blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Underneath the Christmas Tree – Heidi Swain

Wynter’s Trees is the home of Christmas. For the people of Wynmouth it’s where they get their family Christmas tree, and where Christmas truly comes to life.

But for Liza Wynter, it’s a millstone around her neck. It was her father’s pride and joy but now he’s gone, she can’t have anything to do with it. Until her father’s business partner decides to retire and she must go back to handle the transition to his son Ned.

When Liza arrives, she discovers a much-loved business that’s flourishing under Ned’s stewardship. And she’s happy to stay and help for the Christmas season, but then she has other plans. But will the place where she grew up make her change her mind? And can it weave its Christmas cheer around her heart…?

Underneath the Christmas Tree is the perfect festive read, promising snowfall, warm fires and breath-taking seasonal romance. Perfect for fans of Milly Johnson, Carole Matthews and Cathy Bramley.

My thoughts: the first Christmas novel of 2021! Set in the fictional North Norfolk town of Wynmouth, home of several of the author’s previous novels, this is a delightful festive tale of Christmas trees and elves and beach huts! There’s a lovely husky, a hunky woodsman and a confused and somewhat in need of a fresh start heroine in Liza.

I really enjoyed this, a perfect accompaniment to a mug of hot chocolate with marshmallows. Funny, heartwarming, sweet and festive. Just a lovely hug of a book. I only wish I could dislodge Kelly Clarkson’s Underneath the Tree earworm now!

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Cruel Castle – Bryony Pearce

Having survived the horrors of Savage Island, Grady is now stuck working for Gold, the psychopath who masterminded the gruesome competition. Sent on a “team-building exercise” in a remote castle, he starts to plot his escape. Ben and Lizzie are in hiding, presumed dead after escaping the island. If they’re ever to return to their families, they need to bring Gold down. So they secretly join Grady in the castle. But as the doors slam shut and the series of deadly challenges between them and freedom are revealed, it looks like history is going to repeat itself…

About Savage Island When reclusive millionaire Marcus Gold announces that he’s staging an “Iron Teen” competition on his private island in the Outer Hebrides, Ben, Lizzie, Will, Grady and Carmen sign up. They’d be mad not to when the prize is one million pounds … each. But when the competition commences, the group begin to regret their decision –this is no ordinary contest. Other teams are hunting their competitors and attacking them. As the pressure intensifies and their survival instincts kick in, the friends struggle to stick together. Who can they really trust?

Bryony was a winner of the 2008 Undiscovered Voices competition and is the author of ANGEL’S FURY and THE WEIGHT OF SOULS,winner of the Wirral Grammar School Award –Best Science Fiction. She has written PHOENIX RISING, PHOENIX BURNING and SAVAGE ISLAND for Stripes. Bryony lives with her husband and two children in a village in Gloucestershire. Visit bryonypearce.co.uk | Twitter

My thoughts: I hadn’t read Savage Island, but I am definitely going back and rectifying that ASAP, this was so good and I need to know all the details about what happened to Ben, Lizzie and Grady on the island. However, it’s not essential to know as there’s plenty of information given in Cruel Castle to give you the back story to their relationship and trauma.

A sort of Battle Royale/Hunger Games but British, and darkly funny, Cruel Castle pits a group of young psychopaths against each other in the ultimate escape room challenge – solve the puzzles and get out of the castle alive. Ben, Lizzie and Aaday aren’t psychopathic but are still dealing with their traumatic experiences. They want to live but not to the cost of anyone’s life, this makes them vulnerable but also very brave. They were definitely likeable, unlike the rest of the group – I don’t think I’d have been so willing to work with them.

