Friday, April 29, 2011

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥: Ten Beach Road by Wendy Wax

Ten Beach Road
Wendy Wax

Release Date: May 3rd, 2011
Publisher: Berkley (Penguin)
Page Count: 432
Source: Complimentary copy provided by publicist, via Romancing the Book, in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you both!)

On the brink of ruin, three very different women discover themselves where they least expect... at Ten Beach Road.

Madeline, Avery, and Nikki are strangers to one another, but they have one thing in common. They each wake up one morning to discover their life savings have vanished, along with their trusted financial manager... leaving them with nothing but co-ownership of a ramshackle beachfront house.

Madeline Singer is a homemaker coping with empty-nest syndrome and an unemployed husband. Avery Lawford is an architect—or was, until she somehow became the sidekick on her ex-husband's TV show. And professional matchmaker Nikki Grant is trying to recover from her biggest mistake...

No one is going to save them but themselves. Determined to fight back, they throw their lots together and take on the challenge of restoring the historic beach house to its former glory. But just as they begin to reinvent themselves and discover the power of friendship, their secrets threaten to tear down their trust, and destroy their lives a second time. 
Wendy Wax understands the most difficult of dilemmas regarding family, secrets, undying passion, and inner turmoil, and that makes her stand out as a writer. Carefully, she identifies three women with three different concerns and takes readers on a journey that highlights not only on how their problems are solved, but also the struggles the three women go through, in order to get there.

A headlining Ponzi scheme involving Malcom Dyer leaves Maddie, Avery, and Nikki (among hundreds of others) abruptly penniless; they each now only have a beach house—actually not even, since they each own a third of the beach house—to their name. Bella Flora was once a majestic mansion overlooking the shore and the sunset, but today, its grounds are nothing short of ancient ruins.

To destroy the house, or to rebuild it are the only options the three women have, so they decide to take the risk and spend one summer making Bella Flora beautiful again.

Maddie needs to hang on, or else the rest of her family will fall apart. She's got an unemployed and quite depressed husband, an unmarried pregnant daughter, a college dropout son, and a ruthless mother-in-law on her hands. She needs to prevail with Bella Flora; it may be her last chance.

Avery is famous for her looks as a Vanna White on her ex-husband's home improvement television show—but she's the one with the architecture degree. Every cent her late father left her is gone, thanks to Dyer's theft, and having been abandoned by her biological mother as a young child, she's not sure where to turn. But suddenly, her mom and a childhood crush are both back in her life to offer help with Bella Flora, though Avery is certain she doesn't need it. Determined to fix the house and fight on her own, just the way she's been her whole life, Avery learns the lessons of forgiveness and honest love, both strong parts of her that could either lift her up or bring her down.

Nikki's taking the loss the hardest, not only because no money means no more designer dresses and pretty car, but because Malcom Dyer is her brother. How can the man she's raised from a little boy (since their parents' deaths) commit such a monstrous act against her? Her fortune is gone and she is torn, but more importantly, she doesn't know how she'll cope with this ultimate betrayal.

Ten Beach Road is the perfect summer beach read, but not because it's fluffy and romantic. Ten Beach Road weaves a complicated story that brings the lives of three prominent women together, and changes them forever as well. In each of the characters, Wax depicts expert emotion; she brings to life everyone, from an adoring mother, to a frightened lover, to a self-conscious "power woman" and knows exactly how to personalize each of her characters.

Relationships between mother and daughter, old acquaintances, and siblings brings sentiments of the breathtaking human life together, in Wax's novel. While reading, you feel like each of the characters are your own mother, your own sister, your own best friend. And by the end, you wish they actually were.

Check out my revisited review here!

Stephanie Loves: "The words settled over her. [Madeline] hadn't thought in those terms, she'd just been plowing ahead trying to hang on. But Kyra's recognition was like a balm to her soul; one she hadn't realized she needed.
'[I didn't realize how strong I was, either],' Maddie said. 'You don't really know what you're made of until things fall apart.' "

Radical Rating: 
8 hearts: An engaging read; highly recommended. ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥: Dark Patches by Azuka Thomson

Dark Patches
Azuka Thomson

Release Date: February 25th, 2011
Page Count: 245
Source: Complimentary copy provided by Pump Up Your Book Promotions, in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you!)

Meet Ndidi, the high school teacher and adoring wife. Blissfully married for seven years, a single question brings her world crashing down. Grant, Ndidi s loving husband, is his mother s only child. Unable to stand up to his relatives, he devises a plan to keep his family together. Omorose, Grant s mother, is determined to leave no stones unturned in her quest for more grandchildren, even if it means spiritual intervention. Josephine is no ordinary second wife. Selfish, manipulative and trouble-some, she does not intend to share Grant with Ndidi, so she starts an evil campaign with horrifying consequences. As each of them make sacrifices for the sake of a common goal, ruthless bids for power unleash sinister forces of catastrophic proportions... 
What Stephanie Thought: Dark Patches is a breathtaking, stunning debut that's simple in physique, but indispensable in meaning. Set in modern Nigeria, the novel explores the conflicting religious and ethical beliefs of two families who seem like complete opposites, but in essence, are truly the same.

