Reviews

Book Review: Girl On a Swing

GIRL ON A SWING: CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE (WOUNDED BIRD BOOK 1),

BY BELLA ROCCAFORTE

PUBLICATION: DECEMBER 21, 2016

girl on a swingAbout the book: Sometimes the road love takes a detour…

It’s been 10 years since Wren’s parents were killed in a car accident, leaving her and her brother behind. Wren’s life has been spiraling downward ever since. She’s trapped in an abusive marriage, her career as an artist has never had a chance to flourish, and all of her hope is gone. If she doesn’t break away from all that’s dragging her down, she’s afraid she’ll never escape it.

She turns to her lifelong friend, Maddox, the only person who’s been there for her through it all. He helps her understand her own strength so she can finally begin making bold changes in her life. But falling in love with him was never part of the plan.

When their forbidden relationship jeopardizes everything Wren has worked for, will anyone be left standing by her side?

My Review:

So, I noticed this for free on Amazon a few weeks ago, liked the sound of it, so I got it. This was my first time reading Bella Roccaforte and I was blown away! Wren’s parents died 10 years ago leaving her and her brother, Kaden on their own. Wren now lives with Kaden and her loser, alcoholic husband Nathan. Wren’s an artist, although her career hasn’t really taken off, but suddenly things begin to change. Wren decides she’s had enough of Nathan and starts divorce proceedings, two of her best friends move in, and she finally starts making professional progress and getting her work into galleries. Her closest and oldest friend, Maddox, has always been there for her throughout everything. Suddenly, she starts noticing different feelings for him, but could a romance ruin their friendship?

I was crazy about Wren, although not your run-of-the-mill main character. Beautiful and talented, she also smokes like a freight train, and hangs out with almost all guys. She’s surrounded by wonderful and faithful friends but they are literally all guys. She cusses like a sailor, plays drinking games with them, but still presents herself as a beautiful woman. I was also crazy about Maddox from the very beginning, although – without giving spoilers – my feelings for him definitely fluctuated throughout the novel. The two characters I disliked the most were her loser husband and her brother. Granted Kaden was a few years younger than her, but from what I gathered he pretty much stayed in the basement playing video games 24/7, sleeping all day and up all night. He contributed nothing to society yet was quite opinionated about everything. 

Wren was fighting a lot of battles in this story. Ten years later she was still very much mourning the loss of her parents. Although she knew divorcing Nathan was the right thing to do, she faced guilt over a failed marriage and had to continue to deal with his crap long after their divorce. She also faces a lot of successes and failures pertaining to a career as an artist, finally getting breaks but then battling to hold onto any chances of building a name for herself. Then there is the internal battle over her new feelings about Maddox. They’ve been nothing but friends for 15 years, yet she starts noticing how attractive he is, starts wondering about how things would be, and so on. Basically, Wren just had a ton of crap going on in this story!

Again, trying not to give any spoilers, I absolutely loved this book – but was not at all happy with the ending! However, it did prompt me to immediately purchase book 2 in the series because there is no way I can’t find out what happens next. This was a fast-paced and entertaining read with well-developed and relatable characters. The author’s writing style seemed just about perfect leading to an easy flow of the story. There wasn’t too much romance, wasn’t too much sad stuff, etc… Everything felt very balanced providing enough surprises to make me want to read more. I highly recommend this contemporary romance if you’re in the mood for something a little different. 

Get Girl on a Swing for free on Amazon!

Learn more about Bella Roccaforte by visiting her web page!

Reviews

Book Review: Truck Stop Jesus

TRUCK STOP JESUS, BY BUCK STORM

PUBLICATION:  HERITAGE BEACON FICTION; NOVEMBER 1, 2016

truck stop jesusAbout the book: Oh, for a simpler time! Paradise Jones dreams of the Hollywood glamour days. Clothes, hair, vintage car–you name it, she’s got it. She’s classic retro, a 21st-century image of her favorite Golden Era stars–Doris, Audrey, Esther, Marilyn. The entertainment rags call Paradise eccentric. The studios rarely call at all. When an altercation with her leering stepfather forces her to flee Los Angeles, Paradise leaves behind everything she loves and longs for.

A few hundred miles east, Doc Morales’ years of hard work in the minors of Major League Baseball have produced exactly one at-bat in the Big Show. A collision at first, a blown knee, and adios dreams. Nothing left to live for but pick-up games and his collection of old movies. Nothing, that is, until beautiful, damaged Paradise Jones crashes into his small, Arizona town. So begins an epic road trip that will change everything.

Throw in a couple of oddball bounty hunters, a forgotten movie-star boat captain, a cowboy priest, and a dashboard Jesus that is more than meets the eye, and Paradise and Doc have all the ingredients they need to cook up a fun and quirky slice of Americana pie.

My Review:

What an incredible hidden gem I discovered with Truck Stop Jesus. When I downloaded this from Amazon I wasn’t aware that it was considered Christian Fiction, not that it matters, but I also was not aware of what a fun and crazy adventure I was in store for! Paradise Jones is a wanna-be actress in L.A. that dresses like actresses from the old Hollywood days such as Lana Turner and Esther Williams. After her father dies and her creepy stepfather makes a pass at her, she attempts to get revenge and soon finds herself “on the lam,” fleeing L.A. Never having really known her father, she decides to head to his birthplace and her namesake, Paradise, AZ. Here she meets Doc Morales, an almost star in the Major Leagues prior to injuring his knee, his ex-rodeo star turned priest brother Jake, and a minister/cop named Paco. Between her stepfather hunting her down and the discovery of old coins, Paradise and Doc are in for a wild road trip!

