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The Woman with the Blue Star by Pam Jenoff Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

Two young women in very different circumstances during the German occupation of WWII find themselves becoming quick friends, but soon that friendship is tested as the war grows far deadlier in author Pam Jenoff’s “The Woman with the Blue Star”.

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The Synopsis

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Lost Girls of Paris comes a riveting tale of courage and unlikely friendship during World War II.

1942. Sadie Gault is eighteen and living with her parents in the Kraków Ghetto during World War II. When the Nazis liquidate the ghetto, Sadie and her pregnant mother are forced to seek refuge in the perilous tunnels beneath the city. One day Sadie looks up through a grate and sees a girl about her own age buying flowers.

Ella Stepanek is an affluent Polish girl living a life of relative ease with her stepmother, who has developed close alliances with the occupying Germans. While on an errand in the market, she catches a glimpse of something moving beneath a grate in the street. Upon closer inspection, she realizes it’s a girl hiding.

Ella begins to aid Sadie and the two become close, but as the dangers of the war worsen, their lives are set on a collision course that will test them in the face of overwhelming odds. Inspired by incredible true stories, The Woman with the Blue Star is an unforgettable testament to the power of friendship and the extraordinary strength of the human will to survive.

The Review

The author does a truly fantastic and haunting job of capturing the horrors of WWII and the conditions that so many were forced to live in. Right off the bat readers are shown the pain of loss that one of the protagonists goes through in the heart-pounding moments a family attempts to find an escape from the overwhelming German forces. The imagery and sense of setting really are powerful in this story, as readers are immediately brought to the very different and distinct lives that separated those being hunted by the German occupation and those living “normally” during the occupation. 

What really stands at the heart of this story however is the relationship between the two young women that become the protagonists of the story. Sadie and Ella’s stories are heartbreaking and heartwarming all at once, highlighting their individual struggles in this time of war while also showcasing how friendship, love, and relationships, in general, can give those in a time of need or struggle the hope they need to either endure or overcome those struggles. Readers will instantly be drawn into their friendship and the path their lives take during this tumultuous time. 

The Verdict

A mesmerizing, haunting, and emotional historical-fiction read, author Pam Jenoff’s “The Girl with the Blue Star” is a must-read novel and the perfect historical-fiction read for the upcoming summer season. For those who love history and stories that delve into personal relationships that help overcome struggles, this is a truly engaging and intriguing read that cannot be missed. Be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Pam Jenoff is the author of several books of historical fiction, including the NYT bestseller The Orphan’s Tale. She holds a degree in international affairs from George Washington University and a degree in history from Cambridge, and she received her JD from UPenn. Her novels are inspired by her experiences working at the Pentagon and as a diplomat for the State Department handling Holocaust issues in Poland. She lives with her husband and 3 children near Philadelphia, where she teaches law.

Social Links:

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Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/213562.Pam_Jenoff 

Mailing List: https://pamjenoff.com/mailing-list/ 

Buy Links:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Woman-Blue-Star-Novel/dp/0778389383/ 

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-woman-with-the-blue-star-pam-jenoff/1137387567 

Bookshop: https://bookshop.org/books/the-woman-with-the-blue-star-9780778311546/9780778389385 

IndieBound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780778389385 

Libro.fm: https://libro.fm/audiobooks/9781488211706-the-woman-with-the-blue-star?bookstore=betweenthecovers 

Books-A-Million: https://www.booksamillion.com/p/Woman-Blue-Star/Pam-Jenoff/9780778389385?id=8140224153967 

Target: https://www.target.com/p/the-woman-with-the-blue-star-by-pam-jenoff-paperback/-/A-81225916 

Walmart: https://www.walmart.com/ip/The-Woman-with-the-Blue-Star-Original-Edition-Paperback-9780778389385/304633554 

Indigo: https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/the-woman-with-the-blue/9780778389385-item.html 

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/the-woman-with-the-blue-star 

AppleBooks: https://books.apple.com/us/book/the-woman-with-the-blue-star/id1524947358 

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/The_Woman_with_the_Blue_Star_A_Novel?id=De_yDwAAQBAJ&hl=en&gl=US 

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An Excerpt from THE GIRL WITH THE BLUE STAR

Sadie

Kraków, PolandMarch 1942

Everything changed the day they came for the children.

I was supposed to have been in the attic crawl space of the three-story building we shared with a dozen other families in the ghetto. Mama helped me hide there each morning before she set out to join the factory work detail, leaving me with a fresh bucket as a toilet and a stern admonishment not to leave. But I grew cold and restless alone in the tiny, frigid space where I couldn’t run or move or even stand straight. The minutes stretched silently, broken only by a scratching—unseen children, years younger than me, stowed on the other side of the wall. They were kept separate from one another without space to run and play. They sent each other messages by tapping and scratching, though, like a kind of improvised Morse code. Sometimes, in my boredom, I joined in, too.

“Freedom is where you find it,” my father often said when I complained. Papa had a way of seeing the world exactly as he wanted. “The greatest prison is in our mind.” It was easy for him to say. Though he manual ghetto labor was a far cry from his professional work as an accountant before the war, at least he was out and about each day, seeing other people. Not cooped up like me. I had scarcely left our apartment building since we were forced to move six months earlier from our apartment in the Jewish Quarter near the city center to the Podgórze neighborhood where the ghetto had been established on the southern bank of the river. I wanted a normal life, my life, free to run beyond the walls of the ghetto to all of the places I had once known and taken for granted. I imagined taking the tram to the shops on the Rynek or to the kino to see a film, exploring the ancient grassy mounds on the outskirts of the city. I wished that at least my best friend, Stefania, was one of the others hidden nearby. Instead, she lived in a separate apartment on the other side of the ghetto designated for the families of the Jewish police.

It wasn’t boredom or loneliness that had driven me from my hiding place this time, though, but hunger. I had always had a big appetite and this morning’s breakfast ration had been a half slice of bread, even less than usual. Mama had offered me her portion, but I knew she needed her strength for the long day ahead on the labor detail.

As the morning wore on in my hiding place, my empty belly had begun to ache. Visions pushed into my mind uninvited of the foods we ate before the war: rich mushroom soup and savory borscht, and pierogi, the plump, rich dumplings my grandmother used to make. By midmorning, I felt so weak from hunger that I had ventured out of my hiding place and down to the shared kitchen on the ground floor, which was really nothing more than a lone working stove burner and a sink that dripped tepid brown water. I didn’t go to take food—even if there had been any, I would never steal. Rather, I wanted to see if there were any crumbs left in the cupboard and to fill my stomach with a glass of water.

I stayed in the kitchen longer than I should, reading the dog-eared copy of the book I’d brought with me. The thing I detested most about my hiding place in the attic was the fact that it was too dark for reading. I had always loved to read and Papa had carried as many books as he could from our apartment to the ghetto, over the protests of my mother, who said we needed the space in our bags for clothes and food. It was my father who had nurtured my love of learning and encouraged my dream of studying medicine at Jagiellonian University before the German laws made that impossible, first by banning Jews and later by closing the university altogether. Even in the ghetto at the end of his long, hard days of labor, Papa loved to teach and discuss ideas with me. He had somehow found me a new book a few days earlier, too, The Count of Monte Cristo. But the hiding place in the attic was too dark for me to read and there was scarcely any time in the evening before curfew and lights-out. Just a bit longer, I told myself, turning the page in the kitchen. A few minutes wouldn’t matter at all.

I had just finished licking the dirty bread knife when I heard heavy tires screeching, followed by barking voices. I froze, nearly dropping my book. The SS and Gestapo were outside, flanked by the vile Jüdischer Ordnungsdienst, Jewish Ghetto Police, who did their bidding. It was an aktion, the sudden unannounced arrest of large groups of Jews to be taken from the ghetto to camps. The very reason I was meant to be hiding in the first place. I raced from the kitchen, across the hall and up the stairs. From below came a great crash as the front door to the apartment building splintered and the police burst through. There was no way I could make it back to the attic in time.

Instead, I raced to our third-floor apartment. My heart pounded as I looked around desperately, wishing for an armoire or other cabinet suitable for hiding in the tiny room, which was nearly bare except for a dresser and bed. There were other places, I knew, like the fake plaster wall one of the other families had constructed in the adjacent building not a week earlier. That was too far away now, impossible to reach. My eyes focused on the large steamer trunk stowed at the foot of my parents’ bed. Mama had shown me how to hide there once shortly after we first moved to the ghetto. We practiced it like a game, Mama opening the trunk so that I could climb in before she closed the lid.

The trunk was a terrible hiding place, exposed and in the middle of the room. But there was simply nowhere else. I had to try. I raced over to the bed and climbed into the trunk, then closed the lid with effort. I thanked heavens that I was tiny like Mama. I had always hated being so petite, which made me look a solid two years younger than I actually was. Now it seemed a blessing, as did the sad fact that the months of meager ghetto rations had made me thinner. I still fit in the trunk.

When we had rehearsed, we had envisioned Mama putting a blanket or some clothes over the top of the trunk. Of course, I couldn’t do that myself. So the trunk sat unmasked for anyone who walked into the room to see and open. I curled into a tiny ball and wrapped my arms around myself, feeling the white armband with the blue star on my sleeve that all Jews were required to wear.

There came a great crashing from the next building, the sound of plaster being hewn by a hammer or ax. The police had found the hiding place behind the wall, given away by the too-fresh paint. An unfamiliar cry rang out as a child was found and dragged from his hiding place. If I had gone there, I would have been caught as well.

Someone neared the door to the apartment and flung it open. My heart seized. I could hear breathing, feel eyes searching the room. I’m sorry, Mama, I thought, feeling her reproach for having left the attic. I braced myself for discovery. Would they go easier on me if I came out and gave myself up? The footsteps grew fainter as the German continued down the hall, stopping before each door, searching.

