PRECIOUS THINGS…indeed!

New Adult fiction is taking off–and many people are still trying to figure out if it’s a real phenomenon. What is it? YA rawness, plus more. The ones I’ve read are all contemporary with hotter (wetter? stickier?) romance.

Honestly, I’ve read a few and I’m hoping to find more, because it’s fun. I love the freshness. I love the romance. The uncertainty of ‘new adulthood’ is as energizing and rapturous as it is bittersweet.

And that’s how I felt about PRECIOUS THINGS by Stephanie Parent.

Isabelle is an excellent student. She’s been accepted to Johns Hopkins and Georgetown and her freshman year should be one of excitement and adventure, but it’s not.

Dad’s business is in the toilet and her college fund? Poof.

And, mom? She poofed years ago leaving Isabelle to help raise her younger brother, Corey.

Having not considered this possibility, Isabelle neglected to apply to a safety school that she could afford–so she’s wandering about Hartford Community College lamenting her extremely bad fortune and despairing over her ridiculous courses–not the least of which is Electronic Music Production which she abhors–that she only took because they were still open.

If life wasn’t bad enough, her Music TA Evan Strauss is hot, but runs hot-and-cold, and Isabelle, hoping against hope for financial aid from her real colleges so she can leave at the end of term, doesn’t want to reach out. She must however, because she’s clueless in Music and knows a failing grade will strand her in Community Collegeville. FOREVER.

She develops a friendship with Lily, a beautiful dance major and fellow Music classmate, and warms to her English prof finding that there is more to college than a GIANT DEBT, I mean, name.

Especially when she doesn’t just, ahem, warm to Evan…

Flames, people. Get the extinguisher.

And, of course there is conflict. Corey’s hanging with all new kids and his disrespectful attitude is stronger than teen-boy-foot odor. Dad’s poor business sense weighs on Isabelle, as does her resentment over high school friends finding their brighter futures. And Evan, delicious Evan, seems to be the next one to let her down.

Through it all, Isabelle develops an appreciation for being exactly where she is. Oh, and Depeche Mode. (Who doesn’t, BTW?)

What I loved?

Shit gets real. There are millions of kids out there living Isabelle’s disappointment right now–albeit without the hot TA who knows how to swing his hammer. It’s an important life lesson.  To borrow from The Stones: You Can’t Always Get What You Want in this life. And, yet, you must go on and do the best you can.

And sometimes, if you’re lucky like Isabelle, you get what you need.

And that is very precious, indeed.

Let me know if you pick up PRECIOUS THINGS in the comments. I’d love your take on it, or any New Adult title you’ve recently enjoyed.

DRAGONFLY Magic

Leigh T Moore knows how to spin a yarn. I learned this when I read The Truth About Letting Go.

Now she’s launching a YA/New Adult contemporary mystery series–of which DRAGONFLY is the first novel-length installment.

Anna, a transplant to the Florida gulf coast, is beginning her senior year without her best friend, but she’s adjusting well. She just got hired at the local paper as an aide which will undoubtedly bolster her college applications. The gorgeous Julian is showing a romantic interest in her, and she makes friends with twin transfers, Lucy and Jack Kyser–whose father is a wealthy real estate tycoon.

Jack and Anna are drawn to each other–and this attraction is a problem for both Jack’s father and Julian. Jack can’t decide if he should pursue Anna, or not, and Julian is ever-present trying to scoop Anna up.

Tension builds when Lucy, distraught over the machinations of her father’s influence on her social life, ends up in the hospital after mixing pills and booze. And the trouble with alcohol doesn’t stop there.

Through it all, Anna strives to hold together her tenuous friendships and excel in her newspaper job. Her big assignment has her chasing down interviews with the key players who developed their small gulf town into a folk arts mecca, including Julian’s mother and Mr. Kyser, both of whom are reticent to participate, but when Anna uncovers the secret Mr. Kyser’s been hiding, it might just tear their community apart.

DRAGONFLY is a romance/mystery with some heat appropriate for older teens and those who like YA fiction. It’s a quick read with plenty of misdirection.

Looking forward to the release of the sequel, UNDERTOW, in July.

Serial issue–THE DEBT COLLECTOR

I’m a reader. And, when I say that I mean it. Not in the ordinary way of people who read, really. See, when I get interested in a story I will read all night, all day, forget to eat, barely make it to the bathroom in time, until I hit the end pages. (I am AWARE that this is problematic…therapy is expensive!)

I can’t begin a new story before bed because I will read until the lines blur and I doze (book-in-hand) for a few hours then wake and read until I have to shower for work.

Which is why I thought I would hate a serial.

