Tuesday, June 28, 2011

❤author: Elisa Lorello interview and giveaway!

❤ Today, I'm featuring author, Elisa Lorello at ¡Miraculous!. Elisa, will you please share a short bio with us?

Elisa Lorello was born and raised on Long Island, the youngest of seven children. She earned her bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth and eventually launched a career in rhetoric and composition studies. She has been teaching first-year writing to university students since 2000. Elisa currently resides in North Carolina, where she splits her time between teaching and writing. In addition to Why I Love Singlehood (co-authored with Sarah Girrell), she is the author of Kindle bestsellers Faking It and Ordinary World.

❤ Tell us about your books.

Why I Love Singlehood is about a coffeeshop owner named Eva Perino who starts a blog of the same name as the book. With her best friend Minerva, as well as her quirky co-workers and clientele, Eva sets out on a search to find out what (or who) is the love of her life.

Faking It is about a writing professor (Andi) who meets a male escort (Devin) and proposes an unusual arrangement. Ordinary World picks up Andi’s story approximately five years later.

❤ Here's the official blurb and cover for Elisa's newest release, Why I Love Singlehood:
Eva Perino is single and proud of it. Owner of The Grounds, a coffee shop nestled in the heart of a college town, thirtysomething Eva cherishes her comfortable life filled with quirky friends, a fun job, and no significant other. In fact, she’s so content to be on her own that she started a blog about it: “Why I Love Singlehood.” Yet when she hears the news of her ex-boyfriend’s engagement, her confidence in her single status takes a surprisingly hard hit. 

So begins Eva’s clumsy (and occasionally uproarious) search for love as she secretly joins an online dating site, tries her hand at speed-dating, and breaks her own rule by getting involved with one of The Grounds’ regulars. Soon Eva is forced to figure out exactly who—or what—is the true love of her life. Sparkling with warmth and wit, Why I Love Singlehood is a charming and insightful must-read for anyone—single or otherwise—who has ever been stymied by love.
❤ When and why did you begin writing?

The first thing I remember writing was in first grade: my teacher handed me a picture card with a boy reaching for a cookie jar, and I made up a story about it. For as long as I can remember, writing was something that felt normal, natural, and pleasant—even when it wasn’t so easy. I liked to write little stories, but it also became an important outlet of expression for me, especially during my turbulent teen years. I wrote nonfiction prose for a long time because I thought I wasn’t any good as a fiction writer. After Faking It, the damn broke, and I’ve never felt more at home.

❤ What inspired you to write your first book and then how did you get published? Tell us your call story.

The idea for Faking It came to me in 1999, after watching an episode of Sex and the City. I wondered what it would be like to talk about sex as casually as one talks about shoes or music—that wasn’t the world I grew up in! When Harry Met Sally is one of my favorite movies, so a “what-if” formed along the lines of: “What if a very inhibited woman met an uninhibited man, and what if they became friends?”

I didn’t actually write the novel until five years later—despite the stories I wrote during childhood, I never believed myself to be a fiction writer. But the idea wouldn’t go away, and pretty soon the characters began speaking to each other, and I had to get it down on the page. When I finished the first draft in 2004, I was surprised by how much I liked what I had written. After revision (not to mention relocating to another state), I met someone who took me through the query and submission process, and I queried about 50-60 agents. All of them rejected the Faking It, but some liked it, liked my writing, and gave me some helpful advice. I thought the book was good and decided to self-publish it through Lulu.com in late 2008. About six months later, I published it on the Amazon Kindle, and that was the game-changer. By January 2010, Faking It peaked at #6 on the best-seller list and sold about 15,000 e-copies. (To date, it’s sold well over 50,000.)

Ordinary World followed, and peaked at about #25.

AmazonEncore, an imprint of Amazon Publishers, were very enthusiastic about Faking It and contacted me in June 2010, and the rest is history! They’ve been very supportive of Why I Love Singlehood, and Sarah and I are thrilled to be AmazonEncore authors.

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

Because publishing was the last thing on my mind when I wrote Faking It, and because I had less confidence as a fiction writer, I relied a lot on what I knew, and used a lot of surface details that mirrored my own life: Andi was a rhetoric and composition scholar, and I had just completed my masters degree in the same field. She was a Long Islander who lived in southeastern Massachusetts, as was I. She had brothers who were musicians, as did I. But the more I got to know Andi as a character, the more she came into her own, and she had a very different life story from my own.

The more confident I became, the less I relied on those kinds of surface details. For example, I don’t have as much in common with Eva other than that I’m single and have had some negative experiences with online dating (although hers were way worse!).

