“The Sweet Spot”–Review

One divorce, one social media disaster, one random baby, and three unlikely friendships: welcome to The Sweet Spot.

Set in New York, this is a story of a baby who sparks an unexpected friendship amongst three women: Lauren is an artist, wife, and busy mom of three children. When she least expects it, she is given a deadline that can make or break her career. Olivia is young and on the verge of moving up in her job, until an encounter at work leaves her unemployed, with student loan debt and break-up remorse. And then there’s Melinda, who is lonely and angry after her divorce. And why not? She and her now ex-husband didn’t want children, but then he changed his mind when he fell for another, younger woman. Now Melinda wants revenge, and she knows exactly who was responsible for her ex-husband’s actions.

But revenge isn’t as great as Melinda had hoped when she ends up stuck with her ex’s baby due to unforeseen circumstances. Melinda can’t look after a baby by herself. She’s never done it before, so she swallows her pride and seeks help from Lauren and Olivia. While the three women are juggling everything in their own lives, all the while taking turns with a baby who doesn’t belong to any of them, they decide it’s time to track down the wayward parents.

The Sweet Spot is my first read by Amy Poeppel. Also, I had the pleasure of making her acquaintance at a book event at Bloomingdale’s. I have a copy of one of her previous books, Limelight, which I will read, I promise. I enjoyed reading this latest book, though. I was actually amazed by these women who were willing to lend a hand with a baby while they had their own, busy lives. It wasn’t just the three of them, though; Lauren’s family, including Olivia’s father, stepped in on many occasions. Honestly, in real life, I’m sure it would not work out that way. This was a situation, however, that not only brought everyone together, but it helped the main characters learn a lot about themselves. Whenever I read novels about family life, I often think, “My goodness, how do they do it?” I applaud them all.

Feel free to post your comments. Happy reading!

The Sweet Spot will be available on January 31, 2023.

About the author: Amy Poeppel is the award-winning author of the novels The Sweet Spot, Musical Chairs, Limelight, and Small Admissions. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Rumpus, Literary Hub, and Working Mother. She and her husband have three sons and split their time between New York City, Germany, and Connecticut. For more info, click here.

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“An Elderly Lady is Up to No Good”–Review

Happy New Year, bloggers! I hope you all are enjoying some good books. For this past year, I made a goal to read 50 books. I believe I read only 23, so I was almost halfway there. It’s okay, anyhow. I have to remind myself that reading is supposed to be for enjoyment. Also, I’m a slow reader, yet I still like these Goodreads challenges.

Anyhow, for this year, I made the same reading goal, and it actually feels nice to start fresh. The first book I read for this year is An Elderly Lady is Up to No Good, by Helene Tursten. I found the title on Instagram, so I gave it a chance. The book is a story collection featuring an 88-year-old woman named Maud, who has lived her entire life in her family’s spacious apartment home in downtown Gothenburg, Sweden. Although her immediate family passed away, long ago, she still gets to live rent-free because of a minor clause in the contract. Ever since her family passed away, Maud has been free of family obligations, so she travels. She gets to enjoy her life of solitude. That’s the way she wants to keep things.

But then Maud suspects others are trying to ruin her plans. They all assume she’s just a confused, old lady who can’t handle herself. Little do they know that Maud is just as clever as the next person. No one suspects her of handling a problem with a new tenant—who happens to be a local celebrity—in her building who is too interested in Maud’s apartment. No one suspects Maud of foiling a new engagement of her lover from years ago. And then there’s the issue with another bad neighbor in the building. But Maud knows how to handle it. When a body is eventually found in Maud’s apartment, however, she might become a suspect.

Wow, what a clever, old lady. All she wants to do is keep the peace, as well as keep what’s rightfully hers, even if that involves murder. The woman is scary. These stories had a bit of a Twilight Zone feel to it, in my opinion. Probably because I was watching the show at the same time, last night, and the theme music was stuck in my head. Not bad for my first read for the new year. Feel free to post your comments. Happy reading!

About the author: Helene Tursten (born in Gothenburg in 1954) is a Swedish writer of crime fiction. Before becoming an author, Tursten worked as a nurse and then a dentist, but was forced to leave due to illness. During her illness she worked as a translator of medical articles. She is the author of two mystery series set in Gothenburg, Sweden: the Irene Huss investigations, and the Embla Nystrom investigations, beginning with Hunting Game.

“A Woman of Endurance”–Review

Set in 1800s Puerto Rico, A Woman of Endurance tells the story of an enslaved African woman, Pola, who—along with many others—had been taken from her home in West Africa, sold, stripped of her identity, and forced into a world of slave breeding. After an attempted escape, Pola is brutally beaten and sent to her new life on a sugar cane plantation, Hacienda las Mercedes. In this community, Pola struggles to adjust in the complex, as well as the supportive world. Everything has been taken from her, and she often finds that she wants nothing more than to keep herself closed off from everything and everyone. She fears the possibilities of more abuse or worse. But she also finds love from those who helped her when she had been in need, those who have given her the will to go on, even though she’s come close to giving up on life. Along the way, she learns that she needs to grieve, to heal, and to find herself worthy in order to live again.

The first half of the book was painful to read. I don’t want to even imagine the horrific abuse during those times, but this book is still worth the read, especially for the history enthusiast and historical fiction reader. Feel free to post your comments. Happy reading!

About the author: Dahlma Llanos-Figueroa was born in Puerto Rico and raised in New York City. She is a product of the Puerto Rican communities on the island and in the South Bronx. She attended the New York City public school system and received her academic degrees from SUNY at Buffalo and CUNY Queens College. As a child she was sent to live with her grandparents in Puerto Rico where she was introduced to the culture of rural Puerto Rico, including the storytelling that came naturally to the women in her family, especially the older women. Much of her work is based on her experiences during this time. For more info, click here.

“Kallista”–Review

Good evening, bloggers! I can’t believe this month is almost over. I’m actually looking forward to Halloween, so I’ve been trying to catch up with some scary books. I recently got around to reading Kallista, the second book in the Butcher series, so here’s the description:

Kallista is the follow up to the first book, Tatum. In the first book, Tatum was haunted by a ghost known as the Skeleton Woman, who Tatum fears is associated with death. The images haunted and affected her so much that her friends, including her sisters, started thinking something was wrong with her. Along with the images of the Skeleton Woman, brutal deaths were taking place within the community. Bodies were strung up, heads were severed, tongues were missing, and no evidence was left behind. The Butcher was killing anyone connected to Tatum, yet she had no idea why it was happening.

The second book takes places years following Tatum’s gruesome death. Her sister, Kallista, has put off any chance of a normal life to figure out who the Butcher is and why he targeted Tatum and her friends. While she is working on the case, the haunting figure from all those years ago is suddenly appearing wherever Kallista is. Is it all in her mind, though? Does it have any relation to the Butcher? With the possibility the Butcher might still be out there, Kalli needs to get answers fast….or meet her own demise.

I can’t remember when I read the first book, but I think it was worth the read. Aside from the fact that the first title and I share the same name, the story’s description was right up my alley. Kallista was just as good because the story featured more of the point of view of the Butcher. Fair warning, the chapters featuring the Butcher are disturbing, so it might not be for the sensitive reader. There’s plenty of gore for the hardcore fans, so enjoy it. I highly recommend you read Tatum before starting this book, so you’ll get a better idea of the story. I’ll have to buy the third book in the series, and I hope it’ll be a good one. Feel free to post your comments. Happy reading!

About the author:

Known as the International Bestselling, Award-winning Author of horrific old-school terror titles such as Buried and the Asylum Series, Sian B. Claven brings back a nostalgic telling of creepy tales.

Aiming high, this misleadingly bubbly author terrifies her fans with tales of ghosts, murderers, and demonic possessions as though handing out candy to children, all while expanding her releases from her first young adult horror in 2017 to her more recent explicit demonic occult horror in 2021.

With an on the edge of your seat series, Claven enthralled her readers with her Butcher series, surprising them with a fourth and now final book in the series in 2021 as part of the Notorious Mind’s Boxset, along with Shh, which were both part of the Soul’s Day Boxset which made her an International Bestselling Author.

Claven also dabbles in the Science-Fiction Space Adventure genre, having republished her Spacehiker Adventure Series – Unlikely Hero with an updated cover and storyline after receiving criticism about the book’s length. Claven looks forward to expanding this universe.

Further challenging herself, Claven also tackled writing a paranormal romance series, the first of which released as part of the Possessed by Passion boxset in March 2021. The series will continue, and Claven looks forward to exploring this new world.

Born in Southern Africa, Claven resides in Johannesburg, where she grew up with a vivid imagination and has been writing for as long as she can remember. When she was not immersing herself in books, she created her own worlds, both by herself and with her friends.

After her sister immigrated in 2017, Claven wrote and published her first book and has been on an amazing journey ever since.

Claven is an avid Harry Potter and Star Wars fan, Funko Pop Collector, 3d Puzzle builder, Diamon Art painter, and studying addict. She also has a penchant for Lego. She resides with her two best friends, their six dogs, and two cats.

“Kane & Abel”–Review

Good evening, bloggers! I decided to stay up a little late to write this review. I’ve been behind on reviews and leisure reading, but I’ll do my best to catch up. In the meantime, here’s the description:

This is a coming-of-age story, set in 1906 to the late 1960s, revolving around the worlds of William Lowell Kane and Abel Rosnovski, born Wladek Koskiewicz. William Kane, a millionaire financier, had an affluent upbringing. Since he was a boy, he worked hard for what he wanted, determined to be the best at everything. Because he came from a wealthy banking family, he knew that banking was going to be in his future. Abel Rosnovski, a Polish immigrant, rises to be the head of a vast hotel empire. When he was a child, he was adopted by a trapper’s family back in his country. Then he was taken in by the wealthy Baron Rosnovski. But then Abel’s new life of wealth and the best education were cut short when he and his family were captured by the Germans and the Russians and sent to a labor camp.

While Kane’s goal is to surpass the financial feats of his father, and Abel’s goal is to make up for his own early life of deprivation, there’s only one goal both men share that tops their drive for their professional successes: to destroy each other.

Over a month ago, my boss mentioned that Jeffrey Archer was his favorite author from way back, so I looked up the author’s work. Kane & Abel, which is the first book in its trilogy, caught my attention, so I started reading it during my flight back from my vacation. I was hooked during the first 80 pages. I love stories that keep me guessing, and this one provided plenty of guessing games. There were plenty of surprises, twists, and turns. A retelling of the biblical story of Cain and Abel, this a story of determination, pride, and revenge.

Feel free to post your comments. Happy reading!

About the author: For more info, click here.

“Incentive”–Review

His secret to getting ahead is…her.

Decker Gabrielli had a successful business in New York, but then a scandal left him financially ruined. Now he takes on any job he can get to pay all the back rent he owes for his studio apartment. His electricity is cut off, and he has no idea when his next meal will come along. After getting fired from his job at a bar, he meets a man who offers him a lucrative position at Infidelity. The pay sounds tempting to Decker. But what’s the catch? All he has to do is sign a contract to be a hired companion for one year. Once the contract is up, he can stay or go. As tempting as the money is, Decker is hesitant. But he’s close to being homeless. How can he give up a year of his life to a woman he’s never met, though? He doesn’t care how rich and powerful Infidelity’s clients are; he can’t sign that contract. He won’t.

But he does.

Never did Decker imagine he’d be a hired companion to actress Laynee Somerset. During their one-year contract, Decker becomes aware of Laynee’s trust issues and secrets. Never has Decker been serious with any woman, but he can’t help wanting to get into Laynee’s head and her pants. Laynee tries to keep Decker at arm’s length, to stay in control, to make him do what she wants, yet she can’t deny how attracted she is to him, how badly she wants him. It was supposed to be a contractual agreement, but the rules have changed. Decker was only supposed to collect his money, to start over. The longer it all goes on, the harder it is for Decker and Laynee to fight their feelings.

This was my first read by Pam Godwin, and I’m glad I read it. I love the occasional, dark romance. I enjoyed the complicated relationship with Decker and Laynee. Decker is the alpha male who was a hired companion, yet he wanted to dominate, to mark his territory, while Laynee was afraid of love and decided to hide from the world. While Laynee struggles with trust issue due to abuse in her past, Decker works hard to help her, even though he struggles with his feelings for her. Incentive is a standalone novel based on Aleatha Romig’s Infidelity series. I think I ought to check that out. I look forward to reading more novels by Pam Godwin. Incentive is an age-gap, celebrity romance with some erotic scenes. If it’s right up your alley, check it out. Feel free to post your comments. Happy reading!

About the author: Pam Godwin lives in the Midwest with her husband, their two children, and a foulmouthed parrot. When she ran away, she traveled fourteen countries across five continents, attended three universities, and married the vocalist of her favorite rock band.

Java, tobacco, and dark romance novels are her favorite indulgences, and might be considered more unhealthy than her aversion to sleeping, eating meat, and dolls with blinking eyes. For more info, click here.

“Then the Fish Swallowed Him”–Review

Good evening, bloggers! I’m just catching up with posting new reviews for my most recent reads, so here’s the next one:

This is a story of totalitarianism, set in Iran. Yunus Turabi is a bus driver of 25 years who just goes about his everyday life in the same routine. He’s a loner. No parents, no wife, no children, no close friends. Driving is his life. One day, however, everything changes for him during his involvement in a union strike that turns deadly. Despite the outcome, Yunus still goes back to work. Until he reaches his breaking point.

Then Yunus is handcuffed and blindfolded, and then he is driven to Evin, the infamous political prison. It is there that he meets his personal interrogator, Hajj Saeed. During his stay, Yunus is taking question after question about his life, his job, and his involvement in the union strike, all the while trying to maintain whatever sanity he has left in solitary confinement. No matter what answers Yunus provides, it’s never the right answer, according to Hajj Saeed. While trying to stay one step ahead of his interrogator’s accusations, Yunus tries to figure out whether Hajj Saeed is really trying to help him—as he claims—or set him up. Will Yunus fight or surrender to a system of lies?

I like the author’s writing style, and he does a great job with descriptions and settings. He also did a great job with the narrating. Although there were some descriptions in some scenes I could have done without, the story itself caught my attention. I liked it, in fact. While I read more about Yunus’s life and work, I thought a lot more about the daily struggles that come with driving the bus. Not that I’ve done it myself, but I know others who have. When they’re not dealing with problem passengers on a daily basis, they’re struggling with the unfairness, the greed, and the lies from the ones who are above them.

As I’ve said, I did like this book, so I encourage you to check it out. Feel free to post your comments. Happy reading!

About the author: Amir Ahmadi Arian started his writing career as a journalist in Iran in 2000. He has published two novels, a collection of stories, and a book of nonfiction in Persian. He also translated from English to Persian novels by E.L Doctorow, Paul Auster, P.D. James, and Cormac McCarthy.

Since 2013 Amir has been writing and publishing exclusively in English. In recent years his work has appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, LRB, Lithub, etc. He was the recipient of The Axinn Foundation/E.L. Doctorow Fellowship for 2016 – 2018 from NYU. His first novel in English, Then the Fish Swallowed Him, will be published by HarperCollins in 2020.

“The Forgotten Girl”–Review

Good afternoon, bloggers, and happy Sunday! Apologies for my being behind on new book reviews. I’ve been a slow reader, lately, and it’s been busy this past month. Anyhow, I’d meant to post my review of one of my most recent suspense thriller reads, The Forgotten Girl, so here it is:

A young woman wakes up in a hospital bed, all the while confused and scared. Doctors are asking her all sorts of questions. Apparently, she was told she had been pushed from a fourth-floor window of a hotel, ending with her being comatose for weeks. Yet the woman has no recollection of being pushed from a window. Worse, she can’t remember her name or her life. At some point, she remembers that her name is Blue, but that’s as far as she can remember. With the help of Detective Matteo DeLuca, Blue has to work fast to remember who or what led her to where she is. But there are so many leads that leave Blue asking if she had been pushed out of the window, or if she jumped. Too many things appear a bit off. Is DeLuca to be trusted, Blue asks herself? Or anyone with whom she comes in contact?

While reading this book, I thought a lot about my favorite novel, The Bourne Identity, and the similarities in The Forgotten Girl: the main character coming back to life only with no memory; running from bad guys for unknown reasons; no one can be trusted; sudden, discovered skills with certain weapons. My kind of story!

While I did enjoy the suspense, I gave this book three stars. I didn’t really love it, but I think it was decent, that it still made me wonder what was going to happen. I can still recommend it for suspense thriller fans. I got to read this book before it was released (July 17, 2022), so big thanks to the author for the opportunity. Feel free to post your comments. Happy reading!

About the author: Born at the Naval hospital in Bethesda, Maryland, and raised in Huntsville, Alabama—also known as Rocket City for its role in building the rocket that took astronauts into space—Daco holds a B.A. and M.A.S. from The University of Alabama in Huntsville and a J.D. from the Cumberland School of Law. She is a member of the International Thriller Writers, Mystery Writers of America, Romance Writers of America, Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, Alabama Writers’ Forum, Authors Guild, and Alabama State Bar. For more info, click here.

“Canary in the Coal Mine”–Review

Good afternoon, bloggers, and happy Monday! I hope you’re able to relax with some good literature. Canary In the Coal Mine is another recent read by one of my favorite crime writers.

This story is set in New York City, where private investigator, Pete Fortunato, is hired by a beautiful, clever woman named Lila Alston to find her husband, dead or alive. Within a short time, Pete finds the husband—dead in Lila’s boyfriend’s apartment. Although he can’t help wondering why and how the husband wound up in the boyfriend’s apartment, Pete reminds himself that he was hired only to find the husband, so he shouldn’t care. But that changes when Lila Alston’s check bounces and Pete has to track her down to get answers.

Getting to the bottom of the Alston situation is only the beginning when a young man wants to hire Pete to get him out of a jam. But because the guy holds back on important details, Pete turns him away. That is, until Pete is confronted by the Albanian mob with whom that same guy was involved. The Albanian mob wants what’s owed them, and Pete is sent out to find the money or suffer the consequences.

Sounds scary, doesn’t it? But I’m sold. Charles Salzberg has quite a talent for creating believable characters. A PI with insomnia and anger management issues, Pete Fortunato is a quick thinker and can definitely outsmart people. He’s quite similar to Henry Swann from Salzberg’s Henry Swann series (check out that series out if you haven’t): loner type, cranky, zero patience for plenty of people, prefers to work alone. Makes for a good PI, don’t you think? I look forward to another one. Feel free to post your comments. Happy reading!

About the author: Charles Salzberg is a freelance writer and native New Yorker. He’s a former magazine journalist who’s written for New York magazine, Esquire, The New York Times, The New York Times Book Review, Redbook, and other periodicals. He also has written nonfiction books. Swann’s Last Song, his first novel, was nominated for a Shamus Award. His other books include Devil In the Hole, Second Story Man, as well as his short stories featured in Triple Shot, Three Strikes, and Third Degree. He teaches writing at the New York Writers Workshop, where he also is a founding member. For more info, click here.

“Prince Charming”–Review

Winston Constantine is no Prince Charming…

There can be no happily ever after between a maid and a prince, no matter what the stories say…

Good evening, bloggers! I’ve been meaning to get to writing this review for the second book in K. Webster’s Cinderella trilogy, so here it is. Honestly, the story got even better. It continues with Ash Elliot, who falls victim to blackmail by Leo Morelli—the Constantines’ sworn rival—and Ash’s evil stepbrothers, the Terror Triplets. While Leo Morelli continues to threaten to destroy the Constantines, Ash does everything she could to protect Winston.

Despite their arrangement, Ash’s feelings for Winston are stronger, while Winston remains in complete denial. He can’t fall for her. For anyone. Their agreement was that he pays her big money for their kinky games, no strings attached. The money is a ticket to Ash’s college and to get away from her wicked stepfamily, but she wants more from Winston, even though she agreed to be his toy.

I can’t wait to read the final book. I love to hate the Terror Triplets, and I’m looking forward to what Winston has in store for them. Winston and Ash have such an unpredictable involvement, which makes it worth reading. While Ash continues to stand her ground when it comes to her feelings, Winston often reminds himself that he’s a Constantine, that he’s tough, powerful, rich, and so forth. Anything to protect himself. I can’t wait to see how that turns out.

Feel free to post your comments. Happy reading!

About the author: For more info and books by K. Webster, click here.