Sunday, April 29, 2018

Sunday Rewind: Waypoint Kangaroo and Kangaroo, Too by Curtis C. Chen

In June of last year I interviewed Curtis C. Chen on Episode 20 of the GSMC Book Review Podcast. Curtis is the author of a series of science fiction books about a character named Kangaroo. Well, Kangaroo is his code name, we as readers haven't yet learned his given name. Kangaroo is a spy with an unexpected ability.  The 2 books that are currently out are Waypoint Kangaroo and Kangaroo, Too.

Kangaroo isn't your typical spy. Sure, he has extensive agency training, access to bleeding-edge technology, and a ready supply of quips and retorts. But what sets him apart is the pocket: a portal that opens into an empty, seemingly infinite, parallel universe. Kangaroo is the only person in the world who can use the pocket, and he's pretty sure his agency only keeps him around to exploit this superpower for their own purposes.
After he bungles yet another mission, Kangaroo gets sent away on a mandatory "vacation." While trying to make the most of his exile aboard an interplanetary cruise to Mars, two passengers are found dead, and Kangaroo risks blowing his cover to investigate. However, it turns out he's not the only spy on the ship—and he's just starting to realize that there is a massive conspiracy to unravel.
Now, when a hijacker takes over the ship and threatens to crash it into Mars, Kangaroo has to stop the disaster which would shatter the delicate peace that's existed between Earth and Mars ever since the brutal Martian Independence War. A new conflict could devastate the entire Solar System. Billions of lives are at stake and it's up to Kangaroo, and Kangaroo alone, to save them.
Weren't vacations supposed to be relaxing? (Source)

On the way home from his latest mission, secret agent Kangaroo's spacecraft is wrecked by a rogue mining robot. The agency tracks the bot back to the Moon, where a retired asteroid miner—code named "Clementine"—might have information about who's behind the sabotage.
Clementine will only deal with Jessica Chu, Kangaroo's personal physician and a former military doctor once deployed in the asteroid belt. Kangaroo accompanies Jessica as a courier, smuggling Clementine's payment of solid gold in the pocket universe that only he can use.
What should be a simple infiltration is hindered by the nearly one million tourists celebrating the anniversary of the first Moon landing. And before Kangaroo and Jessica can make contact, Lunar authorities arrest Jessica for the murder of a local worker.
Jessica won't explain why she met the victim in secret and erased security footage that could exonerate her. To make things worse, a sudden terror attack puts the whole Moon under lockdown. Now Kangaroo alone has to get Clementine to talk, clear Jessica's name, and stop a crooked scheme which threatens to ruin approximately one million vacations.
But old secrets are buried on the Moon, and digging up the past will make Kangaroo's future very complicated... (Source)
As the first book description says, Kangaroo isn't your typical spy. The pocket aside (and that's atypical enough), he's not the smooth, always together, one-step-ahead-of-the-game type of agent that is often portrayed, but he's also not that character's counterpart of the bumbling, never-knows-what-they're-doing character, either. He's both of those and neither. He's what I would imagine a lot of agents would be like: skilled, intelligent, a little headstrong and stubborn, and human. He makes some questionable choices, occasionally leaps before he looks, but also has a very ingrained sense of values, and his own strong code of ethics. He also has a huge advantage with the pocket. A. because it gives him the ability to store things he might need on missions, and B. because he's the only one who has it, making him invaluable to the agency.

  • Science Fiction
  • Mystery
  • Thriller/Suspense

What I enjoyed:
  • There is a lot more to Kangaroo than meets the eye, and we've only scratched the surface of his backstory in these two books. I'm looking forward to more of his adventures and finding out more about him.
  • The books are set in a not-too-distant, but unspecified future. Curtis creates a world that is at once recognizable, fantastic, and yet still believable.
  • These books made me appreciate science fiction. I've always loved watching science fiction, but have had trouble reading it because I felt too bogged down in the complicated science parts. Curtis manages to find the balance between explaining that science while still making it enjoyable and understandable for those of us for whom science might not be our best subject.
  • The books are fun and funny. Serious things are happening, but Kangaroo has a snarky, cynical sense of humor perfectly suited to the situations he finds himself in.
    • "But it’s not the guns that really put me wise to Fakey Impostorov. I can also see into his body, and simple checkpoint guards don’t have an unmistakable spiderweb of ground-to-orbit comsat antenna surgically implanted in their left shoulder. If this guy’s not a field agent for a national intelligence outfit—a spy like me—I’ll eat my shoe. And shoes taste terrible. Trust me, I know. Long story." -Waypoint Kangaroo
    • "I’m Kangaroo because I have a universe-sized secret pouch. I call it “the pocket” because I named it when I was ten years old; Science Division calls it a “hyperspace shunt” because they don’t know any better than I do how it works or why I have this ability. They’ve been testing me for more than a decade, and we’re still no closer to any real answers.
      My code name is KANGAROO. That’s the only name I have within the agency. Not because my face resembles a large marsupial mammal, or because I used to be an Olympic hurdling champion—though I have, oddly enough, used both of those ploys in bars to get through some sticky social situations. Well, I tried, anyway. They are both apparently too ridiculous for anyone to believe." - Kangaroo, Too

    Where you can find Curtis online:
    Facebook: @curtis.c.chen
    Twitter: @Curtis.C.Chen
    Instagram: sparckl
    Amazon Author Page: Curtis C. Chen
    GoodReads: Curtis C. Chen
    BookBub: @CurtisCChen


    Once a Silicon Valley software engineer, Curtis C. Chen now writes fiction and runs puzzle games near Portland, Oregon. His debut novel Waypoint Kangaroo is a science fiction thriller about a superpowered spy facing his toughest mission yet: vacation. The sequel, Kangaroo Too, lands our hero on the Moon to confront long-buried secrets. (Source)
    To hear the interview with Curtis, please click here.

    Thursday, April 26, 2018

    My Oxford Year by Julia Whelan

    On Episode 77 of the GSMC Book Review Podcast I spoke with Julia Whelan about her book, My Oxford Year. The title kind of makes it sound like a memoir, and Julia did spend a year studying at Oxford, but it's actually a novel. It tells the story of Ella, who goes to Oxford on a Rhodes Scholarship, but has two rather major, life-changing events happen almost immediately, both of which have the potential to alter her future in ways she wasn't expecting.

    American Ella Durran has had the same plan for her life since she was thirteen: Study at Oxford. At 24, she’s finally made it to England on a Rhodes Scholarship when she’s offered an unbelievable position in a rising political star’s presidential campaign. With the promise that she’ll work remotely and return to DC at the end of her Oxford year, she’s free to enjoy her Once in a Lifetime Experience. That is, until a smart-mouthed local who is too quick with his tongue and his car ruins her shirt and her first day.
    When Ella discovers that her English literature course will be taught by none other than that same local, Jamie Davenport, she thinks for the first time that Oxford might not be all she’s envisioned. But a late-night drink reveals a connection she wasn’t anticipating finding and what begins as a casual fling soon develops into something much more when Ella learns Jamie has a life-changing secret.
    Immediately, Ella is faced with a seemingly impossible decision: turn her back on the man she’s falling in love with to follow her political dreams or be there for him during a trial neither are truly prepared for. As the end of her year in Oxford rapidly approaches, Ella must decide if the dreams she’s always wanted are the same ones she’s now yearning for. (Source)
    Ella is focused, knows what she wants, and is something of an overachiever (i.e. helping to run a political campaign while simultaneously doing a year of study at Oxford). Throw in a casual relationship that takes a turn toward serious, and Ella's definitely got a lot on her plate. This description might make her sound hard to relate to in some ways, but Ella is actually very human, with flaws and foibles and quirks. We see her loving and loyal side when it comes to the friends she makes at Oxford. We also see some of the complexity of her character portrayed in the relationship she has with her mother and the reasons behind why that relationship is complicated.

    • Romance
    • Contemporary
    • Literary Fiction

    What I enjoyed:
    • The setting. I probably have a romanticized notion of studying abroad, especially someplace like Oxford, but I just loved seeing everything through Ella's eyes. I actually kept googling things I was reading about to make sure I was visualizing them correctly, and I know I asked too many strange questions in the interview about Julia's own Oxford experience.
    • All of the literary references. I love literary fiction, even when it references things I haven't read, because it shows the author's love of literature. It also exposes me to something I maybe haven't read much of before. This time it's poetry from the very specific period that Ella is studying.
    • Ella's circle of friends at Oxford. They are eclectic and goofy and awesome.
    • Julia's writing. It is intelligent without feeling academic (which would be easy to slip into since this is a book that takes place at Oxford and does involve academic conversations and discussions), but it's also engaging, poignant, and funny.
    • The relationship between Jamie and Ella, which was simultaneously everything and nothing like I expected.
      • "Every year, America sends thirty-two of its most over-achieving, über-competitive, social-climbing, do-gooder nerds to Oxford. It's mostly associated with geniuses, power players, global leaders. Let me demystify this: to get a Rhodes, you have to be slightly unhinged."
      • It's as if this city belongs to everyone. If you're here, you belong her. It's like a timeless, ramshackle, International Space Station."
      • "I haven't had afternoon tea since Ashley Carmichael's obsession with Alice in Wonderland forced me to spend her eighth birthday sipping pink tea out of tiny plastic cups, wearing a stupid hat, and being creeped out by a middle-aged guy in a dirty White Rabbit costume. This is better."

      Where you can find Julia online:
      Facebook: @justjuliawhalen
      Instagram: justjuliawhalen
      Amazon Author Page: Julia Whelan
      GoodReads: Julia Whelan

      Author Bio:
      Julia Whelan is an actor, writer, and audiobook narrator. She is perhaps most well known for her acting work on ABC’s Once and Again and her award-winning narration of over 200 audiobooks (including Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl).
      Graduating Magna Cum Laude with a degree in English Literature and Creative Writing from Middlebury College and Oxford University, Whelan is now a screenwriter and author. Her academic work on the Victorian appropriation of the Arthurian legends earned her The Henry B. Prickett Prize for Outstanding Scholarship and, while at Oxford, she wrote for The Cherwell, penning an eight-part column on the cultural mishaps of an American abroad. My Oxford Year is her debut. She is currently working on her second novel and an original screenplay. (Source)
      Does My Oxford Year sound like your cup of tea? That's perfect, because I have 3 copies from Julia to give away! All you have to do is go to either our Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram pages and comment on the post with Julia's interview. It's as simple as that: just comment on Episode 77 on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, and you'll automatically be entered to win My Oxford Year! The last day to enter is May 5th and winners will be announced on May 7th.

      To listen to the interview with Julia please click here.

      Tuesday, April 24, 2018

      A Cruel Kind of Beautiful by Michelle Hazen

      On Episode 76 of the GSMC Book Review Podcast I spoke with Michelle Hazen about her book, A Cruel Kind of Beautiful. This is the first book in Michelle's Sex, Love, and Rock and Roll series and tells the story of Jera and Jacob.

      Jera McKnight loves music, swoons for hot guys, but sucks at sex. Jacob Tate is her perfect storm: a pun-loving nude model with a heart as big as his record collection.
      When a newspaper-delivery accident lands him in her living room, he’s almost tempting enough to make her forget she’s never been able to please a man—in bed or out of it. Sure, he laughs at her obscure jokes, and he’ll even accept a PG-rating if it means he gets time with her, but he’s also hiding something. And it has everything to do with the off-limits room in his apartment.
      Jera pours all her confusion and longing into her drum kit, which pays off when her band lands the record deal of their dreams. Except just like Jacob, it might be too good to come without a catch.
      She doesn’t know if her music is good enough to attract a better contract, or if she’s enough to tempt a man like Jacob to give up his secrets—even if they could fix her problems between the sheets. But if this rocker girl is too afraid to bet on herself, she might just end up playing to an empty house. (Source)
      The tagline for the book is, "If you can't get to the big O, can you get to the happily ever after?" so you might think the focus of this book is simply on Jera's issues around sex and intimacy. While that plays a role in the story, and is definitely part of Jera's makeup, it isn't the sole focus. The book is really about relationships of many kinds: between Jera and Jacob, Jera and her bandmates, Jera and her parents, etc. It is also the story of Jera's band as they struggle to find recognition outside the Portland area.

      Both Jera and Jacob have complexities in their lives that put stumbling blocks in the road of their relationship. They aren't the textbook, perfect couple many romance books portray, but instead are multi-layered and very human. While they have an instant connection, they also bring their own issues to the relationship and they both have to figure out how to address those issues, both individually and as a couple, in order to move forward.

