Review Tour ~ Figure Eight by Calia Read ~ Sarah A’s Review

figure-eightDear Selah,

Do you remember me?

Of course you don’t. So I’m going to give you a refresher course.

I’ve known you for years and years. We used to have beautiful conversations. There was no one that knew you better than me. We were handmade for each other.

Lately, it’s become achingly obvious you’re miserable. You’ve moved back home to take care of your ailing mother. You’ve been looking for a new job, but that’s not going well. Admit it: it’s all too much.

Everyone around you sees your suffering, but they’re not willing to help you.

Everyone but Jackson.

He comes into your life at the perfect moment and offers you everything you could want: a shoulder to lean on, love, and most importantly, hope.

But there’s no one that can compare to me. You seem to forget that I’m your figure 8. Your infinity. You try to run, but I will always find you.

Yours Truly,
Figure 8

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I’m reeling from this book.  Just circling back and back and back trying to figure out when was the first time I had an inkling of what was going on and I find myself feeling a lot like Selah; I think I knew the whole time but I didn’t want to acknowledge it.  There were times I wasn’t sure if the book was full of tiny, almost imperceptible, errors or if I was crazy or if it was intentional and made to make me feel crazy.  Honestly, I’m still not sure; though, I suspect the latter.

This is a book that has so many layers, so many facets and secrets, telling any one of them would destroy the experience that is Figure Eight.  There are so many beautiful things that happen in this book, so many things I desire to dissect and tell you about in great detail, but to do so would ruin the sublime magic that Calia Read wove with this story.  More so than almost any other book I’ve read, Figure Eight must be read with no foresight as to what is going to happen; the experience of being Selah, of living what she lived in these pages is important and intense.

Calia Read constantly amazes me with her words, the way she constructs each sentence to draw you in and then makes you question every second of the words you’ve read is unique and wildly impressive.  I am in love with her writing and the important stories she tells.  Her stories are consistently among the most wonderfully written and compelling books I’ve read.  I always find myself wanting more story, while simultaneously being totally satisfied that the story is complete and left exactly where it should be.  It’s not an easy balance to strike, but Ms. Read is near perfection in finding that balance in all of her books.

I have discovered that from a distance it is incredibly easy to read people. In the shadows, people don’t notice you. They let their guard down. Let you into their life without even knowing it. After a while their movements become predictable and you start to feel more intimate with them. You know when they’re irritable or sad. Happy or anxious. And while they keep desperately seeking a cure- all for their afflictions, you stand there in shadows, knowing what they need. My last gift was what you needed. But you barely noticed. You were too busy with your despair.

Ah, despair, despair, despair. Too many people get caught in that bitch’s web. And the sad truth is that they never find their way out. They never find their figure eight.

They never find me.

Yet the truth of the matter is that you didn’t find me. You got lucky and had the tables turned.

You may not see me yet. But you will.

Something as big as me takes time to acclimate to. Until then I’m going to give you another present. This one you’re going to take notice of. It is truly something.

I’m actually quite proud of myself with this one. It’s so good that I’m going to let you think that fate, kismet or whatever bull shit you call it, was responsible for it. Besides, I have a million more gifts just waiting for you, that I can take credit for.

Each one is bigger and better than the last.

You’ll see.

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13319891_838523882920080_9005192063279712585_nCalia Read is the author of Unhinge, Unravel, Breaking the Wrong, Ruin You Completely, and Every Which Way. She lives in Texas with her husband and their five children.

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BLOG TOUR AND REVIEW – Mister Wrong by Nicole Williams

 

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Cora Matthews grew up with the Adams boys, twin brothers and best friends who wouldn’t let anything come between them except for one thing—her. One of them became her best friend, the other, her fiancé.

She always knew she’d wind up marrying one of them, and Jacob Adams is the very epitome of Mister Right. At least he is up until he fails to show up for their wedding day. Not that Cora realizes it. At first.

As Jacob’s best man, and identical twin, Matt makes a split second decision, but one that will affect the three of their lives forever—he steps in to take his brother’s place. In front of the altar, exchanging vows with the woman he’s secretly been in love with for years.

Cora eventually finds out about the groom swap. The morning after the wedding. As if realizing she just slept with her fiance’s brother wasn’t disturbing enough, she’s forced to confront her feelings for Matt Adams she thought she’d buried years ago.

Matt’s wrong for her. In every way. But through the course of her real honeymoon with her fake husband, she starts to uncover truths both Adams brothers were hoping to keep hidden, for opposite reasons. One to protect himself, the other to protect her.