Ndidi is living the high life with her successful husband, Grant, and adorable, Adesuwa. Her relationship with Grant began like a fairy tale: she was just a wide-eyed girl when she first met him—the attractive and charismatic "older man"—and their chemistry was inevitable and instant. 

Seven years into the marriage, she couldn't be any happier, but her mother-in-law, Omorose, has a different approach to their family. Her son, her only son, is soon to hit forty, and yet Ndidi has only produced one grandchild, who is already five years old. The biological clock keeps ticking, and if Odorose doesn't interfere, Adesuwa may be the last of her namesake—something she won't let happen. 

So she sets out to find Grant a second wife, a common practice of Bini society. Ndidi however, having been raised Ibo, cannot understand why her husband must marry another woman, and is heartbroken. But out of fear of losing the man she loves most, she has no other choice but to agree to allowing a second woman come and claim her husband.
Josephine's malicious demeanor is about to change everything Ndidi has ever known, and the reader sees it all in Dark Patches, as if the events are unfolding directly in front of them.

To me, this novel isn't just an enjoyable story, but also a subliminal lesson. Azuka Thompson has a preeminent way of demoralizing human greed—which leaves you wondering, are people really that detrimental? Or just plain evil? The most significant moral of Dark Patches is what goes around comes
around. Though Ndidi struggles and suffers the most, in the end, her fairy-tale ending is rightfully returned to her, making a point that, if one has the strength to remain grounded and not allow desire for vengeance to engulf them, they will emerge from catastrophe with a mended heart and a happily-ever-afer. 

The prose in Dark Patches is easy to follow, but isn't flawless. Most of the errors include a lack of commas, which isn't so bad except that sometimes sentences just seem to run on and on and soon everything seems like one big blob rather than a series of coherent thoughts which often confuses me and do you notice how I am doing it right now and isn't it a little annoying?

All in all, Thompson does an excellent job emphasizing how one little sin can outbalance propriety, and how far human depths will go to for personal gain.

Stephanie Loves: "'No matter how difficult it may appear, choose an option that your heart can cope with presently. Do not work against your heart, otherwise your burden will be twice as heavy.'"

Radical Rating: 8 hearts: An engaging read; highly recommended. ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Thursday, April 21, 2011

❤author: Josi Kilpack Interview and Giveaway!

I'm thrilled to welcome author, Josi Kilpack with her newest release, Blackberry Crumble today! I got the opportunity to interview Josi via Pump Up Your Book Promotions.

Josi, will you please share a short bio with us?

Josi grew up hating to read until her mother handed her a copy of The Witch of Blackbird Pond when she was 13. From that day forward, she read everything she could get her hands on and accredits her writing “education” to the many novels she has “studied” since then. Book five in her Sadie Hoffmiller Culinary Mystery series series, Blackberry Crumble, was released in February 2011. Josi currently lives in Willard Utah with her husband, four children, one dog, and varying number of chickens. 

Tell us about your books.
 
Sadie Hoffmiller is a middle-aged woman in small town Colorado who just can’t seem to keep from finding herself in the middle of a mystery. While each volume features Sadie and some of the same characters, we’ve tried hard to keep from revealing the earlier plots, making each one a stand alone novel as well as part of the series. It’s been a fun series to write.

When and why did you begin writing?

While on bedrest with my third child I literally ran out of anything else to do in order to preserve my sanity. A short story I wrote to pass the time turned into a full length novel and led me in directions I had never imagined before.


What inspired you to write your first book and then how did you get published? Tell us your call story.
 
I was so naïve when I wrote that first book that I ended up paying for a portion of the publishing. At the time it made sense to invest in this new career I had such visions of grandeur about. It didn’t work out so well and I learned that when you pay to publish your own book, you take away the companies motivation to market it for you. My first book, a faith based novel, did very poorly, but it inspired me to figure out what I didn’t know I didn’t know and, in hind sight, was a blessing rather than a set back. My next novel was a much stronger story as I had delved into learning the industry and craft of writing for publication. After several faith based novels, I tried my hand at something new—a funny and clean sleuth novel filled with original recipes. And here I am :-)

How much of your actual life gets written into your fictional stories?

