Wednesday, October 30, 2013

9 Heart Review and Giveaway: Songs of Willow Frost by Jamie Ford

Songs of Willow Frost
Jamie Ford

Page Count: 304

Release Date: September 10th 2013
Publisher: Ballantine Books (Random House)
Source: Complimentary copy provided by publisher via tour publicist in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you, Random House and TLC!)
Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Twelve-year-old William Eng, a Chinese-American boy, has lived at Seattle’s Sacred Heart Orphanage ever since his mother’s listless body was carried away from their small apartment five years ago. On his birthday—or rather, the day the nuns designate as his birthday—William and the other orphans are taken to the historical Moore Theatre, where William glimpses an actress on the silver screen who goes by the name of Willow Frost. Struck by her features, William is convinced that the movie star is his mother, Liu Song.

Determined to find Willow, and prove his mother is still alive, William escapes from Sacred Heart with his friend Charlotte. The pair navigates the streets of Seattle, where they must not only survive, but confront the mysteries of William’s past and his connection to the exotic film star. The story of Willow Frost, however, is far more complicated than the Hollywood fantasy William sees onscreen.

Shifting between the Great Depression and the 1920s, Songs of Willow Frost takes readers on an emotional journey of discovery. Jamie Ford’s sweeping book will resonate with anyone who has ever longed for the comforts of family and a place to call home.
Maybe it was his imagination. Or perhaps he was daydreaming once again. But William knew he had to meet [Willow Frost] in person, because he had once known her by another name—he was sure of it. With his next-door neighbors in Chinatown, she went by Liu Song, but he'd simply called her Ah-ma. He had to say those words again. He had to know if she'd hear his voice—if she'd recognize him from five long years away.

On an outing to Seattle's Moore Theatre, 12-year-old William Eng—the only Chinese-American orphan at Sacred Heart—is stunned to catch onscreen, the familiar face of well-admired actress and "Oriental beauty," Willow Frost, whom he, five years ago, knew by another name: mother.

Songs of Willow Frost is a sensationally crafted novel that follows William's search for his carefully buried roots, spurned by the kind of familial longing only known as a child's unconditional love, and the ghosts and demons of his mother's past that he discovers along the way. The narrative shifts between the Great Depression and the technological revolution of the early 1920s, offering both William's real, raw perspective of Chinese-American life, as well as Liu Song's shining voice—her invaluable song.

There are just so many things I loved about this book! It's distressing how I can't list them all off at the same time, but I'll begin with the characters. William's naïveté is tender, and will make your heart ache. At once hopeful and painfully mature, his narrative gives rich glimpses of what it must have been like to be an abandoned child during the Great Depression—who were dubbed "orphans" like he was, and were not at all uncommon during this time—and is so emotionally well rendered. Liu Song is the character who has committed a mother's most atrocious crime by abandoning her child, but once her side of the story is told—and with it, William's mysterious past unraveled—we see nothing but the compromised woman with a crushing sadness, the brave, beautiful performer who sacrificed everything to salvage her son. While William's story is profound, Liu Song's is haunting, debilitating. She is so real and so human; I related to her in so many ways, which is the magic of her complex and alluring characterization in that she is exonerated because we as readers want to forgive her—we want to understand.

Ford effectively evokes the glamor of pre-Depression 1921, which enshrouded the magic of theatre and the rise of the radio star, and even transitioning to later years, conveys the grayness of the Great Depression in tandem with the emergence of Hollywood's Golden Era—which is to say, film over theatre, or Willow Frost over Liu Song. I am amazed at how culturally rich and historically vibrant Ford's Seattle Chinatown is; I lived, breathed, and loved these characters and this setting.

The story is also extremely stylistically impressive; Ford writes with great sensitivity and deep beauty in the tenderest way that induces shivers and raises goosebumps. In Willow's distraught confession, plea for forgiveness, and imminent personal departure, her past's troubles, her largest of sacrifices, and ultimately, her desire to rise up from cowering behind the façades of both the stage and screen, are intimately, agonizingly revealed... all in order to give everything to the one person she will never cease to love: her son.

Pros


Breathtaking historical scenery—colorful and lush descriptions of 1920s- and 30s-era Seattle // William and Willow are gorgeously characterized; both are lovable AND complex // Intriguing story with unique backdrop // Insight into both early 20th-century Chinese culture and Chinese-American expectations // Lovely in style... I could read Jamie Ford's prose forever! // Poignant, heartbreaking // Evocative of a mother's love; well-developed (albeit convoluted) mother-son relationship portrayed

Cons


Occasionally, scenes dragged out and grew boring, but this was not that big of a problem for me, and it was mostly just in the beginning

Love

[Liu Song] saw the triumphant jockey riding his Thoroughbred to the winner's circle. The small man was clad in leather and silk, with whip in hand. Liu Song grimaced when she saw the welts on the horse's back and foreleg. She ached for the exhausted horse as she watched its muscles twitch and could smell the sweat and fear. She felt Leo's hand on her backside and was jealous of the blinders the horse wore. She wished she had something similar to shut out the world.

