Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Review: Dangerous Favor by Joyce DiPastena

From Goodreads:  Her father has been accused of stealing from the king, an allegation that has reduced her family to poverty. She has one chance to find and marry a man who can help her prove her father's innocence. Lord Therri, heir to a rich barony, has the wealth and connections Mathilde needs to delve into the mysteries of her father's past. Furthermore, Therri embodies all her romantic dreams.

Etienne, the younger son of a disgraced family, has neither wealth nor connections, but is smitten with Mathilde at a glance. She finds the knight intriguing, but believes he is only out to seduce her. While she seeks for a way to win Therri's attention, Etienne tricks her into granting him her favor, an embroidered white ribbon, for a tournament, setting in motion a dangerous chain reaction of events. Can Etienne save Mathilde from a nightmare from her past and prove himself the true hero of her dreams?

Not long ago, Joyce was holding an online release party for this book, Dangerous Favor.  She had some awesome giveaways going on and they all included books and chocolate!  I'm telling you, Joyce totally rocked the house with this one.  I'm a fan of Joyce DiPastena.  I love her books and I was chopping at the bit to read her latest.  I entered the contest and guess what?!  I won!  Well, I didn't win Dangerous Favor.  I actually won a different book (one that I already own) but Joyce was so kind.  She sent me Dangerous Favor in the box with all the chocolate and swag I won.  I swear it was like Christmas.  I was so excited to get my hands on Dangerous Favor.  (happy, happy, joy, joy)

If you don't know Joyce's books, you really should.  She is so good at writing sweet medieval romances.  Her stories will transport you through time.  You will find mystery and intrigue, history and of course, romance.  Joyce really does her homework when she writes a book and it shows in her writing.  She knows her medieval stuff.

I loved the story of Mathilde and Etienne.  Mathilde is young and very inexperienced in the ways of courting and romance.  Her loyalty and courage on the other hand, runs deep.  Wanting to free her father from the shame and accusations that have been laid at his feet, Mathilde seeks out someone who will take up her cause and extend the help she so desperately seeks.  Mathilde has no idea the danger she is about to unravel and fortunately for her, she picked the right men to aid her.  Etienne is all that and more.  Sheesh, talk about your knight in shining armor.  Who wants one?  Me, me, pick me!  I'm still dreaming of Etienne and his six pack, or was it eight pack?  His silken raven curls . . .

Oh, sorry.  Temporary distraction.  I loved Dangerous Favor.  I LOVED Dangerous Favor.  I love the way Joyce writes.  She weaves such a fantastic medieval story.  I'm so grateful to her for sending me her book.  

You can find Dangerous Favor at Amazon.
You can learn more about Joyce and all her books at her website.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Review and Giveaway: Shaken by Susan Hatler

From Goodreads:  High school junior, Kylie Bates, can suddenly read minds. When she touches people’s hands, she’s able to see their deepest thoughts. As if that’s not freaky enough, her dad sends her to help hottie detective, Sam Williams, track down a missing girl. Way too much pressure, especially for a girl who can’t watch Scream without getting nightmares.

Then, finding the missing girl leads to much more than Kylie’s prepared for. Like discovering that her dad has been lying to her. That she has a family she never knew about. That the girls have powers similar to hers. Oh yeah, and that someone is out to get her.

When the detective’s teenage wanna-be-cop cousin, Trip Williams, approaches Kylie at school insisting she help him solve the case, she discovers Trip might be the only one she can trust, and the only one to help her unravel the secrets behind her mysterious gift.

Oh, wow.  This book was so much fun to read.  I started this book early one afternoon last weekend.  I finished it early evening.  Seriously, I sprinted through this book without even taking a breath, I'm pretty sure.  The story just flew by.  When I came to the end I was not ready to be done.  It all just went by too fast!  I just loved it.

I loved Kylie and her "peek-a-boo" brain.  And Trip?  Yeah, he's a keeper.  One of the things I love about this book is that even though there are serious and even scary things happening, you still feel a lightness.  Kylie is just a bit sarcastic which amuses me greatly.  She is also a typical teenager, easily distracted by a cute boy and a best friend's drama.  

Here is my favorite quote from the book.  "Don't we all have something we're just not willing to share?  Some part of ourselves too fragile and sacred to expose?  Life's hard.  Much harder than I realized but I'm going to keep trying to do the right thing."

As far as content goes, there is frequent mild swearing. There are some sexual references, innuendo and some steamy kiss scenes.

Susan Hatler is a very talented writer.  Her writing is easy on the brain and it flows well.  I'm so lucky that she asked me to review her newest book, Shaken.  She also agreed to do a little interview with me and also provided for a giveaway.  How happy, right?
SUSAN HATLER writes humorous and emotional contemporary romance and young adult novels. A natural optimist, she believes life is amazing, people are fascinating, and imagination is endless. She loves spending time with her characters and hopes you do, too. You can visit her website at www.susanhatler.com

Hey, Susan!  I'm so glad we get to do this.  Welcome to my blog.

