Monthly Archive: May 2015

LOVE MAPS

love maps

Love Maps

by Eliza Factor
Published by Akashic Books
224 pages
Genre: fiction
3.5 / 5

Synopsis:

The love in Love Maps is not the kind associated with domestic bliss; it is the kind that bubbles up at inopportune moments, attaching itself to people who might be better off free, causing mayhem and longing, along with moments of rare beauty. The title is taken from a series of paintings by Sarah Marker, an artist who ekes out a living teaching humanities at a fancy high school in Connecticut.

The story begins when Sarah receives a letter from Philip, her erstwhile husband. They have lived separately for seven years, without having seen each other once, without having formally severed ties, in a state of sustained ambivalence. Now he wants to visit. As much as Sarah would like to see him, she is terrified at what he will do when he discovers that he has a son.

Sarah bundles up her son and once again takes flight, only to arrive in a place she had not intended. While navigating the terrain of the 1980s art scene in New York City, she must confront the terrible events surrounding Philip’s departure, and reconcile the expectations of domestic life with her own fractured experience of family, confronting the violence and aching love at the heart of this story.

My Review:

Sarah has an artist’s eye. An artist’s heart and mind, and an artist’s soul. She’s sensitive and a bit insecure. She’s talented, yes, but she doesn’t realize how much. What she does know is that her older sister Maya has an intimidating, ceaseless talent, whether for singing or real estate. Next to her, Sarah finds herself wanting.

Into their thirties, both women are single, but not flailing. Maya has earned no small amount of acclaim for her singing, and Sarah too is gaining in fame. She has created a series of paintings called “love maps,” which depict an attempt to locate different forms of love, whether for objects or people. She’s selling paintings, although not enough to support herself. Maya pays Sarah a salary, employing her as an assistant of sorts.

When an old family friend passes away, Maya sends Sarah to the funeral as her emissary of sorts. While there, Sarah meets Philip, and the two are immediately attracted to each other. They both live in New York, but Sarah’s fears of starting something with him are allayed somewhat by there being all those people in New York. Surely she doesn’t have to worry about running into him, right?

Except of course they do.

The book opens with Sarah having received a letter from Philip, telling her he is coming to town. Flipping back and forth in time, Eliza Factor reveals Sarah and Philip’s stories, although her primary focus is on Sarah. This is a woman so overshadowed by her older sister that she does not know how to respond to love when it presents itself. Yet that artist’s sensibility – the talent to create something simply because she is driven to do so – strengthens her when she needs it. Sarah allows herself to be with Philip, even if she has no idea what that means, emotionally or otherwise.

Sarah makes many mistakes with Philip, each of which she recalls with pain and anger. She is about as ill-equipped to be in a relationship as someone can be, and he isn’t much better. Yet together they become, and Eliza Factor gives us hope that somehow Sarah and Philip will find happiness.

Except of course they don’t. At least not without considerable strain.

The thing about maps is that they show you where you need to go, but not how you need to get there. Sarah knows she belongs with Philip, but she has no idea how to be with him. She only has her sister for guidance, and Maya is too self-involved to help. Maya puts her own interests above all else, balking at perceived threats to her relationship with Sarah. On a map, Maya would be an undisclosed pothole. You know you will encounter one, but you have no idea how severe it will be until you happen upon it.

If Philip is Sarah’s destination, she will take many a detour before she gets to him. Fortunately, Eliza Factor’s storytelling is interesting enough that you won’t mind going along for the ride.

Review copy provided from publisher in exchange for an unbiased review.
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Blog Tour & Giveaway: MY SO-CALLED LIFE

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My So Called Life
by J.D. Hollyfield
Love Not Included #3
Publication Date: May 19, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Humor, Romance

Tour: My So Called Life by J.D. Hollyfield
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Life couldn’t be any brighter for art dealer Christina Daniels. At the top of her career, she has no problem flaunting just how perfect her little world has become.

When tragedy strikes back home, Christina is forced to put everything on hold to return back to a past she’s tried so hard to escape. Including a love she regrets letting go.

Ian Whitman has only one regret and it was letting his first love walk out of his life. Now that she’s returned, his heart won’t give her up twice without a fight.

As secrets are revealed, can Ian soothe her heart while convincing her that a place she tried so hard to run away from is the place she’s destined to stay?

Will love get a second chance in the face of tragedy?

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Excerpt #1

He puts his fingers into my crazy mop and comes closer to unite his lips and mine. And let me state for the record his lips are to die for. I hum my satisfaction into his mouth and wrap my legs around his waist, pulling him closer so we’re more chest to chest. I can feel his excitement growing hard against my belly with each lick and tug of our tongues.

“I have to ask,” I mumble when I break free for air. “Why hasn’t someone snatched you up? Married with a handful of kids running around?” Because inquiring minds and hearts want to know.

After kissing me senseless, he pulls away to answer. “Sometimes the heart knows what the heart wants.” He pauses. “And it just never seemed right to fill it with something that wasn’t real, just to pretend to be full.”

Okay then! He wins. Stick a fork in me. I’m done.

“Kiss me,” I demand with only one intention in mind.

And boy oh boy, does he do just that.

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Excerpt #2

Just as I place my pad of paper on the shelf to count the acrylic paint tubes, the door to the art closet flies open.

“Jesus Christ, Ian, you scared the shit outta me.” I press my hand to my chest. The look in his eyes says he doesn’t care too much about my well-being. Uh oh. It also looks like I may have over-poked the bear.

He steps into my personal space and presses his body into mine. The door automatically swings shut behind him.

“Ian?” I question.

“Chrissy?” he retorts back, his breathing already heavy with what seems like pure lust.

