My book club chose a wonderful read for June: The Rosie Project. Here's my review: The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion My rating: 5 of 5 stars A Man with Asperger's Delightful Journey to Love Books like these make me appreciate my book club even more because I probably wouldn't have tried it without my friend Colby picking it this month. Don Tillman is a 39-year-old genetics professor in Australia who knows he is socially inept but doesn't know he has a raging case of Autism Spectrum Disorder. He would like to date but his difficulties with emotions and subtleties of interactions have made that difficult. Being the scientist he is, he decides to write a questionnaire for potential partners he dubs "The Wife Project". He believes his data driven approach will weed out unsuitable candidates. He's friends with a married psychologist couple, Gene and Claudia, and they try to help him sort out these puzzling social interactions. Sadly, Gene and Claudia are his only friends. When Don attends a dating event, his unique perceptions of the world are hilarious. Olivia resumed talking to me while the others engaged in small talk -- an extraordinary waste of time when a major life decision was at stake. On Claudia's advice, I had memorized the questionnaire. She thought that asking questions directly from the forms could create the wrong "dynamic" and that I should attempt to incorporate them subtly into conversation, Subtlety, I had reminded her, is not my strength. She suggested that I not ask about sexually transmitted diseases and that I make my own estimates of weight, height, and body mass index. I estimated Olivia's BMI at nineteen; slim, but no signs of anorexia. Every time Don meets someone new, he mentally calculates their BMI. BA HA HA! I've met quite a few characters through dating but I've never had one come out and ask me my BMI--Don would totally do that if not for Claudia's advice. Don's friend Gene sets him up with Rosie, a "barmaid". Rosie comes over for dinner prepared by the excellent cook Don. I commenced retrieval of vegetables and herbs from the refrigerator. "Let me help," Rosie said. "I can chop or something." The implication was that chopping could be done by an inexperienced person unfamiliar with the recipe. After her comment that she was unable to cook even in a life-threatening situation, I had visions of huge chunks of leek and fragments of herbs too fine to sieve out. Once Don discovers Rosie smokes and runs late, he automatically discards her as a candidate for The Wife Project. But when Rosie tells him she's trying to discover the identity of her biological father, geneticist Don is suddenly all in to helping her with The Father Project. They narrow down potential fathers based on her mother's medical school class, and proceed to obtain DNA samples from over fifty men in a madcap manner. Don eventually learns that Rosie is a doctoral psychology student who's smarter than she seems. Don and Rosie test a sample from one probable father. "But I've never consciously thought of him as my father."
"He's not," I said.
The results had come up on the computer screen. Job complete. I began packing up.
"Wow," said Rosie. "Ever thought of being a grief counselor?"
"No. I considered a number of careers, but all in the sciences. My interpersonal skills are not strong."
Rosie burst out laughing. Don is just so damn endearing! The funniest scene is when Don and Rosie pose as bartenders at a medical school reunion in order to swab cocktail glasses. Memorizing orders and drink recipes is where computer-mind Don excels, and he performs so well that the bar owner wants to go into business with him. Equally funny is when Don wants to woo a ballroom dancing champion, so he practices his dance moves with a skeleton from a nearby lab. When he tests out his dance moves in front of a crowd, he learns Unfortunately, this requires cooperation on the part of the partner, particularly if she is heavier than a skeleton. When Don decides he would like to have sex with Rosie, he talks it over with Gene: "So why the stress?" said Gene. "You have had sex before?"
"Of course," I said. "It's just that adding a second person makes it more complicated."
"Naturally, said Gene. "I should have thought of that. Why not get a book?" So Don buys a book and memorizes all the sexual positions. Naturally, he brings out the skeleton again for practice, and naturally, the dean walks into his office while Don is getting into compromising positions on the floor with the skeleton. *laughs* In addition to the charming humor, there's some depth to this story about love and growth. I definitely want to read the sequel. Highly recommended.
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Welcome to author Alretha Thomas! I enjoyed her recent release Missing Melissa--check out my four star review. Then I interview Alretha, and end with a giveaway. Missing Melissa by Alretha Thomas My rating: 4 of 5 stars Missing Twin Haunts Her Sister’s Dreams Maddie is a gorgeous blond twenty-two-year-old about to start her career in broadcast journalism when she has a dream. A disturbing dream. She dreams her twin sister, who went missing when they were three years old, is still alive, and needs Maddie’s help. Her parents don’t want to re-open the case, fearing they will crack open old wounds. But are they hiding something? I thought this was a well-written mystery. Where is Melissa? Is she alive? Has she been hurt? There’s misdirection that prevented me from guessing the ending. Maddie’s surrounded by some fun, opinionated characters, like her best friend Ruby and her dog Pepper. I wish I didn’t have a missing sister. I wish everything was normal. But Ruby says normal is a setting on a washing machine and not what our lives are supposed to be. Amen, Ruby! And I love Maddie’s dog Pepper. That dog’s got a lot of sass. I remember when my parents surprised me with Pepper five years ago. He was a baby, so small and cute. I wanted to dress him up, too. I’ll never forget approaching him with an adorable pullover sweater. He snatched it with his teeth and ripped it to pieces. That was the end of any ideas about dressing up Pepper. Ha! Maddie meets Detective Sam while pursuing her missing sister. He’s a hottie who’s sweet and steady. ”Well, one good thing has come out of all of this,” Ruby says.
“What’s that?” Sam and I ask at the same time.
“I finally got to meet Sexy Sam.”
I narrow my eyes at Ruby and try to change the subject. “So, where do we go from here?” I ask.
“No, not so fast,” Sam says. “What’s this Sexy Sam all about?” he asks, laughing. While I loved the plot, I didn’t find the dialogue realistic. It seemed dated and cheesy to me. Characters speak in long paragraphs, and call each other by their full names to chastise each other ”Madeleine Louise Patterson!” I am glad I had the opportunity to read this page turner, which ends on a hopeful note. View all my reviews And now for the interview: Jennifer Lane (JL): Welcome to the blog, Alretha, Many of us are fascinated by the special bond between twins. What drew you into writing a twin story in Missing Melissa?
Alretha Thomas (AT): Thank you for this opportunity, Jennifer. Like a lot of people, I also have had a fascination with twins. It started in childhood. My mother and aunt looked so much alike, I would have sworn that they were twins, and I was terribly disappointed when I learned they weren’t. I was thinking about this around the time the idea to write Missing Melissa came to me. I was also reflecting on my mother’s untimely death. My mother passed away at the young age of 36. I was 14. My cousin told me that my aunt was devastated when my mother died. So those two thoughts inspired me to write Missing Melissa. I wanted to explore how the loss of a close sibling can affect the surviving sibling.
JL: I'm so sad to hear about your mother's death at a young age. One of my favorite characters is Pepper the dog. Do you have a dog? Other pets?
AT: Jennifer, I am so glad you like Pepper! I love Pepper. When my husband read the opening to the book he felt Pepper had too big of a role, no pun intended (he’s a mastiff). I purposely made Pepper somewhat of a secondary character because in a way he filled the hole that was left by the missing twin. Ironically, I didn’t grow up with a dog and I’m allergic to cats. My husband and I have been vacillating about getting a dog. No one wants to do the clean-up (smile). But we both love dogs and think they’re adorable. For the past month, my husband’s been feeding a bird that comes by from time-to-time and even the neighborhood Bobcat. I think we’re inching our way to getting a pet! BTW we have a ton of stuffed pets—turtles, rabbits, bears, and even a Kangaroo!
JL: I also loved the character of Ruby, Maddie's sassy best friend. How have your real-life friendships become part of this fictional relationship?
AT: Yes, Ruby is one of my favorites as well. I love the relationship she and Maddie have and yes, friendships I’ve had over the years did influence Maddie and Ruby’s relationship. Like Maddie, I’ve only had one best friend at a time. I’ve never had a group of girlfriends. That’s probably why Maddie only has one close girlfriend. Writing the two of them was somewhat nostalgic because their relationship reminded me of a fourteen-year relationship I had that went awry right after I got married. Like Maddie and Ruby, we were close and the feelings we had for each other were unconditional. Actually, this friend was there when I meant my future husband. I truly believe that I may not have given as much as my friend did in the relationship at the time because I was going through some challenging times. I believe I may have drained her. But by the time I realized this it was too late.
JL: I notice Missing Melissa is your eighth novel, and your other books include a contemporary romance series staring with Married in the Nick of Nine. What's next for you?
AT: Missing Melissa is my debut Mystery novel! Yes, I started out with a romance series that I call The Cass & Nick series: Married in the Nick of Nine, The Baby in the Window, One Harte, Two Loves, and Renee’s Return. I had a blast writing those books. I hope readers have an opportunity to check them out as well. That series is complete. Depending on how well Missing Melissa does, I’d love to write the sequel and I have some ideas percolating. Of course, all the main characters will return, including Pepper!
JL: Wow, I would've never guessed it was your first mystery. Thank you for stopping by and best of luck with your writing!
AT: It’s been great speaking with you Jennifer.
Alretha has generously offered to gift two readers with e-copies of the first book in the Cass & Nick series: Married in the Nick of Nine.
To enter, leave a comment on this post with your email address.
If you're near central Ohio, I hope you can join us for the Ever After Author Affair on July 18th.
My college volleyball romance Blocked is up for three awards:
*Most Memorable Cliffhanger *Most Original Storyline *Favorite Book Cover Vote and enter the giveaway HERE.
I'm excited to unveil my new author banner at the event:
This banner is HUGE! It barely fits beneath my ceiling.
I'm standing on a chair to take this photo, hehe.
I also have my faerie wings ready for the Ever After Ball. Blocked ended on a bit of a cliffhanger, and I'm happy to tell readers that I'm turning it into a series. Blocked now has an excerpt from ACED (Blocked #2), due out in late 2015. Readers and authors, what are your favorite parts about book signings?
Today I welcome author and friend Beck Anderson to the blog to review her latest release Trouble Me (Fix You #2) and ask her about her intriguing series titles!
Stick around to the end to read an excerpt from Use Somebody (Fix You #3).
Trouble Me by Beck Anderson My rating: 5 of 5 stars Love Lasts Through Life's Troubles Beck Anderson's debut novel Fix You was a 5 star read for me. I wasn't the only one who loved the story as evidenced by its nomination for two RITA awards. Its sequel Trouble Me keeps up the humor and depth, even adding in a suspense element, as Kelly and Andrew's relationship progresses. Boise was an unusual setting for book one, and in this story we visit the raw, rough Oregon coast as well as more urban settings like NYC and LA. When movie star Andrew drives his girlfriend Kelly and her two sons to Oregon, he feels choked up by emotion: I feel full to bursting. I have a family. A beautiful family. I have this girl, this glorious woman to the right of me now, who let me into her life when I probably least deserved it.
The abundance almost makes me scared.
I've never had so much to lose before. That's a great setup for what's to come. And at that point Andrew doesn't know he'll have even more to lose when his family expands. Meanwhile, Kelly continues her passion for running, which led her to meet Andrew in the first place. Whenever I go on walks or runs, I stake out the neighborhood, figure out which house I'd claim as mine. I TOTALLY do that! There's one house in a nearby neighborhood I've stalked for years. One of my favorite parts of the story is the marriage proposal running gag. After a lame first attempt, Andrew decides to make it fun: He pulls out the twist tie from the hot dog bun package. It's twisted in the shape of a ring. "Kelly Reynolds, will you marry me?"
I laugh and hold out my hand. "Where's the Eye of the Tiger?"
"I've arrived at a brilliant idea. I'm going to propose multiple times -- so many times you can't stand it. And you won't be able to tell which is the official, last, 'real' proposal." As his father says, "Andrew never can do something without a production. We knew from the time he was five he'd be an actor." Ha ha. The proposals are clever and funny. Perhaps a subtitle for this story could be "Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)". I also laughed at the incident in the trailer when Andrew and Kelly pull a prank on a mean actress. When the trailer's rockin', don't come-a-knockin'! Things get more serious when somebody obsessed with Andrew tries to kill him. I had a good inkling who Crazy was from the get-go, based on the strangeness of conversations between the characters. The ending was quite suspenseful. I love the idea of titling the books after songs, and the title I heard for book three sounds great!
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And now we hear from Beck about her book titles! Why I picked the song titles I did: Fix You – The idea that someone needed to be “fixed” after she was broken was intriguing to me, and the song is basically how Chris Martin is trying to fix his grieving lover after the death of a loved one. I think the key is that he says, “I will try to fix you.” Everybody wants to make things better for another person, to fix it for her when she is struggling or for him when he is struggling. But what became kind of a central theme for me in the book Fix You is that all people are broken and flawed in some way. That’s the human condition – that’s what life does to us. Life’s not easy. But how you move forward is not by being fixed, but by loving someone. So that’s where that song came into play. It just really seemed to speak to the theme of the novel but in an unexpected way. Trouble Me – Another song title that maybe feels like it means one thing initially but also means another. In conversation it means “can I trouble you for some help” – can I bother you? And the song, by 10,000 Maniacs, basically takes that meaning a step further – lean on me, trouble me and burden me with your problems when you need help. I really liked that because in a relationship that deepens, like Kelly and Andrew’s does in book two, you have to lean on each other, and you can’t keep your troubles from the other person. You have to be brave enough to be vulnerable, to be “needy.” The other connotation is that there will be trouble in Trouble Me, and I liked that, too, because things get complicated, dare I say, dangerous, in the book. Use Somebody – There’s a theme going on here. When I first heard this song by Kings of Leon I thought it was about a total jerk who “used” women up and cast them aside. But if you listen to the lyrics, it’s actually someone who could “use somebody” in his life – he needs someone. The lyrics are actually really sweet. The person works hard to be someone who the other person could “use,” too, i.e., be the kind of person this woman would need or want in her life. Not surprisingly, I feel like this play on the phrase is PERFECT for this story, because it centers on Jeremy, Andrew’s agent, meeting a woman when the boys are on a “man-cation” flyfishing in Eastern Idaho. Is Jeremy simply “using” the person he meets or could he really “use” someone like her?
Since we’re talking about Use Somebody, here’s a sneak peek: My name is Jeremy King, and I am one of the most powerful agents in Hollywood. I may or may not have a best friend. I may not have any friends past that at all. Don’t feel sorry for me, or I will kick you in the balls. This may be why I have no friends. But let me tell you what I do have. I own a Tesla Model S, white. I paid cash for a house in the Hollywood Hills that Bela Lugosi built and Ava Gardner lived in. If you don’t know who these people are, you are a dumb ass and should go look them up right now if I am supposed to put up with you for the rest of the book. I’ll wait for you to put some of their movies in your cart on Amazon. You can watch them later. I mean, really. Ava Gardner was married to Frank Sinatra, for Christ’s sakes. Please don’t tell me you haven’t heard of him. You should stop reading now, too, if you have any illusions that in finding any kind of love, I will change in some way and sprout a heart of gold. The only gold I have is on my wrist – Rolex Cosmograph Daytona, thank you very much. I am a loyal friend. I take care of people who take care of me. I am fierce, and I am the fiercest in my field. Do not cross me. And I have everything I want. Go away if you think I’m going to have one of those scenes where I look out at the ocean and feel all hollow and run through the rain to knock on some chick’s door and profess my love to her. I rep movie stars, but never once for a minute have I ever thought that life works the way movies do. Wow, I can't wait! Sounds awesome. Thanks, Beck.
There are so many cool aspects about writing, but one of my favorites is learning something new. I just wrote a chapter in my work-in-progress Aced where the hero attends confession with a priest. I like to write moments when my characters grow and challenge dysfunctional behaviors. Typically this involves throwing my characters into therapy. But Aced's hero Alejandro is a Catholic Latino good boy, and I wanted to try a new space for healing and development outside the therapy office. Although I attended Notre Dame for grad school, I'm not Catholic, and I've never experienced confession myself. Luckily, my critique partner is Catholic, and she provided a helpful linkexplaining the process. I also found this list of sins that blew me away. Jeez... I sin all the time! Did you know that pirating ebooks is a sin? :-o Both confession and therapy involve reflection and sharing secrets. But one unique part of confession is FORGIVENESS. I love the idea of seeking God's mercy in an effort to forgive ourselves. What cool stuff have you learned through writing?
She doesn’t need a hero. But a sexy Marine…that’ll work.
At twenty nine, psychologist Lauren Baxter has a successful counseling practice. Since becoming legally blind at fifteen, her world has been a blurry mess of colors. Her greatest fear is also her ultimate reality. One day that fuzzy realm will forever turn black. Refusing to let blindness define her, she builds a life for herself with her dog, Jack Sparrow, and best friend, Sunny Daye.
Lauren has no tolerance for pity or for Superman swooshing down and rescuing her. She is capable of saving herself just fine. That is until Gabe, the great smelling, former Marine, from Texas moves in next door. Her attraction to him is immediate and, unfortunately for her, mutual.
When Lauren’s ex-husband shows up begging for another chance, she is confused and fragile. She also finds herself in the arms of her secretive neighbor. Little does she realize that her decision for a steamy roll in the hay with Gabe will suck her into his mysterious past, thrust her ex-husband back into her life, put her in the middle of a murder investigation, and place her life in danger.
Gabriel Briggs has the weight of the world on his shoulders. Short term flings are all he can afford for more reasons than one – reasons he never plans to share. Until he moves in next door to the beautiful, green eyed, feisty, Lauren. One night with her and he’s reconsidering promises he made almost a decade ago. When a woman from his past is murdered, his world is turned upside down. Secrets are revealed and innocent lives are threatened. Can Gabe win Lauren’s love and save her life before it’s too late?
Product Warnings: Contains a blind therapist who doesn’t consider herself impaired; a meddling, erotic-novel-writing best friend; a hot ex-Marine with a shady past; and a loyal guide dog that howls “I love you” and is probably the sanest one of the bunch.
Lauren is a blind psychologist whose divorce makes her wary of all men. Too bad sexy Texan Gabe moves in next door.
Gabe is an ex-marine whose family struggles make him unavailable for romantic entanglements. Too bad he can't stop thinking about Lauren.
I really admire Lauren. She has some self-deprecating moments...
She unzipped her oversized flannel onesie, created especially for women not interested in finding a man, and tossed it on the bed.
But is also full of strength:
"There's no question how strong you are." Gabe rested his fingers on her shoulders and pressed into the tight muscles. She didn't push him away. "But being strong doesn't mean you have to be alone."
The cast of characters surrounding Lauren is well-drawn. Not only is there Gabe, but Lauren also has a loyal, smutty friend Sunny who writes erotica novels and works as an assistant for her counseling practice. She has an ex-husband Ben, a cop who cheated on her but now wants her back. Finally, Jack the German Shepherd is her faithful sidekick and service dog. Jack comes to life on the page.
Her ex-husband Ben can be annoying and overprotective, but he's come a long way from the man who hurt her. Here's a sweet memory Lauren has:
Ben's voice cracked. It reminded her of a younger Ben. The one from high school who kept missing her mouth whenever he tried to kiss her.
When Ben suspects Gabe of wrongdoing, Lauren puts him in his place. "Just because a man has an affair doesn't make him capable of murder. If it does, you're as much a suspect."
Dang, girl! I also laughed when Sunny calls Lauren a "stupid, blind, arrogant freak." Ah, best friends.
All the levity comes to a halt when Lauren's life is in danger. I did not see the suspense element coming, and it was my favorite part of the story. The danger makes Lauren and Gabe see things in a new light, and luckily Gabe's mother talks some sense into him when he really needs it.
Lauren is a psychologist who provides distance therapy (aka phone therapy) from her home. She’s a very independent woman, but she’s going blind. The funny thing about Lauren is that although she’s a psychologist who works in helping people, she doesn’t help herself. She’s so busy fighting the whole idea of having to be dependent on others that she keeps pushing everyone away. Well… before Gabe shows up.
Do you write from experience? Are your stories based on real people?
Blind Love was actually based on a prompt I did with a social media group I was in. We each had an hour and had to write a short story based on a blind neighbor. I had so much fun in that hour with Lauren and by the end of it, I knew I had to tell her story.
I’m a therapist in real life, but my stories are never about my clients or real people. Now there are real life issues in the story like anxiety, grief, and trauma.
I have this infatuation with emotions. The sadder the story, the more my heart aches, and the more I love it. My friends and even my husband will tell you the characters are based on them. I just nod and say sure. Why burst their bubble?
From daring escapes by tough women to chivalrous men swooping in to save the day, the creativity switch to Kishan Paul’s brain is always in the “on” position. If daydreaming stories were a college course, Kish would have graduated with honors.
Mother of two beautiful children, she has been married to her best friend for over seventeen years. With the help of supportive family and friends, she balances her family, a thriving counseling practice, and writing without sinking into insanity.
Her novella, Taking the Plunge, is currently available in the Love Least Expected Anthology on Amazon.
Hi, I'm Jen, psychologist/author (psycho author) in Columbus, Ohio. I write sports romance and romantic suspense with a psychological twist. My latest release is sports romance SPIKED (Blocked #3). I love laughing, swimming, and volleyball.