Friday, December 30, 2016

Kari's Top 10 Reads of 2016

Here are my top 10 books of 2016.  I did have more than 10 5-star reviews on Goodreads, but these are my standouts.  They are in no particular order.

Under Pressure by Lori Foster

Benteath Still Waters by Cynthia A Graham

Nightmares! The Lost Lullaby by Jason Segal and Kirsten Miller

Break My Fall by Jessica Scott

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

The Big Rewind by Libby Cudmore

The Widow by Fiona Barton

Honor by Jay Crownover

Fowl Language by Brian Gordon

What the Waves Know by Tamara Valentine

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Throwback Thursday: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J. K. Rowling

Author: J. K. Rowling
First published by Scholastic in 2000

Harry Potter is midway through both his training as a wizard and his coming of age. Harry wants to get away from the pernicious Dursleys and go to the International Quidditch Cup with Hermione, Ron, and the Weasleys. He wants to dream about Cho Chang, his crush (and maybe do more than dream). He wants to find out about the mysterious event that supposed to take place at Hogwarts this year, an event involving two other rival schools of magic, and a competition that hasn't happened for hundreds of years. He wants to be a normal, fourteen-year-old wizard. But unfortunately for Harry Potter, he's not normal - even by wizarding standards.

And in his case, different can be deadly.

I am probably one of maybe a handful of people my age who hasn't read the entire Harry Potter series.  Shocking, right?  My daughter binge read them in a month last spring in her 6th grade year. Let's not get me started on her love for Draco Malfoy and Snape...  My daughter challenged me to finish up the series, so I picked up Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire again. I had DNF'd it a lonf time ago. I managed to muddle through the book this time, but I can't say I liked the book all that much.

I really liked the first three books.  This one, not so much.  There was just too much book.  It kind of felt like the author knew what she wanted to do to turn the series more dark, but didn't quite know how to get it there.  It was way too long and really dragged on and on.  The last 1/3 of the book was pretty good but the rest...snooze. I liked the Tri-Wizard Tournament.  It would have been better with more challenges and less day to day stuff.

Incidentally, this is my daughter's least favorite of the 7 books.  She assures me the rest of the series is much better.  I really hope she is right.  I'm not sure I can make it through something like this again.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Books We Didn't Finish - December Edition

Love Me Never: I really wanted to like this book, but I just couldn't stomach it any more after about 30% in. The behavior of the two main characters was appalling.  When Isis plants pot in Jack's locker  and calls it into the principal, I had to stop reading.  Who does that? Don't even get me started on Jack's side job to make money. I am surprised by all of the rave reviews for this one.

The Comet Seekers:  I found this one confusing and really boring.  I wasn't really invested in trying to get to the end of the book.

He Killed Them All: Robert Durst and my Quest for Justice:  I had watched the documentary Jinx, so I was looking forward for more insight into this case.  Instead, I was taken aback by the way the author wrote her very strong opinions into the book.  She called him an insulting name on practically every page.  I couldn't stomach anymore after the first 4 chapters. I would have liked it had it not been so personal.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

December Mini Musings

The Marriage Ultimatum:  I'm honestly not sure what made me finish this book. It's probably because I had exhausted all of the audiobooks on my MP3 player and was desperate. This book was a mess.  There were so many scenarios in the book that had me shaking my head. Even if the press speculated that the Sabrina's brother was his son, Vlad could have had his lawyers do a paternity test and clear it up in the press.  Making her marry him was ridiculous.  The  hero was a major ass. He treated Sabrina like crap, bullied her, and kidnapped her and she ends up sleeping with him?  Ick. Also, the coincidence of the identity of Sabrina's brother's father was just too convenient.  I can't recommend this one at all.

When All the Girls have Gone:  It really took me forever to get through this book.  I am a fan of this author, but this one failed big time.  I felt like the characters were forgettable, and the romance was boring and forced.  The mystery was convoluted and took too long to get to the point.  Too many points of view really made the book drag.  This definitely isn't one of her better books.

Monday, December 26, 2016

The Submissive by Tara Sue Me

by:  Tara Sue Me
published by:  Penguin Publishing
publish date:  February 7, 2013

Abby King has a secret fantasy.

