Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Love Me Sweet - Review & Giveaway

Review by Marlene Engel
With famous parents, a reality TV show, and a successful career, Delaney lives the ultimate Beverly Hills lifestyle.  But when her ex releases a sex video with Delaney being the star performer, she quickly becomes the main focus of every gossip magazine.  Determined to get away from the paparazzi and fast spreading rumors, Delaney heads to quieter pastures.  And what better place to get unnoticed and blend in with the locals than Bell Harbor, Michigan?  After all, who would suspect that she would go to the middle of nowhere in what just may be the worst winter Bell Harbor has ever seen?

Globe-trotting and working as a cameraman for one of the most popular adventure shows, Grant has made every effort to stay away from Bell Harbor.  But when an invitation makes its way to the Philippines jungle inviting Grant to his brother’s wedding, Grant decides that it’s time to make a life and career changing decision.  He packs up and heads back home.  But the greeting he gets from his family is far from warm.  Has he really been away for that long? 

Now in her newly rented apartment, Delaney suspects the person in her bathroom is the maintenance man fixing the annoying shower.  Instead, she spies an incredible specimen in her bathroom.  But he’s not fixing the shower.  He’s USING it!  During Grant’s absence, his mother decides to rent out his apartment.   The very apartment that Delaney has just plopped down six months in cash to rent.       

This is the third book that I’ve read by Tracy Brogan and, just like the first two, it did not disappoint.  Her humor and writing style grabs your attention right away and doesn’t let go until you’ve turned the last page.  With a cast full of colorful characters and a story that will have you laughing out loud, Love Me Sweet is the perfect feel good book for everybody!

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About the Author:
Past or present, Tracy Brogan loves romance. She read her first swashbuckling adventure at age sixteen and knew right then she was destined to become a novelist. She now writes fun and breezy contemporary stories about ordinary people finding extraordinary love, and lush historical romance full of political intrigue, damsels causing distress, and the occasional man in a kilt.

Tracy is a Romance Writer of America® RITA Finalist for Best First Book, and a two-time Golden Heart Finalist. She's the best-selling author of Crazy Little Thing and Highland Surrender. She resides in Michigan with her husband, their children, and their overly indulged dogs.

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Friday, March 27, 2015

She's Gone - Review & Giveaway

Review by Marlene Engel
Despite her father being an oil executive, Jolie is outraged by the way the oil companies are being so negligent and causing out of control oil spills.  As she watches the destruction over the once beautiful Santa Barbara coast, she is compelled to do more than just sit on the sidelines and watch.  Instead, she decides to take action and joins an anti-oil drilling protest.  While there she meets up with Will.  He’s older than Jolie, with strong opinions and persuasive ways.

When Jolie’s father learns of his daughter’s involvement with the protesting, he forbids further participation.  This outrages Jolie and, with Will’s encouragement, they run away to live a life of their choosing. 

Documenting her adventure that includes living in communes that are dedicated to free love and a life of peace to getting entangled in violent protests, Jolie’s journey takes her from the west to the east coast, through both the highs and lows of the 70’s era peace movement. 

In time Jolie finds that Will is not the man she thought he was.  And thoughts of home start making her question some of her choices.  She’s been gone for so long without any communication to her family.  Would they even want her back?

She’s Gone is a powerful story of a young girl who is forced to grow up faster than one should.  Who finds herself in situations that test her strength and resilience, but has her realizing what’s truly important in life.

Strong, powerful, emotional.  She’s Gone is a must read!

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About the Author:
Joye Emmens was born in Santa Barbara, California. She graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and earned an MBA from City University of Seattle.

Joye enjoyed a successful career in environmental health before joining Amgen, a biotechnology company that supports the research and development of innovative cures for serious illnesses. After ten years, she left Amgen to pursue a lifelong dream to write fiction. She is lucky to live in Ventura, California with her husband David. Her two sons and grandson live in Seattle.

Joye volunteers as a Big Sister and mentor with the Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. She enjoys traveling the world, yoga, running, reading, and music.
And yes, she is an oilman’s daughter.

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She’s Gone by Joye Emmens
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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Worthy - Cover Reveal, Interview & Giveaway

About the Book: 
Virginia finally had the chance to explore a relationship with Aaron when he asked her on a date. She had been waiting, hoping that the widower and his young son, Buddy, would welcome her into their lives. But a terrible tragedy strikes on the night of their first kiss, crushing their hopes for a future together. Nineteen years later, Virginia is engaged, though she has not forgotten Aaron or Buddy. When her dog goes missing and it comes to light that her fiancĂ© set him loose, a distraught Virginia breaks off the engagement and is alone once again. A shy young man has found the missing pet, and although he’s bonded with the animal, he answers his conscience and returns the dog. Before long, Virginia and the young man discover a connection from their pasts that will help them let go of painful memories and change their lives forever.

