Books are food for my soul! Pull up a beach chair and stick your toes in the sand as the Jersey surf rolls in and out, now open your book and let your imagination take you away.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Mary Indiana by Anneke Campbell (Book Review)

In association with Chick Lit Plus Blog Tours, Jersey Girl Book Reviews welcomes Anneke Campbell, author of Mary Indiana!

About The Author

Anneke Campbell was born and raised in The Netherlands and immigrated to America when she was 17. She has had a number of careers: midwife, practical nurse, masseuse, yoga teacher, college teacher of English literature and of writing. She is a scriptwriter, and a journalist and an award-winning poet. Her first novel, Mary of Bellingham, was published in 2004. She was the writer/producer of the ten-part series, ACLU Freedom Files for LINK and Court TV in 2005. Her manual for activists with Thomas Linzey, “Be The Change: How To Get What You Want in Your Community,” was published in 2009. She edited an anthology on women’s leadership, Moonrise: The Power of Women Leading From The Heart, which was published in October of 2010. She lives with her companion, director Jeremy Kagan, in Venice, California.

Mary Indiana Book Trailer

Book Review

Mary Indiana by Anneke Campbell
Previous Title: Slouching Towards Bellingham
Publication Date: December 6, 2010
Format: eBook - 244 pages / Kindle - 380 KB
Genre: Chick Lit / Women's Fiction

BUY THE BOOK: Mary Indiana

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author in exchange for my honest review and participation in a virtual book tour event hosted by Chick Lit Plus Blog Tours.

Book Description:

She’s eighteen and pregnant, but with a twist--the new kid in town’s barely been kissed! Could she really be a virgin? The town doc swears it’s true. There’s just GOTTA be an explanation.

But it’s not coming from Mary, as she’s quickly dubbed. She seems to have taken a vow of silence. So it’s up to the citizens of Bellingham to make their own miracles—or at least their own myths. The new celeb is instantly surrounded by hangers-on, miracle-seekers, paparazzi, preachers, and promoters—to hilarious effect.

But are they dealing with an angel here, or someone playing an angle? Con, in a word, or icon? And by the way, what’s up with that strange light in the sky? Could be she came off a spaceship.

Neither sacred nor profane, nor even paranormal, Campbell’s beautifully written book is at once funny and wise, a savvy story of how myths are made, how minds twist and turn around the extraordinary, how the human organism just can’t help grabbing for the supernatural, whether out of the spiritual need for a miracle or a mundane desire for cash.

Think Barbara Kingsolver, Margaret Atwood, Anne Tyler, only really really funny.

Book Excerpt:

Chapter 1: THE BOOK OF JOE

What was that up ahead, slouching towards Bellingham, shaped roughly like a blue egg on matchsticks? Joe Dupree pushed his glasses up on his nose, shifted the mailbag onto his other shoulder, and picked up his pace. His right hip socket talked back at him louder than usual, which was to be expected in this weather, in the damp and threat of more snow. Could the egg be causing the footprints he’d been following, foot long and humanoid, as if from a creature dropped by a flying saucer, or, judging by the wheel tracks, let out of a truck on old Route 37?

Joe turned and walked up the first driveway of the Sycamore Hills Subdivision. He rang the bell and while he waited for a response, peered back over his shoulder, but his vision blurred the blue, and there flashed in his mind’s eye the prescription for new bifocals sitting on the mantel at home three months already. Because of his slow ways, here he couldn’t tell what he was seeing between the bare trees and bungalows. Something was up, this he knew from his internal weather, from an edge of alertness not caused by a thermos full of java.

Not that Joe was a superstitious man. He would be the first to tell you, his were sore but realistic bones. At work this morning, when the office manager recited the newest evidence of government cover-ups, with others throwing in their conspiracy theories, Joe said nothing.

People believed what they wanted to believe, and all the talk could not assuage the underlying fear of more lay-offs and wage cuts, of a collapsing economy, of terrorism or natural disasters heading their way. It must be reassuring to believe that some devious persons were in control. A few of the other carriers could stick around for hours, deriving comfort from mouthing off, but he preferred to be out here under the open expanse of grey, with the quiet broken only by the rush of cars and barking of dogs.

My Book Review:

Mary Indiana is an entertaining story with a modern take on the Virgin Mary and birth of Jesus. At first I wasn't too sure how to take the story, my Catholic upbringing had me questioning if this would be a story that I would want to read. But after reading the story, I can say that I found it to be a thoughtful and humorous story that did not offend my beliefs in any way. In fact I thought that author Anneke Campbell weaved a tale that is playful yet also thought provoking. The story takes you on a journey that will keep you guessing, it mixes humor and compassion into a moving story about a small Midwestern community's variety of reactions to Mary and her predicament when she arrived in their town, and how they came together to help in a time of need and make Mary one of their own.

The story has a big cast of characters, it was fun getting to know them, they appealed to me with their thoughts, point of view and reactions. I thought that the author did a great job of portraying a realistic look at life in a small Midwestern town and its variety of quirky townspeople.

Mary Indiana is an entertaining and refreshingly thought provoking read that will make you ponder about the mysteries of miracles.


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Suburban Task Force by Addison Towne (Author Guest Post / Book Review)

In association with Chick Lit Plus Blog Tours, Jersey Girl Book Reviews welcomes Addison Towne, author of Suburban Task Force!

Author Guest Post

Where Have All The Female Super Heroes Gone?
By Addison Towne

Let me tell you who I am not.

I am not Scarlett Johansson in the Avengers whose talent is in using her seductive sexuality to misguide men into sharing their secret plans.

I am not Lisbeth Salandar from The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, a socio path who cannot relate to society but has the guts and know how to use a stun gun and computer hacking skills beyond the norm.

I am not Kate Beckinsale in Underworld running around in tight black pleather sucking blood and saving werewolves.

I am not Milla Jovovich in Resident Evil saving the future world from the Umbrella Corporation with super natural virus enhancing fighting abilities.

And while it is not a current reference I am not She-Ra princess of power either. For those of you that remember her, I will forever have a place in my heart for the answer to He-Man (welcome back 1987).

I am Addison Towne. An author, and a believer in what women can do when put to the test. When I set out to write Suburban Task Force, I wanted to create heroes I could relate to. Heroes that would hopefully end up on the big screen one day as well. Not just heroes that could complete unbelievable feats of super human skills one after another while maintaining perfect hairdos. My heroes had to have heart, a realistic quality to them, and at the end of the day, they had to be funny, because if we aren’t laughing we aren’t living. 

Filmmakers used to be enthralled with the idea of a formidable female force. One that could do normal human feats, such as ride a horse, drive a car and put up a fight when attacked all while ensued in an action scene. But that no longer seems good enough. Women have to be given more, like an extra oomph to make them worthy of action on the big screen. For example, why do the women in the Charlie’s Angels movies have to fly up a fence during a fight scene? Wouldn’t it have been just as cool a scene if they had stayed on the ground?

One recent exception to this would be the Salt movie with Angelina Jolie, although I think we all find it hard to believe her skinny arms could inflict much damage. Yes, she jumps off a bridge and lands on a bus, but she does so without any extra help. As excited as I was by this movie, I had to remember that her role was originally written for Tom Cruise, not a female character.

I’m not saying I don’t enjoy these stars and the characters they portray. I just can’t say I get why an action star can’t be an every day ‘Jane.’ We see it all the time with men like Bruce Willis in the Die Hard Series. He was just your everyday cop. Or in the movie Unstoppable with Chris Pine, and Denzel Washington. They were just everyday railroad engineers. Or Tom Cruise in pretty much every movie. He is just the everyday guy who can run, really, really fast. No super human powers. No using sex. No sociopaths.

Writing Suburban Task Force allowed me to bring my vision of the everyday super hero to life; the moms, sisters, friends and women from my world. I wanted them to be able to look in their purse and know they had the tools to survive. I wanted them to step outside of their comfort zone and explore the strength from within.

I am lucky and proud to be a woman. I like action. I like adventure. I like to shop and have fun. So why is it so hard to find these types of women on the big screen? Why is it not enough?

Why do you think the movies can’t accept us for who we are when presented with the need to survive?

I look forward to the discussion and thank you for the opportunity to be a guest.

About The Author

Addison Towne is a lover of fashion, foes and fun! She was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. Her background in television, film and marketing gave her the motivation and passion to write Suburban Task Force. As a entrepreneur she has spent the last ten years developing brands and products that have earned her awards and recognition ranging from a television Emmy to a CEO of the year Women Making a Difference nod.

You can reach her via email at She is currently working on the next Suburban Task Force series and looks forward to reader input.

Addison Towne's Suburban Task Force Virtual Book Tour Page On Chick Lit Plus Blog Tours

Suburban Task Force Book Trailer

Book Review

Suburban Task Force by Addison Towne
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing
Publication Date: May 19, 2012
Format: Paperback - 165 pages / Kindle - 340 KB
ISBN: 1477607668
Genre: Action-Comedy / Chick Lit / Women's Fiction 

BUY THE BOOK: Suburban Task Force

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author in exchange for my honest review and participation in a virtual book tour event hosted by Chick Lit Plus Blog Tours.

Book Description:

Suburban Task Force is a humor filled, high octane, action-comedy. It follows Jade Lydell, who at thirty one finds herself living the surreal life of a married suburbanite. Her simple, and now materialistic days are busy with shopping, drinking and playing with couples that live the same high-end lifestyle.

It takes a home invasion scare and a co-workers brutal mugging to wake Jade from her suburban slumber. The adventure begins when she and her two best friends forgo an uplifting spa retreat for an intense tactical, gun and self defense weekend, all without their husbands’ knowledge.

Upon their return, feeling rejuvenated and proud, the women try to re-adapt to their suburban lifestyles. Not so easy when you have to attend a VIP party on Catalina Island with the who’s who of Hollywood and Politics. Without warning, the island is taken hostage by a rogue terrorist group. With the men and women separated, and all outside communication cut off, Jade and her friends feel their only hope is to use their combined talents and outlandish movie knowledge to outsmart their captors.

Comedy and daring action ensue as the three women, with one weekend of self defense training, try to lead an all out attack against those holding their loved ones hostage.

If you are a fan of the Stephanie Plum series or enjoy an action packed, laugh out loud read this is the book for you!

Book Excerpt:

We move like night stalkers down the hall, using our hands to feel the way, all the while trying to keep our breathing in check. This is not an easy task. With every breath of air I feel a burning in my lungs. Like someone’s inside my body, punching me from the inside, reminding me that I’m alive and crazy at that. I guess this is what they call adrenaline. You don’t tend to get the same effect by doing a Cindy Crawford workout tape.

“Okay so that means if we take out 15 guys each, we’re good to go!” Suzie says enthusiastically.

“Are you guy’s crazy?” I whisper loudly. We can’t take out 50 trained soldiers! All we did was go on one selfdefense weekend! We’re not trained for this! We’re not trained for anything unless you consider shoe shopping a sport. You can't be serious?"

“What? You think we’ll be killed so easily?” Chloe asks me.

“They have our husbands,” Suzie says solemnly.

“Okay, so what’s the plan then? We save our husbands and leave everyone else behind?” I ask with outrage.

“It has to be all or nothing you guys,” I say standing up. “We have to take them all or we have to try and get off this island so we can notify someone qualified as to what’s going on here.” I finish and start to check out our new gear.

“That’s easy then, we take them all!” Suzie says standing up as well.

“Take them all and make em’ hurt for trying!” Chloe joins in.

“Um, okay, can someone please direct me to the sanity section of this little pow wow because I was pretty sure you guys were going to go for the other option?”

They both shake their heads.

“So I have to be the rational one here? Be the one to come up with examples of why trying this rescue mission on our own is an incredibly bad idea and all. Like being around for your kids, or simply coming home from this island alive!” I look them dead in the eye waiting for them to give, but I get no response.

“Fine then, what the heck. I feel a little crazy, wasn’t diggin’ the good life too much, so I guess we find a way to take them all!” I say with total sarcasm.

“We’re like the Suburban Task Force you guys,” Suzie says.

“Yeah, they don’t know what they’ve gotten themselves into!” Chloe chants.

“If we can deal with snooty neighbors, traffic nightmares, screaming kids, and crabby husbands all while trying to look good and stay in shape, well then they’ve got another thing coming!” I say and put my hand in the air and we high five because in this situation it’s oh so cool.

My Book Review:

Suburban housewives become female Rambos!

After an attempted house invasion, suburban housewife Jade Lydell gets her two best friends, Chloe and Suzie, to sign up with her for a weekend of self-defense and survival classes. Little do they know that the tactics they learned will be put to good use!

When the ladies and their husbands attend a VIP affair on Catalina Island, a rogue terrorist group takes the party guests hostage. When the men and women are separated and all outside communication is cut off, the Suburban Task Force is born, and it's up to Jade, Chloe and Suzie to use their newly found survival and self-defense tactics to save the hostages from their captors!

Suburban Task Force is a fun action-comedy that is filled with humor and adventure that will keep you entertained. Author Addison Townes weaves a comical tale told in the first person narrative by the main character, Jade Lydell. The reader is taken along for the ride as Jade unfolds the three suburban housewives wacky adventures in a story that is so far-fetched, you can't help but sit back and just enjoy it as if you were watching an action-adventure movie. Sometimes a story comes along that is just meant to be fun and provide an escape, and Suburban Task Force is that story. The story is action-packed with enough feats, foibles, humorous plot twists, and laugh-out-loud moments that will easily keep you turning the pages.

Suburban Task Force is an entertaining story that blends a mixture of chick lit with action-comedy told from a humorous and sassy women's perspective.


Saturday, October 27, 2012

Living in Glass Houses by Zoe McKnight (Author Guest Post / Book Review)

In association with Chick Lit Plus Blog Tours, Jersey Girl Book Reviews welcomes Zoe McKnight, author of Living in Glass Houses!

Author Guest Post

A theme I explored in Living in Glass Houses was choosing between love and security. It piqued my interest because it’s a constant debate amongst my friends. Do you follow your heart or follow your head? Some people in this world are lucky enough to have both, but what if having one means forgoing the other?

Jackie Onassis was quoted as saying, “the first time you marry for love, the second for money and the third for companionship.” Sounds a bit dispassionate, but as we creep into our mid-to-late thirties, the realities of life smack us across our rouged cheeks and we realize that life is about decisions. And with each passing year they become more driven by our minds and less by our hearts.

In Living in Glass Houses my character, Jonathan, is beset with such a conflict; he’s faced with a choice between the safety and security of Lauryn and the passion and excitement of Bree. I won’t say which he chooses, but this is not an uncommon dilemma. Sadly, it is oftentimes the men we find who are good to us, aren’t good for us.

We’ve all seen the proverbial high school reunion TV episode, in which the hot jock who made all the girls swoon in senior year shows up at the reunion unemployed and driving a jalopy with nothing but tales of his heyday to keep him warm at night. And in walks the resident nerd, who everyone teased for his Walmart wardrobe and fascination with neurons; he has both a supermodel wife and a multi-million dollar portfolio thanks to the invention he created in his basement. A classic case of all that glitters ain’t gold and one woman’s trash is another’s treasure.

So, what to do? Choose the man who can no longer (or never did) light your fire, but has the makings of a trustworthy, doting husband and father or go for the fiery, passion-stirring beau? The Richard Burton to your Elizabeth Taylor. Those intense, high-voltage relationships rarely last, or at the least, they simply can’t maintain their fervor and there’s nothing like a mortgage and crying baby to douse the flames. In choosing that man, what kind of future are you signing up for? Maybe he’ll change, but maybe he won’t and if he does shed those magnetic traits that drew you to him in the first place, just maybe, he’ll lose his appeal.

There are arguments for both sides. You’ll hear old married couples say that you should choose someone you can talk to, a companion as Jackie O. calls it. Because when you fast forward thirty years when the kids are gone and the sex has slowed to a stop, companionship is all that’s going to matter anyhow. Then there are others that say playing it safe will result in infidelity, because you’ll never be completely fulfilled and will always be searching for that special ‘someone’.

None of us know for sure, but it’s a decision faced by many. One which keeps Jonathan up at night.

About The Author

Zoe McKnight was born and raised in New York City. When she’s not writing she can be found reading or satisfying her reality show fix. Her two favorite things are eggnog lattes and the love of her neurotic ten-year old cocker spaniel. Living in Glass Houses is her first novel. The sequel, 'Til Our Lies Do Us Part, will be released later this Fall.

Zoe McKnight's Living in Glass Houses Virtual Book Tour Page On Chick Lit Plus Blog Tours

Book Review

Living in Glass Houses by Zoe McKnight
Publisher: Kelli Burgos
Publication Date: March 7, 2012 Paperback / February 18, 2012 Kindle
Format: Paperback - 318 pages / Kindle - 575 KB / Nook - 447 KB
ISBN: 0985096705
Genre: Women's Fiction

BUY THE BOOK: Living in Glass Houses

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author in exchange for my honest review and participation in a virtual book tour event hosted by Chick Lit Plus Blog Tours.

Book Description:

Living in Glass Houses is a contemporary story about three friends, all at a crossroads after discovering that even the best laid plans don’t always result in the life you want. It’s about navigating the murky waters of relationships and friendships and having the courage to make those hard, life-altering decisions which mark the difference between existing and living.

Jonathan is a do-gooding college basketball coach in a relationship with a woman whose Park Avenue upbringing is at constant odds with his Main Street way of life. It’s a life he’s conceded to accept until he meets a woman who awakens in him everything he's been missing and is now uncertain he can live without. 

Elle is a NYC editor whose type-A personality has afforded her a fulfilling lifestyle in which she rarely doesn’t get what she wants. That’s until a failed relationship causes her walls to come crashing down around her. The man, who everyone agreed was her perfect other half, leaves her confused, insecure and incapable of moving on, even after she meets someone who’s nothing like her, but who completes her in the strangest of ways.

Blair is an optimistic good girl, turned jaded wife. After ten years of a disappointing marriage, she decides to reclaim her happiness and fill the void left by her wealthy, philandering husband. Just when everything she’s ever dreamed of is finally within her grasp, she’s haunted by her past, forcing her to make a decision which will forever change the path of her life.

Book Excerpt:

Hours later Blair sat on the balcony enveloped by the warm Indian-summer air. A wine glass dangled between her fingers and an empty merlot bottle sat at her feet. She wished she could cry, anything to release the frustration, but she had no more tears. The well had run dry.

“Hey, baby.” She turned to find Vaughn standing in the doorway. She rolled her eyes and turned back around. He approached her, then swept her jet-black hair to the side, leaned over her shoulder and whispered, “I’m sorry.”

She responded with a sip of wine.

“I didn’t mean those things I said.”

Lies. It wasn’t the first time he’d berated her and it wouldn’t be the last.

“I was just stressed out about the whole situation, but you’ll be happy to know Stu got to the bottom of it and she retracted her story. He says I have a case for slander if I want to pursue it.”



“You mean libel, not slander.”

“Whatever. I have a case if I want to pursue it, but I don’t. I’m just glad it’s over.”

“Me too,” she said, her voice void of emotion.

“So, we’re good now?” It was more of a statement than a question. “Change your clothes. I’m taking you to dinner. Oh, and I have a little something for you.” He pointed to the dresser. On top sat a small black box adorned with a silver bow. “Go ahead and get ready. We have reservations for eight-thirty. I’m going to take a shower.”

An hour later they sat across from each other at his favorite Thai restaurant—the one she hated. The distraught, tear-stricken face she’d worn only an hour before was replaced by the demure, attractive one she always presented to the world. MAC had done wonders to conceal the dark circles beneath her almond-shaped eyes. Her lashes fluttered when she was complimented by the owner, who always made it his business to greet them after they’d been seated. No one was the wiser as the handsome couple exchanged strained banter over the dim candlelight.

“What a beautiful bracelet, Mrs. Hill,” the server gushed. “You’re a very lucky woman.”

Vaughn beamed. Blair offered her best artificial smile. “That I am.”

It was that night Blair promised herself she would never again be made to feel so worthless. The time had come for her to let go of the fantasy and accept her marriage for what it really was—an arrangement, a business deal, a meeting of minds. Their vows clearly meant nothing. She’d finally gotten the message. It was loud. It was clear.

The memory of that day was one she turned to whenever her guilt got the best of her. It silenced her conscience and justified her behavior. Her excitement grew when she glimpsed her favorite sign, Pennsylvania Welcomes You. Just a little while longer and she’d be in Philadelphia where Dylan would extinguish the final embers of her guilt.

My Book Review:

Living in Glass Houses is a story that revolves around the lives of three friends: Jonathan, Elle and Blair, and the intricate complexities of their romantic relationships. Each is at a crossroads in their lives, and the story is a portrayal of their issues, choices and decisions that they make as they navigate the murky waters of their relationships, and how their decisions will make life-altering changes in their lives. The story touches upon such relationship issues as: love, friendship, family, strength, betrayal, forgiveness, redemption and second chances.

In her debut novel, author Zoe McKnight weaves an intriguing and realistic tale of the complexities of romantic relationships in the third person narrative with alternating chapter perspectives of Jonathan, Elle and Blair. The reader is drawn into the lives of these three friends from New York, it is easy to get caught up in their lives and the dilemmas, issues, choices and decisions that they make in regard to their relationships. As you read about the trial and tribulations that each character encounters in their relationships, the author masterfully gives the reader a glimpse into their feelings, emotions and angst as they find themselves at a crossroads in their lives, and their struggle to find the courage to make the right decisions. This is a realistic and intense story that the reader can identify with and relate to, as we all at some time in our lives question the choices and decisions that we have made.

The cast of characters are realistic and complex people who have flaws and issues in their lives. Each has very different personalities and ways that they deal with their issues, I found myself drawn into each of their lives, there is something in each of them that I could identify with and relate to. Jonathan frustrated me, his indecision of which woman he wants to be in a relationship with drove me nuts ... the old saying "the grass is always greener..." comes to mind when I read his story. I found that I related to Elle the most out of the three characters. I too have a habit of thinking about past relationships and the "what ifs," but I found her to be a strong woman who isn't afraid to go after what she wants, and I really enjoyed how her story ended. As for Blair, her volatile marriage was an intense read that intrigued me so much, but it ends in an anti-climatic fashion that leaves the reader hanging, but I'm sure her story will resume in the sequel,  'Til Our Lies Do Us Part.

The storyline easily intertwines the individual stories of Jonathan, Elle and Blair in a flowing and seamless manner; it has engaging and realistic dialogue and interactions; and an underlying message of not passing judgment on others rings true, "people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones."

Living in Glass Houses is a realistic and intriguing story about the complexities and dichotomy of relationships that people encounter, the choices and decisions they make, and the road they choose to take in their lives.


Friday, October 26, 2012

Virtual Book Tour Events: Week of 10/28 - 11/3/12

Virtual Book Tour Events: Week of 10/28 - 11/3/12

Sunday 10/28/12

Suburban Task Force by Addison Towne

In association with Chick Lit Plus Blog Tours

Author Guest Post / Book Review

Book Description: Suburban Task Force

Suburban Task Force is a humor filled, high octane, action-comedy. It follows Jade Lydell, who at thirty one finds herself living the surreal life of a married suburbanite. Her simple, and now materialistic days are busy with shopping, drinking and playing with couples that live the same high-end lifestyle.

It takes a home invasion scare and a co-workers brutal mugging to wake Jade from her suburban slumber. The adventure begins when she and her two best friends forgo an uplifting spa retreat for an intense tactical, gun and self defense weekend, all without their husbands’ knowledge.

Upon their return, feeling rejuvenated and proud, the women try to re-adapt to their suburban lifestyles. Not so easy when you have to attend a VIP party on Catalina Island with the who’s who of Hollywood and Politics. Without warning, the island is taken hostage by a rogue terrorist group. With the men and women separated, and all outside communication cut off, Jade and her friends feel their only hope is to use their combined talents and outlandish movie knowledge to outsmart their captors.

Comedy and daring action ensue as the three women, with one weekend of self defense training, try to lead an all out attack against those holding their loved ones hostage.

If you are a fan of the Stephanie Plum series or enjoy an action packed, laugh out loud read this is the book for you!

Monday 10/29/12

Mary Indiana by Anneke Campbell

In association with Chick Lit Plus Blog Tours

Book Review 

Book Description: Mary Indiana

She’s eighteen and pregnant, but with a twist--the new kid in town’s barely been kissed! Could she really be a virgin? The town doc swears it’s true. There’s just GOTTA be an explanation.

But it’s not coming from Mary, as she’s quickly dubbed. She seems to have taken a vow of silence. So it’s up to the citizens of Bellingham to make their own miracles—or at least their own myths. The new celeb is instantly surrounded by hangers-on, miracle-seekers, paparazzi, preachers, and promoters—to hilarious effect.

But are they dealing with an angel here, or someone playing an angle? Con, in a word, or icon? And by the way, what’s up with that strange light in the sky? Could be she came off a spaceship.

Neither sacred nor profane, nor even paranormal, Campbell’s beautifully written book is at once funny and wise, a savvy story of how myths are made, how minds twist and turn around the extraordinary, how the human organism just can’t help grabbing for the supernatural, whether out of the spiritual need for a miracle or a mundane desire for cash.

Think Barbara Kingsolver, Margaret Atwood, Anne Tyler, only really really funny.

Tuesday 10/30/12

Winds of Change by Mary Metcalfe

In association with Pump Up Your Book! Virtual Book Publicity Tours

Author Guest Post / Book Review 

Book Description: Winds of Change

After losing her husband and daughter in a plane crash, Boston social worker Jennifer Barrett is rebuilding her life. Finding solace in her work, Jennifer helps young client Mark Powell find work at the seniors’ residence where her father lives. After learning Mark hasn’t seen his father, an internationally-known broadcast journalist, in over four years, she can’t understand how a father could abandon his only son to chase war stories.

When Jennifer meets Ben Powell, she is prepared to dislike him, despite his charm and affable manner. But, when he reveals he’s been battling post-traumatic stress disorder, she realizes he didn’t want to bring his demons home to Mark, who has suffered from clinical depression. As Jennifer gets to know Ben, she realizes there may be room in her heart for laughter and new love.

Lana Fitzpatrick, a close friend of Jennifer’s and a young nurse helping care for Jennifer’s father, is also a widow, raising her young son Danny alone. As Lana gets to know her handsome co-worker, Mark Powell, and sees him bonding with Danny, she finds her heart swelling with love.

As new family bonds form, all discover the power of friendship and love to overcome loss so they can face life with renewed hope.

Wednesday 10/31/12

Murder Takes Time by Giacomo Giammatteo

In association with Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours

Author Guest Post / Book Review / Contest Giveaway

Book Description: Murder Takes Time

A string of brutal murders has bodies piling up in Brooklyn, and Detective Frankie Donovan knows what is going on. Clues left at the crime scenes point to someone from the old neighborhood, and that isn't good. 

Frankie has taken two oaths in his life—the one he took to uphold the law when he became a cop, and the one he took with his two best friends when they were eight years old and inseparable.

Those relationships have forced Frankie to make many tough decisions, but now he faces the toughest one of his life; he has five murders to solve and one of those two friends is responsible. If Frankie lets him go, he breaks the oath he took as a cop and risks losing his job. But if he tries to bring him in, he breaks the oath he kept for twenty-five years—and risks losing his life.

In the neighborhood where Frankie Donovan grew up, you never broke an oath.

Thursday 11/1/12

* My Birthday! *

A Merry Little Christmas by Anita Higman

In association with Litfuse Publicity Virtual Tours

Book Review / Contest Giveaway

Book Description: A Merry Little Christmas

Fall in love with this cozy story about two people from different worlds.

Franny Martin is an Oklahoma farm girl who’s preparing to spend the holidays alone…again. Then Charlie Landau shows up one day, all wealth and polish, and offers to buy Franny’s farm. Franny has no money to speak of, but she is clever and spirited, and she’s more than happy to sell the farm and move to the city.

As Sinatra croons from the radio and Christmas descends upon her charming farm, Franny teaches Charlie the curious and sometimes comical ways of country life. In the process, they unearth some discoveries of the heart—that sometimes love comes when you’re least ready for it. Will the holidays bring their most impossible dreams within reach?

Friday 11/2/12

Whole Latte Life by Joanne DeMaio

In association with author Joanne DeMaio

Author Guest Post / Book Review

Book Description: Whole Latte Life

Would you leave everything behind to know who you are?

Sara Beth Riley never dreamt she'd walk straight out of her life. Actually she'd never dreamt a lot of things that had happened this year ... From being kidnapped by her own best friend, to throwing her wedding rings into the Hudson River, to calling an old love in France, to getting inked with said best friend, painting the passionate constellation of these choices into permanence. But mostly, she could never have dreamt what started it all. How could it be that her mother's unexpected death, and the grief which lingered painfully long, turned her into the woman she was finally meant to become?

Sara Beth's escape begins a summer of change - of herself, of marriage, of the lives of those around her. In a story that moves from Manhattan to the sea to a quaint New England town, Whole Latte Life looks at friends we never forget, at decisions we linger with, at our attempts to live the lives we love.

Better Than Chocolate by Sheila Roberts (Author Interview / Book Review)

In association with Pump Up Your Book! Virtual Book Publicity Tours, Jersey Girl Book Reviews welcomes Sheila Roberts, author of Better Than Chocolate!

Author Interview

Welcome to Jersey Girl Book Reviews, Sheila! 

Before we get to the interview, can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself.

First, let me say thank you so much for having me. I'm delighted to be able to hang out with you and your friends. I've been writing forever and have had about thirty books in print over the years, both fiction and non-fiction, under various names. I love what I do. When I'm not writing stories, I'm busy writing songs. I'm a great baker and a not-so-good gardener (although I love to grow things I can eat!) I love to read. And, of course, I love to write. 

How long have you been a writer?

You know, I've been writing since I was a child. In grade school I produced my own "hardback" novels using lined paper and tagboard (a cross between cardboard and paper) sheets. Of course, I did the cover art myself, which usually included a horse because I was horse crazy. 

Do you have a day job, or is being an author your career?

Being an author is my day job and I love it. I love what I do, the commute is easy (down the hall to my office) and my work wardrobe is sweats.

What inspired you to become a writer? Describe your journey as a writer.

Like I said, I always wanted to write. I started out writing magazine articles. Then, once upon a time, I got an idea for a novel. And the writing got focused on fiction. So far my career has had many ups and downs but it's always been interesting. 

Please give a brief description/storyline about Better Than Chocolate.

Better Than Chocolate is about Samantha Sterling, a woman determined to save her family company (Sweet Dream Chocolates) from going out of business. Times are tough for both her company and many of the businesses in her small town, so after some brainstorming with her mother and sisters Samantha hits on a brilliant idea: a chocolate festival. This will bring in tourist business and be good for both the town and Sweet Dreams Chocolates. Of course, nothing goes smoothly. And why should it? Our heroine should have to struggle. And our hero (who just happens to manage the bank that's about to close her company down), well, he has to prove himself heroic. And the town has to pull together. But let me tell you, I think they all do a great job. I wish there was an Icicle Falls because I'd like to go there and attend that chocolate festival!

What was the inspiration for this story?

The town of Leavenworth, Washington was actually my inspiration. I love this town. By the sixties they were on the verge of becoming a ghost town but they pulled together and reinvented themselves. Today, Leavenworth is a popular tourist destination spot. And when real estate values were sinking all over the country, theirs held strong. So I wanted to model a town on Leavenworth. I also wanted to write about a strong woman, saving her business. And when I got to thinking about what kind of business I'd want to save, well, chocolate came to mind. 

How did it feel to have your first book published?

First books are like first loves. You never forget that feeling. It was a thrill. 

Do you write books for a specific genre?

I write for the women's fiction - romance market. 

What genres are your favorites? What are some of your favorite books that you have read and why?

I enjoy reading women's fiction, and I'm especially fond of books with humor. Favorite books? It's hard to narrow it down. Probably Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice and The Masqueraders by Georgette Heyer top the list, right along with almost anything by Donald E. Westlake or Elizabeth Peters. 

Do you have a special spot or area where you like to do your writing?

My spot is my office. No view, just my computer screen. 

How do you come up with the ideas that become the storyline for your books?

Ideas can come from anywhere. My book On Strike for Christmas was inspired by my husband who was having a hard time finding his Christmas spirit one year. (In other words, he was being naughty.) I often find inspiration in what's going on around me or in something I read. Sometimes though, ideas just come to me out of nowhere. 

When you write, do you adhere to a strict work schedule, or do you work whenever the inspiration strikes?

I have a pretty strict writing schedule. I log in time at the computer every day. 

What aspects of storytelling do you like the best, and what aspects do you struggle with the most?

I love pulling together the basic story outline. Hmm, but I also like writing scenes. Sometimes I struggle with revisions. I do a lot of revising - revamping, deepening scenes, adding new scenes. 

What are your favorite things to do when you are not writing?

That's a pretty long list. I love hanging out with my family and throwing parties. My hubby and I go out dancing once a week. I also play tennis and have recently taken up golf. Add to that songwriting, hanging with girlfriends, going to movies, and reading myself to sleep at night and every day gets pretty full. 

What is/was the best piece of writing advice that you have received?

Never give up. This is a tough business and you have to be persistent. 

What is the most gratifying thing you feel or get as a writer?

When a reader contacts me and tells me she enjoyed my book. That truly touches my heart. 

How do you usually communicate with your readers/fans?

I hang out on Facebook. If you look for Sheila Roberts, author, you'll find me. 

Is there anything in your book based on real life experiences or are they purely all from your imagination?

While I wouldn't mind owning a chocolate factory, this particular book is all imagination. 

What authors have been your inspiration or influenced you to become a writer?

I wish I could point to one, but the road to becoming a writer was one I happened to find all on my own.

What is your definition of success as a writer?

Knowing that readers enjoy my books. 

Are you currently writing a new book? If yes, would you care to share a bit of it with us?

I'm already two books down the road from this one. I will say, I'm very excited about the book I have coming out in November. Merry Ex-Mas is a holiday tale about wives and their exes, and it's great fun. We even made a music video and will have it up on Youtube as a bonus for readers. How fun is that?

Thank you Sheila for visiting Jersey Girl Book Reviews and sharing a bit about yourself and your writing career with us! I look forward to welcoming you back on Tuesday, November 13th, when I host your virtual book tour event for Merry Ex-Mas! Sheila will be providing us with an author guest post! 

About The Author

Sheila Roberts lives in the Pacific Northwest. She’s happily married and has three children. Her books have been printed in several different languages and have been chosen for book clubs such as Doubleday as well as for Readers Digest Condensed books. Her best-selling novel On Strike for Christmas was made into a movie and appeared on the Lifetime Movie Network. Her novel Angel Lane was named one of Amazon’s Top Ten Romances for 2009. 

When she’s not making public appearances or playing with her friends, she can be found writing about those things near and dear to women’s hearts: family, friends, and chocolate. 

Her latest book is Better Than Chocolate.

Better Than Chocolate Book Trailer

Book Review

Better Than Chocolate by Sheila Roberts
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
Publication Date: September 25, 2012
Format: Paperback - 400 pages / Kindle - 501 KB / Nook - 421 KB
ISBN: 077831345X
Genre: Chick Lit / Contemporary Romance / Women's Fiction

BUY THE BOOK: Better Than Chocolate

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author / publisher in exchange for my honest review and participation in a virtual book tour event hosted by Pump Up Your Book! Virtual Book Publicity Tours. 

Book Description:

Sweet Dreams Chocolate Company has been in the Sterling family for generations, ever since Great-Grandma Rose literally dreamed up her first fabulous recipe. But now it looks as if they’re about to lose Sweet Dreams to the bank—and that would be a disaster, not only for the family but for the town of Icicle Falls, Washington. Can Samantha, the oldest daughter and new head of the company, come up with a way to save it?

After Samantha does some brainstorming with her mother and sisters, inspiration strikes. They’ll have a chocolate festival! Time’s running out, but the Sterling women are determined and the town’s behind them, so everything’s bound to go smoothly….

Or not. Events seem to be conspiring against Samantha, and her mother’s attempts to help aren’t helping. To make matters worse, the fate of her company is in the hands of her archenemy, Blake Preston, the bank manager with the football-hero good looks. It’s enough to drive her to chocolate. But Blake’s also enough to convince her that (believe it or not) there’s something even better than chocolate.

Book Excerpt:


"Manage your relationships well and your business will go well. Because what, after all, is business, but a relationship with some dollar signs attached?"

-Muriel Sterling, Mixing Business with Pleasure: How To Successfully Balance Business and Love

Samantha Sterling sat next to her mother in the first row of Icicle Falls Community Church and fought back the urge to jump up, run to the front of the sanctuary, grab her stepfather, Waldo, by the neck and throttle him. She didn't, for two reasons. One, a girl didn't do things like that in church. Still, she could have overcome her reservations if not for the second reason - God had already taken Waldo out. Waldo was as dead as roadkill on Highway 2. In addition to a daughter from his first marriage, he'd left behind his grieving wife, Muriel, his three stepdaughters, Samantha, Cecily and Bailey, and the family business, which was nearly as dead as Waldo.

Sweet Dreams Chocolates had been healthy when Samantha's father was alive. The company had been started by her great-grandmother Rose and had slowly but steadily grown under his leadership - one bit, happy family to mirror the happy family who were living off its profits. All three sisters had spent their summers working at Sweet Dreams. All three had it drummed into them from an early age that this business was the source of both the family's income and honor (not to mention chocolate), but it was Samantha who had fallen in love with it. Of the three girls she was the one who stayed and she was the heir apparent.

But then her father had died and everything came to a half. Samantha lost the man she and her sisters idolized and her mother lost her way. Muriel left it to Samantha and the bookkeeper Lizzy to keep the company running on autopilot while first she mourned and then later searched for a new husband.

Enter Waldo Wittman, a tall, gray-haired widower recently retired, encouraged to do so by his company which was downsizing. (Now, looking back, Samantha suspected there were other reasons Waldo had been turned loose.) He was wanting to get way from the rat race. With its mountain views, its proximity to Eastern Washington wine country, its small town friendliness and its attractive widow, Waldo decided Icicle Falls would fit the bill. And Muriel decided the same about Waldo. So, after a year and a half of widowhood, she got a new man.

And now here he was, at the front of the church, stretched out in his favorite - expensive! - gray suit. Sweet, velvet Waldo… the money eater. Oh Waldo, how could everything have gone so crazy wrong so fast?

It was early January, the beginning of a new year. And what a nightmare year it was promising to be, all thanks to Mom making her new husband president of their family owned business. She'd left Samantha VP in charge of marketing, much good that had done. Now Samantha was VP in charge of disaster and she could hardly sit still thinking of the mess waiting for her back at the office. 

"You're fidgeting," whispered her sister Cecily, who was sitting next to her. 

Fidgeting at a funeral probably wasn't good but it was an improvement over standing up, pulling her hair and shrieking like a madwoman.

Why, oh why hadn't Mom and Dad done what needed to be done to make sure that if something happened to Dad the business passed into competent hands? Then Mom could have skipped happily off into newlywed bliss, nor harm no foul.

No one had expected her to remain alone forever. She was only in her fifties when Dad died and she didn't function well alone.

When Waldo came on the scene she came back to life, and Samantha had been happy for her. He was fun and charming and both she and her sisters gave him a hearty thumbs up. Why not? He'd brought back Mom's smile. At first everyone got along great. Like Samantha, he'd been a shutter bug and they'd enjoyed talking photography. Her favorite joke when she'd come by the house to talk business with Mom (or try anyway) was to ask, "Where's Waldo?"

But once Mom dropped him on the company like a bomb Samantha didn't have to ask. She knew where Waldo was. He was at the office, in over his head and making her crazy.

She ground her teeth as she mentally tallied how much money he'd squandered: new business cards with his name on them, new stationery, new equipment they hadn't needed, a fancy phone system they couldn't afford that he been talked into buying from a slick-tongued sales rep. How could a businessman be so bad at business! Of course, he'd convinced both himself and Mom that every purchase was necessary and Samantha hadn't had the veto power to stop them.

That had been just the beginning. Six months ago their profits sank and they started having trouble paying their suppliers. Waldo cut back on production, which then affected their ability to fill orders, and Lizzy their bookkeeper began looking like she'd been invited to dinner with the Grim Reaper. "We're behind with our IRS quarterlies," she informed Samantha. "And that's not all." She showed Samantha expenditures on the company credit card that made no sense. A gun. Ammunition. Cases and cases of bottled water, enough to keep the whole town hydrated. Waldo was a financial locust, devouring the company.

Where's Waldo? Busy dumping their lives in the toilet. Flush, flush, flush! She could have happily stuffed his head in the toilet and …

"And I know if Waldo could speak to us now he'd say, 'Thank God for a life well-lived,'" Pastor Jim said.

Her mother let out a sob and Samantha felt a pang of guilt. She should be crying, too. She'd liked Waldo. He'd been a man with a big hear and a big appetite for life.

"We know he'll be missed," Pastor Jim said, and Cecily laid a comforting hand on Mom's arm, which gave Mom permission to start crying in earnest.

"Poor Mom," whispered Bailey, who was sitting on the other side of Samantha.

Losing two husbands - talk about a double whammy. Mom had not only loved both her husbands, she'd loved being married. She had no head for business (which probably had a lot to do with why Grandpa had been perfectly happy to let Dad run Sweet Dreams), but she had a gift for relationships. She'd even had a couple of relationship books published with a small publisher and before Waldo died she'd been about to start a new book: Secrets of a Happy Remarriage.

Samantha only hoped that now Mom would turn her attention to learning how to have a happy life … with no marriage. At least no marriage until they could get the business of the critical care list and Samantha was put officially in charge.

The sooner the better. Her first order of business would be to rehire Lizzy, who Waldo had let go in a misbegotten attempt to economize. She only hoped Lizzy would come back and help her sort through this tangle.

She heaved a sigh. Here her mother was grieving and all she could think about was saving the family business. What was wrong with her? Did she have nothing but a calculator for a heart?

"Now I'd like to give the rest of you a chance to say something nice about Waldo," said Pastor Jim.

He made me nuts probably didn't qualify. Samantha stayed seated.

Lots of other people were happy to oblige though.

"He was the most generous man I ever met," said Maria Gomez, his regular waitress at Zelda's. "He gave me two hundred dollars to get my car fixed. Just like that. Said not to worry about paying him back."

Samantha pressed her lips firmly together and envisioned hundred dollar bills with wings flying away, circling ever upward and off toward Sleeping Lady Mountain.

You do have a calculator for a heart. Here people were talking about how nice Waldo had been, and all she could think about was money. She was a terrible person, a terrible, terrible person. She hadn't always been a terrible person. Had she? A tear slipped from a corner of her eye.

Ed York, owner of D-Vine Wines, stood up. "I can still remember sitting with Waldo out on his deck, looking at the mountains, sharing a bottle of wine, and him saying, 'You know, Ed, it doesn't get any better than this.' That Waldo, he sure knew how to enjoy life."

While everyone around him was pulling out their hair.

"He was a dear soul," said old Mrs. Nilsen. "Just last month he stopped in the freezing cold to change my tire when I had a flat on Highway 2."

On and on the praise went. Good old, wonderful Waldo. Everyone here would miss him … except his rotten, ungrateful, Scrooge-in-drag, calculator-for-a-heart stepdaughter. She was pathetic. Another tear sneaked out a corner of her eye and trickled down her cheek.

Pastor Jim finally called a halt to the festivities and the party made its way under cloudy skies to Festival Hall where everyone could mingle, sing Waldo's praises further, and devour cold cuts and potato salad. Inside, the three sisters smiled and commiserated.

Waldo's brother and his daughter Wanda had flown in from the East Coast. Taking in the woman's red eyes as she approached, Samantha managed to find empathy in that swirl of guilt and resentment and frustration she was experiencing.

"I'm sorry we're having to see each other again in such sad circumstances," Wanda said.

"So are we," said Cecily.

"I'm sorry for you loss," Samantha added. And she was. She knew how horrible it was to lose a father and she wouldn't wish that experience on her worst enemy.

Wanda dabbed at her eyes with a soggy tissue. "I just can't believe he's gone. He was the best father. And he was always so positive, so upbeat."

So clueless. "I wish we could turn back the clock," Samantha said.

Wanda sniffed and nodded. "You were all so good to him."

Samantha couldn't think of anything to say to that. She hardly wanted to confess that the last few months she'd been anything but good.

Cecily stepped into the gap. "He was a nice man."

True. He was just a bad businessman.

"He sure loved Muriel," Wanda said. "He was so lonely after mother died. Muriel gave him a new lease on life."

"And I don't know what her life would have been like without him," Samantha said.

"I think Muriel would like to hear that, Wanda," said Waldo's brother Walter, and led their long distance stepsister away.

"I need a drink," Samantha decided.

"Good idea," said Bailey, and they all drifted over to the punch bowl. 

Samantha really wasn't much of a drinker but a good stiff belt sure seemed to help a lot of movie characters through stressful moments, and right about now she was willing to give it a try. "I wish this was spiked," she muttered.

Bailey looked across the room at their mother. "I feel so bad for Mom."

Muriel Sterling-Wittman sat on a folding chair framed by the weak winter light coming through the window behind her, a beautiful, tragic figure starting the new year alone. Her basic black dress discreetly draped her Betty Boop curves and her hair was still the same shiny chestnut it had been when Samantha was a girl thanks to the geniuses at Sleeping Lady Salon. The green eyes Waldo once raved over were bloodshot from crying, but still looked lovely thanks to lashes thick with waterproof mascara. Half the men in the room were hovering with tissues just in case she found herself in need.

"Well, at least we won't have to worry about her being lonely," said Bailey. She was the spitting image of their mother and the most like her as well - sweet, positive, and naive.

Cecily gave a snort. "Much good any of those men will do her. They're all married."

"Not Ed," said Bailey

"He's got the hots for Pat over at the bookstore," Samantha said and mentally added, Thank God.

"Arnie's not married," Bailey said. "Neither is Mayor Stone. Or Waldo's brother. Wouldn't it be sweet if-?"

Samantha cut her off. "Let's not even put that thought out in the universe." All they needed was another man coming along and convincing Mom that the third time would be the charm.

"Look at them. Waldo is barely gone and they're already circling around her like some old guy version of The Bachelor," Cecily said in disgust. "Men." 

"You know, for a matchmaker you sure have a sucky attitude," Bailey observed.

"How do you think I got it?" retorted Cecily.

"I don't know how you manage to stay in business," Bailey said in disgust.

"By staying superficial," Cecily said with a wicked grin.

Cecily was the only blonde in the family and she was the prettiest of them all with perfect features and the longest legs. Samantha had been cute with her red hair and freckles, but it was Cecily the boys drooled over. Still, in spite of her good looks, Cupid had never been kind to her. So far she'd gone through two fiancees. Samantha never understood how Cecily could make money matching up beautiful people in L.A. but when it came to her own love life she couldn't seem to get it right.

Like you're doing so well? Touche, she told her snarky self.

"You're enough to make a woman give up on love," Bailey muttered as she nodded and smiled at old Mr. Nilsen, who was ogling her from the other side of the hall.

"That would be the smart thing to do," said Cecily.

"Well, I don't think Mom's ready to give up on love. Maybe you could match her up with someone," Bailey suggested.

"No!" Several people turned to stare and Samantha downed a slug of punch in an effort to put out the fire in her cheeks. What was wrong with her? Could a woman suddenly get Tourette's at thirty?

The wicked in Cecily's grin turned up a notch. "I know No one will ever be able to replace Waldo."

"I liked Waldo, I really did," Samantha said. "But no more men.. I've got enough to deal with already." 

"Gosh, Sammy." Bailey frowned at her.

Samantha frowned back. "Hey, baby sister, you two get to go back to sunny California and match up lonely millionaires and cater events for starlets. I'm the one left with the fallout here."

Cecily sobered. "I'm sorry. You're right. We're leaving you with a mess. You've got the business to sort out plus Mom's affairs."

"Except if anyone can do it, you can, Sammy," Bailey said, linking arms with her.

Samantha sighed. As the oldest it was her job to be the rock everyone leaned on. Except right now she didn't feel like a rock. She felt like a pebble on a beach about to be swept away by a tsunami.

And her own mother had been the one to unwittingly drop her there. She and her mother loved each other dearly but they often locked horns. And right before Waldo died they'd locked horns a lot, especially when Samantha would try and get her mother to talk sense into him.

"He's not feeling well," Mom kept saying, but when pressed for details she'd remained vague.

Maybe the poor guy's heart had been acting up all along. Maybe he'd been so worried about his bad health he hadn't been able to concentrate and that was why he'd been making such poor decisions. Except that didn't explain his odd purchases. Or the answers he'd given her when she asked him about them.

"A man needs to be able to protect what's his," he'd said when she'd asked him about the gun.

"In Icicle Falls?" she'd countered. The biggest crime they'd had all year was when Amanda Stevens had keyed Jimmy Rodriguez's Jeep after he'd cheated on her with another girl. And Jimmy had decided not to press charges.

"You never know," Waldo had hedged. "I saw someone. In the parking lot." 

"Doing what" she'd asked.

"He was following me. And don't tell your mother," he'd added. "I don't want to worry her."

Like he'd just worried his stepdaughter? Then there'd been the water.

"We could have an avalanche and be trapped here for days," he'd said.

She'd let that slide, too. Until things started going really bad. And then, just when she'd decided she and her mother were going to have to have a very unpleasant conversation, Waldo had walked from their house on Alpine Drive into town and keeled over dead right in front of Lupine Floral. Poor Kevin had dropped the roses he'd been storing in the cooler and run right out to give him CPR while his partner Heinrich called 911, but Waldo was dead within minutes.

And now Samantha was left to deal with the mess he'd left behind. Her sisters were leaving on Monday and it would be just her left to deal with her mother and find a way to pay the people who depended on Sweet Dreams for their livelihood. Great Grandma Rose, who had started this family business on a dream, was probably turning in her grave at what her bozo descendants had done to it.

Samantha frowned at her empty punch cup. The glass is half empty ... the glass is half full. Either way, "This stuff needs booze."

My Book Review:

Icicle Falls, Washington is the home of Sweet Dreams Chocolate Company, a family owned business run by the Sterling family, that began four generations ago with the recipes that came out of Great-Grandmother Rose's kitchen. Over the years the company flourished and grew until the death of its leader, Stephen Sterling, when it came to a grounding halt and the business begun running on autopilot under the guidance of heir apparent, Samantha Sterling, the eldest daughter. Before Samantha could get the business back on track, barely a year and a half after the death of her father, her mother Muriel married Waldo Wittman, and named him the new president of the company. Unfortunately, Waldo was a poor businessman, he proceeded to run the company into the ground by squandering the company's money, and his sudden death left the company deep in debt and on the verge of going under. Once again it is left to Samantha to save her family's beloved chocolate company any way that she can. But it won't be an easy feat to accomplish, the company has defaulted on it's loan installment payments to the bank, and has been extended a one month grace period to pay the loan off in full. When Samantha tries to get Cascade Mutual's new manager, Blake Preston, to give her six month extension while they restructure the company, he refuses to change bank policy for her, leaving her in a pickle! Samantha is determined to save the company from going out of business, and after brainstorming with her mother Muriel, and sisters Cecily and Bailey, they decide to host a chocolate festival that will save both their family business and the town. What could be better than chocolate when dealing with stress or when having to deal with a pesky banker who becomes smitten with Samantha? Hmmm ... maybe Blake has something sweeter to offer?

Better Than Chocolate is a lighthearted romance story that will captivate the reader's imagination. Author Sheila Roberts weaves a tantalizing tale of family, business and romance written in the third person narrative, she easily draws the reader into the lives of the Sterling family and the townsfolk of picturesque Icicle Falls, Washington. Rich in details and vivid descriptions of the scenic little mountain town in the Pacific Northwest, the reader is transported to Icicle Falls with its breathtaking mountain scenery, quaint shops, and of course the Sweet Dreams Chocolate Company ... close your eyes and imagine the scent and taste of sweet chocolate candies ... The story follows Samantha Sterling and her family as they strive to save their family owned chocolate company from going out of business, while also helping their little town's economy revive. The town has taken a hit when little snowfall and the recession keeps tourists away from the ski slopes. Samantha has one month to save her company ... with the help of her family and the support of the townspeople, they hold Icicle Falls First Annual Chocolate Festival ... only to have trial and tribulations along the way ... is it enough to save her beloved company ... or does the race against the clock push Samantha to reach out and ask for the assistance of her frenemy, Blake Preston?

While I am a sucker for romance, I rather enjoyed how this story's main plot revolved around the saving of the family company and the chocolate festival event, with the romance of Samantha and Blake as a subplot. I really enjoy the author's descriptive style of writing, she has a way of drawing the reader into the story, you feel like you have been transported into the lives of the townspeople of Icicle Falls. The story is engaging and fun, it has a lot of humorous scenes that will keep you entertained. It's a whimsical story about family and friends, of community spirit, and of course there is romance thrown into the mix. I loved how each chapter begins with a business/relationship quote from Muriel's publications, I think it was a great lead into each chapter.

The author has created a large cast of characters who are realistic and warmhearted people. I loved following the trials and tribulations of Samantha, mother Muriel, and sisters Cecily and Bailey. The family bond that they share comes shining through as they learn to deal with the changes that life has brought their way. I couldn't help but like Blake, he too has his struggles to overcome as he must decide whether to tow the company line or stand up and be his own man. I enjoyed the tension between Samantha and Blake, while their relationship was not the main focus of the story, I think it did satisfy the romance that I crave when I read romance stories. And I would be remiss if I didn't mention that the story had a quirky bunch of supporting cast of characters who added to the story's overall entertainment value with their humorous adventures.

With fun characters, humorous dialogues and interactions, rich descriptions and a storyline that will engage your senses with the addition of yummy chocolate recipes, Better Than Chocolate is a story that will tickle your fancy! Better Than Chocolate is a must read for the diehard Sheila Roberts fan, you won't be disappointed!

Better Than Chocolate is the first book in the Icicle Falls series.