Readers' Favorite

April 16, 2016

N is for Nerd Alert Chicklit #AtoZChallenge

review by Elisa Hordon

I love a great mystery with a fantastic female lead character, who is a bit nerdy and geeky but she can also kick some butt.... Lexi Carmichael is some of those things and she grows into so much more throughout the series. Julie Moffett blends mystery, adventure and humour together so well in this series and shows us that it's ok to always be yourself even if you’re a geeky nerd and people laugh at you, hold you head up high and always be yourself.

Lexi is a code breaker and hacker extraordinaire with a photographic memory, Lexi loves gaming and she is so socially awkward at times it's hilarious. I highly recommend this series to everyone who loves a good mystery, a good laugh and great characters you'll never forget.

No Money Down
No Money Down 

No Money Down is the prequel to No One Lives Twice and even though it's not essential to start with this one it is a good one to read at some point as this is the story of how Lexi met the Zimmerman twins, plus it’s another funny read.

This story takes place before No One Lives Twice while Lexi is still working with the NSA.

Lexi and Basia are off on vacation. Yes that’s right Basia is forcing Lexi to go on a beach side holiday, I know, that in itself is hilarious when Lexi doesn't like to leave her couch unless she is going to work. Lexi also doesn't like the ocean, sand, sun or bathing suits but Basia being a good best friend knows Lexi needs some R&R, so she packs them up and off they head for some fun in the sun.

Lexi begins to enjoy her holiday more when she meets Elvis and Xavier Zimmerman and they all discover they have a lot in common including the fact they all work for the NSA but in different departments. The bond between Lexi and the twins was immediate as was the zing between Lexi and Elvis. I can see those two becoming best friends and.

When Lexi is walking through the hotel lobby she finds a man sobbing because his computer is not working so Lexi offers her help and not only does she fix his computer she also manages to break two of his fingers in the process. Funnier still, this all leads to a mystery were Lexi gets kidnapped and nearly killed but thank goodness she has friends like Basia, Elvis and Xavier to help her.

I love that even when writing a short prequel Julie Moffett can pack so much into the pages. A great little mystery, friendships forming with strong bonds and the main characters also have time to show some of their impressive skill set, these guys are going to be an amazing team as the books progress and it was great to read how it all began.

Buy No Money Down at Amazon

No One Lives Twice
No One Lives Twice (Book 1)

Lexi Carmichael is gorgeous but she doesn’t see it. She is also uber smart; a total geeky nerd who prefers to loose herself in the world of computers and coding than talking to people, unless they are people she cares about. The thing with super nerdy geeks is they do love to talk but don't want to waste their words so they need to really know someone before you find out how awesome a person they truly are and then you also know you have a friend who will always have your back. This is Lexi. Once she makes a true friend she has their back for life. If you use her or break her trust, don't expect to ever get that back. And if you threaten one of her inner circle look out big time, it's really not smart to upset a person with a genius intellect.

No One Lives Twice is the first book in this series. Lexi is working for the NSA, stopping computer hackers at every turn. She thinks her job is a bit on the boring side but it's safe.... Or it was safe. When Lexi's best friend goes missing her job becomes anything but safe. So much so Lexie asks for help from her two other best friends the Zimmerman twins. Now these two guys are even smarter than Lexi: they are super geniuses and they have Lexi’s back.

When Lexi is accosted by two gun toting thugs on the way to her parents’ house, it's just the start of her day turning from safe to bad to worse. Along the way to finding her best friend Basia, Lexi meets two very charming men. Finn a lawyer with secrets. Yes, it turns out Finn is so much more than a lawyer and seriously what lawyer doesn’t have secrets? Then there is Slash: a mysterious government agent who always happens to be there when Lexi needs help.

I love a good mystery series with a great female lead with a strong sense of self, but still has many vulnerable moments that keep her real, good friends to back her up and a couple of hot guys to pick then add in spies, espionage plus kidnapping  and the adventure is always going to be entertaining.

No One Lives Twice was a brilliant first book in the Lexi Carmichael series.

Buy No One Lives Twice at Amazon

No One to Trust
No One To Trust (Book 2) 

In book 2 we find Lexi has left the NSA to work for Finn Shaunessy full time at his new cyber security firm. If Lexi was looking for more of a challenge this job is perfect for her. When their first client Darren Green goes missing and Lexi is suspected of being a part of it, things can only get better right??

There are a lot of laugh out loud moments in this book, more so than the first. Lexi finds herself in new territory when Slash and Finn both show interest in her of a more personal nature and then there is Elvis, sweet, shy Elvis, the male version of So what does Lexi do when things start heating up on different fronts in both her work and personal life? She turns to her best friend Basia who as always is itching to help Lexi break out of her nerdy, geeky shell.

Lexi's best friend Basia shines in this book even though she only has a small part it's still a very significant one. Basia is spunky, sassy and she challenges Lexi out of her comfort zone which Lexi needs, they complement each other well as true best friends do.

I love the group Lexi is forming around her without even realising it. You have Lexi herself sweet, shy, sensitive and super smart. I love how she is willing to try new things without too much of a Then we have Basia the best friend who is the total opposite to Lexi in every way. It's why they work so well together. Basia knows how far to push Lexi out of her comfort zone without pushing her away. The Zimmerman twins, Elvis and Xavier, have both become very good friends of Lexi. The three work well together and love gaming together. Both boys are just as socially awkward as Lexi is and not as happy about moving out of their comfort zones, but they both see they need to.

