Ugly Love, a Five Star Review

9 Aug

ugly love1Have you ever had a book that gripped you so much, words were almost impossible to write? Well, Colleen Hoover just did that. She actually did that several months ago, but the world just saw this book on Tuesday. Because words were so hard to form, I took some liberties (with CoHo’s approval) and used some of hers. My review of Ugly Love:


Ugly Love, with special thanks to Colleen for the use of her wonderful words:


Ugly Love, Ugly Love, Ugly Love.

I say the name over and over in my head, because I’m positive it’s the name of the next book I’ll fall in love with.


That’s how it is when a person develops an attraction toward an author.

She’s nowhere,then suddenly she’s everywhere,

whether you want her to be or not.

And I want . . . and she is . . .


“We’ve got this, Colleen.” I give her book the appreciation it deserves.

I’m gonna love it

for several months, maybe more.


I tighten my grip on my Kindle .  .  . and then it kills me. Or it kisses me.

I can’t tell which, since I’m pretty sure they feel the same.

Her words against my screen feel like everything. Like living and dying

and being reborn, all at the same time. Good Lord.

She’s kissing/killing me with these words.


I don’t know what happens to me, but something changes.

Something melts. Something

hard or cold or covered in my own personal armor is turning to liquid

now that I’m realizing what these words really mean.

I feel like I’m nothing but liquid, and liquid

doesn’t do a good job of standing or walking away,

so I don’t stop reading.


“It’s not that I don’t like you, Ugly Love.” I sigh heavily

and run my hands over the screen, gripping the back cover.

“I just don’t want to like you this much.

I don’t want to like any book this much.

I don’t want to read just any book.

I don’t want to love any story like this.

I just .  .  .”


“I’m attracted to you, Ugly Love,” I say, my voice low.

“I want you, but I want you without any of that other stuff.”


“It’s been six months, Colleen. Believe me when I tell you .  .  . I’m ready.”

Those all just became my new favorite words, too.

Believe and me and when and

I and tell and you and I’m and ready. Favorites. All of them.

It’s finally here.


I’m reading because I’ll take what I can get.

I’m not Karen when I’m reading Ugly Love.

I’m liquid, and liquid doesn’t know how to be firm or stand up for itself.

Liquid flows.


If I had a superpower, it would be infiltration.

I would infiltrate CoHo’s mind so I could see every single one of her thoughts.


I just want to breathe, but she’s not letting me. She’s invading.

I don’t think she means to.

She’s just invading my thoughts and my stomach and my lungs and my world.

That’s her superpower. Invasion.

The Invader and the Infiltrator.

They pretty much have the same

meaning, so I guess we make a great team.


“I love you, Ugly Love. More than I loved you yesterday.”

Her words are looking up at

me like they know exactly what I’m talking about.

“If you love me more today than you

loved me yesterday, then I can’t wait for tomorrow,” she says.


Neither can I, Colleen, I confess, neither can I . . .


Dad – If You Could See Me Now… Part II

4 Feb

Dad (and Mom) listen up now, this is where my story gets even more amazing. What does a retired elementary teacher do while waiting for her fellow teaching buddy to give in and retire so they can do fun things together during the day? Well, I read, joined a book club, and read some more, then…

You may be aware of the term, The Butterfly Effect, which explains how tiny initial differences may lead to large and unforeseen consequences over a period of time. This is my version of the phenomenon.

My butterfly’s egg was hatched on June 9, 2011 when I downloaded a free book from Amazon called Maid For the Billionaire by Ruth Cardello. After reading and enjoying the book, as I did with a number of authors, I searched for a web site for Ruth and found a blog site named, eBook Experiment, where Ruth had frequent blogs about her journey into authoring romance books.  At that time, she had only released her first book, and it was free, so she wasn’t yet making any money with her writing. Well, my little caterpillar devoured reading about her journey and before long the chrysalis was formed.

