Why I Loved ELEANOR & PARK…

I got a recommendation to read Rainbow Rowell‘s  Eleanor & Park months ago. Like, back in September. And I heeded this recommendation. But, I didn’t go buy it. Sorry. Buying a paper book is a little pricey for a gal who reads as much as I do. Also, TRUTH BE TOLD when I read a book I like, I buy copies as gifts for others I think will enjoy it. I’ve got too too many books, really. I gave away probably 250 books in my last move…so I went to my library. No copies. I went to my library’s digital download center. It was a month-long wait to get the book–and when it came it was an AUDIOBOOK. No dice, baby.

There is no time for me to sit and listen to a book, and, frankly, I can read it just as fast–likely faster–without a constant stream of noise disturbing my family in the middle of the night–when I often read.

I FINALLY got my hands on a copy after a second (long) library request wait, and I’m glad I did.

Eleanor & ParkEleanor & Park is one of those special books–the kind I love–because of the quiet love story and tender angst of two characters trying to figure out who they are in the world and in their own skin. I’m also enamored with stories told in first-person, and if I can get the POV of both love interests? OVER THE MOON.

The Story:

Sixteen y/o Eleanor is a mess. She’s only just returned to her family (a patchwork of mom/stepdad/siblings-full-and-step) after a year of being abandoned at her mother’s longtime friends for A YEAR. That’s right. Her lecherous, alcoholic, abusive stepdad kicked her out a year ago. She’s naturally scared of what that year meant. That she wasn’t worth getting, most likely. And her actual father isn’t much better. He’s called once. To ask her to babysit his girlfriend’s kid. Beyond this she’s tall, and awkward, and poor and red-headed. All things destined to attract the wrong kind of attention in her new school.

On her first school day, Eleanor can’t find a seat on the bus. Not that there aren’t seats; no one will share with her. An Asian boy, Park, takes a miserable slice of pity on her–practically yelling at her to sit down already…with him.

They sit side-by-side. Not touching. Enveloped in awkwardness. They share a couple of classes and Park can’t help noticing Eleanor. How tall she is. How fair her skin. How strange she dresses. How she doesn’t seem to care that the others mercilessly ridicule her. Yet, he can’t bring himself to speak to her. For…weeks. They continue to share a bus seat, but in complete silence, complete isolation. Until he notices she’s reading his comics over his shoulder. A tentative friendship develops over the WATCHMEN and X-MEN, and soon punk rock, when Park shares his music collection.

It is the barest of romances. Holding hands setting off internal fireworks. The long wait for the weekend to end so they will see each other on the bus. Looking away shyly, not coyly. There are no ploys, only core feelings. Love, sadness, anger, exhilaration.

Eleanor can’t have a boyfriend, but she can’t resist the temptation to spend more time with Park outside of school. Park isn’t sure he wants Eleanor as a girlfriend–at first. He mistakes her odd dress habits for style, when it’s simply covering the flaws in her worn-out clothes. He convinces her to say she’s spending time with a girlfriend so she can hang out at his house. Unfortunately, Park’s mother thinks she’s weird, and rude, when Eleanor is just plain overwhelmed by the kind and loving atmosphere of Park’s happy home.

Over the course of the year, Eleanor and Park develop a tender relationship–parental interference notwithstanding. Park’s mom helps make-over Eleanor, and the glam-look damages Park’s tenuous relationship with his father in the process. Eleanor’s siblings nearly (possibly) rat out her boyfriend-status causing the biggest rift Eleanor has had to experience. It is Park who gives his heart away first, in both the figurative and literal sense.

A bittersweet end is what I expected until the very last line…with which I am totally smitten.

I’ve seen the low side of poverty, and drug abusing parents, and 1986, so I bonded with both the setting and the characters. It’s a book adult readers will enjoy as much as YA readers–and it’s Fade-To-Black, innocent/realistic teen coupling, so no smexytimes to steam up the title pages. I’ve got FANGIRL all queued up on my iPad, so expect to hear about it soon…

Interested?  You can find ELEANOR & PARK at your local library, Goodreads, AMAZON and Barnes & Noble….anywhere probably.

Be sure to let me know what you thought of it in the comments, and, as always, keep reading my friends!

