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WHEN IT HOOKS YOU by @NickiElson3D #Contemporary #Romance #New #Release #Review

Title: When It Hooks You
Author: Nicki Elson
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Three dates. It was only supposed to be three dates—he was only meant to be a fling. I didn’t want to feel all of this for him. And I certainly hadn’t counted on him keeping such a deal-breaking secret from me.

Till death is too long for Trish Cerise. The twenty-seven year old receptionist is tired of men asking for her forever when she just wants to keep things light and fun. World-traveling businessman Adam Helms steps off the elevator and into her life with his own reasons for keeping relationships at a safe distance. Together, they’re destined for the most glorious short-term romance in history…until they break their own rules and Trish learns something about Adam she wishes she never knew.

I know a future with him is impossible, but how do you break away from such an intense, consuming, heart-crushing love when it hooks you?  ~Trish

When It Hooks YouWhen It Hooks You by Nicki Elson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Hooked on Nicki Elson‘s Books!

At age 27, law firm receptionist Trish is tired of the dating scene. She’d turned down a marriage proposal from her boyfriend Kurt, but when she thinks he’ll ask again, this time she plans to say yes.

When Kurt instead dumps her, Trish comes up with a new idea: she’ll only go on three dates with any guy. After three dates is where the heartache starts. What could possibly go wrong?

Cliff is a college friend who’s also an attorney at her law firm. (I happen to love Cliff and can’t wait for his story, coming next.) Trish mistakenly thinks Cliff is gay and tries to set him up with a guy. The gay guy is suspicious about Trish matching up with a lesbian on their double-date.

“You’ve got ‘I love dick’ written all over you. You might as well wear a T-shirt proclaiming it.”

Trish’s mouth opened wide in a silent gasp.

“See?” James pointed at her lips, his finger rotating. “The perfect shape and size. You know what you want in there.”

Cliff has the hots for Trish, but she’s more intrigued by stylish businessman Adam, a client at the firm. Adam overhears Trish’s three date max plan and their flirtation begins.

When Adam takes her on a dreamboat third date, including a surprise candlelit dinner on a yacht on the Chicago River, she’s definitely impressed.

“Does this look like a good spot to drop anchor?”

“Perfect. You seriously should get a job planning dates for The Bachelor.”

Trish and Adam develop feelings for each other that transcend the three-date limit. She wants to make an exception for him, but he may be unable to veer off their careful plan due to his secret past.

I definitely enjoyed this contemporary romance, and can’t wait for the next book in the series.

View all my reviews

Nicki writes spicy fiction with a sweet and dreamy center. She does other stuff, too—like obsess over reality TV. Writing fiction wasn’t something Nicki set out to do; it just sort of happened when she realized writing reports was by far her favorite part of her investment consulting position. She traded stock allocation and diversification for story arcs and dialogue and now weaves her creative writing time in with the other activities of her busy life with her family in the Chicago suburbs.

Author Links:
Buy Link: Amazon: http://amzn.to/1UxX0Eh#Free with #KindleUnlimited

“Do you miss him?” Adam asked.
“The ex-boyfriend who lives here? At times, I guess.”
“Is there any chance you brought me here because you want to run into him?”
She considered the idea, but shook her head, leaning her back against Adam’s chest. The temperature had lowered from the hot day at the baseball field. It was still warm enough for Trish to be comfortable in her strapless dress, but his body heat against her bare skin felt nice. “I saw him a couple of weeks ago—with his new girlfriend. I’ve apparently got some residual anger about the way he broke up with me, but no part of me wants to get back together with him.”
“Then why are we here?” Adam murmured into her ear.
“For this.” She swept an arm over the railing, gesturing toward the sky. “Showing you the sunset is the only reason, I swear. I never felt forever with him; end of story.”
Adam’s light exhale tickled Trish’s shoulder. “I’m glad for you that you can see things so clearly. Staying with the wrong person can end up being more lonely than being alone.”
“Sounds like you learned that one the hard way.”
“I did.”
Orange relinquished more and more of its claim on the sky. The massive smudge of color stained the clouds stormy gray even while their cottony edges flamed. Adam dropped a hand from the railing to wrap his arm around Trish’s waist.
She started at his touch and tilted her head to look at him. As soon as her eyes locked on his, he dropped his arm and shifted his gaze away from her to look across the wide deck toward the lake. The brilliant blue in the east had darkened to midnight. She turned her whole body to be front-to-front with him. Touching her hand to the side of his face, she brought his focus back to her. She was done waiting for him to make a move.
“I know you said it was best to not get physical,” she said, noting the faint press of new stubble against her palm. “But I hope kisses don’t count because I’m going to kiss you, Mr. Helms. If that goes well, I don’t plan to stop until your face turns purple and you’re gasping for air.”
He didn’t move or say anything to dissuade her, but a terrified flash raced across his eyes—now made coppery under the scorched heavens. Trish plastered her mouth against his. She’d take away his fear. She’d pull him up to the surface of his melancholy sea and breathe lightness into him.
His mouth was stiff, but she touched her coaxing lips to his again and again until he relented. He was gentle, almost timid, but at the first graze of her tongue against his, he lunged into her. One of his hands splayed across her bare back and the other claimed the base of her spine, pulling her against him. His kiss became ravenous, nearly desperate.
Tasting his need fueled Trish’s desire to satisfy him. Their frenzied mouths moved against each other. Only half aware of what the rest of her body was doing, she raked her fingers through the back of his sculpted hair and coiled a leg around him.
The muted sound of the latch engaging at the rooftop entrance recalled them to reality. She lowered her thigh, and they pulled their mouths apart but continued to hold each other close. His heavy breath cooled the wetness coating her lips.
“Is my face purple enough for you?” he murmured as a boisterous group emerged onto the roof.
Trish laughed, leaning in to rest the side of her face against his. “I’m not through with you, Mr. Helms.”
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THE ROSIE PROJECT by Don Tillman: #Review


My book club chose a wonderful read for June: The Rosie Project. Here’s my review:


The Rosie Project (Don Tillman #1)The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A Man with Asperger’s Delightful Journey to Love

Books like these make me appreciate my book club even more because I probably wouldn’t have tried it without my friend Colby picking it this month.

