Book Release & Fitness Update!

I’m THRILLED to announce that SOMETHING I’M GOOD AT (a clean, teen romance) will be available June 18, 2019! You will be able to get both ebook and print copies.

This book is the first in my Sol del Mar High series. Each book will stand on its own, but they do happen in chronological order, so to avoid any spoilers I am recommending they be read in order.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Summer was the girl who had it all: good grades, a spot on the high school volleyball team, and a best friend since elementary school. Then she was diagnosed with lupus…and her best friend betrayed her. Now she’s cutting ties, because nobody should have to deal with someone as broken as her.

Kane is the guy who never gives up. When he puts his mind to something, he gets it done—no matter how many broken bones it takes. So when a chance encounter at the urgent care throws him in the path of Summer, the girl he’s secretly had a crush on for years, he’s determined to win her heart.

Despite her vow to keep people away, Summer finds herself falling for Kane’s charm. Will the boy who never gives up be able to win—and keep—the heart of the girl who is afraid to let people in?

You can add to your Goodreads shelf here.

Or Preorder:

Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Kobo

Google Play and Apple Books are still processing, but will be available shortly.



My Health and Better Eating Journey

I intended to write another post on this sooner, but c’est la vie. I got busy!

Things are going pretty well for me. I’ve been pretty successful cutting out added sugar. I have a couple grams per day, but coming from a candy/cookie/ice cream addict, this is a giant leap forward!

NOTE: I’ve decided to go for a low carb, high fat, moderate protein food plan. (I don’t like to call this a diet, because diets end. I plan to eat healthy for life. With cheats allowed more often once I reach my target!) I would love to go full Keto (cutting down to the bare minimum of carbs, if you don’t know what Keto is) but I don’t feel the desire to go that extreme. At least not yet!

A typical day for me for food looks like this:

Breakfast:

2 eggs fried in either coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil. I’ve been making it as an janky omelette, because I can’t make an omelette to save my life. So it’s somewhere between an omelette and a breakfast skillet!

To my egg mush I usually add all or most of the following: deli turkey, shredded Italian style cheese, spinach, onion (green, red, or sweet), tomato, and avocado. If I don’t have avocado, I sometimes add this guacamole stuff we get from Costco in individual packets. It’s not spicy, but it is very salty, so I prefer the fresh avocado and salt it myself with pink Himalaya sea salt.

Now that berries are in season and affordable, I’ve been pairing this with a small handful of strawberries, blueberries, and/or raspberries. Right now I also have cantaloupe. (Not a berry, I know, but fruit!)

I was struggling to eat my minimum daily calories, so I’ve also added a cup of milk with a scoop of strawberry protein powder. In the past I’ve saved this for post-workouts, but on days when I know I won’t be working out I’ll drink it with breakfast to boost my calories and protein for the day.

Lunch:

This is where the sugar comes into play. I make my own trail mix with salted peanuts, walnuts, pistachios (my favorite!), pecans, almond slivers, hazelnuts, and a couple of dark chocolate covered almonds. They’re my reward for eating all the nuts! In all it’s about half a cup, and it fills me enough and it’s a TON of calories! (Like, 550 calories!)

Sometimes I bring a salad, or carrots and hummus. (Which reminds me! I forgot to buy hummus today at the store! Dang it!)

Dinner:

I do way better with dinner when I plan ahead. Unfortunately, I’m REALLY bad at planning ahead! Some foods I’ve made in the past month:

  • Bunless burger (I add all the toppings: lettuce, onion, tomato, avocado when I have it, and yes ketchup – more added sugar, but it’s minimal) and eat it with a fork.
  • Salmon burgers (they sell these at Costco. They’re a little pricey, but they’re a good source of omega-3’s. I add mayo to mine, which is surprisingly NOT awful for me! I get the kind with olive oil.)
  • Grilled chicken breast. My George Foreman grill has been getting quite the workout between the burgers and chicken!
  • For side dishes I’ll have either salad, steamer bags of veggies, or I’ll heat up non-steamer veggies (usually broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, or some mix of those.)

We bought some marinaded salmon from Costco recently and tried that last night. It was pretty good, but I had a hard time eating my full 5.3 oz fillet!

Trouble:

Evening is when I run into trouble. I go to bed late-ish. Usually between 11 and 12. And I get hungry between dinner and bed, and I HATE going to bed early. I’ve read all about intermittent fasting, but it’s just not for me. If my tummy is grumbly, I’ll stay awake thinking about how hungry I am.

I’ve caved and had cereal (I’ve been pretty good about avoiding the sugary stuff, and the times I have caved, I’ve discovered I didn’t even like it anymore!) and granola bars (bad choice! Even the “healthy” ones are PACKED with too much added sugar!)

So, I need to find better snacks for myself. I bought the ingredients to try a Keto “copy-cat” Frosty (from Wendy’s.) I’m hoping to try that in the next couple days.


Fitness

This is where I’m thriving! Food has always been a challenge for me, but if I decide to work out, I’m good at sticking to it. At least for a while. But this time I’m more determined than I’ve ever been before in my life, and being about a month into this endeavor, I feel confident!

Week 1: Worked out 3x (weight lifting x2, yoga x1) for a total of 1 hour 20 min

Week 2: worked out 3x (cardio with weights x3) for a total of 1.5 hours

Week 3: Worked out 4x (weights x 2, cardio with weights x1, and PiYo x1) for a total of 2 hours, 15 minutes

Week 4: Worked out 5x (weights x3, cardio with weights x1, Piyo x1, and a 4 minute tabata that barely counts) for a total of 2 hours, 15 minutes.

Week 5: Still going, but currently I’m at 3 workouts (weights x1, cardio x2) for a total of 1 hour, 44 minutes. I over worked my legs a bit by not taking a rest day between the full body weight routine and the cardio, so I’m giving myself 2 rest days now.)

Finding time to exercise has been pretty easy. Weekends I just pick a time and go with it. Week days I’ve been either exercising right after work, or after dinner.

Not included above are my walks. Each day the weather is nice and we don’t have anywhere to be right away, I go on a walk around the neighborhood with my kids. We usually go about a mile, give or take.

Step Count: The recommendation is 10,000 steps per day. That’s been pretty impossible for me, so I set my own goal at 6,000 steps and even that was a challenge. I’ve since upgraded from a FitBit One, which was clipped to my shirt, to a FitBit Charge 3, which I wear on my wrist.

THE DIFFERENCE YOU GUYS! The Charge 3 tracks more steps, but when compared for half a day, the count wasn’t too different between the One and the Charge 3. I do have to take off the Charge 3 if I’m sitting and folding laundry because it thinks I’m walking.

I love that the Charge 3 tracks my sleep cycles (how accurate it is I don’t know, but it sure is fun!) AND it has the option to REMIND ME to get up and MOVE every hour if I haven’t taken 250 steps that hour! I’m a very competitive person at times, so I really like trying to get the 250 steps every single hour.

So between the Charge 3 motivating me to get up and move more often, and all my exercise I’m doing anyway, my step count has gone WAY up!

Weight

Ah, weight. That’s what it’s all about, right? Losing weight.

Now, I’m not super overweight. Technically, for my height I believe I’m within the “healthy” range, but I do have enough flab around my middle to make me very self-conscious. I was always the kid who was super skinny. I was teased in middle school and called “toothpick” because I was so scrawny.

So yeah, weight has always been a big thing for me, and I’ve always identified myself as “skinny,” but looking in the mirror, that’s just not true anymore.

This muscle was NOT here a month ago you guys!

My goal is to lose 15 lbs. But that may not even happen because I’m gaining muscle. (I HAVE BICEPS YOU GUYS!) My ACTUAL goal is to lose the belly flab from incubating two humans AND not even trying to battle a severe sweet addiction that was pretty out of control up until recently.

So I’ve been tracking my weight daily. (Well, almost daily. I forgot a couple of days. Whoops!) I’ve been logging my food to make sure my calories and macros are not out of control. But looking at the weight drop, and then bounce back, is pretty disheartening.

And then I had a wake up call. I read an amazingly helpful article on Medium (I believe it was Medium anyway!) and the author said to ignore the day to day weight fluctuation. It’s going to happen to everyone. (And I already knew that, but it still felt like all my hard work was for naught!) Instead he said, take every reading from the scale for a week, add them up, and divide by the number of days. THAT is your weight for the week. As long as that number is moving down each week, you’re making progress.

So I did it.

Week 1 to 2: -1.44 lb
Week 2 to 3: -0.23 lb
Week 3 to 4: -1.68 lb
Week 4 to 5: (this week is still going, but I’m betting I’ll drop a little bit!)

Seeing the numbers like this makes me believe what I’m doing is working. And I keep reminding myself that I’m building muscles.


What I’m Reading

I’m between e-books/audiobooks at the moment, but I listened to the audiobooks for the following recently:

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kawn – LOVED this one! I didn’t want to stop reading. Every character was WONDERFUL and I really enjoyed the narrator! I can’t wait to see the movie one of these days!

Bloodwitch by Susan Dennard – The narrator on this one semi-ruined the book for me. I really hated the accents she made for the characters. This is the third in the series. (Well, 4th in the series released, but from what I understand you don’t need to read Sightwitch as part of the series order. So I didn’t.) Story wise, I enjoyed this one. I loved getting to see more of Aeduan and getting into his head. If you’re a fan of YA fantasy with light romance, this is a series worth checking out. I love the characters, though the plot/magic is a little confusing, it’s not so bad that you can’t read past it.

Print books:

I have a number of print books started. I have a bit of book ADD going on. My focus right now is A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin (third in the Song of Ice and Fire series) and The Baby Game by Randall Hicks.

So….. scroll up and pre-order SOMETHING I’M GOOD AT if you haven’t yet, and let me know if you have any favorite healthy recipes for me to try!

New Year, New Me – Days 1-3 Of My Health and Better Eating Journey

Wow, I can’t believe it’s been nearly a year since my last post. Where have I been? Right here, as always. But I’ve shifted my priorities, and not all in a good way.

I’m still leaving mini-reviews over on Goodreads. (Link in the sidebar!) I aim for every book, but I’m less strict with myself than before, so I’m sure I’ve missed a couple.

I’m still writing, which for me is a better use of my time than blogging. (Sorry readers!)

And I’ve been addicted to the app Game of Sultans on my phone. I almost quit, but then I was given leadership of my union, and felt obligated to my teammates to stay play. And I don’t do things halfway. If I play a game, I FULLY COMMIT. Even if it negatively impacts my life. I am trying to cut back though.

So, why the title of this post? Especially in May, which is far from the new year? Well, it’s been nearly a year since I last posted, and I’ve made changes in that time, as mentioned above, but I’m also working on making BIG changes going forward.

Image courtesy of @jamin-djuang-116234

Hi. I’m Caroline, and I’m a sugar addict.

If you don’t have a sweet tooth it’s probably easy to brush off or roll your eyes at anyone who says they’re addicted to sugar. Just stop eating it, right? But no, it’s not that simple. Especially for a picky eater like me. But, I recently made the decision that NOW is the time to make big changes in my life.

If you keep reading you can see just how bad I am about making good food choices. In short: candy and ice cream and minimal veggies.

All this sugar is slowly killing me. And my body shows it, both in how tired and sluggish I usually am (even after a full night of uninterrupted sleep) AND in the stubborn bit of belly fat I can’t lose (and I can’t blame that on my baby, who is now 7 and a half years old!)

So… it’s time for a change. And I’ll admit it, my primary motive for starting this attempt at change is a vain one. In just about 2 years my family is planning a cruise to the Caribbean and dammit, I want to look healthy and good in a bathing suit, and this change needs to start with saying sayonara to sugar. Because I’m an addict and I need to change things.

Courtesy of @PixaBay

I made this difficult decision on Friday – 3 days ago.

Actually, let me back up a bit. I made the decision to get healthier almost as soon as it was decided we were going to make this cruise happen. The better eating plan (I refuse to call it a diet, because diets are something you do for a little while, and I plan to change how I eat FOREVER) was started Friday.

So, I started with fitness. I’ve been trying to go for roughly mile long walks with my girls after school/work, but the weather has been pretty crummy lately, and if it’s too cold I get really bad cold headaches and have to waste at least twenty minutes of my life after the walk waiting for the headache to go away.

So I dug out my workout DVD’s. Les Mills’ Body Pump and The 21 Day Fix are my primary go-to’s, but I know I can also find some good ones on YouTube, and I have PiYo (another BeachBody workout I don’t care for as much.)

Why am I sharing this with the world via my blog? Because I know I’m not the only one with a sugar addiction. I’m not the only one who leads a sedentary life. (On a good day I MIGHT log 3,000 steps on my FitBit.)

I hope that by blogging my journey with sugar reduction, I might inspire someone else. And blogging might keep me more accountable.

NOTE: I am not a health or fitness expert. Everything I know, I learned from the internet, but I do try to locate reputable sources. I welcome anyone to leave comments with sources if I ever give flawed information so that I can learn and so can my readers!


BEFORE:

I feel like I should tell you my usual (bad) habits, to get a feel for what my diet and activity level was like before I started working toward this goal.

Activity: I don’t have a very physically demanding job. My work space is pretty small, so even when I have to do a lot of walking, it’s not a lot of walking! I mostly sit at my desk and process orders, except for when I’m grabbing the items for shipping from the shelf, 15 steps away. After work, when the weather is nice, I try to go on at least a mile long walk, but that’s a newer habit I’m working on building, not my norm, and definitely won’t be happening come winter! (Come summer I’m hoping for a morning and afternoon walk.)

I’m not really overweight, technically I think I’m in the recommended range for a 5’5″ woman, but my belly blubber and lack of energy tell me I need to make changes.

I also “pass” my yearly physical, except my August 2018 numbers put me at high risk for my HDL (good cholesterol.) I came in at 33 mg/dl when the ideal goal is to be above 60. How do I fix this? Cutting the crap and more exercise. (Important to note, I was working at a hotel for over a year and I ate a LOT of free cookies…. Gone are my days of free cookies, but now I need to kick the chocolate to the curb!)

Breakfast: Honey Nut Cheerios, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, or some other breakfast cereal LOADED with oh-so-delicious and awful for me added sugars, topped with 1% milk. And I never ate ONE serving, who eats only 3/4 cup of cereal? NOT ME!

Lunch: On a work day, usually way too much candy (I’m talking at least 6 of the Hershey Nuggets mentioned above, usually more – a serving size is 3 and that’s 150 calories and 16g added sugar!) or chocolate chip granola bars (usually, at least 2-3.) Sometimes I’d stop at Panera and pick up an Asiago bagel and a couple pads of butter (I’d buy two at a time, one for that day and one for the next.) If I had a good reward on my account, I might get a panini, chicken noodle soup (in the cold months), or a strawberry salad when it was in season. But the panini and salad weren’t often, because I don’t have the money to spend on expensive takeout. I can afford my two bagels at $2.99 a week no problem!

Dinner: I don’t mind cooking, but I hate coming up with ideas for dinner. In the past my go-to meal was pizza. My mother-in-law taught me to make dough and sauce and we would eat that at least once a week. It’s been a while since I made pizza though. Most nights are “fend for yourself” and I might have another bowl of cereal, or a can of creamy chicken noodle soup with a ton of saltine crackers, maybe we’d make homemade panini’s or burgers. Sometimes grilled chicken (my favorite is on a toasted bun with pineapple, lettuce, and a sweet chili mayo mixture I make.) In the last month or so I’ve been making stir-fry, in an attempt to get more veggies into my diet. I really hate veggies, so this is a REAL struggle for me.

Snack: As mentioned before, I would snack on ice cream or another bowl of sugary cereal, and maybe some more chocolate while I’m working at my computer.

Now – ONTO THE PRESENT!


DAY 1: Friday

On Friday I decided I needed to get serious about my health.

I had big plans of making a healthy grilled chicken dish for dinner. Until I got home and discovered we were out of chicken. I don’t know what I ate for dinner, as I hadn’t started logging my food yet, but I’m sure it was something like a bowl of cereal. I did refrain from eating a bunch of chocolate at lunch, so that was something.

When hubby arrived home from work, we ditched the kids at home and went to Costco together in search of some healthy foods, including the giant bag of Perdue Chicken Breasts. I seriously love these because they’re the PERFECT chicken breast for grilling on the George Foreman grill, cutting into chunks for stir fry, anything really!

I also picked up a bag of pistachios. I haven’t had them in forever, but I want to incorporate more nuts into my diet and these were always my (way too expensive) favorite.


DAY 2: Saturday, May 4, 2019

This was when things got real. I spent the day doing laundry and tracking my food.

Weigh In: Weighed myself first thing in the morning and was down 1 lb from the last time I weighed in Friday morning.

EXERCISE: I did a 30 minute Body Pump workout and was really feeling it. (I’d done the same Body Pump workout on Wednesday, and Yoga on Thursday.) Because I’m just getting back into lifting weights, I’m sticking with the lighter 5lb weights on my barbell and the shorter 30 minute workouts. Gradually, when I feel ready, I’ll up to my 10lb weights on the lifts I know I can do, and move to the longer workouts.

FOOD: Was I perfect? No. But I’m not going for perfect. I’m not going to cold turkey remove all sugar from my life. I’m going to work on making healthy choices, but if there’s a moment where I feel the need for a single piece of chocolate, I’m going to look at my nutrition for the day and decide if I’ll allow myself to cheat.

Everything I ate on Saturday.
Some portion sizes are guesstimates.
Oh, and the BBQ sauce I had to just pick one from my options – this was a homemade sauce that The Husband got from a co-worker, so I have no nutrition stats on it.
I also have read that sugars found in milk and fruit should not really count against me since they’re natural sugars.

I do want to limit all sugars, but right now my main focus is added sugars.
So, excluding natural sugars I’m looking at 58g of added sugars.
Yikes.
If one teaspoon of sugar equals 4 grams,
that means I consumed about 14.5 teaspoons in under 24 hours.

DAY 3: Sunday May 5, 2019

A lazy Sunday for me! I folded more laundry (seriously, I feel like laundry is my life sometimes!!!)

Weigh In: Forget to weigh in today. But that’s okay, because weight fluctuates a little bit from day to day.

EXERCISE: I planned to do yoga today, since I was still a little sore from the Body Pump session yesterday. Instead I put in 21 Day Fix Lower Body Fix and holy cow were my legs feeling it by the end! I was dripping sweat and absolutely feeling the burn!!!

FOOD: Time got away from us and we didn’t have time to make dinner, since it was a school night for the kids, so we ended up eating canned soup or Ramen. I opted for a can of Campbell’s Creamy Chicken Noodle with a handful of Saltine crackers, knowing full well this was an AWFUL choice. I did try to limit my crackers, so that’s a small victory. And at least it wasn’t sugary cereal? I ended up going over my calories, but my FitBit One doesn’t do a great job of tracking anything that isn’t walking, so I honestly think I may have burned those 80 calories I went over by. (Anyone have the FitBit Charge 3? Does that do a better job tracking exercises that don’t involve a lot of walking, but heart rate increases?)

I was pretty hungry shortly after breakfast on Saturday, so today I opted to double things and use a whole cup of guacamole on two slices of toast with two fried eggs.

For lunch, I went with the least sugary cereal option – regular Cheerios only have 1 gram of sugar per serving. I did add one packet of pure cane sugar to sweeten things, and cut up some strawberries and added those in.

Excluding natural sugars, I was sitting at 30g added sugars.
I’m down to 7.5 tsp of added sugar today vs 14.5 yesterday.
I need to get all my sugars down though.
But this isn’t a race, it’s a learning process.

Eating that bedtime bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios was a bad choice

DAY 4: Monday May 6, 2019

Today I’m feeling optimistic!

Weigh In: First thing in the A.M. and down 0.6 lb!

Exercise: I should’ve done another workout DVD, but I didn’t. I DID go on a walk with my kids though, so I upped my step count, got some fresh pollen-filled air (and itchy eyes), and earned some extra calories. I have a feeling I won’t get to work out again until Wednesday, aside from a walk.

Eating: Today was so much easier! I was going to double my avocado/egg/toast breakfast like I did yesterday, but I burnt one slice of toast when I went to the basement to weigh myself. Whoops! One was enough though. I did almost cave and eat some chocolate twice during the day, and in the evening when I saw where my sugars and total calories were at, I opted to allow myself one Hershey’s Nugget as a treat. AND IT DIDN’T EVEN TASTE THAT GOOD! The nuts for lunch were a killer on my overall fats for the day, but better fats from nuts than sugars? I think? The Panini’s I made for dinner were DELICIOUS and the Ciabata rolls I bought were healthier than I thought! The Husband said we could eat that every night and he’d never get sick of it. Next time I’ll probably add some more deli turkey to the Panini for the calories and protein since I did struggle to reach my caloric goal today. I’m not extremely under so I’m calling it a day and going to bed. AND LOOK AT THOSE SUGARS!!!

Look at those sugars!
Only NINE grams of ADDED sugars! That’s only 2.25 tsp!
I also feel like I’m craving the sugar less.

I did struggle with the nuts, because trail mix always has something sweet – raising or chocolate candies or both!
I’ll be adding a couple chocolate covered almonds to the mix to sweeten it up, and adding a variety of other nuts/seeds, as I adjust to less and hopefully, eventually no, sugar.

Oh, and you can see at the bottom that FitBit did give me extra calories for my walk. Because it knows my steps, but can’t calculate my other workouts.

SUMMARY: The first days were hard, but by day 4 things are getting easier. I do need to find more food options. Eventually I’m going to get REALLY sick of avocado/egg/toast for breakfast! And I’m still not getting NEARLY enough veggies. A handful of carrot sticks with hummus won’t cut it. (Have I mentioned how much I HATE carrots? But they’re such an easy and healthy snack.)



TRACKING TOOLS: I do my tracking with MyFitnessPro – I have a hard time tracking my workout videos with it, so I usually leave those out and just track my food. I like that MFP gives me the breakdown of my macros (fat, protein, carbs) and even lets me customize them if I so desire.

Because I have a FitBit, I connected MFP to my FitBit app and I can see it all there (but have to go into MFP for the Macros.)

Both the FitBit and MyFitnessPal aps are available on Andorid, OS, and on the computer.


MY WRITING LIFE: Even though I’m going to be focusing on my health and fitness journey here, at the end of the day I’m still a writer.

I’m VERY excited to announce that my YA contemporary romance, SOMETHING I’M GOOD AT, will be released in June. No official date yet, and cover reveal to come! I’m waiting for my writing partner to send me her final thoughts (tomorrow she says!) so I can make any final tweaks, then it goes to my editor, and then I’m sending it to NetGalley. (So if you’re a member of NetGalley and in good standing, be sure to watch for my book!)

My editor is VERY QUICK, so I anticipate probably being done with this book by the weekend. It’s been a year long labor of love, and I’m very proud of what I’ve created.

My NEXT project is a teen paranormal series. I’ve got a very loose outline and the first chapter written, so I’m HOPING by fall to have something ready for my editor, but let’s be honest, deadlines aren’t my forte. I say fall, and it may be fall 2020. Either way, it’s in the works. Along with the sequel to SOMETHING I’M GOOD AT.

If you haven’t checked out any of my other teen books yet, both PEACE IN FLAMES and SUMMER OF PEACE are available wherever ebooks are sold!


REVIEW: Spies, Lies, and Allies by Lisa Brown Roberts






Spies, Lies, and Allies Book Cover




Spies, Lies, and Allies





Lisa Brown Roberts





YA Contemporary Romance




Entangled Teen




E-ARC



Summers are supposed to be fun, right? Not mine. I’ve got a job at my dad’s company, which is sponsoring a college scholarship competition. I just found out that, in addition to my job assisting the competing interns, I’m supposed to vote for the winner. Totally not what I signed up for.

My boss is running the competition like it’s an episode of Survivor. Then there’s Carlos, who is, well, very distracting––in a good way. But I can’t even think about him like that because fraternizing on the job means instant disqualification for the intern involved.

As if that’s not enough, an anonymous informant with insider intel is trying to sabotage my dad’s company on social media...and I’m afraid it's working.

Much as I’d love to quit, I can’t. Kristoffs Never Quit is our family motto. I just hope there’s more than one survivor by the end of this summer.

My Review

Omigosh! This was such a fun book!

A word of warning: This book is chalk full (CORRECT PHRASE?) of nerdy Star Wars references and IT. IS. AWESOME!

All Laurel wants is to be close to her dad again. He’s a workaholic, so she thinks, what a better way to spend time with him than as a summer intern at his company? If nothing else they’ll have an hour long ride in the car to bond and maybe a chance to spend lunch together. After begging and begging, her dad finally gives in. But there’s a condition. Laurel will be an  assistant to the interns, and she will be spying on them. Because all of the interns are competing for a crazy awesome scholarship.

But as the daughter of the boss, Laurel feels like a fraud. She doesnt fit in with the other interns. And as soon as the rules are laid out, she wonders how she will survive the summer. The worst rule of all, no fraternizing with the interns or they will lose their chance at the scholarship. Enter NAME. He’s cute and Laurel begins to fall for him, after disliking him for a while.

I love that this was not an instalove story. The romance was backseat to the plot, but still a big part. It’s a story of love, father/daughter relationships, and just growing up. Really the best part was all the Star Wars mentions though. So funny.

This is definitely a teen romance I recommend for all YA contemporary fans.


Quotes

(Believe it or not, I scaled back on the number of quotes I had highlighted. This book is hilarious and awesome!)

“So, what am I doing for the Empire this summer? Plotting the destruction of peaceful planets like Alderaan?” I thought a Star Wars joke might be a fun way to start our first morning as coworkers, but Dad Vader doesn’t look amused.
“I’m not the enemy, Laurel,” Dad snaps. “Also, I’m your boss, so watch it.”

It’s cliché, crushing on the quarterback, but I think it’s a high school requirement, like taking U.S. History.

 

“Oh,” Dad says. “I almost forgot. Laurel, please introduce yourself.” Way to make me feel like chopped liver, Dad Vader. I’ll remember this when the Rebels storm the Death Star.

I wish I was like Rey in The Force Awakens, brave and tough. Or Princess Leia, snarky and brilliant. But right now, I feel like a young Anakin Skywalker, when no one thought he was capable of piloting his own Podracer, let alone winning a race.

Trish is finished so I take her place, relieved to be interacting with an inanimate object. I expect her to leave as my cappuccino brews, but she doesn’t. She watches me like a hawk stalking a baby rabbit. I hope she kills me fast.

“Clever I am. Surprised she will be.”
“Dad, you’re not Yoda. How many times do we have to go over this?”

We stare at each other. It’s not one of those Hollywood omigod-we’re-going-to-kiss moments. Instead it’s awkward and uncomfortable. I glance around, noticing we’re the last ones on the rooftop. How did that happen?

“Number one: introduction.” He glances up and grins. “We did that on the first day, in case you forgot. I even got your name right, unlike some interns.”
I roll my eyes and try not to reward him with a smile. He can sense victory, though, because his grin deepens in a way I’ve never seen. Wait—does he have two dimples? This is completely unfair.


Apology

I was supposed to partake in a blog tour for this amazing book. It was read in time, I even had the review written up the day I finished it…. but I didn’t schedule ahead of time, and then I got the flu. I’m a month late getting this posted and I feel really guilty for that, but hopefully the author, publisher, and blog coordinators understand that sometimes crap happens and it is what it is. Sorry. 🙁

 

REVIEW: The Memory of Fire by Callie Bates






The Memory of Fire Book Cover




The Memory of Fire




The Waking Land #2





Callie Bates





YA Fantasy




Del Rey / Random House




June 5, 2018




Digital ARC




464




NetGalley




March 12 - 14, 2018



The land has awoken, and news of magic's rebirth has traveled across the sea. Jahan, a daring noble who has been concealing his powers, is finally ready to stop hiding. Now he returns to the imperial capital, where the use of magic carries a death sentence. There, he must face his dark past, learn to embrace his gifts, and prevent an all-out war across the kingdoms.

My Review

Last year I read and fell in love with The Waking Lands. When I learned there was a sequel coming (and a third book next year! SCORE!) I HAD to get my hands on it.

The Waking Lands was told from El’s POV and we were introduced to Jahan, who I quickly fell in love with. (He has a bit of an Adrian Ivashkov thing going on, if you’ve read the Vampire Academy and/or Bloodlines series by Richelle Mead you know what I’m talking about. Totally swoon-worth!)

So quick recap – this is a fantasy series in which magic is a crime and anyone caught practicing is sentenced to a fate worse than death. The magic of the land was awakened in the first book (get it? The Waking Land?). That’s basically what you need to know.

The Memory of Fire is Jahan’s story and picks up after the events of The Waking Lands. We learn so much about his past, especially his childhood. His memories were tampered with by the witch who trained him (against his will) and all he knows is that he has to get his brothers away from her. But when he returns to his adopted homeland in an attempt to act as emissary or ambassador on behalf of El’s land, nothing goes as he expects it to. Due to his alliance with El, he is no longer welcome in his former home. Now he must try to make peace between the two countries and keep himself alive.

I absolutely loved the characters and the entire storyline in this series. I plan to get a copy of the books in print for a permanent home on my shelf. Highly recommended for fans of fantasy! (Bonus: This series has GORGEOUS covers!)


Quotes

“It’s too dangerous. If you stay here, we can fight together.”
“But if I go to Paladis, I can fight for you.”

My secrets are as comfortable to me as a second skin. But that’s not the way it is for Elanna, who holds up truth like a banner.

When she kisses me gently, lightly, I think I can taste the bittersweet tang of tears on her lips. Or maybe the tears are my own.

It seems as if no matter how hard I try to help my brothers, I can never save them.

I came here to win peace for Elanna. I didn’t come here to lead a revolt—not one doomed to failure.

It takes all of my power not to lunge onto the carpet and seize her. But what would I do? I can’t sweep her away like a prince in a fairy tale. Not in front of the entire imperial court. Not with all the witch stones and bells.

Perhaps this is why I was never able to give El the commitment she wants, the honesty she deserves. Because I am not a whole person, and I will never be. Madiya took that from me, but somehow I can’t shake the feeling that it’s my fault. That I did something to deserve it.


My (Writing) Life

Oh boy, it’s been a helluva month! I spent much of May with an awful flu bug. I missed five days of work and spent a week sleeping on the couch so that maybe The Husband could get some peace. It was awful, I thought I was going to die, and nothing could be worse. (I’m a bit melodramatic…. writer ya know?)

I’m finally over that, but barely a week later and I injured my back. Not sure how, but I did it. It was starting to feel better, then like an idiot, I tried to lift a too-heavy bag of potting soil from a shopping cart and – POP! CRACK! – there went my back. Way worse than before. I spent the entire weekend in bed, unable to move, crawling from my bed to the bathroom and kitchen. At my dads recommendation, I saw his chiropractor on Monday and she aligned my hips. My lower back muscles are a solid knot though, and I’m on a steady diet of ibuprofen and a muscle relaxer at night. I’m doing a few stretches she prescribed as well. I’m hoping she can do a little more tomorrow at my next appointment.

So, because of all that, I hope you can forgive me for staying away so long! Even now, sitting at the computer is uncomfortable, but I’m woefully behind on my reviews and I need to get them posted.

I have decided to make a change as far as the blog goes. From now on I only plan to post YA reviews. I know I don’t post a lot of non-YA reviews, but now it’ll just be YA. I figure, I write YA, reading YA is my passion, it just makes sense.

In my writing world…. I didn’t do any while I had that flu. I was miserable and binged TV shows on the ABC Freefom app (all of Siren, Shadowhunters seasons 2-3, and Famous in Love season 2). The back injury has been good for writing though. My goal for JuNoWriMo isn’t 50k words, but rather finding time to write every day. I’ve missed two days, but I’m still improving from where I’ve been before. My YA contemporary romance (code name SIGA) is coming along nicely. I’m getting really close to the end of the first draft. I already have a lot of things I need to add/change/expand upon when I start working on the second draft though, but I’m actually mostly excited for that.

If you were looking for either of my novella’s at other retailers, I’m happy to say that Peace in Flames is available everywhere now! Amazon, B&N, iBooks, Kobo, Google Play, and I’m working on getting it into OverDrive, Scribd, and a couple other vendors. I’ve also got it available to buy in PRINT at Amazon, B&N, and Lulu. For the time being, Summer of Peace is still in Kindle Unlimited, but on July 28 will be available everywhere.

That’s about it for now. Hoping to get some more reviews posted soon. But we’ll see. You know me, always busy busy!

REVIEW: Meet Me There by Judy Corry






Meet Me There Book Cover




Meet Me There




Ridgewater High Romance #1





Judy Corry





YA Contemporary Romance




March 6, 2018




Kindle




266




Amazon




April 12-13, 2018



A dark Chemistry lab. A fake British accent. It's all fun and games until somebody falls in love.

When sixteen-year-old, Ashlyn Brooks, runs into a sweet British guy in the dark Chemistry lab, she has no idea she's actually sitting in the pitch black room with her longtime rival, Luke Davenport. She also doesn't know that she's stepped into another one of the football captain's pranks. It isn't long before she's sharing things she's never told anyone, and starting to fall for the mysterious guy with a sexy accent who seems to understand her in a way no one ever has before.

When Luke's mom dies the summer before his senior year, he turns to pranking Ashlyn to keep his mind off his loss. But the more he gets to know her, the more he regrets using his fake British accent in the first place. Soon Luke is walking the thin line of keeping his lies a secret and wishing he could tell her that the boy she's falling for is really him.

Meet Me There is a standalone novel in The Ridgewater High series, a collection of simmering YA contemporary romances. If you like sweet romance with ballad-worthy chemistry, swoony kisses and endearing characters then you'll love Judy Corry's latest book.

Current Books in the series:
Meet Me There (Ashlyn and Luke's story)
Don't Forget Me (Eliana and Jess's story)

My Review

I’m pretty sure this is my first book by Judy Corry, and I don’t think it will be my last. This is also the first book I’ve read in a while that I bought on a whim. I think I saw the cover or a teaser or something on Twitter, clicked the link for Amazon, skimmed the preview, and the next thing I know I’d one clicked.

I’m sure glad I did, too, because Meet Me There was an absolute treat! My Kindle read this to me over the course of two days (probably 6.5 hours?) at work. (Yeah, I know, my job is amazing.)

I bought the book because the concept reeled me in. A couple of teens who have had a prank rivalry going on? Sound awesome! A British accent? Like 99% of all American girls, I swooned a little.

So yeah, you’ve got Ashlyn the dancer who’s falling for this mystery British boy, and you’ve got Luke, the cute football player who’s always pranking her and also pretending to be said British boy. As they’re falling for each other with his pretend identity, she’s enlisted to teach him to dance for a fundraiser event. Obviously hijinks and swoon-worthy moments are going to ensure.

Seriously though, scroll up and read the blurb if you skipped it. This book is absolutely adorable and is pretty much guaranteed to leave you with a smile on your face. I wish I had written this book. Wait, no, I don’t. Because then I wouldn’t have had the pleasure of reading this book. But really, if you love sweet romance stories featuring realistic characters with steamy chemistry, give this book a try.

Once I’m caught up on my backlist a little more I’m sure I’ll somehow find my way back to Amazon to pick up the second book in this series, Don’t Forget Me.


Quotes

(Confession – I was SO into this book as I was listening at work that for the first half I forgot to highlight good quotes! Oops!)

British Boy’s kiss wasn’t hurried and rushed like the other guys I’d kissed in the past. His hands didn’t try wandering to places I didn’t want them to go. Instead, he made me feel like I was special, like we had all the time in the world to get to know each other better. Like we had more than just today to kiss. And suddenly, I knew these few minutes wouldn’t be nearly long enough.


Dang. I bit my lip. His arms were definitely not made of air. They were made from heaven itself.


“You seem cheerful. Something good happen this morning at drill practice?” Her smile made me uneasy. Had she figured out the truth somehow and was just being really sweet before she smacked me?

“Not unless you call being chewed out by your coach for dancing too sloppily good.” She sighed.

“Nope, not my kind of fun. I’m pretty sure I know what you’re talking about. Just last week, my dance coach told me my muscles were made of air and that I couldn’t dance to save my life.”


My (Writing) Life

I’m still slowly but surely writing my new YA contemporary romance, code name SIGA. It’s coming along, but I’m having this problem where I’m having all these ideas for the second book…. #WriterProblems

In other news, I was feeling super stressed with too much on my plate, but I’m suddenly feeling lighter. I think I was stressing, without realizing it, about being a guest presenter at an RWA meeting yesterday. Now that I’m done with that I’m feeling better. And before that I was stressing about getting my house ready for my daughter’s birthday party. Then we got hit with a blizzard. In April. (Someone PLEASE remind me why I live in this frozen wasteland??? Oh, right… family… and amazing summers!) Anyway, that’s postponed for end of May. So that stress will return in a couple weeks!

I’ve also been keeping busy beta reading for the amazing Rachel Walter. I envy her ability to create such flawed and awesome characters.

In case you’re not counting down the days as I am, FIVE MORE DAYS until the release of Summer of Peace! I’m more than a little excited you guys. I’ve got a blog tour starting Friday (I still open slots if any of you are bloggers and interested – shoot me a message!) JoJo is my favorite character I’ve published to date. (My hero from SIGA is my all time favorite character, sorry JoJo.) And Matt is pretty swoon-worthy IMO. I can’t wait for everyone to read their story.

I’m setting a goal for myself to post a review once a week, on my one day off work. (Yeah, the crappy thing about working two jobs is that I only have one day off each week now! That’ll change come summer though, I’m cutting back my hours at the hotel!)

So, hopefully you’ll see me again next Saturday on my day off! (Although I’m out of town most of the day, so we’ll see if it happens!)

 

REVIEW: Breaking The Ice by Julie Cross






Breaking the Ice Book Cover




Breaking the Ice




Juniper Falls #2





Julie Cross





YA Contemporary Romance




Entangled Teen




December 26, 2017




E-ARC




341




NetGalley




Beat The Backlist 2018




January 21-23, 2018



The second book in the Juniper Falls series from NY Times and USA TODAY bestselling author Julie Cross, perfect for fans of Miranda Kenneally and Abbi Glines.

Haley Stevenson seems like she’s got it all together: cheer captain, “Princess” of Juniper Falls, and voted Most Likely to Get Things Done. But below the surface, she’s struggling with a less-than-stellar GPA and still reeling from the loss of her first love. Repeating her Civics class during summer school is her chance to Get Things Done, not angst over boys. In fact, she’s sworn them off completely until college.

Fletcher Scott is happy to keep a low profile around Juniper Falls. He’s always been the invisible guy, warming the bench on the hockey team and moonlighting at a job that would make his grandma blush. Suddenly, though, he’s finding he wants more: more time on the ice, and more time with his infuriatingly perfect summer-school study partner.

But leave it to a girl who requires perfection to shake up a boy who’s ready to break all the rules.

My Review

This is my third YA hockey book, though the content of this one feels more like a NA book. I don’t even like hockey, but all of these fabulous hockey themed books make me wish I did!

This is very much a hate to love romance. Fletcher just wants to be left alone and Haley just wants to pass her summer school class. Haley wants to use Fletcher for his smarts, while Fletcher resigns himself to trying to help his cousin, who’s got a huge crush on Haley, get some face time with her. Somehow this unlikely couple falls in love.

Haley is a pretty straight forward character. You love her or you hate her. Fletcher is frustrating because he’s very secretive and harbors animosity toward his town due to rumors about both his parents and grandparents. He has a top secret job, which will keep you guessing the entire time until the job is revealed.

Overall this was an incredibly fun, sweet, and sexy book which I devoured. I will absolutely be looking for more books from Julie Cross in the future.

Due to some of the sexual content in this book I would recommend this one for upper-teen and adult readers.


Quotes

What do I know about Haley Stevenson? Probably not nearly as much as she assumes. First off, she really did shove Cheerios up my nose when we were three.

 

So Fletcher Scott is nice to look at. Big deal. Pull yourself together, Haley.

“We’re corrupting a fifteen-year-old. Maybe we should go to church.”

I’ve only practiced with varsity for a total of eight days now, but I’ve already figured out that Coach is hardest on the most talented players. I’m not on his hate list. And I need to be. Somehow.

Before I have a chance to absorb the fact that I’ve just signed up to spend extra time with the world’s most infuriating girl, I focus on a plan of action—two birds with one stone and all that shit.

“I’m gonna go in there…” I point a finger at the door. “And I’m going to talk to your cousin because you’re right, I do like helping people. But as far as the project goes, you don’t get to do it by yourself. You’re stuck with me. Consider it your punishment for being an asshole.”

I fight the urge to throw my phone across the playground. He’s got the brooding-asshole act down a little too well. And yet, part of me wants to prod him some more, if only to get another glimpse of Other Fletcher—the one without so many walls.
How can someone be so infuriating and interesting at the same time?

Jamie skids to a stop and takes in both of us. “What the hell is going on?”
“Fletcher’s pregnant,” Haley says, straight-faced.
I nod. “I am.”

Falling for Haley? How is that possible? We haven’t done anything except make out. Twice. Of course, there’re all the times I wished we were kissing, wished we were doing more than kissing. And right now, we’ve been apart for twenty minutes and I already want to see her again.
Jesus Christ, I’m screwed.


My (Writing) Life

It’s been a crazy month you guys. If you read my previews review you may remember that I was hired for a new job. This is on top of my work for indie press Melange Books, and my job as a hotel front desk agent. So basically I have three jobs now. If you count being a mom, that’s four. And keeping my house from falling apart, that’s five. So yeah, I have like 8,000 jobs right now. Life is crazy.

To add to all the stress of too many jobs, the day I STARTED my new job, I had to bring my van in because it was misbehaving. The next day I got word that my transmission is shot. So yeah, I started a new job and basically the same day learned that my mode of transportation was gone. My parents are amazing though, so I was able to borrow my dad’s car for two full weeks. That’s how long it took me to find a replacement vehicle (because there’s zero sense in putting a new transmission in a 2004 minivan!) So yeah, I have a new (used) car and I’m sort of in love. It’s a 2012 Kia Sorento. The color is “White Sand Beige”, which I hated in the pictures… hated a little less when we test drove it… and now that it’s mine the color is growing on me. Now I have my first ever car payment. ((sobs))

In the writing world I’m trying to get back into writing (almost) daily. Now that Peace in Flames is out for public consumption, and Summer of Peace is up for preorder, all of my writing energy is going into Something I’m Good At. This YA romance is so much fun. When it’s ready (summer? I hope?) I hope everyone loves my hero, Kane, as much as I do. (It’s totally normal to a little crush on your own character, right? …RIGHT???)

So, in short, my schedule is jam packed. And because I now have a car payment, I can’t exactly quit my hotel job yet. (Plus I like the discounted hotel rooms!) I have a ton of reviews to post and write. My reading has slowed down a little, but not horribly so. Hopefully I can get into the swing of carving time to post at least weekly if not more often. Anything’s better than this once a month crap, right????

So if you made it through all that, you should go buy/preorder my Peace Novellas. ((wink))

 

REVIEW: Hello Again by Brenda Novak






Hello Again Book Cover




Hello Again




The Evelyn Talbot Chronicles #2





Brenda Novak





Romantic Thriller




St. Martin's Press




October 3, 2017




E-ARC




384




NetGalley




October 13 - 22, 2017



SHE CAN MAKE SENSE OF A COMPLEX CRIMINAL MIND.
Evelyn Talbot, a psychiatrist at a maximum-security prison in Alaska, studies some of the world's worst serial killers. But she's about to meet her most elusive patient at Hanover House yet: Dr. Lyman Bishop, AKA the Zombie Maker given his fondness for performing ice-pick lobotomies on his victims. A brilliant cancer researcher, Bishop is either the most cunning psychopath Evelyn has ever encountered--or he is wrongly convicted.

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN A CRIMINAL CAN SEE INTO HER OWN?
When a new ice-pick fatality occurs, it seems Bishop really was wrongly convicted. Except...Evelyn has a personal connection to the victim and that suggests the killer may be someone from her own past: Jasper Moore, her high school boyfriend who tortured her and left her for dead when she was only sixteen. Jasper also murdered three of her friends--and was never caught. Is he trying to send a message with this copycat crime? The only thing Evelyn knows for sure is that if Jasper is on her trail, she might not be able to escape again . . .

My Review

I think Hello Again might be even better than the first book in the Evelyn Talbot series. Seriously, I thought the stakes were great in that book, but it had nothing on this one!

I think you could jump into this book without reading the previous, but I do recommend reading the first. Because it was amazing. And you’ll better understand the characters and their motives.

So in Hello Again, Evelyn and Amarok are still together, and things start out the same as the previous book, with Evelyn still not ready to fully commit. Their relationship does start to change though, but I won’t spoil how.

Meanwhile, Amarok has been watching for any signs that Jasper, the man who brutally tortured and left Evelyn for dead when she was 16, is still killing. When he thinks he might have found him, he sets off for the Southwest USA, leaving Evelyn alone in Alaska, dealing with her latest psychopath who has you questioning his innocence the whole time…

What’s really cool about this book is that we get a bigger peek into Jasper’s head, and let me tell you, he is a twisted mofo! (Just see the quote below!)

This is a page turner, just like the first book. I had a hard time putting it down. And just like the first book, each chapter starts with a quotation from a real serial killer, some more known than other, all equally crazed.

If you like romantic thrillers – or just thrillers in general – read this series!!!


Quotes

“Let’s talk about something else,” she said. “I can tell this is upsetting you.”
“I would upset anybody!” He snapped. “Which is why I worry about you, being constantly immersed in details of the worst of human behavior.”

He shoved a hand through his hair. “I hope this goes my way.”
“Or…”
“I’ll find out what it feels like to have my heart broken, something I’ve managed to avoid for thirty years.”

Some people—most of Alaska—loved San Diego. But he wasn’t overly impressed. He preferred Alaska.

Amarok seemed determined. He’d made a bold move, flying all the way to San Diego to approach Stanley and Maureen. One that required nerve. And one for which Jasper was determined to make him pay dearly.

Everything they had should belong to him someday and would have if only Evelyn had died in that shack like she was supposed to. She’d ruined his life—and deserved what she was going to get.

“There are too many people in the world. I actually perform a vital function. As far as I’m concerned, there needs to be more killers like me.”


My (Writing) Life

Wow, I’m literally the worst.

It’s been over a MONTH since I last posted! It’s been a crazy few weeks, so I’m going to use that as my excuse! ((wink))

So, what’s new? PEACE IN FLAMES WENT LIVE!!! You can snag your very own copy from Amazon HERE! If you’re in Kindle Unlimited you can save yourself the 99c and read for free. If you don’t know what the book is about I’ll give you the short explanation: High School + Boy Obsessed With Girl + Arson = Peace in Flames.

In other news I’m making my way through the FINAL draft of SUMMER OF PEACE, my New Adult Romance (stand alone) follow up to PEACE IN FLAMES. I’ve had so many drafts of this book it’s not even funny. Something was always missing or a little off, but I think I’m finally almost there and happy with the end result!

Once I finish this draft and send it off to my editor, I’m going to re-read the 16k words I have written for my full length YA romance Something I’m Good At and get back to work on that story. I think you guys are going to love these characters. My hero, Kane, is absolutely hilarious.

As for my LIFE, we’re painfully short staffed at my hotel job which means everything is a thousand times more stressful. I’ve been working every weekend, usually around 30 hours in those three days, and then spending all my “free” time working on my publishing job and trying to find time to write. I’m pretty sure I still have a husband and two kids, I just rarely see them! Actually, The Husband and I had a date night last Thursday which was much needed, but sent me even further behind with my at home work. Ugh.

As of yesterday I accepted a NEW JOB ((HAPPY DANCE)) for a local company. Minimal customer interaction. Four hours per day. Five days per week. Much better money than I’m making at my hotel job. So… I cut back my hours at the hotel and I’m hoping I’ll be able to find a better work/life balance with this new position.

I’ll try not to stay away for so long next time. I’m not reading as much as I’d like to, since I’m really focusing on writing more, but I’ve got a back log of reviews to get posted. Like this one I’m posting today. That I read in last few months of 2017….

So, go grab yourself a copy of PEACE IN FLAMES, leave a review whether you loved it, hated it, or just thought it was meh, and I’ll see ya next time!

REVIEW: Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen






Along for the Ride Book Cover




Along for the Ride





Sarah Dessen





YA Contemporary Romance




Viking Books for Young Readers




June 16, 2009




Hardcover




383




Half Price Books




Beat The Backlist 2018




January 1 - 12, 2018



It’s been so long since Auden slept at night. Ever since her parents’ divorce—or since the fighting started. Now she has the chance to spend a carefree summer with her dad and his new family in the charming beach town where they live.

A job in a clothes boutique introduces Auden to the world of girls: their talk, their friendship, their crushes. She missed out on all that, too busy being the perfect daughter to her demanding mother. Then she meets Eli, an intriguing loner and a fellow insomniac who becomes her guide to the nocturnal world of the town. Together they embark on parallel quests: for Auden, to experience the carefree teenage life she’s been denied; for Eli, to come to terms with the guilt he feels for the death of a friend.

In her signature pitch-perfect style, Sarah Dessen explores the hearts of two lonely people learning to connect.

Review

This was a challenging book to get into. All of the characters were pretty awful and it was hard to care about them. But then something magical happened. Somewhere at around the halfway point this book became difficult to put down. Suddenly I started to see little changes in the heroine, Auden, and I started to care what happened.

On the surface this is a book about a girl who spends the summer between high school and college with her dad and step-mom at their house in a little beach town. She finds friends and romance. But it’s actually much deeper.

Let’s talk about Auden. She’s the youngest of two children and because her parents “needed” her to be quiet and good as a child, she was. She never had a real childhood. She never had close friends, the color pink was frowned upon, and boys were a distraction to her studies — useless.

So when Auden moves in with her dad and step-mother, Heidi, for the summer, she’s dreading having to be around her perky pink-clad step-mother, Heidi. Not to mention the fact that her new baby half-sister NEVER. STOPS. CRYING.

When her parents were fighting, before the divorce, Auden stopped sleeping at night, instead she spent her nights hanging out at an all night diner. Now in the new beach town, she must find new ways to fill her nights. Soon after her arrival, she connects with the mysterious Eli. A friendship blossoms and, upon learning of Auden’s lack of a childhood, he’s determined to give her as many of those experiences as he can before she starts college in the fall.

On the surface, this is a book where not a lot happens. There’s a lot of repetition with the nightly activities between Auden and Eli, plus her job at Heidi’s store, but as Eli takes her on her quest, and things at home become shaky, Auden begins to change.

Let’s talk about the side characters for a second. They were great and awful and a big part of what makes Auden who she is. Her mother is a strong, independent, and powerful woman — very women’s rights and down with the patriarchy. Her dad is a failed writer. Her brother is a free spirit who has spent the last two years mooching off their parents backpacking through Europe.

Her mom comes across as cold-hearted and just mean. She seems to expect Auden to be a carbon copy of herself. Her dad is awful. He’s so selfish and ignorant.

But the people Auden meets in the beach town are amazing.

My main takeaway themes from this book are:

Don’t judge a book by it’s cover — there is far more to a person than what you see on the surface.

People can change — Every person close to Auden in this book showed signs of changing for the better. Even the most unredeemable characters take steps toward redemption.

Coming of Age — A huge theme in this book was Auden realizing who she is without her parents. When she separates herself from them and follows what feels is right in her own heart, who is she really? Is she a carbon copy of her mother? Or as selfish as her dad?

This review is getting WAY too long. For a book I really could have cared less about in the beginning, I’m shocked at how much I enjoyed this.

So, I’ll say my tiny bit of negatives and end this.

  1. The beginning dragged and a critical scene that was referenced multiple times later is glossed over so quickly that it either should have been cut or described.
  1. Very early on her dad and step-mom’s baby is called her stepsister. Grr! She’s her half-sister! Half and Step are VERY different things!!!
  2. I’d liked to have seen more romantic bits with Eli. Personal preference.

Even with those couple negatives, this is still a solid 4 star book for me. The second half was so enjoyable I nearly forgot how bored I was during the first half. I’ll definitely be reading more Sarah Dessen in the future.


Quotes

I was such a smart kid, I should have figured out that the only way to really get my parents’ attention was to disappoint them or fail. But by the time I realized that, succeeding was already a habit too ingrained to break.

There is really nothing more intimidating than approaching a group of girls who have already made up their minds about you. It’s like walking a plank, no way to go but down.

Since I had no rain jacket, I had to borrow one from Heidi, who offered me three colors: bright pink, light pink, and, in her words, “dusty pink,” whatever that meant. I picked the light one, yet still felt positively radioactive as I walked down the gray, wet sidewalk, boldly contrasting with everything about me.

“Who says you have to be either smart or pretty, into girly stuff or sports? Life shouldn’t be about the either/or. We are capable of more than that, you know?”

“Look. I just…”
But no words followed. I just let this hang there, open-ended, waiting for him to jump in, finish it, do the hard part for me. It was my dad’s signature trick, and now I understood why. It was so much easier than having to say what you didn’t want to aloud.

I’d thought I knew so much when I’d arrived here, the smartest girl in the room. But I’d been wrong.


My (Writing) Life

I was going to be GOOD this week and post LOTS of my outstanding reviews. But then I didn’t. I did however get a LOT of my reviews posted at vendors, reviews that are already on the blog and Goodreads, and also submitted to NetGalley. There’s still a ways to go before I’m caught up, but I feel less stressed.

What else… I’m still slogging through reading Animal Farm, but I’m motivated to finish now because next up is going to be The Mummy by Anne Rice. I’ve got the sequel on my old phone from Penguin First Reads to read and I want to refresh my memory by re-reading The Mummy. It’s been a good decade since I first read it!

I’m making slow progress on SOMETHING I’M GOOD AT but that’s mostly right now because I decided to change the book from past tense to present. I usually hate present tense, but it’s starting to grow on me and I think it’ll really help with this particular series of books. (Three books planned at the moment, but I may expand. Who knows!)

I’m 100% certain I will not be posting any other reviews this weekend. It’s the Super Bowl weekend, which I could care less about, but the Super Bowl happens to be in my city this year and I happen to work at a hotel. It’s going to be a full house folks! (Best part of the Super Bowl being in town? One of my good friends demanding that anyone with any info on Justin Timberlake’s whereabouts contact her IMMEDIATELY!) But yeah, I’m working crazy long hours (just like last weekend!) and will be basically dead come Sunday night.

(Psst! Still looking for people who may be interested in reading and reviewing – or even doing a release day blast for – PEACE IN FLAMES my upper YA contemporary romance! Shoot me a message or leave a comment on the post.)

 

 

REVIEW: The Royal Deal by D. G. Driver






The Royal Deal Book Cover




The Royal Deal




Chasing the Romantics #1





D. G. Driver





Fairy Tale




January 16, 2018




E-ARC




63




The Author




January 18 - 21, 2018



A pampered princess is told she must marry a prince she doesn't like, let alone love, on her nineteenth birthday. Desperate to find a way to stop this arranged marriage, she makes a bargain with her father. If she can survive for three months in the forest with no help of any kind and return healthy and unharmed, then she can choose the man she will marry. The King accepts the wager, knowing he can't possibly lose. Princess Faith knows she must win this deal, but once she ventures into the forest, she has no idea how she can possibly succeed.

Review

I’m a huge fan of D. G. Driver’s, so when she asked me to read and review her latest release, The Royal Deal, I gladly accepted.

This book isn’t quite like her others. For one, it’s a short novella. And secondly, it’s written as a traditional fairy tale, similar in style to Gail Carson Levine’s The Princess Tales.

I loved the concept of this fairy tale. Pampered princess doesn’t want to marry the prince she sees as irresponsible. She wants to marry his older brother, the prince who is responsible and devoted to his people. The prince who has also been missing since the last battle he fought in.

So Princess Faith makes a deal with her father to let her stay in the woods for three months, if she survives on her own she’ll get to marry whomever she desires. Should she return home, having failed, before the end of the three months, she will marry the young prince.

I loved that Princess Faith believes so highly of herself as an independent and self-sufficient person, but as soon as she enters the woods she learns she’s actually entirely unprepared. Even when a hermit living in the woods comes to her aid, she runs away, refusing to back down and accept help, thus negating the deal.

Faith’s stubbornness and belief in good were a delight. Even though she basically had zero chance of surviving on her own in the woods, she still made the deal to get out of the marriage she didn’t want.

The hermit was an interesting character as well. I don’t want to spoil his story, so I wont say much, just that as a reader I understood the moral/lesson the author meant for me to takeaway right away and liked it.

Unfortunately, I can’t give this 5 stars because there were so many more details I wanted to know! Novella’s are often tough for me, especially in fantasy (as fairy tales are) because they don’t give the details I crave. Everything moves so fast. BUT – this is my personal preference. If you shoved this story into a book of classic fairy tales I wouldn’t question it being there. Not for a second.

So ultimately, if you enjoy classic style fairy tales this could be a winner for you.


Quotes

Prince Jaeger of Aronsite had asked Faith’s father for her hand in marriage. Her father, the King of Devonedge, accepted. When he joyously told Faith the news the night before in front of a banquet full of people, Faith very calmly stood and replied, “I would rather be boiled alive in a vat of lava than marry that sniveling rodent that calls himself a man.”

“You haven’t any skills to survive. This is a wager you can’t possibly win.”
“Still,” she came back, “I’m willing to make it. I’m that against marrying Jaeger and ever hopeful that those three months will bring Mikhail home.”

Failure. Hopeless. Pathetic. Fool.
This mantra looped around and around Faith’s brain…

“Nothing in stories is ever completely accurate for everyone. Nor are stories ever entirely inaccurate about a great number of people.”

Yes, she could marry whomever she wished, but that didn’t mean she would. It didn’t mean she’d give up her nobility to be with a man who lived in the middle of the forest. Marrying for love was not how the world worked for princesses.

 


My (Writing) Life

Oh what to write, what to write!

I suppose, first of all I should apologize for going MIA for a while here. I’ll explain below.

But FIRST I should let everyone know that PEACE IN FLAMES is now available for preorder – WOOHOO!
If you’re in KU you’ll be able to read for FREE beginning Feb 16, 2018 OR you can preorder now and show your love.

In other news I’m nearing the end of my current draft of SUMMER OF PEACE. I anticipate getting this to my editor by early next week, then going through it again using text to speech. (Amazing what your eyes will skip over! Listening is key for proofing!)

If you’re a fellow reviewer and have any interest in reading/reviewing either/both PEACE IN FLAMES (YA Contemporary Romance) and/or SUMMER OF PEACE (NA – clean – Contemporary Romance) shoot me a message. I’d love help spreading the word about my book babies.

So to expand upon what I said above, I recently had about a week of deep depression and didn’t write or blog or really do anything. It was awful. Even reading brought me no joy and felt like a chore. Zero words were written and I second guessed everything I’d written to date. But I made it through to the other side and I’m looking forward to catching up posting my reviews here and diving back into my writing projects. My contemporary YA romance, tentatively titled SOMETHING I’M GOOD AT, is calling to me.

We also had a massive snowstorm four days ago. The roads were absolutely terrible and I was so grateful I didn’t have to leave the house. Unfortunately the schools did not let out early enough and I ended up with my kids school bus stuck in front of my driveway. It had spun around so it actually looked like it had pulled OUT of my driveway instead of like it had tried to drive past. But let me tell you, Minnesota Nice is a real thing because my feeble attempts to help dig the tires out with my snow shovel were met with the assistance of a neighbor across the street with his snowblower. When the bus got stuck again, he was right back out there helping the driver out by clearing more snow. It was a combination of awful/hilarious/amazing to see all of this happening.

And now I need to get ready for a busy night at work. #hotellife

Spotlight Tour: BUSTED by Gina Ciocca + GIVEAWAY






Busted Book Cover




Busted





Gina Ciocca





YA Contemporary Romance




Sourcebooks Fire




January 2, 2018




E-ARC




352




NetGalley




December 13 - 16, 2017



Catching cheaters and liars is a lucrative hobby—until you fall for one of the suspects. Perfect for fans of Veronica Mars, this new novel from the author of Last Year’s Mistake will steal your heart!

Marisa never planned to be a snoop for hire. It wasn’t like she wanted to catch her best friend’s boyfriend making out with another girl. But as her reputation for sniffing out cheaters spreads all over school, Marisa finds herself the reluctant queen of busting two-timing boys.

And her next case? It’s for ex-frenemy Kendall. She’s convinced her boyfriend, TJ, has feelings for someone else and persuades Marissa to start spying on him. But the more Marisa gets to know sincere and artistic TJ, the more she starts to fall for him. Worse yet, the feelings seem to be mutual. Marisa knows she needs to give up her investigation—and the spoken-for guy who may just be the love of her life. Then she uncovers new secrets about Kendall and TJ, secrets that take “cheater” to a whole new level…

Review

I loved this book! It’s been far too many books since I’ve had a YA in front of my eyes, and I’m so glad this was the one I picked up at this time.

Marisa, Charlie, TJ and even Nick were all great characters to read about. They all had their negative character traits and their positives, which made them feel very real. By the time I finished the book I was glad to have gone on this journey with them, but also sad to be saying goodbye. I want a sequel to read more about Marisa, but I don’t want any more bad to come to her, so… I guess I don’t want a sequel?

I loved how there were so many layers in this book. Anything could be a clue as to what the hell is ACTUALLY going on, and you just don’t know until you get to the end and realize the significance something you read earlier has.

I even loved Marisa’s parents. They were very cool and trusting parents.

It’s been… a few years… since I was in high school, and I just hope that not all high schools are full of such shitty boys like the two schools in this book! The good guys in this book certainly seemed to be the exception to the rule.

I would absolutely recommend this to teens and adults alike who are looking for a fun contemporary with a touch of romance and mystery. Nice work Ms. Ciocca, I can’t wait to see what you come up with next!


Quotes

If I hadn’t been in line behind—what the hell was his name? Greg? George?—my double order of Sexual Chocolate (yes, really) and I would be on our way to Charlie’s house for a Saturday movie, gossip, and anti-nutrition night like so many other Saturday’s before.

 

Outing a scumbag felt more badass than anything I’d ever done—especially when I told her how I’d gotten the picture, and she looked at me like I’d parted the Red Sea.

 

And that’s when the bubble of positivity I’d been floating in since reconnecting with Kendall Keene in the parking lot bust like a microwaved marshmallow all over the room.

 

“I don’t know, Kendall,” I sighed into my cell phone. “This is different from what I’ve done before. You’re not asking me to follow him for a night or two. You’re basically asking me to stalk him. This feels… sneaky.”

“How is it any sneakier than trespassing on private property and aiming a camera inside someone’s living room?”

She had a point.

 

The word okay came out of my mouth, but in my mind it sounded a hell of a lot more like oh shit.

 

“When you care about someone, you don’t sneak around and do things that would hurt her if you did them o her face. You care about how your actions affect her.” I took a step toward him. “You don’t worry that the grass is greener in every goddamn yard but our own. You put her first once in a while instead of think about yourself all. The. Fucking. Time.”

 

He’d been rubbing his chin—which he still hadn’t shaved, and I wondered if i was specifically to drive me crazy.


Marisa’s Top 5 Tips For Sleuthing:

Hey there. Marisa Palmera, Private Eye here. Okay, so I don’t actually call myself that, and neither does anyone else. In fact, I never meant to become a sleuth-for-hire. But spend one night scaling your best-friend’s boyfriend’s house to take incriminating pictures, and suddenly everyone wants you to be something you’re not…and when they’re willing to line your sadly lacking pockets for it, it doesn’t sound like such a bad idea.

So, should you find yourself an unwitting Girl Friday (or even a witting one… Is “witting” a thing?) like I did, here are some tips that just may save your butt:

  1. Always have a camera handy. Whether it’s your cell phone, or the fancy camera you borrowed from your school’s yearbook club, you never know when you’ll need to snap an evidence shot. Just, um, make sure you turn off the flash if said camera is aimed through a window into a dark living room. I may have learned this the hard way.
  2. Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer. Sounds ominous and dramatic, I know. But if someone gives you the vibe that they shouldn’t be let out of your sight? GO WITH IT.
  3. Think fast. Suck at lying? Me too. Get over it, because you’ll be fudging the truth a lot.
  4. But know when to say no. Weave enough white lies, and suddenly they’re a sticky, tangled web with you trapped inside. Know when it’s time to run, and do it like the flames of hell are licking your feet.
  5. Don’t fall for the person you’re investigating. You’re just gonna have to do as I say and not as I do on this one. Oops.

Excerpt

My eyes darted from TJ’s dark, furrowed eyebrows to the logo on the left breast of his shirt and I sat up straighter.

“Um, where’d you get the Maple Acres shirt?”

His expression didn’t change. “Maple Acres.”

I fought the urge to roll my eyes. “Right. I meant, do you work there?”

“Yup.” He sat back in his chair and pulled at the logo, stretching the white cotton away from his chest before turning his attention back to the computer screen. “Long time now.”

As soon as he said it, my memory was triggered. I’d always thought he looked familiar but could never quite place where I’d seen him. As I thought back to every trip I’d taken to Maple Acres, twice a year since I was two years old, the image of a boy with dark curls stuffed beneath a knit cap and a heavy flannel coat that made him look like Paul Bunyan clicked into place. The farm stretched over two hundred and fifty acres, selling pumpkins and cider and offering hayrides and a corn maze in a fall, then Christmas trees that you cut down yourself in the winter. The place had a storybook quality to it that I loved, and I couldn’t believe it had taken me so long to figure out TJ was a part of it.

“We go there for our tree every year. I think I’ve seen you.”

TJ kept his eyes on the screen. “Probably. I’m usually bundling the trees or in the checkout area. Sometimes I drive the tractor for the hayrides.” He glanced over long enough to shoot me a half smile. “Maybe you’ve seen the back of my head.”

That would’ve been an occasion I definitely hadn’t noticed him. The one and only time I’d taken a hayride had been the lone trip I’d made without Charlie or my dad, both of whom are allergic to hay. I’d gone with Jordan. Superman himself could’ve been driving the tractor and I would’ve been too busy drooling over Jordan in his plaid button-down with the sleeves rolled up around his gorgeous forearms to notice.

Vom, vom, vom. I pushed the chunks down and forged ahead. “So, that thing you didn’t want to do the last time we talked, is that… still an issue?”

“Uh, no. That fell through, so my article should be good to go on Monday.”

He’s not making this easy for me, that’s for sure.

“Take your time, really. I hope you didn’t cancel your plans because of me.”

He glanced over and gave me a wry smile. “No.”

“So, um, the tree farm. I go all the time.” I mentally slapped myself. Twice a year is all the time? “Do you live nearby?”

“You know the green colonial across the street behind the barn?”

“Uh huh.”

He smiled again. “That’s my house.”

“Wait, I thought the owners lived there.”

“They do. We have for my whole life.”

“Your family owns Maple Acres?” I blinked a few times, dumbfounded by my own dumbness.

“Well, co-owns. Have you seen the guy with the white hair who sneaks free gourds to all the little kids at Halloween? That’s my Uncle Roger. He’s there all the time, but my dad does more of the financial stuff.”

My face lit up. “That’s awesome! I love that place! I took a picture of the white barn from the top of the hill once and tried to sketch it. All the trees had snow on them, the sky was this amazing gray color and the pond was reflecting it” – I remembered mid-babble that I’d veered off course and reigned myself back in – “anyway, let’s just say it was magical, but drawing isn’t my strong suit. So, um, if you didn’t move, then why did you switch schools?”

TJ’s eyes slid back to the computer screen and his shoulder tensed ever so slightly, as if I’d brought up something he didn’t really want to talk about. Now I was getting somewhere.

“Our property is right at the intersection of three town lines. Technically, I could’ve gone to any one of the high schools.” He stabbed a few keys with his pointer finger, eliciting three clipped clicks. Maybe my eyes were playing tricks on me, but I swore his jaw tightened. “I left Templeton because it was time for a change of scenery.”

“It must’ve been hard, though, transferring for your senior year.” And pretty odd, in my opinion. “I’m sure you had a lot of ties there.”

TJ’s fingers paused in mid-air over the keyboard and he looked at me. “Not that many.”

This time when he turned his attention back to the screen, I knew our conversation had ended. He ran a hand through his hair in a gesture that had a definite undertone of irritation. Whether it related to my question or some memory pertaining to the school, I couldn’t tell. But when I caught sight of the leather bracelet on his wrist, my desire to exclaim OMG THAT’S GORGEOUS WHERE DID YOU GET IT almost overruled my desire to ask what the hell his comment was supposed to mean. I’d been baiting him to say, “Yeah, my girlfriend goes there.” He hadn’t. What did that mean?

Maybe nothing.

But damn it all to hell, I suddenly had to know for sure.


The Author

Gina Ciocca graduated from the University of Connecticut with a degree in English, but in her mind, she never left high school. She relocated from Connecticut to Georgia, where she lives with her husband and son. When she’s not reading or writing, you can find her taking long walks around the lake in her neighborhood. Gina can also be found online at writersblog-gina.blogspot.com, on Instagram as gmciocca, and Twitter as gmc511.


Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway


My (Writing) Life

First things first….. PEACE IN FLAMES is available for preorder! I’m totally psyched about this because it’s my first solo release and the first completed project I’ve been proud of! Now I just need to finish my read through of the follow up novella, SUMMER OF PEACE, and send it off to my editor. That one will be available for public consumption in April.

Otherwise I’m working on a NA PNR, but I’ve hit a bit of a wall, so I may flip over to my YA contemporary romance instead. We’ll see. I’ve got a lot to ponder plot wise on both. (I’m still working on mastering that whole “outlining” thing. LOL)

In other news, I’m working on catching up on writing my last couple reviews from 2017. I’m hoping to post them ALL before the months end. I’m also at least halfway through two separate backlist titles for 2018 and the #BeatTheBacklist reading challenge, then I’ll jump into my NetGalley pile.

Until next time, happy reading!