Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Interview with Jamie Beck, Author of Before I Knew + Giveaway (US only)

I'd like to welcome Jamie Beck to the blog today to celebrate the exciting release of Before I Knew, the first of her exciting new Cabot series, from Montlake Romance (Amazon Publishing)!

Welcome to Books à la Mode, Jamie! Let's get this interview started.

Will you please share a brief introduction with us?

My childhood writing dreams featured a Hollywood career in the television or film industries. I'd finish watching a dramatic family saga or love story and think, "I want to write something like this!" But a creative writing career seemed like a pipedream, so I went to Tulane University assuming I'd figure out what to do with the rest of my life by graduation day. I fell in love with psychology coursework, but psychiatrists go to medical school, and subjects such as biology and chemistry weren't my forte. Alas, another career eliminated.

Ultimately, I earned a joint law/M.B.A. degree and practiced commercial real estate and lending law for a decade in my hometown of Pittsburgh (Go Steelers!). I learned so much during that decade, but was never passionate about the work. When my husband's career took us to Connecticut, I opted to stay at home to raise our two young children. That decision presented a second chance to revisit the idea of writing.

These days I dream up stories about love, family, self-discovery, and redemption. Sometimes they're spicy (my Sterling Canyon books), and sometimes more poignant (the St. James and Cabot novels), but I strive to make each of them realistic and heartwarming. Recently, I earned a spot on the Romance Writers of America's Honor Roll, and I'm so grateful to each and every reader who has given wings to this new chapter in my life.

When I'm not writing, you can find me dancing around my kitchen while cooking, and hitting the slopes in Vermont and Utah.


It's amazing to get to feature you today! Readers, here's a bit about the book, which hits shelves today:

Author Jamie Beck returns with an engrossing series about family, friendship, and starting over. In this first Cabot novel, a legacy of secrets tests old friends seeking a second chance at life and love.

On the second anniversary of her husband's suicide, Colby Cabot-Baxter is ready to let go of her grief and the mistakes made during her turbulent marriage. Her fresh start comes in the form of A CertainTea, the restaurant she's set to open along Lake Sandy, Oregon, with help from her family. But when her executive chef quits just weeks before the grand opening, Colby is pressured to hire old family friend Alec Morgan. His award-winning reputation could generate buzz, but their friendship has withered since her husband's reckless dare cost Alec's brother his life.

Distracted by guilty secrets concerning the tragedy that changed his and Colby's lives, Alec self-destructed and lost his famed restaurant. With his career in tatters, he's determined to use this opportunity to redeem his reputation and to help the woman he's loved from afar find happiness again.

But secrets have a way of coming out. When Alec's do, they might destroy the new life he and Colby have rebuilt together.

Describe Before I Knew in six words.

Second chances at life and love.

How did you arrive at writing romance?

When I was young, I loved TV and movies, particularly love stories. I’ve always been drawn to the sort of “yearning” that runs through most romantic stories, and so when I decided to try my hand at writing, there was no question about what type of story I would write. However, I am not a huge fan of trope-driven romances, preferring something more realistic, which is why the majority of my books also contain some realistic and heavy real-life struggles.

I do have some women’s fiction ideas rolling around in my head. Perhaps one day I’ll have the time to try to write those. I would never, ever try to write suspense. I don’t like being anxious, and I don’t think I have the kind of skill set needed to plot one well.


What was your inspiration for the book?

There has been a lot of talk in recent years about mental illness and stigma, and how that stigma prevents people from receiving proper treatment and support. Because I have some personal experience with this topic, it is very relevant to me. I’ve seen that struggle, and how it affects others who are close to the afflicted. That gave me the seed of an idea, but I did not want to write a story featuring someone with the illness. I worried that I couldn’t do that justice, so I focused on the one left behind, and how the mistakes they made together (largely because of the fear of stigma) lingered long after he was gone.


As a huge fan of first lines, I'd love to hear the first line of Before I Knew. Can you give us a brief commentary on it?
Of all the dilemmas Colby Cabot-Baxter had faced in her twenty-nine years, none had tortured her like this one.
Before I Knew begins with a five-page prologue that sets up the complicated history between the hero and heroine. It is two years prior to the opening of the book. Colby and her then-husband, Mark (who suffers from Bipolar Disorder) are in the car outside the church of her lifelong friend, Joe’s, funeral. Joe died because he took Mark up on a dare. Joe’s older brother, Alec, is the ultimate hero in this story. Colby is torn about attending the funeral because Joe’s family blames her husband (and to some extent, her) for Joe’s death.

Tell us about your road to publication.

My road was a bit circuitous. I wrote my first manuscript in about nine months, only to send it out into the world and then discover how much I had to learn! I joined Romance Writers of America (and my local chapter), began taking workshops and such, and wrote a second manuscript. That got a little more interest from agents, but ultimately no one agreed to represent me. My third manuscript (Worth the Wait) got me my agent, but at the time, no publisher wanted it (romance editors thought it too much women’s fiction, and women’s fiction editors thought it too much romance). Then that second manuscript that no agent wanted got plucked out of the slush pile at Montlake (I’d forgotten I’d submitted it, back when Montlake still took unsolicited submissions). Montlake bought that book, and then, we convinced them to give Worth the Wait a chance, too.

For those looking for querying advice, I think a few things helped me get my wonderful agent (Jill Marsal) that third time around. First, I’d done the work to write a pretty good story (workshops, critique partners, contest feedback). Second, that book did final in a contest, which gave me something to put in the query that signaled a certain level of quality. Third, I queried smarter. I did my homework on the agents, their client list, and so on. I read interviews they’d given to Writer’s Digest and so on. Armed with this information, I specifically mentioned something about why I thought they might like my book and be a good fit for what I wanted in an agent. The personalized touch helped!


Are the characters from your book based off anyone you know in real life? How much else of your actual life gets written into your fiction?

No single character is ever based entirely on anyone I know, but bits and pieces of the people in my life do make their way into most characters. I think it’d be almost impossible for that not to happen. We (our thoughts and ideas) are shaped, in part, by the people in our lives, and those values and perceptions come through in our writing voice and imaginations. People who know me very well usually spot a few “observations” that they recognize as being something I might do or say. On the flip side, in real life, I love a good debate and very often take a view that opposes my own, just because I find it fascinating to look at things from multiple perspectives. Therefore, you will tend to see that in my books as well (characters coming at something from totally different yet valid positions).

Which character from Before I Knew was most difficult to write?

Colby. She is grieving the loss of so much (her friend, then her husband, her confidence, her innocence). She is smart and introverted, which is also hard to write because those types can come across as colder and less sympathetic. I hope I did her justice. She has a good heart and desire to heal and be a stronger, more compassionate person.


What do you consider your biggest strengths and weaknesses as an author?

I think my strengths are that I write pretty good prose and can evoke reader emotion. My weakness? Dialogue is hard for me. It takes a lot of rewriting to get it to sound natural and to have the characters’ speech sound distinct.


Name the top five novels that have made the biggest impact on your life or on your writing.

On my life (or, books I devoured and remembered long after reading): Native Son, Atlas Shrugged, The Color Purple, The Nightingale, and All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.

On my writing: For craft, The First Five Pages, Writing 21st Century Fiction. For goals to reach for? Authors Jojo Moyes, Susan Wiggs, Robyn Carr, and Kristin Hannah.

What’s the greatest thing you ever learned?

Oh, that’s hard. I’ve learned a lot of good things in my 50 years. I think one of the most important is that integrity matters. Doing the right thing, even when it’s hard and hurts—and even when no one will give you credit—is important. It allows you to always look in the mirror and like what you see.

How do you react to a negative or harsh review to your books?

It’s never easy. Of course we want readers to love our characters and story. We want them to “get” what we were trying to say. When they don’t, the rejection stings. That said, Before I Knew is my eighth book. At this point, I have learned to keep a better perspective. I do not love every book that some of my favorite authors write, and it is unreasonable to expect every reader (even one’s own fans) to love every single book we create. So, now I don’t actually read every review. Occasionally I’ll peek at the overall “grade” it might have on Amazon or Goodreads, but I don’t dig for the pain of a bad review!

Blog babes, click "Read more" to find out Jamie's random favorites, her best personal and professional advice, and what makes Before I Knew stand out as a book from all the rest. We're also hosting a giveaway for a finished copy of Before I Knew, so you don't want to miss that either!

Monday, August 21, 2017

Without Fear or Favor by Robert K. Tanenbaum Giveaway (US only)

Without Fear or Favor (Butch Karp #29)
Robert K. Tanenbaum
Gallery Books // Simon & Schuster

In the twenty-ninth novel in the New York Times bestselling Karp-Ciampi series featuring “the best fictional prosecuting attorney in literature” (Mark Lane, #1 New York Times bestselling author), Butch Karp and his wife Marlene Ciampi must stop a radical organization of armed militants bent on the cold-blooded murder of uniformed on-duty police officers.

When a cop shoots down the son of a respected inner-city Baptist preacher, the community rises up in anger and demands to have the officer prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. But there’s something more than a call for justice at work here: a plot to bring down the city’s police force through a conspiracy so vast and malicious only Butch Karp and his band of truth-seekers can untangle it.

Full of Tanenbaum’s signature page turning intense action and heart pounding suspense from “one hell of a writer” (New York Post), Without Fear or Favor will keep you guessing until the final scene.

Giveaway!


Books à la Mode is giving away one print copy of Without Fear or Favor—yay!!

To enter, all you have to do is tell me:
What is something you used to be afraid of, but are no longer? How did you get over that fear?
Please make your comment MEANINGFUL. Comments solely consisting of stock responses or irrelevant fluff like "Thanks for the giveaway!" will not be considered for entry. Robert and I really want to hear from you guys! :)

I used to be afraid of public speaking. I still don't like it, mind you, but am no longer terrified of it and I think it has just come with practice. In high school, I joined the mock trial team which really forced me to be a better public speaker. Once I had experience speaking in front of a real judge and fake jury, class assignments and work presentations felt like nothing in comparison. Funny how such a common fear can be extinguished just by pushing yourself a little!

Don't forget the entry eligibility terms and conditions!
Sponsored wholly by the publicist—a huge thank you to the lovely folks at FSB Associates!
Giveaway ends September 4th at 11.59 PM (your time).
Open to US readers only—sorry, everyone else! Please check my sidebar for the list of currently running giveaways that are open worldwide. There are plenty to choose from!
Void where prohibited.
Winners have 48 hours to claim their prize once they are chosen, or else their winnings will be forfeited.
Although I do randomly select winners, I am in no way responsible for prizes, nor for shipping and handling.
As a reminder, you do not have to follow my blog to enter, though it is always very much appreciated ❤
Good luck!

Saturday, August 19, 2017

7 Heart Review: Love Her Wild by Atticus

Love Her Wild
Atticus

Page Count: 225

Release Date: July 11th 2017
Publisher: Atria Books (Simon & Schuster)
Source: Complimentary copy provided by publisher in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you, Atria Books!)
Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

The first collection of poetry by Instagram sensation Atticus.

Love Her Wild
is a collection of new and beloved poems from Atticus, the young writer who has captured the hearts and minds of hundreds of thousands of avid followers on his Instagram account @atticuspoetry, including superstars like Karlie Kloss and Shay Mitchell. He was dubbed the “#1 poet to follow” by Teen Vogue and “the world’s most tattoo-able” poet by Galore magazine, in Love Her Wild, Atticus captures what is both raw and relatable about the smallest and the grandest moments in life: the first glimpse of a new love in Paris; skinny dipping on a summer’s night; the irrepressible exuberance of the female spirit; or drinking whiskey in the desert watching the rising sun. With honesty, poignancy, and romantic flair, Atticus distills the most exhilarating highs and the heartbreaking lows of life and love into a few perfectly evocative lines, ensuring that his words will become etched in your mind—and will awaken your sense of adventure.
Atticus is an anonymous poet who gained online traction through his Instagram and Tumblr posts, and for the first time his work is being featured in a published paperback edition. The collection is divided into three different chapters: Love, which includes pieces about crushes, falling in love, and heartbreak; Her, detailing the beauty of a special unnamed woman who deserves great love; and Wild, a scattering of poems about travel, philosophy, and finding your true self.

I am impressed by the creative scope of his work, and admire his ability to express emotions about relationships, pride, and art that everyone will be able to relate to, combined with the typography aesthetic that has its own appeal. However, his poetry isn't particularly deep or significantly moving, and is actually quite basic. I think I would have enjoyed poetry like this back when I was twelve years old and just starting to write love poems about imaginary lovers, myself—a much simpler time in my life. The content of Love Her Wild will appeal primarily to middle-grade readers, particular preteen and teen girls, as they span the topics of pure and young love, wanderlust, and the importance of inner beauty.

That said, there are a few poems that truly stood out to me: Love could be labeled poison and we'd drink it anyways and When it comes to love we are primates breaking sticks while pointing to our hearts. There's just a charming simplicity and vulnerability to both of them. If all his poems were as effective as those two, I'd be much more inclined to recommend him to audiences other than teenagers.

Although in the end, this isn't fiction like I normally review but rather poetry, which is an entirely different art form; while Love Her Wild isn't groundbreaking to me, it can certainly be appreciated by anyone who knows what to make of it.

Pros


Plenty of poems to enjoy in the three different "chapters": Love, Her, and Wild // Beautiful black-and-white images in a softbound edition—would make a great gift or coffee table book // Atticus certainly has a way with words and some of the poems are touching

Cons


Much of the content is quite teen-angsty and melodramatic, attempting to be ~deep~ through simple, unstructured verse

Love




Verdict


As Atticus's first print poetry compilation, Love Her Wild speaks to his success as an Internet-famous writer who has touched the hearts of young-and-in-love budding romantics, especially among adolescent audiences. The minimalistic style and tender words of this syrupy volume make it pleasant to read, aesthetically appealing, and highly quotable, especially through visual mediums (e.g. Instagram posts). I would not be surprised to see excerpts of Love Her Wild widely quoted in the mainstream Americanflag

7 hearts: Not perfect, but overall enjoyable; would recommend, but borrow a copy before you buy! (x)

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Wish You Were Here by Renée Carlino Giveaway (US/Can)

Wish You Were Here
Renée Carlino
Atria Books // Simon & Schuster

You know when you’re looking at someone and you can’t help but smile at how oblivious they are to their own charm? That’s what was happening to me, and it was making me feel... happy. Euphoric. Something indescribable. It was like we already knew each other, like we had met in a previous life. Memories that didn’t exist began exploding in my mind like fireworks.

Charlotte has spent her twenties adrift, searching for a spark to jump-start her life and give her a sense of purpose. She’s had as many jobs as she’s had bad relationships, and now she’s feeling especially lost in her less-than-glamorous gig at a pie-and-fry joint in Los Angeles, where the uniforms are bad and the tips are even worse.

Then she collides—literally—with Adam, an intriguing, handsome, and mysterious painter. Their serendipitous meeting on the street turns into a whirlwind one-night stand that has Charlotte feeling enchanted by Adam’s spontaneity and joy for life. There’s promise in both his words and actions, but in the harsh light of morning, Adam’s tune changes, leaving Charlotte to wonder if her notorious bad luck with men is really just her own bad judgment.

Months later, a new relationship with Seth, a charming baseball player, is turning into something more meaningful, but Charlotte’s still having trouble moving past her one enthralling night with Adam. Why? When she searches for answers, she finds the situation with Adam is far more complicated than she ever imagined. Faced with the decision to write a new story with Seth or finish the one started with Adam, Charlotte embarks on a life-altering journey, one that takes her across the world and back again, bringing a lifetime’s worth of pain, joy, and wisdom.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The First Line of It Takes One to Tango by Winifred M. Reilly + Giveaway (US/Can)

It Takes One to Tango
Winifred M. Reilly
from Touchstone // Simon & Schuster

With a focus on self-empowerment and resilience, this refreshing and witty relationship guide has a reassuring counterintuitive message for unhappy spouses: you only need one partner to initiate far-reaching positive change in a marriage.

Conventional wisdom says that “it takes two” to turn a troubled marriage around and that both partners must have a shared commitment to change. So when couples can’t agree on how—or whether—to make their marriage better, many give up or settle for a less-than-satisfying marriage (or think the only way out is divorce).

Fortunately, there is an alternative.

It Takes One to Tango is a groundbreaking guide that shows how one determined partner—acting alone—can spark lasting, significant change in a marriage, often accomplishing change that cannot be made any other way. It doesn’t matter how short-fused, argumentative, or seemingly impossible your partner can be—or how long you’ve been stuck.

Marriage and family therapist Winifred Reilly has this message for struggling partners: Take the lead. Doing so is effective—and powerful. Through Reilly’s own story of reclaiming her now nearly forty-year marriage, along with anecdotes from many clients she’s worked with, you’ll learn how to:
  • Focus on your own behaviors and change them in ways that make you feel good about yourself and your marriage
  • Take a firm stand for what truly matters to you without arguing, cajoling, or resorting to threats
  • Identify the “big picture” issues at the basis of your repetitive fights—and learn how to unhook from them
  • Be less reactive, especially in the face of your spouse’s provocations
  • Develop the strength and stamina to be the sole agent of change

Combining psychological theory, practical advice, and personal narrative, It Takes One to Tango is a fresh and engaging guide that will empower those who choose to take a bold, proactive approach to creating a loving and lasting marriage.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Top 5 Writing Tips I Wish I'd Known Before Publishing by Kate Hamer, Author of The Doll Funeral + Giveaway (US/Can)

The Doll Funeral
Kate Hamer
from Melville House

It’s the birthday gift every 13-year-old wants: The discovery that your parents aren’t your real parents. For Ruby, the discovery that she’s adopted, and that her abusive parents aren’t her actual parents, the discovery is galvanizing.

Determined to find her real mother and father, she runs away into the woods with nothing but a suitcase and the company of her only true friend—the imaginary Shadow Boy. There, she discovers a group of siblings living by their wits. They take her in, but while they offer the closest Ruby’s ever had to a family, it’s not always clear what’s real and what’s not—or who’s trying to help her and who might be a threat.

Told from shifting timelines, and the alternating perspectives of Ruby; her mother, Anna; and even the Shadow Boy, The Doll Funeral is a dazzling follow-up to Kate Hamer’s breakout debut, The Girl in the Red Coat, and a gripping, exquisitely mysterious novel about the connections that remain after a family has been broken apart.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Dog Dish of Doom by E.J. Copperman Giveaway (US/Can)

Dog Dish of Doom (Agent to the Paws #1)
E.J. Copperman
Thomas Dunne // Minotaur Books // St. Martin's Press

Cozy fans and animal lovers alike won't be able to keep their paws off Dog Dish of Doom. Laugh-out-loud funny, E.J. Copperman's series debut is "lots of fun" (Library Journal, starred).

Kay Powell wants to find that break-out client who will become a star. And she thinks she’s found him: His name is Bruno, and he has to be walked three times a day.

Kay is the Agent to the Paws, representing showbiz clients who aren’t exactly people. In fact: they're dogs. Bruno’s humans, Trent and Louise, are pains in the you-know-what, and Les McMaster, the famous director mounting a revival of Annie, might not hire Bruno just because he can’t stand them.

This becomes less of an issue when Trent is discovered face down in Bruno’s water dish, with a kitchen knife in his back. Kay’s perfectly fine to let the NYPD handle the murder, but when the whole plot seems to center on Bruno, her protective instincts come into play. You can kill any people you want, but you’d better leave Kay’s clients alone.

Giveaway!


Books à la Mode is giving away one print copy of Dog Dish of Doom—yay!

To enter, all you have to do is tell me in the comments below:
What is your favorite aspect about your dog? If you aren't a current dog owner: are you a dog person or do you prefer other pets?
Please make your comment MEANINGFUL. Comments solely consisting of stock responses or irrelevant fluff like "Thanks for the giveaway!" will not be considered for entry. E.J. and I really want to hear from you guys! :)

My dog will paw at my hands if I stop scratching his ears. He'll do it until I pick my hand up and start scratching again. Classical conditioning at its funniest!

Don't forget the entry eligibility terms and conditions!
Sponsored wholly by the publisher—a huge thank you to the lovely folks over at St. Martin's Press!
Giveaway ends August 28th at 11.59 PM (your time).
Open to US and Canada residents only—sorry, everyone else! Please check my sidebar for a list of currently running giveaways that are open worldwide. There are plenty to choose from!
Void where prohibited.
Winners have 48 hours to claim their prize once they are chosen, or else their winnings will be forfeited.
Although I do randomly select winners, I am in no way responsible for prizes, nor for shipping and handling.
As a reminder, you do not have to follow my blog to enter, though it is always very much appreciated ❤
Good luck!