Friday, September 16, 2016

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty / Book Review



By: Liane Moriarty
Published by: Penguin
Released on: 8/11/2015
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Source: Purchased

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars - whoosh, what a story!!


Big Little Lies follows three women, each at a crossroads:

Madeline is a force to be reckoned with. She’s funny and biting, passionate, she remembers everything and forgives no one. Her ex-husband and his yogi new wife have moved into her beloved beachside community, and their daughter is in the same kindergarten class as Madeline’s youngest (how is this possible?). And to top it all off, Madeline’s teenage daughter seems to be choosing Madeline’s ex-husband over her. (How. Is. This. Possible?).

Celeste is the kind of beautiful woman who makes the world stop and stare. While she may seem a bit flustered at times, who wouldn’t be, with those rambunctious twin boys? Now that the boys are starting school, Celeste and her husband look set to become the king and queen of the school parent body. But royalty often comes at a price, and Celeste is grappling with how much more she is willing to pay.

New to town, single mom Jane is so young that another mother mistakes her for the nanny. Jane is sad beyond her years and harbors secret doubts about her son. But why? While Madeline and Celeste soon take Jane under their wing, none of them realizes how the arrival of Jane and her inscrutable little boy will affect them all.

Big Little Lies is a brilliant take on ex-husbands and second wives, mothers and daughters, schoolyard scandal, and the dangerous little lies we tell ourselves just to survive.


It's been a while since I've broken out of my predictable, YA-only reading cycle. Lately, I've found myself picking up on the sameness of some of the publishing industry's predictable releases. The YA world seems to go through trends more apparently than other sectors of publishing, and I was feeling, frankly, bored. I perused my shelves and remembered that a friend (hey there, Emm, from Mundie Moms!)  had sent me a copy of Liane Moriarty's Big Little Lies as a present about a year ago. I started the book and couldn't put it down except to get the kids to and from school.

Liane gets school politics in a small suburban setting. The pecking order of mamas in Kindergarten was so very real that I found myself laughing at the fact that all the super-involved, PTO moms went to the same hairdresser and sported the same haircut. The feeling of having to participate in school events, the prejudices certain people hold against you just because of your social status, marital status and of course, economic status are all beautifully portrayed here. Liane uncovers the dark side of picturesque suburban living by exposing what goes on behind closed bedroom doors -- the fights, the stress and in some cases, the abuse (let me pause and add that one of the characters is physically and verbally abused by her husband if this is something you wish to avoid reading, this book may not be for you).

Having mentioned a trigger warning, I want to jump in to Liane's characters. Celeste has lived in an abusive relationship for years. But, this isn't a Hollywood-ized version of an abused wife, this is so real that you find yourself relating to Celeste. She fights back. She plans to leave. She realizes that this is not good for her five-year-old boys. Yet, she rationalizes staying and while I was SCREAMING at her in my head, I understood why she wanted to stay. This is the intricate level of characterization that Liane wrote into the story. And you will understand the other two main characters, Jane and Madeline in the same way. You will watch their friendship unfold, and you will be reminded of those moments when your own friendships with women blossomed and grew into whispered secrets, shared joys and unexpected downturns.

Life is so complicated. It's never just a clear, happy, straight line. There are twists and curves in all our roads and every once in a while, there is a hairpin turn that pops out of nowhere. Friendship buoys us through all of these moments. Big Little Lies was a book I expected to be suspenseful (nice trick of using a backwards timeline from the all important Trivia Night at school), but I didn't expect to be caught up in the deep emotions of these three women. I felt it all, and I hope you will, too.

In case you're wondering, yes, I've already ordered three more of Liane's books. Her writing is that good that I need to read all of her stories. Also, HBO is releasing Big Little Lies as a limited run series starring Nicole Kidman and Reese Whitherspoon. What an awesome cast. I know they will bring this story to life.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Party Girl by Rachel Hollis / Book Review


By: Rachel Hollis
Published by: Lake Union Publishing
Released on: 12/9/2014
Series: The Girls Series #1
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Source: Purchased

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars - a fun read!

