Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Guest Post and Giveaway with Author Amy Gregory

Today I am very excited to play host to Amy Gregory, author of contemporary romance novel Carter's Treasure, book one in the Racing to Love series. It was released on 5th June and I reviewed this amazing novel a few weeks ago. You can read my review of it here.

And, here she is:

Top Five Things I learned While Writing My First Novel

Wow! I’m supposed to narrow this down to the top five, seriously? Considering I was so green, LOL, well I’ll give a shot!

First off would have to be the old stand-by, ‘believe in yourself’. If you have a piece that you have put your whole heart into, then don’t give up. If you don’t believe in you, no one else will either.

Always be willing to learn from those who’ve been there. Everyone started at the beginning. Everyone had rough patches and hard days. That’s a part of life just as much as it is writing. But if you’re lucky enough to find someone who will give you honest feedback and instructions on what to do to make your work better, then listen. Take what feels right to you and apply it to your work. Then when you’ve become the writer you want to be, remember to encourage someone else trying to start at the beginning.

Always stay true to you. If you change your work to someone else’s voice, it isn’t yours any longer. You have to love the finish product just as much as you loved the first draft. If your writing is always in your voice, it will always feel right.

If you write to make money, it will probably go nowhere. If you write because you love it, and you wake up each day needing to write, then the readers will feel that passion, they’ll crave it from your characters. They will be the first in line when the next book releases and the next book and the next. The only way to be happy in an industry where your hard work can be so easily dismissed and criticized, is to write because you love it.

And for every rejection you may encounter, respond back in the most sincere and polite way. You just never know, your positive and cheery attitude might just open a door you thought was closed.

Okay, because I tend to break rules anyway…I was supposed to list five, but I’m going to sneak in a sixth! Shhh… About a year ago I was reading yet another book on writing and publishing and there was a piece of advice that stuck out. Such a simple thing, but yet so huge that I felt I needed to pass it along because I know I’ve learned so much this way. READ. That’s it. Simple right? Told you. But seriously, reading books in the genre you like to write in can shed so much light your own work. The timing, how the comedy or drama is used to make the book flow. The way different authors use tense or how their ideas of how character point of view works or doesn’t work. I’m not saying that all published books are amazing, you’ll get a sense though of what style you like to read, therefore that will be the easiest style for you to write in as well.

Thank you for everything Chrissie, you have made this journey of mine a great experience!

You're welcome Amy, and meeting lovely authors like you is one of my favourite parts of blogging!

As an aside, the photographs are ones that I decided to add. I'm not sure they're entirely relevant to the post but knowing Amy's sense of humour I'm sure she'll like them :)

Amy and her publishers at Sapphire Star Publishing have kindly offered to give away an ebook copy of Carter's Treasure here at Once Upon a Series. And to give you a hint of the kinds of awesomeness that this book is, here is the blurb:

From the outside, Molly West had everything, beauty, brains, and a career she’d retired from not once, but twice. Being in the limelight and in a sport that was male driven, she was often surrounded men. She ignored first the boys, and as she got older, the men. Unfortunately, they were all the same, all after one thing, and she had absolutely no use for them. Her cold shoulder and patented not a chance in hell look were usually enough to get her point across. Occasionally, she had to resort to her sass—and her brother.

Molly had no plans in changing what was a perfectly good system. That is until she walked into the pits. When she stood toe-to-toe with the sex in jeans, she knew right then and there that the man her adoptive mother always told her was out there, was now standing right in front of her.

Carter Sterling had traveled the racing circuit since he was a boy. He’d heard all the old standbys, She’s out there somewhere, love comes along when you least expect it. Good things come to those that… Yeah, he’d heard them all. The last place he expected to meet the love of his life was on a pro track. All she did was smile, and he knew, looking into her sapphire blue eyes, Molly West was his. Forever.

If it was only that easy. From the moment he laid eyes on her, he had a gripping feeling in him. An overwhelming need to protect her. A girl he’d just met. Carter had learned a long time ago that gut feelings are almost never wrong.

Molly now held his heart in her hands, but it was going to take a lot more than just love to protect her from the past she thought she’d buried a long time ago.

Giveaway Rules

To be in with a chance of winning Carter's Treasure, all you have to do is leave a comment here along with your email address.

As it is an ebook, the contest is open internationally and will close Wednesday 4th July.

Good luck everybody!

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Taking a Leave of Absence Due to Incurable Heartache

Hi everybody,

I don't often do personal posts but I have to do one today. And it's going to be a sad one. If you're not a fan of blubbering women then you should probably look away now. I'm pretty sure this post is for my own benefit rather than anybody elses but then, hey, it is my blog after all.

For those of you who have followed my blog for a while you will know that my husband was very poorly last year. In fact he spent most of last year in hospital. Tim suffered from very severe Crohn's Disease that had left him malnourished and weak. Despite the fact that he had managed to stay out of hospital so far this year, his condition never really improved and he had a very poor quality of life. He was too weak to go out anywhere and to do much for himself, and he was constantly in pain.

Last weekend he started getting short of breath and we were told that he had a slight chest infection and he was put on antibiotics. But he continued to get worse until he was taken into hospital on Wednesday. He was very dehydrated and there were a lot of other things wrong with him, but he initially responded well to the treatments he was being given.

But then yesterday afternoon, during visiting hours so I was there with him, he deteriorated rapidly. He couldn't breath and he had to be sedated and put on a ventilator - not the first time I've seen this happen but it's still not a nice experience. And we were told that all the problems he was having was because his infection had entered his blood and he was very badly septic. Me and his family were told that the chances were that he was too weak to fight this kind of serious illness.

Tim managed to hold on until 9.15 this morning when he peacefully passed away whilst still sedated. The ventilator wasn't able to keep up his oxygen levels despite giving maximum support and his blood pressure was still dropping to dangerous levels even though he was being given three different medications to tackle this.

He was only 35 years old. He lived such a short and difficult life, but he was such a good man. He was always thinking of others and he had such a kind heart. He was my soul mate and now he's gone. I have to try and find a way to carry on life without him and it's going to be difficult. But I know I have to do it for our two boys. Tim is leaving behind two beautiful sons who are still so young - the eldest will be five next month and our youngest has just turned two. I have to stay strong for them. And I only turned 30 two weeks ago and now I'm a widow. It just all seems so surreal.

I don't know when I will be coming back to blogging but I know I will. There will come a time when I will need to keep busy and fill every single second with activity just to get through each day. But that time is not now. I need time to grieve and to help my boys through this.

I know that Tim is in a better place now and that he isn't in pain and suffering any more, and I hope that one day that will give me comfort. But right now the pain I feel is too raw for that.

I did consider finding a photo of Tim to put in this post but looking through all our photos on the computer to pick one out just seemed too painful so this will have to do for now.

Timothy Robert Goldsmith

15th December 1976 - 9th June 2012

You'll always be in our hearts and our thoughts

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Review: Unleashed by Jami Alden (Gemini Men #3)

Publisher - Kensington Books
Publication Date - 2nd November 2009
Paperback - 320 pages
Genre - Romantic Suspense

Source - Purchased

Rating - 4.5 out of 5: I really liked it.

Reviewed by - Chrissie

Book Info - Danny Taggart is the biggest badass of all the Gemini Men. And there's only one thing a woman can do with a man this hot, hard, and ready for action...

He's the oldest of the three Taggart brothers. And the boldest. Tall, dark, and rippling with muscle, Danny Taggart takes no prisoners. But when his latest case puts him up close and personal with the woman who once left him raw and aching, he's shell shocked. Caroline Medford is stilll hotter than hell. But she's also got her pretty grip on the thruths that have shaped him into the soul-ravaged warrior he is today. Burned once, Danny's plan is to satisfy his craving for Caroline and walk away. Yet once he has her warm and willing beneath him, he can't get deep enough - or close enough. Not even when danger threatens to destroy everything he's ever fought for. Including the only woman he's ever loved...

