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Royal Wedding by Meg Cabot

Saturday, May 30, 2015

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Princess Diaries series, comes the very first adult installment, which follows Princess Mia and her Prince Charming as they plan their fairy tale wedding--but a few poisoned apples could turn this happily-ever-after into a royal nightmare.

For Princess Mia, the past five years since college graduation have been a whirlwind of activity, what with living in New York City, running her new teen community center, being madly in love, and attending royal engagements. And speaking of engagements. Mia's gorgeous longtime boyfriend Michael managed to clear both their schedules just long enough for an exotic (and very private) Caribbean island interlude where he popped the question! Of course, Mia didn't need to consult her diary to know that her answer was a royal oui.

But now Mia has a scandal of majestic proportions to contend with: Her grandmother's leaked "fake" wedding plans to the press that could cause even normally calm Michael to become a runaway groom. Worse, a scheming politico is trying to force Mia's father from the throne, all because of a royal secret that could leave Genovia without a monarch. Can Mia prove to everyone--especially herself--that she's not only ready to wed, but ready to rule as well?

Goodreads Summary

Since my wedding is coming up in June I really enjoyed this book.  I loved that Meg Cabot brought back Mia from the Princess Diaries.  The same fun tone was present in this novel that was pervasive in the Princess Diaries.  Mia and Michael have busy schedules and haven't been able to spend much time together.  As a result, the reader gets insight into what has happened in other characters' lives beyond just Mia's.  Mia's friends come over and she has online conversations with Lily.  Mia's father has gotten in trouble and there might just be another family member waiting in the wings.  The royal throne is even at stake!

This book was filled with drama, action, romance, and humor.  I found Royal Wedding very difficult to put down and had to loan it out immediately as it was so popular.  I enjoyed the vibrant feel of the characters and the fast-paced plot.  Overall, this book is recommended to young adult/teen readers.

4 Stars

This product or book may have been distributed for review, this in no way affects my opinions or reviews. COPYRIGHT © 2014 LIVE TO READ

The Book of Life Board Game and Random Giveaway and Q&A!

Monday, May 25, 2015


Q: In your day job, you are a professor of history and science at the University of Southern California and have focused on alchemy in your research.  What aspects of this intersection between science and magic do you hope readers will pick up on while reading THE BOOK OF LIFE? There’s quite a bit more lab work in this book!

A. There is. Welcome back to the present! What I hope readers come to appreciate is that science—past or present—is nothing more than a method for asking and answering questions about the world and our place in it. Once, some of those questions were answered alchemically. Today, they might be answered biochemically and genetically. In the future? Who knows. But Matthew is right in suggesting that there are really remarkably few scientific questions and we have been posing them for a very long time. Two of them are: who am I? why am I here?

Q: Much of the conflict in the book seems to mirror issues of race and sexuality in our society, and there seems to be a definite moral conclusion to THE BOOK OF LIFE. Could you discuss this? Do you find that a strength of fantasy novels is their ability to not only to allow readers to escape, but to also challenge them to fact important moral issues?

A. Human beings like to sort and categorize. We have done this since the beginnings of recorded history, and probably well back beyond that point. One of the most common ways to do that is to group things that are “alike” and things that are “different.” Often, we fear what is not like us. Many of the world’s ills have stemmed from someone (or a group of someones) deciding what is different is also dangerous. Witches, women, people of color, people of different faiths, people of different sexual orientations—all have been targets of this process of singling others out and labeling them different and therefore undesirable. Like my interest in exploring what a family is, the issue of difference and respect for difference (rather than fear) informed every page of the All Souls Trilogy. And yes, I do think that dealing with fantastic creatures like daemons, vampires, and witches rather than confronting issues of race or sexuality directly can enable readers to think through these issues in a useful way and perhaps come to different conclusions about members of their own families and communities. As I often say when people ask me why supernatural creatures are so popular these days: witches and vampires are monsters to think with.

Q: From the moment Matthew and a pregnant Diana arrive back at Sept-Tours and reinstate themselves back into a sprawling family of witches and vampires, it becomes clear that the meaning of family will be an important idea for THE BOOK OF LIFE. How does this unify the whole series? Did you draw on your own life?

A. Since time immemorial the family has been an important way for people to organize themselves in the world. In the past, the “traditional” family was a sprawling and blended unit that embraced immediate relatives, in-laws and their immediate families, servants, orphaned children, the children your partner might bring into a family from a previous relationship, and other dependents. Marriage was an equally flexible and elastic concept in many places and times. Given how old my vampires are, and the fact that witches are the keepers of tradition, I wanted to explore from the very first page of the series the truly traditional basis of family:  unqualified love and mutual responsibility. That is certainly the meaning of family that my parents taught me.