Landon Brinkley’s dreams are all coming true. She’s landed an internship with the fabulous Selah Smith, event planner for the Hollywood elite, taking her from small-town Texas to the bright lights of LA. Landon soon finds herself in a world in which spending a million dollars on an event—even a child’s birthday party—is de rigueur and the whims of celebrity clients are life-and-death matters. At first, the thrill of working on A-list parties and celebrity weddings is enough to get Landon through the seventy-five-hour workweeks and endless abuse at the hands of her mercurial boss. But when the reality of the business reveals itself, she’s forced to make a choice: do whatever it takes to get ahead, or stay true to herself.

Drawing on the author’s real-life experiences as an event planner to the stars, Party Girl takes readers on an adventure among Hollywood’s most beautiful—and most outrageous—people, revealing the ugly side of Hollywood’s prettiest parties.


I love stories in the Devil Wears Prada-style mostly because I worked for a manager EXACTLY like that. I swear, there were days when you could see her horns peek through her perfectly coiffed executive helmet. Rachel Hollis, a celebrity L.A.-based event planner turned lifestyle guru, certainly knows the business side of event planning, but boy oh boy, does she ever describe what it's like to work for a Boss-from-Hell. 

Landon is such a relatable character. She is smart, ambitious and yet, she wants to do what's right for the customer and the business. In other words, she is exactly the type of person her boss will walk all over with ridiculous demands and impossible tasks. I loved the vulnerable side of Landon -- the side that allows her to break down under pressure, and I also loved her ambition -- the part of her that would force her to get back up. 

Rachel sprinkles the story with supporting characters, who remind Landon that this is a crazy business and that her boss is truly over-the-top crazy. In them, Landon finds the kind of support that ultimately allows her to stand up for herself. 

Now, the romance was in a word -- adorable. SO ADORABLE. It developed slowly and logically. It was sigh-filled perfection.

This was exactly the kind of read I needed to get me out of a reading slump. I was stuck in the mire of YA fantasy, and I was so very bored. A cute, fluffy, chick-lit plot is sometimes the best palate cleanser of them all. 

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

TO THE STARS by Molly McAdams / Book Blitz: Read An Excerpt & Enter To WIN!


Hello and welcome to today's Release Day Blitz! I am so thrilled to be apart of today's release day celebrations for Molly McAdams's TO THE STARS! After you read the excerpt below, be sure to enter to win! 

READ AN EXCERPT
Setting my cup on the table in front of me, I searched through my purse for my iPad, and smiled to myself when I checked to find there was still a charge on it. I set an alarm on it to know when to leave in case I was able to escape my reality for a little while, grabbed my coffee, and gently sat back in the chair as I tried to get into the book I’d been reading last week on my Kindle app. I had more than enough time to read during the days, that wasn’t the problem. It was whether I could push away my real life enough to let myself enjoy the fairytale that determined if I ever read.
More often than not, I ended up staring blankly at my iPad long after it had shut itself off from lack of use as I thought about whatever was going on with Collin, or my own fairytale I’d given up.
Like now, I realized, when I noticed my screen was black again. I didn’t even know how long I’d been sitting there just staring at it. I took a deep breath in, preparing for a silent sigh out.
My breath caught in my throat when a body next to me blocked the sun, and a deep, fluid voice asked, “Why would anyone waste their time only loving someone to the moon…”
…when they could love them to the stars?
He didn’t finish, and I didn’t say the words out loud. But everything stopped around me for heavy seconds. The rise and fall of my chest halted, I no longer heard the background noise, music, and voices in the coffee shop … all time seemed to stand still as I sat there trying to assess whether I was dreaming or not.
“Harlow Evans,” he said softly, and I let out a shuddering breath as everything came filtering back in. “The last person I thought I’d see when I woke up this morning was the girl I’ve been waiting seven years for.”
My head snapped to the left, and my soul ached when I looked at Knox Alexander for the first time in four and a half years. Time had changed him in amazing ways—and at the same time, nothing about him was different at all. Those dark eyes began to lock on mine, and I quickly looked away from them. I didn’t want to see what they would tell me, I didn’t want to know what they would find.


