Monday, August 3, 2015

Top 5 Surprising Things About My Writing Process by Pam Jenoff, Author of The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach + Giveaway! (US/Can only)

The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach
Pam Jenoff

Adelia Montforte begins the summer of 1941 aboard a crowded ship bound for America, utterly alone yet free of Fascist Italy. Whisked away to the seaside by her well-meaning aunt and uncle, she slowly begins to adapt to her new life. That summer, she basks in the noisy affection of the boisterous Irish-Catholic boys next door, and although she adores all four of the Connally brothers, it’s the eldest, Charlie, she pines for. But all hopes for a future together are throttled by the creep of war and a tragedy that hits much closer to home.

Needing to distance herself from grief, Addie flees—first to Washington and then London, where the bombs still scream by night—and finds a passion at a prestigious newspaper. More so, she finds a purpose. A voice. And perhaps even a chance to redeem lost time, lost family—and lost love. But the past, never far behind, nips at her heels, demanding to be reckoned with. And in a final, fateful choice, Addie discovers that the way home may be a path she never suspected.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

6 Heart Review: Little Black Lies by Sandra Block

Little Black Lies
Sandra Block

Page Count: 352

Release Date: February 17th 2015
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (Hachette)
Source: Complimentary copy provided by publicist in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you, Wunderkind PR!)
Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

She helps people conquer their demons. But she has a few of her own...

In the halls of the psychiatric ward, Dr. Zoe Goldman is a resident in training, dedicated to helping troubled patients. However, she has plenty of baggage of her own. When Zoe becomes obsessed with questions about her own mother's death, the truth remains tauntingly out of reach, locked away within her nightmares of an uncontrollable fire. And as her adoptive mother loses her memory to dementia, the time to find the answers is running out.

As Zoe digs deeper, she realizes that the danger is not just in her dreams but is now close at hand. And she has no choice but to face what terrifies her the most. Because what she can't remember just might kill her.

Little Black Lies is about madness and memory—and the dangerous, little lies we tell ourselves just to survive.
I pop the pill into my mouth and climb back in bed. My brain slows to a thrum, listening to the Xanax. Arms jelly, legs jelly, brain jelly, melting into the bed. But before I fade off, the finest gossamer of a thought sticks in my brain like a burr.
The fire. After twenty years, why am I dreaming about the fire?

Even after the finality of my 3-out-of-5-star rating for Little Black Lies, I still find the premise completely fascinating. The psychological thriller genre is one among my favorites, and combined with my personal/professional interest in the field (I'm currently studying psychopathology), I couldn't resist picking this one up. While the originality of the plot and extensive psychiatric research and experience that went into this book impress me greatly, I do have to say this book isn't exactly the thriller I expected—or wanted—it to be.

Dr. Zoe Goldman has a tragic past, having lost her birth family in a housefire as a baby. As an adult though, she's doing quite all right because she doesn't remember any of it. This was a fabulous starting point—I love the idea. Sudden dreams and flashbacks of the fire, which she hasn't had since she was a very young child, coincide with the arrival of her newest patient, Sophia Vallano, a beautiful sociopath who murdered her own mother. As both the nightmares and paranoia intensify and Zoe's own psychiatric care begins to go awry, she becomes obsessed with questions about her birth mother's death, including what really happened in that fire, especially when her adoptive mother begins to slip up on Zoe's own life facts, which are too eery to be due to the dementia.

The premise is excellent, and in summary, the book sounds complete. Completely for me. Unfortunately the poor characterization and technical annoyances disappointed me immensely, rendering the book to fall short of what I was initially hoping for.

My first problem was with Zoe herself; even acquainted with her as a first-person narrator, I just couldn't connect with her voice. She's clearly intelligent and very grounded, but as a character, she is stiff, more intellectual and mechanical than relatable. The few sequences of emotion she displays (sympathy for her mom, attraction to her boyfriend, etc.) come off very unconvincingly, which I feel is more an issue with Block's writing than anything else. In the same vein, I didn't like any of the characters in the book, so this reinforces the notion that Zoe isn't just a megabitch, but that the author created weak characters in general. While well edited and concise, Block's hand lacks the fluidity and style that a good novel needs to really reel me in.

That being said, I had no problem reading the book or following the plot. The directness and clarity of the story's progression made it effortless to get through, which is saying a lot, provided the disorientating nature of Zoe's random, mentally unstable flashbacks of her childhood. Block takes two distinct story lines—one in the present and one in the past, that, together, would otherwise be very confusing—and has produced a readable, manageable novel, which is a feat in and of itself.

The rising tension in the novel is so prolonged, that it actually eventually got boring... but I still didn't hate it. I was definitely engaged in following Zoe's journey of discovering the inconsistencies between her unreliable memory, actual childhood, and what she was told by her adoptive parents growing up.

My biggest quip is with the climax/ending. The entire point of the book was to culminate in a dark dangerous secret (which I will abbreviate as D.D.S. from now on) that even the synopsis on the back cover hints at, but it just didn't enthrall or terrify me, as a good thriller should. The climax isn't predictable necessarily—by which I mean, it did surprise me. However the D.D.S. revealed didn't exactly have me reeling, either; it was rather inevitable, and even the back cover teased it in the back of my mind from the beginning, so it was rather anticlimactic.

Pros


Original plot // Interesting medical/psychiatric background and terminology // Creative intentions

Cons


Not the most stylistically written // Inevitable, not-so-frightening D.D.S. // Hopeful premise, but overall not memorable or remarkable // Romance subplot not only is irrelevant/disjointed, but also cringe-worthy and clichéd // Zoe is a straightforward, no-nonsense protagonist, but rather irritating and unlikable // Weak secondary characters

Verdict


Slow paced, technically flawed, and lacking in developed and believable characters, Little Black Lies was a let-down for me all-around—mostly due to my enormous anticipation for it as a psychological thriller. Psychological and at times thrilling? Well, sure, but it's not one of those searing, edge-of-your-seat, mind-blowing thrillers, mostly due to its languid, stretched-out rising action and unavoidable climax. There are moments in the story, especially regarding the solidly researched and written medical topics, that did indeed excite me, but overall Sandra Block's debut novel doesn't particularly stand out to me as a top recommendation Americanflag

6 hearts: Decent for a first read, but I'm not going back; this book is decidedly average (whatever that means!) (x)

Friday, July 31, 2015

If I Could Turn Back Time by Beth Harbison Giveaway! (US/Can only)

If I Could Turn Back Time
Beth Harbison

Told with Beth Harbison's wit and warmth, If I Could Turn Back Time is the fantasy of every woman who has ever thought, "If I could go back in time, knowing what I know now, I'd do things so differently..."

Thirty-seven year old Ramie Phillips has led a very successful life. She made her fortune and now she hob nobs with the very rich and occasionally the semi-famous, and she enjoys luxuries she only dreamed of as a middle-class kid growing up in Potomac, Maryland. But despite it all, she can't ignore the fact that she isn't necessarily happy. In fact, lately Ramie has begun to feel more than a little empty.

On a boat with friends off the Florida coast, she tries to fight her feelings of discontent with steel will and hard liquor. No one even notices as she gets up and goes to the diving board and dives off...

Suddenly Ramie is waking up, straining to understand a voice calling in the distance... It's her mother: "Wake up! You're going to be late for school again. I'm not writing a note this time..."

Ramie finds herself back on the eve of her eighteenth birthday, with a second chance to see the people she's lost and change the choices she regrets. How did she get back here? Has she gone off the deep end? Is she really back in time? Above all, she'll have to answer the question that no one else can: What it is that she really wants from the past, and for her future?

Giveaway!


Books à la Mode is giving away three print copies of If I Could Turn Back Time—yay!!

To enter, all you have to do is tell me:
If you could turn back time knowing what you know now (say, to your high school years!), what would you do differently?
Please make your comment MEANINGFUL. Comments solely consisting of stock responses or irrelevant fluff like "Thanks for the giveaway!" will not be considered for entry. Beth and I really want to hear from you guys! :)

Don't forget the entry eligibility terms and conditions!
Sponsored wholly by the publisher—a huge thank you to the lovely folks at St. Martin's Press!
Giveaway ends August 14th at 11.59 PM (your time).
Open to US and Canada readers only—sorry, everyone else! Please check my sidebar for the list of currently running giveaways that are open worldwide. There are plenty to choose from!
Void where prohibited.
Winners have 48 hours to claim their prize once they are chosen, or else their winnings will be forfeited.
Although I do randomly select winners, I am in no way responsible for prizes, nor for shipping and handling.
As a reminder, you do not have to follow my blog to enter, though it is always very much appreciated ❤
Good luck!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Top 5 Fun Facts About the Fool's Gold Series by Susan Mallery, Author of Thrill Me + Giveaway! (US/Can only)

Thrill Me (Fool's Gold #18)
Susan Mallery

Meet the Mitchell brothers of Fool’s Gold, California—five gorgeous men who’ve left a trail of broken hearts in their wake...

Maya Farlow learned the hard way to depend only on herself, so when she fell too deeply for the bad-boy charms of Del Mitchell, she did the only thing she could—she ran. Stunned, Del left Fool’s Gold to make his name and fortune in extreme sports.

Now ten years later, Maya’s been hired to promote her hometown’s new slogan, The Destination for Romance. The celebrity spokesman is none other than Del, the man she dumped but never forgot. Awkward!

Although Del’s not the type to hold a grudge, he’s determined to avoid falling a second time for the woman who broke his heart. He’s a daredevil, not an idiot. Trouble is, in all his adventures, he never found a rush as exhilarating as Maya’s kiss. Maybe risking his heart will prove to be the biggest thrill of all...

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Interview with Kyra Davis, Author of Just One Lie + Giveaway! (US/Can only)

I'd like to welcome the lovely Kyra Davis, to the blog today to celebrate the exciting release of Just One Lie, the long-anticipated sequel to Just One Night, from Pocket Books!

Welcome to Books à la Mode, Kyra! Let's get this interview started.

Will you please share a brief introduction with us?

Kyra Davis is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Just One Night, Pure Sin and the Sophie Katz series, as well as So Much For My Happy Ending. Just One Night has been optioned for television by Anonymous, the producers of True Detective.

Before publishing her first book, Sex, Murder And A Double Latte in 2005, Kyra supported herself and her son as a marketing manager for a sports club; before that, she was a department manager at Nordstrom’s Savvy department. She studied at The Fashion Institute off Design and Merchandising and Golden Gate University.

Kyra now lives with her husband (director and screenwriter, Rod Lurie), her teenage son (proud science-geek and Hawaiian-Shirt-aficionado), dog (champion eater and guardian of the backyard... no squirrel will dare set foot in it) and gecko (the gecko doesn’t do much).


It's amazing to get to feature you today! Readers, here's a bit about the book, which hits shelves yesterday:

In the instant international sensation Just One Night, sensible Kasie Fitzgerald unleashed her passions—and found herself—through an explosive affair. In Just One Lie, we meet Kasie’s wild and tortured sister, whose impulsivity and lack of self-control has set off a chain of events that changes her family forever.

Melody Fitzgerald is the opposite of the “perfect” daughter. The lead singer of an indie rock band, she is impulsive and creative, with a rebellious streak that both defines her and becomes her greatest enemy. Her lover, the enticing and unpredictable Ash, shares her free spirit and penchant for trouble. On the face of it, he seems to be her perfect match.

So why is she so drawn to her soft spoken, reliable drummer, Brad Witmer? How can a man who wears polo shirts and reads the financial section of the paper be of any interest to her at all? And why on earth does someone like that appear to be so captivated by her?

Before she knows it, Melody finds herself on a path of self-discovery, passion, and affairs of the heart. But will a dark secret from her past derail it all? Or will its exposure be the very thing that unburdens her heart and allows her to seek a future with the one man who loves her completely?

Describe Just One Lie in six words (or less!).

A story of rejection, indulgence, & redemption. (I stole that from the Romantic Times review, don't hold it against me).

I wouldn't ever! How did you arrive at writing romance? Are there any other genres you’d like to try your hand at, or any you want to stay away from?

I started with chick-lit murder mysteries and women's fiction for a different publishing house and when my editor moved over to Simon & Schuster, he asked if I would be interested in writing erotic romance for them. My other books, while not technically romances, were essentially about relationships and did have romances in them as well as a few descriptive sex scenes so this wasn't that huge of a leap for me.

I plan to continue in my other genres as well as romance going forward. I don't know if I'll got outside that, though. Maybe a fantasy or historical. The only thing I would never write is anything that's really dark. I don't mean sexy, dark, and edgy like my Pure Sin series. I mean I couldn't write something like The Kite Runner (a masterpiece) or Girl With A Dragon Tattoo. When you write a book you live in the world of your characters, and living in a world of sexual violence or unspeakable and devastating child abuse would destroy me.

That's a valid point! Accolades to authors who are able to. As a huge fan of first lines, I’d love to hear the first line of Just One Lie. Could you give us a brief commentary on it?

I love this question. The first line is:
There is nothing more crushing than the ruin of a perfect moment.
That sentence tells you everything about Mercy. She is all about the moment. She clings to that so she doesn't have to think about her troubled past or worry about where she's headed. As a result, she's a seize-the-day kind of girl.

Are the characters from your book based off anyone you know in real life? How much else of your actual life gets written into your fiction?

Every character in Just One Lie is completely their own person. But I am now married to one of the most eloquent and romantic men on earth, so I was able to use some of the things he said to me at pivotal times in our relationship as lines in the last third of the book. When you're living a romance, writing them becomes a lot easier.

I love how you have romance both in your fictional and real-life worlds :) What’s the greatest thing you ever learned?

That "life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." It's a quote by Anaïs Nin and it's absolutely true.

Blog babes, click "Read more" to find out Kyra's random favorites, the most interesting comment she's received about Just One Night, and what makes Just One Lie stand out as a book from all the rest. We're also hosting a giveaway for a finished copy of Just One Lie, so you don't want to miss that either!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The First Lines of The Ones We Trust by Kimberly Belle + Giveaway! (US/Can only)

It's a total honor here at Books à la Mode to be kicking off the tour for Kimberly Belle's sophomore novel, The Ones We Trust, out today from Mira Books. The author has been kind enough to stop by to share the first lines of her new release, as well as give away a print copy of the book!

The Ones We Trust
Kimberly Belle

A moving and evocative exploration of grief and guilt in the wake of one family's devastating loss—and the relentless pursuit of truth

When former DC journalist Abigail Wolff attempts to rehabilitate her career, she finds herself at the heart of a US army cover-up involving the death of a soldier in Afghanistan—with unspeakable emotional consequences for one family. As the story of what happened comes to light, Abigail will do anything to write it.

The more evidence she stumbles upon in the case, the fewer people it seems she can trust, including her own father, a retired army general. And she certainly never expected to fall in love with the slain soldier's brother, Gabe, a bitter man struggling to hold his family together. The investigation eventually leads her to an impossible choice, one of unrelenting sacrifice to protect those she loves.

Beyond the buried truths and betrayals, questions of family loyalty and redemption, Abigail's search is, most of all, a desperate grasp at carrying on and coping—and seeking hope in the impossible.

Monday, July 27, 2015

The Power of Collaboration by Iris and Roy Johansen, Authors of The Naked Eye + Giveaway! (US/Can only)

The Naked Eye (Kendra Michaels #3)
Iris Johansen and Roy Johansen

How can you catch a killer when everyone thinks he's dead?

Kendra Michaels was instrumental in bringing serial killer Eric Colby to justice. And yet, despite his apparent execution at San Quentin, Kendra is convinced that Colby is still alive. The problem is that she can't prove it. Even her razor-sharp powers of observation—developed to an amazing capacity during the twenty years she spent blind and now in constant demand by law enforcement agencies—have gotten her nowhere.

But then a reporter who very publicly humiliated Kendra is murdered. Visiting the crime scene in search of anything that might link the brutal homicide to Colby, Kendra instead finds evidence that points to her. Finally Colby's master plan becomes clear to her: he is framing Kendra for murder.

Suspicions mount and Kendra is thrust into deadly pursuit to clear her name and catch the killer no one believes exists anymore. A killer who is always nearby, watching, waiting to make his next move, even as everyone believes him to be dead. A killer whose trail of destruction is invisible to the naked eye, despite the carnage he leaves in his wake. It will take everything Kendra has to find and stop Colby—and save her own life one more time.