The war had come to Kraków one warm fall day two and a half years earlier when the air-raid sirens rang out for the first time and sent the playing children scurrying from the street. Life got hard before it got bad. Food disappeared and we waited in long lines for the most basic supplies. Once there was no bread for a whole week.

Then about a year ago, upon orders from the General Government, Jews teemed into Kraków by the thousands from the small towns and villages, dazed and carrying their belongings on their backs. At first I wondered how they would all find places to stay in Kazimierz, the already cramped Jewish Quarter of the city. But the new arrivals were forced to live by decree in a crowded section of the industrial Podgórze district on the far side of the river that had been cordoned off with a high wall. Mama worked with the Gmina, the local Jewish community organization, to help them resettle, and we often had friends of friends over for a meal when they first arrived, before they went to the ghetto for good. They told stories from their hometowns too awful to believe and Mama shooed me from the room so I would not hear.

Several months after the ghetto was created, we were ordered to move there as well. When Papa told me, I couldn’t believe it. We were not refugees, but residents of Kraków; we had lived in our apartment on Meiselsa Street my entire life. It was the perfect location: on the edge of the Jewish Quarter but easy walking distance to the sights and sounds of the city center and close enough to Papa’s office on Stradomska Street that he could come home for lunch. Our apartment was above an adjacent café where a pianist played every evening. Sometimes the music spilled over and Papa would whirl Mama around the kitchen to the faint strains. But according to the orders, Jews were Jews. One day. One suitcase each. And the world I had known my entire life disappeared forever.

I peered out of the thin slit opening of the trunk, trying to see across the tiny room I shared with my parents. We were lucky, I knew, to have a whole room to ourselves, a privilege we had been given because my father was a labor foreman. Others were forced to share an apartment, often two or three families together. Still, the space felt cramped compared to our real home. We were ever on top of one another, the sights and sounds and smells of daily living magnified.

“Kinder, raus!” the police called over and over again now as they patrolled the halls. Children, out. It was not the first time the Germans had come for children during the day, knowing that their parents would be at work.

But I was no longer a child. I was eighteen and might have joined the work details like others my age and some several years younger. I could see them lining up for roll call each morning before trudging to one of the factories. And I wanted to work, even though I could tell from the slow, painful way my father now walked, stooped like an old man, and how Mama’s hands were split and bleeding that it was hard and awful. Work meant a chance to get out and see and talk to people. My hiding was a subject of much debate between my parents. Papa thought I should work. Labor cards were highly prized in the ghetto. Workers were valued and less likely to be deported to one of the camps. But Mama, who seldom fought my father on anything, had forbidden it. “She doesn’t look her age. The work is too hard. She is safest out of sight.” I wondered as I hid now, about to be discovered at any second, if she would still think she was right.

The building finally went silent, the last of the awful footsteps receding. Still I didn’t move. That was one of the ways they trapped people who were hiding, by pretending to go away and lying in wait when they came out. I remained motionless, not daring to leave my hiding place. My limbs ached, then went numb. I had no idea how much time had passed. Through the slit, I could see that the room had grown dimmer, as if the sun had lowered a bit.

Sometime later, there were footsteps again, this time a shuffling sound as the laborers trudged back silent and exhausted from their day. I tried to uncurl myself from the trunk. But my muscles were stiff and sore and my movements slow. Before I could get out, the door to our apartment flung open and someone ran into the room with steps light and fluttering. “Sadie!” It was Mama, sounding hysterical.

“Jestem tutaj,” I called. I am here. Now that she was home, she could help me untangle myself and get out. But my voice was muffled by the trunk. When I tried to undo the latch, it stuck.

Mama raced from the room back into the corridor. I could hear her open the door to the attic, then run up the stairs, still searching for me. “Sadie!” she called. Then, “My child, my child,” over and over again as she searched but did not find me, her voice rising to a shriek. She thought I was gone.

“Mama!” I yelled. She was too far away to hear me, though, and her own cries were too loud. Desperately, I struggled once more to free myself from the trunk without success. Mama raced back into the room, still wailing. I heard the scraping sound of a window opening and felt a whoosh of cold air. At last I threw myself against the lid of the trunk, slamming my shoulder so hard it throbbed. The latch sprang open.

I broke free and stood up quickly. “Mama?” She was standing in the oddest position, with one foot on the window ledge, her willowy frame silhouetted against the frigid twilight sky. “What are you doing?” For a second, I thought she was looking for me outside. But her face was twisted with grief and pain. I knew then why Mama was on the window ledge. She assumed I had been taken along with the other children. And she didn’t want to live. If I hadn’t freed myself from the trunk in time, Mama would have jumped. I was her only child, her whole world. She was prepared to kill herself before she would go on without me.

A chill ran through me as I sprinted toward her. “I’m here, I’m here.” She wobbled unsteadily on the window ledge and I grabbed her arm to stop her from falling. Remorse ripped through me. I always wanted to please her, to bring that hard-won smile to her beautiful face. Now I had caused her so much pain she’d almost done the unthinkable.

“I was so worried,” she said after I’d helped her down and closed the window. As if that explained everything. “You weren’t in the attic.”

“But, Mama, I hid where you told me to.” I gestured to the trunk. “The other place, remember? Why didn’t you look for me there?”

Mama looked puzzled. “I didn’t think you would fit anymore.” There was a pause and then we both began laughing, the sound scratchy and out of place in the pitiful room. For a few seconds, it was like we were back in our old apartment on Meiselsa Street and none of this had happened at all. If we could still laugh, surely things would be all right. I clung to this last improbable thought like a life preserver at sea.

But a cry echoed through the building, then another, silencing our laughter. It was the mothers of the other children who had been taken by the police. There came a thud outside. I started for the window, but my mother blocked me. “Look away,” she ordered. It was too late. I glimpsed Helga Kolberg, who lived down the hall, lying motionless in the coal-tinged snow on the pavement below, her limbs cast at odd angles and skirt splayed around her like a fan. She had realized her children were gone and, like Mama, she didn’t want to live without them. I wondered whether jumping was a shared instinct, or if they had discussed it, a kind of suicide pact in case their worst nightmares came true.

My father raced into the room then. Neither Mama nor I said a word, but I could tell from his unusually grim expression that he already knew about the aktion and what had happened to the other families. He simply walked over and wrapped his enormous arms around both of us, hugging us tighter than usual.

As we sat, silent and still, I looked up at my parents. Mama was a striking beauty—thin and graceful, with white-blond hair the color of a Nordic princess’. She looked nothing like the other Jewish women and I had heard whispers more than once that she didn’t come from here. She might have walked away from the ghetto and lived as a non-Jew if it wasn’t for us. But I was built like Papa, with the dark, curly hair and olive skin that made the fact that we were Jews undeniable. My father looked like the laborer the Germans had made him in the ghetto, broad-shouldered and ready to lift great pipes or slabs of concrete. In fact, he was an accountant—or had been until it became illegal for his firm to employ him anymore. I always wanted to please Mama, but it was Papa who was my ally, keeper of secrets and weaver of dreams, who stayed up too late whispering secrets in the dark and had roamed the city with me, hunting for treasure. I moved closer now, trying to lose myself in the safety of his embrace.

Still, Papa’s arms could offer little shelter from the fact that everything was changing. The ghetto, despite its awful conditions, had once seemed relatively safe. We were living among Jews and the Germans had even appointed a Jewish council, the Judenrat, to run our daily affairs. Perhaps if we laid low and did as we were told, Papa said more than once, the Germans would leave us alone inside these walls until the war was over. That had been the hope. But after today, I wasn’t so sure. I looked around the apartment, seized with equal parts disgust and fear. In the beginning, I had not wanted to be here; now I was terrified we would be forced to leave.

“We have to do something,” Mama burst out, her voice a pitch higher than usual as it echoed my unspoken thoughts.

“I’ll take her tomorrow and register her for a work permit,” Papa said. This time Mama did not argue. Before the war, being a child had been a good thing. But now being useful and able to work was the only thing that might save us.

Mama was talking about more than a work visa, though. “They are going to come again and next time we won’t be so lucky.” She did not bother to hold back her words for my benefit now. I nodded in silent agreement. Things were changing, a voice inside me said. We could not stay here forever.

“It will be okay, kochana,” Papa soothed. How could he possibly say that? But Mama laid her head on his shoulder, seeming to trust him as she always had. I wanted to believe it, too. “I will think of something. At least,” Papa added as we huddled close, “we are all still together.” The words echoed through the room, equal parts promise and prayer.

Excerpted from The Woman With the Blue Star @ 2021 by Pam Jenoff, used with permission by Park Row Books.

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Q&A With Author Pam Jenoff

  • Why did you decide to write this story?

While looking for an idea for my next book, I discovered the incredible story of a group of Jewish people who had hidden from the Nazis by living for many months in the sewers of Lviv, Poland.  I was struck by the horrific circumstances which they endured, as well as their ingenuity and resilience in surviving there.  I was also moved by the selflessness of those who helped them, most notably a sewer worker, and by their search for human connection in such a dark and isolated place. 

After twenty-five years of working with World War II and the Holocaust, I find a story that makes me gasp, I know I am onto something that will make my readers feel the same way.  This was certainly the case with the true inspiration for The Woman With The Blue Star.

  • How much research went into your story?

Immersing myself in the world where my story is set, whether the circus in The Orphan’s Tale or the sewer in The Woman With The Blue Star, is always one of the most rewarding and challenging aspects of beginning a book.  I had so many questions:  What did the sewer look and feel like?  How was it possible to eat and sleep and even see in the dark underground space?  Fortunately, there was an excellent non-fiction book, In The Sewers of Lvov by Robert Marshall, that explained so much of it.  I learned that there were so many dangers beyond getting caught by the Germans, from drowning to floods.  Every day was a battle for survival.  

When I decided to move the story to Krakow, Poland (where I had lived for several years), I planned a research trip there.  Those plans were scuttled by the pandemic, but I am lucky enough to still have good friends there who put me in touch with experts on the sewer and the city to help me (hopefully) get it right.

  • What takeaway message do you hope readers get from your book?

Sadie and Ella, two women from completely different worlds, form a deep bond that has profound and lasting consequences.  I hope readers will see in them the ways in which we can transcend our differences and connect.  I also hope readers recognize the ways in which reaching out to someone, even in the smallest or most fleeting way, can have a tremendous impact on that person’s life as well as his or her own.

  • What can you tell me about your next project?

My new book is set in Belgium and inspired by the incredible true story of the only Nazi death train ever to be ambushed on its way to Auschwitz.

  • Do you have any specific writing rituals, such as a certain pen, drink, outfit, etc?

I find that my writing routine has evolved over the years.  For example, at one point I went in to my office to write, at another I went to a coffeeshop, now sometimes I am on the couch.  I have written in castles and mountain getaways, but I have also written in my doctor’s waiting room and in my car.  There are certain constants, though.  I love the early morning and I would write from five to seven every day if I had the chance.  I just love getting that first burst in before the day gets hectic.  I am a short burst writer, which means I have no stamina.  If you give me eight hours in a day, I don’t know what to do with that.  I would much rather have an hour seven days per week.  And as much caffeine as possible!

  • Which character is most like you and why?

In this book, I suppose I relate to Sadie because her sense of isolation in some ways reflects what we have all felt during this pandemic.  

  • Readers can’t get enough of WWII stories. Why the interest?

Personally, m love for the World War II era comes from the years I spent working in Krakow, Poland as a diplomat for the State Department.  During that time. I worked on Holocaust issues and became very close to the surviving Jewish community in a way that deeply moved and changed me.  More globally, I think World War II has great resonance for authors and readers.  There is a drive to capture and tell stories from survivors now while we still have a chance.  There is also a great deal of archival material that became available to authors as researchers after the Cold War ended that provides new ideas for books.  And as an author, my goal is to take my reader and put her or him in the shoes of my protagonist so she or he asks, “What would I have done?” World War II, with its dire circumstances and stark choices, is incredibly fertile ground for storytelling.

  • Your stories are always Jewish related. What is the universal idea that captures readers of all backgrounds?

I would not describe my stories as “always Jewish related” but rather predominantly set around World War II and the Holocaust.  This era is not only important in its own right but has many uniersal themes regarding human rights, prejudice and hate that are very relevant for our times.

  • Where do your stories come from? Do you do research?

I do research for new ideas and I am generally looking for two things.  First, I would like to take a true bit of history and illuminate it so that readers can learn.  Second, I am looking for an incredible, untold story.  I have worked with World War II and the Holocaust for twenty-five years and if I find an idea that makes me gasp with surprise, I’m hopeful readers will feel the same way. 

  • Do you work from an outline or do you write from the seat of your pants?

Well, I’m a “pantser” and that means I write by the seat of my pants and not from an outline, at least most of the time.  So I don’t have a neat idea of where the book will wind up.  I have an opening image and some general idea of where I will wind up and if I am lucky there are one or two high moments that I can see along the way, like lighthouses to guide me.  But I am sometimes surprised by the end and that was certainly the case with The Woman With The Blue Star.  That moment when you realize it is all going to come together is just one of the best feelings ever.

  • You are a bestselling author. How many books are expected from you per year? How many edit passes does your novel go through?

I used to write a book a year, but I’ve slowed down and now it is more like 18-24 months.  I really prefer that creatively.  My manuscripts go through many rounds of edits.  The first round of changes are usually big picture and then it goes back and forth with the feedback getting increasingly more granular with each round of revision until my editor, agent and I are all satisfied.

  • Is there anything about you or your work that you’d like to share with readers?

I consider my books that are set around World War II and the Holocaust to be love songs to the people who lived through that most horrific period.  I try to approach it with a great deal of respect and do them justice.  On a very different note, I’d like to share that I always love connecting with readers.  I invite each reader to find me online – through my website, Facebook author page, Twitter, Instagram or wherever they are hanging out.

Posted in reviews

The Clover Girls by Viola Shipman Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

Three friends from their youths must reunite when their fourth friend dying of cancer summons them to the summer camp they spent their youth in, and must find the dreams they left behind as they face the challenges of their own lives in author Viola Shipman’s “The Clover Girls”. 

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The Synopsis 

As comforting and familiar as a favorite sweater, Viola Shipman’s novels never fail to deliver a heartfelt story of friendship and familty, encapsulating summer memories in every page. Fans of Dorthea Benton Frank and Nancy Thayer will love this new story about three childhood friends approaching middle age, determined to rediscover the dreams that made them special as campers in 1985.

Elizabeth, Veronica, Rachel and Emily met at Camp Birchwood as girls in 1985, where they called themselves The Clover Girls (after their cabin name). The years following that magical summer pulled them in very different directions and, now approaching middle age, the women are facing new challenges: the inevitable physical changes that come with aging, feeling invisible to society, disinterested husbands, surley teens, and losing their sense of self.

Then, Elizabeth, Veronica and Rachel each receive a letter from Emily – she has cancer and, knowing it’s terminal, reaches out to the girls who were her best friends once upon a time and implores them to reunite at Camp Birchwood to scatter her ashes. When the three meet at the property for the first time in what feels like a lifetime, another letter from Emily awaits, explaining that she has purchased the abandoned camp, and now it belongs to them – at Emily’s urging, they must spend a week together remembering the dreams they’d put aside, and find a way to become the women they always swore they’d grow up to be. Through flashbacks to their youthful summer, we see the four friends then and now, rebuilding their lives, flipping a middle finger to society’s disdain for aging women, and with a renewed purpose to find themselves again.

The Review

Such an incredible and emotional story, author Viola Shipman has crafted a truly beautiful and heartbreaking story of lost friendship, loss, and regaining that which has been lost in our lives. The multiple POV of these characters really brings a sense of wholeness and driven narratives to their story. 

So often in life friends drift away, becoming busy with their growing lives and diverging paths that take them away from one another. Yet less often is the events that bring us back together again. This narrative does a fantastic job of exploring the uncharted path towards unification with the people who made us feel like ourselves again.

The setting and imagery of the narrative felt alive and become a character all on their own. I love the flashbacks and letters from the early days of the Clover Girls that really captured the essence of the 80’s style era that part of the narrative took place in, and the pacing really helped with the friend’s journey to not only find themselves but to find the friendship that brought them so much happiness and joy.

The Verdict

A mesmerizing, emotionally driven, and engaging read, author Viola Shipman’s The Clover Girls is the perfect summer read for those who love women’s fiction and tales of friendship and the bonds we share with others. The author takes the readers on such an emotional journey and showcases how the painful reality of loss can sometimes bring and heal those who have been lost to each other back together again. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

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About the Author

Viola Shipman is the pen name for Wade Rouse, a popular, award-winning memoirist. Rouse chose his grandmother’s name, Viola Shipman, to honor the woman whose heirlooms and family stories inspire his writing. Rouse is the author of The Summer Cottage, as well as The Charm Bracelet and The Hope Chest which have been translated into more than a dozen languages and become international bestsellers. He lives in Saugatuck, Michigan and Palm Springs, California, and has written for PeopleCoastal LivingGood Housekeeping, and Taste of Home, along with other publications, and is a contributor to All Things Considered.

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An Excerpt From The Clover Girls

SUMMER 2021

VERONICA

Grocery List

Milk (Oat, coconut, soy)

Fizzy water (cherry, lime, watermelon, mixed berry)

Chips (lentil, quinoa, kale, beet)

Cereal (Kashi, steel-cut oats, NO GMOs! VERY IMPORTANT!)

Whatever happened to one kind of milk from a cow, one kind of water from a faucet and one kind of chip from a potato?

My teenage children are seated on opposite ends of the massive, modern, original Milo Baughman circular sofa that David and I ordered for our new midcentury house in Los Angeles. Ashley and Tyler are juggling drinks while pecking at their cells, and it takes every fiber of my soul not to come unglued. This is the most expensive piece of furniture I have ever purchased in my life. More expensive even than my first two years of college tuition plus my first car, a red Reliant K-car that would stall at stoplights.

I still don’t know what the K stood for, I think. Krappy?

That was a time, long ago, when that type of negative thought would never have entered my mind, when the K would have stood only for Konfident, Kool or Kick-Ass. But that was a different world, another time, another life and place.

Another me.

Another V.

I steady my pen at the top of a pad of paper emblazoned with the logo of my husband’s architectural firm, David Berzini & Associates.

Los Angeles is the latest stop for us. My family has hopscotched the world more than a military brat as David’s architectural career has exploded. He is now one of the world’s preeminent architects. David studied under and worked with some of the most famous midcentury modern architects—Albert Frey, William Krisel, Donald Wexler—and has now taken over their mantles, especially as the appreciation for and popularity of midcentury modern architecture has grown. Now he is working on a stunning new public library in LA that will be his legacy.

I glance up from my pad. A selection of magazines—Architectural Digest, Vogue, W—are artfully strewn across a brutalist coffee table. The beautiful models stare back at me.

That was my legacy.

“Mom, can I get something to eat?” 

This is now my legacy.

I glance at my children. Everything old has come back en vogue. Ashley is wearing the same sort of high-waisted jeans that I once wore and modeled in the ’80s, and Tyler’s hair—razored high by a barber and slicked back into a big black pompadour—looks a lot like a style I sported for a Robert Palmer video when every woman wanted to look like a Nagel woman.

Yes, everything has made a comeback.

Except me.

I look at my list.

And carbs.

My kids, like my husband, have never met a Pop-Tart, a box of Cap’n Crunch, a Jeno’s Pizza Roll or a Ding Dong. My entire family resembles long-limbed ponies, ready to race. I grew up when the foundation of a food pyramid was a Twinkie.

