Saturday, August 30, 2014

Product Review: True Sol Omega-3 Fish Oil + Giveaway! (Open internationally!)


Choose the Best Quality: True Sol

Research has proven that Omega-3 essential fatty acids are essential for optimal health.

Studies have shown that Omega-3's many benefits include:
  • Promoting Heart Health: heart attack, stroke, coronary heart disease, arrhythmia
  • Increasing Brain Function: cognitive decline & dementia, Alzheimer's
  • Helping Inflammation & Joints: stiffness & joint pain from osteo- and rheumatoid arthritis, symptoms of asthma & pneumonia
  • Decreasing Depression & Mood: reduction in depression scores and daily stresses
  • Promoting Healthy Skin: photo-aging, especially elastosis, wrinkle formation & chronological aging, skin disorders like acne & psoriasis
Why True Sol?
  • Our fish oil capsules have enteric coating for optimal absorption & no fishy aftertaste.
  • We use molecular distillation so you get highest purity.
Are you looking for a Pure Omega-3 Fish Oil Supplement that has the maximum amount of Essential Fatty Acids? Where all of the Essential Fatty Acids will actually be absorbed by your body and none of it going to waste?

True Sol is the best choice.

Review


Fish oil contains omega-3 fatty acids, which promote heart health and stimulate brain functions, so it's a good idea to take it regularly, especially if you do not regularly have fish in your diet. A fish oil supplement is a good alternative to fish—for those who do not like it, or have high cholesterol. My family has a history of high cholesterol so as much as I love fish and other seafood, it's really not something I should be consuming on a daily basis. Luckily, fish oil is ONLY the oil extracted, not the cholesterol, so it's safe for everyone (with the exception of vegetarians, though; FISH oil is an animal-based omega, which I thought this was obvious, but you'd be surprised at how many vegetarians I've met who complain about this! Plant-based omegas exist in the form of coconut oil, so if you don't consume meat or animal byproducts, be sure to check that out).

True Sol fish oil, currently priced $19.95 on Amazon, is a wonderful brand that uses smooth, easy-to-swallow capsules. Beware, with fish oil, the bottle is always going to stink a little (it's not bad, just a deep-sea fishy smell), but I'm glad True Sol's pills do not taste like fish. It is recommended to take two capsules daily, so one regular-sized 60-count bottle is a one-month supply. True Sol also has larger bottles (120- and 180-count), so if you need to buy in bulk, you have that option.

Overall, I was really impressed by this affordable, high-quality fish oil. It's a great way to support your cardiovascular and cognitive systems, and although I cannot make any scientific claims as I am not a nutritionist, based off what doctors have told my family and me, I would recommend everyone consider taking it for a healthy heart and brain. I take fish oil regularly anyway, so I'm looking forward to keeping this brand in my supplement cabinet.

Giveaway!

One lucky Books à la Mode reader will win one 60-count bottle of True Sol Omega-3 Fish Oil—yay! To enter, all you have to do is tell me:
What supplements do you regularly take? Whether it be vitamins, fish oil, krill oil, probiotics, collagen, anything... let me know in the comments!
Don't forget the entry eligibility terms and conditions!
Sponsored wholly by the company—a huge thank you to the fabulous folks at True Sol Nutrition!
Giveaway ends September 13th at 11.59 PM (your time).
Open internationally—woohoo! That means anyone in the world can enter, provided you have a verifiable email and mailing address.
Void where prohibited.
Winners have 48 hours to claim their prize after they have been notified, otherwise risk forfeiting their winnings.
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!

FTC Disclosure: I received one complimentary bottle of True Sol Omega-3 Fish Oil via Tomoson.com in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. I was not paid in any way to write a review—positive or otherwise—and all thoughts and opinions are mine and mine alone. I only recommend products or services I have used personally and believe will be good for my beautiful readers!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Product Review: Vita Nut Milk Bag + Giveaway! (US only)


Save time, get better yield, and produce less waste without any stretching or tearing!

Our nut milk bag is made with a premium, tight-weave, fine 200-micron monofilament mesh. This durable, high-quality material is perfect for squeezing without tearing or ripping the bag. This means less waste and smoother, better tasting nut milks, juices, yogurts, and cold brew coffee that you only have to filter once.

The convenient, durable drawstring makes for convenient filtering and cleaning. The large opening fits over almost any container or jar for easy pouring and straining. Perfect for both small batches and large, this 12" by 10" bag reduces your prep and cleaning time.

As an exclusive Amazon bonus, it also comes with Vita's specially written recipe book full of instructions for making almond milk, hemp milk, sprouting, greek yogurt, and much more.

Review


If you don't know what a nut milk bag is, boy, you're missing out!

It's the ultimate multi-purpose kitchen straining tool, useful for making not only nut milks (perfect for vegans!), but you can also use it for juicing, sprouting, in place of a cheesecloth, and so on. Recent paleo, vegan, and "clean" eating diets call for nut milk bags all the time. I could definitely see myself using this for cauliflower pizza crusts, homemade tofu, and really anything that requires lots of wringing and straining!

The first thing I made with this was all-natural Jell-O—made purely from fruit purée, gelatin, and honey, they tasted amazing, and were much healthier than the artificially flavored, sugar-laden alternative. Vita nut milk bag is amazingly durable and was definitely a good sport even with me squeezing the hell out of it. The mesh is very fine—it's just a nylon cloth, rather than a hole-y strainer—so it did a great job at catching all the seeds and pulp.

Cleaning is easy, but I was disappointed to see how easily and permanently the bag stained. I thought the plastic-like texture of the cloth would not stain easily, but it turned red after my strawberry juicing, just like a regular fabric cloth would. While the bag is dishwasher-safe, it doesn't do much for the stains. I know the bag is clean, it just looks unsightly and messily colored. Multiple people have suggested to soak it in hydrogen peroxide or grapefruit seed extract, which are both safe methods to "bleach" the stains. I'll have to try it; otherwise I'll just buy a new one! This is such a useful kitchen product and I think all health foodies—whether you're raw, paleo, or just like experimenting in the kitchen!—should have one of these.

Giveaway!


One lucky Books à la Mode reader will win
one Vita nut milk bag—yay! To enter, all you have to do is tell me:
If you had a Vita nut milk bag, what would you use it for? There are so many great possibilities with this—tell me why you want it!
Don't forget the entry eligibility terms and conditions!
Sponsored wholly by the company—a huge thank you to the fabulous folks at Vita!
Giveaway ends September 3rd at 11.59 PM (your time).
Open to US residents only—sorry, everyone else! Please check my sidebar for a list of currently running giveaways that are open internationally—there are plenty to choose from!
Void where prohibited.
Winners have 48 hours to claim their prize after they have been notified, otherwise risk forfeiting their winnings.
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!

FTC Disclosure: I received one complimentary Vita nut milk bag via Tomoson.com in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. I was not paid in any way to write a review—positive or otherwise—and all thoughts and opinions are mine and mine alone. I only recommend products or services I have used personally and believe will be good for my beautiful readers!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Exclusive Sneak Peek of Forever Kinda Love by Clara Stone + Giveaway! (International!)

Forever Kinda Love
Clara Stone

Life’s little surprises...

The last thing seven-year-old Carrigan "Ace" Casper foresaw was an eight-year-old Heath Lovelly walking into her life the day her mother died. From that moment on, Heath stuck by her side, slowly becoming her strength, her confidant, and her entire world. What she didn't know is she was his saving grace, too.

Ten years later, Ace is handed another crippling challenge that threatens everything in her almost perfect life. Only, this time, she doesn't turn to Heath—hiding the truth instead. But Heath knows Ace too well and won't back down easily. He's ready to do whatever it takes and will stay by her side until she accepts that their love is the kinda love worth fighting for.

Will he be her forever triumph or her unexpected downfall?

Two lives.

One story.

And an unexpected journey to falling in love. Forever.
Buy the book from: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Kobo | Autographed Copies

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Vitamin C Diaries #5: How to Apply Vitamin C Serum + Petunia Skincare Review & Giveaway! (US only)

It's no secret that Vitamin C serums are a huge skin care must-have these days. With anti-aging, acne-fighting, and scar-reducing properties, they're sweeping the beauty blogosphere; even I'm writing a series on Vitamin C you can follow!

The benefits of Vitamin C have always been known to skin care specialists, but it's only recently emerged in highly concentrated forms—through serums.

So how does one exactly apply a Vitamin C serum? Here are some simple instructions and tips on where, when, and how to apply a Vitamin C serum:

Where


Vitamin C serums are formulated for the face, although they are fantastic for the neck and décolletage areas as well. Vitamin C targets wrinkles and fine lines and acne scars, and has been known to reverse signs of premature aging and sun damage as well. Since skin on the face and neck is extra sensitive (and not to mention, prone to wrinkles!) it's important to treat those areas with serum.

Pro tip: When shopping for Vitamin C serums, try to find one that uses natural, organic, and cruelty-free ingredients. Like any skin product you use, they should not contain chemicals that can be harmful for your skin such as parabens, comedogenic oils, alcohol, or petroleum. Check out the serums I've reviewed in the past—most of them were all-natural and cruelty-free, and I would recommend them to anyone! Stay tuned for a giveaway at the end of this post to WIN one of them for free!

When


To get the most out of Vitamin C serums, you should apply them consistently, just like you would any other skin product. That's key, here; many people are disappointed when they expect one application of Vitamin C to produce instant results—and they don't! It's kind of like a weight loss journey; the path to beautiful skin is not something you can expect to change radically overnight. Just like you can't expect to lose ten pounds after one workout, you can't expect all your wrinkles to be erased after using a serum once.

I use my serums twice a day—in both my morning and nighttime skin care routines—but since Vitamin C is mildly acidic, people with extremely sensitive or dry skin should only use it once a day. I have sensitive skin, and using my serums twice a day has not affected me aversely at all, so I think most people can get away with twice-a-day usage.

Serums should be applied right after cleansing (and after clarifying, if you use a toner) for maximum absorption. I use a few drops per application, because that's really all I need. Most serums are very watery, so a little amount goes a long way.

Immediately after the serum dries, you should use your regular moisturizer—this is a crucial step! While Vitamin C serums may contain added ingredients to moisturize your skin—such as Vitamin E, jojoba oil, or aloe—the serum itself is NOT a moisturizer, and in fact can actually dry out your skin. Therefore, it's always safe to follow up with lotion, cream, emulsion, or whatever else you use on a daily or nightly basis. Hydration is very important for acne-free, or for more mature skin, wrinkle-free skin.

Pro tip: Different kinds of serums can be used in conjunction with each other, so if you have any other serums in your beauty repertoire, such as hyaluronic acid or retinol treatments, you should apply those on top of your Vitamin C serum, and then follow with moisturizer.

How


There's really no right or wrong way to apply a serum, but what I like to do is place a few drops on my fingers and dab it all across my face and neck—cheeks, nose, forehead, temples, chin, jaw, browbone, throat, chest—and then pat it in gently using my fingertips, kind of like I'm giving myself a mini massage. Use very soft patting or tapping motions because you don't want to tug or pull on your face—that promotes wrinkling.

Currently I'm using Petunia Skincare Vitamin C serum, which also contains Vitamin E, hyaluronic acid, and ferulic acid. I'm giving a full-size bottle away, so keep on reading!

Pro tip: When dispensing serum from the bottle, don't squirt it into your palm. The skin on the inside of your hands is rough, usually drier than anywhere else, and has bigger grooves and indents than any other skin on your body. Just look at your palm, how many lines it has!

Instead, you should dispense the product onto the back of your hand, or directly to your fingertips (if it's not too runny) so that the least possible amount of product is absorbed into the skin on your hands. This saves product, which in turn saves your face (more moisture!) and saves money (yay!).

Giveaway!

One lucky Books à la Mode reader will win a full-size bottle of Petunia Skincare Vitamin C Serum—yay! I've been using this serum for about a week now, and it's a great addition to my skin care routine. It makes the surface of my skin slightly sticky, so that when I apply other serums and eventually moisturizer on top of it, my skin absorbs everything better. 

Petunia Skincare's serum is safe for dry or dull skin, and can minimize wrinkles, fine lines, signs of aging, as well as sun spot, dark spots, and age spots. It also helps return lost elasticity and firmness to skin, so it's really a miracle product!

To enter the giveaway, all you have to do is tell me:
What song are you currently obsessed with? If you're not a huge music listener (gasp!), just tell me one of your all-time favorite songs.
I know, I know... completely irrelevant, but I just have to know! I also needed an excuse to share this song with you guys. I've been playing it on constant loop for days.

Super sad, but super addicting. What do you think?

Don't forget the entry eligibility terms and conditions!
Sponsored wholly by the company—a huge thank you to the fabulous folks at Petunia Skincare!
Giveaway ends September 7th at 11.59 PM (your time).
Open to US residents only—sorry, everyone else! Please check my sidebar for a list of currently running giveaways that are open internationally—there are plenty to choose from!

Void where prohibited.
Winners have 48 hours to claim their prize after they have been notified, otherwise risk forfeiting their winnings.
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!

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary sample of this Vitamin C Serum from Petunia Skincare using Tomoson.com in exchange for an honest review. I was neither paid nor sponsored in any way to share my opinions—positive or otherwise—and all thoughts reflected in this unbiased post are mine and mine alone. I only recommend products or services I have used personally and believe will be good for my beautiful readers!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A Death in Vegas by Christopher Meeks Giveaway! (US only)

A Death in Vegas
Christopher Meeks

Page Count: 174
Release Date: August 15th, 2014
Publisher: White Whisker Books (self-published)
Genre: Mystery

In A Death in Vegas, the president of BenBugs, a company that specializes in beneficial bugs for organic gardening, discovers a young woman dead in his Las Vegas hotel suite. She had worked as a sexy lady bug at his convention booth—and he had nothing to do with her death.

While that’s being investigated, the FBI raids his booth on a money-laundering scam that he knows nothing about, either. Soon, the coroner doesn’t have good news, the police and FBI are against him, and his wife cannot be found.

He flees to find the answers.

About the Author


Christopher Meeks has four novels and two collections of short fiction published. His most recent novel before this was the acclaimed thriller, Blood Drama. His novel The Brightest Moon of the Century made the list of three book critics’ Ten Best Book of 2009. Love at Absolute Zero also made three Best Books lists of 2011, as well as earning a ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year Finalist award.

He has had stories published in several literary journals, and they have been included in the collections "Months and Seasons" and "The Middle-Aged Man and the Sea."

Mr. Meeks has had three full-length plays mounted in Los Angeles, and one, "Who Lives?" had been nominated for five Ovation Awards, Los Angeles’ top theatre prize.

Mr. Meeks teaches English and fiction writing at Santa Monica College, and Children’s Literature at the Art Center College of Design.

Giveaway!


Books à la Mode is giving away
 one finished print copy of A Death in Vegas—yay!! To enter, all you have to do is tell me:

Have you been to Vegas? What was the most memorable thing you did there? If you've never been before, what would you like to see or do?
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. Chris and I really want to hear from you guys! :)

Don't forget the entry eligibility terms and conditions!
Sponsored wholly by the tour publicist and author—a huge thank you to PICT and Christopher Meeks!
Giveaway ends September 3rd at 11.59 PM (your time).
Open to US residents only. Sorry, everyone else! Please watch my sidebar for a list of currently running giveaways that are open to my international readers.
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!

Clear Your Shelf Giveaway Hop 2014! (US only)

The 2014 Clear Your Shelf Giveaway Hop, hosted by I Am a Reader, Not a Writer and 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 Clear Your Shelf Giveaway Hop is scheduled from August 20th at 12.01 AM until August 27th at 11:59 PM (EST).


The Prizes


Two lucky followers will each win one of the following books from my shelf:



What would you choose if you won? We'll have two winners total! Woohoo!!!!

Also


Completely unrelated to the hop, but I wanted to give everyone a quick reminder that I am partnering with St. Martin's Press to host a VIRTUAL BOOK CLUB for Twitter celebrity Jenny Mollen's hilarious memoir, I Like You Just the Way I Am. If you join, the publisher will send you a free copy of the book, you'll get to chat with fellow book club members, AND you'll get to meet the author. Exciting, right? This book club does not have any location restrictions as it will be hosted completely online, and is open to anyone who wants to read the book and have fun with us! Click here to sign up!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Jenny Mollen's I Like You Just the Way I Am Virtual Book Club [SIGNUPS!]

Hello, my lovelies!

I'm excited to announce the first-ever virtual book club hosted by Books à la Mode and want to extend my personal invitation for you—yes, YOU fabulous readers!—to be a part of it.

The book we will be covering is called I Like You Just the Way I Am, a collection of crazy, snarky essays by Hollywood actress and Twitter phenomenon Jenny Mollen (who also happens to be the wife of Jason Biggs. Yes, THE Jason Biggs!). À la Chelsea Handler, Jenny brings us a book about her hilarious, outrageous life antics (most of, but not all of which, she is insanely proud of), appropriately titled "Stories About Me and Some Other People." If you're a fan of Chelsea Handler, Tina Fey, and Sarah Silverman, you will adore Jenny! Here's the back cover of the book:

By the actress, writer, and one of the funniest women on Twitter, an outrageous, hysterical memoir of acting on impulse, plotting elaborate hoaxes, and refusing to acknowledge boundaries in any form

Jenny Mollen is an actress and writer living in Los Angeles. She is also a wife, married to a famous guy (which is annoying only because he gets free shit and she doesn't). She doesn’t want much from life. Just to be loved—by everybody: her parents, her dogs, her ex-boyfriends, her ex-boyfriends’ dogs, her husband, her husband’s ex-girlfriends, her husband's ex-girlfriend's new boyfriends, etc. Some people might call that impulse crazy, but isn’t "crazy" really just a word boring people use to describe fun people? (And Jenny is really, really fun, you guys!).

In these pages, you’ll find stories of Jenny at her most genuine, whether it’s stalking her therapist (because he knows everything about her so shouldn’t she get to know everything about him?); throwing a bachelorette party so bad that one of the guests is suspected dead; or answering the eternal question, Would your best friend blow your husband on a car ride to dinner if she didn't know you were hiding in the backseat?

I Like You Just the Way I Am is about not doing the right thing—about indulging your inner crazy-person. It is Jenny when she’s not trying to impress anyone or come across as a responsible, level-headed member of society. With any luck it will make you better acquainted with who you really are and what you really want. Which, let’s be honest, is most likely someone else’s email password.
Here's how the virtual book club will run: Just like a regular physical book club, we will be reading I Like You Just the Way I Am together within a one-month timeframe, tentatively scheduled to be the first two weeks of September. Each week, we will have checkins, that will either consist of live chats so we can all talk about the book and answer discussion questions, or of blog posts (if you are a blogger).

You know what's awesome? St. Martin's Press will be providing reading copies—woohoo! We have copies available in both digital and print format, although the print copies are limited and restricted to US and Canadian residents only. If you can accept both print or digital, you will most likely be receiving digital just because we should give print-only readers the opportunity to join. However, by being willing to accept an electronic review copy, you are increasing your chances of getting into the book club—and yes, we do have a member limit, so widening your chances is always safer.

You know what's even awesomer? At the conclusion of the book club, Jenny Mollen herself will be joining us for a live chat or video chat to discuss the book. How fabulous is that? Not only will you be able to talk with the author, but you'll get to meet the fabulous woman herself.

Any other questions? Comment below or shoot me an email—I'd love to have you on board!

Interested in signing up?

Below, is the signup sheet (Google form) AND the review copy roster (Rafflecopter). You must fill out both forms in order to be considered for the book club and receive a review copy. If you only fill out the Google form, you will have to find a copy of the book yourself.

Please make sure all required fields of the Google form are filled out, and all the Rafflecopter entries are submitted.


a Rafflecopter giveaway
Note: Even though this review copy form is through Rafflecopter, I will not be randomly selecting "winners"—this is just a way for me know who needs what format and where to send it. If you are selected for the book club and indicated needing a review copy, you are guaranteed to receive one (a huge thanks to the wonderful publisher!).

Signups close Thursday, August 21st at 11:59 PM, so make sure you get your submission in quickly! Late requests will not be granted.

