Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Restaurant Critic's Wife by Elizabeth LaBan (3.5 stars)

About The Restaurant Critic's Wife

Paperback: 313 pages
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing (January 5, 2016)

What could be better than being married to a restaurant critic? All those amazing meals at the best restaurants…pure nirvana, right? Well, Lila Soto, the heroine of Elizabeth LaBan’s charming new novel, The Restaurant Critic’s Wife (Lake Union Publishing; January 5, 2016), might tell you otherwise. Sure the food is heavenly, but the downsides are considerable—especially being married to a man who is obsessed with his job and paranoid to the point of absurdity about being “outed” from his anonymity. Add to the scenario the fact that Lila has given up her own career to follow her husband’s job to a new, unfamiliar city, and that she is now a fulltime stay-at-home mom—a gig she never aspired to, despite loving her kids—and you begin to see why Lila is doubting every life decision she’s ever made.

Though it is not an autobiography by any means, it can’t be overlooked that Elizabeth LaBan is herself married to Philadelphia restaurant critic Craig LaBan. “This book wouldn’t exist without my husband,” she says, “who brings excitement, adventure, love, and great food into our lives every day, and has always been open to my writing a novel about a woman who is married to a wacky restaurant critic. For the record, Craig is not obsessive or controlling like Sam—and Craig did not tell me to say that.” But, even if her main characters are fictitious, there is no denying that Elizabeth draws on aspects of her own life to lend a delicious verisimilitude to the novel.

The Restaurant Critic’s Wife is a charming portrait of the complexities of life that many women face when dealing with their marriages, their children, their friendships, and their careers. All the talk about exquisite food is merely the icing on a one-of-a-kind cake. 

“A tender, charming, and deliciously diverting story about love, marriage, and how your restaurant-review sausage gets made. The Restaurant Critic’s Wife is compulsively readable and richly detailed, a guilt-free treat that will have you devouring every word.” —Jennifer Weiner, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Good In BedBest Friends Forever, and Who Do You Love
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Lila's life it turned upside down by love and family. She loves her husband and her children, but she misses her old life--mainly a demanding job she excelled at. In addition, her husband is the local newspaper's restaurant critic. A job that sounds amazing at first. But in his efforts to secure his anonymity, he creates a stifling environment for his wife.

Can she find a place of happiness with all the changes?

Relatable characters are paramount to any good story, and I felt connected to Lila early on. She is an emotional wreck, torn between awesome possibilities and not necessarily wanting to choose. Do any of us? She loves her kids, but are they enough? If she goes back to work, will she miss her kids too much or slowly destroy her family? Can she strike some beautiful balance?

Never once did she come across as whiny, complacent, or selfish. She knew there wasn't an easy decision. Where I struggled a bit was her husband. He was a bit hard to connect to because he could go from cruel to perfect. At times, I thought he was almost too good to be true. But at other times, I wanted to scream at Lila to take the kids and run. I think this lack of connection is based on my very fortunate background with men; I've never really known a man to waffle that drastically.

Oh, and if you love food, be prepared to be hungry during several scenes. I can't imagine what a treat it would be to get to taste all kinds of amazing food and never have to cook. 

Somewhere along the way, I wanted a bigger something to happen, if that makes sense. But I never stopped caring about Lila or wanting to know her decision. That says a lot.

Rating: 3.5 stars
Elizabeth LaBan_(c) Andrea Cipriani Mecchi_300dpi
About Elizabeth LaBan 

Elizabeth LaBan lives in Philadelphia with her restaurant critic husband and two children. She is also the author of The Tragedy Paper, which has been translated into eleven languages, and The Grandparents Handbook, which has been translated into seven languages.

Connect with Elizabeth 
Thanks to TLC for my review copy.

Note: I received a complimentary copy for review purposes. A positive review was not requested or guaranteed; the opinions expressed are my own. 
Please visit other stops on The Restaurant Critic's Wife blog tour page.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Heartless by Kelly Martin (5 stars)

About Heartless

Some things can't be saved.

