Friday, September 22, 2017

Review: I’m the One Who Got Away

By Jami Deise

The problem with the “writer in jeopardy” type of memoir is that the reader knows the ending before picking up the book. Obviously the writer survived… and did well enough to write his or her story, find a publisher and/or an agent, and get that story out there. The attraction of these books is not the “what” of the ending but the “how” of the middle.

By titling her memoir I’m The One Who Got Away, writer Andrea Jarrell leaves no doubt about how her book ends. At only 176 pages, the book’s prose is stunning, but the structure is weak. Jarrell begins with a bang: Her neighbor has been murdered. Reflecting on the woman’s killer—Jarrell believes she was probably hiding from an abusive partner—leads Jarrell to digress to her mother’s life with her father, and later Jarrell’s own issues with men.

With the explosive beginning, I was expecting Jarrell to circle back to her neighbor and use the woman’s death as the spine of the story. This did not happen. In fact, most chapters do not build on each other, but seem like specific, isolated anecdotes rather than part of a single narrative. I wasn’t surprised to read that some of the chapters had been published as essays, including the New York Times’ Modern Love column. Because of this, Jarrell seems less like the driver of her own life than a passenger, watching the decisions of other people (her parents, her lovers) and recording how their actions affect her.

Still, the prose is exquisite, and that kept me reading even while I was frustrated by everything that Jarrell left out of her story. With its relatively short length, it’s a nice diversion for readers more interested in word choice and description over a beginning, middle, and end.

Thanks to SparkPoint Studio for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Go-to-Gay: Far away festivities

If you give a Go-To-Gay a topic, he will then take it and run with it, making us laugh along the way. He does that once again with our "Around the World" theme.

Take it away, Keith!

La la la la la - It goes around the world

I love to travel. I am usually up for most any adventure offered up to me. “Travel the world,” is my most used answer when asked what I would do if I won the lottery.

Ideally, that sounds great. I mean, who wouldn’t want to do that. Imagine how many “likes,” “hearts,” and “retweets” you would get for a picture of yourself standing on the steps of the Taj Mahal (not really sure if the TM has steps, I’m just assuming). I would also be one of those people who take a picture of themselves “holding up” the leaning tower of Pisa. Yes, I am that guy. DON’T JUDGE.

Realistically, I don’t think I would actually want to go everywhere around the world, because let’s face it, I am a wuss. I am a spoiled, entitled American. I admit it. I don’t care. If your culture is shockingly different than mine, I probably would prefer learning about it online or from an informative documentary. For instance, I MUST HAVE a modern toilet that is attached to working plumbing. I MUST HAVE food that is something other than insects or parts of animals I normally don’t eat. I would PREFER to visit places that have good toilet paper readily available, access to full bars and modern kitchens, and some air conditioning.

That being said, there is a great big world out there that I haven’t seen. Places that I would go and want to go and, hopefully, will go. While thinking about this post, I decided to make a list of the places and things I wanted to see most. Then, I found even better stuff. There are some tremendous festivals out there if you just look hard enough. I now have a list of the ones I want to attend at some point. Here is part of that list:

Keith’s Festivals “I Must Attend List”

The Baby Jumping Festival – Spain

The origin of this festival dates back to the early 1600’s. It is held early during the feast of Corpus Christi. The gist is this: all parents who have had babies during the year since the previous festival, bring their children out and lay them down on pillows in the public street. Then men dressed as devils make their way through the crowd and whip bystanders with switches before running down the street jumping over the babies. This hurdling somehow blesses the babies and forgives them for man’s “original sin.” To add to the intrigue of this festival, the Pope and the Vatican have been trying to stop it for years, but these rebel-Catholics won’t stop. This takes places every June in the town of Castrillo de Murcia.

Lopburi Monkey Banquet – Thailand

I have never been, but apparently Thailand has thousands of monkeys that hang out at its temples and in its streets. Hungry monkeys. During most the year, these monkeys are a nuisance, and people must be careful not to have their lunch or snacks stolen by a sneaky simian citizen. But come November, the people of Lopburi, Thailand, celebrate these quirky fellas, and treat them to a massive food banquet. It’s basically an all-you-can-eat for monkeys only. Each year, over 800 pounds of bananas, apples, ice cream, and other monkey favorites are devoured at the festival. This is to say thanks for the good luck and fortune the monkeys bring to the people of the town each year. The guests of honor are also known to have quite the food fights while feasting as well. This takes place the last Sunday in November in Lopburi.

World Toe Wrestling Championships – England

The story goes that tired of England always losing at all international sports, George Burgess invented this sport in hopes that his home country would dominate. George apparently had lots of faith in the strong toes of the British people. As fate would have it, though, a dang Canadian soon came along and out-toed all the home players and took the crowd. Honestly, the colonists ruin everything (Are Canadians considered colonists? I’m not really sure, and I am on a deadline, so throw me a bone here.)

But from the ashes of Burgess’ dashed global toe domination, came the sport of toe wrestling. There is even an official Federation. THAT MEANS IT IS REAL. There is even a starting chant that is done before each match: “One, two, three, four, I declare a toe war,” or some variation of that. Each year, the world championships are held in Ashbourne, and while not an official festival, there are plenty toe-related festivities centered around the competition.

That’s the top three from my new list. How about you? Where in the world would you like to go? Are there any festivals that you know of I should add to my itinerary? Please let me know in the comments below. Let’s create a Chick Lit Central Must See Festival List!

Keith Stewart is the author of Bernadette Peters Hates Me – True Tales of a Delusional Man. A native of Appalachia, he splits his time between his hometown of Hyden and nearby Lexington, Kentucky. His blog is You can find him on Twitter at @Shiglyogly and Facebook at @AMSCOT (A Strong Man’s Cup of Tea). He is a regular contributor to and the He lives with his husband, Andy, and their two dogs, Duke and Dudley.

Guest Book Review: Mr. Right Swipe

By Shana Javery

Rae Wallace would rather drown in a vat of pinot greezh and be eaten by her own beagle than make another trip down the aisle--even if it is her best friend's wedding. She's too busy molding the minds of first graders and polishing that ol' novel in the drawer to waste time on any man, unless it's Jason Segel.

But when her be-fris stage an intervention, Rae is forced to give in. After all, they've hatched a plan to help her find love the 21st century way: online. She's skeptical of this electronic chlamydia catcher, but she's out to prove she hasn't been too picky with men.

However, when a familiar fella's profile pops up--the dangerously hot substitute teacher from work --Rae swipes herself right into a new problem...(Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads.)

As I started to read this book I really thought I was too old for it. I mean, what do I know about dating in the 21st century??? I’ve been married for 25 years! But within a few chapters I was hooked!

The main character, Rae, tells the story of her experience with one of those dating apps that certainly wasn’t around when I dated. Her dating adventures with the men with whom she “matches” are humorous. No matter how long you’ve been out of the dating scene, there’s a lot to make you laugh in this book. And if you ARE currently dating…well, Rae can read your mind! I enjoyed this book all the way to the last page. It was just a feel-good, make you laugh kind of book. The only challenge I had was figuring out some of the acronyms in this book. LOL? No problem. LMAO? I got it. After that…I’m a little lost. Thank goodness for context clues! Two of the best parts of this book are the relationship that Rae has with her two best girlfriends, one of whom is about to tie the knot.

The other thing is her hysterical hashtags, which pop up throughout the book and made me chuckle constantly. (Even LOL!) Bottom line? Want something light and fun that will put you in a good mood? Grab a copy of Mr. Right Swipe, pour yourself a glass of wine…or two...and treat yourself to this light-hearted book.

Thanks to Grand Central Publishing for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Shana Javery is an attorney mediator with a background in employment law. She is thrilled to have renewed her lifelong love of reading over the past few years. Recently, Shana even had the chance to edit a friend's book, something which she thoroughly enjoyed. Shana resides in Plano, Texas with her husband and the family dog Smoochy. Shana's renewed interest in reading is partly due to her empty nest, something she doesn't enjoy as much as others might.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Kaira Rouda's wonderful a book giveaway

Today, Kaira Rouda is here to celebrate the publication of her latest novel, Best Day Ever! She's answering our questions for our Around the World theme and we think you'll enjoy what she has to say. Thanks to Graydon House, two lucky readers are about to have their best day ever, when they win copies of this book.

Kaira Rouda is a USA Today bestselling author. My books have won several Indie Excellence Awards, USA Book Awards, the Reader’s Choice Awards and honorable mention in the Writer’s Digest International Book Awards. Her previous novels include ALL THE DIFFERENCE, HERE, HOME, HOPE, IN THE MIRROR, and THE GOODBYE YEAR. Her modern romance novels are set on beaches, including the Indigo Island series and the Laguna Beach series. Kaira lives in Southern California with her family and is at work on her next novel. Visit her at her website, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.

Paul Strom has the perfect life: a glittering career as an advertising executive, a beautiful wife, two healthy boys and a big house in a wealthy suburb. And he’s the perfect husband: breadwinner, protector, provider. That’s why he’s planned a romantic weekend for his wife, Mia, at their lake house, just the two of them. And he's promised today will be the best day ever.

But as Paul and Mia drive out of the city and toward the countryside, a spike of tension begins to wedge itself between them and doubts start to arise. How much do they trust each other? And how perfect is their marriage, or any marriage, really?

Forcing us to ask ourselves just how well we know those who are closest to us, Best Day Ever crackles with dark energy, spinning ever tighter toward its shocking conclusion. (Courtesy of Amazon.)

Countries you'd like to visit:
Anywhere I haven’t been yet - but specifically, Vietnam and Thailand are at the top of my list. Also, Croatia. And, well there are so many places to see in this beautiful world.

Favorite foreign food:
Indian Food, specifically papadum, dark lentils, and sag paneer. Yum.

Favorite foreign film or movie that takes place in a different country:
Life is Beautiful (Italy, poignant) and Love Actually (England, heart-warming)

Something that interests or fascinates you about another part of the world:
I love listening to people speak different languages. I particularly love listening to French being spoken, especially if I’m sitting in a beautiful cafe in Paris.

Something you own from a different country:
We live in such a connected world, we are all surrounded by things from other countries. I’m writing this as I look up and see three beautiful African fertility dolls I found in South Africa.

Closest friend from a different country:
I’m blessed to have friends who are here in the states from all over the world. We live in a wonderful, historically inclusive and welcoming country. It’s what makes our country great. Unless you are a Native American Indigenous person, you’ve come here from a different country at some point.

How to win: Use Rafflecopter to enter the giveaway. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us. If you have trouble using Rafflecopter on our blog, enter the giveaway here

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway ends September 24th at midnight EST.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Book Review: The Big Weekend

By Sara Steven

**Synopsis may contain spoilers for The Big Lead (review), The Big Interview (review), and The Big Overnight (review)**

Columbus police make a quick arrest in a murder, but when a tip comes in from someone who knows more about the case than detectives, it’s clear to TV reporter Stella Reynolds that the woman behind bars didn’t pull the trigger.

With lowlifes stealing the headlines, why is Stella’s boss only concerned with her hair? He insists a makeover will help her career, but she knows that a visit to the salon will only get in the way of solving the murder. Or will it? With the real suspect determined to stay hidden, maybe a makeover contest is the perfect cover for catching a killer. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon)

There’s just something about Stella!

I really love how Libby Kirsch has created this fantastic butt-kicking protagonist. She reminds me of a modern-day Nancy Drew, not letting anything stop her until she finds the answer, and believe me, there are a lot of hurdles that are constantly thrown at her. Whether it’s from love interests, coworkers, or potential bad guys, she works doubly hard to do all she can to get to the truth, no matter the cost.

It’s empowering, really. Stella works to prove herself and do the best work she can at her broadcasting job, even when it might mean losing those closest to her. There are people in her life who are not on board with her tenacious personality, unable to understand what drives her. There are girl power undertones throughout this whole book, and in the other books in the Stella Reynolds Mystery Series, enough to make you feel motivated and inspired within your own life.

I’ve read every book in this series, and while I love them all, I feel like this particular installment, book four, has a few more twists and turns in it that are far from expected. There were moments where I’d been certain I knew “who done it”, yet I’d get thrown off the trail and would get booted back to square one. I think that’s a testament to how great this story really is. It’s a lot more fun when you’re discovering the secrets right along with Stella, and I’m eagerly anticipating the next book, which will focus on Stella’s nutty friend, Janet. It will be interesting to see what sort of situations she’ll find herself in!

Thanks to Libby Kirsch for the book in exchange for an honest review. This book can be purchased here.

Friday, September 15, 2017

What's in the mail

Melissa A:
Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate from Linda's Book Obsession (won from a giveaway)
Where the Wild Cherries Grow by Laura Madeleine from St. Martin's Press
Not That I Could Tell by Jessica Strawser from St. Martin's Press
The Family Next Door by Sally Hepworth from St. Martin's Press (e-book via NetGalley)
As Bright as Heaven by Susan Meissner from Berkley
What Remains True by/from Janis Thomas (e-book via NetGalley)
Present, Not Perfect by Aimee Chase from St. Martin's Press
Life By Design by Miranda Hersey from St. Martin's Press

The Way We Were and Never Let You Go by Sinead Moriarty received from Kim at Bookture (e-books)
Stray Magic by/from Jackie Bouchard (e-book)
How Hard Can It Be? by Allison Pearson from HarperCollins UK (e-book via NetGalley)

Is This It Then? by/from Victoria Oliver (e-book)

Book Review: When We Were Worthy

By Jami Deise

It happens nearly every year somewhere in this country, often around prom or graduation. A car filled with teenagers—usually drinking—slams into a tree, or a ditch, or another car. Many die, including some who were just unfortunate bystanders. The recriminations last for months, if not years, and go way beyond the driver. Who provided the alcohol? The car? Who is ultimately to blame?

The details are a little different in Marybeth Mayhew Whalen’s novel When We Were Worthy, but the aftermath is the same. In tiny Worthy, Georgia, three cheerleaders going to celebrate after a football game are mowed down by a classmate racing down a dirt road. As cheerleaders, the girls—Mary Claire, Brynne, and Keary—are high-school royalty. The boy who hit them didn’t even play sports. The battle lines are clearly drawn. But the real villains in this small town may not have been involved in the accident at all.

The story is told through the points-of-view of four characters: Darcy, whose son Graham was driving the car and who’d been mourning the death of her marriage to philandering Tommy; Leah, a cheerleader who should have been in the car with the three other girls and knows more than she’s saying; Ava, a substitute teacher who thought—wrongly—that her biggest secret was safe with Keary’s death; and Marglyn, Mary Claire’s mother, whose grief is compounded with guilt because she was helping out another teenage girl that night rather than watching Mary Claire cheer.

With all these voices—and all the characters related to them—I had trouble remembering which woman was starring in what story. Each chapter is named after a character, which was helpful because before going on to the next chapter, I’d focus on the name and remind myself of her situation. It was hard work to keep everyone straight.

That’s really my only quibble with the book, which started off strong and got better as the story progressed. The mystery that’s only hinted at in the opening pages becomes clearer, and the characters’ dilemmas more poignant by the middle of the book. Some characters who seem dubious are revealed to be innocent; characters who originally seemed minor turn out to be important. Leah, in particular, ends up being the heart of the book and the key to mystery.

While I was drawn to When We Were Worthy due to its plot, what moved me the most was the writer’s seamless segue into theme. This isn’t just a book about teenagers who do something stupid and the physical and emotional wreckage they leave behind. It’s about hope and forgiveness after the worst kinds of losses. By the end, I was reading with tears running down my face and getting strange looks by people next to me on the treadmill.

Although this is Whalen’s seventh novel, I’d never heard of her before receiving the pitch for this book. I’ll definitely be checking out her back list.

Thanks to Lake Union for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen: