Summer Reads – 2014 Edition

It’s summer–though you wouldn’t know it here in Stockholm with its cloudy skies and days so chilly I am still wearing a sweater. When can I expose my toes to the elements? Is it even worth investing in a pedicure when it’s not proper sandal-wearing weather? Ah well… at least I have my summer reading to look forward to, and I’ve already started with a few books I’ve had on my To Be Read List for a while.

Me-Without-You-Kelly-RimmerMe Without You  – Kelly Rimmer

I received an ARC of Me Without You from Bookouture, who’ve quickly become one of my favorite publishers. So far, every book I’ve read from their authors has packed an emotional punch or had that smart vein of humor I appreciate. Kelly Rimmer’s Me Without You is in the “packs an emotional punch” category.

Lilah & Callum are a case of opposites attracting. Lilah is an environmental lawyer whose quirkiness and love of going barefoot initially do not attract Callum, a workaholic who has put his career before his social life. But it doesn’t take long for sparks to fly and for Callum to realize that he is hopelessly in love with Lilah. Their story starts with the perfect “meet cute” and progresses into the story of the progression of their relationship, not an easy feat for two people who say they do not want or have time for commitment. But neither is prepared for just how much they will change one another. Well, I won’t give away any details. All I can say is you must read this book. And it’s true–if you loved One Day by David Nicholls, I’m pretty sure you’ll also love Me Without You.

Heres Looking At You Cover

Here’s Looking at You – Mhairi McFarlane

I absolutely loved Mhairi McFarlane’s You Had Me at Hello, so I was jump-up-and-down excited when I heard she had a new novel out. Here’s Looking at You tells the story of two former classmates, outcast Anna Alessi and the über cool James Fraser. Back in high school, Anna had a crush on James and, when he finally paid attention to her, she had no way of knowing it would lead to her being humiliated in such a way that it continues to eat away at her self-esteem. Fast forward to their high school reunion. Anna has a job she loves but her social life is a bit of a dud and she’s ready to give up on dating. And just when she thinks she can’t possibly go on another dismal online date, James Fraser walks back into her life and he appears to be a changed man. Should she trust him? You’ll have to read the book to find out. 😉

Loved that this story was told from both Anna and James’s POV. It’s a quick read that’s funny, intelligent and romantic. I give it two thumbs up!

Love-Lies-and-Lemon-Cake-Sue-Watson

Love. Lies & Lemon Cake – Sue Watson

Another ARC I received from Bookouture and this one falls under the fun category. Love, Lies & Lemon Cake is a story about second chances at life and love. Faye always wanted a life of adventure but she had to set her dreams aside when she unexpectedly became pregnant while in college. She long to recapture the woman she used to be–and being in a job that leaves her unfulfilled and being unhappily married to a man who she can’t remember ever really loving isn’t helping matters. And then she meets Dan, a gorgeous Australian surfer who works at her local deli and just happens to be a great baker.

Faye decides to take a chance and live the sort of life she always wanted, even if it means leaving her husband so that she can recapture her sparkle and embark on a relationship with someone new. Love, Lies & Lemon Cake is a heartwarming story about the curveballs life can throw you and what happens when you stop doing what is expected of you and start doing what makes you happy.

Jojo Moyes One Plus One Cover

The One Plus One – Jojo Moyes

I’ve been a big fan of Jojo Moyes’s books ever since I read Me Before You (if you haven’t read it yet, do so NOW). I absolutely loved that book and I am sure Hollywood will sink its claws into it and absolutely ruin it, but it will never destroy my love of Me Before You. Now Jojo Moyes is back with The One Plus One, which I read while I was on vacation in Palma de Mallorca, Spain. This is another classic “opposites attract” tale with a twist.

You have Jess, a scrappy single mom who is struggling to make ends meet and help her children, quirky math whiz Tanzie and Goth stepson Nicky, survive the council estate where they live. Jess cleans houses when she isn’t waitressing at the local pub. One night she ends up helping Ed Nicholls–a man whose life looks perfect on the surface but a stupid mistake has put him on the brink of losing everything–and this chance encounter links them in a way neither expected. Heartbreaking, emotionally driven and full of wonderful character development, it’s a story that doesn’t let go. It’s not a beach read; this is a novel that you want to be able to read when no one will disturb you. Send your kids out to play, give your hubby endless errands to run and sink into this book.

Addicted Zane

Addicted – Zane

I don’t I’d ever read anything by Zane prior to beginning Addicted other than the blog she used to maintain. I’d always said I’d read one of her books but never really got around to it. Then I saw a trailer for the movie based on Addicted and it looked intriguing. A woman struggling with her addiction to sex and the threat giving in to her desires has on her marriage…and her life. Love it so far and I am only about a third of the way through the book.

My only beef at the moment has nothing to do with Zane’s writing and *everything* to do with the publisher trying to rebrand this book like it’s a Fifty Shades of Grey wannabe. C’mon, Atria, the red tie in focus? A total copy of the grey tie from Fifty Shades (one of the worst books I’ve ever read, by the way) and Addicted doesn’t need to be rebranded like an EL James rip-off when this book was published way before EL James even started writing erotica.

On My TBR List

The AffairThe Affair – Tia Kelly

From the blurb:

For every secret, there’s a lie.

In her novella The Affair, Tia Kelly takes the reader where married men aren’t supposed to go… into another woman’s bed.

 

Finding Forever

Finding Forever – Christina C. Jones

From the blurb:

After her latest ill-fated attempt to find a forever relationship of her own, Tori Kennedy is content with connecting the dots for others, bringing them together in pursuit of lifetime love. Fresh off of the demise of her marriage, she decides to take advantage of an opportunity to do something a little — okay, a lot — crazy, and heavily fueled by an overload of emotions.

Thinking that her impulsive decision and its disastrous results are behind her, Tori moves forward with her pursuit of a happily single existence, until her best friend contacts her with a request that places a constant reminder in her life : Avery.

Avery Anderson is the epitome of “the kind of guy your momma warned you about.” Handsome, successful, charming… and not at all interested in being roped into anything that resembles love. Tori ending up in his bed doesn’t surprise him at all — it’s just what he does— but his feelings afterwards? That’s another story. An ultimatum placed on him by his little sister puts him back in arm’s reach of the pretty matchmaker that he can’t get off of his mind, but she’s not taking the bait this time.

Tori just wants to be rid of him so that she can move on with her life, and it’s not Avery’s style to chase someone who doesn’t want to be caught. When both parties are content to let the spark flicker out, can love — or something like that— still lead the way to forever?

Redemption Key

Redemption Key – S.G. Redling

From the blurb:

Her narrow escape from blue-eyed assassin Tom Booker has made former data analyst Dani Britton question all of her choices—like trusting “good guys” who carry badges. On the run and haunted by the government-sanctioned massacre of her coworkers, Dani finally settles in remote Redemption Key, Florida, at a bar where strong drinks and shady deals are the norm.

The bar owner, a local operator with a past of his own, gives Dani a job, no questions asked, and soon Dani’s ability to “read” the sketchy characters doing business at the bar proves invaluable. The libations flow, and the Key’s laid-back vibe and warm waters start doing their therapeutic work. But as the mercury rises, a twisted deal starts to go down—threatening to take Dani with it. Like sharks smelling blood, players on both sides of the law circle for the kill. And when charming apex predator Booker joins the frenzy, he may turn out to be the only one on Dani’s side.

 

Happy reading! 🙂

Book Review: Love Me for Me by Jenny Hale

Screen Shot 2014-06-12 at 11.48.55Jenny Hale has done it again–written a great story about second chances at love with characters you really care about.

At first glance, you think Libby in Love Me for Me is going to be one of those difficult to like city slickers who pop up in novels, TV shows and movies–you know the ones I mean–like Eva Gabor’s character in Green Acres who is too glamorous for this little town–but we soon learn that first impressions aren’t always correct. We learn that Libby grew up in White Stone (a town that reminds me a lot of the little town where I spent many childhood summers in Virginia) and that she is returning to her hometown rather reluctantly after losing her NYC job and fiancé.

