A few days ago, someone asked me what makes me decide if I’ll one-click a book. I say one-click since I buy a lot of books online, but this could just as easily be spontaneously buying a book at a bricks-and-mortar bookstore. I probably spend way too much money on books. I won’t even say how much my monthly book budget is because, as a rule, I generally go over the budgeted amount. Whether it’s an ebook or a trade paperback, it’s always pretty much the same things that convince me this is a must-have book.
What do all of the above books have in common? Great covers. Yes, I am one of those people who judge books by their covers. If the cover looks tacky or amateurish, then I will move on. A beautifully designed cover is the fastest way to grab my attention. If it stops me from moving on to another title, then I’ll turn to a random page and see if the first paragraph I read speaks to me.
Something snappy, something sexy, something romantic–all that matters is that it’s compelling. If the blurb sounds too passive or too preposterous or too vague, then I won’t one-click. I recently saw a new release that had a great cover but a god-awful description. I couldn’t figure out what the story was even about. It was really one of those “huh?!?” moments. I read the description three times and still couldn’t make understand what was the deal with the story.
Now, I don’t always rely on these, but I do tend to check if others have read and reviewed an ARC of a novel I think I’m interested in. I usually find a few on Goodreads or Riffle. If I like what I see, then my finger hits one-click in an instant. Mind you, I don’t always trust advance reviews–too many that gush over a novel might give me pause (unless I already know the writer’s work and know the gushing is warranted). If the reviews are vague, then I may wait a while until a few more reviews pop up.
So any of those three things could make me one-click…and I do love filling up my Kindle or my tote bag with new books.
Speaking of tote bags, I need to give a shout out to Obvious State. Just before I headed to the US, I ordered their “Splendor” tote, which features a gorgeous quote from John Keats. I had it shipped to my mother’s address in Philadelphia and was so happy to find it there waiting for me.
It’s gorgeous and it’s the perfect size for my MacBook Air, my Kindle, my wallet and my phone. There’s even enough room for a few more goodies. It has replaced my NaNoWriMo tote bag as my go-to bag. This tote bag with its lush print of flowers and sublime John Keats snippet–“LONE SPLENDOR HUNG ALOFT THE NIGHT”–has won my heart. I may have to order another one. 🙂
I stumbled upon Deoborah Reed’s Olivay thanks to fellow writer and Matera brainstormer, S.G. Redling. A few days ago, she mentioned it in a Facebook post, and it caught my eye. I loved the premise: a woman, widowed one year, brings home a stranger and spends the night with him–the next day bombs explode in Los Angeles, not far from where she lives–and the stranger she brought home may have saved her life…and he may have been involved.
Olivay is a literary thriller that–even with its very tight timeline–slowly unfurls, not rushing to reveal all its secrets. Even with the backdrop of the novel being set against a terrorist attack during the LA Marathon that is exacerbated by the Santa Ana winds and wildfire, Olivay tells more than just the story of a terrorist attack. It is the story of a woman struggling to emerge from her grief. It is the story of two people finding one another. It is the story of discovering that your marriage is not what you thought it was. It is the story of a murder and of reinventing oneself.
What I love about this novel is that both of the characters–Olivay and Henry–are so
marvelously flawed. Both are unreliable yet vulnerable. Sometimes both are so solicitous of one another and yet capable of cruelty. Olivay recounts at one point that both her husband and her mother accused her of being full of meanness. There are times when her behavior towards Henry seems to confirm this and yet, there are other times when she is so tender towards him–even when she begins to feel suspicious of his skittishness.
This is one of those pageturner novels–seriously, I had a hard time setting aside my Kindle because I didn’t want to stop reading. And it’ll have you guessing as you try to figure out Henry’s–and at times, Olivay’s–intentions. The descriptions–of the bombings and its aftermath are so rich and so powerful… Of course it will remind you at times of that surreal, disconnected and yet hypersensitive state many of us were in following the September 11th attacks and the Boston Marathon. Reed’s use of how the media reports misinformation and retractions is especially important to the plot and helps to increase the novel’s frenetic tension.
