Friday, December 29, 2023

2023 top picks

There were so many great books published in 2023 that it was very hard to choose between the ones we read. Here are some of the books that topped our lists. (We limited ourselves to five each, at the most.) However, any book we gave glowing reviews and five stars to this year is definitely recommended for your TBR! 

**Links are to reviews**


Hello Stranger by Katherine Center

The Wife App by Carolyn Mackler

The Drowning Woman by Robyn Harding

Business or Pleasure by Rachel Lynn Solomon

The Mostly True Story of Tanner and Louise by Colleen Oakley

I read 100 books this year, most being contenders for these top five spots. I am featuring some other top picks for the year at my personal blog (those picks include YA reads, books that I also would have loved to include on this list, and books published in other years).


My Roommate Is a Vampire by Jenna Levine

Sammy Espinoza's Last Review by Tehlor Kay Mejia

The Blue Bar by Damyanti Biswas

When We Were Friends by Nancy Yeager

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

It was tough to narrow it down to just five!


How to Sell A Haunted House, Grady Hendrix: “Hendrix uses foreshadowing, symbolism, set-ups, repeating motifs and other literary devices to transcend genre and create a book that is a master class for other writers.  How to Sell a Haunted House might not be a handbook for Realtors, but it would be a great conversation piece at an open house!”

You Should Have Known, Rebecca Keller: “…  a compelling novel that, thematically, goes beyond the plot to ask deeper questions about the responsibilities people have to each other, and the ripple effects of their actions. While retirement gives folks ample time to ponder what they’ve done over the course of their lives, it’s never too soon to start asking these questions.”

Will They or Won’t They, Ava Wilder: “… a book readers will pick up over and over again, a book they’ll pass on to their TV-watching friends. It’s better than watching compilation videos on YouTube, which just reinforces the fact that your favorites rarely wound up together in the end.  

Gone Tonight, Sarah Pekkanen: “… a captivating story that upends reader expectations with every plot point.

The Second Chance Year, Melissa Wiesner: “Is it better to say what you feel, or keep your mouth shut and hope things get better? The Second Chance Year will make readers ask these questions, while entertaining them with a great story.”


Bad Men by Julie Mae Cohen

The other stand out ones I've read this year weren't published in 2023 unfortunately! 

Melissa S:

Blood Sisters by Vanessa Lillie

The Second Chance Hotel by Sierra Godfrey

What are your top picks from this year?

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Thursday, December 28, 2023

Reviews at Amazon--November/December 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!


The Deja Glitch by Holly James

Confessions of a Canine Drama Queen by Stefanie London

The Women by Kristin Hannah

The Wishing Bridge by Viola Shipman

The Burnout by Sophie Kinsella

Darling Girls by Sally Hepworth

Business or Pleasure by Rachel Lynn Solomon

She's Not Sorry by Mary Kubica

Expiration Dates by Rebecca Serle

The Fiction Writer by Jillian Cantor

A Friend in the Dark by Samantha M. Bailey

Goodbye Earl by Leesa Cross-Smith

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Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Book Review: Addicted After All

By Sara Steven

Two addicts. One epic love story.

Prepare for the worst.

That’s what Lily and Lo try to do when Jonathan Hale schedules an “important” meeting. The problem: after being swept into the public eye and battling their addictions, they’re not sure what the worst is anymore.

In a sea of many changes—including Ryke & Daisy living with them—Lily realizes that the best part of her fluctuating hormones might just be the worst.

Her sex drive is out of control.

Loren knows that she’s insatiable, but he’s not giving up on her. She’s too much a part of him. And as he carries more and more responsibility, some of the people that he loves doubt his resolve.

In the conclusion to their love story, Lily & Lo stand side-by-side to fight, one last time, for their happily ever after. (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

A word that had often come to mind for me while reading Addicted After All had been the word, hunted. The three primary couples within this story have to struggle with society, hunted down by those who don’t know them and only understand the lies and judgements that have been placed onto them. Lily and Lo are giving their perspectives on all of it, while also providing snapshots into the lives of Ryke, Daisy, Connor and Rose and how they handle the societal pressures, too. When they are all attacked, and within their own home no less, I felt just as angry and frustrated. And when Lily becomes the butt of verbal assault, I could see why the others come to her rescue, physical harm or ramifications be damned. 

Addictions have always been at the forefront for Lily and Lo; addictions that have threatened to tear this couple apart, yet despite them, they have thrived. Slowly, through the other books within this series and even within this particular book, the reader can see that every single character is flawed with their own afflictions. And still, they survive. They lean on one another for support. They fight to rise above the hunt. And the way they do it and the way they handle conflict isn’t perfect by any means, but that’s why it makes us feel even closer to all of them. It makes them feel like real characters.

I’ve thought long and hard about who I’d consider to be my favorite character, and while I understand we’re getting only two perspectives here, Connor is a real standout for me. Maybe it’s because he’s so cool under pressure, or maybe it’s because he’s so blunt and tells it like it is, regardless of the outcome. I think it has more to do with his guarded heart and tough exterior, which is all a ruse, particularly where Rose is concerned. In moments of tension, he deescalates. And there are plenty of tense moments sprinkled throughout. 

Lily and Lo alone are interesting characters, but throw in the other four? They all complement one another beautifully. I appreciated the character development and growth, which is very apparent, particularly in scenes with the most contention–Jonathan Hale, anyone? It helps to shape every single one of them, changing them from the hunted into hunters, ready to pounce into the fray. It was another great addition to this series!

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

More from the Addicted series:

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Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Spotlight and Giveaway: On the Plus Side

Today we are excited to feature Jenny L. Howe's sophomore rom-com, On the Plus Side. Whether or not you enjoy reality TV, this story is sure to be a charmer! Thanks to St. Martin's Press, we have TWO copies to give away!

Everly Winters is perfectly happy to navigate life like a good neutral paint color: appreciated but unnoticed. That’s why she’s still a receptionist instead of exploring a career in art, why she lurks but never posts on the forums for her favorite makeover show, On the Plus Side, and why she’s crushing so hard on her forever-unattainable co-worker. When no one notices you, they can’t reject you or insist you’re too much.

This plan is working perfectly until someone secretly nominates Everly for the next season of On the Plus Side. Overwhelmed by the show’s extremely extroverted hosts and how much time she’ll have to spend on screen, she finds comfort in a surprising friendship with the grumpy but kind cameraman, Logan. Soon Everly realizes that he’s someone she doesn’t mind being noticed by. In fact, she might even like it.

But when their growing connection is caught on camera, it sends the show’s ratings into a frenzy. Learning to embrace all of herself on national TV is hard enough; can Everly risk heartbreak with the whole world watching?

Praise for Jenny's writing:

“With clever writing that makes her grad school rivals simmer and spark on the page, Jenny L. Howe has crafted a love story that feels not just swoony and heart-stirring, but achingly, breathtakingly real.” 
–Rachel Lynn Solomon, bestselling author of The Ex-Talk and Weather Girl

“Original, clever, sizzling...I’ll read anything Jenny L. Howe writes!” 
–Ali Hazelwood, New York Times bestselling author of The Love Hypothesis

Credit: Anastasia Aranovich
Jenny L. Howe first started scribbling stories into black-and-white composition notebooks with neon pink pens when she was in junior high and never really stopped. In college, she decided to turn her love of books into a career by pursuing a Ph.D. in literature, where she spent the next few years studying bizarre and entertaining medieval romances. Now, as a professor, she teaches courses in college writing, literature, and children’s media. When she’s not writing and teaching, Jenny spends her time buried under puzzle pieces, cross-stitching her favorite characters, and taking too many pictures of her rescue dogs, Tucker and Dale.

Visit Jenny online:
Website * Instagram * TikTok

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 January 2nd at midnight EST.

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Friday, December 22, 2023

What's in the (e)mail


Okay, Cupid by Mason Deaver from Scholastic (NetGalley)
Where to Nest by/from Kristen Van Nest (print)
The Husbands by Holly Gramazio from Doubleday (NetGalley)
Boystown Heartbreakers by KC Carmichael from Rising Action (NetGalley)
The Summer Love Strategy by Ray Stoeve from Abrams (NetGalley)
See Loss See Also Love by Yukiko Tominaga from Scribner (NetGalley)
Seven Summer Weekends by Jane L. Rosen from Berkley (NetGalley)
Don't Ask, Don't Follow by Mary Keliikoa from Oceanview Publishing (NetGalley)
Look on the Bright Side by Kristan Higgins from Berkley (NetGalley)
The Paradise Problem by Christina Lauren from Gallery (print)
The Guest by B.A. Paris from St. Martin's Press (NetGalley)
The Guncle Abroad by Steven Rowley from Putnam (NetGalley)
Uglier by/from Kelly Vincent (print)
Not How I Pictured It by Robin Lefler from Kensington (NetGalley)
The Bookshop Sisterhood by Michelle Lindo-Rice from Harlequin (NetGalley)
The Summer Book Club by Susan Mallery from Harlequin (NetGalley)

The Breakup Tour by Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka from Berkley (NetGalley)

How to Age Disgracefully by Clare Pooley from Viking (NetGalley)

Melissa S:
Hate to Fake It to You by Amanda Sellet from St. Martin's Press (print)

A Man Downstairs by/from Nicole Lundrigan (NetGalley)
Happily Never After by Lynn Painter from Berkley (NetGalley)
The Mother Act by Heidi Reimer from Dutton (NetGalley)

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Book Review: Cop a Feel

By Sara Steven

I was seventeen years old when a shopping trip suddenly turned disastrous. Lucky for me, the most handsome man I ever laid eyes on—officer Alex Rinaldi—rescued me.

Ten years and countless disastrous first dates later, I still can’t get the hot cop out of my head.

Then life throws me a curveball. I find myself back in my hometown. Once again, Alex comes to my aid. But this time it’s like fireworks on the 4th of July—explosive and oh-so-hot. We can’t resist the magnetic pull between us.

Perfect, right?


Alex is allergic to commitment, and I live across the country. Could the odds be any more against us?

Will I be able to convince Alex that life’s too short to resist the irresistible? Or will we end up as just another hilarious footnote in the book of failed romances? (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads.)

What do you do when you’ve measured every man you’ve dated against the man who came to your rescue a decade ago? You capture the rescuer! Not that Randi had ever planned to run into Alex again. I thought that was a really exciting element between Randi and Alex–the fact that a one-time meet-up with ‘Hot Cop’ during a potentially serious situation would later turn into a fateful run-in so many years after the fact.  

It’s interesting, because the synopsis states that Alex is allergic to commitment, which is definitely the case. But it appears that Randi has her own disgruntled feelings when it comes to relationships. While she doesn’t want to get too close to Alex while she’s in town, she figures if she goes in knowing that there’s no chance of a long-term relationship, that they can have as much fun as they can during two short weeks, then go their separate ways. That’s never how it happens, though. Randi feels that Alex is the perfect man for her, and Alex can’t even fathom losing Randi. 

I loved the realness of both characters. Alex has been viewed as perfect, yet he is far from, and we get to witness that with his exchanges and inner dialogue. Randi has worked most of her life to pay homage to what she’d experienced as a teenager, intent on going back to Arizona and never looking back on her hometown, but there is a lot there to go back to, not just her Hot Cop. Neither wants to change, because they’re both afraid of change. It’s in their similarities that they find common ground, but they can’t see that they ultimately want the same things. 

I love all of Hilary Grossman’s books, but Cop A Feel really hooked me. I loved the banter between characters, the honesty in the situations they are thrown in, and the spice element within certain scenes didn’t hurt, either. It was a fun, sweet experience, a definite five-star read! 

Thanks to Hilary Grossman for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Hilary Grossman:

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Thursday, December 21, 2023

Spotlight and Giveaway: It's a Fabulous Life

Introduction by Melissa Amster

Recently, a friend told me about an author she's friends with, who writes LGBTQ+ rom-com novels. I told my friend that I had to meet this author and she connected us right away. I'm thankful for that, as this author, Kelly Farmer, is absolutely lovely and she has a charming new take on a classic Christmas movie. If the title, It's a Fabulous Life, doesn't give a big enough hint, the synopsis definitely will. πŸ˜‰And best of all, Kelly has one copy to give away, so that you can keep the magic of Christmas going into the new year!

