The Accidental Empress by Allison Pataki – Plus, a Giveaway!

22609307Summary: New York Times bestselling author Allison Pataki follows up on her critically acclaimed debut novel, The Traitor’s Wife, with the little-known and tumultuous love story of “Sisi” the Austro-Hungarian Empress and captivating wife of Emperor Franz Joseph.

The year is 1853, and the Habsburgs are Europe’s most powerful ruling family. With his empire stretching from Austria to Russia, from Germany to Italy, Emperor Franz Joseph is young, rich, and ready to marry.

Fifteen-year-old Elisabeth, “Sisi,” Duchess of Bavaria, travels to the Habsburg Court with her older sister, who is betrothed to the young emperor. But shortly after her arrival at court, Sisi finds herself in an unexpected dilemma: she has inadvertently fallen for and won the heart of her sister’s groom. Franz Joseph reneges on his earlier proposal and declares his intention to marry Sisi instead.

Thrust onto the throne of Europe’s most treacherous imperial court, Sisi upsets political and familial loyalties in her quest to win, and keep, the love of her emperor, her people, and of the world.

With Pataki’s rich period detail and cast of complex, bewitching characters, The Accidental Empress offers a captivating glimpse into one of history’s most intriguing royal families, shedding new light on the glittering Hapsburg Empire and its most mesmerizing, most beloved “Fairy Queen.” (Excerpt from Goodreads)

My Thoughts: Over the past year, I’ve become somewhat obsessed with historical fiction and I find myself picking up more and more of these types of books. A big shout out goes to Erika Robuck – I think my addiction started after reading her novels Call Me Zelda and Fallen Beauty (if you haven’t read them yet, I highly recommend picking them up.) When I heard about The Accidental Empress, I knew I had to go out and buy a copy…this was a piece of history I only knew a little about but the cover and synopsis had me hooked.

The story centers on Sisi, a 15-year old who leaves her home to accompany her older sister who is betrothed (unwillingly) to the young emperor Franz. However, things don’t go as planned when the sisters and their mother arrive at court – Franz and Sisi grow a fondness for one another and ultimately fall in love and get married, making Sisi the young Empress. I love Sisi’s spirited character and throughout the book, truly felt the excitement, love, pain and frustration she experienced from the time she arrived at court until the very end of the book.

I fell in love with this part of Europe instantly and have since added these destinations to my bucket list of places to travel to. The detail Allison puts into her stories are remarkable especially with the beautiful settings and details of the palace; I felt like I was living in the book with these characters. Also, the wide variety of characters in this novel are phenomenal – there were so many who I loved and of course, some I couldn’t stand but that just made me like the book even more.

The Accidental Empress was such a beautiful story that while mid-book, I was already recommending to my friends and family; I knew they would love it just as much as I did and no surprise, they did! I heard a rumor Allison is writing a sequel to this story and if it’s true, I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy! I highly recommend reading this book – it’s still one of my favorites from this year.

Connect with Allison:

Since I loved this book so much, I am giving away one copy! Enter via the Rafflecopter below (US entries only):

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The Idea of Love by Patti Callahan Henry – Plus, a Giveaway!

2015-06-23-1435021425-4230796-IdeaOfLovecover-thumbSummary: As we like to say in the south: “Don’t let the truth get in the way of a good story.”

Ella’s life has been completely upended. She’s young, beautiful, and deeply in love—until her husband dies in a tragic sailing accident while trying save her. Or so she’ll have everyone believe. Screenwriter Hunter needs a hit, but crippling writers’ block and a serious lack of motivation are getting him nowhere. He’s on the look-out for a love story. It doesn’t matter who it belongs to.

When Hunter and Ella meet in Watersend, South Carolina it feels like the perfect match, something close to fate. In Ella, Hunter finds the perfect love story, full of longing and sacrifice. It’s the stuff of epic films. In Hunter, Ella finds possibility. It’s an opportunity to live out a fantasy – the life she wishes she had because hers is too painful. And more real. Besides. what’s a little white lie between strangers?

But one lie leads to another, and soon Hunter and Ella find themselves caught in a web of deceit. As they try to untangle their lies and reclaim their own lives, they feel something stronger is keeping them together. And so they wonder: can two people come together for all the wrong reasons and still make it right? (Excerpt from Goodreads)

My Thoughts: I don’t think there is a book Patti has written that I haven’t fell in love with. Every time she comes out with a new novel, I cannot get my hands on it fast enough and I usually spend an entire weekend curled up on my couch until I’ve finished reading it. Her novels completely engross me from the first page until the very end and The Idea of Love was no exception. Plus, I couldn’t stop staring at the beautiful cover – it is absolutely stunning.

PCH-PattiThe story centers on Ella and Hunter, two people who meet and get to know each other under false pretenses. They both become so consumed in their own lies that it seems impossible to come forward with the truth. I loved reading about Ella and seeing how truly vulnerable she was – her husband leaves her for her best friend’s sister and she’s forced to live in a dump of an apartment…I mean, how much worse could it get? I also enjoyed Hunter’s character; even though he’s made some mistakes in the past, he still deserves a second chance at love.

Patti does such a wonderful job developing her characters and the towns they live in. I couldn’t get enough of Watersend with its small town charm and spunky residents – this book took me on a mini vacation down to South Carolina. The Idea of Love is another perfect summer read and should be on everyone’s list. It is the perfect story about love, life, and second chances – this book will have you laughing and crying all at once. I can’t wait to see what Patti comes out with next!

Connect with Patti:

Since I loved this book so much, I am giving away a copy plus a paperback copy of The Stories We Tell (another favorite of mine – to see my full review, click here.) Enter via the Rafflecopter below (US entries only):

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500 Facebook Likes Giveaway!

I am pleased to announce that a week or so ago, Karen’s Korner hit 500 likes on Facebook! To celebrate, I’m hosting a giveaway for all you wonderful readers. I am giving away a $25 gift card to Amazon so one of you can go and buy some brand new books!

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Enter via the Rafflecopter below (all locations accepted):

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Cover Reveal – Fall of Poppies: Stories of Love and the Great War

This is my first time participating in a cover reveal and I wish that I did this more often! I know they say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover but I can’t help it – the covers are what sometimes draw me in especially as I leisurely walk through the aisles of the bookstore.

I am thrilled to be a part of the cover reveal for Fall of Poppies, a book of short stories written by so many of my favorite authors. And I have to say, that the cover is absolutely stunning. So here it is…

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Summary:

Top voices in historical fiction deliver an intensely moving collection of short stories about loss, longing, and hope in the aftermath of World War I—featuring bestselling authors such as Hazel Gaynor, Jennifer Robson, Beatriz Williams, and Lauren Willig and edited by Heather Webb.

A squadron commander searches for meaning in the tattered photo of a girl he’s never met…

A Belgian rebel hides from the world, only to find herself nursing the enemy…

A young airman marries a stranger to save her honor—and prays to survive long enough to love her…The peace treaty signed on November 11, 1918, may herald the end of the Great War but for its survivors, the smoke is only beginning to clear. Picking up the pieces of shattered lives will take courage, resilience, and trust.

Within crumbled city walls and scarred souls, war’s echoes linger. But when the fighting ceases, renewal begins…and hope takes root in a fall of poppies.

Excerpt from “Hour of the Bells:” A short story included in Fall of Poppies

Beatrix whisked around the showroom, feather duster in hand. Not a speck of dirt could remain or Joseph would be disappointed. The hour struck noon. A chorus of clocks whirred, their birds popping out from hiding to announce midday. Maidens twirled in their frocks with braids down their backs, woodcutters clacked their axes against pine, and the odd sawmill wheel spun in tune to the melody of a nursery rhyme. Two dozen cuckoos warbled and dinged, each crafted with loving detail by the same pair of hands—those with thick fingers and a steady grip.

Beatrix paused in her cleaning. One clock chimed to its own rhythm, apart from the others.

She could turn them off—the tinkling melodies, the incessant clatter of pendulums, wheels, and cogs, with the levers located near the weights—just as their creator had done before bed each evening, but she could not bring herself to do the same. To silence their music was to silence him, her husband, Joseph. The Great War had already done that; ravaged his gentle nature, stolen his final breath, and silenced him forever.

In a rush, Beatrix scurried from one clock to the next, assessing which needed oiling. With the final stroke of twelve, she found the offending clock. Its walnut face, less ornate than the others, had been her favorite, always. A winter scene displayed a cluster of snow-topped evergreens; rabbits and fawns danced in the drifts when the music began, and a scarlet cardinal dipped its head and opened its beak to the beauty of the music. The animals’ simplicity appealed to her now more than ever. With care, she removed the weights and pendulum, and unscrewed the back of the clock. She was grateful she had watched her husband tend to them so often. She could still see Joseph, blue eyes peering over his spectacles, focused on a figurine as he painted detailing on the linden wood. His patient hands had caressed the figures lovingly, as he had caressed her.

The memory of him sliced her open. She laid her head on the table as black pain stole over her body, pooling in every hidden pocket and filling her up until she could scarcely breathe.

“Give it time,” her friend Adelaide had said, as she set a basket of jam and dried sausages on the table; treasures in these times of rations, yet meager condolence for what Beatrix had lost.

“Time?” Beatrix had laughed, a hollow sound, and moved to the window overlooking the grassy patch of yard. The Vosges mountains rose in the distance, lording over the line between France and Germany along the battle front. Time’s passage never escaped her—not for a moment. The clocks made sure of it. There weren’t enough minutes, enough hours, to erase her loss.

As quickly as the grief came, it fled. Though always powerful, its timing perplexed her. Pain stole through the night, or erupted at unlikely moments, until she feared its onslaught the way others feared death. Death felt easier, somehow.

Beatrix raised her head and pushed herself up from the table to finish her task. Joseph would not want her to mourn, after two long years. He would want to see her strength, her resilience, especially for their son. She pretended Adrien was away at school, though he had enlisted, too. His enlistment had been her fault. A vision of her son cutting barbed wire, sleeping in trenches, and pointing a gun at another man reignited the pain and it began to pool again. She suppressed the horrid thoughts quickly, and locked them away in a corner of her mind.

With a light touch she cleaned the clock’s bellows and dials, and anointed its oil bath with a few glistening drops. Once satisfied with her work, she hung the clock in its rightful place above the phonograph, where a disk waited patiently on the spool. She spun the disk once and watched the printed words on its center blur. Adrien had played Quand Madelon over and over, belting out the patriotic lyrics in time with the music. To him, it was a show of his support for his country. To Beatrix it had been a siren, a warning her only son would soon join the fight. His father’s death was the final push he had needed. The lure of patrimoine, of country, throbbed inside of him as it did in other men. They talked of war as women spoke of tea sets and linens, yearned for it as women yearned for children. Now, the war had seduced her Adrien. She stopped the spinning disk and plucked it from its wheel, the urge to destroy it pulsing in her hands.

She must try to be more optimistic. Surely God would not take all she had left. (Reprinted Courtesy of HarperCollins Publishers)

To celebrate the cover reveal of Fall of Poppies, the team is doing a giveaway! Enter the Rafflecopter below to win print copies of After The War is Over, A Memory of Violets, and Land of Dreams!

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Dear Carolina by Kristy Woodson Harvey – Plus, a Giveaway!

DearCarolinaCoverHighResSummary: One baby girl. Two strong Southern women. And the most difficult decision they’ll ever make.

Frances “Khaki” Mason has it all: a thriving interior design career, a loving husband and son, homes in North Carolina and Manhattan—everything except the second child she has always wanted. Jodi, her husband’s nineteen-year-old cousin, is fresh out of rehab, pregnant, and alone. Although the two women couldn’t seem more different, they forge a lifelong connection as Khaki reaches out to Jodi, encouraging her to have her baby. But as Jodi struggles to be the mother she knows her daughter deserves, she will ask Khaki the ultimate favor…

Written to baby Carolina, by both her birth mother and her adoptive one, this is a story that proves that life circumstances shape us but don’t define us—and that families aren’t born, they’re made… (Excerpt from Goodreads)

My Thoughts: I was looking forward to reading Dear Carolina ever since I got an email about it; after reading the synopsis, I knew this would be a book that I would love. I learned a lot about this book through my author Q&A session with author Kristy Woodson Harvey (click here to see the full interview) and I couldn’t wait to dive in myself. Dear Carolina is a heartwarming and dazzling story about love, friendship and family – this is definitely one of my favorite books from 2015.

The story centers on two women who are completely different but share an unconditional love for baby Carolina. Khaki, Carolina’s adoptive mother is a woman who on the outside seems to have it all – a wonderful family, thriving career and homes in both the city and country. And then there is Jodi, a recovering alcoholic who jumps from job to job and ends up stranded (alone and broke) after she tells her boyfriend she’s pregnant. Each chapter in the story is a letter written to Carolina switching between the voices of Khaki and Jodi. I enjoyed reading from the perspectives of both women and the author did a brilliant job weaving the two stories together.

Harvey-Port-02-e1429142736291One of my favorite parts of the book was how much detail Kristy put into describing the southern town, lifestyle and characters. I instantly fell in love with Kinston and felt like I was experiencing the story along with these women. I still cannot believe this is Kristy’s debut novel. The way the story was written, I felt like this author had been writing books for years and years.

Dear Carolina is a delightful piece of southern fiction and absolutely perfect for the summer. It is a beautiful story about the power of love and family, regardless of what circumstance you are born into. As Kristy states in the book: ‘you can never have too many people who love you.’ I highly recommend picking up a copy of this one and I can’t wait to see what Kristy comes out with next. I see a bright future ahead for this author!

Connect with Kristy:

Because I loved this book so much, I am giving away a copy to one of you readers! Enter via the Rafflecopter below (US entries only):

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Author Q&A with Kaira Rouda – Plus, a Giveaway!

To celebrate the release of her new novel Laguna Nights (which just hit stores last week), we interviewed Kaira Rouda and asked her questions about her new novel, her writing, and even what she has coming up next. I loved getting to know Kaira through her Q&A session and we are thrilled to have her on the blog today!

Laguna Nights CoverThank you so much for sitting down with Karen’s Korner for a Q&A session. What was your inspiration for Laguna Nights?

Thank you for having me here, Karen! The inspiration for Laguna Nights is all around me, as I’m so lucky to live in Laguna Beach, California! I knew I wanted to start a series with this gorgeous town as a setting. A friend of mine is married to one of the former stars of the MTV Reality TV Show Laguna Beach: The Real OC. We started talking and the notion of what happens to reality stars after the spotlight of fame has dimmed. The other notion that struck me was what would it be like to be frozen in time in high school, forever, with the episodes available for instant download everywhere.

 How do you come up with your ideas for books?

In general, I’m a writer who is firmly grounded in setting. Settings, to me, provide the anchor to all of my stories. So whether it is the suburbs of Ohio where I spent most of my life, or more recently, a beach community in California or an island off the coast of South Carolina where we vacationed for years, my stories begin with a place.

What is your writing process like? Do you write an outline and do you write every day?

I’m not a plotter but I’m beginning to appreciate the benefits of an outline – as long as I don’t have to stick to it as I write the story.

What has been the best compliment you’ve received about your books so far?

This just happened the other day! A reader wrote to tell me she’d just re-read my first novel, Here, Home, Hope, and loved it as much as the first time. That pretty much made my day! The best part about being an author, and sending your stories into the world, is when something you have written resonates in a positive way with a reader. It’s the best feeling. Of course, there are plenty of other days when those one-star reviewers clobber your heart, so I try to focus on the positive. My hope is that my books, whether contemporary romance or women’s fiction, leave readers feeling entertained and with a happy heart.

I love the cover of Laguna Nights! Who designed it and how many different ones did you go through until you found the right one?

Thank you so much! I’m especially proud of the cover because my oldest son, Trace, who is a fabulous photographer (check out his website www.traceroudaphotography.com) shot the photo. The wonderful cover designer Sarah Hansen of Okay Creations made the cover magic happen. Laguna Heights, the next story in the series, will showcase their talents again!

What are you currently reading?

I just finished At the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen, which was amazing, and I’m looking forward to jumping into my TBR pile. It’s huge right now; so many great books, so little time. I’ve been writing a lot lately and when I’m mid-story, I can’t read. But I have a little writing break now and I’m diving in.

kaira-rouda PhotoWhat writing advice do you have for other aspiring authors?

Read. Read everything. All types of genres. And then write, write all the time. And then repeat all of the above. And most important, don’t ever give up.

Do you have any fun plans for the summer besides celebrating your new book?

I’m headed to my first ever RWA (Romance Writers of America) Conference in New York City, so I’m excited about that. My whole family is coming with me, so I know it will be a busy, wonderful time both at the conference and around the city. We’re mostly at home this summer as we prepare to send my youngest away to college at the end of August.

Do your children love to read as much as you do?

Half and half. I have four kids and two of them are big readers, but all four of them are creative. I mentioned my oldest son’s love of photography. He’s brilliant visually/spatially and has just launched his career in commercial real estate after a couple of years at a leading digital ad agency. My daughter, who just graduated college, is a screenwriter paying her dues in LA. My middle son who will be a college junior is a Mandarin major who loves languages, is working on a novel and already has a book published called Teens Happen that he wrote in high school. My youngest is a singer/songwriter who is following his dream and attending Berklee College of Music in the fall. I’m so proud of my creative kids.

If you’re allowed to tell us, what can your readers expect next? Are you currently working on anything new?

My next story in the Laguna Beach series, Laguna Heights, will be released on September 15th as part of a boxed set called Love Ever After releasing. And my next women’s fiction novel – title still TBD – is releasing May 2016! I’m so excited for that one even though it seems like a long time from now. If I’ve learned anything it’s that time flies!

Thanks again for having me, Karen!

Connect with Kaira:

To celebrate the release of her new novel, Kaira and her team have graciously provided Karen’s Korner with a copy of Laguna Nights for a giveaway! Enter via the Rafflecopter below (US entries only):

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The Year My Mother Came Back by Alice Eve Cohen

41WB9BbfkIL__SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Summary: For the first time in decades I’m remembering Mom, all of her–the wonderful and terrible things about her that I’ve cast out of my thoughts for so long. I’m still struggling to prevent these memories from erupting from their subterranean depths. Trying to hold back the flood. I can’t, not today. The levees break.

Thirty years after her death, Alice Eve Cohen’s mother appears to her, seemingly in the flesh, and continues to do so during the hardest year Alice has had to face: the year her youngest daughter needs a harrowing surgery, her eldest daughter decides to reunite with her birth mother, and Alice herself receives a daunting diagnosis. As it turns out, it’s entirely possible for the people we’ve lost to come back to us when we need them the most.

Although letting her mother back into her life is not an easy thing, Alice approaches it with humor, intelligence, and honesty. What she learns is that she must revisit her childhood and allow herself to be a daughter once more in order to take care of her own girls. Understanding and forgiving her mother’s parenting transgressions leads her to accept her own and to realize that she doesn’t have to be perfect to be a good mother. (Excerpt from Goodreads)

My Thoughts: I love signing up for BookSparks’ Summer Reading Challenge every year because they introduce me to so many different books that I probably wouldn’t have picked up on my own. The Year My Mother Came Back is a beautiful and exquisite memoir about motherhood that had me completely engrossed throughout and I’m very glad it was on the lineup this year.

The book highlights mother-daughter relationships focusing mainly on Alice’s relationships with her own mother and daughters during one of the most difficult years in her life. Alice just found out she has breast cancer, her oldest (and adopted) daughter is going to college and begins to reconnect with her birth mother, and her youngest daughter is about to undergo a procedure to cure a birth defect which will result in an extremely long and painful recovery period.

One of my favorite things about this book was how the author jumped from the past to the present. I loved reading through Alice’s journey as she learns the truth behind her mother’s childhood, gains perspective on her current situation, and gets a second chance at mending their broken relationship.

The Year My Mother Came Back is a heart-warming, touching and relatable memoir that uncovers the truths about being a mother, both joyful and painful at times. I highly recommend picking up a copy of this book especially if you are a mother or a daughter – it is a short read but will have you flying through the pages from beginning to end.

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Author Q&A with Karen White – Plus, a Giveaway!

Karen White is one of my favorite authors and I can never get enough of her books. I think at least one or twice a year, I gift one of her books to my friends or family because I want everyone else to experience her stories.

We loved having her on our blog last year (to see the full interview, click here) and to celebrate the release of her new novel The Sound of Glass, we asked Karen to come and visit us again! We are thrilled to have her on the blog today and we hope you enjoy the Q&A as much as we did.

51sUwrukhPL__SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Thank you so much for sitting down with Karen’s Korner for a Q&A session. What was your inspiration for The Sound of Glass?

All of my books have multiple inspirations from all sources—I’m always studying the world around me. Two of the main plots of THE SOUND OF GLASS came from true crime mystery stories that I watched on TV. I was haunted by the stories, and knew that to exorcise them from my mind I needed to write about them.

What has been the best compliment you’ve received about any of your books?

I’ve received several letters from readers who have told me that one of my books changed their lives—helped them reconnect with family members, to forgive themselves or others, to move on from a difficult situation. To hear that my words have affected people I’ve never met and in such a positive way in so incredibly humbling and so very special.

I absolutely love the cover of The Sound of Glass! Who designed it and how many different ones did you go through until you found the right one?

I love this cover, too! Pictures of it don’t do it justice—the colors are so vibrant and the lettering all has a foil effect. This was the third cover they sent. The first was beautiful (woman in white flowing dress on beach) but looked too much like a feminine hygiene ad and was also pretty generic. The second one they sent was pretty much like the final cover—but with pink lettering. Third try was a home run!

With numerous books published, how do you feel your writing style has changed or developed since your first book?

Because I’ve had the opportunity to rewrite my first four books before they were re-released, I was able to really examine my first efforts at novel writing and see that there was lots of room for improvement! Happily, I realized that my books are also better now—the writing is tighter (no more kicking the proverbial dead horse!) and I think the plots and characters are now more real-to-life. I don’t pull any punches anymore because I feel as if my audience searches for a certain honesty in my novels.

Karen WHiteIf you didn’t write books, what would you do for a living?

What my daughter is doing—studying Historic Preservation and living in Charleston, South Carolina.

What are you currently reading?

All the Light we Can Not See by Anthony Doerr Just wonderful!

Do you have any fun plans for the summer (besides your book tour)?

Yes. Write the next book! And spend time with my new puppy.

If you’re allowed to tell us, what can your readers expect next? Are you currently working on anything new?

I’m always working on something new! Next book is set in the Florida panhandle and the main character is a beekeeper. That’s all I can say now because that’s pretty much all I’ve written so far. :)

Connect with Karen:

To celebrate the release of her new novel, Karen and her team have graciously provided us with a copy of The Sound of Glass for a giveaway! Enter via the Rafflecopter below (US entries only):

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The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins – Plus, a Giveaway!

S91lUeBR2G1Lummary: Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?

A compulsively readable, emotionally immersive, Hitchcockian thriller that draws comparisons to Gone Girl, The Silent Wife, or Before I Go to Sleep, this is an electrifying debut embraced by readers across markets and categories. (Excerpt from Goodreads)

My Thoughts: I’ve been wanting to read this book ever since it was released but unfortunately with my huge TBR pile, I just never got to it. Then, the perfect opportunity arose when my girlfriends and I were talking about what to read for book club – we unanimously agreed on The Girl on the Train. This book is a powerful and complex thriller full of twists and turns that will keep you on the edge of your seat up until the very end.

I was a little torn when reading this book. Yes, it definitely held my attention and I sped through it in a day or two because I was dying to find out how it ended. However, I’m not sure if blew me away – my expectations were probably too high because of all the incredible hype and reviews I read ever since the book came out.

The characters in this novel were intriguing yet disturbing in their own ways. I found myself wondering what the outcome would be the entire time with all of these different scenarios swirling around in my head. Also, the book is told from different points of view (which I think added a lot to the story) and through Rachel’s voice, the reader gets a glimpse into the mind of an alcoholic.

Overall, I definitely recommend reading this book – it will completely consume you from the beginning until the end. Is it one of the top books I’ve read this year? No. However, I did enjoy the story and following along as the reader finds out who is behind one of the main character’s disappearance. Plus, considering this was a debut novel from Paula Hawkins, I think she did a wonderful job.

Connect with Paula:

To celebrate her debut, we are giving away one copy of The Girl on the Train for one of you lucky readers! Enter via the Rafflecopter below (US entries only):

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Author Q&A with Kristy Woodson Harvey – Plus, a Giveaway!

I finished Dear Carolina over the weekend and I loved it – it had everything I could ever want in a book. Plus, I still can’t believe this was Kristy’s debut novel; it seemed like she has been writing for years. My full review will be posted in the next week or so but until then, we hope you enjoy getting to know the author behind this fantastic novel!

I have enjoyed getting to know Kristy through social media and to celebrate the release of her debut novel, we sat down with her for an author Q&A session and asked her questions about her new novel, writing and much more. We are thrilled to have Kristy on the blog today and hope you enjoy getting to know more about this sweet and spectacular author!

DearCarolinaCoverHighResThank you so much for sitting down with Karen’s Korner for a Q&A session. What was your inspiration for Dear Carolina?

Thank you so much for having me, Karen! I love your blog and have been so excited to share with your readers!

A few days after my son was born, my parents were staying with my husband and me, and our son was crying for no particular reason. I walked down the hall and, when my dad handed him to me, he quit. I’ll never forget him opening those huge blue eyes and looking up at me, totally content. He didn’t need to be fed or changed or put to bed. He only needed me. His mother.

And, in that moment, I realized something: I had expected to love him in a way that I’d never experienced before. But what I hadn’t counted on was how much he would love me back.

I remember asking myself that night, while I was holding him, what would have to happen in your life for you to be able to give up this person? And, on the flip side of that, what would it be like, as an adoptive mother, to know that your child would always have a deep, biological connection with another woman.

I realized two things right then. One, that giving up your child is the most selfless decision and the biggest gift that one woman could ever give another. And, two, that this feeling of deep connection to a baby didn’t come from giving birth; it came from knowing that you would do anything in your power to protect your child.

In that moment, as strange as it sounds, the characters of Khaki and Jodi came to me, and I just knew this whole story. I could hear Jodi’s Southern dialect and feel Khaki’s angst as she grappled with her career choices and her deep need to become a mother again. These characters took hold of me and lived in my mind until they came to life on the page. Line by line, sentence by sentence, I came to know them in a way that was as real as if they were sitting beside me.

How long did it take you to write Dear Carolina?

It took me probably two months to write the first draft, but probably six or seven months to edit it. And I worked on another draft in between, so, total, probably about a year!

What has been the best compliment you’ve received about your book so far?

I have had reviewers compare me to Emily Giffin, Patti Callahan Henry, Dorothea Benton Frank, Beth Hoffman… That is so amazing to me because these are authors that I admire so incredibly much. But I have also had readers tell me that the book helped them reveal a secret they had carried in silence for far too long, or come to terms with the fact that, just because a family member isn’t a blood relation doesn’t mean they have to feel differently about them. That floored me. It was totally unexpected and means so much to me.

I love the cover of Dear Carolina! Who designed it and how many different ones did you go through until you found the right one?

Diana Kolsky at Penguin Random House designed the cover. And it was the very first one! I had originally pictured a farm scene, so we went through a few of those too, but this one just ended up feeling right. I’ve had a lot of positive feedback, which makes me feel like we made the right choice! Plus, it’s a summer beach read! What could be better than the beach on the cover?

Do you have a favorite author and what authors have inspired you to write?

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith is my favorite book, and I think I always go back to it for inspiration, even though I don’t think my writing is similar to hers. I love reading and have been introduced to so many great authors through becoming one myself. I just finished Natasha Boyd’s romance novels, which are fabulous, Cathy Lamb’s What I Remember Most, Ann Garvin’s The Dog Year, Kim Boykin’s A Peach of a Pair, which is coming soon. Getting to read things before they come out is such a cool perk! (Which you can relate, I know!)

Harvey-Port-02-e1429142736291What writing advice do you have for other aspiring authors?

You have to be p-a-t-i-e-n-t. I feel like so much of this is a huge waiting game. And keep writing while you’re waiting. Perseverance pays off in the long run!

What are you currently reading?

The Last Child by John Hart.

Do you read to your son a lot and what are some of his favorite books?

I love reading to him! It’s one of my favorite parts of the day. We just started reading Charlotte’s Web, and it makes me so, so happy! He’s three so, right now, he’s most into this huge National Geographic dinosaur book that one grandmother got him and a book about Robots at Work that his other grandmother got him. I think he’s going to be a non-fiction lover! Mom is not quite as interested in those reads, but, of course, whatever he wants is okay with me!

Do you have any fun plans for the summer (besides the book tour)?

The book tour is definitely the main priority, and I can’t wait to get on the road and meet readers! So fun! We try to pack it up and stay at the beach all summer, so that will give me something great to look forward to as the tour winds down. I have friends coming plenty of weekends, a week with my extended family – and my 30th birthday is in July, so there will be some major celebrating!

If you’re allowed to tell us, what can your readers expect next? Are you currently working on anything new?

My next novel, LIES AND OTHER ACTS OF LOVE will be out April 2016. The tentative date is April 5, but that could change. It’s all about family secrets and things we do to protect the people we love. I adore this book and can’t wait for it to be in readers’ hands. It has some similar themes to DEAR CAROLINA, but is very different in a lot of ways too. I’m about halfway through my third novel, but haven’t worked on it much during the promotion of DEAR CAROLINA, so I’ll be happy to dive back into. I’ve been working on it a lot in my head, so that usually means it will come flying out when I get back to it!

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