Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Summer Giveaway Hop 2013!


The Summer Giveaway Hop 2013, hosted by Mary at BookHounds, 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 Summer Giveaway Hop 2013 is scheduled from August 1st at 12.01 AM until August 7th at 11:59 PM (EST).


The Prizes


One lucky follower will have the chance to win a $15 Amazon gift card by entering their information in the Rafflecopter form below. If you are international and would prefer a different retailer, I can substitute the prize with your choice of book from The Book Depository or $15 via PayPal gift.


I love giving away eBooks too, so two runners-up will win their choice of one of the following titles:

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Feedback

Someone just emailed me out of the blue saying:
[Your blog has] too much white space, it's plain, and the font is too small. I really hate having to scroll down and see all that pics and crap on the sides of the blog [too]. To me they just look busy and sloppy.
Okay. I'll have to contact Chri about getting rid of that white space and increasing the main font size. Sidebar will remain cluttered because I refuse to get rid of my hunks. I appreciate the constructive feedback, though.

And then:
Get rid of the shirtless gif.
Oh, you mean get rid of this hunk of delicious wonder and godliness?

Uh, no.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Interview with Allison Lynn, Author of The Exiles and Giveaway!

I'd like to welcome Allison Lynn to the blog today to celebrate her newest release, The Exiles from Little A, a literary imprint of New Harvest. Be sure to stick around until the end to get the chance to win a copy!

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

Will you please share a brief bio with us?


Allison Lynn is the author of the novels The Exiles and Now You See It (Simon & Schuster), which won the William Faulkner Medal from the Pirate's Alley Faulkner Society and the Chapter One Award from the Bronx Center for the Arts. In addition to fiction, Allison has written articles, reviews, and essays for The New York Times Book Review, The Chicago Sun-Times, People, Redbook, In Style, and elsewhere. She's lectured and read from her work in venues across the country, and loves nothing more than visiting book clubs. Especially book clubs that serve wine. Though beer is fine, too. And what the heck, cake.

Allison holds an M.F.A. from New York University and a B.A. from Dartmouth College. After nearly two decades in New York City, she recently relocated to Indianapolis, where she lives with her husband, the writer Michael Dahlie, and their son, Evan. She teaches in the graduate Creative Writing program at Butler University.

So glad to have you here with us today! Readers, here's a little bit about The Exiles:

A couple escaping the opulent lifestyle of Manhattan's Upper East Side move to Newport, Rhode Island, only to be confronted by the trappings of the life they tried to leave behind.

Nate, a midlevel Wall Streeter, and his longtime girlfriend Emily are effectively evicted from New York City when they find they can no longer afford their apartment. An out presents itself in the form of a job offer for Nate in Newport—complete with a bucolic, small, and comparatively affordable new house. Eager to start fresh, they flee city life with their worldly goods packed tightly in their Jeep Cherokee. Yet within minutes of arriving in Rhode Island, their car and belongings are stolen, and they're left with nothing but the keys to an empty house and their bawling 10-month-old son.

Over the three-day weekend that follows, as Emily and Nate watch their meager pile of cash dwindle and tensions increase, the secrets they kept from each other in the city emerge, threatening to destroy their hope for a shared future.

A story about losing it all, the complexities of family histories, tainted gene pools, art theft, architecture, and the mad grab for the American Dream, The Exiles bravely explores the weight of our pasts—and whether or not it's truly possible to start over.
Your main characters Nate and Emily and their son Trevor are priced out of Manhattan during the economic upswing of 2004. You were also living in Manhattan at this time. Did you see a change in the middle class?

One of the things I'm interested in is how even during times of upswing and prosperity, the income gap can be insurmountable. That gap divides New York City (and plenty of other urban areas) not merely into the haves and have-nots, but into the haves and the almost-haves—divides the super-rich from the middle and upper-middle class. Many of these almost-haves, like Nate and Emily, never thought they'd end up on the wrong side of that financial line. I see it now in my city friends who've reached their late-30s and early 40s—they're successful in their fields, but no matter how well they do, they'll never be able to catch up to the college pals who are buying multi-million-dollar lofts and sprawling beach houses. It's too late to break out of the middle. The feeling is that NYC is a great place to be young and scraping by, but for a lot of people there's an expiration date on that. So now what? Many of the people I never thought would leave NYC are looking for jobs elsewhere. It's tough to live in the shadow of great wealth. And in NYC, it can be an emotional albatross.


Your characters move from the Upper East Side to Newport, Rhode Island for a better way of life. Why did you choose Newport as their destination?