After years of putting aside her dreams of travel and adventure, Bailey George is ready to leave Lanford Falls and her responsibilities behind on a long-awaited vacation to New York City. But when the volunteer who took over her leadership position for the town's Winter Wonderfest has a medical emergency, Bailey finds herself stuck in Lanford Falls. She gets roped into reassuming her old role, not wanting to let the town or her friends and family down. 

Staying home seems slightly less terrible when Bailey runs into her high school crush, Maria Hatcher. A kiss they shared years ago in the town's mistletoe grove was a life-defining moment for them both. Maria quickly offers to pitch in and help with Winter Wonderfest. Her sunny disposition and holiday cheer perk up Bailey's grinchy feelings about everything. 

However, one disaster after another snowball on the day of the festival. Bailey’s frustration boils over, and she ends up on the town's old wooden bridge. There, she meets fabulous drag queen Clara Angel. Bailey declares that she wishes she hadn’t been born in this Christmas-obsessed, suffocating small town. With a little of the magic Clara possesses, she shows Bailey how wrong she is about Lanford Falls and her place in it. And that with a little hope and some true holiday spirit, there is a way to attain all her dreams.

Perfect for fans of Alison Cochrun and Ashley Herring Blake, this sapphic retelling of It’s a Wonderful Life will make the yuletide gay. (Courtesy of Amazon.)

“Breathes Christmas cheer straight into the reader's heart . . . Christmas pop-culture fanatics will fall head over heels.”
—Codi Hall, author of Nick and Noel's Christmas Playlist

“A Christmassy delight! With its charming small town, heartwarming romance, and magical drag queens, It's a Fabulous Life captures the true spirit of the season.”
—Rachel Lacey, author of Read Between the Lines

Kelly Farmer (she/her) has been writing novels since junior high. The stories have changed, but one theme remains the same: Everyone deserves to have a happy ending. She loves telling tales with a touch of snark and a lot of heart. 

When not writing, she enjoys being outside in nature, quoting from Eighties movies, listening to all kinds of music, and petting every dog she comes in contact with. All of these show up in her books. She also watches a lot of documentaries to satisfy her hunger for random bits of trivia. Kelly lives in the Chicago area, where she swears every winter is her last one there.

Visit Kelly online (you can also subscribe to her newsletter for access to free bonus stories):
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 December 27th at midnight EST.

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Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Book Review: Love Me Do

By Becky Gulc

I was lucky enough to go to an evening with Lindsey Kelk (and Milly Johnson) back in July and it was a wonderful to hear all about the new releases from some of Yorkshire’s finest romantic comedy writers! Lindsey and Milly are so warm and funny, just like their books! Lindsey was promoting her summer release Love Me Do at the time, but what is it all about?

‘She's written the perfect romance... for someone else.

Greetings card copywriter Phoebe Chapman knows a good romantic line or two - and it makes her a fantastic Cupid. So when she lands in the Hollywood Hills - a place that proves film stars, golden beaches and secret waterfalls don't just exist in the movies - she can't resist playing matchmaker for her handsome neighbour, carpenter Ren.

But you can't hide from love in La La Land. And isn't there something a little bit hot about Ren, her own leading man next door?’ (Synopsis courtesy of Waterstones.)

For those unfamiliar with Lindsey Kelk, she is from South Yorkshire, England originally, but now lives in Los Angeles after a number of years in New York. When discussing her latest novel, Lindsey said how it had taken time to adjust to life in LA but loves it now and this story is almost a love letter to LA itself. I definitely felt that love when reading this book. I’ve been lucky enough to visit LA a couple of times and the book captures perfectly the vastness that resonated with me. (I have navigated LA on public’s not easy!) While there's a superficial side of LA, I definitely saw a side to LA you don’t normally get to see and appreciate as a visitor, and if I go again I think I’ll have a different view of it thanks to this novel.

Love Me Do is warm and full of wit. There are so many laugh out loud moments, particularly one unforgettable Mermaid party. I adored all the characters in this novel and would love to know them in real life. Phoebe is a funny, self-deprecating, and engaging character who makes the most of every moment of her time in LA by quickly making friends with her sister’s personal trainer, the handsome neighbour Ren, and the mysterious former star who lives nearby. The characters felt very real – they all have their own history, imperfections (okay, maybe not Ren, he seems pretty perfect...), and have so much to offer one another, and I loved how Phoebe entered all their lives.

The book is full of love and heart and not just in the romantic sense, I particularly loved scenes with Phoebe and Myrna, the reclusive former film star. The chemistry between Phoebe and Ren is sizzling, and whilst I won’t say what happens, their friendship develops so organically and you just want the pair of them to be happy with whomever they end up! 

There are some references to emotional abuse in the novel which added depth to the characters and story without ever losing the romantic comedy focus of the novel. It must be hard to get that balance, but Lindsey executes this so well. 

I adored this novel and highly recommend it!

More by Lindsey Kelk:

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Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Spotlight and Giveaway: The Magnolia Parks Universe (Books 3 and 4)

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. A few months ago, we featured the first two books in the series. Thanks to Dutton, we have THREE sets of the third and fourth books to give away! (They need to be read in order.) Here's more information about them:

How many loves do you get in a lifetime? And are Magnolia and BJ each other's one and only? 

It’s been nearly a year since everything happened between Magnolia Parks and BJ Ballentine on the steps of the Mandarin Oriental, and since then it seems like everything has changed.

Magnolia has a life in New York now and BJ appears to have finally let go and moved on.

But when they both wind up back in London and are thrust together once again, they find themselves asking their age-old question: How many loves do you actually get in a lifetime, and, most important—are they each other’s? (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

“It’s the great undoing of my heart as I know it.”

Daisy Haites thought she’d left everything about her old life in the past: the crime, her family, and the man she loves. But when her safety is threatened once again, she finds herself back under the watchful eyes of her gang-lord brother, Julian, and her ex-boyfriend, Christian, both desperate to keep her safe.

Everything gets more complicated when beautiful, broken-hearted socialite Magnolia Parks enters the scene and Julian finds himself entangled with her. Because, for Julian, falling in love isn’t just unwelcome—it could be deadly for everyone involved. . . . (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

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 December 26th at midnight EST.

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Monday, December 18, 2023

Book Review: Finding More

By Allyson Bales

"Our word is lightning."

Dean Roberts is at a never-ending crossroads.

A single dad adjusting to a world where his ex-wife barely tolerates him, and his brother is engaged to his ex-girlfriend.

But . . . he's almost a year sober.

So, at least there's that.

He just needs to keep control.

Enter Amelia James.

The green-eyed beauty has worked tirelessly to bury a haunting past.

As a kid who grew up in foster care, she decided long ago that life was easier alone.

Alone is safe.

She lives a simple life with her cat and that's more than enough for her.

When the two of them unexpectedly meet, the attraction is instant. And Amelia's interest piques when Dean starts a conversation with her in sign language.

Their one night stand becomes a series of chance encounters, something neither one of them can ignore.

But their lives are messy. And when Amelia's past joins the tumultuous winds of Dean's present, it tangles their deepening connection.

Threatening the existence they've each so carefully curated.

This is a story of the beauty in brokenness. Learning to live with our scars.

It's not about forgetting . . . it's about finding more. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

When I first learned about Larissa Moyer, I was getting ready for a road trip and was curating a large bag of books to take along.  I am pretty sure this is why my wife leans heavily in the direction of road trip as our big vacation every year because there is no way I would be able to fit all my books in our suitcase and she knows what a bummer that would be.  I stumbled upon In Our Hands, read the synopsis, and knew IMMEDIATELY that Evelyn and Otis needed to come along on our adventure.  I was in a little coffee shop in NewFoundland when I had the pleasure of meeting them and they have been in my heart ever since.  I also got to meet Dean and when I found out that Larissa was writing another book focusing on him, I knew I needed to read it!

