Saturday, May 27, 2017 | By: Taffy

My summer reading list challenge! Join me! #COYER



I'm doing a reading challenge this summer to try and catch up on my reading, especially my e-books.

#COYER (clean off your e-reader) begins June 17th. There are two ways to do the challenge:

1. Read all the books you want. Read and review.
2. Summer reading list and the read-a-thon that goes with it. I'm choosing this option.

Find out more HERE.

I think it sounds fun and a great way to push me to get books on my TBR pile read!

  1. A Beautiful Blue Death
  2. A Study in Silks
  3. Prisoner of Ice and Snow
  4. Dream Me
  5. Ash and Quill
  6. Bring Her Home
  7. Perish From Earth
  8. Hello, Sunshine
  9. My Own Mr. Darcy
  10. Relax, I'm a Ninja
  11. An Ocean Away
  12. A Season in  London
  13. Star-touched Queen
  14. The Clockwork Dynasty
  15. Lies Jane Austen Told Me
  16. As You Wish
  17. My Lady Jane
  18. Havencross
  19. Flame in the Mist
  20. Watch Me Disappear
  21. Secret of the India Orchid
  22. Fitness Junkie
  23. Royal Bastards
  24. The Original Jinny Moon
  25. Wreckage
  26. Girl Out of Water
  27. It Started With Goodbye
  28. Don't Kiss the Messenger
  29. Thick As Thieves
  30. Defy the Stars
I'm so excited to do this challenge!

 I wonder how many I'll read??????


Read-a-thon Challenge:
  • Read-a-thon Dates are
    • June 25th – July 2nd ~ read only ebooks
    • July 23rd to July 30th ~ read only physical books
    • August 20th to August 27th ~ read only audio and ebooks

Tuesday, May 23, 2017 | By: Taffy

I rocked my childhood or how my childhood affects my writing

At least, in my mind I rocked it. I mean, look at these toys and shows! How can one not love what I got to play with and watch while growing up?


These were favorite toys when I was little. I LOVED them and they got a lot of use not only from me but my siblings too. I remember making words with the magnetic letters when I was first starting to spell. We also had the house. We use to take the furniture and people outside and make houses for them out of dirt, sticks and flowers.






My family use to have these bunnies as decor. 
I petted them. 
I liked their fuzziness!







Stickers! I loved the googly eye stickers and the Scratch n' Sniff stickers. The smells bring back memories of junior high days. Which may or may not have been tumultuous and ugly. But all was well when friends shared stickers.












NOTES! 

I passed so many notes in the my years from elementary to high school. We even folded them this way. We retold our day with stick figures or made up very important quizzes like this:



Do you like:
Mike 
Chase 
Grant 

Are you mad at me:
Yes 
No 
Maybe ☑




Do any of you remember these cassettes? My friends and I made tons of mixed tapes together. I still have some. Hubby and I still have a whole drawer of cassettes! Huh. I don't think we have anything to play them.



I'm a little bit country! 
An I'm a little bit rock n' roll!



Here's the last and the most iconic childhood memory for me: Donny and Marie Osmond! I watched them on TV. I listened to them on the radio and cassette, bought purple socks and I. had. the. action figures. Donny got to kiss a lot of my Barbies, just sayin'.


***

I find that a lot of my experiences and friends and family come out a bit in my writing. They surface unexpectedly and I'm usually surprised why and how. Seeing that multicolored cassette in this post kinda makes me want to write and 80's themed book.
For years after I graduated from junior high, I dreamed about that school. The things that happened there shaped me in more ways than I think. I could draw a map of that school. I wish I could have walked it and taken pictures before it was torn down. Maybe I'll do a story set in junior high. I'll have to find my photo albums and year books.
So what I'm saying is that our experiences shape the stories we write or what we want to write. It's okay to write what we know. It's okay to write reality based on our experiences. We need to hear other's memories and stories. No one can say we know or we don't understand because we do, according to our experiences.
Don't be afraid to write what you know. Or maybe, be very afraid. And write from there...
There's just not enough time to write them all.






Wednesday, May 17, 2017 | By: Taffy

100 (or something like that) Book Challenge!

I'm taking my lead from Nathan Bransford and doing the 100 book challenge. He said it was harder for him than he thought. I'm kinda excited to look at all the books I've enjoyed reading.



I'll meet Nathan's challenge and see how hard it is.


UPDATE: like two hours later... I ended up 180! WHAT?? I added every book in a series. So I went back and put the books in a series on the same line. Even doing that I still had 137. 
My middle grade, picture books and all genres are mixed up in this list.

This challenge was hard in that it took FOREVER to go through my goodreads books and find the ones I loved/enjoyed reading.



So here is my list, in random order that I don't expect anyone to read because it is freaking long. LOL

What about you? Can you come up with 100 fav books?


  1. The Far Pavilions, Shadow of the Moon
  2. Jane Eyre
  3. Pride and Prejudice
  4. Persuasion
  5. An Assembly Such as This, Duty and Desire, These Three Remain
  6. A Tale of Two Cities
  7. A Christmas Carol
  8. Silas Marner 
  9. The Screwtape Letters
  10. Seven Gables
  11. The Raven
  12. Pudd'nhead Wilson
  13. Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich
  14. Birdman of Alcatraz
  15. The Count of Monte Cristo 
  16. Magnificent Obsession
  17. The Poisonwood Bible
  18. Wives and Daughter
  19. North and South
  20.  Hagseed: The Tempest Retelling
  21. To Kill a Mockingbird
  22. Island of the Blue Dolphins
  23. The Secret Garden
  24. The Penderwick's
  25. The Giver
  26. Eragon
  27. The Secret Journal of Brett Colton
  28. Anne of Green Gables
  29. Edenbrook
  30. These is My Words 
  31. Enchanted April
  32. Prisoner of Zenda
  33. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
  34. The Rent Collector
  35. Fried Green Tomatoes
  36. Al Capone Irons My Shirts 
  37. The Indian in the Cupboard 
  38. No Talking
  39. Stargirl
  40. Fablehaven, Rise of the Evening Star, Grip of the Shadow Plague, Secrets of the Dragon Sanctuary, Keys to the Demon Prison
  41. Where the Mountain Meets the Moon
  42. You Are Mine
  43. The Importance of Being Earnest
  44. A Lantern in Her Hand
  45. Gone with the Wind
  46. Romeo and Juliet 
  47. Much Ado About Nothing
  48. The Canterbury Tales
  49. SkippyJon Jones
  50. Good Night Moon 
  51. Oh! The Places You'll Go!
  52. Love Twelve Miles Long
  53. 14 Cows for America
  54. The Tale of Despereaux
  55. The Magician's Elephant
  56. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane
  57. Double Trouble in Walla Walla
  58. The Princess Bride
  59. Jellicoe Road
  60. The Hundredth Queen
  61. Pivot Point
  62. On Little Wings
  63. Wednesday Wars
  64. The Pearl
  65. Eleanor and The Iron King
  66. Willowkeep
  67. Unraveled
  68. Blind Eye
  69. The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency 
  70. The Help 
  71. Unspoken
  72. The Forgotten Garden
  73. The Secret Keeper
  74. Lord of the Ring, The Two Towers, The Return of the King, Hobbit
  75. Inside Out & Back Again
  76. A Light in the Attic
  77. Falling Up
  78. The Giving Tree 
  79. Uncle Shelby's ABZ Book
  80. The Polar Express 
  81. Death of a Salesman
  82. Ink and Bone
  83. It's a Mall World After All
  84. My Fair Godmother
  85. Austenland
  86. The Goose Girl
  87. Princess Academy 
  88. The Actor and the Housewife
  89. Rapunzel's Revenge 
  90. Princess of the Midnight Ball, Princess of Glass
  91. Dragon Slippers
  92. The Iron King, The Iron Daughter, The Iron Queen, The Iron Knight
  93. Sorcerers Stone, Prisoner of Azkaban, Chamber Secret, Goblet of Fire, Order of the Phoenix, Half-Blooded Prince, Deathly Hollows
  94. Entwined
  95. Traitor
  96. The Girl of Fire and Thorns
  97. Forgotten 
  98. Fallen
  99. Gilded Cage
  100. The Reader
  101. An Ember in the Ashes
  102. Three Dark Crowns
  103. The Wraith and the Dawn
  104. Things Half in Shadow
  105. The Thief, The Queen of Attolia, The King of Attolia
  106. The False Prince, The Runaway King, The Shadow Throne
  107. Mark of the Thief, Rise of the Wolf
  108. The Kiss of a Stranger 
  109. Seeking Persephone
  110. Courting Miss Lancaster
  111. As You Are
  112. Glimmer of Hope
  113. The Way of Kings, Words of Radiance
  114. Elantris
  115. Legion
  116. Steelheart, Firefight, Calamity
  117. Alcatraz and the Evil Librarians, Alcatraz versus the Scrivener's Bones
  118. Dodger
  119. The Final Empire, The Crystal Cave, The Hollow Hills, The Last Enchantment,The Wicked Day
  120. City of Bones, City of Ashes, City of Glass
  121. Maze Runner
  122. Divergent, Insurgent, Allegiant
  123. The Hunger Games, Mockingjay, Catching Fire
  124. Band of Sisters
  125. Wolf Hollow
  126. Yellow Star 
  127. The Healing Spell
  128. Loser 
  129. Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse, Breaking Dawn
  130. The Host
  131. Christmas Oranges
  132. The Miracle of the Wooden Shoes
  133. Increase in Learning: Spiritual Patterns
  134. The Second Rescue: The story...Willie and Martin Handcart
  135. The Remarkable Soul of a Woman
  136. Women of the Book of Mormon
  137. Plain and Simple: A Journey to the Amish






Monday, May 1, 2017 | By: Taffy

Seven of my favorite April 2017 reads!

I read a lot of great books this month. So many more I wish I had time to read! Can't the publishing industry just take a month off so we can get 1/4 of our TBR pile read??
Look at all the beautiful covers in this list!!!

This list, in no particular order, highlights a few of my favorites:



Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk

 Growing up in the shadows cast by two world wars, Annabelle has lived a mostly quiet, steady life in her small Pennsylvania town. Until the day new student Betty Glengarry walks into her class. Betty quickly reveals herself to be cruel and manipulative, and while her bullying seems isolated at first, things quickly escalate, and reclusive World War I veteran Toby becomes a target of her attacks. While others have always seen Toby’s strangeness, Annabelle knows only kindness. She will soon need to find the courage to stand as a lone voice of justice as tensions mount.

Brilliantly crafted, Wolf Hollow is a haunting tale of America at a crossroads and a time when one girl’s resilience, strength, and compassion help to illuminate the darkest corners of our history.


Opening line:
"The year I turned twelve, I learned how to lie."
 
I wasn't sure I was going to like this book, but I did. I loved it.  I recommend it to any reader, but especially to middle grade and older. This is a story all readers will enjoy and find something they can connect with.



The Vicar's Daughter by Josi S. Kilpac
 
Cassie, the youngest of six daughters in the Wilton family, is bold, bright, and ready to enter society. There's only one problem: her older sister Lenora, whose extreme shyness prevents her from attending many social events. Lenora is now entering her third season, and since their father has decreed that only one Wilton girl can be out at a time, Cassie has no choice except to wait her turn.

Evan Glenside, a soft-spoken, East London clerk, has just been named his great-uncle's heir and, though he is eager to learn all that will be required of him, he struggles to feel accepted in a new town and in his new position.

A chance meeting between Evan and Lenora promises to change everything, but when Lenora proves too shy to pursue the relationship, Cassie begins to write Mr. Glenside letters in the name of her sister. Her good intentions lead to disaster when Cassie realizes she is falling in love with Evan. But then Evan begins to court Lenora, thinking she is the author of the letters.

