Boy21

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It’s never been easy for Finley, particularly at home. But two things keep him going: his place on the basketball team and his girlfriend, Erin – the light in even the darkest of his days.

Then Russ arrives. He answers only to Boy21, claims to be from outer space, and also has a past he wants to escape. He’s one of the best high school basketball players in the country and threatens to steal Finley’s starting position.

Against all the odds, Russ and Finley become friends. Russ could change everything for Finley, both for better and for worse. But sometimes the person you least expect can give you the courage to face what’s gone before …and work out where you’re going next.

My opinion: I loved Matthew Quick’s The Silver Linings Playbook and I also love a good YA book, so had high hopes for this book.

Finley is from an Irish American family living in a tough neighbourhood and is the only white boy on his basketball team. Although life isn’t perfect, particularly at home with his father and disabled alcoholic grandfather, his girlfriend Erin and basketball make his life pretty ok. When he is asked by Coach to make friends with new kid Russell, his life changes in more ways than he can imagine. Despite Russell being pretty weird with an obsession with space and his insistence that his name is Boy21, Finley likes him, and finds some room in his life for a new friend.

I really liked this book and read it more or less in one sitting. It was refreshing to read a YA book which wasn’t about romance, but instead it was about the friendship of two boys, something I don’t think I’ve read about before. I’m probably the least sporty person ever, so the basketball references put me off a bit at first, but once the story got going, I could see why it was such a key aspect of the book, and found that I didn’t really need to understand the terminology to read the book. In the style of the best YA books, Boy21 deals with a number of difficult issues including grief, gang culture, poverty and families. I thought it was really well done by the author though as I didn’t feel that anyone theme defined the book and were just part of life, rather than necessarily being a focal point.

I really liked the writing style and felt that the story was well paced and flowed really well. It was a short book, but to be honest I think it was the perfect length. I don’t like books that are long for the sake of being long and being able to fit everything you want to say in a shorter book is a quality I like in authors. I would like to read more about the characters to see what happens next, and how they each get on following graduation. I really felt that Finley, Russell and Erin were all really likeable, and probably more so as none of them were jock type characters and were all a bit weird in their own special way. I really like these sorts of characters as they are more realistic and I know that I am bit weird in my own way too!

A really good read, and another good American YA book to add to the growing list of books that I wish were around when I was a teenager (not that it stops me reading them now!). I’d definitely recommend this book and will have to get round to reading more of Matthew Quick’s books soon!

My rating: Four stars

I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher, Headline, via Bookbridgr in exchange for an honest review

A Gift to Remember

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Discover the magic of Melissa Hill this Christmas… Darcy Archer works in a small bookstore on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. A dreamer who secretly wishes for true love similar to that in her beloved novels, Darcy refuses to settle for anything less than being swept off her feet by the perfect man.

One day, when cycling to work, Darcy accidentally crashes into a sharply dressed man walking his dog. He is knocked unconscious and rushed to the hospital, but his dog gets left behind. Wracked with guilt over the accident, Darcy resolves to care for the dog and reunite him with his owner. But the dog is not the only thing that’s been left behind and when she finds a small beautifully wrapped package – suspiciously shaped like a book – she becomes curious. She decides to try and figure out all she can about this man, and make the delivery herself. Darcy gradually becomes drawn into his life; one that she soon discovers is filled with books, travel, adventure and all the wonderful things she’s ever dreamt about. It doesn’t take long before Darcy builds up a picture of this man’s lovely life, and feeling an immediate kinship towards him, tries to make things right.

It might be a challenge but doesn’t she owe it to him to try? But does fantasy match reality? And what happens when he finally wakes up?

My opinion: I’d had my eye on this book since it was published in hardback before Christmas, so jumped at the chance when I was offered an advance copy of the paperback by the publisher!

Darcy is the manager of book store Chaucers in New York. Much to her aunt Katherine’s dismay, her extravagant lifestyle is shunned by Darcy. She much prefers to do the job she loves and cycle around the city. On an icy day before Christmas she knocks over a pedestrian whilst on her bike and ends up looking after his dog when he gets taken to hospital. She also picks up the package he was carrying and begins her quest to return the dog and the parcel to their rightful owner, Aidan.

