Yes, Virginia, It Snows in the Desert | Vicki Lewis Thompson

Naughty or Nice Harlequin Books Kismet Book Tour Vicki Lewis Thompson

A big Rather Be Reading welcome to romance writer, Vicki Lewis Thompson, who shares a unique moment that kicked off to her 2015 for the Naughty & Nice blog tour.

[dropcap]W[/dropcap]hen you live in the desert, the only snow you expect to see during the Christmas holidays comes from a spray can. It snows in Tucson every few years, but having it land when Christmas lights are wound around the cactus in the front yard takes a small miracle. That miracle happened on the eve of 2015.

For my family, New Year’s Eve means staying home, building a fire even if it’s not that cold, eating all kinds of finger food and playing board games. Sorry is a big favorite because we’d rather not think too hard. So at about 10:30p.m., with a hot game of Sorry in progress, we noticed the rain looked funny. It wasn’t so much falling as floating. Desert dwellers need time to adjust to the reality of snow.

Because we didn’t want to get our hopes up, we figured on a light dusting that would melt the minute it reached the ground. But the temperature dropped and soon the patio tables were covered. The lights draped on the cactus in the front of the house were reflected in the fallen snow and turned the yard into a magical world. I realize those of you living in the snowbelt don’t consider the white stuff particularly magical, so go ahead and roll your eyes. Out here we still think it’s pretty.

Snow in the desert Vicky Lewis Thompson

It continued off and on until we went to bed sometime after midnight. We expected it to be gone by morning because that’s what snow does in the desert. It melts. But no! My favorite walking path was not exactly snow-packed, but enough had accumulated to justify boots. Boots! Although our mountains become snow-covered at least once every winter, we hardly ever see snow-covered prickly pear cactus on the valley floor. When a prickly pear gets snowed on it always looks startled, maybe even slightly offended.

Snow in the desert Vicki Lewis Thompson

Snow on the first day of the year seemed like a sign that 2015 would be fun and unusual, and so it has been! It’s no coincidence that Cowboy Under the Mistletoe, my November Harlequin Blaze novel, includes a blizzard. How do you feel about snow? Love, hate or somewhere in between?

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Find Vicki Lewis Thompson: website / Twitter / Facebook

Her latest, Cowboy Under the Mistletoe: Goodreads / Amazon / B&N

A cowboy’s scars can last a lifetime. Ty Slater’s cheerfulness is a carefully constructed armor. After losing his parents in a tragic accident, he was fostered at Thunder Mountain Ranch. Although he’s learned how to survive, he hides a broken heart. He knows love leads to loss, so he’s vowed never to fall in love…

Unfortunately, Ty’s attraction to Whitney Yates is nothing short of a maelstrom, a desire that threatens his resolve. When she’s stranded at Thunder Mountain for Christmas, Ty realizes he’d better find Whitney’s flaw, and fast—because his lust is too damn close to love. This red-hot cowboy is ready to bolt…unless Whitney shows him that some rides are definitely worth the risk.

♦

And don’t forget to enter this giveaway for your chance to win a jolly bundle from Harlequin, including:

  • 1 print copy of The Harder You Fall by Gena Showalter, White Wedding Christmas by Andrea Laurence, A Cowboy Under the Mistletoe by Vicki Lewis Thompson, Wrapped in Red by Nana Malone and Sherelle Green

  • 1 eBook copy of A Copper Ridge Christmas by Maisey Yates and Under the Spotlight by Kate Willoughby

  • 100,000 Harlequin MyRewards points

  • 2 Harlequin Classics limited edition notebooks

  • 1 Brenda Jackson Westmoreland limited edition notebook

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Happy holiday reading! ♥

Is it dark in here? | THE DEAD HOUSE MIRROR TOUR

It’s getting creepy on Rather Be Reading Blog today. I don’t know about you but I’m the kind of person who doesn’t necessarily like to be scared but doesn’t stop me at all from reading, watching, or obsessing over frightening things. (I’m a mystery even to myself.) This leads me to THE DEAD HOUSE by Dawn Kurtagitch which will be releasing on September 15 from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. The plot sounds exactly like a news story I would be completely obsessed with in real life. Here it is:

Over two decades have passed since the fire at Elmbridge High, an inferno that took the lives of three teenagers. Not much was known about the events leading up to the tragedy – only that one student, Carly Johnson, vanished without a trace…

…until a diary is found hidden in the ruins.