As secrets are revealed, the hearts of Cassie, Evan, and Lenora are tested. Will the final letter sent by the vicar's daughter be able to reunite the sisters as well as unite Evan with his true love?


  Opening line:
"Cassie fidgeted with the skirt of her day dress and said a silent prayer: Please help me remain calm."

Cassie is the youngest daughter (out of six) of the vicar and he and his wife have decided that only one daughter will be out in society at a time. This is frustrating for Cassie because her sister, Lenora, is shy and anxious. To "help" Lenora, Cassie starts writing letters to Evan, a man Lenora met at a ball, in Lenora's name. Cassie could not have seen the problematic outcome of her innocent actions. This "help" proves to have a ripple effect that is negative to those involved and those not. This is really where the story sucked me in and held me tight.
Cassie fell in love with Evan. Evan fell in love with the woman in the letters but was determined to get to know Lenora better. Lenora was happy Evan paid attention to her. Then Evan proposed to Lenora and everything went downhill.
I wanted to keep reading to find out how in the world the characters got out of this mess! It really seemed hopeless. Josi Kilpack is an excellent writer who keeps her readers guessing and reading.
I really, really loved the character arcs. Cassie's was especially fascinating to read. She grew and matured so much in the story it was delightful to read.

Thanks to netgalley for the early read. I loved it! 5 STARS



Scourge by Jennifer A. Nielsen

 As a lethal plague sweeps through the land, Ani Mells is shocked when she is unexpectedly captured by the governor’s wardens and forced to submit to a test for the deadly Scourge. She is even more surprised when the test results come back positive, and she is sent to Attic Island, a former prison turned refuge—and quarantine colony—for the ill. The Scourge’s victims, Ani now among them, can only expect to live out short, painful lives there.

However, Ani quickly discovers that she doesn’t know the whole truth about the Scourge or the Colony. She’s been caught in a devious plot, and, with the help of her best friend, Weevil, Ani means to uncover just what is actually going on. But will she and Weevil survive the Scourge—and the governor’s wardens—long enough to make their escape and expose the cruel plan?


 Opening line:
"Few things were worth the risk to my life, but the juicy vine fruit was one of them."

I listened to this one. Another great book from Jennifer Nielsen! I know any book I can pick up any of her books and enjoy them.  Keep writing, Jennifer! 5 STARS!




Dark Breaks the Dawn by Sarah B. Larson

On her eighteenth birthday, Princess Evelayn of Eadrolan, the Light Kingdom, can finally access the full range of her magical powers. The light looks brighter, the air is sharper, and the energy she can draw when fighting feels almost limitless.

But while her mother, the queen, remains busy at the war front, in the Dark Kingdom of Dorjhalon, the corrupt king is plotting. King Bain wants control of both kingdoms, and his plan will fling Evelayn onto the throne much sooner than she expected.

In order to defeat Bain and his sons, Evelayn will quickly have to come into her ability to shapeshift, and rely on the alluring Lord Tanvir. But not everyone is what they seem, and the balance between the Light and Dark comes at a steep price.



Opening line:
"The jeweled forest blurred into a tapestry of color as Evelayn sprinted away from the castle."

I won this book in a contest and I was so excited! I've been wanting to read this pretty book since Sarah announced it would be published. 


An intriguing retelling, or the start, of Swan Lake. Princess, danger, magic, bad guys, one cute guy, this book has it all plus a slow burn romance. Is the next one out yet??


Dawn of Wonder (The Wakening #1) by Jonathan Renshaw

 When a high-ranking officer gallops into the quiet Mistyvales, he brings a warning that shakes the countryfolk to their roots. But for Aedan, a scruffy young adventurer with veins full of fire and a head full of ideas, this officer is not what he seems.

The events that follow propel Aedan on a journey that only the foolhardy or desperate would risk, leading him to the gates of the nation’s royal academy – a whole world of secrets in itself.

But this is only the beginning of his discoveries. Something is stirring in the land, something more ominous than the rising threat of hostile nations. Fearful travellers whisper of an ancient power breathing over Thirna, changing it, waking it. In the very heart of these stirrings, Aedan encounters that which defies belief, leaving him speechless with terror – and wonder.


Opening Line:
"Even the wind now held it's breath."

This book is freakishly long, like Brandon Sanderson long! But so good and rich in character and world building! I made excuses to listen to it. I listened to it as I cleaned the house and worked in the yard.

 

 A Fine Gentleman by Sarah M. Eden

London barrister Jason Jonquil has spent his entire life working to establish his identity as a gentleman, a man of refinement like his father and brothers. But when fiery Spanish beauty Mariposa Thornton walks into his office, he finds himself losing his grasp on his dignified character. The woman is infuriating, pushing him to the limit of his legendary patience. However, her case seems simple enough—a small matter of inheritance. Or so he believes.

Once a well-born lady, Mariposa fought to survive the brutalities of Napoleon’s war on Spain. She braved horrific perils and undertook dangerous missions on behalf of those fighting against the invading French army. But her greatest battle still lies ahead: after being separated from her family, Mariposa sets in motion a plan to reunite with her loved ones in England. To avoid drawing the attention of the French, Mariposa dons a carefully crafted persona to conceal her true purpose. As Jason and Mariposa are drawn together by the case, they come to know the people beneath the masks they both wear.

When the truth of Mariposa’s quest is revealed, the couple is pulled into a mystery that will test the limits of their courage—and expose the true desire of their hearts.


 Opening line:
"The commotion outside his office ought to have served as something of a warning, but Jason Jonquil, barrister and proud perfectionist, had done nothing more than glance up from his ruler-straight stack of papers when the first noises had drifted through his closed door."

Hurrah! Another story about the Jonquil boys!!



