Wednesday, June 29, 2022

BLOG TOUR - The Ex-Husband



DESCRIPTION:

You thought you were safe. Until he moved in next door…

I haven’t lived here long. The house is small and a little rundown, but each piece of faded floral wallpaper I peel away feels like unwrapping the second chance I never thought I’d get. I’m finally free to wear what I want, and I don’t flinch when I accidently burn dinner. My new home is warm, and the kids are safe inside. Anywhere would feel idyllic after the nightmare marriage I’ve just escaped.

But then I see my ex-husband Craig stroll past my window and let himself into the house next door. Fear chokes me. How did he find me? Does he want me back, or to destroy me for good?

As the removals van pulls away, Craig tells me it’s just a coincidence, that we can all get along and be good neighbours. But at night I lie awake listening to the sound of laughter and lovemaking through the thin wall that separates us, wondering if his new girlfriend is safe. And in the morning, I rifle through his trash, trying to guess his next move. I know how crazy I look, but I’d do anything to protect my children.

Weeks later, when the night air fills with smoke, and this quiet street dances with blue and red flashing police lights, all the secrets behind our two closed doors will be revealed. But after everything that’s happened, will anyone believe I’m innocent?

An absolutely unputdownable psychological thriller from an Amazon No1. bestseller that will keep you turning pages long into the night. Fans of The Wife Between UsThe Family Upstairs and The Girl on the Train will be totally hooked!

BUY LINKS:
Amazon: https://geni.us/B09YFJT3Q4social

Audio:
UK: zpr.io/sG8A59cgWNmK
US: zpr.io/M8M3dKsQTPKx

Listen to a sample here: https://soundcloud.com/bookouture/the-ex-husband-by-samantha-hayes-narrated-by-lucy-paterson

You can sign up for all the best Bookouture deals you'll love at: http://ow.ly/Fkiz30lnzdo

MY THOUGHTS:
 
Title:   The Ex-Husband
Author:  Samantha Hayes
Publisher:  Bookouture
Genre:   Psychological Thriller 
Format:  Kindle ARC
No. of Pages:   356
Date of Publication:   June 28, 2022
My Rating:   5 Stars

Leah is excited to meet her new neighbors and quickly becomes Gillian’s new friend. When Leah is invited over to Gillian’s, imagine her shock when she finds out that Gillian’s partner is none other than her ex-husband Craig. Her abusive ex-husband. Leah and Craig have two children together.

Now he is her new next-door neighbor. Gillian does not sense the tension at first. Leah is beside herself. Is Craig going to torment her as he did when they were married now that they are living so close side-by-side?  Imagine her shock when she also discovers that he opened a branch of his business very close to her hair salon. 

Now that Leah is living in her dream home, she must figure out how to deal with the fact that Craig is living so close to her and the children. Navigating split custody has just become more complicated. Forced to put up a false façade in front of her children, sharing space with her ex so close is definitely going to be a trial. Ignore Craig, or get rid of him. Leah is certain that she will come up with a plan.  

When Leah was married to Craig, not only was he an incessant cheater, he was controlling. He gaslighted her. She was filled with despair and fear. She thought she got away from all that and now she feels like she is back at square one.

The Ex-Husband is the fourth thrilling book I have had the pleasure of reading by Samantha Hayes. This intense domestic thriller filled me with angst as I read this book with bated breath. Impossible to put down, there was no doubt that something would happen, and with exciting twists and turns, culminating in a very satisfying ending, this is a book that I highly recommend. 

Many thanks to Bookouture and to NetGalley for this ARC for review. This is my honest opinion.

Please enjoy my YouTube video review - 




ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Samantha Hayes grew up in a creative family where her love of writing began as a child. Samantha has written eight thrillers in total, including the bestselling Until You’re Mine. The Independent said “fantastically written and very tense” while Good Housekeeping said “Her believable psychological thrillers are completely gripping.” Samantha’s books are published in 22 languages at the last count.


When not writing, Samantha loves to cook, go to the gym, see friends and drink nice wine. She is also studying for a degree in psychotherapy. She has three grown-up children and lives in Warwickshire.

https://www.samanthahayes.co.uk/
https://www.facebook.com/SamanthaHayesAuthor/
https://www.instagram.com/samanthahayes.author/
https://twitter.com/samhayes

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

BLOG TOUR - The German Wife


DESCRIPTION:

The enmity between two women from opposing sides of the war culminates in a shocking event as anti-German sentiment sweeps America, when the aristocratic wife of a German scientist must face the social isolation, hostility and violence leveled against her and her family when they’re forced to relocate to Alabama in the aftermath of WWII. For fans of Beatriz Wiliams, Pam Jenoff, and Kristin Harmel.


Berlin, 1934—Ilse Meyer is the aristocratic wife of a scientist whose post-WWI fortunes change for the better when her husband, Jürgen, is recruited for Hitler's new rocket program. Although Ilse and Jurgen do not share the popular political views rising in Germany, Jürgen’s new job forces them to consider what they must sacrifice morally for their financial security. But too late they realize the Nazi’s plans to weaponize Jürgen’s technology as they begin to wage war against the rest of Europe.


Huntsville, Alabama, 1949—Jurgen is one of hundreds of Nazi scientists offered pardons and taken to the US to work for the CIA’s fledgling space program. Ilse, now the mother of four, misses Germany terribly and struggles to fit in among the other NASA wives, who look upon her with suspicion. In a moment of loneliness, she confesses to a neighbor, Rachel Carlson, about Jürgen’s membership in the SS and her resentment for being forced to live in a country that will always see her as the enemy. What she doesn’t know is that she has trusted the wrong neighbor.


When the scandalous news about the Meyer family’s affiliation with the Nazi party spreads, idle gossip turns to bitter rage, and the act of violence that results will tear apart a community and a family before the truth is finally revealed—but is it murder, revenge or justice?


BUY LINKS:

Bookshop.org | IndieBound | 

Barnes & Noble |Amazon | Indigo


MY THOUGHTS:

Title:   The German Wife
Author:  Kelly Rimmer
Publisher:  Graydon House
Genre:   Historical Fiction
Format: Kindle ARC 
No. of Pages:   464
Date of Publication:   June 28, 2022
My Rating:   

Jürgen Rhodes was forced to work along with Hitler’s plans in 1930s Berlin. A brilliant scientist, they were hoping to use Jürgen in their developing rocket program. A top-secret program. His choices when it came to joining the SS were taken away from him.P. At what point does Jürgen say no? In fact, can he decline? Sadly, Jürgen powers on, despite this being a part of something he hates. However, we are provided with how all of this affects Sofie. She wonders if being married to Jürgen makes her as complicit as her husband when it comes to Hitler’s crimes.

It is 1950s Alabama and now Sofie and her two children have joined Jürgen, as he was one of well over 1000 German scientists, engineers, and other top specialties, who were pardoned and brought to the US for the space program, and it was called Operation Paperclip. Lizzie Miller’s husband Calvin was the manager at the space program and Jürgen was one of his employees. As one of the American wives who now has to live among German wives, we start to see things from her point of view. 

When it came to Lizzie and her brother Henry, they grew up in Texas and suffered greatly due to the Dust Bowl and the depression. Now in 1950s Alabama they are neighbors to Jürgen and Sofie. They hear the grumbling that goes on that Jürgen was possibly part of the Nazi regime. But hopefully they’ll lead separate lives and she will do her best to fight any prejudice where she might be naturally inclined. Her worries are for her brother Henry, as he is suffering from his time in the war, to the point that she learns that it might be combat fatigue and this is flavoring a lot of his actions. This in some ways affects how she views anyone that is in America that has come from Germany.

The scale of suffering in this book was beyond comprehension, whether in 1930s Texas, 1930s Berlin, or 1950s Alabama. Not only did this book remind me of the time in history when the Dust Bowl devastated the lives and farms of thousands, but I learned about Operation Paperclip, the program designed to pair German and American scientists in a common goal. I was even shocked when reminded of how Hitler was so proud of his race that German women were encouraged if not pressured to bear as many children as possible. Another great impression I had with this book is that everybody that served under Hitler was not as easily brainwashed as to his ideals. Many were forced into service.

When Jürgen or Sofie cried, I cried. When Lizzie became exasperated with Henry, I felt her pain. This book also allows the reader to see both sides of the war, from the effect it had Sofie and also Lizzie,  from the Jewish or German point of view. Also, it was rather sad that the United States was in such a race for space that they easily brushed the crimes of a lot of Germans right under the rug. Perhaps Jürgen was innocent of the ways many other Nazi soldiers felt, no doubt many of the Germans that were allowed to emigrate to the US for the sake of the space program did believe in what they fought for. This displayed injustice on a grand scale, reiterating the pain that I felt for the millions of those lives lost, and for so many more that suffered or were affected by the war in other ways. 

This impressive read by Kelly Rimmer proves her exceptional talent, her incredible research, and how she managed to deliver a powerfully emotional story. Any historical fiction that brings a different perspective during that horrid time is certain to make any reader think. I was riveted to this book from the start to finish, and this story will be with me for a long time to come. This would be a perfect book club book and I beg the reader to please read the author’s note at the end of the book and to consider the discussion questions. This will allow for the serious thought as to this contemplative read. 

Many thanks to Graydon House and to NetGalley for this ARC for review. This is my honest opinion.

Please enjoy the following excerpt:
1

Sofie

Huntsville, Alabama 1950

“WAKE UP, GISELA,” I MURMURED, GENTLY SHAKing my daughter awake. “It’s time to see Papa.”

After the better part of a day on a stuffy, hot bus, I was so tired my eyes were burning, my skin gritty with dried sweat from head to toe. I had one sleeping child on my lap and the other leaning into me as she sprawled across the seat. After three long weeks of boats and trains and buses, my long journey from Berlin to Alabama was finally at an end.

My youngest daughter had always been smaller than her peers, her body round and soft, with a head of auburn hair like mine, and my husband’s bright blue eyes. Over the last few months, a sudden growth spurt transformed her. She was now taller than me. The childhood softness had stretched right out of her, leaving her rail thin and lanky.

Gisela stirred, then slowly pushed herself to a sitting position. Her eyes scanned along the aisle of the bus as if she were reorienting herself. Finally, cautiously, she turned to look out the window.

“Mama. It really doesn’t look like much…”

We were driving down a wide main street lined with small stores and restaurants. So far, Huntsville looked about as I’d expected it would—neat, tidy…segregated.

Minnie’s Salon. Whites Only.

Seamstress for Colored.

Ada’s Café. The Best Pancakes in Town. Whites ONLY!

When I decided to make the journey to join my husband in America, segregation was one of a million worries I consciously put off for later. Now, faced with the stark reality of it, I dreaded the discussions I’d be having with my children once we had enough rest for productive conversation. They needed to understand exactly why those signs sent ice through my veins.

“Papa did tell us that this is a small town, remember?” I said gently. “There are only fifteen thousand people in Huntsville and it will be very different from Berlin, but we can build a good life here. And most importantly, we’ll be together again.” “Not all of us,” Gisela muttered.

“No, not all of us,” I conceded quietly. Loss was like a shadow to me. Every now and again, I’d get distracted and I’d forget it was there. Then I’d turn around and feel the shock of it all over again. It was the same for my children, especially for Gisela. Every year of her life had been impacted by the horrors of war, or by grief and change. I couldn’t dwell on that—not now. I was about to see my husband for the first time in almost five years and I was every bit as anxious as I was excited. I had second-guessed my decision to join him in the United States a million or more times since I shepherded the children onto that first bus in Berlin, bound for the port in Hamburg where we boarded the cross-Atlantic steamship.

