Thursday, October 19, 2017

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Without Merit, by Colleen Hoover {ends 10/30}

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Without Merit, by Colleen Hoover

My father is an atheist, although that isn't at all why he chose to purchase the foreclosed house of worship and rip it from the hands of the people. No, God had no say in that matter.

He bought the church and closed the doors simply because he absolutely, vehemently, without doubt, hated Pastor Brian's dog, and subsequently, Pastor Brian. 

Funny story about this book: I thoroughly enjoyed it, but I actually had forgotten that I had signed up for the book tour (thanks, past self ...) and almost didn't review it. Without Merit is definitely a book that you cannot skip.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Without Merit, by Colleen Hoover
The Voss family is anything but normal. They live in a repurposed church, newly baptized Dollar Voss. The once cancer-stricken mother lives in the basement, the father is married to the mother’s former nurse, the little half-brother isn’t allowed to do or eat anything fun, and the eldest siblings are irritatingly perfect. Then, there’s Merit.

Merit Voss collects trophies she hasn’t earned and secrets her family forces her to keep. While browsing the local antiques shop for her next trophy, she finds Sagan. His wit and unapologetic idealism disarm and spark renewed life into her—until she discovers that he’s completely unavailable. Merit retreats deeper into herself, watching her family from the sidelines, when she learns a secret that no trophy in the world can fix.

Fed up with the lies, Merit decides to shatter the happy family illusion that she’s never been a part of before leaving them behind for good. When her escape plan fails, Merit is forced to deal with the staggering consequences of telling the truth and losing the one boy she loves.

Poignant and powerful,
Without Merit explores the layers of lies that tie a family together and the power of love and truth.

This novel reminded me a bit of the Running with Scissors family combined with elements of David Sedaris's books. Merit is a twin, but isn't close with her sister, Honor. They live with their brother, Utah; half-brother, Moby (named after Moby-Dick, not the singer); father, Barnaby; step-mother, Victoria; and biological mother, also named Victoria, who lives in the basement. On top of all of that, they live in a church that their father bought from foreclosure just to spite the local pastor. 

All of the characters created here are very unique, which is why I liked the novel so much. Merit likes to collect trophies—but not trophies she personally has won, but rather, trophies that she finds in thrift stores. Her sister, Honor, likes to pursue relationships with teen guys who are on the brink of dying; her first boyfriend died during their relationship, and for some reason that stuck with her. Another relative gets thrown into the mix later on, too, which shakes up the family dynamic, and there are also secrets revealed by Merit in the latter half of the novel which threaten to break up the family.

My only complaint about this book is that the last few chapters take a while to wrap up—all of the plot points had mostly been finished, but the novel continued on for a few more chapters.

Other than that, I really enjoyed this book, and I'll have to check out more novels by Colleen Hoover in the future.

4.5 stars out of 5.
{click here to purchase}


Enter to win below. This is a group giveaway that the other blog tour participants and I are hosting on our blogs.

Five lucky winners will receive a signed hardcover copy of Without Merit!

Giveaway will end on Monday, October 30th.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Book Review: Where We Fall, by Rochelle B. Weinstein

Guest review by: Erin Krajenke

There were times as a child and young adolescent—before I could give words to my fears and inner thoughts—that I actually wished for calamity. If only that Rottweiler had taken a bite out of my leg, an area that healed quickly and didn't leave any long-term bruises. If only I could actually faint, instead of always feeling faint. If only something truly terrible would happen to me, then maybe my parents would have dragged me to a doctor and experts would have studied me to find out exactly what was wrong. Because I was sure there was something really broken in me.

… I have held Ryan back for as long as I can remember. What started as a mistake has grown progressively worse. Sometimes the guilt consumes me. I wish I could be a better wife, a better mother, though my handicaps prevent me from doing normal things that most women take for granted.

…"Baby, this doesn't have to be a bad thing. It’s been hard, for you, for us, but you mostly, for a long time."  "You're being kind."  "Heck, I've suffered. We've all suffered." "Are you giving up on me?" I cry out, feeling the separation wedge a space between us. "I'm fighting for you, Abs. Even if it means we fight. If this gets you better, I'll do whatever it takes." A montage of Ryan playing the hero reminds me of all the reasons I must go. He is picking me up from the mall because I can't catch my breath, and I'm having what I believe is the third heart attack of the week. He is hugging me in our bed while waves of panic ripple through me. He thinks he can push the waves back to sea, though I know he can’t. But he tries. He is looking me in the eyes when I am in the throes of a depressive episode, and he is telling me how beautiful I amnot just outside but insideand how he wishes I could see in myself a fraction of what he sees. And then there's the time we were flying to Dallas for the weekend and the turbulence got so badI was sure we were going down. The vodkas weren't the best decision. He had to carry me off the plane.

This story involves the aftermath (and kind of still continuation) of a love triangle amongst three friends, one of whom is suffering from a mental illness.  This book is told from multiple points of view (Ryan, Abby, Lauren, and Juliana) which I always enjoy in a novel. Sometimes I feel like just telling a story from multiple perspectives can create even more turmoil in a story due to the reader being privy to personal thoughts and information.

Official synopsis:
By all accounts, Abby Holden has it all.  She's the mother of a beautiful teenager and the wife of a beloved high school football coach. And all it took to achieve her charmed life was her greatest act of betrayal.

Coach Ryan can coax his team to victory, but he can't seem to make his wife, Abby, happy. Her struggles with depression have marred their marriage and taken a toll on their daughter, Juliana. Although this isn't the life he's dreamed of, he's determined to heal the rifts in his family.

Chasing waterfalls and documenting their beauty has led photographer Lauren Sheppard all around the world.  Now it has brought her back home to the mountains of North Carolina - back to the scene of her devastating heartbreak.

For the first time in seventeen years, a trio of once-inseparable friends find themselves confronting past loves, hurts, and the rapid rush of a current that still pulls them together.

I have read a lot of books with characters dealing with mental illnesses recently and I like that the books have been told from their perspective as well as others to give you an idea of what someone with mental health issues is dealing with. I really enjoyed the chapters where Abby is getting the help she needs and is actually getting better, being happy, and loving herself and life.

However, that was about the only part of the book I enjoyed. The love triangle just didn’t do it for me…mostly because it happened 17 years ago and they are still wallowing in it…get over it and move on already. Each character is pointing the blame when in fact, I feel they were all to blame for at least part of the problem…and it happened 17 years ago. As I said, get over it. I guess I just had a hard time really caring about the characters or their love triangle. But I did like the light it shed on mental illness, how hard it is for the individual and their loved ones, how hard getting help might be, and then seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.

…I know there's no finish line; that this never ends. I'm learning how to fall, dust myself off, and take the next step. I'm also weeks into a really good antidepressant and a mild anti-anxiety medication. They definitely help. I will probably remain on these drugs for the rest of my life. ‘Stigma’ is a terrible word in the world of quiet sufferers....when a patient presents with symptoms of diabetes or heart disease, and the treatment is lifelong, the general population accepts the diagnosis as a matter of physical health. Unfortunately, diseases of the brain are classified and perceived differently than diseases of the body. Your brain forms your personality. Your behavior is the result of the disease, of the brain misfiring. It's easier to separate blame and fault from an impaired kidney or a damaged aorta than from an obsessive, compulsive, phobic person.

Start rating: 3 out 5 …but a low 3.
{Click here to purchase}

Erin Krajenke is a chatty Virgo. She always has coffee when watching radar (and she hopes someone gets this Spaceballs reference).

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Borrowed Souls, by Chelsea Mueller {ends 10/20}

Callie Delgado needed a soul.

Her brother had been kidnapped, his captors were blackmailing her, and here she was, outside one of the most unusual pawn shops in all of GEm City, about to rent one. She just needed to force herself to walk the twenty steps to the Soul Charmer's front door. The one wedged in a dirty, rundown building on a dirty, rundown street in the dirty, rundown part of town. It was the last place she wanted to be, but the one place she had to go.

Fate was kind of a dick like that. 

Borrowed Souls had been sitting in my TBR pile for a few months now, but the concept of the novel had always intrigued me. I finally had a chance to read it this week when traveling (airplane time = no interruptions reading time!), and if you like dystopian and/or fantasy novels, you will like this one.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Borrowed Souls, by Chelsea Mueller
Callie Delgado always puts family first, and unfortunately her brother knows it. She’s emptied her savings, lost work, and spilled countless tears trying to keep him out of trouble, but now he’s in deeper than ever, and his debt is on Callie’s head. She’s given a choice: do some dirty work for the mob, or have her brother returned to her in tiny pieces.

Renting souls is big business for the religious population of Gem City. Those looking to take part in immoral—or even illegal—activity can borrow someone else’s soul, for a price, and sin without consequence.

To save her brother, Callie needs a borrowed soul, but she doesn’t have anywhere near the money to pay for it. The slimy Soul Charmer is willing to barter, but accepting his offer will force Callie into a dangerous world of magic she isn’t ready for.

With the help of the guarded but undeniably attractive Derek—whose allegiance to the Charmer wavers as his connection to Callie grows—she’ll have to walk a tight line, avoid pissing off the bad guys, all while struggling to determine what her loyalty to her family’s really worth.

Losing her brother isn’t an option. Losing her soul? Maybe.

This is actually "Soul Charmer #1," and the ending definitely leaves things open for a sequel, although there isn't one listed on Goodreads as of this writing.

Callie is trying to save her brother from some mobsters, so to speak, and so she goes into a sort of "indentured servitude" agreement with the Soul Charmer, a slimy guy who rents out souls. By the end of the novel, though, things are still not finished with him, which sets things up for the next book in the series.

Dystopian novels are usually some of my favorite to read. I found the idea of "renting souls" to be fascinating, especially when they talk about how the second soul co-exists (or tries to ...) with the owner's original soul. I don't believe they say what year it is, in the novel, but it's implied that it's sometime within the near future.

There's a bit of a romance angle with Derek and Callie, too, which integrated nicely into the book—it didn't overtake the main story, which was Callie trying to get her older brother out of trouble, but was a side plot.

3.5 stars out of 5.
{Click here to purchase}


One of my lucky readers will win a paperback copy of Borrowed Souls!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Friday, October 20th, at 11:59pm EST, and winner will be notified the next day via email and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner will be chosen.

U.S. and Canadian residents only, please.

Good luck!

Borrowed Souls paperback copy

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Book Review: The Outliers, by Kimberly McCreight

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

“Give me your arm,” I say to Jasper without looking at him. He hesitates, then holds a bicep out toward me. I wrap a couple of fingers around his bare elbow, which was supposed to feel less weird than actually holding his muscular arm. But does not. “I just need you to walk me to your car. Don’t ask why, please. I’m not going to tell you anyway.”

And then I close my eyes. Because pretending I’m not actually doing this couldn’t hurt either.

Official synopsis:
Book Review: The Outliers, by Kimberly McCreight
It all starts with a text: Please, Wylie, I need your help. Wylie hasn’t heard from Cassie in over a week, not since their last fight. But that doesn’t matter. Cassie’s in trouble, so Wylie decides to do what she has done so many times before: save her best friend from herself.

This time it’s different, though. Instead of telling Wylie where she is, Cassie sends cryptic clues. And instead of having Wylie come by herself, Jasper shows up saying Cassie sent him to help. Trusting the guy who sent Cassie off the rails doesn’t feel right, but Wylie has no choice but to ignore her gut instinct and go with him.

But figuring out where Cassie is goes from difficult to dangerous, fast. As Wylie and Jasper head farther and farther north into the dense woods of Maine, Wylie struggles to control her growing sense that something is really wrong. What isn’t Cassie telling them? And could finding her be only the beginning?

I knew nothing about The Outliers when I picked it up, and wasn’t sure quite what it would be about at the beginning. It was a marvelous psychological thriller, not only with mind games, suspense, and deceit, but even with the basis of the story dealing with psychological research. By a few pages in, some of the back story fell quickly into place.

This was definitely a page-turner, and I can’t wait to read the next book! Not gonna lie, it did take me a few pages to figure out, and then remember, that Wylie was a girl (named after her grandfather, as it turned out). I did end up intrigued by several of the characters, and it sounds like they’ll be back in the next book.

I can’t think of much I didn’t like about this book, and I’m in a hurry to get to the next one. While most of the reading I do is just for my own entertainment and enjoyment, I feel like a 5 star should give me something more than just escaping from a few hours of my life. I’d give this a solid 4 out of 5 stars.

Becki Bayley loves fuzzy slippers, artichokes with butter, and the feeling of contentment that comes from seeing her children safe at home. She’s been blogging in SE Michigan since March 2002 at

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Her Every Fear, by Peter Swanson {ends 10/17}

Guest review by: Erin Krajenke

Her stomach folded again, starting to cramp. When did I last go to the toilet, she thought, and her panic ratcheted up a notch. It was such a familiar feeling: heart speeding up, limbs turning cold, the world sharpening before her eyes. But she knew what to do. Her therapist's voice was in her head. It's just a panic attack, an accidental surge of adrenaline. It can't hurt you, or kill you, and no one will notice it. Just let it happen. Float with it. Ride it out.

But this one's different, Kate told herself. The danger felt real. And suddenly she was back at the cottage in Windermere, crouched and cowering in the locked closet, her nightgown wet with urine, George Daniels on the other side of the door. She felt almost like she'd felt then, cold hands inside of her, twisting her stomach like it was a damp dish towel. There'd been the gunshot blast, then the terrible silence that lasted for hours and hours. When she'd finally been pulled from the closet, her joints stiff and her vocal cords raw from screaming, she didn't know how she was still alive, how the fear hadn't killed her.

I am not typically a fan of suspense/mystery novels, but I enjoyed this book. It took me about 20% of the way to get into this book but once I got into it, I could not put it down!

Official synopsis:
Book Review: Her Every Fear, by Peter Swanson
Growing up, Kate Priddy was always a bit neurotic, experiencing momentary bouts of anxiety that exploded into full-blown panic attacks after an ex-boyfriend kidnapped her and nearly ended her life. When Corbin Dell, a distant cousin in Boston, suggests the two temporarily swap apartments, Kate, an art student in London, agrees, hoping that time away in a new place will help her overcome the recent wreckage of her life.

Soon after her arrival at Corbin's grand apartment on Beacon Hill, Kate makes a shocking discovery: his next-door neighbor, a young woman named Audrey Marshall, has been murdered. When the police question her about Corbin, a shaken Kate has few answers, and many questions of her own-curiosity that intensifies when she meets Alan Cherney, a handsome, quiet tenant who lives across the courtyard, in the apartment facing Audrey's. Alan saw Corbin surreptitiously come and go from Audrey's place, yet he's denied knowing her. Then, Kate runs into a tearful man claiming to be the dead woman's old boyfriend, who insists Corbin did the deed the night that he left for London.

When she reaches out to her cousin, he proclaims his innocence and calms her nerves--until she comes across disturbing objects hidden in the apartment and accidentally learns that Corbin is not where he says he is. Could Corbin be a killer? What about Alan? Kate finds herself drawn to this appealing man who seems so sincere, yet she isn't sure. Jet-lagged and emotionally unstable, her imagination full of dark images caused by the terror of her past, Kate can barely trust herself, so how could she take the chance on a stranger she's just met?

As I said, I am not typically a fan of suspense/mystery novels (my nerves cannot take it!), but I enjoyed this book. This novel was probably not as suspenseful as most books in this genre, but it held my interest the entire way through which seems to be a rarity for me these days. The book was told through multiple points of view which I always enjoy in a book since it gives you a different perspective or understanding of the various characters.

With that said, I still feel like Kate was the main character and I really enjoyed her, which I think helped me enjoy the book. There were not as many twists and turns as I expected, but I guess that helped to keep the story more realistic. This book was a nice easy read that I might put on par with The Girl on the Train, but better.

To quote Liz: 3.5 stars out of 5, so I will round up to 4.
{Click here to purchase}

Erin Krajenke is a chatty Virgo. She also likes eating, reading, and petting all the doggos.


Three of my lucky readers will win a copy of Her Every Fear!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Tuesday, October 17th, at 11:59pm EST, and winners will be notified the next day via email, and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner(s) will be chosen.

U.S. residents only, please.

Good luck!

Her Every Fear book

Monday, October 2, 2017

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Feast of Sorrow, by Crystal King {ends 10/10}

Guest review by: Karen Doerr

“You are wondering why I’m chopping vegetables with you.” It wasn’t a question.

“The thought had crossed my mind, Dominus.”

He pushed the chopped carrot to the side and took up the parsnips. “When I am in the kitchen, making food, it is as though the gods are with me.”

“What do you mean, Dominus?” I was not accustomed to asking my master questions, but Apicius seemed to be inviting conversation.

“I feel a sense of calmness, of true competence, infusing me. The same energy fills me when I am chopping and stirring, or when I discover a new wine vintage. Such culinary experiences bring me great pleasure.”

As a foodie and history buff, I was excited to start Feast of Sorrow by Crystal King. I thought that it would combine my two greatest loves into a story of political ambition with a hint of tragedy. What I got instead was an overly long, complicated and quite frankly, dull story. Such a shame for a concept that had amazing potential!

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Feast of Sorrow, by Crystal King
Set amongst the scandal, wealth, and upstairs-downstairs politics of a Roman family, Crystal King’s seminal debut features the man who inspired the world’s oldest cookbook and the ambition that led to his destruction.

On a blistering day in the twenty-sixth year of Augustus Caesar’s reign, a young chef, Thrasius, is acquired for the exorbitant price of twenty thousand denarii. His purchaser is the infamous gourmet Marcus Gavius Apicius, wealthy beyond measure, obsessed with a taste for fine meals from exotic places, and a singular ambition: to serve as culinary advisor to Caesar, an honor that will cement his legacy as Rome's leading epicure.

Apicius rightfully believes that Thrasius is the key to his culinary success, and with Thrasius’s help he soon becomes known for his lavish parties and fantastic meals. Thrasius finds a family in Apicius’s household, his daughter Apicata, his wife Aelia, and her handmaiden, Passia, with whom Thrasius quickly falls in love. But as Apicius draws closer to his ultimate goal, his reckless disregard for any who might get in his way takes a dangerous turn that threatens his young family and places his entire household at the mercy of the most powerful forces in Rome.

As strange as it sounds, I’ve had a keen interest in the dietary habits of Ancient Rome for quite a while. I have to believe that when your god of wine doubles as the god of ritual madness, you know how to have a good time. I admired Lucilius’ mentality and have occasionally referred to solitary meals as dining with myself. It saddens me that Rome has turned away from dormice and garum, as much as I do love modern Italian cuisine. I was hoping that this novel would expound on my knowledge. While the author had clearly done her research on the topic, I think her factoids would be better appreciated by someone with a little less background on the topic.

We discover at the end of the story that one of the main characters was a true historical figure. I think it would have been better to present this at the beginning to give some perspective. It at least would have explained the title. The over-arching story depends on the reader becoming emotionally invested in the main characters. This took much longer to build than I would have thought as so many characters are initially presented. It doesn’t help that the naming traditions leave many key figures with similar sounding names. One also needs to keep in mind that one character may be called many different things depending on who is speaking. It took me a while to sort it all out. It would have been helpful to have a character guide of some sort.

My biggest complaint about the book was how quickly conflict seemed to be resolved. The author would present something that left me wondering how it would be handled, only to have it wrapped up in a neat package two paragraphs later. I doubt that I would have finished the book if I had just picked it up from the library.

2 stars out of 5.
{Click here to purchase}

Karen K. Doerr is a self-proclaimed glutton with a habit of watching food documentaries while eating take out. She can usually be heard complaining that her jeans shrunk in the wash. 


Enter via the widget below to win a hardcover copy of Feast of Sorrow.

Giveaway will end on Tuesday, October 10th, at 11:59pm EST, and winner will be notified the next day via email, and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner will be chosen.

U.S. residents only, please.

Good luck!

Feast of Sorrow hardcover book

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Book Review and SIGNED copy giveaway: Class Mom, by Laurie Gelman {2 winners, ends 10/4}

Subject: Getting to know me - your new class mom

Hello, parents of Miss Ward's kindergarten class!

My name is Jennifer Dixon and I have "volunteered" to be your class mom for this coming year. Since this is a thankless job, don't expect warm fuzzy emails like you probably got in preschool. Wake up! You're in kindergarten on the mean streets of William H. Taft Elementary School, and it's time to face a few facts. The main one is that I'm in charge and I have some strong suggestions to make this an easy year for all of us, especially me.

First and foremost, read the school's @#$%& weekly email! It may seem boring, but it actually gives good information and keeps me from having to answer questions like "When is curriculum night?" (See below, by the way, for the answer to that one)

This is Laurie Gelman's first novel, and I found myself laughing out loud while reading it. If you enjoy books written with a hilarious first-person POV, you will enjoy this one.

Official synopsis:
Laurie Gelman's clever debut novel about a year in the life of a kindergarten class mom - a brilliant send-up of the petty and surprisingly cutthroat terrain of parent politics.

Jen Dixon is not your typical Kansas City kindergarten class mom—or mom in general. Jen already has two college-age daughters by two different (probably) musicians, and it's her second time around the class mom block with five-year-old Max—this time with a husband and father by her side. Though her best friend and PTA President sees her as the-wisest-candidate for the job (or oldest), not all of the other parents agree.

From recording parents' response times to her emails about helping in the classroom, to requesting contributions of-special-brownies for curriculum night, not all of Jen's methods win approval from the other moms. Throw in an old flame from Jen's past, a hyper-sensitive -allergy mom,-a surprisingly sexy kindergarten teacher, and an impossible-to-please Real Housewife-wannabe, causing problems at every turn, and the job really becomes much more than she signed up for.

Relatable, irreverent, and hilarious in the spirit of Maria Semple this is a fresh, welcome voice in fiction--the kind of novel that real moms clamor for, and a vicarious thrill-read for all mothers, who will be laughing as they are liberated by Gelman's acerbic truths.

I love books that include emails, and this one included all of the emails from Jen, as class mom, to the kindergarten class. The emails were hysterical, too, and some of the parents didn't know what to make of them, although they were meant to be light-hearted and sarcastic.

Jen is in her mid-40s, so she's one of the older moms in the class; her son, Max, is her third child, and her two daughters are in their 20s and in college. This isn't her first rodeo, but parents these days are definitely more demanding than 15-20 years ago, and as class mom, she has to make sure everyone is accommodated, or at least their children are.

Jen was definitely a funny character, and because the book is written in first-person POV (point of view), we get to see inside her head a bit too. One of her friends asked her to sign up for class mom (a job she would probably not normally sign up for), and Class Mom follows her throughout Max's kindergarten year, and all of the trials and tribulations that pop up along the way.

The supporting characters here were well-written, too: from her husband, Ron, to her friends and trainer, who actually ends up dating one of her friends.

Although I'm fairly certain that this is a standalone book, I wouldn't mind seeing a sequel, as we get a peek of the future (Max's 1st grade year) at the end of the novel, too.

Fun fact, too: if you are a fan of Regis & Kelly (aka Live with Kelly & Ryan in its current incarnation), you might have heard of the producer, Michael Gelman - Laurie Gelman is his wife. I didn't figure this out until I read her bio (she lives in NYC) and remembered Regis yelling "Gelman!" all of the time, ha ... and then when I Googled it, I then put the pieces together.

4 stars out of 5.
{Click here to purchase}


Enter via the widget below. Two of my lucky readers will each win a signed copy of Class Mom!

Giveaway will end on Wednesday, October 4th, at 11:59pm EST, and winners will be contacted the next day via email, and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner will be chosen. 

U.S. residents only, please.

Good luck!

Class Mom - 2 autographed copies

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

GIVEAWAY: The Welcome Home Diner, by Peggy Lampman {3 winners! Ends 9/20}

The Welcome Home Diner will hit stores on October 10th, but three of my lucky readers have the chance to win a copy beforehand!

It takes place in Detroit, too, which is awesome! (I live in the metro Detroit area)

About the book:
GIVEAWAY: The Welcome Home Diner, by Peggy Lampman
Betting on the city of Detroit’s eventual comeback, cousins Addie and Samantha decide to risk it all on an affordable new house and a culinary career that starts with renovating a vintage diner in a depressed area of town. There’s just one little snag in their vision.

Angus, a weary, beloved local, is strongly opposed to his neighborhood’s gentrification—and his concerns reflect the suspicion of the community. Shocked by their reception, Addie and Samantha begin to have second thoughts.

As the long hours, problematic love interests, and underhanded pressures mount, the two women find themselves increasingly at odds, and soon their problems threaten everything they’ve worked for. If they are going to realize their dreams, Addie and Samantha must focus on rebuilding their relationship. But will the neighborhood open their hearts to welcome them home?


Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Wednesday, September 20th, at 11:59pm EST, and winners will be notified via email the next day, and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner(s) will be chosen.

U.S. and Canadian residents only, please. Prize will be shipped from the author.

Good luck!

The Welcome Home Diner book - 3 winners

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: All Things New, by Lauren Miller {2 autographed copies! ends 9/14}

"You coming, Jessa?" I hear Hannah say.

I yank the puppet strings, head up, smile, nod, and follow her down the hall.

"Meet you on G at lunch?" she asks when we get to my English class. So casually, like it's not even a question. Like we're already friends. Immediately I have the thought, if only it were that easy. And then I have the thought, maybe it is.

This is the second book I've read by Lauren Miller—the first one, Free to Fall, was more of a dystopian novel, and All Things New takes place in present-day. However, both novels were very good, and I recommend reading both.

Official synopsis:
Book review: All Things New, by Lauren Miller
Jessa has always felt broken inside, but she’s gotten very good at hiding it. No one at school knows about the panic attacks, the therapy that didn't help, the meds that haven’t worked. But when a severe accident leaves her with a brain injury and visible scars, Jessa’s efforts to convince the world that she’s okay finally crumble—now she looks as shattered as she feels.

Fleeing from her old life in Los Angeles, Jessa moves to Colorado to live with her dad, where she meets Marshall, a boy whose kindness and generous heart slowly draw Jessa out of her walled-off shell and into the broken, beautiful, real world—a place where souls get hurt just as badly as bodies, and we all need each other to heal.

ALL THINGS NEW is a love story about perception and truth, physical and emotional pain, and the messy, complicated people we are behind the masks we put on for the world, perfect for fans of ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES and THE FAULT IN OUR STARS.

This book was a little different than your typical YA book—the protagonist, Jessa, ends up in a bad car accident (through no fault of her own, as someone was texting and driving and hit her) and lands in the hospital. That same night, she had found out that her boyfriend of two years was cheating on her, too. Her dad, who lives in Colorado, extends her an offer to finish up high school there and live with him, and she takes it.

Jessa also has anxiety and panic attacks, which makes her a not-so-typical YA heroine. When she moves to Denver to live with her dad, she meets Marshall and his twin sister, Hannah; Hannah is a perfectionist and a student pianist who is obsessed with getting into Interlochen (Michigan shoutout!) and Marshall has had a small hole in his heart ever since he was born.

I enjoyed this book, though I'll admit I liked Free to Fall, the author's other novel, a bit better (though really, they can't be compared, as the subject matter and time frames are completely different). Jessa is a strong heroine although it takes her a while to realize how strong she is—when her strength is needed, however, she steps up to the plate. All of the supporting characters worked well together, too, and Jessa eventually figures out that even though her parents are divorced, her dad has never stopped caring about her.

I could see this being a good movie, as well—I'd have to think about who I'd cast, but I was thinking Logan Lerman (The Perks of Being a Wallflower) as Marshall and Zoey Deutch (Before I Fall) as Jessa.

3.5 stars out of 5.
{Click here to purchase}


Enter via the widget below. Two of my lucky readers will win an autographed copy of All Things New!

Giveaway will end on Thursday, September 14th, at 11:59pm EST, and winners will be notified via email the next day, and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner will be chosen.

U.S. residents only, please.

Good luck!

2 autographed copies of All Things New

Saturday, September 2, 2017

GIVEAWAY: The Crows of Beara, by Julie Christine Johnson {ends 9/11}

The Crows of Beara was released yesterday, and one of my lucky readers has a chance to win a copy! Your choice of print copy OR Kindle (e-book).

About the book:
GIVEAWAY: The Crows of Beara, by Julie Christine Johnson
Along the windswept coast of Ireland, a woman discovers the landscape of her own heart.

When Annie Crowe travels from Seattle to a small Irish village to promote a new copper mine, her public relations career is hanging in the balance. Struggling to overcome her troubled past and a failing marriage, Annie is eager for a chance to rebuild her life.

Yet when she arrives on the remote Beara Peninsula, Annie learns that the mine would encroach on the nesting ground of an endangered bird, the Red-billed Chough, and many in the community are fiercely protective of this wild place. Among them is Daniel Savage, a local artist battling demons of his own, who has been recruited to help block the mine.

Despite their differences, Annie and Daniel find themselves drawn toward each other, and, inexplicably, they begin to hear the same voice—a strange, distant whisper of Gaelic, like sorrow blowing in the wind.

Guided by ancient mythology and challenged by modern problems, Annie must confront the half-truths she has been sent to spread and the lies she has been telling herself. Most of all, she must open her heart to the healing power of this rugged land and its people.

Beautifully crafted with environmental themes, a lyrical Irish setting, and a touch of magical realism, The Crows of Beara is a breathtaking novel of how the nature of place encompasses everything that we are.


Enter to win via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Monday, September 11th, at 11:59pm EST, and winner will be contacted the next day via email, and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner will be chosen.

U.S. only if you choose the print copy, but open to international if you choose the Kindle copy.

Good luck!

The Crows of Beara book

Friday, August 25, 2017

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Autoboyography, by Christina Lauren {ends 9/1}

Light bursts behind my closed eyes, so intensely I nearly hear the popping sound. It's my brain melting, or my world ending, or maybe we've just been hit by a meteor and this is the rapture and I'm given one last perfect moment before I'm sent to purgatory and he's sent somewhere much, much better.

It isn't his first kiss—I know that—but it's his first real one.

When I heard that Christina Lauren (one of my favorite author duo pairs) was writing a book about a same sex couple, I was intrigued—all of their other books focus on heterosexual couples. As with all of their novels, this one ended up being a great read, and readers will definitely root for Tanner and Sebastian, the couple in the story.

Official synopsis:
Book review and giveaway: Autoboyography, by Christina Lauren
Fangirl meets Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda in this funny and poignant coming-of-age novel from New York Times bestselling author Christina Lauren about two boys who fall in love in a writing class—one from a progressive family and the other from a conservative religious community.

Three years ago, Tanner Scott’s family relocated from California to Utah, a move that nudged the bisexual teen temporarily back into the closet. Now, with one semester of high school to go, and no obstacles between him and out-of-state college freedom, Tanner plans to coast through his remaining classes and clear out of Utah.

But when his best friend Autumn dares him to take Provo High’s prestigious Seminar—where honor roll students diligently toil to draft a book in a semester—Tanner can’t resist going against his better judgment and having a go, if only to prove to Autumn how silly the whole thing is. Writing a book in four months sounds simple. Four months is an eternity.

It turns out, Tanner is only partly right: four months is a long time. After all, it takes only one second for him to notice Sebastian Brother, the Mormon prodigy who sold his own Seminar novel the year before and who now mentors the class. And it takes less than a month for Tanner to fall completely in love with him.

I didn't know much about Utah and the Mormon community before reading this book, and now I'm curious to know more. I did know that Mormons don't drink, and apparently that extends to any caffeinated beverages, too, not just alcohol; and that a large portion of Mormons live in Utah near the Salt Lake City area. But Autoboyography delves completely into the world of the Mormon church and what their beliefs usually entail, as Sebastian's family is LDS (Latter Day Saints) and he is expected to follow their "rules."

What makes the other main character (Tanner) here even more interesting is that his family isn't unfamiliar with LDS and the Church: his mother grew up LDS, and then when her parents ex-communicated her gay sister, she left, and hasn't talked to them since. I actually would have been interested in hearing more about this storyline, too, though we only get bits and pieces of it.

Both Tanner and Sebastian are intriguing characters, as is Autumn, Tanner's best friend. Tanner is actually bisexual, and Sebastian is gay, but in the Church, being gay is definitely frowned uponthe rules are pretty interesting, as "being" gay is allowed but "acting" upon homosexual "urges" is not. There's a scene in the book when Sebastian's parents are discussing an LDS kid who married his boyfriend, and they say something like "his poor parents"which Sebastian and Tanner then overhear.

This book is a teen love story but not your typical one, and although (semi-spoiler?) the characters do get a HEA, it takes a while for them to get there.

Autoboyography will be in stores and online on September 12th. 4 stars out of 5.
{Click here to pre-order}


One of my lucky readers will win a copy of Autoboyography!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Friday, September 1st, at 11:59pm EST, and winner will be chosen the next day and notified via email, and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner will be chosen.

U.S. residents only, please.

Good luck!

Autoboyography, by Christina Lauren

Friday, August 18, 2017

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Good Widow, by Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke {ends 8/28}

But in moments like these, this man's love, or lust, or even his affection—she was never quite sure what to call itbuoyed her. When he looked at her just like that, she knew she'd do anything he asked. She might have even jumped off that bridge with him, as long as he'd held her hand on the way down. She questioned him almost as much as she revered him. But right then, in the Jeep hugging the side of this mountain, the unpaved road so riddled with potholes that she was getting carsick, she felt like they could overcome anything together. That the world could be theirs.

That's probably why she took off her seat belt. And decided to lean in close and breathe her secret into his ear. She could have simply called out her confession over the wind, but she needed to deliver the news gently. The rest of their lives together depended on it.

I had been wanting to read The Good Widow (and it has been sitting in my TBR pile for a while, too) because I am a big fan of Fenton and Steinke's other books - I really enjoyed The Status of All Things, which I read two years ago, as well as Your Perfect Life. Although I didn't like The Good Widow as much as Status, it's still an interesting read.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Good Widow, by Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke
Elementary school teacher Jacqueline “Jacks” Morales’s marriage was far from perfect, but even in its ups and downs it was predictable, familiar. Or at least she thought it was…until two police officers showed up at her door with devastating news. Her husband of eight years, the one who should have been on a business trip to Kansas, had suffered a fatal car accident in Hawaii. And he wasn’t alone.

For Jacks, laying her husband to rest was hard. But it was even harder to think that his final moments belonged to another woman—one who had left behind her own grieving and bewildered fiancé. Nick, just as blindsided by the affair, wants answers. So he suggests that he and Jacks search for the truth together, retracing the doomed lovers’ last days in paradise.

Now, following the twisting path of that fateful road, Jacks is learning that nothing is ever as it seems. Not her marriage. Not her husband. And most certainly not his death…

The book is told from a few different characters' perspectives, both past and present, which is what keeps it intriguing. We open with Jacqueline ("Jacks," to her friends) finding out that her husband has passed away in a car accident—and, oh yeah, it was in Hawaii, and he was supposedly in Kansas, on a business trip. She quickly finds out that he was having an affair, with a younger woman named Dylan, and soon Dylan's fiancee, Nick, shows up at her doorstep.

He proposes that they go to Maui together and try to retrace James and Dylan's last steps, in order to attempt to find out more about the affair and how they ended up careening off a steep cliff into the water below.

Kind of crazy, right? Jacks needs answers, though, so she agrees to go with him.

There's a twist at the end of this novel that I sort-of saw coming, but the way the authors laid it out was pretty good. It was interesting to see Jacks' chapters from before the accident, too, as well as when she first met James—we hear from both her and Dylan, and we see how Dylan ended up meeting James and how their affair started.

I did feel like this novel wrapped up a little too neatly at the end, but I can see how it would logically end that way, as well.

3.5 stars out of 5
{Click here to purchase - free for Kindle Unlimited users!}

*Disclosure: I received a copy of this book for reviewing purposes. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.


Two of my lucky readers will win a copy of The Good Widow - enter in the widget below.

Giveaway will end on Monday, August 28th, at 11:59pm EST, and winners will be notified via email the next day, and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner(s) will be chosen.

U.S. residents only, please.

Good luck!

2 paperback copies of The Good Widow

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Address, by Fiona Davis {ends 8/27}

Review by: Karen Doerr

“You must have seen many changes during your stay here.”
“More than you know. This place used to have a tenants’ dining room, down on the main floor, though the food got less interesting after the war, and they eventually closed it down. By then the tailor had moved out, as had the laundry and maid service. No one valued what a special place this was. In the sixties, I remember, before it became a co-op, you could rent a seventeen-room apartment with six bathrooms and eight working fireplaces for six hundred and fifty bucks a month.”

I had a hard time putting this book down. This is my first experience with Fiona Davis’ work. According to an interview, she was influenced by the Goethe quote “Music is liquid architecture; architecture is frozen music.” The author added another layer to this by turning the architecture of The Dakota into prose.

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Address, by Fiona Davis
Official Synopsis:
After a failed apprenticeship, working her way up to head housekeeper of a posh London hotel is more than Sara Smythe ever thought she’d make of herself. But when a chance encounter with Theodore Camden, one of the architects of the grand New York apartment house The Dakota, leads to a job offer, her world is suddenly awash in possibility—no mean feat for a servant in 1884. The opportunity to move to America, where a person can rise above one’s station. The opportunity to be the female manager of The Dakota, which promises to be the greatest apartment house in the world. And the opportunity to see more of Theo, who understands Sara like no one else...and is living in The Dakota with his wife and three young children.

In 1985, Bailey Camden is desperate for new opportunities. Fresh out of rehab, the former party girl and interior designer is homeless, jobless, and penniless. Two generations ago, Bailey’s grandfather was the ward of famed architect Theodore Camden. But the absence of a genetic connection means Bailey won’t see a dime of the Camden family’s substantial estate. Instead, her “cousin” Melinda—Camden’s biological great-granddaughter—will inherit almost everything. So when Melinda offers to let Bailey oversee the renovation of her lavish Dakota apartment, Bailey jumps at the chance, despite her dislike of Melinda’s vision. The renovation will take away all the character and history of the apartment Theodore Camden himself lived in...and died in, after suffering multiple stab wounds by a madwoman named Sara Smythe, a former Dakota employee who had previously spent seven months in an insane asylum on Blackwell’s Island.

One hundred years apart, Sara and Bailey are both tempted by and struggle against the golden excess of their respective ages—for Sara, the opulence of a world ruled by the Astors and Vanderbilts; for Bailey, the free-flowing drinks and cocaine in the nightclubs of New York City—and take refuge and solace in the Upper West Side’s gilded fortress. But a building with a history as rich—and often tragic—as The Dakota’s can’t hold its secrets forever, and what Bailey discovers in its basement could turn everything she thought she knew about Theodore Camden—and the woman who killed him—on its head.

If somebody had told me I’d enjoy a book based around a building in New York, I would have thought that they were nuts. I had never heard of The Dakota before this, although I took some time to read over its history after I finished The Address. While I enjoy historical fiction, I tend to stay with the stories based around more famous periods of time.

The author sets up two timelines, one from the 1880’s and the other from the 1980’s. One could argue that the death of John Lennon, which happened in 1980, is the Dakota’s greatest claim to fame. However, I found the older setting more interesting. Maybe it’s due to my lack of knowledge about this era in general, but I found myself drinking in every little detail about a world where the Upper West Side is considered the middle of nowhere. While I did find the modern story arc more relatable, I rushed through those chapters trying to get back the more alien world of the 1880’s. But one does not need to be a history nerd to enjoy it. I would recommend this book to anyone who, at some point, felt like they were in a situation that they did not deserve.

My only complaint about The Address was how one timeline got a fairy tale ending. We went into the story knowing that one of the main characters would have a tragic outcome, so I can understand why the author would want the other be a contrast. However, both have a very extravagant feeling to them. I think a sharper distinction would have been made had the more upbeat ending been a bit more realistic and less sunshine and roses.

4 stars out of 5.
{Click here to purchase}

Karen K. Doerr is a vocal advocate of the “It’s Called Soda, Not Pop” movement of Southeast Michigan. She can usually be found in Korean barbecue restaurants.


One of my lucky readers will win a hardcover copy of The Address!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Sunday, August 27th, at 11:59pm EST, and winner will be notified the next day via email and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner will be chosen.

U.S. residents only, please.

Good luck!

Hardcover copy of The Address

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Quick Pick book review: Emma in the Night, by Wendy Walker

Book Review: Emma in the Night, by Wendy Walker
  • Opening lines: We believe what we want to believe. We believe what we need to believe. Maybe there's no difference between wanting and needing. I don't know. What I do know is that the truth can evade us, hiding behind our blind spots, our preconceptions, our hungry hearts that long for quiet. Still, it is always there if we open our eyes and try to see it. If we really try to see.

    When my sister and I disappeared three years ago, there was nothing but blindness.
  • Reason I picked up the book: SheSpeaks gave me a free e-copy of the book, and the synopsis sounded interesting.
  • And what's this book about?
  • From the bestselling author of All Is Not Forgotten comes a thriller about two missing sisters, a twisted family, and what happens when one girl comes back...

    One night three years ago, the Tanner sisters disappeared: fifteen-year-old Cass and seventeen-year-old Emma. Three years later, Cass returns, without her sister Emma. Her story is one of kidnapping and betrayal, of a mysterious island where the two were held. But to forensic psychiatrist Dr. Abby Winter, something doesn't add up. Looking deep within this dysfunctional family Dr. Winter uncovers a life where boundaries were violated and a narcissistic parent held sway. And where one sister's return might just be the beginning of the crime.
  • Recommended for: Anyone who likes psychological mysteries, or stories about dysfunctional families. 
  • Favorite paragraph: I stood frozen in the woods, filled with terror that I would fail. And there was so much as stake. They had to believe my story. They had to find Emma. And to find Emma, they had to look for her. It was all on me, finding my sister.

    They had to believe me that Emma was still alive. 
  • Something to know: I really, really enjoyed this book - I read it over the course of two 1.5 hour plane rides this past week. There is a twist that the end that I kinda/sorta saw coming, but the details of it were very well-thought out. 
  • What I would have changed: Nothing that I can think of.
  • Overall rating: 5 out of 5 stars.
  • Where can I find this book? Click here to order on Amazon.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Sandcastle Empire, by Kayla Olsen {ends 8/20}

The enemy wore sheep's clothes for many years before it bared its fangs and went for blood.

Fathers. Brothers. The barista who made your daily latte, the guy behind the fish counter at the grocery store, the girl in Sephora who taught you how to line your eyes. All seemingly unconnected, until one day they were a force.

After Zero, it all made sense: the neon fliers stapled to telephone poles, the #wolfpack hashtag everyone assumed was a fandom of some sort, the pendants people wrote off as a passing trend. The signs were all around us, but we were too wrapped up in our own lives to really question them.

Which, I guess, was their point. It was a good point, at its heart, albeit a bitter one—that too many people were out of touch with reality, floating on the hard work of others who were killing themselves just to survive. That too many of us were too entitled, too ungrateful. Too used to all we touched turning to gold.

They weren't altogether wrong. 

This is a long book (about 455 pages) so I will admit that it took me a few weeks to finish; however, some twists pop up near the end of the novel that caught my attention, and the book does finish strong.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Sandcastle Empire, by Kayla Olsen
Before the war, Eden’s life was easy. Then the revolution happened, and everything changed.

Now a powerful group called the Wolfpack controls the earth and its resources. And even though Eden has lost everything to them, she refuses to die by their hands. She knows the coordinates to the only neutral ground left in the world, a place called Sanctuary Island, and she is desperate to escape to its shores.

Eden finally reaches the island and meets others resistant to the Wolves. But the solace is short-lived when one of Eden’s new friends goes missing. Braving the jungle in search of their lost ally, they quickly discover Sanctuary is filled with lethal traps and an enemy they never expected.

This island might be deadlier than the world Eden left behind, but surviving it is the only thing that stands between her and freedom.

In the author Q&A I received for this book, it was compared to The Maze Runner meets Lost - although I have only seen one episode of Lost, I would definitely compare it to The Maze Runner. It's a dystopian novel that starts at the beginning of the war: a group called the Wolfpack has taken over what I assume to be the U.S. Eden, whose father once worked for a group that eventually helped start the war, knows she has to escape, and she makes it to an island that her father has talked about.

However, the island has its own surprises, which she and a few tag-a-longs must deal with; she'll also find out some interesting truths about her lineage and also the Wolves, the group of terrorists who has taken over the U.S. 

It took me a really long time to get through this novel. The novel also leaves the ending open for a sequel, but I don't think there is going to be one, it seems (from my Googling, anyways). Around 2/3 of the way in to the book, the author throws some twists and wrenches into the plot, which compelled me to keep reading the novel; some you probably could have guessed, but I did not see them coming. 

The Sandcastle Empire has also been optioned for film by Paramount, with Leonardo DiCaprio's Appian Way to produce, but no release date or casting has been set yet. 

If you like dystopian books, I can recommend this novel—just be prepared for a longer than usual read.

3 stars out of 5.
{Click here to purchase}


Enter via the widget below. Two of my lucky readers will each win a hardcover copy of The Sandcastle Empire!

Giveaway will end on Sunday, August 20th, at 11:59pm EST, and winners will be contacted the next day via email, and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner(s) will be chosen.

U.S. residents only, please.

Good luck!

Hardcover copy of The Sandcastle Empire

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Quick Pick book review: Cream of the Crop, by Alice Clayton

Book Review: Cream of the Crop, by Alice Clayton
  • Opening lines: "Can you raise the blinds a little bit? The sun is setting; it makes for a nice view," I directed.

    "While you reel them in?" Liz teased, letting the soft atfernoon sun up into the conference room.

    Forty-seven floors up, you got a helluva nice sunset across the Hudson River. It made the room seem warm and inviting, and with the powerful backdrop of Manhattan behind me, what client would dream of saying no?
  • Reason I picked up the book: I'm a fan of Alice Clayton's books, and this is book #2 in the Hudson Valley series; book #1 is called Nuts, and I reviewed that one too. The characters from that book are also recurring characters in this installment.
  • And what's this book about?
  • Manhattan’s It Girl, Natalie Grayson, has it all: she’s a hot exec at a leading advertising firm, known industry-wide for her challenging and edgy campaigns. She’s got a large circle of friends, a family that loves her dearly, and her dance card is always full with handsome eligible bachelors. What else could a modern gal-about-town wish for? The answer, of course, is... cheese.

    Natalie’s favorite part of each week is spending Saturday morning at the Union Square Farmer’s Market, where she indulges her love of all things triple cream. Her favorite booth also indulges her love of all things handsome. Oscar Mendoza, owner of the Bailey Falls Creamery and purveyor of the finest artisanal cheeses the Hudson Valley has to offer, is tall, dark, mysterious, and a bit oblivious. Or so she thinks. But that doesn’t stop Natalie from fantasizing about the size of his,
    ahem, milk can.

    Romance is churning, passion is burning, and something incredible is rising to the top. Could it be... love?
  • Recommended for: Anyone who likes a fun romance story, with a bit of small-town Americana woven in. 
  • Favorite paragraph: Size-eighteen women weren't supposed to show off their legs, which I did. They weren't supposed to show off their cleavage, which I did. Size-eighteen women were supposed to wear trench coats in the winter, long sleeves in the summer, and somebody better cancel Christmas if they wore a dress that showed off some cleavage. Size-eighteen women were supposed to dress like they were apologizing for taking up too much space. Fuck that noise. I took up space. I took up space in a city where space was at a premium, and I never apologized for it. And right now, I knew exactly how much space I was taking up, strutting down Fourteenth Street to the song playing in my head, with a bag full of delicious and already fantasizing about my favorite pastime.

    Oscar the Dairy Farmer. 
  • Something to know: I LOVED that the main character, Natalie, was a size 18, and that the author mentions it (see above paragraph). Finally a romance novel featuring a curvy girl like myself!
  • What I would have changed: Nothing that I can think of.
  • Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars.
  • Where can I find this book? Click here to order on Amazon.
*Disclosure: I received a copy of this book for reviewing purposes. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own. 

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Royally Roma {ends 8/1}

Julia pulled the hood of her own green rain poncho over her upswept hair. The silly ensemble suited her a fair bit better than it did him. She looked rather cute, actually. Misty-eyed, rain-kissed, and infinitely kissable. Or maybe Niccolo was still drunk. It was the only explanation for the vexation that had crept upon him since she'd first come into view on the hotel's piazza.

She blinked up at him, seemingly oblivious to the effect she was having. "Okay, then. Shall we get started on our adventure?"

Above them the umbrella pines swayed. The bruised sky wept misty Roman tears. And Niccolo got the distinct feeling that he was only beginning to know what it meant to truly lose himself.


This book is actually only available in e-book format, but I was able to read it in paper galley format (and if you win a copy of the book, you will receive it in paper galley format, too, unless you prefer an e-book). It's loosely based on the movie Roman Holiday, and it's a cute summer/beach read.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Royally Roma
In this charming, modern retelling of the classic Audrey Hepburn film Roman Holiday, a royal prince tries to escape his hectic and rigid life and ends up leading a young graduate student on a chase through the Eternal City.

Julia Costa is too busy trying to complete her Ph.D. while also holding down a full-time job as a private tour guide in Rome to keep up with celebrity gossip. So when she crosses paths with a real, actual prince, she mistakes him for a client and takes him on a daylong tour of the city.

Intrigued by the idea of spending time with someone who obviously has no idea who he is, and delighted at the prospect of a day free of royal obligations, Niccolo La Torre, Crown Prince of Lazaretto, acts on impulse and assumes the role of Julia’s client. He swears to himself that he’ll return to his royal duties after only half a day ... but he’s having the time of his life.

Until Julia presents him with the bill. Since he snuck out of the hotel without so much as a dime, he tries to escape, only to discover that she won’t let him out of her sight until he can pay her back. She’s determined to get her money ... and perhaps more, from the handsome stranger she’s fallen for.

Italy has been on my bucket list for forever, so it was fun to kind-of experience it in this book, as Julia is a tour guide who leads Niccolo around Rome. Because Julia doesn't really use social media, she doesn't recognize that Niccolo is a prince (not of Rome, but of a different city), and he's able to go incognito with her during the tour. 

The problem comes at the end, when it's time to pay for the tour, as Niccolo never keeps cash on him ... 

I found this to be a fun read—it's ideal for the beach or for a quick summer read. Some of the writing, especially near the end, was rather cliche, but we get extensive backstories for both Julia and Niccolo, which is helpful. This book is the first in The Royals series, the second being Royally Romanov, which I also have in my possession to review. 

Overall, I'd recommend this book if you're looking for a quick, not-too-serious read.

3.5 stars out of 5.
{Click here to purchase}


One of my lucky readers will win a print galley of this book!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Tuesday, August 1st, at 11:59pm EST, and winner will be notified the next day via email and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner will be chosen.

U.S. residents only, please.

Good luck!

Royally Roma print galley

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: My Last Continent, by Midge Raymond {ends 7/16}

Thom and I stand together on the rear deck, watching the Australis moving in the distance like a time-lapse image of a drifting iceberg: slow, massive, inevitable. In one of the articles I'd read about the ship, a spokesman for the parent cruise company had bragged about how the Australis would cruise to every last inch of the planet, that no place was off-limits to a ship this invincible. It reminded me of what people once said about the Titanic.

This novel actually debuted last summer, and now it's out in paperback. I did a giveaway last month for a signed copy, but that was before I had actually read the book; now I have both a review of the book and another giveaway (for *another* signed copy!) for one of my lucky readers to win.

I'm a big fan of shipwreck movies, such as Titanic, and this book was similar. It was also interesting to learn more about Antarctica and penguins.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: My Last Continent, by Midge Raymond
An unforgettable debut with an irresistible love story, My Last Continent is a big-hearted, propulsive novel set against the dramatic Antarctic landscape—“original and entirely authentic love story” (Graeme Simsion, author of The Rosie Project).

It is only at the end of the world—among the glacial mountains, cleaving icebergs, and frigid waters of Antarctica—where Deb Gardner and Keller Sullivan feel at home. For the few blissful weeks they spend each year studying the habits of emperor and Adélie penguins, Deb and Keller can escape the frustrations and sorrows of their separate lives and find solace in their work and in each other. But Antarctica, like their fleeting romance, is tenuous, imperiled by the world to the north.

A new travel and research season has just begun, and Deb and Keller are ready to play tour guide to the passengers on the small expedition ship that ferries them to their research destination. But this year, Keller fails to appear on board. Then, shortly into the journey, Deb’s ship receives an emergency signal from the Australis, a cruise liner that has hit desperate trouble in the ice-choked waters of the Southern Ocean. Soon Deb’s role will change from researcher to rescuer; among the crew of that sinking ship, Deb learns, is Keller.

As Deb and Keller’s troubled histories collide with this catastrophic present, Midge Raymond’s phenomenal novel takes us on a voyage deep into the wonders of the Antarctic and the mysteries of the human heart. 
My Last Continent is packed with emotional intelligence and high stakes—a harrowing, searching novel of love and loss in one of the most remote places on earth, a land of harsh beauty where even the smallest missteps have tragic consequences—“Half adventure, half elegy, and wholly recommended” (Karen Joy Fowler, author of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves).

This book was very well-written, and part of the reason why is because it jumps back in forth in time. We see how Deb originally started penguins, and the author even takes us back to her college years for this. We see how she and Keller first met, and how they fell in love; I would argue that a companion novel could be written from Keller's point of view, actually, since this novel is written from 1st person POV from Deb's perspective.

In the present, Deb is back in Antarctica, but Keller isn't on their ship - she later finds out he's on the Australis, a huge cruise liner that shouldn't even be in the same waters as her ship, as it's not equipped to do so. Later, when they get the distress call that the Australis has taken on water and is sinking (much like the Titanic, IMO), of course her first thought is of him, and she desperately wants to make sure he is fine. 

I have never been to Antarctica and now I'm a little scared to do so after reading this book, ha - between the ice and the frigid temperatures, it does sound like a beautiful continent, but also quite dangerous. I'll stick to visiting Alaska at some point instead.

4.5 stars out of 5.
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*Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed here are my own.


One of my lucky readers has yet another chance to win a SIGNED copy of this book!

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My Last Continent paperback


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