New Adult is UNWRAPPED!! Release and Giveaway…

RELEASE EVENT

UnwrappedcoverfinalNew Adult Multiple Genre Novella Collection

Stories by Laurelin Paige, Sierra Simone, Melanie Harlow, Tamara Mataya, Katherine McGee, Gennifer Albin

Available December 23, 2013

Amazon | Barnes and Noble

Six romance authors present six very different novellas in this anthology of new stories: Ménage a tango lessons. A bride DYING to say, ‘I don’t.’ A horny college boy at a purity rally. Time-traveling graduate students meet Victorian playboys. A rugby player who’s as dirty off the field as on. And kissing under the mistletoe with a Scottish exchange student. Something for everyone, the NAturals present sweet, funny, and erotic tales of new adults meant to be Unwrapped all year long and not just at Christmas.

TEASER FROM CHERRY POPPER By Laurelin Paige
Then all he could do was kiss her, kiss her the way he should have kissed her the first time—slowly, sweetly. She responded perfectly, molding her mouth to his, sighing softly.

TEASER FROM TRY FOR LOVE By Kayti McGee
But right here, right now, in the flickering candlelight, she’d show him how she felt one last time. Mischa stood on her tiptoes to press her lips against the soft hollow at the base of Clifford’s throat, his heart beating against her kiss.

EXCERPT FROM THREE TO TANGO By Melanie Harlow
Secretly I’m a smut fiend, but only when it comes to books. Until last night, the only outwardly kinky thing about me was my hair on a rainy day. I’m a kindergarten teacher, for heaven’s sake. I wear fuzzy slippers and granny panties. Ballet flats and sweater sets. I didn’t even have sex until I was twenty-one, and then it was a lights-out, missionary-position, TV-blaring-to-cover-the-squeaky-dorm-room-bed kind of experience. (I still remember the rerun of How I Met Your Mother that was on, and let’s just say that Marshall’s description of the perfect burger was way more orgasmic than losing my virginity.)

Eventually I learned how to get myself off (in the total privacy of my shower, of course) and figured out what all the throbbing and moaning in my books was about, and I did manage to have two lovely little orgasms with Guy #2 last summer, but it took a lot of work. And time. So much time that I kept apologizing to the guy, and I couldn’t relax. I mean, he stuck with it and all, but compared to the fast-building, toe-curling, earth-shattering, mind-blowing romps on my Kindle, my sex life was totally vanilla.

And then I took a tango lesson.

WHOA!! Take out some insurance on your e-Readers if you pick THIS collection up!

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About the Authors
Laurelin Paige, Gennifer Albin, Melanie Harlow, Sierra Simone, Kayti McGee Downey, and Tamara Mataya are the six authors who blog for TheNaturalAuthors.blogspot.com. They each write romance and adore pushing the boundaries of the genre. Above all, they love reading smut, looking at pictures of hot men, and making up names for the band they’re always talking about forming.
Blog | Facebook | Twitter

***GIVEAWAY***
Click the Rafflecopter link below for your chance to win:
1- $50 USD Gift Card to Amazon or Barnes and Noble – International
or one of 5- eBooks of Unwrapped – International
Click HERE>>>a Rafflecopter giveaway
Good Luck! And, as always, keep reading my friends!  photo AToMRTourslogo_zps3d9025b5.jpg

Cephalopod Coffeehouse–December 2013–Knight and Play–A Review

Hi there and welcome to my stop on the Armchair Squid‘s friendly collection of book reviews. What we do is simply pick our fave read of the month, and present it to the community at large. You’re invited to link up with us, if you like. Info is below.

I’ve read a lot of books this month, but I’ve held Kitty French’s KNIGHT & PLAY special because…reasons.

No, seriously, I’m an Anglophile. I love books about other cultures, and this erotic romance hit all the right notes for me.

Knight & Play (Knight, #1)Sophie Black is looking for more. More in life than her lecherous boss, and more in love than her (presumably) cheating–and definitely inattentive–husband. She takes a chance applying as the personal assistant to Lucien Knight, chairman of Knight Inc–a corporation that owns shops selling ‘marital aids’ and operates a number of sex clubs throughout Great Britain. In the interview Lucien is more than direct–how can a woman who can barely talk about sex hope to work in this environment? He’s harsh with her, and she demonstrates an inner strength he finds surprising–and he’s intrigued again by her defensiveness when it comes to her marriage.

See, Lucien has a bad history with marriage. His own idyllic life turned tragic when his mother eye-witnessed his father’s infidelity. Suspecting Sophie’s marriage is likewise bound, Lucien hires Sophie with the intent to prove to her how very sexy and worthwhile she is.

Okay–so, to begin–the sex is fantastically hot. Everything sexy-dirty you would blush-cringe over? Lucien makes it delicious. There’s no Dom/sub dynamic, just a hedonistic exploration of a woman long-neglected. It’s an awakening both emotionally and sexually for Sophie who learns shortly after succumbing to Lucien’s irresistible advances that her husband’s “business trip” is a sham, a lover’s getaway with his girlfriend.

We get a lot of Sophie’s angst over her own actions, without it feeling preachy–and a few slices of her husband’s remorse over the subterfuge he’s been running. But mostly, we get a realistic look at the heartbreak of a woman experiencing a crumbling marriage as she’s simultaneously swept away by a man who is by turns tender and demanding. Lucien doesn’t let Sophie wallow, and forces her to embrace the fact that she is appealing and exciting, even if her husband is a cheater. It’s a very refreshing take on the rebound romance–particularly as Sophie didn’t know she needed a “rebound” until she was in the midst of it. And Lucien isn’t terribly interested in keeping Sophie–he just wants her battle-ready, able to tell off her loser husband and walk away unscathed–or so he thinks…

It turns out that KNIGHT & PLAY is the first of a trilogy. It has an ending that is at once closure, and at the same time a cliffhanger. (Not the kind that makes one wish to hurl her iPad across the room, in my experience. Yet, I moved to purchase the second book toot-sweet!) It is rare that I enjoy the middle book of a trilogy most, but in this case, I do. That notwithstanding, I adored all three books and highly recommend it for readers of women’s fiction, contemporary romance, or erotica.

Interested in KNIGHT & PLAY? You can find it Goodreads, Amazon and Barnes & Noble

If you’ve read it, or pick it up, don’t forget to come back and let me know your thoughts!

I always exhort my followers: keep reading my friends!  But, in this case, I’ll ask you to keep clicking my friends!

Below are links to my fellow coffeehouser’s reviews. You never know what might strike your fancy. Last month I learned about Kevin Jakubowski’s 8-BIT CHRISTMAS which was a super fun read I reviewed earlier this week. So check out what they read and maybe you’ll find a gem for yourself!

1. The Armchair Squid 2. Scouring Monk
3. Huntress 4. mainewords
5. Wishbone Soup Cures Everything 6. What’s Up, MOCK?!
7. The Writing Sisterhood 8. A Creative Exercise
9. Katie O’Sullivan ~ Read, Write, Repeat 10. The Hobbit: A Review (Part 1)
11. Denise Covey 12. Trisha @ WORD STUFF
13. The Hobbit: A Review (Part 2) 14. Words Incorporated
15. V’s Reads

Catch TEN TINY BREATHS–A Review

Surviving tragedy is often harder than being a victim of it.

Ten Tiny Breaths (Ten Tiny Breaths, #1)TEN TINY BREATHS, a New Adult romance by  K. A. Tucker is a solid tale of loss, redemption and forgiveness.

Kacey Cleary survived the car accident that claimed the lives of her parents, boyfriend and best friend. She overcame bone shattering injuries and fought through the crushing depression in order to be there for the sole remaining member of her immediate family–younger sister Livie. Kacey is plagued by nightmares of the crash–being trapped in the car holding hands with her dead boyfriend as the heat left his skin, hearing the gasping breaths of her mother fade into nothingness. It’s been four years since the drunk driver stole her family away, but she can’t escape the revulsion she feels when another hand touches hers.

Kacey and Livie are on the run from her aunt and uncle–mostly her lecherous uncle who has taken an unnatural interest in fifteen year-old Livie. Relocating to Miami, Livie’s outgoing spirit draws the friendship of Storm–a bartender/stripper, and mother of young Mia. Through Storm, Kacey takes up tending bar in the strip club, as is not-so-subtley stalked by their attractive neighbor, Trent.

Trent is rather relentless in his pursuit of Kacey–shattering her every boundary against intimacy. It seems that he’s going to get her to come to terms with her PTSD, but an abrupt separation nearly destroys their fledgling relationship. In the meantime, Kacey’s anger issues are getting harder to hide.

Just when a reconciliation seems about to happen, a new curve lands Kacey in the psych ward.  And Trent? He’s not who he seemed to be…at all. But, the betrayal of Trent is small potatoes in comparison of the plot arc. Through his deception, Kacey and Livie are able to claim their inheritance that they had thought was squandered by Creepy Uncle. And Kacey’s aversion to intimacy is overcome–in fact, Kacey finally receives the help she needs to get past her anger and begin living a life of hope.

In the end, Kacey learns to forgive the drunk driver who killed her family–and forgive herself for actually surviving. It’s a redemption for her, and others, that leads to a HEA we want and in the best way possible.

I really enjoyed it–and think readers of contemporary romance will find the story strong and uplifting.

Interested? You can pick up TEN TINY BREATHS through Goodreads, Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

If you’ve read this one, drop me a comment about what you thought about it.

And, as always, keep reading my friends!

Reminiscing with 8-Bit Christmas

This book is “A Christmas Story” for American boys raised in the 80’s.

8-Bit ChristmasKevin Jakubowski’s debut novel is a pseudo-memoir-style prose effort that made my cheeks hurt from smiling. I laughed in all the right places.

Disclaimer(s): I am not a boy–but I was raised in the 80’s in Chicago’s south suburbs, so I actually KNOW the setting–Batavia, IL. My Southside-raised parents spoke much like the MC’s parents. I survived my own personal “knock-off Cabbage Patch Christmas.”

Take a trip back in time, for a moment. Before ADHD diagnoses, and X-box, and Netflix. Before cell phones and two-income families, and cars with installed movie players.

***wavy scene cut to 80’s America, Midwest suburban sprawl***

Jake Doyle is nine. A rather annoying kid in his classes, Timmy Kleen–who’s wealthy and spoiled and poorly behaved–is the proud owner of the newest fad in video gaming:  the Nintendo Entertainment System.

Despite being an unpleasant cur, Kleen is catapulted into rockstar status by his schoolmates who mob Kleen’s front yard hours before 9am vying to be one of the lucky ten invited in to play–or watch Timmy play.

Tired of suffering Timmy’s whims–especially when Kleen decides the charge for entry–Jake’s mission becomes: obtain a Nintendo of his own. And his campaign is robust.

His parents aren’t keen on this Japanese technology. Reports of kids having seizures are problematic. What God-fearing mother would buy such a monstrosity? So Jake jumps into the Boy Scout wreath-selling competition to win the grand prize:  a Nintendo. He busts his hump–only to suffer an extreme setback.

He contacts Santa.

He contacts his rich uncle. His grandparents. Anyone and everyone. He even forms an unholy alliance with his younger sister promising to help her get a red-headed-freckled Cabbage Patch doll (named Dawn) in exchange for her help convincing the parents that Nintendo is the best of all possible gifts.

Nintendos sell out across the land.

And then real tragedy strikes.

One of Kleen’s more robust outbursts of erratic behavior results in the death of a jumbo TV and a four-legged member of the Kleen household. Outraged with the “violence of video games” Kleen’s parents secure a ban on Nintendo sales in Batavia and the nearby towns. Now teens from Geneva and Fox Lake are itching to rough up these rabble-rousing elementary school kids who shredded their Nintendo dreams.

Jake’s Nintendo mission isn’t dead, however. If he can only get to Chicago, he could BUY a Nintendo. And, it turns out, his class is heading to Chicago for a field trip to the Art Institute. Vowing to build an open-access playing zone, Jake convinces his buddies to sell their baseball cards to bankroll the purchase. His attempt is…well, how successful do you think it may be? He’s nine, on his own in Water Tower Place, and wearing his Batavia Football cap.

