Get a Life, Chloe Brown, Talia Hibbert

Get a Life, Chloe Brown, Talia Hibbert
There are few things I love more than books that feature real, flawed characters. Chloe is unapologetic in who she is. She’s fierce and fighting for control over her life and body. Redford is equally flawed and raw, making this a perfect enemy to lovers story.

What made this book for me was the writing. The wit and sarcasm spoke to my heart. It was perfect.

The Lucky Ones, Liz Lawson

The Lucky Ones, Liz Lawson
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (Out 4.7.20 Thank you to the tagged publisher & NetGalley for the advance copy in exchange for an honest review.)

This book completely blew me away. I’m not sure I have the words to adequately review it, but I’ll try. The Lucky Ones is raw and real and if I could give it a hundred stars, I would. Literally every single star.

As I read, I felt like I was there with May and Zach—that’s how amazing this book was. I couldn’t put it down and I’m fairly certain I need a where are they now. I’d also like to thank Liz Lawson for the little My So-Called Life Easter Egg.

The last few pages were a blur as I cried my eyes out, but the author’s note gutted me.

My son will start kindergarten in 2020. I dread that day. I dread the day he learns about Columbine and Sandy Hook and Parkland and Santa Fe and every other school, church, night club, concert, etc.

I dread the day I have to explain to him that after we’ve lost so many lives to gun violence, we’ve done nothing to protect him or his little sister. Or the hundreds of thousands of children impacted by gun violence each year. #enoughisenough

11.7.19 – InstaShortie – A New Ending

Tomorrow, I’ll wake up earlier. Before bed, I’ll set out my tennis shoes and sports bra. I’ll have the coffee accouterments set out on the counter. I won’t hit snooze. I won’t give in to the temptation of nine more minutes. I’ll dig deep down inside and find my willpower.

And tomorrow, I will listen to her.

Tonight, however, I fully intend on pouring a second glass of wine. Perhaps a third. I’ll hold the stainless steel spoon in my hand and wrap a paper towel around the pint of Half Baked so my skin won’t freeze to the side.

Tonight I’ll indulge in whatever rom-com Netflix recommends. I won’t ignore the tears as they tickle my eyes. I will let them do their thing. Slide down my cheek and roll across my nose. A sob or ten may escape, but the sound of the spoon hitting my teeth will drown it out.

Because tonight I will put it all behind me. Tomorrow, I’ll detox.

Settling into the worn corner of the couch—the spot I always sit in—I pull the weighted blanket over my lap. My wine glass sits on the end table to my right and the ice cream rests on my knee. Balance. I reach for the remote and click on the television. Netflix is the first app, making it easy and quick to access. The algorithm knows me well. Every suggestion is something light and humorous. Occasionally, it gets quirky and recommends a documentary. Not tonight, though. The Netflix bots appear to have a direct line of sight to my living room. They recognize the ice cream, wine and blotchy face as signs of desperation.

Tiff needs to remember that true love exists. Oh, let’s make her laugh too.

“Thank you, Netflix,” I say as I shove a spoonful of brownie and cookie dough into my mouth. I select the first option presenting. A nice, adorable movie about a girl that wins a dilapidated bed and breakfast. I’m certain I’ve seen this one before, or one just like it. Either way, I’m craving the predictability. I need it after today.

I force my eyes to remain open while I stare at the screen. I can’t blink. The back of my eyelids won’t let go of the replay of this evening’s disaster. It’s stuck on a loop of the most humiliating and devastating night of my life. Neither sleep nor blinking are options tonight.

The day started like the others. I woke up and kissed my fiance good morning. We went for a nice, casual walk around the neighborhood with our dog (technically, his dog, as he reminded later in the day). Carson made coffee while I scrambled eggs and threw bagels in the toaster. We went our separate ways. I headed downtown for work, while he headed to the suburbs to teach his newest charge of unruly kindergartners. 