New York knows Nathaniel West as the brilliant and handsome CEO of West Industries, but Abby knows he’s more: a sexy and skilled dominant who is looking for a new submissive. Yearning to experience a world of pleasure beyond her simple life as a librarian, Abby offers herself to Nathaniel, to fulfill her most hidden desires.

I've been in a major reading funk.  Seriously, nothing at all looks good to me.  I decided since I didn't die reading the last romance, that I'd try something else in the genre that I generally avoid.  This was the first book that showed up as available at the library.  Side note, don't listen to a bdsm audiobook when doing things like going through a drive thru.

The Submissive reminded me of a mash up of 50 Shades and Beauty and the Beast.  Nathaniel was a rich single guy that is secretly a dominant.  Who does that remind you of??  Abby and Nathaniel start a D/s relationship, complete with contract.  Sounds familiar.  Then they fall madly in love with each other.  (....) As a show of his infatuation with her, he gives her the library as her space in his house.  I know I've heard that one before.

The story was sort of eh.  The sex scenes were kind of hot though.  I don't know that I'd read the rest of this series.  It has fairly high ratings on Goodreads so I guess people are liking these kinds of books.  I will find one of these kinds of books that doesn't make me scoff at it.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas to all!

Wishing all of our readers and authors a VERY Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

May you find peace, love and joy in all you do.


Autumn & Kari

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Along Came Love by Tracey Livesay

Author: Tracey Livesay
Publisher: Avon Impulse
Date of publication: October 2016

When a silly, impulsive decision lands free-spirited India Shaw behind bars in San Francisco, she has no choice but to call the only person she knows in the unfamiliar city—the very man she abandoned after a steamy two-day fling. The fact that she’s pregnant with his child is something she’d rather not divulge.

Tech executive Michael Black never thought he’d hear from the quirky beauty after she left his bed four months ago, much less be called upon to post bail. He’s got his hands full with a corporate merger that could make or break his career, but his honorable nature—and an overwhelming need to see her again—means he can’t just leave her in jail. And when India reveals the truth about her pregnancy, Mike insists she stay with him until the baby is born.

India doesn’t want to depend on him for anything, but their constant proximity stirs up feelings she can’t ignore. She’s never desired a family before and she knows a future with Mike isn’t possible . . . but then along came love to shake up all her plans.

Along Came Love is the second book in the Shades of Love series.  I enjoyed the first book, Love on my Mind, so I was hoping that I would like this one.  In the end, I was sadly underwhelmed by the book.  We met India and Mike in the first book.  India is Chelsea's foster sister and Mike is Adam's best friend and business partner.

While I did like the ending, I had a few issues with the story.  First, the whole arrest and burglary charge thing could have been easily cleared up with a phone call to the resort.  They must have a phone even if the vacationers don't have WiFi access. So, that was all kind of unnecessary drama for nothing.  Second, it only takes place over the span of 2 weeks.  I didn't really feel like I really got to know the couple at all.  We are giving glimpses to their one weekend together, but those are mostly sex scenes.  It was all way too fast for me.  Finally, and the thing that bothered me the most, was Mike taking so long to break things off with his girlfriend.  He should have told her about the baby right away and should have ended things before the first kiss with Indi.  It really didn't sit well with me that he kind of strung her along.  

It's not a bad story, I just wanted more.  In fact, this felt like a novella instead of a full story.  I'll probably pick up the next book, because I would love to read Sully's story.  That one looks to be promising.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Nightmares! The Lost Lullaby by Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller

Authors: Jason Segel & Kirsten Miller
Publisher: Delacourte Books for Young Readers
Date of publication: September 2016

Charlie Laird has a very bad feeling.

1. There’s a NEW GIRL at school, and Charlie and his friends have DEFINITELY seen her before. 
2. He’s been hearing strange noises after dark, which is NEVER a good sign.
3. The nightmares are back, and they’re WEIRDER THAN EVER.

Not since he faced his fears has Charlie had so many bad dreams. Whenever he falls asleep, he finds himself in a Netherworld field, surrounded by a flock of CREEPY BLACK SHEEP.
They're not counting sheep. They refuse to jump. In fact, they don't do much at all. EVEN EERIER, THOUGH, is that it’s not Charlie’s nightmare. Somehow he’s trapped in someone else’s bad dream. And he’s pretty sure the twins ICK and INK are responsible.
Charlie and his friends thought they’d put the twins out of business, but it seems they didn’t quite finish the job. Now the WOOLLY NIGHTMARES are closing in, and INK has shown up at Cypress Creek Elementary! Charlie’s convinced that INK is up to NO GOOD. And if he’s right, it could be a very long time before anyone’s dreams are sweet again.

You know what they say, all good things must come to an end.  The Lost Lullaby is the last book in the "Nightmares!" trilogy.  I have loved this series from the first book and this one was no exception.  It opens shortly after the second book ends.  The lighthouse in Maine has been destroyed and the evil twins have been separated.  ICK is in nightmare realm and INK is in the waking world and attending the kids' school.  Charlie and his friends must once again band together to stop them from destroying the waking world.

I thought this was a great way to wrap up the series.  Everything was tied up very nicely with really no loose ends.  While I am sad to see it finished, I am satisfied with where all of the characters were in the end.  As in the first two books, there is a nice subtle lesson for the kiddos embedded in the story.  Things aren't always what they seem and you must look deeper to find out the true nature of things before making assumptions.  Also, sometimes certain things can be used for both good and bad.  There is also a lesson about scapegoats that I think some adults would do well to pay attention to as well.  The book ends with a "THE END?"  So maybe maybe it's not really over?

I highly recommend this series to any middle grade fiction reader. I often suggest it when I hear someone is looking for a good series for a kid.  I really hope that this writing team keeps writing.  I look forward to seeing what they can come up with next. 

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Throwback Thursday: The Glass Shoe by Kay Hooper

Author: Kay Hooper
First published in 1989 by Loveswept.  Re-issued in 2016 by Loveswept

Beautiful heiress Amanda Wilderman insisted she didn't believe in princes, yet shed agreed to attend the masquerade ball as Cinderella.

Dashing entrepreneur Ryder Foxx had no use for fairy tales but made an impossibly handsome Prince Charming. He never expected to meet a mysterious, masked enchantress who would steal his heart in a moonlit garden—and leave only a glass slipper behind to persuade him she'd been magically, passionately real! 

Amanda reveled in Ryder's fierce possession, adored being pursued for herself alone and not her wealth, but she knew the fantasy would end as the clock struck midnight...or would it? 

When Ryder arrived without warning at her Wyoming, ranch Amanda wondered how long her secrets would be safe from this hero whose caress overwhelmed her—and made her dare to dream. Ryder's love was a prize worth winning, but could she trust this dangerous, irresistible knight enough to admit she longed for happily ever after?

The Glass Shoe was a recent re-read for me.  I read this a number of years ago when I was on a Kay Hooper binge.  It was recently re-issued by Loveswept in November of this year.  I have read this whole series, but going back was a lot of fun.  Her Once Upon a Time series is a spin on some of the more famous fairy tales.  This one being Cinderella. In fact, it includes a ball, a glass slipper and a prince who is dying to find the woman in the mask.

I enjoyed this one just as much the second time around   Since it is a take on a fairy tale, there is insta-love, but that only adds to the fun of it.   I like both characters and thought their romance was sweet.  Was it one of the best romances I have read? No, but it's a nice escape for a little while.  

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Blog Tour: Bad Boys After Dark: Dylan by Melissa Foster

Author: Melissa Foster
Publisher: World Literary Press
Date of publication: December 21, 2016

Everything's naughtier after dark...
Sinfully sexy bar owner Dylan Bad has a thing for needy women. He's a savior, a knight in shining armor, and his mighty talented sword has no trouble bringing damsels in distress to their knees. Enter Tiffany Winters, a gorgeous cutthroat sports agent who looks like sex on legs, f**ks like she's passion personified, and wouldn't let a man help her if she were dangling from a ledge and he was her only hope. One night and too much tequila might change their lives forever. The question is, will either one survive?

I'm not sure I have read a hotter or a sweeter romance in a long time than Bad Boys After Dark: Dylan.  Dylan meets Tiffany at his brother's wedding and he is taken right away with the all business sports agent.  After one night with her, he realizes he wants a lot more.  Convincing her is going to be the challenge.

I loved Dylan.  Loved watching him break down Tiffany's walls. Even more than the hot bedroom scenes, I really enjoyed watching them get to know each other.  I don't think there is enough of that in some romances.  But Dylan was all about talking and finding out everything about Tiffany.  That was really refreshing.  The minimal amount of angst was a nice change too.  I'm not going to say much more other than I devoured this story and I hope you will too.  I highly recommend it especially if you are a lover of romance.  It's out today, so treat yourself for the holidays!
Buy links:

About the Author:

Melissa Foster is a New York Times USA Today bestselling and award-winning author. She writes contemporary romance, new adult, contemporary women’s fiction, suspense, and historical fiction with emotionally compelling characters that stay with you long after you turn the last page. Her books have been recommended by USA Today’s book blog, Hagerstown MagazineThe Patriot, and several other print venues. She is the founder of the  World Literary Café and Fostering Success. When she’s not writing, Melissa helps authors navigate the publishing industry through her author training programs on  Fostering Success. Melissa has been published in Calgary’s Child Magazine, the Huffington Post, and Women Business Owners magazine. 

Melissa hosts an Aspiring Authors contest for children and has painted and donated several murals to The Hospital for Sick Children in Washington, DC. Melissa lives in Maryland with her family.

Visit Melissa on social media. Melissa enjoys discussing her books with book clubs and reader groups, and welcomes an invitation to your event. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Her Backup Boyfriend by Ashlee Mallory

Author:Ashlee Mallory
Publisher: Entangled Bliss
Date of publication: January 2015

Straight-laced lawyer Kate Matthews always plays by the rules. But when her ex gets engaged and a big promotion is on the line at work, she blurts out that she has a new boyfriend. And now that she’s proved she “has a life” outside of work, everything is perfect. Except for one teeny little detail—there is no boyfriend. And now Kate’s liable for her little white lie…

Dominic Sorensen is hot, charming, and very definitely not Kate’s type. But not only does Dominic want to help Kate renovate her home, he’s also willing to play “boyfriend.” All he wants in return is a little pro bono work for his sister. Now instead of Mr. Right, Kate has a delectable Mr. Fix-It-Right—and some unbelievable sexual chemistry. And if falling for Dominic is a breach of contract, Kate is guilty as charged…

 Her Backup Boyfriend was a pleasant surprise.  It was a little slow to start, but I ended up enjoying the book.  Kate is working toward a promotion to junior partner at her law firm.  She is single and works all the time. Her boss implies that having a significant other will go a long way toward impressing the board.  When he neighbor's nephew offers to play her boyfriend for a couple of months in exchange for law work for his sister, she reluctantly agrees.

The romance between Dominic and Kate was sweet. I loved how they really became friends before lovers.  They helped each other realize they needed to go for what they wanted and not hold back.  Kate learns that what she thought she had always wanted wasn't going to make her truly happy.  I liked Dominic a bit more than Kate.  I was annoyed at how long it took her to do the ethical thing involving the case she was working on with her firm.  It seemed a no-brainer for the type of person she was.  I felt like the hesitation was only a way to make more unnecessary tension for the couple.  

Dominic's family was a nice addition to the story.  They were hysterical.  I look forward to reading about his siblings finding love in the future.  This is a fairly mild romance in terms of love scenes. They build up then quickly fade to black  leaving most of it to the imagination.  If you are looking for a cute romance, give this one a shot.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Evelyn, After by Victoria Helen Stone

by:  Victoria Helen Stone
published by: Lake Union Publishing
publish date:  November 1, 2016

Evelyn Tester is sleepwalking through her suburban life—until a late-night phone call startles her awake. Her husband, a prestigious psychiatrist, has been in an accident. And he isn’t alone.

Suddenly Evelyn’s world isn’t as tidy as she thought. And in the midst of it all is Juliette, not only her husband’s secret lover but also his patient. If news of the affair were to get out, it would ruin more than just Evelyn’s marriage. Although it’s a bitter pill for Evelyn to swallow, protecting her family means staying silent—even if, as she begins to discover, the night of the accident has consequences far more dangerous than the unmasking of an affair.

This was not my typical book choice.  I was stuck in a situation where I had to sit for hours and I had nothing but my phone so looked for something I had gotten from Amazon.  I think I downloaded this book because I was expecting it to be a little heavier on the psychological thriller aspect.  It wasn't.  It was more focused on Evelyn kinda freaking out when she found out her husband was having an affair.

So Evelyn suspects her husband is having an affair, but she has no proof.  Then one night there is an accident and he calls Evelyn to help pull him out of a ditch, and she discovers he's not alone.  She demands to know everything about the woman and basically starts stalking this woman and her family.  Then she has her own affair with the woman's husband.  

If you don't like books about cheaters, this one is not for you.  Overall, I thought it was a fairly decent story.  I didn't like Evelyn though, she was a wacky person with like zero chill.  If you can get it on Amazon Prime or whatever they're doing now, it's a quick easy read.  

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Bad Judgment by Meghan March

Author: Meghan March
Publisher: Red Dress Press
Date of publication: August 2016

He’s arrogant.

She’s self-righteous.

I hate him.

I want her. 

I’ve been turning him down for two years straight.

Every shut-down makes me work harder.

I’m not a one-night stand kind of girl.

She doesn’t realize I won’t settle for only one night.

He’s a distraction I don’t need. 

She’ll say yes eventually because I’m not giving up.

I seriously have been on a Meghan March kick this month as this is the third book I have read by her. Bad Judgment is her first foray into the New Adult genre.  It's a stand alone book which was a refreshing change for a New Adult.  They all seem to be a series. 

 I honestly can say, I really enjoyed this one.  Both main characters were fun and I loved their chemistry. For a New Adult book, there was a surprising lack of angst which put it up a notch in my opinion.  I liked Justine.  She had a sense of pride and lots of integrity and worked hard for what she had.  Ryker was kind of arrogant in the beginning, but he ended up being an pretty decent guy fairly quickly.  The best part was how he taught her that she could have love in her life. She taught him that he was more than his bank account and nice car.  

There was a little twist in the end that I did kind of predict before Justine figured it out.  But, I still enjoyed it.  The epilogue was beyond sweet.  I highly recommend this one if you haven't read it yet.  

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Beneath These Shadows by Meghan March

Author: Meghan March
Publisher: Red Dress Press
Date of publication: October 2016

The only permanent thing in my life is the ink I put on my clients.
I drift from city to city, in and out of beds, from one tattoo shop to the next.
Every time I start to put down roots, I rip them up.
Until New Orleans.
Until her.
She’s everything I’m not.
Full of fire and life. An innocent where I’m a sinner.
I want to consume her. Protect her. Keep her.
But first, I have to escape from beneath these shadows.

Beneath These Shadows is the latest in the "Beneath" series.  After not loving Beneath These Lies, I was a little hesitant to try this one out.  I was pleasantly surprised and felt like the writing was back on track.  This is Bishop's story.

He never stays in one place for too long because has been on the run from demons from his past,  He is working with his sister at the tattoo shop when he rescues Eden in front of the shop.  Eden is the daughter of a notorious mob boss who is forced to go into hiding.  She has lived a pretty sheltered life and looks at her exile as an opportunity to spread her wings.   I loved them together.  The tension between them just popped off the pages.  This was a quick fall into love, but I totally bought into it. Bishop is now on my ever growing favorite alpha book boyfriend list.  

There is a great mystery and a couple of twists in the story.  I loved how all of the friends rallied around Bishop and Eden to help them out.  That is one thing I missed from the last book...the friends from first books.  They were one of the things I have always liked about this series.  I definitely recommend this one.  I hope that Hennessy gets his own story next.  I'd love to catch up with him.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Blog Tour: Say Goodbye for Now by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Author: Catherine Ryan Hyde
Publisher: Lake Union Press
Date of publication: December 2016

On an isolated Texas ranch, Dr. Lucy cares for abandoned animals. The solitude allows her to avoid the people and places that remind her of the past. Not that any of the townsfolk care. In 1959, no one is interested in a woman doctor. Nor are they welcoming Calvin and Justin Bell, a newly arrived African American father and son.

When Pete Solomon, a neglected twelve-year-old boy, and Justin bring a wounded wolf-dog hybrid to Dr. Lucy, the outcasts soon find refuge in one another. Lucy never thought she’d make connections again, never mind fall in love. Pete never imagined he’d find friends as loyal as Justin and the dog. But these four people aren’t allowed to be friends, much less a family, when the whole town turns violently against them.

With heavy hearts, Dr. Lucy and Pete say goodbye to Calvin and Justin. But through the years they keep hope alive…waiting for the world to catch up with them.

“[A] heartwarming tale of transgression and redemption.” —Kirkus Reviews
“A moving story about patience, trust, the families we choose, and the love it takes to let somebody go.” —Booklist

Say Goodbye for Now is a compelling and at times heart wrenching story.  Initially set in 1959, it's the story of 4 people who find each other during unstable times and form strong bonds that sustain them through the ups and downs of the turbulent 60s.  

