Reviews

Kathyrn Erskine: Seeing Red & The Badger Knight

July 29th, 2014

Seeing Red

by Sarah

The Badger KnightI was lucky enough to be sent Seeing Red in September of 2013 and recently the ARC of Kathyrn Erskine’s newest novel, The Badger Knight which comes out on August 26, 2014.  I am thrilled to consider Kathy a friend after I Skyped with her and then met her at conference and have been bumping into her ever since. I love her books; Mockingbird is the most popular as it won a National Book Award, but these latest two Seeing Red and Badger Knight are equally awesome!

In Seeing Red, a boy who lives in Virginia in the 1970′s must come to terms with his dad’s sudden death and the overt racism that still exists in his town.  I like how realistic his thought process is and how he has to deal with a whole gamut of emotions before recognizing what to do to make things better.  Plus, I love title; the boy’s name is Red and he not only gets mad, but has to discover who he is to grow! A great read for late elementary through adult for those who like historical fiction and Civil Rights Issues.

I am a big fan of historical fiction, and I love that Erskine’s characters are always unique; in this case, the protagonist is an albino boy living in England in the 1300s. He definitely learns much through the story as he goes off to war in pursuit of a friend and has quite a unique adventure. I don’t want to give too much away, but I loved the overall point that while he is initially frustrated by others judging him, he must learn to overcome his harsh criticisms of his friends and family to see their true worth. Definitely an awesome book for anyone in late elementary school or above who is a fan of The False Prince, Graceling, The Pillars of the Earth (this is a very quick read in comparison) or other tales of adventuring youths!

I love how Kathy’s tales always revolve around someone who is learning and maturing; a process that is never truly done and which I can always learn more by living vicariously through characters and their struggles!

If you’re interested, you can also check out my Vocab Gal interview with Kathryn!

Kathryn Erskine & Stackgirl Sarah

Kathryn Erskine & Stackgirl Sarah

Currently Reading

July 17th, 2014

Here’s our currently reading list for this week, with quite the selection!  Sarah is in Alaska right now, so she’s reading the local history, Amanda is getting up to speed on the latest Courtney Milan book, and Stacy is checking out a YA book that had gained popularity on Wattpad and it’s steeped in angel and vampire mythology.

lailahboots bikes and bomberssuffragette scandal

ASPEN: Q&A with Rebekah Crane & GIVEAWAY

July 7th, 2014

aspenToday we welcome Rebekah Crane, author of YA novel ASPEN.

ASPEN is a story about Aspen Yellow-Sunrise Taylor and how a devastating  instant changed her life forever.  It’s “darkly funny, emotionally gripping story of opening up, letting go, and moving on, Aspen is about the best-worst accident of your life … and what comes next.”

 

Aspen goes from zero to 100 on the popularity scale almost overnight. Despite most readers not going through such a drastic change in social standing, Aspen is still relatable. Why do you think that is?

First, I’m so pleased that readers think Aspen is a relatable character! I’m not sure if I can pinpoint one thing that makes her resonate with readers, but if I had to guess, I think it’s Aspen’s candor and open-mindedness. She treats everyone equally. She speaks to people honestly no matter who they are. She’s got two best friends who pepper her life with humor and love. She’s got a stoner mom. She’s falling for the one boy she shouldn’t… and she knows it. People who have big problems and colorful pasts surround her and yet she accepts them for who they are.

Please tell us more about Katelyn Ryan and the affect she has on Aspen.

Katelyn Ryan was the most popular girl in Boulder High… until her car crashed into Aspen’s the summer before their senior year. Now, Katelyn is dead and her ghost is following Aspen. Before the accident, Katelyn was just a girl who sat in front of Aspen in Chemistry. Now, she’s a reminder of Aspen’s trauma. She’s a reminder of suppressed memories. She a reminder of the one event Aspen is desperate to forget.

The relationship between Aspen and her mother, Ninny is unique. As is the relationship between Aspen and Ben. Please tell us more about those relationships.

Aspen and Ninny’s relationship might be my favorite relationship I’ve written to date. It’s essentially a role reversal. Ninny, though she is Aspen’s mom, is held together by Aspen, her child. Aspen finds Ninny a job. Aspen cooks Ninny dinner. Aspen cleans up Ninny’s literal and figurative messes. All the while, Ninny smokes pot and sleeps with random men. With that said, it’s also a very loving relationship. Ninny gave birth to Aspen in high school and in return was abandoned by her parents. But Ninny persevered. She loves Aspen immensely. She just doesn’t know how to navigate life that well. But they need each other. Aspen is who she is because Ninny didn’t give up.

Aspen and Ben… what a tangled mess they weave! Aspen likes Ben. Ben likes Aspen. Katelyn is Ben’s ex-girlfriend and now she’s dead. Aspen and Ben carry heavy guilt about the accident but no one will talk about it. And they have secrets. But Aspen likes Ben and Ben likes Aspen. Add in the fact that they’re voted Homecoming King and Queen and the entire school has to watch them dance… and their lips are just so close to each other’s… but Katelyn’s ghost just won’t leave Aspen alone.

I adore Aspen and Ben’s story. It’s one of guilt and healing and secrets and love. Above all, it’s a love story.

 

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Molly McAdams’ SHARING YOU “Why I wrote about such a taboo subject” **GIVEAWAY** and Excerpt

July 4th, 2014

 

molly mcadamsSharing You: Why I wrote about a taboo subject

When I decided to write this story, I had people telling me not to. I had a lot of: “Uhh … are you sure you want to write about that?” “Maybe you should consider something else…” and “No, no. Absolutely not. Women will hate you.”

Well, considering I already had a lot of women mad at me over a certain male character and a scene that shall not be named in chapter 13 of a certain book … I was willing to have them hate me all over again. I don’t want to just write stories that will please people. I want to write real life. And Sharing You is real life.

Sure, we hear stories of cheating, and automatically we curl our lips at the thought. “How could he/she?” “What a home-wrecker.” “Poor (insert name here).” It’s the automatic thoughts that go through our heads, right? I know it’s what goes through my head every time. And it’s what went through my head when my husband told me about his work partner and his girlfriend I would be meeting that night. I’m pretty sure I yelled “What?!” really loud, said a few no ways, and had a disgusted look on my face. I was determined not to meet the girlfriend, and to forever hate my husband’s partner.

I had my arms crossed and a scowl on my face the entire drive to the restaurant, I was mumbling to myself, and I asked my husband how he could be so okay with it about fifty some odd times. And then I met them … and everything that had been going through my mind suddenly shifted. Now, before I continue, I should probably say I do not condone cheating. I feel like if you would cheat on your significant other, you should leave them before you do something with another person. But I could not help but get captured in a moment with this couple. I have quite literally never seen a couple more perfect for each other.

We started hanging out with them more and more, and one night, the girlfriend—we’ll call her “S”—told me all about her story with “R”. From the very beginning, to where they were at that point. It was heartbreaking, I cried with her, and I felt every emotion pouring from her over to me. I listened to the heartache they went through to be together, and witnessed how much this had taken a toll on them. I loved their story. Still wasn’t a fan of the cheating … but their love for each other … that’s what I loved. I was able to witness them finally getting married, and it is the only time I’ve been so moved by a wedding other than my own. R & S belong together, and that’s why I asked if I could write their story.

Because sometimes it’s not as easy as just blaming the “other woman”. Sometimes there are other things that come into play that we may not see/hear about. Like a very bad marriage that you feel trapped in. Sometimes the people who are suffering the most are, in fact, the ones cheating. My hope is that you can see that, and see why I decided to write their story despite the hard topic.

Molly’s Daily Question: Do you think that it is worth it to fight for your forever with the person you are meant to be with, no matter the cost?

 

**GIVEAWAY**

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 Twenty-three year old, Kamryn Cunningham has left all she’s ever known and moved to a small town where no one knows her name, who her parents are, or her social status in the horseracing world. Months after opening her own bakery and evading attempts of being set up by her new best friend, she meets Brody. But Kamryn fights the instant pull between them because there’s a detail she can’t dismiss. Brody’s married.
 
To say that twenty-six year old, Brody Saco has had a rough marriage would be an understatement. After marrying his pregnant girlfriend, he spends the next six years in a relationship filled with hatred, manipulation, and guilt involving a tragedy that happened five years earlier. When he keeps running into his sister-in-law’s best friend, Kamryn, he can’t ignore that she makes him feel more with just one look than his wife ever has; and soon he can’t continue fight his feelings for her.
 
When staying apart proves to be too difficult, Brody and Kamryn enter a relationship full of stolen moments and nights that end too soon while they wait for Brody to file for divorce. But the guilt that comes with their relationship may prove to be too much for Kamryn, and Brody might not be strong enough to face the tragedy from his past in order to leave his conniving wife.

SHARING YOU Excerpt:

My phone started ringing as I stepped out of the shower, and I hurried to dry off before running to the nightstand. A wide smile crossed my face when I saw his name on the screen.

“Hey! I didn’t think you were going to call.”

Brody had come over the last two nights as well, but we were both worried about pushing our luck with a fourth. Even though I hated not knowing when we would get to see each other, or even talk again, the surprise of hearing from him almost made it worth it.

“Can I come over?” he asked hurriedly.

I frowned and glanced at my phone quickly before bringing it back to my ear. “Of course, are you okay?”

“I am, I just need to see you.”

My smile came back and I took off for the door leading to the garage. “Okay, I’ll have the garage door opened, and the other one unlocked. Just come in.”

“Be there soon.”

Running back to my bathroom, I threw the towel on the floor and brushed my teeth, cutting it short when I heard the door shut.

“Kam?” his deep voice called from the front of my condo.

“Shit!” I hissed, and rinsed out my mouth before running to my room. “Be out in a sec!” Throwing on the first tank top and shorts my hands touched, I took a few seconds to settle my breathing before walking calmly out to meet him.

He already had his shirt and vest off, and the way his dark eyes raked over my body had my stomach heating. There was a determined look on his face as he took long steps to meet me, and just before we got to each other, he shook his head and said, “I can’t do ‘slow’ anymore.”

His arms went around me, and he brought his mouth down to mine. The minute our lips touched, something in me ignited, and a small groan came from Brody when I opened my mouth to him and his tongue met mine. His large hands slid down my sides, his thumbs barely grazing the side of my breasts before continuing down to rest on my hips, pulling me closer to him. I let the tips of my fingers trail down his chest until I hit the bottom of his undershirt and lifted, letting him finish taking it off and dropping it on the floor.

“If you want to stop, you need to say it now.”

“I’m not saying anything,” I whispered against his lips.

I couldn’t. We’d agreed to go slow, but nothing about what we were doing was normal. Even though we’d kept the last three nights pretty chaste, the charge between us had been growing steadily, and we’d been in some sort of unspoken agreement that it was getting too hard to stay away from each other. Both silently moving away from each other when the electricity between us grew, both pulling away breathlessly from kisses that had our resolve quickly slipping.

Just before his mouth slammed down on mine, he mumbled, “Thank God.”

The force of his kiss surprised me and a high-pitched moan slipped from my chest. Brody laughed softly as one of his hands left my hip and went to my back and under my shirt, his hand leaving a trail of fire on my skin.

Turning us so the backs of his legs were hitting the couch, I pushed back and followed him down, planting myself on his lap and stifling another moan when our new position had his erection pressing against me. Brody brought our mouths back together and when I rocked against his hard length, he took my bottom lip between his teeth and tugged gently. When he released me, I sat up straighter so my chest was directly in front of his face and went back to rolling my hips against him.

With a growl, he leaned forward and pulled the stretchy material of my tank top down to free my breasts and sucked one nipple into his mouth. I whimpered when he bit down before resuming his torturous licking; when my eyes were finally able to flutter open again, I looked down to see him looking up from under his dark eyelashes and goose bumps covered my body at the sight. It was strangely erotic and I couldn’t stop watching him tease my nipple now that I’d started. The hand that wasn’t caressing my breast was gripping my hip and I reached down to slide his fingers under the thin material of my shorts.

He released my breast with a soft pop and brought my face to his, staring intently in my eyes. “You sure you’re okay with this?”

I sat up on my knees, giving him better access, and leaned in to whisper, “I was stupid to think we could take it slow.” I pressed my lips softly to his once, but didn’t move away. “Don’t leave tonight, Brody, please. Stay with me.”

His response was to kiss me deeply while his fingers moved to stroke along my soft folds. “Christ, Kamryn,” he groaned, and slid one long finger deep inside me as his thumb rubbed against my clit, and I couldn’t stop the whimper that bubbled from my lips from having him touch me like this.

I ground my hips against his hand as he continued to move his fingers in a way I’d never experienced with Charles, not that Charles and I hadn’t done numerous sexual activities, but he was always pushing for the ones that benefited him, and sex with him didn’t last long; so more often than not, I ended up frustrated or excusing myself to the bathroom to finish myself. The muscles low in my stomach tightened, and my entire body was warming, I was close to begging him not to stop when he slipped a second finger inside and my body exploded. Hard. My head fell back as a breathy cry left me and I rode out wave after wave of the most intense orgasm I’ve ever had.

His fingers didn’t still, but softened and slowed as he pressed his lips against my throat. “You’re so beautiful.”

Bringing my head back down, I rested my forehead against his as I fumbled with the zipper and button on his uniform pants, my hands were shaking so much from the after effects of my orgasm it took two tries just to pull the zipper down; but the moment I finally succeeded, Brody’s hand left my shorts and his large fingers curled around my wrists.

“I don’t have condoms.” He looked to the side and blinked a few times, his brow furrowed. “God I can’t even remember the last time I bought any.”

Brody’s hands preventing me from continuing only made me want this more. I flexed my fingers and knew that this stop was a good thing, something we should probably take advantage of. But I didn’t care. “Are you clean?” I asked softly.

“Yes, are you?”

I nodded. “And I’m on the pill.”

I’d barely finished my sentence before Brody had both of us off the couch, my legs around his hips, and was walking. “Room, Kamryn, where is it?”

“Down the hall, last door on the right.”

His mouth captured mine again as he turned toward the hall and began taking long strides. Not two feet from the opening his pants fell the rest of the way down and Brody tripped, sending us crashing into the wall. Our kisses never faltered, even throughout our laughing, but I unwrapped my legs from his hips as he hurriedly stepped out of his boots and pants. When he kicked them to the side, he grabbed the backs of my thighs and pressed his hard on against me as I wrapped my legs back around him.

“Bed … bed,” I pleaded around his lips, and once again he was walking us toward my room.

We made it the rest of the way without incident, and fell in a mess of searching hands, and tearing clothes onto the bed. My tank was somehow on the floor before I was fully on my back and I reached up to crush our lips together as his hands pulled my sleep shorts off at the same time I reached for the waistband of his dark boxer briefs.

His erection sprang free, and I didn’t even try to continue pulling his briefs down the rest of the way as I took his length in both of my hands. Brody groaned and his head fell to my shoulder as I watched both hands make their way up him. Letting one of my hands leave to edge the waistband down his hips, the other slowly pumped from base to head, and I couldn’t take my eyes off him. Everything about him was incredible and perfect.

“Babe—I haven’t been with anyone in years, so this already isn’t going to last long; but if you keep doing that it’s gonna be over before it can begin.”

I bit back a smile at his confession and leaned my head back when he started leaving open-mouthed kisses on my neck, and guided him to me. We both stilled for a few seconds, a harsh breath leaving him when he pushed into me; and I wanted to cry in frustration when his body left mine before he was slamming back into me. His name left my lips in a breathless whisper when he began moving inside me, and my fingers curled into his back as his pace quickened.

I could feel the muscles in his back tightening, and the pull in my lower stomach grew as I reached my climax.

“Come on,” his gruff voice whispered in my ear. “Give me one more.”

Bringing his hand between us, he rolled his fingers against my clit and I whimpered incoherent words as the mix of him moving inside me, and his hands on me, sent me over the edge. It felt like my body was suspended in air for long seconds before it came crashing down and Brody’s body shuddered beneath my fingertips as he followed me into his own orgasm.

Brody lazily kissed up my throat until he reached my lips, and I figured out how to release my death grip on his back to pull my hands through his dark hair as I returned the slow kiss.

“God, Kamryn. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to get enough of you. Not after that.”

I smiled against his lips, and feeling his hard length still inside me, pushed him back and rolled us over until I was on top of him. He groaned when I moved my hips, his hands flying back to grab them. I’d been afraid he was about to stop me, but his fingers flexed against my skin before pressing me harder against him. Sitting up, I let him lead our movements, and my head fell back from the feel of the new position. This time was slow and controlled as we took our time getting to know each others body, but the heat and passion only seemed to grow.

My body curled over his, and I pressed my forehead into his chest when it was over. Every part of me felt like it was floating, and at the same time, I couldn’t find the strength to move from where I was laying on him.

“Come here,” he said as he pulled his body from mine and wrapped his arms around me.

Pressing a kiss to my lips, he tucked my head under his chin and messed with the comforter until he could pull it over us.

“You’ll stay?” I asked as I pressed closer to him.

“I need you in my arms right now,” he said simply. And just before sleep claimed me, I heard him say, “I’m not going anywhere.”

 

My body jerked awake, and I stilled as I listened for whatever had woken me. Brody was now behind me with his body curled around mine, and the sound of his soft snores was all that met my ears for a few moments. Closing my eyes, I relaxed into the pillow again when I heard the ringing. Moving from Brody’s arms, I glanced around for my phone, but didn’t see it and remembered I’d left it in the bathroom, and this was coming from outside my room. Grabbing for the pants that were on the floor of my hallway, I searched the pockets until I found Brody’s phone, and my body turned to ice when I saw the screen.

“Brody,” I said as I climbed back on the bed and shook his shoulder. “Brody wake up.”

His eyes shot open and moved quickly to the phone I was holding out to him. “What—”

“Olivia is calling you.”

“Fuck,” he whispered, and pinched the bridge of his nose as he turned to his back. Taking the phone from my hand, he cleared his throat a couple times and answered. “Hello?”

“Where the hell are you? Do you know what time it is?”

I didn’t need to be sitting directly next to him to hear her. I’m positive I would’ve been able to hear her shrill voice if I’d been back in the hall.

Glancing at his phone for a second, his aggravated expression never changed as he brought the phone back to his ear. “Yeah, Liv, I got caught up at work.”

“And you couldn’t call to tell me?”