Paradise was such a unique and independent character! She marched to the beat of her own drummer, dressing as she liked and able to match anyone in witty banter. Doc was appealing from the start, prompting images of Kevin Costner in Bull Durham. Burt, the gross stepfather that Paradise is running from, was just gross. The bounty hunters Hollister and Crystal started out just o.k. for me, but I ended up absolutely adoring them. Same with Lan, the old hidden Hollywood star, Doris and Hap from a tiny town along the way, Easy, Poppy, Cal, Leena, and so much more. There are no words to describe Buck Storm’s characterization. I loved everything about the story, but his character development is what really stood out. Each character was so well described and so different from each other, yet they all blended so well. This is an author that makes sure that you absolutely know all of his characters without a shadow of a doubt.

 The plot was incredible and full of so many twists and turns the excitement never ended. While reading I knew that something was getting ready to happen or go wrong, yet I never knew exactly what it would be until it happened. There was non-stop action in this novel that was not overdone and did not even seem pre-meditated. I felt as if I was reading along as the author wrote, just letting things happen as they came to him. 

I hate to make comparisons but Buck Storm’s characterization and storytelling remind me of James Anderson’s Never-Open Desert Diner. Every character and every action are quirky and unexpected, yet it all seems to make perfect sense. Hands down, this is my favorite read so far this year and it will forever hold a spot on my top 10 favorite books ever. 

Purchase Truck Stop Jesus on Amazon. 

Learn more about Buck Storm by visiting his web page.

Reviews

Book Review: Wicked Dance

Wicked Dance (Lovers Dance Book 3),

by Deanna Roy

Publication: Casey Shay Press; April 28, 2017

wickedAbout the book: If there’s one thing that chases you and never lets you go, it’s fame.

Despite being a painfully shy and sheltered ballet student, three months ago I charged onto one of the most popular TV reality shows in the world and changed the course of five lives.

— Mine, when I accepted the star of the show, Blitz Craven, as my lover and dance partner.
— Blitz’s, just as he was about to walk away from his hard-won career.
— And three girls who were the finalists on the show.

Those girls are back to get their vengeance, and as usual, the producers of the show are in it for the ratings.

So now I have a choice: let each of them have another shot at my lover.

Or take them on myself.

But Blitz is mine.

Game on.

Wicked Dance is book three of the Lovers Dance series, which ends with book five, Final Dance. Each book is full length and stands alone, but should be read in series order to avoid spoilers.

My Review:

Happy release day to Deanna Roy with Wicked Dance! This third book in the series about Blitz and Livia did not disappoint! Blitz and Livia are enjoying quiet time together in San Antonio with dance practice and teaching their class for ballerinas in wheelchairs. Everything is perfect until he gets into a nightmare negotiation with the producers of his show, Dance Blitz, Unless Blitz (and Livia) agree to film the final episodes, they are up against a huge lawsuit. 

I felt so bad for Livia in this novel because she simply wants to be with her man, take dance classes, and volunteer at Dreamcatcher Academy. But instead, she’s forced to deal with the three original finalists of Blitz’s show, as well as, all of the producers and attorneys that are out for blood. Blitz was sweet and romantic once again in Wicked Dance, but the reader gets a different glimpse of Blitz – the side that truly enjoys some of the moments in the spotlight with cheering crowds and cameras flashing. Granted there were some moments where Livia was excited about all of the adoring fans, but for the most part, she wasn’t. 

As a closet reality tv junkie, I really enjoyed this story with all of its industry secrets and behind the scenes look at producing a reality tv show. Wicked Dance is just that – wicked – full of tons of backstabbing and selfish characters, which made this quite an exciting read. Most importantly, however, was that Blitz and Livia continued to demonstrate love and commitment, while also keeping things sexy and spicy behind closed doors. 

I love Deanna Roy’s writing with its amazing characterization and imagery. She makes the good guys good and the bad guys very bad. But while reading this novel it feels much more like watching a tv show or movie instead of reading a book. She pulls the reader in forcing complete investment in her writing until the very last line, all while celebrating the beauty of dance itself. If you have not yet started this series it’s time to catch up. I continue to be impressed with Deanna Roy, her characters, and the page-turning novels in this series. 

*Thanks to the author for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review!

New to this series? Check out my previous reviews of Forbidden Dance and Wounded Dance!

Purchase Wicked Dance on Amazon!

Learn more about author Deanna Roy by visiting her web page!

Book Blitz, Giveaway, Reviews

Blog tour, review, & giveaway! Quiet Love

QuietLove_TourBadge

In Helena Rac’s second novel, best friends become roommates and discover through sloppy towel tucks, stargazing adventures, and a very sexy photo shoot that sometimes love can be found in the most unlikely place: right in front of you. Fans of Christina Lauren’s Dark Wild Night won’t want to miss this exciting new release published by Tryst Books!

 

quietTitle: Quiet Love

Author: Helena Rac

Publisher: Tryst Books

Series: Chapters of Love #2

Release Date: April 24, 2017

Genre: Contemporary Romance

ASIN: B06WGRJQPB

Synopsis:

Daniel has been best friends with Rose since they were born. He’s been in love with her for years. The only problem? She has no idea, and he’s not about to tell her and ruin their friendship. The solution? Leave Chicago to travel the world, pursue his dream of becoming a photojournalist, and try to forget the red lips that he could kiss for hours. If only she’d let him…

Rose knows true love is out there somewhere; she just has to try hard enough to find it. That’s become more complicated, though, since her best friend Daniel has moved in with her after being away for two years. Somehow thoughts of him keep getting in the way, making her morning showers a little too hot for comfort. If only he’d see…

In Helena Rac’s second novel, best friends become roommates and discover through sloppy towel tucks, stargazing adventures, and a very sexy photo shoot that sometimes love can be found in the most unlikely place: right in front of you.

