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 27, 2013

Virtual Book Tour Events: Week of 9/29 - 10/5/13

Virtual Book Tour Events: Week of 9/29 - 10/5/13

Tuesday 10/1/13

Accidental Affair by Leslie McKelvey

In association with Goddess Fish Promotions

Author Guest Post / Book Review / Contest Giveaway

Book Description: Accidental Affair

Jack Vaughn is sure his life is over as he tumbles down the wooded hillside onto the deserted two-lane stretch of asphalt. Years of work ended with a single gunshot. Yet, it’s not over.

A good Samaritan stops to help him, despite the danger he poses to her

Laine Wheeler knows better than to stop for strangers on the rural Montana highway near her home, but her conscience won’t allow her to leave an injured man behind.

What she doesn’t know is the man is an undercover ATF agent tasked with infiltrating a domestic terrorist group. His cover has been blown and helping him will put her life in danger.

Though there is an instant attraction, Jack knows that beginning a romantic relationship with Laine would be both unfair and unwise. Yet the farther they run, the harder it gets to ignore the feelings that are surging between them.

Wednesday 10/2/13

Stealing Fire by Susan Sloate

In association with Goddess Fish Promotions

Author Guest Post / Book Review / Contest Giveaway

Book Description: Stealing Fire

How do you recognize your soulmate?

In glittery 1980’s Los Angeles, Beau Kellogg is a brilliant Broadway lyricist now writing advertising jingles and yearning for one more hit to compensate for his miserable marriage and disappointing life.

Amanda Harary, a young singer out of synch with her contemporaries, works at a small New York hotel, while she dreams of singing on Broadway.

When they meet late at night over the hotel switchboard, what begins will bring them each unexpected success, untold joy, and piercing heartache ... until they learn that some connections, however improbable, are meant to last forever.

STEALING FIRE is, at its heart, a story for romantics everywhere, who believe in the transformative power of love.

STEALING FIRE was a Quarter-Finalist (Top 5%) in the 2012 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest.

Friday 10/4/13

Chasing Hope by Kathryn Cushman

In association with I Am A Reader

Book Review / Contest Giveaway

Book Description: Chasing Hope

A Personal Drama of Shattered Dreams and Second Chances ...

A talented runner fully committed to Olympic dreams, Sabrina Rice’s future was shattered by a devastating diagnosis. One forfeited scholarship and several years later, she has new goals and dreams that have nothing to do with running–something that’s become far too painful to think on. Until the day she sees Brandy Philip running across the community college campus, easily outpacing security. Sabrina immediately recognizes world-class speed, and it’s all the more painful that it belongs to a teenage graffiti artist. When a chance encounter brings the two young women together, Sabrina becomes Brandy’s best hope for staying out of juvenile hall. Soon, Sabrina begins to feel an uncomfortable nudge that her new life is just about to be toppled…that God may be calling her to minister to this talented but troubled girl.


Can Spiritual Women Say F**k?: 
A Jersey's Girl Guide To Inner Peace
 by Jessica Barrett

In association with Reading Addiction Blog Tours

Author Interview / Book Review 

Book Description: Can Spiritual Women Say F**k?

- A revolutionary new set of rules for your best life.
- A touching memoir of one seeker's path.
- A stirring call to action for a brand new world.
- A how-to for bringing what is possible to life.
- Straight talk for seekers & skeptics alike.


From My Heart To Yours by Michelle Zarrin

In association with Pump Up Your Book! Virtual Book Publicity Tours

Author Guest Post / Book Review

Book Description: From My Heart To Yours

With an emotionally secure and sheltered upbringing, Sofia, was in for an unexpected ride when she married Earl. Their stable and unnerving union would take deeper turns as they experienced(?) health issues, betrayal and shattered hearts. With each new circumstance Sofia faced, she shed a layer of naivetĂ©, deepening her perspective of life. Beautiful life lessons learned from preschool children healed her wounds and dissipated her scars. They taught her about the human condition at it’s purest. But then the biggest tragedy happened in Sofia’s life, leading her to seek deeper answers. At the end of the book (her story?), she learns that the art of life is how we deal with it’s struggles. Through a powerful and inspiring journey into the soul, she regains the light and love within.


Home To Heather Creek Series
By Kathleen Bauer

Before The Dawn 

Sweet September

In association with Litfuse Publicity 

Book Review / Contest Giveaway

Book Description: Before The Dawn

Before the Dawn begins just one week after the funeral of Charlotte’s daughter, Denise. Denise’s three children barely have time to process the death of their mother before they must move to the Heather Creek Farm they have never visited with grandparents they barely know. At age 16, Sam is fiercely protective of his younger siblings. Emily is 14 and desperately misses her friends. Young Christopher is only 8 and just wants to fit in. While Charlotte tries to help her grandchildren adjust to their new life, she also wrestles with her own grief and the enormous task of bringing her family together. Bob believes the fastest path to adjustment is a firm routine, with structure and chores, the same way they raised their own kids. However, that route led to Denise running away from home as a teenager and an estranged relationship with her family. Charlotte is worried about making the same mistakes she made with Denise. Is this her chance to make things right?

It is spring when the children arrive, and as Charlotte looks around the farm, she hopes the new life around them will signify hope and healing. The miracle of new life, along with God’s healing touch, reminds all of them that it’s always darkest just before the dawn.

Book Description: Sweet September

Sweet September picks up at harvest time, as the children are settling into a new school year. While the harvest should be an exciting time, the children don’t seem to be getting into the spirit. Emily is struggling with farm life, Christopher spends most of his time alone, and Sam is failing school. Trying to learn from what did and didn’t work with her own kids, Charlotte is determined to get her grandchildren back on track.

As tenuous family bonds threaten to break apart, a mystery on the farm might be the one thing that can bond the family together. Charlotte sets out to uncover the truth, and as the kids unite to find answers, this cobbled-together family learns more about one another and the love that binds them together.

The lives of the Stevensons and their grandchildren unfold in this captivating story of the remarkable change that comes from the love of family, the kindness of others, sheer persistence and unshakable faith. As readers follow the Stevensons’ inspiring stories, it’s almost impossible not feel a part of this friendly, loving community, where God’s grace can be seen in every circumstance.

Leaving Annalise by Pamela Fagan Hutchins (Author Guest Post / Book Review)

In association with Pump Up Your Book! Virtual Book Publicity Tours, Jersey Girl Book Reviews is pleased to host the virtual book tour event for Leaving Annalise by author Pamela Fagan Hutchins!

Author Guest Post

Running From The Jumbie
By: Pamela Fagan Hutchins

I spent my summer vacation on the run from a jumbie, I swear. Y’all know what a jumbie is, right? A voodoo spirit? Yeah. Well, my island-born husband has one on his tail and it’s none too happy.

The craziness started while I was in the middle of my 60-cities-in-60-days nationwide book tour via a 24-foot RV dubbed the Bookmobile. I guess that bears a little explanation, too. I hit the road to promote the Katie & Annalise series, since the first book in the series, Saving Grace, had done so well, and because Leaving Annalise, the next in the series, was scheduled for a late summer release. I toted my one-eyed Boston terrier Petey the whole way, and I was joined by a revolving lineup of four of my driving-age offspring, my mother, and my husband as drivers/assistants. In other words, they were there to make sure I didn’t go all crazypants under the strain.

My husband had drawn the short stick around the time of #24 in Baltimore and #25 in Cincinnati. We made it from Baltimore to our RV camp ground in southwestern Pennsylvania with nary a wrong turn. We and awoke the next morning to heavy rain. Well, that, and a trailer full of young’uns clustered around a tattooed chain-smoking woman whose breasts had long since succumbed to gravity. There were so many kids of various ages that it was almost like she was the old woman in the shoe, if that old woman had lived in a sagging trailer cum meth lab. We did not tarry.

Fifteen minutes later we were motoring along at 70 mph in West Virginia, holding hands, listening to the audiobook Defending Jacob, and generally being in love with each other and the gorgeous trees and hills when Eric dropped my hand and yelled, “Oh sh*t!”

This really isn’t all that unusual so I barely flinched.

As he slammed on the brakes and pulled to the shoulder, I asked in my soothing voice, “What’s wrong, honey?”

“Stuff is flying out of our cargo hold and onto the interstate!”

Woopsie. Not good. “Oh no! It came open?”

Eric didn’t bother answering my question, which, in hindsight, was not all that helpful, anyway. He was out the door and running back the way we had come.

“Be careful!” I shouted, in a loving waste of breath.

I flipped on the hazards and oh-so-gingerly backed the RV a quarter mile up the shoulder. Eric returned with an unscathed sandwich board.

“No one even ran over it,” he said, grinning.

“Thank God.”

“And nothing else fell out.”

I would have given him a rash about forgetting to latch and lock the cargo hold except that I had done the exact same thing the first week of the tour. So instead I exulted over our good luck and otherwise zipped my lips.

We made it to Cincinnati unscathed, then, after a book signing at Barnes and Noble, we cruised onward to Kentucky, where we parked in a monsoon. Eric stepped out of the Bookmobile into two inches of water. Unfortunately, we were in dire need of dumping our tanks, so dump he did. He came back in bleeding.

“How’d you do that?” I asked.

He gave me a blank look. “I have no idea.”

Dumping doesn’t usually involve sharp objects, so the source of his wound remained a mystery. He washed and bandaged himself, and then we slept sweetly and deeply in the endless rain, waking refreshed, if soggy. We raced through the rain to the laundry room. We sampled the facilities, to discover THE BEST shower rooms in 26 cities! Thank you Whispering Hills RV Park in Georgetown, Kentucky. We dashed back with our dry laundry and got ready to go.

“Have you seen the keys?” Eric asked.

“Not since you used them to open the dump hatch last night.”

“Hmm. OK.” Eric ducked outside again. I continued my disembarkation ritual. Five minutes later, Eric returned, sheepish.

“Any luck?” I asked.

Water dripped from the end of his nose and the set of keys dangling from his right hand. He grinned.

“Where’d you find them?”

“By the dump pipe.”

I tightened my jaw to control my smile. “Honey, I swear, you have a jumbie. A jumbie who unlatches the cargo hold. Who slices open your hand as it rips away your keys and tosses them to the ground. He’s probably the one who keeps hiding your glasses and Blackberry, too.”

He nodded, his face blank but his eyes twinkling. “He’s jealous of all the attention I get in your books.”

“Annaly never had a jumbie,” I said, referring to the possibly-haunted house we used to own on St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands. “The jumbie was after you all along.”

“I’d better sprinkle some chicken blood around the Bookmobile or he’ll keep following us on to Tennessee.”

“Or I could just dedicate my next book to him instead of you. Maybe a little acknowledgement, a little validation, is all he needs.”

So on we trekked through beautiful (wet) horse farms and flint hills to Lexington for an amazing event at Barnes and Noble, then to that night’s RV Park. We arrived in Horse Cave, Kentucky and collapsed in a happy heap until all of three a.m., when Eric’s jumbie, not to be ignored, whipped a nearby rooster, two chickens, a donkey and a turkey into a frenzy.

I think I’d better hurry and get out my next book with its jumbie dedication.

About The Author

Pamela Fagan Hutchins is an employment attorney and workplace investigator by day who writes award-winning and bestselling mysterious women’s fiction and relationship humor by night. She is passionate about great writing and smart author-preneurship. She also leaps medium-tall buildings in a single bound, if she gets a good running start.

Leaving Annalise by Pamela Fagan Hutchins ~ Virtual Book Tour Page: Pump Up Your Book! Virtual Book Publicity Tours

Leaving Annalise - Book Trailer

Book Review

Leaving Annalise by Pamela Fagan Hutchins
Book 2: Katie & Annalise Series
Publisher: SkipJack Publishing
Publication Date: July 1, 2013
Format: Paperback - 312 pages / Kindle - 484 KB / Nook - 819 KB
ISBN: 1939889014
Genre: Romantic Mystery Thriller

BUY THE BOOK: Leaving Annalise

BUY THE SERIES: Katie & Annalise Series
Book 1: Saving Grace
Book 2: Leaving Annalise
Book 3: Finding Harmony (publication date - Feb 2014)

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! Virtual Book Publicity Tours.

Book Description:

Volume 2 in the Katie & Annalise Series: One unexpected and hotly fought-over little boy, two dead bodies, and a series of home vandalisms throw Texas attorney turned island chanteuse Katie Connell into a tizzy. Juggling all of this, Bloody Mary cravings, baggage, and the bad guys too, she waffles between the jumbie house that brought her back from the brink and the man she believes is the love of her life.

My Book Review:

In Leaving Annalise, the second book of the Katie & Annalise series, author Pamela Fagan Hutchins transports the readers back into the world of sassy Katie Connell as her madcap adventures continues on the island of San Marcos.

Just like Saving Grace, the first book in the series, Leaving Annalise is a fast-paced entertaining romantic mystery that has just the right amount of drama, suspense and romance that keeps the readers intrigued and turning the pages. Author Pamela Fagan Hutchins weaves an exciting and humorous tale told in the first person narrative by sassy Katie Connell. Katie takes the reader along for the ride on her latest adventure with jumbie Annalise on the island of St. Marcos. This story centers around the relationship between Katie and Nick, but another murder mystery and ensuing mayhem shakes things up on this picturesque island. It has clever subplots, drama, action and suspense, and zany characters that entices the reader to follow along as Katie continues to renovate the jumbie house with a series of mysterious mishaps, navigates her roller coaster love life with Nick and a crazy stalker named Brad in pursuit, and tries to stay one step ahead of trouble that always seems to follow her. And if that isn't enough for you, it has some heartfelt and emotional romance and friendship thrown in the mix.

Leaving Annalise is part of a thoroughly entertaining romantic mystery series. Author Pamela Fagan Hutchins has a way of keeping the readers captivated with Katie's latest adventures, and oh by the way, there is more adventures in the works when Finding Harmony, book three in the series is published in February 2014!


Virtual Book Tour Schedule

Tour Schedule:

Monday, September 2 – Interview at I’m Shelf-ish 
Tuesday, September 3 – Book Review & Interview at Authors and Readers Book Corner 
Wednesday, September 4 – Interview at Laurie’s Thoughts and Reviews 
Thursday, September 5 – Character Interview at Book Reviews by Dee 
Friday, September 6 – Interview at Straight From the Author’s Mouth 
Monday, September 9 – Book Review at Carol’s Notebook 
Wednesday, September 11 – Book Review at Miki’s Hope 
Wednesday, September 11 – Character Interview at Moonlight Lace & Mayhem 
Monday, September 16 – Guest Blogging at Confessions of a Reader 
Tuesday, September 17 – Guest Blogging at Deal Sharing Aunt 
Wednesday, September 18 – Book Feature at All Grown Up? 
Thursday, September 19 – Character Interview at Lori’s Reading Corner 
Monday, September 23 – Book Review at Create With Joy 
Tuesday, September 24 – Guest Blogging at Raven Reviews 
Wednesday, September 25 – Book Review at Hezzie-D’s Books and Cooks 
Thursday, September 26 – Book Review & Guest Blogging at Queen of All She Reads 
Friday, September 27 – Book Review & Guest Blogging at Jersey Girl Book Reviews

Running Against Traffic by Gaelen VanDenbergh (Author Guest Post / Book Review / Contest Giveaway)

In association with Pump Up Your Book! Virtual Book Publicity Tours, Jersey Girl Book Reviews is pleased to host the virtual book tour event for Running Against Traffic by author Gaelen VanDenbergh!

Author Guest Post

10 Things You Didn't Know About
Running Against Traffic

1) I am an avid runner, and have been for many years. Running changed my life, and I always knew I wanted to incorporate that theme – the empowerment and new outlook that running can create when you truly need it most – into a novel. I wanted it to change the life of one of my characters. Or many!

2) The original premise for the plot of this novel came to me when my now ex-husband tried to pressure me to leave Philadelphia. He kept dragging me to visit dilapidated, crumbling houses in very small towns in the middle of nowhere. We were having problems, and so I began imagining (and believing) that he was secretly plotting to move me to one of these houses, in one of these towns, to dump me there. I became quite paranoid about it. Needless to say, we didn’t move.

3) I’m in love with Al. Don’t tell my husband. Okay, you can tell him… Al’s fictional, after all.

4) Al is fictional, but the relationship that develops between Al and Paige, and what stymies the relationship, from his end, is inspired by a relationship of mine from years ago.

5) Bryce may be fictional, but his struggles are not. I know and love people who have gone through much of what he goes through in this novel.

6) Section II, The Useless Flirtation, was very difficult to write. It made me feel wretched for Paige.

7) I didn’t know what the ending of Running Against Traffic was going to be, literally until I was writing it. Then I decided I wasn’t satisfied with leaving it at that, so I started writing a sequel.

8) Many scenes between Al and Paige hit the cutting room floor. Scenes that I once thought were important, but then didn’t fit who the characters became. I wrote more about their relationship than anything else, for a while! But this was Paige’s journey, not the journey of Paige and Al. Some scenes will resurface, I think, when the relationship resurfaces.

9) I spent a lot of time getting mad at Bryce, during the writing process, then feeling hypocritical. I’m no angel.

10) Running in Circles, the sequel to Running Against Traffic, will be out soon. I hope you enjoy both!

About The Author

I am a writer, runner, reader, compulsive list-maker, mother and zookeeper (it feels like it, anyway). I grew up in Philadelphia, moved around a bit – Maine, Boston, NYC, back to Philly – and I have lived here for the past twelve years. I live with my husband and daughter, a fat cat, several fish, and a one-eyed dog.

Running Against Traffic by Gaelen VanDenbergh ~ Virtual Book Tour Page: Pump Up Your Book! Virtual Book Publicity Tours

Book Review

Running Against Traffic by Gaelen VanDenbergh
Publication Date: February 15, 2013
Format: Paperback - 266 pages / Kindle - 414 KB / Nook - 694 KB
ISBN: 1621419932
Genre: Contemporary Women's Fiction

BUY THE BOOK: Running Against Traffic

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! Virtual Book Publicity Tours.

