Friday, January 21, 2022

Book Review: Sasha's Redemption



By Sara Steven

This is a story about redemption and finding love in the unlikeliest of places. Sasha Sokolov is the woman every woman loves to hate. And if you've read any of the first three Sweet Water Circle books, chances are, you probably do, too. But doesn't everyone deserve a chance to right their wrongs and be happy?

After Sasha is fired from her high-powered advertising job for lying about her college education, it sets her life off on a downward spiral, leaving her single, broke, and with no place to live. As if things couldn't get any worse, Sasha's unraveling life attracts the interest of the most unlikeliest of groups, The Sweet Water Circle, Sasha's former work nemeses. Can this tight-knit group help Sasha turn her life around? And if they can, does Sasha even want their help? She might move to Skid Row just to spite them.

But sometimes, you don't get what you want. You get what you need. And if anybody needs the snarky wisdom of the Sweet Water Circle, it's Sasha. That being said, one thing she really doesn't need is to move in downstairs from a single dad with two young girls who excel at invading personal space. Or does she need them to learn what it's like to truly care for another person? (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

Some might say, “Why add a nemesis to a book series’s lineup?” And to that I say: Read Sasha’s Redemption!

I’ve read every single book within the The Sweet Water Circle series and have encountered plenty of Sasha. Much like the synopsis states, she is the woman everyone loves to hate, but for good reason. She likes to undermine, manipulate, and make enemies, never friends. But why? Where does that motivation come from? I’m really glad that Grayson Avery gave us backstory into the why, because like any bully, those feelings of inadequacy and the need to lash out had to start from somewhere, and we get to find that out, and more. 

A central theme for Sasha is: “Oh, how the mighty have fallen.” Despite her attitude and the way she's treated the ladies within the Sweet Water Circle, I couldn’t help but feel bad for her as one by one the things she holds most dear to her slip away; her job. Her living situation. A relationship that may not have fulfilled her, but made her look good. Anything that makes her seem as though she has her life in order has been stripped from her, and she has to find a way to find a new normal within all of it. 

Sasha has to decide on who she can rely on, even when she’s always felt that there is no one to rely on but herself. It was really great to see a lot of character evolution, when she tries to figure out what that means and who is worth fighting for, even when no one wants to fight for her. As always, Grayson Avery provided the reader with a lot of laughs, great dialogue, and realistic reactions that felt fitting for Sasha, but we get to see a side of Sasha never seen before–which made her story a great addition to the series, and a worthy five-star read!

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

Grayson Avery is the author of The Sweet Water Circle Series, a romantic comedy series that focuses on childhood friends in their 30's and 40's as they help each other navigate the stormy waters of dating, marriage, divorce, and a whole lot of inappropriate, naughty, and downright hysterical situations.

Visit Grayson online:
Website * Facebook * Amazon * Goodreads

Visit all the stops on Grayson's tour:

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Thursday, January 20, 2022

Lauren Layne has made it big...plus a book giveaway

We are pleased to have Lauren Layne at CLC today to talk about her latest novel, Made in Manhattan, which released this week. The cover is gorgeous and the synopsis sounds enticing. Thanks to Gallery, we have THREE copies for some lucky readers!

Lauren Layne has authored over two dozen novels that have sold more than one million copies in nine languages. Layne’s previous novel, To Sir, With Love (June 2021), was a June 2021 Library Reads Pick and an Apple Books July 2021 “Best Book of the Month. It received *starred* reviews from Library Journal, BookPage, Publishers Weekly and coverage including USA Today, TheSkimm, BuzzFeed, Cosmopolitan, PopSugar, Country Living, and more. With each book she writes, Layne’s star only continues to rise higher and burn brighter as she garners increasing recognition as a Big Name in the romcom genre.

Visit Lauren at her website and on Instagram.


Synopsis:
Violet Townsend is a people-pleaser. Raised on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, she says the right things, wears the right clothes, and never rocks the boat. So when Edith Rhodes, the elderly CEO of a billion-dollar company and surrogate grandmother to the long-ago orphaned Violet, asks her to teach her newly discovered grandson how to fit in with New York City’s elite, Violet agrees. Her Assignment? To prepare Cain Stone to take his place as heir to his family company…but he’s not exactly an eager student. The only reason he’s even stuck around this long is for the hefty paycheck at the end.

But somewhere amidst antagonistic dinner parties and tortured tux fittings, Cain and Violet come to a begrudging understanding—and the uptight Violet realizes she’s not the only one doing the teaching. As she and Cain begin to find mutual respect for one another (and maybe even something more), Violet learns that blindly following society’s rules doesn’t lead to happiness…and that sometimes the best things in life come from the most unexpected places.

"This lighthearted read includes witty banter, a "phew, that’s hot" romance, and the author's adept ability to bring her characters and their experiences off the page and into your life. New York’s never felt more real than it does in Layne’s Made in Manhattan." 
--USA Today

"Layne (To Sir, with Love) brings a light touch to this delightful, gender-swapped My Fair Lady tale in which the city itself is a nuanced character…[It] is sure to tug readers' heartstrings. Layne has a skill for building unique heroines, and Violet...adds depth to this contemporary. Layne’s fans are sure to be pleased.” 
--Publishers Weekly

What is a favorite compliment you have received on your writing?
I definitely get warm-fuzzies anytime readers compliment the banter in my books. It’s my favorite thing to write!
 
How is Violet similar to or different from you?
We’re more similar than not! We look alike, same taste in style—I even have pearls that I wear quite often! The biggest difference is that the occasional four-letter word probably rolls of my tongue a bit more easily than it does hers. :-) 
 
If Made in Manhattan were to become a movie, who would you cast in the leading roles?
Oh gosh, I’m pretty ignorant on modern pop culture—I still think of Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks as the ultimate rom-com leads! Okay, let’s see…I can see Shelley Hennig as Violet, but I’m drawing a blank on Cain! I have such a clear picture of him in my head, but no actors quite fit! Maybe Tyler Hoechlin comes closest?
 
Who was your childhood celebrity crush?
I don’t want to say! *cringes* Okay, fine! JTT!!

(For those of you who don't know, it's Jonathan Taylor Thomas.)
 
What is your go-to outfit?
Ha, I was just chatting with an author-friend about how we couldn’t remember the last time we wore pants that had a button! It’s winter right now, and I’ve been wearing a lot of black leggings, bit cozy turtleneck sweaters, and Chelsea boots with gold hoop earrings as my go-to! 
 
What is your favorite thing about New York City?

The vibrancy! So many people I encounter just on a day-to-day basis are here in the city to pursue their dream job, or because it's their dream to live here. That sort of deliberateness, the sense of being surrounded by people who dream really big, gives New York a wonderful kind of energy! 

Thanks to Lauren for visiting with us and to Gallery 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 25th at midnight EST.

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Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Spotlight and Giveaway: Somebody's Home

Kaira Rouda's latest domestic suspense thriller, Somebody's Home, released this week, and it looks so intriguing! Thanks to Get Red PR, we have TWO copies to give away! Kaira will be appearing live at Great Thoughts' Great Readers on Thursday, January 20th at 1:30 pm EST to talk about this novel. Join the group so you can meet her!

Julie Jones has left her suffocating marriage. With her teenage daughter, Jess, she’s starting over. Their new house in Oceanside is the first step toward a new life. Even if it does come with the unexpected. The previous owners, a pastor and his wife, have left something—or rather someone—behind. 

Tom Dean has a bitter hatred for the father who considers him a lost cause, and for the woman who’s moved into their family’s house. The only home he’s ever known. He’s never going to leave. She thinks he’ll be gone in three days, but Tom has the perfect plan.

For a newly single mother and her daughter, a fresh start is the beginning of a nightmare. Before the weekend is over, somebody is going to get exactly what they deserve.

“A truly unputdownable novel that had me gripped—and anxious—from the first sentence! Captivating, fast paced, and unsettling, Somebody’s Home is astonishingly good. I gulped it down.” 
—Sally Hepworth, New York Times bestselling author of The Good Sister

“With an intriguing cast of characters and a killer premise, Somebody’s Home is a thriller worth staying up all night for. Fast-paced and relentless, Kaira Rouda cranks up the tension with every turn of the page. With unexpected twists and jaw-dropping revelations, Rouda knows how to draw readers close and keep them entranced.” 
—Heather Gudenkauf, New York Times bestselling author of The Overnight Guest

“Trust your instincts and grab a copy of Kaira Rouda’s Somebody’s Home. In Rouda’s latest thriller, a mother trusts her instincts when she knows the person on her property is threatening her family. But what if the threat is coming at her from all sides and more than one person is hiding a dark secret? A compulsive, fast read, Somebody’s Home reveals what people will do to protect not only their homes but the families within those four walls. A captivating read.” 
—Georgina Cross, bestselling author of The Stepdaughter

Kaira Rouda is an award–winning USA Today bestselling author of contemporary fiction that explores what goes on beneath the surface of seemingly perfect lives. Her novels of domestic suspense include The Next Wife, The Favorite Daughter, Best Day Ever, and All the Difference. To date, Kaira’s work has been translated into more than ten languages. 

A former magazine editor and society columnist, Kaira won the Stevie Award for Women in Business for creating the first female-focused residential real estate brand, Real Living, and growing the brand to more than 22 states before its sale to Berkshire Hathaway. Her first book, Real You Incorporated: 8 Essentials for Women Entrepreneurs, led to a national speaking tour where she inspired thousands.

Active in the areas of homelessness, food security, and empowering women and girls, in her twenties, as a volunteer, she created the first walk-in emergency shelter for homeless families in Central Ohio. Kaira has received numerous awards for her community service, including the national Kiwanis Service to Mankind Award, among many others.  Kaira lives in Southern California with her husband, Congressman Harley Rouda.

Visit Kaira online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * 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 January 24th at midnight EST.

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Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Spotlight and Giveaway: Waiting for the Night Song

Waiting for the Night Song by Julie Carrick Dalton is now available in paperback. To celebrate, SparkPoint Studio has one copy to give away!

A startling and timely debut, Julie Carrick Dalton's Waiting for the Night Song is a moving, brilliant novel about friendships forged in childhood magic and ruptured by the high price of secrets that leave you forever changed.

Cadie Kessler has spent decades trying to cover up one truth. One moment. But deep down, didn’t she always know her secret would surface?

An urgent message from her long-estranged best friend Daniela Garcia brings Cadie, now a forestry researcher, back to her childhood home. There, Cadie and Daniela are forced to face a dark secret that ended both their idyllic childhood bond and the magical summer that takes up more space in Cadie’s memory then all her other years combined.

Now grown up, bound by long-held oaths, and faced with truths she does not wish to see, Cadie must decide what she is willing to sacrifice to protect the people and the forest she loves, as drought, foreclosures, and wildfire spark tensions between displaced migrant farm workers and locals.

Waiting for the Night Song is a love song to the natural beauty around us, a call to fight for what we believe in, and a reminder that the truth will always rise. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

“Dalton weaves the vagaries of friendship, the wonder of the natural world, and the power of truth to create a powerful and unforgettable story.” 
―Erica Ferencik, bestselling author of The River at Night and Into the Jungle

Waiting for the Night Song is not just a coming of age story, but several coming of age stories. It’s a novel about how time passes and how time stands still, ties that bind and ties that constrict, place and our place in the world, what keeps us together and what keeps us apart, all of which is to say that Julie Carrick Dalton has written a novel of elegant contradiction, intimately explored, beautifully woven together.” 
―Laurie Frankel, New York Times bestselling author of One Two Three

 "Smart and searingly passionate...an illuminating snapshot of nature, betrayal, and sacrifices set in the evocative New Hampshire wilderness."
Kim Michele Richardson, bestselling author of The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek

Julie Carrick Dalton’s journalism has been published in such places as The Boston Globe and BusinessWeek, and she workshopped the novel in GrubStreet’s Novel Incubator, a year-long, MFA-level novel intensive. She has won several awards including the 2017 William Faulkner Literary Competition. Dalton has been invited to speak at literary conferences, schools, and universities on the intersection of fiction and climate. Waiting for the Night Song presents pressing issues of climate change and its effects on our communities in a cautiously hopeful way, an optimistic call to action that is sure to resonate with readers and gives this page turner an urgent, timely, big scope feel. In her non-writing time, Dalton operates a 100-acre organic farm in rural New Hampshire, where the novel takes place. 

Visit Julie online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * 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 January 23rd at midnight EST.

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Monday, January 17, 2022

Book Review: Look What You Made Me Do

By Sara Steven

Carrie wants a normal life.

Carrie Lawrence doesn’t need a happily ever after. She’ll just settle for “after.” After a decade of helping her sister hide her victims. After a lifetime of lies. She just wants to be safe, boring, and not trekking through the woods at night with a dead body wrapped in a carpet.

Becca wants to get away with murder.

Becca Lawrence doesn’t believe in happily ever after because she’s already happy. She’s gotten away with murder for a decade and has blackmailed her sister into helping her hide the evidence—what more could a girl want?

But first they have to stop a serial killer.

When thirteen bodies are discovered in their small town, people are shocked. But not as shocked as Carrie, who thought she knew all the details of Becca’s sordid pastime. When Becca swears she’s not behind the grisly new crimes, they realize the town has a second serial killer who has the sisters in his sights, and what he wants is…Carrie. (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

One of the biggest aspects I appreciated most about Look What You Made Me Do, is the normalcy brought on by both primary characters within the story. Of course I know that anyone who is a serial killer is meant to be feared, yet Becca ended up becoming someone I sided with a time or two, despite her background! Just the dynamics between Carrie and Becca was enough to keep me hooked, yet the introduction of thirteen bodies only tipped the scales, because I wanted to know what was going on just as much as they did. If it’s not Becca, then who is it?

I honestly had no clue on who it could have been. When Carrie and Becca set out to discover that answer for themselves, I sifted through the clues as though I was right there with them, watching through the lens of cameras and video, trying to get a sense for who could be trusted, and who might trigger any sort of red flags. Finally, when the reader comes upon that magical “aha” moment, it really was a shock. And the last few chapters were such a whirlwind roller coaster, I had no choice but to stay up late and finish the book, because there was no way I’d be left with a cliffhanger like that!

Carrie wants to live a normal life, but for most of it, her sister hasn’t allowed that. I could appreciate the continual push and pull that Carrie feels for Becca, in wanting to escape the clutches of someone who does everything she can to manipulate in order to get what she wants, but at the same time, there is an elevated appreciation for Becca’s penchant to do whatever the heck she feels like, no matter what. That becomes more than evident the later the story unfolds, and Carrie has to take on some of those qualities herself in order to survive. Look What You Made Me Do was such a wild ride, an adrenaline-fueled five-star experience!

Thanks to Grand Central Publishing for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Elaine Murphy:

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Friday, January 14, 2022

Book Review: The Night She Disappeared

By Becky Gulc

Lisa Jewell is one of my all-time favourite authors and I’ve been enjoying her novels since her debut with Ralph’s Party in the late 1990s. I’ve enjoyed each and every novel I’ve read of Lisa’s, and she has written some of the best what could be termed traditional women’s romantic fiction in the past (Vince & Joy; 31 Dream Street) and has successfully switched genre to thrillers in more recent years. Her writing is so strong, stories so immediately immersing that it almost doesn’t matter what genre I’m reading I know I’ll love it. 

So what about the latest novel I read of Lisa’s, The Night She Disappeared, would this be one more to add to the ‘loved it’ pile? The quick answer is absolutely! Here is the synopsis:

‘'Mum, there's some people here from college, they asked me back to theirs. Just for an hour or so. Is that OK?'

Midsummer 2017: teenage mum Tallulah heads out on a date, leaving her baby son at home with her mother, Kim.

At 11 p.m. she sends her mum a text message. At 4.30 a.m. Kim awakens to discover that Tallulah has not come home.

Friends tell her that Tallulah was last seen heading to a pool party at a house in the woods nearby called Dark Place.

Tallulah never returns.

2018: walking in the woods behind the boarding school where her boyfriend has just started as a head teacher, Sophie sees a sign nailed to a fence.

A sign that says: DIG HERE . . .’ (Courtesy of Amazon UK.)

I read some great books last year and this one makes my top two. It’s a few weeks since I finished this novel, but it’s one that is definitely staying with me and I’m sure I will think back to it for a long time to come.

If the synopsis sounds good to you and intrigues you, just wait until you start reading this; there is so much more to the story. Tallulah is a young mum who wants to give her child the best start. It doesn’t make sense why she’d just vanish leaving her baby Noah or decide she’s had enough, as the police seem to believe? The story cleverly builds the backstory to the night of the disappearance utilising Sophie as a character in the present to help unpick this, and the more we learn as readers, the more I just couldn’t put the book down. I enjoyed the non-linear storytelling and personally enjoyed going back and forth meeting characters at different points in time. 

I felt for Tallulah, sensed her naivety and vulnerability, but also admired her strength and determination. The book is very atmospheric, especially the scenes in the woods at the Dark Place, it’s very oppressive in terms of relationships (what’s said, as well as what’s left unsaid) and place, at times. 

I was on the edge of my seat for the last few chapters of this novel and was pleasantly surprised with the twists and turns which I didn’t see coming. The ending really surprised me, as well.

A brilliantly crafted captivating read from Lisa. I’m already looking forward to her next novel and I’m so excited that this will be a follow-up to The Family Upstairs, another novel I loved!

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Thursday, January 13, 2022

Alison Rose Greenberg's lucky year...plus a book giveaway

Credit: Talitha Kauffman Photography
We're pleased to welcome Alison Rose Greenberg to CLC today. Her debut novel, Bad Luck Bridesmaid, released this week and it sounds like a fun story that we definitely want to check out soon. Thanks to St. Martin's Press, we have FIVE copies to give away!

Alison Rose Greenberg is a screenwriter who lives in Atlanta, but is quick to say she was born in New York City. While attending The University of Southern California, Alison took her first screenwriting class and fell head over heels. A journey from screenwriting led to marketing jobs, before coming full-circle back to her first love. Alison speaks fluent rom-com, lives for 90’s WB dramas, cries to Taylor Swift, and is a proud single mom to her two incredible kids and one poorly-trained dog. 

Visit Alison online:
Website * Twitter * Instagram


Synopsis:
After ten years, three empire waist dresses, and ZERO successful marriages, Zoey is left contemplating if her own ambivalence towards marriage has rubbed off on those she loves. And when she turns down a proposal from her perfect All-American boyfriend, Rylan Harper III, she and Rylan are both left heartbroken, leaving Zoey to wonder: what is it exactly about tying the knot that makes her want to run in the opposite direction? But then Zoey’s best friend announces that she’s marrying a guy she just met (cue eye roll) and Zoey will be a bridesmaid. Determined to turn her luck around, Zoey accepts her role and vows to get Hannah down the aisle—all the while praying her best friend’s wedded bliss will allow her to embrace marriage and get Rylan back. But as the weekend goes on, Zoey is plagued with more questions than answers. Can you be a free spirit, yet still want a certain future? Can you have love and be loved on your terms?

"What do you get when you combine a lovable but complicated woman, her well-intended but somewhat flawed mission to marry off her best friend, and a stubborn falcon? A compulsively readable, witty, and humorous novel about the pursuit of a happily ever after...with oneself. Prepare for a night-in of reading!" 
- Tif Marcelo, USA Today bestselling author of The Key to Happily Ever After

"If I had to describe Bad Luck Bridesmaid as a drink, it would be an elderflower champagne cocktail--sparkling, fizzy, smart, and utterly charming. I recommend that you enjoy them together!" 
- Sam Tschida, author of Siri, Who Am I?

"Bad Luck Bridesmaid is a romantic romp, complete with a witty, unfiltered heroine who you just know would give the most entertaining (and scandalous) toast at a wedding - that is, if the bride and groom could ever make it through their “I do’s.” 
– Laura Hankin, author of Happy & You Know It

In one sentence, what was the road to publishing like for you? 
I’m a screenwriter, so Bad Luck Bridesmaid began as a short story that I intended to adapt into a movie, but very  shortly after I expanded BLB into a manuscript it led to a wonderful experience with St. Martin’s Press.  

How is Zoey similar to or different from you? 
Zoey has my voice, snark, and love for cursing. Like Zoey, I have worked in marketing in New York City, I live for 90’s  music, my soulmate parents have been married for a long time, and I also moved a few times before I hit my teen  years. However, I’ve never been Bad Luck Bridesmaid—for each wedding I’ve been asked to be a bridesmaid in, the  engagement has ended in marriage (phew). Yet similar to Zoey, my views on “forever” are complicated. Even though  I’m a rom-com enthusiast who loves a great HEA, after going through a divorce, I personally share and celebrate Zoey’s marriage hesitations and find them refreshing! I can also see marriage through Hannah’s optimistic lens.  

If Bad Luck Bridesmaid were made into a movie, who would you cast in the leading roles? 
I wrote the screenplay for Working Title Films this last year, and since hopefully a Bad Luck Bridesmaid movie will  become a reality, I might have to stay mum on who my choices would be ☺. However, I will say that when writing the  novel, I continually pictured Zoë Kravitz as Zoey—but who doesn’t picture Zoë Kravitz as the MC of everything? 

Who was your role model when you were growing up? 
Buffy Summers. Sydney Bristow. Nora Ephron.  

If we were to visit you, what are some places you would take us to see? 
Here in Atlanta I would take you to walk the Beltline in Inman Park. We’d make a stop at Illuminarium, which is a huge  room that you step into and are transported to another place—VR without the glasses. It is currently an incredible African safari! We’d browse vinyl at my favorite record shop, Criminal Records. We’d visit the Botanical Garden,  which is always evolving and so well-kept—located adjacent to Piedmont Park. If you're a history buff, the 130+ year old recently restored Cyclorama painting at the Atlanta History Center depicts the Battle of Atlanta, and it is really  something to see. We’d get our coffee fix at either my local spot Crema, or the Riverside location of the  Chattahoochee Coffee Company—which overlooks the Chattahoochee River. I lived in Los Angeles for 6 years, and I  can confidently say that Atlanta’s Umi rivals the best sushi LA has to offer—so we’d go to Umi for dinner. If you’re the  open-minded and adventurous type, a late-night visit to the legendary Clermont Lounge—which is a female-owned  strip club that’s been running since 1965—is a must (trust me). If you prefer to dance it out like Zoey, Jonny’s  Hideaway, a retro nightclub, is a one-of-a-kind experience on the dance floor that you’ll need a full day to recover  from. 

What is your go-to comfort meal? 
Homemade Bolognese and a glass of red wine… followed by an entire bag of popcorn for dessert.

Thanks to Allison for chatting with us and to St. Martin's Press 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 18th at midnight EST.

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Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Sara and Melissa Talk About...New Years Resolutions

We've been running a column series (for two years now!) to get more personal with our readers. Since we're at the start of a new year, we realized that we've never done a post about resolutions. We've decided to remedy that today!

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.

Sara Steven:                                                                                                                                     
I used to be a real stickler for resolutions. It was the highlight of the end of any particular year and the start of the following year. I’d put a lot of thought and effort into it, too. From fitness to parenting, to getting out more and socializing–I always had the biggest and best of intentions, working hard to stick with my resolutions as much as I could, at all cost. 

I don’t remember when I stopped participating in the resolutions game. It might have been after the move to Arizona, or when I’d enrolled in college. Suddenly, I didn’t feel as though I had enough time or effort to devote to resolutions. When I’d get an idea on how I could improve or do better in a certain area of my life, it was something I’d focus on in the here and now–not months later, to coincide with January 1st. I didn’t wait for a particular date. I just did it. 

A friend recently asked me what my resolutions for 2022 are, and I replied: “I want to take more time for myself, and I want to be better about keeping in touch with my friends. I feel like Covid has really turned me into more of an introvert.” 

Boy, that is so relevant to what’s going on in our world right now. It’s hard to crawl out from the hole I’ve placed myself in. Right now, we’re encouraged to steer clear of everyone else, at least a six foot distance, and for good reason. I don’t think anyone wants a case of Omicron on their hands. And with another five course semester–my final one with Arizona State University–I can already feel it slipping away. The time. The ability to reach out and stay connected with others. Already, I feel as though the supposed resolutions I’d mentioned to my friend might not happen. 

Resolutions can be hard to stick with. Life circumstances can often get in the way. That’s when the will to get things done kicks in, and I know that I need to put more effort towards sticking with the important goals I’ve set for myself this year. When I say I want to make more time for myself, it means allowing myself some “me” time without feeling guilty. Like, allowing myself the time to write, or to focus on my education, and knowing it’s okay. And when I talk about keeping in better touch with my friends, I can do that even with a text, or an email. Doing what I can, when I can. Even little gestures can go a long way. 

I think resolutions are intentions set by all of us; an intention to go into this year and every year with a better outlook, or maybe a better outcome. Whether you set that intention at the first of the year, or at varying times throughout the year, it’s all the same. We’re all trying to navigate this “new normal” as best we can, and do the best we’re able to, for right now. 


Melissa Amster:                                                                                                         
I'm not much for making resolutions and have a hard time sticking to ones I've made in the past. However, for the sake of this post, I am going to talk about my book, TV, and movie resolutions because...why not?                                                                                      Books: 
There are two books I have every intention of reading at some point this year. They are 11/22/63 by Stephen King and House Rules by Jodi Picoult. Both Sara and my blogger friend Lloyd (The Booksage) have raved about 11/22/63 for a long time and I finally purchased a copy for myself. It is huge!!! I think the last book I read of this size was by Wally Lamb. As for House Rules, it's the only book of Jodi's that I haven't read yet (I don't count Plain Truth since I saw it as a movie on Lifetime). It's been sitting on my shelf and I want to finally get around to it!



TV Shows:

I made a promise to Sara last year that I would start watching Riverdale. That hasn't happened yet because other shows got in the way. This year, I want to at least start the first season. I only watched one episode out of context a few years ago because it was about Heathers, the musical, and had a bunch of the songs in it. It was enough to intrigue me to watch more, but I just never got around to it. I also need to catch up on The Goldbergs. I've fallen so behind this season!

Photo courtesy of Geek Girl Pen Pals


Movies:

I would like to go back to a movie theater as I miss that experience, but I am not ready to yet. Maybe later in the year I can make that happen. In the meantime, my other movie goal is to show My Big Fat Greek Wedding to my kids. I'm always telling them how they need to see it. Some other movies I want to share with my oldest are Empire Records and Grease 2. A while back, I told my youngest we'd watch It Takes Two and that still hasn't happened. I'd love to get my middle child to finally see The Princess Bride, but he's so resistant to it. (Perhaps he heard that there was kissing...)

So there you have it. I could promise myself that I will write stories again, but I don't want to disappoint myself if that doesn't happen, so it's just a very light idea in the works that may or may not happen in 2022, depending on my mood. 

What are your resolutions for 2022?

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Book Review: No Ex Before Marriage

By Sara Steven

While her friends join the "Wife Club" one by one, Poppy feels like that part of her life is done and dusted. Already married and divorced she's not desperate to go through all that again.

But what if her divorce never actually went through...?

After a shock revelation Poppy not only discovers she is still married, but that Zac is about to have his second wedding!


Coming face to face with her (almost) ex-husband after six years apart is never going to be easy. And when Zac panics and tells his new wife-to-be that Poppy is family, things can't get much worse as she is welcomed with open arms as part of the wedding party!

As the memories flood back, can Poppy really leave the past where it is? And can she watch the first love of her life walk down the aisle to say 'I do' once again? (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon)

I enjoy Portia’s books. They’re fun, and often contain some pretty interesting plotlines. No Ex Before Marriage fits that format perfectly! At first, the reader discovers that Poppy is the odd man out in her coupledom friendships. It hadn’t always been that way, back when she’d been married, too, yet after the divorce she consistently feels as though her friends choose to participate in activities that don’t include her. This is glaringly obvious at yet another wedding, and during that scene, I kept looking for the ex. With a title like No Ex Before Marriage, I knew some sort of ex would creep in eventually, and having not read the synopsis beforehand, I didn’t know it would be her ex-husband. 

When Poppy had to talk with Zac and work with him on figuring out the best way to ensure that a divorce between them occurs, it was such a unique way to bring them together! I mean, how cringe-worthy would it be to show up at the prenuptials for your ex? And, even more awkward when an instant cover story is created as to why Poppy is there. In classic Portia fashion, we get to see Poppy attempt to navigate the metaphorically giant potholes and road bumps ahead, while also attempting to figure out some buried feelings she’s had towards Zac; feelings she thought she’d dealt with and gotten over. It’s obvious that there are a lot of unresolved issues going on for Poppy. Unresolved issues with her friendships, unresolved issues with her prior marriage. There is a lot going on, and with all of it is a potential love interest waiting in the wings, and I honestly didn’t know who Poppy would decide on–new love, old love, or no love at all. 

One of the standout characters in this book is Poppy’s new friend, Kat. Kat reminded me of a friend of mine–single, independent, and very unapologetic about it! Kat provided a really nice balance to Poppy’s need to please and keep the peace with her friends, and even with Zac’s soon-to-be in-laws. I also feel that Kat helped Poppy come out of her shell, given that Poppy herself claims to be a bit boring and more than willing to stick inside her comfort zone.

I really loved the last chapter of Poppy’s story. I had hopes for how it would go, and I thought given everything we learn within the book, it was the right choice. While I know No Ex Before Marriage is about a love story gone sour, and whether there’s a chance it can be revived, at the same time I think it’s also about a fresh perspective for Poppy. She’s more than enough, and she deserves someone who feels the same way. A definite five-star experience!

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

Purchase Links:
Amazon US * Amazon UK

Portia MacIntosh is a bestselling romantic comedy author of over 15 novels, including Stuck On You and The Plus One Pact. Previously a music journalist, Portia writes hilarious stories, drawing on her real life experiences.

Visit Portia online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram

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Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Spotlight and Giveaway: The Paris Bookseller

Today we are celebrating the publication of Kerri Maher's latest novel, The Paris Bookseller. Thanks to Berkley, we have one copy to give away!

THE PARIS BOOKSELLER opens in 1917, as World War I ends and Paris is alive as a thriving center for culture and modernity. With new ideas rapidly taking the post-war world by storm, Sylvia Beach moves to Paris and opens the doors to her new English-language bookshop with the help of fellow writer and bookseller Adrienne Monnier. What starts as a partnership and friendship with Adrienne soon blossoms into a romance, and the women work together to create a haven for English writers and readers.

Sylvia quickly falls in love with James Joyce’s prose, especially his unpublished manuscript, Ulysses. When the contentious novel is banned in the United States for its obscenity, Sylvia takes a massive financial and personal risk, deciding to publish it under the auspices of Shakespeare and Company. She quickly realizes that the success and notoriety of publishing the most influential book of the century comes with steep costs. While many patrons applaud her efforts, some believe she has marred the integrity of Shakespeare and Company as she remains staunchly loyal to Joyce. Even worse, the future of her beloved store is threatened and her most enduring friendships are put to the test when Ulysses’ success leads to Joyce being wooed by other publishers. Now on the cusp of World War II and facing financial ruin, Sylvia must decide how far she will go to keep Shakespeare and Company alive.

“If you ever dreamed you could transport yourself to Paris in the twenties, to Sylvia Beach's famous bookstore, Shakespeare and Company, where Joyce, Hemingway, and Pound wandered the aisles, this story’s for you. Maher’s magical touch brings to life a woman whose struggles resonate in today’s world, while also examining the intricacies of friendship, fortitude, and the love of the written word.”
—Fiona Davis, New York Times bestselling author of The Lions of Fifth Avenue

The Paris Bookseller is a novel I long to live in, a vivid evocation of the famous female-owned Parisian bookshop Shakespeare and Company which acted as haven and home to the literati of pre-WWII Europe. Heroine and shop owner Sylvia Beach shepherds seemingly all of the great writers of the 20th century with an appealing blend of warmth, wit, frustration, and understanding. Kerri Maher writes a love letter to books, bookstores, and booklovers everywhere.”
—Kate Quinn, New York Times bestselling author of The Rose Code

“Kerri Maher vividly transports us back in time to the establishment of the world’s most famous and beloved bookstore, Shakespeare and Company. Its founder, Sylvia Beach is brilliantly portrayed as is her fight to publish one of the greatest novels ever written. Filled with such literary luminaries as James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Paris Bookseller is a bibliophile’s dream come true.”
—Renée Rosen, USA Today bestselling author of The Social Graces

Photo by Peter Su (2018)
Kerri Maher is the author of The Girl in White Gloves, The Kennedy Debutante, and, under the name Kerri Majors, This is Not a Writing Manual: Notes for the Young Writer in the Real World. She holds an MFA from Columbia University and was a writing professor for many years. She now writes full-time and lives with her daughter and dog in a leafy suburb west of Boston, Massachusetts. 

Visit Kerri online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * 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 January 16th at midnight EST.

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Monday, January 10, 2022

Book Review: Both of You

By Becky Gulc

Adele Parks is one of my all-time favourite authors, if I look back 10-15 years ago I savoured each and every one of her novels, she is a fantastic writer and is one of the UK’s bestselling women’s fiction authors for good reason. For reasons unknown to me there has been a lull of Adele Parks novels in my house in recent years, it’s certainly not been intentional. I’d been noticing Adele had switched genre in recent years, from what could be more traditionally termed ‘chick lit’ to what has been described as ‘domestic noir’ and finally intrigue took hold and I ordered her latest novel, Both of You. So what is the novel about? The synopsis certainly caught my attention:

‘Happy. Married. Missing.

Leigh Fletcher: happily married stepmum to two gorgeous boys goes missing on Monday. Her husband Mark says he knows nothing of her whereabouts. She simply went to work and just never came home. Their family is shattered.

Kai Janssen: married to wealthy Dutch businessman, Daan, vanishes the same week. Kai left their luxurious penthouse and glamorous world without a backward glance. She seemingly evaporated into thin air. Daan is distraught.

DC Clements knows that people disappear all the time – far too frequently. Most run away from things, some run towards, others are taken but find their way back. A sad few never return. These two women are from very different worlds, their disappearances are unlikely to be connected. And yet, at a gut level, the DC believes they might be.

How could these women walk away from their families, husbands and homes willingly? Clements is determined to unearth the truth, no matter how shocking and devastating it may be.’ (Courtesy of Adele Parks' website.)

Both Of You is a fantastic well-crafted novel which was hard to put down. The story is told from different viewpoints; all the main characters have their say but each one only comes to the forefront when it’s key to the plot. I enjoyed how the story built up bit by bit and how it shocked me and confused me at times, I certainly didn’t see some things coming and whilst I thought I’d figured out what might have happened to the women midway through, well I may not have been completely wrong but I wasn’t disappointed in the journey to getting to that conclusion at the very end. There were definitely a few curve balls thrown in (but believable ones) which had me second-guessing what I thought was happening.

Considering the key characters aren’t that likable once you get to know them, I thought the novel did well to still make me care; I really did. A situation which seemed unfathomable to most people almost seemed rationally thought out at times, I had some sympathy for Leigh and Kai even if at times I felt the internal dialogue was becoming a little repetitive. The ending was just, I’m glad it went the way it did. It completely fit the story even if it wasn’t necessarily the ending I wanted, but then I’m not sure what I wanted the ending to be either! This is one messy situation and I just loved the intrigue and unpicking of the story. No spoilers, but one character would certainly be interesting to meet again in another novel, they have so much left to give I’m sure…!

I certainly recommend this novel which is now available in paperback (UK) and it was so good to get back to Adele’s fantastic writing and it certainly won’t be as long until I pick up another one of her novels. Lies Lies Lies is calling me next!

Both of You is Woman Last Seen in the US.

More by Adele Parks:


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Friday, January 7, 2022

What's in the (e)mail

Melissa:
Out of the Clear Blue Sky by Kristan Higgins from Berkley (NetGalley)
The Lies I Tell by Julie Clark from Sourcebooks (NetGalley)
The Summer Place by Jennifer Weiner from Atria (Edelweiss)
The Book Woman's Daughter by Kim Michele Richardson from Sourcebooks (NetGalley)
The Summer Getaway by Susan Mallery from Harlequin (NetGalley)
The Art of Traveling Strangers
by Zoe Disigny from Amplify (NetGalley)
There's A Dead Girl In My Yard by/from Angela Page and Mia Altieri (e-book)
Set on You by Amy Lea from SparkPoint Studio (NetGalley)
Love, Not Luck by/from Melanie Jacobson (e-book)
Meet Me in the Margins by Melissa Ferguson from HarperCollins (e-book)
Reunited by/from Kaira Rouda (e-book)
Much Ado about a Latte
by Kathleen Fuller from HarperCollins (e-book)
As Seen on TV by Meredith Schorr from Forever (NetGalley)
Kamila Knows Best by Farah Heron from Forever (NetGalley)
Love & Other Disasters by Anita Kelly from Forever (NetGalley)
The Diamond Eye by Kate Quinn from William Morrow (NetGalley)
She's Up to No Good
by Sara Goodman Confino from Lake Union (NetGalley)
Lucie Yi Is Not a Romantic by Lauren Ho from Putnam (NetGalley)
Love at First Spite by Anna E. Collins from Graydon House (NetGalley)

Sara:
The Helsingør Sewing Club by Ella Gyland from HarperCollins UK (NetGalley)
Reservations for Six by/from Lindsey Palmer (e-book)
Is This for Real? by Kathy Strobos from Rachel's Random Resources (e-book)
All Told by Kathie Giorgio from Austin Macauley (e-book)
The Trap by Evie Hunter Rachel's Random Resources (NetGalley)

Jami:
Good Rich People by Eliza Jane Brazier from Berkley (NetGalley)
A Mother's Secret by Caroline Finnerty from Rachel's Random Resources (NetGalley)

Marisa:
The Walled Garden by Robin Farrar Maass from SparkPoint Studio (e-book)
Ice Out by Susan Speranza from SparkPoint Studio (e-book)





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Review: Red Dress

By Sara Steven

Katy is a career mum in her 40s who's stressed out, time-starved, and disenchanted with her successful life. She has a handsome husband, a house in London, and two teenage children. Her therapy practice in Harley Street is thriving, but she feels empty and lost. She's forgotten who she is and what makes her tick. An impulsive decision sets in motion a domino effect that changes her life. A series of events, a meeting with someone from the past, and a sequence of numbers, send her on a rollercoaster ride to finding herself. With some trepidation, Katy embarks on a path of spiritual awakening and embraces a new way of thinking. (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

Red Dress provided an interesting blend of spirituality, metaphysics, and mystical aspects combined with the realistic experiences one woman goes through while navigating her modern world. Katy appears to “have it all” with her husband, Richard, yet as with most things in life, looks can be deceiving. Behind closed doors, she feels as though she’s an accessory for her loved ones; someone who is around to tend to their needs, yet no one tends to hers. It’s a big reason she branches out and looks into other ways to gain more fulfillment, and that’s where the mystical aspects come into play. 

I felt like I was getting a refresher course in various subjects I’d been interested in decades ago. When Katy learns from something she refers to as “the Voice,” I absorbed the information right along with her! Over time, she starts to see changes in her outlook and the way she perceives her situation in life, but even with that, she fights against it. It was obvious how torn she was between her duty and responsibility to her family, and the newfound respect she’s found for herself–and Richard’s personality and his own secrets made it more than easy as a reader to encourage Katy to stand up for herself and maybe even walk away. 

The introduction of someone from Katy’s past was really surprising. Even with the massive green light in allowing the past back in, something kept niggling at my brain, like it was a red flag showcasing major caution. Even though the relationship is described as a “twin flame,” I kept encouraging Katy to slow everything down and be careful. Which I know sounds strange, considering Katy is a character within the pages of Red Dress, but that’s how engrossing it got for me. I wanted to reach right in and grab her by the shoulders, and tell her to tone it down a couple of notches!

My only complaint with Red Dress was the abrupt ending. I wanted more. It felt like there were some unresolved scenarios and the story might have done well with another chapter or two. But other than that, I appreciated the unique perspectives from Katy and the other characters in the book, which led to her spiritual awakening. 

Thanks to John Hunt Publishing for the book in exchange for an honest review.

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