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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Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers Review & Giveaway

Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers

New From: $10.04 USD In Stock
Release date February 13, 2018.

Not since Moloka’i have I been transported to Hawaii through a book.  The setting and descriptions were vivid and breathtaking.  Never having been there myself, I imagined I was on the beach as I was reading.  I loved the authentic language and settings and was definitely surprised by the amount of rain!

Sara Ackerman’s debut has something in it for everyone: a mystery, WWII history, romance, and unforgettable characters.  Violet is a schoolteacher who is reeling at the disappearance of her husband, the school principal.  Her daughter, Ella, hasn’t been the same since he’s been gone.  When Violet’s roommate, Jean, finds out her brother Zach is training for a secret mission along with other Marines, the women learn that friendship will get them through this trying time together.

Even though this tale takes place during the 1940s, many of its themes still ring true today.  Given the current events we’ve been faced with, I still need to hear “love is love,” and I was thrilled to come across it in the book.  Bits of this story, especially Violet’s infatuation, reminded me of Letters from Home by Kristina McMorris.  If you want an endearing story with a sprinkle of sugar, be sure to pick this book up.

I have to say one of my favorite characters was Roscoe.  I’d really love to learn the true story behind his appearance that the author mentions in her note at the end.  I promise you he is one surprise you’ve never come across before in fiction.

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

About the author: Born and raised in Hawaii, Sara studied journalism and earned graduate degrees in psychology and Chinese medicine. When she’s not writing or practicing acupuncture, you’ll find her in the mountains or in the ocean.


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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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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The Last Mrs. Parrish Review & Giveaway

The Last Mrs. Parrish: A Novel

New From: $11.63 USD In Stock

At 400 pages, this was a longer read for a thriller, but I raced through it.  When I started this book, I didn’t read any synopsis because I wanted to see where the story took me.  And to be honest, even halfway through I wasn’t sure where the story was going, but it was an addicting page-turner and still took me by surprise.

The tag line for this book and written across the cover is “Some women get everything.  Some women get everything they deserve.”  And with two reliable narrators of this story, you don’t know who specifically this is referring to.  Is it Amber, a young woman with a hidden past whose main goal in life is stealing the husband of her new friend, Daphne?  Or is it Daphne, so used to wealth and privilege as a Connecticut socialite?

The second half of the book had elements reminiscent of Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris, filled with tension.  There were also parts which reminded me of The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson.  So if you enjoyed either of those books, I recommend picking this one up.

I think the story will be more enjoyable if you go in without reading much about it first, which is why I didn’t regurgitate much of the plot here.  The night I finished, I still had a third of the book left but refused to sleep until I finished, eager to find out how it ended.  I can’t wait to see what this writing duo comes up with next.

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

About the author:

Liv Constantine is the pen name of sisters Lynne Constantine and Valerie Constantine. Separated by three states, they spend hours plotting via FaceTime and burning up each other’s emails. They attribute their ability to concoct dark story lines to the hours they spent listening to tales handed down by their Greek grandmother. THE LAST MRS. PARRISH is their debut thriller.

Thanks to the publisher, I have a copy to give away to a lucky winner.  U.S. only, please.  Enter on the Rafflecopter.
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The Boat Runner Review & Giveaway

The Boat Runner: A Novel

New From: $5.68 USD In Stock

Full disclosure: Devin is a friend of mine.  When I found out he was going to have his debut published, I was beyond excited for him.  He promised me an early copy, and I was thrilled to receive it.  I even got choked up reading the acknowledgements because most were such close friends.  But then I had a thought: What if I hated it?  How would I tell him?  So I left it to sit on my nightstand, where day in and day out I looked at it, afraid to pick it up.

But then my mom asked if she could read it.  And my husband.  So of course I had to read it before they did, so I finally started, and boy, am I glad I did.

I guarantee this is a WWII story you haven’t read before.  It introduces Jacob Koopman, a teenager living in a small Dutch town with his older brother, Edwin, and his parents.  His father owns a lightbulb factory and in an attempt to secure more business, he decides (without his wife’s permission) to send the boys to a German youth camp just as Hitler and the Nazis are coming into power.  Jacob’s story is followed through the war as he grapples with which side is doing the right thing and how far he will go to protect his loved ones.

It is obvious to see the amount of research that went into this book.  I quickly formed an emotional connection with Jacob and could sympathize with his plight.  It’s hard enough to be a teenager.  But just try to deal with that as war is breaking out.  I believe he tried to see the good in everyone, even those who we would now call “enemies” in our history books.

If you enjoy books like All the Light We Cannot See, The Nightingale, Once We Were Brothers, and City of Thieves, be sure to give this one a read.

If you ever get the chance to meet Devin, at an event or book signing, please go.  Aside from the fact that he’s the nicest person ever, you’ll be fascinated by his family history and his past that all shaped this story.

Thanks to Devin, I have 2 signed copies to give away to lucky readers.  U.S. only, please.  Enter on the Rafflecopter.
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