Category Archives: books
The Wisdom of Hair
by Kim Boykin
New Adult/Literary Fiction
Life can be beautiful, but it takes a little work…
“The problem with cutting your own hair is that once you start, you just keep cutting, trying to fix it, and the truth is, some things can never be fixed. The day of my daddy’s funeral, I cut my bangs until they were the length of those little paintbrushes that come with dime-store watercolor sets. I was nine years old. People asked me why I did it, but I was too young then to know I was changing my hair because I wanted to change my life.”
In 1983, on her nineteenth birthday, Zora Adams finally says goodbye to her alcoholic mother and their tiny town in the mountains of South Carolina. Living with a woman who dresses like Judy Garland and brings home a different man each night is not a pretty existence, and Zora is ready for life to be beautiful.
With the help of a beloved teacher, she moves to a coastal town and enrolls in the Davenport School of Beauty. Under the tutelage of Mrs. Cathcart, she learns the art of fixing hair, and becomes fast friends with the lively Sara Jane Farquhar, a natural hair stylist. She also falls hard for handsome young widower Winston Sawyer, who is drowning his grief in bourbon. She couldn’t save Mama, but maybe she can save him.
As Zora practices finger waves, updos, and spit curls, she also comes to learn that few things are permanent in this life—except real love, lasting friendship, and, ultimately… forgiveness.
- Picnic or restaurant? The more creative the food, the better and it’s just more creative in a restaurant and you’re not constrained by trying to find food that travels well.
- Pool or beach? Preferably pool overlooking beach, or pool for lounging and beach for walking, but if I have to choose, beach.
- Trousers or skirt? Since yoga pants aren’t an option, long, flowy skirts.
- Flats or heels? Heelish shoes, the height between flats and perilously high heels.
- Analog or digital? Analog is dead. Digital.
- Venus or Mars? Venus-unless there’s a good football game to watch on Mars.
- Snow White or Sleeping Beauty? Sleeping Beauty if I have to choose, but I really prefer Belle because she gets to read a lot.
- Spiderman or Batman? Christian Bale, I mean Batman. Spidey is a little too lanky for me.
- Kristen Stewart or Jennifer Lawrence? The one who can act and has an Oscar to show for it, and isn’t Kristen Stewart.
- Swimsuit or Bikini? At 55, I wish I could say bikini, but no.
- Coke or Pepsi? Coke. I’m southern, all soda is a Coke, then you specify which Coke you mean, Sprite, diet, etc.
- Hungry or stuffed? Hungry gives me a headache. Stuffed puts me to sleep. Stuffed, which explains the answer to the bikini question.
- Lie ins or late nights? Night owl.
- Fridge or cooker? Cooker, it’s just another creative outlet that tastes good and doesn’t require a certain number of words or pages.
- Cold feet or cold hands? Cold hands. Must type faster…Ahhhhhhhh.
- Shot or stabbed? Whichever is quicker, I’m thinking shot.
- Broken arm or broken leg? Arm, too many complications later on in life with legs as it is.
- Paper cut or kick in the shins? Paper cut, a little rubbing alcohol and it’s gone in no time.
The other major influence on my writing is my ADHDness. Of course when I was a kid, nobody knew what that was. Compared to my older sisters, I knew something was “wrong” with me, so I learned to multitask like crazy and excel at things I did well to make up for things I couldn’t do like math and sitting still.
Today, I’m an empty nester of two kids with a husband, three dogs, and 126 rose bushes. I write stories about strong southern women because that’s what I know. I’m an accomplished public speaker, which basically means I’m good at talking.
If this doesn’t tell you what you want to know, check out my blog for a few laughs and some good stuff on writing, gardening, food, and, of course, hair.
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The Wonder Bread Summer
by Jessica Anya Blau
New Adult/Literary Fiction
It’s 1983 in Berkeley, California. Twenty-year-old Allie Dodgson is a straitlaced college student working part-time at a dress shop to make ends meet. But when the shop turns out to be a front for a dangerous drug-dealing business, Allie finds herself on the lam, speeding toward Los Angeles in her best friend’s Prelude with a Wonder Bread bag full of cocaine riding shotgun and a hit man named Vice Versa on her tail. You can’t find a more thrilling summer read!
