Thursday, August 31, 2023

Reviews at Amazon--July/August 2023

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!
 

Sara:

The Last Word by Katy Birchall

Hollyland by Patricia Leavy

Sammy Espinoza's Last Review by Tehlor Kay Mejia

Mom Com by Hilary Grossman


Melissa:

Beyond That, the Sea by Laura Spence-Ash

The Celebrants by Steven Rowley

Hotel Laguna by Nicola Harrison

The Wife App by Carolyn Mackler

Cassandra in Reverse by Holly Smale

Run Rose Run by Dolly Parton and James Patterson

Faking Christmas by Kerry Winfrey


Allyson: 

The Sweetest Revenge by Lizzy Dent






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Spotlight and Giveaway: The Stockwell Letters

Jacqueline Friedland's latest novel, The Stockwell Letters, is now available and we're excited to feature it today. This time around, Jacqueline has written another historical fiction novel focusing on a similar time period as her debut novel, Trouble the Water. Thanks to BookSparks, we have one copy for a lucky reader!

A passionate advocate of abolition from her earliest years, Ann’s activism was derailed just before her twenty-fourth birthday, when she fell sick with a mysterious illness. In order to protect her fragile health, her husband, the famous abolitionist Wendell Phillips, forbade her from joining any further anti-slavery outings. Even so, when fugitive slave Anthony Burns is apprehended in Boston, Ann is determined to help him, no matter what it costs her.

With a particular focus on the predicament of nineteenth-century women who wanted to effect change despite the restrictions society imposed on them, The Stockwell Letters takes a deep dive into the harrowing conditions of the antebellum South and the obstacles faced by abolitionists who fought tirelessly to eradicate slavery. A fast-paced, arresting recounting of America’s not-so-distant history, the story will stay with readers long after the final page. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

“A riveting portrait of the women who risked everything to help usher slaves to freedom, Jacqueline Friedland's latest is told with a tender heart. Thanks to a cast of captivating characters, colorful period details and an ending that will have you cheering, the book will stay with you long after you finish. The Stockwell Letters is book club fiction at its best.”
—Brooke Foster, award-winning journalist and author of On Gin Lane

The Stockwell Letters is a novel that would draw me from all the way across a crowded bookstore, because not only am I fascinated with the abolitionist era, it has so much resonance for our time. This is an immersive, human, important novel that everybody should read!”
—Jenna Blum, New York Times best-selling author of Those Who Save Us and The Lost Family 

“Impressive, page-turning, shocking, and heartfelt—Jacqueline Friedland’s foray into historical fiction is unputdownable. No stone is left unturned in The Stockwell Letters, as Friedland takes us on a deep dive into one of the gravest chapters of American history: slavery. Filled with rich characters, defining moments, and heroic plot twists, Friedland delivers a gift and a powerful message to historical fiction lovers.”
Lisa Barr, New York Times best-selling author of Woman On Fire

Jacqueline Friedland is the USA Today best-selling and multi-award-winning author of He Gets That From Me, That's Not a Thing, and Trouble the Water. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and NYU Law School, she practiced briefly as a commercial litigator in Manhattan and taught Legal Writing and Lawyering Skills at the Benjamin Cardozo School of Law. She returned to school after not too long in the legal world, earning her Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College. Jacqueline regularly reviews fiction for trade publications and appears as a guest lecturer. When not writing, she loves to exercise, watch movies with her family, listen to music, make lists, and dream about exotic vacations. She lives in Westchester, New York, with her husband, four children, and two very lovable dogs.

Visit Jacqueline online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram

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

Giveaway ends September 5th at midnight EST.

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Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Book Review: The Woman in the Woods


By Sara Steven

I am safe here, in my cottage in the woods where no one knows me or my real name. All is peaceful and calm and the real world can’t hurt me – because I know how cruel it can be. But then I see her again. I see her pale, white face. Watching me. Taunting me. And then the notes begin to appear. I know who you really are… I know what you did… All of a sudden, the walls of my cottage feel like a prison, the peaceful woods around me a maze that will trap me forever. Who is this woman? What does she want? Does she know what happened during that boiling hot summer of 1976 when I made my terrible mistake. And if so, how? So many questions paralysing me with fear. One thing I do know. She must be stopped. (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads.)

This is the second book I’ve read by author J.A. Baker–and it won’t be my last! The Woman in the Woods really was the perfect psychological thriller. I can appreciate a mystery that has a slow burn. The kind that doesn’t immediately throw the answers at you. Where you have to wait and watch for the truth to unravel a little at a time. 