But the diary, badly scorched, does not belong to Carly Johnson. It belongs to Kaitlyn Johnson, a girl who shouldn’t exist Who was Kaitlyn? Why did she come out only at night? What is her connection to Carly?

The case has been reopened. Police records are being reexamined: psychiatric reports, video footage, text messages, e-mails. And the diary.

To get into the mood of the back and forth in this story, The Overflowing Library will be sharing a sneak peek of something from Carly’s POV and we’re sharing a bit from Kaitlyn’s. The theme is: Truth or Dare. Enjoy!

The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich

TRUTH or DARE

?

Dare.

Dare: I dare you to phone the last person you messaged and tell them you love them.

I can’t. They are gone forever. But if I were to phone them, I don’t know that I could tell them I loved them. There’s a lot I don’t remember. A lot I do, too. And that complicates things. My favorite movie growing up was The Crow. I remember the scene where Eric saves Darla from herself. He takes her arms, and squeezes them,  and all the heroine she had taken came draining out.

“Mother is the name for God on the lips and hearts of all children.”

My mother was never that to me. But, for Carly’s sake, I’ll tell you this:

She tried. And that’s all anyone can do, I guess.

♦

Want to know more about THE DEAD HOUSE?

Be sure to check out NOVL’s landing page & follow #TheDeadHouse.

A Moment with Michelle Levy & Not After Everything

[dropcap]Y[/dropcap]ou know an author did their job when you want to protect a character from all the evils of their world, right? Tyler in NOT AFTER EVERYTHING — a debut from Michelle Levy — is one of those characters who I connected with immediately — his voice was so vivid — and I so badly want to save from his grief and awful home life. His life is pretty bleak, friends. But there are bright spots — his loyal pup, an old friend, and an after school job that brings him all kinds of light. I was so engaged with Tyler’s story throughout and since I finished, he’s been on my mind. This is why I’m so happy to chat with Michelle about her writing, musicals, and more about Tyler. Enjoy!

♥

Author Michelle LevyMichelle, thanks SO much for answering these questions for Rather Be Reading. I was hooked on Not After Everything from the very first page and I’m so excited to be talking to you about your debut novel today.

Thank you!

Suicide, abuse, etc. There are so many tough circumstances throughout Not After Everything. I wanted to kidnap Tyler and take him far, far away from his pain. What was more difficult to write about, and how did you cope whenever you had to step away from the story?

Michelle: The abuse scenes and the scenes where Tyler’s depression is getting the better of him were definitely the hardest scenes to write. I sort of become the character while I’m writing, like how a method actor becomes the character, so those scenes really got to me. But unlike a method actor, at the end of the day, I can shut it off. I allowed myself to feel all the things Tyler was feeling as I typed, but I was able let it go the second I stepped away from the computer. And then I tried to watch something fun just to make sure those feelings didn’t creep back in. I find that CW and MTV shows are most helpful with these things.

I love the makeshift family Tyler finds with Jordyn and her family. And the safe place of the photography studio. I adored his relationship with Jordyn’s stepdad most because all this kid desperately needed was someone to be nice to him and there it was. What was your favorite part about writing these supporting characters?

Michelle: I love Henry and Dr. Dave the most! I knew Tyler needed a positive adult figure in his life or he was going to go down a very dark path. I always knew Dr. Dave would be this for Tyler, but I didn’t expect Henry. I also knew Jordyn and Tyler would have to work together, but, again, I never expected that Jordyn’s stepdad would be the boss. Henry was a very happy surprise for me. And those happy surprises are the best. It’s almost like the characters are writing the story and I’m just along for the ride.

