Monday, October 23, 2017

Book Review: Holly Freakin' Hughes

By Sara Steven

Meet Holly Hughes, a moderately successful teen advice columnist living in a studio apartment on the Upper East Side with her boyfriend Stephen. She has it all, but at the ripe age of thirty-one, she wants more. She wants to be married, she wants a family, and she's going to have it all with Stephen.

At least, that's what she thought, until Stephen announces he's gay, and the domino effect of unfortunate events begins. She soon finds herself unemployed, single, and living in her sister's house on Long Island, working as her niece's babysitter for less than minimum wage. She's pretty certain she's destined to live in the Land of Mediocrity forever.

And then, her niece runs face-first into a tall, handsome man at the bookstore... (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads.)

There’s something undeniably quirky about Holly Hughes. So much has happened to her in such a short amount of time, a lot of change and turmoil, and while she doesn’t take any of it in stride, there’s something about her that embraces the special silver lining around the dark cloud above her head. And she does it in a way that is humorous and honest. You can’t help but feel drawn to her.

I really appreciated the two points of views that are offered up between Holly, as well as Brandon, the handsome man at the bookstore. This gave me the chance to find out the backstory for both, to delve a little deeper into why Holly is the way she is when it comes to trusting people, and why Brandon is the way he is when it comes to relationships.

I actually found myself getting a little annoyed with Brandon and his relationship issues, as though he were a real-life person I wanted to knock some sense into. Maybe because there comes a point where you just have to take that leap, and he seems to drag his feet an awful lot. I also got annoyed with Holly when it comes to how she views herself, particularly when a big secret is exposed. But, the characters in Hughes are written like real-life individuals, so what else would I expect? We all have positive attributes and flaws, and that’s what makes Holly and Brandon so life-like. They’re full of ‘em.

I love the tension that’s simmering just below the surface. The tension between Holly and Brandon, between Holly and Stephen, between Holly and her sister. I had a hard time putting this book down, because I wanted to see what would happen next for all involved. Also, I have to give a shout out to one of the funniest characters in Holly Freakin' Hughes, Esther. She reminded me of a cross between Betty White and my own grandmother, who can be a handful at times, but in a good way. Esther says what she thinks and is hard as nails, providing a much needed sounding board for Holly. I think she’s become one of my favorite characters!

Thanks to Kelsey Kingsley for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Book Review: The Eleventh Hour

By Sara Steven

SHE NEVER INTENDED on becoming the other woman. In fact, Addison loathed the backstabbing adulteress that ripped a marriage to shreds, tore the once faithful man from the clutches of his one true love, watched their well-intended vows crumble to the ground, with no hope of ever being resurrected.

Addison knew once she slept with a married man, she wouldn't be able to wipe the act clean from her slate. She couldn't erase the moment from her timeline. She would forever be marked with the dreaded scarlet letter. Was Addison willing to mar her inner being to slide into the shadows with a man, whom she'd only met weeks before, knowing full well he had a beautiful, unsuspecting wife waiting in the wings to welcome him home? Was he worth throwing away her moral compass, her elevated standards, every ethical value her parents took years upon years to instill?

Addison's moral conscious adamantly stomped her feet, screaming at the top of her lungs, You haven't yet stepped over that line….Leave now while you still can! But Addison felt like she didn't have a full depiction of the entire circumstance, and until she did, she would advance forward with extreme caution, as the thought lingered in the back of her mind like a malevolent premonition, If you play with fire, you will get burned.
(Synopsis courtesy of Amazon)

A good book gives the illusion of one thing, before twisting into a completely different scenario, and that’s exactly what The Eleventh Hour gave me.

There have been plenty of stories that center around a character who is embarking down the treacherous road to adultery. That’s where Addison finds herself after meeting a man who she feels is her soul mate. Yet, this story is so much more than that. It’s about a woman who has often sat on the sidelines, never fighting for what she wants in life. A woman who never voices her wants or needs, her desires, even when it comes to matters of the heart, fearing judgement or worse, getting hurt.

Which makes this entire situation that much more awkward and difficult. I found myself a little bothered at first by some of the tactics Addison picks up while fighting with her inner demons, trying desperately to cling to what she thought she had with this man, leaving herself to look the fool. Yet, looking back on my own past, I couldn’t help but wonder if some of the things I’d done all in the name of love might have come off as desperate, too. I’m sure it did.

And then, in comes the severe plot twist that hit me like a slow burn, making my heart hurt, making Eleven a unique read that distances itself from the pack. I wish I could say I didn’t cry while reading it, but I’d be lying. I did, and I’m not a crier. As the chapters ticked down, I was dreading the ending, yet anticipating it, looking forward to it, hopeful.

Ultimately, there are events I’d wished had never happened for Addison or for those in her circle, and a few things I wish had. But this story mirrors the truth and intricacies of life, which made me appreciate it, and Addison’s story, all the more. Sometimes, love really can be worth fighting for, and this book, even without the typical fairy tale ending, was well worth the read. And the tears.

Thanks to April Marie Libs for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by April Marie Libs:

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Guest Book Review: Making Waves

By Shana Javery

As the responsible daughter of an irresponsible socialite, Dakota Hale has plenty of practice catering to the whims of the rich and spoiled and she's turned that experience into a thriving concierge business serving the needs of the Hamptons' wealthy elite. But living and working among the upper crust has never tempted Dakota to follow in her mother's jet-setting footsteps. Anytime the drama on land gets too outrageous, Dakota finds calm surfing the Atlantic waves. But when sexy mogul Max Carr hires her, it rocks her balance in a big way... (Synopsis adapted from Goodreads.)

As I’m a firm believer that a detailed book description can affect a reader’s enjoyment of a novel, I’ve only included a partial summary of the book. Just enough for you to get the general idea of what’s going on. As for my opinion of this book? I loved it! I liked hearing about Dakota’s business catering to the rich and famous. I also was grateful that Ms. Moore did such a terrific job of transporting me with her words to the Hamptons, where this story takes place since I have yet to check that off my bucket list!

Dakota is a fabulous character. She is hard-working, kind, and exactly the kind of person with whom I’d like to be friends. Her family, on the other hand, is just horrendous! Especially her mom Piper! That’s one woman who is never going to win a “mother of the year” award. As for Max, Dakota’s love interest, he’s a good guy. This is just an enjoyable read with the kind of ending I like best. (No, I won’t tell you what kind of ending I like best!) So, if you feel like reading a fun book that lets you escape for a while…grab a copy of Making Waves, pour yourself a glass of wine, prop your feet up, and read away!

Thanks to Ballantine 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. 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.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Book Review: Before We Were Yours

By Melissa Amster

Memphis, 1939. Twelve-year-old Rill Foss and her four younger siblings live a magical life aboard their family’s Mississippi River shantyboat. But when their father must rush their mother to the hospital one stormy night, Rill is left in charge—until strangers arrive in force. Wrenched from all that is familiar and thrown into a Tennessee Children’s Home Society orphanage, the Foss children are assured that they will soon be returned to their parents—but they quickly realize the dark truth. At the mercy of the facility’s cruel director, Rill fights to keep her sisters and brother together in a world of danger and uncertainty.

Aiken, South Carolina, present day. Born into wealth and privilege, Avery Stafford seems to have it all: a successful career as a federal prosecutor, a handsome fiancĂ©, and a lavish wedding on the horizon. But when Avery returns home to help her father weather a health crisis, a chance encounter leaves her with uncomfortable questions and compels her to take a journey through her family’s long-hidden history, on a path that will ultimately lead either to devastation or to redemption.

Based on one of America’s most notorious real-life scandals—in which Georgia Tann, director of a Memphis-based adoption organization, kidnapped and sold poor children to wealthy families all over the country—Lisa Wingate’s riveting, wrenching, and ultimately uplifting tale reminds us how, even though the paths we take can lead to many places, the heart never forgets where we belong.
(Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

I had heard many good things about Before We Were Yours, despite how heavy it sounded. So I was pleased to win it from Linda's Book Obsession a few weeks ago. As soon as it arrived, I added it to my TBR. And as soon as I picked it up, I became immersed in the story. It is an unforgettable novel about the bonds of family.

The parts that took place in 1939 made me think of a V.C. Andrews novel. Adults were always cruel to children in those books. However, those were fictional characters. Georgia Tann was a real person who did despicable things. The way she lied about everything made me think of how easy someone can use gaslighting to get their way. Especially if they have money and political influence. Her behavior was similar to some behaviors I've seen nowadays.

I really liked the back and forth storytelling as Lisa Wingate delved further into the mystery surrounding Avery's family and how it potentially tied into the scandal from the past. She kept me guessing as to what would happen next. During the scenes from the past, I was on my toes with worry for the children.

Lisa does a great job of describing characters and scenery without taking away from the narrative. I felt like I could easily visualize everything that was going on. The dialogue felt genuine and both Rill and Avery were likable and sympathetic characters.

I only wish that Rill's story could have been carried further. It stopped after a while and then there was a quick summary of the many years between the past and present. It would have been interesting to see the changes in her life as she came of age into adulthood.

Thanks to everyone who encouraged me to read this novel and to Linda for picking me at random to receive a copy. I'm glad to pay the recommendation forward, as it is a novel you won't want to miss out on. Just be forewarned that some parts in the past are unsettling to read about.

Since this novel would make a great movie, here are some casting ideas I had in mind.
Avery: Blake Lively
Elliot: William Moseley
Trent: Michael Stahl-David
Georgia: Annette Bening
Rill: Maisy Stella

More by Lisa Wingate:

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Spotlight and Giveaway: Jersey Girls

We're pleased to feature Lisa-Marie Cabrelli's Jersey Girls series. She has two sets of all three e-books to share with some lucky readers!

**Synopses and author bio courtesy of Amazon.**


She thought that her life was progressing exactly as planned but for Claire Black everything is about to be unraveled...

When Claire's creepy new boss Nick promotes her to a job she doesn't understand; it's obvious to everyone but her that he wants something in return. To make matter worse, she accidentally upsets the very man that Nick told her to avoid, the unbearably sexy Vice-President, Satish Bhatt.

Things get even stickier for Claire when her "friends" decide that sabotage is the answer, her roommate Sally drops a bombshell and Claire starts to want a lot more of the man she supposed to avoid. A man who seems to have secrets of his own.

Unraveled is the first book in the Jersey Girls series. If you like fast-paced, breezy, funny chick-lit with characters you fall in love with and a dash of intrigue and suspense that will keep you turning pages, you will love Unraveled.


When Mousy Maureen gets dumped... again, she is convinced that she is destined to live a small boring life as a corporate hack. But then she meets Brad, a wealthy, charming sexy entrepreneur turned art investor. When Brad invites her to join him on a fantasy trip to The Bahamas, Maureen decides it’s time to take life into her own hands. She will shed her mouse and get Brad and her happily ever after. She packs her new wardrobe and her guide to “Make Every Man Want You” and heads off to paradise.

Will Maureen succeed in transforming from Mousy Maureen to Magnificent Mo? Will Brad be her happily ever after? Or will Paradise have surprises even Mo couldn’t have foreseen?


She has rules, "No men, no friends, no distractions." He’s about to make her break them.

Since the day she came close to losing everything, straitlaced Nandita lives by her rules. But on college graduation day her life starts careening downhill. She gets rejected from the graduate program of her dreams then realizes she has six months to leave the country and return to her controlling parents in India. Her worst nightmare. And creepiest of all, she has a stalker. A man with dark penetrating eyes is following her everywhere.

Ravi’s angry about everything. His life is poisoned by secrets. And now his summer has been highjacked by blackmail. He’s forced into a job he doesn’t want involving a breathtakingly beautiful girl he’s too nervous to approach. But could she be the antidote to his poison?

Will Nandita and Ravi break their rules and risk uncharted territory? Or will they follow them and end up right back where they started?

Find out Nandita’s fate and catch up on the rest of the Hoboken Crew in the thrilling Jersey Girls series finale.

Lisa-Marie Cabrelli has a weird accent - it's kind of English, with some Jersey twang and Scottish slang thrown in. That happens when you're born in England, move to NJ as a teenager and marry a sexy Scotsman.

If you like to read breezy, fun books that you can't put down, then she'd love it if you'd read her books and then emailed her with questions, ideas, or insults.

Lisa-Marie travels a lot. You'll find most of her favorite locations popping up in her books. She's struggling with some serious empty nest syndrome since her daughter flew the nest, which is why she fosters lots of kittens. It doesn't help much. Visit Lisa-Marie at her website, Facebook, Twitter, and 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

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway ends October 22nd at midnight EST.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Book Review: Seven Days of Us

By Jami Deise

As I wrote this review, I was hunkered down at my parents’ place in Central Florida waiting for a hurricane. Although my folks were gone and it was just me, my husband, and my dog, their home was the perfect environment in which to read and review Francesca Hornak’s debut novel, Seven Days of Us, about a British family quarantined together over Christmas. Often compelling, sometimes tedious, and a bit overlong, reading the book definitely mirrored the emotions of being quarantined, whether due to illness or weather.

Andrew and Emma Birch’s daughter Olivia has been treating victims of the lethal Haag virus in Africa, and she must isolate herself for seven days after returning to England to ensure she’s not sick. Since it’s so unusual for Olivia to return home for Christmas, her family is eager to quarantine with her, and they retreat to Emma’s family estate in the country. But rather than enjoying the jolly Christmas holiday that Emma tries so hard to create, Olivia is distant and guarded. And no wonder—she had a secret, forbidden relationship with another doctor, and soon as he returned home, he was diagnosed with Haag and put in isolation. Olivia doesn’t tell her family the truth.

Her parents are also hiding secrets. Emma has just been diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma, but she’s keeping that news to herself because she doesn’t want to spoil Christmas—even though she’d be in extreme danger if Olivia turned out to be a Haag carrier. Andrew has been contacted by a son whom he never knew existed, Jesse. And Jesse, having not heard back from Andrew, has decided to come to town anyway. Younger daughter Phoebe, planning her wedding, is too frivolous for secrets, but her fiancĂ© George might have one.

The book is written in third person, and each character gets a point of view. I found Emma to be the most easy to identify with, and her tireless efforts to give her family a perfect Christmas despite her illness—even while they belittled her and took her for granted—were almost heartbreaking. I found it hard to appreciate the other characters because of this, especially Phoebe, who is 29-going-on-19. Olivia is self-righteous, Andrew a coward, and George a blowhard. Jesse, as blameless as Emma, is the only other character who comes off consistently well.

As the book progresses and the reader gets to know the characters better, their shortcomings become more understandable and easier to forgive. At the same time, though, the book started to feel too long. It seemed appropriate, though. Seven days is too long to spend cooped up with your family, and it was fitting for the reader to feel that way, too.

Because of the book’s structure, it’s rather obvious how things will unfold—secrets will be revealed, the question of who gets sick will be answered. Life, however, isn’t so binary. After the hurricane hit, what kind of life I had to return to was completely unpredictable.

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

Friday, October 13, 2017

What's in the mail

Melissa A:
Mind Game by Iris Johansen from
St. Martin's Press
Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe by Melissa de la Cruz from St. Martin's Press
The Beautiful Ones by Silvia Moreno-Garcia from St. Martin's Press

Adirondack Audacity by/from L.R. Smolarek
Moonlight Over Manhattan by Sarah Morgan from TLC Book Tours (e-book via NetGalley)
Degrees of Love by/from Lisa Slabach
How Not to be a Bride by/from
Portia MacIntosh (e-book)

The Queen of Hearts by Kimmery Martin from Berkley (e-book via NetGalley)
The Broken Girls by Simone St. James from Berkley (e-book via NetGalley)