Don Tillman is a 39-year-old genetics professor in Australia who knows he is socially inept but doesn’t know he has a raging case of Autism Spectrum Disorder. He would like to date but his difficulties with emotions and subtleties of interactions have made that difficult. Being the scientist he is, he decides to write a questionnaire for potential partners he dubs “The Wife Project”. He believes his data driven approach will weed out unsuitable candidates.

He’s friends with a married psychologist couple, Gene and Claudia, and they try to help him sort out these puzzling social interactions. Sadly, Gene and Claudia are his only friends.

When Don attends a dating event, his unique perceptions of the world are hilarious.

Olivia resumed talking to me while the others engaged in small talk — an extraordinary waste of time when a major life decision was at stake. On Claudia’s advice, I had memorized the questionnaire. She thought that asking questions directly from the forms could create the wrong “dynamic” and that I should attempt to incorporate them subtly into conversation, Subtlety, I had reminded her, is not my strength. She suggested that I not ask about sexually transmitted diseases and that I make my own estimates of weight, height, and body mass index. I estimated Olivia’s BMI at nineteen; slim, but no signs of anorexia.

Every time Don meets someone new, he mentally calculates their BMI. BA HA HA! I’ve met quite a few characters through dating but I’ve never had one come out and ask me my BMI–Don would totally do that if not for Claudia’s advice.

Don’s friend Gene sets him up with Rosie, a “barmaid”. Rosie comes over for dinner prepared by the excellent cook Don.

I commenced retrieval of vegetables and herbs from the refrigerator. “Let me help,” Rosie said. “I can chop or something.” The implication was that chopping could be done by an inexperienced person unfamiliar with the recipe. After her comment that she was unable to cook even in a life-threatening situation, I had visions of huge chunks of leek and fragments of herbs too fine to sieve out.

Once Don discovers Rosie smokes and runs late, he automatically discards her as a candidate for The Wife Project. But when Rosie tells him she’s trying to discover the identity of her biological father, geneticist Don is suddenly all in to helping her with The Father Project.

They narrow down potential fathers based on her mother’s medical school class, and proceed to obtain DNA samples from over fifty men in a madcap manner.

Don eventually learns that Rosie is a doctoral psychology student who’s smarter than she seems. Don and Rosie test a sample from one probable father.

“But I’ve never consciously thought of him as my father.”

“He’s not,” I said.

The results had come up on the computer screen. Job complete. I began packing up.

“Wow,” said Rosie. “Ever thought of being a grief counselor?”

“No. I considered a number of careers, but all in the sciences. My interpersonal skills are not strong.”

Rosie burst out laughing.

Don is just so damn endearing! The funniest scene is when Don and Rosie pose as bartenders at a medical school reunion in order to swab cocktail glasses. Memorizing orders and drink recipes is where computer-mind Don excels, and he performs so well that the bar owner wants to go into business with him.

Equally funny is when Don wants to woo a ballroom dancing champion, so he practices his dance moves with a skeleton from a nearby lab. When he tests out his dance moves in front of a crowd, he learns Unfortunately, this requires cooperation on the part of the partner, particularly if she is heavier than a skeleton.

When Don decides he would like to have sex with Rosie, he talks it over with Gene:

“So why the stress?” said Gene. “You have had sex before?”

“Of course,” I said. “It’s just that adding a second person makes it more complicated.”

“Naturally, said Gene. “I should have thought of that. Why not get a book?”

So Don buys a book and memorizes all the sexual positions. Naturally, he brings out the skeleton again for practice, and naturally, the dean walks into his office while Don is getting into compromising positions on the floor with the skeleton. *laughs*

In addition to the charming humor, there’s some depth to this story about love and growth. I definitely want to read the sequel. Highly recommended.

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New Release: VIBRIZZIO by @NickiElson3D #Review #Giveaway


Congratulations to my critique partner on the release of her contemporary romance VIBRIZZIO!

Lyssa Bates doesn’t need a man. Not when the world is fully-stocked with double A batteries and a wide array of options in Amazon’s health and sexual wellness category. After yet another failed relationship, the twenty-six-year-old investment analyst is convinced that real guys aren’t ever going to live up to her expectations—so why should she bother with them? She’s determined to keep her dating life purely electronic…though she occasionally fantasizes about Hayden King, the delicious new associate she just got partnered with at work.

While Lyssa manages her romantic risks by deleting men from of the equation, the ever-charming Hayden protects his heart by diversifying his love life across multiple women. As the two young professionals travel together around the country for business, their flirty working relationship develops into a close friendship that hurtles toward something more. Between hot tub confessions in Baltimore, an accidental kiss in Dallas, and an all-nighter in Chicago, Hayden proves himself to be better than any fantasy.


I adored this story, as you can see from my review. Check out the tour schedule HERE.

VibrizzioVibrizzio by Nicki Elson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Funny, Heartwarming Romance

Nicki Elson has a talent for writing humorous, engaging characters, and Lyssa Bates is my favorite so far. Lyssa’s an investment analyst in her twenties who dates a cute, skinny nerd named Keith.

He was a runner and also dabbled in martial arts and whatever else was the current rage in nerd culture.

Keith buys her a vibrator to spice up their sex life, and Lyssa likes her new toy. A lot. Lyssa likes her vibrator so much that she nicknames it Vibrizzio, her sexy Italian lover.

Keith isn’t so enamored of Vibrizzio, especially when Lyssa always insists on a threesome. That’s gotta be a new low when a boyfriend is jealous of a lil’ machine.

Meanwhile, Lyssa get assigned to an important account at work: Project Pineapple. Heading the team is the gorgeous Hayden King. He’s a rising star in the company, confident and competent. He’s curious about Lyssa, but she seriously doubts his interest in her.

Hayden learns about Vibrizzio in an unfortunate airport incident. Damn the TSA! Lyssa tries to play the vibrator off as a flashlight. Later, at a dimly lit restaurant:

He nodded and squinted. “This lighting’s pretty dim. I’m having trouble seeing my choices—do you have that flashlight handy?” His handsome features stayed perfectly composed as he narrowed his eyes further and tilted his head to the side. “Can I borrow it for a sec?”

Lyssa stared at him, hard, and didn’t say a word. Flicking his eyes up, he held her gaze while the corners of his mouth twitched.

“Having fun?” Lyssa asked.

He shrugged. “Not as much as you apparently plan on having later.”

Lyssa disdains the plentiful women Hayden seems to attract. After one of his trysts, they chat.

