Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Review - I’m Glad My Mom Died

Title:   I’m Glad My Mom Died
Author:  Jennette McCurdy
Publisher:  Simon & Schuster
Genre:   Memoir
Format:  Audiobook ARC
Narrator:  Jennette McCurdy
Length:  6 hours and 50 minutes
No. of Pages:   320
Date of Publication:   August 9, 2022
My Rating:   5 Stars 



A heartbreaking and hilarious memoir by iCarly and Sam & Cat star Jennette McCurdy about her struggles as a former child actor—including eating disorders, addiction, and a complicated relationship with her overbearing mother—and how she retook control of her life.

Jennette McCurdy was six years old when she had her first acting audition. Her mother’s dream was for her only daughter to become a star, and Jennette would do anything to make her mother happy. So she went along with what Mom called “calorie restriction,” eating little and weighing herself five times a day. She endured extensive at-home makeovers while Mom chided, “Your eyelashes are invisible, okay? You think Dakota Fanning doesn’t tint hers?” She was even showered by Mom until age sixteen while sharing her diaries, email, and all her income.

In I’m Glad My Mom Died, Jennette recounts all this in unflinching detail—just as she chronicles what happens when the dream finally comes true. Cast in a new Nickelodeon series called iCarly, she is thrust into fame. Though Mom is ecstatic, emailing fan club moderators and getting on a first-name basis with the paparazzi (“Hi Gale!”), Jennette is riddled with anxiety, shame, and self-loathing, which manifest into eating disorders, addiction, and a series of unhealthy relationships. These issues only get worse when, soon after taking the lead in the iCarlyspinoff Sam & Cat alongside Ariana Grande, her mother dies of cancer. Finally, after discovering therapy and quitting acting, Jennette embarks on recovery and decides for the first time in her life what she really wants.

Told with refreshing candor and dark humor, I’m Glad My Mom Died is an inspiring story of resilience, independence, and the joy of shampooing your own hair.

Jennette McCurdy became quite a successful child Star, but this was not of her own making. No, it was all about her overbearing and extremely controlling mother. Her mother’s deplorable actions led young Jennette into a whirlwind of eating disorders, drug and alcohol abuse and more. 

Most six-year-olds are excited about beginning first grade. Instead, Jennette’s energies are focused on acting audition after audition. Her mother is firmly in control, and all Jennette wants and can see is her mother’s happiness. So, she does her very best, but still manages to disappoint her mother. Thus begins a life of extreme control. 

Some of the things Jennette’s mother forced on her was a very strict dietary intake, forceful beauty makeovers (She was still a young child!) and even being showered by her mother until she was sixteen years old! In fact, if it were not for her mother becoming ill and weak with cancer, these daily showers would have continued. 

In her self-narrated audiobook, Jennette does not shy away from the extent of her mother’s controlling and abusive behavior towards her. Her mother’s attempts were indeed rewarded, as Jennette became cast in the Nickelodeon show iCarly. This might have made her mother happy, but not so for Jennette in fact, this is when her self-destructive behaviors began and grew by leaps and bounds. 

Her mother was not the only toxic person in Jennette’s life, sadly enough. In fact, it was the show’s producer, Dan Schneider, a man who did not even earn his name being mentioned in her book, called only “the producer”, was someone who often made her feel very uncomfortable. After Jennette’s second major acting job won her a starring role on Sam & Cat, her mother lost her battle with cancer. 

Sadly, this did not free Jennette from the effects of years of abuse. In fact, her self-destructive behavior continued. It wasn’t until she left the world of acting before she started to look at what she herself wanted in life, and thus began the world of recovery that would change her life and give her the control that she so deserved.

Readers just made wonder why the title, I’m Glad My Mom Died, was chosen by Jennette. No doubt, writing this book, and naming it this way, was part of the cathartic healing process she needed and truly deserved. It may have taken some time, but Jennette found healing and for that readers of this book and those aware of her story should be happy. More than writing this book, Jennette also narrated the incredibly touching audiobook. This  intensified the impact that this book had on me as a reader. 

Quite naturally, this book comes with a bevy of content warnings. These would include child abuse, sexual assault, drug and alcohol abuse, gaslighting, parental death, etc.

Many thanks to Jennette McCurdy, Simon and Schuster and Libro.fm for this ARC for review. This is my honest opinion.


Jennette McCurdy got her start in child acting, which by her late teen years had brought her success (she starred in Nickelodeon's hit show iCarly and her own spin-off, Sam & Cat). She went on to star in the Netflix series Between, and had a short-lived country music career with Capitol Records Nashville. Despite her outside success, McCurdy felt ashamed of 90% of her resume and ultimately unfulfilled, so she turned to alcohol, but since that didn't work, she quit acting and began pursuing writing/directing in 2017. She has written/directed a pilot and four short films. Her work has been featured in/on The Hollywood Reporter, Short of the Week, Florida Film Festival, Salute Your Shorts, and many more. She has written articles for Huffington Post and the Wall Street Journal. Her one-woman show “I’m Glad My Mom Died” had a sold-out run at Lyric Hyperion Theatre. She hosts a podcast called “Empty Inside”, where she speaks with guests about uncomfortable topics.

Review - Carrie Soto is Back

Title:   Carrie Soto is Back
Author:  Taylor Jenkins Reid
Publisher:  Ballantine Books
Genre:   Women’s Fiction
No. of Pages:   384
Length:  10 Hours and 30 Minutes
Date of Publication:   August 30, 2022
My Rating:   5 Stars


In this powerful novel about the cost of greatness, a legendary athlete attempts a comeback when the world considers her past her prime—from the New York Times bestselling author of Malibu Rising.

Carrie Soto is fierce, and her determination to win at any cost has not made her popular. But by the time she retires from tennis, she is the best player the world has ever seen. She has shattered every record and claimed twenty Grand Slam titles. And if you ask Carrie, she is entitled to every one. She sacrificed nearly everything to become the best, with her father, Javier, as her coach. A former champion himself, Javier has trained her since the age of two.

But six years after her retirement, Carrie finds herself sitting in the stands of the 1994 US Open, watching her record be taken from her by a brutal, stunning player named Nicki Chan.

At thirty-seven years old, Carrie makes the monumental decision to come out of retirement and be coached by her father for one last year in an attempt to reclaim her record. Even if the sports media says that they never liked “the Battle-Axe” anyway. Even if her body doesn’t move as fast as it did. And even if it means swallowing her pride to train with a man she once almost opened her heart to: Bowe Huntley. Like her, he has something to prove before he gives up the game forever.

In spite of it all, Carrie Soto is back, for one epic final season. In this riveting and unforgettable novel, Taylor Jenkins Reid tells her most vulnerable, emotional story yet.

In this remarkable read by the ever-popular Taylor Jenkins Reid, Carrie Soto’s rise to fame was rivaled by her comeback in her late thirties, something rather unheard of in the aggressive and demanding world of tennis. 

With a successful and talented tennis player as a father, Carrie came by her talent naturally, training since two years of age. Carrie’s talent only came second to her drive to win. To be the greatest. At any cost. Called the Battle-Axe, Carrie earned a powerful reputation, and sadly this led to her being mostly unliked by competitors, and even some of the public. 

An injury and aging out of the sport let her retirement when she was just past 30 years of age. Surgery and recuperation and a six year break seemed to be all Carrie needed to come back to the sport that she loved, the sport that made her a household name. She once again had the desire to achieve more records. Now at the 37 years of age, Carrie was determined to win the highest accolade the sport has to offer, including beating someone that was determined to decimate any records that Carrie had earned over the years. Carrie’s story also showed how unhappy she was at times, and what her motivations were. It also showed how she didn’t have someone special in her life for years and how that eventually began to change. 

As someone who really enjoyed the sport of tennis as a younger person, this story proved to be very enjoyable to me. This book smoothly explained the rules and intricacies of tennis and the various matches without making the book sounding clinical. In addition. although I had this as a Kindle ARC, I also received this as an audiobook ARC. That was truly a blessing, because with a full cast of twelve narrators, this excellent book was made even better with all of the voices and the occasional sound effects. 

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

Please enjoy my YouTube video review - 


Taylor Jenkins Reid is the author of the New York Times Bestselling novels Malibu Rising, Daisy Jones and the Six and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, as well as One True Loves, Maybe in Another Life, After I Do, and Forever, Interrupted. Her books have been chosen by Reese’s Book Club, Read with Jenna, Indie Next, Best of Amazon, and Book of the Month. Her novel, Daisy Jones and the Six, is currently being adapted by Hello Sunshine into a limited series for Amazon. She lives in Los Angeles.

Monday, August 29, 2022

BLOG TOUR - Take My Husband


A witty, insightful domestic comedy about one woman's unexpected, thought-provoking journey out of her marriage as she realizes how much better off she would be if her husband had not survived a serious car crash.

When Laurel Appelbaum gets a call at work from the local hospital informing her that her unemployed husband Doug has been in a serious car accident, she is in shock. Summoned immediately to his bedside, she doesn't know in what condition she will find him. As she rushes to the ER, her mind is full of dire thoughts of this abrupt and unpredictbale end to her marriage...that is until she remembers the large life insurance policy they are carrying in his name.

Suddenly Laurel can't help but imagine what a life on her own might look like...a new little cottage perhaps, the dog she has always wanted but can't have because of Doug's allergies, and the money to travel to see their only son. By the time she arrives she is ready to assume the role of grieving widow, only to find Doug sitting on a gurney, annoyed that she has taken so long to come pick him up. All of the tiny assaults on her freedom and dignity that have chipped away at their marriage and her happiness over the years flood in. She realizes now that she is finally ready to journey out of her marriage because the life really at stake is her own. She just has to figure out how to do it.


Bookshop.org | Amazon | B & N
Target | Books A Million |  IndieBound
Kobo | Apple Play |  Google Play

Title:   Take My Husband
Author:  Ellen Meister
Publisher:  MIRA
Genre:   Women's Fiction
Format:  Kindle ARC
No. of Pages:   400
Date of Publication:   August 30. 2022
My Rating:   4 Stars

Laurel is beside herself when she discovers that her husband Phil has been in a car accident. With glee. Glee? Yes. Nearly thirty years of marriage and maybe her Doug has finally met his demise. Instead, she finds herself truly dismayed when she discovers that his injuries were rather slight.

Laurel feels she has good reason to wish for Doug's death. If the car accident didn't do it, maybe she can help things along. There are reasons, well, reasons good enough for Laurel, to wish Doug to no longer take a breath in this world.

And it is this concept that make up the pages of this dark humor novel by Ellen Meister. Rather unconventional, especially as marriage should at least bring joy to those involved. And, wishing someone was dead? Well, not good. 

Doug has perfected the art of making Laurel feel less than. He can't even bring the newspapers that only he reads inside. He can't get his own milk, or cream for his coffee. Minor infractions? Perhaps, but these and other such issues over the span of three decades has made Laurel think enough is enough. Divorce is not an option. Doug has a $850,000 life insurance policy. A policy she intends on cashing in on. Now, to plan ways for death to come quickly for the husband she has seemed to lost all feelings for.

This book had plenty of humor, but on a serious note, there was the innate unhappiness that Laurel felt over the years. In fact, feeling like her needs, her own happiness, and the loss of tender emotions brought Laurel to these very dark thoughts.  

It was very interesting to watch Laurel's process in this novel and to see how she found her way, albeit misguided at times. Ellen Meister has surprised me with this novel and thus this book proved to be a very enjoyable read.

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

Please enjoy the following excerpt:
Laurel Applebaum heard a familiar ringtone as she shuffled toward the lockers at Trader Joe’s, tired and spent after a full day on her feet. Was that her phone? Her first instinct was to rush, but she stopped herself. It was probably her husband, Doug, with one of his inane emergencies, like running out of chocolate-covered almonds. God forbid he should go ten minutes without a snack.

The phone rang again, but still Laurel didn’t pick up her pace. She could have—there was always a little reserve left in the tank—but she decided to indulge in her end-of-the-day crankiness, even though she might pay for it later, when Doug started whining about his deprivations. For now, for this one moment she had to herself, it felt like a miniature vacation.

Sometimes, Laurel told herself she should get a job where she could sit all day, like her sister-in-law, who answered phones in a doctor’s office. Then Laurel would look at her co-worker Charlie Webb, who was more than twenty years her senior and the fastest cashier they had. Always smiling, he was beloved by staff and customers, and Laurel thought of him as a cross between Kris Kringle and the philosophical deathbed guy from Tuesdays With Morrie. He made her laugh. And want to be better.

By the time Laurel opened her locker, the ringing had stopped and started up again. She pulled her purse from its hook and fished out her phone. Sure enough, DOUG was on the caller ID.

“Hi,” she said wearily, hoping she conveyed enough pathos with the single syllable to elicit some sympathy.

“Laurel Applebaum?” said a woman’s voice.

A chill swept through her. Something was wrong.


“I’m so glad I finally reached you. I’m calling from Plainview Hospital. Are you Douglas Applebaum’s next of kin?”

“That’s my husband,” she said, her scalp prickling, her whole body suddenly alert. An instinctive chill had her in its grip. “Is he okay? What’s wrong?”

“He was brought in by ambulance after a motor vehicle accident. We’re still assessing his condition, but he’s unconscious. Right now the doctors—”

“I’m not far,” Laurel said. “I’ll be there in ten minutes. Less.” She dropped her phone into her purse and grabbed her jacket. Dear god, was this really happening? And why did it take a near tragedy for her to remember how much she loved him?

I have to do better, she thought, a lump taking shape in her throat. I have to.

“Is everything okay?” asked Charlie Webb. He had been standing close by, which wasn’t unusual. Sweet as he was, the old guy was just this side of stalkerish when it came to Laurel.

She chalked it up to a harmless crush. To Charlie, Laurel was still in the blush of youth. But she understood that his age filtered her through a softening gauze. To most men, she was all but invisible—a fifty-two-year-old woman who maintained only the last vestiges of attractiveness. It had been at least ten years and as many pounds since anyone told her she resembled Diane Lane. Granted, she didn’t make the effort she used to, but she simply couldn’t see the point.

She looked into Charlie’s kind face. “I don’t think so,” she said, her eyes watering. “Doug’s been in an accident. They wouldn’t have called me unless…” She searched his expression, hoping she didn’t have to finish the sentence.

He nodded and took her by the shoulders. “You’re going to be okay,” he said slowly, “no matter what. You are here and you’re fine. You only have one job right now, and that’s to drive carefully. You understand?”

The cadence of his speech slowed her rocketing heart, but she was suddenly so overcome by his concern she couldn’t speak. So she gave him a quick hug, and dashed out.

Laurel slammed the door of her twelve-year-old Altima, considering Charlie’s advice as she pulled her seat belt across her torso. Drive Carefully, she thought, turning the words into initials. It was something she often did to settle herself, playing a game where she tried to think of famous people to match the letters. DC=Don Cheadle, Dana Carvey, Diahann Carroll.

Calmer, she realized Charlie was right—she didn’t need to tear out of the lot. Reaching the hospital two minutes faster was not going to make a difference. Because realistically, she thought as the bulge in her throat swelled and tightened, Doug was probably already dead. She could almost feel it in her bones. He was gone, the life snuffed from his body. That was why she had been summoned. The hospital probably had a policy against giving next of kin the news over the phone.

Once she got there, she would be pulled into a private room by a doctor and a social worker. They would tell her they did everything they could, and ask if there was anyone they could call for her. She thought about her mother, elderly and detached, who would be no help at all. Then, of course, there was Doug’s sister, Abby, who was just the opposite. She would want to push in and take over.

Laurel bristled at the thought as her salty tears began to dry on her face, contracting the skin on her cheeks. Abby. God, she was annoying. The woman had an answer for everything. And usually, it was wrong. Maybe Laurel wouldn’t call her right away.

But no, Abby could be helpful if she stayed in her damned lane. Laurel would just have to be strong, assertive. She would give Abby a list of people to call. That would make her feel useful and important. Keep her out of Laurel’s hair.

And then, well, Laurel would have to make the most difficult call of all—to her son, Evan, who lived on the West Coast and was expecting his first child. He’d want to fly to Long Island for the funeral, but what about his wife, Samara? She was having a difficult pregnancy and might not be allowed to fly. Maybe Evan wouldn’t even feel comfortable leaving her.

It was painful to consider, and Laurel shook her head. She was making this too complicated. Of course they would both come to the funeral.

The thought of seeing them lightened her heart. She’d been depressed about not being able to fly out there for the birth of their child. Money was just so tight, with Doug still out of work. And he had insisted it was foolish for them to get any further in the hole on their credit cards. But now…now she’d be free to buy a ticket without getting into a fight about it. At least there was that. She would finally get her wish of being there for the birth of her first grandchild, to hell with credit card debt.

And then Laurel had a thought that made her gasp. She hadn’t remembered it until this moment. Doug had a huge life insurance policy—$850,000. So much money! It would solve everything. She’d be able to pay off all the credit cards. She could sell the house, and move to a cute little apartment, all by herself, and live off the savings. My place, she would call it. The decor would be soft and cool, in shades of aquamarine and sand. She imagined getting up in the morning without thinking about making Doug breakfast, setting out his vitamins and medication, picking up his damp towels from the bathroom floor, washing the dishes he left in the sink, swiping his crumbs off the counter. There were always so many damned crumbs. But now, she might even get a little dog. Doug was allergic so she had never been able to, and the thought of it filled her.

Laurel stretched in the seat, thinking how lovely it would be to quit the long shifts at Trader Joe’s and give her aching back a rest. And with no job, she would be able to stay home with a new puppy to train it.

And then there was her mother, who desperately wanted Laurel to spend more time with her. This could be just what their relationship needed. Laurel imagined her mother being so grateful for the extra attention she might even summon the courage to take a break from her vintage doll collection and leave the house. Laurel warmed at the thought, the tension in her throat easing.

And of course, that would be nothing compared to holding her first grandchild. How she loved newborns! Their impossibly tiny noses, their kernel-sized toes, the smell of heat rising off their velvety little heads. She imagined a baby girl with Evan’s silky dark hair.

By the time she parked at the hospital, Laurel was trying to work out whether it made sense to get a dog right away, or if she should wait until after the birth of the baby, so she wouldn’t need to worry about finding someone to care for it while she was in California.

She stopped the thought in its tracks. This wasn’t about her, it was about Doug, and she needed to be sadder. He was her husband. They had been married for nearly thirty years. Laurel tried to picture the early days of their courtship, recalling when they first met. She had just landed her first real job, working in the marketing department of a trade magazine publisher, when one of the women in her office offered to fix her up with a friend of her husband’s. “A solid citizen,” the woman had said, and Laurel took it to mean he was someone she could trust.

The phrase stuck with her all these years because it had defined Doug from their very first meeting. He was an honest and decent man who had gone into his father’s business. Eight years older than Laurel, he had a boyish face, unruly hair that charmed her, and an irresistibly corny sense of humor. Even on that first date, she didn’t mind that he was overweight. It made her feel safe to be with someone who wasn’t all that attractive to other women. Here was a man who would always be faithful. And also, he thought he was the luckiest guy in the world to be dating someone so very pretty. She was even flattered by his jealousy. It made her feel like a princess.

When he proposed six months later, Laurel was dizzy with joy. She was young—barely twenty-two—but she had always dreamed of being a wife. And she was being offered a sparkling emerald cut diamond solitaire ring by a man who wanted her so desperately he couldn’t wait to make it official. She’d been so overcome she could barely choke out the word yes.

Laurel parked and pulled a tissue from her purse, well aware of what she was doing—digging into memories to feel appropriately sad. It worked. Her heart felt leaden as she slammed her car door and hurried to the emergency room entrance.

“I got a call about my husband, Douglas Applebaum,” she said to the woman at the desk. “He was…in an accident.” She arranged her face into a stoic expression so the receptionist would understand she was prepared for whatever bad news was about to unfold.

But the woman remained impassive as she tapped at her computer, asked for ID, and then printed out an adhesive name badge. “Observation unit 4B,” she said, handing it to Laurel.

“What?” Laurel asked, confused. She had expected someone to come out and greet her.

The woman pointed a long nail embedded with a diamond chip. “Straight down that hall, all the way to the end. Make a right, show your badge to the security guard.”

For a lingering moment, Laurel stood transfixed by the glamorous manicure, a covetous urge growing tight in her gut. She hid her raw, unmanicured hands behind her back as she recalled better days, when she would indulge in mani-pedis with her friend Monica, as they laughed and gossiped.

And then, just like that, the nostalgia was replaced with furious reproach. How could she possibly be so shallow? Especially now, when there was so much at stake.

Guilt brought her back to the present, where she tried to focus on the instructions she had just been given. Dazed, Laurel did as she was asked, going through door after door until she found herself in a room full of patients in reclining chairs, separated by curtains. Some were alone, others had a loved one sitting close by in a plastic seat, crowded into the tiny space. Medical professionals buzzed around the middle of the room, going from patient to patient. The air was too hot, and smelled like disinfectant.

Laurel followed the signs. 1B, 2B, 3B, and then she stood before 4B, where two nurses in lavender scrubs hovered over a patient, blocking her view. One was leaning across him, pulling off a Velcro blood pressure cuff, and the other adjusted a bag of clear liquid hanging on an IV pole. The patient said something to make both nurses laugh, and then they took a step back, as if sensing Laurel’s presence.

And there he was, lounging in the reclining chair, a purple bruise across his forehead.

Laurel stopped and blinked, taking it in. The IV bag was connected to his arm by a thin tube. He wore the faded plaid shirt she’d been trying to get him to throw out, his belly hanging over his belt.

“Doug?” she asked, trying to make sense of the tableau before her. There was, she knew a term for what she was experiencing. Cognitive dissonance. Still, she couldn’t understand what she was looking at. That is, until he spoke.

“Did you bring me a snack?”

Excerpted from Take My Husband by Ellen Meister. Copyright © 2022 by Ellen Meister. Published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.

Please also enjoy my YouTube video -


Ellen Meister is the author of several novels including THE ROOFTOP PARTY, LOVE SOLD SEPARATELY, DOROTHY PARKER DRANK HERE; THE OTHER LIFE and others. Ellen is also an editor, book coach, ghostwriter, and frequent contributor to Long Island Woman Magazine. She teaches creative writing at Long Island University Hutton House Lectures and previously at Hofstra University. Her latest novel is TAKE MY HUSBAND. For more info visit ellenmeister.com.

Author Website: https://ellenmeister.com/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ellenmeister/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/EllenMeister

Sunday, August 28, 2022



The love of your life… or a deadly mistake?

It’s hard, meeting your ex after so much time apart. You remember the tears and accusations, the desperate look on his face as he punched the wall, but you try not to show it. You smile politely, even while your heart beats faster.

You watch as he looks down into the stroller, at the beautiful blond-haired blue-eyed baby kicking his little legs in the sunshine, whose innocent smile lights up your world.

You see his face change. You know what he’s thinking.

The next day he calls. His voice is shaking. He wants the truth. Is it his child?

You hesitate, your throat dry, good and bad memories swirling in your mind. You’ve missed him so much… but can you ever trust him again?

You decide that the most important thing is doing what’s right for baby Tom. But months later, when the sirens wail in the night, you have to admit: you never thought either of you would go this far…

A brilliantly twisty psychological thriller from no.1 bestselling author S.E. Lynes about a relationship full of secrets and lies. Fans of Ruth Ware, Lisa Jewell and Gillian Flynn will be gripped by The Ex.


Title:   The Ex
Author  S. E. Lynes
Publisher:  Bookouture
Genre:   Psychological Thriller 
Format:  Kindle ARC 
No. of Pages:   341
Date of Publication:   August 26, 2022
My Rating:    5 Stars

Life is short. Seize the day. Naomi wants Sam back and she will do anything to make it happen. Anything. Sam left Naomi and now he is back, living with his grandmother. Apparently Naomi has a baby son named Tom. A son Sam knew nothing about. With the same blond hair and blue eyes, Sam quickly assumes that he is the father. A father who immediately decides that he wants to be involved in his son’s life.

Things are beginning to take shape. With extreme reins on control, Naomi is going to get Sam back by any means necessary. The three of them will be a nice little family, no matter the cost. Thus begins a roller coaster of events that prove Naomi’s desperate attempts to make it happen. 

This is no sweet little love story. In fact, as this book evolves proving that sheer desperation comes with manipulation and control to the point of obsession. The story is delivered in an interesting third person accounting from a couple of characters, especially with letters written in first person from Naomi‘s point of view. 

This intriguing book not only features Sam and Naomi, as Sam‘s grandmother Joyce plays a pivotal role. Miranda, Sam’s dear friend is also integral to this story. With these additional characters, the exceptional pacing in this story flows easily. As each letter comes through from Naomi, she definitely wins one of the most unlikable people awards. Naomi states early on that her desperate actions are due the effect that the pandemic had on her life. While she may want Sam back, the question is whether or not she can forgive him for leaving her in the first place. 

S. E. Lynes has written an addictive and compelling read from beginning to end. I was eager to see far things would go and what the conclusion would bring. With excellent writing and a thrilling plot, this book was a one-sitting read and was thoroughly enjoyable.

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

Please enjoy my YouTube video review - 


A former BBC Producer, S.E. Lynes has lived in France, Spain, Scotland and Italy and is now settled in Greater London. After completing her MA, she taught creative writing at Richmond Adult Community College for ten years. She now combines writing, mentoring and lecturing in Richmond Borough.

Author Social Media Links
Website: susielynes.wixsite.com/website
Bookouture Email Sign Up: https://www.bookouture.com/se-lynes

Saturday, August 27, 2022

BLOG TOUR - The Thread Collectors


“An unforgettable story of female strength, hope and friendship. This collaborative work is magnificent—a true revelation!” —Pam Jenoff, New York Times bestselling author of The Woman with the Blue Star

“A brilliant story brimming with unexpected friendships and family ties. Historically sound and beautifully stitched, The Thread Collectors will stay with you long after the last page is turned.” —Sadeqa Johnson, international bestselling author of Yellow Wife

1863: In a small Creole cottage in New Orleans, an ingenious young Black woman named Stella embroiders intricate maps on repurposed cloth to help enslaved men flee and join the Union Army. Bound to a man who would kill her if he knew of her clandestine activities, Stella has to hide not only her efforts but her love for William, a Black soldier and a brilliant musician.

Meanwhile, in New York City, a Jewish woman stitches a quilt for her husband, who is stationed in Louisiana with the Union Army. Between abolitionist meetings, Lily rolls bandages and crafts quilts with her sewing circle for other soldiers, too, hoping for their safe return home. But when months go by without word from her husband, Lily resolves to make the perilous journey South to search for him.

As these two women risk everything for love and freedom during the brutal Civil War, their paths converge in New Orleans, where an unexpected encounter leads them to discover that even the most delicate threads have the capacity to save us. Loosely inspired by the authors' family histories, this stunning novel will stay with readers for a long time.

HarperCollins.com | BookShop.org | Barnes & Noble
Amazon | Books-A-Million | McNally Jackson

Title:   The Thread Collectors
Author:  Shaunna J. Edwards and Alyson Richman
Publisher:  Graydon House
Genre:   Historical Fiction
Format:  Kindle ARC
No. of Pages:   400
Date of Publication:   August 30, 2022
My Rating:   5 Stars

This touching historical fiction takes place in two locations, slowly drawing four principal characters - two couples - together amidst impossible conditions. We have 1863 New Orleans and also New York. In New Orleans, Stella is a remarkable young black woman who uses incredible skills while embroidering maps on old cloth. These maps help enslaved Black men flee and join the Union Army. This includes a man near and dear to her heart named William.

In New York City, we have young Lily, a Jewish woman focusing on stitching a quilt for her husband Jacob. He is stationed in Louisiana while stationed with the Union Library. Also she fiercely misses Jacob, Lily keeps herself rolling bandages creating quilts. Not only is she stitching a quilt for her husband, but for other soldiers taken away by the war. Her regular communication from Jacob by means of letters has trickled off, to the point when she no longer knows where he is and whether or not he is safe.

Lily makes the difficult decision to head to Louisiana to try and find Jacob. Thus begins the path for when she will eventually meet Stella. Meanwhile, while the war is going on, the two men, William and Jacob cross paths. While William is Black and Jacob is a Jewish man, their friendship is something mostly unheard of. What draws the two men together is their talent and love of music. 

What a touching story that brings both William and Jacob  together, while also bringing Stella and Lily together. Although the world was greatly divided at that time, even in the way Black and White soldiers were treated during the Civil War, none of these strong characters saw color. If they did see color, it was only for the purpose of avoiding color lines.

In the Author's Note at the end of the book, the authors tell of their decades-long friendship, with Shaunna being black and Alyson being Jewish. About how this world is still dealing with race on so many levels, but seeking for beauty in this dark world nonetheless. Much more is said, which makes this Note very worthy reading. Lastly, Reader's Guide at the very end of the book raises excellent questions, thus making The Thread Collectors the perfect book for introspective discussions.

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

Please enjoy the following excerpt:
New Orleans, Louisiana March 1863

She opens the door to the Creole cottage just wide enough to ensure it is truly him. Outside, the pale moon is high in the sky, illuminating only half of William’s face. Stella reaches for his sleeve and pulls him inside.

He is dressed to run. He wears his good clothes, but has chosen his attire thoughtfully, ensuring the colors will camouflage in the wilderness that immediately surrounds the city. In his hand, he clasps a brown canvas case. They have only spoken in whispers during their clandestine meetings about his desire to fight. To f lee. The city of New Orleans teeters on the precipice of chaos, barely contained by the Union forces occupying the streets. Homes abandoned. Businesses boarded up. Stella’s master comes back from the front every six weeks, each time seeming more battered, bitter and restless than the last.

William sets down his bag and draws Stella close into his chest, his heartbeat accelerating. He lifts a single, slim finger, slowly tracing the contours of her face, trying to memorize her one last time.

“You stay here, no matter what…” he murmurs into her ear. “You must keep safe. And for a woman like you, better to hide and stay unseen than venture out there.”

In the shadows, he sees her eyes shimmer. But she balances the tears from falling, an art she had been taught long ago—when she learned that survival, not happiness, was the real prize.

Stella slips momentarily from William’s arms. She tiptoes toward a small wooden chest. From the top drawer, she retrieves a delicate handkerchief with a single violet embroidered in its center. With materials in the city now so scarce, she has had to use the dark blue thread from her skirt’s hem to stitch the tiny flower on a swatch of white cotton cut from her petticoat.

“So you know you’re never alone out there,” she says as she closes William’s fingers around the kerchief.

He has brought something for her, too. A small speckled cowrie shell that he slips from a worn indigo-colored pouch. The shell and its cotton purse are his two most sacred possessions in the world. He puts the pouch, now empty, back into his pocket.

“I’ll be coming back for that, Stella.” William smiles as he looks down at the talisman in his beloved’s hand. “And for you, too… Everything will be different soon.”

She nods, takes the shell and feels its smooth lip against her palm. There was a time such cowries were used as a form of currency for their people, shells threaded on pieces of string exchanged for precious goods. Now this shell is both worthless and priceless as it’s exchanged for safekeeping between the lovers.

There is no clock in her small home. William, too, wears

no watch. Yet both of them know they have already tarried too long. He must set out before there is even a trace of sunlight and, even then, his journey will be fraught with danger.

“Go, William,” she says, pushing him out the door. Her heart breaks, knowing the only protection she can offer him is a simple handkerchief. Her love stitched into it by her hand.

He leaves as stealthily as he arrived, a whisper in the night. Stella falls back into the shadows of her cottage. She treads silently toward her bedroom, hoping to wrap herself tightly in the folds of the quilt that brings her so much comfort.

“You alright?” A soft sound emerges in the dark.

“Ammanee?” Stella’s voice breaks as she says the woman’s name.

“Yes, I’m here.” Ammanee enters the room, her face brightened by a small wax candle in her grip.

In the golden light, she sits down on the bed and reaches for Stella’s hand still clutching the tiny shell, which leaves a deep imprint in her palm.

“Willie strong,” Ammanee says over and over again. “He gon’ make it. I know.”

Stella doesn’t answer. A flicker of pain stabs her from the inside, and she finally allows her tears to run.
Please enjoy my YouTube video review as well -


SHAUNNA J. EDWARDS has a BA in literature from Harvard College and a JD from NYU School of Law. A former corporate lawyer, she now works in diversity, equity and inclusion. She is a native Louisianian, raised in New Orleans, and currently lives in Harlem with her husband. The Thread Collectors is her first novel. Find her on Instagram, @shaunnajedwards.

ALYSON RICHMAN is the USA Today and #1 international bestselling author of several historical novels, including The Velvet Hours, The Garden of Letters, and The Lost Wife, which is currently in development for a major motion picture. Alyson graduated from Wellesley College with a degree in art history and Japanese studies. She is an accomplished painter and her novels combine her deep love of art, historical research, and travel. Alyson's novels have been published in twenty-five languages and have reached bestseller lists both in the United States and abroad. She lives on Long Island with her husband and two children, where she is currently at work on her next novel. Find her on Instagram, @alysonrichman.

Social Links:
Alyson Richman - Author Website
Twitter: @alysonrichman
Facebook: Author Alyson Richman
Instagram: @AlysonRichman

 Shaunna Edwards
Facebook: Author Shaunna Edwards
Instagram: @shaunnajedwards

BLOG TOUR - Would You Rather?


Would you rather play it safe in the friend zone, or risk it all with a modern marriage of convenience?

Noah and Mia have always been best friends, and their friendship is the most important thing to them. Life is going great for Noah and he’s up for a promotion in a job he loves. But Mia’s life is on hold as she awaits a kidney transplant. She’s stuck in a dead-end job and, never wanting to be a burden, has sworn off all romance. So when the chance of a lifetime comes to go back to school and pursue her dream, it’s especially painful to pass up. She can’t quit her job or she’ll lose the medical insurance she so desperately needs.

To support her, Noah suggests they get married—in name only—so she can study full-time and still keep the insurance. It’s a risk to both of them, with jobs, health and hearts on the line, and they’ll need to convince suspicious coworkers and nosy roommates that they’re the real deal. But if they can let go of all the baggage holding them back, they might realize that they would rather be together forever.

"Pitch-perfect...gives me all the feels, and I love every one of them!"—Ali Hazelwood, New York Times bestselling author of The Love Hypothesis

“Ashley makes favorite rom-com tropes feel new again with a pitch-perfect friends-to-lovers story.” —Publishers Weekly starred review

Title:   Would You Rather?
Author:  Allison Ashley
Publisher:  MIRA/Harper Collins
Genre:   Romance
Format:  Kindle ARC
No. of Pages:   320
Date of Publication:   August 23, 2022
My Rating:   5 Stars

Friends since childhood, Noah and Mia are about to enter into a marriage of convenience. They are best friends and they always look after each other, and this time Noah will do whatever he can to help Mia. As an architect reaching for promotion, Noah's future is secure. For Mia, her future is up in the air, and for several reasons.

For starters, Mia has a rare disease and depends on weekly infusion treatments. These treatments will continue until she is able to receive a kidney transplant. Also, Mia never finished college due to her health issues and she has just learned that she won a fabulous scholarship. She needs sixty hours to complete her degree. This means going to college full time. She knows that she can't continue to work full time and go to school full time. However, her full time job means that she has health insurance that meets her needs. Should she leave her job, or even work part time, she will lose her benefits.

Noah's solution? Marry and he can put her on his insurance. She can work towards earning her degree and continue with her medical treatment. Mia immediately says no. More than the ethical issue that would present, Mia does not want anything to fragment their close relationship as best friends. But, she agrees. Next thing they have to consider is who will they tell the truth to and how will they appear as happily married newlyweds to others. Meanwhile, each of them had their baggage to deal with while trying to navigate the boundaries of their changing relationship.

What an endearing story. What really makes this work is that this friends to lovers story has such a strong emotional edge. Watching a platonic love change into romantic love was just so sweet. Both Mia and Noah were wonderful characters, and it was so easy to warm up to both of them, especially when they had to fight their growing attraction, all while not upsetting their deep bond of friendship.

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

Please enjoy the following excerpt:
Mia Adrian stared at her phone screen, wondering what in the hell she’d just read.

Noah: Would you rather—text message edition. Daily messages with strange animal facts OR positive affirmations?

What kind of question was that? She frowned and leaned one elbow on the arm of her chair before tapping out a one-handed response.

Mia: ???

Noah: It’s a question. Would you rather receive daily animal facts or positive affirmations?

Mia: Um.

Mia: Neither?

Noah: Both it is.

Mia: Don’t you dare.

A banner appeared at the top of her screen, alerting her to a message from an unknown number.

When I breathe, I inhale confidence and exhale timidity.

She groaned and waited, hoping for some additional message that would give her instructions to opt out of whatever service he’d just signed her up for. Her gaze darted to her computer screen for a second, then back to the phone.


Would she seriously get something like this every day? How the hell was she supposed to stop them?

The text alert dinged again. Another unfamiliar number.

Elephants are the only animal that can’t jump.

She pressed a fist to her forehead.

Mia: I’m going to kill you.

Noah: Should have done it before you taped a banana under my desk. I’ve been wondering what the smell was for days.

She couldn’t help the laugh bubbling up, and glanced around to make sure no clients were around. Noah might be her best friend, but they teased each other at the office like elementary school rivals. She liked her job, but it was still work—and their games usually helped her get through until five o’clock.

This, though? This was her personal cell phone.

He’d taken it one step too far.

Mark my words, Noah Agnew. I’ll get you back for this.

Yet another chirp sounded, but this wasn’t a text message. It was the alert reminding her she needed to leave in fifteen minutes for her weekly infusion appointment.

She smiled at the thought that followed. Thursday meant a trip to the infusion center, but more importantly, it also meant chicken wings for dinner.

She closed her eyes and leaned back in her chair. What would it be today? Louisiana Rub? Lemon Pepper? Maybe she’d go wild and try the Mango Habanero.

They all sounded good—but which sounded best?

When it came to food—chicken wings in particular—Mia didn’t mess around.

“You’re thinking about chicken wings, aren’t you?”

Mia’s eyes popped open and she lurched to a sitting position. Noah stood on the other side of her desk, arms folded across his broad chest.

He had on the baby blue dress shirt. Blue always had been her favorite color on him—she’d told him so no less than fifty times. And yet he only wore the hue once a month, maybe not even that often.

She didn’t mention the ridiculous text messages. Best to let him think they didn’t bother her that much and get him back when he least expected it.

She flicked invisible lint from her black skirt. “It’s Thursday, is it not?”

“It is. But even if it wasn’t, I’d still know. Nothing else puts that look on your face.”

“What look is that, exactly?”

He slid his hands into his pockets. “Pure, unadulterated longing. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

“Only every Thursday for the last nine years.” She leaned forward and dropped her elbows to the desk. “It’s your fault, you know. You’re the one who introduced me to them.”

Noah reached out and moved her nameplate several inches to the left. It drove her crazy.

No matter, she’d rearrange the items on his desk tomorrow morning before he came in.

“I didn’t know I was creating a monster.”

Mia laughed. “Too late for hindsight. Want me to bring some over tonight?”


She didn’t have to ask what flavor he wanted. Noah was as consistent as her doctor’s appointments. When he found something he liked, he stuck with it. Long ago she’d noticed he usually ordered something he’d had before when they went out to eat, and once asked him why he never branched out.

“What if I try something new, and it’s not as good?” he’d said.

“What if it’s better?” she’d returned.

But he wouldn’t be swayed. Wasn’t worth the risk, he maintained, and she’d let it go.

She made a mental note to add a ten piece of plain wings to her order tonight, and swiveled aimlessly in her chair. “How’s your day been?”

“Boring. Full of client meetings, but you know that.”

“If not, I’d be the world’s worst administrative assistant.

Speaking of meetings, you’ve got one more in—” she checked her watch “—ten minutes.”

“I do?”

“Darcy Lane, here to discuss her new fitness center.”

“Right.” He put his palm flat on the desk and leaned in a little. His eyes brightened with excitement. “So I had lunch with my dad today.”

She smiled, ignoring the pang of jealousy at his casual mention of spending time with his dad. There was a time she and her parents got together for regular meals, too. Now, she couldn’t even remember the last time. “Yeah?”

“He’s going to announce his plans to retire. This week, probably.”


They’d been expecting it. Mr. Agnew had been dropping hints about retiring for the last three years. Mia didn’t blame him—he was in his sixties and had built an impressive architecture firm of fifty employees that had become known around Denver for modern, sustainable designs. He’d earned a break.

“Yep. Said the principals would look to promote one of the associates after he left.”

When Mia had started this job many years ago, it had taken her a while to learn the titles and hierarchy structure of architects at the firm. CEO, principal, associate, architect, intern…but eventually she’d gotten it straight.

Mia rubbed her hands together. “Which means a junior principal position will open up, and it will have your name on it.”

He shrugged. “Maybe. I don’t want them to pick me just because I’m the founder’s son.”

She snorted. “Son or not, you’re the best candidate. No contest.”

“Thanks,” he said, chewing on his lower lip. “I’d love the opportunity. And I know it would make my dad proud.”

He ran a hand through his hair, leaving an errant lock sticking straight up in the back.

“Noah,” Mia scolded. She stood and beckoned him to lean over. He obeyed and she smoothed his hair down, a ritual they performed at least twice a week. “Better.”

“Thanks.” He turned toward his office. “You’d better get out of here.”

“I will as soon as your three o’clock arrives.”

He started down the hall to his office just as Julia and David, both architects like Noah, came from the opposite direction.

Julia paused and flashed him a smile. “Hey, Noah.”

He offered a polite greeting but kept moving, and Mia scowled at his back. No matter how many times she brought it up, he always brushed off the suggestion Julia was interested in him.

Julia, looking poised and elegant in a gray dress and heels, veered off into the break room while David turned to where Mia sat. “I can’t find the Trodeau file.”

She blinked, disarmed by his clipped tone. She shouldn’t have been, though, because he always spoke to her like that. “Um, I thought I filed it last week. Did you check the black file cabinet?”

He looked at her like she’d just asked if he knew right from left. “Of course.”

“Oh. I’m sorry, I might have misplaced it,” Mia said, unease filling her stomach. Every time she messed up—which wasn’t often—it always seemed to involve David. The man thought she was a complete idiot. “I’ll find it.”

David just stood there and arched a sardonic brow.

Mia glanced to the side, then forced herself to regain eye contact. “I can’t do it right this minute, I’m about to leave—”

“Right,” David said disapprovingly. “It’s Thursday. Make sure it’s on my desk first thing tomorrow. It’s important.”

“Yes, I can do that. I’ll get it to you tomorrow.”

He didn’t reply and went back the way he’d come.

A subtle chime sounded, alerting Mia to a newcomer in the office. A young woman with long brown hair stepped into the foyer, and Mia stood.

“Good afternoon.” She smiled, trying her best to shake off the interaction with David.

The woman came forward. “Oh, hello. I’m Darcy Lane—I have an appointment?” It came out like a question.

“Yes, at three o’clock with Noah.” She should probably refer to Noah as Mr. Agnew to clients, but that had always been what she called Noah’s father. “I’ll just let him know you’re here. Can I get you anything? Water, coffee?” Serving and chatting with clients while they waited was one of Mia’s favorite parts of her job.

“I’m okay, thank you.” The woman sat in the chair farthest from Mia and pulled out her cell phone.

Guess she wouldn’t be one of the chatty ones, but that was probably best since Mia had to leave, anyway. She picked up her desk phone and hit number one on her speed dial.

“Client’s here?” Noah asked by way of greeting.

“Yep. Should I set her up in the conference room?”

“Not yet. I need a couple of minutes to get her stuff together. I’ll come get her when I’m ready, you need to head out.”

“Relax. I won’t be late.”

“You will be if you don’t leave now.”

“Okay, okay. See you tonight.” She hung up and locked her computer screen. Just as she was about to turn to the woman, she heard Noah’s voice and looked up to see his head poke around the corner.

“Darcy? I’m Noah. I’m just finishing something up, and I’ll be with you in a few minutes.”

The woman seemed stunned for a second as she looked at Noah, blinking several times. “Um, sure. Yes, that’s fine. I know I’m a little early.”

Mia smiled to herself. The woman had no idea how much Noah appreciated that. Tardiness drove him crazy.

“I look forward to our meeting.” Noah’s expression was polite and businesslike, and he ducked back into his office.

Mia forwarded her phone to the office manager and gathered her purse. She went around the desk and stopped in front of Darcy. “I have to head out for an appointment, are you sure there’s nothing you need before I go?”

Darcy’s cheeks were flushed. “No, thank you.”

This wasn’t the first time a woman had become flustered around Noah. The firm did mostly commercial design, and the majority of their clients were men. But occasionally women came through, and they’d had several female interns. It was quite clear the effect Noah had on women, even if the man himself was oblivious.

Despite their long-standing friendship, Mia could still admit her best friend was hot.

Really hot.

Please also enjoy my YouTube video review - 


Allison Ashley is a science geek who enjoys coffee, craft beer, baking, and love stories. When she's not working at her day job as a clinical oncology pharmacist, she pens contemporary romances, usually with a medical twist. She lives in Oklahoma with her family and beloved rescue dog.

Social Links:

Author Website
Twitter: @AllisonAuthor
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