“Can I help you with something?” I take a deep breath, trying to calm the unsteady beat of my heart.

“Yeah, you can start by not leaving your god damn lingerie around for me to see. Unless you want me to finally break and do something about it?” He pushes himself harder into me.

And oh my god, he is definitely that. Hard.

“What are you doing?” I ask nervously.

“What I’ve been wanting to do since the moment you came back into my life.”

“And what exactly is that?” I choke out.

“Continue where we left off.”

And with that, he pulls me fully into his solid chest. The instant his lips touch mine, my knees buckle. This kiss—this powerful, overdue kiss— is going to literally bring me to my knees

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About J.D. Hollyfield

Author JD Hollyfield

J.D Hollyfield currently resides in the Midwest with her husband, son and three doxies. As a Creative Designer by day, she enjoys spending her spare time with her nose in a good book. This obsession inspired her to test out her own creative ability. With her love for romance books and a head full of book boyfriends, this encouraged her to bring her own story to life and create her first novel.

99 DAYS

99 days

99 Days

by Katie Cotugno
Published by Belzer + Bray
384 pages
Genre: young adult; romance
3 / 5

Synopsis:

Molly Barlow is facing one long, hot summer—99 days—with the boy whose heart she broke and the boy she broke it for . . . his brother.

Day 1: Julia Donnelly eggs my house my first night back in Star Lake, and that’s how I know everyone still remembers everything. She has every right to hate me, of course: I broke Patrick Donnelly’s heart the night everything happened with his brother, Gabe. Now I’m serving out my summer like a jail sentence: Just ninety-nine days till I can leave for college and be done.

Day 4: A nasty note on my windshield makes it clear Julia isn’t finished. I’m expecting a fight when someone taps me on the shoulder, but it’s just Gabe, home from college and actually happy to see me. “For what it’s worth, Molly Barlow,” he says, “I’m really glad you’re back.”

Day 12: Gabe wouldn’t quit till he got me to come to this party, and I’m surprised to find I’m actually having fun. I think he’s about to kiss me—and that’s when I see Patrick. My Patrick, who’s supposed to be clear across the country. My Patrick, who’s never going to forgive me.

My Review:

You ever read a book during which you find yourself screaming at the protagonist to JUST STOP.

If you do, then you have an idea of how I felt while reading this book.

Molly has 99 days to kill before she heads to college, so why not spend that time back in the town she fled because she was bullied unrepentantly? I don’t know about you, but when I think of a fun time, it for sure occurs in the midst of people who think I’m a cheating skank.

Such is Molly’s choice.

She takes a job at a new resort that’s opening, only to discover that one of her coworkers is her former BFF and current architect of misery, Julia, whose brother Patrick Molly (a) was in love with and (b) cheated on with his BROTHER.

So Molly is back in the comforting bosom of the town that hates her.

Fortunately, Gabe is around. And Gabe most certainly does not hate Molly. In fact, he quite likes her. Does Molly like him, though? Or does she remain attached to Patrick, the guy she thought she loved before she cheated on him with his BROTHER.

If you like your heroine plucky and fucky, Molly is your girl. She is determined to not let people’s hatred of her defeat her, but for all of that determination, she’s also woefully clueless. She does some things in this book that defy logic, and, unfortunately, Katie Cotugno does not help us understand Molly’s dumbass decisions. It’s as if she’s determined to cause her own suffering by doing precisely the wrong thing at every opportunity.

This makes Molly difficult to like, much less root for, and Molly needs you on her side. She’s the one telling the story, the one who tries her best to help you understand her. The problem is that her behavior too often feels manipulative, as if its only purpose is to increase dramatic tension. It rings false, given what else we’re told about her.

And the ending. Good grief. The ending makes you wonder what Katie Cotugno is trying to do to her readers. I get that Molly is supposed to learn to depend on herself and that she will be fine, but it’s just that the whole lead up has to do with Gabe and Patrick and Julia and her other friends, so the ending seems at a disconnect with the rest of the book.

I did enjoy most of it, though. Gabe is a good guy, and Patrick, bless him, tries to figure out what and who he wants. Even Julia is interesting. I think I could have forgiven Molly’s nonsensical behavior if there had been a better payoff.

Review copy provided from publisher in exchange for an unbiased review.
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BEFORE HE WAS GONE

before he was gone

Before He Was Gone
(Starstruck Book 2)

by Becky Wicks
Published by Becky Wicks
261 pages
Genre: romance; new adult
3 / 5

Synopsis:

When her rock star boyfriend breaks things off out of the blue, Alyssa applies to hit reality TV show Deserted and to her shock she gets through. Abandoned on a remote island with a bunch of strangers and none of the luxuries she’s become accustomed to, it’s not long before an undeniable attraction to the mysterious Joshua starts complicating things even further.

Joshua’s different to everyone she’s ever known – a traveller, a man with no plan, a world away from the celebrity life she’s left behind. As a series of challenges test their wits and weaknesses, things start heating up in paradise. But in a game designed to break people down, it soon becomes clear that Joshua is hiding a painful secret – one he won’t risk anyone finding out.

Struggling to know where she belongs, Alyssa will have to choose – a life she once loved that wants her back, or a brand new reality that heartbreakingly may just have its limits.

My Review:

You may recall a review for Before He Was Famous, the first book in this series, which featured a kitty named The Great Catsby. How can you not remember a cat named Catsby? Sadly (SPOILER), Catsby doesn’t show up in this book.

Before He Was Gone is the second in the series and also deals with elements of fame.

Alyssa dated Sebastian, a member of Noah’s (the dude from Before He Was Famous) band. Notice the past tense of “dated.” Sebastian dumped her, and now Alyssa has to stare down the dregs of her life. Dead-end job for a guy she calls K-Lame and a best friend who spends most of her time on the road with Noah are bad enough, but now, thanks to the tabloid popularity of Sebastian, Alyssa is hunted by the paps and some crazed fans. She wants to escape, so what better to do than sign up for a reality TV show in which she’s stuck on an island, Survivor-style?

Meanwhile, Joshua wants to compete on the show, but not so much to escape as for the $1 million prize money. Why? Well, be patient, because Becky Wicks reveals this very slowly.

Alyssa and Joshua take turns narrating the book, letting us get to know them and their fellow competitors. (You might just look at reality competitions such as this in a different light after reading this one.) The two of them clearly are attracted to each other, but this being a television show and all, they have to be ever mindful of the cameras close by. Their friendship, much less any other sort of relationship, will be conducted in front of thousands of viewers.

The cast of characters detracts somewhat from the budding romance, if only because you can’t write about a show like Deserted and not give attention to the fellow competitors. After all, who wins is a source of dramatic tension. We know why Alyssa wants the money, but Joshua’s interests may be more urgent.

Despite the cameras and the mosquitos and the manipulation of the show’s producers, Alyssa and Joshua do find some time to get close. And by “get close,” I mean what you think I mean. Thank goodness, because without the hot headboard – er, sand couch – rocking, this wouldn’t be a New Adult book, now, would it?

The story here is cute more than anything else. Wicks’ final chapters pack no small amount of emotional depth, giving you the pay off for sticking with the reality TV competition angle.

You also get to meet the next character in the series, which undoubtedly will pique your interest in her story.

Review copy provided from publisher in exchange for an unbiased review.
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Release Blitz & Giveaway: MY SO-CALLED LIFE

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My So Called Life
by J.D. Hollyfield
Love Not Included #3
Publication Date: May 19, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Humor, Romance

Tour: My So Called Life by J.D. Hollyfield
AmazonNookKobo

Life couldn’t be any brighter for art dealer Christina Daniels. At the top of her career, she has no problem flaunting just how perfect her little world has become.

When tragedy strikes back home, Christina is forced to put everything on hold to return back to a past she’s tried so hard to escape. Including a love she regrets letting go.

Ian Whitman has only one regret and it was letting his first love walk out of his life. Now that she’s returned, his heart won’t give her up twice without a fight.

As secrets are revealed, can Ian soothe her heart while convincing her that a place she tried so hard to run away from is the place she’s destined to stay?

Will love get a second chance in the face of tragedy?

Add to Goodreads

About J.D. Hollyfield

Author JD Hollyfield

J.D Hollyfield currently resides in the Midwest with her husband, son and three doxies. As a Creative Designer by day, she enjoys spending her spare time with her nose in a good book. This obsession inspired her to test out her own creative ability. With her love for romance books and a head full of book boyfriends, this encouraged her to bring her own story to life and create her first novel.

I might just be an idiot

As the About Me thingy makes clear, I am a high school English teacher. In many ways, it is the greatest job in the world. Sometimes I wish I hadn’t come to it rather late (I’d already gone through a couple of careers), but then I remind myself that if I had gone into teaching when I was twenty-two, I would have lasted a year.

And that’s under the best of circumstances.

My biggest flaw – out of a considerable number, so narrowing this down to just one is a task – is that I feel some strange compulsion to change things up at a rather appalling frequency. For instance, I’ve been teaching AP Literature & Composition for three years. I’m starting to get the hang of it, to some extent anyway, but next year I’m going to try something different. And by ‘different,’ I mean ‘something that will require me to spend all damn summer preparing.’

I’m going to introduce Student Choice.

See, the thing is, I realized this year that I very well could play a pivotal role in whether or not my students become lifelong readers. I sure as hell am scaring off droves of them from ever reading another book. Do my freshmen really need to read Great Expectations? This semester, I jettisoned that one in favor of A Separate Peace (most of them found it quaint and dull when Finny wasn’t around).

And then I applied for and won a sweet grant. Nearly $2,000 later, my classroom is stocked with four class sets of novels, only one of them out of the Literary Canon.

Meanwhile, I broke my own heart when it came to my seniors.

One of the reasons – if not THE reason – I became a teacher was so that I could talk about Pride and Prejudice. I wanted to dissect Mr. Darcy, help girls to see that Elizabeth Bennet, for all of her flaws, is the sort of woman they need to pattern themselves after, as opposed to that simpering nitwit Jane Eyre or that screeching harpy Cathy Earnshaw.

However. The last two years, when students read my girl Jane Austen’s classic tome, nearly every one of them hated it.

I mean HATED. IT.

Sure, a few of the girls liked it, but the boys? They begged to stop reading it. On the first day of class last fall, as I reviewed the novels we would read, I said of Pride and Prejudice, “Most of you will hate it.”

Stack-of-books-great-education

A couple of months ago, as I was preparing for Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy, a question caromed into my brain and continued knocking from side to side until I fully addressed it: why am I forcing this book on my students?

The answer: because I can.

What sort of teacher does that?

This led me to ask myself if I want students to read for the assignment or read for life.

And that, faithful readers, caused me to slam on the brakes, eschew P&P, and instead have the kids read Peace Like a River by Leif Enger.

Best decision I ever made.

The kids loved it. They drank it up as if it were the nectar of the gods. They led discussions, they dug in and analyzed Jeremiah and Reuben and Swede and Davy, they inferred, they thought. They sent me texts as they read: “This book is so good!” “The only reason I didn’t cry is because I’m too manly.” “Thank you for making us read this book.”