While Libby tries to get her life in order, she reencounters Pete, the hometown boy who broke her heart, and rediscovers what she loves about the town and the people there. She gets the chance to be herself–not the girl she has had to become in New York–and to right a few wrongs along the way.

A lighthearted story that you’ll zip through and wish were just a wee bit longer so you could stay in White Stone for an even longer visit. Two thumbs up, Jenny!

Review: French for Always by Fiona Valpy

The-French-For-Always-front-cover-800pxThe perfect rom-com recipe for the summer needs a few key ingredients: a beautiful location, a heroine we cheer for, a problem that seems insurmountable and, of course, the guy who turns out to be exactly the person our heroine was looking for. We want romance, we want an escape, we want to dream ourselves away and get lost as we read, and Fiona Valpy, author of The French for Love (which I reviewed last year), delivers on all points with The French for Always.

So what’s the set up? Meet Sara and Gavin–they’ve left England behind to live in the French countryside, running a boutique wedding venue. After months of renovating their dream chateau and finally getting their business going, Gavin decides this isn’t the life he wants, cheats on Sara and then buggers off. Reeling from the discovery of Gavin’s infidelity, Sara has to do everything she can to keep her business going and hold on to her dream of the home she’s never really ever had. And then…love steps in.

Intrigued? You should be! The French for Always is such a charming book and the perfect page-turner for lazy days. Sara is a great romantic heroine–she is resourceful even when faced with the possibility of losing everything she’s dreamed of, she is strong and big-hearted. By the end of the book, you feel like you’ve gained a new friend. The secondary characters will also put a smile on your face. And the descriptions of the Bordeaux countryside make me long to go to France (and I am a confirmed Italophile!) and wander among the vineyards…

I really enjoyed The French for Always! I’m already looking forward to Fiona Valpy’s next book. 🙂

Rating: 5_Star

Happy reading!

Note: I received a copy of the book from the publisher for an honest review.

 

Two books you really ought to read this summer

Cover of Monsoon Memories by Renita D'SilvaIn between all the work I’ve been doing (both for my job and for my fiction writing), I’ve managed to read a few books. Two books that really stood out were Monsoon Memories by Renita D’Silva and The French for Love by Fiona Valpy. These two amazing women are debut authors published by Bookouture, which is well on its way to becoming my favorite publishing company. So far, I’ve read four books published by this new kid on the block, and all four have been fantastic.

Both Monsoon Memories and The French for Love are beautifully written novels that have a way of conveying setting and description that is magical. And both novels feature such  stellar characterization that you’ll feel as though you know the characters inside and out.

 

Monsoon Memories tells the story of Shirin, an Indian woman who is estranged from her family and living an on-the-surface enviable life in London with her husband. Memories of her life in India, and why she was forced to leave, haunt her and a longing for her family and everything she left behind grows inside her. And while Shirin’s memories keep pulling her back into her past, in India her niece finds a photograph of the aunt she never knew and starts them on a path to dealing with painful secrets and ultimately coming to love and reconciliation. Full of gorgeously crafted settings and descriptions, you’ll be pulled into this lush novel. Renita paints the most beautiful images with a few, perfectly chosen words. Monsoon Memories is a book to fall in love with.

 

The cover of The French for Love by Fiona Valpy

The French for Love also deals with family secrets, leaving the past behind and taking a path of discovery. Gina, our protagonist, has every reason to leave England behind–she’s lost her dream job and  her boyfriend and then her favorite aunt dies, and then she finds out her aunt has left her what seems to be the solution to all her problems–a house in France. So Gina does what any self-respecting woman who’s longing for a change would do–she moves to France to start a new life. But…she hadn’t factored in the culture shock, the roof in need of repair, language gaffes or the family secrets that were supposed to remain buried. As Gina learns to navigate life in Bordeaux (sounds heavenly, doesn’t it?), she finds herself falling in love with Cédric, her dishy stonemason. Well…I won’t tell you the rest. You should just take my word and dive into this book. It’s a perfect summer read that will transport you away from the doldrums commuting or the usual rat race and have you longing to move to France and find a ramshackle house of your own.

So have I got you interested? Good! You should be. Both novels are amazing, and they are definitely on my list of must-reads for 2013. They are both five-star books for me.

 

 

5_Star

 

Review: Put The Husband Diet On Your Summer Reads List

Screen Shot 2013-04-09 at 9.32.14 PMEver since Nancy first brainstormed the plot of The Husband Diet with all of us in Matera, I’ve been longing to read it. The story of Erica, a plus-sized woman who put aside her own dreams to help her egocentric husband get his business off the ground.  Fast forward twelve years and Erica is still putting her wants aside for the sake of Ira, who still hasn’t managed to get his business going. But now Erica has two kids to think about. And then there’s Erica’s shallow mother, Marcy, who seems to thrive on making her daughter feel awful and who never provides her with the emotional support Erica desperately needs. Thank God Erica has her gay best friend Paul in her corner to remind her that she is beautiful no matter what size she is and that she is a great mom with kids who adore her. Paul gives Erica the unconditional love and support she’s been missing but she wishes she had someone who could take care of her physical needs as well, and that certainly isn’t her husband who announces that she is too heavy to turn him on. 

Enter Julian Foxham, brave spider killer and dead sexy headmaster of the school Erica’s children attend. His good looks and quiet calm set Erica’s heart racing and remind her there is hope for her love life–there are other men in the world and, unlike her husband, they find her incredibly attractive.  At first Julian is nothing more to Erica than a perfect fantasy hero but then it becomes obvious he’s interested in more than just a parent-teacher relationship with Erica…well, I won’t spoil it for you.

Take my advice and order yourself a copy of The Husband Diet. If you want a book that will have you laughing and rooting for the heroine from page one until the very end and wishing you had your own spider-killing hottie, then this is the book for you. I loved how Erica shakes off the shackles of her self-doubt (and her deadbeat hubby) and rediscovers her plan to get what she wants in life. It’s lighthearted without being fluffy and Erica’s moments of introspection will have you nodding in empathy–let’s face it, we’ve all had those moments when we don’t believe in ourselves and we need someone else to shake some sense into us. 🙂

Intrigued? Here are the links where you can preorder The Husband Diet for Kobo and NOOK. Kindle readers, the book will be available on 31 May and it’s worth the wait. 🙂

My rating? I give The Husband Diet five stars!

5_Star

 

 

 

It was such a fun read and I love a book that makes me laugh and empathize with the main characters! 🙂

Happy reading (and writing)!

 

 

Can’t wait to read Nancy Barone’s The Husband Diet…coming soon!

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I love the cover for Nancy’s book!

I love it when one of my friends gets their big break! In a few weeks a book written by fellow Matera Brainstormer Nancy Barone will be published by Bookouture. And what’s really cool is that it’s a book she brainstormed with our group.

I think it was during our first brainstorming session that Nancy first told us about the story that would become The Husband Diet. I loved the premise and couldn’t wait to read it. Well in May I’ll be able to do just that! Intrigued? Well check out the back cover summary…

The Husband Diet

 Erica Cantelli’s life feels more suffocating than a size 4 dress.

 On the surface she’s maintaining the image of successful career woman, perfect wife and a doting mother with two wonderful children.

In reality she’s running out of hours in the day; 6 dress sizes bigger than she wants to be; and the only man who shows her any affection is her gay best friend.

In fact fantasizing about how to kill her increasingly disinterested husband is just about all that keeps Erica sane.  That and a whole different type of fantasizing about the incredibly handsome new school principal, Julian Foxham.

 When her husband jokes about trading her in for two size tens, Erica knows something has to change.  But is another diet really the answer?  Or is getting rid of him the fastest path to happiness?  Now if she could only stop thinking about the gorgeous Mr Foxham…

 For any woman who’s ever felt under-appreciated, or thought about giving up on their dreams.  Erica is a laugh-out-loud breath of fresh air.