I again put pen to paper, and in my own secret code I write the letter L above the first letter of my husband’s name. If someone happened to glance at the paper, they would simply think I had been doodling. But I know what “LD” means, and it will remind me once I get to the store.

Little Debbies.

You know, I actually hide these around our new home, which isn’t easy since the entire space is so sleek and minimal, and hiding space is at a premium. It took a lot of effort, but I, too, used to be as sleek and minimal as this house, as angular and arresting as its architecture. Anything out of place in our butterfly-roofed home located in the Bird Streets high above Sunset Strip—where the streets are named after orioles and nightingales, and Hollywood stars reside—is conspicuous. 

Even now, on yet another perfect day in LA, where the sunshine makes everything look lazily beautiful and dipped in glitter, I can see a layer of dust on the terrazzo floors. Although a maid comes twice a week, the dust, smog and ash from nonstop fires in LA—carried by hot, dry Santa Ana winds—coat everything. And David notices everything.

Swiffers, I write on the pad, before outlining “LD” with my pen.

David hates that I have gained weight. He is embarrassed I have gained weight.

Or is just my imagination? Am I the one who is embarrassed by who I’ve become?

David never says anything to me, but he attends more and more galas alone, saying I need to watch the kids even though they no longer need a babysitter and that it’s better for their stability if one parent is with them. But I know the truth.

What did he expect would happen to my body after two children and endless moves? What did he expect would happen after losing my career, identity and self-esteem? It’s so ironic, because I’m not angry at him or my life. I’m just…

“Why don’t you just put all of that in the notes on your phone?”

“Or just ask the refrigerator to remember?”

“Yeah, Mom,” my kids say at the same time.

I look over at them. They have my beauty and David’s drive. Ash and Ty lift their eyes from their phones just long enough to roll their eyes at me, in that way that teens do, the way teens always have, in that there-couldn’t-be-a-more-lame-uncool-human-in-the-world-than-you-Mom way. And it’s always followed by “the sigh.”

“I like to do it this way,” I say. 

“NO ONE writes anything anymore,” Ashley says.

“NO ONE, Mom!” Tyler echoes.

“Cursive is dead, Mom,” Ashley says. “Get with the times.”

I stare at my children. They are often the sweetest kids in the world, but every so often their evil twins emerge, the ones with forked tongues and acerbic words.

Did they get that from me? Or their father? Or is it just the way kids are today?

The sun shifts, and the reflection of water from the pool dances on the white walls, making it look as if we are living in an aquarium. I glance down the long hallway where the pool is reflecting, the place David has allowed me to have my only “clutter”: a corridor of old photos, a room of heirlooms.

My life flashes before me: our family in front of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree in New York at the holidays, eating colorful French macarons at a café in Paris, lying out on Barcelona’s beaches, and fishing with my parents at their summer cottage on Lake Michigan. And then, in the ultimate juxtaposition, there is an old photo of me, teenage me, in a bikini at Lake Birchwood hanging directly next to an old Sports Illustrated cover of me. In it, I am posing by the ocean where I met David. I am crouched on the beach like a tiger ready to pounce. That was my signature pose, you know, the one I invented that all the other models stole, the Tiger Pose.

I was one of the one-name girls back then: Madonna, Iman, Cher, V. All I needed was a single letter to identify myself. Now V has Vanished. I have one name.

“Mom!”

“Lunch. Please!”

My eyes wander back to our pool. I would be mortified to wear a bikini today. I am not what most people would deem overweight. But I have a paunch, my thighs are jellied and my chin is starting to have a best friend. It was that photo in all of the gossip magazines a year or so ago that did it to me. Paparazzi shot me downing an ice cream cone while putting gas in my car. I had shuttled the kids around all day in 110-degree heat, and I was wearing a billowy caftan. I looked bigger than my SUV. And the headlines:

Voluminous!

V has Vanished Inside This Woman!

If you saw me in person, you’d likely say I’m a narcissist or being way too hard on myself, but it’s as hard to hide fifteen pounds in LA as it is to hide an extra throw pillow in this house. I get Botox and fillers and do all the things I can to maintain my looks, but I am terrified to go to the gym here. I am mortified to look for a dress in a city where a size two is considered obese. The gossip rags are just waiting for me to move.

My eyes wander back to the photos.

I no longer have an identity.

I no longer have friends.

“Earth to Mom? Can you make me some lunch?” Tyler looks at me. “Then I need to go to Justin’s.”

“And you have to drive me to Lily’s at four, remember?”

I shudder. A two-mile drive in LA takes two hours.

“Mom?”

Ashley looks at me.

There is a way that your children and husband look at you—or rather don’t look at you at a certain point in your life—not to mention kids in the street, young women shopping, men in restaurants, David’s colleagues, happy families in the grocery. 

They look through you. Like you’re a window.

It’s as if women over forty were never young, smart, fashionable, cool…were never like them, never had hopes, dreams and acres of life ahead of them.

What is with American society today?

Why, when women reach a “certain age,” do we become ghosts? Strike that. That’s not an accurate analogy: that would imply that we actually invoke a mood, a scare, a feeling of some sort. That we have a personality. I could once hold up a bag of potato chips, eat one, lick my fingers and sell a million bags of junk food for a company. Now I’m not even memorable enough to be a ghost. This model has become a prop. A piece of furniture. Not like the stylish one my kids are stretched out on, but the reliable, sturdy, ever-present, department store kind, devoid of any depth or substance, one without feeling, attractiveness or sexuality. I am just here. Like the air. Necessary to survive, but something no one sees or notices.

I used to be noticed. I used to be seen. Desired. Admired. Wanted.

I was the ringleader of friends, the one who called the shots. Now, I am Uber driver, Shipt delivery, human Roomba and in-home Grubhub, products I once would have sold rather than used.

I take a deep breath and note a few more grocery items on my antiquated written list and stand to make my kids lunch.

They are teen health nuts, already obsessed with every bite they consume. Does it have GMOs? What is the protein-to-carb differential?

Did I do this to them? I don’t think so.

Even as a model, I ate pizza, but that’s back in the day when a curve was sexy and a bikini needed to be filled out. I pull out some spicy tuna sushi rolls I picked up at Gelson’s and arrange them on a platter. I wash and chop some berries and place them in a bowl. I watch my kids fill their plates. Ashley is a cheerleader and wannabe actress, and Tyler is a skateboarding, creative techy applying to UCLA to study film and directing. Ashley wants to go to Northwestern to major in drama. They will both be going to specialty camps later this summer, Ashley for cheerleading and acting, Tyler for filmmaking and to boost his SAT scores. My eyes drift back to my photo wall, and I smile. They will not, however, spend their days simply having fun, singing camp songs, engaging in color wars, shooting archery, splashing in a cold lake, roasting marshmallows and making friends. A kid’s life today, especially here in LA, is a competition, and the competition starts early.

There is a rustling noise outside, and Ashley tosses her plate onto the sofa and rushes to the door. In LA, even the postal workers are hot, literally and figuratively, and our mailman looks like Zac Efron. She returns a few seconds later, fanning herself dramatically with the mail.

“You’re going to be a great actress,” I say with a laugh. Ashley starts to toss the mail onto the counter, but I stop her. “Leave the mail in the organizer for your dad.”

Yes, even the mail has its own home in our home.

“Hey, you got a letter,” she says.

“Who writes letters anymore?” Tyler asks.

“Old people,” Ashley says. The two laugh.

I take a seat at the original Saarinen tulip table and study the envelope. There is no return address. I feel the envelope. It’s bulky. I open it and begin to read a handwritten letter: 

Dear V:

How are you? I’m sorry it’s been a while since we’ve talked. You’ve been busy, I’ve been busy. Remember when we were just a bunk away? We could lean our heads over the side and share our darkest secrets. Those were the good ol’ days, weren’t they? When we were innocent. When we were as tight as the clover that grew together in the patch that wound to the lake.

How long has it been since you talked to Rach and Liz? Over 30 years? I guess that first four-leaf clover I found wasn’t so lucky after all, was it? Oh, you and Rach have had such success, but are you happy, V? Deep down? Achingly happy? I don’t believe in my heart that you are. I don’t think Rach and Liz are either. How do I know? Friend’s intuition.

I used to hate myself for telling everyone what happened our last summer together. It was like dominoes falling after that, one secret after the next revealed, the facade of our friendship ripped apart, just like tearing the fourth leaf off that clover I still have pressed in my scrapbook. But I hate secrets. They only tear us apart. Keep us from becoming who we need to become. The dark keeps things from growing. The light is what creates the clover.

Out the cabin door went all of our luck, and then—leaf by leaf—our faith in each other, followed by any hope we might have had in our friendship and, finally, any love that remained was replaced by hatred, then a dull ache, and then nothing at all. That’s the worst thing, isn’t it, V? To feel nothing at all?

Much of my life has been filled with regret, and that’s just an awful way to live. I’m trying to make amends for that before it’s too late. I’m trying to be the friend I should have been. I was once the glue that held us all together. Then I was scissors that tore us all apart. Aren’t friends supposed to be there for one another, no matter what? You weren’t just beautiful, V, you were confident, so funny and full of life. More than anything, you radiated light, like the lake at sunset. And that’s how I will always remember you.

I’ve sent similar letters to Rach and Liz. I stayed in touch with Liz…and Rach…well, you know Rach. For some reason, you all forgave me, but not each other. I guess because I was just an innocent bystander to all the hurt. My only remaining hope is that you will all forgive one another at some point, because you changed my life and you changed each other’s lives. And I know that you all need one another now more than ever. We found each other for a reason. We need to find each other again.

Let me get to the point, dear V. Just picture me leaning my head over the bunk and telling you my deepest secret.

By the time you receive this, I’ll be dead…

My hand begins to shake, which releases the contents still remaining in the envelope. A pressed four-leaf clover and a few old Polaroid pictures scatter onto the tabletop. Without warning, I groan.

“Are you okay, Mom?” Tyler asks without looking back.

“Who’s that from?” Ashley asks, still staring at her phone.

“A friend,” I manage to mumble.

“Cool,” Ashley says. “You need friends. You don’t have any except for that one girl from camp.” She stops. “Emily, right?”

The photos lying on the marble tabletop are of the four of us at camp, laughing, singing, holding hands. We are so, so young, and I wonder what happened to the girls we used to be. I stare at a photo of Em and me lying under a camp blanket in the same bunk. That’s when I realize the photo is sitting on top of something. I move the picture and smile. 

A friendship pin stares at me, E-V-E-R shining in a sea of green beads.

I look up, and water is reflecting through the clerestory windows of our home, and suddenly every one of those little openings is like a scrapbook to my life, and I can see it flash—at camp and after—in front of me in bursts of light.

Why did I betray my friends?

Why did I give up my identity so easily?

Why am I richer than I ever dreamed and yet feel so empty and lost?

Oh, Em.

I blink, my eyes blur, and that’s when I realize it’s not the pool reflecting in the windows, it’s my own tears. I’m crying. And I cannot stop.

Suddenly, I stand, throw open the patio doors and jump into the pool, screaming as I sink. I look up, and my children are yelling.

“Mom! Are you okay?”

I wave at them, and their bodies relax.

“I’m fine,” I lie when I come to the surface. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you.”

They look at each other and shrug, before heading back inside.

At least, I think, they finally see me.

I take a deep breath and go down once more. Underwater, I can hear my heart drum loudly in my ears. It’s drumming in such perfect rhythm that I know immediately the tune my soul is playing. I can hear it as if it were just yesterday.

Boom, didi, boom, boom… Booooom.

Excerpted from The Clover Girls by Viola Shipman, Copyright © 2021 by Viola Shipman. Published by Graydon House Books.

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Passiflora by Kathy Davis Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

Author and Poet Kathy Davis shares a collection of poetry that highlights life’s everyday struggles and some of life’s toughest battles in her poetry collection, “Passiflora”.

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The Synopsis

Passiflora is a collection of poems about our day-to-day struggles with loss, raising children, relationships, aging and creating art, and how the nature that surrounds us informs how we view these challenges and sometimes serves as a source of solace.

The Review

A beautifully written and emotional narrative unfolds across this amazing collection. The author has a wonderful way of marrying the imagery of nature with the emotional core of life and the events that often define us. From the book’s very first poems, readers are treated to a unique perspective on life in general, comparing the care for a garden to the care one must show for ourselves physically and mentally, not leaving grief or sorrow to fester or grow on its own in the poem HOW TO GROW WILD.

The author manages to pack a lot of heart and soul into a short read. Readers can truly feel the passion radiating off of the page, exploring the simplest to the most complex and emotionally-driven events life has to offer us all. The author’s words are layered and do a great job of getting the reader to read and re-read the book over and over again to gain new insight into what each poem is bringing forth to the reader’s mind.

The Verdict

A masterful, artful, and mesmerizing book of poetry, author and Poet Kathy Davis’s “Passiflora” is a must-read. A truly heartfelt and emotional journey that readers won’t want to put down, be sure to grab your copies today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Kathy Davis is a poet and nonfiction writer who received her MFA from Virginia Commonwealth University. Her poetry manuscript, Passiflora, won the 2019 Cider Press Review Book Award and was released in February 2021. She is also the author of the chapbook Holding for the Farrier(Finishing Line Press). Her work has appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, Barrow Street, Blackbird, Diode, The Hudson Review, Nashville Review, Oxford American, The Southern Review, story South and other journals. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and been a finalist for Best of the Net and the Conger Beasley Jr. Award for Nonfiction. After raising their two boys, she and her husband moved to an old farmhouse outside of Richmond, Va., where she tends a wildflower meadow when not writing.

https://kathydaviswrites.com/

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Confessions From the Quilting Circle by Maisey Yates Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

Three sisters are brought together by tragedy, and must learn to not only come together as a family but confront their pasts as well in author Maisey Yates’s “Confessions From The Quilting Circle”. 

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The Synopsis

The Ashwood women don’t have much in common…except their ability to keep secrets.

When Lark Ashwood’s beloved grandmother dies, she and her sisters discover an unfinished quilt. Finishing it could be the reason Lark’s been looking for to stop running from the past, but is she ever going to be brave enough to share her biggest secret with the people she ought to be closest to?

Hannah can’t believe she’s back in Bear Creek, the tiny town she sacrificed everything to escape from. The plan? Help her sisters renovate her grandmother’s house and leave as fast as humanly possible. Until she comes face-to-face with a man from her past. But getting close to him again might mean confessing what really drove her away…

Stay-at-home mom Avery has built a perfect life, but at a cost. She’ll need all her family around her, and all her strength, to decide if the price of perfection is one she can afford to keep paying.

This summer, the Ashwood women must lean on each other like never before, if they are to stitch their family back together, one truth at a time…

The Review

This was a powerful women’s fiction read. The author beautifully sets up a dramatic and emotional family dynamic between the three sisters and their mother in the face of losing their beloved grandmother. The rift between the sisters is felt early on, showing the complex balance of tension and emotion between them all. 

Character growth was essential in this read. The author not only does a great job of showcasing each sister’s individual struggles and how they feel in this tension-filled dynamic with the other two sisters, but the author also fills out the narrative with backstory as diary entries from two different women from different eras give insight into the family’s history as a whole. The author showcases a wide range of talent in this writing, as the author’s normal romance-style narratives shift easily into the women’s fiction genre, highlighting the strong bonds between family and in this instance, sisterhood. 

The Verdict

A memorable, emotional, and engaging read, author Maisey Yates’s “Confessions From the Quilting Circle” is a must-read women’s fiction narrative. The book flows smoothly and engages the reader on multiple levels. The gripping tale of these sisters will resonate with so many of us out there, and in a story about leaving things unfinished in our lives and feeling a piece of ourselves missing, the author found a wonderful way to explore the journey to making ourselves whole again. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

New York Times Bestselling author Maisey Yates lives in rural Oregon with her three children and her husband, whose chiseled jaw and arresting features continue to make her swoon. She feels the epic trek she takes several times a day from her office to her coffee maker is a true example of her pioneer spirit. 

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An Excerpt From CONFESSIONS FROM THE QUILTING CIRCLE

1

March 4th, 1944

The dress is perfect. Candlelight satin and antique lace. I can’t wait for you to see it. I can’t wait to walk down the aisle toward you. If only we could set a date. If only we had some idea of when the war will be over.

Love, Dot

Present day—Lark

Unfinished.

The word whispered through the room like a ghost. Over the faded, floral wallpaper, down to the scarred wooden floor. And to the precariously stacked boxes and bins of fabrics, yarn skeins, canvases and other artistic miscellany.

Lark Ashwood had to wonder if her grandmother had left them this way on purpose. Unfinished business here on earth, in the form of quilts, sweaters and paintings, to keep her spirit hanging around after she was gone.

It would be like her. Adeline Dowell did everything with just a little extra.

From her glossy red hair—which stayed that color till the day she died—to her matching cherry glasses and lipstick. She always had an armful of bangles, a beer in her hand and an ashtray full of cigarettes. She never smelled like smoke. She smelled like spearmint gum, Aqua Net and Avon perfume.

She had taught Lark that it was okay to be a little bit of extra.

A smile curved Lark’s lips as she looked around the attic space again. “Oh, Gram…this is really a mess.”

She had the sense that was intentional too. In death, as in life, her grandmother wouldn’t simply fade away.

Neat attics, well-ordered affairs and pre-death estate sales designed to decrease the clutter a family would have to go through later were for other women. Quieter women who didn’t want to be a bother.

Adeline Dowell lived to be a bother. To expand to fill a space, not shrinking down to accommodate anyone.

Lark might not consistently achieve the level of excess Gram had, but she considered it a goal.

“Lark? Are you up there?”

She heard her mom’s voice carrying up the staircase. “Yes!” She shouted back down. “I’m…trying to make sense of this.”

She heard footsteps behind her and saw her mom standing there, gray hair neat, arms folded in. “You don’t have to. We can get someone to come in and sort it out.” 

“And what? Take it all to a thrift store?” Lark asked.

Her mom’s expression shifted slightly, just enough to convey about six emotions with no wasted effort. Emotional economy was Mary Ashwood’s forte. As contained and practical as Addie had been excessive. “Honey, I think most of this would be bound for the dump.”

“Mom, this is great stuff.”

“I don’t have room in my house for sentiment.”

“It’s not about sentiment. It’s usable stuff.”

“I’m not artsy, you know that. I don’t really…get all this.” The unspoken words in the air settled over Lark like a cloud.

Mary wasn’t artsy because her mother hadn’t been around to teach her to sew. To knit. To paint. To quilt.

Addie had taught her granddaughters. Not her own daughter.

She’d breezed on back into town in a candy apple Corvette when Lark’s oldest sister, Avery, was born, after spending Mary’s entire childhood off on some adventure or another, while Lark’s grandfather had done the raising of the kids.

Grandkids had settled her. And Mary had never withheld her children from Adeline. Whatever Mary thought about her mom was difficult to say. But then, Lark could never really read her mom’s emotions. When she’d been a kid, she hadn’t noticed that. Lark had gone around feeling whatever she did and assuming everyone was tracking right along with her because she’d been an innately self focused kid. Or maybe that was just kids.

Either way, back then badgering her mom into tea parties and talking her ear off without noticing Mary didn’t do much of her own talking had been easy.

It was only when she’d had big things to share with her mom that she’d realized…she couldn’t.

“It’s easy, Mom,” Lark said. “I’ll teach you. No one is asking you to make a living with art, art can be about enjoying the process.”

