Our Last Days in Barcelona by Chanel Cleeton #historicalfiction #bookreview @berkleypub

Overview

When Isabel Perez travels to Barcelona to save her sister Beatriz, she discovers a shocking family secret in New York Timesbestselling author Chanel Cleeton’s new novel.

Barcelona, 1964. Exiled from Cuba after the revolution, Isabel Perez has learned to guard her heart and protect her family at all costs. After Isabel’s sister Beatriz disappears in Barcelona, Isabel goes to Spain in search of her. Joining forces with an unlikely ally thrusts Isabel into her sister’s dangerous world of espionage, but it’s an unearthed piece of family history that transforms Isabel’s life.

Barcelona, 1936. Alicia Perez arrives in Barcelona after a difficult voyage from Cuba, her marriage in jeopardy and her young daughter Isabel in tow. Violence brews in Spain, the country on the brink of civil war, the rise of fascism threatening the world. When Cubans journey to Spain to join the International Brigades, Alicia’s past comes back to haunt her as she is unexpectedly reunited with the man who once held her heart.

Alicia and Isabel’s lives intertwine, and the past and present collide, as a mother and daughter are forced to choose between their family’s expectations and following their hearts.

Review

Isabel is searching for her sister, Beatriz. She knows she is in Barcelona. And when Isabel arrives she encounters several dangers. Plus, she is unsure who to trust. She knows her sister is involved with espionage and is possibly in the CIA. The more Isabel uncovers, the more the past comes to threaten the future.

The thing that makes Chanel Cleeton stand out is the location and history of her books. And this one is on target…Cuba and Spain…what’s not to love! Now, sometimes she has too many characters and I tend to get lost. But this one kept me entertained and intrigued. I love the mystery and the secret. Add in the setting…and it’s a pretty dang good book! AND THAT COVER!

Need a good book set in Spain…THIS IS IT! Grab your copy today!

I received this novel from the publisher for a honest review.

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Excerpt

OUR LAST DAYS IN BARCELONA by Chanel Cleeton

Berkley Trade Paperback Original | On Sale May 24, 2022

As I sit on the flight from Palm Beach to Barcelona, wondering what possessed me to embark on this misguided adventure, it’s the look in Nicholas Preston’s eyes from our conversation a few days earlier that I remember most. There was no doubt that this was what he wanted, that he was worried about Beatriz as I was, but given their breakup and his desire to respect the boundaries they’d set, he was reluctant to involve himself, choosing instead to appeal to my romantic and sympathetic nature so I would do his bidding for him.

 

It’s a move Beatriz would make in a heartbeat, and it’s crystal clear how two people could be both utterly perfect for each other and impossibly doomed.

 

It’s been my experience that relationships are often about balance: one person tends to be the star, and the other is there to support them, to play those all-important background roles of advice and support. And sometimes, maybe, the roles shift a bit, although in my reality it has been almost entirely the man who is held in such a place of honor and esteem. Knowing my sister as I do, and her inevitable draw to the limelight whether intentional or otherwise, I can’t see her playing the role of the-woman-behind-the-man while Nicholas Preston ascends to political greatness. And I can’t imagine a man with such political ambitions and connections being happy throwing it all away for a life of relative obscurity.

 

If Beatriz is in Barcelona nursing a broken heart, the big sister in me wants to be there for her.

 

The flight is uneventful, the last hours passed staring out the window, questioning the decision to send me rather than Elisa as the family envoy, weighing the odds of Beatriz being happy to see me against the far more likely possibility that she’ll be less than enthused.

 

“I have a four-year-old,” Elisa pointed out when I suggested she would be more successful and welcomed by Beatriz. “How am I supposed to leave for Spain? Do you suggest I take Miguel with me?” She laughed at that, and given how energetic my nephew is, I can’t quite blame her for not wanting to bring him on an international flight to Europe by herself.

 

In the end, after much prevarication, and a fair dose of pleading with Thomas, who thought it both unseemly for his wife to travel by herself and has always harbored a strong dislike for Beatriz and her reputation, he reluctantly acquiesced, giving me a week away.

 

Armed with the return address on Beatriz’s letters to Elisa, a bit of money, my suitcase, and little else, I step off the plane when it lands at the airport in Barcelona and hire a taxi to take me to Beatriz’s home.

After a few initial minutes of conversation in Spanish, the driver leaves me to my own devices, and I stare out the window of the cab as he makes the twenty-minute journey, my gaze on the city.

 

I thought of dialing Beatriz’s number from the airport, warning her of my arrival before I showed up on her doorstep, but any attempts to call her before this trip have been met with silence, and I must admit I worried a bit that if Beatriz did answer the phone this time, she might tell me to turn back around and return to Palm Beach.

 

The farther we get from the airport, the more congested the city becomes, and I realize we’re near the center of Barcelona now.

 

Beatriz’s return address from her letter is a smart building on Las Ramblas with a beige stone facade and little balconies with red wrought iron railings. The taxi lets me off right before it.

 

It’s the sort of place I can imagine Beatriz living—elegant with a dash of whimsy. I can envision my sister leaning over the balcony railing, her dark hair billowing around her as she calls out good-naturedly to pedestrians, her laughter ringing down Las Ramblas. It is quintessentially Beatriz, both the privilege seeped in living in one of the city’s most desirable locales and the slight bohemian bent a city like Barcelona thrives on: art, music, and culture seemingly on every street corner.

 

It is a far cry from my life and the one our mother wanted for us in Palm Beach; no doubt, much of the allure for Beatriz was escaping to a place where there is anonymity in the crowded streets and bustling pace, where the need to see and be seen does not reign paramount.

 

But still, it raises the ever-important question that has been on my mind since Elisa first told me Beatriz had left:

 

Why?

 

Why Barcelona?

 

And given the environs where she’s chosen to live, who is funding this adventure?

 

A list of names of apartment residents is affixed near the building entry. I scan the directory until I settle on a “B. Perez.”

I set my suitcase down on the ground and lift my gloved hand, my heart pounding as I press the buzzer next to Beatriz’s name.

