The January Project, a summay

Since today is the last day of January, I thought I’d offer a brief wrap up of how it went.

My main motivation was to provide reviews. Seven authors have benefited from my at time slap-dash reviews.  Two authors reached to thank me personally and one offered an ARC of another book for review.  I’m humbled. I don’t know if any of my blog readers have been persuaded to read any of these authors, but I sure hope so.

In the process, I have discovered a wonderful, new to me author, Sarah Madison. I’ve also been impressed with the high quality work of several independent (or self-published) authors, including Lara Nance and Christine S. Feldman.

One erotica book triggered too many of my personal hot-button issues and I opted not to finish it. My limited experience with the genre has by and large left me cold, even though I know a number of charming, sane people who write erotica.

I have one book in progress, Joanna Lloyd’s Shadow Beneath the Sea and will include a review later.

Will I do this again? Oh yes. And I will make it a point to leave a review for everything I read that has less than 300 reviews on Goodreads.

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Review: For the Love of Big Orange by Leta Gail Doerr

From the quirky cover, I assumed For the Love of Big Orange featured a quirky, retro-lovin’ heroine in a light story.  Leta Gail Doerr’s book surprised me with its gravitas and ability to keep me hooked.  Lacie Joe bounced through Kentucky’s foster care system until a rural judge and his wife took her in.  Her reputation as a troubled teen made her a target and an outsider in the small town.  When an accident occurred shortly after high school graduation, Lacie Joe left town in her orange truck and reinvented herself in the big city of Lexington.  When the judge’s health fails, Lacie Joe returns to look after him.  Her past and present collide as she makes amends with those she wronged in the past, including ex-boyfriend Jay Hayworth, and salvage her Lexington based program for at-risk youth.

Lacie Joe is a complicated character, one who tries hard but doesn’t always make the right decision. She had blind spots in her personal and professional life and may be guilty of self-sabotage.  In other words, she is perfectly relatable.  The light mystery element played out in a predictable manner, but didn’t take away from my overall enjoyment.  This novella was a charming way to spend an afternoon and all for less than a cup of coffee at a fast food chain.  It’s hard to say too much about the plot without giving away the story and you know I try to keep spoiler free. If you want a slice of life escape, take a ride in Big Orange.

I also want to add that this probably would be considered a New Adult based on the lead character’s age, but to me it read more like women’s fiction.  Romance isn’t front and center and the heroine isn’t bed-hopping to find her true self (a plot device that seems to have taken over the New Adult genre). This is more about the heroine’s journey to understand her place in this world.

I make no money reviewing books in The January Project, but if this one sounds good to you, here are some buy links.

Amazon:

Review: Getting a life… by Beth Watson

Getting a Life, Even if You’re Dead (No Going Back, Book 1) by Beth Watson is the next entry in The January Project, my one month effort to give authors reviews.

I love the title and cover for Getting A Life, Even if You’re Dead and I enjoyed a previous book by one of Beth Watson’s alter egos so picking this up on a Kindle free day was a no brainer.  Two female leads narrate. Kendra isn’t happy about being dragged along on her mother’s trip to photograph cemeteries in Paris.  How will operation get a boyfriend succeed if she’s not at home? Soon, Kendra has bigger problems in the form of her best friend, Amber. Amber (the other narrator) is dead and has been long before meeting Kendra three years ago.  Amber implores Kendra to help her with two lost souls, one alive, Pierrot and one dead, Loic. Loic doesn’t remember his death, but blames his brother Pierrot. To help Loic pass on to the afterlife, Kendra needs Amber to navigate mysteries in a physical world.

Great concept, but something fell a little flat for me in the execution and I wish I could pinpoint the issue. From a technical standpoint, I have no quibble with the book. The plot buzzed along.  The setting made me feel as though I were creeping around a Parisian cemetery and traipsing through the streets.  The hook at the end makes me want to read the next book in the series. A number of pity one liners prompted my husband to ask “Why are you smiling?” All the elements are there. I think the hiccup for me was a failure to develop a deep relationship with the characters.  It may be because I read this concurrent with the deeply emotional satisfying The Boys of Summer by Sarah Madison.  The dual narrators may have thrown me for a loop. I only connected with Amber in the last few chapters. Maybe I’m too old to relate to this young adult/teen novel? Perhaps if I had dreamt of Paris or viewed it as a romantic city rather than one where I battled waves of tourists and couldn’t get service at restaurants, the story would have resonated more.

In my reviews on Goodreads and Amazon, I’ll go with a 4/5 although a 3.5 more accurately reflects my reaction.  If my daughter is interested, I’d share this book with her. The story is wholly appropriate for the intended audience of later tweens and teens. I suspect the failings to fully enjoy this novel fall more to this reader than the author.  Besides, due to that hook, I am looking forward to more of this series.

I make no money by offering these, but here are the buy links:

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Getting-Life-Even-Youre-Going-ebook/dp/B00G4BJ06O/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1390153644&sr=1-1&keywords=beth+watson

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/getting-a-life-even-if-youre-dead-beth-watson/1117229236?ean=9780989521949

Review: The Boys of Summer by Sarah Madison

My first foray into gay romance brought to you by The January Project.

My alter ego won an ebook of  Sarah Madison’s The Boys of Summer during a month-long blog hop. I didn’t have to enter the contest, but the cover and description evoking World War II sucked me in. I’m so glad I’m a lucky girl.

In the modern day, David McIntyre, a Hollywood location scout, hires Rick Sutton of Sutton’s Air Service to fly him around Hawaii’s islands.  A storm forces Sutton to crash land on a deserted island as the two are nearing the end of their working relationship.  The two men take refuge in an abandoned World War II outpost and scavenge resources, battle the elements and injuries and try to attract the attention of potential rescuers before it is too late.

This is only part of the story. Roughly one third of the way into The Boys of Summer, the author introduces a lengthy dream sequence. For some people, this is a deal killer. In the past, I’ve been known to roll my eyes or worse put down a book with dream sequences lasting a page or two because they are irrelevant to the story. David dreams he and Sutton met and became romantically involved in London during World War II. About twenty pages in, the idea crossed my mind that it was a novella that could stand alone and apart from the contemporary frame, then the last third of the book, set once again in modern day Hawaii blew up that foolish conception.  The dream sequence becomes integral to David’s character arc and guides his actions. Major props to Sarah Madison for making a dream sequence that is worth reading AND relevant to the story.

I also commend the author for the judicious and effective use of detail. All too often in historical novels, superfluous detail describing the curtains or ruffles on a gown the sheen on a street take away from a character and deep point of view.  The reader sees both settings through David’s sharp eye.  He is a man who notices detail as a profession, but his commentary on what he sees is honest, never showing off.  Madison did her research and her accuracy shines as the RAF pilots discuss planes, but she never loses sight of her characters.

This is a character driven novel, in spite of having adventure scenes that would fit into one of the movies David loves. The male/male sex scenes are pretty tame compared to ones I’ve read in mainstream male/female romance and even sex scenes from literary works. I walked away with a sense of tenderness between partners rather than sex simply to titillate and push book sales.

All in all, I’m surprised how much I enjoyed this novel.  The Boys of Summer certainly exceeded my expectations, although in truth, I wasn’t sure what to expect other than “gay romance.” The beauty in this story and writing go beyond a subcategory.  I will seek out more of Sarah Madison’s writing in the future.

As always, I make no money by offering buy links but I want to offer them as part of The January Project to encourage book reviews.

Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Boys-Summer-Sarah-Madison-ebook/dp/B00CCUVR7G/ref=sr_1_4?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1390076079&sr=1-4&keywords=the+boys+of+summer

Barnes&Noble http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-boys-of-summer-sarah-madison/1115194648?ean=9781484135495

Review: Behind the Blue Door:230 Periwinkle Place by Jayne Ormerod

Another short review of a short read.  I’m getting into novellas after this month – these short reads make me feel more productive.  Behind the Blue Door is apparently a series of stories written by different authors who imagine what happens in a house with a blue door.  I love this first entry 230 Periwinkle Place by Jayne Ormerod. Even though I picked it up on a free kindle day, you can buy this for the amount of money you’ll find under the floor mats of your car.

Single mom Skye Whitmore’s life goes into a tailspin, and not just because of what her twelve year old son did while home alone.  A picture of a house with a blue door takes her back to a not so innocent time in her life when her four-year-old self witnessed her mother’s murder in that same house.  Skye decides to more forward, she must take a journey into the past and learn the truth behind the crime.

I love the dialogue, it’s fast paced and funny. These are characters you’d love to hang out with. Skye is a flawed character, but utterly charming. Her relationship with her son, Blake, bubbles with real life moments and the chaos that comes from parenting. This quick, fully developed story was a great way to spend an afternoon.  Mystery fans, rejoice, because Jayne Ormerod has other books too.

http://www.amazon.com/Behind-Blue-Door-Periwinkle-Place-ebook/dp/B00C8TSHOM/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1389362416&sr=1-1&keywords=jayne+ormerod

Review: Draculaville by Lara Nance

Next up on The January Project, Draculaville by Lara Nance.

Are you over vampires and ready to throw your kindle across the room next time read a heroine swoons at the sight of elongated teeth? Yeah, me too. I read Draculaville anyway based on my previous experience with indy author Lara Nance. By the end, I wanted to hug my little ereader and dance around the house singing “someone made vampires fun again” to a tune of my own invention.

The standard vampire is dark and broods over his (or her) lack of mortality, that is when they aren’t consuming blood and/or seducing everything on two legs. Some of Nance’s vampires do this, but the hero (and love interest) Drake isn’t your standard vampire.  Nance understands that as characters vampires have become victims of sorts of their own pop-culture success. They are too ubiquitous to be monsters. With tongue firmly planted in cheek, Nance takes on familiar tropes of the vampire stories and pushes them to the next level in consumption. Huh? you ask.

Heroine Talia Quinton, an advertising exec, rescues her vampire, Drake, from a dark alley. Her head wasn’t working right after a bender over the career failure of being shut out of a big money advertising campaign and foisted onto a Romanian tourism project.  Her resident vampire inspires a new direction – vampire tourism. The pinnacle of the project will be an amusement park, Draculaville, where patrons will pay money to be chased by seductive “vampires” in costume under the shadow of a ruined Romanian castle.  Doesn’t this sound fun? I thought you’d agree.  Better yet, this is the first book in a trilogy so there is more cheeky fun to be had.  You can pick up book 1 (and 2 and 3) below

http://www.amazon.com/DraculaVille-I-Discovery-New-York-ebook/dp/B00APPJYN4/ref=sr_1_9?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1389299430&sr=1-9&keywords=lara+nance

Here’s my full disclosure – I received an ARC of Draculaville in exchange for honest review. I know the author personally and we have swapped works in progress in the past.  If I hated her book, trust me, I’d let her (and you) know.

Review: Pastels and Jingle Bells by Christine S Feldman

I’ll stick to a short and sweet review of this fun fast read.  In Pastels and Jingle Bells, baker and artist Trish Ackerly gets the opportunity to seek revenge on her middle school bully, Ian Rafferty when he hires her to paint some windows. Ian isn’t the boy who used to call her “Pattycake.” As she gets to know him and his reasons for hiring her as an artist, will she follow through on her plans?

Christine S. Feldman, another new to me author, writes amazing dialogue.  I’m impressed with how much information and personality she conveyed through dialogue.  There wasn’t an unnecessary word. I also enjoyed this variation on the “Friends to Lovers” trope. I use that term, but this is a sweet romance (meaning no hot and heavy nookie scenes).    Bullying is a buzzy topic and those of us subjected to it (which pretty much means everyone) have all entertained revenge fantasies at some point in time. Start with that anger and sense of helplessness and read this story to find humor and peace.

I’m adding a buy link because if this project is designed to help authors, maybe I should let you know at least one place to find their book.  I make no money on this.  Also in full disclosure as part of The January Project – I downloaded this book from Amazon – but I can’t remember if I paid for it or downloaded on a free day.

http://www.amazon.com/Pastels-Jingle-Heavenly-Novella-Novellas-ebook/dp/B00GCVZEG6/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1388964062&sr=1-1&keywords=pastels+and+jingle+bells