Week in Review: What I’m Reading (and didn’t have time to read–because, hello–Baltimore Book Festival! 9-29-13)

I know, I know--finally going to take a look at the welcome sign on the last day. I get the irony.

I know, I know–finally going to take a look at the welcome sign on the last day. I get the irony.

 

Well, the Baltimore Book Festival is over, and we’re on our way back to the real world again. Sadly. But we did have an awesome time, talked and listened to lots of interesting people, and increased our TBR piles by…well, a lot. (That latter bit is a good thing, right? I’m going to say yes.)

So…not a ton of reading got done last week, but I’m planning on playing catch up on the long train ride back. As soon as I finish my post, that is.

I read and reviewed Ivy Entwined by Laura Simcox, a new-to-me author who I plan on reading again. I liked her quirky style. Since I’ve argued with flight attendants before about using ereaders during the ascent and descent (and since our flight was so short that’s practically all it was), I decided just to avoid the hoopla and read a print title, so I started Mary Balogh’s The Arrangement, which I am loving. It’s going to be hard to focus on work this week knowing it’s waiting for me. The hero is a blind war veteran. And he’s awesome.

I read the short YA novella (70 pages) The Dating Tutor by Melissa Frost over the weekend, and will be posting a review and an interview with the author tomorrow. It was a really cute debut. (But isn’t on Goodreads yet. I might have to sign up as a librarian and add it, gosh darn it.)

Next up I’ve got a handful of novellas to read for Entangled’s Ever After line–reviews to follow later on this week. In the meantime, check out the associated giveaways here.

On audio I finished Beautiful Bastard by Christina Lauren–fantastic finish, even though the ending was a bit problematic for me (I had a hard time getting past the she’s-his-intern part of the beginning), and I went right into the sequel novella, Beautiful Bitch It was okay, but not as satisfying as the first, since most of the darn good reasons for drama were missing. Since I finished that one a day too early for Meg Cabot’s new release, The Bride Wore Size 12, Mini Moe #2 decided it was time for me to start listening to Jennifer Lynn Barnes’s The Squad: Perfect Cover. It’s an entertaining YA cheerleader squad-masquerading as spies novel, which is good–but now Mini Moe #2 is more than halfway done with Bride and I can’t even start it yet. Grrrr. All part of her plan, I’m sure.

(Yeah, confirmed. She just stuck out her tongue in a very snotty way.)

Last day of the festival was awesome. Most of the panels we attended had to do with the craft of writing–there’s 32 days left until NaNoWriMo, after all–and they were all great. The first one was The Craft of Writing with Cristi Barth, Stephanie Draven, Jean Murray, Christie Kelley, and Kate Dolan. (No pic, because the photographer was at the Writing for Video Games discussion instead.) They had some really great information about how they write and general advice for writers. I’m determined to use Scrivener even more effectively this year because of it. I refuse to be cowed by the month of November!

Much.

Next up was The Part-Time Writer, which I missed the beginning of because I was chatting in the back of the tent. I still got some good ideas for time management–I’m seeing more lists in my future–and have hope that I’ll eventually finish a novel I actually like some day.

part time

The Part-Time Writer, with (L to R) Elisabeth Staab, Ann Arbaugh, Laura Wellig, Misty Waters, Robin Covington, and P.J. Schnyder

I wanted to sit for Writing the Hot Contemporary, but Mini Moe #2 wasn’t sure she could take it and we were both starving anyway so we met Mini Moe #1 and his uncle for lunch. We finished up just in time to catch Writing a Fiction Series, which both Mini Moe #2 and I were looking forward to.

Series

Writing a Fiction Series, with (L to R) A.C. Arthur, Andrew Grey, Elisabeth Staab, Brigid Kemmerer, and Jean Murray

 

Mini Moe #2 was shocked to find out that A.C. Arthur doesn’t like puppies (“How can she not like puppies?” she asked, multiple times). I love reading books in a series, but suspect I’ll have to at least journey over to the dark side of the plotters if I’m going to write them.

Darn it.

Finally, Mini Moe #2 and I (MM#1 went back with his uncle), made our way over to the Literary Salon to prepare for the Meg Cabot/Jennifer Armentrout talk. If we made a slight detour by the Island Cow Ice Cream stand, no one will tell, right? We sat in for the very end of Jason Mott’s talk about his debut book The Returned (on my TBR list, because it sounds good and creepy) and then got front row seats for Meg. And Jen.

Meg and Jen II

Jen Armentrout! Meg Cabot! Live and in person!

Both authors were wonderful–funny, personable, and I wanted to run right home as soon as it was over and read (or re-read, as the case may be) every single thing they ever wrote. The BBF people were taping it, so if (when) they post it online and we find it, I’ll give a link. It was really a great talk.

Meg and Jen

We didn’t want it to end! Except that we had books (and a Kindle) for them to sign, which they weren’t going to do up on stage

 

Both authors recognized us from earlier in the weekend, but neither indicated that they felt like they were being stalked. (Phew!) And they were super nice about signing our things and chatting. We would absolutely go see either of them again anytime, anywhere. If only money were no object…but then that would probably be more stalker-like, wouldn’t it?

Probably better this way.

Hope your week is full of lots of great stuff to read–stay tuned, because this week’s posting schedule is busy!

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Book Review and New Release: Ivy Entwined by Laura Simcox (Book one in the Something to Celebrate Series)

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Title: Ivy Entwined
Author: Laura Simcox
Series: Something to Celebrate
Genre: contemporary romance
Published: 2013
Pages: 240
Format read: ebook
Rating: C+

(The synopsis for Ivy Entwined was posted last week, along with an interview with author Laura Simcox. If you missed it, you can find it here. Don’t miss the giveaway either–there’s still a few days left to enter to win!)

There were a lot of things to like about Ivy Entwined. The small town setting of Celebration, New York (somewhere near Syracuse) is charming and quirky. There’s quite a few colorful secondary characters, many of whom will hopefully show up in future novels–Alberta Fields, former English teacher and town council member; Ronald Watkins, a business owner also on the town council; and Sherry, Ivy’s administrative assistant, always make Ivy’s job interesting, to say the least.

“Excuse me.” Alberta waved from the front row. “Ivy?”

“Yes, Alberta? What can I do for you?”

Before Alberta could respond, the man sitting next to her rose and hoisted up his trousers. “We’re out of doughnuts, aren’t we? Always used to be three dozen at these meetings but Sherry only brought two dozen. Plenty of people here didn’t even get one.”

Alberta took a dainty bite of a pink-frosted doughnut and spoke around it. “That’s because you ate three of them, Ronald.”

“Put a sock in it, old bag.” Ronald Watkins smoothed a hand over his comb-over hair and scratched his ear.

Alberta sniffed. “Ivy, I know the town council is supposed to sit in the reserved seats, but I find myself unable to concentrate on the business at hand.” She heaved herself up and moved to an empty seat.

Ronald glared at her. “Good. Don’t see why she’s on the council anyway. Don’t own any commercial property in town.”

“Doesn’t. She doesn’t own, Ronald,” Alberta snapped.

“That’s for damn sure. And a good thing, too,” he muttered as he returned to his chair. “Don’t even see why we have to be here today. This ain’t a council meeting.”

Alberta leaned over. “We’re here to support our new mayor. Now quit complaining.”

Ivy let out a slow breath and turned to the woman behind her, who sat at a desk clicking a ballpoint pen. “Is that conversation going in the minutes, Sherry?”

Sherry, administrative assistant to the mayor of Celebration, rolled her eyes. “You want it to?”

“No. All I want is to get these heels off and flop in front of the TV,” Ivy answered.

“You and me both, hon. I’ve been sitting here recording this mess for twenty years. Your dad always hated town hall meetings, too.” Sherry drew a frowny face on the legal pad in front of her and then placed a large dot on the forehead. “That’s a bullet hole.”

Marcus’s uncle Herman is another character who keeps everyone on their toes, especially Marcus. I loved the scene where Marcus, whose rental car reservation was messed up, has to make his triumphant (he hopes) ride back into town in the car Herman uses for his realty business (Weaver Realty is your nesting expert. Crooked stick-on letters on the truck tell you so). It has aged artificial turf on the roof, and a chicken we can only hope has seen better days is wired to the top. The doors stick, and to make things even more interesting, it stalls when you attempt an elaborate driving maneuver–like stopping for a school bus.

Ivy’s grandmother Colleen is a hoot, and alternately acts as an instigating sidekick for both Ivy and Herman. Her Awful Christmas Sweater party makes for some laugh-out-loud moments, especially the descriptions of the attendees’ attire.

I enjoyed both Ivy and Marcus as characters, and the idea behind the plot is a solid one–newly minted mayor of the town, desperate to save it from the downward spiral it’s on versus the guy who’s come back to town with dreams of opening a big-box store–which will probably ultimately hurt the town–and who also happens to be the guy said mayor was crushing on as a young teen. There’s all kinds of push-pull factors going on with these two–their attraction to each other and Ivy’s family’s matchmaking on the one side against their opposing goals for Celebration and desire to make something of themselves–and the conflict they create is great.

All good things, and they kept me turning the pages.

Parts of the story didn’t work as well for me, though. Both Ivy and Marcus seemed to flip flop quickly–too quickly, in some cases–between what they said they wanted and what they actually did, and it was a bit disconcerting. At times I felt as if I’d missed something because the shift felt so abrupt, but checking back in the book often didn’t show me anything new to make the change make more sense.

The resolution is perhaps the best example of this–one of the characters suddenly does a complete turnaround from what they’d been working for nearly their entire adult life, ultimately deciding to go in a totally different direction. While I agree that it would have been nearly impossible for both Ivy and Marcus to get what they wanted here, professionally as well as personally, I’d liked to have seen more of the thought process that the character went through to justify the change. How did the idea occur to them? What did they have to do to achieve it, and how will it ultimately fulfill them more than the path they thought they were on? None of these things were made clear, and it left me unsatisfied with that part of the HEA. Without knowing their true thoughts, the “EA” portion feels up in the air–for now.

(Yes, the English teacher in me is cringing at the inaccurate use of pronouns in that paragraph. But gosh darn it, I’m not going to give any spoilers here, so she’ll have to deal.)

That said, Laura Simcox assures us that we’ll see Marcus and Ivy again in the series. Future novels set in Celebration might help convince me that this solution will ultimately work, and I’m more than willing to give them a chance.

In a nutshell: an entertaining novel with likable characters and a fun setting. I had some concerns with the way the resolution was achieved, but definitely plan on returning to Celebration when the occasion arises. C+ rating.

I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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New Releases and Giveaways from Entangled and Ever After!

There’s a whole lot of release-day goodness going on today! Check out these new titles (several of which I’ll be reviewing here SOON) and enter the Rafflecopter giveaways below to win!
 
Find Your Ever After in Under An Hour

 

Ruby Hill by Sarah Ballance

From her earliest memories, Ashley Pearce has been drawn to Ruby Hill Lunatic Asylum, and she’s not the only one. Decades after the abandoned hospital ended its institutional reign of torture and neglect, something lurks in the shadows. Since she’s a paranormal investigator, it’s Ashley’s job to find out what. Crime scene expert Corbin Malone doesn’t believe in ghosts. A born skeptic, he has no interest in entertaining the hype surrounding the mysterious deaths at Ruby Hill, but he won’t turn his back while more women die. He agrees to an overnight investigation, never expecting his first encounter would be with the woman he pushed away a year ago. But when he discovers Ashley is a target, he learns his greatest fear isn’t living with his own demons, but losing her for good.

 

One Thousand and One Nights by Ruth Browne

Sheri spends her days fighting zombies and her nights chained to a wall, earning her every breath by telling stories to her captor Aleksy—stories that make them both forget the ruined world. Sheri could put up with the conditions—at least she knows her sister is safe in the community Aleksy leads—until she realizes she’s falling for him…even though he wants her dead. When Aleksy allowed Sheri and her sister into his compound, he didn’t know about the zombie bite on her back. It’s only a matter of time before she turns into one of the rising dead and threatens their existence, but Aleksy has a secret need for Sheri and her stories. For everyone’s safety, he chains her to his bedroom wall, hoping for just one more day. But how long will the community allow Aleksy to ignore his own rule: always kill the infected. Always.

 

Mercy by Jan Coffey

Julia Klein’s life has begun to unravel—her daughter Amy has been suspended from school, Julia is about to lose her job, and her boyfriend Garrett is being transferred thousands of miles away. Overwhelmed, she and Amy leave for a weekend at a rambling old colonial inn. Julia never suspects that Garrett, desperate to find a way to keep Julia in his life, has decided to surprise her by joining them. Nor does she expect her daughter to befriend a mischievous ghost…or that she herself would be possessed by the malevolent spirit of a long-dead mother. As a dark secret emerges, Julia, Amy, and Garrett find themselves pitted in a fight for survival against a savage presence that intends to resurrect/repeat/relive a horrible crime committed two centuries ago. And this time, Amy and Julia will be the victims.

 

Haunted Chemisty by Lindsey Loucks

When bookish college co-ed Alexis heads to the laundry room in her new apartment, she runs into Ian Reese, the chem lab partner she crushed on all last semester. And the guy who stood her up on their first date. But she’s down for an awkward reunion, and no better place than her creepy laundry room. Ian has every intention of making amends, but just when Alexis begins to trust him again, a new threat calls more than their future together into question. A ghost from the apartment’s past is hellbent on revenge, and if he wants to get his girl, he’ll have to get the ghost first.

 

Wish Upon a Star by Michelle McLean

Ceri McKinley never stopped wishing that her ex-fiancé Jason Crickett would come back into her life. But when he finally does, he comes with a request that puts them both—and all of humanity—into jeopardy. Jason only wants two things: to bury his brother properly and to convince Ceri to trust him again after he jilted her. But when Ceri agrees to help him get his brother back, they end up fighting for their lives as a zombie uprising threatens them all.

 

Northern Light by E.J. Russell

Nothing gives art fraud investigator Luke Morganstern a bigger rush than busting forgers, the low-life criminals who dare victimize true artists. But when his latest job sends him to a remote cabin in the Oregon Coast Range, he’s stunned to discover the alleged forger is his former lover, Stefan Cobbe, the most gifted painter Luke has ever known. Stefan, left homeless and destitute after the death of his wealthy partner, doesn’t exactly deny the forgery — he claims he doesn’t remember, an excuse Luke can’t accept. But Luke’s elderly client suggests Stefan may be telling the truth and presents another possibility – a dark presence in the woods, a supernatural fury simmering for decades. Luke must face down his fear of the uncanny – and admit his feelings for Stefan – if either of them is to survive.

 

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One-Day Spotlight Blitz! Resolutions by Teri Riggs

 Resolutions - Teri Riggs - Banner

Blurb:

DEA agent Eve Taylor has had her fill of alpha males. When Resolutions’ operative and former lover, Dillon “Mac” McKenna, threatened her hard-earned independence, she ran. On a mission to gather evidence against a Colombian drug-lord, Eve discovers the drug-lord is helping terrorists plan an attack on American soil. Before she can escape with the vital information, she’s captured and comes face to face with her mortality…

 

As a teen, Mac watched his family fall apart after his mother died doing dangerous U.N. work. The possibility of losing Eve to a mission ignited an overwhelming need to protect her. When he forced her to choose him or her job, she walked away. Two years later, it seems all his nightmares have come true and he’s tasked with rescuing her from a Colombian prison. Mac has never stopped loving Eve, but does he dare risk his heart when he’s so terrified of losing…

On the run, Mac and Eve must learn to trust each other again in order to stay alive.

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Excerpt: 

Beefy hands wrenched Eve awake from a fevered sleep, pulled her from the cell, and shoved her into a musty-smelling hallway. I’m being moved? A guard pushed her with one hand, keeping a tight grip on an AK-47 rifle with his other.

Her shoulder throbbed in perfect cadence with the pains shooting through her broken wrist, and she had one badass headache from being punched in the face a few too many times. Using her good hand, she walked fingers across one cheek, then the other. The right side was totally numb. Her eye had swollen shut, and she couldn’t see a damn thing out of it. She ran her tongue across her teeth and tasted the tart, copper flavor of blood. Three teeth loose. Well, at least they’re still in place.

In spite of the relentless pain, she stayed determined to survive whatever Mendoza dished out. She wasn’t a quitter. No, sir. Duncan Falls, Iowa didn’t grow quitters. Eve ignored the constant ache in her ribs, courtesy of a guard’s overzealous kick, and took in a deep breath. She willed herself to stay alert, to keep pushing. Escape. Third times the charm.

Eve slapped the guard’s dirty hand. “Hey, Pedro, stop being so damned pushy. Where we going anyway? We got a hot date I’ve forgotten about?”

He looked puzzled then shoved her again.

“Don’t understand English, do you, Diego? Bet you understand this.” Eve drove her elbow into the guard’s face. Thick rubbery cartilage gave, and she whooped triumphantly.

Blood squirted from his nose and he screamed.

Eve stepped back. “Yep, I’m pretty sure you understand that.”

Unable to grab the guard’s assault rifle, she clutched her injured shoulder, and took off in a slow jog, no longer able to push any harder.

Her escape was short lived.

Sound intriguing? Resolutions is available now! 
Buy Links:

Baltimore Book Festival Day Two: A Super Day–with Books!

BBF Super Stan

Mini Moe #1 (yes, I’m sure it’s him) saves the day! Or should I call him Mighty Moe?

I’m exhausted. All of this traipsing around Maryland, talking about and listening to other people talking about books is draining. I want to get the day’s events down before I forget them all, though. Hopefully I’ll do better tonight than last night–I kept mixing up which Mini Moe was which, and they both took offense. I did let Mini Moe #2 edit the post herself, which mollified her somewhat. But I’ve been put on notice for today, so I have to be more careful.

Mini Moe #2 served as photographer today as well. I tried to take a picture by myself just once and was severely chastised.

We started out today at my new home-away-from-home, the Maryland Romance Writer’s Stage, for their Blogging About Books event.

book bloggers

Blogging About Books, with (L to R) Joy Harris, Jillian Stein, Stephanie Sinclair, Hannah McBride, Jen Fisher, and Andye Eppes

Six fantastic book bloggers were there: Andye Eppes from ReadingTeen.net, Jen Fisher from Jenuine Cupcakes and Young Adult Book Central, Hannah McBride from The Irish Banana Review Blog, Stephanie Sinclair from Cuddlebuggery Blog, Jillian Stein from Read-Love-Blog, and Joy Harris from Joyfully Reviewed Blog. They all shared a ton of information about blogging for readers, bloggers and reviewers, and authors–and they brought extras to share! The Minis each picked up a book to read on the way home–I wish I knew who to thank for them, but the panel ended late and all the books were set on the back table together–and I got a bag full of books and swag from Joy Harris, who brought SIX of them. (Thanks, Joy!) I’ve already bookmarked all of their blogs, and will definitely be spending some quality time with them all later.

After that, we had to rush over to the Children’s tent to see cartoonist and illustrator Nathan Hale talk about his latest book in the Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales series, The Donner Dinner Party. Sheer awesomeness. I read about a third of the book while waiting in line to get it (and the other two in the series, One Dead Spy and Big Bad Ironclad!) and am loving it so far. His talk was great, filled with interesting facts and Sharpie illustrations of the story done while we watched.

Nathan Hale #1

Nathan Hale is talking about one of the bachelors on the trip (illustrated) who, sadly, will not survive the “party”

Nthan Hale and tree

Apparently, during their first night in the snow, the Donner Party burned an entire pine tree to stay warm. Here’s a quick illustration.

Next up, it was back to the MRW tent for Writing Military Romance. We were just in time to catch the very end of the Scottish Highlander Romance panel, and MM#2 felt it was her duty to take a picture of the men in kilts who were there.

BBF kilts

Kilts. Indeed.

Writing Military Romance was a great panel, and I bought books by everyone on it–except Robin Covington, because I already have all of hers.

BBF military

Writing Military Romance, with (L to R) Elisabeth Staab, Robin Covington, Geri Krotow, and Laura Kaye

We decided to get back on time to actually eat dinner with my brother and sister-in-law and the Mini Macs today, so we only stayed for one last panel, Craft: Plotting vs. Pantsing. With NaNoWriMo just around the corner, we’re getting into panic time and I need all the help I can get.

plotters vs...

Plotters (L to R): Lea Nolan, Diana Cosby, and Christi Barth; Pantsers: Joya Fields, Andrew Grey, and Terri Brisbin

I tend to be more of a pantser (as in, fly by the seat of my pants while writing–minimal if any plotting and planning ahead of time), but strongly suspect I could really use being more of a plotter, if only to save my sanity. Both groups had some really solid suggestions and their discussion was lively and entertaining.

Note to self: pick up Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat! already. Only about a million authors have suggested it by now.

…and then we went home. Obviously, the day was draining to all of us.

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Mini Moe #2 on the car ride home. No, I didn’t take the picture. This one was Mini Moe #1’s handiwork

Or maybe she’s just getting caught up on her beauty sleep before round two of Meg Cabot tomorrow?

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Books on Sale: Another Barnes & Noble Nook Book Sale!

book dog

 

In case you couldn’t make it to the Baltimore Book Festival–or perhaps even if you could–Barnes & Noble is having another big Nook book sale this weekend! Apparently, there’s 300 books on sale altogether for 50% off. Many of them are fairly pricey regularly, so they’re not all super cheap, but there’s some pretty big titles here, including:

Dr. SleepStephen King’s latest and the sequel to The Shining, is $7.49  

 

 …and in case you missed it, The Shining is on sale too, for $3.99.

 

Rachel Gibson’s latest, Run to You, just came out on Tuesday, and it’s $3.99. 

 

Mirror, Mirror, a collection of fairy-tale-with-a-modern-twist stories from authors J.D. Robb, Mary Blayney, Elaine Fox, Mary Kay McComas, and R.C. Ryan, is just $3.99. 

 

If you’re like me and need to read the book before it comes out in theaters, you won’t want to miss Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief–which had better be a fantastic film, by the way, because the book is awesome.  Mini Moe#2 and I saw a preview when we saw The City of Bones, and it definitely looked promising,

 

I started reading Mary Balogh’s The Arrangement on the plane–I got a print ARC from LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers program–and so far it’s absolutely wonderful. It’s on sale for $3.99. The first book in the Survivor’s Club series, The Proposal, is on sale too, so I’ve already picked it up. It’s the only responsible thing to do, after all. The series really should be kept together.

     

 

There’s 293 more on sale–many of them very recent releases, but also many older (and much less expensive) well-known titles as well. It’s definitely worth checking out before the weekend’s over. I’ve only verified with a few titles so far, but it does look like Amazon is price matching their Kindle books as well if you’re a Kindle user.

(Unless your credit card is already sitting in the corner, quietly sobbing, like mine is. In that case, don’t torture yourself needlessly. Darn you, Baltimore Book Festival and your many temptations!)

Dog and book photo credit: betta design via photopin cc

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Baltimore Book Festival Day One: Fan Girl Alert!

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Mini Moe #2 with one of her favorite authors!

 

Let me start by saying that Mini Moe #2 decided a week ago that she needed her own distinct text ringtone on my phone. She picked her own–it’s called Sci-Fi, and it’s got a very eerie feel to it. One could say it’s very Twilight Zone-ish. The kind of ringtone you don’t really want to suddenly hear while you’re working all alone in your place of work that may or may not be haunted. It also stands out in a not-so-great way when you’re in a very small, quite busy, yet somehow quiet mini-mart in the heart of Baltimore’s Mount Vernon section, buying a couple of sodas and a small packet of Tylenol.

The messages I was getting?

Mini Moe #2: OMG I SEE MEG!!!

me: Ok, fan girl

MM#2: She is right there!!!!!

me: Uh huh. My ringtone is scaring people in the minimart

MM#2: Good omg I can’t believe it she is right there

me: Yes, honey. So you said.

By this time, we’re finally checking out. And I’ve now silenced my phone, because the weird looks were disconcerting.

MM#2: Just omg!!!

Totally adorable. When Mini Moe #1 and I got back to the tent, she was practically vibrating out of her seat with joy.

And then Meg Cabot came up for her panel, and…well, the whole trip was totally worth it, just to see her so excited.

Just in case her day wasn’t enough awesome with awesome sauce, MM#2 also won a gift basket of goodies from author Nancy Weeks at the Putting the Suspense in Romance panel. Her birthday was six days away from Nancy’s, which was how the winner was selected. Actually, Mini Moe #1’s birthday was also six days away from it in the other direction–it’s like we were fated to win. MM#1 and I were taking that basket–and the bag o’ books that MM#2 bought earlier in the day and had signed by most of the Young Adult Paranormal Fiction panel–back to the car when MM#2 had her first Meg sighting. And the rest was history….

Clearly, day one was a huge success, even if we missed the Jane Austen panel due to a parking lot mishap, blocked off streets, and an inordinate number of one-ways. I told MM#1 I would give him kudos for his navigation skills, even if he still has yet to learn that a person cannot make a left-hand turn when in busy traffic and the right-hand lane, and that saying, “That was the road you were supposed to turn down” just after one passes it is not as helpful as something like, “This road right up here will be our turn.” Still, we got there and back in one piece and he was very good at ignoring the slightly bad words that I might have said once or twice when the map was not our friend. And now he’s darn near an expert at telling the iMap app to “go to [insert desired address here] from current location.”

So it’s all good.

Here’s some of MM# 2’s pics from some of the panels we heard today:

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Writing Historical Fiction, with (L to R) Stephanie Dray, Kate Quinn, Laura Tilley, and Terri Brisbin

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Young Adult Paranormal Fiction, with (L to R): Alethea Kontis, Dawn Rae Miller, Lea Nolan, Diana Peterfreund, Bridgid Kemmerer, and Jennifer L. Armentrout

Notice the banner? It fell down during the Hot Paranormal Fiction panel (when my phototographer was at the Graphic Novel D.I.Y. workshop), and may or may not have been knocked down by a ghost that Joya Fields brought to the festival.

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Putting the Suspense in Romance, with (L to R) Geri Krotow (mostly blocked), Regina Jeffers, Joya Fields, Rebecca York, Robin Covington, and (off camera) Nancy Weeks

MM#2’s basket is on the corner of the table closest to the camera!

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Fantasy Elements in Romance, with (L to R) Vivi Dumas, Dawn Rae Miller, Jennifer L. Armentrout, Catherine Asaro, Stephanie Draven, Robin Kaye

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Chocolate and Romance, with (L to R) Christie Kelley, Meg Cabot, and Christi Barth (Eliza Knight, Robin Covington, and Laura Kaye are off camera)

 

It was a fantastic day, even if every time I managed to come up with a question to ask someone else asked it first or the panelists answered it without being asked. All of the talks were very entertaining, the food was delicious, and the number of books in my TBR pile increased by roughly a bazillion, give or take a few.

All of the authors were fantastic, especially the ones who signed MM#2’s books for her. Special shout-outs go to Lea Nolan, Diana PeterfreundAlethea Kontis, and Brigid Kemmerer, who I’m pretty sure now have fans for life in both of us.

Should someone warn Meg Cabot that we’ll be back for her Book Group talk with Jennifer L. Armentrout on Sunday?

Nah… 😉

In the meantime, bring on day two!

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The Countdown Continues! The Baltimore Book Festival is Nearly Here!

 

Well, our plane was delayed a little over a half an hour, and we had some user error issues while attempting to use the Moe iPhone map app at the airport, but we’re in Maryland and ready to visit day one of the festival tomorrow! We’re planning to start our day at the Jane Austen Fiction celebration, then the Mini Moes want to check out the Graphic Novel D.I.Y. workshop, and we’ll round out the day with Mini Moe #2’s favorite author’s first event, Chocolate & Romance! (Best. Combination. Ever.) In between I’m sure there will be much stalking visiting at the Maryland Romance Writer’s Stage, eating, and, of course, book buying. Hopefully we won’t be too tired to post pictures and updates tomorrow night!

Off to charge the phone–and get some sleep!

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Author Interview, New Release, and a Giveaway! Ivy Entwined by Laura Simcox

I’m so excited to be a part of the Ivy Entwined Blog Tour! Today we’re talking with Laura Simcox, author of the Something to Celebrate series, about her new book. Keep reading for a fun excerpt and a Rafflecopter giveaway for a “Celebration in a Basket” and book swag!

 

Ivy Entwined - Laura Simcox - Banner

Ivy Entwined

by Laura Simcox

 

IvyEntwined-FINALWhen Ivy Callahan returns to her hometown as mayor, she doesn’t expect much to have changed. But now her ex-fiancé is the town planner, the biggest business is closed, and the only store interested in Celebration, NY is a Megamart. On top of it all, the liaison for the big, bad, box store is Marcus Weaver, her childhood crush. And he’s still as dangerously delectable as ever.

Marcus unwillingly spent his teens in Celebration with his vindictive, drunken uncle. As far as Marcus is concerned, the town’s only use is to cement his rise up the corporate ladder. He needs that Megamart opened, and Ivy is his ticket. But the sexy, stubborn mayor could also be his downfall.

As the unemployed townspeople put on the pressure, Ivy needs to do something. With a fresh downtown-renewal project in the works, Ivy could stop Marcus and his Megamart before they kill the town’s spirit. But with sparks flying between Ivy and Marcus, they each need to decide what’s more important: their careers or their hearts.

 

 

An interview with author Laura Simcox:

Tell us more about your book—beyond the official “book blurb”.

My book is a comedy, but it’s also about a couple who are each searching for home. Both Ivy and Marcus grew up in Celebration, NY and both of them are back after being gone for years. So essentially, they are home. But not really. It takes them falling in love to really be at home in their hometown. And that town is special- Celebration takes its name seriously and every holiday is an excuse for a parade. They aren’t great parades, either…no perfect floats and adorable decorations. It’s just a group of small town people with quirky customs and a lot of heart. It’s the type of place you fall for even though you don’t want to. Kind of like Marcus and Ivy- they don’t want to fall for each other but fate has different ideas!

 

Tell us more about who Ivy and Marcus are as characters.