”That woman has an ass that won’t quit.”

Lyssa wrinkled her face. “What exactly does that expression even mean? An ass that won’t quit? Think about the primary function of an ass—I’d think that’s the sort of thing you might want to quit.”

Lyssa’s sister is rather bitchy, but Lyssa dishes it right back:

”How’s the big bad city treating you,” Jessica asked, pulling back and holding her hand to her sister’s face, running a thumb over her cheek. “Yikes, all those exhaust fumes are hell on the pores, I see.”

“The city’s great, Jess. Too bad you never got a chance to live there.”

“Well, some of us move on with our lives and can’t stay stuck in the party-party atmosphere of the college years forever.”

“True. And some of us feel the need to experience life before bending to the will of an arcane society.”

I would hate a judgmental sister like that.

I could feel the romantic tension building between Lyssa and Hayden, but it’s tough for her to see. When the idea arises of Hayden dating Lyssa’s friend Trish, Lyssa tries to be okay with it.

He pursed his lips. “Normally this is something I’d be all over, but I haven’t been feeling normal lately.” He leveled his eyes at her.

“Is this something you should talk to your gynecologist about?” Lyssa asked.

He grinned. “You’re extra sassy today, which means you’re using humor to divert your discomfort. I think maybe you’re not as okay with this as you claim to be.”

Hayden knows Lyssa well.

This story had me beaming and cheering at the end. HIGHLY recommended!

View all my reviews

I’ve had the pleasure of reading book two in the series, Revirginated, and it is equally awesome!

AUTHOR BIO:

Writing wasn’t something Nicki set out to do; it just sort of happened when she realized writing reports was by far her favorite part of her investment consulting position. She traded stock allocation and diversification for story arcs and dialogue and now weaves her creative writing time in with the other activities of her busy life with her family in the Chicago suburbs.

Nicki writes with two goals in mind: #1 to keep the characters realistic, even when their circumstances are anything but, and #2 to make the reader feel. Watch for her new title Vibrizzio, coming in 2015 from Swoon Romance. Her published works include Three Daves, a light-hearted romantic romp through a 1980s college campus, Divine Temptation, a romantic novel of angelic proportions, and Hans & Greta: a Twisted Fairy Tale Novella. Her published short stories include “Sway” (available as a single), “I Don’t Do Valentine’s Day” (part of A Valentine Anthology), and “Impressionism 101” (included in the debut issue of Insatiable: The Magazine of Paranormal Desire).

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The Weight of Words by @georgey_girl #Review #Interview & #Giveaway


I’m pleased to welcome author Georgina Guthrie to the blog for a review of her debut novel The Weight of Words. Stick around for the interview and giveaway!

The Weight of Words (Words, #1)The Weight of Words by Georgina Guthrie
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Course of True Love Never Did Run Smooth

What a thought-provoking romance! It’s rare for me to feel such fondness for the hero and the heroine, but I loved both Daniel and Aubrey. It’s also rare for me to understand Shakespeare, but Georgina Guthrie provides an excellent guide to the Bard in this story.

Aubrey Price starts her last year at the University of Toronto with a tight budget, a set of close friends, and a passion for all things Shakespeare. She works as an assistant to Dean Grant in addition to taking a heavy course load. The TA for her Shakespeare course is Dean Grant’s son Daniel, who’s scruffy and gorgeous. Aubrey tries to suppress her attraction to Daniel’s forbidden fruit due to the anti-fraternization policy. (Good luck, Aubrey.)

Daniel is a puzzle. He crisply calls her “Miss Price”, at times seeming standoffish and pompous. At other times he smiles warmly and appears impressed by her depth of knowledge and wit.

Daniel had been livid with me, which was definitely not without its strange appeal. Angry-Daniel was something to behold. But then he was Tail-Between-His-Legs-Daniel, followed shortly afterward by Tiny-Piece-of-Heart-on-His-Sleeve-Daniel. The episode was rounded out nicely by Dimpled-Smile-and-Lip-Biting-Daniel. Smorgasbord, right?

Aubrey has no idea how he feels about her until Dean Grant invites her to a family dinner and Daniel unexpectedly shows up. When he has one drink too many, he reveals his true feelings.

O God, that men should put an enemy in their mouths to steal away their brains! that we should, with joy, pleasance, revel, and applause, transform ourselves into beasts!
~William Shakespeare, Othello

Hehe. Before Daniel makes a total beast of himself, he attempts to rein himself in, though it’s tough to avoid Aubrey’s charm. The secret that likely drives him to drink that night also ups the professional stakes to dangerous levels.

Aubrey has a winsome sense of humor which her roommate Matt draws out of her:

“I didn’t know you guys were headed in that direction,” I said. “I knew you liked each other. Some nights I could tell you really liked each other.” I rattled the headboard, and he shot me a poisonous glare.

Matt also made me laugh:

“I had to get up. My brain was screaming for Advil,” he groaned. “And I have the worst case of the zacklies.”
“What the hell are the zacklies?”
“You know, when your mouth tastes zackly like your ass.”


The banter between Aubrey and Daniel kept me grinning. Her F-bomb explosions surprise and delight him. His pair of jeans with a hole over the knee makes Aubrey swoon.

“Now tell me,” I said, eager to lighten the tone. “Am I going to get a look at one of those sweet knees tonight?”
Daniel sighed again. “Don’t worry. Mr. Ratty Pants will be making an appearance this evening.”


Instructors getting it on with students is abusive and wrong. But this story never feels icky that way. Aubrey is a strong, independent woman and Daniel does his best to exhibit self-control. Can they keep their paws off each other until semester’s end? I look forward to finding out in the next two books in the series!

A very little thief of occasion will rob you of a great deal of patience.
~William Shakespeare Coriolanus, Act II, sc. 1

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And now onto the interview:

Jennifer Lane (JL): Thanks for visiting the blog, Georgina!
GG: Thanks for having me, and congratulations on your recently released Blocked!
JL: I obviously loved The Weight of Words. And I understand I have two more awesome books awaiting me in the series?
Georgina Guthrie (GG): Thank you, that’s nice of you to say! Yes, you’ve read part 1 of a three-part series. Better Deeds than Words and The Truest of Words are books 2 and 3.

JL: So, Shakespeare! Aubrey and Daniel are both serious students of Shakespeare. How did you get interested in the Bard?
GG: I took an instant liking to his work after reading A Midsummer Night’s Dream in ninth grade. Going on a school trip to see The Tempest at the Stratford Festival in tenth grade sealed the deal. When I was sixteen, I visited my hometown in England for a few weeks in the summer and traveled to Stratford-upon-Avon for the first time. This visit made Shakespeare’s life so real to me. I was fascinated. My interest in his work grew exponentially from then on. I went on to study English in university, and spent a lot of time marinating in the Bard’s lovely words. 

JL: I really liked Audrey’s boss (and Daniel’s father) Dean Grant. Did you have kind academic mentors who inspired his character?
GG: I’ve had numerous mentors who have guided, instructed, encouraged and supported me over the years. Their impact has been inestimable. I don’t know if David Grant is inspired by any one of those people. He’s a bit of an amalgam of them, I suppose. Professor Brown, on the other hand, is definitely inspired by a particular person.

JL: What have been the pros and cons of writing a series?
GG: Well, I certainly know my characters. Lol. And that’s wonderful…having the opportunity to flesh out characters, really explore what makes them tick and pull the threads of their stories to satisfactory conclusion. It’s also great having relationships with readers who have become attached to characters and want to know “what next?” It’s very gratifying to feel readers’ affection for characters. One downside is it can be difficult to get yourself in a different head space when you’ve spent so much time with the same characters. I feared being a “one trick pony”. I suppose that’s one of the reasons that I continued to dabble with fic–to flex a different writing muscle. I also wrote a YA novel last year, and that was an excellent exercise in finding a new voice and tone.

JL: November 18th was the release date for book three, The Truest of Words! Readers: get it HERE. Please tell us about it.
GG: The third book in the trilogy allows Aubrey and Daniel to explore life after graduation. Without the ever present fear of being “caught,” they’re able to turn their attention to other concerns, namely, all the things that couples deal with at the beginning of a relationship, the baggage and personal quirks that can make or break a relationship. I also wanted to pursue the thematic ideas I had introduced in Book 1 and continued to tease at in Book 2.

JL: What’s next for you?
GG: I hope to be making an announcement about an upcoming project soon. I’ll also be publishing my YA book next fall. Never a dull moment! 🙂 Thanks again for having me, Jen.


Please comment with your answer to one of these questions:

1. What’s your opinion of Shakespeare?

2. Hot for teacher? How do you feel about teacher-student romance?

3. What’s a 5 star read you’d recommend?

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SAVING POUGHKEEPSIE by @Debra_Anastasia Now Available!

Saving Poughkeepsie 

Debra Anastasia

Add Saving Poughkeepsie to: Goodreads

On 11/22 Buy from: Amazon  | Barnes and Noble

Beckett Taylor’s quest to be a better man has brought Eve Hartt back into his life, but sometimes it feels like they’re bound together with barbed wire. Though he longs to love her without causing pain, the wreckage of their past continues to crash down around them.

Yet with the help of this brothers—and for his brothers—Beckett won’t stop trying. He’s determined to make them all a family, to make a life they want to live, and to make Poughkeepsie a place that’s safe to live it.

He can feel their futures balanced precariously on his shoulders: Blake and Livia and their children, Cole and Kyle and the new baby they’ve just brought home, and Eve…always Eve. He wants their dreams to be real. But murderers don’t just get Happily Ever After handed to them. They have to wrench it away from Satan himself.

Good thing Beckett is prepared to do just that. After all, saving Poughkeepsie is the only way his story ends.

Prepare your heart and your head for a wild ride in this final installment of the Poughkeepsie Brotherhood series. Debra Anastasia does not disappoint as she weaves the last chapter of a story that blends true love, turbulent emotions, and life’s harsh realities into an uplifting tale that calls to the good in each of us.

TPB Series on Make A Gif

Book 1 on sale for .99 cents starting 11/19/14

 

Poughkeepsie (Book 1)

 

Poughkeepsie Enhanced Collector’s Edition for iPad ($12.99): https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/poughkeepsie/id763056961?mt=8 
 Return to Poughkeepsie (Book 2) 

Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/1y3LQNq

              Excerpt 1:

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“I’m not worried about tomorrow. I’m worried about right now, with you, under this Christmas tree.” Blake supported her neck as he laid her on the floor.
Livia turned her head. “You’d better convince me. So far you’ve talked about the dog going to the bathroom, trash, and dirtiness.”
Blake kissed her jaw and turned her head gently, kissing her mouth as she bit her lips together.
“Can’t I just convince you with my manly ways?” He wiggled his eyebrows.
He could, of course, do just that—but she shook her head. She loved the playful sparkle in his green eyes. His five o’clock shadow just made him more handsome, framing his kissable lips with scruff. 
“Okay.” He put his fingers at the bottom of her shirt, lifting it gently so he could circle her belly button with his index finger. “You’re the sexiest, most beautiful woman on this planet. So sexy, in fact, that I had to have you. I had to make you bear my children because my universe and yours had to be combined. Everything I’ve ever been needed to be buried inside of you, so deep, so full of love that we created life. Twice.”
He lifted her shirt and kissed the tops of her breasts, whispering his devotion into her skin. “And it’s never enough. Unless I can hear you coming, I can’t think of anything else. All day every day. For years now. You’re that powerful, Livia. This. Us. It’s so intense that years haven’t cured me. I can’t stop wanting to make love to you.”
“Wow.” Livia smiled and pulled his face back to hers, kissing him and effectively stopping his beautiful words.
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#Giveaway of Hydraulic Level 5 and Skygods by Sarah Latchaw

I’m stoked for the release of SKYGODS (Hydraulic #2) by the gorgeous Sarah Latchaw. Check out her blog HERE.


I loved HYDRAULIC LEVEL FIVE (Hydraulic #1)–see my 5 star review HERE.


What stunning covers!

*******Giveaway*******


Wanna enter to win these excellent reads? Leave a comment with your email address. You can comment about these books or answer this question:

How likely is it for a divorced couple to rekindle their romance?

Giveaway ends 9/2/14.

Sarah Latchaw was raised in eastern Iowa and appreciates beauty in mud-splattered gravel roads and fields. She also loves to explore far-away places, thanks to countless family minivan trips across the States. This passion for finding stories led to college adventures in many different countries, and each place’s story rests in the back of her mind and in her photo albums.
Sarah received her BA from Wartburg College in public relations and media, and entered the workforce, ready to climb the ladder. However, when researching MBA applications evoked feelings of dread, with the loving support of her husband, she pursued a career in creative writing and was awarded her MA from Iowa State University.
These days, Sarah wakes every morning thrilled to cuddle her small children, show them the world, then capture that world and shape it into stories on paper. She is not thrilled when she wakes to her cats smothering her face. She and her family reside in Des Moines, Iowa—one of the best places to live and work.
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Review and Interview: Ex Factor by Elisa Dane

Today I welcome awesome author Elisa Dane to the blog! First I’ll review her Young Adult romance Ex Factor, then I’ll interview her. Stick around for the giveaway at the end.

Ex-Factor (Diamond Girls, #1)Ex-Factor by Elisa Dane
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Truth and Consequences

Teenager Nev is a former gymnast whose life has undergone startling transitions. She gets uprooted to live with her aunt and cousin in northern California when her father dies and her mother succumbs to a debilitating illness. Not only is she disoriented in this new place, but she’s also overwhelmed by guilt. Just what secrets hide behind that guilt?

Nev’s cousin Livvie is on a competitive cheer team, X Factor, and Nev’s tumbling expertise makes her a shoo-in for the team. At first Nev balks at joining the Diamond Girls squad because tumbling in a gym sparks painful memories of her mother. But by flying through the air again, she slowly finds her footing, and her recovery is a beautiful thing.

It’s cool to catch a glimpse into the world of competitive cheer — a world the author clearly knows. The cheer coaches are so demanding and vulgar that I thought they were football coaches:

“Flyers! Pretend you’ve got a dollar bill stuck between your butt cheeks, and squeeze it ’til it screams!”

“I don’t care if you rip your pee pees, I want those toe touches up past your ears!”

Ew. LOL. Luckily the coaches have a soft side, and Nev forms some close friendships with her teammates.

Nev’s first encounter with a boy is charming playah Eli. Although Eli is supposedly dating Nev’s new friend Erin, Eli hits on Nev non-stop. Nev doesn’t want to hurt Erin’s feelings by telling her, but is also uncomfortable keeping his skeezeball behavior quiet.

Another boy, Bodie, is cold and rude to her. Too bad she tingles with good feels every time he’s around. But Bodie also has a checkered past, and maybe he is more attracted to her than he seems. I love how they share pieces of themselves, gradually unfurling their truths as they both face the consequences of their actions. They both feel damaged beyond repair.

For a minute, I was just a regular girl, he was just a regular boy, and we were both enjoying the moment.

Nev has a biting sense of humor:

I was pretty darn sure he had a thing for my hair, and there was a good part of me that wanted to pull a Marcia Brady and never wash the stuff again because he’d touched it.

Marcia, Marcia, Marcia! Nev’s attempt to heal, supported by Bodie, also packs an emotional punch, and I found myself tearing up in parts.

The story has a solid message about the dangers of drunk driving. My one complaint was Bodie’s term of endearment for Nev: Doll Face. It got a little repetitive for me.

Ex-Factor is book one in the Diamond Girl series, and thankfully book two: Unbreakable is also available. Roundoff-back handspring-double full!

View all my reviews
 

Jennifer Lane (JL): Ms. Lane welcomes Ms. Dane to the blog! I loved Ex Factor and look forward to Unbreakable. What inspired the series?

Elisa Dane (ED): Thanks for having me! I’m so glad you enjoyed Nev and Bodie’s story. I’ve wanted to write a contemporary YA involving cheerleaders for quite some time. All three of my girls have grown up in their cheer gym, and their dedication and passion for their sport inspires me daily. After attending the Every 15 Minutes mock crash and assembly during my oldest daughter’s senior year, I knew I had a story to tell and the series took off from there.

JL: What made you take Ex Factor in an emotional, dramatic direction?

ED: I was moved to tears by what I witnessed during the Every 15 Minutes assembly at my daughter’s school. The program that year was especially moving as the class lost one of their own to drinking and driving. Listening to a big, tough man weep over the senseless loss of his son marked me, and I knew if I felt as deeply about the subject, others would too. Drinking and driving is a HUGE problem, as is the invincibility complex most teens seem to struggle with. It’s always been my hope that Nev and Bodie’s story would make an impact on the reader and maybe keep them from making a fatal mistake.

JL: What are the biggest misunderstandings about competitive cheer?

ED: Oh, Lordy! There are quite a few. I think the biggest burn comes from those who say that All Star cheer isn’t a sport. I mean…c’mon! The  International Olympic Committee recognizes the game of chess as a sport. Chess! Competitive cheer involves two and a half minute routine filled with running tumbling, standing tumbling, jumping, dance, and a mixture of daredevil stunts. The athletes train for countless hours conditioning and perfecting each of the required skills. My middle daughter made an all-girl level-5 team this season. That’s the highest level you can compete at before moving into the college cheer category. She trains five to six days a week for a minimum of four hours. Some days she’s at the gym in the morning, and then goes back for another practice in the afternoon. Competitive cheerleaders are athletic BEASTS and should be recognized as such. Well, in my opinion, anyway!

JL: How did your daughters get involved in cheerleading?

ED: This is our tenth year with our gym. Honestly, we’ve been there for so long, I’m not sure how we started! I’m pretty sure a mom from one of my daughter’s play groups told me about the gym, and things rolled from there. Our cheer gym has become a permanent part of our lives 🙂

JL: I’m one of three daughters. (Youngest children RULE!) What have been the joys and challenges of parenting three girls?

ED: Ha! My youngest daughter would agree with you! Raising three girls can be a challenge for sure. Especially when two of them cycle together. Eeeep! Despite the squabbling that sometimes occurs over misplaced articles of clothing and the like, I find raising three girls to be extremely rewarding. I love watching them mature and make good decisions. I love watching them succeed and school and at cheer. My girls are my biggest accomplishment.

JL: You are quite tech-savvy (thanks for your help with Instagram!) What helps you stay current with technology?

ED: Thank you! I’m always happy to help! Oh goodness… Desperation, maybe? Just kidding! I’m always on the hunt for ways to connect with my readers. I’m on pretty much every social media platform out there, however some I enjoy more than others. I LOVE Instagram and Youtube. The reach is huge and I feel like I  really connect with people on those venues.

