Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Release Day Review and Excerpt of His Scandalous Kiss (Secrets at Thorncliff Manor #3) by Sophie Barnes

His Scandalous Kiss
by Sophie Barnes

Thorncliff Manor is the perfect setting for a masquerade ball . . . where the heart’s secret desires are about to be uncovered in this scintillating Regency romance from Sophie Barnes

Richard Heartly has exiled himself from society since the war, plotting his revenge for a terrible betrayal. A masked ball at Thorncliff Manor is intended to be a brief diversion. Instead, he encounters a fascinating young woman as entranced by the music as he is. He can’t reveal his identity to Lady Mary. But her siren song keeps drawing him back, and their clandestine meetings could be hazardous to his plan—and to her virtue . . .

Avoiding an unwanted marriage was easy when Lady Mary was ignored by the ton. Thanks to her dazzling appearance at the masquerade, she’s a wallflower no longer. Eligible suitors abound, yet the only man she wants is the brooding, seductive companion who keeps his face hidden. A man who tempts her to disclose her own shocking secret, one that could divide them forever . . .

~ Read an Excerpt ~

Forcing back all thought of potentially kissing his way down the side of her neck and over the smooth skin of her shoulder, Richard struggled to gain control. “Perhaps it is the atmosphere,” he suggested. “Masquerades do have a tendency to encourage more carefree behavior.”

“I suppose it must be because of the anonymity. Hidden behind masks, people have the opportunity to do things they would not otherwise dare to consider.”

“Such as?”

She pursed her lips, which made her look adorably cheeky. “A shy gentleman might suddenly feel emboldened, allowing him the courage he needs to ask a lady to dance.” 

“I hope you are not suggesting that I might be shy, for I can assure you that I am anything but.” Not entirely true, though he preferred apprehensive.

“And yet I have no clue about your identity. In truth, you could be anyone, perhaps even a groomsman who happened to chance upon some quality clothing.”

“I see your point. But if I were a groomsman, would I be as well-read as you know me to be?” Emboldened by their light repartee, the magical touch that the evening provided, and the reminder that nobody knew who he was, Richard moved his hands to her waist and lifted her right off the ground. He heard her suck in her breath while several onlookers gasped in confounded shock. Heedless of it all, he proceeded to swing Lady Eleanor around while spinning in a wide circle. 

“That was far too daring,” she chastised as soon as he set her back on her feet and resumed their previous pace.

“Tell me you did not enjoy every second of it.”

Setting her mouth in a firm line, she looked away from him. “Everyone is watching,” she eventually said, not answering his question. “My aunt does not look the least bit pleased.”

“Then it is fortunate that I care more about your opinion than I do about your aunt’s.”

The corner of her mouth twitched. “You are intolerable. What if you had dropped me?”

“A gentleman never drops a lady.” Twirling her around, he led her between two other couples.

“Perhaps not, but then again, we have not yet established that you are in fact a gentleman. For all I know, you could be a scoundrel.”

“I can assure you that I am no such thing.” Dipping his head, he whispered close to her ear. “In time, you will learn that I value honesty and dependability. That I consider a man’s honor to be paramount to his character. So I would be much obliged if you would refrain from suggesting otherwise, even if you only meant to do so in jest.

Briefly closing her eyes, she gave a little nod. “Forgive me,” she whispered, regret marring her features. “I did not mean to insult you in any way.

“I know.” The music gradually faded and their movements slowed until they came to a gliding halt. Stepping back, Richard offered Lady Eleanor a bow while she curtseyed in return. He didn’t like the tone he’d just taken with her, but it was too late for that now. “Will you join me for a walk in the garden?” he asked, stiffly offering her his arm. He was suddenly desperate to smooth away the tight expression that he’d caused.

“As lovely as that sounds, I am not so sure that it is going to be possible,” she said, her eyes fixed on a spot directly behind his left shoulder.

Turning, Richard winced as he spotted an older woman bearing down on him with Lady Duncaster in pursuit. “Your aunt, I presume?”

“Yes. With Mama and Papa abroad, I am presently under her protection.” She looked up at him with calmness in her eyes. “No need to worry. She is not as fierce as she looks. Just be polite.”

Squaring his shoulders, Richard stood his ground as Lady Eleanor’s aunt came to a halt before him. She was a slim woman with delicate features, possessing a chin that was sharper than most. Her dark brown hair was streaked with random lines of silver, and in front of her eyes, she held a lorgnette surrounded by a vast array of colorful feathers.

“Signor Antonio,” Lady Duncaster said, coming up alongside her, “May I present my dear friend, Lady Foxworth?”

“It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Countess.” Reaching for her tiny hand, Richard bowed over it while hoping that his gallantry would win him her favor. “Thank you,” she said as she peered up at him from behind her lorgnette. “You clearly have me at a disadvantage. Will you please tell me who you are? I should also like to know why you presumed to have the right to dance with my niece in such a scandalous manner.”

Every muscle in Richard’s body grew taught. Was it just his imagination, or was his cravat more restrictive now than it had been earlier? With rigidity, he met Lady Foxworth’s assessing gaze. “I must apologize for allowing myself to get carried away during the dance. It was not my intention to offend anyone. As to my name . . . I am afraid that Signor Antonio will have to suffice.”

Lady Foxworth pressed her lips together in a firm line of disapproval. Beside him, Richard sensed Lady Eleanor’s surprise. Like her aunt, she’d probably expected him to reveal himself when asked to do so.