Excerpted from Our Last Days in Barcelona by Chanel Cleeton Copyright © 2022 by Chanel Cleeton. Excerpted by permission of Berkley. All rights reserved.

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Breach by Kelly Sokol – Spotlight and Excerpt #spotlight #excerpt

Overview

The boundary between battlefield and home front blurs. Are there wounds love can heal?

Marleigh Mulcahy grew up in a boxing gym, the daughter of hard-drinking parents who didn’t keep a stable roof overhead. In the cinder-block Box-n-Go, amidst the sweat and funk, she meets EOD specialist Jace Holt, a highly and expensively trained bomb diffuser with three successful deployments behind him. With a heady mix of hope, carelessness, and a ridiculous amount of courage, they begin a family. When Jace returns to active duty, a roadside bomb resurrects ghosts from the couple’s past and threatens the life they’ve built.An unflinching and timely gaze into the marriage of an enlisted special operator and his wife, Breach is a story of betting it all on love, a couple’s determination to change the trajectory of their lives, and one woman’s promises to the man she loves and the boys they’re raising.

What choices will a desperate mother make to keep her family whole?

About the Author

Kelly Sokol’s work has appeared in print and online publications including The Manifest-Station, ConnotationPress, The Quotable, and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She serves on the Board of Directors of The Muse Writers Center in Norfolk, VA, where she also teaches creative nonfiction and fiction writing. She also serves on the Board of Directors for ForKids, Inc. and advises the Board of the Seven Cities Writers Project. She earned her MFA in creative writing from Goddard College.

Kelly is a low-lander who dreams, in color, of the mountains. When she is not reading, writing or parenting, she can be found wandering or skiing the backcountry, or training for it. Kelly is represented by Michelle Johnson of Inklings Literary.

https://www.kellysokol.com/

Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE 

 

Marleigh looped the tail of the letter y on her note card to complete the word autophagy, transforming the letter into a pointed trident. Multitasking was a survival skill; still on the clock at the gym, she learned her biology terms while practicing her art. Outlining and shading. She should have forked the tail, instead, into a mouth that turned on the open arms of the letter. She liked when form and meaning matched. Couldn’t a letter self-devour as much as a cell? She slid the card to the bottom of the stack. She only had a few more minutes to review the terms before she had to close Box-n-Go and leave for class. 

The fake prizefighters bell dinged as the gym door opened. Marleigh looked up as two new guys entered. The first one, bigger and better looking than his friend, flinched at the smell and the heat. Box-n-Go regulars stopped noticing the stink—sweat and blood and yeast and leather all wiped down with Clorox. 

Hot new guy spoke first. “We want to box.” He had no accent. His hair was buzzed. He had a lopsided dimple bigger than Marleigh’s pencil eraser on one side of his smile. Managing her grandfather’s gym had few perks, but a view like this was one of them. 

“That’s what we do here. Drop ins are twelve dollars, or you can prepay three sessions for twenty.” 

Often, wannabes were caught cold by sore muscles after their first workouts and never returned. Projection bias, a term she’d learned at night school at ECPI. People told themselves that paying guaranteed that they would show up. School cost her a lot, too, and she never missed a class. She’d need all the tricks she knew and plenty she didn’t to keep Box-n-Go’s doors open and her plans on track. 

New guy dug into the pockets of his mesh shorts, muscular forearms tightening, opened his wallet and slid out a credit card. Marleigh tapped the laminated wall sign: Cash Only. He scratched at his freshly buzzed scalp, the skin still bright white above his ears and at the base of his neck. 

His buddy thumped him on the shoulder. “I’ve got cash,” he mumbled. On the other side of the thin wall, the real round bell sounded. The speed bag started, the clang of the chain as it was struck. The treadmills revved. 

New guy took his friend’s money and handed it to Marleigh. He yelled over the din. “Two three-packs.” 

Marleigh nodded. She pointed to the spiral notebook open in front of her, facing the men. Each line had hand-drawn sections for Name (your REAL name), Date and Paid Y/N, and Manager’s signature. The new guy signed Jace Holt. Then he thrust his hand out between her nose and the notebook, forcing her to shake. 

“Pleasure to meet you!” 

His eyebrows were thick and light brown above big, dark-brown eyes. Marleigh twitched him a half smile and nodded at the book to get his friend to sign in. The round ended with a ding and the treadmills and speed bag slowed. She set two release waivers in front of the new boxers. Both signed without reading the language she’d cut and pasted from a Wiki how-to. No one ever read it. No one wanted to think that far ahead. Basically, the paragraphs said that if you got fucked up in here, you knew what you were getting into. Box at your own risk. 

“Do you have your own gloves?” Marleigh asked. The friend held up his pair. Jace shrugged and shook his head. She plucked a pair from the metal rack behind her and sprayed them liberally with Lysol, holding them out to him with her fingertips. “Wrap is right there. You can use ours tonight, but bring your own or we’ll start charging you next time. This isn’t your mama’s house.” 

Jace held up his hands as if to guard his face. “These are deadly weapons,” he said. “The wrap just protects the other guy.” He smiled wide at her, and it connected, sending a dangerous twinge deep in Marleigh’s gut, somewhere he wasn’t supposed to be. His triceps strained, a curve of navy ink showed at the edge of his shirtsleeve, almost certainly an anchor. Of course. Working in a gym only a couple miles from Norfolk Naval Base, the largest base in the world, Marleigh could spot a sailor. 

“Good luck.” Marleigh crossed her arms and leaned back in her chair. “Go on and wrap up and find Terry.” Marleigh was trying to save the gym financially until her grandfather found someone he trusted to run it permanently. She was the only business head left. Terry made boxers and boxing trainers. He could identify anyone’s strengths and weaknesses in minutes. If Marleigh could find a way for the gym to make money, Terry would be the perfect person to take it over for Pops. 