I hope you’ll show Nancy some love by clicking ‘Like’ on her Facebook author page and then head over to her website to find out more about her writing and The Husband Diet. And don’t forget to buy The Husband Diet in May!

 Congratulations, Nancy! Can’t wait to help you brainstorm the next book! 😀

Getting to know Lindsay J. Pryor

Screen Shot 2012-12-13 at 5.33.32 PMIt’s been a while since we had an author interview so I thought it was high time for it to have a comeback! To start us off on the right foot, I bring you British Paranormal Romance author Lindsay J. Pryor–you may not know her name yet but you soon will. Her debut novel, Blood Shadows, was published by Bookouture in November and it’s just the sort of dark, intense vampire novel I’ve been looking for. 

Your first book, Blood Shadows, was launched a few weeks ago. How does it feel to know that it’s out there? Have you received any fan mail yet?

It’s an immense feeling. I’ve been writing paranormal romance for twenty-one years and sixteen of those were spent working on the Blackthorn series in the background, so it was an emotional moment the first time I held Blood Shadows in my hands. I’m loving finally being able to get the story out there.

I have been lucky enough to get fan mail, yes. I was very fortunate to already have fans when the book launched – those who knew of me from HQN Mills and Boon’s New Voices competition. I’ve been fortunate that they stuck with me for a year (in some cases two) and cheered me on all the way. I’ve received some amazing fan mail this past month – some funny and some really touching. I’m astounded by people’s honesty and fascinated by what they take away from a story. I had one email that thanked me for writing the books. I was really overcome by that one.

 

Screen Shot 2012-12-13 at 5.31.41 PMHow many books are planned for the Blackthorn series?  Have you already finished writing the next books in the series?

There is no specific number as yet but there are definitely more than the three I’m currently signed for. I have notebooks full of characters and plotlines and I am in the process of making sense of all those developments and pulling the series together. Blood Roses, book two in the series, was already written when Bookouture got in touch so I’m in the final stages of editing that – that’ll be released in Spring 2013. The outline for book three is underway, the characters already established. I’ll be planning book four while I write book three to ensure the series continues to meld together and all the necessary threads of what’s to come are included. Bookouture and I have also discussed the possibility of some short stories so they might make an appearance at some point.

 

If you could decide, which actors would you choose to play Kane and Caitlin?

I always find this question tough because I don’t have anyone in mind when I write characters. If you check out my Pinterest boards, there are examples of who I think could pull it off.

Based on characteristics I’ve seen in various roles, I’d say Elisha Cuthbert (House of Wax), Eliza Dushku or Kirsten Dunst for Caitlin. Kane is particularly tricky. Because of the eyes, I think Wentworth Miller could work. I also think Jensen Ackles could play him when he’s in really bad-guy mode. I think the best match would be Henry Cavill. I’ve never seen him in action and only discovered him on Pinterest, so I’ll have to see if I think the same when I see him move and speak!

 

What’s a typical writing day like for you? Do you have a special place that you feel is most conducive to writing?

If I’m writing a first draft, doing tricky revisions or plotting, I work through scenes the night before in bed, playing them like a film reel in my head over and over again until everything feels right or I fall asleep. I wake about half-seven and make notes while everything is fresh in my head. I then get a feel for when I’m ready to start writing. I write for long stints – anything up to four hours at a time. My books are fast-paced, so I tend to write the same way. I don’t stop until it feels right to stop, so normal routine, including meal times, is out the window when I’m in full writing mode. I go to bed still working through scenes or plotting the next lot. Now I’ve said that, it sounds intense but that’s how I’ve always worked.

Revisions can be slightly more relaxed as I find it easier to take breaks. I set myself a number of chapters or a type of scene depending on my mood. Some days it’s easier to revise plot developing scenes, other days to get into the emotional heads of my characters, other days to revise sexy scenes.

As for a special place that’s conducive, I write at home – more about that in a moment! I rarely write outside my four walls. The glazing over can be a health hazard and the speaking lines of dialogue out loud can startle unsuspecting company.

 

Do you belong to a writers’ group?

