Jennifer Nolan’s debut romance novel, Our Forever Crazy Love, is quite the emotional roller coaster. First of all, the fact that it’s written in the first person through the perspective of the main character, Vivienne is something that makes it more personal. In many ways, it feels like you are reading her diary, taking a sneak peek into her most intimate thoughts.
In this riveting novel, we get a front-row seat to not only Vivienne’s personal life but her career life as well. As she explores her relationship with her long-standing crush Danny, we understand more and more why they have never ended up together. While in the beginning Danny is described as handsome but a bit standoffish, this perception is radically challenged as we get to know him better.
The book starts with Vivienne trying to seduce him but ends with her getting a complicated but yet fairy tale ending. More importantly, this is the story of a woman trying to juggle the demands of her career while trying to be there for everyone she loves. As life throws her numerous curve balls and she grapples with excruciating grief, her independent persona begins to unravel.
Apart from love, a recurring theme in this book is the struggle for control. Through the main character, the author attempts to explain how many women struggle with letting go and taking it easy; much to the detriment of their love lives.
As a modern woman, this book hit very close to home with me being able to see some elements of myself in Vivienne. Her struggle with relinquishing control is one that I believe many women can identify with.
While the author does a good job of describing the characters and their relationships with each other, there are some discrepancies and details left unshared. For instance, it would have been great to know more about Danny’s family and how that fed into the man he is today.
There was also little on Luis’ side of the family, especially during moments when such information should have taken center stage. Other characters like Rach also need more development. However, I do understand that the author may have been trying to focus on the main character, Vivienne.
On the plus side, the book has a rhythm to it quite like that of real life; there are a few things that matter and others that are just part of the flow. I also appreciate the use of foretelling by incorporating a psychic; that was a nice touch. At the end of the day, Our Forever Crazy Love is a good read.
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-989733-00-4
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Pushing Back by Jim Hartsell is an introspective coming-of-age novel that tackles the challenges of a broken family and growing up in the rural South through the eyes of its sympathetic protagonist, Boone Hammond. Though the central themes of the novel are heavy, Hartsell masterfully balances the sometimes-painful topics of the novel with poetically beautiful prose that will whisk you away to Boone’s world. Pushing Back is different from many of the top sellers you will see advertised in bookshops in that it embraces the slower pace of its plot, which is reflected in the drawling prose. Sometimes we all need a break from the unstoppable onslaught of reality and deserve an escape to a beautiful literary world, right? If you are looking for a thoughtful novel that will likely force you to consider your own prejudices and misconceptions, then I highly recommend Pushing Back.
Pushing Back is one of those beautiful, engrossing novels that sucks you in with the first page and, before you know it, you are several chapters in and it is way past your bedtime. The novel is told from the first-person perspective of Boone Hammond, whose namesake is humorously not the Daniel Boone of whom you’re thinking. A junior in high school, Boone lives in rural Tennessee with his parents and young sister, all of whom are dealing with the loss of his younger brother several years previously. Boone’s family is dealing with struggles that will be familiar to many readers, regardless of whether they hail from the American South or elsewhere: domestic abuse, poverty, alcohol dependency, and depression. Though he finds himself making his way through this formative time of his life largely on his own, Boone forms a deep relationship with his nearby elderly neighbor and charmingly begins to experience the heart-racing delights and pitfalls of teenage romance.
While some sections felt repetitive at times Hartsell writes in an incredibly elegant way, and the paragraphs often feel reminiscent of poetry. This is especially true in the passages where Boone is experiencing the natural beauties of Tennessee. I also enjoyed the raw emotion that Hartsell fills the novel with, in describing Boone’s emotions and those of his abusive father, as well as those Boone’s romantic interest, Nancy. The emotions of loss and love can sometimes be hard to read, especially as they come from the perspective of a young man who is growing up alone, but readers will undoubtedly appreciate the honesty and sensitivity with which Hartsell tackles these pains, as they think about their own experiences with change and pain.
In spite of the challenges facing Boone, Pushing Back is a hopeful novel: hopeful for the future awaiting Boone, acknowledging the room he has to grow to become a better person, and littered with charming moments that are bound to make you smile. The feelings coursing through the pages of Pushing Back are universal to humanity.
Pages: 328 | ASIN: B01FAVY0AY
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The Aristocrat by Regine Dubono is a short story about a girl named Marianne Maywee, who lives with her family (including her younger sister, Paula) in Nice, France. One day an older man appeared in their lives and introduced himself as their godfather, Mr. Giles. Marianne and Paula go on many outings with Mr. Giles, until the day he does not come to their house as expected. Marianne learns that he’s in the hospital and she goes to visit him. Will this be the end of their enjoyable outings together?
I enjoyed reading the descriptions of the sights Marianne saw on her outings and the places she visited with her sister, Paula, and Mr. Giles. The book was an interesting and quick read, but I wished that the story had been longer. The ending was too abrupt, and there were still questions that I had hoped to have answered.
I was confused by the hint of romantic interest for Marianne from Mr. Giles. I wasn’t sure if he actually had romantic thoughts regarding her or if it was only an incorrect impression she got from some of their interactions.
I encountered a few run-on sentences, some issues with grammar and a few typos and inconsistencies; (On one page, it was stated that Marianne and Paula were born eleven months apart, but then on the next page, twenty months separated their ages).
Overall this a quick and interesting outing with Marianne and Mr. Giles.
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Kayla is almost at her wits’ end. Her ex-husband is a loser of massive proportions, and it just so happens that she attempted to drown him. Ridding herself of his insanity has left her alone to work the business his family built together and raise her four small children alone. With a more than just supportive family of in-laws who actually favor her over their own son, Kayla is making her way in the world one day at a time. A chance meeting with the officer who cuffed her during that lapse of better judgment turned drowning incident leads Kayla down the path to a life she thought was no longer in the cards for her.
Nikki Mays has done it again. Cuffed by You is the third installment in her romance series, SAPD SWAT, and it actually may be my favorite of the three. Kayla and Marc, the book’s main focus, are lively and easily visualized characters. Kayla is every single mom striving to make a better life for her children and resigned to the fact that she won’t allow her heart to be broken again. She walks the straight and narrow, for the most part, and is a truly likable character.
Marc, like the other male figures in Mays’s series, is a wonder of nature. As Mays churns out one stunning adjective after another to describe his physique, readers are left wondering how this could still be considered a realistic fiction piece–he is almost too good to be true. Mays is a pro at making her male main characters into loving and caring men who still manage to exude a rough exterior–they are dreams come true. This is only one of the many aspects of Mays’s writing that make her books so exceptionally readable and easily favorited.
As with each of the other books in the series, Mays has included a hateful and spite-filled antagonist. Enter the ex-husband. Mays succeeds in making Kayla’s ex a virtual monster, and the loathing is almost palpable page after page. While the entire cast of characters, including his own mother and brothers gang up against him, the reader is swept into the same vortex of hatred and animosity. Mays makes it easy to despise him while simultaneously building a case for Marc to take his place.
Mays is queen of the banter. Her dialogue between characters dominates the pages and makes the book what it is–a masterpiece of romantic comedy. While she includes a good bit of the traditional romance elements in her writing, she is able to make her characters jump off the page as they bicker back and forth, hurl jovial insults, and generally function as one loving unit of friends-turned-family.
Mays’s writes for her books to be enjoyed and for her characters to be remembered well beyond the last page–she achieves that, no doubt.
Pages: 221 | ASIN: B07L6WLS6Y
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Stockboy by Thomas Duffy is the story of Phillip, a man who is in his dead-end job. Stuck with no relationship. Stuck in his mundane life. Phillip is a good guy. He is smart. He has a degree. He has an excellent work ethic. However, he feels like he is only spinning his wheels and wasting his time on a life that is going nowhere. He feels his life ticking away while waiting for his love life to work out, his bosses to see his potential, and fulfillment to come his way.
