Renee Conoulty: July 2015


Friday, 31 July 2015

Camp NaNoWriMo 2015

Renee Conoulty HeySaidReneeHey Everyone!

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I found my One Idea and signed up to Camp NaNoWriMo for a bit of motivation to start writing my first novel. Well, I can't quite say "Hey Everyone! I just wrote this book" yet, but I can say "Hey Everyone! I just won my first Camp NaNoWriMo!" I'm pretty proud of myself for sticking at it and making the time to write almost everyday. I have a long way to go before I have a book, but I've started.

For those of you who haven't participated in a Camp NaNoWriMo before, you are able to set your own word count goal for the month. Everyone who reaches their goal is a winner. The default setting is 50,000 words, but I thought that was a bit too much of a challenge for me. I chose to drop my goal to something achievable. I was worried that if I didn't reach my goal, I might give up altogether. When I saw that other people in my cabin (who were actually published authors) also dropped their goal, I felt much better. About two weeks in I had a pretty good idea of how much I was able to write each day and settled on 20,000 words. That's like 80 pages. But when you break it down to about 650 words per day, it's not so daunting. I'm not sure if I can keep up the pace, but hopefully I've created some good writing habits. 

Have you participated in a NaNoWriMo event before? How did you go?

Thursday, 30 July 2015

My Mum the Pirate by Jackie French

Whoever said having a pirate for a mum was fun? Cecil's mum wears long black boots and an even longer sword, and she makes her enemies walk the plank. Putrid Percival serves sea monster soup for dinner when Cecil would rather eat pizza. And Filthy Frederick stinks - but hey, he's good at maths, and nobody's perfect! Cecil gets seasick and all he wants is a normal life. With parent-teacher night looming, Cecil is worried. Will the crazy crew of the good ship Mermaid and his pirate mum ruin his street cred? But when flood waters strike and Bandicoot Flats Central School is in danger, who will save the students and teachers from the perils of the rising waters? the wacky talents of Jackie French and Stephen Michael King will delight younger readers as way-out and wild adventures unfold in the Wacky Family series. Ages 7+

Hey! Here's my review.

In the couple of weeks leading up to Jackie French visiting our local library, I tracked down a few of her books to read to the kids. We read a couple of chapters from this one as a bedtime story each night. Both my kids (4 & 6) enjoyed the story.

**Interview with my 6 year old**

Me: What did you think of that book?
Him: I thought it was awesome!

Me: Which bit did you like the best?
Him: Hmmm. I liked it when they go through that hole thingy, that transportation thingy and go into another time. That's what I like.

Me: Who did you like the best?
Him: Umm. CJ's mum, the pirate.

Me: Would you like to live on a pirate ship?
Him: Umm. Yes. I would really like to live on a pirate ship.
Me: Why?
Him: Because I really want to be a pirate.

Me: If you were a pirate, what pet would you have?
Him: A crocodile. No, a shark. I would have a crocoshark. A crocoshark is half crocodile and half shark.

Me: Is there anything else you want to tell me about this book?
Him: I really like it when it was his birthday.
Me: What did you like about that?
Him: I really like birthdays.


  • Where: Borrowbox
  • Format: ebook
Purchase links

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Twenty Something **Blog Tour - Excerpts & Reviews**

Hey Everyone!

I'd love to introduce you to Laura Chapman, Samantha March and Cat Lavoie who are on tour with their omnibus collection - Twenty Something. 

Laura Chapman 

Laura Chapman is the author of "The Marrying Type," "Hard Hats and Doormats" and the Autumn and Tuck shorts, which appear in "Merry & Bright" and "A Kind of Mad Courage." A native Nebraskan, she loves football, Netflix marathons, and her cats, Jane and Bingley. Until she fulfills her dream of landing a British husband or becoming a Disney princess, you can find her in a bar penning her next novel.

