I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.
A decade after he broke her heart, a young Princess must put herself on the line once more in order to save her kingdom by working with the rockstar she fell in love with in author Angelina M. Lopez’s “Hate Crush”, the second in the Filthy Rich series.
A fake relationship could help Princesa Sofia save her kingdom. Only problem: She’ll have to fake it with the man who broke her heart.
Ten years ago, wild child Princesa Sofia Maria Isabel de Esperanza y Santos fell in fast crazy love with heartbreaker Aish Salinger during one California harvest season. Now, all grown up and with the future of her kingdom on her shoulders, she hates him as passionately as she once loved him.
Even if her body hasn’t gotten the hate memo.
Faking a relationship with the now-famous rock star for the press and public will ensure the success of her new winery and prosperity of her kingdom. All she has to do is grit her teeth and bear his tattooed presence in her village and winery—her home—for a month.
Trying to recover from his own scandal, fallen superstar Aish Salinger jumps at the chance to be near Sofia again. Leaving her was the biggest mistake he’s ever made, and he’s waited ten years to win her back.
He never counted on finding a woman who despised him so much she didn’t want to be anywhere near him.
A war of wills breaks out as the princess and rock star battle to control their fake relationship. She wants to dictate every action to keep him away from her. He wants to be as close as he can be. She’s already lost so much because of Aish—e won’t be the reason her people lose even more.
But he also won’t make her break her life’s most important vow: To never fall in love again.
Read Filthy Rich Book One, Lush Money, available now from Carina Press!
A fantastic read! The author does an amazing job of creating a narrative for readers new to the series and fans of the first novel as well. The characters are well-rounded as they are filled with rich history not only between one another but by themselves as well, making their story shine even brighter.
The story does a great job of bringing readers fully into the romance aspect of the narrative, making the tension and pain of their history together that much more engaging as a reader. However the inclusion of mystery and intrigue surrounding aspects of their shared past make this a good little mystery as well, giving an added layer of connectivity to the characters overall.
A truly wonderful and engaging read, author Angelina M. Lopez and her novel “Hate Crush” is an evenly paced, heart-pounding read that readers will not be able to put down. A wonderful and rich cast of characters and entertaining story make this a must-read contemporary romance, so be sure to grab your copy today!
Angelina M. Lopez wrote “arthur” when her kindergarten teacher asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up. In the years since she learned to spell the word correctly, she’s been a journalist for an acclaimed city newspaper, a freelance magazine writer, and a content marketer for small businesses. Finally, she found her way back to “author.”
Angelina writes sexy, contemporary stories about strong women and the confident men lucky enough to fall in love with them. The fact that her parents own a vineyard in California’s Russian River Valley might imply a certain hedonism about her; it’s not true. She’s a wife and a mom who lives in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. She makes to-do lists with perfectly drawn check boxes. She checks them with glee.
You can find more about her at her website, AngelinaMLopez.com.
And now, an excerpt of Hate Crush (Filthy Rich #2) by Angelina M. Lopez…
Aish pulled the bud out of his ear and straightened, never taking his eyes off her as he held it out. When she took the bud from him, she let her fingers linger. His fingertips were warm and that tiny touch sent a frisson down her arm.
She unwrapped the headphones from around her neck and stuffed them into her back pocket. But she didn’t move back.
“I’m a musician,” he said, voice low.
A corner of his mouth went up. “What else do you know?”
That he made every millimeter of her skin buzz. That he smelled like boy and sweat and ocean salt. She hated the nose-clogging scent of cologne. There was nothing fake about the way this boy smelled.
She pulled her long braid over her shoulder and tugged on it. “You’re from LA, your father designs clothes, your mother is a famous fitness instructor. Y…you’re very good at surfing, singing, partying, working harder on less sleep than everyone else and…oh, sí, ménage à trois.”
Shock, mortification, and humor created a palette across his expressive face. “Who said I’m good at threesomes?”
Sofia ran a hand down her braid and shrugged, all Spanish cool. “No sé. I keep my nose to myself. It’s everyone else who talks.”
When he grinned this time, he looked like he might lean down and taste her. “And what does everyone say about you?”
Sofia worked to maintain her smile. She wanted to be no one to nobody. She wanted to have nothing said about her. But even if she’d lived a cloistered life in a high tower, her story would be marred with her parents’ dramas and affairs and fights, ugly public episodes that stripped Sofia of dignity without her involvement. And Princesa Sofia hadn’t lived a cloistered life. Maintaining her dignity hadn’t been high on her list when she’d mooned the crowd from atop a Semana Santa float in Cádiz or when she’d waved drunkenly to the paparazzi from a movie star’s hotel balcony when she was supposed to be presented to the Queen of England. She’d been neither drunk nor sleeping with the star. But her humiliated mother had abandoned the duke’s bedroom she’d been occupying to drag Sofia back to the Monte.
She didn’t want to think about her scandalous past. She didn’t want to think about the demands of her future. All Sofia wanted right now was to be a dirty, half-naked girl wrapped around a beautiful boy in a wine tank.
“I know some stuff about you,” Aish said quietly.
Sofia focused on the air in front of his face and ran her hand down her braid.
“Your name’s Sofia. That’s…really fucking pretty.” He hadn’t said Princess Sofia. He hadn’t said Sofia de
Esperanza y Santos. Just Sofia. And he thought it was pretty. She focused again on his eyes.
“You’ve got a great accent.” The air between them felt like it was warming up. “You like grunt work, which is so hot it kinda hurts.”
Nothing about her royal status. Nothing about her reputation. He’d just arrived; perhaps none of the interns had told him about the princess in their midst. Perhaps his uncle had just said, “Make sure the new intern hasn’t passed out. Her name is Sofia.”
“You’re not wearing a bra.” Her mouth opened at that, surprised, as his eyed gripped shut. “I noticed and if you noticed I noticed, I’m sorry ’cause I don’t want you to think I’m a total fucking creeper and scare you away…”
“I don’t think you’re a creeper,” she said, reaching to brush her fingers over his clenched fist. Her breasts were so small she seldom wore a bra. But this boy acted like they were an irresistible temptation.
Aish opened his eyes. “Are you for real?”
Sofia smiled up at him, feeling helpless and foolish and floating.
“I mean, am I having some weird acid flashback?” His urgency seemed to express that it was a real possibility.
“Wouldn’t I be having one, too?” she asked. “And I’ve never done acid.”
“No, no.” He was a lit fuse aimed in her direction. “This could be my own personal hallucination. Because, what the fuck. My uncle tells me to go check on the new intern and inside a tank is a kick-ass, bare-skinned fairy girl listening to elf music. I feel like I’m tripping. Am I?”
With amazement beaming from her, Sofia shook her head.
He reacted like she’d punched him. “Fuck. Your smile. Can I kiss you?”
I suppose it’s arguable that everything I’ve ever read about the era in which the Second Son Chronicles are set has, in some way, influenced the creation of the narratives. After all, there’s a certain amount of osmosis that happens with every book we enjoy. But within that broad-brush landscape, some highlights do stand out (in no particular order).
Alison Weir’s non-fiction has been a rich source of details about life in Medieval and Renaissance times. Regardless of the specific subject, her books describe in great depth what daily life was like during these periods – it’s an immersive experience, and the osmosis factor helped me to create the world of the Chronicles.
I also found inspiration in Ken Follett’s Kingsbridge series, particularly The Pillars of the Earth and World Without End. Follett’s detailed depiction of the building of the great Gothic cathedrals got me thinking about architecture, engineering, and building from Roman times through the Renaissance and led to the inclusion of some building projects in my own books. His narrative of the inventive ways that those outside mainstream medicine of the day began to understand the nature of the spread of infection and the importance of hygiene and other methods for containing it helped inspire my own exploration of how people dealt with disease over six hundred years ago.
Whether it’s in the shield wall with Uhtred of Bebbanburg or in the fields of Agincourt with Henry V, Bernard Cornwell doesn’t shy away from the gritty and brutal realism of the battlefields of long ago. My battle scenes pale by comparison to Cornwell’s ability to bring the sights and sounds and stench and fear and blood-lust of medieval war to life. But I happily acknowledge my debt to him for showing how to make my battles more realistic than they might otherwise have been.
While the time period is much earlier than that of my stories, Jack Whyte’s re-imagining of the Arthurian legends in his Camulod Chronicles influenced a number of decisions I made for my own series. Whyte postulates a world that might have existed in post-Roman Britain and an entirely realistic history that could, in the absence of any surviving written record, have been the basis for the legends. So what does this have to do with the Second Son Chronicles?
My stories are set at the dawn of the Renaissance, a time when so much is well-known about the characters and events of northern Europe. Asking readers to accept that an entirely different set of royalty, nobility, and events could have existed seemed like too great a suspension of disbelief. But if Whyte could create an entirely imagined history, why couldn’t I create an imagined setting for my own narrative? If readers notice some similarities to northern Europe, then perhaps that only adds to the flavor of the world where my characters play out their lives.
I hope you enjoy reading the Second Son Chronicles as much as I’ve enjoyed bringing the stories to life.
At the dawn of the Renaissance, Alfred – the eponymous second son – must discover the special destiny foreseen for him by his grandfather. Now, the unthinkable has happened: Alfred’s brother is king. And it isn’t long before everyone’s worst fears are realized. Traditional allegiances are shattered under a style of rule unknown since the grand bargain that formed the kingdom was struck over two hundred years ago. These will be the most dangerous years of Alfred’s life, forcing him to re-examine his duty to personal honor and to the kingdom, while the threats posed by his brother constantly remind him of his father’s final words of advice. What choices will he have to make to try to protect the things he holds most dear?
Pamela Taylor brings her love of history to the art of storytelling in the Second Son Chronicles. An avid reader of historical fact and fiction, she finds the past offers rich sources for character, ambiance, and plot that allow readers to escape into a world totally unlike their daily lives. She shares her home with two Corgis who frequently reminder her that a dog walk is the best way to find inspiration for that next chapter.
What goes better in the morning than a muffin? Join us as we celebrate the launch of Pamela Taylor’s blog tour for her book Pestilence. You can read an interview with the author and enter to win the first three books in her series “The Second Son Chronicles.”
I am honored to share with you a fantastic guest blog post from author and poet Elizabeth Hazen, as part of the wonderful blog tour for “Girls Like Us”.
For Christmas, which seems like three lifetimes ago, my parents gave my husband a book of interesting words from around the world*. An engineer who has a soft spot for spoonerisms, puns, and wordplay in every form, he found instant delight in this book. Did you know that Germans have a word for the weight we gain from stress-eating? Kummerspeck. Or that the Scots have a word for that awkward pause when you’ve forgotten the name of the person you’re introducing? Tartle. Among my favorites are the whimsical Swedish smultronställe, a place of wild strawberries; the romantic Italian dormiveglia, the space between sleeping and waking; and the essential Japanese tsundoku, that pile of unread books on my bedside table that grows with each passing month.
Needless to say, I took that book of words from my husband, adding one more to my stack.
Getting through my tsundoku – or at least managing it – is one of my goals for this summer. I am a teacher, and the summer brings with it the beautiful freedom of longer days and fewer responsibilities, but the lack of structure –ironically, frustratingly, and inevitably – invites bad habits and a gradual decline into despair over the time I fear I am wasting. As a result, I know I need to impose some kind of schedule – a routine that will keep me on track. Part of that routine, I have decided, will include reading more poetry.
One of the lessons I most love to teach to my seventh-grade students involves defining poetry. We examine a range of definitions – the top of our heads being blown off, the best words in the best order, language at its most distilled and most powerful. We can debate the specifics, note our preferences, but that words are the poet’s medium is indisputable. Imperfect, delicious, malleable, living, breathing words. It is my love of words that I always return to during the darkest moments, and boy are these days dark.
In a review of my recent collection, Girls Like Us, Nandini Bhattacharya defines the poem as “ineffable interrogator, ethicist and chronicler of human history.” Indeed, I certainly have found more accuracy and truth in poems than in the newspaper, more solace in poems than in meditation or exercise, more freedom in poems than in the endless walks I take to escape the confines of quarantine. As when I was in the thick of adolescent depression, poems come to rescue me, to remind me that the legacy of human sadness and loss and pain is infinite, but so is our legacy of resilience and power and change.
Perhaps poems allow us to do what the Dutch call uitwaaien: “to take a break and walk away from the demands of life to clear one’s head.” Or maybe life demands poems, and it is precisely in these moments of trauma and fear and violence that we must dive in head-first. Whatever they do, I am grateful for them. Here are several recent collections by women that I highly recommend. Each, in its own way, has given me what the Icelandic call radljóst: enough light to find my way.
Difficult Fruit by Lauren K. Alleyne, Peepal Tree, 2014
Thrust by Heather Derr-Smith, Persea Books, 2017
American Samizdat by Jehanne Dubrow, Diode Editions, 2019
The Miracles by Amy Lemmon, C&R Press, 2018
Voyage of the Sable Venus by Robin Coste Lewis, Knopf, 2016
Code by Charlotte Pence, Black Lawrence Press, 2020
How to Exterminate the Black Woman by Monica Prince, [Pank Books], 2019
American Lyric Trilogy by Claudia Rankine, Graywolf, 2004, 2014, 2020
The State She’s In by Lesley Wheeler, Tinderbox Editions, 2020
*The book of words I refer to is Other Wordly: Words Both Strange and Lovely from Around the World by Yee-Lum Yak with illustrations by Kelsey Garrity-Riley
Elizabeth Hazen is a poet, essayist, and teacher. A Maryland native, she came of age in a suburb of Washington, D.C. in the pre-internet, grunge-tinted 1990s, when women were riding the third wave of feminism and fighting the accompanying backlash. She began writing poems when she was in middle school, after a kind-hearted librarian handed her Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s A Coney Island of the Mind. She has been reading and writing poems ever since.
Hazen’s work explores issues of addiction, mental health, and sexual trauma, as well as the restorative power of love and forgiveness. Her poems have appeared in Best American Poetry, American Literary Review, Shenandoah, Southwest Review, The Threepenny Review, The Normal School, and other journals. Alan Squire Publishing released her first book, Chaos Theories, in 2016. Girls Like Us is her second collection. She lives in Baltimore with her family.
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.
A troubled man with a checkered past finds himself forced into the role of a hero when a white supremacist led America faces a terror attack that is set to pin the blame on the already disparaged Jewish community, and plunge the nation into chaos in author Harold Benjamin’s novel “Judenrein”.
Zack Gurevitz has had a checkered past. A Yeshiva boy, turned Green Beret, turned junkie, excommunicated by his one-time faith and now the potential savior of people he doesn’t even like.
As a white supremacist movement stealthily takes the reins of power in America, it is again the Jews who are made out as scapegoats. Stripped of wealth and citizenship, they are made to live in 21st century ghettos that hark back to a sinister and murky past that many had thought would never return.
But things are about to get much worse. With the revealing of a planned terror attack that will place the blame firmly at Jewish feet and condemn millions to death, Zack is contacted by Jewish leaders in Detroit, begging for his help.
Reluctantly he agrees and before long he is mired in a conspiracy that will have far reaching consequences for his country, the Jewish population and even his own sanity.
As the clock ticks down, can Zack find a way to avert a looming disaster? Who is behind the conspiracy? And can he really trust anyone?
There has never been a more relevant time for a thriller novel such as this. The author conveys a powerful story that relates a long history of violence, hatred and prejudice through a dystopian thriller lens.
The author does an amazing job of creating a vast cast of characters, but most importantly a complex, multi-layered protagonist. Getting to see Zack struggle with his addiction and the complex relationship he has with his people and the circumstances they find themselves in really made the narrative shine through much brighter. It brought the harrowing experiences occurring in the dystopian future into the light and showcased how scary the events of our own world are sadly not far off from this reality, making it a plot that readers greatly pay attention to.
A true page turner, author Harold Benjamin’s “Judenrein” is a heart-pounding thriller. This sad and dystopian future is a stark reminder of how important it is to resist the hatred that threatens to overtake the world, and the flawed nature of protagonist Zack keeps the reader fully invested in the character’s journey through this dystopian world. It is a must-read thriller that won’t disappoint fans, so be sure to grab your copy today!
About the Author
Harold Benjamin is the pen name of a 50-something Jewish writer who lives in the American midwest. He grew up in New York. Three out of his four grandparents were born in the 19th century.
Most of us have heard that walking is good for our bodies: walking can reduce our risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, dementia, diabetes, several types of cancer, and more. Some of us have heard that walking is good for our brains: walking can help improve our decision-making, boost our executive function, and fuel our creativity. And many of us have heard that walking is good for our emotional well-being: walking can boost our mood and can be a valuable tool in the battle against depression.
But what about loneliness? Can walking help there too?
We believe so. A study my company undertook last year revealed that women who regularly walk with their friends are 2.5 times less likely to feel lonely often.
Why is it that walking together is so powerful?
First, we are social beings and we are wired to crave — and enjoy — shared experiences. Researchers believe this comes directly from our biological need to belong: our ancestors were a whole lot safer walking in the woods with their tribe than they were walking the woods by themselves.
Second, our hormones help. Walking increases levels of oxytocin — a hormone that heightens our connections with others. So when you walk with a friend, your biology helps foster a deeper, more meaningful connection. And yes, oxytocin is the same hormone that is released during childbirth and nursing, which makes sense because it encourages us to bond with our babies.
Third, extensive research shows that our brains process differently when we are walking. Because only part of our brain is occupied with putting one foot in front of the other, the rest of our brain is free to roam, to think more deeply. More importantly, when we are walking together, we can comfortably take the moments of quiet to process and give ourselves the chance to think, and connect, more deeply.
Finally, because conversations tend to flow more easily and because walking together provides an activity — and one that takes place away from home — it is far more comfortable to invite a new friend for a walk than to invite them to your home. Indeed, many mom friendships have been formed from the question “Do you want to take a walk after school drop off?”
In short, walking together can be an incredibly powerful antidote to loneliness. It provides the perfect environment for conversation and connection. It offers time and space, free of distractions. It gives us the increased pleasure that comes from sharing an experience. It delivers a blast of oxytocin that encourages us to connect with one another. And it provides an easy way to begin to connect with a new friend.
About the Author
Joyce Shulman, founder and CEO of 99 Walks and Macaroni Kid reaches millions of moms each month with hyper-local and national e-newsletters and websites, social media content, video and her Weekly Walk podcast. Having created a one-of-a-kind digital platform, she connects families to the wonders of their own communities and inspires women to chase their dreams and crush their goals.
Her most recent endeavor, 99 Walks, is on a mission to combat loneliness and improve fitness through the simple act of encouraging moms to walk together. Her mission? Nothing short of getting a million women walking.
Throughout her two decades as an entrepreneur, Joyce has guided SAHMs, teachers and even MBAs to success. Joyce shares how moms need to “take care of mama bear” and avoid the “martyr mom syndrome.” Her experience in business and leading mompreneurs makes her a coveted speaker where she shares tactics for beating burnout, fueling creativity, goal crushing, how walking can fuel productivity and performance, and more.
Joyce received her Bachelor’s in Business Management from the University of Maryland and her Juris Doctor, Cum Laude, from St. John’s University School of Law. After law school, she spent more than a dozen years as a New York City lawyer where her practice focused on complex commercial litigation.
A self-confessed idea junkie, in 1998, Joyce abandoned law firm life to liberate her entrepreneurial spirit and focus on the things that are most important to her: family, community and empowering women to chase their dreams.
What goes better in the morning than a muffin? Grab your coffee and join us in celebrating the launch of Joyce Shulman’s book Walk Your Way to Better. You can read an interview with the author and enter to win a copy of the book.
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.
A young woman dealing with a pregnancy and her career as a police officer has her world turned upside-down when the unsolved murder of her best friend finds new evidence, and leads her into a whirlpool of suspects who are far closer to her than she could have imagined, in author Heather Gudenkauf’s “This Is How I Lied.”
With the eccentricity of Fargo and the intensity of Sadie, THIS IS HOW I LIED by Heather Gudenkauf (Park Row Books; May 12, 2020; $17.99) is a timely and gripping thriller about careless violence we can inflict on those we love, and the lengths we will go to make it right, even 25 years later.
Tough as nails and seven months pregnant, Detective Maggie Kennedy-O’Keefe of Grotto PD, is dreading going on desk duty before having the baby her and her husband so badly want. But when new evidence is found in the 25-year-old cold case of her best friend’s murder that requires the work of a desk jockey, Maggie jumps at the opportunity to be the one who finally puts Eve Knox’s case to rest.
Maggie has her work cut out for her. Everyone close to Eve is a suspect. There’s Nola, Eve’s little sister who’s always been a little… off; Nick, Eve’s ex-boyfriend with a vicious temper; a Schwinn riding drifter who blew in and out of Grotto; even Maggie’s husband Sean, who may have known more about Eve’s last day than he’s letting on. As Maggie continues to investigate, the case comes closer and closer to home, forcing her to confront her own demons before she can find justice for Eve.
A truly gripping thriller that takes readers on an emotional roller-coaster ride, author Heather Gudenkauf’s “This Is How I Lied” begins as a personal story of a young woman seeking justice for her long lost best friend, and takes a dramatic turn that puts every character in the spotlight.
The brilliant use of flashbacks through the eyes of the victim to the modern-day investigation and the secrets that fuel all of the characters make this such an engaging narrative. Just when readers have a bead on who the killer is, the author drops a new piece of the puzzle that turns the investigation on its head. The author does a marvelous job of portraying the narrative in a very cinematic way, allowing readers to envision the events of the story playing out perfectly.
A must-read thriller and mystery, “This Is How I Lied” by Heather Gudenkauf is a fantastic narrative that deserves to be read. Evenly paced, thought-provoking, and shocking in its delivery, this is a one of a kind read that fans of the mystery and thriller genres will not be able to get enough of, especially in the final shocking moments of the book’s end. Be sure to grab your copy today!
About the Author
Heather Gudenkauf is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of many books, including The Weight of Silence and These Things Hidden. Heather graduated from the University of Iowa with a degree in elementary education, has spent her career working with students of all ages. She lives in Iowa with her husband, three children, and a very spoiled German Shorthaired Pointer named Lolo. In her free time, Heather enjoys spending time with her family, reading, hiking, and running.
I approach each of my novels with the goal of being a plotter – someone who explicitly organizes and outlines her books – but it never quite works out that way for me. I make notes and outline the plot but ultimately the characters take over and do what they want to anyway. My process is messy and meandering. Thankfully, I have a brilliant editor who is able to see through the weeds and pull out the best parts of my plots and keep me on the right path. This is How I Lied completely evolved from my initial intentions. The characters changed, the plot shifted and the final ending poked its head up near the end of revisions and I couldn’t be happier with the results.
2.Which came first: the characters or plot line?
For me, the two go hand in hand. The basic plot line comes first, and close behind comes the characters. It doesn’t matter how suspenseful of a plot I develop, if the right characters aren’t there to mold the story and carry it forward, it won’t work. Before I begin writing, I attempt to give my characters rich backstories. Often many of these details don’t make into the novel, but by fully developing their personalities and biographies, it helps keep me in tune with them as I write. Knowing the characters’ likes and dislikes, their foibles and strengths helps me to honestly and accurately determine their motivations and the decisions they make as they move through the novel.
3.How do you come up with your plots?
I’m a news junkie! I’ll scan newspapers and websites and a story will catch my eye. It can be the smallest detail or a broader theme but if the idea sticks with me and keeps harassing me to write about it, I know I’m on the right track. For my novel Little Mercies, it was an article about a social worker who ended up on the other side of the justice system because of alleged negligence with her caseload. From this I created an entirely new story about a social worker who was fighting for her own child. In This is How I Lied, I was intrigued by news stories that dealt with the use of familial DNA to solve cold cases and it became a key detail in the novel’s resolution.
4.Do you use music to help set a mood/tone for your books?
I do listen to music as I write. It varies based on the story and what I think the characters might listen to. By curating these playsets, it helps me get into their mindset. As I worked on Maggie’s sections in This is How I Lied I listened to a lot of Avett Brothers and Lumineers. For Nola, I listened to classical music and hard rock – she’s an interesting mix. As for Eve, since she was sixteen years old and living in the 90s, I listened to plenty of Nirvana and Beck.
5.Where did the idea for this story come from?
Before I started writing This is How I Lied, I read I’ll be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara, about the author’s investigation of The Golden State Killer who, for decades, terrorized northern California. This book both terrified and fascinated me and I became intrigued by how modern technology was being used to close old cold cases. For my project, I thought it would be interesting to explore how this might play out in a small town where the perpetrator thought the truth behind the crime would never be discovered.
As I was writing the novel, I learned about the developments in a 40-year-old cold case not far from where I live where familial DNA was used to ultimately convict the killer. Amazing!
6.Do you find inspiration for your novels in your personal life?
I often get asked what my childhood must have been like because of the twisty thrillers I write. Thankfully, I can say that I had a blissfully uneventful childhood with parents and siblings that loved and supported me. For me, the inspiration from my own life comes in the settings of my novels – the Mississippi River, farmland, the woods and bluffs – all found in Iowa. In This is How I Lied, the town of Grotto is loosely based on a nearby town until I moved to this part of Iowa, I never realized that we had cave systems. Visitors to the state park, can literally step back thousands of years. The limestone caves and bluffs are beautiful, haunting and have something for everyone. You can take a casual stroll through some of the caves and have to army crawl through some of the others. Old clothes and a flashlight are a must! The caves made the perfect backdrop for a thriller and I was excited to include them in This is How I Lied.
7.What is the one personality trait that you like your main characters to have and why?
In looking back at all my main characters, though they are all different ages and come from different walks of life, I think the trait that they all seem to have in common is perseverance. I’ve had characters battle human evil and demons of their own creation but it doesn’t matter what traumatic events they have been through or the challenges they will face, they manage to make it through. Changed for sure, but intact and hopeful for the future.
8.Why do you love Maggie and why should readers root for her?
I do love Maggie! As a police detective, Maggie has dedicated her adult life to helping others and is a loving daughter, sister and wife and is expecting her first child. This doesn’t mean that Maggie is perfect. Like all of my protagonists, Maggie is complicated and flawed and has made some big mistakes, but ultimately she is doing the best that she can.
9.What is one thing about publishing you wish someone would have told you?
As a former elementary school teacher, I had absolutely no insights into the publishing world beyond what I saw on television and in movies – which portrayed it as a dog-eat-dog world. I have to admit, as a new author, I was very intimidated. But to my delight – and relief – the people I’ve encountered along the way– my agent, editors, publishing teams, fellow authors, booksellers and readers – all have been nothing but supportive, encouraging and kind.
10.What is coming up next for you?
I just finished the first draft of my next novel, a locked-room mystery about a reclusive writer working on a true crime book when a snow storm leaves her trapped inside her remote home, setting off a series of events that lead to a stunning revelation. It was so much fun to write!
11.Has quarantine been better or worse for your writing?
It’s been such a scary, unsettling time but I’ve found writing a nice distraction and a great comfort during this extended time at home. I’ve been able to turn off the news and get lost in my manuscript or other writing projects. It’s a lot like reading – a much needed escape from the real world.
12.What was your last 5 star read?
Julia Heaberlin has a new book coming out this August called We Are All the Same in the Dark and it has surged to the top as one of my favorite reads of the year. It has everything I love in a great thriller: a beautifully written small town mystery, with multilayered, unforgettable characters and a twisty plot. It was absolutely mesmerizing.
This Is How I Lied Book Excerpt
Monday, June 15, 2020
As I slide out of my unmarked police car my swollen belly briefly gets wedged against the steering wheel. Sucking in my gut does little good but I manage to move the seat back and squeeze past the wheel. I swing my legs out the open door and glance furtively around the parking lot behind the Grotto Police Department to see if anyone is watching.
Almost eight months pregnant with a girl and not at my most graceful. I’m not crazy about the idea of one of my fellow officers seeing me try to pry myself out of this tin can. The coast appears to be clear so I begin the little ritual of rocking back and forth trying to build up enough momentum to launch myself out of the driver’s seat.
Once upright, I pause to catch my breath. The morning dew is already sending up steam from the weeds growing out of the cracked concrete. Sweating, I slowly make my way to the rear entrance of the Old Gray Lady, the nickname for the building we’re housed in. Built in the early 1900s, the first floor consists of the lobby, the finger printing and intake center, a community room, interview rooms and the jail. The second floor, which once held the old jail is home to the squad room and offices. The dank, dark basement holds a temperamental boiler and the department archives.
The Grotto Police Department has sixteen sworn officers that includes the chief, two lieutenants, a K-9 patrol officer, nine patrol officers, a school resource officer and two detectives. I’m detective number two.
I grew up in Grotto, a small river town of about ten thousand that sits among a circuitous cave system known as Grotto Caves State Park, the most extensive in Iowa. Besides being a favorite destination spot for families, hikers and spelunkers, Grotto is known for its high number of family owned farms – a dying breed. My husband Shaun and I are part of that breed – we own an apple orchard and tree farm.
“Pretty soon we’re going to have to roll you in,” an irritatingly familiar voice calls out from behind me.
I don’t bother turning around. “Francis, that wasn’t funny the first fifty times you said it and it still isn’t,” I say as I scan my key card to let us in.
Behind me, Pete Francis, rookie officer and all-around caveman grabs the door handle and in a rare show of chivalry opens it so I can step through. “You know I’m just joking,” Francis says giving me the grin that all the young ladies in Grotto seem to find irresistible but just gives me another reason to roll my eyes.
“With the wrong person, those kinds of jokes will land you in sensitivity training,” I remind him.
“Yeah, but you’re not the wrong person, right?” he says seriously, “You’re cool with it?”
I wave to Peg behind the reception desk and stop at the elevator and punch the number two button. The police department only has two levels but I’m in no mood to climb up even one flight of stairs today. “Do I look like I’m okay with it?” I ask him.
Francis scans me up and down. He takes in my brown hair pulled back in a low bun, wayward curls springing out from all directions, my eyes red from lack of sleep, my untucked shirt, the fabric stretched tight against my round stomach, my sturdy shoes that I think are tied, but I can’t know for sure because I can’t see over my boulder-sized belly.
“Sorry,” he says appropriately contrite and wisely decides to take the stairs rather than ride the elevator with me.
“You’re forgiven,” I call after him. As I step on the elevator to head up to my desk, I check my watch. My appointment with the chief is at eight and though he didn’t tell me what the exact reason is for this meeting I think I can make a pretty good guess.
It can’t be dictated as to when I have to go on light duty, seven months into my pregnancy, but it’s probably time. I’m guessing that Chief Digby wants to talk with me about when I want to begin desk duty or take my maternity leave. I get it.
It’s time I start to take it easy. I’ve either been the daughter of a cop or a cop my entire life but I’m more than ready to set it aside for a while and give my attention, twenty-four-seven to the little being inhabiting my uterus.
Shaun and I have been trying for a baby for a long, long time. And thousands of dollars and dozens of procedures later, when we finally found out we were pregnant, Shaun started calling her peanut because the only thing I could eat for the first nine weeks without throwing up was peanut butter sandwiches. The name stuck.
This baby is what we want more than anything in the world but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I’m a little bit scared. I’m used to toting around a sidearm not an infant.
The elevator door opens to a dark paneled hallway lined with ten by sixteen framed photos of all the men who served as police chief of Grotto over the years. I pass by eleven photos before I reach the portrait of my father. Henry William Kennedy, 1995 – 2019, the plaque reads.
While the other chiefs stare out from behind the glass with serious expressions, my dad smiles showing his straight, white teeth. He was so proud when he was named chief of police. We were all proud, except maybe my older brother, Colin. God knows what Colin thought of it. As a teenager he was pretty self-absorbed, but I guess I was too, especially after my best friend died. I went off the rails for a while but here I am now. A Grotto PD detective, following in my dad’s footsteps. I think he’s proud of me too. At least when he remembers.
Last time I brought my dad back here to visit, we walked down this long corridor and paused at his photo. For a minute I thought he might make a joke, say something like, Hey, who’s that good looking guy? But he didn’t say anything. Finding the right words is hard for him now. Occasionally, his frustration bubbles over and he yells and sometimes even throws things which is hard to watch. My father has always been a very gentle man.
The next portrait in line is our current police chief, Les Digby. No smile on his tough guy mug. He was hired a month ago, taking over for Dexter Stroope who acted as the interim chief after my dad retired. Les is about ten years older than I am, recently widowed with two teenage sons. He previously worked for the Ransom Sheriff’s Office and I’m trying to decide if I like him. Jury’s still out.
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.
Desire and danger lurk as a seasoned fire rescue crew member Linc finds the younger brother of his late best friend Jacob joining the crew, stirring up old feelings despite a promise never to pursue anything that he made to Jacob’s brother years earlier in author Annabeth Albert’s “Burn Zone”.
Danger lurks everywhere for Central Oregon’s fire crews, but the biggest risk of all might be losing their hearts…
Smoke jumper Lincoln Reid is speechless to see Jacob Hartman among his squad’s new recruits. Linc had promised his late best friend he’d stay away from his little brother. And yet here Jacob is…and almost instantly, the same temptation Linc has always felt around him is causing way too many problems.
Jacob gets everyone’s concerns, but he’s waited years for his shot at joining the elite smoke jumping team, hoping to honor his brother’s memory. He’s ready to tackle any challenge Linc throws his way, and senses the chemistry between them—chemistry Linc insists on ignoring—is still alive and kicking. This time, Jacob’s determined to get what he wants.
Close quarters and high stakes make it difficult for Linc to keep his resolve, never mind do so while also making sure the rookie’s safe. But the closer they get, the more Linc’s plan to leave at the end of the season risks him breaking another promise: the one his heart wants to make to Jacob.
This is definitely an emotional, steamy, and engaging read for those who like passionate LGBTQ romance reads with a hint of action, drama, and intensity. The character development and ongoing struggle of the characters felt relatable.
From Linc’s growing desire and a mixture of guilt combining with his own identity within the fire rescue crew community he had been engaged with for years to Jacob’s desire to honor his brother’s legacy and finally earn the respect of his family and the people his brother and Linc had worked with for years, the struggles of these two’s lives when combined with the intense romance brewing between them made for a compelling read.
A gripping evenly paced read, author Annabeth Albert’s “Burn Zone”, the first in the Hotshots series, is a must-read for any fans of the LGBTQ romance/contemporary genre. A fantastic setting and heart-pounding look into the world of fire rescue crews, the story of these two men, and the journey they go on together is something readers will not be able to put down. Be sure to grab your copy today!
Annabeth Albert grew up sneaking romance novels under the bed covers. Now, she devours all subgenres of romance out in the open—no flashlights required! When she’s not adding to her keeper shelf, she’s a multi-published Pacific Northwest romance writer.
Emotionally complex, sexy, and funny stories are her favorites both to read and to write. Annabeth loves finding happy endings for a variety of pairings and is a passionate gay rights supporter. In between searching out dark heroes to redeem, she works a rewarding day job and wrangles two children.
BURN ZONE is the first book in the Hotshots series. What three words best describe BURN ZONE?
Danger, heat, and loyalty! All three words apply on multiple levels here!
What is Linc’s most surprising quality?
His tenderness. Linc’s deep and abiding loyalty is what people notice first with him, but it’s his private tenderness with Jacob that surprised (and delighted!!!) me the most with him.
What quality do you love most about Jacob?
Jacob is fearless and tenacious. He knows what he wants and he goes for it, full tilt, whether that thing is his older brother’s best friend, Linc, or smoke jumping.
BURN ZONE is full of amazing tropes: age difference, grumpy & the sunshine one, older brother’s best friend, rookie/experienced expert, and hurt/comfort. Which trope was the most fun to write for Linc and Jacob’s story?
I knew going into this that this was going to be a deeper examination of best friend’s little brother trope. I did best friend’s brother with At Attention (Out of Uniform, book #2), but the stakes were lower than they are here as far as the familial relationship. I wanted the characters to have to really grapple with some big feelings. And those feelings give rise to some of my favorite hurt/comfort scenes that I’ve done. All the tropes play together to make this one of my favorite books I’ve done—I loved watching my initial idea of angsty brother’s best friend evolve and grow with the other tropes.
What would you like readers to take away from reading Linc and Jacob’s story?
Sometimes the heart knows what it wants and won’t stop until it gets its way. Linc and Jacob are meant to be, even in face of opposition and adversity. Their relationship is ill-advised—they work together, Linc’s his mentor, and he’s Jacob’s older brother’s best friend. On paper, they are terrible for each other, but in actuality, they are perfect for each other, the missing half to the other’s heart. They’ve been in love, in a way, for years and years, and all that longing pays off in explosive chemistry. I think what I want readers to take away from this story is “Trust your heart. The rest will follow.” If you trust in your heart, then all the obstacles can be tackled, one by one.
Who was your favorite secondary character to write in BURN ZONE?
Garrick! He gets book 2, HIGH HEAT, coming to you in July from me and Carina Press! I can’t WAIT for you to meet Garrick and Rain!
Where did the inspiration for the Hotshots series come from?
I wanted to do a Central Oregon series, and after spending time in the region on family trips, I was fascinated by how much of the summer season is dominated by wildfire risk. After writing Rough Terrain (Out of Uniform, book #7), I really, really wanted to do more parachute-loving characters, and what’s better than one hero who likes to jump out of planes? Two! And a whole team of them! I wanted to return to the team feeling from Out of Uniform with a close-knit fire community in a part of the country that I truly love.
Writing about smoke jumpers in Oregon must have resulted in some interesting research for the Hotshots series. What’s the most interesting or surprising thing you’ve learned so far?
So much amazing research! One thing that I loved finding out about was how smoke jumpers repair a lot of their own gear. They are responsible for repairing and maintaining their equipment and a lot of time that means sewing and other highly dexterous tasks that you might not associate with rough-and-ready firefighters.
BURN ZONE and the Hotshots series returns to the ‘band of brothers’ feel readers loved in your Out of Uniform Series. What do you love about writing the ‘band of brothers’ feel into your books?
I love loyal groups bound by more than just friendship or family. I love people brought together by a shared passion for serving their community. I love putting them in the sort of life-and-death situations that our real life frontline heroes face. Loyalty to each other goes far beyond a job. It’s a calling, and sometimes it results in sacrifices. I like to honor that hard work and sacrifice in my books and pay tribute to these heroic vocations. It’s inspiring and also fascinating, examining the community created by people brought together to serve the greater good.
HIGH HEAT, the second Hotshots book comes out this summer. What can readers expect from Garrick’s story?
I loved every single thing about writing BURN ZONE, but Garrick was one of my favorite parts. He’s a foil for both Linc and Jacob, and he’s the sort of freewheeling, easy spirit that absolutely embodies the smoke jumping community. But what happens when that job, that community is threatened by an injury beyond your control? Garrick’s book was a chance for me to delve deep into what happens when life doesn’t go according to plan. But it’s also a tremendously fun book. There’s a dog in need of a home, a kinky new younger neighbor, a hot tub, and shenanigans aplenty as Garrick and his co-hero Rain, discover what truly makes a home. With the whole series, you can expect fire drama in the background and lots of adrenaline pumping, but also deep, meaningful feelings and warm, squishy endings.
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.
It is a true honor to share with you all a rare treat, a review of an outstanding audiobook from Maya and Jello of the book of poetry, “The Colors of Me”.
A Collection of Poems Welcome to The Colors of Me, a collection of poems based on inspirations gained from my life experiences. Read and enjoy. Then read again. Read and share the experience with your friends and loved ones. It is a journey you will not soon forget.
Beautifully narrated, the poems are written and read with conviction and heart, telling a story of growth, empowerment and hope. While some of the poetry does stem into some religious paths (something that is not my strong suit), the overall tone and power for which the poems were delivered made this a must listen/read book.
Themes of self-worth, the beauty of the world and finding hope in seemingly hopeless situations all play a role in the poetry of the author. The audiobook elicits great emotion and warmth within the reader/listener, giving the audience a voice to the emotions the author hoped to stir in them.
A beautifully read, well narrated and incredibly written book of poetry, Maya and Jello’s “The Colors of Me” is a must listen audiobook everyone should hear for themselves. In an age when audiobooks are becoming more and more prevalent, this is a prime example of the beauty and emotion that this format can bring out in the wonderful words written by the author. Be sure to grab your own copies today!
Author: Maya and Jello
Narrator: Maya and Jello
Length: 53 minutes
Publisher: M&J Literary Works Inc.
Released: Jan. 28, 2020
A collection of poems. The critics are raving four/four stars. The Colors of Me is a collection of beautiful poems. The author’s creativity is amazing. It’s bold, sexy, spiritual, yet intriguing.
Welcome to The Colors of Me. Each poem was written based on inspirations gained from my life experiences. Listen and enjoy. Then listen again. Listen and share the experience with your friends and loved ones. It is a journey you will not soon forget.
Maya and Jello was born and raised on the beautiful island of Trinidad, the sister island of Tobago in the West Indies. She migrated to the United States as a young teenager. Her main objective was to obtain a great education in the hopes of affording a better life for herself, her family, and to be a blessing to those around her. This quest led her to attain a Doctorate in medicine. But she never let go of her passion for writing poetry. Her works have been published in various school publications under various pen names. During medical school she wrote a segment in the College newspaper under the pen name Sparkie.The poems in this collection were written over a span of 30 years.She hopes that you enjoy reading them, as much as she enjoyed writing them for you.I received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by Maya and Jello. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.
Maya and Jello on why readers who love poetry will appreciate this the Colors of Me
If you possess a true appreciation for the art of poetry whether it be pros, verse, lines, or sonnets. Whatever format, whatever flavor. There is something in The Colors of Me written just for you. Each poem embodies the entirety of and experience. And all of the experiences are different. The poems are designed to open up like a flower in bloom and then if needs be fall apart petal by petal. It is in this that I’m able to take the hand of the listener and lead them down a path; meandering through the darkened corners of emotions that we so often hide. Each poem is chock-full of imagery. Who doesn’t have that Mother or Grandmother, Teacher or Preacher who made such a difference in their lives? Who hasn’t experience the wind being knocked out of their sails by betrayal or a lost love? If you’ve ever felt something, ….anything. Then you’ll certainly appreciate The Colors of Me. A good poet can make you cry but I pride myself in making you laugh, and moreover at yourself. The heartfelt romantic pieces are a melee of unbridled emotion. They would ignite the passions in your soul and rekindle what you have, take you back to a time or make you long for that perfect love. You’ll rise to the triumphs and sink in the squalor of inexplicable pain. But just as you think you are about to break, you’ll hear a poem, a message, seemingly straight from the heart of God himself that would lift your spirits, that would mend your heart. It would rekindle your passion for life and living. You’d feel empowered to dust yourself off and rise to the occasion. You’ll gain the strength to embrace your past and forge forward to bigger and better things. And who knows, with faith in your left pocket and hope in your right, you may even venture to love again.
Unstoppable– Koryn Hawthorne
It’s The God in Me– Mary Mary
Closer– Marvin Sapp
Not Lucky I’m Loved– Jonathan Reynolds
The Nearness of You– Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong
1) Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into writing?
The world needs storytellers. It’s no exaggeration that we live in strange times, and the direction we take matters, for so many generations after us. Sci-fi authors are daydreamers, wondering what comes next. If we take this path, or another, do we choke or thrive, enslaved to the machine or learning to swim? At Arch & Gravity Publishing we don’t believe in macguffins. If there’s a doomsday device in our book, it has a function, a purpose and a theory. And there is a real chance it might go off. If there’s science, we’re not going to dumb it down for you. And where there’s a story, there’s a reason why. I published my first work in the elementary school library in first grade, about a giant frog keeping people as pets, and I’ve been fascinated by character, plot, drama, science and philosophy all my life. We desperately need storytellers, characters and paradigms that might shine a light for our times. If I can be a part of that tradition, it would be no less than a dream fulfilled.
2) What inspired you to write your book?
Halcyon is a city in Spain, in the future, run by psychic computers. Basically it’s a utopian vision, fifty years off, in a post-economic world where the laws have been stripped to rights, people don’t need to work and are free to do what they want. The Genex are genetically extended. Some have wings. Exploring the lives of the ensemble cast, we get a city in the throes of climate change, a love triangle stronger than death, competitive laser duels, and a mute who may defy time, among other things. Genex of Halcyon is the first publication by Arch & Gravity, Denver’s new voice in science fiction. I suppose, in short, I am inspired by the hole I see in the world, where these ideas could belong.
3) What theme or message do you hope readers will take away from your book?
Nothing we do is going to be ordinary, no story we print is going to be safe. That’s our promise to the reader. Genex of Halcyon is about the wildly different world that could be right around the corner, as we potentially come of age technologically. It’s about science fiction that isn’t afraid to push boundaries and expect something of its readers. Mostly of course it’s a love story, but it’s really all about the characters, the choices they make, and those they choose to forsake. I hope readers come away from Genex of Halcyon, thoughtful and imaginative, with something new and unique on their minds.
4) What drew you into this particular genre?
I’ve been a fan of science fiction and poetry for as long as I can remember. I revere creativity and intelligence, and am very curious about the future. I’ve been influenced by Wells, Gaiman, Stephenson, LeGuin, Vandermeer, Burgess, Huxley and Bradbury, but there’s no denying some Thoreau in there, even Shakespeare, and definitely Neruda and Coelho.
5) If you could sit down with any character in your book, what would you ask them and why?
Azad, Harmony’s brother, the mute. I would just ask him, “What are you thinking?”
6) What social media site has been the most helpful in developing your readership?
Arch & Gravity has a following on Facebook that is about 4k strong, as of this writing. Look us up and join the conversation! We’re also active on Instagram, and I’m in the process of starting a WordPress blog for reviews and announcements as well. www.ArchandGravity.com is a great hub for exploring what we’re doing.
7) What advice would you give to aspiring or just starting authors out there?
Take your time, but keep going. My spirit animal, depending on the day, is either a wolf or a tortoise. Self Reliance and Perseverance. These will get you there. And don’t be afraid to write the story you really have to tell. The world needs characters, drama and real imagination far more than we need another successful, formulaic series, imho. It’s going to be hard, but any story that is not even a little dangerous to the teller, probably isn’t worth the time.
8) What does the future hold in store for you? Any new books/projects on the horizon?
I’m currently hard at work on my next novel, about a young Korean girl with a katana and a connection to an ancient force, as well as an epic, years in the making, detailing a far future on a distant planet, where the star’s radiation brings out latent psychic powers in the castaway colonists, where their dreams come to life around them, as with their nightmares. Beyond this I have two short collaborations in the works with a Denver production company, and a board game soon to hit Kickstarter. Look for Quin, which you might think of as a hybrid between Chess and Stratego, loosely based on principles of Optics and Quantum Mechanics, to go live on Kickstarter sometime this fall, published by Arch & Gravity.
Joshua Stelling is a poet and music lover who has spent a lot of his time running record stores around Denver, building his own art on the side. In time, the stories inside the man have boiled over, becoming worlds, and his pages turned into books. Combining hard sci-fi and adult fiction with a fluent love of metaphor and poetry, his work will challenge you but leave you wanting more.