What would you do if your guardian angel wasn't sent to protect you from the world but to protect the world from you? 

For thirteen years, Gracen Sullivan dreamed about a red-eyed demon named Hart Blackwell who tortured her every night. Her mother freaked when she found out about her daughter's "hallucinations" and forced Gracen to go to the doctor, who prescribed some very powerful medication which kept Hart out of her head for five years.

A week ago, Hart came back and brought a friend.

But something has changed, and Gracen is seeing Hart when she's awake too. And the other "friends" in her dreams? They have been found dead.

The police want to talk to her.

Her boyfriend has become distant.

Her dreams are becoming more and more intense.

Hell wants her. Heaven has to stop her. 

When push comes shoving, can Gracen fight the evil eating away inside her or will she be forced to embrace it and destroy the world?


Publication Date: 1/17/16

* It's on sale for $0.99 through 1/19/16.


Gracen Sullivan has been fighting to have a semblance of a normal life for as long as she can remember. With intense medication, she kept her nightmares at bay... but Hart (her dream tormentor) is back, and things will never be the same.

Now, she's not the only one in her dreams, and the visitors keep turning up dead. As Gracen's dreams grow in intensity, she realizes her nightmares have spilled over into her reality. Police are involved and angels and demons are pursuing her.

Her biggest question... is she the evil she's come to fear?

First, I have to give huge props to author Kelly Martin for writing such a unique story and having the guts to do so. In real life, good and evil are not always clearly defined. In Heartless, Gracen struggles to figure out where she stands. And we, as readers, get to be in her head and feel her torment.

The story will hook you from the first page and hold you in its grips until the very last word. It's a roller coaster of emotions and intrigue. Just as soon as you think you know what's going to happen, things will turn upside down. 

All the main characters in this story have a compelling background. I love how their struggles stretched my thinking, leaving me questioning my own rules about right and wrong... about what makes us do what we do. 

I only wish I could tell you more... but I don't want to spoil anything by giving too much away.

If you are looking for a unique and captivating read, one that will test your idea of good and evil, then pick up a copy of Heartless today.

Rating: 5 stars

About the Author

Kelly Martin is the bestselling author of contemporary, historical, and YA romance. She has been married for over ten years and has three rowdy, angelic daughters. When Kelly isn't writing, she loves watching horror gamers on YouTube, even though she is a huge wimp, and drinking white chocolate mochas.

You can find her at...

Note: I was the Editor on this book through Indie Books Gone Wild. A positive review was not requested or guaranteed; the opinions expressed are my own.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Flesh and Stone by PM Hernandez (4.5 stars)

About Flesh and Stone

Seventeen-year-old Ellie Whitewood dreams of being a doctor and giving back to the grandfather who raised her after the death of her parents. When she receives an inheritance from a reclusive aunt, she becomes the mistress of a sprawling manor.

Selling the property to pay for college seems like the answer to her prayers, but each day she grows more and more attached to the stone gargoyles adorning the manor rooftop. 

After finding the Whitewood journals, she learns she is the latest in a line of Caretakers who, with her Sentinels, defends the world from evil. While she is drawn to her Sentinel, Gabriel, and her new life, her future isn’t written in stone. 

Haunted by dark dreams and facing deadly enemies, is she willing to sacrifice her well-laid plans and accept her new calling...even if it comes with wings and sharp teeth?

Publication Date: 1/15/16
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Ellie Whitewood has her life all planned out. Then, she receives a letter from a relative detailing an inheritance. Not long after, she's exploring a mansion, getting to know the staff, and becoming attached to the weathered gargoyles on the roof. 

She's drawn to one gargoyle in particular. Soon, she discovers her true inheritance: she's a Caretaker, the latest in a long line, and she's charged with defending the world from a dark evil. Tradition states one special gargoyle will stand beside her.

What's a young woman to do?

Ellie is a spunky girl with goals and plans. When life throws her a curveball, she faces it head on, even if she does struggle with how she's supposed to handle it. But she doesn't wither away into a sappy mess; she comes out fighting, determined to make decisions and do what she thinks is right. I so love a spunky character with flaws, especially when they fight to figure it out.