That said, there’s always a little of me in every character—even the guys—and I write about things that I like. I always write the book I would want to read. I love Picasso’s quote “Art is a lie that makes us realize the truth.” I’m always exploring a truth that needs to be told, but doing so in ways that are not necessarily autobiographical. Once in awhile a real conversation, story, event, etc. goes into a scene, but it’s re-told to suit the purpose of that character or scene or story.

❤ What are your biggest motivations for writing?

When people ask me when or why I became a writer, I usually answer that I never became a writer—I always was a writer. I write because I’d be very unhappy if I didn’t. I suppose writing is home.

❤ What’s the most challenging aspect of writing?

Revision can be the sandbox of writing, or it can be the hole you’ve fallen into and need to dig yourself out. I’ve gotten writers block a lot of times, and that’s never fun. I also dread when I need to research something, because despite my teaching research methods to my students, I dislike the research process!

❤ Easiest?

Dialogue comes easiest to me. I love writing dialogue. I’m surprised I didn’t become a screenwriter. I also love narration.

❤ And the most rewarding?

I think the rewarding part is when I get an email from someone I’ve never met and they tell me how one of my books has touched them in some way. That, and I love when something I’ve written makes someone laugh, especially if s/he is someone special to me!

❤ Describe your books in three words.

Smart. Thoughtful. Funny.

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

Hmmm… that’s a good question. A lot of people call my books “smart chick lit”—I think it’s kind of a smack against chick lit, but I get what they mean. My favorite description of one of my books came from an Amazon reviewer who called it “a beach book with a brain.” I’ve been using that pitch ever since!

❤ What's next for you?

I’m working on novel #4—I don’t like to talk about my works in progress, but I’m really liking the story so far. I’m also writing solo again. Sarah and I had a blast writing Why I Love Singlehood together, and we never rule out a future collaboration, but we’re both doing separate things right now.

❤ Where can you be found on the web?

Right now I’m probably most visible on Twitter, and anyone can follow me. I have a blog called “I’ll Have What She’s Having” but I don’t get to write as consistently as I’d like to—I’m just way too busy! And I have a rather boring, amateur website that is in serious need of a makeover.

❤ Before we conclude this interview, is there anything you’d like to ask our readers?

I’m always interested to know what resonates with readers in terms of characters or relationships. Additionally, what makes them pick up a book and keep on reading it?

❤ Thank you for being here today, Elisa! It was a pleasure getting to know you and your books better :) Everyone, be sure to check out my review of Why I Love Singlehood as well.

Thank you for hosting me!

Thanks to Little Bird Publicity, I have one print copy of Why I Love Singlehood up for grabs. To enter, all you have to do is tell me:
What do you love about singlehood? To be frank, I hate being single. I'm sorry, but I'm not one of those people who can put on a brave face and pretend like being alone is a good sort of thing. But if I had to choose... well I like how it means I can flirt with whoever I want :)

Be sure to leave your email address with your comment so I can contact you when you win. This giveaway is open to US readers only, and will end on July 13th, 2011 at midnight EST.

As a reminder, following my blog is NOT required, but it is much appreciated!

Good luck!!!

Monday, June 27, 2011

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥: Why I Love Singlehood by Elisa Lorello and Sarah Girrell

Release Date: May 31st, 2011
Publisher: AmazonEncore 
Page Count: 356
Source: Complimentary copy provided by Little Bird Publicity in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you!!)

Eva Perino is single and proud of it. So proud, in fact, that she regularly boasts about it in her blog, "Why I Love Singlehood". But upon learning of her ex-boyfriend's engagement, Eva discovers her foundation is weaker than her façade. So begins a clumsy (and occasionally uproarious) search for love as she secretly joins an online dating site, tries her hand at speed-dating, and gets involved with one of the regulars at her coffee shop, The Grounds. But the self-prescribed "experiment" quickly unravels as Eva witnesses the trials and tribulations of her best friend Minerva's marriage, her sister's suburban family, and the one guy she can't stop thinking about. Soon, Eva's simple search for a date becomes a deeper exploration of love—sexual, platonic, and familial—and a powerful examination of who (or what) is the true love of her life.

Sparkling with warmth and wit, Why I Love Singlehood is a charming and insightful must-read for anyone—single or otherwise—who has ever been stymied by love.
What Stephanie Thinks: Ever try to convince yourself that you're okay with being single? I certainly have. Though I'll admit being single has its perks, no matter what anyone says or tries to convince you otherwise, ultimately, being alone sucks.