JL: Thank you for visiting the blog, Elisa! What’s next for you?

ED: Thanks for having me! Book #3 in the Diamond Girls series is currently with my editor at Swoon Romance. I can’t wait for you all to meet the hero, Ryker Vaughn! He’s a broken
fighter, and the perfect match for sassy Claire. Readers will need a box of tissues for this story as well 🙂

READERS: Enter the giveaway for an ebook of Ex Factor by leaving a comment with your email address.
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LISETTE BRODEY: Review and Interview

Today I’m stoked to have author Lisette Brodey to the blog. I loved her spunky story Molly Hacker Is Too Picky! And I look forward to reading more from her. First is my review, then an interview.

Molly Hacker Is Too Picky!Molly Hacker Is Too Picky! by Lisette Brodey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Molly Hacker is Too Appealing!

As a single woman in a couples world, I was drawn to this novel. But it wasn’t until I cyber-met the lovely Lisette Brodey when she interviewed me at her Author Chateau that I bumped this story to the top of my list. And what a funny, clever story it is.

Molly Hacker is a 32-year-old newspaper reporter whose single status seems to be of great concern to her friends and family. “Just settle down with a husband!” they say. “Stop being too picky!”

But Molly doesn’t want just anyone to be her partner for life. (Smart woman!) She’s looking for a guy who’s cute, interesting, and funny. A guy just like her ex, Leo. Their breakup broke her heart and her trust, and now her mantra is “I must, I must, I must begin to trust.”

I REALLY relate to Molly. She is an independent writer, won’t settle for just any guy, likes Coldplay and Maroon 5, has a hilarious gay BFF and a misbehaving cat, and even wishes she could’ve been a psychologist (my career). However, she’s more neurotic than I am (I hope). And I’m so thankful people don’t get on my case about being single. Poor Molly has to endure meddling friends and family.

When my aunt Pauline asked me why a pretty girl like me couldn’t have brought a man to the wedding who wasn’t attached to someone else, I asked the thrice-divorced sister of my mother to explain to me how settling for three Mr. Wrongs had enhanced her life.

She’s certainly not a shrinking violet! Molly is a lot funnier than me, too. Her insights crack me up, like:

I was feeling like the rock star’s girlfriend. I liked that, but then my lips started forming the word “groupie”, and I didn’t want to be considered one or to fend off their overzealous affection for my man. My man? I needed to regroup. Or did I need to regroupie?

“What does ‘cute as a button’ mean, anyway?” I asked. “I mean, how did buttons ever become the poster children for cuteness?”

But her coworker friend Randy steals the show with his cleverness:

I just stared at Randy, noticing his face had a strange orange glow to it. “And your face is orange because … ?”
“Okay. Self-tanner. Put on too much for too long. Tried to impress. What a mess. I confess. Now I digress. What’s up with you, or should I guess?”
“Give it a rest,” I chimed in…
“I hate men,” I said, glaring at him. “ALL of them.”
“Molly Rose, how irrational. What has gotten into you? Why so blue?”
“If you can be orange, I can be blue!” I said.
“Such colorful banter,” he said.


Ha ha! Then, when invasive socialite Naomi shows up unannounced at Molly’s office, Randy has some fun:

To complicate my ever-complicated life, nothing ever got past Randy, who had taken from his desk drawer a Scream mask (derived from the famous Edvard Munch painting), put it on his face, and proceeded to stand three feet away from the threshold of my office door, mocking every move Naomi made behind her back.

Molly encounters quite a few suitors throughout the story, including a rock star painter, her high school crush (who’s now getting a divorce), an older man who’s wealthy and suave, and an awkward yet endearing man. If she decides to choose one of these men, which one will it be? This mystery match-making element kept me turning the pages.

It’s clear that Molly Hacker is well-deserving of a wonderful man who matches her wit and style.

~*~


And now I have the pleasure of interviewing Lisette:

Jennifer Lane (JL): Welcome to the blog, Lisette. As you can see from my review, I loved Molly Hacker Is Too Picky! This was your first foray into chick lit, correct? What made you take the plunge?

Lisette Brodey (LB): Hi, Jen. Thanks so much for having me here today. First, I just want to tell your readers how much I loved the first book in The Conduct Series, With Good Behavior. I’m excited to read the next two. The characters are wonderful, and I’m dying to know what happens to them. Great job!
To answer your question, I really loved writing Molly Hacker Is Too Picky!, but quite honestly, at heart, I’m not a chick lit author. Before it was really viable to be an indie author, I was trying to get an agent for my first two novels, Squalor, New Mexico and Crooked Moon. I came very close many times, but it was frustrating. When I went to bookstores, it seemed to me that many of new books being featured were chick lit /women’s fiction, so I decided I would write one because it seemed to be what the market demanded.
After I wrote 65K words, it became feasible to publish independently, and I put Molly aside and went to work on publishing my first two novels. I then returned to Molly about a year later. It wasn’t easy to reimmerse myself in the nuances of her complicated life, but I did it. I even blogged for a year as the character (www.mollyhackercom).
So, just because chick lit isn’t my chosen genre, it sure as heck didn’t mean I didn’t have a good story to write. My muse introduced me to Molly, and the rest, as they say, is history.

JL: My favorite character is Randy, Molly’s flamboyant coworker. He’s a riot! Have you been blessed with humorous gay friends like Randy in your life? Certainly I’ve met funny heterosexual men, but some of my gay friends constantly make me laugh. What do you think makes him and some gay men so hilarious?
LB: Randy is one of my favorite characters ever. In fact, when I was done writing the book, I really wished I could bring him to life because he’s not only funny, he’s a loyal friend. Yes, I have known many gay men, hilarious and not so hilarious, but Randy is not based on any one person.
Gay men are as diverse as any other “group” of people. Randy, unlike some gay men, never had a problem accepting his sexual preference, nor did he have trouble being comfortable in society as an openly gay man. I believe it is this comfort that gives him the freedom to be hilarious whenever the mood strikes him. But there’s a lot more to him. He’s a caring friend, a compassionate listener, and has relationship insecurities like the rest of us.

JL: I also loved the feline character of Captain Jack. You captured the essence of disdain and mischief possessed by cats. Tell us about your experience with cats.
LB: I’ve had cats since I was 19. The cat I have now is my third. My second cat, Saki, was a very complex creature. I was always sure that she was meant to be mine. Just as I observe human behavior, I observe feline behavior. I’ve never had a cat that has willingly gone to strangers for any kind of attention. Ever. Captain Jack is very protective of his mom, Molly, and he doesn’t let things like good looks and hot bodies get in the way of sussing people out. And he is never shy about letting his feelings be known. I can’t think of any cat that is shy about that.
JL: You recently published a Young Adult paranormal novel Mystical High, the first in The Desert Series. What are your plans for the series?

LB: Thanks for asking. Mystical High centers on the lives of two teen girls, Jessie and Jinxsy, who live in a dying desert town in Southern California. Each has very real family problems, and their lives get very complicated when paranormal activity begins to escalate not only at their school, but also in their town, Mystekal.
My favorite character in Mystical High is River, Jessie’s 14-year-old brother. River is very smart, loves to use his extended vocabulary and says pretty much whatever he is thinking. But in other ways, such as in showing his feelings, he is shy and reserved.
In Book 2, River will be a senior, and the book will focus on him and another teen boy, Larsen. Again, the story will concentrate on real-life problems, such as bullying, but there will be new paranormal twists. Although each novel will work as a standalone book, there will be a whole lot in Book 2 that will give shocking insight into the story told in Mystical High. The final book of the trilogy will be the most romantic of the three, and the main character will be a girl readers will meet in Book 2.
JL: You’ve written in other genres too. What’s it like to genre hop? What are some common themes in your novels?
LB: I never really planned to genre hop. It just happened that the stories I wanted to tell all had different labels on them. My novel Crooked Moon is probably the closest to my true identity as a writer.
There are many common themes in my novels. Friendship is a strong theme in every story because I believe that friends are a huge part of most people’s lives. I know they are in mine. They are the family that we choose.
All of my novels have multiple story arcs, and people come together in ways you might not expect. I write this way because I believe that it mirrors real life. Our personal stories are not straight lines. Every one of us has sub-plots. I can’t write a linear story because I don’t see life that way. As we move through life, we meet people whose stories intersect with our own.
The keeping of secrets is another common theme. What you see is not always what is really there, and secrets have a way of coming out, often in explosive ways, and changing (and explaining) a lot.


How to stalk Lisette Brodey:

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Hydraulic Level Five by Sarah Latchaw: Review, Interview, #Giveaway

I love a book I can sink my teeth into, and Hydraulic Level Five is such a book. Check out my review, then hang around for my interview with Sarah Lachtaw, followed by a giveaway!

Hydraulic Level FiveHydraulic Level Five by Sarah Latchaw
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ride the Churning, Restless Rapids of a Second Chance at Love

What a rich and deep adult contemporary romance!

Kaye is in her late twenties and still in love with her childhood friend / ex-husband Samuel (even though it’s hard for “stubborn as super glue” Kaye to admit she still holds the candle for him). Kaye is an extreme sports enthusiast, and she and her friend run a PR firm in Colorado. Meanwhile, since the divorce, Samuel has shot up the bestseller charts as a famous author.

Samuel comes from a boisterous Hispanic family, and his sister Danita is about to get married. Naturally, Kaye is Danita’s maid of honor, and naturally, Samuel will be in town for the big wedding. Though Kaye and Samuel divorced six years ago, is it possible for them to rekindle a beautiful childhood love?

Kaye is quite a quirky character, and I wonder if the author is equally quirky. There’s also much sadness to the story about two broken people trying to mend themselves and each other.

I am so not a fantasy fan and at first I had trouble getting into the snippets from Samuel’s wildly successful fantasy series Water Sirens. But when Samuel explains why he wanted to write faerie tales for his little “firecracker” Kaye (cutest nickname ever), I fell for the fantasy completely.

Having finished his fantasy series, Samuel moves on to writing a memoir of his childhood love of Kaye, and excerpts from this story alternate with present events. It makes for interesting reading.

There are some humorous moments in the story, like the time Kaye’s attorney pretends to be her lesbian lover in order to make Samuel jealous, as well as:

The morning had been spent calmly arguing over the phone with a ski rental client about why “Going down with you since 1973” was not a family-oriented business slogan.

When we exited the theater after seeing Titanic, Hector shouted, “Hurry up, Kaye! There’s only enough cars in the parking lot for half of us!”

Kaye describing a spat between Samuel and his posh editor Caroline: There was tension in Versaceville

The characters develop in a gradual, satisfying way. Both Kaye and Samuel were young when they married, and have made plenty mistakes. Samuel comes from a troubled background that makes you want to hug him.

“I don’t need your pity,” he said gently, firmly. “I’m a grown man, Kaye — not that little boy anymore.”

“But it doesn’t mean I can’t feel pain for that little boy. Or that I love him any less,” I quietly added.

I like when Kaye says:

“Samuel, you have to get it into your head that when you shield people — me, Danita — from the big, bad world, you cause more harm than good.”

This was a touching story and I’m excited there will be a sequel titled Skygods.

View all my reviews

And now I welcome Sarah Lachtaw to the blog!

Jennifer Lane (JL): Welcome to the blog, Sarah! I found your debut novel to be a masterpiece. Please share your inspiration for the story.

Sarah Latchaw (SL): Wow, high praise, thanks! I believe in setting the bar high, then falling into the pits of despair when I can’t live up to expectations, like your average tortured writer (ha).

Inspiration is always a tough question to answer, because, as you know Ms. Lane, we find ideas in all sorts of places, from current events to life experience, to pure imagination. I wanted to accomplish several things with Hydraulic Level Five. One, to give readers a narrator and heroine they could connect with emotionally—feel her triumphs and hurts. Second, I wanted a love interest grounded in reality—a man with real flaws, but whom Kaye loves anyway. Third, I needed an epic love story that would resonate with readers long after they finished the final sentence. If readers can see something of their own love stories in Kaye and Samuel, then the characters find a home in their minds and hearts, and imaginations.

JL: Including excerpts from Samuel’s “work in progress”–a memoir about his childhood with Kaye–is definitely unique. What made you decide to write the story this way?

SL: Samuel’s betrayal of Kaye was so gut-wrenching, I knew he would be despised by readers if we didn’t get a glimpse into his mind. However, if I’d dipped into his mind via a third-person narration, we would have lost the mystery element that keeps readers flipping the pages—what is he thinking? How could such an epic love go so wrong? If I’d told the present-day story through both Kaye and Samuel, we also would have lost the first-person connection to Kaye, which would have killed the story.

I also wanted to weave Kaye and Samuel’s history throughout the story, but do it without a pile of flashbacks. Samuel is a writer, so why not have him write their story? As the mysteries of their past unfold through Samuel’s book like a sad little flower, the present-day tale becomes more poignant and dire.

JL: How involved are you in extreme sports?

SL: Ha! Not so much. I’ve kayaked and canoed here and there, even in some mildly treacherous whitewater. I even vowed to skydive for my thirtieth birthday, only to pass on it because I was expecting dear son. So while I find extreme sports fascinating, I have to rely on my Colorado contacts’ experiences when it comes to crazy backcountry skiing or class five whitewater rafting. I love being outside, just not risking my life while doing so.

JL: You are obviously familiar with Hispanic culture. What is your background?

SL: I don’t have a Hispanic background in my family. Several years ago, I spent some time in Ciudad Victoria, Mexico, and wanted to learn more about their incredible heritage. Hispanic culture is everywhere, but I knew woefully little about my neighbors. In my opinion, it’s kind of underrepresented in fiction and when it is featured, its often as a punchline for cheap laughs. In my writing, I wanted to stretch beyond those tacky stereotypes we find in pop culture and show their beautiful traditions, emphasis on family, and accomplishments as truthfully as I could. So I used my experiences, researched and read my tail off, in order to portray the Cabral familia as accurately as possible.

JL: Have you pranked or been pranked anything like the characters in this story?

SL: Yes…

I was well-educated in the art of the prank thanks to ten years of summer camp and four years of dorm life. The powdered milk thing is nasty and cruel, and please Lord don’t ever do it to anybody. That’s all I’m saying.

JL: There’s a sequel coming: Skygods (!) At what point did you know there would be a sequel? How is it coming along?

SL: Well, Hydraulic Level Five and Skygods were written as one big long story, then split into two parts. So the sequel was basically completed before Hydraulic was even published. Skygods is with Omnific editors right now, and I’m glad this came up because I need to ask them when we’re planning to release it.

Also, there is a possibility of a third book looming on the horizon…wink wink wink. I have my story maps done and am diving into the actual writing. Lyons, Colorado lends itself beautifully to the Hydraulic Series, and I really need to bring the story home for one more book.

JL: Oh, goody. *bounces* I love to hear it’s already written!


Now YOU can win an ebook of Hydraulic Level Five. Just enter on the Rafflecopter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
 

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IWSG: Nicki Elson’s Divine Temptation

The more insecure you are, the more you the devil can tempt you (or something like that).

Welcome to June’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group, started by Alex Cavanaugh! Author Nicki Elson introduced me to IWSG and has helped me with quite a few of my own insecurities through her warmth and support.

When I discovered Nicki wrote a paranormal romance, I was nervous. One of my insecurities is that I seem to be one of the few readers who’s not into paranormal.

But happily, I LOVED Nicki’s book Divine Temptation! A book about angels and demons seems more spiritual and less paranormal to me, I guess. And I do enjoy romance novels.

Hop over to Nicki’s BLOG where I interview her about her insecurities, and stick around to read my review of her fantastic novel!

Divine TemptationDivine Temptation by Nicki Elson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Deep and Affirming

Nicki Elson, author of the fun and flirty college romp Three Daves, heads in a different direction for this adult spiritual romance. I loved the realistic characters, the suspense, and the deep questions this novel provokes.

Maggie Brock is reeling after her husband Carl divorced her. Together they have a daughter Kirsten and a son Liam, and Maggie has to figure out how to proceed as a single mother. She takes a job as administrative assistant at her Catholic church, and tries to tolerate Carl’s new girlfriend establishing a relationship with her children.

Nightly dreams of an angel visiting her bedroom intrigue her, until she awakes one night and realizes this male angel is real. Quiet, lean, and handsome, he invites Maggie to give him a name: Evan. It’s not clear why God sent Evan to protect Maggie, but it is clear she is in some sort of danger. Eek!

Complicating matters is the arrival of a prissy, suspicious priest to oversee the workings of the church, aka the Monsignor. Maggie gets bad vibes from him. Is he the malevolent force Evan is supposed to thwart? When Maggie runs into the monsignor and he questions her, she keeps Evan secret.

For all she knew, the monsignor would attempt to incarcerate Evan E.T. style to study him.

Ha! Maggie struggles with her attraction to Evan, knowing God would disapprove of her getting it on with one of His angels. I have a little crush on Evan too, I must admit. Poor Maggie!

Evan provides this heavenly advice: “Stop trying to control what you feel and just feel it. Trust.”

Meanwhile, ex-husband Carl woos Maggie back into bed. I wonder how common it is for divorced couples to sneak sex again? That happened in a recent read Blue Shoe but I enjoyed Divine Temptation far more than Blue Shoe. Maggie and Carl’s sexy reunion leads her to think that maybe they can make it work again, until Carl bursts her bubble. Their ensuing argument is painful to read:

“You know what?” Maggie fumed. “Thank you, Carl. Thank you for reminding me of all the reasons we didn’t work. You’re absolutely right—we’re so much better apart. Because you never ever did anything wrong. Ever. I t was just mean old Maggie telling you things were wrong. I just made it up in my crazy, little mind, but really, you were perfect in every way.”

I love the shades of grey in the characters. Maggie’s no saint–she’s just trying to do her best–which makes her imminently likable. I’m impressed how Evan comes across as both sweet and powerful, matching my view of divinity. Kirsten is a whiny pre-teen who pushes the limits like a teenager but needs those limits like a child, and Liam adores video games like Mario Bros. Maggie’s friend Sharon is direct and funny. Even Father Tom and the Monsignor have their obvious faults.

The plot twists and turns, leading to a creepy showdown between good and evil. This is one of my favorite quotes from the story:

“You might not believe in the devil, but do you believe evil lurks in this world?”

Wow, that gets to me. I view God as a loving force, and at times I question the presence of hell and the devil. But I have witnessed evil in this world–no question.

You can tell how much this angel story affected me. I encourage you to let Maggie and Evan into your heart as well!

View all my reviews