I really enjoyed this book and liked Darcy from the offset. The setting of New York is romantic before you start, but a snowy New York is on a different level! The only downside for me (which is totally all about me and nothing to do with the book!) is that I started reading this on an extremely hot weekend and the book has a very wintry feel and is set at Christmas. As I say, this is totally down to my personal preference, and I should have looked at this before starting the book as I think I would have enjoyed it even more if I’d read it later in the year!

I really loved the literary quotes at the beginning of each chapter. It is obvious that a lot of research and care went into choosing the perfect quotes, some which I recognised and others that were new to me. I would have liked to have started to get to know Aidan a bit more earlier in the book as the mystery went on for some time, and I was also a little confused when we first started to hear his side of the story, but that’s probably just me! I also lost track of timescales a little bit, so wasn’t always sure how much time had passed, but sometimes it’s nice to have that sort of timeless feel to a story when it could be set over a few months, or just a week.

This was the first book that I have read by Melissa Hill and will look out for more of her books in the future. If you are looking for a romantic book with an amazing setting and a bookish heroine, then this is for you. What’s not to love about that combination?!

My rating: Four stars

I received a signed copy of this book from the publisher, Simon and Schuster, in exchange for an honest review

Book extract: Chasing Athens

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Here’s an excerpt from the first chapter of Chasing Athens a romantic comedy by Marissa Tejada. Chasing Athens was recently released as part of the Terpsichore contemporary romance imprint from Musa Publishing.

**

 

Within a minute, I found myself face-to-face with the Greek police. I raised an eyebrow noticing that they also happened to be three handsome twenty-something rookies, each sporting the typical young Greek masculine look: short, dark brown hair, and scruffy, day-old facial hair. Dressed alike in crisp, navy blue uniforms and black combat boots, they stood up at the sight of us. Two had stopped swinging their koumbolois, a string of rosary- like beads that Greek men carry around, oftentimes clicking and petting out of habit. The third police officer put down his iced coffee, which Greeks called a frappe.

The officers eyed me up and down as the ticket officer caught them up on the story of my transgressions. I yearned to catch some meaning, but the Greek sounded like Greek to me and too fast.

“Mr. Panos say you left your wallet at home,” one officer said in perfectly clear English. Finally, there was someone who spoke my language well. Perhaps, there was hope. “You walk in Greece with no diavatirio.” He cleared his throat before he corrected himself. “Passport?”

“All of my ID cards were in my wallet and I was in a rush,” I said, wide- eyed. “Besides, I’ve been living here for seven months now.”

He looked unimpressed. “Name?”

“Ava Martin.”

“Age?”

“Um, thirty.” I bit my lip wondering why that mattered.

“Really?” He narrowed his eyes at me. In my rush out the door, I threw on a pair of baggy jeans, a green T-shirt, and my blue Converse. I looked like a college student; adults my age usually dressed to impress. But I hadn’t been feeling very adult lately, to be honest. It was clear that this officer thought I was a complete liar. My hopes sank.

“Thirty, yes,” I confirmed.

The officer glanced at his two co-workers who gave him a look I didn’t understand. He composed himself to return his attention to me.

“Married?” he asked quite professionally.

Silly question but it was a common inquiry even among Greek strangers, so why not from a police officer?

“Yes, my husband isn’t in Athens this week.” I resisted the urge to add something about the fact that Greg was never home lately. But I had enough sense to realize that airing my marriage’s dirty laundry probably wasn’t going to make the situation any better.

The officer lifted his dark brows with interest. “He is a Greek?” “No, we’re both American. I’m from New York and I’m here with Greg Brown, my husband.” The officer shot me a glance, his lips pressed flat. Did he not believe me?

Then it came to me. “Oh, I never changed my last name. He’s Brown and I’m Martin, but we’re together…together forever,” I heard myself say in a singsongy voice.

He looked at the bus officer then back at me, his face emotionless. I cupped my hands together in front of me. “He’s in Rome, I think.” My voice began to crack. Why did I have to say his name? Why did I have to talk about us? Maybe, I just gave up too much information. I talked too much sometimes. In any case, Greg and I had hardly talked, Skyped, Facebooked, Vibered, Whatsapped, or even e-mailed for the past two weeks. I wished he could’ve helped me but he wouldn’t have even answered his phone if I had called.

“How we know you say the truth?” The officer’s blunt question jolted me back to reality. “I promise,” I said, realizing that it sounded entirely lame. “I swear. I’m American, and lately, I’m behaving like a total moron.” As if promising and swearing to be an American moron could be a legitimate argument. I flinched. Gosh, I’d put me in jail.

**

More about Chasing Athens:

Travel writer and journalist Marissa Tejada’s debut novel is set in Athens, Greece, the Greek Islands and Ithaca, New York, and follows Ava Martin, a heartbroken American expat, whose new husband unexpectedly ditches her after their move abroad. Instead of returning to the States, she makes an abrupt decision to stay. Despite pressure from her mother, uncertainty over her divorce, and issues with her long-estranged father, she’s determined to make it on her own. With her Greek friends, she laughs and learns while facing culture shock, language barriers and the charm of Mediterranean men, until a life-threatening emergency back home in sleepy Ithaca, N.Y., forces her to confront her disappointing past, and forces her to redefine the meaning of home.

You can find the rest of Chasing Athens on Amazon and at eBook seller.

 

 

Author interview: Lisa Dickenson

Today I am very lucky to be joined by the very lovely Lisa Dickenson for an author interview, the perfect way to finish off my week of reviews for You Had Me at Merlot.

1. Hi Lisa, welcome to Sheli Reads. I have been reviewing You Had Me at Merlot all week and loved it! Where did you get your inspiration for the story?

Mooooorning! Thanks so much for reading and reviewing Merlot – very much appreciated, what a star you are! To be honest, as much as I’d love to say I spent four months at a Tuscan vineyard allowing the story to unfold itself, most of the inspiration just, erm, came out of my head. I’ve visited vineyards in Australia and California, on day-trip wine tastings, so I drew on memories of them. For everything else, I used holiday brochures, relationships I have with people, lovely friends and dreams of hot hot summers to inspire me!

2. My favourite character is independent woman, Elle. Did you base her character on anyone you know?

I think she’s probably, in a way, based on most people I know. Even if you don’t have exactly the same dreams/goals/wants as Elle I think we all have something we crave after as well as that feeling that other people are expecting us to be in a place in our life that we aren’t at – whether for you it’s marriage, babies, owning a house, being at the top of your career or even being the ‘ideal’weight and fitness. I hope she’s relatable, in that way.

3. If you were casting a film for You Had Me at Merlot, who would you like to play Elle and Jamie?

Good question! Ooo, I’m really not sure, as I don’t picture specific people when I write (and I never describe my leading lady’s looks in that much detail as I like people to be able to put themselves in the story). Maybe someone like Jennifer Lawrence for Elle (or Laurie!) and Liam Hemsworth or Jake Gyllenhaal for Jamie? Who would you cast?

4. I liked that the book was released in four parts over four weeks as it gave me something to look forward to on a Monday! How did you decide to release it this way?

Glad you liked it! It was actually my Editor, Manpreet, at Little, Brown’s idea to publish them this way. She wanted to do an experiment with my first novel, The Twelve Dates of Christmas, and she felt it worked so chose to do the same for You Had Me at Merlot.

5. Which authors most inspire you?

I’m very inspired by female authors who’ve made an empire out of their writing – be it because they thought of, at the time, a very simple yet unique idea that skyrocketed, such as a school for wizards or teenage vampires (I wish I’d come up with those concepts!) or because they churn out books writing exactly what they want to write and have become leaders for that reason, like Jackie Collins.

6. Who would be your ultimate dinner party guests? We would have to make sure that there was plenty of Italian wine at the party!!

Yay for wine! And if there’s wine involved… as awful as this sounds I’d love to have a dinner party full of celebs who apparently don’t get on, just to see how they act around each other in real life! I guess this is why I’m such a sucker for reality TV… So people like Jen and Angelina, Britney and Christina, Kim and Paris. And I’d just sit back with my vino and gawp at them all.

7. Where is your favourite place to write? Do you like to have noise around you or complete silence?

I do most of my writing on my bus commute to and from my day job, but in an ideal world my favourite place is either squadged in the middle of my big grey sofa, or somewhere with a nice view, like over a Cornish beach or the Hollywood Hills! I don’t mind some noise – sometimes I listen to certain emotive music to get me in a particular mood for a scene, or I stick some New Girl or Friends on in the background if I need to get my head into a more ‘funny’ mode!