After checking the clock, she tilted her head down to her notebook and found the paragraph she’d been annotating in her textbook. She forced herself back into the biology notes she was taking and reeled her mind back in when she was tempted to peek around the doorway to see what Terry had Jace doing first. The classes at ECPI, a school billing itself as a college, cost way more than Tidewater Community College, but they offered a fast track to hygienist school. Marleigh had a plan and a schedule—bust ass short-term for that long-term life of her dreams. She loved how dental offices all coordinated—décor, dress code. Front desk staff clad in blue shirts and black bottoms on Wednesday, orange and black the whole month of October. The hum of air-conditioning and swish of wealthy patients with time and money to spend on their teeth. The cool, neutral scent of fluoride, X-ray equipment, and air-conditioning. 

She had to be out of there in ten minutes. Six months into courses at ECPI, Marleigh would begin her hygienist apprenticeship in less than a year. Clean, minty fluoridated teeth replacing rot and disuse with orderly, uniform beauty. The first step in her real life. No time for distractions. 

Biology she could learn from a textbook, but Ocean View’s Box-n-Go was an anatomy lesson. None of the guys ever had their shirts on after round one. She was going to ignore Jace. She resisted sneaking a glance into the gym. 

The gym never really washed out. The odor was yeasty, a musk with a sharp edge, sweat in leather, used wraps, shared helmets and groin protectors, the plastic gloves the trainers wore when the boys sparred, rusty blood when a lip or eyebrow popped open, a bright straight line, thick and resinous, Lysol sprayed into gloves after every match, the bucket of bleach used to wash everything down. It all coalesced, somehow. 

The strongest smell, the one that made her try to hide the rise and fall of her chest, came from the men’s bodies. Almost like in high school when she left her shin guards in her bag after a game, forgetting to air them, to wash the socks. No ventilation. Rich people didn’t reek like that. But there was something more. The perfect stink that originated in all the Vs of men—their armpits and where their thighs met. The deep cuts that started above their shorts, at the hips, and finished under. As they sweated off pounds during a bout and their shorts slipped down and their bellies tensed and twisted. That’s the smell that lingered. Sweat and hair and crotch and pheromone. Man stink, animal and visceral. She went to sleep with it in the curls of her hair. She imagined running her fingernails up the back of the new guy’s freshly shorn neck. 

Focus. He didn’t have twenty bucks on him. He had to be low-level enlisted, even if he looked a little older. She reviewed the material for tonight’s quiz one more time, mumbling the vocab aloud, confident that between the music, the grunting, and the misery in the other room no one would hear her, though the “wall” forming the reception-slash-office didn’t go all the way to the ceiling. 

She double-checked the cash in the box with the sign-in sheet for the day. It was short by fifty-two dollars. She added and re-added the columns but couldn’t rectify the difference. Shit. She didn’t need this tonight. The gym was dangerously in the red. Her grandfather had been far too lenient on people making their payments over the years, always prioritizing training over profitability. Her efforts were probably too late, but Marleigh couldn’t let Pops lose his gym. 

Marleigh turned over the page and there was a sticky note from Serpent (not his real name, his ring name). I O U. He was late on his payment plan and should have paid eighteen dollars the last two visits. He was, of course, long gone, and now she was running behind. And Serpent’s missed payments only accounted for thirty-six dollars. What about the additional sixteen dollars? The gym had Q-tip-thin margins in its best years, but no one besides Marleigh and Terry, and Pops, when he could remember, had any clue how desperate the gym’s financial situation had become. If the fighters kept acting like this, there would be no gym for them to stiff. Where was the remaining cash? 

She clicked the exterior light from open to closed. The trainers, fighters, and the two new wannabes could stay past ten, but on Marleigh’s school nights, no new boxers could sign in past seven, unless her parents showed up to take over. But that happened never. Her father, Parrish, had been a hot-shit boxer. He’d quit before she was born. Her mom, Jackie, ran the gym’s front office until Marleigh was in high school. Jackie hadn’t kept many records; Marleigh was certain Box-n-Go fell off the financial cliff under her watch. Jackie no longer had a key to the cash box. 

The clock read 6:53. Marleigh had to be in her car by seven so she could slip on a change of clothes and stuff her gym clothes in a plastic bag. She scanned the list of boxers still in the gym. A few of them had problem friends or girlfriends that she had to remind the trainers not to let in. She saved that for last. She locked the cash box in the gun safe against the wall and ran a copy of the week’s receipts so she could bring it to her grandad’s tomorrow. Marleigh stacked her books and notebooks on the edge of the desk—she left her bag in the car, too. She repeated the vocab for the quiz. She turned out all but one light in the front room and made her way into the gym—a fancy name for three cinder-block walls with a cement floor. The boxing ring took up half the room, a speedbag hung in one corner and two treadmills squeezed in next to the bathroom door. Two weight racks and benches took up the other wall. Jump ropes hung over every door frame, and large white buckets were strategically placed around the room for snot and spit and puke and blood. It was small and old school. But three trainers had up to twelve guys sweating their dicks off at any one time. Even women sometimes, usually scary Marines with something to prove. Marleigh only trained when the gym was empty.


The room fell quiet when she entered, just as it always had for her grandad. The new guy, Jace, was shirtless on the weight bench. She knew she’d be able to sense him somehow, even if she couldn’t see him. She kept her back to him. “I’m shutting it down out front. Y’all know the rules, nobody else comes in. Marco and D’Ash, I’m looking at you.”

The fighters in the ring held out their knuckles for a bump, signaling agreement. 

“We won’t cause any trouble, Marleigh,” D’Ashandre told her. 

She fist-bumped the guys in the ring over the ropes. “Good. Terry can let y’all out and close up.” She’d known Terry since she was a kid. He showed up in OV Box one day after months in a group home for adolescents somewhere across the long Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel Marleigh could see from the beach. “My mom gets another shot at me,” he’d said, his voice and mouth tight. “Least I’m out of that dump.” 

“Marleigh, huh?” Jace said from behind her. He stood up and re- racked his weights. “Like Bob?” He mimicked smoking a joint and stepped closer to her. 

She rolled her eyes and ignored him. “I’ve gotta go,” she said to the room. “And remember, he’s watching.” She pointed to an old glossy photograph on the wall—her grandfather before he was a father himself. The colors were faded, but his eyes were clear and bright and present. His body hard as cement. She turned to walk out. 

Jace took a big step closer, his body intimidating but his expression goofy and boyish. He had a dimple even without smiling. “Marleigh, don’t we get fist bumps too?” 

“I’m leaving. And those are for the guys who stick around.”

He jumped between her and the door. “I’ll stick around.”

“Get out of my way. I’m already late.”

“Not without a fist bump.” He held out his fist. “We’ll be back tomorrow. She’d be down the street bartending, but Jace didn’t need to know that. Marleigh shoved her body around him. He leaned to the side and pinned her to the doorframe. “We bought three packs, remember?” 

“Fine.” She bumped him with her left hand and pushed him out of the way with her right shoulder. He let her move him and exaggerated his reaction to the shove. 

“I’m going to walk you out. This is a shitty neighborhood.” 

“No kidding. I grew up here.” Stop talking, she reminded herself. Go! Another bell sounded. Jace stood in the doorway as she turned the exterior lock to the building and got into her car. The dash lit up. “Shit!” 7:08. Checking that he’d gone back inside, Marleigh pulled the smelly T-shirt over her head and replaced it with a button-down—no time for a bra change—and shimmied into jeans. She tore out of the parking lot. 

 

Excerpted from BREACH by Kelly Sokol, published by Koehler Books. © Copyright 2022 by Kelly Sokol.

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Little Souls by Sandra Dallas @stmartinspress @macmillanaudio #audiblebook #audiobook #historicalfiction #bookreview #smpinfluencer

Overview

Sandra Dallas’s Little Souls is a gripping tale of sisterhood, loyalty, and secrets set in Denver amid America’s last deadly flu pandemic.

Colorado, 1918. World War I is raging overseas, but it’s the home front battling for survival. With the Spanish Flu rampant, Denver’s schools are converted into hospitals, churches and funeral homes are closed, and nightly horse-drawn wagons collect corpses left in the street. Sisters Helen and Lutie have moved to Denver from Ohio after their parents’ death. Helen, a nurse, and Lutie, a carefree advertising designer at Neusteter’s department store, share a small, neat house and each finds a local beau—for Helen a doctor, for Lutie a young student who soon enlists. They make a modest income from a rental apartment in the basement. When their tenant dies from the flu, the sisters are thrust into caring the woman’s small daughter, Dorothy. Soon after, Lutie comes home from work and discovers a dead man on their kitchen floor and Helen standing above the body, an icepick in hand. She has no doubt Helen killed the man—Dorothy’s father—in self-defense, but she knows that will be hard to prove. They decide to leave the body in the street, hoping to disguise it as a victim of the flu.

Meanwhile Lutie also worries about her fiance “over there”. As it happens, his wealthy mother harbors a secret of her own and helps the sisters as the danger deepens, from the murder investigation and the flu.

Set against the backdrop of an epidemic that feels all too familiar, Little Souls is a compelling tale of sisterhood and of the sacrifices people make to protect those they love most.

A Macmillan Audio production from St. Martin’s Press

Review

Lutie and Helen are sisters. They have recently left Iowa behind and purchased a home in Denver. Helen is a nurse and Lutie has recently finished design school and is working full time at a department store. When the Spanish flu hits it changes their lives more than they ever expected.

I will be honest. There were times during this read that I questioned if I was listening to a Christian fiction book. Then there were times…NO WAY! I am not sure if the author was conflicted on how she wanted to take this novel. But, now that that is out of the way…the story did captivate me in many ways.

Lutie and Helen are each strong women characters. And if y’all know me…you know that is a big plus! Also, Helen is hiding a big secret. Add in the small child Dorothy (you will need to read this to find out!) and her situation and you have a complicated story which will have you hoping, crying and jumping for joy all in the same chapter.

The narrator, Carly Robins, really did a wonderful job. I felt like I was right in the middle of the story with all the characters and drama!

Need a good novel which will take you back in time…THIS IS IT! Grab your copy today!

I received this novel from the publisher for a honest review.

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Welcome to the Neighborhood by Lisa Roe @dreamscapeaudio #audiobook #audiblebook #review #fiction

Overview

After years of struggling to make ends meet, Ginny, a single mom from Queens, falls for sweet divorced Jeff and relishes the idea of moving with her qui eleven-year-old daughter Harri to his home in an upscale New Jersey suburb. Even though she’s never been impressed by material things, she is thrilled that getting a second chance at love comes with the added bonus of finally giving Harri everything she never could before.

And then she meets the neighbors.

Ginny is quickly thrust into the complicated realities of a neighborhood defined by the ever-shifting alliances of PTA moms, Real Housewife contenders, and their mean-girl daughters. When the neighbors’ secrets, back-stabbing, and bad behavior take a devastating toll on her daughter and new marriage, Ginny must decide what really matters – and protect it at all costs.

Review

Ginny has recently married after a very quick engagement. She and her daughter, Harri, have moved from their only home they have known to a Jersey suburb. Ginny soon realizes she will never fit in with the women of the neighborhood. They are nothing like her old friends and she is not sure how well Harri is going to survive in the new school. Has Ginny made the biggest mistake by marrying Jeff?!?!

Ginny is a character which everyone can relate to. At one time or another, the reader has gone through something she experiences in this book. The insecurities only women know how to create and the horror of embarrassing your kid are just a few that are well represented in this tale. I laughed and I cried for Ginny on more than one occasion.

This book is absolutely adorable. And it takes you on a ride of emotions. There were quite a few times I wanted to slap one or two of the characters. But, Ginny comes out all in one piece. And with her integrity intact. And so does Harri! The author did a fabulous job with this tween!

The narrator, Emma Love, is amazing! She has perfect inflection, especially during the “trying” times. And this book is full of them!

Need a wonderful read about life, friends and enemies…THIS IS IT! Grab your copy today!

I received this novel from the publisher for a honest review.

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The Bloomsbury Girls by Natalie Jenner @macmillanaudio @stmartinspress #bookreview #fiction #audiobook #smpinfluencer

Overview

Named a Most Anticipated Book of 2022 by Katie Couric Media, the CBC, the Globe and Mail, BookBub, POPSUGAR, SheReads, Women.com and more!*

Natalie Jenner, the internationally bestselling author of The Jane Austen Society, returns with a compelling and heartwarming story of post-war London, a century-old bookstore, and three women determined to find their way in a fast-changing world in Bloomsbury Girls.

Bloomsbury Books is an old-fashioned new and rare book store that has persisted and resisted change for a hundred years, run by men and guided by the general manager’s unbreakable fifty-one rules. But in 1950, the world is changing, especially the world of books and publishing, and at Bloomsbury Books, the girls in the shop have plans:

Vivien Lowry: Single since her aristocratic fiance was killed in action during World War II, the brilliant and stylish Vivien has a long list of grievances–most of them well justified and the biggest of which is Alec McDonough, the Head of Fiction.

Grace Perkins: Married with two sons, she’s been working to support the family following her husband’s breakdown in the aftermath of the war. Torn between duty to her family and dreams of her own.

Evie Stone: In the first class of female students from Cambridge permitted to earn a degree, Evie was denied an academic position in favor of her less accomplished male rival. Now she’s working at Bloomsbury Books while she plans to remake her own future.

As they interact with various literary figures of the time–Daphne Du Maurier, Ellen Doubleday, Sonia Blair (widow of George Orwell), Samuel Beckett, Peggy Guggenheim, and others–these three women with their complex web of relationships, goals and dreams are all working to plot out a future that is richer and more rewarding than anything society will allow.

Review

Bloomsbury Books is a wonderful old book store in London. It has been under male management forever. With strict rules and designed places for every employee, Bloomsbury Books is a store stuck in a rut. These three women start out working a job but end up changing their whole lives and the future of Bloomsbury Books.

When I first started listening to this book…I had my doubts. It was a bit slow to start. But, I very soon was captivated with these young ladies! My favorite, of course, is Evie! She is smart, intelligent and a complete introvert!

I enjoyed so much about this book…the time period, the book references, the famous people and of course the work place politics and rules.

The narrator, Juliet Stevenson, is superb. She is soft spoken and nailed all the voices. Highly recommend listening to this book.

Need a good book with some major complexities…THIS IS IT! Grab your copy today.

I received this novel from the publisher for a honest review.

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Mustique Island by Sarah Morgan @wmmorrowbooks #bookreview #fiction

Overview

From bestselling author Sarah McCoy, a sun-splashed romp with a rich divorcée and her two wayward daughters in 1970s Mustique, the world’s most exclusive private island, where Princess Margaret and Mick Jagger were regulars and scandals stayed hidden from the press.

It’s January 1972 but the sun is white hot when Willy May Michael’s boat first kisses the dock of Mustique Isle. Tucked into the southernmost curve of the Caribbean, Mustique is a private island that has become a haven for the wealthy and privileged. Its owner is the eccentric British playboy Colin Tennant, who is determined to turn this speck of white sand into a luxurious neo-colonial retreat for his rich friends and into a royal court in exile for the Queen’s rebellious sister, Princess Margaret—one where Her Royal Highness can skinny dip, party, and entertain lovers away from the public eye.

Willy May, a former beauty queen from Texas—who is also no stranger to marital scandals—seeks out Mustique for its peaceful isolation. Determined to rebuild her life and her relationships with her two daughters, Hilly, a model, and Joanne, a musician, she constructs a fanciful white beach house across the island from Princess Margaret—and finds herself pulled into the island’s inner circle of aristocrats, rock stars, and hangers-on.

When Willy May’s daughters arrive, they discover that beneath its veneer of decadence, Mustique has a dark side, and like sand caught in the undertow, their mother-daughter story will shift and resettle in ways they never could have imagined.

Review

Willy May is searching for a place to escape. She has had her fill of marital scandals and failed relationships. Once she encounters Mustique Island, she knows this is the place for her. She decides to put down roots and build a new home. She hopes this will encourage her daughters to visit and to build a strong mother-daughter relationship.

Ok first off, this book was prefaced too me as being like Jessica Anya Blau…ugh…NO! Not even close. This book really had no plot. Took forever for anything to happen. And yes…I know I am in the minority. It has some really good reviews. Now, I did enjoy the escape. It is a great escape read. I enjoyed learning about the island and I could just picture the landscape and the ocean. But, nothing really happened in this book until near the end.

The name dropping made the book for me. I especially enjoyed reading about Princess Margaret. She was a partier first class!

Need a good escape read…this is it! Grab your copy today!

I received this novel from the publisher for a honest review.

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Beach House Summer by Sarah Morgan @harlequinbooks #bookreview #fiction

Book Summary:


USA Today bestselling author Sarah Morgan returns with the ultimate beach read, as one woman forges the most unlikely friendship of all, and embarks on a summer of confrotning her past in order to build the future she wants…
When Joanna Whitman’s ex-husband, one of California’s most beloved celebrity chefs, dies in a car accident, she doesn’t know what to feel. Their dysfunctional marriage held more secrets than she cares to remember, but when she discovers a young woman was with him in the crash–who’s now in hospital, on her own, and pregnant –Joanna sees red. How dare he ruin yet another woman’s life? More than anyone, Joanna knows the brutal spotlight this girl is going to find herself in…unless she can find a way for them both to disappear?
Ashley can’t believe it when Joanna shows up in her hospital room and offers to spirit them both away for the summer to her secluded beach house on the Californian coast. Joanna should be

hating her, not helping her. But orphaned and pregnant, Ashley can’t turn Joanna down. Even though she knows that if Joanna ever discovers the real truth of why Ashley was in her ex’s car, their tentative bond would never hold.
Together, they escape to the beach house, nestled high above the sleepy Californian town where Joanna grew up, and left without a backward glance. Joanna’s only goal for the summer is privacy, but her return creates waves in the community, not least for the best friend she left behind. Both Joanna and Ashley are hiding secrets, but as they fall under the spell of their summer home – and draw on each other’s courage – these unlikely friends realise that to seize the futures they want, they must step out of the shadows and into the sunshine.

Review

Joanna’s husband has just been killed in a car accident. He had a young girl with him. But this is nothing new. Their marriage has been over for quite a while. Joanna soon pieces together who the young lady was in the car with her husband. Joanna takes this young lady under her wing and takes her to her remote beach house to escape the press.

Joanna’s beach house is located off the beaten path in her home town. She has a past here and an old romance she would like to forget. But, this has to be her safe haven right now. Can she manage all the emotions and insecurities?

I needed a good book to take me away. And this one hit the spot! I loved Joanna and Ashley. They compliment each other and even though she doesn’t know it, Joanna needs Ashley more! I really think Ashley is my favorite character in this book. She is quirky, funny and in need of help.

This novel gave me all the feels! I adored all the characters and especially the location. I could just picture this luxurious house. This is a great getaway read!

Need a good read to take to the beach…THIS IS IT! Grab your copy today!

I received this novel from the publisher for a honest review.

Author Bio:


Sarah Morgan is a USA Today and Sunday Times bestselling author of contemporary romance and women’s fiction. She has sold more than 21 million copies of her books and her trademark humour and warmth have gained her fans across the globe. Sarah lives with her family near London, England, where the rain frequently keeps her trapped in her office. Visit her at http://www.sarahmorgan.com

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On A Quiet Street by Seraphina Nova Glass @harlequinbooks #excerpt #bookspotlight

On a Quiet Street

Author: Seraphina Nova Glass

ISBN: 9781525899751

Publication Date: May 17, 2022

Publisher: Graydon House Books

Book Summary:

A simple arrangement. A web of deceit with shocking consequences.

Welcome to Brighton Hills: an exclusive, gated community set against the stunning backdrop of the Oregon coast. Home to doctors, lawyers, judges–all the most upstanding members of society. Nothing ever goes wrong here. Right?

Cora’s husband, Finn, is a cheater. She knows it; she just needs to prove it. She’s tired of being the nagging, suspicious wife who analyzes her husband’s every move. She needs to catch him in the act. And what better way to do that than to set him up for a fall?

Paige has nothing to lose. After she lost her only child in a hit-and-run last year, her life fell apart: her marriage has imploded, she finds herself screaming at baristas and mail carriers, and she’s so convinced Caleb’s death wasn’t an accident that she’s secretly spying on all everyone in Brighton Hills so she can find the murderer. So it’s easy for her to entrap Finn and prove what kind of man he really is.

But Paige and Cora are about to discover far more than a cheating husband. What starts as a little agreement between friends sets into motion a series of events neither of them could have ever predicted, and that exposes the deep fault lines in Brighton Hills. Especially concerning their mysterious new neighbor, Georgia, a beautiful recluse who has deep, dark secrets of her own…

Author Bio:

Seraphina Nova Glass is a professor and playwright-in-residence at the University of Texas, Arlington, where she teaches film studies and playwriting. She holds an MFA in playwriting from Smith College, and she’s also a screenwriter and award-winning playwright. Seraphina has traveled the world using theatre and film as a teaching tool, living in South Africa, Guam and Kenya as a volunteer teacher, AIDS relief worker, and documentary filmmaker.

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Excerpt

ONE Paige
Paige stands, watering her marigolds in the front yard and marvels at how ugly they are. The sweet-potato-orange flowers remind her of a couch from the 1970s, and she suddenly hates them. She crouches down, ready to rip them from their roots, wondering why she ever planted such an ugly thing next to her pristine Russian sage, and then the memory steals her breath. The church Mother’s Day picnic when Caleb was in the sixth grade. Some moron had let the potato salad sit too long in the sun, and Caleb got food poisoning. All the kids got to pick a flower plant to give to their moms, and even though Caleb was puking mayonnaise, he insisted on going over to pick his flower to give her. He was so proud to hand it to her in its little plastic pot, and she said they’d plant it in the yard and they’d always have his special marigolds to look at. How could she have forgotten?
She feels tears rise in her throat but swallows them down. Her dachshund, Christopher, waddles over and noses her arm: he always senses when she’s going to cry, which is almost all the time since Caleb died. She kisses his head and looks at her now-beautiful marigolds. She’s interrupted by the kid who de-livers the newspaper as he rides his bike into the cul-de-sac and tosses a rolled-up paper, hitting little Christopher on his back.
“Are you a fucking psychopath?” Paige screams, jumping to her feet and hurling the paper back at the kid, which hits him in the head and knocks him off his bike.
“What the hell is wrong with you, lady?” he yells back, scrambling to gather himself and pick up his bike.
“What’s wrong with me? You tried to kill my dog. Why don’t you watch what the fuck you’re doing?”
His face contorts, and he tries to pedal away, but Paige grabs the garden hose and sprays him down until he’s out of reach. “Little monster!” she yells after him.
Thirty minutes later, the police ring her doorbell, but Paige doesn’t answer. She sits in the back garden, drinking coffee out of a lopsided clay mug with the word Mom carved into it by little fingers. She strokes Christopher’s head and examines the ivy climbing up the brick of the garage and wonders if it’s bad for the foundation. When she hears the ring again, she hollers at them.
“I’m not getting up for you people. If you need to talk to me, I’m back here.” She enjoys making them squeeze around the side of the house and hopes they rub up against the poi-son oak on their way.
“Morning, Mrs. Moretti,” one of the officers says. It’s the girl cop, Hernandez. Then the white guy chimes in. She hates him. Miller. Of course they sent Miller with his creepy mustache. He looks more like a child molester than a cop, she thinks. How does anyone take him seriously?
“We received a complaint,” he says.
“Oh, ya did, did ya? You guys actually looking into cases these days? Actually following up on shit?” Paige says, still petting the dog and not looking at them.
“You assaulted a fifteen-year-old? Come on.”

“Oh, I did no such thing,” she snaps.
Hernandez sits across from Paige. “You wanna tell us what d id happen, then?”
“Are you planning on arresting me if I don’t?” she asks, and the two officers give each
other a silent look she can’t read.
“His parents don’t want to press charges so…”
Paige doesn’t say anything. They don’t have to tell her it’s because they pity her.
“But, Paige,” Miller says, “we can’t keep coming out here for this sort of thing.”
“Good,” Paige says firmly. “Maybe it will free you up to do your real job and find out who
killed my son.” Hernandez stands.
“Again, you know we aren’t the detectives on the—” But before Hernandez can finish,
Paige interrupts, not wanting to hear the excuses.
“And maybe go charge the idiot kid for trying to kill my dog. How about that?” Paige stands and goes inside, not waiting for a response. She hears them mumble
something to one another and make their way out. She can’t restrain herself or force herself to be kind. She used to be kind, but now, it’s as though her brain has been rewired. Defensiveness inhabits the place where empathy used to live. The uniforms of the cops trigger her, too; it reminds her of that night, the red, flashing lights a nightmarish strobe from a movie scene. A horror movie, not real life. It can’t be her real life. She still can’t accept that.
The uniforms spoke, saying condescending things, pulling her away, calling her ma’am, and asking stupid questions. Now, when she sees them, it brings up regrets. She doesn’t know why this happens, but the uniforms bring her back to that night, and it makes her long for the chance to do all the things she never did with Caleb and mourn over the times they did have. It forces fragments of memories to materialize, like when he was six, he wanted a My Little Pony named Star Prancer. It was pink with purple flowers in its mane, and she didn’t let him have it because she thought she was protecting him from being made fun of at school. Now, the memory fills her with self-reproach.
She tries not to think about the time she fell asleep on the couch watching Rugrats with him when he was just a toddler and woke up to his screaming because he’d fallen off the couch and hit his head on the coffee table. He was okay, but it could have been worse. He could have put his finger in an outlet, pushed on the window screen and fallen to his death from the second floor, drunk the bleach under the sink! When this memory comes, she has to quickly stand up and busy herself, push out a heavy breath, and shake off the shame it brings. He could have died from her negligence that afternoon. She never told Grant. She told Cora once, who said every parent has a moment like that, it’s life. People fall asleep. But Paige has never forgiven herself. She loved Caleb more than life, and now the doubt and little moments of regret push into her thoughts and render her miserable and anxious all the time.
She didn’t stay home like Cora, she practically lived at the restaurant. She ran it for years. Caleb grew up doing his homework in the kitchen break room and helping wipe down tables and hand out menus. He seemed to love it. He didn’t watch TV all afternoon after school, he talked to new people, learned skills. But did she only tell herself that to alleviate the guilt? Would he have thrived more if he had had a more nor mal day-to-day? When he clung to her leg that first day of preschool, should she have forced him to go? Should he have let him change his college major so many times? Had he been happy? Had she done right by him?

And why was there a gun at the scene? Was he in trouble, and she didn’t know? Did he have friends she didn’t know about? He’d told her everything, she thought. They were close. Weren’t they?
As she approaches the kitchen window to put her mug down, she sees Grant pulling up outside. She can see him shaking his head at the sight of the cops before he even gets out of the car.
He doesn’t mention the police when he comes in. He silently pours himself a cup of coffee and finds Paige back out in the garden, where she has scurried to upon seeing him. He hands her a copy of the Times after removing the crossword puzzle for himself and then peers at it over his glasses.
He doesn’t speak until Christopher comes to greet him, and then he says, “Who wants a pocket cookie?” and takes a small dog biscuit from his shirt pocket and smiles down at little Christopher, who devours it.
This is how it’s been for the many months since Grant and Paige suffered insurmountable loss. It might be possible to get through it to the other side, but maybe not together, Paige said to Grant one night after one of many arguments about how they should cope. Grant wanted to sit in his old, leather recliner in the downstairs family room and stare into the wood-burning fireplace, Christopher at his feet, drinking a scotch and absorbing the quiet and stillness.
Paige, on the other hand, wanted to scream at everyone she met. She wanted to abuse the police for not finding who was responsible for the hit-and-run. She wanted to spend her days posting flyers offering a reward to anyone with information, even though she knew only eight percent of hit-and-runs are ever solved. When the world didn’t respond the way she needed, she stopped helping run the small restaurant they owned so she could just hole up at home and shout at Jeopardy! and paper boys. She needed to take up space and be loud. They each couldn’t stand how the other was mourning, so finally, Grant moved into the small apartment above their little Italian place, Moretti’s, and gave Paige the space she needed to take up.
Now—almost a year since the tragic day—Grant still comes over every Sunday to make sure the take-out boxes are picked up and the trash is taken out, that she’s taking care of herself and the house isn’t falling apart. And to kiss her on the cheek before he leaves and tell her he loves her. He doesn’t make observations or suggestions, just benign comments about the recent news headlines or the new baked mostaccioli special at the restaurant.
She sees him spot the pair of binoculars on the small table next to her Adirondack chair. She doesn’t need to lie and say she’s bird-watching or some nonsense. He knows she thinks one of the neighbors killed her son. She’s sure of it. It’s a gated community, and very few people come in and out who don’t live here. Especially that late at night. The entrance camera was conveniently disabled that night, so that makes her think it wasn’t an accident but planned. There was a gun next to Caleb’s body, but it wasn’t fired, and there was no gunshot wound. Something was very wrong with this scenario, and if the po-lice won’t prove homicide, she’s going to uncover which of her bastard neighbors had a motive.
She has repeated all of this to Grant a thousand times, and he used to implore her to try to focus on work or take a vacation—anything but obsess—and to warn her that she was destroying her health and their relationship, but he stopped responding to this sort of conspiracy-theory talk months ago.

“What’s the latest?” is all he asks, looking away from the binoculars and back to his crossword. She gives a dismissive wave of her hand, a sort of I know you don’t really want to hear about it gesture. Then, after a few moments, she says, “Danny Howell at 6758. He hasn’t driven his Mercedes in months.” She gives Grant a triumphant look, but he doesn’t appear to be following.
“Okay,” he says, filling in the word ostrich.
“So I broke into his garage to see what the deal was, and there’s a dent in his bumper.” “You broke in?” he asks, concerned. She knows the How-ells have five vehicles, and the
dent could be from a myriad of causes over the last year, but she won’t let it go.
“Yes, and it’s a good thing I did. I’m gonna go back and take photos. See if the police
can tell if it looks like he might have hit a person.” She knows there is a sad desperation in her voice as she works herself up. “You think they can tell that? Like if the dent were a pole from a drive-through, they could see paint or the scratches or something, right? I bet they can tell.”
“It’s worth a shot,” he says, and she knows what he wants to say, also knows he won’t waste words telling her not to break into the garage a second time for photos. He changes the subject.
“I’m looking for someone to help out at the restaurant a few days a week—mostly just a piano player for the dinner crowd—but I could use a little bookkeeping and scheduling, too,” he says, and Paige knows it’s a soft attempt to distract her, but she doesn’t bite.
“Oh, well, good luck. I hope you find someone,” she says, and they stare off into the backyard trees.
“The ivy is looking robust,” he comments after a few minutes of silence.
“You think it’s hurting the foundation?” she asks.
“Nah,” he says, and he reaches over and places his hand over hers on the arm of her
chair for a few moments before getting up to go. On his way out, he kisses her on the cheek, tells her he loves her. Then he loads the dishwasher and takes out the trash before heading to his car. She watches him reluctantly leaving, knowing that he wishes he could stay, that things were different.
When Paige hears the sound of Grant’s motor fade as he turns out of the front gate, she imagines herself calling him on his cell and telling him to come back and pick her up, that she’ll come to Moretti’s with him and do all the scheduling and books, that she’ll learn to play the piano just so she can make him happy. And, after all the patrons leave for the night, they’ll share bottles of Chianti on checkered tablecloths in a dimly lit back booth. They’ll eat linguini and clams and have a Lady and the Tramp moment, and they will be happy again.
Paige does not do this. She goes into the living room and closes the drapes Grant opened, blocking out the sunlight, then she crawls under a bunched-up duvet on the couch that smells like sour milk, and she begs for sleep.
Excerpted from On A Quiet Street by Seraphina Nova Glass, Copyright © 2022 by Seraphina Nova Glass. Published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.

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The Devil’s Whispers by Lucas Hault #gothic #bookreview #horror

Overview

Famed British lawyer Gerard Woodward is summoned to an ancient Welsh castle to assist a dying lord in his final affairs. But as his host slips closer to death, Gerard begins to feel less like a guest and more like a prisoner. When he finds himself locked inside his room, he realizes he must escape.

After finding his way out of his room, Gerard begins to wonder if he was safer locked inside. The labyrinthine halls echo secrets. A terrible wail and the rattling of chains sets his nerves on end. Something sinister is happening within the walls of Mathers Castle, and when he descends into the dungeons, he discovers a horrible secret…

In nearby London, children vanish into the night, animals are horribly mutilated, and a savage creature stalks the shadows. When Gerard’s wife, Raelyn, becomes the creature’s next target, Gerard’s need to escape reaches a fever pitch. He must get out alive to dispel the evil to save his beloved Raelyn… and the rest of us.

Fans of epistolary Gothic horror classics like Dracula, Frankenstein, and The Picture of Dorian Gray will devour The Devil’s Whispers.

Review

Gerard is a British lawyer invited to take a dying man’s last will and testament. When he arrives, he realizes things are not as he expected…then things gets worse. He is locked in his bedroom! Back in London, where his fiancé, Raelyn resides, there is a evil creature mutilating animals while the children vanish.

The story is told through diary entries and letters. So, I was not a huge fan of the format. But, give me a creepy house and I am in!

The novel is a bit predictable. I knew what was coming and when. I did enjoy the intensity created, especially from Gerard. I felt like I was trapped right there with him! I also enjoyed the feel of a classic horror story like Dracula!

Need a good gothic tale with a weird house and terrible creature…THIS IS IT! Grab your copy today!

I received this novel from the publisher for a honest review.

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The Devil’s Whispers: A Gothic Horror Novel

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My Wife is Missing by D.J. Palmer @stmartinspress @macmillanaudio #bookreview #audiobook #suspense

Overview

When a woman disappears with her two children, one husband will do anything to find them—even confront the secrets of his own past—in D. J. Palmer’s My Wife Is Missing, a twisty thriller from the author of The New Husband…

A family vacation turns into a nightmare for Michael Hart when he discovers his wife and two children have disappeared from their New York City hotel room. Horrified, he fears they’ve been kidnapped. Michael’s frantic search to find them takes a shocking turn when he discovers that his wife, Natalie, appears to have left quite willingly, taking their children with her. The police want to know why, and so does Michael. But there may be a reason why Natalie ran, something Michael can’t tell the police—the truth about his past.

While untangling his deceptions might be the key to locating Natalie, Michael knows it could also be his undoing. To find his wife, he must now turn to the one person capable of exposing all that he’s been hiding. Natalie thinks she has Michael all figured out and has hatched a plan to escape from him permanently. One detail, though, threatens to derail her efforts: sleep—or more accurately, the lack of it. Since the moment the shocking revelations about her husband came to light, Natalie’s insomnia has worsened to the point that she now suffers from delusions.

Are her fears about Michael valid—or a symptom of her condition? With her children’s lives at risk, the stakes for Natalie could not be higher. On her own, running low on energy and resources, avoiding increasingly close calls with Michael—who is on the hunt and closing in fast—Natalie needs someone to turn to for help. But who can she trust when she can’t even trust herself?

Review

Natalie is on the run! She has given her husband the slip. She and her two children are running away as fast as they can. But, why? Has Natalie finally lost it? With her chronic insomnia, it is a possibility. But what about Michael? What has Natalie learned, or thought she learned, about his past?

Wow! Talk about a wild ride! This book had me all over the place…is she crazy? Did he do it? Did she do it? I swear! I had no clue. And usually I figure something out. Nope…completely blindsided by the ending!

This is a story which was twisting and turning all over the place. I listened to this over a 2 day period…usually it takes me a good bit longer on an audiobook. But, I was completely captivated and could not get to the end fast enough. Definitely an edge of your seat read!

The narrator, Karissa Vacker, is now one of the top narrators in my book! She did an amazing job, especially on the kids voices. That is something most narrators get wrong.

Need a book which will have you guessing till the end…THIS IS IT! Grab your copy today!

I received this novel from the publisher for a honest review.

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