Eva's been single for a while now, and rather than sulk about it, she
embraces it via her popular blog. She doesn't try to convince herself that singlehood rocks; she tries to convince everyone else, because no one seems to be buying it.

I mean, if you found out your ex—the man who you thought was going to be your one and only—was getting married, would you actually be happy?

My own relationship status is always complicated. I'm never "single", but I seldom am exclusively attached either, so I feel Eva's pain about trying to put on a
brave face. I don't go around telling everyone I'm happy being single, because to be honest, I'm not ever. Both Eva and her blog explain what a single gal can do in her spare time though, and that makes Why I Love Singlehood a fun, amicable read.

For starters, there are no consequences. Random hookups, late-night parties, sudden disappearances—you don't have to explain any of it! The fun of being single is being able to do anything you want and getting away with it. Eva discovers this on her
desperate search to venture out of singlehood, ironically.

The lengths Eva goes to to find her significant other—if he even is out there—and the
tolls taken on her life in the process, keep me hanging on to this cute chick-lit novel. Lorello and Girrell have a breezy way of telling a simple story. What doesn't click with me completely is how the book isn't really hysterical or heartwarming. It is a book, in the end, I hated to put down, I'll admit, but there were no scenes that had me rolling on the floor laughing, or in tears or anything. The characterization is weak; none of the characters, Eva and her friends included, I really like. I mean, they're pleasant enough, but the authors don't delve too deeply with them, making it hard to sympathize thoroughly. 
Eva's voice is intelligent, but I wouldn't call it witty. She's not really someone I would want to become friends with, but I feel she'd make a really good teacher or counselor.

Apart from the frail cast, this book is well-crafted and
hard to put down. The plot rambles all over the place, adventuring on Eva's speed dates and online dating (the horror!), but still makes sense in the end. Easy to relate to, this single woman's journey had me wondering how and if her fairy tale ending would come into place.

If you've ever questioned why you were alone on a Friday night, Why I Love Singlehood will
inspire you to find someone to love. Sometimes, it's all right being single, but life is meant for loving others. With the support of her loving friends, family, and Mr. Right—the one who has been there all along—Eva Perino shows readers the ups and downs of singlehood, as well as the importance of putting yourself out there to find the one who you're meant to be with.

Stephanie Loves: "'Sometimes I'm just consumed by this overwhelming desire to be part of something beautiful in the world,' [Minerva] said. 'Something so good that it touches people, really changes them.' She put her highlighter down and nailed me with one of her classic, piercing Minerva looks. 'And it's not because I want to be knows as That Person who did That Thing. It's because I want to know that somewhere someone is smiling, and even if I never see them or never know it, I was a part of that.'"

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

Friday, June 24, 2011

❤author: TL James Interview and Giveaway!

❤ Today, as part of a NURTURE Virtual BOOK Tourz™ blog tour, I will be hosting sci-fi author, TL James with an interview. Welcome to ¡Miraculous!, TL! Will you please share a short bio with us?

TL James graduated with an MBA from LeTourneau University. At LETU, James cultivated an interest in biblical studies and research. James developed the family drama storyline, (The MPire trilogy) that showcases her love of research, biblical studies and literary classics (i.e., Chaucer, Shakespeare and Mythology). TL James currently resides in Houston, Texas with her son and immediate family.

❤ Tell us about your promoted release, The MPire: Death Cometh
The MPire: Death Cometh
A Necessary Evil... 

Mallory Towneson Haulm, financial wizard and consummate ladies man, brings the four horsemen to completion as he reluctantly embraces his destined charge as Death. While struggling to maintain his lavish façade, Mallory witnesses bits of his glamorous world slipping through his hands. How can he balance his earthly paradise with his diabolical calling of the earth's fate? And then there was one... Death Cometh divulges life shattering secrets that move Heaven and Earth as Mallory's true destined charge transforms him, requiring him to take his rightful place. However, his father, Malcolm is not quite ready to relinquish control. The battle lines have been drawn and the most consecrated ritual will allow only one to be Death. Who will survive?

An Epic Tale of Biblical Proportions... 

Join Mallory, once again, as he journeys through the twists and deceit of this family saga.
❤ What inspired you to write your first book, and then how did you get published?

I was laid-off with my two-month-old son in tow. Day in and day out, I was watching meaningless television. One day, I unplugged the television and dared myself to write something better – thus The MPire was created.

I wrote to several publishers before creating my own publishing house (PHE Ink).

Writing is a life-altering journey for you then, I'll bet! Describe your stories in three words.

Disturbed, life-changing, and unique.

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

My readers have been speechless.

❤ What's next for you?

I will be releasing the final installment of The MPireTrinity.
The Family

Mallory Haulm has finally carved his place in the Family Business, but his arched nemesis and eldest brother wants him out. With each plot Marc devises, Mallory manages to dodge the bullets. However, with family members turning their backs and betraying Mallory’s trust, Marc’s last plot might be successful.

The Son of God

Since his return to Heaven, Matthew is not happy. He is hell bent on coming back to Earth and reclaiming rightful possession. He will not let anything stand in the way, not even his identity as “The Second Coming.” In his quest to succeed, will he go as far as starting a little fight called Armageddon?

And The Holy Hell Raiser

Silas Xavier Luxapher – a new comer to the scene but not new to the game. With all the distractions of his Million-Man Campaign, raising his Family and running the Empire, Silas’ eyes are set on a new possession. He does not take “NO” for an answer; HE TAKES IT ALL!
❤ Sounds chilling! Where can you be found on the web?

Readers can find me virtually anywhere – GoodReads, Facebook, www.authortljames.com, and www.pheink.com. My books are available in bookstores and on Kindle and Nook.

❤ That's a wrap, then! Thanks for joining us today, TL!

 Thanks to TL's tour publicist, NURTURE Virtual BOOK Tourz™, one lucky reader will win their very own print or eBook copy of The MPire: Death Cometh -- winner's choice. To enter the giveaway, all you need to do is comment on this interview or ask TL a question that hasn't already been asked. No need to follow my blog -- though it is always appreciated :)

This giveaway is open until July 8th, 2011, at 11.59 PM EST, and is open to all readers -- US and international alike. However, the print copy is only open to US residents.

Hope you enjoyed, and good luck!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥: The Little Black Book of Big Red Flags by Natasha Burton, Julie Fishman, and Meagan McCrary

Release Date: June 18th, 2011
Publisher: Adams Media
Page Count: 237
Source: Complimentary copy provided by FSB Media in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you!)

Red Flag (noun): 1. A sign of danger. 2. The point in time when you notice something is a tad off with the guy you're dating, but decide to let it go because you really like him, you're tired of being single, you really really want to get laid, whatever. When things start going downhill, you look back on that seemingly insignificant moment you dismissed and think: That's when I should have known.


Saw something wrong with him—whether it was suspect grooming habits or ridiculously childish behavior—but let it slide. It's not that big of a deal. Except it totally was. You wanted to fall in love, but ended up going insane. You swore you'd never do it again. But did.

Don't beat yourself up. In the search for love, we've all either blatantly ignored or completely missed red flags. Instead, smarten up. It's time to figure out what you missed and learn how to avoid similar flagtastic fiascos in the future. If you raise your red-flag awareness now, you'll be able to greenlight a real relationship down the road.
What Stephanie Thinks: I love relationship advice, not because I need it (I hope!), but because I enjoy giving it. I'm not THAT experienced (no Ph.D.!) but I am studying psych. After all, what more does finding Mr. Right come down to, than the woman mind?

The Little Black Book of Big Red Flags is a cute, sharp manual that's small in stature, but big in heart. Reading it, not only will you come to an understanding of questionable male behavior—ranging from that of the weaklings, to the complete jackasses—but also, laugh and wince along with numerous other women who tell their Big Red-Flag Stories. This book resonates distinct giggles, relatable instances, and tell-it-to-me truths that you'll be more than happy to keep in mind. Complete with 50 essential "rules" of the dating world, blunt, hysterical, and ever-so-observant, this Little Black Book deserves a spot on my "to read again and again and again" shelf, or better yet, to be tucked into my purse.

Normally, I write a 
Stephanie Loves feature by including my favorite quote from the book being reviewed into my review. Since I love so much about this book, I'll just share with you, a several of the Red Flag Rules I appreciate for being funny, too true, or for really hitting home.

Red Flag Rule #10: If the guy can't hear the word "vagina" without giggling, he should not be permitted to touch yours. — okay, I just had to account this one. I don't think I've known any guys who chortled at my naming the female genitalia since seventh grade (because after seventh grade, it was always something along the lines of "AW yeah" rather than "hehee"), but if you do meet a guy with this sort of immaturity level, please leave him.

Red Flag Rule #11: A guy who's not man enough to have your back on all occasions, even if it means upsetting his mother, isn't worth keeping around. — I'm not married, but we all know the daughter-in-law rule: no matter how nice your boyfriend/husband's mother is, she will have some sort of beef with you. And though I'm not saying that guys should choose their significant others over their moms, I am saying, if they don't have the balls to stand up for their girl, they probably don't have any balls at all.

