Monday, July 8, 2019

Natalie Tan's Book of Luck and Fortune by Roselle Lim

* * * 1/2



At the news of her mother's death, Natalie Tan returns home. The two women hadn't spoken since Natalie left in anger seven years ago, when her mother refused to support her chosen career as a chef. Natalie is shocked to discover the vibrant neighborhood of San Francisco's Chinatown that she remembers from her childhood is fading, with businesses failing and families moving out. She's even more surprised to learn she has inherited her grandmother's restaurant.

The neighborhood seer reads the restaurant's fortune in the leaves: Natalie must cook three recipes from her grandmother's cookbook to aid her struggling neighbors before the restaurant will succeed. Unfortunately, Natalie has no desire to help them try to turn things around--she resents the local shopkeepers for leaving her alone to take care of her agoraphobic mother when she was growing up. But with the support of a surprising new friend and a budding romance, Natalie starts to realize that maybe her neighbors really have been there for her all along.


Source: advance e-galley provided in exchange for an honest review


A story set in Chinatown featuring a passionate cook who creates and recreates delicious family recipes? Sign me up!

I thought this was an sweet story overall and enjoyed when Natalie described what cooking did to her senses. Honestly, I wish I could feel that passionately about cooking and inventing dishes for people, and it's clear how this is an intrinsic part of her soul. Through cooking she could connect with her grandmother, a renowned chef in Chinatown, who died before she was born. When she returns home after her mother's death, she learns that there's more to her mother's story that she was unaware of. Looking to make things right with Natalie, her mother's last wish was for her to inherit her grandmother's restaurant and bring it back to life. Her grandmother was a pillar of the community and her restaurant was the star. Being asked to reopen it feels like too much is being asked of her. Her first instinct is to run away which has been her tactic awhile now.But then she's persuaded to stay and as she assimilates to life in the neighbourhood she left, she learns about how much has changed, and not for the better as people are looking to gentrify her once vibrant community. With renewed purpose she hasn't had in a long time, Natalie dreams of helping to unify the community and re-energize the local businesses. 

Family and cultural heritage are central to this story as was the food that made my mouth water. Natalie's love for cooking and the joy she gets from it come through the pages. Throw in the fact that her grandmother's recipes seem to have some sort of magical properties, and the dishes take on a life of their own. (Think the movie, Chocolat where Vienne's creations have such a profound impact on the villagers. It's the same idea here where Natalie's dishes seem to stir emotions and instigate action by the folks who eat them.) Interestingly, while Natalie's love of food and her grandmother's treasured recipes came through, I thought her budding romance with Daniel fell flat. As her potential love interest I didn't pick up on any chemistry between them. One drawback for me was that at times it felt as if the author was grasping too hard with the metaphors. She describes Natalie's process in relation to food so beautifully, creating such impressive pictures that I think sections outside of those could have flowed better with simpler descriptions. 

Natalie Tan's Book of Luck and Fortune is a sweet coming-of-age story about laying down roots and rebuilding community. If you're a foodie, you'll enjoy the addition of the recipes and like me, wish you could reach through and taste some of the deliciousness inside. I look forward to reading more from Roselle Lim in the future!

~ Bel


Monday, July 1, 2019

One Night at the Lake by Bethany Chase

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A tragedy on a hot summer night at a lake house forever alters the lives of two best friends—and the man they both love. But the truth isn’t as simple as it appears in this intricate novel of love, friendship, betrayal, and forgiveness in the tradition of Miranda Beverly-Whittemore’s Bittersweet.

Leah Tessaro has been waiting for this moment for a long time: Her boyfriend, Ollie, is taking her to his family’s home on Seneca Lake for a week of lazy summer bliss, boating, and barbeque. The couple has been together for four years, and Leah is convinced that Ollie is finally going to pop the question. And Leah can’t wait to share the joyous news with her best friend, June Kang, who is joining them on their getaway, and whose presence will make everything feel more real. 

Seven years later, the moment June has been dreading has finally arrived: Her fiancé, Ollie, is taking her to his family’s lake house. But this is not an ordinary visit to an ordinary place; it is a house haunted by June’s long-buried memories of her lost friend, Leah—and the connection that appears to remain between Leah and the man for whom June’s love is as deep as her sense of foreboding.

Alternating between the two women’s vibrant voices, One Night at the Lake is a gripping novel that explores a complex tangle of friendship, loyalty, and betrayal, all driving toward one question: What exactly happened to Leah on that hot summer night?


Source: advance e-galley provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review


I've been a fan of Bethany Chase's since her first book, The One That Got Away so I eagerly scoop up anything she releases. Chase continues to explore themes of complicated relationships and friendships, his time adding a mystery.

Chase has split the story into two timelines. The first with Leah that happened seven years ago and the second with her best friend, June which happens seven years later. In the past, Leah and Ollie have been dating for years and they're the couple that most people envy. Sickeningly cute, he's so perfect, she' so vibrant ... yada yada yada. Things seem so perfect that Leah is convinced he will propose during their upcoming trip to his family's place on Seneca Lake. She also invites June to accompany them for the week since she's broken up with her latest boyfriend and best friends don't leave their BFFs alone. Seven years later, June is now engaged to Ollie and dreads the return to Seneca Lake for another family get together. At this point not much is known as to why and how it's June and Ollie and not Leah and Ollie but we know that Leah hasn't been in the picture since the last visit. What happened is slowly revealed as the week at the lake in both the past and present slowly wears on. In both timelines everything starts out fine. It's a typical holiday with lots of fun and and lakeside shenanigans. Then the pressure sets in and little by little this perfect picture of happiness and contentment starts to become fractured. 

Firstly, I purposefully didn't read the blurb too closely so I was not expecting the time jump and couple switch. I literally gasped when I realized June was now with Ollie. I did have a hard time at first reconciling that they were a couple in the future. It felt disloyal and disingenuous to Leah. But I think that's what I was supposed to feel without knowing all the specifics and come on, I wanted the gossip. Secondly, this mystery is my kind of catnip. I loved the suspense and how details gradually emerged via Leah and June's recollections and observations. The timeline flip flop was genius! It gave me the sense that I was there in the thick of things. There's something alluring about being a reader who knows that something foreboding is close at hand when reading it in real time (Leah's POV). June's timeline is all about reconciling the past with the present, and her guilt over moving on with her life which includes Ollie. There's so much baggage in that relationship that's been ignored; this trip will undoubtedly force them to finally unpack all of that. The contrast between the two trips to the lake couldn't be more apparent - the first starts out joyous and second one is just pure dread. (By the way, Leah's timeline does have a few possible triggers which I will list below. They could be spoilery so consider yourself warned.)

I'm not exactly sure what I was expecting but I was definitely surprised by how everything played out. Chase crafted a story that steadily escalated in tension, especially during June's POV as she began to fit in the missing pieces of their last time at the lake with Leah. I had not anticipated the ending as I let my imagination run wild with all sorts of possibilities but it was still shocking. One Night at the Lake is something different from Chase and I say if you're in for some mystery, good storytelling and a close examination of friendships, you'll be pleased with this one.

~ Bel


Trigger Warning


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suspicion of cheating, unwanted touching, unwanted sexual advances


Friday, June 28, 2019

Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors by Sonali Dev

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Award-winning author Sonali Dev launches a new series about the Rajes, an immigrant Indian family descended from royalty, who have built their lives in San Francisco...

It is a truth universally acknowledged that only in an overachieving Indian American family can a genius daughter be considered a black sheep.

Dr. Trisha Raje is San Francisco’s most acclaimed neurosurgeon. But that’s not enough for the Rajes, her influential immigrant family who’s achieved power by making its own non-negotiable rules:

·       Never trust an outsider

·       Never do anything to jeopardize your brother’s political aspirations

·       And never, ever, defy your family

Trisha is guilty of breaking all three rules. But now she has a chance to redeem herself. So long as she doesn’t repeat old mistakes.

Up-and-coming chef DJ Caine has known people like Trisha before, people who judge him by his rough beginnings and place pedigree above character. He needs the lucrative job the Rajes offer, but he values his pride too much to indulge Trisha’s arrogance. And then he discovers that she’s the only surgeon who can save his sister’s life.

As the two clash, their assumptions crumble like the spun sugar on one of DJ’s stunning desserts. But before a future can be savored there’s a past to be reckoned with...

A family trying to build home in a new land.

A man who has never felt at home anywhere.

And a choice to be made between the two.