As she reads through journals from past Caretakers and gets to know the gargoyles, many questions mount. Even more perplexing, feelings start forming. And it's not as simple as the journals say it should be. I'm totally #TeamGabriel, but that's all I'm going to say on that front.

I can't wait to read more in this series and see where Ellie's heart and determination take her. 

Rating: 4.5 stars

About the Author

Paulette (PM) Hernandez is a young adult paranormal, sci-fi, and fantasy author. She is a self-proclaimed nerd. She wears a lot of black, not because she’s cool but because she’s fashion-challenged. She has been known to fangirl all over the freaking place.

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Note: I was the Editor on this book through Indie Books Gone Wild. A positive review was not requested or guaranteed; the opinions expressed are my own.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Hear the Crickets by BJ Sheldon (5 stars)

About Hear the Crickets

Skyy’s a freak. She’ll tell you so herself. Her past – a mystery. Her future – uncertain. Having spent most of her life avoiding humans in an effort to conceal her wings, she wants nothing more than to end it all, leaving behind the solitary life she’s been forced to live. But numerous attempts to die have proven immortality is both a curse and a nuisance. She now lives out her days in self-imposed seclusion to stay hidden from the world. But that quiet way of life is shattered when mysterious siblings arrive and reveal a destiny which sends her running for the hills. When an earth shattering discovery is made in the Badlands, history and science collide furthering the mystery behind Skyy’s past – and her future. Skyy will need to embrace her fate and confront an evil so ancient, only a miracle can keep the world from ceasing to be.


Skyy has tried many times to end it all... to finally be free of a life spent in hiding. Unfortunately, in addition to wings, she's immortal. So, with the exception of one friend, she secludes herself from the world.

Until one day, strangers show up and everything changes. 

Now, she'll need to embrace her strength and face the most intense battle of her life. All to save the world... a world's she's been avoiding.

I love a unique paranormal, and I hadn't read anything like this one. But at the end of the day, what makes a book truly memorable for me is the emotional connection. Skyy dug her way into my heart. I understood intimately, thanks to awesome character development, why she wanted to end it. But I desperately wanted for her to find her place and someone to love her. 

It's not often I need kleenex for a paranormal read, but I did. Take my advice: have tissues nearby. Even with all the action, there are some rich emotional scenes between various characters who are facing possible death while yearning for human connection... for something to make it all worthwhile.

I can't say enough about the beauty of this book... in its uniqueness, its emotional intensity, and its fearlessness. A real winner.

Rating: 5 stars

About the Author

B.J. Sheldon's love of writing has developed into a passion for creating exciting characters and story lines that she hopes will enthrall and inspire young readers to pick up a book and use their imaginations.

B.J. lives in the Black Hills of South Dakota with her best friend and husband, Steven, an Army veteran. They have 3 daughters, 3 cats, and a dog – all of whom are trying to take over the world. She grew up in Iowa and spent many years in sunny Arizona before finally settling down in the hills that she loves. She has a B.S. degree in Project Management from the University of Phoenix and has a PhD in life. B.J. began reading at age 4, and by the 4th grade had already read most of the literary classics. Her hobbies include cuticle care, fighting off zombies, and traveling through space and time with a mad man in a blue box.

Connect with BJ

Note: I did early edits on this book. A positive review was not requested or guaranteed; the opinions expressed are my own.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Always Room for Cupcakes by Bethany Lopez Cover Reveal & Giveaway


Today we are celebrating the cover reveal of ALWAYS ROOM FOR CUPCAKES by Bethany Lopez. This book is a romantic comedy/suspense title that will be released on February 2nd. Check out the cover, blurb, and giveaway below. This book is currently up for pre-order now so go grab your copy!

  cupcake (4)  


One day I was be-bopping along jamming to the music in my head while wondering if my thighs could handle grabbing a cupcake on the way home. The next thing I knew, my entire world crashed and burned. I used to wake up at night in a sweat, crying because I’d dreamt that my husband was cheating on me, or that he hated me, and resented my kids. He’d always hold me close and tell me it was all just a dream, that he loved me and our family and that he’d never let me go. He was a f*cking liar. Now I spend my days taking photos of scum just like him, trying to be a champion for other's being taken advantage of by the losers in our town, and my nights being a single mom to my beautiful twins. I've got great friends who have my back, and a sexy, mysterious motorcycle man who keeps showing up when I need him. Maybe things are starting to look up, and one thing's for sure... There's always room for cupcakes.


  Cupcakes Teaser (1)  

Special Pre-order/Release Week Price is $2.99

Pre-order Links:

Amazon | iBooks | Smashwords | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

Lila Business Card 

EXCERPT: “Who the f*ck are you?” I whipped my head up as I was shoving the camera back in my purse, and saw a strange man standing by a rehabbed old Camaro, smoking a cigarette. “Uh … a friend of Clarice’s. I was just using the bathroom,” I managed, not sure who the guy was, or what my next move should be. “Yeah?” he asked, throwing his cigarette to the ground and taking a step toward me. “You need a camera to do that?” Shit. Before he could make another move, I secured my bag on my shoulder, turned and took off like a shot. I hit Main Street, cursing myself for wearing the damn boots when the sound of a motorcycle pulling up along side of me caused me to turn my head. My first thought was, where the hell did the bike come from? Then I realized it wasn’t the slimy guy from behind the salon. The bike came to a stop and the most dangerously beautiful man I’d ever seen rumbled, “Get your sweet ass on the bike.” Huh? I stood there for a moment, wondering what in the hell was happening, if I should get on this strange man’s bike, and if I was offended or flattered by his sweet ass comment. “Darlin’,” he prodded. I turned my head to look behind me, and saw the slimy guy standing at the side of Clarice’s, and made a quick decision to accept … his offer of a ride, and the compliment. So, I swung my leg up and over the bike, settled my front to his back, and curled my arms around the thick bulk of his muscled body. Tingling head to toe from the adrenaline, and the close contact with a seriously hot man, I couldn’t stop my lips from spreading into a grin as we took off down Main Street.

Cupcakes Teaser

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A1nt0F1SfnL._UX250_ Sign up for my Newsletter for more information about my writing: Award-Winning Author Bethany Lopez began self-publishing in June 2011. She's a lover of all things romance: books, movies, music, and life, and she incorporates that into the books she writes. When she isn't reading or writing, she loves spending time with her husband and children, traveling whenever possible. Some of her favorite things are: Kristen Ashley Books, coffee in the morning, and In N Out burgers. Bethany Lopez is represented by Marisa Corvisiero of Corvisiero Literary Agency.
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Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Santa Claus Man by Alex Palmer Excerpt & Giveaway

About The Santa Claus Man

Hardcover: 320 pages

Publisher: Lyons Press (October 1, 2015)

The Wolf of Wall Street in this true crime adventure, set in New York City in the Roaring Twenties.

Before the charismatic John Duval Gluck, Jr. came along, letters from New York City children to Santa Claus were destroyed, unopened, by the U.S. Post Office Department. Gluck saw an opportunity, and created the Santa Claus Association. The effort delighted the public, and for 15 years money and gifts flowed to the only group authorized to answer Santa’s mail. Gluck became a Jazz Age celebrity, rubbing shoulders with the era’s movie stars and politicians, and even planned to erect a vast Santa Claus monument in the center of Manhattan — until Gotham’s crusading charity commissioner discovered some dark secrets in Santa’s workshop.

The rise and fall of the Santa Claus Association is a caper both heartwarming and hardboiled, involving stolen art, phony Boy Scouts, a kidnapping, pursuit by the FBI, a Coney Island bullfight, and above all, the thrills and dangers of a wild imagination. It’s also the larger story of how Christmas became the extravagant holiday we celebrate today, from Santa’s early beginnings in New York to the country’s first citywide tree lighting to Macy’s first grand holiday parade. The Santa Claus Man is a holiday tale with a dark underbelly, and an essential read for lovers of Christmas stories, true crime, and New York City history.

Other holiday highlights found in The Santa Clause Man:

* The secret history of Santa letters, including a trove of original Santa letters and previously unpublished correspondences between the post office and charity groups arguing whether Santa’s mail should be answered.

* The surprising origins of Christmas as we celebrate it today. From “Twas the Night Before Christmas” to the image of Santa Claus popularized by Coca-Cola, this book outlines how modern Christmas came to be, and includes a standalone timeline of holiday milestones. 

* The rise of modern-day charity—and charity fraud. Unchecked giving exploded after the First World War and this book follows this growth, as well as some of the most egregious exploiters of the country’s goodwill (including the Santa Claus Man himself), and how they were finally exposed.

* Dozens of original vintage holiday photos, including a sculpture of Santa Claus made of 5,000 pulped letters to Santa, and a detailed sketch of a proposed Santa Claus Building, planned but never built in midtown Manhattan.

“Highly readable” — Publishers Weekly

“Required reading” — New York Post

“A rich, sensational story of holiday spirit corrupted by audacity and greed, fueled by the media at the dawning of the Jazz Age.”— Greg Young, cohost of Bowery Boys NYC history podcast 

“A Christmas pudding of a book, studded with historical nuggets and spiced with larceny.”— Gerard Helferich, author of Theodore Roosevelt and the Assassin 

 The Santa Claus Man was featured in this New York Times post entitled "Mama Says That Santa Claus Does Not Come to Poor People".
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On Thursday, December 22, 1927, as Gluck was in the thick of association operations, Coler summoned him to his office. Receiving the summons, it likely struck Gluck as a mild annoyance. He had been investigated by at least a half dozen agencies and officials, none of whom had been able to definitively prove anything amiss about the group. His biggest concern was that this was the most important week of the year for the association, with checks and gifts coming in fast. But it was not a request he could ignore. So Gluck donned his expensive trench coat and bowler to protect him from the chilly winter day and made his way to the Manhattan Municipal Building. He wore round spectacles, gloves, black shoes and spats, and sported an impeccably waxed mustache.

Coler invited Gluck in and offered him a seat. Unmoved by Gluck’s usual gestures of bonhomie, the commissioner wasted no time on niceties. He had a long list of questions and other business to handle this Christmas week and he was sure Gluck did as well, so he got down to business. The commissioner explained that he had concerns about the Santa Claus Association’s finances and fund-raising, and he hoped that the group’s founder could illuminate the workings of the group. With that, Coler began.

How much money is the Santa Claus Association generating from all these fund-raising letters? Gluck could not say. Can you name the group’s officers? Gluck could not name them all offhand, nor did he know exactly how many were employed to investigate letters or buy the gifts. He would have to check back at headquarters. Could you name the members of the board of directors? He’d have to get back to Coler on that question. Can you at least tell the Commission how many officials receive salaries? He could not. Well, then, who is in charge of the group’s finances? Gluck admitted that at the moment, despite his inability to answer the man’s most basic financial questions about the association, he alone oversaw the group’s finances.

Astounded by Gluck’s stonewalling, Coler switched lines of questioning. How many names are on the group’s mailing list? Gluck had no idea. Well, where did you get their information? From the Capital & Labor Bureau for Economic Research. Who can we contact at this bureau for more information? Well, he explained, as the founder and president of the Capital & Labor Bureau for Economic Research, Gluck himself would probably be the best person to ask, but he did not have access to the list at the moment. With what other organizations are you associated? Promotion and investigation were “his life work,” Gluck explained—he could hardly list every group he organized or assisted when put on the spot like this.

The stalling, dissembling, and nonanswering continued for two hours. It became plain to Coler that Gluck could not, or almost certainly more likely would not, provide the information he sought. His obfuscations made it difficult for the Public Welfare man to even understand how the group ran, let alone where all the money went. He demanded Gluck provide him with the organization’s documents, including a full list of the donations received and gifts distributed. Gluck protested: doing so would be an enormous inconvenience for the association at the moment, right in the midst of its busiest week. He described for Coler the vast operation he was running, painting a picture reminiscent of the group’s massive second and third years: hundreds of volunteers rushing through the association headquarters, ladies in floral hats addressing envelopes, and celebrities dropping by. But instead of providing his much-needed help to these activities, Gluck was stuck in the municipal building, answering questions.

“It would interfere with the organization” mere days ahead of Christmas, he complained. Irritated, the commissioner threatened to get the district attorney involved. This threat did not worry Gluck. He had gone toe-to-toe with the DA a decade earlier and knew that he was operating, if barely, within the city’s laws. He demanded that, unless Coler had any more evidence against him, the commissioner let him get back to the more important work of fulfilling the city’s Christmas wishes. Knowing he had pulled all he could from Gluck for the time being, the commissioner reluctantly thanked him for his time. As soon as the Santa Claus Man left his office, Coler discussed with a few of his trusted advisors how to proceed. If Gluck refused to bring his books to them, he decided, they would get them from him.

Special blog tour Christmas gift: Get a free Santa bookplate signed by the author, plus two vintage Santa Claus Association holiday seals. Just email proof once you buy The Santa Claus Man (online receipt, photo of bookstore receipt, etc.) along with the mailing address where you'd like the gift sent to santaclausmanbook[at]gmail[dot]com. Email before 12/21 to guarantee delivery by Christmas. 

UnknownAbout Alex Palmer

Author Alex Palmer has written for Slate, Vulture, Smithsonian Magazine, New York Daily News and many other outlets. The author of previous nonfiction books Weird-o-Pedia and Literary Miscellany, he is also the great-grandnephew of John Duval Gluck, Jr. 

Connect with Alex 
Website | Facebook | Twitter

Thanks to TLC for including 
me on the Excerpt Tour.

Please visit other stops on The Santa Claus Man blog tour page.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Crescent Spy by Michael Wallace (4 stars)

About The Crescent Spy 

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing (November 10, 2015) 

Writing under a man’s name, Josephine Breaux is the finest reporter at Washington’s Morning Clarion. Using her wit and charm, she never fails to get the scoop on the latest Union and Confederate activities. But when a rival paper reveals her true identity, accusations of treason fly. Despite her claims of loyalty to the Union, she is arrested as a spy and traitor. 

To Josephine’s surprise, she’s whisked away to the White House, where she learns that President Lincoln himself wishes to use her cunning and skill for a secret mission in New Orleans that could hasten the end of the war. For Josephine, though, this mission threatens to open old wounds and expose dangerous secrets. In the middle of the most violent conflict the country has ever seen, can one woman overcome the treacherous secrets of her past in order to secure her nation’s future?
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For fans of the Civil War and female empowerment, this is a must-read. How often do we get to see a strong female presence in a war situation, particularly the Civil War? Josephine is tenacious as a female reporter in the midst of a torn nation. Nothing will stop her. I am drawn to these types of characters and couldn't wait to see her fate.

Seeing the men scramble around her brought a little joy to my heart... I won't lie. 

Why then a 4-star rating? 

I wanted more for her than just her strength. So much of her soft side seemed missing. In my humble opinion, what makes women special is their ability to embrace strength and vulnerability. 

Also, the tension in the story never seemed to ebb and flow, instead barreling forward at a constant and intriguing pace. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it attributed to my feeling of a missing softness.

But, overall, this is an empowering and captivating read. One well-worth your time.

Rating: 4 stars

About Michael Wallace 

Michael Wallace was born in California and raised in a small religious community in Utah, eventually heading east to live in Rhode Island and Vermont. In addition to working as a literary agent and innkeeper, he has been a software engineer for a Department of Defense contractor programming simulators for nuclear submarines. 

He is the author of more than twenty novels, including the Wall Street Journal bestselling Righteous series, set in a polygamist enclave in the desert.

Thanks to TLC for my review copy.

Note: I received a complimentary copy for review purposes. A positive review was not requested or guaranteed; the opinions expressed are my own. 

Please visit other stops on The Crescent Spy blog tour page.