Category: Features

Sunday Spotlight: Just Last Night by Mhairi McFarlane

Posted May 10, 2021 by Holly in Features, Giveaways | 3 Comments

Sunday Spotlight is a feature we began in 2016. This year we’re spotlighting our favorite books, old and new. We’ll be raving about the books we love and being total fangirls. You’ve been warned. 🙂

We had a system glitch and this didn’t post as scheduled yesterday. Let’s hear it for Sunday Spotlight on Monday!

Sunday Spotlight: Just Last Night by Mhairi McFarlaneJust Last Night by Mhairi McFarlane
Publisher: Harper Collins, William Morrow Paperbacks
Publication Date: May 4, 2021
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 416
Add It: Goodreads
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books

Eve, Justin, Susie, and Ed have been friends since they were teenagers. Now in their thirties, the four are as close as ever, Thursday night bar trivia is sacred, and Eve is still secretly in love with Ed. Maybe she should have moved on by now, but she can’t stop thinking about what could have been. And she knows Ed still thinks about it, too.

But then, in an instant, their lives are changed forever.

In the aftermath, Eve’s world is upended. As stunning secrets are revealed, she begins to wonder if she really knew her friends as well as she thought. And when someone from the past comes back into her life, Eve’s future veers in a surprising new direction...

They say every love story starts with a single moment. What if it was just last night?

Excerpt

Excerpted from the book JUST LAST NIGHT by Mhairi McFarlane. Copyright © 2021 by Mhairi McFarlane. From William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. Reprinted by permission.

 

Before

“We’re going to win tonight,” Ed says. “I can feel it. I can smell it. I could slice it like a frittata. The air is thick with the odor of our imminent victory. Breathe it in, my bitches.”

He pretends to scent the air.

“Are you sure that’s not Leonard?” Justin says. “He had chili con carne for tea. Got up on the counter and had his face in the saucepan before I could stop him, the fool. He’s been farting in spicy beef flavor ever since.”

“Maybe victory smells exactly like mince and kidney beans working its way through a very small dog’s digestive system,” I say, as Susie says: “BLURGH.”

“How would we know how it smells, after all? None of us have ever been successful,” I say, directing this at Ed.

“Speak for yourself. My GP said my hemorrhoids were the most prominent he’d seen in thirty years practicing medicine.”

I guffaw. (This is a standard joke format with Ed; I assume his bum is fine.)

I reflexively reach out to pet Leonard, who has his own chair, sitting atop Justin’s coat, protecting the upholstery.

Leonard is a “Chorkie”—a Chihuahua crossed with a Yorkshire Terrier. He has beady eyes peering out from under a comical fringe of gray-white hair, spiky in the middle like he’s had Paul Weller’s Mod cut, bat ears, and a lopsided little grin, full of toothpick teeth.

He looks, as Ed says: “Like an enterprising cartoon rat doing some kind of stealthy cosplay as a canine. We’ve been infiltrated by a rodent master criminal.”

Leonard, an omnivorous eater and troublesomely impromptu urinator, is one of the loves of my life. (The rest of them are around, and also sometimes under, this table.)

“You say we’re going to win this quiz every week, Ed,” Susie says, worrying at a coaster, shredding it into a pile of soft cardboard shards. “And we are always fucked by the same five determined men in Lands’ End packable anoraks.”

“Describing my best holiday in Wales, there,” Justin says. Justin is a self-proclaimed “tiresome show-off and performative middle child” and one of the funniest men you’ll ever meet, but you absolutely do not go to him for good taste.

The quizmaster’s voice booms out, cutting through conversation, like the Voice of God:

“Question TEN. Who is Michael Owuo? Who is, Michael Owuo?

The usual seconds of post-question hush fall.

“Is he . . . the Labour MP for Kingston upon Hull East?” Ed whispers, faux-earnestly.

“Seriously?” Susie says.

“No,” I say, rolling my eyes, and Ed taps the pen on his lips and winks at me.

“You three do know who he is, right?” Justin says, doing a double take. “UGH. So we are the millennial cast of Last of the Summer Wine.”

“Did he play the villain in the last Bond?” I ask, and Ed says: “YES! ‘Doctor Pardon.’ What was his gimmick again?”

“He had bejeweled ear gauges,” I say. “And a walker, with tinsel wound ’round it.”

Ed laughs. I love the way he laughs: it starts in his shoulders.

“OK, who is joking, and who isn’t?” Susie says. “I mean obviously, they are,” she grimaces at myself and Ed. “Do you genuinely know who he is, Justin?”

“He’s Stormzy,” Justin hisses. “God, you can tell you lot are thirty-four.”

“You’re thirty-four, Justin,” Susie says.

“There’s thirty-four and then there’s, like, ‘Who are the Stormzys?’ thirty-four,” Justin says, pulling an “old geezer” rubbery face.

“A ‘stormzy,’ you say,” Ed says, in a creaky High Court judge voice. “Whatever a Stormzy is,” and writes “Mr. Storm Zee” on the paper.

Ed has really nice hands; I’m a sucker for nice hands. He cycles a lot and can mend things, and I am now mature enough to appreciate practical skills like that.

Susie takes the pen from Ed, scribbles his words out, and writes Stormzy correctly.

“Don’t your pupils keep you up to date with this stuff?” I ask Ed. “Hip to the jive, daddio?”

“It’s my job to teach them Dickens, not theirs to teach me grime.”

Ed is head of English at a nice county school. You know how they say some people look like police? Ed looks like a teacher—a film or television, glossy young teacher—with his unthreatening, handsome solidity, strawberry-blond, close-cropped hair. In a crisis in a situation full of strangers, Ed’s would be the kind, reliable face you’d hope to see. He’d be the guy offering his necktie as a makeshift tourniquet.

Part of the pleasure of this weekly pub appointment to lose the pub quiz, I think, is it brings out and defines all the roles in our foursome. Ed and I clowning around together, Justin refereeing, with his caustic wit, Susie playing exasperated mother.

Sometimes I stop participating in the conversation and just hum happily inside myself, enjoying our togetherness, reveling in the way we all broadcast on the same frequency. I watch us from the outside.

. . . didn’t she marry the singer from the Mumfords? I’d rather be a Sister Wife. (Susie)

. . . this cherry Stolichnaya that Hester brought back from duty-free, it’s amazing, tastes like baby medicine. Or so babies tell me. (Ed)

. . . he was a right grumpy carrot top. I said to him, do you know why gingerism is the last acceptable prejudice? Because it’s acceptable. (Justin, of course)

“Shhhhh,” I say, as I can see the quizmaster adjusting his readers, as he squints at a piece of paper.

“Question ELEVEN. The word ‘CHRONOPHAGE’ is an Ancient Greek word for what is now an idiomatic expression in English. But what does it mean? Clue: your mobile phone may do this. That does not mean you can check your phones, hahaha!”

The quizmaster blows air out of his nostrils in a windy gust, directly into the bulb, and you can hear his spit.

The looks on the faces of our hiking anorak nemeses suggest they’re considerably more confident about this than they were about Mr. Stormzy.

“Chrono means time . . . ,” Ed whispers. “Chronograph watches.”

“Chronological.” Susie nods. “In order of timing.”

“Phage,” I say. “Hmmm. Coprophagic is eating poo. Fairly sure the copro’s poo, so the phagic must be eating.”

“Eve!” Susie barks, with a potato chip halfway into her mouth. “How do you even know that?”

“I’ve lived a full life.”

“I’ve been around for most of it so I know that isn’t true. A quarter full, at best.”

“. . . Eating time?” Justin hisses. “It must mean eating time. Your phone does that. Boom. Write it down.”

Ed obliges.

We come to The Gladstone every Thursday. I would say without fail, but we are thirty-somethings with lives and jobs and other friends and—some of us—partners, so there are some fails. But we’re here more often than not.

“Question TWELVE, before we take a short break. What do Marcus Garvey, Rudyard Kipling, Ernest Hemingway, and Alice Cooper have in common? I’ll give you a clue. It involves a mistake.”

We stare blankly at each other. Packable Anoraks are frantic-whispering instead of writing or looking sneaky-smug, which means they’re not sure either.

“Is it choice of first wife? As in they’ve all had more than one?” Ed says.

“We don’t call people we divorce mistakes now,” Susie says.

“My mum does,” I say.

“Remember when our religion teacher said, ‘People are too quick to divorce nowadays,’ and you said, ‘I think they’re too slow,’ and you got a detention for it?” Susie says and I guffaw.

“Ah, there she is,” Ed says, as the door slaps open and his girlfriend, Hester, appears, her nose wrinkling in distaste at the slight stench of “armpit.”

My heart sinks a notch, but I ignore that it has done this and paste on a strong, welcoming smile.

To be fair, The Gladdy does have a bit of an aroma sometimes, what with the sticky floor, but that’s part of its charm. It’s a dartboard-and-devoted-regulars pub.

I love it, year-round, with its scrappy concrete beer garden with flower planters on the fire escape. I think they are supposed to simulate “verdant urban oasis” in a yard full of lager and smokers. But it’s at its best in autumn and winter. Frosted-leaf mulch and dark skies with bright stars on the other side of the steamed-up panes. Serious hygge to be had, on this side of the window.

Well, mostly.

Hester moved to Nottingham for Ed, a fact she likes to relitigate about once a month.

She looks like a colorized picture has walked into a black and white, kitchen sink realism film: skin the color of ripe peaches and shimmering champagne-blond hair. She’s like a human Bellini.

Her balled fists are thrust in her coat pockets, a Barbour with a fawn cord collar, as if she’s smashed into a saloon in a Western and going to draw two guns.

It’s not that I don’t like Hester . . .

“Are you all drunk by now, then?” she says, bullishly. She glances at me. “Eve looks drunk.”

Oh, why do I bother. It’s absolutely that I don’t like Hester.

 

“And once again for the cheap seats! What do Marcus Garvey, Rudyard Kipling, Ernest Hemingway, and Alice Cooper have in common? It involves a mistake. A mistake. An error. OK, back soon.”

“Hemingway was in a plane crash, were any of the others?” I whisper.

“Bit of a stretch to call a plane crash ‘a mistake’ though?” Ed whispers back and I shrug, nodding in concession.

“And Rudyard Kipling’s a bit too yesteryear for planes, isn’t he?” Justin says. “Not exactly doing his Instagram Story with a Prosecco claw holding a flute aloft in the airport bar.”

He mimes trying to photograph his pint glass, and Susie snorts.

“They were wrongly given awards that had to be taken back,” Hester says, dragging her coat off her shoulders. “Where’s the pen?”

Justin makes a skeptical face and Ed tries to look persuadably neutral as he hands it over. His sense of humor doesn’t evaporate, exactly, around Hester, but he goes more no absolutely of course I didn’t mean that formal.

Hester’s late joining tonight as she’s been out with friends at a tapas restaurant, and understandably, given the number of babies that the rest of the circle have between them, they wind things up by nine p.m. Hester only joins us at The Gladdy quiz intermittently, anyway. “Sometimes it gets wearying, with all your in-jokes,” she says. Even though she’s known us all for so long as Ed’s girlfriend, I am not sure how there’s an “in” she’s outside of.

“Are you sure?” Susie says.

“Yes, I’m sure,” Hester says. Qualifying: “. . . Well, have you got anything better?”

“Sure, sure—or four-Proseccos-deep-and-we-haven’t-got-anything-better-yet, sure?” Susie persists, smiling in a “Wicked Queen with a red apple” sort of way.

She dares with Hester in ways I absolutely do not dare. Susie dares with most people. Most people don’t dare back.

Susie has long, thick blond-brown hair she wears in a horse-mane-length ponytail, or loose and bunched up into a scarf like she’s Streisand in a seventies film. She has a full mouth with an emphatic pout to her top lip, which looks as if it’s being pulled upward by her tilted nose, which I think is a thing called “retroussé.”

“What award did Marcus Garvey get?” Justin says.

“Rear of the Year?” I say, and Ed hoots. Hester’s fuming, I know.

“OK, ignore me then!” Hester says. “Pardon me for trying to participate, guys.”

“No, no! It’s good! I think you’re right,” Ed says, hastily. “None of us have anything better. Write it down.”

I always respect Ed for leaping chivalrously to Hester’s defense, while wishing it was for someone who better deserved it. Hester scribbles while Justin, Susie, and I try not to meet each other’s eyes.

“More drinks I think, what’s everyone having?” Justin says and gets up to go to the bar.

I go to the loo and, after I flush, I see I have a text from Susie. (Not a WhatsApp, because it would risk appearing in full on a lock screen. Canny.)

When I open it, I see it’s been sent to myself and Justin. I know how they’re triangulating the signal, next door—Justin nonchalantly studying his handset while waiting to be served, Susie slightly angled away from the couple, feigning picking up her messages.

 

Susie: WHY IS SHE SUCH A BOSSY ARSEHOLE THOUGH

Justin: She can get away with anything due to the fabulous breasts, darling

Susie: I have great tits and you don’t see it affecting my personality. That answer is SO OBVIOUSLY WRONG. And why is Ed such a wimp about it. Oh yes write that bollocks down, my precious little poison dumpling. ARGH

Justin: Again, boobs

Eve: The poisoned dumplings

Susie: I swear she knows it’s the wrong answer and is doing it to fuck with us

 

I lean against the pleasantly chilly wall in the loo and type, grinning.

Having been in stone-cold love with Hester’s other half for the best part of two decades means I never know how much of my dislike is plain old envy. Susie and Justin continually—and inadvertently, because they absolutely don’t know—reassure me I’d have disliked her anyway. I often play Nice Cop in regards to Hester, to further throw everyone off the scent.

 

Eve: You wait, she’ll be right and that’ll show us

Susie: She’s not right, she doesn’t even know who Marcus Garvey was, you could see that when Justin challenged her

Justin: She probably thinks he won Best Video 2007 at the Grammys

Susie: Lol. And I’d just point out that Eve’s suggestion got shot down and she didn’t get the hump

Eve: Does this say anything bad about my breasts

Susie: Only that they’re not a carbon offsetting scheme for being a horror

Justin: Sigh. Let us get drunk.

Giveaway Alert

We’re giving one lucky winner their choice of one of our Sunday Spotlight books. Use the widget below to enter for one of this month’s features.

Sunday Spotlight: May 2021

Are you as excited for this release as we are? Let us know how excited you are and what other books you’re looking forward to this year!

About Mhairi McFarlane

Author headshot

Mhairi was born in Falkirk, Scotland in 1976. She went to school in Nottingham, studied English Literature at Manchester University and then returned to Nottingham to delight its citizens with her journalism. After roles as trainee reporter, reporter, feature writer and columnist, she realised she’d climbed to the very top of the mountain at the Nottingham Post and at age 31 decided to write a novel. Some very skint years followed, during which she thought she might’ve made a huge mistake.

Her debut novel, the romantic comedy You Had Me At Hello, was an instant hit upon being published in December 2012. It’s since become HarperCollins’ best selling ebook to date, has been translated into 16 languages and is being developed as a major feature film, with Mhairi writing the screenplay. The follow up, Here’s Looking At You, was published in December 2013 and made the Sunday Times Bestseller list.

Mhairi’s first hardback title for HarperFiction, It’s Not Me, It’s You, is published on November 6th 2014.

She’s currently working on her fourth novel, adapting You Had Me At Hello for screen and developing a comedy-drama script for television.


Tagged: , , , ,

What Are You Reading? (563)

Posted May 7, 2021 by Holly in Features | 4 Comments

Casee: I’m reading a series by Jessica Gadizala called The Henchmen MC. It’s very Kristen Ashley-esque with the “babe” and “bitches” talk every other page. It was eye-rolling at first, but just like Kristen Ashley, I got used to it. I read Reign, the first book in the series & am now reading Cash. There’s something like 20 books in the series so I’ll be busy for awhile.

I was listening to Wild Wind by Kristen Ashley. I still haven’t finished it and it’s been something like two months.

Holly: I finished Not Quite a Husband by Sherry Thomas, which I enjoyed, though there were some problematic themes. I read The Princess and the Pea and Beauty and the Beast by K.M. Shea, which are part of the Timeless Fairytales series. I enjoyed elements of both, but I don’t know that I’ll continue the series. While I liked the individual stories, I’m not really interested in the over-arching plotline.

I re-read Honor’s Splendour and The Wedding by Julie Garwood and listened to How to Flirt with a Naked Werewolf by Molly Harper for the second time. All three are so good. Definitely worth revisiting.

