Take a Moment…

Take a moment to feel yourself breathing, to hear your heart beating. Don’t be in too much of a hurry that you don’t smell the freshly cut grass as you walk down your street. Don’t eat so fast that you don’t taste the food you’re eating. Take a moment to appreciate, to say thanks, to smile, to laugh. And be thankful that you can read this. There are many people around the world who can’t. Imagine living in a world of darkness. If I had to lose all my senses but one, I’d prefer to keep my sense of sight. Not being able to read would kill me.

The reason I’m writing this post is because on her Facebook page, Ashley has made a decision to find something to be grateful for every day (for the next few days). And I think it’s a fantastic idea. Many of us go through life with our eyes closed. And we forget all too fast. One day we might want something so much it hurts. Once we get that thing, we’re happy for a moment and then we forget and move on to the next desire.

So, what am I thankful for today,

My healthy baby daughter, a husband who supports my passion for writing, my friends (especially Ashley, who has come to mean so much to me), my family, this cheese cake I’m eating right now, a warm bed in winter…and so much more.

How about you? What are you grateful for?

Liz

A Book Box?

Hi all, Ashley here, just stopping by to post today because I took very interesting survey from St. Martin’s Press and I couldn’t help but to share!

We all know “subscription boxes” are a big deal. The big thing 2013 gave us (maybe?). You probably see the ads for them pop up on your Facebook timeline every now and then, chances are you might even have a subscription or at least know someone who does. People seem to love them, and the companies offering them are springing up all over the place. You can get your fill of almost anything — geekery, foodie-themed goodies, makeup, jewelry, clothes, pet supplies — pretty much every human and non-human interest conceivable could be delivered to your door monthly with new, surprising products for you to explore and behold.

But what about books?

I took a super interesting survey the other day (the link is provided below if you’d like to take it yourself) that basically gauged my interest, as a reader, in a “book box.” A monthly (or bi-monthly) subscription that would, for a fee, continue to feed my ravenous appetite for all things books.

But what really thrilled me? Under “genres of interest” they included Women’s Fiction. Hooray! You see, while there are plenty of read-worthy titles in this genre, and super talented authors standing behind those titles, it doesn’t get as much action as…say…YA or Sci-Fi or Mystery. So, how freaking awesome would it be to get a big brown box dedicated to the genre on my doorstep each month? Very freaking awesome.

The options also include how often you’d like a box and what you’d pay for me. Me? I could get on board with a bi-monthly subscription, and I’d love the see price come in below retail because that seems pretty much par for the course with these sort of services.

I did a little research and there doesn’t seem to be anything like this right now from publishing houses. But I have to admit, I sort of love the idea. Heck, I would plow my way through the interweb to be one of the first to sign up, that’s for sure and it would make my holiday shopping a bit less complicated for all the bibliophiles on my list.

What do you think? Would you sign up? Tell us in the comments below! And TAKE THE SURVEY.

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Cover Reveal – Honeysuckle and Jasmine by Liz Grace Davis

Can I just begin with saying I am so excited to reveal this cover to you all? So, so excited!

As you may know, author Liz Grace Davis is a contributor and a driving force behind The Women’s Fiction Review. Without her willingness this blog wouldn’t be even partially possible. She is so funny and generous and kind, knowing her as been such a gift and I can honestly say, without exaggerating in the least, she one of my very best writerly friends. Her commitment to seeing that the WF genre reaches its fans and that the good books our genre has to offer spring from the shelves into the hands of readers is one of the many reasons our blog exists at all. So, naturally, when the opportunity presented itself to unveil the new cover for her novel Honeysuckle and Jasmine, it was simply a given we’d do it right here. And today is the big day!

Liz, I am all so proud of you…and I’m sure everyone agrees with me when I say: Your new cover is just gorgeous! Congratulations!

Ready?

Here is the brand new, never-before-seen cover for Honeysuckle and Jasmine…

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I told you it was gorgeous! But believe me when I say, the cover isn’t the only gorgeous thing about Liz’s newest novel…the story is beautiful too!

