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March 19, 2016

Review: Heartbreaker by Kat Bastion

review by Elisa Hordon


Kiki and Darren

Kiki wants a one night stand, but not with anyone she wants Darren Cole.

Darren wants Kiki but he knows he can't have her, shouldn't have her but he also can't stay away.

Heartbreaker is my first time reading Kat Bastion but it definitely won't be my last - I loved it!

The story was well written with just enough drama and romance to keep me turning every page without putting the book down.

All of the characters were strong and very likeable not just the 2 main characters. I especially love Logan, seriously what a kid and she handles everything life throws at her in her own way, I really love how Logan handles her depression her way by owning it and learning to live again after loosing her Mum. Logan shows a lot of personal strength for someone so young, I love how Kiki and her family take the young girl into there family without question or reserve.

Kiki's family are all brilliant; they are close without being in your face, they have each others back without going overboard, they are all really supportive and loving of each other without it being too much. Even when Kiki is trying to do everything herself they are there for her when she needs them, their family bond is magical. I also love how their extended family includes friends who have been accepted as family they all are there for each other no matter what.

Kiki is an amazing artist. The way the author describes her sculptures really brought them to life for me, I can see her sculptures like they were right in front of me. Kiki is a strong independent woman who has a very vulnerable side that she has been trying to hide from everyone for years and even though her family know there is a reason for the way she is around men they never push her to tell them they just offer her support. Kiki say's she wants just one night with Darren but she also feels a strong magnetic pull towards him and deep down she knows one night would never be enough, without even realising it Kiki had let Darren in, something she said she would never do after having her heart broken once before.

Kiki is stubborn as sin and seriously determined especially when Darren say's no to her, but when he challenges her she takes the bait and runs with it, literally, scoffing at him the whole time 'friends, he really thinks they can just be friends.'

Darren is a gorgeous package on the outside with a softhearted center that he has trouble holding together. Darren is a drummer: his music is his passion. It seeps into his soul; it's how he copes getting through everyday because he can loose himself in his music. Once Kiki propositions him for one night together he can't run fast enough, but at the same time he wants more than just one night with Kiki even though he knows with how crazy his life is he cannot have what he want. He never dares to dream about what he wants. He also can't stay away from her anymore. He has tried so he puts her in the friend zone, he challenges her to just be friends. Can they both just be friends?

Darren and Kiki find being just friends is so much harder than they both thought but if they decide to give 'Us' a chance will they both get the happily ever after they both want,deserve and need or will they both end up with broken hearts?

This book is wonderfully compelling, a story that touched my heart in so many ways and characters I will remember for a long time to come. I will definitely be reading more from this author.

Buy Heartbreaker at Amazon

Book info:
available formats: ebook and print (408 pages)
published: March 2016
ISBN13: 978-0996418157
genres: romance, coming of age
free ebook provided by author

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March 18, 2016

Writers Groups - Nasty or Nurturing?

By Byddi Lee

Does the thought of having someone critique your writing make you break out in a cold sweat? Can you feel a pulse in your temples when you see a page of your work covered in pen marks and comments? Do you feel like punching someone who just doesn’t “get it”?

That’s okay. Writers are human too. Of course, we don’t like to face up to the things we are doing wrong, but believe it or not, with practice, it gets easier.

The first time I went to a writers group, I had to sit on my hands to stop them from trembling. I felt sick to my stomach as the first person began, but I was surprised and thrilled when they began with listing what they liked about the piece I’d submitted. When they read out a few phrases that they’d particularly liked, I even smiled. Then came the hard part – listening to “what it needs” and not being allowed to talk!

Even on this first occasion at a writing group, enlightenment struck like a brilliant white light. My mistakes had been clearly identified. Ways to fix them had been offered and that made all the difference. I was lucky. My first critiquing session had been a good one - encouragement balanced with advice. Some of that advice, I had been reluctant to embrace, but when I’d slept on it, and tried out the ideas that had been suggested, it was as if I’d waved a magic wand over my work. It was better – richer yet clearer writing.

Writing groups can go either way. Be careful when choosing your writing group. They can be destructive, nasty experiences that might make a person hang up their pen (or laptop) forever, or they can be a fun, nurturing environment that allows a writer to blossom. This is why it’s worth persevering. Leave a bad group if you must, but keep searching for that great group who will really help you grow and improve as a writer.

You will also be a critiquing others work as a member. It is a great way to learn about writing. Look for a group that has “rules” about how critiquing is carried out. A good critique should have the following elements

  1. What shines in this piece of work? Praise what is good about the writing. Identify what is positive in terms of story structure and how it makes the reader feel. What do you like about the characters? Support the writer.
  2. Highlight what would make this piece of writing better. Does the beginning need a better hook? Does the ending fizzle out? Are the characters too one dimensional? Are the clich├ęs a dime a dozen? Does the writer have a habit of doing something erroneous? For example, “telling” where they could be “showing” or repeating themselves too often.
  3. Suggest ways to fix the problematic areas you have highlighted. Remember, it is ultimately up to the writer whether they employ or ignore this advice.

While you are being critiqued, sit and listen – don’t argue back. Some groups have a rule that you cannot talk while you are being critiqued. I found this forced me to listen more than I would have if I’d been permitted to talk back and compose answers to the comments. It let me off the hook from having to defend myself.

Don’t decide to reject a suggestion until you have slept on it. Often, I find the ideas offered by my group are so good I get really excited about the changes I will make.

If a writing group makes you feel negatively about your writing, walk away from the group before you consider walking away from writing. Find a better group.

Sometimes a group’s interests do not blend well with the type of writing you do. A mix of writing styles and genres can be really beneficial and a great place to learn new techniques. Too many differences, or the wrong combination, may not be so helpful. Literary fiction, horror, romance and a non-fiction, car-maintenance-manual writer might find it challenging to bond as a productive writing group – though it always comes down in the end to the personalities.

Groups are only as good as the people in them.  Watch out for destructive criticism in a group. There are people who seem to enjoy shredding another person. If a group member only points out the negative in your work, without offering you helpful suggestions, consider if you are strong enough to ignore this destructive element so you can extract value from the rest of the group. If not, you may need to find another group. (Remember violence is never an answer no matter how tempting!)

To find groups in your area, you could begin with an online search either using a search engine or websites like Meetup or Craigslist.  Your local library might have a group, and if you are fortunate enough to have a writing center near you, that’s the place to look. Colleges with writing classes may also know of local writing groups.

You are usually not required to submit or critique for your first meeting and you can just attend to get the groups vibe and see if it is a good fit for you.

You can also join writing groups online and through social media.  Always remember that if you post your work online it can interfere with its eligibility to be bought for publication or entered into competitions. It’s better to send files privately and exchange critiques with a partner rather than posting them online. Read the websites rules carefully.

My most valuable writing tool is my writing group. I’m in two different groups and their feedback is invaluable to me. I would never have finished any of my novels if it hadn’t been for the guidance, support and camaraderie I have received from these amazing people.

The bottom line is how you feel after a writing group meeting. It should be something you enjoy doing. If it leaves you feeling excited about your project and looking forward to the next meeting then you know you’ve got a good fit!

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March 17, 2016

Thrilling Stories ~ All Things #Zombie: Chronology of the Apocalypse

review by Claire Rees

All Things Zombie

Love all things zombie? Then you will love these little bite sized stories from various authors bright to you by ATZ publishing. From diary entries to third person to first person stories they will keep you on the edge of your seat as each of the characters battle to stay alive, during the zombie apocalypse. Some of the characters are normal civilians like you and me, going about their day to day jobs and attending college, others are trained military personnel with special weapons at their disposal but each faces a very dangerous journey.

Most are sad and horrific as the characters have lost at least person that they loved, others are almost funny.

I have to say that I loved each and every story in this book, as each one had its own unique spin on the zombie apocalypse, I honesty cannot choose a favorite, they all kept me glued to the book, unable to put it down for more than a few moments at a time.

I would recommend this to all of you who live and love zombies and even if  you feel you are too busy to read a full book, this book with its multiple short stories would be perfect for you. So many thrilling stories by so many talented authors, looking forward to the next collection.

Buy All Things Zombie: Chronology of the Apocalypse at Amazon

Book info:
available formats:ebook (573 pages)
published: February 2016 by ATZ Publications
genres: horror

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March 16, 2016

Love and War on American College Campus in the 60s #BookReview

review by Susan Roberts

Riot A 1960s Love Story

The late 1960s were a tumultuous time in American history. There were protests for women's rights, civil rights and anti-war demonstrations. Nowhere was the feeling of unrest and unhappiness with the current status quo of American life felt more strongly than on the college campuses. Riot: A 1960s Love Story by Charles S. Isaacs takes place in 1967 - 68 in Chicago and tells the story leading up to the student protest at the Democratic National Convention in 1968.

In 1967 when Steve started college at Midway in Chicago, he was just a kid trying to avoid being drafted. He wasn't a particularly great student but he knew that he didn't want to go to Vietnam and college was the best way to avoid going. It isn't too long after he arrives on campus that he meets Emma, an older woman who runs a book store near campus and has been a radical organizer for years, and the person who helps her at the store, Cat, a black female college student. Through Emma and Cat, Steve meets many of the anti-war and civil rights members on campus and realizes that there is so much more wrong with the war than he had originally thought. He gets very involved with the movements on campus and he falls in love with Cat.

Isaacs does a fantastic job of making this book very readable yet full of facts about the history of the time. There is reference to many of the situations and people that were part of what was really going on and it is interspersed with Steve and Cat's story in a way that makes it all very interesting. Sometimes a book like this with so much history is slowed down by all of the facts but this book is very readable and keeps your interest. I must admit that even though I knew the outcome of the political part of the story, I wasn't bored at all with the facts because they were presented so well as part of the story of Steve and Cat.

Whether you were around during the 60s and remember what went on or you are younger and want to learn what you parents or grandparents were doing back then, I highly recommend this book. It's very interesting and well written and has two main characters who are so real that you will end up caring and thinking about them long after you close the book for the final time.

Buy Riot: A 1960s Love Story at Amazon

Book info:
available formats: ebook and print (458 pages)
published: September 2015 by Harpers Ferry Press
ISBN13: 978-0692486962
genres: historical fiction, political
source: author

Get even more book news in your inbox by signing up for our newsletter: A free book was provided for this review. Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon using any Amazon links on this site. Thank you for supporting Girl Who Reads.

March 15, 2016

Review: Center Stage by Denise Grover Swank #TuesdayBookBlog

review by Elisa Hordon

Center Stage

I stepped onto my mother’s front porch for the first time in ten years. Typical of my mother, not much had changed. Same red brick with white trim. Same black, steel-reinforced front door. Same silver knocker, the word STEELE etched into it in bold capital letters.
“Get it?” my dad used to ask when I was a little girl. “The door is made of steel, and our last name is Steele.”
I worshiped my father, so I always laughed even though I didn’t get it. I would have done anything to please him.
Until he disappeared.

Would you keep reading?

My Thoughts
Magnolia Steele was born to be a star, or so everyone always told her. Maggie was made for theatre with a voice that could make everyone smile and a face that lights up the stage. So what went wrong on opening night?

Ok so maybe living with the director while he was sleeping with her understudy might not have been the wisest move but then again Maggie didn't know he was cheating on her. Embarrassing herself on stage and becoming an overnight sensation on You Tube when her wardrobe malfunctioned is how Maggie found herself at her Mother's front door: 10 years after Maggie ran away to New York, 10 years after that horrible night she still cannot remember, 10 years after she said she would never come home.

'You're made of steel Magnolia'.

I hope Magnolia always remembers her mother’s words. I have a feeling she is going to need all of her inner and physical strength to solve this mystery and not land herself in jail for murder.

What a busy first couple of days back home! Maggie meets Colt, a gorgeous guy who works for her mum's catering company, he is also an aspiring country singer/songwriter and he wants to be Maggie's friend. Then she bumps into Tanner, her high school boyfriend whom she argued with that fateful night and she never explained why she ran away. Now Tanner wants answers. Then she meets Luke a country singer who is tied up in not 1 but 2 murders. They both took place at his home. Did Luke murder 2 people and is he the one trying to frame Magnolia? Finally, there is Brady a local police officer who clicks with Maggie instantly but is it a good idea for Maggie to get involved with a cop?

It sounds like it's raining gorgeous hot guys in Tennessee and Magnolia needs more guys in her life like a hole in her head especially after the scum bag director she left behind in New York. And then there is her charming brother Roy who is not happy to see Maggie is back in their home town at all.

And seriously if Maggie's life isn't confusing enough with the guys, just try sorting out the girls. Start with Maggie's mum Lila: she is such a card and loves to run her mouth without knowing the facts which is what led Maggie to take off 10 yrs ago. Then we have Lila's best friend Tilly; she is Lila's support but she wants to be there for Maggie too so she is in a sticky Then we have Maggie's sister-in-law Belinda who is a force to be reckoned. Underneath that sweet smile is a tornado just waiting to be unleash. We then move on to Emily, Maggie's high school nemesis who basically took over Maggie's life when she left town but I'm thinking she actually did that to stay close to everyone in Maggie's life because she wants to solve the mystery of what happened the night before Maggie took off. And finally, we come to Maddie, Maggie's best friend from childhood who never gave Maggie the chance to explain after she left. She just played the heart broken card, took everyone’s sympathy, and moved on with her life. Honestly, if she was a true friend she would have tracked Maggie down and demanded answers and now she gets to play the injured party. I'm not sure I like Maddie at all.

So much drama wrapped up in one book; it truly was an amazing read. Denise Grover Swank knows how to write drama, with gripping mystery and wrap it all up with characters you'll never forget. I love how Denise writes female friendships. They are bonded friendships that last through anything and even when you think they are lost forever there is always a glimmer of something still there.

This first book in the Magnolia Steele mysteries really sets the tone for further books. It left me satisfied but with so many more questions, both from the past and from the present. Did Amy really commit suicide? Or was she set up by the real killer? Why does Magnolia's brother want her out of town so badly and is he really abusive to Belinda? And even now that Maggie is remembering that night in the woods what really happened?

I love knowing everything will be answered in future books and I am really looking forward to more.

So we have an all-star cast of characters in Center Stage and even though this is Maggie's story everyone has a part to play. It will be interesting to see who is playing a part and who is real, who can Maggie trust, who can she really be herself around. I am really excited about this new series by Denise Grover Swank.

Buy Center Stage at Amazon

Book info:
available formats: ebook, print 
published: March 2016 by 
ISBN13: 978-1939996435
genres: women's fiction, mystery
source: author

Get even more book news in your inbox by signing up for our newsletter: A free ebook was provided by this review: Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon using any Amazon links on this site. Thank you for supporting Girl Who Reads.

March 14, 2016

A Scottish Romantic Adventure Awaits You #MondayBlogs

review by Elisabeth Scherer

Antonia Barclay and Her Scottish Barclay

When looking for a good romance novel I am a sucker for anything that is a period piece especially if it is set in Scotland or England. As I sat down to read Jane Carter Barrett's book Antonia Barclay and her Scottish Claymore I had only the expectations of a nice quick, light read for a long car trip from San Diego back to Washington state my family had planned for last week. This book however is not just some fluff romance but a romantic comedy adventure set in 1586.

Brief summary of the plot:

Antonia Barclay is an independent young woman unlike most of the women of her time she doesn't dabble in fashion, balls, and eligible young men of the country. She prefers to be out on horseback riding around dressed in her twin brother's clothes. Her three older brothers are exasperated by her behavior. She is cornered by her mother one day and is blackmailed into attending a ball which is the exact type of social situation Antonia avoids. The night before the ball she finds herself faced with two men of opposite nature, one a scoundrel and the other a gentleman. Antonia quickly finds herself falling in love but not before her whole life is turned upside down and a grand adventure awaits her.

What I thought of the book:

What I found the most entertaining about this book is the plotline. Going into the book I thought it was just your average romance novel but it is much more adventure, mystery, and action all bundled up with a love story. There is much about the book that is good and there are some things about the book that some might find hard to read as well.  Ms. Barrett does a wonderful job creating vivid characters that jump right off the page.

As a reader you can tell that Barrett is interested in history, particularly Mary Queen of Scots and that she loves words. The words at time were a stumbling block as I had to look up definitions and pronunciations of long forgotten words. In the end I did feel like she was trying too hard to find a unique sentence in one moment and then repeating the same word 3-4 times in the course of 2 sentences. I found some of the use of language beneficial to the intellect of a couple of the characters but it could become cumbersome to a reader not familiar with the words.

Barrett does do a wonderful job of battle of wits between the protagonist and antagonists. There are some odd choices of references. I am a Princess Bride fan and noticed a few references smuggled into the story as well as some Shakespeare references and a few other modern references that twist this period piece further into a work of fiction but if you take the author’s message at the beginning of the book to heart and roll with the punches this book is a indeed a “fun romp through the Scottish countryside." I would recommend it.

So as Jane Carter Barrett says, “While we are romping, let’s also make a pact: anachronisms, prochronisms, and all forms of social, political, and fashion correctness shall be cheerfully overlooked in favor of frolic and adventure.”  This is the statement that encompasses this novel.

And just to get you started, here is the first line of the first chapter:

“It is a fact understood only by those females similarly afflicted, that the bad influence exerted by multiple brothers upon an only sister proves as timeless as the wind and as pernicious as the plague.”

Buy Antonia Barclay and Her Scottish Claymore at Amazon

Book info
Available formats: ebook, Print (344 pages)
Published: February 2016 by River Grove Books
ISBN13: 978-1632990389
Genre: Historical Romance

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A free ebook was provided for this review. Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon using any Amazon links on this site. Thank you for supporting Girl Who Reads.

March 13, 2016

3 Memoirs to Read

reviews by Susan Roberts

The Sound of Gravel

The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner

First, let me say that I rarely read memoirs - it's just not something that I enjoy. I am so glad that I made an exception with this book. Ruth Wariner's story is one that will stay in my mind. How she survived her childhood is amazing. At the start of her book, she tells us that she is the 39th of her father's 42 children and is part of a polygamous cult in Mexico. She lived in a run down home with no electricity with her mom and brothers and sisters, several of whom were special needs kids, she was a happy child even as her family's life spun out of control. The book was amazing and even though it was difficult to read in parts, I am very glad that I read it. The author does an amazing job of telling her story and the one word that comes to mind when I think of her is RESILIENCE.

Buy The Sound of Gravel at Amazon

When Breath Becomes Air

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

This is more than a book about a man who dies. It's a book about a talented neuro surgeon who tried to understand the meaning of life as he tried to save people but didn't really understand until he was faced with his own death. Yes, it's sad and yes, you will cry but my overwhelming feeling at the end was not of sadness but of joy for reading about a life well lived.

Buy When Breath Becomes Air at Amazon

The Shift

The Shift: One Nurse, Twelve Hours, Four Patients' Lives by Theresa Brown

If you've ever wondered what it was like to be a nurse, you need to read this book. Theresa writes about a 12 hour shift as an oncology nurse at a busy hospital - all of the stress, decision making, heartbreaking, tiring things that can and do happen in a mere 12 hours. And then what do nurses do after a grueling 12 hour shift? Most of them go home, get a few hours rest and do it all over again. I thought that this was an excellent look at all of the painful and uplifting things that can happen on any shift on any day at any hospital. Great job! (A free book was provided by LibraryThing for this review)

Buy The Shift: One Nurse, Twelve Hours, Four Patients' Lives at Amazon

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