Friday, April 20, 2018

Review: A Nantucket Wedding

A Nantucket Wedding by Nancy Thayer

Publication Date: 04/03/2018
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Imprint: Ballantine Books
Genre: Women's Fiction, Romance
Pages: 320
ISBN-13978-1101967102

(Received for an honest review from Ballantine via Netgalley)

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, itunes

Nancy Thayer on the WEB: Website, Blog, Twitter (Not updated), Facebook, Goodreads

Excerpt from A Nantucket Wedding, courtesy of Amazon's Look Inside feature

Synopsis:

Wedding bells are ringing, a family is reunited, and new love is blooming—for better or worse—in this captivating novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Island House and Secrets in Summer.

A few years after losing her beloved husband, Alison is doing something she never thought she would do again: getting married. While placing the finishing touches on her summer nuptials, Alison is anxious to introduce her fiancé, David, to her grown daughters: Felicity, a worried married mother of two, and Jane, also married but focused on her career. The sisters have a somewhat distant relationship and Alison hopes that the wedding and the weeks leading up to the ceremony will give the siblings a chance to reconnect, as well as meet and get to know David’s grown children.

As the summer progresses, it is anything but smooth sailing. Felicity stumbles upon a terrible secret that could shatter her carefully cultivated world. Jane finds herself under the spell of her soon-to-be stepbrother, Ethan, who is as charming as he is mysterious. And even Alison is surprised (and slightly alarmed) by her new blended family. Revelations, intrigue, resentments—as the Big Day approaches, will the promise of bliss be a bust?
     
Against the gorgeous backdrop of the sunswept island of Nantucket, Nancy Thayer sets the stage for a walk down the aisle no one will ever forget.


Thoughts:

Nancy Thayer doesn't disappoint with her latest book, A Nantucket Wedding. This is the story of a blended family and all of the challenges that go with it. There's nothing like a wedding to bring a family together, for better or for worse. Thayer's smooth style and wonderful descriptions of Nantucket Island make this one a perfect beach read. Readers looking for a book that delves into family relationships and bonds will truly enjoy this one!

What I liked:

Nancy Thayer's books always make me want to visit the area she is writing about. Nantucket seems like a such a picturesque place. Sometimes the setting of the book can take on the semblance of an actual character in the story and I think that happens in this one. Could the same tale have taken place somewhere else? Sure. But Thayer's attention to detail and her vivid descriptions are so captivating and engaging. It just makes the story that much more poignant.

Alison is my kind of lady. She has suffered loss in her life but she doesn't let that keep her down. When she opens her heart to love again, she finds it with David. I thought their relationship was just wonderful. There are certainly challenges when it comes to blended families and after reading this one i'm not sure it's better if the children are already grown or not lol... Alison always seems to keep a level head and try to be the peace maker of the group. I liked that she believed her wedding would bring everyone together in more ways than one and in the end it really did.

The relationship that begins to develop between sisters, Jane and Felicity was honestly my favorite part of the book. When the story starts they are quite distant from each other, but as it goes on they start to see each other in a different light. They begin to appreciate the struggles that each one of them is having and they relate to each other in unexpected ways. Sisters should be close. But that's often a very difficult road. I loved the fact that Thayer is able to show the situations and challenges of life with this one and how family can help.

The interactions between the adult children of Alison and the adult children of David, get a little complicated. Poppy, David's daughter is poised to take over his company and she and Alison don't exactly see eye to eye. Ethan, David's son is quite a flirt and his interactions with Jane were interesting and filled with uncertainty. Jane is struggling with her desire to have a child and her husband is not budging. Felicity's worries involve her workaholic husband. There are just so many things going on. I loved the whole dynamic of this blended bunch.

What I didn't like:

There is generally one character that doesn't make a reader warm and fuzzy. In this case, the husbands of both Jane and Felicity, might get under the readers skin. It will have nothing to do with Thayer's writing, it's just the circumstances of the story. But conflict must come from somewhere if you want a good read. P.S. one of these guys I still didn't like by the end. *wink*

Bottom Line:

This a great beach read. Or even on a day when you just don't want to venture out into the wide world. Snuggle up with a blanket, a good cup of Joe and devour this one. I loved the relationships that developed throughout the book and as usual Thayer stuns with her captivating characters and wonderful descriptive writing. A must read for Thayer fans and everybody else.

A Nantucket Wedding is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 5 out of 5 apples from my book bag!




About the Author:

Nancy Thayer is the New York Times bestselling author of A Nantucket Wedding, Secrets in Summer, The Island House, The Guest Cottage, An Island Christmas, Nantucket Sisters, A Nantucket Christmas, Island Girls, Summer Breeze, Heat Wave, Beachcombers, Summer House, Moon Shell Beach, and The Hot Flash Club. She lives on Nantucket.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Review: Sit, Stay, Love

Sit, Stay, Love (Rescue Me - Book 2) by Debbie Burns

Publication Date: 04/03/2018
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Imprint: Casablanca
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 416
ISBN-13978-1492650867

(Received for an honest review from Sourcebooks Casablanca via Netgalley)

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, itunes

Debbie Burns on the WEB: WebsiteTwitter, Facebook, Goodreads

Books in the series:

Rescue Me

1. A New Leash on Love
2. Sit, Stay, Love

Coverart: Click the image for a larger, clearer view of the covers in this series.



Excerpt from Sit, Stay, Love, courtesy of Amazon's Look Inside feature

Synopsis:

These dogs aren't the only ones in need of rescue
For devoted no-kill shelter worker Kelsey Sutton, rehabbing a group of rescue dogs is a welcome challenge. Working with a sexy ex-military dog handler who needs some TLC himself? That's a different story.
Kurt Crawford keeps his heart locked away from everyone. Well, everyone except the dogs who need his help...and always have his back. But as Kurt gets to know the compassionate, beautiful woman he's been assigned to work with, he can't help but feel a little puppy love...

Thoughts:

Debbie Burns returns with the second book in the Rescue Me series, Sit, Stay, Love. Readers who are also dog lovers will find this one particularly appealing. With a house full of fighting dogs, a former military dog handler with PTSD, and a very invested neighbor, Kelsey has her hands full. You'll love her sweet and saucy personality as she navigates love and rescue dogs. Burn gives us, a slow build romance that gets to the heart of what the saying, 'opposites attract' really means. This one is a keeper!

What I liked:

To start with I really liked the whole idea of this series. As an avid reader I read a lot of books about a lot of things and I always find myself drawn to books about rescue animals. Main character Kelsey works for a no-kill animal shelter, which I think is amazing. There needs to be tons more of these kinds of shelters and I think books like this show awareness to the issues. It also shines a light on the rigors and taking care of animals that have been abused and need special care. This aspect of the book was really Burns' fortay.

A lot of the book was focused on the animals and the mansion that has been donated as a shelter. A dog fighting ring is busted and Kelsey finds herself moving in with a bunch of dogs that have seen better days. From injuries to abuse. I loved the fact that she took on such a huge challenge. She comes across as a character that is almost too sweet at times, but the reader will have no problem seeing her love for her work and these animals. She is driven and optimistic and I felt like that was what was needed in the main character of a book like this. Burns did an amazing job of making Kelsey someone readers would believe was so invested.

Ahhh, Kurt. What a great character. Not only an ADHD sufferer but also dealing with PTSD on top of that. I have a soft spot for military men and Kurt was no exception. I liked the fact that Burns shows him as very clinical in some ways but also very efficient and very loving with the animals. His relationship with Kelsey showed such vulnerability and trust once it got going. This one is a slow build, but that's perfect for the type of book it is. This one doesn't have bombs going off or kidnappings or all that crazy stuff. It's more about an everyday kind of life and love and that was such a nice break from books that need too much action to move the plot.

What I didn't like:

Kelsey is a real sweetie pie and that could come off as a bit saccharine to some readers. You know those overly perky chicks at the drive through window at 6:00 am... Oh yeah the ones you wanna just slap. She could come off like that in the beginning, so give her character a chance to marinate a bit. She gets better. I liked her chatty optimism but not everyone would. 

Kurt needs some help. A counselor, a therapist, a good friend to talk to. I don't know but I felt like he had some issues that were addressed but not really solved here. I wanted to see him get some relief from some of the things that were weighing so heavy on him. My only real gripe.

Bottom Line:

If you love dogs and rescue stories, this one is just a really good read. The romance is a slow builder and it when it gets steamy, it fits perfectly. I loved the mansion and the story behind it and the eclectic secondary characters like Ida. Lots of good stuff here. Plenty for the reader to sink their teeth in (see what I did there lol...) 

Sit, Stay, Love is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 4 out of 5 apples from my book bag!



About the Author:

Debbie Burns debut novel, A New Leash on Love, book one of the Rescue Me series, debuts July 4, 2017. Debbie's writing commendations include first place awards for short stories, flash fiction, and longer selections, and her romances have finaled in multiple RWA chapter contests. She resides in St. Louis, Missouri. You can find her on Twitter @_debbieburns and at authordebbieburns.com.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Review: Hard Line

Hard Line (Woodbury Boys - Book 2) by Sidney Bell

Publication Date: 04/01/2018
Publisher: Harlequin
Imprint: Carina Press
Genre: M/M Contemporary Romance
Pages: 480
ASINB0789L6J2S

(Received for an honest review from Carina Press via Netgalley)

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, itunes

Sidney Bell on the WEB: Website, Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads

Books in the series:

The Woodbury Boys

1. Loose Cannon
2. Hard Line

Coverart: Click the image for a larger, clearer view of the covers in this series.




Excerpt from Hard Line, courtesy of Amazon's Look Inside feature

Synopsis:

“Bell writes a meaty romance that you can’t put down, and it’s a worthy addition to the M/M contemporary romance genre.” —RT Book Reviews on Loose Cannon (Woodbury Boys #1)

Premed student Tobias Benton is making amends for his past. He keeps his head down, mouth shut and colors within the lines. But when his close friend Ghost goes missing, Tobias will do whatever it takes to get answers—including using blackmail to enlist some help. The last thing he’s looking for is romance.

Private investigator Sullivan Tate isn’t above a little breaking and entering to solve a case, but when Tobias catches him in the act, it’s almost game over. Their uneasy alliance only gets more complicated when Sullivan learns that Tobias shares his interest in kink. Mixing sex and work could kill Sullivan’s career, but Tobias’s acceptance of Sullivan’s darkest urges is nearly impossible to resist.

Side by side, Tobias and Sullivan spend their days searching for the truth and their nights fulfilling their respective fantasies. But the answers they seek are far more dangerous than they realize, and soon they find themselves fighting for more than just each other.


Thoughts:

Sidney Bell is a new author for me and quite a surprise. Her latest book, Hard Line, is the second book in the Woodbury Boys series. This book is a M/M contemporary romance that will leave readers feeling both excited and satisfied. Hard Line is equal parts steamy and suspenseful. One minute you're on the edge of your seat, the next minute you want to dive into your own inner inhibitions. I wasn't expecting the very emotional angle this book brings out. An exceptional foray into the lighter side of BDSM!

First let me say, sometimes I hesitate to review books that I know may make some of my readers squirm. This is an M/M romance. If you have an issue with that it's best not to read further. Also, if you have issues with BDSM or kink, time to go for the day.

What I liked:

I haven't read the first book in this series, but I probably will. It's not necessary to this book, but I can tell that I would enjoy Church's story. Tobias, Church and Ghost meet in a bit of an unorthodox way in a rehabilitation center, Woodbury and the series follows their journeys. Hard Line is Tobias' story. I didn't really know what to expect from Sidney Bell because she was new to me, but I will say I'm very impressed. From the first description of Tobias on the first page of the book, I was hooked. I was so drawn to this young man who seems to want nothing more than to please the people around him.

Bell's character development with Tobias and then Sullivan was amazing. I felt I knew these two characters intimately after reading their stories and that doesn't happen often. I read a lot of books and when characters stick with me after the fact they were very well drawn. I like characters that don't fit the mold. Tobias is a quiet, gentle sort but he really comes alive as he starts to explore his desires with Sullivan. And Sullivan is such a unique person. I loved getting to know them both and their chemistry was off the chart. It wasn't the BDSM aspect that made it that way either. They just worked.

BDSM is one of those topics that is generally a bit taboo. You might be interested but you don't want people to know you are. You might have some inner desires that you don't even know how to express that get brought out when you read books like this one. BDSM doesn't have to be this big scary thing. Bell shows that in this book. It is just something that works for some people. And it works for these characters in a big way. It brings so much out of them. I loved the way Bell portrays this part of the book and felt it was very realistic. 

The suspenseful part of the book was well written and engaging. I wanted desperately to know what in the world Ghost had gotten himself mixed up in. I loved the relationship that Bell brings out between Ghost and Tobias. I related to them so hard. I have a friendship that is exactly like this one. It's very intimate in a friend kinda way lol... I really enjoyed the fact that Bell choose to bring Sullivan into Tobias' life in this way. Sullivan needs to do well on this case and Tobias needs to find Ghost. The bad guys were bad and the good guys were good. But there were some actions and situations that made for a gray area or two. Ghost you little manipulator you!

What I didn't like:

This was a very good book. I wanted a little more out of Ghost. He was kind of jerk here and there, but that's just a personal preference thing. Bell's writing was spot on. Not a bad thing to say about it. 

Bottom Line:

At the risk of bothering some readers... Love is Love. This book will be too much for some because it's an LGBTQ romance. In my humble opinion you are really missing out if that's all that's holding you back from reading this one. Bell is an excellent writer. Her powers of description are simply put, amazing. I loved how she seemed to get to the heart of these characters and help me as reader to understand them. I want to get to know these guys for real, and that's big. The BDSM aspect of the book was not overwhelming or scary and I think might open the eyes of many readers. The suspense and action was well done, but I think the romance was what put it over the top. 

Hard Line is available NOW from your favorite e-book provider and in print on April 28th. 

I'm giving this one 5 out of 5 apples from my book bag!





About the Author:


Sidney Bell lives in the drizzly Pacific Northwest with her amazingly supportive husband. She received her MFA degree in Creative Writing in 2010, considered aiming for the Great American Novel, and then promptly started writing fanfiction instead. More realistic grown-ups eventually convinced her to try writing something more fiscally responsible, though, which is how we ended up here. When she’s not writing, she’s playing violent video games, yelling at the television during hockey games, or supporting her local library by turning books in late.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Review: Joanna's Highlander

Joanna's Highlander (Highland Protectors - Book 2) by Maeve Greyson

Publication Date: 04/10/2018
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Imprint: Loveswept
Genre: Historical Romance
Pages: 208
ASINB073YSNSLQ

(Received for an honest review from Loveswept via Netgalley)

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, itunes

Maeve Greyson on the WEB: Website, Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads

Books in the series:

1. Sadie's Highlander
2. Joanna's Highlander

Coverart: Click the image for a larger, clearer view of the covers in this series.



Excerpt from Joanna's Highlander, courtesy of Amazon's Look Inside Feature

Synopsis:

Present-day North Carolina sings with the passions of the Scottish Highlands as a fiery, time-traveling Celtic warrior takes a stubborn tour guide for a wild ride.

Haunted by lost love, Grant MacDara still dreams of tenth-century Scotland. Nothing can soothe his aching heart—until a sharp-tongued, redheaded beauty leads a tour of senior citizens through his family’s North Carolina theme park, Highland Life and Legends. Though she’s the polar opposite of the lass he left behind, Joanna Martin is the most irresistible woman Grant has ever met. But when he decides that she’s worth the risk of loving again, he tries so hard to hold her close that she nearly slips through his fingers.

Forced out of her job as a pharmaceutical sales rep by a conniving ex, Joanna is trying to make the best of her quiet new life. But one glimpse of Grant—who wields an ancient hammer like it’s just another appendage of his chiseled body—convinces Joanna not to give up on love. The one thing she can’t do is outrun her past as a loser magnet. And although Grant seems to be the last honorable man left on earth, this mouthwatering stud needs a crash course in twenty-first-century women before Joanna can trust him with her heart.


Thoughts:

Maeve Greyson's time-traveling Scots are always a joy to read about. Joanna's Highlander is the second book in the Highland Protector's series and continues the saga of the MacDara family, protectors of the Heartstone. Readers who want a good time travel romance will love this one. When a transplanted tenth century Celtic warrior falls for a fiery red headed tour guide, sparks are sure to fly. Greyson's trademark quirky humor and her attention to detail shine.

What I liked:

Maeve Greyson is a favorite of mine of late. She has a way with a kilted man lol... I love the fact that she chooses to transplant her Scots to the future instead of taking a present day person and transplanting them in the past. It gives the story a whole new dimension. I mean tenth century Scotland is amazing to read about, but sometimes you need a good twist to get the readers attention and I think Greyson does that with this reversal of sorts. There are so many interesting things a hero might get into when it comes to figuring out how to live in today's world and in the south no less...

The overall arc of the book follows the story of the MacDara family, protectors of the heartstone. They have been sent forward in time to present day North Carolina where they operate a Highland themed amusement park. I was a little skeptical at first with this series because it seems so far fetched that a warrior family would be running a theme park lol... but it works. It just seems to make sense once you start reading it. It's quite an interesting idea and take on what professions a time traveler might take up in the future. 

Grant was an exceptional hero. You know it's gonna be a good one when his weapon of choice is a war hammer. *swoon* He was not only a strong man, but he was a wounded man. He lost his wife and child in the battle that sent the MacDara family into the future and the reader will be able to feel his pain. He isn't a brooding hero, just one who has been hurt deeply. I loved seeing him start to open up again and rethink the possibility of giving his heart to another. Greyson did such an amazing job with that aspect of the story. 

Joanna was my kind of girl. Sassy and smart. She's seen some hard times in life and in love and it makes her skeptical of Grant and his intentions. It's not just the Goddesses Grant has to worry about with this one. She's a real firecracker. Their chemistry together was fun and filled with humor and banter. They played so well off each other. Greyson was able to use her skills at those wonderful laugh out loud moments with this character. She was a joy!

What I didn't like:

As I said before a warrior family taking up the profession of theme park owners might be a little too much for some readers. Also the fact that Joanna might just not choose Grant seems unthinkable. But it all plays out in such a fun way. I think readers can suspend their ideas of the believable for some unbelievably hot romance.

Bottom Line:

This was a really fun book. I loved the characters and I want to know so much more about this world that Greyson has created with the MacDara family. The underlying arc of the series, is quite interesting and the love between Joanna and Grant sizzled on the page. I often wonder what it takes to write a good steamy romantic scene. This one has plenty and Greyson is a master at it. 

Joanna's Highlander is available NOW from your favorite E-book sellers. 

I'm giving this one 4 out of 5 apples from my book bag!



About the Author:

"No one has the power to shatter your dreams unless you give it to them." That's Maeve Greyson's mantra. She and her hubby of nearly thirty-eight years traveled around the world while in the U.S. Air Force before returning to their five-acre wood in rural Kentucky where she writes about her beloved Highlanders and the sassy women who tame them.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Review: Flying at Night

Flying at Night by Rebecca L. Brown

Publication Date: 04/10/2018
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Imprint: Berkley Books
Genre: Women's Fiction
Pages: 336
ISBN-13978-0399585999

(Received for an honest review from Berkley via Netgalley)

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, itunes

Rebecca L. Brown on the WEB: WebsiteTwitter, Facebook, Goodreads

Excerpt from Flying at Night, courtesy of Amazon's Look Inside feature

Synopsis:

An emotionally charged debut novel of a family on the brink--an autistic child, his determined mother, and her distant father--who learn that when your world changes, you find out who you really are. . . .

While she was growing up, Piper's father, Lance "the Silver Eagle" Whitman, became a national hero piloting a plane through an emergency landing. But at home, he was a controlling and overbearing presence in her life, raining emotional and verbal abuse upon the entire family.

It's no surprise, then, that as an adult, Piper has poured all of her energy into creating a warm and loving home for her own family, while catering to her son Fred's ever-growing idiosyncrasies.

Then Lance has a heart attack, leaving him with a brain injury--and dependent upon Piper for his care--just before tests confirm Piper's suspicions that Fred is on the autism spectrum.

A powerful and extraordinary novel, Flying at Night gives voice to Fred, trying to find his place in a world that doesn't quite understand him; to Lance, who's lost what made him the man he was, for better and worse; and to Piper, who, while desperately trying to navigate the shifting landscape around her, watches as her son and father start to connect--in the most miraculous ways. . . .


Thoughts:

Flying at Night is the debut novel by Rebecca L. Brown. It is a heartbreakingly beautiful story of an autistic boy, his mother and an unlikely companion. Brown will take readers into the everyday life of a mother on the edge. Faced with a difficult diagnosis and an ailing father, Piper is anything but calm. This book is about change, resilience, and redemption. Readers who are looking for a poignant tale that will pull at the heartstrings and remind them the family dynamic can change in an instant, will find this one authentic and real. 

What I liked:

This was an incredibly emotional book. I have a nephew that falls on the autistic spectrum and I was wondering if this book would be able to capture the innocence and sense of wonder that most autistic children possess. When I found out that the author, Rebecca L. Brown has an autistic child of her own it was easy to see that this was more than research. This was real life experience. Fred was such an amazing character. He is so focused and so inquisitive. I loved his sense of wonder and his ability to see right to the heart of things, including his brain damaged grandfather. I thought Brown did a very good job of showing the reader that life with an autistic child is obviously challenging but it also extremely rewarding. 

She is also able to describe Piper's struggles, with such clarity and understanding. Piper spends a great deal of time with her son Fred but she still doesn't see the signs that he is different than most kids. I really felt for her as a parent, because we always want our children to be okay in every sense of the word. I understood the incredible guilt she must have felt when Fred was diagnosed. She is a character that can possibly rub some readers the wrong way, because she has so much emotional baggage, but in the end is also very understandable. 

Who wouldn't be angry, resentful and even a little disappointed when faced with so much chaos in her life. Her son is on the autism spectrum, her father is brain damaged due to a severe heart attack, her mother just up and leaves and husband is constantly gone due to work concerns. That's not an easy place to be in and Brown does a wonderful job of showing the reader a flawed, yet relatable character in Piper. 

Brown not only gives readers a chance to see into everyday life with this family, but she also shows them in the throws of change. Each situation seems to be fraught with more turmoil than the last. But the beautiful relationship that begins to emerge between Lance the ailing grandfather and Fred is everything. Lance is not the same man he was before and it makes all the difference. With the innocence of a child he relates to Fred in a way no other character really can. And in seeing his change, Piper is able to find some redemption in him for his past as an emotionally abusive parent. 

What I didn't like:

I had my issues with Piper. Some of the things she said and did were not the ways in which I think I would have responded, but I'm not in her shoes. As a parent I want to think I would take things in stride and make the best life for both my child and my father, but honestly we don't know how we would react to such devastating news and circumstances. 

I kind of understood Piper's mom running off. I understood her brothers lack of concern. But I still felt a bit of real disconnect from the characters. Even when you have an emotionally abusive parent, they are still your parent. I was glad that despite Piper's previous relationship with her father she was still able to see that he needed her. She was still able to see him as her father, where I felt like the rest of the family just wrote him off in his time of need. 

Disclaimer, there is a bit of rough language in this one, but it's nothing that most people can't relate to. Sometimes gosh darn it, just doesn't cover it. But it may be offensive to some. Just keep it in mind. 

Bottom Line:

I liked this book. I thought that Brown gave a very realistic point of view to all three of the characters who shared the point of views in this book. I loved Fred. I loved hearing his thoughts and seeing his process. He was a great character and very authentic. Piper was a bit harder for me to like, but I was able to relate to her struggles. The old Lance and the new Lance were so different. It was amazing to see the amount of change in this character. It's kind of sad that brain damage had to happen to turn him into a pretty good guy. This one is emotional folks, be prepared, but it's well worth your time.

Flying at Night is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 4 out of 5 apples from my book bag. 





About the Author:


Rebecca L. Brown lives with her husband and three sons. Flying at Night is her first novel, and she is currently at work on her next one.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Review: Wedding Cake Crumble

Wedding Cake Crumble (Cupcake Bakery Mystery - Book 10) by Jenn McKinlay

Publication Date: 04/03/2018
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Imprint: Berkley Prime Crime
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Pages: 288
ISBN-13978-0399583834

(Received for an honest review from Berkley Prime Crime)

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, itunes

Jenn McKinlay on the WEB: WebsiteTwitter, Facebook, Goodreads

Books in the series:

  1. Sprinkle with Murder
  2. Buttercream Bump Off
  3. Death by the Dozen
  4. Red Velvet Revenge
  5. Going, Going Ganache
  6. Sugar and Iced
  7. Dark Chocolate Demise
  8. Vanilla Beaned
  9. Caramel Crush
10. Wedding Cake Crumble

Coverart: Click the image for a larger, clearer view of the covers in this series.



Excerpt from Wedding Cake Crumble, courtesy of Barnes and Noble

Synopsis:

For the Fairy Tale Cupcake crew, wedding bells turn to death knells in this latest mystery in the New York Times bestselling series.

With Angie and Tate's wedding just around the corner, it's a happy time for Melanie Cooper and the bakery crew. Not only are they finessing the last minute details of the big day, but their bakery, Fairy Tale Cupcakes, has just been hired to bake cupcakes for the blockbuster book signing of a controversial author who wrote a steamy bestseller filled with juicy local gossip.

But one by one, the people Angie has hired to work at the wedding begin turning up dead. As the body count rises, the bestselling author is the next to bite the dust. Mel quickly realizes she needs to figure out how the murders are connected and why--before the killer brings the entire cupcake crew crumbling down. After all, Angie and Tate deserve their sweet happily ever after.


Thoughts:

Jenn McKinlay knows cupcakes... and murder! Readers will get a taste for it too in the tenth book in the Cupcake Bakery series, Wedding Cake Crumble. Long time readers of the series will be excited about the upcoming nuptials of Angie and Tate. But all is not well at Fairy Tale Cupcakes, when the wedding purveyors start ending up dead. McKinlay really puts it all on the line with tons of murders in this one. It's one big cozy mess and readers will love it!

What I liked: 

This is one of those books that has so much going for it. I love a good cozy mystery with lots of red herrings and twists and turns that make you scratch your head, but this one is in a league by itself. You don't just one murder tied up with a bow in this. How about five or six, and one wicked killer. McKinlay is just full of surprises. You'd think ten books into the series, things would be slowing down a little bit, not so with this author. It's full steam ahead! I liked the fact that she really catches the reader off guard. I mean six murders, really? That's impressive. 

I always wonder if Jenn McKinlay is a cupcake maker herself. I mean the way she describes cupcakes in her books is just mouth watering. One of my favorite parts is always that little section at the back of the book with recipes in it. But just the general reading of the book, let's the reader know that this author has done some research and what better thing to learn about than cupcakes. Description, description, description. This book is a sensory feast for readers who like the overall theme of the series. Cupcakes. 

Angie and Tate are long time favorites of mine. I've always enjoyed their relationship and how they interact with the heroine of the series, Mel. When the photographer, the chauffeur and the baker are among the dead, the reader has to wonder, who in the world the happy couple ticked off. My first thoughts were, that someone was out to stop the wedding. Then a local inflammatory author is in the mix of dead. How does the author tie into the wedding? Oh what a tangled web we weave and readers will love trying to figure it all out before the end. 

What I didn't like:

I wouldn't say I didn't like this, but it is something to consider. How do you fit all that murder into one book? There would have to be a murder every other chapter. Some readers might not like that and think that it takes away from the overall arc of the story. How can the characters interact and move the series forward with all this going on?  But in my opinion it was pretty daring and I think it worked. It could be a little much for some readers though, so keep it in mind. 

Bottom Line:

There's a lot, lot, lot going on in this book. Readers get some real bang for their buck when it comes to murder in this book. The cupcake descriptions are out of this world as usual and McKinlay's general humor and sense of the macabre is on point. If you're looking for a book that packs a punch this is it. Cozy mysteries can often seem a little predictable. I think you can throw that assumption out the window with this one. And Angie and Tate are so cute together. Ahh wedded bliss with a murderous twist. So good!

Wedding Cake Crumble is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 5 out of 5 apples from my book bag!




About the Author:

Jenn McKinlay is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of several mystery series, including the Good Buy Girls series and the Decoupage Mystery series, which she wrote under the pseudonyms Josie Belle and Lucy Lawrence. A former librarian, she studied English literature and library science at Southern Connecticut State University before moving to Arizona, where she lives in a house that is overrun with kids, pets, and her husband's guitars. For more information, visit her at www.jennmckinlay.com.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Review: Just Open the Door

Just Open the Door: How One Invitation Can Change a Generation by Jen Schmidt

Publication Date: 04/10/2018
Publisher: B&H Publishing Group
Imprint: B&H Books
Genre: Christian
Pages: 224
ISBN-13978-1433643071

(Received for an honest review from B&H Books via Netgalley)

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble

Jen Schmidt on the WEB: Website, Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads

Ladie's you really need to check Jen's website out, it is amazing!

Excerpt from Just Open the Door, courtesy of Amazon's Look Inside Feature

Synopsis:

Change a generation with something as simple as an invitation.
For many of us, inviting people into our lives and homes feels more like inviting judgment on our entertaining skills and stress on our already maxed-out schedules. But what if you knew that opening your front door had the power to radically change the world? To make an impact and leave a legacy with everyday invitations?
Jen Schmidt has set out to reframe how we think about hospitality and to equip us to walk a road of welcome in our daily lives. Jen knows that every time we choose open-door living—whether in our homes or by taking hospitality on the road just like Jesus—those we invite in get to experience the lived-out Gospel, our kids grow up in a life-lab of generosity, and we trade insecurity for connection.

Just Open the Door is a personal yes-you-can guide to offering the life-changing gift of invitation. Whether you’re a seasoned host looking for renewed inspiration or a nervous newbie not sure where to begin, these personal stories, practical ideas, and poignant insights will give you the confidence you need to see your home as the most likely location for changing the world around you, one open door at a time.

Thoughts:

I don't know about you guys but when it comes to hospitality and entertaining, I always feel like that's somebody else's niche, not mine. I think about all reasons not to do it and not all of the reasons to do it. Jen Schmidt's new book, Just Open the Door has a completely take on what it means to open your door to other people. It's more about them than it is about you. With tons of practical advice and tips, this a must read for anyone who wants to not only entertain but to connect with other people. 

What I liked:

There were so many things I liked about this book. When I found out I had the opportunity to read and review Just Open the Door, I will admit I was skeptical. Not because I thought it wouldn't be a good book, I knew it would. I love Jen's blog and her style and I was positive it would be both a good read but very practical and spiritually based. But, I'm not that person that invites people over. I'm a book reader, an introvert at times and I like quiet and solitude most of the time. Calm and zen. That's what I need to focus and to keep my anxiety at a tolerable level. But let me tell you, this book blew me away. 

Jen was able to make me, one of the least likely people to invite others over, want to do so. I always worry about having enough food, the right furnishings. I want things to be perfect and lets face it, they usually aren't. But Just Open the Door is more focused on what you are doing for others by letting them into your home and life than what it's doing for you. We often times are so worried about what other people would think of what we have and don't have to realize what an encouraging and thoughtful thing it is to let someone in.

I was so encouraged by the way Jen Schmidt made it seem so easy in every aspect. She talks about everything from introverts to neighboring. She gives practical tips and ideas and relates everything back to spiritual principles. I had never even thought of hospitality in this way before. We live in such a socially conscious world. It's all about social media and presenting your best face to the world. We have gotten away from being connected to each other and spending good quality time together. 

I loved the humor and practicality of this book as well. You'll have to read it to figure out what the "Bra and the Broom" method is lol... I related to this book so much. I see all of these great things on Pinterest, like table settings and ideas for entertaining and I'm like... there's no way I can do that. But this book shows you that people are more interested in the fact that you want to spend time with them. They don't care what your table looks like. I loved it!

What I didn't like:

There wasn't anything about this book that I didn't like. I know that some of you might think, so this is a Christian book and probably not my thing. Listen, it is based on spiritual teachings and for me that was wonderful, but it is not a book that is preachy or overbearing. Schmidt is able to make this subject relate to simply anyone and that's the beauty of it.

Bottom Line:

Even if you think, you can't just open your door, this book proves you can. It's okay to let people in. It's okay to make them feel like you want them in your home and your life. I can't recommend this one enough. Such a great lesson in what it means to be hospitable. Also, if you haven't checked out Jen's website, I encourage you to do so. It's amazing!

Just Open the Door is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 5 out of 5 apples from my book bag!




About the Author:

Jen Schmidt: For the last decade, Jen Schmidt has been encouraging, challenging, and cheering on women to embrace both the beauty and bedlam of their everyday lives on her popular lifestyle blog, Balancing Beauty and Bedlam. With a variety of topics—from easy dinner ideas and personal finance to leaving a legacy—Jen equips others to live life to its fullest, reminding them it's the little things that really are the big things in life. A popular speaker, worship leader and founder/host of the annual Becoming Conference, Jen shares with humor and authenticity as she invites others to join her on this bumpy, beautiful life journey. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, five children, a few too many animals, and an available sofa for anyone who needs it.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Review: The Secret to Southern Charm

The Secret to Southern Charm (Peachtree Bluff - Book 2) by Kristy Woodson Harvey

Publication Date: 04/03/2018
Publisher: Gallery, Threshold, Pocket Books
Imprint: Gallery Books
Genre: Women's Fiction
Pages: 400
ISBN-13978-1501158100

(Received for an honest review from Gallery Books via Netgalley)

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, itunes

Kristy Woodson Harvey on the WEB: Website, Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads

Books in the series:

1. Slightly South of Simple
2. The Secret to Southern Charm

Coverart: Click the image for a larger, clearer view of the covers in this series.




