Posted in 5 Stars, Book Review

Review: How to Get Ainsley Bishop to Fall in Love with You by T.M. Franklin

519IqNByjYL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_

Genre: Young Adult Romance, Humor
Publisher: The Writer’s Coffee Shop
Publication Date: June 12, 2014 
Formats availablePaperbackKindle

Summary:

Seventeen-year-old Oliver Wendell Holmes (Yes, his parents are just that peculiar, but his brother’s name is Sherlock, so it could have been worse) knows that he’s different. He’s quirky, awkward, and he’s okay with that. Oliver also likes making lists–meticulous procedures for achieving his goals, step-by-step. Whether it’s “How to Get an A in Chemistry” or “How to Get Accepted to MIT,” he has a process, and it’s worked for him so far. He doesn’t even care that the popular kids mock him. Oliver’s got his eye on the prize.

So when he decides it’s time to declare his feelings for Ainsley Bishop, the girl of his dreams, it’s only natural for him to make a list–a point-by-point strategy to win her heart. He knows it will take a grand gesture for her to see all he has to offer, and her approaching birthday provides the ideal opportunity for Oliver to put his plan into action.

Finding the perfect gift is a challenge Oliver meets with his usual dogged determination. He’ll need to watch her carefully for clues to pinpoint exactly what he should give her. And along the way, he might just learn that what Ainsley really needs is not quite what he expected.

MY RATING: 📚 📚 📚 📚 📚

An interesting departure from T.M. Franklin’s bestselling More trilogy, How to Get Ainsley Bishop to Fall in Love with You is a breath of fresh air. Alternating between touching, sobering, and laugh-out-loud hilarious, romance lovers and skeptics alike will fly through this delightful tale.

Unlike the majority of books in this genre, this is told from a male perspective, which provides a fresh outlook on romance and relationships. Oliver is instantly loveable, and even when he makes mistakes, I found myself cheering him on. 

While the main storyline, as the title suggests, follows Oliver’s attempts to woo Ainsley, there are other mature themes explored in these pages, including marital strife, family relations, death, and the nature of love. Pick up a copy now! I guarantee you won’t be sorry.

About the Author:

T.M. Franklin writes stories of adventure, romance, & a little magic. A former TV news producer, she decided making stuff up was more fun than reporting the facts. Her first published novel, MORE, was born during National Novel Writing month, a challenge to write a novel in thirty days. MORE was well-received, being selected as a finalist in the 2013 Kindle Book Review Best Indie Book Awards, as well as winning the Suspense/Thriller division of the Blogger Book Fair Reader’s Choice Awards. She’s since written three additional novels and several best-selling short stories…and there’s always more on the way.

cool-twcs-logo1

Advertisements
Posted in 2 Stars, Book Review

Review: Break Your Heart by Rhonda Helms Sta

22891496

Genre: New Adult Romance
Publisher: Kensington
Publication Date: July 28, 2015
Formats availablePaperback, Kindle

Summary:

Fearless and flirtatious, Megan Porter isn’t your typical math major. On the fast track to graduating with honors, a spot in her school’s masters program is nearly guaranteed. But her senior year is quickly turned upside-down by her new thesis advisor, cryptography professor Dr. Nick Muramoto. Young, effortlessly good-looking, and intellectual, he’s far more intriguing than the immature jocks Megan usually goes for. And as she decodes the hidden messages he leaves in the margins of her assignments and in their emails, she realizes this might be more than a schoolgirl crush – especially after they share a passionate kiss…

Soon Nick and Megan grow closer, and their different worlds begin to merge. But if their relationship is discovered, Nick’s career could be over. With Megan’s parents close to campus on business, hiding their love becomes an even greater challenge. Yet keeping secrets will lead Megan to discover hers is just one piece in a much larger puzzle – next to her mother’s stash of painkillers – that may put her carefully laid plans for the future in jeopardy.

MY RATING: 📚 📚 

This is the first time I’ve ever posted a negative review here. Usually if my opinion of a book is low, I either don’t finish it or keep my opinion to myself, but I decided to share my thoughts on this one because it started out so promising before it disappointed me. I really liked the premise and the pacing is excellent – I read most of it in less than a day. But unfortunately, the story ultimately fell flat.

