The Marriage Pact by Linda Lael Miller (Q/A + Giveaway)

The Marriage Pact by Linda Lael MillerThe Marriage Pact by Linda Lael Miller ( web | tweet )
Previously reviewed: Big Sky Wedding
Publication Date: May 27, 2014
Publisher: Harlequin
Pages: 384
Target audience: Adult
Keywords: small towns, Wyoming, friendship, old loves, fathers/sons
Format read: ARC from Publisher via NetGalley. (Thanks!)

Summary: Instead of a fairy tale ending at her wedding 10 years ago, Hadleigh was practically dragged out of the church by Tripp, her deceased brother’s best friend. He “saved” her from making a terrible mistake and now, he’s back in Mustang Creek and Hadleigh is overwhelmed with feelings she’s ignored for a long, long time. Will she finally get closure or does Tripp returning to town mean something else entirely?

When I first heard the term “marriage pact”, I was a little nervous.  I thought Hadleigh and her best friends were swearing off men for good, protecting one another from the “perils” of love. I didn’t give them enough credit. The idea of their marriage pact is actually a positive one. Hadleigh and her two best friends are protecting each other from losers, yes, but they are also focused on finding true, healthy love for one another.

I haven’t read a lot of romance novels that feature best friendship, and I loved reading about three strong, independent ladies who knew what they deserved and wouldn’t settle for any less.

Thankfully Hadleigh has her pals on her side because when Tripp, her deceased brother’s best friend and the guy who dragged her away from her wedding 10 years ago, pops up in Mustang Creek again — she literally has no idea what to feel. She’s still angry at him for embarrassing her in front of the whole town, but it’s more than that. How could he announce he was married after making such a huge production and turn around and leave? As you can imagine, the two have a lot of unfinished business between them in addition to some great banter and crackling chemistry right off the bat.

Tripp’s not making a pit stop in Mustang Creek. After years away from the small town he grew up in, he’s ready to settle down and rediscover his inner cowboy. He’s back to see his darling dad ( actually his stepdad), who is ready for a few changes of his own. Their relationship was so utterly sweet, and I loved that Jim is passing down the house and the land to Tripp. You could tell how big of a deal it was to both of them, and Tripp dives right into the reconstruction of the house and the farm with such care and determination.

But all of these CHANGES can’t keep Hadleigh off his mind especially when he realizes they could really do this thing this time. He’s been divorced for a long time; she’s single (as far as he can tell) and despite whatever happened way way back when, he’s willing to take the time to wear her down and get her to agree to a date.

The Marriage Pact gets so romantic and maybe it’s because Tripp is this strapping cowboy and Hadleigh has always had a thing for him — but I loved how Miller gave these two a second chance in more ways than one. They have both been dealt many blows over the years, had so much in common, and I couldn’t wait for them to come to their senses and create a loving family unit. They were sexy and sweet, and their relationship was so naturally paced.

Throw in some small town gossip, great tiny details, and the open and welcoming Wyoming homestead and The Marriage Pact will leave you with a tingly happy feeling and anxiously awaiting the next book in the Brides of Bliss County series!

You know I cannot resist a cowboy…

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Bonus –> Mini Q&A with Linda Lael Miller, author of THE MARRIAGE PACT

Q: The month of June, aka “Marriage Season,” is quickly approaching! If you could redo your wedding, where would you do it and what would it be like? Did you plan for THE MARRIAGE PACT to come out during the most popular wedding month of the year?

A: If I could redo my wedding, I’d marry a different man.  I’d choose a salt-of-the-earth cowboy type, most likely, and hold the ceremony in a country church.  I didn’t actually choose June for the book’s release—my publisher makes those decisions—but I’m awfully glad it landed there. 

Q: It’s often said that choosing whom you’ll marry is the most important decision of your life. Do you believe that? Do you think your characters believe that? 

A: I absolutely believe choosing a marriage partner is incredibly important, and so do my characters.  Marriage is essentially a sacred promise two people make to each other, and should be honored as such.

Q: What is your favorite scene from the book?

A: I love the opening scene, when Tripp Galloway, the hero, ‘kidnaps’ the heroine, Hadleigh Stevens, seconds before she can say “I do” to the wrong man.

Q: If you could give one piece to newlyweds for a happy life together, what would it be?

A: Tell the truth, no matter what.  Trust is everything in a relationship, and love will not survive long without it.

Q: Can you give us a sneak peak on what is next to come? We’ve heard there are two more Bliss County books after THE MARRIAGE PACT.

A: The next two books are: THE MARRIAGE CHARM, featuring Melody Nolan, Hadleigh’s friend and a participant in the marriage pact, and Spencer “Spence” Hogan, the local police chief.  They were deeply in love at one time, but things fell apart and they went their separate ways.  Now, the attraction remains, but both Spence and Melody are convinced they’re wrong for each other.

This will be followed by THE MARRIAGE SEASON, the story of Becca “Bex” Stuart, the third member of the marriage-pact bunch, and a newcomer to Mustang Creek, sexy widower Tate Calder with two beguiling children and a singular determination to remain single.

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Big thanks to Little Bird Publicity for providing one paperback copy of THE MARRIAGE PACT to a reader in the U.S.
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Tête-à-tête with ONLY EVERYTHING’s Cupid a.k.a. True

Greetings, friends! It’s a special, special day at Rather Be Reading Blog. Contemporary YA author Kieran Scott has granted me special access to the leading lady of her new trilogy, ONLY EVERYTHING. That’s right. Today I am talking to True a.k.a. Cupid. I know, I know… you are wondering why cupid isn’t a chubby little baby with a bow and arrow. THAT’S A MYTH FOLKS. The true True was banished to Earth after Zeus discovers she has been actively engaged in a relationship with a mortal. In order to get back to her love and back to Olympus, True has to make a love connection between three couples — not realizing just how difficult life in New Jersey for a goddess could be.

True from Only Everything by Kieran Scott

Yes, that’s Anna Scott from Pitch Perfect. She’s how I picture True. 🙂

A few quick thoughts on the book: My Greek mythology is a little rusty but it came back to me so easily in Only Everything. Plus the entire book was more laugh out loud funny than I ever expected; Scott folded in some details I never would have thought of and it made the story so lush and well-done. True is basically an alien in New Jersey and she tries to act as normal as possible but it’s so hard for her — which makes it even more difficult for her to make love connections. Without powers. Without any idea of how Earth works. In addition to True, the chapters alternate between the POVs of Katrina and Charlie, two other students at the high school. Genuinely nice people who are struggling in some way (Charlie is the new kid at school…again; Katrina’s dad died and her relationship with her mom has become difficult). Friendship, silly / ridiculous times, falling in love, fitting in = ONLY EVERYTHING. So addicting, so fun (seriously, I could not put it down).

Basically:

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And now for that interview with TRUE from Only Everything. Away, we go….

True, it is totally an honor to be talking to you today! I should tell you up front that I ignored my husband for a lot of the time I was reading your story. (That’s true love, right?) After all of your “adventure” on Earth, what are three tips you would give the next God or Goddess banished to Earth?

It’s an honor to be interviewed! Now go take your husband out for pie! 🙂 My three tips for any God or Goddess banished to Earth would be:

1) Look in the mirror before you leave the house and make the proper adjustments. (We’re used to looking perfect all the time, no matter what. Mortals have to put in a lot of work.)

2) Expect your new body to turn on you in sudden and unpleasant ways. (Before I became mortal I had never vomited, sneezed, hiccupped, burped, gained weight, passed gas or sprouted a zit. None are very much fun. Except sneezing. That can leave a pleasant tingling sensation.)

3) Know that nothing will be easy. (On Mount Olympus we can have whatever we want, whenever we want. Having to buy things or work for things or ask for things is an adjustment. But I’ve found that working for things, at least, can be very rewarding. That’s my favorite mortal lesson so far.)

Orion. Your one and only. What is it about your relationship that makes you so confident in forever?

Orion and I have so much in common, but we’re also different enough that we’re constantly surprising each other and challenging each other. I cannot express how much fun it is to go out on a hunt with him, crashing through the woods with our bows drawn—the excitement, the adrenaline, the sweat, the thrill, the danger. It’s intense. We love to eat well, we love to spin yarns and we could spend days just lying around talking about the past and our future. But Orion is also rash, where I’ve always been cautious and calculating. He makes decisions by his heart, while I tend to overthink things. We balance each other out on that. He can be selfish at times and cocky, which I find both infuriating and mind-bendingly attractive, but I try to reel him in when he lets his head swell. He thinks I can be too involved with my calling—too work obsessed—and is always looking for ways to distract me and help me stop and see the beauty in the world. I feel as if we’ll never get bored with each other. I can’t imagine my existence without him.

Your relationship with your mother, Aphrodite, is a bit contentious. Do you feel like this experience has made you closer in any way or are you just too different?

On Earth, I think that we’ve learned not to take each other for granted. She has always been my biggest advocate and defender, and I believe I stopped appreciating that when I got involved with Orion. I definitely appreciate it now. I think she has seen me as her errand girl for the last few centuries and hasn’t really recognized the value of the work I’ve done. Now I think she sees how difficult it is, forming true love, and how dedicated I am to our cause.

What’s one thing you learned from your interactions with people in New Jersey that you will apply to your relationships back home?

Great question! I’ve seen how important family is to Katrina and Charlie and it’s made me think about my relationship with my father and brothers. I’m close to my sister and even to my mom, though that can be, as you mentioned, complicated. But I hardly ever see my brothers, Phobus and Deimus, because they’ve sequestered themselves in their palace, and going over there can be very unpleasant. They’re so paranoid and jumpy all the time. But that’s no reason to avoid my own flesh and blood. And my father . . .  well, I have to accept the fact that he’s Ares. He’s never going to stop waging wars. But there has to be some aspect of him that’s redeemable, something I can love. I should be grateful for the fact that it would be virtually impossible for me to lose him the way Katrina lost her father. Maybe I’ll try to get to know him better. I feel like it would be disrespectful to Katrina and to the memory of the dad she loved so much, if I didn’t.

I really enjoyed getting to know Charlie and Katrina in book 1. Will readers be reuniting with them in the next book? (I hope so!)

Aside from Hephaestus, they’re pretty much my only friends at Lake Carmody High, so yes, they’ll be around. As long as I don’t do anything to mess things up!

Which celebrity romance do you find yourself shaking your head at right now?

I wish this whole Justin Bieber/Selena Gomez thing would fizzle already. Too many breakups are not a good thing. Also Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone. Love them both, but they almost never look happy when they’re together. Have you noticed that if they’re smiling, which is rare, the smile doesn’t extend to their eyes? That’s a major giveaway that something’s not quite right. Maybe if I could get in there and talk with them I could fix whatever’s going awry.

As someone responsible for so many love connections, what do you think is the most important part of keeping a relationship everlasting?

Honesty and trust are very important. You have to pick your battles, of course, and let the little things go. If you love someone, you shouldn’t nitpick every little thing that bothers you about them or your relationship, but if there’s a big issue, you must discuss it. Preferably in a calm and rational tone of voice at a point in the day when you’re not both stressed and/or exhausted. (So not during finals or after the senior lock-in.) It’s also important to keep things fresh, do the things you like to do together, and be there for each other, no matter what.

After all your… ahem, difficulty… getting settled on Earth, what’s one power from Mount Olympus that you wish you would have been allowed to bring with you?

When I first arrived, I would have said the power to read minds, because it would have made the matchmaking so much easier. But now I realize I never would have gotten to know Charlie and Katrina as well as I have if that power had been available to me. So I suppose I wouldn’t mind having the power to conjure things. Sometimes a girl just really needs a lipstick, or a headband, or, you know, a replacement cell phone for an awful jerk boy. Things happen.

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ONLY EVERYTHING by Kieran Scott hits stores May 6, 2014. It’s the first book in the TRUE LOVE trilogy.
Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
COMPLETELY NOTHING (Book 2) will be out September 20, 2014.

You’re in luck! Your chance to win a signed arc of ONLY EVERYTHING thanks to Kieran Scott! (Open to readers in U.S. and Canada; must be 13 years old or older to enter. Once the winner is notified, winner has 48 hours to respond or another winner is chosen.)

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Estelle: Waiting on You by Kristan Higgins (Blog Tour)

Waiting on You by Kristan HIgginsWaiting on You by Kristan Higgins ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: March 25, 2014
Publisher: Harlequin HQN
Pages: 464
Target audience: Adult
Keywords: first love, matchmaking, small towns
Format read: ARC from Publisher via NetGalley. (Thanks!)

Summary: Colleen is part owner and bartender at O’Rourke’s, one of the busiest restaurants/bars in town. She loves her clientele, adores meddling in their love lives, and is basically renowned as one of the friendliest people in town. But her matchmaking skills haven’t quite landed her her own guy. Instead, as hard as she tries, she’s still fixated on her first love, Lucas. With his uncle in terrible shape, Lucas is suddenly back in town and back in her life. Feelings that never went away are consuming her even more, and it seems like she can’t make one move without Lucas being in the vicinity. For Lucas, even with all the distractions in his life (getting his uncle’s affairs in order; straightening out his cousin, Bryce), he’s still drawn to Colleen. But is there too much between them to warrant them a second chance?

So. The important stuff.

I really appreciation that Kristan Higgins took the time to create an impressive microbrew list for O’Rourkes. Empire Cream Ale is one of absolutely favorites and I was happy to see it make an appearance. The author did her homework and I was giddy with excitement (and quite parched while reading — for multiple reasons!). Bravo!

In addition to the main character’s dedication to a varied beer list at her bar, Colleen is known for her matchmaking skills, her flirting, her affection for her half-sister, Savannah, and her warm and welcoming personality. I can’t forget to say she is hilarious. I was literally snorting / laughing out loud while reading about the crazy antics she got herself into. (With or without Lucas involved.)

This is what I appreciate about Higgins’ romance novels: this balance between the sexy stuff and the funny moments in life, while still maintaining the “will they / won’t they” tension. This style makes her novels and her characters feel much more well-developed and down to earth. Can’t complain about either of those things.

Waiting on You is all about first love. When Colleen and Lucas were in high school, they fell for each other so hard and even college couldn’t get between them. (These flashbacks were integrated so well.) But one moment changed everything, and their relationship fell apart. Lucas gets married, and Colleen stays in her hometown. Even though 10 years pass, they don’t ever forget each other. So with Lucas back in town, Colleen is determined to keep her heart safe from Lucas. She can’t risk letting him break it again.

BUT HE IS SO HOT AND SO NICE AND SO HIM.

We all know where this is going.

In addition to all of these feelings, Lucas is going through a tough time. His uncle (who took him in when he was a kid) is dying and needs his help getting his affairs in order. Part of which includes getting his cousin, Bryce, on a track to be more independent. (Shockingly Bryce and Lucas are the same age but since Bryce has been babied by his mom his entire life… he hasn’t exactly amounted to much. Sidenote: he’s a REALLY nice guy, even if he is naive.)

I have to applaud Lucas and Colleen for holding out on me for so long. I don’t think I would have been able to handle it if I were the two of them because I was practically drooling over my Nook, waiting and waiting for the big moment. They are the kind of couple you root for because not only are they super nice but they have this major history and it makes so much sense for them to be together in the present.

Higgins incorporates great side stories too, really giving us a full picture of this town and the people who live there — Colleen’s mother (who was super menopausal… this was very funny) who is having issues getting over her first husband (Colleen’s dad, and a total cheater), the sweet relationship Colleen and Connor have with their half-sister (who is a total tomboy),  the complicated friendship between Paulie and Colleen, and the well-developed relationship Lucas has with his ex-in laws.

I got such a kick out of Waiting on You! It felt so good to laugh so hard and feel so much for the main characters. With each book of hers I read, Higgins is creeping up into my slot for #1 romance writer.

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The Sound of Letting Go: A Review + Author Interview

Book Cover for The Sound of Letting Go by Stasia Ward Kehoe

The Sound of Letting Go by Stasia Ward Kehoe (website | twitter)
Publication Date: February 6, 2014
Publisher: Viking Children’s
Pages: 400
Target Audience: Young Adult
Keywords: books written in verse, autism, female trumpet player
Format Read: ARC received from the author.

Summary: Daisy’s family life is very complicated as they are constantly on pins and needles around her younger brother who has autism. When her parents make a very difficult decision, Daisy is unsure how to handle the news and acts out as a result of the chaos in her life.

 

Though not exactly by choice, I somehow don’t read many books written in verse. Maybe because there just aren’t as many? After reading The Sound of Letting Go by Stasia Ward Kehoe, I find myself really, really wishing for more.

In TSoLG, Daisy is an award-winning trumpet player. She’s a straight-A student who plays by the rules and is very diligent about being home on time and helping her parents with her younger brother, Steven, who is autistic. Daisy realizes there are a lot of “high school” activities she’s missing out on because of her family’s situation, but she doesn’t dare complain. She’s a very mature young woman who sorts through her emotions in a very considerate way. Does she like that she has to turn down Dave when he suddenly asks her out on a date? No. But she’s also not the girl who is going to blabber off excuses to Dave so he’ll continue to pursue her. (I really liked that about Daisy — if Dave was interested, he’d keep trying, even if he didn’t know why Daisy blew him off.)

Despite all the precautions Daisy and her parents take to make sure Steven is as cared-for as possible, their situation only intensifies as he becomes stronger and they become more concerned for their safety. This leads Daisy’s parents to make a very difficult decision that begins a downward spiral for her. Suddenly the life Daisy so carefully constructed for herself doesn’t make sense — if there’s to be no Steven around, then why should she have to be the perfect student? Why should she throw her everything into her music? Why shouldn’t she say yes to going out with Dave? What would life be like if she got to experience a few HBO moments of her own?

Though I haven’t experienced exactly what Daisy and her family dealt with on a day-to-day basis, Stasia’s words pulled me in and immediately connected me to their story. There’s this great internal debate Daisy is struggling with — desiring freedom to live her life as she’d like, but also not wanting to give up on her brother. She’s afraid of what her life might be like if all the walls and rules and guidelines they’ve abided by for so so so long suddenly aren’t necessary anymore. Can you imagine her struggle? It certainly makes sense to me why she’d lash out.

Stasia’s words are so beautifully written. So carefully chosen. I couldn’t put The Sound of Letting Go down. I sincerely hope that you’ll connect with Daisy through her music, the emotional journey that it is to feel powerless when a big decision is made without your input, and her struggle to grasp onto reality when everything around her seems to be changing without her consent.

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♥

I’m very, very honored to share an author interview with Stasia Ward Kehoe with you guys. Stasia is an amazingly sweet woman whom I admire very much. I felt so nervous while drafting my questions for her because I so desperately wanted them to be a reflection of how much I loved The Sound of Letting Go. I hope you’ll fall in love with Stasia as much as I have and swing by your local bookstore in a few short days (February 6th – mark your calendars!) to support her!

1. Your words in The Sound of Letting Go feel so intentional and purposeful. Nothing seems overly stated, but you make such a powerful statement. What’s the most challenging aspect of writing in verse and will you continue to write as such in your upcoming books?

The most challenging aspect of writing in verse is making sure that plot threads are not lost due to the poetic structure. I change a lot of individual words, not just in revision but in first pass pages and even final proofs. For me, the way lines break on the page and things like that matter, so it’s both a writing thing and a graphic, structural thing. I am currently writing another novel in verse. For some inexplicable reason, I find myself drawn to this form.

2. Daisy’s younger brother is autistic in TSoLG. Why did you choose to write about a family with an autistic child? This is something I personally saw my sister tested for when I was younger, but I feel I learned so much about in this book. Daisy felt so incredibly isolated and mature-beyond-her-years because of her brother’s diagnosis. What do you hope readers will gain from their story?

I started this novel wanting to write about a strong-willed girl who played an instrument that is perceived as masculine: the trumpet. But life is funny. While working on my first draft, I met a woman whose younger son has autism, and learned about the toll it had taken on her family. I began to think about incorporating autism into the manuscript. After that, it seemed like everywhere I turned there was a statistic about autism. Every time I mentioned my story idea, people would share an experience about an autistic child, sibling, neighbor, family friend. I did a great deal of research to create the specifics of Steven’s autism but it is my hope that readers who have all kinds of special needs individuals in their lives will find, through the book, one way to safely explore some very tough realities and begin some challenging conversations.

3. I loved that Steven, Daisy’s brother, is the cause for so many aspects that affect Daisy and her parents — being silent, following a strict schedule, no abrupt changes. How would your story have been different if we had experienced it through Steven’s point of view?

One of the most difficult parts of autism is the way it limits the ability to communicate with others. While I can tell you a great deal about Steven’s diagnostic situation, I could not could tell you his deepest feelings any more than Daisy could. So I don’t think I could have written the book from Steven’s point of view.

4. When Daisy’s parents make a pivotal decision regarding Steven’s care, Daisy doesn’t exactly know what to do with herself. She’s scared of accepting their decision, angry that she wasn’t part of the decision-making process, and anxious to be able to live a little more freely, whether or not she’d like to admit it. She begins acting out. Dave, the high school bad-boy, is there to provide a distraction for Daisy (and despite his status, I very much felt drawn to him as a character). What do you hope your readers will gain from Dave and Daisy’s relationship and the way these two childhood friends are pulled back together after such a long time apart?

I’m glad you were drawn to Dave! When I first sent the book to my editor, their relationship at the end of the book was very different. However, I, like you, found myself increasingly drawn to Dave and wound up changing the last third of the book as a result! I think what separated Daisy and Dave as grade-schoolers were their families’ struggles. Both felt an increasing need to protect their families from the small-town rumor mill. And both felt like their situations made them inferior to others in some ways. Dave became defiant. Daisy became a perfectionist. Ultimately, they help each other escape both of these extremes.

5. In my personal life, when one thing is going wrong, it feels like everything else follows suit. This was most certainly true for Daisy — her parents make a decision about Steven, her best friendship begins to suffer over boyfriend jealousy, and she begins skipping classes and letting herself off the hook for a majority of her responsibilities. Despite everything that’s crumbling, music seems to be one aspect that holds Daisy together. What kind of role does music play in your life and how did that impact creating Daisy’s character?

I grew up a ballerina and, though I love it, music does not play as critical a role for me as it does for Daisy. Where I connect with Daisy is in the joy and solace she finds in making art. For me, it is dancing and writing, not jazz trumpet. But the making of art itself fills a space in the soul and I totally get that.

6. Because we’re such music-lovers and we love adding new music to our playlists, can you share some of your musical inspiration for The Sound of Letting Go?

Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue album, which my dad first played for me decades ago feels like an exploration of the act of creation. Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah will make you weep—I first heard it on the Shrek soundtrack, if you can believe it, and I’ve listened to and loved many recordings of it since.  Finally, there’s an Irish folk music motif that runs through THE SOUND OF LETTING GO, from the songs of Daisy’s parents’ meeting to the world from which Cal O’Casey runs away, that is captured in The Makem & Clancy Collection album. There’s a track on that album called The Dutchman that makes me think of the way the family cares for Steven, and another called The Ballad of St. Anne’s Reel that is a love song to music itself.

♥

Thank you so much, Stasia, for dropping by the blog and sharing more about
your work with us! I’m very much looking forward to your future books!

Coming Soon: Heartbeat by Elizabeth Scott (Giveaway!)

Heartbeat by Elizabeth Scott Promo

The countdown is on…

Elizabeth Scott’s newest book, Heartbeat, is going to be making its way to shelves on January 28th! I just read it last week, and I really liked it. In fact, I’m making easy for you today. Here are three reasons this book should be on your radar:

Three Reasons to Check Out Heartbeat by Elizabeth Scott

Are you convinced yet?!

Here are some more specific details…

Heartbeat Elizabeth Scott Front and Back Cover

Summary: Emma would give anything to talk to her mother one last time. Tell her about her slipping grades, her anger with her stepfather, and the boy with the bad reputation who might be the only one Emma can be herself with.

But Emma can’t tell her mother anything. Because her mother is brain-dead and being kept alive by machines for the baby growing inside her.

Meeting bad-boy Caleb Harrison wouldn’t have interested Old Emma. But New Emma—the one who exists in a fog of grief, who no longer cares about school, whose only social outlet is her best friend Olivia—New Emma is startled by the connection she and Caleb forge. Feeling her own heart beat again wakes Emma from the grief that has grayed her existence. Is there hope for life after death—and maybe, for love?

Find it on: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Indiebound

About Elizabeth Scott: Elizabeth Scott grew up in a town so small it didn’t even have a post office, though it did boast an impressive cattle population. She’s sold hardware and panty hose and had a memorable three-day stint in the dot-com industry, where she learned that she really didn’t want a career burning CDs. She lives just outside Washington, D.C., with her husband, and firmly believes you can never own too many books.  [ Website | Goodreads | Facebook | Twitter | Tumblr ]

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If you can’t wait until the end of January, you are in luck! Enter for a chance to win an ARC! (The contest is open to U.S. and Canadian residents!) Good luck!

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Thanks for stopping in today! 

Racing Savannah by Miranda Kenneally On Tour (Review + Giveaway)

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Racing Savannah by Miranda Kenneally ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: December 3, 2013
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Pages: 304
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: horses, responsibilities, family obligations, class differences
Format read: ARC from Publisher via NetGalley.
Last book we received by M. Kenneally: Things I Can’t Forget

Summary: New town, new school, new friends: Savannah moves with her dad and his pregnant girlfriend to Goodwin farms in Tennessee for a new job as a head groomer. Savannah has always been good with horses and immediately tries out to be an exercise rider. Soon she is working side by side with the Goodwin’s son, Jack, who is also in her grade but learning to take over his father’s business. Despite their differences, more is growing between them than just friendship. Meanwhile both are working to secure their futures and also make the most out of their senior year.

Reading a Miranda Kenneally book is equivalent to sitting down to coffee with an old friend. It’s comforting and it’s familiar in a way that never feels old but can also be totally refreshing and brand new.

This is my way of telling you that Racing Savannah is my new favorite in the Hundred Oaks collection.

Both Savannah and Jack seem a lot older than their seventeen years and I loved that. Savannah is focused on creating a lifestyle for herself where she is comfortable and not always worrying about money. After watching her father struggle through her childhood and now with a sibling on the way, Savannah wants more for herself than that. Except college is not even on her radar. I haven’t come into contact with a character who felt this way… maybe ever and it made me really admire Savannah because she was so driven but in a completely different way than most of her peers.

And then there’s Jack. He may live in a big house and be on track to take over his father’s farm but the way Kenneally made him seamlessly transition between this boss-like figure and a regular (super cute, funny, flirty, adorable) teenage guy? I loved that so much. I kept forgetting that Jack was in high school, and I was so impressed with his work ethic and his belief in his own work but also the struggle to get his dad to take him seriously and trust his business decisions. That’s a lot of grown up worries for the normal high school senior.

When Savannah and Jack start working together on one horse, their chemistry is immediate from the beginning. They are both fighters and their families are important to them. But with the Goodwin golden rule about employees and family mixing… they settle on a friendship or try to. Savannah showed a lot of strength and self-control during some of her moments with Jack and I just felt myself inwardly applauding her because when a guy is good looking, wears a cowboy hat, and is funny… that has got to be tough. But she was so self-aware and knew what she deserved, and it made me root for her more and more.

The thing about knowing yourself and knowing your place… in both of Jack and Savannah’s cases, this could only take them so far. Both of them needed to learn that other instances in life can affect their choices, that sometimes life is about being flexible and being open to new experiences, and maybe standing up for yourself in a way you never imagined.

Racing Savannah is just about the full package when it comes to the YA contemporary that I like to read the most. Supporting family characters were flawed by genuine (I loved Savannah’s dad even if he didn’t always get it), Savannah’s budding friendships with Rory and Vanessa, the suspense built with horse racing details, the old pal that made our main character fall in love with horses initially, and (I’m giddy about this) the appearances of so many beloved Hundred Oaks characters.

So basically: I read it, I loved it, and I want to read it again. But what else is new?

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