Monday, May 28, 2012

Whatever It Takes, by Lindsay Paige, Pre-Release Party and Giveaway

I'm delighted to be able to continue being a part of the pre-release party for Lindsay's awesome new book, Whatever It Takes. WIT is the third volume in Lindsay's Bold As Love series that began with Sweetness and continued with I'm Yours. Today Lindsay herself will be joining us for a wide-ranging interview, covering her covers (!), some musical thoughts, and insights into Lindsay's tv, book and movie habits. We also touch a little bit on some deeper issues relating to Lindsay's life and emotions. So take a look! Lindsay is always open, direct and thoughtful, and this q and a is no exception. And at the bottom of the page, you'll find an awesome, easy to enter giveaway, too!

Can you tell us a little bit about the covers on Sweetness and I’m Yours? Is that you on the swing? And who’s that with you on I’m Yours? Who took the pictures? How does the cover of Whatever It Takes relate to the story? You have some cool photos on your fb page, did you take those for a class, or just for fun? Is photography a hobby of yours?

Sure! I love talking about covers. That is me on the covers. On I'm Yours, I'm with my brother, Ethan. On Whatever It Takes, I'm with my brother, Brian.

My mom took the pictures for the first two covers and Brian's girlfriend took the picture for the third book. Whatever It Takes cover is set on a local community college campus. The cover relates to the story because it shows that they are united. Brian's arm is securely around my waist, showing that Jake isn't letting Emily go anyway. As you can see, my arm isn't as secure around his waist, but I am turned in towards him just a bit, which shows that Emily will be leaning on Jake quite a bit.

I did take those for a class. I'm taking digital photography and those pictures are the results. :) Photography is a hobby of mine as well.

There’s a lot of music in your books, including the title of I’m Yours. Tell us about some of your favorite artists. Is the title of Whatever It Takes related to a song, or what made you think of it as the title?

I'm Yours is related to Jason Mraz's song titled the same and it has to do with Emily telling Jake that she is indeed his. Whatever It Takes is related to Lifehouse's song titled the same and with what Jake says he'll do for Emily. I really think it's cool when the title of a book is something that is said in the book and that's what I did, in addition to the songs.

I notice that you have a lot of country in the mix, but you like pop and rock, too. Up north here, kids tend to like country or rock, not both. Is it more typical to like both where you live?

I’m not sure I would classify it as "typical", but I will say that it's common.

What artists have you seen live and what did you think about that experience.

I have seen tons of artists live! I've seen Kenny Chesney, Sugarland, Nickelback (twice!), Puddle of Mudd, Rascal Flatts, Finger Eleven, Taylor Swift, and Brad Paisley to name a few.

How did you ever get to be a Penguins fan, living where you do? Is this a Crosby thing? Which came first, the Penguins or the Crosby?

I do love the Pens! I always go see them play when they play the Carolina Hurricanes. I love your last question. Penguins came first, because I'm a huge fan of the animal, and then Crosby came.

From some of your blog posts and status updates, I've noticed that you seem to be a big TVD fan, what other shows do you regularly watch? Any impact on your stories?

The Good Wife and Bones. The rest of my favorite shows, I don't watch as much as these. Not really an impact on my stories.

If you feel like talking about it, how’s your relationship with your dad now? Do you think his drinking problems contributed to your anxiety issues and panic attacks? Lots of kids with alcoholic parents (my wife’s dad was one, too), struggle a lot with issues from that. Has your therapy helped you with that? Do you think your therapy has helped with your writing? You seem very reflective and self-aware, which seems like a good therapy outcome, and also would help with writing, no?

The only relationship I have with my father is custody over my dog, Bartley. I think his drinking problems have an impact on my anxiety. My therapy has been extremely helpful with dealing with the anger and other emotions. My therapy has helped with my writing as well, especially in Don't Panic. That is true. I have to be reflective and self-aware in order to better control my anxiety.

Finally, any movies that you would consider your favorites? You mentioned Cars II in Sweetness, but how about some that have brought your dreams and fantasies to life?

A Walk to Remember for one. Fast and Furious are another favorite. I don't think I've watched any movies that have "brought my dreams and fantasies to life" as you say as much as books have.

OK, Here's that awesome giveaway I was telling you about! Enter below for lots of chances to win all three of Lindsay's awesome books, plus your choice of a B&N or Amazon $25 gift card!

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Monday, May 21, 2012

Any Other Night, by Anne Pfeffer - Interview, Update and FREE!

A couple of months ago I read and reviewed a lovely book, then titled “Loving Emily,” by Anne Pfeffer. I saw the other day that Anne has re-titled her book, and provided it with a new cover. It’s now known as “Any Other Night,” and this is the new cover photo. Changing your title and cover isn’t something you see every day, and I thought it would be interesting to get Anne’s perspective on the change. Here's my q and a with Anne!

So, Anne, what’s up with the new title and cover?

“I'm really happy with the change. I've felt for a long time that the old title and cover emphasized the romance part of the book too strongly, when in fact it's a coming of age story about the sixteen year old protagonist, Ryan. I love the new title – Any Other Night – because it evokes that weird element of chance in life, how one little decision can change everything. And it implies regret, that feeling of 'coulda, shoulda, woulda' that Ryan was living with during the story. And it's also the first three words of the book.”

That makes sense, and I agree with you about the novel’s true focus being on Ryan’s journey. Not gonna lie, though, I thought this had some sweet, sweet romance going, and by the end, I was loving Emily too.

So I hear a rumor that you are doing a free offer of "Any Other Night" on Kindle Select, through Tuesday? Where can people go to get in on that (Ed. Note – this is an awesome offer of a really good book, go get it and spread the word!)

Thanks, Fred, for loving Emily! She's a controversial character, which is fine, but I thought it made the title a little ironic. Any Other Night is available through and will be free until midnight May 22. The content of the book Loving Emily is unchanged; just the title and cover are new. Here's a link to the Amazon page

Can you tell us about your next project, which I understand is titled, The Wedding Cake Girl? I am intrigued by the title – does she make them or eat them?

"She makes them—against her will! The Wedding Cake Girl is a contemporary Cinderella story complete with a colorful, quirky island setting, dangerous deep sea diving adventures, a family of billionaires, and lots and lots of butter cream. I'm polishing the final version right now. I was planning to self-publish immediately, but an agent wanted to see the manuscript. So I may send it to him, which will delay things a bit."

Does this mean you are thinking about not doing the indie thing any more? It’s been a while since Any Other Night came out. Are you happy with the process?

"It's been seven months since Any Other Night was published – I guess that's a long time in the indie world! I loved self-publishing my first book and was looking forward to doing the same with The Wedding Cake Girl. But I went to a writer's conference where an agent saw the beginning of my manuscript. He wanted to read the full, so I've decided to send it to him. But that's a long way from getting an offer of representation! We'll see what happens."

Here’s my original review of the novel now known as “Any Other Night.” Please, do yourself a favor , and if it’s no longer available for free on Kindle Select by the time you read this, trust me, it’s worth it!

This book was a pleasure to read and experience. The story starts with MC Ryan so smitten with his lovely classmate Emily that he tells his life long friend Michael (boys don't do bff's, sorry) he'll have to drive himself to Emily's sweet sixteen party. That's because Ryan is intent on arriving early, to maybe have a chance at conversing with Emily before she gets swept up in the festivities. When Michael does finally arrive, trashed with his scuzzball new friend Chase, Ryan tries to help his friend out, despite his egregious party manners, but things don't work out and Michael drives off alone. Cue the music for uh-oh, some bad stuff is about to happen. When it does, Ryan blames himself, especially his desire to be with Emily, for Michael's death. Ryan has some other issues to deal with too. His parents are emotionally and physically absent, leaving Michael and his charming twin second grade sisters alone most of the time with their surrogate parent, Rosaria, the housekeeper of their Hollywood mega mansion (I hope she has help, this sounds like one of those places where dusting is a full time job!) Academically, he's in a bit of a slump, and he gave up on tennis after Michael's earlier overdose drove an even deeper wedge between Ryan and the fam. Speaking of tennis, Michael's brief encounter with Chrissie, the cute aspiring actress who works in the club pro shop, has left some complications. Ryan sees helping Chrissie as a way to redeem himself for failing his friend, but things get complicated. As his reluctant relationship with Emily deepens (he doesn't deserve to be happy, when M is dead!), the conflicting commitments he's made pull him in different and demanding directions.

Not that many YA books like this (a family drama, coming of age with romantic overtones) feature a male protagonist, so that is a refreshing change. It's always great, to me, to know what the guy is thinking, they are usually so opaque, and to be left wondering what is on the girl's mind. Ryan is a great character, he initially comes across as a little too good to be true, but as you come to know him you begin to understand where his maturity and seriousness have come from. The way the romance develops with Emily is sweet and tender, and yes, very intense. The supporting characters are interesting, well developed and real feeling (Emily's father, especially is quite the piece of work), and contribute to the rich immersive world the author creates. Seeing Ryan find his way as he tries to do the right thing (and it's not easy sometimes to figure out what that is!), is touching and draws you deeply into the world of the story. This is really a wonderful book, and I urge you to give yourself over to the pleasure of enjoying it!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Love Evolution, by Michell Mankin

Love Evolution Love Evolution by Michelle Mankin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a fun fast read, with a really cool female MC who will have you rooting for and rocking with her all the way. When MC Avery's twin brother Justin is disappeared by the evil mob boss who's girlfriend he's fatuously fooled around with, her world falls apart. She's a super talented guitarist/vocalist, and she and Justin were on the cusp of a big career breakthrough when his disappearance derailed their dreams. Her agent tries to pull her out of her downward spiral by hooking her up with Brutal Strength, the angsty band trying to bounce back after their guitarist has quit, driven off by moody Marcus, their front man, fresh out of rehab. Wrinkle alert - Marcus's heart is in rehab too, after some smexy stillettos stomped all over it, and he's not about to allow some chick into his boy's club. Avery's kind of desperate though -desperate enough to duct-tape those tempting ta-ta's (not literally, she actually uses an Ace bandage), to try to pass as a dude. And, mirabile dictu,her plan actually works! But is successfully deceiving Marcus and the guys really where she wanted to end up, after she clicks so well with the band ... and with Marcus?

Michelle does a great job of creating an appeallingly vulnerable but tough character in Avery. She's fragile but game, and her talent and drive keep her going through some sticky situations. Equally well drawn is Marcus, who could easily strike you as kind of a dick, what with all his misguided, misogynistic malaise, but instead comes across as relatable, if a bit clueless (an essential element in a girl dresssed as a guy story!). I pictured him as kind of a Kurt Novoselic type guy, brooding and ursine. Michelle also creates a cool Vancouver vibe, all misty and markety, that makes the story more concrete and pulls you into its magic. The side characters, especially Marcus' brother Dwight, and the vampish vixen Veronica, are dimensional enough (although V. is a bit Cruella DeVil-esque) to add drama, spice, and some humor, as well as provide expos and conflict. Another really great element are the lyrics that Avery and Marcus collaborate on as BS finds it feet again. They create a vibe, move the emotional aspect of their relationship forward, and sound like awesome songs just on their own. I love how this worked to draw you into the world of the story, I really felt it! When all the deceptions and disguises and disorder start to blow up towards the fun finale, there are some satsifying moments of aha!, thank goodness, and what the hell just happened, that combine to make the HEAdlong rush to a dramatic conclusion feel fresh and fun, even though there's a Twelfth-Nighty subtext that suggests maybe this isn't all as novel as it nonetheless manages to feel. This is a cute, believable and readable romp, with some real emotion, that will make you glad you came!

Michelle provided me with a copy of Love Evolution in exchange for an honest review, which this totally is. Thanks Michelle!

View all my reviews

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Chance Encounters by J. Sterling

Chance EncountersChance Encounters by J. Sterling

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Super sigh of sweet satisfaction!

Remember this song, by Bryan Adams?

"When you love someone, you'll sacrifice
You'll give everything you got, and you won't think twice
You'll risk it all, no matter what may come
When you love someone.
You'll shoot the moon, put out the sun
When you love someone"

Those words sound so vanilla, just sitting there on the page, but with the smoky, smouldering intensity of Bryan Adams' voice and the moody dreamlike piano and flute accompaniment, they convey a powerful sense of an almost desperate yearning to be with the object of your desire. So, it's kind of awkward, to say the least, when that kind of powerful emotion hits you when you've already committed to be with someone else. And that's what happens to MC Caroline as our story opens. She's in a lovely, settled relationship with her lawyer boyfriend Clay when she gets word of the death of a friend. On her return from the funeral, she's seated, by chance, next to Jackson Parks. Maybe we should move the "s" to the front of his last name, because whoa! crazy sparks fly, and they set Caroline and Jackson's lives on fire. Like Bryan's song suggests, a love so intense and consuming has risks, and requires everything you've got. But can careful Care, the sensible girl with a plan, take a chance based on just that kind of random encounter? Especially when it's more than just her own heart at stake.

This is an emotional rollercoaster of a ride. It's not enough that Caroline and Jackson have to contend with their overwhelming mutual attraction (hey, it could be worse, I guess, if it were one sided) while stuck at absolute opposite ends of the U.S., the disapproval of their well-meaning friends, and other peoples' claims to their hearts. Events won't stand still either, and require a leap of faith that might well end in disaster for one or both of them.