The rest of the day was as boring and predictable as any other Friday. The detour didn’t hit until after lunch when the power went out at work. Along with it, the internet. The powers that be sent us all home to work. I packed up my laptop and hit the road. Carson wouldn’t home until later, so I didn’t see any reason to text him the change in plans. We’d still meet up at home before heading out for our Friday night dinner. Our standing reservation at our favorite Italian restaurant was the highlight of my week. Lasagna for Carson and eggplant parmesan for me. We’d share a bottle of pinot noir and, maybe, we’d indulge and split a tiramisu.

Carson and I craved routine, or so I thought. Our life had a rhythm and neither of us stepped outside of it. We knew the beat and it pushed us forward.

I should have detected the change in tempo the instant I pulled into the garage to find Carson’s car parked, but I didn’t. Perhaps I’d simply forgotten to write down an early dismissal day. Or, the sniffles he had the night before had morphed into a full-blown cold. He did work with small children, after all.

If the car didn’t tip me off, the low lights and candles should have. Had I missed those, the open bottle of Moscato definitely should have. But I missed it all. Or ignored it.

I climbed the stairs towards my tiny office—the room that would one day have become a nursery—and then plopped myself at my desk. It was then that I noticed something different. Voices. One in particular. Well, two. Carson’s, of course, and hers. They weren’t talking. Well, he was. She was giggling that high pitched prissy giggle that makes my ears cringe. It was unmistakable.

My heart raced as I left my office and walked towards or bedroom, and it leaped clear out of my chest when I opened the door.

The signs had been there for far longer than I care to admit. I knew she was more than a friend. I knew his buddies didn’t go fishing and hunting every other weekend. I followed them on Instagram, too. They posted plenty of shots of them on the boats. For the last few months, Carson hadn’t been in a single shot. They hadn’t tagged him either.

I’d been so focused on our routine and plans, I’d missed the moment he fell off course. His bags were packed long before I kicked him out. It’s not the betrayal that stung the most, but the ease with which he walked out. A simple shrug and a mumbled, “you’re right” was all he offered. Without a single ounce of regard for me or the three years we spent together, he wrapped his arm around her waist and they walked out of the house he and I used to share. Just like that, everything was gone.

For the first Friday in two years, I didn’t have eggplant parmesan for dinner. I did have my bottle of wine, though I stole the Moscato she left behind. The sweetness did little to soothe the bitter rage that had taken over my body, but I drank it anyway.

I tuck my feet under me and rest my head in my hand. My fingers twist through my blonde hair wrapping a chunk between my thumb and index finger. I snake my way up the hair until I reach the top of my head and then start over. The rhythm lulls me back to the moment. I allow my brown eyes a single blink. This time I do it slowly and let the images of the day play one final time. When I open my eyes, I draw in a deep breath and let it go slowly.

Today was a hiccup. A blip. A tiny, insignificant moment. Three years is a long time to waste on someone who turns out not to be who you thought they were. The silence of the room creeps in around me. I strain my ears to see if I can still hear Carson. The clomp of his boots on the stairs or the whine of the country music he insisted on playing day and night. But there is nothing but quiet.

A smile spreads across my face. I hadn’t realized how much I’d missed the sound of nothing. With Carson, there was always some noise whether it was his music or a University of Tennessee football game on the TV, he couldn’t stand silence. He also couldn’t sit still. He’d have hated watching me sit on the couch and watch a lame-ass chick flick.

I revel in the lack of man in the house. When he moved in, his things started taking over. Guns & Ammo magazines on the coffee table and his music on the iPod. Mud and dirty boots on my cream carpets. Throws and blankets replaced with dog hair and camo jackets. Though, I did miss Ruby’s dog hair and Ruby herself.

As I watched the young woman in the movie learn her dream of owning a quaint bed and breakfast would require years of work and renovation by the only (annoying and handsome) carpenter in town, I realized I didn’t actually miss Carson. I missed the idea of Carson. The imagined life for us I’d created is what I missed.