The character growth from the first to the second book was great and makes a great building block for future books. Finn Shaunessy is now Lexi's boss but he would love to be more, Finn is good looking, has money and seems to be a nice guy and a good boss, but office romances are not always a good idea especially if you toss in Lexi's social awkwardness. This could spell disaster, which is why Lexi is happy having the hots for her boss but from a distance. She loves her job too much to jeopardize it. And then there is Slash the mysterious man who loves to break into Lexi's apartment. Slash really sees Lexi; he sees beneath the mask she tends to hide behind.

Buy No One to Trust at Amazon

No Place Like Rome
No Place Like Rome (Book 3)

Book 3 has Lexi hiding from the world after another disastrous date with her super sexy boss Finn and Rome is hopefully far enough away or is it considering she is going to Rome with Slash and he will take any opportunity to show Lexi he is the guy she should be with. I really love Slash's confidence: he really drips with in a totally sexy way.

When Slash asks Lexi for help she had no idea she would end up in Rome, Italy with him. Evading being kidnapped and finding a dead body is just some of the trouble Lexi finds herself in again.

Lexi is trying her hardest to step out more into the real world. She tries dating with hilariously funny results and she pushes herself out of her comfort zone more and more to do her job. I really love how her character is growing throughout these first three books and yes I do cringe and laugh at the situations she gets herself into in her work and personal life but in the end Lexi gets the job done and as for her personal life, well, that is an interesting work in progress.

Visiting Italy is exciting and mystifying for Lexi. Trying to navigate a language barrier and the touchy feely nuances of the culture make for a really fun story with a great mystery, lots of adventure and even a visit with Slash's grandmother. For Lexi that alone was worth the trip as she got more insight into this mystery man of hers, well he could be hers if she wants him.

Slash opens Lexi up to more of the world in this book both good parts and dangerous parts but he knows she can handle both and she does. There is great intrigue within this mystery, some steamy romance and some very funny moments as well and yes Lexi brings Basia and the Zimmerman twins in to help solve this case too.

Buy No Place Like Rome at Amazon

No Biz Like Showbiz
No Biz Like Showbiz Book 4

No Biz Like Showbiz is one of the funniest Lexi stories so far, seriously hilarious but still with a great mystery to solve and lots of death defying feats, well for Lexi anyway.

So we have a reality dating show 'Geeks Who Get Some' and all is not what it seems on the show, but really that is so not surprising when you have a bunch of geeks in a house and gorgeous women around. There is going to be some disasters, even more so when a hacker starts screwing with the voting results. Is it someone on the inside or an outside force and what is their end game? Well that is for Lexi to find out.

Lexi's character is getting there with overcoming her social awkwardness and in this story we see her step out more by becoming a contestant on the realty TV show she is sent to investigate. I really do love how Lexi is blossoming more and more in each book. When Lexi accepts this job even though she was reluctant to do it because the thought of a dating show was enough to break her out in Lexi decides it's ok because she will be working from behind the scenes. When things take a turn for the worse once Lexi gets there, all of a sudden she finds herself a contestant on the show and Lexi wonders if her Mother had anything to do with it ok maybe not but Lexi wouldn't put it past her

Lexi may not be in her element being a contestant on the show but she is in her element when it comes to finding the Hacker trying to ruin the show but can she find the mysterious hacker before he kills her? Becoming a contestant on this show maybe a bit more dangerous than Lexi expected.

This mystery has some hilarious moments, a few romantic moments and as for Lexi's love life some more confusing moments for her as she learns to navigate feelings she has never dealt with before. I really love how Julie Moffett fits so much into her books. There is always a great mystery to solve and we return to good friendships with each book, Lexi's character grows more and more with each new story and I love how Julie adds so much of her love life into the story without it taking over.

Buy No Biz Like Show Biz at Amazon

No Test for the Wicked
No Test For The Wicked Book 5

Oh my if you thought Lexi's worse nightmare was a reality dating show then you were dead wrong. In No Test For The Wicked Lexi is going back to high school and undercover to boot.

Lexi has a new job for the agency and she is the only one who can do it.

What I really love about this series is how Lexi is open to bettering herself even though she finds it uncomfortable she does push herself to try new things and overcome her phobias. I also love how Lexi thinks her love life is totally confusing but it's really not. She has already picked a guy and that guy is Slash. And now Slash has Lexi, he will not be letting her go. He is going to show her what love is all about and how good it is. I have read some series where there were multiple prospective partners the main character could choose from and I must say I get bored when they don't choose book after book. The timing of Lexi and Slash getting together was perfect and I am looking forward to how they grow as a couple and manage their work and personal lives.

Lexi's personal strength has improved with each story and even more so in this story Lexi really shone and showed the world what she is made of, yes she is still a geeky nerd but she can also handle herself in most situations and yes she can also get the gorgeous guy to I can't wait to read Lexi's next adventure.

The mystery was awesome. Lexi meeting new friends even better and I love how she eventually takes them under her wing and they help Lexi solve the mystery. So when Lexi doesn't  have her own team to help her she makes a new one and that is awesome and what makes her character more lovable.

This story also covered a bullying side story which was a powerful message; one that had a real impact on me personally that bullying should never be tolerated, I really appreciate Julie Moffett more as an author for hitting on what is seen as a sometimes touchy subject but should be out there more as it effects so many.

Buy No Test for the Wicked at Amazon

No Woman Left Behind
No Woman Left Behind (Book 6)

Lexi really knows how to impress, no seriously who doesn't love it when their daughter brings her new boyfriend home and bullets start flying through the window ..... would you like wine with those bullets or maybe something stronger?

All of a sudden Lexi finds herself embroiled in another life threatening mystery with everyone wanting her help to find the man behind it all: Johannes Broodryk. And he wants Lexi.

Broodryk wants revenge on Lexi after she foiled his plans in No Test For The Wicked and he has taken something very precious to Lexi to ensure her cooperation in his new twisted game.

This story is full of intrigue, mystery, mayhem and turmoil. Lexi finds more inner strength to focus on the task and save everyone. Even when Slash is not on board with her plans, she knows she is right and takes a stand and I love it, If you read these books from the start you know what I'm talking about. Lexi's character Rocks in so many ways. Gone is the naive, shy, socially inept geeky nerd and now Lexi is more confident, strong, sometimes a bit sassy, she can still work on that one, and most of all she is loyal to a fault. Oh and still as geeky and nerdy as ever but seriously she wouldn't be Lexi if she lost her inner Geek that’s what I love about her the most.

Lexi is assigned to a SEAL team to help her bring Broodryk down. This is just another new challenge for Lexi that takes her further out of her comfort zone and I really love how she handles it and shows she really can do anything she sets her mind to.

This story was awesome on so many levels for me. Lexi and Slash came up against their first relationship problems and worked through it in a more mature way than I expected, There was a lot more action involved which I really enjoyed and it goes with the evolution of this series that each new job will be a greater challenge than the one before. That’s what makes a great series and I really love the development of all of the main circle of characters that make up Lexi's inner circle.

Buy No Woman Left Behind at Amazon

No Room for Error
No Room For Error (Book 7)

Just when you think Lexi has been given an easy I know there really is no such thing in her world but yet it sounded so simple. Do a favour for her best friends the Zimmerman twins that’s all hmmm why does it always get complicated on Lexi? All Lexi had to do was deliver a microchip to a manufacturing plant in Indonesia, easy right? I guess not when you factor in because this microchip was invented by the Zimmerman twins it's a pretty major deal in the technology world and a lot of people would love to get their hands on it, maybe even kill to get it. So maybe not such an easy job after all.

Basia and Finn are along for this adventure with Lexi, Slash is working on meeting Lexi in Indonesia but things go all wrong when someone tries to hijack the plane. It crashes and all of a sudden Lexi, Finn and Basia are lost in the jungle and they are all out of their depth and out of their element. It is actually very funny. You have Lexi a geeky nerd who likes her comforts without and loves her technology, then you toss in her best friend Basia who can speak a lot of languages but is not really known for her survival skills outside of a 5 star resort and lastly Finn who maybe all things wonderful but he is injured and not much help at the moment, but again what I love most about these books is the bond between the main character Lexi and her closest friends plus the lengths she will go to in order to keep everyone safe no matter how out of her comfort zone she is.

I really loved this story in the series so much and yes it is my favourite Lexi book so far. We have all of our main characters back once again and they are all evolving more and more. Lexi and Slash grow in their relationship. It is a lot more settled by the end of the book which I love, they really work well together in a relationship. Lexi's character grows in self-confidence throughout this book more than any other. Basia shows what she is really made of and people should never underestimate her, ever. Finn displays his strength under pressure. Slash goes to extraordinary lengths to save Lexi even if she doesn't need saving, but that just proves how much he loves her. The twins work hard behind the scenes to help while still getting over their injuries after being kidnapped in the previous book.

No Room for Error was a fantastic, fast paced, adventure with great characters you will love, lots of humour and a great mystery to solve.

Buy No Room for Error at Amazon

No Strings Attached
No Strings Attached Book 8 (coming soon, expected publication date is 4/7/16)

I am seriously hanging out for this one to land in my kindle, I love pre-ordering the next book in a series I love and then counting down the days until it is released.

No Strings Attached is the 8th book in the Lexi Carmichael series and it sounds like it's going to be a wild adventure yet again.

It looks like Lexi has found trouble again but luckily she has Slash, Basia, Finn, Elvis and Xavier to help her solve the mystery and keep everyone safe.

Buy No Strings Attached at Amazon

Elisa Hordon, reviewerElisa lives on the Southern Highlands of NSW, Australia were she spends her days reading, journaling, painting, cooking and home schooling her daughter. She has always been an avid reader, Elisa loves reading many genres of books except horror; her favourite genres would be mystery, romance and paranormal. Elisa also loves pursuing many creative outlets if she is not relaxing with a book she can be found writing, sketching, painting or cooking. Elisa loves to share her obsession with books especially with her family and friends. Reading and reviewing books is a favourite pastime of Elisa’s.

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April 15, 2016

#AtoZChallenge M is for Make Your Own Writing Group

by Byddi Lee

There’s nothing quite like getting excited about a project while discussing it face to face in a group setting. Not everyone is fortunate enough to have a local writing group that meets in person. If you can’t find one close by, you can start your own writing group.

Let’s assume that you don’t live 100 miles from your closest neighbor and that there is some type of community hub you can drive to within an hour. Traveling further afield may prove unfeasible for regular meetings but is still doable if you need to combine online and meeting-in-person groups. The first writing group I attended was an hour-and-fifteen minutes drive away but only met once a month, so I didn’t mind the drive. Eventually, I needed a group that met more frequently, and that is why I started my own group with the added bonus of it being closer to home.

Many people who write, tend not to bring it up much in conversation. I understand how self-conscious many of us feel about admitting to being a writer. Most of the time it’s met with interest. Many people say, “Oh really? What do you write? Have you published anything?”  But there’s always that risk that you’ll meet that person who will crush your soul with a derisive look, or some other form of ridicule too horrific to mention.

Be brave! Don’t be afraid to tell people you are writing and would like to start a group. You may even find that you have friends in a very similar position. That’s what happened to me. Way back when I started out, I stumbled across a good friend’s blog that she had posted on Facebook. I learned two things that day - 1) she blogged and 2) she was a marvelous writer. I told her I loved her post and that she should write more. Then she admitted that she was quietly working on a novel. This became the foundation of my writing group. So ask around. Tell people you want to start a writing group - shake that tree and see who falls out of it!

My friend and I then decided that we would attend a local writing workshop together. That’s where we met the third member of our group. This is a great way to find like-minded writers. Don’t be afraid to ask the person hosting the workshop if they’d like to join your group too.

If there are no local writing courses or workshops, you might approach your local school. Many teachers (and not just English teachers) like to write. Post a notice in your library too. Many readers like to write. The free classifieds in a local newspaper, coffee shop or community notice board are other good spots to advertise that you are looking for members.

You might consider having a separate email address to make you more comfortable about strangers contacting you.

Use the internet to fish for new members too. and Craigslist will help you catch local writers. You could start a group using, though they do charge you a fee, check the site for details (

It may be a good idea to use the likes of Meetup to gather people up, establish a writer community, (or join one that is already set up, like I did,) then, once you get to know the members better, select individuals that you’d like to join your writing group. Thus, we found our forth member!
In your description of your group be very clear about your rules and expectations. Discuss proficiency levels i.e. beginning writers welcome, only published authors etc.

Four or five writers are a good start. Too many more and it takes too much time to get through all the critiques each time.

It’s a good idea to arrange the first few meetings somewhere public if you are starting with a group of people you don’t know. One of the groups I’m in meets every second Monday in a local coffee shop. This works really well because it has a regular turnover of new members. The group I started myself is made up of people who are now good friends. We meet every third Thursday rotating around each other’s homes.

How often you meet depends on how much time you and your members have. The Monday night group I attend is able to meet every two weeks because not everyone’s work is up for review. Only two people submit at a time, usually the Thursday before the meeting, and the whole group critiques it. This allows time for your submission to be thoroughly reviewed and discussed. The disadvantage is that an entire manuscript for a long piece of work, like a novel, can take months, even years, to get covered.

The Thursday morning group allows everyone to submit a week before the meeting and everyone who submits is critiqued. This meeting is typically a longer meeting than the Monday night meeting, but we still cover everyone’s needs comfortably. Often not everyone is able to send in something every meeting and this frees up time. On the rare occasions that no-one submits at all, we get together and use the time to write and talk shop.

You can decide on any time format and submission size you like. However, the longer a submission is, the less rigorously it gets critiqued - critiquers have lives too! Too short a submission means it can take a novel forever to get through. In both groups, we have decided that 15 double spaced pages, font Times Roman size 12, works best.

Remember, there is a skill to critiquing. Praise the positive aspects of the work, and point out gently what needs work. A poor critiquer only points out the bad elements of a piece of writing. A really helpful one will make suggestions to improve the work.

However you set up your group, remember that you are in charge and have the responsibility to yourself and the other members to make it a positive and fun experience for all of you. It will be one of the best things you can do to progress a writer.

Byddi Lee: features writer. Byddi grew up in Armagh, Ireland, and moved to Belfast to study Biology at Queen’s University when she was 18. She made Belfast her home for twenty-one years, teaching science and writing for pleasure. In 2002 she took a sabbatical from teaching and traveled round the world for two years, writing blogs about her adventures as she went. She returned to Ireland in 2004 and resumed teaching. In 2008 she and her husband moved to San Jose, California where she made writing a full-time career. After the publication of her short story, Death of a Seannachai, she decided it was time to write, March to November. Connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

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April 14, 2016

L is for Library Love & Listening to Books #AtoZChallenge

by Donna Huber

I have been listening to books since I was born. I vividly remember sitting on my mom's lap and being read to as a child and when there wasn't someone to read to me I had records that came with many of my books that I would listen to me. I know I'm dating myself with the records, but do you remember those read along books? You know, the ones that would ding to tell you turn the page?

It is no wonder when I got my first job and it had a nearly 2 hour commute (one way) that I returned to audio books. Audio books also came in handy when I wanted to re-read Harry Potter prior to a new release, but the waiting lists for the print editions would be way long. (I loved Jim Dale's reading so much that I've checked out the audio books a couple of times just to hear him read it).

I've been able to stay ahead of my reading challenge this year, because I've been devouring the audio books, which I can listen to at work.

Since it is also National Library Week, I thought I would show a little Library Love. Unless I receive an audio book for review, all my audio books come from the library. My library offers a digital library through Overdrive so have a catalog of audio books at my finger tips day and night.

Do you listen to books? Do you love your library?

Here are some of my favorites that I've listened to so far this year:

Love Letters Home
Love Letters Home by Debbie Macomber

I discovered Debbie Macomber over Christmas when I listened Dashing Through the Snow. In additions to Love Letters Home, I've also listened to the Last One Home and Silver Linings. I have not been disappointed yet and I hope to find more of her books on offer through my library's digital service.

If you are looking for heartfelt women's fiction to listen to while folding laundry or working in an office, then definitely pick-up one of Macomber's books.

Buy Love Letters at Amazon

The Thousand-dollar Tan Line
The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line (Veronica Mars #1) by Rob Thomas

Did you love the Veronica Mars television series? Did you see the movie? Then you must read the first book, which picks up shortly after the movie. A bonus to listening to the audio book? It's read by Veronica Mars herself...well, Kristen Bell. Everything that there was to love about the show is contained within the pages of this book and I for one am looking forward to additional books.

Buy The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line at Amazon

Cover of Snow
Cover of Snow by Jenny Milchman

One of the best mystery/suspense novels I've read recently. It sucked me right in and I didn't want to stop listening to the story. Though it did make it hard to divide my attention on my work so this one should probably be kept for mindless tasks - like washing dishes.

The town Nora lives in a creepy. The whole time you know the town is covering something up, but how sinister is it? Is there anyone in this town that can be trusted?

Buy Cover of Snow at Amazon

As I mentioned in my post last week about the audio book The Turn of the Screw, I get in my dose of the classics mostly through audio books. I've listened to two this year that I've been on my reading list.

The Divine Comedy by Dante

I was familiar with the circles of Hell as they are often referenced in pop culture, but I didn't have a desire to read this epic until I read Sylvain Reynard's Gabriel's Inferno. The main character is a Dante specialist and there are a ton of references to The Divine Comedy.

I'm torn between whether it would be better to listen to or read it myself. Listening to it, definitely gave me an appreciation for the writing. The language and flow is a thing of beauty on its own. However, to really reflect on what is being conveyed I think reading it myself would be better. I found myself thinking intently on what had been said only to realize that the narrator had gone on without me.

Buy The Divine Comedy at Amazon

Pride and Prejudice
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

I know a number of the readers of Girl Who Reads love Jane Austen. But I'm not one of them. I tried to read it when assigned in high school but couldn't get into it and just said I wasn't a Jane Austen fan. However, I felt I needed to give it another chance in case my taste had changed as an adult. Sorry. Nope. Just not my thing.

The audio book was well done and I can see why people enjoy Austen so much.

Buy Pride and Prejudice at Amazon

Speaking in Bones
Currently, I'm listening to Kathy Reich's Speaking in Bones. I'm missing the television show Bones and while the Temperance Brennen of the books is a poor replacement for Emily Deschanel's Bones and there's no Booth, the books are growing on me. I've listened to several of the novellas while waiting for the next book I have on hold. This one was good timing as there are continual references to taxes needing to be done.

Buy Speaking in Bones at Amazon

What are some of your favorite audio books? All of the above books, I checked out of my library's digital library. If you don't know if your library offers such a thing definitely ask! (Mine also offers ebooks)

Donna Huber: founder & publisher. Donna is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the founder of Girl Who Reads and the author of how-to marketing book Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour. She reads most genres, but her favorite books are psychological thrillers and stories that highlight the survival of the human spirit against unbelievable circumstances. 

Get even more book news in your inbox by signing up for our newsletter: 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.

April 13, 2016

K is for Kiss and Tale #AtoZChallenge

by Alison DeLuca

In books, as in cinema, one of the most exciting scenes comes after a lot of tension: the Kiss, in all its swooning glory. We’re celebrating K for Kiss here at Girl Who Reads by looking at some sublime kisses from popular fiction and literature.

But before we get into it, look at all the different kinds of kisses there are between would-be lovers. One of the most exciting is the angry kiss, with all its drama. ‘How did I ever get here, kissing you of all people? I hate you…but I want you too…’
The Kiss by Klimt image courtesy of wikipedia
And then there's the desperate or forbidden kiss. Either he’s in a relationship, or she’s betrothed to the king, or we are simply not allowed to even associate with each other, and yet here we are, in a corner liplock. Paranormal lit plays into this type of forbidden love – the heroine (or hero) really shouldn’t be kissing a vampire, but she just can’t help herself.

Maybe no romance will ever reach the brutality of the passion between Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara. As much as I disliked them, I really wanted them to get together – especially after scenes like this:

“Scarlett O’Hara, you’re a fool!”Before she could withdraw her mind from its far places, his arms were around her, as sure and hard as on the dark road to Tara, so long ago. She felt again the rush of helplessness, the sinking yielding, the surging tide of warmth that left her limp. And the quiet face of Ashley Wilkes was blurred and drowned to nothingness. He bent back her head across his arm and kissed her, softly at first, and then with a swift gradation of intensity that made her cling to him as the only solid thing in a dizzy swaying world. His insistent mouth was parting her shaking lips, sending wild tremors along her nerves, evoking from her sensations she had never known she was capable of feeling. And before a swimming giddiness spun her round and round, she knew that she was kissing him back.“Stop–please, I’m faint!” she whispered, trying to turn her head weakly from him. He pressed her head back hard against his shoulder and she had a dizzy glimpse of his face. His eyes were wide and blazing queerly and the tremor in his arms frightened her.“I want to make you faint. I will make you faint. You’ve had this coming to you for years. None of the fools you’ve known have kissed you like this–have they? Your precious Charles or Frank or your stupid Ashley–”“Please–”“I said your stupid Ashley. Gentlemen all–what do they know about women? What did they know about you? I know you.” 
image courtesy of Wiki commons
Before she could withdraw her mind from its far places, his arms were around her, as sure and hard as on the dark road to Tara, so long ago. She felt again the rush of helplessness, the sinking yielding, the surging tide of warmth that left her limp. And the quiet face of Ashley Wilkes was blurred and drowned to nothingness. He bent back her head across his arm and kissed her, softly at first, and then with a swift gradation of intensity that made her cling to him as the only solid thing in a dizzy swaying world. His insistent mouth was parting her shaking lips, sending wild tremors along her nerves, evoking from her sensations she had never known she was capable of feeling. And before a swimming giddiness spun her round and round, she knew that she was kissing him back.

Buy Gone With the Wind at Amazon

Did I say forbidden? Holy cow, I was sucked into the naughty promise of Cassandra Clare’s City of Glass. This scene made me melt:

He bent down, his lips against her cheek, brushing it lightly—and still that light touch sent shivers through her nerves, shivers that made her whole body tremble. "If you want me to stop, tell me now," he whispered. When she still said nothing, he brushed his mouth against the hollow of her temple. "Or now." He traced the line of her cheekbone. "Or now." His lips were against hers."Or—"But she had reached up and pulled him down to her, and the rest of his words were lost against her mouth. He kissed her gently, carefully, but it wasn’t gentleness she wanted, not now, not after all this time, and she knotted her fists in his shirt, pulling him harder against her. He groaned softly, low in his throat, and then his arms circled her, gathering her against him, and they rolled over on the grass, tangled together, still kissing.
Buy City of Glass at Amazon

Although it’s become unfashionable, I’ll always be a Romione shipper, or someone who loves Ron and Hermione as a couple. Their kiss in the Deathly Hallows was inevitable, funny, and even heartbreaking in the end:
There was a clatter as the basilisk fangs cascaded out of Hermi- one’s arms. Running at Ron, she flung them around his neck and kissed him full on the mouth. Ron threw away the fangs and broom- stick he was holding and responded with such enthusiasm that he lifted Hermione off her feet.“Is this the moment?” Harry asked weakly, and when nothing happened except that Ron and Hermione gripped each other still more firmly and swayed on the spot, he raised his voice. “OI! There’s a war going on here!” Ron and Hermione broke apart, their arms still around each other. “I know, mate,” said Ron, who looked as though he had recently been hit on the back of the head with a Bludger, “so it’s now or never, isn’t it?
Buy Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows at Amazon

I prefer a dose of reality in my romantic fiction. Fingersmith addresses the delicate issue of morning breath and overcomes it in a girl on girl kiss scene. If you haven’t read Sarah Waters’ book, you must. Sue Trinder and Maud Lilly’s passion grows like a defiant weed, breaking the bricks above them as it flowers: 

“I felt that thread that had come between us, tugging, tugging at my heart - so hard, it hurt me. A hundred times I almost rose, almost went in to her; a hundred times I thought, Go to her! Why are you waiting? Go back to her side! But every time, I thought of what would happen if I did. I knew that I couldn't lie beside her, without wanting to touch her. I couldn't have felt her breath upon my mouth, without wanting to kiss her. And I couldn't have kissed her, without wanting to save her.” 
Daisy Buchanan is  a selfish character yet painted with beauty. Immoral even in love, Fitzgerald depicts her and Gatsby so tenderly it nearly overcomes the violence of the novel's ending:
"His heart beat faster and faster as Daisy’s white face came up to his own. He knew that when he kissed this girl, and forever wed his unutterable visions to her perishable breath, his mind would never romp again like the mind of God. So he waited, listening for a moment longer to the tuning-fork that had been struck upon a star. Then he kissed her. At his lips’ touch she blossomed for him like a flower and the incarnation was complete." 
Buy Fingersmith at Amazon

Cruel Beauty reflects Beauty and the Beast as well as the Persephone myth. There are many kisses in the book, but one of my favorites happens off-stage:
“Ignifex's eyes widened a fraction. "He's a coward and a fool," he repeated distantly, as if he had learnt the words by rote. Then his gaze snapped back to me. "Why shouldn't I know my own shadow?""He got better than you at kissing somehow," I said. "Don't you ever wonder how?"If Shade was really the prince-and I still thought he was-then perhaps he could stir up some of Ignifex's memories.Maybe I wanted him to be jealous, too.Ignifex opened his mouth to speak, but I cut him off. "You can meditate on that for a while. I need to go look for ways to defeat you.” 
Buy Cruel Beauty at Amazon

Cranky old James Joyce never made his books easy to read, but the kissing scene in Ulysses is so beautiful it actually became a song decades later.
”..I was a Flower of the mountain yes when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red yes and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain”
Buy Ulysses at Amazon

Don’t forget sad kisses. I’ll never forget the tragic embrace in The Book Thief, teased throughout the book and arriving (spoiler alert) too late. This line will never fail to give me chills: “How about a kiss, saumensch?”

Buy The Book Thief at Amazon

I know I’m probably the only person to have read and loved Mary Stolz’s book, To Tell Your Love. With its clunky title, out-of-print status, and 1950’s binding, the novel won’t head a Goodreads list anytime soon. But if you want to read the perfect and timeless description of what a broken heart feels like in the middle of a hot New Jersey summer, To Tell Your Love is the book for you. It’s filled with quiet emotion that rages inside one girl, about to go to college, depicted with assured and gimmick-free writing: 
Image courtesy of The Decophile
“But she leaned against the pillar and wondered why he didn’t come. Then, when she turned, walked into his arms. Oh, the wonderful, sudden, good-smelling closeness of him, the quiet, dear nearness of him. The churning ache subsided as she stood, very still, in his arms. In the dark mass of trees that ringed the lake, sudden fireflies winked firefly gold. Anne sighed and lifted her head, because he had never kissed her, and now he would.”
Buy To Tell Your Love at Amazon

 And there are many other embraces, the desperation of Heathcliff and Kathy on her child/deathbed, the fever of Jane and Mr. Rochester under the tree about to be struck by lightning,the  yearning and desire between Achilles and Patroclus in The Song of Achilles. This small collection barely scratches the surface. What is your favorite kiss between fictional characters?

Alison DeLuca: features writer. Alison is the author of several steampunk and urban fantasy books.  She was born in Arizona and has also lived in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Mexico, Ireland, and Spain. Currently she wrestles words and laundry in New Jersey. Connect with Alison on FacebookTwitterGoogle+Pinterest, and her blog.

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April 12, 2016

J is for Juxtaposition, June 2015, and Jumping back into a Familiar World #AtoZChallenge

by Elisabeth Scherer

I don’t know about you but I love when a book I really enjoyed ends up being the start of a new series. I patiently wait for the next book to come out, well okay I admit that I wait impatiently, and as soon as I have my grubby paws on the next book I devour it.  So today as part of the A to Z challenge I am jumping back into a bookworld I first visited and reviewed back in June of 2015.

Welcome back to A.F.E. Smith's world of Mirrorvale and the realm of Darkhaven. When we last left our unsung heroes Thomas Caraway was rescuing his rightful overlord, Ayla Nyteshade, from the clutches of the dastardly Captain Travers.

Goldenfire takes place three years after Thomas has taken over as captain of the Helm, the body guards to Darkhaven and the Nightshade family, and Ayla has assumed the role of overlord of Mirrorvale.  There is word sent by Naeve Sorrow, kick butt sellsword from Darkhaven, from outside the realm in Sol Kardis that there is a plot to assassinate Ayla coming. It is also the time of year when the fifth ring accepts new warrior trainees in to try to earn a coveted spot on the Helm.  It is a great juxtaposition that the assassin is probably in the juveniles attempting to enter training for the very group of people whose job is to protect the overlord of Darkhaven. This year there are two females attempting to join the Helm  for the first time in Darkhaven history and there is a growing threat of firearms being smuggled into the city.  All the while Ayla is doing her part to try to protect herself from the assassin with the help of alchemy.

The book follows multiple storylines that interweave and keep the reader guessing as to what might happen next and who might be the villain. It's clever because the different storylines all push the plot line forward but it is not overwhelming with keeping the characters straight. She gives you just the right amount of detail to get to know these supporting characters so that the reader is rooting for the trainees, attempting to ferret out the assassin, and hoping that Ayla will be able to defend herself with it matters most.

A.F.E. Smith does a wonderful job introducing new characters and spinning a tale of mystery.  I am usually pretty good at figuring out who the culprit is but she keeps you guessing with suspects and twists and turns in the story.  She has created a vast city full of structure and detail that you can really feel like you are stepping onto the streets of the first ring, or watching the training in the fifth ring, or visiting the temples in the sixth ring all the way to the massive looming tower that is Darkhaven. The pace on the book picks up speed as it goes along and you can feel the sense of urgency as the book progresses.

I like the relationship quality that happens in this book as well. There are so many facets that are interesting but not overly complicated to make the story come together. Each relationship was unique and the way that the story is told switching around to different things happening is one of my favorite techniques ever since reading Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.

We also get just a glimpse of the world outside of Mirrorvale, just enough to peak my curiosity as to what might happen in the next book.  There is a secret Brotherhood that seems dangerous and full of mystery that I think will probably play a big role in that next book.

All in all I would recommend you read this book series. Read Darkhaven, Read Goldenfire, read them both. It's fantasy with a hint of a long ago, far away time meets page turning mystery. It has a satisfying ending and promise of more conflict on the horizon with the introduction of firearms to a world unaccustomed to the weapon.

And just for a fun bonus I thought I’d let you know some of my favorite literary J things.  First is Jane Austin and my favorite two books of hers are Persuasion and Northanger Abbey. Secondly anything by, Jasper Fforde, most notably The Thursday Next Series (book one is The Eyre Affair) , and finally Jabberwocky because I love everything about Alice in Wonderland and the different offshoots available and it is also a hint at my review coming next week.

Buy Goldenfire at Amazon

Elisabeth Scherer, reviewer. Elisabeth grew up in a very small town in Minnesota but now lives in the lovely Pacific Northwest where she spends most of her time raising her two young children. She and her husband have a large collection of books that takes a good space of their small condo. When she's not reading she has a variety of hobbies that include crocheting, drawing, baking, cooking, and movie watching. She is currently training to run her first half marathon later this year! You can also find her blogging at

Book Info:
Available formats: ebook (400 pages) and paperback (July 28th, 2016)
Published on 01/14/2016 by HarperCollins Publishers
ISBN-13: 9780008103514
Genre: Fantasy
Read: February 2016

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April 11, 2016

I is for Inspiring, Impassioned, Important Stories for Women #AtoZChallenge #MondayBlogs

reviews by Susan Roberts

According to Wikipedia, "women's fiction is an umbrella term for women centered books that focus on women's life experience that are marketed to female readers". But that is a pretty dry definition. Novels that fall into women's fiction are often INSPIRING, IMPASSIONED, and take on IMPORTANT events in the life of women. Below are 4 women's fiction novels you should pick up.

