5 books to read if that 4th of July cookout is boring…

Screen Shot 2016-07-02 at 23.16.45It’s a long weekend for all my Canadian and American friends–Happy Birthday, Canada and USA!–and that means cookouts…and as nice as they are, you know you’re going to need to escape and recharge your social batteries. (Let’s face it, all of bookworms go through this. We need time, space…and then we can deal with people again.) Instead of hiding in the den or the basement and watching TV (you know they’ll find you there!), load up your tablet or e-reader with some summer reads and find a good hiding place–don’t forget to grab a huge glass of wine or something.

Screen Shot 2016-07-02 at 21.47.43  I met Estelle Ryan in Matera last year and have had her Genevieve Lenard series on my TBR list for a while. If you like thrillers and art heists, then The Gauguin Connection could be your cup of tea. It’s the first book in a 9-part series  and it’s free, so you can try it out risk-free. So what’s it about? Here’s the synopsis:

Murdered artists. Masterful forgeries. Art crime at its worst.

As an insurance investigator and world renowned expert in nonverbal communication, Dr Genevieve Lenard faces the daily challenge of living a successful, independent life. Particularly because she has to deal with her high functioning Autism. Nothing – not her studies, her high IQ or her astounding analytical skills – prepared her for the changes about to take place in her life.

It started as a favour to help her boss’ acerbic friend look into the murder of a young artist, but soon it proves to be far more complex. Forced out of her predictable routines, safe environment and limited social interaction, Genevieve is thrown into exploring the meaning of friendship, expanding her social definitions, and for the first time in her life be part of a team in a race to stop more artists from being murdered.

Screen Shot 2016-07-02 at 21.44.15More in the mood in the mood for a love story? How about four friends-to-lovers stories? Then make sure you check out Because My Heart Said So: a friends-to-lovers collection by Nia Forrester, Jacinta Howard, Lily Java and Rae Lamar? I’m nearly done reading it and I can vouch for it being an excellent summer read! I’ll be posting a review soon. Here’s a little something to get you interested: 

Four Stories. Four Authors. For Love.

“Acceptable Losses” by Nia Forrester: Quentin is in the middle of a separation from his wife that seems to have no conclusive end in sight, while Lena is stuck in Single Girl Hell. The only respite either of them have is their regular coffee dates, while working on shared projects at a very demanding job. Sick of hearing about Lena’s semidisastrous attempts to couple-up, Quentin decides to fix her up. With his brother. Seems like a perfect solution; after all, his brother is a decent enough guy and Lena deserves that. Perfect … until it appears that the fix-up might actually work.

“Blind Expectations” by Jacinta Howard: Aristotle once said the only thing constant in life is change. Or was that Confucius? Whatever. People are fluid—they come into your life for a while, and when it’s time for them to float on, Leah has no qualms waving goodbye. The only exception is her neighbor and best friend, Trevor. When all else fails in her crazy world, Trevor is always there, reliable, steady… real. But then one night a heated argument leads to a revelation that shakes Leah to the core. Suddenly, Leah is forced to make a choice. But will her heart survive her decision?

“Blackbirds” by Lily Java: Once upon a time Sydney Tarr and Elliott Vance were friends: fast friends, ride or die, pledge of allegiance, take it to the mat, “friends”. And the fact that Sydney loved her friend more than she should didn’t matter until finally… one unusual and spectacular night, it did. It mattered very much. Still, not every story is a fairy tale is it? Friends do part — sometimes forever — but, not always.

“Blur” by Rae Lamar: Jade Warner is back home. The bad part? Starting over. The best part? Reconnecting with Kyle Malone. Picking up where they left off years ago, it feels just like old times…except for the mutual attraction and questionable feelings, which are all brand new. For Jade and Kyle, it’s unthinkable to hook up given the history of their fail-safe friendship, but anything can happen when you live under the same roof…

Screen Shot 2016-07-02 at 22.13.07Now, after reading sexy love stories, another thriller will do you good. And Death at the Duomo by Ann Reavis is set in my favourite place–Italy. Ann used to live in Florence, Italy, where the novel is set, and she knows the city like the back of her hand, which means you’ll feel like you’re walking the streets of Florence as you read. So what’s it about?

An explosion rips through the Easter festival in front of the Duomo in Florence, Italy, but no one claims responsibility. The vicitms are not only Florentine, but also visitors from throughout the world. The security forces of Europe and the United States join together to hunt down the killers.

Caterina Falcone, a Florentine investigator, and Max Turner, an agent from the U.S. Embassy, team up to find out why an American student was at the cathedral when the bomb exploded. Max hunts a bomber who sows death around the globe. Inspector Falcone believes the identity of the perpetrator can be found close to home. Together they race across Tuscany to stop a killer before more people die.

Screen Shot 2016-07-02 at 22.34.26After reading Death in the Duomo, you’ll probably be in the mood again for a love story. So travel north to Stockholm and give the Stockholm Diaries: Caroline by Rebecca Hunter a try. I’ve read all three books in the series and loved them. I think you will too. Check out the review I wrote for it. 

A pro hockey player with a rough reputation.
An American looking for a taste of adventure.
A chance to turn an intense attraction into something more.

Photographer Caroline Mendoza finally sheds her safe life in Michigan for adventure and a fresh start, and her first stop is Sweden. But Stockholm suddenly becomes more than just a casual stopover when Caroline discovers her reclusive next-door neighbor is ex-Red Wings player Niklas Almquist, whose high-profile alpha bad-boy image, both on and off the ice, has followed him back to Sweden.

While Niklas’s darker side draws her to him, she knows the sensible decision is to move on from Stockholm before she gets too attached. Her time in Stockholm is running out. She must choose between what is safe and what her heart tells her is right. Is she strong enough to take the risk?

Screen Shot 2016-07-02 at 23.03.49After all this love, maybe you’re in the mood for something post-apocalyptic? Alyssa Cole’s Radio Silence— the first book in the Off the Grid series–could be just what you need. 

No one expects the apocalypse.

Arden Highmore was living your average postgrad life in Rochester, New York, when someone flipped the “off” switch on the world. No cell phones, no power, no running water—and no one knows why. All she and her roommate, John, know for sure is that they have to get out, stat. His family’s cabin near the Canadian border seemed like the safest choice.

It turns out isolation doesn’t necessarily equal safety.
When scavengers attack, it’s John’s ridiculously handsome brother, Gabriel, who comes to the rescue. He saves Arden’s life, so he can’t be all bad…but he’s also a controlling jerk who treats her like an idiot. Now their parents are missing and it seems John, Gabriel, their kid sister, Maggie, and Arden are the only people left alive who aren’t bloodthirsty maniacs.

No one knows when—or if—the lights will come back on and, in the midst of all that, Arden and Gabriel are finding that there’s a fine line indeed between love and hate. How long can they expect to last in this terrifying new world, be it together or apart?

These are just a few of my suggestions for summer reads. Check back next week–I’ll tell you which 5 new releases I’ll be reading reading now that July is heating up Stockholm!

Don’t forget to tell me which books are on your must-read list for July! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas reads – 2013 edition

You know I am a sucker for novels set during Christmas. I love diving into a fun holiday read about people falling in and out of love, especially when there’s lots of snow, Christmas trees and good cheer involved. So, since the department stores here in Stockholm have already started decorating for Christmas, that means I can tell you what books are on my Christmas Reading List. Are you ready?

Just for Christmas coverJust for Christmas by Scarlett Bailey – Scarlett Bailey’s holiday stories are always high on my Christmas reading list. I love how she paints such great pictures of characters in need of a little Christmas joy and what helps them get their holiday mojo back. I am halfway through Just for Christmas and it’s a fun story about Alex, who runs away from Edinburgh to Cornwall to nurse a broken heart and start over, and what happens when the town decides she must make merry with them…and she gets the world’s scruffiest dog…and a very attractive neighbor to boot!

 

Coming Home for XmasComing Home for Christmas by Jenny Hale – I love a good family-oriented Christmas novel, and Coming Home for Christmas is the perfect family Christmas novel. It’s all about Allie, who finds herself unemployed just before the holidays, and how a flip of the coin leads her to her new position as house manager for the very wealthy and emotionally distant Robert–a man who is no longer close to his family and planning on selling the family home, despite the protests of his siblings and grandmother. Will Allie manage to change Robert’s mind? And will they fall in love? You’ll just have to read Coming Home for Christmas to find out…and you won’t be disappointed! 🙂

tumblr_static_a_vintage_christmas_cover_v2A Vintage Christmas by Ali Harris – A few years ago, Ali Harris wrote the wonderful Christmas novel, Miracle on Regent Street which–if you haven’t read it–you need to read ASAP, add it to YOUR holiday reading list. 🙂 This time, Ali brings us the continuation of Evie and Sam as a short story. I jus purchased it, so I can’t tell you much about the plot, but I am really looking froward to reading it since I loved Miracle on Regent Street so much.

