Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Reviews at Amazon--September/October 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:

Love Notes by Aimee Brown

I'm Not Done With You Yet by Jesse Q. Sutanto

Accidentally in Love by Danielle Jackson

It Could Never Happen Here by Eithne Shortall

Texas Rose Happily Ever After by Katie Graykowski

Melissa:

Behind the Scenes by Karelia Stetz-Waters

Have You Seen Her by Catherine McKenzie

Don't Forget to Write by Sara Goodman Confino

Mighty Gorgeous by Amy Ferris

The Breakaway by Jennifer Weiner

The Mother Next Door by Leah Mercer

The Hollywood Jinx by Sariah Wilson

Someone Just Like You by Meredith Schorr

Unorthodox Love by Heidi Shertok

New Adult by Timothy Janovsky

The Trail of Lost Hearts by Tracey Garvis Graves


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Robin Lefler is the voice of reason...plus a book giveaway

Credit: Alex Dekker
Happy Halloween! đŸ‘» We have a fun TREAT for you.

Today we welcome Robin Lefler, whose debut rom-com, Reasonable Adults, released last week. This sounds like a fun story and we enjoyed chatting with Robin about it, along with some other things. Thanks to Kensington, we have FIVE copies to give away!


Robin Lefler lives near Toronto with her husband, two children, and an anxious goldendoodle. Over the course of a career in tech, she has traveled the globe but generally prefers to be at home, where she can easily locate coffee, wine, and high-quality waffles.

After high school, Robin spent one semester attempting to become an English teacher before settling on equine massage therapy as her career of choice. She graduated two years later and made the only reasonable choice, fleeing to Australia. Doing everything from leading trail rides through rainforests to being a fit model for a clothing company catering to women of retirement age, Robin continued to fail at finding her life’s work and eventually returned to Canada.

Throughout this time (and, like so many, for as long as she can remember) Robin wrote. Short stories, blog posts, the first fifteen pages of countless novels. After stumbling into a job in tech sales, she experienced publication for the first time – a personal essay about buying her first home in The Globe & Mail. More than a decade later, Robin found the gumption to push past those first fifteen pages... (Bio adapted from Robin's website.) 

Visit Robin at her website and on Instagram.


Synopsis:
The morning after a humiliating post-breakup social media post (#sponsoredbywine), Kate Rigsby learns she’s lost her marketing job along with her almost-fiancĂ©. Worse, she realizes how little she truly cared about either. Craving a reset, Kate flees the big-city life she spent many years building—and almost as many doubting—to take a temporary gig at Treetops, a swanky, off-the-grid creative retreat in Muskoka, complete with meditation circles, deluxe spa, and artisanal cocktails. At least, that’s what the brochure promises. . . 

The reality is a struggling resort that’s stuck in the 1990s, fax machine included. Kate’s office is a bunker, her boss is a nightmare, and at night she shares a freezing hut with her seventy-pound Goldendoodle. Then there’s the sexy, off-limits coworker whose easy smile and lumberjack forearms are distracting Kate from the already near-impossible task of making this snowbound oasis profitable.

On the upside, the surroundings are breathtaking. The Treetops crew is quirky and (mostly) kind. And somehow, Kate’s starting to feel new enthusiasm for her career—and her life. In fact, she’s daring to challenge herself in ways she never dreamed of before.

With wit and heart, Reasonable Adults explores the crossroads we all face—and how a detour born of disaster can take us just where we need to go. (Courtesy of Amazon.)

"Reasonable Adults has everything I look for in a rom com; a relatable heroine, dialogue that zings, an original setting and most importantly - a dog. This is fresh, fun, feel-good fiction." 
—Sophie Cousens, New York Times bestselling author of This Time Next Year
  
"Reasonable Adults is smart, romantic comedy filled with madcap moments that will leave you laughing out loud. An absolute delight!" 
—Trish Doller, international bestselling author of The Suite Spot
 
"A sparkling debut novel about reinvention, self-discovery, and second chances. With a memorable setting at a troubled artists’ colony, a quirky cast of characters, and a double serving of romance and redemption, Reasonable Adults is sure to satisfy.” 
—Kate Hilton, author of Better Luck Next Time
 
In one sentence, what was the road to publishing like for you?
Much faster than expected and just as emotional as I thought it would be.

How is Kate similar to or different from you?
When I was writing Reasonable Adults it sometimes felt like Kate was just me wearing a costume. As my drafts progressed, her character gained more of her own identity, but we still have quite a bit in common. 

Kate shares my love of dogs and tendency to deflect conflict with jokes. She tends to be ready with the witty rejoinders I always come up with much too late. We’re both ambitious while also feeling a bit at sea when it comes to the expectations around Being a Grown Up. Like Kate, I found an unsuspecting group of people in my thirties who became “my people” and it changed everything.