As far as plot and experiences, very little. I’m a mother of four who lives less than 50 miles away from the house I was raised in. I’ve been married to my high-school sweetheart for 18 years and while my life is crazy-busy, it’s very average. But there are a lot of details from my life that get weaved in, like viewpoints of the world and the people in it, setting that I borrow from my own home and town, people I know, snippets of conversation I overhear. It’s really the best of everything—I borrow what I want from my life, and then imagine all the adventurous stuff.


What are your biggest motivations for writing?
 
It varies from day to day, actually. Sometimes I’m motivated by a deadline, sometimes it’s for the royalties checks I need to pay for a kid’s braces, other times it’s because the story feels so real that I’m afraid I’ll disappear into it if I don’t put it on paper, and other times it’s just because I love it; love putting down a story that keeps me entertained and, hopefully, entertains other people as well. 

What books are on your nightstand right now?
 
The Cross Gardener by Jason F. Wright and The Healing Spell by Kimberley Little. They’ve both come highly recommended  and I’m looking forward to getting the book I’m working on done so I can get lost in the pages of these two books.

What’s the most challenging aspect of writing?  

Time. Every time I sit down to write, my other responsibilities begin pressing in. I’ll often get up to take care of those things in hopes I can better focus when they are done, but as soon as I get one thing off my list, something else crops up. I’ve had to figure out that I just have to sit down and get the words out, even though it’s hard to ignore other things. I rarely feel a calm sense of confidence that the time I spend writing is worth everything else I’m sacrificing to make it work. I’ve given up on balance and am just trying to keep things form blowing up most of the time.

Easiest?
 
The first fifty pages of a book are a breeze for me—you’re just building something and it can be anything you want it to be. It’s fun and free and I absolutely love it. Then...it has to start making sense. That’s the hard part.

And the most rewarding?
 
When I finish and scroll through the book on my computer, realizing that despite doubting myself (especially those last fifty pages) that I did it, and I’m proud of my efforts, and it’s done. Soon it will be a book on a shelf and someone will read it and, hopefully, enjoy the ride I created. It’s a powerful pay off that keeps me going when the middle sags and the end stumbles.

Describe your books in three words.
 
Funny clean adventures.

What’s the most interesting comment you have ever received about your books?

That a woman who liked my books emailed me to tell me she had entered a sweepstakes that, if she won, would allow her to buy a bed and breakfast in Vermont where she planned to use all the recipes from the books as her menu. I got a kick out of that and said a little prayer for her to win it :-)

What's next for you?
 
I’ve got at least 3 more books in this series, possibly more, and when I finish with Sadie’s adventures we’ll be publishing her Little Black Recipe Book which will feature all the recipes from the series. Beyond that, I don’t know where I’ll be as I am completely submerged in Sadie for now. 



Before we conclude this interview, is there anything you’d like to ask our readers?
 
I’m always looking for GREAT books, the kind that carry you away and leave you with a satisfied smile on your face when you finish. I would love to know what books have been THAT book for your readers as I rarely read anything without good recommendations—I don’t have time to waste on flimsy storylines or flat characters. I read in every genre.



Josi can be found at her:
As well as on:

Thank you for being here today, Josi! It was a pleasure getting to know you and your books better. Everyone, congratulate Josi on her newest release, Blackberry Crumble, and be sure to check out my review for it as well!


Giveaway!
As a special treat, Josi has graciously offered a copy of Blackberry Crumble to one lucky commenter. I'll make it just fair and square -- one entry per person :) All you have to do is follow this blog via GFC, then leave a question (that hasn't already been answered) or comment for Josi on this interview post. Be sure to leave your email address so I can contact you when you win! 

Giveaway ends May 12th, 2011 and is open to US residents only.

Good luck!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

❤hoppy easter eggstravaganza giveaway hop!

