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.

Monday, June 30, 2014

In The Mirror by Kaira Rouda (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 In The Mirror by Author Kaira Rouda!

Author Guest Post

A chat with author Kaira Rouda celebrating the release of In The Mirror

Thank you for having me here! I am actually multi-published! My first book was a nonfiction title, Real You Incorporated: 8 Essentials for Women Entrepreneurs. I am thrilled women entrepreneurs are reading and connecting with the book and its message – a message that, ironically, fits well in today’s publishing industry where authors must become entrepreneurs, too. I followed that work with my first fiction novel, Here, Home, Hope – a story about a mom having a midlife crisis. My next novel, All the Difference, is a romantic suspense novel with a murder mystery and more. In the Mirror is my third novel and it asks the question: If you knew you may die soon, what choices would you make?

My first book was mainstream/large publisher, my next was small press and my last two are published by my publishing company, Real You Publishing Group. Authors today have a lot of choices, at least the lucky ones do. I’m proud to be a hybrid author. I have a great literary agent who helps me navigate the process and most importantly, a loyal readership who in most cases doesn’t care who publishes the books as long as more keep arriving on their virtual or real bookshelves. That’s why I believe entrepreneurial authors will continue to asses all of the options available to them – and make choices based on what the market dictates and what the author feels comfortable with. Things are changing quickly, that’s for sure.

But one thing that will never change: Holding the finished book in your hand for the first time is a surreal experience. I remember, too, walking into a bookstore and seeing my book on the shelf, facing out, and it was probably one of the best moments of my life. It’s something I’d always dreamed about – and it came true. A really fun moment was finding my novel at the airport bookstore.

I celebrate each new release by reminding myself how lucky I am to be living the life of my dreams.

The supportive writing community is amazing. I am constantly in awe of the generosity of most authors. It’s exciting the support out there. And eventually, those divisive distinctions – Indie vs. Traditional – will disappear and we’ll all hold hands and support each other as an author community. (Seriously, it’s going to happen. And, the New York Times will review more women authors and ….)

But truly, I love the writing life. I published my first novel in my 40s. It’s never to late. So if it’s your dream too, get going!

About The Author

Kaira Rouda is an award-winning and bestselling author of both fiction and nonfiction. Her books include: Real You Incorporated: 8 Essentials for Women Entrepreneurs; Here, Home, HopeAll the Difference; In the Mirror; and the short story, A Mother's Day. She lives in Southern California with her husband and four children and is at work on her next novel.

Her latest novel is the women’s fiction, In the Mirror.


Book Review

In The Mirror by Kaira Rouda
Publisher: Real You Publishing Group
Publication Date: March 5, 2014
Format: Paperback - 214 pages
             Kindle - 1514 KB
             Nook - 520 KB
ISBN: 978-0984915163
BNID: 2940149545650
Genre: Women's Fiction

BUY THE BOOK: In The Mirror

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 Pump Up Your Book Tours.

Book Description: 

What choices would you make if you knew you might die soon?

From the multi award-winning, best-selling author of four books, including Here, Home, Hope, a gripping and heart wrenching novel about a young mother who has it all. The only problem is she may be dying.

In her previous works including All the Difference, Rouda's characters "sparkle with humor and heart," and the stories are "told with honest insight and humor" (Booklist). "Inspirational and engaging" (ForeWord), these are the novels you'll turn to for strong female characters and an "engaging read" (Kirkus).

In the Mirror is the story of Jennifer Benson, a woman who seems to have it all. Diagnosed with cancer, she enters an experimental treatment facility to tackle her disease the same way she tackled her life - head on. But while she's busy fighting for a cure, running her business, planning a party, staying connected with her kids, and trying to keep her sanity, she ignores her own intuition and warnings from others and reignites an old relationship best left behind.

If you knew you might die, what choices would you make? How would it affect your marriage? How would you live each day? And how would you say no to the one who got away?

Book Excerpt:

Rolling over to get out of bed, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and cringed. My reflection said it all. Everything had changed.

I looked like death.

I blinked, moving my gaze from the mirror, and noticed the calendar. It was Monday again. That meant everything in the real world. It meant groaning about the morning and getting the kids off to school. It meant struggling to get to the office on time and then forcing yourself to move through the day. It meant the start of something new and fresh and undetermined. But Mondays meant nothing at Shady Valley. We lived in the “pause” world, between “play” and “stop.” Suspension was the toughest part for me. And loneliness. Sure, I had visitors, but it wasn’t the same as being surrounded by people in motion. I’d been on fast-forward in the real world, juggling two kids and my business, struggling to stay connected to my husband, my friends. At Shady Valley, with beige-colored day after cottage-cheese-tasting day, my pace was, well –

I had to get moving.

I supposed my longing for activity was behind my rather childish wish to throw a party for myself. At least it gave me a mission of sorts. A delineation of time beyond what the latest in a long line of cancer treatments dictated. It had been more than 18 months of treatments, doctor’s appointments, hospitalizations and the like. I embraced the solidity of a deadline. The finality of putting a date on the calendar and knowing that at least this, my party, was something I could control.

I noticed the veins standing tall and blue and bubbly atop my pale, bony hands. I felt a swell of gratitude for the snakelike signs of life, the entry points for experimental treatments; without them, I’d be worse than on pause by now.

I pulled my favorite blue sweatshirt over my head and tugged on my matching blue sweatpants.

Moving at last, I brushed my teeth and then headed next door to Ralph’s. He was my best friend at Shady Valley—a special all-suite, last-ditch-effort experimental facility for the sick and dying—or at least he had been until I began planning my party. I was on his last nerve with this, but he’d welcome the company, if not the topic. He was paused too.

My thick cotton socks helped me shuffle across my fake wood floor, but it was slow going once I reached the grassy knoll—the leaf-green carpet that had overgrown the hallway. An institutional attempt at Eden, I supposed. On our good days, Ralph and I sometimes sneaked my son’s plastic bowling set out there to partake in vicious matches. We had both been highly competitive, type-A people in the “real” world and the suspended reality of hushed voices and tiptoeing relatives was unbearable at times.

“I’ve narrowed it down to three choices,” I said, reaching Ralph’s open door. “’Please come celebrate my life on the eve of my death. RSVP immediately. I’m running out of time.’”

“Oh, honestly,” Ralph said, rolling his head back onto the pillows propping him up. I knew my time in Shady Valley was only bearable because of this man, his humanizing presence. Even though we both looked like shadows of our outside, real-world selves, we carried on a relationship as if we were healthy, alive. I ignored the surgery scars on his bald, now misshapen head. He constantly told me I was beautiful. It worked for us.

“Too morbid? How about: ‘Only two months left. Come see the incredible, shrinking woman. Learn diet secrets of the doomed,’” I said, smiling then, hoping he’d join in.

“Jennifer, give it a rest would you?” Ralph said.

“You don’t have to be so testy. Do you want me to leave?” I asked, ready to retreat back to my room.

“No, come in. Let’s just talk about something else, OK, beautiful?”

Ralph was lonely, too. Friends from his days as the city’s most promising young investment banker had turned their backs—they didn’t or couldn’t make time for his death. His wife, Barbara, and their three teenage kids were his only regular visitors. Some days, I felt closer to Ralph than to my own family, who seemed increasingly more absorbed in their own lives despite weekly flowers from Daddy and dutiful visits from Henry, my husband of six years. Poor Henry. It was hard to have meaningful visits at Shady Valley, with nurses and treatments and all manner of interruptions. We still held hands and kissed, but intimacy—even when I was feeling up to it—was impossible.

So, there we were, Ralph and I, two near-death invalids fighting for our lives and planning a party to celebrate that fact. It seemed perfectly reasonable, at least to me, because while I knew I should be living in the moment, the future seemed a little hazy without a party to focus on.

“Seriously, I need input on my party invitations. It’s got to be right before I hand it over to Mother. I value your judgment, Ralph; is that too much to ask?”

“For God’s sake, let me see them.” Ralph snatched the paper out of my hand. After a moment, he handed it back to me. “The last one’s the best. The others are too, well, self-pitying and stupid. Are you sure you can’t just have a funeral like the rest of us?”

I glared at him, but agreed, “That’s my favorite, too.”

Mr. & Mrs. E. David Wells 
request your presence at a 
celebration in honor of their daughter 
Jennifer Wells Benson 
Please see insert for your party time 
Shady Valley Center 
2700 Hocking Ridge Road 
RSVP to Mrs. Juliana Duncan Wells 
No gifts please—donations to breast cancer research appreciated.

At first, I had been incredibly angry about the cancer. Hannah’s birth, so joyous, had marked the end of my life as a “normal” person. Apparently, it happened a lot. While a baby’s cells multiplied, the mom’s got into the act, mutating, turning on each other. Hannah was barely two weeks old when I became violently ill. My fever was 105 degrees when we arrived in the ER. I think the ER doctors suspected a retained placenta or even some sort of infectious disease, although I was so feverish I can’t remember much from that time. All I remember was the feeling of being cut off from my family—Henry, two-year-old Hank, and newborn Hannah—and marooned on the maternity ward, a place for mothers-to-be on bed rest until their due dates. That was hell.

At 33, I was a pathetic sight. My headache was so intense the curtains were drawn at all times. I didn’t look pregnant anymore, so all the nurses thought my baby had died. That first shift tip-toed around me, murmuring. By the second night, one of them posted a sign: “The baby is fine. Mother is sick.” It answered their questions since I couldn’t. It hurt my head too much to try.

By the third day, my headache had receded to a dull roar. Surgery revealed that there was no retained placenta after all. I was ready to go home to my newborn and my life. So with a slight fever and no answers, I escaped from the hospital and went home to a grateful Henry and a chaotic household. I was weak and tired, but everyone agreed that was to be expected. I thanked God for the millionth time for two healthy kids and my blessed, if busy, life.

And then, not two weeks later, I found the lump.

My Book Review:

Every once in a while an emotionally powerful and compelling story comes along that completely pulls at the heartstrings, stirs the soul, and makes you stop and ponder what would you do if you were in the main character's shoes. For me, the story that has left an indelible imprint on my mind is the beautifully written novel, In The Mirror by author Kaira Rouda.

In The Mirror is an emotional story that follows Jennifer Benson, a young wife, mother, daughter, and business owner, who at the age of 34 is dying from an aggressive form of breast cancer. Set in Grandville, Ohio and told in the first person narrative, Jennifer takes the reader on an emotional journey as she reflects upon her life while coping with her diagnosis and pending death. While living at Shady Valley, an experimental treatment / hospice facility, Jennifer struggles through the pain of having terminal cancer, while holding onto the hope that the latest round of experimental drug therapy will change the course of the disease. With the help of her supportive family and friends, especially Ralph Erickson, her best friend and fellow terminal cancer patient at the facility, Jennifer decides to plan a life celebration party so that she can reconnect with the people who have touched her life in some way. Jennifer wants to provide them with a fond lasting memory of her alive, instead of one of her in a casket at her funeral.

This is a thought provoking story that will have the reader questioning what they would do if they were in Jennifer's shoes. As Jennifer reflected upon the choices and decisions that she has made in her life, I couldn't help but wonder how I would reflect upon my own life if I had terminal cancer and knew I was going to die. The author thoughtfully draws the reader into Jennifer's story and does a wonderful job of taking the reader through the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance, while infusing this tragic and heartbreaking story with a balance of humor and lightheartedness. I loved how each chapter began with a drug warning label, I thought it was a witty way of using a gallows sense of humor that made me snicker and lightened my mood. I easily connected with the characters in the story, and couldn't help but become emotionally invested.

In The Mirror is a touching, inspirational, and powerful story that will have the reader experiencing the full gamut of emotions, while providing them with a chance to reflect upon and celebrate what is really important in their lives, with a gentle reminder to count their blessings everyday.


Book Trailer

Virtual Book Tour Schedule

Tour Schedule:

Monday, June 2
Interview at Blogcritics

Tuesday, June 3
Book Featured at The Literary Nook

Wednesday, June 4
Guest Blogging at The Story Behind the Book

Thursday, June 5
Book Featured at Moonlight, Lace & Mayhem

Friday, June 6
Guest Blogging at Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews

Monday, June 9
Interview at As the Page Turns

Tuesday, June 10
Book Featured at Jody’s Book Reviews

Wednesday, June 11
Guest Blogging at Book Reviews by Dee

Thursday, June 12
Book Featured at Bound 2 Escape

Monday, June 16
Interview at The Writer’s Life

Wednesday, June 18
Book Featured at I Heart Reading

Thursday, June 19
Book Featured at Confessions of a Reader

Monday, June 23
Interview at Beyond the Books

Tuesday, June 24
Guest Blogging at Lori’s Reading Corner

Wednesday, June 25
Book Review at Sincerely Stacie

Friday, June 27
Book Review & Guest Blogging at Jersey Girl Book Reviews

Monday, July 7
Interview at Examiner

Tuesday, July 8
Book Review at Deal Sharing Aunt

Wednesday, July 9
Guest Blogging at Mina’s Bookshelf

Thursday, July 10
First Chapter Reveal at Review From Here

Monday, July 14
First Chapter Reveal at Read My First Chapter

Tuesday, July 15
Interview at The Book Connection

Wednesday, July 16
First Chapter Reveal at As the Page Turns

Thursday, July 17
Book Review at Books and Needlepoint

Monday, July 21
Interview at PUYB Virtual Book Club

Tuesday, July 22
Book Review at Bottles and Book Reviews

Wednesday, July 23
Interview at CBY Book Club

Thursday, July 24
Book Review at Create With Joy

Monday, July 28
Interview at I’m Shelf-ish

Tuesday, July 29
Book Review at Authors and Readers Book Corner

Wednesday, July 30
Book Feature at Lauri Here-Contemporary Fiction and MORE-Book Reviews

Thursday, July 31
Guest Blogging at The Busy Mom’s Daily

Monday, August 4
Character Interview at The Literary Nook

Tuesday, August 5
Book Review at Our Families Adventure

Wednesday, August 6
Book Review at The Phantom Paragrapher

Thursday, August 7
Guest Blogging at The Writer’s Life

Monday, August 11
Character Guest Blogging at As the Pages Turn

Tuesday, August 12
Book Review at Booklover Sue

Wednesday, August 13
Book Review at Mary’s Cup of Tea

Thursday, August 14
Book Review at Steph the Bookworm

Monday, August 18
First Chapter Reveal at SheWrites

Tuesday, August 19
Book Featured at Maureen’s Musings

Wednesday, August 20
Book Review & Guest Blogging at I’d Rather Be At The Beach

Thursday, August 21
Book Featured at Wanted Readers

Monday, August 25
Book Review at Sweet Southern Home

Tuesday, August 26
Book Review at Melina’s Book Blog

Wednesday, August 27
Book Review at Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers

Thursday, August 28
Book Review at Svetlana’s Reads and Views

Friday, August 29
Book Review at The Literary Nook
Book Tour Highlights at PUYB Virtual Book Club

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