Blog Tour | The Hideaway Inn | Review + Excerpt

High school wasn’t the right time or place for their relationship to grow, but now, fifteen years later, a chance encounter changes both of their lives forever.

No one in the charming river town of New Hope, Pennsylvania, needs to know that Vince Amato plans on flipping The Hideaway Inn to the highest bidder and returning to his luxury lifestyle in New York City. He needs to make his last remaining investment turn a profit…even if that means temporarily relocating to the quirky small town where he endured growing up. He’s spent years reinventing himself and won’t let his past dictate his future.

But on his way to New Hope, Vince gets stuck in the middle of nowhere and his past might be the only thing that can get him to his future. Specifically Tack O’Leary, the gorgeous, easygoing farm boy who broke his heart and who picks Vince up in his dilapidated truck.

Tack comes to the rescue not only with a ride but also by signing on to be the chef at The Hideaway for the summer. As Vince and Tack open their hearts to each other again, Vince learns that being true to himself doesn’t mean shutting down a second chance with Tack—it means starting over and letting love in.

Buy Links | Amazon | B&N | iTunes | Kobo | Google

While I did enjoy this story overall, there were some things that brought it down for me. It’s a great second chance love story where both Vince and Tack learn and grow over the span of the story, but Vince really makes himself unlikable from the start. Yes, he was absolutely shaped by the events of the past and that should definitely be acknowledged, but there were times when his actions or thoughts almost bordered on mean spirited. It was also a little hard to believe Tack had no idea the pain he’d caused, some amount of being oblivious, especially as a teen, can be expected, but it was a little outside the realm.

That being said it’s still an enjoyable story and I still liked the reading experience overall. It was a good story with substance, there were just some aspects that could have used refining to make it even better.

I’m thrilled to also be able to share an excerpt of the book with you! Be sure to keep reading for the excerpt and more info on the author!

That summer Vinny would come by and see me almost every day, usually with a new book. I loved hearing him talk. He described the spiritual journey of Siddhartha, the complicated plot of King Lear and even read some of James Baldwin’s poems to me that were so riveting I almost hammered my finger to a post. At school I was in a class called “Reading Foundations” and even I was smart enough to know it was for kids who were barely passing. I never felt dumb around Vinny. He treated me like I was just as smart as he was and after hanging out with him for a few weeks, I started to believe it.

Being alone with Vinny was easy. We were so different but also had so much in common. My mom died when I was a kid and he never knew his father. I never talked to anyone about not really having many memories of her and wanting more. He only had a single picture of his dad and never wanted to know more. We fit like opposite pieces of a puzzle that click when joined. Being alone together at the edge of the farm felt like freedom. But when the fence was done and school started, the world shifted back to where it was and whatever we had evaporated.

A small-town high school is a network of territories with strict borders. Vinny didn’t belong anywhere and it made his life miserable but it made me admire him more because he didn’t need to. He did what he wanted, how he wanted to do it.

My life felt like an endless list of obligations. I followed some script then and I don’t even know why or where it came from. I had to place at the meets, have the hottest girlfriend, drink like an animal at parties on the weekends. These things were expected of me or I expected them of myself. At the time I couldn’t tell the difference. I couldn’t imagine a life being anything other than the one that was already attached to me, but meeting Vinny put a crack in that heavy iron chain.

Once school started, Evie came back from her summer job down the shore, football practice began and chores on the farm took over my life. At least, that’s what I told myself. I couldn’t find a way to make Vinny part of my life beyond that summer without making my entire world explode. I ignored him at school, pretty much, even though alone in bed at night I couldn’t stop thinking about him. I kept those worlds separate because they seemed to be in completely different orbits. It was a shitty thing to do. I know it now and I even knew it then.

I left The Hideaway mad as hell at Vinny—or rather Vince—for the way he treated me in the kitchen, but the truth is I deserve everything he said to me and more. How could I ever get him to understand the choices I made back then and why I made them? How could I explain to him how hard I have worked to undo everything I did back then? Then I remember how I already started on the wrong foot. He asked about Evie and I went all mysterious and vague. I should have told him we got divorced. I should have told him that we still co-parent a wonderful, funny six-year-old. I should definitely have told him that I finally came out as bi. But picking him up on the side of the road was such a confusing surprise that my brain wasn’t functioning at full capacity.

Philip William Stover splits his time between Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and New York City. He has an MFA in writing and is a clinical professor at New York University where he is the former chair of the writing curriculum. As a freelance journalist, his essays and reviews have appeared in Newsday, The Forward, The Tony Awards, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Houston Chronicle, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and other national publications. 

Philip grew up tearing the covers off the romance novels he devoured so he wouldn’t get teased at school. Now he enjoys traveling the world with his husband of over twenty years and sitting in front of the woodstove with their half-Bassett, half-Sharpei rescue pup and he would never consider defacing any of the books he loves.

He is thrilled to be returning to romance and loves to write cozy, warm-hearted stories served by hairy forearms with a side of fries. He can be found on social media as Philip William Stover.

Happy reading!

Review | Snapdragon

Snap’s town had a witch.

At least, that’s how the rumor goes. But in reality, Jacks is just a crocks-wearing, internet-savvy old lady who sells roadkill skeletons online–after doing a little ritual to put their spirits to rest. It’s creepy, sure, but Snap thinks it’s kind of cool, too.

They make a deal: Jacks will teach Snap how to take care of the baby opossums that Snap rescued, and Snap will help Jacks with her work. But as Snap starts to get to know Jacks, she realizes that Jacks may in fact have real magic–and a connection with Snap’s family’s past.

I wasn’t completely sure what to expect with this one going in, but just the cover and the blurb drew me in. I absolutely loved this story and it’s progression, even when it took turns that I was not expecting at all. The cast of characters are varied in their personalities and the diversity is wonderfully written and portrayed without being forced. I so enjoyed Snapdragon’s journey as she not only started to learn who she herself was, but also found new friends and relationships along the way.

The art style and color palette that Kat Leyh used perfectly fit the story and the setting, with the perfect amount of whimsy to go along with the touch of paranormal. As the story progresses you can’t help but root for Snap, her mom, Lu and Jacks as they all change and grow.

Happy reading!

Can’t Wait Wednesday | 5/20

Can’t Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Wishful Endings based on the meme Waiting on Wednesday by Breaking the Spine. In this weekly post people share a book that they’re excited about being released.

Even though I am currently in a massive slump, I still am finding so many books that I want to read! Kingdom of the Wicked is no different. The blurb alone had me wanting this book and eagerly waiting for its release. It’s currently expected to come out on October 27th, so make sure to preorder if it sounds good to you!

Two sisters.

One brutal murder.

A quest for vengeance that will unleash Hell itself…

And an intoxicating romance.

Emilia and her twin sister Vittoria are streghe – witches who live secretly among humans, avoiding notice and persecution. One night, Vittoria misses dinner service at the family’s renowned Sicilian restaurant. Emilia soon finds the body of her beloved twin…desecrated beyond belief. Devastated, Emilia sets out to find her sister’s killer and to seek vengeance at any cost-even if it means using dark magic that’s been long forbidden.

Then Emilia meets Wrath, one of the Wicked-princes of Hell she has been warned against in tales since she was a child. Wrath claims to be on Emilia’s side, tasked by his master with solving the series of women’s murders on the island. But when it comes to the Wicked, nothing is as it seems…

Happy reading!

Blog Tour | This is How I Lied | Excerpt

Hey there! Today I’m thrilled to be part of the blog tour for This is How I Lied by Heather Gudenkauf and to be sharing an excerpt from the book which was kindly provided by Harlequin/Park Row Books. I’ll have a review coming in the future. Be sure to check it out if it sounds like something you would enjoy.

