Friday, June 21, 2019

Lying Beneath the Oaks ~ Kristin Wright

Wright, Kristin. 2019. Lying Beneath the Oaks. Bella Rosa Books. ISBN 978-1622681433. $15.95 USD.

I was fortunate to win a signed copy of Lying Beneath the Oaks by Kristin Wright in a giveaway sponsored by The Debutante Ball. Established in 2007, the DB is a group blog for authors making their debut in the literary world. They are currently in their twelfth season of celebrating up-and-coming authors. Former Debs include bestsellers in the genres of women’s fiction, mystery, literary fiction, nonfiction, young adult, and more. This link will tell you more about it:

In her debut, Kristin Wright has written an entertaining and tightly-paced novel, which includes sympathetic characters with distinct voices, well-written dialogue, and enough suspense to keep readers turning the pages.

The main character, Molly Todd, has secrets. A lot of secrets. Somehow she finds herself waking up married in Vegas to a stranger - a Southern gentleman lawyer from a well-respected family named Cooper Middleton. Neither remembers any of it. Deciding to return home to Charleston to see about getting an annulment, Molly finds herself staying at Cooper's family home, and keeping even more secrets.

I enjoyed the fact that the author takes her time in unveiling all of the mysteries in this novel. A few I figured out before the end, but that didn't diminish the reading experience. Molly also has some amnesia about a traumatic event in her past, and the unraveling of that mystery was one of the big payoffs for me as a reader.

There's a antagonist in this book (I sometimes refer to them as "evil bads") who is almost over-the-top in his evil-ness, but not everyone sees it right away. One of the major plot elements is Molly trying to find a way to convince others of how bad the guy really is, as he's very good at keeping it hidden.

The romantic element is a slow-burn, with a few spicy encounters. I'm not an author, but I imagine writing love scenes can be a challenge. This first-time author definitely doesn't write like one, in any way, in her debut. Other authors, such as Linda Castillo and Sally Kilpatrick, have given this novel a nice thumbs-up, and you can see more author reviews and information about the book on the publisher's website here:

I enjoyed my time spent turning the pages of this debut, and I will definitely look for more from the author in the future.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Max...Attacks by Kathi Appelt, illustrated by Penelope Dullaghan: Book Blitz, Review, and Giveaway!

Illustrated by Penelope Dullaghan
Children's Picture Book / Humor / Stories in Verse
Publisher: Atheneum / Caitlyn Dlouhy Books
Date of Publication: June 11, 2019
Number of Pages: 40
  Scroll down for the giveaway!

Fish and birds and lizards and socks…is there anything Max won’t attack? 

Watch your ankles and find out in this clever, rhyming picture book about a very naughty kitty cat. Max is a cat. He attacks. From socks to strings to many a fish, attacking, for Max, is most de-lish. But how many of these things can he actually catch? Well, let’s just say it’s no even match.

I will start off this review by saying that I am NOT a fan of cats! We didn't have them growing up (dogs rule!), but I have known enough people who LOVE cats to tell you right now that this children's picture book is going to be special. Even as a non-cat fan, I fell in love with MAX, who we find out is based on a cat once owned by the author's son (if anyone can actually "own" a cat).

Known for being curious, mischievous, devious, and, well, often hilarious, cats have some of the best videos around on social media platforms these days, and I will admit to following a few accounts myself on Twitter and Instagram. Author Kathi Appelt gets right to the heart of these characteristics of cats in her delightful picture book Max...Attacks. 

As the book opens, Max has his one-track mind set on going to battle with some "fishies" swimming around in a fish bowl. But right off the bat, we find out that Max does NOT have a one-track mind, as throughout the rest of the book Max gets distracted by other things he wants to "attack," including a curtain, a laundry basket, a hanging shoelace, and, of course, his "bowl of crunchies." 

Using rhythmic language on every page Max...Attacks is an absolutely perfect read-aloud book that will be enjoyed by both children and adults. The tension of the book keeps one turning the pages to see what Max will get up to next, and whether those fishies will survive his stalking (spoiler, they do). The resolution to the story is very satisfying, and you will have to read it to find out why!

Penelope Dullaghan's colorful, rather free-form illustrations are a perfect fit to this entertaining story, with enough details on each page to keep both young and old(er) readers attentive. The words rove, and pounce, and trounce across the page, mimicking Max's behavior as he continually gets distracted by the next fun thing to "attack." The facial expressions of Max, the dog, and fish are distinctly rendered and allow the personalities of the characters to shine on each page.

I can't say that this adorable picture book has convinced me to get a cat of my own, but the next time I'm around someone else's I will remember this picture book with affection. I have a list of people in my life I plan to buy this book for, and I'm not even waiting for a reason!

Really well done, and a joy to read.

Kathi Appelt is the author of the Newbery Honoree, National Book Award finalist, PEN USA Literary Award–winning, and bestselling The Underneath as well as the National Book Award finalist The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp, Maybe a Fox (with Alison McGhee), Keeper, and many picture books including Counting Crows and Max ... Attacks

She has two grown children and lives in College Station, Texas, with her husband and their six cats. She serves as a faculty member at Vermont College of Fine Arts in their MFA in Writing for Children and Young 
Adults program.

Penelope Dullaghan is an award-winning illustrator whose work includes illustrations for ad campaigns, book publishers, magazines, newspapers, products, videos and most recently, children. Max ... Attacks is her debut picture book.

Penelope works from her home studio in Indianapolis, Indiana where she also home schools her daughter, plays in the river behind her house, and tends to her front-yard garden.

She is especially interested in collaborating with brands that support sustainability, simplicity, and wellness. Connect with Penelope on her Website.

The real Max was neither blue, nor did he have a switchy tail. In fact, he didn’t have a tail at all. He was an American Bobtail, almost fire red, and in his prime he weighed in at over twenty pounds. For seventeen years, he served as best friend and roommate to the author’s oldest son Jacob Appelt, who adopted Max from the local animal shelter. Together they wrote music, traveled, entertained friends and family, and kept an eye on the neighborhood parrots. Even though Max was famous for attacking anything that moved, he was, and always will be, the biggest, sweetest cat ever!  And many thanks to Jacob 
for the line: “a mighty nap attacked our Max.” Best line in the book!
June 11-22, 2019
(U.S. Only)
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Monday, May 27, 2019

Wooing Cadie McCaffrey by Bethany Turner: Author Interview and Giveaway ~ Lone Star Literary Book Blog Tour

  Genre: Christian Romance / Humor
Publisher: Revell a division of Baker Publishing Group
Date of Publication: May 21, 2019
Number of Pages: 352

Scroll down for giveaway!

After four years with her boyfriend, Cadie McCaffrey is thinking of ending things. Convinced Will doesn’t love her in the “forever” way she loves him, Cadie believes it’s time for her to let him go before life passes her by. When a misunderstanding leads to a mistake, leaving her hurt, disappointed, and full of regret, she finally sends him packing. But for Will, the end of their relationship is only the beginning of his quest to figure out how to be the man Cadie wanted him to be. With the dubious guidance of his former pro-athlete work friends and tactics drawn from Cadie’s favorite romantic comedies, Will attempts to win her back. It’s a foolproof plan. What could possibly go wrong?

“Rising star Bethany Turner’s Wooing Cadie McCaffrey highlights the author’s oh-so-readable voice and engaging characters. One of the many things I love about Turner is the way she tackles tough subjects with candor yet writes with the right amount of discretion. Romantics everywhere will sigh happily at the perfect ending. Highly recommended!” -- Colleen Coble, USA Today bestselling author of The House at Saltwater Point and the Rock Harbor series

Bethany Turner has done it again! Filled with wit and loaded with pop culture references, Wooing Cadie McCaffrey is sure to be an instant favorite among fans of Christian romance. I’ve found my new go-to author for rom-com with heart.” -- Carla Laureano, RITA award–winning author of The Saturday Night Supper Club and Brunch at Bittersweet CafĂ©

Interview with Bethany Turner

How does your book relate to your faith?

In The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck, I got to deal with a new Christ-follower adapting to her new life of faith. In Wooing Cadie McCaffrey, we get to spend time with Cadie who has been a Christian basically her entire life. Her dad is a pastor, and her mom is a Christian Living author and TV host. I relate more to Cadie’s past and upbringing than Sarah’s, and it was so challenging to explore the principles of mercy and forgiveness through the lens of lifelong faith. I think sometimes those of us who have been in the faith a long time are expected to have it all figured out, but obviously that’s not the case.

What do you think most characterizes your writing?

My favorite way to write is with this stream-of-consciousness style of first-person point of view. I think it’s sort of a combination of how the character would be writing in her journal and how she would be talking to her best friend. Hopefully the reader feels like they are that friend. And then as far as what I write…my favorite thing is to tackle tough, tricky, sensitive subjects that we need to be talking about. But by wrapping them is this rom-com package, hopefully readers can feel comfortable as we unpack them together.

What was the hardest part of writing this book?

The hardest part was probably also the best part. I got to create this couple who is broken up for most of the book but who is, without a doubt, meant to be together. The problems between them had to be realistic and understandable so the reader would understand why they weren’t together. After all, this is a couple with a shared history and a lot of already-established love. So why are they apart, and what are they going to do about it?

What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

Will Whitaker. Wooing Cadie McCaffrey alternates back and forth between Cadie’s first person POV and Will’s third person POV. It was my first time writing from the guy’s point of view, and I enjoyed it more than I could have imagined. Getting to be in Will’s head and see how kind and wonderful he is, and especially getting to see how devoted he is to Cadie, was a true highlight.

What projects are you working on at the present?

I just wrapped up the first draft of my next novel, another romantic comedy which will be
published by Revell in Spring of 2020. That one is the story of Hadley and Max, and I’m excited to see who they really become as we dive into edits soon!

How important are names to you in your books? How do you choose names?

Well, considering that so far the names of my leading characters have been in the title—with The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck and Wooing Cadie McCaffrey—I’d say names are pretty important! (The next leading character is Hadley Beckett. We’ll see if she ends up in the title or not!) But I don’t set out with any great plan for that to be the case. I usually start with a list of baby names, actually. I’m just looking for names that are unique and memorable but not overly complicated. Most importantly of all, they need to sound natural—like you’ve been hearing the name for years and you would never have any reason to question it.

Bethany Turner is the award-winning author of The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck, which was a Christy Award finalist. When she’s not writing (and even when she is), she serves as the director of administration for Rock Springs Church in Southwest Colorado. She lives with her husband and their two sons in Colorado, where she writes for a new generation of readers who crave fiction that tackles the thorny issues of life with humor and insight.
Grand Prize: Copies of Wooing Cadie McCaffrey 
and The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck + stationery set
2nd Prize: Copy of Wooing Cadie McCaffrey + bookish coffee mug
3rd Prize: Copy of Wooing Cadie McCaffrey + $10 Amazon Gift Card
May 21-May 31, 2019
(U.S. Only)
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