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

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!

Blog Tour – The Last Affair by Margot Hunt #blogtour @HarlequinBooks @HuntAuthor

The Last Affair by Margot Hunt Blog Tour

Hello everyone and thank you so much for stopping by! Today is our stop on the Harlequin Trade Publishing Mystery/Thriller Blog Tour for The Last Affair by Margot Hunt. We are so excited and it is our absolute pleasure to share our individual reviews with you. Thank you so much to Justine for the opportunity to be a part of this blog tour.

Today we are sharing Brenda, Norma’s and Lindsay’s reviews with you!

The Traveling Sisters ~ Brenda, Norma & Lindsay! xxoo

Margot Hunt – About the author

Margot Hunt is a critically acclaimed author of psychological suspense. Her work has been praised by Publisher’s Weekly, Booklist and Kirkus Reviews.

Follow Margot

SOCIAL:
TWITTER: @HuntAuthor
FB: @AuthorMargotHunt
Insta: @margot_hunt
Goodreads

About the book

Gwen Landon—poster woman for perfect wife, mother, and suburban bliss—is found brutally bludgeoned to death behind her Floridian McMansion. Beautiful and beloved by her community, Gwen makes an unlikely victim. But just a scratch below the surface of her perfectly curated world reveals one far more sinister. When looking back over the six months leading up to her death, the question of, “who would do this?” quickly shifts to, “who wouldn’t?”

Commercially successful food blogger and mother of three, Nora Holliday never imagined she would have the nerve, let alone time, to get involved an affair. Trapped in an unhappy marriage, she does whatever it takes to keep it all together. But when Nora runs into Gwen Landon’s husband at a hotel in Orlando, his easy kindness and warmth proves too tempting to resist. As their affair spirals dangerously out of control, it seems things can’t get more complicated—until Gwen turns up dead.

Brenda’s review

The Last Affair starts off with quite the bang with that opening line and scene. I knew I was going to be entertained by Margot Hunt’s writing and I was from beginning to end.

Margot Hunt takes your typical affair and turns into a fun story here by adding some sass and spunk to the writing and the unlikeable characters you love to hate.

The pace is easy and quick, with just the right amount of drama to the story to move it forward for me. The dynamics between the characters are engaging, and I found myself drawn into the drama by silently yelling at the characters. The ending came together well for me as I started to piece together who left “the woman’s blood-covered body splayed facedown in the grass”, in this “typical upscale Floridian backyard.”

Norma’s review

Mindless fun, juicy unlikeable characters, & wickedly entertaining!

THE LAST AFFAIR by MARGOT HUNT is an interesting, easy to read, easy-going, thrilling and fast-paced story that immediately piqued my interest and thoroughly entertained me.

THE LAST AFFAIR has an awesome opening scene! I have quite the fondness and love for when an author opens up her story to a revealing, horrific and ghastly murder scene, allowing us to be pretty much privy to who the victim is right at the very beginning. This technique definitely keeps me intrigued, my curiosity piqued, and turning those pages as fast as I possibly can right to the very end. I love being right dab in the centre of all the action as I’m trying to piece all those clues together of who those shocking and juicy suspects might be.

I wouldn’t necessarily say that there was anything new on the table here though but the character dynamics and antics had quite the unique spin to it that definitely gripped and thrilled me. I might have done some gasping and shaking my head numerous times at these characters.

Lindsay’s review

A fast-paced, easy and thrilling read!

This is one of those books that you can fly through without having put much effort in. The pages and chapters quickly coast by as the storyline keeps you guessing. It was exactly what I was in the mood for. It kept me intrigued and entertained from start to finish. There were a few dramatic scenes, but nothing that overshadowed my enjoyment. The characters and their relationship dynamics were unique and interesting and the suspense kept me curious until the very end. This was my first book by this author and I look forward to reading more from her.

Thank you so much Harlequin for our copies!

Norma’s Stats:
Cover: An effective and fitting representation to storyline that depicts the storyline extremely well and really allows us to experience this story as if we were sneakily peeking in just like the cover suggests.
Title: I wasn’t all that drawn to the title of this book as it just appeared to be another one of those “affair” stories. Boy was I wrong!
Writing/Prose: Easy to follow, well-written, entertaining, immersive, and gripping.
Plot: Engrossing, interesting, suspenseful, soapy, gripping, scandalous, fast-paced, and entertaining.
Ending: I wasn’t completely in the dark but let me tell you that ending was totally awesome and I loved how it all played out. I might have found it a little off-putting though – the extreme end but regardless the author did a great job wrapping this one up.
Overall: Would absolutely recommend if you are looking for an easy-going, relaxed, and mild domestic thriller to spend some time with. This was the perfect read and escape for me while I was resting at home. Thank you so much to Margot Hunt for making the time pass by so much easier!

Harlequin Books were kind enough to allow us to share an excerpt of this fabulous book with all of you…..

Prologue

Other than the woman’s blood-covered body splayed facedown in the grass, it could have been any typical upscale Floridian backyard.

There was the ubiquitous pool with a water fountain feature, a patio furnished with both a dining set and outdoor sectional couch, and an enormous gas grill capable of cooking hamburgers by the dozen. A large pergola with a tropical vine trained over it covered part of the patio. The dining area was shaded by a black-and-white-striped awning. It was the very picture of suburban domestic bliss. It could have been the set for a commercial advertising anything from laundry detergent to allergy medicine.

Again, except for the dead body.

The area had already been taped off. The first officers on the scene appeared with an ambulance in response to a frantic 911 call placed by the woman’s daughter. The paramedics had assessed the situation, and quickly determined that the woman was dead. The fact that the back of her head had been bashed in with what looked like a paving stone, conveniently dropped next to her prone body, made it immediately clear that it had not been a natural death. The responding officers called the sheriff, who responded by sending in a full investigative team. The medical examiner was now doing a preliminary examination of the body, while police officers combed the area for additional evidence. Two detectives, Mike Monroe and Gavin Reddick—separated by twenty years and sixty pounds—were overseeing the operation, standing at the edge of the patio under the shade of the pergola. It was the third week in April, but this was South Florida and the temperature had already climbed into the low nineties.

“The paving stone came from the stack out in the front yard. They were delivered last week by the company who’s installing the driveway,” Detective Reddick said. He was the younger of the two men and had a wiry frame and angular face.

“Weapon of convenience. Suggests it wasn’t premeditated,” Detective Monroe said. He had a ruddy complexion and a full head of thick dark hair, swept back off his face. A strand never moved out of place, even in a strong wind.

“Plus he dropped the weapon, rather than taking it with him. Probably panicked.”

“Could be a she,” Monroe said mildly.

Reddick shrugged. “Blunt force trauma to the back of the head? You know the stats. Overwhelming likelihood that it’s a man, and probably someone the victim was intimately involved with. Husband, maybe a boyfriend.”

“The husband was with the daughter when she called it in.”

“Doesn’t mean he didn’t do it, and then had her place the call.”

“No, it doesn’t.”

The family had been sequestered indoors, both to keep them out of the way, and so that the officers waiting in the house with them could observe anything they did or said. Other than the husband, there was a daughter in her early twenties and a teenage son. The daughter was reportedly distraught, while the husband and son had both been eerily quiet. It was possible they were in shock.

“Do we have an ID on the victim?” Reddick asked.

“It’s her house,” Monroe grunted.

“Yeah, but I like doing things the official way, you know? I’s dotted, t’s crossed, all of that. Building a case, basic detective work.”

Despite the chilling scene in front of them—the woman’s body still sprawled on the grass, the back of her head a pulpy, bloody mess—the corner of Monroe’s mouth quirked up in a half smile. “Sure, kid, tell me all about basic detective work. I’ve only been doing this for, what…thirty-two years now? The husband ID’d her. Victim is Gwen Landon, age forty-nine. Married, mother of two. Husband said she hasn’t had any recent conflict with anyone.”

“Other than the person who caved in the back of her head with a paving stone,” Reddick pointed out.

“Wouldn’t be the first time a husband didn’t know his wife as well as he thought he did.”

“Possible. But there’s another possibility, too.”

“What’s that?”

Reddick turned to look at his partner. His eyes were small and dark, and he had a habit of squinting when he concentrated intently on something.

“The husband is a liar,” Reddick said.

THE LAST AFFAIR
Author: Margot Hunt
ISBN: 9780778309222
Publication Date: November 26, 2019
Publisher: MIRA BOOKS

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If you would like to read a copy of this book for yourself, it is available to order from the following retailers:

I Know You’re There by Sarah Simpson #BlogTour @aria_fiction @sarahsimpson

I Know You’re There by Sarah Simpson Blog Tour

Hello everyone and thank you so much for stopping by! We are so excited and it’s our absolute pleasure to be a part of the blog tour for I Know You’re There by Sarah Simpson and share our individual reviews with you. Thank you so much to Victoria Joss at Aria for inviting us to be a part of this blog tour.

Today we are sharing Brenda and Lindsay’s reviews with you!

The Traveling Sisters ~ Norma, Brenda & Lindsay! xxoo

SARAH SIMPSON – About the author
Sarah Simpson has a first-class honours degree in Psychology and has experienced working at a Brain Rehabilitation Hospital. She has spent time as a family consultant for Warwickshire and Oxfordshire solicitors and gained knowledge of the Family Court System. She now lives in Cornwall with her husband, three children and animals.

Follow Sarah
Twitter handle: @sarahrsimpson
Facebook: @sarahsimpsoncornwall

About the book

Is your house as safe as you think?

Natalie spent most of her childhood feeling afraid. So when she moved into her cosy little flat in St Ives and met her three friendly neighbours, she knew at once it was somewhere she’d feel safe.

Before long, Natalie’s neighbours have become the family she never had. Kind, motherly Morwenna, serious, reliable Nigel, and sweet, anxious Daniel. They collect each other’s mail, water each other’s plants, and share each others lives.

But as Natalie knows all too well, the people who are closest to you can also be the most dangerous. And this house is not as safe as she thinks…

Lindsay’s Review

This story had me on edge from start to finish!

Natalie lives in an apartment in a house shared with three others.   She has good relationships with the other tenants, considering a couple of them close friends.  Having escaped a violent and abusive childhood, Natalie has always lived in fear of facing her past.   She can’t seem to shake the feeling of being watched and having her past catch up with her.  Mysterious notes begin to appear causing everyone to question how well they really know one another.

I applaud the author, Sarah Simpson, for creating such an intense feeling of tension throughout this entire novel.   I truly felt Natalie’s fear and anxiety, feeling as though I was worried about what I would find out on the next page.   This chilling sense of dread built a very strong and palpable atmosphere.  

The characters were intriguing, each carrying a sense of secrecy that had my suspicions jumping all over the place.  The novel changes perspectives between the house tenants, each chapter ending with a small cliffhanger which left me eager to read further.   The pace did waver slightly as there were times I felt the plot dragged a bit, however, my curiosity and interest was piqued throughout.  

Brenda’s Review

I Know You’re There starts off slow as we get to know our main characters who live in different flats in the same building. It seems like a good set up for Natalie and she thinks she has found her people here however not everything is as it appears with her new friends. Each character has their own personal conflicts and secrets and they are slowly revealed as we get to know the characters.

I know You’re There delves into the mental health of the characters and a few conditions are explored here with our characters. Sarah Simpson does a great job here delving into each character and their personalties as we learn each of the characters conflicts and secrets from their past and how that has affected their dynamics here in the story. The characters and dynamics are complex and at times I did become a bit confused with the dynamics.

The pace picks up around the middle of the story and the tension rises as the mystery starts to unfold right to that very satisfying ending that wrapped up so well.

Thank you so much to Victoria Joss at Aria and Sarah Simpson for the opportunity to read an advanced copy of this book.

Fiction Books Guest Post

Why Do I write Psychological Thrillers?

This is something I am frequently asked. I Know You’re There is my third psychological thriller, it’s a good question and to be honest, not one I ever really ask myself. I honestly, haven’t ever considered writing in a different genre, other than an idea and a will I have for a children’s book, totally at the other end of the spectrum.

Why did I choose this particular genre? Possibly because my mind naturally thinks, feels and ticks in this way and this is also why I have never questioned it. Probably not something I should admit to but my mind naturally errs on the dark, evocative, twisted side, when I am deep in my imagination.  I am not, for the record, a narcissistic psychopath, or anything remotely dark in nature but I do have an intrinsic, enquiring interest in the conditions and traits that provoke such tense states. The good old question, nature or nurture, what is it? that can flip people to show an unflattering side of the personality coin.

I guess, if I think about where my ideas come from it is a combination of people watching, personal and professional experiences. I watch people (again not in a stalker type fashion) and I wonder what is happening behind the sometimes fragile surface, because the psychology of human behaviour is fragile and exposed, and are things really as the surface would have it seem? What conflicts could be happening behind the scenes, we are not privy to? Causing and instigating ever rippling consequences?

​I have always had a deep fascination in the mind and how it can become so iniquitous and then what happens. I love to explore what ensues when people’s emotions are tested, strained, torn, when life throws its stuff at them as it so often can. How come some people will cope, remain relatively unchanged and others will struggle or hit out?Understanding, it’s not always the events in life to determine emotional state but more how people have learned or chosen to react and manage the events. There’s sometimes a human arrogance to assume we know how we would respond to given experiences as really – we have no idea. Because context and perspective are everything, always. It’s these ambiguities I love to write about. 

​What any of us take from any story is always influenced and so determined by our own life experiences, state of mind, learned behaviours and individual biology. I can only hope to leave readers with a certain emotional feeling, in this respect I am unable to influence the effect of the story. For me, this is what makes writing and reading so incredibly special, understanding each and every individual will take something different from each page turn, each chapter.

So, I write within the psychological thriller genre, and I see it more that I write about life and behaviours. Rarely is life plain sailing without evocative moments, without times of sadness, of fear and times of clinging to the edge of the seat. All I hope to do is push this notion, these emotional states to the ambiguous limit and sometimes, twisting them that little bit further, squeezing out the questions – what if? What then?

Book Addict Rambles Q+A

1: can you introduce yourself and your books for everyone please? 

Sarah is relatively late to the writing scene, despite a love of books and writing from when she was very young, it wasn’t until 2016 that she sat down to put pen to paper. Her Greatest Mistake was then some twelve months in creation, followed by some vigorous re-writing. In June 2017, she signed with her current agent Broo Doherty and shortly after was offered a three book publishing contract with Aria, Head of Zeus.

She has written three psychological thrillers. Her Greatest Mistake, a domestic noir look behind closed doors which reached an overall eBook chart position of 16 in the UK. Who I Am, a complex and taut look at friendships and much more and her latest – I KNOW YOU’RE THERE and I know you’ll let me in….

I Know You’re There.

Is your house as safe as you think? 

Natalie spent most of her childhood feeling afraid. So when she moved into her cosy little flat in St Ives and met her three friendly neighbours, she knew at once it was somewhere she’d feel safe. 

Before long, Natalie’s neighbours have become the family she never had. Kind, motherly Morwenna, serious, reliable Nigel, and sweet, anxious Daniel. They collect each other’s mail, water each other’s plants, and share each other’slives. 

But as Natalie knows all too well, the people who are closest to you can also be the most dangerous. And this house is not as safe as she thinks…

Sarah lives in a small coastal town in beautiful Cornwall with her husband, three children, German Shepherd and cat. 

•What inspired you to write this book?

I Know You’re There was inspired by my natural interest for complex psychological conditions and the general vulnerabilities of the workings of the human mind. I loved the idea of four strangers coming together, taking up residence in an old Victorian house, divided into flats. All the characters with their own back stories and emotional baggage, all of them in some way, burying darker times from earlier years. I think it has always interested me – how well do we ever know anyone, to understand what it is driving responses, emotions and thought processes. How easy it is to only see what we want to see based on these conditions. Sometimes the most obvious scenarios are the most difficult to spot. As with all my books, this rides on the understanding none of us truly know how we would react and feel in any given circumstance. So life, professional and personal life experiences have inspired me with a sprinkling of fascination of the often unknown capabilities of the mind.

•Did you base any of the characters on anyone you know personally? 

No, not anyone I personally know. But I would say the characters all derive from an amalgamation of people I may have crossed paths with at some point in time. Certainly, my characters have individual traits I have at some point encountered, be it – personally or professionally. 

•What can we find you doing when you’re not writing? 

I enjoy the simple things in life. A glass of something cold, watching the sunset is good for me. I live in Cornwall, so being outdoors is really important. I am most happy when I’m literally anywhere near or in the sea, whatever the weather. I love walking with my family and Arthur our German Shepherd, particularly exploring new stretches of the coast line. Naturally, I am a people watcher, so I could happily sit at one of my favourite spots, with a mug of coffee or a chilled glass of wine and soak up the life around me. It probably goes without saying, I spend many hours, when I am not writing, catching up on reading. 

•Are you currently working on anything new? 

I have just finished writing my fourth book. So I am at the editing stages all over again with a strong idea for book five hovering somewhere in the background.

•Have you ever considered writing a different genre? Have you ever written a different genre, if so what was it? 

So far, I have concentrated on the psychological thriller genre, this is my comfort zone area, dark, evocative and twisted. That doesn’t make me as scary as it sounds, honest! However, at the other end of the spectrum, I have had an idea for a children’s book whirring around my mind for some years. Occasionally, I jot down the ideas that randomly pop up and I really hope to make this a reality at some point in the next year or so. 

•What books have you recently read and enjoyed? 

So many wonderful books. To name a couple – I Invited Her In by Adele Parks and Anatomy of a Scandal by Sarah Vaughan. Both of these books, I found to be beautifully written with compelling plots and believable characters.

• Have you done any other jobs than being an author? What was your favourite? 

Aside from all the many varied part-time jobs as a teenager, I have worked within marketing and I have also worked as a mental health clinician for many years. But, I am never happier than when I am writing. Not in any way does it feel like work, I even love the editing process, so this answer is categorically, a really easy one.

•How did you celebrate your first book being published? 

I think I was working on this day and so creeping on to the internet at every possible opportunity to soak up the buzz from all the generous people sharing the word. In the evening, I celebrated at home with a glass or two of Prosecco, with my husband and family. It all felt a little surreal to be honest, I simply couldn’t believe I had written a book worthy of publishing!

•What does your typical day look like when you’re writing? 

I begin as early as possible because I am best free-writing in the morning and editing in the afternoon or evening, both sometimes. I wake early, see my son off to school, prepare a meal for the evening, usually something that can be slow-cooked in the oven that I have to smell all day long. Then, I begin writing between 7.30 and 8.00. I will t write through to around 13.00, then deal with any household necessities and usual distractions that cannot be ignored. In the afternoon, normally, I see to any emails and if I am not heading towards a deadline, I tend to research and edit. or if I am feeling naughty – I read. As everyone begins to return home in dribs and drabs, I do the family thing, we walk our dog a couple of miles across the sand dunes, then at some point we all eat together. I set myself personal deadlines and I am really strict about sticking to them. For example, during these last few weeks, many days, I have written or edited for ten hours plus a day and for seven days a week. Finally, somewhere, I make time, dipping in and out on the social media platforms. I read mostly before bed, usually knocking myself out with my kindle or book, falling asleep. 

•Finally, my out of the box question. Would you rather explore a new planet, or the deepest parts of the ocean? Why? 

Definitely, the deepest parts of the ocean. I would love to do this, deep sea diving and then some. It completely fascinates me, such incredible, mythical and beautiful creatures, organisms and plant life. It’s kind of amazing, another entire world existing beneath our reach in our oceans, most the time we have no idea about or any connection to any of it. This is one of my dreams, to explore the depths of our fabled oceans.

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If you would like to read a copy of this book for yourself, it is available to pre-order from the following retailers:

Pre-order links:

Amazon Kobo iBooks GooglePlay

Follow Aria
Website: http://www.ariafiction.com
Twitter: @aria_fiction
Facebook: @ariafiction
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Please check out these other fantastic blogs that are participating in the blog tour!

The East End by Jason Allen #BlogTour @EathanJason @parkrowbooks

The East End by Jason Allen Blog Tour

Hello everyone and thank you so much for stopping by! We are so excited and it’s our absolute pleasure to be a part of the blog tour for The East End by Jason Allen and share Norma’s review with you. Thank you so much to Justine Sha at Park Row Books for inviting us to be a part of this blog tour.

The Traveling Sisters ~ Norma, Brenda & Lindsay! xxoo

The East End by Jason Allen is available now!

Book Summary:

THE EAST END opens with Corey Halpern, a Hamptons local from a broken home who breaks into mansions at night for kicks. He likes the rush and admittedly, the escapism. One night just before Memorial Day weekend, he breaks into the wrong home at the wrong time: the Sheffield estate where he and his mother work. Under the cover of darkness, their boss Leo Sheffield — billionaire CEO, patriarch, and owner of the vast lakeside manor — arrives unexpectedly with his lover, Henry. After a shocking poolside accident leaves Henry dead, everything depends on Leo burying the truth. But unfortunately for him, Corey saw what happened and there are other eyes in the shadows.

Hordes of family and guests are coming to the estate the next morning, including Leo’s surly wife, all expecting a lavish vacation weekend of poolside drinks, evening parties, and fireworks filling the sky. No one can know there’s a dead man in the woods, and there is no one Leo can turn to. With his very life on the line, everything will come down to a split-second decision. For all of the main players—Leo, Gina, and Corey alike—time is ticking down, and the world they’ve known is set to explode.

Told through multiple points of view, THE EAST END highlights the socio-economic divide in the Hamptons, but also how the basic human need for connection and trust can transcend class differences. Secrecy, obsession, and desperation dictate each character’s path. In a race against time, each critical moment holds life in the balance as Corey, Gina, and Leo approach a common breaking point. THE EAST END is a propulsive read, rich with character and atmosphere, and marks the emergence of a talented new voice in fiction.

Author Bio: Jason Allen grew up in a working-class home in the Hamptons, where he worked a variety of blue-collar jobs for wealthy estate owners. He writes fiction, poetry, and memoir, and is the author of the poetry collection A MEDITATION ON FIRE. He has an MFA from Pacific University and a PhD in literature and creative writing from Binghamton University, and currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia, where he teaches writing. THE EAST END is his first novel.

Social Links:

Author Website Twitter: @EathanJason Facebook: @jasonallenauthor Goodreads

Q&A with Jason Allen

Q: How would you describe your writing process? (Do you write at night? During the day? Alone or out in public at a cafe?)

A: On the best of days, I’m a marathon writer. I’m always most productive when I can devote an entire day to novel pages, ideally starting the moment I wake up, or right after the coffee is in the cup anyway, and then working until at least dinner time. I used to write very late at night, sometimes all night until the sun had risen and the birds reminded me I should finally sleep, but in the past few years I’m more a morning writer overall. I also teach at a university and have a heavy teaching load, so some days I can only spend an hour or so working on my writing before grading papers or heading to campus. I’ve found that I can’t work on a novel in public. I have to be in total solitude and quiet, at least when working on a novel. For shorter pieces, especially essays or poems, I sometimes like the energy in a coffee shop or a diner because it can spark a new thread of strange associative thoughts or odd metaphors, but as far as the novels go, I need to be a hermit for large blocks of time in order stay immersed in the prolonged dream of the fictional world.

Q: What physical settings do you find most conducive to writing?  Where did you write the bulk of this novel?

A: I wrote a lot of the early draft of The East End while living in Upstate New York, mostly while on my old couch, looking out the window throughout a few full cycles of the seasons and many days while snow was falling. I revised it while living in Atlanta and renting a first floor apartment in an old decrepit house that had a porch. I usually brought my laptop outside to the couch that was on the porch. During the hottest, most humid, most mosquito-thick parts of the year in Atlanta, I worked way more at night when it was cooler and less buggy and quieter.


Q: How did writing a novel compare to your previous experience writing poetry?

A: Writing poems is much more spontaneous for me than the novel writing process. The scale is also so dramatically different. A poem is a distillation of image and emotion, sort of like carving and polishing a figurine of a baby elephant from a palm-size piece of limestone, while writing a novel takes years of chiseling marble slabs, and then rearranging and questioning how all the animals in an acre of the African savannah should be positioned to tell their larger interconnected story. Most of the poems in my collection A Meditation on Fire connect to personal experience, the initial drafts written with a sense of urgency. The East End was a constant process of exploration, until the characters felt so real to me that I truly cared about each of them.

What I love about writing poetry is that I can spend one day on a first draft and feel I have something that is at least close to finished. What I love about novel writing is that I can only plan so much, and at a certain point during the years it takes to reach the end, there is sure to be at least a hundred ah-ha moments, so many surprises, and overall it’s so satisfying to complete a work that took hundreds of days, sometimes thousands of hours, and to discover something about the characters’ journeys that makes me think more deeply about my own experience in this world. Whether it’s through the short form with poems or essays or short stories, or the long form with novels, I can’t consider a piece finished in any form until I feel the same sense of emptiness—and I mean that in a good way. Each medium allows me to empty my consciousness to a certain extent, to empty out the static of daily life that we all cope with in our own ways.

Q: What inspired you to write THE EAST END?

A: Initially, I mainly wanted to illuminate the inner lives of the working class people of the Hamptons. I grew up there, and as a working class person in a seasonal resort area that attracts the wealthiest of the wealthy, as the Hamptons does, it’s impossible not to compare what “they” have versus what “we” have. I’d always been fascinated by just how extreme the disparity was between the multi-millionaire visitors and those of us who scraped by year after year, and that tension played out in so many ways each summer season. So I wanted to explore class, but also addiction, secrecy, obsession, and to do my best to write a complex story that highlights that tension among the disparate classes of people in the Hamptons. What I found over time, after delving into the depths of each character’s psyche, is that I truly believe that we are all more than the assumptions others might impose upon us.

Q: What are some of the main themes in the book or some of the key takeaways?

A: The main themes are class (specifically class-divide), alcoholism and addiction, secrecy, obsession, loneliness and longing, and identity (including sexual orientation/ identification). The key takeaway, I hope, is that we should try our best not to judge any book by its cover. I had an easy time empathizing with the teenaged character, Corey, even as he starts breaking into houses, and also for his mother, Gina, even as she’s hitting bottom with alcohol and pills and is relatively absent from her two sons’ daily lives. I was surprised to find how much I cared about the billionaire character, Leo Sheffield, when in the past I could have easily written him off as just another greed-driven destroyer of the world, someone who deserves no empathy—but it was gratifying to care about them all, despite their flaws and bad decisions.

Q: What are the commonalities you discovered between the elite and the middle-class characters?

A: Everyone suffers. Everyone loves. Everyone longs for something or someone. We’re all so flawed, all bumbling along through our lives; we’re all having a human experience, no matter our socioeconomic status. It just so happens that it will always be a bit harder for working class people in general—hardest of all for the poorest of the poor.

Q: What was the hardest part about writing your debut book?

A: Maintaining relationships, maybe? It’s understandable that it might not be easy for most people to be in a relationship with someone who wants to spend days off from work in their pajama pants, shut away in a room for hours at a time. The work itself, I honestly love it—even when it feels like hard work. It’s incredible that after many years of writing, now I get to work on my next novels as others are reading The East End. I guess the hardest part is what happens after the writing is finished. I want everyone to like it… haha.

Q: Your author bio says you grew up in the Hamptons and worked a variety of blue-collar jobs for wealthy estate owners.  How much did you draw from personal experience when writing this book?

A: I mined lots of lived experience for both the setting of the novel and the characters. My mother worked for a millionaire family at their summer estate in Southampton for more than a decade, and while the plot and characters are fictional, the setting is closely based on the estate where she worked (and where I worked with her for one summer). I also worked for the mega-rich in the Hamptons as a pool guy, a carpenter’s helper, lots of labor jobs in my teens and twenties.

Q: What is your favorite genre to read?  Have any authors you’ve read influenced your work?

A: Literary fiction is definitely my favorite, but all of the best genre fiction always transcends its genre, so I love discovering an especially strange novel with magical realism elements, or one that introduces a dystopian world in a new and fascinating way (think the original Twilight Zone episodes, Rod Serling’s brilliant social commentary through sci-fi). Whatever the genre, the characters will always matter most to me, but also I find that I’m most grateful when an author obviously took the time to pull me through the story with relatively constant plot complications and tension—all the books I love, all the ones I just couldn’t down, have so much character complexity and tension throughout. I’m sure that every author I’ve read has influenced my work to varying degrees, and I’m always looking for that next book that will trick me into forgetting that I’m reading—the best novels always achieve this seemingly impossible magic trick.

Q: What are you currently reading and what’s on your TBR (to be read) list?

A: I’m currently reading an advanced reader copy of a debut novel called The Tenth Girl, by Sara Faring, which is a brilliant, funny, twisted gothic story that takes place in a haunted girls’ prep school in Argentina, and at the same time I’m in the midst of another advanced copy of a wonderful literary debut novel Goodnight Stranger, by Miciah Bay Gault. I’ve also just finished Winter Loon, by Susan Bernhard, and loved it for its rich characters and the author’s bravery to show the true struggles of working class characters. Some other recent favorites include: The Boat Runner, by Devin Murphy (if you haven’t read that yet, buy it immediately—it’s amazing); Eileen, by Ottessa Moshfegh (so unique, both dark and funny in all the most interesting ways); and I just reread All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr, which I can only describe as a masterpiece, a novel in my top two or three of all-time.

Q: Do you have plans to write more novels in the future?

A: Yes, absolutely. I plan to finish my second novel this summer. It’s a story set mostly in Portland, Oregon, where I also lived for ten years. It takes place during the winter of 2008, during the start of the Great Recession and the Housing Crisis, also during an especially cold winter. The characters are all down-and-outers, with addiction and family and desperation as the central themes. I’m also looking forward to revising my first memoir manuscript, as well as my first feature-length screenplay, and in the next year or so I will begin fleshing out my third novel. I have the novel-writing bug, and realize now that I always have. I’m not hoping for a cure, either.

Now onto Norma’s review

Atmospheric, messy & scandalous!

THE EAST END by JASON ALLEN is a disturbing, wicked, suspenseful, evocative and entertaining novel that was filled with quite the unusual and interesting characters. This was definitely a rapid-paced read for me but there was something about it that didn’t always sit all that well with me though. I was loving it one moment and then the next not so much.

JASON ALLEN delivers quite the atmospheric, gripping, compelling and well-written read here that was extremely vividly descriptive. I’m not normally a visual reader but this one definitely gave me a lot of visual scenes throughout that I could easily see playing out in my mind.

There is lots going on here and plenty of themes to ponder. I’m not sure if there was a little too many for me or if certain themes affected me in an unfavourable way. I’m thinking it was the latter.

This was an entertaining, wild and frantic read from start to finish! 

I’m extremely honoured to be a part of the blog tour for THE EAST END. Thank you so much to NetGalley, Park Row / Harlequin and Jason Allen for the opportunity to read an advanced copy of this book.

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If you would like to read a copy of the book for yourself, it is available now from the following retailers:

THE EAST END
Author: Jason Allen
ISBN: 9780778308393
Publication Date: 5/7/19
Publisher: Park Row Books

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

The Heart Keeper by Alex Dahl #BlogTour @HoZ_Books @alexdahlauthor

The Heart Keeper by Alex Dahl Blog Tour

Hello everyone and thank you so much for stopping by! We are so excited and it’s our absolute pleasure to be a part of the blog tour for The Heart Keeper by Alex Dahl and share our individual reviews with you. Thank you so much to Victoria Joss at Head of Zeus for inviting us to be a part of this blog tour.

The Traveling Sisters ~ Norma, Brenda & Lindsay! xxoo

The Heart Keeper by Alex Dahl is available now!

The heart-breaking, heart-pounding new thriller from the author of The Boy at the Door.

How do you mend a broken heart?

It’s been three months since Alison Miller-Juul’s world fell apart when her six-year-old daughter, Amalie, died in an accident. Three months of sympathy cards, grief counselling and gritting her teeth, but it’s still only the vodka and pills that seem to help.

Across town, Iselin Berg’s life is finally looking up. Her seven-year-old daughter, Kaia, has survived a life-changing operation. After years of doctors, medication and hope, they can now start thinking about the future.
When Alison uncovers a dangerous secret, she is left in turmoil. She can now see a way to heal her broken heart, but will she risk everything to do so?

About the author

Alex Dahl is a half-American, half-Norwegian author. Born in Oslo, she studied Russian and German linguistics with international studies, then went on to complete an MA in creative writing at Bath Spa University and an MSc in business management at Bath University. A committed Francophile, Alex loves to travel, and has so far lived in Moscow, Paris, Stuttgart, Sandefjord, Switzerland, Bath and London. Her first thriller, The Boy at the Door, was a Sunday Times Crime Club star pick.

Follow Alex:  
Twitter: @alexdahlauthor
Facebook: @alexdahlauthor

Now onto our reviews!
Norma’s Review

Moving, heart-wrenching & raw!

THE HEART KEEPER by ALEX DAHL is an interesting, enjoyable and entertaining read that had quite the emotional, profound and unique premise. I haven’t read too many books in regards to organ donation and I found that quite intriguing. I wouldn’t necessarily say though that I was totally immersed in this story but I did definitely feel at times an intense emotional pull. 

The story itself is a scary, horrific and heartbreaking one that definitely plants you right into the storyline with all of its dramatic highs and lows. But I wouldn’t say that it was all that thrilling or had me on the edge of my seat in anticipation until maybe towards the end. Then I was breathlessly awaiting the outcome.

ALEX DAHL delivers an intriguing and well-written read here with determined, honest and relatable characters. I especially enjoyed Kaia and she had me totally loving and rooting for her. The concept and the actual things all heart related was pretty palpable and extremely touched me as a reader. You could definitely feel the author’s heart here within this story. 

Brenda’s Review

Two Mothers, one grieving, two daughters, one gone and the other given a second chance

The Heart Keeper is an emotional, heart breaking story that explores a mother’s grief and guilt that turns into an obsession.

Alex Dahl does a great job capturing the grief of a family after the death of their daughter and sister. Each dealing in their own way that really pulled me into their lives. I was turning those pages as fast as I could to see how this story comes together in the end. We see how grief and guilt start to unravel our grieving mother and she starts to become obsessed with the idea of having a second chance with her daughter through her daughter’s heart keeper.

The ending had me on the seat of chair, holding my breath and rooting for the characters and feeling very satisfied with how the story wrapped up. I highly recommend!

Lindsay’s Review

Alison is lost in her grief after her five-year-old daughter, Amalie drowns in the lake.  She is consumed by guilt, as she was the one watching her that day. Alison and her husband decide to donate Amalie’s organs, feeling comfort that Amalie can help to save other children.  Iselin’s seven-year-old daughter, Kaia, is the recipient of Amalie’s heart. Being born with a heart condition, Iselin has watched Kaia struggle to survive for her entire life. Shortly after, Alison stumbles across a magazine article outlining Kaia’s miraculous recovery through the heart transplant.  Could part of Amalie be living within this young girl? Would she recognize any signs of Amalie in Kaia?

The emotional impact of this book hit me hard.  Alison’s grief completely consumed me. It was a gut-wrenching, impossible to ignore sadness that reached my core and had me shedding countless tears within the first several chapters.  I felt so deeply for her character and situation that I had to take breaks from reading to dry my eyes and regroup my thoughts. The power behind this author, Alex Dahl’s, writing is undeniable.   I had deep sympathy for Alison from start to finish, hoping for her to somehow find comfort and peace and be able to move forward in life.

This book is separated into three parts.  Part 1 was the most powerful for me, leaving a devastating and unforgettable emotional impact.  I thoroughly enjoyed the entire book, but found that Part 2 and Part 3 lost some of the emotional intensity, focusing more on the storyline, rather than the emotions involved.

Norma’s Stats:
Cover: Intriguing, heartfelt, moving and an extremely fitting and meaningful representation to storyline. 
Title: An intriguing, interesting, meaningful and extremely fitting representation to storyline. I absolutely love the title of this story! Perfection!
Writing/Prose: Well-written, sincere, captivating, moving and readable. 
Plot: Slow-building, steadily paced, interesting, heartfelt, moving, touching, and unique. 
Ending: Intense, heartfelt and satisfying. 
Overall: I think this book will be much better perceived if you go into it knowing that it is more of a strong family drama rather than a full on heart-pounding thriller. This book definitely resonated with me as a mother. Would recommend! 

Thank you so much to NetGalley, Victoria Joss at Head of Zeus and Alex Dahl for the opportunity to read an advanced copy of this book.

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If you would like to read a copy of the book for yourself, it is available now from the following retailers:

Buy links:
Amazon
Kobo
Google Play
iBooks

Follow Aria:
Website: www.headofzeus.com
Twitter: @HoZ_Books
Facebook: @headofzeus
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Please check out these other fantastic blogs that are participating in the blog tour!