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Back Copy —

The past is never far behind.

Senia Loato’s life has been needled by disappointment, and the wounds that fester go beyond skin deep. She is certain if she puts miles between her and her tainted past, she will somehow outrun it. When she’s offered the chance to leave her island home of Mintang to become an au pair for three boys in Germany, she takes the opportunity to start running.

In Germany, she meets Miina, another African au pair. What builds between them is a life-defining friendship, one they will risk everything for.

And soon, they’ll be asked nothing less.

When Miina is betrayed and left stranded, Senia stands by her, risking much more than just her stay in Germany. She also stands to lose rich, handsome, turquoise-eyed Roman Dorenwald, the first man she has allowed into her heart.

But they’re risks worth taking.

Eventually, Senia makes a sacrifice that catapults her back to her past, where she’s forced to draw back the curtain and discover the shocking truth of her history.

Can she confront her nightmares, reach deep into her soul, and forgive those who have hurt her? Or is it easier to just keep running?

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Honeysuckle and Jasmine is one of those brave novels that bleeds bareness of the soul and beauty from every single page. I was afforded the opportunity, back when this book was living on the screen of Liz’s computer, to read it as a beta, I could hardly concentrate on ‘doing my job’…the story consumed me whole. A reader called it ‘eye-opening’ and they were right, it is eye-opening. Partially inspired by true events, this book is one you should be reading…and with a cover so interesting and intriguing, how could you possibly resist? Snag your copy HERE.

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The Things We Set on Fire by Deborah Reed

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Reviewer: Ashley Mackler-Paternostro

A series of tragedies brings Vivvie’s young grandchildren into her custody, and her two estranged daughters back under one roof. Jackson, Vivvie’s husband, was shot and killed thirty years ago, and the ramifications have splintered the family into their own isolated remembrances and recriminations.

Sisters Elin and Kate fought mercilessly in childhood and have avoided each other for years. Elin seems like the last person to watch her sister convalesce after an attempted suicide. But Elin has her own reasons for coming to Kate’s side and will soon discover Kate’s own staggering needs.

This deeply personal, hauntingly melancholy look at the damages families inflict on each other—and the healing that only they can provide—is filled with flinty, flawed, and complex people stumbling toward some kind of peace. Like Elizabeth Strout and Kazuo Ishiguro, Deborah Reed understands a story, and its inhabitants reveal themselves in the subtleties: the space between the thoughts, the sigh behind the smile, and the unreliable lies people tell themselves that ultimately reveal the deepest truths.

Have you wanted to love a book simply because? Because you should, or because you wanted to, or because you’ve enjoyed other offerings from the novelist? That’s how I felt upon beginning my time with The Things We Set on Fire by Deborah Reed. I wanted to love it because this book is my kind of novel — deep with a richly woven narrative, complex and–okay, at times–maddening characters. It’s a story with soul. I should have loved this book, and I did love it, but then…

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Things We Set on Fire begins with a brazen act of violence so unexpected that it is bound to give the reader pause. That’s the way it’s designed, for shock and awe. It really is, all things considered, a brilliant way to begin a novel. It leaves one breathless with confusion and worry and does not allow them to set the novel aside, doesn’t allow for one to think ‘maybe this book isn’t for me…’ … it leaps, and you leap with it.

Vivvie was widowed too soon. Left to raise her daughters without the man she had loved since she, herself, was little more than a girl. The death of Vivvie’s husband has a ‘butterfly effect’ on her daughters, Elin–the oldest–and Kate–one year Elin’s junior–in many ways.

Maybe the girls were born destine to bicker and pick at each other mercilessly. Maybe it was the Florida heat that made them ornery. Or maybe it was stress of living in a home where their mother kept an ugly secret that turned her inside out and made her withhold her love that turned them into angry children. Whatever it was in  Elin and Kate’s childhood that proved to be a catalyst the anger they felt defined them. And then it happened, something that could have bonded them together. But no, it became a secret they were forced to share. It drove the wedge deeper and the guilt they both felt for having it only stood to break them further apart…leading to a betrayal that would come later in their lives.

