Monday, October 31, 2022

Book Review: Sugar and Salt

By Melissa Amster

Jerome Sugar learned the art of baking in his grandma’s bakery, also called Sugar, on historic Perdita Street in San Francisco. He supplies baked goods to the Lost and Found Bookshop across the street

When the restaurant that shares his commercial kitchen loses its longtime tenant, a newcomer moves in: Margot Salton, a barbecue master from Texas.

Margot isn’t exactly on the run, but she needs a fresh start. She’s taken care of herself her whole life, pulling herself up by her fingernails to recover from trauma, and her dream has been to open a restaurant somewhere far, far from Texas. The shared kitchen with Jerome's Sugar bakery is the perfect setup: a state-of-the-art kitchen and a vibrant neighborhood popular with tourists and locals.

Margot instantly takes to Jerome’s mother, the lively, opinionated Ida. The older woman proves to be a good mentor, and Margot is drawn to Jerome. Despite their different backgrounds their attraction is powerful—even though Jerome worries that Margot will simply move on from him once she’s found some peace and stability. But just as she starts to relax into a happy new future, Margot’s past in Texas comes back to haunt her… (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

This is my first time reading a novel by Susan Wiggs. She was recommended to me by The Booksage. I like her writing style enough to be interested in more of her novels in the future.

I read the majority of Sugar and Salt in one day. Once I got into the thick of it, it was impossible to put down! I just had to know what was going to happen for Margot. She faced so many challenges before coming out on top. A lot of this novel is highly relevant to current situations and very important for everyone to read! Some parts are hard to get through (I will put trigger warnings at the way bottom of this post), but it's worth your time to keep going. There's a lot of good stuff that outweighs the bad!

I had a couple of concerns, however. First off, I felt like Ida's story from the past took away from everything else that was going on. It was still interesting, but it didn't fit with the rest of the novel, other than to reveal a secret from her past. It just seemed like there was too much going on and she could have had her own book instead. Secondly, it felt like there was a chunk of time missing between the past and the present. The events of the past would have ended in 2008 but then she doesn't start her life in San Francisco until 2017. Maybe this was sorted out in the final print, but it threw me off while reading the advanced copy.

Overall, this was a really good story that definitely held my attention.

Movie casting suggestions:
Margot: Brianne Howey
Jerome: Colin Lawrence
Ida: Loretta Devine
Francis: Freddie Thorp
Teen Ida: China Anne McClain

Thanks to William Morrow for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Susan Wiggs:

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TW: rape, assault, violence

Friday, October 28, 2022

What's in the (e)mail


Bad Girl Reputation by Elle Kennedy from St. Martin's Press (NetGalley)
Lavender House by Lev AC Rosen from Macmillan (NetGalley)
How To Destroy Your Husband by Jess Kitching from Kingsley Publishers (NetGalley)
The Frederick Sisters Are Living the Dream by Jeannie Zusy from Atria (NetGalley)
Snap Out of It by Maddie Dawson from Lake Union (NetGalley)
B.F.F. by Christie Tate from Avid Reader Press (NetGalley)
The Daydreams by Laura Hankin from Berkley (NetGalley)
The Drowning Woman by Robyn Harding from Grand Central Publishing (NetGalley)
Too Wrong to Be Right by Melonie Johnson from St. Martin's Press (NetGalley)
Always the New Girl and Finding Frances by/from Kelly Vincent (print)
Beyond That, the Sea by Laura Spence Ash from Celadon (print)

A Sister's Promise by Caroline Finnerty from Rachel's Random Resources (NetGalley)
The Den by Cara Reinard from BookSparks (NetGalley)
The Wrong Ghost by Victoria Connolly from Rachel's Random Resources (ebook)
When We Were Friends by Nancy Yeager from Red Adept (ebook)

The World Deserves My Children by Natasha Leggero from Gallery (NetGalley)
Her Perfect Twin by Sarah Bonner from Grand Central Publishing (print)
The House Guest by Hank Phillippi Ryan from Tor/Forge (NetGalley)

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Book Review: A Week of Warm Weather

By Sara Steven

Tessa Cordelia appears to have it all—a loving husband who’s just opened a dental practice, a beautiful baby girl, a big house in the suburbs, and a large, supportive family. But when her husband's reckless choices resurrect a trauma from her childhood, she must decide which is more costly: keeping his secrets or revealing them. He manipulates Tessa into believing his career and their happiness depend on her silence. She feels like she’s losing her mind. Is her husband's habit so awful? In many ways, he’s an ideal husband; should she let him have this one thing? 

Determined to maintain the lie that she’s living the perfect life, Tess lies to everyone she knows—except for CeCe, a woman new to the area whom she’s just befriended. But after confiding in her, Tessa learns that CeCe has an explosive secret of her own, and her world is further upended. (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

A Week of Warm Weather focused heavily on one woman’s journey while dealing with addiction in her family. What was really interesting were the nods to her childhood and how she’d faced that experience even back then, and how it may have manifested itself into the way she handles that type of situation now, as an adult. It’s obvious when we read the chapters that are told from her own point of view how much she doesn’t want to enable her husband, yet the wounds of her past have dictated that behavior, and when he tells her he’s still a good guy despite his secret addiction, she has to level that with feeling like he’s anything but.

When we read the chapters from her husband Ken’s point of view, there are moments of deep anguish and guilt, much like I would expect an addict to feel when they know what they are doing is hurting their loved ones. But the need to fulfill the cravings becomes so much stronger, and while I would feel anger towards Ken in those moments, or when he’s being manipulative towards Tessa or others in his life, I could understand where those dark emotions had come from. The author did a great job of intermixing the contrasting emotions in such a way that made it all completely believable. The love Ken feels for his wife and children, and the utter disgust he has at feeling like he’s not allowed to do something that he wants to do and feels every right to do on his own terms. Even though we know it’s damaging.

The introduction of Cece had been interesting. I had a pretty good idea of the secret that she wanted to keep from Tessa, but despite knowing that right off the bat, I still wanted to see where it would go and what would come of it. The secret parallels what Tessa is going through in her marriage to Ken, so it felt right for Cece to be there. Plus, it helped in moving Tessa forward in making decisions and choices for her future.

I know what it’s like to be the enabler, so I could completely identify with Tessa. It can be so hard to go up against the ones you love, even when you know the path they’re on is destructive. That was showcased perfectly here, in watching her take three steps forward, one step back when trying to find her place in a world she feels has been drastically changed from the normal life she was used to living, before she knew about Ken’s addiction.  A Week of Warm Weather was a touching, raw glimpse into those perfect white picket fences and perfect lives that really aren’t so perfect after all, because no one really knows what’s going on behind closed doors. It was a riveting five-star experience.

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

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Thursday, October 27, 2022

Spotlight and Giveaway: Warpaint

Today we are pleased to feature Warpaint, the first book in J.J. Maya's hilarious and heartwarming new Beauty Shop Girl series. This book is currently 99 cents for Kindle, but J.J. is generously giving away FIVE print copies to some lucky readers!

The next book in this series, Willow, will be published soon. We'll be featuring it in December.

Thirty-something, make-up artist Willow Campbell has the world at her feet. She has never been so happy.

After a whirlwind romance in her hometown of Glasgow, she marries the man of her dreams and cannot wait for her perfect new life in the Big Apple to begin. 

But dashing native New Yorker husband, Rick, hasn’t been totally truthful. 

The bedsit in Queens isn’t quite the luxury Manhattan loft she’d been primed to expect. And how come he’d forgotten to mention the beautiful but scorned Isabella, his ex, who seems to be part of the fixtures and fittings? 

And when the US authorities start knocking on their door shouting about green cards, it seems her picture-perfect dream is shattering piece by piece. 

Can things get any worse?

Will this heartbroken Brit Girl Abroad be forced to return home and leave Rick behind? And give up on her aspirations to become a makeup artist to the stars? 

Find out in J.J. Maya’s hilarious, touching and totally relatable debut romantic comedy which will tickle your funny bone and pull on your heartstrings in equal measure. Perfect for fans of Fiona Gibson, Mhairi McFarlane and Lindsey Kelk.

“J.J.Maya's writing style has an easy flow making this Chick-Lit book a quick page-turner. With a unique plot and endearing heroine, this is a great book to curl up with and forget the world for a moment." 
— T N Traynor for Chick Lit Café Books.

“A rollercoaster romantic comedy that is both heartbreaking and hilarious..." 
— Teresa Rodriguez, Editor-in-Chief of Haute Living San Francisco

J.J. Maya was born in a beautiful remote Scottish village. At the age of 19 she went to live in London and has been living in big cities ever since.

She graduated from Glasgow Caledonian University with a Masters Degree in Television Fiction Writing. Her Interiors writing has appeared in Wallpaper*Magazine, The Sunday Times Travel Magazine, and I-Escape.

In collaboration with her American Editor, Amy Tipton, J.J. writes laugh-out-loud British Romantic Comedy set in the USA. As a result, there are endless discussions over the correct spellings of words!

J.J. draws upon her experience working as a Flight Attendant and Makeup Artist as the inspiration for her romantic comedy debut novel, Warpaint. (Bio courtesy of Amazon.)

Visit J.J. online:
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

Giveaway ends November 1st at midnight EST.

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Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Book Review: The Color of Ice

By Cindy Roesel

Once again, Barbara Linn Probst takes us on a journey a few may have traveled, but most of us can only imagine. In The Color of Ice (She Writes Press), Cathryn McAllister, a photographer who has never been able to pursue her dream to make art gets her chance. She's the mother of two adult children and alone after the accidental death of her cheating husband. She realizes she has the opportunity to do what she wants. She walks away from a commercial photography career and takes up freelancing. She learns of a job interviewing a glassblower in Iceland and takes it. She'll do the job and go sight seeing after, or she thinks..

Henry Malcolm Charbonneau, known as "Mack", is Cathryn's subject. He's creating a glass series inspired by the blue glaciers of Iceland. He's emotionally unavailable and he has secrets but Cathryn finds something intriguing about him. She finds herself going into his workroom to "help out" when not needed. 

Cathryn and Mack are both lost souls who have suffered and are angry. Art is their common interest and after a brief affair, each is able to let their guard down and discover the beauty of each one's love of art.

Once again, Barbara creates complex characters in an unique environment. I really liked the characters, particularly Cathryn. I enjoyed watching her grow and fulfill her dreams. Barbara explained the art of blowing glass so intricately, I could feel the heat and visualize the scene. The descriptions of Iceland were so beautiful that I wanted to hop a flight right way. But ultimately, The Color of Ice is about a woman accepting a nonlinear path to happiness and self-acceptance.

Thanks to Get Red PR for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Originally published on Cindy's blog.

More by Barbara Linn Probst:

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Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Spotlight and Giveaway: The Wish List

Today we are featuring The Wish List by Michelle Major. This is the fourth book in the Carolina Girls series and takes place during the winter holidays. It can be read as a standalone. Thanks to Kaye Publicity, we have TWO copies to give away!

For some families, a Christmas reunion is like a feel-good movie. For Beth Carlyle, it might be more of a disaster epic. 

Her ex-husband’s new girlfriend is already pregnant. Her self-absorbed, bestselling author mother recently suffered a stroke and has summoned Beth’s sisters, Freya and Trinity—neither of whom even seem to like Beth very much—back to Magnolia. Beth’s so lonely and stressed that she spills her guts to a stranger, wondering why the handsome newcomer affects her so deeply. 

Reality TV star Freya deliberately forged a career that would upset her mother, who’s always been as brilliant as the sun…and just as distant. Now a handsome literary agent is making Freya dream of a different life. 

As for Trinity, she just wants to start over after leaving an abusive relationship and make a future for her and her baby.

It’ll be a Christmas like no other in Magnolia. But the Carlyle sisters might find they have more in common than their shared past—and that the holidays are made for second chances.

"Major’s charming small town is packed with salt-of-the-earth people readers will embrace, and each sister’s journey is beautifully imagined. Readers will eagerly await their next visit to this idyllic community."
Publishers Weekly

USA Today bestselling author Michelle Major loves stories of new beginnings, second chances and always a happily ever after. An avid hiker and avoider of housework, she lives in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains with her husband, two teenagers and a menagerie of spoiled fur babies. 

Visit Michelle online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter 

How to win: Use Rafflecopter to enter the giveaway. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us. If you have trouble using Rafflecopter on our blog, enter the giveaway here

Giveaway ends October 30th at midnight EST.

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Monday, October 24, 2022

Book Review: The Sleepover

By Sara Steven

When you’re a kid, you imagine monsters to have horns and fangs. That they hide under the bed or in the wardrobe. And you believe they can only come after you when it’s dark.

You don’t expect them to look like everyday people or that they may be someone you already know…

The summer in question started out with hot, fun-filled days and new friendships.

We had just turned thirteen and had our whole lives ahead of us.

But that was before her…

Before we became known as the Hixton Five and our lives become defined by one night.

It’s hard to believe twenty years have passed since she was locked away.

But now she’s free and strange things have started to happen.

When I close my eyes, the creeping anxiety and fear is overwhelming and all too real.

Because the monster is back, and I know she has a score to settle with us.
(Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads.)

Ordinarily, the bad guy in a mystery or thriller is simply that: the bad guy. I really appreciated the unconventional means of making a woman the bad guy here within The Sleepover. It also made for a believable storyline, considering the children involved had been practically lured into what they’d believed to be a safe environment, where a matronly figure they’d already known and trusted used her manipulations against them, leading into the most traumatic experience of their lives.

It’s affected all five children differently in adulthood. But the one who has tried her best to forget about the events has been Hannah. Twenty years later, she’s chosen to live a simple life free of anything that may cause drama or chaos–until Liam. He’s a writer who is doing research on the Hixton Five, and as much as Hannah wants nothing to do with him because it means revisiting that torturous past, at the same time, there is something about him. She feels drawn to him, creating this push and pull experience between the two characters. 

Liam has his own secretive past that he wants to share with Hannah–eventually. It’s tied to the events, in a pretty unique way. If he lets her know too soon, it means losing something that helps him feel as though he can bridge the gap in his own life, but if he chooses to never let her know, it might mean safekeeping everything. Along the way are tragedies and horrific practical jokes that Hannah bears witness to, begging the question on whether the monster has truly come back to haunt her and the rest of the group. And how Liam is tied to it all. 

I loved the suspenseful nature of The Sleepover. Mostly told in the present time with glimpses from the past, I went right along with Hannah while she tries to tackle her demons; the ones from her childhood, and the ones that are still left lurking as an adult. This was 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

Keri Beevis is the internationally bestselling author of Dying To Tell, Deep Dark Secrets, Trust No One, Every Little Breath, and The People Next Door. Dying To Tell reached no. 1 in the Amazon chart in Australia and was a top 25 hit in the UK. Keri wrote her first novel at age twenty, but it was a further twenty years before she was published, after winning a contract in a competition run by a small press. She lives in Norfolk, along with her two naughty kitties, Ellie and Lola, and a plentiful supply of red wine (her writing fuel).

Visit Keri online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram

Visit all the stops on Keri's blog tour:

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Friday, October 21, 2022

Book Review: Murder in Tuscany

By Sara Steven

A remote retreat…

Nestled high in the Tuscan hills lies Villa Volpone, home to renowned crime writer Jonah Moore and his creative writing course. It’s also the last place retired DCI Dan Armstrong expected to spend his retirement! Dan’s no writer, but maybe this break will help him to think about the next chapter in his own life story?

A gruesome murder…

But only days into the course, Jonah Moore is found stabbed to death with his award-winning silver dagger! And Dan finds himself pulled out of retirement with a killer to catch.

Eleven possible suspects.

The other guests all seem shocked by Jonah’s death, but Dan knows that one of them must be lying. And as he and Italian Commissario Virgilio Pisano begin to investigate it quickly becomes clear that everyone at Villa Volpone has secrets to hide…

But can Dan discover who the murderer is before they strike again? (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads.)

I’m all for this new cozy mystery series! It’s a bit of a departure from Williams’s usual writing style, but not where it counts. We still receive some of the best backdrop scenery I’ve ever experienced, and I continually mention that whenever I read a T.A. Williams novel. It’s like a whole other character. This time, we find our protagonist Dan in Tuscany, after finding out that he’s been enlisted into a bit of an unconventional writing course. The writing course itself has its own special story–a totally unexpected twist for Dan. 

There was a bit of foreshadowing from Dan early on–when he notices someone floating face down in a pool– and given his DCI background, allows his mind to jump immediately to the worst case scenario. In that case, the floater turned out to be alive and well. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for Jonah Moore. Jonah’s character makeup was written in such a way that made him an easy target, so it really could have been anyone who committed the crime.

This was a really great whodunnit with twists and turns, because I assumed it would be one character, yet later, I’d change my mind and decide it must be someone else. And along with the mystery and intrigue are some of the classic sprinkles of what I’ve come to recognize from Williams, like adorable, mischievous Labradors and the start of subtle romances between the main character and someone else. It’s a lot for Dan to juggle, but he’s up for the challenge!

Murder in Tuscany was fun and fulfilling–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

T.A. Williams is the author of over twenty bestselling romances for HQ and Canelo and is now turning his hand to cosy crime, set in his beloved Italy, for Boldwood. The series will introduce us to retired DCI Armstrong and his Labrador Oscar. The first book, entitled Murder in Tuscany, was published in October 2022. T.A. lives in Devon with his Italian wife.

Visit T.A. Williams online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter

Visit all the stops on T.A.'s blog tour:

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Thursday, October 20, 2022

Casey Dembowski has an effect on a book giveaway

We're pleased to welcome Casey Dembowski to CLC to talk about her latest novel, The Corey Effect. We hope you will enjoy getting to know Casey as much as we have. She even has a signed copy to give away!

Casey Dembowski loves to write stories that focus on the intricacies of relationships–whether romantic, familial, or platonic. Her novels focus on the inner workings of women and how everything in their lives leads them to exactly where they are, whether they like it or not.

The first story Casey remembers writing was in the second grade, though it wasn’t until she turned twelve that she started carrying a battered composition notebook everywhere she went. Since then, there hasn’t been a time when she isn’t writing. Casey lives in New Jersey with her family. She has an MFA in Fiction from Adelphi University, and currently works in corporate marketing communications. In her (limited) spare time, she enjoys reading, baking, and watching her favorite television shows on repeat.

Visit Casey online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram


A second chance ten years in the making...

When Andi Scott left her hometown ten years ago, she swore she’d never go back. But news of her estranged father’s death has her driving the all-too-familiar roads. Each turn brings another memory—of the girl she became there and the boy she loved and lost. The only saving grace is that there’s no way Corey Johnson, the former love of her life, is still around. They both got out, even though it cost them everything.

Andi’s barely in town for a day when she discovers that not only is Corey still in Fairford, but he’s the cofounder of a successful local business, one he built with her father. The news shatters the walls Andi built around her past and forces her to reexamine everything she thought she knew.

When Corey asks Andi to stay in town, she can’t refuse his boyish grin or the way he still looks at her as if she’s the only person in the room. And she doesn’t want to. Corey’s still the same person who made the worst day of her life better with one crooked smile, but there’s something he’s not telling her. Andi has to know what it is, even if it means opening her heart to the person who broke it in the first place. (Courtesy of Amazon.)

"A poignant story about family and friendship, first love and second chances... this is a book to sink into and savor!"  
~ Alanna Martin, author of Love and Let Bark

"Second chance romance fans will swoon over the chemistry between Corey and Andi."  
~ Jennifer Bardsley, author of Sweet Bliss

What is a favorite compliment you have received on your writing? 
It always means a lot to me when readers compliment my characters, particularly that they felt like real people. I work really hard to create characters that are unique but also every-people. I give them flaws and quirks. I spend time with the secondary characters and build them out based on their relationships with the main characters. In my debut, When We're Thirty, a lot of readers connected with my trio of secondary characters so much that they wanted books about them. And in my new release, The Corey Effect, I've gotten a lot of feedback about how despite it being in a single first-person POV, the male protagonist is connecting with readers and not just as the love interest. All my books are character driven, so any time someone connects with my characters on a deep level, I feel like I've done my job well. 

What did you learn from writing When We're Thirty that you applied to The Corey Effect
This is a funny question for me because I actually wrote the initial drafts of The Corey Effect long before I ever started When We're Thirty. The Corey Effect actually started as my MFA thesis. That said, When We're Thirty was the first true romance I wrote, and I learned a lot about the genre while writing and revising it and eventually publishing it, so that when I went back to do a deep revision on The Corey Effect to make it a full on contemporary romance rather than more of a women's fiction novel, I took all that knowledge I'd learned to make sure I hit the right beats and pacing for romance. 

If The Corey Effect were made into a movie, who would you cast in the leading roles? 
This is so hard! Many of the actors who I would have originally thought to cast are probably too old for the role now. But a few newer names that stick out are: Zendaya, Sabrina Carpenter or Shailene Woodley for Andi and Dominic Sherwood, Jonathan Bailey or Milo Manheim for Corey. 

Which TV series are you currently binge watching? 
Vampire Academy on Peacock. I'm a huge fan of the books, and though the show is pretty different, I am absolutely loving the series. 

If we were to visit you right now, what are some places you would take us to see? 
I live near the Jersey Shore, so I'd probably take you to a few of my favorite beach towns--Spring Lake, Point Pleasant, and, if we wanted to make a longer adventure, Cape May.

Share a favorite Halloween memory. 
My main memories from childhood Halloweens are the group costumes my family used to do. I have a lot of cousins--all younger than me--so we'd do a group costume--like the Seven Dwarfs--but then I'd be something else for school and going out with my friends. As an adult, some of my favorite memories are happening right now, as I get to share the experience with my five-year-old daughter. We love watching Hocus Pocus together all Halloween season.

Thanks to Casey for visiting with us and for sharing her book with our readers.

How to win: Use Rafflecopter to enter the giveaway. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us. If you have trouble using Rafflecopter on our blog, enter the giveaway here

Giveaway ends October 25th at midnight EST.

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Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Sara and Melissa Talk About...Riverdale

We've been running a column series (for over two years now!) to get more personal with our readers. This month, we're talking about Riverdale. Remember our New Years Resolutions post? Melissa made it a goal to watch Riverdale this year and Sara decided to watch it too. Now that we've finished all six seasons (and are eagerly anticipating the seventh), we have a lot to say about this wild twist on the Archie comics of our youth. It's so fitting with Halloween, as there is a horror element, and some witchcraft too! 

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

Melissa Amster:                                                                                                                          I may have just become slightly obsessed with Riverdale this past year. I even wrote two blog posts at my personal blog about it:                                                              Seasons one - three                                            Seasons four - six                                                                                                                      One of my favorite elements of Riverdale is their nod to musical theater. I originally got hooked into watching because of the Heathers episode (I still can't get enough of their rendition of "Seventeen"), but then saw there was so much more to this series when it comes to musicals. I was so excited when they sang "Out Tonight" from Rent in one of the earlier episodes. I also got really into listening to the original cast recording of Carrie because of this show. In later seasons, they have done episodes featuring songs from Hedwig and the Angry Inch and Next to Normal. In the latest season, they did songs from American Psycho, which I didn't even know was turned into a musical. With one more season to go, I'm hoping they will do another musical episode, but it will be interesting to see which one, given where things left off in season six... 

I had high hopes that they would do certain musicals, but aside from a single song from one of them, that has not yet come to pass. They could do a lot more with the music from Rent, especially with the many, many songs they have to work with. I was even casting who the characters would be if they were in Rent.

Mark: Jughead
Mimi: Veronica
Roger: Archie
Maureen: Cheryl 
Joanne: Toni
Angel: Kevin
Collins: Moose or Fangs
Benny: Reggie

I didn't see a main role for Betty in this one, but perhaps she could be some of the supporting parts, like Alexi Darling or the person leading the group meetings? (They had a woman do that in Rent Live a few years ago.)

I also thought Spring Awakening would be such a great musical for this show. It's so dark and intense and the songs fit the vibe of Riverdale really well. The closest they got to it was featuring American Psycho, since Duncan Sheik also wrote the music for that one. However, the music from American Psycho hasn't grabbed me enough to listen frequently. However, the person who created this musical also works on Riverdale, so I can see why they chose it. 

Just for fun, I wouldn't mind seeing them do songs from Rocky Horror, even though Glee did that at one point... If they want to be even more obscure, they could do songs from Shock Treatment too. 

Anyway, as bizarre as Riverdale can get sometimes (especially in season six), I totally love it and am going through withdrawal while waiting for the next season. I don't know what I'll do when it's completely done though. 

Sara Steven:                                                                                                                             
When I was a kid, there was a brief period of time when I delved into the Archie comics. I’m not sure if my obsession with Mad Magazine had been the catalyst for that, or maybe I’d been influenced by my older relatives who’d grown up with Archie and Jughead themselves. I think at the time, a lot of the funny went over my head, which is probably why I stopped reading them. But I could still recall a lot of the various characters I’d grown up with, which is why Riverdale initially caught my eye. 

I mean, how clever would it be to base a somewhat dark, somewhat supernatural drama on a beloved comic book series?  

I can’t remember who made the initial suggestion to watch the show. Was it me, or was it Melissa? We often share one another’s watch list, so it could go either way. What I can remember is how I’d instantly become hooked from the very first viewing.

A potentially dead teenager. A young woman dealing with a father recently arrested for embezzlement. Bullying. An illegal affair. Estranged friendships. And that’s just in the first episode! While the backdrop centers around high schoolers, the theme is anything but sophomoric, and it’s that juxtaposition that really creates an enticing, engrossing experience.   

It’s hard not to feel like I’m in the thick of the episode I’m watching. Especially when there are so many beautifully flawed characters. Some of my favorites are Cheryl Blossom, Toni Topaz, Hermione Lodge, Nana Rose Blossom, and F.P. Jones. (But that might be due to the tiny little crush I used to have on Skeet Ulrich back in the 90s.) And even though I often despise the bad guys, I can’t help but to appreciate them, too, like Hiram Lodge–who is portrayed by Mark Consuelos. The messed up father/daughter dynamics between Hiram and Veronica, not to mention the pretty terrible things that he chooses to do to his family and to the town, continually play at the forefront of the show. Although, I’m not sure if Hiram can hold a candle to the latest addition to the bad guy roster, Percival Pickens. He really is the absolute worst. 

It looks like there will be one more season of Riverdale before the curtains fall on one of the most unique shows I’ve ever seen. It will be really interesting to see where it goes and how it will end, considering how much of the Archie comics has been incorporated within the show, and how it appears there are no limits as to where the episodes will take its viewers. Will we go back to Rivervale? Will the Trash Bag Killer return? Or maybe Percival? How about Hiram? You never really know with this show. And that’s why it’s so good, and why I’ll keep watching.   

Do you watch Riverdale? If so, what do you love about it? If not, does this post make you want to check it out?

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Book Review: The Girl I Used to Be

By Sara Steven

Marie Kondo for the soul.

Anna and Will have been passing in and out of each other’s lives since they were just kids.

Now 20 years later, Anna is married - she has a lovely house, a step daughter in university and a husband with a good job.

What she doesn’t have is joy. When she runs into Will it sparks something in her, a longing for the Anna she used to be.

Together they embark on a journey to find what brings them joy, to discard what doesn’t and to become the people they always wanted to be.

But in finding themselves, can they also find each other?  (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

I really enjoyed The Girl I Used To Be–a big reason in large part due to my own life and how I’m a firm believer in things happening when they’re meant to, having had that kind of experience with my husband. We’ve known each other for over two decades, yet we didn’t get married until years after we met. The same sort of premise applies with Anna and Will. 

Anna and Will have known each other for a very long time, and have always had a special connection, yet there have always been obligations and commitments that keep them apart. When they do run into one another, it’s usually after some life-altering event has occurred, yet they never share that information. Sometimes that lends into serious miscommunication, like the time Will’s brother was in a serious car accident, but he’d made plans to meet up with Anna and had no way to contact her to let her know the situation. From Anna’s point of view, he never showed up and wasn’t interested. And then years will go by where both characters think the worst, only lending into more division.

It’s hard not to relate with Anna and what she’s feeling. There were so many goals and dreams she’d had in her younger years; dreams she’d never pursued. In her older years, she has become complacent and accepts the state of her marriage because she’s fearful of what it might mean if she doesn’t. But she doesn’t feel like she fits in her own skin anymore. Like she’s growing beyond her current self, ready for a change. I appreciated how Will was the catalyst for that, yet ultimately, Anna wants something different because she wants to live her life to the fullest–on her own terms.

But much like the real world, both characters have lives and responsibilities. It’s not easy for Will to drop everything, again proving that they continue to walk on different paths that rarely line up together. Can Anna do what she’s dreamed of? Can Will? And what will that mean for those they hold dear? I loved the honesty of that–a strong five-star experience!

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

Purchase Links:
Amazon US * Amazon UK

Debbie Howells’s first novel, a psychological thriller, The Bones of You, was a Sunday Times bestseller for Macmillan. Four more bestsellers followed, including most recently The Vow, published by Avon. Fulfilling her dream of writing women’s fiction, she has found a home with Boldwood and her first title with them, The Life You Left Behind, was published in February 2022.

Visit Debbie online:
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Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Spotlight and Giveaway: Winter Sky

Even though it's still autumn, we're getting closer and closer to winter. Christmas commercials are already airing on television. So it's the perfect time to introduce you to Jenna Starly's latest Lake Lyla romance, Winter Sky. Jenna has one copy to share with a lucky reader!

Likeable, take-charge Winter has never been one to back down from a challenge. Maintaining the emotional walls Owen has spent years building isn’t easy when Winter’s joyful manner is a force as strong as a December blizzard.

Tension builds as Winter and Owen are forced to spend time together, reaching a breaking point as sexy sparks fly. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

Check out the first two books in this series:

Jenna Starly is the pen name of women’s fiction author Erin Gordon.

A Bay Area native, she graduated from UC Berkeley and Loyola Law School. After practicing law for three years, she went back to school and got a master’s in journalism from Stanford. Erin worked for several years as a newspaper reporter covering law firms and then spent more than twenty years as a freelance legal affairs journalist, writing novels in her spare time.

When not writing, Erin enjoys reading, knitting, yoga, and spending time in Lake Tahoe. She lives in San Francisco with her family. (Bio adapted from Erin's website.)

Visit Erin/Jenna online:
Website * Facebook * 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

Giveaway ends October 23rd at midnight EST.

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Monday, October 17, 2022

Book Review: The Family Remains

By Becky Gulc

Lisa Jewell is one of my favourite authors, from the early days of Ralph’s Party in the late 1990s through to her recent thrillers. I read and enjoyed the quite dark and creepy The Family Upstairs when it came out a couple of years ago and I was intrigued and pleased to find out there would be a follow-up book, The Family Remains. Here is the synopsis: 

‘Early one morning on the shore of the Thames, DCI Samuel Owusu is called to the scene of a gruesome discovery. When Owusu sends the evidence for examination, he learns the bones are connected to a cold case that left three people dead on the kitchen floor in a Chelsea mansion thirty years ago.

Rachel Rimmer has also received a shock—news that her husband, Michael, has been found dead in the cellar of his house in France. All signs point to an intruder, and the French police need her to come urgently to answer questions about Michael and his past that she very much doesn’t want to answer.

After fleeing London thirty years ago in the wake of a horrific tragedy, Lucy Lamb is finally coming home. While she settles in with her children and is just about to purchase their first-ever house, her brother takes off to find the boy from their shared past whose memory haunts their present. 

As they all race to discover answers to these convoluted mysteries, they will come to find that they’re connected in ways they could have never imagined’. (Courtesy of Simon & Schuster.)

I have a terrible memory and could only really remember broadly what happened in The Family Upstairs and I wondered if that would hamper my enjoyment of this new novel. Thankfully, it didn’t and everything came back to me as I read the novel and elements of the past were re-introduced to the reader (without ever going into old territory too much). 

The novel opens with the discovery of some human remains which (it is later discovered) are linked to a house on Cheyne Walk where three people were known to have died many years ago. It’s this house which is the focus of The Family Upstairs, the house where Henry and Lucy lived with their parents before another family joined them, which sees the demise of family life as they know it. The house is cult-like and there are some sensitive subjects covered, including abuse. 

I won’t spoil The Family Upstairs (read it) but needless to say it leaves you wanting to know what happens next and so it was great to find out in this novel. Henry is a very chilling character in both novels and it was fascinating to delve into his mind further, and as an adult this time. He definitely creeped me out and I was on tenterhooks many times on his journey to find Phin who had lived with the family on Cheyne Walk.

It was also great to meet the new character of Rachel, a strong woman who goes through a difficult time and unbeknownst to her has a link with Lucy Lamb she would rather not share. These storylines were cleverly interwoven, past and present, and the story kept surprising me. 

Lisa’s writing is as ever truly engaging from start to finish. The characters are well-formed, certainly not always likeable but given their past experiences I might make some allowances! Do you need to read The Family Upstairs before reading this? No, you don’t, but I think it would help avoid some confusion at times. Another brilliant novel from Lisa. 

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Friday, October 14, 2022

Book Review: After Everyone Else

By Sara Steven

Bailey thought she’d gotten her happy ending. She is married to the man she loves, she has started a family, and her design business is flourishing. But when Bailey’s ex-husband, a famous TV chef, is found murdered with her DNA all over his apartment and body, she is suddenly facing murder charges in a high-profile case. Already burdened by the demands and challenges of marriage, motherhood, and her career, Bailey now must do everything she can to prove her innocence. But it’s the ones she thought would surely be on her side—her enigmatic lawyer and her husband—who might be doubting her innocence the most.

Alternating between the past and present, After Everyone Else chronicles the grip of the past, the challenges of forgiveness, and the resilient love we save for the person we love after everyone else. (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

I haven’t read the book that comes before this one–Before Anyone Else–yet not having that prequel knowledge did not detract at all from my reading experience. I knew exactly who the characters were and what was going on at all times, in large part to the before and now sections that are provided, giving the reader plenty of background information from the past that blends in nicely with the present. 

Bailey is the quintessential career woman, attempting to balance her livelihood with her family life. I appreciated the inward reflections she has, never really sure if she made the right decisions where her husband and daughter are concerned. This type of uncertainty provides a lot of fuel where the murder charges are concerned. It becomes a case of whodunnit, and you don’t know for quite some time who the murderer really is–it could still be Bae, or her husband, or maybe even her daughter. In the end, the culprit is someone I didn’t expect, so that was a nice surprise. It’s always fun to read a mystery and not have it spelled out for you. 

Mixed in are the estranged relationships going on between Bae and her family, along with the turbulence her daughter experiences. As a mother of a teenage son, I couldn’t help but really feel for Bae and what she's going through while trying to help her daughter, but due to their strained relationship, her daughter doesn’t feel it’s authentic or real. There is way too much damage there, giving us a whole other layer of things that goes beyond the murder charges.  

Bae is reeling from the past, while her daughter is trying to navigate the present. How are those two scenarios related to Bae’s indictment, and what will happen when the truth is finally revealed? It was an emotional, harrowing revelation. While I may not have read the prequel to After Everyone Else, I have read another of Leslie Hooton’s novels, The Secret of Rainy Days (reviewed here), and I can tell you–both books are fantastic! It was well worth the read.

Thanks to Wunderkind PR for the book in exchange for an honest review.

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