In the end, Batavia has many more Nintendos in operation on Christmas Day–but the lessons Jake learns are awesome. I had a tiny bit of trouble with a chapter that seemed out of the narrative sequence, and would have appreciated a clue that we were experiencing a flashback, but otherwise I wholeheartedly enjoyed the ride.

Why I loved this one:  My elementary school buddies were insane Nintendo addicts. Reading this brought me right back to my childhood, much like A Christmas Story does for my parents, and It’s A Wonderful Life does for my grandparents.

The black-market Cabbage Patch hunt. Oh! My own mother battled crowds to get those “special” toys when I was a kid–something I have done for my own kids. (Today, my black market buys arrive with Ebay labels. Shh!)

I had my own Timmy Kleen. Only her name was Carrie. She had an Atari and made my sister and I suffer untold hours of Ms. Pac-Man in order to play RiverRaid for the five minutes it took us to bite it in the game. We are still good friends.

The commercialization of Christmas is something I won’t belabor here, but Jakubowski’s handling of what was a growing trend in 80’s America is poignant.

Jake’s humor. He is a hysterical kid, with a quick wit and indomitable spirit. Narrator ‘voice-overs’ only reinforce the nostalgia.

The ending. It was excellent. And, no, I’m not giving it away. Just know that Jake is probably the happiest kid on his block when Christmas ends.

Final Disclaimer: I obtained a copy of this book from NetGalley for the purpose of review.

Interested? You can find 8-bit Christmas at Goodreads, Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

If you pick it up, come back and tell me what you thought about it.

And, as always, keep reading my friends!

NOCTURNES–Dark and Delicious–A Review

Most people would agree that alcoholism and prostitution aren’t sexy.
Yet somehow Kendall Grey turns these two vices into romance.
Nocturnes (Hard Rock Harlots, #3)

NOCTURNES is the third installment of her Hard Rock Harlots series. I adored both STRINGS and BEATS, and couldn’t wait to find out what happened to Rax–self proclaimed Guitar God and Dom Deluxe.

Back in BEATS Rax was captivated by a stripper, Lola, and in despair of losing her he drank so much he ended up with alcohol poisoning. Rax’s battle with the bottle has only increased since then. Especially now that his wingman/lover, Toombs, is exclusive with Jinx, the drummer of their band Killer Buzz Float.

As the band records what may be their breakthrough album, Rax pulls away from the happy couples–he’s sure he’ll never find a true love. Drunk and stumbling through the strip club Nocturnes, Rax spots his Lola–aka Eve Belikov.

Eve has danced since she was a child. Her parents, Russian immigrants, were killed by a drunk driver when she was twelve and left her floundering in the foster care system. As a stripper Eve is sexy and untouchable, but as an angel in Heaven, Nocturnes’ super exclusive BDSM sub-club, Eve gets touched any way her customers desire. In truth, as a reader I was appalled and disgusted–and had to remind myself that fiction is not even as strange as real-life. Somewhere in this world humans are degraded/exploited far worse than Eve was. Still, it was unsettling. And I think that’s the genius of Kendall Grey. She didn’t try to make it fun or sexy. She made it real. It was a risk. A big risk, and creatively I think it paid off–at least for me.

Eve isn’t interested in Rax. He’s a drunk mess, and she’s committed by contract to have no sexual contacts outside of Heaven. Still, in Rax she sees her own loneliness, and feels an emotional connection she has lacked since her parents died. Rax, he’ll take Lola/Eve in any capacity. Being near her stirs more than his libido–his music is richer and more soulful, kinda like the Night Music of a nocturne. His alcoholism troubles more than Eve; his bandmates stage an unsuccessful intervention.

Unable to keep seeing each other, Rax hopes for one last connection, and in the process saves Eve from a brutal attack. Rax blames himself, his drunkenness, for not preventing Eve’s disfigurement, and Eve sends him away in her shame, and also for her own peace of mind. Though, their reunion? EPIC seems too small a word.

Ms. Grey turns this Leaving Las Vegas-tale into an HEA. Much love, girl. It’s a miraculous feat.

