Thursday, December 30, 2021

2021 Top Picks

There were so many great books published in 2021 that it was very hard to choose between the ones we read. Here are some of the books that topped our lists. (We limited ourselves to five each.) However, any book we gave glowing reviews and five stars to this year is definitely recommended for your TBR! 

Links are to reviews. 

Melissa:

I read over 100 books this year, most being contenders for these top five spots. I've listed an additional ten books at my personal blog, but those include YA reads and books published in other years.

The Forest of Vanishing Stars
by Kristin Harmel
He Gets That From Me by Jacqueline Friedland
Second First Impressions by Sally Thorne
The Jake Ryan Complex by Bethany Crandell
The Seven Day Switch by Kelly Harms



Sara:

A Summer to Remember
 by Erika Montgomery
Seven Days in June by Tia Williams
Mistle Text by Whitney Dineen and Melanie Summers
Ruthless Women by Melanie Blake


Jami:

Another year, another list of faves!

Favorite Stepford Wives re-telling: The Husbands, Chandler Baker
Favorite Liane Moriarty wannabe: The Neighbor’s Secret, L. Alison Heller 
Favorite Buzzworthy Bestsellers: The Last Thing He Told Me, Laura Dave; The Plot, Jean Hanff Korelitz
Favorite Historical Fiction: The Rose Code, Kate Quinn


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Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Reviews at Amazon -- November/December 2021

We're posting some reviews at our Amazon accounts, as either they've been sitting in queue for a while and deserve their time in the sun, fall under our 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!

Sara:

Review
Review
Review

Review
Review
Review
Review

Melissa:

There are less here since I've had a chance to post more reviews at the blog lately.

Review
Review
Review
Review
Review

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Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Book Review: Cheat Day

By Jami Denison

Sometimes I think about just how much willpower it takes to get through the day. Getting up, showering, getting to work, plowing through a to-do list, going to the gym, saying no to fattening foods… teeth brushing and flossing, going to bed early, only to start it all over again. Psychologists say that willpower is a resource that can be depleted, and using too much of it in one area makes it harder to control another—that’s why some folks who are religious about exercise also eat terribly. There’s only so many times a person can say no before they give in.

I was reminded of these willpower studies while reading Liv Stratman’s debut novel, Cheat Day, which came out last spring in hardcover and was just released in paperback. In her mid-30s and married to her college sweetheart, Kit has never been happy with her body. When she decides to embark on a 75-day eating program called the Radiance Regime, she knows it’s going to be twice as hard since she’s also gone back to work at her sister’s bakery. Determined to stick to the program no matter what, Kit isn’t nearly as steadfast when it comes to her marriage. Enamored of the carpenter her sister hired to create new shelves at the bakery, Kit quickly falls into an affair with him. 

Other reviewers describe Cheat Day as witty and funny, but this wasn’t a story that made me laugh. My heart went out to Kit, who felt so unseen by her family that she fell into bed with a man she barely knew. In a less well-written book, this action would have made the protagonist too unlikeable to root for, but in Stratman’s capable hands, Kit’s pain was palpable. Her husband David isn’t a bad guy at all, and his family is lovely. But he’s a workaholic who’s never home. Abandoned by her father at an early age and constantly belittled by her sister, Kit hates everything about her life. Her diet is the only thing she feels she can control, and the only thing she has to look forward to is spending time with her lover. 

I’m twenty years older than Kit, and there aren’t that many people in her age group in my life. But I felt that she was a good stand-in for the millennial generation. She’s working in a job where she’s overqualified and underappreciated; her husband has to work 24/7 so they can enjoy an occasional concert or nice restaurant. They don’t have the time or money for kids. There are estranged parents and younger half-siblings; the trapped feeling of living as an adult in the house one grew up in. I felt desperately sorry for Kit, and her entire generation. Is this what passes for humorous fiction these days? 

If you’re looking for a romantic comedy about a woman trying to stick to a diet while working in a bakery, Cheat Day may not be your book. But if you want to read a realistic novel about the desperate lengths a woman will go to in order to experience pleasure while living under late-stage capitalism, Cheat Day will deliver for you. 

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

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Monday, December 27, 2021

Kimberly Belle's latest literary darling...plus a book giveaway

Photo by @mrwattson
We're pleased to have Kimberly Belle back at CLC to help us end 2021. Her latest psychological thriller, My Darling Husband, releases tomorrow in digital and audio and Melissa is excited to read it soon (it's already in her Kindle queue). Thanks to Park Row (HarperCollins), we have THREE advanced print copies to give away!

Kimberly Belle is the USA Today and internationally bestselling author of seven novels, including her upcoming My Darling Husband and The Marriage Lie, a Goodreads Choice Awards semifinalist for Best Mystery & Thriller. Her books have been published in more than in a dozen languages and have been optioned for film and television. A graduate of Agnes Scott College, Belle divides her time between Atlanta and Amsterdam. (Bio courtesy of Kimberly's website.)

Visit Kimberly online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram


Synopsis:

Everyone is about to know what her husband isn’t telling her…

Jade and Cam Lasky are by all accounts a happily married couple with two adorable kids, a spacious home and a rapidly growing restaurant business. But their world is tipped upside down when Jade is confronted by a masked home invader. As Cam scrambles to gather the ransom money, Jade starts to wonder if they’re as financially secure as their lifestyle suggests, and what other secrets her husband is keeping from her.

Cam may be a good father, a celebrity chef and a darling husband, but there’s another side he’s kept hidden from Jade that has put their family in danger. Unbeknownst to Cam and Jade, the home invader has been watching them and is about to turn their family secrets into a public scandal.

With riveting twists and a breakneck pace, My Darling Husband is an utterly compelling thriller that once again showcases Kimberly Belle's exceptional talent for domestic suspense. (Courtesy of Amazon.)

"In the kind of twisty page-turner that readers know they can rely on Belle to deliver, a mother fights for the lives of her children while trying to unravel her husband’s secret life. Riveting suspense, truly surprising revelations, and silky smooth writing make this one unmissable!"  
— Joshilyn Jackson, New York Times bestselling author of Mother May I

"This novel should come with two warnings: a) clear your schedule because once you start you can’t stop, and b) hold on tight because you’re in for one hell of a ride. Gripping, intense and utterly bingeworthy, MY DARLING HUSBAND had me holding my breath more times than I can count. Fabulously constructed, brilliantly layered and secretive characters, plus heroines you’ll cheer for, Belle once again proves she’s a true master of domestic suspense. Do yourself a favor and pick this book up now!” 
— Hannah Mary McKinnon, bestselling author of Sister Dear and You Will Remember Me

What were the biggest rewards and challenges with writing My Darling Husband?
I started My Darling Husband in early 2020—my pandemic book that has nothing to do with the pandemic—and it’s the fastest I’ve ever written a story, in four short months. Partly because there was little else to do at the time, but mostly because it provided the perfect distraction from all the scary developments happening outside my family’s bubble. All the helplessness I felt, all the fear and confusion…it was almost a relief to transfer these feelings to the page. Jade’s situation was very different from mine, but she was working through a lot of the same emotions, and writing her story helped me process mine.

At the same time, writing a story about a mother protecting two small children from an armed and masked stranger wasn’t easy. I am a mother, too, and it was often hard to put an adequate distance between my own story and Jade’s. Her emotions were my emotions; her actions were ones I could see myself taking in order to save my children. There’s a lot of me—my pluck and my fears—in Jade.

What is your ideal writing environment?
My best words come in the morning and in the complete silence of an empty house…and then along came Covid. Suddenly the house was full of noisy people talking on the phone, watching television, interrupting me to ask me what’s for dinner. I learned very quickly to tune them out with headphones, and I also discovered the app brain.fm. They have a collection of musical tones that are supposed to help you concentrate, and a category specifically for creative focus. It really works for me, though I still prefer the peace of writing in silence. 

If My Darling Husband were made into a movie, what are some songs that would be on the soundtrack?
Hmm, this one was hard! But here are a few that would fit well with the story:
"Look What You Made Me Do" by Taylor Swift
"Sorry" by Beyonce
"Love Me Now" by John Legend
"Man Down" by Rihanna

What is the last book you read that you would recommend?
I know I’m super late getting on the Untamed train, but I recently read Glennon Doyle’s memoir and LOVED it. Untamed is a gorgeously written story of navigating divorce and falling in love and creating a beautiful, blended family where everyone is thriving. But it's also a wake up call for women everywhere, one that teaches us how to unleash our truest, wildest instincts and become the best, most authentic version of ourselves in the process. I adored every word.

What have you learned about yourself during the pandemic?
Like most people, my world has really shrunk these past few years, but Covid has also shone a spotlight on the things in my life that are really important. My people and their health. The freedom to go places and see loved ones and travel. A feeling of safety and security—which thanks to this latest wave feels as far away as at the beginning of the pandemic. The pandemic has put a wedge in a couple of my friendships, unfortunately, but the ones I’ve kept have deepened, become so much more valuable and enriching. Covid has made me much more intentional with how and with whom I spend my time, and I no longer sweat the small stuff. As much as I hate the virus that brought me to this place, I feel so much more enlightened about myself and my life, and I feel extremely blessed. 

Do you have any traditions for ringing in the new year? If so, what are they?
I love a good party, but not on New Year’s Eve. The drunken crowds, the noise and craziness, the build up to midnight that somehow always feels anti-climactic… I always end up disappointed or freezing or waiting ages for a cab that never comes or charges me a fortune. It’s why I prefer smaller, more intimate gatherings at my house or a friend’s, where I can ring in the new year with some of my very favorite people. Cue the music and dancing (did I mention my husband has a DJ table?), and of course there’s always plenty of champagne!

Thanks to Kimberly for visiting with us and to Park Row 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 January 2nd at midnight EST.

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Thursday, December 23, 2021

Book Review: In a Nutshell...plus a special giveaway

By Sara Steven

Mitchell Sorrow wallows in a major funk after his decades-long crush leaves town for good. Intent on powering through, he throws himself into his work as an EMT at Smithville Regional Hospital. He’ll steer clear of women, especially those who love their careers more than people.

Jackie Myers, chief development officer at a hospital association, is determined to climb the corporate ladder. The best way to do that is to show upper management she’s capable of making tough decisions, such as closing a fledgling rural hospital. When she’s assigned to visit Smithville under the guise of writing an article about small-town life, she’ll easily assess how dire the hospital situation really is.

After suffering an allergic reaction at the fall festival, Jackie blabs the true reason for her visit. Desperate to save the hospital, Mitch agrees to a deal. In exchange for keeping her secret, he gets one week to convince her the hospital is essential. But the more time they spend together, the more complicated things become. Mitch begins to open his heart, and Jackie’s decision becomes nearly impossible. He may never forgive her, and she’ll lose the only guy who can take her breath away – no Epi pen required.  (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

It’s been a while since I’ve been back to Smithville! Having read the first two books in the series--In a Jam, and In a Pickle (links are to reviews), I felt like I’d slipped right back into small-town charm with familiar characters who’d left lasting impressions on me. I loved the introduction of Jackie into the midst. Everything she represents goes against everything that Smithville stands for: rural simplicity; rustic charm; idyllic living. She’s used to large cities, large corporations, and even larger corporate personalities that won’t take but a second to knock you off the ladder without another thought about it. She’s used to the rat race, so it was fun to see how different it could be for her while she tries to navigate what life is like in Smithville. 

It was great getting to re-acquaint myself with the former characters I remember from the other books in the series, like Andie and Regina, as well as the mainstays of Smithville, like the regulars at the coffee shop, and two meddling biddies who love to let everyone know about what goes on behind the scenes in their small town. Everyone plays a part in helping Jackie figure out what might be best for Smithville Regional Hospital, and I felt really bad for the predicament she’s in. It’s hard feeling torn between doing what might be best for you, and what might be best for a group of small-town inhabitants.

Mitch’s story is riddled with some tough living that stems from his childhood. Despite that, he seems like he’s a great guy and would be a great match for Jackie, but he lets his past dictate his future, while Jackie tells herself that there could be no way she’d ever get attached to a small-town guy. It felt like there were quite a few hurdles to get over, and I loved the various events that showcase that--like the whole allergy scenario Jackie finds herself in with Mitch. It not only highlighted the vast differences they have, but also the apparent need they could develop for one another, if they’d only give it a chance. Will Jackie be able to walk away and stick to the goals she has set for herself for her entire life, or will she become another member of Smithville? That becomes the driving question, and it’s one that I was excited to learn more about. In a Nutshell was a fun, five-star read!

Thanks to Cindy Dorminy for the book in exchange for an honest review. She has a $25 Amazon gift card for one lucky reader!

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 December 28th at midnight EST.

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Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Book Review: Couples Wanted

By Sara Steven

Adventurous and open-minded, newlyweds Bridget and Roman are determined to keep their relationship exciting. So, when they meet married swingers Corinne and Patrick, they're instantly drawn to their carefree glamour and warm promise of friendship. And after swapping spouses for one passionate, exhilarating night, Bridget and Roman feel fulfilled and closer together than ever...

Until Corinne and Patrick start turning possessive, wanting more of them than Bridget and Roman can ever give. Soon, the young couple is plunged into a nightmare of suspicion, lies, and secrets in which they can't trust each other--or what they think they know about themselves. Pushed to the breaking point, they must uncover the truth behind the other couple's machinations. But when the dust settles, there's no guarantee Bridget and Roman will have their love--or anything else--left to save… (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

I’d finished one book one evening, before starting in on Couples Wanted. I ended up reading it from start to finish, all night, in one sitting! It really was that good. I had a hard time tearing myself away from the drama that quietly makes itself known when Bridget introduces Roman to the swinging lifestyle. The supposed reactions I thought they might have after going through with it, the potential fall out was nothing compared to what actually happens!

There were definite Single White Female vibes going on between Corinne and Bridget. At first, many of the changes Corinne makes feels harmless and not worth pointing out, yet as the story unfolds, we learn more and more about how tied she feels to Bridget and moreso, to Roman.  It puts her on a path to internal destruction, all in the name of acceptance. Patrick isn’t the best husband for Corinne, and she wants what Bridget has. 

In particular scenes, I thought, “Oh, okay, I see what’s coming,” and then BAM! It wasn’t what I’d expected at all, particularly where Patrick and Roman are concerned. Ultimately, who is the bad guy? And given all Corinne has gone through while processing wanting to live her best life as best she can, despite what others might think, is it any wonder that she does everything she can to seek out happiness, at any cost?

This was the ultimate thriller. It wasn’t blatantly obvious, but handed out in a much more subtle manner, which keeps the reader guessing. It certainly kept me guessing. Thrown in are plenty of hot and steamy moments that really stood out, balancing out the thrill, making this the perfect psychological five-star experience!

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

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Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Spotlight: The Love Con

He’s cosplaying as her boyfriend but their feelings for each other are real in this romantic comedy from Seressia Glass.

Sometimes Kenya Davenport believes she was switched at the hospital—how else could a lover of anime, gaming, and cosplay come from STEM parents? Still, Kenya dreams of being able to turn her creative hobby into a career. She finally has a chance to make it big when she joins the reality show competition Cosplay or No Way.

There's just one catch: the challenge for the final round is all about iconic pairs, and the judges want the contestants' significant others to participate. Unfortunately, Kenya is as single as can be at the moment. Luckily her best friend, Cameron Lassiter, agrees to be her fake boyfriend for the show.

Roleplaying a couple in love will force them to explore what they're hiding under the mask of friendship. Can Kenya and Cam fake it until she makes it, or will she be real about her feelings, knowing it could cost her the best friend she’s ever had?

Purchase The Love Con

“Glass’ sharp wit sparkles in The Love Con as we root for Kenya and Cameron in the finals of a reality cosplay competition. Fake relationship, check. Slow burn, check. A satisfying romance full of heart, heck yes! This fun romance is sure to enthrall geeks and non-geeks alike.”
—Roselle Lim, author of Vanessa Yu's Magical Paris Tea Shop

“A charming and swoonworthy romcom, The Love Con had me cheering for Kenya and Cam from the very first page. Set against the excitement of a cosplay reality show backdrop, their slow burn romance was a perfect balance of laughter, heartwarming moments and heat.”
—Sara Desai, author of The Dating Plan

The Love Con is a laugh-out-loud, tropetastic, sexy love-letter to fandom, women’s geek culture, and everyone who’s ever been unapologetically passionate about something. With friends-to-lovers, fake-dating, mutual pining, and the most delicious steam, this book makes for a fantastic read. I cannot wait for what Seressia Glass writes next!”
—Ali Hazelwood, New York Times bestselling author of The Love Hypothesis

Photo by Porsha Antalan
of Femqua Productions
Seressia Glass is an award-winning author of romance and urban fantasy. She lives south of Atlanta with her husband, son, two attack poodles, and a bulldozer of a Cane Corso. When not writing, she likes to collect purple things, jewelry and spends way too much time watching K-dramas and anime.

Visit Seressia online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram



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Monday, December 20, 2021

Book Review and Giveaway: Maps for the Getaway

By Melissa Amster

It was the road trip of their lives . . . and they did it without a map.

When they posed for a photo at their high school graduation, they vowed they’d be friends forever, but teenage promises are so easily broken, and now, thirty years later, they’re practically strangers.

Cici—stuck in a rut, married to a cheating husband.

Genie—caring for her ailing father but never getting any thanks.

Kate—everyone knows people who look perfect on Instagram are not.

And Laurie—the most successful of them all—now tragically gone.

So, to celebrate Laurie’s life,  three former friends in a 1962 red Lincoln Continental convertible take the road trip of their lives—encountering male strippers, a boy band that has seen better days, crazy motel rooms, adopting a so-ugly-it’s-cute stray dog…and discovering that it’s never too late to live the wild life.

Because, sometimes, to find yourself you have to get away.
(Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

Maps for the Getaway is a sweet story about friendship and navigating through grief. It's perfect for fans of Kristan Higgins and Jill Shalvis. I loved the idea of a road trip to see a favorite boy band. I met up with my best friend one year to see a NKOTB reunion tour and this novel reminded me of that experience. (However, ours was much less chaotic!) I liked all three women and found them relatable in different ways, even if I wasn't experiencing what they were. 

The story had a comforting feel to it, even when everything was going wrong for the women. There was a lot of humor as well as some emotionally powerful moments. The descriptions made it easy to visualize people and places throughout the story, without taking away from the narrative. The dogs in the story were so cute and I love how they picked their own names.

My only concern was that I felt like some things came too easy for the women. If something went wrong on the trip, suddenly a solution was right in front of them. I would love to have Kate's skills for getting what I want all the time! 

Overall, I really enjoyed this novel and it was a fun, escapist read. 

Movie casting suggestions:

Thanks to HarperCollins for the book in exchange for an honest review. And special thanks to Annie England Noblin for sharing TWO copies with some lucky 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 December 26th at midnight EST.

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Friday, December 17, 2021

What's in the (e)mail

Melissa:
The Work Wife by Alison B. Hart from Graydon House  (NetGalley)
Savvy Sheldon Feels Good as Hell by Taj McCoy from Mira  (NetGalley)
Moment in Time by Suzanne Redfearn from Lake Union  (NetGalley)
Gilt by Jamie Brenner from Putnam (NetGalley)
It All Comes Down to This by Therese Anne Fowler from St. Martin's Press (NetGalley)
Same Time, Same Place by David M. Barnett from Sourcebooks (NetGalley)
Do You Follow?
 by J.C. Bidonde from Greenleaf (NetGalley)
Weather Girl by Rachel Lynn Solomon from Berkley (NetGalley)
How Maya Got Fierce by Sona Charaipotra from Macmillan (NetGalley)
Tokyo Dreaming by Emiko Jean from Flatiron (NetGalley)
I Kissed Shara Wheeler by Casey McQuiston from St. Martin's Press (NetGalley)
Everything Must Go
by Camille Pagan from Lake Union (NetGalley)
What's Coming to Me by Francesca Padilla from Soho Press (NetGalley)
The Map to You by/from Rachel Stockbridge (NetGalley)
Seoulmates by Jen Frederick from Berkley (NetGalley)


Melissa and Sara:
Text and Confused by Whitney Dineen and Melanie Summers (e-book)
Sara:
From the Jump by Lacie Waldon from Putnam (NetGalley)
Unforgettable by R.E. Loten from Rachel's Random Resources (e-book)
Cop an Attitude by/from Hilary Grossman (e-book)
One of the Girls by Lucy Clarke from Putnam (NetGalley)

Guest Book Review: An Accidental Odyssey

By Marisa Appleton

An Accidental Odyssey follows bride-to-be, Gianna, and her estranged father as they embark on a life-altering adventure to retrace Odysseus’ famous voyage across the Mediterranean.

