On My Radar: September 2020

September is an incredible month for new releases and there are some of my most anticipated books of the year on this list! I will be buying many of these new but this list is also just a reference for me to keep track of what I most want when thrifting or when using the library.

September 1

After narrowly escaping death at the hands of the Dames Blanches, Lou, Reid, Coco, and Ansel are on the run from coven, kingdom, and church—fugitives with nowhere to hide.

To elude the scores of witches and throngs of chasseurs at their heels, Lou and Reid need allies. Strong ones. But protection comes at a price, and the group is forced to embark on separate quests to build their forces. As Lou and Reid try to close the widening rift between them, the dastardly Morgane baits them in a lethal game of cat and mouse that threatens to destroy something worth more than any coven.

The hotly anticipated sequel to the New York Times and IndieBound bestseller Serpent & Dove—packed with even steamier romance and darker magic—is perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas.

Join Greta and Minette once more for the heartwarming conclusion of the award-winning Tea Dragon series!

Over a year since being entrusted with Ginseng’s care, Greta still can’t chase away the cloud of mourning that hangs over the timid Tea Dragon. As she struggles to create something spectacular enough to impress a master blacksmith in search of an apprentice, she questions the true meaning of crafting, and the true meaning of caring for someone in grief. Meanwhile, Minette receives a surprise package from the monastery where she was once training to be a prophetess. Thrown into confusion about her path in life, the shy and reserved Minette finds that the more she opens her heart to others, the more clearly she can see what was always inside.

Told with the same care and charm as the previous installments of the Tea Dragon series, The Tea Dragon Tapestry welcomes old friends and new into a heartfelt story of purpose, love, and growth.

Torn between loyalty and lust…

A relationship so off-limits,

It could cost her everything…

Real estate agent Tara Sterling jumps at the chance to start fresh when she inherits part of her late ex-husband’s company. But claiming her rightful place at Sterling Enterprises means working side-by-side with CEO Grant Singleton, her ex’s best friend. Their long-simmering heat spells trouble as both vie for control of the business—and lose control of their thirst for each other…

Rear Window meets Get Out in this gripping thriller from a critically acclaimed and New York Times Notable author, in which the gentrification of a Brooklyn neighborhood takes on a sinister new meaning…

Sydney Green is Brooklyn born and raised, but her beloved neighborhood seems to change every time she blinks. Condos are sprouting like weeds, FOR SALE signs are popping up overnight, and the neighbors she’s known all her life are disappearing. To hold onto her community’s past and present, Sydney channels her frustration into a walking tour and finds an unlikely and unwanted assistant in one of the new arrivals to the block—her neighbor Theo.

But Sydney and Theo’s deep dive into history quickly becomes a dizzying descent into paranoia and fear. Their neighbors may not have moved to the suburbs after all, and the push to revitalize the community may be more deadly than advertised.

When does coincidence become conspiracy? Where do people go when gentrification pushes them out? Can Sydney and Theo trust each other—or themselves—long enough to find out before they too disappear?

A lady must have money and an army of her own if she is to win a revolution – but first, she must pit her wits against the wiles of an irresistible rogue bent on wrecking her plans…and her heart.

Lady Lucie is fuming. She and her band of Oxford suffragists have finally scraped together enough capital to control one of London’s major publishing houses, with one purpose: to use it in a coup against Parliament. But who could have predicted that the one person standing between her and success is her old nemesis, Lord Ballentine? Or that he would be willing to hand over the reins for an outrageous price—a night in her bed.

Lucie tempts Tristan like no other woman, burning him up with her fierceness and determination every time they clash. But as their battle of wills and words fans the flames of long-smouldering devotion, the silver-tongued seducer runs the risk of becoming caught in his own snare.

As Lucie tries to out-manoeuvre Tristan in the boardroom and the bedchamber, she soon discovers there’s truth in what the poets say: all is fair in love and war…

September 8

The #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Turn of the Key and In a Dark Dark Wood returns with another suspenseful thriller set on a snow-covered mountain.

Getting snowed in at a beautiful, rustic mountain chalet doesn’t sound like the worst problem in the world, especially when there’s a breathtaking vista, a cozy fire, and company to keep you warm. But what happens when that company is eight of your coworkers…and you can’t trust any of them?

When an off-site company retreat meant to promote mindfulness and collaboration goes utterly wrong when an avalanche hits, the corporate food chain becomes irrelevant and survival trumps togetherness. Come Monday morning, how many members short will the team be?

Never in a million years did I think it would be Ian Parker who saved me… 

I know I should stay away from Ian Parker. 

But when my drug-dealing stepdad kicks me out, I have nowhere to go. Squatting in an abandoned shed on Ian’s grandpa’s farm seems like as good a plan as any. 

Ian finds me there, of course, and he insists on me moving into his spare room. I should say no, but the appeal of a roof and a warm bed is too much. Not to mention Ian’s brown eyes and strong arms. 

We’re nothing alike, but the spark between us is undeniable. My life is finally looking up. 

Until I call the cops on my stepdad and unintentionally get my pregnant mom arrested. 

Now I have to sacrifice my dreams to take care of my mom’s baby. She’s the only family I have left. Meanwhile, Ian’s band is taking off; his dreams are coming true. 

Ian is my one chance at love. I just hope he doesn’t become the one chance that got away.

Carrie Singleton and Evelyn the ghost sleuth the slayings of a starlet and a star-crossed psychic in Agatha Award nominee Allison Brook’s fourth Haunted Library mystery.

Daphne Marriott strolls into Clover Ridge and informs librarian Carrie Singleton that she’s a psychic. But had she foreseen what fate awaited her, Daphne would have steered clear of the quaint Connecticut town. Evelyn, the library ghost, tells Carrie that there’s more to Daphne than she lets on.

The mysterious woman grew up in Clover Ridge with her no-good dad, who apparently met his end at the hands of Daphne’s brother, Billy. Still, Daphne proves a welcome distraction when Carrie’s overbearing mother hits town. Mom’s much younger husband, Tom, is in a movie that’s lensing locally, and she’s there to keep an eye on him: Tom’s costar, sultry Ilana Reingold, is also his ex-fiancée, and there’s no denying the chemistry is still there. Soon after mingling with the moviemakers at a meet-and-greet, Daphne is found dead.

Carrie and Evelyn investigate, assisted by bushy-tailed library cat Smoky Joe. But the suspect list could overflow the library shelves. Has Billy killed another relative? Is their long-missing mother involved? Or Daphne’s mean ex-husband? Carrie’s sure she knows who committed the crime, but can she bind together the clues before the culprit Dewey-decimates the town?

September 15

In Wendy Walker’s thrilling novel Don’t Look for Me, the greatest risk isn’t running away. It’s running out of time.

One night, Molly Clarke walked away from her life.

She doesn’t want to be found.

Or at least, that’s the story.

The car abandoned miles from home.

The note found at a nearby hotel.

The shattered family that couldn’t be put back together.

They called it a “walk away.”

It happens all the time.

Women disappear, desperate to leave their lives behind and start over.

But is that what really happened to Molly Clarke?

Don’t Look For Me is:

“GRIPPING…WITH UNEXPECTED TWISTS… You’ve got a cracking mystery on your hands.”
—Adrian McKinty, author of The Chain

“A NAILBITER . . . SO MUCH MORE THAN A TWISTY THRILLER. It’s a heartbreaking portrait of a family coping with grief and an insightful study of guilt and blame, gaslighting and agency. If you love fast-paced page-turners with relatable, flawed characters, look no further!”
—Angie Kim, author of Miracle Creek

From the author of You Must Not Miss comes a haunting contemporary horror novel that explores themes of mental illness, rage, and grief, twisted with spine-chilling elements of Stephen King and Agatha Christie.

Following her father’s death, Jane North-Robinson and her mom move from sunny California to the dreary, dilapidated old house in Maine where her mother grew up. All they want is a fresh start, but behind North Manor’s doors lurks a history that leaves them feeling more alone…and more tormented.

As the cold New England autumn arrives, and Jane settles in to her new home, she finds solace in old books and memories of her dad. She steadily begins making new friends, but also faces bullying from the resident “bad seed,” struggling to tamp down her own worst nature in response. Jane’s mom also seems to be spiraling with the return of her childhood home, but she won’t reveal why. Then Jane discovers that the “storage room” her mom has kept locked isn’t for storage at all–it’s a little girl’s bedroom, left untouched for years and not quite as empty of inhabitants as it appears….

Is it grief? Mental illness? Or something more…horrid? 

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Marieke Nijkamp comes a shocking new thriller about a group of friends tied together by a game and the deadly weekend that tears them apart.

FIVE friends go to a cabin.
FOUR of them are hiding secrets.
THREE years of history bind them.
TWO are doomed from the start.
ONE person wants to end this.
NO ONE IS SAFE.