Source: advance e-galley provided in exchange for an honest review


In her update of the Jane Austen classic, Dev not only flips gender roles - Trisha as Darcy and DJ as Elizabeth - she also spices things up with a diverse cast whose cultural backgrounds add interesting new layers to this story of privilege and stereotypes. Trisha may come from a family with a rich royal heritage and with all the conveniences to make her upbringing ideal, but that doesn't mean her life doesn't come with its own set of complications. She's a successful neurosurgeon who since a young age has always been able to identify a problem and set her mind to solve it. She prides herself on her work but the rest of her life is a different story. Her dating life is weird and her relationship with her parents is strained, to say the least. Still, as an ever dutiful daughter brought up to value family, she is devoted to them. DJ's history is complex for different reasons. After his father died, his father's racists family disowned him, his sister and his mother. His single mother then worked herself to the bone to support them before she passed away while DJ and Emma were still young. They were on their own then relying on the kindness of a family friend who provided shelter and a safe haven for them. When Emma gets sick and the only person who can help her is Trisha, DJ drops everything and relocates his catering business from England to the States so he can be there for her. 

Trisha and DJ meet when he's catering her parents' event and it's not a meet-cute as they instantly rub each other the wrong way. It seems that with every encounter after that they manage to find new ways to unintentionally offend the other. DJ, a by-product of his tough upbringing and experiences, is a hardened character who doesn't have time for distractions or people who'd discount him so easily. He's sensitive about how he's perceived and this makes his personality a bit prickly. The trouble for him is that Trisha discounts him constantly while simultaneously making him mad for her. And she also happens to be Emma's doctor, the only person capable of saving his sister. Trisha herself is a bit oblivious as to how her demeanor and tone can put people off.

Along with economic disparity Dev includes current hot button issues such as colourism, racial profiling, and how successful career-driven women are perceived and treated in the workplace. There's also the ups and downs of family relationships. I took to Trisha right away. I liked her straight-forwardness and her dry humour but what makes her stand out is her unflappable confidence in her gift as a neurosurgeon. There's just something impressive about a woman who fights sexism in the workplace by simply being adept at her work and not rising to the bait when others try to ruffle her. The fact that she doesn't have it all together in every aspect of her life made her real to me. Same with DJ who's talented in the kitchen but is cool around people he's unfamiliar with. The bad guy, who has ties to Trisha, comes in the form of Julia Wickham as a sly, devious scoundrel who betrays people's trust during their most vulnerable moments. She's the worst and slimy to the core.

I knew I had to read this novel as soon as I'd heard about it. Sonali Dev impeccable at drawing you in to the story rather than leaving you there as a bystander. And let's talk about the food! DJ's French-Indian creations are mouthwatering temptations. If only I could reach in and taste some of them. As a retelling of the classic, it's fun to see it in a contemporary setting with what feels like a brand new cast of characters. I would LOVE to see this turned into a movie by none other than Gurinder Chadha (director of one of my favourite movies, Bend it Like Beckam). Can you just imagine how awesome that would be? Anyway, make sure you read Pride, Prejudice and Other Flavors while I pray that my wish comes true.

~ Bel


Thursday, June 27, 2019

Lies by Kylie Scott Cover Reveal



Lies - CR banner.jpg

Lies FOR WEB.jpg




Lies, a fast paced and sexy standalone filled with the perfect blend of heat and humor from New York Times bestselling author Kylie Scott, is coming July 21st and we have the sexy cover!

Betty Dawsey knows that breaking things off with Thom Lange is for the best. He’s nice, but boring, and their relationship has lost its spark. But steady and predictable Thom, suddenly doesn’t seem so steady and predictable when their condo explodes and she’s kidnapped by a couple of crazies claiming that Thom isn’t who he says he is.
Thom is having a hellish week. Not only is he hunting a double agent, but his fiancé dumped him, and thanks to his undercover life, she’s been kidnapped.
Turns out Thom is Operative Thom and he’s got more than a few secrets to share with Betty if he’s going to keep her alive. With both their lives on the line, their lackluster connection is suddenly replaced by an intense one. But in his line of work, feelings aren’t wanted or desired. Because feelings can be a lethal distraction.

Lies - PO.jpg

Pre-order your copy today!

Amazon Worldwide: http://mybook.to/LiesKS
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Cover Designed by Hang Le
Photographer: Brian Kaminski
Model: Terry Dormer

About Kylie Scott



Kylie is a New York Times and USA Today best-selling author. She was voted Australian Romance Writer of the year, 2013, 2014 & 2018, by the Australian Romance Writer’s Association and her books have been translated into eleven different languages. She is a long time fan of romance, rock music, and B-grade horror films. Based in Queensland, Australia with her two children and husband, she reads, writes and never dithers around on the internet.


Connect with Kylie Scott
Book+Main Bites: http://bit.ly/2ETz5RQ

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner

* * * *

From Jennifer Weiner, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Who Do You Love and In Her Shoes, comes a smart, thoughtful, and timely exploration of two sisters’ lives from the 1950s to the present as they struggle to find their places—and be true to themselves—in a rapidly evolving world. Mrs. Everything is an ambitious, richly textured journey through history—and herstory—as these two sisters navigate a changing America over the course of their lives.

Do we change or does the world change us?

Jo and Bethie Kaufman were born into a world full of promise.

Growing up in 1950s Detroit, they live in a perfect “Dick and Jane” house, where their roles in the family are clearly defined. Jo is the tomboy, the bookish rebel with a passion to make the world more fair; Bethie is the pretty, feminine good girl, a would-be star who enjoys the power her beauty confers and dreams of a traditional life.

But the truth ends up looking different from what the girls imagined. Jo and Bethie survive traumas and tragedies. As their lives unfold against the background of free love and Vietnam, Woodstock and women’s lib, Bethie becomes an adventure-loving wild child who dives headlong into the counterculture and is up for anything (except settling down). Meanwhile, Jo becomes a proper young mother in Connecticut, a witness to the changing world instead of a participant. Neither woman inhabits the world she dreams of, nor has a life that feels authentic or brings her joy. Is it too late for the women to finally stake a claim on happily ever after?

In her most ambitious novel yet, Jennifer Weiner tells a story of two sisters who, with their different dreams and different paths, offer answers to the question: How should a woman be in the world?
 


Source: advance e-galley provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review

When I started reading Mrs. Everything I had no proper idea what the premise was other than it was about sisters and I'm always interested in how family dynamics play out.

Jo has always felt different and apart from her mother and sister. Even as a child she felt uncomfortable in her own skin. She wasn't the traditional beauty and certainly didn't behave like a young lady was expected to. Her sister, Bethie fulfilled that role nicely being the more conventionally pretty girl who listened to their mother. The differences between the sisters are stark and set them up for their eventual stories as adults. It may not have been an idyllic life but it was a decent life with both parents who did love their children. Their lives are changed irrevocably when their father passes away suddenly and the three women are left to continue on their own. Their mother sort of checks out mentally and this where Jo, after o many years of rebellion, steps up to help around the house. By this time certain other events take place that impact them significantly, altering the trajectory of their lives. 

You're seeing the sisters' entire lives unfold before your eyes and the toughest part about reading Mrs. Everything is that it's incredibly emotional with unsavory incidents that happen intermittently throughout. What's interesting is how initially it's kind of assumed that the girls are headed down a preordained path based on their personalities - Jo the stubborn and independent one, and Bethie the popular girl. However, by the time they're in their late teens, they flip-flop. Later on Jo, who had never had any interest in being married or being with a man for that matter, marries and raises a family. She plays house but once again isn't comfortable in her own skin knowing she has shut away all her true desires. Bethie, wants nothing to do with settling down and embraces her life of freedom and free love. Both sisters bear the consequences of their decisions and at times lack of action. Their separate journeys took them to places that they couldn't have imagined for themselves but then, every so often life throws them for a loop and certain things or people come along and turn things around. It's the changes and how they adapt, or don't, that make this story both heartbreaking and page-turning.

Mrs. Everything isn't a light read and traumatic things happen (content warning listed below). Though depressing at times it's also a story about resilience, reconciliation and faith. This is my first time reading Jennifer Weiner and boy, oh boy, is she a brilliant writer! She had me in tears by the time I was done, not only because of everything Jo and Beth had been through, but because they made it through all of the muck, eventually making it back to each other for a second chance at sisterhood and friendship. Mrs. Everything is a powerful and moving story that will spark fascinating conversations though I also recognize that it's not for everyone. If you're going to read it, pick a good spot and make sure you have a warm drink and tissues at the ready.

~ Bel




Jennifer Weiner is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of over twenty books, including Good in BedThe Littlest Bigfoot, and her memoir Hungry Heart: Adventures in Life, Love, and Writing. A graduate of Princeton University and contributor to the New York Times Opinion section, Jennifer lives with her family in Philadelphia. Visit her online at JenniferWeiner.com.

Follow Jennifer online

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Content Warning


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- death of a parent, homophobia, eating disorder, sexual assault, rape, unwanted pregnancy, abortion, cheating, drug use, cancer

Monday, June 3, 2019

The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren

* * * 

Olive is always unlucky: in her career, in love, in…well, everything. Her identical twin sister Ami, on the other hand, is probably the luckiest person in the world. Her meet-cute with her fiancé is something out of a romantic comedy (gag) and she’s managed to finance her entire wedding by winning a series of Internet contests (double gag). Worst of all, she’s forcing Olive to spend the day with her sworn enemy, Ethan, who just happens to be the best man.

Olive braces herself to get through 24 hours of wedding hell before she can return to her comfortable, unlucky life. But when the entire wedding party gets food poisoning from eating bad shellfish, the only people who aren’t affected are Olive and Ethan. And now there’s an all-expenses-paid honeymoon in Hawaii up for grabs.

Putting their mutual hatred aside for the sake of a free vacation, Olive and Ethan head for paradise, determined to avoid each other at all costs. But when Olive runs into her future boss, the little white lie she tells him is suddenly at risk to become a whole lot bigger. She and Ethan now have to pretend to be loving newlyweds, and her luck seems worse than ever. But the weird thing is that she doesn’t mind playing pretend. In fact, she feels kind of... lucky.
 


Source: advance e-galley provided by publishers in exchange for an honest review


Even when things go horribly wrong there has to be a silver lining somewhere. For Olive who has always seemed to be the unluckier sister compared to her twin, her silver lining is that she did not succumb to food poisoning at the reception like the rest of her sister's bridal party and guests did. Thanks to the chaos Ami can't go on her honeymoon and rather than see it go wasted, she insists that Olive go to Hawaii and have a good time. Buutttt ... she has to go with Ethan, the groom's best man and all around pain in Olive's backside. The two have never gotten along so it's ludicrous to think that they'd b able to do so even if they're going to paradise. She promises Ami that she'll go anyway and that's where the adventure begins.

The Unhoneymooners is a typical enemies-to-lovers story that's fueled by misconceptions and assumptions about the other person. Ethan's not a huge stretch from a lot of guys in these rom-coms who start off aloof and maybe a little too condescending while Olive's the perky, outgoing sort. Yeah, their personalities clash and they try to keep away from each other. As luck would have it things don't go their way. Olive encounters someone with whom she interviewed for a job, and Ethan sees his ex there with her new man. I mean, seriously, of all the resorts in Hawaii and they're all there? The same week? Through a series of misunderstandings, Olive inadvertently leads her potential employer to think that she's engaged. To Ethan. Ethan in turn wants to show his ex he's moved on so why not go with the incorrect assumption and convince everyone that they're together. It's actually quite comical because they're still at the can't-stand-to-look-at-you phase. The pretense though can get boring but thankfully not here as they begin to tolerate each other. What I wasn't expecting was for things to loop back to her sister which I thought supercharges the remainder of the story. It's kind of sweet, actually, since the sisters always had something in the way of their relationship and here they get the chance to support each other.

The Unhoneymooners doesn't reinvent the wheel but it is entertaining and I had a darn good time reading it. Good banter makes me happy and the snarky back-and-forth between Olive and Ethan were my jam. Any good rom-com should make you laugh and fall in love along with the characters and The Unhoneymooners does just that.

~ Bel


Friday, May 31, 2019

Then Came You (Laws of Attraction #3) by Kate Meader

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Content warning listed at bottom of review



In the courtroom, they’re rivals. In the bedroom, they’re . . . divorced. But could the road trip from hell lead to a second chance at love?

Aubrey Gates is the hottest divorce lawyer in Chicago, a barb-tongued stiletto with legs that go on for miles. When her cool gray eyes meet mine across the battlefield, I want her like I’ve never wanted anyone or anything. Then I remember who she is: the woman who brought me to my knees. The woman who destroyed my faith in relationships.

The woman I used to call . . . wife.

And she needs a favor from me, Grant Lincoln.

It seems my ex forgot to mention the demise of our marriage to her dear old grammie, and now we’re both expected to attend her ninetieth birthday party. In Boston. And because it isn’t already awkward enough, Aubrey and I are driving there together from Chicago. That’s more than a thousand miles of tension, heartbreak, and barely concealed lust.

A little piece of paper might say we’re over, but this road trip is the true test. I intend to get my wife back . . . and I won’t stop until “I do.”


Source: advance e-galley provided in exchange for an honest review




Aubrey and Grant have been divorced for some time and they're still not used to it. There's familiarity that always seems to pull them together but stops just short of reconciliation. With so much unresolved anger and hurt they'd have to sort through before they can even move forward again and possibly have a genuine friendship much less a second crack at marriage. All this matters because they seriously do still love each other. They're also both divorce lawyers who work in close proximity, and they have mutual friends so there's no avoiding each other physically as they have avoided each other emotionally during their failed marriage. In the previous books, their friends speculated about the pair's breakup but no one knew what truly transpired because Aubrey and Grant chose to keep that to themselves. The reason for their separation is heartbreaking and what happened surrounding it is just as sad. It's not exactly a twist that Meader introduces but rather she took whatever assumptions we were going with and gave us something else instead. 

The drive to Aubrey's parents' on the East Coast gives them ample time in the car to talk. Their easy banter, nostalgia and jokes would make you think all was right with the world. Yes, things get physical because lust was never really lacking between them. The emotional intimacy is trickier and that's what needs to be addressed. Meader turned things around by having Aubrey be tight-lipped, steadfastly against confiding in anyone and refusing to discuss her feelings, whereas Grant is the one who's desperate to seek advice and to hash things out. When they do finally unleash on each other, reopening those wounds that are still raw, it gets ugly before any healing or forgiveness can begin.

This is a far more sensitive read that unfortunately, a lot of people are familiar with, and Meader, I think, handled it delicately by offering a reminder that everyone processes their sorrow in their own way and time. You know, I liked both Down with Love and Illegally Yours but Then Came You got me right in the gut. As my heart sank and was wrung out through the shocking truths and brutal pain, I held on to the thought that things would right themselves. The bright spot is that this is a second chance romance with an eventual happily ever after.

~ Bel




Content Warning: divorce, miscarriage, dysfunctional family, pregnancy, marriage counseling

Monday, May 13, 2019

Crazy Cupid Love (Let's Get Mythical #1) by Amanda Heger

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Eliza Herman has spent years avoiding her calling as a Descendant of Eros. After all, happily-ever-afters are a myth. But when a family crisis requires her to fill in at her family's Cupid-for-hire shop, Eliza finds herself enchanting couples under the watchful eye of her mentor, Jake Sanders.

After Eliza accidentally enchants Jake instead, they set rules to keep his arrow-struck desire at bay. But some rules are meant to be broken, and before long Eliza is rethinking her stance on true love...until they discover a conspiracy that could destroy thousands of relationships--including their own.


Source: purchased

Eliza has come to accept that she's a bungling cupid, and she's tried for the most part to stay away from the family business. They're cupids for hire if you need to introduce a little romantic sizzle into your life. So why is she staying away? Because she's kind of a liability. She's so accident-prone that the wrong move would literally mess up a job and could have someone declaring their undying love for her for weeks. Her clumsiness is demonstrated within the first few chapters reiterating the fact that she's better off doing something else. However, when her father suffers a heart attack and her twin brother Elijah (seriously, Eliza and Elijah, so cute and so confusing) needs help running the business, she reluctantly steps in. She gets a little help from Jake, her friend since forever who's also been her eternal crush for just as long. Jake coming on board is a good thing because he knows Eliza best and can guide her. At the same time, his presence makes her all wobbly inside. 

Part of Eliza's problem is confidence. She's severely lacking in it and it isn't helped by her mother's random comments and nitpicking. But Eliza's devotion to her father pushes her beyond her comfort zone to work past the mental blocks she's erected in her mind. With Jake encouraging her it should be a breeze, but no. The few enchantments that she's cast for clients initially work well. Then something goes horribly wrong with each of them. At first she thinks she's botched the jobs but after further investigation she and Jake suspect something sinister's afoot. 

I usually have issues with characters who are "clumsy" because it feels like a lot of the examples wind up being gratuitous which in turn make me annoyed and embarrassed for the character. I was so relieved when that gradually abated and Eliza got to shine and show what a smart and talented person she is. She's such a genuine sweetheart who'd love to give the world to anyone. There are also tons of laugh-out-loud instances that had me in giggling fits. A prime example of the humor and how much fun Heger had with the book: a governing entity named "The Department of Affection, Seduction and Shellfish", or as the author pointed out to me, The Department of A.S.S. Tell me that doesn't make you laugh!

While Eliza's spells going haywire is a predictable part of the plotline, Heger's addition of quirky clients and their bizarre problems keeps things unusual and interesting, as does the mystery that pops up halfway through. I had so much fun reading this and think this goofy, joyous read makes it perfect for your summer reading list.

~ Bel

Friday, May 10, 2019

Bred Review Tour


We're celebrating the release of BRED by Ginger Scott! It's a coming-of-age romance inspired by Great Expectations that you won't want to miss!


A coming-of-age romance inspired by Great Expectations

My life was irrevocably changed the moment I stepped foot inside Elena Alderman’s grand front doors. A lifeless tomb on the edge of Chicago’s Southside, the Alderman home sat in one of the city’s oldest and wealthiest neighborhoods, and Elena Alderman was the queen. 

She was also mad. 

Not the kind of madness that’s readily apparent. No, her psychopathy was far more surgical—more…insidious. She was surrounded by beautiful things—most notably her grand piano and her adopted son, Henry.

I fell in love with both. 

My gift blossomed when my fingers touched her black and white keys. But my life began when I became haunted by the boy. Henry Alderman was a handsome blend of arrogance and seduction, and as we grew up together, I found it more and more impossible to separate him from my thoughts. I envied his life. I imagined how my name—Lily—would look with his. I became his closest friend…and more. I gave him my kiss, locked away his secrets, and loved him even when it was hard to.

But we were just a game. Elena Alderman made the rules. And when she decided to change them, she broke everything. 

Almost.





Review

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I've read so many books by Ginger Scott that I've experienced highs, lows and the in betweens with her. She's given us youthful innocence, gritty personalities, wounded souls and generous hearts, but Bred is something different entirely. If I had to describe it with one word, I'd borrow it from Scott's acknowledgements: bleak. It's the perfect summation of this story about two teenagers who feel rather like misfits in their worlds and find a strange sort of solace in each other's company.

When Lily and Henry first meet they're mere children and Lily can already tell that Henry and his adoptive mother, Elena are different. Henry remained somber through the years as Lily continued her piano lessons with Elena who so generously offered her time and piano so that the naturally talented Lily could learn. Despite Henry's often aloofness, Lily became enamoured with him and they formed a tenuous bond that was so unusual and unique to anything I think either of them had. Elena's home life is a far cry form Henry's who has money and wants for nothing. Hers is strained. When Lily's parents died, she went to live with her mother's distant cousin, Alice and her husband. Neither were ready to be parents and were already struggling financially. Lily was basically counting down the days when she could be on her own so it's come as a blessing when she's accepted into the elite boarding school that Henry attends. She hopes that now that they're at the same school they'll see more of each other and even hang out. Much to her disappointment and confusion Henry continues to remain a mystery to her. 

Ginger Scott took on quite the project with her retelling of Great Expectations. I'm unfamiliar with the original and have no way of comparing the two but I was none the less captivated by the story even if there were only a few moments of joy. Much like the book's cover I saw everything as mostly gray or muted colours, including the people. The bright spots came during some unexpected moments such as Lily singing in front of a crowd, a night club scene; basically anytime when it wasn't just Lily and Henry stuck in their bubble. There's also this underlying sinister feeling that comes across, and thanks to Scott's enthralling writing I wanted to get to the bottom of Henry's behaviour and Elena's motives. She's a devious one that Elena.

Ginger Scott takes risks with the stories she wants to share with us. I like that Bred was unlike anything of hers I'd read before and it would be a perfect read for you if you're in the mood for a retelling of a classic.

~ Bel





Excerpt


(Copyright Ginger Scott, 2019)

“You know this stuff…” he starts, but I interrupt with an emphatic shake of my head. When his fingers splay out over my back I freeze. I follow the path my book takes back to the place it started in front of me as Henry slides it in place, flipping open to the chapter I’m trying to memorize. Knelt down next to me, he leans closer, resting his right arm next to my left one—we are touching.

I swallow. I’m going to fail. I cannot memorize something like the varied historical degrees of differences between a Protestant hell and a Lutheran one while the master of all hotness is sharing a desktop with me. My arm hairs are literally electric, standing up and reaching to plant themselves in his skin. I’ve gone completely primal—my body convinced that I am the gatherer in need of this hunter.

“Look,” he says, leaning in even closer and reaching to flip the pages. I barely register the movement of his thumb under a bold section of words. When his eyes catch mine still stuck on his face, I jump in my seat a little.

“Sorry,” I say, clearing my throat. “I’m just overwhelmed. Maybe a little slow, too, from being in here so long.”

It’s partly true, but I’m also just crushing. Crushing—that’s what Nicki calls it. She rolls her eyes every time she catches me doing it too, then labels it with that word. I crush in the dining area. I crush between classes when Henry pokes my arm with his index finger as we pass in the halls. I crush when I watch him sprint across the lawn every day at three in the afternoon, late for rowing. It’s literally become how I know it’s three o’clock! My body just instinctually glides toward my window at exactly 2:59. Pathetic!

At this point, we should just say that I’m crushed rather than crushing. Crushed and utterly destroyed of all pride.

I am gatherer.

“What you need to do is make up a rhyme. Something that will help you keep all of the key words in your brain so when it comes time to write them down in order, you’ll have them there.”

I draw in my lips and let the acid climb up my throat.

“I don’t even understand that. Ugg, I’m hopeless,” I say, letting my head fall flat against the book. I bounce my forehead there lightly while I eke out a desperate laugh at my own expense.

“You aren’t hopeless.” I feel the warm breath from his chuckle and smell the mint of his gum, and it’s intoxicating enough without his touch, so when the warm hand slides the hair from my cheek I go full hypnosis. His fingers trace my jaw, and my head lifts from the light pressure of his hold. For a moment, I believe in myself just because of the look in his eyes when our stares meet. He’s dead serious—and God, the way he’s looking at me, hair all tousled, smile soft and true, cheeks lifted as if they’re glad to see me.

Like a drunk, I lean closer, my lips parting and ready—my mind imagining everything I’m about to feel—Henry’s mouth on mine, the graze of teeth against my lips, us standing as his arms sweep around my back before his hands rush up my spine into my own messy hair.

None of that happens.

I get an inch away from his mouth, my eyelids fluttering with nerves and uncertainty whether they should close or remain open, and Henry turns a few inches to his left, stiffening and backing away just enough to keep me from making this worse—as if I can make this worse somehow. The rush of heat that coats me isn’t from passion—it’s from humiliation. My eyes remain open just long enough to see the movement in his neck as he clears his throat. His soft smile is replaced with a hard line, drawn under the pity that slants his eyes.

I think I understand hell a little better now. It helps that I’m in it.

“I’m just tired. I…” Why I try to speak, I don’t know.

“It’s fine.” His voice is laced with discomfort. In one blink I erased everything that was easy between us. All because of my damn fantasies.

Fine. That word—so short, so four-lettered. Such a lie. I ruined everything.





About the Author


Ginger Scott is an Amazon-bestselling and Goodreads Choice Award-nominated author of several young and new adult romances, including Waiting on the Sidelines, Going Long, Blindness, How We Deal With Gravity, This Is Falling, You and Everything After, The Girl I Was Before, Wild Reckless, Wicked Restless, In Your Dreams, The Hard Count, Hold My Breath, and A Boy Like You.

A sucker for a good romance, Ginger’s other passion is sports, and she often blends the two in her stories. (She’s also a sucker for a hot quarterback, catcher, pitcher, point guard…the list goes on.) Ginger has been writing and editing for newspapers, magazines and blogs for more than 15 years. She has told the stories of Olympians, politicians, actors, scientists, cowboys, criminals and towns. For more on her and her work, visit her website at http://www.littlemisswrite.com.

When she's not writing, the odds are high that she's somewhere near a baseball diamond, either watching her son field pop flies like Bryce Harper or cheering on her favorite baseball team, the Arizona Diamondbacks. Ginger lives in Arizona and is married to her college sweetheart whom she met at ASU (fork 'em, Devils).

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