Review: Out with the Ex, In with the New by Sophie Ranald

49466559. sx318 sy475 Gemma didn’t expect her life to look like this. She’s still living with her mother, who steals her leggings and tells her off for leaving crumbs in the butter. After twenty failed interviews she thought she’d bagged her dream job as a journalist – except it turns out to be writing articles about cats that look like George Clooney. Luckily she has her wonderful boyfriend, Jack, to help her forget just how rubbish things are.  

Then Jack dumps her out of the blue. With nothing but her childhood teddy bear, Stanley, and a whole heap of heartbreak, Gemma resolves to turn things around. She throws herself into her new job and soon she’s hanging out with cheeky, golden-haired hunk Charlie, eating in swanky restaurants and sipping trendy cocktails – and her old life seems like a distant memory.  

But it’s not long until her shiny new world starts to lose its sparkle – and Gemma misses the days of wearing battered pink converse and eating peanut butter on toast in bed. Then Jack turns up, backpack in tow, and things starts to go wrong with Charlie. ‘Out with the old, in with the new’, the saying goes. But what happens if neither one is quite right?

Review. Text on the string. Conceptual 3d image

Source: NetGalley and Bookouture          Rating: 3/5 stars

Gemma has three goals in life: 1) to marry her long-time boyfriend, Jack; 2) to land a job as a serious journalist and; 3) to become YouTube famous. 

Gemma has spent a year pounding the pavement looking for a job.  She has what it takes to be a fine journalist, but no one seems to want to take a chance on her.  Through what feels like a thousand interviews, Gemma has kept her attitude positive and hopeful, leaned on Jack for support, and continues to ever so slowly grow her YouTube following with make-up tutorials and interactions with her followers.  Gemma knows, if she keeps plugging along and doing her best, all her goals are totally achievable. 

Gemma gets a job . . . .

With a spring in her step and load of enthusiasm, Gemma rushes off to meet Jack to share her wonderful news.  Not only has she gotten a job, but she’s gotten a job with an up and coming site that has loads of room of growth and advancement; she has to start at the bottom, but that’s OK, because Gemma finally has a job!  Unfortunately, on the same night she shares her wonderful news with Jack, Gemma also finds herself without a boyfriend.  Jack doesn’t just dump Gemma, he crushes her heart and obliterates one of her goals, all so he can go gallivanting around the world with his best friend . . . . who happens to be a woman ☹  In a fit of despair, Gemma unloads all her pain and sorrow in a video she impulsively loads to her YouTube channel.  As it happens, her brutal honesty not only gets the attention of her regular followers, but a host of newbies.  Who knew heartbreak could help make one famous?

As the days and weeks trudge along, Gemma settles into her new job (not quite as posh as she originally thought!), her new living arrangement (far creepier than she suspected!) and begins to see real growth in her quest for fame. Gemma’s new life goals is to show Jack exactly what he gave up and, in an effort, to achieve that goal, Gemma finds herself tied up with a hot new boyfriend who is one part of a YouTube sensation.  Her attachment to Charlie seems tremendously fine at first with invites to the swankiest parties, mentions of her attachment to Charlie on all the social media platforms, people recognizing her on the street, and a new agent helping her grow her own channel and following.  The days and nights spin out of control in a haze of dates, late nights, new videos for her channel, her increasingly boring job, and her increasingly troublesome home environment.  Though Gemma tries to project an air of footloose and fancy-free (take that, Jack!), her original followers notice a stark change in Gemma and it’s not one they are at all happy about. 

To her new followers and “friends” Gemma seems to have it all.  What those new followers and friends don’t know and/or see is the turmoil constantly bubbling under the façade of chic, on the rise woman living her best life.  Gemma is tired all the time, her work, such as it is, is suffering, and her original followers are put out with her vapid new videos and tutorials.  What’s more, Charlie is sort of an ass and her landlords are the kind of trouble no one wants to be a part of.  After a series of serious and rather awful events, Gemma finally pulls her head out of her ass and finally begins making decisions that not only better align with her own true attitude and moral compass, but truly allow her to become YouTube famous for all the right reasons.

