Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Review: Wish You Were Here by Renée Carlino

Release date: August 15th 2017
Publisher: Atria Books
Purchase: Amazon

Synopsis via Goodreads:
Charlotte has spent her twenties adrift, floating from interest to interest, job to job, and guy to guy, searching for a spark but never quite finding it. All she knows is that she won’t discover it working as a waitress at a pies-and-fries joint in Los Angeles or living with her fun but aimless best friend in a tiny apartment in the Arts District.

Then Charlotte collides with Adam, a gorgeous and soulful painter who seems just as lost as she feels. Their instant connection turns into a midnight drink… and a whirlwind night of champagne, Chinese food, and the kind of conversation that only happens in romantic comedies. But the next morning, Adam gives Charlotte the cold shoulder, leaving her confused and hurt—and wondering if the few odd moments between them the night before were red flags in disguise.

Months later, Charlotte hasn’t been able to shake Adam, so she decides to find out what happened the morning after their magical night together. This fateful decision rewrites their wild love story, but what Charlotte doesn’t know yet is that the ending has already been written.

*Publisher approved my request via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Renée Carlino has been one of my absolute favorite authors ever since I read Sweet Thing. She's a wonderful storyteller and knows how to pull your heart in and drown it in various emotions. This book was no different. The moment I got wind of Wish You Were Here I knew I was in for a mind-blowing experience. And that's exactly what I got. 

Charlotte is this young woman in her twenties that never seemed to stick to just one thing. She switches interests and boyfriends often because she doesn't get that feeling of certainty that shouts "this is it", so to speak. Still, I found Charlotte's character to be very relatable. Like her, I've often felt adrift or not quite certain of where to go in life. I feel that many people in their twenties especially think they have to decide on one set path, stay on it, and go with the flow, in spite that their hearts may not be all in. But from Charlotte, you get the sense that it's okay to try different things, make mistakes, work on yourself, and keep pushing on until you get there because you will eventually. 

Another thing I related to Charlotte with was how insecure she felt and how she lacked confidence, not only in herself but in her capability to have a healthy relationship and career. And although her encounter with Adam was rather interesting and turned out to be full of excitement for that one night, the misunderstanding that transpired the morning after didn't help her self-doubt and already low self-esteem whatsoever. As a matter of fact, her dignity was so bruised that it made it difficult to move on with another. Thank goodness Seth was a great guy and was willing to wait for Charlotte. Even after she reunited with Adam and all that happened after. That's where the sad elements of the book peaked. 

Adam. What could I possibly say about this guy that would sum up his awesomeness in the story? There isn't one word that could do him justice, to be honest. He was just that wonderful. Adam was facing something so sad and horrible, yet he smiled and continued to appreciate the small things in life. His love for art and Charlotte was so admirable and so real, that I could feel it through the pages. Their connection was intense, beautiful and painful all in one. My heart ached for them, like seriously. And while I did love Seth, his sweet personality and how even though it hurt, he understood and accepted Charlotte's feelings, a huge part of me loved Adam more and rooted for him. 

Regardless of how things went, I was thrilled that Charlotte at least experienced self-growth toward the end of the story and finally saw herself as she should have from the beginning, strong and worthy. 

Yeah, the book does have painful moments, but thanks to Charlotte's brother and her friendship with Helen, there were humorous times as well. The brother/sister aspect was particularly my favorite. Chucky, like most siblings, knew how to push his sister's buttons and they sure did mess with each other. But at the end of the day, it was all fun and I liked how supportive her brother was in his own way. As for Helen, it was mostly love/dislike for me. I loved that she could cheer up Charlotte and was so close to her family, but I felt like Helen wasn't really there for her best friend in that whole situation with Adam. I thought she could have been a bit more understanding and stop bringing up Seth every time she was around Charlotte. The situation was already complicated and I didn't like some of the things she said. Glad they were able to resolve all that over time though.    

