Friday, May 18, 2018

Guest Book Review: Excess Baggage

By Shana Javery

Stuck in a dead-end relationship, Erica Bennett finds herself daydreaming of her first holiday romance. She was fifteen, it was exciting, new and full of possibilities…and Jack Lawson was hot as hell. That kind of thing leaves a mark.

So when her friends suggest a girls holiday to Luna Island, it’s exactly what she needs to take her mind off things. What she doesn’t expect is to spot Jack – a much older, hotter version of him – across the hotel lobby.

Their attraction is still there and it isn’t long before sparks fly, but fifteen years is a long time. They aren’t the same people they were back then and besides, it’s only a week, right?

Is it a second chance at something real or will their excess baggage ruin their shot at love after they leave Luna Island?
(Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

In this novel, Erica and Jack unexpectedly bump into one another while on separate vacations with their friends. They haven’t seen or talked to one another in fifteen years. Read as they struggle to figure out if they can rekindle their teen romance.

I love that the story is told from both of their perspectives. Erica has a wicked sense of humor. I laughed throughout book. It’s also a very quick read. As you might imagine, a story about single thirty-year-old adults on vacation tends to involve lots of drinking and some sexual encounters. Those sex scenes will probably get your motor running!

One warning: this book has quite a bit of profanity in it. Not necessarily vulgar words, but lots of cursing!

I found myself chuckling as Erica and Jack tried to figure out whether or not they could have a future. As a bonus (for this American reviewer), the novel was written by an author who lives in the United Kingdom. It’s always fun for a “Yank” to try to decipher the “Queen’s English!” So, if you want a quick, lighthearted beach read, this book is perfect for you!

Thanks to Laura Barnard for the book in exchange for an honest review. Excess Baggage can be purchased here.

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. Shana & her husband reside in Plano, Texas. She is grateful to all the fabulous authors out there who unknowingly have eased her heartache from becoming a recent empty nester. 

More by Laura Barnard:

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Amy E. Reichert serves up a delicious a book giveaway

Photo by Kelly Johnsen
Amy E. Reichert is here to celebrate the publication week of her latest novel, The Optimist's Guide to Letting Go. We can't think of a better month to have her here, as all her books focus on food. Her answers to our questions show her love for all things food and cooking related, so we hope you will enjoy learning more about her in this way. Thanks to Gallery, we have TWO copies to give away!

Amy E. Reichert is also the author of THE COINCIDENCE OF COCONUT CAKE, LUCK, LOVE & LEMON PIE, and THE SIMPLICITY OF CIDER, loves to write stories that end well with characters you’d invite to dinner. A wife, mom, amateur chef, Fix-It Mistress, a volunteer baby snuggler, and cider enthusiast, she earned her MA in English Literature and serves on her library’s board of directors. She's a member of Tall Poppy Writers. (Courtesy of Amy's website.)

Visit Amy online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram

Three generations. Seven days. One big secret. The author of The Coincidence of Coconut Cake unfolds a mother-daughter story told by three women whose time to reckon with a life-altering secret is running out.

Gina Zoberski wants to make it through one day without her fastidious mother, Lorraine, cataloguing all her faults, and her sullen teenage daughter, May, snubbing her. Too bad there’s no chance of that. Her relentlessly sunny disposition annoys them both, no matter how hard she tries. Instead, Gina finds order and comfort in obsessive list-making and her work at Grilled G’s, the gourmet grilled cheese food truck built by her late husband.

But when Lorraine suffers a sudden stroke, Gina stumbles upon a family secret Lorraine's kept hidden for forty years. In the face of her mother’s failing health and her daughter’s rebellion, this optimist might find that piecing together the truth is the push she needs to let go... (Courtesy of Amazon.)

What is your go-to recipe?
Tacos. I brown one pound of ground beef, then add in one can of black beans, 1/4 cup of taco seasoning or more as needed (I use Penzey’s), one teaspoon cumin, salt and pepper, and one cup salsa (or more—I make it a little different every time). Simmer for five minutes. Scoop into tortillas, top with your favorite toppings. I use shredded cheese, sour cream, and lettuce. It’s the one meal that makes my entire family happy.