Recent college graduate and aspiring journalist Gianna Kostas is on her way to building the perfect life. She is set to marry one of New York’s most eligible bachelors—and one of the richest—and is sure to have a fairy tale wedding. However, Gia’s fairy tale fantasy starts to unravel when she finishes her internship at her dream job with no more career prospects. A sudden change in Gia’s plans causes her to rethink her relationship she receives an alarming phone call from the hospital, letting her know that her father has suffered a heart attack. Even worse, he is determined to run off to Greece despite his condition and retrace the journey Odysseus made in The Odyssey.

When her father disappears from the hospital without his medication, Gia is follows him to Athens. After an argument with her fiancĂ© and a life-changing encounter with a stranger, she realises that staying in Greece might be a good idea after all. She knows her father is in no condition to take this journey alone, and this may just be the opportunity she needs to get to know him and potentially secure her career as a journalist. But as Gia adventures—and eats—her way around the Mediterranean, she discovers that confronting demons, relationship problems, and gorgeous archaeologists might be the easy part.

This novel by kc dyer is a story of love, heartbreak, and, surprisingly, psychedelic drugs! When we first meet Gianna Kostas, she is packing up her desk after finishing her internship at NOSH magazine. Having no prospects of a full time, permanent job is not ideal but not to worry – she is engaged to a super-rich bachelor! There is one red flag though, Anthony seems a bit more excited for the wedding than Gia. As a reader this stuck out to me, why was Gia not excited for the wedding? Why was Anthony desperate to seal the deal and get married so quickly? Why did Gia’s best friend Desi not support their engagement? When she finds out her father, Ari Kostas, has suffered a minor stroke she is panicked. Ari – a very traditional, very proud Greek man – is a historian obsessed with rediscovering his roots by recreating Odysseus’ journey around the Mediterranean. When he disappears from the hospital heading straight to Athens, Gia follows, not expecting a life changing journey. From the get-go we learn that Gia’s best friend does not approve of the suspiciously fast engagement. These red flags keep coming, especially when Anthony calls off the engagement because Gia followed her father to Greece. As a reader, we can make our own judgement about Gia and Anthony’s relationship and whether we should be rooting for them to work it out or for the hot archaeologist to win her over!

The story was such a pleasant easy read, perfect to escape these dark winter nights with lively descriptions of sunny Greece and Italy. I really like how each chapter starts with part of blog entry – often containing mouth-watering descriptions of the Mediterranean cuisine. It really ties the story together with Gia’s career aims a more central focus than her impending marriage to Anthony. Following one night of passion while herself and Anthony are technically broken up, she finds herself face to face with the hot architect every day! Coincidentally, Dr. Raj Malik works alongside Gia’s dad Ari, and she is forced to relive her night of passion and face up to her relationship problems. Overall, I really enjoyed reading this story, it provides the perfect amount of escapism, transporting you to a summer of food, love, and family! 

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

Marisa Appleton lives in Sheffield, England. She is currently studying an English Literature Degree at Sheffield Hallam University while also working in a supermarket part time. When she is not reading for university, she is reading for pleasure. Aside from that she enjoys working out, eating out and travelling with her friends. One day, she aspires to work in the Publishing or Marketing industry in London.

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Thursday, December 16, 2021

Book Review and Giveaway: Mistle Text

By Sara Steven

Twenty-eight-year-old Holly Snow is the only mother her four-year-old niece remembers. Three years earlier, when her sister and brother-in-law were killed, Holly’s dream of becoming an international flight attendant was put on hold so she could be home for baby Faith. Holly is doing everything she can to keep the rent paid, including working as an online travel agent, filing medical claims, and cleaning apartments in her building. When her friend Maggie tells her that her boss needs someone to buy his Christmas gifts, she leaps at the opportunity.