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Interview with the Author:

1. What was your biggest inspiration while writing your book?
I’m always inspired by human nature. I find us fascinating. I feel that I can see our capacity for good, for taking care of each other and being loving and kind. If it’s dormant, or hidden, I want to know why.

I’m also very much a dog person, and dogs provide an interesting contrast to our nature. They are, unless abused or neglected, almost unswervingly loving and kind. They seldom worry about vulnerability or image. And I think they bring out the best in us. So when two damaged characters get together, or try to, it seemed inspiring (for me, at least) to put a dog between them and watch how it changed the emotional landscape. 

2. What is your favorite book of all time?
Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes.

3. What is usually on your nightstand?
A box of tissues and a clock. I know you were thinking in terms of books. But they are beside my easy chair. There I keep my Kindle with probably over a hundred unread books on it, and a growing stack of paper books. I read and work on the computer in my easy chair, and by the time I go to bed it’s because I can’t keep my eyes open another minute.

On a few occasions I might have my notebook computer on the nightstand. If I have a book that is enjoying a promotion, and running up the charts, I tend to wake up at intervals in the night to see what it’s doing. I should be embarrassed to admit that, but I’m admitting it anyway. I’m very childlike about it. I get excited, and I don’t want to miss a thing.

4. What’s something your readers would be surprised to know about you?
Gosh, that’s hard. Because I spend so much time on social media, on my blog, emailing with readers… it’s hard to imagine what I might be holding back.

Some people might be surprised to know that I still wince deeply at any negative comment in a review, and it takes a while to let it go. In my head I’m very circumspect. I know no book can be all things to all people, and I accept that. But I think being the best writer you can be involves caring very deeply about how the work is received. Nine out of ten comments are great, so why is it the tenth that always sticks? Part of human nature, I suppose.
It might also surprise people to know that I have a silly sense of humor. I still like to watch the old Looney Toons cartoons and I love Lucy. I laugh out loud at things a lot of people would consider hopelessly outdated or too broad.

5. What is your writing process?
It is whatever it wants to be. When the work is there, and ready, I am its slave. I can’t turn it on, I can’t make it be ready, I can just encourage it by being there to type it all out when it comes around. In other words, my writing process tells me what to do, and I do it. Happily and gratefully. 

About the Author: 
Catherine Ryan Hyde is the bestselling author of twenty-seven published and forthcoming books. Some of her recent books include The Language of Hoofbeats, Take Me with You, Where We Belong, and Don’t Let Me Go. Her short stories have been published in Antioch Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, Ploughshares, Glimmer Train, and the Sun. She has received numerous awards, including the Rainbow Award and the British Book Award. Her bestselling 1999 novel Pay It Forward was adapted into a major motion picture and translated into twenty-three languages. Hyde is the founder of the Pay It Forward Foundation.

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SparkPoint is giving: 
1 Grand Prize winner a print ARC of
Worthy by Catherine Ryan Hyde & a Kindle Voyage
1 Second Place winner a print ARC of Worthy
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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Throw Like a Woman - Review

Review by KT Sullivan

Brenda Haversham is a forty year old divorced mother of two sons, Andy and Jon. Her ex-husband, Ed, has disappointed the boys again by blowing off a visit. Her father taught her to throw a fast ball and she takes the boys to the park. They are surprised by her hidden talent. When the boys go to practice, they mention it to their little league coach. Brenda imagines Ed’s face on the catcher’s mitt, pitches, and is clocked at eighty two miles per hour. Also video is uploaded of her. She doesn’t realize she’s about to go viral.

She had been a graphic designer, but after twelve years out of the workforce, she’s a data entry operator at an insurance company. A reporter at ESPN, Charlie Bannister, sees the video and talks about her. Now, Major League Baseball takes notice and offers her a shot to play for the Cleveland Indians. She will be the second oldest rookie to play in the MLB, the oldest was Satchel Paige. He is a standard of excellence, regardless of his age. She’s met with hostility, protesters, and harassment from her teammates. Does she have the talent and stamina to play or is she part of a publicity stint?

This story needs a major stretch of the reader’s imagination to work. Even a forty year old man would face incredible obstacles to play professional baseball. Following dreams and reaching the pinnacle are uplifting themes, but need a dose of reality. Many references are made to iconic baseball movies: Field of Dreams, Bull Durham, and The Natural. All are excellent stories that address age and second chances in life. 

