Thursday, February 29, 2024

Reviews at Amazon--January/February 2024

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 Last Phone Booth in Manhattan by Beth Merlin and Danielle Modafferi
When Grumpy Met Sunshine by Charlotte Stein

What Wild Women Do by Karma Brown
The Girl in His Shadow by Audrey Blake
The Rom Con by Devon Daniels
Teacher of the Year by M.A. Wardell
Housemoms by Jen Lancaster
A Lovely Lie by Jaime Lynn Hendricks
The Last Caretaker by Jessica Strawser

Enjoyed this post? Never miss out on future posts by following us.

Listen to these books on Speechify!

Sariah Wilson walks the red a book giveaway

With Oscars night right around the corner (March 10th, for anyone who doesn't have it on their calendar yet), Sariah Wilson is here to share her thoughts on this topic. She's a pop culture queen (which is why Melissa adores her) and we really enjoyed reading her answers to our most pressing, Oscars-related questions. Her latest rom-com, Hypnotized by Love, releases tomorrow and she has one copy to share with a lucky reader!

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

Visit Sariah online:


Mason’s life hasn’t gone according to plan. His latest novel was a flop, and the only gig he can land is writing a scathing exposé of his hometown hypnotist, Savannah. But in order to write an authentic article, he has to be a willing participant. Hypnosis is the last thing he expected: he’s shedding his negative nature and opening himself up to new experiences…and when a fire alarm interrupts their session, Mason walks out into the real world entranced and sporting a sunny disposition and a tendency to say yes.

Hypnotized Mason is fearless, revealing things he’s never told a soul, acting completely out of character, and leading Savannah on a frantic chase to keep him safe. He likes his new self. The problem is, so does Savannah. She can’t fall in love with a man who’s in a trance, but can she keep him still long enough to get him to snap out of it?

Hypnotist Savannah Sinclair is known for helping clients overcome their deep-rooted issues, from anxiety to addiction. But her nontraditional approach also attracts plenty of skeptics—including her high school nemesis and rival, Mason Beckett, who just so happens to be the boy who broke her heart. (Courtesy of Amazon.)

Early five-star reviews on Amazon:
"I absolutely loved this book. It was easy to connect with the characters. It will have you frustrated, excited, rooting for love and feeling the love. I had to restrain myself from reading it in one sitting and skipping work. A good, clean romance. I just say I was waiting for a good love scene but was not disappointed that there were no steamy scenes."

"What can I say.... I laughed, I cried, and I felt hard. I actually enjoyed it all from the lead characters perspective. A lot of books nowadays go back and forth between characters but I forgot how much I missed a singular point of view. She is most women's brain, the ones that are super emotional anyway like me. It was so good!! I highly suggest giving it a go." 
--Robin B

"I've read a lot by Sariah, and this is probably in my top 5 favorites from her. She does a wonderful job of fleshing out her characters. I also appreciate that she doesn't need vulgar language or too much spice to further her stories. I look forward to all her future releases!"
--A Reads A Lot

"This was a story I was happy to keep coming back to. You know the author did well when you find ways to sneak and read. I enjoyed the character and the flirty banter. I hope there will be a book for Sierra. First time reading this author and I’ll definitely look for more by her."

Which movie are you rooting for to win Best Picture this year?

I am rooting so, so hard for Barbie to win Best Picture. I’m sure it won’t because the things I love never usually win at the Oscars, but Barbie should take every category. It was an amazing movie.

Which Best Picture win, from any year, were you most excited about?

It was 1996. I was in my senior year of college and I had gotten a wee bit obsessed with Scottish history (and I only recently discovered last year that I’m a direct descendant of Robert the Bruce, one of my all-time favorite historical figures). Anyway, I had done a paper on William Wallace, comparing the 1995 movie about him to a poem written by Blind Harry in the fifteenth century and a fictional rendering of the story from the nineteenth century. I was very, very into the movie Braveheart when it came out (we didn’t know about Mel Gibson back then). I watched the ceremony live, completely caught up and eagerly awaiting the announcement of the winner. I stood up and started cheering when the movie won, and a friend who lived in the apartment across the hall came running into my apartment and screamed with me (everyone knew how much I was rooting for that movie). I’ll never forget my door flying open and Tina standing there with her arms in the air, whooping and hollering. LOL

