Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Writing Wednesday: Writing Reviews, Some Do's and Do Not's

Okay, so I've already admitted that I'm reading an awful lot lately. And I'm trying to write reviews for all the good books I've finished - but I've also promised reviews to fellow authors and am having trouble finding the words. 

I once wrote a column for Cape Women Online magazine about how easy it can be to write reviews. I think I need to revisit my own words because I'm getting tongue tied in my prose and praise. It's not that I haven't liked the books. I just can't seem to get the proper words onto the page to convey my feelings. So I'm going to go back and read that article, and while I'm at it I'm going to repost it to share here with you all....

The Write Way: To Review or Not to Review, 
Is That Even a Question?
By Katie O’Sullivan, first printed in CapeWomenOnline magazine Fall 2013

Ah, Fall. The college students are gone and yellow school buses replace sightseers in clogging Cape roadways. Back to School time. Time for backpacks and chalkboards, reading assignments and book reports.

Writing book reviews is a little like when you wrote book reports back in school. Either you choose a book to read or one is assigned to you. You read the book, and then write a brief synopsis and what you liked and didn’t like about the book. Simple, right?

Not so much.

For many people, the idea of writing a book review is a Daunting Task for professionals only, something akin to running a marathon. Or dusting. Other people think writing a review is EXACTLY like writing a book report, and have no qualms about adding spoilers that give away key plot points and basically ruin the story for whoever reads the review. One Blogger friend compared spoilers in reviews to movie trailers that give away all the best scenes.

The truth lies somewhere in the middle.

If you read my blog, you know that I wrote a few times over the summer about the importance of reviews. Reviews on not only help other readers decide to spend their money on a certain book but also help Amazon choose which books to recommend to their online buying audience. The more reviews a book has, the more likely Amazon will be to recommend it to other readers.

Goodreads is another great resource for readers to find reviews by other readers and determine whether a specific book is a good fit for their own reading tastes. Both of these sites are open to the public and have the advantage of letting the reader write whatever they want and grant as many – or as few – stars as they wish.

Plus, writing reviews can be fun – especially if you enjoyed the book!

So what makes a good review, and how do you write one? Well, there’s no one “right” way to write a review, but there are some general guidelines, as well as a few “Don’t Do It” tips that I’d like to share.

What a Review Should Include: “The 5 Ws”

Reviews don’t have to be long or complicated, but they should give the reader a few basics as to who and what the book is about, and what’s different or unique about this author’s take on the subject. My latest book, for instance, is about mermaids… but the main character is Shea MacNamara, a boy (a twist for a mermaid story!) who discovers not only that he’s got mermaid blood running through his veins, but that there’s all kind of palace intrigue going on just off the coast of Cape Cod. He discovers that his roots – and his destiny – lie far below the surface of the Atlantic.

  • Who are the main characters? Tell us their names and something relevant or memorable about each – as they are introduced at the beginning of the book, not who they are at the end.
  • Where and When does the book take place? Is it a Regency romance novel, or science fiction set on Planet Xenon in the late 40th century? A cowboy mystery in West Texas at the turn of this century? Give us a few sentences to set the scene.
  • What is the main conflict? Usually the back-of-book blurb summarizes the plot, and it might be acceptable to use the author’s phrasing for the conflict if you agree with it – but don’t just regurgitate. Tell us in your own words.
  • Why? Why did you like (or not like) the book?  Why do we care about these characters and what happens to them? Why should we spend our money – and our time – reading this book instead of another?


* DON’T just repeat the back-of-book blurb and then say, “I liked it.” Boring! We can read the blurb for ourselves. WHY did you like it? WHAT made it interesting? Tell us!

* DON’T make the review solely a critique of the author’s writing style. Yes, style is important and warrants notice, but a review should be about the story and characters too. And, as an addendum to that…

* DON’T make the review a critique of the author as a person. Have you met the author and loved her? Hated him? Have you written a similar book that you think is much better? None of that is relevant to the review of this particular book.

* DON’T give away key plot points. If one of the key characters dies in a battle scene and the hero has to bring her back to life, DON’T tell us about it! Let us get to that scene in our own sweet time. If it’s a romance, we expect the Happily Ever After, but DON’T tell us which guy the heroine chooses – that ruins all the suspense! And as for mysteries – just DON’T. Giving away whodunit is a big no no.