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About the Author:
Susan Petrone grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, and although she`s moved away a couple of times (Annapolis, MD, and Alkmaar, The Netherlands), she lives there still. Her short fiction has been published by Glimmer Train, Featherproof Books, Muse, Conclave, and Whiskey Island. Her first novel, A Body at Rest, was published in 2009 by Drinian Press. Her second novel, Throw Like a Woman, is due out in March 2015 from The Story Plant. Her short story, "Monster Jones Wants to Creep You Out" (Conclave, 2010) was nominated for a 2011 Pushcart Prize. Her plays have had performances and/or readings at the Cleveland Playhouse, The Lamb`s Club (New York, New York), St. Johns College (Annapolis, Maryland), and several smaller non-Equity houses in Cleveland, Ohio. She co-authors the Cleveland Indians blog (ItsPronouncedLajaway.com) for ESPN.com`s SweetSpot network. On the non-fiction side, Susan`s work has appeared on CoolCleveland.com and ESPN.com. She holds a master`s degree in English with a concentration in Creative Writing from Cleveland State University and lives with one husband, one daughter, and far too many dogs in a little house near some medium-sized woods.

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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Happiness For Beginners - Review & Giveaway

Review by Darcie Czajkowski
Having doesn’t make you happy; appreciating does.”

Helen Carpenter has forgotten what it’s like to be happy. She likes her job as a first grade teacher. She likes her moody, eccentric dog, Pickle. But mostly she just feels numb and has ever since she divorced her alcoholic husband a year ago. And for the six years before that while she dealt with their tumultuous marriage, which finally ended after she miscarried their first child and her husband was unreachable.

Helen is not adventurous. She is not outdoorsy. She is not someone who seeks out risks, especially ones that involve near-death experiences. But she knows that if she doesn’t change something, she will continue living in an isolated fog. So when her younger brother, Duncan, whom she never listens to or takes advice from and is generally just annoyed by his existence, suggests a wilderness survival course, she surprises him – and herself – by registering for it.

She plans to go on this trip alone. Granted, there will be a guide and eleven others with her, but she isn’t there to make friends. She’s there for herself. It’s about her personal journey. It is about becoming a stronger, more alive woman than before. It is definitely not an experience that she wants to share with Duncan’s best friend, Jake, whom she learns is also taking the course when he asks to hitch a ride with her from Boston to Wyoming. Helen has no interest in interacting with a guy who is ten years younger and kind of goofy. Or at least that’s how she’s seen him since he and Duncan became friends in high school.  

But feeling like she can’t say no, Helen agrees to take Jake and comes to find out that he’s had a crush on her from the first day he saw her: on her wedding day to her now ex-husband. Since her divorce, Jake has been hoping Helen would notice him, but he never entered in her purview, likely due to the fact that he was Duncan’s friend, a brother she never warmed to. A brother that was a surprise to their family and caused massive changes in Helen’s life as a child.

Yet to Helen’s surprise, the drive to Wyoming with Jake isn’t bad at all. In fact, she finds herself enjoying his company to such a startling and unsettling extent that she insists that they pretend they don’t know each other once they arrive at the course. Because Helen is going on this trip to better herself, not get mixed up with some younger guy.

So while Jake is off making everyone in their group his best friend in that easy, natural way he has of interacting with people, Helen feels like an outcast. She’s a decade older than the rest of the group, including their guide, Beckett, who looks about fifteen. She is participating for self-discovery; the others are there to get thin and tan, to fulfill college credit, or to wrestle with the jaws of death and live to tell about it.

But when things start to get tough, Helen begins to question whether her strategy is best and wonders if there is a little good, some lesson to be learned from each and every one of her fellow hikers.

Katherine Center’s Happiness for Beginners surprised me as I was expecting the hike and its attendant physical, mental, and emotional challenges to be the central focus of the book. I expected descriptions of what it’s like to use a dirt hole as a toilet. To not wash your hair for twenty-one days. To wear the same sweaty, stinky outfit day in and day out. I expected perpetual mishaps and near-death encounters with snarling bears. That was not this story. I came to learn that the wilderness course acted as a vehicle for Helen to learn more about herself and teach her how to reconnect to and be present in her life. Katherine Center shares a valuable, relatable message on how recovering from a crushing loss can be a bumpy road, a journey that requires traversing many valleys before you reach the peaks. One quote from the book that I loved: “I had finally come to understand that not getting what you want is actually the trick to it all. Because not getting what you want forces you to appreciate what you already have.” For that thoughtful advice and much more, I’d recommend Happiness for Beginners.  

