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, October 11, 2013

Shake Down The Stars by Renee Swindle (Author Guest Post / Book Review / Contest Giveaway)

In association with Chick Lit Plus Blog Tours, Jersey Girl Book Reviews is pleased to host the virtual book tour event for Shake Down The Stars by author Renee Swindle!

Author Guest Post

Welcome to my office!

I think writing is tough enough as it is so I try to surround myself with things that make me smile. Stiff, plain offices make me nervous; they make me think about work. And while writing takes a lot of focus, it shouldn’t necessarily feel like work—at least not to me. Yes, it can be tough at times, but I’m usually on the wrong track when it feels like drudgery.

Little Miss Writer. I’ve had this Day of The Dead figure for at least twenty years. She’s made several moves with me. She sits in front of her typewriter, legs crossed, smoking her cigarette…”daydreaming” about what she’s going to write.

Here’s a close-up shot of the cover of the German edition of my first novel, Please Please Please. The German publisher, Malik, used it as the cover to their catalogue.

I like to keep books in arms length just in case I get stuck. If I can’t think of what to write next, I love picking up a favorite book and reading a few lines. It usually fuels me in one way or another. If you look closely, you’ll notice the kitchen timer. There was a time when I had the worst procrastination and had to time myself, usually fifteen or twenty minutes a day, to sit and write. Those days are long gone, but that timer reminds me of how far I’ve come.

My cat, Money, usually naps at some point while I write. She took over the basket years ago.

About The Author

Renee Swindle is the author of Shake Down The Stars (NAL/Penguin) available now. Her first novel, Please Please Please, was published by the Dial Press/Dell. Please Please Please was also published in Germany as Mehr Mehr Mehr and published in Japan. Please Please Please was an Essence Magazine bestseller.

Renee Swindle earned her BA from UC Irvine and MFA in creative writing from San Diego State University. She lives in Oakland, California.

Shake Down The Stars by Renee Swindle ~ Virtual Book Tour Page: Chick Lit Plus Blog Tours

Book Review

Shake Down The Stars by Renee Swindle
Publisher: NAL Trade / Penguin Group
Publication Date: August 6, 2013
Format: Paperback - 352 pages / Kindle - 694 KB / Nook - 882 KB
ISBN: 0451416643
Genre: Women's Fiction

BUY THE BOOK: Shake Down The Stars

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

Book Description:

When you’re in trouble and sinking fast, whom do you call?

Piper Nelson is stuck. She can’t quite stay away from the husband she divorced. She isn’t always attentive to the high school students she teaches. And even she admits that she’s been drinking too much and seeking out unsuitable men. Piper’s mother, married to a celebrity evangelist, and her sister, who's immersed in plans to wed a professional football player and star in a reality TV show, are both too self-absorbed to sympathize with Piper’s angst. They tell her to get a grip. But how can Piper ever really recover from the blow she suffered five years ago, when a car accident took the life of her young daughter?

When Piper’s ex-husband announces that his new girlfriend is pregnant, Piper is forced to take stock. Realizing that it’s time for a change is one thing, but actually making it happen is quite another. And despite what she thinks, Piper can’t do it alone Lucky for her, a couple of crazy, funny new friends are ready to step in when she needs them most and show her how to live and laugh again.

Book Excerpt:

“You’re right,” she says, taking my hand. “You’re right. I wish more than anything that someone else could be here, too.”

I lower my gaze. “Margot.”“Dad is going to say a few words about Grampy, and I’d like him to say a few words about Hailey, too. I think it’s important that they both be remembered tonight.”


“I want tonight to be about family. I think we should honor her.”

I pull my hand away. “I don’t think that’s a good idea.Just leave her out of it, okay?”

“But it’s a blessed event, and we need to have her presence here.”

“Blessed event? What makes an engagement party a blessed event?”

“It’s blessed to me. Curtis and I are making a holy promise to each other. Daddy agrees. I think it would be nice if he said a few words. Just a few, that’s all. I want everything to feel spiritual, and I want my niece to be with us.”

I shake my head in disbelief. “This isn’t about Hailey, Margot; it’s about you.”


“Yes, you. Look at all the money you’re throwing around, and it’s not even your wedding yet. Everything is out of control.”

“And so what if it is? Curtis and I have been through a lot, and now we’re tighter than ever. I want this party to represent that.”

“Been through a lot” meaning Curtis has cheated a lot. Only eight months ago he was caught messing around with a groupie. Margot forgave him, spurred by his tearful apology and the pair of diamond earrings he gave her. The marriage proposal followed soon after.

I feel the troll’s breath on my thigh, slow and labored. I wonder if he’s passed out under there, but there’s nothing I can do. I need to make sure Margot doesn’t sabotage me. “It’s your engagement party,” I say. “Your marriage, your life. Just whatever you do, please leave Hailey out of it.”

“She was my niece, you know. I miss her, too. We all miss her. We will always miss her.”

“I don’t want her mentioned during your party, Margot. I don’t.”

“Why do you have to be so stubborn?”“Why do you have to be so selfish? Just leave her out of it, okay?”

