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#Book Tour # Cornish Dreams At Cockleshell Cottage by Liz Hurley @rararesources

Thank you to Rachel from Rachel’s Random resources for my place on the book tour for this charming  summer read!

Cornish Dreams At Cockleshell Cottage (Synopsis)

Sitting alongside the beach and just up from the gently lapping waves, sat a perfect cottage. She had found where she was going to live. Her own little cockleshell cove.

Ever since the Byrne sisters – ArianaAsterClemPaddy and Nic – discovered they were heiresses to the vast Hiverton fortune, their lives have never been the same. No longer living in poverty in London, they now own an estate in Norfolk, a castle in Scotland and a picturesque village in Cornwall.
When sensitive Paddy, the baby of the family despite her successful career as a model, swaps the catwalks of Paris Fashion Week for the cobbled lanes of Tregisky on the beautiful Cornish coast, it’s time for her to stand on her own two feet.
Soon, she’s settled in her new home of Cockleshell Cottage overlooking the wild surf, the seals her closest companions.
And when she meets ex-soldier Hal, she’s instantly smitten. Funny, considerate, and not to mention drop dead gorgeous, he’s perfect in every way apart from one – he’s engaged. But after a misunderstanding brings the two together in ways they couldn’t have imagined, it seems like they might just change each other’s lives.
Will Paddy fall in love with more than just the glorious blue skies of Cornwall? Or are there storm clouds gathering ahead?
Escape to the Cornish coast this summer with this completely uplifting romcom – perfect for fans of Holly Martin, Phillipa Ashley and Milly Johnson.

Purchase Links
Amazon  /  Kobo  / Apple

My thoughts:


This is the second book in Liz Hurley’s sweet and charming series about the turn in fortunes of five sisters. Ariana, Clementine, Nicoletta and Patricia (twins) and Aster grew up in a family with lots of love and little money. Their mother was disinherited by her rich and noble parents, but chose to leave all her luxurious lifestyle for the true love of a good man. Then a tragedy struck. The girls’ parents were killed in a car accident. All of them dealt with the trauma in their own different ways. Ari became over-responsible and over-protective. Paddy got severely depressed. Her intense grief almost took the family apart, as there was a moment when the social services could have separated the sisters. Once Paddy got over the worst part of her grieving, she threw herself into work- modelling wasn’t easy, but it was a source of steady income and helped Nick and Clem to start their businesses and put Aster through university. Then the girls’ uncle died and Ariana inherited a title and several properties, including one in Cornwall. The sisters had to adjust to the circumstances, but they will always remember that family is the most important thing in life and their sisterly love is the biggest treasure.

All five girls are different with their unique dispositions and unique voices. In many ways, Paddy is the softest, the most vulnerable and emotional. She is kind and sees the best in everyone. On the downside, Paddy has a lot of insecurites. We meet her as she is going to oversee one of her sister’s properties, which, believe it or not, comes with its own village. Paddy needs to work out how to manage the big house and how to improve the life of her tenants. She moves into a small cottage decorated with cockleshells to be closer to the sea and go for her regular swims. A German TV crew is filming their show in the big house. And here a momentous thing happens. Paddy is given a small role of a bride about to get married. The groom, handsome Hal Ferguson, won his opportunity to play his tiny part in a charity auction (although he might have got the wrong end of the stick and bet on a wrong thing). Afterwards, Paddy and Hal go for a dinner and totally fall for each other’s charm. They avoid speaking about their private lives, so it is only the following day that Paddy discovers her lovely, funny, handsome companion is actually engaged to somebody else….

The book is full of interesting characters. I really enjoyed reading about the Byrne sisters. I hope every sister gets her own book! It was great to see Ari at her home, taking care of little boys and her new husband. Clem, Nick and Aster make their appearances, but of course, we concentrate on getting to know Paddy and her romantic life. From her dreams of having a lovely future family to the reality full of twists and misunderstandings. Hal is a bit directionless at the beginning and needs to become more focused and take on more responsibility. He has great friends who I hope might feature in the following books. There is a gold-digger or two in the book as well. My favourite secondary character was Beryl, a ninety year old inhabitant of Tregeskey, the village Paddy oversees.

It was interesting to get a glimpse of the world of modelling and the woes of the upper classes (from having to modernise the estate to keep up with the new government regulations to worrying about a potential romantic partner loving you for your money, not for yourself). I loved Paddy’s new friend Jemima and her husband’s idea to get a couple of geese to keep his wife company and scare off unwanted guests. There are also a few more serious moments thrown in, such as Hal’s charity for homeless. If you read a lot of romance, the twists Liz Hurley is throwing at you aren’t going to seem so surprising, but still it was great to see how exactly the protagonists are going to work out their misunderstandings. Bianca’s story, slightly exaggerated as it was, provided a bit of comic relief in the end.

Cornish Dreams at the Cockleshell Cottage is a clean romance and a light, entertaining read. If you like British sense of humour and are a fan of Austinesque stories, you will enjoy it and start waiting for the next book in the series.

Thank you to Rachel from Rachel’s Random Resources and Hera Books for a review copy provided in exchange for an honest opinion.

About the author:
Heroines with grit, gumption and good old-fashioned gorgeousness!
Liz Hurley writes exciting and heart warming stories that will make you cheer and laugh.

Social Media Links
website / facebook  / twitter

If you would like to find out more about the first book of the series, just click on this link:
A new Life for Ariana Byrne by Liz Hurley

Thank you for stopping by and reading the post!

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Blog Blitz: A Cornish Daisy’s Kiss by Laura Briggs @rararesources

Thank you to Rachel from Rachel’s Random Resources for my place in this Blog Blitz.

A Cornish Daisy’s Kiss

Weeks after boarding a train to Paris in pursuit of her writing dreams, aspiring novelist Maisie Clark is right back where she started: on the idyllic shores of Port Hewer in Cornwall, luggage in hand and heart filled with anticipation for what lies ahead. Except that nothing seems the same as Maisie left it, from her place among the staff at the hotel Penmarrow to her budding romance with groundskeeper Sidney Daniels, who isn’t quite ready to overlook the painful consequences of her sudden departure.

Losing Sidney would be unbearable, but Maisie can’t help fearing it might be true if the rift between them proves too deep to heal. She knows her feelings for him are unchanged, but whether he feels the same remains to be seen—particularly since she stopped him from expressing them in the first place. And to make matters worse, her position at the Penmarrow has been filled by another, there’s nowhere for her to live in the village, and her savings are finally dwindling to a pathetic number – with her book still unpublished after her startling discovery about the author helping guide her towards success.

But one thing which hasn’t changed is the drama and excitement at the hotel Penmarrow, where the staff is awaiting inspection from the dreaded owner Ms. Claypool. Stirring up trouble in the meantime is the owner’s special guest ‘Mad Ludwig’, an eccentric architect whose demands are definitely driving everyone on the staff a little crazy. And then there’s the hotel’s mysterious new desk manager, whose behavior ignites Maisie’s suspicions and causes her to become entangled in yet another form of intrigue—one that could unwittingly jeopardize the future of the Penmarrow and everyone who works there, unless Maisie can find a way to undo the harm.

With everything that matters to her most at stake this time, Maisie faces her biggest challenges yet…and her deepest question of the heart as she confronts the reason she returned to Cornwall and the Penmarrow in the first place.

Purchase Link

My thoughts:
I am a big fan of Laura Briggs, so when I see that her new book was coming out and there was going to be a book tour for it, I jumped at my chance to participate!


A Cornish Daisy’s Kiss is Book Six in A Little Hotel in Cornwall series. If you’ve read the previous books, you know how delightful the setting of the little sleepy village of Port Hewer is. I imagine it full of tender sunshine and spectacular views. Of course, the disadvantage of living in such a small place is that it isn’t easy to find a job or a place to rent, unless you come from the village originally. Why would our protagoinist Maisie Clark need these things? Isn’t she chasing her dream of writing and publishing her own book in Paris and London? Six weeks after Maisie confessed her feelings to Sidney and left Cornwall, she is back. Of course, the only place she can think of where she can stay is the Penmarrow Hotel. Her job and her little room in the attic have been given to somebody else, so Maisie is staying as a guest. It was great to meet the familiar cast of the hotel employees and village inhabitants.


Maisie knows Sidney needs time to forgive her for leaving so suddenly after telling him she loved him and there are still too many secrets between them or rather things to discover. So there is charming romance in a Cornish Daisy’s Kiss. There is also a mystery to solve as Maisie accidentally discovers that the new desk manager Frank isn’t exactly who is pretending to be. Why is he in the hotel and what is his secret agenda?


Maisie is such a lovely protagonist. She is adventurous, honest, kind and supportive. It was great to see the inside workings of writing a book, drafting and re-drafting endless times from an author’s perspective. I love the way she decided not to take any shortcuts with her book by riding somebody else’s famous name, but earn its existence with hard work. She is also a very fair and loyal person,as we can see from her interactions with the hotel owner, mysterious Ms Claypool, who comes to PenMarrow on one of her awe-striking inspections.

Laura Briggs never fails to entertain and A Cornish Daisy’s Kiss is another charming addition to her lovely series which already has a lot of fans. A great summer read!

 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.

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Thank you for stopping by and reading the post!

  • Have you read any books by Laura Briggs? If yes, did you like them?
  • Do you like the small village/hotel setting?
  • Is it easy to come back to the person you said you love after you left to chase your dreams?
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#Book Blitz # New Witch on the Block by Louisa West @Xpresso Book Tours

Book & Author Details:

Title: New Witch on the Block (Midlife in Mosswood, #1)
Author: Louisa West
Publication date: June 30th 2020
Genres: Adult, Paranormal

Synopsis:

She thought she was running away from her past, not catching up with it.

Rosemary Bell just wants to live a quiet, happy life and raise her daughter as far away from her toxic ex-husband as she can get. But when they move into a decrepit cottage in the woods of Mosswood, Georgia, Rosie realizes her life will never be simple.

A gang of meddling neighborhood do-gooders want to run her out of town. The vicious laundromat machines keep eating her spare change. Not to mention her buff Irish stalker who insists that he’s a Witch King and that it’s her royal destiny to be his Queen.

And to top it all off, strange things keep happening around Rosie when she least expects it…

She could deal with it all, but her ex won’t rest until he tracks her down. When her ability to protect her daughter is threatened, Rosie shows them all that nobody messes with the new witch on the block.

Practical Magic meets Bridget Jones’ Diary in this fun, heart-warming short novel about starting over, putting family first, and finding love when you least expect it.

Goodreads 

Purchase
Amazon Amazon CA  /  Amazon UKAmazon AU

About the author:
Author by day, Netflix connoisseur by night.

Louisa likes Pina Coladas and gettin’ caught in the rain. Determined to empty her brain of stories, she writes across several genres including fantasy, speculative fiction, contemporary and historical fiction, and romance.

She lives in Mandurah, Western Australia, and drinks more coffee than is good for her. When she’s not writing or researching projects, Louisa enjoys spending time with her family, and Harriet The Great (Dane). Hobbies include playing video games, watching copious amounts of tv, and various craft-related initiatives.

She strongly believes that the truth is still out there.

website  /  instagram  /  facebook  /  goodreads

GIVEAWAY

Blitz-wide giveaway (INT)

  • A signed paperback copy of New Witch on the Block & tons more!

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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 Blitz: Fireborn by McKenzie Hunter @Xpresso Book Tours


Book & Author Details:

Title: Fireborne (Raven Cursed #1)
Author: McKenzie Hunter
Publication date: November 1st 2019
Genres: New Adult, Urban Fantasy

Synopsis:

My magic isn’t just a curse – it’s an addiction. I crave it the way some people crave chocolate. But, chocolate doesn’t kill – my magic does.

I’m Raven Cursed. When I borrow magic from someone, they die. That’s always been the case—until I met my client, the devilishly handsome and enigmatic Mephisto. He has his own brand of unique magic and a mysterious past he’s determined to keep to himself.

He knows that I’m the one to call anytime a curse goes wrong, a magical object is lost, or a rogue supernatural needs apprehending. So he offers a trade. He’ll give me his magic, and in return, I accept a job from him.

It seems like a simple deal until all hell breaks loose. We have to team up to stop a god from unleashing destruction upon the city. It leaves me to wonder: can I battle a god with the devil at my back?

Goodreads

Amazon

AUTHOR BIO:

McKenzie, as a child, discovered that her life could be a whirlwind of adventures by simply opening a book. To this day, reading is still her favorite activity. She has a fondness for fantasy and mystery, which is probably why she writes urban fantasy.

When McKenzie isn’t working on her next book she is usually binge-watching paranormal and comedy shows, maintaining her title as “favorite auntie”, or trying to create a tasty low-calorie pizza. McKenzie loves to hear from her readers. Feel free to contact her via her website, Facebook, or email.

website  /  instagram  / facebook newsletter  /  goodreads

GIVEAWAY
Blitz-wide giveaway (INT)

  • $25 Amazon gift card

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#Book Tour: A Wish For Jinnie by Audrey Davis @rararesources


Thank you to Rachel from Rachel’s Random Resources for my place on the tour for this wonderfully entertaining romantic comedy.

Synopsis:

What if wishes really could come true? 

When Jinnie Cooper is dumped by her fiancé, and exiled to a job in an antiques shop in a sleepy Scottish village, little does she know a battered old lamp is about to shake up her life. 
Genie Dhassim grants wishes. But he also wants a few of his own to come true. Letting him explore the outside world proves nerve-wracking as Dhassim has an uncanny knack of putting his pointy-slippered foot in it. 
As Jinnie grows closer to her employer Sam, Dhassim discovers his time on earth is running out. 
Can both Jinnie and Dhassim find true happiness? Or are those wishes that cannot be granted?

Purchase Links

Amazon UK   /  Amazon US

My thoughts:
This was such a great modern retelling of the old genie fairy-tale: funny, magical, and wonderfully romantic!

First of all, let me say, this was my first book written by Audrey Davis, and definitely won’t be the last. She has a great sense of humour and we all need a bit of that these days.

We meet Jinnie Cooper, the kind and selfless protagonist of the book, as she moves in her new shoe-box flat in Cranley, a little village just outside Edinburgh. Jinnie’s fiance Mark decided to break off their engagement, saying he isn’t attracted to her any more, so now Jinnie is jobless and in dire need of a new start in her life. Cranley is all she can afford, but little does Jinnie know how welcoming the inhabitants of Cranley are going to be and how many great friendships she is going to make. Very soon Audrey finds herself doing not one, but two part-time jobs. One of which is in an old antiques shop where she picks an old oil lamp in desperate need of a bit of loving care. Yes, the inevitable happens and Jinnie’s life complicates immensely by the appearance of a feisty genie called Dhassim.

I loved the fabulous character cast Audrey Davies created in this book. Your heart will go to Jinnie who needs to understand herself and her own wishes a bit better. I loved the descriptions of her family, but my favourite character in the book is definitely Wilma, Audrey’s eighty-six year old grandmother, and her quirky mix of interests that include tea leaf reading and Twitter. Then there is a whole lot of the village inhabitants: lonely baker Jo with a heart of gold, the local pub owner Ken whose wife of thirty odd years has the early onset Alzheimer’s disease, Angela, a single mother and a recovering alcoholic and Sam, a divorcee with a very complicated relationship with his ex-wife. In short, there are plenty of serious issues the characters have to deal with.

There’s a great sense of community that permeates this lighthearted modern take on the genie story. I was impressed by the kindness the people of Cranley show to each other in this magical story. All characters are likeable (with the exception of Jinnie’s ex, of course!). There might be space for a sequel (or two) set in this friendly little village.

A Wish for Jinnie is light-hearted, humorous story that will entertain you and make you think about showing kindness to people around you.

Thank you to the author and Rachel from Rachel’s Random resources for the review copy provided in exchange for an honest and unbiased opinion.

About the author:

Audrey Davis is a Scottish-born former journalist, now resident in Switzerland. Her newspaper career saw her cover events in Northern Ireland and the Falkland Islands, as well as working for a London-based movie magazine writing reviews and carrying out interviews.
She self-published her debut romantic comedy novel A Clean Sweep in June 2017, following an online Open University course in Writing Fiction.
Audrey followed up with a short, darker prequel A Clean Break before beginning work on a rom-com novella trilogy with a ghostly twist – The Haunting of Hattie Hastings. Again, reviews across the board were excellent, and it was combined into a standalone novel in November 2018.
A Wish For Jinnie is her third standalone novel.
Apart from writing, Audrey enjoys travel and spends a lot of time in Edinburgh. She is an avid cook, watcher of scary movies and reluctant gym-goer.

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Thank you for stopping by! I hope you pick your copy of this great rom-com and enjoy reading it.

If you would like to check out other bloggers’ reviews, here is the full schedule of the book tour:

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#Book Blitz: Crude by Sloan Storm @Xpresso Book Tours

Book & Author Details:

Crude
by Sloan Storm
Publication date: June 26th 2020
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Synopsis:

Hunky oil billionaire Colt Kincade demands I sell him my ranch. But I refuse, and he’s not happy about it.

Pfft. Whatever. Mr. Tall, Dark and Country thinks he can get whatever he wants, huh?
Well, I’m not some social-climbing, gold-digging, moon-eyed-orbiter lusting after him just because he’s hotter than a two-dollar pistol. He may have tongues wagging all across the Lone Star state, but his charms won’t work on me.
I hate everything about him – his tantalizing Texas drawl, his swaggering God’s gift attitude, his soul-searing, come-and-get-it-girls stare.
And no. I don’t care that he loves dogs, his momma or his daddy’s dusty old pickup.

He’s trouble. Trouble I do not need. Besides, I’ve got problems of my own.
Broke? Yep.
Single? Sadly.
Desperate? Getting there.

The truth is, I’m running out of time, out of options, and out of hope.
I need the money he’s offering.
But even worse, my heart thinks it needs Colt, too.

Goodreads

Purchase
Amazon

About the author:

Sloan Storm pens imaginative yarns based on dominant men and the women who challenge them. As such, power plays and passion are the heart of each and every story.

The writer’s creative tendencies may drift as the mood strikes, but the essence of all tales told wind up back at the same place… the polarizing difference between the sexes.

After all, what else is there in life?

When not glued to a keyboard creating tales of whimsy, Sloan loves to talk to fans! If you want to connect, you can do it in any number of ways:

website  / facebook twitter / instagram  / bookbub  /  goodreads

GIVEAWAY

Blitz-wide giveaway (INT)

  • $25 Amazon gift card
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#Book Tour for Esme’s Gift by Elizabeth Foster (Esme’s Series #2) @rararesources @Elizabeth Foster

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

Esme’s Gift is the continuation of Esme’s Series. Part One, Esme’s Wish was published in 2017.

A brief summary of Esme’s Wish:

When fifteen-year-old Esme Silver objects at her father’s wedding, her protest is dismissed as the action of a stubborn, selfish teenager. Everyone else has accepted the loss of Esme’s mother, Ariane – so why can’t she?
After Esme is accidentally swept into the enchanted world of Aeolia, the truth begins to unfold. With her newfound friends, Daniel and Lillian, Esme retraces her mother’s steps in the glittering canal city of Esperance, untangling the threads of Ariane’s double life. But the more Esme discovers about her mother, the more she questions whether she really knew her at all. (From Goodreads).

Esme’s Gift
Synopsis:

Terror was within. Terror was without.
Like her mother, she was at the water’s mercy.

In the enchanted world of Aeolia, fifteen-year-old Esme Silver faces her hardest task yet. She must master her unruly Gift—the power to observe the past—and uncover the secrets she needs to save her mother, Ariane.

In between attending school in the beguiling canal city of Esperance, Esme and her friends—old and new—travel far and wide across Aeolia, gathering the ingredients for a potent magical elixir.

Their journey takes them to volcanic isles, sunken ruins and snowy eyries, spectacular places fraught with danger, where they must face their deepest fears and find hope in the darkest of places.

Esme’s Gift, the second instalment in the Esme trilogy, is a gripping fantasy adventure for readers 12 years and over.

Fans of Harry Potter will love this book for its similar themes. The genuine friendship of the characters make this book a satisfying read, and hints at a healthy romance in the next book. The conclusion of the trilogy will be greatly anticipated! Sorcha, Goodreads

From dragons diving into volcanoes, Esme and her friends portalling out of art class and deep underwater adventures, Esme’s Gift is quite simply a thrilling and exciting read. Jean, Goodreads
Esme’s Gift.

Purchase Links

Amazon UK  / Amazon US

*****

My thoughts:
I was absolutely enchanted by Part One of Esme’s series and couldn’t wait to start Esme’s Gift! Whenever you love the first book, there is also a bit of apprehension: is it going to be as charming and adventurous? How are the characters going to develop? Is the pace going to be as fast?

Esme’s Gift as wonderful as Esme’s Wish and I liked it even more.
After Esme’s brief stay with her father Esme returns to the enchanted world of Aeolia and its capital city Esperance. Now there is an additional dread of knowing that Aaron and his new wife may try to commit Esme to a mental institutions if she continues trying to persuade her father that Aeolia is real and Ariane is alive. Esme is only happy to come back to her new friends and so was I because it meant new adventures!


Esme’s bond with her mother is strong and tender, but there are more complicated feelings mixed in now. Esme is finding it difficult to accept that it was her mother’s choice to spend extended stretches of time away from her and her father. Perhaps, she is a bit jealous? Perhaps, she is questioning her mother’s love? Or perhaps she is trying to understand what her mother is really like.


One thing is clear. Time is running out. her mother’s condition is getting worse and Esme needs to collect special magic ingredients for a potion that could save Ariane and this means a magic quest with her loyal friends Daniel and Lillian. For all her life Esme used to be a loner, that strange Silver girl. Now she is learning to trust and share her feelings.
I  loved the new setting of Pierpont College – Esme’s new school where students are encouraged to experiment with their magic gifts and learn to control them so that they won’t hurt or offend others. After all, Esme needs to master and understand her own magic ability of travelling to past. She needs to face her fears and learn the power of past to influence present.


There are dragons, ghosts and sirens and lots of other magic creatures. Elizabeth Foster created a beautiful and exciting world that is waitng to be discovered by new readers. There are also bigger issues- politics and equality in society, history and justice.


Fast-paced, packed with adventure and a mix of tender, funny and sometimes scary moments, esme’s Gift is a great sequel to a fantastic middle-grade series. I’m really looking forward to the third book and returning to Aeolia once more.

About the author:

I read avidly as a child, but only discovered the joys of writing some years ago when reading to my own kids reminded me how much I missed getting lost in other worlds. It’s never too late to find and follow your passion! I now have two books published and am about to start writing the third and final story in the Esme series.  My home base is Sydney, where I can often be found running (just kidding – walking) by the water, or scribbling in cafés.

website / twitter / facebook  / instagram

GIVEAWAY   rafflecopter
to Win 3 x pairs of e-books Esme’s Wish & Esme’s Gift (Open Internationally)



*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 very much for stopping by and I hope you enjoy reading Esme’s Series as much as I did!

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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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#Book Review #Always the Last to Know by Kristan Higgins

Sometimes you have to break a family to fix it.

From New York Times bestselling author Kristan Higgins, a new novel examining a family at the breaking point in all its messy, difficult, wonderful complexity.

(From the book blurb)

****

My thoughts:

I really enjoy books that focus on complex family dynamics and I also wanted to read something by Kristan Higgins, who is a new author for me (despite the fact that this is her twentieth book). Always the Last to Know was everything it promised to be and more. Emotional, touching, realistic, with well-drawn, but flawed characters.

We meet Sadie Frost, an artist and a schoolteacher in New York, as she is contemplating proposing to her long term, perfect on paper, but somehow not quite right boyfriend. Her mother Barb is thinking about giving divorce papers to John, her husband of almost fifty years. Barb and John’s eldest daughter Juliet, a successful architect and a perfect mother of two daughters, is hiding in a closet trying to cope with a panic attack. And John… John has just had a massive stroke with brain hemorrhage and a concussion and is on his way to the hospital. As the family are waiting for John to come out of surgery, Barb reads some messages on his phone that shock her and change her whole perspective on what was happening in her marriage. With John needing round-the-clock care, Sadie moves back to their little town in Connecticut and, among other things, has to face her first love and first heartbreak Noah.

 Everybody in this family has their own struggles and dramas. The author’s choice of using  alternating POVs of Barb, Sadie and Juliet with a few chapters from John does a wonderful job of letting the reader see how the family and its members came to be the way they are and how they are developing in the story. Kristan Higgins is a master of character building with every one having their own unique voice and personality.

The issues raised in the book felt realistic. Spouses dealing with infertility in different ways, parents finding it easier to relate to one child than the other (partly because their character is more similar to their own), feeling that you love somebody deeply, but are not able to give them what they want from life… The more I read, the more I was invested in this family, which somehow did and didn’t resemble my own and  many other families I know. Every family has its own ups and downs, happy, tender moments and its own secrets.The book is well-written and easy to read, especially when the pace picks up somewhat in the second half.

Entertaining, perhaps a bit predictable, but still heartwarming, Always the Last to Know has a satisfying ending and an important message of accepting that life and families can be unpredictable and messy, but it is always worth focusing on love, people you care about and things that bring you joy and happiness.

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

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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

****

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 #Deprivation by Roy Freirich

After a mysterious, silent child is found abandoned on the beach clutching a handheld video game, residents and tourists alike find themselves utterly unable to sleep. Exhaustion impairs judgment, delusions become hysteria, and mob rule explodes into shocking violence. Told from three perspectives: Chief of Police Mays tries to keep order, teenaged tourist Cort and her friends compete in a dangerous social media contest for the most hours awake, while local physician and former Harvard psychiatrist Dr. Sam Carlson battles his guilt over a student’s suicide and the blurriness of his own insomnia, to try to treat the sleepless—until he and the child must flee the violent mob that blames the child for the epidemic.

(From the blurb)

****

Image by Engin_Akyurt from Pixabay

My thoughts:

A word of warning- don’t read this thriller if you are experiencing sleep deprivation yourself. This book is so good in describing this state all too familiar to parents with young children that you will recognize its torture and empathize immediately. The story covers eight days, and although it is written in short chapters, I chose to read each day in its entirety and they seemed endless…

On a little touristy island of Carratuck a group of teenagers are playing a game: they are trying to stay sleepless for 48 hours. The participants send tweets every 15 minutes to let others know that they are still awake. Meanwhile an eight-year-old boy is found alone on the beach. He is obviously scared and refuses to talk. The local police chief Sam Mays suspects it is a misunderstanding and one of his divorced or separated parents is going to turn up and claim the child. He knows from experience that calling Child Services too early can turn out to be a legal nightmare for everybody involved. He asks the local doctor Sam Carlson give him a hand talking to and caring after the child. Just for a day. Sam used to be a famous psychiatrist in a different life before Garratuck, before he failed to save his patient from suicide. Everybody in this story has secrets of their own and feels guilty about something.

Garratuck is a holiday resort with bars and discos and plenty of noise. A sleepless night or even two is something people can easily explain, but when it becomes clear that nobody can sleep, Dr Sam’s clinic is suddenly full of people asking for pills, and there is no way to explain this epidemic. Sam is convinced this is a case of rare mass hysteria and sooner or later it will pass and sleep will come back, but not everybody agrees. Some people blame the Boy. After all, his appearance on the beach coincided with the beginning of the Great Sleeplessness. What if he is the reason while they all caught it?


The book is extremely visual and cinematographic in its nature. The premise of an insomnia epidemic is fascinating and plays on a very common experience and a very common fear of society collapse in the aftermath of a disease outbreak. Although I didn’t particularly feel close to any of the characters, I could relate to their growing tiredness and despair. The insomnia causes them behave in different ways, some angry and selfish, others kind and altruistic, as any serous life-threatening experience would.

Deprivation deals brilliantly with the topic of fear and mass psychology. It also shows how we are all interconnected and how much we influence each other with our words, actions, and gestures. So let them be kind with no exception.

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

Image by truthseeker08 from Pixabay
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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?

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#Teen Tonic #Book Review of The Gravity of Us by Phil Stamper

As a successful social media journalist with half a million followers, seventeen-year-old Cal is used to sharing his life online. But when his pilot father is selected for a highly publicized NASA mission to Mars, Cal and his family relocate from Brooklyn to Houston and are thrust into a media circus.

Amidst the chaos, Cal meets sensitive and mysterious Leon, another “Astrokid,” and finds himself falling head over heels—fast. As the frenzy around the mission grows, so does their connection. But when secrets about the program are uncovered, Cal must find a way to reveal the truth without hurting the people who have become most important to him.

Expertly capturing the thrill of first love and the self-doubt all teens feel, debut author Phil Stamper is a new talent to watch. (From the book blurb)

***

My thoughts:

Cal Lewis is a seventeen-year-old aspiring journalist and news reporter. He has been working very hard on building his account and follower base on a social media site. Cal is passionate about his videos with news updates because he believes people do not just want gossip – they want facts and real information that can help them make choices. Cal is also a planner. He has a schedule for his news updates, he knows what he is going to do in summer ( his internship), next year, and how he is going to build his career. All of this comes to a screeching halt when his Dad announces he has just been selected for a NASA program as a potential astronaut on a mission to Mars. Cal’s family are to move to Texas in …a few days. The worst part is that Cal won’t be able to post any more videos as all filming rights are controlled by StarWatch Reality Show that has an exclusive contract with NASA. Once in Texas, Cal meets another astro-family with two perfect teens, one of whom becomes his love interest.

Cal comes across as a bit self-centred, especialy if you consider his interactions with Deb, his best friend/ex-girlfriend who has much more serious problems and is nothing but supportive of Cal. Having said this, there’s so much energy in his character, self-confidence and so much drama! I really liked the social media career angle, and sympathized when he felt his carefully laid-out life plans were thwarted. Of course, his Dad was entitled to making HIS dream of becoming an astronaut come true, but a bit more attention to how the change was going to affect the rest of the family was surely needed.


Cal’s relationship with Leon was a bit too fast, and Leon himself seems to stay out of limelight all the time. The book has the most romantic lines I have read in a very long time, but I would still categorize it under a coming-of-age novel, not romance, because there is only one point of view- Cal’s. Great rep for mental illness – Cal’s Mom’s anxiety and Leon’s burnout and depression. These are important topics that require a lot of sensitivity, and Phil Stamper did a really good job here.

Overall, an original and upbeat coming-of-age novel dealing with topics of family relationships, first love, following one’s dreams, authenticity in journalism and social media and many others.

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

I want to tell him I’m here, that he can talk to me if he needs to. Or I can sit here, inches from him, listening to him breathe. In, and out. I want him to know how remarkable it is that, of the billions of people in the world, I am the one who’s sitting next to him, under stars and the champaigne’s gaze.

I want him to know the improbability of two people meeting like this. That it’s astounding, no matter how inconsequential it is. Sure, strangers meet all the time. It’s the universe’s way to say we don’t matter. None of this matters.

Our eyes meet. And it’s clear that sometimes, the universe is just wrong.

The Gravity of Us by Phil Stamper
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#Book Review #Golden in Death by J.D.Robb

In the latest thriller in the #1 New York Times bestselling series, homicide detective Eve Dallas investigates a murder with a mysterious motive―and a terrifying weapon.

Pediatrician Kent Abner received the package on a beautiful April morning. Inside was a cheap trinket, a golden egg that could be opened into two halves. When he pried it apart, highly toxic airborne fumes entered his body―and killed him.

After Eve Dallas calls the hazmat team―and undergoes testing to reassure both her and her husband that she hasn’t been exposed―it’s time to look into Dr. Abner’s past and relationships. Not every victim Eve encounters is an angel, but it seems that Abner came pretty close―though he did ruffle some feathers over the years by taking stands for the weak and defenseless. While the lab tries to identify the deadly toxin, Eve hunts for the sender. But when someone else dies in the same grisly manner, it becomes clear that she’s dealing with either a madman―or someone who has a hidden and elusive connection to both victims.

(From the blurb)

****

My thoughts:

This is my mom’s favourite series, so I have been following it for years. Every single book in it can be read as a standalone, although I have yet to meet anybody who read one and didn’t decide to go back and start from the beginning.


Golden in Death is as entertaining and creative as its predecessors. It begins with the death of a kind and distinguished pediatrician Dr Kent Abner who opened a package with a golden egg, made of cheap plastic (somebody’s idea of a present or a joke?), and was poisoned by toxic fumes within minutes. Leutenant Eve Dallas and Detective Delia Peabody call the hazmat team to investigate the unknown substance and its harmful effects. The murderer used a poison which doesn’t spread beyond a few feet and clears itself in little time. A mad scientist striking random victims? or more likely, somebody who had a grudge against Dr Abner?

However thorough the initial investigation is, it fails to produce anything but a few dead ends. Everybody loved Dr Abner. I could feel Eve’s frustration, as she was getting nowhere with her inquieries, until… the second victim is struck. She was as lovely and innocent as Dr Abner. An only daughter of a bookstore owner, mother of two teenage boys and wife of a Columbia University professor, Elisa Duran was about to host a book club meeting, when a package with another golden egg was delivered. Leutenant Dallas and Detective Peabody quickly find the link between the two victims and uncover the identity of the evil murder mastermind.


As usual, I enjoyed the thorough police procedure and method employed by Eve and Peabody. If you have been following the series, I don’t need to tell you it is set in the future, April 2061, to be precise. The futuristic elements, however entertaining they might be, are there only to provide a background to solid investigative work and detective skills. This 50th mystery is not an exception.


Eve’s technology-savy multi-billionaire husband Roarke is still there, dependable as rock. He makes his wife coffee, calls her darling, chooses a stylish outfit that will make the right kind of impression, makes sure she has enough pocket money, never interferes or asks for attention- swoon, swoon, swoon…but isn’t he getting a bit too tame?


A great addition to the series that never fails to deliver.


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

Golden in Death is out on February, 4th, 2020.

  • Have you read Golden in Death or is it on your tbr? Are you a fan of the series?
  • What’s your favourite detective series?

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#Book Review #The Last Real Cowboy by Caitlin Crews

In Cold River, sometimes forbidden love is the sweetest of them all…

Perennial good girl Amanda Kittredge knows that her longtime crush on Brady Everett was never really supposed to go anywhere. But when Brady comes home to Cold River during Amanda’s first attempt at independence, well, who better to teach her about rebellion than her older brother’s bad-boy best friend?

Brady’s plans did not include being forced to work the family homestead for a year–and yet, here he is. And, to make matters worse, his best friend’s innocent little sister is making a menace of herself in the most grown-up, tempting ways. When Amanda begs Brady to teach her about men, he knows he should refuse. But could Brady’s greatest temptation be his salvation?

(From the book blurb)

****

My thoughts:

This is book three in the Cold River Ranch series which focuses on the lives of Gray, Ty, and Brady Everett after their abusive alcoholic father dies. All books in this series can be read as standalones, so I will try to avoid giving any spoilers, apart from this one: the last one is the best!


Like his older brothers, Brady Everett had a very unhapy childhood. His mother Bettina left with no explanation and planted a seed of doubt deep in his soul. Was it something he did? Was he so unworthy of his mother’s love? What kind of woman leaves her children to fend off the emotional abuse of their mean and manipulative father? When Brady got a full college scholarship, he just laughed it off in contempt. When Brady sent checks to help financially, his father tore them in pieces. It was as if Brady didn’t merit his love or attention. Not surprisingly, Brady decided to stay in Denver after graduation and make his life there. When Amos died and Gray and Ty needed Brady’s help, he came back home running. This was what he had been waiting for for years, but it isn’t easy to change attitudes and relationships that have been ingrained for such long time. The brothers continue treating Brady as a teenager and dismiss his ideas on how to modernize the ranch to ensure its future prosperity.


Brady’s best friend and neighbour Riley Kittredge asks to keep an eye on his 22-year-old sister Amanda to make sure she doesn’t attract wrong kind of attention or get in trouble in the dodgy bar where she has just started working as a barmaid. It does seem like a reasonable request. After all, Brady and Riley once changed Amanda’s diapers. The only problem is Amanda has grown into a very attractive young woman and suddenly Brady is aware of it.


Amanda is the baby of her family. The youngest child and the only girl in her family, she has been sheltered and protected…and denied any kind of independent experience. Tired of everybody thinking she is a twelve-year-old, Amanda gets a job which comes with a little apartment and moves out. Imagine her brothers’ dismay! Amanda wants to live her own life and make her own mistakes, and that includes falling in love and dating. The man she has her sights on is her brother’s best friend…Brady. Charming, reliable, good-looking, and safe. A perfect man to teach her things she only heard of.

Brady’s dilemma is clear. Amanda is his best friend’s little sister, so by definition she is off-limits…unless his intentions are serious. But Brady himself isn’t sure whether he is going to stay or leave for Denver.


Despite Amanda and Brady’s ten year age difference, they do have something in common – both have an eerily similar experience of being ignored and undervalued by their older siblings. Brady knows he needs to work out his feelings towards his father, the ranch and his brothers- his character is very well-rounded. But Amanda just comes across as very young and naive for a twenty-two year old, even taking into account the fact that her brothers are indeed overbearing and patronizing.


I loved the advice Amanda gets from her friends, including Abby and Hannah Everett on the many factors to take in consideration in romantic matters. What Amanda really wants is to make her own choices, whether they turn out right or wrong. But is Brady the right man for her, will their relationship, based on chemistry and sexual attraction, become a solid foundation for anything more than just a fling? Will their age difference and different levels of maturity become a problem in the long run or will Brady and Amanda complement each other?


I loved the small town setting and all the descriptions of nature and people who live and work in harmony with it. A very satisfying conclusion to a great romantic series with unique characters and complex family dynamics. I will be looking forward to reading any future novels written by Caitlin Crews.

Thank you to Edelweiss and St.Martin’s paperbacks for the review copy provided in exchange for an honest opinion.

  • Have you read The Last Real Cowboy or is it on your tbr?
  • Have you read any other books by Caitlin Crews?
  • How do you feel about ‘the forbidden love’ trope?

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#Teen Tonic Book Review of Diamond City by Francesca Flores

Fierce and ambitious, Aina Solís as sharp as her blade and as mysterious as the blood magic she protects. After the murder of her parents, Aina takes a job as an assassin to survive and finds a new family in those like her: the unwanted and forgotten.

Her boss is brutal and cold, with a questionable sense of morality, but he provides a place for people with nowhere else to go. And makes sure they stay there.

DIAMOND CITY: built by magic, ruled by tyrants, and in desperate need of saving. It is a world full of dark forces and hidden agendas, old rivalries and lethal new enemies.

To claim a future for herself in a world that doesn’t want her to survive, Aina will have to win a game of murder and conspiracy—and risk losing everything.

Full of action, romance and dark magic, book one of Francesca Flores’ breathtaking fantasy duology will leave readers eager for more!

(From the book blurb)

My thoughts:

The world created by Francesca Flores is full of violent gangs, ruthless assassins, orphans and spies. The religion is based on blood magic and can be used to either save lives and create shelter in case of need or to kill in the most horrible manner. This forbidden religion uses rough diamonds to focus the magic and has been outlawed by Steels, people who own technology and industry (we are talking about electricity, steel plants and factories, not computers or spaceships).
The protagonist of the book, Aina Solis was orphaned at the age of eight, when her parents were shot while practising their religion. Aina survived on the streets for four years and then was rescued by Kohl Pavel, the Blood King, who turned her into a trained assassin. He also brainwashed her into believing that ‘good things do not happen to girls who come from nothing’, instilled a fear of falling from her dubious grace and taught her to think of herself as a weapon, part of a service, not somebody responsible for taking away lives. When Kohl offers her an extremely dangerous job to do, almost a suicide mission, all she thinks about is not the person who is going to die, but the money she is going to earn and her freedom to open her own tradehouse.


Aina isn’t exactly a likeable character, although you can see straighaway she is going to change and see the error of her ways. She is too confused, too mistrustful, too insecure. I had less trouble warming up to other characters: Teo who felt a life of crime was the only way to buy medicine for his dying mother, gentle Ryuu, almost too ready to understand and see the situation from the other person’s point of view, even Tannis, another ‘Blade’ (Assassin) in Kohl’s group of misfits and protegees.


The book is action-packed, although the pace is a bit uneven. There are also flashbacks to Aina’s past to help the reader understand how she got to be what she is and her relationship with Kohl. I felt that some things were a bit repetitive and could have been edited to make the book shorter and more focused. Having said it, I read the book quite quickly and put aside other novels, because it does have that addictive quality that makes it difficult to put it down. Will be looking forward to reading the second part of this duology to see if Aina manages to save her dark world.


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

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#Teen Tonic #Book Review of A Castle in the Clouds by Kerstin Gier

A Castle in the Clouds follows a girl as she navigates secrets, romance, and danger in an aging grand hotel.

Way up in the Swiss mountains, there’s an old grand hotel steeped in tradition and faded splendor. Once a year, when the famous New Year’s Eve Ball takes place and guests from all over the world arrive, excitement returns to the vast hallways.

Sophie, who works at the hotel as an intern, is busy making sure that everything goes according to plan. But unexpected problems keep arising, and some of the guests are not who they pretend to be. Very soon, Sophie finds herself right in the middle of a perilous adventure–and at risk of losing not only her job, but also her heart. (From the book blurb)

My thoughts:

This was a perfect winter read! The book is set in a beautiful hotel up in the Swiss Alps, while the main events take place between Christmas and New Year’s Day, so I couldn’t have asked for a more atmospheric YA book.

Seventeen year old Sophie Spark is a high school dropout who is working as an intern in a luxury hotel. She is trying to find her own place in the world, however different it might be from her mother expectations and her friends’ chosen lifepaths. Sophie is learning various jobs and tasks hotel staff do: she has been a chambermaid, learnt ins and outs of running the laundry room equipment, worked as the hotel spa assistant and baby-sitter. Sophie’s a lovely girl with her own particular brand of humour. She’s always smiling (maybe a bit too much) and has even occasionally burst into a song in the laundry room. She also gives milkroll crumbs to seven little jackdaws who coo outside the window of her tiny room. Sophie’s also very independent and doesn’t give in to peer pressure.
Ben Monfort is the only son of one of the hotel owners and is also working there for free during his winter holidays. Ben still needs to figure out his feelings towards the old hotel. On one hand, he has grown up in it and has known most of the staff since he was a toddler. On the other hand, he feels he will never be free to make his own choices in life. If you are not a fan of love triangles, I’ve got bad news for you, as not only Ben, but also another mysterious, but utterly gorgeous hotel guest falls in love with Sophie.


There is a huge cast of characters. Some of them are nice and warm-hearted (or rather that’s what Sophie thinks) or…the opposite. Sophie might be a bit quick to judge people, but perhaps it is just the prerogative of her age to find out that not everybody is what they seem to be at a first glance. There is a Russian oligarch travelling incognito, a PI following the trail of a criminal, a group of thieves, a famous writer… the list goes on. One of the guests pretends to be nice and meek, although deep down they are cruel and heartless, while another one who doesn’t seem to have a kind bone in their body, turns out to be not so bad.

There is money laundering, kidnapping and jewellery theft, so the book is action-packed, although there are also a few very romantic scenes, including several almost-kisses and a spellbinding waltz on the hotel roof.


Hotels have this special liminal quality that makes you believe anything can happen there, however strange, improbable or downright scary (picture Shining or even Psycho in your mind). You are also allowed to be anything or anybody you want (within reasonable limits) and that includes acting heroically to save somebody’s life. I won’t say more as I don’t want to spoil the pleasure of reading this book.

Overall, entertaining, unusual, sentimental, A Castle in the Clouds has a lot to go for it. Not least, it has a cozy atmosphere, quirky characters, squeeky clean romance, and a feel-good-happy-ending.

Thank you to Edelweiss and Henry Holt and Co. (BYR) for the ARC provided in exchange for an honest opinion.

  • Have you read A Castle in the Clouds or is it on your tbr?
  • Have you read any other books by Kerstin Gier?
  • Can you think of other books set in a liminal space that you would recommend?
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#Book Review # Wife After Wife by Olivia Hayfield


A wickedly entertaining and utterly absorbing modern take on the life and marriages of Henry VIII…if he were a twenty-first-century womanizing media mogul rather than the king of England.

Master of the universe Harry Rose is head of the Rose Corporation, number eighteen on the Forbes rich list, and recently married to wife number six. But in 2018, his perfect world is about to come crashing to the ground. His business is in the spotlight–and not in a good way–and his love life is under scrutiny. Because behind a glittering curtain of lavish parties, gorgeous homes, and a media empire is a tale worthy of any tabloid. And Harry has a lot to account for. (From the book blurb)

***

My thoughts:

Olivia Hayfield takes on the challenge of retelling the lifestory of one of the most powerful and notorious English monarchs- that of Henry VIII and his six wives. We’ve all heard about their fate: divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived, but what would these marriages have beeen like if Henry Tudor was somehow reincarnated in our times?  Would he have been able to get away with the way he treated the women in his life or would he have got his comeuppance?

There is no doubt the book is well-researched. Olivia Hayfield names Antonia Frazer and Alison Weir as well as a number of history websites among her sources of inspiration. There are also numerous pop culture references that help the reader get immersed in London in the 1980s and 1990s. It is clear that a lot of thought has gone into how to translate the historical context to make it both entertaining and relevant. For example, Henry’s obsession with begetting a male child and an heir to his kingdom or Henry beheading two of his spouses is impossible to recreate, so the author uses other plot devices: Katie Paragon (Catherine of Aragon) overcomes her severe depression exacerbated by miscarriages and stillbirths and becomes a fertility therapist; stylish Ana Lyebon (Ann Boleyn) is all about ambition and climbing the career ladder… Anki from Cleveland (Anne of Cleves) – I won’t spoil it for you, because the way Olivia Hayfield represented the fourth marriage is ingenious.

The charm of this book lies in discovering how the author reimagines the historical figures and what modern life circumstances she endows them with. Having said that, isn’t it why we love re-tellings in general? Safe in our knowledge of the general direction the story is going to take and the ending, we focus all our attention on the familiar characters in their new environment to see if they will follow their bookish /real life historical destiny or carve their own path. There is a fine line between staying too close to the original with the risk of being called unimaginative and veering so far that the story becomes unrecognizable.

The book is quite long with its 430 pages, but we are talking about a lifetime here, coupled with a very large cast of characters, so the length is quite justified. Similarly, the pace is a bit slow at times, picking up at others. Again, we have to remember that in real life the first marriage of Henry VIII lasted for twenty four years, while the following five marriages happened over fourteen years and ranged in length from three and a half years to six months.

Paradoxically, Henry VIII in his youth was considered handsome, intelligent and charismatic and only later became a ruthless tyrant and philanderer. Olivia Hayfield sets out to investigate why and whether things could have played out differently for him. The real life references the book abounds in extend to much further than just pop music and technology. They also include politics, economics (unemployment rate, the financial crisis of 2008, business asset stripping policies that devastated the north of England and many, many more). All of them mirror the external pressures Henry VIII must have faced in his times.

Olivia Hayfield gives her protagonist a chance for redemption, a chance to become a fair businessman and a doting father who values and cherishes all his children, male or female, and welcomes #MeToo movement.Whether he takes it or not, you can find out by reading Wife after Wife.

Overall, enjoyable, entertaining, recommended for fans of historical romantic fiction in general and Tudor times in particular.

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

  • Do you enjoy modern day retellings of fairy-tales or famous historical events? What is the last one you read and really enjoyed?
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#Teen Tonic #Book Review of Ricochet by Kathryn Berla

When seventeen-year-old Tati sends a saliva sample to a DNA ancestry testing site her results come back inconclusive. What’s wrong with her DNA? And what does it have to do with her unexplained seizures and the beckoning tunnel she sees during them?

What Tati discovers is more than she could have ever imagined possible. Parallel universes exist and her abnormal DNA compels and condemns Tati and her other selves—shy Ana—privileged Tatyana—and on-the-run Tanya, to a lifetime of ricocheting between their parallel lives in the multiverse.

With knowledge of their existence a deadly threat in every universe, the only chance all four have to survive is to work together to take down the scientist responsible: their father (From the Book Blurb)

My thoughts:

I love science-fiction in general and the idea of multiverse in particular. So when I read the blurb for Ricochet by Kathryn Berla I didn’t hesitate, grabbed the book and started reading straightaway.


There are four points of view, so it took me a bit of time to get used to the four narrators: Tati, Ana, Tanya, and Tatiana. The author clearly put a lot of effort into differentiating their worlds and their voices. In fact, I quickly found myself relating more to one of them than to the others! Two of the protagonists live in the USA, having been adopted by American parents, although they do know that their origin is Russian. Overall, their life circumstances are fairly similar and you can concentrate on how the differences came about. The other two are much more connected to Russia. You can say that the task of following the four different stories was slightly reduced by this narrative device.

The ‘science’ idea the plot is based on is… Wait a second, this is a spoiler! You might want to skip the section between the following two images:

……

The ‘science’ bit the plot is built around is based on the most famous cat in the history of humankind. Yes, it’s Schrodinger’s cat. An electron can exist in more than one state simultaneously i.e. a wavelike state and a particle state, but when it is observed, it loses its duality. Once you open the box, the cat is either dead or alive, but not both at the same time. This theory gave rise to the idea of parallel universes, infinite versions of our life that would collapse the moment we tried to observe them. In this book Tatyana’s father, the proverbial mad scientist and megalomaniac, finds a way to alter the genetic code of the embryo of his own child to provide portals to three other parallel universes. The portals would allow the four girls to travel and observe the other universes. Imagine Schroedinger’s cat looking at itself – dead, half-dead or three-quarters dead. So, it’s a multiverse limited to four ‘states’/’identities’. This ‘genetic modification’ resulted in periodic seisure-like fits (which doctors could not explain or find any remedy for) when one of the girls tried to approach and observe herself in one of the other three worlds through a thin membrane. It was also the reason why the DNA tests run on the girls were inconclusive. With time, the girls’ genes began ‘healing’ themselves which would lead to complete disappearance/closure of the portals and total separation of the four protagonists’ worlds. In other words, the cat was able to periodically observe itself for 18 years.

……

After this brief digression we are back to the original spoiler-free zone!


The story also touched on teenager-parent relationships (e.g. Should you try to stop your parent from leading an unhealthy lifestyle that might lead to serious medical problems later or should you let them continue making their choices because they are an adult and your intervention would mean a strange role reversal), first love, trust issues, and setting boundaries between friends when one of them doesn’t want to change the nature of their relationship.

At some point the pace became really fast and the story started bearing similarity to an action thriller with lots of chases and narrow escapes. This was the bit where I got confused and started wishing for fewer secondary characters. I’m still not sure about the ending– I think if it had been told from the point of view of another protagonist, the one who was the most attached to the girls’ father, it would have carried more emotional significance. The way it was it felt almost too detached.


The cover is really beautiful and deserves a special mention. Overall, a quick read with varied characters and a lot of action, recommended for fans of sci-fi (who do not mind bending a few physics rules for the sake of an interesting plot) and fast-paced thrillers.

  • Have you read any books by Kathryn Berla? if yes, any you would recommend?
  • Do you like reading about the multiverse? If yes, what’s your favourite book that explores this idea?
  • Do you like multiple points of view? What is the number of POVs you feel most comfortable with?

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#Book review # Big Lies in a Small Town by Diane Chamberlain

North Carolina, 2018: Morgan Christopher’s life has been derailed. Taking the fall for a crime she did not commit, she finds herself serving a three-year stint in the North Carolina Women’s Correctional Center. Her dream of a career in art is put on hold—until a mysterious visitor makes her an offer that will see her released immediately. Her assignment: restore an old post office mural in a sleepy southern town. Morgan knows nothing about art restoration, but desperate to leave prison, she accepts. What she finds under the layers of grime is a painting that tells the story of madness, violence, and a conspiracy of small town secrets.

North Carolina, 1940: Anna Dale, an artist from New Jersey, wins a national contest to paint a mural for the post office in Edenton, North Carolina. Alone in the world and desperate for work, she accepts. But what she doesn’t expect is to find herself immersed in a town where prejudices run deep, where people are hiding secrets behind closed doors, and where the price of being different might just end in murder.

What happened to Anna Dale? Are the clues hidden in the decrepit mural? Can Morgan overcome her own demons to discover what exists beneath the layers of lies? (From the Book Blurb)

*****

My thoughts:

This was my first book by Diane Chamberlain and what a compulsive read it turned out to be! As soon as I finish this review I’m off to see if I can borrow any other books by this fabulous writer.

Big lies in a small town alternates between two timelines, both of which I found equally compelling. In 2018 a former art student Morgan Christopher is serving a prison sentence for a crime she didn’t commit. When Lisa Williams, daughter of a famous, recently deceased painter Jesse Williams, and Andrea Fuller, a successful lawyer, make her an offer to restore an old mural in exchange for being released from the the prison, Morgan is extremely surprised. Jesse Williams was known for helping young people who found themselves on the wrong side of the law or in other difficult circumstances to find a way out and get again on their feet, but all his previous ‘protegees’ were Afro-American, and Morgan isn’t. Neither does she know anything about art restoration, but she’s been threatened, cut and severely beaten in the prison, and this is her only chance to get to if not freedom, at least to relative safety. She will just have to learn as quickly as possible and do her best to bring the damaged painting back to life. The mural was supposed to hang in the post office of a small town of Edenton, North Carolina, but something happened to the artist Anna Dale and it was never installed.
In 1940 twenty-two year old Anna Dale wins an art competion and is commisioned to paint a mural. Only she won’t be able to use her preliminary sketch, because it will depict the history and essence of a completely different town, town she has never been to, and that is Edenton, North Carolina. Anna decided she needs a research trip, but when she meets the town ‘movers and shakers’, local political and business elite, they tell her that a local male artist also participated in the competition and they would have preferred him and not a young and inexperienced girl wo doesn’t know anything about the town and has no connection to it. Having recently lost her beloved mother, Anna has no one who would care for her presence in New Jersey, so she is easily persuaded to stay and work in Edenton. Very soon she begins to realize how hard it will be to complete her mural amidst pernicious prejudices, blatant misogyny, secrets and lies that will lead to tragic events.

The narrative moved easily between the two timelines and soon it was impossible to put the book down until I found out why Jesse Williams had chosen Morgan to restore the mural and how the two protagonists were connected. There is a mystery element, of course, but the issues the book deals with go way beyond it – racism, prejudice, gender equality, alcoholism, family ties, mental illness, love and forgiveness are all explored in this beautifully-written story. Both protagonists are young, vulnerable women who face a lot of adversity and show a lot of inner strength and integrity.

Big lies in a small town is a powerful and thought-provoking story which I highly recommend to all lovers of general fiction, and, in particular, those who like strong female leads.

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

  • Have you read Big Lies in a Small Town or is it on your tbr? If you’ve read the book, which timeline did you find more interesting?
  • Have you read any other books by Diane Chamberlain?
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#Teen Tonic #Book Review of Oasis by Katya de Becerra

The oasis saved them. But who will save them from the oasis?

Alif had exciting summer plans: working on her father’s archaeological dig site in the desert with four close friends . . . and a very cute research assistant. Then the sandstorm hit.

With their camp wiped away, Alif and the others find themselves lost on the sands, seemingly doomed . . . until they find the oasis. It has everything they need: food, water, shade—and mysterious ruins that hide a deadly secret. As reality begins to shift around them, they question what’s real and what’s a mirage.

The answers turn Alif and her friends against one another, and they begin to wonder if they’ve truly been saved. And while it was easy to walk into the oasis, it may be impossible to leave . . .

Katya de Becerra’s new supernatural thriller hides a mystery in plain sight, and will keep you guessing right up to its terrifying conclusion.

(From the Book Blurb)

My thoughts:

What an exciting thriller this book proved to be! Although set in an entirely different context, this book made me think about two of my favourite reads from long time ago – Solaris by Stanslaw Lem and The Roadside Picnic by brothers Strugatsky (both belong to the classic science-fiction genre).

Alif Scholl’s parents are archeologists, so she has grown up around various digs and actually enjoys the task of washing and labelling archeological finds. She is thrilled to spend her summer at her father’s current dig near Dubai. Alif’s friends- Minh, Lori, Rowen and Luke- are joining her. There’s also Tommy Ortiz, Alif’s father’s student and assistant. On their way to the site Alif reads a blog post about the site which claims that there is a kind of curse on it. She brushes it off as a publicity trick, but later Tommy tell her that there was indeed a strange accident in which two people were hurt. Another strange event happens when a young exhausted and severely dehydrated French tourist wanders into the camp and whispers the name of a Messopotamian deity. Alif manages to get a few more sentences from him before he is taken away to a hospital.


The friends are beginning to get the hang of the site routine, when a terrible sandstorm hits. When it passes and Alif comes round, she sees no sign of the camp. Her friends and Tommy have to get back to civilisation, but they have no idea what their current location is. When the situation begins to seem desperate, they reach an oasis with crystal clear water and abundance of fruit. But can they trust the oasis and can they trust each other?

Soon strange dreams begin…

Alif and her five friends are all flawed characters with their own distinct personalities (something that becomes significant at the end of the book). The group dynamics was quite complex, but we only get Alif’s perspective and as the book progresses, it becomes clear that she is an unreliable narrator.

I really enjoyed Katya de Berrera’s seemingly effortless writing style and the way she kept my attention throughout the book. I did wonder quite often whether the events were just a hallucination brought by the gruelling journey through the desert under the unforgiving sun or whether the (post)-oasis events are manifestations of PTSD and then … the author surpassed all my expectations by giving us a mind-bending explanation.

I had a bit of trouble trying to categorize this book in terms of its genre: a thriller? a horror? fantasy? science fiction? Oasis is a gripping genre-bending story that will be appreciated by those who like a good adventure book set in a fascinating location.

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

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#Teen Tonic #Book Review of How To Speak Boy by Tiana Smith

Quinn and Grayson have been fierce speech and debate rivals for years. They can’t stand one another, either in competition or in real life.

But when their AP Government teacher returns their school assignments to the wrong cubbies, they begin exchanging anonymous notes without knowing who the other is.

Despite their differences, the two come together through their letters and find themselves unknowingly falling for the competition. Before the state tournament, the two of them need to figure out what they want out of life, or risk their own future happiness. After all, what’s the point of speech and debate if you can’t say what’s in your heart? (From the Book blurb)

My thoughts:


This unexpectedly sweet and delightful teen rom-com introduced me to the super competitive world of Speech and Debate Tournaments. I never realised how interesting this extra-curricular activity can be and how much preparation goes into being able to deliver one’s arguments smoothly and effectively.


Quinn and Grayson, the protagonists of the book, are both successful debaters. When they become co-captains of their school team, so they have to work together to help the others improve their perfomances. The problem is they do not really get along. At least, this is what Quinn thinks. While she has to work extremely hard on every single aspect of her life (and that includes memorising her speeches), Grayson seems to win it all hands down. He is gorgeous, charming, smart, comes from a well-off family, and is a straight A  student. Quinn, on the other hand, is about to fail her AP Government.

One day the AP Government teacher puts a wrong assignment in her locker. Quinn leaves it in the right one and adds a note. Her notes gets a response and so begins a fascinating exchange, where both teens remain anonymous, but gradually open up to each other and speak about their everyday problems, worries as well as bigger dreams and aspirations.


The story may be predictable (although the author throws a few spanners in the works), but it is very entertaining and easy to read. I loved the way neither Quinn, nor Grayson are perfect. Quinn is overthinking everything, but she is also feisty and witty. Grayson’s charm grows on you as you continue reading and by the end of the book you will become his fan. He has his share of worries. Being a politician’s son, he doesn’t feel he is free to choose his career path because of his family expectations. Speaking of families, I loved Quinn’s relationship with her mother and how invested she was into making her mother’s website and helping her achieve success. Grayson’s family especially his Dad and his younger siblings are also adorable in their own way.


I thought the anonymous note exchange part was fun, although it did make me think about our digital world where we form relationships and friendships with people we’ve never met in real life. Sometimes we open up and share our innermost thoughts and get great advice from people who are not blinded by their knowledge of what we look like or sound like, or all the cute and embarrassing things they remember us doing.


There was a very strange love triangle /triangles in this story (the protagonists of the story and the anonymous note-writer) and before you sigh ‘Oh no, not again!’ I want to say that liking several people and having to work out your feelings is also a part of high school experience.


Lighthearted, clean, and entertaining. Recommended for all romantics looking for a quick and enjoyable read.


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

  • Have you read How to Speak Boy or any other books by Tiana Smith?What are your favourite high school rom-coms?
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#Book Review #Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

A striking and surprising debut novel from an exhilarating new voice, Such a Fun Age is a page-turning and big-hearted story about race and privilege, set around a young black babysitter, her well-intentioned employer, and a surprising connection that threatens to undo them both (from the Book Blurb)

*****

My thoughts:

A great debut book that explores such difficult questions as race, class, privilege, and human relationships with unusual sensitivity and subtlety.


Emira Tucker, a 25year old babysitter for a white family, gets a call at ten in the evening. There is an emergency situation in the Chamberlain household and Alix, the mother, would like Emira to take three year old Briar shopping to keep her away from home while the parents are interviewd by the police. A security guard at the grocery store sees a young black woman (dressed for her best friend’s birthday party, not for babysitting) with a white toddler and gets suspicious. Other shoppers seem to take sides and one of them even films the whole scene. Emira calls Peter Chamberlain who promptly arrives and sorts the situation. Kelley Copeland, the bystander who made the video, urges Emira to keep it in case she decides to sue the guard or the store. Emira would like to forget this humiliating experience, but there is something she doesn’t know about Alix Chamberlain, her employer. Alix is a woman who writes letters to companies and institutions to get what she wants. She even started her own movement #LetHerSpeak and teaches women to become confident and demand things they want. Alix isn’t going to forget the store incident, she is going to stand by Emira and ‘make it right’ the way she understands it. There is something else Emira doesn’t know about Alix and that is that she used to date Kelley in her senior year of high school, and that their relationship ended in a series of embarrassing events for Alix.


The book is well-written and easy to read. I found it impossible to put down, as I kept thinking about the strange ways in which the lives of the protagonists were interconnected. The story is multi-layered, complex and thought-provoking without being heavy-handed or preachey. The characters are well-developed. I really liked the addition of their inner thoughts and the contrast between what they thought and what they chose to say or not to say. Call me lazy, as in real life we do not get the benefit or drawback of this information. Emira was the character I liked the most in all her ‘undecidedness’ or honest desire to hold on and explore life with its endless opportunities. Emira’s relationship with Briar is touching and revealing of what a deep and loyal person she is.


I will definitely be looking forward to reading more books written by Kiley Reid as this was one of the most remarkable debut novels I have read this year.
Thank you to Edelweiss and G.P.Putnam’s sons for the ARC provided in exchange for an honest opinion.

  • Have you read Such a Fun Age or is it on your tbr? If yes, what did you think?

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#Book Review #No, We Can’t Be Friends by Sophie Ranald

From the book blurb:

Everyone knows a girl like Sloane. She was always The Single One. She never brought a plus-one to weddings. She was the woman you’d set up with your single cousin. She joined ballroom dancing classes to meet men and was the queen of online dating.

But then she met Myles. Perfect Myles, with denim-blue eyes and a dazzling smile that melted her insides. She’d finally found The One.

Except she didn’t imagine that Myles’s idea of Happy Ever After would include Sloane battling an overflowing laundry basket, buying birthday cards for his family, and ironing his Calvin Klein underpants.

Then Sloane finds out that Myles has a secret.

The fairy tale is well and truly over. Her heart is blown to smithereens. Eating her weight in Ben & Jerry’s and large Meat Feast pizzas can only get Sloane so far before she has to make a decision… Can she learn to love herself more than she loved the love of her life?

No, We Can’t Be Friends is a brilliantly relatable, hilarious and feel-good novel that every woman with a waste-of-space ex HAS to read! If you’re a fan of romantic comedies by Sophie Kinsella and Lindsey Kelk, and TV shows like Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and Jane the Virgin, pick up this laugh-out-loud book – you won’t regret it.

My thoughts:

  I don’t know whether to put it in the category of contemporary women’s fiction, humour, or romance. With a slightly older protagonist, it doesn’t seem to fit neatly into the chick-lit category, although it is written in a light-hearted, easy style. ‘No, We Can’t Be Friends’ is a life story, honest and relatable. It is also entertaining (although not exactly laugh out loud) and hard to put down.

Sloane Cassidy is a successful professional- she is a co-owner of a PR/ talent agency. She has been married for five years to Myles, whom she loves deeply, and is thinking of starting family. As their dream house renovation work continues, little cracks begin to appear in her marriage. Sloane doesn’t exactly brush them off, she just wants to double her efforts to be the best wife possible. After all, ‘she’s in it to win it’. Gradually, Sloane discovers her husband might not be the man she has always imagined him to be. Oh, he can still make her laugh, and her body might still crave the warmth of his body in their bed, but how do you reconcile this with the secret text message sent to a mutual ‘friend’ ‘I have never loved her’? How do you learn to see your relationship with the new eyes of knowing it was based on lies? How do you take off those rose-tinted glasses we all wear when we look at our One and Only? What do you do with your hopes for future which seemed already written somewhere? How do you give up your wish to become a mother when you are 35 and are facing a divorce?

Sloane is a fantastic character, a girl I would love to have as a friend in real life. She is kind and strong, sensible and realistic. She doesn’t complain or wallow (maybe just a bit, but then we all need somebody to make us a strong cup of tea at the right moment and take care of us just for a day to let us get on our feet). She genuinely wants to re-build her life and understands that it will take time.


Sloane is not alone, of course, and that is not surprising. She cares about people around her and sees the best in them, and they stand by her when her own life seems to crumble.
I really loved her relationship with Megan (the other co-owner of the agency) and the way Sloane turns up at the right moment to help the brand-new mother- sometimes it is all you need: a shower and 20 minutes to yourself and a conversation with an adult about anything not baby-related!


I hope I’m not going to spoil the story by saying that there is also a new man in her life, but the romance is so secondary, so in the background, that there is no doubt- this novel focuses on Sloane and her divorce, rather than anything or anybody else. Actually, I would have liked to see a more developed male character ( friend or foe) in this book, as they all seemed a bit one-dimensional.

Sophie Ranald wrote a very relatable story as any of us who have gone through a long-term relationship breakup or a divorce will vouch for. It is also uplifting and heart-warming. At the end of the day, it is people in our lives (friends, family, co-workers, kind strangers) that matter, not houses or fancy decor. And we can make our own if not HEA, at least HFN, if we take our life decisions in our own hands.

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

Expected Publication Date: 10th of January 2020.

  • Have you read ‘No, We Can’t Be Friends’ or any other books by Sophie Ranald?
  • What’s the best book dealing with post-separation /post-divorce topic have you read?
  • Where does ‘chick-lit’ end and ‘Women’s fiction’ begin for you?
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#Book Review #A Madness of Sunshine by Nalini Singh

New York Times bestselling author Nalini Singh welcomes you to a remote town on the edge of the world where even the blinding brightness of the sun can’t mask the darkness that lies deep within a killer…

On the rugged West Coast of New Zealand, Golden Cove is more than just a town where people live. The adults are more than neighbors; the children, more than schoolmates.

That is until one fateful summer—and several vanished bodies—shatters the trust holding Golden Cove together. All that’s left are whispers behind closed doors, broken friendships, and a silent agreement not to look back. But they can’t run from the past forever.

Eight years later, a beautiful young woman disappears without a trace, and the residents of Golden Cove wonder if their home shelters something far more dangerous than an unforgiving landscape.

It’s not long before the dark past collides with the haunting present and deadly secrets come to light.

(From the book blurb)

******

My thoughts:

This is my first book by this incredibly talented writer, so I had very few, if any, expectations. I was swept away by the beauty of descriptions of the West Coast of New Zealand:

.…She stood on a jagged cliff looking out over the crashing sea below as fog wove through the treetops, a light misty rain falling and dissipating before it ever got to her...

Nature plays such a prominent role in this novel that it is impossible not to mention how it foreshadows the events in the book and amplifies already strong emotions. It is ‘primal and untamed‘, it is one of the protagonists of this masterfully-crafted mystery and thriller.

Anahera Spenser-Ashby Rawiri returns to her home town of Golden Cove after eight years of absence, a successful career as a classical pianist and the death of her handsome, elegant and cheating husband. The first lines were shocking and memorable, and set the tone of the whole story:

She returned home two hundred and seventeen days after burying her husband while his pregnant mistress sobbed so hard that she made herself sick. Anahera stood stone-faced, staring down at the gleaming mahogany coffin…

Anahera, whose name means ‘Angel’ in Maori, is a fascinating character and you gradually discover how her strength and hardness are the result of tragic experiences in her childhood and adolescence. You also discover that she is fiercely loyal, kind, and proud of her Maori heritage.

Will is a decorated police officer who got sent away from Christchurch and is now serving as the one and only policeman in Golden Cove. He takes his job seriously and is liked by the locals, although it will take a long time for the people of Golden Cove to accept him and stop treating him as an outsider. The ghost of a little boy he promised to protect and failed to save from the fire set by his violent and abusive father is haunting Will and making sure he won’t leave a stone unturned when a local girl goes missing.

Nineteen year old Miriama is slender, graceful and radiantly beautiful. It is always difficult to write a character destined to become a victim of the crime that drives the plot. Make him/her too likeable and the reader’s heart is going to be broken. Make them too generic, and the reader isn’t going to feel invested in the story. Miri is blessed with her looks and is admired and courted by many men, both local and passing tourists. Her mother died of an overdose and the little girl grew up with her aunt Matilda, who, unfortunately, has the worst taste possible in men. Miri is repeatedly described as sunshine, full of life, and aroha (love), but her story is not a happy one.

When Miri goes for a run, wearing bright running clothes, and fails to come back home, Will leads first the search party and then the police investigation and finally solves the mystery, not only of Miriama’s death, but also the cold case of three female hikers who disappeared fifteen years ago in a similar way.


There are plenty of suspects, as well as plenty of secrets that run ‘like a thick tide of lava beneath the surface‘. At some point, it seemed that almost any man in the town could have committed this crime, but Will, who is ‘relenless, like water on rock‘, is added by Anahera’s insight into the past and present life of the locals, as well as her empathy and ability to talk to people who share their secrets with her, safe in the knowledge she will always be on their side.

There is romance between the two hard, life-beaten protagonists, but mostly A Madness of Sunshine is a mystery, trying to piece together what exactly happened to crush the young and innocent life of Miriama.

Whether you are a fan of Nalini Singh or new to this author, and are just looking for a thriller set in New Zealand, this unique story has a lot to offer.

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

  • Haveyou read A Madness of Sunshine or is it on your tbr?
  • Have you read any other books by Nalini Singh?
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# Can’t-Wait Wednesday #Night Swim by Megan Goldin

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 am waiting for this Wednesday comes from Megan Goldin, the author of ‘The Escape Room’ which was one of the most gripping thrillers I read in summer.

The new book is also a psychological thriller/suspense:

From Goodreads:

In this new thriller from the author of The Escape Room, a podcast host covering a controversial trial in a small town becomes obsessed with a brutal crime that took place there years before.

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?

***************

Expected publication date: August 4th, 2020

Publisher: St.Martin’s Press

Genre: Fiction/ Thriller/ Psychological

No of pages: 352

  • Have you read ‘The Escape Room’? if yes, would you be interested in this new book from Megan Goldin?
  • Do you read ‘True Crime’ books? Have you ever listened to a podcast with this theme?

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#Book Review #Trace of Evil by Alice Blanchard

A riveting mystery that introduces a bold and audacious rookie detective assigned to hunt for a killer who is haunted by the past in this gripping murder case…

Natalie Lockhart always knew she was going to be a cop. A rookie detective on the Burning Lake police force, she was raised on the wisdom of her chief-of-police father. These cases will haunt you if you let them. Grief doesn’t come with instructions.

But the one thing her father couldn’t teach her was how to handle loss. Natalie’s beloved sister was viciously murdered as a teenager, and she carries the scars deep in her heart. Although the killer was locked up, the trace evidence never added up, and Natalie can’t help wondering―is the past really behind her?

As the newest member on the force, Natalie is tasked with finding nine missing persons who’ve vanished off the face of the earth, dubbed “the Missing Nine.” One night, while following up on a new lead, she comes across a savage crime that will change everything.

Daisy Buckner―a popular schoolteacher, wife to a cop, and newly pregnant―lies dead on her kitchen floor. As Natalie hunts for Daisy’s killer in the wake of the town’s shock, her search leads to a string of strange clues―about the Missing Nine, about Daisy’s secret life, and reviving fresh doubts about her sister’s murder.

As the investigation deepens, Natalie’s every move risks far-reaching consequences―for the victims, for the town of Burning Lake, and for herself.

Spellbinding and gripping, Trace of Evil is a novel of twisting suspense that will leave you breathless.

(From the official synopsis)

*****

My thoughts:

In order to get to understand Natalie Lockhart you need to know two things about her: where she comes from and her family.
Burning Lake is a small town in upstate New York, mostly famous for the stunning beauty of autumn trees and the burning of three innocent women convicted of witchcraft which happened in 1712. Their accusers later admitted it had all been made up. For years this event remained buried in town history until a book about the witch trials came out and put the town on the map. Hundreds of tourists come to visit its occult shops selling magic kits, spellbooks and souvenir cauldrons. ‘Dabbling in witchcraft was something of a rite of passage in Burning Lake’ and Natalie herself went through ‘a witchy phase’.

Another thing you need to know about Natalie is that she is the youngest of three sisters, and her oldest sister Willow Lockhart was brutally murdered twenty years ago at the age of 18, stabbed 27 times. The perpetrator was quickly arrested and sentenced for life, although he continues to maintain his innocence. The tragedy marked the remaining two sisters and their parents. Their mother never wanted to have more than one child, so having lost her favourite daughter destroyed her world and her will for living. Natalie’s father was more even in his affections. He was a police officer and often left little puzzles and mysteries for Natalie to solve. He noticed she had an inquisitive mind and a stubborn streak, and tried to teach her everything he knew about his work and life.

A secret is like a magic mirror, with endless layers of illusion. What you assume to be a fact isn’t always real.

Trace of Evil focuses on two interwoven cases. The first one is called The Missing Nine and is a group of cold cases that involved mysterious disappearings of transients, homeless people and troubled teenagers over a long period of time. Any new detective in BLPD is asked to give these files a fresh look, although nobody expects a major breakthrough: there is too little reliable information to go on. The second case is the murder of  a school teacher and Natalie’s sister’s best friend Daisy Buckner, who also happened to be the wife of one of the detectives in BLPD.
I’m not going to give away the story. Suffice it to say, the story kept me on the edge of my seat and the ending was quite unexpected. There is also a touch of burgeoning romance with an old childhood friend, which is, I hope, going to develop in the following books.

I liked Natalie for her tenacity and her courage, which I define as acting in spite of fear. She is a kind person, respectful of other people’s boundaries and need for autonomy, and a fantastically supportive sister and aunt. The cases in this book were very personal for Natalie for a variety of reasons, but I would like to see how Natalie’s character evolves in the light of other experiences.

The writing was absolutely compelling, there was depth and beauty in the descriptions, which made it really difficult for me to put down the book – I needed to read it from cover to cover.

My only regret is that I did not read this book in October- with it’s dark and slightly creepy atmosphere, it would have made an excellent choice for the Halloween month.
I will definitely be looking forward to reading the next book in the series.

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

  • Have you read Trace of Evil or is it on your tbr?

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#Teen Tonic # Book Review #Eight will fall by Sarah Harian

In a land where magic is outlawed, eight criminals led by seventeen-year-old Larkin are sent on a mission to kill an ancient evil that plagues their kingdom. Descending into an underground realm full of unspeakable horrors, Larkin and her party must use their forbidden magic to survive what lies in wait, teeth sharp and jaws deadly.

As she fights for her life, Larkin finds a light in Amias, a fellow outlaw with a notorious past. Soon Larkin and Amias realize their fates are entwined. The eight of them were chosen for a reason.

But as the dangers multiply and her band of felons are picked off one by one, Larkin must confront a terrible truth: They were never meant to return.

(From the book blurb)

*****

My thoughts:

Seventeen year old Larkin is a miner who comes from a family of Empaths, magic users who can channel other people’s emotions and use them to create or destroy things. Not that they get a lot of practice doing that. Magic is absolutely forbidden by the law. Empaths are all but enslaved by non-magic users and their queen Melay, who can break their families by sending some members to farms while others earn meager wages mining luminite, a rare mineral that suppresses the Emapath magic by blocking their ability to sense other people’s emotions.

Empaths have no surnames and are not allowed to learn to read. Larkin knows her wages and her brother Garran’s keep her family from starvation, yet when humiliated and provoked by a shopkeeper’s disdain, she uses a tiny bit of destruction magic to create a diversion that allows her to steal a bit of food. Very soon she and Garran are arrested and taken to the Queen’s dungeons. Larkin would give anything to fix the situation and protect her brother’s life. Even draw the Queen’s attention to herself when Melay appears to be choosing several inmates for a dangerous mission. There are eight of them: six Empath teenagers, an Empath soldier (a rarity in itself), and a non-Empath scholar. The Queen tells them that dark destruction magic is being used by unknown forces and there have been multiple disappearances from the farms. She sent her soldiers to investigate the underground area called the Reach where a thousand of years ago seven rebel Empaths were imprisoned together with their leader Kyran. Old legends say the darkness will rise. Could the mysterious disappearances and the fact that the soldiers never made their way back to the surface have something to do with this ancient lore?


As the Queen holds Garran and and the families of the other six Empaths as her leverage, Larkin and her party must descend into the Reach with one week worth of food and water, find and kill Kyran. The good news is that luminite is a surface mineral, so they will be able to protect themselves by using their forbidden magic. The bad news is that since it has been outlawed for such long time, they haven’t had much practice.

The magic system is very clear and interesting in this book. We often read about mind-readers, but what about emotion-readers? Wouldn’t it be fascinating to be able to read and use the mood of other people to be able to create various objects or destroy obstacles? In Larkin’s world it is impossible to live alone- you wouldn’t be able to feel the calm and joy that comes from other people’s company, even fear, rage and anxiety have their usefulness- they just have to be acknowledged and controlled.

Larkin is a strong character and I am always on a lookout for great female leads. The blurb might have led you to think that there will be multiple points of view in the book. There is only one POV, Larkin’s, and while it certainly helped to flesh out her character, at least half of the others remain less developed, especially the ones who die closer to the beginning of their horrifying adventure.

The book was conceived as a duology and then was re-written as a standalone. On plus side, we still get great worldbuilding and action starts early in the book. On the other hand, some things we learn from the characters talking about old legends, while we could have been shown, not told. For example, I am still not clear about the reasons for the conflict between the original non-magic Queen Ilona and Kyran. I would have also preferred to meet the other disciples in their sectors of the Reach. The ending also seemed a bit rushed. As I read I could almost envisage which parts would have been developped in the second book of the duology.

I would define the genre of this book as horror/ dark fantasy. There is definitely enough blood and gore, so it is better to go in the book expecting these elements. I am a bit claustrophobic, so there was one particluar scene that made me feel for poor Larkin and her companions. This book would make an excellent read for a Halloween readathon or a book club for slightly older teenagers who enjoy this kind of stories.

Finally, I just loved the cover. It is dark and beautiful, and perfectly matches the mood of this book.


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

  • Do you enjoy reading YA fantasy books? What’s your definition of ‘dark fantasy’?
  • Have you read ‘Eight will fall’ or is it on your tbr?

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#Can’t-Wait-Wednesday # In a Good Neighborhood by Therese Anne Fowler

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 am presenting today is A good Neighborhood by Therese Anne Fowler.

Synopsis:

In Oak Knoll, a verdant, tight-knit North Carolina neighborhood, professor of forestry and ecology Valerie Alston-Holt is raising her bright and talented biracial son. Xavier is headed to college in the fall, and after years of single parenting, Valerie is facing the prospect of an empty nest. All is well until the Whitmans move in next door―an apparently traditional family with new money, ambition, and a secretly troubled teenaged daughter.

Thanks to his thriving local business, Brad Whitman is something of a celebrity around town, and he’s made a small fortune on his customer service and charm, while his wife, Julia, escaped her trailer park upbringing for the security of marriage and homemaking. Their new house is more than she ever imagined for herself, and who wouldn’t want to live in Oak Knoll? With little in common except a property line, these two very different families quickly find themselves at odds: first, over an historic oak tree in Valerie’s yard, and soon after, the blossoming romance between their two teenagers.

Told from multiple points of view, A Good Neighborhood asks big questions about life in America today―What does it mean to be a good neighbor? How do we live alongside each other when we don’t see eye to eye?―as it explores the effects of class, race, and heartrending star-crossed love in a story that’s as provocative as it is powerful.

What happens when you try to do the right thing but it all goes wrong?

*****

Publisher: St.Martin’s Press

Expected Publication Date: February 4th 2020

Genre: Fiction / Family Life

320 Pages

*****

  • Have you read this book or is it on your tbr?
  • Have you read any other books by Therese Anne Fowler?
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#Teen Tonic #Book Review #Catfishing on CatNet by Naomi Kritzer

Book synopsis:

How much does the internet know about YOU? A thought-provoking near future YA thriller that could not be more timely as it explores issues of online privacy, artificial intelligence, and the power and perils of social networks.

Because her mom is always on the move, Steph hasn’t lived anyplace longer than six months. Her only constant is an online community called CatNet—a social media site where users upload cat pictures—a place she knows she is welcome. What Steph doesn’t know is that the admin of the site, CheshireCat, is a sentient A.I.

When a threat from Steph’s past catches up to her and ChesireCat’s existence is discovered by outsiders, it’s up to Steph and her friends, both online and IRL, to save her.

Catfishing on CatNet is a surprising, heartfelt near-future YA thriller by award-winning author Naomi Kritzer, whose short story “Cat Pictures Please” won the Hugo Award and Locus Award and was a finalist for the Nebula.

My thoughts:

As promised by the blurb, the story does go to some extent into thought-provoking questions on how much information about us is available to any serious hacker or an AI and how trusting we are of the good intentions of those who have become a member of our social network closer circle. But it isn’t all dark and gloomy, quite the opposite. It is more about our fundamental desire to make friendships and find people we belong with.

Steph Taylor has changed six high schools. Her slightly paranoid mother keeps moving every couple of months and Steph hasn’t even worked out what triggers these frequent moves. Mom says Steph’s father is a psychopath and convicted arsonist and the only way to keep safe is to keep a low profile and run at the first sign of danger. Steph would do anything to keep her mom happy, but their lifestyle choice also means she has never had time to make any real friends or develop a crush. The only permanent feature in Steph’s life is CatNet a social network site where cat (or any other animal picture at a pinch) pictures serve as a currency and where everybody is put in big chat groups called Clowders. Steph (or Little Brown Bat /LBB) feels her Clowder are the only people who can understand and relate to her. To be fair, they are supportive and respectful of each other. Then, she notices that one of the members of the group is always online. A few days later a strange event involving a hacked package delivery drone makes her think that somebody in her Clowder may be not telling the whole truth.

The story is told from three points of view: Steph, her Clowder chat, and an AI being (if you’ve read the blurb you already know that they are the admin of the site). The events move forward quickly and there is never a dull moment as Steph makes new real-life friends in her new town, re-programs a sex ed robot with the help of her online friends, and escapes her father- the homicidal maniac/ wannabe world dictator.

The characters are very sweet, especially the AI/Cheshire Cat who does grapple with serious ethical questions in a very human way. There isn’t really anything dark or scary about this book, apart from Stephanie and her mom’s life of perpetual nomads. On the other hand, Steph seemed to act quite selfishly, so it is up to the reader to decide whether they like her character, are annoyed by her, or simply accept her as a typical teenager with her own set of flaws. There is diversity in characters and LGBTQIA representation, which makes the story stand out of the usual coming of age YA novels. I also liked the way it is stressed that nobody should be rushed into a romantic relationship, especially if they need time to work out their feelings.

Some of the things in the plot are far-fetched, and I still think everything works out a bit too neatly in the end. The events may appear just one big rollercoaster of adventure, but I hope the serious issues of how new technology is redefining privacy or how the differences between virtual and real-life friendships are getting blurred are also going to be noticed by the readers of this entertaining novel.

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

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#Book Review # The Bromance Book Club by Lyssa Kay Adams

The first rule of book club:
You don’t talk about book club.

Nashville Legends second baseman Gavin Scott’s marriage is in major league trouble. He’s recently discovered a humiliating secret: his wife Thea has always faked the Big O. When he loses his cool at the revelation, it’s the final straw on their already strained relationship. Thea asks for a divorce, and Gavin realizes he’s let his pride and fear get the better of him. 

Welcome to the Bromance Book Club.

Distraught and desperate, Gavin finds help from an unlikely source: a secret romance book club made up of Nashville’s top alpha men. With the help of their current read, a steamy Regency titled Courting the Countess, the guys coach Gavin on saving his marriage. But it’ll take a lot more than flowery words and grand gestures for this hapless Romeo to find his inner hero and win back the trust of his wife.

( From the synopsis)

My thoughts:

Heart-warming… It’s great to know, or rather have a bookish confirmation of something I have always believed in, there are good men out there, who care about their families, wives and children, to the extent of doing whatever it takes to make their marriage work. Even if it is reading a Regency romance book.

I absolutely adored the characters in this sweet rom-com. Gavin is a professional baseball player who spends a lot of time travelling for work. Thea, his wife of three years, is understandably upset about the situation. She put her career on hold and has done her best to blend in and become a worthy member of WAGs – wives and girlfriends of the players of her husband’s baseball team. Thea feels she is losing herself and is forgetting the dynamic, non-conformist, independent, artistic, fun girl she used to be. Then, one night, after her husband’s greatest sports triumph, the big secret is out: Thea has been faking her orgasms, and Gavin refuses to speak to her for a month. Thea asks him to leave, which he does, adding fuel to her childhood fear of being abandoned by people she loves the most.

  Gavin is distraught and ready to do anything for Thea to give him a second chance. His teammates approach him with quite an unusual solution. Gavin is to become the newest member of a secret book club for alpha male athletes who try to understand the mysterious language of women by reading and discussing romance novels. The bros already have the right book in mind: Courting the Countess, a cute Regency number that perfectly matches Thea and Gavin’s situation.

The Book club scenes were absolutely hilarious, with their witty retorts and serious deliberations on the merits of pumpkin spice lattes and the dangerous message of The Little Mermaid where the main character ‘has to literally change from one species to another in order to be with a man’. All the laughs aside, these men meet together and try to help each other learn to save their marriages and relationships by listening and communicating with their loved ones. A few times in the book, Gavin is surprised to find out things about Thea, and she asks ‘How come you didn’t know that?” Because I’m not a mind reader’. He keeps saying ‘Talk to me. Tell me what you feel , tell me what is important for you, help me to understand what I can DO to show my love’.

Gavin is such a wonderful mixture of sweetness, determination, willingness to learn and strength. Thea got pregnant very soon into their relationship, and although their twin girls are absolutely adorable and mean the whole world to them, becoming parents is a huge step in any marriage, and a big change in a couple dynamics. It helps if you have already addressed (or at least are aware of ) your issues with your parents’ dysfunctional marriage. It also helps to trust your partner to put your family and your relationship first, above anything else.

The Bromance Book club may be a sweet and entertaining rom-com, but there is certain depth to it, as it is also a very relatable tale of second chances and family dynamics. The second book in the series is going to focus on Liv, Thea’s little sister, who was fiercely (and annoyingly at times) loyal to Thea, and surely deserves her own Good Man. Will the Bromance Book Club help Gavin’s mate Mack win Liv’s ever-cautious heart and lead them to their own HEA?

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

  • Have you read The Bromance Book Club or is it on your tbr?
  • Do you think having children necessarily destroys the early days romance?


#Book Blitz: Crushing It by Lorelei Parker @Xpresso Book Tours

Book & Author Details:

Title: Crushing It
Author: Lorelei Parker
Published by: Kingston Publishing Company
Publication date: June 30th 2020
Genres: Adult, Comedy, Contemporary, Romance

Synopsis:

In life, as in gaming, there’s a way around every obstacle . . .
To pitch her new role-playing game at a European conference, developer Sierra Reid needs to overcome her terror of public speaking. What better practice than competing in a local bar’s diary slam, regaling an audience with old journal entries about her completely humiliating college crush on gorgeous Tristan Spencer?
Until the moderator says, “Next up, Tristan Spencer . . .”
Sierra is mortified, but Tristan is flattered. Caught up in memories of her decade-old obsession as they reconnect, Sierra tries to dismiss her growing qualms about him. But it’s not so easy to ignore her deepening friendship with Alfie, the cute, supportive bar owner. She and Alfie were college classmates too, and little by little, Sierra is starting to wonder if she’s been focusing her moves on the wrong target all along, misreading every player’s motivations.
Maybe the only winning strategy is to start playing by her heart . . .
“Relatable, funny, and charming, this gamingesque book delivers laughs and romance in a warm, satisfying bundle.”
–Elly Blake, New York Times bestselling author of Frostblood

“Sexy and delicious.”
–Kristin Wright, author of Lying Beneath the Oaks

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About the author:

Bouncing all over the north throughout her childhood, Lorelei Parker grew up believing she was a Yankee. However, raised by transplanted Alabamans, she was destined to eventually wind up in the south. After graduating from Auburn University, she disappointed her entire family by defecting to SEC rival University of Florida and eventually settled as far north as central Virginia for grad school in French literature. After a major career shift and a brief detour through New York City, she now works as a computer programmer in Charlottesville. In her free time, when she isn’t playing video games, she writes contemporary romantic comedy.

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GIVEAWAY

Blitz-wide giveaway (INT)

  • $25 Amazon gift card
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