If Reasonable Adults were made into a movie, who would you cast in the leading roles?
Oh gosh. The amount of time I’ve spent thinking about this over the past couple years! For me, so much of Kate’s charm is in her wry humor and the ability to deliver lines in what I imagine as her tone. I always hear Emma Stone.

For Matt, I’d go with Luke Grimes. I think he’d really pull off Matt’s low-key-yet-emotionally-invested vibe. 

Share a favorite Halloween memory.
When I was five or six I decided at the last minute (like, at dinner before we were going trick or treating) that I wanted to dress up as an angel. I remember my dad fighting to shape wire coat hangers and slide pantyhose over them to make my wings, and how absolutely thrilled I was with the results. As a parent, I can only imagine how frustrated he was to be doing that when we probably should already have been out the door, but he did it. And (as I remember it) he didn’t complain about it (to me). Man, I loved those wings.

If your life were a TV series, which celebrity would you want to narrate it? 

Part of me wants to say David Attenborough because he’s so very charming and I often feel like I’m in suburban life or death situations (“One might think the climbing structure suitable for a child of this age, given her confidence and apparent dexterity. She will soon learn twisty slides are best left to those with a more developed sense of limb coordination. Her mother watches, anxious.”). BUT. Truly, it would need to be Catherine O’Hara.

What is the last movie you saw that you would recommend?
Admittedly, I rarely watch TV or movies these days, but I did make sure to check out Happiness for Beginners, based on Katherine Center’s wonderful novel of the same name and it was LOVELY. Highly recommend for fans of romcoms.

Thanks to Robin for visiting with us and to Kensington 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 November 5th at midnight EST.

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Monday, October 30, 2023

Book Review: Chasing Dreams at Wagging Tails Dogs' Home

 


By Sara Steven

After a difficult break-up, Poppy is keen to put the past behind her and what’s better than some relaxing time with her aunt in the picturesque Cornish village of West Par. Life at her aunt Flora’s Dogs’ Home is anything but relaxing. When a poor little pup is stranded at the gates, Poppy takes them for a check up at the local vet, hoping against hope they'll be fine. And there she meets the vet who is so charming and experienced with the dogs, but selfish and – dare she say it – money-grabbing with his clients. But underneath that cold exterior, she's sure there's more to the story. If only she could convince him to open up. Because without him, the future of Wagging Tails isn't so assured… (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads.)

I love the Wagging Tails series! Having read the first book, The Wagging Tails Dogs’ Home (reviewed here), I was excited to learn more about another character who is connected to this rescue. Poppy is Flora’s niece and can recall good times spent with her aunt, moments and memories that really helped to give Poppy a solid foundation in life when she felt she needed it the most. It’s what propels her to return to the Dogs’ Home, in order to in some ways, find herself again. I thought it was interesting that we learn more about the close relationship she shares with her aunt, a motherly figure who has always provided and taken care of her, yet now, it’s Poppy who comes to her aunt’s rescue, a change in familial responsibility. 

Along the way Poppy familiarizes herself with the other members of the Dogs’ Home, many of which she remembers as fixtures of her childhood. I thought that was a nice touch, aiding in Poppy’s need to find a place to grow roots. The Dogs' Home has always had arrangements with local vet clinics in order to provide for the animals, by way of reduced medical treatments and medicine. Yet the head vet at one clinic in particular has moved on, with the new vet (Mack) refusing to budge on offering any additional assistance or price breaks for the Dogs' Home. I could completely relate with how frustrated Poppy feels towards Mack. The reasons behind Mack’s choices are easily explained, but I sided with Poppy on this one.

When Flora finds herself in dire straits, it only adds to the tension between Poppy and Mack. Despite how wonderful he could potentially seem beneath the surface, it’s hard to overlook the steps that have led to Flora’s predicament. Poppy is often torn between pummeling Mack, and kissing him, an interesting juxtaposition. The budding romance between the two of them was simplistically sweet and adorable, and it was fun to see where it might lead, all things considered. I enjoyed the romantic angle, but the one I was more drawn to was the tight bond between Poppy and Flora. The role reversal between the two of them, with Flora needing to learn to accept help, and Poppy stepping in and doing what she feels she needs to do for her loved one, was pure magic. 

I liked this book just as much as I enjoyed the first one–I’m a huge animal lover, and this really hit the spot with fulfilling my need to see sweet animals loved and provided for, while also getting a taste of romance as well as familial bonds. It was a worthy five-star addition!

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

Sarah Hope is the author of many successful romance novels, including the bestselling Cornish Bakery series.

Visit Sarah online:
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Friday, October 27, 2023

Book Review: Next-Door Nemesis

By Sara Steven

Two rival candidates for a homeowner’s association presidency are about to find out how dirty suburbanites fight in this steamy new romantic comedy from Alexa Martin.

After years of hustling, Collins Carter has finally made it...back to her parents’ house. Between tending to the compost with her newly retired dad and running into her high school nemesis at the only decent coffee shop in town, Collins realizes this subdivision from hell she swore she’d never return to is her rock bottom.

Then the homeowner’s association complaint arrived.

Nathaniel Adams always dreamed of a nice, quiet life in his suburban hometown. Or at least that’s what he thought until Collins moved back and sent his quaint, organized life into a tailspin. He thought Collins was infuriating ten years ago, but when she announces she’s running against him for HOA president, all bets are off.

From secret board meetings to vicious smear campaigns whispered over backyard fences, Collins and Nate sink to levels their sleepy suburb has never seen before. But as hate turns into lust, these two enemies are forced to reckon with the feelings they’ve ignored for years. If only there were bylaws for real life. (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads.)

I love it when an author can take a more benign topic idea like a homeowner’s association, and turn it into a magnanimous experience! I really had so much fun reading Next-Door Nemesis. The banter alone between Collins and Nate could not have been any better. They have the added benefit of knowing each other for decades, which means there is familiarity there, blended in with the surprise factor of coming together again after not seeing each other for a decade, plus some serious misconstrued situations that had prematurely ended the friendship, leaving both characters with unresolved issues. It made for some explosive experiences and moments.

Collins originally had no intention of running for HOA president.  But after dealing with Nate and his passive-aggressive behavior, she decides to run against him, which only infuriates Nate all the more. The synopsis indicates that the hate they have for one another turns to lust, but I think the lust factor has always been there, lurking beneath the surface, just waiting for its moment to shine. I appreciated the realism behind such moments, too. At one point, Collins reflects on how Nate looks like your average guy, without the six pack abs or giant guns for arms you’d come to expect from the typical love interest found in most other rom-com novels. Nate is a “real guy,” which endeared me to him even more, and the same could be said for Collins, who wants the real guy. 

Sometimes a change of scenery is what is most needed in order to move on and heal from certain events in our lives. That’s the feeling I got from Collins and her experience of being back in her hometown, living with her parents. She discovers that in some ways, Nate is working through that, too. It was nice to see it unravel a little at a time, with the truth about why they are there and in the situations they’ve found themselves in, a revelation much-needed in order to try to salvage their friendship and the possibility of going beyond that.   

Ultimately, who is going to win the race for HOA president? And, how will that factor into repairing their relationship? I loved finding out the outcome while envisioning Collins’ eye rolls when Nate says something she deems obnoxious, and Nate’s heavy sighs when Collins does something to annoy him. So much banter and humor. It was a well worth it five-star read!

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

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Thursday, October 26, 2023

Spotlight and Giveaway: What Wild Women Do

Today we're excited to feature Karma Brown's latest novel, What Wild Women Do, which released this week! It's been a while since we last got to feature a book by Karma, but she did write two delightful Christmas novels with Marissa Stapley under the name Maggie Knox. Thanks to Kathleen Carter Communications, we have THREE copies for some lucky readers!

Rowan is stuck. Her dreams of becoming a screenwriter are stalled, along with her bank account, as she and her fiancĂ©, Seth, try to make sense of what’s next for them after leaving LA. But when the couple takes a trip to a cabin in the Adirondacks, hoping the change will provide inspiration for Seth’s novel-in-progress, Rowan finds herself drawn into a story greater than her own—that of socialite-turned-feminist-crusader Eddie Calloway, who vanished one day in 1975 and was never found or heard from again. In a handbook left behind in the abandoned ruins of a once-great camp, Rowan learns more about the enigmatic Eddie and clues as to what happened to her.

As Rowan delves deeper into the mystery, we meet Eddie herself, a fierce and loving woman whose greatest wish was to host women at her camp and unlock their “wildness.” However, Eddie’s wild ways aren’t welcomed by everyone, and rifts between camp owners threaten her mission. When Rowan gets closer to the truth of Eddie’s disappearance, she realizes that it may hold the key to unlocking her own ambition and future.

WHAT WILD WOMEN DO addresses feminism, friendship, and the creative spirit. It’s also in part a love letter to Karma Brown’s 1970s hippie-infused childhood and the fond memories from the time she spent at the Great Camp Sagamore in the Adirondacks, which had originally belonged to the gilded Vanderbilt family.

“A story of self-discovery in a gorgeously-drawn setting, What Wild Women Do isn’t afraid to confront the bold choices women must make sometimes, and its dual-timeline heroines are both perfectly suited for the job. Karma Brown’s latest is a heartfelt exploration into the importance of honesty, legacy, and being true to one’s self.”
—Shelby Van Pelt, New York Times bestselling author of Remarkably Bright Creatures

"What Wild Women Do is a total joy to read—it’s mysterious, atmospheric and pacey, with heaps of heart and soul. Rowan and Eddie are two women to root for, each on their own soul-searching journey of independence and a reckoning with their past. An uplifting celebration of women, and the courage it takes to find one’s true self."
—Ashley Audrain, New York Times bestselling author of The Push

“Brown’s latest is a remarkable story of two complicated women, almost fifty years apart, trying to make a mark in a world that often demeans and trivializes their dreams. Set in the lush Adirondack forest, the story addresses feminism, friendship, and the creative spirit, and is guaranteed to keep readers guessing until the very end. A terrific read.”
—Fiona Davis, New York Times bestselling author of The Spectacular


Karma Brown is the author of seven bestselling novels, including the #1 international and USA Today bestseller Recipe for a Perfect Wife and her debut, Come Away with Me, a Globe and Mail Best Book of 2015. She is also the author of the non-fiction bestseller The 4% Fix: How One Hour Can Change Your Life, and has co-authored two bestselling holiday rom-coms under the pen name Maggie Knox. An award-winning journalist, Karma has been published in SELF, Redbook, and Today's Parent, among others. She lives just outside Toronto with her husband, daughter, and a Labradoodle named Fred. Visit Karma on Twitter and 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 31st at midnight EST.

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Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Book Review: The Hike

By Becky Gulc

‘THE PERFECT DAY FOR A HIKE

Seeking the escape of a lifetime, four friends hike out into the beautiful Norwegian wild – nothing between them and the mountain peak but forest, sea and sharp blue sky.

THE PERFECT PLACE TO DISAPPEAR

But there’s a darker side to the wilderness. A woman went missing here one year ago. Now the friends are hiking into the heart of the mystery. And waiting on the trail is someone who’d do anything to keep their secrets buried – and to stop the group walking away alive . . .’ (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon UK.)

Maggie, Liz, Helena & Joni are old friends and each year one of them takes a turn to choose what kind of holiday they will have. This year it’s Liz’s turn and she’s chosen something a bit different from the norm, climbing adventures in the Norwegian wilderness, in particular climbing Blafjell mountain. This is a challenge and a half for these friends but Liz is hoping the challenge will help her forget about her worries at home. Each of the friends have something going on in their lives they’re working through and this trek is going to challenge each one of them in every way possible, particularly when things start to go wrong, and suppressed niggles between the four inevitably come to the surface.

Lucy writes ‘destination thrillers’ and I do increasingly enjoy books like this, which transport the reader so well to another place that you’ve never visited, whilst throwing in a good dose of suspense and trepidation about how the plot will unfold. The pace of this book was just right; you become wary of what will unfold quite early on but not before soaking up the setting and friendships, and get a sense of each of the main characters. You quickly become suspicious of certain characters, then not suspicious, then suspicious again!.

The narrative is very clever, we know early on that someone is in danger, that someone went missing a year ago, and I don’t want to say anymore as a spoiler other than this was a great twist. I also enjoyed how we got to know each of the women more, along with their back stories as the book unfolded. This really is an adventure which is going to test friendships and I felt how the story unfolded was the right way for the group, but not one I ever saw coming. 

Lucy’s writing really excels at making you feel claustrophobic in a vast setting, I really felt on edge and was hooked with this book. This was the first of Lucy’s books I’ve read, but it won’t be the last. 

Thanks to Putnam for the book in exchange for an honest review. Purchase The Hike here.

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Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Sharing joys with Emma Noyes...plus a book giveaway

Credit: Magdalena Iskra
Today we are pleased to welcome Emma Noyes to CLC. We are celebrating the publication of her debut adult novel, Guy's Girl. We enjoyed getting to know Emma and gearing up for Halloween with her. Thanks to Berkley, we have one copy of Guy's Girl for a lucky reader!

Emma Noyes told her mother she wanted to be an author when she was six. She grew up in a suburb outside Chicago and attended Harvard University, where she studied history & literature. She started her career at a beer company, but left because she wanted to write about mermaids and witches—eventually publishing her first YA fantasy series, The Sunken City. She now lives in Chicago with her Swedish boyfriend and miniature Pomeranian. 

Visit Emma online:
Website * Instagram * TikTok


Synopsis:
Ginny Murphy is a total guy’s girl. She’s always found friendships with boys easier to form and keep drama-free – as long as they don’t fall for her, and she doesn’t fall for them. She and her best guy friends have stuck to that. But then she meets Adrian Silvas, the only one who’s ever made her crave more, and Ginny begins to question her own rules. 

Piece by piece, Ginny and Adrian begin to fall into something intoxicating, something dangerous. Ginny threatens to destroy the belief Adrian's held ever since witnessing his own mother’s heartbreak: that love isn’t worth the risk. For Ginny, the stakes could be even higher. Letting Adrian get close could mean exposing a secret she’s long protected: her disordered eating.

"Emma Noyes' stunning adult debut is raw, real, and an emotional page-turner that will stay with you long after the last page. This love story is a must read."
—Krista & Becca Ritchie, New York Times bestselling authors

"Heartbreaking and romantic, Guy’s Girl is a beautifully written and authentically raw story about the human journey through trauma, self-exploration and self-love."
—Samantha Young, New York Times & USA Today bestselling author

"Emma Noyes completely captivated me with her spectacular debut! Guy's Girl is an honest, no-holds-barred look at life as a twenty something struggling to find love and find herself. Noyes deftly handles incredibly tough topics with care and sincerity, culminating in a sparkling work of fiction that I could not stop thinking about. This one stuck with me long after I finished the final page!"
—Falon Ballard, author of Just My Type

In one sentence, what was the road to publishing like for you?
You know the movie Mad Max: Fury Road?

How is Ginny similar to or different from you?

Oh, this is hard. Because Ginny goes through so many of the things that I’ve also experienced, there was quite a bit of blurring the lines between fiction and reality for this book. We’re alike in the obvious ways such as recovery from eating disorders and finding it easier to make friends with guys rather than girls, but there was quite a bit of fantasy that went into creating her character, too. When I wrote her ending, I was writing the ending I also wanted for myself (and that I certainly hadn’t found yet).

If Guy's Girl were made into a movie, who would you cast in the leading roles?
I love this question. I think about it all the time. My dream Adrian is Timothee Chalamet, without question. Ginny is a bit tougher—maybe Elle Fanning? I loved The Great so much. She’s astonishing in it. Additionally, I would write myself in as an extra in the Hungary scenes so I would have an excuse to go back to Budapest. Tehe.

Which TV series are you currently binge watching?

I am always, at any given moment, either fully or sort-of watching The Vampire Diaries. Since it’s autumn right now (aka vampire season) and my fiancĂ© is a good sport, we’re already on season five.

Share a funny Halloween memory with us.
Here’s one: In a closet in my childhood home, we have a life-size gorilla costume that my brother John always wore for Halloween. Once he was old enough to stay home and give out candy instead of trick-or-treating, he used to put the gorilla costume on and sit completely still next to the front door, pretending to be a decoration. Then, when kids drew near and reached for the doorbell, he would leap up from his chair and scare the living daylights out of them. It was hilarious to watch. 

What is your favorite candy to receive on Halloween?

Reese’s cups!!! 

Thanks to Emma for chatting with us and to Berkley 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 29th at midnight EST.

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Monday, October 23, 2023

Book Review: Blood Sisters

By Melissa Smoot

There are secrets in the land.

As an archeologist for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Syd Walker spends her days in Rhode Island trying to protect the land's indigenous past, even as she’s escaping her own.

While Syd is dedicated to her job, she’s haunted by a night of violence she barely escaped in her Oklahoma hometown fifteen years ago. Though she swore she’d never go back, the past comes calling.

When a skull is found near the crime scene of her youth, just as her sister, Emma Lou, vanishes, Syd knows she must return home. She refuses to let her sister's disappearance, or the remains, go ignored—as so often happens in cases of missing Native women.

But not everyone is glad to have Syd home, and she can feel the crosshairs on her. Still, the deeper Syd digs, the more she uncovers about a string of missing indigenous women cases going back decades. To save her sister, she must expose a darkness in the town that no one wants to face—not even Syd. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

Blood Sisters is about a Cherokee woman, Syd Walker, who grew up in Northeastern Oklahoma. Syd has since left her small town and moved to Rhode Island where she works as an Archeologist for the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). Syd spends her workdays searching for answers in the cases of missing Indigenous women and girls, some going back decades.

Syd gets a call from back home about a skull that was found near a crime scene that she has tried to move on from for the past 15 years, she must return to Oklahoma to help solve the mystery, just as her sister, Emma Lou, goes missing. The last thing Syd wants to do is go back to the place where she and her sister almost lost their lives in a traumatic night of violence.

The story takes many frenetic twists and turns and has Syd suspicious of everyone she meets, in her hometown. Who is hiding what really happened to Emma Lou and who can she trust?

By the time I was a third of the way through the book, I couldn’t wait until I could sneak away to devour more and find out who was behind the disappearance of Emma Lou and all the girls who had vanished before her. Up until the very end I was on the edge of my seat.

 I have been very fortunate to have read and reviewed so many wonderful books this year, and this one is no different. I really connected with this story. As a member of the Muskogee Creek Tribe, also located in Oklahoma, the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous Women and Children is something I feel deeply about.

This story is worth a read. It is filled with history, friendship, suspense, and the ups and downs of family bonds as well as small town roots. I really hope someone options this book for a movie, I would be first in line to watch.

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

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Friday, October 20, 2023

What's in the (e)mail?

Melissa:
Becoming Ted by Matt Cain from Kensington (NetGalley)
At Her Service by Amy Spalding from Kensington (NetGalley)
A Friend in the Dark by Samantha Bailey from Thriller Book Lovers (NetGalley)
The Last Love Song by Kalie Holford from Blackstone (NetGalley)
On Her Own by Lihi Lapid from HarperVia (NetGalley)
Sylvia's Second Act by Hillary Yablon from Viking (NetGalley)
Canadian Boyfriend by Jenny Holiday from Forever (NetGalley)
The Magic All Around by Jennifer Moorman from Wunderkind (NetGalley)
Karma Under Fire by Love Hudson-Maggio from Wunderkind (ebook)

Sara:
The Last Phone Booth in Manhattan by/from Beth Merlin and Danielle Modafferi (NetGalley)
When Grumpy Met Sunshine by Charlotte Stein from St. Martin's Press (NetGalley)
The Impossible Search for the Perfect Man by Debbie Howells from Rachel's Random Resources (NetGalley)
Can't Take My Eyes Off You by Aimee Brown from Rachel's Random Resources (NetGalley)
Nowhere Like Home by Sara Shepard from Dutton (NetGalley)
Murder at the Matterhorn by T.A. Williams from Rachel's Random Resources (NetGalley)

Allyson:
An Enchanting Case of Spirits by Melissa Holtz from Berkley (NetGalley)
Crow Talk by Eileen Garvin from Dutton (NetGalley)
Happy Medium by Sarah Adler from Berkley (NetGalley)

Jami:
The Devil and Mrs. Davenport by Paulette Kennedy from Over the River PR (NetGalley)
The Good, the Bad, and the Aunties by Jesse Q. Sutanto from Berkley (NetGalley)
Baby X by Kira Peikoff from Meryl Moss Media Group (NetGalley)




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Book Review and Giveaway: What You Do to Me

By Melissa Amster

Journalist Cecilia James is a sucker for a love song. So when she stumbles across a clue to the identity of the muse for one of rock’s greatest, she devotes herself to uncovering the truth, even as her own relationship is falling apart.

While writing an article for Rolling Stone, Cecilia works to reveal the mystery that has intrigued fans and discovers a classic tale of two soulmates separated by fate and circumstance. Rock star Eddie Vee once sang with his soul, dedicating love songs to Sara Friedman, his inspiration and first love. Now, Eddie takes refuge in anonymity, closed off to the past. Sara, too, has distanced herself from their love, moving thousands of miles away to live the life she once railed against. As Eddie and Sara tentatively open up to Cecilia about broken dreams, she struggles to give them a happy ending. In the process, she learns that broken hearts can be healed—even her own.

What You Do To Me is the story of a love song and of the triumph of the heart over the greatest of odds. Even for those who have written off love forever. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

What You Do to Me is the third book I have read by Rochelle B. Weinstein. While I enjoyed her previous two novels, this one is definitely a favorite for me! I will, however, admit that I am not a fan of the song "Hey There, Delilah." It's a huge earworm and it was so overplayed. I like how Rochelle made it into an eighties ballad by changing the title of the song and giving a different meaning behind it. I would love to have heard this reworked version. 

I just loved reading about Cecilia's quest to reunite lovers because of a song and also getting the backstory from the muse's perspective. There are some Jewish elements to this story, which I definitely appreciated. And having visited Surfside a few years ago, it was easy to visualize that area. Sara and Eddie's story made me think of She's Up to No Good by Sara Goodman Confino. So fans of that novel (which also had a dual timeline), will definitely appreciate this one.

The only thing that didn't work for me was not knowing why the pivotal incident happened at the Miami concert. It just seems like it came out of nowhere, for no particular reason. It would have been interesting to learn why situations like that happen in the first place and how to prevent or avoid them. 

Overall, the story was just so amazing and well-told. It was actually haunting in some ways. I also love that it took place during the nineties, as that's my favorite decade for music. And Cecilia's job sounded really cool. I highly recommend it and I know you won't be able to put it down either!

(Trigger warning at the bottom of this post.)

Movie casting suggestions:
Cecilia: Victoria Pedretti
Pete: Dacre Montgomery
Don: Michael Raymond-James
Tori: Lyndsy Fonseca
Eddie (1979): Enrique Arrizon
Sara (1979): Iris Apatow

Thanks to Get Red PR for the book in exchange for an honest review. They have one copy 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 October 25th at midnight EST.

More by Rochelle B. Weinstein:


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TW: alcoholism, drug abuse, parental alienation 

Thursday, October 19, 2023

Erin Hahn is the friend we all need...plus a book giveaway


We are happy to introduce you to Erin Hahn, whose latest rom-com, Friends Don't Fall in Love, is now available. You don't have to like country music to enjoy this story, but you may find yourself listening to it when you're done! Thanks to St. Martin's Press, we have one copy for a lucky reader!

Erin Hahn is the author of the young adult novels You'd Be Mine, More Than Maybe, and Never Saw You Coming as well as the adult romance Built to Last. Romance is her vibe, grunge is her soundtrack and fall is her signature color. She fell for her flannel-clad college sweetheart the very first day of school and together, they have two hilarious kids who keep her humble. She lives outside Ann Arbor, Michigan, and has a cat named Gus who plays fetch and a dog named June who doesn't. Visit Erin at her website and on Instagram.


Synopsis:
Lorelai Jones had it all: a thriving country music career and a superstar fiancĂ©. Then she played one teenie tiny protest song at a concert and ruined her entire future, including her impending celebrity marriage. But five years later, she refuses to be done with her dreams and calls up the one person who stuck by her, her dear friend and her former fiancĂ©’s co-writer and bandmate, Craig.

Craig Boseman’s held a torch for Lorelai for years, but even he knows the backup bass player never gets the girl. Things are different now, though. Craig owns his own indie record label and his songwriting career is taking off. If he can confront his past and embrace his gifts, he might just be able to help Lorelai earn the comeback she deserves—and maybe win her heart in the process.

But when the two reunite to rebuild her career and finally scratch that itch that’s been building between them for years, Lorelai realizes a lot about what friends don’t do. For one, friends don’t have scratch-that-itch sex. They also don’t almost-kiss on street corners, publish secret erotic poetry about each other, have counter-top sex, write songs for each other, have no-strings motorcycle sex, or go on dates. And they sure as heck don't fall in love... right?

"Hahn deserves a CMA (Country Music Association Award) for her insider's depiction of the industry in this thoroughly satisfying romance." 
- Booklist

"[T]akes readers behind the curtain of the country music industry in this sassy rom-com...Those most familiar with the country scene and its artists will especially appreciate how deeply the music and culture is woven into the plot." 
- Publishers Weekly

"A really fun rom-com that takes you behind the scenes of country music, with two characters that you really like, and root for. This one is a winner." 
- Red Carpet Crash

What is a favorite compliment you have received on your writing?
Isn’t it so ridiculous how hard it is to remember compliments? An easier question would be “the worst insult,” because I remember them all! But I think my favorite is when readers tell me they’ve looked up my characters on Spotify or YouTube, wanting to hear their songs, but forgetting for just a moment that they aren’t real. That’s beautiful to me.

If you could tell the debut novelist version of yourself one thing, what would it be?
Write for your readers, not for publishing. Publishing is always chasing the next big thing, but your readers will fall in love with what you bring to the table – your very specific and special brand of love story. They’ll sustain you through those rocky moments. Every time I read something along the lines of “I will read anything Erin Hahn writes” or “Erin Hahn’s characters always…” it warms me down to my bones to have that kind of connection with my readers.

If Friends Don't Fall in Love was made into a movie, who would you cast in the lead roles?

Oh gosh. This is a tough one! I’m going with my gut on this and say Jake Johnson (New Girl) as Craig Boseman and Julia Garner (Ozark) as Lorelai Jones. Julia might not look the way I imagine Lorelai, but she is phenomenal in playing fed up female characters. Her sass is top tier. 

What is your go-to autumn beverage?
Like Lorelai Jones, I’m celiac, so my autumn beverage is a (hot) chai latte with oat milk and several pumps of pumpkin spice syrup. 

If your life were a TV series, which celebrity would you want to narrate it?

I feel like Kate Winslet would be fab. She’s just so down to earth but sounds posh and also I think she would most properly convey the perfect amount of “dngaf” I’ve started to embrace in my 40s!

If we were to visit you right now, what are some places you would take us to see?
I’d take you around my backyard! Visit the chickens, pick some berries, chop some wood, swing on the big swing and then we can wander the meadow to the pond and look for turtles. Afterwards, we can crack open a bottle of wine and sit on my porch while listening to some country music. ☺

Thanks to Erin for visiting with us and to St. Martin's Press for sharing her book with our readers.

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

Giveaway ends October 24th at midnight EST.

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Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Sara and Melissa Talk About...Our Younger Years

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 what we were like when we were younger. 

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:

Since my oldest child just turned eighteen recently, I decided to focus on who I was at that age. Unlike my son, I started college a little after I turned eighteen. (My son missed the cutoff so he will start when he's nineteen.) I was doing my best to break away from who I was in high school and start fresh in a new environment. I still wanted to fit in and sometimes didn't make the best choices in that regard (not about the friends themselves, but what their interests were), but I learned quickly and found ways to be who I was without having to like the same things they did. I also started dating for the first time when I was eighteen and I was so naive about all that dating involved. (If you read the linked post, you'll see the thing I did to try to fit in.) 

Me at 18

However, I'm going to take things in a different direction now. Since it's almost Halloween, this is fitting for the topic at hand (technically we're doing a "time warp" here). When I was eighteen, I first started going to midnight showings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. That had a huge impact on my life! 

For a few weeks, I was going there just to watch and learn the callback lines. I gradually started meeting people who regularly attended. Then, one week at the end of my senior year of high school, they were having an audience night. It meant that audience members could play the characters in front of the screen, instead of the usual shadow cast. I just happened to be wearing a pink dress that night and they just happened to need someone to play Janet... It was an exhilarating night altogether (even after being called out as "the most innocent girl" by someone I knew from high school who was playing Rocky) and I went to a nearby diner afterward with the cast and ultimately made a new group of friends. However, that was my one and only time playing Janet because I was truly meant to play Magenta. I had the hair for it, after all! 

I loved wearing the makeup and putting together a costume for Magenta. It's such a fun role to play in a shadow cast too. Being Magenta allowed me to break away from who I was in high school and became part of my personality in college. My friends even called me Magenta and I used the name for my online handles. 

The hand belongs to a friend

In my adult years, I stopped going to Rocky Horror midnight showings after a while. First of all, the theater I went to regularly went under new management and stopped showing it. That was a devastating blow at the time. Then the cast kept migrating to different theaters and some were harder to access than others. I'm still friends with some people I knew from my Rocky Horror days and am thankful for that. 

Last year, I took my older son to see Rocky Horror a couple times. He had a blast and was laughing out loud from all the callback lines I still remembered (and there were a lot). We're hoping to go again closer to Halloween. I'm glad I can pass along my love to someone who used to call Frank N. Furter "Hot Dog the Frankenstein" when he was younger. 😅

Here's a little more about my experience with Rocky Horror, if you're interested.

And just for fun....


Sara Steven:

Last night, my eighteen year old drove us to the local supermarket in his 1992 yellow Mazda Miata, his very first car. I slid inside the tiny compact seating area, the faded hot leather seat barely cushioning me, feeling like I was practically on the ground with how low the car is. It smelled of exhaust and gas, immediately bringing me back to my teen years. When I told my son that it smelled like the nineties, he said, “It better. That was the best decade.” 

Can’t argue there. It really was the best decade. Despite all of the technological advancements and how I can’t seem to go anywhere anymore without my cell phone, I miss the days where I didn’t have to rely on that. When writing a letter and sending them out to my romantic crushes or my best friends meant something. When waiting for the mail and getting those types of letters in return felt meaningful and special. When using the computer meant writing papers or stories vs. sending emails or becoming engrossed in social media platforms. When life seemed a lot more simple.

My friends drove Honda Preludes and Ford Econoline vans, with the occasional VW slug bug thrown in for good measure. They smelled of gas and heat and lagging engines, much like my son’s car, but there was nothing better than getting the coveted passenger front seat after calling shotgun.

Riding along with my son made me think of myself at his age. I think I exuded a lot more confidence than I ever felt back in those days. 

Inside, I was very insecure and unsure of myself, not sure what I wanted out of life or what I wanted to be. For some reason, I thought I had to have it all figured out, but looking back as a parent of my own eighteen year old, I know at that age, we’re all still kids. Young adults, maybe, but still very much finding ourselves. 

I made myself appear to the outside world like I had my s--- together. There was obvious teen angst. But I wanted to grow up fast because that's what you do when you’re legally an adult. Or so I thought.

Deep down, I didn’t want to feel like I had to be responsible for everything, all the time, all at once. But being the firstborn in my family and handling a lot more than anyone should have ever had to deal with at that age, it was this sense of obligation. But it made me regress later on in my early twenties. It wasn’t until my own firstborn that I truly felt like I’d grown up. Having to take care of another human being can do that to a person.

In many ways, I’m still the same person I was back then. I still love fiercely and I am very protective of my family and my friendships. Many of my friends are my family. The picture seen here with the two young ladies in the photo–I’m still friends with both of them to this day. 

I’ve always had a great sense of humor–I know, I could be biased about that, but considering I’ve always been my own worst critic, I don’t think so. I enjoy comedy and anything remotely witty, and I still have one of the loudest laughs you’ll ever hear. The loud laugh runs in my family.

I’m still a sucker for nostalgia, which is why I covet opportunities to look back on my youth and reflect on those days, fleeting as they were. It went by fast but while living it, it felt like the years spanned decades, like I’d never get out of my grueling teens.

I wonder if my son feels that way. 

My boy's graduation day

My senior photo

What were you like when you were younger?

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