Thursday, April 16, 2015

Spotlight and Giveaway: Making Your Mind Up By Jill Mansell

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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… 

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.

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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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Sunday, April 12, 2015

Review: Kissing Ted Callahan (and Other Guys) by Amy Spalding



Blurb from Goodreads:
Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist meets Easy A in this hilariously realistic story of sneaking out, making out, and playing in a band.

After catching their bandmates in a compromising position, sixteen-year-old Los Angelenos Riley and Reid become painfully aware of the romance missing from their own lives. And so a pact is formed: they'll both try to make something happen with their respective crushes and document the experiences in a shared notebook.

While Reid struggles with the moral dilemma of adopting a dog to win over someone's heart, Riley tries to make progress with Ted Callahan, who she's been obsessed with forever-His floppy hair! His undeniable intelligence! But suddenly cute guys are popping up everywhere. How did she never notice them before?! With their love lives going from 0 to 60 in the blink of an eye, Riley and Reid realize the results of their pact may be more than they bargained for. 
My Review:
 
I have to say that I am still baffled a bit by this book!  I actually enjoyed reading it -- obviously by the rating -- but the entire time I also felt like, is this real life? What I mean by that is that I really felt like, how is this a book?  It was that natural -- told between first person POV from Riley and Reid's entries in the Passenger Log -- a sort of slam book for their conquests/attempts kept between Riley and Reid.  And Riley?  She was almost too cool?  I wanted to be her but I did feel like she could be a bad friend a time -- being completely dismissive when she wanted to but I also felt like this was a true emotion for someone her age.  

As a huge music fan, I loved all the description of the band practices, the record shopping, the music venues in LA -- it completely reminded me of being in high school.  I would definitely recommend this for fans of Rainbow Rowell, David Levithan, Elizabeth Eulberg and other authors that write mature yet quirky YA.

Kissing Ted Callahan (and Other Guys) just came out, and you can purchase HERE!
I've been in love with him for at least five months, but he doesn't talk to me often.  His words are blue sky, cutting through the clouds of our previously uncommunicative ways.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Top Ten Characters You'd Like To Check In With


Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by the fab ladies at The Broke and the Bookish!



1.  Hands down, my number one choice would be Lizzy, of course!  This is why I read so many re-tellings that pick up from P&P -- Only Mr. Darcy Will Do and Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife are two of my favorites!

2.  I would have to check in on my favorite character from my favorite childhood series, Sleepover Friends!  I always liked Lauren the most because she was athletic and loved to eat!

3.  Even though it would be a bit insane, I have to check in on all the characters from The Secret History, my favorite book of all time.


4.  I would love to read about the amazing woman I know that Brenna Blixen became -- this series is so good and so underrated!!

5.  More Kenny and Savannah, please!  They are still my favorite Troubleshooters couple!

6.  Oh Jemima!  Even though the ending of this book was perfect, I could go for a HEA novella.


7.  I don't know anyone that hasn't read and loved the Georgina Kincaid series by Richelle Mead, and I would love to drop in on Seth and Georgie but also Carter and Jerome!!


8.  Just what are Gray Porter and Jess Jordan up to these days?!  

9.  Ok, I seriously, SERIOUSLY need a Georgetown Academy, Book Five! The fourth book ended on a cliffhanger and there are no plans for a fifth book ?!?!
  


10.  Marcus Flutie and Jessica Darling, anyone?!

Review: The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan



Blurb from Goodreads:
"I might be Cinderella today, but I dread who they'll think I am tomorrow. I guess it depends on what I do next." 

American Rebecca Porter was never one for fairy tales. Her twin sister, Lacey, has always been the romantic who fantasized about glamour and royalty, fame and fortune. Yet it's Bex who seeks adventure at Oxford and finds herself living down the hall from Prince Nicholas, Great Britain's future king. And when Bex can't resist falling for Nick, the person behind the prince, it propels her into a world she did not expect to inhabit, under a spotlight she is not prepared to face.

Dating Nick immerses Bex in ritzy society, dazzling ski trips, and dinners at Kensington Palace with him and his charming, troublesome brother, Freddie. But the relationship also comes with unimaginable baggage: hysterical tabloids, Nick's sparkling and far more suitable ex-girlfriends, and a royal family whose private life is much thornier and more tragic than anyone on the outside knows. The pressures are almost too much to bear, as Bex struggles to reconcile the man she loves with the monarch he's fated to become.

Which is how she gets into trouble.

Now, on the eve of the wedding of the century, Bex is faced with whether everything she's sacrificed for love-her career, her home, her family, maybe even herself-will have been for nothing.
My Review:
 
Unfortunately, this book was so, so disappointing to me.  One, I read The Fug Girls every day -- although it can be a bit mean, I laugh a lot while reading it.  Two, I have read Heather's and Jessica's other two books -- Spoiled and Messy, and I LOVED them both!  Those books were YA, unlike The Royal We, and they were witty and hilarious -- everything I expect when I read The Fug Girls.  Three, this book was a serious downer -- I felt so melancholy when I finished that I had to go re-read one of my favorite comfort books to lift me from the sad funk I was in when I finished.  Needless to say, I had high (although I thought deserved) expectations for this book and those expectations fell flat.

I thought this book was going to be a funny yet romantic spin on the Wills and Kate story -- a lot of similarities but that there would be the humorous differences that I knew Jessica and Heather would bring.  However, this is not a love story!  BIG TIME SPOILER ALERT: In the end, Nick doesn't even want to marry Bex because she's kissed his brother -- twice -- but he goes through with it because it would be too much work to call it off.  Um, no thanks! /end spoiler

I liked the secondary characters of Gaz and Cilla -- they were original and unique but Bex's own twin sister, Lacey, was absolutely incorrigible.  She is awful!  Not only is she completely selfish but large portions of the book revolved around her and her carelessness.  UGH.  

I think, ultimately, this book just didn't work for me because it was more about all the times Bex and Nick were not together, and consequently out doing stupid things, than any sort of relationship that they had.  I loved the beginning of the book and when they first got together but things quickly went downhill after that, culminating in a seriously depressing ending after a slew of stupidity.  I can't say that I recommend this book although the writing is excellent as ever even if the story leaves MUCH to be desired.

The Royal We comes out tomorrow, April 7, 2015, and you can purchase HERE!  
Unlike Buckingham Palace, Sandringham is not just a residence; it's also an immense working estate, encompassing everything from national parkland to a sawmill and an apple juice factory.  But its jewel is the redbrick Sandringham House, paradoxically both sprawling and compressed to the eye, all narrow bay windows and vertical lines-- like someone carved out a longer cluster of row houses from one of London's ritzier boroughs, popped on pointier roofs, and plopped them int he middle of twenty thousand acres.  Approaching it in the eerie predawn dark felt wildly like being the heroine in a Jane Austen novel, headed to Netherfield Park to check on my pneumonia-riddle sister, or dropping by Pemberley for haughty verbal foreplay with Mr. Darcy. 

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday: Carry Me Home (Paradise, Idaho #1) by Rosalind James

 "Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that you are eagerly anticipating.

Today, I am waiting on:  
Carry Me Home (Paradise, Idaho #1) by Rosalind James!


From Goodreads:
Paradise, Idaho, may not be the largest town, but for newly minted professor Zoe Santangelo, it’s the first step on the path to her big break. After teaching in a small Idaho school, her next stop is the Ivy League, and no one is going to stand in her way. She’ll do what it takes to move up, to protect her students from a creepy campus stalker—and to protect her heart from Cal Jackson, the hot, hunky cowboy who keeps coming to her rescue.

After a career-ending injury, Cal has left professional football behind and come home to work the family farm. He’s determined not to get mixed up with any more city girls who don’t want to settle down with a country boy. But after he rescues sassy geologist Zoe from a snowy ditch, he can’t stop thinking about her. Can Cal keep Zoe safe from whoever is targeting her—and can he show her that having ambition doesn’t mean she has to sacrifice love? 
I love love love Rosalind James, and I can't wait to start her new series set in Paradise, Idaho.  The book is romantic suspense, my favorite genre, and I can't wait to read something new from one of my favorite authors! Carry Me Home is scheduled for release on June 16, 2015 and you can pre-order here!!

What books are you waiting on this Wednesday??


Monday, March 30, 2015

Review: Where Sea Meets Sky by Karina Halle



Blurb from Goodreads:
A new adult novel that perfectly captures the existential angst of your early twenties with raw wit, fresh insight, and true feeling from a critically adored USA TODAY bestselling author.

Joshua Miles has spent his early twenties spinning his wheels. Working dead-end jobs and living at home has left him exhausted and uninspired, with little energy to pursue his passion for graphic art. Until he meets Gemma Henare, a vivacious out-of-towner from New Zealand. What begins as a one-night stand soon becomes a turning point for Josh. He can't get Gemma out of his head, even after she has left for home, and finds himself throwing caution to the wind for the first time in his life.

It's not long before Josh is headed to New Zealand with only a backpack, some cash, and Gemma's name to go on. But when he finally tracks her down, he finds his adventure is only just beginning. Equally infatuated, Gemma leads him on a whirlwind tour across the beautiful country, opening Josh up to life, lust, love, and all the messy heartache in between. Because, when love drags you somewhere, it might never let go even when you know you have to say goodbye.
My Review:
So I don't think I even read the description of this book before reading it, which is not an unusual when it comes to an author I've read and loved before.  Such is the case with Karina Halle -- I really liked her Artists Trilogyand last year I read and loved Love, In English.  Little did I know, however, that Where Sea Meets Sky is a spin-off of Love, In English in that it's about Vera's brother, Josh.  I am generally not a fan when an author feels they have to write a book about every secondary character in a popular book.  I know we all know examples of this.  That being said, Where Sea Meets Sky was unique and I liked it a lot if for not better reason than its setting!!

The book follow Josh's journey to New Zealand, which admittedly starts out because of Gemma, but becomes cathartic as most extended trips we take in our twenties can be -- especially to somewhere new, across the world from our home.  Gemma was a bit annoying at times because she was so closed off and made bad decisions in not trusting herself.  The ending also disappointed me but I absolutely loved the journey through New Zealand and the descriptions of the country. I want to visit so much!!!

I would recommend this to NA fans, and to fans of the books set in New Zealand.  I also have to recommend one of my favorite contemporary series in that vein because it is also set in New Zealand -- the Escape to New Zealand series by Rosalind James.  It is really good! Where Sea Meets Sky comes out tomorrow, March 31, 2015, and you can purchase HERE!
The envy I'm feeling at this moment is incomparable.  It sickens me, straight into my bones, and I hold my breath, trying to ignore and listen at the same time.  I've touched her before, felt her skin beneath mine; I've seen her eyes roll back in her head because of something I gave her.  I felt that sexual, feverish frenzy that enslaved us both.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Review: Breath of Scandal by Sandra Brown



Blurb from Goodreads:
On a rainy Southern night, Jade Sperry endured a young woman's worst nightmare at the hands of three local hell-raisers. Robbed of her youthful ideals and at the center of scandal and tragedy, Jade ran as far and as fast as she could. But she never forgot the sleepy "company town" where every man, woman, and child was dependent on one wealthy family. And she never forgot their spoiled son, who, with his two friends, changed her life forever. Someday, somehow, she'd return, exact a just revenge -- and free herself from fear, and the powerful family that could destroy her.
My Review:
 
If you are in the mood for some old school romance with a side of revenge, you will love Breath of Scandal!!  This book originally came out in 1991 and it definitely is true to that time period in terms of attitudes and behavior, especially in the south.  Although things were a bit outdated, I couldn't help but love Jade Sperry -- she is a self-made woman, an amazing mother but she is also not over her past, which is completely understandable given what happened to her.  The book really was more about revenge rather romance but there was a slow build that made the eventual romance worth every page.

Breath of Scandal was just re-released, and you can purchase HERE!  
There were those who had much to atone for, and Jade would see to it that they did.  The restitution she had dreamed of was within her grasp.  She now had the power to make it happen.   
She continued to gaze out the window, but litter of the street scene below barely registered with her.  Rather, she saw the tall grass swaying in coastal marshes.  She smelled pungent salt air and heady magnolias.  She tasted low-country cooking.  The skyscrapers were replaced by tall pines; the broad avenues became sluggishly flowing channels.  She remembered how it felt to breathe air so heavy and thick that it didn't even stir the limp, gray Spanish moss that dripped from the branches of ancient live oaks.   
She was going back to Palmetto.  And when she got there, all hell was going to break loose.