By turns, NOCTURNES is nasty, dirty, gritty, infuriating, sad, soulful, redeeming and sexy. It takes the filthiest sow’s ear of a storyline and fashions a silk purse romance fit for FLOTUS. I highly recommend it, even if you have to read the Heaven scene with only one half-closed squinty eye, like me. NOCTURNES was nothing like I thought it would be, and everything it needed to be. Rax isn’t a sap. Eve’s hardened and jaded. The two of them have to rub all their rough edges against each other to smooth each other out. And peeling back those layers exposes the soft vulnerability that underlies a true love.

Interested? You can find NOCTURNES at Goodreads, Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Make sure to come back and let me know if you liked NOCTURNES. And, as always, keep reading my friends!

The HOLDERS!!–Book Blitz and Giveaway

The Holders (Holders #1)
Release Date: 03/05/2013
Summary from Goodreads:
17-year-old Becca spent her whole life protecting her brother from, well, everything. The abandonment of their father, the so called ‘experts’ who insist that voices in his head are unnatural and must be dealt with, and the constant threat of being taken away to some hospital and studied like an animal. When two representatives appear claiming to have the answers to Ryland’s perceived problem, Becca doesn’t buy it for one second. That is until they seem to know things about Ryland and about Becca and Ryland’s family, that forces Becca to concede that there may be more to these people than meets the eye. Though still highly skeptical, Becca agrees to do what’s best for Ryland.

What they find at St. Brigid’s is a world beyond their imagination. Little by little they piece together the information of their family’s heritage, their estranged Father, and the legend of the Holder race that decrees Ryland is the one they’ve been waiting for. However, they are all–especially Becca–in for a surprise that will change what they thought they knew about themselves and their kind.

She meets Alex, a Holder who is fiercely loyal to their race, and for some reason, Becca and Ryland. There’s an attraction between Becca and Alex that can’t be denied, but her true nature seems destined to keep them apart. However, certain destinies may not be as clear cut as everyone has always believed them to be.

Becca is lost, but found at the same time. Can she bring herself to leave Ryland now that he’s settled and can clearly see his future? Will she be able to put the the feelings she has for Alex aside and head back to the US? And can Becca and Ryland ever forgive their father for what he’s done?

Available from:
 
Book 2:
(linked to Goodreads)


Pre-Order:
Praise for Series:
“The twisty plot and swoony romance of The Seers kept me turning the pages as I fell in love with Becca and Alex all over again.” Trisha Wolfe, author of Fireblood
“It had a gripping plot, plenty of exciting twists and turns and some pretty fantastic characters which all combined to keep me glued to the pages.”

A Dream of Books

“If this is any notion of what Julianna Scottcan do, I cannot wait to see what is next. The Holders was refreshing and just one heck of a good read.”The Book Cellar

“I am so thankful this is only the beginning of a series because I couldn’t imagine not being able to read a continuation of Becca’s story. The Holders is a novel too entertaining and emotionally charged to pass up!” Lovey Dovey Books

“There are a lot of other things to love about The Holders–a detailed history and Celtic element come to mind–-but it was really the characters that sold this novel for me.” More Than Just Magic

About the Author

Julianna was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and spent the majority of her educational career convinced she would be a musician. However, after receiving her music degree from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, she realized that she’d been born in the wrong era for her dreams of singing jazz to adoring fans clad in zoot-suits and flapper dresses to come true, and began to wonder if her true calling might be elsewhere.
While Julianna had always excelled in writing throughout school, she’d never considered it a career possibility until about three years ago, when she’d gotten her first story idea and decided to go for it. She grabbed her laptop, started typing away, and has never looked back.

Author Links:
 photo iconwebsite-32x32_zps1f477f69.png  photo icongoodreads32_zps60f83491.png  photo icontwitter-32x32_zpsae13e2b2.png

Pre-Order Gift:
 As a special gift to anyone who pre-orders The Seers, we are giving away a free e-book with several scenes from The Holders written from different character’s points of view! All you have to do to get yours is pre-order The Seers, then email your receipt or other proof of purchase to Julianna Scott at juliannascottbooks@hotmail.com, and she will send you the e-novella in the format of your choosing. That’s it! And if you have already pre-ordered The Seers, not to worry! Send your receipt along, and you’ll get your copy too!
 
***GIVEAWAY***
1 – Necklace (as pictured) plus ebook copies of The Holders and The Seers

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Book Blitz Organized by: