Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Wattpad Writers Get to Shine!

This may be a small thing to others but this is phenomenal news for me.

An article in Entertainment Wise featured Anna Todd's skyrocketing journey from Wattpad-writing to publishing success. It also went on to list ten writers that are up and coming in Wattpad.

It's crazy to think about it, especially considering some of the names that are on the list, but I'm quite pleased to find myself listed. To think this was just me finding somewhere I could write more freely at first.

Wattpad in itself has grown to an incredible level—ripe with talents and opportunities and still very much evolving.

I just count myself lucky to be part of that circle.

If you want to check out that list, here you go: 10 Wattpad Writers That Could Be The Next Big Thing.

Congratulations to everyone on the list! =)


Thursday, November 27, 2014

Review: Lead by Kylie Scott


Lead is the third instalment in Kylie Scott's highly addictive Stage Dive series.

This is my second review because after I read the second one, I was in such a crazy, euphoric state I couldn't write and then I put it off and never got around to it. Which is fine because now I have an excuse to read it all over again so I could give it a proper review as it so rightfully deserves.

I was so looking forward to Jimmy's story that I called up a dozen book stores within three cities to see which one would have it on launch date and then I had my husband drive us in crappy winter conditions to pick up a copy. It was worth it.

First of all, the whole cast of the series is a fun, cool group to hang out with so I was looking forward to seeing the lot of them again in this book. It was good to see familiar characters in the periphery without their stories flooding this one. I've seen it happen before and it's painful (Beautiful Oblivion, anyone?)

Now, Jimmy and Lena immediately intrigued me when there were glimpses of them in Play. For one, Jimmy was such an a**hole in Book 1 that it made me curious what it would take to turn his world on its ear. And Lena had me piqued with the cool chic-nerd glasses and the unflappable attitude towards Jimmy.

Jimmy did not surprise me that he was still the same jerk he was in the first book. He was clean but he was still a bit of a crude ass. While I personally do not care for the swearing and mulish attitude, it fit in with Jimmy somehow. He wasn't kidding when he told Lena he wasn't a great guy. But what I do find commendable in all of this is that Scott actually integrated Jimmy and the flawed, impossible and infuriating character that he's supposed to be in one seamless persona. He didn't read like a character with multiple personalities (the one the author wants him to be and the one he comes across as). I was quite convinced that Jimmy really was the kind of guy you wanted far away from you if you weren't ready for an exhausting non-relationship-relationship. That conviction is important because I wasn't sitting there thinking, 'God, Lena. He's the perfect guy for you and here you are just being dumb and clueless about it. What are you waiting for?' I really felt like, 'God, Lena. He is not going to be easy. Life with him isn't going to be a walk in the park? Are you sure you're ready for this? I'll hold your hand, okay? And call me the moment shit hits the roof and I'll come smack him.'

Jimmy, up to the last page of the book, remained the gruff, brusque, no-niceties kind of guy and that was alright with me. Lots of people wouldn't agree because love is supposed to transform that kind of guy. In reality though, love doesn't always have the magical powers of romantic fictional prose. I'm saying this and I write guys readers want to order off Amazon because they are modern-day princes. Some guys will always have a tougher exterior. Jimmy was neither prince nor poet. He was crude a lot but he didn't strike me as evil. Some days, you wanted to run him off the road but deep down, he cared and in time, we could only hope that his relationship with Lena, and the kind of stability he'd missed in the first twenty-something years of his life, would soften those rough edges. Doesn't mean he'd be polished and shined then.

It takes a certain kind of girl to take Jimmy by the horns because while in this modern day and age we like to say that looks don't matter, they do, at least superficially, and since we have layers to the soul, there will always be a superficial side to us. And Jimmy's rockstar looks and bad-boy vibe make a combination potent enough to at least distract you from seeing the full picture right away.

I actually really enjoyed Lena's character.  She made me laugh so hard so many times. Her voice was vibrant and rich and highly entertaining. Her dry wit, self-depracating humor and sparkling comebacks made her the perfect antidote to Jimmy's overly brooding character. She spoke plainly, stirred him up and out and gave him sh*t when he deserved it. I loved how she was as a person. She knew her vulnerabilities and was very human about them. She had insecurities but didn't seem that hung up on them. She had bad relationships and terrible taste in picking people to surround herself with. While I couldn't directly relate to her exact example, I understood that many of us are like that in life in general—prone to the things we know aren't good for us but unable to stay far away for good. Sure, she gushed and pined for him but let's be honest here. Who doesn't do that (at least internally) when thrown in such close quarters with someone you want but can't have? I'm less sentimental than most people but I'm not made of wood. Lena wants love but she's had to toughen up. Anyone who'd suffered tough blows and got herself back on her feet because she deserved better would always be a bit of a contradiction that way. Lena knew she wasn't perfect but she was comfortable with herself and I liked that, no matter what body type her character may have been given. It's so easy as an author to decide to write about someone with body issues. You can tell a reader that. But it's an entirely different thing to make a reader feel what the character feels about who she is. There's an honesty to Scott's writing that makes her characters very grounded and relatable—even the rockstars. Lena embraced who she was, even her sexuality which I know lots of other authors write about in their books nowadays. I've read a book where someone's sexual liberation was so overly emphasized it felt like I'd stuck my nose right on an open bottle of very strong perfume. I get it, I get it. This doesn't have to sound, or read, like an oration of just how much you want to 'bump uglies' and how you should be able to do it all the time because you are empowered, etc, etc. Go, do it, whatever. I won't judge. But I won't sit here and have the knowledge of it crammed down my throat either.

So, back to the book before I start ranting about something else entirely... I loved how seemingly ordinary it started. I know some people seem unimpressed that there was no dramatic first meeting (although I personally thought their first meeting was quite amusing) or any grand falling in love twist. When they started out, they weren't heading there, which was a great thing sometimes because then it didn't feel too.. inevitable (which is a little ironic for me because I do want my romance books to feel a bit inevitable). It was like you could see it coming but with so many ups and downs, you could almost be certain that it might just not happen. I liked that it kept me on the edge, which was pretty much what Lena and Jimmy did to each other.

I enjoyed this story a lot because it made me feel a lot of things. The sex was pretty blunt and there was no shortage of dirty talk but that only made it more interesting than most. The dialogue was well-paced and felt easy and natural, even when they were saying incredulous things.

The end, while it was not the kind of declaration scene worthy of a blockbuster romantic comedy, felt pretty appropriate actually because I could just not picture out Jimmy doing it smoothly and perfectly. It would be too big a gap from who he was as a character if he suddenly swooped down in a horse like a white knight. It's just not Jimmy. But it doesn't mean he shortchanged Lena. While we mutter about his less-than-sterling manners, Jimmy really felt like he was struggling for ground when it came to dealing with people, not just women. You could feel him fumbling and finding no purchase sometimes, even with his brother. He still had a long way to go but coming to Lena like that was no small step. It was no big leap to prince charming either but it humbled him enough to own his actions this time around.

Ben's story is next and I think I know where it's going but as with the three Kylie Scott books I've read this year, I might still be very pleasantly surprised.

Read more reviews about it here in: Lead by Kylie Scott


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Best of Me

"Love like that doesn't go away. It's here with us forever."

They say first love never dies...

It only goes from one lifetime to the next.

Who could resist tales of first love? I know I can't.

There's something magical about first love—the ups and downs, the wrongs and the rights, the world and you.

Sometimes, the world wins. Sometimes, we lose the first thing we feel we can never live without.

And sometimes, we live lost only to find our way back again.

I love this story.

I love the fragility of first love and its incredible strength at the same time, enduring time and the worst and best of us.

October 17—along with Dawson and Amanda, we'll fall in love all over again.

*Image from pagetopremiere.com

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Fall Flavors: One-Pot Autumn Herb Roasted Chicken

I have a feeling I'm going to be talking about a lot of fall-related things.

It is my favorite season after all and there are so many incredible things to explore and enjoy in the next couple of months as the leaves turn crisp and dry and the world turns a rich palette of yellows, browns and reds, even if it's a bit more cool and gray.

I haven't made this dish yet but I have all the faith in prolific collection of unique and utterly divine-looking recipes from Half Baked Harvest.

I've been following that blog for a while now and every morning, I click on the site and serve me a little food lust.

This one is a must-make in my autumn recipe-list.

Just look at it.

It already looks delicious and it's in one pot.

Go ahead.


Eat with gusto.

Find the recipe here.

*Recipe and photo courtesy of Half Baked Harvest.*


Thursday, September 25, 2014

A Favorite Thing: Perfect Fall Coffee

I love sleep but some nights you just can't fall or stay asleep. 

I woke up at 3 a.m. and tossed around for a bit but no luck so I figured I'd sit in front of my computer and write. The bane of being a writer, I tell you. As much as I'd like to schedule my creative flow, it's very hard. When it hits you, it hits you.

What I wish I had right now is a nice warm cup of coffee, preferable a pumpkin spice latte.

Every fall, this gourmet coffee invades the world—from dessert to body lotions to scented candles. It does drive everyone a little crazy but I'm cool with it.

I love the season and everything that comes with it.

Since it's a bit early to be driving out to Starbucks, I'm just going to sit here and stare at pictures of the coffee in Pinterest until I could taste it in my mouth.... sigh...

*photo from dashing dish.com


Sunday, September 21, 2014

Falling for Fall

I love summer but there is just something about fall that makes it so special.  

I grew up in a country that didn't have it but since moving to Canada, I've had all four seasons and this is by far my favorite.

There's a certain understated beauty about this transition of time and temperature that transforms the world for a little bit. 

It's here today and I hope it lingers its full season. 

Happy Autumn!

*collages sourced from bloglovin.com, Laura Spellman and rebeccaVC1 on Flickr in their respective order


Monday, September 15, 2014

Review: Dark Skye by Kresley Cole


So, I've been dragging this review for a while now.

I've read this over a month ago, pretty much the day it released and I devoured it in a day but I couldn't review right away.

I love the Immortals After Dark series. I love Kresley Cole's brand of writing—always full of attitude, humor and sensual undertones. It's always fun to read anything she's written.

The story between the sorceress Lanthe and Vrekener Thronos have been hinted at in several of the previous books and it has always intrigued me. He's always hunting her down, viciously as it was implied, and she was always running from him. Those little hints were already packed with potential for an extensive backstory.

And there was a back story. The preliminary chapters offered an almost bittersweet history to the two but it fell a little short in terms of how much it impacted me and my sympathies toward the kind of relationship these two now have many centuries later. Nonetheless, there was a lot going for the book to keep me glued for several hours straight and many times, I did swoon a little at some things about Thronos. I didn't really have too much of a problem with Thronos except that maybe, if he'd been so obsessed about Lanthe, he would've kind of picked up a little bit on the fact that she was being terrorized by Vrekeners. Thronos had a lot of redeeming qualities and personified the kind of alpha males many of Cole's books have—fiercely possessive, infuriating as hell but still pretty damn sweet.

As for Lanthe... Hmm... I liked pretty much every female lead in the past IAD books but I do have my favorites. Lanthe always struck me as the stereotype younger, more shy, more innocent sister but she had a lot of spunk on her own once she was free from Sabine's shadow—at least until much later in the story. I just don't know that a lot of it was in the right place.

I still enjoyed this book quite a bit. No regrets.

I would've given this four stars if it didn't quite become clear to me, so early in the story, that this book has more couple's therapy than an actual session or a self-help book—on top of the very established and empowered sexuality that Lanthe embraced.

I get it, Lanthe wasn't a nun locked away in a monastery somewhere remote wearing a chastity belt. I get it, she slept with a lot of guys and a lot of times, for the wrong reasons, and yes, I'm not going to criticize her for it. That's fine by me. I just didn't need to be constantly reminded every other chapter. I would've liked to have read more about the actual story. I hated those moments but some parts I felt like skipping through because I felt like I was watching a Jerry Springer episode. I wanted to read a sexy, exciting and highly amusing paranormal romance, that's all.

I felt that the book might have embraced Lanthe's sexual liberation a little bit too much. It's the modern day and age, sure, and we are all responsible adults who can make decisions about our lives. No one needs to tell you what to do. Lots of reviews of books nowadays loudly criticize 'slut-shaming' and I think this book was a bit in-your-face about not judging someone for the way they are. I wouldn't get in someone's face and tell them they have to lead a sainted existence so there is no need point a finger at my face and dare me to criticize Lanthe's choices. This almost felt a bit like 'virgin-or-less-sexually-experienced-adult-shaming' if I really wanted to go so far. But anyway, a little less of that and I might have actually enjoyed the story a bit more instead of wondering every few pages here or there if I even wanted these two to end up together.

And for someone who's so empowered in one thing, I felt that Lanthe still got a bullied around by Sabine and Morgana toward the end. Balance is a beautiful thing, you know, but I guess, how are we to love our fictional characters if not for their flaws, right?

I'm still looking forward to the next instalment. The whole series just feels epic even though this particular pair was a little less so.

I'm looking forward to Nix's story the most. So far, not a ton of hints as to who would steal the heart of this clever Valkyrie who has everyone moving on her chessboard like pawns in a game she's playing with an unknown enemy.  God! Loved her little moment with the goddesses!

Read more reviews about it here: Dark Skye by Kresley Cole


Sunday, July 6, 2014

Review: Beautiful Oblivion by Jamie McGuire


***Spoiler Alert***

I'm not sure if many would agree with me but I think that despite the many mixed reviews, Beautiful Disaster most likely propelled the New Adult category into the spotlight. I read it and loved it, even when there were parts of it that I didn't always agree with. 

I started reading Walking Disaster and stopped at the first couple of chapters because I was seized by this fear that I might read something that will move me out of my happily oblivious state and change my mind about Beautiful Disaster. I wanted to preserve that fascination and the reviews and ramblings of what followed in the rest of the series (and what little I had read of Walking Disaster) threatened it a little so I stayed away.

When I first heard that the rest of the Maddox brothers were going to get stories of their own, I sighed in relief because while the books are most likely going to exist in the same immediate world as Beautiful Disaster, it was going to be focused on new love stories with new people and new dynamics. It was a happy compromise so I went for Beautiful Oblivion the moment it came out. I drove to the next city to get the copy because all the other book stores near me haven't got their delivery yet. LOL.

Anyway, my thoughts on this...

I actually like Trent Maddox although I worry that he's forever going to be cast in the shadow of his more famous brother, Travis. He's a sweet guy (although it's totally unfair that he shamelessly relied on the cutest five-year-old girl in the world to win him a lot of extra points). He's got the same nasty, virulent, violent streak as Travis (because this is apparently a very Maddox sort of thing), a healthy dose of baggage that all NA male leads seem to have in excess, the possessiveness, the confident swagger, the to-die-for face and build, the reckless charm. I also like the fact that he's a little more grounded as a character, made more realistic by the fact that he isn't rolling in cash or has some fancy-schmancy job. Although I'm not sure how he makes enough money considering how often he goes out and gives away free tats but then he doesn't drive a swanky car or pay a fortune for rent. He's quite down-to-earth, funny and protective. 

As for Cami, I'm a little more torn about her. She's drawn up to be tough and the drinking and smoking probably add the extra edge to her, along with her future tattoos. I liked her a lot of times, when she speaks up and puts her foot down but in pretty much half the story, she gets pushed around—by her boyfriend, her brothers, her father, occasionally her best friend, and sometimes, even by herself. It does make her a more complex character, giving her a flaw parallel to her strength which is hard to do but I'm just not sure that the two sides to her came together quite as smoothly to give her more pull as a character that readers would understand and relate to as well. 

As for the plot, I will never be ashamed to admit that I like formulaic stories, mostly because I like to know that I'm getting exactly what I'm looking for. I'm not the type to find excitement in picking out a chocolate from a box and leaving it to fate to decide which one I'll get. I'm a bit of a maximizer that way. I like picking up a book and knowing that yes, I'm going to read about a modern Cinderella or a girl who's always been in love with her brother's best friend, etc. I loved the are-we-just-friends-or-are-we-more-than-friends plot of Beautiful Disaster. The push and pull, no matter how infuriating at times, really got me right there, smack in the middle of Travis's and Abby's drama. I wouldn't mind reading a story like that again. I just don't know that I would want to find it in another book so close to Beautiful Disaster that BD's plot was unfolding in the background of this story. I also wish I didn't know what was revealed about Travis and Abby's marriage in the Beautiful Wedding but it came up here.

This is where my overall feelings about this book get a bit tricky. Trent is a Maddox and I get that those boys share an overwhelming amount of similarities. I grew up an only child that this isn't something I can totally relate to but that's fine. The only thing is Trent is very much like Travis at times that their lines nearly echo each other in some parts, especially when Trent is trying to deal with Cami in where they stand exactly. I know a lot of stories are going to overlap in some plot dynamics, especially in romance, but I just found myself a little perturbed at times when I was reading this that I could hear BD's lines in the back of my head and I haven't reread that book in a while and I don't have the best memory in the world. I reminded myself that it was that plot that really won me over to BD and it shouldn't be something to complain about in BO (I really don't like this acronym, by the way) so I read on.

One thing that did distinguish this plot from BD is the presence of T.J. (if presence is what you could call it considering how absent he really was in the entire duration of his relationship with Cami that the book covered). Lots of people commented about this 'reveal' and it struck me as a little odd that it caught people by surprise because even though it's been a while since I read BD, something from there clued me in almost right away, as soon as T.J.'s identity was hinted at, about his connection to the main characters. It's not given away until you're literally at the last page or two of the book and I get that there are reasons why Cami didn't confess anything (even though it's not explained in this book) because it's probably going to be in future books but it's just a little weird that something that important a detail was hush-hushed all the way to the end. But enough said.

I would still recommend this book, especially to all faithful followers of the Beautiful Disaster series, because despite all the little bits here and there that didn't quite make it a perfect read for me, I still had an awesome good time reading it and really, those Maddox boys are going to cost you your heart at some point. A lot of issues that New Adult books should address (but many don't for which they are getting dragged through the mud) really got highlighted here: the struggle with second jobs, having to drag out college and taking fewer classes because you just can't afford both the time and money for it, dealing with a family you love and hate and who still think they've got all the say in your life when you're already out there trying to make your own way, opting to work where money's guaranteed instead of risking the stable income to try to finish your degree, etc. And of course, there are those toxic relationships a lot of people around this age get into, from which they would hopefully learn valuable lessons so they can use better judgement and make better decisions in the future. And trust me, there are some pretty toxic relationships in this story. There's a great cast of supporting characters and even their drama can get to you.

McGuire's work here bears the same brand of realness to the dialogue and the relationship-building that has appeared in her most popular work. It has the same edgy humor, the boldness of larger-than-life personalities, the bittersweet angst of first and true love that characters reluctantly resign themselves to eventually, and the same kind of slow, simmering attraction that burns right under the surface.

I'm so looking forward to the next Maddox Brothers book! 

Read more reviews about it here: Beautiful Oblivion by Jamie McGuire


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Review: Four Seconds To Lose by K.A. Tucker


Ever since I picked up K.A. Tucker's One Tiny Lie from an airport souvenir store a few months ago, I seemed to have developed the habit of picking something from her whenever I come across the difficult decision of bringing one book with me on my travel.

This time I brought Four Seconds To Lose and it didn't disappoint.

It holds the same signature Tucker employs in her previous books but this has a grittier side to it—one that Charlie glosses over in an effort to keep it out of her reality. Some might say it's an opportunity the author could improve on but I think the way it's approached, since the story is told between Charlie and Cain's first person POV, is effective because we feel it the way Charlie would like to feel about and not feel about it. Her reality is one she likes to pretend doesn't exist even though it would eventually catch up with her. I actually liked Charlie although I did get a bit confused in the end what her name really is.

And Cain's a great guy. He really is. It's hard not to like a guy who goes out of his way by a long stretch to help people out. Like most New Adult male MCs, he's got a lot of baggage but in this story, it didn't overwhelm his character.

I only wish that there were more moments between Charlie and Cain before the calm set in just as hell was about to break loose.

It was an addictive read and I felt the pull of both characters. I'm looking forward to Ben's story next!

Read more reviews about it here: Four Seconds To Lose by K.A. Tucker

Review: The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton


For years now, my reading choices have narrowed to one genre—romance—and I'm yet to regret it.

There aren't many other kinds of stories that interest me currently and I knew, while picking up this book, that it wasn't going to be my usual but I had a pretty good feeling about it. Maybe, in physically touching the book, some of the Roux family's magic seeped through my fingertips and granted me the same instinct that has taken so many of them down strange, tumultuous and tragic paths. 

The lyrical, mysterious and whimsical quality of Leslye Walton's writing is the main strength of the book. And with that voice, she wove a story that transcends the stark, ordinary reality as we know it while letting you feel every raw nerve the layered plots hit each time. 

The story is filled with so many people—beautiful, grotesque, broken, reckless, foolish, wise, all hungry—and they vividly portray a human condition that could never be fixed or improved because its very root is that fact that the culprits and contributors are all, simply enough, human. 

I won't say too much about this book because I feel that I couldn't fully describe it. It is more of a life-altering experience than a mere read. It encompasses the many foolish and tragic things we do for love and the versions of it that we settle and waste our lives for. 

In the end, it is a love story. Whose is a more complicated question to answer.

Read this book if you want to feel parts of your heart you didn't know existed to ache and mourn, and bits of your soul to let go and soar.


Sunday, June 8, 2014

Review: Lick by Kylie Scott


I haven't ready anything of Kylie Scott before but after this book, you can be sure as hell I'm going to be on the look out for her next one.

This is contemporary romance done right. It has a dash of New Adult (which seems to be my obsession as of late), that wild, hot flavor of a sexy rocker romance and the grounding tenderness vital to a love (not just lust) story.

Before I go, let me quickly tell you what I look for in a good contemporary romance—interesting relationship dynamics that continue to evolve, a lot of fun, a lot of butterflies in the stomach, a palpable attraction (not just page after page of sex because there's erotica for that) and likeable characters that are also relatable (no matter how larger than life they may seem in the book).

I got all the things I was looking for in this book that I couldn't put it down until I was done with it. After that, I had no idea what to do next because I was still kind of hung-over from it (pun intended). 

What happens in Vegas never really quite stays in Vegas as much as we'd like to think it does.

For fans of the marriage of convenience tropes, this one's for you. Can't have a romance take off in Vegas without some reckless wedding and a good amount of alcohol to excuse a sudden lack of inhibitions. 

Evelyn Thomas wakes up in her Vegas hotel room married to Stage Dive's guitarist David Ferris. 

Sure, this is nothing new. But that's alright because I love romance formulas. I love the myriad ways they could go and how they're executed. It's always fun to see something familiar come out brand new.

I actually like Evelyn. It's not often I find heroines I absolutely loathe but it's also hard to find one I actually like enough to not mind being in her head (especially with the explosion of novels told from the heroine's first POV). 

She's really a simple girl, sweet, possessing a sense of humor that makes you laugh without wanting to duck your head in embarrassment at the same time. She struck me as one of those quiet, laid-back types you could get to know and become really good friends with. She's smart without overanalyzing every thought. Despite her own insecurities and the ones brought on by her unusual circumstances with David, she didn't have an overly irrational moment. She was honest and straightforward and showed some spine when she needed to. She was a girl I could root for and root for her, I did.

David Ferris has the world worshipping at his feet. He plays the guitar and writes many of the songs for Stage Dive, one of the hottest bands in music. 

This is nothing new either but David is a male lead done right, too. Yes, he's gotta be a little angsty with a wounded past, etc. and relationship issues. 

I liked him right off the first page, when Ev was just starting to stir awake and he's there, taking care of her and her monster hangover. Because of the rocker personality and this edgy lifestyle they're supposed to lead, many male leads are written to be arrogant, domineering, possessive, difficult and all the many things that scream at the female lead to stay the hell away. And in most cases, they'd be right. Some heroes in books don't deserve to win the girl at all, at the end of the day. I get that they have to have their edges, and they're going to make a lot of stupid mistakes and hurt the girl, but they don't have to be a one-dimensional jackass the entire story. 

David doesn't suffer from that. Yes, he talks a little rough. Yes, he's immersed in a world that celebrates bad habits and a reckless lifestyle. But he's actually quite a nice guy!

He didn't react well to the epiphany (or lack thereof) that Evelyn suffered from in the morning after but when they got over their initial bumps, he was quite caring and tender toward his new wife. He's got some baggage but he's not a walking disaster who pulls out the sob story for every despicable thing he does. No question he's an alpha male, but the kind you could actually bring home to your parents and marry. 

As to their relationship, yes, Evelyn kind of fell fast but I didn't mind this 'insta-love' too much. They were married, after all. Other than a serious lap of judgement, you don't go marry someone without some compelling, if unnameable, reason. Why get married when you can just screw around, right?

Their relationship wasn't perfect but they had a lot of things that many couples in many books out there don't have—honesty, the common sense to talk things out, decency to each other (this is seriously lacking in many books today), a sense of friendship, a tenderness that threads into their conversations and their actions.

Even after an ugly confrontation that ripped them apart, the way they dealt with each other had a lot of maturity and sense. Don't worry, the passionate scenes are very passionate, indeed, but the book as a whole handled the plot effectively I never once felt like tossing it out the window or wanting to gag from excessive gushings like "Oh-my-god-he's-beautiful-and-I'm-just-Jell-O-in-his arms".

This was a great read. It wasn't overly complex (which can sometimes ruin a good story) and it had the perfect combination of romance, heat, and characters you wouldn't mind hanging out with for a day or two.

Can't wait for Mal's story coming out in paperback this August. 

Read more reviews about it here: Goodreads - Lick


Friday, May 30, 2014

Review: The Professional by Kresley Cole


I love Kresley Cole's books. I've read the entire Immortals After Dark series and I'm impatiently awaiting its next instalment. After reading a near dozen of her books, I'm rock-solid in my conviction that Cole wouldn't disappoint.

I've read erotica for years but have never found BDSM that interesting. Given that it's become an age of mainstream erotica, thanks to the likes of Fifty Shades of Grey and the Crossfire series, it's hard to avoid. While I didn't necessarily seek out this type of stories, I wouldn't go to extreme lengths to avoid it either, especially if someone of Cole's caliber were to write it. Her books have always been stamped with her own searing brand of sexy heat that turns your blood into fire without totally incinerating you. It didn't surprise me at all when she came up with something like The Professional.

I waited until the story came out in paperback and despite the mixed reviews, with some disheartened and dismayed opinions from some serious Kresley Cole fans, I didn't allow myself to miss out on the chance to read it.

Sevastyan's character didn't deviate much from Cole's typical alpha males—he growled and grunted, seduced and spurned, laid cocky claim and contended with self-control as much as the male leads in all of her books. I love it when you find exactly the kind of thing you loved about an author's writing in their new work. If you're not a big fan of these types of guys, then this book isn't for you. Steer clear.

Natalie is also quite expected of Cole's female leads—intelligent, seemingly vulnerable, but often has a lot of spunk. She was also funny in many parts of the book. One thing I didn't quite connect with was the evolution of her sexuality.

Yes, she wasn't totally innocent.

Yes, Sevastyan was irresistible with his refined rough edges.

Yes, they were thrown together in many uncommonly exciting circumstances that friction was, as Sevastyan had said about the two of them, inevitable.

There were plenty of sparks igniting, flaring up when the heat got too much to handle, but there were parts that didn't flow as smoothly for me, such as Sevastyan's distance when he was practically kissing Natalie's feet. It was explained in the story but the justification didn't just click like a perfectly fluid mechanism. I liked them together a lot but there were many occasions where I felt as uncertain as they did about where they stood with each other and whether they even stood a chance to together.

If you've read Cole's IAD, you won't miss her incredible talent at world-building, of her perfectly cut-out pieces snugly fitting in a large, magnificent puzzle. The world she'd built about the Russian mafiya showed intricate effort as well but I'm just not so sure if she'd meant it to be larger than life (because it was) or she'd employed the same lack of restraint that made all her IAD books ones you wouldn't dare put down. Applied to the real world, it might feel a bit of a stretch to some readers, as I've seen in many reviews. Maybe I was just in the mindset of knowing that nothing Cole produced was ever going to be ordinary that the glaring glamour and guts (sometimes, literally) in this book didn't bother me as much as they did other people.

If you're looking for erotic romance that pushed boundaries (because Sevastyan isn't a white knight, and not because of some sad, sob story about the past although he's got that, too) I would recommend this. It bears Cole's well-loved wickedly funny lines that make you laugh out loud, and characters you've seen before from her and you haven't forgotten about since.

Read more reviews about it here: Goodreads - The Professional


Sunday, May 25, 2014

Review: All Lined Up by Cora Carmack


It's been a while since I've read a new book that I really enjoyed. There's so many out there right now that it's hard to find something special. 

If you're into the New Adult genre, picking up the newest Cora Carmack book is a given. She's one of the biggest names in it. I'll be honest and admit that this is the second book of Carmack's that I read and boy, I sure as hell don't regret it. 

When I first read Losing It, I enjoyed it as a light, easy read but I didn't crave the rest of the series. But man, after reading All Lined Up, I can say that Carmack's gone a long way since her first book and now I'm of the mind to trace my way back and get all the other books in between because I apparently missed out on a lot.

Now, on to the book.

First, the school and the game....

I'm not a big football fan. Maybe because I didn't grow up with it and only saw glimpses of it in books and TV. So when I first read the blurb on this, I hesitated, wondering if I'd ruin a good book by my sheer ignorance of its setting and environment. But don't worry if you're not a walking book of everything-football because while there's a lot of technical terms and references in the story, it doesn't overwhelm. It fact, it made me curious about the sport all the more. Also, at the start of the story, Dallas didn't love being at Rusk and I wondered, how is it then that there's a huge Rusk pep rally online from readers, bloggers and book fans alike? I didn't follow the entirety of the blog tours and the big build up around the 'Rusk University' spirit (Bleed Rusk Red!) but I felt it throughout the entire story. I've become part of this school and the culture and the same kind of buzz everyone's feeling in the book as it led up to the games, especially after the unexpected turn of events that shocked the entire student body, most especially the football team. It's amazing that Carmack accomplished to make a reader feel connected to something that's neither the central theme of the story nor a strong romantic factor. When the student body slumped their shoulders and dropped their heads down in defeat, I felt it. When the hopeful buzz caught the school, I was right there pumping my fists in the air. It was awesome! I felt like going back to college. LOL.  

As for the characters... 

Let me say, the character development in this book is well-executed. Kudos!
Dallas, as initially portrayed, didn't come as a big surprise. She's a little shy, naive, occasionally awkward, and a little unsure of a lot of things about herself and her life. As heroine of a New Adult book, this is to be expected often. But as I continued to read, I liked Dallas. She's candid and relatable, brave at times, but still vulnerable. Her insecurities are genuine, and yes, she literally dances back and forth between overanalyzing something to death and getting reckless all of a sudden. While others may bitch about a character's struggle to be consistent or decisive, we should remember that in real life, we're probably just as confused and as confusing. It's this accurate imitation of life that makes Dallas a believable character. She'd dreamed up the life she wanted only to face reality that she's not going to get it. She's torn between resenting it and making the best out of it. She's got a father she loves but can never seem to get on the same page with. She wants an identity but can't quite deny a large part of her that she doesn't like to be solely defined by. She made decisions she thoroughly regretted and had to learn from, even if it made her extremely cautious. She struggled between what she really wanted and what she thought was good for her and everyone else. These are all conflicts many of us have been through at a very similar stage in our life. She's strong but a little weak, she can be bold but she doesn't always believe it, she can be happy but she's not sure how to get there. All these things make her a dynamic character.

Carson is a really great guy. Not because he has a shiny sports car, or oodles of money, or he's smooth and confident, or a genius jock. He hasn't got and isn't any of those. Unlike many male leads out there (mine, included), Carson's character is not overblown—a tendency in many romance books where authors unwittingly end up with caricatures for heroes, instead of a realistic man. Carson is such a likeable dude. If you couldn't date him, you'd want him for a best friend. Or even an older brother (but that's just eew right now because I'm totally swooning over him). He's really down to earth. He's new at Rusk, pinching in his spot as a walk-on who's risking everything for not a whole lot of guarantees. He's a farm boy, has no real baggage except for a family he wants to help out in the best way he can. He makes no qualms about admitting he's not the smartest guy and that football's the best shot he's got at a better life. He's not sleeping with girls left and right. Guys didn't worship at his feet. He's not the team's golden boy. He's going back to their failing farm if he screws up his chance at earning a scholarship at Rusk. You'd think all this would kinda make him boring but it doesn't. Carson's funny and sweet and fiercely determined. Many would agree with Dallas that he's a freaking babe but throughout the book, I adored him more because he actually gave me plenty of reasons to respect him. Yes, respect. It's rare to find a romance nowadays where you're not just drooling over the male lead. You actually respect him. Excellent character development. Carmack didn't just give Carson those dreamy arms and abs—she really fleshed him out (Ugh. Such an obvious pun!).

At the beginning of the story, I wondered whether what he and Dallas had for one night was life-changing enough for them to be torturing themselves the way they were but as I peeked into both Carson's and Dallas's minds (dual POV that's actually pulled off smoothly and effectively), as they battled with themselves, it really sold it to me, that there had been something more in the beginning than what was obvious. Others might think it was a bit insta-love and at first glance it's easy to pin it down as that but their attraction goes from a sudden collision to a slow burn that eventually makes everything catch fire. They had a genuine friendship that sees them through their individual struggles and makes them stronger together. Their moments together were tender and sweet, and hilarious at times. Their relationship wore Carmack's brand of endearing awkwardness but they were small things that actually made you like them more. I personally loved it when Carson aptly described Dallas's poor, dancer's feet. I loved it when Carson tried to walk away with his dignity intact when he realized Dallas worked at the Learning Lab and he desperately needed help with his paper. I could list a whole bunch more things but that would be too many spoilers.

I also liked a lot of the characters. Coach Cole evolved as a character as well. It's funny because I really felt the way the team did around him—you respect him but you're not quite sure whether you like him or not but you work with him anyway because he's not going to take shit from you. I also loved his pep talk. I felt like I could go out there and play football because he says I can. 

As for the other secondary characters, I loved Stella. She provokes Dallas but also makes her laugh and calls her out if necessary. She was also just an absolute darling with sparkling lines and spunky confidence. I liked Ryan too because he was a good friend to Carson and surprised me when he said some pretty hilarious things when I expected him to be the serious type. He might just be the antidote to Stella's irrepressible attitude. Silas was a real douche in the beginning but he made me stop and pay him more attention after his unexpected shift in attitude when Carson gets thrown into the fire. Maybe he's not so bad after all. As for Levi, I have a feeling this isn't the last time we've read about him.

This book is pretty solid. It touches deep on the whole experience of growing up, of people giving themselves clear-cut directions only to find themselves going down a different road. Life is a constant navigation test. We kinda know where we're going but it's in how we get there that defines the whole journey. New Adult should really showcase this more as it is one of it's most defining trait—that self-discovery we find ourselves having when we realize we're finally growing up when we thought we've already been adults all this time. I would never want to take away the romance but the evolution the characters go through should be given its chance to shine as well.

Carmack did an excellent job with this. I definitely think that her personal history gave this book an incredible sense of conviction but it's in how she integrated it and built a story out of what she knew that attested to her writing talent. I can't recommend this book enough. 

I tried to read it slowly but sadly, it still had to end. Good thing this is a series and there's more to look forward to! =)

Favorite lines:

DALLAS: Why does no one get that it's impossible to have a fresh start when nothing has really changed?

DALLAS: You know you're growing up when you start to see more inevitabilities than possibilities.  

CARSON: There are no easy days, sir. 

"No one in my entire life has ever told me I have a big heart."
I touch the hand she has braced on her knee, just for a few second, and say, "Then no one in your entire life has been paying much attention."

As she walks away, he calls out, "I thought you don't date."
"I thought you were going to sweep me off my feet."

"Do you ever think that maybe that's all people do? Fix some things and break others? And we all just live in this giant cycle where we screw things up and hurt people we love, and then we turn around and try to atone for that by fixing other things. And maybe we're all just waiting on our turn for a broken heart and the person who will fix it."

"I think I break more than I fix."

"The only thing we can do is try to find people whose scars compliment our own. And I'm pretty sure Carson McClain would carry your baggage around the world and back if you asked him."

See more reviews for All Lined Up here: Goodreads All Lined Up


Sunday, May 4, 2014

Weekend Wrap-Up

With my office nearly all done, it's been easier to do more stuff online.

I posted the newest entry for Brandon's Notebook.

I got back to writing When Stars Burn.

I got to do a little bit of shopping.

I got to do a little bit of cooking.

All in all, a good weekend.

5-Minute Grilled Cinnamon Toast with Chocolate
Something I'd like to try one Sunday morning because it seems so simple but looks so darn good. Hubby would love it for sure.
Recipe from Half Baked Harvest can be found here.

Vince Camuto Fontanela Cut-out Cage Sandals
This year, I decided to be realistic and wear more flats especially in the summer. Flats are practical because I can wear them to after-work errands and drives. I've invested in a handful of new pairs but just when I thought I'd sworn off buying new high heels, I run into these lovelies. They are quite comfortable even at their height actually, as long as you buy the correct size so that your arches rest where they should. The leather is soft and fine and the cutouts look so seductive without going overboard. I like heels that make an elegant statement, not the other kind that invite all sorts of snide comments. This pair also comes in a white-gray snakeskin design but the black looks a lot fiercer.

Book Buys
Whenever I'm in a bookstore, chances are, I'm coming out with a book or two.
This week's book buys are:

  • K.A. Linde - Off The Record which is mostly about a college journalist caught in an affair with a young, charming state senator. It's starting a little slow so I haven't devoured it yet. 
  • Lauren Morrill - Meant To Be which is a YA debut about a strait-laced junior teaming up with her personal nemesis / class clown to discover her secret admirer. It's a staff pick and sounds like a lot of fun.
Sunday Casserole
I always find myself panicking about dinner on Sunday night so I'm sticking to making casseroles in the morning so I can to give myself the rest of the day. I also like making a big batch so we have enough leftovers for lunches. This is a new recipe with chicken, rice and mushrooms. 
Recipe from Simply Recipes can be found here.

Now, back to writing and watching YouTube videos. My life is simple. 


Sunday, April 27, 2014

New Project: When Stars Burn

This is a story I've started working on mid-February. It's mostly under wraps—at least until I get a better hang of the plot. This is in the New Adult genre and quite frankly, a bit different from my usual kind of story.

When Stars Burn

“We think the stars glorious as they brighten the night sky. Do we ever remember that they are burning?”


Star Matthews knows what she wants in life—everything that her current one isn’t.

She made tough decisions to get to where she is now and the last thing she wants is the beautiful complication that is Julian Wilde—Prescott University’s most notorious playboy who just happened to be proving his reputation to her roommate when Star first met him.

Thrown together every day in close proximity, Star fights her distracting attraction to Julian who insists there’s more to her than what she shows the world, and that he wants it—all of it—the good, the bad, the beautiful and the broken.

When her sins come to light, proving she is no bright star after all, will Julian stand by her side or will he walk away before she can burn him heart and soul?


Saturday, March 1, 2014

Review: Come To Me Quietly by A.L. Jackson


I've been reading a lot of New Adult lately and if you have been, too, you're going to agree that there are a lot of bad boys in this genre—the brooding, tatted-up, tortured kind. So at first I thought, okay, why not another one? I didn't regret that decision at all. I picked this book up yesterday and kept reading.

Starting on a slightly technical note, I think that first person POV works really well with New Adult and has in fact been the popular choice. I'm not a big fan of alternating POVs but it was successfully deployed in this book. Actually, other than Aly's and Jared's POV, the flashbacks are done in third-person. In a way, that tweak serves the purpose of the flashback well because it changes the tone and you know that you're reading something detached from the current timeline. The POV shifts felt natural and flowed well which is a huge accomplishment. It's a big risk but it paid off for Jackson.

Aleena Moore or Aly for short, is a well-developed character because we've seen flashes of her as a child growing up and trying to carve a place for herself in the company of her brother Christopher and his best friend Jared. She's very likeable and level-headed actually (except when she fell and dived deep, holding nothing back). I especially liked that unlike many of today's heroines, she's not hung up with her family. It was nice to see her have that kind of happy, healthy relationship with her folks and her siblings. She wasn't full of that teeth-gritting angst we see a lot in heroines nowadays. It definitely went along with the soundness of her character, that steadfastness that was going to finally ground Jared back to the very place he'd been long running from.

Jared Holt is scarred and still suffering, and it's not until well into the two-thirds of the story that it's revealed why although you get lots of glimpses at the ghosts that haunt him. He looks like a bad boy, acts tough like a bad boy but he's actually quite a nice guy despite all his baggage. Sure, he tortures himself with guilt and the determination to remain unworthy of any good thing in life but he's not a jerk. His pain hurts Aly but his heart is in the right place. It's not far-fetched I guess, considering what a nice, good-natured boy he was growing up, his home happy and his future bright. I adored the boy that he was in those flashbacks and I could totally see why Aly had loved him for as long as she had.

While the plot isn't totally unique in a world full of romances about a girl and her brother's best friend, or of good girl taming the bad boy, the twists in the past gave it a different angle. But what really lured me in and held me captive was the music of Jackson's writing. It's eloquent, distinct and layered with emotions and beautifully strung words. It's still very appropriate, especially for Jared's POV, tough guy that he is, but the writing really shines. It reaches deep and grabs on to you tight.

I would strongly recommend this to anyone with a soft spot for bad boys and an-almost-puppy love, actually. I'm looking forward to the next book 'Come To Me Softly' in this Closer To You series,  coming out summer 2014.


New Covers: The Mischievous Mrs. Maxfield and Virtue and Vice

Since The Mischievous Mrs. Maxfield just wrapped up, I felt it was time to give it and Virtue and Vice a new and permanent look.

I created new covers for them which I can actually legally use.

Hope you like them!


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Mischievous Mrs. Maxfield—It's a wrap!

It feels like forever since I started writing The Mischievous Mrs. Maxfield.

It's been almost a full year, actually.

It seems like a long time but looking at the length of the manuscript, 300,000+ words, I'm not surprised.

It's an epic book. And as much as I'd love to just leave it like that and be done, I can't.

I think, with the amount of story I've written for TMMM, it will be good for two books. But I'm somehow fond of numerical patterns—threes, sevens, forties—so two feels—ironically—odd. 

So just when I thought it was over, I think, "Sequel?"

I'm not going to write a book for the sake of writing a book. It's a lot of work to do for something you don't quite believe in, and maybe I'm still much of an amateur that way. 

I'll think about it but for now, TMMM is done. 

I've never been so relieved to finish a story. I never really felt the pressure before because I was always writing offline. TMMM is the first story I've posted serially and that has really changed the way I write. 

You have people watching every scene unfold, waiting with baited breath for the next chapter. While it's exciting, it can be nerve-wracking and frustrating too. You start to find yourself in a bind, wondering if you're writing for the story, for yourself, or for the audience.

I have no regrets though. Writing TMMM has been a real journey for me and I've met many inspiring people who reached out to me with their feedback, showing me exactly how powerful a pen can really be.

For now, I'm putting the pen down for a break—until I have to pick it up again to undertake the monumental task of editing this beast. 

Saturday, January 25, 2014

It Starts With A Plan

The Ultimate Guide to Writing Your Manifesto by Helping Writers Become Authors

People message me all the time asking how they should write their story and finish it.

For one, I'm not expert so I'm probably not the best person to ask. Two, we all go about it a different way because we are different people. How I do it might not necessarily work for you.

There is one thing that I think we can all agree on—we need a plan.

Yes, writing is an art and requires that perfect flow of creative juices.

I completely agree, but it's also a bigger than just your story or your book. Writing, for me anyway, always comes with the goal to put all those creative ideas in one neat precious package which will hopefully be multiplied by a large number and distributed to people who would read the story and delight in it. While I'm usually a happy audience of one, I do want to share the story.

With the digital age, publishing isn't always so traditional anymore. There are tons of successful self-publishing stories out there. Whichever route you want to take, this very helpful article from Helping Writers Become Authors will give you a simple breakdown of how to make the idea in your head into a story and then a book which will hopefully be on its quick way to getting published.

I believe in plans and the way they put things in perspective.

I like directions when I'm going somewhere so I have an idea of how long it'll take to get there, what will be required to make the journey, and hopefully don't get lost along the way.

Planning out your writing is no different. :)


Monday, January 13, 2014

Fan Mail: Who Is Your Favorite Male Lead?

I've been getting lots of emails and messages asking me all kinds of questions. A lot of times, they're the same questions so I thought I'd post one here or there so that I can share it with anyone else interested to know. =)

Fan Question: Who is your favorite male lead out of the ones you've written?

Me: They really share a lot of similarities (you can pretty much figure out the kind of male lead I write if you've read one or two of my stories) but I must say that as much as I adore Brandon Maxfield (like any girl who wants a near-perfect guy), I'm still very drawn to Sebastian Vice.

Sebastian to me, is a perfect mix of a tortured soul, a domineering male, and an inner romantic. The guy quotes poetry by heart, for God's sakes.

Anyway, having written the prologue when he was just a boy, the meat of the story when he was a man at the crosspoint of his life where he could choose light over darkness, and the epilogue where we see the road he's gone down after making that leap, I feel like I know him better. He was really in a very dark place (dark enough that it turned what was supposed to be a sultry, summer read to an almost gothic romance) and I felt every bit of that pain, even as I was writing the story from Cassandra's point of view.

A lot of readers have mentioned he's quite flawed and he is and I don't apologize for any of that. He was supposed to make you fall in love but drive you up the wall (ahem, literally in our imagination, perhaps) and make you jump back and forth between rooting for him and swearing him off for good. I think I was able to feel all of that for Sebastian which really makes him a very full, very real character to me.

But who knows? There will be other characters in the future and you just never know who's going to walk out of those pages (or computer screens).

Hope that works!

(Send me a question through a message here in FB or Twitter or Wattpad and I'll do my best to give you a candid answer.)


Sunday, January 12, 2014

Writing Class: Fatal Flaw in Your Characters

My husband once looked up from a Stephen King book with a horrified expression and said, "He spent the last ten pages telling me about this character, who she is, where she's from, what her life is like—and then he killed her."

I recalled that memory not precisely because of the character getting literally killed in the story. It's the fact that my husband had cared enough about the character to be affected by her sudden demise. What kind of character would you care enough about that if something horrible happens to them, you have to somehow take a moment to cope?

I haven't taken formal writing classes but I've read enough books to know that the characters who stick with you long after you've read the book are characters with rich layers to them—their history, their strengths, their vulnerabilities, their secret thoughts, their struggles.

It's easy to create a character who hits all the marks but perfection is so one-dimensional.

Characters need to be relatable so you need them to be human and to be human is to flawed.

I attached a link to a great article in Romance University on How Fatal Should Flaws Be from a writing class with Laurie Schnebly Campbell.

It talks about making your character suffer.

Give him/her something to struggle with—a vulnerability that is ingrained, and that manifests in various parts of the story, something that has a sway on their decisions and actions.

Merely giving your character the fear of china dolls that would somehow never come up in the story is interesting but pointless.

If your character can't handle clutter or disorder, for example, she would have issues with people in her life who just drop in or call our out of the blue—may it be a parent who walks in and out of her life through revolving doors, or a close friend who keeps pushing her to throw caution to the wind and live a little, or a love interest who likes to live day by day, with no plans or prohibitions.

This flaw may have a small impact on the grand plot, or may be the very leg it stands on—it's really up to you—but the point is that it gives your character more dimension and in turn, provides you with more meat for sub-plots and character development.

To be perfectly honest, I don't start out writing by building up a character. It's very rare for me to do that.

I usually write names first because then I start to think of them that way.

Then I write down dialogs they somehow manage to have in my head and then I get to know my character's personality that way. When I start hearing their voice (not literally, hehe) and what they say and how they say it, I start to detect their character make-up and from there it occurs to me what they're strong at and what makes them vulnerable.

It's an odd way to build a character but I've found that it works with me.

There's no perfect formula—writing is an art form, after all—and creativity is tapped differently with every individual.

The point is, when you've gotten started, think about your characters as people. And because they're people, they're not going to perfect.

Poke away at them, leave them with some scars, turn their world upside down—the list is endless.

© Ninya Tippett. All rights reserved.