I read Darkest Heart by Juliette Cross, the first book in the Dominion series. I believe it’s part of another series, but I don’t feel like I missed anything by starting here. I really liked the world and the romance. I immediately started the second book, Hardest Fall, which features two characters I’m very curious about.

Rowena: I’ve discovered anime and right now, I’m all about Demonslayer. I watched the first season and then the movie that just released a couple of weeks ago. I’m loving everything about this world and the characters. I’m super curious to see where the creators take Tanjiro and his crew. I’m telling you, once Tanjiro and his crew finish their training, it’s over for those demon bitches. Team Rengoku! I love this anime so much that I started reading the manga’s. I read books 7 and 8 this week and now I’m reading book 9. I’m starting the storyline that follows the movie and I’m super excited!! I have books 10 and 11 lined up once I’m finished and I plan to jump into those right away.

What are you reading this week? Any new favorites or books that drove you crazy? Share!


Tagged: , , ,

Books to Binge On: May 2021

Posted May 6, 2021 by Casee in Features | 2 Comments

Books to Binge On

Our Books to Binge On feature is pretty simple in its purpose. Every month, we put together a monthly new releases list of books that we’re all looking forward to. These are the books that we can’t wait to read and want everyone to add to their monthly binge-reading lists. Here are the books that we plan to binge on in May 2021.


The Soulmate Equation by Christina Lauren

Single mom Jess Davis is a data and statistics wizard, but no amount of number crunching can convince her to step back into the dating world. Raised by her grandparents–who now help raise her seven-year-old daughter, Juno–Jess has been left behind too often to feel comfortable letting anyone in. After all, her father’s never been around, her hard-partying mother disappeared when she was six, and her ex decided he wasn’t “father material” before Juno was even born. Jess holds her loved ones close, but working constantly to stay afloat is hard…and lonely.

But then Jess hears about GeneticAlly, a buzzy new DNA-based matchmaking company that’s predicted to change dating forever. Finding a soulmate through DNA? The reliability of numbers: This Jess understands. At least she thought she did, until her test shows an unheard-of 98% compatibility with another subject in the database: GeneticAlly’s founder, Dr. River Pena. This is one number she can’t wrap her head around, because she already knows Dr. Pena. The stuck-up, stubborn man is without a doubt not her soulmate. But GeneticAlly has a proposition: Get to know him and we’ll pay you. Jess–who is barely making ends meet–is in no position to turn it down, despite her skepticism about the project and her dislike for River. As the pair are dragged from one event to the next as the “Diamond” pairing that could make GeneticAlly a mint in stock prices, Jess begins to realize that there might be more to the scientist–and the science behind a soulmate–than she thought.

Casee: I’m not a huge fan of rom-coms, but I do love Christina Lauren. Her books are funny without being flighty.

Holly: I’ve only read a couple books by Lauren, but I really enjoyed them. I’m looking forward to this new release.

Rowena: I’ve been a fan of Christina Lauren for a few years now and I’m always excited to see new stuff from them so I’m definitely looking forward to this release.


Fallen Jester (Tin Gypsy #5) by Devney Perry

Leo Winter loves his life. He works when he needs money. He rides when he craves freedom. He frequents the local bar when he wants a good time. The Tin Gypsies might be a memory, but the bachelor life he lived with his motorcycle club still suits him fine. So when a one-night stand surprises him at a family barbecue and claims she’s pregnant with his child, he’s certain he’s died and gone to hell.

Cassandra Cline took one night off from her structured life. One. And now her wild fling with the local bad boy has turned her life sideways. Her dreams and academic career are circling the drain, and none of it would have happened if she’d stayed far, far away from Leo.

Except avoiding him is impossible, especially when she’s forced to move home to Clifton Forge, Montana. And he refuses to leave her side when a series of strange accidents put her and their baby at risk. But are they accidents? Or is she standing in the middle of a battlefield she doesn’t understand?

Her only allies are people she barely knows. And a man who has the potential to steal her heart.

If only he’d stop playing the fool.

Casee: I’m recently discovered Devney Perry. I just adore her stories.


Dream Spinner (Dream Team #3) by Kristen Ashley

Hattie Yates has finally met the man of her dreams. Yet years of abuse from her demanding father have left her petrified of disappointment. She’s already failed to reach her goal of becoming a professional ballerina—she can’t handle the terrible consequences of another dream becoming a nightmare. But when a stalker sets their sights on Hattie, there’s only one man she dares to hope can help . . .

Axl Pantera knows Hattie is the only woman for him. Yet despite the attraction burning between them, Hattie refuses to let him in. The former soldier is determined to woo her into letting down her walls. And when danger comes calling, he’s up against more than her wary and bruised heart. Axl will do anything to prove to Hattie that they’re meant to be, but first, he’ll need to keep her safe.

 
 
Casee: I will read anything this author writes, which I’m sure you have all guessed by now.


Shadow Storm (Shadow Riders #5) by Christine Feehan

A long-simmering feud between two families comes to a head in this gripping novel in Christine Feehan’s New York Times bestselling Shadow Riders series.

As the youngest member of the Ferraro family, Emmanuelle has watched each of her brothers find happiness in love while her own heart was shattered by a lover’s betrayal. For two years she’s stayed as far away from Valentino Saldi as possible—until she learns that he’s been shot during a hostile takeover of his family’s territory.

Emme’s first instinct is to call her brother Stefano for help, and soon the entire Ferraro clan arrives to bring Val back from the brink of death and protect the Saldis from further attack. With one choice Emme has re-exposed herself to Val’s intoxicating pull and dragged her family into the Saldis’ private war.

A deadly storm is brewing, and only time will tell who survives…

Casee: This is my favorite book in this series. After everything Emme went through in the previous books, I was so happy that she got her HEA.


Just Last Night by Mhairi McFarlane

Eve, Justin, Susie, and Ed have been friends since they were teenagers. Now in their thirties, the four are as close as ever, Thursday night bar trivia is sacred, and Eve is still secretly in love with Ed. Maybe she should have moved on by now, but she can’t stop thinking about what could have been. And she knows Ed still thinks about it, too.

But then, in an instant, their lives are changed forever.

In the aftermath, Eve’s world is upended. As stunning secrets are revealed, she begins to wonder if she really knew her friends as well as she thought. And when someone from the past comes back into her life, Eve’s future veers in a surprising new direction…

They say every love story starts with a single moment. What if it was just last night?

Holly: This is another author I’ve only read a couple times, but really enjoy. I’m definitely excited to read this.

Rowena: Mhairi McFarlane did it again. She wrote another engaging story that I was invested in from beginning to end. Definitely add this book to your TBR lists. It’s a good one.


The Promised Queen (Forgotten Empires #3) by Jeffe Kennedy

In The Promised Queen, the thrilling finale to Jeffe Kennedy’s Forgotten Empires trilogy, the fate of the world hangs in the balance as Con, Lia, and their allies sacrifice everything in a final bid to destroy the corrupt empire.

Claim the hand that wears the ring, and the empire falls.

Conrí, former Crown Prince of Oriel, claimed the hand that wears the Abiding Ring, but the prophecy remains unfulfilled. Queen Euthalia of Calanthe returned to her island kingdom, but broken in mind and body. With the blood of war unleashing ancient terrors, Calanthe isn’t the haven it once was.

Lia must use her magical bond with Calanthe to save their people while Con fights to hold off the vengeful Emperor Anure and his wizards. Con and Lia will have to trust in each other—and in love—to fend off ultimate disaster.

Holly: Finally! I feel like I’ve been waiting forever for this book. I really enjoyed the first book, but I waited to read the second so I could finish the trilogy out at once. I can’t wait to see how things turn out.


Wild Sign (Alpha & Omega #6) by Patricia Briggs

Mated werewolves Charles Cornick and Anna Latham must discover what could make an entire community disappear—before it’s too late—in this thrilling entry in the #1 New York Times bestselling Alpha and Omega series.

In the wilds of the Northern California mountains, all the inhabitants of a small town have gone missing. It’s as if the people picked up and left everything they owned behind. Fearing something supernatural might be going on, the FBI taps a source they’ve consulted in the past: the werewolves Charles Cornick and Anna Latham. But Charles and Anna soon find a deserted town is the least of the mysteries they face.

Death sings in the forest, and when it calls, Charles and Anna must answer. Something has awakened in the heart of the California mountains, something old and dangerous—and it has met werewolves before.

Holly: I adore Briggs. Charles and Anna are one of my favorite romance couples and I always look forward to new stories featuring them.

Rowena: I’m really loving anything Charles and Anna so this is definitely one that I was looking forward to reading.


Shield-Maiden: Under the Dark Moon (The Road to Valhalla #5) by Melanie Karsak

For Odin’s chosen, all roads lead to Valhalla.
With Gudmund dead, Hervor and Hofund are crowned queen and king of Grund. The pair soon discover that ruling a Viking land is not without difficulty. Enemies from without and within threaten the new rulers. While her dreams are the same, Hervor’s future becomes unclear. The gods have grown silent. Only Skadi whispers to Hervor now, and all her words are warnings. A dark moon is rising. Hervor must learn to rely on her inner strength to protect her family and face the tumultuous path the Norns have woven for her.

Dive into the thrilling final chapter of the Road to Valhalla series! Fans of Vikings and The Last Kingdom will love the Shield-Maiden: Under the Dark Moon by New York Times bestseller Melanie Karsak.

Holly: I discovered this series last month and binge-read the first three books. I took a break before continuing, but I’m looking forward to seeing where things go for Hervor and Hofund. I highly recommend this series for fans of Vikings.


The One We’re Meant to Find by Joan He

One of the most twisty, surprising, engaging page-turner YAs you’ll read this year—We Were Liars meets Black Mirror, with a dash of Studio Ghibli.

Cee has been trapped on an abandoned island for three years without any recollection of how she arrived, or memories from her life prior. All she knows is that somewhere out there, beyond the horizon, she has a sister named Kay. Determined to find her, Cee devotes her days to building a boat from junk parts scavenged inland, doing everything in her power to survive until the day she gets off the island and reunites with her sister.

In a world apart, 16-year-old STEM prodigy Kasey Mizuhara is also living a life of isolation. The eco-city she calls home is one of eight levitating around the world, built for people who protected the planet―and now need protecting from it. With natural disasters on the rise due to climate change, eco-cities provide clean air, water, and shelter. Their residents, in exchange, must spend at least a third of their time in stasis pods, conducting business virtually whenever possible to reduce their environmental footprint. While Kasey, an introvert and loner, doesn’t mind the lifestyle, her sister Celia hated it. Popular and lovable, Celia much preferred the outside world. But no one could have predicted that Celia would take a boat out to sea, never to return.

Now it’s been three months since Celia’s disappearance, and Kasey has given up hope. Logic says that her sister must be dead. But as the public decries her stance, she starts to second guess herself and decides to retrace Celia’s last steps. Where they’ll lead her, she does not know. Her sister was full of secrets. But Kasey has a secret of her own.

Rowena: I came across this book while browsing Goodreads and it looked like something I was in the mood for so on my list it went.


Tokyo Ever After by Emiko Jean

Izumi Tanaka has never really felt like she fit in—it isn’t easy being Japanese American in her small, mostly white, northern California town. Raised by a single mother, it’s always been Izumi—or Izzy, because “It’s easier this way”—and her mom against the world. But then Izzy discovers a clue to her previously unknown father’s identity… and he’s none other than the Crown Prince of Japan. Which means outspoken, irreverent Izzy is literally a princess.

In a whirlwind, Izzy travels to Japan to meet the father she never knew and discover the country she always dreamed of. But being a princess isn’t all ball gowns and tiaras. There are conniving cousins, a hungry press, a scowling but handsome bodyguard who just might be her soulmate, and thousands of years of tradition and customs to learn practically overnight.

Izzy soon finds herself caught between worlds, and between versions of herself—back home, she was never “American” enough, and in Japan, she must prove she’s “Japanese” enough. Will Izumi crumble under the weight of the crown, or will she live out her fairytale, happily ever after?

Rowena: I’m really into these kinds of stories where characters are of mixed heritage and they’re not enough of this or not enough of that and seeing them fumble their way into their own is something that I connect with as I’ve gone through those same things in my life so I understand and love seeing other people find their way. This is one of those kinds of stories and I’m looking forward to reading this one for myself.


Rosaline Palmer Takes a Cake by Alexis Hall

Following the recipe is the key to a successful bake. Rosaline Palmer has always lived by those rules—well, except for when she dropped out of college to raise her daughter, Amelie. Now, with a paycheck as useful as greaseproof paper and a house crumbling faster than biscuits in tea, she’s teetering on the edge of financial disaster. But where there’s a whisk there’s a way . . . and Rosaline has just landed a spot on the nation’s most beloved baking show.

Winning the prize money would give her daughter the life she deserves—and Rosaline is determined to stick to the instructions. However, more than collapsing trifles stand between Rosaline and sweet, sweet victory. Suave, well-educated, and parent-approved Alain Pope knows all the right moves to sweep her off her feet, but it’s shy electrician Harry Dobson who makes Rosaline question her long-held beliefs—about herself, her family, and her desires.

Rosaline fears falling for Harry is a guaranteed recipe for disaster. Yet as the competition—and the ovens—heat up, Rosaline starts to realize the most delicious bakes come from the heart.

Rowena: I’m all about baker featured romances and this one looks like a good one so count me in! I’m mighty curious about this determined single Mom baker and I’m already rooting for her to win so yeah, this one is on my list.


Heart and Seoul by Jen Frederick

From USA Today bestselling author Jen Frederick comes a heart-wrenching yet hopeful romance that shows that the price of belonging is often steeper than expected.

As a Korean adoptee, Hara Wilson doesn’t need anyone telling her she looks different from her white parents. She knows. Every time Hara looks in the mirror, she’s reminded that she doesn’t look like anyone else in her family—not her loving mother, Ellen; not her jerk of a father, Pat; and certainly not like Pat’s new wife and new “real” son.

At the age of twenty-five, she thought she had come to terms with it all, but when her father suddenly dies, an offhand comment at his funeral triggers an identity crisis that has her running off to Seoul in search of her roots.

What Hara finds there has all the makings of a classic K-drama: a tall, mysterious stranger who greets her at the airport, spontaneous adventures across the city, and a mess of familial ties, along with a red string of destiny that winds its way around her heart and soul. Hara goes to Korea looking for answers, but what she gets instead is love—a forbidden love that will either welcome Hara home…or destroy her chance of finding one.

Rowena: I enjoy Jen Frederick’s books and when I first learned about this book, I read the blurb and immediately needed to read it. Add this one to your wish lists, guys!


From Little Tokyo with Love by Sarah Kuhn

Celebrated author Sarah Kuhn reinvents the modern fairy tale in this intensely personal yet hilarious novel of a girl whose search for a storybook ending takes her to unexpected places in both her beloved LA neighborhood and her own guarded heart.

If Rika’s life seems like the beginning of a familiar fairy tale–being an orphan with two bossy cousins and working away in her aunts’ business–she would be the first to reject that foolish notion. After all, she loves her family (even if her cousins were named after Disney characters), and with her biracial background, amazing judo skills and red-hot temper, she doesn’t quite fit the princess mold.

All that changes the instant she locks eyes with Grace Kimura, America’s reigning rom-com sweetheart, during the Nikkei Week Festival. From there, Rika embarks on a madcap adventure of hope and happiness–searching for clues about her long-lost mother, exploring Little Tokyo’s hidden treasures with a cute actor, and maybe…finally finding a sense of belonging.

But fairy tales are fiction and the real world isn’t so kind. Rika knows she’s setting herself up for disappointment because happy endings don’t happen to girls like her. Should she walk away before she gets in even deeper, or let herself be swept away?

Rowena: Yeah, that sounds like something I can really dig into and enjoy so it’s on my list for sure. I’d love to read about the Nikkei Week Festival since I’m familiar with the festival and have enjoyed myself at them as well.


Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry by Joya Goffney

Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry by debut author Joya Goffney is the story of an overly enthusiastic list maker who is blackmailed into completing a to-do list of all her worst fears. It’s a heartfelt, tortured, contemporary YA high school romance with epistolary elements. Fans of Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and Kristina Forest’s debut I Wanna Be Where You Are will love the juicy secrets, leap-off-the-page sexual tension and the enemy-to-lover romantic arc.

Quinn keeps lists of everything—from the days she’s ugly cried, to “Things That I Would Never Admit Out Loud,” to all the boys she’d like to kiss. Her lists keep her sane. By writing her fears on paper, she never has to face them in real life. That is, until her journal goes missing…

An anonymous account posts one of her lists on Instagram for the whole school to see and blackmails her into facing seven of her greatest fears, or else her entire journal will go public. Quinn doesn’t know who to trust. Desperate, she teams up with Carter Bennett—the last known person to have her journal—in a race against time to track down the blackmailer.

Together, they journey through everything Quinn’s been too afraid to face, and along the way, Quinn finds the courage to be honest, to live in the moment, and to fall in love.

Rowena: As a fan of Jenny Han’s To all the Boys series and this kind of sounds like a similar premise and it sounds cute but embarrassing and like something I’m in the mood for so I’m adding this one to my list for sure.

What books are you looking forward to reading this month? Share in the comments!


Tagged: , , ,

Monthly Reads: April 2021

Posted May 4, 2021 by Casee in Features, Giveaways | 6 Comments

It’s a new month so we’re back with a list of our Monthly Reads to share with each of you. This is where you’ll see what each of us has read and what our favorite books and our least favorite books of the month are. Check it out.

Casee

Spring has sprung, but my reading hasn’t. I read four books in April. I think I was just too busy to sit down and read.

Atone (The Disciples #2) by Cassandra Robbins | 3 out of 5
Repent (The Disciples #3) by Cassandra Robbins | 3.5 out of 5
Ignite (The Disciples #4) by Cassandra Robbins | 4 out of 5
Rebel’s Karma by Rebecca Zanetti | 3.75 out of 5

My favorite book of the month was Rebel’s Karma by Rebecca Zanetti. I really enjoyed Benny & Karma.

Holly

April was a fairly good reading month for me. I discovered some new authors and new series. I managed to finish 19 books.

Honor’s Splendour by Julie Garwood (reread) | 4.5 out of 5
The Bride (Lairds’ Fiancees) by Julie Garwood (reread) | 3.75 out of 5
The Wedding (Lairds’ Fiancees) by Julie Garwood (reread) | 4.5 out of 5
How to Flirt with a Naked Werewolf (Naked Werewolf #1) by Molly Harper (audio) (reread) | 3.75 out of 5
The Princess and the Pea (Timeless Fairy Tales #0.5) by K.M. Shea | 3.5 out of 5
Beauty and the Beast (Timeless Fairy Tales #1) by K.M. Shea | 3.75 out of 5
Wildfire (Hidden Legacy #3) by Ilona Andrews (audio) (reread) | 4.5 out of 5
Not Quite a Husband (The Marsdens #2) by Sherry Thomas | 3.5 out of 5
Apprentice of Magic (The Fairy Tale Enchantress) by K.M. Shea | DNF
Repeat by Kylie Scott (reread) | 5 out of 5
Pause by Kylie Scott (audio) | 3.5 out of 5
Reign of Dragons (Dragon Dojo Brotherhood #1) by Olivia Ash (audio) | 3.75 out of 5
Fate of Dragons (Dragon Dojo Brotherhood #2) by Olivia Ash | 3 out of 5
Shield-Maiden: Under the Howling Moon (The Road to Valhalla #1) by Melanie Karsak (audio) | 4 out of 5
Shield-Maiden: Under the Hunter’s Moon (The Road to Valhalla #2) by Melanie Karsak | 3.5 out of 5
Shield-Maiden: Under the Thunder Moon (The Road to Valhalla #3) by Melanie Karsak (audio) | 3.75 out of 5
Snow Day by Julie Lipson (audio) | 3.5 out of 5
Wicked Wish (Dragon’s Gift: The Storm #1) by Veronica Douglas and Lindsey Hall | 3.75 out of 5
The Half-Life of Marie Curie by Lauren Gunderson (audio) | 5 out of 5
Hot as Hades by Alisha Rai | 4.5 out of 5

My favorite read of the month was Hot as Hades by Alisha Rai. It was just the story I was looking for at the time. My favorite listen was The Half-Life of Marie Curie by Lauren Gunderson. Though short, it really packed a punch. My least favorite was Apprentice of Magic by K.M. Shea. It was boring and irritating at the same time. The whole first half was just the heroine pretending to be super nice (while inwardly being snarky) and hating herself and her magic. I ended up DNF’ing it because it was so bad.

Rowena

April was a pretty busy month for me personally so though I didn’t read a lot, I did read 3 books and I enjoyed all of the books so I’m counting that as a win. Here’s what I read last month.

Wild Sign (Alpha & Omega #7) by Patricia Briggs | 4.25 out of 5
Not Quite a Husband (Marsden #2) by Sherry Thomas | 3.75 out of 5
Just Last Night by Mhairi McFarlane | 4 out of 5

My favorite read of the month goes to Wild Sign by Patricia Briggs. It’s another book that opens up a lot of different directions for the series to go in and I’m super excited to see where Briggs takes us after that ending. There were some issues that I had with Not Quite a Husband by Sherry Thomas but I did enjoy the story overall but because of that, it’s probably my least favorite read of the month.

Giveaway Alert

Three lucky winners will choose their prize (one book) from any of the books we logged this month. If you want to be entered to win, leave a comment on this post telling us what your favorite – and least favorite – reads of the month were.

Monthly Reads: April 2021

So…what was your favorite read of the month? And your least favorite? Use the Gleam Widget to enter! Good luck!


Tagged: , , ,

Sunday Spotlight: Dial A for Aunties by Jesse Q Suntano

Posted May 2, 2021 by Holly in Features, Giveaways | 3 Comments

Sunday Spotlight is a feature we began in 2016. This year we’re spotlighting our favorite books, old and new. We’ll be raving about the books we love and being total fangirls. You’ve been warned. 🙂

The cover of this book caught my attention, and the blurb sealed it for me. I can’t wait to read this. DIAL A FOR AUNTIES by Jesse Q Suntano sounds amazing and hilarious.

Sunday Spotlight: Dial A for Aunties by Jesse Q SuntanoDial A for Aunties by Jesse Q. Sutanto
Publisher: Berkley
Publication Date: April 27, 2021
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 320
Add It: Goodreads
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books

A hilariously quirky novel that is equal parts murder mystery, rom-com, and a celebration of mothers and daughters as well as a deep dive into Chinese-Indonesian culture, by debut author Jesse Q. Sutanto.

1 (accidental) murder2 thousand wedding guests3 (maybe) cursed generations4 meddling Asian aunties to the rescue!

When Meddelin Chan ends up accidentally killing her blind date, her meddlesome mother calls for her even more meddlesome aunties to help get rid of the body.

Unfortunately, a dead body proves to be a lot more challenging to dispose of than one might anticipate, especially when it is accidentally shipped in a cake cooler to the over-the-top billionaire wedding Meddy, her Ma, and aunties are working, at an island resort on the California coastline. It’s the biggest job yet for their family wedding business—“Don’t leave your big day to chance, leave it to the Chans!”—and nothing, not even an unsavory corpse, will get in the way of her auntie’s perfect buttercream cake flowers.

But things go from inconvenient to downright torturous when Meddy’s great college love—and biggest heartbreak—makes a surprise appearance amid the wedding chaos. Is it possible to escape murder charges, charm her ex back into her life, and pull off a stunning wedding all in one weekend?
Story Locale: Southern California

Excerpt

Excerpt from DIAL A FOR AUNTIES by Jesse Q. Sutanto

I open the car door, heart thundering. “Ma, you scared me!”

She frowns at me. “What is it, Meddy? What’s wrong?”

I wasn’t planning on telling her anything. Of course I wasn’t— the last person I want to tell is Ma. She wouldn’t know what to do, or say, or—

“Ma, I killed him.” Tears spring into my eyes when I hear myself say those words out loud. I killed him. How many more times would I have to say that?

“Kill him? Kill what? Aduh, Meddy, how many times must I tell you, don’t drink so much. You see, now you’re not making any sense.”

“I killed him, Ma. Jake. The guy you set me up with!” And now, finally, I let the tears flow, because saying his name is awful. It’s not just some body in my trunk; it’s a body who used to be a someone.

Ma stops her nattering mid-sentence. Her mouth claps shut, and she stares at me for a while. When she next speaks, it’s in halting English. “This is like what you and Selena like to say? You kids always saying, ‘Wah, you killing it!’ Like that, ya?”

“No!” I cry. “I mean I literally killed him, Ma!” Not knowing what else to do, I take out my car key and hit a button. The trunk pops open with a click that might as well be a gunshot inside our small garage. All noise is suddenly amplified; I can hear my own heartbeat, and Ma’s sharp intake of breath.

“Meddy,” she whispers, “this is joke, right? You just joking with me?”

“No, Ma, this isn’t a joke.”

A strangled laugh from Ma; then she shakes her head. “You kids, ya, you always think you are so funny.” She wags a finger at me and strides to the back of the car, still shaking her head. “My daughter, such a joker, so—AIYA wo de tian ah!” She stumbles back, hands covering her mouth.

I wince.

“Meddy,” she hisses. “Meddy! This is not funny.” She looks back and forth between me and the trunk. “Are those fake legs? What you call it—man-ee-kween?”

I shake my head, fresh tears springing to my eyes. “No, Ma, it’s not a mannequin. It’s really Jake, I swear.”

She utters a noise that’s somewhere between a howl and a whimper, then takes a moment to steel herself before peering closer into the trunk. She whimpers again when she sees the rest of the body. I imagine what she’s seeing from her vantage point. First the shoes—brown loafers, no socks—then the legs, the torso, and then the hoodie covering his face.

“Why you cover the face?” she says. “Something horrible happen to it, is it?” She shudders. “Is there something sticking out of the eye? Aiya, don’t tell me, I don’t want to know.” She flaps, grimacing. “Is it broken glass in his eye?”

“No, Ma. There’s nothing sticking out of his eye. I just thought it would be, I don’t know, more respectful.”

“Oh.” She nods. “Yes, you right, more respectful.” She pats me on the cheek. “I raise you so well.”

Hysteria rises from deep in my stomach and I have to swallow it. Trust Ma to take pride in my etiquette when I’ve just shown her my date, whom I’ve killed, in the trunk of my car.

“I did just kill a person, so I don’t know that you can say you’ve raised me well.”

“Oh, he must deserve it.”

I bite my lip to keep from bursting into tears again. I’m so grateful that I don’t have to explain myself to her.

From DIAL A FOR AUNTIES published by arrangement with Berkley, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © 2021 by Jesse Q. Sutanto.

Giveaway Alert

We’re giving one lucky winner their choice of one of our Sunday Spotlight books. Use the widget below to enter for one of this month’s features.

Sunday Spotlight: May 2021

Are you as excited for this release as we are? Let us know how excited you are and what other books you’re looking forward to this year!

About Jesse Q. Sutanto

Jesse Q Sutanto is the author of Dial A for Aunties, The Obsession, and Theo Tan and the Fox Spirit. She has a master’s degree in creative writing from Oxford University, though she hasn't found a way of saying that without sounding obnoxious. The film rights to her women’s fiction, Dial A for Aunties, was bought by Netflix in a competitive bidding war. The novel will be out in April 2021. Jesse lives in Indonesia with her husband, her two daughters, and her ridiculously large extended family, many of whom live just down the road.


Tagged: , , , , ,