Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Reviews at Amazon--October 2017

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:
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Review (Goodreads)

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Monday, October 30, 2017

Sara Goff doesn't scare us off....plus a book giveaway

We're pleased to have Sara Goff visiting us today to talk about her debut novel, I Always Cry at Weddings, and get us in the mood for Halloween. She has print and e-book copies to give away!

Sara Goff spent seven years as a New York City fashion designer and merchandiser before leaving her career to make a difference in the world. She founded the global educational charity Lift the Lid, Inc. in 2010, which supports underprivileged schools and encourages young people to exercise their creative expression through writing.

Sara attended Sewanee Writers’ Conference and received two fellowships to Summer Literary Seminars in St. Petersburg, Russia and Nairobi, Kenya. While living in Manhattan, she loved her work as a writing instructor for Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen Writers Workshop, founded by author Ian Frazier, and for The National Arts Club’s creative writing program for students. She’s currently Chair of the Literary Committee at The National Arts Club in Manhattan and is a public speaker on such topics as volunteer work and finding purpose in life, and the writing process and the power of the written word.

After seven years living in Stockholm, Sweden and then London, England, Sara is back in the States, enjoying life in Connecticut, with her Swedish husband, their two sons, and sweet little girl...a Yorkie named Pia. Her first novel, I Always Cry at Weddings (WhiteFire Publishing), is a New York City tale about figuring out life and finding love. Visit Sara at her website, and on Facebook and Twitter.


Synopsis:
Ava is ready to set Manhattan abuzz with her wedding. At least until she realizes her fiancé wants marriage for the wrong reasons, and maybe she does, too. In a move as daring as a red satin dress, she does the unthinkable--she calls it off, taking on more debt than she can afford and returning to the single life.

When Ava loses her job in fashion and her mom succumbs to cancer, she decides to revamp her life entirely, taking a vow of chastity and going for her dream of becoming a professional dancer.

Change brings trial and error, and she's inching closer to financial ruin, but an undercover cop promises a new romance...and an unexpected friendship with the homeless guy beneath her stoop brightens her days.

When her carefully balanced life teeters out of control, weddings aren't the only thing to make her cry. Ava has to figure out what life she really wants to live and what in the world love--unconditional love--means. (Courtesy of Amazon.)

In one sentence, what was the road to publishing like for you?
The road to publishing I Always Cry at Weddings was a series of learning lessons, from landing top agents who wanted me to be someone I wasn’t as an author, to finding my own writing voice and a publisher who would best represent Ava’s story. I can sum it up in one word: Hilly!

Your non-profit, Lift the Lid, Inc., works with students at underprivileged schools to explore self-expression through writing. Tell us about a moving experience involving a student.
Oh, there are so many stories. I just finished putting together a hardcover book of 27 students’ personal stories, poems, and photos, and it holds so many accounts of struggle and triumph. (We’re giving it as a gift for every donation of $100 or more to our library fund!)

But here’s the story of how I was first inspired to start a charity. In 2006, I applied to a writing program in Kenya through Summer Literary Seminars and received a partial fellowship. I’d never been to Africa before. My husband and family thought it was risky, and for the first time in my life my grandmother told me not to give something a try. But I went anyway.

Two weeks into the workshop, I took a break from critiquing manuscripts and joined a tour group, at the last minute, to see what life was like outside the city of Nairobi.

The bus stopped on a windy cliff overlooking a sloping green plain, a picture of paradise. Below the shifting clouds and warm sun, a cluster of Maasai children and a few women sold handmade jewelry. One girl with a slender face and big brown eyes, who I later learned was seven years old, stared at my long, curly blond hair with pure fascination and some trepidation. I smiled and held out a curl, which she cautiously touched and then smiled back. She wore a dress similar to a burlap sack and was barefoot, and like all the other girls, her hair was shaved to her head.

Marjorie, her name, indicated that she lived about eight kilometers in that direction. Not an easy walk to make barefoot. When I asked if she attended school, she looked down and shook her head no. I bought what jewelry I could from her, imagining the arranged marriage that likely awaited her in just a few years. She showed me more jewelry, and I showed her my empty pockets. It was also time to go, so I reluctantly boarded the bus.

“Ms.,” she called out in her sweet voice. Turning around, I found her warily climbing the steps of the bus, holding a bracelet I had admired. “I’m sorry,” I said, again opening my shilling-less pockets. “No money.” She could’ve sold me the world, if I had brought more cash. But then she held out the bracelet for me to take. I reached for it and watched her step off the bus. Sitting back in my seat, I buried my face in my hands and cried. My life at that moment was changed.

The following year I returned to Kenya to visit rural schools and orphanages. A few years after that I founded Lift the Lid, Inc. Because of the charity, that program I attended in 2006 continues to shape and inspire my life, and I’ll never forget Marjorie.

If I Always Cry at Weddings was made into a movie, who would you cast in the lead roles?
Emma Watson would make the perfect Ava (particularly in her role in Beauty and the Beast.) As an actor, I believe she’s human and curious about humanity, and that is exactly how Ava relates to New York City and pursues her dreams. Open to life and learning. No airs.

Emma Watson as Ava? I can dream, too!

For Chris, the homeless man, I would cast Aneurin Barnard (War and Peace, Dunkirk, Bitter Harvest.) Aneurin has the right poetic eyes, strong jawline, and dark hair with scruffy potential. Did I mention his smile? That works, too.

Oh, and I picture a rough and tumble Tom Bateman (Snatched, Murder on the Orient Express, B&B) as Julian, the undercover cop with hidden personalities.

Favorite Halloween candy:
I’m old school and like candy corn, but not too much of it.

Most memorable Halloween costume:
While we were living in London, my husband and I and oldest son Lucas went to an all vampire Halloween party. I thought we did an excellent job with our vampire costumes.

The scariest movie you've ever seen:
I was pressured into watching the entire movie of Silence of the Lambs. That was back in 1991, and it still bothers me to this day.

Thanks to Sara for visiting with us and 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 November 5th at midnight EST.

Friday, October 27, 2017

What's in the mail...plus a giveaway

Melissa A:
The Room on Rue Amélie by Kristin Harmel from Gallery (e-book via NetGalley)
The Wake Up by Catherine Ryan Hyde from Lake Union
Surprise Me by Sophie Kinsella from The Dial Press (e-book via NetGalley)
I Always Cry at Weddings by Sara Goff from Katherine Rose Watson (e-book)
Not Perfect by Elizabeth LaBan from Lake Union
Still Me by Jojo Moyes from Viking
The Recipe Box by Viola Shipman from St. Martin's Press
The Good Liar by Catherine McKenzie from Lake Union (e-book via NetGalley)
The Husband Hour by Jamie Brenner from Little, Brown
The Baby Plan by Kate Rorick from William Morrow
Twist of Faith by Ellen J. Green from Thomas & Mercer
Woman Last Seen in Her Thirties by Camille Pagán from Lake Union (e-book via NetGalley)
Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker from SparkPoint

Becky:
The Christmas Stocking And Other Stories by Katie Fforde from Penguin Random House UK
The Big Dreams Beach HotelThe Big Little Wedding in Carlton Square and The Second Chance Cafe in Carlton Square by Lilly Bartlett from HarperImpulse

Jami:
The Last Day by Claire Dyer from The Dome Press (e-book)

What could be in YOUR mail?

How to Make a French Family by Samantha Vérant.

Thanks to Sourcebooks, we have FIVE copies to give away!

Say bonjour to a whole new way of life!

Take one French widower, his two young children, and drop a former city girl from Chicago into a small town in southwestern France. Shake vigorously... and voilá: a blended Franco-American family whose lives will all drastically change.

Floating on a cloud of newlywed bliss, Samantha couldn’t wait to move to France to begin her life with her new husband, Jean-Luc, and his kids. But almost from the moment the plane touches down, Samantha realizes that there are a lot of things about her new home—including flea-ridden cats, grumpy teenagers, and language barriers—that she hadn’t counted on.

Struggling to feel at home and wondering when exactly her French fairy tale is going to start, Samantha isn’t sure if she really has what it takes to make it in la belle France. But when a second chance at life and love is on the line, giving up isn’t an option.
How to Make a French Family is the heartwarming and sometimes hilarious story of the culture clashes and faux pas that , in the end, add up to one happy family.

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 November 1st at midnight EST.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Book Review: A Not Quite Perfect Family

By Becky Gulc

One of my favourite authors of recent years is back, with A Not Quite Perfect Family. What’s it all about?

'Funny, feisty and all-too-true, A Not Quite Perfect Family by Claire Sandy is for anyone who loves their family so much they’d just like a weekend away from them.

Fern Carlile has a lot on her plate. It’s a good thing she loves her big, imperfectly perfect family, because she’s the one who washes their pants, de-fleas the dog and runs her own business. A hearty meal is the one thing that brings the Carliles together – but over the course of a year, the various courses also pull them apart.

Around the table sits an eight-year-old militant feminist, a pair of teenage accidental parents, and a cantankerous OAP. Fern’s husband needs an extra seat for his spectacular midlife crisis.

Will Fern’s marriage be over by the time coffee is served? Perhaps she’ll give in and have the hot new dish that looks so tempting. Decisions, decisions . .' (amazon.co.uk)

This was another fantastic book by this author, with the same warmth, humour, heart and family-focus I’ve come to love from her writing.

Fern is a great lead character. She’s a very pragmatic woman who, despite the challenges life throws at her, is going to live her life to the fullest whilst keeping everything as normal as possible for her children. She’s a great mother and friend and I became extremely fond of her and how she maintains her dignity throughout difficult times.

The house is almost a character itself in the novel, and I loved that. I had a clear picture of it in my mind. With the various characters who come to stay at the house, embraced by Fern and her children, it is central to many of the scenes. I had a real soft spot for it, especially when Fern’s ex Adam berates it.

As I said the book oozes warmth. Whether it’s how Fern manages her teenage son announcing he’s going to become a parent, or allowing the eccentric cleaner who never cleans to come and stay there – I loved it all. There was a busy-household feel to it, full of laughter and love even if not it’s by no means a ‘traditional’ household set-up.

I also enjoyed Fern’s new relationship, I could feel the characters fall for one another, but is it a case or right person wrong time? When Adam has been a fixture in Fern’s life since they were teenagers themselves, it’s certainly not going to be easy to let that relationship go.

Old love letters from Adam were interspersed throughout the novel and I enjoyed going back and seeing what their relationship was like back in the early days, especially as we know little of Adam really, other than him and Fern calling it a day early on in the novel – we don’t really understand why, other than potentially a mid-life crisis. Is the very enthusiastic fan Adam has in the form of Penny really got anything to do with it? Well, we’ll find out, and there are some very funny scenes concerning Adam and his image.

If you haven’t read a Claire Sandy novel, do it! You won’t be disappointed. Also check out the author’s work under her other names, Juliet Ashton and Bernadette Strachan (real name!).

Thanks to Pan Macmillan for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Claire Sandy:

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Chick Lit Cheerleader: A slightly empty nest

Introduction by Melissa Amster

Long before she became our Chick Lit Cheerleader, Jen Tucker was (and still is) a mom. Her love for and devotion to her kids is prevalent in her book, The Day I Wore My Panties Inside Out. (Some parts even made me cry.) I only wish I could be as awesome of a mom as she is (despite what my kids think) and envy her kids for having her as theirs. So, what's a mom to do when one of her kids has left the nest? Write a column about  it, of course! 

We'll leave you in Jen's capable hands now. (And maybe she'll make you some chocolate chip cookies too.)

When They Fly

Kicked off Nikes at the bottom of the stairs waiting to trip an unlucky soul. Empty cans of Coca-Cola on end tables, nightstands, next to the TV, piled in the basement...you name the locale. Lacrosse gear plopped atop the coffee table longer than it takes me to binge House of Cards. Textbooks and mounds of graded assignments littering the dining room table 24/7. Towels on the bathroom floor that reek of Axe body wash and man-smells. I no longer find these things around the house since Ryan left for his freshman year of college, and I couldn’t be happier about it. I kid you not. I do not miss those eye-roll worthy things one single bit.

At Ryan's high school graduation

The dining room table is clean—hallelujah! I haven’t bought a case of Coke in a month, friends. And I have yet to find a bath towel ready to be condemned. These are the joys of having one less freeloader in the house. I haven’t tripped over stray lacrosse balls since August! I also have more cash in my pocket. It seemed to disappear rapidly with requests for Taco Bell runs. You too will join me in this heavenly realm one day. Be steadfast, my people.

Now that all the celebratory stuff is out of the way, the little victories of reclaiming my space, let me tell you what I miss. There’s one less “Good morning, Mom!” with an accompanying hug to start my day. During breakfast, I no longer see Ryan devour a Kind Bar and bowl of Rice Chex, while watching YouTube videos of people playing video games (I still don’t get that one. Why watch people playing games you aren’t playing? Weird.) No more jingling keys before he heads out the door. “Mom! Hey, I’m home!” are words I never hear weekdays at 2:54 PM. No requests for homemade lasagna, accompanied by puppy dog eyes, and the tried and true signature phrase of getting me to do whatever my spawn wants. “You’re the best mom ever!” To those words, I am putty. Ryan wasn’t by my side during the most recent Game of Thrones run. He’s the one who held my hand when I was freaking out over white walkers, Lannister shenanigans, and baby dragons. My husband only understands my need to jump, shriek, and yell at the television to a certain degree.

Ryan playing lacrosse for his high school

Here’s what I miss most. It chokes me up every time I think about it. I miss our bedtime routine. Don’t think for a minute eighteen-year-old guys don’t have one. We no longer read bedtime stories and tucked Ryan in. My teenaged-son’s nightly ritual consisted of him piling on top of me, tickling my face with his lackluster patchy whiskers, and making the inanest noises for no reason other than he could. After I was the victim of a sparse facial hair attack for a fair amount of time, Mike would say, “Ryan, why are you so annoying?” or something like that. Ryan’s immediate cue to shift his focus and pummel Dad. Mike still has some sweet wrestling moves in his repertoire from high school. Watching them tussle only made me laugh harder. And they knew it.

Here’s what I’ve gained. A son I no longer parent daily but rather a man I give guidance and advice to. Can you believe he listens and asks for it? My voice no longer sounds like Charlie Brown’s teacher to him. Ryan calls and texts because he wants to, not because he must. When he returns home, it’s magic. He eats leftovers, loads the dishwasher, and takes the dogs out without a request. The sibling rivalry has turned into nothing but love, laughter, and precious moments when the three are reunited. You see, friends who’ve walked this path before me said these things would happen eventually. Maybe when Ryan got married, or had his first child. How fortunate are we that it happened after we hugged him goodbye outside his dorm room.

It’s hard to watch them fly, friends. The ones we rock to sleep. Who run to us to kiss their boo-boos. That wrap their tiny arms around our necks and squeeze with all their might. We add an additional birthday candle to their cakes each year watching time pass. Here’s the thing—it’s what’s supposed to happen. That doesn’t mean everyone should high-five and pop the champagne when they move out. It doesn’t dictate you won’t have your heart shatter as the door to their dorm closes behind you and they’re on their own for the first time. We all react to change, and growth, differently.

Move in day (his sister misses him already)
Ryan’s new digs means he won’t be home keeping me sane during The Walking Dead this season. Ryan gets me during intense TV time—always. It’s nail-biting scary for me when zombies sneak their way into Alexandria, the Hilltop, or the Kingdom. Yes, I know it’s television, I really do. Actors with crazy-stellar makeup and wardrobe. Yet to me, to Ryan, it’s one of the ties that binds us. And even though we won’t be watching together, I can’t wait for our Monday morning recaps as he walks to class. It’s OK if you don’t get the whole “zombie” thing. I don’t get pumpkin spice lattes. And neither does Ryan.

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.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Spotlight and Giveaway: Sinéad Moriarty Novels

Today we are featuring two of Sinéad Moriarty's most recent novels. Thanks to Bookouture, we have 1 e-book of each novel to share!


The Way We Were

She did what was right for her children. But now she faces an impossible choice …

When Alice’s husband, Ben, dies she is utterly devastated, not least for her grieving daughters. But just when she has begun to rebuild their lives, she receives a phone call that turns her family’s world upside down once more.

Ben is still alive.

The children are overjoyed to have their father back and assume life will continue as before. But Alice isn’t so sure. Both she and Ben have changed.

Keeping her heartbroken family together meant Alice had to find a strength she never knew she had. And in the darkest days, she drew her strength from Dan: her friend, and rock in hard times.

Once more Alice has to stay strong for her family. But can she and Ben really carry on the way they were? And is that what Alice really wants?

'Intriguing and thought-provoking ... a great read.' ~Katie Fforde

The Way We Were is a touching, heart-wrenching tale about love, grief, and making choices. I loved everything about this book. Sinead Moriarty is fast becoming a favorite author of mine.’ '
~Write-Escape


Never Let You Go*

When a mother’s love means doing the unthinkable …

Still reeling from her marriage breakdown, Kate’s world falls apart when her twelve-year-old daughter Jessica is diagnosed with cancer.

As her family struggle with the devastating news, Kate’s resilience is put to the test. She has an eighteen-year-old son consumed with hatred of his father, a seven-year-old who is bewildered and acting up and an ex-husband who won't face up to his responsibilities. And in the middle is a beloved child who is trying to be brave but is getting sicker by the day.

Kate knows she must put her own fear and heartbreak to one side and do right by all of her children, particularly Jessica. But sometimes doing the right thing means making a decision that no mother should ever have to make.

*This book was previously published as The Good Mother.

‘Heart-warming and heartbreaking, Sinead Moriarty has written a winner.’ ~Women’s Way magazine

‘I love this author – she never disappoints! I adored this book. Poignant, emotional, heartrending, taking us on a heartbreaking but hopeful journey. I loved all the characters, felt for them. A beautiful story, one I highly recommend.’ ~Renita D’Silva


Sinéad Moriarty was born and raised in Dublin where she grew up surrounded by books. Her mother is an author of children’s books. Growing up, Sinéad says she was inspired by watching her mother writing at the kitchen table and then being published. From that moment on, her childhood dream was to write a novel.

After university, she went to live in Paris and then London. It was at the age of thirty, while working as a journalist in London that she began to write creatively in her spare time – after work, at lunch times...and, truth be told, during work hours.

After a couple of years toying with ideas, she joined a creative writing group and began to write The Baby Trail. The bitter-sweet comedy of a couple struggling to conceive hit a nerve in publishing circles. It was snapped up by Penguin Publishing in the UK and Ireland and has, to date, been translated into twenty-five languages.

Some of Sinéad's other books are Pieces of My Heart, Me and My Sisters, This Child of Mine, and Mad About You. She has written a total of twelve books, including the two currently being featured. Her books are perfect for fans of Jodi Picoult, Jojo Moyes and Nicholas Sparks.

Visit Sinéad online:
Website * Facebook * 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 October 29th at midnight EST.

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 fiancé, 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.**

Unraveled

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.


Unstoppable

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?



Uncharted

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

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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 fiancé 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

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

Jami:
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)

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Book Review: Kindred Spirits...plus a special giveaway

By Sara Steven

Dashing and successful, Richard Bingham has been voted one of the top ten bachelors in New York City. After unwittingly offending a reporter from Manhattan Life magazine, he finds himself on the receiving end of an article that makes his quest of finding the perfect mate nearly impossible. 

After one dating disaster too many, Richard decides it’s time to seek professional help, so he signs up for the matchmaking services of the East Side Yenta. 


Philippa Fielding is single and searching for love in London, but her accidental profession of “Message Deliverer from the Great Beyond” puts most men right off. 


Will Pip’s new "Spirit Helper," Bertram, be able to set her on the course for true love with a message for Richard? 


Matchmaking, misunderstandings, and mayhem abound in this fast-paced romantic comedy about love, life, and the afterlife!
(Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

Philippa can’t catch a break. She’s been chosen to deliver messages from beyond the grave, a profession most people don't believe in or scoff at. And Richard is no exception. He’s had his share of women who are a few cards short of a full deck or out for his money, and in his opinion Philippa is just another tally to add to that list, particularly when she stands firm on the way she feels about spirits and communication with the dead.

The East Side Yenta is working her magic, trying to find a perfect match for Richard, while Philippa is allowing herself to open up a bit and entertain the idea that there might be someone out there for her, too. Yet Richard and Philippa are completely drawn to one another. Can a potential relationship survive quirky professions, other potential love interests and a long-distance relationship, or are they better off finding love on their own terms, and closer to home?

Kindred Spirits was such a fun, unique twist on the intricacies of relationships. With matchmaking services, online dating, blind dates or more unconventional methods, nothing was off limits. I really enjoyed the other supporting characters in this story, like Bertram, Philippa’s “spirit helper”. He reminded me of the guardian angel Fred from Drop Dead Diva. For those of you who have read Dineen’s fantastic novel, The Reinvention of Mimi Finnegan, this will feel like a coming home party for some of the best characters ever created. Richard and Philippa were key players in Mimi, and now we get to see the world through their eyes, particularly when it comes to finding (and losing) love. And even if you haven’t read the Mimi books as of yet (and if you haven’t, you totally should), Kindred is told in such a way that allows the reader the chance to get to know Richard and Philippa from the very beginning, which is pretty great, because they’re worth knowing.

Thanks to Whitney Dineen for the book in exchange for an honest review and to Karan & Co for including us in their blog tour. Visit all the other stops.

Enter Whitney's Gift Basket Giveaway




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Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Peggy Lampman is welcome here...plus a book giveaway

Introduction by Melissa Amster

A side effect from seeing (and listening to) Hamilton is that whenever I see the name Peggy, I want to put "And" before it. This has been the case every time today's guest has e-mailed me. Meet Peggy Lampman, whose sophomore novel, The Welcome Home Diner, published today. Thanks to Lake Union, we have THREE copies to give away!

Peggy Lampman’s passion is writing novels, which use food-centric and romantic themes as a means for breaking down familial and cultural barriers. Her debut novel, THE PROMISE KITCHEN, and  latest novel, THE WELCOME HOME DINER, reflect this fascination. She grew up in Alabama and planted roots in her college town of Ann Arbor, Michigan where she owned a specialty food store and wrote a food column.

Visit Peggy online:
Website * Blog * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram * Pinterest

Synopsis:
Betting on the city of Detroit’s eventual comeback, cousins Addie and Samantha decide to risk it all on an affordable new house and a culinary career that starts with renovating a vintage diner in a depressed area of town. There’s just one little snag in their vision.

Angus, a weary, beloved local, is strongly opposed to his neighborhood’s gentrification—and his concerns reflect the suspicion of the community. Shocked by their reception, Addie and Samantha begin to have second thoughts.As the long hours, problematic love interests, and underhanded pressures mount, the two women find themselves increasingly at odds, and soon their problems threaten everything they’ve worked for. If they are going to realize their dreams, Addie and Samantha must focus on rebuilding their relationship. But will the neighborhood open their hearts to welcome them home?


What was the most challenging and most rewarding part of writing THE WELCOME HOME DINER? 
When writing this book, I was walking a thin wobbly tightrope trying to give voice to the sentiments of a multi-racial cast with widely differing backgrounds. I’ve seen authors raked over coals after unintentionally offending a culture the writer didn’t fully understand. While writing this book I took authenticity seriously, which was most challenging.

That said, I also wanted this book to be a fun, romantic read and not come across as didactic. One of my main characters is Addie, a co-owner of the diner. A lovely, well-educated caucasian, Addie was born with the proverbial silver spoon in her mouth. Albeit flighty and self-absorbed—particularly in her romantic life––she has a big heart and “Save the World" attitude. And then there’s the equally beautiful LaQuisha, a black single mother coming from a vastly different background who works for Addie’s eatery. Addie learns much about the world through the eyes of LaQuisha and her child.

When writing a character, it's easy to fall into seemingly inoffensive cultural cliché. However, writing about a people and culture of which you’re not intimate—or at the very least, familiar with––has the potential of fostering hurtful and damaging stereotypes. While writing this book, I befriended people I’d never have met in my day-to-day, attended community activist meetings (which I’ve always been loathe to do in the past) and read journals to absorb as many perspectives as time allowed. Of course in retrospect, the hours spent on active listening and reading were rewarding on a multitude of levels. THE WELCOME HOME DINER is a better read for it. I feel that the book paints an accurate depiction of sentiments felt by a diverse people living in today’s Detroit. And I have grown considerably by gaining a broader perspective about unfamiliar communities of which I previously could not attach a story. .

What feedback did you use from THE PROMISE KITCHEN while writing THE WELCOME HOME DINER? 
When writing THE WELCOME HOME DINER, I toned down the lyricism. Many writers that hail from the Deep South (myself included), write in a poetic, lyrical voice. Set in rural Georgia and Atlanta, THE PROMISE KITCHEN reflects this style. Interestedly enough, readers from the South universally love the book while some of my Northern readers felt that my descriptions slowed the pace. THE WELCOME HOME DINER is set in Detroit and I tried to reflect my tone to mirror this much different environment. I also added an extra cup of romance to Welcome Home (-:

Do you base any of your characters on yourself?
I can absolutely find pieces of myself—my background, outlooks, opinions—splattered throughout my characters. Writing is cathartic—it’s digging at the roots of my anxiety and insecurities, and then pulling them out.

My character's career choices, as well, reflect my own. I owned a specialty food shop for twenty years and wrote a food column for a local paper. To date, all of my female protagonists work in the food industry in some capacity. Bad incidents I’ve experienced in my life sometimes play into my plots, as well. For example, I had a harrowing experience with a linen company that I put into THE WELCOME HOME DINER. I had a blast making the bad guys even more despicable than I experienced. Revenge, at last, is sweet!

Superficially speaking, my characters are much like the Mr. Potato Head toy. In my case, one character has my hair, another character has my nose. I’ve stared into my eyes many times drawing inspiration from the irises and corneas, and then painting them into a character. My friends are wary when I stare at them too long!

If THE WELCOME HOME DINER were to become a movie, who would play the lead characters?
Lead: Samantha-Cate Blanchett, Addie-Christina Ricci (oh she’d be so perfect!)
Supporting: Quiche-Halle Berry, Addie’s mother-Jane Fonda, Jessie-Whoopi Goldberg, David-Andrew Lincoln (sigh), Uriah-Jared Padlock, Angus-Denzel Washington, Braydon-Isaiha Mustafa

If you could take us on a tour of the town where you live, where would we go first?  
I live in my adopted town of Ann Arbor, Michigan. Home to the University of Michigan, it’s where I attended college. I would NOT, however, give you a tour of the stadium (-:. I would take you to the historic Kerrytown area. First stop: Zingerman’s. There you will eat the most most amazing Rueben (or veggie rueben, if preferred) of your life. Or perhaps we’ll split a sandwich; we’re not done yet! Next, we’d trot across the cobblestone street, shop for produce in the Farmers Market and then head over to Miss Kim’s for fusion Korean fare. We’ll order several small plates to share. When touring the town of Ann Arbor with me as your guide, you can rest assured you will never be hungry!

What is the last movie you saw that you would recommend?
La La Land. It struck all the right cords—musically and soulfully-- and was a lovely antidote to the gruel of editing THE WELCOME HOME DINER. I was raised in a theatrical household and my mother was the original fan girl for musical theater. She has passed away, but I’m certain that she would have gone nuts over this film. Indeed, I felt as if she were with me. And she was, somewhere deep inside, and that makes me smile.

Thanks to Peggy for visiting with us and to Lake Union 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 October 15th at midnight EST.