Red Flag Rule #16: If a guy has to ask how many times you came, chances are you didn't. — ahahahah. Boy oh boy, do I have a story for you. I hooked up with the guy at a party once (I won't name names, mostly to preserve my own dignity) and he was like this real hotshot man's man kinda guy, right? He thought he was so impressive while we were going at it; I'm pretty sure he was more concerned about his performance than ours (total douche bag? I think so). When we were done, there was all this great pillow talk shit going on, and I asked him really sweetly, "Did you come?" and he said with the most satisfied grin on his face, "Yeah, twice." A beat later, "How about you?" This time, I smiled smugly and said, "Not even close". Stephanie: 1 Conceited asshole: 0.

Red Flag Rule #18: A man should never use the word "pussy" when he's in yours. — personally, I wouldn't be highly offended with that kind of bed language. In fact, I would assume the best and think he did porn or something. 

Red Flag Rule #26: It's better to have loved and lost than to be stuck in a relationship that's no longer full of love at all. — I hate being single, and as a result, have suffered through meaningless "relationships" a lot. Does it make me emotionally unhealthy? Sometimes. Socially suicidal? Often.

Red Flag Rule #41: If the guy you're dating tells you he can't commit to a relationship right now because he's "processing a lot," don't wait around for him to work through his shit. We're all processing a lot... it's called life. — I will admit I've been guilty of this more than once, in a relationship. No matter how much I want to be with a guy, if I have too much going on, or have complicated things on my mind, I don't want to have to offer just a piece of what I have. I want to be my best when I'm with a guy; no one deserves my inability to commit. In my defense, girls are less mentally stable than guys. It'd be interesting if this was a man's book, on advice about women. Would this same rule apply? I hope not.

To learn more Red Flag Rules (without my sarcastic commentary), check out The Little Black Blog of Red Flags, which is updated regularly with all the red flags featured in the book.

Radical Rating: 10 hearts: I'm speechless; this book is an extraordinarily amazingly wonderfully fantastically marvelous masterpiece. ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥: The Blackberry Bush by David Housholder

Release Date: June 1st, 2011
Publisher: Summerside
Page Count: 172
Source: Complimentary copy provided by B&B Media Group in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you!)
An invitation to a treasure hunt through the landscape of your soul...

Josh grows up an artistic and gifted California Golden Boy, but for all that life has handed to him, he struggles with his identity and role in the world. Surrounded by unrealistic expectations, he feels hedged in.

Kati's German heritage presents its own obstacles to understanding herself and what freedom means. She is crushed by disappointment at never being "enough"—especially for a mother who cannot be satisfied.

As Josh and Kati's lives unfold, longing for true freedom reverberates in their souls. Come discover with them the life-transforming power of a "chance encounter"... or is it chance after all?
What Stephanie Thinks: If you've lived long enough, you know that nothing in life is a coincidence. Ever witness a miracle? It probably wasn't unintentional, and if you think about it closely, received help from a stranger hand. Though in The Blackberry Bush, this type of intervention is implied to be spiritual, I don't think you have to be Christian (or religious, for that matter) to understand the concept.

Angelo, the unseen and almost unreal narrator who ins and outs from the telling of this story—or these stories, I should say—tampers with the lives of not only our protagonists, Kati and Josh, but also with those of their ancestors, the ones who have shaped their life stories as they know it. He can be considered an angel. Or maybe even God. But I find that part irrelevant, as I'm not a fanatical Christian. For all we know, Angelo could represent a loving grandparent. Or he may not be a person at all, and could instead symbolize the random acts of kindness strangers maneuver. 

To sum up the plot, Josh and Kati live very separate, almost opposite, lives, but are more alike than they could imagine. They come from the same lineage, but don't even know of each other's existence. Josh lives in a world that will never please him. Kati lives in a world that can't be pleased. A life-altering event changes both of their destinies, but for different reasons. While Kati gets her life saved, Josh redeems his true moral value when their paths cross. But of course, at the time, they merely think of it as a coincidence. Which, of course we know, do not exist.

Housholder's voice is strong and easy to read. The quality of the literature is not sublime, but the connection he draws about life and community both haunts and graces. His figurative story is told simply but flowingly in The Blackberry Bush, and for that reason, makes it one of the most thoughtful and remarkable novels of our day.

Stephanie Loves: "I especially like cartwheels. They say boys can't do them, but they are so wrong. I never go a day without cartwheeling. I can even cartwheel along the top of the old stone wall. Mom would wig if she saw that. For an instant in the middle, you feel weightless. There has to be a way to make that moment last longer.

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