Resigned, she rises from the bed. She glances at the drink on the nightstand, then makes a point of staring at Selwyn’s drink on the opposite table. “You need help, Piper. You really do.”

“Okay,” I say. “As soon as you leave, I’ll get on it. Thanks. See you later.”

She saunters to the mirror in response. “I just need one more thing.”

“Why am I not surprised?”

“The girls aren’t feeling well. Hélène says it’s a mild fever. I just checked on them, and they seem fine. Anyway, she says she has some family thing she has to go to—a christening or something—and has to fly to LA. She says she told me, but I swear she didn’t. Of course she gave me one of her voodoo stares. I’m certain she’s put a curse on me. That’s why it’s so cloudy today.”

“You really need to quit with the stereotypes.”

“I wanted everyone to see the girls in their chiffon dresses, but now I’m not sure.”

Margot’s ten-year-old twins, Sophia and Little Margot, are the product of her relationship with the hockey player no one speaks of. Like my own father, the hockey player disappeared after he learned he was going to be a father. Unlike my dad, he’s been sending monthly checks since the girls’ birth—enough money that they attend one of the most expensive schools in the Bay Area, have a nanny who may as well be their surrogate mother, and are set through college.

“Just how sick are they?”

“Sophia’s been throwing up, and Margot has a mild case of diarrhea.”



“Did you call the doctor?”

“Of course I called the doctor. She said to watch them overnight, make sure they get their fluids, and if they’re still under the weather, bring them in on Monday.” She shrugs. “I think they’re making a turn for the better, but I can’t see forcing them to participate. And I can’t ask Mom to watch them—I need her.”

“So you want me to watch them.”

“Would you mind?”

“Of course not.”

“Thanks. I knew you’d say yes. I just don’t want you to be upset because you’ll have to miss the ceremony. But I’ve already thought it out. You’ll be able to watch the film version, and it’ll be even better. You can pause and rewind.”

I imagine fast-forwarding for long stretches.

I feel a weak hand squeeze my calf and think of all the brain cells Selwyn must have lost by now. “Sounds good. And if that’s all you need, I think I’m going to take a bath now.”

“We need you upstairs by four o’clock. If I’m not there, tell the voodoo priestess I want her back by Monday morning.”

Satisfied, she gives a ta-ta wave—“Thanks, Sis!”—and is out the door.

I wait a few seconds. “All clear.”

My Book Review:

Shake Down The Stars is a poignant and moving story about a woman who is struggling with the traumatic loss of her daughter, dysfunctional family drama, alcohol addiction and promiscuity. It is the story of a woman's journey to healing and rebuilding her life through the help of friendship and love.

Author Renee Swindle weaves an emotional tale of love, loss and redemption set in Oakland, California, and written in the first person narrative that follows the journey of Piper Nelson as her journey to heal from a tragic loss is filled with dramatic trials and tribulations that will tug at the reader's heartstrings. Piper is a flawed woman whose life swirls out of control after the tragic death of her four year old daughter Hailey in a car accident. Wrought with guilt, grief, dysfunctional family drama, and a painful divorce, Piper's life descends into a self-destructive path of alcoholism, promiscuity and poor choices. With the support of special friends and an unlikely love interest, Piper is able to see past the grief and destructive inner demons to embark on a journey of self-discovery, healing, redemption, and rebuilding of her life.

Shake Down The Stars is a beautifully written story that takes the reader on an emotional roller coaster ride. You can't help but feel the full gamut of emotions as Piper's journey to turn around her life is filled with daunting challenges, trials and tribulations, mixed with inspirational support from some amazing friends and a special love interest. Piper's story is raw and intense, yet the author also infuses a balance of humor and wit that gives the story a silver lining. This is the type of story that makes the reader pause and ponder how they would react to a tragic loss, and could they be able to move forward and embrace their own lives.

I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge Piper's passion for astronomy. Her obsession for stargazing was one of the few things in life that gave her a sense of calm and spiritual connection that was a saving grace during her troubled times. I was fascinated by the author's inclusion of stargazing into the story, it made me want to go outside and watch the night light up with stars in wonderment.

Shake Down The Stars was an incredibly satisfying story of healing, redemption and love. It is a story that will resonate with you for a long time.


Virtual Book Tour Contest Giveaway

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Contest Dates: Sept 23 - Oct 14

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Virtual Book Tour Schedule

Tour Schedule:

September 23 – Chick Lit Goddess – Excerpt 
September 25 – Everything Books and Authors – Guest Post 
September 27 – Samantha March – Q&A & Excerpt 
October 2 –Nana Prah’s Blog – Guest Post 
October 3 – The Practice of Creativity – Review & Q&A 
October 7 – Storm Goddess Book Reviews – Review, Q&A & Excerpt 
October 8 – Chick Lit Plus – Excerpt 
October 9 – Keep Calm and Blog On – Review 
October 10 – Laura’s Little Book Blog – Q&A & Excerpt 
October 11 - Jersey Girl Book Reviews - Review, Guest Post & Excerpt 
October 14 – Karma For Life Chick – Review


  1. Thanks for sharing your review!

    1. Thank you for the opportunity to host the virtual book tour event.

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  3. What a great name for a cat...Money!
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