Monthly Archive: July 2015

Release Blitz: HE FOUND ME SERIES

 
He Found Me: 
 
When I was seventeen, I disappeared. I walked out the door of my apartment with a backpack and never looked back. I left the life of Cora Mitchell behind, seeking freedom from my real-life nightmare. But my freedom came with a cost. I lived a fictitious life for the next six years, never letting anyone close enough to see underneath the facade that was Andra Walker. I was content with my simple little life. Until I met Julian. And the moment I started allowing myself to open up, allowing someone to see through the superficial, was the very same moment the Monster from my past would return to find me.
He Saved Me: 
 
Julian
I’ve come to understand that I’ll always find her. She’s my north star, my sense of direction. In her, I’ve found my home. She tells me I saved her. But the truth is, she saved me.
 
But nothing good can ever last. Andra’s keeping secrets. She’s holding something back. I’m trying, desperately, to anchor her. To let me in, to let me help.
 
But will all my efforts end up with a ghost of a girl I love?
 
Other
I’m used to disappearing. Vanishing into thin air, without a trace of who I’ve been or where I’ve gone.
 
But it’s so much harder to do with a broken heart and no hope for a happy ending. Sometimes the only people who can put all the pieces of us back together are the ones we least expect to. That’s what Julian did for me.
 
Julian found me. But now, all Six wants is to keep me locked up, away from the world, away from the Monster. I can’t live like that. It’s not living at all. Because I still have unfinished business.
 
And I’m going to make sure the Monster gets what’s coming to him
I like nachos and champagne and clean sheets. I spend far too much time at Starbucks. I wrote a couple books
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THE DAY WE MET

day we metThe Day We Met

by Rowan Coleman

Published by Random House – Ballantine
354 pages
Genre: women’s fiction
4 / 5

Synopsis:

A gorgeous husband, two beautiful children, a job she loves—Claire’s got it all. And then some. But lately, her mother hovers more than a helicopter, her husband Greg seems like a stranger, and her kids are like characters in a movie. Three-year-old Esther’s growing up in the blink of an eye, and twenty-year-old Caitlin, with her jet-black hair and clothes to match, looks like she’s about to join a punk band—and seems to be hiding something. Most concerning, however, is the fact that Claire is losing her memory, including that of the day she met Greg.

When Claire meets a handsome stranger on a rainy day, she starts to wonder if Greg still belongs in her life. She knows she should love him, but she can’t always remember why. When Greg gives her a blank book, Claire fills its pages with private memories and keepsakes, jotting down beginnings and endings and everything in between. The book becomes the story of Claire—her passions, her sorrows, her joys, her adventures in a life that refuses to surrender to a fate worse than dying: disappearing.

My Review:

If you could find out whether you are going to battle a terminal illness (or even a potentially terminal illness), would you? This question holds particular resonance for those susceptible to genetic illnesses. My grandfather had Alzheimer’s, and I know that every time my father forgets something he knows that he knows, there is an attendant fear. Do I have it?

Claire’s father had Alzheimer’s and died of complications related to it, so she knew there was a chance she would suffer from it, too. She also knows that hers will be the lesser suffering; her husband Greg, her two daughters, and mother will all bear far more trials and agonies than she will. Now in her early forties, she receives the crushing diagnosis: she has early-onset Alzheimer’s, and it is progressing with great aggression.

Told from Claire’s perspective, as well as that of Greg and her oldest daughter Caitlin, The Day We Met gives you the frightening and devastating effects of a degenerative brain disease wreaks on a family.

Claire remembers some things with clarify, such as her relationship with Claire’s father, a man she hasn’t seen since she was newly pregnant with their daughter. She knows who Esther is, her three-year-old daughter with Greg. She knows her mother, and she has some memories of her father.

She is slowly forgetting Greg, though. The two met when he did some construction work on her house, and, undeterred by a ten-year age gap, they fell in love. Theirs has been a happy, contented, passionate relationship, and Claire is becoming further and further removed from it. Greg will lose his wife twice: emotionally first, physically last.

At twenty, Caitlin faces particular fears that no child wants to consider. She knows that her mother and grandfather had Alzheimer’s. She could get it, or pass it on to a child she may have. She also feels the immediate push and pull of her mother’s illness. Should she leave school and help care for Claire, or should she live her life, knowing that she could be struck with this disease in a couple of decades?

At times the story is intimate and deeply emotional. Claire begins a friendship with a man she meets in a coffee shop, and her behavior shocks and saddens. Can she be blamed, though, for something that is out of her control? She is held hostage to Alzheimer’s. The disease dictates her behavior, but what of her family?

So much of this book is emotionally gripping and demanding. Claire’s relationships with her mother and Caitlin are moving and affecting. But the relationship intended to be the emotional center of the book – Claire and Greg’s marriage – feels oddly distant and removed. Part of this is due to the disease, but part is also due to storytelling. I needed more Greg. Rowan Coleman tells us how he met Claire and how their courtship began, but she skims the surface when we need more depth. Clearly Greg is intended to be the magnetic pole. His mother-in-law and stepdaughter direct you to be concerned about him, and Claire frets over the burden she knows she will become. Perhaps if Caitlin’s story had been less significant or detailed, more attention would be paid to Greg’s, giving his greater emphasis and emotional significance.

