Thursday, June 30, 2016

Reviews at Amazon--June edition

We're posting some reviews at our Amazon account, as either they've been sitting in queue for a while and deserve their time in the sun, fall under our new featuring policy, or they're new reads that we couldn't wait to post at the blog. You can check them out at the links below. Hope we can help you find your next favorite book!

Melissa A:






Meredith First is the "Apple" of our a book giveaway

We're pleased to have Meredith First here today. Her last name is rather fitting, as Gridley Girls is her FIRST novel! Thanks to BookSparks, we have one copy to give away!

Meredith First left an insanely great recruiting career with Apple, Inc. to write the books that were literally haunting her dreams — books for anyone who survived high school with a little help from friends. After studying abroad at the University of London, she received a B.A. in Communications/Broadcasting from Oregon State University. Through the donation of 10% of her income from Gridley Girls, she hopes to help people who struggle with similar issues that she experienced. She lives with her family in Minneapolis and Sacramento and is hard at work on Gridley Girls Reunited, book two in the Gridley Girls series. (Bio courtesy of Meredith's website.)

Visit Meredith at her website, Facebook, and Twitter.

Meg Monahan was born to be a secret keeper. From the moment she became a peer counselor in high school, Meg has been keeping her friends secrets, from sordid family dramas to stories about their sex lives—secrets that she never wanted to know. Flash forward to adulthood, and Meg is now a recruiter for the world’s hippest (and most paranoid) high-tech company—she is a professional secret keeper.

When sudden tragedy strikes before Meg hosts the wedding of her childhood BFF, Anne Calzaretta, the women are forced to face their past—and their secrets—in order to move on with their lives. Thirty years after loss, lies, and secrets separated them, Meg and Anne reminisce about the days when they, along with their friends Jennifer and Tonya, were so close that they were known as “The Group” in their hometown. Anne remembers their freshman year as an easier time, but Meg, still feeling guilty about a betrayal of Anne’s trust, is haunted about keeping a secret she’s not prepared to face, let alone share.

Can anyone really keep a secret forever?
(Courtesy of Meredith's website.)

Before you were a writer, you had a successful career as a recruiter with Apple. What prompted you to leave that career and pursue writing?
Just after fourth grade, one of my best friends, Jennifer Cone, died quite suddenly and at her graveside, her mother hugged me and made me promise I would never forget her. I of course, told her I would not. That stuck in my brain forever. In Mr. Erickson’s eighth grade English class, we had to write, edit and publish 30-page short stories. That’s when I decided I would do for my group of friends, what God could not: keep Jennifer alive by making her a character in books about our group of friends.

As life progressed, dreams were pushed aside for college and other careers. We never forgot the books though as my friends would often call with “stories for your books.”

In 2004, while still thriving at Apple, I started to have very vivid dreams of my childhood friends as we were starting high school. At first, I didn’t recognize one of the girls in the dreams. When I realized it was Jennifer, I knew I needed to pay attention. These dreams continued for months. Jennifer had come back, exactly thirty years after her death, to kick me in the butt and remind me that I was supposed to be writing books, supporting my dreams and not Steve Jobs’. I loved my time at Apple. I began there shortly after Steve came back to save the company. I was a part of the first recruiting team to rebuild the brand. It was exactly as incredible as you could imagine. But how could I ignore Jennifer?

Describe your writing process.
I am still in heavy treatment for Chronic Neurological Lyme Disease so my process is probably different than most as I suffer from dizziness and brain fog. There are plenty of days where I sit in front of my computer in a white fog with no original thought. No writing gets done on those days. When my brain is working though, I do have a bit of a routine. I do a quick meditation from Hay House, turn on music from whatever year it is I’m in on that chapter and I go. I try not to worry too much about grammar and spelling but as the daughter of an English teacher, that’s a challenge. I am to the point in this series that I know where I’m going as I write but am still surprised every day with what comes up that was not planned. That’s why I always say I’m not really the author, but merely the typist. These books come through me, not of me.

If you could share one piece of advice with those wanting to pursue a career in writing, what would that advice be?
Have a back up source of income! I went into this process blindly and I’m so glad I did. If I had known then what I know now, I may not have done it. I’m so thankful I followed my heart and soul and not my brain!

Tell us about your best friend.
I don’t have just one best friend. Never have. That’s a beautiful thing though as I was blessed to have a group of best friends that I don’t ever remember living without. This first book, besides centering on Jennifer Cone, is also based on a character named AnneMarie Calzaretta. In real life, her name is RoseMarie Curcuru. As you can see, I didn’t go far to change her name. I can’t discuss too much without spoilers so I’ll just say that she’s the kind of girl you can call at any time, to cheer you up and make you feel like the world isn’t such a scary place. She is loyal, kind, optimistic, smart and there. Always there. You know that old joke that men often say, “he’s the one I’d call if I woke up with a dead hooker in my bed”? She’s my first phone call.

What is your all time favorite movie and why?
My standard answer used to be The Sound of Music. It’s a no-brainer that needs no explanation. Then I raised kids and the remake of The Parent Trap came out. In my family, we call that our “comfort movie”. It can brighten even the darkest of days. Nancy Meyers is a genius. I was worried when they were making a remake and then it turned out to be brilliant. Yes, I’m schmaltzy. And proud of it.

Are you an introvert or an extrovert?
Since Meg Monahan, the protagonist of Gridley Girls is based on me, it’s safe to say that I am an extrovert. Chatty Cathy is alive and well in me. I’ve never met a stranger and people are my therapy. I love people. Simple as that.

Thanks to Meredith for a wonderful visit and BookSparks for sharing her book with our readers.

~Interview by Tracey Meyers

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 July 5th at midnight EST.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

#SRC2016 June Books

We're featuring a few more books from BookSparks' June 2016 Summer Reading Challenge. Be sure to add these to your shelves!

Everybody Rise by Stephanie Clifford

Twenty-six-year-old Evelyn Beegan intended to free herself from the influence of her social-climbing mother, who propelled her through prep school and onto New York’s stately Upper East Side. Evelyn has long felt like an outsider to her privileged peers, but when she lands a job at a social-network startup aimed at the elite, she has no choice but to infiltrate their world. Soon she finds herself navigating the promised land of Adirondack camps, Hamptons beach houses, and, of course, the island of Manhattan itself. Intoxicated by the wealth, access, and influence of her new set, Evelyn can’t help but try to pass as old money herself. But when the lies become more tangled, she grasps with increasing desperation as the ground beneath her begins to give way.

A sparkling debut that is “full of ambition and grit” (Emma Straub), Stephanie Clifford's Everybody Rise is a story about identity and loss, and how sometimes we have to lose everything to find our way back to who we really are.

Visit Stephanie Clifford at her website, Facebook, and Twitter.

25 Sense by Lisa Henthorn

Claire Malone didn’t mean for this to happen when she moved to New York. She just wanted to live the city life and gain experience in television writing, her dream career. It’s not like she meant to reciprocate when her married boss, Sean Vared, sent her flirty e-mails. And you can’t blame her for coming into the office on the weekend when Sean told her he was going to be there . . . alone. She didn’t mean to sleep with him―but hey, she wanted to experience the city life, so no big deal, right?

Wrong. By the time Claire wakes up on her 25th birthday, she’s very much in love with Sean. At work, she struggles to hold it together when he passes her desk―the very desk that they used to make love on. Soon Sean has turned his affection to the show’s starring actress, and Claire is devastated. Can she break away from Sean without ruining her barely started career? Will someone find out what happened? Will she ever grow up and stop making stupid mistakes? 25 Sense is about the time in a young woman’s life when the world starts to view her as a responsible adult―but all she feels is lost.

Visit Lisa Henthorn at her website, Facebook, and Twitter.

The Sweetheart Deal by Polly Dugan

Firefighter Leo McGeary has always joked that, in the event of his death, he wants Garrett, his best friend and a consummate bachelor, to marry his wife, Audrey. One drunken New Year's Eve, he goes so far as to make Garrett promise to do so. Twelve years later, Leo dies in a freak skiing accident. Within hours, Garrett quits his job and purchases a one-way ticket to Oregon to be with Leo's family. As Audrey learns to navigate life as a widow and a single parent, her feelings for Garrett become more than platonic, and he begins to fall for her, too. But when she learns of the drunken pact made long ago, the promise that brought Garrett into her world becomes the obstacle to his remaining in it.

Visit Polly Dugan at her website, Facebook, and Twitter.

Check out Book Mama's review.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Spotlight and Giveaway: First Comes Love

Today we're celebrating Emily Giffin's pub day for her latest novel, First Comes Love. Melissa A is reading it now and enjoying it so far. Thanks to Penguin Random House, we have TWO copies to give away! This is also part of BookSparks 2016 Summer Reading Challenge, of which Emily is the host.

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The One & Only. Two thirty-something sisters find themselves facing the question: if love and marriage and children don't all come together at once, which do you fight for?

Meredith thought she'd done it all right - married the perfect man, had the perfect daughter - but as she grows increasingly restless, she can't help but wonder if she got the love part wrong.

Josie has been happily single for years, but she wants a child of her own so much she's one bad date away from heading straight for the baby carriage all on her own.

The sisters, whose relationship was strained by the tragic death of their older brother over a decade ago, find that they need each other more than they realized.

Read an excerpt of the prologue and first chapter here!

Photo by Emmanuelle Choussy
Emily Giffin is a graduate of Wake Forest University and the University of Virginia School of Law. After practicing litigation at a Manhattan firm for several years, she moved to London to write full time. The author of seven New York Times bestselling novels,Something Borrowed, Something Blue, Baby Proof, Love the One You're With, Heart of the Matter, Where We Belong, and The One & Only, she lives with her husband and three young children. Visit Emily at her website, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter,

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 July 4th at midnight EST.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Spotlight: Wrong Highway

Two things stand out to me about Wendy Gordon and her debut novel, Wrong Highway. The first is that this book takes place in the 1980's. Such an incredible decade for pop culture. (I watch The Goldbergs a lot, which takes me back big time! Funny enough, the main character of this novel is named Erica!) The second is that Wendy is originally from Bethesda, Maryland, which is close to where I live. 

In honor of this novel, I am sharing my top five favorite 80's songs. 

1. "Material Girl," Madonna (I made a project in third grade and did a theme song for it parodying this song. That's all I need to say.)
2. "Let's Hear it for the Boy," Deniece Williams (Cute song. Cuter video. Now it makes me think of "Let's Go to the Mall.")
3. "Something About You," Level 42 (I just liked the way it sounded. It has such an 80's feel that carries over even to the present day.)
4. "(I've Had) The Time of My Life," Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes (Because I picture Patrick Swayze wrinkling his nose toward the end...but really, such a great song!)
5. "The Power of Love," Huey Lewis and the News (It will always remind me of Back to the Future.)

Now that you're in an 80's mood...

It is 1986. Erica Richards lives in West Meadow, Long Island with her three young boys, newborn baby girl, and successful Wall Street analyst husband. But don’t be fooled by her seemingly placid suburban lifestyle. Erica is fierce, curious, uncompromising, and often impulsive. When her teenage nephew Jared rebels against his straight-laced parents Ron and Debbie, he turns to Erica for help, setting in motion a chain of events that will take all of them careening down a dangerous and twisty highway. Buckle your seat belt, crank up the 80’s soundtrack, and learn how stunningly easy it is to keep BIG SECRETS.

Wendy Gordon grew up in Bethesda, Maryland, and has lived in Boston, Chicago, and New York before finding her true home on the West Coast. She received a B.S. from Simmons College in Boston and an M.S. from the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine. She has been a journalist for over twenty-five years, publishing in newspapers, magazines, and electronic formats. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and children. Visit Wendy at her website and follow her on Twitter.

~Introduction by Melissa Amster

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for including us in Wendy's blog tour. Visit the rest of their stops here.

Friday, June 24, 2016

What's in the mail

Melissa A:

The Gospel According to Drew Barrymore by Pippa Wright from Tracy Krimmer

All is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker from St. Martin's Press

We Could be Beautiful by Swan Huntley from Doubleday

The Rumor by Elin Hilderbrand (paperback), won from Karen's Korner

Leaving Blythe River by Catherine Ryan Hyde from Lake Union

The Orphan's Tale by Pam Jenoff from Mira (e-book via NetGalley)

Melissa A and Amy:

Echoes of Family by Barbara Claypole White from Lake Union


A House for Happy Mothers
by Amulya Malladi from Lake Union

The Sun in Your Eyes by Deborah Shapiro from William Morrow (Enter to win!)

Lost Along the Way by Erin Duffy from HarperCollins

Everything We Keep by Kerry Lonsdale from Lake Union


We'll Always Have Paris by Sue Watson from Little, Brown (e-book via NetGalley)

Those Crazy Notions of Otherwise Intelligent People by Joel Michael Dorr from Word Slinger Publicity (e-book)

Reunion by Beth Brophy from PR Collaborative (e-book)


The Long, Hot Summer
by Kathleen MacMahon from Sphere

This Last Kiss by Madeleine Reiss from Zaffre

Spotlight and Giveaway: Saving Abby

Today we're featuring Steena Holmes' latest novel, Saving Abby, as part of BookSparks' 2016 Summer Reading Challenge. Marlene at Book Mama Blog (our sister blog) recently wrote a beautiful review, as this story is especially meaningful to her. Check out author liaison Cindy Roesel's poignant review, as well. 

Thanks to TLC Book Tours, we have one copy for a lucky reader! Visit all their previous tour stops, as ours was the last.

All children’s book illustrator Claire Turner ever wanted was to be a mother. After six years of trying to conceive, she and her husband, Josh, have finally accepted that she will never be pregnant with a child of their own.

Yet once they give up hope, the couple gets the miracle they’ve been waiting for. For the first few months of her pregnancy, Claire and Josh are living on cloud nine. But when she begins to experience debilitating headaches, blurred vision, and even fainting spells, the soon-to-be mother goes to the doctor and receives a terrifying diagnosis. Since any treatment could put their unborn baby’s life at risk, the Turners must carefully weigh their limited options. And as her symptoms worsen, Claire will have to make an impossible decision: Save her own life, or save her child’s?

USA Today and New York Times bestselling author Steena Holmes brings us an unforgettable story of one woman’s courage and love.

About the Author:
After writing her first novel while working as a receptionist, Steena Holmes made her dream of being a full-time writer a reality. She won the National Indie Excellence Book Award in 2012 for her bestselling novel Finding Emma. Now both a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, Steena continues to write stories that touch every parent’s heart in one way or another. To find out more about her books and her love for traveling, you can visit Steena at her website, blog, 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

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Giveaway ends June 29th at midnight EST.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Everything's coming up tulips for Kacie Davis a book giveaway

We're pleased to have Kacie Davis Idol here today to talk about her debut novel, The Tulip Factory. Thanks to Inkshares, we have FIVE copies to give away!

Kacie is married and the mother of a baby girl. She was born and raised in the small, yet congested town of *Kernersville, North Carolina. As the middle child of three sisters, she always had a certain fire within; whether it was fighting over who got the front seat or making questionable decisions just to say that it was her own choice. Her life experiences, along with some crazy situations her friends went through, inspired her lead character, whom she first started writing about in November of 2014. 

You can find Kacie on Twitter.

*Melissa A: Funny enough, I recently sent a prize to a reader in Kernersville. After never having heard of that town before, it's interesting that it came up twice in one week. What are the odds?!? This reader is especially excited about the book, since it features her favorite flower!

Before they exchange even a single word, Corrine knows that James will change everything. And sure enough, their serendipitous meeting in a North Carolina coffee shop sets off a whirlwind of desire and possibilities for the two.

Timing, however, isn’t on the couple’s side. After their relationship ends, Corrine finds that years of putting her career and passions on hold for love have led to a stalled life. She once saw her receptionist job as temporary but got too comfortable and, before she knew it, lost sight of her dream of becoming a writer.

Now, as Corrine makes her way into her late twenties, she’s on a quest to find herself. As she struggles to figure out what she really wants, she’ll discover that sometimes you have to take happiness into your own hands and that a fulfilling life is built on opportunities—even the missed ones.

What did you do to celebrate when you were first published?
Honestly, I sat on my front porch, poured a glass of wine and took like 20 pictures of my little girl holding my book. It was actually pretty perfect.

What do you do when you get writer’s block?
Running and music. While I was working on this book I created a playlist and named it The Tulip Factory. Nothing throws me back in the game better than burning energy while blasting songs that force images and ideas into my head. It literally makes writer’s block disappear.

Describe your writing style in three words.
Bittersweet, feel good.

If you could cast The Tulip Factory for the big screen, which actors would you choose for the lead roles?
This is such a fun question! You have no idea how much I have thought about this. Okay, so for Corinne I would cast Teresa Palmer. She is so naturally pretty and I feel like she could take on this role perfectly; she has this look of innocence with a little bit of a young and wild side.

James would definitely be played by Milo Ventimiglia, but this next part is very important, it has to be the Milo with full facial hair and the long hair pushed back. He wears this look so well and if he did push ups for like a month he would be off the charts perfect!

Dennis Quaid would be Kevin, Corinne’s dad. Hands down, best movie dad ever. Perfect crow’s feet, adorable smile and a trusting voice.

Laurie, Corinne’s mom, would be played by Maria Bello. She is about the right age with soft, natural features. Not to mention, she and Dennis Quaid would be so beautiful together.

Britt Robertson would play the younger sister character, Ava. She is such a cute girl with a very confident air about her. I could see her playing Corinne’s sister, especially when it comes to Chapter 13 and the whole wedding scene. Makes me laugh just thinking about it.

The dog, Charlie, was written after my own dog also named Charli (minus the ‘e’ because I’m difficult that way) so I think my dog should play the role of Charlie. He will need a little training prior to this because he literally does nothing on command except for sit.

What song plays in your head most often?
This is probably my favorite question in the whole world. I wish I could create a playlist for everything. Currently the song playing on repeat in my head is “First” by Cold War Kids.

What is your favorite summertime food and beverage?
My favorite summer food is definitely tomatoes, all day long! Raw with a little salt and pepper. My favorite summertime beverage is probably beer. I love Amber Ale’s and I’ll try anything seasonal.

Thanks to Kacie for visiting with us and to Inkshares 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 June 28th at midnight EST.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Chick Lit Cheerleader: The Lake Girls

Introduction by Melissa Amster

The last time I flew with just my daughter, she was only one year old and spent most of the flight crying, eating, or sleeping. She was a lot easier to travel with on the most recent flight we took with my family, but this time around she could be entertained by coloring books. I hope to be able to do another girl's trip with her, especially after reading about our Chick Lit Cheerleader's recent adventure with her daughter. They visited Eileen Goudge, author of Swimsuit Body, which came out earlier this month.

Tucker Women Gone Wild

“You know I’ve never been on a plane, Mom. And I’ve never met Aunt Eileen even though she’s, like, my aunt. I can’t believe you’ve never let me meet my own aunt in my whole entire life!” My daughter and I were carving out plans to take a girls’ trip. My sweet friend, author Eileen Goudge, spends time in Grantsburg, Wisconsin and was chomping at the bit for Gracie and I to join her. Love notes, phone calls, little gifts, and silly selfies had been exchanged between Gracie and Eileen over the past four years yet it was time to hug it out in person.

“You know Aunt Eileen is your aunt in love and not by blood, right?” I asked.

Gracie corrected me. “You are definitely wrong, Mom. She is my aunt in blood. Family is family. We love who we love and they become family in our blood and in our heart.”

Oh my sweet girl. If only everyone in the world felt as you do about loving others, what a beautiful world this would be. Hold onto that; tightly, and never let go. Rather than tear up at her sentiment, because I cry at the drop of a hat, I remained on topic. “Gracie, you’ve flown before!”

“No I haven’t!” she argued.

“Just because you were not in a seat, and I was pregnant with you, doesn’t mean that you’ve never been on a plane.”

“That totally doesn’t count, Mom,” she scoffed. “Like I could really look out the window or order a Coke from the lady or dude with the cart inside your belly!”


Plane faces are not plain faces :)

Airline travel is a lot of hurry up and wait. Hurry up and pack, we have to hit the road! Hurry and commute to Chicago, yet wait in morning rush-hour monotony. Hurry up and run to the bus, the tram, and the terminal. Hurry up, take off your shoes and baubles, and wait in the TSA line. Hurry up to the terminal so you can wait for your flight. Hurry all the passengers off the previous flight so you can wait your turn to board. Traveling is a lesson in patience not only for nine-year-olds, but for adults as well.

“Mommy, I’m nervous to fly,” Gracie said as she buckled her seatbelt, then wrung her little fingers while fidgeting on the plane.

I pulled her puppy pillow out of her backpack. “I bet Theo is nervous, too,” I said, handing her her beloved friend. “You could tell him there’s nothing to be nervous about. He gets to look out the window, and watch the busyness of life below him grow very small. Pretzels and a drink will be coming his way, and, before you both know it, we’ll be hugging Aunt Eileen at the airport.”

Gracie took my hand and patted it lovingly. “Theo isn’t real, Mom. You know that, right?” Totally reminiscent of when she was in kindergarten and broke the news to me the Easter Bunny wasn’t real.
Eyes wide, little fingers entwined with mine, plane rumbling down the tarmac—we had liftoff. She reclined her seat, opened her tray table countless times (my apologies to the dude in front of her), scored a few bags of snacks all in an hour and fourteen minutes. And just like that, she could cross “flying in a plane not in utero” off her bucket list along with visiting her Aunt Eileen.

Birds of a feather!

Let me tell you about my daughter and Eileen; what a pair. Over four days they enjoyed shopping excursions, fed horses and saw deer, visited a dairy farm, canoed up and down Big Wood Lake, and snuggled on the couch watching Unlikely Animal Friends and SpongeBob Squarepants. They went for walks and stalked the neighbors four dogs Gracie was dying to play fetch with. Gracie taught Eileen about Littlest Pet Shop and Eileen taught her to to chill out and enjoy watching the hummingbirds and other aviary wonders. It doesn’t get any better than that.

When I think about the adults my children turn to as friends, mentors, even grandparent figures, Gracie is so blessed to have a set of those shoes filled by Eileen. A tenderhearted, elfin-magic little girl connecting with one of the kindest souls I’ve ever known. I’ll be their third wheel member of the Lake Girls anytime.

Bird watching in the early hours

Making new friends

Jen Tucker is the author of the funny and true stories, The Day I Wore My Panties Inside Out and The Day I Lost My Shaker of SaltIn September 2012, she had her children's book, Little Pumpkin published as an e-book. She also blogs monthly for Survival for Blondes. She currently lives in Indiana with her husband, three kids and two dogs. You can find her at TwitterFacebook, her blog and on her website. And in case you missed them. check out her previous Chick Lit Cheerleader posts here.

Book Review: Sunshine Beach

By Jami Deise

There’s a certain sense of smug satisfaction among those of us lucky enough to live at the beach. My husband and I moved to the Gulf coast of Florida four years ago, and my Facebook friends are sick of my constant posting of sunset pictures, tropical drinks, sugar-white sand, and native birds.

Those friends may want to skip reading this review. ;-)

For book lovers, it’s always a bit of a thrill to pick up a book that’s set in the reader’s home town. And when said reader is lucky enough to live in a place as close to paradise as is St. Pete Beach, the thrill is doubled. Wendy Wax’s Sunshine Beach, the latest book in her Ten Beach Road series, takes place primarily in Pass-A-Grille, a secluded beach on the southern tip of St. Pete Beach. Once primarily a campground for fisherman to grill their catches, Pass-A-Grille is a strip of land between the Gulf of Mexico and Boca Ciega Bay. Fishermen still dot the seawall off the bay, attracting hundreds of pelicans. Natives hang out at the Paradise Grille, eating cheeseburgers, drinking beer and watching the sun melt into the Gulf. The area’s most well-known edifice is the five-star Don CeSar hotel, a sprawling pink-and-white structure that opened in 1928 and housed the military during World War II. Resembling a giant birthday cake, locals refer to it as “The Pink Palace.”

It’s a gorgeous setting for a book, and Wax’s plot is a nice match for this historical location. The drama centers around the dilapidated Sunshine Beach hotel where, in 1952, Renee and Annelise’s father was murdered and Annelise’s mother (Renee’s stepmother) disappeared. Raised by their grandparents, the sisters could never agree what to do with the property, allowing it to fall apart. The book kicks off when reality TV renovation team Maddie, Avery, Nikki and Kyra stumble across the property and think it would be the perfect subject for a renovation. But Annelise will only agree if the murder case is re-opened. She never believed the official explanation, that her mother killed her father and then ran off. Luckily, Nikki’s boyfriend Joe is an FBI agent, who uncovers surprising clues that Annelise could be right.

This is a captivating plot, and I was especially intrigued by the descriptions of St. Pete Beach in the 1950s, as the country struggled to move past World War II. (Annelise’s mother was German, and her father got grief for bringing her back to live in a Jewish community.) This plot, however, is only one of several competing narratives. Maddie, who is Kyra’s mother, is dating a rock star and dealing with her ex-husband Steve. Kyra had dated a married movie star and is now raising his toddler. Nikki’s brother is in jail for conducting a Ponzi scheme that cost all the women their savings, and the strain is hurting her relationship with Joe. The network is currently airing episodes of their series that make them look like idiots, and the paparazzi are always around.

Since Sunshine Beach is the fourth book in a series, all these plots – save for the murder mystery – are picked up midstream, and the affect is like turning on a soap opera for the first time without a friend to explain exactly who these people are and what’s going on. But with interesting characters, beautiful settings, and lots of twists and turns, this is an argument to read the entire series in order. The first book is Ten Beach Road. According to the Amazon description, it describes how the women were brought together due to all being victims of the Ponzi scheme. The other two books also incorporate mystery, home renovation, and the beach. They all sound like perfect additions to a Kindle, to be perused as one lies on the sugar-white sands of St. Pete Beach, in the shadow of the gorgeous Pink Palace.

That’s only about two miles from my house. I think I’ll walk there now to enjoy a sunset drink.

Thanks to Joan Schulhafer Publishing & Media Consulting for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Wendy Wax:

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Spotlight and Giveaway: By the Numbers

I met Jen Lancaster last year. We were at a party that Jennifer Weiner was hosting in NYC during the week of Book Expo America. She knew who I was right away and was so incredibly sweet. It made me feel almost guilty for not having read any of her non-fiction books, which I heard are really funny. However, I have read and enjoyed all her fiction novels (especially Here I Go Again) and am excited to check out By the Numbers, which is available as of today. Thanks to Berkley/NAL, we have copies for THREE lucky readers!

Actuary Penny Sinclair has a head for business, and she always makes rational decisions. Knowing that 60% of spouses cheat and 50% of marriages end in divorce, she wasn’t too surprised when her husband had an affair. (That he did so with a woman their daughter’s age? Well, that part did sting a bit.) She just made sure she got everything in the divorce, including their lovely old Victorian house. And as soon as her younger daughter has her hipster-fabulous wedding in the backyard, she’s trading it in for a condo in downtown Chicago...

Well within the average market time in her area, Penny gets an offer on the house. But then life happens. Her children, her parents and her ex come flying back to the nest, all in need of Penny’s emotional—and financial—support. Spread thin, Penny becomes the poster child for the “sandwich generation,” when all she really wanted to do was make managing director, buy a white couch, and maybe go on a date.

Jen Lancaster is the New York Times bestselling author of twelve previous books (The Best of Enemies; I Regret Nothing; Twisted Sisters; The Tao of Martha; Here I Go Again; Jeneration X; If You Were Here;My Fair Lazy; Pretty in Plaid; Such a Pretty Fat; Bright Lights, Big Ass; Bitter Is the New Black). She has appeared on Today, The Joy Behar Show, and NPR’s All Things Considered. Visit Jen at her website, Facebook, and Twitter.

~Introduction by Melissa Amster

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Giveaway ends June 26th at midnight EST.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Book Review: The Real Thing

By Sara Steven

Manda Marshall is ready to leave heartache behind when she marries Keith Black, a champion saddle bronc cowboy and man of her dreams. But going from the serenity of small town Tennessee to the exhilaration of the rodeo, nothing can prepare her for being a cowboy’s wife. Becoming the new stepmom to Keith’s little boy and teenaged daughter has Manda relying on her deep sense of longing for a family and budding love for her stepchildren to strengthen their bond.

Manda’s desire of being a rodeo cowboy’s wife begins to take second place as she works to reinvent a life for herself and new family, but when mysterious phone calls from Keith’s missing ex-wife dredge up the past, Manda finds her marriage and family in an unusual and heart wrenching dilemma. The life she had worked so hard to build is suddenly redefined and her commitment to her husband and family is tested.

What Manda discovers has the power to heal or break her family in this emotional tale of cowboys, rodeo queens, and what it really means to ride beside a cowboy and his family, no matter the risk.
(Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

Having read and reviewed Waking Up Joy, also by Tina Ann Forkner, I was looking forward to her latest novel, delving deep into the world of cowboys and rodeos, and the women who are the support system to that lifestyle. There is so much that goes into it, not only from a relationship perspective, but also from a celebrity perspective. In many circles, Keith Black is famous. Being the wife of a well-known saddle bronc cowboy isn’t always easy, especially when Manda is dealing with baggage from her own past.

What starts out as an adjustment period for Manda, quickly turns into much more than she could have ever bargained for, when the missing ex-wife suddenly becomes the forefront of the family circle, a circle Manda has been working hard at solidifying. I felt as though the circumstances surrounding the break-up between Keith and his first wife was shocking, something I’d have never imagined. Definitely outside the box, but believable and relatable.

The Real Thing is a beautifully written story about unconventional families, and how important they are, even if they don’t make sense to the outside world. Having been in a situation where my own familial status wasn’t the norm or the ideal, I could completely understand where Manda’s heart lies, doing all she can to support her husband and the family she’s always wanted. Sometimes, it’s in the most unusual of circumstances where you’ll discover who you really are, and the strengths you never knew you possessed.

Thanks to Tina Ann Forkner for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Tina Ann Forkner:

Friday, June 17, 2016

Spotlight: Appetite

Today we're featuring Sheila Grinell's debut novel, Appetite, as part of BookSparks' 2016 Summer Reading Challenge. This book is relatively new to us, but after seeing Book Mama Blog's review, we want to dig in!

When Jenn Adler returns from a year in India, she has a surprise for her parents: a young guru from Bangalore whom she intends to marry. Her father, Paul, is wary of this “beggar” Jenn has brought home—who, he suspects, is conning his much-loved daughter—while her mother, Maggie, is frightened that this alien stranger will steal away her only child, her focus in life.

In the months leading up to the backyard wedding, Maggie is forced to reevaluate her virtues as she casts about for support, and Paul faces an unexpected threat at work—one that Maggie could help him meet, if he would only ask. But even with these distractions, the two parents are focused on one primary question: Can they convince their daughter she is making a terrible mistake before the wedding takes place?

Born in a taxi in Manhattan, Sheila Grinell studied at the Bronx High School of Science, Harvard University, and the University of California, Berkeley. Towards the end of her forty-year career as a creator of science museums, she began to write fiction. Appetite is her debut novel. She lives in Phoenix with her husband and dog. To learn more, visit Sheila at her website, Facebook, and Twitter.