Month: May 2017

The Debut Dish: Katie Nelson, Kate Watson, & Karen M. McManus (+ Giveaways)

Posted May 28, 2017 by Jana in Author Interview, Debut Author Challenge, Debut Dish, Giveaway / 8 Comments

The Debut Dish, a bi-monthly Debut Author Challenge feature, is where you go for the scoop on some pretty awesome debut authors and their new books! Hopefully these interviews will inspire you to add many, many more books to your to-read list. Because, really, who doesn’t need more books in their lives?

This issue of The Debut Dish features Katie Nelson (The Duke of Bannerman Prep), Kate Watson (Seeking Mansfield), and Karen M. McManus (One of Us Is Lying).

The Duke of Bannerman Prep by Katie Nelson
May 9, 2017 from Sky Pony Press
Add to Goodreads | Author Website

Words are weapons. Facts can be manipulated. And nothing is absolute—especially right and wrong.

Tanner McKay is at Bannerman Prep for only one reason: the elite school recruited him after he brought his public school’s debate team to victory last year. Bannerman wants a championship win. Debate is Tanner’s life—his ticket out of his poor-as-dirt life and family drama, straight to a scholarship to Stanford and the start of a new, better future.

But when he’s paired with the Duke, his plans for an easy ride seem as if they’ve hit the rails. The Duke is the quintessential playboy, beloved by everyone for his laissez-faire attitude, crazy parties, and seemingly effortless favors.

And a total no-show when it comes to putting in the work to win.

But as Tanner gets sucked into the Duke’s flashy world, the thrill of the high life and the adrenaline of existing on the edge becomes addictive. A small favor here and there seems like nothing in exchange for getting everything he ever dreamed of.

But the Duke’s castle is built on shady, shaky secrets, and the walls are about to topple down.

A contemporary retelling of The Great Gatsby, Katie Nelson’s taut debut is perfect for fans of John Green’s Looking for Alaska, Kate Brian’s Private series, and anyone who’s encountered the cut-throat world of competitive high school.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Great Gatsby meets debate team.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
There is a scene where the characters go to the beach for the first time. I love it because there have been some significant conflicts up to that point, and many of them get resolved there. But it opens the door for the drama that is to come in the rest of the novel.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
I was at home, doing something extremely exciting like washing dishes or folding laundry (I can’t remember). I got an email from my agent, but she didn’t have a bunch of details at that point. I remember texting my husband and friends and just being so thrilled!

What’s your favorite junk food?
Mint brownies and diet Pepsi. They cancel each other out. ;)

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
A pile of Starburst wrappers (all pink).

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Seeking Mansfield by Kate Watson
May 16, 2016 from Flux
Add to Goodreads | Author Website

Sixteen-year-old Finley Price has perfected two things: how to direct a world-class production, and how to fly way, way under the radar. The only person who ever seems to notice Finley is her best friend, the Bertram’s son Oliver. If she could just take Oliver’s constant encouragement to heart and step out of the shadows, she’d finally chase her dream of joining the prestigious Mansfield Theater.

When teen movie stars Emma and Harlan Crawford move next door to the Bertram’s, they immediately set their sights on Oliver and his cunning sister, Juliette, shaking up Finley and Oliver’s stable friendship. As Emma and Oliver grow closer, Harlan finds his attention shifting from Juliette to the quiet, enigmatic, and thoroughly unimpressed Finley. Out of boredom, Harlan decides to make her fall in love with him. Problem is, the harder he seeks to win her, the harder he falls for her.

But Finley doesn’t want to be won, and she doesn’t want to see Oliver with anyone else. To claim Oliver’s heart—and keep her own—she’ll have to find the courage to do what she fears most: step into the spotlight.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Jane Austen meets Stephanie Perkins.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
One of my favorite scenes in the book has my main character, Finley, in a club setting, which is one of the most uncomfortable and triggering places that she can be. She gets a text from one of her godparents’ sons–Tate–that he needs something, and because she’s Finley, she runs to help him. In the course of ten minutes, she interacts with one of the sons, then the other, though in very different ways. The way they interact with her pushes her into wanting to do something she hasn’t done before: speak up. The scene ends with her seeing the famous Harlan Crawford and yelling at someone (him) for the first time in her life.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
Sitting at my kitchen table, working on another manuscript while my toddler was napping. I think I screamed loud enough to wake her up, but for once, I didn’t care (and if you’ve ever interacted with toddlers, you know how sacred nap time is). I called my husband immediately to tell him the news, and then I called my sisters and screamed some more with them. It was a pretty great day.

What’s your favorite junk food?
Here’s the reality: I *should* be contractually obligated by Diet Pepsi and Cadbury Mini Eggs to name them, given how much I consume them, how much I post on social media about them, and how much money I’ve given them. They really should be paying me at this point. But they’re not. So, um, water and…apples. Yeah, that’s right. Water and apples. (Take that, Diet Pepsi and Mini Eggs.)

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
A sweater. It’s “spring” in Phoenix, which is code word for pushing 100*, so the presence of a sweater anywhere in my house is a sign that maybe I’m having a bit of a breakdown of some kind. Send help. Also ice. Or an ice cold Diet Pepsi…shoot. I’m advertising for them again, aren’t I?

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One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus
May 30, 2017 from Delacorte Press
Add to Goodreads | Author Website

One of Us Is Lying is the story of what happens when five strangers walk into detention and only four walk out alive. Everyone is a suspect, and everyone has something to hide.

Pay close attention and you might solve this.

On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.

Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule.

Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess.

Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.

Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.

And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app.

Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention Simon’s dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose?

Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.

Describe your book in five words or less.
The Breakfast Club, with murder.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
One of the best parts of having four narrators is throwing them together and letting them react to one another. In one scene, Bronwyn, Cooper, Addy and Nate are all called to the principal’s office after their secrets have been revealed. They’re suspicious of one another as possible murderers, but also drawn together as the only four people who can understand this strange, shared experience. That mix of distrust and reluctant bonding was fun to write.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
I was at a potluck dinner at my son’s school, chatting with his librarian, when the email came through. She was the first person I told.

What’s your favorite junk food?
Chocolate-covered pretzels.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
Not odd, exactly, but my publisher made pens with my characters’ names on them and I’ve gotten very attached to the Addy pen. It’s a great purple color. I keep writing notes I don’t need just so I can use it.

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Beautiful Storm by Barbara Freethy | DNF Book Thoughts

Posted May 23, 2017 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 2 Comments

Beautiful Storm by Barbara Freethy | DNF Book ThoughtsBeautiful Storm by Barbara Freethy
Series: Lightning Strikes #1
Published by Hyde Street Press on October 1, 2015
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Contemporary Romance, Mystery, Romance, Romantic Suspense, Suspense
Pages: 321
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Amazon Add to Goodreads
DNF Stars
When her father's plane mysteriously disappeared in the middle of an electrical storm, Alicia Monroe became obsessed with lightning. Now a news photographer in Miami, Alicia covers local stories by day and chases storms at night. In a flash of lightning, she sees what appears to be a murder, but when she gets to the scene, there is no body, only a military tag belonging to Liliana Valdez, a woman who has been missing for over a year. While the police use the tag to jumpstart their stalled investigation, Alicia sets off on her own to find the missing woman. Her search takes her into the heart of Miami's Cuban-American community where she meets the attractive but brooding Michael Cordero, who has his own demons to vanquish. Soon Alicia and Michael are not just trying to save Liliana's life but also their own, as someone will do anything to protect a dark secret…

So… There are TONS of Barbara Freethy books out there and I’ve always been intrigued. Many of the story lines sound good, and I’ve collected her titles as I’ve seen them show up for free on Amazon. I had a hankering for a little romantic suspense and was eager to finally see if Freethy is an author for me. And… nope. She’s not.

The mysticism of the lightning was just a bit too over the top for me. The lightning calls Alicia to it because it wants to show her something? No… And I did not like the relationship between the two main characters. Plus, how dumb is Alicia? Michael is a person of interest in this case. He’s a suspect with a troubled past and a reputation. She has known him for a few hours and all of a sudden wants to shove herself into his life and his family to try and find his missing friend. She FLIES with him to Texas and stays in an ADJOINING ROOM after knowing him for like 12 hours. WHAT. She also has no problems at all voicing her opinions to his family and his friend’s family about things she has no right knowing about, much less has the ability to know about. She’s been a part of this case for a few HOURS and does not know anyone involved. They have been grieving and searching for MONTHS and have known the missing person and the people involved for lifetimes. So all because Alicia found a military ID in a park, she knows everything about the case? There was also some major instalove/lust going on that I was not on board with.

The dialogue was cringeworthy. Almost everything anyone said to anyone included their name. It kind of went like this:

“Alicia, aren’t you happy we know each other?”
“Yes, Michael, I am.”
“Mother, are you happy that Michael and I know each other?”
“Yes, Alicia, I am.”
“Oh, Alicia, I am so glad that your mother is happy we know each other.”
“I am too, Michael.”

Like… I went through and started counting the number of names used in the dialogue on each page and it was just awful! That’s not how people talk to one another, and I felt like the author legitimately thought that we were too dumb to follow the dialogue on our own so she used all the names to try and make sure we knew who was talking to whom.

The mystery itself was very boring and slow and I started skimming because I was mildly curious about what happened. But by about 60% my curiosity has been killed and I threw in the towel.

So basically, this was a complete and total flop. It was horrible. Maybe now I know why Freethy books are in abundance and I can almost always find one for free or very cheap… At least now I know.

The Dreaded Blogging Slump | A Call for Advice/Commiserating

Posted May 5, 2017 by Jana in Discussion, Personal / 10 Comments


Hello!! Remember me!? I’m the person who you think fell off the Internet. I’m here! I’m just having trouble finding my blogging mojo at the moment. I’m reading, but I’m months behind on writing reviews. I’m staying on top of the Debut Author Challenge, but not as much as I’d like. What’s happening to me!?

We all know I’ve been in grad school the last 3.5 years, so the blog took a back seat in my life. But I graduated in December! But then I went to Hawaii and California for a month. But I’ve been home!! I’ve been reading!! What’s going on? I still love reading and blogging, so that’s not the issue. I’m not going anywhere, so it’s not like I’m phasing myself out.

What do I do?? Has this happened to you? Any tips for getting a handle on the reviews I still need to write? How do I make blogging a priority again? Every time I think of sitting down to write a review I go to Netflix or play Two Dots on my phone because I’m great at adulting and being responsible. I used to be so ON IT. Anyone else feeling this way? I need some help. Or a blogging intervention.

Throw your thoughts at me, and while you’re at it tell me what you’ve been up to!

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