Blog Tour: Lies You Wanted to Hear by James Whitfield Thomson

LieYouWantedtoHear.inddLies You Wanted to Hear by James Whitfield Thomson ( web | facebook )
Publication Date: November 5, 2013
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Pages: 404
Target audience: Adult
Keywords: marriage, betrayal, regrets, parenthood
Format read: ARC from Publisher via NetGalley! (Thanks Sourcebooks!)

Summary: A blind date between Matt (a cop) and Lucy (reeling from a horrible breakup) leads to marriage, and a life of contentment. Or so it seems. Bits of dishonesty crack at the surface as the years go on, leading Matt and Lucy to lives they never imagined.

What is it about those bad boys? They are the hardest to get over, aren’t they?

When we meet Lucy she is still in love with passionate and inconsiderate Griffin, who totally deserted her during a pretty crucial time in their relationship. In an effort to get over him and dig herself out of this rut, she finally listens to her best friend and goes on a blind date with a cop named Matt.

Matt is pretty much everything Griffin isn’t. He’s sweet, he’s caring, he wants commitment. Slowly but surely this first date leads to marriage and two children. While life feels safe and Matt is the poster child for a great husband, Lucy is never truly satisfied. It’s like she has one foot out the door all the time, and when Griffin reemerges in her life, an already rocky marriage crumbles into dust.

Okay, I know this doesn’t sound like the happiest story. It really isn’t. It’s full of mistakes and regret and too many important concerns and emotions left unsaid between a husband and a wife.  Thomson’s detailed backstory for both characters (down to their best friends and their parents) is superb and the see-sawing between Matt and Lucy’s perspectives was uncanny. I found myself totally swept up in their stories, in their fight to find happiness for themselves and also for their children, who were bearing the brunt of this off-kilter union.

Both Matt and Lucy made mistakes, and it was so intriguing because sometimes these mistakes felt like the right thing to do. Could their problems have been solved in a more logical way? Of course. But both of them felt so strongly one way or another that their dramatic actions really drove the pace of the story and had me finishing this book in one day. I could not sleep without knowing how it all would end.

Lies You Wanted to Hear spans many years, and morphs into this unexpected psychological thriller in some ways. What would be the repercussions of Matt and Lucy’s actions? Would karma come into play at some point, and would it permanently damage their bond with their children? Were their moves propelled by selfishness, desperation, or an extreme need to protect? Or all of the above? The material is so discussion worthy, and I felt like it was possible to root for either side at various points in the novel, making it that much  more of an enjoyable experience to gobble up.

I love when a book takes me by surprise, and I was even more shocked to see this was Thomson’s debut novel. It was so clear how much he cared for all of his characters, and worked to tell a well-rounded, detail-oriented story showcasing the grays of commitment and just how far we would go for happiness.

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Thanks to Sourcebooks for providing a copy of Lies You Wanted to Hear to one of our readers! Open to U.S. and Canadian residents only! Good luck!

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Blog Tour: How to Love by Katie Cotugno

Welcome to the How to Love blog tour hosted by Mundie Moms blog tours / Mundie Girls Tours!

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How to Love by Katie CotugnoHow to Love by Katie Cotugno ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: 10/1/2013
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Pages: 389
Target audience: Young adult/Adult
Keywords: teen pregnancy, family friends, romance, friendship
Format read: ARC from Rachel. (Thank you!)

Summary: Reena thought her love for Sawyer would remain unrequited.. until it wasn’t. Nothing is easy about their relationship, especially when Sawyer runs off and Reena gets pregnant. Fast forward three years: Reena and Sawyer have an expected reunion over a slushie and Reena isn’t so sure what to think. After getting him out of her system and embracing her life as a mom, she never thought he would be back or she would feel like she does.

It’s a rare and wonderful feeling to fall so hard and so fast for a book.

I was instantly hooked to How to Love in the first six pages. I knew it would be hard for me to put down. Is it because I understood this kind of uncomfortable reunion between the once love-of-your-life, not looking your best, wanting so badly to push down the familiar butterflies and remember what made you despise this person so much? Maybe.

Sometimes you just can’t control how you feel. Even when you are keeping those feelings very quiet and concealed.

Cotugno gives us a beautiful story of friendship and romance and connection and second chances. I felt so intimately connected to all of the people in Reena’s life. Her closeness with Allie when they were in high school, the support she received from Shelby, the friction between her and her father post-pregnancy, and, of course, that undeniable something with Sawyer. Deliciously flawed, these messy relationships grounded the story. Let’s face it. We don’t always make the right moves in life. There’s a lot of that going around here, and everything felt so real.

And the writing style? To set up a before vs. after story detailing Reena’s life before and after Sawyer leaves and her pregnancy? Cotugno impressively married the two, introducing us to a loner Reena who is anxious to graduate ahead of her class and spend her life writing and traveling and, years later, bringing new light and maturity to both Reena and Sawyer. The pacing remained swift, and I couldn’t flip the pages fast enough. Cotugno weaves in description so well (without ever getting flowery), punctuating moments with sound and movement that it was like I was right there in the room.

You know a book is special when you are willing to sacrifice sleep to finish it. I did not want my time with the world of How to Love to end, but I couldn’t press pause that long, not without discovering the next part of Sawyer and Reena’s journey. I haven’t felt quite this overcome with affection for characters in so long, even when I was annoyed with both of their reactions to things or not agreeing with certain decisions. I think that’s the biggest test as a reader. Do you still care when things are at their lowest? If the answer is a yes, you have a winner.

How to Love is a winner. Buy it, gift it, read it, and treasure it. And then read it again. Easily one of my favorite books this year, and, if you can believe it, a new inductee into my most-loved reads collection.

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Cooking from Fool’s Gold Cookbook by Susan Mallery

Fool's Gold Cookbook by Susan MallerySusan Mallery’s Fool’s Gold Cookbook
Publication Date: August 27, 2013
Publisher: Harlequin
Pages: 272
Keywords: cook by season, cookbook with romance short story
Format read: ARC provided by McAllister PR! (Thank you!)

Why do I not review cookbooks more often? Especially one like Susan Mallery’s Fool’s Gold Cookbook. If you are a frequent reader here, you know I’m a big fan of Mallery’s series and her love stories so it’s an extra bonus to get a brand new novella within the pages of 150 mouthwatering recipes. (You may not want to check it out on an empty stomach.)

Divided by season, each recipe is made up of ingredients that are already in your pantry or are easy to find at the neighborhood grocery store. Fajita quesadillas, peach pie, watermelon lemonade, Greek salad sandwich, pumpkin spice latte muffins, breakfast burritos… the possibilities are indeed endless. In fact, it was really hard for me to narrow down which recipes to sample this past weekend. I wanted to make everything.

The cookbook is crisp looking, color coded by seasons, and easy to read. I do wish there were more pictures and the prep time was listed above the directions, but I can guarantee that whatever level you fall into in the kitchen, there is a recipe that will fit your needs and not take your entire day to prepare. (More time to read!)

Here’s a sneak peek of the inside:

Susan Mallery Fool's Gold Cookbook Fall Sample

Susan Mallery Fool's Gold Cookbook Winter Cupcake Sample

Isn’t it gorgeous?

Well to celebrate the release of this cookbook we whipped up two recipes from it this weekend. I must say first that my husband is a very picky eater so we did modify our dinner choice: Fettuccine with Citrus-Parsley Pesto. It was such a refreshing and light pasta dish and instead of shrimp, we marinated chicken breast in orange juice for a few hours in our fridge and then cooked it into the pasta and sauce.

Best of all? We only needed to purchase pesto, chicken, and fettuccine for this dish. Super affordable and easy. (Oh and we topped it off with some fresh bread.)

Modified Fettuccine with Citrus-Parsley Pesto

For dessert, I broke my ban on all things pumpkin (it’s been too early!) and decided to bake pumpkin whoopie pies. Again, I had most of the ingredients (including a can of actual pumpkin) and decides how messy it is to roll balls of dough around in cinnamon and sugar, the final product was so worth it. (Even my husband who does not like pumpkin loved them!)

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies from Susan Mallery's Fool's Gold Cookbook

With the colder months coming up, I know I’m going to be more inclined to stay in and cook (since my apartment won’t be a thousand degrees) both old standbys and tasty new concoctions.

I’m really impressed with the easy to understand instructions and the variety of food contains in Susan Mallery’s newest venture. (Plus it’s adorable that the included novella lends a backstory to the fictional existence of the cookbook too!)

For fans of the Fool’s Gold series and foodies,  I definite suggest adding this to your wish list immediately.

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Big thanks to my helper:

Pepper Cooking Assistant

McAllister PR was generous enough to provide us with 2 copies of the Cookbook to giveaway! Try your luck! Open to U.S. and Canadian residents!

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Note: screencaps taken from early copy of the cookbook; the finished copy may differ a bit.

book review of New Money by Lorraine Zago Rosenthal

Blog Tour: New Money by Lorraine Zago Rosenthal (+ Q&A)

book review of New Money by Lorraine Zago RosenthalNew Money by Lorraine Zago Rosenthal ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: September 10, 2013
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Pages: 336
Target audience: Adult/mature YA
Keywords: moving to NYC, family secrets/drama, money
Format read: ARC provided by Publisher. (Thank you!)
Other books I’ve reviewed by LZR: Other Words for Love

Summary: Savannah is a small town girl with big dreams of being a writer. A phone calls changes her life’s course when she finally discovers that her recently deceased father was a very rich man in NYC with his own media company. With no prospects in South Carolina, Savannah accepts her inheritance in NYC: a fancy apartment, a new job, and a new family — that wants nothing to do with her. Will her feet stay on the ground now that she has (kind of) reached the big time?

What 24-year-old does not dream of a secure job and an all-expenses paid living situation in NYC? With a very generous allowance? Savannah’s step up from life in South Carolina (struggling to make ends meet with her mom, not finding her dream job) sounds like a Cinderella story, until you factor in that the source of all this glitz and glamour is the deceased father she never knew about. Plus the family he had in New York — a sister, brother, and wife — are anything less than welcoming. In fact, they are downright villainous.

Rosenthal’s New Money provides one of those experiences where you hope the main character does not change because of her newfound journey on the wealthy side. But inevitably, she does. For better and for worse. She may be employed but she has to dodge many unpleasant bullets from her jealous “siblings”; she may finally understand what it’s like to have the opportunities her best friend, Tina, has but it doesn’t necessarily make them closer. Then there’s the cute bartender who makes her feel amazing (in more ways than one) and could also be the key to keeping her grounded. But preconceived notion of “two classes” mixing and other good-looking distractions cause some more trife.

Savannah is definitely a spitfire; there were so many times I admired her chutzpah but there were others where I desperately wanted to shake her and tell her to remember where she came from. (Oh, and keep your apartment clean, please.) I appreciated Rosenthal creating a character who makes so many mistakes; it definitely sped up the pace of the novel because I kept wondering if she could clean up her messes, would she stay in New York, and will she just get over herself already.

New Money is so much about that in-between time in your life when so much is undecided and having the guts to make a move even if it’s totally crazy and unprecedented. The author threw in so many “oh-man” curveballs that I was definitely talking to myself when I was reading it. (The drama is insane.) I loved seeing New York City through the eyes of a newbie, and Rosenthal truly succeeds with bringing depth to her supporting cast. Every single one of them was so well-developed; I felt like I knew them as well as I did Savannah.

I cannot wait to see the mayhem that unfolds in book 2.

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A Chat with LZR

author Lorraine Zago Rosenthal

Image Source: Lorraine’s Blog

1. NEW MONEY is billed as women’s fiction and New Adult. The main character is 24-years old and out of college, trying to figure out her future. I loved this focus. So many NA books are all about sex or a bad boy and this one is really about a young girl making her way. Have you read a lot of NA? What influenced you to go in this direction?

First of all—thank you so much! I’m glad you enjoyed NEW MONEY’s focus.

I always want to challenge myself and write different types of stories. I haven’t read a great deal of New Adult—which is a relatively new marketing category—but I do like the age range that it encompasses, as there are so many issues for characters to confront when they step into the adult world. The NA genre (as you stated) seems to be mostly sex/romance focused, and NEW MONEY isn’t—that is why it’s billed as Women’s Fiction with a New Adult protagonist. Savannah is in that NA age range—and there definitely is romance in the novel—but this is only part of the story. Savannah also deals with the typical issues of being a twenty-something: finding a job/career, adjusting to the workplace, being away from home/family, dealing with evolving friendships, and figuring out who she wants to become.

2. I absolutely loved your YA debut, OTHER WORDS FOR LOVE. It’s one of my favorite books. While it does deal with heartbreak, the book was more about these three generations of women (mom, sister, main character) making their way. What was the biggest difference in the transition of writing YA to writing adult fiction?

Thanks again for your kind words! You are right that although OTHER WORDS FOR LOVE is about the breakup of a teenage girl (Ari Mitchell)’s first intimate relationship, the story deals with so much more—Ari’s family dynamics, her depression, and her ultimate discovery of her self-worth. When I wrote OTHER WORDS FOR LOVE, I wasn’t strictly targeting a teen audience. I believed that both YA and adult readers could relate to the story—and based on the feedback I have received from readers of many ages, this is true. The adult characters in that novel—including (as you mentioned) Ari’s mother and twenty-three-year-old sister—play a major role in the novel and have their own back-stories. Some aspects of OTHER WORDS FOR LOVE are specific to the teen years, and others aren’t.

Because OTHER WORDS FOR LOVE is a mature YA novel, I didn’t find writing adult fiction to be particularly different; however, the major difference between the two novels is that OTHER WORDS FOR LOVE is rather literary in style—character-driven, often serious, and quite introspective. That story unfolds slowly, and a great deal of it deals with Ari’s deepest thoughts. Although NEW MONEY also has complex characters and emotional resonance, it is a more of a commercial work that is fast-moving and generally lighthearted. So the biggest transition was writing in a different style—but I really enjoyed it. I think it’s important for an author to be versatile and to constantly challenge herself.

3. Savannah definitely has a fiery personality. I adored that about her. But wow, did she make a lot of silly decisions. Are you worried readers might have trouble connecting with Savannah because she is so flawed? (Even if her moves are totally something we might do.)

When I create characters, I always give them positive and negative qualities—because all people have good and not-so-good personality traits. This is how fictitious characters become realistic and relatable. In NEW MONEY, Savannah is thrust into a situation that is amazingly fortunate but also very stressful, problematic, and even dangerous. She has to move from Charleston to Manhattan—where she has never been before—and is forced to interact with people who dislike her (through no fault of her own), constantly look down on her, and do everything they can to get rid of her. These people and their values are foreign to Savannah, so she struggles to understand them and to navigate their world. She has to fight to survive. She is out of her element and therefore doesn’t always know which way to turn or how to make the right decisions, but she genuinely means well. She is down-to-earth and kind at heart, and she is also quite compassionate and generous with her newfound wealth. Although readers perceive characters in their own unique way, I think that most will connect with Savannah. She is a good person who isn’t perfect, doing the best she can in a complicated situation. Additionally, although some of Savannah’s choices don’t work out well, they can be filed under the “it seemed like a good idea at the time” category. I think everyone can relate to that!

4. Have you spent a lot of time in Savannah’s hometown? What kind of research did you do for NEW MONEY?

I have visited Charleston, and I also researched its history, landmarks, culture, etc.  

5. Some of the supporting characters in NEW MONEY were truly villainous. I was yelling “oh man!” a lot while reading because I almost couldn’t believe how dirty they played. What was your inspiration for creating these characters so that they weren’t only devious but kind of showed a human side too?

I agree that many of the characters behave in a villainous way. Some are subtle about it, and others are quite blatant—especially Savannah’s half-siblings, Ned and Caroline. These characters deliberately come on strong as soon as they meet Savannah, because they are hoping to scare her away. Her newly-discovered existence has disrupted their lives, they believe she has cheated them out of what is rightfully theirs, and they want her to disappear. They are truly arrogant and condescending—which comes from a lifetime of privilege—but they crank up their superior attitudes to intimidate Savannah. There are, however, many things behind their façades—such as anger, disappointment, insecurity, sadness, and a lot of pain. This is their human side, which they want to hide from Savannah…but she eventually finds it.

While creating these characters, I viewed them in the same way I see all of my characters—as complex people with positive and negative traits. Like Ned and Caroline, other characters who are antagonistic toward Savannah also have reasons for their hostility. Sometimes Savannah has to look closely to find these reasons, but they are there! Even Fabian—the sleazy celebrity-gossip blogger—has a painful past that causes him to act the way he does. Like real people, these characters are the products of their experiences.  

6. Okay, I need the dirt. What can we expect in book 2 of this series? (Is it only going to be 2 books?) More of Savannah’s time in NYC? Focus on another character? I must know!

Currently, the series is just two books. Regarding the storyline for the sequel, I can’t reveal that top-secret information! But I can tell you that the second book will be filled with twists and turns just like the first.

Bonus: favorite snack while writing? Chocolate, of course!

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Big thanks to Lorraine for taking the time to answer these questions.
Wishing you lots of luck with New Money!

 

Blog Tour: A Poem about CRIMINAL by Terra Elan McVoy

Criminal by Terra Elan McVoy

Thanks to Shanyn at Chick Loves Lit for organizing such a fantastic blog tour!

Hello there, friends!

Just about a month ago I shared my review of CRIMINAL by Terra Elan McVoy with you. Since starting Rather Be Reading, Terra has become one of my go-to authors, and I was so excited to see her go in a new direction with CRIMINAL: a book about a crime, crazy/passionate/self-destructive love, and a main character who needs to hit an ultimate low before she learns anything. CRIMINAL tops my list of books I’ve read this year so far; I am so impressed with the research that Terra did to make this book work and just how succinct, fast-paced, and emotionally charged this book feels.

If I didn’t convince you to drop everything and get a copy with my review, here for your viewing pleasure, is a poem:

Criminal by Terra Elan McVoy - Acrostic Poem

Luckily, this blog tour is giving YOU the opportunity to win a copy of Terra’s book! What are you waiting for… go enter!

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Find CRIMINAL on Goodreads | Amazon | B+N | IndieBound + Follow TERRA on Facebook | Twitter | Web

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Keep up with the rest of the tour!

jessi kirby author photo and golden cover

Blog Tour Kick Off for GOLDEN by Jessi Kirby + A Giveaway

Howdy, friends! Today we are so, so THRILLED to be kicking off the blog tour for Jessi Kirby’s GOLDEN. You may remember me fawning over this amazing new book by Jessi, but just in case you need a refresher, here’s my Golden review. I’m so, so excited to get to share an excerpt with you.

jessi kirby author photo and golden cover

About Golden by Jessi Kirby:

Published by: Simon & Schuster
To Be Released on: May 14th, 2013
Purchase it from: Simon & Schuster | IndieBound | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Add it to Goodreads

Seventeen-year-old Parker Frost has never taken the road less traveled. Valedictorian and quintessential good girl, she’s about to graduate high school without ever having kissed her crush or broken the rules. So when fate drops a clue in her lap—one that might be the key to unraveling a town mystery—she decides to take a chance.

Julianna Farnetti and Shane Cruz are remembered as the golden couple of Summit Lakes High—perfect in every way, meant to be together forever. But Julianna’s journal tells a different story—one of doubts about Shane and a forbidden romance with an older, artistic guy. These are the secrets that were swept away with her the night that Shane’s jeep plunged into an icy river, leaving behind a grieving town and no bodies to bury.

Reading Julianna’s journal gives Parker the courage to start to really live—and it also gives her reasons to question what really happened the night of the accident. Armed with clues from the past, Parker enlists the help of her best friend, Kat, and Trevor, her longtime crush, to track down some leads. The mystery ends up taking Parker places that she never could have imagined. And she soon finds that taking the road less traveled makes all the difference.

(— Summary borrowed from Goodreads)

Excerpt from Golden:

The name on the next envelope snaps me back like a rubber band. I stare. Breathe. Stare some more.

Julianna Farnetti.

I look around, chilled. That can’t be right. But it’s right there in front of me, written in black ink with big loopy pen strokes just as gorgeous as she was. My first impulse is to see if anyone else saw. The clock ticks away the seconds on the wall. In one row of stacks are a couple of younger girls whispering and trying to look like they’re looking for books to check out. Ms. Moore’s keeping tabs on them from behind her computer, and the library TA, a tragically nerdy boy named Jake, shoves a book back onto the shelf then straightens out the ones around it for the millionth time. None of them look at me, but I’m nervous all of a sudden because right now it feels like I’m holding in my hands something I shouldn’t be. Like I’ve just brushed my fingers over a ghost. And by all accounts and definitions, I have.

Every town has its stories. Stories that have been told so many times by so many different people they’ve worked themselves into the collective consciousness as truth. Julianna Farnetti is one of Summit Lakes’. Shane Cruz is the other. And theirs–it’s a story of perfection lost on an icy road. They were one of those golden couples, the kind everyone adores and envies at the same time. Meant to be together forever. Teenage dream realized.

And both of them are frozen in time on a billboard at the edge of town for everyone to see. From behind a thick layer of plexiglass that’s replaced every few years, they smile their senior portrait smiles like they don’t know people have stopped looking for them. Somewhere along the line, the words on the billboard changed from MISSING to IN LOVING MEMORY OF, and I can remember thinking how sad that was, but it was bound to happen. Their parents buried empty coffins.

And still, we have the plaque in the gym, with a picture of Shane and Julianna together, his graduation gown arms wrapped tight around her shoulders and her cap crooked on top of her curly blond hair, both of them laughing like life was about to begin. His family started the scholarship in their name. Hers left town. And still, after ten years, they smile those frozen smiles that never age. Trapped behind the glass and the stories we’ve come up with for what happened to them.

I glance down again, read the name to be sure. Here in my hand is Julianna Farnetti’s senior journal. Pages she wrote before all of that, when the world was still at her perfect fingertips. When Mr. Kinney told her to capture herself in words she could read later.

(— Excerpt shared from pages 13-15 of Golden)

About Jessi Kirby:

Jessi Kirby is a former English teacher and librarian. She lives in Orange County, CA with her husband and two kids, where she writes stories and runs the beach every day. Well, almost every day.

Find out more about GOLDEN here.
Follow Jessi via her Website | Twitter | Facebook | GoodReads

(— About shared from Jessi’s Goodreads Author Page)

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Add GOLDEN to your to-read list on Goodreads
Pre-order GOLDEN on Amazon
Read my rave review + check out our nail polish picks for GOLDEN
Check out Mundie Moms for more GOLDEN blog tour information