The Bottom Line:  I struggled with this book, in large part, because I struggled with Gemma as a character.  The first two-thirds of the book I found myself wondering if Gemma were actually too stupid to live!  She comes across as a flighty, immature girl whose only mission in life is to have everyone know and adore her.  Really?  In this day and age, that’s all you’ve got?  While it seems, I should have DNF’d the book at this stage, I hung on and was richly rewarded for my efforts and stubbornness.  As things in Gemma’s life become quite serious – for example, the situation her landlords find themselves in – Gemma rises to the occasion and sheds the self-centered and selfish façade to reveal a real and even admirable human being.  Gemma finally begins to understand that she has real talent as a writer, real compassion for others, and when she lets those qualities shine, she becomes a person everyone really does want to know and, dare I say it, emulate.  I don’t think I would bill this read as “a laugh-out-loud romantic comedy” (as it has been!) but as a more serious read that deals, in large part, with the sad state of our society as a whole.  Gemma has to come to terms with the fact that YouTube famous isn’t real life and real life is often hard, messy, painful, and demanding, but it is also the part of people that other people respond to, pay attention to, and generally like.  Gemma shows tremendous growth throughout this read and I was left feeling a bit more hopeful about the real Gemma’s out there in the world.  There is a life beyond the superficial and sometimes, that life is quite spectacular.

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Review: Verse and Vengeance (Book #4: A Magical Bookshop Mystery Series) by Amanda Flower

44240429. sy475 A bicycle race is not Charming Books proprietor Violet Waverly’s idea of a pleasant pastime. But police chief David Rainwater wheelie wants them to enter the Tour de Cascade as a couple, so she reluctantly consents. 

The Tour de Cascade is the brainchild of Violet’s Grandma Daisy. The race is a fundraiser to build the Cascade Springs Underground Railroad Museum. But not everyone in this Niagara Region village supports the race. As if the bike race weren’t tiring enough, pesky private investigator Joel Redding is snooping around Charming Books. It takes all of Violet’s and Grandma Daisy’s ingenuity to keep Redding from discovering the shop’s magical essence–which communicates with Violet through books. 

When Redding perishes in an accident during the race, David discovers that the brake line of the private eye’s bike was cut. Worse, Violet tops his list of suspects. As Emerson the tuxedo cat and resident crow Faulkner look on, Charming Books steers Violet to the works of Walt Whitman to solve the crime. But no other names ring a bell as culprits, and as David’s investigation picks up speed, Violet will have to get in gear to clear her name.

Review. Text on the string. Conceptual 3d image

Source: NetGalley and Crookled Land Books          Rating: 5/5 stars

Violet Waverly is on break!  She has finished her PhD, her classes are done for the term, and she’s meant to be enjoying her time away from all the hustle and bustle of everyday life.  That’s generally easier said than done.  Violet’s bookshop is still open, her grandmother is the new mayor, and the town is gearing up for a huge fundraising event.  Oh, that pesky private eye, Joel Redding hasn’t given up his interest in Violet and her bookshop.  So much for break!

For days, Violet has spied Redding outside her bookshop poking around and generally loitering.  She has no idea what Redding knows, but if he finds out her secret and the secret of the bookshop, all good be lost for Violet and her grandmother.  As keepers of the tree, the women of Violet’s line have long cared for the tree the bookshop is literally built around and gone to great lengths to help the people of their community.  To make this knowledge public would likely endanger Violet and her grandmother as it did in decades past.  Though she can’t give away much, Violet has to know what Redding knows and try to dissuade him from further investigations.  As it happens, someone else feels the same way about Redding and arranges a tragic little accident that not only helps Violet and her grandmother, but other unknown people(s) as well.  Trouble is, by helping Violet, it’s also made her a suspect in Redding’s death. 

Here we go again . . . . .

Just as soon as the death occurs, the bookshop begins offering Violet clues to solving the crime.  This time, the bookshop is offering up a little “light” reading in the form of Walt Whitman.  Both Whitman and Redding’s death are terribly complicated, and Violet finds herself with a mountain of questions and very answers.  What’s more, the further Violet digs into Redding’s death the more confused she becomes.  Somehow, her boyfriend’s sister is wrapped up in the mess, her grandmother’s pet project, the Underground Railroad Museum is connected to the whole ordeal, one of her former students is on the lam, and her wandering father is back in town with information that may help solve the crime.  With so many disparate pieces, Violet is going to have to work harder than ever to solve this mystery. 

As the case trudges on and Violet continues to uncover clues, she also continues to frustrate and concern her boyfriend, Chief Rainwater.  As history has shown, the women in Violet’s family don’t fare well with love and divulging her secret could risk her budding romance with the police chief.  The trouble is, not telling Rainwater is absolutely causing problems and trusting David feels like the right thing to do.  With David on her side and fully in the loop, there’s really not much that can stop the two from continuing to enjoy one another’s company and solving a most perplexing crime.  Taking a chance never hurt anyone, right?

The Bottom Line:  As a series grows, it is often hard for the author to keep the storylines fresh and interesting.  Thankfully, that has not yet been a problem with Magical Bookshop Mystery series.  Violet continues to grow as a character, her life in Cascade Springs is certainly evolving, and the other characters are growing and changing right along with Violet.  While I am admittedly a huge fan of characters and characterization, I think what I love most about this series is its rich environment and the emphasis on literature and reading.  It isn’t a “You must read!” sort of thing, but an element of the story that not only helps solve the crime du jour but also introduces the reader to some of the history surrounding the authors the bookshop chooses for Violet.  When you add the literal environment of the bookshop and the town to the literary aspect, you have a recipe for a successful series and a world of room to grow.  This series is finding its stride and with so many authors to choose from, I see nothing but a promising future for this series. 

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Spotlight and Sweepstakes: Reckless Abandon (Book #1: A Beautiful Liar Series) by J.N. Owens

Lies…. Deceit…and a love to withstand it all…
 
Finley Carson has spent her entire life focused on her career, never stopping to take time for herself and avoiding relationships at all cost. 
 
Six years ago she met the man of her dreams. Noah Beckett was amazing. He was handsome, smart, and her teacher. They spend one steamy night together before she moved thousands of miles away to begin her career, leaving her with an unfillable void.
 
Now, she’s an established pediatrician, preparing for a conference when the handsome and charming stranger, Scott Oliver walks into her life. He seems perfect, but for some reason she feels an emptiness. And when things don’t add up with Scott she tries to convince herself it’s paranoia, or her lack of relationship experience. But Scott is not who he claims to be.
 
When Finley reconnects with Noah, it’s as if no time passed. It’s instantaneous. But Scott won’t be deterred that easily.
 
Will Finley and Noah’s relationship be strong enough to handle what Scott has planned for them? Or will Noah have to save them both.
J.N. Owens is a new author, born and raised in southern Mississippi. Her life has been filled with so much crazy she decided to take it and turn it into some amazing dark suspenseful romantic comedies. After all, if you can’t laugh at yourself, what can you laugh at? She spent her life getting lost if the fantasy world of books, she loves all different genres. It has been her dream to be an author and she finally decided to make that dream a reality. 
When she isn’t writing she is spending time with her amazing husband and three wild kids. She is a committed Friends fan and lover of Greys Anatomy and Harry Potter. She loves all kinds of movies from romance to action. 
 
She comes from a huge family that loves to get together for absolutely no reason at all. She will love to talk to you anytime, anywhere. So feel free to contact her. She is on Facebook, Instagram, pinterest, and Spotify. 
 
You can connect with her on her website, where she keeps up to date on her releases. She also blogs every now and then about her books and sometimes about what she is up to and what’s she has been reading.
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Spotlight and Sweepstakes: Bohemian Law (Book #1: Traveler Book Series) by Misty Walker

I saw her for the first time dancing by the fire.
With her arms high above her head, and her plump lips singing along,
I thought I’d never seen a woman more alive.
Completely opposite of me.
Repetition, consistency, and control have left my life without meaning.
But then there was Theodora.
Keeping me on my toes and forcing me to have new experiences.
The only problem with capturing a wild creature is
they were always meant to live free.
I saw him for the first time sitting on a rock, spying on me like a creeper.
With a perpetual scowl that didn’t even break when I took my clothes off,
I thought I’d never seen a man more serious.
Completely opposite of me.
In my world, chaos is a certainty and laws are bendable, if not breakable.
But then there was Lawrence.
The only problem with trying to shake up his world is
I don’t always know when to quit.

 

Spotlight: Fed Up (Book #1: Well-Seasoned Love Series) by Kathleen Duhamel

Death breaks you in ways you never thought possible while grief swallows you whole. After losing my husband I’ve been trapped in emotional limbo, a place I don’t think I’ll ever be able to escape.

Not even the British actor and heartthrob, Ian James, will be able to thaw my frozen heart…at least that’s what I thought.

Being his personal chef is merely a short-term job while he’s working on location in Virginia. But cooking for him five days a week becomes more personal when a mutual attraction starts to burn between us.

I’m hopelessly drawn to Ian and being with him makes it possible for me to breathe again. But I’m wary of the self-proclaimed womanizer who is far too charming and handsome for his own good.

With me a grieving widow, and Ian struggling with his own demons, there are too many variables involved for us to have a future together.

But I can’t stay away from him, and I’m afraid falling for a player might just shatter my already broken heart.

Kathleen wrote and illustrated her first short story at the age of eight and has considered herself a storyteller ever since. After growing up in a small Texas town, she earned a master’s degree in communications from Texas Tech University. Her love of the written word continued throughout her varied career as a newspaper journalist and editor, public relations executive, freelance travel writer, and owner/operator of two small businesses before becoming a published author in 2015.

She is the author of the contemporary romance novels Deep Blue. Deeper, and Deep End, along with a companion novella, At Home with Andre. Kathleen’s stories feature vibrant, smart, and attractive older women—a vastly underrepresented segment of the romance market—who experience love and satisfying sex, despite the various pitfalls that accompany later-in-life relationships. Her newest release, Fed Up, features two troubled Gen-Xers who meet and fall in love at precisely the wrong time.

Kathleen has spent most of her adult life in Colorado, where she lives in the Denver area with her husband, an enormous standard poodle, and a big, friendly cat.

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Cover Reveal: Focused by Karla Sorensen


Cover Design: Najla Qamber Designs
Photographer: Regina Wamba

 

If you’ve ever seen your teenage crush ten years later, and he turns out to be a complete jerk, then you know how Molly Ward feels. 
The last time she saw Noah Griffin was the regrettable day that she decided to climb into his bedroom window and turn her unrequited crush into something more. 
That day was bad enough, but things are about to get worse. 
Noah has become one of the best football players in the country, and he’s just landed on Molly’s front step. 
As a new addition to the Washington Wolves roster, Noah’s presence is the key to Molly’s promotion in the front office. 
The problem is, Noah wants nothing to do with Molly, and his surly attitude is making her job very difficult. 
But he’s got another thing coming if he thinks Molly will be intimidated by one grumpy football player, no matter how much he hates being around her. 
Once these two go head to head, their mutual dislike explodes into undeniable chemistry. But with what they have at stake, they just might detonate everything else along with it.

Well, let’s see … I’m a wife and a mother. If the things that I write bring a smile to someone’s face, then I’ve done my job. I am obsessed with Outlander (both the books and the show). I’m almost exclusively a romance reader, which means some people will never consider me a literary snob. If I could meet one historical figure, it would be Jane Austen. I received my Bachelors in Public Relations and worked in health care marketing before I had my babies. I hate Twitter. I do it, but I hate it. Also, if you want to get on my good side, bring me wine and I’ll love you forever.
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Series Cover Reveal: Sexy Romantic Standalone Series by Krystyna Allyn

Cover Design: Jena Brignola, Bibliophile Productions
 

 

Title: Coming for Christmas
Genre: Contemporary; MMF; Comedy
Release Date: December 15, 2017


Skydiving. Check.
Arctic Cru
ise. Check.
Threesome … Pending.
I had a sound plan. Place an ad, get two guys, and live out one of my deepest darkest fantasies.
Easy as pie.
Or so I thought.
Then I met Mr. boy-next-door, Cooper Whitmore, and Mr. dark and mysterious, Jared Carrington.
What’s the saying about the best-laid plans?
Two men, steamy times, and the Christmas holiday.
What could possibly go wrong?
 

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Title: Finishing in the New Year
Genre: Contemporary; Comedy
Release Date: July 20, 2018

Danger! Men with big umm … egos can be hazardous to your health.

Have you ever had a moment of pure insanity, landing you up against an elevator wall with a total stranger?
Just me then, huh?
Well, he wasn’t exactly unknown, but that’s besides the point.
The second I met Jared Carrington, I couldn’t decide if I wanted to throat punch him or kiss him. Choosing the latter was a mistake of epic proportions, and after two of the best months of my life, he broke my heart.
Big surprise.
If you’re on the fence about hooking up with a guy like him, use my story as a cautionary tale. Stay away from arrogant jerks with skillful hands and a tongue that…
You get the point.

 

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Title: Seducing My Valentine
Genre: Contemporary
Release Date: December 20, 2019


Harmless crush…Right
You’ll get over it…Whatever
You haven’t met the right girl yet…
Bullshit.
 
I knew Carrie was the one, despite my friends’ attempts to convince me otherwise. The heated kiss we shared that night before I left for college sealed the deal. There was just one problem. 
 
She wouldn’t touch me with a ten-foot pole. 
 
“I’ve known you since you were twelve,” was her first excuse.
“Your family wouldn’t approve of this” was her second.
By the time I reached my thirties, when I was finished with all of her denials, her final excuse, turned my world upside down. 
 
“I’m not good enough for you,” she had said, her words breaking my heart. 
 
I’m done taking no for an answer. I’ll prove her wrong, put her back together if I have to. What’s the famous saying? Age is just a number, and hers has finally come up.

 

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Krystyna lives in somewhere USA with her amazingly awesome husband. Though she works full time, blogs and reads like a maniac, she still manages to find the time to write all her crazy stories. 
Her hobbies include baking, skydiving, karaoke, and general mischief. The list of her favorite authors is endless, so rather than singling out anyone particular, she’ll just mention her number one go-to cookie is oatmeal raisin.

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