Excerpt from The Secret to Southern Charm, courtesy of Amazon's Look Inside feature

Synopsis:

Leaving fans “practically [begging] for a sequel” (Bookpage), critically acclaimed author Kristy Woodson Harvey returns with the second novel in her beloved Peachtree Bluff series, featuring a trio of sisters and their mother who discover a truth that will change not only the way they see themselves, but also how they fit together as a family.

After finding out her military husband is missing in action, middle sister Sloane’s world crumbles as her worst nightmare comes true. She can barely climb out of bed, much less summon the strength to be the parent her children deserve.

Her mother, Ansley, provides a much-needed respite as she puts her personal life on hold to help Sloane and her grandchildren wade through their new grief-stricken lives. But between caring for her own aging mother, her daughters, and her grandchildren, Ansley’s private worry is that secrets from her past will come to light.

But when Sloane’s sisters, Caroline and Emerson, remind Sloane that no matter what, she promised her husband she would carry on for their young sons, Sloane finds the support and courage she needs to chase her biggest dreams—and face her deepest fears. Taking a cue from her middle daughter, Ansley takes her own leap of faith and realizes that, after all this time, she might finally be able to have it all.

Harvey’s signature warmth and wit make this a charming and poignant story of first loves, missed opportunities, and second chances and proves that she is "the next major voice in Southern fiction” (Elin Hilderbrand, New York Times bestselling author).


Thoughts:

Kristy Woodson Harvey takes readers back to Peachtree Bluff, Georgia. A quaint coastal town with a family of sisters that will captivate the readers attention. The Secret to Southern Charm is the second book in Harvey's Peachtree Bluff series. You'll laugh out loud, definitely cry a little and come away feeling very satisfied with this great women's fiction tale of second chances and secrets. If you are looking for that perfect beach read, this might be it. 

What I liked:

As many of you know, I live in the South. So when it comes to reading books that are touted as 'southern fiction' I have some pretty high expectations. I'm always interested to see an author's take on the south and whether they get it right or not. Kristy Woodson Harvey, certainly knows what's it like to live in our little corner of the world. I love the fact that her stories, reflect southern hospitality and small town charm. Her characters are realistic and relatable. I think this one certainly lives up to the hype.

This series is about a woman and her three daughters, living in the south and how they cope with everyday life, the good times and the bad. Those little secrets people like to keep buried in the closet and how family means just about everything. I used to be one of those readers that just wasn't interested in women's fiction. It just didn't seem like it was for me. I was more into the romance angle of things than the stories that were more focused on other things. But books like this one have changed my mind. There is romance, but there is also a deeper layer of emotion that is expressed in this type of writing. Harvey is one of those writers that makes you think about things and I've decided I like that.

I loved Caroline's story in the first book, Slightly South of Simple and now we get to read Sloane's story in The Secret to Southern Charm. This young military wife is in for quite an ordeal when she learns her husband is missing in action. The love and support of her family is the only thing that will get her through. Harvey does such a wonderful job of giving readers characters that are facing some of the same things they may have on their own plates. I loved that fact that this book and series is also multi-generational. You have the daughters, the mom and now the grandmother in this story. It reminded me a lot of my own family and our close knit relationship. The bonds that Harvey creates here are simply magical. 

It's not just about the sister's though. Mom, Ainsley has a lot of issues going on in her own life. And I loved that her story was also a focal point. Sloane was certainly the primary character, but Ainsley's story is also very important to the overall arc of the series. She has some secrets in her closet that could completely change the dynamic of this family and I like that Harvey was able to develop that angle of the story along with the main focus. Ainsley needs to just go for it Jack (the neighbor) lol...

What I didn't like:

There wasn't too much I didn't like with this one. The pacing was good. The charm and the wit Harvey uses within the story was perfect. Her characters were spot on. She did her homework and it helps that shes a North Carolina girl. This a book that can be read as a standalone but I can guarantee most readers will go back and pick up the first one. And they won't be disappointed with it either. 

Bottom Line:

Kristy Woodson Harvey gets an A+ in southern fiction and in women's fiction. I'm really starting to get into these kinds of novels. When you have an author that really seems to take the time to make her writing authentic and approachable, it's hard not to get on board. I look forward to seeing where Kristy Woodson Harvey goes with the next book in this series and with her career as an author. Definitely, one to keep your eye one. 

The Secret to Southern Charm is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one a well deserved 5 out of 5 apples from my book bag. 





About the Author:


Kristy Woodson Harvey is a born-and-bred North Carolina girl who loves all four seasons—especially fall in Chapel Hill, where she attended college, and summer in Beaufort, where she and her family spend every free moment. The author of Slightly South of SimpleDear Carolina, and Lies and Other Acts of Love, Kristy is also the founder of the popular interior design blog Design Chic.