The Lost Girls of Paris by Pam Jenoff

9780778330271_56037Originally published in Library Journal, January 2019.

Jenoff seamlessly weaves together the stories of three remarkable women and the impact of WWII on their lives. In the New York train station, Grace Healy, a newly widowed legal secretary, stumbles upon a suitcase with the name Trigg, containing a dozen photos of women with only first names and no other way to identify them.  Eleanor Trigg, an outsider with a painful past, is the leader of a group of secret female agents. Her girls are sent into occupied Europe as radio operators, charged with the task of sabotaging the Germans and arming the citizens. Grace feels a connection to Eleanor and the girls, yearning to discover why they never made it home, creating an element of mystery to the story. Marie, a young single mother, takes a job with Eleanor’s unit of the Special Operations Executive in London, posing as a French woman. Marie is sent to Paris to serve in the Vesper circuit under the direction of roguishly-handsome Julian. The City of Lights will bring great passion and heartache for brave patriot, Marie. VERDICT: Recommended for fans of Lilac Girls and The Alice Network, Jenoff’s fast-paced historical fiction boasts an intriguing plot and strong female characters.

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The Latecomers by Helen Klein Ross

9780316476867_f37acOriginally published in Library Journal, October 15, 2018.

In her third novel, Ross (What Was MineMaking It) weaves a tale of the wealthy Hollingworth family and a secret that spans five generations. Rich historical details bring time periods to life from early 1900 wartime to the Great Depression and all the way up to September 11, 2001. Bridey, age 16, leaves Ireland with her sweetheart, Thom, hoping to marry in America. Thom perishes of ship fever, leaving her alone and pregnant. She gives the infant up for adoption, working in a factory until she meets Sarah Hollingworth and becomes a maid at the family’s lavish estate in Wellington, CT. Sarah, who lost her mother at age 12 and then took care of her siblings, marries Edmund, but is unable to have children of her own. Readers will come to know the infant as Vincent and follow him until his adult years. Vincent’s granddaughter, Emma, loses her own father when the twin towers collapse, a repeating pattern of tragedy for the Hollingworth family. Family drama unfolds in alternating viewpoints; the characters are linked across time periods, as they navigate poverty, loss, loneliness, and heartbreak. VERDICT: Fans of historical sagas will enjoy this dramatic tale.

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

9780062870674_3cee2Originally published in Library Journal, August 2018.

Originally intended as a screenplay, this compelling debut historical fiction novel is based upon the life of Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew imprisoned for almost three years at Auschwitz-Birkenau, where he served as the tattooist. Soon after Lale, 25, arrives at Birkenau, he contracts typhus and is left for dead. He is rescued by fellow inmates and Pepan, an older French man and tattooist. Pepan teaches Lale the trade, which along with fluency in six languages, allows Lale privileges of a single room and extra food. Lale’s sole mission is to survive the unbelievable horrors and live to see another day outside the camp. Then he meets young Gita, and his mission changes to surviving and marrying Gita. Despite surroundings of bleakness and death, Lale and Gita’s passionate love blooms in the precious, miniscule moments alone. Lale’s story is heartbreaking, yet hopeful. Readers will root for him despite many setbacks to his survival. An afterword by Gary Sokolov, Lale and Gita’s son, further demonstrates his parents’ unbreakable bond of love and survival against unfathomable evil. VERDICT: Recommended for historical fiction & memoir fans for its unforgettable Holocaust story told from the unique perspective through the eyes of the tattooist of Auschwitz.

Sweet Sixteen by Brenda Rothert

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It is my pleasure to be a tour stop for the blog tour of Sweet Sixteen by Brenda Rothert.

Sweet Sixteen by Brenda Rothert is a young adult contemporary romance novel with very mature themes and language. I would not recommend it for readers under the age of 18. I would place it in the New Adult Romance genre, even though the main characters are high school seniors.

Gin (unfortunately named Ginger for her fiery red locks) prefers to lessen the constant taunting from classmates, so she dyes her hair black and keeps to herself. For this, she gets called a lesbian and has only two real friends that she can count on to help her get through her senior year. Her only goal is to graduate and get as far away from Roper, Missouri as humanly possible, hopefully to New York to study art. In her free time, she swims, designs sets for the drama club, and volunteers to teach swimming lessons to kids. Though she has always harbored a crush for star football quarterback and town golden boy, Chase Matthews, Gin doesn’t act on it,  knowing she doesn’t even have a chance because he is way out of her league. And even if he would pay any attention to her, it would not be the kind of attention she needed to help her graduate and leave Roper as soon as possible. Gin knows all about Chase and the horrifying, disgusting “elite Sweet Sixteen” parties held by the football team after each game. In Roper, football is and always has been everything to the town, and Gin doesn’t want any part of it. When Gin sees an underclassman about to get beat up by bad girl, Ronnie, she steps in to defend her and gets beat up in her place. It’s just her luck that the girl she defended is one of Chase’s little sisters, bringing Chase closer to Gin than he’s ever been before. How can someone who looks at her so kindly and speaks to her as an equal be the same monster who lures young girls to parties to be victimized by the football team?

Chase Matthews could have any girl he wants. He has a choice of several full-ride scholarships to play football after graduation. But he is anything but happy, walking on eggshells at home around his abusive father. When he is thrown into close quarters with Gin Fielding after she bravely stands up for his little sister, Chase realizes that she isn’t the girl he thought she was. Thinking he is doing her a favor, he convinces the team to give her the next rose, allowing her to join the Sweet Sixteen. Little does he know, this is the worst decision he would possibly make, one that will ultimately lead to misery for both of them. How can Chase stop his bad behavior and prove to Gin that is he is sorry before its too late?

Sweet Sixteen is a quick read full of real characters and sweet moments. I would recommend it for fans of YA and NA contemporary romance. Again, it is very mature in nature and is recommended for readers age 18 and over.

 

BLURB:
They say roses are the most beautiful…

Gin Fielding is counting the days until she escapes the small-town life of Roper, Missouri for college at NYU. She prefers to blend in, though she’s far from invisible. But when she protects a younger student from a bully, the spotlight turns on her in ways she never imagined.

I say that every rose has its thorn…

The Friday night lights shine bright on Chase Matthews. Roper’s golden boy, Chase can do no wrong, enjoying the small-town celebrity being the star quarterback brings. When Gin defends his little sister against a bully, he decides to lend her his star power and change her senior year in ways she never imagined.

But maybe the thorns are part of their beauty.

When Gin declines Chase’s invitation to be part of the elite Sweet Sixteen, the repercussions turn both their lives upside down. But amidst the chaos, Gin and Chase find solace in one another. Together, they confront the ugly truth– that sometimes glory has a dark side.

***Warning–Sweet Sixteen is an upper YA book with mature themes and is intended for readers 18+.

 

About Brenda
Brenda Rothert is an Illinois native who was a print journalist for nine years. She made the jump from fact to fiction in 2013 and never looked back. From new adult to steamy contemporary romance, Brenda creates fresh characters in every story she tells. She’s a lover of Diet Coke, chocolate, lazy weekends and happily ever afters.

These days Brenda writes New Adult Romance in the Contemporary and Dystopian genres. She loves to hear from readers by email at bjrothert@sbcglobal.net. Her website is http://brendarothert.com/.

Thank you to InkSlinger PR for providing me with a review copy of this book.

Seaside Sweets by Melissa Chambers Cover Reveal & Review

COVER REVEAL!

SEASIDE SWEETS

Love Along Hwy 30A Series: Book One

RELEASING June 19th, 2018

Seaside Sweets is book one in the Love Along Highway 30A series, which features beautiful beach communities, a circle of unique and amazing friends, and romances that will have you cheering on the couples and fanning yourself from the heat. All books are standalone and can be enjoyed in or out of order.

After her crappy ex runs up her credit card, clears her bank account, and gets her fired, Seanna Perry makes her escape to the quaint beach town of Seaside, Florida. The houses are pastel, the ocean air heaven, and the men hot as the Gulf Coast sun … one in particular. But while paying the price, literally, for the last man she trusted with her heart, she’s not interested in any sort of beach romance, or so she keeps reminding herself.

Living in the idyllic coastal paradise of the 30A area hasn’t eased Blake Evans’ guilt over what went down three years ago. He can’t stop blaming himself, and certainly none of his wonderful friends can ever find out what happened. Blake’s done a good job of keeping romantic feelings toward any woman at bay, and he needs to keep it that way. But when Seanna begins to show him how to live again, he finds himself struggling to keep his guard up.

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Librarian Laura’s Review of Seaside Sweets

29 year old Seanna escapes from her gambling-addicted fiance, leaving Nashville behind to stay in Seaside, Florida with her hip, fun-loving Aunt Cassidy. Cassidy operates a bakery called Seaside Sweets. Upon her arrival, Seanna is pleasantly surprised to be met at the door by a shirtless, hotter-than-hot handyman, Blake, who claims to be doing some work for Cassidy. Seanna assumes they have more than a working relationship, and feels a bit disappointed because of her instant attraction to Blake. Blake feels the same about Seanna, but he is hiding out in Seaside after a tragic incident from his past forced him to leave Atlanta and his career start a new life in Seaside. Blake now has a comfortable life and great friends in Seaside, and he doesn’t want his ugly past and secrets to ruin any progress he has made at moving on.

As Blake and Seanna spend more time with each other, with the help of their rag-tag group of well-meaning, single friends, they get pretty hot and heavy very quickly, unable to keep their hands and minds off of each other. (Fair warning: There are some very steamy romantic scenes, so if you can’t take the heat, this one may not be for you. Heat level of 3.5 of 5.) Personally, I thought there was just enough steam to keep the story moving along and keep things interesting.

As with all secrets, they only stay buried so long. When Blake’s secrets are revealed, the aftermath will leave Blake, Seanna, and their group of friends in a tailspin. You’ll have to read it to find out what happens, because I won’t give out any spoilers. Also, look for the next two books in the Love Along Highway 30A series.

This is a great beach read, fast-paced, steamy romance, and humorous, genuine characters that readers will fall in love with and want to know better. Chambers has written an all-around entertaining love story that you won’t want to miss!

OTHER TITLES IN THE SERIES RELEASING SAME DAY!

Maya Forbes has never had a one-night-stand. With her irresponsible but brilliant sister filling the role of flighty one, Maya must live sensibly and dutifully. But when she meets a gorgeous redneck from Panama City Beach who makes her head whirl, she must quit thinking idiotic thoughts about upending her life after one week of mind-altering sex, especially with her dream promotion waiting for her back home.

Bo Harrison has lived his entire life in a tourist town where the women he meets are typically gone in a week. After a long-term relationship that left him mentally drained, he didn’t mind the easy, week-long romances for a while. But watching his best friend fall in love has him thinking along those lines, especially when he meets a woman unlike any he’s ever dated—smart, sexy, independent. The catch? She leaves in one week, of course.

With Shayla Harrison’s dangerous ex leaving rehab and headed her way, she needs to find a safe house and fast. When tall, dark, and ridiculously handsome Chase O’Neil offers a secure place to stay in beautiful Seagrove Beach for dirt cheap, she and her wallet can’t refuse. Romance is the last thing she wants, but the safety and warmth she feels with Chase are impossible to ignore.

Chase is the life of the party. He makes everyone laugh—whatever it takes to hide a soul-deep pain he can’t fix. He’s been living in romance purgatory since his son died and his marriage ended six years ago. When he meets the mysterious and intriguing Shayla, the emotional wall he’s worked so hard to build starts to crumble. She makes him want all the things he knows he can’t have, including her love.

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Melissa Chambers writes contemporary novels for young, new, and actual adults. A Nashville native, she spends her days working in the music industry and her nights tapping away at her keyboard. While she’s slightly obsessed with alt rock, she leaves the guitar playing to her husband and kid. She never misses a chance to play a tennis match, listen to an audiobook, or eat a bowl of ice cream. (Rocky road, please!) She serves as president for the Music City Romance Writers and is the author of The Summer Before Forever and Falling for Forever (Entangled Teen).

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The Masterpiece by Francine Rivers

978-1-4964-0790-0The Masterpiece is contemporary Christian fiction at its best. Having read and loved Redeeming Love, one of Rivers’s previous novels, I had an inkling that I would enjoy her newest work, fittingly titled The Masterpiece.

Many times Christian fiction can become a little too squeaky clean, which distracts from an exciting or enticing story line and pace. Being a Christian myself, I know that no one is perfect and Christians have just as many faults as everyone else. Therefore, Christian fiction should be real and not put on an act, pretending to be completely wholesome and pure. This is one of the reasons that I love Francine Rivers’s novels. Her characters all have major flaws and pasts that haunt them. Many times they feel like or even try giving up, but God is not done with them yet. Rivers has a knack for writing long books with unique plot lines and memorable characters, and The Masterpiece is no exception.

The Masterpiece is a story of survival, grief, forgiveness, family, and love. Famous LA artist, Roman Velasco has a very checkered past, even though his future looks bright to those who don’t really know him. The only person he lets get a little closer to him turns out to be a young, single mother named Grace, who becomes his personal assistant. Grace has been through many a tragedy and trial in her young life, but she knows and loves the Lord and leans on him in everything. Her parents died when she was a little girl, and God has become her one true father. Because of all the pain and bad relationships in her past, Grace keeps her distance and doesn’t have any interest in becoming romantically involved with anyone. Her only goal is to be able to support herself and her infant, Samuel, so that they can be together full time and she can be a devoted mother to him. She is determined not to let her past dictate her future. Roman, on the other hand, is distrusting and unstable. He doesn’t know the Lord. He lets his past mistakes and pain eat at him daily, unable to forgive or forget the horrible things he has done and seen in his young life. In and out of foster care during his childhood, running from the authorities, and tagging with graffiti in a gang, he is no stranger to the streets. No one knows his real name or the circumstances of his upbringing.

As Roman gets to know Grace, he starts to open up and question her about her devotion to God. When a new tragedy strikes, will Roman be strong enough to survive it?

Though this is a very long book, do not be intimidated. It only took me two days to read it, and I loved it. The story takes place in California and many of the landscapes and settings that are described are beautiful and breathtaking. The plot reads quickly, because it switches back and forth from present day back to the time when both Roman and Grace were children and teenagers. It is through the flashbacks that readers are able to get a better picture of the horrible things that Roman and Grace have both endured in their lives. I would highly recommend this novel for fans of Christian fiction, contemporary fiction, women’s fiction, romance, and even mainstream fiction. It has a little bit of everything between its covers. The ending was a tad bit predictable, but that was to be expected with the kind of story it is. Even so, it was rather enjoyable all the way to the last page.

Thank you to Tyndale House Publishers for the complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Blood and Ink by Stephen Davies

9781580897907_34ab1First appeared in School Library Journal, July 2017.

Though both raised in the Fulani tribe, teens Ali and Kadi are like oil and water when their paths cross in the midst of political turmoil in their home of Timbuktu, Mali. Religiously strict Ali belongs to the Defenders of Faith, a branch of Al Queda. His current assignment is to take control of Timbuktu, destroying any opposition in the way. Equally strict, brave, and feisty is Kadi, a lover of music and literature and the daughter of a librarian. As a Guardian, Kadi must keep ancient manuscripts safe at all costs. While trying to flee Timbuktu with the manuscripts, Kadi ends up in mortal danger. Ali must choose where his true loyalty lies. The ending is abrupt, but hopeful, and it begs for a sequel. Modern-day Timbuktu is brought to life in this timely, fast-paced story of teens falling in love despite being at war with each other. Historically rich background and Islamic culture combine, providing two perspectives on the war in Mali. The drama unfolds in alternating points of view between well-developed characters with multicultural subject matter that is unique, but relevant to current events.  Davies’ writing is authentic, because he spent over a decade with the Fulani tribe. Both a glossary and a fact & fiction section are included to enhance reader’s understanding and provide factual background of Islamic practices. VERDICT: Readers will enjoy the well-drawn characters and fast-paced action of this diverse YA thriller with a hint of romance.