Verdict


Lacerating, expressive, and beautifully melancholic, Jamie Ford's long-anticipated second novel unfalteringly trails young William Eng as he determinedly sets out to unearth a slew of family secrets and a home for his perpetually expectant heart. With stunning insight on a desolate, but regardless exquisite mother-child relationship, and magnificent attention to period detail, Songs of Willow Frost is a stirring, tumultuous, and ultimately triumphant story of one mother's struggle to stay afloat under immense societal scrutiny and Chinese-influenced expectation, and how although that survival may become her weakness and her desperation, it will never diminish her overwhelming love Americanflag

9 hearts: Loved it! This book has a spot on my favorites shelf (x)

Giveaway!


Okay, guys, here's the exciting part. The publisher has been kind enough to offer one finished PRINT copy of Songs of Willow Frost to a
 very lucky Books à la Mode reader, which means one of y'all will get to read this fabulous book!!! Leave a comment on my review for the chance to win. Be sure to leave your email address so I know who to contact when I draw a winner! Only meaningful comments will go into the contest, which means irrelevant comments consisting of only "Thanks for the giveaway" will not count as an entry!!!


Don't forget the entry eligibility terms and conditions!
Sponsored wholly by the publisher and tour publicist—a huge thank you to Random House and TLC Book Tours!
Giveaway ends November 12th at 11.59 PM (your time).

Open to US readers only. Sorry, everyone else! Check out my sidebar where you'll find a list of giveaways that currently are running internationally—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!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Cursed by S.J. Harper Spotlight and Giveaway!

Fresh from Roc, the science fiction and fantasy division of Penguin, now on tour with Book Monster Promotions...

Cursed (Fallen Siren #1)
S.J. Harper

Meet FBI Agents Emma Monroe and Zack Armstrong.

She's cursed. He's damned. Together, they make one hell of a team.

Emma Monroe is a Siren, cursed by the gods and bound to earth to atone for an ancient failure. She’s had many names and many lives, but only one mission: redemption. Now that she works missing persons cases for the FBI, it could be just a rescue away. Unless her new partner leads her astray.

Special Agent Zack Armstrong just transferred into the San Diego Field Office. He’s a werewolf, doing his best to beat back the demons from his dark and dangerous past. As a former Black Ops sniper, he’s taken enough lives. Now he’s doing penance by saving them.

Emma and Zack’s very first case draws them deep into the realm of the paranormal, and forces them to use their own supernatural abilities. But that leaves each of them vulnerable, and there are lines partners should not cross. As secrets are revealed and more women go missing, one thing becomes clear: as they race to save the victims, Emma and Zack risk losing themselves.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

8 Heart Review: High-Octane Heroes edited by Delilah Devlin

High-Octane Heroes
edited by Delilah Devlin

Page Count: 210

Release Date: 13 August 2013
Publisher: Cleis Press
Source: Complimentary copy provided by publisher in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you, Cleis!)
Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

men in—and out—of uniform 

One glance and your heart will melt—these chiseled, brave men will ignite your fantasies with their courage and charisma. In High-Octane Heroes, award-winning romance writer Delilah Devlin has gathered stories of hunky, red-blooded guys who enter danger zones in the name of duty, honor, country, and even love. These rugged men conjure images of hard, chiseled bodies, laser-sharp gazes and stark, camouflaged features.

