Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Book Spotlight: Descendants by Andrew Katz

Today I am spotlighting the book Descendants by Andrew Katz. Here is the blurb:

          Knights are dead and gone since the days of Camelot. The ancient battles pitting sword and shield against one another are just a distant memory, one that very few even give validity, and that’s exactly how it should be. I mean honestly, if people knew half of what really went on in the shadows and under the bed they’d probably wind up institutionalized.
Luckily, that’s where people like me come in. I’m a Knight. That’s right, an armor-clad, sword-wielding powerhouse of old, with all the powers and responsibilities that come with that position. We’re not all gone, but unfortunately, trouble is brewing in the Kingdom hidden in North America… and it’s kind of my fault. I killed a bunch of gnomes, which in turn pissed off some trolls. Now they’re trying to kill me and start a war with all of humanity. And all while an ancient evil is awakening to try and block my path at every turn.

Andrew Katz is a young, up and coming author from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His novel, “Descendants”, is his first full length work. Action, adventure, and a healthy dose of sarcasm are staples of his writing. He has also published a short story in the anthology “Dark Light”, centering on the same protagonist as his novel. Andrew loves music, reading, his dog George, and relaxing in the sun. He may not be the most exciting person, but he makes up for it with imagination and unpredictability.

This sounds like a fascinating read!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Guest Post: Becoming Jolie by Monique O'Conner James

Today's guest is Monique O'Conner James, author of Becoming Jolie. Monique is the mother of two beautiful children and lives in a small community outside of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She currently works full time as an insurance agent, but her favorite jobs are mother, wife, and author. On her ninth birthday, her mother bought her a journal and said, "Write whatever you want. Just write." And so, a love affair with words was born.
She wrote poetry and short stories in high school and college, until 1993 when her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. After her mother's death in 1998, deep in depression, she found herself unable to write. Nine years passed, and only on rare occasion did she attempt to write. Finally in 2007, under the urging of friends, she sat down and pecked out her first novel. It was raw and unpolished, but the process had been unquestionably cathartic.
The next three years were spent filling her hard drive with seven complete manuscripts. At the beginning of 2011, Monique decided it was time to edit the work and share it with the world. She hopes you enjoy the ramblings of a truly southern girl raised in a state rich with heritage and love.
In June of 2011 her first book, The Keepers, was published by Astraea Press and it has been a world wind of excitement ever since. Please check out her website and feel free to contact her at any time via her email, facebook, or twitter.

So lovely to meet an author from my home state! Take it away, Monique!

          Thank you so much for having me on your blog today! We are all influenced by the things that surround us every day. I thought I’d share with you 8 parts of me and my personality that show up in my writing!
1. I married and am still in love with my high school sweetheart – Most of the heroes in my novels are extremely loving and protective of the heroines.
2. I lost my mother to breast cancer - I’m always trying to bring back the dead in my books!
3. I love muscle cars – there is one in almost every story.
4. I adore all things Louisiana – My settings become almost like another character because of my passion for the state.
5. I’ve had nightmares since I was a child – a lot of my characters work through their problems in their dreams.
6. I have migraines – I’ve noticed many of my characters do too!
7. I’m always for the underdog – most of my characters are flawed, but there is something redeeming even about my villains (except for in Becoming Jolie, perhaps!)
8. I love music – there is usually a shout out to a band I like in each book.
Its fun to analyze our favorite writer’s personalities based on what they write. If you notice any other themes in my writing let me know!
Monique O’Connor James

Thank you again for stopping by!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Review: Thorn Queen by Richelle Mead

Book Details:
Thorn Queen
By Richelle Mead
Genre: Fantasy
Published August 2009, Zebra Books
Paperback, 374 pages
ISBN: 9781420100976

          Eugenie Markham is a shaman for hire, paid to bind and banish creatures from the Otherworld. But after her last battle, she's also become queen of the Thorn Land. It's hardly an envious life, not with her kingdom in tatters, her love life in chaos, and Eugenie eager to avoid the prophecy about her firstborn destroying mankind. And now young girls are disappearing from the Otherworld, and no one--except Eugenie--seems willing to find out why.
Eugenie has spilled plenty of fey blood in her time, but this enemy is shrewd, subtle, and nursing a very personal grudge. And the men in her life aren't making things any easier. Her boyfriend Kiyo is preoccupied with his pregnant ex, and sexy fey king Dorian always poses a dangerous distraction. With or without their help, Eugenie must venture deep into the Otherworld and trust in an unpredictable power she can barely control. Reluctant queen or not, Eugenie has sworn to do her duty--even if it means facing the darkest--and deadliest--side of her nature. . .
I liked this book more than the first in the series, Storm Born, simply because the complaints I had about the first book were answered to in this one. I thought that Dorian was by far a better match for Eugenie than Kiyo, and really, Kiyo just becomes a major wimp in this book. Even his ability in the bedroom is shown up by Eugenie's mere memories of Dorian - and that's just sad.
The second complaint I had in the first book is also answered for - but definitely not in a good way, as it was about how Richelle Mead wrote Eugenie's reactions to the multiple rape attempts made on her. This book took things much further and really drew an emotional reaction from me. I really hope that the next two books don't revisit this issue. Moving on.
Dorian is nearly perfect in every way in this book, answering to Eugenie's many sensitivities and internal struggles, as well as exacting justice when Kiyo was too cowardly to do the deed. Honestly, I'm at the point where if Dorian says to do it, Eugenie should do it. After all, I loved that Dorian tricked Eugenie into claiming Aeson's kingdom, as she genuinely cares about and wants to help her people just as much as she would want to in the human world.
Oh yes, and some of the other quirks of this plot were quite enjoyable, such as watching Eugenie gain greater access to her storm abilities, as well as her angsty half-sister Jasmine coming to her aid at the end. I look forward to reading the next installment, Iron Crowned.

