Thursday, August 31, 2017

"The Big F" by Maggie Ann Martin

The Big F
by Maggie Ann Martin

The Big F by Maggie Ann Martin

The Big F by Maggie Ann Martin 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.

Danielle effed up. Big time.
Danielle’s plans for the future were pretty easy to figure out ... until she failed senior English and her single college application was denied. Suddenly she’s in hot water with very few options, because honestly who applies to a safety school when their mom is a semi-famous "college psychic"?!
Determined to get her life back on track, Danielle enrolls in her hometown community college with a plan: pass her English class and get back into Ohio State and her mother’s good graces. Romance isn’t on her radar ... until she reconnects with her childhood crush and golden-boy-next-door, Luke.
Between family drama, first love, and finding her own way, Danielle can’t help but feel a little overwhelmed. Thankfully she has her friendship with the snarky and frustratingly attractive Porter, her coworker at the campus bookstore, to push her to experience new things and help keep her afloat.
One thing’s for sure: This time, failure’s not an option.

Book Video

“What?” Mom asked. No one moved and the silence that hung in the air stung my ears.
“I didn’t pass English and Ohio State didn’t accept me again,” I said.
Nothing can describe the feeling of your mother’s disappointment and your cousin’s vehement hatred rolling over you all at once. The tears already fell down my face and I knew that if I didn’t leave soon my sadness and embarrassment would explode all over the dining room with no survivors in its wake. I took another look around the table before I ran upstairs.
I couldn’t face the Ohio-State-infested room, so I climbed out my window and onto my roof. I curled my arms around my legs, allowing myself to cry. Everything had finally fallen apart. Mom knew, Claire knew, and now I finally had to admit it to myself. I couldn’t pretend that it would work out or put off the discussion for another day. My failure was here, in my face, and ready to punch me in the gut repeatedly. I pulled out my phone from my pocket and dialed the one number that can solve any crisis.
“Zoe? Come pick me up? It’s an emergency.”
She was on her way before I finished my sentence.
[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt.]

Praise for the Book
"A debut novel sure to resonate with high schoolers who eagerly anticipate graduation and the start of college... Danielle is a savvy, likable character with whom teens will easily identify... Romance fans will enjoy this fast-paced story that features an interesting set of characters and satisfying conclusion." ~ School Library Journal
"What a fun read! ... I was rooting for Danielle from the first page." ~ Anna S.
"The Big F is such a fun and awesome read ... It’s great to see Danielle learning more on what makes her happy, overcoming her mistakes, and growing up into a better person." ~ Chen Yan Chang
"I really loved this story and it’s something I would read over and over again." ~ GM

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

By Lynda Dickson
When Danielle doesn't get into the college of her dreams, she considers herself a failure. She enrolls in the local community college, hoping to transfer out as soon as she can. But plans change. First, she reunites with Luke, her childhood crush. Then, she gets a job at the bookstore and meets Porter, who happens to be Luke's roommate. Finally, she gets an internship with a conservationist organization and discovers her true passion. Meanwhile, she struggles to connect with her mother and clashes with her perfect cousin. Danielle has a whole lot of growing up to do, and she discovers that you can't always plan your life.
In keeping with the F theme of the book title, the chapter titles are all F words: Failure, Fate, Final, Friendship, Fluke, Fun, Future, Fire, Family, Firsts, Foreboding, Fame, Faster, Festivities, Formal, Feast, Fever, Fortune, Frustration, Fracture, and Feeling; this is a cute and clever way of presenting the major premise of each chapter. Danielle is snarky and sarcastic and the perfect foil for Porter. I also love her interactions with her fourteen-year-old brother, Noah, but the exchanges with her mother seem a bit forced and unnatural, while her father's input is practically non-existent. I could see the author expanding this book into a series, and I'd be especially interested in learning more about Noah and Danielle's best friend, Zoe.
A fun, easy read.
Warnings: heavy alcohol consumption, sexual references. Technically, this is a new adult book, as the characters are eighteen years old and attending college. However, while there is (quite) a bit of drinking, there is no coarse language, and the sex scenes are only implied, making it suitable for young adult readers.
Note: the copy I read contained some editing errors and a few poorly constructed sentences.

About the Author
Maggie Ann Martin
Maggie Ann Martin hails from Des Moines, Iowa, but moonlights as a New Yorker. She has a shiny new BA in English and Journalism from the University of Iowa, the most welcoming literary community in the world. When she is not writing, you can find her binge watching TV shows or passionately fangirling over fictional characters on the Internet. The Big F is her debut novel.

Enter the tour-wide giveaway for a chance to win a print copy of The Big F by Maggie Ann Martin (US/Canada only).


Wednesday, August 30, 2017

"Going Home" by Michael Morrow

Going Home:
Hope Lives Where Reason Dies
by Michael Morrow

Going Home: Hope Lives Where Reason Dies by Michael Morrow

Psychologist and Pastor Adam Sutterland had answers - for others. He found his higher ground armed with psychological theory and divine wisdom - a gift he tried not to flaunt. Then his wife and child were killed in a car accident, and everything he knew disappeared. Short-winded shock floated him to his bed and dropped him hard onto the back of an incubus on its flight to perdition, before mauling his soul and hanging it back inside him, dead and stinking. Trading hope and reason for denial and delusion, Adam was unable to apply his skills to himself, and he doubted the answers of others. After becoming a mechanical mess of pragmatic thought and cowardly escape, he is finally saved by that which he thought he’d lost forever.

About the Author
Michael Morrow is a resident of Lebanon, Missouri, in the Ozarks region of the nation. A warehouse worker and long-time writer, Morrow offers Going Home as a rewrite of a prior work. Aside from writing, Morrow enjoys family, and most anything the hills and hollows of the country can offer. While Going Home is not a self-help book, he hopes something positive can be found by those who read it.


"The Lost Knight" by Candy Atkins

The Lost Knight
(The Lost Knight Series Book 1)
by Candy Atkins

The Lost Knight (The Lost Knight Series Book 1) by Candy Atkins

The Lost Knight is the first book in The Lost Knight Series by Candy Atkins. Get your copy now for only $0.99. Also available: The Lost Girl.

The Lost Girl by Candy Atkins

This book blast and giveaway is brought to you by I Am A Reader.

How am I supposed to save the world when I’m not strong, not brave, not smart, and not particularly good at most things?
I ran away from home the day after my thirteenth birthday when Auntie and her weird friend attacked me. Now I’m on the run with the Grim Reaper and a scary soldier. And I’m no longer on Earth. They were expecting me to be a Knight. The savior that’s supposed to stop a war and prevent the invasion of Earth. But I’m not. They grabbed the wrong girl. I just don’t know how to tell them.

Book Video

I grab the box of midnight-purple hair dye from my book bag and squeeze my way down the narrow, overstuffed hall into the only bathroom in our apartment. The shower hasn’t worked since it was turned into a storage closet, so I clear the sink of the old cat food cans Auntie has stockpiled, turn on the cold water, and dream about the day when I’ll have my own apartment with a shower, hot water, and food.
“Agatha, are you still pouting?” Auntie yells from her recliner. ”I told you, Uncle will pick something up when he’s done with work.”
My foster parents, I call them Auntie and Uncle, are not what I would describe as parents, or even aunt and uncle, they’re more like babysitters. Uncle hasn’t been home for three days, and I doubt she believes he’ll be here tonight. She just wants me to tell her that I’m okay with her not picking up dinner. I’m not. Today is my thirteenth birthday. It’s not like I was expecting a cake, but something to eat would’ve been nice.
After I dye my hair, I take a shirt from the pile of laundry I’m standing on, wrap it around my head, and carry the remaining hair dye back to my bedroom. I love my tiny room, mostly because I’ve been sketching and painting jumbled and disjointed art on these walls since I was old enough to grip a pencil. Part of the reason I chose what the box calls boysenberry for my hair is because the extra dye is the perfect hue for the raven I’m painting on my ceiling.
Dipping the number-three flat brush into my dye calms me and all is forgiven. Auntie’s not a mean person, she’s just a bit off. Being angry with her is like being mad at one of the cats—pointless.
I wrap a blanket around my shoulders and open the window. Queens is especially chatty tonight with the noise of cars, people fighting, dogs barking, and the laughter that only I can hear. I stand on the bed and fill in the gentle face of my birdie while humming along with the chorus of voices outside.
Tonight, the singing is boldly wafting through my window. I can’t understand the words and don’t know the tune, but the music is sweet and peaceful. It’s sad that I can only hear my songs some of the time, when I’m tired and relaxed, and sadder still that no one else can listen with me.
My dye runs out long before I’m satisfied with my raven so I give up and climb into bed. The song I’m listening to now is particularly soothing, a hymn or possibly an opera. Maybe one day I’ll be a great songwriter or something.
A muffled thud near my window startles me from a sound sleep. There’s an eerie red glow casting moving shadows acrossmy room. I blink a few times to make sure I’m not still dreaming and follow the source of the light. Just to the side of the foot of my bed kneels a tall, hooded figure with luminescent red eyes. It’s stroking the long ears of a much smaller creature that looks withered and dying.
I’m not scared, which is weird, but it might be because I’m not sure I’m awake. I turn on the lamp to make the dream disappear and end up blinding myself. When my eyes adjust, I see the sickly green skin of a long-eared frog-boy lying on the floor and the tall cloaked being that’s cradling it. The tall black monster who closely resembles the Grim Reaper appears to be even more stunned than I am. We stare at each other while my brain struggles to figure out what I’m looking at. These things don’t exist, so how can I be seeing them so clearly? The black-hooded creature never takes its red eyes off me while it stands and lifts the small sickly frog-boy off the floor.
“Agatha?” it whispers.
This monster is actually in my room! My insides seize, trapping my scream. What is this thing and how does it know my name? I want to run, but I can’t move or look away. My fluttering heart stops when my door flies open with a crash. A scream unseals my lips, amplifying my terror.
Auntie charges in, wielding a large kitchen knife. She’s yelling in her nutty made-up language, but it works. The creature jumps out my fifth-floor window, taking the frog-boy with him.
She whips around toward me, still holding the knife, and looking like she means to use it. “What did you see! What was that? What were you doing!”
Auntie has her kind moments, but she’s crazy. I mean, truly mental. Whatever just happened, she mustn’t know that I saw it too. She probably suspects I did, but if I confirm it, she’ll nail my window shut and my songs will disappear forever. “I had a nightmare. Was I yelling in my sleep? Did I wake you?” I’m trying to sound calm, but I’m failing.
She takes a few deep breaths while she sizes me up. She pauses and tilts her head to the side. “There was something here. I saw it. Did you see it?”
“What was here? What did you see? And what’s with the knife?” I want her to tell me if she saw the Grim Reaper and a dead rabbit-frog-boy at the foot of my bed. If she saw them too, then I’m not crazy. But then again, if I see the same thing as a crazy person, we’re probably both insane.
[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt.]

Praise for the Book
#2 on GoodReads Middle Grade Novels of 2016
"Like Harry Potter meets The Labyrinth." ~ Author Adan Ramie
"Candy Atkins takes us on an epic adventure reminiscent of the novels of C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien." ~ Goodreads/AmazonReviewer
"For all you Potterheads or Harry Potter geeks, how can you not fall in love with this story and appreciate the fact that it is a female lead." ~ Rising Indies United
"...A sassy pet Pegasus, unicorns, faeries, elves, an ocean you can walk on top of, a scene that gives vibes similar to those from the Disney movie Inside Out, and a cave where anything you think of becomes real. Read it!!" ~ Olivia, Heir of Glitter
"I cannot recommend this tale enough! I have never seen such genuinely real characters come to life so well, all through the eyes of a young teen caught between childhood and young adulthood and ill-prepared for what she is about to undertake. Start to finish, this is well-written fantasy that shouts: READ ME to all ages, and even better? No teen romantic angst on a single page. Candy Atkins, you have a winner here! A true gem!" ~ Dianne, Tome Tender Book Blog

About the Author
Candy Atkins
Candy Atkins is a full-time writer who lives with her husband and two kids in Orlando, Florida. She’s an avid reader and lover of all things fantasy and sci-fi. Her debut novel, The Lost Knight, is volume one of the six-part Lost Knight Series.
Her life’s journey has taken her from dining with the President to being on food stamps to running her own company. And since all author bios end by naming and quantifying pets ... she also enjoys spending time with her boxer, Butler, and Wynona the cat.

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


Tuesday, August 29, 2017

"I Believe in Butterflies" by Marian L. Thomas

I Believe in Butterflies
by Marian L. Thomas

I Believe in Butterflies by Marian L. Thomas

Author Marian L. Thomas joins me today for an interview and to share an excerpt from her latest novel, I Believe in Butterflies.
For another book by this author, please check out my blog post on Blue Butterfly.

I Believe in Butterflies is a resonating story told through the insightful voices of three women navigating life and love.
Seventy-six-year-old Emma Lee Baker has lived a seemingly ordinary life near the banks of Thomas Bay, but a shocking discovery turns her ordinary life into something altogether extraordinary.
Honour Blue Baker is the polar opposite of her gentile mother. There are only two things in life she fears: her past and the idea of falling in love. Those fears come full circle when she returns to Barrow County to visit her mother, never knowing that her journey home will become a journey of a lifetime.
Twenty-three-year-old Lorraine has hedged her bets on three things: love, butterflies, and the fact that she's a white woman. When she discovers that her long-held beliefs are nothing more than fallacies, all she's held dear is shattered. The hard truths force her to seek out a fresh start - far from the life she thought she knew - but that new life will not be without its share of perils.

Book Video

         I’m about to take my last breath.
         I suppose not everybody gets to write down their last thoughts before they die. But since you know I always got to get the last word; I’m writing this down for you baby girl. I reckon that’s something. In the end, I figure we all still trying to find something to leave behind, something that reminds folks that we once walked the good ground and took a deep breath for seventy or eighty years. I ain’t gonna lie; my last thoughts are probably something one wishes they could keep locked up inside them. Shoot, you probably wondering why I’m telling it. Heck, I reckon right about now, you’re wondering why I don’t just take it with me. I don’t know really. I guess I just felt like my bones are tired of trying to find the right, forgiving water to stop the hurt.
         As my daddy used to say, “Truth, let the heart speak it.”
         I know I quote from him a lot. But that’s what good hand-me-down wisdom does for you. I hope I handed some down to you that you can use.
         I pray I’m going to give you something to keep in that beautiful heart of yours.
         Anywho, I was supposed to be telling you something, so I reckon I better get on with it.
         My truth.
         I didn’t believe you at first. I didn’t believe the truth that dripped from the lips of my child. But I need you to know baby girl…I need you to know that in the end, I believed everything and I was sorry.

Emma Lee Baker
         Some people say that I’m crazy. A crazy ole black woman with nothing better to do than stand on the bridge during the heat of the day and stare at the fish that swim by in the crisp blue water.
         I ain’t crazy. I just like staring at freedom.
         I like looking at the fish swimming from one end of the river, clear up to the other. Ain’t nobody worried about what color they are or if they be big fish or small fish. Ain’t nobody worried about any of those things when it comes to the fish.
         Folks been fishing in that water for years and my fish ain’t never lost their freedom.
I reckon that if God gave them fish their freedom, then that’s how it was meant to be for all people.
         He didn’t make them better than he made us.
         Anywho, as for little ole me, it seems folks around here tend to take notice of my coming and going. I reckon it’s my fault. I mean, if I hadn’t been standing on that bridge that day, I might not have seen it. The dead body that is.
         It was a female. A young girl. I reckon that she was no more than fourteen or so. Her blond hair was wrapped around her neck like it was the thing that choked the poor life out of her.
At first, I stared at her for a good while. It might have been a few hours. I guess I just got carried away. Wondering how long she’d been in the water with my fish. It wasn’t until Ms. Mary came up to see if I was finally going to jump in and end my crazy ole life, that I realized I ought to say something.
         Ms. Mary started screaming when she saw it. Typical for white women. Always dramatic. Black folks around here been seeing dead bodies for centuries.
         Anywho, next thing I knew, the Sheriff and the rest of our small police department come raging down the dirt road, blocking all the traffic that by then, had done multiplied on the Thompson Mill Bridge.
         Word carries fast around here—Barrow County, Georgia. It doesn’t matter which side of the Seaboard Air Line Railroad you rest ya head on.
Jimmy, our Sheriff—started asking me questions, once his dirty little boots hit the pavement. Questions that I didn’t have the answers to. I told him that I didn’t know anything. That I just saw the body, I didn’t put it there.
         He told me to go home and to not leave town.
         Jimmy is not different from his daddy; they’re both short, stocky, and almost bald. I think that’s the reason Jimmy always walking around town with a hat on. Jimmy loves himself some spotlight. Always trying to get himself in the papers with a big grin on his face and his hands on his gun.  I believe he loves to turn them sirens on just so he has a reason to drive like he ain’t got no sense.
         He ain’t got none, truth be told, but still, he talks to me like I ain’t got none either. I always liked Jimmy, he got a kind heart and I been knowing him since he was a baby. However, there are plenty of times I want to tell him that just because I am twice his age—seventy-six, that doesn’t mean I can’t put thoughts together. I ain’t never said this to his face, ‘cause even at seventy-six, I know that they could still take my old butt to jail and then, my daughter who lives in Chicago would have to come and bail my butt out. I reckon it would take her about three days or so to do it, but eventually, her conscience would kick her in the rear, and she’d pick up that fancy car she drives and come see about her mama.
         Yes, three days ought to do it.
         She and I don’t speak much. She thinks her bridges done got to high and mighty to come back to her roots. The truth is—on the day she crossed over from the black side of the railroad tracks and walked a couple of miles to board the only train we got, I never wanted her to come back. Just call. We get along so much better on the phone for the one or two minutes we manage to have a conversation.
         Honour is a smart girl, so I could never understand why she went off and got a fancy college degree only to open some high and mighty hair salon all the way up in Chicago. They don’t even have sweet tea in Chicago. I make a mean pitcher of sweet tea. Everyone in town will swear to it.
         My child would too. She just done forgot what her mama’s tea feels like running down her throat, that’s all.  It’s like, as soon as she finished high school, she had her bags and the real sense her daddy, and I tried to instill in her, rearing to go.
         Her salon was in the papers a lot ‘cause some of them celebrities you see on the television like to sit in her chair.
         The local paper here wrote a story about her. It made the front page. It seems it was headline news that a black girl from Barrow County made something of herself in the big city of Chicago. I still have that article. In fact, I have every article about her that has even been written.
         I named her Honour and Jean, my husband, gave her the middle name—Blue because it’s his favorite color. We fought about it for most of the time I was pregnant with her, but, once that child was born, I didn’t see any point.
         It was a rough pregnancy. One that nearly ended me since the doctors say I got small hips, but she came into the world as Honour Blue Baker, forty-one years ago. I remember when the doc slapped her on the butt to get her to cry, she gave him an ‘how dare ya kind of look.’
         Only my child would never say ‘ya’ in her life.
         She still just as strong-minded today as she was then. It was inherited, she got it honestly from my Jean.
         I came from a long line of cooks, maids, babysitters, shoe shiners, and a generation that believed in birthing babies like they were going to get money for doing so. I could never understand why they kept pumping out their children when they knew good and well that they were poor. But I reckon that if my mother had of stopped, I wouldn’t be here today. I was her last.
         She gave her last breath just to so I could take my own.
         As for me, I only had one child. Honour came just when I thought my ovaries had gone dry. I was plum shocked, to be honest with ya. I had come to reckon that I just didn’t get the blessing all the other women in my family got. In fact, Jean and I had gotten mighty use to it being just he and I, after years of trying. But low and behold, at thirty-five, I delivered a healthy baby girl with a lush of wavy black hair.  I remember Jean hollering and carrying on like he done won some money or something. He bonded with her the moment she reached out and grabbed his finger. Not too many daddies like that nowadays. Shame, though, since little girls need a father they can hold hands with.
[Want more? Click below to read another excerpt.]

Praise for the Book
"Ms. Thomas took me on a bittersweet journey of faith, hope, and love that endures in spite of all the barriers we put in its way. This novel is truly encouraging and heartfelt, and I felt the love through the pages." ~ Lauren Stafford, Seattle Book Review
"Not too often have I experienced reading a novel that fearlessly exposes the realities of race, unconditional love, pain, trust, infidelity, and forgiveness, all combined into one very realistic and relatable plot. It is amazing how words put on a page can be crafted in such a way as to reveal to the reader the dialect, cultural norms, and behavior of the characters. The journey the plot took into the past also gave the reader an opportunity to construct images of each character in order to reveal what the author was trying to portray about these characters later in the text. Author Marian L. Thomas was not afraid to touch on the sensitive subjects of damaged relationships, sexual assault, violence, and loss. I Believe in Butterflies comes highly recommended. You will definitely not be disappointed." ~ Sandra Price Blyden, San Francisco Book Review
"As bridges between the past and future are formed, readers will be swept along in the rising tide of emotion and discovery framed by a powerful saga of black lives and family ties, transformed by truth." ~ D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review
"This book had the soul of our grandmother's stories, and you can recognize the wistfulness of wanting to change back time, to get back some years ... to not have life be full of regrets. Thomas took me on a journey that these three women take, and I believe I am all the wiser for it. I could read the insecurities of my youth through Lorraine. In Honour's words, I could see a life full of regrets. And in Emma Lee's wisdom and brashness, I saw a mama who wanted to protect her child from the world." ~ Leila Tualla, Author of Love Defined

Interview with the Author
Author Marian L. Thomas joins me today to discuss her new book, I Believe in Butterflies.
For what age group do you recommend your book?
It's best suited to women aged 25 to 60.
What sparked the idea for this book?
I wanted to write a book where the characters cross generations. I think that’s important. Most women will tell you that they were molded by older women, women their age, and even those from a younger generation. As women, we learn from each other.
So, which comes first? The character's story of the idea for the novel?
Each character's story starts the writing process for me. The idea of the book starts to take shape once I have the character in my mind.
What was the hardest part to write in this book?
The story of Honour Blue Baker was tough to write. Her story is so real, raw, and honest. It's the story of so many women.
How do you hope this book affects its readers?
I hope that readers will get caught up in the journey of each woman. Sometimes, we forget that life is a journey. It’s a discovery. We learn from the things that we have gone through. We learn courage, strength, and we gain wisdom.
What is your writing routine?
I have a small nook in my bedroom that transforms into my writing space once a year. For the past four years or so, I've started writing my novels in November. It has now become a tradition.
What advice do you have for someone who would like to become a published writer?
Take inspiration from life. It can provide a new character daily.
What does your family think of your writing?
My family are my biggest supporters. From my husband to my mother. They encourage and support me.
Please tell us a bit about your childhood.
I grew up in a suburb of Chicago, called Oak Park. I went to a private elementary school and later attended Oak Park River Forest High School. My fondest memory is learning to jump double-dutch.
Did you like to read when you were a child?
I loved reading books. But I really enjoyed art as a child. It wasn't until my high school years that the idea of writing a book took over.
So when did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
My second year in high school, I was in the library walking up a flight of steps, when I got this crazy idea for a fiction book that told the life of a jazz singer. That night, I began writing my first manuscript.
What can we look forward to from you in the future?
In November, I will be working on my next book, The Caged Butterfly. The story is centered around a woman who began secretly bleaching her skin when she was eight years old. It will be a story about learning to love yourself, overcoming your fears, facing struggles, and finding strength in forgiveness.
Anything else you would like to add?
I Believe in Butterflies is not a typical story of three women. It is more than that; it is an unparalleled story of three women on a journey of hope, courage, and love.
Thanks for stopping by today, Marian. Best of luck with your upcoming project.

About the Author
Award-Winning Author and Speaker, Marian L. Thomas, has penned five engaging novels to date. Her books have been seen on national television stations such as the Oprah Winfrey Network, Ovation, and the A&E Network. She has been featured in print magazines, newspapers and a guest on local, national and online radio stations. She spent most of her teen years in Oak Park, Illinois, but now resides in a suburb of Atlanta with her husband. She enjoys a good bag of popcorn, a plate full of pasta, and a grape pop.