MY THOUGHTS: 4 OUT OF 5 FLEURS DE LIS
It’s 1983, and Allie, who’s had enough of her job, is done is with first year of college. With a lack of other choices and the world getting on her last good nerve, she makes a split second decision to take off with a Wonder Bread bag full of pure cocaine.
Allie’s mom is on tour with a washed up rock band, and her dad is an emotionally distant restaurant owner who’s never home. Allie takes her friend Beth’s car on a road trip she’ll never forget–and meets people she won’t, either.
I thought this was a pretty fun read that started off at a sprint! Allie has been a pretty good girl up until now…it was kind of shocking, mostly to herself, that she would do such a thing as rip off a drug dealer. She’s smart but does make some questionable decisions…as did everyone when they were 19, and probably especially in the 80′s. The attitude towards drugs was so passe in the book, making me wonder if it was really like that in the early 80′s (I wasn’t even born until 1985).
Allie is pretty much a pushover in the beginning of the book, but as she goes through more and more crazy things, you can see that she is slowly grower stronger and beginning to see herself as a woman who can make things happen. Essentially, this is a coming of age novel, and Allie must learn to deal with disappointment from those she wanted to depend on, and that you can find help and friendship in the places you least expect.
I loved all the 80′s references in the book, from acid washed jeans to Allie’s roommate Beth’s valley girl speak. Beth like, ended every sentence as if it were a question? My favorite parts of the entire book, easily, were Allie’s encounters with one of the rock gods of the era, Billy Idol. I can’t imagine meeting one of my favorite stars (Justin Timberlake, anyone?) and acting as she did, so I’m glad I got to live vicariously through her.
Though it touches on such heavy stuff as drugs (of course), violence, and some mushy stuff with parents, this is a humorous, breezy summer read. The author made me put myself in the era…and I can still smell the Sun-In; can you?
About the Author
Jessica Anya Blau is the author of the nationally bestselling novel The Summer of Naked Swim Parties and the critically acclaimed Drinking Closer to Home.
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by Deb Caletti
“What do you think happened to your husband, Mrs. Keller?”
The Sunday morning starts like any other, aside from the slight hangover. Dani Keller wakes up on her Seattle houseboat, a headache building behind her eyes from the wine she drank at a party the night before. But on this particular Sunday morning, she’s surprised to see that her husband, Ian, is not home. As the hours pass, Dani fills her day with small things. But still, Ian does not return. Irritation shifts to worry, worry slides almost imperceptibly into panic. And then, like a relentless blackness, the terrible realization hits Dani: He’s gone.
As the police work methodically through all the logical explanations—he’s hurt, he’s run off, he’s been killed—Dani searches frantically for a clue as to whether Ian is in fact dead or alive. And, slowly, she unpacks their relationship, holding each moment up to the light: from its intense, adulterous beginning, to the grandeur of their new love, to the difficulties of forever. She examines all the sins she can—and cannot—remember. As the days pass, Dani will plumb the depths of her conscience, turning over and revealing the darkest of her secrets in order to discover the hard truth—about herself, her husband, and their lives together.
MY THOUGHTS: 3 OUT OF 5 FLEURS DE LIS
Dani Keller wakes up one Sunday morning to find her husband Ian inexplicably has vanished. With virtually no clues to go on and a foggy memory of the night before, Dani does everything she can to search for Ian, and help the police. The expanded family of both Ian and Dani complicate things though–and since Dani and Ian were each other’s second spouses, bad blood was definitely there. Dani recalls her and Ian’s past, and as her stressed mind turns on her, begins to wonder if what she thought was happiness was really that after all.
The idea of this book was intriguing, but it kind of fell apart in reality. This novel contained a whole lot of exposition and telling, with hardly any doing.
The story of Dani and Ian’s pasts are told in flashbacks in between the hectic search for Ian in the present. Dani is the narrator of the story and thus we get to know her, but much more developed was Ian’s character. Dani left an abusive marriage and cheated on her first husband with Ian, and she thought she’d found her soulmate, until she shamefully came to the realization that you can never can really know someone you’re in a relationship with. Needless to say, Dani and Ian both have a lot of baggage, and no matter how much you may need and want you, you never really can start over.
The book didn’t really have a lot of twists and turns, just a couple of clues sprinkled here and there that Dani finds and follows up on. It’s interesting to watch her do this as sleepless nights and worry begin to take a tool on her body and mind and her thoughts become more and more erratic.
The end was very, very sudden and I wish, for all the waiting I did for it, it could have been something more explosive. But real life isn’t like that…your life is lived in the quiet, mundane moments.
About the Author
Deb Caletti is an award-winning author and a National Book Award finalist whose books—Honey, Baby, Sweetheart; The Queen of Everything; The Secret Life of Prince Charming—are published and translated worldwide. She lives with her family in Seattle.
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by CM Doporto
Element, Part 2
New Adult Sci-Fi/Romance Novella
College student, Natalie Vega, struggles in her quest to learn how she can have a normal life, which includes her boyfriend Ryan, and also help the world that has been experiencing the effects of global warming. While her supernatural powers are unknown and are a secret to most in the world, an evil business tycoon learns of her abilities and has other plans for Natalie and his empire.
About the Author
CM Doporto lives in the great state of Texas with her husband and son enjoying life with their extensive family along with their Chihuahua, Mexican Redhead Parrot and several fish.
She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism from The University of Texas at Arlington. She briefly worked in the area of Public Relations and Advertising and then pursued a career in the field of Human Resources. CM considers herself a life-long learner and returned to school and earned her Master of Art’s Degree in Organizational Development from Dallas Baptist University.
She writes Young Adult and New Adult Sci-Fi/Urban Fantasy stories about ordinary women who do extraordinary things, become a heroine, and find love along the way. CM is a member of Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and Romance Writers of America and is associated with the Young Adult Special Interest Chapter.
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by M. Lathan
Hidden Series, Book One
Sixteen-year-old Leah Grant has given up on being normal. She’d settle for stopping the voices in her head, intrusive visions of the future, and better odds of making it to her seventeenth birthday.
That’s the thing about pretending to be human in a world where magic used to exist – at any moment, her cover could be blown and she’ll be burned to death like the rest of the witches.
Everything changes when she loses control of her powers and flees the orphanage she grew up in. She desperately wants to be invisible but finds her face plastered on every news channel as humans panic over the possible resurgence of her kind. And now the hunters won’t give up until they find her.
Making friends for the first time in her life and falling in love with one of them drives her to discover why she is unlike any being she’s ever met – human or otherwise. The dangerous powers inside of her that would repel Nathan, her new, handsome reason for living, are priceless to some. The locked up forever kind of priceless. And to others, they are too dangerous to allow her to live.
Let’s hope she can stay hidden.
Only once have I wanted to make a friend. I was seven, and he was a cat. This old, gangly thing the other orphans called Mr. Crusty. I would watch him hobble around, no feline grace left in his bones, wanting to play with and talk to the other pest at St. Catalina. Like I knew his pain and he knew mine.
Birds swarmed his carcass the day he died, before I ever worked up the courage to approach him. We found him out in the courtyard, getting pecked at, his pain and death meaningless to the hungry birds and everyone watching.
I still had a lot in common with Mr. Crusty. Especially now as Sienna and her flock circled me. They’d jumped at the chance to torture me as soon as Sister Margret left class for a bathroom break.
Sienna snatched last week’s Chemistry test from my desk. I hadn’t turned it over. I knew it was a D minus.
She cackled and passed it around.
“Leah, you would think someone who spends most of her time alone would have better grades,” she said. Her birds laughed on cue. “What do you do all day? Obviously not study.” She gasped slowly like she’d gotten a revelation in that blonde head of hers. “You fantasize about us, don’t you? You probably sleep in Whit’s old bed to feel close to her.”
Laughter spread around the room like an airborne disease. Disease. I shivered. That was an intriguing thought; I could almost hear the sound their bodies would make against the floor when it hit.
“Leah, come on. Say something. Scream at me, it’s been a while. At least cry,” Sienna said, laughing and leaning into my desk, closer to danger.
I didn’t cry. I never cry. And if I were going to, it wouldn’t be because of Sienna. I had bigger problems. I’d just broken a promise I’d made to God to not think about hurting His people, His children. And today was not the day to piss Him off.
My old roommate, Whitney Nguyen, graciously returned my test as she cackled with the rest of the birds. She liked the idea of me pining over her, but she knew I didn’t spend my free time thinking about her or sleeping in her old bed. After fourteen years of hard labor as my roommate, she’d given up on being friends or me being remotely normal. The current theory to explain my oddness was that I was in love with all of the girls and consumed by lust.
As long as they didn’t know it was magic.
I’d always known it was real. Everyone did. And I knew, along with the rest of the world, that it was evil, satanic, and had coursed through the veins of the creatures that tried and failed to take over the world.
I was afraid of them until four years ago, when I got disgusting magical powers and changed from a shy twelve-year-old into one of the monsters from everyone’s nightmares. That was shocking considering all of the creatures were executed after the botched apocalypse. I discovered that the government missed one on a Tuesday afternoon when I wished I could skip the walk to my dorm. When I opened my eyes, I was there, in my room, seconds after standing in an empty classroom.
I stuffed my test in my bag, bracing for the rest of their stunt. Even with my head down and eyes closed, I knew Sienna had taken a mask they’d spent hours decorating out of her bag. And I knew Whitney had covered her mouth while she giggled in anticipation.
She’d wanted to be Sienna’s friend since Sienna was the blonde toddler named Esther. Before the nuns learned our real names, we all answered to the one they’d given us from the bible. It took them a few years to identify the orphans who had been left to them after the world nearly ended. They thought Sienna was charming and our little leader, our queen. I struck them as weary. Whitney’s name used to be Abigail. I’d had to listen to the passage she used as evidence of being a king’s wife countless times, just like her idol and future best friend Esther.
Eventually, most of the girls put aside their bible names and went with what their records showed. I’d been Leah for eight years already, so I didn’t ask to be called Christine Grant. It didn’t matter to me then, but after the powers came, it felt like blasphemy to have a name with Christ in it.
Sienna cleared her throat, getting on with the prank, and I kept my head down. I’d seen this moment as I stepped out of the shower last night during one of my annoying and useless visions of the future. I couldn’t avoid much of what I predicted. I’d promised God I wouldn’t use magic.
About the Author
M. Lathan lives in San Antonio with her husband and mini-schnauzer. She enjoys writing and has a B.S. in Psych and a Masters in Counseling. Her passion is a blend of her two interests – creating new worlds and stocking them with crazy people. She enjoys reading anything with interesting characters and writing in front of a window while asking rhetorical questions … like her idol Carrie Bradshaw.
(Hidden is currently free on B&N, iTunes, Smashwords and Kobo)
Charm & Strange
by Stephanie Kuehn
Release Date: June 11, 2013
Over the course of one night, while stuck at a party deep in the New England woods, Andrew battles both the pain of his past and the isolation of his present.
MY THOUGHTS: 4 OUT OF 5 FLEURS DE LIS
Well, I must say this book is definitely not what I expected, though I felt the synopsis was rather vague so I wasn’t too sure what to expect anyway. Drew/Win is a solitary boy who’s attending boarding school. His story is told in rotating chapters, of the present time and the summer he was 10 years old when his life changed forever. The story was not an action filled one, but something kept the pages turning for me and I finished the book in one sitting, at 1:30 A.M.
It’s extremely difficult to write this review without giving too much of the book away, but I’ll just say this is something I believe readers will either love or hate with not much middle ground. The way the story builds will mean the twist at the end will either piss you off or sadly shock you.
I’m having a very hard time figuring out what else to say about Charm & Strange without spoiling it, so I’ll just say that this book will definitely affect you, in one way or another, and it’s very much worth a read.
About the Author
Elizabeth the First Wife
by Lian Dolan
Contemporary Adult Fiction
Elizabeth Lancaster, an English professor at Pasadena City College, finds her perfectly dull but perfectly orchestrated life upended one summer by three men: her movie-star ex-husband, a charming political operative, and William Shakespeare. Until now, she’d been content living in the shadow of her high-profile and highly accomplished family. Then her college boyfriend and one-time husband of seventeen months, A-list action star FX Fahey, shows up with a job offer that she can’t resist, and Elizabeth’s life suddenly gets a whole lot more interesting. She’s off to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival for the summer to make sure FX doesn’t humiliate himself in an avant-garde production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
As she did so skillfully with her first novel, Helen of Pasadena, which spent more than a year on the Los Angeles Times bestseller list, Lian Dolan spins a lively, smart, and very funny tale of a woman reinventing her life in unexpected ways.
About the Author
Lian Dolan is also the co-author of The Satellite Sisters’ Uncommon Senses. As part of the Satellite Sisters, Lian and her four sisters found national acclaim first on NPR, then on ABC Radio and XM Satellite Radio. She also creates the popular podcast and blog Chaos Chronicles.
Her latest novel, Elizabeth the First Wife (May 2013) , is a follow-up to her debut novel Helen of Pasadena, a Los Angeles Times Bestseller nominated for Best Fiction by the Southern California Independent Booksellers.
The Seventh Mark
by WJ May
The Hidden Secrets Saga, Book One
Like most teenagers, Rouge is trying to figure out who she is and what she wants to be. With little knowledge of her past, she has questions but has never tried to find the answers. Everything changes when she befriends a strangely intoxicating family. Siblings Grace and Michael, appear to have secrets which seem connected to Rouge. Her hunch is confirmed when a horrible incident occurs at an outdoor party. Rouge may be the only one who can find the answer.
An ancient journal, a Sioghra necklace and a special mark force life-altering decisions for a girl who grew up unprepared to fight for her life or others.
All secrets have a cost and Rouge’s determination to find the truth can only lead to trouble or something even more sinister…
About the Author
Wanita May grew up in the fruit belt of Ontario – St.Catharines. Crazy-happy childhood, she always has had a vivid imagination and loads of energy.
Secret for a Song
by S.K. Falls
New Adult Contemporary
Saylor Grayson makes herself sick. Literally.
She ate her first needle when she was seven. Now, at nineteen, she’s been kicked out of college for poisoning herself with laxatives. The shrinks call it Munchausen Syndrome. All Saylor knows is that when she’s ill, her normally distant mother pays attention and the doctors and nurses make her feel special.
Then she meets Drew Dean, the leader of a local support group for those with terminal diseases. When he mistakes her for a new member, Saylor knows she should correct him. But she can’t bring herself to, not after she’s welcomed into a new circle of friends. Friends who, like Drew, all have illnesses ready to claim their independence or their lives
For the first time, Saylor finds out what it feels like to be in love, to have friends who genuinely care about her. But secrets have a way of revealing themselves. What will happen when Saylor’s is out?
MY THOUGHTS: 5 OUT OF 5 FLEURS DE LIS
Saylor’s suffered from Munchausen Syndrome for the past 12 years, which means that ever since she was a little kid she’s been purposely making herself sick. She craves the attention she gets and loves being in the hospital, so when her shrink sets her up volunteering in one, she jumps at the chance. She soon finds herself enmeshed in a group of young adults who have cancer and other diseases, and falling in love with a member, Drew.
But will Drew still love her when he finds out the truth?
This was a very powerful book with some intriguing characters. I’ve never read anything about Munchausen, but I am familiar with it. Getting an inside look at the mind of someone with this disorder was fascinating.
Saylor’s been pulled out of college after her first semester, because she’s escalated her attempts to make herself sick. At home with a cold, distant mother and a father who is never home, Saylor is once again up to her antics, and even her new shrink can’t make her stop. But he’s more patient than the others, and tries a different way to get to the root of her problems.
Saylor is sort of oddly detached and matter of fact when it comes to her Munchausen. She doesn’t deny she has it, but she never tells the whole truth about it either. From the way her mother raised her, I can see where she got her attitude about things. Saylor’s relationship with her mom is one of the most interesting in the book. They both resent each other for different reasons, but rather than calmly talk out their problems, they continuously throw barbs at each other and see who can hurt the other’s feelings the most.
The relationship between Saylor and Drew was a beautiful thing. When she was with him, it was a momentary escape from her disorder, and without even really trying to, he changed her life forever. Things between them were a bit accelerated, but given the circumstances this was understandable.
I loved this book so much, and while the ending wasn’t picture perfect, it was right for the characters. This was really an engaging look into the thought process of someone “normal” people would casually refer to as crazy. Maybe there’s more crazy in all of us than we’d care to admit.
About the Author
Adriana Ryan is the pen name of writer S.K. Falls.
A huge fan of spooky stuff and shoes, I enjoy alternately hitting up the outlet malls and historic graveyards in Charleston, SC where I live and imbibe coffee. My husband and two small children seem not to mind when I hastily scribble novel lines on stray limbs in the absence of notepads.
Since no writer’s biography is complete without mention of her menagerie of animals, you should know I have one dog that doubles as a footstool, a second that functions as a vacuum cleaner, and a cat that ensures I never forget that my hands are, first and foremost, for pouring cat food.
The Earth is for Dancing
by Lorca Damon
Sam is a fifteen-year-old drug orphan living with her custodial grandmother who is stricken with late-stage Alzheimer’s. She struggles to fill the role of caregiver to her grandmother while keeping her little family a secret from the authorities who would send Gamma to a state facility and Sam to foster care. Just because her life isn’t hard enough, there are still boys to have crushes on, essays to write for horrible English teachers, and a squad full of bullies to torment her on a daily basis.
MY THOUGHTS: 5 OUT OF 5 FLEURS DE LIS
Sam is a 15 year old girl who’s been taking care of her Alzheimer’s stricken grandmother alone for the past five years. But don’t you dare feel sorry for her–she wouldn’t have it any other way. Sam would have a hard enough life with just this, but add on the pressures of being a teenager, getting bullied at school, and trying to stay under the radar so as not to be turned over to social services, and it seems Sam is climbing a pretty impossible mountain. When things start falling apart, Sam will find out that she’s not as alone in the world as she thought…and sometimes it’s OK to just be 15.
This book was a quick, heart-filling read, and it had a little of everything. Samantha is, understandably, incredibly mature for someone so young. Her grandmother was the one that raised her when her drug addict parents disappeared from her life, so Samantha feels that taking care of her is just the thing she needs to do. Sam has a very matter of fact attitude about everything, and while she’s not smiley-happy all the time, she doesn’t let herself stay on the negative side of things either. She just does what must be done, no questions asked and without even thinking of asking anyone for help.
Sam’s been best friends with her neighbor, a boy also named Sam, for her whole life. It just never dawned on her that he could be a potential love interest–not that she ever though about love at all. But Other Sam is a great friend and the only one she has in the world, so naturally he becomes someone for her to lean on. Their romance didn’t really get much development, it just kind of blossomed out of nowhere–which is often what happens with two people who were already friends to begin with.
This isn’t an action filled page turner, but I read it fast anyway because I just loved Sam so much and I wanted to see how things turned out for her. She is a great character, and I was totally happy with the ending of this book. This author has a nice, easy to read writing style and I’d love to read more from her.
About the Author
I am a teacher, writer, and all-around thing-doer. Not professionally. Well, the teaching thing and the writing thing I do professionally, but the doer-thing is just stuff that I… do. Like triathlons and cookie-baking contests.
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