I sink further into my comfy spot on the couch. This time when my eyes close, my smile widens. 

Meant to Be Yours, Susan Mallery

I picked up Meant to Be Yours a few nights ago and haven’t been able to put it down. It sucked me in immediately! Jasper and Renee are perfectly flawed, raw characters. Their chemistry leaps off the pages and boy is it steamy.

Stay tuned for a full review in the next few days (once I recover from Disney World with two toddlers, a time zone leap, a time change and everything else).

Scroll down for an exclusive excerpt!

From the publisher: In Happily Inc, love means never having to say “I do”…

Wedding coordinator Renee Grothen isn’t meant for marriage. Those who can, do. Those who can’t, plan. But she never could have planned on gorgeous, talented thriller writer Jasper Dembenski proposing—a fling, that is. Fun without a future. And the attraction between them is too strong for Renee to resist. Now she can have her no-wedding cake…and eat it, too.

After years in the military, Jasper is convinced he’s too damaged for relationships. So a flirtation—and more—with fiery, determined Renee is way too good to pass up…until his flame becomes his muse.

Renee is an expert at averting every crisis. But is she finally ready to leap into the one thing that can never be controlled: love?

Meant to Be Yours
Chapter One

“It might just be okay,” wedding coordinator Renee Grothen murmured softly to herself as she surveyed the wedding reception. She wouldn’t risk admitting everything had turned out as planned until the last guest had left, but four and a half hours in, things were going really well.

Jim and Monica Martinez were a sweet couple with a fun firefighter theme for their big day. There was a long tradition of firefighters on both sides of the family and plenty of cute touches in the wedding and reception.

Monica’s dress laced up the back and instead of white ribbon to cinch her gown, she’d used bright red. The centerpieces were ceramic boot vases painted to look like firefighter boots, filled with red, orange and yellow flowers. There was even a walk-through fountain at one end of the reception area, created with fire hoses, a pump and a lot of engineering.

Renee walked around the perimeter of the indoor reception space, looking for problems. So far, so good, she thought with cautious optimism. The cake had been cut, the bar service was about to end and the tone of the party had faded from raucous to comfortably tired—exactly as it should. With a little luck, things would wrap up on time and without a crisis. This was Monica and Jim’s day—Renee wanted it to be as perfect as possible. While she always took care of her clients, she tended to unleash her mother bear instincts for her special couples and Monica and Jim certainly qualified.

She spotted Pallas Mitchell, her boss, walking toward her. It was nearly ten on a Saturday night and Pallas, a pretty brunette only recently returned from maternity leave, yawned widely. When she spotted Renee she held up her hands, palms up.

“What can I say? I’ve been home with an infant. These wild late-night hours are going to take some getting used to.”

“No one’s judging,” Renee told her. “As I said at seven, at eight and again at nine, go home. I can handle this. You’re barely back and you need to give yourself time to adjust to the schedule.”

“You’ve been running things for nearly six months. You need a break.”

In truth, Renee was a little ragged around the edges, but she’d loved handling Weddings Out of the Box while Pallas had been gone. She’d enjoyed the challenges each unique wedding presented and watching all the details fall into place on the big day.

“I had lots of help,” Renee pointed out. “Hiring college students on summer break was a good idea.” And what they’d lacked in experience, they’d made up for in energy and enthusiasm.

“Now that I’m back, things can return to normal,” Pallas said, covering another yawn.

“Go home,” Renee urged. “Please. I can handle things here. I promise.”

“Okay. I will. Thanks. Don’t you dare come in tomorrow.” Pallas’s voice was firm. “For once, we don’t have a Sunday wedding. Enjoy the break.”

“I will.” Renee would probably pop in to do a little paperwork, but she wouldn’t stay long. “Are you coming to The Boardroom on Monday night?”

In a wedding destination town, the rhythms of the residents were determined by weekend weddings. Happily Inc’s workweek started on Wednesdays as the businesses geared up for the dozens of nuptials that occurred in multiple venues. Which meant the town’s Friday night was actually on Monday.

The Boardroom, a local bar, hosted game nights on Mondays. Board games ruled and tournaments were heated and fun as friends crushed each other at everything from Candy Land to Risk.

Pallas shook her head. “I’ll admit to being a bit of a worrier. When we went a couple of weeks ago, I couldn’t stop thinking about Ryan. He’s only five months old. It’s too soon to leave him at night.”

Renee held in a smile. “Sure. I get that.”

“I know you don’t, but thank you for pretending. Have fun for me, too. Oh, Jasper’s back, so tell him hi, if you think of it.”

Jasper was back? Renee hadn’t heard. She liked knowing he’d returned from his big book tour. Not for any reason in particular, she amended hastily. Sure, he was nice, but there were a lot of nice guys in the world. There was just something about Jasper. Maybe it was because in addition to being good-looking and just a little dangerous, he wasn’t a forever kind of guy.

“I saw that!” Pallas grinned. “I totally saw that. You did the predatory smile thing I was never good at. You want to use him for sex! Did I know this?” She stomped her foot. “Did this happen while I was on maternity leave? What else went on while I was off having a baby?”

Renee laughed. “You’re reading way too much into my smile. I’m happy he’s home from his book tour. That’s all.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“Jasper and I are not involved. I doubt we’ve had more than a three-sentence conversation.”

Not that it took many sentences to ask Your place or mine? And while the description of predatory was nice, it gave her too much credit. Would she stalk him and pounce? Not even on her best day. Would she say yes if the man asked? She smiled again. Oh, yeah, she would. Definitely. Okay, probably. If she was feeling brave. Because while she worked her butt off to give her couples their perfect happily-ever-after day, she knew it was never going to happen for her. Those who could—did. Those who couldn’t became wedding planners.

Avoiding relationships might be the smart choice, but it was also a lonely one. She knew Jasper was into the long-term, monogamous, not-serious kind of thing and she was pretty sure she could handle that. Assuming she was his type and he was interested. They could have some laughs, lots of sex and walk away completely unscathed in the heart department. Where was the bad?

“There’s something going on and you can’t convince me otherwise,” Pallas said. “You have depths. I’m very impressed. Okay, use Jasper and then tell me the details because hey, he’s got to be great.” She yawned again. “I’m such a lightweight. I’m leaving now.”

“Good night. Hug Ryan for me.”

“You know I will.”

Pallas walked out of the reception hall. Renee continued to circle the space, looking for any forgotten handbags or phones, and noting how long it would take the cleaning service to return the huge room to order. Doing her job and not thinking about the fact that Jasper was back—that was her.

A loud whoop got her attention. She turned and saw three teenaged guys running through the fountain at the far end of the big, open room. Each of them jumped, trying to touch the arc of water dancing overhead.

The younger brother, she thought as she made her way toward them. And his friends. No doubt they were bored after so many hours with not very much to do. Regardless, she was not going to have them disrupt the reception when it was so close to being over.

As she approached the running, jumping teens, she saw both sets of parents, along with the bride and groom, still dancing. They swayed in time with the music, oblivious to the fountain and the idiots messing with it. Then several things happened at once.

The younger brother started an extra long run toward the fountain. Jim let go of Monica and spun her out the length of their arms. Monica bumped her mom, who stumbled a little. Dad grabbed Mom, moving all of them closer to the fountain and the younger brother running, who had to swerve suddenly to avoid them. As he swerved, he lost his balance and slipped, tumbling into the fountain mechanism. One of the hoses broke free, wiggling and spraying water everywhere.

Renee saw it all happening and knew there was no way she was going to allow her beautiful bride to get soaked. She lunged for the hose, caught it and held it tightly against her chest as the bride’s father rushed to turn off the water to the hose. It took only seconds, but by then the entire fountain had spilled over and Renee was drenched, shivering and had water up her nose even as she wondered if she looked half as ridiculous as she felt.

The new Mrs. Martinez hurried over. “Renee, are you all right?” She turned on her brother. “How could you? This is a wedding, not a water park.”

Aware that end-of-wedding exhaustion could easily lead to emotions spiraling out of control, Renee quickly faked a smile.

“Monica, it’s fine. Don’t worry. Keeping you and the rest of the wedding party dry was my only concern.” She glanced at the water draining onto the floor and realized part of the fountain was still pumping out water. That couldn’t be good. If she couldn’t get everything turned off, she was going to have to call in one of those companies that took care of disasters like flooding. “Really. It’s no problem.”

“You’re dripping and the water’s rising. My dad went to find the main shutoff.”

Renee wrung out her hair and hoped her makeup wasn’t too badly smudged. Then she realized the water level in the reception hall was indeed climbing and hoped Monica’s father found the shutoff soon.

She was just about to go help him when he returned.

“All turned off.” He glanced at the mini flood. “Sorry about this.”

“It’s fine,” Renee lied, her tone soothing, because that was part of her job. To pretend all was well even when they needed to be figuring out how to build an ark.

The rest of the guests were heading out. Nothing like the threat of an unexpected flood to get people moving, she thought, trying to find the humor in the situation.

“I’m so sorry,” Monica told her as she held her dress out of the water and slipped out of her shoes.

“Don’t be. You had a wonderful wedding and reception. Why don’t you and Jim start gathering your things? I have a spare set of clothes in my office. I’ll get changed, then help you make sure you have everything.”

As she spoke, she noticed the water seemed to have settled at about the six- or seven-inch level. Yup, she was going to have to call someone. No doubt she would be here all night. Oh, joy.

“I’m really sorry,” Jim said. “We thought we’d planned for every contingency.” He glared at his new brother-in-law. “Except for stupid.” He turned back to her. “Let us know the cost of cleanup. We’ll pay for it.”

“Thank you. I think the deposit should take care of it but I’ll let you know if there’s a problem. Now if you’ll let me go get changed, I’ll be back with you in ten minutes.”

Monica nodded.

Renee slipped out of her shoes and walked through the ankle-deep water. When she reached her office upstairs, she carefully closed the door behind her before undressing, then slipped on jeans and a T-shirt. Not exactly professional, but she wasn’t going to worry about that right now. Before she returned to her bride and groom, she looked up the local disaster cleaning service. The number was in her files, but wasn’t one she had had to use before.

They picked up on the first ring.

“Happily Inc CleanUp. This is Hilde. How can I help you?”

“Hi. I’m Renee Grothen at Weddings Out of the Box. We had a firefighter wedding tonight with a big fountain. There was an accident with one of the hoses and now our main reception hall is flooded.”

There was a pause. “Um, did you say firefighter wedding? Never mind. How much water?”

“About six inches.”

“That’s a lot.”

“It was a big fountain.”

“Give us thirty minutes and we’ll be there.”

“Thank you.”

Renee hung up, gave herself a second to catch her breath, then headed back to deal with the bride, the groom, the flood and anything else that might happen tonight. Because with a wedding, it was always something.

Excerpted from Meant to be Yours by Susan Mallery, Copyright © 2019 by Susan Mallery, Inc.. Published by HQN Books.

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The Burn Out

I’ve written close to half a million words this year. Three complete manuscripts. A dozen or so InstaShorties. A handful of false starts on novel ideas I lost interest in.

I’ve pushed myself creatively and professionally, going well outside my comfort zone.

When I started the year, I thought my path forward was self-publishing. I didn’t see a home for my writing or books in the traditional space. Well, that’s not entirely the reason. The main reason was self-doubt and not believing my words were good enough. But I’ve written that post a few times already and frankly, I’m tired of it myself.