Grady is playing his own long game and I couldn’t quite work out his motives, I think book three might have the answers…

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: The Perfect Daughter – Alex Stone

The perfect daughter…
Jess Harper has spent her whole life trying to make her mum, Abigail happy and proud. And everything Jess does, from the clothes she wears, the job she has, the men she dates, are all approved by Abigail first.
The perfect boyfriend…
So when Jess announces that she has a new man in her life – plumber Adam – Abigail is less than impressed. ‘A plumber? Really, Jessica….’ Adam encourages Jess to break free from her mum’s manipulation, can’t she see what’s happening?
The perfect mother….
But Abigail is only doing these things to keep Jess safe, to protect her from getting hurt again…isn’t she?
Or the perfect liar?
Jess, caught in the middle, doesn’t know who to believe or trust. And then Adam vanishes without trace.
Now Jess is the police’s prime suspect and they want to know if Jess really is as perfect as she seems….
A gripping new psychological thriller for fans of Sue Watson, Shalini Boland and S.E.Lynes.
Amazon

About the Author
Alex Stone, originally an accountant from the West Midlands, is now a psychological suspense writer based in Dorset. This beautiful and dramatic coastline is the inspiration and setting for her novels.
She was awarded the Katie Fforde Bursary in 2019 and her debut thriller The Perfect Daughter will be published by Boldwood in October 2021.

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My thoughts: Jess has a monster for a mother, controlling, manipulative and cruel. Isolated from friends, with no one else to turn to. She meets Adam, who she starts to realise is very similar to her mum.

Then Adam disappears and Jess starts to question things that have happened in her past, her dad leaving, her only friend turning against her, the way her relationships fell apart. Her mother always telling her things were her fault. But what if they weren’t?

A dark, twisted psychological thriller about manipulation, gaslighting and finally seeing the truth. Gripping and clever, this was a highly enjoyable read and I rooted for Jess to find her way out of the lies and finally live for herself.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: The Reacher Guy – Heather Martin

The Reacher Guy is a life of bestselling superstar Lee Child, a portrait of the artist as a young man, refracted through the life of his fictional avatar, Jack Reacher. It tells the story of how the boy from Birmingham reinvented himself to become the strongest brand in publishing, selling over one hundred million books in more than forty different languages across the globe.
Heather Martin interviews friends, teachers, colleagues and neighbours, including agents and editors. Based
primarily on her conversations with the author over a period of years, together with readings of his books and research in his literary archive, this authorised biography reveals the man behind the myth, tracing his origins back through the generations to Northern Ireland and County Durham, and following the trajectory of his extraordinary career via New York and Hollywood until the climactic moment when, in 2020, having written a continuous series of twenty-four books, he finally floats free of his fictional creation.
Lee Child comments: “I met Heather Martin some years ago, and we started talking about why people love telling and hearing stories. To get more depth and detail we started talking about why I do. Eventually I said, ‘If you want to really get to the bottom of it, you’re going to have to write my biography.’ So she did. It was a fun and illuminating process. I had forgotten a lot, and it was fascinating to be reminded. Now it all makes sense.”

Heather Martin was born in West Australia. She grew up in Aix-en-Provence, Paris, and Perth, where she would fall asleep to the sound of the Indian Ocean. She left Australia for England to become a classical guitarist but found herself singing with a Venezuelan folk group and learning to speak Spanish instead. She read Languages at Cambridge, where she also did a PhD in comparative literature, and has held teaching and research positions at Cambridge, Hull, King’s College London, and most recently, the Graduate Center, City University New York.
Heather is a long-time Reacher fan. While waiting to get her hands on the next in the series, she once read a Lee Child book in Spanish and wound up writing to the author about the fate of his character in translation. The Reacher Guy is her first biography.

My thoughts: I haven’t read many Reacher books, I think maybe 2 of them, but my dad and Grandad are fans and I’m always interested in how and why a writer started writing. A very slow start, honestly I would skip the first few chapters, that then got really interesting as Jim Grant became Lee Child and started writing his incredibly successful books. He seems very matter of fact about why he started writing and how he goes about creating each of them. I’m very interested to see how his younger brother handles taking over the mantle of Jack Reacher writer in chief.

There were some very funny moments, especially when talking about publishing and funny things that happen when a famous but not necessarily recognisable writer starts travelling around the world and meeting fans. I liked the story about when Lee was at an airport and said to someone reading a Reacher book “I’ve heard the rest are really good too”, if that person recognises themselves, they’re going to be very puzzled, I know I would be.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

books, reviews

Book Review: The Trials of Adeline Turner – Angela Terry

From Charming Falls Apart author Angela Terry comes a story about finding the courage to face your past, be true to your heart, and live your best life. Fans of Sophie Kinsella and Emily Giffin will enjoy cheering for Adeline Turner as she navigates the twists and turns of her newly complicated life in this fun, heartwarming novel.

Thirty-three-year-old corporate attorney Adeline Turner has built her adult life around stability. Her professional life is thriving, but her personal life . . . not so much. Deep down she wants more, but finds it’s easier to brush aside her dreams and hide behind her billable hours. That is, until a new client and a chance encounter with her high school crush have her taking leaps she never planned. Suddenly, unadventurous, nose-to-the-grindstone Adeline finds herself moving across the country from her predictable life in Chicago to San Francisco, falling into messy romantic situations, and trying to unravel an office-sabotage plot before it ruins her career.

Without the safety net of her old life in Chicago, Adeline must become her own advocate and learn that people aren’t always who they seem. Which makes her wonder if the key to having the future she desires lies in uncovering the truth of the past.

Angela Terry is an attorney who formerly practiced intellectual property law at large firms in Chicago and San Francisco. She is also a Chicago Marathon legacy runner and races to raise money for PAWS Chicago—the Midwest’s largest no-kill shelter. She resides in San Francisco with her husband and two cats and enjoys throwing novel-themed dinner parties for her women’s fiction book club. Her debut novel, Charming Falls Apart, is a 2021 Independent Press Awards Winner, 2021 IPBA Benjamin Franklin Awards Finalist, and 2020 Best Book Awards Finalist.

Connect with Terry at www.angelaterry.com, @AngelaTerryAuthor on Facebook and Instagram, and @AngelaTerryLit on Twitter.

Q & A with Angela Terry

Question: Who do you think is the ideal reader for The Trials of Adeline Turner?

Angela Terry: Generally, this book is for anyone who enjoys voice-driven, contemporary escapist women’s fiction. Specifically, this book is for someone who may be like Adeline, where they might have a successful career, but want more in their personal life. And, of course, this book is for anyone who still thinks about their first crush and wonders, “What if?” (although, sometimes the dream is better than the reality!). 

Question: You’re a big fan of “chick lit” what are your feelings about that name for the niche of fun and flirty women’s voices?
Angela Terry: The first “chick-lit” book I read was Bridget Jones’s Diary, and it introduced me (and a generation) to books about women who were going through similar issues as I was in my twenties and thirties. I was navigating and balancing my career, dating, family and friends, and asking the question of, “What do I want my life to look like?”. These books were usually told in a light, entertaining, first-person voice, and the characters felt real to me. So, while I know the term has fallen out of favor over the years, it still has a soft spot in my heart.

My books have been called rom-com, chick lit, and women’s fiction. I personally consider my books to be women’s fiction, since they focus more on the emotional growth of my heroine towards a more fulfilled self. But I also love a good happily-ever-after. So, if my novel is hanging out on the rom-com table, I’m happy with that because I just want readers to be able to discover my books. 

Question: What books and authors inspired you?

Angela Terry: The first chick-lit book I read was Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding, and from there I was hooked on these lighter tone, voice-driven, confessional type of stories. From there, I read Sophie Kinsella’s Shopaholic series, and I absolutely loved, and still love, Jane Green’s novels, which have evolved from early chick lit to women’s fiction. 

Emily Giffin’s books though finally gave me that push to start writing my own books. When returning home from a vacation, I had picked up Something Blue at the airport and devoured it in one sitting. I love how honest and complicated her characters are, and how effortless her writing style seems. When I turned the book over to read her biography, which read, “After practicing litigation at a Manhattan firm for several years, she moved to London to write full time…”, it struck me that hers was the first “attorney bio” I read where I thought, “I want to do that!” That was the moment I decided to commit to my writing. 

Question: What is your favorite place to read? 

Angela Terry: My favorite place to read would be my sofa with my cats. But where I get the most reading done would be at airports and on airplanes. I’m terrified of flying, and so I will save up books to read for my flight to have something to look forward to. Now I can’t wait to get to the airport and will be at my gate two hours early to catch up on my reading. 

Question: How has the pandemic affected your reading (and writing) habits? 

Angela Terry: In the beginning of the pandemic, I found it hard to concentrate on reading and writing. But thanks to my book club and being introduced to the Bookstagram community, I managed to get back my reading mojo. Though I will say, I found myself reaching for lighter, uplifting reads during this time. 

The pandemic also affected my writing. Normally, whenever I get stuck on a scene, I like to go for a walk or head to a coffee shop. Seeing people on the street and eavesdropping on conversations always gives me new inspiration. With shelter-in-place, I found myself watching television a lot more to study people’s expressions, as well as voice inflections and cadence for dialogue purposes. 


My thoughts: I was sent this book by a lovely PR and I’m really glad about that because I really liked Adeline, she’s super smart and good at her job, a good friend and has a great relationship with her dad. Her other relationships are a bit messy – she’s single at 33, estranged from her mum and just ran into her teenage crush at the airport.

She’s also about to get offered a great career boosting move, but is going to have to make new friends and be much nearer to her mother than she’s comfortable with. But perhaps there’s opportunity here to improve more than her career? And that’s where the story really starts, with Adeline swapping Chicago for San Francisco, and a whole new set of adventures.

I loved her best friend Bridget, she’s hilarious and very much a take no prisoners person – totally forthright and determined that Adeline finds love and happiness. Her dad was super sweet, and his romance with the neighbour was really cute. I like that she finally decided to try to reach out to her mum, I can’t imagine not having mine around, we’re really close.

Adeline’s path to true love is messy and she makes mistakes, trusts the wrong people and, well, that’s life. It was so honest and realistic, I could easily see Adeline as one of my friends, I think we’d get on. I really rooted for her and cheered her on.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Behind Closed Doors – Catherine Alliott

From the outside, anyone would think that Lucy Palmer has it all: loving children, a dashing husband and a gorgeous home.

But when her marriage to Michael comes to an abrupt and unexpected end, her life is turned upside down in a flash.

As the truth of her marriage threatens to surface, Lucy seizes the opportunity to swap her house in London – and the stories it hides – for a rural escape to her parents’ farmhouse in the Chilterns.

But Lucy gets more than she bargained for when she moves back to her childhood home, especially when it throws her into the path of an old flame.

Coming face-to-face with her mistakes, Lucy is forced to confront the secrets she’s been keeping from herself and those she loves.

Is she ready to let someone in? Or will she leave the door to her past firmly closed . . .

Available on Amazon

Catherine has sold over 3 million bestselling novels worldwide and is translated into eighteen languages.

The first of these novels Catherine started under the desk when she worked as an advertising copywriter. She was duly fired. With time on her hands, she persevered with the novels, which happily flourished.

In the early days she produced a baby with each book – but after three – stuck to the writing as it was less painful.

She writes with her favorite pen in notebooks, either in the garden or on a sofa.

Home is a rural spot on the Hertfordshire border, which she shares with her family and a menagerie of horses, cows, chickens, and dogs, which at the last count totaled eighty-seven beating hearts, including her husband. Some of her household have walk-on parts in her novels, but only the chickens would probably recognize themselves.

All her novels are published by Penguin Random House internationally, and by No Shooz Publishing in America. Catherine Alliot | Instagram | Facebook

My thoughts: this is quite a dark and sad book, Lucy’s husband gaslit her and bullied her for years and she finally has the chance to be free and happy. But she’s gnawed on by guilt and plagued with worry. She’s also trying to organise and care for her parents, who drink too much and forget to go to the doctors. But her sister, friends and children want her to start finding happiness and living for herself, not someone else.

As Lucy begins to dig her way out, and I was rooting for her all the way, chinks of light start to appear in the darkness of her sad life, and she begins to really live again, putting the guilt and pain behind her. She also finds she has allies she didn’t know about, and that she doesn’t have to support people who don’t support her.

In the end, there is hope and light and happiness for Lucy, the book is ultimate redemptive and I cheered for her. Her parents got a bit more sorted, her children and extended family were always there for her and she finally found proper love.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: The Queendom Within – Heidi Hauer

It would be wonderful – revolutionary! – to live in a world where all women naturally and easily felt empowered to be who they truly are, without fear of rejection, embarrassment or failure; where women felt free to express themselves openly and embrace their diverse talents in a joyful, peaceful way.

Heidi Hauer guides women to realise that they have choices available to them to fulfil their own dreams. In her book, Heidi shows us that true happiness is not the result of a picture-perfect life but instead an experience that starts from within – from nurturing our very own Queendom.

Heidi writes: ‘At some point I realised that, prince aside, my life was massively off track from my dreams. The Kingdom had fallen apart while I was waiting to be kissed awake. I needed a Plan B. I had to take matters into my own hands. It was time to become my own prince, wake myself up and create the solo edition of the Kingdom I had dreamed of building together with him. In short, I had to build my own Queendom.’

We all have moments in life that feel like a crossroads. You may have that sinking feeling that you’re in the wrong life – whether you feel trapped in a bad relationship, friendship or in a dead-end job – and secretly you hope for Mr Right to come along and sort everything out for you. This book will help you find your way back to yourself, and it will give you the confidence you need to make your own happiness, whether Mr Right is there or not.

Through a set of 28 exercises complemented by beautiful illustrations, Heidi guides the reader into building a strong foundation for their own inner peace and happiness. The stories and activities are designed to help readers become crystal clear on their hopes and dreams.

Practical, reassuring and truly inspiring, Heidi’s book encourages readers to invest their time and energy back into themselves, and relax into the journey of life.


Heidi Hauer is a holistic health & life coach for women who want to bring wellbeing and happiness on the journey to professional and personal success. Qualifications in nutrition and coaching complement her background in corporate leadership positions. Heidi guides her clients to step into their power, find that highly sought-after work/life balance and reach deeper levels of fulfilment -in and outside of work. The Queendom Within is her first book.

Visit her website or Instagram

The Heidi Hauer Podcast

In The Heidi Hauer Podcast Heidi shows listeners how to use intuitive tools and access life-changing mindset shifts that support in leading an abundant, meaningful and successful life. Listeners learn from female entrepreneurs, spiritual leaders, and creative powerhouses how to live on purpose, nurture personal wellbeing and have a positive impact on the world.

My thoughts: I’m always a bit dubious about self-help books that pledge to help you fix your life, but a lot of what Heidi has to say is common sense – and based on her own experience. She realised at the end of a relationship that she needed to make some changes to make herself happier and more confident. To write her own story instead of waiting for someone else to do it.

A lot of the exercises in the book are straightforward and don’t require lots of money or time, things like putting together a playlist of songs that boost your mood or getting out into nature to refresh your mind. Simple things that make a difference to how you think and feel, she’s not suggesting expensive nonsense, which is refreshing and means you can actually do these exercises. She’s also very honest that this takes time – it’s not a change your whole life in 30 days situation, it’s a work in progress that helps you refocus on what you really want from life. I found some of it really interesting, and while I’m happily married, and not looking for love, a lot of it could be applied to my life – we all need a boost every now and then.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Fractured Lives – Russ Colchamiro

In the cosmic realm of Eternity, there’s only one private eye to hire when your world gets turned inside out—Angela Hardwicke.

Darla Fyne, a college freshman and galaxy design savant, is suffering from a nervous breakdown—or is she the victim of an urban legend known as the Scarlet Raj?

As Hardwicke follows the intersecting worlds of art galleries, college dorms, and a semi-secret clan that patches up tears in the Universe, her investigation will either uncover a hoax gone wrong or a plot that could shift the balance of power across the entire realm. If only she can fight through her own paranoia to tell the difference.

In Russ Colchamiro’s new Sci-Fi mystery Fractured Lives, Angela Hardwicke is confronted by a PI’s worst nightmare—dark secrets from her past that will irrevocably change her future.

Add to Goodreads Available on Amazon!

Excerpt
I reach inside my jacket, hand on the grip of my weapon. I don’t want to use it. I don’t want to need it. I want this to be nothing more than another awkward, misconstrued moment in an awkward, misconstrued career taking on awkward, misconstrued cases.
I want to be free of danger. I want to stop putting myself in danger. I want to come home every night and hug my son. I want him to hug me back. I want to let go of the demons that haunt me, the past that defines me, and a future that frightens me.
I want to sleep at night.
I want to wake up in the morning believing my life doesn’t have to be one mystery after another, one dark path leading down a darker alley of a bitter, lonely labyrinth that inevitably reveals someone’s pain. Their ugly secrets.
But most of all, I want to be Angela Hardwicke.
Not Angela Hardwicke, Private Investigator. Just Angela
Hardwicke. Me. Whoever that is, and whatever that means. Which is all well and good, but if I don’t get myself out of this particularly awkward, misconstrued moment, I might not have the chance to find out.

Russ Colchamiro is the author of the rollicking space adventure, Crossline, the zany SF/F backpacking comedy series Finders Keepers: The Definitive Edition, Genius de Milo, and Astropalooza, and is editor of the SF anthology Love, Murder & Mayhem, all with Crazy 8 Press.

Russ lives in New Jersey with his wife, two ninjas, and crazy dog Simon, who may in fact be an alien himself. Russ has also contributed to several other anthologies, including Tales of the Crimson Keep, Pangaea, Altered States of the Union, Camelot 13, TV Gods 2, They Keep Killing Glenn, Thrilling Adventure Yarns, Camelot 13, and Brave New Girls.

He is now working on the first novel in a new series featuring his hardboiled private eye Angela Hardwicke, and the first of three collaborative novella projects.

Russ ColchamiroFacebook | Twitter | Goodreads  

My thoughts: this is the second Angela Hardwicke book I’ve read and while some of the concepts take a little while to wrap my brain round – I like science-y things but I don’t always get them, I really enjoyed this. I think the characters are great, not just Angela but all her PI contacts, her eccentric cabbie friend, her tech guru, her sidekick, the whole team. Plus her adorable son who’s still getting his words together and has a sweet lisp (I have one too). We get a lot more of Angela’s past too, and it’s really sad. It explains her tough exterior and refusal to get too close to people.

I’m starting to understand the concept of the city a lot more too – they literally live in the building blocks of the universe – at least I think that’s right. The case has Angela delving into the designs for new universes – and a really messed up system that treats the designers as a conveyor belt – they don’t even get credit for their work. I’m intrigued to see where this series goes next as there’s some clever concepts at play here and a PI can go almost anywhere.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, instagram, reviews

Blog Tour: Love and Other Sins – Emilia Ares

Over on Instagram today I’m reviewing Love and Other Sins by Emilia Ares, but as getting lots of info onto a tiny square is tricky, I’m posting more about the book here. Read on for a Q&A with the author and check out the link above for my thoughts.

Oliver and Mina develop a strong bond as the threads of their old lives begin to unravel and they are forced to reckon with family history that violently refuses to remain in the past. Love and Other Sins is a moving story about what it means to be young and vulnerable in today’s society.

“I wanted to tell the story of a first-generation Russian immigrant girl and a street-wise foster care system boy who find love,” Ares, known as an actress for roles in American Horror Story and Bosch. “Love and Other Sins discusses the nuanced experience of growing up in America with immigrant parents as well as the critical flaws of the foster care system.”Readers who fell for Looking for Alaska and Thirteen Reasons Why will devour Love and Other Sins.

Emilia Ares is an American film and television actress. Love and Other Sins is her debut novel. She graduated UCLA with a BA in Economics, and a minor in Russian. Literature and storytelling have always been her true passion.

Connect with Ares at EmiliaAres.com, and on Instagram and TikTok @EmiliaAres.

Q&A with Love and Other Sin author Emilia Ares


1) You’ve been a working actress for many years, how has writing fit into your life or how did you transition to writing?

Funny enough, I began writing while on one of my sets. I was doing a film and sometimes we have to wait for hours in between takes. In those situations, it’s best to do something to take your mind off the scene in order to keep the acting fresh and the reactions surprising. Reading is a great go-to but there had been this story and these characters–Oliver and Mina, who were living in my head and nagging at my brain. I just had to get them on paper, so-to-speak. I wrote a chapter of their story into my notes on my iPhone and I also jotted down what else would probably happen later on in the story. When I got back to town, I wanted to show it to my younger sister, Sofia, who was reading a lot of YA at the time–she ended up becoming an English major. She’s the one who encouraged me to keep writing and turn it into a book. She said she loved it and couldn’t wait for more. I don’t think Love and Other Sins would have existed without her encouragement.


2) What have you learned about storytelling from TV projects you’ve acted in like American Horror Story and Bosch?

I’ve learned a ton about storytelling from the TV and film projects I’ve acted in, especially the importance of a strong emotional connection with my characters. Creating a backstory for my characters on and off the screen was vital. More times than not, my character’s backstory was not provided to me either because the project was high profile and the full script was kept under-wraps or because I was playing a guest-star whose history was not explicitly discussed or mentioned in the script itself. So, I’d have to invent the backstory.

That process is very similar to writing characters in a book. I used my knowledge of how the character was described in the breakdown that was provided during the casting process including any traits, qualities, strengths, weaknesses, quirks. I would then make an educated guess about what this person ultimately wants/needs from life, taking into consideration the character arc in the scene/overall story to create a reasonable history for them. In the case of American Horror Story, I would ask myself where does Princess Anastasia Romanova come from? What makes her tick? What life events shaped her? Empowered her? Scarred her? What are her secrets? And how do those things effect how she walks, talks, speaks, ect. The backstory is usually never discussed but always exists in the thoughts of these characters which ultimately informs their actions. The more specific the backstory, the richer–what actor’s call–“the life” of the character is.

This was great practice for when it came time to create Oliver and Mina’s backstories. I would just pretend they were characters I was going to play. I entered their minds the way I would when I played my characters on set. This might be a different approach than most traditional writers and it’s most likely why I wrote in first person. I was documenting the moments as if they were happening to me in real time. Later, I rewrote the novel into past tense to give the story­telling and pacing more flexability.


3) Why was it important for you to write young people who are independent and self-reliant on parental support to go after their goals?

I honestly didn’t set out with the goal to write independent and self-reliant characters. I just wanted them to be interesting and as it turns out, self-reliant people must interest me. But I’m glad Oliver

and Mina developed into the people they became because there are plenty of teenagers out there who are on their own and could use someone like Oliver to identify with.

Mina is actually very reliant on her mother for moral support when we first meet her. However, this novel begins during the part of her life when she starts to break free from that support and she ventures off to discover who she is and what she wants. She will have many hardships ahead. We get to follow her down that tumultuous road and witness her slay the dragons or succumb. Oliver, on the other hand, built himself up from the most terrible circumstances and found his own silver-lining. He doesn’t have any family. He’s alone, therefore he’s independent out of necessity, not choice. I hope his story is inspirational to the youth that feel hopeless.


4) How did your own young adulthood prepare you to write this book?

My time as a teenager was as dramatic and angsty as anyone else’s. Everyday there was drama, rumors, gossip, bullying. No matter how hard I tried to keep my head down it felt as though it was inescapable. When I talk to my adult friends about their high-school experiences, I come to understand that we all felt that way. You know, it’s funny…as trivial as everything seems now, in the grand scheme of things, some of those moments really did matter and did shape me into who I am today. The most painful moments became the biggest life lessons. I knew what I had to do to never feel that way again. I learned who I had to stay away from and who I had to gravitate toward. It wasn’t all bad though, I had some great friends to get me through the tough parts. Those were the parts that were most similar to my life. Nyah was written based on a combination of a few of my friends and my sister. Lily was inspired by my mom.


5) What books and authors inspired you along the way?

The Stranger by Albert Camus because it challenged everything I ever knew or thought I knew about the hero of a story and made me feel so uncomfortable reading it.

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky not only for the revelation this novel brought to literature but also for the story behind writing it. Dostoevsky didn’t write it because he wanted to, he wrote it out of necessity. He wrote what he knew, the conditions and ramifications of a sick, drunk, impoverished Russia.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins because by the time 2008 rolled around, so much had already been written and said about a potential post-apocalyptic nation but somehow, Collins was able to put forth a fresh take on dystopia. I admire that very much. There is always more room for your voice, your perspective, your story.

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe because, again, it was very critically controversial. People didn’t know how to feel about it. On the one hand, Achebe ended up writing it in English, the language of colonialism which caused disagreement amongst many African critics in regards to the ultimate message of the novel. On the other hand, this was a novel that went against most of what was written about African culture at the time. It showed European colonialism from a different perspective portraying Igbo life from the point of view of an African man, a rich and sophisticated culture with a deep history, language, and beliefs.

But some of the first books and authors who inspired my love for storytelling were, The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold, Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson.


*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Rising Star – Michele Kwasniewski

In the first book in THE RISE AND FALL OF DANI TRUEHART series, RISING STAR, fifteen-year-old Dani Truehart is living a life that is not quite her own. Driven by her mother’s desire for fame and fortune, she has spent her childhood dutifully training for a career as a pop star. On the brink of discovery, doubts begin to creep into Dani’s mind as she questions her own desire for fame, and she wonders whether she can trust the motivations of the adults who are driving her forward.

Following a brilliant audition arranged by her vocal/dance coach and former ’80s pop icon Martin Fox, Dani is thrown full-force into the music industry. She leaves her friends, family and scheming mother behind to move with Martin, who has become her legal guardian, into the Malibu compound of her new manager, Jenner Redman. Jenner, the former swindling manager of Martin’s boy band, leverages what’s left of his depleted fortune to launch Dani’s career.

Isolated from her life at home and trying to stay apace with her demanding schedule, Dani struggles to keep in touch with those she loves, connect to her withholding mother and find her voice as an artist. With Martin and Jenner at odds over their rocky past and finding herself unprepared to handle the pressures of her future singing career, Dani’s debut album and future stardom are at risk of falling apart.

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Excerpt
I walk back to the couch, sit down and stare at my parents. I feel like I’ve aged a lifetime in the past few hours I’ve listening to my mom haggle over every detail of my contract like I’m a piece of meat at the butcher. “Mom, I’ve been working for this my whole life. Stop causing problems and let Martin do his job. You can’t threaten to stop me now after you’ve already given guardianship to Martin. Acting like a concerned parent this late in the game isn’t going to work. If you really wanted to protect me, you would have never handed me over to Martin.”
I shake my head and narrow my eyes at my mom, so furious I can barely speak. “I’m sorry that the money I make isn’t going directly into your pockets like you’d hoped. I promise the first thing I’ll do is to pay you and Dad back for all the lessons you’ve given me. You deserve some return on your investment. But if the past few hours have shown me anything, it’s why you really pushed me to do this all these years. I’m sorry that you won’t be getting the big payday you’d hoped for.”
My parents just sit there, stunned.
Tears stream down my face as I get up to leave. I’m a mess of anger and sadness, and I just want to be alone.

After graduating from Loyola Marymount University with a BA in Technical Theater, Michele Kwasniewski spent over fifteen years in film and television production. Starting out as a film set assistant on movies such as INDEPENDENCE DAY, FACE/OFF, PRIMAL FEAR, and EVITA, she worked her way up to production manager on TV shows including BIG BROTHER, ADOPTION STORIES, EXTRA YARDAGE and MEET THE PANDAS. She is also a proud member of the Producers Guild of America. Michele’s colorful experiences in the industry inspired her to write THE RISE AND FALL OF DANI TRUEHART series. Michele lives in San Clemente, California with her husband, their son, and their disobedient dachshund. RISING STAR is her first novel. Michele KwasniewskiTwitterFacebook

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My thoughts: this was a fun YA read, with Dani getting to live the dream of becoming a pop star. She’s also juggling her education and relationships – the hardest being with her mum, who’s a bit of a nightmare.

She worries about her boyfriend leaving her for the high school bitch, even though he insists he would never. Being holed up in a fancy mansion recording her first EP is all well and good, but she’s missing out on a lot of normal teenage life. Can she make it as a star and will it all be worth it?

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.