Review of To Boldly Go by Em Stevens

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I read To Boldly Go by Em Stevens for the Lesfic Book Club hosted on the Lesfic Readers and Writers Slack group. I really had no idea what I was getting into with this book, but I was pleasantly surprised. It made for a great summer read.

 

Here is a short blurb about the book:

Taryn’s trip of a lifetime is finally happening. She’s saved money, researched, planned, and created an itinerary that will allow her to travel Italy…and finally tell her best friend that she’s in love with her. But those plans are ruined when she wakes up alone, her crush gone. Her plans did not include being alone and stranded in Milan.

 

Now Taryn’s dream vacation is a nightmare.

 

Enter Holly, a fellow traveler: young, full of life, and comfortable traipsing off the beaten path. Holly feels a connection with Taryn and wants to salvage her trip. After all, they’re in freaking Italy! But their radically different travel styles and age differences make for rough terrain.

 

Together, they boldly go into unexplored territories of the heart, and may just discover love.

 

The book took me a little while to get into. I found Taryn to be a little annoying in the beginning. But she really grew on me as the book progressed. I liked that she kept her type A personality but was willing to accommodate the needs of others. Holly was my favorite character. I liked how she was willing to roll with the punches. She also accepted Taryn just like she was and accommodated her needs the best way she could. I was a little shocked by Holly’s backstory. It wasn’t what I was expecting but I feel like it really added to her character.

 

My favorite part of the book was the descriptions of Italy. It made it feel like you were there with the characters. The talk about food in this book made me hungry the whole time I was reading it. I also enjoyed all of the Star Trek references splatted throughout the book.

 

I would recommend this book to anyone that likes destination romances.

 

To Boldly Go is available on Kindle Unlimited by clicking here.

Interview with Hildred Billings

 

Who or what inspired your latest novel Not for Sale?

 

I honestly don’t remember. I think I was contemplating the fact that my apartment complex was now on their third manager in as many years and, wondered what it was like being a property manager. Everything kind of built from there. All I know is that Kimberly was always Korean-American from the beginning, and that I wanted to set it in a small, middle-class condominium complex on the Oregon coast.

 

Who or what inspired you to start writing?

 

I’ve been writing since I was old enough to mimic words out of picture books. So, it’s hard to say where the urge to write began. One of my earliest memories is writing and making up stories about my grandmother as a teenager. I was about four years old. I was also encouraged to write stories in first grade. I think I wrote a picture book about a turtle. It was always a constant presence in my life – I wrote my first full-length novel, complete with three acts and character developments, when I was in fifth grade. (Of course, it’s not terribly good, and no, nobody is allowed to see it!)

 

Which of your books was your favorite to write and why?

 

I’ve had a couple books I would describe as “fever dreams.” The ones where I sat down and day in, day out wrote about five to ten thousand words a day until the behemoths were complete. Where my brain refused to let me work on anything else until this thing was finished. Under Hildred, that book is definitely “Love, Yumi.” Being written in first person definitely helps. It’s a lot more stream of conscious that way.

 

Who is your favorite character from your books and why?

 

I think out of my lesbian romances, the character I get most excited about is Eva Warren. If she’s appearing somewhere, you know some trouble is about to begin. It tends to follow her like the scent of her made-to-order French perfume. And we authors LOVE troublemaking characters!

 

How do you approach writing a new storyline?

 

I consider what kind of tropes it will have, who the characters are, and what is the main thing keeping them apart. (Assuming we are talking about romance here.) As a publisher, I also consider the marketability. I schedule the books I write and their release dates to ensure that at least every other book is one I can market to an awaiting audience.

 

Where do your inspirations for characters and their lives come from?

 

The easy answer is “well, some of them are spin-offs of books I’ve written before, where I followed a side character and realized they would make an amazing lead character for their own novel!” The harder, more boring answer is, “literally whenever my brain thinks it’s a good time to deliver a new story.” I could be watching a commercial, have a random thought about something the voiceover said, and ten minutes later I have the next novel I’m going to write ready to go. I think I naturally create stories out of mundane things.

 

Where is your favorite place to write?

 

The well-lit room of my favorite teashop in Portland. I’ve written thousands of words there over the years, and I’m still not sure the baristas know what the hell I’m doing in that corner.

 

What is your writing process?

 

Sit down, shut up, and write until it’s finished for the day. Then I get to play video games!

 

(I’m afraid there is nothing interesting or glamorous about my writing life. It simply exists like a typical office job. I even dress like I’m going to the office.)

 

How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

 

I don’t think anything changed, especially for the first book. I had already written a ton of books before I published my first one (a lot of real duds, let me tell you.) But the main thing that’s changed over the years is becoming more familiar with the world of “what readers want” and trying to deliver. Having to set aside my own tastes and sometimes, even what might make the book “better” in an artistic sense… well, I’ve never put out a book I wasn’t happy with. But there are some that I would have ended differently or made a character more realistically unpleasant (like I imagined them,) or set somewhere else if the fact I need to make a living wasn’t an issue. It’s what happens when you do art for a living. You just find a way to make it work with your creative vision.

 

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

 

Bookbub, c. 2015 I’ll be paying the taxes on it for years!

 

 

What is something memorable you have heard from your readers/fans?

 

I have a defunct (she’s dead, y’all) lesbian erotica pen name that used to get some straaaange fanmail back in the day. But I think the sweetest one, which I think about a lot, came from a man who said he and his wife really loved my work and they used to read it to each other before they went to sleep. Sometimes, I feel like I failed them when that pen name died… but let’s be real, they either split up or moved on!

 

What book that you have read has most influenced your life?

 

I don’t know what one book overall has. But this year I have been really influenced by Keven Kwan. Not just him setting the bar on how over the top I can make my rich-asshole characters, but his omniscient style of writing helped me out of a huge bind when I was writing my fantasy novel and trying to figure out how to make the point of view work. Thanks, Kevin, or showing me I could get away with it!

 

How do you take your coffee?

 

I don’t.

Review of Not for Sale by Hildred Billings and Cynthia Dane

Not For Sale

Normally I don’t like the Millionaire type romance novels, but Not for Sale by Hildred Billings and Cynthia Dane makes it work in unexpected ways.

 

Here is a short blurb about the book:

One not-so-simple renovation project is about to get dirty…

 

Nobody knows how flip like Reese, a woman with nothing to prove to her family of real estate kings. When her mother’s chronic affliction almost claims her life again, Reese knows that there’s only one way to save her family.

 

All she needs is a leave of absence from the corporate office in San Francisco and a toolbox full of lesbian stereotypes.

 

Has fate finally come to rural Oregon?

 

Kimberly is a mild-mannered property manager who only wants to do her job and go home to her nosy parents…

 

And fall in love, because a woman can only be untouched for so long!

 

Reese’s unruly and disruptive renovation projects promise to make Kimberly’s life hell. Too bad she’s enamored with the handywoman from the moment they lock eyes.

 

The feeling? Absolutely mutual.

 

Life’s about to get more interesting – and sensual – in a sleepy Oregonian beach town!

 

I really enjoyed this book. The diversity of the characters really makes this book stand out. There is not a lot of cultural diversity in lesfic novels but this novel breaks from the norm. Both woman’s families have had their fair share of troubles. Both struggled with coming to terms with their daughter’s lesbianism because of the cultures that they grew up in. But gradually they come to terms and accept the love Kimberly and Reese have for each other.

 

Normally I don’t like the Millionaire type romance novels because they seem so overdone with huge displays of wealth. This book wasn’t like that at all. It seemed like the women really cared for each other and showed each other with small everyday displays that I found to be endearing. Reese’s gift to Kimberly was something small but that she had been hoping to procure for months. It was sweet that she went out of her way to get it for her. There are displays of wealth if that is your thing.

 

My one criticism is that the book could have used a better edit. There were some sections that were a little confusing because of incorrect word usage. These areas didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the book.

 

I would recommend this book to anyone who loves steamy romance novels.

 

You can purchase a copy of Not for Sale by clicking here.

Interview with Cara Malone

 

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Who or what inspired your latest novel Trail Magic?

Trail Magiccame together from two different inspirations. The first was my long-standing fascination with the Appalachian Trail, and the second was a small side character in a previous novel. Raven, one of the main characters in Trail Magic, popped up unexpectedly in A Cut Above as a breast cancer patient who seemed to have an interesting story to tell. I wanted to give her a book of her own, and I thought the AT would be a good place for her to do some self-discovery.

 

What kind of research did Trail Magic require? Did you know anything about the Appalachian Trail and backpacking beforehand?

I started reading about the AT several years ago (I started with Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods) and had a chance to hike a portion of the trail while on vacation in Tennessee. I was stunned at how primitive it was and intrigued by the people that hike the whole 2,190 miles. From there, it was a lot of internet research and trips to the library for guidebooks!

 

Who or what inspired you to start writing?

 

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember so it’s hard to pin down an inspiration. Some of the earliest things I wrote were dramatized versions of my day-to-day life and I was pretty into Laura Ingalls Wilder at the time, so maybe I can credit Little House on the Prairie for getting me started.

 

Which of your books was your favorite to write and why?

 

I really enjoyed writing Fixer Upper because I got to talk about one of my favorite things (showing an old house some love), the side story involving Hannah’s grandmother let me dip my toe into historical fiction, and Hannah and Avery’s chemistry developed very easily.

 

Who is your favorite character from your books and why?

 

That’s got to be Max from the Rulebookseries. She’s near to my own heart, but I’ve also heard from so many readers who are either on the autism spectrum themselves or who have people on the spectrum that they care about. I’m honored to write a character who resonates so much with people.

 

How do you approach writing a new storyline?

 

I usually start with a small idea – like, “I want to write about the AT,” or “I want to utilize this side character from a previous book,” as I did for Trail Magic. I spend a few days brainstorming, getting to know the characters and their world, and that helps me figure out the conflict and their relationship.

 

Where do your inspirations for characters and their lives come from?

 

Everywhere! I pull inspiration from as many people and situations as possible and I’ve got a notes folder on my phone for when something catches my attention.

 

Where is your favorite place to write?

 

From a secluded cabin nestled in the Smoky Mountains… but until I find that cabin with my name on it, I’ll take any quiet space with a window nearby and a decent view.

 

What is your writing process?

 

I’ve written 12 novels so far and I can safely say that it changes every single time, but I’m okay with that because I’m constantly tweaking and improving. In general, the first draft is just for getting the idea out of my head and into tangible form. I do a lot of relationship-building and side story development during the editing phase, and that’s when things really start to shape up.

 

How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

 

I love this question! Prior to April 2017, when I published my first novel, I had one partially completed manuscript on my hard drive and I thought I was incapable of writing anything longer than a short novella. When I published that first book, I worried that it was the only book I had in me for a lifetime. I’ve continually proved myself wrong and I’ve only grown stronger as a writer from the massive amount of practice I’ve gotten over the past year. When I published my first book, I started a journey to learn that nitpicking the same manuscript over and over does not a good writer make – repetition is the key to success in anything.

 

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

 

The two things that have made the biggest impact for me – specifically in my confidence and persistence – are NaNoWriMo.org and 4thewords.com. I never would have written that first manuscript if I didn’t have the National Novel Writing Month community pushing me to do it (the site is free to use but accepts donations), and 4thewords (which costs $4 per month) gamifies the writing process to help people establish a daily writing habit.

 

What is something memorable you have heard from your readers/fans?

 

I don’t want to put anyone on the spot individually, but I read and save everything people send me. I’m continually amazed and humbled when someone takes the time to write me a message about how much they liked one of my books, and I’m grateful to be a part of the incredible lesfic community.

 

What book that you have read has most influenced your life?

 

Can I do a politician swerve on this one and answer a related question instead? I don’t think I could ever narrow it down to just one book, but the authors who have influenced me most are Vladimir Nabokov for his writing style, JK Rowling for her ability to create a page-turner, Harper Bliss for her strong character relationships, and Anne Lamott for her outlook on life.

 

How do you take your coffee?

 

By the gallon!

 

Review of Trail Magic by Cara Malone

Trail Magic

I love spending time outdoors camping, hiking, and just overall enjoying nature. I was really drawn to Trail Magic by Cara Malone because of the mixture of romance and the thrill of hiking the Appalachian Trail. I read a large section of this book while I was camping. It really helped to add to my enjoyment of the book.

 

Here is a short blurb about the book:

Raven is two years cancer-free on the day she arrives on the Appalachian Trail, ready to prove to the world that she’s more than just a breast cancer survivor. She’s still Raven, and she’s strong enough to tackle the 2,000-mile journey.

Kit shows up with nothing but a hastily-packed bag and a new pair of hiking boots. When her boss and her girlfriend dump her on the same day, she decides now is as good a time as any to tick the AT off her bucket list.

Trail magic brings Kit and Raven together on the mountain. Raven needs a friend and Kit needs an experienced hiker to guide her.

They share meals, fireside stories, old wounds and new dreams… and a one-man tent in the wilderness.

But can they bring that magic with them off the mountain?

 

I really enjoyed this book from the moment I picked it up. It really made me want to go camping. The descriptions of the Appalachian Trail and the different points of interest were one of the best aspects of the book. It made it feel like you were really there. I also liked the other hikers that were on the trail. Dodger was my favorite. Even though he was a drunk party boy he has some very wise moments that really add to the story.

 

I wasn’t sure how I was going to like the romance aspect of this book but in the end, it blew me away. I thought Kits development was phenomenal. I liked how she was so young acting and the reason behind her attitude towards life. It made her such a relatable character. The way she bonded with Raven was very sweet. The book really had a slow burn type of feel, which worked really well. I like how Raven had to overcome her insecurities and open herself up to Kit’s love and affection.

 

I would recommend this book to anyone who likes outdoorsy romance novels.

 

Thanks to the publisher for the opportunity to read and review this book.

 

You can purchase a copy of Trail Magic by clicking here.

Review of Mercy by Michelle Larkin

Mercy

When I saw Mercy by Michelle Larkin listed on NetGalley I was intrigued. I love thrillers. But I was a little shocked when I found out it wasn’t the traditional thriller that I was expecting.

 

Here is a short blurb about the book:

FBI Special Agent Mercy Parker has never shied away from a difficult case. But finding and stopping the man who plans on single-handedly annihilating the human race—armed only with her 9mm, integrity, and sense of humor—is definitely not in her job description. Perhaps it’s time to ask for some help.

 

Psychic ex-profiler Piper Vasey keeps everyone at arm’s length, but Mercy’s wit and selfless dedication to the greater good slowly break down Piper’s defenses. As their attraction for one another grows, they’re joined by an unlikely team of extraordinary people. Together, they embark on a race against time to recover a journal, a dog, and a kidnapped girl with unique psychic abilities.

 

There’s a slim chance they’ll succeed in saving the human race, but will it be enough to restore the balance between unseen forces of light and darkness that have plagued humankind for centuries?

 

As I mentioned before I thought that Mercy was going to be a traditional thriller, but I was wrong it was more of a supernatural thriller. I don’t think the blurb does a good job of explaining that. I mean I was expecting psychic but not all of the other extraordinary abilities. Once I got over that shock the book really sucked me in.

I liked how action packed and fast paced the book was. It really kept me on the edge of my seat. I really enjoyed all of the characters and how they banded together. Two of my favorites are Emily and Bobby. Emily was one tough little kid. I also loved how much she cared about animals. When she pulled the little skunk from her backpack my heart melted. I also loved Bobby the giant golden retriever. As everyone knows I love dogs and Bobby was the perfect addition to this book. The way he protected Emily was great. They had a very special bond.

 

I thought the romance aspect of the book was okay. It was kind of a love at first sight type of deal, but it worked well with the theme of the book. I never really felt passion from Mercy and Piper. Their relationship was kind of teasing each other. I never really felt any heat from their actions. But this aspect didn’t take anything away from the story in my opinion.

 

I would recommend this book to anyone looking for an action-packed read. This book defiantly kept me on the edge of my seat.

 

You can purchase a copy of Mercy by clicking here.