The book opens to find the family grown and spread far and wide. From the Pacific Northwest Portland area to the sunny orange groves of Orlando, Florida. The distance between the girls and their mother isn’t accidental, it’s purposeful and deliberate, proving some families simply cannot stay close.

Vivvie is used to living alone now. Her children are grown and gone and are, for all intents and purposes, estranged from her. She works, she tends to her home, she smokes her cigarettes, she flirts with her neighbor, Wink, she keeps her pile of regrets close. Her life now is as peaceable as it is predictable as it is lonely, and considering what it once was when she had her husband and little girls under foot, it’s really only a shadow of what could have been.

Kate is dying by fate and she wants to die by choice. Something is ravaging her body, something in her genetics that is  bound and determined to take her away from her daughters slowly, methodically, cruelly. She makes the (selfish?) choice to beat it to the end–why fight the inevitable? A bottle of pills, a quiet night, two little girls sleeping in their beds. She’ll make the ‘leaving’ as simple as she can and spares them the horror of watching their mother–the only real and present parent they have–fade slowly away. But something in her plan went wrong and now she still very much alive, still very much dying and forced to face her mother and sister.

Elin is at a crossroads. Her life, from the outside, is a slice of perfect. A beautiful home, a handsome and worldly husband, a job, her dog. But what looks perfect from the exterior isn’t always so pretty inside: Her husband isn’t the man she believed him to be, and she could use some time away from him to collect her thoughts, or punish him, whichever comes first. So when Vivvie calls to tell her about Kate’s failed suicide attempt, she has no reason not to go home, expect the singular reason that kept away for a very long time.

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The Things We Set on Fire is a character book. There is little suspense, little danger, the book focuses most on telling you the story of three generations of women thrown back together and how their interconnected lives unfold when they are forced to not only face each other, but all the things they ran away from. To that end, the characters Reed created are both vibrant and authentic. There is an unmistakable truth to them. They aren’t written for you to like or love or even relate to…they are written merely in the vein of feeling real. They are flawed and erratically, helplessly human which only adds to the charm of this book. And as the novel picks up speed, you will find yourself drawn to them because Reed goes to great lengths to explain them to you, to tell you precisely what it is that makes them so broken so you can understand and care.

Things We Set on Fire is a beautiful book, but the things that make this novel beautiful–the intense use of flowery language, descriptors for even the most minute details–also prove to be the novel’s primary hurdle. The language is thick, verbose, at time staggering and causes the book, for me at least, to sag a little. I found myself getting lost in it, almost losing track of the story because I was so immersed in the way –for example–the fireflies looked. It’s not bad, and Reeds precise details of ordinary moments are lovely in moderation, but it came to be distracting page after page, sentence after sentence.

I liked this book very much…but I wanted to love it. Isn’t that always so disappointing? Regardless, The Things We Set on Fire is well worth the read and I have a feeling few will regret giving the novel time and I have a suspicion that fans of Deborah Reed will cheer.

Bonus: You can pick this book up now BEFORE it’s actual publication date in December on Amazon. Prime members can read for free, while non-Prime readers can get the book for a modest discount.

TWFR Rating: 4 Stamps…Really good, highly enjoyable!

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What Would You Do?

Let’s play the “What Would You Do” game on this happy Friday!

Scenario:

BookShoppeYou own a small independent bookstore.

You’ve spent years curating your shelves, getting to know your customers, and trying to keep your business in the black while big-box and larger chain bookstores alike have been in a position to undermine your cozy atmosphere and  woo aways your customers with their fancy membership discounts and lattes (You’ve Got Mail, anyone?).

Then came Amazon and the eReader and both of these things changed the game on you, yet again.

You understand–like it or not–that the future of books is a digital one. Maybe not the entire future because you know there will always be bibliophiles who crave the first crack of the spine and smell of print on cream paper, but certainly you know that some readers will flow with technology–and to that end, some already have. That bookstores, large and small, yours and others, have been likened to dinosaurs in the press, and that your place in the future of publishing has been, and continues to be, questioned. And you know, even those large chain stores, which had once been the biggest threat looming on the horizon, are shrinking or closing up shop altogether.