Purchase the book at:

About the Author:
Katherine Center is the author of four bittersweet comic novels about love and family, including The Bright Side of Disaster, Everyone Is Beautiful, Get Lucky, and The Lost Husband. Her books and essays have appeared in Redbook, People, USA Today, Vanity Fair, The Atlantic, Real Simple, Houstonia, the Dallas Morning News, The Houston Press, and the Houston Chronicle, as well as the anthologies Because I Love Her: 34 Women Writers on the Mother-Daughter Bond, My Parents Were Awesome, and CRUSH: 26 Real Life Tales of First Love. 

Katherine recently signed a three-book deal with St. Martin's Press. Her newest book, Happiness for Beginners, goes on sale March 2015, and her next one is in the works.

Katherine also Facebooks, Tweets, makes video essays, teaches writing, and speaks to all kinds of groups and book clubs. She lives in her hometown of Houston, Texas, with her awesome husband, two sweet children, and their fluffy-but-fierce dog.

Connect with the author at:

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Happiness For Beginners by Katherine Center
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Monday, March 23, 2015

The Snow Globe - Review & Giveaway

Review by KT Sullivan
Christmas 1926 finds Daisy Forbes getting ready to spend the holidays with her family at Eden Hall, their country estate. Her grandmother’s snow globe is special to her. She and her father make a wish with it every Christmas. This Christmas will be different from all the rest because her father’s mistress has been invited to dinner, her mother wants a lover, and old family secrets will be revealed. Howard and Mabel, Daisy’s parents, are about to celebrate their twenty fifth wedding anniversary, but Mabel would prefer to travel without her husband. Iris, Daisy’s sister, smokes, wears trousers, drinks alcohol, owns her own successful shop, and lives in London. Daisy has decided to join her sister after her father’s affair is exposed. Daisy’s love life is a bit of a mess too. One man kisses her, another tells her he loves her, and yet another one proposes marriage. She’s hoping a change of scenery will put all in prospective. The year brings about revelations about the family and staff. The servant Daisy loves leaves town and returns as a successful writer. Will everyone be able to forgive and accept the changes around them?

This has an Upstairs, Downstairs feel to it because the servants’ lives intersect with the family’s lives especially because Daisy and Stephen plan to marry. It also brings in life after World War I. Young men died and the women still mourn. Men returned shell shocked from their experiences. Plus the change in attitudes about the class separation is more apparent. Nice touch of history in this sweet story.

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About the Author:
Judith Kinghorn was born in Northumberland, England, and grew up in the village of Warkworth, famed for its castle, featured in Shakespeare’s Henry IV Part I and painted by JMW Turner. She is a graduate in English and History of Art, a Fellow of The Royal Society of Arts, and a former nominee of Woman of The Year. She lives with her family in Hampshire, England.

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The Snow Globe by Judith Kinghorn
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Friday, March 20, 2015

The Rebellion of Miss Lucy Ann Lobdell - Review & Giveaway

Review by KT Sullivan
In her 1879 New York Times obituary, the paper stated that Lucy Ann Lobdell passed herself off as Joseph Lobdell for most of her life. Lucy decided she wanted a say in her life; where she lived, if she married, and earning a living. For these things to happen, the only logical solution was to be a man. After her husband leaves her and she gives birth to her daughter, Helen, Lucy Ann sets out on her own. Dressed as a man, she works on her new persona and winds up giving dance lessons. She also hunts and plays the violin. She has to be very careful about her lie being exposed. When Lucy Ann falls in love with another woman, it’s the beginning of her undoing. She runs away to Minnesota, works for a while, makes friends, and then suspicions rise and she’s running again. She’s arrested, attacked, burned out of her home, and committed to a mental institution. Even her daughter isn’t safe. Lucy Ann marries a woman and tries to live peacefully, but it never happens. The laws and people are always against her.

This is a true and sad story. I hoped Lucy Ann would be happy, safe or left alone to live as she pleased. The reader will be rooting for her success too. What she had to endure for being a woman and different is frightening. She represents women of that time who bucked the status quo and paid a heavy price.

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About the Author:
William Klaber is a part-time journalist who lives in upstate New York on a hill overlooking Basket Creek, a short ways upstream from where Lucy Lobdell lived 160 years ago. The old farmhouse that he bought with his wife Jean in 1980 (and where they raised three children) had a history with Lucy’s legend, but he didn’t know that till years later when he sat down with Jack Niflot, a long-time local historian. Jack told him Lucy’s story and showed him a leather satchel filled with recollections and articles about her, gathered over years. What Jack hadn’t found with his searching was the memoir that Lucy had promised. Saying that he no longer felt up to writing a book of his own, Jack handed the satchel to the author.

Following the gift of Jack’s research, the author made his own effort to find Lucy’s memoir. When nothing came of it, he decided that the finding would have to be by way of echoes and dreams. Mr. Klaber is a graduate of Wesleyan University and is best known for producing the public radio documentary, The RFK Tapes, and co-authoring the bookShadow Play (St. Martins, 1997). The Rebellion of Miss Lucy Ann Lobdell is his first foray into fiction.

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Thursday, March 19, 2015

Dog Crazy - Excerpt & Giveaway

Dog Crazy
A Novel of Love Lost and Found
By: Meg Donohue
Releasing March 10th, 2015
William Morrow

The USA Today bestselling author of How to Eat a Cupcake and All the Summer Girls returns with an unforgettably poignant and funny tale of love and loss, confronting our fears, and moving on . . . with the help of a poodle, a mutt, and a Basset retriever named Seymour

As a pet bereavement counselor, Maggie Brennan uses a combination of empathy, insight, and humor to help patients cope with the anguish of losing their beloved four-legged friends. Though she has a gift for guiding others through difficult situations, Maggie has major troubles of her own that threaten the success of her counseling practice and her volunteer work with a dog rescue organization.

Everything changes when a distraught woman shows up at Maggie’s office and claims that her dog has been stolen. Searching the streets of San Francisco for the missing pooch, Maggie finds herself entangled in a mystery that forces her to finally face her biggest fear-and to open her heart to new love.

Packed with deep emotion and charming surprises, Dog Crazy is a bighearted and entertaining story that skillfully captures the bonds of love, the pain of separation, and the power of our dogs to heal us.

Buy Links:  
Amazon | B & N | iTunes | Kobo

Pet bereavement counselors hear a lot of happy stories. Thialways seems to surprise people,   whassume sessions are soggyheart-wrenchinundertakings. Sure, there are tears, but therare also the stories of the dogs that  made people feel less alone, the dogs that taught them about love, that made their hearts feel bigger and stronger. And dog peoplethmajoritof my patients are dog peoplehave wonderful senses of humor.Somothe funniest, most uplifting stories Ive  ever heard have comfrom my patients. Theyre an eclectic bunch, but the stories thetell have  thsamsimple truth at their core: dogs make us better.
A lot of the counseling I do is as straightforwaras honorinthese storiesthe happy ones and the sad ones. The stories commemorate the life.We laugh; we  cry; we get iall out there. Often we discover that there are issues at play beyond the  loss of a pet.
 Emotions can be sly. Years can go by before you discover the pain that lives inside of   you, a spikold barnaclclinging to your heart.
At the close of our session, Im determined to walk Leanne althe way up the path  that leads from my apartment door to thgate at the sidewalk, but with each step a now-familiar sense odread builds within me. My heart pounds. I hide the tremble imy   hands by pressing theinto the pockets of my blazer.
In my chest, panic is a small dark bird threatening to spreaher wings.
When I open the gate, Leanne walks through it and turnto wrap me in a hug.  Shes on the sidewalk and Im on the last stepping-stone of the path, so our hug starts out kind of loose and awkward, but then she shuffles toward me and   closes the gap between us.
Thank you for everythingMaggie, she says near my earTruly, thank you.
Im afraid she can feel how fast my heart is beating. I try tfocus on the palm tree across the street, but suddenly the winpicks up and the tregroans, its dark,  misshapen shadows morphing into wounded animals that thrash against the pavement. I close meyes and suppress ainvoluntary shudder. Or maybe dont, because when open my   eyes I see that Leanne is pullinaway, a crease denting her brow.
Are you okay?” she asks, her hands on my shoulders.
          "Of course! My voice comes out breathless. It seems to mthat the sky is  darkening and Im not sure how much longer can stand there athe gate. I take her  hands in mine and squeezthem, feeling her newly manicured fingernailpresinto my palms, and wish her well.
Author Info
Meg Donohue is the USA Today bestselling author of How to Eat a Cupcake and All the Summer Girls. She has an MFA in creative writing from Columbia University and a BA in comparative literature from Dartmouth College. Born and raised in Philadelphia, she now lives in San Francisco with her husband, three young daughters, and dog.

Author Links:  Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads 

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