It seems counterintuitive, I know, for a couple trying to escape Manhattan's heady lifestyle to move to Newport. I knew Nate and Emily needed to move somewhere within easy driving distance of NYC—the book started in my head with the image of them standing on the street beside their packed Jeep. And because Nate is moving for his job, as an investment banker, it had to be a place where wealth is still prevalent (despite the fact that they’re moving to escape that). I looked at a number of places—including Portland, Maine, and Providence, RI. I was at a party talking with a friend from Baltimore, who was pushing that city, when an acquaintance overheard and interrupted. "Have you thought about Newport?" he said. He'd grown up in Newport and still has family there, and he introduced me to the idea of Newport as a double-sided city. Sure, there's a moneyed summer crowd. But on the flip-side, the year-rounders are very middle class, working people, artists, bohemians, police officers, teachers. It's a real-life subculture under the city's more aggressive (if waning right now) glitz.

In Newport, readers learn that Nate and Emily have been keeping quite a few secrets from each other. Do you think we ever really know the ones we love?

I think we do, or we can. But that assumes both partners are willing to be known and truly want to be known—and that they already know themselves in an honest way. Nate and Emily are so busy trying to shield each other from hurt that they unwittingly erect barriers.


That's a complex relationship to delve into in fiction. Readers, click "Read more" to learn about the commitment-without-marriage relationship Allison decided to explore with Nate and Emily, an interesting issue tackled in the book, and how much she puts herself into her characters. You also don't want to miss the great giveaway at the end!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

7 Heart Review: Blank Slate by Tiffany Snow

Blank Slate
Tiffany Snow

Page Count: 360

Release Date: 9 April 2013 (paperback)
Publisher: Montlake Romance (Amazon)
Source: Complimentary copy provided by author in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you, Tiffany!)
Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Special Agent Erik Langston has been tracking Clarissa O'Connell for nearly a year, always one step behind the cyber hacking thief. She's escaped his clutches often and easily.

Except tonight.

In the snow-covered switchbacks of the Colorado mountains in a worsening snowstorm, a car crash robs Clarissa of her memory and lands her as Erik's prisoner.

Riding out the storm in a cabin, Erik is forced to protect someone he knows to be a criminal, though O'Connell isn't anything like he'd imagined her to be.

In a race to stay one step ahead of those who'll do anything for what she knows, Clarissa and Erik must dig into her locked memories if they're going to survive. But revelations of her past prove to Clarissa she's everything Erik despises. Can she trust his feelings even when he knows the truth?

Is it really possible to start over with a blank slate?

Review


"You can try to shield yourself from me and pretend there's nothing between us but a survival instinct, but I know all about you, Clarissa O'Connell, and a week ago, I would have arrested you without a second thought. But it's too late now. I've seen the good and the bad, your weaknesses and strengths, and I want you in spite of and because of them ... We've both changed, and there is no changing back."

As an untraditional romance story, Blank Slate certainly delivers. The deadly, sexy game of predator and prey—hunter and hunted—that Clarissa and Erik fall into is full of action, bumps in the road, and slow but steamy romance. What occurs between these two unlikely lovers when they disastrously, marvelously find each other will have readers pining to figure out how they'll end up together... if they even make it out alive.

However, as a romantic thriller, Blank Slate disappoints. As you know, I'm a huge fan of Snow's Kathleen Turner novels and was eager for something along the lines of that series when I picked up this book. There's definitely lots of conflict involving governmental and cyber warfare—plenty of situations where characters are held at gunpoint and dodge both literal and figurative bullets—but I feel this book just didn't crack and sizzle like I expect suspense stories to. Two rather poorly integrated plot twists are shoved into the last few chapters which upsets the weightier, more deep-set pacing and content the previous chapters carry. I guess I should have seen this coming, considering the book was first published as a Kindle serial—meaning it wasn't originally released as a full-length novel, but rather in episodes (a few chapters per episode) as each was written; the suspense aspect just wasn't all that suspenseful for me.

I was glad to see such compelling characters, though; they definitely make up for the lack of excitement in plot. Erik seems too sentimental and rigid at first, but he absolutely made me melt; he's the genteel, chivalrous, loyal hero that's difficult to come by in romance these days. At times, his hardheaded decency makes him a bit foolish (can we say whipped?) but he's so sweet, the kind of guy who's swoon-worthy not for being dangerous and sensual, but rather for standing moral ground and serving the greater good with his sexy FBI status. (However, he's definitely no Kade. Sorry for the shameless Kathleen Turner plug, but if the comparison helps, you should know: I liked Erik, but didn't LOVE him. He isn't dark/brooding/twisted enough to have me ripping my panties off or anything. If you want that kind of hero, you need to read No Turning Back ASAP).

Clarissa is such a likable, hilarious character. She's admirably strong even at her lowest lows, and super freakin' wicked smart. Yet she still has room to be playful and bring out the blushing, crushing schoolboy in Erik... can't go wrong with that. While the memory loss premise is a little shaky—I'm not sure it's neurologically possible to experience a complete brain wipeout while retaining rudimentary memories she still apparently has, such as shooting a gun or picking a lock—the attraction between Clarissa and Erik is a huge elephant in the room, and it's obvious what she feels—and what he discovers is love—is much more than duty's call.

Pros


Explores a complicated emotional bond very well // Light, fluffy banter between characters // Erik is a knight in shining armor! // Clarissa is strong and intelligent heroine with a great sense of humor

Cons


Not that thrilling // Not substantial in style... reads like a mildly smutified (I just made that a word!) version of White Collar

Love

She watched in silence as Langston added more wood to the fire, stirring it back to life. He disappeared into the bedroom, then reemerged while angrily jerking a T-shirt down over his chest. Clarissa briefly mourned the loss.

Verdict


I wasn't a huge fan of the irregular pacing of Blank Slate because it prevented the huge climaxes from being all that surprising, but I was impressed with the steady and meaningful unexpected connection that blooms between Clarissa and Erik. The basic story line is linear and predictable, but that doesn't make it any less entertaining. The elusiveness of identity and the definition of betrayal are effectively examined in Tiffany Snow's newest single-title romance; it's no Kathleen Turner, but it's still a pretty worthwhile read Americanflag

7 hearts: Not perfect, but overall enjoyable (x)

Friday, July 26, 2013

4 Heart Review: The Weeping Empress by Sadie S. Forsythe

The Weeping Empress
Sadie S. Forsythe

Page Count: 242

Release Date: 1 December, 2011 (first edition)
Publisher: Lulu (self-published)
Source: Complimentary copy provided by author in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you, Sadie!)
Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Chiyo Alglaeca was happy in her life.

That is, until it was all taken away. Forced into notoriety, stalked by a mysterious cult, hunted by the emperor, and facing betrayal at every turn she clings to the only safety she can find: two enigmatic men and the sharp bringer of death, Salvation. The Weeping Empress explores the devastating effects of loss, the hunt for redemption, and the price of destiny. It questions the true meaning of evil and asks: What monster is not also an innocent?
Chiyo tossed, turned, and thrashed about both in reality and in the murky surrealism of her dreamscape. All around her people were dying. They were calling out to her, begging for a savior who wouldn't come. There was nothing she could do ... She ran, stumbled, picked herself up, and threw herself forward again, but she was never able to get away. She was never able to find the way out. She was never able to escape. She was trapped.

I really wanted to like this book because of the grippingly vague synopsis, but unfortunately the grippingly vague synopsis is exactly why I couldn't like it. I went into reading The Weeping Empress knowing neither the context nor the setting. Eventually Chiyo's sudden displacement is explained by a bit of spiritual power, a bit of time travel, but because it isn't stated explicitly, overall this book was very confusing and hard to keep up with.

The exodus of the goddess Kali wreaks havoc upon dynasty-era Japan, which is the time period to when Chiyo one day wakes up. The beginning of this book is awfully slow—as is the end, but at least stuff happens, then; I really had to struggle to get there. In fact, it isn't clear what's happened to Chiyo until the very last few pages, which does serve as a surprising, fitting plot twist, but I would have preferred not to plow through more than 200 pages to encounter it.

As Chiyo becomes unsettlingly involved in the social upheaval of the Samurai, her anger, vengeance, and mental instability soon make her realize the cruelty in herself, and the purpose it serves in fate's even crueler decisions.

I wish I had better things to say about The Weeping Empress but overall it's just excruciatingly sluggishly paced and most of the content doesn't flow well. The premise was promising, but the execution rather disappointing, and the characters unexplored.

Pros


Interesting insights on absolute power, deification, and spirituality // Great conclusion

Cons


Drags on a LOT // Ordinary style, sometimes confusing to follow // Plot is just an unmemorable jumble of battle sequences and folklore—easy to get lost in, and not in a good way // Flat, boring characters // I didn't even pick up on the Japanese Samurai theme until halfway into the story

Verdict

The adventure and edgy violence in The Weeping Empress may please some readers; this high fantasy novel has plenty of action and turmoil to go around. However, I was dissatisfied with it because of how hard it was to read—a result of its slow pace, mundane style, and lacking characters. I personally don't recommend this story about the warrior queen desperate to be saved; while reading, I was the one in desperate need of saving Americanflag

4 hearts: So-so; reading this book may cause wrinkles (from frowning so much) (x)

Thursday, July 25, 2013

7 Heart Review: Roommates by Katherine Stone

Roommates
Katherine Stone

Page Count: 408

Release Date: 29 June 2011 (trade paperback reprint)
Publisher: CreateSpace (self-published reprint)
Source: Complimentary copy provided by author in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you, Katherine!)
Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Stanford University, California...