I.L. Lawrence is one of the primary characters, an up and coming author who had recently been in a hit and run accident, suffering from amnesia afterwards. She can’t remember what her life had been like before the accident, particularly any of the memories from her childhood. It seems in some ways, what had happened to her lends into her ability to create unique stories, as though the plotlines could have come straight from her own past. It feels that way to her when she begins to see a random stranger show up to her book readings–a woman she doesn’t recognize but seems to know, all at once.

Mary has had a rough life. Events in her own childhood have forced her to recreate herself entirely, so no one really knows who she is. She has a strong vendetta against I.L., one that has stuck around with her for decades. There are plenty of reasons to choose not to act on the impulses she has to give payback to the one person who Mary feels has ruined her, but sometimes when you hold a grudge for that long, nothing can stop you from seeing it through. 

The story is told from both I.L.'s perspective, as well as Mary’s, but is Mary the stranger who has been going to the book readings, or is that someone else entirely? I seriously had no clue! As I’d read each chapter, I tried to figure out who was who, which was pretty thrilling considering it was something I had to suss out for myself. Each moment was expertly paced out, so nothing was rushed–until it needed to be. The setting was the right backdrop, too. A lonely cottage in the woods, secluded by forest and darkness. It added to the overall tone of the book. A true thriller from start to finish. 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

J. A. Baker is a successful psychological thriller writer of numerous books, previously published by Bloodhound. Born and brought up in Middlesbrough, she still lives in the North East, which inspires the settings for her books. Her first title for Boldwood was published in December 2022.

Visit J.A. Baker online:
Facebook * Twitter * Instagram

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Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Around the world with Jennifer Hamm....plus a book giveaway

Today we are pleased to welcome Jennifer Hamm and celebrate the publication of her debut novel, One Friday in Napa. We enjoyed getting to know her and we hope you will too. Thanks to BookSparks, we have one copy to give away!

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Jennifer Hamm graduated with a BA in English at UCLA and began her writing career developing screenplays for movies and television. As a travel writer, she has covered the globe on assignment for various magazines and brands. She also writes It’s Only for A Year, a long-running blog chronicling her adventures raising her four boys in two countries. Hamm currently splits her time between London and Los Angeles. Visit Jennifer at her website and on Instagram.

Synopsis:
Vene feels like she and her mother have always been at odds—since she was a child, the first word she used to describe Olivia was “cold.” When news of her mother’s imminent death comes, Vene returns to her family’s home in Napa to see if their strained relationship can be mended, only to find Olivia as harsh as ever and their reconciliation seemingly unreachable.

But when Vene stumbles upon Olivia’s old cookbook, she discovers a passion within her mother she didn’t know existed. The clipped tone and quick judgments of her dying mother don’t match the young woman whose voice she finds between the pages—one that tells a story of romance, longing, duty, and aching heartbreak. Curiosity consumes Vene, and she embarks on an intimate journey to learn about the Olivia she never got to meet—before it’s too late.

A captivating story told in alternating perspectives a half-century apart, One Friday in Napa explores the pains and joys of devotion as two women learn the price of loyalty, the power of secrets, and the meaning of sacrifice. (Courtesy of Amazon.)

“Hamm delivers to her readers an intimate view of a family and gracefully sifts through the longing and disappointment that all too often accompany love.”
—Corie Adjmi, author of The Marriage Box and Life and Other Shortcomings

One Friday in Napa is a cross-generational story of losing love and finding it in unexpected places. A delicious read!”
—Miranda Heller, #1 New York Times best-selling author of The Paper Palace

“Exquisitely written, Jennifer Hamm insightfully explores a mother and daughter's journey to forgiveness. Her ability to delicately weave two different time periods side by side while uncovering rich, in-depth characters makes One Friday in Napa a powerful novel you won’t want to miss.”
—Kim Raver, actress, director, and producer

In one sentence, what was the road to publishing like for you?
It was like running a marathon with a bruised ankle, believing always that I’d cross the finish line with a good time. 

Which of your lead characters could you relate to most?
Hmm, that’s tricky. Both women are layered and not very straight-forward. Probably Olivia as she is the ultimate care taker, even though that isn’t obvious. I’d love to be a little more like Vene, more instinctual about choices. There’s such a freedom in that.