The Cover: Honestly, I wanted to see Eugenie in one of the typical gentry gowns, instead of her fighting leathers. Other than that, the desert with the castle is great and helps me to imagine her desert kingdom.

First Line: "Sad fact: lots of kids know how to use knives and guns."
While a strange way to begin a book, it is arresting and pulls me in to the plot.

Favorite Quote: "You have no idea what love is.” “Oh, I do. I know that it’s the best high and the worst hurt all at the same time—not to mention confusing as hell.”

Read For: 101 Fantasy Challenge

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Review: Veiled Rose by Anne Elisabeth Stengl

Book Details:
Veiled Rose
By Anne Elisabeth Stengl
Genre: Christian Fiction
Published 2011, Bethany House Publishers
Paperback, 375 pages
ISBN: 9780764207822

          Rose Red trusts no one with her secret. She hides in the forest, her face veiled in rags, shunning the company of all save her old father and her nanny goat. Her life is bleak and lonely.
Until she meets a privileged young man sent to spend his summer in the mountains. Leo, a lonely lad, befriends Rose Red, and together they begin hunting for the Mountain Monster which, rumor says, stalks these lands.
But the hunt which began as a game holds greater risk than Leo supposes. Rose Red can scarcely guess at the consequences should he insist on continuing his search. Dare she trust him with her secret? Or tell him what dwells at the top of the mountain in the cave only she can find?
Above all, when Leo asks Rose Red to leave the mountain and follow him to the low country, dare she agree and risk the wrath of a Monster that is all too real?
I am always a fan of fairy re-tellings, even if it is for a fairy tale I am not actually familiar with, as that of Rose Red. It took me awhile, but I also gathered that the book is a kind of Christian allegory, and parts remind me of Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan.
Rose Red is by far the most intriguing character, as her birth is shrouded in mystery, her friends are animals with voices, and she cloaks herself in veils and layers to hide even the smallest scrap of skin from any prying eyes - including her own. The shame she bears for her own appearance is so great that her very existence is surrounded by grand tales of monsters and demons told by all of the local villagers, yet she bears a strength much greater than she appears to possess and she has a kind of magic that allows her to walk the secret Paths and face down death in all its forms. Even at the end of the book, I could not fully grasp who or what she is.
Leo manages to find and befriend Rose Red in boyhood, but he has a burden of his own as Prince Lionheart of Southlands, destined to become King. Leo knows his responsibilities, but he secretly just wants a friend and to make people laugh as a court jester.  These polar opposites manage to pull him across the world again and again as he struggles with the simple question, "What do you want?"
Many other characters litter the pages of the book, which was at times confusing as I attempted to deduce which creature or character was on the side of good or evil, such as the Dragon - which became apparent at its occupation of Southlands. As an allegory for Christianity, some characters were clear - such as the Prince, but others were murkier, such as the Lady.
The structure of the book itself was off-putting for me. The book is divided into five parts, with chapters in each part, but in between each part a vague sense of time has passed, so that the reader cannot pick up where the last chapter left off. At each break, I would get the feeling that the plot was picking up, only to be let down that the climactic moments have been glossed over. I also really disliked the ending. Certain things are expected of classic fairy tales, and none of this was included in the ending of this book. Perhaps the author was aiming for something more "realistic" or to simply get the reader to continue the series, but loose endings this big make me feel like I wasted my time reading the book, only to get no satisfaction at the finale.

The Cover:I love all of the details in cover while still maintaining some mystery. I was so intrigued by the cover that I kept returning to it while I read the book.

First Line: "Hill House, though abandoned, had remained unscathed during the years of the Dragon's occupation."
Oh, that sentence is just filled with questions - what is Hill House, what is the Dragon, and what occupation? Of course, I had to keep reading.

Read For: TBR Pile Reading Challenge, Read Your Own Books Reading Challenge, Young Adult Reading Challenge

*I received this book free of charge from the publisher for review purposes.*

Friday, August 24, 2012

Review: Spy Glass by Maria V. Snyder

Book Details:
Spy Glass
By Maria V. Snyder
Genre: Fantasy
Published Sept. 2010, Mira Books
e-book, 535 pages
ISBN:  9780778303916

                            An undercover mission
                                                     leads to danger, adventure
                                                     and an impossible choice.

After siphoning her own blood magic in the showdown at Hubal, student glass magician Opal Cowan lost her powers. Immune to the effects of magic, Opal is now an outsider looking in, spying through the glass on those with the powers she once had. Powers that make a difference in the world.
Suddenly the beautiful pieces she makes begin to flash in the presence of magic and Opal learns that someone has stolen some of her blood. Finding it might let her regain her powers or discover that they're lost forever...
I finally got around to finishing this series, and I am glad I did. While the series sometimes seemed to drag on and on, and I often found Opal's character frustrating, she finally figures out her own purpose in life in the final book, as well as ties up all of the loose ends of her life.
Forgiveness seems to be a central theme in this series, but most especially in the final book with Opal's interactions with Devlen's character. While I am still conflicted over their relationship, I tend to take the position that if the main character is happy with it, I'm happy with it, too. Devlen's changes seem to pose the question: Do people really change? We like to believe they do in theory , but when it comes to those who perform the really evil crimes, few people are willing to accept that it's truly possible. Opal actually did finally believe this about Devlen, which makes her a rare individual.
Opal's character can be quite confusing at times - she can be very emotional and reactive, but at the same time she has endured unimaginable circumstances and has made herself into a battle-hardened warrior. How many females today can do what she can - even without the magic included? She has certainly earned the right to make her own decisions - and handle whatever consequences come along.
I loved the two children she picks up along the way, and how they help her to understand her own magical abilities. They bring out the maternal instincts in her, which I always appreciate in literature of this nature. The cult that these two were members of fits the stereotype very well, at times both disgusting me and making me want to jump in and rescue those poor people myself.
The coolest part of the book was when Valek taught Opal how to be a proper spy - it reminded me of the Study series by Maria V. Snyder that I loved so much. Valek is such an enigmatic character that he deserves his own trilogy!

The Cover: The cover matches the previous two in design while incorporating the title with its representative object. I like it.

First Line: "Crouching in the darkness of the closet, I stilled as footsteps approached."
While this opening fills me with suspense, I don't really know why. It's not the best way to open.

Favorite Quote: "I'm your mother. I see all. Hear all. Know all."

Read For: What's in a Name Challenge, Finishing the Series Challenge

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Guest Post: Dancing Naked in Dixie by Lauren Clark

Today's guest is Lauren Clark, author of Dancing Naked in Dixie. The Deep South is the perfect setting for Lauren Clark’s novels; contemporary fiction sprinkled with secrets, sunshine, and surprises. Her heroines are real women with real obstacles in their lives; challenges that require strength, sacrifice, and personal growth. And while it’s convenient to have a prince charming on standby, Lauren’s heroines are capable of creating their own happily-ever afters–with brains, not beauty, saving the day.
A former TV anchor, Lauren is a reformed news junkie, non-reformed coffee drinker, and certified library geek. She loves the color pink, her Electra Townie bike, and any place she can see the ocean and stick her toes in the sand. Lauren adores her family, paying it forward, eight hours of sleep a night, homemade macaroni and cheese, and true-blue friends.

Take it away, Lauren!
                                                 Stranger in a Strange Land
                                                           Lauren Clark
I moved to the Deep South twelve years ago after living on the East Coast for most of my life. When people talk about culture shock, I really know what they mean!
A month into living in Alabama, I began a new job at a television station in Dothan (WTVY-News 4) working the early morning shift (2 am – 10 am). I was the morning anchor, and try as I could, I still managed to botch words like “Choctawhatchee” and confuse mascots for Auburn and Alabama college football (Tiger and Elephant, BTW).
Joe, the man who directed the morning show, would chortle into my earpiece and Oscar Fann, my co-host and meteorologist would tease me relentlessly about being a Yankee!
One of the funniest experiences I can remember about that first month was running to grab lunch for my news director. I was headed to Subway, and my boss requested a chicken sandwich with “baked glaze.” I paused, as I had never heard of “baked glaze,” so I repeated it back to be certain. A bit annoyed at this point, he huffed his confirmation and sent me on my way. Ten minutes later, standing in line at Subway, I realized that he was asking for “Baked Lays” potato chips. Sigh. I did return with the Baked Lays, by the way.
Since that time, I’ve embraced all that is the Deep South. I've been to "meat and threes," a restaurant that serves an "entree of the day" like pork or beef, then adds 3 vegetables. I understand that when someone says "mash the button" they mean "press it." If a person says he wants to "carry you" to the store, it means "drive you there in a car." I no longer wonder why, on country road, would a stranger behind the wheel of a pick-up wave as you pass going the other direction. My second son was born in Alabama. Every bit the Southern boy, he spouts phrases like “I’m fixin’ to go to my friend’s house,” or “Where y’all going?” and talks about quail hunting and biscuits for breakfast.
Living in the Deep South is not perfect. It is 100 degrees in the shade mid-August, I have found lizards in the laundry (once or twice), and if you're not careful where you step, you might land on a bed of fire ants. They bite and your feet get yucky, puffy welts! I do miss snow at Christmas and the cool breezes on a summer evening. I miss my family. I miss the change of seasons and the brilliant autumn leaves.
But nothing can replace the Spanish moss hanging from the Live Oak Trees or the sound of children playing on the sidewalk outside our 100-year old home. Nothing can replace a neighbor offering to sit with you on your front porch when you’ve had a bad day. Nothing can replace the smell of honeysuckle on the vine in the spring.
For a while, I was a stranger in a strange land. But embracing change and cultural differences is something I truly believe in. My life is richer and fuller because of it. The South is home now and I love it!
I come from the Deep South, myself (Louisiana) and your post has really made me miss it! Thank you for the memories, Lauren!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Guest Post and Giveaway: Giving It Up by Amber Lin

Today's guest is Amber Lin, author of Giving It Up. Amber Lin writes erotic romance with a dark, gritty bent. Think urban fantasy without the paranormal element and with more sex. On a more personal note, she’s married to her high school sweetheart, mother to a kid smarter than she is, and she spends her nights writing down dirty thoughts. In other words, life is good.

Take it away, Amber!

Let’s Hear It for the Girls
By Amber Lin
Thanks so much for having me to celebrate my debut book, Giving It Up! We all love a good romance, some hot smexing. But today I want to take a minute to celebrate a different kind of relationship—our girlfriends.
Why do we love our besties?
1.       Let’s overanalyze
Our best friends are our sounding boards—a way to work through our troubles, especially guy troubles. Our friends are the voice of reason, our conscience, or maybe even the bad girl inside us, waiting for permission.

2.       It’s unconditional, baby
Our girlfriends are always on our side, always in our court. That guy who didn’t call? Jerk. The girl wearing the same dress, two sizes smaller? You look better, honey ;-)

3.       Share and share alike
And sometimes the pleasure is in the giving, in being a shoulder to cry on or a helping hand for the women in our lives. It’s not just having a best friend, it’s being one.
Allie’s in a tough spot at the beginning of Giving It Up. She’s been betrayed in the past by a man she thought was her friend.  And as a result of that pain, she visits the nightclub once a month for a round of rough, anonymous sex. You know, as one does.
Thank goodness for Shelly, though. She is there for Allie 100% percent. Of course, Shelly has troubles of her own, but as a high class escort, she’s able to not only help Allie out financially, as well as babysit Allie’s daughter during the day when Allie works.
Giving It Up is a romance,  and so Allie’s romantic and sexual relationship with Colin is front and center; however, I think a sincere friendship can be just as sweet.  And though all is not always golden in their friendship, platonic love Allie and Shelly for each other is genuine and lasting.
Let’s hear it for the girls J
And here’s a quick excerpt when Allie has just returned from one of her infamous “date nights”…
Shelly answered the door. Her hair and makeup were done, though she wore jeans and a tank top. She had an appointment after this.
“So. How was your date?” The lilt in her voice made everything sound ironic, though in this case, the word date certainly was.
I hummed in response as I followed her into the living room and flopped down beside her on the couch. I accepted the ice-cream pint and spoon she offered.
“Uh-oh,” she said. “What happened this time?”
“I didn’t say anything happened.” I took a bite. “This is chocolate. How can you eat chocolate this late? It’ll keep you up.”
“Don’t change the subject. Spill.”
I sighed and took another bite. “This guy. He wasn’t like the others.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means, he was…gentle.”
“Oh,” she said, knowing. “You should let me hook you up.”
I shot her a dark look over the spoon.
“I’m just saying. If you’re only in it for the sex, you might as well get paid. You can even charge extra to get roughed up.”
“Right, so I can get put in jail for solicitation. No, thank you.”
She rolled her eyes. “That doesn’t happen. Hardly ever. And they’d totally go easy on you because of Bailey.”
“We’re not having this conversation.” I passed the carton of ice cream back to her. “Besides, it wasn’t exactly…”
It wasn’t exactly bad. It had been amazing. Real, my mind whispered. That was what real sex was supposed to be like. It had been anything but bad.
I looked up and found her watching me.
I smiled briefly. “Sorry. I’m a little distracted.”
“I can see that. Curiouser and curiouser.” Shelly liked to quote Alice in Wonderland to me. It was our secret joke, one I never quite appreciated.
“Don’t be dramatic. It wasn’t completely lame. That’s all.”
Giving It Up by Amber Lin
Allie prowls the club for a man who will use her hard and then ditch her. Hey, it’s not rape if she wants it. Instead she finds Colin, who looks tough but treats her tenderly, despite her protests.
He tempts her, but kindness and a few mindblowing orgasms aren’t enough to put her back together again. Allie has no hope for a real relationship. Two years ago her best friend betrayed her in the worst possible way – she’d be stupid to trust a man again. Besides, she has her daughter to think of, the only good thing to have come from that dark night.
But when her rapist returns, threatening her sanity and custody of her daughter, Allie turns to Colin. Under his protection and patient touch, Allie begins to heal and learns to hope. Colin’s no saint, though, and his criminal past draws danger of its own. Allie must fight to protect her child and the man she loves, hoping her newfound power will be enough to save them all.
“Giving It Up is original, affecting, emotionally draining, but well worth reading if you are brave enough to go along for the ride.”
Annabel Joseph, author of Comfort Object
“A ballsy departure from romantic conventions. At once gritty and tender, stark and hopeful.”
Cara McKenna, author of Willing Victim
“Giving It Up is an erotic, compelling story that takes us to the shadowy, lonely places but doesn’t leave us there. Amber Lin shows us that romance isn’t just for the rich and shiny. Love can find its way even into the dark corners of the most damaged hearts.”
Tiffany Reisz, author of The Siren
“This is a book you MUST read if you like gritty, edgier romance that makes you think as well as turns you on.”
Cari Quinn, USA Today Bestselling Author of No Dress Required
“Every page is chock full of sexy, angsty must-read-moreness.”
Karla Doyle, author of Game Plan
“Giving It Up is a gritty, real romance that deals in an honest way with what happens to sexuality in the aftermath of rape…. Read it. You won’t be sorry.”
Ruthie Knox, author of About Last Night
“Dark and edgy…but don’t be fooled. There’s a wonderful love story running through this book. Sharp, intense writing, sexy as hell, and such a cool idea!”
Charlotte Stein, author of Sheltered


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Amber Lin is giving away a Kindle Fire along with 10 erotic books, as well as either a custom erotic story or a 30-page critique of a romance manuscript. There are many ways to enter, for both those who have and haven’t yet read Giving It Up.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

And thanks so much for having me!
Amber Lin

Thank you for stopping by, Amber!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Review: Storm Born by Richelle Mead

Book Details:
Storm Born
By Richelle Mead
Genre: Fantasy
Published , house
e-book, 361 pages
ISBN: 9781420100969

        Just typical. No love life to speak of for months, then all at once, every horny creature in the Otherworld wants to get in your pants. . .
Eugenie Markham is a powerful shaman who does a brisk trade banishing spirits and fey who cross into the mortal world. Mercenary, yes, but a girl's got to eat. Her most recent case, however, is enough to ruin her appetite. Hired to find a teenager who has been taken to the Otherworld, Eugenie comes face to face with a startling prophecy—one that uncovers dark secrets about her past and claims that Eugenie's first-born will threaten the future of the world as she knows it.
Now Eugenie is a hot target for every ambitious demon and Otherworldy ne'er-do-well, and the ones who don't want to knock her up want her dead. Eugenie handles a Glock as smoothly as she wields a wand, but she needs some formidable allies for a job like this. She finds them in Dorian, a seductive fairy king with a taste for bondage, and Kiyo, a gorgeous shape-shifter who redefines animal attraction. But with enemies growing bolder and time running out, Eugenie realizes that the greatest danger is yet to come, and it lies in the dark powers that are stirring to life within her...
I'm a huge fan of Richelle Mead's Vampire Academy series, so I had to see what her adult books were like, and she did not disappoint. Eugenie Markham is a shaman, but unlike another shaman series I've read, she knows what she is doing and has been trained at it since she was a child by her step-father. What she never bothered to do in all that time, though, was question who her real dad was or how she could do the things she did - which I found a little unrealistic.
Her latest case forces her into entering the Otherworld for a longer-than-usual stay, which results in a few discoveries about herself, as well as some rather interesting situations with the fey, or gentry. She acquires a sort-of boyfriend in Kiyo, but I prefer her with Dorian, as he challenges her defenses and can match her in strength and abilities.
The prophecy means that just about everything male in the fey world wants to jump her bones, which gets old pretty fast. Rape is a traumatic experience for anyone, but the few close calls that Mead writes with  Eugenie seemed to fall short of the mark. Eugenie's fear and defeat were there, but were understated.
On the flip side, I loved how Dorian was able to teach Eugenie about her powers, as well as play a very convenient trick on her at the end - Eugenie may not have liked it, but it was certainly better than the alternative. Now on to Thorn Queen!

The Cover: The cover is pretty typical for an urban fantasy novel, and ever after reading it, I still am not sure of the relevance of what the woman is holding. It's not necessarily a bad cover, just not unique.

First Line: "I've seen weirder things than a haunted shoe, but not many."
That is both strange and humorous for an opening line, and I certainly want to read more.

Favorite Quote: “Oh, God. I’m trapped in the f------- Chronicles of Narnia."

Read For: What's in a Name Challenge, 101 Fantasy Challenge

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Guest Post: Chocolate Aftertaste by Liz Grace Davis

Today's guest is Liz Grace Davis, author of Chocolate Aftertaste. Liz Grace Davis grew up in Angola, Namibia, South Africa and Germany. She now lives with her husband in Vienna, Austria.
Growing up, Liz spent most her days in libraries, diving into the world of books. In her spare time she reads a lot, travels, creates jewelry and designs digital scrapbooks. That's of course when she's not weaving stories. She's in her element whenever she is doing anything that requires creativity.
Liz is the author of a young adult fantasy novel, Tangi's Teardrops, and a romantic women's fiction novel, Chocolate Aftertaste.

Take it away, Liz!

                            Chocolate Aftertaste: Dipped in Life, Sprinkled with Love
A few weeks ago, Chocolate Aftertaste received a lovely review from a reader who said the novel was “more than a love story”. That’s true, but it wasn’t like that when I started writing the book. When I wrote the first draft, it was all about creating a beautiful romance novel. By the time I got to the second draft, I realized it was much more than that—more than rose petals and sailing off into the sunset. The novel is about life—shattered dreams, broken hearts, betrayal, forgiveness, laughter, tears, and of course a nice dose of love and romance.
If life were a pill, it would come with a very long list of side effects. As a result, I always end up making my characters suffer (I suffer with them of course). I place them in tough, painful situations and watch how they manage to free themselves. That’s what life is all about. What’s important is not how painful a situation is, but how we react to it. I placed my character, Nora, in sinking sand and hoped she would be strong enough to pull herself out, to stand on her own two feet.
If someone picks up or downloads Chocolate Aftertaste, expecting it to be dipped in romance and sprinkled with love, they could end up being disappointed. I like to think that Chocolate Aftertaste is dipped in life and sprinkled with love. I have to tell you this because I write to make readers happy not to disappoint them.
I would like to encourage readers of Chocolate Aftertaste to pursue their dreams and live life according to their own rules of happiness. Sometimes we allow our dreams to dim, we make mistakes. That doesn’t matter because we can always start over. Nora did. She had almost given up on her childhood dreams, until she got a little push. Sometimes all we need is just that, a tiny little push toward our dreams, toward believing in love again.
I believe each dream is a raw diamond planted in the center of our hearts and each step we take toward reaching it is an extra polish, one extra shine. There comes a point where the dream shines so bright, it can’t be hidden. No dream is too small to neglect. Nora dropped everything and started polishing her raw diamond. As a result, her heart opened up and she got so much more. She found love.

Thank you for stopping by, Liz!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Guest Post: Check Out Time by Rosa Sophia

Today's guest is Rosa Sophia, author of Check Out Time. Here is a quick blurb of her new book:

          Naomi Vogler blames herself for her mother's tragic death, continually reliving the accident in her nightmares. When she reconnects with her estranged father, he invites her to live with him in a little town called Witchfire. A simple job stocking shelves overnight at a local grocery store seems a perfect distraction. But when the manager of the store is found dead in the boiler room, Naomi's boring job becomes something much more complicated. No matter how she looks at it, one thing is certain: retail is murder.

Rosa Sophia is the author of the Paranormal Mystery Taking 1960. She currently resides in south Florida. Please visit her at:

Rosa is here to talk about characters, so take it away Rosa!

                                       There are characters everywhere.

I often talk to writers who have a hard time creating or developing characters. Creating characters is different than developing characters. To create, you come up with an idea, give them a name, and fit the character into your plotline. But when you develop your character, you are giving a meaning to their existence, showing their flaws and their strengths, and making it easier for readers to relate to them. I listen closely to the way people talk, because I feel it reveals a lot about their personality, their strengths and weaknesses. Over the weekend, I listened to someone speaking and imagined incorporating his speech patterns into my writing. It went something like this:
“And I was upset, you know? I wanted to, like, know, like, what was going on? I couldn’t believe what was, like, happening? It’s like when you go shopping, and like, the cashier just ignores you, like, like you aren’t even there, you know?” If I were going to create and develop a character based on this pattern of speech, I would say that this person is unsure of themselves, is nervous much of the time, and wants the validation of others.
For those of you who have trouble creating and developing characters in your writing: go out and listen to people. I don’t mean eavesdrop, or spy—just go to a diner, or a grocery store, and while you’re waiting for your grilled cheese to arrive, or perusing the pasta sauce, listen to the people around you.
What do their speech patterns say about them? (You’re a writer, not a psychologist, so there is no need for accuracy.) If you were going to write about this person, what would their strengths and weaknesses be? How would they handle them?
Many people have things they do unconsciously, especially when they are uncomfortable, or out of their element. When I am nervous around crowds or other people, I have a tendency to gently rub or scratch the area behind my right ear. The other week, I met a lovely woman who, in the midst of conversation, flips her hair ever twenty or thirty seconds. People do all sorts of things that define their strengths, weaknesses, and their personality.
You don’t want your main character to be completely virtuous, totally angelic, and highly self-sacrificing, without the slightest bit of give. Why? Because no one is completely virtuous. Your character may well run into a burning building to rescue a child, but unless he is a firefighter by career choice, he will have a harder time of it, having not been formally trained. Show that your character has flaws, and you show that he or she is human.

Thanks for the advice and thank you for stopping by, Rosa!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Teaser Tuesday: The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
1. Grab your current read.
2. Open to a random page.
3. Share two “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page.
4. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!).
5. Share the title and author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

My Teaser:
          "But there was no gift. The surprise was the hand itself.
The flesh of her palm was like no flesh I had seen before. Its whitened ridges and purple furrows bore no relation to the pink mound at the base of my fingers, the pale valley of my palm. Melted by fire, her flesh had cooled into an entirely unrecognizable landscape, like a scene left permanently altered by the passage of a flow of lava. Her fingers did not lie open but were drawn into a claw by the shrunken tightness of the scar tissue. In the heart of her palm, scar within a scar, burn inside a burn, was a grotesque mark. It was set very deep in her clutch, so deep that with a sudden nausea I wondered what had happened to the bone that should be there. It made sense of the odd set of the hand at the wrist, the way it seemed to weigh upon her arm as though it had no life of its own. The mark was a circle embedded in her palm, and extending from it, in the direction of the thumb, a short line." - pg. 53, The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

What are you reading this week?

Monday, August 13, 2012

Guest Post: Change by Soraya Lane

Today's guest is Soraya Lane, author of Change. RT award winning author Soraya Lane describes being an author as a dream come true. An avid book reader and writer since her childhood, Soraya now divides her time between writing, being a mom and caring for the many animals on her small farm in New Zealand.
In addition to young adult fiction, Soraya also writes contemporary adult romance for Harlequin Mills & Boon.

Welcome Soraya, and take it away!

                                        What Makes a Book a ‘Keeper’?
Everyone has different criteria for deciding a book is a ‘keeper’. For me, I’m reluctant to get rid of books at all, especially since I’ve had a wall-to-wall bookshelf custom built for my office!! But I must say that some books just don’t work for me, and those ones usually find their way to a local fundraiser or book fair. I always feel guilty, because I know that the author has put a huge amount of work into their story, but for me there’s no point keeping a book that doesn’t have great memories.
For me personally, my favorite books get the best placement in my new bookcase. I like to be able to glance across when I’m at my desk and look at the books I love, and the real “keepers” for me are those I can remember details about, as well as the names of the main characters.
One of my favorite authors is Nalini Singh, and I can tell you right now that I’ll never, ever forget the names of the characters I love from her books! Just the names “Hawke & Sienna” send a shiver down my spine, as do “Elena and Raphael”. If you’ve read her books you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.
So how about you? What makes a book a “keeper” for you? Is it the characters themselves?
For more information about my books, I’d love you to visit me at my website, or connect with me on Twitter @Soraya_Lane. I often do giveaways of my latest releases, and Twitter is the best place to find me!

Thank you for stopping by, Soraya. I'll have to check out Nalini Singh for myself!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Top 100 Teen Books

I love lists, don't you? NPR Books recently announced its list for the Top 100 Teen Books after a poll that accumulated 75,000 votes. Going down the list, I have either read, partially-read (for the series), or plan to read 36 of the books on the list. Considering I'm a decade older than the genre is meant for, I'd say this is pretty good statistics. That means I'm still cool, right?

          1. Harry Potter (series), by J.K. Rowling (read)
2. The Hunger Games (series), by Suzanne Collins (read)
3. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee (read)
4. The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green
5. The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien (read)
6. The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
7. The Lord of the Rings (series), by J.R.R. Tolkien (read)
8. Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury (read)
9. Looking for Alaska, by John Green
10. The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak
11. The Giver (series), by Lois Lowry (read)
12. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (series), by Douglas Adams (read)
13. The Outsiders, by S.E. Hinton (read)
14. Anne of Green Gables (series), by Lucy Maud Montgomery (read)
15. His Dark Materials (series), by Philip Pullman (read)
16. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
17. The Princess Bride, by William Goldman
18. Lord of the Flies, by William Golding (read)
19. Divergent (series), by Veronica Roth (partially-read)
20. Paper Towns, by John Green
21. The Mortal Instruments (series), by Cassandra Clare (TBR)
22. An Abundance of Katherines, by John Green
23. Flowers for Algernon, by Daniel Keyes (read)
24. Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher
25. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon (TBR)
26. Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson
27. Twilight (series), by Stephenie Meyer (read)
28. Uglies (series), by Scott Westerfeld (read)
29. The Infernal Devices (series), by Cassandra Clare (TBR) 
30. Tuck Everlasting, by Natalie Babbitt 
31. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
32. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (series), by Anne Brashares
33. The Call of the Wild, by Jack London
34. Will Grayson, Will Grayson, by John Green, David Levithan
35. Go Ask Alice, by Anonymous (read)
36. Howl's Moving Castle, by Diana Wynne Jones
37. Stargirl, by Jerry Spinelli
38. A Separate Peace, by John Knowles
39. Vampire Academy (series), by Richelle Mead (read)
40. Abhorsen Trilogy Old Kingdom Trilogy (series), by Garth Nix
41. Dune, by Frank Herbert
42. Discworld Tiffany Aching (series), by Terry Pratchett
43. My Sister's Keeper, by Jodi Picoult (read)
44. The Dark is Rising (series), by Susan Cooper
45. Graceling (series), Kristin Cashore (TBR)
46. Forever..., by Judy Blume
47. Earthsea (series), by Ursula K. Le Guin (TBR)
48. Inheritance Cycle (series), by Christopher Paolini (TBR)
49. The Princess Diaries (series), by Meg Cabot
50. The Song of the Lioness (series), by Tamora Pierce
51. Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson
52. Delirium (series), by Lauren Oliver (TBR)
53. Anna and the French Kiss, by Stephanie Perkins
54. Hush, Hush Saga (series), by Becca Fitzpatrick (partially-read)
55. 13 Little Blue Envelopes, by Maureen Johnson (read)
56. It's Kind of a Funny Story, by Ned Vizzini
57. The Gemma Doyle Trilogy (series), by Libba Bray
58. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs (TBR)
59. The House on Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros
60. Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury
61. The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier (read)
62. Just Listen, by Sarah Dessen
63. A Ring of Endless Light, by Madeleine L'Engle (read)
64. The Truth About Forever, by Sarah Dessen
65. The Bartimaeus Trilogy (series), by Jonathan Stroud
66. Bloodlines (series), by Richelle Mead (partially-read)
67. Fallen (series), by Lauren Kate (TBR)
68. House of Night (series), by P.C. Cast, Kristin Cast (partially-read)
69. I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith
70. Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlsit, by Rachel Cohn, David Levithan
71. Before I Fall, by Lauren Oliver
72. Unwind, by Neal Shusterman
73. The Last Unicorn, by Peter S. Beagle
74. The Maze Runner Trilogy (series), by James Dashner
75. If I Stay, by Gayle Forman
76. The Blue Sword, by Robin McKinley
77. Crank (series), by Ellen Hopkins
78. Matched (series), by Allie Condie (TBR)
79. Gallagher Girls (series), by Ally Carter
80. The Goose Girl, by Shannon Hale
81. Daughter of the Lioness Tricksters (series), by Tamora Pierce
82. I Am the Messenger, by Markus Zusak
83. The Immortals (series), by Tamora Pierce
84. The Enchanted Forest Chronicles (series), by Patricia C. Wrede
85. Chaos Walking (series), by Patrick Ness
86. Circle of Magic (series), by Tamora Pierce
87. Daughter of Smoke & Bone, by Laini Taylor
88. Feed, by M.T. Anderson
89. Weetzie Bat (series), by Francesca Lia Block
90. Along for the Ride, by Sarah Dessen
91. Confessions of Georgia Nicolson (series), by Louise Rennison
92. Leviathan (series), by Scott Westerfeld
93. The House of the Scorpion, by Scott Westerfeld
94. The Chronicles of Chrestomanci (series), by Diana Wynne Jones
95. The Lullaby, by Sarah Dessen
96. Gone (series), by Michael Grant
97. The Shiver Trilogy (series), by Maggie Stiefvater (read)
98. The Hero and the Crown, by Robin McKinley
99. Wintergirls, by Laurie Halse Anderson
100. Betsy-Tacy Books (series), by Maud Hart Lovelace

Friday, August 10, 2012

Review: Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson

Book Details:
Before I Go To Sleep
By S.J. Watson
Genre: Fiction
Published 2011, HarperCollins Publishers Ltd.
Paperback, 358 pages
ISBN: 9781443404068

          "As I sleep, my mind will erase everything I did today. I will wake up tomorrow as I did this morning. Thinking I’m still a child. Thinking I have a whole lifetime of choice ahead of me. . . ."
Memories define us.
So what if you lost yours every time you went to sleep?
Your name, your identity, your past, even the people you love—all forgotten overnight.
And the one person you trust may be telling you only half the story.
Welcome to Christine's life.
I read this book on the avid insistence of a friend, and I am sure glad I read this book. The premise is quite intriguing - a woman with a very unique type of amnesia in which she wakes up every morning not remembering anything from as much as several decades of her life. What is most interesting is that sometimes she wakes thinking she is a child, while others she believes she is a young adult. There is no predicting at what believed age she will be when she wakes, and no controlling it.
A few things bugged me about the plot, the first of which was that on the mornings that she was supposed to wake as a child, nothing in her behavior indicated that of a child - she still behaved the same as when she woke as a full-grown adult. I was also immediately suspicious of Ben, as his behavior towards her did not seem very motivated towards achieving a return of her memory- but I suppose that was the point.
Despite Christine's loss of memory, in many ways her actions are instinctual - which is very realistic and made for some tense scenes. A Dr. Nash comes to her aid in secret, both because her case is no unusual and because he really does want to help her. Despite the difficulties of Christine not remembering him from day-to-day, he is still able to make progress with her - all behind Ben's back. On his advice, Christine begins  keeping a journal of each day, as well as what memories return to her. This is when the book really picks up in intensity, as Christine comes to realize that her own mind could be her own worst enemy. At times she is not even certain if she can trust the words in her journal, since she cannot remember writing them.
As she fills up her journal, she begins to uncover lies and secrets in her life that create nail-biting, mind-blowing scenes that had me riveted. I was a little disappointed with how the book ends - after all of the build up, it seemed almost anti-climactic. Other than that, the book was an excellent read, especially for a first-time author. Everyone should read this book!

The Cover: The picture on the cover alludes to the title, plus the fact that the woman's face is hidden goes well with the plot of the book. It's fitting in its simplicity.

First Lines: "The bedroom is strange. Unfamiliar. I don't know where I am, how I came to be here. I don't know how I'm going to get home."
What an interesting way to begin a book - my curiosity is peaked!

Favorite Quote: "What are we, if not an accumulation of our memories?

Read For: Just for Fun Reading Challenge
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