Phillip is such a relatable character. He is sort of an “everyman” underdog. Everyone has felt unfulfilled at some point in his or her life. Readers will definitely identify with this character. He is the typical good guy who finishes last. He’s smart and capable and a great worker. He also gets passed over time and time again for promotions or wage increases at his bookstore job. When he does find a woman he loves, his life tailspins in that area as well. He can’t catch a break. As my grandfather would have said, “If it’s not one thing, it’s the same thing.” Phillip lives a “Groundhog Day” sort of life on his cyclical hamster wheel of a life.
The themes in the story fit right into our current social climate. Wages are stagnant. Growth is slow. College students owe student loans they can’t pay while working jobs below their qualifications. People can’t go to the doctor because they can’t afford insurance. When they do get insurance, they are still scared to go to the doctor for fear that the condition will be worse than they expect. People are living paycheck-to-paycheck. Opportunities for a better life are few and far between. People still manage to get up, put their torn sneakers on, and go back to the grind everyday. This is Phillip. He personifies a big chunk of the American workforce, and likely those abroad.
The writing is great. It is simple and direct without being boring. It doesn’t feel pompous or overbearing. Thomas Duffy is a good author that way. He reels you into his stories and his characters in a way that doesn’t leave you feeling he’s attempting to make up for content with flowery language. The content is there, so he doesn’t have to put on airs. I saw one or two simple typos. Beyond that, the spelling, sentence structure, etc. are great. This was an easy read. The book is easily digestible and could be knocked out in a weekend. Duffy books are always page-turners for me.
Other than a few minor errors the writing is solid, the characters are relatable and the situations they find themselves in will hit close to home for many readers. I like this writer’s style and have read his work before. He delivered again and didn’t disappoint. I’d love to read more of his work.
Pages: 200 | ASIN: B00CA517C8
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Embellished is a relentlessly entertaining fantasy novel following a trio of teens as they are catapulted into a video game. What was the inspiration for the setup to this exciting novel?
I truly love online gaming and at one point I was thinking how awesome it would be to visit those antiquated worlds. I am also an R.N. and in my career, I have come face to face with death, more times than I care to admit. I love to write…its who I am, and on one particular day, for no credible reason, my mind which often times reverts to fantasy in lieu of reality, merged gaming and death and thus…Chronicles of Orian was born.
Bekka’s body is crippled by a disease, but in the game, she is whole again, but still has to find her voice and strength. How did you set about creating Bekka’s character?
Bekka created herself. I simply pictured a young patient in my mind and as amazing as it may be, she took a deep breath and exhaled. I saw her, but it was not just a vision…I felt her sorrow. She was commanding of attention and as strange as it may sound, I simply scribbled what was happening, her responses to the environment, her heart, her needs, her pain and above all else, her intense desire to love and be loved. She’s an incredible young woman and unto the end (book 3 in the trilogy) with only faith as her weapon she faces evilness even death, not only to forge her own destiny, but to protect those she loves. I so admire her.
What I enjoyed more than the deeply complex characters is the intricately woven plot with twists that I rarely saw coming. Did you plan the novel ahead of time or did the twists develop organically?
I do not use outlines. I simply sit at my computer…locked away from the world while the scenes play in my mind.
It seems like you had a lot of fun writing this book; did you?
I laughed and I cried but it was an incredible journey. I loved it and to be honest, I fell in love.
This is book one in the Chronicles of Orian series. Where does book 2 take readers?
Extolled, book two in the Chronicles of Orian trilogy is the continuing saga of Randar and Bekka who find themselves front and center as worlds collide, earth is ravaged by war and Orian is beleaguered by a humanoid race intent on world domination. Besieged by hated, lies, betrayal and grotesque horrors, battle lines are drawn and unexpectedly Bekka finds herself once more visited by her past…only this time her antiquated disease has an ugly twist, one that will affect not only her, but the daughter she lost so many years ago.
