Thursday, February 27, 2014

Leap Into Books Giveaway Hop 2014!

The Leap Into Books Giveaway Hop, hosted by I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and Jinky Is Reading, 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 Leap Into Books Giveaway Hop is scheduled from February 28th at 12.01 AM until March 7th at 11:59 PM (EST).


The Prizes


I have two different giveaways going on for this hop.


One lucky follower will get the chance to win a $15 Amazon gift card to purchase any book of their choice! Woohoo! This giveaway is open to anyone in the world, but you have to be able to redeem Amazon US gift cards.

Two more international readers will win their choice of one of the following romance titles in electronic format:

A great YA/NA selection of books from some of my favorite authors! This giveaway is also open to anyone in the world.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A Matchless Romance by Christi Barth: Exclusive Sneak Peek and Giveaway!

A Matchless Romance (Aisle Bound #4)
Christi Barth
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Tabitha Bell is the face of Chicago's premiere matchmaking service. At least, she hopes it will be someday, once business really takes off. What she needs is more clients, so when she meets a sexy gamer in need of help, it's the perfect opportunity.

His discomfort talking to women almost cost Drew Watson his job. He'd be happy holed up in his office, designing blockbuster video games, but his boss considers talking to investors a nonnegotiable requirement. Who better than a matchmaker to teach him how to be comfortable around the opposite sex? Trouble is, Drew wants to get more than comfortable with Tabitha, while she's determined to keep their relationship all business.

Soon Tabitha learns that beneath the geek-chic hoodie lies six feet of sexy physique—and the more time she spends with Drew, the more she appreciates his brainy brand of charm. Will she succumb to his sweet-but-nerdy charm offensive or will it be game over before he can win her heart?

Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Top Five Romance Authors Who Influenced My Writing by Cynthia Woolf and Giveaway!

Redeemed by a Rebel (Destiny in Deadwood #1)
by Cynthia Woolf
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Page Count: 284
Release Date: February 7th 2014
Publisher: self-published
Genres: Romance, Western, Historical

Jake Anderson killed a man defending his fiancée from a brutal attack, but lost her and his freedom in the process. Now he's on the run, hunted by one of her murderers and tormented by the need for vengeance.

Becky Finnegan will do anything to escape her drunken father's fists, including slave away at their mine. Her only hope is to strike gold and make a new life for herself somewhere far, far away from Deadwood. But then Jake arrives and does the unthinkable: forces her to feel, to hope... and to love.

Jake would give his life to protect Becky, but all he can offer her is a broken heart, a criminal's life, and a past haunted by failure. How can he save her when he's already lost himself? When the devil catches up to him, will he destroy everything, or can the beautiful rebel redeem Jake's lost soul?
Buy the book from: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

Romance Authors Who Influenced My Writing


  1. Johanna Lindsey, especially her westerns, Savage ThunderAngel, and, of course, the entire Mallory series
  2. Julie Garwood, especially her historicals Lyon’s Lady, Honor’s Splendor, and Gentle Warrior
  3. Amanda Quick, before she got into the paranormal stuff. Specifically her early historicals Mistress, Seduction, Scandal, and Ravished
  4. Catherine Coulter, who wrote the Song trilogy, the Night Fire trilogy, the Bride series, and the Magic series
  5. Victoria Holt, expecially On the Night of the Seventh Moon, Pride of the Peacock, and The Lord of Far Island

About the Author


Cynthia Woolf was born in Denver, Colorado and raised in the mountains west of Golden. She spent her early years running wild around the mountain side with her friends.

Cynthia was and is an avid reader. Her mother was a librarian and brought new books home each week. This is where young Cynthia first got the storytelling bug. She wrote her first story at the age of ten. A romance about a little boy she liked at the time.

She worked her way through college and went to work full time straight after graduation and there was little time to write. Then in 1990 she and two friends started a round robin writing a story about pirates. She found that she missed the writing and kept on with other stories. In 1992 she joined Colorado Romance Writers and Romance Writers of America. Unfortunately, the loss of her job demanded she not renew her memberships and her writing stagnated for many years.

In 2001, she saw an ad in the paper for a writers conference being put on by CRW and decided she'd attend. One of her favorite authors, Catherine Coulter, was the keynote speaker. Cynthia was lucky enough to have a seat at Ms. Coulter's table at the luncheon and after talking with her, decided she needed to get back to her writing. She rejoined both CRW and RWA that day and hasn't looked back.

Cynthia credits her wonderfully supportive husband Jim and the great friends she's made at CRW for saving her sanity and allowing her to explore her creativity.


Giveaway!

The tour is raffling off a $100 Amazon gift card—yay!! To enter, all you have to do is fill out the Rafflecopter form below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Don't forget the entry eligibility terms and conditions!
Sponsored wholly by the tour publicist and author—a huge thank you to Black Lion VBT and Cynthia Woolf!
Giveaway ends February 28th at 11.59 PM (your time).
Open internationally (provided you can accept Amazon US gift cards). That means anyone in the world can enter—woohoo!!
Void where prohibited.
Please bear in mind this is NOT a giveaway Books à la Mode is hosting; I am merely a participant in the tour and have included the shared Rafflecopter code in my tour stop. If you have any questions about the giveaway, you need to contact one of the sponsors. I have no liability or control over the winners and prizes.
As a reminder, you do not have to follow my blog to enter, though it is always very much appreciated ❤
Good luck!

Friday, February 21, 2014

8 Heart Review: Friend Me by John Faubion and Kindle Fire HDX Giveaway!

Friend Me
John Faubion
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Page Count: 335

Release Date: February 4th 2014
Publisher: Howard Books (Simon and Schuster)
Source: Complimentary copy provided by tour publicist in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you, Litfuse!)
Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

"You're afraid of becoming unfaithful, aren't you?"

Scott and Rachel’s marriage is on the brink of disaster. Scott, a businessman with a high-pressure job, just wants Rachel to understand him and accept his flaws. Rachel is a lonely housewife, desperate for attention and friendship. So she decides to create a virtual friend online, unaware that Scott is doing the exact same thing. As Rachel desperately tries to re-create a friendship with a friend who has passed, Scott becomes unfaithful and is torn between the love for his wife and the perfection of his cyber-girlfriend. But neither realizes that there’s a much larger problem looming...

Behind both of their online creations is Melissa, a woman who is brilliant—and totally insane. Masquerading as both friend and lover, Melissa programmed a search parameter into the virtual friend software to find her perfect man, but along the way she forgot to specify his marriage status. And Scott is her ideal match. Now Melissa is determined to have it all—Scott, his family, and Rachel’s life.

As Melissa grows bolder and her online manipulations transition into the real world, Scott and Rachel figure out they are being played. Now it’s a race against time as Scott and Rachel fight to save their marriage, and their lives, before it’s too late.

In today’s digital age, the internet presents all kinds of opportunities to test our personal boundaries, and this exciting and suspenseful story raises important questions about the ethics of virtual relationships. Friend Me will open your eyes to a new—and terrifying—moral dimensions and how they play out in the real world.

It was like a slap in the face when the full awareness struck her.
[Melissa] tried to kill me so she could replace me.
She wanted to steal her place as Scott's wife.
Rachel shrank within herself as the next explosive realization impacted on the fragile, shivering wall of what was left of her heart.
Replace me as my children's mother.

The deadly situation Rachel and Scott find themselves in is a domestic nightmare: an utterly creepy, technology-fueled nightmare. Both lonely and both exhausted—in different ways entirely—each turns to VirtualFriendMe, a website where one can personalize their own virtual friend—who can speak, chat, email, and even grow like a real human being. While VirtualFriendMe may be sweeping the nation, neither of them are aware of the fact that their conversations with their "friends" are being overridden by the company's developer, Melissa, who's set on loving Scott, the only man who's qualified in every area of her complicated algorithm—and yes, that means eliminating Rachel in the process.

Following Melissa as she slowly but surely develops and hatches her horrific plan is interesting; the dramatic irony is crucial in understanding her as more than an evil genius: as a person. To Rachel and Scott, Melissa is a monster, and while I wouldn't disagree, readers are acquainted with her in such an intimate, exposing way, that you can't help but sympathize with her. This, as you can imagine, is a conflicting emotion, and it's completely intentional on Faubion's part; it raises the questions of what it means to be faithful, what it means to be evil, and what it means to be human.

Faubion's voice is smooth and easy to follow, and the plot is cutting, deep and dark. The chapters are short, but each pack a huge punch; it was so hard for me to put this book down because I was so eager to find out what would happen next... and the what would happen after that, and that and that...

It's worth mentioning Friend Me is a Christian suspense, meaning a lot of the story's main issues—primarily Scott's struggle to resist temptation and remain faithful to Rachel—reference straying away from the path of God, and contain lots of prayer as well. The inherent Christian elements also made it a rather tame dark suspense; there's nothing gory or explicit, as much of the nitty-gritty occurs behind closed doors. I understand Christian fiction isn't for everybody, but take my advice with a grain of salt. Even if these religious traits had bothered me, I'd still have enjoyed the book because of how absorbing and intricate the world of VirtualFriendMe is.

Pros


Titillating suspense // Lots of danger and action // Fast-paced // Christian elements well incorporated into the entire length of the novel // Exciting, original sci-fi; Faubion creates an entertaining and intriguing virtual reality // Melissa is given an elaborate backstory

Cons


Characters don't get very personal; they seemed very unmemorable to me, even though a lot of the book is character-driven // Seems overdramatized

Verdict


Original and imaginative, while simultaneously current, edgy, and fast-paced, Friend Me creates a science fiction world that serves both as social commentary on the risks of being careless on the internet, and the sheer ease at which one can fall into temptation. The intense psychological manipulation and means one deluded woman will go to, just to get her way, will stun and captivate readers. John Faubion skillfully analyzes the difference and fine line between faithfulness and faith; his debut novel sentimentally speaks of the dangers of deviating from the word of God, and of depending too much on technology—which may be fun, but cannot and will not ever replace real life Americanflag

8 hearts: An engaging read that will be worth your while; highly recommended (x)

Giveaway!


Check out the details of this fabulous Kindle Fire HDX giveaway below. This is a tour-wide giveaway so Books à la Mode has no liability over winners, prizes, or shipping/handling. Good luck!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

8 Heart Review: After I'm Gone by Laura Lippman

After I'm Gone
Laura Lippman
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Page Count: 352

Release Date: February 11th 2014
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: ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

When Felix Brewer meets Bernadette “Bambi” Gottschalk at a Valentine’s Dance in 1959, he charms her with wild promises, some of which he actually keeps. Thanks to his lucrative—if not all legal—businesses, she and their three little girls live in luxury. But on the Fourth of July, 1976, Bambi’s comfortable world implodes when Felix, newly convicted and facing prison, mysteriously vanishes.

Though Bambi has no idea where her husband—or his money—might be, she suspects one woman does: his mistress, Julie. When Julie disappears ten years to the day that Felix went on the lam, everyone assumes she’s left to join her old lover—until her remains are eventually found.

Now, twenty-six years after Julie went missing, Roberto “Sandy” Sanchez, a retired Baltimore detective working cold cases for some extra cash, is investigating her murder. What he discovers is a tangled web stretching over three decades that connects five intriguing women. And at the center is the missing man Felix Brewer.

Somewhere between the secrets and lies connecting past and present, Sandy will find the truth. And when he does, no one will ever be the same.

Dead is dead. Missing is gone.

Inspired by the Salsbury fraud scandal of the 1970s, After I'm Gone explores how the enigmatic Felix Brewer's sudden disappearance echoes through lives of his wife, daughters, and mistress—the five women he loved and left behind. Both a legal thriller and dazzling sashay through a span of decades, Lippman's newest novel is elaborate, emotionally charged, and deeply probing.

In present-day Baltimore, as retired cop Sandy Sanchez reviews a cold case involving the murder of Julie Saxony—Felix's woman on the side—he notices there are discrepancies from every angle, from every testimony, and he can't help but grow intrigued by the seductive, unsolved story of Felix Brewer, his family, and how it could all be connected to a dead Julie Saxony. The novel slips in and out of each eventful decade, from the fateful Valentine's Day of 1959 when Felix and young, fresh-faced Bambi first met, to Felix's unannounced departure and the aftermath thereof, and finally, to Sandy's determined investigation. The toll Felix's desertion takes on Bambi—both financially and emotionally—as well as the way each of his well-fleshed daughters are affected, will raise great sympathy within readers, but will inevitably keep them on edge, itching to find out: how did Felix manage to leave without a trace, and why did he go without seeing to the well-being of his beloved family?

After I'm Gone is such a well crafted, well explicated mystery novel. It combines an elaborate, arduous tangle of lies, secrets, and even sacrifice, with a sharp, fast-paced procession of revelations. These continuous shifts, shocking discoveries, and impending truths never stop surprising you until the very end, which I think is a fabulous ploy. It's one of those books where you think you have everything figured out until—bam!—something happens halfway through and changes the entire plot, and then, at the last few chapters, the same thing happens again—and again, and again—bam! bam! bam! The intimate, perplexing glimpses into the lives of the Brewer women through the years of a husbandless and fatherless development really bring the story to life. The way Felix's betrayal affects his daughters' marriages, senses of dignity, and identities transforms this high-stake detective novel into one with human disparities—faults of the flesh—and that's what made it so powerful for me.

There's a purposefully vague, but consistently dark and pressing tone to the novel that's both eventful and stylistically entertaining. Readers remain in the dark about Felix's character, which makes him even more puzzling; but then again, it doesn't really matter because it's his reverberations that make up this book, not the man himself. This is the first Laura Lippman mystery I've read, but based off her commanding voice and complicated, wrenching storylines, she's an author I'm now more than eager to try again.

Pros


Rich in historical detail and legalese // Addictive // Reminiscent of the extravagance and flair of the '50s and '60s // Contrived, complicated, original plot // Bambi and daughters are so well portrayed, so lifelike // Mystery seems impossible to solve, and remains unpredictable even until the very end // Weaves complex emotions about family and love within the crime // Will surprise you multiple times—not your average linear whodunnit // Thrilling, engaging

Cons


Sandy isn't likable // Too detailed and slow-moving at times // Timeline gets confusing to keep up with

Love

It wasn't pitiable to love someone who didn't love you, or to love someone who didn't love you in the same way you chose, or to love someone more than he loved you. One could even argue that it was brave and pure.

Verdict


Sandy Sanchez doesn't know what he's in for when he takes on two details of a cold case that at first glance, other than the painfully obvious and quickly dismissed suspicions, have no plausible relation: the untimely appearance of Felix Brewer's mistress's dead body, and the means of survival the man's family turned to in his wake. Equal parts murder mystery and narrative family drama, After I'm Gone contains surprisingly touching wisdom about the tragedy of idealism and how nobody, no matter how beautiful their face or honest their soul, ever really gets what they want. Full of unstable alibis, tenderly guarded secrets, and the buildup of multiple unexpected but long-dreaded twists, Laura Lippman's latest crime novel provides soul-searing, electrifying insight on not only greed, selfishness, and cowardice, but also on identity, the gray areas between marriage and unfaithfulness, and the meaning of fatherly love Americanflag

8 hearts: An engaging read that will be worth your while; highly recommended (x)

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Top 10 Reasons to Read Erotica with Your Partner by Kristina Wright and Giveaway!

Best Erotic Romance 2014
edited by Kristina Wright
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The Heat and the Sweet 

Desire, love and realism are the heartbeat of Kristina Wright’s Best Erotic Romance 2014. From first crushes to new lovers, to married couples who have withstood the tests of time and parenting, these are luscious, heartfelt tales layered with eroticism and emotion.

A happily married woman dresses to thrill and discovers how fun it is to break the “Rules” in Emerald’s sizzling story. A devoted couple finds time for lovemaking while juggling the busy whirl of childcare in “The Shortest Day,” by Nikki Magennis. Walking the dog leads to sparks and a red-hot flame in Lucy Felthouse’s “Going It Alone.”

This decidedly blissful and deeply romantic anthology is filled with couples in every stage of love and lust who simply can’t get enough of each other.

Reasons to Read Erotica with Your Partner

  1. Everything is better when you do it together.
    The couple that plays together, stays together. Reading out loud to each other can be a very intense form of intimacy.
  2. It gives you an opportunity to introduce a new fantasy you've been too shy to bring up.
    We all have one. Something we'd like to try—but are afraid to mention, for whatever reason. Erotica is a great way to bring up a favorite fantasy without embarrassment. If someone wrote about it, it must be a good idea!
  3. You might discover something new to try.
    My anthology xoxo: Sweet and Sexy Romance has 38 stories. You're bound to find a new technique, position or location to try together. Erotica is like a travel book of pleasure. "Let's go here!"
  4. Reading a sexy story out loud is like foreplay.
    Talking dirty is sexy. Reading dirty is even sexier. You get to take on the persona of other characters and explore a whole new world of pleasure.
  5. When your friends ask if you're in a book club, you can enthusiastically say yes!
    Reading erotica together is the best kind of book club. You can drink your wine and eat your cheese and crackers—naked!
  6. It's something you can do together even if one of you is traveling. (Or on a road trip!)
    Phone sex is for amateurs. Read a sexy story to your partner instead. Don't like to read in the car? Pop in the audio version of an erotica anthology and let someone else read to you.
  7. You're almost certain to discover a kink you didn't know your partner had.
    Just like you have a fantasy or two you haven't shared, so does your partner. How exciting is it to discover something new about your lover—especially if it's something you'd also like to try?
  8. Reading sparks the imagination.
    Maybe you think you've done it all. Reading a collection of erotica might make you change your mind as you find yourself taking a scenario from a story and applying it to your own sex life.
  9. Pushing boundaries is exciting.
    We all have our limits and deal breakers. Even if it's something you would never, ever do in real life (bondage, a threesome, sex in front of an audience), it can still be fun, and safe, to read about it together.
  10. Reading erotica can lead to writing erotica.
    Reading erotica with your partner might inspire you to write your own personalized lusty stories. What better way to memorialize your very sexy love life together?

About the Author


Described by The Romance Reader as “a budding force to be reckoned with” and as one of the “legendary erotica heavy-hitters” by Violet Blue, Kristina Wright is the author of the ground-breaking cross-genre relationship guide Bedded Bliss: A Couple’s Guide to Lust Ever After. She is also an award-winning author and the editor of a over dozen Cleis Press anthologies, including Fairy Tale Lust, Dream Lover, Lustfully Ever After, Duty and Desire, the Best Erotic Romance series, and most recently, xoxo: Sweet and Sexy Romance.

Her short fiction has appeared in over one hundred anthologies and her nonfiction has appeared in publications as diverse as USA Today, Good Vibes Magazine, The Sun, and Brain, Child.

She holds degrees in English and humanities from Charleston Southern University and Old Dominion University and has taught English and world mythology at the college level. She lives in Hampton Roads, Virginia with her husband, a lieutenant commander in the Navy, and their two young sons.


Giveaway!


Books à la Mode is giving away a print copy of Best Erotic Romance 2014—yay!! To enter, all you have to do is tell me:
What's the most romantic thing someone has done for you? Or, what's the most romantic thing you've done for someone else? Let's dish!

Don't forget to include your email address in your comment so I know who to contact when I randomly select winner. Don't make me track you down!!!!
Please make your comment MEANINGFUL. Comments solely consisting of stock responses or irrelevant fluff like "Thanks for the giveaway!" will not be considered for entry. Kristina and I really want to hear from you guys! :)


Additionally, I reviewed her erotic romance anthology, xoxo, yesterday, and am giving away copy of that as well. Head on over to my review to enter that giveaway too!

Don't forget the entry eligibility terms and conditions!
Sponsored wholly by the publisher—a huge thank you to Cleis Press!
Giveaway ends March 2nd at 11.59 PM (your time).
Open to US readers only. Sorry, international folks! Please check my sidebar for a list of currently-running giveaways that are open worldwide. There are still plenty you can enter!
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!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

8 Heart Review and Giveaway: xoxo: Sweet and Sexy Romance edited by Kristina Wright

xoxo: Sweet and Sexy Romance
edited by Kristina Wright
BlogFacebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Pinterest

Page Count: 213

Release Date: December 17, 2013
Publisher: Cleis Press
Source: Complimentary copy provided by publisher in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you, Cleis!)
Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

The Ultimate Romance Reader 

Sensual, sweet and a little bit spicy, this collection of amorous stories is a romance treasure, filled with fun surprises and unusual twists. Award-winning editor Kristina Wright explains, “I love a good love story, especially when it’s one wrapped up in a sexy red bow. Erotic love, the kind that makes your heart beat faster and does exciting things a bit farther south, is what xoxo is all about.”

With over thirty top erotic romance writers, including Sommer Marsden, Kathleen Tudor, Rachel Kramer Bussel, Elizabeth Coldwell, Saskia Walker and Cheyenne Blue, these lustfully literary short stories are meant to tease you and please you. xoxo is a veritable candy sampler of delectable delights and inspired ideas to share at home with your sweetie.
I personally appreciated how short the stories in this anthology are. Sometimes, you don't have time to read a long, drawn-out "short story" when that story is actually 20 pages long. With xoxo, it's possible to read any of the stories in one sitting; it only took me about an hour to get through half the book! Concision makes a story all the sexier; the subpar stories don't seem to drag on, while the magnificent ones leave a quick, cutting mark.

Below, I've spotlighted four exceptional stories that stood out to me. It was hard picking just a few to feature, but I hope they give you a sense of what this anthology is like!

"Anniversary Wrappings" by Kathleen Tudor
A couple's one-year anniversary starts out with a sweet gift that ends in kinky pleasure. The simplicity of this story really made me connect with each of the characters, and the writing is fluid, readable. The scenario isn't outlandish and ridiculous like a porn plot (which isn't uncommon in erotic anthologies), and is a situation you could totally find yourself in in everyday life.

"Dirty Laundry" by Martha Davis
This one is on the more extreme end because of how aggressive the sex is, but it's SUPER hot. It features ultimate alpha male Josh Moran, whom, even when domesticated, has the ability to start a five-alarm fire. Comforting story not only about spontaneous sex, but also about cohabitation, about making even daily household chores like laundry mind-blowing, as long it's with the one you love.

"Night Moves" by Christine d'Abo
When plagued by incomprehensible night terrors, the protagonist turns to the solace of her husband's arms. In this dark, lingering hour of frenzy, fright, and complete need, the two find each other with familiarity and ease, with practiced hands and experienced hearts. I loved the middle-of-the-night sex scene, but it's the beauty of how well a married couple can know and understand each other d'Abo portrays, that really blew me away.

"Wild Naked Bandits Flee the Square Conspiracy" by Nikki Magennis
  1. A mediocre costume party—how the night starts off
  2. A wild, skintight leggings-clad bandit—how the night becomes interesting
  3. And a thrilling escapade—how our night ends
Narrated in a wry, engaging voice that I immediately liked, this story is hardly a romance—it's spur-of-the-moment, fantastical, and even a little eccentric, but oddly enough, that's what makes it so sweepingly romantic. You would not expect an erotic story about a hookup at a party to be so vivid, so entertaining, but Nikki Magennis's characters exude sex, subtlety, and charm that culminate in a very whimsical roleplay. By far my favorite story in the anthology; five stars for being all of smart, playful, and incredibly comical—in the bests of ways—while still provocative.

Pros


High-quality writing // Each story is only 4-6 pages on average, so very easy to get through them // Lots of variety // Perfect blend of sweet and sensual stories with hot and heavy stories // Each story has something incredibly romantic about it; this isn't just about sex // Read "Wild Naked Bandits Flee the Square Conspiracy" if nothing else!

Cons


A few stories that I didn't like that much

Verdict


This collection of 38 short and sweet stories will both light your heart up and light it on fire. Like a Valentine's Day candy sampler, each is delectable and unique; put together, xoxo: Sweet and Sexy Romance makes for a passionate, completely satisfying treat. The range of subjects and storylines is vast, featuring the kinky and vanilla, the sensual and scorching, the routine and spontaneous, the heterosexual and lesbian... so much variety! You definitely won't grow bored with Kristina Wright's latest anthology because there are so many different types of story to keep you entertained, each with special romantic flair that will make you melt Americanflag

8 hearts: An engaging read that will be worth your while; highly recommended (x)

Giveaway!


Books à la Mode is giving away one print copy of xoxo so you get the chance to read this fabulous anthology yourself—yay!! To enter, all you have to do is tell me:
What did you do for Valentine's Day? If you didn't do anything special this year, what's the best Valentine's Day you've ever had?

Don't forget to include your email address in your comment so I know who to contact when I randomly select winner. Don't make me track you down!!!!
Please make your comment MEANINGFUL. Comments solely consisting of stock responses or irrelevant fluff like "Thanks for the giveaway!" will not be considered for entry. Kristina and I really want to hear from you guys! :)

Don't forget the entry eligibility terms and conditions!
Sponsored wholly by the publisher—a huge thank you to Cleis Press!
Giveaway ends March 1st at 11.59 PM (your time).
Open to US readers only. Sorry, international readers! Please be sure to check my sidebar where all my currently-running giveaways are listed; there are plenty you can enter.
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!

Friday, February 14, 2014

8 Heart Review: Big Girl Panties by Stephanie Evanovich

Big Girl Panties
Stephanie Evanovich
BlogFacebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Follow the Tour!

Page Count: 324

Release Date: January 21st 2014 (Paperback reprint)
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: ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Holly didn’t expect to be a widow at thirty-two. She also didn’t expect to be so big. After her husband’s death, food was the one thing she could always count on. Then she meets Logan Montgomery, a personal trainer so hot that he makes her sweat in all the right (and so embarrassingly wrong!) places. Charmed by her witty wisecracks and sharp insights, he impulsively offers to help get her back in shape.

To Logan’s (and her own) surprise, Holly turns out to be a natural in the gym, slimming down into a bona fide looker with killer curves—and a new kind of hunger. Before either of them can stop it, the easy intimacy of their training sessions leads to even more steamy workouts away from the gym.

But can a man whose whole life depends on looks commit himself to a woman who doesn’t fit his ideal? Now that Holly’s turning other men’s heads, does she even need Logan anymore? Are they a couple built to last... or destined to fizzle?

"You find something about [my relationship with Holly] funny?" [Logan] asked her irritably.
"I do," Natalie replied, catching her breath. "I find it hilarious that she's the most average, run-of-the-mill woman I've ever seen in my life. She has no glamour and certainly no refinement. She humiliated you publicly, and in a pretty major way. Now the only thing you can think of is how to get her..." Natalie started giggling again, right into Logan's red frustrated face, before turning to walk out the door.
"But the best part?" she said with infuriating glee. "She's making you sweat it".

The only thing that could make Logan Montgomery's flight back home worse than being forced to sit in coach, is being forced to sit in coach next to the fat girl. But luck will have its way, as will fate, and he ends up sitting by unpleasantly overweight widower Holly Brennan all the way to Englewood, New Jersey... and there's just something about her that he can't put a finger on, that makes him want to keep in touch. He offers private training sessions to help her get back on track with her weight, which has significantly escalated since her husband's death last year. No matter that he has a celebrity waitlist and is very selective with new clients—he's going to change this girl's life. What he doesn't expect is for her to change his.

As Logan begins to see the true resilience, strength, and maturity in Holly—as well as the delightful humor and instant likability, he begins to question the matter of beauty versus substance, something he's never had to worry about before, being fit, gorgeous, and famous as he is. Watching his relationship with Holly bloom was interesting because the two are such an unlikely pair. It is very rare to spot a fat woman holding hands with an athletic man in public, let alone in contemporary romance, but that's just the thing: you never see couples like that because society judges compatibility based off body type, based off appearance. Big Girl Panties shreds these expectations and overcomes the typical romance equation by so naturally and fluidly pairing Holly and Logan together. Readers will root for the couple—as unaccustomed to the sort as they are bound to be—and both Holly's sparkling wit and Logan's sexy, collected demeanor will make them instant fan favorites.

Logan seems like the perfect guy personality-wise; even though he's known to be careless with women, I couldn't help but sympathize with him because, he's so humane, so decent. He isn't only every girl's strong, level-headed, handsome dreamboat, but also has a sincere, heartfelt persona to completely seal the deal. Holly isn't used to attention from guys who look like him, nor from guys who have as much experience, generosity, and will as he does, but she soon discovers that her slow-burning feelings for him come at a steep price: his extreme emotional unavailability and noncommittal affections.

I think their relationship met a decline around the middle and by end of the book. It starts off really excitingly and humorously, but both characters become super angsty; there's lots of crying, lots of late-night worrying, lots of "does he like me???" and "DOES SHE LIKE ME" that I got sick of. Beyond the infuriating self-inflicted tragedy of their "forbidden" relationship, though, other doubts begin to seep in, too. Logan's obviously falling for Holly, but she can't help but wonder if he really like her for who she is, or if he's just prone to want to call her and show her off as his protégée, his one-time ugly duckling.

Big Girl Panties held my full attention all the way to the last page because it's so engaging; Evanovich creates a funny, FUN character that you'd want to become best friends with. I was a bit conflicted over the book's overall message, however; while I think it's very important for all body types to be represented in commercial fiction—because not looking like a runway model doesn't make a woman any less beautiful—the way Evanovich pretty much dismisses skinny girls was a turn-off. The only likable female characters in the book, including Holly, are described as "full-figured," which itself isn't a bad thing, but being about self-image that Big Girl Panties is, I was disappointed to see so much skinny-shaming. It contradicts the compelling insights on superficiality and celebrity that are also presented.

I absolutely loved how the romance developed, though. Logan is kind-meaning and warm, but detached and an absolute fool when things start to get serious. And the moment Holly Brennan squeezes into that economy-class seat next to him on the plane, it's clear things will begin to get real serious real soon.

Pros


Witty and charming // Effortless tone // Holly is an original, genuine character // LOGAN!!!!! // I like the idea of the untraditional romance // Chase and Amanda's backstory is intriguing // Hilarious moments // Extremely hot sex

Cons


The central romance is about a "big girl" getting together with a gorgeous fitness instructor, but it only happens as she slims down...?? The message is just unclear to me // Some of the dialogue is unrealistic // Lots of unnecessary dread and lingering, not that much action

Love

"...I've been training you for nearly four months, and in that time I've learned nothing about you. Zero. Zilch. Nada."

"That's not true, I talk all the time," Holly said quickly. "You're always telling me to focus." It was a feeble attempt at diverting attention from the topic.

Logan shot her a look that spoke of extreme tolerance mixed with fatherly reproach. "Telling me I set the incline of a treadmill on Mount Kilimanjaro is not talking. Asking me if I can see the baby's head yet when you're doing abdominal crunches is not meaningful conversation."

Verdict


Combining the introspective meanderings of women's fiction with the hilarious, sassy spunk of chick-lit, Stephanie Evanovich crafts an unconventional, but wholly absorbing romance, while touching upon important issues like fame, fitness, and the art of self-love. Logan and Holly's steamy relationship and Evanovich's delightful style will please readers, for sure. With fierce perspective and winning personality, Big Girl Panties examines the definition of true beauty, the impact of an unexpected other in your life, and the dangers of being quick to judge at first sight—or to judge by sight at all Americanflag

8 hearts: An engaging read that will be worth your while; highly recommended (x)

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Humans of New York Spotlight [1/21 – 2/9]

Humans of New York
January 21 – February 9

[[Note: I've spent the entire day perusing this website, and am moving the book to #1 on my to-buy/to-read list. Enjoy.]]

"Back in Guyana, my father captained a ship with forty men. Here, he drives a bus for the MTA. It’s been a tough adjustment, but he did it for his family."
"How many siblings do you have?"
"A lot. My dad was captain of the ship."


"It was hard to watch because I always saw my Dad as Superman. He eventually forgot he had Alzheimer’s even. So he walked around knowing he was fucked up, but not knowing why. So it made him angry. He was an old school Irish guy, so he used to get angry when he was scared."


"I’m taking a 3 month memoir-writing course."
"So what’s the most intense moment of your memoir?"
"When I was 17, my best friend died in my arms of an MDMA overdose."


"Twenty years ago, I avoided going on a trip that I didn’t want to go on because I broke my leg. I had only agreed to the trip in the first place because I wanted to avoid making my father mad. Afterward, I had this sudden realization that it had taken me breaking my leg to finally do what I wanted to do. And I’ve lived life on my own terms ever since."


"If you could change one thing about adults, what would it be?"
"I’d give them more money."
"More money?"
"Yeah. Some of them don’t even have money to buy food."


"I pretty much only read fantasy because I’ve had more than enough of reality."


"I got it when I was young. I made the mistake of trying to stop someone from picking on me."


"I told her that if she wanted to start over, to meet where we first kissed. She was supposed to be here 15 minutes ago."


"I always tell my daughters to work with their head, so they don’t have to work with their back."
"Which did you do?"
"What does it look like to you?"


"Facebook is telling me that everyone has a house, a kid, and a dog. So I’m just trying to calm the fuck down."


"I just broke up… well…  I just got broken up with. I thought I was going to marry him. It’s frustrating. After being independent for so long, and going from place to place and man to man, I’ve finally come to a point where I’m ready to settle. And I can’t."


"At first we kept saying: ‘We’re going to beat it. We’re going to beat it.’ Then after a while, we began to realize that we might not beat it. Then toward the end, it became clear that we definitely weren’t going to beat it. That’s when she started telling me that she wanted me to move on and find happiness with somebody else. But I’m not quite there yet. Not long ago a noise woke me up in the middle of the night, and I rolled over to ask if she needed anything."


"My parents have always been very dismissive of depression in other people. So I’m afraid to tell them that I think I’m getting depressed."


"What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever gotten through together?"
"I know. And he knows. But we’d rather not say."


"What’s the most frightened you’ve ever been?"
"Probably when I was five, and I learned I had Polio."
"What’s one way that Polio improved your life?"
"It made me more tolerant of failure in others."


"I was engaged eight years ago, but my fiancé died in Iraq. After that, I promised myself that I’d never be that dependent on someone again. So after I met my husband, I fought marriage for the longest time. But we got married in September. And even though I was rebelling against it, and I always saw it as a meaningless formality, I’ve been surprised. There’s a comfort in knowing that you’re sworn to someone else."


"I was running for the Long Island Railroad when I was eighteen years old, and tripped and fell between the tracks just as the train was starting to move. Everything below the knee got shattered and had to be amputated. The funny thing is, I’d been spending all my time worrying about being drafted to Vietnam. I learned at an early age that the bad things that happen to you are rarely the ones that you’re worrying about."


"Well there’s this girl that I’m friends with, and you know, I like her, but I don’t know if she likes me…"
"Do you mind if I share that?"
"I don’t know... if you share it, she might figure it out."
"She’ll definitely figure it out."
"… do it."


"I’ve been working for 45 years, and so has my wife. But we have no money. You know why? Because my five kids have two bachelor’s, a master’s, and two doctorate degrees. They are my wealth."


"I just want to spend a few more years with my grandson."
"Is there anything you want to teach him?"
"I leave that to his parents. I just want to be there."