This is a difficult book to read because the ending you want – for Claire to be cured – is not going to happen. How can Rowan Coleman end this book in a way that you don’t lose hope for her characters? As she takes you closer to the ending, that need to know Greg better intensifies. If he had been a stronger, more dynamic character, this would have been a better book.

As it is, it’s a good book, one that you will enjoy. You just may not be as emotionally invested as you should.

 

About the Author:

Rowan Coleman lives with her husband, and five children in a very full house in Hertfordshire. She juggles writing novels with raising her family which includes a very lively set of toddler twins whose main hobby is going in the opposite directions. When she gets the chance, Rowan enjoys sleeping, sitting and loves watching films; she is also attempting to learn how to bake.

Rowan would like to live every day as if she were starring in a musical, although her daughter no longer allows her to sing in public. Despite being dyslexic, Rowan loves writing, and The Memory Book is her eleventh novel, which was chosen as a Richard and Judy bookclub selection in 2014. Others include The Accidental Mother, Lessons in Laughing Out Loud and the award-winning Dearest Rose, a novel which lead Rowan to become an active supporter of domestic abuse charity Refuge, donating 100% of royalties from the ebook publication of her novella, Woman Walks Into a Bar, to the charity.

Rowan does not have time for ironing.

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

Thanks for Reading small

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EIGHT HUNDRED GRAPES

eight hundred grapesEight Hundred Grapes

by Laura Dave

Published by Simon & Schuster
272 pages
Genre: women’s fiction
4.5 / 5

Synopsis:

There are secrets you share, and secrets you hide…

Growing up on her family’s Sonoma vineyard, Georgia Ford learned some important secrets. The secret number of grapes it takes to make a bottle of wine: eight hundred. The secret ingredient in her mother’s lasagna: chocolate. The secret behind ending a fight: hold hands.

But just a week before her wedding, thirty-year-old Georgia discovers her beloved fiancé has been keeping a secret so explosive, it will change their lives forever.

Georgia does what she’s always done: she returns to the family vineyard, expecting the comfort of her long-married parents, and her brothers, and everything familiar. But it turns out her fiancé is not the only one who’s been keeping secrets…

My Review:

There is an ongoing motif in this book regarding synchronization. Georgia tells us that it’s an important word to her winemaker father, as it means “the coordination of events to operate in union.” She cautions you to not confuse synchronization with fate. The latter, her father believes, relies more on whim than function. Synchronization depends on the readiness and ability of the parts to work together for the betterment of the whole.

While Georgia’s father thinks of synchronization in terms of winemaking, Georgia applies it to all aspects of her life, beginning with her gorgeous, successful, British fiancé Ben.

The two are a week away from their wedding, and Georgia contentedly anticipates the ceremony, which will occur on her parents’ vineyard farm. She loves Ben and knows that he loves her. She is ready.

Unfortunately, synchronization is not on her side. Ben has been keeping a secret from her that will stun her, causing her to question everything she thought she knew about him. Unable to make sense of what she now knows. she retreats to her girlhood home, expecting warmth and comfort.

What she finds is chaos, not synchronization. Her parents also have harbored secrets, and her two older brothers are facing struggles of their own. Georgia goes home to figure herself out but instead has to figure out her family.

At thirty, Georgia has established her part in the family. Her parents call her a fixer; it has been her tendency to try and ensure that everyone around her is happy and on the right track. She needs that synchronization that her father values; she must know that the people in her life are ready and able to work together.

This is a book that defies easy categorization. You would expect, for instance, that Ben would be awful and that you would want Georgia far away from him. Instead, Ben is loving and kind. He means well – he does – but misjudges Georgia in a way that hurts her. He excludes her from something, which, she realizes, signals that he does not have faith in her. At the same time, his reasons for doing so make sense. His intentions are completely honorable, yet he still does the one thing he tried so desperately to avoid: he hurts Georgia. Laura Dave makes it impossible, though, for you to dislike Ben. You will want to – gosh, did I want to despise him – but you just can’t. You will find yourself hoping that he and Georgia will work this out and come together.

Another motif throughout the book is the importance of seeing – truly seeing – the people you love. Georgia’s two older brothers do not see each other, and one of them is in danger of not seeing his wife as she needs to be seen. Her beloved father is guilty as well. Georgia’s mother tells her that she is at a point in her life where she wants her husband to know who she is and what she wants, and she doesn’t feel that Georgia’s father can – or will – do that. And then there is Georgia. She has spent her life seeing what she wants to see, and now she has to remove that filter and observe what is real.

There are scenes in this book that will give you The Feels in a big fat way. The good news is that Laura Dave does not indulge in the maudlin or the histrionic. She lets her characters’ feelings unfold naturally, in ways that bring you closer to them and invest you more deeply into her story. She does not manipulate you, not emotionally or in terms of plot. Events unfold as they should, in an unforced way that makes sense and fits the characters.

I enjoyed the heck out of this book. When I finished it, I felt kind of bittersweet. Happy for some of the characters, sad for others, but hopeful for them all. Mostly, though, I missed Laura Dave’s writing.