She married the wrong brother, but what if he’s been the right one all along?
“So?” I crossed my arms and leaned into the banister behind me. “Did you? Like my brother?”
She sighed, turning toward the open door. “Jacob . . .”
“What? It’s a fair question.” I shoved off the banister, feeling hope and heat tangling in my veins from the look on her face, from the sound of her voice. She’d felt something for me, whether it be the most passing of crushes or something much deeper. Realizing that had me feeling drunk from something other than alcohol. “Besides, you’re stuck with me now. Won’t matter what you ’fess up to.”
Cora started through the doorway. “I don’t want to talk about it.”
Grabbing the suitcases, I followed her. I wasn’t letting this go. Never. Not if she threatened death or castration or anything else. “Why not?”
She broke to a sudden stop a few feet inside the room. “Because I don’t want to focus on the past. I want to concentrate on the future. That’s not going to work if you keep asking me questions about Matt.”
There was a sharpness in her voice—one she didn’t use too often. She didn’t want to keep talking about me, which only made me want to continue talking about me. I’d struck a nerve, but I wasn’t sure how deep that nerve went.
I needed to know how deep it went. I had to know. My whole life, I’d been under the impression that Cora saw me as nothing more than a good friend and substitute brother. She cared for me, but not in the same way I cared for her.
Or did she?
“This thing with Matt . . .”
Her back stiffened.
“Was it a thing? Like ancient history? Or is it still a thing?” I closed the door and wondered why I could feel my heartbeat in my eardrums.
She kept her back to me, standing in the middle of the dark room like a lone ship on a vast ocean. “I married you.”
Yeah, she did marry me.
“But if he’d made a play for you, way back before all of this”—I waved my finger between the two of us, not that she could see it—“would you have given him a chance?”
“He never made a play for me.” Her voice sounded faraway, like she was out of reach when she was less than an arm’s length away.
“That doesn’t answer my question.” I stepped closer. “If he had? Would you have?”
Her back was moving faster from her quickened breathing. This conversation was making her uncomfortable. Why was that?
“Stop, Jacob. Enough.” She spun on me, swaying in place just enough that I reached out to steady her. She shook my hand away like it was white-hot. “I’m not going to get into another fight with you over Matt. I’m done. I picked you. I married you. What else do I have to prove?”
“That you don’t—”
“I don’t love Matt!” Her arms flung out at her sides as her voice spilled across the room. ‘There. I said it. Are you happy now? Are you happy we’ve managed to get into another argument over this infatuation you’re convinced I have for your brother? On our wedding night of all times?” She glared at me with bleary eyes. I couldn’t tell if that was from tears or from alcohol. Maybe both.
“Cora, I’m sorry.” I ran my hands through my hair, wondering what in the hell I was doing—for the millionth time that day. Deceiving her, betraying her, and now accusing and angering her. Maybe I didn’t know the first fucking thing about love. Maybe Jacob knew more about it than I did, because I wasn’t sure love was supposed to hurt as badly as this did.
“Just . . . enough already.” As she shouldered past me, I reached for her, but she shook me off. “I need to be alone.”
She slammed the front door behind her a moment later, leaving me alone with my idiocy.
“Cora,” I called to an empty room. I wasn’t thinking when I rushed toward the door after her. “Cora!”
The moment I pulled the door open, something crashed into me. It made a sharp breath rush out of my mouth as I staggered back a few steps.
My arms barely had time to wrap around her before Cora’s mouth was on mine, moving in such a way that made staying upright next to impossible. Before I had a chance to catch up to the fact that I was kissing Cora in an entirely different way than we’d kissed at the wedding and reception, her fingers were working at my belt. Quickly.
I didn’t know she’d already gotten it undone before she’d moved on to my zipper. The sounds she was making as she kissed me, the way her body felt aligned against mine, the way her mouth knew the intricate balance of submission and domination . . . one moment at a time, Cora was crushing the last remnants of my resolve. Destroying the final pieces of my views of right and wrong.

 

 

Whitney’s Four Star Review

A solid four stars for Nicole William’s new sexy story about a girl in love with twin brothers.

Cora grew up with Matt and Jacob Adams and always love both. Although she favored Matt, he seemingly doesn’t return her affections and so she chooses Jacob. They date for years and the book opens with their wedding. A wedding in which the groom never shows.

Wanting to save Cora from embarrassment, Matt makes a rash decision to stand in for his brother. Cora happily marries the man she thinks is her fia A solid four stars for Nicole William’s new sexy story about a girl in love with twin brothers.

Cora grew up with Matt and Jacob Adams and always love both. Although she favored Matt, he seemingly doesn’t return her affections and so she chooses Jacob. They date for years and the book opens with their wedding. A wedding in which the groom never shows.

Wanting to save Cora from embarrassment, Matt makes a rash decision to stand in for his brother. Cora happily marries the man she thinks is her fiancée only to realize the day after her honeymoon starts, that she’s actually married and had sex with Matt.

And while this may sound fishy, don’t judge Matt. He’s been in love with Cora for years and it’s obvious from the beginning that Jacob is an ass and doesn’t deserve Cora. Matt and Cora don’t have much time to work through their feelings for each other before Jacob shows up to reclaim his fiancée. And lord, I lost count of the times I wanted to punch Jacob in the face.

Is this a love triangle? I guess technically, I would say so. However, there is really never a doubt which brother she will end up with. So for those who hate love triangles, keep that in mind as it may ease your mind.

This story is much steamier than most of Nicole’s books and she does a good job with the chemistry between Matt and Cora. It’s obviously fiction and some of the story is a little over the top but isn’t that the point for many who read romance? At least we get explanations when characters do something we might otherwise condemn them for in real life. I loved Matt from the beginning and it’s easy to do as the book is dual POV between he and Cora.

I do kind of wish we had some flashback chapters from when the three of them were kids as I think that would have helped with the character development. But some of their childhood relationship comes out later in the book when Cora is forced to realize just how much she loves Matt.

Overall, this is a definite recommendation!

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Nicole Williams is the New York Times and USATODAY bestselling author of contemporary and young adult romance, including the Crash and Lost & Found series. Her books have been published by HarperTeen and Simon & Schuster in both domestic and foreign markets, while she continues to self-publish additional titles. She is working on a new YA series with Crown Books (a division of Random House) as well. She loves romance, from the sweet to the steamy, and writes stories about characters in search of their happily even after. She grew up surrounded by books and plans on writing until the day she dies, even if it’s just for her own personal enjoyment. She still buys paperbacks because she’s all nostalgic like that, but her kindle never goes neglected for too long. When not writing, she spends her time with her husband and daughter, and whatever time’s left over she’s forced to fit too many hobbies into too little time.
Nicole is represented by Jane Dystel, of Dystel and Goderich Literary Agency.

 

 

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GIVEAWAY & Review Tour ~ Saying Goodbye pts 1&2 by Abigail Drake

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sg1Synopsis part 1:
Samantha Barnes always dreamed of seeing the world and only has a few months left before she starts a semester abroad in Japan. Enough time to say goodbye to her friends, polish up her language skills, and maybe even squeeze in a quick fling with handsome fraternity boy Dylan Hunter.

All she wants from Dylan is something casual, and perhaps some mind-blowing sex, but things don’t work out as planned. Dylan wants a lot more from her than a hook-up. Before Sam realizes what’s happening, their relationship has become serious, something she never intended. And then she discovers Dylan is hiding a dark secret that makes breaking up with him nearly impossible.

