The Windfall App by Teresa Richards
Many stories I’ve read have main characters who come from either one culture or another, and they often don’t navigate the in-between areas of our multi-ethnic and diverse world. Or if they do, the stories sometimes treat it as the be-all and end-all of the narrative – diversity for the sake of diversity. Where I come from, it was just another aspect of growing up, and this is how The Windfall App by Teresa Richards treats the main character Marina’s background. Her mother is Chinese, her father American, and she’s caught in the middle between both of their expectations. Since I was once a half-Asian teen growing up in the Bay Area just like Marina, I was especially thrilled to read about a main character my long-ago teenage self could identify with.
This is a book that has all the elements of a really fun story. It starts out with some common YA premises: Marina’s at the end of her senior year, trying to get into colleges, win academic competitions, hang out with her best friends and avoid her frenemies. And then it turns into a gripping novel with plenty of mystery and suspense, romance and betrayal, and a close look at the importance of family and friends.
Here's more info about the story:
Marina Berghman is a classical piano prodigy with parents who’ve had her life mapped out since she was in diapers. But their plan leaves no room for her secret love of alternative rock, or Sean, the edgy guitarist who recently moved to town.
When Marina buys a lottery ticket on her eighteenth birthday via the new Windfall app, she expects it to be nothing more than a rite of passage. But she wins – the grand prize of five thousand dollars a day, for life. Suddenly given the means to break free from a life she never felt in control of, she’s quick to cut her family ties and turn her back on everything she knows.
But her lottery win was no lucky break. Her prize comes with strings attached, and Marina soon finds herself at the center of someone else’s life or death game. When she discovers evidence linking her dad to the intrigue, she turns to Sean for help. But he’s harboring secrets of his own.
Now Marina must sort out who to trust and who’s pulling the strings, before her prize turns into a noose.
I’d definitely recommend it to YA fans, young and old alike. A full review of The Windfall App can be found at Bewildering Stories HERE.
Teresa is also doing a Rafflecopter giveaway, and you can win this great prize:
But there isn't much time left to enter - only until the end of day today! So head on over to the link HERE and enter to win.
I also was able to have a quick chat with Teresa about her book and writing in general.
What inspired you to write this book?
I actually got inspired by an ad I heard on the radio for the Connecticut Lucky-For-Life lottery game in which you win a thousand dollars a day for life. I remember thinking, "What if someone won who was really young—would the lottery really shell out a grand a day for the rest of that person's natural life? Or would they *somehow* get out of paying." And the story snowballed from there.
Who would you be if you were a character in your own book (and why)?
Honestly, there is a lot of me in the main character, Marina. I channeled my love of music--all kinds of music--into her. The scenes where she's playing the piano, or thinking about playing the piano, all come directly from my own experience, although I'm nowhere near as good as she is. Also, in another life, I am the bass player in a rock band, so I hold the same secret love of alternative rock that she does. Marina's love of hiking, and of exploring the city of San Francisco, also comes from me, as do the deep feelings she has for her family members by the end of the book.
What's next on the horizon?
I have another YA contemporary book, called Flippin' Skaters, near completion. It's about a girl who reinvents herself by starting a roller skating gymnastics team after a scandalous pictures of her goes viral and destroys her reputation. After that I'll be working on the third book in my Altered Stones series, Daughter of Pearl [Book 1 is Emerald Bound, Book 2 is Topaz Reign].
Tomorrow is Valentine's Day, and I always try to read at least one romance during the month of February. This year, it's Rachel Gibson’s The Trouble with Valentine’s Day, which seems to strike a pretty good balance between the sometimes sickly-sweet romance genre and the humor of rom-coms.
It’s my first time reading Ms. Gibson’s work, but I would enjoy picking up another book by her. It’s a fun read, light-hearted in tone despite dealing with some very serious issues, and the characters are appealing enough to have kept me going to the last page. Overall, I’d recommend The Trouble with Valentine’s Day to fans of the genre.
If you'd like to read a full review of the book, head over to Bewildering Stories and check my review of it here. Happy reading!
Sharp Edge by Marianne Delacourt
I’m not always the biggest fan of starting in the middle of a series; I usually like to go on the ride with the character from the very beginning of their journey. But I had no problem adjusting to Tara Sharp’s world of combating crime with her psychic powers, living the high life, and trying to juggle a bevy of men in Marianne Delacourt's Book Four of the series, Sharp Edge.
For my full review of the book, check it out here at Bewildering Stories.
Overall, the book is a fun, light read, perfect for when you have a free afternoon and perhaps a mimosa or two waiting. Tara Sharp is a likeable and flawed character who is struggling to figure out her personal life as much as she is struggling to solve crimes. Even if, like me, you’re not starting out with Book One, I hope you enjoy the ride.
In Your Dreams by Kristan Higgins
Although I always try to pay special attention to the writing of local authors, my love of Kristan Higgins' work predates my move to Connecticut. I don't remember exactly when I started reading her books, though. How long has she been writing?
Needless to say, I am very familiar with her work - if having read all of her books constitutes familiarity. She writes down-to-earth characters who are easy for the reader to relate to. They are often working men and women, friendly and silly and completely human. Her settings are so detailed that it feels like you could walk down the street. And the voice/comedy of the situations are often cringeworthy good.
In Your Dreams is no exception - it's a great book with great characters If you'd like to know more about it, please check out my full review here at Bewildering Stories. Enjoy!
The Model Man by Genie Davis
It's summer, and to me that means summer reads. I want something light and fun and fluffy, gosh darn it. I live near a beach, so I'm going to pick up a few beach books.
Enter The Model Man by Genie Davis. This book really hit the spot. It's got thrills, it's got mystery, it's got love and a lot of silliness. Although marketed as a romance (and there's plenty of romance), it also has a strong whodunit element to the story. It reminded me strongly of one of my favorite writers, Janet Evanovich, but not in a derivative way.
So if you're looking for a fun read to prop up your piña colada, this might be a good choice. I'm happy to go look up some of her other books, too - after all, summer's not over yet! For a full review of the book, check it out here at Bewildering Stories. Enjoy!
An Unexpected Valentine by RJ Steele
Next up on my review list is another romance – An Unexpected Valentine by RJ Steele. The story starts out with Kelly. She's single, so when her friend Jessica asks her about her plans for February fourteenth, her automatic response at the start of the story is to say: "Well, Jess, I plan to spend Valentine's Day the same way I've spent it for the last three years! I 'm going to bundle myself in a Snuggie, watch Keira Knightley movies, sob into a pint of ice cream, and lament my poor, loveless life."
Actually, she doesn't say this – she just thinks it, despite her friend probably hoping for a response like that. Jessica is in a sickingly sweet romance with the perfect guy and is insufferable about it.
After her friend leaves, Kelly is trying to find a single girlfriend to spend the holiday with when she gets a text from someone named J asking her to be his Valentine. When she texts back asking who her secret admirer is, the answer is: "A stranger."
The story continues from there – she meets Josh and they have a great time together – until he takes her to meet a friend of his and she finds out that the person she was actually supposed to meet was Jared, her "real" secret admirer and a friend of Josh's. But which J will she choose?
I thought this was a cute story with plenty of humor and only a few awkward lines of dialogue. It's pretty short - not long enough to be a book - but it's a long short story that takes about a half hour to read. If you're looking for a short dose of romantic humor, this would hit the spot.
Call Me Cupid by Sydney Somers
More romance is in the air, and this time it involves the Greek god of love, Eros. In Sydney Somers' Call Me Cupid, romance doesn't stop when humans think it does. No, romance sometimes needs a supernatural element to get it going. Especially when it comes to exes AJ and Cooper. They're both not over their turbulent relationship from a couple years ago that went down in flames, but they'll be the last to admit they still have feelings for each other. Sometimes all it takes is a little (or maybe a big) push to help out the feelings simmering below the surface.
This was a pretty fun and, at times, humorous read. I have a full review of the book over at Bewildering Stories magazine. Check it out here.
Melt My Heart Anthology
I decided to go on a romance kick in the few days leading up to Valentine's Day. The only premise of the books I chose is that they had to center around the holiday and, of course, be a romance. Since I'm a short story writer, I decided to start out with a collection of shorts called Melt My Heart. It features four stories by authors Rachel Cross, Debra Kayn, Nicole Flockton and Holley Trent.
"Bloom" by Rachel Cross leads off the pack. Ava Bennett is on a Californian farm in the middle of nowhere and her car has broken down. Why is she there? As a favor to Asher Lowe, a rock star whose contributions to Ava's events over the years have made her business a success. She can't say no to him, no matter how outlandish his request – such as sending her out to the boonies to look in on his farmer friend, Nate.
She meets a farmer, all right – a large man whose two dogs accidentally ingest some of the antifreeze leaking from her broken car. After calling a vet to help the poisoned dogs, Ava realizes the farmer not only is the man whom she's been sent to check in on, but he's also the legendary guitarist Nathaniel Robbins. Suddenly, his connection to a rock star makes sense.
He cooks her dinner, and they talk, realizing how much they have in common. After eating, she wants to get going, but no one works weekends out in this rural area. She is stuck there until Monday at the earliest, when she can get a tow truck out. Nate offers for her to stay with him. In a second, they are all over each other. They spend the weekend together, but as Sunday draws to a close, she realizes her impromptu vacation must come to an end. And Nate has a secret so big that it could ruin the two of them before their relationship even gets off the ground.
I found the story entertaining and the characters relatable. Some heavier issues are brought up in the story, such as mental illness and addiction, but they are never explored to any depth, as there isn't much room in a short story. I thought there was a nice mixture of ideas, issues and character development.
Next is "Laying Down His Colors" by Debra Kayn. Kristen is drinking whiskey in a bar, waiting for Bruce Grennan to stop bartending. The next day is Valentine's Day, the anniversary of when they first hooked up. But the day after they hooked up, he was gone and he's refused to talk to her since. He belongs to the Bantorus motorcycle club with her dad, which has specific rules about the daughter of a member – namely, that she's off limits.
Kristen thinks that she's struck out again, since Bruce is ignoring her while she's drinking. She decides to go home to her cabin behind the bar. But maybe she hasn't struck out, for Bruce follows her there. After a year of silence on Bruce's part, Kristen might finally get the truth about what happened a year ago between them and what it means for their future.
I found the motorcycle gang part of the story interesting, although I thought sometimes the pacing of the story wasn't as smooth as it could be in terms of the actions and reactions of the characters. Perhaps this story would have been done more justice as a full novel by itself, as there was a lot of background that needed to be explained. But overall, I thought it was an enjoyable romance with a good ending.
"Trapped by Cupid" by Nicole Flockton starts out with Lisa Wheeler, a nurse stuck on the night shift at the hospital on Valentine's Day. She is single and wishes to be anywhere but at her job on such a holiday. Sexy, but arrogant, Dr. Noah Collins starts to talk to her, asking her if she's received any special deliveries for the day. She wonders why he would even bother talking to her, and feels lower than ever.
Later on, she is riding the elevator when Noah gets on. They get trapped in the elevator and it turns out Noah is claustrophobic. Although help is on the way, they have to wait for the repair service to come. They start to chat, and the chatting leads to something more. Noah has a secret that he wants to tell her, and it might forever change the way Lisa thinks about him.
I thought this was a cute, very straightforward story with little of the angst that is so common in contemporary romances. It was a refreshing to have a simple boy likes girl, girl likes boy plotline.
The final story of the collection is "A Demoness Matched" by Holley Trent, and it is completely different from the other romances in that it has very strong paranormal elements. Julia Tate and her brothers are half-demons. Julia doesn't want to serve Hell, so she escapes with her brothers' help. They find a man who's supposed to be her soulmate and tell her she needs to hide on his property. The only drawback is the man doesn't know her and she doesn't know him, and she's supposed to convince him to let her stay.
Switch to Calvin Wolff's perspective. He wants to be left alone, and he purchased this middle-of-nowhere cabin to accomplish that. He's an ex-ballplayer, and tired of the fame. When the doorbell rings, he's prepared to ignore it – until he gets a look at the beautiful woman outside. When it starts to rain, he lets her in.
His problem is he's a werewolf. Neither one of them know the other's secret, but with so much baggage between them, will they ever get close enough to find out?
The premise of this last story was interesting, and it was a good change of pace, being completely different from the other stories in the collection. However, I feel it could also have benefited from being a longer story, maybe book length, in order to give the reader more of a lead-in to the alternate reality of the world. With more room to maneuver, it would've been easier to connect with the characters and expand the plot line so that the motivations of the characters' actions were clearer. Also, unlike the other stories, there weren't any steamy scenes in this story – it was more action-driven than romance-driven, I felt. The romance, while central to the story, didn't have as much time to develop because of the complexity of the backstory and plot.
All in all, I thought this was an entertaining collection of romance stories and a good way to start off my countdown to Valentine's Day.
Too Many Cooks by Dana Bate
My kitchen renovation is in full swing right now, which means that I've been pretty inactive on my website - however, I've still managed to squeeze in reading a book or two. One I read recently was Too Many Cooks by Dana Bate, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. In tone, her writing reminds me of one of my favorite romance authors, Kristan Higgins. I've written a full review for Bewildering Stories magazine, which you can read here. I hope that you enjoy reading it as much as I did!
Mean Streak by Sandra Brown
I've been hooked on thrillers lately, and what list of thrillers would be complete without Sandra Brown? I've read most of Sandra Brown's books, from her early romances to her later romantic thrillers, and I've enjoyed almost every single one. Her writing is very compelling and hard to put down.
Mean Streak is no exception. It starts out with Dr. Emory Charbonneau being attacked while on a marathon-training run through the woods. She is found by a stranger who takes her back to his cabin and refuses to let her go - or even tell her his name while he holds her prisoner. Meanwhile, her husband Jeff is being questioned by cops in her disappearance, and it appears he is hiding something. But what is he hiding, and does it really have anything to do with his wife's disappearance?
The tension starts out high and doesn't let down until the end. Ms. Brown's writing style is very straightforward and carries the reader right along from start to finish. I don't want to say more, for fear of spoilers, but the book is well worth the read.
I read a lot - depending on my writing schedule, I can usually read about a book a day. Some of the books are fantastic and I would love to recommend to everyone - some, not so much. Either way, I thought I would share a few thoughts on what I'm reading at the moment.