Condemn Me Not: Accused of Witchcraft  by Heather B. Moore

 “This woman was one of the most impudent, scurrilous, wicked creatures of this world; and she did now throughout her whole trial discover herself to be such a one. Yet when she was asked what she had to say for herself, her chief plea was that she had led a most virtuous and holy life.” —Reverend Cotton Mather, 1692

USA Today Bestselling author Heather B. Moore brings the life of her 10th great-grandmother to center stage. Susannah North Martin, accused of witchcraft in 1692, joins five women in the Salem Jail, all sentenced to death for their crimes. Amidst tragedy, Susannah finds hope and compassion as she remembers a well-loved life, and readers discover that love reaches far beyond the grave as Susannah faces the magistrates in Salem.


 
Opening line:
"This woman was on of the most impudent, scurrilous, wicked creatures of this world; and she did now throughout her whole trail discover herself to such a one."

If you want a personal, beautiful and haunting look into the Salem Witch Trials, this is your book!

This is the story of the author's 10th great-grandmother, Susannah North Martin, who was hanged during the trials. Even though it was really hard and frustrating to reading the chapters about the time of the trials and Susannah's depraving time in jail, there were chapters of love and hope as Susannah and George meet and court and marry. Heather knows how to write romance so the "love" chapters were sweet.
What I liked too was the quotes and dialogue from the actual accusers. Heather put a lot of time and research into this book and it reads smoothly with the history interweaving with the storytelling.
The story is disturbing in that humans could treat other humans so badly. Just straight up lie and someone would die. With that said, if it made me uncomfortable (in the sense of lack of human kindness), it was well-written.

I'd recommend this book to anyone older reader (older teens and up).
There are scenes where the victims are stripped to nothing and scrutinized and abused; death; kissing; intimate touching; martial relationships (not graphic).

Thanks for the early read! I loved it! 5 STARS




 
Monday, April 17, 2017 | By: Taffy

My next writing venture

Sooooo...I finished Blinded Mercy or formerly known as EMMA. I've sent it to readers and I'll see what they think. Based on their notes, poor Emma may just go into a drawer. But I've learned from this editing experience:

1. I love/hate editing. I love to free write and that leads to messy manuscripts. This time I used Margie Lawson's deep editing tools and I feel like it really helped me focus and edit and actually enjoy editing.

2. I found my rhythm! I found I like to editing in the morning, write, outline, etc in the afternoon, and read in the evening. I don't feel stressed when I do this. FTW!

3. Everyone needs cheerleaders. I'm grateful for my friends and hubby who keep cheering me on.

I'm a little excited and nervous about what I want to do next. I have a few things in mind:

  • I wrote a coma story for NANO I want to outline.
  • A short story from my WWI story.  How so-and-so met so-and-so.
  • A YA story of a princess set in Greece.
  • A YA loose retelling of Cyrano. I have an outline for this one. I started a story years ago in prose. Well, the girl's POV was through her journal and the boy's was poems. I think a Cyrano idea would be fun.

What are you working on? Reading? Doing this month?




Tuesday, March 7, 2017 | By: Taffy

3 defining moments of Emperor Nero's life | Author Margaret George BLOG TOUR









THE CONFESSIONS OF YOUNG NERO
by Margaret George
Berkley Hardcover
On Sale: March 7, 2016
Price: $28.00
ISBN: 9780451473387

PLOT SYNOPSIS
THE CONFESSIONS OF YOUNG NERO takes readers through the early life of Rome’s infamous Nero. Through the machinations of his mother, Agrippina the Younger, Nero became emperor at the age of sixteen, the last of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. But the road was a frightening one.  The young boy, an intelligent, sensitive and watchful child, had a series of psychological shocks from an early age.  His cruel uncle Caligula and his scheming cousin Messalina threatened his life, and his domineering and ambitious mother Agrippina married and poisoned two men en route to securing the throne for her son. Agrippina viewed Nero’s power as an extension of her own will. But once on the throne—like the teenage boy he was—Nero did not want to take orders from his mother.  Soon the world was not big enough for the two of them. Thereafter he was remembered as a hedonist and tyrant who “fiddled” while his people burned. But the truth behind the caricature, revealed here, shows Nero to be instead a product of his mother’s relentless ambition, and the incest, violence, luxury, and intrigue that have gripped Rome’s seat of power for generations.

AUTHOR BIO
Margaret George is the author of the bestselling Autobiography of Henry VIII; Mary, Queen of Scotland and the Isles; The Memoirs of Cleopatra; and Mary, Called Magdalene.

Best,
Tara O’Connor
Publicity Assistant | Berkley, Penguin Random House
375 Hudson Street, 5th Floor | New York, NY | 10014
212-366-2525 | toconnor@penguinrandomhouse.com



THE HUNDREDTH QUEEN by Emily R. King


 As an orphan ward of the Sisterhood, eighteen-year-old Kalinda is destined for nothing more than a life of seclusion and prayer. Plagued by fevers, she’s an unlikely candidate for even a servant’s position, let alone a courtesan or wife. Her sole dream is to continue living in peace in the Sisterhood’s mountain temple.

But a visit from the tyrant Rajah Tarek disrupts Kalinda’s life. Within hours, she is ripped from the comfort of her home, set on a desert trek, and ordered to fight for her place among the rajah’s ninety-nine wives and numerous courtesans. Her only solace comes in the company of her guard, the stoic but kind Captain Deven Naik.

Faced with the danger of a tournament to the death—and her growing affection for Deven—Kalinda’s only hope for escape lies in an arcane, forbidden power that’s buried within her.

In Emily R. King’s thrilling fantasy debut, an orphan girl blossoms into a warrior, summoning courage and confidence in her fearless quest to upend tradition, overthrow an empire, and reclaim her life as her own





Opening line:
"Snowy mountains tear into the ashen sky, their jagged peaks pearly, like wolverine fangs."