The Offer:

KindleYou receive news from the Emerald City: Amazon wants YOU (well, you and others like you) to carry their Kindle devices in your small, neighborhood bookstore. They want you to stock your shelves with their devices and covers and chargers and Kindleish-swag.

They’ll, of course, be fair. Like with any distributor-deal, you’ll get a cut of each device you sell. But there’s more, and it’s pretty generous…Amazon will pay YOU 10% of each book a Kindle owner buys if the eReader/tablet came from YOUR store for two years post-purchase

The Break-Down:

You realize that, in the years since Oprah gushed unabashedly over her generation one Kindle, you’ve lost business. It couldn’t be helped. It was a sign of the times. Much like how Apple rendered the trusty CD irrelevant with the invention of the iPod (iPad, iPhone), eBooks and eReaders have risen to the forefront of technology, taking with it some of your most dedicated clients. They’ve told you that digital reading is convenient and easy and just as enjoyable…and while they’ll still buy the occasional hardback edition of a beloved novel or the signed paperback, they aren’t ever going to ‘go back’ to simpler times where these physical books were the rule rather than the exception.

You also know that there are more writers in the ‘literary world’ now than you have room for on your shelves. Fantastic writers. Brilliant writers. But you cannot carry all their books or even most of their books. Still, these independents, with a spirit much like your own, have blazed a path in the digital revolution and your customers do, in fact, want to read them…and as a book aficionado yourself, you want them to read these books, too.

…But Amazon…

If it was the brick and mortar stores that undercut your bottom line, then it was Amazon who slashed it to pieces. Due impart to breadth and depth, Amazon has proven itself to be the ultimate game changer when it comes to how readers get their books. They can sell new releases for far less than you ever could, not only because they can offer the digital version, but because, due to the volume of material they move on any given day, they can discount their physical stock to bargin-basment prices right from the beginning. Even those once all-powerful big name stores haven’t been able to reach the bar that Amazon has set for them and everyone has seen how they have faired because of their failure to do so.

Now, they want you to become a distributor of the very device that turned the reading-world inside out. The very device that changed not only bookstores, but publishing, and further threatened the success of your business. But you can gain from it. You can grow with the industry, you can offer your customers more and continue to benefit from their purchases, even if they aren’t buying directly from you.

What is a shoppe-owner to do?

The Facts:

The above scenario is only an example of the decision facing independent book stores right now. In the past days Amazon has made them a deal, extended an olive branch, which appears to be almost too good to refuse.

Amazon has offered small bookstores the opportunity to sell the company’s much beloved Kindle device in their stores with the lure of making the partnership a potentially lucrative one. For every Kindle a shop sells, the store stands to make not only the upfront commission on the device itself (and charger and cover) but a backend 10% of every book sold for two year post-purchase (which–given the way technology advances at breakneck speed, and the way people tend to replace theirs devices for the latest and greatest–could go on indefinitely if customers are shop-loyal when it comes to buying their next, new eReader/tablet). In a digital-world where new releases sell for between $12.00-$15.00 (on the very high end), every book that leaves the digital-shelf could potentially net a store $1.20-$1.50 without having to pay their staff to sell it, the credit card company to process it, for the plastic bag they put it inside and a dozen other little things that go into the completion of a sale. On the low-end, for those 99-cent books a store would never carry, but books that still break onto the Best Seller list every single day, they can pocket a tidy $.09. Almost sounds like free money…

But it’s not, because the truth is truth.

For every digital book sold, one less physical copy moves out the door. It’s unknown what cut a book-seller gets from a publishing house when a book is sold, and the entire scenario really does depend on that illusive figure. Is it more? Is it less? Is it on par? Who knows. But our guess? It’s got to be pretty darn close. Amazon, while a business, isn’t really ever out to insult anyone. They’ve built their brand on honesty and fairness. Don’t believe us? Just ask a writer who is a freelance employee (indie) or a customer who has ever had an issue with a product they’ve purchased. The deal has to be good, the pot sweet, for Amazon to even attempt to pull something like this off.

But is money alone enough to convince small bookstores to climb into bed with Amazon? Some say yes and others, no.

Ideology One:

NoDealTo take a deal like this from Amazon is similar to committing suicide, or so claims the Business Insider.

Long story short: Once a customer is on the Amazon platform, what’s the real likelihood that they will continue to frequent their neighborhood bookstore? All things being ‘equal’ in terms of books sold and money netted…what accounts for those impulse purchases which surely add to a store’s bottom line? The tiny (delicious!) foil-wrapped chocolates by the register? The stuffed animals? The greeting cards and note cards and positive affirmation engraved stones? All of which, small or not, have become staples of the bookstore’s financial diet.

Amazon’s new program, MatchBook, underscores this point further. MatchBook is essentially a way for readers to buy the print version of a book (at Amazon’s list price, which is already below most other prices, mind you) and then get the digital copy for $2.99 or under. It no longer makes much sense for a reader to buy a print book elsewhere when they can get a bundled deal for the same, if not less, money.

Ideology Two:

DealThis is brilliance for both parties involved.

It’s no secret that stocking the shelves is both pricey and limited. There is only so much space to go around, and the algorithms behind the whole ‘who gets what’ isn’t the easiest to figure out. But this allows bookstores to carry less of what doesn’t sell easily, carry more of what does sell and possibly (probably?) sell more of it on both fronts. Their customers will have access to things they didn’t before, opening up exciting new avenues for revenue.  The hope would be that, with a wider reach of books and writers, the gain will be enough to supplement what is lost if in-store traffic slows.

Besides, digital reading is the future. Maybe everyone could deny that before, but certainly not any longer. Small bookstores aren’t like Barnes and Noble with a pile of money and a staff of tech-savvy developers to create and peddle their own branded eReader. And then truth is simply this: Many people don’t read books. They read eReader screens, they read tablet screens, they read phone screens, computer screens. Why fight it? Why not bend and flow with change? Why not carry the most successful eReader on the market? Why not take the wave and ride it rather than crash and drown beneath it? Survival is survival, right? Which begs the question: For small bookstores that have been hurting for years, is the bigger importance now that they survive period or does it matter more how they survive?

So, the question is … if you were a small bookseller, what would you do? Would you partner with Amazon or would you steer-clear? And, more importantly, as a reader, how do you feel about this? Tell us in the comments below!

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Weak at the Knees by Jo Kessel

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Reviewer: Tracy Santoria
“We got so busy living life that we forgot to live our dreams.”Danni Lewis has been playing it safe for twenty-six years, but her sheltered existence is making her feel old ahead of time. When a sudden death plunges her into a spiral of grief, she throws caution to the wind and runs away to France in search of a new beginning.The moment ski instructor Olivier du Pape enters her shattered world she falls hard, in more ways than one.Their mutual desire is as powerful and seductive as the mountains around them. His dark gypsy looks and piercing blue eyes are irresistible.Only she must resist, because he has a wife – and she’d made a pact to never get involved with a married man.But how do you choose between keeping your word and being true to your soul?Weak at the Knees is Jo’s debut novel in the new adult, contemporary romance genre – a story about love, loss and relationships, set between London and the heart of the French Alps.Due to descriptive sex scenes, this book is not appropriate for younger readers.

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I am going to be honest and say that when I first started reading Weak in the Knees, I expected it to be similar to the other love stories that are currently out there. Yes, it was a love story between a man and a woman but it was so much more. It showed you that love could be in so many places, including ones that you never imagined them to be. It examined love beyond the typical relationship. It brought you into the love between best friends and the connections that they share. It taught you that sometimes, love just happens and sometimes you can’t choose who you fall in love with. Weak in the Knees puts you on a rollercoaster of emotion and pulls you in because honestly, you cannot wait for the ride to come to a stop and see how it all ends.  
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I give this book 3 stars. Although it was a good book I would have liked to see more in depth story lines between some of the characters.  I think it would have drawn me in more and made me connect with the personalities on a deeper level. All in all it was an enjoyable quick read.
TWFR Rating: 3 Stamps … We liked it! 
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Jo Kessel is also hosting a giveaway! Be sure to look up additional dates for her tour for Weak in the Knees HERE … the more comments you make the better your chancing are of winning!

