Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Every Other Wednesday - Pub Week Review & Giveaway

Review by Darcie Czajkowski
Alice Stone, Joan Howard, and Ellie Fagen are women in transition. With their collective children out of the house, these full-time mothers seek to establish their paths in the next phases of their lives.

Alice is a runner. At least she used to be. She and her husband, Dave, opened a running store twenty-eight years ago. But ever since their children were born, Alice devoted her time to raising them. Now that they are grown, Alice wonders if she should return to the store. But does she feel the same about running anymore?

Joan Howard is a mother. That is all that is expected of her from her husband’s family. Women are meant to raise children and, if time permits, support local charities. But Joan feels unfulfilled and at a loss for how to fill her days. She wants more, but will her husband – and her mother-in-law who harbors traditional views of a woman’s role – approve of her desire to become employed, particularly now that her children are no longer in need of daily care and support?

Ellie Fagen runs a part-time bookkeeping business. She knows that she has the time now to further develop her business but struggles with the salesmanship aspect that goes along with winning over new clients. But when she easily lands a new client, the owner of a local pet supply store, her confidence blooms. Will that be the only change for Ellie?

When a local tragedy brings these empty-nesters together, the women develop a bond over their shared dilemma of “what to do next.” Alice, Joan, and Ellie agree to meet every other Wednesday and share tidbits about their personal life struggles. These women don’t hold back. They are vocal about their convictions but are all cognizant of varied opinions on hot-button topics and respect each other’s points of view. Will each woman be able to move forward in a way that suits the needs of her family as well as being true to herself and her own personal needs?

In “Every Other Wednesday,” Susan Kietzman touches on timely political and social topics: gun ownership, sexuality, and a woman’s role in modern society. Kietzman affords attention and respect to both sides of the gun ownership argument, shining light on the diversity that exists in the U.S., and in the world at large, on this topic. The author also addresses sexuality and encourages acceptance of a person’s right to autonomy. Finally, and most notably, the story draws upon every person’s desire to find his or her place in this world. Everyone can relate to the struggle to feel like a useful, productive, and contributing member of whatever society he or she resides. Humans have a biological desire to belong, to feel fulfilled, and this story is a reminder that one should never give up on unearthing what makes one’s life feel worthwhile and complete.

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About the author:
Susan Kietzman has been writing fiction for years, fitting it in and around raising her children, working various jobs, and enjoying life. When her boys were young, she wrote early in the morning. And she still does, although she allows more time for fiction now that the boys are mostly elsewhere. She graduated from Connecticut College with a B.A. in English and from Boston University with an M.S. in journalism. She has written for magazines, newspapers, and corporate websites, and taught English composition as an adjunct instructor at two community colleges. When she is not writing at home, she is writing grant proposals for Mystic Seaport Museum. And when she is not writing she enjoys the outdoors, mostly by hiking, biking, and walking, and the indoors by reading in her living room in front of a fire.

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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Forever Summer - Release Day Review & Giveaway

Review by Deb Czajkowski
Marin Bishop is about to celebrate her thirtieth birthday with her parents.  She has reasons for this to be a happy birthday dinner: She is a lawyer for a prestigious Manhattan law firm and has just been assigned to a high-profile case ─ a big deal for a junior lawyer at the firm; she knows her father ─also an attorney who is highly respected in the legal world─ will be proud of her, and his approval is extremely important to her. There is also one reason that this will be an unhappy birthday dinner: Marin has just broken her engagement to Greg ─Greg, from a prominent Manhattan family, Greg, the successful Wall Street Financier.  That is unhappy! Actually, Marin is fine with her decision to end the engagement; it’s her mother who will be unhappy!

Oh, and there’s also a (birthday?) surprise coming her way!

Rachel Moscowitz was born and raised in Los Angeles.  Well, that’s a tad misleading.  Rachel’s mother ─”Call me Fran, don’t ever call me Mom!”─gave birth to Rachel, but that was her largest role in Rachel’s twenty-three years of life.  And Rachel’s father was, literally, a sperm donor.  Rachel has always wanted a family ─really, to know her family!─ and now, with the help of a friend, Rachel learns the name of her father ─and that she has a half-sister! Rachel can’t wait to make contact with them and to get to know her family.  Will they feel this same way?

Amelia Cabral runs the family B&B, the one that’s been in her family for generations ─at least five!  But her husband and son are deceased, and she’s been estranged from her daughter for over thirty years.  Now, at age seventy-five, for the first time ever, she’s not opening the inn for this summer’s guests ─even the regulars, the ones who book next year’s week at the end of this year’s.  Worse yet, she’s tired, so tired that she’s wondering if this is really closing the inn for good.  Can she really do that?  After so many generations, can she be the last in the long line of her family history to own and operate this special summer home for visitors? Unthinkable. But still….It’s what she’s thinking!

Author Jamie Brenner paints three very different pictures: Three strong women who are independent and perhaps more resilient than they even know.  All three, coming from diverse and separate scenarios, are about to collide, learning lessons about life that none see coming.  The author, in The Forever Summer, clearly delineates the fierce personalities of her leading ladies.  She shows us through their actions that they have flaws and vulnerabilities but also fortitude in facing newly revealed truths, and working through the clouds to find the sunshine once again.

If your family is unconventional, you might see yourself, or your family, in The Forever Summer.  Or maybe your family isn’t like any of those in The Forever Summer, but you can identify with the uniqueness that comprises every family unit. Large or small, extended or just you; it’s still a family ─your family.  If you wouldn’t define your family as unconventional, The Forever Summer will peek into the lives of those who do. 

Life can ─and usually does!─surprise us at one time or another. The Forever Summer has its share!  If you’re in the mood for intriguing surprises, start turning the pages of The Forever Summer.

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About the author:
Jamie Brenner is the author of The Wedding Sisters, coming June 14, 2016 from St. Martin's Press. Her previous novels include the historical The Gin Lovers (St. Martin's Press), named by Fresh Fiction as one of the Top Thirteen Books to read in 2013, and Ruin Me, a coming-of-age story set in the art world. She lives in Manhattan with her husband and two daughters.

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Monday, April 24, 2017

Slightly South of Simple - Pub Week Review

Review by Deb Czajkowski
“Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift of God. That's why it is called the present.”  Quote by Bil Keane

When the second tower was hit on 9/11, claiming the life of financier Carter Murphy as one of its many victims, Ansley Murphy’s world is forever changed.  Ansley’s beloved husband also left behind three daughters: Caroline (17), Sloane, (15), and Emerson (9). Thank goodness there is the million-dollar life insurance policy that will sustain them for a while in their gorgeous, posh Manhattan brownstone. 

Except that Carter had borrowed against it and lost it all ─as well as virtually their entire life’s savings─ in the stock market.  With very little money left, Ansley makes the difficult decision to move her family from their upscale life in cultural Manhattan to picturesque Peachtree Bluff, Georgia (population: 3,000), to the house her grandmother left to her.  Here she can ─will!─ start again. She’ll start her own design business and raise their three girls in the quiet, small town where she’d summered herself as a girl.

Seventeen-year-old Caroline declares two things: 1) that living six months in Peachtree Bluff, Georgia, ─really, any time, anywhere away from Manhattan, where she (duh!) belongs─ is six months too many; and 2) once she leaves Peachtree in the summer for NYU, she’ll never return there again. 

Fast forward seventeen years.

Ansley:  Still living in Peachtree Bluff, enjoying her successful design business as well as the simple, quiet life of her quaint, small town. Did I say quiet life?

Caroline: Twelve years of marriage to James Beaumont (of the prestigious Manhattan Beaumont family), an eleven-year-old daughter, and six months pregnant with their second child, Caroline hears James tell her ‘I’m not in love with you anymore.’  What!? Oh, and he’s leaving her for a famous supermodel who’s doing a reality show─which will now include James! Whoa, right? 

Caroline and her daughter, Vivi, now can’t get out of Manhattan ─away from James, away from the gossip and embarrassment─ fast enough, and, yep, straight to Peachtree Bluff.  But Caroline isn’t the only daughter heading home to mama.  Emerson, who’s an up-and-coming L.A. actress, has a plum role in a new film that’s being shot not far from Peachtree.  And Sloane ─who doesn’t like to be left out, thank you very much─ decides that, with her military husband currently deployed, spending quality time with her family is just what she and her two young sons need.  And then there’s Jack….

Look out quiet, chaos has arrived at Ansley’s house, Peachtree Bluff, Georgia.  Hang on tight!

Talk about contrasts!  Author Kristy Woodson Harvey’s novel, slightly south of simple, is chock full of them; as different as Peachtree Bluff is from Manhattan, as different as each sister’s life ─and lifestyle─ is from one another, as different as this morning’s emotions are from this afternoon’s.

Right from the beginning, Harvey masterfully and delightfully welcomes us to the Murphy party. No, more than that, she gives us a bedroom at Ansley’s house and makes us feel a part of the fun, the drama, the challenges, the joys, the heartaches.  Ansley and Caroline take turns─literally switching back and forth, chapter by chapter─ filling us in on the all the down-and-dirty details of their lives.

We live in the present with the entire Murphy household, hearing perspectives on everyone, every action, from both Ansley’s and Caroline’s points of view. We also learn of their pasts ─yesterday’s history─ where secrets are revealed and struggles are confessed. And the mystery of tomorrow?  How does it all end for Ansley and her grown ─but never too grown to need Mom from time to time─ daughters? Oh, and who’s Jack? Hmmm…Well, can you keep a secret?

I can, too!  J  Give yourself a gift: make reading slightly south of simple part of your present one day soon.  

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About the author:
Kristy Woodson Harvey is the author of Dear Carolina, Lies and Other Acts of Love and the Peachtree Bluff Series, beginning with Slightly South of Simple. 

She blogs with her mom daily on Design Chic, the inaugural member of Traditional Home’s design blogger hall of fame, about how creating a beautiful home can be the catalyst for creating a beautiful life and loves connecting with readers at kristywoodsonharvey.com.

Harvey is a Phi Beta Kappa, summa cum laude graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s school of journalism and holds a master’s in English from East Carolina University, with a concentration in multicultural and transnational literature. She lives in North Carolina with her husband and five-year-old son where she is working on her next novel.

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Thursday, April 20, 2017

Any Day Now - Pub Week Giveaway

The highly anticipated sequel to #1 New York Times bestselling author Robyn Carr's What We Find transports readers back to Sullivan's Crossing. The rustic campground at the crossroads of the Colorado and Continental Divide trails welcomes everyone—whether you're looking for a relaxing weekend getaway or a whole new lease on life. It's a wonderful place where good people face their challenges with humor, strength and love. 
For Sierra Jones, Sullivan's Crossing is meant to be a brief stopover. She's put her troubled past behind her but the path forward isn't yet clear. A visit with her big brother Cal and his new bride, Maggie, seems to be the best option to help her get back on her feet. 
Not wanting to burden or depend on anyone, Sierra is surprised to find the Crossing offers so much more than a place to rest her head. Cal and Maggie welcome her into their busy lives and she quickly finds herself bonding with Sully, the quirky campground owner who is the father figure she's always wanted. But when her past catches up with her, it's a special man and an adorable puppy who give her the strength to face the truth and fight for a brighter future. In Sullivan's Crossing Sierra learns to cherish the family you are given and the family you choose.

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About the author:
Robyn Carr is a RITA® Award-winning, #1 New York Times bestselling author of more than forty novels, including the critically acclaimed Virgin River series. Robyn and her husband live in Las Vegas, Nevada.

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Monday, April 17, 2017

Secrets of the Tulip Sisters - Virtual Tour & Giveaway


Kelly Murphy's life as a tulip farmer is pretty routine—up at dawn, off to work, lather, rinse, repeat. But everything changes one sun-washed summer with two dramatic homecomings: Griffith Burnett—Tulpen Crossing's prodigal son, who's set his sights on Kelly—and Olivia, her beautiful, wayward and, as far as Kelly is concerned, unwelcome sister. Tempted by Griffith, annoyed by Olivia, Kelly is overwhelmed by the secrets that were so easy to keep when she was alone. 

But Olivia's return isn't as triumphant as she pretends. Her job has no future, and ever since her dad sent her away from the bad boy she loved, she has felt cut off from her past. She's determined to reclaim her man and her place in the family…whether her sister likes it or not. For ten years, she and Kelly have been strangers. Olivia will get by without her approval now. 

While Kelly and Olivia butt heads, their secrets tumble out in a big hot mess, revealing some truths that will change everything they thought they knew. Can they forgive each other—and themselves—and redefine what it means to be sisters? 


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Excerpt:
“Did you read it again?” Helen asked, holding up her copy of Eat, Pray, Love. “I didn’t. I figured twice was enough.”
“I read it.” Not reading it hadn’t been an option, Kelly thought. She always read the book and took notes. She was such a rule follower. How depressing. She needed to break out of her rut or something. Maybe it was time for her to renew the mascara vow.
They walked into the community room and greeted their friends. Paula, a pretty mother of three, had already opened the bottles of wine she brought. Someone else had set out plates of cookies and cupcakes. Kelly scanned the sign-up sheet and confirmed that she was in charge of wine next month, and that they would be reading a memoir on Eleanor Roosevelt.
She reached for a cupcake just as a few more members arrived. Sally, a fifty-something avid quilter who had the biggest booth at Petal Pushers, announced, “Ladies, we have a new member. And guess what? He’s a man!”
Kelly looked at the cupcake she held. She wanted to take a big bite—or possibly run out the back exit. Or poke Helen in the arm while saying “I told you so” in a loud, taunting voice. Because she knew without turning around who she would find standing there. Like the Terminator, Griffith was back, and there was nothing she could do about it.
*
Griffith Burnett was used to being the center of attention—whether it was at a symposium on how micro housing could transform the poorest regions of Africa as well as answer the needs of the homeless in the urban centers of Europe and the United States, or at a black-tie fund-raiser for a children’s charity where he was the featured speaker. He was comfortable in front of a crowd, or so he’d thought. He found himself slightly less at ease in a room filled with nearly a dozen women, all staring at him with varying degrees of interest.
No, he thought as he scanned the faces. Nearly a dozen, less one. Kelly wasn’t looking at him at all.
“Everyone, this is Griffith Burnett. You should know him. He owns that tiny house company you’ve all seen off the highway. He grew up here. His folks are Frank and Candy. They moved to New Mexico six months ago. Griffith here wants to join our book club.”
He waited for the inevitable, “Why?” but the women only smiled and nodded. Except for Kelly, who kept her attention firmly on the cupcake she held.
“Let me introduce you to everyone,” Sally said. They’d walked in together and somehow she’d assigned herself as his hostess for the evening.
She went around the room, spouting names faster than he could remember them, starting with a mother of three and ending with the reason he was here in the first place.
“This is Kelly Murphy.” Sally frowned. “Didn’t you two go to high school together? Or is she closer to your brother’s age? I can’t keep you kids straight. And what about Helen Sperry? You’re the same age, aren’t you?”
“I’m a year older,” Helen said, offering her hand. “Hi. I think we had a social studies class together.”
“I’m sure we did.” He waited until Kelly had no choice but to look at him. “Hello, Kelly.”
“Griffith.” The word was clipped, her tone less than friendly, matching the wary expression in her big, brown eyes.
She looked good. He supposed there were some men who would be put off by the absence of frills, but he liked that about her. The sharp edges, the lack of guile. What you saw and all that. She was smart, she was determined and she wasn’t going to make it easy. He’d always been the kind of guy who liked a challenge so he was looking forward to the latter.
“Why are you here?” she asked.
Beside him, Sally stiffened. “Kelly, honey, what’s wrong? Griffith wants to join our book club.”
“And read Eat, Pray, Love? I find that hard to believe.”
“Is it my reading skills you doubt or my interest in the subject matter?”
The corner of her mouth twitched. He would guess annoyance rather than humor, not that he would mind seeing her smile.
“A woman’s journey to emotional and spiritual fulfillment hardly seems like something you’d enjoy,” she murmured.
“Do you think you know me well enough to decide that?”
Now everyone was watching and listening. He stepped closer to Kelly. Close enough that she had to tilt her head slightly to hold his gaze.
“I find everything about a woman’s journey interesting. I enjoy discovering how she’s different than I expected. I like the anticipation.”
Someone’s breath caught. Not Kelly’s. Her gaze narrowed. “Next month we’re reading an autobiography on Eleanor Roosevelt.”
“Lucky me. I’ve always been an admirer.”
Liar.
She didn’t say the word out loud, but she sure as hell thought it. Griffith held in a grin as he watched her struggle with her temper. He suspected she was imagining smashing the cupcake she held into his face, turning on her heel and walking away. Only she wouldn’t. She would restrain herself. He couldn’t wait to test that restraint in every way possible.
But not tonight. Tonight was simply the next step in his plan. He wanted someone in his life—he’d decided that serial monogamy was his road to happiness and he hoped he and Kelly could come to a mutual understanding.
“Did you think the author spent too much time deconstructing her divorce in the book?” she asked. “Should we have gotten right to the journey?”
He’d thought there might be a test, but he’d hoped it would be harder. “She doesn’t deconstruct her divorce. In fact there isn’t much detail as to what went wrong. She does make it clear the divorce was painful.”
Something he understood personally. Screwing up was never pleasant but to mess up something that fundamental sucked in a big way.
“And the part in Thailand?” Kelly asked.
“You mean Indonesia?”
She handled defeat with grace. Instead of saying something sarcastic, she flashed him an unexpected smile—one that hit him in the gut with the subtlety of a 2x4 and offered him her cupcake.
“Welcome to our book club.”
“Thank you.”
“Now if you’ll excuse me, I need a glass of wine.”

About the author:
New York Times bestselling author Susan Mallery has entertained millions of readers with her witty and emotional stories about women. Publishers Weekly calls Susan’s prose “luscious and provocative,” and Booklist says “Novels don’t get much better than Mallery’s expert blend of emotional nuance, humor and superb storytelling.” Susan lives in Seattle with her husband and her tiny but intrepid toy poodle. 

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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

And Then There Was Me - Pub Week Giveaway

Bea and Awilda have been best friends from the moment Awilda threw her fourteen-year-old self across Bea’s twin-sized bed as if they had known each other forever. Bubbly, adventurous Awilda taught sheltered, shy Bea how to dress, wear her hair and what to do with boys. She even introduced Bea to her husband, Lonnie, in college, who pledged to take good care of her for the rest of their lives. But philanderer Lonnie breaks that promise over and over again, leaving Bea to wrestle with her self-esteem and long time secret addiction.
Recently Lonnie has plopped the family in a New Jersey upper class suburb, which lacks the diversity that Bea craves but has the school district and zip code envy that Lonnie wants. The demands of carrying a third child and fitting into this new environment while pretending that her husband is not cheating on her again, is more than she can handle. And just when she thinks things can’t get any worst, the ultimate deception snaps the little thread that was holding her life together and all comes tumbling down.
Sadeqa Johnson's And Then There Was Me is the story of love and friendship, heartache and betrayal. It’s the journey of a woman stripped down to her lowest point and needing to find the will to press on.

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About the author:
SADEQA JOHNSON is a former public relations manager who spent years working with well-known authors such as JK Rowling, Bebe Moore Campbell, Amy Tan, and Bishop TD Jakes before becoming an author herself. Her debut novel, Love in a Carry-on Bag, was the recipient of the 2013 Phillis Wheatley award for Best Fiction and the 2012 USA Best Book award for African-American fiction. She is also the author of Second House from the Corner and resides in Virginia with her husband and three children.

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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

White Sand, Blue Sea - Pub Week Review & Giveaway

Review by Melinda Garza
Olivia is a young lady who is soon turning twenty-five. She is the daughter of Hadley and Felix. Felix is her step-father who, without reservation, has raised her as his own from a very young age. Every year they spend time at their lovely plantation style villla in St. Bart's. This year is somewhat special though as she will be celebrating her birthday there.  Not only is Olivia celebrating her birthday, she is also anticipating getting engaged. Her boyfriend’s name is Finn. He is a Princeton graduate and is set to propose this year. Not only is April 25th Olivia's birthday but it is also her mom's birthday and the day her mom and biological father got divorced.

Olivia's dad is named Sebastian. He walked out of their Morningside Heights apartment 20 years prior. He has not seen Olivia since. He is a famous painter and travels the world painting and living a selfish life. Despite that, every year Hadley invites Sebastian to come celebrate Olivia's birthday but never shows. Instead, she receives a letter or gift from him letting her know where he has been and such. This year, Sebastian turns up in St. Bart's unannounced. He is confident, charming, lights up a room, and has a way with words. Olivia is so excited to finally be getting to know her father but somehow changes the dynamics of the entire vacation.

Anita Hughes wrote a page turner. I could not get enough of all the characters. They are so colorful and she makes you love each one for their own reasons. What ends up happening in St. Bart's?  Could Olivia really forgive her dad for showing up 20 years later after he has been globetrotting around the world? What transcends between them?  Is he the father she longed for? Does their relationship put a strain on the other relationships such as Olivia's and Finn's or Sebastian's and Hadley's? Does Olivia get her happily ever after?  Read White Sand, Blue Sea, A St. Bart's Love Story to find out. This is a definite escape and such a great beach read.  The adventure is indulgent.

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About the author:
Anita Hughes was born in Sydney, Australia. At the age of eight, she won first prize in a nationwide writing contest sponsored by THE AUSTRALIAN, Australia's most prestigious newspaper. She graduated from Bard College with a B.A. in English Literature and a minor in Creative Writing, and attended UC Berkeley's Masters in Creative Writing Program. She lives at The St. Regis Monarch Beach, where she is at work on her next novel.

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