I found this book to be hard to read at times. Don't get me wrong, it was well written and the story is beautiful. What I found hard to read was how Calvin and Justin were treated just because of the color of their skin.  Because of the time and town they lived in, there was no way Lucy and Calvin could be together.  That was so heartbreaking.  I'm not going to give away too much of the plot.  This is a book you really need to experience for yourself.  All through the book, I kept thinking of the saying: If you love something set it free, if it comes back it was meant to be.  I just found that so relevant to this book.  I'm a sucker for happy endings, so I was rooting for this little family of the heart.  The ending was sweet and just what I was waiting for.

About Catherine Ryan Hyde

Catherine Ryan Hyde is the author of thirty published and forthcoming books. Her bestselling 1999 novel Pay It Forward, adapted into a major Warner Bros. motion picture starring Kevin Spacey and Helen Hunt, made the American Library Association’s Best Books for Young Adults list and was translated into more than two dozen languages for distribution in more than thirty countries. Her novels Becoming Chloe and Jumpstart the World were included on the ALA’s Rainbow List; Jumpstart the World was also a finalist for two Lambda Literary Awards and won Rainbow Awards in two categories. More than fifty of her short stories have been published in many journals, including the Antioch ReviewMichigan Quarterly Review, the Virginia Quarterly ReviewPloughsharesGlimmer Train, and the Sun, and in the anthologiesSanta Barbara Stories and California Shorts and the bestselling anthology Dog Is My Co-Pilot. Her short fiction received honorable mention in the Raymond Carver Short Story Contest, a second-place win for the Tobias Wolff Award, and nominations for Best American Short Stories, the O. Henry Award, and the Pushcart Prize. Three have also been cited in Best American Short Stories.
Ryan Hyde is also founder and former president of the Pay It Forward Foundation. As a professional public speaker, she has addressed the National Conference on Education, twice spoken at Cornell University, met with AmeriCorps members at the White House, and shared a dais with Bill Clinton.

Connect with Catherine Ryan Hyde

Catherine Ryan Hyde’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

Monday, December 12th: Ms. Nose in a Book
Tuesday, December 13th: Kritter’s Ramblings
Tuesday, December 13th: Cindy Burnett
Wednesday, December 14th: Chick Lit Central
Thursday, December 15th: 100 Pages a Day
Friday, December 16th: From the TBR Pile
Monday, December 19th: Reading Reality
Monday, December 19th: Barbara Kahn
Tuesday, December 20th: Peeking Between the Pages
Tuesday, December 20th: Tina Says…
Wednesday, December 21st: Write Read Life
Thursday, December 22nd: Readaholic Zone
Friday, December 23rd: A Chick Who Reads
Monday, December 26th: Palmer’s Page Turners
Wednesday, December 28th: 5 Minutes for Books
Tuesday, December 28th: I’d Rather Be at the Beach
Thursday, December 29th: Mama Vicky Says
Monday, January 2nd: Bibliotica
Wednesday, January 4th: Patricia’s Wisdom
Thursday, January 5th: Dwell in Possibility

Date TBD: BookBub Blog – author guest post

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Throwback Thursday: Blackest Heart by Amber Leigh Williams

Author: Amber Leigh Williams
First published in 2008  by Wild Rose Press

America's Sweetheart, Stella Ridge has been away from Wayback for fifteen years paving her way to the top of the acting business. When a car accident leaves her physically and emotionally scarred, the only place she wants to go is home to Texas and her family's ranch. The changes that have taken place since her departure are enough to rock her world again. She uncovers a buried tragedy, struggles with the penetrating stares and questions from townsfolk, and comes up against an intriguing and unexpected spark with the silent cowboy and champion bull rider, Judd Black. Their wounded souls draw them together and Stella begins to realize that only in him can she find the solace she sought by leaving the bright lights of Hollywood.

I came across this book in audio on the Overdrive site when I was looking for a quick throwback book.  Coming in at just over 3 hours, it's a very quick listen.  Blackest Heart ended up being just an OK read for me.  I think if it had been longer, I might have ended up making it a DNF.  The story is about Stella who walks away from her successful career in Hollywood, giving it all up to come back home.  She reconnects with her childhood friend Judd.  But, they both have a past they have to work through before they can have a HEA.

Overall, it's a sweet story about moving on, but there were things about it that really bugged me.  Despite being written in 2008, it had that early 80s feel. Judd is a character who never talks, except to 3 people.  It goes back to his childhood.  I get what the author was trying to do, but it didn't work for me.  I never felt like I got to know him.  He spoke maybe 10 sentences in the entire story. The story was too short for me to really get a feel for the back story and relationship between Stella and Judd.  Maybe had it been longer, I would have bought into it more.  I also didn't care for the narrator.  She put almost no emotion into the reading.  The bedroom scenes sounded like she was reading a grocery list.  

I'd say skip this one, unless you really need a quick read.  It's not bad, but it isn't great either.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Blog Tour: Interview with Kali Kucera, author of Unawqi, Hunter of the Sun

Title: Unawqi, Hunter of the Sun
Author: Kali Kucera
Publisher: Independent
Pages: 218
Genre: Mythical Realism

In a time when supernatural and industrial worlds are staged to collide, an Andean boy finds himself in the center of an epic struggle between the cosmos and the earth. Unawqi is born with both insurmountable power and a fate of certain death, both of which are challenged by his hunt of the emperor, Aakti, the Sun: the very force that desires to abandon the earth unless Unawqi can overcome him.

How easily we take the Sun for granted. We are conditioned to its rising and setting on time, and assume it enjoys doing so, or more likely is indifferent. Unawqi, Hunter of the Sun reveals a more perilous tale: the Sun, Aakti, is a being who is a reluctant player in providing light and warmth to our world, and even more has always desired to leave us to die if he didn’t have certain personal complications standing in his way. Aakti will stop at nothing to get what he wants, even if that involves murder of his own kin or annihilation of an entire living planet. Ironically, what holds him back is the very life he is creating; the family from which he tries to but cannot wrest control, and among them a young intrepid boy emerges, a hunter who sets out on a journey, not to stop the Sun, but to overcome him with a force we also take for granted: our humanity.

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Enjoy this interview with author, Kali Kucera!

Kari& Autumn: What inspired you to become a writer?

Kali: I have been every other kind of artist. I’ve been a professional musician, a dramatist, a dance instructor, a playwright, a visual artist, and a storyteller. Through all those experiences there was the common studio, and in that studio was the excitement of a new story to craft.   So the inspiration to be a writer was always there; it just took different forms, and I see writing words in a book as just a different session of writing a song or painting a canvas.

Kari& Autumn: Where do you come up with the ideas for your books?

Kali: No one place or thing.  You might say that I try to restrict myself to the ancient practice of crafting mythological lore, so I take promptings from nature and symbols.  But I can be equally influenced by just hearing some great dialogue in a movie, or a philosophical conversation over coffee with a friend, or something I read in another book that left my mind thinking about what was not said.

Kari& Autumn: What exciting projects are waiting in the wings?

Kali: I have a couple going on, but the most important is Witch Pricker, which is historical fiction based on the life (and afterlife) of Matthew Hopkins, the 17th century Puritan who, with local public support, took the lives of over three-hundred women in the course of three years he condemned as witches. But that’s just the backstory. The larger tale is where is where my imagination begins in what became of Hopkins; how his rage continued to manifest itself over the centuries in the form of human beings and institutions that lust for control over others, and the psychological trauma he (and we) cause in the guise of making evil look benign.  That should be out in full in another year, but I release chapters on my blog along the way.

Kari& Autumn: Who is your favorite literary character and why?

Kali: I presume you mean in my own book.  Probably Naira, because she seems to be the most untapped, like she hasn’t yet come out of her shell, but is just on the verge.  I myself want to know Naira better.  She seems to be a revolutionary in waiting.

Kari& Autumn: Just for fun, if you could be any animal, what would it be and why?

Kali: As the great Nina Simone sang it:
Well I wish I could be
Like a bird in the sky
How sweet it would be
If I found I could fly
Oh I'd soar to the sun

And look down at the sea
Then I'd sing 'cause I know
how it feels to be free

About the author:

Kali Kucera is an American lorist and short story writer living in Quito, Ecuador, where he also rides and writes about bus and train travel. Since he was 9 years old he has been composing plays, operas, short stories, and multi-disciplinary experiences. He has been both a teacher and performer as well as an arts mobilizer, and founded the Tacoma Poet Laureate competition in 2008.

His latest book is the mythical realism novel, Unawai, Hunter of the Sun.


Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Blog Tour: Miracle on 5th Avenue by Sarah Morgan

Author: Sarah Morgan
Publisher: Harlequin
Date of publication: November 2016

It will take a Christmas miracle for two very different souls to find each other in this perfectly festive fairy tale of New York! 

Hopeless romantic Eva Jordan loves everything about Christmas. She might be spending the holidays alone this year, but when she’s given an opportunity to house-sit a spectacular penthouse on Fifth Avenue, she leaps at the chance. What better place to celebrate than in snow-kissed Manhattan? What she didn’t expect was to find the penthouse still occupied by its gorgeous—and mysterious—owner.
Bestselling crime writer Lucas Blade is having the nightmare before Christmas. With a deadline and the anniversary of his wife’s death looming, he’s isolated himself in his penthouse with only his grief for company. He wants no interruptions, no decorations and he certainly doesn’t appreciate being distracted by his beautiful, bubbly new housekeeper. But when the blizzard of the century leaves Eva snowbound in his apartment, Lucas starts to open up to the magic she brings…This Christmas, is Lucas finally ready to trust that happily-ever-afters do exist?

Miracle on 5th Avenue is the third in the "From Manhattan with Love" trilogy.  This is Eva's story.  I have really mixed feelings about this book.  I was hoping that it would replace the second book as my favorite of the three, but in the end it didn't.  Don't get me wrong, I did ultimately enjoy the book, but I just didn't love it as much as I was hoping.

I loved Lucas,  I was really rooting for him to realize that love can be a good thing.  I even loved Eva and Lucas together.  I liked how even though their fall into love was fast, it made sense.  They spent a lot of time together over 4 weeks and really got to know each other.  Eva was a bit too much of a "Mary Sue Sunshine" at times, but not enough for me to dislike her character.

So, why didn't I love it?  The first thing is a nit picky issue for me.  I ended up listening to the audiobook to be able to finish in time for the tour.  The narrator made Eva sound like a brainless, ditsy blond. You know the breathy bedroom voice that I'm talking about? It was really grating and made her seem so different from the way her character appeared in the previous books.  I know it was just a voice, but it was hard to take her character seriously at times   The other thing that I missed was Eva's friends.  Where were they?  They didn't make much of an appearance in the story which was disappointing.The camaraderie and fun banter between the friends was something I loved about the first two books.  Their absence made the story have a much different feel.

Overall, I did like the story.  The HEA was really sweet and almost made up for the issues I had.  I do recommend this trilogy as a whole. Watching the three girls find their HEAs was fun.

About Sarah Morgan

USA Today bestselling author Sarah Morgan writes lively, sexy contemporary stories for Harlequin.
Romantic Times has described her as ‘a magician with words’ and nominated her books for their Reviewer’s Choice Awards and their ‘Top Pick’ slot. In 2012 Sarah received the prestigious RITA® Award from the Romance Writers of America. She lives near London with her family.

Connect with Sarah

Sarah Morgan’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS

Monday, November 28th: The Sassy Bookster
Tuesday, November 29th: Book Reviews and More by Kathy
Tuesday, November 29th: Books and Bindings
Tuesday, November 29th: Susan Walters Peterson 
Wednesday, November 30th: A Splendid Messy Life
Thursday, December 1st: View from the Birdhouse
Monday, December 5th: BookBub Blog  – “5 Snowy Romances to Put You in a Holiday Mood”
Monday, December 5th: Kritter’s Ramblings
Tuesday, December 6th: The Reading Date
Wednesday, December 7th: Snowdrop Dreams of Books
Thursday, December 8th: Why Girls are Weird
Friday, December 9th: Becky on Books
Monday, December 12th: Chick Lit Central
Tuesday, December 13th: From the TBR Pile
Tuesday, December 13th: Thoughts on This ‘n That
Wednesday, December 14th: Walking with Nora
Wednesday, December 14th: Reading Lark
Friday, December 16th: Not in Jersey
Monday, December 19th: Bewitched Bookworms
Tuesday, December 20th: Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers
Wednesday, December 21st: Books and Spoons

Thursday, December 22nd: A Chick Who Reads