Ivy pushes herself to do the best job she can every moment of every day. She’s smart and capable. She loves her family and as an only child, wants to make them proud. She also intends to save her hometown and is willing to make a deal with Marcus, even though the crush she had on him years ago still lingers. He thrills her and the more time she spends with him, the harder he is to resist.

 

Like Ivy, Marcus holds himself to an impossibly high standard. Unlike Ivy, he had a less than ideal upbringing and tends to close himself off from relationships. When he encounters Ivy, he thinks of her as a conquest. But by the time he realizes how strong and smart she is, he’s half in love with her and completely out of his comfort zone.

I love the part where Marcus finds Ivy’s old yearbooks in her room, with all the pink hearts all over his picture. Worst nightmare ever, for anyone who has ever had a crush on someone who’s oblivious! 🙂 

 

Have you based your book’s setting (Celebration, NY) on an actual place?

I didn’t base Celebration on a specific place, no. The fact that it is in upstate New York, near Syracuse, but still fairly isolated, is as real as it gets. I love places with weather extremes…the people just seem to have a no-nonsense self-reliance that I admire.

It’s out of sheer necessity, let me tell you. We laugh–or scoff–at all those cities who get an inch of snow and shut everything down in a panic. Honestly! Nothing would get done for a good four months straight if we did that in Buffalo!

 

Are you planning on revisiting Celebration in future books? Would we be seeing Ivy and Marcus again if you do?

Celebration will be revisited in another book due out in spring of 2013. Think Easter parade, more town festivals and tattoos. Lots of ‘em. Ivy and Marcus will be there, cheering on our new heroine, Blair and our new hero, Ben. Or maybe they will take sides. Ivy and Marcus do like to argue.

They certainly do! Oh, and you had me at “tatoos.” I’m so there.

 

What made you decide to go from theater costume design to writing romance? Do aspects of that job ever show up in your books?

I decided to switch careers when my husband and I brought our son home. I quit traveling for weeks at a time to go design costumes for shows. In fact, I quit teaching college so that I could be home with our son. That’s when I picked back up the manuscript I’d written and thought seriously about publication. Although the setting for my debut novel was a summer theater, theater doesn’t feature in Ivy Entwined or in the books I have in development. However, I write a TON of dialogue and love, love over-the-top personalities. I just go for it. I frequently snicker as I write and then completely understand when an editor pulls me back from crazyville.

🙂 

 

What is the best thing about your job?

The whole ‘going to work in your jammies’ thing is pretty great. I also love writing conferences. It’s SO fun to drag myself out of my writing hovel and travel again! I’m no stranger to conferences because I used to attend them for theater, so I’m in the zone, baby. Just give me a cute outfit, a giant hotel, restaurant food and people to chat with for hours and I’m in heaven.

 

What are you working on right now?

I’m working on the second book in the ‘Something to Celebrate’ series. Since my hero is a tattoo artist, I’m planning fun visits to tattoo studios. I’m also working on a series for Avon: Various States of Undress, about fictitious daughters of the President of the United States. My plate is full and I’m a lucky writer.

Sounds like fun–especially the tattoo research. Do you need an assistant? 😉 

 

Who are some of your favorite authors?

My absolute favorite author is Katie MacAlister. I love humor in my romance, no matter what the genre, so I also love Julia Quinn, Mary Janice Davidson, Jennifer Crusie and Susan Elizabeth Phillips, among others.

Excellent choices! I love authors who bring romance and humor together, and they all do it really well.

 

What are you reading right now?

I’m reading ‘Time Thief’ by Katie MacAlister.

 

Can you give us one of your favorite scenes from the book?

One of my favorite scenes is the ‘ugly Christmas sweater’ party. It takes place at Ivy’s parents’ house and is hosted by Ivy’s grandmother, a potty-mouthed old lady who loves to play matchmaker. Ivy is perfectly comfortable, but Marcus, mister smooth-as-silk, is stuck wearing the most horrendous sweater of all. I laughed so hard when I wrote that bit about his sweater!

I’m just getting to that part now–can’t wait! I love ugly Christmas sweaters–on other people, of course 🙂

 

Thanks so much for chatting with us today, Laura! I’m more than halfway done with Ivy Entwined, and have to say it’s a really fun read!

Author’s Bio:

Laura Simcox publicity photo 2013

After spending twenty years in professional theater as a costume designer, with a few of those years also spent as a college instructor, Laura abandoned the nomadic lifestyle to sit in a comfy pleather office chair at a beat up ginormous second hand oak desk and write. The result? Romance novels! Her favorite thing ever since she was, oh, about twelve. She writes contemporary, light novels and enjoys creating quirky characters and funny dialogue. Still, the love story is the focus and Laura has a huge soft spot for a sappy, happy ending. She lives in North Carolina with her husband (true love is real!) and her adorable, high energy four year old son who is currently obsessed with pirates. When not playing mamma pirate, she loves hearing from readers and you can find your favorite way to say hi via the social media buttons on her website: www.laurasimcox.com

Having a bad day? Read a romance novel.

Website   Facebook   Twitter Goodreads  Pinterest  Blog

 

 

How about an excerpt? Here’s when Ivy and Marcus meet for the first time as adults–just after he arrives back in town. Talk about opening mouth and inserting foot….

 

He blinked at her. “Who are you?”

“I’m Ivy Callahan. Who are you?”

He froze. Callahan. The mayor’s daughter? The last time he’d seen Ivy, she was a freckly kid in braces, sitting with her friends in the corner of the drugstore and giggling behind her hand. But now? Gorgeous. And probably pissed at him, despite the fact that he’d just saved her from falling on her face. He stopped, glancing behind him. Where was Alberta Fields? He needed a buffer.

Like a beacon, she walked over to them. “That was a close call, but you didn’t fall, so all’s well that ends well. Ivy, this is Marcus Weaver. Can you believe it?”

Ivy’s mouth dropped open. She turned to Alberta and whispered something in her ear. Alberta nodded.

Ivy cocked her head to the side and looked at Marcus. “Oh. Well, I’d like to speak with you. Walk into city hall with me.”

He raised an eyebrow at Alberta, who shrugged and turned to the crowd. “Inside, everybody,” she snapped out in her practiced schoolteacher voice.

Marcus followed Ivy up the steps, letting his gaze bounce over her killer legs and snug suit. Ivy Callahan. Wow. She sure had grown up.

Ivy turned, a flash of annoyance crossing her face. “You are the investor Herman’s been talking about, right?”

“Yes, but what does that have to do with…” Marcus gave her an automatic smile. “Never mind. What was with the welcome wagon back there? Are you…” He searched for an appropriate word, but he couldn’t think of anything that didn’t sound ridiculous. “Famous?”

Ivy raised an eyebrow. “Depends on who you ask.”

“I see.” Marcus crossed his arms. “In any case, where’s your dad? I’d like to speak with him before the meeting starts.”

“You would? How come?”

“Because I wanted to say hello.”

She flicked a piece of imaginary lint from her spotless red suit. “Great. I’ll let him know. Anything else you need?”

Okay, so she was pissed. But she didn’t have to interrogate him. He had saved her from falling on her ass, after all. Marcus leaned forward, not even trying to keep the hint of condescension from his voice. “Look. It’s been fun chatting with you, but I’d really like to talk to the mayor. Okay, sweetheart?”

She went still for a brief second and then a slow grin spread over her face. “Sure, honey. Go ahead and talk to the mayor. You’re looking right at her.”

 

Ready for a giveaway? I thought so! 

Giveaway:

 

Grand Prize – ‘Celebration in a Basket’. (In keeping with the series theme – ‘Something to Celebrate’) Includes: fun party supplies for a girlfriends-type party (champagne glasses, napkins and plates, party food recipe cards written by the author), Mardis Gras style beads, candles, chocolate, hard candy, and a deck of ‘Ivy Entwined’ playing cards.

 

Three runner-up swag bags – Includes: Ivy Entwined bookmarks, magnets, pens and a purse charm-style keychain. Each bag will contain two sets…one for the winner and one for a friend who loves to read romance, too!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

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Cover Reveal: Royally Lost by Angie Stanton

This one sounds absolutely adorable–and of course I totally love the heroine’s name! Can’t wait for its release…looks like one that Mini Moe #2 and I would both enjoy!

Royally Lost Cover

 

Title:  Royally Lost

Author:  Angie Stanton

Publisher: Harper Collins

Expected release date:  May 6, 2014

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Age Group: Young Adult/New Adult (Harper Collins is releasing it as YA, however, the characters are 18 and out of high school. It is a sweet book appropriate for any age.)

Cover reveal organized by: AToMR Tours; http://atomrbookblogtours.com

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18530135-royally-lost

 

Book Description:

Dragged on a family trip to Europe’s ancient cities, Becca wants nothing more than to go home. Trapped with her emotionally distant father, over-eager stepmother, and a brother who only wants to hook up with European hotties, Becca is miserable. That is until she meets Nikolai, a guy as mysterious as he is handsome. And she unknowingly finds herself with a runaway prince.

Nikolai has everything a guy could ask for-he’s crown prince, heir to the throne, and girls adore him. But the one thing he doesn’t have…is freedom. Staging a coup, he flees his kingdom and goes undercover on his own European tour.

When Nikolai and Becca meet, it’s their differences that draw them together. Sparks fly as they share  a whirlwind of adventures, all the while dodging his royal guard. But Becca’s family vacation ends in a matter of days. Will Nikolai and Becca be forced to say goodbye forever, will his destiny catch up to him, or will they change history forever?

 

About the Author

Angie Stanton never planned on writing books, she wanted to be a Rockette. However, growing up in a rural setting with her brothers’ 4-H pigs as pets, dance didn’t work out. Instead she became an avid daydreamer. After years of perfecting stories in her head she began to write them down and the rest is history.

She loves dipping french fries in chocolate shakes, natural disaster movies and Broadway Musicals. When not writing, Angie is concocting ways to make more dreams come true, whether it be tickets to a Broadway show or convincing her family they should rent an RV and travel the country. She’s still working on that one.

Angie is a proud double finalist of the 2011 National Readers Choice Awards for Love ’em or Leave ’em, as well as a finalist for the Golden Quill Awards.

 

Author social media links:

http://www.AngieStanton.com

http://www.Facebook.com/AngieStantonAuthor

 

This one is definitely going on my TBR list! 🙂 

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