Connect via
Website Blog Facebook Goodreads Twitter Instagram

 Samantha March 

Samantha March is an author, editor, publisher, blogger, and all-around book lover. She runs the popular book/women’s lifestyle blog ChickLitPlus, which keeps her bookshelf stocked with the latest reads and up-to-date on all things health, fitness, fashion, and beauty related. In 2011, she launched her independent publishing company, Marching Ink, and has four published novels—Destined to Fail, The Green Ticket, A Questionable Friendship, and Up To I Do. When she isn’t reading, writing, or blogging, you can find her cheering for the Green Bay Packers. Samantha lives in Iowa with her husband and Vizsla puppy.
Connect via
Cat Lavoie 
Cat Lavoie lives in Montreal, Canada with her tempestuous cat, Abbie. Her debut novel, BREAKING THE RULES, was published in August 2012 by Marching Ink. ZOEY & THE MOMENT OF ZEN was published in October 2013.
If Cat isn't reading or writing, she's most likely watching too much TV or daydreaming about her next trip to London.
To find out more about Cat and her books, please visit and follow @Catenabi on Twitter.
Connect via


The first collection from Marching Ink features three full-length novels in Twenty-Something. From the good girl that is tired of playing by the rules in the new adult novel from Laura Chapman, to the friendship between two women that isn’t what is seems in the women’s fiction novel from Samantha March, and then the loveable Roxy that will give us plenty of laughs and touching moments in the chick lit novel from Cat Lavoie. While all characters are indeed Twenty-Something, we believe this collection can be enjoyed by readers in a variety of ages. 

Hard Hats and Doormats by Laura Chapman 
After losing out on a coveted promotion at work, Lexi Burke is done playing the nice girl. Her first order of business: Giving in to her longtime workplace crush. But Lexi soon learns that balancing a workplace romance and her job might be harder than she anticipated. 

A Questionable Friendship by Samantha March 
While Brynne and Portland seem to have an ideal friendship, cracks are starting to show as their lives take a turn for the complicated. Not willing to go to one other with their secrets, one woman begins to feel shut out and the other enters into a web of lies to protect herself. Their journey will explore several questions of friendship, and show that happily ever after might not be in the cards for everyone. 

Breaking the Rules by Cat Lavoie 
When Roxy Rule shares a passionate kiss with her lifelong best friend, she must come to terms with her feelings for him while dealing with two sisters in full crisis mode, a boss who makes her want to stab herself with a letter opener and a fiancĂ© who can’t wait to walk down the aisle. Can she keep it together–or will she break under the pressure? 

Hey! Here's my review

Hard Hats and Doormats by Laura Chapman

I really enjoyed this fun chick lit novel. There was the perfect balance of romance and personal development. The romantic interludes were full of sexual tension without being overly explicit. I found Lexi likeable and relatable. I loved her strength and compassion. I was drawn into the story and hoped Lexi would find success in both her romantic and professional lives. 

I could understand why Jason hadn't asked her out earlier, it would be very intimidating to ask out the woman who lectures on sexual harassment in the workplace.

I received this book free in exchange for an honest review. I read an epub version via a text to speech app on my phone, and the best thing about that was that when Jason was teaching Lexi the Texas Two step, he was teaching me too. I danced all over the house. This was my first novel by Laura Chapman and I'm looking forward to the next.

A Questionable Friendship by Samantha March

Friends for a reason, friends for a season, or friends for a lifetime? After being best friends for seven years, Brynne and Portland seem to be friends for a lifetime, but they still have some secrets from each other. Does being best friends mean you have to share everything? There are many reasons you might want to keep a secret: fear of being judged, denial, protecting someone, embarrassment, privacy, and the list goes on. If you don't tell each other everything, does that mean you really are friends? 

In this contemporary women's fiction, Samantha March explores the relationship between two friends. The novel kept me engaged the whole way through. I found both Brynne and Portland likeable and relatable characters. The plot took a twist I wasn't expecting which took to story onto a whole new level. I loved how the epilogue wrapped everything up and answered all my questions. This is the first novel I have read my Samantha March, but it won't be the last.

Breaking the Rules by Cat Lavoie

Breaking the Rules is a fun, easy to read, chick lit novel that I devoured in a couple of days. I getting to know the characters throughout their journey. I just deleted the last three things I wrote, because they were too spoilery. I don't want to give anything away, but I enjoyed the "soap opera" twist, and got a smile out of the fact that it was even described as a "soap opera twist" - I hadn't seen that one coming. I was quite emotionally entangled in the story by the end and found myself smiling, giggling and getting all choked up.

This is the first book I have read by Cat Lavoie, and I'm looking forward to more.


  • Where: CLP Blog Tours
  • Format: ebook

Purchase link

**Excerpt - Hard Hats and Doormats by Laura Chapman**

Chapter One

Alexis Burke @theLexiBurke
Can a person refer to employees as Jackass 1 & 2 in an official report? Asking for a friend. #HRProblems #ThisIsMyLife
The universe keeps telling jokes and I’m the punch line. #IHaveProof
Okay, seriously. When did this become my life? Can I get a mulligan? #ObscureGolfAnalogyForLife

In kindergarten Sunday school, Lexi Burke imagined Hell as a fire-ridden, hate-filled pit below Earth’s surface. On a mighty throne of blackened steel and skulls, Satan preyed on the souls of the damned for eternity.
Twenty years later, she discovered a new version of Hell. It was a windowless conference room on an oil platform off the coast of God-only-knew-where Texas in the middle of May. The devil took form in two men, both middle-aged and madder than a hornets nest. Despite the sweat building on her neck, she shivered.
When did babysitting old guys become my job?
How mad do hornets get, and what does their nest have to do with it?
Where did I come up with that analogy?
Solving those mysteries had to wait. Casting a glance at the figures gathered around the badly chipped table, she considered the situation at hand. The two men, their union reps, and a team of local managers were going yet another round in their verbal sparring without a semblance of resolution. The representatives wanted the men to go back to work. The managers wanted to give them pink slips.
As the HR manager assigned – albeit at last-minute – to the investigation, she wanted to keep everyone from killing each other. Not an easy task, considering the two men under investigation already gave murder their best shot.
According to the initial report, the incident happened over the weekend. The men engaged in a particularly heated discussion about college football. The man to her right apparently took offense to the one on her left using derogatory names to describe his beloved team.
She grimaced at the list of profanities. Three or four of them merited HR intervention on their own. Then again, others struck her as downright creative. Note to self: Use “dag nab ass backwards pile of swamp waste” in a sentence later today.
The fight escalated when Mr. Right expressed his displeasure by raking his broken glass across Lefty’s face. A few days later, the wounds swelled red and blotchy. Her stomach churned when she examined their faces closely.
His opponent fared no better. Lefty managed a couple of solid jabs with a shard from a shattered plate. His cheek and eyebrow were held together with the help of twenty-two stitches.
How did these men still have jobs? Surely trying to kill your co-worker violated the Employee Code of Conduct. But because they had no previous violence on their records, the company’s agreement with the union guaranteed them the right to an investigation – this investigation.
“I told ‘em to back off and leave my Tigers alone,” Idiot Number One shouted. “But he started waving around his God-damned glass. I had to grab hold of something to protect myself. A man’s got a right to defend himself and his pride.”
“What the hell are you talking about, son?” Moron Number Two chimed in. “You were the one bent outta shape in the first place. He’s pissed because my Hogs’ll beat the hell out of this pussy lover’s team next year.”
Hogs? Tigers? Did these men seriously put their jobs and lives on the line over the Arkansas and LSU football teams? Did Lexi have to take team allegiances into consideration when she hired new employees to avoid catastrophe? Were SEC fans this torn up about football year-round?
Will we have full-on riots come September?
She struggled to recall the last two football seasons, but nothing came to mind. In her early days at Gulf America, she’d spent most of her life adjusting to the heavy travel schedule of a field HR representative. Current events, sports, and anything unrelated to HR dealings never entered her mind. She instead concentrated on getting through each day, never mind remembering what happened in the rest of the world.
What kind of fights should she expect when the Big 12 schools in Texas started beating up on each other in the fall?
God help us all.
Pulling her shoulder-length brown hair off her neck, she longed for a breeze. Not the kind from men yelling at each other, but a real, honest-to-God breeze.
She sighed and stared back at her notes. Even if the investigation proved the men deserved firing, she wouldn’t make the decision. Her worthless boss would be using whatever recommendations she gave him.
Dale seldom left his office during the work day. Unless he heard an ice cream truck. Then he raced out the door with a dollar in hand. Why bother leaving for something important–– like his job–– when he had minions like her to do his dirty work in the field? He reserved his energy to sweep in at the end when he took credit and – by all appearances – saved the day.
This time, he didn’t even have the courtesy to make his decision before dawn. In her eagerness to please – the department had a promotion up for grabs – she overlooked the faux pas that sent her straight to hell. Sure the Assistant Regional Director job would be more work, but it came with a healthy salary increase and less travel. And at twenty-four, she’d be the youngest director at headquarters.
The shouts escalated.
Is a promotion worth this?

**Excerpt - A Questionable Friendship by Samantha March**

Chapter 2
I shut the door behind me and took a deep breath. Turning the faucet on, I gave my face gentle pats with the cold water, so I didn’t ruin my makeup but was still able to calm down. It was ridiculous that I was getting so upset. Brynne didn’t do anything wrong, she was just being Brynne. But her comment about scaling back and the fight I’d had with Trent on the way over made my stomach upset. I just needed a minute for myself, to breathe and be able to stop smiling through the pain.
                I glanced at myself in the mirror, hoping no one else could see the bags under my eyes from the lack of sleep the night before. I had visited my hair stylist just yesterday so my blonde tresses were smooth and shiny, but that was about the only glowing quality I had at the time. I itched to be able to say something to my friend, but I sensed Brynne was going through something herself at the moment, and didn’t want to burden her with my (probably silly) problems. Knowing Brynne, she would drop everything and focus on me and only me until we worked through it. She might even have me take some time off from the store, and I really didn’t want that. EJs was my escape.
                Realizing I had been in the bathroom long enough, I patted my face and hands dry on the lavender towel that was hanging next to the sink, to match the lavender hand soap and lavender diffuser Brynne had set up. That made me smile, to think about my friend who loved nothing more than her house being in order.
                “There she is! Portland, I put some cheesecake salad on a plate for you. I hope you like it.” Brynne handed me a small plate that was filled with the delicious smelling dessert, and I smiled at her gratefully.
                “And I helped make it!” Emmy Jo squealed, before digging back into her own piece.
                I sat in my regular seat next to Brynne, across from my husband. “You did an excellent job, missy. And, mmm, it’s so delicious!” I said that last bit around a bite, and wasn’t lying. Brynne was a natural in the kitchen.
                “It’s about time for you to start thinking about bed, don’t you think?” Brynne directed her question at Emmy Jo.
                “No! I get to stay up with the grown-ups tonight.” Emmy Jo pouted and folded her arms. One little finger poked out and grabbed a strawberry, quickly stuffing it in her mouth before folding her arms again like nothing had happened. I took a sip of wine to hide my smile.
                “Grown-ups also have to go to school in the morning, and you don’t want to fall asleep next to Guy, do you?” Brynne continued, looking in mock horror at her daughter.
                EJ’s eyes grew wide as she considered this. “He might put glue in my hair, or color marker on my face, momma. I don’t want to fall asleep next to him!”
                “Well, then, let’s get you to bed on time so you don’t have to worry about that.”
                Emmy Jo took one more large bite of her dessert and raced out of the room. Brynne sat for a moment watching her retreating form, then laughed. “I didn’t think that would work that well. She’s been complaining about this Guy for a few weeks since the seating arrangements changed at daycare, but I really think she might have a crush on him. I’ll be back.”
                “Glue in hair and markers on the face? I thought that only happened at parties where you were the first to pass out,” I said.
                Aaron stood from the table. “I’m going to go say good-night. Let’s hope those wild parties stay away from Emmy Jo for a long, long time.” He winked at me before leaving. I shook my head. Aaron was one of the most over-protective fathers I had ever met, but it was cute. He was a great dad and a great husband, and I knew how lucky both Brynne and Emmy Jo were.
                “Well, it’s just you and me, babe. How about a quickie on the porch?” Trent leered at me, and I glared back.
                “You know as well as I do that it takes Emmy Jo about five minutes to get settled. They’ll be back in no time.”
                “I said quickie. I can wrap it up in two minutes tops.”
                “Wow, that is so romantic and really turns me on, Trent. Please, keep talking.”
                “I was just trying to liven things up around here. Sue me for finding my wife attractive.”
                I rolled my eyes. “Oh, don’t be such a baby. We had sex two days ago before you left, so don’t act like you’re all deprived either.”
                “What is wrong with you tonight? You’ve been acting weird all day.”
                The hair on my arms rose. Trent had been able to see through me too? Brynne was an obvious one, she was my best friend, but Trent didn’t usually notice – or care – if my moods were off. Shit.
                “I’m just not feeling the best today. I hope I’m not coming down with a cold or anything. The weather shifts are starting to get to me I think.”
                Trent peered into my face for a moment, making me want to shake under his stare. “You do look a little pale. Did you sleep well last night?”
                I shook my head. “Not really. That’s probably a part of it too.”
                “Do you want to leave soon so you can try to tuck in early? I can probably round up a sleeping pill or two for you to take.”
                And he’s flipped to the caring, compassionate husband. I just never knew who I was going to get from one moment to the next anymore. “No, that’s okay. I need to talk with Brynne about the store some more. I’m sure I’ll be okay.”

**Excerpt - Breaking the Rules by Cat Lavoie**

Chapter One
             I’ve never been good at keeping secrets from Oliver Frost. It might be because I’m a terrible liar but, most likely, it’s because he’s known me all my life and can read my face like an open book. Every eyebrow twitch, every blink, every fake smile. And, right now, I feel like I’m strapped to a lie detector. At any second the needles might go haywire like they do in the movies when the devious main character is lying through her teeth. 
             Breathe in. Breathe out.
             “I really don’t like the sound of that,” Ollie says, sitting on the edge of my bed, shaking his head. “Are you sure you don’t want me to go to the drugstore and get you some cough syrup or something? Or I could make you soup. Or tea with honey.”
             Under normal circumstances, I’d appreciate all this attention. But I’ve been trying to get Ollie out of the apartment for the last twenty minutes so the last thing I need is him hovering over me. Maybe relying on my lackluster acting skills wasn’t the best idea. Faking an illness was all I could come up with to convince Ollie that I need to stay home without making him suspicious. My original plan was to accidentally ‘twist’ my ankle while walking up the stairs but, in the end, I decided to keep it simple and go for the common cold. There’s less limping involved.
             I don’t think Ollie has any idea that I’ve been planning a surprise farewell party for him—which is a miracle since I’ve been sneaking around every night this week and coming home from the grocery store with enough food to feed a small army. The party is tonight and I have a million things to do. And I can’t do them with him here.
             I touch my supposedly feverish forehead and erupt into another coughing fit. “You should go,” I say in a raspy voice, grabbing a handful of tissues. “I wouldn’t want you to catch my germs and get sick before leaving for London.”
             “Right,” Ollie says, turning away from me. “I can’t believe I’m leaving tomorrow.”
             I can’t believe it either. I want to say something but I’m afraid we’ll start talking and get really sentimental and I can’t deal with that right now. I’ve been trying to keep myself busy so I don’t have to deal with it at all. But I know that sooner or later I’m going to have to face the fact that my best friend and roommate is flying halfway across the world to help supervise the construction of a new earth-friendly building in London. I choose later.  
             “You should really go or you’ll be late. I’ll call you if there’s anything I need, okay?”
             He nods and plants a quick kiss on my forehead. I close my eyes and hope he can’t hear my heart beating out of my chest. I’m so close to pulling this off.
             “Promise me you’ll rest and take it easy today?” Ollie says, picking up his messenger bag off the floor. “And if Greta calls, please don’t answer. Better yet, hang up on her.” He slings the bag over his shoulder and looks back at me. I wave and watch as he walks out of my room. A few seconds later I hear the front door close with a bang and start breathing again.

Pop in and see the Twenty Something authors on their other tour stops

July 27 - Book Groupies   - Excerpt

Jul 27 - Mallory Heart Reviews – Review & Excerpt

July 28 - Sinfully Good Reads – Excerpt

July 28 – CDYess Writes – Excerpt

July 29 - Living Life With Joy - Excerpt

July 29 - Hey Said Renee - Review & Excerpt

July 30 - Caroline Fardig  - Excerpt

July 30 - Karma For Life Chick – Excerpt

July 31 - Jersey Girl Book Reviews – Excerpt

August 3 - Ski-Wee’s Book Corner – Review 

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

How to ask a blogger to review your book

advice to authors wanting to pitch a book blogger for a review
Hey Everyone!

Over the past few months I have been receiving requests from authors to review their books. The first few had me so excited and I jumped at the chance. As HeySaidRenee has become more popular, more and more requests have been rolling in. The novelty has started wearing off and I have become a bit more discerning about the books I agree to review. Here's my advice for authors wanting to pitch a book blogger for a review.

1. Read the blog!

Before you approach a blogger, become familiar with their blog. Do your research. What genre of books do they read? Is their blog a good fit for your book? Have they read anything else similar to the book you have written? Did they like it? Do they generally write scathing reviews? (If so, you probably don't want to ask them to read your book).

Monday, 27 July 2015

IA: Initiate by John Darryl Winston

IA: Initiate is a supernatural thriller set in the mean streets of America. A seemingly random act of gang violence sends "Naz" Andersen on a quest to find answers surrounding his dead parents that lead to a series of discoveries about his supernatural abilities. Naz tries to stay out of the way at his foster parent's home, but he walks in his sleep, and he is unable to keep the fact that he hears voices from his therapist. He attempts to go unnoticed at school and in the streets of the Exclave, but attracts the attention of friends and bullies alike, and his efforts to protect his little sister make him the target of malicious bullying by the notorious street gang, Incubus Apostles. Naz is an ordinary thirteen-year-old, or so he thinks. He harbors a secret that even he is oblivious to, and a series of ill-fated events reveal to him telekinetic and telepathic abilities. Now he must navigate newly found friendship and gang violence, and face the full force of the world around him. The only way he can survive is to discover the supernatural world within. 

Hey! Here's my review.

This is the first book in a middle grade/young adult series. The majority of the book is set in a ghetto like suburb, when the main character is 13 and living with his sister in foster care. There are several flashbacks to help us understand him better. This book really feels like it is setting us up for the rest of the series. We are left with more questions than answers to the intriguing situation our main character is in. Who or what are the voices he hears? Why were the things floating around the room by themselves? 

There is good moral guidance given by the teacher character: don't take drugs and don't join a gang. He is a firm but fair teacher, and I suspect he knows more than he is letting on. I also love the theme of brain over brawn.

I received this book free from the author in exchange for an honest review. 


  • Where: Author Invitation
  • Format: ebook
Purchase link

There is currently a Goodreads giveaway to win one of five paperback copies, 
open until the end of August 2015.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

The Espionage Effect by Kat Bastion

When desire sets you free…control is a matter of perception.

I'm Devin Hill.

Darkness taints my soul.

I'm suffocating. Drowning.

The sweet promise of air? Pure illusion.

Tested as a genius at age seven, I hide my emotions, become what they expect...bury my secrets. At nineteen, I trudge toward a predestined path, blinders on, heart safeguarded.

Until I dare to be wild.

Until Alec Marquez crashes into my world.

Until all that follows redefines everything I've ever known.

What happens when you stumble into a world of spies...and discover you belong there?

Hey! Here's my review.

I devoured the No Weddings series, so when I heard the husband and wife duo had another book out, I jumped at the chance to read it. The Espionage Effect is a romantic suspense, so has a completely different feel to the No Weddings books.

The romance scenes are a bit darker (as in "in the dark" - think blindfolded or lights switched off) and just as raunchy. There was no huge info dump at the beginning, so I enjoyed finding out more and more as the book went on. I loved Devin's "smart mouth" and found her a likable character. As for Alec... Mmmmmmm... I've had my fix of alpha male.

I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


Purchase links