Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Giveaway: Karen Ann Hopkins


I've had the pleasure of working with author Karen Ann Hopkins over the past year on a number of her covers, so I'm thrilled today to bring you guys a very special giveaway. Tomorrow will see the reveal of the fourth book in her hugely popular Temptation series (fear not those of you who haven't read the first three, this fourth installment is a spinoff and can be read as a standalone!), so as a sort of pre-celebration Karen is generously offering up signed copies of Lamb to the Slaughter, Whispers from the Dead and Embers to two lucky winners.

And for all you audiobook lovers out there, the first three books in the Temptation series will be on sale at Audible on April 21st, so be sure and pre-order! I'll have a sample of the audiobook to share with you tomorrow along with the reveal of Rachel's Deception.

For now though, enter to win two fantastic adult murder mysteries as well as the first of Karen's YA paranormal series!


Lamb to the Slaughter is a story about the intertwining lives of three unlikely people in an Indiana Amish Community and the devastating results when a rebellious teenage girl is found shot to death in a corn field during the harvest.

Serenity Adams is the newly elected young sheriff in the country town of Blood Rock and besides dealing with the threatening behavior of her predecessor, she now has a dead Amish girl on her plate.  At first glance, the case seems obvious.  The poor girl was probably accidently shot during hunting season, but when the elders of the Amish community and even the girl’s parents react with uncaring subdued behavior, Serenity becomes suspicious.  As she delves deeper into the secretive community that she grew up beside, she discovers a gruesome crime from the past that may very well be related to the Amish girl’s shooting.

Serenity enlists the help of the handsome bad-boy building contractor, Daniel Bachman, who left the Amish when he was nineteen and has his own dark reasons to help the spunky sheriff solve the crime that the family and friends who shunned him are trying desperately to cover up.  Serenity’s persistence leads her to a stunning discovery that not only threatens to destroy her blossoming romance with Daniel, but may even take her life in the end.


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 Some Amish communities aren't so cozy.
Whispers From The Dead is the powerful and thrilling sequel to Lamb to the Slaughter, in the Amish mystery series, Serenity’s Plain Secrets.

Sheriff Serenity Adams and Daniel Bachman are once again partnered up in a criminal investigation, when they travel to a northern Amish settlement that has been riddled by arsons for the past two decades. Serenity quickly discovers that there is much more going on than just barns being set on fire in the touristy community, and that the new group of Amish has their own secrets to hide. She begins to unravel an extensive criminal underworld that threatens to destroy everything that the simple people of Poplar Springs hold dear and once again puts her own life in jeopardy.

And even though Serenity tries desperately to avoid it, things begin heating up between her and Daniel, making her wonder if true love and happiness are really within her grasp.

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There are descendants of angels walking among us. Ember is one of them. And she may be the only hope mankind has as the rapture approaches and evil rises.

Embers is an epic paranormal adventure about an eighteen year old girl who discovers that she's immune to fire and any other injury when she’s in a horrific car crash that kills her parents. Following a violent episode with her aunt's boyfriend, Ember flees Ohio to live with an old relative in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. Ember's exuberance at escaping a bad home life soon turns to trepidation when she finds out that she's a Watcher, a descendant of angels. While Ember learns about her heritage and the powers that go along with it, she strikes up friendships with two young men who live in a frightening walled compound in the forest. Inexplicitly drawn to one of the men in particular, an impossible romance develops. But it is cut short when Ember discovers that her new friends are fighting on the opposite side of a war—one that’s been raging between two factions of Watchers for thousands of years. When the compound’s inhabitants threaten the townspeople, Ember takes action, sealing her fate in the ancient battle of good versus evil—and the grayness in between. Ember is up to the challenge, until she realizes that she isn’t only fighting for the lives of the locals and the souls of her new friends. She also might be one of the few champions who will make a stand for all of mankind as the rapture approaches and the end of days begin.

Embers is a dark and gritty YA novel that’s the first book in the series, The Wings of War.

Goodreads AmazonB&N

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To enter, please fill out the Rafflecopter form below. Giveaway is open to US addresses only.

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Monday, March 30, 2015

Review: Dream a Little Dream

The Silver Trilogy #1
Kerstin Gier
Paranormal Young Adult
Henry Holt
336 pages
Available April 14th
Source: ARC from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Mysterious doors with lizard-head knobs. Talking stone statues. A crazy girl with a hatchet. Yep, Liv’s dreams have been pretty weird lately. Especially this one where she’s in a graveyard at night, watching four boys perform dark magic rituals.

The really weird thing is that Liv recognizes the boys in her dream. They’re classmates from her new school in London, the school where’s she’s starting over because her mom has moved them to a new country (again). But they seem to know things about her in real life that they couldn’t possibly know, which is mystifying. Then again, Liv could never resist a good mystery. . . .

Dream a Little Dream is a bit darker than its cover suggests, the whimsy and vibrancy of the depicted dream sequence but a small moment in this tale compared to the prominent shadow of a possible demonic threat. (It should be noted that I wrote this review a while back with the original cover in mind, though it does still apply somewhat.) While the story itself has serious themes, Ms. Gier's sense of humor is present and accounted for, bringing a smile to our faces as we attempt to sort out just what Liv has gotten herself into with the young men at her new school. There's an ease to Ms. Gier's writing style that causes the pages to turn in rapid succession, drawing us in and holding our attention throughout until we find ourselves staring at the inside back cover far sooner than expected.

Liv is someone with whom it's easy to settle in, quick with a sarcastic quip and first (along with younger sister Mia) to roll her eyes at some of the sheer ridiculousness perpetrated by those at Frognal Academy for Boys and Girls. She's not one to swoon over the quartet of physical perfection that is Arthur, Jasper, Henry and Grayson, instead she calls them out on their insincere flirting, corrects them when they get her name wrong and mentally pokes fun at them when they allow the reactions of the other girls to stroke their egos. She does require the suspension of disbelief in one particular area though, diving headfirst into the dream/demon happenings with shockingly little thought as to the potential repercussions of meddling in supernatural affairs. Granted, she doesn't believe in the supernatural and therefore assumes her participation in the boys' rituals is harmless, but regardless of whether or not demons do in fact exist, we can't help but wish she might give her involvement the gravity it deserves.

Her lack of sound decision making with regard to the paranormal aspect aside, Liv is a thoroughly enjoyable young woman with a hilarious relationship with younger sister Mia. Mia is a highlight despite her relatively minor role, the sweetness of her young face always belied by the things that come out of her mouth, and we can do nothing but smile every time she appears on page. Overall, Dream a Little Dream is a fun start to this series, and while it's a little light on answers to our many questions regarding the dream world and the possible demon responsible for it, it's easy to free ourselves from those tangles and simply enjoy a well-told story.

Rating: 4/5

Find Kerstin

This book was sent to me by the publisher free of charge for the purpose of a review
I received no other compensation and the above is my honest opinion.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Blog Tour: The Last of the Sandwalkers


A number of you are probably looking at the repeated word "beetles" on this blog tour banner and scratching your heads (possibly because you feel like there might be beetles on you now that I've brought it up), but I really love participating in tours that are a little different, and the group at First Second Books (and Macmillan in general) never disappoint!

Today I'm thrilled to welcome Jay Hosler to the blog to share with us some facts about the Carrion-Burying Beetle Family, along with a custom illustration. While you may suffer a slight loss of appetite after reading about this particular family of insects, you'll at least have newfound knowledge to pass along at your next social gathering! Nerd win. Be sure and check out Jay's newest release, The Last of the Sandwalkers for more fascinating tidbits about the insect world!

Character Name:  The Carrion-Burying Beetle family
Species:  Nicrophorus sp
Length:  25-35 mm
Color: Black with organge markings on the elytra
Habitat:  all over the place
Superpower: masters of food preparation

Most of us are familiar with the numerous, gigantic families of honey bees, wasp and ants. They usually contain a massive queen pumping out babies that are cared for by thousands (sometimes millions) of siblings. These are industrial-sized, assembly line families. By comparison, there aren’t too many social beetles and those that are social run more of a Mom-and-Pop operation.

Burying beetles start their family by looking for something dead. They have antennae that are tuned into the odors associated with rotting corpses. After a male of female has located a dead mouse or bird, they will wait for a member of the opposite sex to show up. Once united, the couple may have to fend off other couples that also want the yummy dead thing.

In some cases, the carcass needs to be moved to a suitable location for burial. To do this, the beetles will crawl under the corpse, lay on their backs, lift with their legs and shift the body. Imagine getting under your car, lifting with you hands and legs and moving the car down the road a couple inches at a time. Impressive. You can watch them at work in the National Geographic video.

Eventually the winning couple will bury the carcass and remove any skin, hair and feathers. Then, the beetles will treat the dead critter with digestive enzymes, anti-microbial and anti-fungal secretions from their mouths and butts. As the carcass is turning into a pasty, grey goo, the female lays eggs around the chamber and waits for the larvae to hatch and crawl over to the food. The parents look over the larva as they develop and prepare for metamorphosis. At this point, the larvae burrow into the surrounding chamber walls and begin the pupation period. With their parenting work done, the adult burying beetles will leave the burial chamber in search of a new carcass.

In Last of the Sandwalkers, our beetle explorers meet a family of burying beetle and make a surprising discovering in their food.

• • • • • • • • • • • 

(releases April 7th)

Nestled in the grass under the big palm tree by the edge of the desert there is an entire civilization—a civilization of beetles. In this bug's paradise, beetles write books, run restaurants, and even do scientific research. One such scientist is Lucy, who leads a team of researchers out into the desert. Their mission is to discover something about the greater world...but what lies in wait for them is going to change everything Lucy thought she knew.

Beetles are not the only living creatures in the world.

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Photo: Lisa Hosler

Jay Hosler is a biology professor at Juniata College, and a cartoonist. He enjoys telling stories about science and the natural world, and his first graphic novel (Clan Apis) won a Xeric Award and was selected for YALSA's 2002 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults. His latest book, Evolution: The Story of Life on Earth, was a 2011 Junior Library Guild selection, a nominee for YALSA's 2012 Great Graphic Novels for Teens, and has been included in the Texas Library Association's Maverick Graphic Novel Reading List. He lives in central Pennsylvania with his wife and his two little nerdlings.

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Don't forget to check out the rest of the participating blogs for additional beetle info as well as original artwork from Jay!

Tuesday, March 24
Seven Impossible Things

Wednesday, March 25
Great Kid Books

Thursday, March 26
The Brain Lair

Friday, March 27
Supernatural Snark

Monday, March 30
The Book Rat

Tuesday, March 31
Miss Print

Wednesday, April 1
Mr. Schu Reads

Thursday, April 2
Geek Dad

 Friday, April 3

Monday, April 6
Librarian’s Quest

Tuesday, April 7
SLJ Scope Notes

Wednesday, April 8
Alice Marvels

Thursday, April 9
The Roarbots

Friday, April 10
Sharp Read

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Review: Sisters of Blood and Spirit

Sisters of Blood and Spirit #1
Kady Cross
Paranormal Young Adult
288 pages
Harlequin Teen
Available March 31st
Source: ARC from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Wren Noble is dead—she was born that way. Vibrant, unlike other dead things, she craves those rare moments when her twin sister allows her to step inside her body and experience the world of the living.

Lark Noble is alive but often feels she belongs in the muted Shadow Lands—the realm of the dead. Known as the crazy girl who talks to her dead sister, she doesn't exactly fit in with the living, though a recent suicide attempt and time in a psych ward have proved to her she's not ready to join her sister in the afterlife.

