Writing nostalgia in Martinis and Memories
I love me some nostalgia. Even though I wasn’t particularly happy in myself in my teen years, I can conjure those moments within seconds. I can be back at a house party when I’m sixteen, and hear the music and remember sitting on the back step with the cool summer air of the evening, the friends I still call best by my side. I can remember the songs we sang along to, and the boys who seemed beautiful.
Nostalgia puts a sheen on everything, like a photo taken on a disposable camera – not sharp or even true sometimes, but distinct as the smell of burnt cookies or the clink of beer bottles.
The same is true for Bel – her past is a different world. One before she became Arabella Hailstone. Before The Martini Club, before burlesque. Back then she was just a kid who was good at ballet because her mother expected her to be. She was the girl who got up to train, expected to win every trophy, before studying, and working in the evenings. The girl who wasn’t too good to work in the chippy on the seafront if it took her one step closer to getting out of Eastbourne.
The people we love exist in the past and sometimes it’s impossible to bring them into the present – too much has changed, too much has been lost, or there’s things you can’t forgive. For Bel, and some of the other characters too, nostalgia is bittersweet – it feels good to escape into for a time, but if she wants to be who she is, who she’s become, she needs to let go.
I think many of us feel that – how do we keep the joy of the child we used to be, the innocence and excitement, whilst growing up and being safe? How do we merge two people to have the best of both? And what happens if the people you love can’t accept the new version of who you are?
In the novel, Bel is faced with three ghosts of her past – the boy she loved, the boy she married, and her mother. Each of them remembers her differently, and each struggles to find a way to know her as who she is now – but how much will she let them know about her new life?
I’m obsessed with nostalgia, with change and growth and being the best version of the person you can be. I’m all about leaving behind that which does not serve you, but every now and then I have a soft spot for the person you loved when the timing wasn’t quite right. And I think Bel does too.
Posted in Romance Tagged with: Aug 13 2018, author post
Martinis and Memories is the strong and empowering finale of the Martini Club trilogy.
“Smart girls don’t fall for the same bull**** twice.”
However, when Bel’s husband, Euan, walks into her burlesque, the Martini Club, she worries what his motivation is. Does he feel he should get a cut of her business? She walked out on him ten years ago because he was a deadweight on her dream of success. She certainly can’t afford to support him now. Business is down in the Club due to the downturn in the economy. Bel even had to tell her mother, Anna a former ballerina, that she needs to reduce the money that she sends her every month. However, when Anna shows up at her door saying living together would save money and be fun, Bel responds with dread that her mother’s perfectionist dragon mom persona will return.
Bel has remade herself three times. First, by running away with Euan. Second, by running away from Euan to open the Martini Club. Will either her mom, her husband or her money troubles force her to recreate herself again? If so, will she steal away with no warning as she had done in the past?
Bel is a genuine and sympathetic character. The setting within a London burlesque club is original. However, Anna and Euan seemed flat and one-note to me. I couldn’t get a clear read on their underlying motivations. Both just seemed selfish and shallow.
Martinis and Memories is a great beach read that will lift you out of your summer doldrums. Bel’s story is full of abrupt changes for the better and will surely motivate readers who may need to make some changes in their own life. There is a delicious recipe for a vodka espresso martini at the back of the book. The book does contain some strong language so it may not be appropriate for younger teens. 4 stars!
Thanks to the publisher, Canelo, for an advanced copy.
Posted in Romance Tagged with: Aug 13 2018, Burlesque, martini club
I adore epistolary novels. I feel like I am the “fly on the wall” in the writers’ life. Meet Me at the Museum is one of the best of that style of novel that I have read.
Tina has recently lost her best friend. She is past 60 and thinking that her opportunity for fulfilling her life goals is fast escaping her. She decides to see the prehistoric Tollund man (a real object located in the Silkeborg Museum in Denmark) so she writes to her old pen pal who works at the museum. Unfortunately, he has died but the current museum’s curator, Anders, responds. Thus begins the short and romantic tale Meet Me at the Museum.
In the first letter Tina writes,
“it must have occurred to you that what you thought would happen when you were young, never did.”
Who of us over a certain age hasn’t had that feeling of regret at roads not taken? The love story and tale of second chances regardless of your circumstances is beautifully written with just the right tone. This book has many asides that discuss archeology, knitting, farming, and opera among many more subjects. But ultimately it is a fictional memoir of two strangers’ lives made closer by their impersonal method of communicating by letter. Using such a slow and detached medium allowed both Tina and Anders to talk about their true feeling without embarrassment much like Americans talk to a therapist.
I enjoyed both of their stories though they veered from sorrowful to joyful to resigned and back. It is definitely a compelling read. I stayed up past midnight and read it in one sitting. Meet Me at the Museum is perfect for fans of Nicholas Sparks’ The Notebook. 4 stars!
Thanks to Flatiron Books and NetGalley for an advanced copy.
Posted in Literary Fiction, Romance Tagged with: Aug 7 2018
A pregnant Brazilian lands in an airport in Switzerland. She calls the police because an assassin is hunting her. When the police fail to stop the killer, a young girl appears saying she just wants the lady’s fetus. So begins Undead Messiah 1, an exciting thriller wrapped within a horror manga.
Who hasn’t been entranced by a video game, movie or book and after it’s over you still feel like it has leached into your real life? Tim loves ZAC, a zombie video game, and the Walking Dead television show. He begins to see zombie threats everywhere. However, just because he’s paranoid, doesn’t mean there aren’t zombies running amok.
I loved the innovative plot. Unfortunately, I can’t describe my favorite part since it will spoil the surprise. As a huge fan of the Walking Dead comics, I thought this book would be perfect for me. And it was. Nerdy gamer thinks he can kill real zombies until he meets one. If only there was a wireless controller for real life (heavy sigh…). The art, especially the chapter titles, perfectly set the mood and clearly illustrated the plot.
Undead Messiah 1 has elements of horror, mystery, fantasy, post-apocalyptic thriller and even romance. I can’t wait for the second volume, which comes out November 6, 2018. It is highly recommended for all manga fans looking for something different. 4 stars!
Thanks to ToykoPop and Edelweiss+ for an advanced copy.
Posted in Graphic Novel, Horror, Mystery & Thrillers, Paranormal, Romance Tagged with: Jul 19 2018, Manga
Ethan is Craving His Best Friend’s Ex in this perfect light summer read.
Ethan and Mason are best friends. When they see Crissanne at a college party, Mason, always the impulsive one, approaches her. Mason and Crissanne have a romantic relationship but Ethan is envious and regretful that he didn’t approach Crissanne first. Twelve years later, Crissanne knocks on Ethan’s door in Cole’s Hill Texas. She and Mason, who live together in Los Angeles, have broken up. Crissanne’s feelings of friendship for Ethan begin to deepen. Ethan reluctantly reciprocates but worries that Crissanne is only using him to make Mason jealous. When tragedy strikes, will it drive Crissanne and Ethan together or force them apart?
The tug of war between guilt and desire is well defined in Craving His Best Friend’s Ex. Both Ethan and Crissanne’s conflicting feeling make sense. The story is compelling and the sexual tension is hot. Craving His Best Friend’s Ex is a great beach read. 4 stars!
Thanks to the publisher, Harlequin Books, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.
Posted in Romance Tagged with: Aug 7 2018, Texas
Enter this book giveaway to grab a free copy of Craving His Best Friend’s Ex by Katherine Garbera.
Written by USA Today bestselling author, Katherine Garbera, Craving His Best Friend’s Ex will be published by Harlequin Desire on August 7, 2018.
A blurb from the book:
Heartbreak gives her only one place to turn…the arms of a forbidden man.
Giveaway begins July 26, 2018, at 12:01 A.M. PDT and ends August 9, 2018 at 11:59 P.M. PDT.
How To Enter
Complete the entry form below.
Enter once daily (optional).
NO PURCHASE NECESSARY.
Open to residents of Canada and the fifty United States and the District of Columbia who are 13 and older. Winners will be selected at random on or about August 11, 2018.
Odds of winning depend on number of eligible entries received. Void where prohibited or restricted by law.
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Posted in Giveaways, Romance Tagged with: Aug 10 2018
Ghosted, the word, is when a hookup quietly ignores your texts, calls, emails and other online communications. Ghosted, the book, is a wonderful twisty love story.
Sarah and Eddie, both in their late 30s, spend a romantic week together after meeting unexpectedly. As Eddie is leaving for a holiday in Spain, both vow to meet up again after his return. However, Sarah hears nothing. Her increasingly frantic texts, calls, Facebook messages and emails go unanswered. Her best friends tell her to move on. But Sarah is convinced something tragic has happened to Eddie and just can’t let go.
Ghosted is a delightful summer beach read for mystery lovers. The story of the romance evolving, told in flashbacks, is just as entrancing as the mystery of Eddie’s disappearance. Also, Smelly has to be the best, and probably the most accurate, name for a dog either in fiction or in real life. 4 stars!
Thanks to the publisher, Pamela Dorman Books, and Edelweiss+ for an advanced copy.
Posted in Mystery & Thrillers, Romance Tagged with: Jul 24 2018
Amy and Richard stumble upon another body in the second novel in the Blue Ridge Library series, Shelved Under Murder.
Amy is the head librarian and Sunny is her assistant at the perpetually underfunded Blue Ridge library. Sunny convinces a local artist to donate three paintings to the library. While retrieving them, Amy and Richard find the artist, Rachel LeBlanc, stabbed to death in her artist’s studio. In the same studio are several art forgeries hidden in a secret closet.
The romantic relationships shine more than the mysteries in Shelved Under Murder. My biggest complaint is that there are no gray areas in the characters. They are either devils or saints. In addition, no one has much of a reason to be a villain other than for the love of money. With such shallow motives, this book receives 3 stars.
Be aware that Shelved Under Murder describes the conclusion of the first book, including the murderer’s name, multiple times so plan to read them in order.
Thanks to the publisher, Crooked Lane Books, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.
Posted in Mystery & Thrillers, Romance Tagged with: cozy mystery, Jul 10 2018
Meh…Providence is not a place I enjoyed visiting.
While a junior in high school in Providence Rhode Island, Jon is kidnapped. His best friend and possible love of his life, Chloe, is heartbroken. However, she and his parents eventually assume he is dead and move on with their lives.
Four years later, Jon wakes up. His only clue to what happened is a note from his former substitute teacher and captor, Mr. Blair, in a beaten-up paperback copy of The Dunwich Horror by H.P. Lovecraft. The note states.
“You were in a medically induced coma. You are free. […] You have power. […] We did good work down here, Jon, and it will be interesting to see the way things play out. You’re welcome, Jon.”
Six years later, Eggs is a Providence police detective looking for the cause of a rash of heart attack deaths in young adults. His department believes they were natural deaths but Eggs is obsessed. Eggs and his wife, Lo, have an institutionalized son, Chuckie.
Providence is a fantasy in the vain of the 2012 film Chronicle and perhaps Stephen King’s Carrie. While it contains the love story of Jon and Chloe, it is not strictly a romance like the author’s most popular book, You. I didn’t read You so I had no previously conceived ideas for this novel. Judging by other reviews, if you loved You, you will not like Providence much.
My biggest issue with Providence is with the characters. None are sympathetic. Poor Jon had all his problems thrust upon him but as a reader I truly didn’t care what happened to him. Chloe is so indecisive that I felt like slapping her. Her high school friends after Jon’s disappearance feel like 80s movie stereotypes (the popular girl, the jock, the art girl). Eggs’ feeling toward his son do not seem genuine but are obviously a plot device.
Another issue is the plot slows to a crawl in the middle of the book. If I wasn’t reading a review copy, I would have put it down or at best skipped to the ending.
Some readers seemed to enjoy this book. To me, it seemed derivative, slow, and populated solely with unsympathetic characters. Unfortunately, I can’t recommend it except to hardcore Lovecraft fans. 2 stars.
Thanks to the publisher, Random House-Lenny Books, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.
Posted in Fantasy, Mystery & Thrillers, Paranormal, Romance Tagged with: Jun 19 2018
Southern paranormal cozy mystery with ghosts, witches and a murder or two.
Hope, Faith and Charity plan to open a Wiccan school and white witches’ potion shop in rural Sunflower County Mississippi. Sarah Booth Delaney and her partner in the Delaney Detective Agency, Tinkie Richmond, are paid to dig up some dirt on the three newcomers. The witches cast a spell to make Tinkie pregnant and Sarah Booth hook up with the hunky Sheriff Coleman. Soon, someone is killed. Was the victim scared to death by the mysterious force in the apple orchard?
Charmed Bones is #18 in the series but it reads fine as a standalone. Reading the synopsis above, the plot sounds overblown but it is totally believable while immersed in the book. I found the quirky Southern characters were the best part of Charmed Bones. By the end of the book, all seemed like genuine friends that I wanted to spend more time with. Now I just have to decide to continue the series from here or start at #1. This entry deserves 4 stars!
Thanks to Minotaur and NetGalley for an advanced copy.
Posted in Mystery & Thrillers, Paranormal, Romance Tagged with: ghosts, May 15 2018
Great finish almost makes it worth reading the rest of The Favorite Sister.
Brett, Stephanie and Jen are the sole remaining season 1 cast members on the new season 4 of the Real Housewives-esque reality show, Goal Diggers. The show ostensibly empowers women, while provoking as many fights among them as possible. Brett is the “thick” lesbian African-American CEO of SPOKE. The company is a spin class empire that donates electric bikes to Morocco girls so they can avoid being raped while hauling water daily from their towns’ well. Stephanie is an author and married to Vince, a wannabe actor. Jen is a vegan CEO. Lauren, who arrived season 2 as Jen’s friend is CEO of Sadie, a dating app where women chose the men first.
The Favorite Sister is full of lying, conniving and cheating. There is murder and attempted murder in here too but not until late in the book. My problem is that the characters are not sympathetic at all. After some foreshadowing, I spent the first half of the book waiting for the murder to occur. I didn’t even care who was the victim. I just wanted something to shake the self-centered complacency out of one of these b*tches. There is a q&a with the author at the end of the book explaining how she loves the housewives shows but dislikes how they turn women against each other. But she wrote a book about the exact same process. Maybe it was sarcastic farce that I just didn’t get. Once the thriller part of the book started, well past halfway, I enjoyed the twists. I’m just not sure I would have read that far if I hadn’t received this book from NetGalley. The last half of the book gets 4 stars and the first gets 2 making an average of 3 stars.
Thanks to the publisher, Simon & Schuster, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.
Posted in Mystery & Thrillers, Romance Tagged with: May 15 2018, Reality Shows
Romance, history, southern charm, friendships, family and secrets swirl in the High Tide Club.
At 99, Josephine is dying on her half of an island off the coast of Georgia. She calls Brooke, an attorney, to help search for her best friends, Ruth, Millie and Varina, from over 80 years earlier. Josephine had a falling out with her friends but now wants to deed her island home to them or their descendants. She also wants Brooke to stop the state from taking her home under eminent domain.
Brooke is a single mother with a 3-year old son and has a past as a runaway bride. She also has plenty of bills that are barely covered by her one-woman law firm. She needs to keep Josephine as a client despite the ethical issues of one of the friends being her grandmother. To setup the trust for Josephine, Brooke asks her old boss and mentor, Gabe, for help.
Alternating between the 1940s and current day, the reason for the friends’ schism and the disappearance of one’s finance is slowly revealed. The High Tide Club is a perfect beach read: light and frothy with a murderous undertow. It is recommended for both mystery, thriller, historical fiction and especially romantic suspense fans. 4 stars!
Thanks to the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.
Posted in Historical Fiction, Mystery & Thrillers, Romance Tagged with: family drama, May 8 2018, WWII
Like light science fiction, fantasy and/or romance? Don’t mind a slow build-up to a fantastic finish? If so, the Coincidence Makers is for you.
Emily, Eric and Guy meet in a 16-month training class for Coincidence Makers (CMs). CMs are secret agents that work for the government. They “are creators of possibilities, givers of hints, winkers of tempting winks, discoverers of options.” Some examples of their work is Lennon meeting Paul McCartney, the development of corn flakes, and the discovery of penicillin. There are other behind-the-scenes government workers too like imaginary friends, dream weavers, luck distributors, etc.
I love the idea of mixing Men in Black with Harry Potter’s first year at Hogwarts. However, the execution was rather sluggish for the first half. I enjoyed the flashbacks to their schooling much more than their jobs immediately after graduation. I think it would have been better as a trilogy of books with the first only showing the training, the second standard CM work and the third book showing the highest level of CM work. With all of those topics put in this relatively short novel, it seems like an opportunity for a more in depth exploration of this world was missed. For the intriguing world, the Coincidence Makers receives 3 stars. However, the excellent ending ups the stars to 4.
The Coincidence Makers is recommended for soft science fiction or fantasy readers that are willing to wait patiently for a big payoff. Don’t quit reading before the halfway mark as the finale is definitely worth a few more hours of your time. If you are not patient, just wait for the sure to be awesome movie (or movies) based on this book.
Thanks to the publisher, St. Martins Press, and NetGalley for an advance copy.
Posted in Fantasy, Romance, Science Fiction Tagged with: genre mash-up, Mar 6 2018, original
“In Alaska you can make one mistake. One. The second one will kill you.”
It’s 1974 and the world is imploding. Watergate. Vietnam. Black panthers. Gas shortages. Protests. Revolutionaries. Kidnappings. Serial Killers. After receiving an unexpected inheritance, thirteen year old Leni and her parents, Cora and Ernt, move to rural Alaska. With no running water or electricity, the family work hard to make their house a home before winter sets in. As their friendly neighbor Large Marge says, winter “will cull the herd, and fast.”
Ernt has dark moods and nightmares since returning from Vietnam. The moods get darker in the long and frigid Alaskan winters. Cora takes the brunt of it. Leni dreams of a life for herself and her mom away from Ernt.
Seeing a family spiraling downwards into death and madness, The Great Alone puts the reader into an untenable situation along with Leni. Run away alone leaving her mother to her fate or fight the monster who used to be her loving father. This gripping thriller grabs the reader by the throat and causes their real life to be put on hold as they rush to read the conclusion. The Great Alone is highly recommended. Be warned! Starting this compelling novel at bedtime may reduce sleep time significantly. 5 stars!
Thanks to the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.
Posted in Literary Fiction, Romance Tagged with: Feb 6 2018
When does love and attraction turn into obsession?
Sam Grist is a college student in Kate Youngblood’s writing workshop. Kate is impressed with his writing style. She is also feeling a “strong river current” pulling her towards him. However, Kate is hoping to get tenure. Starting an affair with a student would not be smart and might even be career-ending. Her first crime novel was moderately successful but her agent hates her latest book. She needs the teaching job to support herself now that her husband has left her for a much younger woman.
Sam also has strong feelings for Kate. He stares at her with longing during class. Soon he starts following her and peeps in her windows. His obsession only grows from there.
Watch Me is a slow-burning thriller alternating between Kate and Sam’s point of view. At first, a reader feels sympathy for Sam’s love for Kate. It seems like a heartfelt student’s crush on his older college professor. But then Sam begins to go too far. As Sam’s history is revealed, his intentions begin to look much darker. The eerie atmosphere and Sam’s darkening worldview propel the plot forward even though the action doesn’t really start until more than a third into the book.
Watch Me is highly recommended to fans of character-driven psychological suspense. The relationship between Kate and Sam resembles the one between Agent Starling and Hannibal Lecter. It is obviously not healthy and will probably end badly but it is both a compelling and unsettling trip to that end. 4 stars!
Thanks to the publisher, St. Martin’s Griffin, and NetGalley for the advance review copy.
Posted in Mystery & Thrillers, Romance Tagged with: Jan 23 2018, psychological suspense, student-teacher romance
Formulaic mystery with a small town atmosphere and a refreshing romance.
Amy Webber has run back to her aunt’s house in small town Taylorsford Virginia following a disastrous and public breakup with her boyfriend. Her job as a public library Director with only one employee, Sunny Fields, is fun but not high-paying. When a person is found murdered in the library’s archives the game is afoot for Amy and Sunny. Amy also stumbles upon an old family secret and a possible town scandal.
I enjoyed the romantic aspect of Murder for the Books much more than the three mysteries within the plot. One problem with setting mysteries in small towns is that there are not enough suspects to make the mystery difficult to solve. Plus it seemed as though the debut author, Victoria Gilbert, tried to shove too many plots into one book. There were the three mysteries, romances for three couples in town, and even a potential ghost story within this short book. Hopefully, the next entry in the Blue Ridge Library series will limit its focus by including only one romance and mystery while also using the unique rural library setting much more.
While I was underwhelmed by the mystery plots, I totally enjoyed Amy and Richard’s romance especially how the body issues were handled. Therefore, I recommend Murder for the Books more for romance readers than mystery ones. However, I will read the next book in the series, Shelved Under Murder, to see where the author leads the characters after its publication in July 10, 2018. 3 stars.
Thanks to the publisher, Crooked Lane Books, and NetGalley for an advanced review copy.
Posted in Mystery & Thrillers, Romance Tagged with: Dec 12 2017, ghosts, series