“I don’t enjoy doing things I’m bad at.”

“Well I don’t want Gram’s stuff going to a thrift store, okay?”

Another shift in Mary’s expression. A single crease on one side of her mouth conveying irritation, reluctance and exhaustion. But when she spoke she was measured. “If that’s what you want. This is as much yours as mine.”

It was a four-way split. The Dowell House and all its contents, and The Miner’s House, formerly her grandmother’s candy shop, to Mary Ashwood, and her three daughters. They’d discovered that at the will reading two months earlier.

It hadn’t caused any issues in the family. They just weren’t like that.

Lark’s uncle Bill had just shaken his head. “She feels guilty.”

And that had been the end of any discussion, before any had really started. They were all like their father that way. Quiet. Reserved. Opinionated and expert at conveying it without saying much.

Big loud shouting matches didn’t have a place in the Dowell family.

But Addie had been there for her boys. They were quite a bit older than Lark’s mother. She’d left when the oldest had been eighteen. The youngest boy sixteen.

Mary had been four.

Lark knew her mom felt more at home in the middle of a group of men than she did with women. She’d been raised in a house of men. With burned dinners and repressed emotions.

Lark had always felt like her mother had never really known what to make of the overwhelmingly female household she’d ended up with.

“It’s what I want. When is Hannah getting in tonight?” 

Hannah, the middle child, had moved to Boston right after college, getting a position in the Boston Symphony Orchestra. She had the summer off of concerts and had decided to come to Bear Creek to finalize the plans for their inherited properties before going back home.

Once Hannah had found out when she could get time away from the symphony, Lark had set her own plans for moving into motion. She wanted to be here the whole time Hannah was here, since for Hannah, this wouldn’t be permanent.

But Lark wasn’t going back home. If her family agreed to her plan, she was staying here.

Which was not something she’d ever imagined she’d do.

Lark had gone to college across the country, in New York, at eighteen and had spent years living everywhere but here. Finding new versions of herself in new towns, new cities, whenever the urge took her.

Unfinished.

“Sometime around five-ish? She said she’d get a car out here from the airport. I reminded her that isn’t the easiest thing to do in this part of the world. She said something about it being in apps now. I didn’t laugh at her.”

Lark laughed, though. “She can rent a car.”

Lark hadn’t lived in Bear Creek since she was eighteen, but she hadn’t been under the impression there was a surplus of ride services around the small, rural community. If you were flying to get to Bear Creek, you had to fly into Medford, which was about eighteen miles from the smaller town. Even if you could find a car, she doubted the driver would want to haul anyone out of town.

But her sister wouldn’t be told anything. Hannah made her own way, something Lark could relate to. But while she imagined herself drifting along like a tumbleweed, she imagined Hannah slicing through the water like a shark. With intent, purpose, and no small amount of sharpness.

“Maybe I should arrange something.”

“Mom. She’s a professional symphony musician who’s been living on her own for fourteen years. I’m pretty sure she can cope.”

“Isn’t the point of coming home not having to cope for a while? Shouldn’t your mom handle things?” Mary was a doer. She had never been the one to sit and chat. She’d loved for Lark to come out to the garden with her and work alongside her in the flower beds, or bake together. “You’re not in New Mexico anymore. I can make you cookies without worrying they’ll get eaten by rats in the mail.”

Lark snorted. “I don’t think there are rats in the mail.”

“It doesn’t have to be real for me to worry about it.”

And there was something Lark had inherited directly from her mother. “That’s true.”

That and her love of chocolate chip cookies, which her mom made the very best. She could remember long afternoons at home with her mom when she’d been little, and her sisters had been in school. They’d made cookies and had iced tea, just the two of them.

Cooking had been a self-taught skill her mother had always been proud of. Her recipes were hers. And after growing up eating “chicken with blood” and beanie weenies cooked by her dad, she’d been pretty determined her kids would eat better than that.

Something Lark had been grateful for.

And Mom hadn’t minded if she’d turned the music up loud and danced in some “dress up clothes”—an oversized prom dress from the ’80s and a pair of high heels that were far too big, purchased from a thrift store. Which Hannah and Avery both declared “annoying” when they were home. 

Her mom hadn’t understood her, Lark knew that. But Lark had felt close to her back then in spite of it.

The sound of the door opening and closing came from downstairs. “Homework is done, dinner is in the Crock-Pot. I think even David can manage that.”

The sound of her oldest sister Avery’s voice was clear, even from a distance. Lark owed that to Avery’s years of motherhood, coupled with the fact that she—by choice—fulfilled the role of parent liaison at her kids’ exclusive private school, and often wrangled children in large groups. Again, by choice.

Lark looked around the room one last time and walked over to the stack of crafts. There was an old journal on top of several boxes that look like they might be overflowing with fabric, along with some old Christmas tree ornaments, and a sewing kit. She grabbed hold of them all before walking to the stairs, turning the ornaments over and letting the silver stars catch the light that filtered in through the stained glass window.

Her mother was already ahead of her, halfway down the stairs by the time Lark got to the top of them. She hadn’t seen Avery yet since she’d arrived. She loved her older sister. She loved her niece and nephew. She liked her brother-in-law, who did his best not to be dismissive of the fact that she made a living drawing pictures. Okay, he kind of annoyed her. But still, he was fine. Just… A doctor. A surgeon, in fact, and bearing all of the arrogance that stereotypically implied.

One of the saddest things about living away for as long as she had was that she’d missed her niece’s and nephew’s childhoods. She saw them at least once a year, but it never felt like enough. And now they were teenagers, and a lot less cute.

And then there was Avery, who had always been somewhat untouchable. Four years older than Lark, Avery was a classic oldest child. A people pleasing perfectionist. She was organized and she was always neat and orderly.  And even though the gap between thirty-four and thirty-eight was a lot narrower than twelve and sixteen, sometimes Lark still felt like the gawky adolescent to Avery’s sweet sixteen.

But maybe if they shared in a little bit of each other’s day-to-day it would close some of that gap she felt between them.

Excerpted from Confessions From the Quilting Circle by Maisey Yates, Copyright © 2021 by Maisey Yates. Published by HQN Books.

Posted in reviews

Guest Blog Post: Inspiration and the Cabinet of Curiosities by Poet Kathy Davis

I am proud to share this amazing guest blog post from author and poet Kathy Davis for her upcoming blog tour for her book, “Passiflora”, which I will be reviewing on May 10th. Please enjoy this wonderful post the poet shared with us all.


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Inspiration and the Cabinet of Curiosities

Imagine a stash of foreign objects that people inhaled or swallowed—by accident or on purpose—and had to have surgically removed from their throat, esophagus or lungs. Buttons, hatpins, bones, nuts, nails, screws, a doll’s eye, dentures, a Christmas ornament, keys, opera glasses, a crucifix and more. You can spend hours exploring a collection of 2,374 of them in the Chevalier Jackson Collection at the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia, many neatly displayed in drawers whose contents you are welcome to examine. 

Jackson was an otolaryngologist in the late 19th and early 20th centuries who developed methods for removing obstructions from airways and food passages. He saved and cataloged everything he removed (and the stories behind them)—a quirky obsession (his middle name after all was Quixote). But don’t writers do something similar? I have an equally weird collection of oddities stored in my journals—unusual objects, places or stories I was drawn to record, some of which emerge in my writing, including a few of the poems in Passiflora.

My father inherited a shoebox of photographs taken at a family graveside funeral during the Roaring Twenties, picture after picture of people lined up behind a casket mounded with flowers. But someone had snipped off the top half of each one so that the family and friends gathered were only shown from the waist down and couldn’t be identified. Who was it that the scissor-wielder was trying to hide? Years later, I described the photos in a piece for a fiction-writing class. “That’s so creative!” the instructor said. “Who would take pictures at a funeral?!” I was too embarrassed to say that, well, actually my family did, and tucked the idea away out of shame until a variation of it emerged in the poem “Starlings”: Her own mother careful/to cut faces from the photographs.

“Ruins, Trophies, Palms” was inspired by a warning a friend received from her neighbor that a wolf had been seen just off their country road. “Don’t go outside,” the neighbor said. “It’s too dangerous!” A practical, yet intrepid, person, my friend was skeptical. We don’t have wolves in Virginia. Venturing out, she did find a wolf, but one that a hunter had preserved through taxidermy and was using for target practice. It was full of bullet holes—an image just itching to find its way into a poem.

Not looking where I was going, I collided with a stranger one evening in the French Quarter in New Orleans. When I turned to apologize, I was startled to see a woman who had painted her hair and body white and was naked except for two white ceramic fig leaves glued over her breasts and a white drape from the waist down. She frowned and quickly moved on while I gaped. Later, I saw her posing as a Greek statue in Jackson Square, dollar bills collecting in her cardboard box. Her image emerged in “At the Boundary of Desire.”

The Gospel Chicken House in “Revelations” operated for over 35 years in the county where I live. The owners equipped the long low structure of an old poultry barn with the sound equipment, seating and concession stands needed to hold a Saturday night music ministry for several hundred attendees, most of whom considered it their church. I visited once before it closed to listen to that night’s band and enjoy a hotdog and some pie. Much of the evening’s experience made it into the poem: Welcome to Saturday night live/at the chicken house. Yep, that’s how they opened the show.

There are other little oddities from my “collection” scattered about in Passiflora. The number on the ambulance I followed in “Battle City” was, as described, the unlucky 13. (Who thought that was a good idea?) And Sarah Cannon in “Mrs. Cannon Passes the Parthenon on Her Way Home from Work” truly was a hillbilly comedian on stage and an elegant pillar of Nashville society in real life, a duality that still fascinates me. I don’t have my curiosities stored tidily in drawers like Jackson—they’re jotted down haphazardly in a mismatched assortment of notebooks—but I value them no less. And they help make writing fun. 

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Author Bio


Kathy Davis is a poet and nonfiction writer who received her MFA from Virginia Commonwealth
University. Her poetry manuscript, Passiflora, won the 2019 Cider Press Review Book Award and was released in February 2021. She is also the author of the chapbook Holding for the Farrier(Finishing Line Press). Her work has appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, Barrow Street, Blackbird, Diode, The Hudson Review, Nashville Review, Oxford American, The Southern Review, story South and other journals. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and been a finalist for Best of the Net and the Conger Beasley Jr. Award for Nonfiction. After raising their two boys, she and her husband moved to an old farmhouse outside of Richmond, Va., where she tends a wildflower meadow when not writing.

https://kathydaviswrites.com/

Posted in Blog Tours, Book Events, reviews

The Longblood (The Longblood Series Book 1) by Charmin Blazier Audiobook Tour and Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

A promising young musician getting ready to the life he’s always dreamed of finds his world turned upside down as he discovers another life he never knew he lived, and soon he is drawn to Ainsley Fairfax, who works in the shadows to discover the truth behind both their fates in author Charmin Blazier’s “The Longblood”, the first in the Longblood series. 

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The Synopsis

Love will make him a better man. If it doesn’t kill him first.

Nineteen-year-old Daniel Marco is about to start the life he’s always wanted. But when he blacks out and etches a mysterious code on his arm, it changes his plans in ways he never imagined.

The code leads him to the grounds of an ancient British asylum housing a secret society where he learns the unthinkable – he’s lived before. As his past life begins to resurface in unpredictable and terrifying ways, Daniel seeks answers and learns his life is in danger.

And he’s not alone.

When he meets bold Ainsley Fairfax, who is working in the shadows to solve a mystery tied to both their fates, Daniel is intensely drawn to her in ways he can’t explain. Ainsley believes Daniel is the key to solving the mystery and keeping them alive. But the more time Daniel spends with Ainsley, the deeper he’s drawn into danger. And the more he begins to lose control…

Together, they must solve the mystery before it’s too late. Will he prevail? Or will all he cares for be destroyed?

Be on the lookout for the second audiobook in this paranormal new adult romance – Lost Longblood: The Longblood Series, Book 2 (coming soon).

The Review

The author does a great job of balancing a blooming romance with the mystery and suspense of the novel’s narrative. Perfectly capturing the New Adult genre in this story, the plot is both creative and original, giving readers a new paranormal romance series to dive deeply into. 

The narrator does a great job of bringing these characters and their story to life. Readers instantly feel connected to Daniel and Ainsley, as both come at this mystery from two very different points of view but soon find themselves drawn together. The novel jumpstarts immediately with shock and awe with Daniel’s introduction into this dangerous world and the mystery within, giving readers an instant connection to the overall narrative. 

As someone with a keen interest in the past life theory and the paranormal, I found myself drawn to the narrative immediately, and the narrator himself does a great job of capturing the amazing cast of characters that fill out this large plot and mystery.

The Verdict

A memorable, entertaining and engaging audiobook, author Charmin Blazier’s “The Longblood” is the perfect start to a brand new paranormal romance New Adult series. The characters are engaging and the story adapts perfectly to the audiobook format, creating a narrative that lends itself to some cinematic style imagery within each chapter. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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Author: Charmin Blazier

Narrator: Alex Black

Length: 12 hours 1 minutes

Series: The Longblood Series, Book 1

Publisher: Charmin Blazier

Released: Feb. 12, 2021

Genre: Paranormal Romance

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Love will make him a better man. If it doesn’t kill him first. Nineteen-year-old Daniel Marco is about to start the life he’s always wanted. But when he blacks out and etches a mysterious code on his arm, it changes his plans in ways he never imagined. The code leads him to the grounds of an ancient British asylum housing a secret society where he learns the unthinkable – he’s lived before. As his past life begins to resurface in unpredictable and terrifying ways, Daniel seeks answers and learns his life is in danger. And he’s not alone. When he meets bold Ainsley Fairfax, who is working in the shadows to solve a mystery tied to both their fates, Daniel is intensely drawn to her in ways he can’t explain. Ainsley believes Daniel is the key to solving the mystery and keeping them alive. But the more time Daniel spends with Ainsley, the deeper he’s drawn into danger. And the more he begins to lose control… Together, they must solve the mystery before it’s too late. Will he prevail? Or will all he cares for be destroyed? Be on the lookout for the second audiobook in this paranormal new adult romance – Lost Longblood: The Longblood Series, Book 2 (coming soon).
Buy Links
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Charmin Blazier is a writer of paranormal romance and a mother of chihuahuas. She lives in Northern Virginia with the most amazing sister and blue-eyed pup on earth. Her poetry was published in the Heart 11 Poetry Journal, and she holds a Master of Arts degree in Philosophy from George Mason University. Additionally, she’s currently working on the next installment in The Longblood Series. Be on the lookout for Lost Longblood: The Longblood Series Book Two (coming soon)!
Website
Narrator Bio

Alex Black is a professional audiobook narrator who has performed and produced over 75 audiobooks. Many of his audiobooks have made the top 20 Amazon best sellers list within their category. He has received hundreds of 5 star reviews across various genres. Audible listeners have this to say: “Fantastic narration! The narrator weaves a spell reading this book!” “I felt all the emotions these characters experienced through his voice and I was totally pulled into this story!” Location: Vermont, United States
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Guest Post
Author Charmin Blazier’s Reasons Why You Should Give Audiobooks a Listen
You deserve to hear a great story. And how long has it been? For some, far too long. As we grow up, we often leave great joys behind. We forget to play, lose interest in drawing for the fun of it, and no longer ask those in our lives to crack open a book and read us a story. I mean, why would we do that? We can read it ourselves, right? Yes, but in our quest to be silently independent in the presence of books, we’ve lost something vital. We’ve lost a realm of creativity, a place like no other, a place that belongs to us. It doesn’t have to be this way. The realms we leave behind might be forgotten for a while, but they don’t disappear. And though we have tight schedules, bills to pay, and doings to do, we also have a way to reclaim long-forgotten joys even as we speed through our over-tasked lives. Enter audiobooks. Glorious, magical, irresistible audiobooks. For me, they’ve done the impossible—made otherwise hideous commutes enjoyable. And that’s just the beginning of their talents. Audiobooks change our relations to stories; they expand our creative collaborations. After all, when you engage with fiction, you become a creator of worlds. When you read, you and the writer come together to craft something utterly unique in your mind. And when you listen, you, the writer, and the narrator come together. Voice brings another layer to the collaboration, another soul to the story, another existential form via external sound. The jump from book to audiobook is more subtle than the one from book to movie. It’s a mid-way point—a zone of twilight that retains intimacy and imaginative engagement yet draws the inward nature of reading ever so slightly outward. And all this is done with just a bit of breath and sound. People sometimes ask whether listening to a book is as good as reading it. Some even suggest that listening equates to “cheating.” Such notions miss the larger point. It’s not about what’s as good or better. It’s about you as a creator and what a different artistic collaboration can bring to your life and imagination. It’s about fun, expansion, and learning that in the best possible way, you and I are not so different than we used to be. So, go ahead. Give an audiobook a listen and reclaim your forgotten creative realm. Your collaborators are waiting. Happy listening. -Charmin Blazier Top 10 List
Author Charmin Blazier’s Top Ten Perks of Being an Author
 
  1. The possibility that your story might bring a little lightness and joy into a reader’s vacation/rainy day/train ride/life in general. There’s nothing better than that.
  2. Being able to collaborate with other creative people such as cover artists, narrators, and bloggers.
  3. Being able to dedicate your work to all the people who’ve supported you along the way.
  4. That moment when you hold your paperback book for the first time.
  5. That moment when you hear your audiobook for the first time.
  6. Creating story worlds where the impossible becomes possible.
  7. The sense of accomplishment when you learn a new writing skill (and there’s always more to learn!).
  8. Being able to connect with your audience in so many ways.
  9. The joy of creating characters out of your imagination.
  10. Having an excuse to spend countless hours in Starbucks.
  I received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by Charmin Blazier. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.
VIEW THE FULL Tour SCHEDULE HERE!

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Sign up as a tour host here.
Posted in Blog Tours, Book Events, reviews

Confined Desires (Rehoboth Pact #1) by Katherine McIntyre Blog Tour

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

Two women who have been best friends for years find themselves sharing a home during a required Quarantine during a pandemic, and in the process find their buried feelings for one another coming to the surface in author Katherine McIntyre’s “Confined Desires”, the first in the Rehoboth series.

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The Synopsis

Sky’s crush on her best friend has always been unrequited… until they’re stuck in quarantine together and sparks fly.

Sky’s high school bestie is moving back to the area and staying with her for a few weeks. Easy, right? Not when she’d held a torch for the woman since high school. The moment Mia walks through Sky’s door, those unrequited feelings return full-force. So, when a spreading virus keeps them confined in Sky’s apartment even longer, Sky is screwed.

Mia returns home after a bad breakup, but Sky is the only one who offers a safe place to land. However, the seven years they spent apart has her looking at her best friend through a different lens, attraction sparking with every inside joke, shared dinner, and cuddle on the couch.

That flare of desire fast turns physical. They can’t get enough of each other. Yet, whenever Mia tries for the “where is this going” talk, Sky dodges. Sky lost her sister in high school, and ever since, she’s become ace at keeping dates at a distance. Yet if she doesn’t manage to push past her own fears, she might lose her one shot at happiness with the woman she’s waited a lifetime for.

The Review

This was such a well-balanced and engaging read. The author brilliantly delivers a powerfully romantic story of two friends who reunite after years apart, only to be forced into quarantine together where feelings both had pushed down without the other’s knowledge begin to stir up. The author expertly brings the real-life feelings and complications from a romance such as this to life, from the fear of losing that best friend should the relationship fail, to the pain of the past threatening to loom over their relationship, and more.

What makes this novel stand out is not only the amazing relationship between these two women and its evolution throughout the narrative but the setting of the novel as well. While not the exact same virus, pitting this romance story against the backdrop of a pandemic is inspired at a time like this. The real-world pandemic has not only been stressful and painful for many around the world but has forced us all to reexamine our lives and the relationships we hold dear as well. This makes the romance even more profound and emotional in this story.

The Verdict

A romantic, emotionally investing and remarkable read, author Katherine McIntyre’s “Confined Desires” is a must-read novel. The author’s use of the two central protagonists for a majority of the novel’s plot was an inspired choice and really elevated the book’s setting as well. Combine this with the extreme emotions these two women share together and apart from one another throughout the narrative, and readers will be thoroughly invested in this book. Be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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Confined Desires - Katherine McIntyre

Katherine McIntyre has a new FF contemporary romance out: Confined Desires. And there’s a giveaway!

Sky’s crush on her best friend has always been unrequited… until they’re stuck in quarantine together and sparks fly.

Sky’s high school bestie is moving back to the area and staying with her for a few weeks. Easy, right? Not when she’d held a torch for the woman since high school. The moment Mia walks through Sky’s door, those unrequited feelings return full-force. So, when a spreading virus keeps them confined in Sky’s apartment even longer, Sky is screwed.

Mia returns home after a bad breakup, but Sky is the only one who offers a safe place to land. However, the seven years they spent apart has her looking at her best friend through a different lens, attraction sparking with every inside joke, shared dinner, and cuddle on the couch.

That flare of desire fast turns physical. They can’t get enough of each other. Yet, whenever Mia tries for the “where is this going” talk, Sky dodges. Sky lost her sister in high school, and ever since, she’s become ace at keeping dates at a distance. Yet if she doesn’t manage to push past her own fears, she might lose her one shot at happiness with the woman she’s waited a lifetime for.

Publisher | Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CAN | iBooks | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Universal Buy Link | Goodreads


Giveaway

Katherine is giving away a $10 Amazon gift card with this tour:

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Direct Link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/b60e8d47177/?


Excerpt

Confined Desires meme

Mia twined her arms around Sky and leaned her head against her shoulder. “See, this is why I missed you so damn much.”

Sky froze, unable to move. Part of her melted at this touch, while the other freaked out. The last thing Mia needed was her best friend dumping a lifelong crush on her lap. This close, she could feel the woman’s sleepy heat, and the sweet scent of peaches wafted off her. Sky’s mouth watered—the response instinctual. She forced her hand up to run her fingers through Mia’s silken strands. That was friendly, right?

“Missed you too, babe,” she murmured.

“So, wait, are you working tonight, or no?” Mia asked, pulling away to grab her mug.

“Uh, no,” Sky murmured, mind racing as she tried to come up with an excuse to leave.

Mia tapped the edge of her mug with her fingernail. “Then maybe we could take the day to play catch up?” she asked. When Sky didn’t respond, the words refusing to leave her tongue, Mia’s eyes widened. “I mean, as long as you didn’t have plans or anything. I know I kind of dropped this on you. Fuck, I don’t even know if you’re seeing anyone or who you hang out with anymore.”

“Pitifully single,” Sky responded. “My girlfriend and I split up last year, and I’ve been so busy with work that I haven’t been able to get out to the bars or clubs in Philly at all to jump back into the dating scene. Trust me, you haven’t missed much.”

“Bullshit,” Mia said, placing her mug of coffee down. “Get dressed. We’re heading out to Lucky’s, and I’m buying you breakfast.” Her blue eyes twinkled as she doled out the commands, and Sky’s heart thumped harder.

Sky scratched the nape of her neck. “Yes, ma’am.”

She headed to the bedroom, cursing her lack of an excuse. A large part of her was thrilled to be spending all of this time around Mia after so long. Yet the other part of her just wanted to solder metal sheets around her heart.

As if she’d stand a chance with Mia Brownstone living at her house for the next two weeks.

 


Author Bio

Katherine McIntyre

Snarky women, ragtag crews, and men with bad attitudes.

Katherine McIntyre is a feisty chick with a big attitude despite her short stature. She writes stories featuring snarky women, ragtag crews, and men with bad attitudes—and there’s an equally high chance for a passionate speech thrown into the mix. As an eternal geek and tomboy who’s always stepped to her own beat, she’s made it her mission to write stories that represent the broad spectrum of people out there, from different cultures and races to all varieties of men and women.

Author Website: http://www.katherine-mcintyre.com

Author Facebook (Author Page): http://www.facebook.com/kmcintyreauthor

Author Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/pixierants

Author Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/authorkmcintyre

Author Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6473654.Katherine_McIntyre

Author Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Katherine-McIntyre/e/B00J8U4VNU

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Posted in Blog Tours, Book Events, reviews

Bittersweet Revenge (The Patricians #2) by R.G. Angel Audiobook Review/Tour

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

After seemingly escaping and building a new life, Esme is forced to return to the dangerous world of Stonewood as she faces more secrets, lies, and the vengeful Caleb as his need for revenge clashes with feelings he thought he’d left behind in author R.G. Angel’s “Bittersweet Revenge”, the second in The Patricians series.

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The Synopsis

Esme had thought she was free, but a shocking revelation forces her to return to Stonewood.

There she must deal with life-altering secrets and lies, as well as face the consequences of running away.

Caleb is angrier than ever, hell-bent on punishing her for what he considers to be the greatest betrayal.

As she delves deeper into the past with the aid of unlikely allies, even more secrets resurface, making her and everyone around her question the very foundation of their lives.

As the clock ticks and danger looms closer, what will Esme sacrifice to get to the truth? What will Caleb destroy to get his revenge?

The Review

This was a captivating and intriguing sequel to the hit YA thriller fans were treated to in book 1 of the series. I absolutely loved the dual perspectives of this narrative, as Caleb’s darker, more vindictive personality was paired with Esme’s lighter, more caring, and innocent perspective, creating a memorable and almost iconic relationship between the two.

After the events of the first book, the author does a great job of maintaining the same level of suspense in the second book while increasing the danger and shock of the narrative, from Esme’s imposing father to Caleb’s complicated feelings of both revenge and romance towards Esme and even the growing relationship between Esme and her brother Archibald. The narrators do a great justice towards the two protagonists, capturing the raw emotional delivery of their dialogues and the intrigue of the plot overall. 

The Verdict

A memorable, entertaining, and satisfying second book, author R.G. Angel’s “Bittersweet Revenge” is a must-read novel. The twists and turns of the suspenseful part of the narrative take to complement the satisfying conclusion to both protagonist’s stories, while also leaving room for some spin-off or even possible sequels in this memorable series. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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Author: R.G. Angel

Narrators: Charlotte Claremont, Robert Hatchet

Length: 10 hours 10 minutes

Series: The Patricians, Book 2

Publisher: Angel Production

Released: Jan. 22, 2021

Genre: Romance; New Adult

Continue reading “Bittersweet Revenge (The Patricians #2) by R.G. Angel Audiobook Review/Tour”
Posted in Blog Tours, Book Events, reviews

Will Rise From Ashes by Jean M. Grant (Narrated by Caroline Hewitt and Andrew Perkins Audiobook Tour And Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

A young widow, her 9-year old autistic son and a former military man travel together towards the epicenter of the massive eruption of the Yellowstone supervolcano in hopes of finding her youngest son and her brother in author Jean M. Grant’s “Will Rise From Ashes”. 

The Synopsis

Living is more than mere survival.

Young widow AJ Sinclair has persevered through much heartache. Has she met her match when the Yellowstone supervolcano erupts, leaving her separated from her youngest son and her brother? Tens of thousands are dead or missing in a swath of massive destruction. She and her nine-year-old autistic son, Will, embark on a risky road trip from Maine to the epicenter to find her family. She can’t lose another loved one.

Along the way, they meet Reid Gregory, who travels his own road to perdition looking for his sister. Drawn together by AJ’s fear of driving and Reid’s military and local expertise, their journey to Colorado is fraught with the chaotic aftermath of the eruption. AJ’s anxiety and faith in humanity are put to the test as she heals her past, accepts her family’s present, and embraces uncertainty as Will and Reid show her a world she had almost forgotten. 

The Review

A truly remarkable read, this apocalyptic, disaster-driven drama immediately draws the reader in with shocking events that would terrify and challenge any of us. The author does an excellent job of blending in-depth character growth with realism in the face of a tragic event such as the eruption of a supervolcano with a writing style that immediately conjures up a strong sense of imagery, bringing the action of this narrative to life in a brilliant way.

What stands out in this audiobook is that the story doesn’t necessarily focus as much on any sense of mystery, as the main plot of the story involves an already erupted volcano, but instead on the characters as they face this disaster together and must work to find one another. The author delves into themes of grief, loss, trust, and family as the main protagonist, AJ, deals with the loss of a loved one and the challenge of raising two sons, one of which is autistic, and must find the rest of her family in the face of disaster. Along the way, AJ’s struggle to trust anyone again comes to life through Reid, as a hint of possible romance and survival come through early on in their meeting one another. 

The Verdict

An engaging, emotional, and thoughtful audiobook, author Jean M. Grant’s “Will Rise From Ashes” is a must-read (listen) audiobook. The narrators really capture the emotional core of these characters and their world, while the writing itself brings to life the chaos and upheaval such a powerful event would have on our nation and world as a whole. With a cast of memorable characters, this is not a book you want to miss. Be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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Author: Jean M. Grant

Narrators: Caroline Hewitt, Andrew Perkins

Length: 10 hours 32 minutes

Publisher: Jean M. Grant

Released: Mar. 16, 2020

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Continue reading “Will Rise From Ashes by Jean M. Grant (Narrated by Caroline Hewitt and Andrew Perkins Audiobook Tour And Review”