Book Description:

Paige Scott spent her childhood shuffled between relatives who ignored her, and her adult life hiding in her crumbling marriage to wealthy David Davenport. When David suddenly thrusts her into a remote, impoverished world, Paige is forced to face the betrayals of her past – not to mention the colorful townies of her present. Unexpected friendships and her discovery of running propel her on a jagged and comical journey toward learning how to truly live.

Book Excerpt:

Chapter 1

When Paige told me all about it, it was well over a year since the shit had hit her fan, but those solemn brown eyes don’t lie, and she had forgotten nothing. Still, she asked “You do believe me, don’t you Chloe?”

I assured her I did. “That would happen to you, Paige. It should.”

She nodded. “Thank you,” she said. She tucked her dark hair behind her ears and smiled a smile of one peeking around a corner at something enticing. She looked past me, into space. Around the corner. Into the new room.

On a sweltering Saturday in June, David Davenport announced to his wife Paige that he had purchased a vacation home for them in Wells Lake, a town in northern Pennsylvania that Paige had never heard of. Philadelphia had been hit by an early heat wave, but they had left their air-conditioned condo on Rittenhouse Square to sip sauvignon blanc at a wrought iron table outside CafĂ© Rouge. The table teetered every time Paige set down her glass, and she was so absorbed by it tilting her way, and then David’s way, and then her way again, as if switching loyalties, that she barely heard what he said about taking her to see the house the following weekend. She wiped cold condensation from her water glass onto her napkin and held the icy glass up to her face, pressing it to each cheek. “What are we talking about?” she murmured, not looking up. She set her glass down and fingered around the table for something to tuck under the table leg.

“…About a four hour drive from here, Tioga County,” David was saying when she finally gave up her search and looked up at him. He was wearing a yellow polo shirt, which was not his color. The collar was neatly pressed, and his Ray Bans rested on top of his full, sandy brown hair that he liked to gel and tousle. Women found him handsome. Over the course of their ten year relationship, Paige had watched them flock and twitter. He was like a colt, Solid, broad in the chest for his height, always tossing his head and chewing the bit. But now she could barely hear him. He was talking into the stifling breeze and looking through her. “We’ll leave around noon on Friday to miss the weekend traffic.”

Paige squinted through her sunglasses. “There’s traffic headed that way?” she asked, words sticking in the thick air around her. “We’ll see. I have to check my calendar. I’m not sure what’s going on next weekend.” She picked through her purse for her phone, mentally thumbing through potential escape plans. She was certain that she could figure out some excuse for not going. If David needed a weekend getaway to go fishing or bushwhacking, or to attend a tractor pull, or whatever one did in places like that, he could go by himself. Or, god forbid, if he felt the two of them needed a romantic pick-me-up or a literal roll in the hay, she was absolutely not going. Not that he had even vaguely attempted a single romantic gesture in ages. Not that she wanted him to. Not that. No.

He stared at her across the table, expressionless, but she felt a sudden cool ripple of trepidation run through her blood. David was never still. He picked up his water glass and took a swig from it, catching an ice cube and chewing it crudely in his whitened teeth. “We’re going,” he said, practically dropping the glass back down, forefinger and thumb splayed in the air for a moment longer. “You have nothing else to do.” Then he smiled, forced and tight. Paige could do nothing but nod in terse agreement. Damn, she thought.


The waitress approached their table and inquired if they had looked at the menu but neither of them was hungry. She left them the check for the drinks, which they sat and sipped for a while longer, silent, watching the city stream by.

The journey to Wells Lake was long and tedious. Heavy quiet mixed with carsickness. Paige settled back into the leather seats of David’s Lexus SUV, their weekend bags carelessly packed and tossed in the back. It was only two days, she reminded herself, but why did he have to buy a vacation house there, of all places. Why not a beach house in Brigantine or Margate, even though she loathed the Shore, or simply somewhere that she had seen and agreed to beforehand. She was extremely annoyed with David, and she was not about to put on a cheerful face and make the weekend pleasant for him. He was not inclined to chat either, and so they drove over highways, then through towns steadily dwindling in size and civilization, just your average acrimonious married couple, getting away from it all. The sun shone on her bare legs through the sun roof. She stretched them out and leaned her head against the leather head rest, studying the passing scenery.

The trip stretched on, leading them over highways flanked by stubborn-looking trees and hills, and roads that rolled out through vast farm land of weather-beaten barns and mud-spattered grazing cows. The smell of manure hung in the air. They crossed bridges, and wound through flat towns with tiny churches and diners, towns that seemed to end as quickly as they began. And yet, the great open sky above and the unfamiliar, unwieldy land stretching before and behind them made Paige’s big city home seem like something miniature, encased in a snow globe. It was wild and unsettling.

Welcome to Wells Lake, white lettering on a pine green sign declared, as David pulled into a small gas station on the edge of another miserable little town that appeared at first glance to be all on one road, straight ahead of them. She expected a few blocks up, where she could only glimpse a wall of forest, there was a sign that read “Come again, if you’re sure you want to.”

David filled the tank and Paige walked up to the small shop attached to the service station. She spotted a handful of town brochures on the rack by the register that held newspapers, and a few tabloids. She perused one of the brochures, which was more like a single-sided bookmark. It explained that Wells Lake, named for an original settler, had in the early twentieth century been a trade center for a large surrounding area, and had been the site of several mills, including a saw mill, a flour mill, and a milk-condensing plant. Now, Paige discovered as she read on, the town boasted no such exciting amenities. From what she could see, as she stepped outside and squinted up the main road, it even lacked any sort of quaint village charm. No cobblestones, no flower baskets hanging from old fashioned street lamps, no visible evidence of a bed and breakfast, or antique shops. There appeared to be only two traffic lights on the entire stretch of road, dangling from black wires, one swaying alongside a pair of shoes, tied together and hanging from their laces.

Paige looked back down at the bookmark. The remainder of the story of Wells Lake was summed up in one line, offering nearby fishing, free camp grounds and hiking trails in the nearby wooded park land. There was a small sketch under the blurb of a deer and a few trees, and some random black dots that she assumed represented ticks.

Paige jumped as David honked the horn. She stuffed the brochure into her purse and hurried back to the car.

David steered them off of the main strip. The trees and shrubbery lining the narrow road that he sped along – what the hell was his hurry? – appeared to be a jungle of weeds and bramble. Paige nervously dabbed sunscreen onto her fingertips from a tube and patted it onto her cheeks and nose.

David drove around another bend and crunched up a rutted dirt and pebble driveway leading to a dilapidated house with a sagging front porch and peeling lime-green shutters. The siding looked like it might have been white at one time, but was now the color of dingy mop-water.

“Gee, David, couldn’t you have had it renovated before we came out here?” Paige asked. She leaned her head back wearily. “What were you thinking? This place is clearly unsalvageable. Did you even have it inspected?”

David sprang out of the SUV and slammed his door. Paige sighed and stepped carefully out her side, wary of where she set her shoes down. She shaded her eyes with one hand, taking a longer look at the house. God, it was terrible. She would have to convince David to sell it. She certainly was not coming back for any more weekend getaways here. But who would buy this mess? Finally she turned toward him, and nearly tripped over her bag which was on the ground beside her. David was standing by the front of the car, arms folded across his chest.

“What’s the matter with you? Where’s your suitcase?” Paige snapped with fresh annoyance. “We might as well go in. It’s too hot to stand around out here all day.”

“I’m not staying,” he said.

“What? What do you mean?” Paige asked, feeling her heart begin to jump against her rib cage.

“You’re staying. I’m going home. This,” he tossed a set of keys onto her suitcase, “is your home now. There is a bank card in your purse. Your account is with the local branch on Cherry Street. I had the utilities turned on, and I arranged for some supplies to be stocked in. That should get you started. Good luck, and goodbye.”

Paige felt light headed and there was a faint ringing in her ears. She reached for the passenger-side car door handle and grasped it to steady herself. David was already climbing back in on his side. He snapped on his seatbelt and powered down the passenger window. In that instant, she saw a man she barely knew. He seemed to be wearing a mask of himself. “I’ll send you the rest of your clothes and things,” he said. “We’re through. Feel free to see other men.”

“You feel free to see other men, too,” Paige squeaked. But she was drowned out by the revved engine as the Lexus lurched backward, forcing her to yank back her hand. The car bumped down the driveway, jerked into forward and sped around the bend and out of sight.

Driveway dust hung around her in a cloud, suspended in the stagnant summer air as if time had slowed to a near standstill. A couple of bees circled lazily nearby and she could hear the faint buzzing. The sun burned into the top of her head. She blinked up at it like a bewildered bird pushed from its nest. Then she dropped to the hard, dry ground and sat watching the dust shimmering above the road where her husband’s truck had disappeared. The Lexus was gone, but she stared at that empty road for a long time.

Why was this happening? Hadn’t there been happier times? A gray memory or two to make them reconsider the end? She focused on drawing in air and pushing it back out, until she could hear nothing else. The screaming inside her head ceased. Reality buzzed off with the bees, and she suddenly laughed out loud. Of course, this is one of David’s hijinks, she thought, desperately craning her neck and listening for the car, which would surely come roaring back around the bend at any moment. She had learned a long time ago that in a refreshing sort of way, David loved these tricky moves. He possessed a debonair devil-may-care attitude that Paige had both admired and envied, early into their courtship. David loved nothing more than to buck rules and manipulate systems, especially when no one was the wiser. It became clear later that the last thing David wanted to do was change the world or bring down the corrupt. He was just a tricky rich child, and his antics made him feel taller. Paige was an extension of his outward appearance, and they could laugh at the world together in private, but in public he expected her to keep the secret, and dress, speak and act appropriately.

This was a simple role for Paige. She was a seasoned actress in the world. She played her role expertly. For a while.

The stream of thoughts slowed to a trickle and then a drip. It was dusk when Paige began to fade back from her stupor. She was seated cross-legged on the sparse grass of what was now her lawn – oh god, oh god, this is my lawn, it was all rushing at her, images flashing through her mind, scenes and conversations leading up to this point.

Teetering table, David staring her down, long, hot drive, gas station, David driving away. Paige clapped her hands over her eyes and sucked in a deep breath. As her mind sank into bleak quiet, she dropped her hands to her knees and focused on them until she was left with only a slow, pulsing ache in her temples.

Her gaze shifted to the house keys on her suitcase beside her. She would have to go inside. Eerie evening life was stirring around her. A twig snapped in one corner of the yard, as from another corner came the deep croak of what could only be a giant, mutant frog, answered by another in the shadows under the porch. Oh hell, was the house built on a swamp? She hugged her knees. They were gathering. Advancing. The shriek of hundreds of crickets pierced the evening air, and a mosquito the size of a tarantula floated an inch from her face. Heart pounding, Paige swung into action, leaping to her feet and scrambling across the yard and up onto the porch, her suitcase bumping behind her, breaking a few spindles in the porch railing as she pulled it up the steps.

With jangly fingers she reached to jam the key into the lock, and saw with fresh horror that the front door was already slightly ajar. Her fear quickly gave way to adrenaline, and in a fit of maniacal bravado, she raised a kitten-heeled sandal and gave the door a roundhouse kick with all the strength she had. Maybe whatever was inside would be frightened and jump out a back window. The door banged open with such force that the doorknob embedded in the wall inside and stuck there. Paige hurled her suitcase into the front room, wrenched the door free of the wall, and pushed it shut. There was no lock except for the keyhole, and to her deep dismay the key kept turning in it, round and round, catching on nothing.

Gingerly flicking on an uncovered switch in the wall, Paige looked around in the dim light and spotted a chair against the wall. She dragged it over and propped it under the doorknob. She had seen that done in movies. It always worked. Next she had to find and turn on every other light in the house and, canister of Mace in hand, she would check through every room for squatters, human or otherwise.

Paige looked around the archaic living room, furnished only with a threadbare sofa and armchair in lurid pink floral. The room contained no carpet, no coffee table, no high-definition flat-screened television, just a milk crate in front of the sofa that held a small, old-fashioned box TV, attached to a black cable that ran across the floor and into the wall. In the corner was an iron wood stove. The living room spilled into what she could only guess was a dining room, because it was completely bare. Well, that’s a shame, she thought. So much for dinner parties. The wood floors were dinged and scuffed, dotted with small, splintery holes.

Beyond the dining room was a square, eat-in kitchen, the design of which appeared to be circa 1960s, because everyone involved had clearly been on quite the acid trip. The cabinets were a disturbing sunshine yellow, and every cabinet door was hung on a crooked angle. She opened the refrigerator and found bottled water, a can of ground coffee, a carton of milk and a few other food items that David must have had stocked in. How kind of him, she thought, gnashing her teeth. She grabbed one of the bottles of water and turned to face the ugliest kitchen table she had ever seen. It was oval, with four brown chairs surrounding it. Its prior owner had painted it nearly the same vile yellow as the kitchen cabinets, only brighter, making its ugliness even more startling. Its surface was made uneven by dried globs of paint and dips and dents under the paint. The splintered edges had been painted over rather than sanded. Paige shuddered and looked past it to a kitchen door, which mercifully had a key in the lock that worked when she tried it. She peeked behind a dusty gingham ruffle covering the door’s half-moon window but it had grown too dark to see anything outside.

Her adrenaline supply was drained, and she suddenly felt deflated and weak. If there is anything scary in this house, it can have me, she thought. Leaving her suitcase where she had dropped it by the front door, she crept up the creaky stairs off of the living room and skulked through three small bedrooms and a dollhouse-sized bathroom, leaving lights on everywhere she went for some small comfort. The bedrooms were sparsely furnished, two with single beds and one with a queen sized bed, all made up with linens and blankets. Whoever had prepared the house for human occupants had assumed a family was coming.

Paige decided numbly that she would sleep in the room with the largest bed, and in a final flailing safety gesture, she peeked under the bed, and then yanked open the closet door to see what was living inside. The door promptly broke off of its one rusted hinge and banged to the floor. Paige looked down at it for a moment, then walked around it and fell into the bed.

My Book Review:

Running Against Traffic is the intriguing story of a woman's journey of self-discovery and the rebirth of her life. Paige Scott Davenport was living a privileged life in Philadelphia with her wealthy husband David, until her world was turned upside down when David literally dumps her off in front of a dilapidated house in Wells Lake, a small town in western Pennsylvania. Paige finds herself in a downward spiral of depression and relies on alcohol to diminish the pain, but when she takes up running through the town of Wells Lake, she makes friends with the townspeople who help her on her journey to rebuild her life.

This is a wonderful story of second chances, as Paige's journey of self-discovery is filled with trials and tribulations that teaches her to stand on her own two feet, helps her heal, and learn to live again. I loved the author's metaphor of the renovation of the tired, crumbling house bit by bit, as it reflected the gradual rebuilding of Paige's life. With the support of some quirky caring townspeople, Paige develops friendships and learns to care about herself and others. I really enjoyed the inclusion of local Philadelphia landmarks and the mentioning of my hometown of Brigantine, NJ, it made me smile and appreciate the richly detailed descriptions of the setting. I loved how Paige's story gradually unfolded, the author sprinkles bits of Paige's past throughout the story, interweaving it with her journey of self-discovery, I think that was very clever and kept me turning the pages. I loved the quirky townspeople of Wells Lake (Al, Deidre and Brice), their humor and antics made me laugh, it was so easy to connect with them, and cheer for them and Paige as they face the hardships that life throws their way.

Running Against Traffic is a touching and poignant tale that has a great mixture of humor, drama and inspiration, you can't help but cheer on Paige as her journey teaches her valuable life lessons. This is a wonderful debut novel for author Gaelen VanDenbergh.


Virtual Book Tour Contest Giveaway

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blog tour schedule

Tuesday, September 3 - Book featured at One Page at a Time
Wednesday, September 4 - Book featured at Margay Leah Justice
Thursday, September 5 - Interviewed at Literal Exposure
Thursday, September 5 - Book featured at Miki's Hope
Friday, September 6 - Book featured at Icefairy's Treasure Chest
Monday, September 9 - Book featured at Sweeping Me
Tuesday, September 10 - 1st chapter reveal at Books and Needlepoint
Wednesday, September 11 - Book featured at Soctrates Book Reviews
Thursday, September 12 - Guest blogging at Storeybook Reviews
Friday, September 13 - Interviewed at Review From Here
Friday, September 13 - Book featured at Mom Loves 2 Read
Monday, September 16 - Guest blogging at The Writer's Life
Monday, September 16 - Book featured at The Self Taught Cook
Tuesday, September 17 - Interviewed at Book Marketing Buzz
Tuesday, September 17 - Book featured at Libby's Library
Wednesday, September 18 - Book featured at Mary's Cup of Tea
Wednesday, September 18 - 1st chapter reveal at Reader Girls
Thursday, September 19 - Interviewed at I'm Shelf-ish
Thursday, September 19 - Guest blogging and 1st chaper reveal at Ali's Books
Friday, September 20 - Book featured at Confessions of a Reader
Monday, September 23 - Book reviewed at My Devotional Thoughts
Monday, September 23- Guest blogging at Crystal's Many Reviews
Tuesday, September 24 - Book featured at Jody's Book Reviews
Tuesday, September 24 - 1st chapter reveal at Literary Winner
Tuesday, September 24 - Book reviewed at Queen of All She Reads
Wednesday, September 25 - Guest blogging at Literarily Speaking
Wednesday, September 25 - Book reviewed at Ramblings of a Book Lunatic
Wednesday, September 25 - 1st chapter reveal at Sarah Ballance
Thursday, September 26 - 1st chapter reveal at moonlightreader
Thursday, September 26 - Book featured at My Cozie Corner
Friday, September 27 - Book reviewed at All Grown Up?
Friday, September 27 - Book reviewed and Guest blogging at Jersey Girl Book Reviews