Olivay is a fantastic, thought-provoking novel to lose yourself in this summer. Make sure you get a friend to read it at the same time–you will want to discuss it as soon as you finish reading it!
Lana Finch is a twenty-five-year-old social worker. She believes wholeheartedly in saving the world—one broken kid at a time. Lana is headstrong, she’s righteous and she’ll let nothing stand in her way. Except for maybe her entire family that’s financially dependent on her.
Enter Mozey Cruz, the eighteen-year-old juvenile delinquent assigned to her charge. He’s an illusive artist, he’s misunderstood, and he’s a natural born troublemaker.
Their love is illegal, much like Mozey’s undocumented status in the States. So Lana lets him go even though it might be the worst mistake she’ll ever make.
But destiny has a way of catching up with us even when we run from it.
But first, Lana has to find him before she can deliver him…
I squeeze his hand again. I scrutinize every little point of contact between our two bodies. My ear on his shoulder, and my thigh flush with his. The length of my arm matching up with the length of Mozey’s, and my wrist, grazing lightly with his calf as we sit. My skin is pale, like the underbelly of a fish. His is warm, like hot chocolate with milk. I want to drink it, to swallow all of that velvet. I want it to melt on my tongue and warm me all the way up from the inside out.
Then they’re gone, the door is closed, and my arms cross across my chest. Mozey has one hand in the pocket of his jeans the other palm flat against the back of the door. Those two boys were my protection. My buffers. I feel naked without them. Suddenly, Mozey, looms larger. Almost larger than life.
“Are you hungry?” he asks me.
I couldn’t be more satisfied. I can’t believe I found you. That you’re standing here in front of me.
I shake my head at him as he saunters over to me. I remember that he’s confident, that he’s sexual, that he probably knows more than me.
“We can take it slow, Lana. We don’t have to fuck.”
It’s a jolt when he says it, a live thrash of wire. Saying it, it means he’s thinking about it. I know that I am. Maybe he thinks it’s what I want to do. Or he thinks I don’t so he feels he has to clear the air by saying it out loud.
Sex. I’ve been thinking about it since the minute I met you—whenever I’m around you. Thinking dirty thoughts when I was supposed to be protecting you. My face falls, and my shoulders slump. All of the vixen has run out of me.
“Or we can if you want.” It’s his smile that gets me, so warm and inviting. He’s confident with either choice, whether we do or we don’t. He’s enjoying teasing me, and he knows how hard I’ve been looking for him.
“Come here,” he says and pulls my elbows apart, inserting his body in the space that I was trying to protect—my chest, my breasts, the area surrounding my heart.
“I’ve always thought you were beautiful, Lana. But you never wanted to hear it,” he says, his nose tickling my ear. He pulls my arms around him and sets them at his waist. I am a robot. I can’t speak. I have no feelings.
“Maybe you should sleep on the couch,” I say, stepping out of his hold.
If magic were a good thing, then we would all be able to wield it against the one we love.
Hypnotize with eye contact, unravel with a stare. But instead, magic is dangerous, it makes us see what isn’t there. It makes us believe in illusions and in fleeting apparitions that will never be concrete. I need something that can last, not something that will disappear into thin air.
I loved you because I wanted to save you. And I thought if I saved everyone, then it said something about me. I wanted to be worthy. I didn’t want to be bad. I always felt that badness was an inextricable part of me. I became a social worker to try to exorcise the ugly part of me.
Of course I don’t say this out loud. I explain myself to myself in my head. Like an idiot. Like the insecure, crazy girl that I am.
Mozey runs his hands through his hair and looks sadly at me. He nods his head and massages his chin with his thumb and forefinger then looks down at the floor.
“There’s not one single part of me that isn’t complicated—that’s easy to love,” I blurt out, trying to explain away being so difficult. This is the one thing I can’t fuck up and live to regret it.
“I already know that. I want every part of you.”
If there is something I need to hear, well, Mozey just said it. But I’ll still always be a disappointment. I will never be perfect, and for some reason, what I really want to bring to this is perfection.
“I feel like you’re going to keep pushing me away, even if it hurts you. Should I give up? You want me to stop trying?”
I nod my head “yes,” like the fucking liar that I am. I’m nodding and nodding while every inch of my flesh is screaming, “See through me, don’t believe me, please know that I want you, don’t believe anything that she says.”
Mozey yanks his t-shirt up over his head. Two long silver chains clang together as they bounce on his chest. There he is in all of his perfection, his chest tight with emotion, his arm muscles flexed in defensiveness, his brow furrowed in confusion. I’m shaking, with trembles running up and down my spine, splaying out through my limbs into my hands and my feet. What I want is right in front of me but somehow it seems even further out of reach.
Mara White is a contemporary romance and erotica writer who laces forbidden love stories with hard issues, such as race, gender and inequality. She holds an Ivy League degree but has also worked in more strip clubs than even she can remember. She is not a former Mexican telenovela star contrary to what the tabloids might say, but she is a former ballerina and will always remain one in her heart. She lives in NYC with her husband and two children and yes, when she’s not writing you can find her on the playground.
This was going to be a special year for the Parker sisters. Eve was going to dominate in the classroom and on the basketball court.
Gwen was going to make the starting five and go down in history as the greatest prankster ever. Ana was going to do as little as possible.
But without warning, all three sisters gain extraordinary abilities that defy science… powers that come with a cost. Now all they want to do is make it through the school year without drawing any undue attention, while racing to find a cure before the side effects of their new abilities kill them. Eve’s temperament, Gwen’s fondness for pranks, and Ana’s predilection for money, however, are challenges they must overcome to achieve their goals. Because if they can’t, they’re dead…
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IT Professional by day, but by night I use my pen and pad as a canvas to explore questions of race, identity, privilege and class in a science fiction setting. Eclectic reader with a fondness for the classics and first generation Hip Hop snob. Don’t start none won’t be none! Philadelphia Eagles football fanatic and I also enjoy MMA from the safety of my couch. On the weekends you can find me wine drinking, rock climbing, fishing, or being an unpaid chauffeur to my daughters’ activities. Also I’m a snark purveyor and been making with the funny since it was called the ‘Dozens’. Get at me!
Website: Official Blog
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Goodreads: Author Profile
Happy New Year, everyone! Hope you had a great New Year’s Eve and didn’t do anything you regret. 😉 I decided I needed another challenge. Along with the Read Harder challenge, I will be joining the Feed Your Fiction Addiction and It Starts at Midnight team and the 2015 Discussion Challenge.
My aim is to post at least once a week (which I think would put me in the Gift of the Gab category), so let’s start right now.
I started thinking earlier today about why I love reading so much. Ever since I was a wee one, I’ve loved reading. It was (and remains) the perfect escape. Having a bad day? I can find a great spot to read and get lost in a good book or imagine myself in some exotic locale. Feeling like I need a little more romance in my life? Perfect, there’s always some good book for that and for a few hours I can get caught up in the hero and heroine’s love story and eventual HEA (or Happily Ever After).
But what started my love of reading? I could probably trace it back to when I was in kindergarten at Albert M. Greenfield Elementary School in downtown Philadelphia and my teacher, Mrs. Albert, gave me a copy of The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf. Somehow, I taught myself to read with that book. I’d sit for hours with it, not letting any of my classmates have a go at it, and get lost in Ferdinand’s story. Ferdinand and I were pretty similar–we were both day-dreamers and prone to thinking of other things when we should have been focusing on things like work or lessons. We both preferred our own company even though we liked hanging out with others–we’d probably be classified as extroverted introverts.
Once I learned to read, there was no stopping me. I read everything–the newspaper, text on packaging, road signs, you name it. And my curiosity about the world around me increased. I wanted to know more, see more. I read Madeline and suddenly I began pestering my parents about going to Paris. I read Curious George and I wanted a pet monkey. I read Black Beauty and fell in love with horses; every week I wrote letters to my grandparents begging them to help me get a horse that could live in my parents’ garage. (I had to settle for getting to ride a horse every now and then when I visited them during the summer).
Reading was my way of escaping dull days–especially since there weren’t many kids in my parents’ neighbourhood who were my age. Either everyone was my older sister’s age or my younger brother’s age, and my school friends lived in other neighbourhoods. And when I was older and noticed that all was not well in my parents’ relationship, reading let me escape into other people’s lives and I could imagine myself living in a castle in Scotland or on an adventure in the African savannahs.
Nowadays I write my own novels as well as read other writers’ novels. I love it when a writer pulls me into a complicated story or writes a passage that’s so simple yet still so descriptive that I can picture everything the narrator sees and experiences. And it’s this escape into the imagination that is one of the aspects of reading that I appreciate most. Sometimes we all need an escape–from reality, from life, from whatever–and reading gives us that without costing very much or requiring a passport or the hassle of an airport security check. It’s portable, it can be popped into our handbag and off we go. You can enjoy it fully-clothed or naked, with a glass of wine or a mug of tea, in the comfort of your own home or on the subway.
And the best thing is when you meet someone else who’s reading the same book as you and you can bond over the characters and plot. Ahh…now that’s a wonderful moment.
So tell me, what are you reading today? I’m nearly done reading Fix You by Carrie Elks, and I’m loving it so far. 🙂
If you love YA fiction and haven’t discovered Lori L. Otto’s Choisie series, now’s your chance. The series, which started with Contessa, is now complete with the December 9th release of Livvy! Find out why so many readers are head over heels for the Choisie series.
What Readers Are Saying
Where to Purchase the Livvy and the Choisie series
Contessa (Choisie 1)
Olivia (Choisie 2)
Dear Jon (Choisie 3)
Livvy (Choisie 4)
And there’s even a giveaway!
Publisher: Cinco Punto Press
Genre: YA Contemporary
It’s crazy! Fifteen-year-old Masi Burciaga hauls bricks to help build a giant pyramid in her neighborhood park. Her neighborhood is becoming more of a ghost town each day since the lard company moved away. Even her school closed down. Her family’s bakery and the other surviving businesses may soon follow. As a last resort, the neighborhood grown-ups enlist all the remaining able-bodied boys and girls into this scheme in hopes of luring visitors. Maybe their neighbors will come back too. But something’s not right about the entrepreneur behind it all. And then there’s the new boy who came to help. The one with the softest of lips. Pig Park is a contemporary Faustian tale that forces us to look at the desperate lengths people will go to in the name of community–and maybe love.
1. I first set out to write a play about a mom and pop bakery fighting for survival, needless to say it went a different direction.
2. The protagonist’s name was Tomasina until–much like an old fashioned skirt–I shortened it.
3. Pig Park’s working title was MasaAmerica–a play on the Spanish word for dough (masa) and Meso-America.
4. I imagined the delicious marranitos (ginger pigs) from Bowie Bakery in my hometown of El Paso every time I sat and wrote about the marranitos at Burciaga’s.
5. The marranito on the book’s cover is not from Bowie Bakery, rather from Gussie’s across town.
6. Skinny pigs, sugar-free ginger pigs, are a made up delicacy.
7. There was no pyramid in the initial draft of the novel.
8. The pyramid was inspired by a man who walked into the community organization I worked at looking for sponsors to build exactly that.
9. The real life pyramid was going to be a wood frame topped by thousands of candles.
10. Although I might not want to admit this, I’m most like the mom character in the novel. Yep, I’m a totally a mom.
Claudia is the author of The Smell of Old Lady Perfume (Cinco Puntos, 2008) and Pig Park (Cinco Puntos, 2014). She grew up in sunny El Paso, Texas where she learned that letters form words from reading the subtitles of old westerns with her father. She now lives and writes in Chicago.