I can't wait to do this with you guys! Thanks for considering!!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

7 Heart Review: The Curiosity by Stephen Kiernan

The Curiosity
Stephen Kiernan

Page Count: 464

Release Date: July 1st 2014 (paperback edition)
Publisher: William Morrow Books (Harper Collins)
Source: Complimentary copy provided by tour publicist via publisher in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you, TLC Book Tours and Harper Collins!)
Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

What if the love of your life died decades before you were born?

When Dr. Kate Philo and her scientific exploration team discover the body of a man buried deep in the Arctic ice, her egocentric and paranoid boss, Erastus Carthage, orders the frozen man to be brought to his lab in Boston and reanimated. The endeavor is named The Lazarus Project, and as the man, Jeremiah Rice, begins to regain his memories, the last thing he recalls is falling overboard into the Arctic Ocean in 1906. When news of the project breaks, it ignites a media firestorm and protests by religious fundamentalists.

Thrown together by fate, Kate and Jeremiah grow closer. But the clock is ticking and Jeremiah’s new life is slipping away. With Carthage planning to exploit Jeremiah while he can, Kate must decide how far she is willing to go to protect the man she has come to love. A gripping, poignant, and thoroughly original thriller, The Curiosity raises disturbing questions about the very nature of life and humanity.
"When hard ice forms, any creatures in the water undergo extremely rapid freezing—so fast that the usual crystals of ice do not form. That speed leaves cells intact, and with unique chemical properties, namely abundant oxygen and glucose. Everything is preserved as it was when alive. Our challenge is to guide it back. Observe."

When love's timeline is limited, does it make that love any less meaningful? Reading the premise of The Curiosity sent a thrill reverberating through my body. From the Frankenstein-meets-The-Time-Traveler's-Wife storyline, to the ultimate romantic tragedy of finding a soulmate from another time and place—another plane—this was the kind of sci-fi novel I knew I had been waiting for for a long time. The good news is, in so many ways, this book blew my mind with its originality and argumentative depth. The bad news is, in so many more ways, it also disappointed me. My feelings, clearly, are mixed.

The Curiosity is narrated in the alternating voices of four arguably essential figures behind the Lazarus Project: Kate (the jaded scientist), Carthage (her controlling, mad-genius supervisor), Jeremiah (the judge and human subject), and Daniel (a seedy, seemingly useless reporter with an inflated sense of self-importance). Each point of view gives interesting perspectives on the discovery of the "unfrozen" man, Jeremiah, and the muddiness and uncertainty between these three characters are what contribute to most of the novel's tension—this was very well done.

Kiernan has the tendency to go into specific, sometimes rambly detail about, well, everything. I love how his style is both straightforward and analytical—like the scientific method—yet still profound. However, sometimes I felt like it was a bit too much; frequently, there is elaboration on what doesn't need to be elaborated, and it was frustrating and quite laborious to have to skim through all that to get to the good parts. And trust me—when The Curiosity got good, it got really good. The most exciting scenes of the novel—namely, Jeremiah's reanimation—are absolutely electrifying; they will make your heart pound wildly against your ribcage and your fingers tremble. These are the scenes that motivated me to continue reading the book, and that surpassed my expectations. But considering these brilliant pieces were so few and far between—nestled within long chunks of backstory and redundant ruminations—and clocking in at 464 pages, The Curiosity wasn't exactly an easy, or overall enjoyable, read.

In terms of actual writing style, Stephen Kiernan is no doubt, extremely talented. His voice flows vibrantly and cinematically, but gets stiff during Kate's narrations; she just doesn't seem relatable or likable to me. It bothered me that Daniel had to comment about how "hot" she is every few pages, in order for her attractiveness to be conveyed, but more importantly, she personally doesn't feel genuine. I'm unsure of whether this is because her female perspective was written by a man, or if her personality was just built like that—rigid and impersonal—but I hardly found myself rooting for her as the protagonist.

Since romance is among my favorite genres, I am typically a huge sucker for these types of "falling in love at the most inopportune moment" stories, but I felt the romance was misplaced in this situation. Kiernan begins with a sensational plot, but adding the romance in kind of cheapened it. Given the circumstances of high-profile scientific research and Kate's professional career, I was turned off by how her first encounter with Jeremiah immediately turned into a romance—it felt inappropriate, and largely, unbelievable. It was very well written and I did find myself being swept away by the angst that came with Kate's budding affection for the off-limits Jeremiah, but overall, I think The Curiosity could have been successful not being a love story.

While romance is not the biggest accomplishment of this novel, the intensity of thought-provoking questions raised, certainly is. Obviously, an ethical debate will come naturally with a storyline about a man who becomes a lab specimen, and the fact that Jeremiah is humanized by becoming the object of Kate's attachment further heightens the issue of morals and ethics. Both the scientific rationalizations and the convoluted line of events present readers with heart-stopping revelations and the frenzy that follows, and this was what made The Curiosity so provocative and so stimulating. To me, this novel isn't simply about a man who is revived, and a woman who loves him, but it's about two lost people who experience everything for the first time in their lives again; people who, through each other, are brought back to life.

Pros


Creative, captivating plot // Multi-dimensional and deep-delving storytelling, rather than just spelling out what happens // Perspectives of different characters are very distinct (and switch from first to second to third person, something I've never encountered before) // Thought-provoking and controversial in topic

Cons


Long-winded writing style // Bland, rather unmemorable characters, even when given emotions and a backstory // I had trouble sympathizing with Kate, which in turn, defeated the purpose of the "tragic romance" for me

Verdict


The Curiosity is a fascinating study on human vulnerability, the virtues of love, the astonishing power of science, but it's also a rather bulky novel. Due to its drawn-out chapters and massive page count, I didn't have that much fun reading it, but do I recommend it to others? Yes, yes yes! It's an impressive debut, a force to be reckoned with. Stephen Kiernan begins with an original plotline and cleverly interconnected multiple perspectives to produce a thought-provoking, challenging, and incredibly dynamic debut that I can see doing well on the big screen (luckily, 20th Century Fox has already bought film rights!!!). I suggest you only pick this up if you have a lot of patience and some time on your hands—as much of a page-turner as this book is, it is NOT something you can read within a few sittings Americanflag

7 hearts: Not perfect, but overall enjoyable; borrow, don't buy! (x)

Friday, August 15, 2014

Blind Stitches by J.B. Chicoine Giveaway! (Open internationally!)

Blind Stitches
J.B. Chicoine

Nikolai Solvay has been dreading his sister’s wedding, but when his father dies unexpectedly two weeks beforehand, his return to New Hampshire promises to rake up his worst nightmares.

Meanwhile, talented young seamstress Juliet Glitch has been putting the finishing touches on the wedding dress. Mother of the bride—former prima ballerina and Russian expatriate—asks Juliet if she would hem her blind son Nikolai’s trousers for the funeral... and the wedding.

When Juliet meets Nikolai, he draws her into the whirlwind of his unraveling family that makes her own quirky domestic situation seem normal. Confronted with the Solvay’s delusions and narcissism, Juliet must decide if her developing relationship with Nikolai is worth the turmoil as she deals with her own unreconciled past.

Either way, Nikolai cannot stave off the repressed memories surrounding his mother’s defection from the Soviet Union twenty years earlier. Against the backdrop of autumn 1989, during the Glasnost era, Nikolai’s family secrets crash alongside the crumbling Berlin Wall.

About the Author


I sign my paintings "JBChicoine" but otherwise I’m known as Bridget Chicoine.

I was raised in a family of seven children in Amityville, Long Island, New York during the 60’s and 70’s. Aside from basic art classes in high school, I'm a self-taught artist. I received my first set of ‘real watercolors’ from my father for graduation, and thereafter briefly attended the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan. However, by the early 80’s I had begun raising a family and pursued art only intermittently at first, but as my results improved (and my time freed up), so did the frequency of my painting. My remarriage in 1990 to my husband Todd, also an artist, gave the most impetus to my desire and ability.

As far as my writing, I've been coming up with characters and stories since I was a child. I started writing seriously in 2006 and undertook educating myself on improving my craft and about the publishing industry. Working on my painting simultaneously with my writing, one creative outlet stimulates the other. Much of my inspiration comes from having lived near the ocean and in New Hampshire's Sunapee Lakes Region.

Currently, I live in Michigan with my husband, working on various projects.

Giveaway!


Books à la Mode is giving away
 two copies of Blind Stitches—one print and one digital—yay!! To enter, all you have to do is tell me:

What would your dream wedding dress look like? Describe it or show me a picture! Even if you're already married, no harm in doing a little "wedding dress shopping" ;)

Also, please indicate what country you live in, so I know who is eligible for what prize.
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. Bridget and I really want to hear from you guys! :)

Don't forget the entry eligibility terms and conditions!
Sponsored wholly by the publicist and author—a huge thank you to Paula Margulies Communications and J.B. Chicoine!
Giveaway ends August 29th at 11.59 PM (your time).
Open internationally—that means anyone in the world can enter! Yay! However, the print copy is limited to US and Canadian residents only. Everyone else may only enter for the digital copy.
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!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Top 10 Novels that Influenced My Writing by Megan Chance, Author of Inamorata + Giveaway! (US/Can only)

Inamorata
Megan Chance

American artist Joseph Hannigan and his alluring sister, Sophie, have arrived in enchanting nineteenth-century Venice with a single-minded goal. The twins, who have fled scandal in New York, are determined to break into Venice’s expatriate set and find a wealthy patron to support Joseph’s work.

But the enigmatic Hannigans are not the only ones with a secret agenda. Joseph’s talent soon attracts the attention of the magnificent Odilé Leon, a celebrated courtesan and muse who has inspired many artists to greatness. But her inspiration comes with a devastatingly steep price.

As Joseph falls under the courtesan’s spell, Sophie joins forces with Nicholas Dane, the one man who knows Odilé’s dark secret, and her sworn enemy. When the seductive muse offers Joseph the path to eternal fame, the twins must decide who to believe—and just how much they are willing to sacrifice for fame.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Interview with Maya Banks (ONE OF MY ALL-TIME FAVORITE AUTHORS OMG), with Taking It All from the Surrender Trilogy + Giveaway! (US only)

I'd like to welcome one of my all-time favorite romance authors, Maya Banks to the blog today to celebrate the release of the conclusion to her Surrender Trilogy, Taking It All. Stick around until the end for a fabulous giveaway that you don't want to miss!

Welcome to Books à la Mode, Maya! I am beyond excited to have you at Books à la Mode today—I am such a huge fan of your Breathless and KGI novels, so it's a dream come true to have you over! SORRY IN ADVANCE IF THERE'S ANY RANDOM FANGIRLING (#NOTSORRY). Let's get this interview started.

Will you please share a brief introduction with us?

Maya Banks is the USA Today and New York Times bestselling author of the Breathless Trilogy, the KGI novels, and the Sweet series. Her chart toppers have included erotic romance, romantic suspense, contemporary romance and Scottish historical romance.

She lives in the South with her husband and three children and other assorted babies, such as her two Bengal kitties and a calico who’s been with her as long as her youngest child. She’s an avid reader of romance and loves to dish books with her fans and anyone else who’ll listen! She very much enjoys interacting with her readers on Facebook and Twitter, as well as in her Yahoo! Group and on her webiste.


Readers, here's a bit about the book, which came out last week:


In her sensational Breathless Trilogy, New York Times-bestselling author Maya Banks tested the boundaries of desire. In her new trilogy, there’s only one thing left to do: cross them. And for a married couple taking steps to renew their marriage, the consequences of one single moment of inattention may come at a price the husband never expects…

Chessy and Tate have been married for several years. In the beginning, their relationship was everything she wanted. Passionate. All-consuming. She offered her submission freely and Tate cherished her gift with a tenderness that made her feel safe. Content. Wanted. Loved beyond all measure. But as the years have gone by, Tate has become more immersed in making his business a success, and Chessy has taken a back seat to his business obligations. Growing unhappy with the status of their once blissful marriage, Chessy knows that something has to give, or they stand to lose it all.

Tate loves his wife. Has always loved her. Providing for her has always been his number-one priority. But lately she’s seemed unhappy, and he’s worried. Worried enough that he arranges for a night together that he hopes will reignite the fire that once burned like an inferno between them.

But a business call at the wrong time threatens everything. Chessy’s safety, his concentration, his wife’s faith in him as her husband—a man sworn to love and protect her above all else. Gutted with the realization that he’s going to lose her—has already lost her—he readies for the fight of his life. Whatever it takes, he’ll get her back, show her that nothing is more important than her love. And that if she’ll allow him to prove himself one more time, he’ll take it all. Everything. But he’ll give back far more: Himself. His undying love.
Buy the book from: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository | Books-A-Million | iTunes | Kobo | Google Play | Publisher

Describe the Taking It All in six words.

Emotional, angsty, heartbreaking, epic-groveling, romantic & happy-sigh :)

What was the inspiration for the book?

I love looking beyond the HEA and the first brush of love when a relationship is all shiny and new. I adore marriage-in-jeopardy stories because the stakes are so much higher when you have two people already heavily invested in each other.

Have you ever had the compulsion to write anything other than romance?

Nope never. I’ve always wanted to write romance. I’ve never written anything else nor, at this time, do I have any desire NOT to write romance.

Tell us about your road to publication.

It took 4 years of rejection, dejection, and nearly throwing the towel completely in before I finally became published.


And look where that perseverance got you today! Are the characters from your books based off anyone you know in real life? How much else of your actual life gets written into your stories?

I don’t base my characters on real people or actors, etc. They are absolutely created from scratch in my head.


Which character from Taking It Al was most difficult to write?

Definitely Chessy.


What do you consider your biggest strengths and weaknesses as an author?

I’m a good storyteller—not a good WRITER but a good storyteller. Huge difference between the two.


What’s the greatest thing you ever learned?

That only I have the power to succeed or fail. No one can do either for me.


That's so true! Blog babes, click "Read more" to find out Maya's random favorites, her best personal advice, and the message she wants people to grasp from the novel. We're also hosting a giveaway for a finished copy, so you don't want to miss that either!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Interview with Martha Woodroof, Author of Small Blessings + Giveaway! (Open US/Can)

I'd like to welcome Martha Woodroof to the blog today to celebrate the exciting release of her first novel from St. Martin's Press, Small Blessings. Stick around until the end for a fabulous giveaway that you don't want to miss!

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

Will you please share a brief introduction with us?

I’m both a college dropout (Mount Holyoke) and a grad school dropout (the University of Virginia).

My first real job was as a teacher’s aide in a pilot Head Start program in Greensboro, North Carolina. Since the turn of the century, I’ve been attached to WMRA, the Little Public Radio Station that Can, in Harrisonburg, Virginia, and actively freelanced for the NPR Culture Desk and for npr.org.

Before that, among a lot of other things, I co-owned restaurants, did a bit of acting, was fired as a magazine editor, hosted local TV talk shows and anchored the news, wrote a book called How to Stop Screwing Up: 12 Steps to a Real Life and a Pretty Good Time, cooked for an artist’s colony, was a country music disc jockey and a psychiatric occupational therapy aide, taught preschool, published a bunch of essays, was a morning drive-time personality on a tiny AM radio station, ran a college bookstore coffee shop, directed a college’s co-curricular programming, and failed to sell cars.

I love words and their power to tell other people’s stories.

My first novel, Small Blessings, is a really big deal... to me, anyway.


It's a big deal to EVERYBODY! Readers, here's a bit about the book, which hits stores tomorrow:


From debut novelist Martha Woodroof comes an inspiring tale of a small-town college professor, a remarkable new woman at the bookshop, and the ten-year old son he never knew he had.

Tom Putnam has resigned himself to a quiet and half-fulfilled life. An English professor in a sleepy college town, he spends his days browsing the Shakespeare shelves at the campus bookstore, managing the oddball faculty in his department and caring, alongside his formidable mother-in-law, for his wife Marjory, a fragile shut-in with unrelenting neuroses, a condition exacerbated by her discovery of Tom’s brief and misguided affair with a visiting poetess a decade earlier.

Then, one evening at the bookstore, Tom and Marjory meet Rose Callahan, the shop's charming new hire, and Marjory invites Rose to their home for dinner, out of the blue, her first social interaction since her breakdown. Tom wonders if it’s a sign that change is on the horizon, a feeling confirmed upon his return home, where he opens a letter from his former paramour, informing him he'd fathered a son who is heading Tom's way on a train. His mind races at the possibility of having a family after so many years of loneliness. And it becomes clear change is coming whether Tom’s ready or not.

A heartwarming story with a charmingly imperfect cast of characters to cheer for, Small Blessings's wonderfully optimistic heart that reminds us that sometimes, when it feels like life has veered irrevocably off track, the track shifts in ways we never can have imagined.
Buy the book from: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository | Books-A-Million | iTunes | Kobo | Google Play | Publisher

Describe the Small Blessings in six words.

A nice man gets a life!

What was the inspiration for the book?

I’m a long-term sober alcoholic/addict (hallelujah!). Sobriety has taught me that there’s always another chance. Or conversely, as the Doobie Brothers once put it: “You always have a chance to give up. So why do it now?” I wanted to write a story in which basically nice, well-meaning people have allowed themselves to settle into unfulfilling ruts. Then—either by running into each other for the first time, or interacting in new ways with someone they’ve known for a while—they develop enough courage to take risks. And, for me, acknowledging happiness requires a huge leap of faith.

As a huge fan of first lines, I’d love to hear the first line of Small Blessings. Could you give us a brief commentary on it?
There she was, as welcome in this insular community as fresh air in a multiplex, a woman who, rumor had it, risked being happy.
That line just came to me. I saw Tom catching sight of Rose across the crowded bookstore and having an aha moment. Yes! There she is!

If I stop an analyze it, I guess I’d like to think I’m doing an Elmore Leonard knock-off. The late Mr. Leonard, in my opinion, wrote some of the best opening lines ever. They establish character and setting, while at the same time beginning to tell a story that’s already in motion.

So, what do you think about that first time? Have I managed to pull off an E.L.?


Tell us about your road to publication, such as how you first queried, unexpected challenges, and things you picked up along the way.

First of all, I did quite a lot of reporting on books and publishing for NPR, so I had contacts in the industry. Second of all, I’m too old to dilly-dally around and play strictly by the rules. Thirdly, as I’ve had a lot of fun over the years, when I made my bucket list it was one item long: Publish a novel.

I am not professionally (as opposed to personally) shy in the least, and so I forthwith sent the first ten pages of my manuscript to the editor of a novel that reminded me a bit of Small Blessings—insofar as it told the story of nice people who bumble around for a while and then eventually get things right.

The editor liked it, but said it wasn’t for her. As my then-agent didn’t much like my fiction, this same generous-hearted editor sent me list of agents whom she thought would like it.

The fabulous Kate Garrick of DeFiore & Company did like it... and one auction later, Small Blessings found a home with the equally fabulous Hilary Teeman at St. Martin’s Press.


It's refreshing to hear about how you managed to to sell your book even with a few bumps along the road! Are the characters from your books based off anyone you know in real life? How much else of your actual life gets written into your stories?

My characters are not deliberately based on anyone I know, but I am in awe of the power of the subconscious.

As for my own life informing my fiction, I’ve been a busy person who has lead an interesting life. So an alarming number of my fictional incidents are drawn from that life.


Which character from Small Blessings was most difficult to write?

Rose, I think. I don't know why.


What do you consider your biggest strengths and weaknesses as an author?

Golly, is it okay to let you answer this one?


Safe answer! ;) Name the top five authors that have made the biggest impact on your life or on your writing.

Off the top of my head, I’d say Jane Austen, Elmore Leonard, Ann Tyler, Maeve Binchy, and Ian Rankin. They all tell such cracking good stories.


What’s the greatest thing you ever learned?

Not to take myself too bloody seriously.


How do you react to a negative or harsh review to your books?

I did a lot of theater in a past life, and the rule there was if you took the good reviews of you as an actor seriously, you also had to take the bad seriously. I think the same applies to writing.

I’m also fully aware that my writing will not be to everyone’s taste.

That said, I love working at writing, getting better at the craft of it. So, if someone doesn't like my work, I read their thoughts calmly to see if there’s anything useful there. If not, I shrug them off and go to the gym.


That's probably the most helpful, most genuine response I've heard to that question! Blog babes, click "Read more" to find out Martha's random favorites, her best personal and professional advice, and what she considers necessary to remain sane as a writer. We're also hosting a giveaway for finished copies, so you don't want to miss that either!