Personally I couldn't help but fall in love with Caroline. I know that cheating is kind of a gray area at best in romance novels, and it's not clear if what Caroline does would be considered that (this is kind of a chaste romance, btw, by today's standards, although emotionally flagrant). But she's so torn between what's expected of her and what her heart can't resist that her struggles will def tug at your heartstrings. She doesn't want to be the kind of person she'd hate, who can argue with that? Fortunately she has an awesome lifeline friend, Bailey, to provide perspective, help the plot along and just generally be funny and charming. There really aren't any good guys or bad guys (although some of them pull some extremely maddening stunts), just a crew of realistically drawn characters with the flaws, foibles and occasional strengths that real folk would display.

This is a charming, poignant, tender and exhilarating read. I love the way the author conveys that giddy sense of besotted, bewilderingly
beautiful emotional attraction that is one of life's greatest gifts. Don't hesitate to give that gift to yourself, by reading this sweet and affecting novel asap!

When You Love Someone Bryan isn't so generous about sharing his videos. But I thought this cover was charming, she's so sweet and YA, and also has just a little bit of a French accent, I thought she did a lovely job of conveying the vibe of the song and, a little bit, of the book.
View all my reviews

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

There's A Place - Continuing the "Whatever It Takes," by Lindsay Paige Pre- Release Party!

I'm delighted to be able to continue being a part of the pre-release party for Lindsay's awesome new book, Whatever It Takes. WIT is the third volume in Lindsay's Bold As Love series that began with Sweetness and continued with I'm Yours. Today Lindsay herself will be joining us for a guest post, offering a guided magical mystery tour of some of the spots where the action of the Bold As Love series takes place. Just like Liverpool was the touchstone and wellspring for the Beatles' awesome burst of sixties era creativity,

so Lindsay's books are infused with the idioms, locations and vibe of eastern North Carolina. Let's let her tell us a little bit about it!

Going to Carolina in My Mind, by Lindsay Paige

North Carolina has influenced my writing, to say the least. If you have read my books, you know that there are quite a few "y’alls" and other sayings included. These are things I’ve heard all my life from those around me. I love including old sayings that I hear my grandma say because, honestly, it cracks me up to hear them.

You may wonder whether the memories I have from growing up are also a part of Emily and Jake’s life. In Sweetness, there are some life events that Jake deals with that I, myself, have experienced as well.

For my entire life, I have been dealing with an alcoholic who becomes sober and then about six months to a year later, starts drinking again. Mr. Benson, Jake's Dad, starts heavily drinking due to the tragic loss of his wife. To this day, I still don’t understand why my dad started drinking.

Honestly, I don’t care anymore. But enough about that.

Another thing that my characters like is ice cream. So do I. Ed. note: Me too! My characters love to visit Cold Stone’s and Dairy Queen. Emily also loves Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey ice cream.

As you know, the series is set in my home state of North Carolina. Today, I thought it would be fun to share with you some sights of a few places mentioned in the books. Hopefully this will allow you to explore eastern NC without leaving the comfort of your home. (Although, it's a great place to visit!)

Wilmington, NC

Many of the places mentioned in the Bold as Love series are in the city of Wilmington. There's the Chick-Fil-A on Market St., Cold Stone Creamery at Mayfaire Town Center (the upscale and elegant Wilmington mall!), the Mayfaire Cinema 16, etc. Below are some pictures of these places in Wilmington, which is also where One Tree Hill is filmed! Ed. note: little known fact alert (at least to me!)

This location isn't actually in the books, but I thought it was a cool picture, and gives a good feel for what Wilmington looks like from above.

Below is a picture of The Mayfaire Town Center. In the back on the right side, you can see the cinema.

Here's a better look at the cinema, by night and by day. This is where Emily took Drake to see "Cars II," in Sweetness.It really is very nice.

This is the Chick-Fil-A on Market St. Sorry this one's a bit blurry. It's the best I could find.

This is a Cold Stone's. Yummy! (I couldn't find the one at Mayfaire online. Next time I go, I'll grab a picture and share.)

Topsail Island/Surf City, NC and Topsail Beach
Anytime I mention the beach in the series, Topsail is what I'm thinking of.

There you have it. I hope you enjoyed going to Carolina in your mind!

Freditor's Note:

I honestly don't know why I got on a Beatles kick with this post, except that their music, in the early days especially, was so steeped in and infused with that special sense of time, place and vibe of the early 60's. Srsly, looking at the picture, I can just feel the damp corduroys and scratchy duffel coats, smell the ever-present fragrance(stench?)of cigarette smoke, and see the cool girls hanging out in their opaque tights and mini-skirts. When getting Beatle-stalgic, it seems almost obligatory to post "In My Life," but I'm gonna go with a slightly more obscure song that's always been one of my favourites (throwing a little English orthography at ya there!). I especially love the images from those early innocent days that are included with it.

"Whatever It Takes," by Lindsay Paige, will release on June 13, 2012. I'll be hosting some more events here later this month, including a giveaway, so please check back, and follow to stay part of things!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Whatever It Takes, by Lindsay Paige

I'm delighted to be able to post a pre-release review of "Whatever It Takes," the awesome third volume of Lindsay Paige's fresh new contemporary series "Bold As Love," as part of a month long Pre-Release Party! "Sweetness," the first of the two previous volumes, introduces us to Emily and Jake as they head into their final year of high school. Each of them bears the scars of previous losses and hurts, but when they find each other, their missing puzzle pieces start to fit, and they become each other's world. Unfortunately, the rest of the world doesn't take too kindly to being left behind, and it has some scary and intense obstacles to throw in their way. "Whatever It Takes" picks up where "I'm Yours," the second book, left off. Note: While this review does not contain spoilers for “Whatever It Takes,” it does assume familiarity with the events of “Sweetness” and “I’m Yours.” Read them first!

My Review (5 Stars!)
Have you heard that awesome new(ish) song, “Springsteen,” by Eric Church? It’s a bittersweet nostalgic reminiscence of a teenage romance that started at a Springsteen concert. It recalls the relationship’s arc in lyrics, song titles and echoes of melodies and choruses. Like Lindsay, Eric is from North Carolina, and is awesomely talented. But what really made me think of it (and you should definitely check it out!), is not only that it reminds me of Lindsay, and her gift of being able to capture the sweet intensity of falling in love for the first time, but also of how well some of my favorite Springsteen lyrics relate to “Whatever It Takes”:

"It ought to be easy ought to be simple enough
Man meets woman and they fall in love
But the house is haunted and the ride gets rough
And you've got to learn to live with what you can't rise above,
If you want to ride on down in this tunnel of love"

"Whatever It Takes" opens in media res, with Jake and Emily settling into their first year of college, and their first time living together in an off campus apartment. Life is pretty doggone challenging for them: in addition to classes, they both have jobs (Em’s is at a hipster college town coffee shop called Coffee Beans), and Jake’s hockey commitments are demanding, too. That doesn’t really leave a lot of room for relationship building, but it does leave plenty of room (especially on those late and lonely night-times) for the ghost that still haunts Emily: “Today marks four months since I lost the baby. I thought it would get easier, but every time I think about it, it’s just as bad as when it happened.”

Even though this reader had hoped that Emily’s grief at the loss of the baby was lessening at the end of I’m Yours, it appears to be moving, if at all, on its own timetable. While Jake seems to be able and ready to move on, Emily is goin’ down slow, and, characteristically, is unwilling to share her nightmares and pain with Jake, in a misguided attempt to spare him (Pro tip – this is NOT a good relationship strategy, hopefully Emily will learn that someday!). And while the emotions and conflicts this issue creates means that their hoped-for “Eden” is not exactly paradise, it surely does contain a couple of wily serpents: Kyle, a rich and attractive guy friend of Emily’s new girlfriends, who claims to have insights that will help Emily with her grief; and Eve, the attractive goalie of the women’s hockey team, who seems a little too interested in helping Jake skate over his relationship troubles with Emily. And although Jake and Emily’s love is an amazingly intense edifice, it sometimes looks like the foundations are still a bit on the shaky side once the emotional ground starts moving. Then, just when they finally seem to be finding their footing, circumstances conspire to challenge them yet again (you just know the last third of a Lindsay book is gonna shake things up).

“The course of true love never did run smooth,” Shakespeare reminds us, and that is surely the theme of this volume of the Bold as Love series. Told in alternating points of view, like its predecessors, this book shares their beautiful direct and simple yet deeply affecting poetic style, as well. Lindsay is able to convey so intensely the confusion, conflicting feelings and overwhelming emotional storms of life that even a profound and deeply committed relationship can experience. Sometimes I did want to reach in and give Emily a shake or two, but of course that is all part of the experience of being pulled in so deeply. This is definitely a book of sunlight and shadows, and will leave you wanting more of Jake and Emily’s elusive quest for that HEA they so desperately deserve. It’s a worthy and richly readable successor to “Sweetness” and “I’m Yours” that will leave fans of this charming and emotionally imaginative young author satisfied … but only until the promised next installment.

"Whatever It Takes," by Lindsay Paige, will release on June 13, 2012. I'll be hosting some more events here later this month, including a giveaway, so please check back, and follow to stay part of things! All images in this post are courtesy of, and copyright 2011, Lindsay Paige

Check out Springsteen, by Eric Church - it's totally got a Lindsay vibe to it!: