Review: Forever 51 by Pamela Skjolsvik

Forever-51-cover-654x1024About the book Forever 51

• Paperback: 332 pages
• Publisher: Fawkes Press, LLC (November 5, 2020)

Immortality’s a bitch.

Veronica is eternally fifty-one years old with a proclivity for problematic drinking. Like most hormonally challenged women negotiating the change of life, she is a hot mess. To retain her sanity, she attends weekly AA meetings and adheres to a strict diet of organic, locally-sourced, (mostly) cruelty-free human blood from the hospice facility where she works. Her life stopped being fun about a hundred years ago, right about the time her teenage daughter stole her soul and took off for California with a hot, older guy. These days, Veronica’s existence is just that – an existence, as flat and empty as her own non-reflection in the bathroom mirror.

When her estranged daughter contacts her via Facebook, Veronica learns that she has one chance to escape her eternal personal summer: she must find and apologize to every one of the people she’s turned into vampires in the last century. That is, if they’re still out there. With raging hormones and a ticking clock, Veronica embarks on a last-ditch road trip to regain her mortality, reclaim her humanity, and ultimately, die on her own terms.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

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About the author, Pamela Skjolsvik

Forever-51-Pamela-Skjolsvik-APA curious thing happens when you have the audacity to call yourself the death writer; people want to talk to you about death. A lot. This is all well and good for those daring types of writers like Mary Roach or Jessica Mitford, but for me it was initially problematic. Prior to declaring my morbid writing intention of exploring death professions during my first semester of Goucher College’s MFA program in 2008, I had little experience with death or grief, not to mention very little social engagement with the living. It wasn’t until after I finished the two years of research for this book that I was officially diagnosed with Social Anxiety Disorder and went through four months of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy through a research study at Southern Methodist University.

My writing life began in 2005 when I received a fellowship to the San Juan Writers’ Workshop. The instructor, Lee Gutkind, told me not to publish for the sake of publishing, but to publish well. He also informed me that I was a horrible public speaker. Admittedly that stung, but he did like an essay I’d written. It was published in Creative Nonfiction Issue 33 and in Silence Kills: Speaking Out and Saving Lives. In August 2010, I received my MFA in Creative Nonfiction from Goucher College and read five pages from my manuscript in front of a packed room without passing out.

As part of my therapy, I was encouraged to join a writer’s group where I would have to read regularly in front of a group, as this was one of my main fears. I am happy to say that I am now an active member of the DFW Writers Workshop in Euless, TX. We meet every Wednesday and I make it a point to read out loud every week.

Connect with Pamela:

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellWhen I first heard about this book, and that the lead character was a vampire who’d been turned in middle age and was eternally menopausal, I laughed out loud, because as someone who just turned fifty in August, I could totally relate. Then I leapt into reading it.

Wow! What a refreshing take on the vampire trope! Veronica Bouchard is middle-aged, crotchety, confident about everything except her body, tand addicted to the red stuff -blood. So much so, that she attends AA meetings in order to help keep herself from killing people for food, and works as a night nurse in a hospice where the deaths she must cause are largely merciful.

When her biological daughter, forever fifteen, and estranged from her since the 1930s, contacts Veronica (via Facebook – how else?) and informs her that she can become mortal again, hijinks ensue, involving a young junkie, and a lot of practice of the ninth step of the Twelve Step program: Make direct amends to [people they have wronged]  wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

Through Veronica’s Great Apology Road Trip, we meet the men and women who most impacted her (un)life, and learn her history with each of them. We also see some popular vampire myths completely debunked (garlic, crosses, sunlight, invitations to enter) which causes Veronica to be annoyed, frustrated, amused, and even a little smug when she realizes how much information isn’t shared among her kind.

What I loved about this novel was that the central figure could, except for the specifics of her “addiction,” be any woman entering or experience menopause. The hot flashes, the mood shifts, the dissatisfaction with what she sees (or doesn’t see) in the mirror are all universal, and, to be honest, we all have addictions of some kind or another, though not all require meetings and intervention.

While Veronica is the  most vividly drawn figure, her daughter Ingrid, her (current) husband Frank, and her adopted tag-a-long happy meal with legs, Jenny the junkie, are all equally dimensional, and the characters we encounter are all well crafted, too. I’m not sure if my favorite was Desmond, Ingrid’s maker (and also a waiter and a morgue attendant) or Knud, one of Veronica’s first post-death partners, who reminded me of a deeper, more in-touch version of Olaf the Viking from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. 

At turns funny, sad, frustrating, and poignant, Forever 51 is a fast-paced adventure of personal transformation and discovery, and one that you can really (forgive the obvious pun) sink your teeth into.

Goes well with a bacon cheeseburger, garlic fries, and a Bloody Mary, naturally.


TLC Book ToursVisit the Other Great Blogs on This Tour

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Friday, November 6th: Instagram: @jenguerdy

Monday, November 9th: Becky on Books…and Quilts

Tuesday, November 10th: 100 Pages a Day…Stephanie’s Book Reviews

Thursday, November 12th: Bewitched Bookworms

Monday, November 16th: Instagram: @hooked.by.books

Tuesday, November 17th: Bibliotica

Wednesday, November 18th: Instagram: @mixed_matched_socks

Thursday, November 19th: Blunt Scissors Book Reviews

Saturday, November 21st: Instagram: @mommaleighellensbooknook

Monday, November 23rd: Books and Bindings


Bonus Chapter

Pamela Skjolsvik is hosting a challenge on her Twitter. Tag her (@pamelaskjolsvik) with an image of yourself doing one of the things in the image below, and she’ll send you a bonus chapter:

Forever-51-cover-bonus-chapter

 

Review: Painting Bananas by Amanda Paull

Painting Bananas

 

About the book, Painting Bananas 

Painting BananasPainting Bananas is all about love, dreams and taking stock.

Two happy couples, one person from each on the verge of change. But as paths cross and plans unfold, will their spouses reveal their true colours?

Alison struggles with insomnia. She also hates her job and fantasizes about throttling her irritating oaf-of-a boss. Thankfully, her lifelong plan to return to university will soon be realized. After supporting her husband in his career for over twenty years, it’s now her turn. He’s rooting for her every step of the way. Or so she thinks.

Meanwhile, Christopher has a wake-up call with his health. Somehow, pre-diabetes has replaced his six-pack. He must take stock immediately. He realises that the perfect solution is right under his nose. He can’t wait to share his brilliant idea with his wife. The future looks good. But does she agree?

Will the spouses show their support? Or will Alison and Christopher start to wonder whether they really know their other halves?

Painting Bananas was written and formatted with British grammar, punctuation and humour. It is the second novel in Amanda Paull’s Cherry Dene series but can be read as a standalone story.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | Goodreads


Amanda Paull About the author, Amanda Paull

Amanda Paull is a writer of humorous romantic fiction. She lives in the North East of England with her husband and works in the public sector. The inspiration for her stories comes from real life, which she tries to show the funnier side of by embellishing to the hilt.

Connect with Amanda

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My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellAlison & Nathan and Christopher & Sandy, the four people at the center of Painting Bananas, are two couples who have been married for decades and, as empty-nesters (one couple has adult twins, the other has a grown daughter), have yet to learn how to live with only each other, or even communicate effectively.

Amanda Paull has drawn each couple very vividly, and made their relationships distinct. Alison is the epitome of a woman being gaslighted, first by her doctor, but also by her husband. Christopher is part of a traditional marriage of the sort that feels more like my grandparents’ dynamic than the relationship my husband and I (married 25 years last March) have, or even that my parents had. He’s changed to a lower-paying job in order to travel less and practice self-care because of a pre-diabetes diagnoses, and his wife seems largely oblivious.

If this sounds like a sad story, rest assured, it isn’t. Or at least, not entirely. Alison and Christopher meet and start chatting over lunch, and through them, the rest of the story unfolds. We also see their children both relating to their parents, and also observing and commenting on them, which Paull has done to great effect – they’re in the story, but they’re also a bridge between we readers and the main action.

What I liked was that even though this novel dealt with serious issue, there were moments of organic humor. Most of it wasn’t the kind that generates belly laughs, but rather the type where you nod, smile, maybe even chuckle, and recognize glimmers of yourself in the narrative.

Something I found really refreshing was that Alison and Christopher talk and share, but don’t have an affair. Author Paull has written a lovely friendship between the two, and I really enjoyed their dynamic.

Painting Bananas is an easy read about some hard truths of the sort we will all face one day, and the characters are absolutely worth spending time with.

Goes well with hot tea, tomato soup, and a toasted cheese sandwich.


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Review: Blue Skies, by Alana Oxford

Blue Skies

 

About the book, Blue Skies

  • Publication date : August 31, 2020
  • Print length : 106 pages
  • Publisher : 8N Publishing, LLC (August 31, 2020)

BlueSkiesLife isn’t always a walk in the park, but when Patrice takes her Pomeranians to the park after a rough day at the office, fate steps in. An unlikely h

ero comes to the rescue when one of her dogs gets loose. Short, pale, and kind of cute, Seth doesn’t have a lot of confidence with the ladies, but he hits it off with Patrice.

But some things might be too good to be true. While Patrice wonders if Seth could possibly be “the one”, fate steps in again with a horrible twist. Will it be a deal breaker or just a storm before bright blue skies?

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | Goodreads


Blue Skies - AlanaOxfordAuthorPhotoAbout the author, Alana Oxford

Alana Oxford is a Michigan author of romcoms, sweet romance, and humorous women’s fiction. She wants her stories to bring sunshine and smiles to her readers. She enjoys improv comedy, moody music, everything book related, and has an ongoing love affair with the United Kingdom.

Connect with Alana:

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My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellAt only 106 pages, Alana Oxford’s Blue Skies is technically a novella, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a complete story. In fact, it’s a very sweet and satisfying romance and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

As a dog lover (though I have four to the main character’s two), I immediately connected with Patrice. I know what it’s like to wrangle multiple pets on multiple leashes. As a woman, I also identified with her struggle to defend her work to her boss. When you work in a field that’s both creative and corporate artist tendencies can be hard to overcome. I appreciated that Oxford included this thread in the story, as it gave Patrice more depth, and also let us get to see more sides of her.

I also liked that Seth, the IT-guy-cum-dog-rescuer whom Patrice meets for the first time in the local park wasn’t your typical hard-bodied romance novel specimen, but more a representative of ordinary guys. Quirky, sweet, and a bit of a geek, he reminded me a little of my husband, who also comes from the midwest. (Midwestern guys are the best.)

All of the supporting characters felt like real people also, and I liked that Oxford broke out of straight narrative to include text conversations between Patrice and her friends.

I liked the way Patrice and Seth’s relationship unfolded with a series of obstacles on each of their first few meetings. It added an element of the kind of humor that comes from life, rather than forced jokes. This is a brand of humor that not all authors can sell, but felt very organic: a testament to Oxford’s craft.

Blue Skies is a short but quite engaging read. Charming, funny, and sweet, it’s the perfect story to put a smile on your face, and make you want to dance in the rain.

Goes well with apples, cheese, crackers, and cold lemonade.


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Review: One Kiss Before Christmas, By Emma Jackson

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About the Book, One Kiss Before Christmas

One Kiss Before Christmas_CoverOne Kiss Before Christmas (Available November 2nd)

A gorgeously romantic festive read from the author of A Mistletoe Miracle, guaranteed to warm your heart this Christmas!


Could it be the start of her happy ever after?

Ashleigh could use a little Christmas magic. She’s still living in Brighton with her Nan — who could give the Grinch lessons in how to be miserable — her acting career has been reduced to playing one of Santa’s elves, and not even the prospect of a friend’s winter wedding can cheer her up…

That is until Olivier, the gorgeous French chef, reappears in her life. Or more accurately, next door.

When they were teenagers, Olivier would spend every other Christmas with his mother, who just happens to be Ash’s neighbour and owner of the best chocolate shop in England.

If anyone can bring a little sparkle back to Ash’s life, it’s Olivier. All she needs is one kiss before Christmas…

Feel-good and festive, this is the perfect romance to curl up with this winter!

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | Goodreads


About the Author, Emma Jackson

Emma JacksonAuthor of the Best Selling A MISTLETOE MIRACLE and contender for the Joan Hessayon Award 2020, Emma has been a devoted bookworm and secret-story-scribbler since she was 6 years old. When she’s running around after her two daughters and trying to complete her current work-in-progress, Emma loves to read, bake, catch up on binge-watching TV programmes with her partner and plan lots of craft projects that will inevitably end up unfinished. Her latest romantic comedy, SUMMER IN THE CITY, was released in June 2020.

Emma also writes historical and fantasy fiction as Emma S Jackson. THE DEVIL’S BRIDE was published by DarkStroke in February 2020.

Connect with Emma:

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellI participated in a cover reveal for this book a month or so ago, and was so excited to read it. I’m happy to report: Emma Jackson did not disappoint. While it was less Christmassy than the title might reflect, this book was a lovely romance set around the holidays.

From the first moment we encounter Ashleigh at the Baxters’ Christmas Farm, where she’s working as an elf (baggy leggings, interactive socks, and all) for the fourth year in a row, I was hooked on her story. I found her to be engaging and completely sympathized with her stalled acting career, especially since I’m a performer myself. I confess, a part of me wanted to work at that farm, but that’s a digression.

Then there’s Olivier, the French chef whose mother just happens to live next door to Ashleigh and her Nan. Olivier is the perfect romance novel specimen, and not only because he can do incredible things with chocolate.

What I loved about this novel was that Jackson’s characters are very much ordinary people, They’re not millionaires or playboys or models, and their flaws are as compelling as their good points. Ash is a little bit bitter about her life, for example, but in a very plausible and organic way that takes real talent to convey.

I haven’t read a lot of Emma Jackson’s other works, but I  recognized a few characters from other books she’s written, and I always find it charming when an author interweaves her stories even if the actual novels can be read as stand-alone pieces.

One “character” that must be mentioned is the setting: Brighton. I’ve never been there, but thanks to Jackson, I feel as if I’ve visited, and I really enjoyed the escape.

One Kiss Before Christmas is one book that is the perfect before-Christmas read.

Goes well with: espresso and chocolate croissants.


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Review: Strong from the Heart, by Jon Land – with Giveaway

Strong from the Heart

About the book, Strong from the Heart

  • Genre: Mystery / Thriller / Suspense
  • Publisher: Forge Books
  • Date of Publication: July 28, 2020
  • Number of Pages: 368 pages
  • Scroll down for Giveaway

Cover-Strong from the HeartCaitlin Strong wages her own personal war on drugs against the true power behind the illicit opioid trade in Strong from the Heart, the blistering and relentless 11th installment in Jon Land’s award-winning series.

The drug crisis hits home for fifth generation Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong when the son of her outlaw lover Cort Wesley Masters nearly dies from an opioid overdose. On top of that, she’s dealing with the inexplicable tragedy of a small Texas town where all the residents died in a single night.

When Caitlin realizes that these two pursuits are intrinsically connected, she finds herself following a trail that will take her to the truth behind the crisis that claimed 75,000 lives last year. Just in time, since the same force that has taken over the opiate trade has even more deadly intentions in mind, specifically the murder of tens of millions in pursuit of their even more nefarious goals.

The power base she’s up against―comprised of politicians and Big Pharma, along with corrupt doctors and drug distributors―has successfully beaten back all threats in the past. But they’ve never had to deal with the likes of Caitlin Strong before and have no idea what’s in store when the guns of Texas come calling.

At the root of the conspiracy lies a cabal nestled within the highest corridors of power that’s determined to destroy all threats posed to them. Caitlin and Cort Wesley may have finally met their match, finding themselves isolated and ostracized with nowhere to turn, even as they strive to remain strong from the heart.

Praise for this book:

“A time-jumping, savory Tex-Mex tale, seasoned with all the ingredients of a great thriller.”―Brad Meltzer, New York Times bestselling author

“A mind-blowing tale that takes a flamethrower to our psyches to warm the chill it leaves up our spines. Seething with energy and replete with wondrously staged set pieces, this is thriller writing that defies genre even as it reminds us why we love to read.”―NYK Daily

“Exceptional…. Snappy one-liners, plausible dialogue, and lots of nonstop action, Land delivers another riveting, believable thriller.”―Press-Republican

“Caitlin Strong is one of the strongest female characters ever to hit the page, and Jon Land is the king of the intelligent thriller, continually pushing his own writing to new levels.”―New York Journal of Books

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Goodreads


About the author, Jon Land

John LandJon Land is the USA Today bestselling author of more than fifty books, eleven of which feature Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong. The critically acclaimed series has won more than a dozen awards, including the 2019 International Book Award for Best Thriller for Strong as Steel and the 2020 American Fiction Award for Best Thriller. He has also authored six books in the MURDER, SHE WROTE series and has recently taken over writing Margaret Truman’s CAPITAL CRIMES series. A 1979 graduate of Brown University, Land lives in Providence, Rhode Island and received the 2019 Rhode Island Authors Legacy Award for his lifetime of literary achievements.

Connect with Jon:

FACEBOOK    TWITTER AMAZON    GOODREADS  ◆  BOOKBUB ◆ WEBSITE


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellStrong from the Heart is book number 11 in the Caitlin Strong series, but the first of these that I’ve read, and I’m not ashamed to say that I’m hooked, but then, I’d be hooked on any story that starts (well, after a prologue featuring a traumatized mailman wandering in the desert) with a woman facing down ICE, Texas Ranger or not.

Still Caitlin Strong is a breathtaking character: competent, compassionate, and evidently the kind of person who seems to get caught up in trouble. As she points out more than once, “I haven’t shot anyone today,” and that last word tells us everything about her.

In this story, Caitlin is both solving the mystery of the death of the entire population of a small town, while also juggling with the fact that her lover’s son has overdosed on opioids obtained illegally at school. As the story expands, she tries to remain a Texas Ranger first, and a woman second, and it’s that dichotomy that really made me fall in love with the character.

Jon Land’s talent for believable dialogue only made this entire novel seem more vivid, and I love the fact that so many of his characters are just a little bit bigger than life. This book takes place in a heightened version of our own reality – different enough to clearly be fiction, but similar enough to make it seem plausible. Riding that line takes a special talent, and Land’s balance work is impeccable.

As someone who really isn’t a fan of westerns, I was a little leery when I realized this was a double-timeline story, half of it an incident from 125 years before, that had been related to Caitlin by her great-grandfather, also a Texas Ranger. That part of the story involves some very famous figures from American and Mexican history – western history – and even I was familiar with the names, grinning when the first was revealed.

Part mystery, part western, part action-adventure, this novel has something for everyone. It’s a decent length at 368 pages, but it’s well-paced, and reads much faster than you might expect. Familiarity with earlier installments of Caitlin’s story might have given me a slightly deeper meaning, but it works as a standalone as well – I never felt lost, or like I was missing connections.

I’m eager to read more of Caitlin’s adventures, and plan to go back and read the first ten novels in this series, but I also hope there’s more to come.

Goes well with carne asada street tacos and Mexican beer – I recommend Indio  or Bohemia.


Giveaway

FIVE WINNERS 

GRANDPRIZE (US only):

5 Autographed copies

Ends midnight, CST, November 8, 2020

 

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Visit the other Great Blogs on this Tour

(Or find them on the Lone Star Literary Life tour page)

10/29/2020 Character Spotlight Chapter Break Book Blog
10/29/2020 Review Bibliotica
10/30/2020 Top 5 List Hall Ways Blog
10/30/2020 Review Tangled in Text
10/31/2020 Review Reading by Moonlight
11/1/2020 Top 9 List Missus Gonzo
11/2/2020 Excerpt StoreyBook Reviews
11/3/2020 Excerpt All the Ups and Downs
11/4/2020 Top 10 List Texas Book Lover
11/5/2020 Guest Post Forgotten Winds
11/5/2020 Review The Clueless Gent
11/6/2020 Top 10 List KayBee’s Book Shelf
11/7/2020 Review That’s What She’s Reading
11/7/2020 Review Book Bustle

 

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LSBBT BOOK REVIEW

Review: The 12 Christmases of You & Me by Jennifer Joyce

The 12 Christmases of You & Me

 

About the book, The 12 Christmases of You & Me

The_12_Christmases_of_You_&_Me_Jennifer_Joyce_pngWhat if you could go back in time and fix the biggest mistake of your life?

Two years ago, Maisie’s best friend walked out of her life and she hasn’t heard from him since. When she wakes up in 1994, she naturally assumes she’s dreaming. But when she finds herself in the past again the next night and her actions in the dream alter her present-day life, she begins to wonder if she’s somehow hopping back in time. And if she is time-travelling, can she save her friendship with Jonas?

When Maisie is forced to relive Christmases of the past, will she face up to her mistakes, or make them all over again?

The 12 Christmases of You & Me is a magical tale of friendship, first loves, and learning to live in the present.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | Goodreads


About the author, Jennifer Joyce

Jennifer JoyceJennifer Joyce is a writer of romantic comedies who lives in Manchester with her husband and their two daughters. She’s been scribbling down bits of stories for as long as she can remember, graduating from a pen to a typewriter and then an electronic typewriter. And she felt like the bee’s knees typing on THAT. She now writes her books on a laptop (which has a proper delete button and everything).

Connect with Jennifer:

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellJennifer Joyce’s novel The 12 Christmases of You & Me came to me on a rainy day in autumn, which seems appropriate, since it opens on a rainy day in November, with the main character complaining that it’s too soon for a Christmas Countdown since Halloween and Bonfire Night have only just passed. As someone who revels in Halloween, I appreciated this sentiment more than is probably healthy, and felt an instant connection with Maisie.

And how could I not? In her lead character, Joyce has given us a funny, candid woman who is also a single mom feeling a bit adrift from her teenaged daughter, something all mothers and daughters experience at some point. She’s also a therapist, good at helping her clients find truth and equilibrium when she’s a bit out of balance herself.

The time travel dreams, allowing Maisie to relive her youth with her friends Lily and Jonas, are an interesting convention in a Christmas novel. It’s almost as if Joyce said “What if the Ghost of Christmas Past was YOU?” While some of Maisie’s dream-alterations do seem to flow into her waking life, she seems to instinctively know that there are fixed points (to borrow a concept from Doctor Who) that cannot be changed.

Ultimately her dream journey is one of self-discovery, and watching her unfold each memory is delightful, and evocative of the wistfulness we all feel when gazing at photo albums, whether they are digital or analog.

The supporting characters in this story were all as vivid as Maisie. Lily, her best friend, was the perfect slightly nervous bride, and I liked the way Joyce wrote her as almost a non-biological sister to Maisie. Similarly Aaron and Jonas were dimensional from their first introductions, and if the latter at first made me think of Ricky from My So-Called Life , I hope I can be forgiven, because with the exception of a teenaged fondness for eye-liner, the two are nothing alike.

Maisie’s Mum  and Dad (Fran and Mick) and her daughter Annabelle also felt supremely real, and in the latter, particularly, Joyce managed to capture the mix of sullen young woman and sweet child that so many teenagers can be. (I know I was, and I’ve apologized to my own mother more than once.)

While the title of this novel might imply a story full of fluff, this is absolutely not the case. The Christmas setting is neither sugary or saccharine, but serves as a perfect time of reflection with a hint of magic, and every character takes a journey that leads them down their proper path.

Goes well with a sandwich of leftover holiday turkey with cranberry sauce and cream cheese. (Trust me, it’s delicious.)


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Endless Skies

About the book, Endless Skies

  • Paperback : 281 pages
  • Publisher : Sapere Books (July 26, 2020)

Endless Skies - coverAs archaeologist Rachel excavates a World War Two airfield, could a love story from the past hold a lesson for her as well?

After yet another disastrous love affair Rachel has been forced to leave her long-term position for a temporary role as an Archaeology Lecturer at Lincoln University. Rachel has sworn off men and is determined to spend her time away clearing her head and sorting her life out. But when one of her students begins flirting with her, it seems she could be about to make the same mistakes again…

She distracts herself by taking on some freelance work for local property developer, Jonathan Daubney. He introduces her to an old Second World War RAF base. And from her very first visit something about it gives Rachel chills…

As Rachel makes new friends and delves into local history, she is also forced to confront her own troubled past. Could a wartime love story have any bearing on her own situation? Could this time be different?

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

UK Readers (99p til October 23) | US Readers (Amazon) | Goodreads


About the author, Jane Cable

Jane Cable I write romance with a twist, that extra something to keep readers guessing right to the end. While my books are character driven my inspiration is always a British setting; so far a village in Yorkshire (The Cheesemaker’s House), a Hampshire wood (The Faerie Tree), gorgeous Studland Bay in Dorset (Another You) and rural Lincolnshire (Endless Skies).

I was born and raised in Cardiff but spent most of my adult life living near Chichester before my husband and I upped sticks and moved to Cornwall three years ago.

I published my first two novels independently and have now been signed by Sapere Books. I am an active member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and contributing editor to Frost online magazine.

Connect with Jane:

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts

Endless Skies was my first introduction to Jane Cable’s writing, and now I’m wondering where she’s been all my life, because her style is both haunting and lyrical, and her descriptions are vivid to the point that I, who have never been to Lincolnshire, or even to England (save for a stopover at Heathrow) felt like I was first, flying home over the area (in the prologue) and later, shopping for antiques with Rachel Ward, our protagonist.

It takes a deft touch and a skilled imagination to create a main character who is abrasive, but still makes you want to follow her journey, and Cable has done that with Rachel. Deliciously flawed, particularly by her taste in men, Rachel, when we meet her is a temporary Archaeology Lecturer at the local university, recovering from her latest love affair gone wrong, and grieving for her dead grandmother. Anyone would be a bit closed off and prickly.

And yet, Rachel remains compelling. Every antique she touches tells a story, and we get to share her attraction to history, and her love of finding why things mattered to the people who once owned them. In this way, we also get to see bits and pieces of her beloved Gran’s own story, which makes this novel all the more interesting.

No story is about a single person, though, and this novel is the richer for three (well, four) of the people whom enter Rachel’s life and stay there. Esther, an elderly woman in a care home, helps her untangle some of the history of the local airfield – the one we first encounter in the prologue. Jem (and his dog Toast) provide a bit of color wrapped in friendship. (Incidentally, Jem lives on a barge, something I’ve always fantasized about.) And Jonathan, a developer Rachel encounters professionally, but who may become the latest in her poorly chosen romances.

Still, romance is at the heart of this story, and the history running through it only makes it more real and more dimensional. This story is one for the ages, perhaps destined to become a classic. It’s rich and luscious and deeply satisfying.

Goes well with: a hearty fish stew.


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Review: Starry Skies Over the Chocolate Pot Cafe, by Jessica Redland

Jessica Redland Christmas Tour

About the book, Starry Skies Over the Chocolate Pot Cafe

Starry Skies Over the Chocolate Pot CafeCozy up with a mug of hot chocolate for some festive sparkle from bestseller Jessica Redland.

Everyone is getting into the festive spirit on Castle Street – snow is falling, fairy lights are glistening and Christmas shopping is underway.

But for Tara Porter, owner of thriving cafe, The Chocolate Pot, this is the most difficult time of the year. From the outside, Tara is a successful businesswoman and pillar of the community. Behind closed doors, she is lonely.

With a lifetime of secrets weighing on her shoulders, she has retreated from all friends, family and romance, and shut her real self away from the world. Afterall, if you don’t let them in, they can’t hurt you. She’s learnt that the hard way.

But as the weight of her past becomes heavier and an unexpected new neighbour moves onto the street – threatening the future of her cafe – Tara begins to realise that maybe it’s time to finally let people back in and confront her history. It could just change her life forever…

Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café was originally released as Christmas at The Chocolate Pot Café. Now re-released with a new title and new cover, this version has been freshly edited and features several new chapters.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | Goodreads


About the author, Jessica Redland

Jessica Redland Author PicJessica Redland is the author of nine novels, including The Secret to Happiness, which are all set around the fictional location of Whitsborough Bay. Inspired by her hometown of Scarborough she writes uplifting women’s fiction which has garnered many devoted fans.

Connect with Jessica:

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


My Thoughts

Starry Skies Over the Chocolate Pot Cafe is my second visit to the cozy coastal town Whitsborough Bay, and like other fictional small towns (Stars Hollow, CT and Everwood, CO, for example) it remains a place I wish were real, a place I could visit.

As much as I loved the previous novel in this series, Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes, which I reviewed on September 22nd, I think I connected with this book even more. Maybe it’s because I have a ‘thing’ for cafe novels, maybe it’s because the cafe in the story is a business very like one I’ve always fantasized about running, or maybe it’s just that, having a feel for author Jessica Redland’s writing style, I was able to appreciate more of the nuance as I was reading.

I felt like I really connected with the main character, Tara, and her rabbit, Hercules. (I raised rabbits for 4-H when I was a kid, but I’m a dog person now). Her need to reinvent herself (shown in memories she recounts to her friend Carly, and in private remembrances) is one I think many women can relate to, for we do it throughout our lives as we become wives, mothers, empty nesters, career women, retirees. It’s true that most of us don’t have the same impetus Tara did, but the resonance remains.

I also loved Tara’s gradual opening up first to Carly, then to her staff, and later, to her colleagues. When trust has been abused, it’s really difficult to open your heart and allow yourself to be vulnerable, and Redland showed this in a very real, plausible way, while still making this book a heartwarming holiday romance at its core.

Speaking of romance, this novel is filled with it. Early in the story, Tara’s assistant manager, Maria, asks if she can have her wedding at the cafe. Later, other characters ask about an engagement party, and of course, there’s the enemies-to-friends (and possibly beyond) relationship with Jed, the man who owned the building where the Chocolate Pot now lives, before Tara bought it.

Spanning more than just a single holiday season, this novel is a meaty, satisfying read. It’s a romance, yes, but it’s also about loving your friends and yourself, as much as it is about falling in love.

A visit to Whitsborough Bay is never a bad idea, but a visit to The Chocolate Pot Cafe will make you appreciate all the wonderful things that life has to offer.

Goes well with: salted hot chocolate and those dyed-green leaf-shaped Italian butter cookies with a thin layer of chocolate in the middle.


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Cover Reveal: Christmas in Cockleberry Bay, by Nicola May

Christmas in Cockleberry Bay - Cover Reveal

About the book, Christmas in Cockleberry Bay

(Available December 4, 2020)

Meet old and new characters in the Bay for Christmas fun and frolics.

With both the Corner Shop and Cockleberry Café in safe hands, Rosa turns her attention to Ned’s Gift, the charity set up in memory of the great-grandfather whose legacy turned her life around.

Over at the Ship Hotel, Lucas has his work cut out with his devious new girlfriend and the mystery poisoning of an anonymous hotel inspector. Will the hotel still get its 3-star Seaside Rosette?

Will Mary find true love at last? Can Titch cope with the demands of the shop and being heavily pregnant. And can Rosa, with a baby of her own, pull off the Cockleberry Bay Charity Christmas Concert in time?

Christmas in Cockleberry Bay is a festive delight for fans of Rosa and her cheeky mini dachshund Hot, delivering a feast of unpredictable events and surprises.

Pre-order this book:

Kindle (US) | Kindle (UK) | Paperback


About the author, Nicola May

Nicola MayNicola May is a rom-com superstar. She is the author of eleven romantic comedies, all of which have appeared in the Kindle bestseller charts. Two of them won awards at the Festival of Romance, and another was named ebook of the week in The SunThe Corner Shop in Cockleberry Bay became the best-selling Kindle book in the UK, across all genres, in January 2019, and was Amazon’s third-bestselling novel in that year.

She lives near Ascot racecourse with her black-and-white rescue cat, Stan.

Connect with Nicola:

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


And here’s the cover…

Christmas in Cockleberry Bay

Review: Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes, by Jessica Redland

Jessica Redland Christmas Tour

About the book, Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes

  • Paperback : 210 pages
  • Publisher : Boldwood Books (August 13, 2020)

Christmas at Carly's CupcakesIt’s the most wonderful time of the year…

It’s December on Castle Street; the fairy lights are twinkling, snow has settled and the festive season is in full swing.

For Carly, the owner of Carly’s Cupcakes, it’s the busiest time of year getting everyone’s Christmas treats ready on time. However with her clumsy sister, Bethany, as a co-worker, it’s proving a difficult task. They say you shouldn’t mix work with family. Maybe they have a point…

As Christmas approaches, Carly is also eagerly awaiting the return of her best friend to Whitborough Bay. Liam has no idea he’s been the object of her affection since their schooldays. After years of pining after him, can Carly pluck up the courage to finally tell him how she really feels by 25th December?

Could a little festive magic make all of Carly’s wishes come true this Christmas…?

A heartwarming, short festive story of friendship and family from bestseller Jessica Redland. You can find out what happens to Carly next through exploring her best friend Tara’s story in Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café.

This is a new and updated version of Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes which has been previously published.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | Goodreads


About the author, Jessica Redland

Jessica Redland Author PicJessica Redland is the author of nine novels, including The Secret to Happiness, which are all set around the fictional location of Whitsborough Bay. Inspired by her hometown of Scarborough she writes uplifting women’s fiction which has garnered many devoted fans.

Connect with Jessica:

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


My Thoughts

It may seem odd to be reading Christmas novels when it’s literally the first day of Autumn (in the northern hemisphere), but Jessica Redland’s pair of novels Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes and Starry Skies Over the Chocolate Pot Cafe (which I’ll be reviewing on Friday the 25th) are just what is needed to beat the end-of-summer doldrums and make us anticipate cozy firelit nights with hot chocolate or Irish coffee and a good friend – or lover – for company.

Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes was my first visit to author Redland’s Whitborough Bay, a cozy English village that is absolutely contemporary, and made me want to relocate. If only it were real! This novel focuses on Carly and Bethany, sisters and friends. Carly owns a cake shop on Castle Street, and Bethany works for her, but is disastrous at any of the back room activities, though she’s great with customers.

Most of the novel is set against the days leading up to younger sister Bethany’s wedding to Joshua, but Carly is mentioned in the title, and despite Bethany being the bride it’s really about her: how does she cope with an employee who is also family? How does she face attending her little sister’s wedding when the man she longs for is deployed to Afghanistan (and thinks of her as a friend)? How does she help her sister embrace her strengths and overcome her weaknesses?

And did I mention that wedding takes place just before Christmas, adding a heightened emotional state, and a lot of demanding customers to serve into the mix?

Redland marries all of these elements as if she were mixing batter for the perfect cake, bakes them into a coherent, interesting, fun family saga with a romance filling, and frosts them with all the wishes, dreams, and hopes that are part of the holiday season.

Carly is a wonderful protagonist, kind, smart, patient, and truly caring. Bethany, in anyone else’s hands, would be a ditz, but instead Redland has given us someone who means well and always tries, but hasn’t quite found her niche. Together these sisters make a compelling pair of women to read about, and their stories are twined together with the sweetness and freshness of the red and white stripes of a candy cane.

Bethany’s fiance Joshua is equally dimensional, even though we don’t see each other, and the sisters’ parents are supportive and lovely, as all parents should be.

And then there’s Liam… the childhood friend we all needed, who returns from his deployment just in time to be Carly’s date to the wedding. The boy we meet in memories has become a caring man, and he fits into the world Redland has created as if he were part of the story from page one.

This novel is satisfying, sweet, and supremely real, with characters who may make cupcakes, but are absolutely not cookie-cutter copies of anyone.

Goes well with chocolate cupcakes with buttercream frosting and Irish coffee.


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