Thursday, July 14, 2016

Behind the Pages #28: Tracey Livesay: From Law to Contemporary Romance and Marathons

I came across Tracey Livesay's books on Goodreads and immediately wanted to interview the author. In spite of her busy schedule, she agreed. And I'm elated that Tracey is the next author to be featured in IFB's Behind the Pages. Check out her wonderful answers below, and enter the giveaway to win a copy of her latest release, Love On My Mind.

Hey, Tracey! Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from?

Hi Shane-
Thank you for the invitation to be on Itching for Books! 
Part of my childhood was spent in a small town in Virginia, Farmville. It’s usually known for having two colleges, Longwood University and Hampden-Sydney College and, back in the 90s, a rapper named the Lady of Rage. Now, when I say Farmville, most people think of the Facebook game!

You're a former criminal defense attorney. What inspired you to become a writer and how was the transition from law into the world of fiction?

I’ve been writing stories since I was a little girl. After I read my first romance novel at 11, I was hooked, but I hadn’t connected that writing was something I could do to make a living. I was expected to go to college, graduate school and get a professional job making money, which I did. I got married, had kids and made the decision to stay home with them, and through it all, my love of romance and writing stayed with me. When my youngest son started full day kindergarten, I talked to my husband and said I could go back to work as an attorney, but I’d like to try and get published writing romance. He was totally supportive and I’ve been able to do what I love.

Does your experience as an attorney influence your writing/stories?

It does, but not in the obvious way, like writing stories about the law. Law school really does train you how to think critically and I approach story-telling in that manner. I think about the story I want to tell, mend any possible plot holes and make sure I hit all the beats so I’ve earned my ending. It also affects my writing process. I’m a total plotter. I do a lot of work on my character and stories before I start typing the first word.

Tell us about your debut, The Tycoon's Socialite Bride.

It’s a modern day marriage of convenience, which can be tricky to pull off. My hero, Marcus is on a quest to avenge his mother when he crosses paths with my heroine, Pamela. The story focuses on how Marcus learns to let go of the past and embrace love in the present.


What can readers expect from the rest of your In Love with a Tycoon series? How many books will there be in the series?

Pretending With the Playboy is the second book in the series and its Carter’s (Marcus’s best friend and attorney) story. It’s a mixture of the playboy trope, fake engagement and second chance at love. The heroine, Lauren, had a major crush on Carter when they were younger, but it never went anywhere. When Carter’s aunt is taken ill, he rushes to her side and is faced with a grown-up Lauren and familial responsibilities he’d tried to outrun. Carter is very wicked and very sexy.
A third book was planned for the series, but it’s been put on hold. Maybe next year.

How does your latest release, Love On My Mind differ from your previous?

Superficially, it’s longer, which is big for me. I’ve been known to write short. LOL But more importantly, it’s extremely personal. It was born of thoughts about my oldest son, who has Asperger’s and a love letter that my husband wrote me when we were dating in law school. 

What are your feelings on the state of diversity in books?

We’ve made some inroads, but there’s still a ways to go. Look, romances are romances. They feature a central love story and a happily ever after. There may be tropes you like, marriage of convenience, sister’s best friend, enemies to lovers, which affect your decision to read a book, but the demographic of the hero or heroine shouldn’t be a negative factor in that decision. It’s going to take a concerted effort by people in the industry to make diverse books more available. It would also help to have more diverse people making acquisition and marketing/promo decisions.

In what ways have you evolved as a writer since your debut?

I’m ready to take more chances with my stories. In the beginning, I was trying so hard to get traditionally published that I didn’t want to rock any boats. I wanted to write a good story, obviously, but I played it a little safe. I’m learning to trust my voice and choose to pursue ideas that may be out of the box.

When not writing, something you do for fun or to unwind after finishing a book:

Recently, I feel like all I do is write! LOL When I tear myself away from the computer, I try to get out and go for a run. I’ve run 5ks, 10ks, and several half marathons. I’m training for my first full marathon this fall. My other passion is designer handbags. I like to look at blogs, read up on the latest designs, etc. My daughter always says anytime we go into a store together, the first thing I do is head toward the handbag department!

What's next for you?

The next book in my series for Avon, Along Came Love, comes out in October and I’m in the middle of writing the third book in the series, out next year.

Thank you for taking the time, Tracey. Any tips for aspiring writers?

First, finishing a book is a tremendous feat. Be proud of it. There are lots of people who start a book, very few follow through. Second, remember this is a business. Make sure you learn all parts of the industry, not just the parts about writing. The romance of finally achieving your dream of being published can be alluring and you can forget that the goal is to sell books. And that’s plural. Books. Keep writing.


More About the Author
Tracey Livesay wrote her first romance novel at the age of eleven, called "The Healing Power of Love.” With a detour through college and law school--where she met her husband on the very first day--she’s finally achieved her dream of being a published author. She lives in Virginia with said husband and three kids. For info on her upcoming releases or to chat about TV, movies and/or purses you can check out:

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Review: How to Hang a Witch by Adriana Mather

Release date: July 26th 2016
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Purchase: Amazon | B&N

Synopsis via Goodreads:
Salem, Massachusetts is the site of the infamous witch trials and the new home of Samantha Mather. Recently transplanted from New York City, Sam and her stepmother are not exactly welcomed with open arms. Sam is the descendant of Cotton Mather, one of the men responsible for those trials and almost immediately, she becomes the enemy of a group of girls who call themselves The Descendants. And guess who their ancestors were?

If dealing with that weren't enough, Sam also comes face to face with a real live (well technically dead) ghost. A handsome, angry ghost who wants Sam to stop touching his stuff. But soon Sam discovers she is at the center of a centuries old curse affecting anyone with ties to the trials. Sam must come to terms with the ghost and find a way to work with the Descendants to stop a deadly cycle that has been going on since the first accused witch was hanged. If any town should have learned its lesson, it's Salem. But history may be about to repeat itself.

*Received a physical ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Dark and intriguing, How to Hang a Witch filled me with questions from the beginning and had me spooked to the very end. The story definitely stirred me to the point that I wanted to learn more about the Salem witch trials and about Cotton Mather.

The book opened with Sam and her stepmother, Vivian, moving to Salem for reasons I had suspected weren't true. But still, I wanted to believe Vivian's intentions for Sam and her comatose father were good. I've always had this mentality about Salem being an eerie place and have been nervous about visiting, and this was all reinforced with the way Sam described the location and the sort of welcome she received, especially when people learned her last name. Being a Mather in Salem doesn't seem like the best choice one should make. And I figured perhaps that's why Sam's father evaded going back all those years and had kept Sam away too. I mean, there were rumors about her grandmother and the situation with the other descendants (descendants of accused witches at that) was not good. It was obvious that Sam was going to endure a lot of crap for being related to Cotton, but she never anticipated the level of isolation and discrimination, much less all the other paranormal stuff that arose upon her arrival.  

Sam found herself in deeper water when people close to the descendants were being horribly affected by a so-called curse, and everyone, except her quirky spell-loving neighbor Mrs. Meriwether and her swoon-worthy son, blamed Sam. There were things that happened that made me wonder if Sam was truly connected, but with Elijah's ghostly presence and the way her stepmother was behaving, I knew something else was going on. 

Although the story was creepy and I wanted to solve the mystery of this curse, there were moments that I found myself a bit confused, didn't really make sense of a particular detail, and would drift off. And at times the story seemed a bit draggy. But I continued reading because it was interesting and I needed to see how things would play out. 

As for the characters, I liked Sam's personality. She had endured a lot and wasn't quick to open up to anyone. With all that she'd been through in the past, I didn't blame her, especially when she was hesitant to trust Jaxon. I wasn't sure about him at first either but his character grew on me. I liked his cockiness and how he tried to make Sam feel like she belonged. Jaxon was super kind and funny; I wanted more of his character though, just like his mother. I feel like Mrs. Meriwether could have added more to the story with how well she knew Sam's grandmother and father. 

Overall, How to Hang a Witch is a really good debut. I loved how the author was able to incorporate her own research and family history, and delivered such an alluring story. The way she correlated what happened during the witch trials to modern-day bullying was nicely done as well. I'm now left with anticipation for what Adriana does next because I'm expecting her to give us more and more with her writing as she goes. Definitely give this one a read, but avoid doing so at night.



Adriana MatherAbout the Author
Adriana Mather is the 12th generation of Mathers in America, and as such her family has their fingers in many of its historical pies – the Mayflower, the Salem Witch Trials, the Titanic, the Revolutionary War, and the wearing of curly white wigs. Also, Adriana co-owns a production company, Zombot Pictures, in LA that has made three feature films in three years. Her first acting scene in a film ever was with Danny Glover, and she was terrified she would mess it up. In addition, her favorite food is pizza and she has too many cats.

CAN'T WAIT TO READ: Blood Rose Rebellion by Rosalyn Eves

Release date: March 28th 2017
Publisher: Knopf
Purchase: Amazon

Synopsis via Goodreads:
In an alternate Victorian England where social prestige stems from a trifecta of blood, money, and magic, sixteen-year old Anna Arden is barred from the society she yearns for by a defect of blood. She believes herself Barren, unable to perform the most rudimentary spells. Anna would do anything to belong, but after inadvertently breaking her sister’s debutante spells, Anna finds herself exiled with her aging grandmother to her grandmother’s native Hungary. 

Her life might well be over.

But in Hungary, Anna finds that nothing about her world or her own lack of magic is quite as it seems. Fissures in the Binding that holds her world’s magic are expanding, and the ancient creatures bound by that spell beg Anna to release them. As rebellion sweeps across Hungary, Anna’s unique ability to break spells becomes the catalyst everyone is seeking. In the company of nobles, revolutionaries, and Romani, Anna must choose: deny her unique power and cling to the life she’s always wanted—or embrace her ability, destroy the Binding, spark a revolution, and change the face of magic itself.

This book will appeal to fans of Leigh Bardugo's Grisha trilogy and Naomi Novik's UPROOTED.

Rosalyn Eves
About the Author
Rosalyn Eves grew up in the Rocky Mountains, dividing her time between reading books and bossing her siblings into performing her dramatic scripts. As an adult, the telling and reading of stories is still one of her favorite things to do. When she's not reading or writing, she enjoys spending time with her chemistry professor husband and three children, watching British period pieces, or hiking through the splendid landscape of southern Utah, where she lives. She dislikes housework on principle. Blood Rose Rebellion is her debut novel.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Review: Full Share by Eliza Freed

Series: Shore House #1
Release date: June 21st 2016
Publisher: Brunswick House
Purchase: Amazon | B&N

Synopsis via Goodreads:

Nora Hargrove’s post-grad life includes a horrific entry-level job, a cave of an apartment, and a strict avoidance of all interpersonal relationships. She knows only one thing about herself—she wants to be left alone.

Avoiding her mother’s forced family time, she seeks solitude on her own terms. In a poorly ventilated, overcrowded Dewey Beach rental, she discovers there’s no place to hide. Not from yourself, not from your life, and not from love. This is the story of Nora Hargrove’s full share.

I learned the healing power of a good bloody Mary and a dip in the Atlantic. I kayaked in the dead of night and witnessed the only shooting star I’ve ever seen. I fell in love on a bed made of pallets. I lived.

Life is deep. Dive in.

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

I wasn't expecting Full Share to leave a deep impact on me. I mean, initially I found the story to be humorous and interesting, but never anticipated it taking the tone it did, and in a way that made me like it more.

Nora wasn't the most lovable character, in my opinion. She was closed-off and for the majority of the story never said what was on her mind. Many might have a problem with her but I thought her personality made her more interesting. She wasn't perfect or came from a perfect family, and I liked how realistic that was. Nora had witnessed a terrible thing involving her mother and that played a part in the shield she went on to build around herself. She fought hard against letting anyone in, but that started to waver when she started spending her weekends at the beach rental and Tank, along with Jack, came into her life. 

The immediate attraction between Jack and Nora didn't bother me one bit. I found their interactions cute and silly, and the way Nora turned him down over and over was one to stir up laughter. Because it was obvious she wanted to be with him but kept on telling herself that she liked being alone. Not to mention she had an idiotic crush on a friend in the beginning. But I was happy that she got over that nonsense and accepted the truth, even if it took the loss of a friend to encourage her to reach a resolution. 

There was a lot going on with Nora and the housemates, but I think the most thought-provoking parts were scenes with Tank. He had a lot of insightful things to say and I truly loved his character. There were times he'd act strange or do things a lot of people wouldn't do, and I wondered about his mental state. My questions about him were answered in the end, and no matter how sad it turned out, I still smiled whenever I thought about Tank and the way he reached Nora.

In conclusion, Full Share was quite the mix. You'll find humor, serious issues, and of course some romance along the way. I liked the writing and how much the author got me thinking about life and how I feel about my current state. There's so much to take from the story, you'll just have to go in with an open mind and open heart. I noticed that this is a series and I look forward to seeing where the author goes next with these crazy characters. 

About the Author
Eliza Freed graduated from Rutgers University and returned to her hometown in rural South Jersey. Her mother encouraged her to take some time and find herself. After three months of searching, she began to bounce checks, her neighbors began to talk, and her mother told her to find a job. She settled into corporate America, learning systems and practices and the bureaucracy that slows them. Eliza quickly discovered her creativity and gift for storytelling as a corporate trainer and spent years perfecting her presentation skills and studying diversity. It was during this time she became an avid observer of the characters she met and the heartaches they endured. Her years of study taught her that laughter, even the completely inappropriate kind, was the key to survival.

Eliza currently lives in New Jersey with her family and a misbehaving beagle named Odin. As an avid swimmer, if Eliza is not with her family and friends, she'd rather be underwater. While she enjoys many genres, she is, and always has been, a sucker for a love story…the more screwed up the better.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Review: The Flip Side by Shawn Johnson

Release date: June 7th 2016
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Purchase: Amazon

Synopsis via Goodreads:

From gold medalist and reality TV star Shawn Johnson comes a debut YA novel inspired by her own experiences as an elite teenage gymnast—just in time for the Summer 2016 Olympic games.

Charlie Ryland has a secret.

She may seem like your average high school sophomore—but she’s just really good at pretending.

Because outside of school Charlie spends all her waking hours training to become one of the best gymnasts in the world. And it’s not easy flying under the radar when you’re aiming for Olympic gold… especially when an irresistible guy comes along and threatens to throw your whole world off balance.

*Received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Gymnastics is one of my favorite events in the Olympics aside from track and field. I liked Shawn Johnson's performance in 2008 and found her to be quite amazing, so when I learned she was releasing a YA novel that would incorporate her experience as an elite gymnast I knew I had to read it. 

The Flip Side was a good debut. The story surrounded all things gymnastics, as expected. Charlie's character not only depicted what it was like to have gymnastics as the center of her life, but we also got a sense of how hard it is to be an athlete, how much work and dedication you have to give, and how it impacts your family. Charlie was one of the best in her sport, but with all the training and living and breathing gymnastics, she reached a point where she wanted one some speck of normalcy. Hence, why she convinced her parents to let her attend public school. But being an elite gymnast and an Olympic hopeful brings the kind of spotlight that not a lot of people want, and Charlie wanted to avoid that by keeping the athletic side of her a secret. 

I totally understand why she would separate the two worlds. I mean, people can be fake and you never know who to trust or who wants to be seen with you in order to gain popularity. That was a justifiable reason to keep it all a secret, but I just didn't get why Charlie couldn't tell Zoe, her supposedly best friend. She lied to Zoe over and over and never even invited the girl to her house. It baffled me throughout the entire story because clearly Zoe was someone Charlie could trust, yet she kept an important part of her life from her friend. That was sad to me, and nothing Charlie said made it acceptable. Zoe was a great friend, and she didn't deserve being lied to. The same for Bobby. 

Bobby was also a star athlete and the one person that could relate with Charlie the most. She could have told him everything and he'd understand, because he knew what it was like to have so much pressure and want more than anything to reach your goals. But she kept gymnastics from him as well. It just didn't make any sense to me why she carried on lying to him and Zoe. No sense at all. I mean you just knew things were bound to explode and people would be hurt.

Another thing I had an issue with was the descriptions about different moves while Charlie, Gwen or other gymnasts were practicing. Again, I love to watch gymnastics, but reading every detail about each technique and such isn't as entertaining. I couldn't visualize the scenes; it's better and more fun to watch.  

Overall, a nice story with a few bits of drama and a young girl trying to balance her life. Fans of gymnastics and Shawn Johnson altogether will appreciate this release, and I hope she does write more books. 


Shawn JohnsonAbout the Author
Shawn Johnson has accomplished a lifetime of achievements that include winning four Olympic medals, writing a New York Times bestselling memoir, starting her own business, and establishing a career in broadcasting. 
Johnson is a 2007 World Champion gymnast, a 2008 Olympic women’s gymnastics gold and silver medalist, and a 2006, 2007, and 2008 gymnastics National Champion—all titles she attained by the time she turned sixteen. 
At the age of seventeen, she became the youngest-ever contestant on ABC’s eighth season of Dancing with the Stars, and in May 2009 she was crowned champion.

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