 

About the Author:

Laura Dave is the author of the critically acclaimed novels The First Husband, The Divorce Party, London Is The Best City In America, and the forthcoming Eight Hundred Grapes. Dave’s fiction and essays have been published in The New York Times, ESPN, Redbook, Glamour and Ladies Home Journal.

Dubbed “a wry observer of modern love” (USA Today), Dave has appeared on CBS’s The Early Show, Fox News Channel’s Fox & Friends and NPR’s All Things Considered.  Cosmopolitan Magazine recently named her a “Fun and Fearless Phenom of the Year.”

Three of her novels have been optioned for the big screen with Dave adapting Eight Hundred Grapes for Fox2000.

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

Thanks for Reading small

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AMONG THE TEN THOUSAND THINGS

among the ten thousand thingsAmong the Ten Thousand Things

by Julia Pierpont

Published by Random House
336 pages
Genre: fiction
4 / 5

Synopsis:

Jack and Deb are one of those golden New York couples. Jack is a sculptor—charming and vain in equal measure—whose controversial work has won him attention and admirers. Deb was a ballet dancer before the arrival of two children gave her an excuse to quit an already waning career. In the years since, she has mostly avoided coming face-to-face with the weaknesses of the man she married, putting her energy into raising increasingly withdrawn 15-year old Simon and still heartbreakingly innocent 11-year-old Kay. Until a disturbing package arrives in the mail: hidden in a plain-looking manuscript box are many months worth of intimate emails chronicling Jack’s affair with a troubled young woman. This anonymous package was addressed to Deb; horrifyingly, it is first opened by Kay. So begins this dazzlingly constructed, alternately wrenching and mordant novel. At the center of Julia Pierpont’s universe is a piercing, unforgettable understanding of the bonds of family life, how brittle they can sometimes be, and how resilient. This book announces the arrival of a startling new talent.

My Review:

This is the damnedest book.

The beginning feels as if it were shot out of a cannon. A nameless woman writes a letter to Deb, the wife of the man with whom she has been having an affair. The letter taunts and shames, its intention clearly to devastate Deb and wreck her marriage to Jack because included with the letter are print-outs of text messages and emails that Jack and the woman exchanged.

The couple’s eleven-year-old daughter Kay opens it, however, and reads its contents, page after page of sexual exchanges between her father and another woman. Kay’s instinct is to protect both of her parents, but she’s only eleven. She acknowledges that she doesn’t understand what all of this means, so she shares the box with her brother Simon.

Julia Pierpont’s story details the destruction of a marriage. She introduces you to Deb and Jack at a critical juncture of their relationship and then retraces their beginnings, letting you see how they started and how they built a life together. Jack is an artist; a man who views his life as a constant series of urges, some artistic, some emotional, some paternal, and some sexual. He compartmentalizes these urges, not believing that his infidelity is a threat to his marriage. It’s part of his work, and whereas Deb may see his cheating as something that distances him from her, he sees it as something that spurs his art.

Ever present are Kay and Simon, who are as much a part of this marriage as Deb and Jack. It is impossible for a couple’s marital trials and tribulations not to affect their children. Simon is fifteen, not a kid any more, but not an adult, either. His emotional immaturity dictates how he responds to challenges that come his way. He lashes out, he retreats, and he tries to process what Jack’s infidelity means to his mother, his sister, and himself.

At eleven, Kay is more precocious, although she disguises it well. She comes across as fragile and easily wounded, but she processes her anger and fears more productively, for lack of a better word, than her brother does. Part of her wonders what would have happened if she hadn’t been the one to open the box, and another part certainly resents her brother for what he did with it when she showed the box to him. Kay still views her father as a bit of a hero, even as she is disappointed in him.

The first part of this book is fantastic. And then, about halfway through, Pierpont tells you how it will end. I was gobsmacked by that maneuver. Why would she do that? What function does this serve in the novel? I can’t say that I ever was able to answer either question. It still makes no sense to me, and it made the backtracking that came after it somewhat nonsensical. We know what will happen, and it doesn’t take a huge leap of imagination to figure out how and why it does. I kept wondering what the book would have been like if Pierpont had followed a more traditional timeline. I’m all for mixing things up in terms of plotting, so long as there is a purpose for it. That’s what is missing here.

For all of the frustration this causes, the wonky timeline cannot detract from Pierpont’s ability to create interesting, sympathetic characters. It should be easy to dislike Jack, yet I found myself unable and unwilling to choose him over Deb. Not that I forgive him – he disrespects and disregards his wife in an awful, hurtful way – but his rationale for his behavior strikes a chord. Pierpont takes care to show that Deb is not merely the scorned wife; there is far more to her than that. She makes mistakes as a wife and as a mother, and she is fully aware that she does.

I think this book would be a good choice for a book club. There is a lot to discuss, whether regarding Deb and Jack’s marriage or what happens with Simon and Kay. Also worth discussing is Pierpont’s plot choice. How would the book have been different if she waited to tell you what happens to her characters?

 

About the Author:

Julia Pierpont is the author of Among the Ten Thousand Things, her debut novel. She is a graduate of Barnard College and the M.F.A. program at N.Y.U., where she was a Rona Jaffe Graduate Fellow, as well as the recipient of a Stein Fellowship. She works at The New Yorker and lives in Brooklyn with her lunatic dog, Dash.