For one thing, the characters didn’t feel fully developed. Megan is presented as a star student with excellent grades, a shoo-in for the master’s program, but she hardly ever studies (or works on her thesis, which is due at the end of the semester) at all. Instead, she spends a lot of her time partying, which just seems odd for a committed, serious student with a major project deadline approaching. But even though it’s evident she drinks quite a bit, she gets upset because her date has a few beers with dinner. It just didn’t add up for me.

Nick has a Ph.D. in math, a discipline he’s obviously passionate about, but one of the first things he asks Megan is why she chose to major in math, of all things, when she was obviously intelligent enough to do anything. Shouldn’t he understand why she likes math, since he does too? This kind of inconsistency in the characters becomes more and more prevalent as the story moves on.

Another thing I didn’t care for was how Megan and Nick’s relationship seems to be purely physical. While they obviously talk about academics, those conversations aren’t very detailed and few and far between. By comparison, the sex scenes were sometimes so graphic, I think this would have been better classified as erotica, rather than romance. I ended up skipping over most of those. I would’ve rather seen the other side of their relationship highlighted, personally.

That being said, I really like Casey, Megan’s roommate, and I realize now her story is featured in another of Helms’ books, Scratch. I will probably pick that one up, because I’m interested to learn her backstory.

I was given a free copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

 About the Author:

Rhonda Helms started writing several years ago and loves writing teen and New Adult romance. She has a Master’s degree in English and a Bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing. She also freelance edits manuscripts.

When she isn’t writing, she likes to do amateur photography, dig her toes into the sand, read for hours at a time, and eat scads of cheese. WAY too much cheese.

Rhonda lives in Northeast Ohio with her husband, two kids, a dog and a really loud cat. Visit her website at http://www.rhondahelmsbooks.com for more information about her and her releases.

Posted in 5 Stars, Blog Tour, Book Review

Review: Under These Restless Skies by Lissa Bryan

51DHpoEWPyL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

Genre: Historical Fiction, Paranormal Romance
Publisher: The Writer’s Coffee Shop
Publication Date: February 19, 2014
Formats availablePaperback, Kindle

Summary: 

Journey back in time to Tudor England with a tale of romance, intrigue, and the Celtic legends of the selkies.                          
Will Somers has spent his life alone, thinking himself unlovable. Emma is a selkie; a creature of myth and magic, one of the immortal fae-folk of the sea. When Will finds her sleeping on a beach, he recalls the tales his grandmother told him of selkie maidens taken for wives. He seizes this unexpected chance to have a wife and family of his own and steals her pelt, binding her to him. Only when it is willingly returned will she be free. 

Emma has never experienced life on land and can barely contain her excitement and curiosity. She has to learn to adapt quickly to human customs, for Will is headed to the glittering, dangerous court of Henry VIII to serve as the king’s fool. It’s a world where careless words can lead to the scaffold and the smallest gesture is loaded with political implications. 

Anne Boleyn is charmed by Emma’s naïveté and soothing selkie magic and wants Emma for her own fool. Anne is soon to become a wife herself, and the Queen of England. But wearing the crown does not ensure her own safety, and at Anne’s side, Emma becomes entangled in the dark intrigues of the court, trying to stay afloat in the turbulent seas swept by the storms of the mercurial king. 

Can Will protect the woman he loves from the dangers that lurk in every shadow? Emma uses her selkie magic to soothe the king’s temper, and Will uses his humor, but Henry’s moods become increasingly erratic. Theirs is a vocation that provides them some protection, but in Henry VIII’s court, no one is safe. Circa regna tonal: Around the throne, the thunder rolls.

MY RATING: 📚 📚 📚 📚 📚

When I signed up for the TWCS Summer Romance Review Blog Tour, I did something I’ve always been afraid to do: I picked Under These Restless Skies from a very long list of books without knowing anything more about the book other than it was a romance published by The Writer’s Coffee Shop. I live a pretty boring life, so I must admit this was rather thrilling. Would I like the book? Would I hate it? WHO KNEW?

As it happens, history is my first love. Just so you’ll understand how much of a geek I am, I read an entire textbook cover to cover at the age of eight while on a roadtrip. For fun. While most of my interest lies in American history, there is one deviation, one fascinated obsession that since childhood has bordered on the rabid that still lies near and dear to my heart: the Tudor family. I read everything I could get my hands on about this strange, sad family I had the names of the six wives of Henry VIII memorized before I was twelve. I longed for my own Anne Boleyn necklace (and let’s face it, still do).

I also got burned out on the fictional takes on the story of Anne Boleyn. Was she a witch or a truly pious woman? Was she conniving or kind? Was she an incestuous adulteress or a faithful wife? Each and every rendition seemed to play tug of war with my heart. So when, during the first chapter of Under These Restless Skies, I picked up on the words “Will,” “fool,” and “king’s court,” I was anxious. But within a few hours of reading, all my fears were assuaged.

By telling the story through a wellknown member of Henry’s court who is not often in the spotlight in fictional accounts and integrating the mythological selkie, Ms. Bryan manages to spin a tale that seems fresh and new within the existing historical framework. The Anne Boleyn she depicts is realistic: virtuous, yet flawed. The love that blossoms between Emma and Will as the story progresses is truly beautiful. Their marriage, which is pure and based on sacrifical love, serves as a lovely juxtaposition to both of Henry’s. Toward the end of the story, even though I already knew the fate of Anne Boleyn in intimate detail, I found myself completely gripped by the book. I couldn’t put it down. I just had to know what came next…even though I already did. That is the mark of a true artist.

Even though I was graciously provided with a free review copy of this book, halfway through the reading I purchased my own copy. It’s that good! I absolutely recommend to anyone who enjoys paranormal, fantasy, romance, and historical fiction. There are adult themes present, but the few intimate scenes are not at all graphic and there is little cursing, so it’s very appropriate for teenage readers as well.

About the Author:

Lissa Bryan is an astronaut, renowned Kabuki actress, Olympic pole vault gold medalist, Iron Chef champion, and scientist who recently discovered the cure for athlete’s foot…. though only in her head.

Real life isn’t so interesting, which is why she spends most of her time writing.

cool-twcs-logo1

Posted in 4 Stars, Book Review

Review: Sorry I Wasn’t What You Needed by James Bailey

91E+6P6fv9L._SL160_

Genre: Literary Fiction, Humor/Satire
Publisher: Sun Field Press
Publication Date: May 10, 2015
Formats availablePaperbackKindle

Summary: 

C.J. Neubauer’s family was dysfunctional long before his mother walked out. At eight, he was just too young to realize it. Now 32, he has spent his entire adult life estranged from the people who should mean the most to him. But when his father kills himself, C.J. is thrust right back into the multi-fronted battle he escaped upon graduating college ten years ago.


Almost immediately upon his return home, long-smoldering emotional brush fires flare up with his older brother, sister, and mother–who curiously seems to be the only one upset by his father’s death. Sifting through his dad’s belongings, C.J. uncovers one secret after the next, revealing how little he really understood his parents–and himself.

Alternately heartfelt and laugh-out-loud funny, this darkly comic family drama will appeal to fans of Jonathan Tropper and Matthew Norman.

MY RATING: 📚 📚 📚 📚

Sorry I Wasn’t What You Needed is a poignant story about growing up, coming home, and the true meaning of family.

In the beginning, I didn’t think I would care much for this book. It seemed like one of the über postmodern, existential stories common to contemporary literature and I feared it wouldn’t have good resolution.

Luckily, I was wrong. C.J., the protagonist, is completely unlikeable in the beginning, an unambitious bum trapped in a horrible relationship he’s too lazy to end. His cynicism is maddening and he doesn’t seem to care about anyone or anything but himself. But as the story progresses and he becomes reacquainted with his friends and family back home, C.J. realizes how selfish and one-sided his memories are. At story’s end, he’s transformed into someone I’m proud of, someone I would like to be friends with. I think he has a bright future ahead of him.

The only reasons I give this book four stars rather than five: there were points when the story dragged, and others where there was entirely too much profanity. I’m not really offended by language, but when every other sentence contains an F bomb, it’s a little much.

I would definitely recommend for mature audiences.

I received a free copy of this book from Netgalley on exchange for an honest review.

About the Author:

James Bailey is the author of The Greatest Show on Dirt (2012), Nine Bucks a Pound (2014), and Sorry I Wasn’t What You Needed (2015). He grew up in Seattle, spent most of the 1990s in North Carolina, and has since settled in Rochester, N.Y., where he lives with his wife and super-hero obsessed son.

Posted in Book Review

Review: The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult

the-storyteller-395

Genre: Historical Fiction, Psychological Thriller
Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books
Publication Date: February 26, 2013
Formats availableHardcover, Paperback, Audio, Kindle

Summary:

Some stories live forever . . .

Sage Singer is a baker. She works through the night, preparing the day’s breads and pastries, trying to escape a reality of loneliness, bad memories, and the shadow of her mother’s death. When Josef Weber, an elderly man in Sage’s grief support group, begins stopping by the bakery, they strike up an unlikely friendship. Despite their differences, they see in each other the hidden scars that others can’t, and they become companions.

Everything changes on the day that Josef confesses a long-buried and shameful secret—one that nobody else in town would ever suspect—and asks Sage for an extraordinary favor. If she says yes, she faces not only moral repercussions, but potentially legal ones as well. With her own identity suddenly challenged, and the integrity of the closest friend she’s ever had clouded, Sage begins to question the assumptions and expectations she’s made about her life and her family. When does a moral choice become a moral imperative? And where does one draw the line between punishment and justice, forgiveness and mercy?

In this searingly honest novel, Jodi Picoult gracefully explores the lengths we will go in order to protect our families and to keep the past from dictating the future.

MY RATING: 📚 📚 📚 📚 📚

I first read The Storyteller two years ago, a few months after it was published. I bought it without even reading the story description first – that’s how much I love Jodi Picoult’s work. I’ve been a fan since the tenth grade, when I picked up a copy of The Pact from the school library at random. She’s let me down a few times, but she always manages to win me back with her poetic prose and signature style. This story is no exception.

Everything I love about a good Picoult novel is present here: the sheer amount of research involved, the complex characters, the moral conundrum, the twist in the end that leaves you reeling. Her powers of description are as present as ever; your mouth will water as she describes in detail the challah and sweet rolls Sage and Minka make together.

Unique to this story is her gift to relay how horrifying something is without being overly graphic. She manages to give an accurate portrayal of how the Jewish people were treated at the hands of the Third Reich without turning the stomach of this sensitive reader, describing atrocities I cannot even imagine with prose so aching and poignant it will take your breath away. And the twist at the end of this tale, in my opinion, is the most shocking and gratifying yet.

I recently revisited through the audio version, which I definitely recommend if you enjoy the medium. The book is performed by a cast of narrators, one for each of the major characters, and the finished product is truly a thing of beauty.

Posted in Uncategorized

Author Update: The Marshall Plan

As some of you may know, in addition to reviewing books and discussing literary topics, I also write and self-publish works of fiction. I won’t spend much time plugging my own works here – this blog was created to showcase the talent of others – but I wanted to let you know what’s happening on the author side of things.

11707523_1634571180118997_1703336486631832882_n

Molly Marshall is fresh out of grad school, armed with a shiny new degree in journalism and ready to take over the world. There’s just one little problem: no one seems to care.

Six months have passed since graduation and no matter how hard she tries, she can’t find a paying job in the field she’s spent years preparing to dominate. She’s saddled with a massive amount of student loan debt, plagued by family drama, and stuck in a dead-end job she despises. As if that weren’t enough, her relationship with Gavin, her dreamy genius fiance, is more fizzle than sizzle these days. One can hardly blame Molly for questioning everything she’s been told about the real world. 

Just when her prospects seem completely hopeless, an unthinkable opportunity arises and Molly is forced to make a choice. What will it be: her ambition, or her heart?

This stand alone spin-off of Ard’s debut novel THE PARTITION OF AFRICA invites you to examine your thoughts on family, ambition, and the nature of love itself. 

*********

Once my editor and beta readers help me put the finishing touches on the manuscript, The Marshall Plan will be available for purchase through Amazon. Until then, you can find my first book, The Partition of Africa, here.