A serial is not simply a novel broken into bite-sized chunks, it is a recurrent character story with new adventures that all build to a coordinated climax.

Think:  24, in book form.

And for those who can’t stand cliffhangers (ME!!!) I couldn’t fathom how I would be able to survive the 3 month roll-out of all the episodes in The Debt Collector.

But I know Susan Kaye Quinn’s work. It’s solid.  She’s a critique partner and friend. Her Mindjacker Trilogy is Hunger Games quality political-suspense-sci-fi-action-thriller with less bloodshed. If she was writing a serial I knew it was something I didn’t want to miss despite my obsessive reader nature.

I wasn’t let down.

Quinn calls The Debt Collector future-noir—which, simply put, means that it feels like a gritty noir feature, but it’s timescape is future. It’s ingenious!

dc-1The Debt Collector occurs in a future L.A. where pollution and corruption are a daily menace (okay so not very different from now). Still, in this brave new world, everyone’s life’s value is constantly calculated, assessed between the amount of money you could potentially earn versus that which the person might owe. That balance is never breached—if you near the point of equilibrium your lingering life energy is drawn out by a debt collector and transferred to another person more worthy. (Kinda makes me glad my credit card debt isn’t higher, amiright?)

Lirium is a young debt collector. He’s not so keen on the job–honestly, who wants to be a grim reaper? He deals with his depression in the natural way—booze and women—until the night his hired sex worker, Elena, convinces him to give the hit of life energy he generally bestows on his partners to her ailing sister, a child suffering an incurable disease. This turn of events leads Lirium down a path he never envisioned.  Unwittingly drawn into the Kolek mafia, Lirium becomes a hit man of the highest order—taking life hits from the dregs of society and selling it to mafia patrons—along with fellow debt collectors Olivia and Valac. Along the way Lirium learns that kids are being illegally transferred out, and he’s compelled to determine the mastermind.

And, did I mention there’s romance? Not the main feature, but still present and pertinent.

Omigod.

I was dying waiting for each episode to go live. Following along with the release dates was like the anticipation of a new The Walking Dead episode—especially when the best characters got killed just after I fell in love with them!

As for The Debt Collector, each episode provides a satisfying arc and an excellent resolution while still propelling the overall storyline toward it’s finale.

Interested? You can get the complete 9 episode first season on Amazon.

Don’t forget to come back and tell me what you thought of it!

Falling for HIS WICKED GAMES

Imagine being young, attractive and desperate for money…you’d be Lily Fraser, operations manager for the Fraser Center for the Arts, a non-profit community project to help underprivileged kids.

And, she hadn’t been desperate until Calder Cunningham, heir of the Center’s largest benefactor, had inexplicably stripped their funding.

Lily–again, young attractive and desperate–wants to entice Calder to reinstate the funding, by whatever means necessary.

Finding Lily trapped at the Cunningham estate by a flood, Calder offers some of the money back, if Lily can win the games he proposes. What Lily tries to convince herself–that her compliance is all for the Center–is far from the mark, however, and when her controlling ex, Garrett, arrives on the scene we learn Calder’s most-guarded secret.

HIS WICKED GAMES by Ember Casey is a fun caper with quite the right amount of heat.

What I liked about this one:   Lily is able to push past her prejudice regarding Calder and his fortune. She is a driven character who is appropriately reflective and inappropriately brash…all to the good. Calder is an interesting lead, and his perceptive skills are on point. He desires Lily, has for some time, and yet the situation doesn’t feel smarmy or manipulative as Lily seeks to exploit Calder, too.

When it comes to the climax, it is Calder’s advice of that pushes Lily forward, but she makes the tough choice on her own. The ending was satisfying and the potential for more tales of Lily and Calder is a highlight.

Good job Ms. Casey. Keep on cooking up those spicy tales…

Some like it TANGLED

TangledOkay. I finished Emma Chase’s debut novel TANGLED last night. And I still need a few cold showers–it’s that hot.

I read erotica. And, I like it. I’m not ashamed to admit it. I’m like all of you…voyeuristic.

“No, no, I would never…I’m not THAT kind of person,” you say, and to that I reply, “K. But you might like it. To each their own, and all.”

If erotica is not for you, TANGLED should not end up on your TBR.

For those who’d like to dip a toe in…TANGLED is a fun, fast read with a side of HOLY CRAP! sexcapades.

What separates it from the pack?

Drew Evans is absolutely the most raw, irrepressible asshat to ever enter The Redemption Tale.  Yes, this is a redemption story. No, he doesn’t have a “Come to Jesus” moment–more like a “come-to-Kate” moment.

Allow me to explain. No, there’s no time. Allow me to sum up:

Drew is a gloriously proud, wealthy, womanizing investment banker. He never wants to ‘ride the same coaster twice’ and that tells you much about our anti-hero. What he does want? Kate Brooks. New hire at his firm. She’s beautiful. She’s brilliant. She’s engaged…

Oh, the irony.

Poor Drew is attracted to a woman who is unattainable. And to make it worse? She’s now competing for his clients. Still, he manages to grow a conscience. Also, he actually does some decent stuff–defending Kate from a lecherous client among those.

When Kate is suddenly single, you guessed it:  They get tangled, and he finds there’s something quite special about being with a woman who stimulates more than his naughty bits. And yet, he can’t trust the burgeoning relationship. As soon as there’s a wave on the pond he chucks in a cinder block, blowing the whole thing clean out of the water.

What happens next? Drew’s sledgehammer approach to woo Kate back will either reunite them–or drive her to homicide. And, the ride is absolutely delicious.

Thanks, Emma Chase, for Kate and Drew. I’ll be sending you the bill for repairing my iPad.

Who knew those things overheated?

Got a book to recommend? Leave it in the comments!

Cocktails and Dreams–two of my favorite things!

Cocktails & Dreams Reading in the summer isn’t easy.

Kids are home, but I’m still working.

And, I have writing to do.

And, the garden is sorely neglected.

You know, the usual excuses…

But I’ve made a commitment to myself to squeeze in some time for new books. I was glad to run across COCKTAILS AND DREAMS by Autumn Markus (@AutumnMarkus).

In this New Adult Contemporary Romance, Jena Baker and Nicolas Cooper–two who had admired each other in college but were unable to link up due to a sudden separation–meet again on New Year’s Eve seven years later. And the sex, though it’s not described, is EPIC. Except for one thing:  Nick was too drunk to remember who his Angel is.

Haunted by dreams of the escapade, he is stunned to learn Jena was his special someone. Meanwhile, Jena, stung by Nick’s poor memory is hesitant to enter an actual relationship with the object of her college crush.

What follows is an unsteady game of Misunderstanding as both Jena and Nick realize they are supremely attracted to each other, while having very little knowledge of the other. Their tentative dating results in a passion-fueled couplehood–complete with jealous bar fights, empty liquor bottles, disapproving parents, scheming friends, and lots and lots of hurt feelings. Pretty much dead-on for a realistic relationship, IMHO.

Told in alternating first-person, this tale gives the reader a window to both Jena and Nick’s insecurities and certainties–because when the dust settles they’re definitely *almost* sure they really might belong…together.

What I really enjoyed about this novel:  the passion between Jena and Nick, the love of their friends, and the steadfast belief that they didn’t know what the heck they were getting into.

For all that this is a contemporary romance the heat is tepid. Lots of discussion about sex had or to-be-had but no graphic smexy bits to make your hands steam up the reader screen. And, that’s okay too.

If you happen to pick this one up, let me know your take.

And ALWAYS recommend me a can’t-miss title.

Girl With Guitar–Get it!

Product DetailsI had the pleasure to pick up Caisey Quinn‘s debut novel, GIRL WITH GUITAR, and all I can say is:  yes.

Wait.

I mean…YES!

This fast-paced tale follows sassy, nearly-nineteen y/o, Kylie Ryans on her quest for stardom. Rendered homeless when her step-mother kicks her out, Kylie takes the money she’d saved to buy her daddy a headstone and travels from Pride, Oklahoma to Nashville praying she’ll be able to survive the two week wait for an open mic.  Along the way she lucks into a job and makes a great friend at the club where she’s due to sing. Kylie works hard and distinguishes herself–which is admirable–but her talent is there, too.

Performing brings out the sass in Little Miss Kylie, and she rocks the house at her open mic, propelling her into alignment with country star Trace Corbin, a bad-boy on his last-chance bar tour. Kylie joins the tour, knowing this is her big break, and knowing that attraction to Trace could end her career before it even begins.

On the road, Trace’s bad behavior causes big problems, but feisty Kylie won’t let his drinking scuttle her chances–even when it means dumping thousands of dollars of liquor down the tour bus sink. Animosity and admiration are subtly woven into a budding romance that brings both heat and heart.

Complications ensue–naturally–and yet the narrative never seems forced. Caisey Quinn’s deftly woven plot and rich characters will leave you wanting more of Kylie. (And, Trace! Yum!)

This New Adult romance is intended for mature readers, but the heat isn’t scorching.

Thanks Caisey! Loved GIRL WITH GUITAR and looking forward to the sequel.