After A Separate Peace, in the slot where my students would have read Romeo and Juliet, they instead read All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven. Again, the texts: “I can’t stop crying.” “I’m literally (and I mean literally) sobbing.” “THE FEELS. This book gives me THE FEELS.” And perhaps the most meaningful, “This book has changed my life.”

Isn’t that what I should strive for? Isn’t that more important than whether or not a kid reads Romeo and Juliet or A Tale of Two Cities?

And so next year, the seniors will get to choose the books they read.

Within reason, of course. I’m a control freak; I’m not about to let them run wild.

Every five weeks, they will choose between four books centered around a similar theme or idea. They will have assignments to complete along the way, and they will “book club” their books weekly, having discussions with their book club mates. None of the books is on Shmoop or SparkNotes, so the little sods will have to read them in order to do well in the class. During class, we will read (together) some of the classics: Hamlet, Macbeth, Pride and Prejudice (there is no way I’m giving that up again), Their Eyes Were Watching God. Maybe My Antonia or The Awakening. The classics won’t be ignored, but they will serve more as a tool to understanding literary analysis than texts full and truly analyzed.

The problem with this brilliant (HAHAHA) plan is that my summer now is comprised of reading all of these books, of which I’ve read a scant few. I have to be prepared. I can’t assign books unless I’ve read them, so read them I shall.

I have homework this summer.

I am a complete idiot.

“They” say, whomever “they” are, that teachers should not work harder than their students. But I still need to read the books.

So what do you think? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

MAKING YOUR MIND UP

Jill Mansell

Making Your Mind Up

by Jill Mansell
Published by Sourcebooks Landmark
450 pages
Genre: chick lit
4 / 5

Synopsis:

Love is a complicated thing…

Lottie Carlyle is happy enough. Living in a beautiful cottage with her two adorable-sometimes-kids in an idyllic village, on good terms with her ex-husband, and with friends all around, everything is going just fine. But when she meets her new boss, her peaceful world is thrown into delightful, exciting, and frustrating chaos. Tyler is perfect for Lottie, but her kids do not agree. To make matters worse, the handsome and mysterious Seb appears on the scene, intriguing-and distracting-Lottie and charming her children, making it more and more difficult for her to make up her mind…

My Review:

I love Jill Mansell’s books. Almost as much as I love dark chocolate covered caramels. Which is, like, a lot.

What Mansell does so well is tell different love stories focused on the same theme, with multiple narrators, in a way that feels fresh.

So it is with Making Your Mind Up.

Lottie, the main character, has a reasonably content life. Peacefully – although not painlessly – divorced from Mario, with whom she parents their two rambunctious children, she works for a vacation property owner whom she adores, has friends she trusts, and is blithely happy as a single mother.

Or so she thinks.

When her boss sells the property to Tyler, a gorgeous American with whom Lottie feels an immediate attraction, she realizes that she might be just a little lonely after all. She and Tyler edge toward a romance, and it looks like they might have a chance.

Only there is one teensy little problem. Actually, there are two. Ruby and Nat, Lottie’s daughter and son, cannot stand Tyler. Not one bit.

Meanwhile, her friend Cressida finds herself entertaining the idea of a romance. Cress’s divorce was not the low key affair that Lottie’s was, and the reasons behind it continue to cause her pain. Fortunately, she has the company of Jojo, the teenage daughter of her neighbors. In nearly every way, Jojo is the daughter Cress always wanted. When Cressida meets Tom, a single father, Jojo helps her traverse the dating world. Theirs is a sweet, loving relationship.

A third woman, Amber, dates Lottie’s ex-husband Mario. An inveterate flirt, Mario has the lustily earned reputation of a man who can’t remain faithful to any woman. Lottie certainly bears those proofs as scars. With Amber, though, Mario has a woman he wants to be faithful to … he thinks. He’s pretty sure, anyway. But Amber can’t quite trust him. Once a cheat, always a cheat, right?

Each of these woman has to make up her mind. Lottie has to decide if she can force herself to be happy with a guy her kids love, or if she should risk their continued disapproval and allow herself to make a go of it with Tyler. Cressida has to determine just how much she is willing to give up for Jojo, and Amber must figure out whether Mario can be trusted. Jill Mansell takes you through their decisions with warmth and hilarity, and also a bit of romance.

Mansell also makes you tear up a time or two. Nothing comes easily for her characters, and any happiness they achieve is earned through having survived pain and heartache. You are fully invested in them and their stories, and when the book is over, you miss hanging out with them.

Review copy provided from publisher in exchange for an unbiased review.

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Spotlight, Review & Giveaway: THE FAR END OF HAPPY

9781492604952-PR

The Far End of Happy

by Kathryn Craft
Published by Sourcebooks Landmark
368 pages
Genre: women’s fiction
3 / 5

Synopsis:

Twelve tense hours, three women, and the suicide standoff that turns one family’s little piece of heaven into a scene from hell.

Ronnie’s husband is supposed to move out today. But when Jeff pulls into the driveway drunk, with a shotgun in the front seat, she realizes nothing about the day will go as planned.

The next few hours spiral down in a flash, unlike the slow disintegration of their marriage—and whatever part of that painful unraveling is Ronnie’s fault, not much else matters now but these moments. Her family’s lives depend on the choices she will make—but is what’s best for her best for everyone?

Based on a real event from the author’s life, The Far End of Happy is a chilling story of one troubled man, the family that loves him, and the suicide standoff that will change all of them forever.

My Review:

To say that this is an emotionally exhausting book is to well undersell its intensity.

Ronnie knows that Jeff wants to kill himself. He has made that patently clear, all the more so as the date for his removal from their farm house arrives. She wants a divorce; he does not. But Ronnie is unmoved, and a divorce will happen. She simply cannot live with him any longer.

Over the course of twelve hours, Kathryn Craft tells us what brought Ronnie and Jeff to this point, as well as what Jeff chooses to do. As she sets forth her story, you know that even if Jeff survives, this will not be a happy book. There is no such thing as a happy ending for two people brought to such distrust, rancor, and divisiveness that one of them wants to kill himself.

Told through the perspectives of Ronnie, her mother Beverly, and Jeff’s mother Janet. Each woman has her own knowledge of Jeff, her own understanding of what he’s suffering. Each also has her secrets and interpretations. Perhaps most significantly, each is a mother, and as such, wants to protect her children. Beverly is desperate to help Ronnie avoid the pain of divorce, so much so that she encourages her daughter to stay with a man who clearly is not the husband he could be. Janet, too, is desperate. She wants to ease her son’s suffering, even if doing so requires her to lie to herself and others about certain truths. And Ronnie hopes to shelter her and Jeff’s two young sons from the inevitable pain that will come from this horrible day, whether Jeff chooses to live or not.

The book’s title is an interesting one. Is the “far end” an indication of the extent to which happiness can stretch? Or is it about the inevitable ending of happiness? Answers vary, certainly among Ronnie, Beverly, and Janet. They have to find a means of surviving Jeff’s decisions, and in some cases, that survival demands that some things must end.

Craft’s story is tense and unyielding, and occasionally a bit overwrought. This could be due to pacing: there are chapters that lull and drag, and chapters that seem overwhelmed by one sad detail after another. Perhaps this is intentional, a sort of mirroring of the twelve hours Ronnie has to endure as she waits for Jeff’s fate to be decided. Some moments feel unending, while others crush forward.

This is not an easy book to read because its subject matter is sensitive and brutal. But it is a very real story, one inspired by events Craft suffered in her life. It feels personal and intimate, almost uncomfortably so. Yet its message is powerful: suicide (even attempted) claims a wide swath of victims.

Amazon | B&N | BAM |!ndigo| IndieBound| Kindle | Kobo | Nook

Excerpt:

image001Ronnie already wanted to rewrite this story. To edit the cop’s words. To distance herself, change “husband” to “the man.” The man now staggering around the property with a gun; the man who may already have taken a shot; the man whose angst was seeping into her own nerves. Her husband—the gentle soul she’d married—would never have acted like the man she’d engaged with earlier today.

“Call him Jeff, please,” she said quietly.

“I’m going to need you to recount all that transpired this morning with your—” He caught himself. “With Jeff. Leave nothing out. You never know what will be important.”

The recitation she gave was devoid of animation. She felt empty and prickly, like an October cornfield in need of nutrients and a long, restorative winter. An evacuation from her home, beneath the cover of a helicopter dispatched from the state capitol, to protect her from her own husband? Ronnie felt as if her family had suddenly been thrust into an unwanted audition for a high-stakes reality show. Every few moments, as she delivered facts, she looked over at her mother, who was speaking quietly to Janet. She wondered if Beverly’s version differed. If her mother, or Jeff’s, blamed her. Because to them, and the rest of the world, it must look as if Jeff had been knocked off balance because Ronnie had decided to leave him.

It even looked that way to her.

The officer told Ronnie their primary goal was to locate Jeff, since he was armed and dangerous.

“Please don’t say that in front of his mother,” she said. “Or the boys. Jeff isn’t a dangerous person. He’s sweet. Everyone would tell you how nice he is. Very laid back.” Too laid back. He never cared enough. “It’s just that we’re getting a divorce, and today was the day he promised to move out. He’s…” Drunk off his ass. “Agitated.”

Ronnie rubbed her arms—the room suddenly chilled her. She hadn’t thought to grab a jacket. The room’s narrow, high-set windows, made of glass bricks, were meant to obscure natural light. This was a room designed to allow sparkles from a mirror ball, gropes in the shadows.

And so what? She was cold. She felt selfish thinking about it, with Jeff frozen all the way to the center of his soul.

“Could you give me a physical description of your husband so we can identify him by sight?”

All that she and Jeff had meant to each other, all the intricacies of their marriage, boiled down to the same physical attributes that had first attracted her to him. “Five foot ten. Dark brown hair, thick, trimmed over ears some might call large.” Soft ears that lay flat against his head beneath her kisses. “Blue eyes.” Eyes that used to pierce her through with their naked honesty. “Broad hands.” Strong hands that always needed a project, now wrapped around a gun.

Praise for The Far End of Happy:

 “A complex and gripping story of broken hearts, lives, and marriages that will tear you apart from beginning to end.” —Steena Holmes, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Memory Child and Finding Emma

“Kathryn Craft keeps the tension edge-of-your-seat suspenseful in The Far End of Happyunflinchingly honest and hard-hitting.” —Kate Moretti, author of the New York Timesbestselling Thought I Knew You, and Binds That Tie

Compellingly written, the tension builds throughout the book and the reader comes out the other side with more insight, and more compassion, for those who may find themselves on the far end of happy.” —Catherine McKenzie, bestselling author of Hidden

 

“Kathryn Craft is a masterful storyteller who weaves a heartbreaking story packed with tension and brimming with humanity.” —Lori Nelson Spielman, author of The Life List

 

“An incredibly honest and courageous exploration of a marriage torn apart by neglect and threats of suicide. Craft’s ability to tell a tale as beautiful as it is haunting left me in awe. Not one to miss!” —Mary Kubica, author of The Good Girl

Captivated from page one…Craft expertly weaves a gripping tale that hits the reader hard and keeps moving briskly to its heartbreaking but hopeful conclusion.” —Heather Gudenkauf, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Weight of Silence and These Things Hidden

“The Far End of Happy gives us a newsworthy tragedy from the inside out. In sharply intimate language, Kathryn Craft deftly weaves her story out of many stories, some buried in the past, some fresh as a new wound, stories of true love, of families carefully built and then painfully unraveled, of a good man’s life ravaged by alcoholism, and of the guilt, anger, hope, and tremendous strength of the women and children who love him.” –Marisa de los Santos, #1New York Times bestselling author of Love Walked In, Belong To Me, and Falling Together

“Kathryn Craft pulls off a miracle of story telling, weaving together the initial magic spell of a couple entwined, the sad shredding of their love and family, fueled by alcohol, and the truth of the past binding them—all revealed throughout twelve hours of a tragic suicide standoff.” –Randy Susan Meyers, bestselling author of Accidents of Marriage

About Kathryn Craft:

Kathrn CraftKathryn Craft, a former dance critic who wrote for The Morning Call daily newspaper in Allentown, Pennsylvania, for nineteen years. Craft wrote exclusively nonfiction until she was plunged in the kind of real-life drama that demands attention. In 1997, after fifteen years of marriage, her husband committed suicide in a police standoff, leaving her and their two young sons.

The Far End of Happy was born from Craft’s need to make sense of what her husband had done. Kathryn has been a leader in the southeastern Pennsylvania writing scene for more than a decade and is also the author of The Art of Falling. She lives in Doylestown, Pennsylvania.

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Spotlight Tour & Giveaway: MAKING YOUR MIND UP

Jill Mansell

Making Your Mind Up
By Jill Mansell
Sourcebooks Landmark
May 5, 2015
ISBN: 9781492604440
$14.00 Trade Paperback

Purchase Making Your Mind Up Here:

Amazon | B&N | BAM | IndieBound | Kobo

 

International bestseller Jill Mansell delivers a hilarious and heartwarming tale about falling in love when you have opinionated kids

Love is a complicated thing…

Lottie Carlyle is happy enough. Living in a beautiful cottage with her two adorable—sometimes—kids in an idyllic village, on good terms with her ex-husband, and with friends all around, everything is going just fine. But when she meets her new boss, her peaceful world is thrown into delightful, exciting, and frustrating chaos. Tyler is perfect for Lottie, but her kids do not agree. To make matters worse, the handsome and mysterious Seb appears on the scene, intriguing—and distracting—Lottie and charming her children, making it more and more difficult for her to make up her mind…

“Very nicely done… Jill Mansell’s chorus of sharp-witted youth, shaking sticks at the foibles of their elders, is delightful.” —Daily Express

“A smashing read that both delights and surprises the reader.” —The Sun

 

Praise for Thinking of You:

“Mansell is like a Michelin-rated chef: She may use common ingredients, but under her sure hand the results are deliciously superior.” —Kirkus

“Humorous, sometimes poignant… Her breezy style resembles that of Sophie Kinsella or Helen Fielding… readers will be delighted.” —Booklist

“Jill Mansell combines, humor, friendship, romance and betrayal… keeps you wanting more.” —Fresh Fiction

“Beyond the fun, faulted characters, Mansell has a gift for humorous and witty dialogue that will leave readers in stitches… Mansell excels at creating relationships that are dynamic and complicated.” —Savvy Verse and Wit

 

About Jill Mansell

With over 9 million copies sold, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Jill Mansell writes irresistible and funny romantic tales for women in the tradition of Marian Keyes and Sophie Kinsella. She worked for many years at the Burden Neurological Hospital, Bristol, and now writes full time. She lives with her partner and their children in Bristol, England.

 

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/OfficialJillMansell

Twitter – @JillMansell https://twitter.com/jillmansell

Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/23625.Jill_Mansell

 

 

An Excerpt from MAKING YOUR MIND UP by Jill Mansell

The lane that ran alongside the garden of Hestacombe House was narrow and banked high on both sides with poppies, cow parsley, and blackberry bushes. Turning left, Tyler Klein worked out, would lead you back up to the village of Hestacombe. Turning right took you down to the lake. As he took the right turn, Tyler heard the sound of running feet and giggling.

Rounding the first bend in the lane, he saw two small children twenty or thirty yards away, clambering over a stile. Dressed in shorts, T–shirts, and baseball caps, the one in front was carrying a rolled–up yellow-and-white-striped striped towel, while his companion clutched a haphazard bundle of clothes. Glancing up the lane and spotting Tyler, they giggled again and leaped down from the stile into the cornfield beyond. By the time he reached the stile they’d scurried out of sight, no doubt having taken some shortcut back to the village following their dip in the lake.

The lane opened out into a sandy clearing that sloped down to meet a small artificial beach. Freddie Masterson had had this constructed several years ago, chiefly for the benefit of visitors to his lakeside vacation cottages, but also—-as Tyler had just witnessed—-to be enjoyed by the inhabitants of Hestacombe. Shielding his eyes from the glare of the afternoon sun as it bounced off the lake, Tyler saw a girl in a bright turquoise bikini floating lazily on her back in the water. There was a faint unearthly wailing sound coming from somewhere he couldn’t quite place. Then the noise—-was it singing?—-stopped. Moments later, as Tyler watched, the girl turned onto her front and began to swim slowly back to shore.

It could almost be that scene from Dr. No, where Sean Connery observes Ursula Andress emerging goddess–like from a tropical sea. Except he wasn’t hiding in the bushes and he had all his own hair. And this girl didn’t have a large knife strapped to her thigh.

She wasn’t blond either. Her long dark hair was a riot of snaky curls plastered to her shoulders, her body curvy and deeply tanned. Impressed—-because an encounter like this was the last thing he’d been expecting—-Tyler nodded in a friendly fashion as she paused to wring water from her dripping hair and said, “Good swim?”

The girl surveyed him steadily, then looked around the tiny beach. Finally she said, “Where’s my stuff?”

Stuff. Taken aback, Tyler gazed around too, even though he had no idea what he was meant to be looking for. For one bizarre moment he wondered if she had arranged to meet a drug dealer here. That was what people said, wasn’t it, when they met up with their dealer?

“What stuff?”

“The usual stuff you leave out of the water when you go for a swim. Clothes. Towel. Diamond earrings.”

Tyler said, “Where did you put them?”

“Right there where you’re standing. Right there,” the girl repeated, pointing at his polished black shoes. She narrowed her eyes at him.

“Is this a joke?”

“I guess it is. But I’m not the one playing it.” Half turning, Tyler indicated the narrow lane behind him. “I passed a couple kids back there, carrying off stuff.”

She had her hands on her hips now, and was surveying him with growing disbelief. “And it didn’t occur to you to stop them?”

“I thought it was their stuff.” This was ridiculous, he’d never said the word stuff so many times before in his life. “I guess I just thought they’d been swimming down here in this lake.”

“You thought the size ten pink halter–necked dress and size seven silver sandals belonged to them.” The sarcasm—-that particularly British form of sarcasm—-was evident in her voice.

“The sandals were wrapped up in something pink. I didn’t actually get a close look at the labels. I was thirty yards away.”

“But you thought they’d been swimming.” Gazing at him intently, the girl said, “Tell me something. Were they…wet?”

Shit. The kids hadn’t been wet. He’d make a lousy private eye. Unwilling to concede defeat, Tyler said, “They could have come down for a paddle. Look, did you really leave diamond earrings with your clothes?”

“Do I look completely stupid? No, of course I didn’t. Diamonds don’t dissolve in water.” Impatiently she shook back her hair to show him the studs glittering in her earlobes. “Right, what did these kids look like?”

“Like kids. I don’t know.” Tyler shrugged. “They were wearing T–shirts, I guess. And, um, shorts…”

The girl raised her eyebrows. “That’s incredible. Your powers of observation are dazzling. OK, was it a boy and a girl?”

“Maybe.” He’d assumed they were boys, but one had had longer hair than the other. “Like I said, I only saw them from a distance. They were climbing over a stile.”

“Dark hair? Thin and wiry?” the girl persisted. “Did they look like a couple of gypsies?”

“Yes.” Tyler was instantly on the alert; when Freddie Masterson had been singing the praises of Hestacombe he hadn’t mentioned any gypsies. “Are they a problem around here?”

“Damn right they’re a problem around here. They’re my children.” Intercepting the look of horror on his face, the girl broke into a mischievous smile. “Relax, they’re not really gypsies. You haven’t just mortally offended me.”

“Well,” said Tyler, “I’m glad about that.”

“I didn’t see a thing, little sods. They must have crawled through the bushes and sneaked off with my stuff when I wasn’t looking. That’s what happens when you have kids who are hell–bent on joining the SAS. But this isn’t funny.” No longer amused, the girl said impatiently, “I can’t believe they’d do something so stupid. They don’t think, do they? Because now I’m stuck here with no clothes—-”

“You’re welcome to borrow my jacket.”

“And no shoes.”

“I’m not lending you my shoes,” Tyler drawled. “You’d look ridiculous. Plus, that’d leave me with nothing to put on my feet.”

“Wuss.” Thinking hard, the girl said, “OK, look, can you do me a favor? Go back up to the village, past the pub, and my house is three doors down on the right. Piper’s Cottage. The doorbell’s broken so you’ll have to bang on the door. Tell Ruby and Nat to give you my clothes. Then you can bring them back down to me. How does that sound?”

Water from her hair was dripping into her clear hazel eyes, glistening on her tanned skin. She had excellent white teeth and a persuasive manner. Tyler frowned.

“What if the kids aren’t there?”

“Right, now I know this isn’t ideal, but you have an honest face so I’m going to have to trust you. If they aren’t there, you’ll just have to take the front door key out from under the tub of geraniums by the porch and let yourself into the house. My bedroom’s on the left at the top of the stairs. Just grab something from the wardrobe.” Her mouth twitching, the girl said, “And no snooping in my panty drawer while you’re there. Just pick out a dress and some shoes then let yourself out of the house. You can be back here in ten minutes.”

“I can’t do this.” Tyler shook his head. “You don’t even know me. I’m not going to let myself into a strange house. And if your kids are there…well, that’s even worse.”

“Hi.” Seizing his hand, she enthusiastically shook it. “I’m Lottie Carlyle. There, now I’ve introduced myself. And my house really isn’t that strange. A bit untidy perhaps, but that’s allowed. And you are?”

“Tyler. Tyler Klein. Still not doing it.”

“Well, you’re a big help. I’m going to look like an idiot walking through the village like this.”

“I told you, you can borrow my jacket.” Seeing as she was dripping wet and his suit jacket was silk–lined and seriously expensive, he felt this was a pretty generous offer. Lottie Carlyle, however, seemed unimpressed.

“I’d still look stupid. You could lend me your shirt,” she wheedled. “That’d be better.”

Tyler was here on business. He had no intention of removing his shirt. Firmly he said, “I don’t think so. It’s the jacket or nothing.”

Realizing when she was beaten, Lottie Carlyle took the jacket from him and put it on. “You drive a hard bargain. There, do I look completely ridiculous?”

“Yes.”

“You’re too kind.” She looked sadly down at her bare feet. “Any chance of a piggy back?”

Tyler looked amused. “Don’t push your luck.”

“Are you saying I’m fat?”

“I’m thinking of my street cred.”

Interested, Lottie said, “What are you doing here, anyway? In your smart city suit and shiny shoes?”

There clearly wasn’t much call for city suits here in Hestacombe. As they turned to leave, Tyler glanced back at the lake, where iridescent dragonflies were darting over the surface of the water and a family of ducks had just swum into view. Casually he said,
“Just visiting.”

Gingerly picking her way along the stony, uneven lane, Lottie winced and said meaningfully, “Ouch, my feet.”

 

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Release Day Blitz: SPENCER

Spencer Release Blitz

 


 

SPENCERKINDLEFINAL

 

@TheSpencerRyan exudes confidence,
I mean, have you seen him???
His dark good looks and tattooed muscled perfection are too much.
He’s hot. Lickably hot.
And he has a way with words that leaves me breathless.
But cocky doesn’t even cover it,
this guy is so arrogant you have to fight back.
But God he’s so lickable!
The thing is though,
he looks like sex but he’ll taste like jackass.

@OMGJazzyP is a sexy, annoying ball of rage in fuck-me heels
and she hates me.
Although her nipples would tend to disagree.
It’s a deadly combination.
She’s a princess.
And when I say princess, I mean intolerable, spoiled brat with a tiara.
Sure she’s got that curvaceous goddess thing going on,
but that mouth of hers…
God it needs something in it to shut it up.
#GotJustTheThingRightHere

This is not your average British romance.
It’s a tale of high heels, hot tattooed bad boys and
sex oranges, all wrapped up in a coating of chocolate.
It’s ‘love’ in a social media world,
where not everyone is who they seem
and where some people’s bios should carry a warning.
#JustSayin


Teaser3


Spencer Excerpt 1

 

He growls, moving closer, putting his beer on the table. “You don’t know me.” He’s right in front of me now.

He smells amazing.

Dammit.

“I don’t want to know you.”

He lets out a clipped laugh. “Liar.”

“You arrogant piece of shit!” I raise my hand to slap his smug face, but he catches my wrist and pins it against the wall above my head. He leans into me until I can feel his breath against my cheek. It sends unwelcome shivers down my spine. I hate him and I hate what he does to me.

My breathing is rapid, but so is his.

“Why do you have to be so fucking irritating?” he hisses, through clenched teeth.

“You bring out the best in me. Now get the fuck off me before I hurt you.”

He sneers. “That, I’d love to see, Princess.”

“Try me,” I dare him, turning my face ever so slightly to look in his eyes. I want him to see how angry I am, to see that I really can’t stand him. Unfortunately, he is looking at my lips, why is he looking at my lips? Just then his eyes flick up, and for a second, I see just a hint of confusion, before his lips crush against mine with such force an involuntary moan escapes.

His tongue forces its way into my mouth and begins exacting its revenge on mine for the nasty things I’ve said.

What the fuck is happening? I hate him, but my God I want to fuck him. This is so bad. I need to stop this now. His hand is still pinning my wrist to the wall, so with my other hand I shove at his shoulder, he breaks contact with my mouth for a second grabbing my other wrist and pinning it along with the first in one strong hand.

“What do you think you’re doing?” I gasp, fighting to breathe. I badly want to fight him, but I need to feel him.

“Figuring this out,” he murmurs as his mouth begins to travel to my neck. He bites my earlobe and I cry out. Pleasure and pain, passion and fury, surge through me and I start to fight.

Yanking at my hands held securely in his firm grip, I can’t help another moan as his hot, breathless kisses work their way down my neck. His free hand snakes into my top and yanks down the cup of my bra.

“Figuring what out?” I pant. “I hate you and you hate me, it’s perfectly easy to understand. Ah!” His fingers pinch my nipple hard.

“If you hate me, why are you panting like a dog in heat?” he says as he sinks his teeth into the soft skin of my neck and bites hard enough to leave a mark.

“Fuck!” I growl, the pain just increases the damned pleasure. I fucking hate my body for its betrayal. “Don’t flatter yourself,” I spit. His head dips lower and my top is lifted

up, then his mouth is on my nipple. At this point I’m screwed; my nipples are my weakness. I moan loudly and lose myself for a second in the sensation. He bites down and I cry out. Then realisation floods back in. I wriggle to get out of his grasp again, but he holds me tighter. His hand stills my hips and I freeze as it slides around my arse and up, under my skirt. I try again to get free of him as his busy hand pushes my skirt up around my waist.

“Why fight me?” His fingers travel around my thigh.

“Why? Because I hate you, that’s why.”

“You want me, you can’t deny it.”

“In your dreams,” I start to protest, but his fingers find their way to the front of my knickers and slip inside. All the air leaves my body as his fingers slide across my clit and then sink inside.

“Liar!” he purrs, working his fingers.

I whimper. I’ve never been so turned on, or so at odds with myself. “If you hated me,” he pulls his hand away, leaving me to sag with disappointment, “you wouldn’t be this wet.” His fingers force their way into my mouth, coated with my need.

This display of dominance has a shiver running through me, and without thinking, I suck at his fingers and groan.

He smirks. “Face it, Princess, you want me.”

I do.

No.

Shit.

I don’t.

He lets his fingers slip from my mouth and stares at me with a look of triumph, like he has me right where he wants me.

“You’re a pig,” I whisper, “you make me sick.”

“Yeah?” he challenges.

“Yeah,” I breathe.

Then, he presses himself against me.

Ho-ly fuck.


 

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Kerry Heavens

Terrible wife

Mediocre mother

Appalling housewife

Fashion graduate

Wedding co-ordinator

Sex toy salesperson

Shop manager

Designer

Font collector

Romance addict

Fancier of nice men

Ok, fancier of almost all men

Awesome cupcake baker

Incessant singer

Film buff

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