• ARC's,  Book Reviews

    Summer Darlings: Review

    𝐑𝐞𝐯𝐢𝐞𝐰: 𝑺𝒖𝒎𝒎𝒆𝒓 𝑫𝒂𝒓𝒍𝒊𝒏𝒈𝒔 𝐛𝐲 𝐁𝐫𝗼𝗼𝐤𝐞 𝐋𝐞𝐚 𝐅𝗼𝐬𝐭𝐞𝐫

    𝐒𝐮𝗺𝗺𝐚𝐫𝐲: Heddy, raised by a single mother in Brooklyn, was on a scholarship at Wellesley when she made a poor decision. Determined to earn some money and work her way into the inner circles of wealth in Martha’s Vineyard, she takes a summer job as a nanny for a wealthy family. She rubs elbows with the rich & famous, meets a guy or two, and sees firsthand that with wealth comes complications.

    𝐖𝐫𝐢𝐭𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐢𝗺𝐩𝐫𝐞𝐬𝐬𝐢𝗼𝐧𝐬: I want a lobster roll! The atmospheric writing perfectly captured 1960’s on the island. And the use of the verbiage of that time period made the book that much more realistic and enjoyable. There were a few slower parts but they did contribute nicely to the build up of something much darker going on than the glitz and glamor of the parties and summer on the beach.

    𝐂𝐡𝐚𝐫𝐚𝐜𝐭𝐞𝐫𝐬: Because this book had a mysterious side, it took awhile to get to know some of the characters. But Heddy was easy to identify with from the start and her relationships with the children and Ruth, the housekeeper, were endearing and made the book for me.

    𝐌𝐲 𝐭𝐡𝗼𝐮𝐠𝐡𝐭𝐬: This is the perfect summer read. Combine that with the backdrop of a slow burning mystery and an air of danger and you have a page-turner. For those who enjoy time period fiction done right, you will love this book. Also, I alternated between the audiobook and the ebook. The narrator, Rebekkah Ross, was handpicked by the author after being 3 to choose from. She’s one of my new favorites narrators! And we all know how important good audiobook narration is.

    𝐑𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐧𝐠: ✂️✂️✂️✂️/5

    𝐎𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐫 𝐰𝗼𝐫𝐤𝐬 𝐛𝐲 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐚𝐮𝐭𝐡𝗼𝐫: This is her first fiction novel. She is also an award winning journalist and has written three nonfiction books as well.

    Thanks to NetGalley and Gallery Books for a free eCopy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

     

  • ARC's,  Book Reviews

    Tea by the Sea: blog tour & giveaway

    Author: Donna Hemans

    Publisher: Red Hen Press

    Publish date: June 9th, 2020

    Pages: 252

    Purchase Links:  Red Hen Press, IndieBound, Barnes & Noble, Amazon

    Synopsis:

    A seventeen-year-old taken from her mother at birth, an Episcopal priest with a daughter
    whose face he cannot bear to see, a mother weary of searching for her lost child: Tea by the
    Sea is their story—that of a family uniting and unraveling. To find the daughter taken
    from her, Plum Valentine must find the child’s father who walked out of a hospital with
    the day-old baby girl without explanation. Seventeen years later, weary of her unfruitful
    search, Plum sees an article in a community newspaper with a photo of the man for
    whom she has spent half her life searching. He has become an Episcopal priest. Her plan:
    confront him and walk away with the daughter he took from her. From Brooklyn to the
    island of Jamaica, Tea by the Sea traces Plum’s circuitous route to finding her daughter and
    how Plum’s and the priest’s love came apart.

    ADVANCE PRAISE

    “The forbidden love story of Plum and Lenworth comes alive in this heart-rending novel,
    Tea by the Sea. Hemans has a stunning ability to give words to that elusive feeling of
    emptiness, and the longing for redemption is palpable. In Hemans’s deft hands, regrets
    are explored with precision and compassion so that the reader finds herself unable to turn
    against even characters who have committed the most wretched betrayals. Tea by the Sea is like the story told in a grandmother’s kitchen with the odors of fried dumplings and
    saltfish wafting into mouths that are set agape at the heady twists and turns delivered in an
    urgent and beautiful prose.”

    —Lauren Francis-Sharma, author of ’Til the Well Runs Dry

    Thoughts:

    This book is the perfect way to honor and celebrate Caribbean Heritage Month. Having been there myself several times, It captures the atmosphere of Jamaica perfectly. The writing is beautiful and the connection between mother and child, even when they are separated, is palpable. I will be thinking about this book for quite some time.

    About the author:

    Jamaican-born Donna Hemans is the author of the novel River Woman, winner of the
    2003-4 Towson University Prize for Literature. Tea by the Sea, for which she won the
    Lignum Vitae Una Marson Award for Adult Literature, is her second novel. Her short
    fiction has appeared in the Caribbean Writer, Crab Orchard Review, Witness, and the anthology Stories from Blue Latitudes: Caribbean Women Writers at Home and Abroad, among others. She received her undergraduate degree from Fordham University and an MFA from American University. She lives in Greenbelt, Maryland.

    The giveaway!

    Head over to my Instagram to enter. I love that part of of prize is a special tea blend created by the author just for this tour!

    Thank you to Over The River PR and Red Hen Press for the gifted copy in exchange for my promotion and honest review of this book.

     

  • ARC's,  Book Reviews

    Stranger In The Lake: Review & Author Q&A

    𝑺𝒕𝒓𝒂𝒏𝒈𝒆𝒓 𝒊𝒏 𝑻𝒉𝒆 𝑳𝒂𝒌𝒆

    Author: Kimberly Belle

    Publisher: Park Row

    Publish Date: June 9th, 2020

    Pages: 352

    Genre: Domestic thriller

     

     

    𝐒𝐮𝗺𝗺𝐚𝐫𝐲: When Charlotte married the wealthy widower Paul, it caused a ripple of gossip in their small lakeside town. They have a charmed life together, despite the cruel whispers about her humble past and his first marriage. But everything starts to unravel when she discovers a young woman’s body floating in the exact same spot where Paul’s first wife tragically drowned.

    At first, it seems like a horrific coincidence, but the stranger in the lake is no stranger. Charlotte saw Paul talking to her the day before, even though Paul tells the police he’s never met the woman. His lie exposes cracks in their fragile new marriage, cracks Charlotte is determined to keep from breaking them in two.

    As Charlotte uncovers dark mysteries about the man she married, she doesn’t know what to trust—her heart, which knows Paul to be a good man, or her growing suspicion that there’s something he’s hiding in the water. 

    Review:

    𝐖𝐫𝐢𝐭𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐢𝗺𝐩𝐫𝐞𝐬𝐬𝐢𝗼𝐧𝐬: This book felt more like a mystery than a thriller. It did not have the wild twists and turns thrillers are known for. I still enjoyed it and like the flashes of the former lives of the characters. It added an extra layer to the story which helped the overall plot along. 

    𝐂𝐡𝐚𝐫𝐚𝐜𝐭𝐞𝐫𝐬: Charlotte’s background made her the most relatable character for me and made the story more believable. I enjoyed her growth as the story progressed. Paul felt a bit flat to me – millionaire, with secrets. Nothing new there, really. 

    𝐌𝐲 𝐭𝐡𝗼𝐮𝐠𝐡𝐭𝐬: This was an enjoyable read; perfect for reading this summer by the lake. I figured out the “twist” early on but I wasn’t disappointed by that. There was still plenty to consider and for me this book turned towards Charlotte’s past, her family, and the stark differences between the marginalized and the wealthy in their community.

    Thanks to Park Row Books for my gifted copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

    𝐑𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐧𝐠: ✂️✂️✂️.5/5

    Q&A with Kimberly Belle 

    Q: Please give your elevator pitch for Stranger in the Lake.

    A: Stranger in the Lake is a story about Charlotte, a rags-to-riches newlywed whose shiny new life takes a disastrous turn when a stranger’s body washes up under the dock of her Appalachian lake home—in the exact same spot where her husband’s first wife drowned. 

    Q: Which came first: the characters or plot line?

    A: Plot, always. My stores are very plot driven, and they always begin in my head with a what-if scenario. What if a woman marries way, way up and then her brand new husband is accused of murder? What if it looks like he’s guilty? How much of a role would her newfound wealth—and her fear of losing it—play in her decision to stick by him? That was basically where I began building the plot for Stranger in the Lake. Character came much later, after I’d thought through all the plot points and had them mapped out into an outline. Only at that point in the process do I really start thinking about what kind of person is best dropped into that situation, someone with plenty of blind spots and issues to work through, problems the plot will really shine a spotlight on. For Charlotte, it’s money and everything that comes along with it—security, status in the community, respect. She will have to untangle all these internal issues before her story can be resolved. 

    Q: Why do you love Charlotte and why should readers root for her?

    A: I love Charlotte because she is a survivor. She was born into the worst possible family, an absent father and an emotionally abusive mother who left her home with a baby for long periods of time, but instead of turning bitter or following in their footsteps, she emerged stronger. She figured out a way to grow into a smart and kind and loving and trusting—maybe too trusting–person. She wants so much more out of life than what her parents offered, and she’s not afraid to work for it.  

    Q: What’s the “story behind the story” for Stranger in the Lake?

    A: I’ve wanted to write a lake story for a while now. There’s just something about a big body of water–the dark swirling currents, the beautiful but remote setting… It’s the perfect place to set a suspenseful story because you just know something bad is going to happen there.

    At the same time, I spend a good deal of family time in the Highlands/Cashiers area of North Carolina. It’s a place of stunning beauty, but where there’s a huge gulf between rich and poor. Wealthy outsiders have come in and completely transformed the area, carving out golf courses and building shops and restaurants and million dollar homes on the lake…and then you have the people who have lived there for generations—the ones flipping the burgers and scrubbing the toilets. This polarity makes for some very interesting dynamics, because when there’s money involved, when people have too much or their basic needs aren’t being met, morals can become questionable. This is something I really dug into for this story. 

    Q: Last summer when I interviewed you for Dear Wife, you mentioned a project you were working on, and I believe it was Stranger in the Lake:

    ” I’m currently finishing up a story about a newlywed woman who discovers a woman’s body under their lakeside home dock. The police show up, and in the stress of the moment, she follows her husband’s lead and lies about ever having met the woman. It’s not a big lie, and she doesn’t really think much of it at the time, but soon that one little lie turns into an avalanche. As the police close in on the woman’s killer, she uncovers dangerous truths about her husband and her marriage, as well as dark secrets that have been simmering below the lake’s currents for years. No title yet, but coming sometime in 2020.”

    Thinking back to what you told me then, what was the book like then verse how it turned out? Anything that surprises you or that really changed or that stayed the same that you were sure would stay the same?

    A: I don’t remember how far I was into writing the story when I answered that question, but it must have been far because that’s pretty much exactly what happens in this story…and exactly the core of the original premise for Stranger in the Lake. A wife who lies for her brand new husband in the heat of the moment, then has to figure out if she did it because she loves and trusts and believes in him, or if it’s maybe a little bit because she doesn’t want to let go of the shiny new life he’s given her. Money complicates things. It muddies emotions and blurs moral boundaries. This is the kernel of the idea that began Stranger in the Lake

    Q: The narration of Dear Wife was so unique, what can you say about the narration/structure of Stranger in the Lake that isn’t going to spoil anything?

    A: Stranger in the Lake is told largely through Charlotte’s point of view, with occasional snippets of a story many years in the past. This makes the structure much more straightforward than Dear Wife, and when I began I thought it would be an easier story to tell. Fewer heads for me to crack open for the reader, fewer viewpoints for me to keep string together just so. But once I started writing, I discovered sticking to one point of view made telling the story more difficult. Everything every other character thinks has to be filtered through Charlotte, through her reactions and internalizations. For this and a bunch of other reasons, Stranger in the Lake took me longer to write than Dear Wife. 

    Q: Which character in the novel is most like you and why?

    A: This is a tough one! I’d like to think I have Charlotte’s tough skin and that I share her sense of loyalty, but I’m not sure I could have survived everything she has. My research taught me that far more people follow in their parents’ tragic footsteps than break the cycle like Charlotte did, and I can’t say for certain which side of the equation I would have fallen on. I do also share Paul’s drive, his innate desire to create beautiful things, but I think (hope?) that’s where the similarities between us end. I guess that’s the answer here, that like most authors I put little pieces of myself into every character—the good, the bad, the ugly.  My characters are the best and the worst of me.

    Q: How can everyone find you online during promotional rounds for Stranger in the Lake, since the traditional type of tours won’t be possible?

    A: A little pandemic can’t keep this author down! I have lots of online events planned, chats with bloggers and fellow authors and bookstores I’d planned to visit before this thing hit, and lots more in the works. The most up-to-date list is at www.kimberlybellebooks.com/events—and make sure to check back often. I am adding more every day.

    Q: What was your last 5 star read?

    A: I have a couple recent ones. I tore through the paperback of Heather Gudenkauf’s This Is How I Lied, and I just listened to Kimberly McCreight’s The Good Marriage. Both were absolutely fabulous! And Heather and I will be doing a joint virtual event on my release day, June 9th. Details are on the events page of my website.

    Q: What is one thing about publishing you wish someone would have told you?

    A: Just one? Hmm, I guess if I have to choose, it would be to trust the creative process. Every story is different, from the idea to the structure to the ease with which the words move from my head to my laptop to finished product. With every new story, I have an a-ha moment when I realize all the methodologies and processes I’ve used in the past won’t work with this one. I have to let all those “rules” go and let the story lead the way. Getting to The End is the hardest thing in the world, but also the most satisfying. There is no better feeling than to hold a finished copy of your book in your hand. It makes all those sleepless nights worth it.

    Q: Do you have any specific writing rituals?

    A: When I’m writing, I have a hard time sitting still—kind of strange for a job that requires many hours in a chair with a laptop. But it is a laptop so I move around a lot, floating around the house from my office to the kitchen to the living room to the outdoor patio. I change spots depending on my mood or the way the sun is shining through the window. Sometimes figuring out how to untangle a plot knot is as simple as a change of scenery. 

    Q: What can you tell us about your next project?

    A: I am currently working on a story about a home invasion. It’s a premise that has always terrified me, and it hits awfully close to home as it happens a lot here in Atlanta. I even know a family that survived one. I’ve pulled in a few details of their experience for this story, then mixed in plenty more from my imagination. No title yet, but out sometime in 2021.

    About the Author:

    Kimberly Belle is the USA Today and internationally bestselling author of six novels, including the forthcoming Stranger in the Lake (June 2020). Her third novel, The Marriage Lie, was a semifinalist in the 2017 Goodreads Choice Awards for Best Mystery & Thriller, and a #1 e-book bestseller in the UK and Italy. She’s sold rights to her books in a dozen languages as well as film and television options. A graduate of Agnes Scott College, Belle divides her time between Atlanta and Amsterdam.

    Social Links:

    Author website

    Facebook

    Instagram 

    Goodreads

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

  • ARC's,  Book Reviews

    Masquerade at Middlecrest Abbey: blog tour & review

     Masquerade at Middlecrest Abbey

    Paperback: 336 Pages

    Publisher: Thomas Nelson  (May 26, 2020)

    Genre: Historical fiction/romance
    Summary:

    In this new Regency romance, Elizabeth knows she must protect her heart from the charm of her new husband, Lord Torrington. She is not, however, prepared to protect her life.

    When the widowed Lord Torrington agreed to spy for the crown, he never planned to impersonate a highwayman, let alone rob the wrong carriage. Stranded on the road with an unconscious young woman, he is forced to propose marriage to protect his identity and her reputation, as well as his dangerous mission.

    Trapped not only by her duty to her country but also by her limited options as an unwed mother, Miss Elizabeth Cantrell and her infant son are whisked away to Middlecrest Abbey by none other than the elder brother of her son’s absent father. There she is met by Torrington’s beautiful grown daughters, a vicious murderer, and an urgent hunt for the missing intelligence that could turn the war with France. Meanwhile she must convince everyone that her marriage is a genuine love match if her new husband has any hope of uncovering the enemy.

    Determined to keep her son’s true identity a secret, Elizabeth will need to remain one step ahead of her fragile heart, her uncertain future, and the relentless fiend bent on her new family’s ruin.

    Purchase Links:

    Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble

    Rating:

    ✂️✂️✂️✂️/5

    Review:

    I went into this book with expectation of historical fiction with a dash of romance and quickly found myself falling down the rabbit hole of the sub-genre of Regency romance.

    I had not read much from this time period but was captivated by the history of the Napoleonic Wars. If you are looking for historical fiction from another time period, here is one to try. I was not disappointed.

    Because I am a bit of a romance novice, the marriage of convenience trope was a stretch at first. But as the story developed, the well written characters came to life, and with the two protagonists having so much at stake it quickly became believable.

    I found it especially easy to connect with Elizabeth as she sought to create a new and stable life for her son while protecting herself and him after even her own family turned her away.

    There were several twists that I won’t get into to avoid spoiling the story but I will say that with every turn, I grew more invested in the history, the characters, and the danger they were in.

    At a few points towards the end of the book, there were a few turns that felt like a reach and that is my only reason for knocking this down to a 4 star read. But overall, this book was a fantastic escape.

    I am so glad I gave this book a chance. The only time I could put it down was to research something about the time period which only left me more impressed. The author’s historical knowledge combined with her sharp writing made for a great reading experience. One of my reading goals for 2020 was to try new genres and this will certainly not be my last Regency romance or book by Abigail Wilson – who happens to be a fellow Texan and graduate of my alma mater. What a small world!

    Thank you to TLC Book Tours, Thomas Nelson, and NetGalley for a physical copy as well as an eBook in exchange for my honest review and promotion.

    About Abigail Wilson

    Abigail Wilson combines her passion for Regency England with intrigue and adventure to pen historical mysteries with a heart. A registered nurse, chai tea addict, and mother of two crazy kids, Abigail fills her spare time hiking the national parks, attending her daughter’s gymnastic meets, and curling up with a great book. In 2017, Abigail won WisRWA’s Fab Five contest and in 2016, ACFW’s First Impressions contest as well as placing as a 2017 finalist in the Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense. She is a cum laude graduate of the University of Texas at Austin and currently lives in Dripping Springs, Texas, with her husband and children.

    Connect with Abigail

    Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

  • ARC's,  Book Reviews

    Sister Dear: excerpt & review

    Book Details

    Author: Hannah Mary McKinnon

    Publisher: MIRA (Harper Collins imprint)

    Pages: 368

    Publish date: 5/26/2020

    Genre: Psychological/domestic thriller

    Buy Links: 

    Harlequin 

    Barnes & Noble

    Amazon

    Books-A-Million

    Powell’s

    Synopsis

    In Hannah Mary McKinnon’s psychological thriller, SISTER DEAR (MIRA Trade; May 26, 2020; $17.99), the obsession of Single White Female meets the insidiousness of You, in a twisted fable about the ease of letting in those who wish us harm, and that mistake’s dire consequences.

    The day he dies, Eleanor Hardwicke discovers her father – the only person who has ever loved her – is not her father. Instead, her biological father is a wealthy Portland businessman who wants nothing to do with her and to continue his life as if she doesn’t exist. That isn’t going to work for Eleanor.

    Eleanor decides to settle the score. So, she befriends his daughter Victoria, her perfect, beautiful, carefree half-sister who has gotten all of life’s advantages while Eleanor has gotten none.

    As she grows closer to Victoria, Eleanor’s obsession begins to deepen. Maybe she can have the life she wants, Victoria’s life, if only she can get close enough. 

    Excerpt

    Chapter 1

    The police didn’t believe me.

    A jury wouldn’t have, either, if I’d gone on trial, and most definitely not the judge. My attorney had more than a few reservations about my story. Ms. Allerton hadn’t said as much. She didn’t need to. I saw it in her eyes, could tell by the way she shuffled and reshuffled her papers, as if doing so might shake my lies clean off the pages, leaving only the truth behind in her inky, royal blue swirls.

    After our first meeting I’d concluded she must’ve known early on—before she shook my hand with her icy fingers—that I was a liar. Before she’d walked into the room in shiny, four-inch heels, she’d no doubt decided she’d heard my excuses, or a variation thereof, from countless clients already. I was yet another person claiming to be innocent. Another criminal who’d remained adamant they’d done nothing wrong, it wasn’t their fault, honest, despite the overwhelming amount of evidence to the contrary, a wall of impending doom surrounding me.

    And still, at the time I’d believed the only reason Ms. Allerton had taken on my case pro-bono was because of the amount of publicity it gave her firm. Reducing my sentence—for there would be one—would amplify her legacy as a hot-shot lawyer. I’d accepted her help. There was no other option. I needed her knowledge, her expertise, saw her as my final hope. I now know her motivations were something else I’d miscalculated. All hope extinguished. Game over.

    If I’m being fair, the judgements Ms. Allerton and other people had made about me weren’t completely wrong. I had told lies, some, anyway. While that stripped away part of my claim to innocence, it didn’t mean I was entirely guilty. Not of the things everybody said I’d done. Things I’d had no choice but to confess to, despite that being my biggest lie of all.

    But I’ll tell you the truth. The whole truth and nothing but. I’ll start at the beginning, and share everything that happened. Every last detail leading up to one fateful night. The night someone died because of me. The night I lost you, too.

    I won’t expect your forgiveness. Our relationship—or lack thereof—will have gone way beyond that point. No. All I can hope for, is that my side of the story will one day help you understand why I did the things I did.

    And why I have to do the things I’ve not yet done.

    Excerpted from Sister Dear by Hannah Mary McKinnon, Copyright © 2020 by Hannah McKinnon. 

    Published by MIRA Books

    Review

    3.5/5 ✂️’s

    The blurb had me at Single White Female meets Joe of You.

    This book was a page-turner! It’s always tough to give full reviews of books with twists and turns without spoilers. But I will say that I typically enjoy family psychological thrillers and this was no exception. One secret was revealed early on which I’m a fan of – it moved the story forward instead of letting the reader guess about everything.

    The writing was done well and very atmospheric with interesting characters. You could feel the desperation in Eleanor’s life and while she certainly had her faults, she was still a character to empathize with at times. Characters that I can connect with are important to me and this story gave plenty of opportunity for that.

    My one issue was that this was narrated in the first person by Eleanor and that is not my favorite narration style – strictly personal preference though. I was thoroughly captivated and while this was my first book by Hannah Mary McKinnon, it will not be my last.

    Thank you to MIRA Books and NetGalley for a gifted copy of this book in exchange for my honest review and promotion.

    About the author

    Hannah Mary McKinnon was born in the UK, grew up in Switzerland and moved to Canada in 2010. After a successful career in recruitment, she quit the corporate world in favor of writing, and is now the author of The Neighbors and Her Secret Son. She lives in Oakville, Ontario, with her husband and three sons, and is delighted by her twenty-second commute.

    Twitter: @HannahMMcKinnon

    Instagram: @hannahmarymckinnon

    Facebook: @HannahMaryMcKinnon

     

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