It’s November–which means NaNoWriMo month for me. I’ll be writing like crazy (and posting chapters on my author site), but I’ll also be getting cozy and reading. So what will I be reading? I am so glad you asked! Since we’re creeping closer and closer to the Christmas season (yes, I am well aware that it was *just* Halloween a few days–but it will soon be Thanksgiving and First Advent and you know how the days fly by), I’ve made a list of what I’ll be reading to get in the holly-jolly spirit *and* what I’ll be reading for the sheer pleasure of it. So here goes…
Secret Santa – Scarlett Bailey
A Christmas to Remember – Jenny Hale
The French for Christmas – Fiona Valpy
Snow Angels, Secrets & Christmas Cake – Sue Watson
The Reluctant Elf – Michele Gorman
Sweet Christmas Kisses: Fourteen Sweet Christmas Romances – Beate Boeker, Donna Fasano and a host of other writers
On My Kindle Now
Didn’t Mean to Love You – Christina C. Jones
Fear of Heights – Mara White
The Secret Place – Tana French
On My Preorder List
Chasing Moments – Tia Kelly
It’s Not Me, It’s You – Mhairi McFarlane
Winter’s Tale – Mark Helprin
That’s it for today–there will probably be more books added to my Winter Reading List, so check back often!
Happy reading! 🙂
What would you do if the man you loved convinced you to move to another country with him, then left you there while he was working and playing away, only to have him return and announce he doesn’t want to be married to you anymore? That’s the dilemma facing Ava Martin, a small-town girl from a college town in Upstate New York, at the beginning of Marissa Tejada‘s Chasing Athens.
When we meet Ava, she is lost, trying to figure out what went wrong in her marriage as she navigates the beauty and chaos that is modern-day Athens. The Athens Ava encounters is not the picture-perfect version on the glossy pages of a travel magazine–it is a city roiling in chaos thanks to the dire Greek economic crisis, a city of violent protests and random strikes–yet even with all of the unrest, Ava and her friends Nikos and Eleni go out in the evenings for bouzoukia, dancing and drinking into the wee hours and enjoying their lives. All three are trying to find someone–Nikos is always on the lookout for pretty exotic (for him) girls whom he tries to charm with the foreign phrases he’s learned, Eleni puts on a hard-to-get facade as she weeds out the men who don’t meet her standards and Ava tries to find away to forget Greg, the husband who has left her.
As Ava explores Athens and the Greek islands, she also begins a journey of self-discovery. Her entire life has been a series of other people setting sail for her–she has never been the captain of her own destiny. Now, with Greg out of her life and her overprotective mother across the ocean in Ithaca, New York, Ava has the chance to make her own choices and mistakes and learn from them. As she traverses the dating world with many love in translation moments,
Chasing Athens is a fantastic story of heartbreak, self-discovery and finding love again. I really loved how Marissa depicted Athens so that it came alive for the reader. I haven’t been to Athens since the late 1990s but reading Chasing Athens rekindled within me all those memories of the city, of Piraeus and the islands. What I also loved about this novel is how real Ava’s struggle felt. She is not a two-dimensional character and her honesty and naiveté after so many years of having others dictate her life ring true. She struggles, she is frustrated, she does dumb things without becoming a character we pity. Instead, we empathize because we’ve all–at some point or another–slept with the wrong man, been embarrassed on public transportation or dealt with a catty rival who tramples on our self-confidence.
Ava’s friends are another plus for Chasing Athens. Nikos and Eleni’s spontaneity and optimism (even in the face of the looming political and economic crisis in Greece) keep Ava buoyant, especially in the early days of her separation from Greg. And their unwavering support makes me wish I had them in my life too! 🙂 And then there is the Greek George Clooney…well, I won’t give anything away, since I think you should read the book.
I also love that Marissa delves into the cultural differences Ava encounters and shows us how her horizons are expanding for every day she remains in Athens. This is an American Abroad novel that really shows us what everyday life is like for an expat as they try to learn a new language, a new culture and its unwritten rules. And as a fellow expat, I can relate to Ava’s predicaments and the worries she has while trying to live in Athens.
So if you’re looking for something to read this autumn that will instantly transport you to Athens–no passport required–and you love chick lit and romantic fiction as much as I do, then you should add Chasing Athens to your To Be Read List on Goodreads. Better yet–buy it and read it now to keep that summer feeling strong within you. You may find yourself wondering why you haven’t taken the chance and moved to Greece to have your own adventure!
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