To conclude, Ms. Carlino has definitely done it again. This was such a great story. I transitioned from laughing to crying to feeling frustrated, then to sad and crying happy tears throughout the book. Only a few authors mess with my emotions this much the way Renée does and I just love that you never know how you'll end up feeling by the end of her stories. My gosh, I cannot recommend this one enough. If you're up for an emotional read definitely give this one a chance. You won't regret it.

Renee CarlinoAbout the Author
Renée Carlino is a screenwriter and bestselling author of romantic women's novels and new adult fiction. She lives in Southern California with her husband and two sons. When she’s not at the beach with her boys or working on her next project, she likes to spend her time reading, going to concerts, and eating dark chocolate.


Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Review: Future Threat by Elizabeth Briggs

Series: Future Shock #2
Release date: March 1st 2017
Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company
Purchase: Amazon

Synopsis via Goodreads:

Six months ago Aether Corporation sent Elena, Adam, and three other recruits on a trip to the future where they brought back secret information--but not everyone made it back to the present alive. Now Elena's dealing with her survivor's guilt and trying to make her relationship with Adam work. All she knows for sure is that she's done with time travel and Aether Corporation.

But Aether's not done with her--or Adam, or fellow survivor Chris. The travelers on Aether's latest mission to the future have gone missing, and Elena and her friends are drafted into the rescue effort. They arrive in a future that's amazingly advanced, thanks to Aether Corporation's reverse-engineered technology. The mission has deadly consequences, though, and they return to the future to try to alter the course of events.

But the future is different yet again. Now every trip through time reveals new complications, and more lives lost--or never born. Elena and Adam must risk everything--including their relationship--to save their friends.

The second book in the New York Times bestselling Future Shock trilogy.

*Publisher approved request via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Future Threat is a great continuation to an exciting series. The story picks up with Elena trying to move on from what had happened during and after their first time travel but isn't doing too well with that. She's also still finding it hard to let go completely and trust in the love between her and Adam. And while I wasn't a complete fan of Adam in the first book, I did grow to like him and he's not too bad in this one either. 

Things get even more complex for the three remaining travelers when Aether comes out of the shadows to round them up. Although I guessed something else was going on with that rescue mission and wasn't too surprised when things took a turn for the worse, I had no idea the story would play out the way it did and was truly thrown by that ending.

Aside from the alternate futures and changing events, I liked the fact that Elizabeth kept the story pretty fast-paced. There's literally no time to lag because every second counts and if any is wasted, there's a huge chance mistakes could not be corrected. 

Living up to the excitement of the previous book, Future Threat keeps the intrigue going with the allure of seeing yourself years ahead and by the mystery of who the "villain" is that is causing things to turn ugly for each character. I also love how it almost seemed like they had to make a choice of who would be saved or which future they'd want for themselves. Such an interesting story. I'm definitely looking forward to the conclusion and what Elizabeth does next with these characters. 

Elizabeth Briggs
About the Author
Elizabeth Briggs is the New York Times bestselling author of the Future Shock trilogy and the Chasing The Dream series. She graduated from UCLA with a degree in Sociology, currently mentors teens in writing, and volunteers with a dog rescue group. Elizabeth lives in Los Angeles with her husband and a pack of fluffy dogs. 

CAN'T WAIT TO READ: Love Bites by T.L. Clark

Series: Darkness & Light Duology #1
Release date: August 27th 2017
Pre-order: Amazon

Synopsis via Goodreads:

In spite of her so-called normal life, Shakira doesn't fit in. 

She moves to Wales in search of a home, the sense of belonging which has always eluded her. 

She gets more than she ever dreamed possible when a handsome young man unwittingly transforms her. 

Suddenly her world is full of magick and mystery, which she struggles to come to terms with. 

Witches and vampires exist, and Shakira’s very existence is against the vampire clan’s law.

About the Author
TL Clark is a British author who stumbles through life as if it were a gauntlet of catastrophes. 
Rather than playing the victim she uses these unfortunate events to fuel her passion for writing, for reaching out to help others.
She writes about different kinds of love in the hope that she‘ll uncover its mysteries.
Her loving husband (and very spoiled cat) have proven to her that true love really does exist.
Writing has shown her that coffee may well be the source of life.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Guest Post & Giveaway: Searching for Irene by Marlene Bateman

Marlene Bateman's latest Historical Romance novel is on tour. Check out the author's tips on writing, and enter to win a physical copy of the book.

Release date: July 1st 2017
Publisher: Covenant Communications
Purchase: Amazon

Synopsis via GoodReads:
What happened to Irene?

When Anna Coughlin, a modern 1920’s woman, travels to the secluded hills of Virginia to work for wealthy Lawrence Richardson, she discovers that the previous secretary, Irene, mysteriously disappeared a few weeks ago. Upon arriving at the castle-like mansion to begin working, Anna finds that Lawrence’s handsome, but antagonistic son, Tyler, wants nothing more than to have her gone. And he isn’t the only one.

A series of frightening incidents ensnare Anna in a maze of intrigue as she sets out to find the truth behind Irene’s disappearance. She is helped—and often hindered—by the temperamental Tyler Richardson, who—despite her best intentions—begins to steal her heart. 

But even as Anna begins to uncover dark secrets in a troubled household, she must continue to hide a significant one of her own. Then, her life is threatened, leaving Anna to wonder if she’ll be able to unravel the mystery before she disappears as mysteriously as the unfortunate Irene.

How to Improve Your Writing Style
by Marlene Bateman
Author of Searching for Irene

There are many elements of good writing but perhaps one of the least understood is style. What is style? Style is not what you write but how you write. Voltaire said, “Every style that is not boring is a good one.”  But how do you improve something as nebulous as style? Over time, I’ve come up with some simple things that can enhance anyone’s writing style.
1.       The smaller the number of words you use to contain a thought or an image, the more impact it will have.  Let me give you an example: “Lee was a mean woman.” It’s always better to be more specific, such as; “Lee was a shrew.” Another example; “He passed away early in the morning, and people all over America cried.” A much better way to say that is; “He died at dawn and the nation wept.” You don’t want to put extra words in a sentence for the same reason you don’t tape two windshield wipers to the windshield of your car: they wouldn’t serve any purpose and they would get in the way.
2.           Be wary of adverbs. Adverbs usually only crop up when you use a weak verb and need to boost it. You can use them, but be SURE they are needed. Most aren’t.
3.          Use strong verbs that are active, vivid, specific and familiar.  One example of poor use of a verb is; Buster ate his dog treats quickly. It would be much better to say; Buster gobbled his dog treats.  Don’t use weak general verbs like walk, cry, fall, and touch if the situation calls for plod, weep, collapse, and caress.
4.     Make tension fuel your plot. Without tension, there is no plot.  Remember, whenever the protagonist’s intention is denied, the effect is tension, which readers LOVE.

5.           Create tension through opposition.  The role of the antagonist is to thwart the intention of the protagonist. Readers will be bored if you make things easy for your protagonist.

6.            Make tension grow as opposition increases.  Tension is a result of a chain of cause and effect, which builds and produces conflict and tension. This chain is necessary to keep the story going.  Every time something happens, the stakes grow larger and the action snowballs.

7.            Make change the point of your storyWe expect events to affect the main character in such a way as to force a change in his/her personality.  Your main character should be a different person at the end of the book than he was at the beginning.

8.            When something happens, make sure it’s important.  Plot is your compass and gives you a general idea of the direction you’re headed. If you write something that is specifically related to the advancement of the plot, keep it. If it doesn’t advance the plot, chuck it. 

9.            Make the causal look casual.  Everything in your writing has a reason, a cause that leads to an effect, which in turn becomes the next cause. For example; If a shotgun is necessary, show it well before it is needed. Make the appearance of the shotgun casual—show it in a way that the reader almost doesn’t notice. Then later, when a gun is called for, readers will remember seeing one earlier.