The year we turned forty
The Year We Turned Forty by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke

'Life wasn't meant to be played like a game of chess, moving the people you love like pawns to win the game.'

Everyone looks back at their lives and finds a point that they wish they could go back to and make changes that would affect their current life. In this fantastic book, Jessie, Gabriela and Claire get to do just that. As the three friends are celebrating their 50th birthdays together in Vegas, they get a chance to go back to their 40th birthday. They can spend one year there and make changes to their lives. At the end of the year, they can decide whether they want to remain in the past or come back to the present. The novel follows all three women as they try to make changes in their lives at 40 always being reminded of the butterfly effect -- that even small changes can create drastically different outcomes. Will the changes they make lead to happier lives or just to different problems? The book is entertaining and the characters are very likable and the story line keeps you turning pages -will they stay or go back?? And the whole time I was reading the book, I kept asking myself, what would I change if I could go back to being 40 again! (This book was sent to me by the authors for an unbiased review)

Buy The Year We Turned 40 at Amazon

Linny's Sweet Dream List
Linny's Sweet Dream List by Susan Schild

Linny is down on her luck after her cheating husband dies of a heart attack in a hotel room with his girlfriend and leaves her with a ton of debt. Now she is a widow for the second time in 5 years and has to return home to live in a run down trailer on her mother's property. The good news is that she has a loving but eccentric mom, a wonderful sister and a caring best friend. She also has a job but she doesn't know how much longer she can tolerate it. Her self esteem is at an all time low and she doesn't know which way to turn. Her sister encourages her to make a list of what she wants out of life and to start working on it - one step at a time. This story is about Linny's quest to make her dreams come true. The book is a real 'feel good' story - it's a fun read and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Buy Linny's Sweet Dream List at Amazon

Paris Is Always a Good Idea by Nicolas Barreau 

Paris IS always a good idea -- not just for a place to travel but also for the setting of a novel. Since I just visited the area that the areas in Paris that this novel was set in, that made it even more fun for me. This is a light fun read with lots of descriptions of Paris and two fun characters.

Rosalie is an artist who owns a card shop in the St. Germain area of Paris. After being asked to illustrate a children's book by a famous author, she proudly displays a copy in her store window. Along comes an American tourist, a lawyer who wants to continue teaching literature and has come to Paris to think about this life. He is appalled when he sees the book because he feels that the story in the book was stolen from his late mother. He angrily confronts her and they try to unravel the truth together.

The book has a little mystery, a little romance and a lot of Paris -- it's a fun read and I highly recommend it! (Thanks to NetGalley for providing the book for a for a fair and honest review.)

Buy Paris Is Always a Good Idea at Amazon

The Promise of Provence
The Promise of Provence (Love in Provence #1) by Patricia Sands

On Kat's 22nd wedding anniversary, she heads home from work expecting to have a woderful evening with her husband. Instead she finds a letter informing her that he has left her for another woman and they are expecting a baby. Being alone in your mid 50s after spending your life as part of a couple, is a scary transition for anyone but Kat has two loyal friends to help her through the worst times. She decides to do a vacation house exchange and Goes to Provence and her life is transformed gradually with the help of her new friends. I actually read this book while I was in France and I found that the descriptions of the French countryside were very well done. Parts of the book are like a travelogue and you can almost feel like you are in France. I loved this book. The setting, Kat and her best friends. Can't wait to start the next book in the series later tonight. (This book was provided to me by NetGalley for an unbiased review.)

Buy The Promise of Provence at Amazon

What do you like about Women's Fiction? Do you have any to recommend?

Susan Roberts, reviewer. Susan grew up in the Detroit area but after deciding that city life wasn't for her she moved to North Carolina after college. She and her husband have several acres of land and they enjoy gardening and canning vegetables in the summer. They travel extensively and just returned from a month in Paris. Susan reads almost anything (and the piles of books in her house prove that) but her favorite genres are Southern fiction, women's fiction and thrillers. You can connect with Susan on Facebook or Twitter.

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April 10, 2016

New Middle Grades Historical Adventure Novel

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The Muddled Adventures of a Pickpocket
by Deborah Hopkinson
“A strong chose for those who enjoy adventures about scrappy and resourceful kids.”
School Library Journal, Starred Review

“A dynamic historical novel ideal for both classroom studies and pleasure reading.”
Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

Award-winning master of historical fiction for children Deborah Hopkinson takes readers back to nineteenth-century New York City in her new middle-grade novel: A BANDIT’S TALE: THE MUDDLED MISADVENTURES OF A PICKPOCKET (Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers | on sale April 5, 2016 | Ages 8–12 | $16.99).

Eleven-year-old Rocco finds himself alone in New York City after he’s sold to a padrone by his poverty-stricken parents and forced to leave his small Italian village. While working as a street musician, he meets the boys of the infamous Bandits’ Roost, who teach him the art of pickpocketing, which he finds more lucrative than banging a triangle on the street corner. But when he meets Meddlin’ Mary, an Irish immigrant who has a strong heart and a fierce commitment to helping the city’s horses, he begins to reexamine his life—and take his future   into his own hands. Extensive back matter is included. 

Published  in April 2016 for the 150th Anniversary of the ASPCA,  A BANDIT’S TALE is a Junior Library Guild selection exploring  19th century New York City immigrant life and social reform movements.

Start Reading:

Buy A Bandit's Tale at Amazon

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