I looked down at my son. Felix woke when I shook his sister, but was still sitting on my lap, pale and silent. He had a head of sandy curls and his father’s curious mind. Until now, they’d never been on the same continent.

The first thing I noticed was that Jürgen looked different. It was almost summer and warm out, but he was wearing a light blue suit with a white shirt and a dark blue bow tie. Back home, he never wore a suit that color and he never would have opted for a bow tie. And instead of his customary silver-framed glasses, he was wearing a pair with thick black plastic frames. They were modern and suited him. Of course he had new glasses—five years had passed. Why was I so bothered by those frames? I couldn’t blame him if he reinvented himself, but what if this new version of Jürgen didn’t love me, or was someone I couldn’t continue to love?

He took a step forward as we shuffled off the bus but didn’t even manage a second before Gisela ran to him and threw her arms around his neck.

“Treasure,” he said, voice thick with emotion. “You’ve grown up so much.”

There was a faint but noticeable American twang in his German words, which was as jarring as the new glasses.

Jürgen’s gaze settled on Felix, who was holding my hand with a grip so tight my fingers throbbed. I felt anxious for both children but I was scared for Felix. We’d moved halfway across the world to a country I feared would be wary of us at best, maybe even hostile toward us. For Gisela and me, a reunion with Jürgen was enough reason to take that risk. But Felix was nervous around strangers at the best of times, and he knew his father only through anecdotes and photographs.

“Felix,” Jürgen said, keeping one arm around Gisela as he started to walk toward us. I could see that he was trying to remain composed, but his eyes shone. “Son…”

Felix gave a whimper of alarm and hid behind my legs.

“Give him time,” I said quietly, reaching behind myself to touch Felix’s hair. “He’s tired and this is a lot to take in.”

“He looks just like—” Jürgen’s voice broke. I knew the struggle well. It hurt to name our grief, but it was important to do so anyway. Our son Georg should have been twenty years old, living out the best days of his life. Instead, he was another casualty of a war that the world would never make sense of. But I came to realize that Georg would always be a part of our family, and every time I found the strength to speak his name, he was brought to life, at least in my memories.

“I know,” I said. “Felix looks just like Georg.” It was fitting that I’d chosen Georg for Felix’s middle name, a nod to the brother he’d never know.

Jürgen raised his gaze to mine and I saw the depth of my grief reflected in his. No one would ever understand my loss like he did.

I realized that our years apart meant unfathomable changes in the world and in each of us, but my connection with Jürgen would never change. It already survived the impossible. At this thought, I rushed to close the distance between us.

Gisela was gently shuffled to the side and Jürgen’s arms were finally around me again. I thought I’d be dignified and cautious when we reunited, but the minute we touched, my eyes filled with tears as relief and joy washed over me in cascading waves.

I was on the wrong side of the world in a country I did not trust, but I was also back in Jürgen’s arms, and I was instantly at home.

“My God,” Jürgen whispered roughly, his body trembling against mine. “You are a sight for sore eyes, Sofie von Meyer Rhodes.”

“Promise me you’ll never let me go again.”

Jürgen was a scientist—endlessly literal, at least under normal circumstances. Once upon a time, he’d have pointed out all the reasons why such a promise could not be made in good faith—but now his arms contracted around me and he whispered into my hair, “It would kill me to do so, Sofie. If there’s one thing I want for the rest of my life, it’s to spend every day of it with you.”

“Many of our neighbors are Germans—most have just arrived in Huntsville in the last few weeks or months, so you will all be settling in together. There’s a party for us tomorrow at the base where I work, so you’ll meet most of them then,” Jürgen told me as he drove us through the town in his sleek black 1949 Ford. He glanced at the children in the rearview mirror, his expression one of wonder, as if he couldn’t believe his eyes. “You’ll like it here, I promise.”

We’d be living in a leafy, quiet suburb called Maple Hill, on a small block the Americans nicknamed “Sauerkraut Hill” because it was now home to a cluster of German families. I translated the street signs for the children and they chuckled at the unfamiliar style. Our new street, Beetle Avenue, amused Gisela the most. “Is there an insect plague we should worry about?” she chuckled.

“I really hope so,” Felix whispered, so quietly I had to strain to hear him. “I like beetles.”

As Jürgen pulled the car into the driveway, I couldn’t help but compare the simple house to the palatial homes I’d grown up in. This was a single-story dwelling, with a small porch leading to the front door, one window on either side. The house was clad in horizontal paneling, its white paint peeling. There were garden beds in front of the house, but they were overgrown with weeds. There was no lawn to speak of, only patchy grass in places, and the concrete path from the road to the porch was cracked and uneven.

I felt Jürgen’s eyes on my face as I stared out through the windshield, taking it all in. “It needs a little work,” he conceded, suddenly uncertain. “It’s been so busy since I moved here, I haven’t had time to make it nice for you the way I hoped.”

“It’s perfect,” I said. I could easily picture the house with a fresh coat of paint, gardens bursting to life, Gisela and Felix running around, happy and safe and free as they made friends with the neighborhood children.

Just then, a woman emerged from the house to the left of ours, wearing a dress not unlike mine, her long hair in a thick braid, just like mine.

“Welcome, neighbors!” she called in German, beaming.

“This is Claudia Schmidt,” Jürgen said quietly as he reached to open his car door. “She’s married to Klaus, a chemical engineer. Klaus has been at Fort Bliss with me for a few years, but Claudia arrived from Frankfurt a few days ago.”

Sudden, sickening anxiety washed over me.

“Did you know him—”

“No,” Jürgen interrupted me, reading my distress. “He worked in a plant at Frankfurt and our paths never crossed. We will talk later, I promise,” he said, dropping his voice as he nodded toward the children. I reluctantly nodded, as my heart continued to race.

There was so much Jürgen and I needed to discuss, including just how he came to be a free man in America. Phone calls from Europe to America were not available to the general public, so Jürgen and I planned the move via letters—a slow-motion, careful conversation that took almost two years to finalize. We assumed everything we wrote down would be read by a government official, so I hadn’t asked and he hadn’t offered an explanation about how this unlikely arrangement in America came to be.

I couldn’t get answers yet, not with the children in earshot, so it would have to be enough reassurance for me to know our neighbors were probably not privy to the worst aspects of our past.

Jürgen left the car and walked over to greet Claudia, and I climbed out my side. As I walked around the car to follow him, I noticed a man walking along the opposite side of the street, watching us. He was tall and broad, and dressed in a nondescript, light brown uniform that was at least a size or two too small. I offered him a wave, assuming him to be a German neighbor, but he scoffed and shook his head in disgust and looked away.

I’d been prepared for some hostility, but the man’s reaction stung more than I’d expected it to. I took a breath, calming myself. One unfriendly pedestrian was not going to ruin my first day in our new home—my first day reunited with Jürgen—so I forced a bright smile and rounded the car to meet Claudia.

“I’m Sofie.”

She nodded enthusiastically. “Since we arrived last week, you are all I’ve heard about from your husband! He has been so excited for you to come.”

“I sure have.” Jürgen grinned.

“Are you and the children coming to the party tomorrow?” Claudia asked.

“We are,” I said, and she beamed again. I liked her immediately. It was a relief to think I might have a friend to help me navigate our new life.

“Us too,” Claudia said, but then her face fell a little and she pressed her palms against her abdomen, as if soothing a tender stomach. “I am so nervous. I know two English words—hello and soda.”

“That’s a start,” I offered, laughing softly.

“I’ve only met a few of the other wives, but they’re all in the same boat. How on earth is this party going to work? Will we have to stay by our husbands’ sides so they can translate for us?”

“I speak English,” I told her. I was fluent as a child, taking lessons with British nannies, then honing my skills on business trips with my parents. Into my adulthood, I grew rusty from lack of speaking it, but the influx of American soldiers in Berlin after the war gave me endless opportunities for practice. Claudia’s expression lifted again and now she clapped her hands in front of her chest.

“You can help us learn.”

“Do you have children? I want Gisela and Felix to learn as quickly as they can. Perhaps we could do some lessons all together.”

“Three,” she told me. “They are inside watching television.”

“You have a television?” I said, eyebrows lifting.

“We have a television too,” Jürgen told us. “I bought it as a housewarming gift for you all.” Gisela gasped, and he laughed and extended his hand to her. I wasn’t surprised when she immediately tugged him toward the front door. She’d long dreamed of owning a television set, but such a luxury was out of reach for us in Berlin.

I waved goodbye to Claudia and followed my family, but I was distracted, thinking about the look of disgust in the eyes of that passing man.

Excerpted from The German Wife by Kelly Rimmer, Copyright © 2022 by Lantana Management Pty, Ltd. Published by Graydon House Books.

Please enjoy my YouTube video review - 




ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Kelly Rimmer is the worldwide, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Before I Let You Go, The Things We Cannot Say, and Truths I Never Told You. She lives in rural Australia with her husband, two children and fantastically naughty dogs, Sully and Basil. Her novels have been translated into more than twenty languages. Please visit her at https://www.kellyrimmer.com/


SOCIAL LINKS:

Author website: https://www.kellyrimmer.com/

Facebook: @Kellymrimmer

Twitter: @KelRimmerWrites

Instagram: @kelrimmerwrites


Monday, June 27, 2022

BLOG TOUR - For the Love of the Bard

Title:   For the Love of the Bard
Author:  Jessica Martin
Publisher:  Berkley Books
Genre:   Romance
Format:  Kindle ARC
No. of Pages:   352
Date of Publication:   June 28, 2022
My Rating:   4 Stars

DESCRIPTION:

Literary agent and writer Miranda Barnes rolls into her hometown of Bard’s Rest with one goal in mind: to spend the summer finally finishing her YA novel, the next installment in her bestselling fantasy series. Yet Miranda’s mother, deep in the planning stages for the centennial of the town’s beloved annual Shakespeare festival, has other ideas.

Before you can say “all’s fair in love and war,” Miranda is cornered into directing Twelfth Night—while simultaneously scrambling to finish her book, navigating a family health scare, and doing her best to avoid the guy who broke her heart on prom night.

When it comes to Adam, the veterinarian with a talent for set design and an infuriating knack for winning over Miranda’s dog, the lady doth protest too much. As any Shakespeare lover knows, the course of true love never did run smooth, and soon Miranda realizes she’ll have to decide whether to trust Adam with her heart again.


MY THOUGHTS:

Miranda is a woman beset by problems. Her first priority is to finish writing the sequel to her YA fantasy novel. With plans on spending the summer in her hometown of Bard's Rest, she intends on investing 100% of her time in writing. However, things do not go as planned for Miranda. The quiet summer she planned on writing proves anything but. 

Bard's Rest is a busy place at the moment. The town is preparing for it's annual Shakespeare festival. Miranda finds out she will be playing a huge role in the festival. In fact, she will be directing one of the plays being produced, Twelfth Night. She is not directing this play by choice. In fact, her mother has insisted that Miranda take on the responsibility, which will undoubtedly crowd in on the time that Miranda needs to be writing her novel.

Then Miranda gets news of a huge health scare that her mother is going through. Another distraction, and this brings her to dealing with her two sisters Portia and Cordelia. One more thing ... Adam, her boyfriend from high school, is the town's vet. And he is drop-dead gorgeous. Miranda and Adam did not end their teen relationship well at all, and Miranda still feels the sting of that time. The fact that she is still more than drawn to Adam now is a quandary to her.

This second chance romance is a story filled with angst, proving that love can come around a second time, even if it proves problematic along the way. This book has quite a bit of humor in it as it relies heavily on references from Shakespeare, even with how the chapters are titled. 

This fun read doesn't just focus on Miranda and Adam's connecting again, but it shows how Miranda copes with so many things all at the same time, all while showing strong attention to all the matters facing her. Her relationships in this book are important to her, and she juggles everything rather well.

I loved this book. It made me smile. It made me think of a few of Shakespeare's plays. It made me happy to see how Miranda was with her family. And it made me happy that she and Adam got another chance to reignite their love.

Many thanks to Berkley Books and to NetGalley for this ARC for review. This is my honest opinion.

Please enjoy the following excerpt:
Scene One

The Offices of Valhalla Literary

I stared morosely at the screen, where "ELF SHOT THROUGH THE HEART AND HATHAWAY SMITH'S TO BLAME, SHE GIVES YA A BAD NAME" glared back at me in a rather shouty font. Instead of being a productive human and packing up everything I needed to work from my childhood home this summer, I'd gone down the rabbit hole on SpillThatTea.com, yet another teen social media platform where readers went to blast my latest book.

From the floor, the intern let loose a particularly fragrant dog fart.

"Who gave you duck?" I demanded, but Puck just rolled over and yawned.

I rubbed my temples, tucking a stray wave of crimson hair behind my ears, and wished for the billionth time that I'd never invented Hathaway Smith or the Elf Shot series.

Through the glass panels of my office, I spied Ian, my business partner, and Mathilde Mathison, our accountant, squaring off, their gazes set to stun mode. Like the other handful of employees of Valhalla Lit, I politely pretended not to notice the tender shoots of hipster lust blossoming before our eyes. That, and I didn't want to be collateral damage of that doomed relationship.

Catching Ian's eye, I pointed to the novelty book clock over my desk that he'd given me on my birthday. He nodded and said something to Mathilde that was no doubt both pithy and flirty and strode purposefully toward my office.

After he closed the door, I asked, "Do I have to remind you it's not a great idea to badger or bed the person who keeps our books?"

Ian sighed dreamily. "She is a force of nature."

"What is it with you and French women? Is it the way they tie scarves? Because I'll grant you that's pretty impressive."

"That obvious?" Ian didn't even feign sheepishness. It would have looked all wrong on him anyway. A good-looking man with chestnut hair and eyes the color of shamrocks, Ian had that capable-woodsman-meets-urban-hipster vibe. And it was working for him. At least for ninety-nine percent of the female population. Ian and I were strictly in the "friends who do not take each other's clothes off" zone. "She used to be a yoga instructor before she got her CPA," Ian said wistfully. "Can you imagine how smart and bendy she must be—"

"You know how I always say you need to find some guy friends? This is one of those instances where a dude wouldn't feel obligated to punch you on account of the girl code."

He snorted.

"How are we looking? I haven't had a chance to go through this quarter's numbers yet." Flicking one warning finger toward him, I added, "Don't you dare make some sort of weird accounting and yoga double entendre about flexible balance sheets."

"Why must you stifle my creativity?" Ian pouted, then continued, "The books are fine. I think we can make those upgrades to our firewalls this quarter. Maybe even upgrade the hardware."

"The duct tape on your laptop is getting rather ratty," I agreed.

"Speaking of books, can we talk about yours?"

"Why are you so bad at conversational transitions?"

"Because I've spent two decades getting by on my looks and uncanny ability to quote movies from the eighties?" he offered, not the least bit chagrined.

"I'll remember that the next time I need a Lost Boys reference."

"You're stalling."

He had me there. "Fine. The beginning's not terrible, but I can't figure out how to move forward. Forget about an ending. After the last one . . ." I trailed off.

"Barnes, how many times do I have to remind you that you can't please everyone? You did the right thing. Readers are a fickle bunch. The critics loved you."

"Critics don't buy books."

Ian smirked. "You know you can do this. You'll find a way, like you always do. Because you're a good writer, and that's what good writers do. They shut out the noise and find the truth in their words."

"Easy for you to say," I mumbled. "I'm still under contract for two more books."

It must have been something he heard in my voice, because Ian's expression sobered. "We can hit pause on this. You can take some time. All the time you need. Or, hell, you can walk away from this. We'll figure it out."

We couldn't walk away, of course. Not if we wanted to keep the agency afloat. But I loved him anyway for offering.

"Hathaway Smith keeps the lights on."

"We can find other ways," Ian insisted.

I shook my head. "You're right. I need to shut out the noise. Get somewhere quiet and reconnect with the characters. I've been buried in reviews and comments and I feel like my fans are breathing down my neck. I don't understand how real writers do this."

"Umm, Barnes? You are a real writer. See, we do this thing where you write books and we sell them for a tidy profit." He flicked his fingers upward. "Lights on, remember?"

"I meant, how do writers ever write under their own names? Who can take that kind of heat? Do you have any idea how pissed my readers are about me killing off Thad? I mean, the guy was a traitor who sold his friends out. And I'm the one they want to strangle? What if a fan figures out I'm Hathaway Smith? What if they start showing up at our door?"

"We'll move out in the night and not tell anyone our forwarding address?"

I growled at Ian. At the sound of it, Puck rose and padded over to him, pressing his head against Ian's thigh in solidarity. Furry traitor.

I glared at them. "You gave him duck, didn't you?"

"What better way to spend ninety minutes in a car than with a mutt who's consumed his weight in waterfowl jerky?" Ian rubbed Puck behind the ears until my dog's tongue lolled out and his eyes rolled up in his head. "Say the word, Barnes. I'll call New York and we'll figure something out."

"I appreciate that," I assured him, "but I'll finish it while I'm home. I write my best stuff in the attic."

"Said every maladjusted writer ever," he said with a practiced eye roll. "When can you get me a draft?"

"You don't get to push me around," I said, jabbing a finger in his direction. "You're basically a glorified beta reader at this point."

Ian clutched his chest. "You wound me. Besides, I don't care what you say. Susannah's great and all, but I'm still your favorite editor. Official or not."

"Susannah's better with grammar than you are."

"Blasphemy," Ian cried. "I taught you what a gerund was, plebe."

"This is exactly why you can't red-pen my stuff anymore," I pointed out, trying to hold in my laugh. "We're supposed to be partners. Equals."

"We will never be grammatical equals," Ian sniffed.

I shrugged. He wasn't wrong. Several years ago, Ian, then a junior agent at a top literary agency in New York, had plucked my manuscript out of the slush pile. He'd offered me representation and we'd spent the next six months trading revisions on my book. The man had an eye for grammar and sentence structure, and though I'd never admit it, he'd helped make me into the semicolon- and run-on-sentence-abhorring writer I was today.

After Ian sold my book to the largest YA publisher and Elf Shot rocketed to the top of the Times bestseller list, I'd taken the train from Boston to New York to meet him in person, and it was instant like at first sight. Ian was not only the fiercest champion of my book, he was everything I never knew I wanted in a best friend: confident, honest, warm and ever the gallant, always offering to show up with a shovel and a bag of lime at any time of night, no questions asked. I'd never wished for a brother, but somehow fate saw fit to send me Ian anyway.

Somewhere between the runaway success of my first book and scrambling to crank out the sequel, One Foot in Sea (a nod to a famous Bard line), to capitalize on the momentum of the first, I'd spent New Year's Eve at Ian's microscopic but trendy studio apartment in Manhattan. After a raucous party that had included body paint artists, contortionists, scores of influencers and all of Ian's clients, we'd taken it upon ourselves as a personal challenge to finish every bottle of champagne left open after the other guests had departed in a haze of glitter and Ubers. It was there in the early hours of the new year that we decided to start our own literary agency.

Six months later, we'd opened the doors to Valhalla with the royalties from my book and Ian's commissions. He taught me everything he knew about being an agent and I fell in love with scouring the slush pile in search of that next voice. And while my introverted ass didn't always love the outward-facing aspects of my job, I'd gotten comfortable enough with it over the years, cultivating relationships with publishers.

After we opened Valhalla, Ian and I had agreed that for the sake of our friendship and business partnership, Ian shouldn't read my drafts professionally anymore. That's where Susannah, my gerund-obliterating editor out of New York, came in. As a bonus, she used less anatomically specific threats about my use of the passive voice than Ian did. So really, I'd traded up.

When Ian and I had decided to embark on this whole "Miranda is a co-owner, but also a client" thing, we hired my sister's law firm to set up some ground rules to clear away any conflicts of interest. I paid for my own overhead as a client: publicity, expenses, etc. Unorthodox? A little. Ethically gray? I'd like to think not so much. It was just easier to continue on with Ian as my agent. I trusted him completely, and it was one less person who knew Hathaway's true identity.

That had been Ian's idea too, after I'd had an epic meltdown shortly after signing my book deal. Far too late, I'd come to the realization that I'd written a slightly racy, though still teen-appropriate, elf hookup scene and that the whole world—including such notables as my third-grade teacher, my dentist and my handful of ex-boyfriends—would be able to not only read my books but comment on them. I'd wanted to pull the plug on the whole thing, until Ian calmly explained that the announcement hadn't gone out yet and I could adopt a pen name, if only I would stop hyperventilating for thirty seconds. And so Hathaway Smith was born to bear the brunt of bad Amazon reviews and fan rants.

The bad Amazon reviews had been so few and far between that I'd almost felt silly about Hathaway Smith. Then my last book dropped. While I'd always appreciated the love and devotion to the series that my readers bestowed on Elf Shot, with that came the ever-rising tide of expectation to make the next book that much more than the last—something I thought I'd achieved with Inconstant Moons, another cheeky nod to the Bard and a veiled reference to the traitorous Thad. My readers thought otherwise and made their displeasure known. And, very much like the Dane's dagger, it cut me to the quick.

But much as I might want to curl into the fetal position, never to take a risk while writing again, Elf Shot was the reason we had an agency. We now had four agents, including Ian and myself, and a client base in the fifties and rising. Valhalla was a neat, cozy operation that kept all of us well-read and relatively well-fed without having to sell organs on the black market to make rent. But maybe someday, it wouldn't need Elf Shot or Hathaway Smith anymore.

"Fine, you can read it as soon as it's finished, before I send it to Susannah. If nothing else, it will give me an excuse to limit my involvement in helping Dad build sets."

Ian's eyes widened. "Pardon, I must be drunk. I thought you said you were going to build sets."

"I did."

"I see." He waited a beat and said, "Do you remember when you stapled your hand to the bulletin board trying to put up those respectful workplace training materials?"

"I don't recall that."

"Do you recall the time your skirt got stuck in the shredder?"

"That could have happened to anyone. What's your point?"

"That was office equipment. Stage sets imply the use of tools far beyond even your uncanny ability to avoid lasting damage to your person."

"Cut me some slack. Most tools are made with right-handed people in mind."

"I know plenty of left-handed people and none of them have a track record like yours."

I scowled. "Fine, I'm just going to design the sets. Dad will do most of the actual building."

Ian tried and failed to hide his relief.

"Oh, shut up." I jabbed a finger at him. "Or I will tell Little Miss Sun Salutation out there about the time you got your chest waxed."

He threw up his hands in the universal sign of surrender. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry. I just think it would be easier to write your book with all ten digits." He waggled his fingers for emphasis. "Since you're leaving sooner than initially announced, does that mean I can come to town early for the festival?"

"Centennial," I corrected him. "Hundred-year anniversary of the Shakespearean Summer Festival."

"The implication being that this would be bigger and better than the normal festival. Which would imply there would be even more stuff to entertain me. I'll go pack my bag."

"Great plan. Except you're supposed to be running things around here while I'm gone," I teased. "Besides, there won't be any throngs of Bardolators yet for you to gawk at. That's more of an August thing."

"I do adore that term," he said, in reference to the locals' affectionate nickname for the tourists who descended upon our town every summer in search of all things Shakespeare.

"Fly your freak flag proud or not at all."

"You know, Barnes, if you're serious about breaking this bout of writer's block, you could find yourself a comely Bardolator, take him back to your . . ." He faltered.

"Take him back to my parents' place and have my lascivious way with him in my childhood bedroom?" I scoffed. "Also, who says 'comely'?"

"Says the woman who just dropped 'lascivious.'"

I waved him off with a vague hand gesture as I powered down my laptop. "I don't need some sweaty entanglement with a Shakespeare-obsessed tourist to finish my book."

“I’m just saying. It’s a surefire way to cure what ails you.”

“Please tell me that’s not the advice you give our clients.”

“Of course it is. A little no-strings sex to get the creative writing juices going never hurt anyone.”

“Don’t say ‘sex’ and ‘writing juices’ in the same sentence. You’re sullying the craft.”

“Purist.” Ian scoffed, studying me for a long moment. “So why are you leaving a week early, anyway?”

“Because Cordy sent me one of her maddeningly cryptic texts over the weekend telling me I needed to get home as soon as possible.”

Ian’s eyes gleamed with a gluttonous light. “Do you think she’s decided to move down here and open up a restaurant? Or, even better, she’s reconsidered the offer to be my personal chef and culinary muse?”

“You couldn’t afford her.”

“I know,” Ian sighed. “But a foodie can dream.” Sobering, he added, “Everything okay at home?”

I shrugged. “Your guess is as good as mine. Cordy’s definition of an emergency runs the gamut from ‘there’s a fluctuation in responsibly sourced cacao prices’ to ‘I burned down the bakery for the insurance money.’”

“The next time I complain about being an only child, please regale me with tales of growing up with Cordy and Portia.”

I checked my watch. “I’ve gotta jet to catch Cordy before the lunch rush. You need anything else?”

“Nah, go write your book.”

“You still okay to look in on my place?”

“Of course. I’ll kill all the plants before you return. Text me if you need anything. Now go get your Bard on,” Ian said, flashing me a cheesy double thumbs-up.

“Don’t sink the agency while I’m gone.”

“Don’t staple your fingers to the stage,” he countered. “No one likes a bleeder.”

“It’s just a flesh wound,” I called over my shoulder.

Fishing my car keys out of my pocket and tucking my laptop under my arm, I nodded my head at Puck. “Gird your loins. We’re going back to our roots.”

Excerpted from For the Love of the Bard by Jessica Martin. Copyright © 2022 by Jessica Martin. Excerpted by permission of Berkley Publishing Group. All right reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Please also enjoy my YouTube video review - 



Sunday, June 26, 2022

Review - It All Comes Down to This

Title:   It All Comes Down to This
Author:  Therese Anne Fowler
Publisher:  St. Martin's Press
Genre:   Women's Fiction
Format:  Kindle ARC
No. of Pages:   352
Date of Publication:   June 7, 2022
My Rating:   3 Stars

DESCRIPTION:

A warm, keenly perceptive novel of sisterhood, heartbreak, home, and what it takes to remake a life at its halfway point, for fans of Ann Patchett and Emma Straub.

Meet the Geller sisters: Beck, Claire, and Sophie, a trio of strong-minded women whose pragmatic, widowed mother, Marti, will be dying soon. Marti has ensured that her modest estate is easy for her family once she’s gone––including a provision that the family’s summer cottage on Mount Desert Island, Maine, must be sold, the proceeds split equally between the three girls.

Beck, the eldest, is a freelance journalist whose marriage looks more like a sibling bond than a passionate partnership. In fact, her husband is hiding a troubling truth about his love life. For Beck, the Maine cottage has been essential to her secret wish to write a novel––and to remake the terms of her relationship.

Despite her accomplishments as a pediatric cardiologist, Claire, the middle daughter, has always felt like the Geller misfit. Recently divorced, Claire’s unrequited love for the wrong man is slowly destroying her, and she’s finding that her expertise on matters of the heart unfortunately doesn’t extend to her own.

Youngest daughter Sophie appears to live an Instagram-ready life, filled with glamorous work and travel, celebrities, fashion, art, and sex. In reality, her existence is a cash-strapped house of cards that may tumble at any moment.

But when C.J. Reynolds, an enigmatic southerner with his own hidden past enters the picture, the future of the Maine cottage––and of the sisters themselves––will take on an entirely new dimension. 


MY THOUGHTS:
 
Beck, Claire, and Sophie find out that their mother is dying and will be going into hospice, or even palliative care. Before the girls can get to the mother's bedside, she passes away. In fact, their mother held back from telling them how seriously ill she was until it was too late. She didn't want the girls hovering about while she was dying. Her plan was for them to focus on their futures.

Each of the sisters grieve in their own way, all while navigating their own personal drama. Once they get together, there seems to be an unspoken bond between them - and that is to keep up appearances. Beck won't mention how unhappily married she is, Recently divorced Claire is a bit jaded when it comes to love and to men. Lastly, Sophie's life seems to be the most stable, and uses her social media presence to fund a rather glamorous life.

Whether seen or unseen, the sisters must push away their issues to deal with the loss of their mother, especially as they were unable to say goodbye to her.  Between the three of them, they must decide what to do with the family cottage in Maine that was left to all of them. This is made especially hard as the sisters all have a strained relationship with each other. Can they get past secrets, lies and more in order to make a decision that will work for all of them?

In dramatic fashion, this story deals with emotions, both good and bad, decision making, with a smidge of romance thrown in. For further thoughts, please enjoy my YouTube video - 




Many thanks to St. Martin's Press and to NetGalley for this ARC for review. This is my honest opinion.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Therese Anne Fowler
(pronounced ta-reece) is a New York Times and USA Today best selling author whose novels present intriguing people in difficult situations, many of those situations deriving from the pressures and expectations of their cultures as well as from their families.

Her books are available in every format and in multiple languages, and are sold around the world. Z has been adapted for television by Amazon Studios. 

Therese earned a BA in sociology and cultural anthropology and an MFA in creative writing, both from North Carolina State University. She has been a visiting professor and occasionally teaches fiction writing at conferences and workshops. A member of Phi Beta Kappa and PEN America, she is married to award-winning professor and author John Kessel. They reside in North Carolina.



Saturday, June 25, 2022

Review - Neruda on the Park

Title:   Neruda on the Park
Author:  Cleyvis Natera
Publisher:  Ballantine Books
Genre:  Women's Fiction
Format:  Kindle ARC
No. of Pages:   336
Date of Publication:   May 24, 2022
My Rating:  5 Stars 

DESCRIPTION:

An exhilarating debut novel following members of a Dominican family in New York City who take radically different paths when faced with encroaching gentrification

The Guerreros have lived in Nothar Park, a predominantly Dominican part of New York City, for twenty years. When demolition begins on a neighboring tenement, Eusebia, an elder of the community, takes matters into her own hands by devising an increasingly dangerous series of schemes to stop construction of the luxury condos. Meanwhile, Eusebia's daughter, Luz, a rising associate at a top Manhattan law firm who strives to live the bougie lifestyle her parents worked hard to give her, becomes distracted by a sweltering romance with the handsome white developer at the company her mother so vehemently opposes.

As Luz's father, Vladimir, secretly designs their retirement home in the Dominican Republic, mother and daughter collide, ramping up tensions in Nothar Park, racing toward a near-fatal climax.

A beautifully layered portrait of family, friendship, and ambition, Neruda on the Park weaves a rich and vivid tapestry of community as well as the sacrifices we make to protect what we love most, announcing Cleyvis Natera as an electrifying new voice. 


MY THOUGHTS:
 
Gentrification is a practice that ruins the lives of many. In the case of this book, Neruda on the Park, the Dominican neighborhood of Nothar Park is facing a very difficult time. Developers are offering large cash settlements in order to rid the neighborhood of its long-term residents, with plans of high rises and other things that appeal to the rich.

The Guerreros family have lived their with their other Dominican neighbors for decades. Demolition is going on, and Eusebia Guerreros plans on taking matters in her own hands, going to any extreme possible to bring a stop to these changes. Meanwhile, her daughter Luz is excited that she is about to be made partner at her law firm. Mostly Anglicized, Luz has huge career goals. However, the promotion doesn't happen. In fact, she is fired. No job. No more expensive clothes and shoes. And, if the developers have anything to do with it, no home.

One of the developers named Hudson has caught Luz's eye. The two begin to date despite the huge conflict that lies between them. And, as everything is going on Luz's father Vladmir, works hard with and for immigrants in his job as a police officer. Also, since he and Luz have a secret they share - building a retirement home for him and Eusebia in the Dominican Republic, a cash buyout really appeals to him. So, three people in one small family, all with different goals and aspirations. Will what is going on destroy this family unit? 

There are intriguing side stories in this novel, involving Eusebia and the reason for her actions, Vladmir's heartbreaking work experiences, Luz's facing career difficulties, and, of course, the gentrification taking place.

The history that is included in this fabulous debut novel brings my attention to Pablo Neruda and other poets of decades ago show that both Luz and Hudson are erudites, and that is always a treat for me.

This is a debut novel? Indeed it is, but it reads of years of incredible writing experience because that is what Cleyvis Natera gave us readers. Kudos to her for her first book, and she now has a new fan in me.

Many thanks to Ballantine Books and to NetGalley for this ARC for review. This is my honest opinion.

Please also enjoy my YouTube video review - 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Cleyvis Natera is the author of the debut novel Neruda on the Park. She was born in the Dominican Republic and raised in New York City. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from Skidmore College and a Master of Fine Arts from New York University. She’s received honors from PEN America, Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and Voices of Our Nation Arts Foundation (VONA). Her fiction, essays and criticism have appeared in Alien Nation: 36 True Tales of Immigration, TIME, Gagosian Quarterly, The Washington Post, The Kenyon Review, Aster(ix) and Kweli Journal, among other publications. Cleyvis teaches creative writing to undergraduate students at Fordham University and graduate students at the Writer’s Foundry MFA Program at St. Joseph’s College in Brooklyn. She lives with her husband and two young children in Montclair, New Jersey.

Cleyvis Natera es la escritora de la novela debut Neruda on the Park. Nació en República Dominicana y se crió en la ciudad de Nueva York. Tiene una licenciatura en artes de Skidmore College y una maestría en bellas artes de New York University. Ha recibido honores de PEN America, Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts y Voices of Our Nation Arts Foundation (VONA). Su ficción, ensayos y críticas han aparecido en Alien Nation: 36 True Tales of Immigration, TIME, Gagosian Quarterly, The Washington Post, The Kenyon Review, Aster (ix) y Kweli Journal, entre otras publicaciones. Cleyvis enseña escritura creativa en Fordham University y en el Writer’s Foundry MFA Program a St. Joseph’s College en Brooklyn. Vive con su familia en Montclair, Nueva Jersey.