“You said you’d be staying with your parents if you got back from Washington tonight, I didn’t know it would matter to you if I was late or—shit, Liv. Why … fuck, why are you crying?”

“Well, obviously I’m not at my parents’, Brody! I thought something had happened to you, you know, I’m trying to be a good wife here. And you are hours late and don’t even think to—” she cut off on a sob.

Brody’s hand fell over his face, and his head gently shook back and forth. “All right, I’m sorry. You’re right, I should have called you.”

“Come home, please. Please, come home.”

My body locked up when I heard her desperate plea, and I watched as Brody’s hand moved, and he turned his head to look at me. Even in the dark I could see the war he was fighting as he listened to his wife cry on the phone, and watched my every move.

Olivia said something that was now too low and mumbled for me to hear, but Brody’s expression suddenly looked like he was in pain.

“I’m finishing up a report, I’ll be back soon.” Without waiting for her to respond, he ended the call, and reached out for me, but I stopped his hand.

“Stay. Please.”

His jaw clenched shut, and he shook his head once. From the way his eyes studied my face, as if trying to memorize it, I knew he wouldn’t. Twisting away, I got off the bed. I needed to get away from him before I lost it.

“Kamryn, don’t do this, I’m sorry. But you know I—”

“I know. You have to leave, Brody, it’s fine.” I quickly grabbed at my clothes on the floor and dashed into the bathroom.

“Kamryn!”

Once my clothes were on, I pressed my hands to the marble counter as I bit down on the inside of my cheeks to keep from crying. I’d gone into our relationship knowing we wouldn’t be able to have this—have nights together with nothing standing in the way—but after the night we’d just shared, I’d let myself hope.

Having Olivia call had been like a slap to the face. I couldn’t do this, I couldn’t be this person. But as Brody came up behind me and eased his arms around me to press our bodies together, I knew that for this man … I would. I would go through anything if it meant he was mine in the end.

“I’m so sorry,” he said softly before pressing his lips to the sensitive spot behind my ear. “Please don’t be mad, I couldn’t handle it if you were.”

I kept my eyes trained on my hands gripping the countertop and nodded, not trusting my voice anymore.

“One day … one day we won’t have to do this anymore. I’ll come home to you, and get in our bed and never leave. I swear.”

My vision went blurry and I closed my eyes tightly against the tears.

How was it possible that I was already falling so hard for this man, that the thought of him anywhere but beside me had me feeling like I was drowning and unable to pull in the air my body needed to live? I was quickly becoming addicted to him, and the way he made me feel with the smallest of touches. We were dangerous together, but I knew I couldn’t live without him.

“Forgive me,” he pleaded, and suddenly his body and warmth were gone. And as much as my mind and body screamed at me to follow him, to beg him not to leave, I was rooted in place for long minutes until I heard my door shut, and his car start up in the garage.

Taking shaky steps back until I hit a wall, I slid down until I was seated on the cool floor, and the tears I’d been holding back fell mercilessly as desperate sobs worked their way from my chest.

 

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Exclusive! Bonus Content for Doon by Carey Corp and Lorie Langdon

July 2nd, 2014

Very, very recently we got to talk to the lovely ladies behind Doon, a magical YA fantasy/romance novel about two best friends who discover a world across a bridge in Scotland where handsome princes roam and evil lurks beneath an idyllic setting.  And now they’ve gifted us with some exclusive bonus content, a scene cut from Doon as they were writing it.  As Carey and Lorie explained during our podcast, Doon quickly became more about Veronica’s story and less about Mackenna’s, so while they’re gearing up for the September 2nd release of the second book in the series, Destined for Doon (spoiler in the description if you haven’t read Doon!), several of these bonus scenes are being released to blogs.  Carey and Lorie are calling it the Summer of Doon, and we’re lucky enough to be a part of it!

And away we go!

doon cover

DOON Bonus Scene

CHAPTER 1.3 – Kenna Drives to Alloway

Mackenna

(The scene takes place right before chapter 2 of Doon. We get to see Kenna and Vee driving to Alloway and to glimpse of Dunbrae Cottage through Kenna’s eyes.)

 

I was no stunt driver, but I could totally play one on TV. It was exhilarating to drive on the wrong side, down a lane that was more cart-path than actual road. As I flew toward my beloved Alloway with my bestie at my side, I couldn’t envision a more perfect moment.

Unfortunately, Vee was not having the same award-winning experience. “We’re almost there,” I said, noting her Kung Fu grip on the handle above the passenger door.

Despite the white knuckles, her mouth twisted into a smirk. “All the more reason to slow down. I would really like to not die today.”

Vee’s gaze flicked past me to where a half-crumbling, yet surprisingly solid, stone wall loomed. Chunks of missing rock attested to its previous victims. If I squinted, I could almost see the ghosts of drivers past perched on the ledge cheering me on. “Go Kenna, go! Go Kenna, go!”

“Relax.” I waited until Vee’s turquoise eyes refastened on my face. “My aunt’s place is straight ahead.”

Her head jiggled from side to side which caused her hair to undulate in thick brown waves. “I haven’t seen straight since Indiana.”

There was a joke in that, but before I could get it out the universe threw us yet another hairpin curve. I slammed on the brake and skidded to a near-stop before maneuvering the sardine-sized car thru the hundred and eighty degree turn.

Once we were in the clear, Vee made a noise that resembled a chicken swallowing a mouse as another too-large-for-the-road truck came barreling at us. In hopes of making us less of a collision target, I sucked in my breath and stepped on the gas. Our clown car swayed as the truck rocketed past.

Exhilaration at cheating death made me feel lighter than air. “Seriously. Odds of us becoming road kill are astronomically small.”

She sniffed. “Okay math girl. If Kenna and Vee are driving from Glasglow to Alloway in separate cars and Vee drives at 40 miles per hour and Kenna drives at 75 miles per hour, what are Kenna’s chances of making it there alive?”

“The correct answer has nothing to do with math—just awesome driving skills, which I have in abundance.”

Vee wrinkled her perfect button nose as if musing over which part of my statement to poke holes in first. She’d probably start with some quantum mechanics explanation of how math made our car go. Maybe how geometry—or was it algebra?—was used to steer, and blah, blah, blah. I preferred to stick to the most basic, practical explanation. Cars go by magic.

When I said as much aloud, Vee rolled her eyes and shifted her focus forward. She knew better than to argue. Junior year, I’d dominated in debate class on acting skills alone. I took pride in my lack of preparation and total ignorance of actual facts. As my opponents carefully ordered their index cards, I channeled the greatest, legal protagonists of the American theatre. Inherit the Wind, To Kill a Mockingbird, the Crucible, Agnes of God, Twelve Angry Men, The Caine Mutiny—a role for each and every situation. The overachievers club had been positively outraged by how my A plus performances blew the class curve.

In typical bestie fashion, Vee hitched a ride on my train of thought. “Do you regret not going to graduation?”

“In bufu Arkansas? Nope.” I was exactly where and with whom I wanted. “How ‘bout you?”

“No.” She paused to chew her lip. Probably conjuring up the after-graduation party, Eric boozing it up while Strippy clung to him like a conjoined twin. Or possibly the empty spot in the commencement audience where her waste-of-space parent wouldn’t be. Vee released her thoughts in a soft huff. “I’m just glad to be moving on.”

As usual, she was Right as Rogers—Richard not Mister.

A white and black blur to my left announced Alloway in three. Although three what—I had no idea…Three metrics? Vee quirked her brow and I knew she was just waiting for me to ask. Instead, I favored her with another smile. “We’ll be there in three.”

“Miles, Kenna. Scotland uses miles just like us.” She angled toward me. “How long’s it been?”

“Six years. Since Aunt Gracie’s funeral.” From the time I was knee high to a grasshopper, I spent every summer here. Dad always claimed it was so he could have a break from single parent life. Looking back, I suspect it was the closest thing to my mom he could give me. Her kin.

“What do you remember most about your aunt?”

“She was kooky. Fun. She gave me chocolate and coffee for breakfast. And she always set a place at her table for my imaginary friend. Do you remember him?”

Vee snorted. “How could I forget your made-up boyfriend?”

“Hey. He was real to me.”

I hadn’t thought about Finn in years. There hadn’t been a whole lot of children in Gracie’s neighborhood, so I’d made one up. Every summer, he waited for me on the Brig o’ Doon, the bridge behind Gracie’s house. Over the years, we’d gotten into plenty of mischief together. Of course, I was the only one to get into any real trouble. Being imaginary had its perks.

We rounded another curve and Vee’s gasp filled the silence as she got her first glimpse of Alloway. Ahead, a cluster of whitewashed cottages and medieval stone structures nestled into an emerald landscape so vibrant it dazzled the eyes. Rooftops of every earth-tone variation and angle rose against an impossibly bright blue sky.

A lazy river ambled along the left side of the village. And in the center of the tiny hamlet, just as I remembered, the marble pillars and curved dome of a Grecian monument created a proud pinnacle that reached toward the heavens.

This was my second home, where my late aunt Gracie—technically, my great aunt on my mom’s side, had kept Mom’s spirit alive. Now, Gracie would gift me and my bestie with an unforgettable summer before we went our separate ways.

I pointed toward the hamlet while coasting into a little roundabout. “Alloway was the home to eighteenth century poet Robert Burns. That’s his memorial in the center of the gardens. You can see it from the back of the cottage. And just ahead we’ll cross the River Doon.”

Wide-eyed, Vee took it all in. As we bounced over the rough stones that spanned the river, I glanced toward my left, where an even more ancient bridge, no longer relevant to modern life and fit only for foot traffic, arced over the water and disappeared into the forest. From the high point of the bridge, a kid waved in our direction. He was adorable; dressed in a plaid kilt with a matching cap sitting askew his mop of dark curls. He almost reminded me of—Sweet Baby Sondheim, it was Finn!

“Welcome home, Mackenna! I’m waiting for you.” His voice resounded impossibly loud inside the miniature car.

Heart pounding with the erratic rhythm of a hundred tap-dancing squirrels, I stomped on the brake and the car skidded to a stop half off the road on the grassy shoulder. I swiveled toward the bridge for a better look—and to prove that whatever reality gasket I’d just blown was entirely in my head. Thankfully, in place of the dark-haired boy, stood a very ordinary, bearded man in tweeds.

Other than the old guy, there was no one else in sight. It was a Blithe Spirit moment—hearing some phantom that didn’t exist. The urge to answer his gleeful voice nearly consumed me. But only whackadoodles conversed with people that didn’t exist. I was not crazy…yet.

After a few steadying breaths, I looked at Vee and braced myself for questions about my odd behavior. But she was a million miles away. She stared, trance-like, across the river. Tiny beads of sweat coated her skin. I knew if I touched her, she’d be freezing despite the warm afternoon. “What is it, Vee?”

Her wide, troubled eyes darted to mine and then back to the road. “I feel like I’ve been here before.”

It was far easier to focus on her para-abnormal delusions than my own. As I pulled back into traffic, I groped for the most logical explanation. “Every summer I wrote you about this place. I sent you, like, a million postcards.”

She nodded to indicate the two blocks that constituted the main and only shopping district. “Maybe…but everything’s so familiar.”

“You’re sounding a little nutball.” My reply, complete with accompanying hand gesture, provoked a small smile from her.

She swatted at my hand. “Don’t make fun.”

“Who me?” The girl with the little imaginary friend? I pointed to a tidy white shop with red lettering as we passed. “That’s the Poet’s Corner Coffee House. We are soooo going back for cinnamon cocoa after we settle in.”

Without missing a beat, she crinkled up her nose. “That’s just what I need right now—caffeine.”

As we slid through the final roundabout, a charming two-story structure came into view. It was straight up fairytale. The stately white stucco structure had a steep, thatched roof, and brown-trimmed windows that provided symmetry and counterbalance to the front garden of overgrown wildflowers. An arched trellis at the foot of the walk lent a welcoming, yet ceremonial, feel to the house’s approach. I’d spent the better part of my seventh summer reenacting Hansel and Gretel on these grounds.

Vee whistled, long and crisp. “Nice neighbors.”

“Nope.” I eased the sardine-mobile to a stop and indicated a wooden sign hanging from the center of the trellis. Celtic-looking script proclaimed DUNBRAE COTTAGE.

“No!” Vee blinked in rapid succession as if her vision needed fine-tuning. “Isn’t a cottage supposed to be small and cozy? This is massive!”

“Just three bedrooms, one full bath and one half bath.” I shrugged as if the cottage were a mere trifle. “Your old house in Bainbridge is actually bigger.”

The mention of her childhood home caused Vee to flinch. The bank had foreclosed, issuing in Vee’s pay-by-the-week motel and seedy rental years. Stupid Kenna!

As I lightly touched her arm, I made a mental note to make it up to her at the first available opportunity. “Wait ‘til you see the inside. The whole thing’s been restored thanks to the new caretaker.”

“Let’s go then.” Shaking the clouds from her blue-green eyes, Vee lifted the door latch. Before slipping from the car, she cast a bright smile at me over her shoulder. “Our destiny awaits.”

R♥R

 

Want more Doon?

For a complete schedule of Doon bonus scenes and a chance to win custom Doon swag visit the Summer of Doon giveaway at www.DoonSeries.com

Doon is available wherever books are sold. Destined for Doon releases 9/2/14.

Doon Bonus Material
Copyright © 2014 by Carey Corp and Lorie
Moeggenberg

 

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or any other—except for brief quotations in printed reviews, without the prior permission of the publisher.

Thank you to the Alan Jay Lerner Estate and the Frederick Loewe Foundation for use of the Brigadoon premise.

 

Robin York’s HARDER Release Day Launch **GIVEAWAY** & Excerpt

July 1st, 2014

HARDER is Robin York’s second novel in this series, and Robin York is actually the beloved Ruthie Knox!

 

 In Robin York’s provocative new novel, two young ex-lovers find themselves together again in the shadow of tragedy—and an intense, undeniable attraction. 

Caroline still dreams about West. His warm skin, his taut muscles, his hand sliding down her stomach. Then she wakes up and she’s back to reality: West is gone. And before he left, he broke her heart.

Then, out of the blue, West calls in crisis. A tragedy has hit his family—a family that’s already a fractured mess. Caroline knows what she has to do. Without discussion, without stopping to think, she’s on a plane, flying to his side to support him in any way he needs.

They’re together again, but things are totally different. West looks edgy, angry at the world. Caroline doesn’t fit in. She should be back in Iowa, finalizing her civil suit against the ex-boyfriend who posted their explicit pictures on a revenge porn website. But here she is. Deeply into West, wrapped up in him, in love with him. Still.

They fought the odds once. Losing each other was hard. But finding their way back to each other couldn’t be harder.

Advance praise for HARDER:

“Bursting with chemistry, emotion, and heart, Caroline and West’s story will take your breath away!”—Katy Evans, New York Times bestselling author of the REAL series

“Robin York writes exceptionally real characters in achingly real situations. Harder had a hold on my heart and didn’t let go until the very end.”New York Times bestselling author Cora Carmack

 

And don’t miss the first book in the Caroline & West Series….DEEPER!

 

Advance praise for DEEPER:

“The perfect new adult story . . . West will make you swoon!”New York Times bestselling author Monica Murphy

“Beautifully written and full of swoony tender moments, toe-curling chemistry, and delicious, twisty angst . . . Stop whatever you’re doing and read this book.”—Christina Lauren, author of the Beautiful Bastard series

Excerpt:

When West’s ringtone starts playing in my darkened bedroom, it slips into my subconscious, and I have one of those last-second-before-you-wake-up dreams that’s pure sensation—his skin warm against me everywhere, his weight and smell, the muscles in his thighs against the backs of mine, his hand sliding down my stomach. All of that, slow and melting and West, until the song finally manages to pierce through the haze of my sleep and pinch me awake.

I fight my way from under the sheet, turned on and pissed off because I know how this goes. The rock in my stomach, the day ahead during which I’ll try and fail to shake that flood of sense-memory.

I’m going to have to live through it, and then I’m going to lose it, every good memory I have of West, again, when what I want is to drop back into that dream and live there instead.

It sucks. It sucks, and I’m so distracted by the suckage that I’m picking up the phone and swiping at the screen with my thumb before I completely register what’s going on.

West’s ringtone. West is calling me.

West is calling me at one a.m. when I haven’t heard from him in two and a half months.

If he’s drunk-dialing me, I’m going to fly to Oregon and kick him in the nuts.

That’s what I’m thinking when I put the phone to my ear—but it’s not how I feel. I wish it were. I wish I could say Hello? and hear West say Hey, and not feel . . . I don’t even know. Plugged in. Lit up. Juiced.

I stand in my dark bedroom, aware in every centimeter of my skin that he’s breathing on the other end of the phone, somewhere on the far side of the country.

I have too many memories that start this way. Too many conversations where I told myself I wouldn’t and then I did.

I have this enormous burden of longing and pain, so heavy I can hear it in my voice when I snap, “What do you want?”

“My dad’s dead.”

My head clears in an instant, my attention sharpening to a point.

“He got shot,” West says, “and it’s . . . it’s a fucking mess, Caro. I know this is—I shouldn’t ask you. I can’t ask you, but I just need to tell you because I can’t fucking—” A crackling whooshing noise interrupts him, the kind of interference that fills your whole head with white sound. I just stand there, waiting for his voice to come back.

I’m pushing the phone so hard against my ear, my breath coming shallow and fast, aware with the kind of clarity I’ve only found in moments of crisis that it doesn’t even matter. Whatever he says next. It doesn’t matter.

The thing I never understood before West was that there are some people who, when it comes to them, reason and logic are never going to be in charge.

He left me. He hurt me.

But I stand there in the dark, holding the phone, and I know that in a few hours I’ll be on a plane.

 

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Robin York grew up at a college, went to college, signed on for some more college, and then married a university professor. She still isn’t sure why it didn’t occur to her to write New Adult sooner. Writing as Ruthie Knox, she is a USA TODAY bestselling author of contemporary romance, including RITA-finalists About Last Night and Room at the Inn. She moonlights as a mother, makes killer salted caramels, and sorts out thorny plot problems while running, hiking, or riding her bike.


Links:

Website ** Twitter ** Facebook ** Goodreads ** HARDER Goodreads ** Author Amazon Page

 

Jill Shalvis’ THEN CAME YOU Excerpt & Giveaway

July 1st, 2014

Summary
Veterinary intern Emily can’t believe she wound up in the small town of Sunshine, Idaho, instead of the Los Angeles clinic she had always imagined. Now she has to put her plans to move to L.A. on hold for a whole year while she fulfills the obligation of her vet school scholarship.
Then Wyatt, her gorgeous one-night stand from a Reno vet conference, introduces himself as her new boss. And Emily is just as drawn to his seductive looks and quiet strength as she was on that very steamy night. She soon learns that Wyatt isn’t just a laid-back doctor, but a delicious alpha male tempting her away from her carefully laid-out plans…
Excerpt
Emily sat on a fallen log and leaned back. When she was little, she’d loved to try to star watch. In LA, this was tricky because of all the city lights, not to mention smog. Doing it here, in the land of the big sky, was a whole new ball game. “I’m not lonely,” she said to the horse, who snorted again and swished his tail.
“Good. Cuz you’re not alone.”
Two long legs came into her peripheral. Wyatt crouched at her side and looked into her face.  “How are you?”
“Fine,” she said.
Nodding, he sat on the log at her side and leaned back, presumably to look at whatever she was looking at. “Pretty night.”
His hands were behind him, his shoulder and a part of his chest brushing her arm and shoulder. Actually it was more like he was encircling her within his arm span, which was considerable. It was a guy move, an alpha guy move, and it made her feel … protected.
She was getting far too used to that, she thought with a sigh. “Where is everyone?”
“Gone,” he said, and there was an odd quality to his voice that had her taking a second look at him. He didn’t take his gaze off the sky so she got him in profile, the tousled hair, the fine lines crinkling the corners of his eyes from long days out in the sun, the square, scruffy jaw. A broad shoulder built to take on the weight of the world.
He’d been working his ass off, here at Belle Haven, helping Dell take up the slack for the out-of-town Jade, and then going home and helping his sisters with the monstrous house they were fixing up. He did so much for everyone, and she found herself wanting to do something for him. Make him smile. Make him relax. Make him forget, even for a few minutes…  She nudged him with her shoulder.
He nudged her back and turned to look at her then, his eyes dark and unfathomable behind his glasses.
Chickening out, she turned her head this time, and stared up at the sky as he had been only a few seconds before.
“Emily.”
When she didn’t tear her gaze off the stars, he leaned in and nipped her ear.
Sucking in a breath, she looked at him again. His was still dark, but there were things swirling in those dark depths now. Need. Heat.
Affection.
He stole her breath.
“Let the record state,” she said, reaching out to snatch off his glasses, “that I don’t always make the first move.”
He blinked in momentary confusion, and probably also because he could no longer see. He opened his mouth to say something, but she sank her fingers into his hair and kissed him, hard and long and deep.
“Emily,” he said when they broke for air, his voice rough and husky.
She climbed into his lap and then pushed him backwards off the log so that he fell to his back in the wild grass with her straddling him.
Laughing, he slid his hands beneath her top and up her back, drawing out a delicious shiver from her.  Then his hands slid slowly down her spine, and into the backs of her jeans.  “Let the record also state,” he said in a delicious growl. “Who made the rest of the moves.”
Buy It
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About Jill Shalvis
New York Times bestselling author Jill Shalvis lives in a small town in the Sierras full of quirky characters. Any resemblance to the quirky characters in her books is, um, mostly coincidental. Look for Jill’s bestselling, award-winning books wherever romances are sold and visit her website for a complete book list and daily blog detailing her city-girl-living-in-the-mountains adventures.
Contact her:

Itty Bitty Book Reviews, It’s Summer Edition

June 29th, 2014

Hey everyone!  Here’s hoping your spring was fabulous!  Here in Ohio, it’s been more rain than sun (apparently it’s supposed to be an El Niño year), and I’ve been recently restricted, computer-wise (due to an injury, it’s a long story), so I’m getting to enjoy more books than normal.  So what’s been on my reading plate lately?  Let’s start another round of Itty Bitty Book Reviews!

So I’ve been on this adult fantasy novel kick lately…..

 

City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennettcity of stairs

Expected publication date:  Sept. 9th, 2014 by Broadway Books; galley from Netgalley (review submitted there)

Amanda’s review:  5/5

If I was looking for an adult novel to make my heart go pitter-pat the way Rick Yancey’s YA novels do, it would be this guy’s books.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Tessa Dare’s feisty romance heroines and Courtney Milan’s broken heroes and Neil Gaiman’s make-me-weep-it’s-so-beautiful prose, but if I want a book to ring almost every bell I’ve got, it’s this one.  And the darn thing isn’t even out yet, so I know I’m being unfair right now by hyping it like this.

So in a few sentences, let me try and sum up the genius that is Bennett’s City of Stairs:  Bulikov was once a city of gods, but when war came to them, their gods were killed and the victors wiped the history and culture of the gods from books and made it illegal to worship them or even mention them in public.  But the city had been built by the gods and when they died, part of the city did as well.  Now Bulikov is broken, the streets, the buildings, and the people.  Years later, revolutionists are trying to rekindle the flames of war and Shara, an ambassador (read:  master spy) for the governing nation must discover a killer and stop a plot to bring back history long forgotten, buried deep below Bulikov.  Bennett deftly deals with questions concerning religion, belief, war, and oppression and writes some awfully amazing actions scenes (and one truly terrifying scene in the bowels of the city that had me slowly putting my iPad down for a few moments).  He’s beyond gifted and now that I’m going back and reading his other books, I’m shocked I haven’t read him before.  Shocked, and disappointed in myself.

Also, this book has one of the best supporting characters I have ever come across in Sigrud, Shara’s bodyguard/right-hand man. Just great stuff.  I would say that this book would make an excellent crossover for teens who enjoy fantasy novels and can handle a few curse words and some slightly gory violence.  There’s nothing remotely shocking in this book, just a lot of detail and a rich backstory.

 

dreams and shadowsDreams and Shadows by C. Robert Cargill
Published February 2013 by Harper Voyager

Amanda’s treview:  4.5/5

I seem to have a type when it comes to fantasy novels.  Ten years ago, it was urban fantasies.  As writers like Kim Harrison and Jim Butcher were just scratching the surface of fame, I devoured every urban fantasy novel I could get my hands on.  Urban fantasy isn’t really my thing anymore, but if I ever stumble across one that I just have to read right now, I wouldn’t say no.  But there were always elements in those novels I needed to see – tightly written plotlines and world building; characters who trod the lines between good and evil (chaotic neutrals were always a plus); and there better not be any wafty, shiny metaphysics or easily batted away explanations. (Or sparkly anything.)