I’ve never belonged to a writer’s group. The first time I’d ever talked to another writer was during New Voices 2010, which was an interactive competition. I’ve never interacted so much with other writers as I have this past year, when I finally took the leap into social media after New Voices 2011 closed. I didn’t know what an amazing network of support there is out there.

 

When you write, do you outline or do you write by the seat of your pants and see where the story takes you?

I never used to outline and I learned my lesson – nearly eight years on one book (not from the Blackthorn series). I now always outline character development, key points of conflict, and space out pivotal moments in relation to both. I like to know the direction a book is heading but I’m not too prescriptive because I find that hampers a character’s natural development. There’s always an element of spontaneity in what I write and I thrive on the unexpected that comes with that. I want to be part of the adventure too.

 

Which books are on your must-read list and what’s so special about them?

This is going to sound like an obscure choice, but I think Snoopy’s Guide to the Writing Life is inspired. It encompasses so much in such a simplistic yet honest portrayal of the writing process. I was bought it years ago and have read it time and time again.

I can’t recommend any ‘how-to’ books because I rarely read them. If I get too analytical about how I write, I get more self-critical and then my confidence takes a nose-dive.

In terms of fiction, that’s such a personal choice. I have a real passion for the classics. Wuthering Heights, The Picture of Dorian Gray and, of course, Dracula are masterpieces. I also adore Shakespeare – no one writes dialogue like he did. But then I think there is a lot to be learned from the page-turning quality of James Patterson when it comes to pace. Roald Dahl was the master of twists in the tale and books like Switch Bitch and The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar are fantastic examples of how to do it right. I adore Tolkien for his world-building and Stephen King for characterization.

 

Screen Shot 2012-12-13 at 5.40.49 PMOne of my favorite vampire novels is The Hunger by Whitley Strieber. I’m also a huge fan of Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire and the Vampire Lestat. Aside from Bram Stoker’s Dracula, which vampire fiction has inspired you? Are there any vampire novels you would say are absolute must-reads for fans?

Ah, you have many of my favourites there! I can’t say any vampire fiction inspired me because I started writing vampire romance at the age of seventeen before I’d read any (couldn’t find any back then). Subsequently, I portrayed vampires in a way that felt natural to me rather than being influenced by others. My style was already embedded before I discovered some fantastic work. Bram Stoker and Anne Rice are the must-read geniuses of vampire literature, from there I’d say it’s down to personal taste. I think one of the most appealing features of vampire romance is there is huge scope out there – it’s just about finding what appeals to you.

 

Every writer needs a place where they feel comfortable writing. Could you describe where you  like to write?

I love to write snuggled up in bed either with my notebook or my laptop, depending on what stage of writing I’m at. Most of the time, though, I’m at my desk – which is an equally great place to work. I have a study in the corner of the house that overlooks a wood. I find it a very therapeutic place to write and it also means I get to stare out of the window whilst working through scenes. It’s a visually busy room – my desk is an array of notebooks, discarded paper, pens, pencils and half-used candles; I have various images I find inspiring or just like looking at dotted around the room and a whiteboard above my desk full of scribbles of writing-related dates to remember. It’s a mess, but it’s my mess. It basically looks the same as my bedroom did when I was a teenager.

 

What was the worst piece of writing advice you ever received? What was the best?

The best advice I ever read, rather than being given, was to write what you want to read. That’s how I started out and it only went wrong for me when I tried writing for other people.

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve personally been given was from my editor. I’d had a crisis of confidence that my books wouldn’t appeal to a romance audience because they’re too dark. She basically told me to embrace my voice, whereas another editor had previously told me to tone it down. I guess the latter was the worst advice because I tried to change my voice to suit a line. It’s not a criticism of them – they were giving excellent advice for what they wanted but bad advice for the stories as I wanted them. That’s why it’s so important to find the right publisher for you. I’m very fortunate that I did.

Many thanks to Lindsay for the interview! For more information about Lindsay and the Blackthorn series, head over to her website. And don’t forget to check out an excerpt of the first book in the series, Blood Shadowsand its official trailer.