Hot Mess Review

Hot Mess

New From: $10.40 USD In Stock
Release date March 20, 2018.

Good girl + bad boy + the food scene in my favorite city, Chicago = an entertaining and fun read.

Perfedtly titled, as it describes the characters and plot, Hot Mess focuses on 25-year-old Allie Simon, an up-and-coming social media guru dating Chicago’s ultimate bad boy chef, Benji Zane, a genius in the kitchen with a drug addiction in his past.  When Benji and general manager, Angela, want to open a brand-new restaurant, Here, they convince Allie to invest, just to get them started.

I loved the planning and prep part of the story for when Allie and Angela were focused on getting Here ready to open.  I learned so much about what goes on behind the scenes of a restaurant, everything from sourcing vendors to ordering dishes and hiring staff.  Belden had great dialogue so that I learned a lot while still getting a kick out of everything happening.

I wish Allie wasn’t so naive.  Granted, she’s young, and I absolutely appreciated her growth throughout the novel, but she still made some less-than-smart choices.  The romance added a little sizzle to the story.  Given today’s obsession with Instagramming your entree and Tweeting your experiences, I loved how Belden incorporated all of that into the running of Here.

This would be a perfect read for a trip to the beach or a long plane ride.  The antics of the characters along with the trials and tribulations of opening a restaurant will keep you happily turning the pages.

About the author: Emily Belden is a food journalist, social media marketer, and storyteller. She is the author of the novels Hot Mess and Husband Material, and of Eightysixed: A Memoir about Unforgettable Men, Mistakes, and Meals. After she tiled her bedroom floor in over 60,000 pennies – all heads up for good luck – she was a guest on The Today Show and her story was covered by media outlets across the country. A Chicago native, Emily lives with her rescue dog in the West Loop, conveniently close to many of the city’s best restaurants.  You can reach Emily on her website, Facebook, and Twitter.

Be sure to follow the tour for more reviews!  My thanks for the review copy from TLC Book Tours and the publisher.

Promise Review & Giveaway

Promise: A Novel

New From: $10.00 USD In Stock
Release date February 27, 2018.

I love a good natural disaster.  When I was in college studying to be a broadcaster, I took many meteorology classes because of how fascinating I found hurricanes, tsunamis, and tornados.  How they came on so suddenly and the damage left in their wake.  When I first read the premise for Promise, I couldn’t wait to read the story.

Author Minrose Gwin grew up in Tupelo, Mississippi, the site of an F5 tornado in 1936, one that leveled half the town.  It’s on record as the fourth deadliest in the history of the United States.  What fascinated me was that even then, they didn’t count African-Americans in the total death or injured count, basically erasing them from history.

While this story is fictional, it’s based in fact and follows two protagonists, Dovey, an African-American great-grandmother and washwoman, and Jo, a white teenage girl trying to find her place in her family.  As the tornado destroys their homes, they realize they might be connected by more than just tragedy.

Faced with tremendous loss, both women need to be strong in piecing their lives back together.  But racial tension in this town is thick, even after everything that’s happened.

Fans of The Help and Calling Me Home will find much to love in this novel.  The writing is beautiful, yet propels the narrative along.  Even though the story takes place over a few days, I felt like I had spent years with these families.

My thanks to the publisher for a copy in exchange for an honest review.

About the author: Minrose Gwin is the author of The Queen of Palmyra. She has written three scholarly books, coedited The Literature of the American South, and teaches contemporary fiction at the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill.


Thanks to the publisher, I have one copy to give away to a lucky reader.  U.S. and Canada only, please.  Enter on the Rafflecopter.
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The Family Next Door Review & Giveaway

The Family Next Door: A Novel

New From: $13.42 USD In Stock
Release date March 6, 2018.

I am a people watcher.  I will be at a park, mall, doctor’s office, anywhere really, and want to know all about the people I see.  What is their story?  If you are anything like me, you must read Sally Hepworth’s newest story, a suspense-filled book about the neighborhood of Pleasant Court.

Our three main characters are:

Essie, mom of two young girls, who is questioning her sanity on a regular basis since she is barely sleeping with a newborn.  At least her mom, Barbara, is always available to lend a helping hand.

Fran, former lawyer, harnessing a big secret neither her husband nor her closest friends know.

Ange, the neighborhood queen bee with two boys and perfect husband.

Everything between these friends  is perfectly fine until a new neighbor, Isabelle, moves into the neighborhood.  Her presence becomes unsettling to the women as lives are forever changed.

How relatable was this?  First-time mothers struggling with their newborns, just trying to function on lack of sleep.  Husbands gone at work so their wives couldn’t get a break.  New mysterious neighbors that seem to have an agenda.  I guarantee you’ll find something to relate to in this book.

The short chapters made this story compulsively readable.  I needed to keep flipping to gain more insight.  And just when I thought I knew where it was going, I was thrown for a loop.  The dialogue and settings reminded me of a Liane Moriarty novel so fans of hers should definitely pick this up.  I’m glad Hepworth tried her hand at suspense and I hope she writes more in the genre.

My thanks to the publisher for a copy in exchange for an honest review.

About the author: SALLY HEPWORTH is a human resource professional. A graduate of Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, Sally started writing novels after the birth of her first child. Sally has lived around the world, spending extended periods in Singapore, the UK, and Canada, and she now writes full-time from her home in Melbourne, where she lives with her husband and three young children. She is the author of The Secrets of Midwives, The Things We Keep, and The Mother’s Promise.

Thanks to the publisher, I have a signed copy to give away to one lucky reader.  U.S. only, please.  Enter on the Rafflecopter.
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A Piece of the World Review & Giveaway

A Piece of the World: A Novel

New From: $9.91 USD In Stock
Release date January 30, 2018.

After having read and loved Orphan Train, I knew when this book released that I wanted to read it.  Unfortunately, life and time got in the way and I didn’t have a chance.  So I was thrilled when TLC Book Tours asked if I’d be interested in helping to promote the book for its paperback release.

I had never seen or heard of the painting that is the subject of this novel, Christina’s World, by artist Andrew Wyeth.  I’m kind of glad I went into it blind because it provided a unique reading experience in which I learned something new.  And I loved the author’s note and acknowledgements because she provided her inspiration for the story after having come across the painting.

From the back cover: To Christina Olson, the entire world is her family farm in the small coastal town of Cushing, Maine. The only daughter in a family of sons, Christina is tied to her home by health and circumstance, and seems destined for a small life. Instead, she becomes Andrew Wyeth’s first great inspiration, and the subject of one of the best-known paintings of the twentieth century, Christina’s World.

This book had so much to offer: family ties, relationships, artistry, exploration, finding a sense of place.  But my favorite was reading Christina’s back story, how her childhood and teenage years shaped her.  You couldn’t help but feel sympathetic for the way she grew up and all her tribulations, yet she was the victim of her own choices at times.  If you are a historical fiction fan, this is a must read.

Even if you’ve already read and enjoyed the hardcover, you’re going to want to get a copy of the paperback not only because the cover is luminescent and colorful but because it contains an exclusive interview with bestselling author Kristin Hannah and a connected stand-alone story that didn’t appear in the original.

My thanks to TLC Book Tours and the publisher for a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

About Christina Baker Kline

Christina Baker Kline is the author of six novels, including the #1 New York Times bestseller Orphan Train as well as A Piece of the World. She lives outside New York City and spends as much time as possible on the coast of Maine. Learn more about Christina at

Connect with Christina on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Thanks to the publisher, I have one copy to give away to a lucky reader.  U.S. only, please.  Enter on the Rafflecopter.
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Girl Unknown Review & Giveaway

Girl Unknown: A Novel

New From: $12.96 USD In Stock
Release date February 6, 2018.

We’ve all read a book or seen a movie about someone appearing in someone’s life intent on destroying it.  What I loved about the premise of this book is that this person is a long-lost child, one our protagonist, David, never knew about before she shows up.

David is a college professor trying to move up the ranks all while dealing with his aging mother, wife Caroline’s return to work, and two kids.  Things are finally falling back in place with him until Zoe shows up.  Being the father that he is, he welcomes Zoe into their lives and home, hoping she fits right in.  But what are her motivations?  Who is hiding what?

The beginning of this book had a great pace, and the fact that the story alternated characters telling it between David and Caroline made it move quickly.  The ending sizzled.  I just felt the middle got a little bogged down.  And even when it finished, I was left with several unanswered questions.

I was surprised to discover that even when I thought I knew how things ended, the authors threw me another twist.  This is a dark tale, perfect for those who want to know more about the characters of a thriller.  With each chapter, we unravel more and more about what makes them tick and how easy it is to make them crumble.

My thanks to the publisher for a copy in exchange for an honest review.

About the author: Karen Perry is the pen name of Dublin-based authors Paul Perry and Karen Gillece. Together they wrote Girl Unkown.

Paul Perry is the author of a number of critically acclaimed books. A recipient of the Hennessy Award for New Irish Writing, he teaches creative writing at University College, Dublin.

Karen Gillece is the author of several critically acclaimed novels. In 2009 she won the European Union Prize for Literature (Ireland).

Thanks to the publisher, I have one copy to give away to a lucky reader.  U.S. only, please.  Enter on the Rafflecopter.
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Only Child Review & Giveaway

Only Child: A novel

New From: $11.21 USD In Stock
Release date February 6, 2018.

If you combine the young narrator in Room with the thought-provoking message in Wonder, you have this captivating debut.

Debut author Navin allows the reader to be a fly on the wall with the Taylor family while they grieve their family’s loss from a school shooting.  Heartbreaking, yes, but allowing 6-year-old Zach to narrate the story brought innocence and a unique perspective to what could have been a very depressing tale.  I often forget how a child’s brain, no matter the age, processes what adults process extremely differently.  Navin perfectly captures this age in Zach as he tries to understand what is going on with his family.  I was impressed she didn’t play down his vocabulary because he was young.  I found him to be very believable.

Aside from losing his brother, he needs to understand the feelings among the other adults, ones he has trusted his whole life.  You will find yourself rooting for one parent over another and possibly even change viewpoints over the course of the book.

This was a solid first book from Navin.  Given its subject matter, I still felt hope and optimism by the end of the story.  I look forward to whatever drama she dreams up next.

About the author: RHIANNON NAVIN grew up in Bremen, Germany, in a family of book-crazy women. Her career in advertising brought her to New York City, where she worked for several large agencies before becoming a full-time mother and writer. She now lives outside of New York City with her husband, three children, and two cats. This is her first novel.

My thanks to the publisher for a copy in exchange for an honest review.  They also sent another ARC for a lucky reader!  U.S. only, please.  Enter on the Rafflecopter.
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Here We Lie Review & Giveaway

Here We Lie

New From: $10.35 USD In Stock
Release date January 30, 2018.

With each book Paula writes, she keeps getting better.  I really enjoyed the hook in last year’s The Drowning Girls.  But with Here We Lie, I couldn’t stop reading this timely novel.

As the book starts off, we have one woman attending the press conference of another.  So as not to give the story away, Paula then moves back in time to the childhood home of Megan, a high school student in Kansas trying to deal with the soon-to-be loss of her father.  Then we meet Lauren, the youngest from a well-to-do family in Connecticut.  All the reader knows is something happened 14 years ago that changed everything.

Most of this book takes place while the girls are away at college.  Since their college years coincided with mine, I really related to the circumstances and experiences.  Bits of the story reminded me of Bittersweet by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore and Forks, Knives and Spoons by Leah DeCesare.

I love an author who can make me feel for the characters on page 1 and Paula did that here.  I was emotionally invested in the story and its outcome that I was plowing through 100 pages at a time.  If you’re intrigued by stories with female friendships, especially those with an underlying mystery, be sure to pick this one up.

My thanks to the author for a copy in exchange for an honest review.

About the author: Paula Treick DeBoard lives with her husband Will and their four-legged brood in Modesto, CA. She received a BA in English from Dordt College, an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Southern Maine and a practical education from countless students in her English classes over the years. She is the author of The Mourning Hours, The Fragile World and The Drowning Girls.

Thanks to the author, I have one signed copy to give away to a lucky reader.  U.S. only, please.  Enter on the Rafflecopter.
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Oliver Loving Review & Giveaway

Oliver Loving: A Novel

New From: $13.50 USD In Stock

I tend to avoid a lot of literary fiction because I am a reader who prefers a fast-paced story with a plot that moves and characters that leap off the page.  This is not that story.  However, it is beautifully done and patiently unravels the truth behind a small town tragedy.

It is wordy.  I will be the first to admit that.  But underneath lies this compelling tale of a family, one trying to piece together the broken fragments of their past so they can become whole.

Oliver Loving was a high school student when he became a victim of a school shooting.  He has been in a coma for the past 10 years, while his family has struggled to come to terms with their survival, as one of their own is incapacitated.  Father Jed is an alcoholic.  Mother Eve is a shoplifter and no longer parents her other son, Charlie, a struggling writer trying to survive in Brooklyn.  The story takes turns being  told from everyone’s point of view, including Oliver, which I felt was a unique approach.

For those interested in neurological science, there are scenes from this book that are utterly fascinating, as everyone is trying to communicate with Oliver.  Each character is fleshed out so well that I felt like I knew the Lovings personally and was spending time with them.  The setting has a Friday Night Lights feel, small town Texas where everyone knows everyone.

Usually when you read about a tragic event, you read a story about that event.  I really loved how this book was the aftermath of that and how everyone was coping (or not).  It takes a talented writer to keep a reader interested when a story is so much about its characters.  Block proved he is that talent.

My thanks to the publisher for a copy in exchange for an honest review.

About the author: Stefan Merrill Block grew up in Texas. His first novel, The Story of Forgetting, won Best First Fiction at the Rome International Festival of Literature, the 2008 Merck Serono Literature Prize and the 2009 Fiction Award from The Writers’ League of Texas. The Story of Forgetting was also a finalist for the debut fiction awards from IndieBound, Salon du Livre and The Center for Fiction. The Storm at the Door is his second novel. He lives in Brooklyn.

Thanks to the publisher, I have one copy to give away to a lucky reader.  U.S. only, please.  Enter on the Rafflecopter.
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At Wave’s End Review & Giveaway

Seeing how the weather has been nothing but frigid in Chicago these past couple weeks, it was a nice escape to head to the beach town of Wave’s End on the Jersey shore in Patricia Donovan’s newest novel.  While a hurricane displaces homes and people, New York City-based chef Faith and her mother, Connie, step in to do what they can to provide food and shelter at their inn, The Mermaid’s Purse.

Relationships between many are broken apart, forged tighter, and even discovered in this women’s fiction novel.  I loved following the different storylines of all the characters that ended up at The Mermaid’s Purse.  Since they all come from different backgrounds and phases of life, you will easily relate to one or more.

And for those looking for hidden secrets, I can promise you a surprise here and there.  One of the best parts of this novel was the food and cooking descriptions as Faith prepared meals at the inn.  Don’t read while hungry because you’ll be constantly licking your lips and wishing the book came with a taste.

While the hurricane left a path of destruction in the town, this sweet story of a town banding together is sure to warm your heart and put a smile on your face.  A great read to start 2018 off right.

My thanks to the author for a copy in exchange for an honest review.

About the author: Patricia Perry Donovan is an American journalist who writes about healthcare. Her fiction has appeared at Gravel Literary, Flash Fiction Magazine, Bethlehem Writers Roundtable and in other literary journals. The mother of two grown daughters, she lives at the Jersey shore with her husband, with whom she has fond memories of raising their young family abroad in France.  Learn more at

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The Trick Review & Giveaway

The Trick: A Novel

New From: $7.00 USD In Stock

For those of you who enjoy circus stories, there is a large element of that in Bergmann’s debut.  Combine that with magic, WWII, and a present day story of a family in crisis, and you have The Trick.

The Great Zabbatini was best known for his illusions and spells.  He will be the first to tell you he wasn’t a magician, but rather a mentalist.  And that’s just the kind of magic Max Cohn needed to put his family back together.  When he sets out to find the man, they are both in for a rude awakening in trying to mesh their personalities.  If you remember what a curmudgeon Ove was in Fredrik Backman’s story, A Man Called Ove, you get the idea.

I loved reading the history of Zabbatini’s character, even though it was fictional.  It had the feeling of listening to the life story told by a relative.  So I can imagine this book would sound great on audio.  For Max’s modern day story, I felt the dialogue was a little basic and amateur.  I’m not sure if he did that because of the age of the character, but I didn’t think it was necessary.  That’s why I loved jumping back into the history.  And I always enjoy getting a new perspective on WWII, one I haven’t read before.

Surprisingly, a nice little twist wrapped this book up nicely.  If you’re looking for historical fiction with a light touch, try this one out.  No heavy duty angst and agony here.

Thanks to the publisher for a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Be sure to follow the tour for more reviews and more chances to win!

Thanks to TLC Book Tours, I have one copy to give away to a lucky reader.  U.S. or Canada only, please.  Enter on the Rafflecopter.
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