Add to your “Want to Read” shelf:  Goodreads Available at: Amazon

My Review:

Wow, I soooo have a new book boyfriend and that is Daniel! Quiet Love is such an amazing story about Daniel and Rose and the possibility of friendship becoming much more. Best friends forever, Daniel and Rose have been through it all, but the problem is that Daniel’s been in love with Rose for years and she doesn’t know it. After earning a photojournalism degree, Daniel takes two years to travel the world and hopefully get over his feelings for Rose. While gone, Rose starts her own event planning business and remains unlucky in love, never finding Mr. Right. After Daniel’s return, he realizes he’s more in love with Rose than ever – complicating their new status as roommates. Torn between telling her the truth or moving on, Daniel starts to notice changes between them, and wonders if Rose feels the same. After an accidental touching of a body part, Rose also starts wondering if there isn’t maybe more between them. 

With the exception of some of Rose’s dating nightmares, every character in this book was so likable. It took no time at all for me to become completely invested in the characters and the story. Rose was a fantastic character – beautiful, smart, funny, spirited – but Daniel just blew me away. Daniel was sexy in a subtle way, smart, talented, well-traveled, romantic, sweet – I could go on all day. 

I immediately rooted for Daniel and was crossing my fingers that Rose would wake up and realize what an incredible man she had right there all along. The author perfectly kept me guessing “will they or won’t they” making this a complete page-turner. Quiet Love is full of romance, humor, frustrations, sad moments, and amazing sexy situations. Any fan of contemporary romance shouldn’t skip Quiet Love. This was my first time reading Helena Rac but it definitely will not be my last!

*Thanks to NetGalley and Barclay Publicity for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review. 

Excerpt:

The night is nothing short of perfect. The air is warm, there’s barely any wind, and the moon is young, so the sky is dark, laced with thousands of stars. We find our spot along the beach, well away from the other stargazers, and set down our sleeping bags, a couple of blankets, and our cooler.

Our eighties playlist is playing softly in the background while we enjoy the night. Daniel takes photos, and every so often he shows me an image he’s caught on camera. I’m in awe. He really is amazing. The way he sees the world is so different from how most of us do – angles and frames and visions that capture the beauty of everything that surrounds us, including the stars. Even in the dark, I can see a twinkle in his eyes, that same look he has when he picks up his camera. Confident. In charge. Sexy.

I squeeze in between Daniel and the telescope and lean into the eyepiece. I’m instantly fascinated by what I see. The star flickers like it’s dancing in the sky. There are hues of red and orange and gold, and it sparkles like a gem.

I’m equally distracted because Daniel is standing right behind me. He hasn’t moved an inch. His chest presses against my back, and I tense for a moment, unsure of his intent. His scent makes its way to me, and my eyes flutter closed for an instant. I inhale and savor the way he makes me feel. My initial tense reaction gives way to a new one – one that confuses me and excites me all at the same time. Goosebumps cover my arms, and my breath hitches in my throat. I can’t help but shiver from the sparks that travel through my body.

His response is not what I expect. Yet, even though I’m afraid to admit it to myself, it’s quite possibly what I hoped for. He wraps his arms around me so they criss-cross just above my waist. He starts to rub my arms, warming my skin and melting the goosebumps – and my whole body. My mind is screaming, Do not cross the friendship boundary! No good can come of it. Thank goodness for my sensible brain. Too bad I don’t always listen to it.

On that thought, I can’t help but relax into him. His strong, lean frame envelops me, and I’m aware of the contours of his body and the heat that radiates between us. I nestle into his shoulder and look up at the stars above us. He buries his nose in my hair and inhales deeply. Here, away from the city lights, it seems as though it’s just Daniel and me and our newfound closeness.

“Hey, there’s a shooting star.” I point to where it’s trailing across the sky. “Did you see it?”

“Hope you made a wish,” he whispers in my ear, and I swear his lips graze my skin. I shiver again, unable to control my reaction.

Copyright © Quiet Love 2017 by Helena Rac

Rafflecopter for Quiet Love Blog Tour Giveaway:

Tryst Books is offering one (1) lucky winner a Kindle E-reader – Black, 6″ Glare-Free Touchscreen Display, Wi-Fi!

**Enter Giveaway Here**

 

About Helena Rac:

helena racLife is sweeter with romance novels. That’s why Helena Rac writes contemporary romances about sassy, everyday heroines and swoon-worthy heroes – stories that warm your heart put a smile on your face, and make you fall in love.

When she’s not writing, Helena loves spending time with her two lovely girls and her incredibly supportive husband. She plays adult by day; enjoys cooking, traveling, and exploring the outdoors; and reads way past her bedtime.

 

Website  |  Twitter  |  Facebook  |  Goodreads  |  Amazon

 

Reviews

Book Review: Joyful Trouble

JOYFUL TROUBLE: BASED ON THE TRUE STORY OF A DOG ENLISTED IN THE ROYAL NAVY,

BY PATRICIA FURSTENBERG

PUBLICATION: APRIL 16, 2017

joyful troubleAbout the book: 

A humorous read about an incredible dog and how he found his true, yet unexpected calling.
A dog. A friendship. A purpose.
Proven to warm your heart, “Joyful Trouble” is a fast-paced, engaging and funny story.
Patricia Furstenberg paints a charming portrait of the bond between a small girl and boy and their much-loved Grandad. This book takes readers on an unbelievable journey, tackling universal themes and voicing animal rights and the importance of fighting for what is right.
When a Great Dane arrives in a Navy base nobody expects him to win everybody’s hearts, although breaking some rules along the way. But things soon turn sour as somebody threatens to put him to sleep. Who will stand up for this four-legged gentle giant?
A charming celebration of innocence.

My Review:

What a sweet, happy children’s book! Joyful Trouble is a fictional tale, based on a real dog and real events, who was enlisted as a Seaman in the Royal Navy. The story begins with young Ana and Tommy attending a parade with their Grandpa. The annual festivities are in honor of a Great Dane named Joyful Trouble. After Ana comes face to face with one of the big, sweet Great Danes, her Grandpa begins telling her and her little brother the story of Joyful Trouble and how he came to be enlisted in the Royal Navy. 

If a book relates to a dog or dogs, then chances are I’m already sold on it, but I really, truly enjoyed this story. There were funny, happy, sad, and frustrating moments as Grandpa tells the children all about Joyful Trouble, but in the end, it was completely heartwarming. There were so many lessons and themes:

  • Doing right versus wrong
  • Mistakes and mischief are o.k. from time to time
  • The bonds between grandparents and grandchildren
  • The importance of stories passed down through generations
  • Dogs, like people, enjoy having jobs
  • Dogs sustain injuries, get better, get sick, etc. – but they eventually finish their lives and die. 
  • Dogs enjoy canine companions and having children, just as people do
  • Bravery isn’t just for people because dogs do brave things all the time

Honestly, I could go on and on with lessons and themes related to this story and hope that anyone with an elementary aged child reading this review will encourage them to read this. Considering that was a teacher for 13 years, I also see a ton of lesson ideas with this novel, starting with researching Justice Nuisance that was a real Great Dane enlisted in the Royal Navy. 

Patricia Furstenberg’s writing is just full of happiness, joy, and love. She has the ability to touch on important and sometimes sensitive topics in a respectful and gentle way appropriate for children. While reading, it just appears as interesting and entertaining, but in all of her writings that I have read, there is so much moral fiber and lessons intertwined within her magical words!

*Many thanks to the author for providing me a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review. 

Purchase Joyful Trouble on Amazon!

Learn more about Patricia Furstenberg!

Reviews

Book Review: After Love Leaves: The Story of Us

AFTER LOVE LEAVES: THE STORY OF US,

BY MICHELLE ALSTEAD

PUBLICATION: SAME COIN-TWO SIDES; MARCH 16, 2017

after loveAbout the book: When Brad Sorenson crossed paths with Zoe O’Loughlin at a high school graduation party, the connection was undeniable. He noticed her when no one else did; she inspired him to want more out of life. But it would be years before they’d meet again…and in the most unlikely of places.

Brad was looking for a good time online, not love. But Zoe was so sweet, so kind. Everything about her was perfect—until she fell in love with him. Zoe doesn’t know why Brad left her standing in an airport; he won’t return her calls or texts. With her self-esteem and dreams shattered, she can’t imagine ever loving anyone else. A single phone call changes Brad’s life forever. Now he wants just one thing: to make amends with the only woman that’s ever mattered.

Will his first love give him a second chance or will Zoe turn her back on love for good?

***This is not your typical romance. Real love is complicated and messy. This story is written for those who have loved the wrong person for all the right reasons.

My Review:

I’m torn about my review for After Love Leaves: The Story of Us. I am a huge Michelle Alstead fan, however, this novel left me a bit torn. The main characters are Brad and Zoe, although there are several other prominent characters including Charlie, Paul, Brad and Zoe’s parents, and Brad’s cousin Kade. Zoe and Charlie were high school friends, but I use the word friends loosely here. Charlie had a huge crush on Paul, Brad met Zoe and immediately was crushing on her. Zoe stayed away from Paul because of Charlie’s crush, yet Charlie told Zoe that Brad was gay to keep her away from him. After years of no or failed relationships, Brad and Zoe reconnect and are in a somewhat happy relationship. But when Zoe receives a job offer requiring her to move, Brad eventually dumps her rather than moving there to be with her and even worse, he does it via text message. When Brad gets shocking and heartbreaking news, he reconnects with Zoe, but not in a romantic, get back together way. 

I enjoyed the overall plot and characters of this novel, with the exception of Charlie. She is quite possibly the most selfish, unlikeable character I have ever come across. I loved Zoe’s character except for her lack of self-confidence and the inability to look beyond what/who was available in order to see what/who she deserved out of a relationship. Brad and Zoe’s relationship was supposed to be so special and each other was “the one,” however, it seemed to me that she was the only one in the relationship that made an effort. I loved Paul from the beginning to end, especially towards the end. I’m sorry about the things that happened to Brad, but to steal one of his frequent lines, “he was not good people.” 

Although I couldn’t tear myself away from this novel, I wasn’t blown away by the overall story. I respect the love and forgiveness aspects, by Brad never did anything that didn’t directly benefit himself. As much as I tried to love Zoe, I continuously wondered what her life would have been like with more self-confidence and higher standards regarding the men in her life. Charlie was just trash and I wish she wouldn’t have even been a part of the novel. What kept me reading and kept me going was Michelle Alstead’s writing and especially how she doesn’t do “fairy tale stories.” The things she writes are realistic and relatable which attract me to her novels. There are no fancy billionaires and flawless women, but the characters are real people that you could easily have encountered during your life, living in very realistic situations. I was not blown away by Brad and Zoe’s love story but hoped that her love life and overall life became more fulfilling based on the ending of the novel.  

Purchase After Love Leaves: The Story of Us on Amazon.

Learn more about Michelle Alstead by visiting her web page. 

Author Interview, Book Blitz, Giveaway, Posts

Release Blitz & Giveaway: The First Year

About the Book

The first year of marriage is hard no matter what. Throw in jealous
exes, high-pressure careers and two wildly different families, and the degree
of difficulty goes up a few more notches. Determined to beat the odds, one
couple comes up with a plan to keep their romance alive – but life has other
ideas.
Saskia is an up-and-coming jewellery designer, waiting tables at a
trendy cafe to keep her fledgling company afloat. Andrew is a corporate lawyer
who wants to be known for more than his family’s money. They’re passionate
about their work and each other, but with Andy’s job in jeopardy and Saskia’s
jewellery label taking off, the pressure is taking its toll.
As life pulls them in different directions, the two of them are forced
to decide: Just how important is their marriage? And how hard are they willing
to work to protect it?
 
‘Genevieve Gannon writes with a fresh and funny narrative voice …
chick lit at its very, very best’ Tess Woods, author of Love at First Flight
 

 

‘A clever and entertaining read-into-the-wee-hours-of-morning story
about love, creativity and the things that make us tick. Genevieve Gannon
writes with passion and wit in a story you’ll relate to whether you’ve
struggled through love, art or the wrath of public transport ticket
inspectors.’ Claire Varley, author of The Bit in Between
 
Bio
 
Genevieve Gannon is an Australian
journalist and author. She has worked in newsrooms in Canberra, Sydney and
Melbourne. Her writing has appeared in The Age, The Australian, The Guardian
and The Daily Telegraph, among others. Most recently she covered crime in
Melbourne for Australian Associated Press before moving to Sydney to be a
feature writer for The Australian Women’s Weekly.
Her favourite books are We Need To Talk
About Kevin, Middlesex, Atonement, Prep and One Day. She likes Terry’s
Chocolate Oranges and wasabi (not together) and hates mangoes.
Her first book, Husband Hunters, was
published in 2014. The First Year is her third novel.
Twitter: @gen_gannon
Instagram: @gen_gannon

 Buy the Book!

 
Buy links

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Author Interview Questions:
 
What
is your new novel about?
The First Year is a novel about a newly-in-love
couple who got married way too fast. Andy Colbrook is a high-flying lawyer with
a snobby family and Saskia Hill is a bolshy jewellery designer whose father has
done several stints in jail. On their honeymoon, Andy offers to support Saskia
so she can quit her day job at a café and devote herself wholly to her art. But
Saskia’s fledgling business is only just recovering from the financial blow it
suffered when her ex-fiance cheated on her then ditched her with the bill for
the wedding, and she is uncomfortable being reliant on her new husband. Tensions
begin to emerge. Things are exacerbated when Andy discovers his law firm is in
financial trouble. Despite their best efforts to keep the flame alive their
marriage begins to suffer. Then Saskia makes a discovery that blows her world
apart. 
 
What
inspired the book?
This one came about slowly. When I sat down
to write my first two novels, the concepts were fully formed in my head. I
rejigged the stories and characters a lot, but when they were finished, they
were how I had imagined them from the beginning. With The First Year, I found
myself unsure what I wanted to do. I had an idea of following a couple
day-by-day through their first year, but I didn’t know what would happen to
them over that time. I thought the concept of the first year of marriage being
the hardest was a good one to explore in a romantic comedy. So I wrote a few
chapters and scene fragments, then I hit a bit of a wall. I knew I wanted Andy
to be a corporate type, and Saskia to be an artist, but I didn’t have much more
detail than that. Then one day I came across an article about a designer who
had made the same discovery Saskia makes in the book. I did a bit of research
and it turns out it is a really common problem. I don’t want to spoil the plot
by revealing the big discovery, but once I had that I knew what I wanted Andy
and Saskia’s story to be.
 
What
makes the main character who they are?
Saskia Hill comes across really brash but
she’s actually quite vulnerable. She loves a man, Andrew Colbrook, who wants to
support her as she builds her business, but the idea of being reliant on him
conflicts with her feminist values. She eventually accepts his offer to back
her financially until she is established, but it never sits right with her and
ultimately is the cause of much tension.
One of my favourite lines in the book comes
when Saskia receives a letter from her mother-in-law addressed to Mr and Mrs
Andrew Colbrook. She has not changed her name and when the letter arrives she
asks of Andy, “What am I? Some sort of subsidiary of you?” I feel like this
sums her up perfectly.
 
Do
you base your characters on real people?
My characters are original creations, but
inevitably I find myself incorporating traits of family and friends. Usually
it’s just a little thing to give the character a ring of authenticity. When
trying to *show* rather than *tell* – something that a lot of writers struggle
with – I find it helpful to think about how real people display their emotions
– the way their postures change, the tone of their voice, what they do with
their hands and eyes. Sometimes I’ll lift a small anecdote (with permission) or
give a sly nod to a friend by including a personal joke. But generally I try to
ensure the characters are wholly their own people.
 
How
long did it take you to write The First Year?
I am often asked this question but this is
the first time I’ve ever been able to answer it properly. For about a year, I
had a few fragments of this story and a vague concept but didn’t know what I
wanted to do with it. Then I made the discovery that revealed the plot to me
and it was all very fast. It took me about three months to write a three
chapter sample, a synopsis and a plot outline. I pitched it to HarperCollins in
November, got the go ahead in December and had completed the manuscript by
June. It was quite a fast process because I had been thinking about the
characters and the supporting players for so long. As is always the case, it
needed some major reworking and I relied heavily on my amazing beta-readers.
But it basically took one year of procrastination and six months of furious
writing.  
 
What
is your typical writing routine?
I used to write at night and on weekends
but now that I live in Sydney I find myself getting up early and writing before
work. I assume that’s because it gets hot and sunny here very early. That being
said, I still try to get some writing in after work. And I can be found most
weekends in a café somewhere with a pile of manuscript pages and a laptop.
People love to ask writers if they are
planners or pantsers. I think I’m a combination of both. I like to have a plot
outline before I begin, but sometimes it is very vague and details emerge – and
characters are created or killed off – as the writing progresses.
 
Where
do you write?
I do a lot of writing at my dining room
table – but I far prefer to write in cafes. It’s not always possible, of course.
Sometimes you have a burst of creative energy at 2am when all the good cafes
are selfishly closed, and realistically it’s just not possible to mainline
lattes for eight hours and a Saturday or Sunday. But my preference is
definitely to write in a café. When I was living in Melbourne I would write a
lot at Milkwood in East Brunswick (try the white beans on toast) or a Minor
Place (more white beans, these come with Dukkah and avocado). Another favourite
is a café called True North in Coburg. They have lovely booths that I like to
spread out in, and do great sandwiches with heaps of vegetarian options.
 
What
book do you wish you had written and why?
This is a complete departure from the type
of fiction I write, but I am in awe of We Need To Talk About Kevin. Lionel
Shriver creates so much tension and complexity. I adore her prose and the way
she uses a million little perfectly phrased observations to make-up the
story.  I love the way she tricks the
reader into thinking they know what is happening, only to discover all is not
as it seems as the narrative slowly reveals itself.
 
Who
are you favourite writers?
This is such a difficult question to answer
because there are so many, and I turn to different writers for different
things. I love Caitlin Moran for the sheer joy she gives me with her hilarious
stories. No less important is the strong feminist message in everything she
does. I really admire Curtis Sittenfeld’s skill as a story-teller, and Gillian
Flynn for the ease with which she spins complex narratives, imbuing her
characters with light and shade. Jeffrey Eugenides remains an all-time
favourite. Whenever I’m asked about my favourite books Middlesex is always at
the top, and his first novel, The Virgin Suicides, was hauntingly,
devastatingly beautiful. Oh, and Michael Chabon for so many reasons, especially
inventiveness.
In terms of my own genre – which I consider
to be a loose grouping of contemporary chick lit with rom-com tendencies –  I LOVE Lauren
Sams
who wrote She’s Having Her Baby and Crazy Busy Guilty. I also can’t go
past fellow HarperCollins authors Tess Woods and Sunni Overend. The Regulars by
Georgia Clark is great fun.
 
Who
is your favourite literary character?
I have racked my brain, trying to come up
with an answer that isn’t a total cliché, but it is a truth universally
acknowledged that Elizabeth Bennett is a sublime literary creation, and has to
be my favourite character. She’s clever, sensitive, witty and warm. She loves
her sister Jane and her friend Charlotte Lucas, and she’s loyal but not without
flaws. She speaks her mind and isn’t intimidated by those who think them better
than she is. At a completely different end of the spectrum is Uncle Oswald, a
recurring character in the short stories of Roald Dahl. Uncle Oswald is a
hilarious, wealthy, horny old man who often finds himself entangled in
pseudo-scientific schemes with hilarious outcomes.
 
What
are you working on at the moment?
Having just finished a book I’m a bit of a
free agent at the moment. I have two ideas that are in the very early stages,
so I’m playing with both of them, thinking about the characters and deciding
which one to commit to. I have just started a new job as a feature writer so I
am finding that at night I’m spending the time I would normally dedicate to
fiction thinking about feature ideas. That being said, I want my next venture
to be a departure from my usual books. Neither of the concepts I’m currently
playing with could be described as romantic comedies. The First Year has parts
set in a court room, which came about because I spent the past few years
covering courts as a journalist and my two new ideas are also inspired in part
by that part of my job.
 
What
would you do if you weren’t a writer?
This one is tricky because writing is both
my hobby (fiction) and my livelihood (journalism). My other hobby is baking, so
perhaps if it all falls in a heap I could retrain as a pastry chef. I have made
a few wedding cakes for friends, and I really enjoy playing with flavour ideas
and pretty shapes. Strangely, when it comes to savoury meals I’m terrible, but
I have mastered cakes.
 
What
are you reading right now?
I just finished Big Little Lies by Liane
Moriarty which I devoured, barely lifting my eyes to draw breath. Liane dazzles
me with her ability to tease and entice. I am also reading Sweet Bitter by
Stephanie Danler. I cheated on Sweet Bitter with Moriarty because I found
myself at the airport without a book and knew I couldn’t go wrong with one of
Liane’s books.
 
Coffee,
wine or something else?
I am completely addicted to coffee. I don’t
drink much wine, unless I’m sharing a bottle at a dinner party or something. If
I’m at a bar I’ll order sloe gin (rocks and lime), a gin and tonic or a
cocktail. Sometimes when it’s really hot I’ll take my laptop to a pub and write
while drinking cider and ice. But generally on those days my preference is a
café and an ice coffee.
 
What
is your favourite social media platform and why?
I am addicted to social media. I love
Instagram and Twitter but for different reasons. In my day job, I work as a
journalist, so I love being able to keep an eye on the issues of the day as
they unfurl on Twitter. I follow major news outlets, journalists I like and
admire, politicians and specialists in my areas of interest. I also follow a
few funny accounts to break it up. I like checking-in on Twitter when I take a
break from work. Instagram is great for book recommendations, food and bar
recommendations, fashion, recipes and just keeping up with what my friends are
doing. I recently moved interstate, so it’s great to be able to see what my
friends have been up to with a few swipes of my phone.
 
Of
all your books, do you have a favourite one?
This is like being asked to choose between
your children! I hate to admit it, but I do have a favourite one. My latest
novel, The First Year, is my third. I think because I had been through the
process twice before it was less daunting and stressful. I had a lot more
confidence and I think it shows in the writing. I also quite like the story. My
previous books were what I’d call caper romances. In both, the protagonists
hatched hair-brained schemes in order to find love. The First Year is a lot
more grounded in reality. The characters’ families and work colleagues play a
great role and I feel like they’re more rounded because of it.
 

 

Posts

What Am I Reading?

Happy Sunday! Here are the books I’m planning to read and review this week. I think I have a fantastic variety of genres so I can’t wait to share the reviews with you! Have a great week and happy reading 🙂 

Quiet Love, by Helena Rac

Publication: Tryst Books; April 24, 2017

quiet loveAbout the book: 

Daniel has been best friends with Rose since they were born. He’s been in love with her for years. The only problem? She has no idea, and he’s not about to tell her and ruin their friendship. The solution? Leave Chicago to travel the world, pursue his dream of becoming a photojournalist, and try to forget the red lips that he could kiss for hours. If only she’d let him…

Rose knows true love is out there somewhere; she just has to try hard enough to find it. That’s become more complicated, though, since her best friend Daniel has moved in with her after being away for two years. Somehow thoughts of him keep getting in the way, making her morning showers a little too hot for comfort. If only he’d see…

In Helena Rac’s second novel, best friends become roommates and discover through sloppy towel tucks, stargazing adventures, and a very sexy photo shoot that sometimes love can be found in the most unlikely place: right in front of you.

Joyful Trouble: Based on the True Story of a Dog Enlisted in the Royal Navy,

by Patricia Furstenberg

Publication: April 16, 2017

joyful troubleAbout the book: 

A humorous read about an incredible dog and how he found his true, yet unexpected calling.
A dog. A friendship. A purpose.
Proven to warm your heart, “Joyful Trouble” is a fast-paced, engaging and funny story.
Patricia Furstenberg paints a charming portrait of the bond between a small girl and boy and their much-loved Grandad. This book takes readers on an unbelievable journey, tackling universal themes and voicing animal rights and the importance of fighting for what is right.
When a Great Dane arrives in a Navy base nobody expects him to win everybody’s hearts, although breaking some rules along the way. But things soon turn sour as somebody threatens to put him to sleep. Who will stand up for this four-legged gentle giant?
A charming celebration of innocence.

Girl on a Swing: Contemporary Romance (Wounded Bird Book 1),

by Bella Roccaforte

Publication: December 21, 2016

girl on a swingAbout the book: Sometimes the road love takes a detour…

It’s been 10 years since Wren’s parents were killed in a car accident, leaving her and her brother behind. Wren’s life has been spiraling downward ever since. She’s trapped in an abusive marriage, her career as an artist has never had a chance to flourish, and all of her hope is gone. If she doesn’t break away from all that’s dragging her down, she’s afraid she’ll never escape it.

She turns to her lifelong friend, Maddox, the only person who’s been there for her through it all. He helps her understand her own strength so she can finally begin making bold changes in her life. But falling in love with him was never part of the plan.

When their forbidden relationship jeopardizes everything Wren has worked for, will anyone be left standing by her side?

Truck Stop Jesus, by Buck Storm

Publication:  Heritage Beacon Fiction; November 1, 2016

truck stop jesusAbout the book: Oh, for a simpler time! Paradise Jones dreams of the Hollywood glamour days. Clothes, hair, vintage car–you name it, she’s got it. She’s classic retro, a 21st-century image of her favorite Golden Era stars–Doris, Audrey, Esther, Marilyn. The entertainment rags call Paradise eccentric. The studios rarely call at all. When an altercation with her leering stepfather forces her to flee Los Angeles, Paradise leaves behind everything she loves and longs for.

A few hundred miles east, Doc Morales’ years of hard work in the minors of Major League Baseball have produced exactly one at-bat in the Big Show. A collision at first, a blown knee, and adios dreams. Nothing left to live for but pick-up games and his collection of old movies. Nothing, that is, until beautiful, damaged Paradise Jones crashes into his small, Arizona town. So begins an epic road trip that will change everything.

Throw in a couple of oddball bounty hunters, a forgotten movie-star boat captain, a cowboy priest, and a dashboard Jesus that is more than meets the eye, and Paradise and Doc have all the ingredients they need to cook up a fun and quirky slice of Americana pie.

After Love Leaves: The Story of Us,

by Michelle Alstead

Publication: Same Coin-Two Sides; March 16, 2017

after loveAbout the book: When Brad Sorenson crossed paths with Zoe O’Loughlin at a high school graduation party, the connection was undeniable. He noticed her when no one else did; she inspired him to want more out of life. But it would be years before they’d meet again…and in the most unlikely of places.

Brad was looking for a good time online, not love. But Zoe was so sweet, so kind. Everything about her was perfect—until she fell in love with him. Zoe doesn’t know why Brad left her standing in an airport; he won’t return her calls or texts. With her self-esteem and dreams shattered, she can’t imagine ever loving anyone else. A single phone call changes Brad’s life forever. Now he wants just one thing: to make amends with the only woman that’s ever mattered.

Will his first love give him a second chance or will Zoe turn her back on love for good?

***This is not your typical romance. Real love is complicated and messy. This story is written for those who have loved the wrong person for all the right reasons.

Reviews

Book Review: June

JUNE: A NOVEL,

BY MIRANDA BEVERLY-WHITTEMORE

PUBLICATION: BROADWAY BOOKS (REPRINT) FEBRUARY 14, 2017

juneAbout this book: 

Cassie Danvers is holed up in her family’s crumbling mansion in small-town Ohio, mourning the loss of her grandmother, June. But the noise of the rusted doorbell forces her out of isolation. Cassie has been named the sole heir to legendary movie star Jack Montgomery’s fortune.

Soon Jack’s famous daughters arrive, entourage in tow, determined to wrestle Cassie away from an inheritance they feel is theirs. Together, they come to discover the true reason for June’s silence about the summer she was eighteen when Hollywood came to town, and June and Jack’s lives were forever altered. Shifting deftly between the past and present, Cassie and her guests will be forced to reexamine their legacies, their definition of family, and what it truly means to love someone, steadfastly, across the ages.

My Review:

Today I’m happy to bring my review of June: A Novel, by Miranda Beverley-Whittemore. This was an interesting story about a young woman named Cassie, living in her deceased grandmother’s old (and falling down) mansion in Ohio. Cassie is in a very depressed state and not interacting with the world at all until the day Nick comes to visit. Nick is an assistant to the famous Tate Montgomery, whose father has recently passed away. The surprise, however, is that the famous actor Jack Montgomery left his entire fortune to his granddaughter Cassie – and nothing to Tate or her sister Elda. Tate shows up soon after with another assistant in tow, as they all try to figure out Cassie’s connection to Jack and if she is really his granddaughter. 

This novel weaves back and forth between 1955 and the present. Most of the flashbacks are related to 18-year-old June and her 14-year-old friend Lindie. Lindie and her father lived in one of the side houses of the estate, whereas, June and her mother lived in the main house with June’s uncle Lemon. June was beautiful and ready to marry Artie, although not in love with him, as soon as Artie returned to town from wherever he was. Lindie, on the other hand, had no desire to be beautiful or graceful, dressing like a boy most of the time, and secretly harboring romantic feelings for June. Everything changes when a Hollywood studio group shows up in their small town to film a movie and June meets Jack Montgomery, along with his fiance Diane. 

During the scenes in the present, the reader gets a lot of glimpses into Cassie’s life which quite honestly, was pathetic. I understand that she had lost her parents at a young age and recently lost her grandmother, however, the woman was literally letting the house fall apart around her, not bathing regularly, and being swept into her dreams and fantasies about the house and those that used to be in it. I was confused several times trying to determine if the house was haunted, she was hallucinating, or if they were really just dreams. Regardless, I’m not sure the value it added to the overall story. 

Once Tate, Nick, Hank, and eventually Elda arrive to help solve the mystery surrounding Jack and June’s connection, Cassie starts coming out of her shell a bit. However, she still never became a relatable or very likable character for me. June and Lindie’s stories were fascinating though, saving this novel for me and urging me to push forward to find out the truth. The conclusions regarding paternity and DNA tests were both obvious and surprising at the same time along with the rest of their stories, however, the author’s beautiful writing and imagery of these days gone by still won me over. There was also a touching and almost magical love story interwoven in the novel, but so many other events whether happy or sad seemed to overshadow the love story. If I seem somewhat ambiguous, I am, but I did really enjoy this novel. It didn’t complete knock me off my feet with the romance, mystery or suspense, but all of those elements combined made it a different and unique read. Although heart-breaking at times, June demonstrated the power of friendship and selflessness that unfortunately, not many people seem capable of. 

*Thanks to Blogging for Books for providing a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review!

Purchase June on Amazon!

Learn more about Miranda Beverley-Whittemore by visiting her web page!

 

Reviews

Book Review: Crossing the Street

CROSSING THE STREET,

BY MOLLY B. CAMPBELL

PUBLICATION: FICTION STUDIO BOOKS; MAY 9, 2017

crossingAbout the book: 

This wasn’t the way Beck Throckmorton had planned it. She wasn’t expecting to find herself in her thirties writing erotica and making flat whites for a living while she stewed over that fact that her ex had wound up with her sister. She never saw herself living in a small suburban Ohio town with an octogenarian neighbor best friend. And she definitely wouldn’t have imagined the eight-year-old great-granddaughter of that friend turning her world upside down.

As summer comes around, Beck’s life is unsettled in every way. And that’s before the crazy stuff starts: the sister taunting her with her pregnancy, the infuriatingly perfect boyfriend, the multiple trips to the emergency room. The needy, wise-beyond-her-years little girl finding places in her heart that Beck didn’t even know existed.

Beck has found herself at an emotional intersection she never anticipated. And now it’s time to cross the street.

My Review:

I am so excited to bring you my review of the upcoming must-read novel Crossing the Street, by Molly D. Campbell. This is such a wonderful story about a young woman, Beck, and her friends and family. Beck is best friends with Gail (who she grew up with) and Ella (her neighbor that is in her 80’s). Beck doesn’t get along with her sister Diana because of Diana marrying Beck’s ex-boyfriend Bryan. Things get even worse once Beck finds out that Diana is pregnant and their mother is pushing Beck to forgive and move on. Suddenly Ella finds out that her great-granddaughter Bob (Roberta) is coming to live with her due to her mother being a drug addict and her Dad (Ella’s grandson) at war in the Middle East. Beck – who doesn’t like or want children – suddenly finds herself helping Ella with Bob, and then helping her sister with her new nephew Alex. All while working at Starbucks, writing erotica novels, and trying to become attracted to a really nice guy that is smitten with her. 

Beck is one of my favorite female characters ever. Actually, both Beck and Bob are my favorite female characters ever! Beck is the type of person that you want as your friend. She’s hilarious, sarcastic, a mess – but with the biggest heart ever. When Ella falls and gets hurt, Beck steps in taking care of Bob and Ella’s house along with making post-hospital arrangements for Ella. She has a cat Simpson, that she is crazy over, but Bob continuously keeps moving further and further into Beck’s heart. Bob is one of the coolest, most unique characters I have ever encountered while reading. Tough yet tender, smart, witty, intelligent – yet borderline broken because of her mother’s abuse and neglect. Adding to that is her constant worry about her father Charles, a Marine stationed in the Middle East. But despite the horror this young girl has lived through, she is the sweetest thing ever and wise beyond her years. 

A huge transformation occurred throughout the novel regarding Diana. Well actually, there was a huge transformation overall among the sisters and their mother. But Diana starts out appearing so selfish and self-absorbed, but after having endless issues with her newborn baby, she starts to soften and show a different side. I hated her in the beginning but absolutely loved Diana by the end of the novel. 

Overall, Beck and Bob stole the show with this one. Beck experiences so many urgencies and challenges, yet she keeps on rolling with taking care of Bob, Ella, Diana, and Alex. And Bob demonstrated an incredible resiliency that I think we would all hope for our children to possess when faced with trauma and crisis. Crossing the Street focuses on the importance of family – whether family by blood or by choice – and how helping others is not only beneficial to the one(s) needing help but is also gratifying for the one pitching in. This novel reminds the reader of the importance of the people that we can trust, as well as, the overwhelming power and freedom that comes with forgiveness. 

Molly D. Campbell has completed a masterpiece that will make you laugh, cry, get angry, feel regret, and everything in between. This is a must-read novel that will stick with you long after finishing the last, beautifully crafted sentence. The author has created something that will move each reader in a different way, and absolutely created something to be proud of. Crossing my fingers that Beck and Bob’s story will be continued…. 

*Thanks to NetGalley for a copy of this ARC in exchange for an honest review!

Pre-Order Crossing the Street on Amazon!

Learn more about Molly D. Campbell by visiting her web page!