 

 

I heart xmasI Heart Christmas by Lindsey Kelk – I am a huge Lindsey Kelk fan. I loved all the other books in her I Heart series, and About a Girl is one of my top faves of 2013. Those of you who’ve read her I Heart series know it follows expat Brit Angela and her adventures in NYC with her best friend Jenny Lopez and her hot musician boyfriend Alex. And this story looks to be about how Angela will try to get her dream Christmas while avoiding (or maybe causing) a few hijinks along the way. I have the feeling it’s going to be an awesome read! But I have to wait until 21 November…drat! 😀

 

Make my wish smallMake My Wish Come True by Fiona Harper – Just bought this one for my Kindle today! Two sisters who couldn’t be more different each want what the other has for Christmas. So after a bit of bickering, they decide to do a Christmas swap. Will their Christmas wishes live up to their expectations? Only time will tell! 🙂

 

 

 

christmas blissChristmas Bliss by Mary Kay Andrews – A few years ago, Mary Kay Andrews wrote one of my favorite Christmas novels, Blue Christmas. Christmas Bliss picks up where Blue Christmas ended, with Weezie and Daniel finally planning their wedding. Of course hijinks ensue. Of course it’s fun! I cheated and read a few chapters already…and I admit I was already caught up enough the story. If you haven’t read Blue Christmas, order it too! 🙂

 

thechristmaskeysmThe Christmas Key by Chacelyn Pierce – This one is a short story/novella set in Alaska! A heart-broken woman and a rock star find themselves stuck in a cabin together during Christmas. And of course she is his biggest fan–and not in that Stephen King Misery way. Now how will they find a way to make merry during the holiday season? I haven’t started reading it yet, but I’ll keep you posted. 🙂

 

That’s it for now! You know this list is a work in progress, so if I find any other tempting books I will add them to the list. And, of course, you can always add Snowbound to your list since it is a holiday love story! 😉

Happy reading (and writing)!

The only thing that helps at times like this is buying books

It’s been a crazy two weeks. There is a lot going on at work, which means I am exhausted physically and mentally when I come home. And this is affecting my writing time. I wake up too tired to write. I come home too tired to write. I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to read other people’s work instead but I find myself falling asleep on the sofa–not because the books are boring, but because I am tired. Ah well, at least I have Matera and my vacation in the US to look forward to in the coming weeks.

Anyway, I indulged in a little retail therapy and this is what I bought:

ImageMo’ Meta Blues: The World According to Questlove by Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson and Ben Greenman

I had to get this. Questlove and I come from the same town, my beloved Philadelphia. We both come from West Philly. We’re both creative–he’s a musical genius, I’m a writer. Really, it’s a wonder our paths haven’t crossed yet. 😉 But seriously, I am always drawn to books and movies set in my hometown. And since I am a Roots fan and I have always liked Questlove, I knew I needed to get a copy of his memoir. And then a few months ago, Nick Hornby was talking about Questlove’s memoir and I was even more intrigued. It wasn’t available yet and when I tried to preorder it here in Stockholm, I was met with blank stares from  bookstore staff. Of course, after I finally ordered it from Amazon UK, then every online bookstore in Sweden suddenly decided they could stock it as well. I don’t care. I have it now and the cover looks great. I’ve already sneaked a peek at a few pages and this is definitely my kind of book.

I haven’t started reading Mo’ Meta Blues yet but it is the next book on my To Read List. Maybe I will save it as something to read while I am in Philly and then give to my oldest niece as a source of inspiration. I want her to see that there is more to the world than the confines of our old neighborhood.

ImageThe other book I ended up buying is not new but I didn’t want to read it when everyone else was reading it because I really, really hate when other people see you’re reading the same book and then they feel compelled to inadvertently spoil it for you. So which book is it? Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. I love a good mystery/thriller and I wanted to be able to read this without everyone else a) trying to convince me it was godhead, b) wanting to discuss it and reveal spoilers, c) wanting to talk about which Hollywood A-listers should play Nick and Amy. Luckily the Gone Girl hype in Stockholm has died down. I think everyone has found a new novel to gush about. I started reading it on Thursday and it’s as good as everyone assured me it was. I’ve decided I need to Gillian Flynn’s other novels (Dark Places and Sharp Objects) as well, so they are also on the To Read List for this autumn/winter. And what could be better to read in Stockholm–that city where the winter cloud cover is so thick you nearly forget there is a thing called the sun–than really tight mystery novels that play tricks with your mind? 🙂

So I think I am set for a few weeks. I am editing Maybe Baby again after making changes suggested by a beta reader. I’m also beta reading a friend’s novel. And I have to wait and see what the future has in store for me. If all else fails, at least I have my writing, Nanowrimo and my gorgeous husband. 🙂

Happy reading (and writing)!