More Than Anything by Michelle LevyI recently read Jessica Verdi’s What You Left Behind (which was a fantastic yet difficult book about Ryder, a senior in high school who is a young father) and reading them so closely together, I wished he and Tyler were friends. I think they could have really helped each other through the shitty times without hiding behind this “everything is going to be okay” facade. Are there any other characters from other books that you think would have made a good friend for Tyler?

Michelle: Ooh, great question! First things first . . . *adds What You Left Behind to TBR pile* Okay, now what was the question? Oh, right. I think Tyler could be friends with Ezra Faulkner from The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider. They have quite a bit in common. And probably Adam from Gayle Forman’s Where She Went. I could see them hanging out.

From your website I noticed you are a musical theater fan (me too!!), which musical/song, songs, etc. do you think sum up Not After Everything?

Michelle: OMG I love this question!!! “No One is Alone” from Into the Woods!

I mean:

Sometimes people leave you,
Halfway through the wood.
Others may deceive you.
You decide what’s good.
You decide alone.
But no one is alone.

Right?!

Without getting spoilery (although I wish we could), did you always know how you were going to end Tyler’s story?

Michelle: Always. I knew it absolutely had to end that way or it wouldn’t feel right.


Eee! Are you intrigued yet? Please read this one; I want to discuss it with someone pronto!

Add NOT AFTER EVERYTHING on Goodreads | Buy on Amazon | Buy at B&N

Great news: The lovely people at Penguin/Dial have offered up a finished copy of MORE THAN ANYTHING by the wonderful Michelle Levy for one of you. This giveaway is open to those in the United States and Canada. Good luck!

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Now What, Baby? | What You Left Behind by Jessica Verdi

[dropcap]H[/dropcap]ow did Ryder’s senior year shift from dreaming of soccer scholarships to deciphering the cries of a newborn baby — his newborn baby? In her latest, What You Left Behind, Jessica Verdi shows no mercy when she blows the Ryder’s world way open — a baby on his hip, the love-of-his-life girlfriend dead, disappearing friends, and a whole lot of guilt on his shoulders. Pretty outrageous, right? But Verdi tells this story with thoughtfulness and thoroughness, making me forget time and time again just how much shit Ryder was thrown at the same time. He may be a struggling single dad, obsessed with answers Meg may have left in her journals, but he’s also a guy working at Whole Foods, trying to make it to soccer practice on time, and finding a new friend in the vivacious Joni. It’s the introduction of the mundane and Ryder’s hope he can reclaim his old self that nicely counterbalances all the heavy stuff and made this book practically impossible to put down.

What You Left Behind by Jessica Verdi

WHAT YOU LEFT BEHIND by Jessica Verdi is about a single teenager father and what happens next. Sourcebooks; 8/4/15; 320 Pages.

There’s so much to love in this book but Ryder’s relationship with his mother was the absolute soul of this story. His mom had him young too so maybe this made her more understanding and supportive but I’d like to think any person would take her stance. She also doesn’t let him forget that his life can’t just settle back in the plan he’s had for years. Hope must be his main priority. What I respected so much was how she never forced any realizations on him. She gave Ryder space to breathe and mess up, and I’m convinced this is why he is able to grow so much as a character throughout the novel. (Verdi also taps into Baby Hope’s senses too. Her unsettledness with Ryder was so reflected in her behavior.)

The struggle to bridge his expectations with reality leads Ryder pretty astray at times. He finds solace in his new friendship with Joni but doesn’t necessarily let her know that he has a bouncing baby at home. This is one of the spots where Verdi really challenges her readers. We’re all waiting for the next shoe to drop; it’s inevitable and we have to patiently wait for Ryder to get there. The other part is Meg. Because we only know her from Ryder’s memories of them together and her journal entries, it seems like a no-brainer that we would feel sad for her. She died before she could graduate high school, before she could meet her daughter. But Verdi doesn’t make that emotion so cut and dry, especially as Ryder, Meg’s sister, and her best friend make discoveries of their own. All of them have so much to come to terms with. (They make a great little team too; I liked that this was the start of a new friendship for all of them.)

Compelling and heartbreaking, What You Left Behind is the reading experience dreams are made of. I was invested, completely wrapped up in this character’s voice, and holding my breath as all the pieces slowly and smartly began to gel together. Uncovering secrets, understanding sacrifice, and granting yourself permission to move forward? It’s all here, it’s so discussion worthy, and it’s good. Really, really good.

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This title was provided early by the publisher for review.

P.S. I read Not After Everything by Michelle Levy a few books after this one, and I can’t help but think Tyler and Ryder are kindred spirits. In some secret literary world, I hope they are pals.

Just Wanna Have Fun | Jesse’s Girl by Miranda Kenneally

Jesse's Girl by Miranda Kenneally

A country star + budding musician/high school student + one awesome day. Sourcebooks Fire; 7/7/15; 304 Pages.

What can I say about the Hundred Oaks series? When Catching Jordan first released, my love for YA was gradually building and it holds a special place in my heart. With six of her books tucked in my bookshelf, I’ve come to depend on Kenneally for a strong female leads, sweet and sexy romance, and standout friends and family. Despite these bright spots, she’s not afraid to explore the complexities of these relationships, have her characters question faith and sex and themselves, have them sometimes fail.

Jesse’s Girl is just more of what I love about these books. Maya, a genius musician with stage fright, meets Jesse Scott, a young, massive country music star. He’s supposed to be teaching her about the music industry but the original plan takes a Ferris Bueller-like turn. In the course of a day, they totally butt heads but Maya also offers him her friendship — something he could really use — but nothing goes according to plan. (I love this: “I decide to take Mom’s advice this time: if Jesse really wants me, he’ll let me know.”)

The extra special treat (for someone who wants to be an honorary resident of Franklin, TN) is each book comes with a Hundred Oaks reunion of some kind. Folding Jordan and Sam into the Jesse’s Girl mix added so many comedic elements to the book, and I loved seeing Sam as this big, scary protective big brother (even though he’s kind of a sap).

So pencil in a date night with Jesse’s Girl. Not only can you expect the whole Miranda Kenneally package (special shout out to Dave, Maya’s awesome BFF) but it’s an ode to everything fun in the 80s and a reminder to keep working for what you want.

♥

Why in 5 — country music style (Sorry, Maya!):

Live a Little” (Kenny Chesney): I need to live a little, have some fun / Take some time, waste it on number one / Find a girl that brings my whole world to a stop / Live a little

I don’t want to call Jesse a “poor little celebrity” but he’s been burned before and he’d rather hang out alone with his cat (Casper!) than actually talk to other people when he has time off. Plus — imagine working so hard all the time and barely being able to go in public on an off day. I always liked a boy who was a challenge so I like that Maya (who plays it so cool) wants him to confide in her — even if it’s a one time only thing.

New Strings” (Miranda Lambert): I’ve worried about life and / If it’s arriving right on time / I guess if you don’t jump / You’ll never know if you can fly

Maya is gutsy and she knows what she wants. That’s more than we can say about a lot of 17 year olds but, more than anything, I love how nothing has stopped her from getting closer to her passion. Lack of money, crappy band members, her age — none of these factors matter. When the going gets tough, Maya just grows to be tougher and I admired her for it.

I Don’t Want This Night to End” (Luke Bryan): I’m so glad you trusted me / To slide up on this dusty seat / And let your hair down / Get out of town / Got the stars coming out over my hood/ And all I know now is it’s going good

I’m obsessed with the concept of two people spending one magical, amazing day together. What happens next? Jesse can ditch his entourage for a day, and Maya’s parents have no idea what her Career Day (arranged by her principal, no less) has turned into. Our main characters reach a certain level of intimacy, hanging out in this bubble all day, and, as the reader, you want so badly for nothing to disturb that.

