Wednesday, March 20, 2019

GUEST POST: Rachel Harris for EYES ON ME


Get in the Groove
Is there anything sexier than a hot guy that can dance? Personally, it’s my kryptonite. 
Dance has always been a part of my life. Growing up in New Orleans where families are large and very very close, weddings and parties were held several times a year, and the dance floor was always packed. Formal lessons happened from the age of four to eight, at which point I quit because I didn’t want someone “telling me how to dance” (I may’ve been a touch stubborn, ha!), but they picked back up in high school when I joined the dance team. Dancing is even how my husband and I got together—we were on a double date, originally with other people, but we ended up switching midway through when my husband joined me on the dance floor. 
Most recently, dance entered my life via ballroom lessons I took with my husband for a year. We tried all the styles, but Latin was our definite favorite, in particular the rumba and salsa. They are just so dang sexy and fun! The connection between the partners, the emotion you put into each step, and the beat of the music is so incredibly addictive. 
Rumba ended up being our number one dance, and originally, it was going to be the style explored in Eyes on Me, too. However, once I dove into the book and really got to know my characters, I knew it had to be salsa. For one thing, salsa is faster paced, which is not only more forgiving for my occasionally clumsy heroine, but it’s also more youthful. The patterns and steps I chose were more fun, and a few of the tricks led to natural challenges to conquer.       
The real challenge for me came in balance. Giving readers who love dance enough to sink their teeth into, while not alienating readers who came simply for the hot football stud meets awkward Brainiac and could care less about the technical dance elements. Also walking the tightrope between describing the moves and keeping the story moving. For non-dancer readers, I wanted them to be able to understand without seeing the movement but not bore them, and for dancer readers, I wanted them to follow along and picture it easily in their minds. I hope I scored on both!
In the end, dancer or not, my true goal was in rocking the romance, which I believe is vital to any good routine. The trust required in a dance partner is also needed for a love interest. The insecurities and emotions spilled on the shiny wood floor cut at the heart of who we are as people…dance just helps speed up the exposure process. It was fun to explore the relationship between dance and love. Here’s a little snippet to show what I mean—Enjoy!
The music poured through the speakers—“Muevete” by D.L.G.—and after finding the beat, I began murmuring the count for her to follow. “Quick, quick. Slow. Quick, quick. Slow. One, two, three, four. Five, six, seven, eight.”
Dancing with music was harder. Even doing the same steps you’d mastered a second ago, the extra stimulus could jumble your feet. That’s where a strong partner came in handy. At least in theory.
“You’re ahead of the beat,” Ma said, modeling the steps alongside her. “Stop watching your feet and lift your head. Listen to the count. Trust that Agoston will guide you when it’s time to move.”
The muscles in Lily’s back twitched under my arm, and her jaw turned to granite. Sensing control was a bit of an issue for her, I tried teasing again. “Yeah, unlike you, I don’t walk into walls. It’s okay to follow me.” 
Her head jerked up, her gaze leaving the ground long enough to stare at me with a mixed expression of self-deprecation and annoyance. I grinned. 
“You really can let go,” I told her seriously. “I’ve got you. Believe it or not, this is supposed to be fun.” 
Lily exhaled heavily and darted a glance to the side. “I don’t like attention,” she murmured quietly, her blush deepening with the admission. “The mirrors in this room…they make it feel like everyone’s watching us.”
I couldn’t promise they weren’t. But I could help her forget about them. “Then keep your eyes on me,” I told her. “No one else here matters anyway. It’s just you and me and the music, okay?”

Ever danced salsa? If not, ever wanted to learn? Whether you’re a natural like Stone, a newbie like Lily, or have zero interest in getting on the dance floor yourself, just remember—if you stumble in life, just make it part of the dance 😊
About the Author
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Rachel Harris writes humorous love stories about sassy girls-next-door and the hot guys that make them swoon. Vibrant settings, witty banter, and strong relationships are a staple in each of her books…and kissing. Lots of kissing. An admitted bookaholic and homeschool mom, she gets through each day by laughing at herself, hugging her kids, and watching way too much Food Network with her husband. She writes young adult, new adult, and adult romances, and LOVES talking with readers!

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Book review: To Best the Boys by Mary Weber

Book Summary
Every year for the past fifty-four years, the residents of Pinsbury Port receive a mysterious letter inviting all eligible-aged boys to compete for an esteemed scholarship to the all-male Stemwick University. Every year, the poorer residents look to see that their names are on the list. The wealthier look to see how likely their sons are to survive. And Rhen Tellur opens it to see if she can derive which substances the ink and parchment are created from, using her father’s microscope.

In the province of Caldon, where women are trained in wifely duties and men are encouraged into collegiate education, sixteen-year-old Rhen Tellur wants nothing more than to become a scientist. As the poor of her seaside town fall prey to a deadly disease, she and her father work desperately to find a cure. But when her Mum succumbs to it as well? Rhen decides to take the future into her own hands—through the annual all-male scholarship competition.

With her cousin, Seleni, by her side, the girls don disguises and enter Mr. Holm’s labyrinth, to best the boys and claim the scholarship prize. Except not everyone’s ready for a girl who doesn’t know her place. And not everyone survives the maze.

Flo's Summary
I adored the Storm Siren trilogy (links to my reviews below), so I was super excited to read this one. What a fun concept! The result ended up being a mashup of so many great stories like Divergent, The Maze Runner, Theseus and the Labyrinth, and likely others.

The stand up parts of this story were the time in the maze. I was fascinated by all the adventures, puzzles, and challenges the contestants faced. Unfortunately, they didn't enter the labyrinth until more than halfway through the book. I know we needed all the information from the beginning of the story, but I felt myself glazing over a lot of it in my eagerness for the "action" to begin.

Rhen and Seleni's friendship was fantastic. They were two different women who wanted different things in life, but who stood by each other and supported each other's decisions. I don't want to comment on Holm because I want to be spoiler free here, but the story behind Holm was a commentary of its own that tied into the theme of the story. Naturally, we love Lute. (And by "we" I mean "me" -- but probably you, too, when you read it!) Finally, I adore this quote:

"What if I don't fully belong anywhere...because I belong to myself? Maybe that's the sea's strength, and maybe that's my strength, too. It's not that I don't belong. It's that I belong to me."

Right?! Didn't that just give you chills?! Succinct, but telling -- and very, very powerful.

To Best the Boys publishes March 19, 2019 from Thomas Nelson.


Thank you to the Thomas Nelson for sending me an advance reader's copy in exchange for my honest review.


Storm Siren Trilogy:
Storm Siren: http://www.booknerdsacrossamerica.com/2014/08/storm-siren-by-mary-weber.html
Siren's Fury: http://www.booknerdsacrossamerica.com/2015/03/sirens-fury-by-mary-weber.html
Siren's Song: http://www.booknerdsacrossamerica.com/2016/03/sirens-song-by-mary-weber.html