If you were to wear an outfit to walk on the red carpet, what would it look like?
I am not a fashion girl, and I might actually have a red carpet in my future this year (I had a director friend invite me to the premiere of his movie, but no idea when that will be yet as there isn’t an official date). And I am spending an inordinate amount of time trying to find something to wear. I don’t know what the season will be and obviously you’d wear different dresses for different times of the year, or whether it’ll be a daytime premiere or evening premiere and whether or not there will be a dress code. I have specific styles that look better on me than others, and certain colors. So currently I have like a hundred tabs open on my phone as I try to find a dress that might work. Which means I can’t tell you yet what I would wear until I can start narrowing stuff down.
Who is your favorite Oscars host?
I can tell you who should be the Oscars host, as many of them have been truly terrible (looking at you, James Franco) and so I don’t have a favorite host from years past, but let’s give Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and Maya Rudolph any salary they want to do it. No one hosts as well as those ladies and I’m not sure why they don’t host every award ceremony in existence.
Do you have any Oscars night traditions?
I do not have any traditions. I used to watch it more than I do now, and I used to watch it live. Now I just record it and skip through the stuff I’m not interested in to see the things that I am (like how wonderful was Ke Huy Quan winning last year? I teared up! And Olivia Colman. I don’t care what Olivia Colman has won she will be the most entertaining thing you’ll see the entire night).
If you could come up with a fun new Oscars category, what would it be? 
If I could come up with a fun new category, it would be “Best Picture of Movies You Actually Watched Last Year.” I’m much more of a commercial/genre movie fan than I am of artistic/Oscar-bait stuff, so most years I haven’t even heard of most of the movies nominated for Best Picture. Let’s give the fans the stuff they really care about!
Thanks to Sariah for chatting with us and for sharing her book with our readers.

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

Giveaway ends March 5th at midnight EST.

Enjoyed this post? Never miss out on future posts by following us.

Listen to this book on Speechify!

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Book Review: The Perfect Parents

By Sara Steven

Jackson and Lydia Hemsworth are pillars of the community, feted for having the perfect marriage and three wonderful children – Florence, Jessica and Ezra.

But appearances can be deceptive.

Because behind closed doors Jackson Hemsworth rules his family with cruelty and control. His marriage is a sham; his children for years have cowed in fear.

Until the day that Jackson and Lydia throw themselves off Newport Bridge in a joint suicide pact – the final cruel blow by Jackson to control his wife and torture his adult children.

As the Hemsworth siblings return to their family home, they must try to make sense of their parents’ last act. But there are many dark secrets waiting to be unearthed at Armett House.

Like, why are the townsfolk so suddenly hostile towards them? And who are the strangers who arrive at Armett House unannounced? And why has their mother’s body still not been found?

In the aftermath of their parents’ death, it becomes clear that something terrible is about to be exposed about the Hemsworths’ perfect parents.

A secret they may all wish had stayed hidden…
(Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

J.A. Baker has a knack for writing psychological thrillers, and The Perfect Parents is no exception. Right from the start, the reader is privy to Jackson and Lydia’s final thoughts before they make their jump from the Newport Bridge, and through their children and the proceeding days after that fateful day, more and more of the truth is exposed. I appreciated that the story is told from various perspectives; not only from the “perfect” parents, but Flo and Jessica, too. 

The style was very reminiscent of the type of gothic novels that were written in the 1800s. The thrill comes from the deep unknown, and Flo and Jessica are often in situations where the reader is quite aware of something sinister lurking, but the primary characters have no clue. There were quite a few twists and turns, too, that would pop up completely unexpectedly. A strong example of this would be the mice that are found within Armett House. There is a ghastly odor in the kitchen, blamed on dead rodents, but is it really the rodents? Or is it something else? I was fairly certain I knew what was going on, but in the end, the truth is nowhere near what I imagined it to be and I was completely, totally wrong–in a good way!

There were a lot of scenarios that occurred like that, which kept the story interesting and intriguing. There were other times, though, where some of the events that were completely unexpected felt a little forced, and I wasn’t sure why the events that occurred happened in the first place–like the story surrounding Ezra. But overall, the mystery outweighed those scenarios, still providing a very scary experience for not just the characters, but for the readers, too.

Aside from the mystery, there are a lot of big changes and revelations that occur for the characters, too. It does a lot to shape them and change their perspectives and motivations as the chapters unfold, which only added to the sleuthing experience. Why is everyone so against the Hemsworth family? And ultimately, what can be done about it? The Perfect Parents is a definite page turner and kept me hooked from start to finish!

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

Sign up for J.A. Baker's newsletter.

Visit all the stops on J.A. Baker's blog tour:

Enjoyed this post? Never miss out on future posts by following us.

Listen to this book on Speechify!

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Spotlight and Giveaway: Right on Cue

Today we are celebrating the publication of Falon Ballard's latest rom-com, Right on Cue. If you're a movie buff, this is the book for you. Thanks to Putnam, we have one copy to give away!

Emmy Harper is no stranger to Hollywood, having penned some of the most popular movies of the past few years. But her latest project has hit a standstill—unable to find the perfect leading lady, Emmy’s been recruited to take on the role herself, dusting off acting skills she hasn’t used in over a decade.

Things take a turn for the worse when a she's left with the one costar she can’t trust: Grayson West. A blockbuster action hero known for his megawatt smile and impossible abs, Grayson is anyone’s dream of a romantic lead. Too bad Emmy still blames him for her disastrous first movie and the early end to her acting career.

The friction between the two risks tanking the movie, and no one knows if it’s lingering awkwardness from their youth or unresolved sexual tension. But if they want to save the production—and their own careers—they need to get their acts together quickly, both on and off camera. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

“Falon Ballard is the queen of sharp-wit and swoony romances. With delicious, intricately crafted love stories, and dynamic, wonderfully flawed characters, I will devour everything she writes and beg for more.” 
–Mazey Eddings, author of The Plus One
"Right on Cue is a perfectly crafted romcom that weaves together a charming cast of characters with witty dialogue, heartfelt moments, and sexual chemistry that leaps off the page. It will leave you with a smile on your face and a full, happy heart. Ballard is right on track with this delightfully satisfying read.” 
–Sophie Sullivan, author of Ten Rules for Faking It

“Falon Ballard’s writing sucks me in like a best friend sharing a juicy story. Grab your ice cream and wine and get comfy because once you start Right on Cue, this adorable, charming, and spicy romcom will hold you captive until the very last page.” 
–Meredith Schorr, author of Someone Just Like You

Credit: Brianna Mowry 2020
Falon Ballard
is the author of Lease on Love and Just My Type and co-host of the podcast, Happy to Meet Cute. When she’s not writing fictional love stories, she’s helping real-life couples celebrate, working as a wedding planner in Southern California.

Visit Falon 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 March 3rd at midnight EST.

Enjoyed this post? Never miss out on future posts by following us.

Listen to this book on Speechify!

Monday, February 26, 2024

Book Review: Take Two, Birdie Maxwell

Birdie Robinson thought she’d gotten everything she wanted out of life: fame, adoration, and an A-list Hollywood career. But after an on-set feud goes viral, she leaves L.A. for the one place where no one would think to find her: her hometown. She’s startled to stumble upon a love letter from a former boyfriend asking for a second chance. And there’s just one issue: the letter was unsigned and she’s not sure which ex sent it. Still, a public reunion with an ex-boyfriend could turn the wave of public opinion back in her favor. Life imitating art. What could go wrong? 
Elliot O’Brien, star reporter, knows that life isn’t an actual rom-com. Case in point, he’s spent two decades repressing his long-simmering feelings for his twin sister’s best friend, Birdie. But with his journalism career cratering and Birdie back in their hometown at the same time he is, he realizes that chronicling her search for her long-ago ex may be his opportunity to right some wrongs.
As they hit the road in an ancient RV, Birdie and Elliot retrace her romantic history for clues to who wrote the letter and come face to face with their own romantic missteps, all while grappling with whether happy endings are found only on the big screen—or whether their own happier ever after could be closer than they both ever imagined. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

Allyson Bales:

“Sweet dreams are made of cheese”



“Why would sweet dreams be made of cheese?”

“Because cheese is delicious!”

Allison Winn Scotch really introduced me to romance in May of 2012 when I read The One That I Want and got to meet Tilly.  Ever since I always chomp at the bit to get my hands on her new releases.  I love her characters, her settings, her plots, and always find myself clutching my heart and laughing out loud at her stories.  I have to say that Take Two, Birdie Maxwell is my favorite book she has ever written!

This book made me want to make a mix tape of eighties ballads, grab a bag of Doritos, and call my best friend!  There are vibes of the movie Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, but in reverse and themes of sisterhood, chasing your dreams, and finding true and honest love, not just for someone else, but for yourself too.  I love the way the story is told in dual POV and also has snippets of newspaper articles.  There are so many layers to this amazing read and I really could not wait to see what happened to Birdie.  

Birdie is definitely up there as one of my favorite main characters of all time.  She is honest and incredibly stubborn, quirky, and a celebrity you are rooting for.  I love that one of the lines in the book is, “No one puts Birdie in a  corner,” and that is the truth!  Despite the unfortunate position she finds herself in, Birdie is still willing to put herself out there for America to see and is still trying.  I love perseverance in a character and one that so many can relate to.  I also love that the readers get a glimpse into what it is like being a celebrity and living out their lives with so much judgment.   

With cancel culture being very much in the forefront these days it was nice to see that explored in the story and how the characters handle it.  I also really loved how Eliott gets involved and the exploration of his character.  Elliot is a writer who is completely and utterly married to his work.  He really avoids long term relationships and commitment of any kind because then he never gets hurt, but what kind of life is that?  Honestly I think more and more people are doing that in the age of online dating and the inability to feel like people are really giving others a fair shot.  Why bother putting yourself out there when you can get hurt so easily.  I love Elliot’s character and the way he is with Birdie.  I also really love Elliot’s sister, who is also Birdie’s best friend Mona.  She is such a fun and insightful character! 

This story really touched my heart and made me laugh.  I missed the characters when I wasn’t reading and I think you will too.  Also, who can I talk to about this being adapted into a movie because that would be so fun and DEFINITELY needs to happen!   I highly recommend this story and all of Allison’s backlist as well!

Melissa Amster:

I really enjoyed Take Two, Birdie Maxwell. It's a fun story that makes me glad I am not a celebrity. I loved the dual perspectives and the journey that Birdie and Elliot took throughout the novel. I found myself cringing at times and grinning a lot. I also loved the flashbacks to their high school days. 

I really liked the feel of adventure in this novel. So many different challenges came up for Birdie and Elliot and sometimes they ended up being on the run from paparazzi. There were also some misunderstandings that led to more bumps in the road. Both characters were entertaining and I enjoyed their banter. 

This novel made me think about how I handled some past relationships and what I maybe should have done better, but the past is in the past. I'm just glad I never received a letter like the one Birdie got, which led her on this wild goose chase in the first place. I was also frustrated that everyone believed the director over Birdie so easily, especially in the era of #MeToo. I don't blame her for speaking up either, even though it came at such a high cost to her career. And as I said before, I am glad I am not a celebrity because I wouldn't want people in my business like that all the time. This was emphasized even more when I recently watched The Princess Diaries for the first time in many years.

Overall, this is a charming story to add to your TBR in early March!

Movie casting suggestions:
Elliot: Skylar Astin

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

More by Allison Winn Scotch:

Enjoyed this post? Never miss out on future posts by following us.

Listen to this book on Speechify!

Friday, February 23, 2024

What's in the (e)mail


All This and More by Peng Shepard from William Morrow (NetGalley)
The Second Chance by Charlotte Butterfield from Avon UK (NetGalley)
The Playgroup by/from Leah Mercer (NetGalley)
Christa Comes Out of Her Shell by Abbi Waxman from Berkley (NetGalley)
Second Night Stand by Karelia and Fay Stetz-Waters from Forever (NetGalley)
One Big Happy Family by Susan Mallery from Harlequin (NetGalley)
The Road Trip Rewind by Kate and Danny Tamberelli from Kensington (NetGalley)
The Manicurist's Daughter by Susan Lieu from Celadon (NetGalley)
Find Me in California by/from Kerry Lonsdale (NetGalley)
The Break-Up Pact by Emma Lord from St. Martin's Press (NetGalley)
The Library of Borrowed Hearts by Lucy Gilmore from Sourcebooks Casablanca (NetGalley)
The Love Elixir of Augusta Stern by Lynda Cohen Loigman from St. Martin's Press (NetGalley)

The Mechanics of Memory by/from Audrey Lee (ebook)
Dishonestly Yours and Some Kind of Perfect by Krista and Becca Ritchie from Berkley (NetGalley)
Motherlove by Jean Trounstine from Wunderkind PR (ebook)
Nowhere to Hide by Keri Beevis from Rachel's Random Resources (NetGalley)

Bodies to Die For by Lori Brand from Kaye Publicity (ebook)

Melissa S:
All the Summers In Between by Brooke Lea Foster from Gallery (print)
Summers at the Saint by Mary Kay Andrews from St. Martin's Press (print)
The Seaside Sisters by Pamela Kelley from St. Martin's Press (print)

Enjoyed this post? Never miss out on future posts by following us.

Listen to these books on Speechify!

Book Review: It's Complicated


By Sara Steven

Lori has been in love with her best friend Aiden since college. Now Aiden (handsome, fair, All-American dream doctor) is getting married, and Lori desperately needs a date to the wedding.

So she asks the best man, Jace (tall, dark, and brooding), to pretend their platonic friendship is something more not to have to face the worst day of her life alone.

Fake dating one best friend to forget the other should be easy… Plot twist—it’s not. When Jace starts acting like the sweetest, most attentive boyfriend, Lori begins to wonder if she’s been seeing him wrong all this time?

They've been an inseparable trio since freshman year, but now everything is changing — and that's not even bringing Jace's feelings into the mix.

Basically? It’s complicated. (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

It’s Complicated was such a sweet, fun read. From the get go, I felt for Lori’s situation, given that she’s been in love with Aiden for so long. On the one hand, I wanted to convince her to move on, because it’s not good to pine for someone for so, so long, but on the other hand, I could understand why she felt like she couldn’t say anything. She doesn’t want to potentially jeopardize their friendship, which is extremely important to her. I felt like that internal struggle was showcased well within the pages of this book.

Jace is someone who Lori has always considered as her confidante and best friend, particularly when it comes to her feelings towards Aiden. Jace has been there through every gut wrenching moment. It didn’t surprise me though that Lori begins to see Jace differently, particularly when she takes off the Aiden love goggles and sees what’s right in front of her and all around her, in what feels like for the very first time. All three characters are close-knit. All three don’t want to do anything that might change the status quo. But all three need to, in order for their own needs and wants to progress. Plus, it helps to move the plotline forward, which makes for an even better reading experience. 

You know when a book flows well and it feels like no time has passed at all while reading it? That’s how I felt with It’s Complicated. I loved this love triangle experience, and I loved how open and honest the characters are. At one point, Jace can’t keep silent anymore on his own feelings, and it felt like such a pivotal moment. Lori, who doesn’t like to ever rock the boat or speak up, ends up speaking up eventually, and it was heartfelt and monumental. And the tender moment between Aiden and Lori was so, so sweet. Letting go and holding on, all at once. 

It really was complicated–the changing relationships within this friend trio, but what wasn’t complicated was the experience itself. I absolutely loved this book and it’s deserving of the five-stars I’ve given it!

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

Purchase Links:
Amazon US * Amazon UK * Apple

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

Visit Camilla online:
Facebook * Twitter * Instagram 

Sign up for Camilla's newsletter.

Visit all the stops on Camilla's blog tour:

Enjoyed this post? Never miss out on future posts by following us.

Listen to this book on Speechify!

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Spotlight and Giveaway: The Hidden Life of Cecily Larson

We are pleased to feature Ellen Baker's latest novel, The Hidden Life of Cecily Larson, today. It released earlier this week and it looks and sounds amazing. Thanks to William Morrow, we have THREE copies to give away!

In 1924, four-year-old Cecily Larson’s mother reluctantly drops her off at an orphanage in Chicago, promising to be back once she’s made enough money to support both Cecily and herself. But she never returns, and shortly after high-spirited Cecily turns seven, she is sold to a traveling circus to perform as the “little sister” to glamorous bareback rider Isabelle DuMonde. With Isabelle and the rest of the circus, Cecily finally feels she’s found the family she craves. But as the years go by, the cracks in her little world begin to show. And when teenage Cecily meets and falls in love with a young roustabout named Lucky, she finds her life thrown onto an entirely unexpected—and dangerous—course.

In 2015, Cecily is now 94 and living a quiet life in Minnesota, with her daughter, granddaughter, and great-grandson. But when her family decides to surprise her with an at-home DNA test, the unexpected results not only bring to light the tragic love story that Cecily has kept hidden for decades but also throw into question everything about the family she’s raised and claimed as her own for nearly seventy years. Cecily and everyone in her life must now decide who they really are and what family—and forgiveness—really mean.

Sweeping through a long period of contemporary history, The Hidden Life of Cecily Larson is an immersive, compelling, and entertaining family drama centered around one remarkable woman and her determination to survive.

The Hidden Life of Cecily Larson is a sprawling, beautiful delight of a novel spanning nearly a century as four generations gradually peel back the layers of long-buried family secrets that may just change everything. Ellen Baker weaves the intricacies of family dynamics into the complicated fabric of early 20th-century America, deftly tackling issues of race, identity, loss, and trauma through the story of a family you’ll be rooting for with all your heart. I immensely enjoyed this sweeping, heartrending, emotional roller coaster of a tale, which made me laugh, cry, and think about the true meaning of family.”
—Kristin Harmel, New York Times bestselling author of The Paris Daughter

“A family secret, a DNA test, a journey as rich and colorful as the early-day circus itself. Through Cecily Larson’s  hidden life, Ellen Baker tenderly examines personal determination, lost love, family ties, and our innate need  to discover our own truth.”  
—Lisa Wingate, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Before We Were Yours 

“Unforgettable. Baker's electrifying tale is a haunting testament to the complex intersections of familial bonds driven by a remarkable courage which can only be found in hope.”
—Kim Michele Richardson, New York Times bestselling author of The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek series

(c) Kim Fuller Photography
Ellen Baker is the author of Keeping the House and I Gave My Heart to Know This. She has worked as a bookseller and event coordinator at an independent bookstore. Originally from the Upper Midwest, she currently lives in Maine.

Visit Ellen online:
Website * Facebook 

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 February 27th at midnight EST.

Enjoyed this post? Never miss out on future posts by following us.

Listen to this book on Speechify!

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Sara and Melissa Have Never....

We've been running a column series to get more personal with our readers. This is the start of our fifth year!

This month, we are talking about stuff we have never done.

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

Melissa Amster:

I have been asking authors which celebrity they would like to narrate their lives on a TV show, and I use Never Have I Ever as an example when I send the question. So that inspired this month's topic. Here are some things I have never done and will most likely never do. 

Never have I ever....

Drank coffee: If I don't like the smell of something, I won't put it in my mouth, and coffee is a prime example of that. I know plenty of people who love coffee, but I'm not one of them and I don't see myself ever trying it. My husband doesn't like coffee either, but that was after he accidentally drank some as a kid. So when we first started dating, he asked me out for hot cocoa. That definitely earned him points, even though I ended up getting tea that night. (We've been married almost 20 years, if that says anything.)

I got this from Dollar Tree and I love it so much!

Drank beer: Same rule applies here when it comes to stuff that doesn't smell good to me. I just never saw the appeal of beer either. 

Gotten a tattoo: It's a Jewish rule and I will not complain about following it. I use it as a convenient excuse since I don't like the idea of having ink "sewn" into my body.

Pierced anything other than my ears: If I had been interested in doing so, that ship sailed a long time ago. I don't find it comfortable to have a piercing anywhere but in my earlobes and even those were painful to get. I had multiple ear piercings for a while but I stopped wearing earrings in the additional holes about 15 years ago. 

Driven our minivan: We've had it since before my daughter (who is almost 13) was born and I have yet to sit behind the wheel. We may end up getting something different eventually as it's not as much needed other than for road trips and it has been having issues every so often. 

Ran in a marathon: I am horrible at running and would not last even five minutes doing that. I applaud all my friends who have run in marathons though! 

Dived off a diving board: I was terrified and still am and always will be. In our swimming unit in high school P.E. class, I snuck off to the bathroom to get changed into my street clothes when they were asking everyone to dive into the pool. I just couldn't do it!

Served on a jury: This came to mind recently because Jenny from Book Coffee Happy was talking about being on a jury this past week (in her IG stories), and also because of the funny quasi-reality show, Jury Duty, on Freevee. I had jury duty one time in 2010 and was not chosen, so I sat in the waiting room all day and worked on blog posts or read. I did get money for lunch though! The other times I was supposed to attend jury duty, it ended up getting cancelled the night before. One time was due to the pandemic. 

Attended a high school reunion: And I don't plan to either, given that my 30th is coming up this year. (Gasp!) I am friends with people from high school but I can talk with them anytime. I don't need a reunion for that. One friend even lives somewhat nearby. And a handful are not from my graduating class anyway. 

There's something else I've never done, but I worry about jinxing myself if I say it out loud. I will say the only time I was in a cast was one for a play, and I don't mean the kind Evan Hansen wears. 

I also agree with everything Sara is talking about, so I don't need to double her efforts!

Sara Steven:

I’m not sure when my fear of heights initially took hold of me. I remember a time when I used to jump from cement bridges into deep water–something many teens who grew up in Oregon would do when we’d travel out to North Fork, in Marion County. I’d also jump from cliff ledges into those same waters, and I don’t recall feeling much fear or trepidation. Although I once lost my bikini top when I did it, and I was justifiably mortified.   

When I was a child I jumped from a two-story bedroom window in order to play with friends who weren’t forced to take naps, but there was no fear when I propelled myself out into open air and sunshine, landing on one knee, Elvis Presley style. I collapsed on one side and there was pain, but fear? Not that I can recall. 

Something must have happened at some point to cause a severe fear of heights. To the point that, as a leasing professional who shows apartment homes that are often on third floor levels, I won’t even walk out onto the balcony, instead shooing my prospects out there instead to get a view of the surroundings. I stay safely inside the confines of the apartment, so there’s no way I’ll get a glimpse of the ground below. 

When I go to the mall, I can’t even imagine what it would be like to walk along the edge of the wall on the second floor. I won’t look down to the shops below. And my children, who can be cruel to their fraidy cat mother, like to taunt me by walking along the walls, saying things like, “Look mom, look where I’m at,” while they pretend to hang over the edge, filling me with dread. They also show me Youtube videos of daredevils who jump from great heights, either from planes or from mountains, and just the images and video scare me. I have to cover my face with a throw pillow or leave the room altogether.

My husband has talked off and on over the years about skydiving, and there’s no way. There is absolutely no way in hell I will ever allow it. Not that I want to tell him what to do. But it’s the one thing I won’t tolerate. I’ve had people tell me I should try it, that it will help me get over my fear of heights, but just the thought of it makes me sick to my stomach. I know I’d most likely have an accident in my pants, or maybe even a heart attack. That would be my biggest torture, having to jump out of a plane or anywhere from a great height, and there’s no way I would ever do it. 

The only exception to my height fear is flying in a plane for travel purposes–and that’s only because I have to. I prefer to drive. But even when I am forced to travel by plane, I knock on the plane before I enter it, a superstitious maneuver I picked up from my ex-husband who would fly on multiple planes when he was active military and would knock on the plane, too. I figure if he traveled that much and lived to tell about it, it’s a superstitious maneuver that works.

I will never skydive. I will never jump out of a plane. I will never zipline, so stop trying to get me to do it. The Ferris Wheel makes me nervous, and parasailing? Forget about it. I’m a dreamer and enjoy having my head in the clouds, but in this case, my feet will stay safely and firmly on the ground. Always.

What are some things YOU have never done?

Enjoyed this post? Never miss out on future posts by following us.

Book Review: Pretty Girls Playbook

By Sara Steven

Think Sex and The City before the girls had their sh*t together. 

The only thing twenty-four-year-old best friends Nat, Tatum, and Katelyn have in common is the sleepy Connecticut town they grew up in. When the girls embark on their post-college dream of living in New York City’s concrete jungle, the harsh reality of demanding jobs, one-night stands, and financial instability force the girls to confront a series of personal crises.

 Determined to make it in the fashion industry, Nat is willing to do whatever it takes for her dreams to come true. Spending the majority of her time as an overworked and underpaid intern at the Marcheline boutique, she turns to Bill, the seventy-two-year-old sugar daddy she found online, to help her pass as fashion elite. 

Blonde bombshell Tatum works at one of the city’s most successful hedge funds and is “ the kind of pretty you notice ”. But her world comes apart when she learns her longtime boyfriend has cheated on her, inducing an acute quarter-life crisis that has her confronting the straight -edge life she’s always thought she was destined for. 

Wild child Katelyn goes through men like she goes through bottles of cheap wine. With her busy schedule as a Physician’s Assistant student, Katelyn only has time for hookups and happy hours- until she finds out one very sexy med student has left her with more than she bargained for. (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads.)

Pretty Girls Playbook reminded me of Sex and the City, as well as The Bold Type. It was fun to experience life in the big city from Nat, Tatum, and Katelyn’s perspectives. There was a time in my own life when I’d thought about moving to a large city, something bigger than what I’d ever known. Readers get to see that through this group of best friends, and not just the carefree, fun side. It was a realistic take on what I’d imagine it would be like for young twenty-somethings to try to make it on their own.

While I liked all three of the primary characters, my favorite was Katelyn. She’s very direct and point-blank with her responses, which made for a lot of interesting dialogue when she interacted with her bestie group. Tatum was probably the character who surprised me the most. As the synopsis indicates, she is the most tame of the group, but there is a moment where she could have stepped into Katelyn’s shoes–so much so, that the directness potentially leads to a heavy fall out with both Nat and Katelyn. And Nat’s situation was the most interesting. The time she spends with Bill created the type of cringeworthy scenarios that made me want to turn off my Kindle, but keep reading on just the same! I wanted to know what would happen.

All three young women are looking for something outside of themselves and their friend group. Nat wants to be respected within her career, while Tatum wants to learn to trust again, after her boyfriend destroys their relationship. Katelyn has always gotten by on being the one who never can find happiness. Happy relationships seem to settle within Tatum’s and Nat’s realm, but never hers. All she wants is a fair shot at happiness, too. 

There were some heavy situations that all three girls end up having to deal with, but with the support of such great friends, it made those situations a lot more bearable. I loved the chemistry between them; it’s what I strive for within my own close friendships. Pretty Girls Playbook is a definite five-star read!

Thanks to Gabrielle Kerins for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Enjoyed this post? Never miss out on future posts by following us.

Listen to this book on Speechify!

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Lindsay Hameroff shares a sweet a book giveaway

Today we're excited to have Lindsay Hameroff here to celebrate the publication of her debut rom-com, Till There Was You. Melissa has this in her TBR and is excited to read it soon! We had fun reading her answers to our questions and we know you will too. Thanks to St. Martin's Press, we have one copy to share with a lucky reader!

Lindsay Hameroff is a writer, humorist, and former English teacher raised in Baltimore, MD and based in Harrisburg, PA. Her writing has been featured in McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, The Belladonna, Weekly Humorist, and other outlets. She also co-edits Frazzled, a parenting humor site. Till There Was You is her first novel.

Visit Lindsay online:
Website * Twitter * Instagram

Culinary student Lexi Berman, 24, has one goal: to make her late mother proud by becoming an executive chef in a Michelin-star restaurant. And she isn’t going to let anything–or anyone–get in the way. But when she meets Jake Taylor, a dive bar musician who charms her with show tunes, she makes a rare exception to her no-dating rule. After a steamy weekend together, Jake leaves for L.A. to record his demo, and Lexi never expects to see him again. And she definitely doesn’t expect him to become an overnight celebrity, with a breakout single that’s almost certainly about her famous blueberry pancake recipe.

As Jake’s star rises and the world speculates about the subject of his song, Lexi keeps the affair to herself. After all, she’s finally found her footing at her new restaurant job, and even has a prospective romance with her coworker. But when a distraught Jake turns up on her doorstep late one night, her carefully-laid plans are thrown for a loop.

Though she and Jake try to be friends, things between them soon reheat faster than a bowl of Lexi's matzah ball soup. But a relationship with Jake means risking her face in tabloids, withstanding cruel internet comments, and worst of all, jeopardizing her career. As Jake’s upcoming tour approaches, and rumors swirl about him and another pop star, Lexi has to decide if holding onto her meticulously-planned future is worth walking away from what could be the perfect recipe for love. 

“Lindsay Hameroff blends beloved romance tropes to create a modern-day fairy tale that is both delightful and satisfying. A tasty treat, Till There Was You hits all the right notes.”
— Jean Meltzer, International Bestselling Author of The Matzah Ball

“I tore through Till There Was You laughing and crying in equal measure. Lindsay Hameroff's debut romcom is equal parts sweet, sexy, and funny with surprising vulnerable depths.”
— Meredith Schorr, author of As Seen On TV

“A deeply satisfying star-crossed celebrity romance, skillfully balancing butterfly-inducing fantasy and heart-squeezing emotional honesty.”
— Ava Wilder, author of How To Fake It In Hollywood

In one sentence, what was the road to publishing like for you? 
I was incredibly lucky to have a smooth, direct path—Till There Was You was the first book I ever wrote and queried—and now I’m always waiting for the other shoe to drop. ☺

How is Lexi similar to or different from you? 
Lexi shares my affinity for Broadway musicals and favors the same shows I do. We also have matching baking cabinets filled with neatly organized Oxo containers. But she’s a lot more Type A and rigid than I am. My personality is a mix of Lexi’s and Ali’s. 

If Till There Was You was made into a movie, who would you cast in the leading roles? 
I would love to see Zoey Deutch or Josephine Langford play Lexi and Steven R. McQueen as Jake. 

What is your go-to breakfast item? 
I will never turn down huevos rancheros. Savory breakfast foods are my favorite. 

If your life was a TV series, which celebrity would you want to narrate it? 
I LOVE this question. I’m going with Andrea Savage. I felt so seen by her character on “I’m Sorry”: a comedy writer masquerading as a PTA mom. 

What is the last thing you had a good laugh about? 
Rohita Kadambi just published a piece in Shouts and Murmurs called “Not All Men (Are Golden Retrievers)” and she matched all these celebrity men to their dog alter-egos. It was so funny and spot-on. 

Thanks to Lindsay 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 February 25th at midnight EST.

Enjoyed this post? Never miss out on future posts by following us.

Listen to this book on Speechify!

Monday, February 19, 2024

Book Review: The Still Point

By Melissa Smoot

Ever, Lindsay, and Josie have ushered their daughters—Bea, Olive, and Savvy—through years of dance classes in their coastal California town. They’ve tended bloodied feet, stitched ribbons to countless pairs of pointe shoes, and in the process, forged friendships that seem to transcend rivalry.

But now Etienne Bernay, enfant terrible of French ballet, has come to their conservatory. Not only will he direct this year’s production of The Nutcracker, but he’s brought along a film crew to document his search for one special student who will receive a full scholarship to the Ballet de Paris Academie. For the girls, this is the chance to fulfill lifelong dreams. For Ever, recently widowed and struggling financially, it may be the only way to keep Bea dancing. And Bea is a truly gifted dancer—poetic and ethereal, breathtaking to watch.

Lindsay, meanwhile, frets that Olive is growing tired of the punishing reality of training, while Josie has no such qualms about Savvy, who is a powerhouse of ambition.

From auditions to casting to rehearsals, the cameras capture the selection process, with its backstabbing and jealousy, disappointment and triumph. But it’s behind the scenes that Bernay’s arrival will yield the most shocking revelations, exposing the secrets and lies at the heart of all three families—and the sacrifices women make for their children, for friendship, and for art. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

I have said it before and I will say it again, I love all things ballet. This story did not disappoint. In fact, it exceeded any expectations I could have had. I read all 403 pages in one day…I couldn’t put it down.

The Still Point takes place in Southern California and follows a group of teenage ballet dancers who are competing for a prestigious scholarship to train in Paris. However, it is about so much more than that. The competition is fierce, and the backstabbing is rampant, not only among the dancers, but also the parents. I loved how each chapter was a different main character’s point of view and voice. This way the reader gets to know them all separately while weaving the stories together. 

Every single chapter held some level of drama or conflict. It was like watching a ten-episode Netflix series that I never wanted to end. As I read on, the story became more and more complex and there were many surprises in store. The cattiness between the dance moms, and even sometimes the dads, played out perfectly. I loved this book and anyone who has been a dancer, or dance parent, will definitely relate to this story. This is a must read for anyone looking for a soapy drama with lots of twists.

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

More by Tammy Greenwood:
The Season of Second Chances (with Kristina McMorris)
Keeping Lucy (as T. Greenwood)
Such a Pretty Girl (as T. Greenwood)

Enjoyed this post? Never miss out on future posts by following us.

Listen to this book on Speechify!