With the eccentricity of Fargo and the intensity of Sadie, THIS IS HOW I LIED by Heather Gudenkauf (Park Row Books; May 12, 2020; $17.99) is a timely and gripping thriller about careless violence we can inflict on those we love, and the lengths we will go to make it right, even 25 years later.

Tough as nails and seven months pregnant, Detective Maggie Kennedy-O’Keefe of Grotto PD, is dreading going on desk duty before having the baby her and her husband so badly want. But when new evidence is found in the 25-year-old cold case of her best friend’s murder that requires the work of a desk jockey, Maggie jumps at the opportunity to be the one who finally puts Eve Knox’s case to rest.

Maggie has her work cut out for her. Everyone close to Eve is a suspect. There’s Nola, Eve’s little sister who’s always been a little… off; Nick, Eve’s ex-boyfriend with a vicious temper; a Schwinn riding drifter who blew in and out of Grotto; even Maggie’s husband Sean, who may have known more about Eve’s last day than he’s letting on. As Maggie continues to investigate, the case comes closer and closer to home, forcing her to confront her own demons before she can find justice for Eve. 

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

Excerpt:
Maggie Kennedy-O’Keefe
Monday, June 15, 2020

As I slide out of my unmarked police car my swollen belly briefly gets wedged against the steering wheel. Sucking in my gut does little good but I manage to move the seat back and squeeze past the wheel. I swing my legs out the open door and glance furtively around the parking lot behind the Grotto Police Department to see if anyone is watching.

Almost eight months pregnant with a girl and not at my most graceful. I’m not crazy about the idea of one of my fellow officers seeing me try to pry myself out of this tin can. The coast appears to be clear so I begin the little ritual of rocking back and forth trying to build up enough momentum to launch myself out of the driver’s seat.

Once upright, I pause to catch my breath. The morning dew is already sending up steam from the weeds growing out of the cracked concrete. Sweating, I slowly make my way to the rear entrance of the Old Gray Lady, the nickname for the building we’re housed in. Built in the early 1900s, the first floor consists of the lobby, the finger printing and intake center, a community room, interview rooms and the jail. The second floor, which once held the old jail is home to the squad room and offices. The dank, dark basement holds a temperamental boiler and the department archives.

The Grotto Police Department has sixteen sworn officers that includes the chief, two lieutenants, a K-9 patrol officer, nine patrol officers, a school resource officer and two detectives. I’m detective number two.

I grew up in Grotto, a small river town of about ten thousand that sits among a circuitous cave system known as Grotto Caves State Park, the most extensive in Iowa. Besides being a favorite destination spot for families, hikers and spelunkers, Grotto is known for its high number of family owned farms – a dying breed. My husband Shaun and I are part of that breed – we own an apple orchard and tree farm.

 “Pretty soon we’re going to have to roll you in,” an irritatingly familiar voice calls out from behind me.

I don’t bother turning around. “Francis, that wasn’t funny the first fifty times you said it and it still isn’t,” I say as I scan my key card to let us in.

Behind me, Pete Francis, rookie officer and all-around caveman grabs the door handle and in a rare show of chivalry opens it so I can step through. “You know I’m just joking,” Francis says giving me the grin that all the young ladies in Grotto seem to find irresistible but just gives me another reason to roll my eyes.

“With the wrong person, those kinds of jokes will land you in sensitivity training,” I remind him.

“Yeah, but you’re not the wrong person, right?” he says seriously, “You’re cool with it?”

I wave to Peg behind the reception desk and stop at the elevator and punch the number two button. The police department only has two levels but I’m in no mood to climb up even one flight of stairs today. “Do I look like I’m okay with it?” I ask him.

Francis scans me up and down. He takes in my brown hair pulled back in a low bun, wayward curls springing out from all directions, my eyes red from lack of sleep, my untucked shirt, the fabric stretched tight against my round stomach, my sturdy shoes that I think are tied, but I can’t know for sure because I can’t see over my boulder-sized belly.

“Sorry,” he says appropriately contrite and wisely decides to take the stairs rather than ride the elevator with me.

“You’re forgiven,” I call after him.  As I step on the elevator to head up to my desk, I check my watch. My appointment with the chief is at eight and though he didn’t tell me what the exact reason is for this meeting I think I can make a pretty good guess.

It can’t be dictated as to when I have to go on light duty, seven months into my pregnancy, but it’s probably time. I’m guessing that Chief Digby wants to talk with me about when I want to begin desk duty or take my maternity leave. I get it.

It’s time I start to take it easy. I’ve either been the daughter of a cop or a cop my entire life but I’m more than ready to set it aside for a while and give my attention, twenty-four-seven to the little being inhabiting my uterus.

Shaun and I have been trying for a baby for a long, long time. And thousands of dollars and dozens of procedures later, when we finally found out we were pregnant, Shaun started calling her peanut because the only thing I could eat for the first nine weeks without throwing up was peanut butter sandwiches. The name stuck.

This baby is what we want more than anything in the world but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I’m a little bit scared. I’m used to toting around a sidearm not an infant.

 The elevator door opens to a dark paneled hallway lined with ten by sixteen framed photos of all the men who served as police chief of Grotto over the years. I pass by eleven photos before I reach the portrait of my father. Henry William Kennedy, 1995 – 2019, the plaque reads.

While the other chiefs stare out from behind the glass with serious expressions, my dad smiles showing his straight, white teeth. He was so proud when he was named chief of police. We were all proud, except maybe my older brother, Colin. God knows what Colin thought of it. As a teenager he was pretty self-absorbed, but I guess I was too, especially after my best friend died. I went off the rails for a while but here I am now. A Grotto PD detective, following in my dad’s footsteps. I think he’s proud of me too. At least when he remembers.

Last time I brought my dad back here to visit, we walked down this long corridor and paused at his photo. For a minute I thought he might make a joke, say something like, Hey, who’s that good looking guy? But he didn’t say anything. Finding the right words is hard for him now. Occasionally, his frustration bubbles over and he yells and sometimes even throws things which is hard to watch. My father has always been a very gentle man.

The next portrait in line is our current police chief, Les Digby. No smile on his tough guy mug. He was hired a month ago, taking over for Dexter Stroope who acted as the interim chief after my dad retired. Les is about ten years older than I am, recently widowed with two teenage sons. He previously worked for the Ransom Sheriff’s Office and I’m trying to decide if I like him. Jury’s still out.

Heather Gudenkauf is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of many books, including The Weight of Silence and These Things Hidden. Heather graduated from the University of Iowa with a degree in elementary education, has spent her career working with students of all ages. She lives in Iowa with her husband, three children, and a very spoiled German Shorthaired Pointer named Lolo. In her free time, Heather enjoys spending time with her family, reading, hiking, and running.

Social Links| Author Website | Twitter: @hgudenkauf |
Instagram: @heathergudenkauf | Facebook: @HeatherGudenkaufAuthor | Goodreads

Happy reading!

Review | Bear

Bear is a guide dog who would do anything for his owner Patrick – and embarks on an epic quest from the forest to the city to regain his sight so he can protect his best friend.

Bear is a service dog who would do anything for his owner and best friend Patrick who is blind. But when Bear suddenly loses his vision, he worries he’s lost his purpose in life—protecting Patrick! Following the misguided advice from some self-serving raccoons, Bear embarks on a transformative journey to regain his eyesight. Out of both necessity and survival, he learns to tap into his other senses and begins to see the world from a new perspective that is at times more rich and colorful than the world he’s always known. 

Writer Ben Queen (Disney/Pixar’s Cars 2 and Cars 3) draws inspiration from real life stories of how memory can influence how we recall our own surroundings, and artist Joe Todd-Stanton (A Mouse Called Julian) lovingly renders an unforgettable story of one dog’s grand adventure from the wooded countryside to the heart of Manhattan where he encounters new friends and discovers his true calling.

This book was so adorable and touching, I just flew through it. In it we follow Bear, a service dog who guides his owner, who is blind, but suddenly loses his own sight and starts questioning himself. He goes on a journey out of both panic and a need to find a solution. What follows is an adventure of learning that relying on one sight alone may not be the most ideal solution, making new friends and trying to find his way back home.

We also follow his owner, Patrick, who of course is concerned for Bear’s safety and doesn’t know what is wrong. It’s an interesting story to read from the two perspectives and really tugs at the heartstrings. I especially loved all of Bear’s interactions with different animals and how things were shown in his mind’s eye. It definitely brought tears to my eyes.

Happy reading!

Review | BOOM! Box Mixtape

The annual BOOM! Box Mix Tape is an eclectic collection of stories featuring beloved characters from established BOOM! Box series as well as original stories showcasing up-and-coming creators and brand-new content. With original stories featuring Lumberjanes, Giant Days, Cyanide & Happiness, Goldie Vance, The Backstagers, and many more! Collects the BOOM! Box Mix Tape 2014, 2015, and 2016.

This collection was super fun and served as a great sampling of all of the different artists/authors included. Each story, even if it was from a specific series was easy to jump into and a great introduction to each author. While I didn’t love all of the stories, I really enjoyed all the different art styles and differing genres. There were more than a few that I immediately wanted more of, or wished they had continued, which is the best feeling to have when reading a collections such as this.

There were definitely some stand outs that make the collection worth reading overall and if you want a taste test of some of the featured series, this is a great way to find out if you enjoy the characters and art style.

Happy reading!

Kindle Deals | 5/16

Hey everyone! Since I’m not going to bookstores right now and trying not to order a ton online, I haven’t really been adding physical books to my shelves so I’ve been perusing any deals that are available on kindle books to fill that craving for new books. Since I know other people are wanting new books as well I figured I would share some of the ones I found. As always make sure to double check the prices as they can fluctuate or be different in different regions.

The Broken Girls ($1.99) Vermont, 1950. There’s a place for the girls whom no one wants—the troublemakers, the illegitimate, the ones too smart for their own good. It’s called Idlewild Hall, and local legend says the boarding school is haunted. Four roommates bond over their whispered fears, their friendship blossoming—until one of them mysteriously disappears….

Vermont, 2014. Twenty years ago, journalist Fiona Sheridan’s elder sister’s body was found in the overgrown fields near the ruins of Idlewild Hall. And although her sister’s boyfriend was tried and convicted of the murder, Fiona can’t stop revisiting the events, unable to shake the feeling that something was never right about the case.

When Fiona discovers that Idlewild Hall is being restored by an anonymous benefactor, she decides to write a story about it. But a shocking discovery during renovations links the loss of her sister to secrets that were meant to stay hidden in the past—and a voice that won’t be silenced….

Not Even Bones ($2.99) – Nita doesn’t murder supernatural beings and sell their body parts on the internet—her mother does that. Nita just dissects the bodies after they’ve been “acquired.” Until her mom brings home a live specimen and Nita decides she wants out; dissecting a scared teenage boy is a step too far. But when she decides to save her mother’s victim, she ends up sold in his place—because Nita herself isn’t exactly “human.” She has the ability to alter her biology, a talent that is priceless on the black market. Now on the other side of the bars, if she wants to escape, Nita must ask herself if she’s willing to become the worst kind of monster.

Watch us Rise ($1.99) – Jasmine and Chelsea are best friends on a mission–they’re sick of the way women are treated even at their progressive NYC high school, so they decide to start a Women’s Rights Club. They post their work online–poems, essays, videos of Chelsea performing her poetry, and Jasmine’s response to the racial microaggressions she experiences–and soon they go viral. But with such positive support, the club is also targeted by trolls. When things escalate in real life, the principal shuts the club down. Not willing to be silenced, Jasmine and Chelsea will risk everything for their voices–and those of other young women–to be heard.

These two dynamic, creative young women stand up and speak out in a novel that features their compelling art and poetry along with powerful personal journeys that will inspire readers and budding poets, feminists, and activists.

I’ve heard great things about all of these books, so I hope you find one that piques your interest. Happy reading!

Review | Awkward

Cardinal rule #1 for surviving school: Don’t get noticed by the mean kids.Cardinal rule #2 for surviving school: Seek out groups with similar interests and join them.On her first day at her new school, Penelope–Peppi–Torres reminds herself of these basics. But when she trips into a quiet boy in the hall, Jaime Thompson, she’s already broken the first rule, and the mean kids start calling her the “nerder girlfriend.” How does she handle this crisis? By shoving poor Jaime and running away!Falling back on rule two and surrounding herself with new friends in the art club, Peppi still can’t help feeling ashamed about the way she treated Jaime. Things are already awkward enough between the two, but to make matters worse, he’s a member of her own club’s archrivals–the science club! And when the two clubs go to war, Peppi realizes that sometimes you have to break the rules to survive middle school!

I absolutely loved this little graphic novel. I would say it pretty perfectly captures some of the feelings people have at middle school age, feeling such as isolation, having a hard time making friends and fitting in and just how competitive cliques/groups can be.

So many of the characters were able to be identified with and there were some real issues that were discussed, as well as some humorous subjects that kept what could be heavier topics, refreshingly light.

I really loved the artwork as well, as it gave the story vibrancy and made sure that every setting was more than just a background.

Awkward is currently available on Kindle Unlimited so be sure to check it out. Happy reading!

Writing Update | 5/14

So, I haven’t really mentioned writing since Camp Nanowrimo ended. I didn’t do as well as I wanted, but I was ok with that because at least I wrote something in the month of April.

Well, the reason I haven’t mentioned it is because since the end of April…I haven’t written anything. I’ve been in both a reading slump and a writing slump.

These things happen. I’ve been working to get myself more organized and in a better head space since I know that’s what’s going on. Once I can get myself back to an even keel things will flow again.

I’ve been reading through and doing slight edits on some of my projects, but not stressing myself out over the lack of writing as well. If you’re experiencing similar things, be kind to yourself. A lot of my free time as of late has been dedicated to self care and that’s just the way it has needed to be.

How is your writing going? Be kind to yourself and don’t feel too bad if things aren’t flowing. Let things happen as they will and stay safe!

Can’t Wait Wednesday | 5/13

Can’t Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Wishful Endings based on the meme Waiting on Wednesday by Breaking the Spine. In this weekly post people share a book that they’re excited about being released.

This week I have to talk about Where Dreams Descend. The first thing I head about this book was that it was Moulin Rouge meets Phantom of the Opera, and I had to get my hands on it. I’m excited to be included in the blog tour for it but sad that it’s publication date got pushed back to August 25th. Make sure to check it out!

In a city covered in ice and ruin, a group of magicians face off in a daring game of magical feats to find the next headliner of the Conquering Circus, only to find themselves under the threat of an unseen danger striking behind the scenes.

As each act becomes more and more risky and the number of missing magicians piles up, three are forced to reckon with their secrets before the darkness comes for them next.

The Star: Kallia, a powerful showgirl out to prove she’s the best no matter the cost

The Master: Jack, the enigmatic keeper of the club, and more than one lie told

The Magician: Demarco, the brooding judge with a dark past he can no longer hide

Where Dreams Descend is the startling and romantic first book in Janella Angeles’ debut Kingdom of Cards fantasy duology where magic is both celebrated and feared, and no heart is left unscathed.

Happy reading!