“The Map That Leads to You”–Review

517U90EoYSL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Good evening, bloggers! Here’s my review of The Map That Leads to You.

The main character, Heather, has just finished college. Now she and her best friends are about to travel throughout Europe, to enjoy life before beginning their new lives. When it comes to everyday life, Heather has always been organized. Everything will work out, she tells herself. During their train ride to Amsterdam, however, Heather meets Jack. Unlike Heather, Jack lives by his own rules, while following his grandfather’s journals throughout Europe.

It isn’t long before Heather and Jack are drawn to each other. During their travels, it is Jack who shows Heather how to truly live, to not live life based on daily itineraries. Although they have their many disagreements when it comes to living life and the corporate world, their feelings for each other become stronger, leading Heather to make new choices about her life. But, then, she learns of a secret Jack has kept for quite some time. Will it change everything, though?

I loved reading about all the many cities in Europe and I’m sure I’m not the only one to say this, but I really hope to, one day, visit these places, to fall in love with my surroundings.  I’ve stumbled upon dozens of beautiful travel journals and told myself that I’ll have the opportunity to use one, someday. It all sounds as wonderful and romantic as this book is. For all of the wanderlusts, I recommend this book. Feel free to post your comments. Happy reading!

The Map That Leads to You will be available on June 13, 2017.

*I received this copy from St. Martin’s Press, in exchange for an honest review.

About the author: J.P. Monninger is an award-winning writer in New England and professor of English at Plymouth State University.

“In America”–Review

51Yi1la3zHL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_Hello, all!  I just finished reading In America, the final installment of the Wayfarer Trilogy, by Nina Romano, so here’s my review.

This coming-of-age story introduces the beautiful Marcella Scimenti.  She’s headstrong, outspoken, and knows what she wants.  Oftentimes, she can be stubborn and drive her parents crazy.  She has the affection of a neighborhood boy and friend, Gianni Simoni, including the love of her large Italian family in 1920s Brooklyn.  Marcella also is a singer who aspires to one day have a singing career in Hollywood; however, a career in the performing arts is frowned upon by her parents.  Regardless of what anyone says, Marcella is determined to pursue her goals.

Throughout her journey, Marcella  learns to balance new friendships, new suitors, and her life in the working world with certain expectations of her tradition-bound family, all the while having to accept changes during the economic depression.  Just when she thinks things are starting to look up for her, Marcella learns of a devastating family secret, putting her to a test of loyalty, faith, and love. But can Marcella swallow her pride and see what’s been in front of her the whole time?

I’m happy to have had the opportunity to read this book.  I’d recently read Lemon Blossoms, which is the second book in the trilogy.  The first book is The Secret Language of Women.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get the chance to read that one (I couldn’t find it at my library).  Although the first two books should give you an idea of the stories and characters, I don’t think you’d have to read them in order.  Nevertheless, I did enjoy the stories.  It makes me want to see Italy, someday, as well as New York.  There also were particular Italian foods mentioned in the books, which sounded so tempting.  Aside from that, the characters were likable and the stories were beautiful, providing some advice to think about, in my opinion.

Feel free to post your comments.  Happy reading!

In America will be on sale July 19, 2016.

*I received this copy from Turner Publishing, in exchange for an honest review.

About the author: Nina Romano earned an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from FIU.  She’sa world traveler and lover of history.  She lived in Rome, Italy, for 20 years, and is fluent in Italian and Spanish.  She authored a short story collection, The Other Side of the Gates, and has published five poetry collections and two poetry chapbooks.  Her most recent collection is Westward: Guided by Starfalls and Moonbows.  Romano has been nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize.  For more info, click here.

“Jane Steele”–Review

612JGgVEC0L._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_A tenacious orphan takes Jane Eyre as her idol, and justice into her own hands.

“Reader, I murdered him.”

When she was a child, Jane Steele suffered at the hands of her spiteful aunt, including her predatory cousin.  Then she is sent off to a boarding school, where she has to fight to survive more torment, until she decides to escape the school and flee to London.

Years later, Jane is informed that her aunt has died and her childhood home, Highgate House, has a new master, Mr. Charles Thornfield—an army doctor returned from the Sikh Wars—who is seeking a new governess for the nine-year-old ward in his care.  Determined to find out if she is the rightful heiress of the house, Jane takes the position and learns of the new residents in Highgate House—Mr. Thorfield and Mr. Sardar Singh, whose history with Mr. Thornfield seems far deeper and darker than it appears.

As Jane gets to know the two, she becomes aware of their violent history.  When she begins to fall in love with Mr. Thornfield, Jane faces a dilemma: Can she make him hers without having to reveal her own, murderous past?

