Thursday, July 19, 2018

Cover Reveal: Until the Last Star Fades


I've read Jacquelyn Middleton's London novels (my review of London Belongs to Me is here and London, Can You Wait? is here) and adored them. Because I liked them so much, I'm really excited for her upcoming novel, Until the Last Star Fades. It sounds amazing and I get to share the cover with you today! Plus, a little bit of info about the novel. Enjoy!

From Jacquelyn Middleton, the award-winning author of London Belongs to Me and London, Can You Wait?, comes Until the Last Star Fades, a friends-to-lovers contemporary romance set in New York City. Until the Last Star Fades features plenty of angst and sexy times, but it also tells the tale of an unbreakable bond between a mother and her daughter.

Here's the synopsis:
COULD YOU BE THE ONE WHO CHANGES EVERYTHING?
In her senior year at NYU, Riley Hope appears to be on top of the world. With a loving mother who makes Lorelai Gilmore look like a parenting slacker, ride-or-die friends, and a long-time boyfriend destined for the National Hockey League, she puts on a smile for the world. But behind it, she’s drowning. Racked with fears for the future, she battles to stay afloat amid life in the shadows of a heartbreaking illness.
And then, Ben Fagan comes crashing into her life. Twenty-three-years-old, British, and alone in the Big Apple after a disastrous pilot season in LA, the struggling actor is looking for an escape: booze, mischief, sex—minimum commitment, maximum fun—anything to avoid returning across the pond.
As they form an unlikely bond, Riley keeps her reality from Ben so that he remains a happy refuge. But how long can she hold back the truth…and is Ben keeping his own secrets, too?
From the award-winning author of LONDON BELONGS TO ME and LONDON, CAN YOU WAIT?, comes a bittersweet romance about love, loss, sacrifice, and the life-changing decisions we make. UNTIL THE LAST STAR FADES will be released by Kirkwall Books in paperback and ebook on November 8, 2018. 
Ready for the cover?


Whee! I'm so excited.

Now that you've seen the cover and read what it's all about, you should add it to your Goodreads TBR list. And don't worry - pre-order links will be coming soon enough.

I don't want to wish the summer away but I sure am looking forward to the release of this novel in November! 

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Review: The Start of Something Good


I'm a broken record when it comes to talking about romance novels. I've said time and time again that I love reading really good romances and don't care that I know the basic formula of the plot going in. I argue that many romance readers read them specifically because they know they're going to get a satisfying ending. A lot of us read to "escape" our lives for a little while and if a sweet, sexy, fun Happily Ever After novel isn't a good escape, I don't know what is. My point? I just read The Start of Something Good by Jennifer Probst which I was downright thrilled to read even if it wasn't the best book I've ever read in my life. I read it because I wanted to see a couple fall in love and ride off into the sunset and Probst gave me that. And for that, I say I really enjoyed the book.

Here's the synopsis:
When Ethan Bishop returns to the Hudson Valley, his body and spirit are a little worse for wear. As a former Special Forces paratrooper, he saw his fair share of conflict, and he came home with wounds, inside and out. At his sisters’ B & B and farm, he can keep all his pain at a safe distance. But quiet time isn’t easy when a fiery woman explodes into his life…
It’s business—not pleasure—that brings Manhattan PR agent Mia Thrush reluctantly to the farm. Tightly wound and quick tempered, Mia clashes immediately with the brooding Ethan. Everything about him is irritating—from his lean muscles and piercing blue eyes to his scent of sweat and musk.
But as the summer unfolds and temperatures rise, Ethan and Mia discover how much they have in common: their guarded histories, an uncontrollable desire, and a passion for the future that could heal two broken hearts. But will their pasts threaten their fragile chance at a brand-new future?
Of course, as much as I enjoyed my time reading this book there were a few things that sort of drove me bananas. The first was Mia's job. Well, not the job itself as, spoiler alert, I actually work in PR myself and am just a year older than Mia is. Our differences is Mia started her working life in PR whereas I've only recently jumped into the field. Even though my position is very different (I'm a bottom rung of the ladder, grunt work kind of girl right now), I can still see what it would be like for Mia in an organization such as the firm I work for. Sort of. I find novels, romances in particular, tend to stereotype jobs a little bit and I found Probst did that with Mia and PR. Even though Ethan eventually realizes his assumptions about her were totally off  (once she set him straight), I just found the shiny veneer on Mia's job kind of...fake and unsettling. I guess my problem is with the romance genre in general making PR professionals only work in the big city and that it's "giving up" if they do the same work in a smaller town. OK. Ending my nonsensical rant about PR in romance now. (Maybe there's a potential for a bigger story there though...)

I also found that I sometimes wanted more showing instead of telling. Ethan and Mia have to have a big conversation at some point but...I didn't get to "listen in" on it. Mia recapped it and I felt a bit jilted. And bored. It happened a few times throughout the novel and it was weirdly difficult to tell how quickly (or slowly) time was going.

But overall? I totally loved the story and the idea behind it, even if it wasn't always executed as well as I thought it should have been. I really liked diving into Mia and Ethan's story and found it hard to leave both when I was reading and had to put the book down and then especially as I finished it.

I think what made this book so special for me wasn't even the romance. It was actually how Mia and Ethan both took Chloe under their wings, in different ways, to help her realize she is wanted and she is smart and talented. It was just so amazing to see how everyone at the farm pulled together to help Chloe, Mia, and Ethan realize what they really needed in their lives.

Which brings me to my next point...I'm so glad this is the first book in a series. I wasn't sure if I'd want to read the next ones because from a "is this book actually good?" perspective I was hesitant. But from a "is this story really good?" perspective, I cannot wait for book two. (I feel like that comparison will only make sense to voracious readers like myself!) Ophelia's story, A Brand New Ending, is being published in October.

Also - when can I book my stay at Robin's Nest B&B? I need some of Ophelia's scones.

I know this review is all over the place but here's what you really need to know: if you enjoy romances, you should definitely read The Start of Something Good by Jennifer Probst. The characters are fantastic (Mia is wicked smart and feisty), the setting is delightful (those who love small town tropes, like me, will fall in love), and the love story is so sweet and real.

*A copy of this novel was provided by the Canadian distributor, Thomas Allen & Son, in exchange for review consideration. All opinions are honest and my own.*

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Review: Dear Mrs. Bird


Dear Mrs. Bird is in turn both heartwarming and humorous. AJ Pearce's debut (I still can't believe it's her first published novel) presents a heroine who will stay with me for a long time and a story that is equally as memorable. This novel was such a delight to read and I couldn't bear to put it down or see it end.

Here's the synopsis:
London, 1940. Emmeline Lake is Doing Her Bit for the war effort, volunteering as a telephone operator with the Auxiliary Fire Services. When Emmy sees an advertisement for a job at the London Evening Chronicle, her dreams of becoming a Lady War Correspondent suddenly seem achievable. But the job turns out to be working as a typist for the fierce and renowned advice columnist, Henrietta Bird. Emmy is disappointed, but gamely bucks up and buckles down.
Mrs. Bird is very clear: letters containing any Unpleasantness must go straight in the bin. But when Emmy reads poignant notes from women who may have Gone Too Far with the wrong men, or who can’t bear to let their children be evacuated, she is unable to resist responding. As the German planes make their nightly raids, and London picks up the smoldering pieces each morning, Emmy secretly begins to write back to the readers who have poured out their troubles.
Prepare to fall head over heels for Emmy and her best friend, Bunty, who are gutsy and spirited, even in the face of a terrible blow. The irrepressible Emmy keeps writing letters in this hilarious and enormously moving tale of friendship, the kindness of strangers, and ordinary people in extraordinary times.
I've realized recently that, while I don't read a great deal of historical fiction, the ones I read the most of tend to take place somewhere between 1900 and 1950. Basically, a lot of stories set during or around two major wars. You'd think it would get dreary but I've been lucky in finding stories that are practically perfect and are utterly absorbing. Dear Mrs. Bird is another example of a World War II set novel I've read in recent months that I absolutely adored. For your interest and further reading, the others include Jennifer Robson's Goodnight from London, Kate Quinn's The Alice Network, Ellen Keith's The Dutch Wife, and Genevieve Graham's Come from Away. (I just did a count and I've read 8 historical novels in 2018. 5 of them take place during or just after WWII and another was set in WWI.) It actually felt like Pearce had written this book in 1940 because the phrases she uses and the scenes she set felt so incredibly realistic. Of course I don't know what it was like to be in London during WWII but I feel like I've read enough books and watched enough movies set in that time to get a sense when something doesn't feel right.

I've been seeing Dear Mrs. Bird compared to The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (which, incidentally, I've only just recently read and loved to bits. If you haven't read it, I highly recommend the audiobook.) and I think that comparison needs some clarity. Both novels take place in and around London in the 1940s. Mrs. Bird occurs in 1940, right in the thick of the Blitz, and Guernsey takes place in 1946, after WWII is over. Both novels have absolutely delightful heroines who have a wonderful group of colleagues and friends. But where things get tricky is when readers are led to expect in Mrs. Bird the kind of letter writing Guernsey gave us. It's so not the case. I wasn't expecting that so I wasn't surprised or let down but I know other people have been. Such is the danger of comparing books - especially when one is so well known for something special (like Guernsey is with it being such a perfect example of an epistolary novel).

But let's talk about Emmy. She was an absolute gem. She was sweet and funny and sometimes horribly awkward and a bit misguided. But I really thought her heart was in the right place throughout. And what a heart she had! She was such a kind person - I don't know how anyone could think otherwise - and so desperately wanted to do her bit for the war efforts. I loved that she had spunk and I worried about what her life would be like after the war when women would start to be forced back into the home. Her friendship with Bunty is so precious and Pearce did such a wonderful job of writing about it that I really wanted to be friends with them too.

One thing that blows me away with novels such as this is the reinforcement of the "keep calm and carry on" mentality people in London had during the war. I am constantly amazed when reading these stories that the people were able to persevere and go about their lives as normally as possible during months of nightly (or near-nightly) bombings. I know there's not much else to do but buck up and go about your business I'm not sure how easily I would have been able to carry on with my daily life.

The actual narrative of the novel is a good one but, I've realized this while writing my review, it's not what's going to make Dear Mrs. Bird memorable for me. I loved that it gave me a glimpse into the lighter side of a period of time that we so often think of only in terms of how awful it was (don't get me wrong, a world war is hella awful). This novel was more than the plot for me, even if it was really well written and had a good pace (until the end...I do feel the end was a tad rushed).

I could go on and on about Dear Mrs. Bird - about how it will tug at your heartstrings while also making you laugh out loud, about the wonderful characters, and more - but I really want you to find out how wonderful AJ Pearce's debut novel is for yourself. Buy it or borrow it from a friend or the library but get your hands on a copy if you're a historical fiction fan. I really don't think you'll be disappointed.

*A copy of this novel was provided in exchange for review consideration by the publisher, Simon & Schuster Canada. All opinions are honest and my own.*

Friday, July 6, 2018

Review: Dirty Exes


What you see (or read) is what you get with Dirty Exes by Rachel Van Dyken. Which, depending on your mood, could be good or bad. It was great for me because I was in the mood for a romance with some humour and heart and Dirty Exes, the first book in a new series, totally delivered.

Here's the synopsis:
Blaire has never quite gotten over Jessie Beckett, the ex–NFL star whose kisses were hot enough to ignite the entire Eastern Seaboard. When he chose work over her, Blaire was left brokenhearted. Why else would she have married a skeezy two-timer, just to divorce him less than a year later?
Now Blaire is getting even by becoming one half of Dirty Exes, a PI firm fully committed to humiliating cheating jerks. If only the new jerk she’s been hired to uncover wasn’t Jessie Beckett himself.
Exposing Jessie isn’t going to be easy, especially when she still daydreams about his sexy smile. Further complicating matters is Colin, Jessie’s best friend. He’s gorgeous, a little bit cunning, and willing to help Blaire get the inside scoop on Jessie—for a price.
Now caught between two men—one totally right and the other totally wrong—Blaire will need to decide just how much she’s willing to risk…and whom she’s willing to risk it for.
Was Dirty Exes the best rom com I've ever read? No. But did it give me exactly what I hoped it would (which was some swoons and some laughs)? Yes, absolutely. I love romance novels because I know just what I'm going to get with the story but I especially love the ones that are really well written and provide a great story line along the way to the Happily Ever After.

The story is told from three perspectives - Blaire, Colin, and Jessie - and each is first person. I liked how that worked because you got a sense of what each character was really thinking and feeling. This was especially useful in this story because there were so many secrets between the three of them that it would have been really hard to figure out Colin and Jessie's motives had the story only been told from Blaire's perspective.

The first person narrative also created a very informal, conversational type of storytelling. Lines and thoughts were sometimes choppy which can be a bit weird to read but if you think of it more as though you're following along with the character's train of thought it usually works. For example, this little excerpt shows how Blaire is working through a revelation about Jessie (it's not a spoiler because you learn these details early on through Jessie's POV):
Vanessa was living with him.
Living. With. Him.
And he was flirting with me. With his wife still under his roof.
My phone buzzed again.
Seriously?
I grabbed it and checked my messages.
You see what I mean? It's odd to see that all written out but it's exactly as you would be saying it either to a friend or inwardly as you worked out the issue.

I had a hard time really getting to know Blaire because she had so many walls up. I couldn't really see how she fell for Jessie the first time and why she was so crushed when he left. I also didn't see any glimpse of the woman who would have run straight into the arms of a "nice guy" who ended up being an ass who also broke her heart. She was angry and bitter and I really needed to see her let those feelings go. She was a complicated character whose layers weren't quite as fleshed out as I would have hoped for.

I really wasn't sure how the Happily Ever After was going to work out. I hadn't reread the synopsis before diving in so I had forgotten that I wasn't supposed to be sure who Blaire would end up with. I was sure it would be Jessie but then I realized she was starting to fall for Colin too but, wait, does she actually still love Jessie more? It was a back and forth that kept me on my toes.

All in all, Dirty Exes was a fun read for me. I liked meeting all the characters Rachel Van Dyken created and I'd definitely like to catch up with some - or all - of them in the next book, Dangerous Exes.

*A copy of this novel was provided by the distributor, Thomas Allen & Son, in exchange for review consideration. All opinions are honest and my own.*

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Blog Tour: Matchmaking for Beginners


You need to suspend your beliefs ever so slightly when reading Maddie Dawson's new novel, Matchmaking for Beginners. If you can do that, accept the magic of matchmaking, and open your heart to some quirky characters...well, you'll probably fall in love with this story or, at the very least, find yourself being charmed and entertained throughout.

Here's the synopsis:
Marnie MacGraw wants an ordinary life—a husband, kids, and a minivan in the suburbs. Now that she’s marrying the man of her dreams, she’s sure this is the life she’ll get. Then Marnie meets Blix Holliday, her fiancĂ©’s irascible matchmaking great-aunt who’s dying, and everything changes—just as Blix told her it would.
When her marriage ends after two miserable weeks, Marnie is understandably shocked. She’s even more astonished to find that she’s inherited Blix’s Brooklyn brownstone along with all of Blix’s unfinished “projects”: the heartbroken, oddball friends and neighbors running from happiness. Marnie doesn’t believe she’s anything special, but Blix somehow knew she was the perfect person to follow in her matchmaker footsteps.
And Blix was also right about some things Marnie must learn the hard way: love is hard to recognize, and the ones who push love away often are the ones who need it most.
This book was, in a word, delightful. It isn't perfect but it still found its way into my heart and my head. I found it hard to put down and would think about it when I was supposed to be busy doing other things. 

I loved Marnie. I felt like I really identified with her, even though I don't think we're that much alike. Maybe she's just one of those people that you can't help but be drawn to and want to be friends with. She's adorably unsure of herself and determined to get the life she thinks she wants. Problem is - that life isn't exactly what she needs. Blix knows what Marnie needs and works her particular brand of magic to make sure it works out - even once Blix is in the after-life. 

The magic I speak of isn't really magic. I wouldn't really call this book magic realism but there's a hint of supernatural in Blix and Marnie's matchmaking capabilities. Blix had a few "spells" she worked on people. It was like she could pass on love and good feelings to anyone she wanted to. Marnie saw sparkles when she was matchmaking and I kind of wished I could see them too. 

This book would not be what it is without the cast of supporting characters. They are the most eclectic bunch of wonderful oddballs and I loved them all. It was no wonder Blix and Marnie did too. Jessica was the perfect best friend for Marnie and I'm so glad they had each other. Sammy, Jessica's son, was too cute and my heart broke for him because he just wanted his parents to get back together. I loved reading as Marnie slowly - and awkwardly - brought Patrick out of his shell. And Lola, Blix's best friend, was a hoot. They really brought so much colour and life to the whole story and I had so much fun meeting all of them.

And that cover! I adored it. Though, if I have to find a fault, I'd say it's with the dog. He just doesn't fit. I was also very concerned there wouldn't even be a dog but, after finishing the book, I can see why he was put on the stoop with the couple. But I just love the colours and the art so much. 

If you're feeling down, Maddie Dawson's Matchmaking for Beginners is sure to bring a smile or three to your face. It was a quick read for me that was perfect for reading on the park bench on my lunch break.

Psst - I have some good news! Thomas Allen & Son is giving away a hardcover copy of Matchmaking for Beginners to a lucky Canadian reader. Fill out the Rafflecopter below and they'll notify the winner via email when the giveaway ends on July 13th at 11:59 pm EST. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

About Maddie Dawson
Maddie Dawson grew up in the South, born into a family of outrageous storytellers. Her various careers as a substitute English teacher, department-store clerk, medical-records typist, waitress, cat sitter, wedding-invitation-company receptionist, nanny, day care worker, electrocardiogram technician, and Taco Bell taco maker were made bearable by thinking up stories as she worked. Today she lives in Guilford, Connecticut, with her husband. She’s the bestselling author of five previous novels: The Survivor’s Guide to Family Happiness, The Opposite of Maybe, The Stuff That Never Happened, Kissing Games of the World, and A Piece of Normal.

Follow Maddie
Website * Twitter * Facebook * Goodreads  

*A copy of this novel was provided by the distributor, Thomas Allan & Son, in exchange for a review for the purpose of a blog tour. All opinions are honest and my own.*