Carrie was a wide-eyed freshman when she arrived at the university she had been hearing about all her life. She believed she knew what to expect. And her big brother, her strong and handsome brother Stephen, was there to lean on if she needed help. But she was unprepared for the monumental changes and monumental emotions she would experience. She was also unprepared for Jake.

Gorgeous, seductive, and deadly, Jake was a man of dark secrets and hidden dreams. He was all wrong for the innocent and optimistic Carrie, but she became part of his secrets and his dreams. But would he ever permit her into the deepest places of his badly wounded heart?

Megan was Carrie's roommate. Golden and beautiful, the gifted actress could dazzle and pretend even as her heart was breaking and her world was falling apart. The decision she made would result in a crisis that would reunite them all and open unhealed wounds and smoldering passions

Once entwined, and lives and loves of the roommates would be forever changed. And they would be as turbulent and courageous and shimmering as the extraordinary world in which they lived.
He had made a vow [to her] that other time. I must leave her alone. She is too good, too precious.
But now he broke it. Because she kissed him back? Perhaps. And because, as they kissed, she made him feel good and precious, too. And because of his faraway dreams of joy, of home, of her.

Originally published in the 80s, Roommates—recently revived and republished—is an enrapturing, gratifying journey that magnificently illustrates the soaring highs and gloomy lows of the college experience, and how it has the sheer power to change lives forever.

The story begins Carrie's freshman year, set at Stanford, and immediately picks up on the lives of her roommates, the phenomenal actress Megan, and the devastating beauty and brains, Beth, as well. Carrie's imminent "flaw"—her tenacious and resilient loving, despite the occasional rejection—sets her up for a world of possibilities in college, as well as a whole new realm of heartbreak. However, Roommates is not just Carrie's story; it's Megan's, it's Beth's, it's her brother, Stephen's, and it's the mysterious and brooding Jake's. Their individual plots all overlap, and the relationships between these five Stanford students, are unmistakably laced together—and forever will be. This makes for a very complicated, very intricate web of a story. I found it a little too soap opera-esque for my taste, but have to admit how well-concocted it is—Katherine Stone is a flawless writer with such a compelling, lyrical voice.

I like how there's a bit of a thriller subplot that doesn't make the book solely about romance; it was refreshing and gripping, although nothing terribly exciting. As with most of Stone's novels, the depiction of love is cloyingly sweet, grandly optimistic, and rather chaste. If you don't like the guaranteed happily-ever-after story line and the inherently perfect cast of characters (seriously... all of them are attractive, nice, smart, generous, brave, etc. etc.), then you may want to stay away from this book. As for me, I do quite enjoy the spice in novels of today's time, but I still enjoyed Roommates's mellow, sentimental tone.

For a glittering narrative that spans not only the young adulthoods of five unforgettable characters, but also their creeping pasts and unpredictable later lives in 1970s America, definitely give Roommates a try.

Pros


Beautiful style // Well-explored, lovable characters // Evocative of the decade and the campus spirit of Stanford // Nice blend of romance, passion, and drama // Connections between characters satisfyingly elaborated upon and probed // Jake's difficult past and his emotional turmoil particularly resonated with me // Juicy plot twist I never saw coming

Cons


Every character (aside from the obvious villain) is good-natured through and through, which I found unusual // A bit too sugary sweet... but that's the appeal! // On the wordy side... not the kind of book you can read in one sitting

Love

He had told her the truth, every truth, with no omissions. It was a factual recounting, without embellishment, the skeleton without the heart. But to the woman who was listening, and who was hearing his every word with a heart that loved him, the aching details, the ravaged emotions, were there.

Verdict


There's plenty of suspense and danger, as well as love, light, and laughter to go around in the hopelessly romantic—and fabulously nostalgic—Roommates. Days of Our Lives meets a tame, university-level Breakfast Club in an all-American story that flows like magic and is bound to captivate fans of conventional love stories. If you pine for a good ol' traditional romance, then Katherine Stone's 1987 novel—which just happens to be the prolific author's first—is THE book for you Americanflag

7 hearts: Not perfect, but overall enjoyable (x)

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

How My Newest Thriller Came About by Jon McGoran (Author of Drift) and Giveaway!

Like many authors, I have a day job, and while I've been writing mysteries and crime thrillers at night, I've been writing about food and sustainability by day, first as editor of a newspaper for Philadelphia's largest food co-op, Weavers Way, and now as editor of Grid, a magazine about sustainability. Over the years, I've been struck by the increasingly bizarre news about where food comes from in the U.S.—things like factory farms, irradiation, superbugs caused by antibiotics in livestock feed. They are all cause for concern.

