Monday, February 28, 2022

Reviews at Amazon -- January/February 2022

We're posting some reviews at our Amazon (or Goodreads) accounts, as either they've been sitting in our 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!

The Night We Burned by S.F. Kosa

These Walls Between Us by Wendy Sanford

The Secret of Rainy Days by Leslie Hooton

A Certain Appeal by Vanessa King

Barking Up the Wrong Tree
by Tracy Krimmer

The Special Relationship by Frederica Hendricks Noble

Last Stop on the 6 by Patricia Dunn

Landscape of a Marriage by Gail Ward Olmsted

The Secret of Snow by Viola Shipman

The Chelsea Girls by Fiona Davis

The Younger Wife by Sally Hepworth

Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall
Until We Meet by Camille Di Maio

Necessary Lies by Diane Chamberlain

Hooked by Sutton Foster

My Darling Husband by Kimberly Belle

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Book Review: The Love of My Life

By Jami Denison

How well do you really know the person sleeping next to you? That question is at the heart of the domestic thriller, a genre that has ridden a wave of popularity since the 2012 publication of Gone Girl. But not all lying spouses are hiding murder or mafia ties in their past. Sometimes the secrets are about sadness, loss, and love.

In Rosie Walsh’s follow-up to Ghosted, The Love of My Life, Emma and Leo seem to have the perfect marriage. He’s an obituary writer; she’s a well-known marine biologist who once had her own BBC program. They have a two-year-old daughter, Ruby, and the news that Emma has survived a bout with cancer should make everything perfect. Instead, Leo accidentally stumbles on proof that Emma did not graduate from the college where she claimed to hold a degree. Pulling on that one thread unravels everything Leo thought he knew about Emma, from the reason she was let go from the BBC to her own name. As Emma pretends everything is alright, eventually Leo is forced to confront the one question no father ever wants to ask. 

Even though The Love of My Life is told from both (first person) perspectives, at first Emma comes across like a liar and poor sweet Leo like a victim. The clues appeared obvious and Emma’s story felt like one I’d read several times before. I found the first several chapters hard to get through, and I only stuck with the story because I appreciated the writing so much.

I’m very glad I kept reading. Even though Walsh solves half the mystery with an info dump right around the structural halfway mark, Emma’s past turned out to be nothing like I’d imagined it, and all of the author’s earlier clues were fake-outs. Emma reveals herself to be an extremely likeable heroine who suffered horrible losses and betrayals as a college student, but pulled herself out of the mess admirably and made a wonderful life for herself. 

As the novel progresses, all of Emma’s actions are explained and justified. Even seemingly random subplots about a missing celebrity and Emma’s possible stalkers tie into the central mystery. There’s a plot twist near the end that I saw coming, but it was completely necessary to spin the story in the direction necessary for the most emotionally satisfying ending. The only misplaced note comes in the form of Emma’s best friend Jill, who takes actions greatly out of proportion to her role in the story.

The Love of My Life begins by asking how well a person really knows their spouse. It ends by asking what it takes to forgive. In between is a gripping mystery that readers won’t be able to put down. 

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

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Friday, February 25, 2022

What's in the (e)mail


Community Klepto by Kelly I. Hitchcock from Caitlin Hamilton Marketing (print)
Scarlet Carnation by Laila Ibrahim from Wunderkind PR (print)
Grand Finale by/from Nicole Waggoner (print)
Finding Grace by Janis Thomas from Blackstone (print)
To Get to the Other Side by Kelly Ohlert from Alcove Press (NetGalley)
It Could Be Anyone
by Jaime Lynn Hendricks from Penzler (NetGalley)
Drop Dead Gorgeous by Rachel Gibson from Gallery (NetGalley)
The Book of Susan by Melanie K. Hutsell from Paraclete Press (NetGalley)
Year on Fire by Julie Buxbaum from Random House (NetGalley)
Mom Walks: Sharing Failure by/from Rebecca Prenevost (ebook)
by Sariah Wilson from Montlake (NetGalley)
Acts of Violet by Margarita Montimore from Flatiron (print)
The Magic of Lemon Drop Pie by Rachel Linden from Berkley (NetGalley)
Again, Rachel by Marian Keyes from Doubleday Canada (print)
15 Minutes of Shame by Lisa Daily from Siesta Key House (NetGalley)

A Year of Mr. Maybes by Judy Leigh from Rachel's Random Resources (NetGalley)
Secrets Behind The Billionaire's Return by Rachael Stewart from Rachel's Random Resources (ebook)
An Escape to Remember by T.A. Williams from Rachel's Random Resources (NetGalley)
Crazy to Leave You by Marilyn Simon Rothstein from Get Red PR (NetGalley)
I'll Be Seeing You by Robin Lee Hatcher from HarperCollins (NetGalley)

The Self-Made Widow by Fabian Nicieza from Putnam (NetGalley)
The Birdcage by Eve Chase from Putnam (NetGalley)
The Other Guest by Helen Cooper from Putnam (NetGalley)
Take My Hand by Dolen Perkins-Valdez from Berkley (NetGalley)

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Book Review: The Life You Left Behind

By Melissa Amster

Two strangers.

One missed flight.

It only takes a moment to change a life.

One year ago Casey Cassidy was happy. She had great friends, a wonderful teaching job and a busy life - until with one missed flight, everything changes.

One year later Casey knows what it means to find that once-in-a-lifetime love people dream of. But when Ben leaves, her heart is shattered.

Left facing a year of firsts without him, piecing her life back together seems impossible. But then a friend offers her a home in rural France.

In the solitude and emptiness, Casey needs to comes to terms with what’s happened and find a way to move forward. She has no idea where that will take her one year later...

The premise of this book captured my attention, which is why I wanted to read it initially. I also love the cover. The story was interesting overall, with a strong narrative throughout. I liked Casey a lot and sympathized with her plight. I couldn't fathom being in a wonderful relationship only to have it end a year after it started. I don't blame Casey for wanting to get away. 

The story goes back and forth in time over the span of two years or so. The first year is Casey's life with Ben, which all is talked about in the past. The second year is Casey's life in France, without Ben, and how she's trying to get her life back together and possibly move on when she's still stuck on him. Along the way, she makes a new friend and finds a diary with an intriguing story that mirrors her own in some ways. 

There were a lot of good things about this story and I liked how bits and pieces unfolded throughout, painting the bigger picture of what was going on. However, there were some things that didn't work as well for me. The past scenes being written all in italics felt unnecessary as a font choice. It was clear that the events were in the past, due to the chapter headings of "Before." The time progression felt strange too. There were times when a whole month would go by but it felt like nothing was really going on during that time period. Casey finds this diary, reads a couple of pages, and then waits another month before reading more? I would devour that thing in one day! It seemed odd that she kept dragging it out when she had all that time to herself anyway. I also felt like some of the story was preachy. I get that horrible things are happening in the world, but there was an element of guilt for the reader. Finally, I wish the climax had come as more of a surprise. There were so many hints leading up to it and lots of foreshadowing due to Casey writing about the past from the present view.

Debbie Howells tackles the subject of mental health in an honest and sensitive way. The timing actually works well with the return of A Million Little Things, which also covers a lot of mental health topics. Overall, I enjoyed this novel and it had a Leah Mercer, Josie Silver, and Rosie Walsh feel. 

Movie casting suggestions:
Ben: Tom Ainsley (I've been watching How I Met Your Father and he just popped into my head while reading this book.)
Sylvie: Inès Melab

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

Purchase Links:
Amazon UK * Amazon US

While working as long-haul cabin crew in her twenties, Debbie Howells trained as a pilot and qualified as a flying instructor.  But as the mother of two small children, she wanted a career she could fit around them and started a wedding flower business, Country Flowers.  For thirteen years, Debbie created the natural, seasonal designs she became known for to venues throughout the South East.

It was towards the end of this time she started writing, in a notebook in the shade of her garden on her days off, self-publishing three women’s fiction novels, the third of which, Wildflowers, almost but not quite found her a literary agent. 

Pursuing her dream of a traditional publishing deal, she went on to write her first psychological thriller, the Sunday Times bestseller, The Bones of You.  Four more have followed including the e-book bestseller The Vow, but it’s another long-awaited dream come true that her women’s fiction novels have now found a home with Boldwood.

Visit Debbie online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram

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Thursday, February 24, 2022

Jenny Hale is flying a book giveaway

We're pleased to welcome Jenny Hale to CLC today. She's delightful and we're excited for you to meet her. Jenny's latest novel, Butterfly Sisters, was recently released. She's here to talk about it and tell us more about herself and she has three copies to give away! 

Jenny Hale is a USA Today, Amazon, and international bestselling author of romantic contemporary fiction. Her books have sold worldwide, have been translated into multiple languages, and adapted for television. The Beach House, released in 2021 sailed to number three on the Amazon Kindle Chart and it hit number one in the categories Contemporary Romance, Women’s Literary Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, and Romance. Her novels Coming Home for Christmas and Movie Guide Epiphany Award winner Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses are Hallmark Channel original movies. She was included in Oprah Magazine’s “19 Dreamy Summer Romances to Whisk You Away” and both Southern Living’s “30 Christmas Novels to Start Reading Now” as well as “Beach Reads Perfect for Summer 2020.” Her stories are chock-full of feel-good romance and overflowing with warm settings, great friends, and family. Jenny is at work on her next novel, delighted to be bringing even more heartwarming stories to her readers. When she isn’t writing or heading up her romantic fiction imprint Harpeth Road, she can be found running around her hometown of Nashville with her husband, two boys, and their labradoodle, taking pictures—her favorite pastime.

Visit Jenny online: 
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram


“When emerging from its cocoon, a butterfly needs the struggle to push the fluid from its body into its wings. So essentially, without the struggle, it never flies.”

About to land her biggest deal yet, Leigh Henderson is on her game. Nothing can get in her way. Except Rebecca Mayer, who’d sashayed in a few weeks ago with a former client list that would fill the entire hallway to Leigh’s office. When her boss unexpectedly offers the deal to Rebecca and tells Leigh he’s letting her go, Leigh finds herself without a job.

But that’s the least of her worries.

Her mother has some news that will change everything. She’s asked Leigh and her sister Meredith to meet her at the family cabin on Old Hickory Lake. Not only has Leigh been unable to track down her sister for years, but going back to the cabin would mean dealing with the loss of her beloved grandmother and also chance running into her old flame Colton Harris, the one love she’s never been able to completely let go of.

Will confronting her grief, speaking to her estranged sister, and forcing herself to face the love she’d left behind help Leigh to learn who she really is?

What is a favorite compliment you have received on your writing? 
People have told me that reading my books is like watching a movie--they can see it all happening. I love that. :)

What is something you learned from writing your previous novels that you applied to Butterfly Sisters? 
I think that I learned just to take it slowly and really spend time in the scenes.

If Butterfly Sisters were made into a movie, who would you cast in the lead roles? 
This is so hard! I see these characters in my mind as actual people so there isn't anyone like them, but if I had to choose, I'd say Meredith could be played by Sienna Miller and Keri Russell could be Leigh.

What TV series are you currently binge watching?
After Life

What is something you learned about yourself during the pandemic? 
I learned that I'm stronger than I think I am.

What have been the biggest rewards and challenges with starting a publishing company? 
The biggest reward has been seeing the success thus far. The biggest challenges are just learning literally everything and building our program and processes from the ground up.

Thanks to Jenny for chatting 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 March 1st at midnight EST.

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Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Book Review: The Trap

By Sara Steven

Callie Devereux has it all – a successful career, a beautiful home and an attentive, loving partner. Until one day, she wakes up to discover that the man she thought she loved has taken everything from her, leaving her penniless. Desperate to get answers, Callie goes after the man she once trusted and discovers a world built on secrets and lies...

Jack Carlisle has never heard of the man Callie Devereaux claims to have once loved, but he has a good idea who it is – his business partner and old friend, Logan Armitage. Jack can’t believe Logan would steal, but as he helps Callie to find his old friend, Jack discovers money missing too…

But with Logan missing without trace, there is only option left to catch this thief – to set a trap. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

This is my first trip into an Evie Hunter read, and it won’t be my last! I really enjoy mysteries and thrillers, particularly the kind that can bring in a little romance into the mix, and Callie’s experience checked all of those boxes. There are a lot of little secret nuances to Mike, the man she’s recently fallen for, and even though her gut is telling her to be wary, it’s hard not to get sucked into his charm and personality. But as the synopsis indicates, she discovers that he’s completely scammed her, which leads her to Jack.

Jack and Logan have a long history together–his family used to work for Logan’s family, and he always assumed that they were tight, like brothers. It makes it hard at first to believe in what Callie is telling him, considering the amount of trust Jack has for his best friend. Only, there is a lot more going on behind the scenes, and the fact that Logan wasn’t completely honest with Callie about his own background–starting with an assumed identity–propels them both on a path to discovery. They get a lot more than they bargained for though, not only with Logan, but with the kind of relationship that forms between Jack and Callie.

Told from three different perspectives–Callie’s, Jack’s and Logan’s–The Trap was the classic thriller, and even though we already know whodunnit, it’s what comes after that is the most exciting. How will Callie and Jack combine forces to take Logan down? And how deep down the rabbit hole will Logan’s indiscretions go? All of it is telling, leading to a pretty crazy climax that I didn’t see coming. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is, and Callie gets that in abundance with her initial experiences with Logan. But how she handles it was the best revenge, a read worthy of five stars!

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

Purchase Links:
Amazon US * Amazon UK

Evie Hunter has written a great many successful regency romances as Wendy Soliman and is now redirecting her talents to produce dark gritty thrillers for Boldwood. For the past twenty years she has lived the life of a nomad, roaming the world on interesting forms of transport, but has now settled back in the UK.

Visit Evie online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter 

Sign up for Evie's newsletter.

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Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Sarah Jio is spreading the a book giveaway

Photo by Brandon Ebel
We are so glad to have Sarah Jio back at CLC today. We've been featuring her books ever since she shared her debut, The Violets of March, with us. Sarah is as lovely as her books and we're excited for you to reconnect with her or meet her for the first time. Melissa gave five stars to her latest novel, With Love from London (see her review). Thanks to Ballantine, we have one copy to share with a lucky reader!

A #1 international, USA Today and New York Times bestselling author, Sarah has written nine novels with Penguin Books (Plume) and Random House (Ballantine). Her novels include THE VIOLETS OF MARCH (a Library Journal Best Book of 2011 and a USA Today bestseller), THE BUNGALOW, BLACKBERRY WINTER (an instant New York Times and USA Today bestseller, as well as an international bestseller), THE LAST CAMELLIA (a Kirkus Books Most Anticipated Book of 2012), MORNING GLORY, GOODNIGHT JUNE, THE LOOK OF LOVE (an iTunes Best Book of November 2014), ALWAYS and ALL THE FLOWERS IN PARIS. Her novels have become major bestsellers in countries such as Turkey, Norway, Poland and Russia. Most recently, her new novel in Turkey, BACK TO YOU, became a #1 bestseller.

A magazine writer and former columnist for Glamour magazine, Sarah has written thousands of articles and blog posts for national magazines and newspapers including The New York Times, Redbook, O, The Oprah Magazine, Cooking Light, Glamour, SELF, Real Simple, Fitness, Marie Claire, Hallmark magazine, Seventeen, The Nest, Health, Bon Appetit, Gourmet, The Seattle Times, Parents, Woman’s Day, American Baby, Parenting, and many others. She has also appeared as a commentator on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Sarah lives in Seattle with her husband and three sons. (Bio adapted from Sarah's website.)

Visit Sarah online:

When Valentina Baker was only eleven years old, her mother, Eloise, unexpectedly fled to her native London, leaving Val and her father on their own in California. Now a librarian in her thirties, fresh out of a failed marriage and still at odds with her mother’s abandonment, Val feels disenchanted with her life.

In a bittersweet twist of fate, she receives word that Eloise has died, leaving Val the deed to her mother’s Primrose Hill apartment and the Book Garden, the storied bookshop she opened almost two decades prior. Though the news is devastating, Val jumps at the chance for a new beginning and jets across the Atlantic, hoping to learn who her mother truly was while mourning the relationship they never had.

As Val begins to piece together Eloise’s life in the U.K., she finds herself falling in love with the pastel-colored third-floor flat and the cozy, treasure-filled bookshop, soon realizing that her mother’s life was much more complicated than she ever imagined. When Val stumbles across a series of intriguing notes left in a beloved old novel, she sets out to locate the book’s mysterious former owner, though her efforts are challenged from the start, as is the Book Garden’s future. In order to save the store from financial ruin and preserve her mother’s legacy, she must rally its eccentric staff and journey deep into her mother’s secrets. With Love from London is a story about healing and loss, revealing the emotional, relatable truths about love, family, and forgiveness. (Courtesy of Amazon.)

What is a favorite compliment you have received on your writing?
This is SUCH a beautiful question, especially for an author like me who is often overly critical and a bit on the sensitive side, ha! When you put your work out there to the world, you’re bound to get responses that aren’t always positive or affirming. After eleven novels, I’ve learned that’s something that just comes with the territory. While I remain a sensitive soul (a friend of mine calls me “whimsical” which I much prefer over sensitive!), I have learned to grow thicker skin and have come to realize that not everything I write is going to resonate with everyone. A lot of times, our responses to what we read can come from the place we’re in or circumstances we’re going through. Maybe a character in one of my novels reminded you of that mean girl in middle school who hurt your feelings? Or maybe you were in a fight with your husband when you posted your review on Goodreads and felt snarkier than usual, you know? 

At the heart of me, I hold on to my belief that most people mean well, and in my life, I live by a practice of letting go of negativity in favor of focusing on the positive (and also on forgiveness, which happens to be a theme in a lot of my writing—which is not to say that I need to “forgive” anyone who gives me a bad review—that is just fine!). All this to say, when I receive a compliment on my writing, it means so much to me. People tend to think that authors don’t pay attention to their “fans” praise that much, but I’m telling you, this author does! I write because it is my joy and calling (a career that feels like getting to have fun—most of the time!), but the greatest joy of my career is being able to connect to others through my words. It is a privilege to be able to make people “feel” when they read my stories, and that sort of feedback is the most rewarding.
I have been overwhelmed (in a good way!) with all of the positive feedback pouring in about WITH LOVE FROM LONDON. Most recently, I heard from a voracious reader who wrote that this was the first of my books she had read, and she wanted to tell me that LONDON has become her new favorite novel. I wanted to jump through my computer screen and give her a big hug. She shared that she had a difficult relationship with her estranged mother and my novel helped her think differently about her pain and consider the struggles her mother experienced in all those years while they were separated. For me, that was the most beautiful compliment, and it made my hard work on this novel so worthwhile. Thank you again for asking this lovely question and giving me the chance to delve into all my thoughts on the topic!
Who do you relate to more in your novel, Eloise or Valentina?
Another great question, and one that’s so hard for me to answer! I relate to them both, almost equally, though I do have a soft spot for Eloise. As a mother of three boys who went through a painful divorce and subsequent trauma dealing with some things that I am unable to share publicly, I can say that my heart ached for Eloise as I was writing her journey, and I was rooting for her until the end. I think she was not only misunderstood, but that she also misunderstood herself. Like a lot of women, it took her years to learn the very important lesson of trusting her instincts and listening to her gut. It took me into my thirties before I learned to really do that well, too!
If With Love from London were made into a movie, what songs would be on the soundtrack?
Oh goodness, so many! I’m a huge music buff (but, eeks, I hate the word “buff” so sorry for that!), and there were several songs I listened to on repeat while working on this book. Here are a few that I would hope would make the cut if there were a movie version: “London’s Song” by Matt Hartke (I discovered this gem after Shazaming it at a restaurant!), “The Place Where Lost Things Go” by Jamie Cullum (I’m such a fan of this jazzy, British artist), and “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square” by the king, Nat King Cole.
What is your favorite independent bookstore?
In WITH LOVE FROM LONDON, I loved dreaming up The Book Garden in Primrose Hill—it was just the ultimate book lover’s dream and so fun for me to imagine. In real life, there are so many bookstores that are dear to my heart, and Third Place Books in Seattle is number one. This lovely store has both been very good to me and incredibly supportive over the years; it’s also a place where I’ve been taking my boys to for years! Oh, and I adore Eagle Harbor Books on Bainbridge Island, Washington, which is where I set my first novel, THE VIOLETS OF MARCH.
What TV series are you currently binge watching?
I recently discovered Emily in Paris on Netflix and will admit that while my husband refused to partake with me, I couldn’t stop! I binged watched an entire season on an airplane recently. The fashion! The food! The Parisian cafes! Emily’s ultimate optimism! #obsessed
What is something you have learned about yourself during the pandemic?

Ooooooh! What an interesting thing to think about. The first thought that comes to mind is this: While I’ve been a huge fan of travel over the years—and I’m married to a man who loves racking up stamps in his passport—I think the pandemic reinforced my love of HOME. Yes, yes, there were so many moments during months of lockdown when I missed travel, family and friends, and found myself seeping into the depths of cabin fever, but I do think that the last few years reminded me of the importance of putting down roots, getting back to the simple pleasures in life (gardening, mastering sourdough bread). At my core, I am a homebody—a real one—and I suppose that was the pandemic’s biggest aha moment for me. I love making my kids beautiful homemade meals, digging weeds out of my garden, and taking my dog on walks around the same well-worn sidewalks of our Seattle neighborhood—waving at the neighbors and noticing the daffodils pushing up through the ground, the way they did last spring, and the spring before. There is no place like home.

Thanks to Sarah for visiting with us and to Ballantine 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 February 27th at midnight EST.

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Monday, February 21, 2022

Book Review: Unforgettable

By Sara Steven

There are first loves and there are last loves. But what happens when they overlap?

Tom Blythe falls in love quickly. He fell for Olivia the first time they met. The same thing happens when he meets Grace. The problem is: Tom is still in love with Olivia.

Pulled in two different directions, Tom has a choice to make. He knows he’s unhappy, but is that enough for him to forget the vows he made? Both women have difficult pasts and Tom is desperate to help them, but at what cost?

Can he let Olivia go and commit his future to Grace? Or will the pull of the past prove too strong? (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

Tom and Olivia’s love story reminded me of the classic college sweethearts experience, where two people who have known each other for several years and were young during their initial courtship and relationship, grow older and can in turn, grow apart. After children and jobs and responsibilities, life doesn’t feel like it once did, and Tom finds himself within a crossroads. As the synopsis indicates, he is still very much in love with Olivia–she’s been all he’s known for so long. Yet, after meeting Grace, he develops feelings for her, too, and it’s a difficult situation, considering he’s never believed that a person can love more than one person at the same time. 

What I appreciated about Unforgettable was the honest portrayal of a changed marriage. Tom isn’t written to be a villain; instead, he’s written to be a man who respects his wife and family, and will do whatever he can to maintain that, even if it means potentially living an unhappy life. That’s where the reader begins to struggle–is it wrong for Tom to love Grace, too? Doesn’t he deserve happiness, too? I went back and forth on what was best for Tom and who Tom should be with, if he should try harder to have a better relationship with his wife, or maybe they’d come to a point where it wouldn’t be possible. I felt just as confused and unsettled as Tom does! 

The only thing I think I would have wanted to gain a better understanding of, would be how Tom is able to spend so much time with Grace, with very little show from Olivia. Tom and Grace embark on an extracurricular activity that keeps him from home many nights/evenings, and I kept thinking, “Where is Olivia during all of this?” I’d imagine if my spouse were gone most nights, I’d probably question that, at some point. We find out later why that is, but it might have been more helpful to introduce that earlier in the story, so Tom’s time with Grace would feel more realistic. Other than that, though, I enjoyed the smooth emotional wave that takes Tom through two different timeframes, back and forth, from Olivia to Grace, until it all melds together, leading to Tom’s eventual need to make a decision that is based on matters of the heart, for all involved. 

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

Purchase Links:
Amazon US * Amazon UK

A former teacher, Ruth Loten’s first writing memory is for her writer’s badge in Brownies but her MA in Creative Writing probably trumps that. One of the founders and editors of the digital literary and visual arts magazine, Makarelle, she has been published in various anthologies and is usually found in her study, mainlining coffee and frantically pinning editorial notes onto a noticeboard. In November 2019, Ruth was appointed Writer In Residence at Brightlingsea Lido. Although she has written a number of books for children and teenagers, this is Ruth’s debut novel for adults.

Visit R.E. Loten online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram

Giveaway to win a signed paperback copy or a kindle version of Unforgettable (UK Only)

*Terms and Conditions –UK entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within seven days, then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organizer and used only for fulfillment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  We are not responsible for dispatch or delivery of the prize.

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Giveaway ends February 23rd.

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Friday, February 18, 2022

Book Review: Thanks for the a special giveaway

By Sara Steven

A new beginning leads to a second-chance at romance.

Done with the frigid northern winters, Reagan Westbourne has an easy solution—move to Miami. It makes total sense. She can even live with her sister. But after a few months of enduring her quirky sibling's newlywed bliss, Reagan is ready to spread her wings and move out. Life with two fun roommates and a promising job completes the picture for Reagan. Almost.

When Reagan's old college friend, Dante, opens a new restaurant in Miami, the past mixes with the present. After all, he's the only man Reagan's ever had feelings for. And it seems the attraction might just be mutual. Yet when their paths finally seem to align, old and new friends enter the picture, leaving Reagan unsure of her feelings. Could this second-chance be the answer, or is it time to leave the memories in the past? (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads.)

This is the second book in the Thankful series, and I’m glad it’s here! I was more than ready to get back to the Miami lifestyle and learn more about Reagan, who we were introduced to in Thanks for the Love (reviewed here). It’s obvious that it took time and patience for Reagan to feel ready to make the move to the east coast, but knowing that one of her friends from college (Dante) already lives there, it made it a bit easier. It also helped that she used to have a pretty strong crush on him in her younger years, feelings she isn’t sure she’s ever really gotten over. 

The synopsis mentions that their paths seem to align, yet there were plenty of moments when Reagan second-guesses that alignment, particularly due to how busy Dante is, and how he never seems to make time for her. Adding to the confusion is an old friend from their college days, who really throws a wrench in everything. Some of my favorite scenes involve Reagan’s attempt at navigating the choppy friendship waters, particularly when the chaos escalates and gets out of control. Through it all, she has her much-loved roommates by her side, and it was really nice to witness such depths of friendship and solidarity when Reagan needed it most. 

Dante isn’t the only one in the running for Reagan’s heart. One of her coworkers, Jeremy, is someone she begins to look at with newfound interest, particularly when it might seem that he could be interested in her. What I liked a lot was how it was never blatantly obvious with the direction Reagan might choose to go in, when making a decision on who might work best for her. There were moments when I thought that Dante would be the best fit, but then there were other moments where it appeared that Jeremy might be the right guy for her. 

I think the biggest storyline here though, are the tight friendships Reagan has formed since moving to Miami. Potential romantic love can come and go, but the sisterhood is unbreakable! This was a great addition to the Thankful series, and another five-star experience for me!

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

Purchase Links:
Amazon US * Amazon UK

USA Today
bestselling author Melissa Baldwin is a planner-obsessed Disney fan who still watches Beverly Hills 90210 reruns and General Hospital

She’s a wife, mother, and journal keeper, who finally decided to write the book she talked about for years. She took her dream to the next level, and is now an award-winning, bestselling author of twenty-one Romantic Comedy and Cozy Mystery novels and novellas. Melissa writes about charming, ambitious, and real women, and she considers these leading ladies to be part of her tribe.

When she isn't deep in the writing zone, this multitasking master organizer keeps busy by spending time with her family, chauffeuring her daughter, traveling, attempting yoga poses, and going on rides at Disney World.

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Thursday, February 17, 2022

Book Review: How to Find Your Way Home

By Jami Denison

I’m lucky enough to live in one of the most vibrant cities in Florida—St. Petersburg, which has a thriving downtown area on Tampa Bay and miles of beaches on the Gulf of Mexico. Among the sidewalk cafes, the outdoor music venues, the public parks, the bike paths and the sandy shores is a common problem to all areas—unhoused people living on the streets. We have thousands of them in Pinellas County; some who are local to the poorer side of the city, some who were drawn to Florida for the milder climate. Our social services aren’t enough to help them. When they panhandle outside of fancy restaurants or at intersections, they’re a constant reminder of the growing gap between the haves and have-nots. And they create a personal dilemma for everyone who sees them. Is giving money really helpful, or will they spend it on booze and alcohol? Is this person truly without a home, or do they make more money panhandling than waiting tables? If I put something in his cup, will he harass me for more? 

And the biggest questions of all: What happened in this person’s life to put him on the streets? Doesn’t he have a family who loves him? Could this happen to me?

British author Katy Regan tackles these questions in her latest novel, How to Find Your Way Home. Like her U.S. debut, Little Big Love (reviewed here), Regan looks at societal issues from the close-up lens of one small, grieving family. 

For years, Emily has been searching for her older brother Stephen, who’s been living on the streets of London since he got out of jail. In fact, she even chose a career in housing assistance in the hope that one day he’d walk through those doors. And eventually, he does. But it’s not all sunshine and roses when the siblings reunite. Even though Stephan accepts Emily’s offer to move in with her, the years of hard living have taken a toll on him. And although Emily loves her brother unconditionally, she’s not thrilled about cigarette smoke in her spotless flat. With a troubled past between them, Emily and Stephen need to confront family secrets before they can truly be each other’s home.

Told in alternating third-person points-of-view and time periods, How to Find Your Way Home is much more Stephen’s story than Emily’s. We first see him as a rambunctious toddler, anxious to meet his new baby sister and taking his father’s words of protection to heart. Later, after their mother leaves their father to marry a war hero, Stephen becomes obsessed with birding—a hobby his new stepfather unfortunately finds too passive. The stepfather’s bullying behaviors cause a chain reaction that eventually leaves Stephen on the streets, estranged from his family.

With his ornithology fixation and complicated relationships and backstory, Stephen feels like a very specific, well-drawn character. Emily is less so—other than her unwillingness to commit to a romantic relationship, her whole life feels like it’s about her brother. If he hadn’t been homeless, what kind of career would she have pursued? She never asks herself, and the reader never gets to know her beyond being Stephen’s sister.

The sections of the book dealing with Stephen’s homelessness are the most gripping in the novel. The book starts with Stephen trying to wash in a Starbucks bathroom, and nearly getting arrested for trespassing. Everywhere he goes, he is treated like something less than human. It’s no wonder that he turned to alcohol to numb the pain, and struggles mightily to stay sober. 

However, for me, the specifics of Stephen’s story made it easier to see him as different from the unhoused people who live in my city. Stephen, the author seems to say, is a victim of a selfish mother and an uncaring government. The book’s climax reveals that he is not only blameless for his situation, but a martyr. 

There’s an old saying about using fiction to make a point: If you want to send a message, use Western Union. (As I said, it’s an old saying.) But when an author chooses to tackle an important social issue, it’s hard not to see messaging in the story. Regan is a strong writer, and her previous book, Little Big Love, showed enormous empathy toward single mothers, folks in poverty, and people struggling with excessive weight. In How to Find Your Way Home, I’m afraid that by making Stephen so sympathetic, she’s made it easier to blame real people who find themselves unhoused due to more common factors.

In any case, the global pandemic, worldwide housing shortage, and unprecedented inequality has left more people living on the streets than ever. If Regan prompts just one reader to offer a helping hand rather than a scornful glance, she’ll have done more toward solving the problem than many governments have. 

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

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Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Sara and Melissa Talk About...Siblings

We've been running a column series (for two years now!) to get more personal with our readers. Since a lot of books focus on sibling relationships, we decided to talk about that this month, as it applies to our own lives.

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.

In case you missed our "About Us" page updates, check them out here. Due to Sara handling a lot more than book reviews, she is front and center with Melissa now. We also have a new review associate and a section to honor everyone who has contributed in the past.

Melissa Amster:                                                                                                       
I have a younger sister. We're three years apart and our birthdays are relatively close. As a result, we usually celebrated them together when we had family birthday gatherings. We spent a lot of time playing together as kids. Our favorite thing to do was play Barbies (or Bribes, as she called them; see more about that, along with other fun memories, here) for hours on end. We invented this whole world for them and even had villains. As we got older, we shared other interests, like V.C. Andrews books, Disney movies, Broadway musicals, etc. When I was a senior and she was a freshman, I would drive her to and from school every day. We'd listen to the Joseph cast recording a lot. Later, we both became obsessed with Rent and would memorize the cast recording together, as well as spend an entire day waiting in the cold for $20 front row seats. We also share a love for the movie Sing (from 1989). Now that we are adults, our lives look a lot different, but I'm thankful that we always stay in contact with each other. Last summer, I was thrilled to see her get married to her besherte. Overall, my sister is really cool and I'm always going to be her cheerleader!

At my sister's rehearsal dinner, July 2021

Upon getting married, I have acquired a set of siblings through my husband. He has a younger brother, and they are definitely different as can be. You wouldn't know they were related if you saw them standing together. His brother is more observant than we are, but we got a lot of our inspiration to be observant from him. While I don't see us fitting into his community, he's genuinely nice and has a great sense of humor. His wife (my sister-in-law) is also wonderful and I've enjoyed getting to know her these past 19 years. We usually call each other on Friday afternoon to wish each other "Shabbat Shalom" and catch up on things. 

My husband has two half-sisters who are a lot younger than us. When we first met them, they were eight and four and stood up as flower girls in our wedding the following year. They're now adults and over time, I've become closer with the older of the two. She's a mom now and we talk about parenting, share humorous memes, etc. She recently met someone special and I couldn't be happier for her! The younger of the two is also nice and has a lot of good things going in her life, which I'm also happy about. 

Speaking of acquired siblings, I also have a new brother-in-law, now that my sister is married. I have only met him for a short time in person, when we went to their wedding. However, we saw him a lot on video chats prior to that time, so I felt like we already knew him pretty well. He's really friendly and I know he's a big Star Wars fan who likes to play hockey. He also makes me look like less of a picky eater. :) I hope we'll continue getting to know him more over time, but I'm just thrilled that he makes my sister the happiest she's ever been. 

Last, but certainly not least, is my best friend, whom I think of as a sister. We met almost 35 years ago and have been close ever since. We have our share of disagreements (as related siblings would), but we always manage to virtually hug and make up and we end each week with "I love you" messages via gifs. We were both in the room where it happened...when we witnessed each other get set up with our beshertes, and both were through connections the other had (I met my husband through some friends of hers and she met hers through a friend of mine). We stood up in each others' weddings, as well!

Sara Steven:                                                                                                                                   
When I first considered writing my siblings post, I figured I’d write about my sister. She’s pretty amazing, anyway, making it an easy topic. But what’s been on my mind a lot lately is the relationship my two sons have with one another, and the ties that bind them–or the arguments that at times seem to drive them apart. 
We jokingly blame my eldest son for blessing us with our little guy–which, let’s face it, isn’t so little anymore. He’ll be twelve this year. We thought for sure we were having a girl, considering how vastly different my pregnancy was the second time around. But the eldest said he’d prayed for a brother, and when my obstetrician revealed to us that I was indeed carrying another boy, I said, “I think you’re wrong.” And he replied: “I’ll bet all of my diplomas you see hanging on the wall behind me, that you’re having a boy.” And a boy it was!

There have been many stages in my sons’ lives where I’ve pondered over the kind of relationship they’d have. At first, it was shortly after the little guy was born. My two sons are nearly six years apart in age, and that worried me. I wondered if my eldest would want to spend time with a baby who couldn’t do any of the “cool” things he’d want him to do, like play with Legos or make-believe pretend scenarios with digger trucks. When I flash back to those days, one of my home movies comes to mind; a rainy day where we were cooped inside, and both boys were banging on pots and pans with plastic utensils. At that time, the big guy was maybe six, and the little guy was still in diapers, but was old enough to sit and understand that if he’d follow along with what his brother was doing, he’d create beautiful music. 

The next stage I wondered about was when the little guy would enter kindergarten, while the eldest started sixth grade. It was the one and only year the boys would be in school together, at the same time. By then, they were obsessed with online gaming, and of course whatever big brother played, little brother wanted to play, too, even if it wasn’t age-appropriate. This was around the time when fights would break out over toys that were touched and played with, without permission, or how “he keeps copying me on everything,” and how they wouldn’t leave each other alone when they wanted space. 

The fights and arguments have continued on throughout the other phases; when the big guy turned into a teenager in what felt like an overnight experience, or when the little guy entered double digits. There are fights and arguments, but there is a lot of love, too. Even if neither of them want to admit to it. For a few years, they were both involved in making videos, coming up with all sorts of crazy scenarios they could enact, together. When the little guy broke his wrist when he fell off a bike, my eldest son did everything he could to calm and soothe his little brother on the drive to the emergency room. Now that the little guy is on the cusp of teenagerdom, it’s obvious that they both have their own separate interests, and they don’t always spend as much time together. And the biggest phase of all is coming: when my eldest graduates from high school next year, and possibly heads off to college somewhere, no longer living at home with us. I’ve always been concerned about the type of relationship they’d have with their large age gap, but I think I like the type of relationship they have. For the most part, they respect one another, they communicate well, and from time to time, it appears they genuinely appreciate spending time together. Maybe in the not so distant future, there will be a time when the little guy gets to visit his big brother–something I can’t really fathom right now, but considering how quickly it’s all happened, it’s not outside the realm of possibility. When it come right down to it, they have each other’s backs–just like siblings should. 

Do you have any siblings? If so, we'd love to hear about your relationship. If not, please tell us what it's like to be an only child or the friends you think of as siblings.

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