We're posting some reviews at our Amazon account, as either they've been sitting in queue for a while and deserve their time in the sun, fall under our new featuring policy, or they're new reads that we couldn't wait to post at the blog. You can check them out at the links below. Hope we can help you find your next favorite book! Melissa A:
Today, Glynis Astie is here to celebrate the publication of her latest novel, Gamer Girl, by taking us into the childhood mind of her main character, Meri. She has THREE e-books for some lucky readers! Glynis was last here in 2014 to talk about the first two books in her "French Twist" series. Since that time, a third book has been added! She is sharing some e-book copies over at our 5000 Likes Giveaway. This Yoda-obsessed, chocoholic mother-of two can be found at herwebsite, Facebook, and Twitter.
Synopsis: Struck by tragedy at an early age, Meri Palmer escaped into the only world she understood. Within the virtual realm of online gaming, she lived a life filled with mythical creatures and thrilling adventures, where she was strong, powerful, clever, and beautiful—everything she believed she wasn't in real life. As the years went by, her desire to cling to her cherished fantasyland only grew stronger.
But when Meri meets Morgan, equal parts gorgeous and goofball, she begins to wonder if the time has finally come to rejoin the so-called real world. Channeling the bravery of her fairy warrior alter ego, Meri slowly lets Morgan beyond the protective walls she’s built around her heart. Just as she finds a comfortable groove in an uncertain world, Morgan succumbs to insecurities of his own, leaving her lost and confused. Through her battle to regain her equilibrium, Meri will discover that even in reality, things aren’t always what they seem.
Will Meri win the battle raging in her heart and summon the will to rescue her knight in shining armor? Or will she give in to the fear and find her game over? (Courtesy of Amazon.)
As a child: What did your character want to be when they grew up?
Don’t laugh! Meri wanted to be a combination of Cinderella and Tinkerbell. Her dream was to be a fairy warrior/princess who would save the world from evil. Her mother was a Disney fangirl, so when she died, Meri found comfort in SpellBound, a role-playing video game which allowed her to exhibit the bravery she craved in real life. Plus, she got to be a fairy warrior—a general to be exact. What was something your character found funny?
Meri had a hard childhood, since she lost both of her parents by the time she was eight, but she was never at a loss for laughter because of her feisty grandmother. When explaining to a friend why she was never allowed to have a large Christmas tree, Meri said, “Grams wouldn’t let us get a big one. She said it was bad enough she was allowing a fat man in a red suit to enter her apartment unannounced.” What was your character's favorite TV show?
Meri was more of a video game girl. Her father had every game system known to man and though he died before she was old enough to play along, he left her journals of all his favorite games. Hence, Meri spent her time navigating Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Centipede and Galaga. Ooooh! I almost forgot her beloved Atari games—Adventure and Pitfall.
What was your character's favorite food?
It was a toss-up between 50-50 fries and cider doughnuts, which coincidentally are very high on my list of favorite foods. The delicious combination of sweet and savory from the mix of sweet potato fries and regular fries (topped with cinnamon and sugar, please!) versus a moist, buttery doughnut coated in cinnamon and sugar? You can see why Meri would have trouble deciding. Who was your character's celebrity crush?
Meri didn’t have one. *gasp* But she had a great affinity for both Yoda and Yoshi—which prompted her grandmother to tell her, “You sure like little green guys whose names start with ‘Yo.’” (Grams is such a hoot!) What was your character's favorite thing to do?
Other than get lost in her favorite virtual world, Meri enjoyed nothing more than spending time with her grandmother and her best friend, Declan. She cherished the little family she had, even if they spent most of their time telling her what to do.
Thanks to Glynis for sharing Meri with us and sharing her book with our readers!
How to win: Use Rafflecopter to enter the giveaway. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us. If you have trouble using Rafflecopter on our blog, enter the giveaway here.
TV reporter Stella Reynolds signs with a new station, excited to move to a bigger city for a better job. When she arrives in Bristol, Virginia, though, she finds a sexist, mean boss, unfriendly coworkers, and a town in love with a sport she’s never even watched—NASCAR! Before she can unpack her bags, Stella is drawn into an investigation when a driver is killed in a fiery wreck on the track. Experts call his death a tragedy, but Stella has insider information that the accident is anything but. With a slippery ex-fiancee, an angry father, and a nosy neighbor, you’ll be laughing on one page and gasping on the next. If all goes according to plan, the facts will be revealed during an epic live Big Interview. But when does anything ever go according to plan? (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)
The Stella Reynolds series just keeps getting better and better!
As much as I enjoyed The Big Lead, the first in this series, The Big Interview was a smidge faster where the pace is concerned, and I loved how there were quite a few suspects on the line, this time, which made me question who the culprit was at every turn, keeping me on the edge of my seat for most of the book!
Stella is still a strong and vocal female lead, not putting up with any malarkey from anyone, especially not the new co-workers she finds herself having to contend with on a near daily basis. It almost makes her miss the Bozeman, Montana crew, the people she’d befriended and worked with before moving to Virginia. Working in Bozeman had proved difficult, because the technology and electronics were way behind the times, making her job difficult. But she’d take that any day over her arrogant boss!
She also finds herself at the center of the most unusual situations, where her love life is concerned. Somehow, it becomes interlaced with all the drama that crops up from the driver’s death, but when it comes to Stella, we wouldn’t have it any other way!
Libby Kirsch is a phenomenal writer, creating the best scenes and characters, the kind you can’t help but feel invested in and continually want to know more about. I’m really hoping for a third installment to the Stella Reynolds series, and I can’t wait to see what life has in store for her next! Thanks to Libby Kirsch for the book in exchange for an honest review. And thanks to HCL Book Tours for including us on their tour schedule. Check out the other stops.
In honor of Regression Month, Lily Graham is sharing an excerpt from her novel The Summer Escape. She has an e-book to share with one lucky reader, as well!
Fairytales and Heroines
This tale from Ria Laburinthos’ childhood is actually the prologue within The Summer Escape, which I thought absolutely fit your theme of regression as it is really takes her back to the time in her life when she is happiest, with her beloved Yaya, who tells her about how she got her name and why she was named after one of the most tragic, yet bravest heroines in history.
Her hands were like old parchment: brown, mottled and thin; yet to my five-year-old eyes they were capable of anything, magic not least among them. Today, they were a domestic symphony rolling out the dough; the flour, like fairy dust, sprinkled on the long, flat marble. Her arms were strong and wiry, and as she kneaded she beguiled me with stories from far away. Stories that conjured wisps of sun-drenched olive groves, plum-coloured wine sipped out of short glasses on cobbled sea-front tavernas, honey drizzled over thick, creamy-white Greek yoghurt, and wild, pink-tinged peaches warm from the sun.
‘Yew kno’ the story of how yew got your name?’ asked Yaya in her heavy Cretan accent. Flour smudged on her soft, brown cheek as she peered down at me, a smile edging the corner of her mouth.
I grinned my gap-toothed grin, perched on the counter, legs swinging, and clutching my latest and most cherished possession, a collection of fairy tales.
‘You named me, Yaya,’ I said. My name was collateral damage from my Greek heritage: I was doomed to walk through life with the rather foreign-sounding name of Ariadne.
‘Yes-a, but do yew kno’ who I named yew after?’ asked Yaya, holding up the index finger on her left hand, which curved ever so slightly at the tip, as if she would lift each vowel along with it in her lyrical burr.
I shook my head, espresso-eyes wide.
‘I named yew after one of the most famous princesses of all-a time, eh… the one who suffered the most-e,’ she said, with a sense of pride about the latter. ‘Unlike these silly princesses from your fairy book.’
My mouth formed an ‘o’ of surprise, my feet paused mid-swing.
‘Why I do this, eh?’ she asked.
I shrugged. She was a bit mad. This wasn’t exactly news. I loved her anyway and maybe a little because of it.
‘Well meli mou, the goddess Ariadne suffered most terribly, and it was her bravery and courage, not her beauty, that made her a hero, which I think-e is what really makes a hero, a hero, no?’
I supposed so. I liked the idea of the girl being the hero, though.
Yaya continued. ‘She was the daughter of a king; a mad Cretan king ’ho ordered a young man named Theseus to enter a maze and kill a wild, monstrous beast that had killed many people before. Knowing that this young man was facing certain death, Ariadne helped ’im escape and they fell in love. Together they fled the kingdom, Ariadne believing that she ’ad found a love that would last-e forever. Only, it wasn’t to be.’
‘Why? What happened?’
‘He left her. He left her sleeping in a cave one-a night, so they say, and he run away.’
I gasped. That was not how the story was supposed to go. ‘What happened to her?’
Yaya looked at me with her beetle-black eyes. ‘Well, there are many different stories, and everyone tells different ones. But for me, the story my own yaya told me is still the best-e. After Theseus left her, Ariadne sank-e into despair, barely able to keep going. Feeling sorry for the woman who had sacrificed everything for this man, Dionysus, a god ’ho knew all about suffering, rescued her, though there are many who would say that in the end, she rescued him too. You see, meli mou, life is never what we think it will be; it’s not always like these stories,’ she said, tapping the green cover, leaving behind a faint film of flour. ‘It can be filled with joy or misfortune, but mostly it’s a mixture like this dough. A real hero is like the bread – rising after it has been beaten.’
Lily Graham has been telling stories since she was a child, starting with her imaginary rabbit, Stephanus, and their adventures in the enchanted peach tree in her garden, which she envisioned as a magical portal to Enid Blyton's Faraway Tree. She's never really got out of the habit of making things up, and still thinks of Stephanus rather fondly.
Her first two novels were Amazon bestsellers, and are being re-published by Bookouture, starting with The Summer Escape, which is out today. (Happy pub day!)
She lives with her husband and her English bulldog, Fudge, and brings her love for the sea and country-living to her fiction.
We get Jen two months in a row, as there are some changes ahead. She's here today to talk about her best friend and the fun they had as kids. I'm sure we can all relate!
Friends 'Til the End
If April showers bring May flowers, then I guess it’s still the month of April in Indiana. I’m not sure what the skies look like in your neck of the woods lately, but mine are dreary. I mean March-like grey days, perpetual raindrops falling; overwhelming icky-ness hovers in the air. C’mon summer, where art thou? I’ll tell you where summer is. It’s waiting to announce its arrival on May 20 at 3:30 PM. The last school bell will ring here enticing children and teachers alike to croon the Alice Cooper anthem, School’s Out For Summer. My children’s anticipation for no more pencils and no more books started churning my grey matter as I recalled my own summer vacations. I wanted to share one with you that rose above the others. Mostly because it was the summer I discovered I wanted to be Olivia Newton John; hot pants, hair, red heels, and all.
In 1978, with first grade officially under my belt, I became a Mud Rat. A proud moment for my parents as you can imagine. I joined the swim team at Centennial Beach in Naperville, Illinois where my inner fish could be released. Backstroke, freestyle, relays, Marco Polo—you name it, I loved it. During one early morning drive to practice, a thermos my mom had filled with coffee spilled onto my hand when our chocolate tinted Pontiac LeMans took a corner a little sharper than usual. This left me with second degree burns on my left hand and provided the important sympathy card I cashed in the rest of the summer. I procured it to see Grease in the theater four times, frequent visits to Grandma Gert’s candy shop, and racked up a nice stash of new Barbie dolls.
My best friend, Nancy, lived across the street from me. She loved Bonnie Bell lip gloss and Shawn Cassidy as much as I did. We played hopscotch, ate mac and cheese Mug-O-Lunches, jumped rope until sundown, and caught fireflies after dusk. A lanky blond who pinned her bangs back with barettes, Nancy was the youngest of three in her family. Her older brothers loved KISS, Farrah Fawcett, and torturing us until we tattled or screamed. Both effective ways to catch a break from them when we’d had enough. Being an only child, this concept of torturing siblings for sport was foreign to me.
We’re Capricorn sisters yet I relished being nine days older than Nancy. Being more mature time wise was a big deal when you were seven-years-old. We had our secret jokes, loved collecting Grease movie cards, and couldn’t get enough Fun Dip from the concession stand at her brother’s baseball games.
I remember those times as magical. Cutoff jean shorts and Charlie’s Angels T-shirts. Mosquito bites and pink tinted noses from long days of playing outside. Kool Aid drinking until we could drink no more. Endless summer days without a care in the world, except for parking in front of the TV in time to watch Happy Days.
A year later, when the moving van pulled away from our home overflowing with my family’s belongings, I remember thinking Connecticut was too far away. Too far to drive. Too far to comprehend. Too far from Nancy.
Yet here we are, years later, still the best of friends. We lost touch yet found out we were both attending the same university as undergrads. Years later, we both resided in Indianapolis. Not everyone has the chance to keep their childhood BFF in their life. I know how lucky I am. And as the years tick by, summers seem to breeze through at lightning speed, don’t you think?
As we ready ourselves for the dog days ahead, I encourage you to reflect on some of those precious times. The experiences, great and not so great, that were a part of your childhood. I’m just thankful I can remember them. I have a difficult enough time figuring out why I walk all the way upstairs in my home. The task I was taking on seems to escape me the minute I reach the top of the stairs.
**SPOILER ALERT: This is part of a series and may contain spoilers to the previous novels.**
Every time I read one of the books from the "Dandelion" series, I always feel as though I’m reconnecting with old friends. It’s the friend who you can go months, or even years, without, yet when you get together, you pick up right where you left off.
Renee Lockhart and Eva Merida are like that, for me. This go around, we find Renee busily preparing for her nuptials, to Ben. In true Dandelion fashion, and true to Renee’s character, there’s no easy way to the alter, especially when the wedding is one that will be televised in front of thousands of people. While she has her own ideas for how she’d like the big day to go, it seems the people involved in making the day come to fruition aren’t on the same page.
For Eva, she’s been given the chance of a lifetime with a job opportunity in Hollywood. Only, it’s away from Brian, the man who she feels is the love of her life. It would be nice if he’d express any interest in her future, give his input on how he feels about the potential job offer, but he’s not, and when a former flame turns up in Hollywood, it has Eva questioning her relationship with Brian.
I very much enjoyed After the Final Dandelion. Everything has come full circle for this group of characters, even amidst the chaos and turbulence. I also appreciate the binding friendship between Renee and Eva, who have their own past and against all odds, have made their friendship work. It truly feels like a family, which is why it’s so easy to pick right back up, even given the distance.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a true "Dandelion" story, without a little hilarity from its resident goofball, Renee. Mishaps follow this girl around nearly everywhere she goes, but we wouldn’t have it any other way, and neither would she. I appreciate how in touch she is with herself, accepting the fact that she’s not an overly girly-girl, she appreciates the simple things in life, and she doesn’t want to conform. A girl after my own heart.
There’s a possibility that there will be one more installment to this series, Dandelion Sprouts. I really hope that book will come to fruition. It would be nice to reconnect with my old friends, again.
Some people stay all summer long on the idyllic island of Belle Isle, North Carolina. Others come only for the weekends--and the mix between the regulars and “the weekenders” can sometimes make the sparks fly. Riley Griggs has a season of good times with friends and family ahead of her on Belle Isle when things take an unexpected turn. While waiting for her husband to arrive on the ferry one Friday afternoon, Riley is confronted by a process server who thrusts papers into her hand. And her husband is nowhere to be found. So she turns to her island friends for help and support, but it turns out that each of them has their own secrets, and the clock is ticking as the mystery deepens...in a murderous way. Cocktail parties aside, Riley must find a way to investigate the secrets of Belle Island, the husband she might not really know, and the summer that could change everything. Told with Mary Kay Andrews’ trademark blend of humor and warmth, and with characters and a setting that you can’t help but fall for, The Weekenders is the perfect summer escape.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Mary Kay Andrews is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels Beach Town, Save the Date, Ladies' Night,Christmas Bliss, Spring Fever, and Summer Rental, all from St. Martin's Press, as well as The Fixer Upper, Deep Dish,Blue Christmas, Savannah Breeze, Hissy Fit, Little Bitty Lies, and Savannah Blues, all HarperPerennial. A former journalist for The Atlanta Journal Constitution, she divides her time between Atlanta and Tybee Island, Georgia.
We’ve teamed up with BookStar to offer you an exciting giveaway! You could win an Amazon gift card plus three ebooks: Frosted Cowboy by Charlene Ross, Confessions of a Paris Party Girl by Vicki Lesage and Sugar and Other Luxuries by Everly Scott.
Enter via the Rafflecopter below (or at this link), where you can sign up to receive BookStar’s awesome Chick Lit, Women’s Fiction and Romance ebook deals and also visit Chick Lit Central on Facebook. And be sure to share with your friends to get more entries!
When I reviewed J.T. Ellison’s thriller No One Knows in March, I criticized the author for playing fast and
loose with the rules for unreliable narration. When unreliable narration works,
it makes the reader want to read the book again to see how she missed the clues
that the writer planted. When it doesn’t, the reader feels she’s wasted her
time reading the book.
In I Let You Go, Claire Mackintosh pulls
off a twist so stunning, that when it occurred about halfway through the book,
I wanted to go back to the beginning immediately. With a gentle sleight-of-hand
and some subtle tricks with point-of-view, Mackintosh makes readers believe
they’re reading one type of story, when actually they’re in another.
The twist is so good, and changes the book so completely,
that I struggled on how to write a blurb that doesn’t either give it away or
lie to readers. I couldn’t. So I’m doing something I never do when writing
reviews: Here’s how Amazon describes it:
"On a rainy afternoon,
a mother's life is shattered as her son slips from her grip and runs into the
street . . .
I Let You Go follows Jenna Gray as she moves to a ramshackle
cottage on the remote Welsh coast, trying to escape the memory of the car
accident that plays again and again in her mind and desperate to heal from the
loss of her child and the rest of her painful past.
At the same time, the
novel tracks the pair of Bristol police investigators trying to get to the
bottom of this hit-and-run. As they chase down one hopeless lead after another,
they find themselves as drawn to each other as they are to the frustrating,
twist-filled case before them."
Thank you, Amazon.
The book is told from the points of view of Jenna, police
detective Ray Stevens, and then, later in the book, a third character whose
perspective wasn’t really necessary for the story to be complete. Jenna is
completely sympathetic as a woman grieving her dead child and running from her
past. Ray, who is torn between a chaotic home life and an attraction to a
fellow detective, Kate, isn’t quite as compelling. Ray and Kate are determined
to track down little Jacob’s killer, even as months pass and the situation
seems hopeless. Ray is married to Mags, who had been a police officer herself
before she decided to stay home with the children; Ray is annoyed by the questions
she asks about the case. However, I found this minor character to be really
interesting, and I wish Mackintosh had spent more time with her. How many
career women turned stay-at-home mothers find their opinions dismissed once
they stop bringing home a steady paycheck? I would have liked to see her
actively pursuing the investigation on her own.
The pacing is slower than I’d expect from a thriller of this
sort, as months go by without any real leads on the case, and Jenna attempts to
rebuild her life in the quaint seaside village where she’s gone to hide from
her memories. When the twist is revealed, events start happening more quickly.
An arrest is made, a confession obtained, but Kate has doubts, and keeps
investigating. Her doubts keep the reader engaged, even when it seems the story
might be over.
The unreliable narrator is a red-hot trend in today’s
mysteries and thrillers. My personal test is whether the story works without
this ploy. Is the story just as captivating, are the characters just as
interesting, if the narration had been straightforward? I believe I Let You Go passes this test with
flying colors. Had I known all along what the story was really about, I would
have been just as interested in reading this book.
Thanks to Berkley/NAL for the book in exchange for an honest review.
We're pleased to have Jessica Goodwin here today. She and Melissa A are practically neighbors, but they haven't met in person yet. Melissa A works with someone Jessica knows, so maybe someday the face-to-face connection will happen! She's at CLC today to talk about the main character from her latest novel, Clarissa Jean, Homecoming Queen. She has FIVE e-books for some lucky readers! Jessica Goodwin lives in northern Virginia near Washington, DC with her husband, son, and their two cats. She likes cookies, coffee, and anything that sparkles. If she could have any animal for a pet, it would be a T-Rex. She loves experimenting in the kitchen, going wine tasting, singing in the shower, and taking pictures of the baby. Two of Goodwin’s books, Here We Goand The One Who Got Away have been on the Amazon bestseller list. In March 2012, her third book, ‘One of the Guys,’ received an Honorable Mention in Sapphire Star Publishing’s Month of Romance contest. These titles were originally published on Amazon under her former name, Jessica Strassner, but have been re-released under the name Jessica Goodwin.
Synopsis: When Claire Bradshaw decides to end her dead-end relationship of several years, she only has one place to go – back home to the tiny town of Palmetto Park. Claire keeps bumping into people from her past as she struggles to shake her “better than everybody” reputation, make peace with her enemies, and even attempts to rekindle an old flame. Claire gets to know her old friends all over again and gets to know more about herself as she starts over – right back where it all started. (Courtesy of HCL Book Tours.)
As a child...
What did your character want to be when they grew up?
Growing up, Clarissa Jean always wanted to be a writer. As she got older, she dreamed of leaving the tiny town of Palmetto Park, going away to school, studying literature, and becoming a famous novelist. Things didn't really work out that way, and her attitude about leaving the small town is what makes her return a little bit more difficult than she imagined. What was something your character found funny?
Although she grew up (and tried) to be stylish and classy, I bet as a kid, Clarissa Jean would have loved playing in the dirt with the pigs on her parents' farm, running around with the boys at the Sullivan's berry patch, and playing hide and seek with her sister, Cookie, in the aisles of the family hardware store. What was your character's favorite TV show?
She was too busy doing chores and running around outside with Cookie and her friends to sit inside and watch TV. What was your character's favorite food?
Clarissa Jean's mom is a very old-fashioned, traditional, "you don't get up from the table until your plate is clean" type of mom, so I imagine she probably ate everything. I picture her sitting down to a plate full of homemade biscuits and sausage gravy in the morning for breakfast. Who was your character's celebrity crush?
Living in a small town and listening to country music, I bet Clarissa Jean might have had a thing for Tim McGraw
What was your character's favorite thing to do?
Long before she was making blueberry-flavored cocktails, I bet Clarissa Jean would have helped Justin and his parents pick berries when they came into season. I can picture her sneaking berries into her mouth instead of into her basket when she was supposed to be working. Thanks to Jessica for visiting with us and sharing her book with our readers. Thanks also to HCL Book Tours for including us on their tour!
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