ABOUT THE BOOK


In the second standalone book in New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Molly McAdams’ Thatch series, Knox Alexander must convince his long-time love Harlow Evans that they’re meant to be together.


He promised to wait for her.
She told him he was wasting his time.
Not waiting for him ended up being the biggest mistake of her life.

When they were younger, Knox Alexander swore to Harlow Evans that he would wait for her to turn eighteen so they could be together. But that was two and a half years away, and Harlow couldn’t ask him to give up all the fun and thrills of going away to college for her. As the years passed, Knox remained a constant in her life but when her eighteenth birthday came around, Harlow’s heart belonged to someone else.

Every day for the last four years, Harlow has been haunted by that fateful choice. And though he may appear unaffected by what happened in their past, Knox has always tried to fill the void Harlow left. But when he comes stumbling back into her life and refuses to leave, will Harlow finally let him into her heart…?


GET THE SERIES


Get your copy TODAY! To The Stars is out TODAY from William Morrow. 
Purchase your copy from: Amazon | B&N | iTunes | Kobo | GooglePlay
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And don’t miss the first book in the Thatch Series… LETTING GO
Purchase from: AmazonB&N | iTunes | Kobo | GooglePlay | Audio


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Molly grew up in California but now lives in the oh-so-amazing state of Texas with her husband, daughter, and fur babies. When she's not diving into the world of her characters, some of her hobbies include hiking, snowboarding, traveling, and long walks on the beach … which roughly translates to being a homebody with her hubby and dishing out movie quotes. She has a weakness for crude-humored movies and fried pickles, and loves curling up in a fluffy comforter during a thunderstorm ... or under one in a bathtub if there are tornados. That way she can pretend they aren't really happening.

Find Molly Online: Website | Tumblr | Facebook | Twitter |Google+ | Goodreads

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

MISTLETOE and MR. RIGHT by Lyla Payne, Blog Tour: Guest Post & Giveaway




Hello and welcome  to today's blog tour stop for MISTLETOE and MR. RIGHT. I'm thrilled to share today's guest post from author Lyla Payne, which is a list of 12 gifts from Mr. Right! Also featured in today's post is a giveaway! Be sure to enter to win at the end of this post. 


Top 12 gifts you’d like from Mr. Right
Gifts! Who doesn’t love gifts – there’s nothing like receiving OR giving one you know is going to be so perfect. Here’s a list of things I’d love love love to get from my own fella (who is, of course, Mr. Right!).
  1. Travel: I love to travel. Any gift that included plane tickets, an itinerary, hotel costs, etc would make me squeal with joy.
  2. Time with Friends: Yes, it’s a gift from Mr. Right, but sometimes a girl just needs time with her friends! I would love a gift that included time and/or money for a girl’s trip or girl’s night out!
  3. Time together: Time is, of course, a most precious commodity. With everyone’s schedules and deadlines and the little mundane, everyday things that sweep us up, a gift that means he’s thinking of how the two of you can be a priority. <3
  4. Something I mentioned in passing: I adore opening presents that come as a complete surprise because I mentioned once, six months ago, that I’d like something similar. Nothing says love more than a person who listens and remembers to all of the little things you say.
  5. Books: Duh. Books make the best gifts – they’re whole worlds and new friends that fit on your lap.
  6. Dresses: I’m obsessed. I already have a whole closet full of them, but a true Mr. Right knows there’s always room for more of my favorites!
  7. Acts of Service: This is my love language, and I love gifts that show that he knows how to make me feel loved – cooking meals, helping around the house, offering to run errands, et al.
  8. Something I would never buy myself: For me, this would be jewelry. Since my Mr. Right is a geologist, he loves gemstones and precious metals, and he knows a lot about them! These sorts of gifts, that represent him in a way that means the gift could never have come from anyone else, are near and dear to my heart.
  9. The newest Apple gadget: I am an Apple junkie, but with a laptop, iPhone, and iPad, sometimes I can’t justify the next big thing. Like the Apple Watch…. hint hint
  10. A clean car: I am the worst about keeping my car clean, inside and out, and even though I’m a rabid feminist, there are some things I love when a guy takes care of for me. Taking care of my car is one of them, whether he does it himself or takes it in for some much-needed TLC.
  11. Things off my list: It sounds silly, but we make lists for a reason! I love getting something I really really wanted – enough to write it down for someone – and had denied buying for myself until after Christmas.
  12. A coupon book: You know, one of those cheesy “here’s what I’ll do for you” books of coupons that you used to make your sister as a kid because you didn’t want to buy her anything? I like them because they’re good for weeks or months, and it goes back to that whole mundane, everyday life thing…it means recognizing the day-to-day things that might make you happy in the days and weeks to come.
I guess it turns out that I’m kind of practical (boring), but hey…I guess I’ll own it. Happy Holidays, and I hope you get everything your heart desires from a Mr. Right of your own


ABOUT THE BOOK
In Mistletoe and Mr Right, Jessica takes a flying leap and follows her boyfriend home for the holidays for Christmas break, sure that Ireland will provide the perfect backdrop to the beginning of their happily ever after. But it turns out his family – and his gorgeous ex-girlfriend – don’t feel the same way, and the only person making the trip worthwhile is a hot local, who has a way of showing up when Jessica needs him most ... and least.

The holiday high jinks continue in Sleigh Bells and Second Chances, when Jessica’s best friend makes her own way across the pond! Christina Lake does not want to be away at Christmas, but she has an intern job as publicist for London’s hottest band at their last-minute concert on Christmas Eve ... even though she had a fling with Cary, the band’s lead singer, that never officially ended. Now forced to reconnect, Christina is starting to think that maybe London is exactly where she’s supposed to be to get the perfect New Year’s kiss – at least until she finds out that he’s been lying the whole time. Can Cary find a way to prove himself before the clock strikes twelve? Or will the New Year ring in a new romance?

Lyla Payne wraps up two perfect holiday novellas, ties them with a ribbon of romance, and tops them with a light dusting of snow. Perfect to curl up with under the tree. Just add hot cocoa!




ABOUT THE AUTHOR



Lyla Payne is the USA Today bestselling author of the Whitman University series, the Lowcountry Ghost books, and the holiday novella Mistletoe and Mr. Right. She graduated from Texas Christian University with a degree in film but no desire to tackle Hollywood, and made it through three quarters of an M.A. in ancient history before writing took over. She lives in the Midwest with her two dogs, two cats, and the characters in her head. Find her online at lylapayne.com and on Twitter: @Lyla_Payne.


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Friday, November 27, 2015

ONCE UPON A DECEMBER by Sydney Logan / Black Friday Book Blast & Giveaway!


Hello and welcome to today's ONCE UPON A DECEMBER book blast and giveaway! Author Sydney Logan is celebrating Black Friday by putting her collection of short stories on sale!! You can grab ONCE UPON A DECEMBER for $0.99! Check out the excerpts below from each stories and enter to win!

Purchase from Amazon | Nook | iBooks | Kobo

ABOUT ONCE UPON A DECEMBER 

Christmas is in the air, and best selling author Sydney Logan is gifting readers with a short story collection, just in time for the holidays. Once Upon a December features Sydney’s latest story, “What Child Is This,” along with her previously published holiday stories in one complete collection. Available for the first time in both paperback and ebook, these heartwarming and romantic tales are sure to bring you joy this holiday season.

What Child Is This?
Estranged from his family and the love of his life, Thomas Fisher finds himself stranded in an airport on Christmas Eve. Imagine his surprise when a young boy takes him by the hand and shows him the way home.

Mistletoe Magic
Melanie Taylor is on a mission to find the perfect Christmas gift for her husband. Something special. Something expensive. Something that will save her marriage. Can a chance encounter on an elevator make her Christmas wish come true?

The Little Drummer Boy
It’s Christmas Eve, and Justin Banks is on the hunt for a last-minute gift for his wife, Megan. With the help of a homeless man and the beat of a drum, Justin stumbles upon the one thing Megan has always wanted. The one thing money can’t buy. It's amazing what we can hear if we just take a moment and really listen.

READ AN EXCERPT




Excerpt from “What Child Is This?”

Please come home for Christmas this year?
I don’t bother replying to my sister’s text. She knows I’m not coming home. I just power off my phone and stuff it back into my jacket. With a tired sigh, I lean back, close my eyes, and find myself doing the one thing I try never to do.
I think about the mess I’ve made of my life.
Ten years ago, I’d been an eighteen-year-old living in Paisley Springs, Tennessee—a tiny, rural town about two hours north of Nashville. Ten years ago, I’d been a popular athlete with dreams of becoming a professional basketball player. Ten years ago, I’d been the golden child of Dr. Benjamin and Olivia Fisher.
Ten years ago, I’d been a boy in love.
I still am.
Life is full of highways, and some are just too long when you’re trying to find your way home. In my case, some forgotten roads completely disappear. Time erases them, to the point that you begin to wonder if they ever really existed in the first place.
But they did. I know they did.
I close my eyes and try to ignore the image that flickers behind my eyelids. In my mind, Emma Hayes is still eighteen years old. With her long red hair and deep green eyes, she’d always looked at me as if I was her dream come true.
And I was, until I ripped those dreams away.
We were together for more than a year, and it had been the happiest time of my life. But being crazy in love makes you do stupid things. Careless things.
And then things happen that you never imagined would happen to you.

Excerpt from “Mistletoe Magic”

“Doing some last-minute shopping?” Ethan asked.
Melanie blinked rapidly before nodding.
“I am,” she replied stiffly. “You?”
He lifted the gold bag, giving it a little shake.
She nodded. “For someone special?”
“For my wife. You?”
“My husb—”
Her reply was cut short when the lights dimmed, and the elevator lurched to a stop.
“Fantastic,” Melanie mumbled.
The emergency lights flickered on, and Ethan pushed the alarm button before grabbing the elevator’s phone. Melanie listened intently as he barked orders to someone before slamming down the receiver.
“The entire block is in the dark,” Ethan grumbled. He removed his jacket before settling himself on the floor.
“What are you doing?”
“Getting comfortable,” Ethan said. “The guy said it might be a while.”
Melanie glanced down at her silk dress.
“I’m not sitting on this dirty floor.”
Ethan shrugged. “Suit yourself.”
Melanie eyed his jacket.
“Speaking of suits, isn’t that Armani?”
“I have no idea which expensive name is stitched on the label.”
She smirked. “But you know it’s expensive.”
“There isn’t a suit in my closet that didn’t cost a fortune. My wife insists upon it.”
“Maybe that’s because your wife has good taste.”
“Maybe that’s because my wife is too hung-up on labels.” Ethan loosened his tie and sighed tiredly. “Just sit down. I hate enclosed spaces, and you’re making me nervous.”
A stubborn Melanie remained on her feet, but the four-inch heels of her favorite boots weren’t the most comfortable, and after a few minutes, she finally relented and removed her coat. It was far less expensive than the dress, after all. She placed it on the floor before slowly sitting down.
“See? Isn’t that better?”
Melanie sighed loudly.
“One of us should probably conserve our cell battery,” Ethan suggested, pulling his phone out of his pocket. “My Blackberry has a full charge, so I don’t mind keeping mine on if you’d like to save yours.”
With a nod, Melanie reached into her bag and turned off her iPhone.
“You don’t want to text someone first?” Ethan asked. “Your husband might worry if you come home late.”
Melanie somehow resisted the urge to laugh.
“No one worries about me,” she said.
A brief look passed between them before they both quickly looked away.

Excerpt from “The Little Drummer Boy”

Rum pum pum pum.
It’s faint, but it’s there. A quiet, rhythmic beat that blends into the night. How this old man heard the sound is beyond me.
“You hear it, don’t you?”
With a nod, I look around, hoping to find the source of the sound. The man points toward the coffee shop’s covered alleyway.
“Back there,” he says.
The carolers begin their rendition of “O Holy Night,” and once again, I hear the “rum pum pum pum” coming from the darkness.
Intrigued, I step away from the old man and walk slowly toward the alley. Each step brings me closer to the beat, until finally, I see a little boy, nestled in the corner. His only light comes from a lantern, and a snare drum rests in his lap. The drum is scarred and the strap is frayed, but it’s obviously his most prized possession.
Probably his only possession.
Does he live here? In this filthy alley? And where are his parents?
“Shall I play for you?”
His voice is just a whisper. His clothes are dirty and ragged, and the faded blue jacket he wears is about three sizes too big.
“I heard you playing,” I tell him, keeping my voice soft and light. The last thing I want to do is scare the kid. “You’re very good. Are you alone?”
He nods.
“Where are your parents?”
His face contorts in pain, and my stomach lurches. He can’t be more than five years old. Maybe six.
“Shall I play for you?” he asks again. A little stronger this time. A little more determined.
Because I don’t know what else to do, I nod. The covered alleyway has thankfully kept most of the snow away, so I find a flattened section of shredded cardboard and sit down. I don’t think about the fact that I’m probably ruining my thousand-dollar suit. I just sit and listen.  
The boy’s sticks pound the head of the drum.
Rum pum pum pum.  
Rum pum pum pum.
Each rhythmic thump pierces my soul, and when he comes to the end of his song, I reach inside my jacket for my wallet.  
“No, sir,” he says softly. “I don't need your money.”
It’s hard not to laugh. The kid is surrounded by dumpsters and living in a cardboard box. If anyone needs my money, it’s this child.  
“What do you need?”
“Just food.”  
“I can pay you with food?”
The boy nods vigorously, and I notice his eyes are suddenly a little brighter. The poor guy is probably starving and could definitely use a bath. Dirt cakes his face, but he has the biggest, bluest eyes I’ve ever seen.
“Why don't you come home with me?” I hear myself say. “My wife loves to cook.”
He shakes his head. “I can't leave. My mom told me to stay here. I have to stay here.”
“How old are you?”
“I'm six, sir.”
“Do you have a name?”
“My name’s Luke.”
“Well, Luke, my name is Justin Banks, and it's cold out here. It's going to keep snowing.”
“Yes, sir,” he whispers, his voice trembling.
“I could take you home with me for a little while. You could take a bath and eat some dinner with us.”
At the mention of a bath, he smiles.
“And then we can try to find your mom and dad.”
The little boy bows his head, and when he looks up at me again, the light in his eyes is long gone.
“My mom told me to stay here.”
I close my eyes in frustration. I can talk a judge and jury into almost anything. Have I really met my match in a six-year-old living in a cardboard box?
Maybe so.
But I have a secret weapon.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Amazon best-selling author Sydney Logan holds a Master's degree in Elementary Education. She is the author of five novels - Lessons Learned, Mountain Charm, Soldier On, Once Upon a December, and Pros & Cons. Sydney has also penned several short stories and is a contributor to Chicken Soup for the Soul. 
A native of East Tennessee, Sydney enjoys playing piano and relaxing on her porch with her wonderful husband and their very spoiled cat. 
Visit her website at www.sydneylogan.com
Also connect with her online: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

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