Hi, Aimee. It’s so great to be here!

Susan, Shaken is your first YA novel, is that right?
No, I’ve got like a hundred. Oh, you mean actually published and not just knocking around in my head? Then, yes, Shaken is my first full length novel, but I have two novellas available now and more will be coming out later this year.

What made you shift genres from the romance world to YA?
I’d been reading some teen novels and my brain shifted spur of the moment (it does that a lot) and I randomly typed out the beginning pages of Kylie’s story. There’s definitely a love interest in Shaken, as you know, so I didn’t veer completely off romance.

No, you certainly kept the romance in Shaken.  There were some ooh la la kisses!
So, now that you have written for both genres, which one do you love the best? (Come on, you have to choose.) :)
Back me into a corner, why don’t you? So hardcore! :) Writing teen is super fun because you get to experience a lot of those “firsts” in life, which makes it all the more exciting. How they’re discovering the ins and outs of life, who they are, and who they want to be. I absolutely love it. Writing contemporary romance/chick lit is a bit different because the heroine has been there done that and still hasn’t found her happily-ever-after (aka: HEA). But there’s definitely a huge satisfaction when she finds the right guy because, by this point in her life, it’s not just Mr. Right-For-Now, it’s the Mr. Right-For-Her for life.

What was the motivation behind your YA novel, Shaken? Where did you come up with the initial idea?
You wouldn’t believe the things my mind comes up with. There isn’t time to write it all down! I’m trying to recall what sparked the initial idea and I can’t come up with anything specific. I remember struggling with a chick lit novel (I have many partially completed novels!) and I wanted a break to just write something fun. So, I started typing whatever came to mind which turned out to be a teenage girl about to read the mind of a hardened criminal - yikes!

You know I totally sprinted through Shaken. I practically read it in one breath. Does it bother you that what took you so long to write took me less than a day to finish?
Absolutely not. I love it when readers tell me that because it means the story kept them engaged enough to keep turning those pages. You were invested in Kylie’s journey and wanted to find out what happened next. Yay! I read The Hunger Games trilogy in several days cuz I couldn’t put it down. Imagine how long it took Suzanne Collins to write all three. :-)

What are you cookin' up for me next? Oh, I mean us. The devoted readers.
LOL. I have a teen paranormal novel called See Me that’s nearly ready to publish. Amazingly, my contemporary romance/chick lit novella, The Boyfriend Bylaws, hit Amazon’s best sellers list for contemporary romance and literature & fiction last week which has ignited my muse to put Kaitlin’s story (Totally Fit Series #2) down on paper (well, computer screen actually but you get my drift). My writing motivation comes from whichever characters are demanding the hardest to be heard. 
Wow, congrats on making the best seller list on Amazon!  That is awesome.  Not surprising, but awesome just the same.

Is there more to come for Kylie and Trip? (fingers crossed, please say yes . . .)
Kylie has a whole lot more in her journey and I’m guessing Trip’s going to be part of it as well (wink wink). A lot of the series’ storylines are in my head still, but I’ve started writing scenes in the second book already. I’d love it to be out by the end of the year, if possible. I also have a contemporary YA called Dear Aubrey that’s near completion so that should be out soon as well.

Writing stories has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember and the characters are near and dear to my heart. It’s amazing to hear from wonderful people like you that they’ve enjoyed reading about them, too. Thanks so much for having me. Happy reading, everyone!

Thanks so much for taking the time to answer all my curious questions.  I love getting to know authors better.  Just to prove how utterly peachy Susan is, she has agreed to give away an ebook copy of her book, Shaken as well as an ebook copy of her book, The Boyfriend Bylaws.  Sah-weet!  Just enter below.  This giveaway is open to INT/US readers and ends on March 12th.

You can check Shaken and The Boyfriend Bylaws at Amazon.  (Titles are linked)

Here is all the ways to stalk, I mean follow, Susan:

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/people/Susan-Hatler/1512078389
Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/SusanHatler
MySpace: http://www.myspace.com/susanhatler
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/susanhatler

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Review and Giveaway: On Little Wings by Regina Sirois

Jennifer must do the impossible bring her mother home. When a family is torn apart by death, two sisters take violently divergent paths and the story of their family appears to end terribly and abruptly. Two decades later Jennifer never dreams that the photo she finds stuck between the pages of a neglected book will tear open a gaping wound to her mothers secret past. Abandoning her comfortable life with her parents and best friend in the wheat fields of Nebraska, Jennifer's quest for a hidden aunt leads her to the untamed coast of Maine where she struggles to understand why her mother lied to her for sixteen years.

Across the grey, rocky cove she meets Nathan Moore, the young, reluctant genius surrounded by women who need him to be brother, father, friend, provider, protector and now, first love. The stories, varied, hilarious, and heartbreaking, unfold to paint a striking mural of the shattered past. As Jennifer seeks to piece together her mothers story, she inadvertently writes one for herself.

A story about all the ways we get love wrong,
and why, despite every disappointment,
we keep fighting to get it right.

This book is full of human heartache that stems from the harsh realities that life brings.  The pain of loss, the loss of love, mistakes made, forgiveness withheld.  So many secrets that carry such a burden, as most secrets do.  Jennifer finds herself in the middle of all these things without fully understanding any of it.

This is what my husband would call a full-on drama.  Yes, On Little Wings was most certainly a drama.  It reminded me how fragile yet strong human emotions can be.  What a waste of time it is nursing hurts and grudges.  So many people lose out.  The writing drew me in and made me a part of every emotion surrounding Jennifer.

Jennifer's strength and determination to find answers and heal relationships is admirable.  I enjoyed the journey she went on through this book.  Every person she met played a part in her growth and learning.  Even for all the heartache that surrounded her, in every person, there was also a little hope to be found.  Thank goodness.  

I loved the coastal setting in Maine.  The descriptions were rich and filled my mind with such pretty pictures.  I'd love to travel the coast of Maine one day.

My favorite smile moment in the book was this: "I got some Baklava, if you want some.  My nephew sent it.  He gets my birthday wrong every year, poor idiot."

Content wise there is some mild swearing.

On Little Wings can be purchased in print or ebook by clicking here.
You can find out more about the author at her website.
I'm so happy to be able to host a giveaway for this book!  All you need to do is leave a comment along with your email address so I can contact you if you win.  This giveaway is for a print copy of this book, so it will be open to US only.  Giveaway ends March 8th.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Random Acts of Kindness Giveaway Hop Winner!

Congrats to Veronica W. who won the Random Acts of Kindness Giveaway Hop!
Thanks to everyone who entered, especially those who left their favorite book
in the comments!  I have lots of great books to check out now and I love to know
what everyone is reading.  :)

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Review: Shooting Stars by Allison Rushby

Behind the flashing lights, the camera reveals all . . . even love.

Meet Josephine Foster, or Zo Jo as she’s called in the biz. The best pint-sized photographer of them all, Jo doesn’t mind doing what it takes to get that perfect shot, until she’s sent on an undercover assignment to shoot Ned Hartnett—teen superstar and the only celebrity who’s ever been kind to her—at an exclusive rehabilitation retreat in Boston. The money will be enough to pay for Jo’s dream: real photography classes, and maybe even quitting her paparazzi gig for good. Everyone wants to know what Ned’s in for. But Jo certainly doesn’t know what she’s in for: falling in love with Ned was never supposed to be part of her assignment.

Wow, I had a lot of fun reading this book.  It wasn't what I was expecting and I was pleasantly surprised.  I picked this book, Shooting Stars, up from NetGalley.  The cover and blurb intrigued me.  I'm so glad I got a chance to read this book.  My thanks to Bloomsbury Children's Books, Walker Children's Books, for allowing me the opportunity.  This book has a release date of Feb. 28th.

Jo is such a likable character.  I like the journey of self-discovery she went on as she took this "big gig" at the rehabilitation retreat.  Her mistakes, her buried hurts, and the friendships all made me safely anchor myself in her corner.

One thing I really liked was how the characters came together in the end to accomplish a main goal.  Instead of hating each other and having to wade through that drama, we instead got to see them work together for a common good.  It was refreshing and it made me love this book even more.

Here was my laugh out loud line.  "Then the most amazing thing happens- this weird, random snot bubble accidentally emerges from his nose.  We all stare at him, open mouthed."  The buildup to this moment was all serious and then this line comes.  I swear it was so funny.

As far as content goes, this had a couple instances of mild swearing.  There are some serious issues addressed as kids are seeking professional help for problems.  Death, guilt, suicide, depression, abandonment and phobias are all mentioned.

You can check out the trailer for this book.  I really liked it.
You can find out more about the author by clicking here.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Open Minds by Susan Quinn

Sixteen-year-old Kira Moore is a zero, someone who can’t read thoughts or be read by others. Zeros are outcasts who can’t be trusted, leaving her no chance with Raf, a regular mindreader and the best friend she secretly loves. When she accidentally controls Raf’s mind and nearly kills him, Kira tries to hide her frightening new ability from her family and an increasingly suspicious Raf. But lies tangle around her, and she’s dragged deep into a hidden world of mindjackers, where having to mind control everyone she loves is just the beginning of the deadly choices before her.

First off, my thanks to Susan Quinn for finding me and asking me to review her book, Open Minds.  Second, my congratulations to Susan for a job well done.  :)

Open Minds was a fantastic book full of all the elements that I love in a good book.  The characters were well developed and I believed them.  I felt invested in their feelings and choices.  I cared what happened to them.  (I think I still do.)

There was just enough suspense and action to keep my complete attention.  My heart would start to pump a bit faster and my eyes would start reading faster in an attempt to find out what happened.  I liked that.  But suspense and action were not the whole book, which is why I really liked it.  It had those down times where we were able to connect and feel.

Here is a quote that made me smile because I remember learning about sludge in my Natural Resources and Conservation class in college.  My friends and I would joke around about something being sludge because that was the worst it could get.  "There must be something worse than green sludge on cheese, because I had sunk to a new low."

As far as content goes, this was happily free of swearing and sex.  There were some kissing scenes and some sexual references.  There was some underage drinking and some violence.

I really, really liked this book.  You all should check this book out.  I'm eagerly awaiting the second book, Closed Hearts, which is the next book in this trilogy and hopefully it will be out soon.   You can find out more about these books at The Mindjack Trilogy website. 

You can purchase Open Minds (ebook) for 2.99 on Amazon.  Or as a paperback book for under 10 dollars.  You can also find it at Barnes and Noble.

Susan Kaye Quinn grew up in California, where she wrote snippets of stories and passed them to her friends during class. She pursued a bunch of engineering degrees and worked a lot of geeky jobs, including turns at GE Aircraft Engines, NASA, and NCAR. Now that she writes novels, her business card says "Author and Rocket Scientist" and she doesn't have to sneak her notes anymore. All that engineering comes in handy when dreaming up paranormal powers in future worlds or mixing science with fantasy to conjure slightly plausible inventions. Susan writes from the Chicago suburbs with her three boys, two cats, and one husband. Which, it turns out, is exactly as much as she can handle.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Review and Giveaway: Crater Lake by Steve Westover

From Goodreads:  While visiting his crazy Uncle Bart at Crater Lake National Park, thirteen-year-old Ethan's world collapses when all the adults at Crater Lake disappear, including his parents. Now Ethan must rally his new friends and decipher the legends of Crater Lake to find the key to rescuing his parents from their earthen prison before he's captured too and their captivity becomes permanent.

Last month I flew into Portland on my way to Sacramento.  I happened to look out the window at the most perfect moment and saw this beautiful, incredible lake.  I thought, "wow, look at that awesome lake.  It looks like a crater."  Duh.  Then I realized what I was looking at.  Crater Lake.  I've never been there before but from the sky, it looks amazing. 
Crater Lake Aerial Photo

 What a great introduction to this new book by Steve Westover.  I'm glad to be a part of the blog tour for this book today.  My thanks to Cedar Fort for allowing me to participate.

Adventure, adventure, adventure.  That's how I would sum up this book.  Throw in a bit of magic and a common purpose and you get a great book.  There are several kids, brought together by the traumatic experience of watching their parents disappear.  In order to save them, they band together and face the challenges.  Swimming through freezing waters, exploring underground, fighting creatures, and near death experiences will keep you interested and entertained all the way through.

This is a middle grade book and I think it will especially appeal to young boys.  Not only because there are adventures that seem to be made of young boy dreams, but it's got that "boy scout humor" or, as I like to call it, potty humor thrown in here and there.  You know, farts and bathroom talk.

What I liked about the book was the overall theme of working together.  Here is a quote I really liked.  "There is much you can do."  Che-Tan thought about his words and then corrected himself.  "There is much we can do together."  These kids find out that working together is safer and better.  They accomplished much by working together.

You can find out more about Crater Lake:  Battle for Wizard Island by clicking here.  
You can read more about Steve Westover by clicking here and here.

Cedar Fort has generously offered up one copy of Crater Lake.  A print copy for US and an ebook for INT.  Just leave a comment along with your email address to enter.  Please indicate whether you are US or INT.  :)  Giveaway ends March 2nd.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Follow Friday

It's that time again!  Follow Friday, hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read.  I'm so glad tomorrow is Friday.  Friday is quickly becoming my favorite day of the week since I don't have to work! Here is this week's question:

Q: I like unique names for characters and am looking forward to coming up with some when I start writing. What’s the most unique character name you’ve come across?

I think that is a tough question.  I'm not really good at remembering things like that.  I read a book with a very hot guy in it named Swaggart.  I like that name and it's one I haven't heard much.  I think Peeta is a pretty unique name too.  Ooh, how about Obi-Wan?  See?  I'm not very good at this.  I'm sure I will be very enlightened as I hop around to see what all the rest of you very smart people came up with.  :)  Thanks for stopping by.  Have a great weekend everyone!