Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Review - Wish You Were Here

Title:  Wish You Were Here
Author Jodi Picoult
Publisher:  Ballantine Books
Genre:   Women's Fiction
Format:  Kindle ARC
No. of Pages:   336
Date of Publication:   November 30, 2021
My Rating:   5 Stars

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author comes a deeply moving novel about the resilience of the human spirit in a moment of crisis.

Diana O’Toole is perfectly on track. She will be married by thirty, done having kids by thirty-five, and move out to the New York City suburbs, all while climbing the professional ladder in the cutthroat art auction world. She’s not engaged just yet, but she knows her boyfriend, Finn, a surgical resident, is about to propose on their romantic getaway to the Galápagos—days before her thirtieth birthday. Right on time.

But then a virus that felt worlds away has appeared in the city, and on the eve of their departure, Finn breaks the news: It’s all hands on deck at the hospital. He has to stay behind. You should still go, he assures her, since it would be a shame for all of their nonrefundable trip to go to waste. And so, reluctantly, she goes.

Almost immediately, Diana’s dream vacation goes awry. The whole island is now under quarantine, and she is stranded until the borders reopen. Completely isolated, she must venture beyond her comfort zone. Slowly, she carves out a connection with a local family when a teenager with a secret opens up to Diana, despite her father’s suspicion of outsiders.

Diana finds herself examining her relationships, her choices, and herself—and wondering if when she goes home, she too will have evolved into someone completely different. 


Diana O'Toole is very excited for a planned vacation with her boyfriend Finn. Diana lives life by rote and she thinks it is high time for Finn to propose. Galápagos is the destination and it should be utterly romantic. However, at the very last moment, due to the pandemic Finn tells Diana that he simply cannot get away. He is a surgical resident and is desperately needed as a front line doctor. Finn and Diana put a lot of money into the trip so he tells Diana that she should go anyway.

Despite her reservations, Diana goes on the getaway, only to find herself stranded. The borders are closed out of necessity and now Diana must stay away. Diana befriends a family, most notably a teen in need of a connection. All the while Diana is dealing with life's priorities, including her relationship with Finn.

Wish You Were Here is a stellar book. A book that made me think. Ms. Picoult has a twist that I was not expecting, thus making this book an utterly compelling read. In fact, due to the times that are still so uncertain, I was a bit worried about how I would handle this book. This thrilling book is completely thought-provoking and relatable, and most definitely impossble to put down. 

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


Jodi Picoult is the author of twenty-six novels, including the #1 New York Times bestsellers Small Great Things, A Spark of Light, Leaving Time, The Storyteller, Lone Wolf, Between the Lines, Sing You Home, House Rules, Handle with Care, Change of Heart, Nineteen Minutes, and My Sister’s Keeper. She lives in New Hampshire with her husband and three children.

Her new novel, THE BOOK OF TWO WAYS, is available in hardcover, ebook, and audio on September 22nd.

BOOK BLAST - Out Front the Following Sea

Out Front the Following Sea: A Novel of King William’s War in 17th-Century New England

by Leah Angstman

Publication Date: January 11, 2022
Regal House Publishing
Hardcover, Paperback, eBook, Audiobook; 334 pages

Genre: Historical / Literary / Epic / Adventure

**Finalist for the Chaucer Book Award**

OUT FRONT THE FOLLOWING SEA is a historical epic of one woman’s survival in a time when the wilderness is still wild, heresy is publicly punishable, and being independent is worse than scorned—it is a death sentence.

At the onset of King William’s War between French and English settlers in 1689 New England, Ruth Miner is accused of witchcraft for the murder of her parents and must flee the brutality of her town. She stows away on the ship of the only other person who knows her innocence: an audacious sailor—Owen—bound to her by years of attraction, friendship, and shared secrets. But when Owen’s French ancestry finds him at odds with a violent English commander, the turmoil becomes life-or-death for the sailor, the headstrong Ruth, and the cast of Quakers, Pequot Indians, soldiers, highwaymen, and townsfolk dragged into the fray. Now Ruth must choose between sending Owen to the gallows or keeping her own neck from the noose.

Steeped in historical events and culminating in a little-known war on pre-American soil, OUT FRONT THE FOLLOWING SEA is a story of early feminism, misogyny, arbitrary rulings, persecution, and the treatment of outcasts, with parallels still mirrored and echoed in today’s society. The debut novel will appeal to readers of Paulette Jiles, Alexander Chee, Hilary Mantel, James Clavell, Bernard Cornwell, TaraShea Nesbit, Geraldine Brooks, Stephanie Dray, Patrick O’Brian, and E. L. Doctorow.

Available for Pre-Order
Regal House Print | Amazon Kindle | Barnes and Noble | Bookshop | IndieBound

Pre-Order Giveaway

Preorder perk pack! If you order the paperback or hardcover directly from the publisher (Regal House) and show Leah Angstman the receipt (DM her social media sites below or email), you’ll receive a specialty perk pack with a tote bag, notebook, enamel pin, sticker, magnet, button, pen, bookmark, and more! (U.S. only)


Book Reviewers
Request an ARC | Read on Netgalley | Read on Edelweiss | Read on Book Sirens


“With OUT FRONT THE FOLLOWING SEA, Leah Angstman reveals herself as a brave new voice in historical fiction. With staggering authenticity, Angstman gives us a story of America before it was America—an era rife with witch hunts and colonial intrigue and New World battles all but forgotten in our history books and popular culture. This is historical fiction that speaks to the present, recalling the bold spirits and cultural upheavals of a nation yet to be born.”

“Steeped in lush prose, authentic period detail, and edge-of-your-seat action, OUT FRONT THE FOLLOWING SEA is a rollicking good read. Leah Angstman keeps the story moving at a breathtaking pace, and she knows more 17th-century seafaring language and items of everyday use than you can shake a stick at. The result is a compelling work of romance, adventure, and historical illumination that pulls the reader straight in.”
—Rilla Askew, author of FIRE IN BEULAH, THE MERCY SEAT, and KIND OF KIN

“Lapidary in its research and lively in its voice, OUT FRONT THE FOLLOWING SEA by Leah Angstman is a rollicking story, racing along with wind in its sails. Though her tale unfolds hundreds of years in America’s past, Ruth Miner is the kind of high-spirited heroine whose high adventures haul you in and hold you fast.”

“Leah Angstman has written the historical novel that I didn’t know I needed to read. OUT FRONT THE FOLLOWING SEA is set in an oft-forgotten time in the brutal wilds of pre-America that is so vividly and authentically drawn, with characters that are so alive and relevant, and a narrative so masterfully paced and plotted, that Angstman has performed the miracle of layering the tumultuous past over our troubled present to gift us a sparkling new reality.”

“OUT FRONT THE FOLLOWING SEA is a fascinating book, the kind of historical novel that evokes its time and place so vividly that the effect is just shy of hallucinogenic. I enjoyed it immensely.”

“OUT FRONT THE FOLLOWING SEA is a meticulously researched novel that mixes history, love story, and suspense. Watching Angstman’s willful protagonist, Ruth Miner, openly challenge the brutal world of 17th-century New England, with its limiting ideas about gender, race, and science, was a delight.”
—Aline Ohanesian, author of ORHAN’S INHERITANCE

“Leah Angstman is a gifted storyteller with a poet’s sense of both beauty and darkness, and her stunning historical novel, OUT FRONT THE FOLLOWING SEA, establishes her as one of the most exciting young novelists in the country. Angstman plunges the reader into a brilliantly realized historical milieu peopled by characters real enough to touch. And in Ruth Miner, we are introduced to one of the most compelling protagonists in contemporary literature, a penetratingly intelligent, headstrong woman who is trying to survive on her wits alone in a Colonial America that you won’t find in the history books. A compulsive, vivid read that will change the way you look at the origins of our country, Leah Angstman’s OUT FRONT THE FOLLOWING SEA announces the arrival of a preternatural talent.”
—Ashley Shelby, author of MURI and SOUTH POLE STATION

“Rich, lyrical, and atmospheric, with a poet’s hand and a historian’s attention to detail. In OUT FRONT THE FOLLOWING SEA, Leah Angstman creates an immersive world for readers to get lost in and a fascinating story to propel them through it. A thoroughly engaging and compelling tale.”

“It’s a rare story that makes you thankful for having read and experienced it. It’s rarer still for a story to evoke so wholly, so powerfully, another place and time as to make you thankful for the gifts that exist around you, which you take for granted. OUT FRONT THE FOLLOWING SEA is a book rich with misery, yet its characters are indefatigable; they yearn, despite their troubles, for victories personal and societal. Leah Angstman’s eye is keen, and her ability to transport you into America’s beginnings is powerful. With the raw ingredients of history, she creates a story both dashing and pensive, robust yet believable. From an unforgiving time, Angstman draws out a tale of all things inhuman, but one that reminds us of that which is best in all of us.”
—Eric Shonkwiler, author of ABOVE ALL MEN and 8TH STREET POWER AND LIGHT

“Rich in deeply researched detail, and peopled by complex characters, OUT FRONT THE FOLLOWING SEA is a fascinating story that is bound to entrance readers of historical fiction.”
—Kathleen Grissom, author of THE KITCHEN HOUSE and GLORY OVER EVERYTHING

“From the squalor, prejudice, and violence of 17th-century America, Leah Angstman has summoned to life the most extraordinary young woman. Ruth Miner insists on surviving, building a life, and being true to her odd independent self, despite the whole world seeing her as worthless filth. Angstman creates a hypnotically real and brutal world and then manages to infuse it with humor and beauty and a moving tale of love. The reader will follow Ruth Miner anywhere, and be the richer for it.”

“This book moved me in ways that I didn’t expect. … The deeply researched and historically authentic world is vivid and immersive, and it captivated me from the first pages. … An amazing story of love, perseverance, and survival, OUT FRONT THE FOLLOWING SEA is both dark and hopeful. A wonderful mix of action, suspense, history, and romance, this is a story that will stay with you a long time after finishing it.”
—One Book More

About the Author


Leah Angstman is a historian and transplanted Michigander living in Boulder. OUT FRONT THE FOLLOWING SEA, her debut novel of King William’s War in 17th-century New England, is forthcoming from Regal House in January 2022. Her writing has been a finalist for the Saluda River Prize, Cowles Book Prize, Able Muse Book Award, Bevel Summers Fiction Prize, and Chaucer Book Award, and has appeared in Publishers Weekly, L.A. Review of Books, Nashville Review, Slice, and elsewhere. She serves as editor-in-chief for Alternating Current and The Coil magazine and copyeditor for Underscore News, which has included editing partnerships with ProPublica. She is an appointed vice chair of a Colorado historical commission and liaison to a Colorado historic preservation committee.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads | Medium | Ello | Mailing List

Book Blast Schedule

Monday, November 15
Cover Lover Book Review

Wednesday, November 17
Passages to the Past

Saturday, November 20

Monday, November 22
Momma Doc Reads

Wednesday, November 24
SJ Through the Looking Glass

Monday, November 29
Robin Loves Reading

Friday, December 3
With A Book In Our Hands


Enter to win an Advanced Reading Copy of Out Front the Following Sea + coffee mug + tote bag from Leah Angstman!

The giveaway is open to the US only and ends on December 3rd. You must be 18 or older to enter.

Out Front the Following Sea Book Blast

Blog Blitz - Love and Let Bark

Title:   Love and Let Bark
Author Alanna Martin
Publisher:  Berkley
Genre:   Romance
Format:  Kindle ARC
No. of Pages:   336
Date of Publication:   November 30, 2021
My Rating:   4 Stars

AIt's up to two rescue husky puppies to convince their owners it's never too late for a second leash on love.

When Nate Porter left Helen, Alaska, to become a firefighter with the Forest Service, he claimed it was because he craved adventure. The truth was, he couldn't stand to hang around, pining for a girl the town's century-old feud meant he could never have. But Nate got over Lydia Lipin years ago, or so he thought until he learns that an old rival has come sniffing around. The solution—a trip home with his rescue puppies to prove to himself he completely extinguished that old flame.

Lydia Lipin has always been satisfied being the "good" Lipin daughter—dutiful, practical, and always putting others before herself. But that role begins to chafe as Nate's return ignites old memories. No one in town knew about their secret friendship or those forbidden kisses they stole the summer after graduation. Suddenly, Nate and his puppies are everywhere, and sparks are flying.

When Nate realizes he never got over Lydia, he'll risk everything for a second chance. But Lydia's not a risk-taker, and she has to make a choice—play it safe and pretend their summer fling was just puppy love, or step out of the family shadow and unleash her heart. 


This second chance romance proves that love can win over even the most difficult of obstacles...

Why has Nate Porter returned home to Helen, Alaska after a successful career with the Forest Service as a firefighter? When Nate was a teen he was closer to Lydia Lipin than anyone else. However, a century old feud forced them to keep their friendship a secret. Could the fact that Lydia has now found someone else be enough incentive for Nate to head home and to defy both families by letting his deep feelings for Lydia known?

As far as Lydia is concerned, she spent her entire life doing the right thing, and that included pushing strong feelings for Nate as far back as possible. When Nate comes home Lydia soon realizes that those long ago feelings are more powerful than ever. Will Lydia stand on her own and defy her parents and everyone else that is trying to keep the feud going and seek her heart's goal - love with Nate?

Love and Let Bark is the third book in the delightful Hearts of Alaska series. The first two titles are Heart on a Leash and Paws and Prejudice. Whether it is the gorgeous huskies that grace the covers of each book, or the warm love stories contained within, this is a wonderful series that warmed my heart.

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


Growing up, Alanna Martin wanted to be an astronaut, a doctor, and an actor--possibly all at once. After nine years of studying psychology, she somehow became a writer instead. This turned out to be the best career choice of all because she can work in her pajamas while drinking wine. She firmly believes in the power of fluffy books, long walks in the woods, and that there's no such thing as too much coffee. Alanna Martin is available for interviews.

Monday, November 29, 2021

BLOG TOUR - The Mother Next Door


For fans of Lisa Jewell, Aimee Molloy, and Joshilyn Jackson, an upmarket suspense novel from a multi-award-winning author about a tightknit group of suburban mothers who invite a new neighborhood mom into their fold, and the fallout the night of the annual block party, when secrets from the past come back to haunt them…

The annual block party is the pinnacle of the year on idyllic suburban cul de sac Ivy Woods Drive. An influential group of neighborhood moms—known as the Ivy Five—plan the event for months.

Except the Ivy Five have been four for a long time.

When a new mother moves to town, eager to fit in, the moms see it as an opportunity to make the group whole again. This year’s block party should be the best yet... until the women start receiving anonymous messages threatening to expose the quiet neighborhood’s dark past—and the lengths they’ve gone to hide it.

As secrets seep out and the threats intensify, the Ivy Five must sort the loyal from the disloyal, the good from the bad. They'll do anything to protect their families. But when a twisted plot is revealed, with dangerous consequences, their steady foundation begins to crumble, leaving only one certainty: after this year’s block party, Ivy Woods Drive will never be the same.

From award-winning author Tara Laskowski, The Mother Next Door is an atmospheric novel of domestic suspense in which the strive for perfection ends in murder…


Title:   The Mother Next Door
Author:  Tara Laskowski
Publisher:  Graydon House
Genre:   Psychological Thriller
Format:  Kindle ARC
No. of Pages:   352
Date of Publication:   October 12, 2021
My Rating:   4 Stars

The Ivy Five don't play. They are tight-knit and don't want anyone to invade. The question is, why are their four members, and not five? Perhaps the answer could be found with the Hive leader, the 'queen bee', Kendra. She has lived in the neighborhood the longest and what she says toes. The fact that one of their members disappeared years ago is not lost on any of them. One this is clear, however, and that is that they are not looking to fill that spot.

Yet, there is a 'new bee' a 'newbie' after all. Will Theresa, who just moved in the neighborhood be included into the hive? If so, what hoops will she have to jump through to fit in?

Let's look deeper at the original five, including the missing member. It becomes quite clear that each of them has a secret, secrets that would be devastating if revealed. Will their activities grow to such an extent that these secrets become exposed? What of Theresa? Can she penetrate the hive, not so much to fit in, but to push them to reveal their deepest and darkest of secrets?

This intense book was released during the Halloween season. Quite perfect, actually, as it is filled with at atmospheric edge. The fact that the story makes you look at all of the woman - and what they have to hide - and the possible consequences facing each of them. 

For a read that would get anyone in the Halloween spirit, then this is the book for you. For a book that makes you look hard at the characters - no matter when you read the book - then this is the book for you. Tara Laskowski has written an intriguing story, one that definitely caught my attention and has me interested in her backlist, as well as future books as they are released.

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

Please enjoy the following excerpt:

Ladies and gentlemen, skulls and boys: by the time our Halloween block party is over tonight, one of us will be dead.

And I don’t mean dead as in dull, or dead as in zombified. I mean dead as in gone. Dead as in expired. Killed.


You may be feeling distressed about this, knowing what you know about Ivy Woods—the great neighborhood it is, the sweet, loving families that live there. How could such a tragedy happen in such a wonderful place? You may have traveled here yourself, as a child or as a parent, lured in by the local fame of the street and its ghoulish decorations each year. The lights, the smoke, the gravestones, and the moaning. The witches, cackling and handing out candy. The swarms of little Frankensteins and cowboys and robots and ballet dancers lugging their pillowcases and plastic pumpkin buckets filled with sugar and junk.

But Ivy Woods isn’t perfect.

Far from it.

Look closer. Look under the makeup and the masks, look into the windows of the perfect houses. Dig under the surface of those freshly mowed lawns and you’ll find the worms. I’ve looked—believe me, I’ve looked. There’s something about this street. There are secrets. I know from watching through the windows, from hearing the hushed conversations, from lingering on their faces when they think everyone else has looked away.

Oh they think they are perfect. They pat themselves on the back for throwing such good parties, for raising such fine children, for living in such big houses.

But they are pretending.

They don masks on this one single night to dress up as someone or something else, but in reality they live their lives this way.

We all do.

We hate ourselves. We are too fat, or too thin. We should work hard, be smarter. We are lonely and depressed. We are worried about money. We are ashamed of the way that our friends and family treat us. But we lie about it all. We hide behind a protective façade, fragile glass figurines inside elaborate dollhouses designed to look like perfect, safe, happy places.

Tonight it will all shatter.

Watch closely and you’ll begin to see what I see. There’s trouble in the air, a cold wind blowing in from far away, and it’s settled on Ivy Woods Drive. The secrets and the lies we tell ourselves and others will emerge tonight like spirits of the dead. Lines will be drawn. Sides will be taken. Someone won’t make it out alive.

I can’t save that person, but I’ll tell the story. Turn over the rocks, expose the worms. Pull back the masks.

Because I know their secrets, secrets that will destroy them all.

If they don’t destroy themselves first.

Excerpted from The Mother Next Door by Tara Laskowski, Copyright © 2021 by Tara Laskowski. Published by Graydon House Books.


TARA LASKOWSKI is the author of One Night Gone, which won an Agatha Award, Macavity Award, and Anthony Award, and was a finalist for the Mary Higgins Clark Award, Left Coast Crime Award, Strand Critics' Award, and Library of Virginia Literary Award. She is also the author of two short story collections, Modern Manners for Your Inner Demons and Bystanders, has published stories in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine and Mid-American Review, among others, and is the former editor of SmokeLong Quarterly. Tara earned a BA in English from Susquehanna University and an MFA from George Mason University and currently lives in Virginia. Find her on Twitter and Instagram, @TaraLWrites.

Twitter: @TaraLWrites
Instagram: @taralwrites

BLOG TOUR - The Life She Wants


From behind the curtains, Sarah spotted the man coming out of the house, followed by the woman. It would be strange seeing people in the property. She wondered how much it would change their lives. For now, she would bide her time and hopefully get to know them better. She needed to gain their trust.

When I met Richard, I fell for him instantly. He was able to give me everything I had always wanted, the dream house, security and above all, love like I’d never known. We lived a quiet life in the middle of nowhere; we didn’t need anyone else.

So, when the empty house next door is sold, I am wary. Will our neighbours invade the perfect life Richard has built for us? As soon as I meet Juliette and Danny, I am reassured. Overwhelmed by grief after the death of their young daughter, they have moved in search of a quiet life and a chance to start again. Over dinner one evening, we hit it off instantly and I know they are just the neighbours we need.

All is well until Juliette spots a young girl in our garden. Richard convinces her that she is seeing things, that it’s the grief taking over. But Juliette won’t let it go. She is sure she saw a child. She believes that Richard is threatening her. She starts to think that I’m not safe.

I need to convince Juliette that she’s imagining it. I need to keep Richard happy. If I am to protect everything I have built for myself, she must never find out the truth.

That my perfect life is built on the deadliest lie.

A heart-stopping psychological thriller with a truly brilliant twist, perfect for fans of Lisa Jewell, T.M. Logan and K.L. Slater.

UK: zpr.io/jVr5wxMEQjRK
US: zpr.io/mTSNLRZvHWDu

Listen to a sample here: https://soundcloud.com/bookouture/the-life-she-wants-by-mel-sherratt-narrated-by-emma-gregory

Title:   The Life She Wants
Author:  Mel Sherratt
Publisher:  Bookouture
Genre:   Psychological Thriller
Format:  Kindle ARC
No. of Pages:   292
Date of Publication:   November 29, 2021
My Rating:   4 Stars

Sarah and Richard look like a normal couple at first glance. However, it does not take long for new neighbors Juliette and Danny to realize that things are not quite right. From the outset, when the story is coming from Sarah and Richard's point of view, it is clear that Richard is extremely controlling. When they spot their new neighbors, they do the neighborly thing. They invite them over for dinner. As Juliette and Danny sit at their table, they immediately see how Richard is towards Sarah. What is more is that Richard seems like a closed book, so why invite them over in the first place?

Meanwhile, Juliette and Danny have a reason tor moving into their new home. They suffered a tragedy and are trying to make a new start in life. Juliette is glad to have met Sarah and hopes the two will become great friends. One day, Julliette is sure she spotted a little girl in their garden. Richard convinces her that she is wrong, even to the point of trying to convince Danny of the same thing. However, Juliette knows her own mind, and thus the mystery truly begins.

What is it about Richard and Sarah? Why is Richard so controlling? How much will Sarah trust Juliette? Also, there is one factor that cannot be ignored. Not only does Sarah feel ill on many occasions, Juliette begins to feel a bit odd at times, even to the point of doubting certain things happening. 

Why the title The Life She Wants? Well, in this thrilling story readers will see how covetousness is indeed a sin and how one little lie can start a roller coaster of events. It is a dark story of envy, drama, and also control mixed with gaslighting. As this story is told mostly from Juliette's point of view, it grew even more intriguing as we learn more about Sarah and how she came to be with Richard. I couldn't put this book down, especially as everything came together in breakneck speed. Kudos to Mel Sherratt for writing such an exciting book.

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


Mel Sherratt is the author of fifteen crime novels, all of which have become bestsellers, and has sold over 1.5 million books.

For the past four years, she has been named as one of her home town of Stoke-on-Trent’s top 100 influential people. Shortlisted for the Crime Writer’s Association Dagger in the Library in 2014, she regularly appears at festivals and is featured in newspapers and magazines.

She lives in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, with her husband and terrier, Dexter.

US: zpr.io/mTSNLRZvH

Sunday, November 28, 2021

BLOG TOUR - Keep Me Warm at Christmas


Maybe this Christmas can thaw his frozen heart—and heal hers.

Hollywood starlet Tia Beckett knows one moment can change your life. Her career had been on the fast track before a near-fatal accident left her with a debilitating facial scar. Certain her A-lister dreams are over, she agrees to house-sit at her producer’s secluded estate in Silver Springs. It’s the escape from the limelight Tia’s been craving, until she discovers she’s not the only houseguest for the holidays. And her handsome new roomie is impossible to ignore.

Artist Seth Turner has good reason to keep his distance. Losing his wife after only a few years of marriage has left a deep scar, even if he is still happy to spend a semester teaching art classes at the New Horizons Boys Ranch for troubled teens. Despite nursing her own wounds, Tia finds her curiosity piqued by enigmatic Seth, whom she recognizes as something of a kindred soul. Maybe spending Christmas together could be another game changer for both of them--this time, for good.

BookShop.org | Harlequin | Barnes & Noble
Amazon | Books-A-Million | Powell’s

Keep Me Warm at Christmas
Author:  Brenda Novak
Series:  Silver Springs #9
Publisher:  Mira Books
Genre:   Romance
Format:  Kindle ARC
No. of Pages:   416
Date of Publication:   September 28, 2011
My Rating:   5 Stars

Tia Beckett had it all. A holiday career she dreamed of. Made famous in Hollywood. However, she had a fatal car accident that left terrible scars on her face. She is hiding away from everyone, especially the paparazzi. She has found a place to hide away and is glad to be alone. Well, that didn't last long. She discovers that someone else has booked a place at the estate where she is now staying. 

Seth Turner is missing his wife. It is coming up on the anniversay of her death and the pain still cuts him like a knife. He is an artist and has agreed to teach art classes at a boys ranch. Seth discovers that he has a roommate for the duration. She is an enigmatic woman and Seth cannot help to be drawn to her. However, he soon finds his growing attraction to Tia rather disturbing, as he is still fighting his feelings for his wife.

Tia is drawn to Seth, and even learns how to deal with her scars and possibly open herself for the opportunity for love. How will Seth deal with what she finds to be terrible, and how will she find a place in his heart when he still loves his wife?

What a touching story. Oh my. I felt for both Tia and Seth. For Tia, her pain was palpable. Her fear about her appearance. especially when beauty means everything in Hollywood. What about Seth? She cannot imagine him looking past her scars.

I felt for Seth as well. His love for his wife after losing her was just so sad. But his strength of character shone through time and again. Not only was he coping with feelings of loss and trying to give himself a chance for love, the fact that he was able to see past Tia's scars was just so incredibly touching.

Brenda Novak is a remarkable author and this book was a true delight. I found it an excellent read as a standalone since I had not read the previous books, but I plan on correcting that as soon as possible. 

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

Please enjoy the following excerpt:
Chapter One

Thursday, December 11

Tia Beckett ran a finger along the jagged scar on her cheek as she gazed into the mirror above the contemporary console on the living room wall. She’d taken down almost every mirror in her own house as soon as she came home from the hospital— broken them all and tossed them out. But she couldn’t do the same here. This wasn’t her home, and there seemed to be mirrors everywhere, each one projecting the same tragic image.

She leaned closer. It must’ve been the windshield that nearly destroyed her face.

She dropped her hand. After a month, her cheek was still tender, but she continued to examine her reflection. The woman in the mirror was a complete stranger. If she turned her head to the left, she could find herself again. The shiny black hair that framed an oval face. The smooth and creamy olive-colored skin. The bottle-green eyes with long, thick eyelashes. The full lips, which were her own, not a product of Botox injections. All the beauty that’d helped her land the leading role in Hollywood’s latest blockbuster was still there.

But when she turned her head to the right…

Her stomach soured as she studied the raised, pink flesh that slanted in a zigzag fashion from the edge of her eye almost to her mouth. The doctor had had to piece that side of her face back together like a quilt. He’d said there was a possibility that cosmetic surgery could improve the scars later, but that wasn’t an option right now. After what she’d been through already, she couldn’t even contemplate another surgery. It’d be too late to save her career by then, anyway.

Who was this poor, unfortunate creature? Her agent, her fellow cast members for Expect the Worst, the romantic comedy in which she costarred with box-office hit Christian Allen, and the friends she’d made since moving to LA said she was lucky to have survived the accident. And maybe that was true. But it was difficult to feel lucky when she’d lost all hope of maintaining her career just as it was beginning to skyrocket.

A knock at the front door startled her. Who could that be? She didn’t want to see anyone, not even her friends—and especially not the press. They’d been hounding her since the accident, trying to snap a picture of her damaged face and demanding an answer as to whether she would quit acting. That was part of the reason she’d readily accepted when Maxi Cohen, the producer of her one and only film, offered to let her stay at his massive estate in Silver Springs, ninety minutes northwest of LA. He and his family would be in Israel for the holidays, so he needed someone to house-sit. That was what he’d said. What she’d heard was that she could hide out for a month and be completely alone. And she wouldn’t even have to pay for the privilege. She just had to care for the houseplants, feed and play with Kiki, the parrot, occasionally drive each of the six vehicles parked in the airplane-hangar-sized garage and make sure nothing went wrong.

She also turned on the lights in the main house at night—Maxi didn’t yet have them set up on a timer, like those in his yard—so that it looked occupied since she was staying in the guesthouse, which was smaller and more comfortable. But that was probably unnecessary. There wasn’t a lot of crime in Silver Springs. Known for its boutique hotels, recreational opportunities and local, organic produce, it was sort of like Santa Barbara, only forty minutes away and closer to the coast, in that there were plenty of movie moguls and the like who had second homes here.

Still, he couldn’t have left Kiki without a caretaker. And safe was always better than sorry. He also owned an extensive art collection that could never be replaced, so she figured he was wise to have someone watch over it, just in case

Whoever was at the door rapped again, more insistently. Maxi had given the housekeeper and other staff a paid holiday. Even the gardeners were off, since the yard didn’t grow much during the cold, rainy season. The entire estate was essentially in mothballs until Maxi returned. And no one Tia knew could say exactly where she was. So why was someone at her door? How had whoever it was gotten onto the property? The front gate required a code.

“Hello? Anyone home?” A man’s strident voice came through the panel. “Maxi said you’d be in the guesthouse.”

Damn. Those words suggested whoever it was had a right to be here, or at least permission. She was going to have to answer the door.

“Coming,” she called. “Just…give me a minute.” She hurried into the bedroom, where her suitcase lay open on the floor. She’d arrived in Silver Springs two days ago but hadn’t bothered to unpack. There hadn’t seemed to be much point. There didn’t seem to be much point in doing anything anymore. She hadn’t bothered to shower or dress this morning, either, and she was wearing the same sweat bottoms, T-shirt and socks she’d had on yesterday.

Yanking off her clothes, she pulled on a robe so that there’d be no expectation of hospitality as she scurried back through the living room. Still reluctant to speak to anyone, she peered through the peephole.

A tall, slender man—six-two, maybe taller—stood on the stoop. His dark hair had outgrown its last haircut and stuck out beneath a red beanie, he had a marked five-o’clock shadow, suggesting he hadn’t shaved for a couple of days, and a cleft chin almost as pronounced as that of Henry Cavill. He was a total stranger to her, but he had to be one of Maxi’s friends or associates, and she should treat him as such.

Bracing herself—human interaction was something she now avoided whenever possible—she took a deep breath. Please, God, don’t let him recognize me or have anything to do with the media.

The blinds were already pulled, so she turned off the lights and cracked the door barely wide enough to be able to peek out with her good side. “What can I do for you?”

His scowl darkened as his gaze swept over what he could see of her. He must’ve realized she was wearing a robe, because he said, “I hate to drag you out of bed at—” he checked his watch “—two in the afternoon. But could you let me into the main house before I freeze my—” catching himself, he cleared his throat and finished with “—before I freeze out here?”

Assuming he was a worker of some sort—she couldn’t imagine why he’d be here, bothering her, otherwise—she couldn’t help retorting, “Sure. As long as you tell me why I should care whether you freeze or not.”

The widening of his eyes gave her the distinct impression that he wasn’t used to having someone snap back at him. So… maybe he wasn’t a worker.

“Because Maxi has offered to let me stay in his home, and he indicated you’d let me in,” he responded with exaggerated patience. “He didn’t text you?”

“No, I haven’t heard from him.” And surely, what this man said couldn’t be right. Maxi had told her that she’d have the run of the place. She’d thought she’d be able to stay here without fear of bumping into anyone. She’d been counting on it.

“He was just getting on a plane,” he explained. “Maybe he had to turn off his phone.”

“Okay. If you want to give me your number, I’ll text you as soon as I hear from him.” He cocked his head.


“I’m afraid you’ll have to come back later.”

“I don’t want to come back,” he said. “I just drove six hours, all the way from the Bay Area, after working through the night. I’m exhausted, and I’d like to get some sleep. Can you help me out here?”

His impatience irritated her. But since the accident, she’d been so filled with rage she was almost relieved he was willing to give her a target. “No, I’m afraid I can’t.”

He stiffened. “Excuse me?”

“I can’t let some stranger into the house, not unless Maxi specifically asks me to.” Even if this guy was telling the truth, forcing him to leave would not only bring her great pleasure, it would give her a chance to feed Maxi’s parrot before hiding the key under the mat. Then there would be no need for further interaction. He wouldn’t see her, and she wouldn’t have to watch the shock, recognition and pity cross his face.

Pity was by far the worst, but none of it was fun.

“If I have the code to the gate, I must’ve gotten it from somewhere, right?” he argued. “Isn’t it logical to assume that Maxi is the one who gave it to me?”

“That’s a possibility, but there are other possibilities.”


“Maybe you hopped the fence or got it from one of the staff?” His chest lifted in an obvious effort to gather what little patience he had left. “I assure you, if I was a thief, I would not present myself at your door.” “I can appreciate why. But I’m responsible for what goes on here right now, which means I can’t take any chances.”

“You won’t be taking any chances!” he argued in exasperation. “If anything goes missing or gets damaged, I’ll replace it.”

What was there to guarantee that? “The art Maxi owns can’t be replaced,” she said and thought she had him. Maxi had told her so himself. But this stranger said the only thing that could trump her statement. “Except by me, since I’m the one who created most of it in the first place,” he said drily.

“You’re an artist?” she asked but only to buy a second or two while she came to grips with a few other things that had just become apparent. If he was one of the artists Maxi collected, he wasn’t some obscure talent. Yet…he couldn’t be more than thirty. And he certainly didn’t look too important shivering in a stretched-out T-shirt, on which the word Perspective was inverted, and jeans that had holes down the front.

“I am,” he replied. “And you are…the house sitter, I presume?”

She heard his disparaging tone. He wondered who the hell she was to tell him what to do. He thought he mattered more than she did. But that came as no surprise: she’d already pegged him as arrogant. She was more concerned about the fact that Maxi might’ve referred to her as a menial laborer. Is that the way her former producer thought of her now? It was only a few months ago that she’d been the most promising actress in Hollywood. Certainly she’d attained more fame than this snooty artist—when it came to having her name recognized by the general public, anyway.

But what did it matter how high she’d climbed? She’d fallen back to earth so hard she felt as though she’d broken every bone in her body, even though the damage to her face was the only lingering injury she’d sustained in the accident. “I’m house-sitting, yes. But, like you, I’m a friend of Maxi’s,” she said vaguely.

Fortunately, he didn’t seem interested enough to press her for more detailed information. She was glad of that.

“Fine. Look, friend.” He produced his phone. “I have proof. This is the text exchange I had with Maxi just before his plane took off. As you can see, he says he has someone—you—staying in the guesthouse, but the main house is available, and I’m welcome to it. If you’ll notice the time, you’ll see that these texts took place just this morning.”

Her heart sank as she read what he showed her: I have someone in the guesthouse. Just get the key from her.

“How long are you planning on being here?” she asked.

“Does it matter?” he replied.

It did matter. But this was Maxi’s estate, and they were both his guests, so she had an obligation to treat him as well as he was accustomed to being treated. “Just a minute,” she said and muttered a curse after she closed the door. There goes all my privacy.

Excerpted from Keep Me Warm at Christmas by Brenda Novak, Copyright © 2021 by Brenda Novak, Inc. Published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.

New York Times
bestselling author Brenda Novak has written over 60 novels. An eight-time Rita nominee, she's won The National Reader's Choice, The Bookseller's Best and other awards. She runs Brenda Novak for the Cure, a charity that has raised more than $2.5 million for diabetes research (her youngest son has this disease). She considers herself lucky to be a mother of five and married to the love of her life.

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Review - One for the Books and Killer Research

Title:   One for the Books
Author:  Jenn McKinlay
Series:  Library Lover's Mystery #11
Publisher:  Berkley
Genre:   Cozy Mystery
Format:  Audiobook ARC
Narrator:  Allyson Ryan
No. of Pages:   300
Date of Publication:   September 1, 2020
My Rating:   4 Stars


Wedding bells are ringing in the latest page-turning Library Lover's Mystery from the New York Times bestselling author of Word to the Wise.

Love is in the air in Briar Creek as library director Lindsey Norris and boat captain Mike (Sully) Sullivan are finally tying the knot. The entire town is excited for the happy day, and Lindsey and Sully's plan for a small wedding evaporates as more and more people insist upon attending the event of the year.

When Lindsey and her crafternoon pals head out to Bell Island to see if it can accommodate the ever-expanding guest list, they are horrified to discover a body washed up on the rocky shore. Even worse, Lindsey recognizes the man as the justice of the peace who was supposed to officiate her wedding ceremony. When it becomes clear he was murdered, Lindsey can't help but wonder if it had to do with the wedding. Now she has to book it to solve the mystery before it ends her happily ever after before it's even begun.... 

I am coming into this series without having read the previous books, but no doubt, Lindsey Norris and Mike (Sully) Sullivan have been working towards a wonderful common goal - marriage. Meanwhile, Lindsey, as a busy library director, has proven to be quite good when it comes to solving crimes. However, that is the last thing on Lindsey and Sully's minds. Instead, their wedding day is approaching and everyone in the town of Briar Creek is excited for the impending nuptials.

Things do not go as planned, however. Not in the least. In fact, a body has washed up at the shore as Lindsey and her friends were about to scout for a wedding venue. The body belongs to the justice of the peace. Now, not only do Lindsey and Sully not have anyone to marry them, Lindsey takes it upon herself to solve the mystery of his death and if it connected to her wedding in any way.

I love cozy mysteries and this book did not disappoint. Not only did I read this one, I read book twelve, Killer Research. Even so, I plan on going back and reading the series from the beginning as I love Lindsey, Sully and the crafternoon (cool name!) friends. 

Lindsey is the perfect amateur detective. I enjoyed her being able to work at solving the murder, all while holding on to her plans to marry Sully. Even though I want to catch up and read the first ten books, this delightful story did just fine as a standalone novel. Moreover, I had this book as an audiobook ARC and I really enjoyed the narration, thus making for the perfect afternoon read.

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

- - - - - 

Title:   Killer Research
Author:  Jenn McKinlay
Series:  Library Lover's Mystery #12
Publisher:  Berkley
Genre:   Mystery & Thrillers
Format:  Audiobook ARC
Narrator:  Allyson Ryan
No. of Pages:   280
Date of Publication:   November 2, 2021
My Rating:   4 Stars


Spring has sprung in Briar Creek, but it is not all sunshine and roses, in the newest Library Lover's Mystery from the New York Times bestselling author of One for the Books.

Spring is livening up Briar Creek after a long, cold winter, and newlyweds Lindsey and Sully could not be happier. Even though the upcoming mayoral election is getting heated, everything else in town is coming up daffodils...until a body is found.

Ms. Cole, a librarian and current candidate for town mayor, is shocked when she opens her trunk to discover a murder victim who just so happens to be a guy she dated forty years ago and the founder of the baking empire Nana's Cookies. As the town gossip mill turns, a batch of rumors begins to circulate about Ms. Cole's rebellious youth, which--along with being a murder suspect--threatens to ruin her life and her budding political career. But Ms. Cole is one tough cookie who will not go down without a fight.

Has the campaign for mayor turned deadly? It is up to Lindsey, Sully, and the rest of the crafternoon pals to see how the cookie crumbles and figure out who is trying to frame Ms. Cole for murder and why. 


With no small effort, Lindsey and Sully are now married. A dead body at their wedding put a true damper on things, but Lindsey solved the murder and the nuptials took place. Now a happy couple, Lindsey is getting has gotten back to her job as library director. It is time for another crafternoon event, but when the librarian discovers a body in the trunk of her car everyone gives pause. 

The librarian is Ms. Cole and the body belongs to someone she dated four decades ago. Why would the body of this man be found in her trunk? Was their something about Ms. Cole from all those years ago that would lead to this terrible discovery? And what of the beautiful village of Briar Creek now dealing with yet another murder? 

Leave it to Lindsey and innate skill at solving crimes. From the very start, Lindsey refuses to believe that Ms. Cole had anything to do with the murder. Beyond that, Ms. Cole has a strength that proves that she is more than willing to work with Lindsey to unearth the truth. 

Lindsey is not alone in her quest for the truth. In fact, she has the crafternoon pals (okay, I really love that moniker). Between all of them, they plan on solving the murder, as well as another mystery that is happening right before their eyes.

I loved this book, and the previous one, One for the Books. I do plan on backtracking and reading the first ten books in this delightful cozy mystery series. I got both books as audiobook ARCs and found Allyson Ryan to be the ideal narrator.

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


Jenn is the New York Times, USA Today, and Publisher's Weekly bestselling author of several mystery and romance series and will be debuting a stand alone romantic comedy in July 2020 entitled PARIS IS ALWAYS A GOOD IDEA. She lives in sunny Arizona in a house that is overrun with kids, pets and her husband's guitars.