With that being said, what Cargill has put together in Dreams and Shadows is ridiculously good.  It has all of my above-listed requirements, some killer (ha, puns!) mythology woven around a storyline about two boys and how their lives are impacted by the creatures who live amongst dreams and shadows.  And he has fairies – real fairies, not fluttery, bright little things but the kind that bite and kill.  Fairies, like vampires, should almost always be terribly frightening.  And a smart-aleck, drunk djinn.  How could you not love this book?

It is gruesome, it is violent (most mythology is), and it is told at a rapid pace that left me a little scatter-brained by the end.  It is everything I wish Simon R. Green novels were, and I love Green’s books but his cheesiness sometimes turns me off.  I’m now reading this novel’s sequel, Queen of the Dark Things, that just came out and so far, it’s excellent.

 

horrorstor Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix
Expected publication Sept. 2014 by Quirk Books; galley from Edelweiss (review submitted there)

Amanda’s take:  4/5

This book is brilliant in a few ways.  First of all, the concept.  Orsk is a chain of superstores that sell IKEA-like furniture and something is rotten in the store in Cleveland, Ohio.  Odd things keep happening – furniture gets moved, or ruined.  Carvings on the bathroom walls.  Voices heard through the stores.  To figure out what’s going on, a floor manager and a few shift employees wind up doing a dusk-to-dawn shift to catch the would-be vandalizers red-handed.  Would it be that easy.

Turns out the store is beyond haunted and the ghosts are looking for revenge.  Part Poltergeist, part scare-humor, part Orsk catalog, this book is fantastic.  My digital ARC didn’t have the finalized drawings, which is fine because I’m going to read it again when it’s published to get a good look at the final artwork.  Anyone looking for a good laugh, and a good scare, will want to pick up this unique book.

 

cover him with darkness Cover Him With Darkness by Janine Ashbless
Expected publication date October 2014 by Tempted Romance; galley from Edelweiss

Amanda’s take 3/5 (with a caveat)

Summary first, then caveat explanation:  So, this book.  First of all, I blame a colleague for pointing me to this book.  It is, at it’s heart, an erotic romance novel about a woman who grows up knowing that her family has a secret – they have been charged with keeping the world safe from a fallen angel who is, conveniently, locked in the basement of their pastoral home.  Milja is taught to never go near the angel, because he can seduce any woman and he is deadly.  With me so far?  One day, she gets a little too close (of course she does) and the angel gets into her mind and bam! instant seduction but her father stops her before anything happens.  So Milja leaves her little village in Italy, goes to college in America while she stays with family there, and comes back when her father falls deathly ill.  And the angel is still locked in the basement.  And he still calls to her….and she lets him out.  There’s a whole lot of sex, a surprising amount of action (almost Michael Bay style with explosions and guns and torture), quite a bit of religious overtones in a Dan Brown kind of way, and then more sex.  And a GIANT cliffhanger at the end.

Here’s my caveat and why I actually liked this book (despite the fact that I should really dislike it):  The writing isn’t awful.  It’s not drop-dead gorgeous, and the angel is a possessive bastard who clearly has boundary issues and doesn’t get excused AT ALL for his behavior.  But I didn’t completely hate it because the book was so weird, such a bizarre mashup of erotic romance, action novel, and religious what heck is going on that it went from weird to bad to worse and then wrapped around to weird in a good kind of way.  Also, I read this the night before I went into surgery and it was the perfect, mindless stress relief book because I spent half of it laughing hysterically at the absurdity of it all.
And I have a few more, but I’ll save those for after the 4th of July!  Happy summer, everyone!

Currently Reading

June 26th, 2014

It’s hot, it’s muggy…time for some great books at the pool, the beach, on vacation, or just at home!  Here’s what we’re currently reading:

 

firebugwhere'd you go bernadettefalling for the groomsmanwe were liars

Never Judge a Lady by her Cover by Sarah MacLean COVER REVEAL

June 19th, 2014

COVER REVEAL!!!!

 

ABOUT:

RITA Award winning author, Sarah MacLean, reveals the identity of The Fallen Angel’s final scoundrel in the spectacular conclusion to her New York Times bestselling Rules of Scoundrels series…

By day, she is Lady Georgiana, sister to a duke, ruined before her first season in the worst kind of scandal. But the truth is far more shocking-in London’s darkest corners, she is Chase, the mysterious, unknown founder of the city’s most legendary gaming hell. For years, her double identity has gone undiscovered…until now. Brilliant, driven, handsome-as-sin Duncan West is intrigued by the beautiful, ruined woman who is somehow connected to a world of darkness and sin. He knows she is more than she seems and he vows to uncover all of Georgiana’s secrets, laying bare her past, threatening her present, and risking all she holds dear…including her heart.

BEHIND-THE-SCENE QUOTES:

“I’ve always loved cross-dressing heroines – the trope is probably my most favorite of all the romance tropes, so when I wrote Chase, I wanted to play with the cross-dressing heroine idea. She doesn’t just dress in trousers – she’s also built a persona to match. She’s a pre-Victorian Wizard of Oz, so to speak, thought to be a man, but one who has never been seen in public, and about whom very few people know the truth…namely, that he’s a she.”

–Sarah MacLean

“Seeing a woman in pants has not been shocking for about a century.

But when one remembers the historical context of Regency England it is extraordinary. I hope this cover attracts readers who are looking for something different, because Sarah is blazing her own path in historical romance.“

–Carrie Feron, Executive Editor

“It was a fabulous challenge.”

–Tom Egner, Avon Art Director

 

AUTHOR:

Sarah MacLean grew up in Rhode Island, obsessed with historical romance and bemoaning the fact that she was born far too late for her own season. Her love of all things historical helped to earn her degrees from Smith College and Harvard University before she finally set pen to paper and wrote her first book. Sarah now lives in New York City with her husband, baby daughter, their dog, and a ridiculously large collection of romance novels. She loves to hear from readers. Please visit her at www.macleanspace.com