First of all, Is this cover not beautiful?!? Probably one of my favorite covers of all time.  I also love the feel of the cover.  It is smooth and if you know, you know when it comes to the texture of book covers and our book loving hearts.  

Finding More is a companion novel to In Our Hands and wow what a story. While they both can be read as a standalone, I highly suggest you read both.  This is another book that I don’t want to give too much away as its got everything you are going to love and just go in blind!  Trust me!  

But, if you can’t know that I immediately fell in love with Amelia and Dean. Then I had a crazy few days of work…and a wedding where I got to witness two of my most favorite people get married..and reading had to take a back seat… BUT I could not stop thinking about Amelia and Dean!  Similarly to Evelyn and Otis, I had to get back together with them as soon as possible. SO I binged the rest of this story in one day and oh. my.goodness. The spice. The way these two process their trauma while also being a safe place for one another. The ASL representation. The character growth and development. I cannot say enough good things about this book!  

There is so much depth in the story and I love how much I was rooting for a character I once really didn’t like.  Who doesn’t love a character that has that kind of come back story?  

Larissa’s characters are genuine and real and the storyline had me up late into the night feverishly unable to turn the pages fast enough to see what happens.  I loved this book!

“Never let the noise of thunder deter you from the strike of lightning.”

I also need you to meet Larissa.  She is an amazing writer and human.  I joined Bookstagram almost two years ago to meet authors like her and read books like this.  

Read this one!  You are going to love it!

CONTENT WARNING (from Amazon): Finding More contains heavy subject matter that may be triggering to sensitive readers. For a full list of trigger warnings please visit the author's Instagram page.

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Friday, December 15, 2023

Book Review: The Christmas Wish

By Melissa Smoot

Newly single lawyer Gwen Baker needs a family Christmas to bury her woes, with festive films, country walks and a mountain of chocolate.

Her teenage crush Dev is back in their small village as well – and it turns out he’s just as kind, funny and good-looking as she remembers.

But then Gwen wakes up to discover it’s Christmas all over again. She’s trapped in a snowy Groundhog Day. But would repeat meet-cutes with Dev really be so bad for a heart that needs mending? (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

I love every book that Lindsey Kelk has written, so I knew I would love The Christmas Wish as well. The story takes place in a small town in England, a few hours from London. The main character, Gwen, travels back home with her cousin for a traditional family Christmas. The only problem is Gwen has just been dumped by her long-time boyfriend and she is also in a bit of trouble at the law firm she has worked at for a decade. To say the least, Gwen is not thrilled to go home and face her family, especially her not-so-nice older sister or her father, who both happen to be lawyers as well.

Gwen wakes up Christmas morning in her childhood bedroom and the day is filled with disaster after disaster. Gwen can’t wait to leave and head back to London, but then something strange happens. Gwen wakes up the day after Christmas only to find that she is back in Christmas day. The story takes on a Groundhog Day feel as Gwen must figure out how to get back to the present day and fix whatever it is the universe is throwing at her, or be stuck in a never ending loop of horrible Christmas Days. 

I laughed out loud so many times while reading this book, as I knew I would. The twists and turns as well as the shocking surprises throughout the story make this a very fun holiday read. If you want to believe in the magic of Christmas or the spirit of the Holiday season, this is the book for you. 

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

More by Lindsey Kelk:

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Thursday, December 14, 2023

Seressia Glass has her head in the a book giveaway

Credit: Porsha Antalan of
Femqua Productions
Today we're pleased to welcome Seressia Glass, whose latest rom-com, Game On, released this week. If you've ever enjoyed playing video games, you'll especially want to check this novel out. Thanks to Berkley, we have one copy to give away!

Seressia Glass is an award-winning author of romance and urban fantasy. She lives south of Atlanta with her husband, son, two attack poodles, and a bulldozer of a Cane Corso. When not writing, she likes to collect purple things, jewelry and spends way too much time watching K-dramas and anime.

Visit Seressia online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram

Samara Reynolds has built a large following as a gamer under an anonymous screenname, and uses her skills as a DEIA consultant to advocate for equal representation in video games. When she posted a video critiquing the popular game Legendsfall, she knew she’d get a reaction from her fans, but the video leads to hundreds of female gamers critiquing the game and its company, Artemis Games. The only thing more unexpected than starting an online movement is getting a job offer from the handsome CEO of Artemis.

Aron Galanis has been on a mission to get his company certified to create gaming content for people with disabilities. When he sees Artemis trending online for all the wrong reasons, he’s determined to right his wrongs and offers the originator a mea culpa, as well as a job offer to overhaul the character options in Legendsfall.

Working together turns Aron and Samara from adversaries into allies, allies into friends, and after that—something more. But once their relationship goes public, will Aron and Samara be able to weather the storm and fight for their happy ending, or is it game over?

What is a favorite compliment you have received on your writing?
“I feel seen, thank you so much!” came from a reader who had read The Love Con. She and her husband’s relationship was similar to Kenya and Cam’s, and she was a cosplayer too. She and readers like her are who I wrote it for.

How is Samara similar to or different from you?
I’m not sure I could be a lightning rod to the extent that Samara is in the book. I’ve done some “seat at the table” threads on the old bird app regarding publishing and writing organizations but that’s the most vocal I’ve been about advocacy.

In Game On, Samara has a cousin who is on the spectrum. I have three nephews who are, and Benjy is loosely based on my youngest nephew.

If Game On were made into a movie, who would you cast in the leading roles?

Good question! Samara Reynolds and Aron Galanis are loosely based on Serena Williams and Alexis Ohanian. I had Gabrielle Union in mind while writing Samara. A long-haired Tom Holland would be great as Aron. Or why not a Tom-Zendaya reunion for Game On?

What is your all-time favorite video game?
This is a hard one for me, since I’m old enough to have played Centipede, Galaga, and Pac Man in actual arcades. Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation is my answer.

If your life were a TV series, which celebrity would you want to narrate it? 
Jennifer Lewis is hilarious and would be a great auntie voice. I wish I could say Cardi B, but my life isn’t exciting enough.

Share a favorite winter holiday memory with us.
For Christmas: when it was just the three oldest siblings, our single mother mom got us everything we’d wanted and we hung out in matching Americana pajamas all day.

For Yule: I attended an all-night Yule party where we strung popcorn and cranberry garland, encrusted pinecones with peanut butter and birdseed, had a candlelight ritual after midnight, then watched movies until dawn.

Thanks to Seressia for chatting with us and to Berkley for sharing her book with our readers.

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Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Sara and Melissa...Celebrate Each Other's Holidays!

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 like about each other's holidays. Even if we don't celebrate a certain holiday, we can still appreciate a lot of things about it.

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:

When I was reviewing The Wishing Bridge by Viola Shipman, it made me think of when I was growing up, how my family and I would go to our cousins' house every Christmas. They celebrated Christmas and we would join them in their celebration. Every year, we'd first hang out in the living room in front of their big and beautifully decorated tree, noshing on appetizers and talking. Then we'd gather around their ping pong table in the basement, that was set with a tablecloth and their good plates, and we'd indulge in turkey, mashed potatoes, green beans, and the like (it was very similar to a Thanksgiving meal, which they always had at our house). For dessert, we'd have cherry cheesecake and Frango mint cookies. Between dinner and dessert, we'd open presents. My parents usually gave us our Hanukkah presents during this time. There was Christmas music constantly playing throughout the house that day. When we left, it was quiet outside and the snow would glisten under the streetlights as we made our way home. There was something so peaceful and beautiful about that time of night.

Even though it's been ages since I've participated in that family tradition, and since I don't celebrate Christmas with my own family, there's still a lot to appreciate about the holiday. (I may not be as enthusiastic as Rachel from The Matzah Ball, but I can still appreciate Christmas for what it is.) I thought I'd make a small list. 

1. The movies. Whether it's a rom-com about a woman engaged to a man in a coma, or a comedy about a kid playing tricks on burglars, there's always at least one good Christmas movie available every year. Maybe more than that. As you can see here, two of my top favorites are Home Alone and While You Were Sleeping. And I will admit to getting super emotional over the 1990s version of Miracle on 34th Street, starring Mara Wilson. I've been known to indulge in other Christmas movies over the years, as well. "'Tis the season!"

2. The decorations. I love seeing pictures of everyone's Christmas trees, as well as seeing houses lit up in the winter. There's something really comforting about it all. 

Courtesy of Canva

3. The music. Not all of it, but some can be fun. As of yesterday, I have been "Whamageddoned". Funny enough, I didn't mind thanks to the nostalgic feel of the song. And as annoying as some people think "All I Want for Christmas is You" is, I can't help but jam along to it whenever it comes on the radio. 

4. The dessert. I associate some treats with Christmas, such as peppermint bark and Candy Cane Joe-Joe's. I also get peppermint hot cocoa more often at this time of year.

5. The overall feeling of joy that goes along with Christmas. I know it can sometimes be a stressful time of year, but it's also a time to step back a bit, spend time with those you care about, etc. I feel like people make the effort to be nicer to each other and I hope that will happen again this year. We all need that!

Last winter, I participated in a Zoom holiday party from my job. We all live in different parts of the country, so it's the only way to celebrate together. We were doing some holiday trivia games and I got all the Christmas answers right. I was the only one in the group who doesn't celebrate Christmas. So apparently something must have stuck with me. I guess we'll have to see if that happens again this year!

Wishing a very merry Christmas to everyone who will be celebrating soon! πŸŽ„

Sara Steven:

I wasn’t raised in a home that honored any sort of religious holiday traditions. Not having any sort of blueprint made me appreciate hearing about and learning about the various religious customs and traditions that my friends would partake in, especially when it involved what they’d been taught by their own families while growing up and what they planned to pass on to their children, to carry on those traditions.

I’ve asked Melissa about her traditions over the years, interested in learning more about my close friend and her Jewish faith. I appreciate her patience and guidance, and I appreciate that I can share what I like about her holidays.

I remember a time I sang a song about Hanukkah when I was in grade school, hitting the high notes when we belted out about “The Festival of Lights,” but I never really understood the meaning behind it. I think lighting the menorah and reciting blessings is a beautiful tradition. I’ve read up on the various types of menorahs that you can have, whether it is store-bought or homemade, and I respect that it means the tradition can be accessible to anyone who wants to partake in the Hanukkah celebration. I asked Melissa if there are particular songs that she sings with her family during Hanukkah, and she said that while they used to sing after lighting the candles, over the years that has tapered off as her kids got older. They always chant the Hanukkah blessings (Baruch ata…) before lighting, and on the first night they add an additional blessing called the “shehecheyanu,” thanking Hashem, "who has kept us alive, sustained us, and brought us to this season."

A picture taken on the last night of Hanukkah at Melissa's house, 2022

I love jelly-filled doughnuts. They’re my favorite. Sufganiyot are jelly-filled doughnuts that are eaten during Hanukkah as a means to honor the oil used to light the lamp in the Temple. It burned bright for eight days, even though there was only enough fuel for one day. I wasn’t aware of this tradition. Melissa told me she isn’t big on jelly inside donuts, so she partakes in chocolate-filled ones instead.  Another traditional option are latkes, or potato pancakes–something I haven’t had in years! But I do remember how tasty they are. Another custom I wasn’t aware but can appreciate involves handing out gelt, the Yiddish word for money. Gelt represents Jewish independence and can be real coins or chocolate-covered candies. I’ve seen such coins before, but I’ve never really understood the significance or what they represented.

Melissa's husband's homemade latkes

What I admire the most of all of the traditions is how Hanukkah brings about gatherings, whether it’s with family and/or friends. I’ve often heard about the various people that Melissa has hosted for the holidays, bringing about a sense of community and togetherness during a time when I don’t feel there is enough of that in the world. I know she has so much going on for the holidays, as so many of us do, but she still opens her heart and her home to her neighbors and friends. I’ve also read that there are many organizations that will hold public menorah lightings in cities all over the world, a true show of how proud the Jewish community is when it comes to their faith. And faith is such a monumental and important thing, especially this time of year.  

Tell us what you like about a holiday you don't celebrate.

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