Tumble and Fall” (Little Big Town): “It’s a reach out, it’s a white flag, it’s a forfeit of the game / It’s a let go of the ego, and the whisper of your name / It’s a fight for, not a defend, it’s a stay out in the rain”

It’s not like Maya goes into Career Day thinking she’s going to nab the GREAT Jesse Scott. Spoilers aside: this is a Miranda Kenneally book so we know we have some high-charged chemistry to look forward to. But he’s a celebrity! She’s in high school! How would this even work if either of them were willing to admit they liked each other? It’s all about taking that risk.

Maps Out the Window” (Caitlyn Shadbolt): Woahhh feels good just letting go / Woahhh roll it down, let the wind blow

This song embodies the fun and fancy free feeling that Jesse’s Girl is all about. Just like you want to be listening to this song with the top down and sun shining on your face, there’s no way this book won’t boost your mood and make you smile.

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This book was provided by the publisher for review.

A fork in the road | Taylor Jenkins Reid’s newest

[dropcap]W[/dropcap]hen I think back on a decision crossroads, I always go back to  the first big decision I ever made: where to go to college. If I hadn’t chosen my small liberal arts college near the beach, I wouldn’t have been kicked out and forced to go somewhere else because that college was in debt. Sure, I got to sample two very different college experiences because of this occurrence but this rarity shifted so much for me. On the other hand, I wouldn’t have made the friends I did, met my husband — all of which in many tiny twists of fate led me to Magan and the start of this blog and a whole other series of events that might not have happened. If my one college application hadn’t gotten lost in the mail, maybe I would have went away to school with my best friend and we’d still be close now. Or maybe after all that, I would still be here, relocated to an apartment outside of Manhattan, married to a student from the last graduating class of that defunct college. Maybe it would have all turned out the way it has. Or maybe somewhere, in some other universe, I’m an English teacher in a small town in New Jersey, married to my high school boyfriend.

Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid

MAYBE IN ANOTHER LIFE by Taylor Jenkins Reid was published on 7/7/15 by Washington Square Press/Atria Books; 352 Pages.

It’s hard to say, but here I am, anyway, sharing Maybe in Another Life — another thoughtful, and wonderful story from Taylor Jenkins Reid. Reid is an author who is always forcing me to evaluate my own life and my decisions — whether its marriage, friendship, or finding comfort in the fact that not everyone has their life figured out when they hit their 30s. In her books, life isn’t about perfection or moving forward safely, it’s about the messy, difficult things that bring us closer to people and push us apart — that make us like ourselves, and make us dislike ourselves a little bit too. It’s so rare to find people that let their walls down, and gladly share their imperfections so it’s a relief to find books like Maybe in Another Life stripped down to the unhappy, sloppy parts without becoming melodramatic. Instead, in Taylor’s books, you find a confidante, someone familiar and questioning just as much as you are.

At 29, main character Hannah is feeling lost. After moving from place to place, she’s finally headed back to California — to her best friend, and who knows what other possibilities. Maybe a second chance with her ex. Hopefully a new job and a place to live on her own. Instead of following along as Hannah goes left or right, readers see Hannah living out two sides of her own story: one where she leaves a party with her ex, Ethan, and another where she leaves the same party with her best friend, Gabby. Where would these parallel circumstances converge? How would my heart take it when I couldn’t decide which life was actually better over the other? Though each story takes a different path, the similarities are there: Hannah’s love of cinnamon buns, the distance she feels from her parents and sister, and, most importantly, her affection and bond with Gabby. I don’t say this about a lot of books (and I wish I did) but Maybe in Another Life is a subtle but solid ode to best girlfriendship in a way I haven’t experienced in a long time. When nothing makes any sense, Gabby is Hannah’s constant and it’s the best love story I could ever imagine.

Fate, love, lust, responsibility, how we take care of each other and take care of ourselves: it’s all rolled up in this riveting and charming story with a special Taylor twist. No matter what road you find yourself on, Maybe in Another Life is a necessary companion for your next adventure.

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I also loved this Q&A that Taylor did with Marie Claire.