So starts one of the best books I've read this year. Why? Why is it one of my favorites? I got sucked into the book, characters, story and couldn't pull myself out. Heart-pounding adventure, romance and intrigue. Wow. So well written. Ms. King's words are mesmerizing and kept me reading long after I should have been asleep.
Kalinda is an orphan, raised by the Sisterhood, destined to quiet and prayers. But that doesn't really suit her and we come to love her quiet rebelliousness. She must fight to stay alive to become the Hundredth Queen. She's smart, strong and driven to do what's right. I love how she's disgusted with the way the men treat the women.
Deven is the guard is suppose to watch over her. But he gets too close to her and develops a relationship and then more. He's torn between his duty to the empire and his growing admiration (or is it love?) for Kalinda.
Tarek is the rajah is greedy, crazy and cruel, and he is the one who Claimed her and is suppose to marry her. I wanted him to choke on his tongue so many times.
And all of this story is set on the backdrop of an exquisite country and palace. Ms. King has a way with words that develop not only characters, but the worlds in which the characters live. The food, the clothes, the country and its people. I felt like I was there, like I could reach out and touch the Turquoise Palace.

I can't wait to read the next book! Hurry and get it out on shelves!

Violence: Fighting.  Lots of fighting, but not super descriptive. 
Language: No
Sex: Sexual tension; kissing

5 STARS
Friday, March 3, 2017 | By: Taffy

2017 March TBR pile

 Bahbye February. I'm not going to lie, I'm kind of glad your over.
I have a big list of books to read this month. I wonder if I can finish?


After two teenage sisters, Mira and Francesca, drown themselves in a neighborhood quarry, their next-door neighbor Ben receives post-mortem letters from Mira. This letter challenges Ben to track down the hidden, cryptic notes hidden in seven places alluding to where the two secretly touched. As Ben uncovers each note, he starts to unravel the hidden lies and secrets that these girls kept, and just how complicated their bonds with the outside world were.








 Charlie isn’t looking forward to sixth grade. If he starts sixth grade, chances are he’ll finish it. And when he does, he’ll grow older than the brother he recently lost. Armstrong isn’t looking forward to sixth grade, either. When his parents sign him up for Opportunity Busing to a white school in the Hollywood Hills, all he wants to know is "What time in the morning will my alarm clock have the opportunity to ring?"  When these two land at the same desk, it's the Rules Boy next to the Rebel, a boy who lost a brother elbow-to-elbow with a boy who longs for one.
From September to June, arms will wrestle, fists will fly, and bottles will spin.  There'll be Ho Hos spiked with hot sauce, sleepovers, boy talk about girls, and a little guidance from the stars. 
Set in Los Angeles in the 1970s, Armstrong and Charlie is the hilarious, heartwarming tale of two boys from opposite worlds, Different, yet the same.




Last Year's Mistake
Before:
Kelsey and David became best friends the summer before freshman year and were inseparable ever after. Until the night a misunderstanding turned Kelsey into the school joke and everything around her crumbled - including her friendship with David. So when Kelsey’s parents decided to move away, she couldn’t wait to start over and leave the past behind. Except, David wasn't ready to let her go...

After:
Now it’s senior year and Kelsey has a new group of friends, genuine popularity, and a hot boyfriend. Her life is perfect. That is, until David’s family relocates to the same town and he shakes up everything. Soon old feelings bubble to the surface and threaten to destroy Kelsey’s second chance at happiness. The more time she spends with David, the more she realizes she never let him go. And that maybe she never wants to.
 
 
 
 Back in college, Marco Winslow never thought of Belle as anything more than a friend. If she crossed his mind on his wedding day, it was probably only to wonder why she hadn’t shown up to be a bridesmaid. After all, his new wife had been her roommate.

Six years have passed since then, and Belle just found out that Marco is divorced and vacationing with his parents in a Cancun resort. She’s not about to let the right man get away twice. She heads to the resort where she plans to casually bump into Marco and ignite some flames.

But Belle hadn’t planned on one thing: Flynn Winslow, Marco’s handsome, charming, and determined older brother. Flynn thinks Marco and his ex-wife can make amends and he’s not about to let Belle stand in the way.

Part Sabrina, part While You Were Sleeping, romantic comedy readers will eat this book up!









 Intriguing and inspirational, this book is a call to look outward rather than inward. McCann asks his readers to constantly push the boundaries of experience, to see empathy and wonder in the stories we craft and hear. Letters to a Young Writer is fierce and honest in its testament to the bruises delivered by writing as both a profession and a calling. It charges aspiring writers to learn the rules and even break them.

Dive into these 52 essays.














 From the New York Times bestselling author of Flight Patterns comes a stunning new novel about a young single mother who discovers that the nature of friendship is never what it seems....

Recently divorced, Merilee Talbot Dunlap moves with her two children to the Atlanta suburb of Sweet Apple, Georgia. It’s not her first time starting over, but her efforts at a new beginning aren’t helped by an anonymous local blog that dishes about the scandalous events that caused her marriage to fail.

Merilee finds some measure of peace in the cottage she is renting from town matriarch Sugar Prescott. Though stubborn and irascible, Sugar sees something of herself in Merilee—something that allows her to open up about her own colorful past.

Sugar’s stories give Merilee a different perspective on the town and its wealthy school moms in their tennis whites and shiny SUVs, and even on her new friendship with Heather Blackford. Merilee is charmed by the glamorous young mother’s seemingly perfect life and finds herself drawn into Heather's world.

In a town like Sweet Apple, where sins and secrets are as likely to be found behind the walls of gated mansions as in the dark woods surrounding Merilee’s house, appearance is everything. But just how dangerous that deception can be will shock all three women....




 From USA Today bestselling author Heather B. Moore:

FALLING FOR MARIA

At twenty-six, Maria is holding out for the perfect man to share the rest of her life with. Josh seems to be that man, but after months of dating, their relationship is at a stand-still. Maria plans to nudge Josh forward, but when the company she works for is bought out, her new boss Walker seems determined to change Maria’s idea of the perfect man.












 “Friendships, family, grief, joy, rage, faith, doubt, poetry, and love—this complex and sensitive book has room for every aspect of growing up!”—Margarita Engle, Newbery Honor–Winning author of The Surrender Tree      Sal used to know his place with his adoptive gay father, their loving Mexican American family, and his best friend, Samantha. But it’s senior year, and suddenly Sal is throwing punches, questioning everything, and realizing he no longer knows himself. If Sal’s not who he thought he was, who is he?        This humor-infused, warmly humane look at universal questions of belonging is a triumph.









 
 Union Pacific Station Agent Chadwick Hughes has everything in a state of readiness to welcome his mail order bride…everything but the bride. The woman he’s corresponded with for a year didn’t change her mind or miss her train in Omaha—she never existed. Chadwick’s mortified to discover he’s been swindled by a fraudulent matrimonial agency in Chicago. He needs a lawyer if he’ll ever recover a dime of the fortune he spent on worthless membership fees and the nonexistent bride’s transportation west.

Sophia Sorensen, Attorney at Law, is a spinster on the edge of propriety. The good people of Wyoming Territory are open to a lot of things, including Lady’s Privilege during Leap Years, but some aren’t fond of her day-to-day behavior. Why, the woman rides her bicycle hither and yon, showing her petticoat ruffle and ankles. She might be the least ladylike specimen beneath Wyoming skies, but it’s entertaining to watch her court the U.P. Station Agent, Chadwick Hughes, the most-eligible bachelor in the county.






 In a compelling, richly researched novel that draws from thousands of letters and original sources, bestselling authors Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie tell the fascinating, untold story of Thomas Jefferson’s eldest daughter, Martha “Patsy” Jefferson Randolph—a woman who kept the secrets of our most enigmatic founding father and shaped an American legacy.

From her earliest days, Patsy Jefferson knows that though her father loves his family dearly, his devotion to his country runs deeper still. As Thomas Jefferson’s oldest daughter, she becomes his helpmate, protector, and constant companion in the wake of her mother’s death, traveling with him when he becomes American minister to France.

It is in Paris, at the glittering court and among the first tumultuous days of revolution, that fifteen-year-old Patsy learns about her father’s troubling liaison with Sally Hemings, a slave girl her own age. Meanwhile, Patsy has fallen in love—with her father’s protégé William Short, a staunch abolitionist and ambitious diplomat. Torn between love, principles, and the bonds of family, Patsy questions whether she can choose a life as William’s wife and still be a devoted daughter.

Her choice will follow her in the years to come, to Virginia farmland, Monticello, and even the White House. And as scandal, tragedy, and poverty threaten her family, Patsy must decide how much she will sacrifice to protect her father's reputation, in the process defining not just his political legacy, but that of the nation he founded.



Saturday, February 18, 2017 | By: Taffy

THE SPLASH OF LADY HARRIETT by Rachel Anderson GIVEAWAY!

Coming August 2017 from USA Today bestselling author Rachael Anderson


 
The Splash of Lady Harriett
When wills clash and hearts collide, who will come away victorious?
RachaelAuthor Rachael Anderson A USA Today bestselling author, Rachael Anderson is the mother of four and is pretty good at breaking up fights, or at least sending guilty parties to their rooms. She can't sing, doesn't dance, and despises tragedies. But she recently figured out how yeast works and can now make homemade bread, which she is really good at eating.
  amazon or paypal $25 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash Giveaway Ends 3/15/17 Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. a Rafflecopter giveaway
Tuesday, February 14, 2017 | By: Taffy

LOVE ME TRUE: Overcoming the Surprising Ways We Decieve in Relationships by Jason B. Whiting, PhD, LMFT

 Even though love should be beautiful and fun, it can also cause emotional ups and downs. In Love Me True, marriage and family therapist Dr. Jason B. Whiting uses engaging, relatable stories to show that deception is often at the root of relationship breakdown and teach how couples can use truth to strengthen their relationships.

•Understand your own tendencies to lie.
•Avoid playing the victim.
•Use body language to communicate more effectively.
•Be present with your partner.

Use Whiting’s counsel to overcome dishonesty and build a more open and trusting partnership.






Opening line:
"The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances:
If there is any reaction, boy are transformed. Carl Jung"

This book would be a good one for those thinking of marriage, engaged or long-time married spouses. Each chapter is full of relationship stories, thoughtful examples and ideas. At the end of each chapter, Mr. Whiting sums up the main points and discussions questions.

There were a lot of insights I took away from the book. Understanding my emotions is a good way to start! Anger, fear, pain can all make me lash out at all those around me without thinking what I'm feeling or saying.

I also learned there's a lot more to dishonesty than lying.

This is a quick read with understandable concepts and not weighed down in a lot of therapy jargon.

Stu Stories: The Adventures of Dirt Clod and His Sidekick Bird Bones by Patrick Hueller SPOTLIGHT!

 You know you want to read this book! Look at this cover! Read the description! Then look at the author picture! 
(Yes, I used a lot of exclamation points. Middle grade books do that!).

Book Summary: Stu Sanderson is no ordinary eighth-grader. Almost seven feet tall, he vanishes into thin air, duels knights with ninja stealth, lifts the downtrodden, and woos the coolest, best-calved girl in school. Become a middle-grade legend with Stu and his sidekick, Bird Bones, on the journey of a lifetime in Stu Stories.

Blurbs:
“Stu and Bird Bones’ adventures are hilarious, sometimes horrifying, and definitely legendary. This book hits on pretty much every topic I cared about when I was a kid (love, Jedis, severed legs, etc.).” —Geoff Herbach, author of Fat Boy vs. the Cheerleaders

“Really fun . . . has tones of Wayside School and Maniac Magee and How Angel Peterson Got His Name.” —Kurtis Scaletta, author of Mudville

 “Stu Stories captures eighth grade life in its finest and wackiest form. A fun-filled zany ride!” —Frank Cole, author of The Afterlife Academy

"“Because I’m Patrick ‘Bird Bones’ Hueller’s brother, people ask me, ‘Did everything in Stu Stories really happen?’ But enough about Patrick. Let’s get back to talking about me.” —Andy Hueller, author of Skipping Stones at the Center of the Earth and other amazing books

 “The more legendary this book becomes, the more legendary I become.” —Stu




Patrick Hueller has an MFA from the University of Minnesota. Through various pen names, he has written several YA and MG novels. Foul, a sports-horror story written under the name Paul Hoblin, was described by Booklist as “the strongest entry yet in the Night Fall collection” and “unbearably tense.” The Beast (also as Paul Hoblin) was a School Library Journal selection. His most recent titles include Wolf High and The Wish (as P.W. Hueller), both of which made SLJ’s list of “Accessible Reads for Struggling Reluctant Readers.” His work is included in several anthologies, including Fright Before Christmas and Love and Profanity: A Collection of True, Tortured, Wild, Hilarious, Concise and Intense Tales of Teenage Life.

Mr. Hueller is a writing instructor at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota. Check out more of his and Stu’s thoughts on Twitter (@callmebirdbones). To contact Patrick you can visit his author website: www.patrickhueller.com. (Stu's a little harder to track down.)
Tuesday, February 7, 2017 | By: Taffy

10 (of my favorite) unforgettable love stories in fiction

There are so many good love stories out there. One of them is mine (had to throw that in there) though my is nonfiction. Shall I tell you the story? I promise you won't get too bored. It involves a foreign country, Americans, and a cute boy.

The summer after I graduated from high school my friends (mostly girls) and I left the US of A to teach English in Taiwan. It was a good gig: good moeny, see new sights, learn different customs.
Ugh. It was a long flight over. Then the humidity was like 100%. And Taipei smelled strange and most people were brown and spoke a different language. The culture shock hit pretty fast.
What was I thinking?
The good thing was I was surrounded by Americans who helped me get a job, figure out which bus to take and how to order food.
The next good thing was I fell in love. I fell in love the people and the culture and food. I LOVED my new home. Oh my word! The adventures I went on, both planned and unplanned. The people I met and the memories I will forever hold close. I was only there for six months but I felt like I left part of myself over there.

A few weeks after I arrived, another group of Americans (all boys) showed up (we all went to church together). They were cute, especially The One. But like most insecure young'uns, I didn't think I had a chance with him. We hung out a lot as our two groups explored the area over the next few months. We became good friends. Then He started asking me out. We went to movies with Chinese subtitles, ate fresh fruit from the night markets and stayed up until the wee hours of the morning talking.
Then it happened...he kissed me! It took him long enough! He'll tell you I was playing hard to get and I'll say he had to earn it.
Me and The Cute Boy
He went home before I did and I missed him. When I flew in to the states, he was waiting at my airport with flowers. A month later he asked me to marry him. A few months later we were married.
Yup! Whirlwind is a perfect adjective to describe our engagement. But why wait when you know deep, deep down, that you were meant to spend the rest of your life with someone?

So, I guess I gave you two love stories: how I met my husband and how I fell for a country.

How about you? Do you have a love story? A book or a dessert or a person you absolutely love? Tell me! 

 Now onto the books. In no particular order I give you some of my all time favorite love stories in fiction:

The Far Pavillions by M. M. Kaye

The Far Pavilions is a story about an Englishman- Ashton Pelham-Martyn -brought up as a Hindu. It is the story of his passionate, but dangerous love for Juli, am Indian princess. It is the story of divided loyalties, of friendship that endures till death, of high adventure and of the clash between East and West.


I LOVE this story! lovelovelove the forbidden love story and adventure.









Finding Sheba (An Omar Zagouri Thriller #1) by H. B Moore

For centuries, historians have speculated that the Queen of Sheba is nothing more than a seductive legend; but when undercover agent Omar Zagouri finds a tomb in a tunnel beneath Jerusalem, he unearths cryptic clues that may lead to the queen’s final resting place.

Dr. Richard Lyon of Brown University, the world’s leading expert on the queen, is found murdered in his office, setting off a chain of deadly events. Omar desperately works to piece together the puzzle to locate the queen’s burial ground, fearing another assassination will take place. He teams up with one of Lyon’s protégées as well as with his ex-girlfriend, agent Mia Golding, in order to unravel the truth about the queen, expose a murderer, and reveal a timeless story of love, revenge, and sacrifice.



I love this series because the author has two love stories going: one ancient and one modern. These stories are well-researched and full of romantic tension as well as thrilling adventures and dangers.

The Wrath and the Dawn

One Life to One Dawn.

In a land ruled by a murderous boy-king, each dawn brings heartache to a new family. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, is a monster. Each night he takes a new bride only to have a silk cord wrapped around her throat come morning. When sixteen-year-old Shahrzad's dearest friend falls victim to Khalid, Shahrzad vows vengeance and volunteers to be his next bride. Shahrzad is determined not only to stay alive, but to end the caliph's reign of terror once and for all.

Night after night, Shahrzad beguiles Khalid, weaving stories that enchant, ensuring her survival, though she knows each dawn could be her last. But something she never expected begins to happen: Khalid is nothing like what she'd imagined him to be. This monster is a boy with a tormented heart. Incredibly, Shahrzad finds herself falling in love. How is this possible? It's an unforgivable betrayal. Still, Shahrzad has come to understand all is not as it seems in this palace of marble and stone. She resolves to uncover whatever secrets lurk and, despite her love, be ready to take Khalid's life as retribution for the many lives he's stolen. Can their love survive this world of stories and secrets?

Inspired by A Thousand and One Nights, The Wrath and the Dawn is a sumptuous and enthralling read from beginning to end.


Just. Just go read this one. Trust me. If you love forbidden love stories, read it.


The Hundredth Queen by Emily R. King
 
As an orphan ward of the Sisterhood, eighteen-year-old Kalinda is destined for nothing more than a life of seclusion and prayer. Plagued by fevers, she’s an unlikely candidate for even a servant’s position, let alone a courtesan or wife. Her sole dream is to continue living in peace in the Sisterhood’s mountain temple.

But a visit from the tyrant Rajah Tarek disrupts Kalinda’s life. Within hours, she is ripped from the comfort of her home, set on a desert trek, and ordered to fight for her place among the rajah’s ninety-nine wives and numerous courtesans. Her only solace comes in the company of her guard, the stoic but kind Captain Deven Naik.

Faced with the danger of a tournament to the death—and her growing affection for Deven—Kalinda’s only hope for escape lies in an arcane, forbidden power that’s buried within her.

In Emily R. King’s thrilling fantasy debut, an orphan girl blossoms into a warrior, summoning courage and confidence in her fearless quest to upend tradition, overthrow an empire, and reclaim her life as her own.

 
So starts one of the best books I've read this year. Why? Why is it one of my favorites? I got sucked into the book, characters, story and couldn't pull myself out. Heart-pounding adventure, romance and intrigue.

Unraveled: A Tale of True Love by Julie Daines

 When sickness swept through Bronwen’s family, it took the life of her father, brother, and sister, and left her permanently crippled. On the stormy eve of her sixteenth birthday, a faerie-witch gifts her a pair of enchanted shoes. Bronwen slips them on and is healed--but only when the shoes are on her feet. Her grace and beauty catches the eye of the king’s son--Urien, a handsome young man who prides himself on having everything perfect.

When Rhys, an old acquaintance and Captain of the Guard, recognizes Bronwen, he threatens to tell Urien her secret. Desperate to keep her deformity hidden and not to lose the love of handsome Urien, Bronwen quickly finds herself tangled in a web of lies and deceit. After all, she can't wear the shoes forever


 This is such a sweet story of being your true self and finding the person who loves you just as you are.


The Thief (The Queen's Thief #1) by Megan Whalen Turner

The king's scholar, the magus, believes he knows the site of an ancient treasure. To attain it for his king, he needs a skillful thief, and he selects Gen from the king's prison. The magus is interested only in the thief's abilities.

What Gen is interested in is anyone's guess. Their journey toward the treasure is both dangerous and difficult, lightened only imperceptibly by the tales they tell of the old gods and goddesses.


Another series that I LOVE! Oh my word, Gen is so complex. This is one series I reread because the twists made me want to go back and read everything that led up to the twist. It was awesome! (The 2nd and 3rd books were my favorite.)




Edenbrooke by Julie Donaldson
 
 Marianne Daventry will do anything to escape the boredom of Bath and the amorous attentions of an unwanted suitor. So when an invitation arrives from her twin sister, Cecily, to join her at a sprawling country estate, she jumps at the chance. Thinking she'll be able to relax and enjoy her beloved English countryside while her sister snags the handsome heir of Edenbrooke, Marianne finds that even the best laid plans can go awry.

From a terrifying run-in with a highwayman to a seemingly harmless flirtation, Marianne finds herself embroiled in an unexpected adventure filled with enough romance and intrigue to keep her mind racing. Will Marianne be able to rein in her traitorous heart, or will a mysterious stranger sweep her off her feet? Fate had something other than a relaxing summer in mind when it sent Marianne to Edenbrooke.


I'm gonna gush.  I love a good, clean, smart book. Throw in romance, a dashing gentleman and lady who can laugh at herself and I'm sold.


 The Kiss of A Stranger (The Jonquil Brothers) by Sarah M. Eden

When Crispin, Lord Cavratt, thoroughly and scandalously kisses a serving woman in the garden of a country inn, he assumes the encounter will be of no consequence. But he couldn't be more mistaken--the maid is not only a lady of birth, she's the niece of a very large, exceptionally angry gentlemen, who claims Crispin has compromised his niece beyond redemption. The dismayed young lord has no choice but to marry Miss Catherine Thorndale, who lacks both money and refinement and assumes all men are as vicious as her guardian uncle.

Trapped between an unwanted marriage and a hasty annulment, which would leave his reputation tainted and Catherine's utterly ruined, Crispin begins guiding his wife's transformation from a socially petrified country girl to a lady of society. Their unfolding relationship reveals encouraging surprises for both of them, and privately each of them wonders if theirs may become a true marriage of the heart. But their hopes are dashed when forces conspire to split asunder what fate has granted. As a battle of wits escalates into a life-threatening confrontation, will it be possible for Crispin and Catherine to live happily ever after?


So many of Ms. Eden's books are worth a mention! But I went with my first one and the one I love. Loved, loved this book. Who doesn't love a good, clean romance? And a Regency Romance is even better.
 


So I'm not going to put the obvious ones on this list.  Like: Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, Wives and Daughters, Romeo and Juliet.  But this next one is a favorite spin off of Pride and Prejudice.

An Assembly Such As This (Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman #1)
 

And so the question has long remained: Who is Fitzwilliam Darcy?

In An Assembly Such as This, Pamela Aidan finally answers that long-standing question. In this first book of her Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman trilogy, she reintroduces us to Darcy during his visit to Hertfordshire with his friend Charles Bingley and reveals Darcy's hidden perspective on the events of Pride and Prejudice. As Darcy spends more time at Netherfield supervising Bingley and fending off Miss Bingley's persistent advances, his unwilling attraction to Elizabeth grows—as does his concern about her relationship with his nemesis, George Wickham.


 This is such a fun spin off from Darcy's point of view.  The middle book is a little wonky but the first and third are great.




 And lastly, I'm going to add the Timeless Romance Anthologies. I know they aren't "books" per se, but I love these quick reads from talented authors. There are so many to choose from! I'm only putting a few covers here: