Friday, June 30, 2017

"The History of Hilary Hambrushina" by Marnie Lamb

The History of Hilary Hambrushina
by Marnie Lamb

The History of Hilary Hambrushina by Marnie Lamb

The History of Hilary Hambrushina by Marnie Lamb is currently on tour with Xpresso Book Tours. The tour stops here today for my review, an excerpt, and a giveaway. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.

Hilary has one goal for her first year in junior high: to become popular. But her plans are turned upside down when her best friend leaves for the summer and a quirky girl named Kallie moves in next door. Kallie paints constellations on her ceiling, sleeps in a hammock, and enacts fantastical plays in front of cute boys on the beach. Yet despite Kallie’s lack of interest in being cool, Hilary and Kallie find themselves becoming friends. That summer friendship, however, is put to the test when school begins, reigniting Hilary’s obsession with climbing the social ladder. As Hilary discovers the dark side to popularity, she must decide who she wants to be before she loses everything.

Kallie’s room was the first on the left. Swinging open the door, she spread her arms out and said, “Ta-da!”
Although I was expecting something unusual, I wasn’t prepared for what greeted me. The walls and ceiling were black, and the ceiling had a pattern of white dots and lines that reminded me of the night sky. A huge hammock stretched like a crescent moon between two walls. Some sort of rope-and-wheel apparatus that looked like something we’d built in science class last year was attached to the wall and ceiling above the ends of the hammock. In front of the window was a telescope pointed outside. At least a hundred stuffed animals sat against the walls, and books and clothes lay scattered on the floor.
“What do you think?” asked Kallie proudly.
I didn’t know what to say. It was the strangest room I’d ever been in, but also the most interesting. I thought of my own room, with the shiny new Damian Sámos poster (the same one as Lynn’s) on one wall and the old wallpaper my dad still hadn’t taken down on the other. The wallpaper had faceless Victorian ladies holding flowered parasols, and I loved it — when I was six. Then there was the squeaky hinge on my closet door (another thing my dad hadn’t fixed). Even my new lavender chenille bedding, which I’d begged my mom to buy, looked so boring compared to Kallie’s room.
Finally I mumbled, “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
“Really? Fantastic! I wanted to make it unique.”
“Is that the night sky?” I asked, looking at the ceiling.
“Yeah. Those are the constellations. Razi and I finished painting them last night.”
I stared at her. “You painted them? You mean it’s not wallpaper?”
“No, but if you thought it was, it must mean we did a good job.”
“You did an amazing job!” I exclaimed. I looked around the room in awe. How could Kallie have painted such a complicated pattern? I couldn’t imagine painting a wall so well, let alone a ceiling.
Kallie was beaming. “Thanks. We did it mostly at night because we could see the sky then. We had a big map to help us during the day, but you can’t really get the feel of the stars without looking at them, you know?”
Actually I didn’t. I’d never thought about that before.
“But the real reason I asked you to come over,” said Kallie, grinning, “was because I was wondering if you wanted to help me paint stuff on the walls.”
For the first time, I noticed that the walls had no patterns on them.
“You want me to help paint your room?” I was surprised and kind of honoured. After all, she barely knew me. “O.K.”
“Great! Stay there!” She dashed out. I looked around. That’s when I realized something was missing. When Kallie came back, pushing a wooden cart with jars of paint in dozens of colours, I asked, “Uh … Kallie, where’s the bed?”
“What bed?”
“The bed you sleep on?”
“Who says I sleep on a bed?” She moved some stuffed animals to the hammock.
“Where do you sleep then?”
“In the hammock, of course.”
I was stunned. “You sleep in a hammock? Why?”
“Why not?”
“Well … isn’t it uncomfortable?” I said, starting to feel impatient. Why did she always have to answer my questions with another question?
“No. It’s excellent, especially in the summer, when it’s so hot. And if I’m bored and can’t fall asleep, I can swing. You can’t do that on a regular bed.”
No. I had to admit she was right about that.
“What does that do?” I asked, pointing to a rope that dangled at one end of the hammock.
“Watch.” Kallie grabbed the rope and yanked so roughly I gasped. The hammock shot up to the ceiling.
Kallie was grinning. “Isn’t it platinum?” she asked, as she yanked the rope again. The hammock bounded back down.
This made me uncomfortable, and I became even more uncomfortable when Kallie put some orange paint on the wall and began circling it around with a small brush. I didn’t want to stand there doing nothing, but I didn’t want to start painting either. Kallie was obviously a great artist. I’d always thought I was pretty good, but I knew anything I painted would look like a two-year-old’s scribbles compared to her drawings. So I walked over to the window and looked out.
“There’s another hammock in the backyard,” I said.
“That’s Udu. This one’s Budu.”
“You named your hammocks?”
“Yes.” She rolled her eyes.
She turned to me, paintbrush held over the wooden floor. The orange circle now had green hair and pink eyes, which looked at me owlishly. Frowning, she asked impatiently, “Why do you ask so many questions? And are you going to help me paint or just stand there? Because if you’re just going to stand there, I’d like you to stop talking. It’s disturbing me.” A drop of green paint rolled off the end of the brush and hit the floor.
“Oh, bugaboo!” said Kallie, which I guessed was her way of swearing. “Hey, that looks good.” She squatted down and began making a circle on the floor.
I knew I had to either start painting or leave, and I didn’t want to run away. So I picked up a big paintbrush and dipped it in a jar of magenta paint. Then I started making circles on the wall, a few feet away from Kallie. Gradually the circles turned into fluffy shapes that looked like flowers from another planet.
“That’s neat!” said Kallie, leaning over. “What are those?”
I shrugged. “I don’t know.” We painted in silence for a few minutes until I said, “Let’s call them Hambrushinas.”
Kallie’s head snapped up from the floor, where she’d been making the green circle into some sort of creature with many arms and eyes. “That’s the first sensible thing you’ve said since I met you.” Her wide smile assured me that this was a compliment. I smiled back.

Praise for the Book
"This YA novel is definitely geared toward the younger end of the spectrum. Though sometimes narrated by Hilary as an older teenager, it most often comes from the perspective of her twelve year old self. [...] It does feature some good life lessons on friendship and bullying, though. It's an easy and quick read that touches on a lot of issues that young girls might experience." ~ rexy
"Maybe its due to the fact that it relates a lot with what I went through during school but I thoroughly enjoyed every part of this book. It was an easy read that I would persuade anyone still in high school, or even with children in high school to read this. Although in saying that I am neither someone still in high school and I don't have any children. Scratch that, I think anyone could read this and connect with it in one shape or form." ~ Teagan Cook
"Thumbs up for Marnie Lamb for this beautifully written book. I notice how much people actually DNF it at the first chapter (cause trust me it was just so lame, all the childish stuff, I think at that time, only children may enjoy by reading this). Thank God i've given your book a second chance if not I'll not realize how beautiful this story was. :')" ~ Eyqa Zaque
"This is labelled as young adult [...] but it's more middle grade - preteens especially will enjoy it. The same old story of wanting to fit in and bullies picking on someone simply because they're different. I thought the writing was strong. It was funny in places but was also serious when need be. Kallie was such a strong character. But poor Hilary is torn between doing the right thing by sticking up for her new friend and not being able to say anything because it wouldn't be cool." ~ Jenn
"Overall I think this is the kind of book i would have gobbled up at about age 12, so I was a little too late reading it but I would still recommend it to people in that age group who want something that covers a difficult topic in an easier way." ~ Jay

My Review
I received this book in return for an honest review.

By Lynda Dickson
At the age of seventeen, Hilary is persuaded to write her autobiography. She writes about the life-changing events in her life when she was twelve. That summer, her best friend Lynn goes to California, leaving Hilary on her own. Until Kallie moves in next door, someone so different to Lynn that Hilary doesn't think they can ever be friends. The girls slowly grow closer, but what will happen when summer ends, Lynn returns, and Hilary once again worries about what the "cool" girls think?
This is a middle grade story about a twelve year old girl with body image issues. It is also a story about friendship, family, and bullying. The young girls in this book act so horribly towards each other, that it's often hard to read. It's so sad to think that these young girls are too afraid or embarrassed to seek help from their parents or teachers. Hopefully this book will help girls in similar situations realize that they are not alone.
The final chapter takes us back to the beginning of the book when Hilary, now aged seventeen, summarizes the events of the last five years and reveals how she came to write her autobiography at such a young age. While not technically necessary, these chapters allow us to witness Hilary's growth and give us hope for the future.
Warnings: bullying.

About the Author
A Journey Prize nominee, Marnie Lamb earned a master’s degree in creative writing from the University of Windsor. Her short stories have appeared in various Canadian literary journals. Her first novel, a YA book named The History of Hilary Hambrushina, has just been released by Iguana Books. When she is not writing fiction or running her freelance editing business, she can be found cooking recipes with eggplant or scouting out colorful fashions at the One of a Kind Show.

Enter the tour-wide giveaway for a chance to win a $50 Amazon gift card.


Thursday, June 29, 2017

"Dating the It Guy" by Krysten Lindsay Hager

Dating the It Guy
by Krysten Lindsay Hager

Dating the It Guy by Krysten Lindsay Hager

This book blast and giveaway for Dating the It Guy by Krysten Lindsay Hager is brought to you by I Am A Reader. Get your copy now for only $0.99.

For more books by this author, please check out True Colors (read my blog post), Next Door to a Star (read my blog post), and Competing With the Star (read my blog post).

Emme is a sophomore in high school who starts dating, Brendon Agretti, the popular senior who happens to be a senator’s son and well-known for his good looks. Emme feels out of her comfort zone in Brendon’s world and it doesn’t help that his picture perfect ex, Lauren seems determined to get back into his life along with every other girl who wants to be the future Mrs. Agretti. Emme is already conflicted due to the fact her last boyfriend cheated on her and her whole world is off kilter with her family issues. Life suddenly seems easier keeping Brendon away and relying on her crystals and horoscopes to guide her. Emme soon starts to realize she needs to focus less on the stars and more on her senses. Can Emme get over her insecurities and make her relationship work? Life sure is complicated when you’re dating the it guy.

Book Video

He put the magazine between us, and when I moved forward to see it, he put his arm across the back of my chair. Now lots of guys did put their arms on chair backs, even Kirk did that with Rory, and he definitely wasn’t interested in her, but I couldn’t help but hope it meant something. I got this shivery feeling, and he asked if I was cold. I shook my head. I always got a feeling before something major was about to happen, and it has nothing to do with being cold, but I didn’t know why I got the feeling. Grandma used to do the same thing and always said, “Somebody just walked across my grave.” Somehow I didn’t think Brendon would understand if I told him I needed to move my future burial plot to a less high-traffic area.
“Are we still on for the art fair?” he asked.
I had only been circling it with hearts on my calendar since he asked.
“Sure, I think I’m still free,” I said.
We finished up our work, and he walked me out to meet Kylie.
“Okay, I’ll pick you up at three tomorrow,” he said, walking off.
“Can I ask a stupid question?” Kylie asked as soon as Brendon was out of earshot. “What’s he like? Because he’s so well-known, and I can’t imagine what it’d be like to grow up with your whole life under a microscope. I mean, my mom remembers his first birthday party pictures being shown on the news. And he’s hot, but he’s not like I-know-I’m-a-hottie hot, but more like a confident, ‘Yes, I am hot. Any questions?’ I mean, he has to have noticed there aren’t any guys who look like him walking around.”
“I should tell him what you said.”
“Don’t you dare,” Kylie said.
“I get what you mean—he’s grown up with everybody knowing his dad and watching him, but he’s pretty down to earth.”
“So what’s up with you two? You guys didn’t do any work last Saturday, and now you’re going to an art fair.”
“I dunno. He just asked me to go with him.”
“Asked you to go with him as his study buddy or asked you to go with him because he’s desperately in love with you?” she asked.
I said we were just friends, but she wouldn’t let it go.
“Okay, duh, obviously I like him, but let’s be honest. He’s out of my league. He’s out of most people’s league. It’s weird because normally if I like a guy then one of two things happens—either he likes me and asks for my number…or I find out he’s not into me and I cry in my pillow and listen to man-hating music for at least three days,” I said. “But this time’s different because he’s, I dunno, not just ‘some guy.’ I mean, I’m not putting up a shrine to him in my room, and I haven’t rooted though his garbage can, but I have as much chance of going out with him as Kirk does of getting an ‘A’ in this class.”
“You listen to man-hating music?” she asked, and I narrowed my eyes at her. “Whatever. Anyway, Em, he’s asked you out once already, and you are seeing him tomorrow. Plus, he’s always staring at you.”
I said he was probably just bored in class today, but she wouldn’t let it go.
“I’m not just talking about today. When we watched the movie on Monday, he watched you instead, and whenever I see you guys, he acts like there’s no one else in the room,” she said.
I couldn’t hold back the big, stupid smile spreading across my face. “He does? For real?”
She nodded. “You know, it’s weird. Here you were all upset you didn’t have a partner at the beginning of the semester, and then you ended up with like, Mr. Perfection, as your partner.”
[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt.]

Praise for the Book
"Dating the It Guy is an entertaining story that is as absorbing as it is hilarious." ~ Reviewed by Arya Fomonyuy for Readers’ Favorite
"A satisfying YA romance that is really about growing up and learning how to deal with life." ~ Writing Pearls book review blog
"There is so much to love about this book. Krysten Lindsay Hager knows how teens think and speak, and she understands why Emme would feel overwhelmed by everything about Brendon – his looks, his popularity, his feelings for her, his exes, his family." ~ Vox libris: the voice of books book review blog
"A lot of teenagers are dealing with the same issues and I found the story really comforting and supportive." ~ With Love for Books

About the Author
Besides mining her teen years and humiliating moments for her novels, Krysten is also a book addict who has never met a bookstore she didn’t like. Krysten writes about friendship, self-esteem, fitting in, frenemies, crushes, fame, first loves, and values. She is the author of True Colors, Best Friends…Forever?, Next Door to a Star, Landry in Like, Competing With the Star, and Dating the It Guy. Her debut novel, True Colors, won the Readers Favorite award for best preteen book and the Dayton Book Expo Best Sellers award. Krysten’s work has been featured in USA Today, The Flint Journal, the Grand Haven Tribune, the Beavercreek Current, the Grand Blanc View, the Bellbrook Times, and on Living Dayton.

Enter the blast-wide giveaway for a chance to win a $50 Amazon gift card or PayPal cash.


Wednesday, June 28, 2017

"A Crime of Passion Fruit" by Ellie Alexander

A Crime of Passion Fruit
(A Bakeshop Mystery Book 6)
by Ellie Alexander

A Crime of Passion Fruit (A Bakeshop Mystery Book 6) by Ellie Alexander

A Crime of Passion Fruit is currently on tour with Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours. The tour stops here today for a guest post by the author, an excerpt, and a giveaway. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.

Torte - everybody’s favorite small-town family bakeshop - is headed for the high seas, where murder is about to make a splash ...
Jules Capshaw is trying to keep her cool as Torte gets set to make its transformation from quaint, local confectionary café to royal pastry palace. Meanwhile, Jules’s estranged husband Carlos is making a desperate plea for her to come aboard his cruise ship and dazzle everyone with her signature sweets. She may be skeptical about returning to her former nautical life with Carlos but Jules can’t resist an all-expense-paid trip, either. If only she knew that a dead body would find its way onto the itinerary.
Now, instead of enjoying tropical drinks on deck between whipping up batches of sea-salted chocolates and flambéing fresh pineapple slices in the kitchen, Jules is plunged into dangerous waters. Her investigation leaves her with more questions than answers: Why can’t anyone on board identify the young woman? And how can she help Carlos keep passengers at ease with a killer in their midst? Jules feels like she’s ready to jump ship. Can she solve this case without getting in too deep?

Click below to read an excerpt.

Praise for the Book
"A warm and inviting atmosphere, friendly and likable main characters, and a nasty murder mystery to solve!" ~ Fresh Fiction
"A perfect mix for fans of Jenn McKinlay, Leslie Budewitz, or Jessica Beck." ~ Library Journal
"A Crime of Passion Fruit was a fantastic, fast paced story that had me flying through the pages. Not only was it a compelling mystery that had more twists than waves in the ocean, it was a feel good cozy that made me smile (and shed a few tears). To top it all off, stomach growling recipes that you are going to want to make soon as you close the book!" ~ Lisa Ks Book Reviews
"This book is well plotted and the characters are well developed. The author provides enough background information that each book in this series can be read as a standalone. Ms. Alexander’s descriptions of the cruise ship and sea, and food and beverages available to the passengers are descriptive and vivid [...] I recommend A Crime of Passion Fruit to anyone who enjoys reading well-crafted cozy mysteries." ~ RO G'ma
"I've always enjoyed this series and A Crime of Passion Fruit is an excellent addition to the cozy mystery family. [...] It was interesting to read about the inner workings of the kitchens on the ship and the intriguing mystery made it even more enjoyable." ~ Between the Pages

Guest Post by the Author
An Introduction to the Bakeshop Mysteries
Thanks so much for having me on as a guest today. I’m thrilled to get a chance to introduce readers to the Bakeshop Mysteries. The series is set in Ashland, Oregon, which is a real town in the southernmost corner of Oregon. Ashland is best known for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Theater lovers of all kinds visit Ashland during the season (which runs from February through October) to catch a production of Hamlet or The Merry Wives of Windsor under the stars. What makes Ashland even more unique is that the entire town is themed like an old Elizabethan village. Every shop and storefront in the downtown plaza is designed in Tudor style with turrets, wood carvings, and Shakespearean-inspired names like Oberon’s Tavern.
Setting fictional murders in a real location is equally fun and challenging. Every time I visit Ashland, residents like to remind me that their town is quite safe and has not seen a murder in decades. I really enjoy getting to weave in real world details about the inner-workings of a major theater company, touches of life in a small town, and of course, since my protagonist (Jules) is a pastry chef, lots of delectable sweet and savory treats. I spend hours and hours interviewing pastry chefs and hanging out behind the scenes in busy kitchens. I’m definitely someone who has to write what I know. Getting a chance to watch a sous chef cut out dainty hand-pressed cookies or painstakingly pipe buttercream onto a cake really breathes life into the books. Plus, sometimes if I’m lucky I get to taste their magnificent creations.
I also spend a lot of time in my home kitchen testing recipes. Every book in the series includes original recipes. I joke that I’m not sure if I’m going to run out of recipes of ways to kill people off first. Usually I start with a very rough draft of the manuscript, mainly to rough out the plot. Once I have a first draft complete, I let the book marinate so to speak, and I get to work in my kitchen. Actually kneading bread dough, listening to the sound of butter browning on the stove, and soaking in the scent of cinnamon scones baking in the oven helps me layer in the food writing when I go back to the second and third drafts.
In the sixth book, A Crime of Passion Fruit, Jules is taking a brief hiatus from her Shakespeare hometown and returning to the boutique cruise ship where she spent a decade working as a pastry chef. Her life at sea was quite magical. She saw dozens of ports of call and sample cuisine from all over the world while sailing the globe. However, once she returned to Ashland and put down firm roots at her family bakeshop, Torte, she hasn’t looked back. That changes when her estranged husband calls and begs her to come fill in for a week when the ship’s pastry chef leaves in a huff. Jules is initially excited to be back on crystal blue waters and eager to try her hand at new tropical recipes. However, much like in Ashland, she stumbles upon a body floating in the pool and suddenly finds herself immersed in a murder investigation.
I hope you’ll give it a read and test out one of Jules’s summer Caribbean cookies. If nothing else you should have something sweet to accompany your read.
Happy reading and baking!

About the Author
Ellie Alexander is a Pacific Northwest native who spends ample time testing pastry recipes in her home kitchen or at one of the many famed coffeehouses nearby. When she’s not coated in flour, you’ll find her outside exploring hiking trails and trying to burn off calories consumed in the name of research.

Enter the tour-wide giveaway for a chance to win an Ellie Alexander prize package (US only).