      • Romance
      • Contemporary
      • Women's Fiction

      What I enjoyed:
      • The complexity and realness of the characters. They are multifaceted and very human.
      • The way Michelle writes, and the way her sense of humor comes through her writing. The book is written in the first person, from Jera's point of view, and her inner monologues remind me of my own sometimes.  Well, except that Jera's inner voice is funnier than mine.
      • The fact that this book is the beginning of a series. I enjoyed the story and the characters and I'm glad to know that I will get to continue in this world and get to know more about these characters and see where the band's journey takes them.
      • This is a romance, and there are scenes of intimacy, but I really appreciate how real and normal Michelle makes these scenes. They aren't the perfect experiences so often portrayed in romance novels, but rather more like real life, and it's nice to see this portrayed in a romance novel.
        • "Flirtatious I can handle. Confident I can walk away from without a hitch in my step. But sheepish? How am I supposed to give the cold shoulder to sheepish?"
        • "Once I was looking, I saw the signs of disapproval everywhere, so I started trying harder in an effort to drown them out."
        • "This is a sign. The timing is so perfect it can't be anything else. I'm never going to be able to have a relationship. But I can have a band, and maybe I can fill myself up with music until I hardly notice all the other empty spaces anymore."
        • "What if you started looking, and you found something so beautiful you could never have imagined it yourself?
          What if you didn't want to give it up?"

        Where you can find Michelle online:
        Facebook: @MichelleHazenAuthor
        Twitter: @michellehazen
        Instagram: @michellehazenauthor
        Pinterest: Michelle Hazen
        Amazon Author Page: Michelle Hazen
        GoodReads: Michelle Hazen
        BookBub: @michellehazen

        Author Bio:

        Michelle Hazen is a nomad with a writing problem. Years ago, she and her husband ducked out of the 9 to 5 world and moved into their truck. She found her voice with the support of the online fanfiction community, and once she started typing, she never looked back.
        She has written most of her books in odd places, including a bus in Thailand, an off-the-grid cabin in the Sawtooth Mountains, a golf cart in a sandstorm, a rental car during a heat wave in the Mohave Desert and a beach in Honduras. Even when she’s climbing rocks, riding horses, or getting lost someplace wild and beautiful, there are stories spooling out inside her head, until she finally heeds their call and returns to her laptop and solar panels.
        She’s currently addicted to The Walking Dead, hiking, and Tillamook cheese. (Source)
        Interested in getting to know Jera, Jacob, and the other characters in A Cruel Kind of Beautiful? You're in luck, then, as I have 3 copies from Michelle to give away! All you have to do is go to either our Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram pages and comment on the post with Michelle's interview. It's as simple as that: just comment on Episode 76 on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, and you'll automatically be entered to win A Cruel Kind of Beautiful! The last day to enter is May 5th and winners will be announced on May 7th.

        To hear the interview with Michelle please click here.

        Thursday, April 19, 2018

        Dark Side of the Mountain by R.J. Rosatte

        Like Episode 74, Episode 75 of the GSMC Book Review Podcast features an interview with one of the Tawnee Mountain Mysteries series authors. The Tawnee Mountain Mysteries is a set of 7 mysteries by 7 different authors, all taking place at the final destination of the Tawnee Mountain Resort. This time I spoke with R.J. Rosatte about his book, Dark Side of the Mountain.

        Katie Douglas thinks doing a mechanical inspection job at the Tawnee Mountain Resort is going to be a working vacation. But that’s before three young mountain bikers go missing while riding the trails of the mountain and a ransom note is delivered.
        Partnering with a charming guest of the resort, novelist Casey Malone, Katie soon discovers there is a twisting plot possibly involving the missing men’s girlfriends and perhaps even the FBI.
        When their investigation is complicated by the discovery of bomb making material in a cave on the mountain and the threat of an approaching hurricane, Katie and Casey go into overdrive to find the missing men and prevent what could be a devastating attack on an unknown target.
        As Hurricane Patrick pays a rare visit to inland New Jersey, the story reaches an explosive climax as they and the staff of Tawnee Mountain Resort deal with both of these threats. (Source)
        As with Cassidy's Deadly Exit, Dark Side of the Mountain is a standalone novel, so can be read with  or without the others, and the series doesn't have to be read in any particular order. This book introduces the characters of Katie Douglas and Casey Malone (Katie and Malone), and R.J. has already written two more novellas with these characters, the first of which was released the same day as the Tawnee Mountain Mysteries (April 16, 2018).

        Katie and Casey haven't met before their separate trips to the Tawnee Mountain Resort. They fall into an easy rapport and are soon amateur sleuthing their was through multiple adventures. As characters they compliment each other well, and while there is definite chemistry between them this is by no means a romance (maybe that's the next book!).

        • Mystery
        • Thriller/Suspense
        • Anthology

        What I enjoyed:
        • Katie and Casey's relationship. They are one of those couples, whether romantic or platonic, who fall very quickly into an easy and comfortable relationship and seem to have known each other forever.
        • In the interview R.J. spoke some about all of the traveling he has done and how this has helped him with locations for his books. You can also see that trait in the character of Casey, who seems to know a little bit about seemingly everything, but remains charming rather than condescending.
        • The fact that Katie is an engineer with Master's Degrees in both mechanical and electrical engineering. Go women in STEM!
        • Getting to know some of the secondary characters that appeared in Marla's book, but now from R.J.'s perspective. This was a little strange, actually. It was also quite fascinating to see how two different authors wrote the same characters.
          • "'Would you like to go spelunking?' he asked.
            'What?' Katie raised her eyebrows. 'Go wandering around in dark caves when who knows what is lurking around up there?'
            'We could solve a mystery,' baited Casey.
            'Or get killed.'"
          • "When are you ever going to get a chance to write.'
            'Oh, I'm doing that now,' Casey answered. He glanced around at the resort and all the guests. 'Lots of material, all over the place.'"

          Where you can find R.J. online:
          Facebook: @rosattewriting
          Twitter: @PaxusKing
          Amazon Author Page: R.J. Rosatte
          GoodReads: R J Rosatte

          Author Bio:

          A native of Prince Edward County, Ontario, his careers have included being an infantry officer in the Canadian Army Reserves, economics teacher at Loyalist College in Belleville, Ontario, a long-haul truck driver and businessman.
          He has travelled all forty-eight lower US states, eight Canadian provinces, Italy, Mexico and most of the Caribbean. He currently resides in Bayside, Quinte West, Ontario with his wife, Wendy, and their Westie, Molly. (Source)
          If you're intrigued by the Tawnee Mountain Mysteries and Dark Side of the Mountain then today is your lucky today as I have 3 copies from R.J. to give away! All you have to do is go to either our Facebook or Twitter pages and share the episode with R.J.'s interview, or go to Instagram and comment on that post. Simple as that: just comment on, share, or retweet Episode 75 and you'll automatically be entered to win Dark Side of the Mountain! 

          To hear the interview with R.J., please click here.

          Tuesday, April 17, 2018

          Cassidy's Deadly Exit by Marla J. Hayes

          Episode 74 of the GSMC Book Review Podcast features an interview with Marla J. Hayes, author of Cassidy's Deadly Exit, which is book 6 in the Tawnee Mountain Mysteries collection. Tawnee Mountain Mysteries is a set of 7 mysteries by 7 different authors, all taking place at the final destination of the Tawnee Mountain Resort.

          Broadway actress Cassidy Quinn finally wins a long coveted Tony award, but the words in her acceptance speech stir up a new problem - a previously low-key fan ramps up online rhetoric to the point where her usual security categorizes this unidentified person as an avidly persistent stalker.
          Cassidy takes control of her career and her safety, while doing her best not to disappoint her most devoted fans - she travels to the Tawnee Mountain Resort to attend her first fan convention, a small gathering of her super fans. After all, what could happen to her when she's surrounded by devoted admirers, trusted employees, and the security precautions of a resort that has hosted large scale political gatherings without a single reported incident?
          When events at the gathering turn deadly, Cassidy must figure out who among her fans and her staff wants to kill her, and her career.
          Cassidy's Deadly Exit is a part of the Tawnee Mountain Mysteries series, a collection of seven brand new mysteries, from seven award-winning and bestselling authors, taking place at the same final destination, the Tawnee Mountain Resort. (Source)
          As I said, this book is listed as the 6th in the series, but they are all stand-alone novels and can be read in any order. I read this one first and had no trouble. The Tawnee Mountain Resort appears in several books by Karen M. Bryson, and she is the one who put the collection together. She also gave the authors what they called the bible, a resource that contains descriptions of the resort and the fictional Old Town, along with already established characters in both places. The authors could create their own characters and stories, but anything that pertained to either the resort or the town needed to be added to the bible so it could be shared with the other authors. I have to confess I'm fascinated by this process, and think it's a really fun and interesting way to write a collection of mysteries. 

          Cassidy's Deadly Exit is a part of this collection but it is also the first in a series of mysteries featuring Cassidy and her assistant Kevin. I liked them both as characters, but since this is a novella I felt like there was a lot more of their stories that I wanted to know, so I was glad to learn that more stories would be forthcoming. Cassidy is feisty, opinionated, and stubborn but with an underlying kindness that she tends to hide under her more brash characteristics. I liked her for a lot of reasons but I especially liked that she is a 40-something (she's an actress so she doesn't admit to the actual number) woman, an age that tends to be underrepresented in books, movies, and television, at least in terms of main characters.

          • Mystery
          • Suspense
          • Anthology

          What I enjoyed:
          • Cassidy's character and her representing a demographic that often gets overlooked in terms of heroines.
          • The quirkiness of some of the secondary characters, a few of whom reminded me of people from my own (very small) hometown.
            • "Her legs shook as she reached out for the nearest bench. She put her head between her knees. She refused to let her fear make her throw up. When she sat up, everything went dark.
              A black bag covered her head."
            • "Like teenagers relaxing to gossip after a good party, Cassidy and Kevin sat in the middle of the couch in front of a roaring fire. They each wore pajamas and the white robes the resort provided. Instead of hot chocolate, they drank chocolate martinis. Instead of popcorn, they ate escargots and shrimp. The scent of garlic wafted through the suite."

            Where you can find Marla online:
            Twitter: @MarlaHayes
            Amazon Author Page: Marla J. Hayes
            GoodReads: Marla J. Hayes

            Author Bio:

            Marla J. Hayes, a produced screenwriter and occasional actress, graduated with a Master Screenwriter Certificate from ScreenwritingU in October 2017 -- check out her film Biz credentials on Now add novelist to her screenplay stories!
            Her articles (and photographs) have been published in American and Canadian magazines and newspapers. She was a featured columnist in COLLECTIBLES CANADA magazine for over 10 years. Short fiction pieces have appeared in Canadian elementary school reading program textbooks and public school libraries continue to carry her picture book, HOW A CAROUSEL CAME TO NORTH BAY, published by Scholastic Canada.
            Marla lives in northeastern Ontario, Canada. (Source)
            If you're intrigued by the Tawnee Mountain Mysteries and Cassidy's Deadly Exit then today is your lucky today as I have 3 copies from Marla to give away! All you have to do is go to either our Facebook or Twitter pages and share the episode with Marla's interview, or go to Instagram and comment on that post. Simple as that: just comment on, share, or retweet Episode 74 and you'll automatically be entered to win Cassidy's Deadly Exit! 

            To hear the interview with Marla, please click here.

            Thursday, April 12, 2018

            Alchemy's Hunger by Cynthia Diamond

            Episode 73 of the GSMC Book Review Podcast features an interview with author Cynthia Diamond about her book, Alchemy's Hunger, the fourth book in her Wyrd Love series. The books are standalone novels but have interconnecting characters, and the first 3 books feature the stories of the 3 Constance sisters. Alchemy's Hunger tells the story of Nick and Faith, both of whom are running from troubled pasts and both of whom have the power to save the other.

            After escaping the terrors of his dark cabal, Tony Harris craves redemption. With just one ritual, he could resurrect the mother he accidentally killed. All he needs is a Conduit- a being that holds an endless well of magic. But when the Conduit turns out to be a quirky, optimistic woman named Faith, his world is turned upside-down. Now Tony must choose; bring Cybil Constance back to life or give his heart to someone who believes in him. With the cabal hot on his tail, Tony is unsure he’ll survive long enough to make the choice.
            Faith Conway longs to forget her abusive ex-boyfriend but between emotional scars and an overprotective mother, she has lost all confidence in herself. Now, thrust into a strange place called the Wyrd, a devastatingly handsome mage appears to protect her. All she has to do is help him with one mysterious, magical ritual. Despite his smooth promises, Faith wonders if Tony’s motives are honorable or if his devilish smile will only lead to more heartbreak. (Source)
            Tony is brooding, in search of redemption, and quite possibly not a good person. Faith is quirky, running from her own demons, and quite possibly too good of a person for Tony. But Tony needs Faith, who is a conduit, to perform the ritual that will (he hopes) earn him the redemption he seeks. Faith doesn't realize she needs Tony, but he might be the person to help her heal from her own past.

            Faith and Tony are from different worlds. Faith is from the mundane, human world, while Tony comes from the Wyrd, the world of magic and mythical creatures that exists alongside our own. Tony is aware of both worlds, but Faith has no idea the Wyrd exists, let alone the fact that she has any connection to it. She has a steep learning curve, and isn't inclined to be trusting, so Nick has to find some way to convince her to help him.

            I love high fantasy, but I also like urban fantasy where the magical world exists with our own world, we just can't see it. Cynthia blends these two worlds together and makes the reader want to take another look at the space around them to see if maybe, just maybe, there's something else there that they've never noticed before. She has a love of writing dialogue and this passion is evident in this book. Her characters are witty and their conversations are, well, conversational, as well as funny and engaging.

            • Contemporary Fantasy
            • Urban Fantasty
            • Romance

            What I enjoyed:
            • When you listen to the interview you will hear Cynthia say, "what if?" a lot. She sees the world and wonders, what if X, Y, or Z was happening? For instance, what if vampires were responsible for that building over there or some event that you or I might not ever think when looking at the same building or event. The magical and mundane worlds coexist in her novels, and you can absolutely see in the writing how Cynthia's what-iffing creates the world underneath the regular world we see every day. (Why yes, I did just make if a verb...thank you for noticing!)
            • Faith's quirkiness. She is a little bit goofy, but very kind, and she made me smile on nearly every page.
            • The dialogue, especially Faith's inner (and often not-so-inner) monologues.
            • The fact that Faith reads Harry Potter when she can't sleep.
              • "But she had ridiculous taste in clothing. Faith was clad in neon pink skinny jeans, a baggy sweater vomited over with rainbow hearts, and a pair of scuffed combat boots. Around her neck was a chunky necklace of chipped rhinestones, the brass chain tarnished. Faith Conway looked like she had wrestled a  Goodwill and lost. Horribly."
              • "The subject was dropped but it didn't make Faith feel any better. The whole 'you're too naïve' conversation was wearing thin on her nerves. When would she be considered old enough to ' know better'? Fifty? Sixty? Dead?"
              • "'I mean, I figured it would be a lot more entertaining for both of us if we just met up, took a walk, see if we could find a place open now. Though the only place I know open at this time is the Seven-Eleven but we could get a Slurpee I guess if you're into that sort of thing.' She moaned. 'Oh God. I know you're not the type to be into Slurpees. Forget I mentioned Slurpees. Actually, forget I mentioned any of this!'"

              Where you can find Cynthia online:
              Twitter: @cinsdiamond
              Instagram: cinsdiamond
              Booksprout: Cynthia Diamond
              Pinterest: Cynthia Diamond
              Amazon Author Page: Cynthia Diamond
              GoodReads: Cynthia Diamond
              BookBub: @cynthiadiamond

              Author Bio:

              Since she was a child, Cynthia craved anything that featured heroines with strong personalities. Now she writes books for sassy nerds with a sharp sense of humor. Starting her adult life in theater, she earned a Masters of Fine Arts in Costume Design, but her first love was telling stories. After some encouragement, she dove down the rabbit hole and created the Wyrd Love series.
              When not telling tales about hot dragons and werewolves with tight behinds, Cynthia is an SCA geek and an amateur artist. She resides in sunny San Diego, California with her husband Max, two cats of varying intelligence, and a ton of goldfish. (Source)
              Do you love Urban Fantasy? How about romance? Does Alchemy's Hunger sound like a book you'd like to read? Well hooray for you because I have 3 copies from Cynthia to give away! All you have to do is go to either our Facebook or Twitter pages and share the episode with Cynthia's interview, or go to Instagram and comment on that post. Simple as that: just comment on, share, or retweet episode 73 and you'll automatically be entered to win Alchemy's Hunger!

              To hear the interview with Cynthia please click here.

              Tuesday, April 10, 2018

              At Last in Laguna by Claire Marti

              The delightful Claire Marti is my guest on Episode 72 of the GSMC Book Review Podcast. Claire joined me to talk about her Finding Forever in Laguna series, specifically book two of that series, At Last in Laguna. This book can be read as a stand alone novel, but does have characters that also appeared in the first book, so if you want to start from the beginning you should definitely read Second Chance in Laguna first. That book features the story of Nick and Sophie, while At Last in Laguna tells the story of Alyssa and Brandt, Nick's sister and best friend.

              Alyssa Morgan has secretly been in love with her older brother Nick’s best friend, Brandt Dempsey, since she was an awkward, lonely teenager. When she catches the bouquet at Nick’s wedding, she throws caution to the wind and propositions Brandt to a two-week fling. He’s tried to ignore how Alyssa has blossomed into a strong, talented, gorgeous woman because as his best friend’s baby sister, she’s off limits.
              After they share a mind-blowing kiss, Brandt struggles to fight their undeniable chemistry. His tragic childhood scarred him, but he pushes it deep inside, only allowing the world to see a wealthy, carefree entrepreneur. Forced to work together on Brandt’s latest charitable venture, Brandt and Alyssa’s passion cannot be denied. Alyssa knows he’s the one. Can she convince him they belong together? (Source)
              At first glance it would seem that  Alyssa and Brandt do not get along, maybe can't even stand each other, but that is not the case. Both are attracted to the other but both have issues from their past that they have been allowing to affect not only a potential relationship with each other, but other relationships as well. Throw in Nick as an insanely over-protective big brother, and this couple seems doomed before they even get started.

              At Last in Laguna is a contemporary romance, and could be classified as a beach read (that takes place at the beach!). It is a sweet story and has an overall light-hearted feel to it, but it has a deeper undercurrent as well. That undercurrent doesn't take away the light-heartedness of the story, it simply reminds us that everyone's lives and stories are multi-layered and multi-dimensional. The relationship between Brandt and Alyssa is front and center in this book, but relationships of all kinds are important and highlighted throughout, and Claire does a beautiful job of showing how our relationships help us and affect us in every aspect of our lives.

              • Contemporary Romance
              • Women's Fiction
              What I enjoyed:
              • The relationships throughout. As I said at one point in the interview, I frequently wanted to smack Nick in his role as over-protective big brother, but his relationship with Alyssa is affected by their parents' deaths. Claire does a great job at showing how relationships are affected by our pasts and present as well as how those relationships can help us to learn and grow into the future.
              • Alyssa's inner monologues. Maybe you could call it talking to herself, but it reminded me of my own inner voice and it made Alyssa that much more human and likeable. Especially since her inner voice is funny and often snarky.
              • The fact that this is part of a trilogy of interconnected characters which means I will have more opportunities to get to know those characters.
              • "No more tequila shots--liquor transformed into truth serum. Rather inconvenient at the moment."
              • "First, Tad--who the hell was named Tad?--had invited her to a strip club where his sister, yes, his sister, worked. That way they could get discounted drinks and watch the show. Um, no, thank you very much."
              • "A giggle bubbled up her throat as she realized she'd have to open all of them and hit all the sticks in one fell swoop. Or stream. What a ridiculous situation. Sneaking out of town to pee on sticks in a coffeehouse. Could be a country music song."

              Where you can find Claire online:
              Instagram: @clairepmarti
              GoodReads: Claire Marti

              Author Bio:

              Claire Marti started writing stories as soon as she was old enough to pick up pencil and paper. After graduating from the University of Virginia with a BA in English Literature, Claire was sidetracked by other careers, including practicing law, selling software for legal publishers, and managing a non-profit animal rescue for a Hollywood actress.
              Her award winning debut novel, Second Chance in Laguna, won best unpublished contemporary romance in the Heart of the Molly and third place in the Maggie. Second Chance in Laguna is available now in print, ebook and audiobook at all major retailers.
              Check out a teaser here: Second Chance in Laguna. Book two in the Finding Forever in Laguna series, At Last in Laguna, released on October 18, 2017 and is available everywhere. Book three, Sunset in Laguna, ​will be available Spring 2018.
              When Claire's not writing, she's teaching yoga. You can find her teaching at studios in sunny San Diego or enjoy forty-three online classes on the international website A breast cancer survivor, Claire is a sought-after speaker on the power of yoga and meditation for cancer. She's been published in numerous magazines with articles on wellness and is the author of a memoir on her experience beating breast cancer.  
              Claire is a member of the Romance Writers of America and the San Diego Romance Writers. (Source)

              Does At Last in Laguna sound like a book you'd like to read? Excellent news: I have 3 SIGNED copies to give away! All you have to do is go to either our Facebook or Twitter pages and share the episode with Claire's interview, or go to Instagram and comment on that post. Simple as that: just comment on, share, or retweet episode 72 and you'll automatically be entered to win this wonderful book! 

              To hear the interview with Claire please click here.