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

Thanks for Reading small

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HOW TO BE A GROWN-UP

how to be a grown upHow to be a Grown-Up

by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus

Published by Atria
256 pages
Genre: chick lit
3.5 / 5

Synopsis:

Rory McGovern is entering the ostensible prime of her life when her husband, Blake, loses his dream job and announces he feels like “taking a break” from being a husband and father. Rory was already spread thin and now, without warning, she is single-parenting two kids, juggling their science projects, flu season, and pajama days, while coming to terms with her disintegrating marriage. And without Blake, her only hope is to accept a full-time position working for two full-time twenty-somethings.

A day out of b-school, these girls think they know it all and have been given the millions from venture capitalists to back up their delusion—that the future of digital media is a high-end “lifestyle” site—for kids! (Not that anyone who works there has any, or knows the first thing about actual children.) Can Rory learn to decipher her bosses’ lingo, texts that read like license plates, and arbitrary mandates? And is there any hope of saving her marriage? With her family hanging by a thread, Rory must adapt to this hyper-digitized, over-glamorized, narcissistic world of millennials…whatever it takes.

My Review:

There are many children in this book, but few of them are under the age of twelve.

Rory and Blake have been married for about a decade, although she has loved him most of her life. His photo adorned her notebooks in grade school, and she and her best friends swooned over his teen hero good looks and stardom, passionately watching his television shows and movies. When she realizes that they attend the same college, Rory doesn’t know what to think. Her teen idol? Here? It isn’t until after graduation that they begin a romantic relationship.

The problem with marrying the guy you crushed on throughout your childhood is that he isn’t that perfect pinup. He’s a real person with real flaws. Rory, however, is stuck in her teens when it comes to Blake. She still thinks she’s the lucky girl who won his heart.

Blake is also a child. Perhaps this is because the height of his fame occurred when he was a teenager, a time when he was inculcated as to the perks of stardom. Accustomed to a certain amount of coddling and fawning, Blake has yet to adjust to marriage and fatherhood.

When he decides to take a break from Rory, their marriage, and their two children, Rory is forced to attend to adulthood. Blake isn’t around for help, not that he was much anyway, but now it’s all up to her. The herding of children, their feeding, their well-being. And she also needs a job.

What can a former freelance set director do? She can get a job with a bunch of fresh-out-of business school twentysomethings, whose language she does not speak, and help “shepherd” their website, a lifestyle guide for children, to success. In this atmosphere, Rory is expected to be the grown-up, yet she finds herself learning from her younger peers.

There is, at times, a slapstick quality to this book. Rory can barely walk down the street without some catastrophe befalling her. Fortunately, she has her close girlfriends to rely on for help. From her parents, she gets practical advice. From her mother-in-law, she gets new age-ish blathering. From Blake, she gets radio silence.

Watching Rory figure out how to be a grown-up is entertaining, at times in a laugh-out-loud kind of way. Of course you cheer for her. She’s endearing, even if I needed to know more about her relationship with Blake. At one point he accuses her of leaving the marriage. Clearly he means emotionally and/or mentally, but it is never made clear. Rory even asks him because she doesn’t understand. Blake, though, is firm on this, and I would have liked to know more about it. What does he think is missing? Why does it seem as if he is quick to leave her? There must be more behind his actions, and that information is needed.

Much of the book takes place at Rory’s new job, and this is where I wish Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus had jettisoned some of the “the kids are in charge” hilarity for more of Blake and Rory. We know why she married him. She wanted to since she was a kid. But why did he marry her? What did he see in her in their early years together that is missing now? If it’s a case of everything coming down to the state of his professional life, then bracket that with a bit more depth for Blake.

There are some predictable moments (you know something will happen to one of Blake and Rory’s kids), and there are some sweet surprises. That’s the thing: underlying this book is a sweetness that is, dare I say it, almost childlike. Rory, bless her, is naïve enough to believe that everything will work out. When it doesn’t, she gamely picks herself up and keeps moving. She believes in the fairytale because she married it. What she is slow to realize – what she must endure in order to grow up – is that fairytales end when it’s still easy. Growing up begins when life starts to get tough.

 

About the Authors:

Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus met at New York University’s Gallatin School of Indi-vidualized Study, where they both graduated with concentrations in Arts in Education. Before teaming up to write The Nanny Diaries, Kraus had continued in the arts and McLaughlin worked as a business consultant within the private and public sectors.

Newsweek declared McLaughlin and Kraus’s The Nanny Diaries a ‘phenomenon.’ It is a number one New York Times best-seller and the longest-running hardcover best seller of 2002. In 2007 The Nanny Diaries was released as a major motion picture starring Scarlett Johansson, Laura Linney and Alicia Keys.

McLaughlin and Kraus have appeared numerous times on CNN, MSNBC, The Today Show, Good Morning America, Entertainment Tonight and The View. Their work and partnership have been covered in The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, TIME, Elle, Town & Country and Harper’s Bazaar.