This set of smoldering-hot adventures has an intensity that leaps off the page as "super-alpha" heroes risk their lives to protect and cherish those in need. In "Besieged," a Special Forces soldier rescues his lover from an embassy takeover. An American Air Force pilot and a grieving British woman find solace in each other's arms in "The Star." A sexy SWAT team leader saves a rookie during a bungled undercover assignment in "Renegade." And get ready for an undercover cop who flexes more than his "Big Guns." Set in far away regions of the world and in your own neighborhoods, High-Octane Heroes delivers passion, danger, and heart.
As You Were by Alice Janell: Medic Laura and alpha-male soldier Tony set their passion on fire after a close emergency call. Explicit, but too abrupt and lacking in tension for my tastes ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Five-Alarm Fire by Sabrina York: When Luke is set up with good girl Trish by his nosy but well-meaning neighbor, he tells himself he'll go through with the date just to keep her from prying in his love life again. What he finds, however, is that Trish isn't as good of a good girl as he initially thought. Cheesy storyline, but ultimately very hot and intense ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Renegade by Brindle Chase: Kara's undercover assignment goes awry, but thankfully sexy SWAT leader Michael "Renegade" Delaney comes to the rescue... and he intends to do more to her than save her life. Loved the deadly steeliness in Michael's character, but the story was just "meh" ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Painted by Leah Ridgewood: Feisty Latina Rosalia is sick of her rich, white-boy playboy of a neighbor, Justin, but when he touches her in places she'd forgotten were tender, she opens her eyes up to his heroic qualities (he IS a paramedic, after all) and their obvious chemistry. Really well written with an elaborate storyline, but the sex is mediocre ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Besieged by Elle James: Special Forces officer Max is ready to settle, but Kate—who just happens to be the Ambassador's daughter—isn't hinting at wanting anything more than the purely carnal arrangement they have going now. A grand act of heroism will determine his fate, as it just might save Kate's life... that is, if he succeeds. Sweepingly romantic and intense in its elongated sex scene, this one is satisfying, but unmistakably corny ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Pumping Iron by Christine D'Abo: Lila, who's just now recovering from an accident, has always had fantasies about her intimidatingly gorgeous physical trainer, Kyle. When she finally, in an act of vulnerability, confesses her attraction to him, the dominant ex-UMF player in him makes certain to work her body like it's never been worked before. SUPER hot, kinky, and vivid in its detail and sex—loved this one! ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Diving Deep by Jenny Lyn: Katie has the seemingly perfect arrangement with super sexy Navy SEAL Jake: an intense fling whenever he's home every few months, and nothing more to it that would tie her down. But when she starts developing something more than lust for him, she realizes she can't do it anymore, and is surprised to discover Jake has been considering this even harder than she has. If you like a cheery tone and happily-ever-afters, you'll adore this story; it has the perfect balance between a well formulated plot and explosive sex ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Heated Negotiations by Macy Man: When Donovan of the Special Response Team comes face-to-face with Paige—with whom he is yet to tie up loose ends—a stormy encounter ensues. The spontaneous sex is reeeeaallly hot but the progression of the story is kind of confusing ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Once Upon a Time in Mukdahan by Sidney Bristol: Emery is saved from hostage-holding traffickers in Mukdahan by the man she's in love with, SEAL Matt, but unfortunately he's just the kind of man who pushes those who love him away. When both of them are stuck in turmoil and their survival status is unstable, secrets are spilled, and a love neither knew capable, blooms ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Big Guns by Michael Bracken: Big, brutish Special Agent Howie is THE man of our unnamed narrator's naughty fantasies. When, on her bartending gig, she finds herself in the middle of his undercover assignment, he not only saves her life, but also teaches her exactly what fantasies are made of. I liked the sensuality of this story, and how it leaves a lot to the imagination ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Natural Appetites by Adele Dubois: Mickey's kind act of courage earns him an onslaught of admiration from the community he's saved from major grief, including Amanda, a beautiful chef at an organic restaurant. Indebted by his heroism, Amanda makes it her mission to seduce him with her all-natural cooking, but it turns out she doesn't even need the food to capture this smitten paramedic's heart. The cheesiness goes overboard here, especially with the insta-love, but I found the backstory promising and the love scenes hot and sensual ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

SEAL Destiny by Sharon Hamilton: Special Operator Chief Luke finds the woman of his dreams in a pretty young thing whose eye he manages to catch at the beach. What he wants to be a sizzling one-night stand turns into something more complicated when he realizes the extent of his feelings for her. This one is REALLY hot—a scorching quickie ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥ 

Mountain Man by Tamsin Flowers: Stranded during a mission, Mountain Rescuer Jake must wait for the next helicopter to arrive with the unassuming Melody in tow. As they spend the night together, they get the chance to get really close; the position of their encounter makes this one a hot read ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

The Star by Tahira Iqbal: Still in mourning over her brother's death, Estella is startled when approached by her late sibling's best military comrade—not only because he seems to be grieving just as much as she is, but also due to the electricity she feels at his every touch. The sorrowful tone is lyrical; Iqbal's style is gorgeous! The sex is kind of abrupt, with very little building tension, but I found this one romantic and sexy nonetheless ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Pitch Black by Delilah Devlin: Danny is the ultimate primal male—"tempered by combat, forged in tragic loss"—and when he wants something, he gets it. What he currently wants is for his girlfriend Jenna to transfer to a less risky field in the guard, but she insists she doesn't need his safekeeping. But considering she's working in a male-dominated concentration, she needs to bend a little, and Danny will be sure to convince her of that. As always, Delilah Devlin doesn't disappoint. The sex is hot, the story is real, and the style keeps you reading—a perfect 10! ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Pros


Really, really well selected stories with variety and substance // I pretty much liked all the stories, which rarely happens for me with anthologies // Alpha-heroes! Need I say more?

Cons


Some storylines are confusing // Some flat sex scenes

Love

I hold up the  mug, offering it. Calder takes it, our fingers brushing. I'm electrified by the crush in my heart.
— from Tahira Iqbal's The Star

Verdict


Every story in Devlin's latest erotic romance anthology has a mind—and man—of its own. These exhilarating, heated shorts—some with danger and adrenaline, others with tenderness and emotional chaos—are quick to warm hearts and indulge lustful cravings. High-Octane Heroes is overall a phenomenal anthology about every woman's greatest fantasy: a guy who'll go to the wall for his heroine every single time Americanflag


8 hearts: An engaging read; highly recommended (x)

Saturday, October 26, 2013

5 Heart Review and Giveaway: Waterfell by Amalie Howard

Waterfell (Aquarathi #1)
Amalie Howard

Page Count: 368

Release Date: 1 November 2013
Publisher: Harlequin TEEN (Harlequin)
Source: Complimentary ARC provided by publicist in exchange for an honest and unbiased review as part of the virtual book tour (thank you, JKS Communications!)
Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Enter the dangerous and mysterious world of the Aquarathi, the ocean's best-kept secret...

Nerissa Marin hides among teens in her human form, waiting for the day she can claim her birthright—the undersea kingdom stolen from her the day her father was murdered. Blending in is her best weapon—until her father's betrayer confronts Nerissa and challenges her to a battle to the death on Nerissa's upcoming birthday—the day she comes of age. 

Amid danger and the heartbreak of her missing mother, falling for a human boy is the last thing Nerissa should do. But Lo Seavon breaches her defenses and somehow becomes the only person she can count on to help her desperate search for her mother, a prisoner of Nerissa's mortal enemy. Is Lo the linchpin that might win Nerissa back her crown? Or will this mortal boy become the weakness that destroys her?
The laws of human attraction are new to me.
I'm breathless.
Just before I walk into the classroom, I glance over my shoulder. Lo's eyes are deep and piercing. I feel the weight of them hovering, watching. Holding me motionless as time, too, stands still. I force myself to peel my gaze away from his compelling stare, making my feet obey weak commands to enter the classroom... the one in front of the other, like a drone. Something hot pulses across the back of my neck, racing across my body, and I can't even think.
It's not Ehmora who will be the death of me.
It's this boy.

Sixteen-year-old Nerissa Marin, daughter and next heir of the Aquarathi's High Court, just wants to be normal. She goes to a normal high school, has normal friends, and does normal girly things like shopping and surfing and field hockey, but when her father is murdered for reasons she knows are beyond political, she is forced to face her greatest fear: sacrifice her "normal" life and return to the kingdom of Waterfell to serve as the reluctant queen. However, Ehmora, an evil and spiteful lower-ranking ruler, wants to take over the fallen kingdom, and is even willing to challenge Riss for the throne, which won't only make her transition to ruler even more difficult, but may reveal secrets about Riss's family—and about Riss—that are beyond her wildest beliefs.

Even though Waterfell is about supernatural beings that live underwater, it is a far cry from your typical mermaid romance. In fact, the species here aren't even mermaids; they're Aquarathi, a vividly created variety of alien, who look more like Loch Ness monsters (but can take on human forms) and reside at the bottom of the ocean.

The alternate Aquarathi world Howard constructs is stunning and really elaborate, but that's where my praise for this book ends. As detailed as Nerissa's universe is and as original as the story was, everything is painfully predictable, from the character twists (I guessed Lo's "deep dark secret" the moment we meet him), to the final battle against Ehmora, which isn't only predictable, but also anticlimactic. There are random curveballs thrown into the plot—which I'll refrain from giving away out of respect for spoiler-phobics—and these are unexpected, but none of them are particularly shocking or significant to the story. The organization of the elements of surprise is very poor; although there is a lot of tension regarding Nerissa's safety and royal obligations, there is no "Oh my god" moment. Waterfell just plateaus at a certain point, and afterwards it's all just very "meh."

Even more unfortunately, I really, really disliked Nerissa. She does have her tender, vulnerable moments (in which I momentarily pity her, at best), but there is nothing about her that is friendly or even pleasant. She's quite bitchy, as a matter of fact; I tolerated her as a character, but as a narrator, found her excruciating. Her priorities blur when she meets a charming, troubled boy with mysterious, jolting blue eyes... Lo Seavon, a mere human boy—and yet unlike any human she's met before. As she becomes more and more entangled in the mess that is teenage love, her faith in humanity proves to be her biggest strength and possibly even her most catastrophic downfall... which is just what Ehmora may be anticipating from her.

Lo, the love interest, isn't much of an improvement in terms of irritating characters. There's a lot of focus on the color of his eyes and the angle of his smile, but he's so unmemorable and insubstantial, that the entire "romantic" aspect of this book just completely falls apart. There is no spark between him and Riss, no love (none I could feel, anyway). This establishes very flimsy grounds for a YA romance, and I was highly disappointed with it.

Another thing that made Waterfell difficult to get through was Howard's penchant for telling, rather than showing. She has a solid style and tells a linear story studded with danger, betrayals, and plenty of secrets, but her superfluous descriptions are exasperating—eventually, an undemonstrative style gets dull. I swear I'm not being nit-picky, here; there are literally lines and lines that go on like this: "Lo is so arrogant but at the same time sweet, smart, and caring ... He's handsome but troubled." Why would anyone EVER try to summarize such crucial characterization into single sentences like that?! Okay, rant over.

Pros


Creative notion of Aquarathi and underwater kingdom // Steep tension (which admittedly leads to a disappointing peak) // Easy to follow; fantasy world well explained // Strong narrative voice // Messages about humanity, friendship, and duty

Cons


Hate Nerissa as a person/alien // Romance is a dud; I neither liked Lo, nor did I feel any chemistry // Every. single. character. is annoying and so two-dimensional that it's unrealistic // Terribly anticlimactic // Lots of telling over showing; makes for lots of boring details

Love

I stare blindly at the ocean, considering all the reasons that I don't like [Lo]. I hate the way he looks at me as if he knows me, when he knows nothing about me at all. I hate the way he talks, the way he looks, and the fact that everyone—including my own best friends—seems to adore him. I hate the way he smiles so easily at anything Jenna or Cara say, when all he can do is snap mocking comments at me. I hate the way he makes me feel with one glance as if all the water in my body is electrified and I can't breathe. I hate how he surfs, and how his lips curve into a lopsided smile when he's happy. I hate everything about him, especially his stupid lips.

Ignoring the tiny shiver coursing through me at the thought of Lo's lips, I sigh and swallow past the knot in my throat, watching him laugh easily at something Jenna says. Suddenly, I realize that I'm envious because, deep down, I want him to be that way with me.

Effortless.

And then the truth hits me like a curling wave.

I don't hate him at all.

Verdict


Waterfell shows some promise with its highly imaginative underwater universe, but I couldn't really get into it because of its static, predictable plot combined with even more static, even more predictable characters (Nerissa MARin? Lo SEAvon? That isn't just a coincidence, and it's ridiculous how the naming just go casually unnoticed). Amalie Howard's first in the Aquarathi series isn't miserable; I do think it was worth reading, if only just for the straightforward story, as well as for Nerissa's fascinating transition into the royalty kingdom. If you're looking for a really good toe-curling fantasy young adult romance, however, this would not be the first book I'd recommend you reach for; while it does illuminate upon the humanity of love and how it can both weaken and empower, I found it mediocre at best, and weak in multiple vital areas Americanflag

5 hearts: Doesn't particularly light any of my fires; I feel indifferent about this book (x)

Giveaway!

I know I wasn't completely smitten with this one, but all books settle differently with different readers, so you may want to give it a try! One Books à la Mode reader will get the chance to read Waterfell, themselves—we have one finished PRINT copy to give away today! Leave a comment on my review for the chance to win. Be sure to leave your email address so I know who to contact when I draw a winner! Only meaningful comments will go into the contest, which means irrelevant comments consisting of only "Thanks for the giveaway" will not count as an entry!!!

Don't forget the entry eligibility terms and conditions!
Sponsored wholly by the publicist—a huge thank you to JKS Communications!
Giveaway ends November 9th at 11.59 PM (your time).
Open to US readers only. Sorry, everyone else! Check out my sidebar where you'll find a list of giveaways that currently are running internationally—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, October 24, 2013

Author: Alison Tyler Interview and Giveaway!

I'd like to welcome Alison Tyler to the blog today to celebrate the publication of her gorgeous semi-autobiographical novel, Dark Secret Love from Cleis Press. Be sure to stick around until the end to get the chance to win a print copy!

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

Will you please share a brief bio with us?


Called "a trollop with a laptop" by East Bay Express, "a literary siren" by Good Vibrations, and "the mistress of literary erotica" by Violet Blue, Alison Tyler is naughty and she knows it.

Over the past two decades, Ms. Tyler has written more than twenty-five explicit novels, including Tiffany Twisted, Melt with You, and The ESP Affair. Her novels and short stories have been translated into Japanese, Dutch, German, Italian, Norwegian, Spanish, and Greek. When not writing sultry short stories, she edits erotic anthologies, including Alison's Wonderland, Kiss My Ass, Skirting the Issue, and Torn. She is also the author of several novellas including Cuffing Kate, Giving In, and A Taste of Chi.

Ms. Tyler is loyal to coffee (black), lipstick (red), and tequila (straight). She has tattoos, but no piercings; a wicked tongue, but a quick smile; and bittersweet memories, but no regrets. She believes it won't rain if she doesn't bring an umbrella, prefers hot and dry to cold and wet, and loves to spout her favorite motto: You can sleep when you're dead. She chooses Led Zeppelin over the Beatles, the Cure over Nine Inch Nails, and the Stones over everyone. Yet although she appreciates good rock, she has a pitiful weakness for '80s hair bands.

In all things important, she remains faithful to her partner of seventeen years, but she still can't choose just one perfume.

You are one of my FAVORITE Cleis Press editors, Alison—I kid you not (check out my Alison Tyler reviews, the majority of which garnered 8 or 9 hearts!!!)—so it's really an honor to get to feature you today. Readers, here's a little bit about Dark Secret Love to get you hot and bothered...

keep your safe word handy

Trust me.
That's all he'd asked for.
Trust me.
And I did.

Dark Secret Love is a modern-day Story of O, a 9 1/2 Weeks-style journey fueled by lust, longing, and the search for true love.

Inspired by her own BDSM exploits and based on her private diaries, Alison Tyler draws on twenty-five years of penning sultry stories to create a scorchingly hot work of fiction, a memoir-inspired novel with reality at its core.

A luscious and literary experience of authenticity,
Dark Secret Love is a romance for readers who desire sweetness edged with danger and a kinky fairy tale with a happily-ever-after ending.

Take a deep breath and prepare to submit. Alison Tyler will push your boundaries to the limits—and have you begging for more
Describe Dark Secret Love in six words.

A kinkily-ever-after love story.


As we all know, you're a Cleis Press editor for dozens of erotic anthologies. What’s something that draws you to anthology projects in particular?


For me, curating an anthology is like putting together an art show—but with words instead of pictures. I was an art history major at school, and I love seeing how different authors approach the same theme. I receive unbelievable pleasure jig-sawing the books together: This story here, this one there. Until all the pieces agree.


Are there any other genres you’d like to try your hand at, or any you want to stay away from?

I’ve written two mysteries (Dial “L” for Loveless and Strictly Confidential), and I wouldn’t mind trying another one. I’m not a paranormal writer, but in the early '90s I spent nearly an entire year writing about a girl who could turn into a lizard. (She was based on a cold-blooded woman I knew.) I have that book in the upstairs closet. It’s called The Lizard Queen, and I hope to be able to finish the thing someday. I’ve got over 100 drafts.

That's something I'd like to see! LOL! What was your inspiration for Dark Secret Love?

This is the book—or really, the series—that I have always wanted to write. I read the Beauty books several lifetimes ago, and I hoped to be able to create something... well, not like them, but of that level. Obviously, I don’t do descriptions with Anne Rice’s savoir faire—I have my own (sparse) style. But I wanted to create a series with characters you care about, with situations that ring true. A real-life fairytale with a heart of pure kink.

And it sounds phenomenal, it really does.

Click "Read more" to find out the top five books that influenced Alison the most, the most disastrous date she's ever been on (YOU KNOW YOU WANT TO HEAR THIS), and her advice for aspiring writers. We're also hosting a giveaway for a copy of the book, so you don't want to miss that either!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Inspiration for My Books from My Personal Life by Bill Gourgey and Giveaway!

Now on tour with the fabulous JKS Communications...
Nu Logic: Rise of the Neos (Glide #1)
Bill Gourgey

Page Count: 530
Release Date: October 15th, 2013
Publisher: Jacked Arts Press (self-published)
Genre: Sci-fi, Alternate universe, 2nd in a series

Accomplished virologist, Dr. Janot (whose specialty is crossover pathogens), threatens the promising Glide era with his wildly popular augmented reality gaming world: Neology. Only the genius inventor, Captain Magigate, can stop him, but Magigate is lost in the past with his erstwhile lover and foe, the Prophet.

Teenage artist Maddy’s cryptic paintings hold the key to reaching the Captain, but will she discover their secret in time to stop Dr. Janot, whose Connected Reality vision threatens to transform the human experience forever?

Nu Logic is the sequel to Glide—the second book in the Glide trilogy—which is set alternately in a future world shaped by the miraculous inventions of Dr. Magigate, and the preceding dystopian era dominated by the Prophet and her Academy.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Fall Collections from VintageBuying and Apparel Giveaway!

I promised I'd be back with more fall-themed fashion posts, so here I am today! We have ANOTHER great giveaway lined up exclusively for Books à la Mode readers, so be sure to tune in and enter away!

VintageBuying.com is a leading online clothing retailer that understands the passion consumers have by providing a wide range of high quality, vintage clothing at factory-direct prices along with dedicated professional service to fashion lovers all over the world.

With thousands of affordable products lines, VintageBuying shares its passion for vintage with their total commitment to procuring the very best in showcase vintage fashion clothing and accessories at the most competitive prices.

In celebration of fall fashion, I've teamed up with VintageBuying to arrange a lovely giveaway just for my lovely readers!

Here's what you could win:
The lucky winner gets to choose ANYTHING from above! How much do you want to win??

Some of the items are VintageBuying's bestsellers, while others I hand-picked because I know they're exactly what my (super fashionable) readers would adore. Check them out!
  • Spaghetti Strap Floral Print Dress: While these types of dresses are typically reserved for spring and summer (shame!) this dress is PERFECT for layering so you can extend its wear into the fall. The print is neutral so it doesn't have to be a solely warm-weather outfit base. Pair it with a cardigan and boots or a lacy shawl and leggings for a gorgeous look! Or, for an edgier vibe, wear it with our next item...
  • Scoop Neck Chain-Embellished Jean Coat: Ahhh! This is THE jacket for the fall. You could wear it with virtually anything and still look sleek and polished. Try it on with a summer dress like the floral print one above, or rock it with black jeans (not denim or blue, though!).
  • Scoop Neck Ruffled-Hem Chiffon Dress Shirt: Cute and classy! This would be the ideal blouse for an interview, Thanksgiving dinner, or any sort of initiation event—you know how common those are around this time of year!
  • Bohemian Retro-Style Fringe-Embellished Knitted Scarf: Scarves are my weakness—I couldn't stay away from this one! This thick knitted scarf not only will keep you warm for chillier autumn days, but it'll also be the object of everyone's envy ;) I love how it's both colorful but still tasteful; scarves that are too vibrantly colored can get a little overwhelming!
  • Women's Flats with Rivets: Flats are an "in-item" every fall, so how could you resist these? The rivets add a touch of unique without being too conspicuous. You'll definitely be walking pretty with these, but you still won't find someone else with them on their feet either. Flats look gorgeous with skinny jeans and with shorter skirts or dresses, so experiment with color-block shoes by trying them on with everything. These rivet-studded beauties come in both dark green and jacinth so you get to further decide what would best fit your style.
Ready to pick your new style saver this fall? There are multiple ways you can gain entries towards the drawing. None of them are mandatory, but the more you do, the more entires you get, which means the higher chances you have of winning!
  1. Like VintageBuying on Facebook
  2. Subscribe to VintageBuying on YouTube
  3. Follow Books à la Mode on Twitter
  4. Follow Books à la Mode on Bloglovin'
  5. Leave a meaningful comment on this post. It can be about what you love about vintage clothes, your favorite vintage clothing staple, your favorite product at VintageBuying, or just in general, what fashion trends you're enjoying this season. Stock comments like "Thanks for the giveaway" or single-worded answers will NOT be eligible for these extra points, so make your words count!
  6. Tweet about the giveaway (you can do this daily for even more entries)
Be sure to use this Rafflecopter form to keep track of all your entries:
Don't forget the entry eligibility terms and conditions!
Sponsored wholly by the retailer—a huge thank you to VintageBuying!
Giveaway ends November 17th at 11.59 PM (your time).

Open internationally—woohoo! That means anyone in the world can enter to win.
Void where prohibited.
In the event that the winner would prefer another shoe/apparel item from VintageBuying.com instead of boots, a substitution may be made. Maximum retail value: 30 USD.
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 ❤ Plus you get extra entries ;)
Good luck!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Sun Hates Me

So this actually happened to me today:
Is that not the saddest little thing you've seen all week?

My solution?
#sorrynotsorry #fuckinapple #yestheyactuallyMELTED

Leave your curtains drawn closed and your laptops shut, people.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Spooktacular Giveaway Hop 2013!

The Spooktacular Giveaway Hop, hosted by 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 Spooktacular Giveaway Hop is scheduled from October 15th at 12.01 AM until October 31st at 11:59 PM (EST).


The Prizes


One lucky follower will win a $15 Amazon gift card to spend on any book they'd like!


What would you pick?

Since the more winners, the merrier, I'm also giving away a print ARC from my stash—again, winner's choice! Here's what I have available:
Click on the covers to learn more about each book and read my reviews!

And yes, we'll have ANOTHER winner for a set of eBooks! Here are some of the books you could win!

That's three winners total! Woohoo!!!!

Monday, October 14, 2013

8 Heart Review: The Bride Wore Size 12 by Meg Cabot

The Bride Wore Size 12 (Heather Wells Mysteries #5)
Meg Cabot

Page Count: 400

Release Date: September 24th 2013
Publisher: William Morrow (Harper Collins)
Source: Complimentary copy provided by publisher via tour publicist in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you, Harper Collins and TLC!)
Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Heather Wells is used to having her cake and eating it too, but this time her cake just might be cooked. Her wedding cake, that is.

With her upcoming nuptials to PI Cooper Cartwright only weeks away, Heather's already stressed. And when a pretty junior turns up dead, Heather's sure things can't get worse—until every student in the dorm where she works is a possible suspect, and Heather's long-lost mother shows up.

Heather has no time for a tearful mother and bride reunion. She has a wedding to pull off and a murder to solve. Instead of wedding bells, she might be hearing wedding bullets, but she's determined to bring the bad guys to justice if it's the last thing she does... and this time, it just might be.
I grew up on Meg Cabot's books. The Princess Diaries, All-American Girl, Avalon High, The Mediator... these are the novels that shaped my love for the young adult genre, which was why I jumped on the chance to review the newest book in her most popular adult fiction series. The Heather Wells Mysteries have been around for quite a while, but in this most recent installment, the quirky, lovable heroine is back, and she's getting married—but that doesn't mean things will be calming down for her. In fact, it's just the opposite; when a student in her residence hall turns up dead even before classes start at New York College, she'll have to use her resources—and her wits—to get to the bottom of the fishy business going on in Fischer Hall—and save her wedding.

The Bride Wore Size 12 is true to Cabot's hilarious, pitch-perfect style. Impossible to put down and funny to the core, it's fabulously misleading and unpredictable until that one moment when the truth will click and everything rushes together. While it will have you at the edge of your seat and your heart pounding erratically throughout, I consider it a triumphant flourish of a feel-good novel—because just reading it will definitely make you a happier person.

Heather is a delightful narrator—both likable and genuine! I love how she's hard-working, clumsy (there's a little bit of each of us in her personality!), but still super sharp. What I admire so much is how, even though she never strays far from her beliefs and herself, she still has vulnerabilities and tenderness that make her so human. Empowered by the people who love and care for her at her side—as well as the thought of finally marrying the man of her dreams—she is able to plow through any problem that's headed her way, including the unfortunate incident among the students and an unpleasant reminder of her past.

I was also extremely impressed by how true-to-life the university backdrop of the novel was, as Cabot's fictional settings tend to be. It's SO realistic, and I can vouch for this with certainty because there are exact parallels with my own college; Meg Cabot definitely outdid herself with creating a "typical" college campus. I did feel like some of the mystery scenarios aren't as realistic, such as how easily Heather is able to get information from security and the police, but those are little logistics. For a mystery novel with less gravity than most, however, that wasn't too big an issue.

Although this book is the 5th in the series, it makes a phenomenal standalone novel. I had no problem following, even without having read the previous books. However, now my curiosity is piqued to actually try them—that's how much I loved this one!

Pros


Heather is such a likable heroine // Cooper is dreamy // College is realistically described // Breezily hysterical // Very effortless readability // Every single character is vivid and so well portrayed, even the villains and minor characters! // Cute contemporary tone // Murder mystery is actually well plotted and suspenseful

Cons


Not as much romance as I would have liked, but I'm guessing the previous novels have more of Heather and Cooper! // Slightly unrealistic depiction of a murder case

Love

"How about y'all take a seat now, and let's get right to business," Muffy says ... we all do as she suggested and take a seat, with the exception of Special Agent Lancaster, who declares he'd prefer to stand. I suppose if he sat down, the stick up his butt would lodge so deeply into his brain that he would instantly expire, and then we'd have another corpse on our hands, so it's just as well.

Verdict


The latest pickle Heather Wells gets herself into perfectly demonstrates the magic of Meg Cabot; the story the acclaimed author creates is addicting, suspenseful but still light-hearted, and one of those books you just hate to put down. The snarky yet compassionate, tongue-in-cheek yet sincere, and entertaining yet straightforward tone dictates a college-set murder investigation in this contemporary cozy mystery. If you're looking for a new adult novel with substance and style—as well as a good laugh—don't miss out on The Bride Wore Size 12 and the entire series Americanflag

8 hearts: An engaging read; highly recommended (x)