Now the guy who saved Lark's life needs her to repay the favor. He and his friends have been marked for death by the malevolent spirit of a vicious and long-dead serial killer, and the twins—who should know better than to mess with the dead—may be their only hope of staying alive.

Sisters of Blood and Spirit is entertaining from beginning to end, making us instantly protective of Lark as she returns to school after a stint in a mental institution thanks to a split second desire to join the twin sister no one else can see. Her classmates pounce immediately, poking at her sore spot with relish, but just as soon as our hackles rise at their mockery her sister Wren intervenes in all her ghostly glory. From that moment on we can’t help but root for the pair of them, hoping they find their way to happiness despite the enormous odds stacked against them.

We spend our time split between the first person perspectives of both Lark and Wren, privy to the pros and cons of each of their lives as they prepare for a showdown with a spectacularly monstrous spirit. Lark can be quite abrupt at times, her blunt honesty and single-minded concern for Wren requiring a little getting used to both for us as readers as well as the group of classmates who approach her for help. It’s easy to look past her very to-the-point nature though given what we know of how’s she been treated by friends, family and strangers up until now, and we can do nothing but hope this new group is sincere in their desire for not only her help but also her friendship.

While there are a number of aspects of this story that are left unaddressed by the time we reach the last page, particularly the mystery surrounding Lark and Wren’s unusual bond, they’re the type of questions that give the story legs to stand on moving forward into the next book. The storyline regarding the haunting of Lark’s group of friends and the truly horrifying ghost responsible is wrapped up nicely (if a touch easily) by the time we reach the last page, ensuring we feel as though we’ve read a complete story instead of merely part of one. 

Overall, Sisters of Blood and Spirit is pure fun in a might-need-to-sleep-with-light-on-tonight kind of way, the relationship between Lark and Wren beautifully intriguing, and the promise of deepening friendships and romance in future books enough to have us counting the days until the sequel is in our hands.

Rating: 4/5

Find Kady:

This book was sent to me by the publisher free of charge for the purpose of a review
I received no other compensation and the above is my honest opinion.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Excerpt + Giveaway: It Started with a Scandal

I'm an enormous fan of the historical romance genre (even though I would 100% fail at all the pomp and circumstance, not to mention the rigid social etiquette, that dominates majority of the time periods), so I'm super excited today to share with you an excerpt from It Started with a Scandal, the newest release from Julie Anne Long. Be sure and follow this tour in its entirety (full list of participating blogs below) as there will be two additional excerpts as well as more chances to win!


“In light of your ...circumstances...Mrs. Fountain, I'm certain you're aware that it is a bit unusual for you to be granted an interview at all. But this is an exceptional...situation...and the Redmond family did put in a good word.”
So many words requiring delicate choosing and pillowing with little silences. Circumstances. Situation.
Elise gritted her teeth clamped together, withstanding all of them the way she had for years.
“I understand,” she said somberly.
“—that is not to say that you could not satisfactorily perform the duties, and I should hope you would not be influenced by Mrs. Gordon, whose temperament proved unequal to the job—”
Mrs. Gordon must be the sobbing woman Elise had passed departing the house as Elise came up the walk. She'd been carrying a valise and muttering “heartless bastard” viciously under her breath.
 “...because the successful candidate will possess a clear head and a mature outlook...”  Mrs. Winthrop continued. She paused briefly in her torrent of words to narrow her eyes at Elise.
Elise had donned her most severe gown and ruthlessly pinned her hair motionless with approximately three hundred pins. She nodded, serenely confident she looked mature and that nothing as frivolous as a curl would escape.
And she kept her fingers laced tightly in her lap, as if this alone could keep her nerves from shattering. It had at least disguised the trembling.    
Would that she'd managed to keep her stays laced just that tightly six years ago.     
Alas, spilt milk, and all of that.    
“...and as you know, I'm employed by the Earl of Ardmay, and they have volunteered me to undertake the selection process as a special favor to their family...”    
Mrs. Winthrop had not ceased speaking since Elise arrived fifteen minutes ago.   
“...and as for the current staff, there will be no steward or butler, as this is a relatively small household and the tenant is temporary. So you would head the small entire staff, which is comprised of—”    
Something unmistakably large and glass, hurled from a considerable distance with considerable force, exploded into thousands of jingling fragments.     
Both women froze.    
It was exactly what Elise expected her nerves would sound like when they finally shattered.      
In the stunned silence that followed the rain hurled itself at the window like a warning. Get out! Get out while you can!    
Ah, if only she'd a choice.     
Mrs. Winthrop cleared her throat at last. “He likely won't ever aim at you. All the same, there's naught wrong with his arm and it's best to be well clear of him if you think he might be in a throwing mood.”         
Elise hoped this was black humor. How on earth to respond? She glanced down at her bloodless knuckles as if they were crystal balls. No help there.    
She decided to nod sagely.     
“I understand they're blessedly rare. The throwing moods,” Mrs. Winthrop expounded.            
“And we must always count our blessings.”    
It emerged more quickly and dryly than Elise intended.      
In other words: More herself than she had intended.    
This she knew because Mrs. Winthrop's eyebrows launched like birds flushed from shrubbery.         
She eyed Elise sharply for a moment.    
Elise held her breath.    
Then Mrs. Winthrop smiled a vanishingly swift smile.  It was like a cinder thrown off a distant campfire, when Elise had been lost in the dark woods for weeks.    
“All right then, Mrs. Fountain, I should be pleased to introduce you to his Lordship, Lord Lavay, who is a Prince of the House of Bourbon. If he's...amenable.”
The loquacious Mrs. Winthrop went curiously silent as she led Elise through a labyrinth of Alder House's too-dark hallways. The candles hadn't been trimmed; a few were fitfully, smokily, burning in their sconces. She frowned. The house was handsome enough, but tn the rooms they swiftly passed the fires burned low or not at all. She surreptitiously dragged a fingertip along top of the wainscoting; she could feel dust cake it.     
She saw no evidence of the rumored household staff.     
They scaled a flight of marble stairs with a smooth, modest banister, and Mrs. Winthrop finally halted paused on the threshold of what appeared to be a study.     
It was as dark and soft as a cave, but a huge leaping fire picked out glints from around the room, and Elise's eyes tracked them reflexively:  the polished legs on  a plumply upholstered settee and a pair of gorgeous chairs, the inlay on a small round table, the gilt on a framed map and the stand of a handsome globe, an empty crystal decanter, a tiny bottle of Sydenham's Laudanum on a sideboard, only half full.    
She stopped when she reached the mirror-like toes of a pair of Hessians by the hearth.    
And followed them all the way up.    
Inside them stood a man.    
A very tall man.     
He in fact all but loomed; the firelight threw his shadow nearly to where she stood at the door.      
Elise took an unconscious step back from it, as though it were a spill of lava.    
His face was aimed rather pointedly at the window, as if he was expecting someone.    
She followed his gaze curiously.     
She just saw the same ceaseless slanting rain, like bars on a cell.      
A spray of sparkling shards surrounded his feet.  The remains of a vase, from the looks of things.   
“Lord Lavay...”     
Elise shot Mrs. Winthrop a worried look. The seemingly indefatigable Mrs. Winthrop's voice had gone faint. As if she suddenly didn't have enough air to form words.     
The man turned. Slowly, as if he was the earth itself on its axis. Or as if an invisible sculptor was rotating him to present a finished work.     
Voila! Elise thought to herself. An attempt at bravado.   
It was too late. She'd already sucked in her breath and tightened all of her muscles, like a creature who had stumbled across a predator in a clearing and wished to make herself unnoticeable.    
He was so clearly of that singular species, The Aristocracy, that she might as well have bought a ticket to see him, the way she had once when her father had brought her, as a little girl, to see the Royal Menagerie in London.      
He wasn't young. There was no softness to his face—not in the set of his mouth, or the burn of his gaze, or the severe right angles of his jaw. His beauty was austere and inarguable and there was a palpable force to him, as if he had sprung from the earth due to violent underground activity, a bit like a mountain range. She thought about the things she'd been told about him.    
Privateer. Soldier. Prince.     
Power,  violence, privilege.    
He looked like all of the things he was purported to be.      
Do we carry around our pasts so visibly? She wondered. Because if she so, she was certainly in trouble.    
There was no denying that he frightened her.     
And after a moment, this made her angry. She'd been so certain she was impossible to frighten after the events of the last five years. She could not afford to be frightened. She thought she deserved never to be frightened again.    
She squared her shoulders.    
Life is full of tests, children, she'd once primly told her students.     
That was before she'd been tested.
The woman Mrs. Winthrop brought into Phillipe's study was petite and colorless. Her face and the folded knot of her hands were twins, both white and tense. Her dress was demure, long-sleeved, high-collared, fashioned of serviceable gray wool. Her hair was dark. She could be any age.     
Her eyes dropped instantly upon meeting his. It was deference or fear, or perhaps fascination. He was accustomed to all of them. None of it interested him.    
She was, unsurprisingly, unremarkable in every way.     
Apart, that was, from her posture, which was almost aggressively rigid. It reminded him of a drawn saber.    
This made him smile faintly.     
He sensed it wasn't a pleasant smile when both women gave a little start.    
“I'd like to introduce Mrs. Elise Fountain, my lord.”     
Miss Fountain dropped an elegant enough curtsy.     
“You may leave us,” he said to Mrs. Winthrop, without looking at her.     
Mrs. Winthrop bolted like a rabbit released from a trap.    
Mrs. Fountain's gaze rose again, rather like a man struggling up the side of a cliff, wavered, and held.

END IT STARTED WITH A SCANDAL CHAPTER ONE PART ONE! To read the rest of Chapter One, check out these blogs:

Urban Girl Reader EXCERPT PART 2
Eater of Books EXCERPT PART 2

Buried Under Romance EXCERPT PART 2

Toot’s Book Reviews EXCERPT PART 2
Doing Some Reading EXCERPT PART 2

The Lusty Literate EXCERPT PART 3
Romancing the Readers EXCERPT PART 3

Snarky Mama EXCERPT PART 3

The Jeep Diva EXCERPT PART 3

To Read or Not to Read EXCERPT PART 3

I Heart Romance EXCERPT PART 3

• • • • • • • • • • • •


Lord Philippe Lavay once took to the high seas armed with charm as lethal as his sword and a stone-cold conviction: he’ll restore his family’s fortune and honor, no matter the cost. Victory is at last within reach—when a brutal attack snatches it from his grasp and lands him in Pennyroyal Green.

An afternoon of bliss brings a cascade of consequences for Elise Fountain. Shunned by her family and ousted from a job she loves, survival means a plummet down the social ladder to a position no woman has yet been able to keep: housekeeper to a frighteningly formidable prince.

The bold and gentle Elise sees past his battered body into Philippe’s barricaded heart . . . and her innate sensuality ignites his blood. Now a man who thought he could never love and a woman who thought she would never again trust must fight an incendiary passion that could be the ruin of them both.

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USA Today bestselling author JULIE ANNE LONG originally set out to be a rock star when she grew up (and she has the guitars and fringed clothing stuffed in the back of her closet to prove it), but writing was always her first love. Since hanging up her guitar for the computer keyboard, her books frequently top reader and critic polls and have been nominated for numerous awards, including the Rita, Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice, and The Quills, and reviewers have been known to use words like “dazzling,” “brilliant,” and “impossible to put down” when describing them. Julie lives in Northern California.

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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Interview + Giveaway: Jacqueline Kolosov

Today I'm thrilled to welcome author Jacqueline Kolosov to the blog to answer a few questions about her upcoming release, Along the Way, and her fall release, Paris, Modigliani and Me. I had the pleasure of working with Jacqueline's publisher on the above cover, so I was really excited to have the opportunity to ask her a few Paris-related questions. Jacqueline is also generously offering up a copy of Along the Way to one lucky winner, so don't forget to check the bottom of the post for entry details!

We know Julie’s favorite artist is Modigliani. To help us get to know you a bit better, please tell us who your favorite artist is and which of their pieces you would say most accurately represents you as a writer.
This is an absolutely wonderful question, Jenny. I do not have one favorite artist, so if it’s okay with you I will talk about 2 of my favorite artists. I love to draw and paint, and I used to spend a great deal of time in museums when I lived in cities (Chicago, New York, Washington, D.C.). Modigliani is one of the artists closest to my heart, which is probably not surprising given the novel; and I wrote an entire book of poems, Modigliani’s Muse, a sort of biography in poems, that looks at the circle of people in his life, including Jeanne, or most centrally Jeanne. I’ve always been deeply moved by the tragedy and simultaneously by the integrity of his story—and hers. Modigliani was fiercely proud, and he really would not compromise his standards in art in order to turn a profit. Other artists turned to patrons who could pay by turning out flattering portraits. Not Modigliani. In fact, Jacques Lipchitz, whose wedding portrait Modigliani painted—it hangs in the Art Institute of Chicago—wanted Modigliani to spend more time on the portrait so that he could pay the artist more. Modigliani said, “What, you want me to ruin it?” A fascinating aside: in the early1900s Jacques and his wife sent the portrait to his family in Poland instead of a photograph—that’s how they celebrated the commemoration of their marriage. To cut to the chase, then, Modigliani is a favorite. I have always been deeply moved by his portraits. He painted ordinary people—maids, farmers, a gypsy musician—and his mysterious, elongated portraits, which were influenced by Gothic art (those solemn Madonnas in the churches) as well as by African masks, moved me deeply. I used to sit before them for, well, not hours, but for a long time. And as a child—my mom used to take me to the Art Institute—I used to sit and make up stories about the paintings, especially “Girl with a Necklace” which I encourage everyone to look up. It’s an absolutely beautiful and very happy painting, and I have a framed reproduction in my office at school. I suppose, then, “Girl with a Necklace” speaks to who I am as a writer precisely because of the stories it suggested and still suggests to me. Another painting is the early “Portrait of a Girl, 1917-1918.” Unlike the later works, in which Modigliani left the eyes blank, this girl’s face is partly turned, as if she is about to answer a question or tell a story. She’s lovely with long, red-brown hair, and there’s an innocence and simplicity to the portrait that continues to captivate me. I can look at her again and again and always find something new—and I hope my writing does a little bit of that as well. I cannot say that Modigliani’s portraits of Jeanne are among my favorites. Her story is far too full of sorrow for that. She gave up so much of herself to be with him. I feel immense compassion for Modigliani and Jeanne. Modigliani’s paintings are compassionate.

The other artist I’ll mention here is Mary Cassatt, whose work also hangs in the Art Institute. She was one of the two well known women among the Impressionists and the only American. (The other is Berthe Morisot, who was French.) Cassatt painted mothers and children; at least a great many of her paintings are of this pair, though she herself did not have children, nor did she ever marry. At the Art Institute, there is a painting of a woman washing her daughter’s feet in a small white basin; and this was another work that enthralled me as a child. When a friend gave birth to her own daughter, I made a copy (in oils) for the nursery. It’s just an intimate, deeply moving moment, and one that is simultaneously deeply ordinary. As a writer, I am drawn to “ordinary” moments in people’s lives. I love the fiction of Virginia Woolf whose To the Lighthouse is an autobiographical novel about a family (her own childhood) summering in St. Ives, a coastal town on the Atlantic. Of course it’s a great modernist novel in which she experiments with moving from one character’s consciousness to the next; but it’s full of ordinary moments within a family. It’s one of the most cherished books of my life. So Cassatt, like Woolf, captured those moments. I tried to do the same in the scenes between Julie and Genevieve, though the fashion-minded ten-year-old Genevieve is quite an extraordinary child who educates Julie a great deal about fashion during their summer together!
For someone like me who’s never been to Paris, what are the top 3 things Julie would say absolutely cannot be missed?

The Louvre. Julie raves about this museum in the novel and rightly so. It is full of treasures and is itself a treasure. The Louvre is immense, palatial, and one cannot possibly take its holdings in within a day, much less a week. And it’s really easy to get lost in the Louvre, which is both fun and frustrating. I cannot tell you how many times I made wrong turns on the way somewhere only to find myself discovering a work of art or a period or a culture that I had no intention of stumbling upon—and I never left worse for the experience. The new entrance is a glass pyramid leading to a long escalator that brings one down into the museum. That pyramid is spectacular as is the plaza surrounding it, one filled with tourists, pigeons and intense energy. The Decorative Arts Museum is a separate part of the Louvre, but like Genevieve (and to some extent Julie), I would not miss it, in part because one can take it in within a day; but mostly because the jewelry is beyond out-of-this world, everything from ancient Egyptian earrings to Marie Antoinette’s most lavish and ultimately most condemning diamonds.       
Within the Louvre itself, Julie would recommend the painting of Juliette Récamier on the chaise lounge—and yes, that story Madame Dupont narrates about David putting the moves on Juliette is true. The Mona Lisa is there, but frankly the way it’s set up is really freaky; and perhaps Julie should have commented on this. The Mona Lisa is encased in a plexi-glass box, and there is ALWAYS a huge line of people waiting to see her, except most of these people don’t really look at the painting; they photograph it (and I imagine the plexi-glass creates a glare), or they video tape it. Video tape a painting that doesn’t move? Hmm. I just don’t get it. I should have put that in the novel.

Next on the list is the Luxembourg Gardens or as the French say, the Jardin du Luxembourg. The Luxembourg is not just a garden; the Luxembourg is a world. It sits on land that was sacred to the Druids (pre-Christian people), and if memory serves, the land was later used for vineyards. Basically, it’s fertile. Catherine de Medici built a palace there in the early 17th century with elaborate gardens, etc. Today the gardens and the extensive grounds are open to the public. It’s the most family-centered garden in Paris, and also most conducive to lovers as well as to clusters of old people who sit with their knitting or their newspapers or just turning their faces to the sun. On one trip to Paris, a research trip, I spent most of the week sitting or strolling through the Luxembourg. I wrote a long poem about the garden and simultaneously a story. I guess I’m revealing that the garden is more important to me than to Julie; but she and Genevieve spend hours there. It’s one of Genevieve’s favorite places in Paris, and it quickly becomes one of Julie’s. The part of the garden that Genevieve likes contains an exquisite, old carousel where the children do indeed try to catch a brass ring. There is also a jungle gym the size of a small house that would never pass the safety standards here in the U.S., but the kids love it. And no one ever seems to get injured (fortunately). And yes, there are pony rides. In another corner very fancy or highly specialized pears are cultivated. There’s even a beehive. What draws many, many children—the majority of them boys—as well as older men wearing berets—is the boat pond, a rectangular pond that is home to a variety of beautifully-crafted sailboats. Did I mention the various cafés in the park that serve tea and coffee and pastries? As well as the stands selling cotton candy, enormous lollipops and other treats? Paris’s famous horse chestnut trees line the pebble paths, and there’s a section devoted to statuary of famous women, Paris’s St. Genevieve among them. Even with this rambling list, I’m sure I’ve left something out. But the key thing is this: in the Luxembourg, one can find absolute calm as well as entertainment of all kinds. The hundreds upon hundreds of chairs and lounges invite visitors to people watch.

The Louvre and the Jardin du Luxembourg came immediately to mind, but this third site is so much harder. I would not single out the Eiffel Tower which can be seen from most places in Paris and is less enchanting up close than it is from a distance. The Marais is a marvelous old neighborhood full of boutiques and cafés and remains home to Paris’s Jewish community—it has a beautiful synagogue that was damaged during World War II. I suppose, I would have to single out Walking Along the Seine as the Third Must See or Do in Paris. And in a way this allows me to cheat and get in some of my favorites. For example, you can get a terrific view of Notre Dame, particularly of the gargoyles that figure in the novel, from either side of the river. Many boats dock along the Seine, and some have outlandish, foreign titles. I’ve seen boats with all sorts of foliage on deck, including smallish palm trees. I’ve seen boats with all sorts of fancy dogs—and believe me, the French do love their dogs! Occasionally, a barge comes down the Seine; the sound is incredible. Mostly, though, walking along the Seine is so calming, a reprieve from the bustle of the city, and the noise. And the shifting light on the water, the palette of sky, well both are incredible. And, and, and, walking always allows for people watching. Not all of it’s glamorous though. On my last trip, some six years ago now, I saw plenty of homeless encampments. And in a strange way, or maybe just in a realistic way—as in the portraits of the ordinary people that Modigliani painted—the coexistence of the homeless alongside chic Parisians out for a stroll feels right. Not just, but true. There are extremes in Paris, as everywhere; and walking, especially along the Seine, allows such glimpses…and plenty of time for thought.

What’s one interesting tidbit or fact about Modigliani’s life that you didn’t know before you began researching Paris, Modigliani and Me?

As I indicated above, my interest in Modigliani and my writing about his life and art go way back to my childhood. I first began writing about him in 2002 when I was blessed with the opportunity to participate in the Writing Studio at the Banff Center in the Canadian Rockies. The center has a phenomenal library of art books, and I checked out half a dozen books about Modigliani and drafted my first poems there. Pretty funny, really, to be in the midst of mountains and to travel back to 1918 in Paris…but that’s how the imagination can work. In 2004, I went to Paris to research Modigliani’s life—to visit the places he frequented and ideally to find his studio. And I did find it, and although it is not on the grounds of a restaurant owner’s property, the studio windows do look out onto the courtyard of a restaurant that allowed me to explore the environs. Although I did not go into Modigliani’s studio—how I would love to be able to say that I did!—I did find that water fountain that was the source of water for Jeanne and Modigliani while they lived on the Rue de la Grande Chaumière. It didn’t take me long to realize just how difficult life must have been for them, for Jeanne especially, as she was the one in the more domestic role of mother to their daughter and caretaker of their home in the studio, such as it was. This meant that she would have had to go up and down several flights of stairs in order to fetch water in all kinds of weather. I have so many anecdotes that it is difficult to include just one, so I will add one more. Modigliani did frequent cafés where the wine was cheap—unlike the pricier Montparnasse café that Monsieur Rimbaud’s grandfather ran (in the novel). Modigliani is famously and rather sadly known for his drinking and drug abuse; and movies have often portrayed him as a quintessential bohemian artist. Really, he was a troubled soul who did not find success or recognition for his genius. The “tidbit” here then is not so much that he frequented cheap cafés so that he could drink. It’s much more complex, as I hope my novel portrays. He was a true artist, one who would not compromise his standards in order to make money. This could be depressing, but it also gave him a kind of integrity. And what Monsieur Rimbaud says is true: Modigliani would give away his sketches made at these cafés. He was not so much cavalier—I love that word—but he was generous, in his own way.
If you were to attend the Art Institute of Chicago, Julie’s dream school, what type of classes do you think you’d excel in or struggle with most?
Another splendid question, Jenny, as I would have loved to go to art school—if I’d had another lifetime. (Or I would have loved to start learning horses and dressage at age 10 instead of decades later. And as I type, I am sitting with ice on my knee, as I took a crazy fall from my horse today, a minor one fortunately….) I love to paint. And I love to work in oils, though it’s been more than a decade since I’ve done so. When I was living in Chicago (my home town) and had just finished college, I took a class at the Art Institute in oil painting, part of the continuing education program there, so I could “cheat” a little and say that I would take classes in oils. Like Modigliani, I like to work quickly. If the instructor were to insist that I work with painstaking detail, I would not do well. Very careful, meticulous kinds of work—well, this is not my forte (despite the fact that I am very meticulous about my writing and continually revise and edit and work on rhythm, word choice…). So, to not stray from the point, I would not do well in a course that required that kind of attention. And that’s rather interesting, I think, given that my father was an engineer; and he is a superb draftsman with phenomenal and highly necessary attention to detail. I believe I’d excel in a mixed media class. I have played a little with this on my own, and I am drawn to such art in galleries and museums. Mixed media is just what the name suggests, a work of art that incorporates more than one medium. So I’d love to take a course that integrated painting, collage, and other techniques and brought in lots of materials like beeswax and fabric. Another class I’d struggle with is performance art. Julie learns that her father enacted a version of this when he posed as a gargoyle on Notre Dame (not long before his mental breakdown). Performance art is not my thing. Nor are big installations that shout “I’m avant garde!” And what I mean by this is that I just don’t get those installations the size of a house that look like plumbing for a giant. Not that I don’t like all installations. I’ve seen a few that I love! That said, if I was asked to build a miniature version of Alice in Wonderland, I would love that as long as I had free range when it came to materials. It would be incredible fun to shape mushrooms and caterpillars and Mad Hatters out of clay and then paint them and bring in moss and all sorts of other “found” materials to bring the world to life. I hope this answer is not too all over the place. It’s been fun to even begin to consider!

While the art scene in Paris is undoubtedly amazing, I think the food in the City of Light would mostly likely be one of the biggest draws for me. Hello there, pastries. What are the top 5 Parisian foods you wouldn’t fly home without eating?

Yes, Paris is known for its food and rightfully so. Though as Julie discovers when she sees how tiny Claire’s kitchen is, many people in the heart of Paris, especially those living in newer apartments, don’t have grand cooking spaces. So take out is more popular than you would think! But about the 5 foods that I highly recommend, hmm, that is a delicious challenge. I do not eat meat, so I will rule out that category. I’d begin by sending a traveler to a very good bakery, not necessarily a patisserie, which is about pastry, but a bakery or boulangerie (I love the fact that France makes a distinction) that makes hearty, whole grain breads. The grain is Europe is different than that in the U.S., and bread is chewier. I would have a lot more trouble going gluten free in Europe than in the U.S. Anyway, food #1 is very good bread with a little butter, simple and delicious.    
Food #2 is brioche, and this is a bakery staple, though you can find it at a patisserie as well. Brioche has a high butter and egg content which makes it rich and tender. Ideally, it’s light and slightly puffy, with a golden, flaky crust. Sometimes brioche contains raisins. I love raisins, but my 8 year old daughter does not. It is eaten at breakfast with coffee and can also be served as dessert. It’s exquisite. Sometimes a little brandy is added to the mix. And a further “tidbit” or crumb about brioche: Marie Antoinette actually said “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche” or “Let them eat brioche.” Brioche isn’t really cake, but it’s not humble bread either. Marie had a hard time, and she makes an appearance in the novel—or her jewels do—and some strange (but true) stories.
My third MUST TRY is cappuccino. Yes, we have Starbucks and all sorts of cafés now; but there is nothing like sipping and truly savoring a cappuccino served in a white cup with a white saucer at a café in Montparnasse or, better yet, in the Marais or just around the corner from the Luxembourg Gardens, preferably on a day warm enough to sit outside at a café table that overlooks the street. Parisian cappuccino is heavenly, and partly it’s the atmosphere, the way the city smells and sounds become absorbed in the experience. And of course I love the clink of cup on saucer….       
Now, to find #4 is  more difficult. I need to include a dessert here, so my choice (drum roll please) is crème brûlée, a rich custard topped with a layer of hard caramel. It’s traditionally flavored with vanilla, and I would recommend that because the vanilla brings out the delicacy of the custard and the contrast of caramel. That said, the Madeleine, a cookie-like, sweet tea cake shaped like a scallop shell, served with tea, is pretty close to heaven, too; but not quite as close.   
Finally, I would not leave Paris without eating fondue, ideally in the company with someone with whom you are incredibly comfortable though not necessarily in love, in a cozy restaurant, preferably one with brick walls and lots of candlelight. Fondue is a big pot of melted cheese served in a pot over a flame. It comes with bread, potatoes, apples, and other good things for dipping. Sharing fondue is an intimate experience and a fun one. I wish, now, that Julie and Clay could have gone out for fondue; but their most memorable meal (in the novel anyway) is pizza. Yes, you can find pizza in Paris; but I would not recommend it unless one is desperately homesick…. Stick to simple bread and cheese; or better yet, as I said, bread and butter.

To say just a little something about Along the Way, my novel coming out on April 1, it begins in Paris with one of the three main characters, Tessa, savoring her morning brioche in a hotel room on the Rue des Fleurs which overlooks the Luxembourg Gardens. There is such a hotel, and I have stood outside it sort of wishing that I could stay there one day, though it’s pricey, so that’s probably out of the question. Despite this rather luxurious opening, the novel takes Tessa and her two childhood friends, Piper and Dani, to the French Pyrenees and then into Spain as they walk the Camino of Santiago or Way of St. James. They eat a great deal of bread and cheese along the way, and food figures prominently in this novel, more so than in Paris, Modigliani & Me; and that’s probably and practically because walking the Camino takes energy. They walk some 300 miles over the course of 33 days before they reach Santiago. Along with bread and cheese, they savor plenty of chocolate (which melts sometimes in the sun); and they pack many, many apples each day. And although they drink tea, coffee, and wine, their staple is water. Right now, I am hosting a contest in connection with Along the Way (and I’ll surely follow up with a contest for Paris, Modigliani & Me when it comes out on October 1). Interested readers (and I hope there will be many!) can find out about the contest on the CONTEST page of my web page/blog at www.jacquelinekolosovreads.com. My novels can be purchased directly from the publisher or from Amazon. That said, I will joyfully! send any reader a signed copy (along with a bookmark) if he/she wants to contact me directly. Details can be found on my web page.

Thank you again, Jenny, for inviting me to share these stories. The experience has given me a yearning for overseas travel—yes, Paris; and I would love a brioche right now, though my drink of choice (at 11 pm) would be chamomile tea and not cappuccino.
You're very welcome Jacqueline! *craves crème brûlée for the rest of the day*

• • • • • • • • • • •


A summer in Paris as a nanny should be a dream job for eighteen-year-old Julie, but it feels more like a consolation prize after not getting into the Art Institute of Chicago, her dream school. Her mom wants her to come back to Texas and attend a state college in the fall, but Julie isn’t sure what she wants anymore.

One thing she does know is that she’s going to find the French father she’s never met while she’s in Paris. Whether her mother likes it or not.

Being a nanny to lively, fashion-minded Genevieve turns out to be fun and good for meeting a trio of intriguing guys. Jean Paul, Clay and Luc show Julie different parts of the city and help keep her mind off the problem of What To Do Next. And of course, Paris is, well,
Paris, and that certainly helps. Also, Genevieve’s mother, Claire manages an art gallery and Julie gets drawn into the Paris art scene. The situation heats up when a new, previously unknown work by Modigliani, one of Julie’s favorite artists, is discovered and acquired by the gallery.

Julie’s affections are pulled in three different directions while she tries to discover if the new Modigliani is real or a forgery, or painted by Modigliani’s mistress, Jeanne Hébuterne. Can the story of Modigliani and Jeanne provide any clues that will help guide her own path? Another
croissant certainly wouldn’t hurt, either.

• • • • • • • • • • • 


Three friends, 33 days, and 500 miles walking the Camino de Santiago add up to one journey they’ll never forget

Piper Rose, Dani Shapiro, and Alexandra ‘Tessa’ Louise De Mille Morrow share a history that goes back to their preschool years in Chicago when their families were still intact. Now Piper lives in Evanston with her divorced dad, her estranged, unstable mother popping in and out of her life at random moments. Meanwhile, Dani’s been living in Santa Fe with a psychologist mom pregnant with her fiancé’s IVF babies. The blueblood Tessa resides on a prominent street in Boston and dreams of a romantic and well-heeled love story like that of her great-grandmother who went to France during World War II. Now that it’s the summer before college, these radically different friends decide to celebrate their history and their future by walking the legendary pilgrimage along the Way of St. James, from the French Pyrenees to the Spanish city of Santiago. Along the way, each young woman must learn to believe in herself as well as in her friends, as their collective journey unfolds into the experience of a lifetime.

• • • • • • • • • • • •


Jacqueline is offering up an ebook copy of Along the Way to one lucky winner! To enter, please fill out the Rafflecopter form below. Giveaway is open internationally.

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Monday, March 23, 2015

Review: The Start of Me and You

Emery Lord
Contemporary Young Adult
384 pages
Available Now
Source: ARC from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads):
It’s been a year since it happened—when Paige Hancock’s first boyfriend died in an accident. After shutting out the world for two years, Paige is finally ready for a second chance at high school . . . and she has a plan. First: Get her old crush, Ryan Chase, to date her—the perfect way to convince everyone she’s back to normal. Next: Join a club—simple, it’s high school after all. But when Ryan’s sweet, nerdy cousin, Max, moves to town and recruits Paige for the Quiz Bowl team (of all things!) her perfect plan is thrown for a serious loop. Will Paige be able to face her fears and finally open herself up to the life she was meant to live?

There’s never a shortage of trepidation to be had when picking up the second novel by an author who blew us away with their debut, anxiety as to whether or not we’ll fall as hard for it as we did for its predecessor wreaking havoc on our insides as we crack the spine. What we find immediately with The Start of Me and You however is that our fear and anxiety are unnecessary, Ms. Lord’s sophomore novel a delight in every possible way as it proves that young adult friendships and romantic relationships don’t have to be full of angst to be thoroughly memorable and compelling.

Ms. Lord has a gift for writing teenage voices that are so genuine and believable that we immediately flashback to our younger selves, remembering the exact moment when we had the chance to show our high school crush just how cool we were by letting loose a remark so charmingly witty that they'd have no choice but to fall in love with us, only to be horrified by the inanity that escapes instead. Paige has more than a few of those moments, endearing her to us forever as we nod along knowingly and smile in shared embarrassment when those small moments don’t go as planned.

What’s so beautifully perfect about this tale–in addition to a standout protagonist who exudes warmth and the type of every-girl normalcy to which so many can relate–is that Ms. Lord has every opportunity to follow a familiar path with regard to the friendships and romance in this story, but at every turn she chooses to highlight the positive over the negative. The friendship between Paige and her three closest friends has moment after moment where things could easily turn sour, the relationship deteriorating into cattiness and jealousy as life happens, but instead the four of them prove that the strength of a friendship is proven in every day moments as much as it is in those of consequence.

The romance is adorably low-key, refusing to shift even slightly in the direction of a love triangle despite the presence of both longtime crush Ryan and perfectly nerdy Max. Ms. Lord once again chooses to portray teenagers with a maturity and humor that has us wishing we could bestow upon her the gift of speed writing so the wait for her next book might not be quite as long.

Rating: 5/5

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This book was sent to me by the publisher free of charge for the purpose of a review
I received no other compensation and the above is my honest opinion.