This is a satirical romance based on Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte.  I’ve not yet read Jane Eyre; however, I’ll get around to it.  I’ve heard positive things about it, after all.  As for Jane Steele, I wasn’t too crazy about the story.  It wasn’t all that bad, I’ll admit.  I liked the dialogue.  The characters were were convincing, but the book just didn’t excite me.  Perhaps you’ll like it, though, especially if you’re a fan of Jane Eyre.  

As always, feel free to post your comments.  Happy reading!

Jane Steele will be available on April 12, 2016.

*I received this Advance copy in a giveaway, from Penguin Random House, for an honest review.

About the author: Lyndsay Faye is the internationally bestselling author of Dust and Shadow; The Gods of Gotham; Seven for a Secret; and The Fatal Flame.  She lives in Queens with her husband, Gabriel.

“Not After Everything”–Review and Q & A

NAE-Book-iPadA gritty but hopeful love story about seizing the present, healing from the past, and embracing the future.

The main character is Tyler Blackwell, a senior in high school.  So far, everything is going well for him.  He has a football scholarship to Stanford, a hot girlfriend, and an army of friends on his side.  Unfortunately, after his mom commits suicide, Tyler lets it all go, his future remaining bleak.  Not only is Tyler left to deal with his grief, every day he tries to dodge his drunken father who is verbally and physically abusive.  To top it off, his father refuses to support him, financially.

Since he’s in desperate need of money, Tyler takes on a new job at a photography studio, working alongside his former childhood friend, Jordyn, who’s now an angry-loner goth-girl.  As they get to know each other more, Tyler is unexpectedly provided reprieve from his chaotic world.  Because of it, he realizes he’s also falling for Jordyn.  However, when his father’s brutally unpredictable behavior shows more and more, Tyler is afraid that he’ll end up bringing Jordyn into his violent home.  But he has to make a choice: will he allow Jordyn to show him the path to a better future, or will he just let his current struggles destroy him?

I’ve read a few YA novels that had some good stories, but Not After Everything was definitely worth the read, in my opinion.  During some scenes, I was close to shedding a tear.  I shook my head in sympathy and thought about others who really can relate to this story.

As always, feel free to post your comments.

Happy reading!

About the author: Michelle Levy is from Denver, Colorado, and now lives in Los Angeles, California, where she works as a casting director for film and television on projects such as Six Feet Under, Deadwood, Bruce Almighty, and more.  Not After Everything is her debut novel.  For more on the author, click here.

My Q & A with Michelle Levy

  • Congratulations on your debut novel, Not After Everything.  Was this a project you’ve had in mind for some time?  Is the story, including the main character, Tyler Blackwell, based on events you know or know of?

M: Thank you! It actually wasn’t something I had in mind until it came to me. I was in the shower—where we all do our best thinking, right?—when I “heard” some dialog between this very angry golden boy and his former best friend and I just kind of let the characters guide me from there.

  • This story was a page-turner for me.  In fact, certain scenes had me shaking my head in sympathy.  I don’t want to spoil anything for those who’ve not yet read your novel, so I’ll ask about the scenes with Tyler and his father.  Were they difficult for you to write?

M: My writing style is sort of like method acting, where I try to really become the character. Those scenes were extremely painful to write. There was crying involved.

  • On your website, although you pursued a career in film and television, you’ve expressed your wanting to be a writer.  Are there any stories you’ve written in the past? What are your writing interests?

M: I never really admitted, to myself even, that I really wanted to be a writer until after I finished my first manuscript. I was thirty-two. And even then I had a hard time owning that title—writer—until my book sold. It just seemed like something people much smarter than I were. How could I be one? Ah, good old self-doubt.

Not After Everything was my fifth completed manuscript. The other four were paranormal and urban fantasy, which I still really love writing. I’m just such a fan of the what if; I hope to go back to writing that someday. I also really enjoy exploring psychology and psychological disorders.

  • Do you have favorite authors who’ve motivated your writing this book?

M: I was probably subconsciously motivated by my favorite book: The Catcher in the Rye. That book just really spoke to me. I remember reading it in ninth grade and thinking this is how I think! This is my inner voice! I don’t know what that says about me. :/ I was also inspired by The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp (I absolutely heart Sutter Keely!), Forgive me Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick, Looking For Alaska by John Green, and Where She Went by Gayle Forman.

  • Do you have advice for aspiring writers?

M: Don’t be afraid to write a bad first draft! I’m a fast drafter, and let me tell you, those first drafts aren’t pretty. But my feeling is that if you word vomit the story out, just finish it and get it all on the page, you then have something to mold into a beautiful work of art. The biggest thing I hear from other writers is that they have a hard time finishing anything. I’ll bet it’s because they’re being hard on themselves and editing as they go. Some days you hate your writing and some days you think you’re Shakespeare. If you’re having a hate-your-writing day and get discouraged in the middle of a story, there’s no wonder why you want to put it away. That’s why I word vomit. I don’t give myself a chance to hate my stuff until I’m revising. It’s harder to give up on a finished draft.

  • Will there be another novel?

M: Many, I hope! I’m working on another contemporary novel now, but I have no official news to share at the moment. Keep an eye out for updates. Hopefully soon!

“If the Shoe Fits”—A Review

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If the Shoe Fits, by Sandra D. Bricker, is the story of a woman’s comical journey for her own happily-ever-after.

Julianne Bartlett is a young attorney who is setting out to start her own law firm in Ohio with her long-time best friend, Will Hanes.  Even though she’s never been able to find the right man—which always winds up with her tripping over Will—Julianne has waited a lifetime for her own Prince Charming to show up on his white steed.  When they were in grade school, Will rode up on his 10-speed bike.  But it’s almost impossible to meet the right man in the middle of a cul-de-sac, right?  Perhaps.  Perhaps not.

While on her way to her new office, Julianne is on a busy intersection when she sees a mysterious man who leaves behind his toolbox and work boot while rescuing a dog.  Almost immediately, Julianne is in love with this mysterious Prince Charming.  He’s gorgeous, as well as an animal lover.  Julianne is determined to meet him, so she sets out to track her prince down.  When she finally meets him, however, her prince just appears to be less and less charming.  Nevertheless, Julianne is willing to do almost anything to convince herself, including her friends and family, that this Prince Charming is a sign from God.

Honestly, it’s just funny as to how we tend to behave when we fall hard for someone.  Throughout my reading this book, there were times when I wanted to tell Julianne that enough is enough, for she was going a bit too far.  But that’s what makes a convincing story.  Although the story was just a bit predictable for me, I did like where it was leading, including the comedy. I’m not really a fan of romance novels, but this one wasn’t too bad. If you’re a fan of romantic comedies, this book is for you.

Happy reading!

FTC Disclosure: I received this free copy from Moody Publishers in exchange for an honest review.  The opinions are based on my own experience.

“A Broken Kind of Beautiful”–A Review

cover

Sometimes everything you ever learned about yourself is wrong.

A Broken Kind of Beautiful, by Katie Ganshert, is the story of a twenty-four-year-old model, Ivy Clark.  Having been exposed to the world of fashion and modeling since she was fourteen, Ivy has learned along the way the only truth behind it all—appearances are everything.  No exceptions.  As long as she looks beautiful, nothing else should matter, not even her broken past.  Another fact hits Ivy hard, however.  Her twenty-fifth birthday is nearing.  In the modeling industry, no one wants a model who is getting closer to her mid-twenties.  They want fresh, younger faces.  Because modeling is all that Ivy knows, she pushes her uncle/agent, Bruce, to find her more jobs, any jobs.

An opportunity comes along when Ivy moves from the fashion industry in New York to a quaint island town in Greenbrier, South Carolina, to be the new face of her stepmother’s bridal wear line.  Although Ivy isn’t ecstatic about the idea, she takes the temporary job with her stepmother in hopes that she’ll be able to land a new modeling job in New York once it’s all over.

Little does Ivy know that her future will all depend on her photographer, Davis Knight.  As she and Davis work together, Ivy realizes that–just like her–Davis has a broken past of his own.  He walked away from the kind of success that Ivy longs for to end up doing maintenance work at a local church.  Ivy becomes determined to get Davis to open up to her about the dreams he has given up, all the while Ivy works hard to keep her own past in the dark.

Do I recommend this book?  As a matter of fact, yes.  I really enjoyed the story.  The story is emotional and provides some heartfelt moments. I liked reading all about Ivy’s life and how she was coming to terms with her own past, as well as what really defines true beauty.  Although I’d recommend this book for fans of romance novels, I believe it’s worth the read.  This book is now available, which can be found here.

Author info: Katie Ganshert is the author of Wildflowers from Winter and Wishing on Willows.  She lives in Iowa with her husband and their son.  When she’s not busy writing or playing or reading or snuggling, she is obsessing over the paperwork and the waiting that comes with adoption.

FTC Disclosure: I received this free copy from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.  The opinions are my own, based on my own experience.