Sunday, June 13, 2021

The Good Sister by Sally Hepworth - Feature and Review


From the outside, everyone might think Fern and Rose are as close as twin sisters can be: Rose is the responsible one and Fern is the quirky one. But the sisters are devoted to one another and Rose has always been Fern's protector from the time they were small.

Fern needed protecting because their mother was a true sociopath who hid her true nature from the world, and only Rose could see it. Fern always saw the good in everyone. Years ago, Fern did something very, very bad. And Rose has never told a soul. When Fern decides to help her sister achieve her heart's desire of having a baby, Rose realizes with growing horror that Fern might make choices that can only have a terrible outcome. What Rose doesn't realize is that Fern is growing more and more aware of the secrets Rose, herself, is keeping. And that their mother might have the last word after all.


The Good SisterThe Good Sister by Sally Hepworth
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Good Sister by Sally Hepworth is a 2021 St. Martin’s Press publication.

Fern and Rose are fraternal twins. Yet, Rose is stable and mature, while Fern is on the autism spectrum. After a tumultuous childhood, Rose looks after her sister, who works at a library. Because Fern once did something really, really, bad, and because Rose’s marriage has hit a rough patch, Fern wants to make everyone happy again- and she knows just what she can do to make that happen.

While Rose is away, Fern sets her plan in motion…

What could possibly go wrong?

I breezed through this one in record time. For a little while I was not exactly sure where Hepworth was leading me and sat nervously on the edge of my seat waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Obviously, some terrible things have already transpired as we get a glimpse into the twins’ childhood. We also know that the girls were directly involved in a disquieting tragedy as children, and now it looks as if trouble may be brewing again. What is so alarming is that we don’t know WHO will strike, or when, or how…

The only downside to being a lifelong crime fiction loyalist, is that original plots are often far and few between. The good/bad sister trope is hardly original, having been done six ways from Sunday.

Once it became clear which direction the story was headed, the wind went out of my sails a little, but I was so concerned about the characters, I kept turning pages at warp speed. Turns out that although I knew- and I suspect, once most readers reach a certain point in the book, they will have caught on, as well- what the big plot twist was, there were a few stunning developments I did not see coming and the last chapter was truly psycho!!

Once I had a little time to think about the story, I realized that, in hindsight, it was much more cunning than I had originally given it credit. Still, the cleverness is in the well-drawn characterizations, without which, the doubts, concerns, and suspense, wouldn’t have been possible.

This is only the third book I have read by this author- but this one is a little different, having an edgier quality, utilizing another form of suspense from what I was expecting. Some of the emotional depth and relatability were lacking here, but overall, this was an absorbing, twisted little page turner!!



Sally Hepworth is the New York Times bestselling author of six novels, most recently The Good Sister, which was an instant bestseller.

Sally's books have been heralded “enchanting” by The Herald Sun, “smart and engaging” by Publisher’s Weekly, and New York Times bestselling authors Liane Moriarty and Emily Giffin have praised Sally’s novels as “women’s fiction at its finest” and “totally absorbing”.

Sally's novels are available worldwide in English and have been translated into 20 languages.

Sally lives in Melbourne, Australia with her husband and three children.

Friday, June 11, 2021

Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton- Feature and Review


After the death of her beloved grandmother, a Cuban-American woman travels to Havana, where she discovers the roots of her identity--and unearths a family secret hidden since the revolution...

Havana, 1958. The daughter of a sugar baron, nineteen-year-old Elisa Perez is part of Cuba's high society, where she is largely sheltered from the country's growing political unrest--until she embarks on a clandestine affair with a passionate revolutionary...

Miami, 2017. Freelance writer Marisol Ferrera grew up hearing romantic stories of Cuba from her late grandmother Elisa, who was forced to flee with her family during the revolution. Elisa's last wish was for Marisol to scatter her ashes in the country of her birth. 

