Tag: Guest Author

Guest Blog: A Fresh Start with Nicole Helm (+ Excerpt)

Posted June 22, 2016 by Rowena in Promotions | 0 Comments

Today on the blog, Nicole Helm will be talking about fresh starts and starting over new. She’s also sharing an excerpt from her book Ignite from the Firefighters of Montana series published by Tule Publishing. Check it out!

Ignite by Nicole Helm
Firefighters of Montana #3
Releases on June 21, 2016 by Tule Publishing

Lina McArthur has spent her life in Marietta, Montana, in the shadow of her doctor father. But now that she’s finally broken free and moved away, she is determined to figure out who she is out of her scrubs. Then she meets the first man to ever tempt her to let him take them off…

Dean “Ace” Clark has been on the run from a troubled and tragic past. When a work-related injury sends the smoke jumper to the hospital, his wounds are tended by the beautiful Dr. McArthur. Just one problem. He knows the McArthur name, and she’s connected to the past he desperately wants to stay one step ahead of.

Ace has never been afraid to jump into a dangerous situation, but falling for Lina might just be the biggest leap of courage he’s ever faced..

Have you ever dreamed about starting completely over? New life. New name. Whole new identity. Growing up, I moved a lot, and got somewhat obsessed with the idea of fresh starts. A haircut to start the new year, a fresh notebook for every new story idea. I was always certain that a new thing could possibly change my life. I didn’t go so far as to create a whole new identity, but that idea of a fresh start was one I held onto a long time.

On top of that, I always loved stories where people assumed different identities, or police detectives went undercover as someone else, or soap opera villains who turned out to be some long lost other character. It’s a fascinating prospect becoming someone else.

While I was writing IGNITE, I finally got to explore what it might be like to have a completely new identity. And what better identity could a man trying to get away from his past choose than a smoke jumper who fights fire that destroys and makes new all at the same time?

My hero ran away as a teen and started over with a new name, a made up life story, and for a while it works out just great, but nothing is ever as easy or simple as we think it’ll be. Because that thing I learned was there are no fresh starts, and you always have to face the things you thought you’d left behind.

Have you ever dreamed about becoming someone else? Starting completely over? Did you have a new identity plan?

Order the Book:



Lina McArthur studied the screen of her rolling computer station, noting the patient’s information before entering the exam room. It hadn’t been a particularly busy day in the ER—late afternoon rarely was, here. Considering she’d come from the tiny town of Marietta, Montana, Kalispell was something of a change. Sure it wasn’t New York City, but it was still busier than she had been used to during her residency with Marietta Regional.

Possible concussion wasn’t exactly a gunshot wound, but it was nice to be here, to work somewhere outside the sphere of her father’s influence. She’d only been with Kalispell Regional for a month now, but living on her own, being out of the McArthur spotlight in Marietta, it was everything she’d dreamed it could be.

She stepped fully into the exam room to find a large man sprawled out on the exam table. He was wearing pants that had large tear down the side, which revealed a long if not terribly deep scratch. The pants and the loose-fitting T-shirt he wore were covered in a streaky black substance that appeared to be smoke or soot of some kind.

He had black smudges on his face as well, though mostly at his hairline and under his stubbled jaw. Someone had cleaned and bandaged the scrapes across his cheek, but the nurse had informed her that he didn’t need any stitches.

“Mr.…” She wasn’t sure why she paused over the last name. It was a very common one and just because it happened to be the last name of her best friend didn’t mean anything. She’d just been thinking about home and Marietta, and Jess was one of the few things she missed.

Besides, the brother Jess was looking for might have the last name Clark, but his first name was not Ace like this gentleman’s. It was a coincidence and silly to think otherwise.

If there was one thing Lina McArthur was not, it was silly. “Mr. Clark. I see you took a little bit of a tumble. Can you tell me what happened?”

“You mean the same story I already told the nurses? Each and everyone who came in and asked me the same damn question?” His voice was deep and edged with total irritation.

“It’s important we all get our story straight,” Lina replied, doing her best to keep her tone equitable. The hardest part of being a doctor for her was bedside manner. Especially being in the ER where people tended to take out their fear and nervousness on her. But she hadn’t made it through med school and residency in a hospital dominated by her larger-than-life father without learning how to plaster on a fake smile. “If you could just explain to me what happened and where you’re hurt.”

“This is so unbelievable,” he grumbled, sitting up straighter in the bed and glaring at her with a sharp, blue gaze.

Blue eyes, just like Jess. And half the rest of the population, idiot. “Mr—”

“Listen, lady, I have better things to do than sit in the ER telling a million people the same story. I was hurt. As I can walk, see, and think, I’ve deduced that I’m fine. No medical degree needed.”

Surly, her absolute least favorite type of patient to deal with. Probably because she’d be the same if the situations were reversed. She hated repeating herself, hated waiting. Patience was not her virtue.

It didn’t appear to be this man’s either. Though he didn’t fidget, his blue eyes were nearly vibrating with a kind of restless irritation. His jet black hair was unruly, though not too terribly long.

He didn’t even look a thing like Jess, why did she keep wondering over his last name? It would be too crazy of a coincidence.

Besides, he’s hot.

Neither here nor there, brain.

“I’m sorry you’re frustrated, Mr. Clark,” she said in the most cheerful voice she could muster. “But this is procedure, and the sooner you cooperate the sooner we can release you. Now, please explain to me what happened.”

“I’m a smoke jumper,” he grumbled, crossing his arms over his chest.

His arms were also streaked with black—smoke apparently. They were also…yum.

Argh. No. No thinking patients were hot.

“Small fire and I got caught up in the wrong wind. My chute got twisted and I landed hard, hitting my head on a tree. I’m a little banged up and apparently I lost consciousness for a second or two, but obviously I’m fine.” He swept a hand down the front of himself.

She didn’t allow herself to peruse. Oh, yes, he is fine. “How long were you out?”

“I’m not sure. The guys said a couple seconds. But the medic checked—”

“Obviously, the medic thought you should come to the ER. Have you had vomiting, nausea, change in vision?”

“Why don’t you ask the eight hundred people who came before who’ve already asked me that, lady?”