Are you ready to play?

September 17

Her life was perfect. Until the video. Scarlett’s golden life suddenly unravels when someone sends a shocking video of her to everyone she knows. The only people who claim they haven’t seen it are the friends in her new mothers’ group: Cora, Emma and Asha. Scarlett is forced to delve into her past to discover who is out to get her. But as her circle of trust gathers around her, she has to ask – are her friends as innocent as they seem? A gripping read about motherhood, secrets and lies, perfect for fans of Heidi Perks and B.A. Paris.

September 22

Another laugh-out-loud romantic comedy featuring kilted musicians, Renaissance Faire tavern wenches, and an unlikely love story.

Stacey is jolted when her friends Simon and Emily get engaged. She knew she was putting her life on hold when she stayed in Willow Creek to care for her sick mother, but it’s been years now, and even though Stacey loves spending her summers pouring drinks and flirting with patrons at the local Renaissance Faire, she wants more out of life. Stacey vows to have her life figured out by the time her friends get hitched at Faire next summer. Maybe she’ll even find The One.

When Stacey imagined “The One,” it never occurred to her that her summertime Faire fling, Dex MacLean, might fit the bill. While Dex is easy on the eyes onstage with his band The Dueling Kilts, Stacey has never felt an emotional connection with him. So when she receives a tender email from the typically monosyllabic hunk, she’s not sure what to make of it.

Faire returns to Willow Creek, and Stacey comes face-to-face with the man with whom she’s exchanged hundreds of online messages over the past nine months. To Stacey’s shock, it isn’t Dex—she’s been falling in love with a man she barely knows.

Hair, makeup, clothing, decor… everything in Bethany Castle’s world is organized, planned, and styled to perfection. Which is why the homes she designs for her family’s real estate business are the most coveted in town. The only thing not perfect? Her track record with men. She’s on a dating hiatus and after helping her friends achieve their dreams, Bethany finally has time to focus on her own: flip a house, from framework to furnishings, all by herself. Except her older brother runs the company and refuses to take her seriously.

When a television producer gets wind of the Castle sibling rivalry, they’re invited on Flip Off, a competition to see who can do the best renovation. Bethany wants bragging rights, but she needs a crew and the only member of her brother’s construction team willing to jump ship is Wes Daniels, the new guy in town. His Texas drawl and handsome face got under Bethany’s skin on day one, but the last thing she needs is some cocky young cowboy in her way.

As the race to renovate heats up, Wes and Bethany are forced into close quarters, trading barbs and biting banter as they remodel the ugliest house on the block. It’s a labor of love, hate, and everything in between, and soon sparks are flying. But Bethany’s perfectly structured life is one kiss away from going up in smoke and she knows falling for a guy like Wes would be a flipping disaster.

In Tessa Bailey’s latest rom-com, two enemies team up to flip a house… and the sparks between them might burn the place down or ignite a passion that neither can ignore!

Summer nights and star-crossed lovers! From USA Today bestselling author Sarina Bowen.

Once upon a time, he gave me a summer of friendship, followed by one perfect night. We shared a lot during our short time together. But he skipped a few crucial details.

I didn’t know he was a rock star.

I didn’t know his real name.

Neither of us knew I’d get pregnant.

And I sure never expected to see him again.

Five years later, his tour bus pulls up in Nest Lake, Maine. My little world is about to be shattered by loud music and the pounding of my own foolish heart.

September 29

They are a dangerous duke, a fierce lord, and an infamous earl—dark, bold, brave men who know exactly what they want. And there is only one woman who can bring them to their knees…

He is first and foremost—at everything. A man who’s made his own way in the world through ruthless cunning and sheer force of will. A strong and imposing Scot who can turn on the charm but does not suffer fools. His title: Lord Chief Justice of the High Court. His name: Cassius Gerard Ramsay. His mission: To investigate the goings-on at London’s most notorious gaming hell, owned and operated by one of the most intriguing and desirable women he’s ever met.

IN THIS GAME OF LOVE, THE RULES DO NOT APPLY

Cecelia Teague was an orphan facing a rather dire future—until a secret benefactor from her mother’s scandalous past swept into her life. Sent to prestigious boarding school and later to university, Cecelia believed high society was at her fingertips…Then, from out of nowhere, she became the inheritor of a gambling establishment. Now Cecelia must live two lives: one as a proper lady who finds herself undeniably drawn to Lord Ramsay and the other as a savvy gaming hell owner trying to save her business from the very same man. He has no idea she is both women…and Cecelia would like to keep it that way. But what happens when consuming passion and escalating danger threaten to reveal the truth?

“Unputdownable…Fans of The Twilight Zone, The X-Files, and Stranger Things will be especially thrilled.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“A satisfyingly dark satire of, well, everything…Imagine Blake Crouch and Mira Grant re-writing Chuck Wendig’s Wanderers—fans of all three authors are part of the wide audience who will flock to this heart-pounding and deeply unsettling tale.” —Booklist

Stranger Things meets World War Z in this heart-racing conspiracy thriller as a lonely young woman teams up with a group of fellow outcasts to survive the night in a town overcome by a science experiment gone wrong.

Turner Falls is a small tourist town nestled in the hills of western Oregon, the kind of town you escape to for a vacation. When an inexplicable outbreak rapidly develops, this idyllic town becomes the epicenter of an epidemic of violence as the teenaged children of several executives from the local biotech firm become ill and aggressively murderous. Suddenly the town is on edge, and Lucy and her friends must do everything it takes just to fight through the night. 

As December turns Lake Eden into the North Pole, the heat is on in Hannah Swensen’s kitchen to honor two Christmas promises: baking irresistible holiday cupcakes and preventing a person who attempted murder from succeeding the second time around! 
 
While Hannah speeds through a lengthy holiday checklist, drama in town grows like Santa’s waistline on Christmas Eve. Her sister Andrea wants to stave off the blues by helping out at The Cookie Jar, Michele’s love life is becoming complicated, Lisa needs Hannah’s advice, and Delores has a Christmas secret she’s not willing to share. But nothing dampens the holiday mood more than the chilling mystery surrounding the man found near death in an abandoned storefront two doors down from Hannah’s bakery . . . 
 
The befuddled John Doe can’t recall a thing about himself—except for his unusual knowledge of restoring antique furniture. With a smattering of clues and barely enough time to frost Christmas cookies, Hannah must solve a deadly puzzle that could leave her dashing through the snow for her life!
 
Features Over a Dozen Cookie and Dessert Recipes from The Cookie Jar!

~Cassie

A Thousand Mornings by Mary Oliver

Publisher: Penguin Press

Publication Date: October 11, 2012

Pages: 82

Genre: Poetry

Rating: 5/5

This short collection of poems was my first Mary Oliver work that I have read and it has sparked such a love of her that I have been seeking out her work ever since. A Thousand Mornings evokes the beauty and the magic of nature when the world is beginning to awaken. I was utterly captivated by the vivid imagery of Oliver’s writing, her easy personification of nature and her sincere way of talking about life and death . I started reading this book on a camping trip my family and I took last month and it felt so special to be experiencing these poems in the midst of beautiful trees with the sweet sounds of birds. I finished reading it after we came home and while it wasn’t quite as a remarkable reading circumstance I still found the remaining poems incredibly moving. I have too many favorite numerous poems but I did want to make note of a couple of them:

Hum Hum: This is a difficult but powerful poem to read. Trigger Warning for rape.

The Morning Paper: This was published eight years ago but it is probably more relevant now.

“For some things there are no wrong seasons. Which is what I dream of for me.”

“It’s impossible not to remember wild and want it back.”

~Cassie

The Legendary Shiver by J.H. MacAL + Author Q&A

*The author of this book reached out to me on Instagram to let me know about his book and asked me to check out the reviews and see if I would be interested in reading and reviewing it. This book has a 3.98 rating on Goodreads and a 4 star rating on Amazon. I decided that it sounded like an interesting story and I always try to promote indie authors so I did purchase this book with my own money and read it. While the author did reach out to let me know about this book my opinions are my own and 100% authentic.

Publication Date: April 14, 2020

Publisher: Self Published

Pages: 219

Genre: Adult Contemporary

Rating: 3.5/5

Why is society obsessed with the rise and fall of celebrities?

Before Ruby became Shiver Magnata, she was just a tormented girl hoping superstardom would numb her pain.

Will, her best friend, has always been her rock. What she doesn’t know is he’s in love with her. And like Ruby, he craves success, but in hopes that it’ll make him worthy of her.

Why is society obsessed with the rise and fall of celebrities?

Before Ruby became Shiver Magnata, she was just a tormented girl hoping superstardom would numb her pain.

Will, her best friend, has always been her rock. What she doesn’t know is he’s in love with her. And like Ruby, he craves success, but in hopes that it’ll make him worthy of her.

In New York, they journey through the treacherous music industry. As Ruby rises to fame, they find themselves surrounded by scandals and shady icons. And when she has to battle her demons under the spotlight, what began as a dream-come-true becomes a dangerous trial to their friendship that raises the questions: how far is one willing to go to protect a friend? What if such friend commits an act that can end up with her incarceration? Finally, how do you find the power to tell someone you feel undeserving of that you love her?

Buy Links

Amazon

Goodreads

Review

This is beautifully written debut novel about two best friends who are trying to navigate the world of celebrity together while also dancing around their feelings for each other. This book turns the drama dial up to 10 and even when you start to think things are predictable you will find the rug swept out from under you. Ruby is someone that is easy to root for and her success and ups and downs of celebrity felt very realistic. It was a little harder to get a handle on Will because even though the book is told entirely from his perspective, his whole world is consumed with Ruby. Once we get to see more of Will and the journey he is on I was more connected to him. Will and Ruby have one of the most frustratingly slow burn romances that I have ever read. It makes sense why everything between them moves at glacier speed and the pay off when they started to confront their feelings had me at the edge of my seat. MacAL did a great job of making this world he created come to life in such a believable way. This book does suffer from some pacing issues, mainly towards the beginning of the story, and it felt at times like we were watching so much fast forward and then we would pause and get reacquainted with the characters. It was easy, though, to get lost into what was happening and I really appreciated all the unexpected turns this book took. There are also a few instances where there were noticeable grammar mistakes but for me that didn’t take away from the story. If you love stories that really delve into the behind the scenes of celebrity then I think you will really like this book. I got a lot of strong The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo vibes from this story so if you loved that book then I think you will also be enthralled with Ruby’s story.

Trigger Warnings: drug & alcohol abuse, depression and sexual assault

Author Q&A

1. How did you come up with the concept for The Legendary Shiver? I have always loved the entertainment industry, having fallen in love with female pop
singers as a teenager. I have deep knowledge of it because I have been studying it for fun for years. Fun fact: When I moved to NYC to get a master of laws degree, I chose to study Intellectual Property, which encompasses entertainment law and is basically known as the
law of the arts. Anyways, I have always known I would write about a female singer and pop music. To be honest, I think I will write more books about singers in the future.

2. Are any of the characters based on people that you know? The four main characters (Will, Ruby, Keysha and John) are actually based on me. Will is me growing up insecure and becoming a confident man. Ruby represents my mental health, Keysha is how I behave in society and with my friends, John is the representation of my sexuality. Most of their personalities are for sure taken from my friends also, but I cannot pinpoint it exactly.


3. I think this book would make a great movie or tv series, what would your dream cast be? I would love for that to happen. Please, Universe, make it happen. But I do not know, I guess I would prefer a newcomer to portray Ruby. I can’t say there’s anyone I actually see as her.


4. Can you talk a little about your writing process? Did you outline the whole story first or did you just let the story come to you while writing? This book I decided to write without an outline, just knowing where I was heading. I knew the end, and I knew some key-scenes, but the rest I just let come to me. Which was great and so much fun. There are some surprisingly great scenes that came to me just as I was writing it. I think those are the best. (However, the last chapter was my favorite to write, given that I had spent the whole book craving to write it).


5. What are you currently working on?  I am working on promoting this book like crazy! It takes a lot of time, but I am also writing my next book.

J.H. MacAL Instagram

~Cassie

Cover Reveal: My Darling Arrow by Saffron Kent

Thank you to Wildfire Marketing for working with me on this post!

MY DARLING ARROW

Saffron A. Kent

Release Date: September 17

Darling Arrow,

I shouldn’t be writing this. 

It’s not as if I’m ever going to send you this letter, and there are a million reasons why.

First of all, I was sent to this reform school as a punishment for a petty, totally inconsequential crime. Not to ogle the principal’s hot son around the campus.

Second of all, you’re a giant jerk. You’re arrogant and moody and so cold. Sometimes I think I shouldn’t even like you.

But strangely your coldness sets me on fire. 

The way your athletic body moves on the soccer field, and the way your powerful thighs sprawl across that motorcycle of yours, make me go inappropriately breathless. 

But that’s not the worst part. 

The worst part is that you, Arrow Carlisle, are not only the principal’s hot son. 

You also happen to be the love of my sister’s life. 

And I really shouldn’t be thinking about my sister’s boyfriend, or rather fiancé (I overheard a conversation about the ring that I shouldn’t have).

Now if I can only stop writing you these meaningless letters that I’ll never send and you’ll never read…

Never yours,

Salem

NOTE: This book is a standalone and DOES NOT contain cheating

Add on Goodreads:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/52194105-my-darling-arrow

Meet Saffron A. Kent:

Saffron A. Kent is a Top 100 Amazon Bestselling author of Contemporary and New Adult romance. More often than not, her love stories are edgy, forbidden and passionate. Her work has been featured in Huffington Post, New York Daily News and USA Today’s Happy Ever After. 

She lives in New York City with her nerdy and supportive husband, and a million and one books. 

Connect with Saffron A. Kent

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheSaffronKent  

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/thesaffronkent   

Twitter: https://twitter.com/thesaffronkent    

Website: http://www.saffronkent.com   

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2Ybw47r 

BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/saffron-a-kent   

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16192760.Saffron_A_Kent  

~Cassie

Hendrick by Kelsey Clayton

If you remember, last Saturday I posted my review of The Enemy by Kelsey Clayton and I mentioned at the end that I was hoping that Clayton would write a Colby Hendrick book and LOOK WHAT IS NOW LIVE!! I was shocked when I went on my Kindle and saw that I had a book by her and I freaked out when I realized who’s romance it is. Kelsey Clayton is so sweet and she did a surprise release of this book for her birthday and I am over the moon. I am so grateful that I was gifted a copy of this book and can we also talk about how freaking beautiful the cover is?!! Also, I want to give a big thank you to Wildfire Marketing for popping up in my email and sharing all these amazing graphics and info for this book so I can share it with all of you! If you saw my post yesterday than you know that there is no possible way for me to read Hendrick this month (insert pout face here) but this will almost definitely be the first book that I read next month.

This might seriously be one of the prettiest books I have ever seen!!

Hendrix by Kelsey Clayton

Release Day: August 21st

I’m Colby Hendrix.

Football Legend.

Notorious Playboy.

Sarcasm Extraordinaire.

I had everything you could ever want.

The career some would die for.

The friends that always have my back.

And an unmatched level of charm.

I never planned on settling down.

There wasn’t ever a reason to.

Or at least that’s what I thought,

Until she came barreling back into my life.

With long brown hair and hazel eyes,

She has the ability to disarm me with a single look.

And the little girl attached to her side?

She’s the shock I never knew I wanted.

The biggest mistake of my life.

The only woman I’ve ever loved.

If she were to say the words,

I might just give up everything for her.

BUY LINKS

Amazon Universal: http://mybook.to/Hendrix

GR: http://bit.ly/HendrixGR

GIVEAWAY 

The author is having 5 signed paperbacks on her Facebook Page. Stop by her page to enter: https://www.facebook.com/KelsClayton

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kelsey Clayton is a 29-year-old mother of two from a small town in lower Delaware. Born and raised in New Jersey, she discovered her love for writing when she used it as a coping mechanism to get through hard times. Since then, she has been passionately writing novels that make people fall in love with the characters and the storylines. She writes from a mix of personal experiences and imagination. As an avid beach lover, her dream is to write an entire book with her feet in the sand.

Social Media Links –

https://www.facebook.com/KelsClayton

https://www.instagram.com/kels_clayton

amazon.com/author/kelseyclayton

https://www.bookbub.com/profile/kelsey-clayton

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/18650306.Kelsey_Clayton

www.kelseyclayton.com

www.kelseyclayton.com/newsletter

~Cassie

Tome Topple Readathon Wrap Up? AKA Current Reads

Yesterday was the last day of the tome topple 2 week readathon and during that time I finished an astounding… zero books! I started 3 books but unfortunately I didn’t finish a single one. The good news is that I am seriously loving all 3 of them and I am guessing that they will all be five star reads. The bad side (although there’s not really a bad side when it comes to books!) is that I need to spend the next ten or so days of the month finishing my August books and oh yea I decided to participate in the Summerween readathon that starts on Monday. Two of my August books are on there so I do have that going for me. Yes, I am SO close to completing a monthly TBR for the first time ever and I am just going out of my way to make it harder for myself but there are just so many books that I want to read! This post is going to be a bit of a chaotic mess because there is a lot going on reading wise but I am going to try to organize it the best way possible.

I linked to my Summerween TBR above so you can check that out if you want to see what books I plan/hope to read next week.

These are the books that I started during the tome topple readathon. All are incredibly written and when I am reading each one I am easily transported to the setting of each. David Copperfield is my main priority to finish this month because it is also on my August TBR. I should have no problem finishing it even with all the other books I plan on reading.

These are the only two books left on my TBR that aren’t a part of any readathon. Coincidentally, they are also the ones I am the most nervous that I am not going to read. Although, in the name of fairness, Zone One is not technically on my TBR. I forgot about it when I was making it and then realized I never put the Literally Dead book club pick on there. So, it’s not quite as bad as it seems. Also, I read the Literally Dead August book, Home Before Dark, last month so I am reading last month’s pick this month. Is anyone else getting confused and overwhelmed?!

Finally, we have made it to my “weekend” reads. I put weekend in quotations because I probably won’t finish Women, Race & Class until next month. This might be the slowest book I have ever read but I find everything so interesting and fascinating and I want to make sure that it is all sinking in. I meant to read Vanishing Stair earlier in the month but I just never got around to it and I need to read it so I can read The Hand on the Wall next week. Judging by how quickly I read the first book in this series, Truly Devious, I have no doubt that I will finish this is in either one or two sittings.

~Cassie

Summerween TBR

I love the whole concept of the Summerween readathon and I’m excited to share my TBR! I have tried to work it so that the remaining books on my August TBR are included in this because I am shocked to announce that I might actually complete one of my monthly TBR’s. I don’t know whether to be proud or ashamed of that last statement, ha! But, nevertheless, it is true and I should be playing it safe next week but I just love the Summerween prompts. This readathon takes place between August 24-30 and is hosted by Olivia from oliviareadsalatte and Gabby from Gabbyreads on Youtube. I will link the announcement video that I watched down below because the last prompt is to read a book recommended by the hosts.

Read a book with a creepy cover

*This is on my August TBR

OVER 9 MILLION BOOKS SOLD WORLDWIDE How do you catch a killer when you’re the number one suspect? A man is caught on CCTV, shooting dead a cashier at a bank. Detective Harry Hole begins his investigation, but after dinner with an old flame wakes up with no memory of the past 12 hours. Then the girl is found dead in mysterious circumstances and he begins to receive threatening emails: is someone trying to frame him for her death? As Harry fights to clear his name, the bank robberies continue with unparalleled savagery…

Read a paranormal/supernatural book

*My oldest son and I were reading this together last school year and we took a break over the summer because he got into the routine of going to bed and then staying up for an hour or two reading. Now that school (virtual) is back we are slowly getting into our normal routine and I thought this was the perfect opportunity to finish this book together. Although, he still stays up reading by himself but it’s only a half hour to an hour now!

Cassidy Blake’s parents are The Inspecters, a (somewhat inept) ghost-hunting team. But Cass herself can REALLY see ghosts. In fact, her best friend, Jacob, just happens to be one.

When The Inspecters head to ultra-haunted Edinburgh, Scotland, for their new TV show, Cass—and Jacob—come along. In Scotland, Cass is surrounded by ghosts, not all of them friendly. Then she meets Lara, a girl who can also see the dead. But Lara tells Cassidy that as an In-betweener, their job is to send ghosts permanently beyond the Veil. Cass isn’t sure about her new mission, but she does know the sinister Red Raven haunting the city doesn’t belong in her world. Cassidy’s powers will draw her into an epic fight that stretches through the worlds of the living and the dead, in order to save herself.

Read a book with a haunted house

*This book is currently on KU. I don’t know how the format of this book will translate onto Kindle since the book and its formatting are a part of the story but since it’s free it might be worth a shot. I have the beautiful paperback and I’m obsessed with how floppy it is!

Years ago, when House of Leaves was first being passed around, it was nothing more than a badly bundled heap of paper, parts of which would occasionally surface on the Internet. No one could have anticipated the small but devoted following this terrifying story would soon command. Starting with an odd assortment of marginalized youth—musicians, tattoo artists, programmers, strippers, environmentalists, and adrenaline junkies—the book eventually made its way into the hands of older generations, who not only found themselves in those strangely arranged pages but also discovered a way back into the lives of their estranged children.

Now, for the first time, this astonishing novel is made available in book form, complete with the original colored words, vertical footnotes, and newly added second and third appendices.

The story remains unchanged, focusing on a young family that moves into a small home on Ash Tree Lane where they discover something is terribly wrong: their house is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside.

Of course, neither Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Will Navidson nor his companion Karen Green was prepared to face the consequences of that impossibility, until the day their two little children wandered off and their voices eerily began to return another story—of creature darkness, of an ever-growing abyss behind a closet door, and of that unholy growl which soon enough would tear through their walls and consume all their dreams.

Read a book in the dark

*This is one of my August books. The synopsis is for the first book in the series since this is the third book and I don’t want to spoil anything.

Ellingham Academy is a famous private school in Vermont for the brightest thinkers, inventors, and artists. It was founded by Albert Ellingham, an early twentieth century tycoon, who wanted to make a wonderful place full of riddles, twisting pathways, and gardens. “A place,” he said, “where learning is a game.”

Shortly after the school opened, his wife and daughter were kidnapped. The only real clue was a mocking riddle listing methods of murder, signed with the frightening pseudonym “Truly, Devious.” It became one of the great unsolved crimes of American history.

True-crime aficionado Stevie Bell is set to begin her first year at Ellingham Academy, and she has an ambitious plan: She will solve this cold case. That is, she will solve the case when she gets a grip on her demanding new school life and her housemates: the inventor, the novelist, the actor, the artist, and the jokester. But something strange is happening. Truly Devious makes a surprise return, and death revisits Ellingham Academy. The past has crawled out of its grave. Someone has gotten away with murder. 

The two interwoven mysteries of this first book in the Truly Devious series dovetail brilliantly, and Stevie Bell will continue her relentless quest for the murderers in books two and three.

New York Times bestselling author Maureen Johnson weaves a delicate tale of murder and mystery in the first book of a striking new series, perfect for fans of Agatha Christie and E. Lockhart.

Read a book recommended by the hosts

Abby and Gretchen have been best friends since fifth grade, when they bonded over a shared love of E.T., roller-skating parties, and scratch-and-sniff stickers. But when they arrive at high school, things change. Gretchen begins to act….different. And as the strange coincidences and bizarre behavior start to pile up, Abby realizes there’s only one possible explanation: Gretchen, her favorite person in the world, has a demon living inside her. And Abby is not about to let anyone or anything come between her and her best friend. With help from some unlikely allies, Abby embarks on a quest to save Gretchen. But is their friendship powerful enough to beat the devil?

~Cassie

Blog Tour: The Last Story Of Mina Lee By Nancy Jooyoun Kim

Thank you to Harper Collins for providing me with an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review. All graphics and info were also kindly sent by them.

THE LAST STORY OF MINA LEE

Author: Nancy Jooyoun Kim

ISBN: 9780778310174

Publication Date: September 1, 2020

Publisher: Park Row Books

Book Summary:

THE LAST STORY OF MINA LEE (on sale: September 1, 2020; Park Row Books; Hardcover; $27.99 US/ $34.99 CAN). opens when Margot Lee’s mother, Mina, doesn’t return her calls. It’s a mystery to twenty-six-year-old Margot, until she visits her childhood apartment in Koreatown, Los Angeles, and finds that her mother has suspiciously died. The discovery sends Margot digging through the past, unraveling the tenuous and invisible strings that held together her single mother’s life as a Korean War orphan and an undocumented immigrant, only to realize how little she truly knew about her mother.

Interwoven with Margot’s present-day search is Mina’s story of her first year in Los Angeles as she navigates the promises and perils of the American myth of reinvention. While she’s barely earning a living by stocking shelves at a Korean grocery store, the last thing Mina ever expects is to fall in love. But that love story sets in motion a series of events that have consequences for years to come, leading up to the truth of what happened the night of her death.

Review

This is a captivating story that showcases the reality of the immigrant experience in America, particularly in Los Angeles. Mina has always struggled with being the child of an immigrant parent with no father and with her mother’s death she is having to confront those issues head on. I really love the juxtaposition of Margot’s story in 2014 versus her mother, Mina’s story in 1987. Often times we only see life through the lens of our own experiences and emotions and it was mesmerizing to see the two stories parallel each other. The author, Kim, does a fantastic job of bringing historical events and places to life with her wonderful and descriptive writing. I really enjoyed the “mystery” aspect of the story even though more importance was placed on Mina’s life and not her death. There is so much Korean and LA culture interspersed throughout and I think that a lot of people will find a part of themselves in this book. I have been trying to find an own voices review to share since I think that will have more value than my review but sadly I couldn’t find one. I highly recommend this book to everyone and I think it does an incredible job of highlighting the true American immigrant story. I am going to share an excerpt from the first chapter of the book down below so you can get a feel for the story. This short sample of the book is really just setting up the story and I don’t think it is very representative of the quality of the story or the writing.

“Why did borders define opportunity?”


