Monday, November 18, 2019

Book Review: The Huntress

By Melissa Amster

Bold and fearless, Nina Markova always dreamed of flying. When the Nazis attack the Soviet Union, she risks everything to join the legendary Night Witches, an all-female night bomber regiment wreaking havoc on the invading Germans. When she is stranded behind enemy lines, Nina becomes the prey of a lethal Nazi murderess known as the Huntress, and only Nina’s bravery and cunning will keep her alive.

Transformed by the horrors he witnessed from Omaha Beach to the Nuremberg Trials, British war correspondent Ian Graham has become a Nazi hunter. Yet one target eludes him: a vicious predator known as the Huntress. To find her, the fierce, disciplined investigator joins forces with the only witness to escape the Huntress alive: the brazen, cocksure Nina. But a shared secret could derail their mission unless Ian and Nina force themselves to confront it.

Growing up in post-war Boston, seventeen-year-old Jordan McBride is determined to become a photographer. When her long-widowed father unexpectedly comes homes with a new fiancée, Jordan is thrilled. But there is something disconcerting about the soft-spoken German widow. Certain that danger is lurking, Jordan begins to delve into her new stepmother’s past—only to discover that there are mysteries buried deep in her family . . . secrets that may threaten all Jordan holds dear.

In this immersive, heart-wrenching story, Kate Quinn illuminates the consequences of war on individual lives, and the price we pay to seek justice and truth.
(Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

Truthfully, I was hesitant to read The Huntress at first. I liked The Alice Network so much (see my review) and was worried the bar was set too high and that everything Kate Quinn wrote afterward would fall short. However, I didn't have anything to worry about, as I enjoyed this novel even more than its predecessor. And there's a little cameo from Alice to enjoy, as well! (Ironically, I just realized that I was also hesitant to read Alice at first. Two hits out of the park and Kate has sold me on anything she writes going forward!)

I liked all of the characters in this novel. They each had many layers and were so interesting to get to know better. Even the one I wasn't supposed to like came off as likable. The story was so interesting and it was neat to see how the stories came together as they started unfolding and moving through time. The detailed descriptions made it easy to visualize what was happening, as well as the characters and settings, but they did not take away from the narrative, of which there was plenty. There were some humorous moments, as well as heartbreaking ones. I found myself stepping away from my TV and computer at night so I could find out what would happen next in the story.

Even with a story this great, I still have a few criticisms. I felt it went heavy on symbolism, especially with mentioning "rusalkas" all the time. There was also a lot of foreshadowing that was unnecessary. The synopsis had a level of foreshadowing, as well. I also had a hard time understanding some of the flight terminology during Nina's chapters and it got confusing. The book is 530 pages long, which is a lot for me when it comes to having a lot of books in my TBR and so little time. Thankfully, it held my attention throughout and I felt like I was breezing through it after a while.

Overall, I really enjoyed The Huntress and I can't wait for my friends to read it so I can discuss it with them, as well as with the friends who already have read it!

For Hollywood's consideration (because this would be an amazing movie, of course):
Nina: Tatiana Maslany (I swear this role was written with Helena from Orphan Black in mind. "Sestra.")
Ian: Jamie Demetriou
Jordan: Lili Reinhart
Tony: Noah Centineo
Anneliese: Dominique McElligott
Yelena: Stacy Martin

Friday, November 15, 2019

A [good] friend date with a book giveaway

Today we are featuring Kate O'Keeffe's High Tea series, which is part of the Cozy Cottage Café series. Kate has one set of all three e-books for a lucky reader!

Kate O'Keeffe is a bestselling author of fun, feel-good chick lit and romantic comedies. She lives and loves in beautiful Hawke's Bay, New Zealand with her family, two scruffy dogs, and a cat who thinks he's a scruffy dog too. He's not: he's a cat. When she's not penning her latest story, Kate can be found hiking up hills (slowly), traveling to different countries around the globe, and eating chocolate. A lot of it.

Kate has written the Amazon bestselling Cozy Cottage Café series, the popular chick lit stories, the Wellywood Romantic Comedy series, as well as some stand-alone titles, including Manhattan Cinderella, The Right GuyOne Way Ticket, coauthored with chick lit author Melissa Baldwin, and the fun holiday novella, I'm Scheming of a White Christmas. (Bio adapted from Kate's website.)

Visit Kate online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram

High Tea, Book 1 - No More Bad Dates

Three friends form the No More Bad Dates Pact: stop dating the wrong guys and start dating the right ones - weirdos and jerks need not apply.