They have contributed to The London Times and The New York Times as well as two short story collections to benefit The War Child Fund: Big Night Out and Girls’ Night Out. In addition to writing for television and film, they travel around the country speaking to young women about gender issues in American corporate culture.

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

Thanks for Reading small

 

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Blog Tour & Giveaway: 30 DAYS

TVT30Days-ChristinedAboSynopsis:

For years, Alyssa has been going to bed with a memory. Is she ready to wake up with a fantasy?

Some people wait their whole lives to find their soul mate, but not Alyssa Barrow. She met Rob at sixteen, and they were set to live happily ever after—until he became ill. In his final days, Rob urged his beautiful, young wife not to abandon happiness—or pleasure. He even left her a special gift, a sexy game plan to help her move on: Thirty cards with instructions for thirty days of passion. You’ll know when the time is right, he’d said. Now it’s two years later, and when Alyssa meets her hot new neighbor, Harrison Kemp, she begins to think the right time is right now…

From his sculpted thighs to his devilish grin, Harrison is the kind of man women want. Before she can lose her nerve, Alyssa tells Harrison about her long-ignored cards…and asks him to help her fulfill them. It’s a favor he’s more than happy to, um, perform. With his skillful touch, and the hot press of his lips against her skin, Alyssa finds herself re-awakening to life—and a host of other sensations. But what began as not-so-innocent fun soon grows into true intimacy, and Alyssa realizes she’s opening herself up not just to sex…but to love. When it comes to a future with Harrison, what’s really in the cards?

Saucy, heartwarming, and insightful, 30 Days explores the agony—and the ecstasy—of starting over, and how a little encouragement, and a little courage, can go a long way…

My Review:

The last thing Alyssa expects, two years after her husband’s death, is to hear from him again. Yet when she finds a letter she forgot that he left her, it feels as if he’s right there, talking to her, comforting her … and challenging her.

The thirty sex cards range from the fairly simple (masturbate) to the more emotionally challenging (a threesome). Alyssa isn’t so much shocked at Rob’s final message to her as she is frozen, by grief, fear, and a bit of arousal.

She turns to her older sister, who is three marriages in on her search for Forever Love, for help. She also takes a look at the hot new guy who moved into her apartment building. Hot New Guy, aka Harrison, happens to overhear Alyssa try to fulfill one of the cards (the easiest one that she can do alone … if you know what I mean), and soon afterwards, Alyssa asks Harrison for help.

While Alyssa comes (no pun … aw, what the heck … pun fully intended) to embrace Rob’s challenges, she does so believing that her heart will be insulated. Harrison assures her he is unavailable for any sort of relationship, aside from completing Rob’s tasks. So the question here becomes: can two people fall in love through having lots of great sex?

In real life? Who knows. In hot romance novels? Well …

Aside from ensuring that his wife wouldn’t sequester herself into a life of loneliness and isolation, Rob also hopes that Alyssa will open herself to life beyond the safe, comfortable existence she shared with Rob. He wants her to step outside of the familiar and try some things she wouldn’t have – couldn’t have – experienced while with him. It’s a noble wish, and one he knows he must make for his wife’s happiness. Alyssa is only thirty-five. She has years and years ahead of her, and Rob knows, more than Alyssa does, that she will stick to the predictable.

Harrison has his reasons for resisting and refusing romantic entanglements. Some he shares with Alyssa, others he keeps to himself. That either of these two think they can have thirty days of the sexy times and not start to feel things is a sign that they are too blinded by lust to use their brains.

Now, about that sex. Holy hot headboard rocking, faithful readers. Strap on your vibrator, girls, because Christine D’Abo will work you UP. Alyssa has some exploring to do, and thank goodness D’Abo lets you get to enjoy it, too.

This is a fairly fast-paced and quick read, but not one without emotional impact. There are a couple of subplots that pack a heartfelt punch. I particularly liked the one involving Alyssa’s sister because it feels so realistic.

While you read this, maybe you’ll want to take your own 30 Day Sex Challenge. And why not?

 

About the Author:

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

Christine d’Abo is a romance novelist and short story writer, with over thirty publications to her name. She loves to exercise and stops writing just long enough to keep her body in motion too. When she’s not pretending to be a ninja in her basement, she’s most likely spending time with her husband, daughters, and her two dogs. 

Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | GoodReads

 

Excerpt-Banner

 

I huffed, then licked my lips before I finally slipped my finger beneath the edge and tore the paper open.

Hidden inside was a single piece of paper wrapped around a bundle of index cards. I ignored the cards for the time being and spread open the paper. I took a moment before I could read the note. This was something new from Rob and my heart broke a little bit more. Those invisible fingers squeezed at my chest.

Alyssa.

I love you. I know you love me. I’m glad you’re ready to move on and start having some fun once again. I also know you well enough to realize you’ll only go so far before you stop. Don’t do that. And for God’s sake, don’t get into a serious relationship right away either. I always thought you hadn’t taken enough time to figure out who you were as a person before we hooked up. We jumped into being a couple and lucky for us we worked and it was awesome.

You always said you never regretted being with me so young, but you also didn’t date anyone else. You didn’t sleep with anyone else. I took that experience from you and I always hated that you didn’t get to explore. I wanted to give you my permission to go out there and experiment. Have fun. Fool around and don’t feel the least bit guilty about it.

I thought I might also offer you some suggestions on how to get started.

Humor me, okay.

I’ve had a lot of time on my hands recently. When you weren’t here, I started this little project. I call it Alyssa’s 30 Days of Sex. Please don’t have sex thirty days in a row because I’ll be jealous. Not really. If you can do that, go for it. Seriously though, jealous.

Anyway, even if you don’t use any of these cards, I had a lot of fun imagining you enacting them. You’ll read them and think OMG boy dreams! That’s cool. They are. Change them up if you want.

Even when you weren’t with me, you made me happy. I’m going to stop now before I get sappy. Go get laid and enjoy the kinky sex.

Love you, baby.

Rob

I laughed. It was such a Rob thing to have done. I had no difficulty picturing him coming up with ideas for his cards while going through his chemo. Come to think of it, that explained most of the Internet pop-ups I’d been forced to clean off his laptop after he passed.

Sex cards. He wrote me freaking sex cards. I fell in love with him all over again. My best friend and lover was giving me advice on how to hook up with other people from beyond the grave. The idea was a mix of weird and sweet, the perfect descriptor for him.

30 days

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Cover Reveal: EVERY WRONG REASON

 

 

 

Available September 22, 2015

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First comes love.

Then comes marriage.

Then comes the… really nasty divorce.

Kate Carter thought she married her soul mate. She thought she had her happily ever after. But seven years into Kate’s marriage, she realizes that her husband Nick is not what she wanted. He’s selfish, he’s oblivious and he doesn’t love her anymore.

Maybe she doesn’t love him anymore either.

Divorce is the only option if either of them wants to find happiness.

Kate and Nick thought they knew what they wanted, but neither is prepared for the heartache that separating will bring them. The journey they embark on is not the freedom they wished for, but a painful look at the people they’ve become.

At the end of it, Kate has to decide if this is really the life she wants or if maybe there’s a way to salvage her broken heart.

About Rachel Higginson

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Rachel Higginson is the creator of The Star-Crossed Series, Love & Decay Novella Series, The Starbright Series, The Siren Series, Bet on Us and the soon to be released, The Five Stages of Falling in Love! She is also the co-creator of the podcast “Zach & Rachel Take Over the World.”

She was born and raised in Nebraska, and spent her college years traveling the world. She fell in love with Eastern Europe, Paris, Indian Food and the beautiful beaches of Sri Lanka, but came back home to marry her high school sweetheart. Now she spends her days raising four amazing kids. In the few spare moments she has to herself, she is either reading for hours on end or writing her own stories.

BETWEEN US AND THE MOON

between us and the moonBetween Us and the Moon

by Rebecca Maizel

Published by Harper Teen
384 pages
Genre: YA
4.5 / 5

Synopsis:

Sarah—Bean to her friends and family—is an aspiring astronomer and champion mathlete. She lives behind her beloved telescope, with her head in the stars and her feet planted firmly on the ground. For as long as she can remember, she’s also lived in the shadow of her beautiful older sister, Scarlett.

But after a traumatic end to the school year, Sarah goes to Cape Cod for the summer with her family, determined to grow up. It’s there that she meets gorgeous, older college boy Andrew. He sees her as the girl she wants to be. A girl like Scarlett. He thinks she’s older, too—and she doesn’t correct him.

For Sarah, it’s a summer of firsts. Before she knows what’s happened, one little lie has transformed into something real. And by the end of August, she might have to choose between falling in love, and finding herself.

My Review:

The only thing worse than being a teen, I should think, is being a teen who thinks she’s invisible.

In every part of her life, Sarah is eclipsed by someone, whether her glamorous older sister Scarlett or the popular and gorgeous cheerleader whom Sarah’s boyfriend is tutoring. (And, yes, if your Spidey Sense is tingling over that one, you have a far better understanding of Sarah’s relationship than she does.) Even her nickname – Bean – seems inferior. Beans are commonplace and utilitarian, not sparkly and shiny.

Every summer, Bean and her family head to Cape Cod to spend their vacation with crotchety great aunt who – shocker – favors Scarlett over Bean. This summer, though, Bean is determined to study Scarlett, much as she studies the stars every night. If Bean can plot and predict the arrival of a comet, surely she can crack Scarlett’s code and become the center of someone’s universe.

Bean quickly determines that she has to appear older. A not-quite-sixteen-year-old is not going to cut it in Scarlett’s social world, so Sarah ages up. She is now a high school graduate, headed to MIT. Her ruse works well: she attracts the attention of Andrew, a handsome college student and buddy of a guy Scarlett is seeing. As Bean applies her findings from what she observes of Scarlett, she and Andrew become closer and closer.

The question for Bean is whether Andrew loves her or if he loves the person she pretends to be. She has to ask herself if, aside from using Scarlett’s clothes and mimicking her confidence, she is different with Andrew than with her other friends.

As she struggles with this, she realizes that she isn’t so sure that she likes attention. She is the scientist; she is the one who places others under the microscope and studies them. Sure, there are benefits to being noticed – Andrew’s attraction to her, for one thing – but she doesn’t like the fear that comes with the pretense.

