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#Book Review #Blog Tour: A Stargazy Night Sky (A Little Hotel in Cornwall Book 7) by Laura Briggs @rararesources

 Thank you to Rachel from Rachel’s Random Resources for my place on this one-day blog blitz for the latest instalment in Maisie Clark’s story from A Little Hotel in Cornwall series!

Synopsis:

Starry autumn nights are bringing a rare celestial event and exciting new guests to the shores of the sleepy hotel Penmarrow.

Maisie is happy to be back among its staff, even with the question of its future ownership still in the air and the fate of her unpublished manuscript soon to be in the hands of London acquisitions editors. More than anything else, she’s happy to finally be in a relationship with Sidney Daniels, the sparks between them no longer denied. She’s excited for the future and things couldn’t be better with regards to romance … except for those lingering little questions about Sidney’s uncertain past, that is.

Meanwhile, the staff at the Penmarrow is tasked with hosting a special celestial conference where stargazers are gathering for a glimpse of the much-anticipated comet. The ever-timid maid Molly is flustered by the return of charming astronomer George and seems to need a little advice on how to rekindle the spark they shared last autumn. Hotel porters Gomez and Riley vie for the attentions of a mysterious female guest, the eccentric ‘Megs’ Buntly pays another visit, and a dramatic revelation about someone on staff will leave Maisie and everyone else reeling from the unexpected news. Is this the moment for the revelation Maisie has been waiting for since her Cornish journey began?

Brimming with humor, romance, and the kind of surprises its fans have come to expect, the seventh book in the series brings a twist at the end that’s sure to leave readers excited — and anxious — for the conclusion of Maisie’s original gorgeous Cornish adventure.

Purchase Link

My thoughts:

If you are reading this review, chances are you are a fan of Laura Briggs and have been following the adventures of Maisie Clark, a charming American writer who found love and inspiration for her books in a little Cornish village. If this is the first time you hear about this series, it is probably better to start from the beginning and immerse yourself in the adventures of this undoubtfully eccentric, kind-hearted girl who believes in love, friendship, loyalty, and honest work.

In the previous instalment Maisie finally sent off the manuscript of her first novel. Now as she is waiting for the first reactions, she is focussing on her second book- the story of Tam Lin. I loved her discussions on the writing process, creating believable protagonists with powerful motivations in order to draw the readers in and more:

“…the point of art, the point of storytelling, is the same as the point of life – to touch somebody.”

Maisie knows she might never write the next Great American Novel, but writing is something she can’t live without, it is her way of seeing the world. Isn’t it something we all dream of? finding a job, a career, an all encompassing passion in life that becomes an essential part of us.

Laura Briggs definitely writes about something she knows inside out – her own art and craft, the way a story takes hold in the writer’s imagination, the choices a novellist has to make, dealing with doubts (Is it finished or should I hold to it for a bit longer?) and rejections from publishers (oh, yes, they do sting), but Maisie decides to write a fantasy book and she is more than capable of defending it:
“Fantasy requires stretching the imagination backwards and forwards.’

Maisie’s relationship with Sydney is also developping. It isn’t easy to keep up to the level of truthfulness and  openness they chose to have. Maisie might not have much romantic experience or even clear ideas what she would like her relationship to be like, but she knows in Sydney she found a rare thing -somebody who understands her and likes her for who she is.

The Penmarrow Hotel is as busy as ever with an astronomers’ conference and other peculiar guests. The staff are waiting for the fate of the hotel to be decided as the owner has put it for sale. Other secrets are revealed and you get a feeling that we are getting closer and closer to the end of the story.  I have my theories about who the elusive Allistaire Davies is and what Sydney’s mysterious past might hold, but Laura Briggs is more than capable of shocking her fans with an unexpected twist or a surprising ending, so we’ll just have to wait and see.The last book is coming out very soon, in October.

Thank you to Rachel and the author for the gifted review copy. All opinions are my own and were not influenced in any way.

About Laura Briggs:

Laura Briggs is the author of several feel-good romance reads, including the Top 100 Amazon UK seller ‘A Wedding in Cornwall’. She has a fondness for vintage style dresses (especially ones with polka dots), and reads everything from Jane Austen to modern day mysteries. When she’s not writing, she enjoys spending time with family and friends, caring for her pets, gardening, and seeing the occasional movie or play.

Social Media Links
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Thank you very much for stopping by and reading this post! Have a great Monday – hope it’s the start of a wonderful week!

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Book Blitz: The People We Meet Along The Way by Beth Rinyu (Sept 17-21) @Xpresso Book Tours

Book & Author Details:

The People We Meet Along The Way
by Beth Rinyu
Publication date: September 17th 2020
Genres: Romance, Women’s Fiction

Synopsis:

Would you be able to grant the same forgiveness to someone else that you’re so desperately seeking yourself?
Jillian O’Rourke’s marriage died long before her husband’s tragic accident. Years of battling with infertility and demanding careers melted their once solid relationship. Bearing the burden of guilt over his death, Jillian gets lost in despair and a series of what ifs. But one chance encounter with a stranger, changes everything. Now being faced with newfound knowledge and a painful decision, Jillian must push past her anger, learn to forgive and open her heart in ways she never could’ve imagined.  As she comes to grips with the devastation of her past, she learns to embrace the possibility of a future she never thought possible.  A bittersweet story of love, forgiveness, and the unexpected destiny that is sometimes handed to us in life from the people we meet along the way.

Goodreads

Amazon

AUTHOR BIO:

Ever since I can remember, I have always enjoyed Creative Writing. There was always something about being able to travel to a different place or become a different person with just the stroke of a pen – or in today’s world a touch of the keyboard. I love creating deep characters who you will love or love to hate.

My life is not as interesting as my books or the characters in them, but then again whose life is? My happy place is a seat by the ocean with my feet in the sand or on the busy streets of New York City. You will more than likely find one of these places as the setting for most of my books.

Facebook  BookbubAmazon  /  Instagram  /  Blog

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Book Blitz: Love is a Battlefield by Whitney Dineen @Xpresso Book Tours

Book & Author Details:

Title: Love is a Battlefield (Seven Brides for Seven Mothers #1)
Author: Whitney Dineen
Publication date: September 15th 2020
Genres: Adult, Comedy, Romance

Synopsis:
Who doesn’t want their mom to play Cupid?

Addison Cooper had planned on an all-expense paid vacation to the Cayman Islands to celebrate her most recent business success. Instead, she’s trekking to the outback of Oregon to help a friend of her mother’s.

Reclusive novelist Brogan Cavanaugh’s new thriller just hit the New York Times Best Seller list. To reward himself, he was planning to spend the summer at his family’s fishing cabin until his mom unexpectedly calls in a favor.

Even though moms Libby and Ruby have been best friends since they were college roommates, Addison and Brogan have barely spent time in each other’s company. And when they did, things didn’t go well.

How will they react when they start to suspect their interfering mothers are setting them up?

Find out in this deliciously funny rom-com about mothers who really do know best and the children who don’t know they need them. 

Goodreads 

Purchase

About the author:

Whitney loves to laugh, play with her kids, bake, and eat french fries — not always in that order.

Whitney is a multi-award-winning author of romcoms, non-fiction humor, and middle reader fiction. Basically, she writes whatever the voices in her head tell her to. 

She lives in the beautiful Pacific Northwest with her husband, Jimmy, where they raise children, chickens, and organic vegetables.

Gold Medal winner at the International Readers’ Favorite Awards, 2017.
Silver medal winner at the International Readers’ Favorite Awards, 2015, 2016.
Finalist RONE Awards, 2016.
Finalist at the IRFA 2016, 2017.
Finalist at the Book Excellence Awards, 2017
Finalist Top Shelf Indie Book Awards, 2017

Website / Twitter  / Goodreads Instagram  / Facebook

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#Blog Tour #Book Review of My Christmas Number One by Leonie Mack @rararesources

Thank you to Rachel from Rachel’s Random Resources for my place on the blog tour for this feel good Christmas love story!

Synopsis:

My Christmas Number One
There’s nothing quite like a Christmas love story, to get you in the mood for celebrating…Cara doesn’t do sexy and she only does ‘Happy Christmas’ under duress. She is, after all, a serious musician, and her stubborn streak is born from her struggle to recover from a serious injury.

Javi lives for escapist fun – in his music, and in his life – especially since he’s always failed at life’s more serious challenges, including marriage and fatherhood.

Javi and Cara are forced to record a Christmas single together, but neither of them have plans to spend any more time with each other than they absolutely have to. With Christmas traditions that couldn’t be more different, and outlooks on life that are worlds apart, the chemistry just shouldn’t work. But the magic of Christmas can bring even opposites together…

From the snowy beauty of London at Christmas, to the candle-lit magic of Javi’s traditional family celebrations, let Leonie Mack whisk you away on a memorable festive adventure. Perfect for fans of Trisha Ashley, Mandy Baggot and Holly Martin.

Purchase

My thoughts:

My first Christmas story this year and it turned out to be quite an unusual one but with all the right feels!


Cara Poignton is a rising rock star from Bristol. She is a trained musician with a degree in music from a prestigious university. Ten years ago, when Cara was just eighteen, she lost her mother and her brother in a car accident which left her with a physical disability and a severe anxiety disorder. She is a serious person, determined not to let her traumatic past rob her of her present and future, but she accepts that there are some things that are more difficult for her than for other people. Music is her salvation and she takes it extremely seriously. When her record company asks her to colloborate on a Christmas song with a Latin music pop star, Cara does her best to add her unique musical vision to the project. Cara and Javi, the Colombian-American songwriter, make a beautiful dance video to go with the song, and although it is recorded on the Trafalgar Square in London in August, it has all the sparkles and Christmas spirit. The song becomes a hit and Cara gets involved with the usual promotion activities.

The more time she spends with Javi, the more it becomes clear that there is more to him than what his reputation of a Latin playboy/irresponsible musician would suggest. He poured all his soul in the song which is quite a departure from his usual style. Cara gets to see his vulnerable side and tries to understand what exactly javi meant by the mysterious lyrics. She also meets Bea, javi’s twelve year old daughter, Susi, his ex-wife, and even embarks on a journey to Javi’s home town in Colombia, all of this with a clear intent to stay away from a romantic relationship, but can she do it or rather should she stay in her own safe bubble and leave the excitement of love and adventure for other people?


The story has a very simple plotline- it is basically the promotion of Javi and Cara’s song and the push-pull of a romantic attraction beween two very different protagonists, both of which have traumatic past. Music is what makes it stand out from other Christmas stories. I was amazed how well Leonie Mack could describe the way a professional musician’s mind sees the world. For me the best scenes in the book are Cara’s performances- they are so vivid and full of adrenaline and energy! Cara goes through a lot of growth and experiences many things she has been denying herself. I really appreciate the the fact that the author was very methodical in her research of the disorder Cara has and very sensitive in how she described Cara’s thoughts and feelings. 


I loved the settings and the contrast and newly-created harmony between the different cultures and traditions Javi and Cara come from. I didn’t know much about Colombia before reading this book and had to look up the places and customs the author describes, and I must say this virtual journey was just wonderful.


 I got into the story really quickly, but then the pace slowed down, as the characters were going through their development. The inclusion of the secondary characters of Bea, Javi’s daughter, and Gordon, Cara’s father, was very welcome as I believe the story would have been a but too intense otherwise. It also added a bit more realism in showing the role of family relationships, our children and parents are in determining our priorities and the way we live our life. You have to be ready and open in your heart for a new stage of your life, whether it is a professional opportunity or a romantic relationship.


If you love music or just looking for a Christmas read which doesn’t follow the familiar formula, try this debut story with a beautiful cover and unique protagonists.

Thank you to Rachel for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour, Netgalley and Boldwood Books for the review copy. All opinions are my own and weren’t influenced in any way.

About the author:

Leonie Mack is a debut romantic novelist. Having lived in London for many years her home is now in Germany with her husband and three children. Leonie loves train travel, medieval towns, hiking and happy endings!

Social Media Links –

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/leoniejmack
Twitter  – https://www.twitter.com/LeonieMAuthor
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/LeonieJMack
Mailing list sign up – https://bit.ly/LeonieMackNewsletter

If you would like to know what other bloggers thought of the book, please, check out other stops on the blog tour for My Christmas Number One:

Thank you for coming by and reading the post! Wishing you a very happy Monday and a wonderful new week!

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#Can’t wait Wednesday # The Jade Bones by Lani Forbes

Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted at Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about that we have yet to read. Generally they’re books that have yet to be released. It’s based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted by the fabulous Jill at Breaking the Spine. If you’re continuing with WOW, feel free to link those up as well! Find out more here.

The book I’m waiting for this Wednesday is….

Title: The Jade Bones ( The age of the Seventh Sun#2)

Author: Lani Forbes

Publisher: Blackstone Publishing

Expected Publication Date: 16th February 2021

Genres/Category: Fantasy / YA

*****

Why I am waiting for it:

Earlier this year I read and loved the first part of this series. It had everything: powerful elemental magic, a strong female character keen on challenging the tradition, a cut-throat competition, sweet romance and a cliffhanger ending.

Synopsis:

Thrust into leadership upon the death of his emperor father, young Prince Ahkin feels completely unready for his new position. Though his royal blood controls the power of the sun, he’s now responsible for the lives of all the Chicome people. And despite all Ahkin’s efforts, the sun is fading–and the end of the world may be at hand.

For Mayana, the only daughter of the Chicome family whose blood controls the power of water, the old emperor’s death may mean that she is next. Prince Ahkin must be married before he can ascend the throne, and Mayana is one of six noble daughters presented to him as a possible wife. Those who are not chosen will be sacrificed to the gods.

Only one girl can become Ahkin’s bride. Mayana and Ahkin feel an immediate connection, but the gods themselves may be against them. Both recognize that the ancient rites of blood that keep the gods appeased may be harming the Chicome more than they help. As a bloodred comet and the fading sun bring a growing sense of dread, only two young people may hope to change their world.

Rich in imagination and romance, and based on the legends and history of the Aztec and Maya people, The Seventh Sun brings to vivid life a world on the edge of apocalyptic disaster.

Synopsis:

Four young people risk their lives to save the world from a looming apocalypse in this captivating sequel to The Seventh Sun.

Cast into the underworld after an act of shattering betrayal, Mayana and Ahkin must overcome unimaginable odds if they are to return home and reclaim the throne of the Chicome. A river of blood and demons disguised as children are only two of the challenges standing in their way. Fortunately, they are not unequipped. Mayana’s royal blood controls the power of water, and Prince Ahkin wields the power of the sun itself. Ometeotl, the Mother goddess, provides them with other gifts—and an ominous warning that one of them may not survive. But can the goddess be trusted?

*****

  • Do you enjoy reading fantasy books?
  • Have you read The Seventh Sun? If yes, did you like it? Are you waiting for The Jade Bones?

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#Book Review #The Mother Code by Carole Stivers

Synopsis:

What it means to be human-and a mother-is put to the test in Carole Stivers’ debut novel set in a world that is more chilling and precarious than ever.

The year is 2049. When a deadly non-viral agent intended for biowarfare spreads out of control, scientists must scramble to ensure the survival of the human race. They turn to their last resort, a plan to place genetically engineered children inside the cocoons of large-scale robots–to be incubated, birthed, and raised by machines. But there is yet one hope of preserving the human order–an intelligence programmed into these machines that renders each unique in its own right–the Mother Code.

Kai is born in America’s desert southwest, his only companion his robot Mother, Rho-Z. Equipped with the knowledge and motivations of a human mother, Rho-Z raises Kai and teaches him how to survive. But as children like Kai come of age, their Mothers transform too–in ways that were never predicted. When government survivors decide that the Mothers must be destroyed, Kai must make a choice. Will he break the bond he shares with Rho-Z? Or will he fight to save the only parent he has ever known?

In a future that could be our own, The Mother Code explores what truly makes us human–and the tenuous nature of the boundaries between us and the machines we create.

My thoughts:
Some people would say that the timing for The Mother Code is just uncanny. I can’t help but wonder if this is going to help the readers relate more to the events described by Carol Stivens.

The Mother Code has two timelines that slowly converge. One is following the development of a deadly pandemic that is bringing the civilisation as we know it to its end. The other starts with the birth of a human baby and the way his robot mother is taking care of his needs, including two of the most powerful ones: the need to learn and adapt to the environment in order to survive and the socialization need.

The pandemic described in The Mother Code starts with a biowarfare agent released by the US government with the noble aim of fighting terrorism. If inhaled within several hours after the targeted release, the weapon leads to a terminal lung desease that causes death in a matter of weeks. The weapon is designed to be of a self-containing, degrade-in-several-hours kind. It cannot be replicated by the cells of a contaminated human, so it isn’t supposed to be contageous. The residue denatures to the form which cannot enter human cells. Sounds like the scientists thought of everything that could go wrong.

Well, you guessed it, they didn’t. If you enjoy reading about biology, genetics and biochemistry, you are going to appreciate the author’s explanation of how this ill-advised bioexperiment causes a manmade disaster on the whole planet scale and leads to inexorable collapse of the human society. As scientists race towards finding a cure, they realise they are running of time and might have to fall on Plan B: genetically modified human embryos that would be carried to term and later looked after by special robots. The scientist who oversees the development of these marvellous machines and their programming makes sure every Mother is unique and carries a personality based on a real woman, the egg donor for that particular child.

Depending on your preferences you might find one of the two timelines more interesting. Perhaps, the pandemic line was more focused, more believable. Having said that, there were some aspects that reflect our geopolitics and tie it to our time. You know when you read The Ender’s Game and come across a passage on the Soviet Union and say to yourself: What?!Oh, right, it was written in the early eighties…


Good science-fiction needs to ask thought-provoking questions. The role of early socialization and mother/caretaker-child unique bond, machine learning, AI, the new and fresh look on the brave new world which is created by humans who are raised by machines…I think the book could have gone even deeper into exploring these fascinating issues.


There were quite a few characters – the scientists, the military personnel, the children. Perhaps, if there were fewer, I could have felt a stronger emotional connection to their stories. Or perhaps, it is the case of the concept development taking precedence over the characterisation. As it was, my favourite character was probably Rho-Z, because I really wanted to see how much of her was the original Mother Code and how much was being Kai’s Mother, the mother of a real boy who is discovering the world.


Overall, I enjoyed reading The Mother Code and would love to see a film adaptation for this book- there is so much potential to make the story spectacular. Thank you to Edelweiss and Berkley for the review copy provided in exchange for an honest opinion.

  • Have you read The Mother Code or is it on your tbr?
  • Do you enjoy reading science-fiction and, in particular, dystopian, post-apocalyptic fiction?
  • Should science-fiction avoid using complex, technical terminology or is it a part and parcel of the genre?
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#Book Review #A Sweet Mess by Jayci Lee

If you love food (especially all sorts of cakes and desserts) and romance books, you should definitely read Jayci Lee’s A Sweet Mess – the characters’ passion for food is undeniable.
Our protagonist Aubrey Choi is the owner of a small, but very successful bakery Comfort Zone. She is living through a minor cake emergency at the beginning of the book. Her part time assistant served somebody Aubrey’s creation that was designed to go to a six year old birthday girl. Aubree bakes another identical cake and saves the day. She is busy chatting away with her best friend Tara when she meets Landon Kim, a gorgeous Asian American and is immediately attracted to him.  She has no idea that Landon is a famous food critic whose car happened to break down on his way to a restaurant he was supposed to review. The couple spend an amazing night together thinking they are never going to see each other again. Landon never made it to his assignment, but his boss needs an article to fill the gap, so why not write about the cake abomination he was served earlier on the day – it was amazingly tasty, but also contained strangest fillings possible. Surely this must have been due to the arrogance of the pastry chef…

Landon’s article has a more significant effect than he expected. A lot of Aubrey’s business came from tourists and online orders which disappear almost overnight, just when she already committed herself to her new premises and needs money to rennovate them. Aubrey and just about everyone in her small town begs the editor to give her a second chance, especially since Landon’s unfortunate experience was due to an honest mistake. Landon refuses to review Aubrey’s bakery again, but would like to correct the consequences of his actions by offering her a place on a cooking show which would involve a week of filming and two weeks of tasting local wines. Aubrey knows this is her chance to save her bakery, however hard it might be to work with and stay in the same villa as Landon…

I’m not a big fan of insta-love, but Aubrey and Landon’s first encounter was more of insta-attraction with no strings. Later the protagonists do find out more about each other and have time and space to let their feelings grow. There is a lot of tension building and even a few fairly melodramatic moments in the last third of the book. Part of the conflict comes from their childhood/adolescence experiences that shaped their ideas on love, relationships and family. As usual, clear communication would have saved the protagonists from a lot of misunderstandings and heartache.

Cute, emotional, full  of traditional romance tropes, A Sweet mess is an entertaining read, recommended to anyone who loves food (esp.Korean food) and cooking.

Thank you to Edelweiss and St.Martin’s Griffin for the ARC provided in exchange for an honest opinion.

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#Book review #The Patron Saint of Pregnant Girls by Ursula Hegi

From the blurb:

As full of joy and beauty as it is of pain, and told with the luminous power that has made Ursula Hegi a beloved bestselling author for decades, The Patron Saint of Pregnant Girls is a shattering portrait of marriage and motherhood, and of the ways in which women hold each other up in the face of heartbreak.

My thoughts:

This is one of the most unusual books I have read this year. Set on one of the Frisian islands in 1878 against the backdrop of the severe beauty of the North Sea, this beautifully-written book is full of  quirky characters and heartbreaking stories of love and loss.

The tragedy

On the day that the Ludwig Circus arrives on the island of Nordstrand all the village comes out to watch its splendid parade. There are Old Women, competing for the title of the oldest living one, there is Lotte and her four children, including baby Wilhelm, there are also pregnant girls from St.Margaret’s Home that takes care of them. All of them witness the horrifying power of the Nordsee as a huge wave, not seen in these places for a hundred years, rises from the depths of the Nordsee and wreaks havoc on their lives. Lotte Jansen loses three of her children and tries to offer the fourth one in exchange for the return of them. Blinded by her grief and despair, she tries to throw baby Wilhelm in the sea. Luckily, the baby is saved by his father Kalle Jansen at the very last moment. The villagers and the circus performers keep looking for the Jansen children for days, but their desperate search is in vain, Hannelore, Barbel and Martin perished in the sea. Eleven year old, heavily pregnant Tilly and Sabine, the circus seamstress and mother of Heike, a grown up woman with a child’s mind, are among those who search for Lotte’s children.

Three mothers: Lotte, Tilli, Sabine

Kalle is Lotte’s childhood sweetheart, her one and only love, devoted husband and soulmate, but even he cannot cope with her grief and severe depression. Kalle decides to leave with the Ludwig travelling circus and take care of sick animals. The Sisters from St.Margaret’s home take care of Lotte and baby Wilhelm who is on the brink on starvation as Lotte lost her milk. The Sisters ask Tilly, who has just given birth to a baby girl only to see her adopted and taken away, to breastfeed Wilhelm. Lotte’s return to life and her child is slow and the nuns are beginning to worry about Tilly’s getting too attached to Wilhelm. Tilly is still a child herself after all. Once her parents found out she got pregnant by her twin brother, they sent her away, having chosen the boy over the girl.

Sabine’s story is equally compelling.  Her partner, a circus acrobat and free spirit, left her when she was still pregnant. The circus became her family and everybody pulled in helping Sabine raise Heike. Sabine knows she will always have to take care of her special girl, but what is going to happen to Heike after her death?

Secondary characters
Apart from the central story which is Lotte’s struggle to come to terms with her grief and flashbacks that tell us more about Sabine’s life, we also get to know the Old Women with their gossipy conversations, full of humour and friendly compassion. We meet the nuns and learn how they decided to open the Home for pregnant girls and turn it into an art school of a sort. Many of the girls won’t be able to return to their families and will need to earn their living, so learning practical skills of running a household and looking after children may help them secure their employment. Some girls insist on keeping their babies and the nuns respect their choice. Sister Hildegunde and her surreal paintings provided a welcome comic relief that is necessary in a story like this.
Considering that there are also stories of the circus members, we see that Ursula Hegi explores different kinds of families and family ties with great tenderness.

Writing
The writing is poetic and dream-like. The descriptions of the severe beauty and power of the North Sea set the tone to the novel and bring to mind myths and legends of the Frisian Islands. Lotte’s mind struggling to cope with the reality of her loss finds solace in the legend of Rungholt, a sunk island which can be seen once a year. Ursula Hegi’s writing is full of quirky and memorable details. Kalle comes back to Lotte and brings her an old zebra to take care of during the winter months. Lotte becomes a midwife who never loses a mother or a baby as if her personal loss was a sacrifice she made to save future lives. Sabine’s circus caravan is full of bees that made the roof of the caravan their home. Sister Hildegunde’s paintings resemble Hieronymus Bosch’s Garden of the Early delights…

Overall
I found this beautiful, character-driven, complex book impossible to put down. The Patron Saint Of Pregnant Girls with it’s intertwining stories of grief and courage to face life, families and friendships, strength and weakness, daily life and circus, children and old people with their particular brand of wisdom is an unusual, but strangely compelling book. It might not be everybody’s kind of story, but if you like literary fiction with rich imagery that explores human relationships, pick it up. You might find it as fascinating as I did.

Thank you to Edelweiss and Flatiron Books for the ARC provided in exchange for an honest opinion.

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Book Blitz: The Promise Kept by Maggie Mae Gallagher ( August 19-23) @Xpresso Book Tours

Book & Author Details:

The Promise Kept
by Maggie Mae Gallagher
(Echo Springs, #2)
Publication date: August 19th 2020
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Synopsis:

Cybil Roe gave her heart away thirteen years ago only to have it wind up shattered. With painstaking determination, she has rebuilt her life into something to be proud of today. Yet all her future plans are upended when the only man she has ever loved returns to Echo Springs. Nor does it help that he seems bound and determined to draw her back into his life. Cybil vows to stay away from him, no matter what seeing him all the time does to her resolve.

Miles Keaton wiped the dust of his hometown off his shoes years ago, never expecting that life would lead him back to the place where he had begun. Coming home to Echo Springs, to Cybil, to start a new law practice and a new life is a risk he never thought he’d take. She hates him – with good reason. Years ago, he walked away when she needed him the most. But now is he back, and intends to argue the case of his life, one more important than any he has debated in a courtroom, because she is the one woman he cannot live without.

Can Miles convince Cybil to take a second chance on him, or will a secret she has kept all these years destroy any future they might have?

Goodreads

Purchase

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About the Author:

Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Maggie grew up listening to Cardinals baseball and reading anything she could get her hands on. She remembers her mother saying if only she would read the right type of books instead binging her way through the romance aisles at the bookstore, she’d have been a doctor. While Maggie never did get that doctorate, she graduated cum laude from the University of Missouri-St. Louis with an M.A. in History.

Maggie is a bestselling and award-winning author published in multiple fiction genres. She also writes erotic romance under the name Anya Summers. A total geek at her core, when she is not writing, she adores attending the latest comic con or spending time with her family. She currently lives in the United States Midwest with her two furry felines.

website  / instagram  /  goodreads  /facebook  /  twitter newsletter


Book 1 is also 99¢ for a limited time!

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  • $50 Amazon gift card

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#Book review #Love in Unlikely Places by Linda Byler

When Emma leaves the security of her Amish community for a job in North Carolina, she finds herself navigating choices, circumstances, and a relationship that she never could have imagined. Follow as she struggles to reconcile her faith and her complicated feelings in this romance by bestselling Amish writer Linda Byler.

(From the book blurb)

****

My thoughts:
Love in Unlely Places is an unusual kind of an Amish book, a book that isn’t just entertaining, but also  touches upon more difficult questions.

When we first meet our protagonist Emma Beiler, she is  reflecting on the artistic talent of one of her pupils and whether it is worth developping it at all. At 26, Emma is already considered a leftover blessing or in other words an old maid. Is she too picky? She wants to have that special feeling she experienced once when she fell in love with a smart, open-minded man, who later chose a quiet, obedient girl, not as curious or opinionated as Emma. He chose to marry her younger sister. Emma was heartbroken and threw herself into work. Now, ten years later, she feels her life has become too repetitive and even her teaching is missing the joy and spark it once had. Should she try to date one of the available single men of her community? She could probably force herself to like somebody and become a loyal and supportive wife. Or is God’s plan for her is to stay single and devote herself to her family, her nephews and nieces? Emma’s character and her dilemma is relatable to anybody single who is feeling the pressure to settle down, whose relatives are taking every opportunity to ask her/him when she/he is going to get married and whose friends keep hinting that her/his standards might be too high.

Emma decides to change her life and starts by looking for a job outside her community. She gets an interview and is hired to be a nanny to two children aged two and six. As the family are going to have their summer holidays in their beach house in North Carolina, Emma’s world is about to get dramatically expanded. The descriptions of the oceanfront, the sights, the smells are amazing. For Linda Byler, nature is a manifestation of God’s love for humankind.

I really enjoyed reading about Emma’s interactions with the children in the Englisher household. She is kind, respectful and patient. She knows her job is to observe, not impose her own ideas, but it becomes apparent very soon that the children would benefit from stricter boundaries, clearer guidelines and perhaps more genuine attention on the part of their parents. To Emma’s great surprise, the family hired an Amish construction team to work on their house and this is how she meets charming, easy-going, well-spoken Ben, who wouldn’t mind getting to know Emma better. She might be reserved and afraid of getting her hear broken again, but gradually Emma opens up to the possibility of having finally met somebody unlike the other single men in her community, somebody who is more  informed, more worldly, and openly attracted to her.

When Emma’s contract is terminated suddenly, she doesn’t get a chance to say good-bye or exchange contact information with Ben. Still, he knows enough about her to be able to find her address and write to her and this thought is something Emma is cherishing deep in her heart, as she is settling back into her farm life at home. As more and more days and weeks and months pass, Emma is facing now a different kind of dilemma: should she continue trusting that Ben is still in love with her and will turn up on her doorstep and whisk her away or should she listen to her family and friends who are much more cautious?

Emma’s friend Eva suggests a camping trip with her husband and their baby. They are also joined by Eva’s cousin Matt who, although adopted and raised by an Amish family, later chose to live as an Englisher. Emma and Matt discover that they have a lot in common, but being Amish, her faith and traditions are very important to Emma, so she cannot permit herself get attracted to Matt. There is still hope for Ben, after all. And he does write and invite her back to North Carolina. Can anybody’s love life get more complicated than that? Read the book and find out what future has in store for Emma.

Love in Unlikely Places is indeed an unusual kind of romance, with a heroine who is intelligent and well-informed in some ways, and desperately romantic and perhaps even naive in other ways. The book touches upon a variety of topics ranging from raising children, the use of technology, post-natal depression, adoption, politics, historical justice, and even global warming. There is romance, there are diffrent kinds of families, there are some wonderful friends who will tell you the truth and will stand by you, and there are fabulous descriptions of nature. Perhaps, the book is less light-hearted and straightforward than most books in this genre, but it has its core elements which for me are community, faith and trust in God’s will and kindness.

Thank you to Edelweiss and Good Books for this fascinating ARC. All opinions are my own and were not influenced in any way.

About the author:

Linda Byler grew up Amish and is an active member of the Amish church today. Growing up, Linda Byler loved to read and write. In fact, she still does. She is well known within the Amish community as a columnist for a weekly Amish newspaper. She writes all her novels by hand in notebooks. Linda and her husband, their children and grandchildren live in central Pennsylvania.

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Book Blitz: The Fall Changes by Marie McGrath (August 11-15) @Xpresso Book Tours

Book & Author Details:

Title: The Fall Changes (Honey Cove , #1)
Author: Marie McGrath
Publication date: August 11th 2020
Genres: Romance, Young Adult

Synopsis:

Change where you live.
Change your parents being married.
And maybe, change who you are.

At 16 years old, Riley Mills has had more change than she ever wanted. A new high school would be daunting for most teens, but between getting attention from the most popular girl and being paired with a boy for her class project, she is navigating many situations she never could have imagined.

With homecoming fast approaching and rumors about her swirling, Riley must confront her true nature. Is she a popular girl at heart? Could someone actually like her?

With no clear answers, Riley may just find some answers from the most unexpected sources.

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AUTHOR BIO:
Marie McGrath lives in a small rural town in Maryland. She hopes to inspire others with her stories. Her favorite genres to read are YA Romance and Contemporary Fiction. She loves the color turquoise, tigers, and listening to music.

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#Book review #No Offense by Meg Cabot (The Little Bridge Island#2)

From the book blurb:

Welcome to Little Bridge, one of the smallest, most beautiful islands in the Florida Keys, home to sandy white beaches, salt-rimmed margaritas, and stunning sunsets—a place where nothing goes under the radar and love has a way of sneaking up when least expected… 

My thoughts:

The second book in the Little Bridge Island series by Meg Cabot is as light and enjoyable as the first one, No Judgments. This time we follow the story of the new children’s section librarian Molly Montgomery who finds a new born baby girl in the library bathroom. Sheriff John Hartwell promises to do everything possible to find the baby’s parents…and (no spoilers) he does. In the meantime, sparks of attraction fly between the pretty librarian and the sheriff, who also happens to be a newly divorced father of a teenage daughter.

Molly and John do not always see eye to eye on how to proceed with the case. Understandably, the sheriff thinks Molly should let him do his job investigating who abandoned Baby Aphrodite, as well as the recent spate of home burglaries. Molly, a great admirer of amateur sleuths and true-crime podcasts would love to give him a few tips on how to collect and process evidence. She also thinks that sometimes John lacks empathy towards the victims.

Both John and Molly are extremely serious about what they do, especially Molly, who is passionate about libraries and reading. I really liked the way she was completely non-judgemental about whatever people read as long as they read, no snobbery at all. John is slightly older and has ever been with one woman only. He married his high school sweetheart when she got pregnant, and while their divorce might have been amicable, he is at a loss on how to begin dating again. Readers who grew up on Meg Cabot’s YA novels may find it a bit more difficult to relate to the protagonists of this book. I must say a few times I felt annoyed by John’s remarks and behaviour. He keeps refering to his four-hour sexual harrassement workshop for law enforcement officers, and then makes his moves on Molly a bit too quickly. Luckily, Molly is as much interested in him physically as he is in her, so things work out in spite of their disagreements. It helps that the sides choose to apologise and admit the other side might have been right and do it with the help of various pies, including my favourite key lime pie.

Overall, the story was sweet and it was great to revisit the setting of a little island where people do not lock their doors and try to help out those in need. Meg Cabot has a very distinct writing style- it is light, enjoyable, and very easy to follow. You can always rely on her for an entertaining story with a bit of humour and lovely characters.

Thank you to Edelweiss and William Morrow Paperbacks for the ARC provided in exchange for ah nonest opinion.

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#Book Review #The Vacation by T.M.Logan

 Synopsis:

Seven days. Three families. One killer.

It was supposed to be the perfect holiday – a group of families enjoying a week together in the sun. Four women who have been best friends for as long as they can remember making the most of a luxurious villa in the south of France.

But Kate has a secret: her husband is having an affair. And a week away might just be the perfect opportunity to get the proof she needs – to catch him in the act once and for all. Because she suspects the other woman is one of her two best friends.

One of them is working against her, willing to sacrifice years of friendship to destroy her family. But which one? As Kate closes in on the truth in the stifling Mediterranean heat, she realises too late that the stakes are far higher than she ever imagined . . .

Because someone in the villa may be prepared to kill to keep their secret hidden.

My thoughts:

If you are looking for your next summer read with a few twists and turns, The Vacation might be exactly what you need. It has the perfect blend of domesticity and suspense to keep you fully engaged and entertained throughout the story.

 Four friends that go back to their university days, but now have families of their own. One of the characters, Kate, finds secret messages on her husband Sean’s phone and suspects he’s been having an affair behind her back. Gradually, we are introduced to the other vacationers and begin to see how each of them is hiding something. If you are like me, you will suspect everybody and try to weed out the bad apple in this tight group of friends and their children. There are several POVs, a narrative device that allows the reader to see more of the inner motivations of the characters. There is a lot of masterful misdirection with the writer keeping you on the edge of your seat until the end of the book.

I really enjoyed the pace of this thriller. The chapters are long enough to add a twist or two to your understanding of the characters (all of whom are undoubtfully flawed) and the plot and short enough to never let it drag.
 Without giving you any spoilers, the ending was satisfying with the justice being served, although the lives of all characters are never going to be the same as before the French vacation.

I would definitely recommend this well-written thriller and would love to read T.M.Logan’s previous and future books.

Thank you to NetGalley and St.Martin’s Press for the ARC provided in exchange for an honest opinion.

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#Book review # The Nothing Man by Catherine Ryan Howard

Synopsis:

At the age of twelve, Eve Black was the only member of her family to survive an encounter with serial attacker the Nothing Man. Now an adult, she is obsessed with identifying the man who destroyed her life.

Supermarket security guard Jim Doyle has just started reading The Nothing Man–the true-crime memoir Eve has written about her efforts to track down her family’s killer. As he turns each page, his rage grows. Because Jim’s not just interested in reading about the Nothing Man. He is the Nothing Man.

Jim soon beings to realize how dangerously close Eve is getting to the truth. He knows she won’t give up until she finds him. He has no choice but to stop her first …

*****

My thoughts:


Clever concept masterfully executed by a superb story-teller!

This is my second book by Catherine Ryan Howard and once again I have to admire the narrative structure she chose for her thriller. The Nothing Man is a book in a book and both of them are impossible to put down!

Eve Black survived a horrifying experience of losing all her family at the age of twelve. A masked man crept into their house and killed Eve’s mother, father and her seven year old little sister. Eve hid in the bathroom and by miracle was not noticed by the Nothing Man, a serial killer who never left any evidence behind him, no trace of DNA, no witnesses, nothing.

Jim Doyle is working as a security guard in a department store. He notices a customer with a brand new thriller and then is shocked to see the title- The Nothing Man: A Survivor’s Search for the Truth. The Nothing Man is Jim’s other name given to him by the press twenty years ago. Jim is so fascinated by Eve’s account that he buys a copy for himself going to great lengths to hide the fact. He needs to know what Eve has written and how accurate her description of his five crimes is. Jim’s eighteen year old daughter asks him to go a local bookstore where Eve is going to sign copies of her true crime memoir. This is his chance to see the writer close up and get a feel how much she really knows.

We never meet Eve in real life. All we get is her riveting book where she talks about her life after the attack, her grief for her lost family, her desire to protect her identity and avoid being pigeonholed as The Girl Who Lived, her need to get closure that can only come with finding the serial killer. Eve’s account of the past events is vivid and perfectly paced, it makes such compelling reading that we get completely immersed in her search for the identity of the Nothing Man…only to be thrown back into real life which happens whenever Jim’s reading is interrupted and he is back to his present. Very soon Jim realises he will have to silence Eve once and forever. Incredibly, she managed to find the tenuous link between the victims, the reason why they were ‘chosen’.


We do get inside Jim’s head, get to know his character, his motivations, although, mercifully, do not see the crimes themselves. Step by step, we see how unremarkable, ordinary and forgettable he is. All that remains is the pain and suffering he inflicted. Catherine Ryan Howard sets out through Eve’s book to show that the world should pay more attention to the victims, not the serial killers.

Unusual, clever, focused, The Nothing Man is totally addictive -you won’t be able to stop reading until the last page is turned. It is extremely well-written with it’s tight plot, memorable characters, and fascinating structure. Highly recommended.

Thank you to Edelweiss and Blackstone Publishing for the ARC provided in exchange for an honest opinion.

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#Book review #Vanessa Yu’s Magical Paris Tea Shop by Roselle Lim

I was swept away by Roselle Lim’s debut novel ‘Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune‘. It was sweet, adorable, full of magic and delicious recipes that could give you love, tenderness, or courage, depending on what you need the most in your life. Her second novel, Vanessa Yu’s Magical Paris tea shop is as exquisite as Natalie Tan.

I must say I didn’t get into the book straightaway. Vanessa seemed so withdrawn and passive, almost invisible in her loud, well-meaning, but interfering family. She has a special gift of giving prophecies, but unlike her Aunt Evelyn who is a master clairvoyant, proud of being able to help people with her unusual ability to see their future, Vanessa is terrified of burdening the others with her visions of doom and gloom. Once I heard the prophecy Vanessa was trying unsuccessfully to hold back and repress at her cousin’s wedding, I could see why Vanessa saw her gift as a curse. I also reconnected with Roselle Lim’s beautiful writing once more. The way the prophecies arrive to Vanessa… you just have to read and experience it yourself, but it is absolutely unique and magic!

Vanessa’s perpetual singledom and inability to go past a first date with any prospective romantic partner upsets and worries Vanessa’s numerous aunts (she has thirteen of them) to the extent of staging an intervention in the form of inviting a famous matchmaker from China. Madame Fong confirms something Vanessa already knew. Everybody has a match somewhere, a person they are tied to by a red thread of romantic love. Clairvoyants don’t and this is the price of their gift. Vanessa never wanted to be a fortune-teller, there’s nothing she would want more than not to have it  or at least to be able to control where and when she blurts out her prophecies. If there is a person who can help her, it is her Aunt Evelyn who is about to open a tea shop in the center of Paris. Three weeks in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, full of art, history and best food possible and an opportunity to have lessons on how to control her unruly gift.

Vanessa throws herself into experiencing Paris with all her senses: art, architecture, romance, and food, oh Roselle Lim’s mouth-watering descriptions of food are the best I’ve ever read. Did I mention romance? Vanessa meets her special stranger, but there is a catch: her aunt Evelyn already predicted that Vanessa will have but a few days with her lovely Marc. Would you get into a relationship with an expiry date? Would you allow yourself fall in love knowing you your heart will be broken? Vanessa wants what she has been denied by the virtue of being born with her special talent, she wants to defy fate, she wants love:

 ‘Despite spilling others’ fortunes, I refused to believe fate dictated my life. I believed in revolt, in breaking away from what was imposed upon me, and my fundamental rejection of my power proved that I rejected destiny too.’

‘The future was ours to shape’.

What does it mean to be true to yourself? Vanessa’s aunt Evelyn has always followed fortune-telling rules to the letter and sacrificed her romantic relationship to be with her family. Vanessa has been working in her family accounting business for years, she has been nothing but a dutiful daughter and niece. Her gift is also something she owes to her family. With her identity being so strongly linked to her family and her place in it, even if she manages to get rid of her curse, where will it leave her?

To my delight, Vanessa manages to discover her own way of helping people and there is a happily ever after for her. This book delivers fully on its promise to take the reader on a magic adventure of self-discovery in one of the most romantic cities on the world. Can’t wait to meet Roselle Lim’s next protagonist and be spell-bound by their story.

Thank you to Edelweiss and Berkley for the ARC provided in exchange for an honest opinion.

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#Book Review # The Night Swim by Megan Goldin

Synopsis:

After the first season of her true crime podcast became an overnight sensation and set an innocent man free, Rachel Krall is now a household name―and the last hope for thousands of people seeking justice. But she’s used to being recognized for her voice, not her face. Which makes it all the more unsettling when she finds a note on her car windshield, addressed to her, begging for help.

The small town of Neapolis is being torn apart by a devastating rape trial. The town’s golden boy, a swimmer destined for Olympic greatness, has been accused of raping a high school student, the beloved granddaughter of the police chief. Under pressure to make Season Three a success, Rachel throws herself into interviewing and investigating―but the mysterious letters keep showing up in unexpected places. Someone is following her, and she won’t stop until Rachel finds out what happened to her sister twenty-five years ago. Officially, Jenny Stills tragically drowned, but the letters insists she was murdered―and when Rachel starts asking questions, nobody seems to want to answer. The past and present start to collide as Rachel uncovers startling connections between the two cases that will change the course of the trial and the lives of everyone involved.

Electrifying and propulsive, The Night Swim asks: What is the price of a reputation? Can a small town ever right the wrongs of its past? And what really happened to Jenny?

My thoughts:
Content Warning: rape, sexual assault, murder

Megan Goldin knows how to choose hard to discuss topics. Last year her thriller Escape Room  delved into the greedy corporation world that turns people into unscrupulous, ruthless money-making machines. Now she comes back with a new book that is as compelling and difficult to put down once you start reading it, but much more emotional and humane. The Night Swim is one of the best books I’ve read this year.


Rachel Krall is a hugely successful investigative journalist who has her own true-crime podcast Guilty or Not. The third season is going to focus on a live trial of a golden boy/ prospective Olympic swimmer Scott Blair accused of a brutal rape of K., a 16 year old granddaughter of a former police chief. Rachel knows the trial is going to be hugely controversial and we get a taste of how divided the town inhabitants’ opinions are:

She was drunk. Means she couldn’t consent.’
‘he was drunk too. How could he know she didn’t consent if he was drunk? It goes both ways. Anyway, his life is ruined. what happens if some slutty girl tries to ruin my kid’s life by making stuff up?’
‘If she says it happened, then I believe her’
.

Rachel’s podcast is going to cover the witness testimony and evidence as it is given in the courtroom to let her listeners decide for themselves on whether the verdict reached by the jury is something they would agree with. However, on her way to Neapolis, North Carolina, the small town where the trial is taking place, something else happens. When Rachel comes back from her restroom break she finds a note on the windshield. The note is addressed to her directly and comes from somebody called Hannah who is begging Rachel to look into the case of Jenny Stills, Hannah’ sister, who allegedly drowned 25 years ago. The note is followed by many other letters, and soon Rachel finds herself investigating Jenny’s case, fearing justice hasn’t been served in the case of this poor girl who was brutally raped and murdered.

The chapters are told from the point of view of Hannah who is recalling the traumatic past events and who wants the truth to come out, Rachel looking into Jenny’s story and uncovering some deeply disturbing facts, and Rachel’s podcast that covers the courtroom scenes and her deliberations on the how the society deals with rape and its victims. I have to say some of the scenes were so emotionally charged and gut-wrenching that I needed to put the book down and take a breath of fresh air. Having said that, Megan Goldin deals with this painful topic with extreme sensitivity and respect.

‘You can’t save the world, Rachel’. ‘Maybe not. But I can save one person at a time.’

I really liked Rachel- she is brave, inquisitive, honest, and tenacious. We learn bits and pieces about her as the story unfolds and every single fact or detail is relevant and adds to the picture of a person with great integrity. Hannah was more elusive for me. The way she delivers her notes is sensational and stalkerish and doesn’t make much sense to me, as Rachel already started looking into Jenny’s case. Hannah needs the truth to come out to get closure. She has been given opportunities in life and, most importantly, life itself, something Jenny was robbed of. There are some horrible scenes of the abuse hurled at Jenny. Twenty five years later K. is living through the same drama, although she is to some extent shielded and protected by her family. There are also some extremely unlikeable characters in this book and after having read both The Escape Room and The Night Swim, I can vouch Megan Goldin is really good at coming up with them.

The setting was really fitting for the story. Neapolis is a small town where most people know everybody else and it is isn’t easy to find twelve ( plus one, in case one falls ill and cannot continue) jury members who don’t know or a connected to the families of the accused or the plaintiff. This is the place where reputations are all important and money talks. Jenny and Hannah come from a family of have nots and as such, no matter what they do, they are judged harshly. K.’s case wouldn’t have even made it to the court had her family been less influential. One of the secondary characters in the book, a teenage boy is under pressure from his family to take a deal offered by the prosecution, because his family cannot afford legal expenses.

To tell you the truth, I don’t get how we can unanimously agree that murder is wrong, yet when it comes to rape some people still see shades of gray’.

Megan Goldin raises a lot of controversial questions such as the way the judicial system and our society in general deals with the crime of rape and sexual assault. The victim has to prove the guilt of the accused beyond a reasonable doubt, but the nature of the crime is such there are rarely witnesses and it often comes to one side’s word against the other side’s. They are both put on trial: one for the intent and actions, the other for credibility and I have to agree with Megan Goldin’s words:
it’s a terrible thing for a person to have to stand in judgment of another’.

 If I hadn’t already been a fan of Megan Goldin’s work, I would have become one after reading this thought-provoking, compelling, well-written thriller. I can’t wait to read what topics she chooses to focus on in future.

Thank you to Edelweiss and St.Martin’s Press for the ARC provided in exchange for an honest opinion.

  • Have you read/listened to the Night Swim? if yes, what did you think?

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#Book Blitz: Hasty by Julia Kent @Xpresso Book Tours

Book & Author Details:

Hasty
by Julia Kent
(Do-Over Series, #4)
Publication date: July 28th 2020
Genres: Adult, Comedy, Romance

Synopsis:

AN ALL-NEW STANDALONE FROM NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR JULIA KENT
I never thought my perp walk would lead to true love.Then again, I never thought I’d be arrested on RICO charges and hauled away in zip ties on camera for the world to see, minutes after closing the most amazing deal of my career.And all of it in front of my biggest viral, billionaire wunderkind Ian McRory.

I am broke. I am disgraced. I am alone. I am a sucker.

But the worst part? I have to go back to my hometown and live in my bedroom filled with relics from my childhood.

Lisa Frank never made me so mad before.

Just when I needed a rescue, I got one — in the form of help from my biggest rival. He can’t bring back my money.  He certainly can’t bring back my reputation or my pride. But there’s one thing he can bring back to me. A sense of hope. Maybe even love.

Ian sees something in me no one else does, and he’s relentless about making me see it, too. As we grow closer, I’m starting to see that while my entire life used to be a lie, the truth is staring me in the present — and it’s a truth I like very, very much, hot eyes and gorgeous smile and all. But I have to be careful. I can’t be too —

That’s right.
Hasty.
The final book in the USA Today bestselling Do-Over Series (Fluffy, Perky, Feisty), as Mallory’s sister, Hastings “Hasty” Monahan gets her turn at a happily ever after that starts off with an arrest.
Hers.

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Purchase:

Amazon  / B&N / iBooks   / Kobo / Google Play

 About the author:

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Julia Kent writes romantic comedy with an edge. Since 2013, she has sold more than 2 million books, with 4 New York Times bestsellers and more than 19 appearances on the USA Today bestseller list. Her books have been translated into French and German, with more titles releasing in 2020 and beyond.

From billionaires to BBWs to new adult rock stars, Julia finds a sensual, goofy joy in every contemporary romance she writes. Unlike Shannon from Shopping for a Billionaire, she did not meet her husband after dropping her phone in a men’s room toilet (and he isn’t a billionaire she met in a romantic comedy).

She lives in New England with her husband and three children where she is the only person in the household with the gene required to change empty toilet paper rolls.

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Publication Day Celebration: Summer at my Sister’s by Emily Harvale @rararesources

Happy Birthday to Emily Harvale’s Summer at my Sister’s, the first book in her brand new series.
Read an update from Emily who’s been busy working hard to bring this exciting project to her readers. I also have a map of the Seahorse Harbour where the stories are set and an extract from the first book. Hope you enjoy reading the post and will wish Summer at my Sister’s lots of success!

Synopsis:


Twin sisters. One scorching summer.
A bucketful of secrets.
Diana’s life is perfect. Her twin sister, Josie’s – not so much. 

Diana has a rich and successful husband, two talented youngsters and an adorable dog. She always looks as if she’s stepped from the cover of a magazine. Her immaculate second home by the sea, for idyllic summers with her perfect family, was actually featured in one.

Josie has a messy, compact flat, dates, but not relationships, and she can’t even keep a houseplant alive. She moves from job to job, goes clubbing with her friends and often looks as if she’s fallen through a hedge.

Although Josie loves Diana deeply, each year she declines the invitation to spend the summer with her sister. Or any other family holiday. Because Josie has a secret.

But is Diana’s life so perfect? Or is she also hiding something? When secrets are revealed this summer, everything will change. Josie could finally have the life she’s always wanted … if she’s brave enough to take a chance.

Purchase Link

About Emily Harvale:

Emily writes novels, novellas and short stories about friendship, family and falling in love. She loves a happy ending but knows that life doesn’t always go to plan. Her stories are sure to bring a smile to your face and a warmth to your heart.

Emily loves to connect with her readers and has a readers’ group in which many have become good friends. To catch up with Emily, find out about the group, or connect with her on social media, go to her website at www.emilyharvale.com.

Having lived and worked in London for several years, Emily returned to her home town of Hastings where she now writes full-time. She’s a member of the SoA, an Amazon bestseller and a Kindle All Star. When not writing, she can be found enjoying the stunning East Sussex coast and countryside, or in a wine bar with friends, discussing life, love and the latest TV shows. Chocolate cake is often eaten. She dislikes housework almost as much as she dislikes anchovies – and will do anything to avoid both. Emily has two mischievous rescue cats that like to sprawl across her keyboard, regardless of whether Emily is typing on it, or not.

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An exciting update from Emily Harvale

I apologise if you haven’t seen me on social media very much recently but I’ve been exceptionally busy working on lots of exciting stuff (technical term) 😂🤩 for my new book, my website … and a map for my new series of standalone stories set in the tiny village of Seahorse Harbour.
The map will ‘go live’ on July 31st, publication day for the first in the series, which is … yep, you guessed it, Summer at my sister’s. Let me explain a bit more.

Summer at my sister’s was originally a standalone, but then I had an idea for a Christmas book, so it became a two-book series, with Book 2 featuring a couple of new characters and most of the characters from Summer at my sister’s (with me so far?) ……
Then …. I had an idea for another completely separate story set in the same village (which I’m writing at the mo.) This one has new characters.
So now, each story in this series will be a standalone with new characters … but as each book is set in Seahorse Harbour, you’ll be able to ‘see’ what’s going on with the characters from the previous books, because you can’t help but bump into people in a tiny village, can you?

I have to say, I LOVE THIS SERIES!!!!😍🤩💖🥰 I’ve got so many story ideas, although I’ve only written 2 of the books so far, Summer at my sister’s and the Christmas book, which is called …..

Wait for it……(no, that’s not the title)

Christmas at Aunt Elsie’s
This Christmas book will be available for pre-order from early August. 💖🤩🥰😍

Did I mention that I love this series? And yes – I’m just a little bit over-excited. I can’t wait to share these fabulously feel-good stories with you. I hope you’re a little bit excited too. 🤩💖 xxx

An extract from  Summer at my Sister’s
This is from Chapter Three. Josie Parnell asked her taxi driver called Jonno, to drop her at The Seahorse Inn. Jonno is friends with the deliciously handsome owner, Mikkel Meloy, and they’ve just leaned into one another and slapped each other on the back. Now Mikkel turns to Josie.

‘Hi. I’m Mikkel. Mikkel Meloy. My friends call me Mik.’
He held out his hand to me and I eyed it nervously, unsure whether or not to take it.
‘You’re not going to pull me into a hug and slap me on the back, are you?’
His dark blond brows shot up and then he gave a roar of laughter as he shook his mane of golden blond hair.
‘I promise not to slap you on the back.’ His voice was strong and gravelly with just a slight trace of a Nordic accent. ‘And if you’d rather I didn’t hug you, I understand. But we’re very friendly people.’
‘Norwegians?’
The gorgeous smile lit up the deepest blue eyes I’ve ever seen.
‘I meant in Seahorse Harbour, but yes, I’m originally from Norway and we’re very friendly there also.’
‘I’m from London, and lately, New York. We carry pepper spray in our handbags.’
He must’ve seen I was joking because he laughed and raised both hands in the air.
‘I’ll wait until you’re ready to hug me then. Do you want a drink?’
‘No. I’d like a pound of sausages.’
A crease formed between his brows but he soon laughed again.
‘Ah. Pretty and funny. I like that in a woman.’
‘I’m off then,’ Jonno said, grinning. ‘If you decide you want a lift to your sister’s give me a call.’ He handed me a card. ‘It’s almost lunchtime so I’m popping home for a sarnie. I’ll be out and about again by the time you’ve had your wine.’
‘Thanks, Jonno, but I’ll be fine. I will give you a call if I need a taxi while I’m here though.’
He waved goodbye to me, gave Mikkel a friendly slap on the arm and was gone in a matter of seconds. Mikkel slung one of my bags on his shoulder and grabbed my cases, wheeling them into the pub.
‘They’re not mine,’ I said.
He stopped for a second, tutted and shook his head.
‘You like to play games,’ he said. ‘I like to play games too.’
From the look he was giving me I had a pretty good idea of the sort of games Mikkel Meloy liked to play. And most of them would involve getting naked, I suspected.
I coughed to clear the images popping into my head and followed him inside. The change from bright sunlight to the dark interior soothed my eyes and meant I had to remove my sunglasses. He deposited my cases right in front of the bar and was behind it in three strides. Long, well-defined, tanned legs, gorgeous-looking bottom hidden beneath khaki shorts, manly waist and a black T-shirt stretched tight across those broad shoulders, kissed at his neck by the curled tips of that golden blond hair, made me drop onto the nearest stool, feeling a little overcome.
‘Wow!’ I said out loud, not realising I had done so.
‘Like it?’ he asked, beaming at me.
For a moment I wondered how to respond and then I realised he thought I was commenting on the inside of the pub as he glanced around and held out his hands as if offering me the entire room.
I quickly took in the white-washed walls, the ropes and nets and other fishing paraphernalia hanging from the black beams and the low, white-washed ceiling. The walls bore photographs of Seahorse Harbour through the ages, some sepia, some in colour, together with paintings of the sea, seahorses, or ships. And there were several ceramic seahorses on the large window sills. I’m not sure what effect he was going for but it somehow worked.
‘Very nice,’ I said, nodding my approval.
The only things that hadn’t changed since I was last in The Seahorse Inn were the name, the black beams and the large fireplace in the far wall. I sat in front of that during a very cold October, many years ago with the man I loved and he told me his decision. A decision that would change my life.

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#Blog Tour #You May Kiss The Bridesmaid (First Comes Love#6) by Camilla Isley @rararesources

Thank you to Rachel from Rachel’s Random Resources for my place on this tour!
Summer is here and it is getting more and more difficult to resist reading romance, especially when it it is as light and easy-flowing as Camilla Isley’s series First Comes Love.

Synopsis:

Archibald Hill is handsome, single, and he’s going to his best friend’s wedding ready to make a conquest or two. After all, everyone knows weddings are the perfect setting to get lucky.

Summer Knowles used to have a life—friends, family, a sister who’d do anything for her—until she blew it all away with a terrible mistake. Now, attending her twin’s wedding as the party’s undesirable number one seems like more than she can handle. So, when a tall stranger with smoldering ice-blue eyes offers her a therapy of seven nights of no-strings-attached fun, she might even ignore that he has a beard and accept.

Problem is, Summer has never been good at keeping sex and feelings separate.

Purchase Links
Amazon  /   Apple Books B& N Kobo  /  Google Play

My thoughts:

What do you do if you made a horrible mistake and in one swift motion ruined your best friend’s relationship, got practically disowned by your own twin sister and lost all your social life? Your former friends can’t stand the sight of you, your mother keeps asking ‘Why???’ and now you have to face them all at your siste’s wedding.

Summer Knowles had a secret relationship with her best friend’s Lana’s cheating boyfriend and broke Lana’s heart. It all worked out really well in the end, with Lana meeting somebody decent (and handsome) who loves and cares for her, and is much better suited for her. Generous and kind-hearted Lana forgave Summer, but not everybody did. She has been practically hiding for months, but now she needs to pluck her courage and face the consequences. Her twin sister Winter is getting married and there is no way Summer would cause her sister further pain by not being there. One thing is clear in her mind: she needs to own her mistake and make sure that she makes better choices in future. For the time being it means staying away from men. Winter’s future husband’s best man Archie should be no exception. He is clearly a player and all he can offer is uncomplicated fun. Seven nights (they can pretend there is nothing going on between them during the day) and then it’s over and they go their very separate ways with their hearts completely intact.

I liked the premise of telling the story of the shunned one, the one who broke one of the most fundamental rules of any friendship. Summer isn’t evil. Misguided, confused, lost, ashamed, embarrassed, Summer needs to forgive herself and move on with her life. Archie is really open-minded. He is Summer’s new leaf. He knows what happened, but he also sees a smart and beautiful girl who is clearly suffering. I also liked the way Winter was protective of her sister’s feelings. She knows Summer better than anybody else. Despite whatever the whole world may think, Summer’s heart can be easily broken and no-strings-casual-sex is a recipe for disaster.

There is something special about hotels. they are a liminal space where anything can happen and the events can change the course of your life forever. The same can be said about weddings: they are this special liminal time that separates two very distinct (and hopefully happy) phases of life and makes everybody look closer at their own relationships. We want to believe in love, romance, bright future and happy ever after. Having said this, the realistic (read ‘grumpy and old’) side of me agrees more with Winter. Some things were happening a bit too fast.

Camilla Isley has a lovely writing style and there was a lot of easy-going banter, so I really enjoyed this quick read. This is book six, but I think they can be read as standalones. Lovely characters, sizzling chemistry and attraction, fun, fun, fun. I would love to read the next book and get a glimpse of how Summer and Archie’s relationship works out in future.

Thank you to Rachel and the author for the review copy provided for free. All opinions are my own and were not influenced in any way.

About the author:

Camilla is an engineer turned writer after she quit her job to follow her husband on an adventure abroad.
She’s a cat lover, coffee addict, and shoe hoarder. Besides writing, she loves reading—duh!—cooking, watching bad TV, and going to the movies—popcorn, please. She’s a bit of a foodie, nothing too serious. A keen traveler, Camilla knows mosquitoes play a role in the ecosystem, and she doesn’t want to starve all those frog princes out there, but she could really live without them.

Social media links
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Giveaway to Win 3 x ecopies of the boxset of the first three books in the series – First Comes Love (Open INT)

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Book Blitz: I kissed Alice by Anna Birch @Xpresso Book Tours

Book & Author Details:

Title: I Kissed Alice
Author: Anna Birch
Published by: Macmillan
Publication date: July 28th 2020
Genres: LGBTQ+, Romance, Young Adult

Synopsis:

For fans of Leah on the Offbeat and Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me, Anna Birch’s I Kissed Alice is a romantic comedy about enemies, lovers, and everything in between.
Rhodes and Iliana couldn’t be more different, but that’s not why they hate each other.
Rhodes, a gifted artist, has always excelled at Alabama’s Conservatory of the Arts (until she’s hit with a secret bout of creator’s block), while Iliana, a transfer student, tries to outshine everyone with her intense, competitive work ethic. Since only one of them can get the coveted Capstone scholarship, the competition between them is fierce.
They both escape the pressure on a fanfic site where they are unknowingly collaborating on a webcomic. And despite being worst enemies in real life, their anonymous online identities I-Kissed-Alice and Curious-in-Cheshire are starting to like each other… a lot. When the truth comes out, will they destroy each other’s future?

Goodreads

Amazon /B&N  / Kobo / iBooks

About the author:
Anna Birch is the author of I Kissed Alice. She was born ‘n’ raised in a rural area on the outskirts of Birmingham, Alabama. She traded thick forests and dirt roads for the heart of the city, where she lives now with her husband, three children, and dog. She loves knitting, brie, and hanging out with her family.

website  / twitter  / instagram  / goodreads

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Blitz-wide giveaway (US only)

  • Print copy of I Kissed Alice

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#Audiobook review #His & Hers by Alice Feeney @Macmillan Audio

From the blurb:

There are two sides to every story: yours and mine, ours and theirs, His & Hers. Which means someone is always lying.

My thoughts:

I really enjoyed listening to the audiobook version of His &Hers by Alice Feeney. Once I listened to the first couple of chapters, I was totally compelled by this dark and twisty psychological thriller masterfully narrated by Richard Armitage and Stephanie Racine.


There are three points of view: Anna Andrews, a BBC presenter who has just lost her dream position of delivering the lunchtime news bulletin and has to go back to being a general reporter, her ex-husband DCI Jack Harper, and a murderer, who is using a super creepy voice distorter. Anna is sent to cover the story of a female body/ possibly murder victim being discovered in the woods near the picturesque village of Blackdown in Surrey. This is the place where Anna grew up and she has very good reasons for not wanting to visit Blackdown more often than strictly necessary. Her mother, who is in the early stages of dementia, still lives there, but Anna isn’t aware of how bad her mother’s symptoms have become. Jack is the police officer investigating the case, and we discover very soon that he is hiding very important information about the victim.

As the events keep unfolding and bodies start piling up, we see more and more links to both Anna and Jack and their past. There seem to be plenty of clues in the chapters told from the murderer’s point of view to keep the listener guessing. You think you have it all figured out, and then another clue pops up in the following chapter and points in the direction of another suspect. And yet, once the identity of the murderer is revealed, it all makes sense and all the clues fit.


Richard Armitage and Stephanie Racine did a wonderful job of rendering the emotions the characters were going through and made sure the secondary characters also sounded unique. The voice distorter sound effect was brilliant and really brought it home how wrong our perceptions of people may turn out when we choose to see only one side of the story or choose to interpret their words in a certain light to fit our understanding of a situation.


I would definitely recommend this audiobook to all lovers of psychological thrillers who enjoy a dark suspenseful read, full of mind-boggling twists, creepy, scary places, and unreliable narrators.

Thank you to NetGalley and Macmillan Audio for the ARC provided in exchange for an honest opinion.

  • Have you read or listened to His &Hers by Alice Feeney or is it on your tbr?
  • Are you a fan of psychological thrillers? Do you prefer reading or listening to them?
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#Book review #The End of Her by Shari Lapena

Synopsis:

In upstate New York, Stephanie and Patrick are adjusting to life with their colicky twin babies. The girls are a handful, but Stephanie doesn’t mind being a stay-at-home mom, taking care of them while Patrick does the nine to five to pay the bills.

When a woman from Patrick’s past drops in on them unexpectedly, raising questions about his late first wife, Stephanie supports her husband wholeheartedly. She knows the car accident all those many years ago was just that–an accident. But Erica is persistent, and now she’s threatening to go to the police.

Patrick is afraid his job–and his reputation–will be at risk if he doesn’t put an end to Erica’s questioning immediately. And when the police start digging, Stephanie’s trust in her husband begins to falter and Patrick is primed to lose everything he loves. As their marriage crumbles, Stephanie feels herself coming unglued, and soon she isn’t sure what–or who–to believe. Now the most important thing is to protect her girls, but at what cost?

****

My thoughts:

Shari Lapena’s new thriller focuses on an old, timeless, and unfailingly relevant question. Is it possible to really know the person you marry? or might they have different sides (faces): caring and tender because they love and adore you and your children, calculating and selfish, or even worse, once you start doubting their intentions….

Stephanie and Patrick are extremely exhausted. People always underestimate how hard it is to cope with a new born baby, let alone twins. Add a never-ending colic and endless crying, and you get barely functioning sleep deprived parents who are losing their mind. They don’t know what is causing the colic or when it will stop or whether the industrial quantities of coffee they are consuming are helping or just making them even more tired. Patrick is a successful architect, but he’s been unable to focus and give his full attention to his clients’ projects, so, understandably, his work is suffering. Stephanie’s social life is non-existent, she lost all contact with her colleagues and acquantainces after her maternity leave, apart from seeing their neighbour Hanna who has a baby of her own. It is Hanna who notices a young woman checking out properties in the area and looking curiously at Stephanie and Patrick’s house. She is young and pretty, but something is off about her. Then the same woman appears in Patrick’s office and interviews for a vacancy there.

And just like this Patrick’s former lover Erica Voss is back in his life. Incidentally, she is also Patrick’s first wife’s best friend. Now Erica wants money in exchange for her silence about what happened to Lindsey. Patrick always maintained it was a tragic car accident, although Stephanie never knew the details. As he refuses to pay Erica, it is time to come clean and talk about his past with his unsuspecting second wife, who also happens to be quite rich.



There are two other couples who also feature in Erica’s opportunistic schemes: Patrick’s partner and his wife, and the couple who adopted Erica’s child nine years ago and have been lovingly raising him. Erica is manipulative, greedy and ruthless. Still, is there a chance that she might be telling the truth and some people just set themselves to get used by somebody who is confident, observant, smart about human nature and motivations, and totally devoid of scruples?


What I like about Shari Lapena’s novels is that they have a limited number of characters, but every single of them is shown to have their own agenda, motive and opportunity. She just keeps you guessing until the last chapter and sometimes even until the last paragraph. Nobody is entirely innocent (apart from the babies, colic isn’t a crime, whatever the effects of prolonged sleep deprivation on their long-suffering parents might be), so there is a sense of urgency to solve the mystery before another disaster strikes or another crime is committed. We don’t really get the background story or an explanation why the villains behave the way they do, although we do get a glimpse into what was really happening and their cold detached feelings.

If you are a fan of domestic thrillers, this is a book for you. It is quick, tense, and dark. A perfect marriage turns into a crime scene, a friend turns into somebody who is only watching out for themselves, ordinary family life turns into a series of narrow escapes (did she leave that frying pan on fire or did she not?), even a much beloved childhood story takes on a very sinister meaning.

Shari Lapena is my auto-buy author and I know I can rely on her to write a compelling story with a complex plot. She knows how to tap into very common fears, exaggerate and turn them into a real page-turner. Her endings are spectacular and his one is just a point in case. It is quiet, almost too quiet after all the tension and relentless pace, but it does leave you with surprise and a new set of questions to ask.

Recommended? of course! It’s Shari Lapena.

Thank you to Edelweiss and Pamela Dorman Books for the ARC provided in exchange for an honest opinion.

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#Book Review #He Started It by Samantha Downing

Beth, Portia, and Eddie Morgan haven’t all been together in years. And for very good reasons—we’ll get to those later. But when their wealthy grandfather dies and leaves a cryptic final message in his wake, the siblings and their respective partners must come together for a cross-country road trip to fulfill his final wish and—more importantly—secure their inheritance.

But time with your family can be tough. It is for everyone.

It’s even harder when you’re all keeping secrets and trying to forget a memory—a missing person, an act of revenge, the man in the black truck who won’t stop following your car—and especially when at least one of you is a killer and there’s a body in the trunk. Just to name a few reasons.

But money is a powerful motivator. It is for everyone.

(From the blurb)

*****

My thoughts:

There’s nothing like an old-fashioned road trip to make or break a relationship’. It might be true for all sorts of families. It is undoubtfully true for Eddie, Beth and Portia Morgan. Especially since they’ve done it twice.


When Eddie, Beth and Portia’s rich grandfather died, he left them millions of dollars on one condition: they have to re-create the road trip they took as a family in 1999. The story is told from the point of view of Beth, but we know from page one whatever she says or sees has to be taken with a pinch of salt. If you love an unreliable narrator, this book is definitely one for you.


Eddie and Beth are joined by their respective spouses Krista and Felix, so the Morgan siblings can’t say much in the open. All of them have their own secrets, some of which are shared and go long way back in time.


Now they zig-zag through the states, visiting creepy sights off the beaten track, staying in seedy motels and re-living their childhood memories until it becomes apparent they are not on their own. A black truck seems to follow their car and a song, a blast from the past, appears from seemingly nowhere and plays games with their minds.


As Beth’s Mom used to say ‘nothing is what it seems at first’ and we know that. We get plenty of foreshadowing, and yet, twists and reveals come left, right and centre, which by the way, makes it extremely hard to keep this review spoiler-free.


Needless to say, the characters are well-written and well-developed. We know what they look like, what they like to eat and what their bad habits are. The weird thing is that we know only what they let us know and there is an awful lot of things they choose to keep to themselves.

Morgans’ favourite childhood game was Risk and they did learn a lot about setting goals, making alliances and annihilating their enemies from that strategy game. They learnt how to risk everything and how sometimes nobody wins.


The book is wonderfully addictive. Once you go on this road trip, you want to see it through. I am often tempted to have a glimpse of the last chapter or just the last page. With this one, I wanted to experience the events as they unfolded and didn’t want to miss a single thing. The ending? oh, it didn’t disappoint, but I won’t give anything away, you just have to be there and make up your own mind.


One of the most compelling and atmospheric books I’ve read this year, He Started it is definitely to be recommended to anybody who loves psychological thrillers with dark family secrets and doesn’t mind a bit of madness on the way.

Thank you to Edelweiss and Berkley for the review copy provided in exchange for an honest opinion.

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#Book Review #Blog Tour: New Rules by Lily Hayden @rararesources

Thank you to Rachel from Rachel’s Random Resources for my place on this tour!

New Rules

Synopsis:

Kate Miller has it all; a glittering career, a wonderful home life and a promotion in the bag. She knows the rules for success, and nothing will stop her from getting to where she wants to be.

Ellie Stephens, on the other hand, can’t catch a break; she’s trapped in a vicious circle of dead-end jobs and red-flag relationships until she’s paired with Kate in their company’s brand-new mentoring scheme.

Ellie just can’t seem to get to grips with Kate’s ruthless recipe for success no matter how hard she tries, leaving her wondering if she’s the problem. Two new men in her life, affable-but-mysterious Freddie and Kate’s drop-dead gorgeous ex Liam try to help her muddle through and figure out how to get ahead.

Meanwhile, Kate’s perfect life is unravelling and where once everything she touched turned to gold, it’s suddenly falling apart. Her work nemesis is throwing obstacles in her way at every turn, her home life is in tatters and her first love is suddenly back in her life. Kate is more confused than ever;
is it time to break the rules?

Purchase Links

Amazon UKAmazon US

 My thoughts:

Kate Miller is a workaholic. She has a beautiful house, handsome husband, two wonderful children and a job where she has to prove herself every single day. Just because she is a woman. Lily Hayden perfectly captures the double standards all too familar to working women. Worrying that if you stay too long at home during your maternity leave, your clients will forget you and you will have to start winning them from the scratch. Do lots of overtime working hard to finish a project and people judge you for not being a good mother and wife. Well, Kate is a fighter and she has a set of rules that have helped her to get on in life. Having said this, she might be losing sight of something very important – personal relationships.

Ellie Stephens is smart and creative, but perhaps a bit disorganised and lacking focus Kate has in abundance. She has an on and off-relationship with Josh who clearly doesn’t respect her at all. At work, she is given a series of mindless tasks and completely overlooked otherwise.
When an important client would like to see how inclusive and socially responsible Kate and Ellie’s company is, Kate and her Garth (her main competitor for an upcoming promotion) come up with a mentoring scheme for junior staff. While Garth has his pick of the brightest and most promising, Kate is stuck with Ellie.

I found both protagonists relatable. Yes, Kate comes across as very unlikeable and manipulative at times. Some of the things she said to Ellie and about Ellie were appalling. But then she goes through a personal crisis and realises how wrong her behaviour was. My heart was going to her when she was trying to juggle so many things and failing on all fronts with nobody to turn to for help. Both Kate and Ellie go through a lot of development. Ellie understands she doesn’t need to change herself or conform to other people’s ideas to be liked or respected. She has dignity, integrity and friends who care for her.

There are quite a few secondary characters (Kate’s husband, Ellie’s flatmates, an important client, Ellie’s ex and her new love interest), but the writing is very focused and they all serve to reveal something about the protagonists and move the plot forward.

I also loved the story being set in London. One of Ellie’s most important chance meetings happens on the Tube, while she is busy complaining about her train delay, praying she can still get to work on time.

The story kept my attention all way through and I found many parts of it very realistic. It is classified as chick-lit (the protagonist finds out more about herself, grows and eventually gets her Mr Right), but there are also some elements, mainly related to Kate’s story, which take it beyond the classic parameters of the genre. At any rate, it is entertaining, easy to read and has a happy ending.

I really enjoyed New Rules and now will be looking forward to reading more books by Lily Hayden.

Thank you to Rachel and Lily Hayden for the review copy provided in exchange for an honest and unbiased opinion.



Author Bio

Lily Hayden writes chick lit with a kick.

Modern day women want modern day heroines and Lily’s characters want sizzling romance, rewarding careers and equal partnerships, but like all of us, they face many challenges and it isn’t always easy.

A mother to four children, Lily graduated with a degree in Business in her hometown in South Wales and enjoyed a successful career in Financial Services before fulfilling a lifelong ambition to write books.

Her debut novel Butterflies, a heartwarming alternative to the traditional boy-meets-girl story, was released in 2018, reaching readers all over the world and she is the author of five books, including a Young Adult Dystopian novel Project Terra under the alias SJ Woods (because who doesn’t love a bit of action and defeating bad guys every now and again).

Follow Lily on social media for the latest releases, promotions and occasional photos of her dogs.

Social Media Links
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If you would like to check what other bloggers thought of ‘New Rules’, you can see the full tour schedule here:

Thank you for stopping by and I hope you read and enjoy the book!

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#Thriller Thursday #Book Review of Left For Dead by Caroline Mitchell

A victim on display. A detective on the rails.

Shopping with her sister, DI Amy Winter is admiring a Valentine’s Day window display of a perfect bride encrusted in diamonds and resplendent in lace—until she notices blood oozing from the mannequin’s mouth.

This is no stunt. A post-mortem reveals the victim was left to die on her macabre throne for all to see. When a second victim is found, it emerges that both women were ‘Sugar Babes’ arranging dates with older men online—and Amy finds herself hunting an accomplished psychopath.

As she tracks down the killer, Amy’s instincts go into overdrive when the charismatic head of the agency behind the display makes no attempt to hide his fascination with her serial-killer parents. What exactly does he want from Amy? With her own world in freefall as her biological mother, Lillian Grimes, appeals her conviction, Amy pushes the boundaries of police procedure when a third ‘Sugar Babe’ disappears…Is she as much at risk as the killer’s victims?

****

My thoughts:

This is the third book in the DI Amy Winter series and my first book by Caroline Mitchell and …I’m hooked!


DI Winter has a lot of things on her plate. DCI Hazel Pike retires and is replaced by DCI Donovan. Once they shared a fleeting moment of understanding and camaraderie, but now Donovan is asked by the superiors to watch her every step and make sure she does things by the book. Amy is dealing with her father’s devastating dealth, frail health condition of her mother Flora and her biological mother Lillian Grimes’s court appeal. The public might see Amy as a serial killer hunter, ‘psychopath whisperer’, but the truth is a lot of her insight comes from growing up alongside unimaginable darkness of her parents’ horrible crimes.

On her shopping trip with her older sister Sally-Ann, Amy notices something off with the beautiful mannequin in the shop window. Amy’s instincts turn out to be right- the body of a drugged and tortured young woman was left there on public display for hours.


Thorough as usual, Amy has an interview with the owner of the company responsible for the display design. To Amy’s shock, this turns out to be one of the most bizarre and disturbing conversations she’s had. Amy is convinced she has her killer, but can she prove it? and can she save other young women from becoming victims of the Lover Heart Killer?

I loved the protagonist and the whole cast of secondary characters that were well-drawn. Amy’s personal life struggles do not take away from the main plot, but rather enhance it as the killer is obsessed with Amy’s biological parents and their crimes. I even learnt a new word from this book ‘hybristophilia’- an attraction for people who have committed really dark crimes. Amy herself needs to accept where she comes from and who she is.

The book is a compulsive page-turner with its tight plot and relentless pace. There is something about Caroline Mitchell’s writing style that keeps the reader’s attention engaged throughout the book.
I will go back and read the previous two books, because I want to get a bit more perspective on Amy’s family issues, but it is possible to start following the series from this one as well.

Thank you to NetGalley and Amazon Publishing UK for the ARC provided in exchange for an honest opinion.

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#Book Review # A Springtime Heart by Marta Perry

A second chance at love blooms in the quaint Amish community of Promise Glen, from national bestselling author Marta Perry.

Dorcas Beiler’s reckless teenage years are far behind her. She’s serious and responsible now, and the good people of Promise Glen trust her with the education of their children. But when her first love returns after years of exile from the community, her past comes rushing back. Thomas is the only one who knows her secret, and despite his careless charm and teasing manner, she refuses to let her guard down.

Thomas Fisher has plans. Plans to start a construction company and prove himself a success to all those who doubted him, and plans to find the woman he left behind. His chance comes when he lands the opportunity to rebuild the stable and shed at the community school. He won’t be paid for his time, but he’ll be able to showcase his abilities…and spend time with Dorcas.

Scenting love in the air, Dorcas’s young pupils make excuses to bring them together. As old feelings stir, Dorcas and Thomas wonder whether their first love might also be their last.

(From the synopsis)

*****

My thoughts:

A second chance love is one of my favourite tropes in romance and Marta Perry does it brilliantly!

Dorcas Beiler is a serious and thoughtful teacher, dedicated to her scholars and their progress. She also has a secret she’s been keeping since her teenage years. When Thomas Fisher, minister Fisher’s son, comes back ome after having spent several years working alongside his uncle in a distant Amish community in Ohio, everybody is quick to remind Dorcas that they used to be great friends. They did and then something happened. One night, coming back from an Englisher party where teenagers drank alcohol and behaved wildly, Thomas got arrested by the police. Needless to say, his father was extremely disappointed and ashamed. Afraid that people will question his ability to provide parental guidance to his own children, he sent Thomas away. Now at his mother’s insistance, the prodigal son is back, but is his father ready to accept him? and how will his siblinngs and other inhabiatants of Promise Glen react to Thomas’s return?

Schoolchildren may think that Dorcas is an old maid. She did put on hold her life to be there for her mother and her brothers after their father’s death. Now her mother seems to be much stronger. However hard Dorcas is trying to be tactful and understanding with her sister-in-law Betsy, she can’t help thinking that Betsy is supposed to take a more active role in running the household. Perhaps she is a bit intimidated by her mother-in-law? There are also tender moments when Dorcas holds her little nephew and we get to see how much she would like a family of her own.

Somebody is spreading gossip in their little village of Promise Glen and this somebody is out there to close the school. Storms have damaged the building roof and the repairs will cost money, but surely the school board must see that the children are better off staying in their own village? Thomas has a brilliant solution: he will repair the damage for free and this work will allow him to showcase his construction skills and hopefully get employed by other people. This little project will also mean that he and Dorcas will see each other more. There is nothing untoward in their conversations, although not everybody in the village might see it the same way.

With secrets from the past, gossip, happy new mothers, misbehaving siblings that need a bit of friendly advice, and the long-awaited Mud Sale , Paradise Glen is a lively place and a great community full of interesting characters that are mindful of each other’s feelings and always willing to help out if necessary. Plus, there is a sweet romance between two former friends who have become more responsible and can appreciate each others steady trustworthy character much more.

I really enjoyed this story and I hope that Marta Perry continues adding new books to this series.

Thank you to Edelweiss and Berkley for the ARC provided in exchange for an honest opinion.

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#Book Review #Accidental by Alex Richards

From the book blurb:

This timely, emotionally-resonant story about a teen girl dealing with the aftermath of a tragic shooting is a must-read from an exciting new YA talent.

Johanna has had more than enough trauma in her life. She lost her mom in a car accident, and her father went AWOL when Johanna was just a baby. At sixteen, life is steady, boring . . . maybe even stifling, since she’s being raised by her grandparents who never talk about their daughter, her mother Mandy.

Then he comes back: Robert Newton, Johanna’s father, bringing memories and pictures of Mandy. But that’s not all he shares…

*****

My thoughts:

Sixteen year old Joanna Carlson is a typical teenager. She likes music, fashion, and spending time with her best friends Gabby and Leah whom she has known since they went to the kindergarten. Joanna was adopted by her grandparents thirteen years ago when her mother was killed in a car accident. Her grandparents never speak about her mom, which is a bit unusual, and Jo can’t remember anything from the time.


Out of blue, Joanna’s estranged father Robert Newton writes her a letter and would like to see her for the first time after years of being completely absent from her life. Here is Jo’s chance to find out what her mother was really like. Robert isn’t particularly happy when he hears that Jo’s grandparents never gave her any details about how exactly her mother died, because he knows that behind this there is a tragic story which he has to share himself.


When Joanna was two and a half years old, she woke up from her nap, played a little on her own and found a loaded and unsecured gun, which her father carelessly left under the bed, and shot her mother Mandy. While Robert was in custody and later in jail, Mandy’s parents took care of the little girl. They even adopted her and moved to a different state to give  her a new start in life without devastating memories. Now that Joanna knows about what really happened, her whole world has been turned upside down.

The topic of guns and related gun violence is something people feel very strongly about, but itt doesn’t often get covered in YA literature. Alex Richards is very careful to provide both sides of the debate. On one hand, we have tragic statistics of unintentional shootings involving very young children. On the other hand, she chooses another schoolgirl Annette Martinez to give arguments why people support safe gun ownership and strict child access prevention laws. Joanna’s grandfather himself used to own a hunting rifle which he was very careful to keep locked.


What we see in this book is a psychological drama of a child/adolescent who finds out she unintentionally took away a life and needs to make sense of it and forgive herself. Luckily, Joanna has a great support system – her friends Gabby and Leah and her boyfriend Milo who accept what happened and see it for what it really was – a tragic accident. Joanna herself has to go through a difficult emotional journey in this book. She is angry  with her grandparents who chose to lie to her for all this time (although she does understand it was in order to protect her) and have difficulty communicating with her now. She is pushing away her friends, trying to give them ‘a card out’ of their friendship, but at the same time she wants them to stay. It doesn’t help that she is also going through a lot of bullying at school. Joanna begins to have panic attacks (brilliantly described by the author). Loss, grief, guilt, anger, confusion, self-acceptance – Joanna’s character goes through a lot of development.

The secondary characters are also well-drawn. Her friends say: ‘Yeah, we’re fully aware, and we’re not going anywhere’, but even they have to learn how to help Joanna. Her grandparents‘ journey is equally heart-breaking in all the love they give their granddaughter. Sometimes a small detail can speak volumes: Joanna’s grandfather spends ages to make her a jewelry box identical to the one he gave to her mother when she was sixteen; Joanna’s grandmother looks for new cooking ingredients to replace meat because Joanna wants to be a vegetarian like her mother was. Milo... in Joanna’s own words: ‘Milo doesn’t judge me or withhold information or smother me in sympathy’.

An emotional and moving book that deals with difficult topics, full of well-rounded, interesting characters and authentic emotions, Accidental is a great debut novel and I will definitely be looking forward to reading more from this author.

Thank you to Edelweiss and Bloomsbury for the ARC provided in exchange for an honest opinion.

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#Book Review #Party of Two by Jasmine Guillory

A chance meeting with a handsome stranger turns into a whirlwind affair that gets everyone talking.

Dating is the last thing on Olivia Monroe’s mind when she moves to LA to start her own law firm. But when she meets a gorgeous man at a hotel bar and they spend the entire night flirting, she discovers too late that he is none other than hotshot junior senator Max Powell. Olivia has zero interest in dating a politician, but when a cake arrives at her office with the cutest message, she can’t resist–it is chocolate cake, after all.

(From the Book Blurb)

****

My thoughts:

Party of Two is my fourth by Jasmine Guillory and by now I know I can rely on her impeccable style and ability to create strong female characters. If you read the previous books in the series, you will recognise Olivia as Alexa’s older sister, but the book can be read and enjoyed as a standalone.


Olivia Monroe leaves a big shot law firm in New York to start her own practice together with her friend Ellie back home in LA. Olivia is smart and hard-working, but moving across the country and starting a new life isn’t easy. You need to find a house, buy a car, go to endless networking events to get new clients and so on. There is absolutely no time for dating and it is fine for Olivia at the moment. When she meets and flirts with handsome Max in a hotel bar, she doesn’t tell him she is a lawyer. Who needs another stupid lawyer joke? Much better pretend to be an accountant.After all, she isn’t going to see Max ever again, so she can talk about anything she wants and that is infinite superiority of three-layered chocolate cakes above any other kind of dessert. Olivia discovers later that Max is a rising political star and junior senator for California. Still, it doesn’t change the fact that this isn’t the right time to complicate her life with romance.

Max knows that he met someone special in Olivia. He is charmed by this woman who doesn’t know who he is and doesn’t laugh at his jokes to keep him happy. Whenever she smiles, he feels he earned it and Max can’t help being interested. Max’s friend Wes points out that Max tends to act impulsively and it would make sense to take things slowly with Olivia. Max’s job comes with its own challenges, not least of which is being in constant media spotlight. Can you blame him for wanting to be with someone who likes him for himself and not his wealth or status?


I loved both protagonists. Olivia is a planner. She likes to check all the details and analyse all aspects before committing herself to a decision. She is confident and measured in everything she says or does. Max, on the other hand, is quite impulsive. Opposites may attract, but making this kind of relationship work requires special attention and willingness to communicate and compromise. There are some serious issues they have to deal with: long-distance relationship, lack of privacy and intense media scrutiny of their past. I like the way they recognise and learn from their mistakes and change their behaviour. Max learns not to put Olivia on the spot with the press or push her go to his political events or accept his last-minute plans. Olivia learns to be more flexible and more open about her feelings to help Max understand better her decisions.


Another charming and entertaining addition to the Wedding Date series which already has numerous fans.

Thank you to Edelweiss and Berkley for the ARC provided in exchange for an honest opinion.

  • Have you read Party of Two or is it on your tbr?
  • Have you read Jasmine Guillory’s previous books? if yes, are you a fan?
  • Do you like the Opposites Attract trope in romance?
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#Book Review # I was Told It Would Get Easier by Abbi Waxman

Book Synopsis

Squashed among a bus full of strangers, mother-daughter duo Jessica and Emily Burnstein watch their carefully mapped-out college tour devolve into a series of off-roading misadventures, from the USA Today bestselling author of The Bookish Life of Nina Hill.

Jessica and Emily Burnstein have very different ideas of how this college tour should go.

For Emily, it’s a preview of freedom, exploring the possibility of her new and more exciting future. Not that she’s sure she even wants to go to college, but let’s ignore that for now. And maybe the other kids on the tour will like her more than the ones at school. . . . They have to, right?

For Jessica, it’s a chance to bond with the daughter she seems to have lost. They used to be so close, but then Goldfish crackers and Play-Doh were no longer enough of a draw. She isn’t even sure if Emily likes her anymore. To be honest, Jessica isn’t sure she likes herself.

Together with a dozen strangers–and two familiar enemies–Jessica and Emily travel the East Coast, meeting up with family and old friends along the way. Surprises and secrets threaten their relationship and, in the end, change it forever.

*****

My thoughts:

I was Told It Would Get Easier is a sweet, heartwarming and extremely entertaining story of what it’s like to be a teenager in the modern world and what it’s like to be that teenager’s mother.

Jessica Burnstein is a 45 year-old high-powered lawyer and a single mum by choice. It is impossible not to love this character. Jessica is smart, witty (actually, the beginning of the book reminded me of stand-up comedy and was a bit too much for my simple soul before the first three cups of coffee), kind, generous, supportive, humble, and strong. She stands up for two of her female colleagues who are about to miss being made partners in her law firm on the absurd pretext that people would think it was a token gesture due to unsavoury behaviour by one of the former partners. Jessica threatens to quit her job unless her boss makes the board see how wrong this sexist decision would be. She has one week to consider all possible consequences  during a college tour trip with her sixteen year old daughter Emily. Emily is also keen to keep a low profile for a few days due to mysterious trouble at school. Jessica knows their relationship isn’t as straightforward as it used to be before her sweet kid became a moody sulky teenager. However hard she tries to communicate, more often than not their conversations turn into arguments. She is hoping to break these walls and rekindle their mother-daughter connection.

This is a character-driven story. The plot is just based around Emily and Jessica’s college tour and their interactions with other college-obsessed parents and children and meeting a few of Jessica’s old friends, but the characters… I absolutely adored them. The story is told in alternating POVs and this dual mother-daughter perspective gives you a great insight into how similar their reactions to various events are and what is happening in their relationship. Jessica reflects on the fact that her job as a parent seems to be almost done– Emily is about to leave the nest and start living her adult life- and how for all parents on this trip their obsession with colleges may be their last chance to protect and ensure a better future for their children. She also thinks a lot about her own parents who helped her a lot when Emily was a baby which allowed Jessica to build her professional career by doing something she loved. Emily (remember we have the benefit of being able to read her mind) still needs her mum to make her feel safe and protected.

I would of course recommend this story to parents of teenagers or young adults who would strongly identify with the pressures and dilemmas the main characters are grappling with. The pressure to be a perfect parent whether you are a stay at home full-time mum who is afraid that she hasn’t taught her children to be independent because she was too available, or a working mother whose daughter is jealous of her mother’s co-workers because they get to see her more often. Or the pressure of being a teenager who has to fit in and stand out in the right way, to be interesting, not weird, with perfect grades and perfect online image. All of this while trying to figure out what to do in future.

I am a big fan of Abbi Waxman’s sense of humour. The banter is fabulous. I really couldn’t help laughing out loud. The whole book is just sweet, light-hearted and enjoyable, a perfect summer read.

Thank you to Edelweiss and Berkley for the ARC provided in exchange for an honest opinion.

  • Have you read I was Told It Would Get Easier or is it on your tbr?
  • Have you read other books by Abbi Waxman?
  • Do you think teenagers nowadays have more pressures compared to their parents’ generation?
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# Guest Post by Cecilia Fyre, the author of Heart and the City @rararesources @Cecilia Fyre

 Thank you to Rachel from Rachel’s Random Resources for my spot on the book tour for Heart and the City written by Cecilia Fyre.
It is my honour and pleasure to introduce a guest post written this talented author.

GUEST POST

Writing about New York City

Everyone who’s ever been to New York has their own version of the city. I’ve been to New York many times, and I fall in love with it more on every visit. So it was only a matter of time before the city would become an inspiration for my writing.
When I first started on the novella series, my favourite part of the city were Chinatown, the Bowery and the Lower East Side. I’d always go up to the theatre district, of course, and frequently to Central Park. But I got really familiar with the lower part of Manhattan. I love walking the streets there, it’s so diverse and never boring. And shopping is great on Broadway. 

For this guest post I want to do a little tour of the New York that inspired the setting of the novellas. I feel that New York deserves a tribute at this juncture in history and a little virtual tour might help tide us over until we’re able to travel again!


Where to stay?

Hotels in Manhattan can be really expensive, so when I first investigated accommodation I was delighted to discover the Bowery House . It’s a hostel and quite basic, but the history of the building is really interesting. The cabins were first set up to house homeless soldiers coming back from the war.

Home is…Chinatown

Ricco, the love interest in the novellas, lives in a penthouse in Chinatown, and when Lea first moves to the city that’s where she happens to end up as well.

Chinatown might seem an odd choice for a famous actor. When you walk the streets you’d never imagine that anyone with money would want to live there. But it’s quirky and different, and it’s Ricco’s kind of place. His penthouse is in a fairly nondescript street that’s otherwise home to Chinese restaurants and printing businesses.

A lot of famous cast-iron dwellings are dotted around the neighbourhood. Stop at a street corner and look up. You can see the penthouse terraces on the roofs of many of those buildings.

I tried to capture a little of the strange vibe of the area in the novellas. It’s popular with tourists who shop in the souvenir shops, take photos with the weird window displays, eat in the restaurants and sit outside cafés where Chinatown becomes Little Italy. But go down into one of the streets without garlands and lanterns strung across, where all the signs are in Chinese, and suddenly the atmosphere is residential and you can sense what it was like when the tenements were full of immigrant families, and garment sweatshops, laundries and butchers provided employment for the local community.

A little bit of real history

There’s one Lower East Side institution that didn’t make it into the novellas, even though I would’ve loved to mention it – the Tenement Museum. If you’re interested in the New York of the 19th and early 20th century, then this is where you have to go. The apartments in the building are made up to reflect different times. You learn about the actual families that lived there until the law changed and the tenement was closed in 1935. It is the place to go to learn about immigration to the United States. I really recommend taking part in the Tastings at the Tenement event, too. You find out what the various immigrant communities would eat and then you can try food sourced from shops and restaurants still operating in the neighbourhood.

What about Queens?

When you fly into JFK airport and travel to the Bowery, you take the sky train from the airport through Queens to Jamaica Station where it connects to the A and the F subway trains. I had the idea for Lea’s more permanent home from those journeys. I’ve never walked through Queens, but you get quite a nice bird’s eye view as the train rattles towards Manhattan. It’s a pretty long journey, and you see a much more residential and middle-class part of New York that way. I think that now the novellas are coming out, for my next trip to New York (which I honestly can’t wait for) I’ll make it a special mission to discover Queens!

Book Blurb:

Heart and the City (Book 1 in the Love Medicine series)

British doctor Lea Holm has come to New York to work in her chosen field of emergency medicine. She loves her new life in this exciting city and can’t wait to get started with her research project. The last thing she needs are distractions.
But then she meets famous actor Ricco Como in her building – a distraction if ever there was one. He’s gorgeous and sweet, and there’s an immediate connection between them. Lea tries to resist temptation, but when he comes to her for help dealing with his steadily worsening migraine she can’t turn away from his plight.
As Ricco’s health takes a turn for the worse, their lives become more and more entwined. But can their growing attraction withstand the strain of his ill health, and can he let Lea be more than just his doctor?

**This novella series contains detailed descriptions of long-term health conditions, cheating and a bereavement.**

The series is set in New York City and was written before COVID-19. It makes no reference to recent events.

Publication Date: 26th May

Purchase Link

About Cecilia Fyre

Cecilia Fyre is the pen name of a romance author trying out something new.

She likes sunny, crisp autumn days. Cups of hot cocoa with little marshmallows floating on top. The roaring of the sea. Laughing until your face hurts. The silence when you curl up with a good book. 

Her stories are about people. Some of them are strange, some think they’re boring. They all have secrets, they’re all scared sometimes. Cecilia writes about life, about love. About how hard it is to do it right. Usually, there’s a happy ending, or at least there might be one, someday.

​But life’s not all sunshine and roses, and that’s why Cecilia tells her stories.

In the real world, Cecilia lives in England.

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Giveaway
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Win 2 x A Complete set of all 5 novellas in the Love Medicine series, in an ebook format (Open INT)

The five novellas are:
Book 1 – Heart and the City
Book 2 – Unexpected Truth
Book 3 – Been There Before
Book 4 – Wish The Pain Away
Book 5 – A Thousand Little Pieces

*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

Thank you for stopping by! I hope you add this novella to your reading lists and enjoy this lovely story set in New York!

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#Book Review #Real Men Knit by Kwana Jackson

When their foster-turned-adoptive mother suddenly dies, four brothers struggle to keep open the doors of her beloved Harlem knitting shop, while dealing with life and love in Harlem.

Jesse Strong is known for two things: his devotion to his adoptive mom, Mama Joy, and his reputation for breaking hearts in Harlem. When Mama Joy unexpectedly passes away, he and his brothers have different plans on what to do with Strong Knits, their neighborhood knitting store: Jesse wants to keep the store open; his brothers want to shut it down.

Jesse makes an impassioned plea to Kerry Fuller, his childhood friend who has had a crush on him her entire life, to help him figure out how to run the business. Kerry agrees to help him reinvent the store and show him the knitty-gritty of the business, but the more time they spend together, the more the chemistry builds. Kerry, knowing Jesse’s history, doesn’t believe this relationship will exist longer than one can knit one, purl one. But Jesse is determined to prove to her that he can be the man for her—after all, real men knit.

(From the book blurb)

****

My thoughts:

Real Men Knit has a very interesting premise. We meet our protagonists on the day after Mama Joy’s funeral. This amazing woman, who adopted and raised four boys from the foster care system, passed away following an unexpected heart attack. The community is griefstricken and you can feel how loved and admired Mama Joy Strong was and how much her family and her neighbours are going to miss her. Her yarn shop was a special place full of kindness, peace and calm, a ‘sanctuary’ in the middle of hustle and bustle of Upper Manhattan. The four brothers now have to decide whether to keep the shop running or sell it. Damian is a corporate financial analyst, Lucas is a firefighter and Noah is a professional dancer. They are all busy with their careers and don’t have much time to dedicate to their mother’s business. Only Jesse, who still hasn’t found his place and passion in life, feels the shop is Mama Joy’s legacy and plays an important role in their community, and therefore they should do everything possible to keep it open.

‘In knitting there’s never a problem that can’t be fixed’

Kerry Fuller practically grew up in Strong Knits shop and Mama Joy gave her as much love and attention as she did to her sons. Kerry has worked there part-time for almost ten years. This quiet bookish girl knows everything there is to know about running a yarn shop. Kerry volunteers to help the brothers as she feels she owes it to Mama Joy’s memory. This means working closely with Jesse, who she’s been crushing on for years, but who doesn’t see her as anything but a childhood friend. An explosion in a neighbouring building makes her home uninhabitable for up to six weeks. Jesse and her brothers are happy to offer her a temporary home in their flat above the shop, which means spending even more time in close proximity to Jesse, who has a reputation for being a player. Kerry is a grown-up woman, capable of taking care of herself and deciding what she wants, but what does Jesse want and is he ready for it?

‘When you make something by hand, whatever you make takes time, patience, concentration and your energy. You should value that. So, when you give a gift you should do it with a clear intention and your pure heart’.


Kerry is strong and independent and very easy to like and care about, but there was also a bit of ‘not like the other girls’ vibe, when she is compared with Erika, Jesse’s one night-stand, and also at work with Allison. She is tired of other people deciding what is the best for her, and I totally understand and respect it, although I still have a few niggles about her going for a relationship with Jesse at that particular moment.
Jesse…He is immature and insecure and has to do a lot of growing up, but I loved the way he dedicated himself to his family business, and the way he interacted with Errol, a little boy who was bullied at school.


Whether you classify it as women’s fiction or romance, Real Men Knit is about family and community. The location and the diversity aspect of this book definitely make it stand out. My favourite supporting characters are the OKG, the Old Knitting Gang, Mama Joy’s old friends who used to come to her shop for their knitting and gossiping sessions and who have hearts of gold.
This book isn’t perfect. The beginning was info-heavy and generally there was a lot of inner monologue. Yet, I found it difficult to put down- I wanted to know more about the brothers and whether they would be able to save their family business. I hope this is the beginning of a new series, as each of them deserves their own book.

‘With his love, their love, he’d never give up. He’d just keep on knitting’.

Thank you to Edelweiss and Berkley for the ARC provided in exchange for an honest opinion.

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# Thriller Thursdays #Book Review # What Lies Between Us by John Marrs

They say every house has its secrets, and the house that Maggie and Nina have shared for so long is no different. Except that these secrets are not buried in the past.

Every other night, Maggie and Nina have dinner together. When they are finished, Nina helps Maggie back to her room in the attic, and into the heavy chain that keeps her there. Because Maggie has done things to Nina that can’t ever be forgiven, and now she is paying the price.

But there are many things about the past that Nina doesn’t know, and Maggie is going to keep it that way—even if it kills her.

Because in this house, the truth is more dangerous than lies.

(From the blurb)

*****

My thoughts:

John Marrs did again! Last summer I raved about his futuristic thriller The Passengers which left me with lots of unanswered questions on the nature of privacy and social media. I thought I knew what to expect from this new book of this brilliant author. I was wrong.

What Lies Between Us is a domestic thriller. Most of the action happens inside a house and there are two (unreliable, of course) narrators: 68 year old Maggie who hasn’t left the house for the last three years and her 38 year old unmarried daughter Nina. Who keeps her mother chained to a spike in the floor in the attic. Maggie has done some pretty horrible things to Nina and however hard she tries to justify her actions, she does feel guilty about most of them, apart from one. Nina’s mind, on the other hand, is made up. Maggie has to serve her punishment of being locked and cut from the rest of the world, deprived of  communication and comfort for twenty one years or until she dies. What could have provoked this extreme hatred? and what exactly is Maggie hiding from Nina?

Gradually, the reader discovers the secrets that lie behind this co-dependent love-hate-I know-better-and-I-will-decide relationship. And because this is John Marrs, whenever you think you have it all figured out, there is a twist and you see everything in a different light and re-examine your feelings and your judgement. You begin paying more and more attention to litle details, coming up with theories and letting your imagination fill the gaps, thinking ‘Yes! I have figured it out’ until…the next twist catches you unawares and knocks you for six.

The less you know about the plot and the protagonists and their macabre dance with each other in the name of love, sacrifice and vengeance, the better. It is about a mother and a daughter trapped in their family home and their crazy life.

Fast-paced, riveting, compelling, What Lies Between Us is a rollercoaster of clever twists and turns that will keep you guessing until the end. Absolutely unmissable.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC provided in exchange for an honest opinion.

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#Book Review #Killing Mind (DI Kim Stone #12) by Angela Marsons @ Bookouture

*****

After reading Book #11 Child’s Play I really thought it couldn’t get better. And, of course, I was mistaken! Angela Marsons comes up with another impressive plot and a new series of questions to ponder.


When the body of 21 year old Samantha Brown is found, everyone, including DI Kim Stone and forensic pathologist Keats, is convinced it’s a clear case of suicide. No signs of struggle, no forced entry, the flat was locked from inside. The method may be unusual -the victim cut her own throat with a knife and bled to death, but not impossible.

Kim breaks the news to Samantha’s parents and here it is …a fleeting phrase that suggests that they were not particularly sure Samantha was ready to live on her own. Something keeps bothering Kim about the crime scene, something she understands only by looking at the photos and doing a little forensic experiment. Samantha’s case gets reclassified as murder. Kims’ team discover that Samantha stopped using social media three years ago after a particularly bad relationship break-up. Her parents give evasive answers and it quickly becomes apparent they are hiding something.

When a second body is discovered in a nearby park lake, Kim’s team start looking for connections which lead them to the Unity Farm, an incospicuous spiritual commune. Samantha’s parents are convinced it is a cult disguised as a spiritual retreat and wellness centre, but Kim is not convinced. After all, Samantha was an adult free to make her own life choices and capable of making independent decisions. Kim visits meets Jack Black, the man who founded the Farm. jack tells her a bit about their activities designed to provide shelter and help to vulnerable people in need of emotional support. In his opinion, Samantha didn’t want to leave (nobody wants to leave this place), she got snatched by force. Who did it? and is there really more to the Unity Farm than meets the eye? Kim decides to send one of her own, an undercover police officer to get an insider’s view. The only problem is that undercover operations usually take a lot more preparation and special training. Surely, the Unity Farm can’t be that dangerous when all they need is just a one day reconnaissance mission?


As usual in Kim Stone novels, we also have another subplot. This time it is Bryant, Kim’s right hand. He is haunted by one of his first cases, a brutal rape and murder of a 15-year old teenager Wendy Harrison. The perpetrator has served 26 years and has been granted parole. He is about to leave the prison, but Bryant and Wendy’s father are convinced Drake is going to kill again.


Every member of Kim’s team is unique and contributes to the investigation in their way. As this case isn’t as close to home for Kim as the previous one was, we get to see a much calmer, more detached version of her. She notices everything and is there for every member of her team, as a true leader. She is also not afraid to admit to making mistakes.


It is obvious that a great deal of research has gone into this book which taps into our universal fear of being manipulated, especially when we are vulnerable due to grief or emotional turmoil. I learnt a lot about psychological techniques of indoctrination and mind control from this book. Bryant’s subplot comes with its own ethical dilemma: is it possible to find approach to and rehabilitate every criminal or some minds are bound to remain evil forever? I just loved the title which reflects brilliantly both storylines and their big questions that get merged seamlessly in the end.


Finally, can it be read as a standalone? Yes. I enjoyed meeting the team and seeing the developments in their lives, but the book has an engaging plot, clear focus, and flawless writing style that can be enjoyed without having read the previous instalments.
Highly recommended.

Thank you to NetGalley and Bookouture for the ARC provided in exchange for an honest opinion.

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#Book Review # A Secret for a Secret by Helena Hunting

From New York Times bestselling author Helena Hunting comes a new romance about trading secrets, breaking the rules, and playing for keeps.

My name is Ryan Kingston, and I’m a rule follower. I’ve never been in a fistfight. I always obey the speed limit. I don’t get drunk, and I definitely don’t pick up random women at bars.

Except the night I found out that my whole existence has been a lie.

(From the blurb)

****

Fans of sports romance in general and Helena Hunting in particular will be delighted with this new instalment of All In ice hockey romance series.

Romance books are full of bad boys who swear, drink too much, treat their parents and friends with no respect and cheat on their partners. And yet, countless readers continue justifying their behaviour and finding excuses for them. There are very few (too few, in my opinion) books where the protagonist is a good man, caring and thoughtful, has principles and lives according to them. I don’t know about you, but I find this kind of guy irresistible.

Ryan Kingston (AKA King) is a goalkeeper. His job is to save and protect, be steady and reliable and have his team’s back. He is also as good of a guy as it gets. ‘A rule-follower’. No lying, drunken one-night stands, no driving over the speed limit, or anything impulsive and chaotic. Partly this can be explained by his family background. He just recently found out that his older sister Hanna is really his mother, and his caring and sometimes interfering mother is ….his grandmother. His older brother (uncle) has been in and out of prison a few times and is one of the reasons why his parents (grandparents) were very strict with Ryan and instilled in him a healthy respect for rules and acting sensibly at all times. Ryan lets his guard just once: the night when he found out that he’s been lied to all his life, shocked, upset, and confused, he gets drunk with Queenie, a beautiful and lonely girl who’s had her own share of trouble. They trade secrets and do shots, and have a wild night with no expectation to see each other again. Until Ryan finds out that Queenie is going to work as the new assistant for the team general manager. Not only that- she is also the manager’s daughter and is strictly off limits for any player on the team.

There is great chemistry and undeniable attraction between Queenie, who might have made a few serious mistakes in her life, and King, who does everything by the book and needs somebody to show him that there is a lot in life he’s been missing out on. Ryan is sweet and tender, but it also takes a special kind of girl to appreciate and love him for himself, not his money or his success or even his family. Queenie is smart, artistic, kind and generous, and needs a guy who is going to be there for her, and will help her face her insecurities and start to believe in herself.

Sweet, sexy (there are a few hot and steamy scenes in this book- this is Helena Hunting, after all) and surprisingly romantic, A Secret for a Secret is a light and enjoyable read for all fans of contemporary sports romance.

Thank you to NetGalley and Montlake Romance for the ARC provided in exchange for an honest opinion.

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# Book Review #The Hopes and Dreams of Libby Quinn by Freya Kennedy @ rararesources

Book Synopsis:

A gorgeous new romantic comedy about taking chances and realising your dreams.


Libby Quinn is sick and tired of being sensible.

After years of slogging her guts out for nothing at a PR company, she finds herself redundant and about to plough every last penny of her savings into refurbishing a ramshackle shop and making her dream of owning her own bookshop become a reality.

She hopes opening ‘Once Upon A Book‘ on Ivy Lane will be the perfect tribute to her beloved grandfather who instilled a love of reading and books in her from an early age.

When her love life and friendships become even more complicated – will Libby have the courage to follow her dreams? Or has she bitten off more than she can chew?

****

Title: The Dreams and Hopes of Libby Quinn

Author: Freya Kennedy

Publisher: Boldwood Books

Publication Date: May 5th, 2020

Genre: Romantic comedy

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A huge thank you to Rachel from Rachel’s Random Resources for my place on the blog tour for this sweet and heart-warming book.

The Hopes and Dreams of Libby Quinn is a lovely story about family and friendships, following your dreams and building a community of like-minded people who care about each other and help when there is need.


Libby’s love of everything bookish was instilled in her by her grandfather Ernie who was a wonderful storyteller and used to buy a book every month to help Libby start her first library. When Libby loses her dead-end job at a PR agency, she decides it’s a sign to do something different with her life. At the same time an old draper’s shop is put on an auction at a reasonable price and Libby knows the best tribute to her late grandfather will be using her redundancy money and her inheritance to open a bookshop. Never mind the terrible state in which she found the place which had been abandoned for ten years, Libby isn’t scared of hard work as long as she can open her dream shop by Grandfather Ernie’s birthday date.
In a sense, I found Libby quite a flawed character. Libby is so determined to realise her ambition that she neglects her best friend Jess. She also needs to think hard why spending time with her boyfriend Ant doesn’t seem to make her happy and fulfiled any more. Or maybe it never did and Libby just needs to redefine what she wants from and hopes for in a romantic realtionship. It might not be the right time for it or Ant might not be the right man for her.

On the plus side, her charming neighbours from Ivy Lane Jo, Noah, Harry, Mrs Doherty, and countless other people are helping her shop turn into a cozy and creative space for book lovers and aspiring writers. Libby is working hard to build a business, but also new important relationships in life, without forgetting and ever grateful for her old support network.


There is romance in this book and it’s my favourite slow-slow-burn. I liked the way you feel that it takes time to build (re-build) a shop and it takes time to get to know somebody if you want a lasting relationship and a happily ever after. Libby doesn’t run away from the problems in her life, she works on them, and this takes courage and good solid character.


The book is very easy to read and leaves you with a warm feeling of having met somebody who is an optimist by choice. I really liked this one and can’t wait to see what Freya Kennedy is going to write about next time.

Goodreads / Amazon

About the author:

Freya Kennedy lives in Derry, Northern Ireland, with her husband, two children, two cats and a mad dog called Izzy. She worked as a journalist for eighteen years before deciding to write full time. When not writing, she can be found reading, hanging out with her nieces and nephews, cleaning up after her children (a lot) and telling her dog that she loves her.


She has met Michael Buble and even kissed him. It was one of her best ever moments.

She believes in happy ever afters.

Freya Kennedy is a pen name for Claire Allan, who also writes psychological thrillers.

website / twitter / facebook / instagram / bookbub

newsletter

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Thank you for stopping by and I hope you’re going to add The Hopes and Dreams of Libby Quinn to your tbr and enjoy reading it as much as I did!

 

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#Book Review # The Space Between Lost and Found by Sandy Stark-McGinnis

Twelve-year-old Cassie Rodrigues has always been close to her Mom with her courage, strength, caring personality and adventurous spirit. Their trips to the beach were stuff dreams are made of. Kim was a strong swimmer who was in love with the ocean and really enjoyed ice-cream and flying kites. She wanted to swim across the Channel one day and whatever this wonderful woman set her mind on was not impossible. Until she started forgetting things and feeling disoriented. She couldn’t follow a conversation or drive safely. Something was seriously wrong. Cassie’s Mom got diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease and everything in Cassie’s life has changed.


Cassie’s Mom’s doctor tried to explain the illness like this: ‘Let’s  say you’re trying to connect two pieces of paper together with glue. The pieces of paper are brain cells. On the spot where you need to attach them, there are patches of sand and dirt. And when you try to glue the papers, they don’t stick.’
Relentlessly, Kim is losing her memory and Cassie knows she is running out of time.


The author did a wonderful job showing Cassie’s mixed feelings. She is sad, and angry at the illness, not her Mom, who cannot take care of her the way other parents do, and she is grateful that her Mom is still there with them.

Cassie is an artistic soul, but she seems unable to create, because everything is dwarfed by the enormity of what is happening to her mother. Cassie has always liked maths, numbers and patterns that help her make the sense of the world. Now she has to live with ‘dark, scary, and unpredictable’, like the fact that her Mom doesn’t remember her name anymore.

Cassie tries to use her art to help her Mom’s brain find a way to her memories, which are still there, but are locked and inaccessible.


Cassie is finding it difficult to explain her Mom’s illness and what her family is going through to other people, even to her best friend Bailey, so she is pushing everyone away, until people stop trying to talk to her and she is left alone. Cassie didn’t mean to hurt Bailey’s feelings, but the way back to rebuilding their friendship and opening up isn’t easy. Bringing Bailey home to work on a school project helps Cassie immensely. Bailey helps her see her Mom as a whole person again.
When Cassie’s Dad says it is time to move Kim to a specialised facility, Cassie begs him to give her mother one last adventure, something that was on her bucket list. When he refuses even to consider it, Cassie decides to organise it herself (with a little help of Bailey and her older sister).

This short middle-grade book is both powerful and poignant. It is about family, art, friendship, and dealing with changes. It is difficult for a child to see their parent slip away, and it is difficult for the other spouse to have to make all choices and take all responsibility that used to be shared. Sandy Stark-McGinnis wrote an incredibly deep, beautiful and heart-breaking book about things that make us what we are.

Thank you to Edelweiss and Bloomsbury for the ARC provided in exchange for an honest opinion.

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#Book Review # Mousse and Murder (Alaskan Diner Mystery#1) by Elizabeth Logan

Book synopsis:

A young chef might bite off more than she can chew when she returns to her Alaskan hometown to take over her parents’ diner in this charming first installment in a new cozy mystery series set in an Alaskan tourist town.

When Chef Charlie Cooke is offered the chance to leave San Francisco and return home to Elkview, Alaska, to take over her mother’s diner, she doesn’t even consider saying no. After all–her love life has recently become a Love Life Crumble, and a chance to reconnect with her roots may be just what she needs.

Determined to bring fresh life and flavors to the Bear Claw Diner, Charlie starts planning changes to the menu, which has grown stale over the years. But her plans are fried when her head cook Oliver turns up dead after a bitter and public fight over Charlie’s ideas–leaving Charlie as the only suspect in the case.

With her career, freedom, and life all on thin ice, Charlie must find out who the real killer is, before it’s too late.

My thoughts:

An enjoyable first instalment in a new series of culinary cozies set in a little town of Elkview near Anchorage, Alaska. The protagonist of the series Charlotte (Charlie) Cooke grew up in her parents’ diner The Bear Claw, so she knows ins and outs of the business. Charlie went to a culinary school in San Francisco and worked for one of the best restaurants there, with her menus receiving numerous accolades. Unfortunately, her engagement came to an abrupt end after her hotshot lawyer fiancé got a bit too intimate with one of his paralegals, so Charlie came back to her home town and took over running her parents’ diner.

Charlie is smart, friendly, and curious. She gets on well with everyone, unless you count an occasional argument with her chef Oliver, who is opposed to any changes, and who seems to have a rather short temper. After Charlie decides to add a bit of chocolate to one of the diner’s specialities, Oliver storms off.. and is murdered at the same time as Charlie steps out of the diner for half an hour to go home and take care of her cat, Eggs Benedict, AKA Benny. Obviously, Charlie needs to solve the murder mystery to clear her name.

As any good first instalment, Mousse and Murder sets the scene for the series. I love the small-town setting in general (isn’t it ideal for cozies?), and I love reading about Alaska, so this was a match made in heaven for me. We get to know our protagonist, her best friend Annie Jensen who also runs a family business, a small inn which appears to be always full of tourists, Charlie’s budding love interest, local journalist Chris Doucette, Charlie’s family, and lots of other local people. It is not unusual for the first book to seem a bit overcrowded with characters, even if you take into account the necessity for red herrings. I’m sure some of these characters will become more prominent in future instalments.


As far as the mystery itself is concerned, although you might guess the culprit quite early in the book, the reason why Oliver was murdered doesn’t become clear until the very end.


The pace could have been a bit faster, but I liked Charlie’s sense of humour, and the whole atmosphere of the Bear Claw. I don’t think I’ll be trying to make moose meat loaf in the nearest future, but it is great to know I have a recipe for it, should an opportunity present itself.
I will definitely be looking forward to the next book in the series.


Thank you to Edelweiss and Berkley for the ARC provided in exchange for an honest opinion.

  • Do you enjoy reading mysteries and culinary cozies?
  • Have you read Mousse and Murder or is it on your tbr?
  • Have you read and enjoyed any books set in Alaska that you would like to recommend?
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#Book review # The House of Deep Water by Jeni McFarland

Perfect for fans of The Mothers and Olive Kitteridge, in this stunning and perceptive debut novel three women learn what it means to come home–and to make peace with the family, love affairs, and memories they’d once left behind.  (From the book blurb)

*****

My thoughts:

Multi-layered, deep, thought-provoking.

The House of Deep Water is so good that it leaves you with a bookish hangover. Jeni McFarland’s writing is heart-breakingly beautiful. It is full of rich memorable imagery and human emotion that makes you relate and care about these deeply flawed characters.

At the beginning I took notes to help me make sense of the family trees and interconnections. It is a bit like going to a family reunion or a wedding at the beginning of your relationship. So many people want to talk to you, you struggle to read social clues, desperately trying to remember what you heard about them. With time it becomes easier and you long for that blissful ignorance that allowed you make your opinion without the burden of other people’s set ideas. Every character in this book grows and develops and is essential.

Two families, Williamses and DeWitts, and three women who left their hometown of River’s Bend, Michigan, and came back because they need a closure and a new start in life -that’s all. Newly divorced Linda Williams, who wants to be loved and taken care of, but doesn’t really have clear ideas how, her estranged, foul-mouthed, strong-willed mother Paula Williams, who needs a divorce from Linda’s stepfather, and Beth (Eliza) DeWitt who is trying to provide a stable life for her kids after she lost her job. Linda gets pregnant and moves in with the father of her future baby, sixty-year-old Ernest DeWitt, Beth’s father. Beth is struggling with depression and has unresolved issues with her father, so understandably she isn’t happy about the situation. Throughout the book we read extracts from her ‘diary’ or rather ‘memory flashbacks of Eliza DeWitt’ starting from the age of 4. The more you read, the better you understand the significance of these two names for the character’s identity. Everything in this book is important, there is no superfluous detail, be it Beth’s engagement ring, Beth’s daughter’s scar from a curling iron, or Paula’s truck that allows her escape when life closes on her and becomes unbearably real.

Family ties and the way they break and make us, what it means to fit in and belong somewhere, fear of life and love, motherhood, racism, overcoming childhood trauma are just a few themes that this brilliant book explores. One of the best books I have read this year, The House of Deep Water is incredibly well-written, and although there is a lot of sadness in this book, there is also hope. Hope that we can turn our lives round, we can draw ourselves into history, we can be better parents to protect and give our children confidence to make their own free choices in life.

Thank you to Edelweiss and G.P.Putnam’s Sons for the ARC provided in exchange for an honest opinion.

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#Book review # The Amish School Teacher by Jerry Eicher

 A swift and heartwarming Amish romance, full of misunderstandings, tragedy, and the sweet satisfaction of young love.

Mary Wagler arrives in Adams County, Ohio for the new school term, ready to begin her duties teaching eighteen students at the little one room schoolhouse. Marcus Yoder, who lives next door with his widowed mother and his six younger siblings, is assigned the task of meeting the new arrival at the bus station. He is to transport Mary in his buggy to where she will board at Leon and Lavina Hochstetler’s home. Mary is sure Marcus has volunteered for the task to make an early play on her affections and dreads the nuisance he will be in the coming weeks.

Mary opens her first day of school with a firm determination. She will make a solid contribution to this small Amish community nestled on the banks of the Ohio River. When Marcus stops by occasionally to greet his younger siblings after school, Mary is convinced he felt snubbed by her lack of interest in his early affection, and that he’s hanging around to critique her every move and make the school term miserable for her.

When sickness sweeps through the school, Marcus comes to Mary’s aid. Mary blames herself for handling the challenge poorly, and is surprised by Marcus’s gentle response. Perhaps he’s not quite the nuisance she thought he was. But she’s been so rude to him that surely he’s no longer interested in her friendship. Or could she be wrong . . . again?

(From the blurb)

*****

My thoughts:

An extremely enjoyable story with lovely characters that just shows that there is nothing wrong with slow-burn romance.

I loved the characters: Mary with her energy, and good heart, and strong, thoughtful Marcus, who needed his time to mourn his father and accept that it was time to move on in life.

You might not like Mary straightaway. She seems a bit frivolous and stubborn at the beginning, and gives an awfully hard time to Marcus whose only fault was coming to pick her from the station to bring her to their little community where Mary is to take up a post of a schoolteacher. Mary expects a whole delegation of school board ladies welcoming her, so a bumpy ride with a sulky young man who dares to criticise her luggage is a letdown.

As Marcus is single, and Mary is a very pretty young teacher, everybody expects them to have tender feelings for each other, while the reality is a bit more complicated. Marcus knows it is time he started looking for a bride, and he definitely appreciates Mary’s beauty, but he is also convinced she would never be interested in him. Mary… to be honest, Mary prays to have her heart open for meeting somebody special she will honour and love, and Marcus is definitely very handsome, but he must have already made a negative opinion of her, and will always find fault with everything she does. It is clear that these two have started off on a wrong foot.

Gradually, Mary wins everybody over. She is enthusiastic and vivacious, but she also cares deeply about her students and the elderly couple in whose house she lives. Mary is independent and hard-working, and fits really well in this small community. She does want Marcus to see that she is sensible and capable, although she does appreciate his help as a school janitor. Perhaps, the way she treated him at the beginning was a mistake, but she will do everything she can to correct it.

We also see that Marcus has been taking care of his mother and younger siblings since the death of his father, which left him very little time for anything but the farm work and a lot of responsibilities. Now his mother is about to marry again and Marcus will be able to have a life of his own, but is he ready to for this change? Is his heart open for somebody new and different, somebody who is like a breath of fresh air in his all too serious life?

There is a strong emphasis on the community life and taking care of each other in times of need, as well as prayer, shared hard work, love and understanding as the basis for a successful marriage. This book will be much appreciated by all the readers who prefer a clean romance with a sweet couple and a happy ever after at the end.

Thank you to Edelweiss and the publisher (Good Books) for the ARC provided in exchange for an honest opinion.

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Happy Easter to everybody who observes this holiday! Have a wonderful time with your family and loved ones. If you aren’t together, hope you can videoconference or telephone them or just keep them in your mind and your prayers. Wishing you love, and joy, and new beginnings!

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#Thriller Thursday #Book Review of The Familiar Dark by Amy Engel

Set in the poorest part of the Missouri Ozarks, in a small town with big secrets, The Familiar Dark opens with a murder. Eve Taggert, desperate with grief over losing her daughter, takes it upon herself to find out the truth about what happened. Eve is no stranger to the dark side of life, having been raised by a hard-edged mother whose lessons Eve tried not to pass on to her own daughter. But Eve may need her mother’s cruel brand of strength if she’s going to face the reality about her daughter’s death and about her own true nature. Her quest for justice takes her from the seedy underbelly of town to the quiet woods and, most frighteningly, back to her mother’s trailer for a final lesson.

(From the book blurb)

*****

My thoughts:

If you are thinking of picking this book, you might have read a few online reviews already and my guess is they all describe it as dark and disturbing. Because it is. Dark, heartbreaking, and totally unputdownable.

The first couple of pages are heart-wrenching and you know that it isn’t going to get better. Izzy Logan and Junie Taggert, two twelve year old girls, two best friends, who are as close to each other as only sisters can be, are murdered in the opening scene. We never really meet them – just see the effect their brief lives had on people who loved them, especially Junie. The rest of the book deals with grief and mourning and trying to survive the worst possible thing that could have happened.

Eve Taggert, Junie’s mother, had a harrowing childhood. Born to and raised by a drug-addict mother, Eve and her older brother Cal didn’t know when their next next meal might come, had to hide in the woods from the sleezy men their mother would bring in, wear the the worst kind of hand-me-downs.
‘We had a hungry, feral look about us, even on the rare times our bellies were ful, which made us instantly recognizable targets. Or it would have if our mama’s reputation hadn’t preceded us’. Nobody messed with Lynette Taggert’s children, because Lynette’s raw, violent, and disproportionate justice would find them.

Cal became a police officer against all odds, while Eve changed her life radically when she got pregnant at 17. She became the mother she and her brother never had. A stable job, a roof over her little girl’s head, regular food, and above all, love and attention Eve and Cal were never given. Eve broke all ties with her mother for fear of Lynette’s cruel lessons in life contaminating the new innocent life. Eve, who has always had a sharp tongue and a quick retort, checked what she said and what she did because she kept thinking about how these would reflect on Junie, how her own behaviour could influence other people’s opinion of her daughter and make her life more difficult. She was an exemplary mother, but it didn’t save her girl.
Now Eve needs to revert to what she used to be before Junie came into the world, she needs to go to ‘the familiar dark’, because this is the only way for her to survive her little girl being gone. At the press-conference /police appeal to the public, Eve promises she will find the murderer and destroy them.

This is a mystery and I won’t give away any details. Eve’s ‘investigation’ is dark and depressing as well, as everything in her poor little town aptly named Barren Springs. Eve is looking for justice, and her upbringing didn’t teach her how to forgive or let go. One of the characters points out ‘there’s a world of space between forgiveness and vengeance. A lot of places you can land’. You can rest assured, Eve isn’t going to shy away from facing the truth, even though it might be killing her. She was raised to be strong and fight back. Can you ever forget your mother’s life lessons that shaped you for better or worse or do you always remain your mother’s daughter?

There’s a world of space between forgiveness and vengeance. A lot of places you can land.

The characters in this book are absolutely fascinating. Eve’s strength and ‘unflinching ability’ to be honest with herself and take responsibility for her own actions is what kept me turning pages for hours until I reached the end of the book. I did guess who the murderer was, because the characters were so well-written and so logical that it was the only possible solution. To be honest, I’m not a big fan of shocking endings where completely new information is revealed.

Powerful, compulsive, raw, The Familiar Dark is a story of grief and loss, mother’s love and survival. Definitely recommended for all the fans of dark psychological thrillers.

Take a long honest look at yourself and own the darkness that lived inside.

Thank you to Edelweiss and Dutton Books for the ARC provided in exchange for an honest opinion.

Images by _Marion and congerdesign from Pixabay

  • Have you read The Familiar Darkness or is it on your tbr?
  • Have you read Amy Engel’s previous book The Roanoke Girls? if yes, did you like it? Would you recommend it?
  • Are we destined to be ‘our parents’ children or can we change the models we were given in the childhood if they are negative?

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#Book Review #Only Mostly Devastated by Sophie Gonzales

SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA meets CLUELESS in this boy-meets-boy spin on Grease

Summer love…gone so fast.

Ollie and Will were meant to be a summer fling—casual, fun, and done. But when Ollie’s aunt’s health takes a turn for the worse and his family decides to stay in North Carolina to take care of her, Ollie lets himself hope this fling can grow to something more. Dreams that are crushed when he sees Will at a school party and finds that the sweet and affectionate (and comfortably queer) guy he knew from summer isn’t the same one attending Collinswood High.

Will is more than a little shocked to see Ollie the evening of that first day of school. While his summer was spent being very much himself, back at school he’s simply known as one of the varsity basketball guys. Now Will is faced with the biggest challenge of his life: follow his heart and risk his friendships, or stay firmly in the closet and lose what he loves most.

(The Blurb)

****

My thoughts:

Ollie Di Fiore is happy and secure in his sexuality. As his favourite Aunt Linda points out he has a supportive family, great friends, and a wonderful school. Ollie doesn’t even know how easy his coming out was compared to other people’s. He and his family spend their summer at a lake in North Carolina, and this is where he meets and falls in love with Will- ‘sweet, thoughtful, and respectful’ Will. Then suddenly Will starts ignoring Ollie’s texts and it’s clear whatever undefined relationship they had is over.


Aunt Linda’s health gets worse, and she can definitely do with her family support and Ollie’s babysitting while she is doing her chemotherapy. Ollie’s parents decide to move to North Carolina for a year and Ollie has to start a new school. Daunting as it is, it has its advantages. He can make new friends, or enemies, he can be anything he wants to be– self-assured, confident, relaxed. When he meets cool and super-friendly Juliette, Lara, and Niamh, Ollie quickly finds himself sharing confidences with them, including the story of his summer fling, only to find out that they do know Will better than he could have imagined, because Will is the vice-captain of their school basketball team.


A happy coincidence? More likely a recipe for heartbreak when you take into consideration that Will isn’t out and even worse likes to share a homophobic joke or two with his jock friends. And yes, he keeps ignoring Ollie, until one afternoon he drags Ollie into a closet to have a face-to-face talk to clear the things out.


I really liked lovely, considerate, thoughtful Ollie. The situation he is in is actually very relatable, if you’ve ever been in love with somebody who needs to work their feelings out at their own pace or anybody who was somehow unavailable. It is easy to get blinded by heartbreak, embarrassment, or anger, and sometimes it is healthier to walk away. Self-respect is very important and I really liked the way Ollie stood up for himself without disregarding other people’s feelings.


Ollie goes through extremely difficult time in this book, realising his mortality, and looking at the world with a different pair of eyes and seeing everything on a different scale. At the end of the day he is right- we need to cherish people around us because we might not have much time with them, which doesn’t cancel our happy, loving experiences.


Entertaining, moving, and even heart-breaking at times, Only Mostly Devastated is a sweet story with interesting characters and relatable emotional dilemmas.

Thank you to Edelweiss and Wednesday Books for the ARC provided in exchange for an honest opinion.

  • Have you read Only Mostly Devastated or is it on your tbr?
  • Do you like Grease? What is the secret of its enduring popularity?
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#Book Review #Pretty as a Picture by Elizabeth Little

An egomaniacal movie director, an isolated island, and a decades-old murder–the addictive new novel from the bestselling author of Dear Daughter

Marissa Dahl, a shy but successful film editor, travels to a small island off the coast of Delaware to work with the legendary–and legendarily demanding–director Tony Rees on a feature film with a familiar logline.

Some girl dies.

It’s not much to go on, but the specifics don’t concern Marissa. Whatever the script is, her job is the same. She’ll spend her days in the editing room, doing what she does best: turning pictures into stories.

But she soon discovers that on this set, nothing is as it’s supposed to be–or as it seems. There are rumors of accidents and indiscretions, of burgeoning scandals and perilous schemes. Half the crew has been fired. The other half wants to quit. Even the actors have figured out something is wrong. And no one seems to know what happened to the editor she was hired to replace.

Then she meets the intrepid and incorrigible teenage girls who are determined to solve the real-life murder that is the movie’s central subject, and before long, Marissa is drawn into the investigation herself.

The only problem is, the killer may still be on the loose. And he might not be finished.

A wickedly funny exploration of our cultural addiction to tales of murder and mayhem and a thrilling, behind-the-scenes whodunit, Pretty as a Picture is a captivating page-turner from one of the most distinctive voices in crime fiction.

(From the book blurb)

*****

My thoughts:

It’s the same world as yours. I just notice it differently.

Meet Marissa Dahl, an endearing film editor, who might be perceiving the world slightly differently from you – she is clearly on the spectrum and has to work very hard to survive in this world of human interactions, body language, smiles, jokes, irony, meaningful looks and silences. Marissa is also brilliant at what she does. She lives, feels and breathes movies. She thinks in movie scenes .They are her anchor in this ever changing mysterious world.

Give me a movie and I’ll find the meaning; I’ll find the truth; I’ll find the story. Sometimes I’ll find all three.

When Marissa perceives Amy, her best friend / film director she has been working close for a very long time with/ flatmate needs some time and space for her relationship with Josh, Marissa with her characteristic sensitivity moves out. Now she needs to get a job as soon as possible and she can’t be choosy. Her agent arranges an interview during which Marissa is shown a still and is asked to analyse it. Marissa correctly guesses it is from a true crime movie and is hired on the spot. Normally she would ask for a script, but the director is so well-known that she is willing to put up with a few eccentricities. She is whisked away onto an isolated island where the actual crime occured. The murder has remained unsolved. Everything about this production feels wrong. There is an ex-SEAL who is providing security, nobody would talk about why the previous film editor was fired, and there are also weird accidents and mishaps. Marissa starts investigating.

My mind has a way of latching on to questions, like a dog with a bone. A wagon with a star. A Kardashian with a revenue stream. The only thing that’ll work it loose is an answer.

I fell in love with Marissa and her quirky sense of humour. The events are narrated from her point of view, so we get to know this kind and selfless character really well. There are also excerpts from a hilarious ‘true crime podcast‘ which features interviews with secondary characters. The podcast was created by Grace and Suzy – two courageous and extremely creative teenage girls. These aspiring detectives, who happen to be children of cooks working in the hotel/production set, managed to do things even an experienced security professional couldn’t have imagined were possible. I love the way Marissa always behaved as a mature and responsible adult with them. There are other fantastic secondary characters you will enjoy reading about, including the above mentioned ex-SEAL.

The book is full of names and movie references, which I didn’t mind at all. To be honest, I had to look up a few of them. For me, in a subtle (or maybe not so subtle) and ironic way, it mirrored the way Marissa navigates the world that keeps throwing information at her which everybody seems to know about  and understand, while she needs to study it carefully before she can determine its relevance and significance.

Without giving away too much of the story, it is also a brilliant exploration of authenticity and its role in our culture.

Well-written, fast-paced, extremely entertaining, but also deep and thought-provoking, Pretty as a Picture was a delight to read. I will be looking forward to reading any future book written by Elizabeth Little and I wish this one all the success it deserves.

Thank you to Edelweiss and Viking for the ARC provided in exchange for an honest opinion.

I would like to give you a hug, but I also want to respect your bodily integrity. Because it’s totally okay if you don’t like hugs’ Grace says, coming over. Suzy nods. ‘Never forget you’re the boss of your own body’.

I should let them. I really should. I should gather them close and reflect on the ease of their affection, the astonishing breadth of their compassion, and I should resolve, from this point forward, to set aside my fear and discomfort and displeasure, and embrace, literally and figuratively, mankind’s limitless capacity for love. I can almost hear it now: the satisfying plunk of a character arc slotting into place.

But maybe this arc isn’t an arc. Maybe it’s a loop, emphatically closed. Maybe I shouldn’t have to change: a radical thought.

Too radical for me, I think. Because I don’t want them to feel unappreciated or worry they’re unlovable or think I’m wrong- or think they’re wrong.

So I open my arms and beckon them near…

Pretty as a Picture by Elizabeth Little
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Thriller Thursday #Book Review #The Sun Down Motel by Simone St.James

The secrets lurking in a rundown roadside motel ensnare a young woman, just as they did her aunt thirty-five years before, in this new atmospheric suspense novel from the national bestselling and award-winning author of The Broken Girls.

Upstate NY, 1982. Every small town like Fell, New York, has a place like the Sun Down Motel. Some customers are from out of town, passing through on their way to someplace better. Some are locals, trying to hide their secrets. Viv Delaney works as the night clerk to pay for her move to New York City. But something isn’t right at the Sun Down, and before long she’s determined to uncover all of the secrets hidden…

(From the book blurb)

*****

My thoughts:

I loved this book! It is probably going to be one of my favourite reads for the year. I know it is only February, but this atmospheric thriller is that good.


This was my first book by Simone St.James, and the description was vague enough for me to miss that there might be a paranormal element in it. Scary as it was (I think the scene where Betty tells Viv to run is the best ghost scene I’ve ever read), there is so much more to this book.

There are two very well-balanced timelines.

In 1982 we meet Viv Delaney, a twenty year old young woman who wanted to leave home and do something with her life, something that would get her out of the oppressive atmosphere of her home town and overbearing demands for perfect behaviour from her newly divorced mother. Viv never makes it to New York as she gets stuck in a little town of Fell with a very creepy motel, The Sun Down Motel, and Viv happens to land the job of the night clerk in it. Smart girl as she is, Viv observes and notices not only the strange customers any motel of this kind is bound to have (drug dealers, prostitutes, travelling salesmen, people with secrets), but also strange smells, noises and paranormal occurences. We know from the beginning that something will make her dispppear, but what will it be?

In 2017, Carly Kirk, a student and a true crime buff, is mourning the death of her mother and is venturing on a little research trip. To Fell, Upstate New York. The place where her mother’s sister, Viv Delaney, vanished into thin air 35 years ago. Once she is there, she quickly finds a place to live with an odd but very friendly flatmate, and a job of the night clerk in The Sun Down Motel. The same job her Aunt Viv held. Carly starts investigating and discovers that around the same time Viv disappeared several young women were murdered. Was her Aunt Viv another victim of the same serial killer? and did she see and hear the same strange things Carly notices around the motel? Could it be haunted?

The voices of Viv and Carly were distinct, equally well-written and engaging. Viv’s reality was very different. Not only because there was no Internet or DNA databases to facilitate police investigations. There was only one female police officer in Fell and she definitely faced a lot of discrimination.

“You think I did thirty years on nights by choice? That was the only shift they would give me. It was either take it or quit. And boy, were they mad when I worked it instead of quitting.

I was lucky to be able to get a credit card in those days without a husband.”

“If I ever get a time machine, remind me not to go back to the seventies”.

“It wasn’t so bad. We had Burt Reynolds and no Internet and no AIDS. We didn’t know how much fun we were having until the eighties came and it started go dry up.”

Viv’s flatmate Jenny dreams of getting married as a solution to all her life problems, while Viv… she is independent, smart, kind, loyal, determined, resourceful, and full of empathy towards those less fortunate than her. Once she figures out the mystery, she does everything possible to prevent the next crime from occuring. The link between the victims is so generic and unfair, that it sends chills down your spine.

Carly’s motivation to retrace Viv’s steps is different. Whether it is curiosity or desire for a closure that families of missing never get, Carly is as driven and determined as her aunt was.


There are some fantastic secondary characters as well- Alma Trent, Marnie, Heather, Nick- all unique and well-developed. Great portrayal of friendships and female solidarity as well as a slow-burn romance.

Intriguing, compelling, and eery, The Sun Down Motel by Simone St.James is a great thriller with paranormal elements. Highly recommended.

Thank you to Edelweiss and Berkley Publishing for the ARc provided in exchange for an honest opinion.

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#Book Review #All the Best Lies by Joanna Schaffhausen

FBI agent Reed Markham is haunted by one painful unsolved mystery: who murdered his mother? Camilla was brutally stabbed to death more than forty years ago while baby Reed lay in his crib mere steps away. The trail went so cold that the Las Vegas Police Department has given up hope of solving the case. But then a shattering family secret changes everything Reed knows about his origins, his murdered mother, and his powerful adoptive father, state senator Angus Markham. Now Reed has to wonder if his mother’s killer is uncomfortably close to home.

Unable to trust his family with the details of his personal investigation, Reed enlists his friend, suspended cop Ellery Hathaway, to join his quest in Vegas. Ellery has experience with both troubled families and diabolical murderers, having narrowly escaped from each of them. She’s eager to skip town, too, because her own father, who abandoned her years ago, is suddenly desperate to get back in contact. He also has a secret that could change her life forever, if Ellery will let him close enough to hear it.

Far from home and relying only on each other, Reed and Ellery discover young Camilla had snared the attention of dangerous men, any of whom might have wanted to shut her up for good. They start tracing his twisted family history, knowing the path leads back to a vicious killer—one who has been hiding in plain sight for forty years and isn’t about to give up now.

(From the Book Blurb)

*****

My thoughts:

Although this is book 3 in Ellery Hathaway series by Joanna Schaffhausen, this thriller/police procedural works perfectly fine as a standalone. There is enough information and background, both factual and emotional, to understand both the past and the present of the protagonists. The previous books are The Vanishing Season and No Mercy.


In All the Best Lies FBI Agent Reed Markham makes an accidental discovery about his family that makes him question his relationship to his parents and his siblings. It also makes him re-visit a 40-year-old cold case of a brutal murder of Camilla Flores who died of multiple stabbing wounds while her baby was nearby in his crib. Baby Joe Flores was adopted by Virginian Senator Angus Markham, became Reed Markham, and grew up in a loving family that provided the best possible care and opportunities privilege can buy.


Ellery Hathaway couldn’t have come from a more different background. Her father left his wife and two children and stopped answering his messages. When Ellery was abducted by a serial killer Francis Coben, John Hathaway chose to stay away. When Ellery’s brother Daniel died of leukaemia, John even come to his funeral. Now he is desperately trying to get in contact with Ellery who is keen to avoid seeing him at all costs. Ellery doesn’t think twice. She is going to help Reed try to discover who exactly killed his mother, and she is going to stand by him, because the case is bound to be impossibly hard to investigate.


The plot is intriguing and although I had my suspicions as far as the identity of the killer was concerned, there were some twists I didn’t anticipate. Joanna Schaffhausen’s writing is superb. She created complex, well-rounded characters who keep evolving as they face new life challenges and make new choices.


The relationship between Reed and Ellery is complicated. He keeps thinking about the moment when he found fourteen-year-old Ellery and knows in some respects he was too late. ‘He’d re-entered her life expecting gratitude and instead found himself hoping for forgiveness’. Ellery and Reed’s understanding of each other’s strengths and vulnerabilities and their desire to be there for each other is so powerful and rare.


Joanna Schaffhausen explores thorny topics family relationships, lies, secrets, and choices to hide the truth. She also gives her characters plenty of second chances and opportunities for healing and building a new life.


I am very glad to have discovered this compelling series with its fascinating characters. Highly recommended for all lovers of mystery/crime genre.


Thank you to Edelweiss and Minotaur Books for the ARC provided in exchange for an honest opinion.

  • Have you read All the Best Lies or is it on your tbr list?
  • What new crime series have you recently discovered?
  • Do you prefer reading series or standalones?

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#Book Review #A Queen in Hiding by Sarah Kozloff – Book1 in a new epic fantasy series ‘The Nine Realms’

Debut author Sarah Kozloff offers a breathtaking and cinematic epic fantasy of a ruler coming of age in A Queen in Hiding, and all four books will be published within a month of each other, so you can binge your favorite new fantasy series.

Orphaned, exiled and hunted, Cérulia, Princess of Weirandale, must master the magic that is her birthright, become a ruthless guerilla fighter, and transform into the queen she is destined to be.

But to do it she must win the favor of the spirits who play in mortal affairs, assemble an unlikely group of rebels, and wrest the throne from a corrupt aristocracy whose rot has spread throughout her kingdom. (From the book blurb)

****

My thoughts:

Epic fantasy books require a special mindset, focus and time to get into. With this one, the writing was so engaging that I was hooked straightaway.


As you would expect with book number one in a series the worldbuilding in Queen in Hiding is very thorough. Unexpectedly it appeared almost effortless. You are in the middle of events at the Nargiz castle, home of Weirandale queens, and yet, I was not confused or baffled for a single moment. I trusted the author to provide the necessary background information at the right moment. Sarah Kozloff lets you experience this complex world as if it is your own and when an explanation comes it’s just a piece of a puzzle that fits in the overall picture. E.g. hair colour shows old distinctions between various lands, and we get our first glimpse of this particularity through observing the members of the Queen Council. One of them has amber hair. Whenever a brown hair shows up, she asks gets her maid pluck it out. So we know this is something the court lady is ashamed of. Later through a child song sung by Princella Cerulia to her mother we learn that brown hair is characteristic of common folks, that all tiny kingdoms(lands) in this fantasy world used to have their own distinct shade of skin and hair, that there was a lot of intermarriage, trade and travelling. We see that old prejudices may run deep in this society, but judging by what the Queen says to her daughter, she is a person who would like to promote unity and peace and so on.


The characterization is absolutely fantastic, and let me tell you, there is a large cast. The author pays attention to give every character- main or secondary their own distinct voice, appearance and personality. There is also depth that comes with the additional background and showing the characters’ motivations.

We meet Princella Cerulia at the age of eight when the elders are trying to define her special talent (all previous queens possessed one). It is blatantly obvious to us that it is communicating with animals and that like it was the case with her mother, Cerulia’s talent will develop in future and will manifest itself at the times of need. Then we are plunged into the world of court intrigue. Queen Cressa is surrounded by treacherous nobles, one of whom Councellor Matwyck stages a coup to kill the queen in order to rule the country as a regent. Betrayed by her Council, Queen Cressa fears for her own life and life of Cerulia and is forced into an exile. Cerulia is disguised and given a new identity as a commoner. Gradually she will master her own magic abilities and grow into a strong and intelligent contender, ready to reclaim the throne for her family.


There is an original magic system based on elements, but the book is so well-researched and well-written that the magic aspect feels secondary to the realistic descriptions of court politics and everyday life.


I am very glad that the books are being released over four months (January 21, February 18, March 17, April 21), as I am really looking forward to reading the second instalment of this fast-paced fascinating epic series.

Thank you to Edelweiss and Tor for the ARC provided in exchange for an honest opinion.

  • Have you read A Queen in Hiding or is it on your tbr?
  • Do you like fantasy books? If yes, what’s your favourite series?
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#Book Review #The Absolution by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir

The Absolution is the third installment in Queen of Icelandic crime fiction Yrsa Sigurdard�ttir’s series about the psychologist Freyja and the police officer Huldar.

The police find out about the crime the way everyone does: on Snapchat. The video shows a terrified young woman begging for forgiveness. When her body is found, it is marked with a number “2”.

Detective Huldar joins the investigation, bringing child psychologist Freyja on board to help question the murdered teenager’s friends. Soon, they uncover that Stella was far from the angel people claim, but who could have hated her enough to kill?

Then another teenager goes missing, more clips are sent to social media, and the body with a “3” is found. Freyja and Huldar can agree on two things at least: the truth is far from simple. The killer is not done yet. And is there an undiscovered body carrying the number “1” out there?

****

My thoughts:

Content/Trigger warnings: bullying, cyberbullying, suicide attempts.


Sixteen-year-old Stella has just finished her shift working in the cinema. She lets her workmates know her boyfriend is coming to drive her home and they happily leave her in their hurry to catch their bus home. While Stella is waiting alone and refreshing herself in the bathroom, she receives a snapchat image of herself from a stranger, and then she hears footsteps… A tall broad-shouldered man wearing a Darth Vader mask makes a video of terrified Stella who he forces to repeat ‘Sorry, sorry, sorry’, begging for mercy, and sends it to all her contacts.

When the police hear from Stella’s frantic boyfriend who was late by ten minutes and also received the videos, they start looking for Stella. The footage from the CCTV cameras leaves them little hope she’ll be found alive. Among other witnesses, the police hear from Stella’s close friends and it becomes clear that the girls are hiding something.

The series has two protagonists: Detective Huldar, smart, good-looking, messed-up, and a child psychologist Freyja who works in Children’s Home and is used to dealing with traumatised children and adolescents. Freyja notices a girl, Stellas’ classmate, who seems to have a different reaction to the news of Stella’s murder. It turns out the girl was severely bullied by the angelic Stella and her clique. When Freyja suggests checking out this angle, the police are not convinced. Stella’s body is found lying in a car park and there is a piece of paper with number 2 underneath. Does it mean there is Victim Number 1 whose body is lying somewhere? and where is Egill, another teenager whose abduction was accompanied by harrowing Snapchat videos?

One of my favourite books of all time is ‘Cat’s eye’ by Margaret Atwood. Among other brilliantly explored topics, it deals with the psychology of a bully, possible reasons and consequences of becoming one. Yrsa Sigurðardóttir focuses on a different aspect: the effect bullying has on the victims’ parents. In her attempts to help the investigation, Freyja reaches to her own childhood and adolescence experience of being bullied and the effort it took to pull through that period of her life. She knows getting qualified professional help is vital, but how often schools do not look too closely into suspicious incidents, hoping the children ‘will work their differences out’? how often tired and overworked teachers do not know how to deal with the situation or inadvertedly miss the signals until the situation becomes desperate? We live in the world where technology has given bullies more ways to harass and abuse weaker ones. It is important to be aware of cyberbullying and do everything possible to report and stop it.



Yrsa Sigurðardóttir rightly (and necessarily) points out, nobody (even the worst kind of bully) deserves to become a victim of horrific violence and murder described in the book, and the perpetrators need to be brought to justice, but it isn’t easy to break the vicious circle which changes and scars everybody involved. A bully may become bullied and vice versa, as the brilliant ending to this gripping novel shows. There is also help and understanding you can reach for in people like Freyja who know how to listen and care to act.

This is my first book by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir, but it won’t be the last. The topic of this well-plotted and well-written police procedural was dark and painful, and this is why I included possible trigger warnings at the beginning of this review. Still, it was an absorbing and thought-provoking read, and I will be looking forward to future books written by this talented author.

Thank you to Edelweiss and Minotaur Books for the ARC provided in exchange for an honest opinion.

  • Have you read The Absolution or any other books by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir?
  • Do you like reading Nordic Noir? If yes, who are your favourite authors?

#Book Review #Blog Tour for Return to Cornwall by Laura Briggs @rararesources

Thank you to Rachel from Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to participate in the blog tour for this lovely book!

Synopsis:

The sequel novel to the best-selling UK series A WEDDING IN CORNWALL brings new surprises, romance, humor, and wedding bells, to readers who fell in love with the first stories.

Busy mother of two Julianne Rose has extended her talents beyond the manor house, opening her own event planning agency with the help of no-nonsense best friend Kitty. Balancing the chaos of daily life with their respective careers in their beloved Cornish village means Julianne can rarely snatch a romantic moment with handsome husband Matt. And just when it seems things couldn’t get any more chaotic, a sudden arrival at Cliffs House lands Julianne in the most unusual event of her career.

The reappearance of Percy or ‘the old earl’ after years of adventures abroad has temporarily shocked Lord William and Lady Amanda and set the entire village abuzz with gossip. Grizzled, spry, and delightfully eccentric, he’s returned with a most unusual set of traveling companions: an archaeological team digging in a spot whispered to have ties with the legendary Camelot. But it’s Percy’s ties with a certain charming woman among its team that has everyone taken by surprise, along with the news of their soon-to-be nuptials.

Tasked with planning the big day, Julianne and Kitty spring at this opportunity despite its rushed timeline and their own woes regarding the renovation of their future event space. But as the big day rolls closer for the earl and his bride-to-be – with cakes and wedding flowers competing with pottery shards and an ancient warrior chieftain’s grave for attention — are there still surprising revelations to come?

Adding to the excitement is the return of former Cliffs House maid Gemma, whose posh new life as a novelist may not be all it seems … and Dinah visits in a flurry of festive baking for a holiday competition on everyone’s favorite baking show. Kitty’s life is in a tizz regarding both family and secrets … and Julianne’s happy marriage is challenged by an unwelcome sexy-and-persistent suitor among the summer visitors.

Filled with old friends, new adventures, and heartwarming Cornish charm, RETURN TO CORNWALL is an all-new, full-length novel—the first one ever to feature the characters from the original series!

Purchase link

My thoughts:

Laura Briggs has numerous faithful fans who just can’t get enough of her trademark feel-good warmhearted stories in gorgeous settings. In ‘Return to Cornwall’ we get a chance to re-visit our old friends from ‘A Wedding in Cornwall’ series.

Julianne Morgen is now Julianne Rose, happily married to her own Ros Poldark a.k.a.  Matt Rose. They have two adorable, energetic children. Julianne has her own event planning business in partnership with Kitty, and Matt is also involved in a number of academic projects including giving lectures at university and designing teaching gardens. It is no wonder that the two parents need to share family duties and help each other out when work calls. They have been married for eight years now and understandably their love has changed, become more mature. This is what makes this book so relatable- Laura Briggs explores little ways in which people change, but stay true to themselves.

We also get to see plenty of other familiar characters. Julianne’s business partner Kitty has a neverending drama with her mom, her shifty uncle and loud cousins. Luckily, she is married to kind and understanding Nathan. How far will she go to protect him from her own family antics? Should she let go of her unconscious worry he might not want her once he really discovers how little they think of her and her abilities?

Lord and Lady of the Manor, Will and Mandy are expecting their second child while chasing their first born all over the grand house and overseeing different events and ceremonies that take place in their ancestral home. Speaking of the ancestors, Will and Mandy get a huge surprise when Will’s grandfather turns up on their doorstep having spent last twenty years travelling around the world and helping out at various archeological events. It quickly transpires good old, larger than life, Percy plans to get married soon to an archeology professor, who in turn is busy on a dig nearby. Lovers of archeology will be delighted by the description of the dig-related activities, including using LIDAR, geography scans and historical evidence. Plenty of exciting finds are waiting for them and the reader.
Percy love story turns out to be quite an interesting one and while it proves that ‘Love has no boundaries of time or distance’, it also shows that romance isn’t always easy and often involves changing and adjusting your life plans drastically.

If you like reading about wedding planning, you are, of course, going to enjoy Laura Briggs’ fascinating descriptions of the work that goes into organising one. All of this coupled with great food, beautiful gardens, spectacular Cornish scenery, and a whole range of charismatic characters.

Thank you to Rachel and the author for a copy of the book. All opinions are my own and were not influenced in any way.

About the author:

Laura Briggs is the author of several feel-good romance reads, including the Top 100 Amazon UK seller ‘A Wedding in Cornwall’. She has a fondness for vintage style dresses (especially ones with polka dots), and reads everything from Jane Austen to modern day mysteries. When she’s not writing, she enjoys spending time with family and friends, caring for her pets, gardening, and seeing the occasional movie or play.

Facebook  / Twitter

Giveaway to Win an e-copy of Return to Cornwall by Laura Briggs (Open INT)

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*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

If you would like to see what other bloggers thought of the book, here is the full tour schedule:

Thank you for stopping by and reading the post! Have a great Monday!

Book Blitz: Keep Me In Sight by Rachel Blackledge (September 1-5) @Xpresso Book Tours

Book & Author Details:

Keep Me In Sight
by Rachel Blackledge
Publication date: late September 2020
Genres: Adult, Thriller

Synopsis:

One night. One lie.
Now someone is going to die. 

It’s about Dan.

These three words jolt Brynn Masters back to the big boozy night she spent with her boyfriend, Dan. The very same night his ex, Erin, showed up. Erin says something terrible happened that night. Dan says he never touched her. Trouble is, Erin has evidence to prove it.
Brynn can vouch for him though. She was there that night she can hardly remember, but will never forget. Except, when Brynn pieces together her fractured memories, lost that night at the bottom of a bottle, she faces the horrifying possibility that maybe Dan isn’t completely innocent. Maybe he’s guilty as charged. As Brynn inches closer to the truth, she begins to wonder: Who is the predator? And who is the prey?
Gloria knows. She’s a psychic who turned her back on her ability long ago, after she failed to prevent a terrible tragedy. As her gift floods back to her, can she learn to trust herself again before it’s too late? Or will her painful past hold her back from saving someone’s future . . . and quite possibly their life.
This addictive and suspenseful thriller explores the fault lines between broken memories and shattered trust, and promises to keep you up well past your bedtime.

Goodreads 

AUTHOR BIO:
An American ex-pat since 2008, together with her husband, Rachel has sailed over 11,000 nautical miles, crossing the Indian Ocean three times and sinking only once. She hung up her foul weather gear since the birth of her son. And writes thrillers now instead.

Website  / Twitter

GIVEAWAY
Blitz-wide giveaway (US only)

  • Signed copy of Keep Me In Sight with a unique bookmark

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Cover Reveal: Everything is Beautiful by Eleanor Ray @rararesources

Thank you to Rachel from Rachel’s Random resources for inviting me to participate in the cover reveal for Everything is Beautiful by Eleanor Ray.

Title: Everything is Beautiful
Author: Eleanor Ray
Expected Publication Date: 4th February 2021

Synopsis:


Sometimes it’s impossible to part with the things we love the most…

When Amy Ashton’s world came crashing down eleven years ago, she started a collection. Just a little collection, just a few keepsakes of happier times: some honeysuckle to remind herself of the boy she loved, a chipped china bird, an old terracotta pot . . . Things that others might throw away, but to Amy, represent a life that could have been.  

Now her house is overflowing with the objects she loves – soon there’ll be no room for Amy at all. But when a family move in next door, a chance discovery unearths a mystery long buried, and Amy’s carefully curated life begins to unravel. If she can find the courage to face her past, might the future she thought she’d lost still be hers for the taking? 

Perfect for fans of Eleanor Oliphant and The Keeper of Lost Things, this exquisitely told, uplifting novel shows us that however hopeless things might feel, beauty can be found in the most unexpected of places.



Pre-order Links:

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Everything-Beautiful-Eleanor-Ray/dp/0349427437
US – https://www.amazon.com/Everything-Beautiful-Eleanor-Ray-ebook/dp/B087ZDNZM8/

About the author:

Eleanor Ray has an MA in English Literature from Edinburgh University and works in marketing. She lives in London with her husband and two young children.
Eleanor was inspired to write Everything is Beautiful by the objects her toddler collects and treasures – twigs, empty water bottles and wilting daisies. She is currently working on her next novel.
Social Media Links –
Twitter: @EleanorRayBooks
Facebook: @EleanorRayBooks
Instagram: @EleanorRayBooks

….And here is the cover…. Sweet, isn’t it?

Thank you for stopping by and reading the post! Have a great Friday!

Book blitz: Escape by Deana Birch @Xpresso Book Tours

Book & Author Details:

Title: Escape (The Covington Heights Crew #1)
Author: Deana Birch
Publication date: September 1st 2020
Genres: Adult, Romance, Suspense

Synopsis:

FROM POPULAR ROMANCE AUTHOR DEANA BIRCH
Book one in The Covington Heights Crew series
The only thing she has to give is exactly what they want.
The Covington Heights Crew has a funny way of protecting their own. With rapes from rival gangs and human trafficking riddling their poverty-stricken streets, they’ll keep the girls from their neighborhood safe—for a price. No money? No worries. They have quite creative payment plans.
Messed up? Yeah, they know. They’re criminals.
Twenty-one-year-old Fiona Thompson was happy to stay off the radar of the twisted drug dealers who encourage her mother’s habit. She’s sure that she can work her way out of Covington and find a better life for herself and her baby sister. But then she beeped. Loud.
Second-in-command Leo Ricci is a poser. The web of lies he’s spun for a life unravels every time he’s around Fiona—every day he’s trying to keep her safe and every second he’s avoiding his destiny.
When his missteps challenge the authority to which he’s pledged his allegiance and Fiona’s life is at stake, there’s only one solution—become the man he never wanted to be and leave the place that was saving him from a worse, but unavoidable fate.

Goodreads 

Purchase:
Amazon  B&N  / iBooks  / Kobo 

AUTHOR BIO:
Contemporary romance and erotica writer Deana Birch was named after her father’s first love, who just so happened not to be her mother. Born and raised in the Midwest, she made stops in Los Angeles and New York before settling in Europe where she lives with her own blue-eyed Happily Ever After. Her days are spent teaching yoga, playing tennis, ruining her children’s French homework, cleaning up dog vomit, writing her next book, or reading someone else’s.

website / facebook  instagram  / twitter goodreads

GIVEAWAY
Blitz-wide giveaway (INT)

  • Signed copy of Escape + $25 Amazon gift card

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