My Thoughts - What I love about this book is how it so beautifully wraps up the series for the reader. Throughout the first two books there is an underlying story about how the Taggart boys' mother up and left them at an early age and how this has affected them and their attitude towards relationships. Their father has never given up his search for his wife and has therefore never really been there for them either as they were growing up. In this book, Danny (the eldest Taggart brother) manages to find out exactly what happened to his mother, whilst getting closer to the woman that he had been in love with at the time of her disappearance.

This is a story about second chance love, which I always think is interesting to read about. At first Danny thinks that he can keep Caroline at arms length but as it becomes more obvious that her now dead ex-husband may have had something to do with his mother's disappearance and that her life is now in danger, he must do all he can to keep her safe. While they are together 24/7 it gives them time to work out where they went wrong so many years ago, and although they both have very different views on what happened between them some truths eventually come out that makes Danny question everything he ever believed - about his relationship with Caroline and why his mother ran away from him and his brothers.

Like his brother Derek in the previous book in the series, Danny has trouble dealing with his emotions and so he never really allows himself to feel anything for anybody. I have to say that I do find this slightly irritating. I don't mind it for a little while at the beginning of the book, but I feel that it hampers the romance if it goes on for too long. But on the whole I did like the character of Danny - he's sexy, charming and he never walks away from his responsibilities.

Caroline is a great character too. She is currently being investigated as the main suspect in her ex-husband's murder, although she knows she didn't do it, and that she is next on their hitlist. She is very tough and independent and she really knows how to keep Danny in line. The romance between them is hot as hell and has some tender and heartbreaking moments, especially as the truth about why she left Danny in the past comes to light.

Once again, the author also manages to write a brilliant suspense storyline to accompany the romance and I finished this book in just one day as I just couldn't bring myself to put it down.

Summary - A brilliant ending to the series that wraps up all the loose ends very nicely. I must admit that I became obsessed with this series whilst reading it and am very sad that it's now over. I will definitely be checking out more of Ms. Alden's work.

Other books in the series:
1. Caught
2. Kept
3. Unleashed

Other reviews of this book:
Book Junkie / Genre Go Round Reviews

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Review: Body Heat by Katherine Garbera

Publisher - Kensington Publishing
Publication Date - 20th March 2006
Paperback - 288 pages
Genre -  Romantic Suspense

Source - Library

Rating - 3 out of 5: I liked it.

Reviewed by - Chrissie

Book Info - Andi O'Roarke is a fire chief and a darned good one - one of only a handful of women in the US to make it. Raised in a family of firefighters, she's a natural, barking out orders and keeping her guys safe at the same time; and her big, tough guys respect her, treating her just like one of them. Away from her job, though, Andi doesn't have a clue how to handle herself with men. That's why arson investigator Tucker Fields is so dangerous... and so tempting. Tucker is no slap-you-on-the-back kind of guy; he's all man. A man who makes Andi feel sexy, alive, desired...

Tucker likes what he sees in Andi. He loves her passion. Her strength. That sizzling sexuality she tries to hide. He sees the ribbing she takes from the guys if she even puts on lipstick. To prove herself in a man's world, Andi has had to fight being a woman. But she's not the only one who knows how to give orders. As they spend days and nights on his investigation, Tucker's determined to start a fire of a different kind, releasing Andi's every inhibition and enticing her into losing all control as he shows her just how delicious being a woman can be... and how good love can feel...

My Thoughts - The first thing that I would like to say about Body Heat is that Tucker is HOT! He is a definite alpha male who is not afraid to take charge - who, in fact, loves to be in charge *swoon*. I loved the way that he is able to see beyond Andi's tough appearance and see her for who she really is. And it is because of Tucker that Andi is finally able to allow her feminine side to be unleashed.

Andi is a likeable enough character, but I wouldn't say that I fell in love with her. She is strong, dependable and never lets the guys on her team down. But she is so afraid to be a woman that I felt a little sorry for her. She's always grown up around men and they have all expected her to be successful in a very male-oriented world. Her family seem to have completely forgotten that she is a woman at all. But I loved watching her discover her feminine side with Tucker.

The chemistry between the two of them was sizzling and a lot of fun to read about. My main problem with the book though was the constant power struggle between Tucker and Andi. It seemed as though they were each always fighting to have the upperhand in the relationship and after a while it became pretty irritating. I could understand that they both have very dominant personality types and that this would cause problems, but it turned into a bit of a contest between them in the end and I just wanted to bang their heads together and tell them to start behaving like adults.

Also, I would have liked a bit more focus on the suspense side of the story. The arson investigation takes a definite back seat in Body Heat and is used more of a means to bring the two characters together, rather than to add any mystery.

Summary - Body Heat is a quick and sexy read with a seriously hot hero, however, it does lack slightly in the romance and mystery departments. But well worth a read anyway if you are a fan of romantic suspense novels.

This book counts towards the following challenges:
Book #2 for 2012 Mystery and Suspense Reading Challenge
Book #31 for 2012 Outdo Yourself Reading Challenge

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Review: Bite Me by Parker Blue (Demon Underground #1)

Publisher - Bell Bridge Books
Publication Date - 30th September 2008
Genre -  Young Adult/Urban Fantasy

Source - Received from NetGalley for review

Rating - 2.5 out of 5: I liked it

Reviewed by - Ally

Book Info - Life after high school is tough enough without having to go 15 rounds with your inner demon.

Val Shapiro is just your ordinary, part-demon, teenaged vampire hunter with a Texas drawl. And a pet hellhound named Fang. Soon enough she finds herself deep in the underbelly of the city, discovering the secrets of the Demon Underground and fighting to save those she loves. Whether they love her back or not.

My Thoughts - Since Richelle Mead's Succubus series ended I’ve been waiting for a book to come into my life to fill that hole. Unfortunately that is a VERY big hole to fill and Val and her inner succubus just did not fill it. This snarky little bundle of vampire hunting, familial problems virginal slayer and her hell hound Fang are a cute little duo, hidden within the depths of older YA books when the Cullen’s weren’t sparkling on our TV screens and vampires were the embodiment of Bram stoker *reminisces on the good ole days* Well okay enough of that.

This cute little older YA series deals with our main character Val Shapiro’s newly abandoned self, her parents, more specifically her spineless mother –excuse me I REALLY disliked her mother!- and her more understanding step dad, who sort of ….blame her for her sister being out late at night fighting vampires with her. That’s not the case …exactly.

Her snarky hell hound who thinks at her in ALL CAPLOCKS is cute and so funny, their relationship was definitely interesting (he reminds me of the unicorn in Allison Pangs series) The fight scenes in the book are definitely intense and well written and with a whole litany of interesting characters with back stories that I can’t wait to discover. This book is fast paced.

For me this wasn’t the most well written book, but the characters made up for it. Val handles her family problems pretty well for a YA which is refreshing for YA. Her love interest in this book is Dan, kind hearted, sweet….BORING Dan, the scenes between them were sweet, she’s part succubus! NOT unicorn (Although Miss Pangs unicorn is pretty horny-pardon the pun- himself). Where’s the lust? (Maybe I’m expecting too much from a YA book? Even if it is for the older crowd.)

The plotting in the middle was spotty; too much travelling, too much dialogue. It felt like I was following a ping pong match at moments, there’s fast paced and then there's pacing. Shade’s character is very cool and the scene with him had me picturing him lighting up my bedroom-no really just my bedroom he swirls with light-and I can totally see him being in my future books and ermmm *cough* dreams.

Things you should know (Again thank you Kimba)

1. This book won’t win awards for literary genius but the content makes up for that.
2. Her mother is a cold hearted ‘shroom.
3. I really liked the sister.
4. The Vampires don’t sparkle.
5. I really want a hellhound.

Summary - This book was cute and Val and Fangs snarky comments were funny. I liked Dan's sister and although Dan is sweet…ehhh. I can’t wait to see what this series has in store. Chao, lovingly Ally who’s waiting for the sexy to be put back into the part lust Demon that is Val Shapiro.

Other books in this series:
1. Bite Me
2. Try Me
3. Fang Me
4. Make Me

Other reviews of this book:
Coffee Table Reviews / That's What She Read / YA Bound
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