Then there is her family. There is a heartbreaking scene in which Bean has to confront her place in her family. Scarlett is a sort of black hole of attention. Her parents and great aunt aim their telescopes straight at her, viewing Bean as more of an orbiting satellite than a star herself. The only person in her family who seems to value her is her grandmother, and she feels as far away as the comet Bean waits for.

This is a coming-of-age book, and what sets it apart from its brethren is that it feels so real. Beans anxiety about her place in her family and amongst her friends is utterly relatable, as is the first love she experiences with Andrew. She desperately wants to matter to someone, yet the only way she can figure out how to make that happen is by pretending to be someone else. What she doesn’t fake are her feelings. She loves Andrew, and she wants to experience everything that comes with being with a college boy.

Rebecca Maizel’s storytelling is lovely, and it is as bittersweet as adolescence can be. There were parts of this book that I read with only one eye on the page, uncomfortable with how much I could relate to what was happening to Bean. She’s such a likable, adorable character that I dearly wanted her to somehow get out of the mess of her own making. As much as I wanted her and Andrew to have their happy ending, I knew that Bean was only just sixteen. She has too much in front of her to have found her Mr. Forever right now. Right? Maybe?

The Universe, though, is expansive, and within it are constellations we will never discover. Bean’s fascination with stars and space marks her as an observer, but what people don’t understand is that she also actively, passionately participates with those stars. She learns about them and knows them, and she feels a kinship with them. Bean does not keep herself at a distance, not with the stars and not with Andrew.

I loved this book. I liked Bean, I liked Andrew, I liked the story, and I liked the way Rebecca Maizel wrote it. I even liked Scarlett, who could be one-note in another writer’s hands. In Maizel’s, she’s a girl who takes advantages of the opportunities that come her way. Even when you’re hating her, you kind of like her. The only weakness is the pacing. There were parts that dragged a little.

I especially liked the ending. This book ends the way it should for Bean.

 

About the Author:

Rebecca Maizel hails from Rhode Island, where she teaches high school literature at her alma mater the Wheeler School. She tries not to force her students to read her books, though. Rebecca is the author of several published novels for young adults, and recently achieved an MFA in Writing for Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She also enjoys Indian food, her dog Georgie, and running moderately long distances.

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

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A MILLION TIMES GOODNIGHT

million times goodnight

A Million Times Goodnight

by Kristina McBride
Published by Egmont USA
320 pages
Genre: young adult
3 / 5

 

Synopsis:

A teen Sliding Doors. One choice creates parallel dual narratives in this romantic contemporary mystery-thriller perfect for fans of Just Like Fate and Pivot Point. One Night. Two Paths. Infinite Danger. On the night of the big Spring Break party, Hadley “borrows” her boyfriend Ben’s car without telling him. As payback, he posts a naked picture of her online for the entire senior class to see. Now Hadley has a choice: go back to the party and force Ben to delete the picture or raise the stakes and take his beloved car on a road trip as far away from their hometown of Oak Grove, Ohio, as she can get. Chapters alternate to reveal each possible future as Hadley, her ex-boyfriend, Josh, and her best friends embark on a night of reckless adventure where old feelings are rekindled, friendships are tested, and secrets are uncovered that are so much worse than a scandalous photo. Like a teen Sliding Doors, A Million Times Goodnight is a fast-paced romantic contemporary thriller for fans of Just Like Fate and Pivot Point.

My Review:

Did you see the Gwyneth Paltrow movie Sliding Doors? If so, then you totally understand where this book is going. If not, then you might be a bit confused. Hadley has been dating Ben, the popular jock heartthrob, for a while, but theirs is hardly a happy relationship. On the night of a big spring party, the two have a little tiff, after which Hadley “borrows” Ben’s car. This much can be agreed upon. Two different versions of what happens afterwards result, however, and each is in Hadley’s mind. Is one true and the other not? Are parts of each true? Which one is a dream and which reality? The varying stories keep you guessing, but really neither is the point. What matters is that Hadley has to figure out for herself who she should trust, for what transgressions she should atone, and to whom she should apologize. This is not an easy process for her, and you can understand why she needs to create a sort of alternate reality. Her best friend died a year earlier, a death that lingers with unanswered questions. What really happened that night, and who was involved? Kristina McBride does a solid job of presenting both narratives. As the book progresses, you see Hadley’s two mindsets overlap, and you figure out which one is real and which one is a fantasy. You also figure out which one is the “right” one for Hadley. McBride’s supporting cast is fun to read about. In fact, it could be argued that they are more interesting than Hadley herself. Perhaps Hadley feels static compared to her compatriots, who are more developed and interesting than she is. The mystery element – what happened the night Hadley’s best friend died – takes center stage, occasionally upstaging the characters. I had to remind myself that the drawn-out plot served a purpose. Hadley has some work to do as far as her personal relationships are concerned, not to mention her lingering feelings regarding both her dead best friend and which boy, she has to decide, she is happier. The tracks of Hadley’s relationships – the first boy she thought she loved and her current boyfriend – leave you wondering why she makes the decisions she does. Kristina McBride does answer these questions, and you will be satisfied with her answers. The dual perspectives – the Sliding Doors effect – is never quite explained. It’s merely a mechanism McBride uses to present what could have been versus what is. Regardless, both threads lead to the same conclusion, making you certain that Hadley is where she is supposed to be. Despite the sad premise – the death of a friend – this is an entertaining book to read. Hadley may not be the most compelling leading lady, but her friends and the source of the mystery are. You will want to know how Hadley came to be in the predicament she found herself in, and you will want to know what happened with her friend. One of the things I liked about this book was the absence of conflict between female friends. Too often, books seems to fall back on the trite premise that girls don’t really get along. Kristina McBride realizes that girls can form real and true friendships, and she features one here. The conflict is not between friends, but rather between the friends and other people, whether parents or boyfriends or classmates. ed742-amazon-button   NetGalley_Logo

