Thursday, March 26, 2015

Cover Reveal: All For You by Laura Florand

My name is Racquel and I am 10000% obsessed with Laura Florand's books! I read The Chocolate Kiss in January and it jumped into my favorite-of-the-favorites shelf. I've already reread it twice. It put me in a reading slump for weeks and I was scared to read another Florand book because what can live up to the amazingness that is The Chocolate Kiss? But I was WRONG because I've since then read The Chocolate Rose and fell completely in love and I thought, "this is it! Florand can't do it again". But then I read The Chocolare Touch and she did it AGAIN. And when I read Turning Up the Heat? Yup. It was just as amazing, just as magical and filled with beautiful writing, to die for setting and lovely characters as the whole series. 

Breaking news from the heart of the event: Laura Florand is definitely a new favorite author of mine (and I don't make these claim lightly, AT ALL!)

With that being said, I'm SO EXCITED to share Laura Florand's new series and book cover!
All For You
May 5th, 2015
Paris Hearts series: Three young women trying to make their way in the most romantic city on Earth must learn how to open their hearts to love
Some crushes aren’t meant to be

When her older brother’s best friend left to join the Foreign Legion, eighteen-year-old Célie moved on to make a life for herself as a Paris chocolatier. Now, five years later, the last thing she needs is another man to mess up her happiness.
Let alone the same man.

But five years in the Foreign Legion is a long time for a man to grow up, and a long time to be away from the woman he loves.

Especially when he did it all for her.

Half strangers, more than friends, and maybe, if Joss Castel has his way, a second chance…
I'm SO excited about this because Célie is a lady chef and I've been wanting to read about one since the beginning of the Amour et Chocolat series (though I recently realized The Chocolate Temptation also has a lady chef but the hero is also a chef)! We do meet Célie The Chocolare Touch where she works under Dominique Richard. I'm so excited for this new series from Florand because I. Can. Not. Get. Enough. I haven't been able to focus on a non Florand book and I'm torn between binge reading all of the Amour et Chocolat series and the La Vie en Roses series or pacing my self and enjoying her released books. Being a reader is tough! Anyways, off I go to continue my obsession with Florand's books. If you haven't read a Florand book, you need The Chocolate Kiss in your life NOW. You won't  have to thank me when you love it.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Author Interview: Sarah Morgan

Last Wednesday, I left my backpack in my friend's car when we went to Chipotle because I wasn't supposed to get out of the car and then I thought it would take a minute to buy chips and salsa only but long story short, we ended up being inside for 20 minutes and we came out to a broken car window and my bag stolen. Fun! My review copy for First Time in Forever was in the bag so there goes the review I was planning to write since I already read the first quarter of the book. Lesson of the day: never leave anything visible in a car, even if you think it will take 10 seconds.

Anyways, instead of a review, I'm here with an interview. Yay! Quick notes that I got from the portion of the book that I did read. The setting is absolutely AMAZING. I fell in love and it's the reason I decided to participate in the blog tour. I'm iffy about small town romances but give me an oceanside setting and I cannot resist. Another thing is that Emily is afraid of the ocean and that is SO fascinating to me because I'm from Jeddah which means I grew up a literal 10 minutes away from the Red Sea. I love bodies of water. I can't imagine anyone afraid of water and I really enjoyed being in Emily's head.

First Time in Forever
Contemporary romance
February 24th 2015 by HQN Books
Goodreads summary:
Windswept, isolated and ruggedly beautiful, Puffin Island is a haven for day-trippers and daydreamers alike. But this charming community has a way of bringing people together in the most unexpected ways…

It's been a summer of firsts for Emily Donovan. From becoming a stand-in mom to her niece Lizzie to arriving on Puffin Island, her life has become virtually unrecognizable. Between desperately safeguarding Lizzie and her overwhelming fear of the ocean—which surrounds her everywhere she goes!—Emily has lost count of the number of "just breathe" pep talks she's given herself. And that's before charismatic local yacht club owner Ryan Cooper kisses her…

Ryan knows all about secrets. And it's clear that newcomer Emily—with her haunted eyes and the little girl she won't let out of her sight—is hiding from something besides the crazy chemistry between them. So Ryan decides he's going to make it his personal mission to help her unwind and enjoy the sparks! But can Puffin Island work its magic on Emily and get her to take the biggest leap of trust of all—putting her heart in someone else's hands?
  • First Time in Forever is the opening book in your brand new Puffin Island series. What inspired you to write this series?
I knew from the start that I wanted the link between the characters and stories to be a strong friendship. I write romance, but I also love exploring the other relationships in my characters’ lives, including family and friends. I had finished my O’Neil Brothers series, which was set in the beautiful mountains of Vermont, and I wanted a completely different setting for my new series. I decided on an island, a coastal retreat where three friends could escape when life was hard. I want readers to dive in, breathe in the sea air, taste the fresh blueberries and the smooth chill of ice cream and take a beach holiday while they read.

  • What made you choose the Puffin as the island bird?
I spent a long time researching the various islands around Penobscot Bay, Maine. Although I prefer to have a fictitious setting, it’s important to me to make it as authentic as possible so I was focusing on the national park and the wildlife of the area. I discovered that although Puffins are not an endangered species, they are rare in Maine and there are projects to reintroduce them to the islands.

I first saw Puffins in the north of England and they are the most amazing sea birds. As I was researching, one of the facts that stayed with me was that although they spend most of their lives at sea, they usually return to breed on the same island where they were hatched. This fitted well with my idea that Puffin Island would be a sanctuary for the three friends. Emily, Brittany and Skylar each live busy independent lives but when they need a safe retreat, they return to the island. In the books, the Puffins actually live on Puffin Rock, which is a small rocky outcrop to the north of the island. They don’t like humans to get too close!

  • Your character Emily has a terrible fear of the ocean. Why did you choose to include this in the book?
Overcoming fear is a theme of the book, and Emily’s fear of the ocean mirrors her fear of emotions. She is afraid of being swamped, of losing everything. She is torn because on the one hand Puffin Island is the perfect place to hide away, but it also means confronting her worst fears. When she visited the island with her friends she was able to stay indoors and inland and think only of herself, but now she has Lizzy, who wants to play in the sand and swim in the sea. She is forced out of her comfort zone and it’s difficult for her. I love challenging my characters and watching them grow, and that’s the case for Emily.

  • You have a strong connection to the ocean. What are your fondest seaside memories?
I love the ocean. I live close to London, so escaping to the sea is nothing more than a dream for most of the year. I have two sons and some of our happiest holidays have been spent by the beach. Every summer we hire a house near the ocean and like many families, we have our own routines and rituals that we often repeat each holiday. If we’re feeling energetic we brave the freezing waves to go body boarding and walk miles along the coast path. If we want a more leisurely day we explore the tide pools, delving beneath rocks and through fronds of seaweed to find hidden treasures. We build the most amazing sand sculptures and of course we eat! Beach picnics are always fun and sometimes we’ll take a fishing trip and cook what we catch. There’s nothing quite like the taste of freshly cooked fish eaten on the beach as the sun goes down. And no beach holiday would be complete without ice cream (my current favorite flavors are pistachio and vanilla). It’s no coincidence that ice cream plays a role in First Time in Forever. I had so much fun dreaming up Summer Scoop and the whole family (and my readers on facebook!) helped pick the flavors.

  • My favorite question! What are you working on next? 
I’m in the middle of the third book in the Puffin Island series, Skylar and Alec’s story, called Christmas Ever After. Sky is a really fun character to write and the tension with Alec is electric. It’s one of those stories where life keeps throwing boulders at the characters (a bit like real life!) and it’s interesting to see them fighting their way out. I love this couple. Their relationship borders on adversarial but they have off the scale chemistry and plenty of humor so it’s fun to write. And it’s a Holiday story, so there is all the extra frosty sparkle I always enjoy.
Thank you Sarah Morgan!! I hope y'all liked this interview and let me tell you, pick up First Time in Forever if just for the beautiful setting alone. It's breathtaking.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

|12 in 12| Seeing Me Naked by Liza Palmer

12 in 12 is me committing to read 12 books in 12 months. These 12 books will be old books that I've had on my TBR since the dawn of time and have been pushed aside for all the SHINY. 
I did 12 in 12 last year and it was success for me. I read a lot of books that I've been saying for years I would read and they were favorites! While I didn't keep up with 12 in 12 on the blog, I still loved my progress so here we go again! Here is the 12 in 12 intro post I did last year.
12 in 12 January Pick

Published January 8th, 2008
Genre: contemporary fiction
Rating: A-
Goodreads summary:
Elisabeth Page is the daughter of Ben Page, yes, that's right, THE world famous novelist. And yes, she's also the sister of Rascal Page, world famous novelist in his own right. So what does Elisabeth do? Much to her family's disappointment, Elisabeth is a pastry chef. And a pretty damn good one, at Beverly, the hottest restaurant in LA. The last relationship Elisabeth had was with Will, a man she grew up with and whose family ran in the same social circles as her family. But Will's constant jaunts around the world have left her lonely and brokenhearted in L.A.

That is until Daniel Sullivan bids on one of Elisabeth's pastry tutorials at a charity auction. Daniel is everything her family is not: a basketball coach, a non-intellectual, his family doesn't summer on Martha's Vineyard, and the only metaphors he uses are about passing the ball and being a team player. But somehow they fit. Between her family, Will, and the new cooking show that Elisabeth is recruited to star in, Elisabeth's life is suddenly incredibly new and different--the question is, can she embrace being happy or has her family conditioned her to think she's just not good enough?Liza Palmer expertly depicts a woman trying to come to terms with professional success, personal success, and finally dealing with a family that might love her from the bottom of their heart but doesn't necessarily have her best interest always at heart.
I've been meaning to read Liza Palmer since 2013 which is not that long since rest of the books in my 12 in 12 pile are much older than that. However, Liza Palmer comes HIGHLY recommend from so many people I trust (Sarah, Estelle, Angie, Ellice, Hannah, Cass) I just had to read one of her books and I have to say, I understand the love!

I picked Seeing Me Naked as my first Palmer because Nowhere But Home is too hyped for me so I was scared to make it my first choice and when I saw that Elisabeth is a chef, I had to start with this one since I love chef books.

There is a lot to love about Seeing Me Naked. There is chef Elisabeth and I just love chef heroes/heroines. This is a very character driven novel and I love reading about Elisabeth as she dealt with making a decision about her extremely demanding job that does not allow her to have a life outside the kitchen. Her complicated family composed of a Pulitzer winner (snobby) father, charity  extraordinaire mother and her brother who's on the road to author fame himself. Family books for the win!

There is also her complicated love life. There is Will, who's Elisabeth childhood friend and love but he's rarely available and there is new0in-town basketball coach Daniel. This is not a love triangle in any sense, it's just two men who serve two different purposes. I loved Daniel who's a nice hero! I like nice guys. This book is not just romance focused but the meeting scenes between Elisabeth and Daniel were really cute and the overall romance was well balanced with the rest of the story.

I'm a big fan of family books and that aspect was really important here. Elisabeth's family is well, elite with a capital E. Her dad doesn't approve of her career or career goals. I love seeing this complicated, messy family who ultimately loves each other, yes, but they're not always good for each other or show it in the best away but no family is perfect. Elisabeth's family screws up a lot but that didn't mean they were The Worst Ever. It isn't just either perfect or not perfect and I just loved that complexity!

Again, I also loved Elisabeth who struggled with her privilege.
Apparently, when I'm not being a pompous asshole or a know-it-all, I have very little to say. Good to know.
She knew she could pretentious and even "shitty" and constantly tried to rein it in but everyone is a snob about something which for that something is food (she's a chef!). I enjoyed reading about her because in the end she really was your average person. She struggled with family, with being everyone's definition of a "good" person and in her love life. It was so realistic but on top of that, there were some great laugh out loud moments. Perfect combination, anyone?

Rating: [A-] My first Liza Palmer but definitely not my last. Binge reading, here I come!
The crowd simmers down as the bookstore owner approaches the podium.

"Your building is in a commercial part of town. There are no kids there. Who are you going to pass candy out to, prostitutes?"

"How do you — I mean, how does one become a professional Santa?" I'm oddly intrigued. But at the same time, who is this person? What utopian parred did he frolic off of?