My butterfly burst forth on August 20, 2011, when Ruth self-published her second book, For Love or Legacy, and I quickly ‘one-clicked’ and downloaded it. Those wings started flapping and unknown at that time, I started my new journey. Ruth had asked her Facebook friends to let her know if they found any mistakes as they read the book. As I was reading I did find a couple of mistakes and I ‘private messaged’ Ruth. Being the sweet person she is, she thanked me and we started a conversation that lasted into the late evening as I read the book and found a few more tiny errors. At one point she joked that maybe I could edit her third book. We laughed… talked teaching (at the time she was on summer break from her kindergarten teaching job)… discussed family…we even discussed having coffee together someday.  She said, “And who knows, if this writing thing takes off…maybe I’ll take you up on that coffee.”  Serendipity, Ruth!

When the school year started, Ruth went back to teaching, but we still messaged off and on. She asked me to reread her first book and look for mistakes before she submitted it for paper print. I volunteered to reread the second one too to see if I could find anything I had missed the first time through. Her sales were going very well on the second book and I (along with many others I’m sure) encouraged her to quit teaching and write full time so she could get started on her third book. In April 2012, Ruth became a full time writer and our friendship grew as she wrote Bedding the Billionaire, book three. She talked to her colleagues, told them about me, and one or two of them asked if I could help them by proofreading their manuscripts.  Feeling a bit under-qualified, I hesitated; after all, my training was in elementary education, with a master in educational curriculum, not an English degree. But with Ruth’s encouragement, I agreed. Ruth convinced me my qualification came from reading as many books as I had and that I had a good eye for finding those pesky little mistakes that so many writers just don’t see in their own writing. Plus, both of us being former teachers, we had practiced daily how to help others make their work better. The good news was, the authors that I helped, thanked me profusely for a job well done! Ruth cemented our friendship right there; we entered the realm of sisterhood!

During this time, my biological sister and I also started a new book group that read only eBooks that were fun and cheap, five dollars or under—The Bargain eBook Book Club.  To make our group unique and jovial, I started contacting authors and asking them if they could join in our discussions. To hear those stories, please read through my earlier blogs, but suffice it to say, we have a fun time and we have Skyped with almost twenty different authors, many of them New York Times Best Selling authors! Our best treat was a day in June when Ruth called and told me she didn’t want to Skype, she wanted to actually fly here and meet with the Defiance ladies that were all the talk of her writing world. Her third book, which I had proofed for her just like we laughed about earlier, had just made the New York Times Belling Selling list for eBooks! Well,to add to that surprise, Donna McDonald, another author our book club knew, said she would like to drive up from Kentucky and meet not only us, but Ruth too. And guess what?  Yes! I got to have that predestined cup of coffee! The ladies graciously presented a workshop to local writers explaining the hows and whys of self-publishing along with an evening of merriment and friendship with both of my book groups at the local bed and breakfast. Amazing—successful authors coming to Defiance just to meet our little book group!book group with Ruth and Donna

Meanwhile, my little proofing business was growing and I needed some help.  Ruth, who by then I had considered more than a friend (we had bonded…), kept putting my information on her Facebook pages and new authors lined up. In October, my sister joined with me and we are now proofreading/line editing/beta reading for over fifteen romance authors.  Did you hear that Dad—your two daughters are working with romance authors! Some of them even want to meet us! They know me! Don’t you love it?  And, my retirement plan—it allowed us to purchase tickets to visit my daughters in New Mexico and Seattle. Oh… and I took a trip to see Ruth in Rhode Island in December where she planned a party for me to meet many of the authors I work with, then Ruth and I went to Newport and had lunch with Marie Force. It was rather like coming full circle, although I’d like to think of it more as a spiral, because this butterfly is not nearly finished with her amazing journey. Stay tuned… Texas is next!Ruth and Karen

If you are wondering what to do with a new phase in your life, I will tell you what I’ve always told my children—find something you love to do and do it! As hokey as it sounds, when a door is closed, a window IS opened.  Embrace that window and let in your butterfly! There is a whole new cyber world out there just waiting for your discovery.

Dad – If You Could See Me Now…Part I

1 Feb

Four years ago I lost both my parents within six weeks of each other. We knew Mom was dying, but Dad had a fatal heart attack while playing golf two days before we were going to bring them both back home to care for Mom. There are very few days that I don’t think about them. Dad always teased me about some of the classes I took in college while earning my degree in Elementary Education. His favorite tease—Children’s Literature, or as we called it, Kiddie Lit. He never could understand paying college tuition to read children’s books. However, he and Mom were right there, tears in their eyes, watching me graduate, then again thirty-one years later when I received my master’s degree. His short note from that day still remains on my refrigerator telling me how proud they both were that I had achieved what no one else in our family had, a master’s degree.

My mother was the reading force in our family. I don’t remember a single Christmas that didn’t have a wrapped book for each of us under the tree. You always knew those packages—the small side of empty space where the covers stuck out slightly more than the pages. She spent an entire day each year choosing just the right one for each of us. I thank her for giving me the perfect gift – a love of reading. I hope I have passed it on not only to my own children, but the hundreds of children I taught over 35 years.

A few weeks before Mom died, my sister and I bought our first Kindles so we could read as we sat by her bedside. My old love of books turned into an obsession with eBooks. And what a journey that started! I realized I could amass a huge debt with the famous “one-click’ purchasing power at Amazon, so I started looking for cheap or free books, trolling through many suggestions from Amazon. So many of those choices were romances, thus, my love affair with contemporary romance was born.

On February 1, 2011, I downloaded my first Marie Force book, Love at First Flight, read and loved it, and started following her blog. At that time, she had a weekly book club that discussed chosen books through comments on her blog, but soon thereafter she decided to move the discussions to Facebook. Realizing that famous authors (and in my eyes, anyone who writes amazing stories and sells loads of them is famous) would actually converse through Facebook, I “friended” Marie Force Book Talk. Let me say right now, no one does Facebook as well as Marie Force! Not only does she have her regular author page, she also has the aforementioned book talk site, three general sites for each of her series, and 24 (soon to be 25) individual sites for each one of her books where fans can go and follow discussion questions after that book is released. Plus she chimes in whenever a fan asks a question! Through the past two years, I feel Marie and I have become actual friends, having finally met in person in December, while I was visiting Rhode Island (see Part II of the story).Marie Force, Karen, Ruth Cardello

As much as I value my friendship with Marie, I also owe her for helping me find some wonderful Internet friends. Through MFBT, I started conversing with some of the same fans that chatted on a regular basis. We “friended” each other and started our own little Facebook group where we discuss many best-selling books. Some of these ladies have become more than acquaintances; they are true friends.  We “Zoom” every couple weeks, discussing books and getting to know each other. Zooming is like Skype, but you can hear and see multiple friends at a time. Our group lives in Australia, Washington, Florida, and Ohio.  We are sometimes joined by Tennessee and New Hampshire. We have started asking some authors to join in our discussions and are meeting amazing women and hearing all about their success stories.

Why all of this as I’m thinking about my parents, you may wonder?  Well, both Mom and Dad would be so pleased to hear everything that has happened to me since I’ve retired from teaching. Instead of wondering what I would do with all that free time, I’ve found a way to take what I love and make it into a fun-filled retirement plan. Stay tuned for Part II and my love affair (purely platonic, I promise) with Ruth Cardello and what has happened in my life. Dad, you may have laughed at Kiddie Lit, but…if you could see me now…

Notable Romance Series

10 Sep

Do you love to read series?  It seems to be the way of romance books these days, so I have tried to introduce my book group to some authors that write series.  One popular bonus with authors and series is they often offer the first book for free or a very low price for you to try them out.  Of course they want you to get hooked and buy the rest, and it works for me!  I have some great series and authors that I’ve tired that I’d like to introduce to you.

The Legacy Series, by Ruth Cardello  At present there are three books in this series.  The first one, Maid for the Billionaire is free.  This series follows the Corisi and Andrade families and friends.  A fourth book, Saving the Sheikh,  is to be released in November.

Never Too Late Series, by Donna McDonald  There are five books right now in this series with Dating a Cougar being the first free one.  These books follow the lives of three more mature girlfriends (early 40s to early 50s) as they find their soul mates.  Books four and five deal with one’s daughter and another’s mother.  Life doesn’t stop in your 40s, or even your 60s!

The Bluegrass Series, by Kathleen Brooks  This is really two series, however the second series (The Bluegrass Brothers) continues with the same cast of characters.  These books follow characters from Keeneston, a small town in Kentucky.  They all have a mystery to solve, making them more of a romantic suspense, but with plenty of laughs from some of the townspeople.  My favorites are the Rose sisters.  Bluegrass State of Mind is the first free one.  So far there are five books available.

The Fatal Series, by Marie Force  There are five books presently in this series.  The first one isn’t the free one, but it can’t be missed!  Fatal Affair introduces my favorite hero – Nick Cappuano.  The interesting thing about this series is that it follows the same couple in every book and you still can’t get enough of Nick and Sam!  She is a police detective in Washington DC while Nick starts out as chief of staff for a senator.  This is romantic suspense at its best.  As their romance and crime solving cases progress, we get to the free book, Fatal Destiny, which was written as a present to all of Marie’s fans.  This is the fourth book (really called 3.5) and it is the wedding book, making it well worth the price of the first three!  A sixth book is to be released in November.

There are many other series that I’ve enjoyed, some from these same authors.  This is just a small spicy sampling of some of my favorites and, the good news—all of these authors are very willing to skype with your book groups too.  So, for free, try some of them out and see for yourself!  Happy reading!

Seriously Fun Reading Groups

14 May

My “serious” book club met last Wednesday.  No, we don’t always read serious books, but we seriously discuss the book we read.  The selection for this month was Happy Hour by Michele Scott. The book tells the stories of four female friends who connect through wine.  One is a wine maker, another is a sommelier, the third is an editor for a wine magazine, and the fourth is an artist who specializes in vineyard landscapes.  These women all have obstacles in their lives they are dealing with, but the strength of their friendship carries them through difficult times.  And, as I most enjoy, there is a happily ever after for all!  So, what made this a meeting worth blogging?  Well, we met in a local restaurant and had wine flights with our discussions.  It only seemed right to combine book, wine, and laughter for our final meeting until next fall.  This group of women have become so dear to me.  Our discussions have lead to understanding each other and we are fast becoming really good friends.

My other book group meets today to talk about Smooth Talking Stranger by Lisa Kleypas.  I was unable to contact her, so we won’t be skyping, but we do have a fun time planned.  You see, through a different author, I met another new friend from Australia.  She loves hearing about our “fun” reading group.  She sent me some cookies (well, she called them biscuits) and key-chains for this group.  Of course, the “biscuits” arrived about a week and a half ago, and I couldn’t let them get stale, so we will be sharing the key-chains and I’ll tell them all about the wonderful cookies!  We will laugh and talk about favorite parts of Smooth Talking Strangers and probably find out how many more of us have started Fifty Shades of Grey.  Fun stuff!  Needless to say, these friends have also become very dear to me.

Many people have heard about our “fun” group.  Word is traveling around about our skyping adventures.  We have even been contacted by a publishing company in California requesting we add two of their authors’ books to our list and skype with them.  Right now, our list of books go into November, so it may a while before we get back to them.  But, we are having a good time and it all centers around reading!  Some of the “serious” group affectionately call the “fun” group, the “smut” group.  Well, we do read mostly romances, but which group do you think is reading Fifty Shades Trilogy over the summer?  I guess we will have some “serious” discussions over that one!  And, hopefully, some of that group will be joining us over the summer for some “fun” reading!  Lunch, laughter, and friendship – what could be better?  I hope if you have a book club you will be as lucky as me and find great new friendships.

Upcoming books:

Samantha Moon: All Four Novels by J.R. Rain

A Woman to Blame by Susan Connell

My Big Old Texas Heartache by Geralyn Dawson

Can’t Skype, Send Swag!

7 Apr

While many authors are happy to Skype with The Bargain eBooks Book Club, there are some who either won’t or can’t.  This is to be expected.  However – I have found some really nice authors who have offered to send us little presents, or swag, since they weren’t going to “be” with us.  We’ve had two authors that went above and beyond with their swag.

When I first contacted Carly Phillips, I held little hope that she would even return my email.  I mean, she has been a best selling author for years and Kelly Ripa chose her book on national TV and everyone’s heard of her and…….  Much to my surprise, not only did she answer, but she explained that she would love to Skype, but she would be on vacation on the date we were discussing her book.  Then she offered to send us some bookmarks, autographed book plates, and magnets to make up for not being with us!  Who wouldn’t love to get presents from famous authors?  And our members were delighted to get her goodies as we discussed her book, The Bachelor, the one that got her national recognition going through Ms. Ripa!

Gemma Halliday ‘s story is really cute.  She replied to my email by saying it was a lovely offer, but she doesn’t Skype as she is not that tech savvy yet.  She continued by saying she would love to send us some High Heel goodies if I would send her the number of members and my address.  To my great surprise, when her box arrived, I found the cutest little wine charms with high heels on them, along with cute autographed trading cards for her first five books of her High Heel Series.  She also sent some promotional autographed post cards for her other series, Hollywood Headlines.  Needless to say, the members were extremely excited to get the wine charms – so much so that we took a picture!

We have had other authors who did Skype and have also sent us some of their swag.  Ruth Cardello sent us personalized pens and chocolates (she does know me!) and Donna McDonald sent us some pens that we used for a drawing when she skyped.  We drew numbers and she chose the winners!

Now, do you have your book club going yet?  We have our books planned through August right now and I know we will be skyping with the next two authors – Sheila Horgan and Kathryn Shay!  By the way, last week Barbara Freethy was a sweetheart and very entertaining.  We read her book, Ryan’s Return – a great story!  You really need to ask your authors about talking live with them at your next book club meeting.  A good time will be had by all!

Future reads of Bargain eBooks Book Club:

Skype Hype with Book Clubs

2 Apr

Today the Bargain eBook Book Club is Skyping with New York Times Best Selling Author, Barbara Freethy.  Yes, that’s right – we’re bringing a well-known author right to little old Defiance, Ohio.  AND – it’s not the first time!  In fact, we have met six authors through the magic of the Internet.

Last year when it was my turn to select a book for my other book club’s monthly meeting, I chose Juliet: a Novel by Anne Fortier.  Having read the book when it first came out, I loved the parallel stories of the 14th century tale and present day.  Wanting to make the meeting special, I contacted the author for some added information and as we communicated back and forth, it was decided that we would Skype.  It was so special to actually discuss the book with the author.  What better way to find out where the author’s mind was during her writing process?  And Ms. Fortier was a lovely lady to talk to us for almost an hour about her book.

When I started the Bargain eBook Book Club, my goal was to introduce new authors to  friends.  Last summer, through a stroke of luck, I “met” Ruth Cardello, author of Maid for the Billionaire and For Love or Legacy, on Facebook.  Her books were our first discussion books.  At that time, our Internet connection was not good, so we only talked on the phone to her.  But since, we have discussed, laughed, and questioned four other authors.  Marie Force has Skyped with us so many times, she must feel like an honorary citizen of Defiance.  Donna McDonald has not only Skyped, but has asked us to help her research older couples for a future book.  And Tawna Fenske got up pretty early, wearing a special shirt to discuss her first book, Making Waves.

Who knows what specialties will be with Barbara and us today?  I’m just looking forward to “seeing” another great author and finding out some interesting facts on Ryan’s Return.  It pays to contact an author and see if they would be willing to Skype.  Let the fun begin!

Books we have selected by the above authors not mentioned:

Marie Force:

Donna McDonald