Monday, July 31, 2023

Book Review: Play for Me

By Allyson Bales

Sophie Doyle has her dream job as the head athletic trainer for her favorite baseball team (go Red Sox!), a handsome boyfriend, and easy access to the finest cannoli in Boston. When she loses all three and the World Series to boot, she’s forced to apply for the open trainer position at an arts-focused boarding school in New Hampshire. The only available room is a glorified closet in an apartment with three guys: Jonas Voss, the aloof and attractive orchestra teacher, and his two rambunctious roommates.

Sophie knows that training a bunch of privileged high school kids whose idea of a play is A Chorus Line instead of a walk-off homer is going to be a big change from the pro athletes she’s used to. She wasn’t expecting that these students would have big-time talent and even bigger-time problems. Sophie has troubles of her own—Jonas is a full-fledged grump who clearly doesn’t want her near him or the precious piano he never plays.

With sunny optimism, Sophie sets out to win over Jonas and help the kids she’s growing attached to. But when her relationship with Jonas moves to the major leagues and plans change at the end of the season, they have to choose whether they are playing for keeps. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

This was a really fun read!  I am not sure about you, but lately I find myself gravitating towards anything heartwarming and entertaining and Play For Me was exactly that! 

From the opening chapter I loved Sophie.  Growing up, my family bonded over baseball games, and Sophie’s love for the game and her reaction to an angry fan was EXACTLY what I would have done!  Sophie is a trainer for the Red Sox and when she loses her job, her apartment, and her boyfriend all in one swoop, she gets a little help from her friend and becomes a trainer for an arts boarding school in New Hampshire.  It’s clear Sophie doesn’t know what the heck she is doing helping art loving high schoolers,  She moves in with her three roommates, one of which is grumpy Jonas. 

Jonas reminded me a bit of Roy Kent from the television show Ted Lasso, and I absolutely adored their grumpy sunshine dynamic!  I also really enjoyed Sophie’s roommates and her best friend, Astrid.  The high school environment and all the kids was an added bonus and made me nostalgic for my old high school counselor job and made me love this book even more.  I also really loved Sophie’s dad and their dynamic made me think very thoughtfully of my own Dad. 

I love stories that make you feel happy.  Books that remind you of all the lovely things in your life including the places you’ve traveled, the things you have learned, and the people you love.  This is my first Libby Hubscher book and I can’t wait to dive into her backlist now!  Her writing is thoughtful and tender and was the perfect balance of lightness while also exploring some more sensitive topics.

If you are into music, found family, a slower burn romance, and some really REALLY fun side characters, definitely read this book!

Thank you so much to Berkley Romance for the early copy in exchange for an honest review. 

More by Libby Hubscher:

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Friday, July 28, 2023

Book Review: The Love Proposal

By Sara Steven

Summer Knowles does not want a boyfriend. Relationships have caused enough problems in her life. As bridesmaid at her sister’s wedding, she’s going to avoid all things romantic – especially the brawny, hipster best-man who has commitment-phobe written all over him!

When Archie Hill meets Summer, he immediately thinks bridesmaid-and-best-man-with-benefits! They have one week together and may as well make the most of it. But what if one week just isn’t enough…

As wedding fever takes hold, can a sworn-off-men bridesmaid and a die-hard bachelor learn a thing or two about happy-ever-after? (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads.)

This is a great addition to the First Comes Love series! I’ve read the majority of the books within the series, so I know of Summer and Archie, and I felt as though it was great to focus in on finding a way to have some redemption for Summer, given her rocky past with relationships, particularly one in general. Archie is the type of character who could definitely be described as a bit of a womanizer–there is no way he would ever consider getting into a serious relationship. It’s too much work and effort. He prefers to have fun and let the connections ride out and end naturally, willing to move onto the next conquest when it suits him. The complete contrast between the two characters worked really well in creating drama and heightened emotions–particularly when they both let their guards down.

I couldn’t help but sympathize with Summer. She’s basically going to the wedding with the proverbial scarlet A on her back. Throughout most of the book, she laments over past decisions and expresses her remorse time and time again, yet the majority of the wedding party, even her own family included, can’t seem to get over the past. On the one hand, she takes the lumps because she feels like she deserves it. Yet, how long can you punish someone for making one of the worst decisions of their lives? Archie becomes a much-needed distraction from the seriousness of the situation she’s in, which made perfect sense to me. 

Then there’s Archie. He tries really hard to maintain that bachelor status, but there is something about Summer that begins to change his perception on what he wants for his future. It was interesting to witness the other relationships that are highlighted here, too. They become a bit of a roadmap for Archie. If other couples look forward to a happily-ever-after, why is he running away from that? There is a lot of soul-searching involved. It made him more than just the two-dimensional “fun guy.”

I really liked the character development for Summer and Archie. Summer could settle for the type of relationships she’s been left with, but she wants more than that. She deserves better than that. That extends out to Archie. She’s worth more than settling for someone who doesn’t see past the wedding week, which enables Archie the opportunity to do just that. Maybe there is such a thing as the future. The chemistry between the two was red hot, too, making them the perfectly imperfect couple. It 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 * Apple

Camilla Isley is an engineer who left science behind to write bestselling contemporary rom-coms set all around the world. She lives in Italy and her first title for Boldwood, The Love Theorem, a Hollywood-meets-STEM romance, was published in June 2023.

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Facebook * Twitter * Instagram 

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Thursday, July 27, 2023

Stefanie London is top a book giveaway

We're thrilled to welcome Stefanie London back to CLC today to talk about dogs in honor of the upcoming release of Confessions of a Canine Drama Queen next week. This is the third book in her Paws in the City series and can be read as a standalone. (There may be spoilers for the previous books though.) Melissa enjoyed the previous two books and you can see her reviews here:

Thanks to Harlequin, we have TWO copies of Confessions to give away!

Stefanie London is a multi-award-winning, USA Today bestselling author of contemporary romances and romantic comedies. Stefanie’s books have been called “genuinely entertaining and memorable” by Booklist, and “elegant, descriptive and delectable” by RT magazine. Her stories have won multiple industry awards, including the HOLT Medallion and OKRWA National Reader's Choice Award, and she has been nominated for the Romance Writers of America RITA award.

Originally from Australia, Stefanie lives in Toronto with her very own hero and is doing her best to travel the world. She frequently indulges in her passions for good coffee, lipstick, romance novels and anything zombie-related.

Visit Stefanie online:
Website * Facebook * Instagram

Can you ever really forget the one who got away?

August Merriweather has always been good with animals. In fact, she’s known as Manhattan’s Dog Whisperer. Men, on the other hand? Not so much. She’s been falling for the wrong guys ever since her regrettable crush on Keaton Sax, older brother of her best friend, Leah, and the biggest jerkface this side of the Hudson. 

Now an emotionally closed off widower, Keaton has become one of the most formidable men on Wall Street, but August knows his secret. He’s not driven by sales targets and bonus checks—Keaton just wants to give his family the security they never had. So when Leah asks Keaton to wrangle her over-the-top, dramatic husky at a weekend talent competition, Keaton says yes…and begs August to help him win the event for Leah.

Between obstacle courses, Molly’s husky temper tantrums and a cabin with just one bed, August is having a blast. Away from the pressure to have a “perfect life” with the “right guy,” she finds herself relaxing and getting to see the softer side of the man she once loved. Is this just a temporary truce? Or could Keaton finally be the right guy at the right time? (Courtesy of Amazon.)

Please share a favorite memory involving a dog.
There are so many! One that sticks out is when I was a young girl my grandmother had this beautiful dog named Lady. She was a retriever collie mix but was pure white everywhere except for a small tan patch on her back. She even had pure white eyelashes. Everywhere we walked her, people would stop us to comment on how stunning she was. Lady used to sleep outside my play pen when I was a baby and as I grew up she would follow me around the house and sit on my feet when I had my lunch and dinner so nobody could get between me and her. She had the sweetest personality and I miss her dearly.

What is the cutest thing you've ever seen a dog do?
My parents have two Chihuahuas named Zorro and Cici, and they’re a barrel of laughs. Zorro is teeny tiny but he loves stuffed toys. His favourite is a stuffed pizza slice that’s bigger than his head, but he happily trots around the house carrying it in his mouth and proudly presenting it to anyone he sees.

Who was your favorite dog to write about from this series?

That’s like asking me to pick a favourite child! I can’t do it and I love them all for different reasons. Camilla had the best internal thoughts and I had so much fun crafting her “voice.” Starr had the sweetest relationship with her owner and I loved writing the scenes with her and the characters bonding. Molly has the best attitude (well, worst depending on who you ask) and writing her body language and facial expressions was so much fun!

Who is your favorite celebrity dog?

I’m not sure if this counts but… Scooby Doo! I grew up watching the cartoon show from a very young age and I loved the idea of this big goofy dog who was afraid of everything. It also fostered my love of the mystery genre.

What is your favorite movie involving a dog?
Most of the ones that spring to mind are childhood favorites, but I did watch The Secret Life of Dogs when I was home last year with my family and it was really funny and sweet. I still love a good cartoon!

What is your favorite book, aside from your own, about dogs?
Absolutely and without a doubt, anything by Teri Wilson! I adored A Spot of Trouble which is a romcom take on 101 Dalmatians. It’s super funny and heartfelt, with loads of doggy hijinks. Unleashing Mr. Darcy is also fantastic and has been made into a Hallmark movie. Highly recommend her books.

Thanks to Stefanie for visiting with us and to Harlequin 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 August 1st at midnight EST.

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Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Book Review: How Can I Help You

By Jami Denison

Those of us who love books often have a fantasy about working in a library. That unique scent of coffee, chocolate, and old paper that permeates the building! The soothing quiet swooshes of pages turning and murmured conversations! And, everywhere, books! Unfortunately, that fantasy is dispelled by the reality that working at a library—or anywhere, really—is about working with people. And people can be messy. Quite messy.

Laura Sims, a poet and novelist who also works as a part-time reference librarian, knows these messes. She’s placed her second book, How Can I Help You, in a small community library in tiny Carlyle, Illinois. There, clerk Margo deals with annoying patrons such as the woman who won’t return her books or pay her fines and the man who watches porn. Perhaps these patrons would behave better if they knew Margo was really Jane, a nurse on the run from her killer past. When Patricia, a failed novelist escaping a suffocating boyfriend in Chicago, takes a job as a reference librarian, Margo is immediately wary—Patricia reminds her of the charge nurse who turned her in. But Margo lets her guard down just enough to pique Patricia’s writerly interest. From that point, things unfold in unpredictable ways.

The book is told from both women’s first-person points of view. While Margo kicks off the action, the character doesn’t have the self-awareness that really allows readers to understand and root for her. There’s mention of a fire in her past that killed her mother and stepfather; hints that she set the fire, but the root of her murderous impulses remains unexamined. She also comes across as annoying, so I found myself hoping she’d get caught. 

Patricia, on the other hand, has the disappointment of a failed book and a boring boyfriend that make her a more universal character. Even though she’s new to Carlyle, she already feels trapped, passing on that claustrophobic feeling to the reader. As she starts to figure out Margo’s secret, it energizes her and gets the book moving. 

Sims is a clever writer, and she sets up coincidences and then takes a sharp turn rather than following through with those set-ups. I was surprised when plot points I’d predicted did not pan out. The ending is totally gratifying and completely earned. It’s a short book (I clocked in at two hours) and fast-paced, a perfect travel companion.

How Can I Help You is a return to the stereotypical librarian—the older woman in glasses wearing an austere look, a vague threat of severe punishment if a person laughs too loudly. Nurses, librarians, waitresses, and others in the service profession—primarily women—are routinely ignored and often treated poorly. This book may be fiction, but it’s a good reminder to pay attention to the people in these roles. They’re human, too. And someday, they might just have enough. 

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

Also by Laura Sims:

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Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Sariah Wilson is a a book giveaway

Credit: JordanBree Photography
Introduction by Melissa Amster

We are pleased to welcome Sariah Wilson back to CLC today. I have enjoyed all of her recent rom-coms and am excited to read her latest, The Hollywood Jinxsoon! (It's in my five-book pile.) It is now available and she's here to celebrate publication day! I had a great time chatting with Sariah again and asking some new questions that I came up with recently. Her answers were a lot of fun to read! Sariah has one copy of The Hollywood Jinx for a lucky reader!

A passionate believer in happily-ever-afters, Sariah Wilson and her own soulmate live in Utah with their four children and the two family cats. Her belief in true love has inspired several bestselling rom-coms including CINDER-NANNY, THE PAID BRIDESMAID, ROOMAID and THE SEAT FILLER, as well as such bestselling romance series as End of the Line (THE FRIEND ZONE, JUST A BOYFRIEND); Lovestruck (#STARSTRUCK, #MOONSTRUCK, #AWESTRUCK); Ugly Stepsisters (THE UGLY STEPSISTER STRIKES BACK; PROMPOSAL), Royals of Monterra (ROYAL DATE, ROYAL CHASE, ROYAL GAMES, ROYAL DESIGN).

Visit Sariah online:

The small town of Patience needs a financial boost. Temporary librarian and aspiring film-score composer Jane Wagner’s plan? Invite movie star Nick Haddon to the town’s harvest festival and stand back for the tourist surge. No one thought he’d say yes—much less that he’d bring a documentary crew to stream his visit.

Given Nick’s affinity for trouble, his reputation and films are tanking. Patience is the perfect stopover on a journey of self-improvement and his chance to put good karma out in the universe. Spending time with a sweet and lovely guide like Jane is a bonus. But Jane’s heartbroken past keeps her on guard against men. Especially when they’re jinxed.

The truth is, Jane’s falling hard. But she can’t ignore the differences between them. He’s famous. She isn’t. He’s here for two weeks. This is her home. Where can it possibly lead? She’ll see. Because day after blissful day, Nick’s encouraging Jane to trust again and, best of all, to dream beyond Patience. (Courtesy of Amazon.)

“Wilson nails the small-town setting, complete with nosy but well-meaning residents, and delivers a sweet happy ending. This is a treat.”
—Publishers Weekly

What is something you would tell the debut novelist version of yourself?
I would tell her that she has no idea how hard things are going to get! I really and truly believed (erroneously) that once I got published and crossed that finished line that everything would get easier. I had no idea how difficult it would be to write multiple books. I constantly worry about whether I’m repeating myself—with my jokes, with the way I write kissing scenes, with characteristics, with tropes, with obstacles and internal struggles, etc. No one warned me about that!  

Did you learn anything new or interesting while writing The Hollywood Jinx?
I spent time researching festivals in small towns and how small town governments worked. I have a friend who composes music for movies and she was the inspiration for my FMC. She very kindly offered suggestions and read through my manuscript to give me her thoughts. I was inspired to write this book when I saw that town in Australia who made a video that went viral to get Chris Hemsworth to come visit them. I thought—“What if he was single and he’d come and actually visited them?” (It’s a fun video to watch—I recommend it! And Chris Hemsworth did see it and told them he’d visit in the future. As far as I know, he hasn’t yet.) 

Was there anything you had to take out of the story that you wish you could have left in? (Spoiler-free, of course.)
Nope. That’s not how writing works for me. I’ve never had to cut a scene. I’ve certainly had to add scenes and expand emotional responses and put in more, but I don’t cut/remove things.  

What is the last book you read that you would recommend?
The last book I read that I’d recommend is Lisa See’s Lady Tan’s Circle of Women. It’s based on the life of Tan Yunxian, a 15th century female doctor in China. I love learning about women like this in history, who upended expectations and traditional roles to accomplish something so difficult and amazing.  

If your life were a TV series, which celebrity would you want to narrate it?
If my life were a TV series, I would want Helen Mirren to narrate. I think she has such a fantastic voice. Or Julie Andrews. I’m not British, but I feel like I should have a British narrator.  

Tell us about a time you jinxed something.
Oh, I constantly jinx things. I’m always saying, “Knock on wood” because I swear I speak what the worst possible outcome of something could be and it seems to make it happen. LOL.

Thanks to Sariah 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

Giveaway ends July 31st at midnight EST.

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Monday, July 24, 2023

We want to be like Meredith a book giveaway

Introduction by Melissa Amster

We are so thankful to have Meredith Schorr back at CLC today. If she is a new-to-you author, I definitely recommend checking out all her novels. Some of my favorites are the Blogger Girl series and The Boyfriend Swap, but all her novels are delightful! Last summer, she entertained us with As Seen on TV (reviewed here). She's back now with her latest rom-com, Someone Just Like You. I'm so excited to read this and it is in my five-book pile at the moment. Meredith has one copy for a lucky reader to devour!

A born and bred New Yorker and lifelong daydreamer, Meredith Schorr fueled her passion for writing everything from restaurant reviews, original birthday cards, and even work-related emails into a career penning romantic comedies. When she’s not writing books filled with grand gestures and hard-earned happily-ever-afters or working as a trademark paralegal, she’s most often reading, running, or watching TV…for research, of course. She is represented by Melissa Edwards at Stonesong.  Meredith’s trade paperback debut with Grand Central Publishing/Forever, As Seen on TV, was published on June 7, 2022. (Bio courtesy of Meredith's website.)

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New Yorker Molly Blum knows everything about her lifelong nemesis, Jude Stark. With their families so close, they should have been best friends. Instead, she thinks he’s a too-charming slacker, and he thinks she’s allergic to fun. After years of one-upping each other’s pranks (chocolate-dipped cat treats are not as delicious as they appear), one high school joke went too far, and they stopped speaking completely. But now that they’re supposed to help plan a massive party for their parents—together—there’s no better time to resume their war.

And it is on. Only somewhere between all the sniping and harmless hijinks, a reluctant friendship develops, along with an unexpected spark of sexual tension. It might have to do with the fact that she’s been dating Jude-lookalikes and he’s been dating Molly doppelgangers. Or the fact that neither of them is nearly as horrible as they thought. All Molly and Jude know is that they’ve mastered the art of hating each other. Falling in love, on the other hand, is a whole new battlefield. (Courtesy of Amazon.)

“With delightful banter and unexpected twists, swoony romantic antics and outrageous family drama, Meredith Schorr confirms her place on my bookshelves as an auto-buy author. Someone Just Like You is an enchanting tale about the power of forgiveness in forging our happy endings. I read it in one sitting.”
—Jean Meltzer, International Bestselling Author of The Matzah Ball

"Someone Just Like You gave me all the feels. Hooked immediately by the irresistible premise, I was completely captivated from the first page, wanting to live in Molly and Jude's worlds forever. These enemies-turned-lovers had such clever banter that I smiled throughout the entire book, enthralled by their differences that created off-the-charts chemistry." 
—Samantha M. Bailey, USA Today bestselling author of Woman on the Edge

"Could there be a better setting for a swoony, tension-filled romance than the lively streets of New York City? Someone Just Like You is brimming with heart and charm, and readers will be rooting for Molly and Jude through all their pranks, misunderstandings, past hurt, and present undeniable attraction. Such a fun read!"
—Amy Poeppel, author of The Sweet Spot

What is a favorite compliment you have received on your writing? 
This is more about actions than words, but what makes all the hard work worth it for me is when a reader loves my book so much and posts on social media urging everyone in the world to read it because they loved it "so so so much." I’ve been tagged in posts like this that sparkle with such effusive, heartfelt, and authentic enthusiasm that my heart feels so full it might burst wide open. That is the biggest compliment I’ve gotten.
What were the biggest rewards and challenges with writing Someone Just Like You
It’s been so long since I wrote it that it’s hard to remember LOL but I recall how thrilled I was when my editor gushed about how much she loved the changes I made during developmental edits—she actually said she “loved, loved, loved them!” Another reward was signing with a film agent for this book since we didn’t get film interest with As Seen on TV

One challenge was the pressure of trying to write a book that readers enjoyed as much as As Seen on TV, and in other cases hoping so hard to win over readers who didn’t like it for whatever reason. Also, I didn’t think much about sales numbers while writing As Seen on TV since the book wasn’t even in contract yet. As a published author, the stakes are so much higher in terms of staying in the game. It is very difficult to focus on the writing when you let the pressure of reviews and sales get into your head.
If you could tell the debut novelist version of yourself anything, what would it be? 
I would tell her the same thing I try to remind myself to do now: embrace all the wonderful things that are happening with the book and all the readers who have connected with it and try to take the disappointments and negative reviews in stride. Be present and in the moment and enjoy the ride as much as possible rather than looking ahead and worrying about what comes next.
What is the last movie you saw that you would recommend? 
Are You There God, it’s Me Margaret. It made my Gen X heart so happy!
If your life were a TV series, which celebrity would you want to narrate it? 
Derek Jeter!
Have you ever met your doppelganger? 
I have never seen my doppelganger, but I’ve met people through the course of my life so far who have said they know someone who looks EXACTLY like me. Who knows...maybe she's dating my soulmate while I'm dating her soulmate's doppelganger :)

Thanks to Meredith 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 July 30th at midnight EST.

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Friday, July 21, 2023

What's in the (e)mail

Not Your Shoe Size by Jennifer DiVita from BooksGoSocial (NetGalley)
The Freedom Clause by Hannah Sloane from Random House (NetGalley)
Goodbye Earl by Leesa Cross-Smith from Grand Central (print)
Keep Your Friends Close by Leah Konen from Putnam (NetGalley)
One Thing Better by/from Jessica Sherry (NetGalley)
It Could Never Happen Here by Eithne Shortall from Independent Publishers Group (NetGalley)
Iris Kelly Doesn't Date by Ashley Herring Blake from Berkley (NetGalley)
The Midnight Garden by Elaine Roth from MB Communications (NetGalley)
Till There Was You by Lindsay Hameroff from St. Martin's Press (print)
Never Been Better by Leanne Toshiko Simpson from Putnam (NetGalley)
The Spells We Cast by Jason June from Disney (NetGalley)
Bellies by Nicola Dinan from Harlequin (NetGalley)
Confessions of a Forty-Something F**k Up by Alexandra Potter from HarperCollins (NetGalley)
Bright Lights, Big Christmas by Mary Kay Andrews from St. Martin's Press (print)
The Year of Second Chances by Lara Avery from William Morrow (NetGalley)
It All Comes Back to You by Melissa Wiesner from Bookouture (NetGalley)
The Rom Con by Devon Daniels from Berkley (NetGalley)

Thrive by Krista and Becca Ritchie from Berkley (NetGalley)
Things We Do For Love by Vered Neta from Rachel's Random Resources (NetGalley)
Beneath the Surface by Kaira Rouda from BookSparks (NetGalley)

Through the Snow Globe by Annie Rains from Kensington (print)

Take Two, Birdie Maxwell by Allison Winn Scotch from Berkley (NetGalley)

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Book Review: The Nurse


By Sara Steven

Bullied, overlooked and under-appreciated, Lissa McColl learns at an early age to do very bad things. As a nurse, she is respected and valued for the first time in her life. But Lissa hates her job and the selfish, rude and inconsiderate people she has to deal with. But being underestimated in this job had its advantages. Lissa can get close to people, find out their secrets… sometimes with deadly results… (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads.)

The very first line in The Nurse is bone chilling: "I was ten when I made the decision to kill Jemma."

I mean, that sentence really sets the tone for the rest of the story, giving the reader the perfect glimpse into Lissa and her psyche. As the synopsis indicates, Lissa has been bullied for most of her life. And when she attempts to get some support from home, she is faced with an absent father and a mother who pulls away from Lissa when he’s gone. She has lived a lifetime of trying to survive as best she can, faced with insurmountable obstacles, particularly for someone so young.

Life has made her hard. It has made her distrustful. And, even though there is a lot of baggage where her mother is concerned, she feels she must do everything she can for her. If that means committing crimes, so be it. The way Lissa reflects and internalizes–it is as though her thoughts are mundane. Even though they are far from that. She might mention the bus ride to work, or what it’s like when she secures a tiny studio apartment, and then the next line or two focuses on her intent to break into someone’s home, or on the sharp knives she has in the tiny kitchen in that tiny studio apartment, as if it’s no big deal. As if it’s completely common. It was an intriguing way to lessen the severity of a character and their internal workings, to where the reader has no choice but to want to rally for Lissa, regardless of her motives.

Lissa feels she is an expert in seeing the ugly in others, as much as she can see the ugly within herself. Yet, can she really? Maybe she’s not as ugly as she thinks she is, which muddies her point of view and the way she sees the world. 

The word that comes to mind to best describe this quiet thriller is “smooth.” In the same way that Lissa’s intentions have been made common, so are the moments leading up to anticipatory danger. It makes it so the reader has no real idea as to whether something bad is going to happen, smoothly done in such a way so that it is even more scary. It’s the not knowing that can really be the scariest moments of all. I really enjoyed The Nurse, a definite five-star read!

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

Purchase Links:
Amazon US * Amazon UK * Apple

Valerie Keogh is the internationally bestselling author of several psychological thrillers and crime series, most recently published by Bloodhound. She originally comes from Dublin but now lives in Wiltshire and worked as a nurse for many years. Her first thriller for Boldwood was published in August 2022.

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Thursday, July 20, 2023

Spotlight and Giveaway: The Summer Girl

The Summer Girl is Elle Kennedy's spicy return and farewell to the blockbuster Avalon Bay series. The books in the series are standalones but may contain spoilers for the previous ones. We're pleased to feature The Summer Girl today and thanks to St. Martin's Press, we have FIVE copies for some lucky readers!

College student Cassie Soul hasn’t spent an entire summer in Avalon Bay in years, not since her parents divorced and her mother spitefully whisked her away to Boston. Now that her grandmother is selling the boardwalk hotel that’s been in their family for five decades, Cassie returns to the quaint beach town to spend time with family, ring in her twenty-first birthday…and maybe find herself a summer fling.

On her first night in town, she finds the perfect candidate: Tate Bartlett, Avalon Bay’s fun-loving golden boy.

Tate, sailing instructor and lovable player, is no stranger to flings. In fact, he’s always down for a good time. But the moment he meets Cassie, he knows she’s not the girl you play games with. Cassie is gorgeous, hilarious, and, frankly, the coolest person he’s ever met. The last thing he wants to do is risk breaking her heart, and so he reluctantly puts her in the friend-zone…only to realize he made a huge mistake. Soon, his attraction to Cassie becomes impossible to ignore. He wants that fling now. Big-time.

And maybe even something more.

As Cassie and Tate walk the line between friends and lovers, they’re about to discover that their situation is the least complicated part of this equation. Because Avalon Bay is full of secrets—and their relationship might not survive when those secrets come to light. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

Credit: Amanda Nicole White
A New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal bestselling author, Elle Kennedy grew up in the suburbs of Toronto, Ontario, and is the author of more than forty romantic suspense and contemporary romance novels, including the international bestselling Off-Campus and Briar U series.

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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 July 25th at midnight EST.

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Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Sara and Melissa Talk About...Summer

We've been running a column series (for over three years now!) to get more personal with our readers. This month, we are talking about summer. Anything goes with this topic.

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

Sara Steven:

Every summer, we try to escape the heat of the Phoenix-Metro area. Pre-Covid, that meant flying out to see family and friends, but post-Covid, we had to find other ways to safely travel. Thus began our road trip Sedona tradition. 

This is from July, 2020. 

And July, 2023.

My boys love the Crescent Moon Picnic Site, located by Cathedral Rock in Sedona. This is one of their favorite tree spots to visit while we’re there. They also enjoy the freezing cold water, which is a hard find in Arizona. Yet the high country never disappoints.

I love it when they spend time together like this. It seems a much harder task when we’re back on home turf. The eighteen year old has a part-time job, and the twelve year old seems to have more of a social life than I do, with get togethers and swim play dates, so it never feels like we get much family time together. When we’re in Sedona, we’re on Sedona time. There’s no rush to get from point A to point B. We feel like we can travel safely again, and there are plenty of other places we could go, but this is what we want to do, every year.

My parents are camp hosting in Sedona this year. It means manning the Call of the Canyon Picnic Site at the West Fork Oak Creek trailhead. It’s a trail I’d never been on before, and it was pretty fantastic. 

Even my parents’ dog Panda joined in. I appreciate that I was raised to honor nature, a sentiment I believe I’ve passed on to my children, too. I think it’s a big reason we want to spend time in the Sedona area, enjoying the great outdoors as much as we’re able to. I really, really love our summer tradition.

Melissa Amster:

I am not a summer person. I hate when it gets to 80 degrees or anything above that. I don't belong to a pool, nor do I have the desire to go these days. (I wouldn't mind a water park though.) I don't really do the outdoor activities that go along with summer either. While my job is flexible, I don't really have summer vacation. And that's okay by me. Having said that, here's how my summer has been going so far:

The highlight of my summer so far has been my daughter's Bat Mitzvah. It's something we had planned for quite some time and it was rewarding to see it all come together. It was a really special day and my daughter did an amazing job with her speech. This was about a month ago, but we just got photos back so it was fun reliving the event through them. 

Seeing my kids in theater performances has also been a special part of my summer. My daughter had a great speaking role in Newsies Jr. at her camp, playing Pulitzer. She really came out of her shell this year and blew me away when I saw her on stage. My older son also had a huge role in a local production of The Prom and I was so proud to see him give it his all. He also performed with his high school improv troupe (that he started up last year) at his sister's Bat Mitzvah. 

We didn't do a lot for Independence Day. We went to this big field area in Virginia on July 2nd and hung out with our cousins and watched fireworks. The next night, we got to see friends who were in town from New Jersey. We hadn't seen them in a while but it was like no time had been lost. On the actual holiday, we just laid low for the most part and went to dinner in the evening. It felt like a Sunday more than a holiday. 

I've been volunteering at A Wider Circle, which is a local organization that helps families who have low income get back on their feet. I mainly work in the warehouse to make sure all the clothing that is donated is in dignity condition (no personalization, stains, rips, etc). Here's more on the organization:

Tomorrow is my birthday, which is a highlight of every summer. It's the only thing I really like about summer anyway. It will probably be low key too, but I plan to have dinner with my husband and kids to celebrate in the evening. Last summer, all three kids had Covid on my birthday, so I want to include them in my celebration this year. (My oldest won't be available, but we have some celebratory plans that we hope will come into fruition next month for both our birthdays, since he's turning 18 in September.  Gasp!) 

Aside from that, I've just been watching a lot of TV. I fell in love with Somebody Somewhere last month and recently was laughing non-stop from The Other Two. I've also been watching The Bear, Never Have I Ever, And Just Like That, Manifest, RiverdaleHow I Met Your Father, and XO, Kitty. I plan to watch season two of The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem and am excited for Heartstopper and Only Murders in the Building to come back in August.

Tell us how your summer is going or what you like most about summer or anything else to do with this season!

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Book Review: Us Two

By Sara Steven 

When Florence met Rowena, they knew for sure that they would always be friends. Wayward parents, boring teachers, teenage crushes, first heartbreaks – anything and everything could be faced as long as Florence had Rowena by her side. But then she didn’t. And life had to be redrawn and reconsidered. Being a grown-up has its perks, but as Rowena faces the biggest challenge of her life, and Florence wonders if it’s time to stop running away from hers, there’s a wise soul who knows the one thing that can help them both. Some friendships are meant to last forever, and it’s never too late for forever to start again. 

Joyous and heart-breaking, laugh-out-loud funny, life-affirming and unforgettable, join Flo and Ro on a journey that will warm your heart and perhaps make you wonder about those old friends who knew you so well. (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

I like the parallels that are drawn between the friendship that Florence (Flo) has with Rowena (Ro), and the relationship between Florence’s former teacher, Cassie, and a friend of Cassie’s. At the root of things, there is miscommunication and other factors that play into both sets of characters experiencing a breakdown between them, which ultimately leads to severing ties. It’s what weighs on Cassie, enough to bequeath a campervan to Flo, in the hopes that maybe she can right the wrongs that maybe Cassie felt she never really got to do.

Flo has a tough time when it comes to trust. So much so, that she doesn’t even trust herself enough to rely on herself 100% of the time. It’s a big reason that she still lives at home with her parents, going on long trips out of the country in order to escape reality. Never really putting down roots. Her parents plan on selling their home and insist that she finally find her own way, and then the campervan is there, as though it was meant for her all along. We get glimpses of the past, when she used to love that kind of life, when she had her own campervan–before the horribleness of life changed everything. 

Cassie has presented Flo with a scavenger hunt, the type of shenanigans that she used to set up for her classroom all those years ago. The type of experiences that would instill interest in her students. That’s where the parallels come into play. Cassie’s past, and Flo’s too. I thought it was great that we had some flashbacks from Cassie, from Flo, and we’re also getting to see where Ro is now in the present time, too. 

There is plenty of mention of romantic love, but the bigger focus is on the strong friendship bonds that can form in our youth, and despite the troubles that might come and unravel those close bonds, there is hope for reconciliation. It was a very touching read.

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

Purchase Links:

Janet Hoggarth
is the number one bestselling author of The Single Mums' Mansion and the highly successful Single Mums' subsequent series. She has worked on a chicken farm, as a bookseller, a children’s book editor, a children’s author, and as a DJ (under the name of Whitney and Britney!). She lives with her family in East Dulwich, London.

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Tuesday, July 18, 2023

Spotlight and Giveaway: The Beauty of Rain

Today we are celebrating the publication of Jamie Beck's latest novel, The Beauty of Rain. The story sounds so interesting and we are loving the cover. Thanks to BookSparks, we have one copy to give away!

When Amy Walsh won the lottery, she thought things were finally looking up. But when tragedy strikes shortly after, she struggles to continue and only knows one thing for certain: she’s not spending the money on herself.

Concerned, Amy’s older sister Kristin invites Amy to live with her while she tries to recover. Unfortunately, this creates complications for Kristin – she’s not focused enough on her career, her daughter prefers Amy, and Amy’s well-intentioned but ultimately unwanted advice cause tensions to rise between her and her husband.

All the while, Amy is making drastic plans that include giving away all her money, but before she can do that, she wants to ensure that Kristin understands the importance of spending time with her family. The sisters must help each other reimagine their futures, even in the face of unpredictable obstacles, so that they can learn to live fully and without regrets. (See the bottom of this post for trigger warnings.)

“Heartbreaking, uplifting, and wise beyond measure, The Beauty of the Rain is a masterful tale rendered perfectly by an author truly hitting her stride. I was completely captured by the story of two sisters who each have to learn to really live—before they run out of chances. So powerful!” 
—Barbara O’Neal, bestselling author of This Place of Wonder

“A thoughtful and clear-headed exploration into life’s most brutal challenges. Jamie Beck insightfully dives into the intricacies of grief, marriage, ambition, and love of family in a way that will make you stop and ponder your life choices. An important and meaningful read about what makes life beautiful.” 
—Sonali Dev, bestselling author of The Vibrant Years

Wall Street Journal and USA Today Bestselling author Jamie Beck’s realistic and heartwarming stories have sold more than three million copies. She is a two-time Booksellers’ Best Award finalist, a National Readers’ Choice Award winner, and critics at Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, and Booklist have respectively called her work “smart,” “uplifting,” and “entertaining.” In addition to writing novels, she enjoys dancing around the kitchen while cooking and hitting the slopes in Vermont and Utah. Above all, she is a grateful wife and mother to a very patient, supportive family.

Visit Jamie online:
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Giveaway ends July 23rd at midnight EST.

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Trigger Warnings: This book contains themes of child death, suicide and suicidal ideation, and substance abuse.