But then along came genetically modified foods, an issue that struck me as different in several ways.

It was definitely more disturbing, in no small part because genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, are alive, and once they get out, they are out. You can't undo it. As a human who eats food, it concerned me enough that I started working with groups like Just Label It and Food & Water Watch, promoting efforts to label GMOs.

But as a writer, it struck me as a great backdrop for a book, and a great way to bring my two writing lives together.

The story of how GMOs have been introduced reads like a thriller on its own—big corporations spreading bio-engineered new lifeforms across the globe and onto unsuspecting people’s dinner plates, using their political and economic power to prevent serious long-term study—that's a good (or terrible) story right there. The more I thought about it, the more potential story lines I saw. And at the same time, I realized a lot of people didn’t know how pervasive and under-researched GMOs are. On the one hand, I saw this really intriguing premise for a book, and on the other hand, I saw an important issue that needed a more thorough discussion. For me it was like a perfect storm: a compelling backstory, a rich premise with lots of potential, and an important issue that begged to explored.

I've written about GMOs journalistically and satirically, but I think fiction lets you explore issues differently, in ways more deeply, more personally, and from a variety of points of view. As a novelist, my primary objective has to be telling a compelling story about characters you care about, but I think including these other ideas is a very important plus.
Page Count: 384
Release Date: 9 July 2013
Publisher: Forge Books (Tor; Macmillan)

Genre: Commercial thriller, GMOs

When Philadelphia narcotics detective Doyle Carrick loses his mother and step-father within weeks of each other, he gains a twenty-day suspension for unprofessional behavior and instructions to lay low at the unfamiliar house he's inherited in rural Pennsylvania.

Feeling restless and out of place, Doyle is surprised to find himself falling for his new neighbor, Nola Watkins, who's under pressure to sell her organic farm to a large and mysterious development company. He's more surprised to see high-powered drug dealers driving the small-town roads—dealers his bosses don't want to hear about.

But when the drug bust Doyle's been pushing for goes bad and the threats against Nola turn violent, Doyle begins to discover that what’s growing in the farmland around Philadelphia is much deadlier than anything he could have imagined...

Quick, clever, and terrifying, Jon McGoran's Drift is a commercial thriller in the tradition of Nelson DeMille's Plum Island.
 

About the Author


"I have been following and writing about trends in food and agriculture for many years," says McGoran. "As a fan of thrillers with massive crazy evil plots, and a writer with one of those minds that is always hatching them, I couldn't help notice how the news about food in recent years has read like a thriller, or even science fiction: genetic modification, transgenics, cloning, irradiation, and the release of genetically engineered foods into the environment. When I had the ideas at the center of Drift, I knew it was a book I had to write." 

Writing as D. H. Dublin, he is the author of the forensic crime thrillers Freezer Burn, Blood Poison, and Body Trace, all from Penguin Books. His short fiction, nonfiction, and satire have appeared in a variety of publications and anthologies. He is a member of the Mystery Writers' Association, the International Association of Crime Writers, and the International Thriller Writers, and a founding member of the Liars Club.

Jon is currently working on the sequel to Drift, titled Deadout, out in Summer 2014. He is represented by Stacia Decker of the Donald Maass Literary Agency.

Website Facebook | Twitter Goodreads | Follow the Tour

Thank you so much for sharing your newest release's development process, Jon! It sure is compelling to see a book about GMOs, which are so heavily handled in media, but hardly ever in literature. It was great having you over today.

Giveaway!

We've got one print copy of Drift up for grabs to one lucky Books à la Mode reader! To enter, all you have to do is fill out the Rafflecopter form below :)

For FOUR extra entries, leave a comment below in response to my question:
What do you think about genetically modified organisms? Do you consume them, or would you not touch them with a ten-foot pole? Let me know your stance on the issue!
Please make your comment meaningful and encouraging to the discussion. Comments consisting solely of stock responses like "No I don't eat them" or irrelevant answers like "Thanks for the giveaway" will not be awarded the additional entries. I really want to hear you guys' thoughts! :)
Don't forget the entry eligibility terms and conditions!
Sponsored wholly by the publicist and publisher—a huge thank you to TLC Book Tours and Forge Books!
Giveaway ends August 8th at 11.59 (your time).
Open to US/CAN residents only. Sorry, international readers! Check out my sidebar for all the current giveaways that are open worldwide.
Winners have 48 hours to claim their prize once they are chosen, or else their prize will be forfeited and a new winner will be chosen.
Although I do select winners (via Random.org on the Rafflecopter form), I am in no way responsible for the 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 ❤ Plus, you get extra entries ;)
Good luck!

Lazy Days of Summer Giveaway Hop!

The Lazy Days of Summer Giveaway Hop, hosted by Kathy at I Am A Reader, Not A Writer, 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 Lazy Days of Summer Giveaway Hop is scheduled from July 24th at 12.01 AM until August 4th at 11:59 PM (EST).


The Prizes


One lucky follower wins a $15 Amazon gift card! If you are international and would provide a different retailer, I can substitute this with your choice of book from The Book Depository or $15 via PayPal gift.


I love giving away eBooks too, so two runners-up will win their choice of one of the following titles:

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

7 Heart Review: Smokin' Hot Firemen edited by Delilah Devlin

Smokin' Hot Firemen
edited by Delilah Devlin

Page Count: 215

Release Date: 16 July 2013
Publisher: Cleis Press
Source: Complimentary copy provided by publisher in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you, Eva!)
Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Five-Alarm Romance Stories About Hunks Who Can Handle the Heat!

Rugged firefighters are the number one romantic fantasy—they enter fiery structures with selfless courage and are the very definition of the word "hero." Women understand their allure—soot-covered faces, sweat dripping from hard, chiseled muscles, the sharp snap of suspenders (yes, only a fireman can make suspenders sexy!). Delilah Devlin's burning-hot book teems with gorgeous firemen and stories from some of today's hottest romance writers.

In "Saving Charlotte," Sabrina York's firefighting Dom rescues a woman tied to a red-hot bed; a fire chief fulfills some very steamy fantasies in Cathryn Fox's "Temperature Rising." Ell James's "Chasing Fire" follows a daring smoke-jumper as he parachutes into the hot zone of a forest fire, then sets his girlfriend ablaze with erotic heat; and Magic Mike ain't got nothin' on Delilah's own fireman-turned-erotic-dancer-for-a-night in "Johnny Blaze."

Along with a list of award-winning authors that includes Ily Goyanes, Shoshanna Evers, Adele Dubois, and Rachel Firasek, Delilah delivers tales of these courageous men breaking down doors to steal readers' hearts! Smokin' Hot Firemen imagines the romantic possibilities of being held against a massively muscled chest by a man whose mission is to save lives and serve every need.

Review


Smoking Stilettos by Rachel Firasek: Red and Matt's marriage withstands the tests of a risky career with hot passion in the firetrucks to spare. I found this one a bit disorienting in the beginning and cheesy at the end, but it probably has the hottest single sex scene in the entire collection ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Saving Charlotte by Sabrina York: A naughty shock of a fire rescue brings firefighting Dom, Mark, and ethereally beautiful Charlotte together. This story explores an unlikely relationship determined to demonstrate how dominating is really to be done. It does follow a bit of a porno story line, but is absolutely explosive ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥ 

Hook Me Up by Adele Dubois: When a bad kitty gets Lexi stuck in a tree, fireman Knox just happens to be driving by to save her from further humiliation... and she's compelled to return the favor. Definitely well-penned but has more romance than sex. Fun read, nothing brilliant ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Big Trucks by Lynn Townsend: Another firetruck hookup involving two firefighters. Only story in the collection with a female fighter (woohoo!), but unfortunately both Amy and Steve felt disconnected as characters. The love scene isn't hot and the story boring to follow; my eyes glazed over this one ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Lost and Found by Nanette Guadiano: Anna flees to Forete, Italy to escape her mundane (non-)existence, only to run into a tall, blonde, and handsome British firefighter. William has the uncanny power to know exactly what's on her mind... including what she wants to do with his body. Evocative of the Italian countryside, but not thrilling sexually. This story is sensual in a foreign setting, but that's the most I got out of it ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Temperature Rising by Cathryn Fox: Delilah has a hot tryst with a young firefighter, Jonah, who's clearly trouble; he knows his way around a woman's body way too well. This one's for you roleplay fans. The fantasy is excellent, but the sex disappointing ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Unexpected Detour by Ily Goyanes: José rescues Isabella from danger and gives her a little taste of his Puerto Rican spice. This one's for you Latina lovers! Short and sweet, Unexpected Detour is excitingly arousing with an exotic hookup location ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Rescue Me by Maggie Wells: Addi runs into high school heartthrob Trey during a false alarm that just might have been an act of fate. When past desires are revealed, passion stirs... The backstory here is great and the style absorbing and witty, but the sex scenes are anticlimactic ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Chasing Fire by Elle James: Maggie is unwilling to compromise a relationship with über hunk smoke jumper Chance; she doesn't want more than just a physical arrangement because in his dangerous trade, getting attached could mean getting hurt. Very corny plot-wise, but super hot! ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Stoke by Tahira Iqbal: Nurse Aida, a survivor of a bad accident, meets her rescuer Nick, and sparks fly. This one is cute and romantic with witty one-liners. Not that explicit but one of the few stories that are actually believable ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Something's Burning by Cynthia D'Alba: Bree has a dire problem: she can't grill. She's successful and independent and is a doctor for cryin' out loud, but she just can't grill. When a cooking effort goes terribly wrong, she burns down her next-door neighbor, Ronan's fence down. And Ronan's the lieutenant at the local fire department... oh, the irony. There's only one way in mind he has for her to make it up to him, and it's definitely not a neighborly endeavor. Entertaining fellatio story whose pages sizzle ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Fire Hazard by M. Marie: Strapping firefighter Jackson rescues a damsel in distress and her cat in an apartment fire, later discovering he's undeniably attracted to her... the damsel, not the cat. Love the structure of this one; the interrupted hookup teases readers, leaving them wanting more. SUPER hot! ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥ 

The Fireman's Rescue by Kalissa Wayne: An interracial (Native American / Caucasian) story about Drew, our fire chief and untraditional hero, and plain-Jane Heather, who doesn't give him the attention he wants, but seems to have a wild streak of her own. Personally I found this one really unbelievable and the plot is just ridiculous. Not at all hot, The Fireman's Rescue reads like a twelve-year-old's erotic fanfic ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Falling Ashes by Shoshanna Evers: Emotional story about Susan and her adamantly non-boyfriend Trent, whom she just may have feelings for. Unnecessarily angsty with standard, mediocre sex. Corny "I love you," crap going on, which I didn't care much for ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Fire Extinguisher by Rowan Elizabeth: Okay, this one rocked my socks. The narration is haunting but completely seductive. The sex scene isn't explosive, but the idea behind a lover's personal haven is amazing. I'm still reeling at Elizabeth's gorgeous style and structure—how come there is no information on this author ANYWHERE? I want more! ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Her Hero by Catherine Paulssen: Holly's wistful dream of a fantasy makes this one both emotionally tender and fire-blazing hot; I loved the balance. The story line is actually terrific. You'll have to read it to find out more, yourself ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Johnny Blaze by Delilah Devlin: Bridget's 25th birthday part at a male strip club turns into a night of surprises when the man of her dreams, codename Johnny Blaze, takes control. Three keywords to describe this story: Spanking. Exhibitionist. Full-figured. Sound interesting? As always, Delilah Devlin's tone doesn't disappoint. While I didn't enjoy the story that much, I adore her style ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Pros


FIREMEN. Need I say more? // Well-edited and structured anthology // Lots of great authors // A few stories that really wowed me

Cons


A lot of the stories had similar foundations, which bored me quickly // Some ridiculous HEAs or attempts to add romance to spice (note to erotica authors: sometimes, it's perfectly OKAY to have just the spice)

Love

I am firmly on the awake side of sleep. He'll text. He always does.

At six-twenty-three in the morning, he texts me a simple message.

It was ugly.

He'll need me today in a way he doesn't always need me.
— from Rowan Elizabeth's Fire Extinguisher

Verdict


It's a good thing I have a thing for firefighters, or else the stories in Smokin' Hot Firemen would have gotten old real quickly. The majority of them follow the same premise—chiseled firefighter rescues gorgeous damsel in distress—just with different plot twists and characters. Some of them are indeed five-alarm hot, while others fizzle out; I felt way too many of them have far-fetched scenarios or conclusions (e.g. unrealistic happily ever afters) akin to what you find in the world of bad porn. In other words, almost comical, and absolutely foolish. However, overall I enjoyed this Cleis Press collection because firemen are literally my hottest fantasy Americanflag

7 hearts: Not perfect, but overall enjoyable (x)

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Public's Confusion Over Literary Fiction About Kids For Adults by Kara Weiss and Giveaway!

Kara Weiss is a new author for me, but this essay she wrote for us moved me profoundly—I needed to share this with you guys. It's about the pain of adolescence, and how suffering results due to lack of outlet. It's a rather serious post, and slightly dark in tone, but I guarantee you it's worth reading. If you have a moment, please help me welcome Kara, whose debut novel Late Lights is currently on tour with TLC Book Tours. You don't want to miss this.