* DON’T be boring. If the review sounds ho hum, how will it compel others to read the book? Again, focus on WHY you liked the story, the characters, the conflict, the writing…

Think of it this way: You’re having coffee with a friend and tell her you just read a great book. She says, “Tell me about it.” What would you say to explain WHY you loved the book?

Once you’ve answered the basic questions, you’re well on your way to writing a great review. Remember, what makes a review “great” is not the heaping of praise on the author, but helping other readers decide if they’ll enjoy the book.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Monday Book Review: Winter Kisses

Winter Kisses (3AM Kisses, Book 2)
By Addison Moore
Published November 2013

About the Book:
Laney Sawyer used to believe in love and all of the trappings that happily ever after could provide until Ryder Capwell crushed her heart.

When Laney is auctioned off as a prize at the drama department fundraiser the last person she expects to trade cold hard cash for her company is Ryder. Ryder Capwell is in love with Laney Sawyer. One year ago she walked out of his life and took the light of his world right along with her.

Ryder would do anything to have another chance with Laney, including purchasing her for the evening courtesy of Whitney Briggs University, and he does just that. One thing leads to whiskey, which leads to a one-night stand. She thinks it’s revenge sex—he thinks its make up sex.

Things can only go wrong from here...
My Take:

I will admit right upfront that I never read the first novella in this series, and purchased this one when it was a free offering from Book Bub, not realizing it was the second in a series. I don't usually like to jump in midstream, but with this NA college series it didn't seem to matter too much.

Laney and Ryder have a complicated history, more complicated by the fact that her best friend is his sister. And then Ryder "purchases" Laney at a charity auction. She's his for the night, after breaking up and not speaking for an entire year. One thing leads to another, and in vino veritas, as they say, although in this case it involved backstage whiskey. The couple sizzle through several  scenes and hot makeup sex before confronting the root of the problem, his family. Can they survive as a couple if his mom hates her?

I've read a lot of NA at this point, but this was more raw and sexy than I've read. (Maybe the cover should have been a clue, but in my defense the thumbnail was pretty small on my iPad.) The chapters alternate POVs between the two main characters, and both of them hold nothing back in their narration. Graphic descriptions sizzle off the page, just short of erotica. It's not my usual cup of tea, but as a quick hot read it held my interest. If you don't like your romance too graphic, skip this book. (Otherwise grab a copy as a guilty, well-written pleasure.)

Grab your copy on AMAZON

Friday, September 25, 2015

Friday Feature: SWEET CHRISTMAS KISSES 2 ~ available for pre-order

Too early for Christmas stories? Never!
Welcome in the holiday season with 19 heartwarming and wholesome novellas from New York Times, USA Today, national bestselling, and award-winning authors. 

Sweet Christmas Kisses 2 takes you from the Smoky Mountains to Florida’s sun-drenched beaches, from the Italian Alps to Paris, France, and even to a quirky little town in Arizona. The Sweet Christmas Kisses 2 bundle features all-new, stand-alone stories that are sure to make you laugh, sometimes bring tears to your eyes, but always put you in the Christmas spirit. Foreword by New York Times bestselling author, RaeAnne Thayne. 

 On sale September 29, but available NOW for pre-order for ONLY 99 CENTS!

Christmas Papa by Mona Risk, New York Times, USA Today, National bestselling and Award-winning author. With twin toddlers to care for, she can’t forget her past until a playboy’s kisses challenge her to believe in herself. 

Gingerbread Kisses by Beate Boeker, USA Today and National bestselling author. A cookie specialist finds sweet romance in the snowy Alps of Italy. 

Boycotting Christmas by Melinda Curtis, USA Today, National bestselling and Award-winning author. A bachelor seeks Christmas magic from a woman who’s boycotting Christmas. 

A Christmas to Remember by Denise Devine, USA Today, National bestselling and Award-winning author. Stranded together in a blizzard, Katie and Ryan discover the true meaning of Christmas. 

An Angel for Christmas by Raine English, USA Today, National bestselling and Award-winning author. A down-on-her-luck single mom finds love at Christmas. 

The Cowboy’s Christmas Bride by Aileen Fish, USA Today and National bestselling author. A snowstorm and a cow in distress bring a rancher and a veterinary student together for the holidays. 

Lucky Break Christmas: Second Honeymoon by Patricia Forsythe, USA Today, National bestselling and Award-winning author. Christmas is the perfect time to try and make a failed honeymoon go right. 

Beach Walk by Grace Greene, USA Today, National bestselling and Award-winning author. An oceanfront cottage—Kelli lives there; Dylan wants to. Will Christmas give them a do-over at finding happiness? 

An Irish Christmas Blessing by Roxanne Rustand, USA Today, National bestselling and Award-winning author. Eve goes to Ireland to run a quaint village bookshop and meets a stranger who just might steal her heart. 

Christmas Wedding by Magdalena Scott, USA Today and National bestselling author. Second chance love, and a designer dress, in a Christmas card setting. 

Finding You at Christmas by Kristin Wallace, USA Today, National bestselling and Award-winning author. She’s going to find her destiny this Christmas. 

Christmas Laurel by Christine Bush. Can a female army veteran find healing and love with the magic of Christmas? 

Country Christmas by Lois Greiman, Award-winning author. Heartbreak turns to happiness in the healing splendor of the Black Hills of South Dakota. 

The Christmas Crusade by Shanna Hatfield, National bestselling author. Two old flames reunite with a little holiday magic. 

The Christmas Charm by Susan R. Hughes, National bestselling author. Can childhood friendship blossom into love? 

Evergreen Romance by Julie Jarnagin. A couple reunites while working together at a Christmas tree lot. 

My Christmas Cupcake by Shaleen Kapil. A last minute Christmas Eve errand to the bakery cooks up romance. 

A Christmas Spark by Ciara Knight, National bestselling author. An abandoned cabin becomes a healing home for the holidays. 

Sweet Blizzard by Milou Koenings. He saves her life, she could make or break his; will the gift of love come in time for Christmas? 
* * * * *
My review coming soon! And yeah, I realize it's not even Halloween yet, but who can resist a good Christmas romance? 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Writing Wednesday: What's in a Title?

Let's talk about book titles.

I've posted before about judging a book by its cover (and how it can affect sales) but what about judging by titles?  Think of it like naming your baby. It's not something any author should take lightly.

The title is the first piece of information the reader has about the story, sometimes in conjunction with the cover, sometimes without. Similar to naming a baby, an author spends copious amounts of time choosing just the right title, one that helps convey the tone of the book and attracts readers who will be interested in this story.  I admit that I've been drawn to books many times by an intriguing title, only to read the blurb and realize the book isn't for me. Sometimes the opposite is true. Check out this book as an example.

I hate this title. I also don't care much for the cover as it looks like erotica, not my cup of tea. But it was recommended to me and the blurb convinced me to try reading it... so I bought and downloaded it to my Kindle.


When I didn't get to it right away, I forgot why the heck I downloaded it. I don't like the cover. I really don't like the title. I couldn't remember why I wanted to read it or who had recommended it to me.

It sat there gathering virtual dust in my Kindle library.

Saturday morning I finished the YA I was reading to review, and the ending was abrupt, leaving me wanting to read something else right away. (Does anyone else ever get that feeling? Some books you want to savor in your mind, and others you want to wash away in the waves of another story.)

So I scrolled way down through my library, deleting books I'd long ago read or tried to read and disliked too much to finish. I came across My Sunny Vampire and almost auto-deleted it, but decided that wasn't fair. So I opened it up... And got sucked right in. Finished it in a day and was left feeling satisfied.

Well written and well paced, the author uses two distinct voices to give readers the he said/she said views of both sides of the budding relationship. This paranormal romance hit all the right chords for a satisfying romance with suspenseful twists and the right amount of mystery. I thoroughly enjoyed being immersed in this world with these characters and loved every minute of the story. The ending satisfied, while leaving enough threads to make me want to read the next book in the series.


There's that title and cover. How do I reconcile that? And this isn't a self published novel, it's from a New York house, published in 2014 by Lyrical Press, a division of Kensington Publishing.

Which I guess means even the big boys get it wrong sometimes. Because this is a really fun read, in really bad packaging.

What do you think about titles and covers? Have you ever bought a book because of a great title or cover and hated it? Or have you had an experience like mine where the opposite came true?

Monday, September 21, 2015

Monday Book Review: Asylum Harbor by Isla Grey #TWRP

Asylum Harbor, by Isla Grey
Published September 16, 2015 by The Wild Rose Press

About the Book:
Trouble is the last thing Devon Brown needs when she leaves the painful memories of her past behind and heads to Shell Island. As the Salty Dog’s new bartender, she finds herself drawn to Kerr, the Shell Island harbormaster. But finding her happily-ever-after is difficult when dealing with an obnoxious bootlegger who supplies the bar with illegal liquor and a jealous coworker.  
A standoffish loner with damaged emotions, Kerr avoids relationships like the plague. Things change when Devon catches his eye. As a simple flirtation grows serious, the coworker and bootlegger quickly become obstacles to any future Kerr and Devon may have together. As the situation worsens, Devon realizes that even the still waters of Asylum Harbor are no refuge during a storm.

My Take:

Devon Brown is a young woman on the run, not from the law but from her abusive stepmother and stepsister. She's taken as much as she's willing to and is looking for a clean start. She's a strong character, no longer willing to take crap from others and always speaking the truth.

A friend finds her a bartending job on a barrier island that's popular with tourists and fishermen but also a pretty isolated and insular community. She quickly gets to know the locals, one in particular who makes her heart race despite his surly behavior.

 Harbormaster Kerr is handsome, brooding, and  not the trusting sort, but somehow Devon eases her way into his heart. He's been lied to in the past and made mistakes that hurt people he loved, and is quick to believe he deserves anything bad that comes his way, but not as quick to admit his feelings for Devon or talk through problems when they arise.

And of course problems arise. Trouble rears its ugly head in the form of a few nasty locals with their own agendas, keeping the story racing along a wild roller coaster of highs and lows through several misunderstandings and several chilling fight scenes.

This was a fast-paced novella that I really wish had been a full-length story. The characters were so complicated and layered, I wanted to learn more about each and every one of them. The back stories were outlined but not fleshed out, which is fine in a story this length, but like I said, I wanted more! The author does a wonderful job in making us care about these characters with so few words, and covering lots of ground time-wise without making the story feel too jumpy.

If you're looking for a quick satisfying romance with a hint of mystery, and a smattering of danger, I recommend Asylum Harbor. But if you're like me, be warned that while satisfying, you may end up wanting more. Ms. Grey better have a few more books in the works!

I received an ARC of this book before publication in exchange for my honest review.

Grab your copy on AMAZON

Friday, September 18, 2015

#amreading versus #amwriting - which is more important?

I'll admit it. I've been escaping into books way more this year than I've been getting word count onto the pages. It's like I have a tapeworm in my brain that needs to be fed constantly.

Is it a bad thing?


Is it getting my next book written? You know, the one that's supposed to be to the editor by October 1st?

Um, no. Not really.

On the one hand, reading soothes the soul and helps fill the creative well. I love seeing how other authors craft scenes or describe situations and places with beautiful phrases and lyrical language. Even mediocre books can have moments of sheer awe-inspiring beauty written into them.

On the other hand... well, it's getting out of hand. I barely finish reading one before starting the next, and sometimes forget to slow down to write the review, even when I've promised it to an author. Not good. It's almost like I need a 12-step program to get a handle on my reading problem. There's no way I'm gonna quit cold-turkey. That's reee-diculous!

Advice? Ideas? How do other authors handle this dilemma?

Is it even a dilemma?

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Writing Wednesday: Guest Blogging with Anna Durand

Today I'm visiting romance author Anna Durand on her blog SPUNK AND HUNKS, talking about my latest release, CRAZY ABOUT YOU, and how so much of it is based on reality.

Not all of it. The dead body? I totally made that up.

The Atlantic garbage gyre? Yeah, that's real. And that's pretty scary.

Hop over and say hi - here's the link:

And if you haven't checked out CRAZY ABOUT YOU, grab a copy today!

Monday, September 14, 2015

Monday Book Review: Beneath the Lake, by Casi McLean #TWRP

Beneath the Lake, by Casi McLean
Published August 5, 2015 by The Wild Rose Press

About the Book:
Reeling from her boyfriend’s indiscretions at a party, Lacey Montgomery escapes into the throes of a torrential storm. Her car spins out of control and hurtles into the depths of an icy, black lake. She awakens in the arms of a handsome stranger, in a place she’s never heard of—thirty-four years before she was born.

Bobby Reynolds is smitten the moment the storm-ravaged woman opens her eyes. Learning the truth about her origin does nothing to stop the passion taking root in his heart and leaves him torn between finding a way to return Lacey to her time and convincing her stay with him.

Will the couple be able to discover the key to a mysterious portal before time rips them apart? Or will their spirits wander forever through a ghost town buried beneath the lake?

My Take:

First, can I gush a little about the cover? LOVE it! Sweet but menacing at the same time. I'm not sure that's how I picture the hero, but the artist got the heroine so right! Okay, on to the story...

I love time travel novels, especially when they offer something unique. In Beneath the Lake, author Casi McLean gives readers a new and interesting twist with a novel that shifts back and forth to give us different perspectives on events through time as they happen "simultaneously."

The book starts firmly in the present, or so the reader thinks. Lacey Madison Montgomery is an Atlanta lawyer with some pretty big chips on her shoulder when it comes to relationships. The final straw comes when she finds her boyfriend in flagrante delicto with another woman at a benefit ball. She storms off into the night and crashes her car, sliding into the lake and losing consciousness.

She awakens in 1949, in the arms of a handsome stranger who helps her get her bearings and stirs feelings she'd given up on long ago. He also seems to live in a place that no longer exists, having been flooded to create a man-made lake in Lacey's present, adding to the miscommunications between them. As I mentioned, she has some issues to work through, but 1949 seems to be the perfect time and place for her to slow down and figure out what she wants out of life and love.

Bobby Reynolds is handsome, polite, and his every innocent touch fills Lacie with heat and longing, although the author keeps the storyline PG-13, with sizzling kisses and closed bedroom doors. A WWII veteran, Bobby is the consummate gentleman. It's obvious to the reader, if not to Lacey, that he soon falls head over heels for this gal from the future.

This is not a fast read, as the chapters zips between present, recent past, and the long ago past that Lacie finds herself stuck in and not wanting to leave. The author also shifts between the first person POV of Lacey's perspective to third person narrative to give the alternate timelines.

All in all? A different take on a time travel romance that kept me turning pages well into the night. A really interesting story and solid read from a new-to-me author. I recommend this novel and look forward to seeing what Casi McLean writes next!

I received an ARC of this novel in exchange for my honest review. And I honestly loved it.

Grab your copy on AMAZON

Friday, September 11, 2015

Friday Feature: COVER REVEAL for my next book!

I'm in love with the cover artists at The Wild Rose Press! This is my latest cover for my next release with them, a paranormal tale of ghosts and family secrets. If you're one of the ten very kind people who read my first published book in 2009, the plot may sound familiar...

The rest of you may have read in the press about the troubles authors have had with Ellora's Cave Publishing. They were my first publisher, and my first book was titled Unfolding the Shadows. But. It didn't sell well and I received very little in way of royalties. After several requests, I finally received my rights back and took a hard look at the storyline. There were holes. Gaping holes. The editor should have kicked my butt. The book didn't deserve to sell well. In my case, maybe it wasn't EC's fault.

I went back to basics, and rewrote it. Sent it out for beta reads. And rewrote again. The Wild Rose Press signed the new version for release, with a new title and cover. I'm not trying to fool anyone by re-packaging the story. But I'm very excited to reach a lot of new readers, and give my book the chance it deserved the first time around. I don't have a release date yet, but I'm hoping for a November/December date. Will let you know when I do!

About the Book:

Jillian Rogers Greene worked hard to close the doors on the psychic abilities that defined her youth. For years she pretended to be normal, ignoring the ghosts who whisper to her. When a car crash sets her on a collision course with the past, ugly secrets about her family and marriage come to light. She's forced to reevaluate what she thought she knew...and exactly what the future holds.
Connor Sanderson might be the key to unlocking that future. The grey-eyed artist knows ghosts aren’t real, but his attraction to the beautiful psychic makes him question those beliefs. With her husband plotting to kill her, can Jillian make Connor see the truth before it’s too late?
Ghosts don’t lie. But they don’t always tell the whole story.