From the depths of blood and gore in a now seemingly doomed society, a forbidden love takes root. Audra, Bekka’s long lost daughter, now sixteen and incredibly naive, falls prey to a grotesque monster lurking behind the outrageously handsome face of a shape-shifting beast called Mardrid. Ordered to seduce her…or die, Mardrid finds himself helter-skelter for the very nearness of her warm, curvaceous body ignites such a dire and primal need to feed that maintaining his human persona is all but impossible. He quickly realizes he is playing a deadly game…one he may not win.
As secrets are revealed and truths are realized the drums of war echo throughout the land. Family turns against family, friends against friends and as the Scaff invasions and their insatiable lust for flesh intensifies, every faction in Orian is pushed to the brink of extinction. Few, if any, will survive and against all odds there will be blood…there will be sorrow…there will be gnashing of teeth.
Randar, who refuses to capitulate, gathers what’s left of the living outside of Uldrame for one last stand. With defeat, imminent and their backs to the wall, Randar gambles his life as well as those he loves on one last hope.
Can the heart of a naive young girl sway the face of death? Can Orian be saved…or is it already too late?
When hunky, eighteen-year-old Travis Kurth lures his sister Bekka to assist him and his friends in an online game, he has no idea that all their lives are about to change… forever. Ripped from reality by an elemental force of nature, the party of five soon wake in a beautiful, but dangerous, new world called Orian.
Bekka, who is suffering from a genetic disease, the same malady that killed their mother, finds herself in complete remission, but there’s little time to celebrate as one, then another of their party falls prey to this unforgiving land.
Rescued from death by a battalion of human soldiers under the leadership of Vallas Onisquase, Crown Prince of Adosarath, Bekka discovers that in Orian refuge comes at a steep price. The arrogant, dangerously handsome Vallas, beguiled by Bekka’s beauty, sets in motion a plan to make her his own, but the royal entourage falls under attack by a blood-thirsty humanoid faction called Vadarcs.
Abducted, Bekka finds herself deep in Vadarc territory with no chance of rescue. Leashed like an animal, abused, humiliated and placed on an auction block, she is purchased by blood and gold to become the property of Randar Ataurik, a humanoid, tusked, barbarian, Vadarc prince.
Vallas who is obsessed with his newly betrothed, demands her return but Randar, in the long held tradition of Vadarcs, has bound her by blood.
As the winds of war sweep the land, Bekka finds herself in a deadly triangle.
Embellished is the first book in an epic, paranormal romance.
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Dining and Driving with Cats – Alice Unplugged by Pat Paterson tells the story of Patterson and his wife, Alice, driving from the Mexican border to Atlanta, Georgia, with their two cats, Munchie and Tuffy. Along the way they use the opportunity to sample as much as they can from their pre-researched food-stops. The book will take you on a journey as they try countless dishes, meet unexpected people and attempt to tame their two beloved cats – who, there is no doubt, are definitely in charge.
While reading the book, Pat and Alice’s Honda Fit feels somewhat like home – you can almost feel yourself squished into the back with the two cats roaming around, as the two of them drive to their next destination. The tone is always kept light, making this an easy read and giving the reader a sense of comfort. While there are many descriptions of the food they eat and the antics of their two cats, the real theme in this novel is storytelling.
Patterson’s goal is to use their long trek to Georgia to tell stories along the way. The stories of the people they meet are interesting to a point, but you do find yourself feeling slightly removed as there is no real tie to them.
The best stories told are the ones about Pat and Alice; how they met and eventually fell in love. Not only does this insight make the reader feel more connected to them, but the stories themselves are sweet and witty and good enough material to be made into a Hollywood romance.
The best thing about the whole book is definitely Alice. I almost want to call her a ‘character’ of the book because that’s what she feels like. Her smarts and determination, coupled with her calm composure and uncanny ability to cajole the cats to bend to her will, makes her seem almost too good to be true. She seems the type of person who, if you were married to them, you would want to write about.