Twenty-five-year-old Sophie McCarthy's career is virtually nonexistent, her family expects her to "do something important" with her life, and she's totally sick of dating the wrong guys: the self-absorbed, the arrogant, the borderline criminally insane.

After she's unceremoniously dumped during the vows at her boss's wedding, she and her two equally disappointed-in-love best friends agree to help each other find decent guys to date. Together, they form the No More Bad Dates Pact: stop dating the wrong guys and start dating the right ones--weirdos and jerks need not apply.

When Sophie's roommate Jason Christie--a.k.a. doctor-in-training and serial nurse-dater--joins the pact, he vows to weed out the bad ones for her. But with his rejection of every guy Sophie meets, she begins to wonder if he's got an ulterior motive. And anyway, why does she always have so much more fun with Jason than with the guys she's actually trying to date?

While desperately seeking her "happy for now," could Sophie stumble into her "happily ever after?"

High Tea, Book 2 - No More Terrible Dates

Twenty-five-year-old personal assistant Darcy Evans likes to be in control of her life. But there's one thing she can't get a handle on: men.

Sick of terrible dates, she makes a pact with her friends to only date good guys. But it's tough out there. From the liars and cheats to the positively weird, where's a modern day hero when you want one?

Then, when her boss buys an art gallery, Darcy's forced to work with photographer Alex Walsh. He's a blast from her past and definitely not hero material. Ridiculously handsome and charming, he's all those distracting things Darcy doesn't need, especially when she can't forgive him for what happened back in high school.

With Darcy holding out for a hero, will she miss the perfect man right under her nose?

High Tea, Book 3 - No More Horrible Dates

What do you do when you want to find your happily ever after, but you're stuck in a fake relationship with the last guy you'd ever want to date?

Twenty-five-year-old Erin Andrews has got a problem. She works for the country's most successful rugby team but a bitter past tells her all pro sports players are self-satisfied, arrogant jerks. There's no way on this sweet Earth she'd date one. That's why she agrees to a pact with her best friends to find good guys to date, and for her that definitely does not include guys like the "Wild Boy of Rugby," Nick Zachary.

So, when Nick is in desperate need of a reputation rehab, the big bosses turn to her as the nice, ordinary girl who can get his image back on track. For Erin, being that girl is the last thing she would ever want to do. That is until she realizes just how much being Nick's high profile fake girlfriend can do for her dream of becoming a fashion designer.

But playing this game of make-believe begins to feel real, and Erin wonders if the "Wild Boy of Rugby" could be her happily ever after…

Thanks to Kate for sharing her books 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 20th at midnight EST.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Book Review: Roping Your Heart

Roping Your Heart (Love in Everton, book two)
by Fabiola Francisco


Will be available FREE in KU

By Sara Steven

Lia Montgomery has been my best friend since we were kids, but when she moves back to our hometown, we can’t ignore the chemistry between us. And I’ve come up with a plan to make her mine.

First on the list? Make her my roommate.

It seems like a great idea at the time, but one look at her in those little pajama shorts and a thin tee shirt, and all I want to do is throw her over my shoulder, caveman style.

Screw the plan.

A simple dare changes everything between us. But when I’m challenged to do the one thing that could tear us apart forever, I realize there’s more at risk than just my heart. (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

Another scorcher! Having read the first book in the Love in Everton series, Write You a Love Song (reviewed here), I eagerly anticipated Lia and Axel’s story. Fabiola Francisco did not disappoint! Axel is the epitome of manliness, but with a softer side that becomes more evident when he’s around Lia, his childhood best friend. The build-up between them feels like a slow burn, considering that neither wants to ruin their friendship in pursuit of crossing any lines, even though deep down, they’ve entertained the idea for years.

I could appreciate Lia’s independence, too. After moving back to Everton, she wants to make roots on her own terms, and even after she moves into Axel’s home, she welcomes having her own space within it. She has a mind of her own and is not afraid to express it, a quality Axel loves. But when it comes to proving who he really is in the town, the last thing he wants is to receive any sort of push back from Lia. One of the things he loves most about her becomes a problem, making him question his own integrity.

There are plenty of hot moments in Roping Your Heart, a vast range between the sensual heat and angry emotions that can spill from both characters given the circumstances. The one thing both Lia and Axel worry about the most is destroying the friendship they’ve had nearly their entire lives, and it’s always in the forefront, especially when Axel is faced with his challenge, a huge threat that stands between the happiness they both know they deserve. It’s the hot moments that kept this reader on her toes, wanting to see what would happen next.

While Roping Your Heart is the second in the Love in Everton series, it can be read as a stand-alone, considering there are plenty of scenes that bring back the two primary characters from the first novel. Having said that, though, I highly recommend reading Write You a Love Song too, capturing more of that five-star heat that Francisco writes so well! I can’t wait to read the next installment, which looks to be out soon.

Thanks to Bare Naked Words for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Meet the Author:

Fabiola Francisco is a contemporary romance author from South Florida. Writing as been a part of her life since she was a teenager. Even at that age, she dreamed of happy endings with emotional twists. Her novels include Perfectly Imperfect, The Restoring Series, Sweet on You Duet, and Red Lights, Black Hearts.  

Her passion for books and writing has inspired her to write her own stories. She writes novels readers could relate to and grow with. She’s currently working on writing more stories that connect with readers on a deeper.

Fabiola also loves expressing herself through art and spending time in nature. In her spare time, she loves to cuddle with a good book and a glass of wine.

Visit Fabiola online:

Sign up for Fabiola's newsletter.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Book Review: Ten Things My Husband Hated

By Sara Steven

Maggie Moone is happily divorced.

And with her talent for fixing things, she’s perfectly content with her mundane life in the sleepy English village of Saffron Sweeting. That is, until one humiliating March evening when she learns everyone else assumes she’d love to mend her broken marriage.

Determined to prove them wrong, Maggie and her friends concoct a list of ten ways to assert her independence and live large. But her mission to move on leads to unexpected encounters, and Maggie soon finds herself mixing business with pleasure. Is the attractive young Irishman just another item on her list, or is he something more?

Before long, unresolved issues from her past begin to clash, and Maggie is forced to wonder if antagonising her ex-husband was such a stellar idea.

No sooner does she begin to understand what’s important to her, than she stands to lose everything that truly matters.
(Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

The synopsis starts off as stating that Maggie Moone is happily divorced. I think there is a lot of truth to that, but I also think that Maggie is still attempting to rediscover who she is, trying to disentangle herself from her ex. It’s hard when you’ve been married to someone for so long, and know so much about them. There are plenty of moments where Maggie compares and contrasts her life to what it had been, based on the way he’d wanted things to be, his likes and dislikes. There is speculation that she wants to mend her marriage and get back with the ex, leading her and her friends in creating a list in breaking her ties with him.

I thought that was a clever and unique way to help Maggie move on with her life. The list not only helps in enabling her to find who she really is again, but it also provides a way to boost her confidence. I also appreciated that Maggie doesn’t fit standard female stereotypes, that her passions lie in fixing things that are broken, not in calling a handyman to do it for her but doing it all on her own. I think there was a subtle message there, a parallel to what she’s dealing with in her own life. In fixing other people’s problems, she’s fixing her own as well.

I had a hard time tolerating the ex. It’s more than obvious why these two didn’t work out. It’s hard to imagine there was ever a time when they might have been happy together, but much like in real life, sometimes we find ourselves in a relationship that is a toxic one, often too late. I liked seeing the gradual shifts in power between them, and it left me wondering what Maggie would do or not do, particularly when there is a potential love interest thrown into the mix. There are bits of chaos, and she has to make some tough decisions- right from wrong, what’s right for her versus what’s right for those around her. The list at times becomes not only her strength, but also a hindrance, leaving her confused and unsure of what to do.

This is my first venture into the Saffron Sweeting series, and I really enjoyed Maggie’s story and the rocky road she takes in re-discovering herself. Where was a book like this when I had gone through my own divorce, with the concept of a list to get me through those tough times? While Ten Things is part of a series, it can certainly be read as a stand-alone, but I think I’d like to get to know the other books and characters of Saffron Sweeting, too!

Thanks to Rachel's Random Resources for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Purchase Ten Things My Husband Hated.

British by birth, Pauline Wiles is now a contented resident of California, although she admits to occasional yearnings for afternoon tea and historic homes.

Her debut novel, Saving Saffron Sweeting, reached the quarter final of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. Three further books set in the same village are now available, along with a collection of short stories and Indie With Ease, a self-help guide for other self-published authors.

When not writing, Pauline can be found pondering how many miles she has to run to justify an extra piece of cake. She’s also fond of daydreaming about flying herself and a reader to London for tea.

Visit Pauline online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter

Visit the other stops on Pauline's tour (click on the picture to enlarge it):

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Rosey Lee’s beautiful family a special giveaway

We're pleased to welcome Rosey Lee to CLC today. She's here to talk about her Beautiful, Complicated Family series and she has a special prize for a lucky reader as part of her blog tour.

Rosey Lee writes uplifting fiction stories about family and friendship. A native of the Westbank of New Orleans, Louisiana, Rosey is a fan of good food and a good time. As a child, she dreamed of a career in writing, fashion design, and acting. She uses the pen name Rosey Lee as she pursues her passion for writing. Her alter ego is a physician who has dedicated her career to individual and community-based approaches to health equity. She enjoys cooking, flower arranging, listening to live music, and occasional bursts of fanatical bargain shopping.

Rosey’s flash fiction has appeared in Necessary FictionBending GenresBarren MagazineTurnpike Magazine, The Wellington Street Review, and elsewhere. Her work has also been nominated for the 2019 Best of the Net anthology. Connect with Rosey at her website and on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram.

Beautiful, Complicated Family: Volume 1 and Beautiful, Complicated Family: Volume 2 explore the connections that can hold people together or tear them apart. The stories in this collection capture struggles that are common in today’s families—secrets, mother-daughter conflicts, coping with aging family members, and a more subtle question of what makes a family. The issues will seem familiar to you, but there are unexpected twists when you least expect them. The relatable characters and endings may pull at your heartstrings, so don’t be surprised if you laugh or cry along the way. Like most families, the relationships in this uplifting collection consist of intricate elements. Sometimes things get messy, but it’s always beautiful. Each volume contains five flash fiction stories (very short stories of 1000 words or less each). Read each story in about 5 minutes and get Volume 2 of the collection for free using a link within Volume 1.

Purchase Beautiful, Complicated Family: Volume 1:


I write about the relationships women have with their families–the ups, the downs, and everything in between. Whether it’s a family that a character was born into or one she cultivated over time, families can provide endless material for a writer. The families in my newly released Beautiful, Complicated Family series deal with secrets and mother-daughter conflicts, cope with aging family members and death, and grapple with a more subtle question of what makes a family.

Similar to real life, it’s not unusual for the women in my stories to be the center of their families. Frequently, women hold families together. But that also means that we could be responsible for tearing them apart. There’s lots of drama in my stories, and things get messy for my characters. But my stories are uplifting because my characters work through complicated family issues and grow through them. Through forgiveness, acceptance, and compassion, the characters have an opportunity to emerge stronger if they can find ways to grow together.

“Blossom in the Snow” is one of my favorite stories in the collection. I stumbled upon the inspiration for it while on Twitter one day. Someone posted a quote by Alice M. Sawim, and I was deeply touched by it.

“Courage is not the towering oak that sees storms come and go;
it is the fragile blossom that opens in the snow.”

I’m from New Orleans, and I live in Atlanta. Though I spent a few years living in New England, I’d never heard of a flower that blossoms in the snow. I struggled to understand how such a thing could exist. Then I began to wonder how that might translate into a human quality and what it would look like as a character interacted with her family. Answering this question helped me to select the setting for my story, the somber circumstance encountered by the main character, as well as her personality, backstory, and family dilemma.

I don’t want to spoil the story, so I won’t reveal much about the plot here. But I will tell you that most of the answers are based on a 15 to 20-foot tall, vase-shaped shrub called a Jelena witch hazel. The plant is striking, particularly against a winter landscape. It has woody branches topped by
bright, coppery blossoms with petals that look like spiders. The massive shrubs are frequently planted next to sidewalks so that passersby can enjoy their sweet fragrance. Also, an extract from the bark and leaves of witch hazel plants has been used in the cosmetics industry for the astringent also called witch hazel.

Are you curious about the story yet? I hope so. You can download Beautiful, Complicated Family: Volume 1 for free from several ebook retailers. You can also subscribe to my website or use the link in Volume 1 to get Beautiful, Complicated Family: Volume 2 for free.

Thanks to Rosey for visiting with us and for hosting a giveaway!

Giveaway: The prize for my blog tour reader giveaway is a Kindle (If winner is outside the US: $50 in books from Book Depository).

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Visit all the stops on Rosey's tour (click the picture to enlarge it):

Friday, November 8, 2019

Book Review: Bride Squad Runaway

By Sara Steven

Ava O'Hara seems to have it all . . . She has a great job, a long-term relationship and the promise of a wedding on the horizon. But her fiancé has other plans, and Ava's not part of them.

On the big day itself, she's forced to flee the ruins of her best life. Ava needs help, and fast. Who knew that a trio of old friends, two roguish strangers in an ice-cream van and one handsome French man would turn out to be the best emergency bride squad ever?
(Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

Old friends and new friends and the jerks in between; a large factor to the premise surrounding Bride Squad Runaway!

As indicated in the synopsis, Ava has a life that most people would look at as a charmed existence. But as is usually the case, what something looks like on the surface almost always is not true to form. The great job hasn’t fulfilled her deep-rooted passions, her long-term relationship hasn’t, either- and while she’s continually trying to find her way, she’s often making compromises in order to appease everyone else. Ava finds herself in a gigantic colossal rut, figuring it’s easier to move with the tide than to fight against it.

When there is no change, a change is made for you. Suddenly, Ava is in a situation where she’s losing everything she worked so hard for, bringing her front and center to the one real question she’s had a hard time coming to grips with: Is it worth it? The job, the man, the steps she’s taking in her life… if she can’t do what she really wants to do, if she can’t entertain the thought of actually being with someone who brings sparks of joy to her life- what’s the point?

Cue the girlfriends! Two women who were once such an intricate part of her world, yet with time and distance, it feels like those relationships, much like the rest of her, are hanging on by a thin thread. We get to see the gradual slip and slide that can happen to even the best-of-intentioned friendships, but there is a chance for repair, and both women act like mirrors that replicate the varying sides to who Ava is. To add even more fun to this chaotic “coming home” experience, is the added bonus of the two strangers in an ice-cream van! I had a lot of fun getting to learn more about the roguish men who prove that you should never judge a book by its cover. While Ava deals with the jerk who becomes a stumbling road block to her happiness, watching this oddball group of people come together for her aid was a lot of fun to witness!

There were plenty of laughs and fun moments to Bride Squad, but there were plenty of serious ones, too. Changes that age us and stage us, life experiences that aren’t always pleasant, some that can feel downright damaging. I appreciated those particular moments, too, because it brought out an element of honesty to the level of fun. There has to be bad with the good, but it’s how you deal with it that makes all the difference. And of course, if we can’t have Paris, there’s always Ava’s French man that garners in at a close second!

Thanks to Black & White Publishing for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Caroline Grace-Cassidy:

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Amy Hatvany has a lot to tell a book giveaway

We're thrilled to have Amy Hatvany back at CLC today! We love her novels and are excited to read her latest, which published this week. Tell Me Everything sounds fascinating and is sure to be a riveting read. Amy has one copy for a lucky reader!

Amy Hatvany graduated with a degree in Sociology only to discover most sociologists are unemployed. Soon followed a variety of jobs – some of which she loved, like decorating wedding cakes; others which she merely tolerated, like receptionist.

In 1998, Amy finally decided to sell her car, quit her job, and take a chance on her passion: writing books.

Her background in sociology inspires and informs much of her work as she tackles timely and controversial issues in her novels including mental illness, domestic abuse, and alcoholism. She is published by Washington Square Press/Atria Books, and has been both a Target Book Club and Costco Pennie's Pick.

Amy spends most of her time today with her kids and her second and final husband, Stephan. (Seriously, if this one doesn’t work out, she’s done, kaput, no more husbands!) When Amy’s not with friends or family, she is most likely reading, cooking, or zoning out on certain reality television shows. She eagerly awaits Bravo auditions for the cast of “Top Author.” (“Quick Edit” instead of “Quick Fire” Challenge? C’mon, producers! That’s gripping television!)  (Bio courtesy of Amy's website.)

Visit Amy online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram

A happily married couple. A dance with a stranger at a bar.

One night—one seemingly insignificant choice—can change everything.

Jessica and Jake Snyder love each other, and their life together. Successful in their chosen careers, they reside in the picturesque, though at times stifling, Seattle suburb of Queens Ridge as they parent teenagers Ella and Tucker.

As so often happens in marriage, their romantic life falls casualty to busy schedules and repetitive routine, until one night, a stranger asks Jessica to dance. On a whim, Jake urges her to say yes, saying that he wants to watch this other man touch her, something that surprises Jessica by arousing her like never before. A door opens for them then, into a realm of exploration neither of them knew existed.

They create rules to protect their marriage, and are thrilled when their relationship is strengthened and enriched by deeper levels of communication and trust brought about by this exciting, but taboo behavior. That is, until Jessica keeps a secret from Jake and embarks on a tryst with an intriguing man from her past, who, when she tries to end things between them, decides to seek revenge.

What happens after that will threaten to destroy their world—and them.

A juicy and insightful look into the shifting definition of modern marriage and the limits placed upon female sexuality, TELL ME EVERYTHING will make you question everything you thought you knew about what constitutes marital bliss, and keep you turning pages into the night.
(Courtesy of Amazon.)

What is a favorite compliment you have received on your writing? 
I think the one that I've heard many times - that reading one of my books is like sitting down for a talk with a best friend who understands them!

What were the biggest rewards and challenges with writing Tell Me Everything
The biggest reward was getting to write about something that has been on my mind for a long time, since my educational background is actually in the sociology of human sexuality. I tend to be curious in general when it comes to how our society treats what goes on behind closed doors, especially how women's sexuality is not only judged harshly, it's treated like a commodity. This book gave me the opportunity to explore how women are shamed about how we indulge our sexual desires, despite that as a culture, sex is used to sell everything from breakfast cereals to cars. I found it liberating to write about it.

The biggest challenge I faced was making Jessica and Jake relatable, fully-rounded characters, knowing full-well that many readers will have preconceived notions about what a "nice" girl would do in a situation like this. I want my readers to feel empathy and understanding of the choices they make.

If Tell Me Everything were made into a movie, who would you cast in the leading roles? 
Oh, this is the fun part! I think for Jessica, I would choose a brunette Kate Winslet, and for Jake, her husband, maybe Timothy Olyphant. For Andrew - Justin Theroux!

What TV series are you currently binge watching? 
I'm working my way through all 15 seasons of ER on Hulu! It's such an amazing show, and so many successful actors today got their start in bit parts on it! It's fun to see them at their beginning.

Tell us about your most memorable Thanksgiving. 
Honestly, I got sober 14 years ago on Thanksgiving weekend, so that will always be the hardest, and best memory I have of that weekend.

What is the strangest thing currently residing in your purse/handbag? 
A green apple Blow-Pop that I bought on a whim about six months ago at the drugstore check out. Those were my favorite in high school, so I grabbed it and keep forgetting it's in there!

Thanks to Amy 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 12th at midnight EST.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Book Review: Squared Away

By Sara Steven

Almost two years after she left the army, and her best friend Concepcion Chapa, Joelle McCoy receives a cryptic voicemail from an Iraqi contact looking for Concepcion. When Joelle can’t reach her “battle buddy,” she’s told Concepcion died in a car accident, while working for the FBI

But Joelle has questions and those questions launch her into the arms of an FBI agent—one of Concepcion’s former colleagues—and a search for her friend that will bring her from small-town Missouri, to Miami, and then on to Kosovo.

Over the course of a year, Joelle will search for her friend, with the help of Concepcion’s former FBI colleagues, and try to come to terms with what their battle-tested friendship really means in her life. And why Concepcion would disappear without so much as a goodbye. (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

I appreciated the air of mystery that surrounds Squared Away. From the beginning, we’re informed that one of Joelle’s closest friends has died, but Joelle doesn’t believe it. Many things don’t sit right or add up, cleverly showcased within the pages. But just when I thought that Joelle was onto something, other characters would provide additional information that had me guessing for most of the book. Was Concepcion still alive?

This felt like a military Nancy Drew read, particularly when Joelle goes on her quest for the truth. Even through the fear and immense pressures from others who are in the military or FBI, she continues to propel herself forward, and we get to see just how tough Joelle is. The memories she shares about her friend shows us an even tougher woman in Concepcion, one who does what she wants and does not feel the need to apologize for it. There was also a lot of great background information that lends into the friendship the women have, why it’s so important, and the potential cracks and crevices that makes finding the truth the number one priority.

While there is a paralleling story of romance for Joelle and the FBI agent- I felt the real relationship here had been the one she had with Concepcion all along. The strong bonds of friendship that can never be broken, even potentially through death. There was an honest desperation in her search for her friend, taking her clear across the world, even- all in the name of love. Those types of sisterly friendships are hard to come by, which made it all the more interesting.

My only complaint would be the ending. It felt a little rushed, at times buttoned up, and finished a bit abruptly. I would have liked to see the ending expanded on a bit more, so we could feel some real closure for Joelle. But aside from that, I enjoyed Joelle’s story, and wanted to discover for myself what had happened to someone who had meant so much to so many. A great mystery!

Thanks to Mindbuck Media for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Nothing puzzling about Leah a book giveaway

We are so excited to have Leah Mercer at CLC today. The last time we had her here for a visit was as Talli Roland. While Talli's novels are more lighthearted and humorous, Leah's novels deal with heavier subject matter. Melissa A has enjoyed her previous novels (see reviews posted further down) and is going to be reading Leah's latest, The Puzzle of You, in the near future. Leah has TWO copies to share with some lucky readers!

Leah Mercer can't remember a time when she didn't love writing. From creating fake newspapers to writing letters to the editor, scribbling something was always on the agenda. Even the rejections she received after completing her first novel at age 13 didn't dent her enthusiasm.

So it makes sense, then, that she pursued a career in anything but writing. Public relations, teaching, recruitment, editing medical journals -- even a stint painting houses -- until she finally succumbed once more to the lure of the blank page.

When she's not being jumped on by her young son or burning supper while thinking of plot lines, Leah can be found furiously tapping away on her laptop, trying not to check Twitter or Facebook.

Leah also writes romantic comedies under the name Talli Roland. (Courtesy of Leah's website.)

Visit Leah online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram

Melissa's reviews of Leah's other books:
Who We Were Before
The Man I Thought You Were

She’s woken up in a life she doesn’t recognize – with a daughter she doesn’t remember.

When Charlotte McKay wakes up in a hospital bed with no memory of how she got there, all she wants is to go back to the perfect London flat she shares with her husband, and the impressive career she’s worked so hard to build. But something’s not right. Her husband David is at her bedside – but so is a three-year-old girl, and she’s calling Charlotte ‘Mummy’…

Charlotte’s first instinct is panic. When – why – did she have a child? What about her promotion, her independence, her romantic weekends with David? She loved being that woman: how can she have turned into the stay-at-home mother she swore she’d never be?

Back at home, she dives into her unfamiliar world, hoping to piece together the mystery of her transformation. But faced with so much that feels foreign and unnatural, will she ever be happy in a life she can’t remember having – or wanting to have?
(Courtesy of Amazon.)

What is a favorite compliment you have received on your writing?
I love it when people say my books ring true to them – that my readers can see their actions and emotions reflected in my characters and plots. That’s a huge compliment, because it means I got it right. Of course, not all people react the same as my characters, but it’s wonderful if a reader recognizes even a glimmer of themselves.

What was the inspiration behind The Puzzle of You?
Before I became a mother, I remember thinking: ‘I’ll never be the kind of parent who (insert random judgment here!). But the thing is, before you have a child yourself, you have no idea the kind of parent you’ll be – never mind your child’s personality or any other challenges you may face along the way. And being a mother does change you, even if you’re determined it won’t. I wanted to explore this change and how it can sometimes be a struggle to piece yourself back together in a way that makes sense . . . in a way that balances your needs and desires with those of your child, especially if your child hasn’t had an easy start in life. Setting up a clash between the past and the present – with a main character who loses any memory of even wanting to have a baby, then discovers she’s a stay-at-home mum – seemed the perfect way to do this.

Motherhood is a very personal thing and I don’t expect everyone to agree with my central character’s thoughts and emotions, but I wanted to write a journey that I could relate to. I hope others will, too.

If The Puzzle of You were made into a movie, who would you cast in the leading roles?
That’s such a great question! For the role of Charlotte, I’d choose Scarlett Johansson, because she can play very strong female characters with a touch of vulnerability. For David, I’d choose Andrew Lincoln as he has such an open, friendly, earnest face that I think represents David’s character well.

What is the last movie you saw that you would recommend?
I don’t watch many movies as I fall asleep! I do watch a lot of on-demand TV, though, and I recently finished Unbelievable on Netflix. It’s difficult watching, for sure, and it made me very angry. But I love that the cast is mostly female, with the two leads played by very strong women.

What is the funniest thing that has happened to you recently?
This is more strange than comical. We live in a very old building in central London, and recently, our flat buzzer has been ringing for no reason. We’ll pick up the intercom and look through the door camera only to see . . . nothing. A little creepy, never mind annoying. Earlier this week I was coming back from the park with my son. We approached the door and just as I was getting out my keys, I heard my husband’s voice through the intercom, asking why I’d rung the buzzer. I hadn’t! The ghost strikes again.

What was your last dream that you can still remember vividly?
Every time I release a new novel, I’m sure to have bad dreams. I recently dreamed that my editor emailed to say my book isn’t as good as they’d originally thought and that it needs a ton more work – in a few short hours. Yikes! I woke up with my heart pounding.

Thanks to Leah for chatting with us and for sharing her book with our readers.

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Monday, November 4, 2019

Book Review: Room Service and Murder

Room Service and Murder: A Cozy Mystery (Madness and Murder Series Book 2) by [Baldwin, Melissa]
By Sara Steven

There's never a dull day working in the hotel industry. Drug busts, arrests, plenty of clandestine escapades, and parties so wild they'd put fraternities to shame. The last thing Casey Cooper expected was to walk into a guest room and discover the lifeless body of her friend.

Though all signs point to a self-inflicted death, Casey doesn't believe it. On a truth-seeking journey to find justice for her friend, suddenly everyone looks like a suspect. Could it be the former child actress, the over-worked assistant, a long-lost relative, or even the delicious new manager who always seems to be distracting Casey from her mission to find her friend's killer?

Can Casey find the truth before the body count rises and she becomes the next victim? (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

I’m no stranger to Melissa Baldwin’s books, but this was my first in her Cozy Mystery series, and I have to say, it was a lot of fun! With chaos and intrigue at every turn, I never knew for sure what Casey would find in her quest to clear her friend’s reputation. In one breath, I thought for sure I knew who the culprit was, yet something else would happen that would throw me off the trail.

There was real emotion and truth behind Casey’s reaction, in finding someone she loves, dead. While it might have been too easy to portray Casey as an overly emotional wreck, that didn't happen here. Given the person she is and the responsibilities she has in running a hotel, the shock and want and need to return to work and carry on with what’s normal for her made Casey appear to be an even more realistic character, during a time in her life where nothing is normal. It lends into the depths she chooses to go to, even putting her own life at risk, to find out what really happened.

I also felt that vein of honesty in the budding relationship between Casey and her new boss. There were clear limits set by both characters, and in the moments where I felt there would be no possibility for the two of them to connect, there were hints towards a potential relationship. And yet, just when I thought they would take the plunge, nothing would happen. It really kept me on my toes, where the romantic angles in Room Service are concerned.

Given the mystery, the unknowns that lurk within the hotel shadows, strong, well written, well developed characters and the splashes of romance thrown in for good measure, Room Service and Murder is a well deserving, five star read!

Thanks to Melissa Baldwin for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Melissa Baldwin:

Friday, November 1, 2019

What's in the mail

Melissa A:
Mistletoe Mishap by/from Tracy Krimmer (e-book)
A Good Neighborhood by Therese Anne Fowler from St. Martin's Press (won in a giveaway)
Willa's Grove by Laura Munson from Blackstone (e-book via NetGalley)
Pretty Things by Janelle Brown from Random House (e-book via NetGalley)
Tell Me Everything by/from Amy Hatvany (e-book)
Follow Me by Kathleen Barber from Gallery (e-book via NetGalley)
Meg & Jo by Virginia Kantra from Berkley  (e-book via NetGalley)
Vacation by Jane Green from Kensington  (e-book via NetGalley)

The Secrets of Love Story Bridge by Phaedra Patrick from HarperCollins

A Perfect Cornish Christmas by Phillipa Ashley from Avon
Roping Your Heart by Fabiola Francisco from Bare Naked Words (e-book)
Perfect Match by Zoe May from Rachel's Random Resources (e-book via NetGalley)
Full Circle by Andrea Barber from Kensington (e-book via NetGalley)
Been There, Married That by Gigi Levangie from St. Martin's Press (e-book via NetGalley)
Beaus and Arrows by Rashida T. Williams from Red Adept Publishing (e-book)
The Event by/from Whitney Dineen (e-book)
Love and Ohana Drama by/from Melissa Baldwin (e-book)

Double Feature Book Review

By Jami Deise

Like a Hallmark or Lifetime movie, novels that fall under the “women’s fiction” category promise a specific type of experience for the reader. For women and by women, familial relationships are at the heart of these stories, and secrets threaten to tear them apart. Often set in sensual locales, with generous description and plenty of angst, they feature poetic titles, sympathetic heroines, and bittersweet but satisfying endings.

Voice – the tone in which the writer tells the story – is also an important factor, one that creates empathy in the reader. Two recent women’s fiction releases by William Morrow/Avon illustrate how tone can be used to differentiate novels with similar structures.

Invisible as Air by Zoe Fishman is the story of a family with secrets. Three years after her daughter was stillborn, Sylvie Snow becomes addicted to Oxycontin. Told from the third-person points-of-view of Sylvie, her husband Paul, and her almost-13-year-old son Teddy, Fishman’s somewhat snarky, sarcastic tone takes a light approach to some very heavy topics. With Paul hiding his own emotional affair and shopaholic tendencies, Teddy and his 12-year-old girlfriend are the only adults in the book. Rather than drawing readers in, these choices in tone and characterization make it difficult to empathize with Sylvie.

Hannah Beckerman’s If Only I Could Tell You unspools in the more traditional warm, emotional voice that readers expect in women’s fiction. Another book about a family secret told from three points of view, it revolves around Audrey, who is dying of cancer and only wants her adult daughters to reconcile after a lifetime of not speaking. Those daughters, Jess and Lily, are as different as two women can be; Beckerman camouflages the women’s secrets with subplots about relationships and their own daughters. While the book moved me to tears in the end, it also violates one of the basic tenants of storytelling structure: If the conflict can be resolved in a conversation, it’s not strong enough for a novel. Still, it was a heck of a conversation.

With domestic thrillers nearly taking over publishers’ offerings the past several years, these women’s fiction releases are a good reminder that everyday human drama still has an important place on our bookshelves.

Thanks to William Morrow and Avon for the books in exchange for an honest review.

More by Zoe Fishman and Hannah Beckerman: