Books are food for my soul! Pull up a beach chair and stick your toes in the sand as the Jersey surf rolls in and out, now open your book and let your imagination take you away.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Just For You by Rosalind James (Author Guest Post / Book Review / Contest Giveaway)

In association with Reading Addiction Virtual Book Tours, Jersey Girl Book Reviews is pleased to host the virtual book tour event for Just For You by Author Rosalind James!

Author Guest Post

Dear New Zealand: Here’s What I Love About You 
By Rosalind James 

I originally wrote this post for the Romance Writers of New Zealand’s March 2013 newsletter.

1. The Tall Poppy thing. Where I grew up (hint: rural!), bragging about yourself was considered obnoxious. But U.S. popular culture is increasingly full of that. Randy Moss announced before a recent Super Bowl that he was the greatest wide receiver ever to play the game. Yes, that remark was met with derision (he isn’t), but the fact that he’d even say it is illustrative. An All Black would NEVER call himself the “greatest ever.” They go out of their way NOT to say that.

2. Behaving well. Especially amazing to us: the high standard of behavior to which NZ sportsmen and sportswomen are held, and the outrage when they behave badly. U.S. athletes will tell you that they aren’t role models—and with some exceptions, they aren’t! I’ve found the least attractive quality I can show in New Zealand is arrogance, the attitude that “I’ve got a problem, and it’s your job to fix it RIGHT NOW.” You’re polite! We love that!

3. Safety and quality of life. Yes, I know that there’s more crime and social unrest in New Zealand than is evident in my books. Still, it always makes me chuckle to hear Kiwis (or Aussies) complain about things like public transit, crime, litter, etc. It is just so much NICER where you live. In the U.S., public toilets are virtually nonexistent. That might seem like a frivolous issue--until you need one.

4. Being responsible for yourself. The simple fact that you can’t sue for personal injury changes everything. The first time I swam at Mission Bay, I kept looking around for the markers that would show me where I could go. It took me the whole swim to realize that there weren’t any! It was up to me to keep myself safe.

5. The “she’ll be right” thing. A B&B operator was talking to me about Americans. She described them coming into the main house all worried, saying, “There are no forks! What should I do?” And her bemused response, “Well, you can ask me, and I’ll give you one.”

6. Work/Life balance. We don’t have it and you do. When I was working at a, you know, JOB, I expected to put in a good 60 hours a week. My husband still does. Everyone has such a good time when they come to Australia or New Zealand to work! The idea that you can take the weekend off—believe me, that’s novel.

7. Maori culture is cool.

8. It’s pretty. And the All Blacks are good-looking, and wear tight jerseys and short shorts. What can I say. It’s true.

About The Author

Rosalind James, the bestselling author of the Escape to New Zealand and Kincaids series, is a former marketing executive who discovered her muse after several years of living and working in paradise--also known as Australia and New Zealand. Now, she spends her days writing about delicious rugby players, reality shows, corporate intrigue, and all sorts of other wonderful things, and having more fun doing it than should be legal.


Book Review

Just For You by Rosalind James
Book .5 (Prequel Novella): Escape to New Zealand Series
Publisher: Independent Self Publishing
Publication Date: July 31, 2014
Format: Paperback - 120 pages
              Kindle - 2521 KB
ISBN: 978-0988761995
Genre: Chick Lit / Contemporary Romance / Sports Themed: Rugby

BUY THE BOOK: Just For You

BUY THE SERIES: Escape to New Zealand Series
Book .5: Just For You
Book 1: Just This Once
Book 2: Just Good Friends
Book 3: Just For Now
Book 4: Just For Fun
Book 5: Just My Luck
Book 6: Just Not Mine

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author in exchange for my honest review and participation in a virtual book tour event hosted by Reading Addiction Virtual Book Tours.

Book Description:

No shirt, no shoes, no … problems?

Hemi Ranapia isn’t looking for love. Fun, yes. Love, not so much. But a summer fishing holiday to laid-back Russell could turn out to be more adventure than this good-time boy ever bargained for.

Reka Harata hasn't forgotten the disastrously sexy rugby star she met a year ago, no matter how much she wishes she could. Too bad Hemi keeps refusing to be left in her past.

Sometimes, especially in New Zealand’s Maori Northland, it really does take a village. And sometimes it just takes a little faith.

NOTE: This 36,000-word (120-page) novella begins about six years before the events of Just This Once, and yes, it gets a little steamy at times, because Reka and Hemi are just that way. It can be read as a stand-alone book, even if this is your first escape to New Zealand.

Book Excerpt:

She’d noticed him even while she’d been walking down the aisle in the wharenui, wearing the stupid strapless dress of blood-red satin that Victoria had chosen, a dress she was definitely not going to be wearing again, a dress that had “bridesmaid” written all over it. She’d been supposed to be paying attention to her pace, and instead she’d been looking at the man sitting at the end of the row, up there to her right. A man who was looking right back at her. A mate of the groom’s, she knew, because Victoria had told them all he was coming.

Hemi Ranapia, the starting No. 10 for the Auckland Blues, one of the year’s new caps for the All Blacks, and about the finest specimen of Maori manhood she’d ever seen. His dark, wavy hair cut short and neat, his brown eyes alive with interest as he watched her. A physique to die for, too, his shoulders broad in the black suit, his waistline trim, the size of his arms and thighs making it clear that the suit hadn’t come off any rack, because that had taken some extra material.

She’d stood in her neat row to one side of the bride throughout the service, had done her best to keep her attention on the event, and had felt his gaze on her as surely as if he’d been touching her. She’d had to will herself not to shiver, and the look he sent her way, unsmiling and intent, when she walked back up the aisle again told her she hadn’t been imagining his interest.

She’d still had what felt like hours of photo-taking to come. Standing around endlessly, smiling in the sunshine, arranging and rearranging herself according to the photographer’s instructions, being flirted with by one of the groomsmen, with Hemi in and out of her view all the while. His suit coat off now, his tie loosened, white shirt stretching across chest and shoulders. A beer in his hand and a smile on his face, having a chat with the other boys, being approached, at first shyly and then with enthusiasm, by the kids. And by the girls, she saw with a twinge of jealousy that made no sense at all, as one after another of them smiled for him, touched her hair, touched his arm. It looked to her like every unattached woman at the wedding, and more than one of the partnered ones as well, was going out of her way to chat him up. And he wasn’t exactly resisting.

But he was looking at her all the same. Every now and then, she glanced across and his gaze caught hers, and she saw an expression on his face, an intensity and a heat that were making her burn. By the time the photography was done and she was released at last, the wedding party moving into the wharekai so the eating and drinking and dancing could begin, she was well and truly warmed up, and tingling more than a little in every single place she could imagine him touching with those clever hands, the hands she somehow knew would handle a woman as deftly as they handled a rugby ball.

The band began to play, the bride and groom stepped into their first dance, and she saw him edging his way around an animated group towards her, a glass in each hand. He reached her side, handed her the flute of champagne with the flash of a smile.

“Think you earned this,” he told her.

She took it, and he touched his glass to hers.

“Cheers,” he said with another white smile, the heat in his gaze unmistakable at this range. He tipped his brown throat back and drank, and she mirrored his action, felt golden bubbles popping against her tongue, the cool liquid sliding down her own throat. Drinking together like that somehow felt as intimate as kissing him, and the tongues of flame were licking every secret spot now.

“Took your time, didn’t you?” she asked him with a cool she wasn’t even close to feeling.

He laughed. “Didn’t want to seem too eager. Doing my best to be smooth here, but it’s hard going.”

Another long drink, another long look as Victoria and Mason finished their dance and the band began another number, a fast one, and couples started filling the floor.

“Think I can get a dance?” he asked.

“Mmm, I think you could,” she said. “Maybe so.”

My Book Review:

Welcome to New Zealand ... land of Kiwis and everything rugby! In Just For You, the prequel novella to the Escape to New Zealand series, author Rosalind James provides the reader with a wonderful tale of romance that starts the whole series with the story of Hemi Ranapia and Reka Harata.

Just For You provides the reader with a romantic relationship and rugby theme set in New Zealand that continues in each book of the series, it is a happy feel good kind of romance story that simply makes you smile. Written in the third person narrative, the reader follows Hemi and Reka's journey from each of their perspectives as their love story unfolds. The story flows smoothly as Hemi and Reka relationship develops with issues and basic relationship yearnings, steamy interactions, and some dramatic twists and turns that keeps the reader turning the pages.

True to the other books in the series, the author provides the reader with stories that are set in New Zealand and revolve around the popular sport of rugby. The attention to detail and description of New Zealand's history and dialect, and the nuance of the professional game of rugby will peak the reader's interest and imagination.

I enjoyed the author's character development of Hemi and Reka throughout the story. After reading all of the other books in the series, I was so excited and happy to finally get to read this amazing couple's love story. With an interesting cast of characters; engaging dialogue and interactions; and a storyline that mixes humor, drama and romance; Just For You is a heartwarming and enjoyable read!


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Virtual Book Tour

Life Discarded by D.E. Haggerty (Book Review / Contest Giveaway)

In association with Reading Addiction Blog Tours, Jersey Girl Book Reviews is pleased to host the virtual book release day blitz event for Life Discarded by Author D.E. Haggerty!

Life Discarded by D.E. Haggerty
Publisher: Independent Self Publishing
Publication Date: August 24,2014 (Paperback) / September 1, 2014 (eBook)
Format: Paperback - 220 pages
              Kindle - 1178 KB
              Nook - 284 KB
ISBN: 978-1500829810
Genre: Women's Fiction / Suspense Thriller

BUY THE BOOK: Life Discarded

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author in exchange for my honest review and participation in a virtual book tour event hosted by Reading Addiction Virtual Book Tours.

Book Description:

Why would a woman who has it all throw her life away? Morgan has the perfect life. She married the man of her dreams. Daniel is smart, gorgeous and successful. Everything she has always wanted in a husband and the father of her children. But he’s also domineering, overprotective and jealous. Is living with him enough to drive Morgan over the edge? Or does something more treacherous lurk beneath the fa├žade?

A gorgeous, sweet woman that is oblivious to her own beauty. She’s shy with men, but a rock to her friends. A librarian in a small town in the mid-west. She’s been waiting a long-time to find the one.

An accountant in the city who will do anything to be the youngest partner in his firm. He always gets what he wants and he wants Morgan. He will pursue Morgan until she submits.

They rush through a courtship and marry within a year of meeting. Morgan’s life is perfect. She has a job she loves, a best friend for which she would do anything and a husband that completes her. But things are not often as they appear. Behind closed doors the loving Daniel that Morgan married is jealous and overprotective. Sometimes he’s even domineering.

Morgan runs away – destroying everything in her path as she disappears. What made this good girl go bad?

Book Excerpt:


Shaking hands steer the car to the nearest full service gas station. Only one or two gas stations in town still offer full service, but she had done her homework and knew this one did. Not only did full service guarantee that someone else would be pumping her gas, but its expense meant that there’s never a wait. Maneuvering the car to the furthest full service pump, she waits, hands clutching the steering wheel, for the attendant.

After what feels like an eternity to her fevered brain, the attendant finally notices her and saunters over to her car. Her eyes follow him, silently urging him to quicken his pace. Come on, come on. “Fill it up,” she squeaks at him when he finally reaches her car. She grabs her over-large purse and jumps out of the car, nearly tripping in her haste. Looking back, she whispers “I’m sorry” to the oblivious attendant before continuing around the building.

When she reaches the rear of the building, she frantically scans the area. Finally she spots the large garbage container, not in its usual spot. She jogs to it and squats behind it; shrinking into herself and covering her ears. Just in time. A loud bang shakes the earth below her feet. Looking up, she sees flames shooting into the sky.

Time to get out of here. She stands on shaky legs, taking a moment to calm her erratic breath before walking in the opposite direction – refusing to look back.

My Book Review:

If you are looking for a riveting women's fiction with a suspense thriller twist, then Life Discarded is the book for you. Author D.E. Haggerty weaves a dark, intense, and drama filled tale that follows the disintegration of the complex and dysfunctional marriage of Morgan and Daniel.

Morgan thought that she had found her prince charming in Daniel, that they could have the perfect life together. But does one really ever know another person's true colors? Things are not as they appear, and behind closed doors Daniel's true colors come out, forcing Morgan to face the dilemma of whether their dysfunctional marriage is worth staying in, or should she run as far away as she can.

Life Discarded is an intriguing story that easily draws the reader into Morgan and Daniel's lives from the very beginning. Author D. E. Haggerty weaves a complex tale that takes the reader on an emotional roller coaster ride. This story is full of enough drama, suspense, and surprising twists and turns, you can't help but keep turning the pages just to see what would happen next. It's the kind of story that is realistic and believable, it is also thought provoking and makes you wonder what would you do if you were in Morgan's shoes. Life Discarded would make a perfect Lifetime television movie, it is the kind of story that will stay with you for a very long time.


About The Author

D.E. Haggerty was born and raised in Wisconsin but thinks she’s a European. After spending her senior year of high school in Germany, she developed a bad case of wanderlust that is yet to be cured. After high school she returned to the U.S. to go to college ending up with a Bachelor’s degree in History at the tender age of 20 while still managing to spend time bouncing back and forth to Europe during her vacations. Unable to find a job after college and still suffering from wanderlust, she joined the U.S. Army as a Military Policewoman for 5 years. While stationed in Heidelberg, Germany, she met her future husband, a flying Dutchman. After being given her freedom from the Army, she went off to law school. She finished law school and moved to the Netherlands with her husband and became a commercial lawyer for more than a decade.

During a six month break from the lawyering world, she wrote her first book, Unforeseen Consequences. Although she finished the book, she went back to the law until she could no longer take it and upped stakes and moved to Germany to start a B&B. Three years after starting the B&B, she got the itch and decided to pull the manuscript for Unforeseen Consequences out of the attic and get it published as an e-book. Deciding that she may have indeed finally found what she wanted to do with her life, she went on to write Buried Appearances. After moving to Istanbul, she started on Life: Discarded, her third book.

Between tennis, running, traveling, singing off tune and reading books like they are going out of style, she writes articles for a local expat magazine and various websites, reviews other indie authors’ books, writes a blog about whatever comes to mind and is working on her fourth book.


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Virtual Book Tour 

Tour Schedule:

Chronicles of a Lincoln Park Fashionista by Aven Ellis (Author Guest Post / Book Review)

In association with Chick Lit Plus Blog Tours, Jersey Girl Book Reviews is pleased to host the virtual book tour event for Chronicles of a Lincoln Park Fashionista by Author Aven Ellis!

Author Guest Post

The Fashions in Fashionista

Obviously from the title of my newest release, Chronicles of a Lincoln Park Fashionista, you can tell that fashion is going to be a part of the storyline. The heroine, Avery Andrews, loves everything about it—the way a beautiful outfit is put together, how good it feels to wear the perfect outfit, and the thrill of shopping for something new for a wardrobe.

But I also use fashion as a tool to give the reader an insight into the characters themselves.

In Avery’s case, she is young, a recent university graduate, and living on her own for the first time in Chicago. Her clothing needed to reflect her evolution from a student to an urban working woman. In the opening scene in the book, we learn she lives in the upscale, trendy neighborhood of Lincoln Park. Avery was headed off to her job in airline marketing, so I dressed her in a MARC by Marc Jacobs dress. Now, MARC by Marc Jacobs is a diffusion line—meaning it is a secondary line created by a high-end designer/house that retails at a lower price. So while Avery might covet a Marc Jacob dress, it’s more likely that she would purchase a MARC by Marc Jacobs dress (and still be stretching to afford it.) Yet Avery is still 21, and the story takes place during the summer in Chicago, so I made sure to mention her wardrobe was packed with tank tops and flip-flops (staples in every young woman’s closet) that she would wear on weekends or when she was off work. Avery is also very feminine and girly, and loves to dress up to go out for a night on the town, so I made sure her character was often seen in dresses and skirts. You can actually see the visual inspiration for Avery’s wardrobe here: 

Fashion is also used in contrast for the hero of the story, Deke Ryan. Deke is a bit older than Avery and has been in the working world for a while. While Avery considers fashion essential to her life, Deke could care less about it. So in this situation, fashion is used to show how the two characters are different in that sense. Deke is a videographer for a travel channel, and is used to blending into the background (which he prefers) and his job requires clothing that allows him to work comfortably. While Avery is trying to figure out a way to get that Burberry scarf that will be her signature piece for her winter wardrobe, Deke is rummaging through vintage T-shirts at resale shops. Deke is known for his ancient T-shirts, which are broken in, comfortable, and reflect something he likes, for example, his Guns N’ Roses T-shirt. His clothing is understated, like he is. Here is the visual inspiration for Deke’s wardrobe: 

But the question is, can a girl in a ZAC by Zac Posen dress end up with a guy in a beat-up Chicago Bears T-shirt? You’ll just have to read the book to find out...

About The Author

Aven Ellis has been writing fiction since she was sixteen. She studied communications at a large Midwestern university, and after graduation, Aven worked as a reporter for a community newspaper, followed by a stint at a public relations agency.

But writing about city council meetings and restaurant franchises was not as much fun as writing for young women trying to figure out their careers and potential boyfriends. So Aven got herself a job in television that allowed her to write at night. Connectivity is Aven’s debut novel; Waiting For Prince Harry and Chronicles of a Lincoln Park Fashionista (New Adult romantic comedy) will be published this year.

Aven lives in Dallas with her family. When she is not writing, Aven enjoys shopping, cooking, connecting with friends on social media, and watching any show that features Gordon Ramsay.


Book Review

Chronicles of a Lincoln Park Fashionista by Aven Ellis
Publisher: Soul Mate Publishing
Publication Date: September 10, 2014
Format: eBook - 223 pages
              Kindle - 3800 KB
Genre: Contemporary Romance / Chick Lit 

BUY THE BOOK: Chronicles of a Lincoln Park Fashionista

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author / publisher in exchange for my honest review and participation in a virtual book tour event hosted by Chick Lit Plus Blog Tours.

Book Description:

Recent college graduate Avery Andrews is ready to begin a new life in the big city. She’s landed an apartment in Chicago’s famed Lincoln Park neighborhood–and has her eye on the cute commodity trader just a floor above.

If Premier Airlines knew about her fear of flying, they never would have hired her to be their marketing assistant—but it’s not like Avery wants a lifelong career. Right now she simply wants a job to pay her bills . . . and fund a few little shopping excursions, too.

Her new lifestyle comes with a price tag, as Avery is not only faced with paying a ridiculous rent but finds she’s perceived as one of the vacant, husband-hunting fashionistas who live in the area. Avery resents this stereotype. So she doesn’t want a lifelong career, and she loves fashions she can’t afford, but that doesn’t mean she is empty-headed and spoiled, does it?

When an opportunity to participate in a documentary at work arises, Avery finds a two-fold solution to her problems. She’ll earn extra money for it, and the documentary will show her as a serious career woman, enabling her to shed that husband-hunting fashionista label for good.

When the camera is on, Avery attempts to be a motivated professional woman. But when she is challenged by Deacon Ryan, the videographer assigned to cover her story, Avery finds herself wanting things she was never supposed to want—like a lasting career—and Deacon. And Avery might just gain more from the experience than a perfect career image and extra cash to put in her Tory Burch wallet . . .

Book Excerpt:

Sullivan reaches for my hair again. I jerk my head to the side, moving it out of Sullivan’s reach, because I think I might scream if he touches my hair one more time.

Okay. Now Deke will come over here with Zach. I’ll greet him, introduce him to my friends, and then Bree and I can go sit with them at another table.

Wait a second. Deke and Zach are walking over to the dartboard. I quickly realize Deke has no intention of coming over here.

He turns around and looks at me, his eyes burning into mine for a second. Deke takes a sip of his beer, puts it back on the table, and picks up some darts. He immediately turns his attention to the dartboard, as if I’m not even here.

Oooh! That’s it. I’ve had it.

“Excuse me,” I say, nudging Sullivan. “I need to get out, please.”

“But I just got here,” Sullivan snaps, sounding annoyed. “I haven’t even had a drink yet.”

I don’t say another word. I let my eyes tell Sullivan I intend to get out of this booth, even if it means climbing over him or crawling underneath the table.

Sullivan sighs heavily and slides out. I turn to Bree briefly before leaving.

“I see someone I need to talk to,” I say simply. “I’ll be back in a few minutes.”

I slide out of the booth and make my way across the bar. I go up to Deke, who is propped against the edge of a barstool. His strong arms are folded across his chest, a bottle of beer in one hand as he watches Zach throw darts.

I stop dead in my tracks as I approach him. I take in what he’s wearing—a beautiful azure T-shirt that shows off his athletic upper body and jeans. His hair is perfectly tousled, his face lightly shaded with blondish-brown stubble. And he’s so damn hot and mysterious that I’m suddenly unable to breathe.

Deke turns and I find myself mad all over again, because now he’s the one playing a game.

I march up to him and before I can stop myself, I blurt out what is going through my head.

“Why didn’t you come rescue me?” I yell at him, exasperated.

Deke studies me for a moment. He takes a swig of his beer, casually puts the bottle on the table next to him, and leans toward me, lowering his head so it’s next to my ear.

“I wasn’t aware that you needed to be rescued from the man of your dreams, Fashionista,” he murmurs over the music.

Every inch of me comes alive as his words vibrate against my ear. I get goose bumps. My skin in tingling in this delicious way I’ve never experienced before.

He stands back up and studies me. I’m about to respond when he gently puts his thumb on my cheek, wiping away a streak of lip-gloss that Sullivan has left behind.

Oh.My.God. I feel a million sparks the second Deke touches me. I shiver and suck in a breath of air, unnerved by the experience of his skin against mine.

“So do you need to be rescued?” he asks.

My Book Review:

Chronicles of a Lincoln Park Fashionista is a lighthearted and entertaining story that follows the journey of Avery Andrews as she transitions from a college graduate to a working woman, and how life unexpectedly changes her outlook and plans for her life.

Author Aven Ellis weaves such a fun and flirty story that easily draws the reader into Avery's life as her journey of self-discovery takes her from a carefree and diehard fashionista with no long term career plans ... well other than finding a wealthy husband ... to a young woman who matures and unexpectedly finds herself wanting a serious career, when she is featured in a travel documentary of the behind-the-scenes look at her job as a marketing assistant at Premier Airlines. Avery's unexpected change in life plans is spurred on by sexy videographer Deke Ryan, who challenges Avery to strive to find her passion and be more than what she had originally planned.

I loved the mixture of fashion, romance, humor, and drama that was intertwined within the storyline, it kept me engaged and turning the pages. I really enjoyed the banter and chemistry between Avery and Deke, it was so much fun following how their relationship developed, they really seem to bring out the best in each other. I would be remiss if I didn't mention that I loved how the author transports the reader to Chicago's trendy neighborhood of Lincoln Park, she definitely knows how to bring out the reader's inner fashionista with her rich descriptions.

Chronicles of a Lincoln Park Fashionista is a delightful romantic novel that will make you laugh, and leave a smile on your face.


Virtual Book Tour

Tour Schedule:

September 15 – Reading in Black and White – Review & Excerpt
September 16 – Ski-Wee’s Book Corner – Guest Post 
September 17 – Chick Lit Plus – Review
September 18 – Two Children and a Migraine – Review & Guest Post
September 19 – Jersey Girl Book Reviews – Review, Guest Post & Excerpt
September 22 – Fiction Zeal – Review & Excerpt
September 22 – Every Free Chance Book Reviews – Review

Monday, September 15, 2014

Palmetto Moon by Kim Boykin (Author Guest Post / Book Review)

In association with Pump Up Your Book Tours, Jersey Girl Book Reviews is pleased to host the virtual book tour event for Palmetto Moon by Author Kim Boykin!

Author Guest Post

The Story Behind Palmetto Moon

If I could wish ANYTHING for you, other than unlimited good health and happiness, it would be to experience that ethereal place I write from. It’s a place I learned to trust implicitly a long time ago.

With Palmetto Moon, I wrote about Round O, South Carolina as if I knew it like the back of my hand. I’d never been there before and had only driven through Walterboro, another town in the book, on the way to Edisto Island over thirty years ago. So, before I turned the Palmetto Moon manuscript into my editor, last summer, I decided I should visit to make sure I got the places right.

I was pleasantly surprised and then shocked at one of those ethereal moments. Dana and Bonita Cheney, the nice couple from the Colleton County Historical Society who showed me around Walterboro, offered to show me Round O. To be honest, with the majority of the story taking place there, and having never been there, I was more than a little nervous.

I’d sent Dana and Bonita a synopsis of Palmetto Moon, that mentioned Miss Mamie’s Boarding House. When we got to Round O, which really is a crossroads community (for those of you who don’t know what that is, it’s a crossroads with a few houses, maybe a church, a little store,) Dana asked me if I’d like to see Miss Mamie’s Boarding House.

There on the corner was a dilapidated two-story clapboard home that very well could have been Vada’s home in 1947. I was amazed. Then he asked me if I wanted to see what it looked like in 1947. He eased down the road about 100 feet and there was the EXACT house I’d pictured when I was writing the book. I know this picture is a little cockeyed but I was completely stunned.

A few weeks later, I approached Dick Elliott, the owner of Maverick Southern Kitchens, and nationally renowned SNOB in Charleston about contributing recipes for the book. I wanted to use them in lieu of Reader Questions. Turns out the executive chef’s name at SNOB is Frank Lee, and my hero’s name is Frank Darling. Coincidence? Maybe, but I’m tagging it as a gift from the ether.

About The Author

Kim Boykin was raised in her South Carolina home with two girly sisters and great parents. She had a happy, boring childhood, which sucks if you’re a writer because you have to create your own crazy. PLUS after you’re published and you’re being interviewed, it’s very appealing when the author actually lived in Crazy Town or somewhere in the general vicinity.

Almost everything she learned about writing, she learned from her grandpa, an oral storyteller, who was a master teacher of pacing and sensory detail. He held court under an old mimosa tree on the family farm, and people used to come from all around to hear him tell stories about growing up in rural Georgia and share his unique take on the world.

As a stay-at-home mom, Kim started writing, grabbing snip-its of time in the car rider line or on the bleachers at swim practice. After her kids left the nest, she started submitting her work, sold her first novel at 53, and has been writing like crazy ever since.

Thanks to the lessons she learned under that mimosa tree, her books are well reviewed and, according to RT Book Reviews, feel like they’re being told across a kitchen table. She is the author of The Wisdom of Hair from Berkley, Steal Me, Cowboy and Sweet Home Carolina from Tule, and Palmetto Moon, also from Berkley 8/5/14. While her heart is always in the Lowcountry of South Carolina, she lives in Charlotte and has a heart for hairstylist, librarians, and book junkies like herself.


Book Review

Palmetto Moon by Kim Boykin
Book 1: Lowcountry Series
Publisher: Berkley / Penguin Group
Publication Date: August 5, 2014
Format: Paperback - 320 pages   
              Kindle - 1456 KB
              Nook - 2 MB
ISBN: 978-0425272107
Genre: Southern Women's Fiction / Historical Fiction

BUY THE BOOK: Palmetto Moon

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author / publisher in exchange for my honest review and participation in a virtual book tour event hosted by Pump Up Your Book Tours. 

Book Description:

June, 1947. Charleston is poised to celebrate the biggest wedding in high-society history, the joining of two of the oldest families in the city. Except the bride is nowhere to be found…

Unlike the rest of the debs she grew up with, Vada Hadley doesn’t see marrying Justin McLeod as a blessing—she sees it as a life sentence. So when she finds herself one day away from a wedding she doesn’t want, she’s left with no choice but to run away from the future her parents have so carefully planned for her.

In Round O, South Carolina, Vada finds independence in the unexpected friendships she forms at the boarding house where she stays, and a quiet yet fulfilling courtship with the local diner owner, Frank Darling. For the first time in her life, she finally feels like she’s where she’s meant to be. But when her dear friend Darby hunts her down, needing help, Vada will have to confront the life she gave up—and decide where her heart truly belongs.

Book Excerpt:

Charleston, SC

June 20, 1947

“Murrah?” Rosa Lee’s eyes go wide and she shakes her head at me like I’ve forgotten the rules, but I haven’t. Since before I was born, my parents forbade the servants to speak their native tongue in our house. Offenders were given one warning; a second offense brought immediate dismissal. I say the Gullah word again, drawing it out softly. “Why are you crying?” The hands that helped bring me into the world motion for me to lower my voice.

Rosa Lee’s husband, Desmond, told me my first word was murrah. It was what I called Rosa Lee, until Mother made me call her by name. “My own murrah.” The forbidden words bring more tears. I press my face into the soft curve of her neck and breathe in the Ivory soap Mother insists all the servants use, mingled with Rosa Lee’s own scent—vanilla and lemongrass.

She holds me at arm’s length, trembling, and I know I’ve done it again.

“You got to tell them,” she pleads. “Make them see you can’t go through with this.”

I point to the door that leads to the elegant dining room where my parents are eating their breakfast. “I have told them. Mother refuses to listen, and I’ve begged Father. He says I have to do this.” She looks away. Her body rocks, sobbing violently on the inside. “Rosa Lee, please don’t cry. I can’t bear it.” She shakes her head and swipes at the tears that stain the sleeve of her freshly pressed uniform. “I won’t do it again. I promise.”

“When you’re asleep, your heart takes over. You got no control, and it’s gonna kill you.”

She’s right. Since I graduated and moved home from college two weeks ago, I’ve been sleepwalking like I did when I was a child, but these outings don’t land me snuggled up in the servant’s quarters, between Desmond and Rosa Lee. Most of the time, I wake up and return to bed without incident, but last week Desmond found me trying to leave the house. He said I was babbling about sleeping in the bay, which might not have been so disturbing if I hadn’t been wearing five layers of heavy clothing. I knew what he thought I was trying to do to myself and told him not to worry.

Since then, Rosa Lee has insisted on sleeping on the stiff brocade chaise in my bedroom. Of course, my parents don’t know she’s there or that she’s so afraid I’ll walk to the bay or step off the balcony in my sleep, she’s tethered my ankle to the bedpost with three yards of satin rope she begged from Mrs. O’Doul.

“Maybe it will be different after the wedding.” I love her enough to lie to her. “Father says I’m a Hadley and once it’s over with, I’ll fall in line the way I was born to.”

“But what if Desmond hadn’t caught you?” She threads her fingers in mine and kisses the back of my hand. A part of me wishes her intuition hadn’t sent Desmond to check on me, that he hadn’t found me. “And what are you gonna do when we’re not there?”

“Don’t say that.” My knees buckle, and I melt into a puddle at her feet. Justin has made it clear he’s happy with his staff and has no plans to add “two ancient servants.” But living under his roof and not having Rosa Lee and Desmond with me is unthinkable, another high price of being the last Hadley descendant.

“You think it’s not going to get worse after you’re married? Who do you think’s gonna be there to save you? Mr. Justin?” She hisses the last word. “You think long and hard before the sun comes up tomorrow, because I’m afraid down to my bones that you won’t be alive to see it.”

She collects herself and heads into the dining room to check on my parents. They won’t look into her beautiful brown face and see she’s been crying any more than they see this wedding is killing me, or at least the idea of being yoked to Justin McLeod is. Not because he’s eight years older than me and, other than our station in life, we have nothing in common, and not because of his good qualities, although no one can find more than two: He is a heart-stoppingly beautiful man and the sole heir of the largest fortune in Charleston.

For over a hundred years, Justin’s family and mine have built ships. And while two world wars made us rich, a prolonged peace threatens to weaken our family fortunes considerably. Somewhere in all that, my father convinced Justin a Hadley-McLeod union would position them to take over the world, at least the shipping world. And Father is certain nothing short of a blood union will keep Justin in the partnership.

Rosa Lee pushes through the swinging door and pours the coffee down the drain, her signal that breakfast is over and my parents are no longer close by. I smile, trying to reassure her I’m okay, that I’m going to be okay. She shakes her head and starts to wash one of the breakfast plates in slow motion, barely breathing. I hate those things, and after tomorrow, I’ll own twenty-four place settings of them, part of my dowry. I don’t give a damn about thousand-dollar plates, but I do care for Rosa Lee.

“I can do this.” I say from behind her. My voice sounds sure, steady. “I will do this.”

My Book Review:

Palmetto Moon is a captivating tale about a young wealthy Southern woman who embarks on a journey of self-discovery and independence.

Author Kim Boykin transports the reader back to the Post WWII time period of June 1947 in South Carolina's Lowcountry of Charleston and Round O, where they follow twenty year old Vada Hadley's escape from an archaic arranged marriage on a journey towards self-independence and seeking her own path in life.

On the eve of her old money arranged marriage to a man she didn't love, Vada escapes from her family's Charleston home with the help of her beloved servants Rosa Lee and Desmond, and embarks on a journey of self-discovery fifty miles away in the little crossroads rural town of Round O. Vada's journey to start her life the way she envisioned is filled with innocence, life lessons, determination, new friends, and an unexpected romance.

Palmetto Moon is a delightful Lowcountry tale filled with plenty of Southern charm that easily draws the reader into the engaging story of a young woman's quest to live life on her own means back in a time when a woman's station in life was very different.

As a fan of Southern Fiction and Lowcountry tales in particular, I found myself captivated and drawn into Vada's story by the author's rich description of the setting and the Southern way of life during that time period. Filled with endearing and quirky characters, drama, suspense, a sweet innocent romance, and intriguing twists and turns, I couldn't help but get swept away and lose myself in the story as it unfolded. I would be remiss if I didn't mention that I absolutely loved the mouthwatering recipes that are included at the end of the book!


Virtual Book Tour

Tour Schedule:

Monday, August 4
Character Interview at The Literary Nook

Tuesday, August 5
Guest Blogging at The Book Faery Reviews

Wednesday, August 6
Interview at Beyond the Books

Thursday, August 7
First Chapter Reveal at Beyond the Books

Friday, August 8
Interview at Blogcritics

Monday, August 11
Guest Blogging at The Story Behind the Book

Tuesday, August 12
Interview at As the Pages Turn

Thursday, August 14
Guest Blogging at What Is That Book About

Monday, August 18
First Chapter Reveal at Read My First Chapter

Tuesday, August 19
Book Featured at Bound 2 Escape

Wednesday, August 20
Book Review at Cheryl’s Book Nook

Thursday, August 21
Book Featured at Confessions of a Reader

Monday, August 25
Book Review at The Road to Here

Tuesday, August 26
Interview at The Writer’s Life

Friday, August 29
Interview at Examiner

Monday, September 2
Guest Blogging at The Writer’s Life

Tuesday, September 3
Book Featured at CBY Book Club

Wednesday, September 4
Book Review at Southeast by Midwest

Monday, September 8
Book Review at Book Reviews and More by Kathy

Tuesday, September 9
Book Review at My Book Addiction Reviews
Guest Blogging at My Book Addiction and More

Wednesday, September 10
Book Review at Book by Book

Thursday, September 11
Guest Blogging at Lori’s Reading Corner

Monday, September 15
Book Review & Guest Blogging at Jersey Girl Book Reviews

Tuesday, September 16
Book Review at Reading Reality

Wednesday, September 17
Book Review & Guest Blogging at Not Everyone’s Mama

Thursday, September 18
Book Review at Deal Sharing Aunt

Monday, September 22
First Chapter Reveal at As the Page Turns

Tuesday, September 23
Book Review at Book Club Sisters

Wednesday, September 24
Book Review at Book Reviews by Dee

Thursday, September 25
Book Review at My Devotional Thoughts

Friday, September 26
Book Review at My Book Retreat

Monday, October 6
Interview at PUYB Virtual Book Club

Tuesday, October 7
Book Review at Becky on Books

Wednesday, October 8
Book Featured at Maureen’s Musings

Thursday, October 9
Book Review at Acting Balanced

Monday, October 13
Interview at The Book Rack

Tuesday, October 14
Book Review at Kaisy Daisy’s Corner

Wednesday, October 15
Guest Blogging at Acting Balanced
Book Review at Bottles and Books Reviews

Thursday, October 16
Interview at Booklover Sue
Book Review at Mary’s Cup of Tea

Monday, October 20
Book Review & Guest Blogging at StoreyBook Reviews

Tuesday, October 21
Book Review at I’d Rather Be At The Beach

Wednesday, October 22
Book Review & Guest Blogging at Chick With Books

Thursday, October 23
Book Review at Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers

Monday, October 27
Book Review at A Book Geek
Book Review at Written Love

Tuesday, October 28
Book Review at Melina’s Book Blog

Wednesday, October 29
Book Review at Svetlana’s Reads and Views

Thursday, October 30
Book Review at Celtic Lady’s Reviews

Friday, October 31
Book Tour Highlights at PUYB Virtual Book Club

Biking Uphill by Arleen Williams (Author Guest Post / Book Review)

In association with Chick Lit Plus Blog Tours, Jersey Girl Book Reviews is pleased to host the virtual book tour event for Biking Uphill by Author Arleen Williams!

Author Guest Post

My Dad's Pennies

I heard a whisper of Dad's laughter over my right shoulder, saw the twinkle in his bright blue eyes, as I stood at the Coinstar machine pushing pennies through the tray and cringing at the racket I was causing.

I don't know how many year my dad collected pennies, but I do know that from the time I returned home after a dozen years of wandering a large, heavy glass water bottle stood in the corner of the kitchen collecting pennies. A few years later, when my daughter stood as tall as the jar, he'd put a penny in her tiny hand and guide it into the jar, listening for the plink, always making certain it never reached her mouth instead. Now my daughter is a lovely young woman of twenty-five and her Boppa has been gone since 2002.

For seven more years after my father's death while my mother continued to live in the same house, the penny jar held its spot in the corner of the kitchen though few if any pennies were added to Dad's collection. After all, he had alternately referred to those pennies as his retirement fund or his vacation fund. Now he had no use for either.

During my mother's final years in dementia care, the penny jar went into a storage unit along with her other possessions. When she passed in 2013 and my siblings and I disposed of her small estate, the penny jar landed in the corner of my small writing room and there it stood forlorn and unwanted for another year and a half.

As summer comes to another close and I sort and organize in preparation for family visits and the start of a new academic year, my hours of silent writing and long bike rides coming to an end, I decide it's time to say good-bye to the penny jar.

In a task that my back muscles whine about the following day, I heft the penny jar to a sofa and tip it empty to the floor. The pennies fill two gallon-sized freezer bags. I settle them into a fabric grocery bag, but the weight is more than I can carry out to my car. I hear Dad reminding me of the dangers of "a lazy man's load" and make two trips to the car. In the supermarket parking lot I load the pennies into a shopping cart and head to the green Coinstar machine at the front of the store. "Out of Order." I push the cart back out to my car, cursing under my breath. At supermarket number two, I'm smarter. I walk in without Dad's pennies to check that the machine is in working order. Then back out to the car with a shopping cart to haul in my load. And there the racket begins.

As I sift through the pennies, pushing them into the machine, Dad is with me, his hand guiding my own, his calloused, arthritic fingers the last to have touched most of these coins. Tears of memory and mortality fill my eyes. I pull out three super shiny pennies for my daughter, my husband and myself, the kind Dad used to save for my daughter when she was a toddler. I reach the bottom of the second bag and push through the last of the rejected pennies my finger tips now coated in years black filth.

The machine makes its final calculation, and I laugh at the total. The monetary value, the gift my father left in the glass penny jar I empty on the eve of my sixtieth birthday comes to $60.60. I can still hear his laughter.

About The Author

Arleen Williams is the author of two books: Running Secrets, the first novel in The Alki Trilogy, and The Thirty-Ninth Victim, a memoir of her family’s journey before and after her sister’s murder. She teaches English as a Second Language at South Seattle College and has worked with immigrants and refugees for close to three decades. Arleen lives and writes in West Seattle. To learn more, please visit


Book Review

Biking Uphill by Arleen Williams
Book 2: The Alki Trilogy
Publisher: Booktrope
Publication Date: May 6, 2014
Format: Paperback - 274 pages
             Kindle - 743 KB
             Nook - 511 KB
ISBN: 978-1620153499
BNID: 2940149235957
Genre: Women's Fiction

BUY THE BOOK: Biking Uphill

BUY THE TRILOGY: The Alki Trilogy
Book 1: Running Secrets
Book 2: Biking Uphill

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author / publisher in exchange for my honest review and participation in a virtual book tour event hosted by Chick Lit Plus Blog Tours.

Book Description:

Biking home from the Los Arboles Sunday Market, a sun flower yellow teapot snug in her backpack, lonely college student Carolyn Bauer sees a young teenager huddling under a eucalyptus tree. Carolyn shares her food and water with Antonia as they struggle to communicate in a mix of languages. Realizing Antonia lives on the streets, Carolyn invites her home. They share a summer of friendship until the day the yellow teapot shatters and Antonia mysteriously disappears.

Fifteen years later, only Antonia recognizes her old friend when she and Carolyn meet again in an ESL classroom, but she conceals her secret. Carolyn arranges a class project for Antonia-to job-shadow her friend and housemate, Gemi Kemmal. Gemi learns Antonia's dangerous circumstances when Antonia arrives for work with bruises barely concealed by thick makeup and offers her sanctuary just as Carolyn had years earlier. Together the three women confront Antonia's abuser and build a family of enduring friendship.

Biking Uphill, the second book in the Alki Trilogy, invites the reader into a world of undocumented immigration, where parents are deported, and a young girl is abandoned to face life on her own.

Book Excerpt:

She was only a child when it had begun. She hadn’t understood the violence in the streets of her barrio. From one day to the next it seemed as though the city was on fire. Her parents no longer allowed her to play after school with her friends. Then, she could not even go to school. She argued and cried and begged, but her parents were firm. Stay out of sight. Speak to no one. Trust no one.

She remembered her father and mother coming and going from the house late at night when they thought she was asleep. She remembered other men and women sneaking silently in and out of the house. Then it was her own turn to depart under the cloak of darkness. Her family walked for days and days and days. Sometimes it seemed like they would never stop walking.

She remembered hiding silently amongst the cattle in a packed train car, fearing their huge hard feet. Fearing more the men with rifles who stood along the sides of the tracks at each stop.

She remembered a big station wagon with an American driver. Who was this man? She didn’t know. Later, after endless nights on the road, when they had abandoned the station wagon, she remembered the sound of his gentle voice and the strength of his arms when she could no longer walk and her own father had become too weak to carry her.

She lost track of the months as they passed. At times it was only her and her parents. At other times they were with a small group of strangers. Sometimes they slept in the wilderness. Other times they hid in churches. On and on they traveled until finally they reached a river. El Rio Grande. She’d heard her parents talk about it in whispered voices at night as though it were an insurmountable barrier. She had imagined it to be a wide, flowing river of fury. It was nothing more than a trickle.

She remembered the happiness as well as the fear in her mother’s eyes the day they planned to cross. They had received word of an offer of help. Members of an American church agreed to aid them across the trickle as well as to hide them, to help them on the other side. And so they crossed. At night and in silence. She felt the tightness of her father’s arms wrapped around her, the warning of silence in his solemn eyes.

Then they were safe in a house of God, with food on the table and mats on the floor. They were safe. Her parents laughed and cried and laughed some more. Other families in the church basement watched them with tired eyes. Their joy had run out; reality had hit them and the adrenaline had stopped coursing through their veins. Now it was time to build a new life. A life under the constant threat of deportation.

Even as a young child, Antonia knew her parents had broken American law by entering the country under the darkness of night, leaving one station wagon in Mexico, running through the desert to another car on the other side of the trickle. She knew they were fugitives, and as fugitives they began their new life in America – grateful for the temporary reprieve from the constant threat of death.

As a child, Antonia understood in fragments. She knew fear. She felt her parents’ fear. She could smell their fear, like a dog sensing danger. As she grew older, she understood more, slowly piecing together her history from her own memories and the stories she heard from others.

Their travel did not stop when they entered the United States, but their life changed again. They no longer moved in darkness and fear. Instead they followed the harvest from southern California to eastern Washington and back to California. A half dozen nomadic years slipped away. Here and there Antonia attended American schools, but she fell further and further behind with each passing year.


Her family worked the late autumn vegetable fields. It was miserable, back-breaking labor but good money. Soon winter would come and money would be harder to get. So they struggled together, the three of them.

That’s when she heard the call. It spread like wildfire in tall dry grass. La migra. They surrounded the field, maybe eight or ten of them, encircling the workers like cowboys at a round-up.

Her parents had warned her about this, about the possibility that one day la migra would arrive. They had made a plan. They would each look for the best possible escape route, and then they would run. They would head in different directions, running as fast as they could. They would stay low and hide, if possible.

Antonia had protested. She did not want to run without her parents.

“It’s best to run alone,” her father had told her.

“You are small and fast. You must run like the wind. Later we will find each other,” her mother had told her.

So that day in the field, she knew what she had to do when her mother whispered, “Run.” Still she hesitated.

“Run,” her father insisted.

“Te amamos, hijita,” they both said. “We love you. Now run and keep running and don’t look back. Stay low, out of sight. We all must run.”

So she had run. She ran and ran and ran. She carried nothing but a small bilingual dictionary her parents had given her just after they’d entered the United States, the dictionary that never left her pocket. No bigger than a deck of cards, she felt the comfort of its weight against her thigh as she ran. She stayed low and when she heard the voices of the big white men with guns, la migra, she flattened her small body to the ground and held her breath. They walked right past her without seeing her in the row beside them. After a while, when the flat irrigated rows became dry weeds and a low hill rose before her, Antonia knew she was outside of the circle, beyond the line of la migra. Staying low to the ground, she crawled up the hillside.

As the INS agents tightened their circle, she heard the cries of men and women below her who were caught, forced to the ground, and dragged to the parked vehicles. Panic pushing her forward when mere strength was insufficient, Antonia kept scrambling until she reached the top of a knoll far beyond the edge of the field. There she collapsed.

My Book Review:

Biking Uphill is the poignant and uplifting story of the power of a supportive friendship that helps one young woman overcome and survive racism and abuse.

Author Arleen Williams weaves a compelling and powerful second book in The Alki Trilogy, that thoughtfully deals with the sensitive social and political issues of illegal alien immigration and the treatment of migrant farmers, racism, and abusive relationships. The reader is easily drawn into the story as it follows the supportive friendship bonds that Antonia forms with Carolyn and Gemi, and her journey of self-discovery and empowerment to survive and become a strong young woman.

I loved the author's style of weaving an inspirational tale that interweaves the theme of friendships, community, and a sense of family through different generations, cultures, and languages into a thought provoking story that depicts the complexity of a variety of social issues that tugs at the heartstrings and stirs the soul.

Biking Uphill is a wonderful story that will take the reader on a journey of self-discovery, friendship, and redemption.


Virtual Book Tour

Tour Schedule:

September 8 – Reecapieces – Review & Excerpt
September 8 – Chick Lit Club Connect – Guest Post
September 9 – Book Reviews and More by Dee – Guest Post 
September 9 – Chick Lit Plus – Review
September 10 – Doorflower – Guest Post 
September 11 – Ski-Wee’s Book Corner – Guest Post
September 11 – Ski-Wee’s Book Corner – Excerpt
September 11 – Reading in Black and White – Guest Post 
September 12 – The Bookworm – Excerpt
September 15 – Jersey Girl Book Reviews – Review, Guest Post & Excerpt