The only down side to the novel is the actual travel aspects. While mildly interesting to start with, it becomes slightly mundane, and all the descriptions of the food they eat becomes repetitive – it can’t all be as delicious as described, surely? However, this may just be because the Alice and Pat stories are so good that it leaves you craving more. The food is unimportant; you just want to hear about Alice and Pat!
Overall this is an enjoyable read, and the way the stories of the couple are intertwined with them visiting familiar places, is expertly done. The cats are sweet and their antics add an entertaining element. This is a great book for storytelling and memories, and will leave you feeling sentimental and warm and fuzzy inside.
Pages: 260 | ASIN: B06XD7XGGH
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Physical follows two women, Fatima who has given birth to twins in London and Kiki who finds herself stuck and alone in Northern Italy after her boyfriend leaves her for an ‘upgrade’. What was the inspiration for the setup to this engaging novel?
This novel was inspired by a wine-fueled conversation between two close female friends discussing the past five years of their lives. Like in the book, one had given birth not too long ago, and the other one had recently been ditched by a long-term boyfriend. Both were distraught at the sharp decline of their self-esteem and loss of their identity in a matter of months. They exchanged passionate words of rage and desperation which grew more caustic the more they drunk. Just before collapsing from alcohol intoxication, they homed on actionable lessons from their almost opposite yet very similar experiences: desire was still ablaze inside them; sex continued to matter; and whatever else slightly alien seemed to be hijacking their lives, they deserved to seek physical fulfillment. The rest, is fiction.
Emotions run high in this book and you can truly feel where these women are coming from in their midlife crises. What were some themes you used when developing your characters?
On the side of Kiki, I was eager to explore ways in which a middle-aged female could cope with rejection including the weight of factors such as aging, the yearn for children, and the clash with societal pressures and surrounding family and friends. Of course, I also wanted to look at the role of sexuality and how it changes with age, and whether physical desire can remain determining even as mature life becomes more complicated.
On the side of Fatima, I focused on the potential result of taking away freedom and independence from a successful middle-aged woman, trapping her in a new ‘silent’ world. I wanted to push Fatima to the edge and see where she would run to re-find herself, and how much she would risk to regain happiness. I toyed with betrayal and whether it could be therapeutic and serve a purpose, as well as with a mother’s/wife’s guilt for her own selfishness versus her right to want fulfilment of all kinds including physical. I wanted Fatima to consider whether love means total trust and what trust actually means.
I felt that Kiki was sabotaging herself a lot through the story. Do you think this is reflective of her character as a whole or is this just a phase she’s going through?
Kiki is a woman of a different time. Full of ideas and ideals. Passionate and righteous but who has never been allowed to believe in herself too much. She would like to leave Italy but doesn’t find the courage. She would like to step out of her parents’ influence but loves them too much. She knows she’s very different from her friends but not sure she could do without them. She’s deep down uncertain of what she wants from men, but at times feels pressured she should follow every female’s ideal of marriage. She’s a strong doubter with a good heart for whom things finally work out. We need more Kikis in the world, for sure.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
Morte a Pisa: LIPS, LIGHT & LYRE will be out in June. It is a thin book with a trio of reflective short-stories around female death following a weekend in Pisa. The next full-length novel will be Caro M, where a lover misses her beloved Caro M after being abandoned; a wife is steered through her divorce from husband Caro M by her sweetheart psychiatrist; and a young girl has landed a fairy tale wedding to groom Caro M that soon becomes a nightmare her cousin wants to help fix. Naturally, someone somewhere will be the end of Caro M…
In a small town in northern Italy, Kiki feels worthless and angry when her longtime partner finds a new cool girl to ride on another decade of easy existence. Meanwhile in trendy London, Fátima, the wife of Kiki’s best friend, is losing her selfhood after giving birth to twins and being made redundant. Both heroines are determined to rebuild the passion and impunity of their youth, vitalising desires that will bring them to risk everything…
Themes covered in the novel include rejection, identity, betrayal, freedom and the right to happiness. The tone is humorous on the face of distress, often rejoicing in the terror of lives out of control.”
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