Monday, September 01, 2014

Month in Review: August 2014

How is it September already? I feel like the summer was just starting the other day and yet fall will be here before we know it...I do have to say, I love the fall - the crisp, cool days, the changing leaves - I just hope we have a fall season before we move into winter! There are a ton of books coming out this fall and I'm hoping my reading time allows for me to get them all in...although, right now I'm trying to get caught up in Ken Follet's Century trilogy. I finished the first book, Fall of Giants this weekend and will be starting the second book sometime this week so that I can read the third and final book when it comes out next week. Of course, these books are all quite long - at least 900+ pages each, so they take a while to read. But, if the next two are anything like the first, the pages just fly by!

Here are my reading stats for August! 

  • Books read:  12

Books I read: 
  1. A Nantucket Christmas -- Nancy Thayer (audio book)
  2. The Good Girl -- Mary Kubica
  3. Nantucket Sisters -- Nancy Thayer (audio book)
  4. Butternut Summer -- Mary McNear
  5. Season of the Dragonflies -- Sarah Creech
  6. Hard Knocks -- Lori Foster (e-book)
  7. After I'm Gone --Laura Lippman
  8. Three Story House -- Courtney Miller Santo
  9. The Cuckoo's Calling -- Robert Galbraith (audio book)
  10. No Limits -- Lori Foster
  11. Delicious! -- Ruth Reichl (audio book)
  12. Fall of Giants -- Ken Follett

Favorite Books of August:  

  • The Good Girl by Mary Kubica

2014 Challenge Update: 

  •  You Read How Many Books Reading Challenge -- Books read: 108/150
  •  Library Books Reading Challenge -- Books read: 13/50
  •  Mount TBR Reading Challenge -- Books read: 4/36
  •  Review Pile Books Reading Challenge -- Books read: 0/10
  •  Netgalley Reading Challenge -- Books read: 22/15 (COMPLETED)
  •  First Reads Reading Challenge -- Books read: 30/26 (COMPLETED)
  •  Quick Fix Fiction Reading Challenge -- Books read: 24/15 (COMPLETED)
  •  Chunkster Reading Challenge -- Books read: 3/5
  •  E-books Challenge -- Books read: 36/25 (COMPLETED)
  •  Historical Fiction Challenge -- Books read: 9/25
  •  Nonfiction Reading Challenge -- Books read: 1/5
  •  Finish the Series Fiction Challenge -- Series completed: 0/4 + 1
  •  Audio Book Challenge -- Books listened to: 31/25 (COMPLETED)

Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Sunday Post #38 (8.31.14)

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a chance to share news. A post to recap the past week, showcase books and things we have received and share news about what is coming up on our blog for the week ahead.
I've decided to try a new weekly meme - a place where I can do both a weekly wrap up and share what books I get all in one post, so I'm going to give The Sunday Post a try, and also link up with Sheila's It's Monday Post over at Book Journey

So, this weekend, my husband was off sailing in his first big offshore race in the new boat - and as I write this I am anxiously awaiting to hear that he has crossed the finish line! The race started at noon on Friday off Stamford, CT with the course being to race up and around Martha's Vineyard and back. 

I spend the time reading - I never got around to reading Ken Follet's Century Trilogy, so I thought this weekend would be a great time to get started. I made excellent progress in book 1, Fall of Giants - only have about 100 pages to go and am absolutely loving it!!! Maybe, just maybe, I can get to book 2 (Winter of the World) this week and then book 3 (Edge of Eternity) next week so that my review can be posted during its release!

Have a great week everyone!!! 

Last week on the Blog:           
* Blog Tour & Review: Three Story House by Courtney Miller Santo

* Review: Top Secret Twenty-One by Janet Evanovich
* Review: Hard Knocks by Lori Foster
* Blog Tour, Review & Excerpt: No Limits by Lori Foster
* Blog Tour, Author Q&A: Lori Foster - with Giveaway
* Book Blog Walkers: Weekly Check-in Aug 29   

Books Read:        

* No Limits by Lori Foster (review book)
* Delicious! by Ruth Reichl (audio book)
Currently Reading:              

* Fall of Giants by Ken Follett (mine)               
* Perfect Together (review audio book)

Books Up Next:                  

*  Accidents of Marriage by Randy Susan Meyers (review book)
* Winter of the World by Ken Follett (mine)     
* Dear Daughter by Elizabeth Little (review audio book)

Recent Giveaway Winners:            
* After I'm Gone by Laura Lippman...Rhonda

Current Giveaways:            
* No Limits by Lori Foster...1 copy. Ends 9/4/14

Coming Up on the Blog:
* Month in Review: August 2014

* Review: Conversion by Katherine Howe
* Cover Reveal: ???
* Review: Sight Unseen by Iris Johansen

Book Haul:     
For Review:
* Maybe This Christmas by Sarah Morgan (Netgalley)  

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Book Blog Walkers: Weekly Check-in August 29

#BookBlogWalkers is being hosted by Jen @ That's What I'm Talking About for the month of August

Last weekend we went to the beach and had a great time. I even convinced my hubby to take a walk with me Sunday morning - it was so nice!!! The rest of the week consisted of me taking lots of short walks with a sick dog...luckily she's finally feeling better!
Here's how my week went:  

Aug 23:  rest
Aug 24:  45 minute walk on beach
Aug 25:  30 minutes
Aug 26:  45 minutes

Aug 27:  45 minutes
Aug 28:  45 minutes
Aug 29:  60 minutes
How did your week go?

Friday, August 29, 2014

Blog Tour & Author Q&A: Lori Foster - With Giveaway!!!

Today, I am pleased to welcome Lori Foster to Always With a Book. Her latest book, No Limits, is the first book in her Ultimate series. It is now available. You can read my review of the book here. Please enjoy this Q&A and be sure to enter the giveaway for a chance to win a copy of No Limits below!

Can you tell us a little bit about your latest release, NO LIMITS?
This is Cannon's story, a character that readers met in my last series, Love Undercover. From the second Cannon showed up on the page, I knew he'd get his own story. He's that kind of guy, the guy who steps up and takes notice and gets a lot notice in return.

In NO LIMITS, Cannon reunites with Yvette, another character from the previous series. They parted under strained circumstances, with Cannon just heading into professional MMA and Yvette young and traumatized from a horrific threat. Cannon saved her then, but he was noble because of her age and what she'd been through. Now she's older, more independent, and he's ready to make up for lost time. 

Can you also fill us in on the prequel to the series, HARD KNOCKS?
HARD KNOCKS gives readers a peek into the MMA world and the fighters who will have novels in the Ultimate series. You can get to see the inside of Cannon's gym, the set-up and what the guys do for the neighborhood, as well as the close relationships they share. It's a short relationship featuring Gage and Harper, two fun, strong people with a few romantic quirks to work out. It's short and sexy and gives readers a taste for how the novels will be more about fighters in a romance than about fighters fighting in the cage.

How has your UFC obsession influenced the writing of NO LIMITS?
Well, I've gotten into the idea of picking silly fight names for the heroes. And from the fight names, I've come up with some "inspired" reasons for them. It also makes it easier to justify the guy being totally ripped - although not all fighters are. I've learned in actual fights the physical appearance can be deceiving. It's more about heart and talent, training and speed, than how a guy looks. But naturally any hero I write about will be blessed with a six-pack an boulder shoulders.

What was it like getting inside the mind of a mixed martial arts fighter?
I've interviewed a few fighters over the years, chatted with others whiles getting promotional photos and during before and after "meet and greets" while at live events. Every single fighter I've met has been extremely nice, unassuming, dedicated to fans, and (though it sounds silly) very sweet. It took only a few questions to see how much they give to the sport they love, the discipline it takes to stay in training, and the confidence they gain from having extreme ability. Since I've never asked a fighter about his love life, that part of the story is pure imagination on my part. But then I only write good guys, and talented lovers.

What is your process for choosing names like Cannon Colter?
I'm a terrible cheat when it comes to names. More often than not I see a name on Facebook or Twitter that I like. I never, ever use a first and last name together, but I do pick and choose and mix and match. When I see a unique name, or a name that resonates with me, I grab it up. When I'm writing, I'm far less focused on names than I am on personality. Names for me are an afterthought, so stealing from my social media sites makes it easy.

What are Cannon and Yvette's best physical traits?
Although Cannon is a fighter with a shredded bod, it's more his smile and his eye that get to Yvette. He has a very sincere smile, because he's a very sincere guy. And when he looks at a person, it's felt through and through.

For Yvette, she has long beautiful hair, but it's more about the deceptive confidence she tries to exude that draws Cannon - that, and the ways she looks at him like he's a superhero. What guy could resist that?

What is the best scene (in your opinion) between Yvette and Cannon?
There's a fun scene where Yvette is at the rec center (the gym) and the fighters start arguing. Cannon is irked, his buddies are irked, and Yvette thinks they might come to blows. She tries to put herself in the middle and sort of gets sandwiched between some pretty hot flesh. I smiled while writing it, so I hope readers smile when they read it. The poor guys didn't know what to think. They're big, physical guys who don't mind working out a few differences on the mat, but they're also friends, and they're fighters with a load of control often utilized in a fight. But with Yvette, they all want to be gentle - while struggling to figure her out.

What music did you listen to while writing NO LIMITS?
I have a long playlist of about 150 songs. Much of it is from KORN and Kid Rock and Marilyn Manson, but I've also really gotten into Disturbed, The Pretty Reckless, Papa Roach, Skillet and Puddle of Mud. Oh, and Cage the Elephant. I like loud, strong music that I can sign along with while I'm writing.

How is this series different from your previous work?
The Ultimate series is a different setting, different characters, different plots - and yet you still visit some of the characters from Love Undercover series since it remains in the same fictional city and state. In the last series the focus was on Rowdy's bar and the police station. There are visits to the bar still, but much of the action takes place at Cannon's rec center and in different houses owned by the characters.

The stories remain super-sexy. the guys remain alphas, the women remain smart and independent, the elements of suspense go throughout both series. But I hope each character has their own personality and for me, that's where the differences should be more evident.

What character did you find yourself most drawn to, and why?
I love Armie Jacobson - and I'm pretty sure readers will too. He's outrageous, too sexy, has effortless talent in the cage, and a wounded background that has influenced his life greatly. I love all the guys - Gage, Cannon, Denver, Stack...but Armie stands out.

Do you prefer writing about small town romance settings (like in NO LIMITS) or city settings?
I'm not sure I've ever written a large city setting. Smaller towns, always fictional, work best for me because I like the lack of anonymity in a small town. Everyone knows everyone, or has at least heard of everyone, and it can lead to some touching, and embarrassing, situations. I like the warmth of knowing your neighbors and caring about them. And I like the ease in creating the town.

Who would play Cannon and Yvette in a book-to-film adaptation?
Josh Dumel, while a little too old, would make a fabulous Cannon? He's big and gorgeous and built. I think he's be perfect if NO LIMITS was ever made into a movie. 

For the heroine, Mila Kunis is beautiful and I can easily picture her as Yvette. They'd make a hot couple!

What are your five favorite verbs to use during a love scene?
Favorite verbs to use in a love scene...Only five, huh? Wow, that's difficult. How about catch/caught, press, contract, nuzzle/nibble, lick/suck. I'm not sure I could write a full love scene without them.

Can you tell us about the process behind the cover artwork?
Ooooh, I LOVE getting new covers, it's so exciting. The way it works is that I give my editor an idea of what the characters look like. Usually this means emailing her my own character sheets - notes I keep on the characters to detail (and help me remember) height, eye and hair color, body type, etc...I usually include any and all info like the car he/she drives, job description, age and any other pertinent information that I might need to recall from book to book.

My editor also asks for a synopsis, but since they usually start working on covers long before I know what the story is about, it's a guessing game on my end. I know there'll be a hunk, a heroine, some suspense, lots of emotion, and a happy ending. The how and why is often not clear to me at that point.

Then the publisher has a meeting with the art department and they brainstorm cover ideas and come up with a concept I get to see.

The concept is just an idea. It'll show a model, but not THE model. It'll show a pose, but the THE pose. I see where the place of my name and the title will appear, along with any quotes.

Once that's approved, the art department does a photo shoot and from those images they choose the one they like best. I weigh in with pleas of chest hair. Chest hair is always my #1 requirement if they show the model with his shirt off. To be clear, this is for new novels, not novellas or re-issues. For those they generally use stock art. It's all very fun and I can honestly say I've loved the artwork so far.

If you were stranded on a desert island with one of your many characters, who would you choose and why?
Since I'm an enormous wimp and not at all heroic, I'd love to have Trace with  me, from Trace of Fever. He's bossy and take-charge and lethal. He knows what he's doing, how to protect and how to survive. Plus I think he was pretty sexy.

If it needs to be a character from my current Ultimate series, I'd say Denver - for many of the same reasons. He's far more autocratic than Cannon or Armie or Stack. He's big, brawny, and when necessary he can be lethal. I'd feel safer with a real bad ass if I had to be stranded.

What was the most difficult part of the process when writing NO LIMITS?
My heart broke for Yvette. She's one of the more damaged heroines I've ever written (although there have been a few) and she struggled so hard for her independence. More than anything she wants Cannon, but because he's so brave and strong she doesn't feel quite worthy, and the stigma of being seen as a victim really hit her hard. I imagine something like that would be very, very difficult to overcome.

Have you written an outline for the Ultimate series or do you make it up as you go?
I totally make it up as I go along. Or I should say my characters make it up. I never try to figure things out in advance because as soon as I do, the characters will have a different idea and they'll rebel, making it difficult to write until I give them their way. Fighting it is futile. But since they're seldom wrong, it works for us. (And yes, I'm nuts. I don't fight that either.)

Usually the characters will give me enough clues along the way to keep the writing flow steady. For instance, while I was writing NO LIMITS, Denver stepped up and talked about Cherry and made it clear his book needed to be next. Now while I'm writing HOLDING STRONG (Denver's story) Stack is giving me nudges, saying, "Me next, me next. And I'm going after Vanity...whether she or I know it yet or not." So that's how I know Stack's story will be after Denver's.

Armie has said he wants to wait, stew on things a while, come to grips with his I'm letting him get used to the idea of what is to come.

What was your go-to snack while writing NO LIMITS?
Goldfish cheese crackers and pretzels. Occasionally I drink Mountain Dew when I need more caffeine but I usually snack with Lipton Citrus Green Tree as my drink. I also love baby carrots. And far too often I cave to the call of the Pringles can. 

What's your favorite part of the book?
There's a fight scene in the book. Not a sporting match, but an angry, defensive, you-dared-touch-what-is-mine kind of aggression filled with rage and loss of control and an awakening of strong emotion. Call me barbaric but I love writing scenes like that. I love getting down to the basics of how love can affect a person, whether it's in sex or fighting off danger or just showing vulnerability awareness. It's the real stuff people are made of.

What are you working on next?
I'm writing Denver's story right now, titled HOLDING STRONG. It's due out in the Spring of 2015 and I'm loving Denver and Cherry together - and them as a couple with the rest of the fighters around. It's a very fun dynamic.

After that I'll do another benefit novella for June 2015. It'll be part of the Buckhorn family and all proceeds from sales of the book will go to a charity. I'm not yet sure which of the Buckhorn clan will be featured, but I'm sure it'll all come to me in plenty of time.

And then I'll jump into Stack's story. He should be ready by then - which means I'll also be read. Luckily the characters keep me writing. In fact, if there were more hours in the day, I'm not sure they'd ever let me stop!

Thank you Lori for such an insightful interview!!!

Thanks to the publicist I have one copy of No Limits to give away to my readers. (Note - this is an advanced copy edition.)

To enter…
  • Leave a comment below & be sure to include your email address.
  • Tweet, share on Facebook, or blog for 2 extra entries.
  • You MUST include email address or entry will be invalid.
  • I will contact winner at the conclusion of the giveaway & they will have 2 days to respond or I will pick a new winner.
This giveaway is open to US residents only and ends September 4th.
Good luck!

Blog Tour, Review & Excerpt: No Limits by Lori Foster

Title: No Limits  
Author: Lori Foster    
Series: Ultimate, #1     
Published: August 2014, Harlequin HQN   
Format: ARC Paperback, 432 pages   
Source: Publisher  

A surprise inheritance reunites a mixed martial arts fighter with the woman he's never forgotten in the first in a smoldering new series from New York Times bestselling author Lori Foster…

Cannon Colter is quintessential hero material: chiseled jawline, shredded body—the works. He's also the guy who rescued Yvette Sweeny from kidnappers, only to put an end to her romantic dreams. These days, she's older, smarter, determined to face whatever life throws her way. Even the prospect of sharing a house and business with Cannon.

Cannon knew Yvette wanted him three years ago. But she was young—and some things are worth waiting for. Thrown together by her grandfather's legacy, he realizes how deep Yvette's scars really go, and how much danger lurks in their quiet town. As pent-up desire explodes between them, protecting her becomes the only fight that matters. And he'll break all the rules to do it…

My thoughts: Ever since meeting Cannon in Lori Foster's previous series, Love Undercover, I have been waiting for him to get his own story and so I couldn't wait to pick up this book. I will say I was a little apprehensive about starting a series about MMA fighting since I know little to nothing about the sport, but as Lori Foster indicates in her letter to readers at the beginning of the book, the focus of this series really isn't on the fighting as much as it is on the fighters themselves.

Both of the main characters in this book are really not new if you've read the Love Undercover series. I happened to read that series which is why I was so excited to read this book. I loved Cannon!!! In that series, he was the mysterious guy who set up a neighborhood watch and tried to help wherever help was needed. And Yvette was a sweet young girl who ended up with a crush on Cannon, but due to circumstances beyond either of their control, they couldn't be together. Fast forward three years and now they are forced together thanks to her grandfather.

Oh I love how Lori Foster writes her romances. They are steamy and sizzling, with just enough speed bumps thrown in to be believable. As this is the first full-length book in the series, the challenge is to not only create a plausible, engaging romance, but to create a story that allows you to introduce some of the other characters who will be featured in the series. Yes, Lori does write a prequel to this series, Hard Knocks, that does allow us to meet the other fighters, but not in any great depth. In this book, we get to know some of them a little better, especially Armie, who is quickly becoming another favorite of mine!

I really enjoyed this book. I loved the romance between Cannon and Yvette - it was sweet and sexy at the same time. There's also a bit of suspense to the story and this seamlessly allows for some of the beloved characters of the Love Undercover series to make appearances in this book. I do hope they continue to show up in this series!

I really thought I would just read this first book, Cannon's story, and then not finish the series, but Lori Foster has me hooked. I cannot wait for the next book in this series to come out, which I believe will be Denver's story. I'm bummed it's not Armie's story, but that means my anticipation will keep building for his story!!!

Books in this series:
   0.5  Hard Knocks
   1.  No Limits
   2.  Holding Strong - due out April 2015


Excerpt from No Limits: 

Cannon couldn’t stop looking at her. Damn, he’d remembered her as pretty, but she’d matured into killer good looks—and didn’t seem to know it. An angel’s face paired with that trim but curvy figure, and yeah, he was pretty sure every guy in the place had already started fantasizing.

Too bad, because none of them would touch her.

If he’d had any doubts about wanting her, they were put to rest in a big way. Instead of three years, it felt like a decade he’d been waiting on her. Yes, he wanted her. He would have her, too.

The only question was how soon.

A few weeks ago she’d lost her grandfather, and she probably needed time to acclimate to being home around the unpleasant memories. He’d love to segue right from hello to hell yeah, but he also enjoyed just looking at her and talking with her.

Sipping her Coke, Yvette stole a peek at him. Feathery lashes framed those big green eyes he remembered so well—eyes that used to watch him with innocent infatuation, but now seemed wary. She sat straight, proper. Spoke carefully. Avoided his direct gaze.

As Tipton had said, she was guarded.

She wore makeup, but not a lot. Even in a ponytail, her long dark hair made him think of it spilled loose on his pillows, or gliding over his chest.

Or his thighs.

And her clothes, while casual, covered such a sweet body it left him visually undressing her.


Knowing he had to get a grip, he asked, “Are you hungry?”

She shook her head. “But please go ahead and eat if you want.”

“I’m good.” Arms folded on the top of the booth, he smiled. “I can’t get over how much you’ve changed.”

That pleased her, he could tell. “It’s been almost three and a half years.”

Long enough for her to put the past behind her? To put him behind her? No, he wouldn’t let her. “I’m so damn sorry about Tipton.”

“Thank you.” She set the drink aside, then nervously drew her finger through the damp ring the glass had left on the booth top. “I wanted to talk to you about that. About—”

“Hey, Saint.” Two guys sidled up to the table. “Can we get a pic?”

Cannon forced his gaze away from Yvette. “Sure.” He would never alienate a fan, but damn, the timing could be better. Yvette had been screwing up her courage to say something. Now he had to wonder what.

Stepping out of the booth, he bent a little to put himself more in line with the shorter guys, and with a double thumbs-up, smiled as a plump lady used her cell phone to snap a few photos.

That only seemed to unleash other fans, and before he knew it, he was posing with men and women alike. Some wanted to hug him, some wanted him in a fighter’s stance, a few just wanted him to mug for the camera. Before he could get a handle on things, he’d taken around twenty photos and signed more than a dozen autographs.

Yvette watched it all with a look of fascinated indulgence. When there seemed to be a lull, he reseated himself. “Sorry about that.”

“You’re popular, I understand.” Her long glossy ponytail spilled over her shoulder when she tipped her head to study him. “I watch the fights.”

That pleased him more than it should have. “Yeah? What do you think?”

“You’re pretty amazing.”

He held back his grin. “I do my best.”

That earned a short laugh. “Humble too.” Shaking her head, she teased, “No wonder they call you the Saint.”

He’d rarely heard her laugh before, and hearing it now did funny things to him. It was nice. Rich. Husky.

A turn-on…

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Review: Hard Knocks by Lori Foster

Title: Hard Knocks    
Author: Lori Foster    
Series: Ultimate, #0.5      
Published: August 2014, Harlequin HQN   
Format: E-book, 60 pages   
Source: Personal copy  

In the stunning prequel novella to her new mixed martial arts series, New York Times bestselling author Lori Foster brings together an elite fighter and the woman he’s determined to win.

Power. Brute strength. Unforgettable moves. It’s no wonder Harper Gates hasn’t been able to get her fling with Gage “Savage” Ringer out of her head. Months have passed since she laid eyes—or any other body parts—on him. Months without a word of contact… until, sidelined by injury, he comes back to town.

Staying focused on his training seemed like a smart move to Gage, even if he thought about Harper every day. Seeing her again only makes it clear how much is at stake. He’s got one night to earn back her trust. One night to show her that behind his breathtaking skill and ripped body is a man who’ll give her everything she needs.

My thoughts: This short novella introduces us to the new characters that will be featured in Lori Foster's upcoming new series. What I loved is that it gives us a taste of what we can expect from the full-length novels in this series. 

I would have loved to have Gage and Harper have more of a story, but hopefully we haven't seen the last of them. Because this novella is really used to introduce the series and the main characters of the series, we don't get as much background information on Gage and Harper as we normally do on the feature couples in full-length books.

I have to say I was on the fence about reading this series as it is centered around MMA fighting and I am not really a fan of that, but two things changed my mind. First, Cannon, who we met in her previous series, Undercover Love, features prominently in this series and I loved him and have been waiting for his story!  Second, while MMA fighting is what these male characters have in common, the stories are not really about the fighting but about the fighters themselves- strong, sexy, alpha males, and who doesn't love reading about them!

Books in this series:

   0.5  Hard Knocks
   1.  No Limits
   2.  Holding Strong - due out April 2015


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