The Winston Brothers series by Penny Reid

I’m not a huge series reader, but I must tell you about my all-time favorite series. I met author Penny Reid at the 2019 Book Bonanza in Dallas, TX this past August. Of the over 50 authors I met there, Penny was the most humble, kind, and hilarious one. I knew immediately that I would enjoy her books, and man was I spot-on! Her writing is so refreshing, full of hilarious banter, romantic escapades, and a strong bond between a Southern family of six bearded brothers living in small-town Green Valley, TN.  

Of all Reid’s books, my favorite are the Winston Brothers series. The first book in the series is called Truth or Beard and is the story of Duane Winston. Duane’s mama, Bethany, was the beloved town librarian but she passed away at a young age after a fairly quick battle with cancer. Sweet Bethany’s only bad habit was staying with Duane’s despicable daddy, Darrell Winston, who is in jail due to his illegal exploits with the local biker gang, the Iron Wraiths. Bethany and Darrell had 6 boys (Billy, Jethro, Cletus, red-headed twins Duane & Beau, Roscoe) and one girl, Ashley. The brothers are ultra-charming and handsome, but also prone to mischief. Reid’s characters are charming and unique, and she tackles tough issues very well with her tell-it-like-it-is dialogue. Cletus, Duane, and Beau run an auto mechanic shop in Green Valley. Jethro is a park ranger with a bit of a sordid past. Billy is a senator, and Roscoe, the baby of the family, becomes a veterinarian. Ashley took on a sort of sister-mom role to the guys when Bethany passed away. They are all very close, and Cletus is a main part of the glue holding them all together.

Each book in the series focuses on a different Winston brother and his romantic exploits. They can all be read as a standalone full-length romantic comedy, but are better enjoyed when read in the order of publication so readers can follow the progression of the family as it grows with marriages and births. It’s easy to spot these books for their creative cross-stitched covers, each depicting a different bearded Winston brother (and one of Ashley!). (Side note: I also love that Penny cross stitches, just like me! Nerds, unite!) My personal favorite of the brothers is Cletus because of his extensive vocabulary and extreme geekiness that only someone like he can pull off as cool. Not to mention his homemade sausage and special coffee. He makes me laugh so hard!

I hope you enjoy this series and let me know what you think! The fictional world of Green Valley, Tennessee that Penny created is so popular and loved, in fact, that now there are a whole bunch of other amazing authors writing book series that take place in Green Valley, TN. The Winston brothers make many appearances in the Smartypants Romance books, which I absolutely love! They are all part of the amazing Smartypants Romance group. For instance, the Donner Bakery series which is Cletus’s wife, Jenn’s, bakery and the Scorned Women Society series by Piper Sheridan which is the story of Suzie Samuels, and all of the women that heartthrob, bad-boy turned park ranger Jethro Winston left behind. And, my personal favorite, as a librarian of course, is the Green Valley Library series, which have amazing titles (Love in Due Time, Shelf Awareness, Crime and Periodicals, Prose Before Bros). I mean, come on, the titles alone make a librarian swoon! And there are a bunch more Smartypants Romance books launching this year. Yippeee!

I’ll leave you with my favorite quote from Cletus Winston:

“Stay away from the normals, the small-minded people who fill their brains with small-minded pursuits, who blend in and keep up with the Joneses. Those people will tear you down and make you boring. Instead, surround yourself with the weirds. With the misfits, oddballs, and outcasts. Because the normals, bless their hearts, have no idea how to have fun.”

 

 

 

The Winemaker’s Wife by Kristin Harmel

9781982112295_7b330Review originally appeared in Library Journal, July 2019.

Alternating between the vineyards of war-torn 1940s France and present day, the lives of Ines and Michel, newlywed owners of the famed champagne house, Maison Chauveau, and the head winemaker’s Jewish wife, Celine Laurent, are forever altered. As Germans are pillaging homes and sending Jews to prison camps, a frightened Celine draws nearer to Michel for protection, thereby pushing Ines into the arms of another and setting off a chain of dangerous betrayal. The labyrinths of wine cellars beneath Chauveau conceal not only champagne from the Germans, but resistance weapons, Jewish refugees, and forbidden love affairs. Presently, Liv, 41, unemployed and newly divorced after 12 years and many unsuccessful attempts at pregnancy, abruptly departs for Paris with her 99-year old Grandmother Edith, a loving woman, both stylish and eccentric. Unsure of Edith’s motives, Liv questions Edith’s connection to Chauveau and Reims. Readers learn Edith’s painful secrets, and will appreciate the importance of family legacy and the passionate venture of champagne making. Unfolding in multiple viewpoints, the writing is atmospheric and rich, showcasing heavily researched topics of champagne making and French resistance efforts. VERDICT: Harmel’s touching story of love and loss in World War II France will appeal to fans of Pam Jenoff and Kate Quinn.

2019: A Year of Fabulous Books!

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Books Read in 2019: 145

My Top Reads of 2019

Listed in no particular order, here are my top books read in 2019. I’ve included the intended audience and genre. Happy New Year!

  • Summer of 69 by Elin Hilderband (Contemporary Fiction, Beach Read)
  • Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center (Contemporary Fiction)
  • Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young (Young Adult, Historical Fiction)
  • Educated by Tara Westover (Memoir)
  • The First Girl Child by Amy Harmon (Adult Fantasy)
  • The Guardians by John Grisham (Adult Fiction, Legal Suspense)
  • Regretting You by Colleen Hoover (Contemporary Romance)
  • Truth or Beard by Penny Reid (Contemporary Romance, Romantic Comedy)
  • The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys (Young Adult, Historical Fiction)
  • The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren (Romantic Comedy)

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Home Girl by Alex Wheatle

9781617757532_a1d94Originally published in School Library Journal, July 1, 2019.

Gr 7 & Up: Fourteen-year-old Naomi Brisset, who is white, has been passed around the UK foster care system with no real sense of home. Since her mother died four years ago, Naomi, took care of her alcoholic father, assuming many parenting roles. As such, she thinks of herself as an adult, refusing to ask for help when she needs it. That changes when she meets a black family, the Goldings, for a temporary placement by her overworked but patient social worker, Louise. Unlike with past foster parents, the Goldings are genuine, lessening Naomi’s instinct to run away, and she develops a soft spot for the Golding children, Sharyna and Pablo. The problem is that UK policy frowns upon placing Caucasians in black homes, and that Naomi’s friends from her previous group home, Kim and Nats, continue to be a poor influence on her decisions. Then a tragic accident forces Louise to find a new arrangement for Naomi’s future. Naomi’s tough exterior and brash attitude portray an authentic character in an unfortunate, yet accurate picture of modern-day foster care in the UK. The plot is a bit slow and the dialogue, though fitting to Naomi’s life situation, can be hard to understand at times. The ending is neither predictable nor sugar-coated, leaving readers rooting for the unique, spunky heroine. VERDICT Recommended for additional purchase to complement a young adult realistic fiction section.

Manhattan by Kandi Steiner

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copy-of-manhattan-cover-finalLibrarian Laura’s Review of Manhattan

Manhattan is #3 in the Becker Brother series by Kandi Steiner. If you like small-towns, Southern gentleman, friends-to-lovers romance, whiskey, and angst, this is definitely the series for you!

Mikey Becker and Kylie Nelson have been best friends since they were eight. Mikey lost his father in a mysterious fire at Scooter Whiskey Distillery and Kylie lost her mother after a very quick illness the same year. Sharing a painful, but unshakeable bond, Mikey and Ky were inseparable all through the awkwardness of puberty and right up until Bailey came along and became Mikey’s girl. For two years while Mikey swooned over and made plans with Bailey, Kylie stood by him as his best friend, even though she loved him so much more than that. Beautiful, charming Mikey is aloof to her feelings for him and never did realize what was right in front of him all along. Now they have graduated from high school and Mikey is still reeling from the loss of Bailey. She left for Nashville to pursue her music career, leaving him in the dust, despite all of their plans to pursue music together in Nashville. Kylie is planning on a gap year, as a way to honor her late mother. As if Kylie’s heart could break into any more pieces, a down-in-the-dumps Mikey announces his plan to move to New York and start over fresh in the city of opportunity. Kylie is crushed. What kind of future in Stratford will she have without Mikey? But instead of letting him go without a fight, she devises a last ditch effort to get him to stay – by showing him everything Stratford has to offer him. Two months to prove to Mikey that he can find happiness again in Stratford, if only he will let the painful past with Bailey go and let himself truly live again. It doesn’t take long for Mikey to figure out that it’s not so much Stratford that could change his mind, but Kylie. However, the road to happiness for the youngest Becker brother and his lifelong best friend is not as smooth as they imagined. I promise you’ll love this story. I couldn’t put it down – finishing over half of it in one sitting. I can’t wait for the final Becker brothers story to release! Kandi Steiner is the queen of angsty romance and small-town, slow-burn romance.

Thank you so much to Social Butterfly PR for providing me with a review copy of this title in exchange for an honest review.

 About the Book

The fire… the guitar… THE FEELS!

Everyone knows not to fall in love with your best friend. But when your best friend is Michael Becker, it’s impossible not to.

He’s everything our town knows a Becker brother to be: devastatingly handsome, charming as a thief, and the icing on the cake — a sentimental musician who’s never without his guitar.

And he was mine. At least, that’s what I’d convinced myself.

Our bond was born in elementary school, strengthened by circumstance and the promise to always be there for each other, no matter what. And the best thing about my life was being friends with Michael Becker.

Until it was the worst.

I watched him fall in love with someone else, and helped patch him back up when she left him behind. But when he drops the bomb that he’s moving to New York, I realize it’s my last chance to tell him how I feel. And I ask him to make one more promise.

One summer. One list of adventures to remind him that our small town has more to offer than memories of the girl who left him behind. One last chance to tell him I’m in love with him.

And I’m just dumb enough to believe that maybe he could love me, too.

You’ll love this book if you love:

➔ small town romance

➔ country romance

➔ summer romance

➔ romantic mystery

➔ friends-to-lovers

➔ slow burn

➔ angst

Download your copy today or read FREE on Kindle Unlimited!

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2M8G0dD

Amazon Worldwide: mybook.to/ManhattanKS

Add to Goodreads: http://bit.ly/2ONdVZA

About Kandi:

Kandi Steiner is a bestselling author and whiskey connoisseur living in Tampa, FL. Best known for writing “emotional rollercoaster” stories, she loves bringing flawed characters to life and writing about real, raw romance — in all its forms. No two Kandi Steiner books are the same, and if you’re a lover of angsty, emotional, and inspirational reads, she’s your gal.

An alumna of the University of Central Florida, Kandi graduated with a double major in Creative Writing and Advertising/PR with a minor in Women’s Studies. She started writing back in the 4th grade after reading the first Harry Potter installment. In 6th grade, she wrote and edited her own newspaper and distributed to her classmates. Eventually, the principal caught on and the newspaper was quickly halted, though Kandi tried fighting for her “freedom of press.” She took particular interest in writing romance after college, as she has always been a diehard hopeless romantic, and likes to highlight all the challenges of love as well as the triumphs.

When Kandi isn’t writing, you can find her reading books of all kinds, talking with her extremely vocal cat, and spending time with her friends and family. She enjoys live music, traveling, anything heavy in carbs, beach days, movie marathons, craft beer and sweet wine — not necessarily in that order.

Connect with Kandi:

Mailing List: bit.ly/NewsletterKS

Facebook: facebook.com/kandisteiner

Facebook Reader Group: (Kandiland): facebook.com/groups/kandischasers

Instagram: www.instagram.com/kandisteiner

Twitter: twitter.com/kandisteiner

Pinterest: pinterest.com/kandicoffman

Website: www.kandisteiner.com

Kandi Steiner may be coming to a city near you! Check out her “events” tab to see all the signings she’s attending in the near future:

www.kandisteiner.com/events

Kind of Cursed by Stephanie Fournet

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Librarian Laura’s Review

This is a sweet new multicultural romantic comedy that will cause you to both laugh & swoon. I loved it!

Twenty-four year old Millie Delacroix has her hands full. Five months ago, her parents were killed in a freak accident, leaving her in charge of her three siblings: teenage twins Harry and Mattie, and 8 year old Emmett. Millie has worked hard to become a respected veterinarian. And now she has to work even harder to keep things in order in her family home, as well. In an effort to bring some change and joy into their home, Millie pursues her late mother’s plans to remodel the family kitchen. Enter the tall, dark, and handsome Mexican-American contractor, Luc Valencia. Luc doesn’t stand a chance with feisty, red-headed Millie and her no-nonsense, but playful attitude. As things heat up between Luc and Millie, two problems arise. One – the curse (kind of). The women in Millie’s family are highly subject to pregnancy, regardless of any type of preventative measures they take. Case in point: her little brother Emmet who came along 5 years after her father’s vasectomy. Birth control just doesn’t seem to work for them. As such, Millie has sworn off men and relationships, especially since the most recent one with Carter ended so painfully. Her life of celibacy all sort of goes to pot when sexy Luc starts demolishing her kitchen. (I could totally insert wickedly hilarious tool and hammer puns here!)

Problem number two is that Millie is Luc’s client. Luc’s father worked so hard to build a respectable business in America, and he doesn’t want to do anything to seem unprofessional or give the business a bad name. And his Papi doesn’t take too kindly to him finding a white girl to date, either. Despite all the obstacles in the way of true happiness for Luc and Millie, there’s no denying their attraction and Luc’s genuine love and care for Millie and her siblings.  I won’t let you know how the story ends, of course, because that would be a spoiler. You’ll just have to read it and find out for yourselves. I promise you’ll enjoy it!

Thank you to the author for providing me with an early copy in exchange for an honest review.

Purchase Links

KIND OF CURSED is a brand new, romantic comedy by Stephanie Fournet

PURCHASE NOW:

Amazon: http://bit.ly/KOCKindle

Apple: http://bit.ly/KOCApple

Nook: http://bit.ly/KOCNook

Smashwords: http://bit.ly/KOCSmash

Kobo: http://bit.ly/KOCKobo

Purchase in Paperback: http://bit.ly/KOCPaper

About the Author

Stephanie Fournet, Amazon bestselling author of FALL SEMESTER, LEGACY, BUTTERFLY GINGER, LEAVE A MARK, YOU FIRST, DRIVE, SHELTER, and SOMEONE LIKE ME, lives in Lafayette, Louisiana—not far from the Saint Streets where her novels are set. She shares her home with her husband John and their needy dogs Gladys and Mabel, and sometimes their daughter Hannah even comes home from college to visit them. When she isn’t writing romance novels, Stephanie is usually helping students get into college, setting up a tent in the woods, or running. She loves hearing from fans so you can follow her on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or message her on Goodreads.

Website: http://www.stephaniefournet.com/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/stephanie.fournet

Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/stephanie_fournet/

Goodreads: http://bit.ly/2suNg7N

Twitter: https://twitter.com/stephanie4net

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/stephanie-fournet

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2Dif9Xt

The Boyfriend Blog by K.L. Grayson

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About the Book
Boyfriend (n.)
1) A frequent or regular male companion with whom one has a romantic or sexual
relationship.
2) A myth. A legend. Impossible to find.
According to her eighty-year-old neighbor, Lizzie Donovan is looking for Mr. Right in all the wrong places. Though it’s made great fodder for her blog, Lizzie is finally tired of swiping left and awful blind dates, and she’s ready to take Mrs. Skinner’s advice and find love the old-fashioned way. Goodbye dating app, hello grocery store, book store, dog park, and wherever else she might be able to meet a good man. And she really has nothing to lose. Not only will she be entertained along the way, but even if she ends up alone, she’ll always have her longtime best friend, Aiden, by her side.

Friend zone (n.)
1) A situation in which a friendship exists between two people, one of whom has an
unreciprocated romantic or sexual interest in the other.
2) Location of Aiden Wallace.
According to his eighty-year-old neighbor, Aiden Wallace has been friend zoned. And that’s mostly his fault because instead of opening his eyes and seeing what was right in front of him, Aidan has spent the last several years enjoying the single life. But things have changed—he has changed—and now he needs his best friend, Lizzie, to stop shoving him into the friend zone so he can work at winning her heart. Until then, he’s stuck watching her string of dating disasters and wishing she’d believe him when he tells her he’s the one.

 

Librarian Laura’s Review of The Boyfriend Blog

If you like best friends to lovers romance with both steam and hilarity, this is the book for you. KL Grayson’s The Boyfriend Blog is a fast-paced romantic comedy sure to delight romance readers for it’s charming characters and laugh-out-loud funny dating charades.

Lizzie, unlike her happily married twin sister Emily, is not so lucky in the boyfriend department. Every time she tries dating, it doesn’t end well. In fact, it usually ends with her crying (literally) to her next door neighbor and best friend since childhood, Aiden. From a date who was secretly on two dates at the same time in the same restaurant to a date who introduced her to both his parents and his pregnant ex-wife during the date, Lizzie has unfortunately seen it all: the bad, the worse, and the downright ugly. With each failed date, her hope for a romantic future dwindles.

As an outlet for her frustrating dating life, she starts a blog, The Boyfriend Blog, where she recounts her experiences in the dating world, all the while keeping it a secret from even those closest to her, Emily and Aiden. The only catch…Aiden is in love with Lizzie and doesn’t know how she’ll react. He doesn’t want to lose his best friend. So when she leaves her laptop open and he happens to glance at it while in her apartment, he can’t help but read a blog post and formulate a plan to win the girl, once and for all. Lizzie also secretly loves Aiden, and she can’t stop thinking about that impulsive moment a few years ago when she passionately kissed Aiden, only to have him act like nothing happened and even refuse to talk to her about it. Lizzie has tried to bury her feelings for Aiden and opted for being his best friend. But, she can’t help the butterflies in her stomach when Aiden looks into her eyes or wraps his big, strong arms around her to comfort her after each failed date.

When Lizzie decides to give boyfriend #22, Aiden, a try, things heat right up in the very best way. But love isn’t always easy and Lizzie and Aiden will have to fight through a few major roadblocks on their road to happy ever after. Will boyfriend #22 be her last, or is Lizzie doomed for spinsterhood? You’ll have to read it and find out!

I really enjoyed this book. It’s definitely an adult book; I wouldn’t recommend it for teen readers. Readers will delight in the fun story line with just the right amount of steam to keep things interesting.

Thank you so much to Social Butterfly PR for the advanced copy in exchange for an honest review

About K.L. Grayson

K.L. Grayson resides in a small town outside of St. Louis, MO. She is entertained
daily by her extraordinary husband, who will forever inspire every good quality she
writes in a man. Her entire life rests in the palms of six dirty little hands, and when the
day is over and those pint-sized cherubs have been washed and tucked into bed, you can find her typing away furiously on her computer. She has a love for alpha-males,
brownies, reading, tattoos, sunglasses, and happy endings…and not particularly in that
order.
Connect with K.L. Grayson:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BooksbyKLGrayson/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/booksbyklgrayson/
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/booksbyklgrayso/
Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/k-l-grayson