“Doctor. I am a doctor. Right now I am your doctor. So, stop calling me lady.” Once she said the words, she winced. She wasn’t supposed to snap but, oh, how she hated to be called lady or girlie.

His gaze sharpened, but his mouth, which had been screwed into a scowl since she walked in, curved upward. It was surprisingly potent, his smile. She didn’t trust it all.

“Pack a little bit of a punch for such a tiny package, don’t you, doc?”

“I’m not a package,” she replied, curling her fingers around the edges of her computer cart. “And I don’t pack any punch. I am a doctor.”

He sat up on the exam table, looking her over with a certain kind of…interest. Interest that made her feel very nearly jittery. Nervous. She’d never cared to feel either. Especially in the presence of a man who clearly thought she was something he could play with.

Lina McArthur was not toyed with. She scowled as she realized the voice in her head sounded far too much like her own father to make her comfortable.

Of course, that had always been because of who her father was, who her family was—the not being toyed with. While some people at this hospital knew of her father’s stellar medical reputation, his influence didn’t quite reach here. She’d been treated differently since moving here in that she hadn’t been treated differently at all, and it was nice to blend in. To not feel like she had to live up to the McArthur name.

That didn’t make men any easier. They were still as baffling as they always were. She slumped a little behind her cart, typing his explanation into the computer. “I’m going to examine the bump.”

“Are you now?”

She wanted to stutter at the lazy way he drawled that, but she schooled her tongue to behave as she stepped toward him. “Did you come into contact with any fire?” she asked, unable to stop looking at him. Which was…ridiculous. So, he was hot? She’d seen attractive men as patients before. But…there was something different about him. Something affecting. And pretty. And muscles.

“No, where I jumped, the fire’d already been put out. This is all old ash.”

“Ah.” Her hands wanted to shake, but she focused on the task at hand. Bump. Concussion symptoms. Deciding if she’d recommend a CAT scan.

“Ever jumped into a fire, doc?”

“No, my job is to heal fools who think they’re immortal.” Oh, that was not bedside manner.

But he laughed and something about that sexy rumble while she was gently parting his hair made her brain malfunction. Completely. She didn’t even remember what she was doing.

Focus. You’re a doctor. You’re a McArthur. The bump wasn’t alarming, and the placement on his skull made it unlikely he had internal bleeding, with no ill-effects this far after the original accident.

“So, what’s the verdict, doc?” he asked, his voice a low, silky murmur. “Do I have a week to live?”

She dropped her hands and took a few steps away from him. Okay, maybe she scurried away from him. “You probably suffered from a concussion. Over the next few days you may get a nasty headache. You’ll want to avoid any screen time—TV, phones, computers. No contact sports, or, I assume, jumping out of planes.”

That knocked all the silky ease out of him and he sat up straight. “Fire season starts this week, aside from training I have to be ready to—”

“You’ll have to miss it. For a week.”

He scowled and jumped off the bed. “Like hell.”

She shrugged, making sure to keep the computer cart between them as she typed her recommendation into his chart. “Sorry, buddy. That’s how this works.”

“I don’t think you’re sorry at all, Dr…” His gaze trailed down to her name tag, and she was sure it was her imagination his eyes took a little detour over her breasts because not only were they the opposite of impressive, but her coat covered them up fairly well.

“Dr. McArthur,” he said, as though…stunned. As though he didn’t just know of the name, as though he knew the name. Intimately.

Then his gaze returned to hers and she knew… He knew her name. He knew her family. And his last name was Clark.

It couldn’t be, but it had to be. “Your name isn’t Ace at all, is it? It’s Dean. Dean Clark.”
Ace held himself very still. There’d been a few times in the past few years someone had been looking for Dean, and he’d managed to throw them off the scent. It helped that most of the people who looked for him had a picture from when he’d been sixteen. Tall and wiry, a sneering, angry, gangly thing.

He hadn’t been Dean Clark in ten years and he didn’t plan on going back now. Ace Clark was charming, fun-loving, and an integral part of his smokejumping crew, even if he could read the suspicion in his new captain’s eyes. The rest of the guys liked him, trusted him. Mostly.

He’d embraced the life he’d made up. Even rented a place in Kalispell and stayed year-round. He’d given up Dean, and he hadn’t looked back.

Damn McArthurs, always sticking their noses where they didn’t belong. How had he run into one here? And a doctor to boot. A doctor telling him he couldn’t work for a week? The season was just starting.

He wasn’t going to sit around twiddling his thumbs if there was a fire. It had taken him twenty years to find a purpose, the past seven to work his way up to jumper.

A McArthur, of all people, wouldn’t muck up his plans. “I don’t know a Dean, lady.” It wasn’t as easy to lie to this woman as the people who’d come before. Who the hell knew why? Maybe because the McArthur name had thrown him for a loop, a painful reminder of the sister who he’d had to leave to save, or maybe it was because this woman’s dark blue eyes were sharp and intelligent.

He didn’t know what kind of relationship she had with his sister, but considering the McArthurs had taken Jess in once he’d finally smartened up and hightailed it out of Marietta, he figured this woman knew his sister well enough.

Which meant he had to get away from her ASAP. Jess couldn’t know he was here. He might have gotten his life together, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t always two steps away from blowing it all to hell again.
Jess deserved better. That was why he’d left her. So she’d stop hurting herself over the likes of him.

“Yes, you do,” she said, her voice steady and sure.

He needed to make her scramble again, so he forced himself to smile, to admire the shape of her because it made her cheeks turn pink and the otherwise solid, capable doctor demeanor fade into someone shifty and nervous.

He had no idea why the nerves were attractive on her. Usually, he liked a woman with a little more experience and a lot more overt interest in him. Easy women who knew what they were getting into. Temporary fun.

She was none of those things. And she’s a McArthur. Keep your head together. “I got a…second cousin or something named Dean, I think.” He shrugged, offering his mastered empty-headed smile. “Wouldn’t know him if I saw him though. It’s been ages.”

She frowned at that and he didn’t think she believed it without reservation, but it hopefully put enough doubt in her head she wouldn’t go spouting his whereabouts to her family.

Please, fate, be on my side for once. “Now, can I go?”

“I’ll have to print out your release papers, and the patient tech will come in and have you sign a few things.” She watched him with a brow furrowed, an intense, considering expression on her face. It did nothing to quell his interest in the sharp-mouthed doctor.

The name McArthur should.

Yeah, it should.

“A second cousin named Dean?”

“Yes. Somewhere in Montana, though I don’t know if it’s anywhere around here. My parents weren’t particularly close with his. I grew up in Oregon.” The lies were always easy, if only because, as a kid, he’d pictured a life as someone else. Anyone else. Ace Clark, smokejumper and not a total life failure, worked for him.

It damn well wasn’t going to come to an end because of a McArthur. Even if she was too attractive for his own good.

He and Jess had been with a foster home outside of Marietta when Jess had started dating one of the McArthur kids. Dean had only ever met one of the McArthurs, and only once. He’d broken his wrist trying to sneak out of the foster house, and the formidable Dr. McArthur had treated him, asking if he knew Jess.

Dean had lied, because Dr. McArthur had made it abundantly clear he would view Jess’s relation to him as a mark against her.

So, Dean had done his level best to get kicked out of another foster home, get his ass on the road, and leave Jess to a life that gave her a chance at something more than they’d ever had. More than he ever thought he’d be able to have.

He didn’t know much about this McArthur woman except she was one of them, and a doctor.

And hopefully at least a tiny bit gullible.

She studied him for the longest time and he pretended like he was the man he’d invented. Carefree, life-of-the-party Ace Clark. Lazy smiles, relaxed demeanor. None of the go-to-hell tenseness that had made up his life for the first twenty-some years.

He locked away all the irritation, the disgust at being in room with a McArthur—especially a pretty one—forced away any softening memories of his sister who’d been the only one in his life who’d ever tried to do right by him.

Much like fighting a fire, he couldn’t worry about more than the moment. More than the challenge in front of him. First, the jump. Then the landing. So, right now, all he could focus on was being unaffected.

“Well, print those papers, doc. I’ve got work to get back to.”

Her considering look sharpened into disgust. “If you care about the health of your brain, you won’t jump or do anything with high impact for a week, Mr. Clark.”

He grinned, couldn’t help it, and she must have read at least a portion of his thoughts because she blushed. Damn if he didn’t want to stick around and make her blush a few more times.
Not in the cards. Right. “I’ll see what I can manage.”

She rolled her eyes, but she clicked something on her computer than pushed the whole cart to the door. She looked back once, giving him a once-over that wasn’t nearly as interested as he’d like it to be. No, it was dissection. It was could you be Dean Clark?

“Why’d you say McArthur like it meant something to you?” she finally asked.

“You ever heard of Colin McArthur?”

Her eyebrows furrowed. “No.”

“He was a famous college football player who became a smokejumper. He’s a legend—big story in some big magazine years ago. There was a documentary about him. Thought you might be related.” He’d always thought quickly on his feet, thanks to dear, old dad’s equally quick fists and threats.

She didn’t say anything after that, simply wheeled out of the room. Ace allowed the easy smile to leave his face, to acknowledge some of that riotous fury inside of him, the tense fear she might say something to Jess. That this might be over.

“No, it isn’t over.” He’d finally built himself a life. He wasn’t going to upend this one—not because of anyone else.

Surely, since she’d left, she’d let it go, and if she didn’t… Well, he’d figured out how to deal. He’d roll with the punches. He always had.

He waited around for the interminable time it took the patient tech to go over the insurance and billing paperwork. Finally, they released him and he was allowed to walk down the corridor and out into the waiting room.

That’s the last time I set foot in the Kalispell Hospital. He’d find a way to make sure if anything happened on a jump again, they’d take him somewhere else once they got him out. Anywhere else.

“Hey, Ace, what’s the verdict?”

Ace stopped short, not realizing Sam had stayed. It had been hours now, and as much as it had surprised him the new captain he didn’t particularly care for had driven him here, he was downright shocked Sam had stayed. “You didn’t have to stay, captain.”

Sam shrugged. “You were out cold for a good minute. Wasn’t sure they’d let you drive out of here.”

“She didn’t say anything about driving.” He scowled at his discharge papers. He could refuse to give them to Sam, he could lie, it wouldn’t be the first or last time, but he found he kind of did care about the health of his brain. “But I can’t jump for the next week.”

“Sucks, man.” Sam commiserated, walking out of the hospital next to him. “We’ll keep you busy.”

Ace eyed Sam. It was hard to trust people, always had been, and losing Russ last year… Well, Russ was the first person who had trusted Ace with something. Who’d believed in him. It had been a blow and Ace had been unfair to his replacement in the interim. Maybe not consciously, but this kind gesture meant he saw it pretty glaringly now.

Maybe he should rethink that strategy. Sam had changed things up, but he was a good guy. Someone to trust. “Thanks. For staying.”

“Anytime.” They climbed into Sam’s truck, but he didn’t start the engine right away. “I mean that seriously, Clark. Anytime.”

Ace wanted to laugh. Sure, bury the hatchet with the new boss when a woman who threatened his real identity had just called him on it.

But he’d come too far, built too much. He had a place to belong, so he just had to come up with a plan. A plan no big-nosed McArthur could ruin, no matter what she told Jess.

Ace didn’t allow himself to think of his sister. Not as anything other than a problem to avoid. He watched the highway pass and focused on his lies instead.


About the Author

Nicole Helm

Nicole Helm grew up with her nose in a book and a dream of becoming a writer. Luckily, after a few failed career choices, a husband, and two kids, she gets to pursue that dream.

Nicole lives in Missouri with her husband and two sons, and writes her novels one baby’s nap at a time. She’s slightly (okay, totally) addicted to Twitter, loves watching the St. Louis Cardinals, and her dream is to someday own a barn.

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Five Books Everyone Should Read: Reader Tasha

Posted November 22, 2015 by Rowena in Features | 1 Comment

Five Books Everyone Should Read is a feature we’re running in 2015. We’ve asked some of our favorite authors, readers and bloggers to share five books that touched them or have stayed with them throughout the years.

5 Books Project

This week, we have one of my good friends sharing the books she thinks everyone should read. Tasha is a busy mother of six who still finds time to read a whole lot of books. She’s also one of the coolest Moms you’ll ever meet. Check out her picks:

9992532Tasha: Wow, when you asked me to choose 5 books, I hadn’t realise how hard it was going to be. I found myself adding more and more titles and then I’d have to go back and cross some of them off and really narrow it down. So for now, at this moment, here are the five books I’ve chosen that you must pick up…

Slave to Sensation by Nalini Singh1. Slave To Sensation (Psy-Changeling #1) by Nalini Singh

Nalini Singh dives into a world torn apart by a powerful race with phenomenal powers of the mind-and none of the heart.

In a world that denies emotions, where the ruling Psy punish any sign of desire, Sascha Duncan must conceal the feelings that brand her as flawed. To reveal them would be to sentence herself to the horror of “rehabilitation” – the complete psychic erasure of everything she ever was…

Both human and animal, Lucas Hunter is a changeling hungry for the very sensations the Psy disdain. After centuries of uneasy coexistence, these two races are now on the verge of war over the brutal murders of several changeling women. Lucas is determined to find the Psy killer who butchered his packmate, and Sascha is his ticket into their closely guarded society. But he soon discovers that this ice-cold Psy is very capable of passion – and that the animal in him is fascinated by her. Caught between their conflicting worlds, Lucas and Sascha must remain bound to their identities – or sacrifice everything for a taste of darkest temptation.

Aside from the Twilight Saga, this was one of the first sci-fi/paranormal romance I read and I fell in love with it. It was completely out of my norm type of reading, which was mostly historical romances and all the ones with the fairytale happily ever after type of books. If you’re looking for something thats different and out of the norm, this is the one for you. You’ve got a big bad alpha shifter who falls in love with a psy – a person incapable of feelings or emotions. Can you see where I’m going with this? Exactly, these two come from completely different worlds, brought up to view the other as the enemy and here they are with this unexplainable attraction towards one another…what to do, what to do! There’s so much going on around them added the the chemistry these two ignite, this is surely one read you won’t soon forget.

1077742. Honor’s Splendor by Julie Garwood

In the feuding English court, gentle Lady Madelyne suffered the cruel whims of her ruthless brother, Baron Louddon. Then, in vengeance for a bitter crime, Baron Duncan of Wexton—the Wolf—unleashed his warriors against Louddon’s main. Exquisite Madelyne was the prize he catured…but when he gazed upon the proud beauty, he pledged to protect her with his life. In his rough-hewn castle, Duncan proved true to his honor. But when at last their noble passion conquered them both, she surrendered with all her soul. Now, for love, Madelyne would stand fast…as bravely as her Lord, the powerful Wolf who fought for…Honor’s Splendour.

Julie Garwood has to be one of my most favorite historical romance authors of all time and after reading this book, you’ll need no further explanation. In this books, I found myself laughing at the outrageous-ness of the scenes to wanting to club the hero in the back of his head for being such a big bonehead. By the time I finished this book, I felt all warm and fuzzy and was ready to cuddle up to my husband. Looking for one of those happily-ever-after-fairytale-endings, with a bit of humor here and there, this is the one for you!

136288123. The Rent Collector by Camron Wright

Survival for Ki Lim and Sang Ly is a daily battle at Stung Meanchey, the largest municipal waste dump in all of Cambodia. They make their living scavenging recyclables from the trash. Life would be hard enough without the worry for their chronically ill child, Nisay, and the added expense of medicines that are not working. Just when things seem worst, Sang Ly learns a secret about the bad-tempered rent collector who comes demanding money–a secret that sets in motion a tide that will change the life of everyone it sweeps past. The Rent Collector is a story of hope, of one woman’s journey to save her son and another woman’s chance at redemption.

This was not a book I would’ve picked up on my own. Actually, this was one of the books I had to read for a book club discussion and it was a phenomenal read to say the least. Reading this book made me want to stop for a moment, take a look at my life and really appreciate all that I have-no matter how little or how irrelevant it may seem. Before you start complaining about how terrible things in your life, pick up this book and see if you can still whine about your troubles afterwards. I must warn you, there are moments in the book where it may seem to drag, but once you get past those parts, you’ll be glad you pushed through. I was so grateful for the opportunity to have read this book and hopefully you’ll understand why some day.

austenland4. Austenland by Shannon Hale

Jane Hayes is a seemingly normal young New Yorker, but she has a secret. Her obsession with Mr. Darcy, as played by Colin Firth in the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, is ruining her love life: no real man can compare. But when a wealthy relative bequeaths her a trip to an English resort catering to Austen-crazed women, Jane’s fantasies of meeting the perfect Regency-era gentleman suddenly become realer than she ever could have imagined.

Decked out in empire-waist gowns, Jane struggles to master Regency etiquette and flirts with gardeners and gentlemen;or maybe even, she suspects, with the actors who are playing them. It’s all a game, Jane knows. And yet the longer she stays, the more her insecurities seem to fall away, and the more she wonders: Is she about to kick the Austen obsession for good, or could all her dreams actually culminate in a Mr. Darcy of her own?

Okay, I’m not a big fan of the “ton” period, with the men going about doing whatever the heck they want without any consequences to worry about, while the ladies must sit around and learn how to sew, sing or play a musical instrument as a means of entertainment. Ugh, not sure if I would’ve been able to survive living like that. But here in this adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, she made this totally worth the read. It was funny, quirky and oh so swoon worthy (sigh). The setting is during modern times but all the action and drama happens when they are on a retreat that’s set up for those who wish to live the experience as if they were part of the “ton”.

TheGamePlanbyKristenCallihan5. The Game Plan (Game On #3) by Kristen Callihan

A beard-related dare and one hot-as-hell kiss changes everything.

NFL center Ethan Dexter’s focus has always been on playing football and little else. Except when it comes to one particular woman. The lovely Fiona Mackenzie might not care about his fame, but she’s also never looked at him as anything more than one of her brother-in-law’s best friend. That ends now.

Fi doesn’t know what to make of Dex. The bearded, tattooed, mountain of man-muscle looks more like a biker than a football player. Rumor has it he’s a virgin, but she finds that hard to believe. Because from the moment he decides to turn his quiet intensity on her she’s left weak at the knees and aching to see his famous control fully unleashed.

Dex is looking for a forever girl, but they live vastly different lives in separate cities. Fi ought to guard her heart and walk away. But Dex has upped his game and is using all his considerable charm to convince Fi he’s her forever man.

And finally, this one! There’s no way I couldn’t add this one to the list especially since I’ve just finished it and absolutely loved it!!! I read a lot of romance novels with the hot dominating alphas, or the scary bikers and even some of the tall slim languid rock super stars but not often do you read about big, bearded, professional football players who are as humble as they come.He’s quiet, caring, very protective of what belongs to him and you can’t help but want to cuddle up to this beautiful specimen. And doesn’t that just make him even more sexy-MY GOSH!! Guy crushes on girl for 2 years and doesn’t say a thing. Also, they couldn’t be more opposites, he’s super tall and bulky (like the Incredible Hulk) and she’s so short, dainty with curves (like Tinkerbell). He’s more likely to hide off in the corner with his bottle of water, where she’s out there having the time of her life. Watching these two come together and face their fears made for an awesome read!

So there you have it! My five choices 🙂 Hope this works out for ya! Thanks for thinking of me…I really enjoyed it!

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Five Books Everyone Should Read: Kindle Gal

Posted August 16, 2015 by Rowena in Features | 181 Comments

Five Books Everyone Should Read is a feature we’re running in 2015. We’ve asked some of our favorite authors, readers and bloggers to share five books that touched them or have stayed with them throughout the years.

5 Books Project

KindleGal is another Twitter friend who has a fantastic blog and has similar reading tastes so we’re big fans of hers. She’s here to share her top five book picks.

KG avatar
“Five Books Everyone Should Read,” aka the evilest guest blog topic ever. Like many others before me, I happily accepted Holly’s invitation to do this before realizing what an insane task it really was. FIVE books and ZERO parameters?? Eep.

In the end, I chose my five, and collectively, it might seem like a really odd list. After all, I’ve been predominately a contemporary romance reader the past few years and there is only one romance on my list. But the task was five books everyone should read, so I went with some of the most impactful books that have stayed with me over the years for one reason or another.

Here goes (in no particular order)…

The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins

Is this cheating, naming an entire trilogy as one of my five? Probably, but I’m willing to risk it because it’s the trilogy as a whole that makes this a must-read recommendation.

I realize a lot of people may have already read these books, but for you holdouts and those who have only seen the movies (bad bookworm, BAD!), I urge you to give them a try. They are so intelligently written, with fantastic world-building and a plot that keeps you turning the pages. But what I loved most, and why they are on my list, is that hidden underneath the suspense of a great action adventure/thriller, there are endless statements about how this horrific dystopian world might not be so different than ours.

I honestly think every middle school student should read and discuss these books. It shows the ugly side of what happens when a society becomes obsessed with vanity, is entertained by watching other people fail spectacularly, believes whatever they see/hear in the media, and allows others to suffer so long as they feel/remain safe. See where I’m going with this? Yeah.

I love that the protagonist is a girl who is imperfect. Broken, even. She is also insanely brave and strong, and the way she demonstrates all of these traits over the course of the trilogy is simply beautiful.

Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

(Yes, I’m cheating again.) Do I really need to explain why this series is on my must-read list? In fact, some of you may be wondering why it needs to be on my list at all, since everyone has already read it. Au contraire, I know a few people who continue to resist reading this series, including one of my blogmates! GAH!!

This series is simply magical. Born from a vast imagination, the world of Harry Potter is one that swallows you up whole as you read the adventures (and misadventures) of the orphan wizard who, along with his friends, grows up before your very eyes. The world-building is phenomenal, and while the stories are far from perfect (some more than others), I am certain they will stand the test of time and become classics that my children’s grandchildren will enjoy.

Just for funsies, here are some bits of goodness that can be found in the pages of this series:

“It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.” — Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

“It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” — Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

“Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if only someone remembers to turn on the light.” — Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

“If you want to know what a man’s like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.” — Sirius Black, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Oh, the Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss

Okay, stick with me here … Have you read this story recently? As an adult? Do it.

This book is all about life’s ups and downs, and although it’s technically a children’s story, it really speaks to adults. It reminds us that life isn’t always going to be easy; we might get stuck in the Lurch, end up in a Slump, and there may be times we are in—gasp!—The Waiting Place. But despite these inevitable bumps in the road, there is optimism and hope. Always hope.

Yes, it’s simplistic. Perhaps even a tad childish and trite. But for most people, it’s the perfect pep talk and reminder that “life is a great balancing act” and to not despair.

Thinking in Pictures: My Life with Autism by Dr. Temple Grandin

This was a somewhat impulsive Half Price Books buy for me 19 years ago. I’d just started graduate school and had an interest in neuropsychology and learning disabilities. I didn’t know much about autism at the time and found this read utterly fascinating. In it, Grandin, a gifted animal scientist with high-functioning autism, tells about her experiences as someone who views the world in a very concrete and visual way, touching on how this impacts her social interactions, but more significantly, how it led her to apply this perspective and understanding to help revolutionize the way livestock are humanely handled across the country. While so many books talk about how to “cure” or “manage” autistic tendencies, this was the first one I’d read that showed how the mind of someone with autism was an asset.

Fast-forward 11 years to my oldest son’s diagnosis on the autism spectrum.

While there are many aspects of my son’s experience that are different than Grandin’s, I firmly believe Thinking in Pictures laid the foundation for me to better understand and appreciate my son’s unique gifts. Because of this, it will always be on my list of books everyone should read.

P.S. There is a biopic—Temple Grandin, starring Claire Danes—based on parts of this book. It won several prestigious awards several years back.

A Lot Like Love
A Lot Like Love by Julie James

Have I given y’all whiplash yet? Two YA titles, a children’s story, nonfiction psychology, and now … a romance! (I’ll be honest, I was tempted to name the entire FBI/US Attorney series here, but I figured I’ve already pushed my luck…)

It’s kind of a no-brainer that the only romance on my list was going to be one by Julie James. She has owned me ever since I inadvertently picked up my very first romance a few years back (Practice Makes Perfect).

I chose A Lot Like Love for this list because it contains: a “tall, dark, and smoldering” undercover agent; a whip-smart, snarky heroine who can easily hold her own with anyone, anytime; a pretend boyfriend plot; memorable secondary characters; a little suspense; a little romance; and loads of sarcastic, quippy banter. Oh, and did I mention the heroine owns the city’s top wine shop? Yep. Clearly I was destined to love this book!

A Lot Like Love might very well be my all-time favorite contemporary romance! The plot is airtight, the pacing perfect … I honestly can’t think of one thing I dislike about the story or characters. And if you know me, that is saying something.

Kindle Gal’s Bio

Kristi is best known around the web as Kindle Gal because her Kindle Paperwhite is her BFF—she has it on her person 24/7. She is the founder of Kindles & Wine Book Blog, which has won numerous awards and is known for its highly selective and eclectic taste, reviewing across all genres and always providing a beverage pairing to go with each read.

When Kindle Gal is not blogging or drinking red wine, she works as a freelance editor. She is also a wife and mom to three amazingly loud (but adorable) boys.

You can connect with Kindle Gal on her blog, Facebook, Goodreads, and Twitter.

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Five Books Everyone Should Read: #SoCalBlogger Nicole

Posted June 14, 2015 by Holly in Features | 4 Comments

Five Books Everyone Should Read is a feature we’re running in 2015. We’ve asked some of our favorite authors, readers and bloggers to share five books that touched them or have stayed with them throughout the years.

5 Books Project

Today our good friend and fellow So Cal Blogger, Nicole, is here to share her list of Five Books.  Nic is actually the one who got me hooked on New Adult. We met for lunch one afternoon and she rattled off a huge list of books she loved. It was all downhill from there.

NicsNarrowing down to 5 books was so hard.  I could go the “brainer” route and pick books like Plato’s Republic or War and Peace.  I could go with “books that changed my life”  something from Judy Blume or Shel Silverstein. I could go with romance books, biographies, science fiction or even dystopia.  In the end, I considered the Book Binge audience and picked romance books published in the last 15 years.  The other common trait these books have for me is that I was obsessed with them while reading them.  My life was put on hold when reading them.  You know what I’m talking about!  I stayed up all night long so I could find out what happened next.  We’ve all been there. Come on, admit it!

the unsung heroFirst up The Unsung Hero by Suzanne Brockmann.

After a near-fatal head injury, navy SEAL lieutenant Tom Paoletti catches a terrifying glimpse of an international terrorist in his New England hometown. When he calls for help, the navy dismisses the danger as injury-induced imaginings. In a desperate, last-ditch effort to prevent disaster, Tom creates his own makeshift counterterrorist team, assembling his most loyal officers, two elderly war veterans, a couple of misfit teenagers, and Dr. Kelly Ashton-the sweet “girl next door” who has grown into a remarkable woman. The town’s infamous bad boy, Tom has always longed for Kelly. Now he has one final chance for happiness, one last chance to win her heart, and one desperate chance to save the day . . .

For me Brockmann’s early romantic suspense books are some of the best that the genre has to offer.  The Unsung Hero is the first book in the Troubleshooters series.  The Troubleshooters series centers around the members Seal Team 16 and their adventures abroad and at home.  This book has 3 or 4 stories going on at once so I promise you won’t be bored.  As if meeting Commander Tom Paoletti isn’t enough you get to meet the famous Sam and Alyssa. This book is so full of angst, it will for sure give you a book hangover! The book is full of unsung hero’s and it has an ending that will make you cry happy and sad tears.


devil in winterNext up is Lisa Kleypas, Devil in Winter.

Easily the shyest Wallflower, Evangeline Jenner stands to become the wealthiest, once her inheritance comes due. Because she must first escape the clutches of her unscrupulous relatives, Evie has approached the rake Viscount St. Vincent with a most outrageous proposition: marriage!

Sebastian’s reputation is so dangerous that thirty seconds alone with him will ruin any maiden’s good name. Still, this bewitching chit appeared, unchaperoned, on his doorstep to offer her hand. Certainly an aristocrat with a fine eye for beauty could do far worse.

But Evie’s proposal comes with a condition: no lovemaking after their wedding night. She will never become just another of the dashing libertine’s callously discarded broken hearts — which means Sebastian will simply have to work harder at his seductions … or perhaps surrender his own heart for the very first time in the name of true love.

Only Kleypas is a gifted enough writer to take the villain of her last book and make him the hero in the next.  Sebastian is one of my favorite heros of all time.  Yes, this is the book three of the Wallflowers series.  I promise you that the world will not end as you know it if you read book three first instead of book one.  There is enough backstory in the book that you won’t feel at all lost.  Not only is Sebastian crush-worthy, he is so funny.  The banter back and forth between Sebastian and Evie is delicious.


At PeaceAt Peace by Kristen Ashley

Violet Winters once had it all but lost it when her husband was murdered by a criminal madman. During a cold winter night Violet has to leave her warm bed to tell her neighbor to turn the music down. And that’s when she meets sinister, scarred, scarily attractive security specialist, Joe Callahan.

She wants to deny it, but Violet can’t beat back the hunger she feels for Joe so she gives in again and again. Feeling it himself, Joe feeds Vi’s hunger, breaking his own rules to keep her in his bed.

Even though Violet had only one man in her life, she’s sure Joe is giving her the signals and Vi decides she’s ready to take a second chance at life and, maybe, love. But Violet doesn’t know the dark secrets in Joe’s past, secrets so soul-wrenching, they’ve drained him dry. With nothing left to give, Joe’s determined to live his life alone and he breaks Violet’s heart.

Crushed by Joe’s betrayal, Violet comes to terms with the fact that, no matter what signals he gave, Joe was not theirs to win. But Violet’s husband’s murderer is obsessed with her and heartbreak again haunts the door of the Winters home. When it does Joe is forced to face the knowledge that he can’t fight Violet’s pull, she’s under his skin and filled him full to bursting.

This is book two in Ashley’s “The ‘Burg” series.  I have to warn you this book is 660 pages but it is a fast moving ride that will leave you breathless.  Joe and Violet are people who have been tortured in life.  Joe gets very close to being TSTL (to stupid to live) but when the chips are down he shows up and that is why I love Joe.  I wish I could go to The ‘Burg and meet everyone.  Ashley makes her characters come alive and I’m convinced that they really exist.


ruleRule by Jay Crownover

Opposites in every way . . . except the one that matters

Shaw Landon loved Rule Archer from the moment she laid eyes on him. Rule is everything a straight-A pre-med student like Shaw shouldn’t want—and the only person she’s never tried to please. She isn’t afraid of his scary piercings and tattoos or his wild attitude. Though she knows that Rule is wrong for her, her heart just won’t listen.

To a rebel like Rule Archer, Shaw Landon is a stuck-up, perfect princess-and his dead twin brother’s girl. She lives by other people’s rules; he makes his own. He doesn’t have time for a good girl like Shaw-even if she’s the only one who can see the person he truly is.

But a short skirt, too many birthday cocktails, and spilled secrets lead to a night neither can forget. Now, Shaw and Rule have to figure out how a girl like her and a guy like him are supposed to be together without destroying their love . . . or each other.

I read this book back when it was published back in 2012. It was an experiment for me.  First because it was the first independently published book that I read from a brand new author.  Second, I read the reviews and person after person said the story was ok but the spelling and grammar errors were so bad that they couldn’t stand it.  This intrigued me. I wanted to see if it would bother me.  And lastly it was ninety-nine cents.  It completely  blew my mind!  I have read thousands of books in my life and this is the only book that  when finished, I immediately started it over and read it a second time.  I did not care one whit about the grammar errors. And by the way, since Crownover has become such a success she has hired an editor and fixed the book.  This book drips with young adult angst.  Rule and Shaw are trying to figure out who they are at the same time they are falling in love.


restless heartMy last pick is Restless Heart by Emma Lang (Beth Williamson)

Sheltered all her life, Eliza Hunter never imagined herself alone in the vast Utah plains, much less trailing a mysterious, rugged man hired to hunt down her beautiful younger sister. Unable to reveal the truth about her pursuit of him, Eliza plays student to his teacher, transforming herself in the process. And when she finds herself sharing the warmth of Grady’s campfire, wrapped in his arms, hypnotized by his power, soon she is a naive spinster no more …

Grady Wolfe is more than a loner, he’s a man forever on the run. With a body and soul finely honed from living off the land, Grady knows he should leave the irresistible woman alone, but she stirs something in him he hasn’t felt before. Now he’s lost in the woods for the first time in his life—with a dangerous job to do.

Who can resist a badass bounty hunter on the hunt for his prey and the spinster who follows him through Utah with her books strapped to her horse? Not me. Eliza saw the good in Grady from the beginning. I wasn’t so sure until the end. Grady saw the beauty in a bookish spinster from the first. I was surprised at how much I laughed reading this book. Grady and his frustration and exasperation with Eliza during their journey are very entertaining.

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Five Books Everyone Should Read: E_Bookpushers

Posted May 17, 2015 by Holly in Features | 0 Comments

Five Books Everyone Should Read is a new feature we’re running in 2015. We’ve asked some of our favorite authors, readers and bloggers to share five books that touched them or have stayed with them throughout the years.

5 Books Project

Today we have E_Bookpushers here to share her list of five must read books. I have to tell you, she put this list together under extreme duress. “Five? You’re crazy!” was her response the first time I mentioned, I think. She was a good sport. Mostly. There is the small matter of her sneaking an extra book into her list…but we don’t need to speak about such things.

e_bookpushersI have to admit when I was asked to come up with 5 Must reads I really struggled.  Not coming up with 5 but limiting my list to ONLY 5. So I decided I needed to narrow my scope and look at those who came to mind that I read as a relative youngster and made a profound mark on my life.  This profound mark, let me hasten to add as one who never enjoyed “required reading lists” yet who loves rereading, had to be positive.  By happy coincidence, all 5 happen to be part of a series or belong to an author with an extensive backlist for your reading pleasure.  And yes a couple of these might have shown up on other 5 Must Read lists which just shows the impact they made.

dragons' dawn Dragons’ Dawn by Anne McCaffrey

In the beginning, before Thread, before the Dragons, before the Holds and the Weyrs and the elite Dragonriders of Pern, was just the great ships gliding through space with nearly six thousand colonists prepared to tackle the mighty task of beginning a new world on a strange planet. It was a jewel of a planet, with rivers and seas and mountains, and breathable air and growing things. Then came the terror. The strange, unidentifiable circles in the grass suddenly revealed a meaning, and every living thing was at risk. Many died — a horrible and consuming death. All resources, every man, woman and child had to fight the terrible nightmare of Thread. But a new creature was about to save the planet. From the delicate fire lizards a new life was born — a new symbiosis between man and beast.


This wasn’t the first book I read by McCaffrey – that would be either The White Dragon or Dragonsong.  Nor is it really the chronological first tale regarding PERN, but it is the book that made me dream of hunting down a Fire Lizard AND of also riding a dragon like Sorka, one of the young primary characters.  While all sorts of other events occurred in this story involving the adults, I loved Sorka and by extension Sean’s thread.  In fact, when I went away to college 3000 miles away from home and my mom gave me a little stuffed dog, small enough to fit in a pocket, I named the dog Sean so he could watch over me.  (I enjoyed almost everything McCaffrey wrote.)

dawn Octavia butlerArrows of the Queen by Mercedes Lackey

For almost 20 years, Mercedes Lackey has been one of the leading lights in the fantasy genre. With Arrows of the Queen, she introduced readers to Valdemar, a world full of fascinating creatures and compelling characters. This first story features Talia, a young girl desperate to escape the strictures of her conservative society. Her life is changed in an instant when she encounters a Companion and is chosen to replace the recently murdered Queen’s Own Herald. As she begins her training Talia has no idea that a spoiled Princess, some nobly-born bullies, and a conspiracy that will threaten her life will all stand between her and the destiny she must fulfill.

Moving from telepathic, time-traveling, fire-breathing dragons to talking horses.  This also wasn’t the first story I read by Lackey but it connected several books later with the short stories I read and enjoyed from a yearly anthology.  Talia, the heroine, completely sucked me into her life as challenging, dangerous, and as unknown as it was.  I loved how this country depended on teens, young women and men to survive and those teens were empowered.  This was a great find at a “Friends of the Library” book sale. After I finished reading this story, I hunted down everything else Lackey had written. I continue to keep track of what she has written and most have a permanent place on my keepers shelf.

dawn Octavia butlerDawn by Octavia E. Butler

Lilith lyapo awoke from a centuries-long sleep to find herself aboard the vast spaceship of the Oankali. Creatures covered in writhing tentacles, the Oankali had saved every surviving human from a dying, ruined Earth. They healed the planet, cured cancer, increased strength, and were now ready to help Lilith lead her people back to Earth–but for a price.

Once more this isn’t the first story I read by Butler, but you really should read her books in order to understand what is probably one of my favorite characters, Imago.  Butler used science fiction, fantasy, post-apocalyptic settings, and even alien life forms as a way to question what really is humanity.  This particular trilogy, Xenogenisus, combines both post-apocalyptic and alien life forms along with DNA manipulation and engineering to really ask which is stronger and more human: survival as a pure DNA-encoded human or survival as a human/alien DNA blend?  Is suicide as a species more human or surviving but no longer the same?  I have read all but 2 of her novels and several of her short stories and essays.  Each causes me to think and to question and it isn’t always comfortable but, her characters and their struggles are so compelling I re-read them over and over again.

A Morbid Taste for Bones by Ellis PetersA Morbid Taste for Bones by Ellis Peters (Edith Pargeter)

It is 1137, and the ambitious head of Shrewsbury Abbey wishes to acquire the remains of Saint Winifred for the glory of his Benedictine order. Brother Cadfael is part of the expedition sent to the saint’s final resting place in Wales, where he finds the villagers divided over the Benedictines’ quest.

When the leading opponent to moving the grave is shot dead with a mysterious arrow, some believe Winifred herself delivered the blow. Brother Cadfael knows that an earthly hand did the killing. But he doesn’t know that his plan to root out a murderer may dig up a case of love and justice, where the waves of sin may be scandal—or his own ruin.

My mom loves murder mysteries and one from the first series she introduced me to was the Brother Cadfael series by Ellis Peters.  Brother Cadfael was a monk who entered monkhood only after a lifetime of being a soldier and a sailor.  So, he was in no way innocent to the ways of the world but almost seemed to be trying to make up for or pay for things he had done earlier in life.  I often had the feeling one of his regrets was a lost or unrequited love so whenever an event arose involving young lovers, Brother Cadfael’s sympathies were firmly on their side.  I love these stories for their very difference.  The juxtaposition between his green house and the shifting tides of war.  The contrast between his knowledge and the innocence of others around him, and the struggle between a peaceful monk and the warrior of his past all combined to keep me enthralled.  This on top of the unusual setting and the thrill of solving a murder mystery made me a lifelong fan

Ride the River by Louis L’AmourRide the River by Louis L’Amour

In Ride the River, Louis L’Amour spins the tale of a young woman who has to protect her family fortune from a murderous thief and teach him what it means to be a Sackett. Sixteen-year-old Echo Sackett had never been far from her Tennessee home—until she made the long trek to Philadelphia to collect an inheritance. Echo could take care of herself as well as any Sackett man, but James White, a sharp city lawyer, figured that cheating the money from the young girl would be like taking candy from a baby. If he couldn’t hoodwink Echo out of the cash, he’d just steal it from her outright. And if she put up a fight? There were plenty of accidents that could happen to a country girl on her first trip to the big city.

Again this isn’t the first story I read by Louis L’Amour but it is one I reread often.  Part of his long running Sackett series it features a young woman whose family depends on her to make the long trip out of the mountains of Tennessee into the big city of Philadelphia to claim a family inheritance.  Along the way, she deals with unscrupulous lawyers, murderous thieves, and a young man who learned she wanted a partner not a protector.  L’Amour’s stories show an appreciation for the land, the struggle to survive, basic human nature, and also how love or the quest for love/regard of one’s object of attraction can inspire incredible actions good or bad.  I also love his stories because I have walked, driven, eaten, lived, or marveled in some of his very settings so his books come alive for me on several different levels.  I also really enjoy them because they weren’t written in “the vernacular,” so therefore they are approachable.

The hero and the crownExtra, extra read all about it – I would be extremely remise if I didn’t include the book I started wearing out in print when I discovered it in my second grade classroom thanks to Mrs. Biggs.  This would be Robin McKinley’s Hero and the Crown.  I have lost track of how many different copies I have owned over the years, along with its sequel or prequel, The Blue Sword.  McKinley’s prose and her characters always take me on a journey, a journey I can repeat over and over again.  In this case despite my love for dragons and wish to ride them, this was about a girl who didn’t quite fit in, was good at doing things girls weren’t supposed to do, and who saved her people despite themselves.  McKinley’s heroines all speak to the part of me which doesn’t quite fit in with what most of my peer group is interested in at any given time.



I am E_bookpushers and I am addicted to books. I have to thank my mother for my addiction because one of my fondest memories involves bedtime stories. No, I am not talking about Dr. Seuss, Bernstein Bears or Madeline, those were daytime learn to read books, but I am talking about Tolkien, Richard Adams and Asimov… She also encouraged me to get my own library card as soon as I could write. I do not know what deal she struck with the local librarians but I was allowed to check out any book I wanted without any questions. If I read something I didn’t understand she allowed me to ask her, and she explained without embarrassment, shock, horror or disgust.

My first adult science fiction/fantasy book I read, she had checked out of the library and I thought the cover and title sounded interesting. Some of you have probable heard of it THE WHITE DRAGON by Anne McCaffrey. In fact the first adult romance I read was also my mother’s. Now this one I snuck because the cover to my young eyes was something people didn’t d o outside in public. I mean a clinch with flowing hair and overflowing bosoms. That book was the hardback of A ROSE IN WINTER by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss. I still re-read those titles on a regular basis along with Julie Garwood’s THE BRIDE, which happened to be the first romance novel I bought.

Thanks to my mother’s open mindedness I did not grow up a genre snob. While I tend to read and enjoy SF/F in its various permutations, romance and its sub-genres I also read and enjoy westerns, murder mysteries etc. If a book can capture my attention, spark my imagination; carry me into a different world/reality than I am willing to give it a try. So bring on your recommendations so I can update my TBR list.

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