“Unfortunately that is not good enough,” Lady Foxworth said. “Not when I am responsible for my niece’s reputation.”
“I can vouch for his character,” Lady Duncaster said with a hasty look in Richard’s direction. “Signor Antonio comes from a very respectable family—a family with whom an association would be a coup.”
Raising her chin a notch, Lady Foxworth was silent for a moment and Richard realized that he was holding his breath in anticipation of what she might say next. “I have always trusted your judgment,”
Lady Foxworth eventually told Lady Duncaster, “but I am afraid that my conscience will not allow me to do so in this instance. Unless I am made aware of Signor Antonio’s exact identity, then I am afraid that I cannot allow him to continue socializing with my niece.”

Closing his eyes on the finality of her words, Richard expelled the breath he’d been holding. Silently, he cursed the fear that kept him from living and the hatred that fueled his vendetta. Because in spite of what Lady Eleanor had told him—that she had no desire to marry—the way in which she responded to him suggested that he might be able to change her mind if he was allowed the chance to do so.

“What if he confides in me?” Lady Eleanor asked, cultivating this idea.

Lady Foxworth regarded him shrewdly. “I do not believe that he is prepared to do so. Are you, Signor?”

Heart hammering in his chest, Richard forced himself not to look at Lady Eleanor. He didn’t want to see the hope brimming in her eyes or the disappointment that would take its place when he said what had to be said. “Not yet.”

As soon as the words were out, he felt as though a cavern had been carved into the ground, separating him from the woman who stood by his side. Tonight, for the first time in years, he’d felt a sliver of hope that the happy future he’d always dreamed of might one day be his—if he could only win Lady Eleanor’s affection. Unwilling to give up completely, he said, “Perhaps in time—”

“No,” Lady Foxworth said, her hand slicing the air between them. “You have every right to keep your secrets, Signor, but until I am made aware of what they are and have been reassured that they pose no threat to my niece’s reputation or happiness, then you will stay away from her. Is that clear?”

The ultimatum was not to Richard’s liking even though he understood Lady Foxworth’s reasoning completely. Had he been in her shoes, he would have made the same demand. “Yes.” He spoke the word with difficulty.

Lady Foxworth finally allowed a faint smile. “Thank you. I appreciate your understanding.”
Clenching his jaw, Richard nodded. “If you will excuse me,” he said with a curt bow directed at Lady Foxworth and Lady Duncaster. Turning toward Lady Eleanor, his heart ached at the sight of her pained expression. “It has been a pleasure.”

She gave him a bleak little nod, but said nothing in response. Turning his back on her, Richard walked away without a backward glance, his pace brisk as he strode toward the French doors leading into the house. Rushing through the well-lit hallway, he marched toward the stairs, climbing them quickly in his haste to return to his bedchamber and the darkness that beckoned within.

~ About the Author ~

Sophie Barnes
Visit her website at www.sophiebarnes.com
Follow her on Twitter  @BarnesSophie
'Like' her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/AuthorSophieBarnes
Follow her on Goodreads at: www.goodreads.com/author/show/5400052.Sophie_Barnes

Born in Denmark, Sophie Barnes spent her youth traveling with her parents to wonderful places all around the world. She's lived in five different countries, on three different continents, and speaks Danish, English, French, Spanish, and Romanian. But, most impressive of all, she's been married to the same man three times—in three different countries and in three different dresses.

When she's not busy dreaming up her next romance novel, Sophie enjoys spending time with her family, swimming, cooking, gardening, watching romantic comedies and, of course, reading.

~ The Review ~

Classification: Adult Fiction
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Secrets at Thorncliff Manor
Format: Paperback; 384 pages
Publisher: Avon (July 26, 2016)
ISBN-10: 006235891X
ISBN-13: 978-0062358912
Notes: I received an eARC loan from the publisher for review purposes.

One enchanted evening a chance encounter happened at a masquerade ball,,,

"Who are you?" he asked.

Her lips curved to form a partial smile. "I thought the whole idea behind a masquerade  was to remain anonymous."

"Fair enough."

A simple question...

"The mask...do you wear it because you do not want me to know your identity, or because you do not want me to see your face?"


But one conversation led to another and another and eventually to one scandalous kiss..

"Have you ever been kissed before? Properly, that is? By a man who desires you?'

She shook her head."No."

But more than one thing stands in the way of true love and a secret, once revealed, may cost them everything...

"Secrets generally have a way of surfacing, Richard. Just be sure that if you choose to keep this one to yourself, that Lady Mary will not think less of you for it, or worse, be hurt by it if she happens to find out what it is. In my experience, people do eventually discover the things that you would most like to keep from them."
This was wonderful romance which was inspired just a touch by the Phantom of the Opera. Richard Heartly fought in the battle of Waterloo where he became a prison of war. He was tortured and his face bares the scars of his torment. He's spent the last five years hiding from society trying to come to terms with it all. At the encouragement of a friend, he decides to join the living again during one of Lady Duncaster's notorious masquerade balls. A time when he can conceal his disfigured face.

Lady Mary is smarter than your average debutante. She also is independently wealthy. While she'd like to someday have a family of her own, she's not sure the trade-off is something she's willing to give up. After talking with Richard, however, she's starting to have second thoughts. He doesn't seem to be like other men. 

Overall, I gave this one 4 out of 5 roses. There were plenty of twists, turns, secrets, drama and suspense all nicely wrapped in a happy ending. There was even the beginning of a secondary romancing just starting to bloom. Perhaps Ms. Barnes will go a little deeper into that one in a later book? We'll have to wait and see. Luckily no, one goes mad in this story, and the horror associated with The Phantom of the Opera is nowhere to be found. On the Lisarenee Romance Rating Scale, this one scored a STEAM rating--too hot for a fan, but you still have a handle on things. You should use extreme caution when reading a book with this rating in public. People may inquire as to why you looked flustered and flushed. I thoroughly enjoyed it. 
Order of the series:

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Early Review of The Secrets She Kept (Fairham Island, #2) by Brenda Novak

Title: The Secrets She Kept
Classification: Adult Fiction
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Format: Paperback; 400 pages
Publisher: MIRA (July 26, 2016)
ISBN-10: 0778319067
ISBN-13: 978-0778319061
Author's Website: http://brendanovak.com/
Notes: Received this one at BEA (Book Expo America) from the publisher.

Josephine Lazarow is rich, beautiful, dynamic, and dead. While the police are ready to call her death a suicide, her son doesn't believe it for one minute. Josephine had an ego the size of a small planet and dying naked in a bathtub just wasn't her style. Appearance to her was everything. Plus, the woman wasn't a coward and would never take the easy way out. It soon becomes clear, however, Josephine Lazarow had secrets and they're about to be revealed, but were they enough for her to kill herself?
Josephine Lazarow was a wrecking ball. Anything or anyone who got in her way she considered collateral damage. The world was her oyster and she did as she pleased no matter who got hurt. To see the beautiful woman, one would never realize just how ugly she was on the inside. She kept up a beautiful facade until it suited her otherwise, and then it was too late for whoever she chose to unleash her fury on. Did she have enemies? Too many to count. The pertinent question being who did she enrage enough to want her dead?

This was a suspenseful story that reminded me a little of the board game Clue where you try to figure out who dunnit before anyone else can. There were so many possibilities that one had to wonder why someone hadn't offed this horrible woman sooner. I liked how what seemed like a hopeless case was solved as more and more clues were uncovered as how Josephine spent her last day is slowly uncovered.

Besides the suspenseful murder mystery, we get a side of romance. Keith, Josephine's son, pursues an old flame  Nancy<whom he did wrong, but never forgot. At the time of his departure, he hadn't been in a good place and still isn't sure where, if anywhere, he wants the relationship to go. He just knows he can't seem to stop thinking about her. 

Overall, I enjoyed the story and gave this one 4 our of 5 roses. I found the characters easy to relate to and sympathize with (well, all except for Josephine). The author managed to keep me on the edge of my seat wondering who did the dastardly deed. There were a lot of twists and turns, and suspects were seemingly coming out of the woodwork. On the Lisarenee Romance Rating Scale, this one scored a STEAM rating--too hot for a fan, but you still have a handle on things. You should use extreme caution when reading a book with this rating in public. People may inquire as to why you looked flustered and flushed.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Early Review of Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty

Title: Truly Madly Guilty
Classification: Adult Fiction
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Format: Hardcover; 432 pages
Publisher: Flatiron Books (July 26, 2016)
ISBN-10: 1250069793
ISBN-13: 978-1250069795
Author's Website: http://lianemoriarty.com.au/
Notes: I received this book at BEA from the person behind me while we were waiting in line for another book--Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. I was acting as a placeholder for my daughter when I noticed the lady behind me was reading Truly Madly Guilty. I made a comment that I liked the author and didn't know her book was being given away. She finished the book before she had my daughter reached the end and gave it to her to give to me. So a great big THANK YOU to the person whose name I don't know.

One moment, if it's the right or wrong moment, can change your perspective, your outlook, or your opinion of yourself, your life, or the world. One moment happened to three families who got together for a seemingly ordinary barbecue, but it ended up being anything but...
This was a novel that touches upon some of today's most common fears, and how different people handle different situations. Liane Moriarty has this uncanny knack for capturing human emotions on paper, and if anyone else had written this story, I'd probably been bored and a touch disappointed. She however, like a gifted composer, intertwines the melody "emotions" of the instruments "people" and creates something which captivates her audience.

I confess, this one drove me a little crazy at the beginning because we don't find out exactly what happened at the barbecue until the last quarter of the book. The book alternates between the present and the past. The past is slowly revealed through the alternating chapters letting us know what transpired for all three families on the day of the barbecue. The chapters dealing with the present let us know how each person is coping with the aftermath of what happened. To me, the actual event was minimal compared to the reactions it inspired. From the slowly divulged snippets we were given, I initially thought something quite different had occurred. When the actual "incident" was disclosed, I felt perhaps Ms. Moriarty should have taken the full plunge and made the "incident" more tragic or at least stretched out the (Forgive me for I'm struggling with how do I say this without revealing what happened.) length of time it took before the full extent of consequences were exposed. I just felt it would have been a better fit to the reactions we observe. That being said, I loved the way Ms. Moriarty brought everything together at the end.

Overall, I gave this one 4 out of 5 roses. While I thought the reactions were a bit too dramatic for what took place, I enjoyed the story. The twists that are revealed, and the way the ending clicks the final puzzle pieces of that evening into place was nicely done. There was a nice congruency between what happened in the past to someone else and what happened at the barbecue. It gave us a peek of how things could have played out if things had ended differently. Likewise, I enjoyed another incident that happens toward the end which showed one character just how quickly things can transpire, and helps him come to terms with what happened. I felt the parallelism of the three events was well done.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The 2016 RITA® Award Winners

This past Saturday night, July 16th,  at the RWA's (Romance Writer's of America) annual convention, the RITA awards were presented. For those of you who have never been, I would liken the RITAs to to Oscars, complete with golden statues, which hold a book and golden quill. The authors and guests get dolled up in beautiful gowns and evening attire. So without further ado, here is the list of winners and their books....

Winner for Romance Novella

Roni Loren

Roni wrote her first romance novel at age fifteen when she discovered writing about boys was way easier than actually talking to them. Since then, her flirting skills haven’t improved, but she likes to think her storytelling ability has. After earning a master’s degree in social work from LSU, she worked in a mental health hospital, counseled birthmothers as an adoption coordinator, and did management recruiting in her PJs. But she always returned to writing.

Though she’ll forever be a New Orleans girl at heart, she now lives in Dallas with her husband and son. If she’s not working on her latest sexy story, you can find her cooking, watching reality television, or picking up another hobby she doesn't need--in other words, procrastinating like a boss. She is a three-time RITA award nominee and is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author.

For her novella:

 Nice Girls Don't Ride  
by Roni Loren

Natalie Bourne thinks she has the perfect night planned for her twenty-first birthday. But when her car breaks down and her boyfriend bails on her, she’s left stranded in an auto shop dealing with a way too cocky, way too hot mechanic, who seems to be intent on pushing every button she has.

Monroe Hawkins knows he shouldn’t be messing with a girl from the uppity private college. Especially when he can tell she sees him as the help. But he’s having trouble resisting the redhead with the smart mouth and the killer legs. So when Natalie’s night goes from bad to worse, there’s no way he’s letting her spend her birthday alone. He makes her a deal—he’ll take her home but not until the sun comes up.

Ten hours, one motorcycle, and the city of Austin at their fingertips…things are about to take a major detour. And soon, there may be no U-turn in sight.

Winner for long contemporary romance:

Maisey Yates

New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author Maisey Yates lives in rural Oregon with her three children and her husband, whose chiseled jaw and arresting features continue to make her swoon. She feels the epic trek she takes several times a day from her office to her coffee maker is a true example of her pioneer spirit.

In 2009, at the age of twenty-three Maisey sold her first book. Since then it’s been a whirlwind of sexy alpha males and happily ever afters, and she wouldn’t have it any other way. Maisey divides her writing time between dark, passionate category romances set just about everywhere on earth and light sexy contemporary romances set practically in her back yard. She believes that she clearly has the best job in the world.

For her book:

Brokedown Cowboy 
by Maisey Yates

There are lines best friends shouldn't cross, but in Copper Ridge, Oregon, the temptation might be too much… 

If practice makes perfect, Connor Garrett should be world champion of being alone. Since losing his wife he's concentrated exclusively on his family's ranch. Until his dear friend Felicity Foster needs a place to stay and Connor invites her to move in temporarily. That's what friends do—and Liss is his rock. What friends don't do? Suddenly start fantasizing about each other in their underwear. Or out of it…

Since high school, Liss has kept her raging crush in check. Another few weeks should be a breeze. But helping Connor rebuild his life only reinforces how much she longs to be a part of it. One explosive encounter, and she'll discover that getting what you always wanted can feel better than you ever dreamed…

Winner in the category Young Adult Romance:

Jenn Bennett, 
©Heidi Darbo

Jenn Bennett is an award-winning author of the Arcadia Bell urban fantasy series (Kindling the Moon), the Roaring Twenties romance series (Bitter Spirits), the young adult contemporary romance The Anatomical Shape of a Heart (aka Night Owls in the U.K.), as well as the upcoming Alex, Approximately. Her books have earned starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist, won two Reviewers’ Choice awards from RT Book Reviews and were awarded their Seal of Excellence, been nominated for two RITA® awards, and been included on Publishers Weekly Best Books annual list. She lives near Atlanta with one husband and two pugs.

For her book:

The Anatomical Shape of a Heart 
by Jenn Bennett

A mysterious graffiti artist, an anatomy-obsessed artist, and a night bus that will bring the two together.

Beatrix Adams knows exactly how she’s spending the summer before her senior year. Determined to follow in Leonardo da Vinci’s footsteps, she’s ready to tackle the one thing that will give her an advantage in a museum-sponsored scholarship contest: drawing actual cadavers. But when she tries to sneak her way into the hospital’s Willed Body program and misses the last metro train home, she meets a boy who turns her summer plans upside down.

Jack is charming, wildly attractive . . . and one of San Francisco’s most notorious graffiti artists. On midnight buses and city rooftops, Beatrix begins to see who Jack really is—and tries to uncover what he’s hiding that leaves him so wounded. But will these secrets come back to haunt him? Or will the skeletons in Beatrix’s own family’s closet tear them apart?

Winner of Long Historical Romance:

Deeanne Gist

With almost a million copies of her books sold, international bestselling, award-winning author Deeanne Gist has rocketed up bestseller lists and captured readers everywhere with her original, captivating historicals. Her latest release, Tiffany Girl, was touted as a “Must Year of the Year!” by USA Today and one of the Top 10 Most Anticipated Books of 2015 by Huffington Post.

Published by Simon & Schuster, Deeanne’s awards include National Readers’ Choice, Best Historical of the Year (by RT Reviewers), Librarians’ Choice, Book Buyers’ Best, Golden Quill, Books*A*Million Pick of the Month, Seal of Excellent and Award of Excellence.

Her most recent series takes readers into the heart of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, where USA Today says …

“The historical details are absorbing, never intrusive and always eye-opening ... The characterization is rich and authentic ... The narrative is a treat, the tempo impeccable.”

Deeanne earned her B.S. in Elementary Education from Texas A&M and taught for five years, then became a freelance journalist with credits including People Magazine, Parents and Parenting. Her entertaining and informative presentations have been featured on the front page of the Wall Street Journal.

Deeanne lives in South Carolina with her husband. When not writing, she enjoys keeping up with her readers via www.IWantHerBook.com and her very active online community on her blog, on Facebook, Pinterest, and on her YouTube channel.

For her book:

Tiffany Girl 
by Deeanne Gist

As preparations for the 1893 World’s Fair set Chicago and the nation on fire, Louis Tiffany—heir to the exclusive Fifth Avenue jewelry empire—seizes the opportunity to unveil his state-of-the-art, stained glass, mosaic chapel, the likes of which the world has never seen.

But when Louis’s dream is threatened by a glassworkers’ strike months before the Fair opens, he turns to an unforeseen source for help: the female students at the New York School of Applied Design. Eager for adventure, the young women pick up their skirts, move to boarding houses, take up steel cutters, and assume new identities as the “Tiffany Girls.”

Tiffany Girl is the heartwarming story of the impetuous Flossie Jayne, a beautiful, budding artist handpicked by Louis to help complete the Tiffany chapel. Though excited to be an independent "New Woman" when most of the fair sex stayed home, she quickly finds the world less welcoming than anticipated. From a Casanova male, to an unconventional married couple, and a condescending singing master, she takes on a colorful cast of characters to transform the boarding house into a home while racing to complete the Tiffany chapel and make a name for herself in the art world.

As challenges mount, her ambitions become threatened from an unexpected quarter: her own heart.

Who will claim victory? Her dreams or the captivating boarder next door?

Winner of Romantic Suspense

Dana Marton

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Dana Marton has thrilled and entertained millions of readers around the globe with her fast-paced stories about strong women and honorable men who fight side by side for justice and survival.

Kirkus Reviews calls her writing "compelling and honest." RT Book Review Magazine said, "Marton knows what makes a hero...her characters are sure to become reader favorites." Her writing has been acclaimed by critics, called, "gripping," "intense and chilling," "full of action," "a thrilling adventure," and wholeheartedly recommended to readers. Dana is the winner of the Daphne du Maurier Award of Excellence, the Readers' Choice Award, and Best Intrigue, among other awards. Her book, TALL, DARK, AND LETHAL was nominated for the prestigious Rita Award. DEATHSCAPE reached the 
#1 spot on Amazon's Romantic Suspense Bestseller list.

Dana has a Master's degree in Writing Popular Fiction, and is continuously studying the art and craft of writing, attending several workshops, seminars and conferences each year. Her number one goal is to bring the best books she possibly can to her readers.

Keeping in touch with readers is Dana's favorite part of being an author. Please connect with her via her web site (www.danamarton.com) or her Facebook page ( www.facebook.com/danamarton).
Having lived around the world, Dana currently creates her compelling stories in a small and lovely little town in Pennsylvania. The fictional town of her bestselling Broslin Creek series is based on her real life home where she fights her addictions to reading, garage sales, coffee and chocolate. If you know a good twelve-step program to help her with any of that, she'd be interested in hearing about it!

For her book:

Flash Fire 
by Dana Marton

A brand new, gripping novel of romantic suspense from New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Dana Marton.

When an American teenager disappears abroad, Clara Roberts, a by-the-book investigator on a secret mission, joins forces with Light Walker, an ex-SEAL turned lawless mercenary, to save her. The sparks they generate—and the trouble they stir up—threaten to set the jungle ablaze.

Nothing is what it seems in this fast-paced romantic thriller. As attraction grows into love, looming danger turns into all-out war, and the whole region explodes around them. Clara and Walker must hold on to each other and race against time to survive.

Winner of Paranormal Romance:

Angela Quarles

Angela Quarles is a RWA RITA® Finalist and USA Today bestselling author of time travel and steampunk romance. Library Journal named her steampunk, Steam Me Up, Rawley, Best Self-Published Romance of 2015. Her time travel romance Must Love Chainmail is a Romance Writer’s of America RITA finalist. She has published three books and one novelette, and her latest novel, Must Love Kilts, is due out in mid-2016.

Readers have enjoyed the geeky slants to her tales. Whether it’s fan girling over Ada Lovelace by having her as a secondary character in Must Love Breeches, or outright geek references with geek types in her romantic comedy with paranormal elements, Beer and Groping in Las Vegas, or going all Southern steampunk in Steam Me Up, Rawley, Angela likes to have fun with her romances and hopes her readers do too. In addition, she loves history, folklore, and family history and combines it with her active imagination to write stories of romance and adventure.

Angela works at an independent bookstore and lives in an historic house in the beautiful and quirky town of Mobile, Alabama. When she’s not writing, she enjoys the usual stuff like gardening, reading, hanging out, eating, drinking, chasing squirrels out of the walls and creating the occasional knitted scarf. She’s had a varied career, including website programming and directing a small local history museum, and has discovered that writing allows her to explore all her interests.

For her book:

Must Love Chainmail
by Angela Quarles

Trapped in the wrong time, she needs a knight in shining armor, but this damsel in distress might be the real savior.

A damsel in distress...

With a day planner attached to her hip, the last thing Katy Tolson wants is a romance that threatens her well-ordered life. She's set to marry the safe--but bland--guy, but something's not quite...right. A careless wish thrusts her through time into medieval Wales and into the arms of...

A knight in somewhat shining armor...

Sir Robert Beucol, half-Norman and half-Welsh, lives with the shame of his father's treason and vows to reclaim his family's holdings and thereby his honor. To prove himself to his king, he must be more Norman than a full-blooded Norman. What better way to show loyalty than to fight his mother's people? He has no desire to be sidetracked by the mysterious wench with pink toenails, peculiar habits, and passion smoldering behind her cool, collected exterior.

A rebellion that challenges both...

The Welsh uprising fits perfectly into Robert’s plans. Katy’s on the other hand? That’s a no. As they embark on a perilous journey through the heart of Wales, each passionate encounter pulls them closer together, but farther from their goals. When everything they value is at stake, can they save each other and their love?

Winner of Erotic Romance

Alexis Hall

Alexis Hall was born in the early 1980s and still thinks the 21st century is the future. To this day, he feels cheated that he lived through a fin de siècle but inexplicably failed to drink a single glass of absinthe, dance with a single courtesan, or stay in a single garret. He did the Oxbridge thing sometime in the 2000s and failed to learn anything of substance. He has had many jobs, including ice cream maker, fortune teller, lab technician, and professional gambler. He was fired from most of them.

He can neither cook nor sing, but he can handle a 17th century smallsword, punts from the proper end, and knows how to hotwire a car.

He lives in southeast England, with no cats and no children, and fully intends to keep it that way.

For his book:

For Real: A Spires Story 
by Alexis Hall

Laurence Dalziel is worn down and washed up, and for him, the BDSM scene is all played out. Six years on from his last relationship, he’s pushing forty and tired of going through the motions of submission.

Then he meets Toby Finch. Nineteen years old. Fearless, fierce, and vulnerable. Everything Laurie can’t remember being.

Toby doesn’t know who he wants to be or what he wants to do. But he knows, with all the certainty of youth, that he wants Laurie. He wants him on his knees. He wants to make him hurt, he wants to make him beg, he wants to make him fall in love.

The problem is, while Laurie will surrender his body, he won’t surrender his heart. Because Toby is too young, too intense, too easy to hurt. And what they have—no matter how right it feels—can’t last. It can’t mean anything.

It can’t be real.

Winner of Short Historical Romance

Julie Anne Long
photo by Candice Hern

Julie Anne Long originally set out to be a rock star when she grew up, and she has the guitars and the questionable wardrobe stuffed in the back of her closet t prove it. When playing to indifferent crowds at midnight in dank clubs lost its, ahem, charm, she realized she could incorporate all of the best things about being in a band—namely, drama, passion and men with unruly hair—into novels, while at the same time indulging her love of history and research. So she made the move from guitar to keyboard (the computer variety) and embarked on a considerably more civilized, if not much more peaceful, career as a novelist.

Julie lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with a fat orange cat. (Little known fact: they issue you a cat the minute you become a romance novelist.)

For her book:

It Started With a Scandal 

by Julie Anne Long

Lord Philippe Lavay once took to the high seas armed with charm as lethal as his sword, and a stone-cold conviction: he'll restore his family's fortune and honor, no matter the cost. Victory is at last within reach—when a brutal attack snatches it from his grasp and lands him in Pennyroyal Green.

An afternoon of bliss brings a cascade of consequences for Elise Fountain. She is shunned by her family and ousted from a job she loves, and her survival means a plummet down the social ladder to a position no woman has yet been able to keep: housekeeper to a frighteningly formidable prince.

The bold and gentle Elise sees past his battered body into Philippe's barricaded heart . . . and her innate sensuality ignites his blood. Now a man who thought he could never love and a woman who thought she would never again trust must fight an incendiary passion that could be the ruin of them both!

Winner of Inspirational Romance

Kristi Ann Hunter

Kristi Ann Hunter graduated from Georgia Tech with a degree in Computer Science but always knew she wanted to write. Kristi is an RWA Golden Heart contest winner, an ACFW Genesis contest winner, and a Georgia Romance Writers Maggie Award for Excellence winner. She lives with her husband and three children in Georgia. Find her online at www.kristiannhunter.com.

For her book:

A Noble Masquerade 
by Kristi Ann Hunter

Lady Miranda Hawthorne acts every inch the lady, but inside she longs to be bold and carefree. Entering her fourth Season and approaching spinsterhood in the eyes of society, she pours her innermost feelings out not in a diary but in letters to her brother's old school friend, a duke--with no intention of ever sending these private thoughts to a man she's heard stories about but never met. Meanwhile, she also finds herself intrigued by Marcus, her brother's new valet, and although she may wish to break free of the strictures that bind her, falling in love with a servant is more of a rebellion than she planned.

When Marcus accidentally discovers and mails one of the letters to her unwitting confidant, Miranda is beyond mortified. And even more shocked when the duke returns her note with one of his own that initiates a courtship-by-mail. Insecurity about her lack of suitors shifts into confusion at her growing feelings for two men--one she's never met but whose words deeply resonate with her heart, and one she has come to depend on but whose behavior is more and more suspicious. When it becomes apparent state secrets are at risk and Marcus is right in the thick of the conflict, one thing is certain: Miranda's heart is far from all that's at risk for the Hawthornes and those they love. 

Winner of Short Contemporary Romance

Sarah M. Anderson

Award-winning author Sarah M. Anderson may live east of the Mississippi River, but her heart lies out west on the Great Plains. With a lifelong love of horses and two history teachers for parents, she had plenty of encouragement to learn everything she could about the tribes of the Great Plains.

When she started writing, it wasn’t long before her characters found themselves out in South Dakota among the Lakota Sioux. She loves to put people from two different worlds into new situations and to see how their backgrounds and cultures take them someplace they never thought they’d go. Sarah writes for both Harlequin Desire and Samhain Publishing.

Sarah won the RT Reviewer’s Choice Best Desire of 2012 for A Man of Privilege and accepted the award in person in Kansas City at the RT Convention on May 3, 2013.

Combining snarky humor with shirtless cowboys on horseback, Sarah strives to raise awareness of the realities of life on Lakota Indian reservations. She uses proper Lakota translations when her characters speak their native language.

Sarah lives in Illinois with her husband, son, and rescue dogs. She is a writer and editor at Mark Twain Media, Inc., an educational publishing company. When not chasing her son around or writing, she attempts to read, knit, and complete home improvement projects on her historical 1895 Queen Anne house.

The Nanny Plan
by Sarah M. Anderson

This billionaire bachelor has a baby challenge…

Being a father to his orphaned infant niece is out of this tech billionaire’s comfort zone. Lucky for Nate Longmire, Trish Hunter is a natural at motherhood, and she’s agreed to be his temporary nanny. But long glances, slow kisses and not-so-innocent touches are strictly off-limits…

Trish’s goal is to help Nate in exchange for a big donation to her charity for Lakota kids. Falling for her bachelor boss—and his adorable baby girl—is not part of the plan. But when the month is up, will she be able to walk away?

Winner of Mid-Length Contemporary Romance

Sarina Bowen & Elle Kennedy

Sarina Bowen is a USA Today bestselling author of contemporary romance. She lives in Vermont's Green Mountains with her family, six chickens and too much ski gear and hockey equipment.

Elle Kennedy is a New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author who grew up in the suburbs of Toronto, Ontario, and holds a B.A. in English from York University. From an early age, she knew she wanted to be a writer, and actively began pursuing that dream when she was a teenager.

Elle currently writes for various publishers. She loves strong heroines and sexy alpha heroes, and just enough heat and danger to keep things interesting!

For their book:

by Sarina Bowen & Elle Kennedy

They don’t play for the same team. Or do they?

Jamie Canning has never been able to figure out how he lost his closest friend. Four years ago, his tattooed, wise-cracking, rule-breaking roommate cut him off without an explanation. So what if things got a little weird on the last night of hockey camp the summer they were eighteen? It was just a little drunken foolishness. Nobody died.

Ryan Wesley’s biggest regret is coaxing his very straight friend into a bet that pushed the boundaries of their relationship. Now, with their college teams set to face off at the national championship, he’ll finally get a chance to apologize. But all it takes is one look at his longtime crush, and the ache is stronger than ever.

Jamie has waited a long time for answers, but walks away with only more questions—can one night of sex ruin a friendship? If not, how about six more weeks of it? When Wesley turns up to coach alongside Jamie for one more hot summer at camp, Jamie has a few things to discover about his old friend...and a big one to learn about himself.

Warning: contains sexual situations, skinnydipping, shenanigans in an SUV and proof that coming out to your family on social media is a dicey proposition.

Winner of Best First Book

Pintip Dunn

Pintip Dunn's first-grade teacher asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up, she replied, “An author.” Although she has pursued other interests over the years, her dream of becoming an author has never wavered.

She graduated from Harvard University, magna cum laude, with an A.B. in English Literature and Language. She received her J.D. at Yale Law School, where she was an editor of the YALE LAW JOURNAL. She published an article in the YALE LAW JOURNAL, entitled, “How Judges Overrule: Speech Act Theory and the Doctrine of Stare Decisis,” and received the Barry S. Kaplan Prize for best paper in Law and Literature.

For her book:

Forget Tomorrow 
by Pintip Dunn

Imagine a world where your destiny has already been decided...
by your future self. 

It's Callie’s seventeenth birthday and, like everyone else, she's eagerly awaiting her vision―a memory sent back in time to sculpt each citizen into the person they're meant to be. A world-class swimmer. A renowned scientist. 

Or in Callie's case, a criminal. 

In her vision, she sees herself murdering her gifted younger sister. Before she can process what it means, Callie is arrested and placed in Limbo―a hellish prison for those destined to break the law. With the help of her childhood crush, Logan, a boy she hasn’t spoken to in five years, she escapes. 

But on the run from her future, as well as the government, Callie sets in motion a chain of events that she hopes will change her fate. If not, she must figure out how to protect her sister from the biggest threat of all—Callie, herself. 
To all the winners and nominees.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Monday Musings: Why It's Okay To Read YA Books At Any Age

Odds are that when you were a small child someone, perhaps a parent or grandparent, read to you. Likewise, we're told that when we have our own children we should read to them. Studies and statistic prove reading to young children helps them learn their letters and helps them learn to read. At some point in their schooling, however, we're told they need to venture out and read to themselves, by themselves. Eventually our children become self-sufficient and don't wish for us to read to them anymore. This could be seen as the final chapter on a shared love of literature, but I say think broader.

One of the things I hear from fellow parents of tweens and teens is they have trouble communicating with and relating to their children. Reading YA (young adult) books is a good way to bridge that communication gap. It reminds you of what it was like to be so young, and can keep you up-to-date with what is happening now in their world. While many things we experienced will be experienced by our children, in some ways it's a whole new world. With the introduction of cell phones and the maturity of the information highway embarrassing situations can now be immortalized. Cyber bullying is such a common place occurrence that schools now have rules specifically written against such practices.  As a parent, you can use YA books as a tool to open conversations about these subjects with your child as well as other, more controversial and touchy, topics.

There are a number books on any given topic, but you can use YA books as the gateway into just about any subject. Take, for instance, the book 'The Fault in Our Stars' by John Green, it's an excellent way to breach the topic of cancer. The book 'Thirteen Reasons Why' by Jay Asher can be used to bridge the topic of suicide. 'Speak' by Laurie Halse Anderson, is a good opening for a conversation about rape. While the above books are very topic specific, you can find other books that have behaviors you might want to curb or prevent in your child that are a little more subtly touched upon. 'The Coldest Girl in Coldtown' by Holly Black, for instance, has a girl who drinks too much and loves beating people at dares. Her need to be accepted leads her to some disturbing choices and behavior that can open up conversations using the character as example of what not to do. You can ask your child what they think about what the character did and whether they handled things appropriately. But don't make reading YA books with your kids just about life lessons or a means bridge tough subject matter. Instead make it a means for rekindling or maintaining that love of reading. A way to share a common hobby. A mechanism for bonding.

Now I know not every child loves reading, so here are some of the sneaky ways I get my kids interested in books.

1) On the way to school or when going on a long trip we listen to audio books. I will listen all the way through which means they usually miss parts and I purposefully try to make sure they aren't around when I listen to a good portion of the ending. They beg me to tell them what happened and are now used to my standard response of, "I guess you'll just have to read it to find out."

2) If I find out a popular book is being made into a movie I make my kids read it before they can see it. Some of the books made into movies we've read before seeing over the years include The Hunger Games series, the Harry Potter series, the Twilight series, the Divergent series, 'The Hobbit' (not a YA book, but you can see how this can continue on as they get older), 'The Maze Runner', the Percy Jackson series, 'The Giver', 'Diary of a Wimpy Kid', and many more.

3) I also like to discuss the books we read together. I ask questions about what they thought about what certain characters did and how they reacted to things that happened to them and around them. When a movie is involved, I ask which version they liked better. The book, by the way, almost always wins. My daughter is now of an age that when I ask some of these questions she'll respond, "Well if they'd done that there wouldn't be much of a story to tell now would there?" They truly do grow up too fast.

4) Another thing I do is to make sure the kids see me reading. The old adage "Lead by example" really does apply to your children. As an added bonus, it's a great way to keep your own mind nimble.

5) I also tend to gear my kid's birthday party themes towards books. For instance, one of my daughter's favorite birthday party was based off of 'The Hunger Games'. The party included a portion where points were earned by answering questions based off of the book. At the end of the party and many games and points later, prizes were given out based off of who had earned the most points. If you're wondering, everyone received a book as a prize.

Even if you don't have kids, however, you shouldn't be afraid to read YA books. They hold a vast amount of fun, impressive, and brilliant stories. Can you imagine thumbing your nose at the Harry Potter series, 'The Book Thief', or 'The Giver' just because they are labeled young adult?  Besides, according to the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), "the conventional definition of “young adult” has expanded to include those as young as ten and, since the late 1990s, as old as twenty-five." I wouldn't be surprised if the age eventually expands beyond that, so you can consider yourself a trend setter. Plus, reading helps you maintain brain heath as you age. According to the Mayo Clinic Study of Aging, reading books significantly decreased the odds of older people having mild cognitive impairment. So if you read YA books, and they make you happy, tell the naysayers that there is clinical proof that reading them is good for you. While the study didn't specifically focus on individuals who read YA books, you don't have to tell them that. Hey, I say it's all in how you interpret the data. *Grin*

YA books can also be a helpful resource and/or tool for teachers. You can use them to capture your students’ attention. If you're a history or government teacher, you can use some of these books as jump starters to talk about different types of societies and  governments. If you're an English teacher, you may want to consider substituting some of the more current YA books for Classics or pair some of the classics with more modern tales which can be found in YA books of similar themes. Some examples would be 'Speak' by Laurie Halse Andersen and 'The Scarlet Letter' by Nathaniel Hawthorne, 'Juliet Immortal' by Stacey Jay and 'Romeo & Juliet' by Shakespeare, 'Epic Fail' by Claire LaZebnik and 'Pride & Prejudice' by Jane Austen. There are several good lists floating around that contain even more pairings so the possibilities are numerous.

Notes to Keep You in the Know:
For more information about YA literature and Classic pairings, check out these two posts:

- An Epic Chart of 162 Young Adult Retellings by Epic Reads: http://www.epicreads.com/blog/an-epic-chart-of-162-young-adult-retellings/

- Pairing Young Adult Literature with Traditional Text(s) Books (a power point presentation) by
Jung Kim, Ph.D. of Lewis University: http://bhsd228.schoolwires.net/cms/lib6/IL01001099/Centricity/Domain/31/YA%20Lit%20Pairings%20-%20Kim.pdf

Sources quoted:
~ Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) article on The Value of Young Adult Literature: http://www.ala.org/yalsa/guidelines/whitepapers/yalit

~ The Mayo Clinic Study of Aging: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3204924/

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Early Review of Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

Title: Dark Matter: A Novel
Classification: Adult Fiction
Genre: Science Fiction
Format: Hardcover; 352 pages
Publisher: Crown (July 26, 2016)
ISBN-10: 1101904224
ISBN-13: 978-1101904220
Author's Website: http://blakecrouch.com/
Notes: I received an eARC loan from the publisher for review purposes.

Jason Dessen was happy with the choices he'd made in life. He loved his wife and son. He felt rewarded by his work as a teacher. In college, many thought he'd go on to do groundbreaking work in his field, but he never regretted his choices. He was content with his life and wouldn't change a thing. Then one dark night a man with a mask kidnapped him at gunpoint and stole it all away. Now he'll do everything in his power to get it back. First, he has to figure out what exactly happened...
This book deals with the idea of multiverse. A multiverse is the concept that there are an infinite number of possible parallel universes like ours which vary in small to huge ways. Take the possibility that when choices or decisions are presented, the universe, as we know it, splits and diverges into all possible outcomes conceivable. Factor in this happening for every decision that every individual ever born has or will ever make and you can see what a vast amount of parallel universes could exist. The concept has been around for years, and makes for some good stories. Mr. Crouch takes this concept one step further and adds in the element of one individual from one parallel universe stumbling into and altering the path of another where another version of himself exists. That is the main premise for this story. The "what if" factor.

So as you read this story, think about what, if anything, you would change about your life. If you could alter or change one decision what would it be? They say hindsight is 20/20, but what if there was another way to get back that choice? What would you be willing do to get that chance?

I gave this one 4 out of 5 roses. I love the concept of a multiverse and this was a fun, albeit a tad crazy (in a good way), read. I like how the book makes you think, and brings up questions like..What makes us who we are? Is it the people around us, the choices we make, or something else? Do all of us have the potential in us to be good or evil? Do we all have a breaking point? This novel brings up so many topics for discussion which is what makes it such an excellent book club pick. Plus, who hasn't wondered what would have been if they'd made a different choice at some point in their life? I would love to see this one expanded and made into a series.

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