Sam is running out of time. She has to leave soon. She has no choice. But leaving Dylan could mean more than just the end of their relationship. It could also mean destroying him completely.

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sg2Synopsis part 2:
What if you meet the right person…at absolutely the wrong time?

When Samantha Barnes starts her semester abroad in Japan, she brings along a heavy load of emotional baggage. With her ex-boyfriend in the midst of a mental health crisis back home, she’d been forced to make some difficult choices, choices that now fill her with guilt and remorse. She also made promises to him she isn’t sure she can keep, especially when she meets Thomas MacGregor, an irresistibly charming Scottish rugby player. Thomas is studying at the same university as Samantha, and, although she tries to fight it, she begins to fall for him. Hard.

Life in Kyoto is everything Samantha could imagine, but, when tragedy strikes, it sends her on a downward spiral into darkness. Will she be able to come to terms with what happened, and have a future with Thomas, or will she forever be plagued by regret?

Forgiveness is a tricky thing, especially when the person you need to forgive most is yourself.

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Saying Goodbye was my first Abigail Drake book and I was pleasantly surprised by her unique writing style and fresh story lines.  In a genre where books often have very similar structure and themes, this book stood out as something uncommon.

Saying Goodbye, particularly part one, was full of very heavy subject matter.  The book was rife with taboo subjects and how people react to those situations with which they aren’t comfortable.  I was quite impressed by how tastefully it was done.  Each scene and every moment was carefully constructed to demonstrate how every single thing that happens affects a person.  They also served to show how a person’s temperament can make those experiences have completely different outcomes.

Abigail Drake incorporated several cultures and languages into Saying Goodbye in a way that felt very natural.  I am in no way educated in any of the cultured or languages she used, but it seemed very true to what they were.  I loved that each part was set in a different place, it made it much easier to keep the storylines separate while I was reading.  I fell in love with the glimpses into worlds I’ll likely never experience, that she included in the story.  The way she used the cultural references to help the characters grow and used languages to bring them closer together were so fresh and unique, it was something I relished experiencing.

3.5 Feathers
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abigailAbigail Drake has spent her life traveling the world and collecting stories wherever she visited. She majored in Japanese and International Economics in college and worked in import/export and as an ESL teacher before she committed herself full time to writing. She writes in several romance genres, and her books are quirky, light, fun, and sexy. Abigail is a trekkie, a book hoarder, the master of the Nespresso machine, a red wine addict, and the mother of three boys (probably the main reason for her red wine addiction). A puppy named Capone is the most recent addition to her family, and she blogs about him as a way of maintaining what little sanity she has left.

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Review Tour ~ Riveted by Jay Crownover

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From the New York Times bestselling author of the Marked Men books comes the next installment in the Saints of Denver series.

 

riveted_finalEveryone else in Dixie Carmichael’s life has made falling in love look easy, and now she is ready for her own chance at some of that happily ever after. Which means she’s done pining for the moody, silent former soldier who works with her at the bar that’s become her home away from home. Nope. No more chasing the hot as heck thundercloud of a man and no more waiting for Mr. Right to find her; she’s going hunting for him…even if she knows her heart is stuck on its stupid infatuation with Dash Churchill.

Denver has always been just a pit stop for Church on his way back to rural Mississippi. It was supposed to be simple, uneventful, but nothing could have prepared him for the bubbly, bouncy redhead with doe eyes and endless curves. Now he knows it’s time to get out of Denver, fast. For a man used to living in the shadows, the idea of spending his days in the sun is nothing short of terrifying.

When Dixie and Church find themselves caught up in a homecoming overshadowed with lies and danger, Dixie realizes that while falling in love is easy, loving takes a whole lot more work…especially when Mr. Right thinks he’s all wrong for you.

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At the end of Riveted, Jay Crownover added an Author’s note that says, ‘It was fun to take a little bit of Denver on the road and the reality is that you follow your heart when it’s right.  You sacrifice your own comfort and your familiarity if that’s what best for the other person.’  She may have been speaking to why Dixie went home with Church, but I found it particularly relevant to the journey she took in writing this book.  It was evident in the books in both Marked Men and Saints of Denver series Jay cared deeply for both Church and Dixie.

The thing about sacrificing your own comfort for another is, there is often a period of adjustment, of awkwardness while you’re trying to find your way in this new place and I felt a lot of that in Riveted.  It was as if Ms. Crownover was struggling to find her place in the new, unfamiliar world of Lowry right along with Dixie.  Much of the book felt incongruous with the type of writing I am used to from Jay Crownover, it didn’t have the edge her other books have.  There were moments of crazy flowery prose that were just so far outside the norm for these books, it was just not was I was expecting.

That being said, the book had a good, solid story line.  I loved the journey Dixie and Church had to take to find their happiness.  Seeing the pain they had each experienced and how differently it molded each of them was fascinating.  In the more heated moments, the ones that truly drove the book forward, Jay’s signature style was highly evident and I appreciated it hadn’t been lost in the effort to write Riveted.

While Riveted doesn’t represent the best of Jay’s work, as far as I am concerned, I think it was a very important story to tell.  It told of struggles people still face today, in a world and time where such prejudices should no longer exist.  I am happy to have been able to read Dixie and Church’s story and while there were some things that just felt off to me, it was a fun book and I will continue to hold Jay and her work in high esteem.

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Jay Crownover - headshotJay Crownover is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Marked Men, The Point, and the Saints of Denver series. Like her characters, she is a big fan of tattoos. She loves music and wishes she could be a rock star, but since she has no aptitude for singing or instrument playing, she’ll settle for writing stories with interesting characters that make the reader feel something. She lives in Colorado with her three dogs.

 

 

 

 

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GIVEAWAY & Review Tour ~ The Tattered Gloves by JL Berg

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ttg-amazonHead down.
Don’t look up.
Never make eye contact.

Those were the words I lived by growing up, the words that protected me in an unsafe home. But words are only letters and eventually even they couldn’t keep his hands off me.

Hoping to leave behind the shattered life of my past, I find myself in a boring, small town, with an aunt I’ve never met and at a school I loathe.

But soon I learn, not everything in this world is as black and white as I’ve determined. Sometimes those we are so quick to judge often need a second, third or even fourth time to make a first impression.

And often, there are friendships and even love waiting just around the corner, if we are brave enough to take the first step.

Am I brave? Or will I hide behind these tattered gloves of mine forever?

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The Tattered Gloves had the potential to be a truly powerful and moving piece about the horrors that can befall a child in a home where there is little care for their well-being.  It could have been an inspiring message of hope and healing but it fell short of that, for me.

I am a big fan of the journey characters take within a book and if their growth and story arc is healing, the ending doesn’t necessarily have to be happily ever after, it just needs to be the thing that is best for the characters.  I didn’t quite get that from this book.  Everything ended up tied up in a nice little bow and I just didn’t quite feel like it was a realistic ending for the characters involved.  At about 2/3 of the way through the book, I had an inclination this was going to be the case, as there just wasn’t enough book left to properly resolve all of the things that were going on with the characters.  There was also a point where it where the aunt alluded to going through something similar to what Willow had and that ball was totally dropped in favor of a much less horrific back story.

It is because of the expectations I formed while reading this book that I was left wanting.  There was just so much potential to tell such an important story, a story bigger than a girl falling in love with a boy, and I wanted THAT story.  The story The Tattered Gloved ended up being was a lovely story, it held an important message and told of the dangers of judging people without getting to know them first.  It demonstrated, wonderfully, the differences of living in a home filled with love and acceptance to one filled with indifference and distrust.  While I had thought, this was going to be a gritty story about the worst things that can happen to a person with a dash of love and romance thrown in, it was actually more about the different types of love a person can experience and how important each of them are, with a dash of how the residual effects of past trauma color those relationships.

Letting The Tattered Gloves stand on its own, leaving all of my expectations and hopes for the story aside, it was a very touching story.  The relationships between each of the characters was wholly unique and beautiful.  I came to love each of them, for different reasons, and the all brought their own messages about love and life to the book.  It was well-written and help my attention, the words made me care deeply for the characters and their futures, the plot, while not as fleshed-out as I’d have preferred, was riveting.  For a person looking to dip their toe into deeper subject matter without going headlong into the darkest reaches of those subjects, this is an amazing place to start.

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J.L. Berg is the USA Today bestselling author of the Ready Series, The Walls Duet, and the Lost & Found Duet. She is a California native living in the beautiful state of historic Virginia. Married to her high school sweetheart, they have two beautiful girls that drive them batty on a daily basis. When she’s not writing, you will find her with her nose stuck in a romance novel, in a yoga studio or devouring anything chocolate. J.L. Berg is represented by Jill Marsal of Marsal Lyon Literary Agency, LLC.

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Review Blitz ~ Egomaniac by Vi Keeland

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00072]The night I met Drew Jagger, he’d just broken into my new Park Avenue office.

I dialed 9-1-1 before proceeding to attack him with my fancy new Krav Maga skills.

He quickly restrained me, then chuckled, finding my attempted assault amusing.

 

Of course, my intruder had to be arrogant.

Only, turned out, he wasn’t an intruder at all.

 

Drew was the rightful occupant of my new office.  He’d been on vacation while his posh space was renovated.

Which was how a scammer got away with leasing me office space that wasn’t really available for rent.

I was swindled out of ten grand.

 

The next day, after hours at the police station, Drew took pity on me and made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.  In exchange for answering his phones while his secretary was out, he’d let me stay until I found a new place.

I probably should have acted grateful and kept my mouth shut when I overheard the advice he was spewing to his clients.  But I couldn’t help giving him a piece of my mind.

I never expected my body to react every time we argued.  Especially when that was all we seemed to be able to do.

 

The two of us were complete opposites. Drew was a bitter, angry, gorgeous-as-all-hell, destroyer of relationships.  And my job was to help people save their marriages.

The only thing the two of us had in common was the space we were sharing.

And an attraction that was getting harder to deny by the day.

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I would like to start this review by expressing my regret for having never picked up a VI Keeland book before.  I now realize my mistake and plan to rectify it as soon as humanly possible.  Egomaniac was on the fringes of the books that I usually read, so I almost passed up my chance to read it.  I can not tell you how glad I am that I didn’t pass, it was such a great book.

I was very pleasantly surprised by how emotionally connected I felt to this book.  Egomaniac is on the light side, for me, but it was rich and varied in the emotions in evoked.  I had picked it up for a bit of light reading after reading a heavier book but it wasn’t nearly as light as I had been expecting.  It was actually the perfect balance of light and heavy.  I appreciated the short moments of comedic interlude and fell in love the heavy themes that were the backbone of Emerie and Drew’s story.

Vi Keeland did an excellent job with her character development and growth in this book.  I slowly fell in love with both Emerie and Drew.  Emerie was sweet and naïve but grew into a strong, fierce woman who fought for what she knew she needed.  Drew, on the other hand, was jaded and cold, forged by deceptions from his past, his growth into a person who loved and trusted with abandon was quite lovely to behold.

Egomaniac was quite well-written and kept me wholly invested in what was going to happen next.  I was impressed with Ms. Keeland’s ability to lead me to believe that the story was going in one direction then completely surprise me with a turn I didn’t quite see coming in the way I anticipated.  The situations that Drew and Emerie faced in this book and the way they dealt with the hardships they faced kept me fully invested in them finding their happy endings.

Vi Keeland will be going on my list of go-to authors when I need something a little different from my usual reads.  Her writing is engrossing and he obviously cares greatly for her craft.  I am highly impressed with her ability to draw me in to a story and care deeply for the characters she has created.

4.5Feathers2

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author-photoVi Keeland is a #1 New York Times Bestselling author. With more than a million books sold, her titles have appeared in over fifty Bestseller lists and are currently translated in twelve languages.  She resides in New York with her husband and their three children where she is living out her own happily ever after with the boy she met at age six.

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GIVEAWAY & Book Tour ~ Black & White Flowers by Rachel Robinson ~ Sarah A’s Review

 

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Black & White FlowersCarina Painter lives a life she created in between the pages of her bestselling novel. At least, that’s what she outwardly portrays. A heart-rending childhood followed by an abusive engagement leaves her broken in all ways possible. A chance encounter provides the fork in the road she so desperately desires.

Navy SEAL Smith Eppington is fighting the war of his lifetime. One that isn’t fought with weapons and highly sought intelligence. It’s a battle to remember his past. The accident that scarred seventy five percent of his body, and stole the life of his best friend also seized parts and pieces of his memory. When an author asks to interview him for a fiction novel, he’s ready to pour his heart out no matter the cost.

The friendship that blossoms between Smith and Carina is something extraordinary. It’s a living, breathing love story about finding yourself, change that is out of your control, grasping what you can, and letting go of everything else.

In a twist of kismet, remembering could destroy everything, but fiction may be what saves the day. A friendship built on new truths and a relationship torn apart by old lies collide in a poignant novel by International Bestselling Author, Rachel Robinson.

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This is a very hard review for me to write.  I have no idea how to express how I feel, when I’m not sure what it is I am feeling about this book.  Chapter One was real and raw and devastating and so many other things, then I started chapter two and Ms. Robinson lost me.  After experiencing the heavy trauma of Carina’s childhood, the incongruity of the perfection of Megan’s manicured hands was off putting.  I understood that it was a juxtaposition of the pasts of the main characters but it seemed an amateurish attempt to me.  That theme seemed to carry throughout the book.

At the heart of it, Black and White Flowers had the potential to be an incredibly powerful book about love and healing, about how people can rise from the situations thrust upon them and become more than they ever expected.  It just never reached that lofty pinnacle.  In, what I am sure, was an effort to make this SEAL story stand out from the sea of other special forces romances, everything, including the kitchen sink, was thrown into this novel.  It was too much.  This book was a rosebush that never reached its full potential because it was never pruned back.  Still beautiful in its conception but it pales in comparison to those that were cared for with an expert hand.

I am well aware that my review seems heavy handed and incredibly critical and it is.  Despite that, I did like the overarching story of Carina and Smith.  They were a very lovely couple and most readers will absolutely love every second of their story, it was sweet, saccharinely so at some points, angsty, and overall incredibly redemptive.  There were moments that were romantic perfection, some of which were very moving.

Overall, I am happy I read this book, I would have always wondered if I hadn’t.  I don’t regret reading it either, it was a different type of story than I typically read; though I didn’t know that before I started it.  While I wasn’t wholly impressed with the writing, it often felt forced, I wasn’t put off by it enough to the point I wouldn’t read the author again.  If she writes another book I find compelling I would pick it up and give her another chance.

3.5 Feathers

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ALP Excerpt Owl

Shrugging, he pulls me into his warm, shirtless body and yanks the quilt back up to our necks, his hands now wandering over my body. “Sleep is the very last thing on my mind right now.” His gaze burns into mine and his hands find the hem of my nightshirt. His lips twitch. “You wear so little to bed. I can’t help myself,” he says. With a featherlight touch his fingertips stroke the side of my thigh up to the string of my panties. He hooks a finger in and drags his finger underneath it, teasing himself. Teasing me, too. “It took all of my self-control to go to sleep with this much of your bare skin in touching proximity.”

I blush. Big time. Everything below my waist cries out for attention in one wild rush of excitement. It’s been too long. But it’s more than that now because everything before this has been lukewarm. “What did you do at work last night?” I ask before all important thoughts flee my mind in favor of his touch—something that scrambles my brain cells. “Why did it take so long?”

His face changes. His hand stops on my hipbone and he grabs it, his fingers encompassing the whole side of my body. Breathing in and out makes his hand move with me. It’s warm. It’s demanding. “It’s nothing for you to worry about,” Smith replies.

I shake my head. “When people say stuff like that typically there is almost always something to worry about, but you don’t want to worry the person. Do you see how counterintuitive that is? Now I’m worried because you told me not to worry.”

He sighs and then pulls the covers over his head and disappears under the blankets. In a fast maneuver that tickles and makes me pull away in mock protest, he makes his way between my legs. With the edge of the quilt in my hand I lift it to see his smiling face between my knees. “You’re trying to distract me,” I say. Pressing my lips into a firm line, I try to hold a serious face. “Smith Eppington. You better tell me what I want to know.”

Smith takes the sides of my panties and pulls them down and off my body with one fierce tug. It’s playful, but so damn hot at the same. Some noise exits my mouth and it makes him smile, his good side wider than his bad. I shake my head. “Is it working?” he asks, then kisses the inside of my right thigh. “Are you distracted?” His warm breath on my skin clenches my core. He drags his lips up and down, inching his way higher.

I adjust my legs and try to calm my breaths. “I don’t see how I can’t be distracted with my underwear on the floor and your head between my legs. I don’t forget,” I say. Tapping the side of my head, I finish, “I’m like an elephant.”

He licks the inside of my left thigh and runs his hands under my nightshirt up and down the sides of my rib cage. I shiver. Tipping my head back, I close my eyes.

“An elephant isn’t what I want to think about right now,” Smith growls. “I’d ask you how you like this, but I honestly don’t care. I’m starving for you. You’re wet. I smell you.” With his lips pressing against my skin, and the disappearance of my panties, he’s turned into a lust crazed man. A man I’ve wanted to meet since I first laid eyes on him.

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ALP AuthBio2 Owl

rachel-robinsonRachel grew up in a small, quiet town full of loud talkers. Her words were always only loud on paper. She has been writing stories and creating characters for as long as she can remember. After living on the west coast for many years she recently moved to Virginia Beach, VA.

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GIVEAWAY, Review, & Excerpt Tour ~ HONOR by Jay Crownover ~ Sarah A’s Review

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honorpbNew York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author Jay Crownover returns with her most complicated hero yet, in the first book in the romantic suspense series The Breaking Point. 

Don’t be fooled.

Don’t make excuses for me.

I am not a good man.

I’ve seen things no one should, done things no one should talk about. Honor and conscience have no place in my life. But I’ve fought and I’ve survived. I’ve had to.

The first time I saw her dancing on that seedy stage in that second rate club, I felt my heart pulse for the first time. Keelyn Foster was too young, too vibrant for this place, and I knew in an instant that I would make her mine. But first I had to climb my way to the top. I had to have something more to offer her.

I’m here now, money is no object and I have no equal. Except for her. She’s disappeared. But don’t worry, I will find her and claim her. She will be mine.

Like I said, don’t be fooled. I am not the devil in disguise… I’m the one standing front and center.

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Order HONOR in ebook or paperback, releasing 10/18/16
If you preorder HONOR you will receive a super sweet bonus scene that features both Rule and Bax…as well as their leading ladies. The scene will NOT be shared anywhere else. It will be exclusive to those who preorder HONOR and fill out this form: https://a.pgtb.me/tD739Q 

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ALP SarahAReview OwlIt’s no secret that Jay Crownover is one of my favorite romance authors.  Maybe because she is semi-local to me.  Maybe because she’s so true to herself.  Maybe because her writing is so relatable.  Definitely because her heroes and heroines are always perfectly balanced counterpoints to one another.  All so tragically flawed you have no choice to root for them regardless of how bad they are.

When I first heard Nassir was getting his own story I wasn’t completely sold.  He had started to have some appeal to me by the end of Better When He’s Brave, I was unsure if there was anything Jay could make such an unrepentant man win me over.  As I saw more teasers and comments, my curiosity was piqued.  By the time I had the chance to review it, I couldn’t wait to walk through the fires of hell to get inside the Devil’s head.  I was not disappointed.

Honestly, by the time  I made it through the prologue every transgression Nassir had made was completely forgiven by me.  I didn’t even care if he ever sought redemption, his story was so heartbreaking it earned him a complete pardon from me.  I’m disappointed in myself that I didn’t have full faith in Jay, from the get-go, to deliver me a broken bad boy who would win me over heart and soul.

Jay kept me completely invested in every page of HONOR.  Even in the moments where Keelyn was desperately trying to fight her connection to Nassir, there was enough action and tension to keep me satisfied with the forward progress they were making.  The action, the drama was en pointe for the duration of the book, there were periods of respite that allowed me to settle into the intensity of Nassir and Key while having enough action interspersed to leave me anticipating when te next shoe was going to drop.

The only thing I wish there would have been more of was Keelyn’s backstory.  There were little tidbits here and there, enough information to know her life wasn’t all sunshine and roses, but I would have liked to know more about her.  When I was finished with the book, I felt completely satisfied with who she in the here and now, but I would have loved to have the same pieces of her past as we had of Nassir’s.

4 Feathers

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ALP Excerpt Owl

KEELYN

                “What are you doing here, Nassir?”

Nassir Gates, half man and half monster. He was lethal and toxic, keeping all that sinister beauty covered up in a ridiculously expensive suit that made him look elegant and falsely civilized. To the untrained eye, Nassir was an outrageously handsome man that looked like he was on his way to a business meeting, but if you had spent any time on the streets, were familiar with life in the gutter, there was no missing who he really was, what he was. The top of the food chain. If you knew about what it took to make it where I came from, you could look at Nassir and see that he not only thrived in chaos but was comfortable there. He even managed to make it look good.

I left all of that behind. I liked Denver. I liked the laid-back vibe. I liked the monotony. I liked the predictability. I liked that I could walk to my car after my shift at the diner and not have to worry about taking a knife in the ribs or getting a revolver shoved in my back. I liked that I didn’t have to shake my ass or get naked to pay my bills. I liked that here, soccer dads were just that, and weren’t secretly banging hookers in the back room or gambling the family’s grocery money away at an illegal poker game. Most importantly I liked that I didn’t have to look my biggest addiction, my worst temptation, in the eye every single day and pretend like I didn’t want him. Here I didn’t have to deny that I had been infatuated with him for years. I was foolishly obsessed with this particular devil in a designer suit and I knew he was absolutely detrimental not only to my safety but to the thing I valued above all else…my independence.

After a childhood spent evading the hands of my mother’s overzealous and unhinged boyfriends and barely escaping the clutches of a sick and twisted stepfather, and too many years working my ass off—literally—to make a life for myself, I could never risk letting myself care for Nassir the way I wanted to because I knew that if I did, I would become nothing more than his, and I refused to be any man’s possession or accessory.

When the opportunity arose to take off without an explanation or without looking like I was running from him and the promise and future I saw so clearly in his eyes, I grabbed it. Ran away with both my heart and my tail tucked between my legs. But now he was here in this fragile and predictable paradise and I wanted to stab him with the broken pen and jump in his lap and put my mouth on his smirking lips all at the same time.

You’re here, Key. Where else would I be?”

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ALP AuthBio2 Owl

headshot-3Jay Crownover is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Marked Men, The Point, and the Saints of Denver series. Like her characters, she is a big fan of tattoos. She loves music and wishes she could be a rock star, but since she has no aptitude for singing or instrument playing, she’ll settle for writing stories with interesting characters that make the reader feel something. She lives in Colorado with her three dogs.

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Blog Tour & Giveaway ~ Wait by AL Jackson ~ Sarah A.’s Review

ALJackson-WaitBookCover5x8_BW_HIGHFrom NYT & USA Today bestselling author comes a new Bleeding Stars stand-alone novel…

She is his strength and he is her weakness. And this time, he won’t let her go.

Edie Evans is gorgeous.

Sexy.

Kind.

She’s also the definition of off-limits.

But that didn’t stop me from sneaking into her room to comfort her at night.

But guys like me? We destroy everything, so it should have been no surprise when I destroyed us, too.

The night I sent her running, I thought I’d never see her again.

Until I saw her standing like a vision in the crowd.

 

Austin Stone is dangerous.

Alluring.

Tempting.

He broke my heart and I refused to give him the chance to do it again.

It’s been years since I’ve seen him, and now I can’t do anything but stare at the gorgeous, tattooed man playing onstage. I should run. I know I should. But like a fool, I run straight back to him.

Our desire is overpowering.
Our need unrelenting.

She is my hope.
He is my weakness.

We should have known a passion this intense would burn us right into the ground.

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ALP SarahAReview Owl

Austin Stone’s story has been one of my most highly anticipated books, since the moment I read about him in A Stone in the Sea.  That poor, broken boy in the hoodie pulled on my heartstrings.  His pain was incredibly a siren’s call, leading me to a story that would surely destroy me.  I got that, and more, in Wait.

Austin and Edie each had pasts that made my soul ache for them.  Things that had happened to them when they were so young, it was no wonder they lived the way they did.  Each finding a way to protect themselves from any sort of real connection.  Both knowing the only way they’d ever be whole was in the arms of the other.  Their story was heartbreaking, destroying, healing.

The characters in this book were so well developed; it felt as they’d been plucked from their lives and forced into the pages of a book.  From their speech patterns to the way they held themselves each character was unique, there was no cut and paste formula going on in this book.  Told in dual perspective, Wait is from the POVs of Austin and Edie, and each of their chapters had an individual voice.  There was something rough around the edges about the way Austin’s chapters were written, while Edie’s were sweet, reserved, wholly her.  It was a masterful bit of characterization.

Wait wasn’t as high on the present action as the previous books in this series have been.  It more than made up for it in the way the past was presented, and how those moments were weaved into their impact on the current state of the relationships between Austin, Edie, and their friends and family.  The way AL Jackson made the mistakes, the pain, and the damage of the past color every second of Austin and Edie’s present was powerful.

The very best part of this book, however, was the growth arc the characters completed.  I was absolutely blown away with how much Austin and Edie learned from each other.  From the mistakes, they’d made in the past.  From the damage of holding on to their pain.  The final chapter of this book was incredibly powerful.  It was a soul-shaking moment.  It was perfection.

AL Jackson never disappoints.  Never.  Especially not with this book.  Her writing draws me in in a way I can’t properly explain.  There’s a pull to the characters, a connection to them, that not many authors can capture.  When she writes it’s more than a story, she uses her words to capture the very essence of what it feels to be in someone else’s soul.  There’s nothing quite like it.

5 feathers

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ALP Excerpt Owl

“Shit,” I hissed, bracing myself against the spray of the icy shards pelting from the shower head.

I sucked in a breath, released it between clenched teeth, and forced myself fully under it.

Head dropped and chest heaving as rivers of ice-cold water slicked down my shoulders and back.

But it did nothing to lessen the need. Gave me no sanity or pacification.

Because all I could think about was the girl on the other side of the door.

My girl.

In my bed.

Wearing just her panties and my shirt.

An angel I wanted to dirty.

I always had.

Love was messy like that.

All of my restraint scattered. I gripped my cock. Squeezed the base. My mouth dropped open at the pressure of my hand against my rigid length.

A fool thinking it might be enough.

Shit.

God, I was a bastard, but there was nothing I could do before I was giving in, leaning forward and bracketing my forearm above my head to hold my weight.

Water pounded down on my head and back while I pounded my fist against my dick.

Trying to keep silent when all I wanted was to moan, teeth digging into my bottom lip as I pictured the girl spread out for me.

My breaths were coming short.

Panted and hard.

I gave into imagining the sounds she would make when I finally got to bury myself in her body.

A soft, soft gasp.

I slowed, trying to convince myself that throaty sound was all in my mind.

Just another part of this fantasy.

Until I heard the small thump against the wall.

Shit.

I mashed my eyes closed, like it might hide me.

Conceal the depravity of my actions after I’d just been comforting her hours before.

Heart thrashing, I turned and moved far enough to peek out the small section where the fabric shower curtain hadn’t been drawn fully closed.

It was just a little sliver that left me exposed.

But it was enough. When I peered out, I was looking right at my girl pressed up against the wall.

She stared right back at me.

And I wanted to be horrified, my mind scrambling to conjure every weak apology I could summon. Ready to fucking grovel to keep her from turning and running once again.

Because that’s exactly what I expected her to do.

But her expression…her expression clutched me in the center of the chest and sent what little brain function I had left stampeding south.

Red, lush lips were parted, her hand pressed to her hollow of her throat, pupils dilated so big that her hooded, cerulean eyes appeared black. Needy breaths were coming at me from that sweet mouth like a goddamned freight train.

Desire swelled in the confines of the too-tight room.

Alive.

She pressed deeper into the wall as if it might support her weakened knees. Head rocked back. Thighs squeezing together.

Motherfuck.

My hand shot to the shower wall to steady myself. “Warning you, Edie, you need to get out of here. Right now.”

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ALPOwl SeriesStoneInTheSeaAmazon US | iBooks | B&N | Kobo | Amazon UK | Amazon AU | Amazon CA

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ALP AuthBio2 Owl

aljacksonphotoA.L. Jackson is the New York Times & USA Today Bestselling author of contemporary romance. She writes emotional, sexy, heart-filled stories about boys who usually like to be a little bit bad.

Her bestselling series include THE REGRET SERIES, CLOSER TO YOU, as well as the newest BLEEDING STARS novels. Watch for the next installments, WAIT and STAY, coming in 2016.

If she’s not writing, you can find her hanging out by the pool with her family, sipping cocktails with her friends, or of course with her nose buried in a book.

Be sure not to miss new releases and sales from A.L. Jackson – Sign up to receive her newsletter http://bit.ly/NewsFromALJackson or text “jackson” to 96000 to receive short but sweet updates on all the important news.

Connect with A.L. Jackson online:www.aljacksonauthor.com

Snapchat: aljacksonauthor

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Blog Tour ~ When I Lied by Michelle Kemper Brownlow

When Kate created her sexy online persona, “Lexi,” she never expected the lies to spin so far out of control. But now one of the biggest rock stars in the world, the brilliant but damaged Oliver Walt, is in love with her, and revealing the truth means not only breaking her own heart but sending the musician into a tailspin from which he might never recover.
Lexi is just the sort of
girl a dark and brooding rockstar like Oliver Walt would fall for. Beautiful.
Wild. Fun. The only problem?
LEXI IS A LIE
Bookish Kate Green knew she needed to brush up on her social skills before her first year of college, so she created an online persona to chat and flirt. And who better to practice on than talented and tormented rock frontman Oliver Walt? After all, the lead singer of her favorite band would hardly notice one more adoring fan. Except…he does. And with a single private message, Kate’s world changes forever.
Then Oliver wants to meet in person. Kate knows she has to come clean, but things are never that easy, so instead she enlists the aid of her beautiful and calculating study partner…which turns out just the way you might expect.  Now, with Gretchen refusing to stop being Lexi, the lies grow bigger by the hour—and so do the stakes. Kate’s heart
and Oliver’s life.
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I had the distinct pleasure of reading When I Lied as it was being written. Being witness to the process of fleshing out the facets of Oliver and Kate and their relationship was a thing to behold. Seeing the havoc that can be reeked by a seemingly innocuous lie was equally fascinating and devastating. Feeling the pain and hope that Michelle poured into every word of this novel was humbling.

When I Lied is an accidental Catfish in reverse. The plain girl, looking to step outside of her comfort zone of books and school, decides to take on a party girl persona with which to interact with the digital world. The famous boy is just interacting with his fans, trying to find a connection to fill the emptiness of his life. When the two connected they never thought they’d actually meet. When they met they never knew how the carefully constructed lies and walls they’d constructed would converge and ruin everything.

Oliver Walt was such an amazing character. He was more flawed than perfect, more sad than happy, and more intense than anyone could imagine. He was a walking chasm of pain and loneliness. He kept a carefully orchestrated public persona in place to protect his delicate psyche from more damage; while letting bits of the pain into the lyrics his adoring fans relished. It was obvious he was waiting for someone to see the distress he disguised so masterfully. There were several times, throughout the book, my heart physically ached for his. I needed him to see he was more than the person he thought he was, and deserved so much more than the superficial connections he was indulging in.

Kate Green was very interesting. So smart, yet still so naïve. Kate was a far more transparent character than Oliver, likely a result of being the narrator. She was definitely a girl just learning how she fit into the world. Trying to find a foothold and keep it, while looking for the next safe spot to move. She often showed her intelligence in the way she built her cover stories and did her investigating. More often she showed how scared and innocent she was, trusting in the wrong person and hoping they’d stand by their commitments. I loved innocent little Kate and just wanted her to figure out a way to get everything she wanted.

The villain of the story was the epitome of a wolf dressed in sheep’s clothing. On the outside, she was the perfect, pretty, smart college girl everyone hopes to be or know. Right beneath that shiny veneer was something so dark and evil it poisoned everything. She never went to a place that was unbelievable, though. She was the bully we all fear. The evil that we’ve all crossed in some way. No matter who you are you’ll know who this person is in your life.

When I Lied was a roller coaster for me. The highs were so high I felt my heart might take flight, right out of my chest; the lows made me feel as if there were a literal hole in my chest. The dichotomy of Kate and Oliver are what really sold this for me. Kate was the light and only saw the light. Even when things were bleak and she’d seemingly lost hope it was only momentarily. She found a pinprick of hope and reached for it. Oliver, on the other hand, was constantly wallowing in the dark. As he was basking in the brightness of Kate’s optimism he still found a shadow to explore. The push and pull of the two made me need them to find a way to exist in both shadow and light. I firmly believe that you can’t have one without the other and When I Lied was a wonderful depiction of my belief. Too much light and you get burned, too much darkness and you wither away.

5 feathers

ALP Excerpt Owl

“Oliver, I don’t know if it’s my place to say anything…” I stammered a little as I tried to find the right words.
“It’s okay, Kate. You can say anything to me. What is it? What’s bothering you?” He tilted his head like he always did. It melted me each time he did it.
“Oliver, just know that you have blessed my heart and my soul with who you are and the words you bring to life. Be careful not to cut your time short inspiring the world with your genius, too.” I didn’t know what else to say and worried I’d said too much. Tears pricked behind my eyes, still being held back from earlier in the evening.
“Kate! Why are you crying?” Oliver’s other hand lifted to my other cheek and he held my face close to his.
“Oliver, there’s something I have to tell you.” Tears streamed from the corners of my eyes. The time had come. It needed to be done. It would break him but hopefully he could heal knowing I’d voluntarily set him free from the lie I’d created.
The limo’s horn blared and we both jumped. I sucked in a deep breath and wiped my face. Oliver’s hands gripped my bare arms.
“Come ON! Say good night already!” Gretchen’s voice had become like nails on a chalkboard and I’d have gotten great pleasure in ripping her throat wide open so I’d never have to hear it again.
“Lexi, you’re being rude. Please give us a moment.” Oliver actually rolled his eyes then turned back to me. I knew I didn’t have enough time to unleash the backstory of my lie before Gretchen would catapult herself from the limo and drag Oliver back inside.
Abort mission.
“It’s okay. I’m sorry, Oliver. I get weepy when I drink too much. It’s nothing. Go ahead. I don’t want you to have to deal with Lexi being pissed off for the rest of your evening.”
“You sure you’re okay?” He placed his hands on my bare neck and goose bumps rose across every square inch of me.
“Promise, I’m fine. Champagne makes me really intense.” I winked and turned and slid my ID through the security lock. The door clicked and I pulled it open. I wanted him to walk inside with me and not leave until morning.
“Sweet dreams, sweet Kate.”

ALP AuthBio2 Owl

Michelle Kemper Brownlow likes her music loud and prefers live
concerts but will happily settle for the eclectic playlists on her iPhone. This
Penn State grad and former high school art teacher is easily distracted by
colorful art supplies and Eddie Vedder’s voice. When she’s not in her studio
writing, she can be found putting off housework for a good romance novel that
has her heart pounding and tears flowing. She is married to her college
sweetheart and is mom to three fantastic humans, a black lab, a tabby cat and a
Chinchilla named Wodney. 
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