friends goes missing. Braving the jungle in search of their lost ally, they quickly discover Sanctuary is filled with lethal traps and an enemy they never expected.

This island might be deadlier than the world Eden left behind, but surviving it is the only thing that stands between her and freedom.

In the author Q&A I received for this book, it was compared to The Maze Runner meets Lost - although I have only seen one episode of Lost, I would definitely compare it to The Maze Runner. It's a dystopian novel that starts at the beginning of the war: a group called the Wolfpack has taken over what I assume to be the U.S. Eden, whose father once worked for a group that eventually helped start the war, knows she has to escape, and she makes it to an island that her father has talked about.

However, the island has its own surprises, which she and a few tag-a-longs must deal with; she'll also find out some interesting truths about her lineage and also the Wolves, the group of terrorists who has taken over the U.S. 

It took me a really long time to get through this novel. The novel also leaves the ending open for a sequel, but I don't think there is going to be one, it seems (from my Googling, anyways). Around 2/3 of the way in to the book, the author throws some twists and wrenches into the plot, which compelled me to keep reading the novel; some you probably could have guessed, but I did not see them coming. 

The Sandcastle Empire has also been optioned for film by Paramount, with Leonardo DiCaprio's Appian Way to produce, but no release date or casting has been set yet. 

If you like dystopian books, I can recommend this novel—just be prepared for a longer than usual read.

3 stars out of 5.
{Click here to purchase}


Enter via the widget below. Two of my lucky readers will each win a hardcover copy of The Sandcastle Empire!

Giveaway will end on Sunday, August 20th, at 11:59pm EST, and winners will be contacted the next day via email, and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner(s) will be chosen.

U.S. residents only, please.

Good luck!

Hardcover copy of The Sandcastle Empire

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Quick Pick book review: Cream of the Crop, by Alice Clayton

Book Review: Cream of the Crop, by Alice Clayton
  • Opening lines: "Can you raise the blinds a little bit? The sun is setting; it makes for a nice view," I directed.

    "While you reel them in?" Liz teased, letting the soft atfernoon sun up into the conference room.

    Forty-seven floors up, you got a helluva nice sunset across the Hudson River. It made the room seem warm and inviting, and with the powerful backdrop of Manhattan behind me, what client would dream of saying no?
  • Reason I picked up the book: I'm a fan of Alice Clayton's books, and this is book #2 in the Hudson Valley series; book #1 is called Nuts, and I reviewed that one too. The characters from that book are also recurring characters in this installment.
  • And what's this book about?
  • Manhattan’s It Girl, Natalie Grayson, has it all: she’s a hot exec at a leading advertising firm, known industry-wide for her challenging and edgy campaigns. She’s got a large circle of friends, a family that loves her dearly, and her dance card is always full with handsome eligible bachelors. What else could a modern gal-about-town wish for? The answer, of course, is... cheese.

    Natalie’s favorite part of each week is spending Saturday morning at the Union Square Farmer’s Market, where she indulges her love of all things triple cream. Her favorite booth also indulges her love of all things handsome. Oscar Mendoza, owner of the Bailey Falls Creamery and purveyor of the finest artisanal cheeses the Hudson Valley has to offer, is tall, dark, mysterious, and a bit oblivious. Or so she thinks. But that doesn’t stop Natalie from fantasizing about the size of his,
    ahem, milk can.

    Romance is churning, passion is burning, and something incredible is rising to the top. Could it be... love?
  • Recommended for: Anyone who likes a fun romance story, with a bit of small-town Americana woven in. 
  • Favorite paragraph: Size-eighteen women weren't supposed to show off their legs, which I did. They weren't supposed to show off their cleavage, which I did. Size-eighteen women were supposed to wear trench coats in the winter, long sleeves in the summer, and somebody better cancel Christmas if they wore a dress that showed off some cleavage. Size-eighteen women were supposed to dress like they were apologizing for taking up too much space. Fuck that noise. I took up space. I took up space in a city where space was at a premium, and I never apologized for it. And right now, I knew exactly how much space I was taking up, strutting down Fourteenth Street to the song playing in my head, with a bag full of delicious and already fantasizing about my favorite pastime.

    Oscar the Dairy Farmer. 
  • Something to know: I LOVED that the main character, Natalie, was a size 18, and that the author mentions it (see above paragraph). Finally a romance novel featuring a curvy girl like myself!
  • What I would have changed: Nothing that I can think of.
  • Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars.
  • Where can I find this book? Click here to order on Amazon.
*Disclosure: I received a copy of this book for reviewing purposes. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own. 

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