Page Count: 123
Release Date: 13 June 2013
Publisher: Colony Collapse Press

Genre: Literary fiction, Adolescence

After spending his teens in juvenile detention, Monty is released to find he has nowhere to turn except back to the friends of his youth. But neither BJ nor Erin know how to have him in their lives anymore. As kids, BJ and Monty shared the anguish of being forgotten children, playing basketball and wandering the streets, but BJ has since aged out of her tomboy persona and into a sexually-confused woman in an adult body she doesn't understand, particularly when Monty is the first guy to view her as a woman. Although Erin Broder never gave up on her friendship with Monty, she doesn’t know where he fits into her upward-bound life, which is filled with professional parents, varsity track, and an Ivy League destiny. To the Broder family, young Monty was a charity case, a kid from the wrong side of Tremont Street, a novelty friend they hoped Erin would outgrow. So what happens when she doesn’t?

With sharp language and unflinching honesty, Kara Weiss depicts a complex reality where adolescent friendship is less like a two-way street, more like a six-way interchange with broken signals.
 
Buy the book at: Amazon | The Book Depository | Publisher

3 Heart Review: Changeling Dream by Dani Harper

Changeling Dream (Changeling #2)
Dani Harper

Page Count: 376

Release Date: 31 May 2011
Publisher: Brava (Kensington)
Source: Complimentary copy provided by FSB Media in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you, Leyane!)
Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

In times of stress Jillian Descharme has always found calm in her dream of a great white wolf with haunting blue eyes. But she is startled when the visions return and this time seem so real. Late at night he comes to her, speaks to her, touches her. It's almost as if he's alive...

Thirty years ago James Macleod lost his wife and unborn child to a killer bent on destroying the Changelings. Though he longed for death, his animal instinct fought for survival and James has been a wolf ever since. Yet now a woman has reawakened the man in him, taming wild instincts but arousing still wilder needs. With his ancient enemy hunting the legendary white wolf, James must fight for new life, new hope, new love.
Set in Dunvegan, the same cozy town in Southern Ontario where the first book in the series, Changeling Moon, took place, Changeling Dream is James Macleod's story. After 30 years of being trapped in wolfen form, Connor's estranged brother rises to humanity when a vaguely familiar new face, Jillian Descharme, comes to town. James has never met Jillian before but recognizes her somehow—he knows her from the soul—but comes to realize the person he really doesn't recognize is himself—neither as wolf, nor man.

The storyline with the mysterious connection between Jillian and James is compelling but everything else was a disappointment for me. I didn't totally love the first book, but wanted to give this second book a try because the "lost brother" story intrigued me; however, I didn't enjoy it at all. Typically with series, I am particularly fond of later installments because of the recurring characters, but even with the reprise of Zoe and the Macleods, I felt pretty much nothing.

The main characters, for one, I had a huge problem with. James's guilt over a family tragedy 30 years ago has given him an overactive sense of responsibility, which is why he overcompensates by desperately trying to keep Dr. Descharme out of danger. This would be a great alpha male quality, but it was written so simply and choppily that it actually makes him rather stalkerish... showing up in her bedroom in the middle of the night, visiting her at work every day, coming to her rescue at every possible moment. Yeesh. And then there's Jillian, who just may win the "Least likable romance heroine" award. Described as feisty and independent, this girl's maddeningly sensitive, and an irritatingly raging feminist. She only comes off as cold, pigheaded, and can just never cooperate, so the fact that she ends up "falling" for James is not only uncharacteristic, but also unbelievable. Even though she has her own demons, I felt no sympathy for her whatsoever, and found most of her points of argument very trivial and illogical. 80% of the book is her talking to herself (she talks to herself more than she talks to other characters... what the f*ck?) and apprehending over a stagnant relationship. It isn't just the attitude I found distasteful, it was everything.

And then we need to talk about the so-called romance itself. All it is is terribly angsty, with no formidable foundation or realistic expectation... and yet Jillian and James are absolutely soul mates. She doesn't even like the guy one minute, then is yearning for his touch and affection the next. Finger. Down. Throat. Now.

I literally had to keep asking myself why I was bothering to finish this book. I found it painfully boring, annoying, and although not completely unreadable, something I mostly skimmed—particularly for the last half (aka the part where everything happens).

Pros


Captivating premise about dreams and guardian wolves

Cons


James is suffocating and dislikable // Jillian is inflexible and dislikable // Unrealistic, tiring "relationship" // Messy, inconclusive story // Terrible climax

Love

James was very much like the river. Calm and steady on the surface, but somehow [Jillian had] been drawn in and captured by the deep current beneath. Would she escape? And did she really want to?

Verdict


The lycanthropic and mystical aspects of Changeling Dream were enough to hold my attention, but I definitely had to grit my teeth through this one. James's story was nice to read, but the exasperating rising action, a messy, premature climax, and ridiculous insta-romance between him and Jillian had me rolling my eyes Americanflag

3 hearts: Not a fan; I don't recommend this book (x)