Q: While there are entire genres devoted to stories of witches, vampires, and ghosts, the idea of a weaver – a witch who weaves original spells – feels very unique to THE BOOK OF LIFE. What resources helped you gain inspiration for Diana’s uniqueness?

A. Believe it or not, my inspiration for weaving came from a branch of mathematics called topology. I became intrigued by mathematical theories of mutability to go along with my alchemical theories of mutability and change. Topology is a mathematical study of shapes and spaces that theorizes how far something can be stretched or twisted without breaking. You could say it’s a mathematical theory of connectivity and continuity (two familiar themes to any reader of the All Souls Trilogy). I wondered if I could come up with a theory of magic that could be comfortably contained within mathematics, one in which magic could be seen to shape and twist reality without breaking it. I used fabric as a metaphor for this worldview with threads and colors shaping human perceptions. Weavers became the witches who were talented at seeing and manipulating the underlying fabric. In topology, mathematicians study knots—unbreakable knots with their ends fused together that can be twisted and shaped. Soon the mathematics and mechanics of Diana’s magic came into focus.

Q: A Discovery of Witches debuted at # 2 on the New York Times bestseller list and Shadow of Night debuted at #1. What has been your reaction to the outpouring of love for the All Souls Trilogy? Was it surprising how taken fans were with Diana and Matthew’s story?

A. It has been amazing—and a bit overwhelming. I was surprised by how quickly readers embraced two central characters who have a considerable number of quirks and challenge our typical notion of what a heroine or hero should be. And I continue to be amazed whenever a new reader pops up, whether one in the US or somewhere like Finland or Japan—to tell me how much they enjoyed being caught up in the world of the Bishops and de Clemonts. Sometimes when I meet readers they ask me how their friends are doing—meaning Diana, or Matthew, or Miriam. That’s an extraordinary experience for a writer.

Q: Diana and Matthew, once again, move around to quite a number of locations in THE BOOK OF LIFE, including New Haven, New Orleans, and a few of our favorite old haunts like Oxford, Madison, and Sept-Tours. What inspired you to place your characters in these locations? Have you visited them yourself? 

A. As a writer, I really need to experience the places I write about in my books. I want to know what it smells like, how the air feels when it changes direction, the way the sunlight strikes the windowsill in the morning, the sound of birds and insects. Not every writer may require this, but I do. So I spent time not only in New Haven but undertaking research at the Beinecke Library so that I could understand the rhythms of Diana’s day there. I visited New Orleans several times to imagine my vampires into them. All of the locations I pick are steeped in history and stories about past inhabitants—perfect fuel for any writer’s creative fire.

Q: Did you know back when you wrote A Discovery of Witches how the story would conclude in THE BOOK OF LIFE? Did the direction change once you began the writing process?

A. I knew how the trilogy would end, but I didn’t know exactly how we would get there. The story was well thought out through the beginning of what became The Book of Life, but the chunk between that beginning and the ending (which is as I envisioned it) did change. In part that was because what I had sketched out was too ambitious and complicated—the perils of being not only a first-time trilogy writer but also a first time author. It was very important to me that I resolve and tie up all the threads already in the story so readers had a satisfying conclusion. Early in the writing of The Book of Life it became clear that this wasn’t going to give me much time to introduce new characters or plot twists. I now understand why so many trilogies have four, five, six—or more—books in them. Finishing the trilogy as a trilogy required a lot of determination and a very thick pair of blinders as I left behind characters and story lines that would take me too far from the central story of Diana, Matthew, and the Book of Life.

Q: A Discovery of Witches begins with Diana Bishop stumbling across a lost, enchanted manuscript called Ashmole 782 in Oxford’s Bodleian Library, and the secrets contained in the manuscript are at long last revealed in THE BOOK OF LIFE. You had a similar experience while you were completing your dissertation.  What was the story behind your discovery?  And how did it inspire the creation of these novels?

A. I did discover a manuscript—not an enchanted one, alas—in the Bodleian Library. It was a manuscript owned by Queen Elizabeth’s astrologer, the mathematician and alchemist John Dee. In the 1570s and 1580s he became interested in using a crystal ball to talk to angels. The angels gave him all kinds of instructions on how to manage his life at home, his work—they even told him to pack up his family and belongings and go to far-away Poland and Prague. In the conversations, Dee asked the angels about a mysterious book in his library called “the Book of Soyga” or “Aldaraia.” No one had ever been able to find it, even though many of Dee’s other books survive in libraries throughout the world. In the summer of 1994 I was spending time in Oxford between finishing my doctorate and starting my first job. It was a wonderfully creative time, since I had no deadlines to worry about and my dissertation on Dee’s angel conversations was complete. As with most discoveries, this discovery of a “lost” manuscript was entirely accidental. I was looking for something else in the Bodleian’s catalogue and in the upper corner of the page was a reference to a book called “Aldaraia.” I knew it couldn’t be Dee’s book, but I called it up anyway. And it turned out it WAS the book (or at least a copy of it). With the help of the Bodleian’s Keeper of Rare Books, I located another copy in the British Library.

Q: Are there other lost books like this in the world?

A. Absolutely! Entire books have been written about famous lost volumes—including works by Plato, Aristotle, and Shakespeare to name just a few. Libraries are full of such treasures, some of them unrecognized and others simply misfiled or mislabeled. And we find lost books outside of libraries, too. In January 2006, a completely unknown manuscript belonging to one of the 17th century’s most prominent scientists, Robert Hooke, was discovered when someone was having the contents of their house valued for auction. The manuscript included minutes of early Royal Society meetings that we presumed were lost forever.

Q: Shadow of Night and A Discovery of Witches have often been compared to young adult fantasy like Twilight, with the caveat that this series is for adults interested in history, science, and academics. Unlike Bella and Edward, Matthew and Diana are card-carrying members of academia who meet in the library of one of the most prestigious universities in the world. Are these characters based on something you found missing in the fantasy genre?

A. There are a lot of adults reading young adult books, and for good reason. Authors who specialize in the young adult market are writing original, compelling stories that can make even the most cynical grownups believe in magic. In writing A Discovery of Witches, I wanted to give adult readers a world no less magical, no less surprising and delightful, but one that included grown-up concerns and activities. These are not your children’s vampires and witches.


We’ll be giving 10 board games total away via our Twitter @PenguinPbks over the course of the next two weeks (among other great All Souls prizes). These will be random giveaways taking place on Tuesday 5/26 andThursday 6/4. To enter, check the Penguin Twitter during the mornings (ET) on those days and be sure to retweet the giveaway post by Tuesday 5/26—we’ll be randomly selecting winners around Thursday 6/4 from among the people who retweet.

This product or book may have been distributed for review, this in no way affects my opinions or reviews. COPYRIGHT © 2014 LIVE TO READ

Guest Post by Marc Turner!

Friday, May 22, 2015

The Easiest and the Hardest Character to Write

I was asked for this article to write about which of my characters was the easiest or the hardest to create. A simple enough question, you might think, but it got me wondering. Is there any reason why one character can’t be both?
My debut, When the Heavens Fall, was published by Tor last week. It’s an epic fantasy along the lines of JRR Tolkien’sThe Lord of the Rings or George RR Martin’s Game of Thrones, and it has four viewpoint characters. If there is a “main” character, it is Luker Essendar – a warrior Guardian of an empire called Erin Elal. Luker is an outsider. Born beyond the borders of the land that becomes his home, and orphaned as a child, he is recruited into the ranks of a group of elite fighters whose very thoughts are weapons. But he is never made to feel welcome. At the beginning of When the Heavens Fall we learn that he has walked out on the Guardians, only to be drawn back by a cryptic message sent by the head of his order.
I think writers put a little bit of themselves into most (if not all) of their viewpoint characters. There is some of me in Luker. Luker is searching for a direction in his life. He doesn’t feel comfortable among the Guardians, but they are all he has known, so turning his back on them isn’t a thing he can do easily. I faced a similar scenario in my life when I was writing When the Heavens Fall. Like most authors, I had a day job. For years I slogged away at one of the top law firms in the City of London, before realising that working there did not mix well with simple pleasures such as having a life. I liked the people, but I didn’t enjoy the hours or the many other demands of the job. At that time, just about everyone my age seemed to be looking for a way out of the profession. But how? We had families, we had commitments. And you can’t just walk away from those unless you have something else to walk to. Luckily, writing came to my rescue.
Luker and I may have a few things in common, but we also have many more differences. Generally, I think it is a mistake to base a character on someone you know in real life – particularly yourself – for the simple reason that most people aren’t interesting enough to be characters in a book. Readers read books to escape from the ordinary. So whilst it may be understandable that writers draw inspiration from the people around them, if you’re going to take a trait from someone you know and give it to a character, you really have to dial it up to maximum. So I made Luker disrespectful of authority, yet faithful to those close to him; assured in his own abilities, yet uncertain of his allegiances and his place in the world. Then I added a sense of humour a little blacker than black and mixed them all together. Job done!
Or so I thought.
A while after the book was ‘finished’, though, I wrote a short story in which Luker features. It takes place before the events in When the Heavens Fall, and sets the stage for the novel. In it, I wrote Luker the way I’d remembered him from the book. But when I went back to look at WtHF afterwards, I found he was different in a number of respects. He took himself a little too seriously. He was overly confrontational, especially in the early chapters, and thus risked putting off readers before they had got a chance to know him. So I had to do another edit of the manuscript to make him how I wanted him to be.
An author called Joe Abercrombie describes writing as being a bit like pouring cement. When you compose your first draft, the words are liquid and pliable. Just as well too, because my first drafts are riddled with mistakes, and as the old adage goes, writing is rewriting. Every time you rework it, the writing gets tighter. Like cement, it begins to set. Each word has its place, each sentence follows on from the next, until you reach a stage when taking something out, or putting something in, can disrupt the whole flow of a passage. Now try changing a character. It’s a difficult thing to do, not least because you also have to change how other characters relate to them, and how the character reacts to certain events in the book. Change them too much, and you may find they reach a point in the story where they refuse to go the way the plot needs them to.
Fortunately, the changes I had to make to Luker weren’t quite as drastic as that. I had to tone down some of his thoughts, and tone up others. I had to tinker with a few sections of dialogue. Just a week’s worth of work all told, but in that period he did go from being my easiest character to write to the hardest.
One day I’ll get him back for that . . .

Marc Turner was born in Canada, but grew up in England. His first novel, When the Heavens Fall, is published by Tor in the US and Titan in the UK. You can see a video trailer for the book here and read a short story set in the world of the novel here. The short story has also been narrated by Emma Newman, and you can listen to it free here. Marc can be found on Twitter at @MarcJTurner and at his website.

This product or book may have been distributed for review, this in no way affects my opinions or reviews. COPYRIGHT © 2014 LIVE TO READ

Veils and Vengeance Cover Reveal & Giveaway

Thursday, May 21, 2015
Veils and Vengeance by Rachelle J. Christensen When wedding planner, Adrielle Pyper, goes to Hawaii to orchestrate a destination wedding, she isn't prepared for what she finds. After the trauma of her previous event, the beautiful isle of Kauai is the perfect place for Adri to unwind and do what she does best – plan. She even lets herself indulge in the attention of the groom’s handsome brother. But just when everything seems to be perfect, an afternoon snorkeling trip turns to murder when Adri discovers the body of a young woman. Shaken, but unable to let it go, Adri’s sleuthing leads her into more danger than she could imagine. When a number of “accidents” threaten her own life, it soon becomes apparent that someone will do anything to keep Adri from interfering with their vengeance.   add to goodreads     rachelleAuthor Rachelle J. Christensen Rachelle J. Christensen is a mother of five who writes mystery/suspense and solves the case of the missing shoe on a daily basis. She graduated cum laude from Utah State University with a degree in psychology and a minor in music. She enjoys singing and songwriting, playing the piano, running, motivational speaking, and, of course, reading. Rachelle is the award-winning author of six books, including Wrong Number, Diamond Rings Are Deadly Things, and What Every 6th Grader Needs to Know. Her novella, Silver Cascade Secrets, was included in the Rone Award-winning Timeless Romance Anthology, Fall Collection.

$25 Cover Reveal Giveaway $25 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash Ends 6/15/15 Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.   a Rafflecopter giveaway END HTML Jack Templar and the Lord of the Demons Cover Reveal and Giveaway You can post anytime from now until the end of the month. You can grab info off these links or edit the HTML below to create your post. START HTML Jack Templar 5   Jack Templar and the Lord of the Demons (The Templar Chronicles #5). With two of the Jerusalem Stones in hand, Jack and his friends must race the clock to find the remaining Stones as Ren Lucre's Creach forces gather strength. With two of their group now with Creach blood flowing in their veins, the team will be tested as never before. They must unite together if they have any hope of surviving their journey to the Underworld and their battle with the vicious Lord of the Demons. The fate of the entire world hangs in the balance.
Pre-order Your Copy Now!
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jeffAuthor Jeff Gunhus Jeff Gunhus is the author of the Amazon bestselling supernatural thriller, Night Chill, and the Middle Grade/YA series, The Templar Chronicles. The first book of the series, Jack Templar Monster Hunter, was written in an effort to get his reluctant reader eleven-year old son excited about reading. It worked and a new series was born. His book Reaching Your Reluctant Reader has helped hundreds of parents create avid readers. Killer Within is his second novel for adults. As a father of five, he and his wife Nicole spend most of their time chasing kids and taking advantage of living in the great state of Maryland. In rare moments of quiet, he can be found in the back of the City Dock Cafe in Annapolis working on his next novel. If you see him there, sit down and have a cup of coffee with him. You just might end up in his next novel.
Jack Templar awards
  $25 Cover Reveal Giveaway $25 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash Ends 6/15/15 Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.    a Rafflecopter giveaway This product or book may have been distributed for review, this in no way affects my opinions or reviews. COPYRIGHT © 2014 LIVE TO READ

Until the Beginning by Amy Plum

Sunday, May 17, 2015

When Juneau's clan disappeared, she lost so much more than her friends and family. She soon discovered everything she thought she knew about her life was a lie. Her people's gifts were actually secret abilities that others wanted, desperately enough to kidnap an entire village.

Juneau and her new companion Miles's cross-country journey to find her clan has led them to a game preserve in New Mexico. Now Juneau's people are finally within reach, and she will stop at nothing to save them. But she has a target on her back too, because unbeknownst to her she is the key to unlocking everything. To rescue her people - and herself - Juneau must discover what she, and her abilities, are truly capable of.

Goodreads Summary

This book picks up right where the riveting ending of the last book left off...Miles is wounded.  The author turns this book into a fast-paced, action-packed ending that every reader of this series will enjoy.  Juneau grew as a character and became an even stronger, smarter female lead.  I liked how she took control and had the drive and determination to go after what she wanted.  Miles straightened out and became her steadfast supporter.  I loved how kind and attentive Miles was to Juneau.  Their relationship was very sweet and the reader is sure to end up rooting for the two.  I really enjoyed the lead-up to the various crescendos in the book.  I had a difficult time putting the book down because I always needed to find out what was going to happen in the next few pages.  Anyone who has been waiting on a cliff to find out what will happen in this book and to the wounded Miles should run to the library or book store to grab a copy.

4 Stars

This product or book may have been distributed for review, this in no way affects my opinions or reviews. COPYRIGHT © 2014 LIVE TO READ

The Fog Diver by Joel Ross

A deadly white mist has cloaked the earth for hundreds of years. Humanity clings to the highest mountain peaks, where the wealthy Five Families rule over the teeming lower slopes and rambling junkyards. As the ruthless Lord Kodoc patrols the skies to enforce order, thirteen-year-old Chess and his crew scavenge in the Fog-shrouded ruins for anything they can sell to survive.

Hazel is the captain of their salvage raft: bold and daring. Swedish is the pilot: suspicious and strong. Bea is the mechanic: cheerful and brilliant. And Chess is the tetherboy: quiet and quick…and tougher than he looks. But Chess has a secret, one he’s kept hidden his whole life. One that Lord Kodoc is desperate to exploit for his own evil plans. And even as Chess unearths the crew’s biggest treasure ever, they are running out of time...

Goodreads Summary

This is a world that I would love to dive into for a week or so...but only a week or so given the fatal white mist!  In Chess's world, Five Families are in control and more or less move the remnants of humanity around like chess pieces.  Chess has a fog-filled eye that lends him some form of protection from the nanites that make up the fog.  The fog is made up of nanites that were designed to heal the Earth from humanity's pollution.  The nanites (correctly) decided that humanity was the source of evil and the cause of the pollution and began attacking humans; millions of humans died and those that survived were forced to live among the highest peaks of the Earth.  Chess was born in the fog and, for whatever reason, received a fog-filled eye due to this.  The majority of the book consisted of Chess and other characters fleeing from the danger of the Families and other threats.  I really wanted to see more of the fog and what was left (if anything) inside of it.  Overall, this book is recommended to middle grade readers.

3 1/2 Stars

This product or book may have been distributed for review, this in no way affects my opinions or reviews. COPYRIGHT © 2014 LIVE TO READ

Made You Up by Francesca Zappia

Reality, it turns out, is often not what you perceive it to be—sometimes, there really is someone out to get you. Made You Up tells the story of Alex, a high school senior unable to tell the difference between real life and delusion. This is a compelling and provoking literary debut that will appeal to fans of Wes Anderson, Silver Linings Playbook, and Liar.

Alex fights a daily battle to figure out the difference between reality and delusion. Armed with a take-no-prisoners attitude, her camera, a Magic 8-Ball, and her only ally (her little sister), Alex wages a war against her schizophrenia, determined to stay sane long enough to get into college. She’s pretty optimistic about her chances until classes begin, and she runs into Miles. Didn't she imagine him? Before she knows it, Alex is making friends, going to parties, falling in love, and experiencing all the usual rites of passage for teenagers. But Alex is used to being crazy. She’s not prepared for normal.

Funny, provoking, and ultimately moving, this debut novel featuring the quintessential unreliable narrator will have readers turning the pages and trying to figure out what is real and what is made up.

Goodreads Summary

I can't imagine what it must be like to wake up daily and question my own reality.  Alex is schizophrenic and regularly experiences a struggle with reality.  She is a tough character who has had a difficult time.  She can't trust what she believes to be true.  As the reader, I wasn't one hundred percent sure what was true or not.  I had to rely on what Alex saw and thought; I have to admit that there were many times I questioned her and many times I got swept up in the story and forgot that Alex freely admits that she isn't quite sure about her grip on reality.

The story had a plot filled with romance, intrigue, and mystery.  I liked that this book took a different take on the genre mystery.  The author managed to unfurl a mystery that existed solely in the main character's head.  I thought Miles's character was interesting if not a little annoying, at times.  I liked the tension between Alex and Miles; I really liked that the author didn't focus on the romance portion and chose to focus on Alex's schizophrenia and paranoia instead.  This book is recommended for young adult readers.

4 Stars

This product or book may have been distributed for review, this in no way affects my opinions or reviews. COPYRIGHT © 2014 LIVE TO READ

Cover Reveal: The Single Game!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015
Cover Reveal: The Single Game
By Amanda Black singlegame_final copy
In this third, stand-alone installment of Amanda Black’s Apartment Novels series, sparks fly during a sexy party game. When Eden Foster’s parents tell her they’re moving from the suburbs of Chicago to the tiny farm town of Aledo, Illinois, Eden is crushed. That is, until she runs crying to her jock boyfriend, who she finds on top of her so-called best friend. Moving’s not looking so bad anymore. Now a senior at Mercer County High, Eden is ready to re-enter the dating scene. Still burned over the betrayal of her ex, she’s looking for someone sweet and innocent. With the help of her two new friends, Zoe and Amy, Eden makes a list of what she’s looking for: an eager virgin, ready for training—and no jocks. Eden thinks she’s found what she’s looking for in Logan Black, a shy and geeky classmate. But why are Zoe and Amy convinced that the answer to her search is a party game…with kissing? Eden better get ready, because she’s about to play the Single Game. The Single Game is the latest addition to the erotic Apartment Novels series, which began with Lily and Ethan in The Apartment and The Blank Canvas. Want more? Follow Amanda on her Blog, Facebook and Twitter! And make sure to preorder The Singe Game today!

This product or book may have been distributed for review, this in no way affects my opinions or reviews. COPYRIGHT © 2014 LIVE TO READ

The Fill-In Boyfriend by Kasie West

Monday, May 11, 2015
When Gia Montgomery's boyfriend, Bradley, dumps her in the parking lot of her high school prom, she has to think fast. After all, she'd been telling her friends about him for months now. This was supposed to be the night she proved he existed. So when she sees a cute guy waiting to pick up his sister, she enlists his help. The task is simple: be her fill-in boyfriend— two hours, zero commitment, a few white lies. After that, she can win back the real Bradley.

The problem is that days after prom, it's not the real Bradley she's thinking about, but the stand-in. The one whose name she doesn't even know. But tracking him down doesn't mean they're done faking a relationship. Gia owes him a favor and his sister intends to see that he collects: his ex-girlfriend's graduation party — three hours, zero commitment, a few white lies.

Just when Gia begins to wonder if she could turn her fake boyfriend into a real one, Bradley comes waltzing back into her life, exposing her lie, and threatening to destroy her friendships and her new-found relationship.

Goodreads Summary

The concept of this book is wonderful.  Who wants to have a boyfriend for a few hours with no strings attached and, hopefully, no attachment.  Gia's boyfriend broke up with her right before prom...and right when she needs to prove that he even exists.  She has to think fast and ends up asking a guy to be her stand-in boyfriend for the night.  Later on, Gia finds herself slowly falling in love with her mystery date.  Unfortunately, her mystery date wants a favor of his own and Gia has to be the stand-in girlfriend for the day.  After these two fake dates, the two discover that their fake relationship might not be as fake as it seems.  Both have to think fast though when Gia's "real" ex returns with threats.

I loved this book.  It was light-hearted and fun to read.  Gia was a funny, smart main character and I liked how she saw this random guy as fake date potential.  I don't think I would ever have came up with such a funny idea.  I really liked Hayden because he was a much nicer person than Gia (initially she was more of a typical high school mean girl).  I felt bad for him because he wanted his ex-girlfriend back.  The other characters were amusing and fit the book's plot nicely.  This book is recommended to young adult readers.

4 Stars

This product or book may have been distributed for review, this in no way affects my opinions or reviews. COPYRIGHT © 2014 LIVE TO READ

Child's Play: Guest Post by Lisa Jensen!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Child's Play: Revisiting the Neverland through grown-up eyes

According to J. M. Barrie, the Neverland is a paradise for children, where they can play all day and never have to grow up. But it must be a horrible thing for a man to be trapped forever in a world run by the uncensored willfulness of children.

The original Peter Pan is all about the fear of growing up. At the start of the play, Wendy is told that tomorrow, she's going to have to move out of the nursery, which she shares with her younger brothers. And that's the night Peter comes to whisk her off to the Neverland.

The adult vs. children theme runs throughout the play. ("Dark and sinister man!" "Proud and insolent youth!") Traditionally, the actor who plays the children's father, Mr. Darling, onstage, is the same actor who plays Captain Hook—which sort of symbolizes the dark side of growing up!

Obviously, an adult perspective on the Neverland would be very different from a child's. As the idea for Alias Hook began to take shape in my brain, I began to hear Captain James Hook's caustic voice in my head telling me his story in his own words. And I have to say I found his viewpoint refreshingly subversive. This was definitely NOT the Disney version of the Neverland! And that's what I found so interesting—to revisit the magical Neverland from an adult viewpoint.

For source material, I went back to Peter and Wendy, Barrie's 1911 novelization of his famous play, and I was surprised how much darker it is than the play; it's about children but not necessarily for children. The fairies attend orgies, the pirates and Indians slaughter each other to entertain the boys, and a strange, simultaneous adoration and fear of women—specifically, mothers—runs throughout the story.

It also seemed to me that Barrie hardly even scratched the surface of the Neverland he created, with all its complex enchantments. I thought it would be fun to delve beneath that surface and explore what daily life is like for the sisterhood of fairies who guard the place, the society of merfolk in their grotto beneath the Mermaid Lagoon, and the Indian tribes. Let alone all those generations of former Lost Boys and Wendys who never quite fit back into the real world after they've been to the Neverland.

Hook is an adult trapped in this child's paradise, which is as frightening and foreign to him as the grown-up world is to Lost Boys when they have to go back to their real lives. So there were already adult themes in play before I got hold of the story!

My major invention was to add an adult woman into the mix. My new character, Stella Parrish, becomes James Hook's friend and ally, helping him navigate this treacherous world of children and rewrite his own story.

This product or book may have been distributed for review, this in no way affects my opinions or reviews. COPYRIGHT © 2014 LIVE TO READ

Ten Most Memorable Moms in New Fiction: Guest Post by Andrea Lochen

Ten Most Memorable Moms in New Fiction
What better time of year than Mother’s Day to showcase some of the most memorable fictional mothers in some of the best new novels? From loving, supportive mothers to complex, trailblazing mothers to selfish, vindictive mothers, this list has it all!    

1) The Perfect Son by Barbara Claypole White (Lake Union, July 2015)

Ella Fitzwilliam, the mom in THE PERFECT SON, quit a successful career in jewelry design to be full-time parent, mental health coach, and advocate for her son, Harry, who has a soup of issues that include Tourette syndrome. She has devoted 17 years of her life to his therapy, to educating teachers, to being Harry’s emotional rock and giving him the confidence he needs to be Harry. Thanks to her, Harry is comfortable in his own skin, even when people stare. After Ella has a major heart attack in the opening chapter, her love for Harry tethers her to life. But as she recovers, she discovers the hardest parenting lesson of all: to let go.

2) Rodin’s Lover by Heather Webb (Plume, January 2015)
In RODIN’S LOVER, Camille’s mother, Louise Claudel, is spiteful, jealous, and disapproving of Camille’s pursuit to become a female sculptor in the 1880s. She also shows signs of mental illness. Because of this relationship, Camille struggles with all of her female relationships the rest of her life, and ultimately, to prove to her mother that she’s truly talented. 

3) Imaginary Things by Andrea Lochen (Astor + Blue Editions, April 2015)

In IMAGINARY THINGS, young single mother Anna Jennings has a unique power that most parents only dream of—the ability to see her four-year-old son’s imagination come to life.  But when David’s imaginary friends turn dark and threatening, Anna must learn the rules of this bizarre phenomenon, what his friends truly represent, and how best to protect him.

4) The Magician’s Lie by Greer Macallister (Sourcebooks, January 2015)

In THE MAGICIAN'S LIE, Arden's mother is remarkable both for what she does and what she doesn't do. As a young woman, she bears a child out of wedlock and runs away with her music teacher, never fearing the consequences. But later in life, her nerve fails her—just when her daughter needs her most.

5) Five Days Left by Julie Lawson Timmer (Putnam, 2014)

In FIVE DAYS LEFT, Mara Nichols is, in some ways, a typical mother: she loves her daughter fiercely, thinks about her constantly and goes to great lengths to balance her high-stress legal career with her daughter’s needs. But there are two ways in which Mara isn't typical at all. First, she adopted her daughter from India, making good on a lifelong promise to rescue a baby from the same orphanage where Mara herself lived decades ago. And second, when Mara is diagnosed with a fatal, incurable illness that will render her unable to walk, talk or even feed herself, she has to make the kind of parenting choice none of us wants to consider—would my child be better off if I were no longer alive?

6) House Broken by Sonja Yoerg (Penguin/NAL, January 2015)

In HOUSE BROKEN, Helen Riley has a habit of leaving her grown children to cope with her vodka-fueled disasters. She has her reasons, but they’re buried deep, and stem from secrets too painful to remember and, perhaps, too terrible to forgive.

7) You Were Meant for Me by Yona Zeldis McDonough (Penguin/NAL, 2014)

In YOU WERE MEANT FOR ME, having a baby is the furthest thing from Miranda Berenzweig’s mind.  She’s newly single after a bad break up, and focused on her promotion at work, her friends and getting her life back on track.  Then one frigid March night she finds a newborn infant in a NYC subway and even after taking the baby to the police, can’t get the baby out of her mind.  At the suggestion of the family court judge assigned to the case, Miranda begins adoption proceedings.  But her plans—as well as her hopes and dreams—are derailed when the baby’s biological father surfaces, wanting to claim his child.  The way she handles this unforeseen turn of events is what makes Miranda a truly memorable mother.  

8) The Far End of Happy by Kathryn Craft (Sourcebooks Landmark, May 2015)

In THE FAR END OF HAPPY, Ronnie has hung in there as long as she can during her husband's decline into depression, spending issues, and alcoholism and he will not accept her attempts to get him professional help. She is not a leaver, but can't bear for her sons to witness the further deterioration of the marriage. She determines to divorce—and on the day he has promised to move out, he instead arms himself, holes up inside a building on the property, and stands off against police. When late in the day the police ask Ronnie if she’ll appeal to him one last time over the bullhorn, she must decide: with the stakes so high, will she try one last time to save her husband’s life? Or will her need to protect her sons and her own growing sense of self win out?
9) Your Perfect Life by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke (Washington Square Press, 2014)

In YOUR PERFECT LIFE, long-time friends, Rachel and Casey wake up the morning after their twenty year high school reunion to discover they’ve switched bodies. Casey is single with no children before becoming an instant mom to Rachel’s two teenagers and baby. Despite her lack of experience as a parent, and her often comedic missteps with the baby in particular (think: diaper blow outs and sudden sleep deprivation) Casey’s fresh perspective on her new role helps her connect with each of the children in a very different way than Rachel. And when the oldest, Audrey, is almost date raped at her prom, it is Casey’s strength that she draws from an experience in her own past that ultimately pulls Audrey through. Although it is hard for Rachel to watch her best friend take care of Audrey when she so desperately wants to, she realizes that Casey can help her daughter in a way she can’t. And Casey discovers she might have what it takes to be a mom to her own children someday.

10) The Life List by Lori Nelson Spielman (Bantam, 2013)

Elizabeth Bohlinger, the mother in THE LIFE LIST, is actually deceased. But she still has a big presence in her daughter's life—some may say too big! With heartfelt letters, Elizabeth guides her daughter, Brett, on a journey to complete the life list of wishes Brett made when she was just a teen. Like many mothers, Elizabeth has an uncanny ability to see into her daughter's heart, exposing buried desires Brett has long forgotten.

Andrea Lochen is a University of Michigan MFA graduate. Her first novel, The Repeat Year (Berkley, 2013), won a Hopwood Award for the Novel prior to its publication. She has served as fiction editor of The Madison Review and taught writing at the University of Michigan. She currently teaches at the University of Wisconsin-Waukesha, where she was recently awarded UW Colleges Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Teaching. Her second novel, Imaginary Things (Astor + Blue Editions, 2015) is recently released and has garnered wonderful praise. With features on Barnes &, Huffington Post, and Brit + Co., her work is being introduced to thousands of new readers.  Andrea currently lives in Madison with her husband and daughter and is at work on her third novel. For more information visit

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This product or book may have been distributed for review, this in no way affects my opinions or reviews. COPYRIGHT © 2014 LIVE TO READ