Happy & You Know It by Laura Hankin @LauraHankin @BerkleyPub

I feel the need to spread some love and joy right now and Happy & You Know It by Laura Hankin is a perfect one to share some love for! It’s a fun, great distraction to bring some joy and laughter to your day!

Hurray! I am happy, and I want to show it!! Happy & You Know It by Laura Hankin was another book from that stack of not my normal that surprised me. Again I find myself feeling like a little kid on the playground wanting to share my joy with everyone or more like wanting to share my joy with friends and a bottle of wine!

There is no shortage of books out there that explore “Mom culture,” wealthy moms and their struggles with keeping their image while raising their little joys or terrors. It can often feel like a playground of drama. Well, Laura Hankin takes this overused storyline and creates a fresh, exciting, and delicious playground for us to emerge ourselves into!

Things do start off feeling like satire; however, there are a few turning points that take this story and characters in a thrilling, delightful and fun direction that took me by surprise. The drama is smart and fun, the suspense had me anticipating the outcome of each of the character’s conflicts and secrets. Some of the characters are likable, and some not so, each with some vulnerability to provoke some emotions. The dialogue between them is fun, entertaining, smart, witty and balanced nicely with some snarkiness. There are some twists and turns that kept me on my toes!

I had some fun with this, and it kept me entertained, and I want to sing about it! With all the sadness going on right now, I just want to find some joy, and I am going to sing! If you are happy and know it and want to show it share it here with me!!

I received a copy from the publisher.

Blog Tour: SISTER DEAR by Hannah Mary McKinnon

Welcome to our stop on the blog tour for Sister Dear by Hannah Mary McKinnon. We are excited to share our reviews with you today. Our reviews again reflect the different types of readers we each are and we had some very different thoughts on this one. Sister Dear makes for a great group read and is a fun and exciting one to discuss.

Book Summary:

In Hannah Mary McKinnon’s psychological thriller, SISTER DEAR (MIRA Trade; May 26, 2020; $17.99), the obsession of Single White Female meets the insidiousness of You, in a twisted fable about the ease of letting in those who wish us harm, and that mistake’s dire consequences.

The day he dies, Eleanor Hardwicke discovers her father – the only person who has ever loved her – is not her father. Instead, her biological father is a wealthy Portland businessman who wants nothing to do with her and to continue his life as if she doesn’t exist. That isn’t going to work for Eleanor.

Eleanor decides to settle the score. So, she befriends his daughter Victoria, her perfect, beautiful, carefree half-sister who has gotten all of life’s advantages while Eleanor has gotten none.

As she grows closer to Victoria, Eleanor’s obsession begins to deepen. Maybe she can have the life she wants, Victoria’s life, if only she can get close enough.

Norma’s Review

Wowzers!! Surprising, thrilling, and a compelling page turner!

SISTER DEAR by HANNAH MARY McKINNON is a dramatic, cleverly layered, twisty, and crafty slow-burn suspenseful psychological thriller that was quite the surprising book to read. The story progresses at a steady pace and the tension subtly increases throughout. There is an unpredictable and pivotal moment in the story that changes the dynamics totally and makes this quite the apprehensive non-stop, exciting read.

Normally I don’t do all that well with slow-burn character study sort of reads but Eleanor’s character totally hooked me in right from the beginning. There were some characteristics to her personality that were so wickedly interesting, emotional, and relatable to me that totally fascinated and immersed me in this storyline. What I especially connected to was how Eleanor perceived her body. I definitely shared some of her body image issues.

HANNAH MARY McKINNON delivers an entertaining, well-written, and absorbing read here that had me immediately questioning each of the sisters characters and what exactly and who exactly I was supposed to pay attention to. For the most part I thought this was extremely unpredictable even though I guessed one aspect to the twist: the end result was totally mind-blowing. I couldn’t read the book fast enough to see how this was all going to play out in the end.

Thank you so much to Edelweiss for my eGalley. This book has one of the best cleverly crafted endings that I have recently read. It is twisty, thrilling and totally took me by surprise! Can we have a sequel please?

Brenda’s review

A secret is revealed that sends our main character grieving Eleanor on a path of deception, revenge motivated by grief jealously and the need for a family connection.

The story starts slow as Hannah Mary McKinnon creates a sinister story and delves into Eleanor’s mind, where we see her thoughts of self-loathing, paranoia, desperation and jealousy. This took on a depressing and sad mood to the story for me, and I didn’t get the emotional response I was looking for.

Hannah Mary McKinnon leaves those twists and reveals till end and the tension rises till that explosives ending that felt exciting. I was tapping my kindle faster than a line of tap dancers.

Some clues and actions by the characters are a little too convenient, and not as convincing as I would have liked them to be. However, that ending took me by surprised and was thrilling and twisted, just like this twisted dark reader likes!

I received a copy on NetGalley for this blog tour

Lindsay’s thoughts

A great start that quickly turned extremely unrealistic.

The first few chapters set up an intriguing storyline that piqued my interest and curiosity. That dwindled away as most of the plot points of the book felt implausible.

Although I wish I could simply read for entertainment and not over-analyze, I am the type of reader who needs a believable storyline and realistic characters. This simply comes down to me not being the right reader for this book.

Thank you to Edelweiss for my review copy!

Author Bio: 

Hannah Mary McKinnon was born in the UK, grew up in Switzerland and moved to Canada in 2010. After a successful career in recruitment, she quit the corporate world in favor of writing, and is now the author of The Neighbors and Her Secret Son. She lives in Oakville, Ontario, with her husband and three sons, and is delighted by her twenty-second commute.

Social Links: Author Website Twitter: @HannahMMcKinnon Instagram: @hannahmarymckinnon Facebook: @HannahMaryMcKinnon Goodreads

Buy Links: Harlequin  Barnes & Noble Amazon Books-A-Million Powell’s

The Distance from Four Points by Margo Orlando Littell @margolittell @unopress

The Distance from Four Points by Margo Orlando Littell is available May 28, 2020! I highly recommend for readers looking for well developed characters.

After the death of our main character Robin’s husband, she is left in some financial trouble. He leaves her some investment property that takes investing her time and she becomes a reluctant landowner to some rundown rentals. She is forced to return to her home town with her daughter

The story is slow at times and seems like a simple story here, however, there are some darker themes to the story that Margo Orlando Littell handles with a lighter hand while provoking an emotional response from me for the characters. The strength is in the depth to the characters, their growth and the relationship between Robin and her friend from her past Cindy. I enjoyed seeing how they both developed through the story and learned something about themselves from each other. Both characters are convincing with their strength and courage but Cindy stood out for me. She is honest and tough with the way she lays it all out there for Robin showing her that it’s not about a better life but coming to terms with your past.

Now I did questioned one character and how convenient everything came together but sometimes this reader just needs to lighten up and enjoy a good ending.

I received a copy from the publisher on NetGalley

Q & A Behind the Pages with Janelle Brown Author of Pretty Things @janelleb

Janelle Brown joined us in our Behind the Pages Goodreads group for a spoiler free Q & A about Pretty Things and her writing process. I am excited to share some of the Q & A with you here today.

Brenda: What does your writing day look like for you? Do you have a choice of beverage or something you have with you while you read?

Janelle: Hi all! Nice to be here. To answer this first question: My typical (non-pandemic) day usually starts by dropping the kids at school and then racing to my office, which I share with a bunch of other writers. It’s basically a co-working space for writers. (Here’s a story about our office: https://www.latimes.com/books/la-ca-j…).

I work there until 3:30-4pm and then race back to get the kids. During the day, I try to write about 1000 words, and generally what I drink when I’m writing (and reading!) is a either Nespresso coffee with lots of cream and sugar, or a Pamplemousse LaCroix!

Brenda: How did you come up with the idea for Pretty Things?

Janelle: It’s always hard for me to pinpoint where my ideas come from, because they often formulate around a lot of disparate things that come together. But I was inspired for Pretty Things by a few things:
1) Kim Kardashian being robbed by jewel thieves who had been tracking her Instagram posts. This was so interesting to me!
2) The desire to write about a modern female con artist. I felt like there haven’t been a lot of books that did this and I was very curious what one would do in the social media age.
3) Lake Tahoe! I have always wanted to set a book there, it’s a place I love and it’s so atmospheric.
4) Spending time on Instagram and thinking about Influencer culture, and its impact on how we see ourselves.

All these kind of synthesized into what became Pretty Things!

Brenda: What came first for you the plot or the idea of Vanessa and Nina?

Janelle: I started with a very rough idea of the plot – I knew I wanted it to be the story of a grifter who targets someone she’s been following online, with twisting and turning of who is doing what to whom. Then I started thinking about the character of Nina, and who she was, and the plot started to become more clear as she evolved as a person. Vanessa came last, just because she was the hardest character to write.

Brenda: How did you go about capturing your character’s voice? Was there one that you enjoyed creating more than the other or you struggled with?

Janelle: It’s always a lot of hit or miss. I start by trying to write in someone’s voice and keep trying different directions until it starts to feel right to me. It’s really intuition.

With this book, Nina came very easily and quickly. Vanessa was the hard one. I wanted her to initially come off as a privileged heiress but become more and more humanized as the book went along. I wanted her to be a little unbalanced and for us to be unsure whether this was the mental illness that runs in her family, or her own insecurity talking

Brenda: In the voice of your characters Vanessa and Nina can you tell us a bit about them in a couple of sentences?

Janelle: Ha, that’s a challenge! What if I used some sentences from the book that I think sum up the characters?

Nina:
So I’m a grifter. You might say that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree—I come from a long line of bagmen and petty thieves, opportunists and outright criminals—but the truth is that I was not raised for this. I had a Future. That, at least, is what my mother used to say to me late at night when she found me reading Anna Karenina under the covers by flashlight: “You have a Future, baby, the first one in this family.”
And for a while there, I even believed her. Got caught up in the great American myth, the Puritan ethic of nose-to-the-grindstone-and-thou-shalt-prevail. That was back when I thought the playing field was even, before I learned that it was not flat at all; and that, in fact, for most people not born into privilege, the playing field is a steep incline and you are at the bottom with boulders tied to your ankles.

Vanessa:
I know what you’re probably thinking: Look at the spoiled rich girl, all alone in the great big house, trolling for our sympathy when she doesn’t deserve any of it. You feel so smug, looking at me! And yet you also can’t seem to look away from me. You follow me on my social media accounts, you swipe up to study my links, you watch my YouTube fashion tutorials and like my travelogues and read every Page Six mention you can find. You can’t stop yourself from clicking on my name even though you tell everyone that you hate me. I fascinate you.
You need me to be the monster so that you can position yourself in opposition to me and feel superior. Your ego requires me.
And there’s another thing, though you would never admit this out loud: When you look at me, you also think, I want what she has. Her life should be mine. And if I were given the resources at her disposal, I would do it all so much better.
Maybe you’re not so wrong

Brenda: I thought you took some very unlikable characters and made me feel some empathy for them with their backstories. Was that something you planned and were aware of it or did that happen as you were writing?

Janelle: Yes! That’s absolutely my intention. I wanted them both to come fully to life. For the theme of the book, it was important to me for the characters to be flawed but empathetic: The book is a lot about image and judgement in the social media age, and the need to look beyond the frame to see the real person. I wanted readers to be surprised by what they felt for each character, and for their feelings to evolve as they read

Norma: Can we first talk about that cover? It is absolutely stunning and one of my absolute favourites. It definitely caught my eye and enticed me to request an eARC. Would you mind enlightening us how you felt when you first seen the cover of your book. I can only imagine how exciting you must have been. Did you have a hand in choosing the cover design?

Janelle: I have so little to do with the covers! It’s really the fantastic team at Random House who did them. They sent me a few options to choose from and I picked this one. And then we went back and forth a few times to fine-tune things — for example, we tweaked the quantity and variety of jewelry that appears on the cover, and changed the font a bit from the original design. But mostly credit goes to them!

Norma: Pretty Things is such a fitting title for this story. Did you have a title in mind before you began to write this story or did it come after?

Janelle: Nope, the title came dead last! I had an entirely different title for the book but my editor / publisher weren’t in love with it so we did a lot of brainstorming to come up with this one. The idea for Pretty Things as a title came from my agent, actually – she pulled the phrase from the book, because I use it a few times throughout. I loved the idea.

Brenda: What do you want readers to get from your books? Is there anything you would like us to know?

Janelle: I would love readers to find my books entertaining, but also provocative. I want to create a world and a story and characters that people get lost in, but that also keep them thinking about afterwards. My favorite books are ones that linger with me, and I realize later what the ideas in them were. I hope mine do that for my readers, too!

Brenda: Are you working on anything you can tell us about?

Janelle: Well, I’m writing the TV pilot for the series of Pretty Things that Amazon is adapting for Nicole Kidman’s production company! And beyond that, I have a new book in the works… but it’s far too early to talk about.

Form more of the Q & A can be found here

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix

YaHoo!! Hot Diggity Dang! This is one brilliantly done story!!!

So how does what seems like a stereotyped, mocking sexism story about southern woman in a book club turn into a skin-crawling, blood soaking story? Then turn into a refreshing, powering, brilliantly humorous story with meaningful character development. Well, Grady Hendrix does some mighty fine footwork here, and I couldn’t help but analyze this story.

This one is not my normal story and one that was not on my radar to read, but after seeing how much fun some TS were having in a group read, that fear of missing out on a fun discussion had me joining in. That overthinker in me almost ruined the story, and that over-analyzer saved it for me along with my curiosity. I struggled at first with a few of those the gory scenes and with a darkly disturbing part to the story and almost did not finish, but I had to know why so many readers loved this one. Once the story hit that major turning point, everything started to become clear to me as to why!

On the surface, this one is not what it seems, through the brilliantly layered southern humour, horrifying twists, what seems like stereotyped characters and insightful social commentary comes a powerful turning point in the story that made this one an eclectic sightful, thrilling and entertaining read.

There is no doubt the story is over the top and highly fictionalized with the supernatural side to the story. It’s all in the subtext here, and Hendrix draws parallels between a blood-sucking vampire and soul-sucking husbands here in this story along with sexism and racism through the actions of them.

The strength of the story here is Grady Hendrix wanting “to pit Dracula against my mom,” he writes. “As you’ll see, it’s not a fair fight.” Never underestimate a Mother’s magical power called love!!

Well, this one is not for everyone I do highly recommend giving it a try if it has caught your curiosity. You might find yourself as surprised as I did!

I received a copy from the publisher on EW.

Blog Tour: FAMILY FOR BEGINNERS by Sarah Morgan @HarlequinBooks

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour to celebrate the book birthday for Family for Beginners by Sarah Morgan! With a cover like this one, how can that not set the scene for a great summer read? I love the cover! Family for Beginners makes for a great summer read and doesn’t require much from readers expect your favorite place to read it with your favorite beverage.

FAMILY FOR BEGINNERS

Author: Sarah Morgan 

Publication Date: 5/5/2020

Publisher: HQN Books

Book Summary:
USA TODAY bestselling author Sarah Morgan returns with a life-affirming exploration of love, loss, and how families come in all shapes and sizes…

New York florist Flora Donovan is living the dream, but her bubbly optimism hides a secret. She’s lonely. Orphaned as a child, she’s never felt like she’s belonged anywhere…until she meets Jack Parker. He’s the first man to ever really see her, and it’s life changing.

Teenager Izzy Parker is holding it together by her fingertips. Since her mother passed away a year ago, looking after her dad and little sister is the only thing that makes Izzy feel safe. Discovering her father has a new girlfriend is her worst nightmare—she is not in the market for a replacement mom. Then her father invites Flora on their summer vacation…

Flora’s heart aches for Izzy, but she badly wants her relationship with Jack to work. As the summer unfolds, Flora must push her own boundaries to discover parts of herself she never knew existed—and to find the family she’s always wanted.

Author Bio: USA Today bestselling author Sarah Morgan writes lively, sexy contemporary stories for Harlequin.

Romantic Times has described her as ‘a magician with words’ and nominated her books for their Reviewer’s Choice Awards and their ‘Top Pick’ slot. In 2012 Sarah received the prestigious RITA® Award from the Romance Writers of America. She lives near London with her family. Find out more at www.sararahmorgan.com

My review

Family for Beginners explores loss, belonging, acceptance and family in a lighter, more dramatic way this dark emotional reader is used to. It provided an emotional response from me that had me feeling a few emotions for the family in this story.

The characters are all likable yet a little frustrating at times with their ability to create some high drama in the family and to the story. I felt for the characters each looking for acceptance and a place to belong after a loss that changes their world. I cared for them and their conflicts with themselves and each other. Now this family is overflowing with love with each other, and at times the dark reader in me was drowning in it. I think I really need to read more books like this. Lol Even though I found the drama high and at times I wanted it to stop, it felt very realistic, and I couldn’t help but love the characters.

The story wraps up nicely, and I had a feel-good feeling after reading this warm and uplifting story. I recommend for a summer read!!

Social Links: Author Website Twitter: @SarahMorgan_ Facebook: @AuthorSarahMorgan Instagram: @SarahMorganWrites

Buy Links:  Harlequin  Indiebound Amazon Barnes & Noble  Books-A-Million Google iBooks Kobo

Thank you to HarperCollins/HQN for my NetGalley copy!