the seasonMy Easter weekend will be an marvelously busy one. A friend is visiting from North Carolina, so I'm having her over for a few nights (yes, everyone is coming, and yes, it's going to be a MAJOR WILD SLUMBER PARTY), and Saturday, I have a rugby home game! The last one of the season -- we better win :) Sunday, I'm probably having dinner with my dad (not that either of us know how to cook) or having an Easter picnic with the rugby girls. Either way, it's going to be a great way to enjoy my one Sunday off. Usually, my Sundays are even more tiring than my Saturdays but thankfully I have a break this weekend. I don't celebrate Easter meticulously religiously, and I know a lot of people don't either. What are you doing for Easter?
the hop The Hoppy Easter Eggstravaganza Giveaway Hop, hosted by Kathy at I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and Yara at Once Upon a Twilight, works like this: each participating blog hosts a giveaway and then we link up together allowing our followers to hop easily from one giveaway to another.  For followers, it means lots of chances to win free books. For blogs hosting giveaways, it means lots of new visitors and followers. It's a win-win! The Hoppy Easter Eggstravaganza Giveaway Hop is scheduled from April 20th at 12.01 AM  until April 25th at 11:59 PM.
the giveaway I have some ARCs on hand that I'm excited to give away.
I know the picture is sort of difficult to see (the flash on my camera was acting outrageous) but if you can't tell by the covers, the three books up for grabs are:
So there is a little bit of something for everyone, I hope :)
the rules ❤  Since this is a follower hop, I will have to make following my blog a mandatory entry. (The GFC follow button is on the upper lefthand sidebar -- not that I even have a righthand sidebar). For additional entries, you can (+2) follow me on Twitter (@lovestephaniexx) and (+2) enter my Lillian Brummet giveaway. So that's up to five entries, three winners total.
Leave a comment on this post saying you follow, along with your email address. Let me know if you have any additional entries, too. No need to comment multiple times! 
Because of shipping costs, this giveaway is open only to those residing in the US. If you're international and want to enter, you'll have to pay for shipping.
the small print I'm not saying this because I'm completely anal, but because it's something I noticed going on a lot with follower hops. The point of them is not to temporarily follow that blog and unfollow as soon as the giveaway is over. The point of the follower hops is for the blogs generously offering giveaway prizes to gain more readers and followers -- in return, participants receive the opportunity to win great prizes such as books, gift cards, and swag. I'm not just speaking on behalf of myself, because seriously, I'm so grateful for the followship I have (love every each and one of you!), but I know for a fact this happens with lots of other blogs as well. Being part of the blogging community, I just want to let my two cents be heard. And not to sound cheeky, but a lot of us bloggers use Qwitter, which is an app that tells us exactly who unfollows us on Twitter, so we're not as stupid as you think ;) Just saying. 
the end Sorry if my rant was a little bitchy. I'm not trying to be mean. YOU KNOW I LOVE YOU so don't even go there, darling. Be sure to enter all of the other giveaways going on for this hop; there are so many great prizes being given away! Have an incredible Easter, everyone. Keep eating, keep reading, keep sleeping, keep whatevering. Keep loving and living, guys.

xo and always,
Stephanie

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥: Blackberry Crumble by Josi S. Kilpack

Blackberry Crumble (Sadie Hoffmiller Culinary Mysteries #5)
Josi S. Kilpack

Page Count: 368
Release Date: 9 March 2011
Publisher: Deseret Book
Source: Complimentary copy provided by Pump Up Your Book Virtual Tours in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you!)


MODERN MISS MARPLE: A MAGNET FOR MURDER?
by Jane Seeley, feature reporter, The Denver Post

Local "celebrity" Sadie Hoffmiller has been involved in a number of unfortunate situations that have taken her to crime scenes from London, England, to Miami, Florida, and even in her own backyard in Garrison, Colorado. But is she truly an unwitting bystander in all these investigations? Or is she becoming something more? Is she, perhaps, even the cause...?
***
The word is out about Sadie Hoffmiller's amateur detective work, but it's not the kind of publicity Sadie wants. When Jane's article threatens Sadie's reputation in the community, she accepts her first investigation-for-hire and travels to Portland, Oregon—if only to give herself some space from her whispering neighbors. And from Pete, who is sending her mixed signals about their budding relationship.

Sadie hopes the Portland air will clear her head, and she is eager to get to work for May Sanderson, who has suspicions about her father's untimely death.

Putting her detective skills to the test, Sadie delves into a complicated past that includes a business partnership that didn't end well, several unsavory family secrets, and more than a few motives for murder.

Sadie is afraid she might crumble under the pressure, but in a new place with new recipes, she finds herself more determined than ever to uncover the answers buried in scandal, insatiable appetites, and pure and simple greed.

What Stephanie Thought: I usually prefer mysteries with strong romantic or horror elements included in them, because let's face it—if I'm going to spend that much brain power on trying to unlock the quintessential "puzzle", I might as well do it efficiently. Blackberry Crumble is neither erotic nor terrifyingly spine-chilling, yet I still had a great time reading it.

The main reason why this is not my usual type of book is because first of all, the main protagonist, Sadie Hoffmiller, is at least twice my age. However, Sadie's fifty-year-old issues do not stand prominent throughout the story. Rather, the timeless, ageless dilemmas that Josi S. Kilpack presents are what make the novel shine.

As part of the Sadie Hoffmiller Culinary Mysteries series, Blackberry Crumble makes a fantastic stand-alone novel. I haven't read the four previous titles, but I still got through it fine. Of course, now I want to go back and read all of the preceding books.

Sadie is, one fine sunny day, presented a problem greater than anything she's ever encountered. A problem that may risk her clean reputation in her friendly, small-town neighborhood. A problem that may risk her life... and the lives of those she loves. She knows there is only one way to get out of this mess, and that is to help out a woman in need, a woman named May who claims Sadie is perfect for a private investigation she wants to solve. Sadie is by no means a detective, but her moral and social values know it would be best to assist this troubled stranger.

In the end, Sadie betrays and is betrayed, learns secrets and reveals secrets, and once, is even slapped (not much of a horror to me, but seemed terrifying to Sadie). But the whole time, she sticks to her determination to find out what truly happened to May's father, if it's the last thing she does.

Kilpack's writing style
flows well—it's very easy to read and oftentimes funny. Occasionally, the dialogue is a little unrealistic, as if it were formatted exactly to be written in print. But other than that, the story was easy to comprehend, and I had a few laughs along the way.

What I loved most were all the
recipes featured at the end of every few chapters. Blackberry Crumble may keep you at the edge of your seat, attempting to solve the mystery (that completely dupes you at the end—such an unexpected and riveting ending!), but more importantly, it will keep you licking your lips and your stomach growling. Now that is what I call power of a book.

Kilpack writes a humorous and intriguing novel about family and love, that is all the while completely appropriate and chaste. The characters are relatable and the food sounds scrumptious. Definitely a culinary mystery you don't want to miss.

Stephanie Loves: "'Sadie?' Pete said, squeezing her hand.

She loved the sound of her name on his lips."

Radical Rating: 
8 hearts: An engaging read; highly recommended. ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Monday, April 18, 2011

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥: Devious by Lisa Jackson

Devious (New Orleans #7)
Lisa Jackson

Page Count:
432
Release Date: 29 March, 2011
Publisher: Kensington
Source: Complimentary ARC provided by publisher, via SOS Aloha, in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you both!!)

Detectives Rick Bentz and Reuben Montoya return in Devious. The crime scene at St. Marguerite's cathedral in New Orleans is shocking. A novice nun has been found dressed in a yellowed bridal gown and viciously garroted, her body covered with an alter cloth.

For Montoya, the brutal crime scene is disturbingly familiar—his aunt, also a nun, was murdered. And the connections don't end there. Montoya knew this victim in high school. But the deeper the investigation goes, the more twisted the case becomes. St. Marguerite's is far from the tranquil retreat many believe, and everyone, from handsome Father Frank O'Toole to the mysterious Mother Superior, has their own agenda...

What Stephanie Thought:
Being a Lisa Jackson fan, I was more than happy to get to review her newest Bentz and Montoya novel. True, I haven't read the first six books in the series, but like most good books should, Devious makes a fine stand-alone novel. Actually, it's better than a fine stand-alone novel; it's the kind of sequel that makes me want to go back and read all the previous titles too.

Camille Renard is your typical party girl: gorgeous, smart, a little deceptive... okay, make that a lot deceptive. Notorious for getting around and stealing husbands (specifically, her sister, Val's), it's to everyone's shock that she decides to enter a convent and become a nun. But this is not her story. Devious is not Camille's story, because she is brutally murdered within the first chapter—ironically, right in the church.

No one else is more devastated than her sister, Valerie Renard. Though the two have been on edge with each other for the past few months (I mean, that is what will happen if you try to sleep with your sister's husband), Val's ready to forgive and forget
after all, her divorce with Slade is now nearly final. But of course, that can't happen now, because well, Camille's dead. Beautiful, vivacious, rambunctious Camille is dead.

Which is the perfect time for Val's soon-to-be-ex to show up at her doorstep, right? Slade Houston is in New Orleans, hotter and feistier than ever, and Val's not sure she can handle his company. But it turns out, she just might not be completely over him... and him over her, for that matter.

The story gets weirder, though. One of the detectives assigned to the murder case, Reuben Montoya, happens to be Camille's high school boyfriend; her first, in fact. It's probably not best for him to deal with the issue since it's so personal, but he can't help but desire to solve this deranged murder mystery.

Even worse? An autopsy reveals Camille was pregnant
and suspicions arise that Father Frank O'Toole, the charming but suspect priest at St. Marguerite's, is the dead baby's father.

The case gets more and more screwed up as the book goes on, to the point where some things are utterly shocking
others, entirely inconceivable.

Lisa Jackson never fails with the suspense. I didn't have to sift through Devious, wondering when I'd be finished with it, at all; the pages seemed to turn themselves. Even better, romance (read: steamy love scenes!) is incorporated into the story's cutting tension, making it all the better, and entertaining, of a read.

No question goes unanswered in Devious, which says a lot, because it begins raw, millions of questions sprouting out to know what's going on at St. Marguerite's. I enjoyed the relationship developments, specifically the romances, between the various characters: Camille and Reuben; Reuben and his wife, Abby; Camille and Father Frank; Camille and her murderer; Val and Slade; and other minor relationships throughout.

Though Jackson's writing is easy to follow and well-written, it isn't without flaw. Her similes are painfully cliché ("Outside, it was as dark as night") and her details, annoyingly repetitive. Maybe she was just trying to give reader cues throughout the novel to keep confusion to a minimum, but I feel there were too many scenes that were repeated unnecessarily. Her ideas however, are completely genius. The plot she comes up with gets better and better by the sentence, and the story she creates is one not any reader will be able to predict or even possibly imagine.

Devious will thrill your senses, and keep your eyes wide and spine tingling throughout the night. It will make you tremble in fear at times, but also keep you eagerly reading on, awaiting the fate of the murder case, as well as the vindication of Camille Renard. 

Stephanie Loves: "'Hey, boy,' Val said, her heart melting as she squatted down to pet the dog's sleek head and receive exuberant licks on her face and hands. 'Yeah, I missed you, too.' The hound couldn't get close enough to her, and for a second she remembered bringing him home from the pound, a small black and tan puppy with bright eyes and ears that nearly hung to the ground.
'And me? You miss me, too?' Slade asked as he slammed the truck's door shut ...
'You're kidding, right? Miss you?' She almost laughed, except nothing about their meeting was funny. 'Like I miss the plague.'"

Radical Rating: 
9 hearts: Loved it! This book has a spot on my favorites shelf. ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

♥♥♥♥♥: Beneath a Starlet Sky by Amanda Goldberg and Ruthanna Khalighi Hopper

Beneath a Starlet Sky
Amanda Goldberg and Ruthanna Khalighi Hopper

Page Count: 304
Release Date: 26 April, 2011
Publisher: St. Martin's Press (MacMillan)

Source: Complimentary copy provided by publicist, via Romancing the Book, in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you!!!)

Lola Santisi—CEO of a struggling fashion line, reformed actorholic and daughter of Hollywood royalty—is now not only bicoastal, she’s bi-lolar: This is the condition which causes her to swing like a pendulum between the opposing poles of the fashion world in New York and the real world with her doctor-boyfriend in Los Angeles. She hardly knows which shoe fits her anymore: the Louboutin stiletto or the Croc. As Lola tries to launch Julian Tennant’s new dress line, it looks like they’re about to get their next big break: his wedding dresses have been chosen to feature in the top film at the Cannes Film Festival. And suddenly Lola is staging a full-blown couture show on a yacht—in the middle of the Med.  Think those super models had trouble walking down the catwalks at Fashion Week? With an unexpected finale twist, this time it’s Lola who’s tumbling off the runway.  

Having recently endured a disastrous break-up with Lola’s brother Christopher, Kate Woods, Lola’s BFF and CAA’s rising star agent, is newly single, and focused 24-7 on her clients. The only thing worse than thinking it was a good idea for Kate to date Lola’s brother, is thinking it was a good idea for Kate to put one of her most loose-cannon clients, Nic Knight, in Lola’s father’s movie. Among Kate’s other mega star clients is Saffron Sykes whose appearance on the cover of Vain magazine in Julian Tennant could be the difference between Julian Tennant, Inc. weathering the economy or going bust.

As Lola fights to survive the Cannes Film Festival, will she get swept into the French Riviera’s riptide of glamour and superficiality? Are real love and couture mutually exclusive?  Or can Lola have it all—the good doctor and her Louboutins. With her father and brother vying for the same prize, her mother starring in her new reality show, and one heartbroken girlfriend about to declare motherhood, it’s all on Lola to come up with the answers.  And it’s going to take more than one of her mother’s prosperity chants to save the day.

What Stephanie Thought: I expected to enjoy Beneath a Starlet Sky a lot more than I actually did, since it looked so glamorous and pretty and all that. Even the blurb (though pretty much summarizing the entire book) wasn't that bad. And it wasn't a bad read at all. But I couldn't find myself to quite love it either.


The book is the ideal example of style over substance; while the book contains juicy and brutally accurate details of Hollywood society (not that I would know, since I'm not an LA insider), the plot falls flat and leaves the reader (in this case, unfortunately, me) restless. Written by Amanda Goldberg (a movie producer) and Ruthanna Khalighi Hopper (a famous actor's daughter), it is evident the content that goes into the novel are real-life points of view. However, not all (or many) movie producers are fit to write novels; the cinema industry and book industry are completely different realms. Goldberg may have a successful film career, thanks to her bright imagination and vision statement, but her words penned down on paper fall undeniably flat. And as for Hopper, the only achievement she's made outside of being a celebrity herself, is co-write a previous book with Goldberg titled Celebutantes, which, I have not read, but can imagine is about.

Lola's journey as a rising A-lister in the captivating but deceptive Hollywood world is interesting, at best. Not even entertaining, because half the book describes in great detail, an outfit, or an interior design, or a power couple relationship. Maybe good for tabloids, but not a novel. I myself, am a fan of People and Cosmopolitan, which is why I found a lot of the celebrity observations interesting. But with each sentence filling up about a sixth of the page, the book itself was in no way, fun to read, or amusing, or really anything a good book should be.

If Beneath a Starlet Sky had been published as a magazine, I would have gobbled it up. But sadly, I just couldn't put admiration into it, due to weak writing, lack of intrigue, dull characters, or maybe a combination of the three. 

Stephanie Loves: "'Thank you for helping me find my way back to myself,' he whispers in my ear as I throw my arms around his neck and then pull away so that I can look into those green eyes that look like the closest thing to home I'll ever know. There's one thing in life that I've learned isn't an illusion: it's love. So I say to my Lev, 'Now let's go play doctor.'"

Radical Rating: 
5 hearts: Doesn't particularly light any of my fires; I feel indifferent about this book. ♥♥♥♥♥

Sunday, April 3, 2011

❤author: Lillian Brummet Interview and Giveaway!

I'm pleased to feature Lillian Brummet at the blog today. Hello, Lillian! Would you share a brief bio with us?

Lillian Brummet is the host of the Conscious Discussions Talk Radio show since 2007. On top of these 4 years of radio host experience, Lillian has been the marketing executive for the 4 books that she and her husband have written, and runs the office end of both their writing and drum teaching/repair business. So today we'll be dipping in to more than 12 years of hands-on media experience - Join us as we learn how to gain publicity and write effective queries. Lillian and Dave can be found at: www.brummet.ca.

Welcome to ¡Miraculous!, Lillian. Do you believe you chose the writing profession or that it chose you?

I suppose that, really, it chose me. I began to feel comfortable with the pen at a very early age. In my younger years I was often acknowledged in classes for the stories or poems I wrote. Looking back, the style I wrote in and the subject matter should have been a signal to the teachers that something was going on at home – however, in those days, they didn’t have the knowledge that we do now. I remember clearly a short story I wrote about an older woman who wore very bright, gaudy clothing in order to brighten her miserable life - and in doing this, even in some small way, she was able to make herself feel better. I wrote a poem about a child who bullied others to ease their own pain… and to feel SOMETHING. These were both written long before high-school years and I remember the attention I received very well. You see I was shocked that I could move adults to tears, and it kind of scared me a little.

Later on in life, as a teenager, I used poetry as a tool to express the incredible array of intense emotions from the abuse and neglect in home life. After finding myself on my own at 13, the poetry was a way for me to vent and blow off steam – and then I would burn them, watching them go up in smoke… it eased my pain. Soon bits of poetry survived here and there, and as time went on I found these crumpled up bits of ramblings… and upon reading I found them incredibly revealing about who I was, where I was going and how I felt about things…. These were thoughts and feelings I didn’t have before and this started me on the journey to where I am now.

Sounds like a heartbreaking, but very familiar path. What was your path to publication?

The first article I wrote was picked up immediately by a local publication that asked me to write a series of articles in that genre – thus the birth of the Trash Talk column. (Your readers may even be able to find some of these old articles kicking around online, since some of them are still being picked up from online article distributors). I worked for several other local publications before branching out to larger magazines and then into the book industry.

Trash Talk, again, led the way to the book publishing experience and, honestly, it was accepted by two of the first three publishers I approached with the idea. After that project, Dave and I really began writing as a team in earnest and haven’t looked back.

What’s the best advice you were given about writing?

The best advice I received was from the writing course that taught me the insider’s view of what editors, members of the media, and publishers go through. Knowing their time-lines, the publication’s needs, specific requirements and guidelines, and the contact’s name are key to any query process. But understanding what their daily life is like, helped nurture an empathy for their workload and this has greatly helped me in the way I handle queries, follow-ups and other communications with another professional.

What business challenges have you faced as a writer?

Advertising is a huge issue for most authors, since most advertising costs are extremely high and may not result in any sales at all. So to face this issue, we found ways of getting free advertising through major networking campaigns. We’ve done everything from audio ad exchanges with other radio show hosts, and offering free filler content, to offering blurbs on our newsletter or blog in exchange for something on their site or publication. Bartering and networking is still alive and well on the Internet, the key is to make sure that your approach communicates a mutually beneficial opportunity. Therefore it is important to look at a marketing opportunity with a “What can I do for them?” focus prior to querying.

What’s your best advice for new writers?

The best advice for any new writer – besides doing diligent research – is to keep accurate records so that at a glance you will know who to follow up, and when an article or book project should be submitted elsewhere. Record keeping is the only way to know where you are at with the media, - such as: who needs information from you, when you will be appearing on their radio program and what the topic will be. Research is key to the writing career – period. If you don’t know who your audience is and why that publication or publisher should even consider working with you – don’t bother querying. If you don’t know how to reach the audience of that radio show with an interesting topic and one they haven’t heard yet on that program… then, don’t bother querying.

Is there any aspect to your profession that gets you in touch with your
readers directly?
There are several. First, we make ourselves available through the contact button on our site – www.brummet.ca - also they can message us through social networking sites and that kind of thing. Conscious Discussions Talk Radio show allows me to reach an online radio show audience, while the Brummet’s Muse is an opt-in newsletter that goes out twice a month. Additionally I have the Brummet’s Conscious Blog where I offer inspiring green and conscious living, and that includes the world of writing interviews. Each of these sites offer ways for people to contact us, and we encourage this because their comments help us refine our writing, find resources that will benefit our audience, improve the radio show, or glean ideas for future projects or topics.

Thanks for your excellent advice, and for taking the time to come over to the blog today, Lillian. Readers, Lillian has generously offered one first-edition print copy of Towards Understanding to one lucky commenter today. All you have to do is go over to her blog and become a follower. Then, come back here and tell me you're following her blog. Remember to leave your email address! If you follow my blog, you get an extra entry towards the drawing :)

Contest ends April 30, 2011 at 11.59 PM EST and is eligible to US residents only. Enter away, and good luck!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

❤ i'd rather see you smile

Another tribute to Days Difference. I haven't kept up with these guys in a while, but you may look at this picture while it's hot. Which is probably eternity :) I've loved this boy for just about forever.
Also, I'd love for you to listen to "Wake Up Your Heart", Days Difference's unreleased single. It just makes me so happy for spring.
Name: Jonathan Smith
Age: 24
Location: United States
Status: single...I hope
♥: the soft-spoken words, the amusing hair, the excellent smile
Stalk him: Days Difference official website

Friday, April 1, 2011

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥: Listen to the Ghost by Beverly Stowe McClure

Listen to the Ghost 
Beverly Stowe McClure

Page Count: 164
Release Date: 15 November, 2005
Publisher: Twilight Times Books
Source: Complimentary copy provided by publisher in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you!)


All seventeen-year-old Jade Dalton wants to do is show her paintings at Charleston, South Carolina's, annual Piccolo Spoleto Festival, swim in the ocean, forget Kurt Sinclair, her ex-boyfriend and his lying lips, and prove she's as perfect as her brother, David. So how does she end up with Phoebe, a ghost who doesn't want to be a ghost; Doc, a one-hundred-year-old neighbor who talks in riddles; and Matt, a gorgeous saxophone player who changes her opinion about guys?

Jade and Matt are soon caught up in a desperate search for two wedding bands that will set Phoebe free. They must find the rings by Jade's eighteenth birthday, the same day that Phoebe was to marry her fiancé, Isaac, in 1923, or she is doomed to remain a ghost for eternity.
Listen to the Ghost is a cheery, meaningful novel for preteens and teens that dabbles on the importance of friendship, family, and perseverance. 

After a messy breakup, all Jade wants to do is have a fun-filled, drama-free summer with her best friend and brother at her grandparents' mansion in her favorite town. The only problem? There's a rumor going around that the house is haunted, and to Jade's horror, the ghost may just be haunting her

But Phoebe (yes, the ghost has a name) isn't just doing it for kicks and giggles; Phoebe needs something from Jade, and she needs it before time runs out. When Phoebe reveals who she is, or rather, who she was, Jade realizes she really needs to help Phoebe out, or else Phoebe may remain a meandering ghost forever—something that could affect her and her family's lives. 

Beverly Stowe McClure creates an original, witty plot full of suspense, as well as creepy spine-tingling situations.

What I find a little "off" about this novel, is how evident it is that the narrator is not a teenager. Jade is seventeen going on eighteen, and obviously not many young adult authors are that age. However, the reason most young adult authors are so successful is because their voice and diction are both as fresh as young readers today. I'm not saying McClure is a bad writer, because she certainly isn't. But her writing is a little too chaste, as if she doesn't know how real teenagers act, or how they should act. Teenagers are inappropriate, they are moody, they are horny and angry and enthusiastic. McClure's characters are rather flat, and seem too polite, which is not very believable.

Listen to the Ghost itself is a great story, but I wish it had been written from a more perceptive viewpoint. One that really captures the essence of adolescent frustration, rather than innocence that is probably very hard to find and relate to in our modern teenage world.

Stephanie Loves: "'It has been a long day,' [Matt] said. 'I'll walk with you. I have some things to do, like planning my next assault on old boyfriends, should they decide to cause more trouble.'

[Jade] couldn't tell whether he was serious or joking. 'Kurt's not all bad,' she said. 'Actually, I owe him a thank you.'
'How's that?'
'He taught me a valuable lesson—not to believe everything a guy tells me.'"

Radical Rating: 
7 hearts: Not without flaws, but overall enjoyable. ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