Tuesday, September 25, 2018

ARC Review: Trouble Brewing

Title:  Trouble Brewing
Author:  Suzanne Baltsar
Format:  ARC ebook*
Publication Date:  September 25, 2018
Genre: Fiction, Romance
My Rating: 4


This sweet, savory, and satisfying novel—perfect for fans of The Coincidence of Coconut Cake by Amy Reichert—follows a smart, ambitious woman making her way in the male-dominated world of beer brewing.
Piper Williams is used to being the only woman in a room full of men, but she isn’t used to being instantly drawn to someone she’s in business with.

After working long hours brewing in her garage, Piper is determined to prove herself—and to ignore the chemistry she has with Blake Reed, owner of Minnesota’s newest gastropub who is going to stock four of her brews. She wants her craft beer to stand on its own merits and knows that the tight-knit male-dominated brewer community will assume the worst if she starts anything with one of her vendors. No way she’ll risk everything she’s invested in her budding business on a guy who might not stick—no matter how charmingly handsome and funny he is, right?

And Blake has a conflict of his own—his haughty family wants him to ditch the gastropub and support his father’s political campaign. Well, that, and the fact that he knows Piper’s snark and sass is the perfect blend of crisp and refreshing for him. So Blake and Piper make a pact: she’ll go out with him if, and only if, two additional pubs start carrying her beer. Sticking to the pact proves harder than either of them expected—especially since the attraction is off the charts between quirky, independent Piper and smart, charming Blake.

Then Piper gets a once-in-a-lifetime offer that could launch her company to the next level—and take her away from Blake. Are she and Blake just drunk in love, or do they have something real that’s worth risking her dreams for?

My Thoughts...

The first word that I think of to describe this book is cute.  The story is cute.  The couple is cute.  The ending is cute.  That’s not to say there isn’t substance, because this novel really delves into some important topics: feminism, sexual harassment, money, and obviously love and what that looks like for a modern woman trying to have a career in a male dominated field. In the end, though, this is a fun, easy read.

I learned a lot about brewing and now want to try all the varieties Piper makes, especially, a grisette.  That French for little grey.  I mean, it’s French, so of course I’m interested. She also provides some places in Germany I am adding to my travel booket list.  My travel booket list is something I am working on for Blogtober.  I am making a list of the places I have read about and now need to see.  Think Culloden and the Scottish Highlands because of Outlander. Sorry, I got distracted, back to the review.

The dialogue and description are very well written.  The story flows easily and seems to make be paced nicely.  I would like to see a little more subtlety in the dramatic portions of the story.  For instance, there is a scene with another brewer where literally, the guy says the worst things possible.  Not innuendo, just point blank horribleness.  Same with a scene with Blake’s family.  Not a single bit of that interaction seems realistic.  The people involved all behave in a nightmarish fashion.  With a little bit of restraint, more verbal condescension instead of transparent rudeness, Baltsar could have created some intricate and more believable scenes.

Before I move on to characters, I have to stop and talk about the Gilmore Girls.  Not only did this book literally reference Gilmore Girls (actually talking about specific scenes), but Piper got Blake to watch the series on Netflix. And like most oxygen breathing adults, once you start watching it, you are hooked.  The book actually echoes some GG aspects.  If you are a fan, and read this book, come back and tell me if you agree.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Readers Know Their Fiction: A Writing Lesson

Guest Post by Marlene M. Bell

            Avid readers know a good story and know what they like. The single most important thing I learned about writing fiction is turn your craft to the reader. Writing a novel isn’t about what the author wants. It’s all about what the reader expects. Simply put, write for the reader and not yourself.
            When I had decided to go from non-fiction into fiction writing, I did no research in the beginning. I put all novels I’d read aside and chose to read no new books. Afraid to plagiarize, (Which I understand is a common newbie mistake,) I was ignorant to the only way to write my first book. Read other authors in the genre or subgenre. It wasn’t until two years of a first draft and an expensive developmental edit that I realized I’d tackled the book in the wrong manner. I wasn’t a strong reader therefore my writing sucked.
            Three drafts later, the basic reading rule had to be enforced by many of my editors. Know the genre you are writing. Read the genre. Read a lot. Chances are, future readers who you hope to pull into your circle will know more than a debut author does. My editors told me that on more than one occasion until it finally sunk in and stamped itself into my brain. It took well into the five drafts of Stolen Obsession before I realized what genre I was trying to get to and tailored the story as expected by the reader.
            Whether planning to write women’s fiction, a straight romance, mystery, or anywhere in between, there is always a norm in writing each kind of story. Readers expect what bestselling authors have given them. It doesn’t mean that your writing has to sound like another author, but your writing has to blend into others’ works. Venturing too far into crossing genres can work, but there is always the fear of turning off prospective readers if you blur the line too much where they no longer like the style of writing you’ve chosen. Find a genre. Study the genre. Breathe the genre, and stick with it.

Review: Stolen Obsession


Title:  Stolen Obsession
Author:  Marlene Bell
Format:  Paperback*
Publication Date:  June 30, 2018
Genre: Mystery, romance
My Rating: 3



People die, but legends live on.

New York antiquities appraiser Annalisse Drury recently lost her best friend to murder. The killer’s identity may be linked to her friend’s expensive missing bracelet—a 500-year-old artifact that carries an ancient curse, one that unleashes evil upon any who dare wear the jewelry created for the Persian royal family.

Weeks later, Annalisse sees a matching necklace at a Manhattan gallery opening. She begs the owner to destroy the cursed piece, but her pleas fall on deaf ears—despite the unnatural death that occurs during the opening. With two victims linked to the jewelry, Annalisse is certain she must act.

Desperate, Annalisse enlists the gallery owner’s son to help—even though she’s afraid he’ll break her heart. Wealthy and devastatingly handsome, with a string of bereft women in his wake, Greek playboy Alec Zavos dismisses Annalisse’s concerns—until his parents are ripped from the Zavos family yacht during their ocean voyage near Crete.

Annalisse and Alec race across two oceans to save his mother, feared dead or kidnapped. When the killer changes tactics and goes after Alec behind Annalisse’s back, can her plan to rescue Alec’s mother save them all?

Hold on for a heart-thumping, thrilling adventure through exotic lands in this fast-moving romantic suspense mystery by Marlene M. Bell.

My Thoughts...

Let’s start with what I really like about the book.  The story is so good, with so much potential and intrigue.  The characters travel the world, experience great loss, find great love, and survive epic danger.  Not to mention, they solve a murder mystery involving a cursed object. You can definitely tell the story was well thought-out and developed by Marlene Bell.

What I didn’t like were minor character issues and the dialogue. I will save the character critique for the character section, so first let’s tackle the dialogue.  Sometimes, the dialogue didn’t make sense to me.  I found myself rereading paragraphs sometimes pages later because I was lost in the action.  I’m not sure if this is totally a dialogue issue, though.

I also felt like there wasn’t enough description between the dialogue of each scene for me to truly understand or appreciate what is happening.    Sometimes, it feels like the story moves forward but I haven’t caught up yet. 

Have you ever gone to the bathroom during a movie?  When you get back, you ask your friends what you missed, they give a quick summary, and you think you understand.  Then a few scenes later, you realized they didn’t fully describe what happened, missed some detail, and now you’re a little lost.  Not really lost, but just a little behind and need to connect a few more dots to figure out everything that is happening.  That’s what happens to a few scenes throughout this book.  I just could have used a more information here and there.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Shelf Space Updates: 9/23/18

ABL: Shelf Space Updates

Every week I like to take a look back and see what books I have read, which books I have added to my TBR (to-be read) pile, and which books I have tossed, i.e. decided I will unfortunately not have enough time in this life to read.  You’ll notice that this last section will not appear very often, for two very important reasons.  I LOATHE getting rid of books and absolutely hate admitting that I can’t read them all.

Books Finished

A Heart in the Body by Deb Caletti 

Review and book tour stop on September 26, 2018

When everything has been taken from you, what else is there to do but run?

So that’s what Annabelle does—she runs from Seattle to Washington, DC, through mountain passes and suburban landscapes, from long lonely roads to college towns. She’s not ready to think about the why yet, just the how—muscles burning, heart pumping, feet pounding the earth. But no matter how hard she tries, she can’t outrun the tragedy from the past year, or the person—The Taker—that haunts her.

Followed by Grandpa Ed in his RV and backed by her brother and two friends (her self-appointed publicity team), Annabelle becomes a reluctant activist as people connect her journey to the trauma from her past. Her cross-country run gains media attention and she is cheered on as she crosses state borders, and is even thrown a block party and given gifts. The support would be nice, if Annabelle could escape the guilt and the shame from what happened back home. They say it isn’t her fault, but she can’t feel the truth of that.

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

The Tattooist of Auschwitz is based on the true story of Lale and Gita Sokolov, two Slovakian Jews who survived Auschwitz and eventually made their home in Australia. In that terrible place, Lale was given the job of tattooing the prisoners marked for survival—literally scratching numbers into his fellow victims' arms in indelible ink to create what would become one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust. Lale used the infinitesimal freedom of movement that this position awarded him to exchange jewels and money taken from murdered Jews for food to keep others alive. If he had been caught, he would have been killed; many owed him their survival.

There have been many books about the Holocaust—and there will be many more. What makes this one so memorable is Lale Sokolov's incredible zest for life. He understood exactly what was in store for him and his fellow prisoners, and he was determined to survive—not just to survive but to leave the camp with his dignity and integrity intact, to live his life to the full. Terrible though this story is, it is also a story of hope and of courage. It is also—almost unbelievably—a love story. Waiting in line to be tattooed, terrified and shaking, was a young girl. For Lale—a dandy, a jack-the-lad, a bit of a chancer—it was love at first sight, and he determined not only to survive himself but to ensure that Gita did, too. His story—their story—will make you weep, but you will also find it uplifting. It shows the very best of humanity in the very worst of circumstances.

P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han

Lara Jean didn’t expect to really fall for Peter.

She and Peter were just pretending. Except suddenly they weren’t. 

Now Lara Jean is more confused than ever.

When another boy from her past returns to her life, Lara Jean’s feelings for him return too. Can a girl be in love with two boys at once?

In this charming and heartfelt sequel to the New York Times bestseller To All the Boys I've Loved Before, we see first love through the eyes of the unforgettable Lara Jean. Love is never easy, but maybe that’s part of what makes it so amazing.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Blogoween Sign Ups

Thanks to Book Dragons for starting this Blogoween Challenge.  Essentially, this is a month of Halloween geekout prompts for book bloggers. If you want to sign up, head on over and check it out.

Just want to let you guys know how excited I am about this.  I love the fall and am a total nerd for Halloween.  So let’s get spooky!!!

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