Arriving in Havana, Marisol comes face-to-face with the contrast of Cuba's tropical, timeless beauty and its perilous political climate. When more family history comes to light and Marisol finds herself attracted to a man with secrets of his own, she'll need the lessons of her grandmother's past to help her understand the true meaning of courage.



Next Year in HavanaNext Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton is a 2018 Penguin/Berkley publication.

Cuba- 1958

Elisa Perez, a sugar heiress, falls in love with a revolutionary. But, their lives are so far removed from one another the relationship is one that seems doomed from the start. Sure enough, she and Pablo are separated, and Elisa’s family fled to America, never to return to their beloved Cuba.

Fast forward to 2017-

“When I was younger, I begged my grandmother to tell me about Cuba. It was a mythical island, contained in my heart, entirely drawn from the version of Cuba she created in exile in Miami and the stories she shared with me. I was caught between two lands- two iterations of myself- the one I inhabited in my body and the one I lived in my dreams.”

Marisol’s grandmother dies and to honor her last wishes, Marisol smuggles her ashes into Cuba. But, arriving in Cuba is only the beginning of her adventure. She must pick the perfect spot to spread her grandmother’s ashes, so that end, she touches base with Elisa’s best friend, hoping to gain some insight. This is how she meets Luis, who escorts her around the city and helps her play amateur detective as she searches for Pablo, the love of Elisa’s life.

However, Luis’s job as a professor has him under scrutiny and Marisol has been watched since she first stepped foot in Cuba. They begin to fall in love, playing a very dangerous game with their futures and maybe even their lives. Eventually they will face a heartbreaking fork in the road where they will both have to make the most difficult choice of their lives.

This story was absolutely amazing!! It’s epic, grand, sweeping, emotional, and heart wrenching.

The family saga is told in bold, rich details, so vivid I felt like I was there taking in all the sights and sounds of Cuba. The atmosphere is heavy with foreboding and tension, danger always lurking in the shadows. Love, at times, chooses the most inopportune moments to invade one’s heart, but also has a knack for knowing just the right time and place, knowing somehow, someway that it’s now or never. Both scenarios come with hard choices and consequences.

The book is also very informative, giving readers an up close and personal look at what life is really like in Cuba. While I did find all of this very interesting, at times the ‘lectures’ or history lessons slowed the momentum of the story, but I still think readers need to absorb at least some of this information because this knowledge contributes to the high level of anguish and suspense that builds as the novel reaches its climax.

“The world as we know it has died, and I do not recognize the one that has taken its place”

This history also serves as a cautionary tale in many ways, but it is also very complicated, with people making choices they believed were the right ones to make at the time, while others clung to the way of life they had established, suddenly finding themselves in exile.

“You never know what’s to come. That’s the beauty of life. If everything happened the way we wished, the way we planned, we’d miss out on the best parts, the unexpected pleasure.”

Naturally, for me,  the love stories- plural- is what brought out the strongest emotions in me. Their stories parallel one another in many ways, with one being tragic and the other filled with danger- but also one filled with hope for a better outcome and maybe even a better way of life for those living in Cuba.


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Originally from Florida, Chanel Cleeton grew up on stories of her family's exodus from Cuba following the events of the Cuban Revolution. Her passion for politics and history continued during her years spent studying in England where she earned a bachelor's degree in International Relations from Richmond, The American International University in London and a master's degree in Global Politics from the London School of Economics & Political Science. Chanel also received her Juris Doctor from the University of South Carolina School of Law. She loves to travel and has lived in the Caribbean, Europe, and Asia.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

I Don't Forgive You by Aggie Blum Thompson- Feature and Review


An accomplished photographer and the devoted mom of an adorable little boy, Allie Ross has just moved to an upscale DC suburb, the kind of place where parenting feels like a competitive sport. Allie's desperate to make a good first impression. Then she's framed for murder.

It all starts at a neighborhood party when a local dad corners Allie and calls her by an old, forgotten nickname from her dark past. The next day, he is found dead.

Soon, the police are knocking at her door, grilling her about a supposed Tinder relationship with the man, and pulling up texts between them. She learns quickly that she's been hacked and someone is impersonating her online. Her reputation--socially and professionally--is at stake; even her husband starts to doubt her. As the killer closes in, Allie must reach back into a past she vowed to forget in order to learn the shocking truth of who is destroying her life.



I Don't Forgive YouI Don't Forgive You by Aggie Blum Thompson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I Don’t Forgive You by Aggie Blum Thompson is a 2021 Forge publication.

Crazy, Creepy, and Atmospheric!

Allie and her husband, Mark, along with their young son, have recently moved to DC- settling in an affluent neighborhood. Things go horribly awry after the couple attends a neighborhood party. Allie is assaulted in the restroom, which is bad enough- but when her attacker is later found dead, Allie finds herself a person of interest in the case after a fake Tinder account is found in her name.

From there, one thing after another, points to a deliberate smear campaign against Allie- an attempt to not only ruin her life, but to frame her for murder. The question is… Why?

As it turns out, Allie is harboring secrets from her past- and it looks as though she's been found her out. Is someone from her past seeking revenge, or has someone closer to her discovered Allie's dark secrets- like her less than charming sister in law- or even Mark?

The setup for this novel is unnerving- seriously unsettling- and draws from current fears of identity theft, and deep fakes. In fact, just a few weeks ago, I read an article about a woman who made deep fake videos of her daughter’s cheerleading competitors, which depicted them exhibiting behavior that would get them kicked off the squad. Just goes to show how anyone with the right computer skills could easily make one look guilty of something they didn’t do.

With just the slightest bit of evidence that points to a person’s guilt, the cops might latch on to that theory and run with it. Happens all the time. This is what makes the plot so disturbingly plausible.

The author did a great job with Allie’s character. Thinking about the way the story develops, Allie is the one who carries most of the burden in the novel. The secondary characters do their part- and do it well- as there is not one person Allie can completely trust.

Yet, Allie’s behavior can look a lot like self-sabotage –such as consuming copious amounts of alcohol, which doesn’t help her reputation much. Her one -woman show is harrowing, tense, edgy and very suspenseful.

We could stop there, and I’d be satisfied, as the book delivered what I was expecting it to. Yet, this one stands out just a bit more because although the author stuck to the format's requisite rules, she broke form by taking the genre into deeper, darker, and more emotional territory than your garden variety psych thriller. I do hope readers will pick up on the more meaningful messages in the story, beyond the surface chills and thrills.

While one does experience the usual relief as the roller coaster ride coasts to a stop, the reader isn’t let completely off the hook, as the complexities and emotional aspects continue to linger after the last page is turned… as they should.



Aggie worked as a newspaper reporter, covering cops, courts, and trials, with a healthy dose of the mundane mixed in. Her writing has appeared in newspapers such as The Boston Globe and The Washington Post. A native New Yorker, she now lives just over the Washington D.C. line in Bethesda, Maryland with her husband, two children, cat, and dog.

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Pup Fiction by Laurien Berenson- Feature and Review


While usually protective, Melanie feels comfortable sending her sons to the Graceland School’s summer camp for two reasons: The institution is well-regarded and proprietor Emily Grace is a trusted friend. But Emily has been acting strange since three rambunctious Dalmatian puppies suddenly appeared on her doorstep. The unusual arrival marks the first of several mysterious happenings at camp, each more intense than the last. Emily’s rough streak takes a frightening turn with a discovery in the nearby woods—the body of her estranged ex-husband.

As suspicions rush in, proving that Emily didn’t murder her biggest mistake will be about as easy as raising prize-winning show dogs. Realizing she’s the only one who can prove her friend’s innocence and keep the Graceland School from shutting down, Melanie dives into an investigation on the victim’s whereabouts leading up to his demise. With a few spotty clues and Aunt Peg’s growing curiosity about the Dalmatian pups’ origins, Melanie must name the culprit before good intentions come back to bite!


Pup FictionPup Fiction by Laurien Berenson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Pup Fiction by Laurien Berenson is a 2021 Kensington publication.

Talk about getting a late start on a series! I picked up Berenson’s twenty-sixth installment in the Melanie Travis series while looking for a Halloween themed cozy mystery last year. It was surprisingly easy to drop into the series, even at such a late date. I liked the book so much, I decided to read the next installment to see if my luck would continue. (There is no way I could read through twenty-five installments to catch up with the series- especially with all the other series I have committed myself to 😁😁)

I love the standard poodles, and the dog shows- plus, this story also features three adorable Dalmatian puppies, adding even more charm to the book.

But, alas, this is not just a story about dogs. It would seem that Melanie’s old friend, Emily, who runs the summer camp her boys are attending, is in a spot of trouble.

First, there are several odd occurrences at the camp, then the body of Emily’s ex-husband is found dead very close to the camp, making her a person of interest in the case. Emily asks Melanie to help her out by doing a little sleuthing on the side. Because she knew Emily for such a long time, and because her son’s safety could be at stake, she agrees, although Emily may not be telling Melanie everything she needs to know.

The mystery is really good- I thought I had it figured out- but I was wrong! LOL! With a good whodunit and all those wonderful furry friends, it looks like I will be continuing on with this series!




Laurien Berenson is an Agatha and Macavity Award nominee, winner of the Romantic Times Reviewers' Choice Award, and a four time winner of the Maxwell Award, presented by the Dog Writers Association of America. She and her husband live on a farm in Kentucky surrounded by dogs and horses. She can be reached at her website:

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

How to Frame a Fashionista by Debra Sennefelder - Feature and Review


Applying her Manhattan fashion sense to the sensibilities of a Long Island clientele, Kelly Quinn is setting new trends with second-hand name brand apparel—and finding killers with a deadly sense of style . . .

The fortunes of Kelly’s Lucky Cove Resale Boutique are sinking fast—literally, as the weathered roof of her grandmother’s old consignment shop springs a new leak with every rain. She hopes her latest client, overnight fitness and social media sensation Tawny Nicole, has enough valued and wanted items she can sell fast enough to keep her roof from crumbling down.

When Kelly arrives at Tawny’s home to appraise her attire, she’s stunned to find Serena Dawson, “the Dragonista of Seventh Avenue,” there. The last time she saw her ex-boss was when Serena humiliatingly and publicly fired her from her New York City job. Now Tawny is married to Serena’s ex-husband and is caught in the crossfire of some unfinished divorce settlements.

But when Kelly returns to Tawny’s the following day, she discovers her dead body—and Serena standing over it. Her former employer may be nasty and unrepentant, but she’s no killer—prompting Kelly to pick up the threads to try and find the real culprit . . .




  How to Frame a Fashionista (Resale Boutique #3)How to Frame a Fashionista by Debra Sennefelder
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

How to Frame a Fashionista by Debra Sennefelder is a 2020 Kensington publication.

Kelly is discovering that business ownership can be one challenge after another. Although, her fashion boutique/consignment shop was doing okay, it looks like she’s going to need a new roof. The fun just never stops.

However, Kelly does have a new client, a popular wellness/fitness blogger, named Tawny, who is ready to unload some of her designer belongings. Kelly soon realizes that Tawny has a connection to her arch nemesis- Serena Dawson. When Tawny is murdered, Serena becomes the prime suspect. Despite their history, Serena has the nerve to ask for Kelly’s help in clearing her name…

Meanwhile, Kelly struggles to come up with the cash for a new roof, as she begins to have doubts about her lawyer boyfriend, Mark, all while continuing to dodge her uncle and his constant pressure on her to sell the shop.

This episode in the “Resale Boutique’ series is jam packed with revelations and developments. Kelly is certain, despite her experiences with Serena, that she didn’t murder Tawny.

This means that, although she knows she’s going to catch grief from Mark, and his sister, who is a member of law enforcement, and not a big fan of Kelly’s, she is still going to do whatever it takes to find out who the real murderer is.

Kelly’s character is a hoot! While she has some silly thoughts at times, there’s more depth there than appears on the surface. I think of her as a character still in development.

The story has a brisk pace, which kept me on my toes trying to guess who the killer was. The mystery is well-balanced with Kelly’s personal life and business woes. This is a fun, light, cozy mystery, and I’ve enjoyed all three of the full- length novels in the series- so I’ll definitely be back for more!



Born and raised in New York City, Debra now lives and writes in Connecticut with her family. She's worked in pre-hospital care, retail and publishing. Her writing companions are her adorable and slightly spoiled Shih-Tzus, Susie and Billy. Find out more about her at her website,

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Second Chance of Cypress Lane by Reese Ryan- Feature and Review


In this heartwarming second-chance romance, a woman returns home and discovers that, when it comes to finding love, there's no place like home.

When a romance gone wrong lands reporter Dakota Jones in the pages of the tabloids, her rising star crashes and burns. Instead of getting the weekend anchor job she'd been promised, she's promptly shown the door. Which leaves her one option: return home to lick her wounds, eat lemon meringue pie, and plot her comeback while actively avoiding the man who once broke her heart.

Dexter Roberts made a huge mistake when he walked away from Dakota, and he's regretted it ever since. So when Dakota returns to Holly Grove Island to regroup and decide what's next, Dex can't pass up the opportunity to win back the love of his life. Now he just needs to convince Dakota to give him a second chance.



 Second Chance on Cypress Lane (Holly Grove Island, #1)Second Chance on Cypress Lane by Reese Ryan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Second Chance on Cypress Lane by Ryan Reese is a 2020 Forever publication.

Wonderful, light-hearted romance!

Dakota Jones returns home to Holly Grove Island after her big dreams of becoming a news anchor comes to an abrupt halt. With her reputation in tatters, Dakota is reluctant to expound on the reasons behind her sudden return.

Despite that, Dakota is happy to spend some time with her father, and to touch base with her best friend again. On the other hand, she's absolutely dreading the inevitable run in with Dexter, the man who once broke her heart, the man she’s never really gotten over. When the two finally do meet again, it is as Dakota feared- she's just as attracted to Dexter now as she was all those years ago...

With Dakota back in town, Dexter hopes he can convince her to at least forgive him for the way he ended things between them. It would be even better if he could convince her that he still loves her. Unfortunately, Dakota has made it clear she’s not interested in anything beyond friendship and that her stay on Holly Grove Island is only temporary.

Can Dexter change her mind?

To my knowledge, I have not read anything by Reese Ryan before now. Reading the first book in her new series, feels like a great place to start.

The author did a good job of setting the scene, balancing the introduction of the characters with the romance, and created some great chemistry between Dexter and Dakota. I loved the tension between these two, and of course, most people know I’m a sucker for second chance romances. There is a little angst, with some surprising developments and revelations, but nothing too emotionally taxing, which just happened to be what I was in the mood for.

Overall, this a is a wonderful, light and easy love story, and a solid start to a new series-perfect for the beach or poolside this summer!!



Reese Ryan writes sexy, deeply emotional romances with family drama, surprising secrets, and unexpected twists.

Past president of her local Romance Writers of America chapter and a panelist at the 2017 Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, Reese is an advocate for the romance genre and diversity in fiction.

Friday, May 28, 2021

FLASHBACK FRIDAY- Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate- Feature and Review

                                                             ABOUT THE BOOK:

Two families, generations apart, are forever changed by a heartbreaking injustice in this poignant novel, inspired by a true story, for readers of Orphan Train and The Nightingale.

Memphis, 1939. Twelve-year-old Rill Foss and her four younger siblings live a magical life aboard their family’s Mississippi River shantyboat. But when their father must rush their mother to the hospital one stormy night, Rill is left in charge—until strangers arrive in force. Wrenched from all that is familiar and thrown into a Tennessee Children’s Home Society orphanage, the Foss children are assured that they will soon be returned to their parents—but they quickly realize that the truth is much darker. At the mercy of the facility’s cruel director, Rill fights to keep her sisters and brother together—in a world of danger and uncertainty.

Aiken, South Carolina, present day. Born into wealth and privilege, Avery Stafford seems to have it all: a successful career as a federal prosecutor, a handsome fiancé, and a lavish wedding on the horizon. But when Avery returns home to help her father weather a health crisis, a chance encounter leaves her with uncomfortable questions—and compels her to take a journey through her family's long-hidden history, on a path that will ultimately lead either to devastation or redemption.

Based on one of America’s most notorious real-life scandals—in which Georgia Tann, director of a Memphis-based adoption organization, kidnapped and sold poor children to wealthy families all over the country—Wingate’s riveting, wrenching, and ultimately uplifting tale reminds us how, even though the paths we take can lead to many places, the heart never forgets where we belong.




Before We Were YoursBefore We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate is a 2017 Ballantine Books publication.

This is an amazing, heart wrenching story centered around the true events involving the Tennessee Children’s Home Society.

When Avery Stafford, the daughter of a prominent Senator stumbles upon the possibility her grandmother is harboring a dark family secret, she nearly becomes obsessed with her mission to uncover the truth.

The story flashes back to 1939, when Rill Foss and her siblings are snatched from their poor Mississippi Shanty boat, after their parents had to leave them behind in an emergency medical situation. They are taken to a children’s home, but before they were 'adopted' out, they endured cruel conditions and abuse.

The narrative switches back and forth between Rill and Avery, but I must confess my heart was with Rill from start to finish.

This novel pulls on the heartstrings, stirs outrage and horror, but at the end of the day the story was about familial bonds, and a spiritual connection that can not be broken, no matter what.

Wingate did a magnificent job of pulling the reader back in time, creating a realistic atmosphere, and building a fictional story around one of the most shocking black-market adoption operations in American history.

But, the real magic is creating characters we care for, cheer for, and want to champion. It may have taken a lifetime, but the truth has a way of freeing itself, exposing crimes and scandal, but it also brought out an incredible family saga that is both inspirational and heartwarming.

Avery is a central character, but she can’t compete with Rill, so the author wisely fattens up her part of the story with a little romance, which kept her character from simply becoming a means to an end. I did enjoy how the mystery unfolded, which made Avery into a bit of an amateur sleuth.

I loved the conclusion of the story, which was about a perfect as could be expected under the circumstances. It is all very bittersweet, with a lot of sadness, but there were blessed times, as well, and those are the reflections and moments that will stay with me.

There are some difficult passages in this novel, which you should be prepared for, but this is such a great story! Everyone kept telling me I needed to read this book and they were right- so I feel I should pass that advice on to you- Read this book!! You’ll be glad you did!

*For those who are unfamiliar with Georgia Tann, a Google search will give you a clear picture of her dirty deeds and how she was eventually exposed, although it was too little, too late. Shockingly, the children’s home was used by famous actresses Joan Crawford and June Allyson which is a little bit of trivia I was totally unaware of before reading the author’s notes.



Selected among BOOKLIST'S Top 10 for two years running, Lisa Wingate writes novels that Publisher's Weekly calls "Masterful" and ForeWord Magazine refers to as "Filled with lyrical prose, hope, and healing.” Lisa is a journalist, an inspirational speaker, and the author of a host of literary works. Her novels have garnered or been short-listed for many awards, including the Pat Conroy Southern Book Prize, the Oklahoma Book Award, the Utah Library Award, the LORIES Best Fiction Award, The Carol Award, the Christy Award, Family Fiction's Top 10, RT Booklover's Reviewer's Choice Award, and others. The group Americans for More Civility, a kindness watchdog organization, selected Lisa along with six others for the National Civies Award, which celebrates public figures who promote greater kindness and civility in American life. She’s been a writer since Mrs. Krackhardt’s first-grade class and still believes that stories have the power to change the world.