10.        Make sure your lead character performs the central action of the climax. Keep the main character on center stage with the action. And remember that your main character should act, not be acted upon.

11.      Show, don’t tell.  Showing means creating a picture for the reader.  You can say a person seemed impatient, but it’s better to show that by saying, “She looked at her watch constantly,” or have her ask, “Are you almost done?”
12.        Use a thesaurus to look up words that are colorful and precise and mean exactly what you want to say.  Writing gets more interesting as it acquires precision, not length. You know thousands of words, but they don’t always rise to the surface of your brain. Adjectives are not efficient and should not be your first choice.  William Strunk said that adjectives are “the leeches that infest the pond of prose, sucking the blood of words.”  Turn adjectives into verbs whenever possible.  For example, turn impatient into “looked at his watch” or “tapped her foot.” The best thing to do is replace words, not modify them.  Replace house with mansion, cottage, hovel, or duplex.
13.        Avoid clichés.  They’re tiresome. It takes work to come up with fresh ideas, but it’s worth it.
14.        Appeal to the senses.  Bring your writing alive with the sounds, the smells, the flavors, and the peculiar tactile sensations that come from textures and temperature and motion.  Remind the reader that the world sparkles, roars, and sometimes stinks. The senses are touchstones for the reader.  Don’t say it was noisy at the baseball game.  Mention the crack of a bat, the whizzing of a fast ball, the roar of the crowd, and the heckling from the bleachers.
15.     Say things in a positive way.  Show readers what you want them to see, not what you don’t want them so see. Here are some examples; Do not say, “He was not a generous man,” say, “He was a miser.”  Do not say; “The painting it did not have any flaws,” say, “It was a masterpiece.”  Do not say, Phil was not a graceful person,” say, “Phil was a klutz.”
16.        Put emphatic words at the end.  Emphasis tends to flow to the end of a sentence, so if there is one word or phrase you want to say a little louder, put it at the end.  This is especially important when you are trying to be humorous.
17.      Keep it simple but don’t confuse simple with dull.  Write in a simple, direct, unpretentious way—with every sentence an arrow aimed at exactly what it means to say.  Remember you are trying to do one thing; tell a story.

About the Author
Marlene Bateman

Marlene Bateman Sullivan grew up in Utah, and graduated from the University of Utah with a Bachelor's degree in English. She is married to Kelly R. Sullivan and they live in North Salt Lake, Utah with their two dogs and four cats. Marlene has been published extensively in magazines and newspapers and wrote the best-selling romance/suspense novel, Light on Fire Island. She has written three other mysteries: Motive for Murder, A Death in the Family, and Crooked House, as well as the romance, For Sale by Owner.

Marlene has also written a number of LDS, non-fiction books: Latter-day Saint Heroes and Heroines, And There Were Angels Among Them, Visit’s from Beyond the Veil, By the Ministering of Angels, Brigham’s Boys, Heroes of Faith, Gaze into Heaven; Near-death Experiences in Early Church History, and The Magnificent World of Spirits; Eyewitness Accounts of Where We Go When We Die.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Review: Walking with Miss Millie by Tamara Bundy

Release date: July 4th 2017
Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin
Purchase: Amazon | B&N

Synopsis via Goodreads:
A poignant middle grade debut about the friendship between a white girl and an elderly black woman in the 1960s South

Alice is angry at having to move to Rainbow, Georgia—a too small, too hot, dried-up place she’s sure will never feel like home. Then she gets put in charge of walking her elderly neighbor’s dog. But Clarence won’t budge without Miss Millie, so Alice and Miss Millie walk him together. Strolling with Miss Millie quickly becomes the highlight of Alice’s day, as she learns about the town’s past and meets a mix of its catty and kind residents. As the two become confidantes, Alice is finally able to express her heartache over her father’s desertion; and when Miss Millie tells her family story, Alice begins to understand the shameful history of Segregation, and recognize the racism they need to fight against. Navigating the neighborhood with Miss Millie gives Alice new perspective, the wisdom to move on from her anger, and even enables her to laugh again.