Book Blast – The Seacrest by Aaron Paul Lazar

3D The Seacrest 3D ImageThey say it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.

Finn McGraw disagrees.

He was just seventeen when he had a torrid summer affair with the girl who stole his heart—and then inexplicably turned on him. Finn may have moved on with his life, but he’s never forgotten her.

Now, ten years later, he’s got more than his lost love to worry about. A horrific accident turns his life upside down, resurrecting the ghosts of his long-dead family and taking the lives of the few people he has left.

Finn always believed his estranged brother was responsible for the fire that killed their family—but an unexpected inheritance with a mystery attached throws everything he knows into doubt.

And on top of that, the beguiling daughter of his wealthy employer has secrets of her own. But the closer he gets, the harder she pushes him away.

The Seacrest is a story of intrigue and betrayal, of secrets and second chances—and above all, of a love that never dies.

TWFR is very happy to be able to share a special excerpt of THE SEACREST:

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July 2, 1997

I’ll never forget the day I fell in love with her.

There she stood, all tall and lanky, dark hair blowing in the breeze as if it loved caressing her face.

She held a beach ball and faced the sea.

She was sixteen.

That’s all it took. That one salty, sandy, sunshiny day—forever staked in my memory.

Her father had claimed a spot on Paines Creek Beach, right next to ours. They laid out a red-and-white striped blanket and matching umbrella with beach chairs, a cooler filled with watermelon and soda, and white paper bags that smelled of fries and burgers.

I’d settled on a beach towel next to my grandfather, Dex McGraw, surreptitiously watching them.

Gramps sat beside me, drinking from a cold thermos of gin and ice, his favorite. He sat with his shirt off and long legs stretched out, his head back and shaggy silver-blond hair glinting in the sun. He always told me his time was “before the hippies,” but I had a feeling he would have made a good one. He was one helluva rebel. And he always stood up for what was right, no matter what.

He saw me watching the girl and casually appraised her, gray eyes slit and his head nodding in approval. With a low whisper, he turned to me. “Pretty girl.”

I know I blushed, because at sixteen that’s all I seemed to do when girls were involved. “Yeah. I guess.” I traced circles in the sand with my forefinger. The sun burned the skin on my back and shoulders, although I’d slathered plenty of sunscreen on earlier at my mother’s insistence.

-THE SEACREST, Aaron Paul Lazar

THE SEACREST is available for .99 of a limited time on Amazon, buy your copy now!

Author Photo July 2013Aaron Paul Lazar writes to soothe his soul. An award-winning author of three addictive mystery series, writing books, and a new love story, Aaron enjoys the Genesee Valley countryside in upstate New York, where his characters embrace life, play with their dogs and grandkids, grow sumptuous gardens, and chase bad guys. Visit his website at http://www.lazarbooks.com and watch for his upcoming Twilight Times Books releases, SANCTUARY (2014), and VIRTUOSO (2014).

Connect with Aaron:

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We’d like to thank Goddess Fish Tours for allowing us to feature Aaron Paul Lazar today and to let all of our readers know that Aaron has graciously offered to award 6 random commenters the following prize over the duration of his tour:

Aaron will be awarding at random six individual prizes to six randomly drawn commenters during the tour: For the BirdseBook(Kindle, Nook, or PDF), For the Birds Audio Book narrated by Hannah Seusy, For the Birds print book, Essentially YourseBook (Kindle, Nook, PDF), Essentially Yours Audio Book, narrated by Hannah Seusy, Essentially Yours print book.

Be sure to comment below for a chance to win!

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