8. Finally, what can we expect from you next?

Well, the complete ebook of The Twelve Dates of Christmas is coming out in October, which I’m excited about, but my next book will be out in Spring 2015 and is yet untitled… I’m really looking forward to writing it though, I have lots of ideas bubbling away!

I’d like to say a massive thank you to Lisa for taking time out to answer my questions. You can follow Lisa on twitter at @lisawritesstuff or visit her website http://www.lisadickenson.com/

You Had Me at Merlot: Part 4

The final part in this hilarious four-part digital romantic comedy, from the author of The Twelve Dates of Christmas – winner of the Novelicious Debut of the Year award.

Elle didn’t plan on falling for anyone on this singles’ holiday so it came as a huge surprise to her when she fell, hard, for her very own Italian stallion. But it seems he’s not as perfect as he first appeared – especially now that his maybe-not-so-ex ex-girlfriend has turned up.

Elle doesn’t want to believe that it was all a lie but it’s hard to ignore the very real bombshell standing in front of her. Has she been taken for a fool? As the end of the holiday approaches, confusion and heartbreak threaten to ruin Elle’s hard-fought peace of mind. Does Tuscany have enough magic left to fix her broken heart?

You Had Me at Merlot is the kind of love story that will have you crying with laughter one moment and nodding your head in agreement the next. Full of sultry summer nights, hilarious moments and plenty of wine, it will warm even the most cynical of hearts and have you believing in the magic of romance (and the power of a decent glass of Merlot).

My opinion: So this is it. The final installment. And after yet another heart stopping cliffhanger in part three, I had to know what happened next.

Elle had been getting in the spirit of romance at the Tuscan vineyard she had accompanied her friend Laurie to for a singles holiday. Only letting her guard down seemed to come back and hit her, hard. When Jamie’s ex turns up at the vineyard and he doesn’t turn her away, Elle doesn’t know what to do. She turns to her new found vineyard family and confides in Laurie, Donna and George and finds herself needing to make bigger decisions than she ever thought she would need to when she left London. Can she ever return to her old life in London, and more importantly, is she over men forever?

Reading this last part of the story was bittersweet, as although I couldn’t wait to pick it up, I knew that this meant that it was coming to an end. I think I have professed my love in all of my reviews for the location and the characters. I really want to enforce just how much I loved this book, and it was a perfect summer read to distract me from my post holiday blues over the last few weeks.

I really hope Lisa writes lots and lots more for us to enjoy and will create more fabulous characters to become my book friends! I had a proper book hangover when I got to the end of this final part, but felt content with how it ended. Although, I’d LOVE to read more about the outrageous Laurie!

Seriously, you should read this book, and if you haven’t downloaded it by now I’m not sure we can be friends any longer. You will thank me when you read this hilarious yet romantic escape to Italy.

My rating: Five big shiny stars

This week I will be posting reviews of all four parts of You Had Me at Merlot, and will be culminating the week with a special interview with the author, Lisa Dickenson.

You Had Me at Merlot: Part 3

 

The third part in this hilarious four-part digital romantic comedy, from the author of The Twelve Dates of Christmas – winner of the Novelicious Debut of the Year award.

Elle, determinedly single Elle, isn’t used to waking up next to a boy. And she certainly isn’t used to being engaged. Thanks to all the (delicious) chilli wine she consumed last night, Elle has no idea how she’s managed to get herself into this situation. And as fond as she is of the man lying next to her, and no matter how happy he looks by this turn of events, getting married has never been part of Elle’s plan. No way. All that romance stuff just isn’t for her . . . right? But the combination of this lovely man, the incredibly romantic Italian countryside and the feel of the early morning sun on her skin is starting to have an effect on Elle. Maybe, just maybe, she’s not as anti-love as she thought . . .

You Had Me at Merlot is the kind of love story that will have you crying with laughter one moment and nodding your head in agreement the next. Full of sultry summer nights, hilarious moments and plenty of wine, it will warm even the most cynical of hearts and have you believing in the magic of romance (and the power of a decent glass of Merlot).

My opinion: So I’ve read the third part of four and after the cliffhanger of book two, I couldn’t wait to get my teeth into this next installment!

Elle has woken up with Jamie, who is apparently her future husband. Only she has no recollection of the proposal thanks to all the chilli wine and chocolate she consumed the night before. She wasn’t intending on finding a boyfriend in Tuscany, let alone a husband to be. Only the thought of this gorgeous Italian man in her life isn’t quite as bad as she thought. Elle uses her skills to try and help the vineyard get more customers, whilst coming to terms with the fact that this hot man likes her. That is until she does a bit of research online and finds something that leaves a sour taste in her mouth.

This was another fab installment of You Had Me at Merlot, and another one I loved. I totally devoured this one, again reading it in one sitting. I really feel like I have got to know Elle and Laurie, and I think they are some of my favourite book characters. Again, the setting is amazing. I don’t think a Tuscan vineyard will ever lose its charm as a setting for a book for me. Who couldn’t feel romantic in a location like that!

The cliffhanger at the end of the book left me open mouthed, just as the last one did. I can’t wait to find out what happens in book four, although I’m a little sad that I’m nearly at the end of this fab story.

If you haven’t downloaded the series yet, why not?! You won’t regret indulging in this singles holiday in Tuscany!

My rating: Five stars

This week I will be posting reviews of all four parts of You Had Me at Merlot, and will be culminating the week with a special interview with the author, Lisa Dickenson.

You Had Me at Merlot: Part 2

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The second part in this hilarious four-part digital romantic comedy, from the author of The Twelve Dates of Christmas – winner of the Novelicious Debut of the Year award.

It took some convincing for Elle to come away on this singles’ holiday and now her MD has turned up! As the matchmaking activities begin, from blindfolded wine tasting to crushing grapes barefoot, Elle tries her best to enjoy herself but it’s not easy with her boss around. Nor is it that easy when she’s being set up with every man on the holiday. All in all, this isn’t turning out to be the fun break Elle was hoping for. Thank goodness for Jamie, the vineyard owners’ son – he’s exactly the kind of company Elle needs right now because he’s not interested in finding a partner either. So what if Jamie is delicious to look at and his dad thinks they’re perfect for each other? They’re just friends. Nothing more. And that’s all there is to it . . .

You Had Me at Merlot is the kind of love story that will have you crying with laughter one moment and nodding your head in agreement the next. Full of sultry summer nights, hilarious moments and plenty of wine, it will warm even the most cynical of hearts and have you believing in the magic of romance (and the power of a decent glass of Merlot).

My opinion: I was lucky enough to already have this second part on my Kindle when I read part 1, so was able to dive right into this one!

Elle is trying to deal with the fact that her MD Donna has turned up at the vineyard, so she now not only has to try and enjoy a singles holiday which she doesn’t really want to take part in, but has to do it with her boss! An awful American staying at the vineyard is trying his best to woo her in the most unromantic way ever so things seem to be going from bad to worse. Enter Jamie from stage left. He’s the hot son of the vineyard owners and not interested in the desperate girls on holiday. He just wants to make wine and help keep the family business going. As two single people not interested in getting into a relationship, Elle and Jamie become friends, much to the dismay of a couple of the girls staying at the vineyard.

This next installment is just as good as the first. We get to know a bit more about some of the holiday makers and there are certainly some interesting sorts there! The setting just seems to get even more beautiful and in this part of the story, there is a trip to Florence to see the sights. Hot Italian Jamie is a very welcome addition to the story. And her makes his own wine and chocolate. Why don’t all men do this?! They certainly don’t seem to have those skills in south Wales! You are lucky to get a cup of tea and a bacon sandwich! Anyway, I digress. I may have fallen a little bit in love with Jamie already…

I forgot to say in my first review, but I love Laurie. She is a brilliant character, outrageous and so funny. I love the friendship between Laurie, the maneater, and independent woman Elle. It shouldn’t work, but only goes to show that opposites attract as friends, as well as partners! I couldn’t put my Kindle down until I got to the end of this part of the story and there is one hell of a twist at the end. You’ll get to see my review of part 3 tomorrow, but I had to wait for part 3 to be published to find out what happened next!

My rating: Five stars

This week I will be posting reviews of all four parts of You Had Me at Merlot, and will be culminating the week with a special interview with the author, Lisa Dickenson.