Tamara Bundy’s beautifully written story reminds readers that there is nothing like friendship to lighten one’s load, and make anyplace a home.

*I received a finished hardcopy of the book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

I've been trying to read more middle grade books this year because I do like the genre and sometimes I just want to re-experience seeing things through the eyes of a child. Walking with Miss Millie is the debut novel of Tamara Bundy and I'm glad that I got the chance to read it because I ended up liking the story.

Ten-year-old Alice is angry that her mother has uprooted her and Eddie, her little brother, and is moving them to the small town of Rainbow to better take care of Alice's grandmother. It's easy for readers to say Alice is selfish and should understand the situation, but you have to keep her age in mind and realize that this is a child leaving behind friends, the only home she's known, and a life she was used to and felt safe in. Not only that, but her parents were going through something and her father had pretty much turned his back on them. But for most of the story, Alice remains hopeful that he will come for his family, swoop up everybody and take them back to their home. So in the meantime, she works on collecting items that will remind her parents, specifically her father, of their love for each other, all while walking with Miss Millie and her dog. 

It was so funny how Alice came to walking with her neighbor. The thing with the phone is actually new to me and I'm glad they don't do that anymore. My gosh, I can't even imagine having a conversation that might not be for anyone else's ears and my neighbor is listening in on the call. Yikes. Anyway, it was an innocent mistake on Alice's part but her mom insisted that she find a way to make it up to Miss Millie, and so the young girl is asked to walk the old dog, Clarence. However, Clarence refuses to be taken by Alice alone, understandable because trust needs to be built, so in turn, Miss Millie starts walking with them just until her dog becomes comfortable with Alice. 

Their walks turned out to be rather informative, not only for little Alice but also for me. The things Miss Millie had endured were just heartbreaking. She'd lost so much, and every time she shared a painful story it made me even more upset that racism still exists today! I looked forward to the next walk like Alice and loved the bond these two characters had established, a black woman of old age and a white girl at only ten, in a time and community that still wasn't all accepting of them being friends.

While Alice is growing fond of Miss Millie and Clarence, she fights to hold on to the belief that their current situation is temporary and she's still waiting for her father, no matter how life proved otherwise. She didn't want to allow herself to start liking this new town and its few nice people like her neighbor, the interesting character Pam and her brother that wasn't as mean as other members of their family. But as her father started to disappoint her more and more and the truth became too obvious to ignore, Alice finally came to the realization that she was at home with her grandmother and mother, and even with Miss Millie. In fact, I think her old neighbor played a big part in helping Alice see things clearly and learning to understand that life is tough and sometimes you just have to make the best of the situation. I thought it was amazing that such a young girl could grow so much mentally and at times turned out to be way more mature than some of the people in Rainbow. 

Aside from the friendship between Miss Millie and Alice, I also liked Pam's character and the way she connected with Eddie. She tried her best to communicate with him and even went as far as to learn sign language. Not many people would make such a nice attempt and it's sad that Alice tried to push her away earlier, but I got why she did that and was happy when she started to let Pam in. In regards to the mom, I would have loved for her to be in the story more. It's really sad what's happening to the grandmother but Alice's mom is a great daughter and she did a good job with Alice and her brother. 

To conclude, Walking with Miss Millie is a great story with youthful writing and interesting main characters. I loved how it's not only depicting an unlikely friendship in a time where that didn't happen a lot, but I also like that you can learn from the story and possibly use a character like ten-year-old Alice to inspire change in your life and others. 

About the Author
Tamara Bundy is a high school English teacher with a Master’s degree in writing, and is a former columnist for the Cincinnati Post (her regular column on being a mom also appeared on EWTN global Catholic radio). Walking Miss Millie is her debut novel. She lives in Cincinnati, Ohio. 

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