What is your favorite cuisine?
This is a tough one—I like it all. I have favorites in every cuisine, from tom kha soup (a yummy chicken, coconut milk thai soup) to bone marrow on crispy toast to burgers and fries. I do tend to prefer meals that are cooked for ages like cuban pork or a roast beef that’s falling apart on top of mashed potatoes and gravy.

What snack would be a good pairing with The Optimist's Guide to Letting Go?
Grilled cheese and brownies. I’m not responsible for weight gain. That should be a disclaimer on all my books.

What is the strangest thing you have ever eaten?
A pineapple and cheese casserole. It sounds disgusting but it’s surprisingly delicious. Now I want to make it…

What is your favorite holiday that involves a lot of food and favorite recipe for that holiday?
100% Thanksgiving. And my favorite is the stuffing. Our family’s recipe is dead simple: one pound ground pork sausage and one pound ground beef. Brown them, then toss with a pound of seasoned bread cubes, then add homemade turkey stock until the bread cubes soften and start to break down. Place in a casserole dish and heat (or stuff in the bird—but make sure it gets above 170 degrees). I use leftover stuffing for sandwiches and topped on toast (yes, I eat stuffing on toast—it’s scrumptious).

Tell us about a cooking disaster (yours or someone close to you).
There are almost too many to choose. I regularly set off smoke detectors and set things on fire—that’s going to happen when you’re trying new things in the kitchen. One time, I was teaching a friend how to saute salmon. Teaching! I let the oil get too hot, so when I put the salmon in, the spattering oil it caught fire. In a rare moment of calm, I covered the pan with a lid and carried it outside. I failed to teach my friend how to cook salmon, but she did learn how to not panic while putting out an oil fire.

Thanks to Amy for visiting with us and to Gallery for sharing her book with our readers!

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

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Giveaway ends May 23rd at midnight EST.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Book Review: Saving Each Other

By Sara Steven

What would you do if the most important people in your world were suddenly and violently taken away from you? Everything is excruciating! Everything is broken! Ean Montgomery and Dani Adams were each forced to see the same grief counselor after a drunk driver killed both Dani’s husband and Ean’s wife and six year old son. Two cars demolished, two families killed. In an unconventional twist of therapy, Dani and Ean were each given a private cell phone and only the first initial of their first names. They were then instructed to reach out to one another in order to share their grief…to heal. The rules: Communicate only through text messages and never reveal our real names or other personal details. Neither planned to contact the other, but with all hope and the will to live gone… (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

My worst fears are presented and on full display with Saving Each Other. I cannot fathom losing my husband, or one of my children. The way the pain and utter despair has been captured within Ean and Dani’s stories, it felt realistic and human and while it was difficult to delve into, given the subject matter, I didn’t want to turn away from it. I wanted to better understand, to fully experience it.

Ean and Dani are given an opportunity to help one another through one of the most difficult times I feel anyone could go through, but they don’t know each other, have never met. They don’t even know names, using first initials instead. Yet, I could feel the deep connection that begins to form, a bond grown from tragedy. No one else would understand what they’re going through, and in this ambiguity they become a lifeline for one another, enabling both characters to live each day, even when it feels like the days aren’t worth living.

Granted, this is fiction, yet I could see how the process of healing, how finding the light at the end of a dark tunnel is achievable. Whether it’s through an unconventional method of conversing with a stranger who is also going through the same pain, who knows the score, or finding solace within loved ones who want nothing more than to be there. And there were subtle elements of something reminiscent to the movie You Got Mail, where the two primary characters form a bond without even knowing each other or never meeting. It was a nice, sweet romantic touch that helped to balance out the heavy subject matter of the plot. It will be interesting to see what’s next in book two of the Saving series, not only for Ean and Dani, but for their supporting characters, too.

Thanks to PR By the Book for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Spotlight: Back to the Beach

Our two authors being featured today have a few things in common:
*They have the same first name and also use their middle name.
*They live in the south.
*They have summer/beach themed books that take place in the south.

We also found out that they are friends with each other. 

We're pleased to present the latest novels by Mary Kay Andrews and Mary Alice Monroe. Thanks to Gallery and St. Martin's Press, we have THREE pairs of books for some lucky readers!

The High Tide Club
by Mary Kay Andrews

When ninety-nine-year-old heiress Josephine Bettendorf Warrick summons Brooke Trappnell to Talisa Island, her 20,000 acre remote barrier island home, Brooke is puzzled. Everybody in the South has heard about the eccentric millionaire mistress of Talisa, but Brooke has never met her. Josephine’s cryptic note says she wants to discuss an important legal matter with Brooke, who is an attorney, but Brooke knows that Mrs. Warrick has long been a client of a prestigious Atlanta law firm.

Over a few meetings, the ailing Josephine spins a tale of old friendships, secrets, betrayal and a long-unsolved murder. She tells Brooke she is hiring her for two reasons: to protect her island and legacy from those who would despoil her land, and secondly, to help her make amends with the heirs of the long dead women who were her closest friends, the girls of THE HIGH TIDE CLUB —so named because of their youthful skinny dipping escapades—Millie, Ruth and Varina. When Josephine dies with her secrets intact, Brooke is charged with contacting Josephine’s friends’ descendants and bringing them together on Talisa for a reunion of women who’ve actually never met.

Photo by Bill Miles
Mary Kay Andrews is The New York Times bestselling author of The Beach House Cookbook, The Weekenders, Beach Town, Save the Date, Ladies’ Night, Christmas Bliss, Spring Fever, Summer Rental, The Fixer Upper, Deep Dish, Blue Christmas, Savannah Breeze, Hissy Fit, Little Bitty Lies, and Savannah Blues. A former journalist for The Atlanta Journal Constitution, she lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

Visit Mary Kay online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram

Beach House Reunion 
by Mary Alice Monroe

Whisking you back to the shores of her bestselling Beach House series, Mary Alice Monroe weaves together a tale of the struggles and triumphs of the historic Rutledge family of Charleston, South Carolina. Beautifully wrought and rich with keen insight, this is an illuminating tale of new beginnings, resilience, and one family’s enduring love.

Cara Rutledge returns to her Southern home on the idyllic Isle of Palms. Everything is comfortingly the same, yet each detail is rife with painful memories. Only through reconnecting with family, friends, and the rhythms of the lowcountry can Cara release the hold of the past and open herself to the possibility of a new love, career, and hope for the future.

Meanwhile, her niece Linnea, a recent college graduate who doesn’t know where her life will take her, leaves her historic home in Charleston, with all its entitlement and expectations, and heads to her aunt’s beach house. On the island, she is part of the freer, natural ocean lifestyle she loves, rejoining the turtle team, learning to surf, and falling in love. Remembering the lessons of her beloved grandmother, Lovie, the original “turtle lady,” Linnea rediscovers a meaningful purpose to her life and finds the courage she needs to break from tradition.

In this heartwarming novel, three generations of the Rutledge family gather together to find the strength, love, and commitment to break destructive family patterns and to forge new bonds that will endure long beyond one summer reunion.

Photo by Mic Smith
Mary Alice Monroe is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of nearly two dozen novels. Her books have received numerous awards, including the 2008 South Carolina Center for the Book Award for Writing, the 2014 South Carolina Award for Literary Excellence, the 2015 SW Florida Author of Distinction Award, the RT Lifetime Achievement Award, and the International Book Award for Green Fiction. Most recently, Mary Alice was named by the South Carolina Academy of Authors as a 2018 inductee of the Literary Hall of Fame. Mary Alice is an active conservationist and lives in the Lowcountry of South Carolina.

Visit Mary Alice online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram

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

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Giveaway ends May 21st at midnight EST.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Book Review: The New Neighbors

By Jami Deise

Creepy old houses are a staple of fiction, from gothic classics such as Jane Eyre, The Turn of the Screw, and Rebecca, to new fiction such as The Broken Girls, which came out just last month. The New Neighbors, the latest novel by Simon Lelic (but his first thriller) begins promisingly in the haunted house genre.

Londoners Jack and Syd (Sydney) have purchased their first home, an overstuffed old Victorian that, in the overheated real estate market, they were lucky to get. The owner abruptly moved to Australia, leaving all his personal possessions behind.

Don’t ask what was in the attic.

Lelic tells his tale in a format I appreciated, with Jack and Syd writing down their recollections in a manuscript they share in order to make sense of what happened. This technique reminded me of the “found footage” type of film so common in low-budget supernatural horror, so I was primed for the The New Neighbors to unfold in a similar, supernatural way. Instead, the horror is of the very natural sort, as Syd becomes preoccupied with the 13-year-old neighbor across the street who seems to be a victim of abuse by her father.

Syd’s back story also plays a major role in the story; Jack’s to a lesser degree, and the creepiness of their new home disappears as these angles get more play. To be honest, as a huge haunted house fan, I was disappointed by this development, and the one-dimensional villains who are too powerful to be believed.

I was hooked enough, however, that I hung around for the ending, and I was glad I did. Even without a haunting, the book ends with a twist I didn’t see coming. As final twists are becoming more standard in the thriller genre, perhaps I should have been better prepared. In any case, this was one that was worth sticking around for.

Thanks to Berkley for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Simon Lelic:

Friday, May 11, 2018

What's in the mail

Melissa A:
I Will Never Leave You by S.M. Thayer from Thomas & Mercer
Confessions of a City Girl: Los Angeles, San Diego, Washington DC & Paris by/from Juliette Sobanet (e-book)
The Mermaid by Christina Henry from Berkley (e-book via NetGalley)
Matchmaking for Beginners by Maddie Dawson from Lake Union
Three Days Missing by Kimberly Belle from Park Row (e-book via Edelweiss)
Ghosted by Rosie Walsh from Viking (e-book via NetGalley)
The Endless Beach by Jenny Colgan from William Morrow
Guilty Pleasure by Kevin Dickson and Jack Ketsoyan from Macmillan
Jane Doe by Victoria Helen Stone from Lake Union
Playing With Matches by Hannah Orenstein from Touchstone

Our House by Louise Candlish from Berkley (e-book via NetGalley)
Well, That Escalated Quickly by Franchesca Ramsey from Grand Central Publishing (e-book via NetGalley)
From the Corner of the Oval by Beck Dorey-Stein from Random House (e-book via NetGalley)
Famous Last Words by Sara Hammel from Jed Hammel (e-book)

Book Review: The Summer of New Beginnings

By Sara Steven

Aspiring journalist Meghan Briggs has always been the responsible one in the family. So when her father passes away unexpectedly, leaving behind his at-risk business, she steps up to save his legacy—even if that means putting her own dreams on hold.

Tracy couldn’t be more different from her sister. She’s always been the rebellious type, without much direction in life. But in the wake of her latest romantic disaster, she finds herself moving back home as a single mother.

As Tracy experiences the difficulties of new motherhood, Meghan faces her own struggle: trying not to fall for the stray puppy she rescued. This is no time for attachments—not to the adorable “Sox,” whose owner is bound to turn up any day, and certainly not to the handsome new vet in town. But as the summer unfolds, she discovers that, like Sox, she may need rescuing, too.

As both sisters navigate unexpected challenges and exciting new relationships, they’ll find that putting the past to rest can make way for beautiful new beginnings. (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

The sisterly dynamic between Meghan and Tracy reminded me of my own relationship with my sister. Two different personalities, with two different opinions on how they feel life should go, and while they both take very different paths, they’re both dealing with their ideals not realized. But through it all, they rely on one another and are one another’s biggest supporters.

I could really feel the struggle for Meghan, in not being able to live out her dreams. I could also feel the struggle Tracy faces as a single parent, not only in handling parenthood all alone, but in trying to move on from an unhealthy relationship. The fears they both face pair well with the type of relationship they have with their mother, as well as the other characters who are in Summer. It was realistic and honest.

There are spiritual elements within this story, moments that made me feel connected to Meghan and her relationship with her father. And it was hard not to fall in love with Sox, given the way he enters her world. While she’s hoping and praying that no one will claim him, I was hoping and praying right along with her.

There were a lot of surprises that turned up not to be coincidental, and when one event happened, it blended into the outcome of all the others. A well-written representation of the relationship between sisters, families, and how love can endure, no matter what.

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

More by Bette Lee Crosby: