Thursday, August 11, 2022

BLOG TOUR - Mr. Perfect on Paper


DESCRIPTION:

From the author of the buzzy THE MATZAH BALL, a pitch-perfect romcom about a matchmaker who finds her own search for love thrust into the spotlight after her bubbe outs her list for “The Perfect Jewish Husband” on live television.

Dara Rabinowitz knows a lot about love. As a third-generation schadchan, or matchmaker, she’s funneled her grandmother’s wisdom into the world’s most successful Jewish dating app, J-Mate. Yet, despite being the catalyst for countless Jewish marriages, Dara has never been successful at finding love. Oh, she’s got plenty of excuses—like running a three-hundred person technology company and visiting her beloved bubbe every day. But the real reason Dara hasn’t been on a date in three years is much simpler. Though she desperately wants to meet her bashert, and stand beneath the huppah, she is frozen by social anxiety.

All that single dad Chris Steadfast wants to do is give his daughter stability. But with the ratings for the TV news show he anchors in the gutter, and the network threatening cancellation, Chris’s career – like his life with Lacey in Manhattan -- is on the chopping block.

When her bubbe outs Dara's list for “The Perfect Jewish Husband” when they're guests on Chris's live show, Chris sees an opportunity to both find Dara her perfect match, and boost the ratings of his show. But finding Mr. Perfect on Paper may mean giving up on the charming—and totally not Jewish—reporter following Dara's nationwide hunt...

BUY LINKS:

MY THOUGHTS:
 
Title:   Mr. Perfect on Paper
Author:  Jean Meltzer
Publisher:  MIRA
Genre:   Romance
Format:  Kindle ARC
No. of Pages:   384
Date of Publication:   August 9, 2022
My Rating:   5 Stars

The perfect Jewish husband should be:
* A doctor or lawyer (preferably a doctor)
* Baggage-free (no previous marriages, no children)
* And of course—he must be Jewish

Easy enough, right? Especially for a successful matchmaker, with over 10,000 wonderful matches, A multi-millionaire, beautiful and brilliant to boot. Dara Rabinowitz may appear to have it all. But she also has Generalized Anxiety Disorder. More than that, her sole focus has been about working very hard at perfecting her multi-generational matchmaking business, bringing it in into today’s world of apps. Throughout her life, Dara has had to learn how to manage her anxiety, whether it is worrying overmuch or having full-blown panic attacks. I love the way that these issues are addressed in this book, as well as some of the coping techniques that really help Dara.

Dara get the opportunity to meet her celebrity crush, none other than Chris Steadfast, host of a morning talk show right there in the city of New York where they both live. Dara does not go alone. In fact her grandmother Miriam accompanies her in a live guest spot spot on The Morning Show. After all, it was Miriam who started the matchmaking company. What neither Dara nor Chris expected was for Miriam to share Dara’s list of her version of Mr. Perfect. Although embarrassed beyond belief, the sharing of that list could very well increase the success and popularity of not only the matchmaking business, but also to keep that morning talk show on the air by improving its ratings.

Not only does Chris have an idea to help Dara work with her list of finding the perfect Jewish husband, they soon battle an attraction to one another that holds no hope. Dara is not just a Jewish woman by name. Her faith is who she is as a person, whether it is the Jewish holidays, the diet that she maintains and other things that are very important to her. Marrying outside of that is something that could never happen. Therefore, why even think about acting on their shared attraction?

Chris has his own issues to deal with, and that includes being a widower of two years with an 11-year-old daughter. He has already uprooted her when her mother passed away, and now that his show is failing in the ratings he is worried that he may have to uproot her life yet again. 

What a beautiful story, whether it is the comedic failures as Dara goes on her dates, or if it is the seriousness that the story has when it comes to dealing with Dara’s anxiety and the grief that Chris and his daughter are still dealing with. It is sort of like both sides of the coin here in this absolutely fantastic story by Jean Meltzer. More than that, this is a book that really delves into Jewish beliefs and culture in a pleasant and informative way. This made an already enjoyable story that much better. 

I love the balance that this book strikes when it comes to what Dara needs and wants in her life and how that is measured against her moral and religious beliefs. I also love the fact that they have to battle their growing emotions when it seems that there is nothing that could come of them. The way this book was handled showed that even the most difficult and highest mountain can be traversed through time and perseverance. Lastly, this book examines whether love is enough or whether stability and tradition has more importance.

This is the second delightful book that I hav3 read by this talented author. The previous book I read was The Matzah Ball, and that was a five-star read for me just as this one is. 

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

Please enjoy the following excerpt:
1

“Now,” Dara said, glancing down at her watch. “If you don’t mind, we’re on a tight schedule here. I need to get out of here before the coming of Moshiach.”

With that, the entire room jumped into action. Dara took a seat at her vanity. Bobbi laid out the makeup palettes, flipping on two nearby lights to mimic the high-intensity light-ing of a studio. Simi took the clip out of her hair, allowing Dara’s thick black corkscrews to fall free around her shoulders.

Naveah moved to the center of the room, by the built-in island that housed an impressive array of shoes, and began unzipping the plastic packaging. Hanging the outfits up on a mobile rack, she worked hard to carefully display each item.

“Okay, we have three looks for you to choose from this morning.”

Dara analyzed her choices. There was an elegant pleated skirt and tight cashmere sweater. It was Jewy, which went with her brand, but possibly too Jewish for a nationally syndicated televised event that needed to appeal to a broad audience. She glanced over to her next choice, a pair of smart silk pants and a floral blouse. Finally, there was the casual tech look. A pair of tight blue jeans, Converse sneakers and a Patagonia vest.

“Number two,” Dara said.

“Fabulous,” Naveah swooned, hanging it up on the room divider screen.

Dara stepped behind the screen, tossed off her robe and changed into the outfit. After a few moments, she returned to the center of the room, taking her usual place in front of the full-length mirror to analyze the final look.

The black silk pants, cinched at the ankles, gave her more curves than usual. The dramatic blouse, made from the most luxurious of fabrics, was imprinted with stunning large white orchids. It achieved the right type of look for her interview. Professional yet feminine. Assertive without feeling aggressive. It was all the things she needed to accomplish as a powerful female executive—often held to a different standard than her male counterparts.

“What do you think?” Naveah asked, looking over her shoulder.

“It’s perfect.”

Everyone applauded. Dara sat back down at the vanity. Simi ran her fingers through her curls, while the rest of her staff gathered round, peering down at her with tablets and makeup brushes in hand.

“And what’s the look we’re going for today?” Cameron asked.

“Professional,” Dara instructed.

“Got it,” Cameron said, moving to pick out a pair of maroon heels. “A pop of color to go with all that black and white!”

“And the hair?” Simi asked.

“Just put it up.” She smiled. “A stylish bun, nothing too sexy.”

Bobbi and Simi began working on her hair and makeup.

Meanwhile, Naveah pulled up a chair and turned on her tablet. “Now, I know you’re taking this afternoon off to be with your grandmother, so what do you need me to work on in your absence?”

“I sent you a list this morning.”

Naveah tapped on her screen. Moments later, she had the to-do list that Dara had sent her at four o’clock in the morning. “‘Grocery,’” Naveah said, reading the items aloud, “‘laundry, check with caterers for Yom Kippur breakfast, confirm travel for all executives attending October J-Mate sales conference, confirm all of Miriam’s oncology and radiation therapy appointments for September…’”

Dara was always making lists. Always trying to figure out how to turn her chaotic and extremely busy life into some-thing manageable and organized. In truth, her to-do lists, like her obsessive planning, helped her control her anxiety.

She was certain that her nonstop list-making drove every-one she worked with—including Naveah—straight-up meshugana. Janet had even once jokingly referred to Dara as the Good List Dybukk, a dislocated soul who appeared without warning and sprinkled to-dos on every person who crossed her path. Fortunately, as Dara paid her staff extremely well for their efforts, they kept the majority of their criticisms to themselves.

Dara heard the familiar refrain of an incoming Skype call. “Got it!” Naveah said, snapping at Cameron to grab Dara’s phone. “It’s Janet.”

Dara waved Simi away from her face. She asked everyone to give her a minute, and her entourage left the room. Dara waited for the door to shut firmly behind them before continuing.

“Good morning!” Janet beamed from her home office in Colorado.

“What time is it there?” Dara asked.

“Early.” Janet laughed. “You got the whole crew with you today, huh?”

“You know it,” Dara said, glancing at her half-done makeup in the mirror.

Just as Dara’s generalized anxiety disorder was well-known among those she worked with, so, too, was the fact that she genuinely despised all types of public appearances. Alas, that didn’t stop her from doing them. She had learned early on that selling herself on television, in interviews and on Instagram was a necessary evil. Everybody wanted a face, a real person to support, behind the brand. Over the years, Dara had de-vised all sorts of systems for handling her anxiety regarding these appearances.

“And how are you feeling this morning?” Janet asked, get-ting right to the point.

“Oh, you know me,” Dara said. “I’m only nervous for the three days before and the six days after…so in terms of the actual interview, I imagine it will go just fine.”

Janet laughed. “You’re going to do great, Dara.”

In truth, she always did great. She was a perfectionist, after all. She always had a plan and always said all the right things. She smiled in all the right places. She was never caught off guard, and therefore, never floundered. Though the glam squad and to-do lists may have seemed overkill to some, her obsessive-compulsive tendencies worked. Her business was thriving. Her reputation in tech, and the Jewish world, was flourishing, too.

“Like we already discussed,” Janet continued, “there shouldn’t be any surprises, okay? Everything has been worked out between our publicity people and their producers. You want to run through the script one more time?”

“No,” Dara said, firmly. “I got this.”

Janet nodded. “Then I hope you have a blast with your bubbe today.”

The camera shut off. Dara put her phone away, catching sight of her reflection in the mirror. Her hair had been ar-ranged into a sophisticated bun. Her angular features had been softened with light contouring. On the surface, she was the picture of poise and finesse. And yet, her hands were shaking.

She cracked her knuckles, took a sip of tea. She knew it was ridiculous, being this nervous about going on Good News New York, a show that nobody even watched…but she couldn’t help herself.

Dara watched it.

Religiously.

It was a habit of hers to keep the television running in the background while she worked. She liked the noise, the hum of familiar voices. It helped her anxiety. She especially liked the deliciously handsome head anchor of Good News, Christopher Steadfast, and the easygoing way he ended every episode with the words, “I’ll be waiting for you.”

Unfortunately, it had a weird time slot. Midafternoon, during the week, squeezed between the morning talk shows and the soap operas. Plus, it was an oddity in the world of live broadcasting in that it only focused on positive stories. Good news and human interest tales, like the two kids who donated proceeds of a lemonade stand to a homeless shelter, and Bucky, the vegan golden retriever.

Dara adored the segments on Bucky. She watched all of them, often on repeat, staying up late into the night, scrolling through all his reposted videos on the Good News New York Facebook fan page. In fact, the only reason she had even suggested going on Good News New York to begin with was for a chance at meeting the King of Aww himself. Though she was far too mired in her own busy schedule (and anxiety) to ever own a pet herself, she had adopted the quirky golden retriever in her heart.

As for Christopher Steadfast, it could never happen. And the reason it could never happen was right there in his name. Christopher Steadfast was not Jewish. As such, and thanks to a very clear rabbinic prohibition against interfaith marriage, she regarded the man the same way she would some beautiful non-Jewish FabergĂ© egg you passed by in a museum. Some-thing to gaze upon and admire…but never, ever touch.

She couldn’t believe she would be meeting him today. The dog, obviously.

Not the man.

She had no interest at all in some sexy Southern heartthrob with a voice that could melt schmaltz and the pectoral muscles of a Norse god.

Dara shook the thought away. Then, as her own ema, or mother, had taught her, she focused all her energy on dealing with practicalities.

She had Simi and Bobbi come back to the room, finish her hair and makeup. She did one final run-through of her sched-ule with Naveah. She had Cameron and Alexa double-check her bags at the front door, packing up her phone and tablet.

Eventually, with well wishes and air kisses, Naveah and the entourage departed for the day. Normally, she would have someone from her staff accompany her to her events. But today, she wanted to focus on spending time with her grandmother. Dara found herself alone in her apartment once more. She glanced down at her watch. She still had fifteen minutes left before she needed to head out to her bubbe’s. Fifteen minutes. It was a long time to sit around staring at the concrete walls of her apartment. Quiet was dangerous for Dara. It left her open to obsessing.

She moved to fill the space. She brushed her teeth again. Double-checked the bedroom, making sure the bed was made and everything was neat and tidy. She turned off her computer monitors and all the lights. She unplugged her coffee maker and double-checked the third bedroom for any hair straighteners or curling irons left plugged in. She made sure all the knobs on the oven were turned off, and that the patchouli candle was blown out. She pulled out her phone and snapped a photograph of both. Just in case her brain started obsessively worrying that she had left something on by mistake, and she was single-handedly responsible for burning down all of Hoboken.

Dara landed at the front door. Her eyes wandered down to her red high heels. She hated wearing heels in the city. Not for any practical reason, or because they gave her blisters. But because in case of emergency, the zombie apocalypse or an-other mass casualty event, she was worried about having to traverse sixty city blocks—or, God forbid, a bridge—to get back home.

She debated her options. She could pack her heels and wear sneakers for the commute, but that would require yet another bag for the simple day trip into Manhattan.

She hated that it had to be that way. That she couldn’t just be judged on who she was and what she created. Sadly, Dara was a realist. A huge part of her success in life had been understanding how the world works, and the way people inter-act with each other. Whether she agreed with it or not, first impressions were important. Like a shidduch sheet, or a profile on J-Mate, everybody went to the photo first.

Otherwise, she looked perfect. The house looked perfect, too. Perfection was the layer of armor she wore to protect her-self from the swings and swipes of an uncertain world.

She reminded herself of the positive. She was going to be spending the day with her beloved bubbe. They would be making important memories together. Necessary memories. Any anxiety she felt—any sense that something terrible was about to happen—was simply the neurons in her brain misfiring. Her feelings could not be trusted.

Forcing her shoulders back, and her chest upward, she projected confidence. And then, slinging her messenger bag over one arm, she grabbed that box of black-and-white cookies from the kitchen counter and headed out.

Excerpted from Mr. Perfect on Paper by Jean Meltzer, Copyright © 2022 by Jean Meltzer. Published by MIRA Books
Please enjoy my YouTube video review - 



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Author
Jean Meltzer studied dramatic writing at NYU Tisch, and served as creative director at Tapestry International, garnering numerous awards for her work in television, including a daytime Emmy. Like her protagonist, Jean is also a chronically-ill and disabled Jewish woman. She is an outspoken advocate for ME/CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome), has attended visibility actions in Washington DC, meeting with members of Senate and Congress to raise funds for ME/CFS. She inspires 9,000 followers on WW Connect to live their best life, come out of the chronic illness closet, and embrace the hashtag #chronicallyfabulous. Also, while she was raised in what would be considered a secular home, she grew up kosher and attended Hebrew School. She spent five years in Rabbinical School. She is the author of The Matzah Ball and Mr. Perfect on Paper.

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

BLOG TOUR - Hidden Bones


DESCRIPTION:

The girl trips over branches, losing her footing. The darkness swallows her and she grabs thin air as she falls, her scream piercing the night. When she slams into the bottom of the pit, her heart hammers. She can’t believe what she’s seeing—a pile of perfect white bones


In the small town of Crooked Creek, where the Appalachian Mountains climb into the clouds, nineteen-year-old 
Mandy’s Spring Break takes a sinister turn. Detective Ellie Reeves races straight to the scene, driving through the winding roads to the abandoned orphanage.

Ellie saves the teenage girl but discovers human remains that have been there for thirty years, ever since the home for children closed down. Her heart shatters at the thought that they might belong to the helpless orphans.

Working day and night on the case, Ellie searches for the orphanage’s files, but they have been stolen
somebody is clearly trying to cover their tracks. As she interviews the residents of the mountain community, Ellie finds out that almost everyone connected to the children’s home has disappeared.

Then a woman is found dead, her body marked with a strange symbol. When Ellie learns that the victim used to work at the orphanage, it’s clear that a twisted killer is trying to stop the truth coming out.

Ellie vows to solve this case that spans decades and, when her research into the meaning of the symbol leads her to a local business at the heart of recent controversy, she’s on the right track. Can she bring the secrets to light before another innocent person is murdered? And when she gets too close to uncovering the truth, will she survive?

A totally gripping and pulse-pounding crime-thriller that will have you holding your breath as you race through the pages! Perfect for fans of Lisa Regan, Kendra Elliot and Melinda Leigh.


BUY LINKS:
 
Title:   Hidden Bones
Author:  Rita Herron
Series:  Detective Ellie Reeves #6
Publisher:  
Bookouture
Genre:   Mystery & Thrillers
Format:  Kindle ARC
No. of Pages:   414
Date of Publication:   August 8, 2022
My Rating:   4 Stars

In this harrowing read by Rita Herron, the book starts off when a game involving teenagers, a young woman named Mandy stumbles into a pit and is terrified beyond belief when she lands in a pile of bones. Detective Ellie Reeves, and her team, including FBI agent Derrick Fox, discover evidence of an orphanage of over three decades ago, called Hawk House, where sadly, some of the bones belonged to young children. Why were these children killed, what actually went on at that orphanage? Furthermore, Ellie must determine what a rash series of current murders has to do with that literal house of horrors. 

This case becomes personal for Ellie, because Mandy is her niece, so at least a part of the story is focused on the effect it has on the teenager. Meanwhile, it appears that the discovery of these bones has triggered a killer into gruesome activity. Ellie is forced to try to put the pieces of this puzzle together as quickly as possible, trying to stop this evil killer as body after body falls

One thing is made clear. Not only was the past filled with secrets, there is someone now that has a cruel vendetta. Looking for the man who ran that orphanage creates a race against time in this book that is truly sad considering most of the victims were children. And then considering the newer victims, young women who are being brutally murdered, there has to have some connection to that orphanage. Ellie must make that connection, all while trying to stay out of danger herself.  

There is a side drama beyond the murders of old and the present murders. This drama involves Ellie and her confusing love life. The question of whether or not it will be resolved enters into the picture. This thrilling, fast-paced book definitely has surprising twists and turns, and never misses a beat. What an excellent addition to a thoroughly compelling series. The conclusion leaves readers with a question that begs to be answered regarding Ellie’s personal life. Or does it? It is with bated breath that this reviewer is more than eager to continue on with this gripping series. 

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



Please enjoy my YouTube video review - 



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

USA Today
Bestselling and award-winning author Rita Herron fell in love with books at the ripe age of eight when she read her first Trixie Belden mystery. But she didn't think real people grew up to be writers, so she became a teacher instead. Now she writes so she doesn't have to get a real job.

With over ninety books to her credit, she's penned romantic suspense, romantic comedy, and YA novels, but she especially likes writing dark romantic suspense and crime fiction set in small southern towns.

For more on Rita and her titles, visit her at www.ritaherron.com. You can also find her on Facebook/ritaherron.com and Twitter @ritaherron.

Social Media
Bookouture Email Sign Up: https://www.bookouture.com/rita-herron

Monday, August 8, 2022

BLOG TOUR - The Locked Away Life


DESCRIPTION:

At the grand old age of eighty-two, Esther Saul has just one regret in life. Today, she’s going to change that.

For decades, Esther has barricaded herself in her vine-covered manor house. She spends her days tending to her rose-filled garden, glued to the pages of her favourite books, and listening to her beloved records. But, one spring morning, Esther wakes up and realises that time is running out.

Forty years ago, the love of her life betrayed her – the only man she allowed herself to trust. Where is Thackeray, the handsome Scot with a devilish smile and piercing blue eyes? Will she ever learn the truth? Will she ever understand why he lied to her? Esther has to find out. If she doesn’t act soon, her one regret will haunt her forever…

But she’ll need some assistance. That’s where Bruno comes in. After Esther places an advert in the local library, seeking internet lessons, the eighteen-year-old knocks on her door. Esther can see how out of place Bruno is in their sleepy village, and that the paid position could be his one-way ticket out of there.

An unexpected friendship forms between the two strangers, who have nothing in common except that they have spent most of their lives in hiding. It’s the beginning of a journey – featuring a secret motorcycle ride, an escape plan, and a garden party with whisky, apple pie, and dancing the jig. Along the way, can a locked-away life finally start living?

Just as heartbreaking as it is heartwarming, this utterly gripping page-turner is for anyone who has ever felt left behind, came close to giving up, or needed a friend. Perfect for fans of Sally Page, Ruth Hogan and Mike Gayle.

BUY LINK:

MY THOUGHTS:
 
Title:   The Locked Away Life
Author:  Drew Davies
Publisher:  Bookouture
Genre:   Women’s Fiction
Format:  Kindle ARC
No. of Pages:   326
Date of Publication:   August 4, 2022
My Rating:   5 Stars

In this touching story by Drew Davies, an unlikely couple form an alliance. They are octogenarian Esther and eighteen-year-old Bruno. One day while at the library Bruno spots an advertisement for internet lessons. There’s an older lady that wants to learn all about the internet. Of course, when he goes to her home in response to her ad, and tells her what he’s there for, they are definitely not speaking the same language. However, Bruno is more than patient. He is able to ascertain what it is that will end up helping Esther the most.

As the story develops, readers are going to see that Esther is working on secrets of her past, while Bruno‘s secrets will affect his future. How her past and his future ties together is what brings this delightful read to life. In fact, they are both hiding from something. Can their secrets be the catalyst that brings them both together?

Esther slowly unravels the secrets of her past, and the independence that she shows reflect the strong person that she is. Something happened in her life that caused her to become a recluse, and that was what slowly unravels in this story. Meanwhile, we see how sensitive Bruno is, from the relationship that he has with his ailing father, his siblings, and a neighborhood friend from school named Dominic. We also see another relationship in the story, and that is Esther’s relationship with her daughter Jane. Although this book touched on some serious subjects, the story is laced with humor, especially when Esther is trying to learn all the lingo that goes along with the great worldwide web.

While the story is developing, Bruno’s secret leads him to a situation that present danger, and that changed the direction of the story when it came to his relationship with Esther and the whole reason for him working with her. This wonderful story proves that strong friendships can be formed despite a major age difference. Meanwhile, the author did not shy away from dealing with a very tough subject in this book, that of conversion therapy and its dangers. Interestingly, this book had two prologues just as it had two epilogues. This played into the fact that there were two powerful stories being told in this most engaging and emotional read by Drew Davies. 

This was an utterly compelling story that made it very easy to connect with both characters. They were more than relatable which made it easy to root for both of them. The title of this book, The Locked Away Life, and it’s beautiful cover, showed how each of our characters were locked within the confines of their lives but yet they were able to find their way out. This gave this book relevance while delivering a beautiful message of hope. 

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

Please enjoy my YouTube video review - 



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Drew Davies was born in London and grew up in Whanganui, New Zealand. He attended the Unitec School of Performing Arts in Auckland and won a Playmarket New Zealand Young Playwright of the Year award in 2000. After a brief stint on a kiwi soap, he has worked in Search for the past 15 years. Drew’s other claim to fame is that Stephen Fry once called him droll. Either that, or he got his name wrong. He now lives in Wanstead, London.

Sign up to be the first to hear about new releases from Drew Davies here: https://www.bookouture.com/drew-davies

Sunday, August 7, 2022

BLOG TOUR - Love, Lists & Fancy Ships #s1 & 2

Title:   Love, Lists & Fancy Ships
Author:  Sarah Grunder Ruiz
Series:  Love, Lists & Fancy Ships #1
Publisher:  Berkley Books
Genre:   Romance
Format:  Audiobook
No. of Pages:   336
Date of Publication:   November 23, 2021
My Rating:   5 Stars 

DESCRIPTION:

Sometimes a yacht, a bold bucket list, and a kiss with a handsome stranger are all a person needs to dive into the deep end of life.

For the last year, yacht stewardess Jo Walker has been attempting to complete a bucket list of thirty things she wants to accomplish by her birthday. Jo has almost everything she's ever wanted, including a condo on the beach (though she's the youngest resident by thirty years) and an exciting job (albeit below deck) that lets her travel the world.

Jo is on track until a family tragedy turns her life upside down, and the list falls by the wayside. But when her two nieces show up unannounced with plans to stay the summer, they discover her list and insist on helping Jo finish it. Though the remaining eight items (which include running a marathon, visiting ten countries, and sleeping in a castle) seem impossible to complete in twelve weeks, Jo takes on the challenge.

When she summons the courage to complete item number five--kiss a stranger--and meets Alex Hayes, all bets are off. As her feelings for Alex intensify and Jo's inability to confront difficult emotions about her family complicates her relationships, she must learn to quit playing it safe with her heart before she loses what matters most.


MY THOUGHTS:
 
In this emotionally-riveting story, Jo Walker starts off bound and determined to complete her bucket list over the summer, as she is about to turn thirty. Life has been pretty good for Jo most of her life, now with a great job and a nice condo, but her family has experienced a great loss, and the stages of grief have been difficult to manage. Jo’s two nieces, Mia and Kitty, are spending the summer with her and they are also suffering the pangs of grief, but the three of them are very close and summer should be fairly enjoyable.  

Jo had managed to get most of her bucket list completed, but the loss that her family experienced had made it impossible for her to continue. But, she is determined, and with the girls help, along with best friend Nina, she just might finish her list. The very next thing on her list is to kiss a hot guy. A hot guy in a bar. BFF Nina pushes her on, and this is when she meets Alex Hayes, and gets that kiss, a kiss that ended up being fantastic. One less thing on her list to complete. The girls meet another girl their age named Grayson, and then they soon meet Grayson’s dad, none other than the hot guy from the bar! 

The cover might make this book look like it is a romcom, but it couldn’t be further from that. In fact, it is more along the lines of a women’s fiction with romance. I say this because this book touches on some very serious subjects, including the loss of a family member, dealing with grief, and other family issues. However, it also has the romance that has begun to bloom between Jo and Alex, and this brings hope and light to a time in her life and this ends up bringing her true joy.  While there is undeniable chemistry between Jo and Alex, he also has his own baggage that comes into play.

What a very wonderful story. A story that brings a lot of emotion, making it necessary to have a tissue nearby, and one that will make any reader truly connect with all of the characters. I loved the role that Nina played in this story, which made me quite happy to already have book number two ready to read. 

Although this was not a review copy, I was so very happy to have read it and it is one of the best books that I have read in 2022 thus far. 

* * * * *

Title:   Luck & Last Resorts
Author:   Sarah Grunder Ruiz
Series:  Love, Lists & Fancy Ships #2
Publisher:  Berkley Books
Genre:   Romance
Format:  Kindle ARC
No. of Pages:   336
Date of Publication:   August 9, 2022
My Rating:   5 Stars 

DESCRIPTION:

They have a second chance at love, but there are some rough seas ahead in the new contemporary romance from the acclaimed author of Love, Lists, and Fancy Ships.

Commitment-phobe Nina Lejeune lives by two rules:
1. Always have fun.
2. Don’t rely on anyone but yourself.
The first rule is easy; the second, she’s only broken once.

Ten years after fleeing home, Nina is the chief stewardess on the super yacht Serendipity, single by choice, and perfectly content with how life has turned out.

But Nina’s ex-coworker and old flame, Irish chef Ollie Dunne, isn’t so happy with the status quo. One year after leaving yachting, he’s returned as the Serendipity’s chef with an ultimatum: if Nina continues to deny she’s in love with him by the end of this charter season, he’ll go back to Ireland for good.

Nina and Ollie’s shared secret from their past threatens to shipwreck not only their relationship, but the entire boat. But as their connection grows amidst chaotic guests and crew drama, could there be smooth sailing in their future?


MY THOUGHTS:

This delightful series has already introduced Nina LeJeune and Ollie Dunne, A couple who have had an on again off again romance for years. Nina is a chief stewardess on luxury yachts and she has often worked with Ollie, who is a talented chef. Over the years, the two have become very, very close, but they break up almost as much as they make up. What was it that keeps their relationship from remaining on solid ground?

Different from the first book in the series, this book takes place in two time frames, both the past and the present. Present day, Ollie joins the current yacht season and will be working with Nina over the next four months. During this season, he is determined for Nina to make a final decision about their tentative relationship. The snippets of the past shows how they met and the ups and downs of their relationship. 

One thing is made very clear in this emotive read, Ollie and Nina truly love one another. And they both know it. However, Nina has her reasons for not allowing things to go further than they have for the ten years or so that she has known and loved him. Although if readers read the first book in the series, There is a lot that readers don’t know about Nina and Ollie. This second book delves much deeper into Ollie and Nina‘s past.

Each of our characters has their own baggage, and just as the first book in the series touched on very serious subjects, this one does as well. The subject that this one deals with is mental health, and how it affects at least one of our characters. I love that Sarah Grunder Ruiz is not afraid to touch on serious subjects in a romance novel. A romance novel that makes you root for all of the characters. Feel their pain. Feel their joy. Feel their growth. Very well done! 

Just as the first book in the series brought about a happy ending, this one does as well, but not without its trials. What a delightful journey to see what it was that made this couple find their way to a happily ever after. Can this book work as a standalone novel? Most definitely. But Nina is such a strong, compelling character that getting to know her in book number one definitely paid off for me.

Until these two books in this series, Sarah Grunder Ruiz was an unknown to me. But now I have found two of my favorite books of this year and an author that I am definitely eager to follow. It surprises me that she is a new author, and I only say that because of the fabulous storytelling, writing, and compelling nature that both of the books in the series have provided me. I am eager to read the next book in this series.

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

Please enjoy my YouTube video review - 



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Sarah Grunder Ruiz is a writer, educator, and karaoke enthusiast. Originally from South Florida, she now lives in Raleigh, North Carolina with her husband and two children. She holds an MFA in creative writing from North Carolina State University, where she now teaches First-Year Writing. She is the author of two novels: Love, Lists, and Fancy Ships, and Luck and Last Resorts.



Saturday, August 6, 2022

BLOG BLITZ - You’re Invited

Title:   You’re Invited
Author:  Amanda Jayatissa 
Publisher:  Berkley Books
Genre:   Psychological Thriller 
Format:  Kindle ARC
No. of Pages:   384
Date of Publication:   August 9, 2022
My Rating:   5 Stars 

DESCRIPTION:


From the author of My Sweet Girl comes a dangerously addictive new thriller about a lavish Sri Lankan wedding celebration that not everyone will survive.

When Amaya is invited to Kaavi’s over-the-top wedding in Sri Lanka, she is surprised and a little hurt to hear from her former best friend after so many years of radio silence. But when Amaya learns that the groom is her very own ex-boyfriend, she is consumed by a single thought: She must stop the wedding from happening, no matter the cost.

But as the weeklong wedding celebrations begin and rumors about Amaya’s past begin to swirl, she can’t help but feel like she also has a target on her back. When Kaavi goes missing and is presumed dead, all evidence points to Amaya.

However, nothing is as it seems as Jayatissa expertly unravels that each wedding guest has their own dark secret and agenda, and Amaya may not be the only one with a plan to keep the bride from getting her happily ever after…

MY THOUGHTS:
 
Amaya leaves Houston to attend a wedding in Sri Lanka. Custom dictates a week long celebration for the new to be married couple. Perfect. This gives Amaya one week to make sure that the wedding does not take place. She is prepared to move mountains to stop Kaavi Fonseka from marrying Matthew Spencer (thereafter referred to as Kaavi and Spencer). 

Amaya will stop at nothing, planning sabotage after sabotage. However, one major event has truly stopped the wedding, but what was leading up to it?

This thrilling read was in first person from Amaya’s point of view. While the mystery is slowly unraveling as to Amaya's motives, one thing is for certain. Amaya is a dark person, a dark person with very dark thoughts. In fact, she often thinks to herself the things she wants to do to people, and it is these very thoughts that are woven into the pages of this fast-paced novel. 

The twists in this book are shocking, and even though I guessed one plot direction correctly, there was so much more that I didn’t catch, and that only made this book that much better. This is one of those books where nothing is as it seems, and that is precisely what makes this such a compelling read.  

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

* TW - self-harm. 

Please enjoy the following excerpt:
YOU’RE INVITED
by Amanda Jayatissa

Berkley Hardcover | On sale August 9th, 2022 

Excerpt 

  Amaya

  Morning of the Wedding

  I woke up with bruised knuckles and blood under my fingernails, more rested than I have been in years. I guess this is who I am now. The kind of person who would finally get a good night's sleep after attacking someone else. The kind of woman who would fly halfway around the world to stop my ex-best friend from marrying my ex-boyfriend. If that's one too many exes for you, well, it certainly is for me. But I'm also the kind of woman who does whatever it takes, so here I am.

  I opened the sliding door that led out onto the small balcony attached to my room at the Mount Lavinia Hotel. It overlooked the expansive private beach, which was deserted.  

Of course it was. It was too early in the day for anyone to be out there. Maybe later on, but then again, who knows how things will pan out? The wedding would definitely be canceled now. The guests would all shuffle home, dispirited and upset. Or maybe they wouldn't. Maybe they would just be grateful for the all-expenses-paid weekend, and take advantage of the beautiful beach and open bar. They would definitely mull around, gossiping and curious about what transpired. Aunties would have their own theories, no doubt, and phones will light up with messages about what happened to the unfortunate bride, Kaavindi Fonseka. This is Colombo after all.  

It flickered in my stomach then-the first flutter of nervousness. I knew I couldn't keep it away for long. It had been a simple plan, of course. But like all simple plans, it could be quite complicated unless you teased everything out. Laid everything bare. And like all simple plans, it had the potential to go very, very wrong.  

I watched the waves swell and bounce and crash and forgive. The fishing boats were already well on their way out to sea, and a few birds circled the ocean in the distance. Keeping my eyes on the horizon, I took a deep breath and counted to five.  

Then exhaled.  

My hands were steady on my cup of tea, but a fleck of dried blood had made its way onto the clean white ceramic. I'd better take a shower. Today was a big day for me. Perhaps even more so than yesterday. So much depended on what I did next.  

I stepped into the bathroom and made the water as hot as it would go. It felt like a betrayal, washing the last bits of yesterday off me. Knowing she was gone, as I watched the water swirl down the drain. But I went through all the motions, still nervous but also feeling, for the first time in a very long time, that I belonged to myself. That things just might be okay. That I was finally vindicated of everything that happened five years ago.  

I shampooed my hair, conditioned it, slathered on soap that smelled like jasmine all over my body.  

Deep breath in, Amaya. Now count to five. Let it out slowly. Just like Dr. Dunn said.  

It was over. After so many years, I could finally let it go.  

Steam clouded around me as I dried and then dressed myself. My small overnight bag was already packed, ready for me to make my exit. My passport was at home, with the rest of my luggage. The flight back to LA wasn't until tomorrow morning, but I could last till then.  

I checked the time-6:36 a.m. A pattern. A lucky number. Thank goodness. I felt some of the tension leave my shoulders.  

I'll wait until 7:00 a.m. to check out. 7:07 a.m., if I could manage it. I couldn't afford to look suspicious. After all, who checks out of a five-star hotel at the crack of dawn unless it's some sort of emergency? I didn't want to draw attention to myself now. I couldn't leave anything up to chance.

I busied myself by giving the room a once-over-making sure I hadn't left my charger plugged in and forgotten, or left anything hanging behind the bathroom door. There was a T-shirt in a plastic shopping bag that I kept near my purse, waiting to be thrown out on the taxi ride home. It was always better to be safe. I sat down, phone in hand, watching the numbers on the clock tick their way toward when I could leave.  

The rap on my door came at 6:51 a.m., ricocheting through my quiet room, lodging itself deep in my heart.  

Who would knock on my door now?  

It didn't make any sense.  

I hesitated a moment.  

The second rap sounded more urgent.  

"Miss Bloom, this is Alistair Ferdinand, the hotel manager. Sorry to disturb you. Could we have a moment, please?"  

The manager?  

Well, at least it wasn't the police. They'd come later. I hoped to be gone by then.  

I took another deep breath and cracked open the door.  

"Yes?" I tried to keep the tremble out of my voice. I knew it even before he said anything. I

could feel it in my bones-the writhing. The inherent sense that things were about to go very, very wrong.  

"Miss Bloom, my apologies for this, but we have to search your room."  

"Search my room?"  

But he was pushed aside by someone as she barreled her way inside.  

"Where is she?" Her voice was shrill.  

"Tehani? What are you doing here? What's going on?" My voice was a whimper. An embarrassing contrast against hers.  

"Oh fuck off, like you don't know."  

"I-I don't understand." I swallowed. This wasn't what was supposed to happen.  

"I'm sorry, ma'am." The manager stepped in. "We have been instructed to search all rooms immediately. It appears that one of our guests has gone missing."  

Please enjoy my YouTube video review - 



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Amanda Jayatissa grew up in Sri Lanka, completed her undergrad at Mills College, CA, and lived in the UK before moving back to her sunny little island. She works as a corporate trainer, owns a chain of cookie stores, and is a proud dog-mum to her two spoiled huskies.