If One Friday in Napa were made into a movie, who would you cast in the leading roles?
Well, as I’m writing the movie script right now, that is a great question! Two great roles for women for sure, as Olivia in the 1940’s could be aged to play Olivia in the 1990’s. Emily Blunt is forever in my head. Her grace and depth are always extraordinary. Vene is Natalie Portman😊 A girl can dream…

Which TV series are you currently binge watching?
The Bear. Oooooh it’s so good.

What is something you are looking forward to this autumn?

My husband has been working in Italy so I’m going to join him and relocate to Rome for a little while. I was definitely Italian in another life! I love it there.

If we were to visit you right now, what are some places you would take us to see?

I was born and bred in Los Angeles – a rarity for sure. I’d take you to my favorite hike up Temescal Canyon and then straight to the beach. I also split my time in London so we’d have to visit the Petersham Nurseries near my house for the most incredible farm to table food around.

Thanks to Jennifer for chatting with us and to BookSparks 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 September 4th at midnight EST.

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Monday, August 28, 2023

Book Review: The Boat House


By Sara Steven

Max Hunter, my boyfriend, booked the beautiful boat house on the Norfolk Broads as a surprise autumn break. A week away to heal after a fraught few months following my father’s death. A chance to put the lies and secrets behind us and to start afresh. But in the silence it feels like someone is out there. Watching, waiting and taunting me. When strange things begin to happen, I know this isn't going to be the relaxing break it’s supposed to be. As I become more jumpy, Max’s patience begins to wear thin. He thinks I am imagining things. But he doesn't know the huge secret I am keeping, so big it could destroy us. I have every right to be fearful and I have to make sure he never finds out the truth. But what if I am already too late? (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads.)

Another suspenseful thriller from Keri Beevis! I woke up in the middle of the night, decided to pick up where I’d left off with The Boat House, and had to finish it. It is so gripping, I had no choice but to do that, so I could see what would happen next. 

It starts out under the guise of a sweet little break for Emily and her boyfriend, Max, along with their dog too. But much like a literary onion, there were a lot of deeper layers to this story that slowly became revealed to the reader, in the best ways and pacing possible. I never felt as though the plot sped up too quickly or slowed down to where I’d lost interest. We discover why there is contention between Emily and Max. Why someone is keeping tabs on them. And the secrets! There are many exposures from character to character. 

There were moments where I’d felt absolute irritation towards Max. Emily is relaying her fears to him and he doesn’t take her seriously. A constant denial build-up that eventually leads the two of them into danger. Then there is Emily. I really wanted her to stand her ground more and stick up for herself, but I felt both characters were very true to their characterizations. Max seems to have a hard time trusting other people’s instincts, while Emily has a lot of inner frailties that stem from her childhood and recent events in her life. The two together created instant issues that they have to try to work through, in order to survive.

The last ¾ of the book was so riveting! I wasn’t sure how it would end. And then there’s the last chapter, where we get to see where everyone ends up. Bone chilling. It really was the perfect way to end The Boat House. The whole experience was a scary five-star adventure and worth the read!

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

Purchase Links:
 
Keri Beevis
is the internationally bestselling author of several psychological thrillers and romantic suspense mysteries, including the very successful Dying to Tell, published by Bloodhound. She sets many of her books in the county of Norfolk, where she was born and still lives and which provides much of her inspiration.

Visit Keri online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram

Sign up for Keri's newsletter.

Visit all the stops on Keri's blog tour:

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Friday, August 25, 2023

What's in the (e)mail

Melissa:
The Hidden Life of Cecily Larson by Ellen Baker from Mariner Books (NetGalley)
The Wishing Bridge by Viola Shipman from Harlequin (NetGalley)
The Lonely Hearts Book Club by Lucy Gilmore from Books & Coffee Please (print, won in a giveaway)
My Fair Brady by Brian D. Kennedy from HarperCollins (NetGalley)
Magnolia Parks and Daisy Haites by Jessa Hastings from Dutton (NetGalley)
Dragging Mason County by Curtis Campbell from Annick Press (NetGalley)
We Got the Beat by Jenna Miller from HarperCollins (NetGalley)
Hedging Your Bets by Jayne Denker from St. Martin's Press (print)
Betting on You by Lynn Painter from Simon & Schuster (NetGalley)
Late Bloomer by Mazey Eddings from St. Martin's Press (NetGalley)
Me Without You by Kelly Rimmer from Forever (NetGalley)
Not Just Gal Pals by Elizabeth Luly from West Brunswick Press (NetGalley)
Welcome Home, Caroline Kline by Courtney Preiss from Putnam (NetGalley)
The Women by Kristin Hannah from St. Martin's Press (NetGalley)
The Takeover by Cara Tanamachi from St. Martin's Press (NetGalley)
Keep This Off the Record by Arden Joy from Rising Action (NetGalley)

Sara:
Cop a Feel by/from Hilary Grossman (ebook)
Addicted After All by Krista and Becca Ritchie from Berkley (NetGalley)
Brooklyn by Tracy Brown from St. Martin's Press (NetGalley)
Jami:
Emergency Contact by Lauren Layne & Anthony Ledonne from Blackstone (NetGalley)
The Marriage Sabbatical by Lian Dolan from William Morrow (NetGalley)





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Spotlight: The Breakaway

Thirty-three-year-old Abby Stern has made it to a happy place. True, she still has gig jobs instead of a career, and the apartment where she’s lived since college still looks like she’s just moved in. But she’s got good friends, her bike, and her bicycling club in Philadelphia. She’s at peace with her plus-size body—at least, most of the time—and she’s on track to marry Mark Medoff, her childhood summer sweetheart, a man she met at the weight-loss camp that her perpetually dieting mother forced her to attend. Fifteen years after her final summer at Camp Golden Hills, when Abby reconnects with a half-his-size Mark, it feels like the happy ending she’s always wanted.

Yet Abby can't escape the feeling that some­thing isn’t right...or the memories of one thrilling night she spent with a man named Sebastian two years previously. When Abby gets a last-minute invi­tation to lead a cycling trip from NYC to Niagara Falls, she’s happy to have time away from Mark, a chance to reflect and make up her mind.

But things get complicated fast. First, Abby spots a familiar face in the group—Sebastian, the one-night stand she thought she’d never see again. Sebastian is a serial dater who lives a hundred miles away. In spite of their undeniable chemistry, Abby is determined to keep her distance. Then there’s a surprise last-minute addition to the trip: her mother, Eileen, the woman Abby blames for a lifetime of body shaming and insecurities she’s still trying to undo.

Over two weeks and more than seven hundred miles, strangers become friends, hidden truths come to light, a teenage girl with a secret unites the riders in unexpected ways...and Abby is forced to reconsider everything she believes about herself, her mother, and the nature of love. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

Purchase The Breakaway.

“A journey that’s as much about self-discovery as it is about exploring new territory on wheels.”
New York Times

“Weiner is the undisputed queen of the fun yet thoughtful poolside read.”
Vogue

Courtesy of Jennifer's website
Jennifer Weiner
is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of twenty-one books, including The Summer Place, That Summer, Big Summer, Mrs. Everything, In Her Shoes, Good in Bed, and a memoir in essays, Hungry Heart. She has appeared on many national television programs, including Today and Good Morning America, and her work has been published in The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, among other newspapers and magazines. Jennifer lives with her family in Philadelphia. (Bio courtesy of Amazon.)

Visit Jennifer online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram 

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Thursday, August 24, 2023

Book Review and Giveaway: Through the Snow Globe

By Becky Gulc

It’s never too early for a festive read in my opinion and to be honest it’s definitely felt more like autumn than summer in the UK recently so it’s been perfect for snuggling up with my first Christmas book of the year, Through the Snow Globe by Annie Rains. Here is the synopsis:

‘Diana Merriman is probably the only person in the small town of Snow Haven who isn’t looking forward to Christmas. It’s been three weeks since her fiancĂ© Linus was hit by a car as he biked home from the toy store he owns.

When she uncovers the surprise gift Linus had bought her for Christmas – a snow globe of their town – the night before Christmas Eve, little does she know it will set her on a course that will change everything. Because Diana wakes up to find that it’s the day of Linus’ accident.

Stuck in an endless loop, repeating the day over and over, Diana fights fate to save her fiancĂ©. But it’s not just Linus who needs rescuing. As Diana uncovers startling truths about herself and her relationship, the future becomes even more uncertain…’ (Courtesy of Amazon UK.)

I’m a big fan of the film Groundhog Day, so I liked the premise of this novel instantly and was open to the idea of a time-loop story. Diana is a physical therapist who, as those closest to her may say themselves, is somewhat aloof and a bit of an ‘Elsa’ (ice-queen!). Although Diana is happily engaged to trusty and reliable toy shop owner Linus, and the couple have enjoyed a whirlwind romance having been together less than a year, for some reason Diana is evading all questions about a wedding day. And then disaster strikes as Linus is left in a coma following an accident. December fourth is when it happens. When Diana’s neighbour puts an enchantment on a snow globe Diana finds, which Linus planned to give to her, suddenly every day becomes December fourth. The question is what will change for Diana and can she change the course of that day if she gets to live that day over again? How will she interact with the different people she comes across and what impact will this have on the outcome? You’ll have to read it to find out!

I truly enjoyed this novel. I didn’t warm to Diana instantly and I don’t think you’re meant to as a reader, but she’s not a bad person; just guarded and likes to keep things very professional at work when dealing with her patients. Each day Diana’s main aim is to stop the accident, but slowly she learns that there are some fundamental ways in which she can help and support those who need it; those she comes into contact with most days, and she begins to have a different outlook on life and self-realisation about why she is the way she is. 

I adored Diana’s patients, which include an elderly lady (Maria) and a teenage girl (Addy) who is adapting to living with cancer. I would look forward to the scenes with these characters the most to see the difference Diana could make to them, and slowly but surely, them to her. Linus is also a sweetheart who clearly adores Diana and I was rooting for him and rooting for them as a couple, throughout.

There are some lovely moments in the novel including with a looked after child called Dustin who is maybe on the wrong path, but just needs some love. I enjoyed the secret he shared with Diana and the understanding this brought between them.

Whilst a loved one being in a coma doesn’t exactly sound Christmassy, I did find the novel to be festive. There’s the build up, the pressure, the family dynamics to deal with, all of which are covered but in a sweet and profound way through this story and wonderful warm supporting characters. My only criticism is that I wasn’t ready for this novel to end!

Thanks to Kensington for the book in exchange for an honest review. They also have FIVE copies to give away!

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 29th at midnight EST.

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Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Book Review: The Foster Wife

By Sara Steven

After a devastating breakup, instead of drowning in her tears, Amelia Day starts a new business. For a hefty fee, she uses the methods for training foster dogs to transform men into suitable marriage material. Her track record is impeccable until she meets perpetual bachelor Phin Baxtor. From the start, she’s confused as to why this guitar-playing hunk would even want to hire her, but she needs the money, so she takes him on.

Phin is content with working in his food truck all day and playing the field at night. But his business partner, Jay, offers him a bet he can’t refuse. If Phin can complete Amelia’s program without changing his ways, he will win Jay’s rare guitar. Certain his task will be easier than playing "Hound Dog," he agrees to enter the program.

With Phin and Amelia spending all their time together, her techniques begin to slip past his defenses. He might become her biggest success, but falling for a client isn’t supposed to be part of the deal. (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads.)

The Foster Wife was reminiscent of the classic movie If A Man Answers, starring Sandra Dee and Bobby Darin–and in the best of ways! I loved the premise and unique twist of using the same methods Amelia employs to train dogs, for men who need assistance in the marriage department. It’s obvious she’s met her match with Phin. From the get go, the reader is well aware that it will not be a smooth, easy process in getting Phin to do anything that Amelia wants him to do–in fact, he purposely sets out to show her just how ridiculous he thinks her methods can be! 

The only problem is, Phin begins to see Amelia as more than just the obnoxious trainer he’s stuck with. There are a lot of qualities about her that he finds enjoyable, and the same can be said for the way Amelia feels about Phin. He might come off as uber tough and too much of a ladies man, but she sees right to the core of him. There is a lot of good there–the kind of good that could potentially be the perfect match for her. 

Unfortunately, both characters have a lot of “buts” in the mix. Amelia thinks that Phin is charming and could be an ideal mate, BUT she is only around to help him to become a successful partner for someone else. Phin thinks that Amelia is wonderful, BUT if he lets her “win,” it means he might have a lot to lose. Many of my favorite moments consist of the witty banter between the two of them. I think the way two people can engage with one another says a lot about them, and the author did an excellent job of making a unique storyline incredibly believable in that way. Amelia and Phin are the modern day Sandra Dee and Bobby Darin. It was a five-star experience for me!

Thanks to Cindy Dorminy for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Cindy Dorminy:

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Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Spotlight and Giveaway: Kissing Kosher

Only one week left until Jean Meltzer's latest rom-com, Kissing Kosher, is released! We're here to tell you more about it today. Melissa loved this novel and gave it a five star review. She's also planning to meet Jean at an event next week. (Sara Goodman Confino will be there too.) Thanks to Harlequin, we have one copy of Kissing Kosher for a lucky reader!

Step 1: Get the secret recipe. Step 2: Don’t fall in love…

Avital Cohen isn’t wearing underpants—woefully, for unsexy reasons. Chronic pelvic pain has forced her to sideline her photography dreams and her love life. It’s all she can do to manage her family’s kosher bakery, Best Babka in Brooklyn, without collapsing.

She needs hired help.

And distractingly handsome Ethan Lippmann seems the perfect fit.

Except Ethan isn’t there to work—he’s undercover, at the behest of his ironfisted grandfather. Though Lippmann’s is a household name when it comes to mass-produced kosher baked goods, they don’t have the charm of Avital’s bakery. Or her grandfather’s world-famous pumpkin spice babka recipe.

As they bake side by side, Ethan soon finds himself more interested in Avital than in stealing family secrets, especially as he helps her find the chronic pain relief—and pleasure—she’s been missing.

But perfecting the recipe for romance calls for leaving out the lies…even if coming clean means risking everything.

"I loved every word of this proudly Jewish and sexy romance that highlights the importance of finding joy even in the most painful of times.” 
—Meredith Schorr, author of As Seen on TV and Someone Just Like You

"Take the sweetest, most tender love story, braid it with the beauty of Jewish tradition, bake until it heats up with a family feud, and you've got Kissing Kosher. This delicious romance is more satisfying than the best dessert." 
—Amanda Elliot, author of Best Served Hot and Sadie on a Plate

“Readers will devour this one-of-a-kind novel, that covers everything from relationships, intimacy, and sex, to family dysfunction and intergenerational trauma. Jean writes romance the way your Bubbe bakes challah—with devotion, delight, and loads of love.” 
—Lynda Cohen Loigman, bestselling author of The Matchmaker’s Gift and The Two-Family House

Credit: Lisa Damico
Jean Meltzer studied dramatic writing at NYU Tisch and has earned numerous awards for her work in television, including a daytime Emmy. She spent five years in rabbinical school before her chronic illness forced her to withdraw, and her father told her she should write a book—just not a Jewish one because no one reads those. Kissing Kosher is her third novel.

Visit Jean 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 August 27th at midnight EST.

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Monday, August 21, 2023

Guest Book Review: First Position

By Melissa Smoot

Five years into her career at the North American Ballet, Sylvie Carter has come a long way from the girl she once was—the young, driven ballerina who dutifully kept a list of rules for how to succeed. But as her star in the company rises, every rule gets broken and she becomes a version of herself she no longer recognizes.  When a tumultuous, troubling relationship erupts into a devastating scandal for which she alone is blamed, she loses everything. Her reputation is destroyed, her best friend is now her fiercest rival, and the dream she’s worked for her entire life—becoming a prima ballerina—will never be realized. She vows not to ever make the same mistake again.

But when renowned dancer Alessandro Russo joins NAB as a guest artist for the season, Sylvie is magnetically drawn to him. Torn between fear and attraction, she finds herself mentally unraveling but also artistically blossoming as she taps into emotions she’d buried long ago. Caught in a bewildering spiral, she can either let the wounds of the past destroy her or find a way to be reborn. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

As a former ballet dancer (never professional), I was extremely excited to read this book. I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect when I first started it, but from the first chapter I was hooked. 

The story is about an extremely talented and disciplined ballerina named Sylvie Carter, along with a supporting cast of characters who are also part of the world of professional ballet. Throughout Sylvie’s story we learn of her strengths as a solo artist in the North American Ballet (NAB) but also her tragic self-sabotage, all while trying to be the rising star she has always seen herself as. The story jumps back and forth from the present to 5 years prior, giving us glimpses into the intricacies of Sylvie’s friendships and relationships, and ultimately a scandal that could end her career once and for all. Her once best friend, Jocelyn, is now her biggest enemy and nobody in the company will even look at her. Will her obsessive tendencies and strict self-discipline end up being her downfall and cause her to lose everything she has worked for the last 20 years?

Hamrick weaves a dark and scandalous web around the often-glamorized portrayal of professional dance. I really enjoyed this book and couldn’t wait to see if Sylvie would prevail or if she would simply become another victim of the almost impossible standards set for ballerinas. This was a fast paced and sometimes disturbing read (see trigger warnings below) but I blew through it. The writing flowed effortlessly as did the storyline. I am really looking forward to reading Hamrick’s second novel that centers on the other main character, Jocelyn. I have no doubt I will blow through that one just as quickly. Anyone looking to add something a little different to your TBR will not be disappointed in First Position.

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

Melissa Smoot became an avid reader as a small child, growing up in Chicago. The first book she remembers reading (and loving) was Mandy by Julie Andrews. She has since become a lover of Women’s fiction as well as mystery and suspense and everything in between. Melissa graduated from Arizona State University with a Bachelor of Science in American Indian Law and is also pursuing an M.L.S degree from the Sandra Day O’Connor School of Law at Arizona State, with a focus on Tribal Law and Corporate Compliance. In her spare time, she likes to read, do jigsaw puzzles, go for long early morning walks, spend time with family and friends, and try new places around town. She works in finance and currently lives in Scottsdale with her Jack Russell Terrier, Dolly.

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TW: sex, drugs, alcohol abuse 

Friday, August 18, 2023

Book Review: The Beach House


By Sara Steven

It should have been the perfect weekend… Work colleagues Nicole, Margo, Paisley and Audrey all appear to be looking forward to a weekend away at Nicole’s luxurious beach house on the Dorset coast. It should be a chance for the women to kick back, relax and regroup after a stressful moment at work. But this is no normal girls’ getaway. And the beach house is no normal home. This place holds dark secrets for Nicole, which threaten to be revealed when its doors are opened. And unbeknownst to host Nicole, each of the three other guests all have secrets of their own…and some of them could be deadly. (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads.)

From the get-go, I could feel the suspenseful undertones to The Beach House. Each woman carries a secret with them when they all meet up for a weekend getaway, and as the story progresses, it’s told from each one’s perspective, chapter by chapter, with a few chapters sprinkled in that focus on an ill-fated party they’d all attended in the past. 

The present-time reflection vs. the past really helped to clarify so much, particularly when explaining the various secrets that have been kept hidden. And for good reason. Each one could damage not only the characters who hold them, but the others who are at the beach house. I could feel the uncomfortable vibes that can only come from being work colleagues who are sprung into such a unique, bizarre situation. I also think the author did a great job showcasing the various emotional vibes they’re all dealing with. Nicole seeks comfort from the beach house, yet for so many reasons, it’s hard for her to do. Margo has seen too much, while Paisley is struggling to work through an incident that was out of her control, with proof of those repercussions. Audrey seems to be in the wrong place at the right time, or maybe it’s the right place at the wrong time? There is in-depth character development that fits each person quite well. 

My only wish would be for better pacing within The Beach House. It seemed the suspense could be dragged out too slowly at times, when I really wanted it to be sped up a little more, particularly when many chapters would end with a precursor to what was to come. But the characters within it really made up for the slow pacing, because the reader can easily become invested in what is happening, and where the plot is headed. 

Ultimately, I had a pretty good idea about the twists that were ahead, but I still wanted to see what would happen next, and how the women would handle what was thrown at them. The Beach House was an enjoyable, suspenseful experience.   

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

Purchase Links: 
Amazon US * Amazon UK * Apple * Barnes & Noble

Nina Manning studied psychology and was a restaurant-owner and private chef (including to members of the royal family). She is the founder and co-host of Sniffing The Pages, a book review podcast. Her debut psychological thriller, The Daughter in Law, was a bestseller in the UK, US, Australia and Canada. She lives in Dorset.

Visit Nina online:
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Thursday, August 17, 2023

Spotlight and Giveaway: Magnolia Parks

The Magnolia Parks Universe (MPU) series has taken BookTok by storm with over 110 million TikTok views and obsessive fan clubs in the US, UK, and around the world. The series is like Gossip Girl for adults with a glamorous London makeover, plenty of drama, and high-fashion intrigue on every page. Thanks to Dutton, we have THREE sets of the first two books to give away! 


“How many loves do you get in a lifetime?”

She is a beautiful, affluent, self-involved, and mildly neurotic London socialite. He is Britain’s most photographed bad boy who broke her heart.

Magnolia Parks and BJ Ballentine are meant to be, and everyone knows it.

She dates other people to keep him at bay; he sleeps with other girls to get back at her for it. But at the end of every sad endeavor to get over one another, it’s still each other they crawl back to.

But now their dysfunction is catching up with them, pulling at their seams and fraying the world they’ve built; a world where neither has ever let the other go completely.

As the cracks start to show and secrets begin to surface, Magnolia and BJ are finally forced to face the formidable question they’ve been avoiding all their lives: How many loves do you really get in a lifetime?

All twenty-year-old Daisy Haites has ever wanted is a normal life, but as the heiress to London’s most notorious criminal empire, it’s just not in the cards for her.

Raised by her older brother, Julian, after their parents were murdered, Daisy has never been able to escape the watchful gaze of her gang-lord brother. But Julian’s line of work means that Daisy’s life is . . . complicated.

And things don’t become any easier when she falls hard for the beautiful and emotionally unavailable Christian Hemmes, who happens to be one of the few men in London who doesn’t answer to Julian.

Christian’s life is no walk in the park either, since he’s in love with his best friend’s girlfriend, Magnolia Parks.

He’s happy enough to use Daisy to throw off the scent of his true affections—until she starts to infiltrate those, too.

As their romance blossoms into something neither was anticipating, Daisy and Christian must come to terms with the fact that in this life everything comes at a price. Relationships intersect and tangle, and Daisy, Christian, and Julian will learn that sometimes life’s most worthwhile pursuits can only be paid in blood.

Credit: Barrett Lobaugh
on behalf of Avenir
Jessa Hastings
is an Australian native who now lives in Southern California with her husband, two children, her beautiful, clingy dog, and two cats. She’s quite a bad sleeper but hopes this won’t be her lot in life forever; she has a busy brain, cannot do her hair to save her life, and has some intense anxieties about certain foods mixing or touching. Magnolia Parks was her debut novel and she is grateful for and delighted by all the girls who yell at her on the internet on a daily basis regarding this novel. She hopes they know they changed her life by loving her imaginary friends.

Visit Jessa online:

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 22nd at midnight EST.

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Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Book Review: The Book of Silver Linings

By Allyson Bales

Constance Sparks always says yes…when her capricious best friend needs money; when her boss gives her more responsibility without a raise; and when her boyfriend, Hayden, who is very kind but also secretive, asks her to marry him.

While planning their wedding—and struggling with anxiety about the right course for her future—Constance researches the history of her antique engagement ring and unearths the name of a man who might be connected to it, plus his tragic love story. When she finds a book of letters in her library’s old manuscript section written by the long-dead man, Constance is deeply touched by his words and leaves a note for him confessing her uncertainty and doubts. She’s shocked days later to find a response tucked among the pages.

As the notes continue to arrive, Constance finds herself quickly falling in love with a ghost and putting her real-life relationship in jeopardy. Will a bond based on letters impossibly sent from the past derail her future? Or will Constance discover her voice and risk everything for the chance to somehow connect with her true soul mate? (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

I read Some of It Was Real last summer and immediately fell in love with Nan Fischer’s writing. It is thoughtful, enthralling, and helped me to reflect on my own life in a very meaningful way.  Not only is her writing deeply touching but Nan is an amazing human.  I reached out via instagram to gush to her about her story and was met with such genuine kindness.  Nan has given me book recommendations and is so approachable, which is not always the case with authors on social media.

After Some of It Was Real, I couldn’t WAIT to get my hands on The Book Of Silver Linings.  It has been one of my most anticipated books of the year!  The story follows Constance, a woman that is always saying yes to everyone no matter the imposition and always putting others first, the ultimate people pleaser.  Constance gets engaged to Hayden, who gives her the most beautiful engagement ring, one that he definitely shouldn’t be able to afford, and Constance finds out has some pretty significant history. She goes on a journey of discovery not just about the background of the ring but also about herself. 

This story is the perfect blend of women’s fiction, historical fiction, and romance with a dash of magic that was incredibly heartwarming and engaging.  I fell in love with Constance and her best friend Mars.  I love that Constance volunteers at an animal shelter and all of the other story lines that emerge and make this such a layered and fun read!  This is a little under 400 pages but I needed to know what happened to Constance and found myself reading late into the night to find out! 

There are beautiful themes of resilience, loving yourself, and believing in yourself, that so many people can relate to.  I have struggled many times in my life with not knowing my own self worth and being afraid to really take a chance and Constance really reflected back to me what a tough process that can be to navigate but also so very rewarding.   I also really loved the exploration of what it means to really know what is your raison d'ĂȘtre.  How many of us lose sight of that and forget what our passions are?  

This story is one that you will love if you’re an animal lover (you HAVE to meet Growler); sweet grandfathers, best friends that are always rooting for you, and you're a kind person that perhaps needs that little push to go for what you want!

“I believe that life, at its essence, is about the people we have touched with acts of service and kindness.”

Thank you Nan, for writing another beautiful story that will mean so much to so many!

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

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