Tall, dark and Scroogy, investment banker, Archibald Harrington is too busy to do his own Christmas shopping. When his assistant tells him she knows of a professional shopper, he happily checks another dreaded task off his holiday list. The last thing Archie is expecting is for his hired elf to text him insistently to find out more about the people on list. The last thing Holly expects is to develop feelings for grumpy man who’s stealing her Christmas spirit.

Will there be a Holiday miracle, or will Holly and Archie miss their chance at love? (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

The collaboration of Dineen and Summers provided one of my most favorite holiday reads to date, hands down! I really, REALLY loved Mistle Text. You have one character (Holly) who is down-on-her-luck but continuously keeps the faith that everything will work out for her and for her niece, while the other character (Archie) appears to have the perfect life and has never felt the need to rely on faith or anything else to get by. He has a never-ending wealth of good fortune. With such opposing characteristics, there are bound to be magnanimous sparks between the two, and that’s exactly what we get to witness and be a part of.

Despite it all, Holly doesn’t take crap from anyone, least of all a man like Archie. After she’s given the opportunity to become his personal shopper, there are no pretenses involved. What he sees is what he gets, and from where he’s standing, he likes what he sees. Holly is completely different from the women he’s been accustomed to, which makes the way he feels about her even more confusing. Not only is she his employee, but Archie doesn’t believe in love, period. What he believes in is hard work, dedication to his job, and doing all he can to fight for the promotion of a lifetime. So, why let a little something like feelings and emotion get in the way?

Their story is told from both perspectives, which made the viewpoints incredibly insightful. It really helped to balance out their polar opposite personalities and also helped to showcase where they met in the middle, even when they didn’t think it could happen. Or that it would happen. But the reader gets to look right into their souls, so to speak, so when Holly feels that Archie doesn’t approve of her, we know he does. And when Archie doesn’t think he’d ever be good enough for Holly, we know there is potential. Unfortunately for them, they’re not privy to that information, which sets off a series of misunderstandings and hurt feelings. When you come from completely opposite sides of the tracks, will there ever be room for a happily-ever-after?

I can think of other books, TV shows and movies that go into that “lovers from opposite sides of the tracks” scenario, but Mistle Text took the genre, and ran with it. We’ve got all of that, and more here–one of the best holiday experiences. More than worth it’s five-star review!

Thanks to Whitney and Melanie for the book in exchange for an honest review. They are giving away a prize package (US only) or a $50 Amazon gift card (outside the US), as well as TWO copies of Mistle Text! Enter to win their next book, Text and Confused, at Goodreads (US only).

US prize package: Throw, infinity scarf,
signed book, slippers, and shortbread.


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. The top name is the winner of the prize package or gift card.

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Giveaway has closed early due to large amounts of spam entries.

More by Whitney and Melanie:

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Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Sara and Melissa Talk About...Holiday Entertainment

We've been running a column series to get more personal with our readers. While we're in the midst of the holiday season, we've decided to keep it light and talk about our favorite holiday themed books, movies, and TV show episodes.

We're always open to topic suggestions, so please don't hesitate to share those in the comments. We'd also love to know if you can relate to anything we've said or hear your own thoughts on the topic. So don't be shy. :) We look forward to getting to know you as much as we're letting you get to know us. You can find our previous columns here, in case you missed them.

Melissa Amster:                                                                                                        
I don't really watch holiday movies all that often. Just a handful of them here and there. My all-time favorites are Home Alone, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, While You Were Sleeping, and Love, Actually. I saw Last Christmas a while ago and while some parts were cute, I felt like it dragged a bit until it got to the climax, and then I needed a lot of tissues. There are some holiday movies I'd like to see this year, like Single All the Way, A Castle for Christmas, and 8-Bit Christmas. There aren't really any Hanukkah movies except for the occasional one tossed onto the Hallmark Channel, which I do not have anyway. I found this list of Christmas movies and saw Mixed Nuts on there. I still remember seeing that in college and laughing so hard the whole time. I think it was the first time I saw Adam Sandler in anything and he was so funny with his songs.

Two of my favorite TV shows have great Christmas episodes: Schitt's Creek and Ted Lasso. I've seen both more than once and they're really cute and funny. Last winter, I watched Dash & Lily on Netflix and that whole show is Christmas themed. I'm sad to hear that it's not getting a second season. Back in the day, I enjoyed the South Park Christmas episodes, especially the first one they ever did with Mr. Hanky. Full House and Friends had some fun Christmas episodes too.

I've only read a few holiday books this year and enjoyed them all: The Holiday Swap by Maggie Knox (review), The Matzah Ball by Jean Meltzer (review), and The Secret of Snow by Viola Shipman. The latter wasn't really about the winter holidays, but it had that feel with the constant snowy weather and overall cozy feeling. I also don't read a lot of holiday books in general. Just a few every now and then. I'm trying to remember books of holidays past and keep landing on Wrapped Up in You by Carole Matthews (review), which I think of because of 90 Day FiancĂ©. Another great holiday book of hers is The Chocolate Lovers' Christmas (review)I love that whole series though. I also enjoyed Christmas Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella (review). Sara will be sharing her review of Mistle Text by Whitney Dineen and Melanie Summers tomorrow, but I read it a while ago and really enjoyed it. Everything she says is exactly what I would have said. Finally, I want to give a shout-out to The Holiday Detour by Jane Kolven (review), which was also a sweet read and even had some Jewish aspects. 

Sara Steven:                                                                                                                                         
I can still remember when television station TBS would have their 24-hour marathon of A Christmas Story. Having Ralphie on in the background during Christmas day festivities became part of our holiday routine, as much as anything else we’d do on December 25th. It certainly contributed to our yearly traditions. When asked what my favorite holiday-themed movies, tv shows, and books might be, it was the first thing I’d thought of. When I think of Christmas, I think of: "I want an Official Red Ryder carbine action two-hundred shot range model air rifle."

For me, this time of year wouldn’t be complete without A Christmas Story, and:

Love Actually

Watching Hugh Grant dance to The Pointer Sisters’ “Jump (For My Love)” will forever live in infamy. 


A Charlie Brown Christmas

I imagine many of us will still refer to scant, wispy trees as “Charlie Brown trees.” I know I have at times. And I still hold out hope that with a lot of love, commitment, and faith, we can turn the downtrodden tree into something beautiful. 


The Santa Clause

When my kids were little, they were convinced The Santa Clause was truly about Santa himself. They believed in the spirit of the holidays back then, and I feel like there’s so little magic left in the world nowadays. It encouraged me to leave presents under the tree wrapped up in special Kris Kringle wrapping paper, and they were convinced it really had come from Santa.  


Home Alone

I added this one primarily for my boys. I think we’ve seen it twice this month, so far. It’s not a favorite of mine, but I know it means a lot to them, and I don’t mind hanging out and watching it too.


Books:


Mistle Text, by Whitney Dineen

I recently finished this holiday masterpiece, and it was well worth the read! It was a little bit Scrooged, mixed in with Pretty in Pink–two characters who come from opposite sides of the track, finding their way despite their own viewpoints and the viewpoints from others. (Stay tuned for my review and a giveaway!)


All the Lonely People, by Jess Riley

I read All the Lonely People many years back, but it has still stuck with me, even now. I loved the unique premise–if you don’t like who you’re related to, find people you actually want to spend the holidays with!


Murder at Mistletoe Manor, by Holly Tierney-Bedord

There’s nothing like a good murder mystery. Throw in some holiday accents, and you’ve got a murdery mystery that keeps you guessing, every step of the way.


Miracle on 5th Avenue, by Sarah Morgan

A woman who loves everything about Christmas. A man who is a bestselling crime writer. It seems their personalities would be too conflicting, yet in this story, opposites attract.


Fool Me Twice at Christmas, by Camilla Isley

I had so much fun with this one. A once loving couple go home and put on an act for their families around the holidays. Could life begin to imitate art? 


White Wedding, by Carla Luna

It took me all of one day to read White Wedding. There were remnants of love from the wrong side of the tracks in this one, too, with an extension of family members who get in on the debate. 


What are your favorite holiday movies, TV shows, and books?

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