Author Bio: 

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Nancy Jooyoun Kim is a graduate of UCLA and the MFA Creative Writing Program at the University of Washington, Seattle. Her work has appeared in the Los Angeles Review of Books, Guernica, The Rumpus, Electric Literature, Asian American Writers’ Workshop’s The Margins, The Offing, the blogs of Prairie Schooner and Kenyon Review, and elsewhere. Her essay, “Love (or Live Cargo),” was performed for NPR/PRI’s Selected Shorts in 2017 with stories by Viet Thanh Nguyen, Phil Klay, and Etgar Keret. THE LAST STORY OF MINA LEE is her first novel.

Social Links:

Author Website

Twitter: @njooyounkim

Instagram: @njooyounkim

Goodreads

Excerpt

Margot

2014

Margot’s final conversation with her mother had seemed so uneventful, so ordinary—another choppy bilingual plod. Half-understandable. 

Business was slow again today. Even all the Korean businesses downtown are closing. 

What did you eat for dinner?

Everyone is going to Target now, the big stores. It costs the same and it’s cleaner.

Margot imagined her brain like a fishing net with the loosest of weaves as she watched the Korean words swim through. She had tried to tighten the net before, but learning another language, especially her mother’s tongue, frustrated her. Why didn’t her mother learn to speak English?

But that last conversation was two weeks ago. And for the past few days, Margot had only one question on her mind: Why didn’t her mother pick up the phone?

****

Since Margot and Miguel had left Portland, the rain had been relentless and wild. Through the windshield wipers and fogged glass, they only caught glimpses of fast food and gas stations, motels and billboards, premium outlets and “family fun centers.” Margot’s hands were stiff from clenching the steering wheel. The rain had started an hour ago, right after they had made a pit stop in north Portland to see the famous 31-foot-tall Paul Bunyan sculpture with his cartoonish smile, red-and-white checkered shirt on his barrel chest, his hands resting on top of an upright axe.

Earlier that morning, Margot had stuffed a backpack and a duffel with a week’s worth of clothes, picked up Miguel from his apartment with two large suitcases and three houseplants, and merged onto the freeway away from Seattle, driving Miguel down for his big move to Los Angeles. They’d stop in Daly City to spend the night at Miguel’s family’s house, which would take about ten hours to get to. At the start of the drive, Miguel had been lively, singing along to “Don’t Stop Believing” and joking about all the men he would meet in LA. But now, almost four hours into the road trip, Miguel was silent with his forehead in his palm, taking deep breaths as if trying hard not to think about anything at all.

“Everything okay?” Margot asked.

“I’m just thinking about my parents.”

“What about your parents?” Margot lowered her foot on the gas.

“Lying to them,” he said.

“About why you’re really moving down to LA?” The rain splashed down like a waterfall. Miguel had taken a job offer at an accounting firm in a location more conducive to his dreams of working in theatre. For the last two years, they had worked together at a nonprofit for people with disabilities. She was as an administrative assistant; he crunched numbers in finance. She would miss him, but she was happy for him, too. He would finally finish writing his play while honing his acting skills with classes at night. “The theatre classes? The plays that you write? The Grindr account?”

“About it all.”

“Do you ever think about telling them?”

“All the time.” He sighed. “But it’s easier this way.”

“Do you think they know?”

“Of course, they do. But…” He brushed his hand through his hair. “Sometimes, agreeing to the same lie is what makes a family family, Margot.”

“Ha. Then what do you call people who agree to the same truth?”

“Uh, scientists?”

She laughed, having expected him to say friends. Gripping the wheel, she caught the sign for Salem.

“Do you need to use the bathroom?” she asked.

“I’m okay. We’re gonna stop in Eugene, right?”

“Yeah, should be another hour or so.”

“I’m kinda hungry.” Rustling in his pack on the floor of the backseat, he found an apple, which he rubbed clean with the edge of his shirt. “Want a bite?”

“Not now, thanks.”

His teeth crunched into the flesh, the scent cracking through the odor of wet floor mats and warm vents. Margot was struck by a memory of her mother’s serene face—the downcast eyes above the high cheekbones, the relaxed mouth—as she peeled an apple with a paring knife, conjuring a continuous ribbon of skin. The resulting spiral held the shape of its former life. As a child, Margot would delicately hold this peel like a small animal in the palm of her hand, this proof that her mother could be a kind of magician, an artist who told an origin story through scraps—this is the skin of a fruit, this is its smell, this is its color.

“I hope the weather clears up soon,” Miguel said, interrupting the memory. “It gets pretty narrow and windy for a while. There’s a scary point right at the top of California where the road is just zigzagging while you’re looking down cliffs. It’s like a test to see if you can stay on the road.”

“Oh, God,” Margot said. “Let’s not talk about it anymore.”

As she refocused on the rain-slicked road, the blurred lights, the yellow and white lines like yarn unspooling, Margot thought about her mother who hated driving on the freeway, her mother who no longer answered the phone. Where was her mother?

The windshield wipers squeaked, clearing sheets of rain.

“What about you?” Miguel asked. “Looking forward to seeing your mom? When did you see her last?”

Margot’s stomach dropped. “Last Christmas,” she said. “Actually, I’ve been trying to call her for the past few days to let her know, to let her know that we would be coming down.” Gripping the wheel, she sighed. “I didn’t really want to tell her because I wanted this to be a fun trip, but then I felt bad, so…”

“Is everything okay?”

“She hasn’t been answering the phone.”

“Hmm.” He shifted in his seat. “Maybe her phone battery died?”

“It’s a landline. Both landlines—at work and at home.”

“Maybe she’s on vacation?”

“She never goes on vacation.” The windshield fogged, revealing smudges and streaks, past attempts to wipe it clean. She cranked up the air inside.

“Hasn’t she ever wanted to go somewhere?”

“Yosemite and the Grand Canyon. I don’t know why, but she’s always wanted to go there.”

“It’s a big ol’ crack in the ground, Margot. Why wouldn’t she want to see it? It’s God’s crack.”

“It’s some kind of Korean immigrant rite of passage. National Parks, reasons to wear hats and khaki, stuff like that. It’s like America America.”

“I bet she’s okay,” Miguel said. “Maybe she’s just been busier than usual, right? We’ll be there soon enough.”

“You’re probably right. I’ll call her again when we stop.”

A heaviness expanded inside her chest. She fidgeted with the radio dial but caught only static with an occasional glimpse of a commercial or radio announcer’s voice.

Her mother was fine. They would all be fine.

With Miguel in LA, she’d have more reasons to visit now.

The road lay before them like a peel of fruit. The windshield wipers hacked away the rivers that fell from the sky.

Excerpted from The Last Story of Mina Lee by Nancy Jooyoun Kim, Copyright © 2020 by Nancy Jooyoun Kim Published by Park Row Books

Buy Links: 

Harlequin 

Barnes & Noble

Amazon

Books-A-Million

Powell’s

~Cassie

Blog tour: When I was you by Amber Garza

Thank you to Harlequin Trade Publishing for providing me with an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review. All photos and information was also kindly provided by them.

WHEN I WAS YOU

Author: Amber Garza 

ISBN:     9780778361046

Publication Date: August 25, 2020 

Publisher: MIRA Books

BOOK SUMMARY: 

YOU meets FATAL ATTRACTION in this up-all-night psychological thriller about a lonely empty-nester’s growing obsession with a young mother who shares her name.

It all begins on an ordinary fall morning, when Kelly Medina gets a call from her son’s pediatrician to confirm her upcoming “well-baby” appointment. It’s a cruel mistake; her son left for college a year ago, and Kelly has never felt so alone. The receptionist quickly apologizes: there’s another mother in town named Kelly Medina, and she must have gotten their numbers switched.

But Kelly can’t stop thinking about the woman who shares her name. Lives in her same town. Has a son she can still hold, and her whole life ahead of her. She can’t help looking for her: at the grocery store, at the gym, on social media. When Kelly just happens to bump into the single mother outside that pediatrician’s office, it’s simple curiosity getting the better of her.

Their unlikely friendship brings Kelly a renewed sense of purpose, taking care of this young woman and her adorable baby boy. But that friendship quickly turns to obsession, and when one Kelly disappears, well, the other one may know why.

Review

This book is one of the best representations of an unreliable narrator that I have ever read. Kelly is not likable by any means but it was so fascinating being in her head. On one hand she is very judgmental and cringey but on the other hand, the more you read the more you start to understand her. This book was hard for me to put down because the story builds in small moments of disbelief and I found myself wanting to know if what I thought was happening was reality. Garza did an amazing job of building the story where the reader is constantly guessing at what is going on. We mostly follow Kelly as she is going along with her day to day but we also got flashbacks and therapy sessions that open our eyes up to a broader view of her world. There were many times where I was irritated by Kelly but there were also moments where my heart hurt for her. Now would be a good time to list some trigger warnings including mental and physical abuse, past loss of a baby and possible mental health triggers. This book builds to an amazing ending that it very deserving of the twisted ride we took to get there. It was possible to see where this story was going but Garza left us with enough plausible deniability that I still found it satisfying. I flew through this book and I can’t recommend it enough to all my thriller lovers out there. This book is a cross between a domestic thriller and a psychological one so I really feel like it will appeal to a wide range of readers. If you don’t typically read thrillers but this book sounds intriguing to you then keep reading for an excerpt of the first chapter of this book.

BIO: 

Amber Garza has had a passion for the written word since she was a child making books out of notebook paper and staples. Her hobbies include reading and singing. Coffee and wine are her drinks of choice (not necessarily in that order). She writes while blaring music, and talks about her characters like they’re real people. She lives with her husband and two kids in Folsom, California, which is—no joke—home to another Amber Garza.

SOCIAL:

Author Website: http://www.ambergarza.com/

TWITTER: @ambermg1

FB: @ambergarzaauthor

Insta: @ambergarzaauthor

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5582891.Amber_Garza

Excerpt

Chapter One

It was a Monday morning in early October when I first heard about you. I was getting out of the shower when my phone rang. After throwing on a robe and cinching it, I ran into my bedroom, snatching my cell off the nightstand. 

Unknown number.

Normally, I let those go. But I’d already run all the way in here, and I thought maybe it was a call from Dr. Hillerman’s office. 

“Hello?” I answered, breathless. Goosebumps rose on my pale flesh, so I pulled the robe tighter around me. My sopping wet hair dripped down my back. 

“Is this Kelly Medina?” 

Great. A salesperson. “Yes,” I answered, wishing I hadn’t picked up.

“Hi, Kelly, this is Nancy from Dr. Cramer’s office. I’m calling to remind you of your well-baby appointment this Friday at ten am.” 

“Well-baby?” I let out a surprised laugh. “You’re about nineteen years too late.” 

“Excuse me?” Nancy asked, clearly confused.

 “My son isn’t a baby,” I explained. “He’s nineteen.”

“Oh, I’m so sorry,” Nancy immediately replied. I could hear the clicking of a keyboard.  “I apologize. I called the wrong Kelly Medina.” 

“There’s another Kelly Medina in Folsom?” My maiden name had been Smith. There are a million other Kelly Smiths in the world. In California, even. But since I’d married Rafael, I’d never met another Kelly Medina. Until now.

Until you.

“Yes. Her child is a new patient.”

It felt like yesterday when my child was a new patient. I remembered sitting in the waiting room of Dr. Cramer’s office, holding my tiny newborn, waiting for the nurse to call my name. 

 “I have no idea how this happened. It’s like your numbers got switched in the system or something,” Nancy muttered, and I wasn’t sure if she was talking to me or herself. “Again, I’m so sorry.”

I assured her it was fine, and hung up. My hair was still wet from the shower, but instead of blow-drying it I headed downstairs to make some tea first. On my way, I passed Aaron’s room. The door was closed, so I pressed it open with my palm. The wood was cold against my skin. Shivering, I took in his neatly made bed, the movie posters tacked to the wall, the darkened desktop computer in the corner.

Leaning against the doorframe of Aaron’s room, my mind flew back to the day he left for college. I remembered his broad smile, his sparkling eyes. He’d been so anxious to leave here. To leave me. I should’ve been happy for him. He was doing what I’d raised him to do. 

Boys were supposed to grow up and leave. 

In my head I knew that. But in my heart it was hard to let him go. 

After closing Aaron’s door, I headed down to the kitchen. 

The house was silent. It used to be filled with noise – Aaron’s little feet stomping down the hallway, his sound effects as he played with toys, his chattering as he got older. Now it was always quiet. Especially during the week when Rafael stayed in the Bay Area for work. Aaron had been gone over a year. You’d think I’d be used to it by now. But, actually, it seemed to get worse over time. The constant silence. 

The phone call had thrown me. For a second it felt like I’d gone back in time, something I longed for most days. When Aaron was born everyone told me to savor all the moments because it went by too quickly. It was hard for me to imagine. I hadn’t had the easiest life growing up, and it certainly hadn’t flown by. And the nine months I was pregnant with Aaron had gone on forever, every day longer than the one before. 

But they were right.

Aaron’s childhood was fleeting. The moments were elusive like a butterfly, practically impossible to catch. And now it was gone. He was a man. And I was alone.

Rafael kept encouraging me to find a job to fill my time, but I’d already tried that. When Aaron first left, I applied for a bunch of jobs. Since I’d been out of work for so long, no one wanted to hire me. That’s when Christine suggested I volunteer somewhere. So I started helping out at a local food bank, handing out food once a week and occasionally doing a little administrative stuff. I enjoyed it, but it wasn’t enough. It barely filled any of my time. Besides, I was one of many volunteers. I wasn’t needed. Not the way Aaron had needed me when he was a child. 

When he left, the Kelly I’d always known ceased to exist. Vanished into thin air. I was merely a ghost now, haunting my house, the streets, the town.  

As the water boiled, I thought about you. Thought about how lucky you were to have a baby and your whole life ahead of you. I wondered what you were doing right now. Not sitting alone in your big, silent house, I bet. No, you were probably chasing your cute little baby around your sunny living room, the floor littered with toys, as he crawled on all fours and laughed.

Was your child a boy? The lady on the phone didn’t say, but that’s what I pictured. A chubby, smiling little boy like my Aaron. 

The kettle squealed, and I flinched. I poured the boiling water in a mug and steam rose from it, circling the air in front of my face. Tossing in the tea bag, I breathed it in, leaning my back against the cool tile counter. The picture window in front of me revealed our perfectly manicured front yard – bright green grass lined with rose bushes. I’d always been particular about the roses. When Aaron was a kid he always wanted to help with the pruning, but I never let him. Afraid he’d mess them up, I guess. Seemed silly now. 

Heart pinching, I blew out a breath.

I wondered about your yard. What did it look like? Did you have roses? I wondered if you’d let your son help you prune them. I wondered if you’d make the same mistakes I had.

Bringing the mug to my lips, I took a tiny sip of the hot tea. It was mint, my favorite. I allowed the flavors to sit on my tongue a minute before swallowing it down. The refrigerator hummed. The ice shifted in the ice maker. My shoulders tensed slightly. I rolled them out, taking another sip. 

Shoving off the counter, I was headed toward the stairs when my cell buzzed inside my pocket. My pulse spiked. It couldn’t be Rafael. He was a professor and his first class had already started.

Aaron? 

Nope. It was a text from Christine. 

Going to yoga this morning? 

I’d already showered. I was about to tackle my latest organization project. Today was the kitchen pantry. Last week I’d bought a bunch of new containers and bins. Friday I’d spent the day labeling all of them. After taking the weekend off since Rafael was home, I was anxious to continue with it. I’d already organized several closets downstairs, but my plan was to work my way through all the closets and cabinets in the house. 

Usually I loved yoga, but I had way too much to do today.  

No, I typed. Then bit my lip. Backspaced. Stared at the phone. My own reflection emerged on the slick screen – disheveled hair, pale face, dark circles under the eyes. 

You need to get out more. Exercise. It’s not healthy to sit in the house all day. Rafael’s voice echoed in my head.  

The organizing would still be here tomorrow. Besides, who was I kidding? I’d probably only spend a couple of hours organizing before abandoning my project to read online blogs and articles, or dive into the latest murder mystery I was reading.

I typed, yes, then sent it and hurried to my room to get ready. 

Thirty minutes later, I was parking in front of the gym. When I stepped out, a cool breeze whisked over my arms. After three scorching hot summer months, I welcomed it. Fall had always been my favorite season. I relished the festiveness of it. Pumpkins, apples, rustic colors. But mostly it was the leaves falling and being raked away. The bareness of the trees. The shedding of the old to make room for the new. An end, but also a beginning.

Although, we weren’t quite there yet. The leaves were still green, and by afternoon the air would be warm. But in the mornings and evenings we got a tiny sip of a fall, enough to make me thirsty for more. 

Securing the gym bag on my shoulder, I walked briskly through the lot. Once inside, it was even colder. The AC blasted as if it was a hundred-degree day. That’s okay. It gave me more of an incentive to break a sweat. Smiling at the receptionist, I pulled out my keys for her to scan my card. Only my card wasn’t hanging from my key ring. 

I fished around in my bag, but it wasn’t there either. Flushing, I offered the bored receptionist an apologetic smile. “I seem to have misplaced my tag. Can you look me up? Kelly Medina?’

Her eyes widened. “Funny. There was another lady in here earlier today with the same name.”

My heart pounded. I’d been attending this gym for years and never had anyone mentioned you before. I wondered how long you’d worked out here. “Is she still here?” My gaze scoured the lobby as if I might recognize you. 

“No. She was here super early.”

Of course you were. I used to be, too, when Aaron was an infant. 

“Okay. You’re all checked in, Kelly,” the receptionist said, buzzing me in. 

Clutching my gym bag, I made my way up the stairs toward the yoga room, thoughts of you flooding my mind. A few young women walked next to me, wearing tight tank tops and pants, gym bags hanging off their shoulders. They were laughing and chatting loudly, their long ponytails bouncing behind their heads. I tried to say excuse me, to move past them, but they couldn’t hear me. Impatient, I bit my lip and walked slowly behind them. Finally, I made it to the top. They headed toward the cardio machines, and I pressed open the door to the yoga room.

I spotted Christine already sitting on her mat. Her blond hair was pulled back into a perfectly coifed ponytail. Her eyes were bright and her lips were shiny. I smoothed down my unruly brown hair and licked my dry lips. 

She waved me over with a large smile. “You made it.”

“Yep.” I dropped my mat and bag next to hers. 

“I wasn’t sure. It’s been awhile.”

Shrugging, I sat down on my mat. “Been busy.”

“Oh, I totally get that.” She waved away my words with a flick of her slender wrist. “Maddie and Mason have had a bazillion activities lately. I’ve been running around town like a crazy person. I honestly feel like I’m going insane.”

“Sounds rough,” I muttered, slipping off my flip-flops. This was the problem with getting married and having a kid so young. Most of my friends were still raising families. 

“I know, right? I can’t wait until they’re adults and I can do whatever I want.”

“Yeah, it’s the best,” I said sarcastically. 

Her mouth dropped. “Oh, I’m sorry. I wasn’t talking about you…” Her pale cheeks turned pink. “I know how much you miss Aaron. It’s just…” 

I shook my head and offered her a smile “Relax. I get it.”

Christine and I met years ago in a yoga class. She’s one of those women with almost no self-awareness. It’s what first drew to me to her. I loved how raw and real she was. Other people shied away from her, unable to handle her filter-less statements. But I found her refreshing and, honestly, pretty entertaining. 

 “I remember how insane it was when Aaron was younger,” I said. “One year he signed up for baseball and basketball. They overlapped for a bit, and I swear I was taking him to a game or practice like every day.”

“Yes!” Christine said excitedly, relief evident in her expression. “Sometimes it’s all just too much.”

“Yeah, sometimes it is,” I agreed. 

The class was about to start and the room was filling up. It was mainly women, but there were some men. Most of them were with their wives or girlfriends. I’d tried getting Rafael to come with me before, but he laughed as if the idea was preposterous. 

“Remember when there were only a few of us in this class?” Christine asked, her gaze sweeping the room.

I nodded, glancing around. There were so many new people I didn’t know. Not that I was surprised. Folsom had grown a lot in the ten years I’d lived here. New people moved here every day.

Staring at all the strangers crowding around us, I shivered, my thoughts drifting back to you. We hadn’t even met, and yet I felt like I knew you. We had the same name, the same gym, the same pediatrician for our child. 

It felt like kismet. Fate had brought you here to me. I was certain of it. 

But why? 

Excerpted from When I Was You by Amber Garza, Copyright © 2020 by Amber Garza. Published by MIRA Books.

Chapter One

It was a Monday morning in early October when I first heard about you. I was getting out of the shower when my phone rang. After throwing on a robe and cinching it, I ran into my bedroom, snatching my cell off the nightstand. 

Unknown number.

Normally, I let those go. But I’d already run all the way in here, and I thought maybe it was a call from Dr. Hillerman’s office. 

“Hello?” I answered, breathless. Goosebumps rose on my pale flesh, so I pulled the robe tighter around me. My sopping wet hair dripped down my back. 

“Is this Kelly Medina?” 

Great. A salesperson. “Yes,” I answered, wishing I hadn’t picked up.

“Hi, Kelly, this is Nancy from Dr. Cramer’s office. I’m calling to remind you of your well-baby appointment this Friday at ten am.” 

“Well-baby?” I let out a surprised laugh. “You’re about nineteen years too late.” 

“Excuse me?” Nancy asked, clearly confused.

 “My son isn’t a baby,” I explained. “He’s nineteen.”

“Oh, I’m so sorry,” Nancy immediately replied. I could hear the clicking of a keyboard.  “I apologize. I called the wrong Kelly Medina.” 

“There’s another Kelly Medina in Folsom?” My maiden name had been Smith. There are a million other Kelly Smiths in the world. In California, even. But since I’d married Rafael, I’d never met another Kelly Medina. Until now.

Until you.

“Yes. Her child is a new patient.”

It felt like yesterday when my child was a new patient. I remembered sitting in the waiting room of Dr. Cramer’s office, holding my tiny newborn, waiting for the nurse to call my name. 

 “I have no idea how this happened. It’s like your numbers got switched in the system or something,” Nancy muttered, and I wasn’t sure if she was talking to me or herself. “Again, I’m so sorry.”

I assured her it was fine, and hung up. My hair was still wet from the shower, but instead of blow-drying it I headed downstairs to make some tea first. On my way, I passed Aaron’s room. The door was closed, so I pressed it open with my palm. The wood was cold against my skin. Shivering, I took in his neatly made bed, the movie posters tacked to the wall, the darkened desktop computer in the corner.

Leaning against the doorframe of Aaron’s room, my mind flew back to the day he left for college. I remembered his broad smile, his sparkling eyes. He’d been so anxious to leave here. To leave me. I should’ve been happy for him. He was doing what I’d raised him to do. 

Boys were supposed to grow up and leave. 

In my head I knew that. But in my heart it was hard to let him go. 

After closing Aaron’s door, I headed down to the kitchen. 

The house was silent. It used to be filled with noise – Aaron’s little feet stomping down the hallway, his sound effects as he played with toys, his chattering as he got older. Now it was always quiet. Especially during the week when Rafael stayed in the Bay Area for work. Aaron had been gone over a year. You’d think I’d be used to it by now. But, actually, it seemed to get worse over time. The constant silence. 

The phone call had thrown me. For a second it felt like I’d gone back in time, something I longed for most days. When Aaron was born everyone told me to savor all the moments because it went by too quickly. It was hard for me to imagine. I hadn’t had the easiest life growing up, and it certainly hadn’t flown by. And the nine months I was pregnant with Aaron had gone on forever, every day longer than the one before. 

But they were right.

Aaron’s childhood was fleeting. The moments were elusive like a butterfly, practically impossible to catch. And now it was gone. He was a man. And I was alone.

Rafael kept encouraging me to find a job to fill my time, but I’d already tried that. When Aaron first left, I applied for a bunch of jobs. Since I’d been out of work for so long, no one wanted to hire me. That’s when Christine suggested I volunteer somewhere. So I started helping out at a local food bank, handing out food once a week and occasionally doing a little administrative stuff. I enjoyed it, but it wasn’t enough. It barely filled any of my time. Besides, I was one of many volunteers. I wasn’t needed. Not the way Aaron had needed me when he was a child. 

When he left, the Kelly I’d always known ceased to exist. Vanished into thin air. I was merely a ghost now, haunting my house, the streets, the town.  

As the water boiled, I thought about you. Thought about how lucky you were to have a baby and your whole life ahead of you. I wondered what you were doing right now. Not sitting alone in your big, silent house, I bet. No, you were probably chasing your cute little baby around your sunny living room, the floor littered with toys, as he crawled on all fours and laughed.

Was your child a boy? The lady on the phone didn’t say, but that’s what I pictured. A chubby, smiling little boy like my Aaron. 

The kettle squealed, and I flinched. I poured the boiling water in a mug and steam rose from it, circling the air in front of my face. Tossing in the tea bag, I breathed it in, leaning my back against the cool tile counter. The picture window in front of me revealed our perfectly manicured front yard – bright green grass lined with rose bushes. I’d always been particular about the roses. When Aaron was a kid he always wanted to help with the pruning, but I never let him. Afraid he’d mess them up, I guess. Seemed silly now. 

Heart pinching, I blew out a breath.

I wondered about your yard. What did it look like? Did you have roses? I wondered if you’d let your son help you prune them. I wondered if you’d make the same mistakes I had.

Bringing the mug to my lips, I took a tiny sip of the hot tea. It was mint, my favorite. I allowed the flavors to sit on my tongue a minute before swallowing it down. The refrigerator hummed. The ice shifted in the ice maker. My shoulders tensed slightly. I rolled them out, taking another sip. 

Shoving off the counter, I was headed toward the stairs when my cell buzzed inside my pocket. My pulse spiked. It couldn’t be Rafael. He was a professor and his first class had already started.

Aaron? 

Nope. It was a text from Christine. 

Going to yoga this morning? 

I’d already showered. I was about to tackle my latest organization project. Today was the kitchen pantry. Last week I’d bought a bunch of new containers and bins. Friday I’d spent the day labeling all of them. After taking the weekend off since Rafael was home, I was anxious to continue with it. I’d already organized several closets downstairs, but my plan was to work my way through all the closets and cabinets in the house. 

Usually I loved yoga, but I had way too much to do today.  

No, I typed. Then bit my lip. Backspaced. Stared at the phone. My own reflection emerged on the slick screen – disheveled hair, pale face, dark circles under the eyes. 

You need to get out more. Exercise. It’s not healthy to sit in the house all day. Rafael’s voice echoed in my head.  

The organizing would still be here tomorrow. Besides, who was I kidding? I’d probably only spend a couple of hours organizing before abandoning my project to read online blogs and articles, or dive into the latest murder mystery I was reading.

I typed, yes, then sent it and hurried to my room to get ready. 

Thirty minutes later, I was parking in front of the gym. When I stepped out, a cool breeze whisked over my arms. After three scorching hot summer months, I welcomed it. Fall had always been my favorite season. I relished the festiveness of it. Pumpkins, apples, rustic colors. But mostly it was the leaves falling and being raked away. The bareness of the trees. The shedding of the old to make room for the new. An end, but also a beginning.

Although, we weren’t quite there yet. The leaves were still green, and by afternoon the air would be warm. But in the mornings and evenings we got a tiny sip of a fall, enough to make me thirsty for more. 

Securing the gym bag on my shoulder, I walked briskly through the lot. Once inside, it was even colder. The AC blasted as if it was a hundred-degree day. That’s okay. It gave me more of an incentive to break a sweat. Smiling at the receptionist, I pulled out my keys for her to scan my card. Only my card wasn’t hanging from my key ring. 

I fished around in my bag, but it wasn’t there either. Flushing, I offered the bored receptionist an apologetic smile. “I seem to have misplaced my tag. Can you look me up? Kelly Medina?’

Her eyes widened. “Funny. There was another lady in here earlier today with the same name.”

My heart pounded. I’d been attending this gym for years and never had anyone mentioned you before. I wondered how long you’d worked out here. “Is she still here?” My gaze scoured the lobby as if I might recognize you. 

“No. She was here super early.”

Of course you were. I used to be, too, when Aaron was an infant. 

“Okay. You’re all checked in, Kelly,” the receptionist said, buzzing me in. 

Clutching my gym bag, I made my way up the stairs toward the yoga room, thoughts of you flooding my mind. A few young women walked next to me, wearing tight tank tops and pants, gym bags hanging off their shoulders. They were laughing and chatting loudly, their long ponytails bouncing behind their heads. I tried to say excuse me, to move past them, but they couldn’t hear me. Impatient, I bit my lip and walked slowly behind them. Finally, I made it to the top. They headed toward the cardio machines, and I pressed open the door to the yoga room.

I spotted Christine already sitting on her mat. Her blond hair was pulled back into a perfectly coifed ponytail. Her eyes were bright and her lips were shiny. I smoothed down my unruly brown hair and licked my dry lips. 

She waved me over with a large smile. “You made it.”

“Yep.” I dropped my mat and bag next to hers. 

“I wasn’t sure. It’s been awhile.”

Shrugging, I sat down on my mat. “Been busy.”

“Oh, I totally get that.” She waved away my words with a flick of her slender wrist. “Maddie and Mason have had a bazillion activities lately. I’ve been running around town like a crazy person. I honestly feel like I’m going insane.”

“Sounds rough,” I muttered, slipping off my flip-flops. This was the problem with getting married and having a kid so young. Most of my friends were still raising families. 

“I know, right? I can’t wait until they’re adults and I can do whatever I want.”

“Yeah, it’s the best,” I said sarcastically. 

Her mouth dropped. “Oh, I’m sorry. I wasn’t talking about you…” Her pale cheeks turned pink. “I know how much you miss Aaron. It’s just…” 

I shook my head and offered her a smile “Relax. I get it.”

Christine and I met years ago in a yoga class. She’s one of those women with almost no self-awareness. It’s what first drew to me to her. I loved how raw and real she was. Other people shied away from her, unable to handle her filter-less statements. But I found her refreshing and, honestly, pretty entertaining. 

 “I remember how insane it was when Aaron was younger,” I said. “One year he signed up for baseball and basketball. They overlapped for a bit, and I swear I was taking him to a game or practice like every day.”

“Yes!” Christine said excitedly, relief evident in her expression. “Sometimes it’s all just too much.”

“Yeah, sometimes it is,” I agreed. 

The class was about to start and the room was filling up. It was mainly women, but there were some men. Most of them were with their wives or girlfriends. I’d tried getting Rafael to come with me before, but he laughed as if the idea was preposterous. 

“Remember when there were only a few of us in this class?” Christine asked, her gaze sweeping the room.

I nodded, glancing around. There were so many new people I didn’t know. Not that I was surprised. Folsom had grown a lot in the ten years I’d lived here. New people moved here every day.

Staring at all the strangers crowding around us, I shivered, my thoughts drifting back to you. We hadn’t even met, and yet I felt like I knew you. We had the same name, the same gym, the same pediatrician for our child. 

It felt like kismet. Fate had brought you here to me. I was certain of it. 

But why? 

Excerpted from When I Was You by Amber Garza, Copyright © 2020 by Amber Garza. Published by MIRA Books.

BUY LINKS:

Harlequin 

Indiebound

Amazon

Barnes & Noble 

Books-A-Million

Target

Walmart

Google

iBooks

Kobo

~Cassie

The Enemy by Kelsey Clayton

Thank you to Wildfire Marketing for providing me with an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review. All graphics and information were also provided by them.

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THE ENEMY by Kelsey Clayton

Release Day: August 13th

Kensington Bradwell doesn’t get told no often.

Not when he built an empire from the ground up.

Not when he became the most powerful man in North Haven.

And definitely not when he met my mother.

 

A picture-perfect relationship,

a happy family,

and twenty years of marriage—

all thrown away for a man with no morals.

 

Tearing him down won’t be easy,

but I won’t stop until his empire is in flames.

For my sister. For my father. For me.

I need to find a way to break him.

 

Lucky for me, the answer just fell into my lap.

Daddy’s little princess may be innocent in all of this,

but Lennon’s about to get caught in the crossfire of revenge.

The Enemy

Review

I recently read and loved the third book in this series, The Rebel by Kelsey Clayton and I was really looking forward to this book. Lennon was a standout in The Rebel so I went into this book already knowing that I loved her. While, I still really like Lennon and it is easy to connect with her, I had a much harder time with the hero of our story, Cade. There were moments of this story were he was so swoon worthy but he definitely had moments where he was a complete asshole. Which also makes the ending when all the walls are broken down that much sweeter but it was a rough ride to get there. I also didn’t love the writing as much in this book as I did in The Rebel. There were lots of times where the story really flowed but there was an equal amount of times where it was stilted. I will say though, that despite the critiques I just gave, the back and forth tension between Cade and Lennon was HOT. The sexual tension rolls off them and I appreciated that the other characters in the book felt it too. If you are in the market for an angsty, drama filled New Adult romance with characters that have a fun and spicy intense connection than I definitely recommend this book to you. Also, I would just like to put in my request here, that the world needs a Colby romance and I hope so much that Clayton gives it to us!

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BUY LINKS

Amazon Universal: http://mybook.to/TheEnemy

GR: https://bit.ly/TheEnemy-GR

Catch up with the series!

Book 1 – The Sinner

Amazon Universal: http://mybook.to/TheSinner

GR: http://bit.ly/TheSinner-GR

 

Book 2 – The Saint

Amazon Universal:  http://mybook.to/TheSaintHGP

GR: http://bit.ly/TheSaintHGP

 

Book 3 – The Rebel

Amazon Universal: http://mybook.to/TheRebel

GR: https://bit.ly/TheRebelGR

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GIVEAWAY: 

The author is having a massive giveaway on her Facebook page – a signed set of the series and a $50 Amazon Gift Card. Stop by her page to enter: https://www.facebook.com/KelsClayton

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kelsey Clayton is a 29-year-old mother of two from a small town in lower Delaware. Born and raised in New Jersey, she discovered her love for writing when she used it as a coping mechanism to get through hard times. Since then, she has been passionately writing novels that make people fall in love with the characters and the storylines. She writes from a mix of personal experiences and imagination. As an avid beach lover, her dream is to write an entire book with her feet in the sand.

Social Media Links –

https://www.facebook.com/KelsClayton

https://twitter.com/Kels_Clayton

https://www.instagram.com/kels_clayton/

amazon.com/author/kelseyclayton

https://www.bookbub.com/profile/kelsey-clayton

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/18650306.Kelsey_Clayton

www.kelseyclayton.com

www.kelseyclayton.com/newsletter

~Cassie