THE SUN IN HER EYES

sun in her eyesThe Sun in Her Eyes

by Paige Toon

Published by Simon & Schuster UK
432 pages
Genre: chick lit; romance
4 / 5

Synopsis:

Blinding sunshine… A bend in the road… What became of the little girl with the sun in her eyes? Amber was three when a car crash stole her mother’s life. She doesn’t remember the accident, but a stranger at the scene has been unable to forget. Now, almost thirty years later, she’s trying to track Amber down. Amber, meanwhile, is married to Ned and living on the other side of the world in London. When her father has a stroke, she flies straight home to Australia to be with him. Away from her husband, Amber finds comfort in her oldest friends, but her feelings for Ethan, the gorgeous, green-eyed man she once fell for, have never been platonic. As Ethan and Amber grow closer, married life in London feels far away. Then Amber receives a letter that changes everything. ‘Before your mother died, she asked me to tell you something…’

My Review:

Sometimes life offers you a do-over. But rarely does that do-over come without cost.

Amber realizes this when she returns home to Australia to help care for her father after he suffers a stroke. She leaves behind her husband Ned, with whom she is struggling to find the passion and affection that connected them when they first met. Part of her has always thought that she settled in marrying Ned, believing that her heart lay somewhere else.

That ‘somewhere’ is right where she lands, shortly after arriving back home: Ethan. He and Amber were friends from childhood, best friends even. Although she wanted more, she made peace with the fact that Ethan did not. He was a bit of a cad, always dating and discarding gorgeous women. Like Amber, he is married. Unlike Amber, he has two children.

As Amber finds herself drawing closer to Ethan – and to the possibility of discovering what might have happened – she also recalls her mother, who died in a car accident when Amber was a toddler. Amber was in the car, too, and survived, and she has fractured memories of what happened. What role, she wonders, did she play in her mother’s death?

She receives a letter from a woman who was on the scene of the accident, asking if Amber would come see her. The woman wants Amber to know what her mother’s final words were.

The title is a play on several factors. First, there is the car accident. Was Amber’s mother distracted by something? Or someone? Then there is Ethan. Is he distracting Amber from what truly does make her happy?

The thing with distractions is that sometimes you need them. When you’re struggling with serious emotional challenges, a distraction can help clear your head, in a way. It can help you refocus, recommit. Distractions can be more sinister, of course. They can sidetrack you from what you need to such a degree that you allow yourself to believe in the distraction rather than the truth.

Amber has to realize these things. She has to accept her father’s illness and his long-term relationship with the woman he became involved with several years after the death of his wife. Amber also must determine which man is her truth and which her distraction, Ethan or Ned. And of course she needs to understand and process her mother’s death.

My favorite part of this book was Amber’s relationship with Ethan. Maybe you have an Ethan in your life; I sure do. That one person about whom you find yourself occasionally wondering ‘what could have been.’ Of course, in doing so, a certain romanticization occurs as you forget the hurts and pains, preferring to recall the joys and blisses. Amber does this, to a degree, but she does acknowledge and reflect on the many times Ethan hurt her, however inadvertently. For her it isn’t so much a wistful wondering of what might have been, but more of a question of how Ethan would respond if he knew she loved him for so many years. Even though she is a married woman, she finds it easy to forget about Ned. He’s in England; she’s in Australia. He hasn’t been making her happy lately, and she uses this as an excuse to let her thoughts wander to Ethan. The little things in her marriage that bother her become amplified in her mind, justifying her renewed interest in another man.

I really enjoyed how Paige Toon wrote about Amber’s marriage and relationship with Ethan. There was no attempt to glorify either one, and both men are presented roundly and fully. We see their strengths and weaknesses, and Toon makes you change your mind several times over which man is the right man for Amber. Amber, too, is drawn with flaws. She does some things that could alienate a reader, but Toon crafts her in a way that you don’t want to abandon her.

The part of the book I found a tad overwrought was that relating to the death of Amber’s mother. Too often those scenes felt intrusive, throwing off the pacing. I wonder if the book needs that subplot.

More than anything, this is a romance, and it is not limited to just one. Those were the book’s strengths, and those are why you should read it.

 

About the Author:

Paige Toon was born in 1975 and grew up between England, Australia and America. A philosophy graduate, she worked at teen, film and women’s magazines, before ending up at Heat magazine as Reviews Editor. Paige is married, has two small children and lives in Cambridge.

The Sun in Her Eyes is her tenth book.

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

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