Querying agents and researching the traditional publishing world was something I used to dread. It seemed too daunting to even try but once I did, I realized it was doable. I still found it intimidating but I could do it. I could write and revise a query. I could take my outline and make it a synopsis. I could live with rejection and learn to grow from it.

The hardest part now is the burnout. I’ve got three manuscripts sitting on a shelf. Two of which I love and one I want to overhaul completely. Like, it might as well be a brand new book. I’ve started a new project, but it’s kind of fallen to the wayside as I wait and see where things in play pan out.

In the past when I hit the burnout stage, I stopped writing altogether. I didn’t even want to think about my books or words. But after the disciplines I’ve put into place this year, the burnout has me antsy. I am constantly thinking about my WIP and the characters, wondering when the words will start flowing again. I know they will.

Maybe that’s the difference. I’ve proven to myself that rejection can’t and won’t stop me. I have more than one idea. I can write more than one book. I can do this.

I just need a little space to breathe for a moment.

Evvie Drake Starts Over, Linda Holmes

I don’t think there was anything about this book I did not love. The wit was perfection. Evvie was relatable. Dean both swoon-worthy and real/believable.

This is one of those books you want to savor and read every word. If for the dialog alone. The sarcasm and biting banter felt so real, I wanted to be sitting in the room listening to the characters. I could actually hear it.

There was so much about Evvie that I connected with. I’ve known far too many men like Tim and not enough like Andy or Dean. The pressure to sacrifice our own happiness to ensure someone else’s contentment is also all too real.

And, that ending was perfect. Well, except I want more Evvie.

One Yes

One yes. That’s all we need. A million rejections won’t matter when that one yes comes through.

When you’re knee-deep in a huge pile of no’s, it’s hard to see above it. It’s overwhelming. But it’s temporary. And hard.

This is where I’m learning to find grace and patience. Those two things are harder than rejection because they come from me. I can control them. How I respond to silence and rejection is 100% on me. The last year has taught me a lot when it comes to this. The initial gut and physical reaction haven’t changed. There is still a slight fluttering in my heart. My stomach knots and a brief bit of anxiety creeps in.

What has changed is the mental and emotional response that follows. I’ve learned how to process these responses in a much healthier way. I can see the reason in the no and understand it much better.

Now, I’m grateful for the rejection. It’s taught me so much about myself and this process. It’s also given me some hard lessons in perseverance.

Most importantly? A million rejections don’t define my value or talent. That’s all on me.

Lightness of Body and Mind, Sarah Hays Coomer

Lightness of Body and Mind, Sarah Hays Coomer


Last month, I had the opportunity to attend a writer’s retreat all about overcoming obstacles that women face. I met Sarah Hays Coomer there and learned more about her approach to health and mindfulness. After her first session, I went back to my room and bought both other books.

We’ve always been taught to push ourselves until we break. Starve until our jeans button. Focus on the scale. Lightness of Body and Mind shatters that approach. Sarah promotes the mindset that how we feel is more important than how we look or what the number on the scale says. It dismantles the idea that to be healthy we must stop every bad habit. Instead, work to find what habits truly make you feel good. It’s not about deprivation or killing yourself on a treadmill. Replace the bad with good—if it feels good, keep it, if you feel like shit after, ditch it. Stop fighting your body.

This message resonated with me. I’ve been battling my body for as long as I can remember. Hearing the tips and tools in Lightness of Body and Mind changed my perspective toward food and exercise.

Discouraging Silence

Silence is the most daunting side effect of putting yourself out there. Silence is the sound that haunts your thoughts at all hours of the day and night. It creeps into the crevices of your biggest fears and doubts and eats its way further and further until the wounds fester.

It is in the most silent of moments that you either choose to give up or strain to hear the music. These are the make or break moments for me because in silence, it is very easy to hear the nagging of my inner negative voice. She screams as loud as the silence, their voices creating a chorus of You’re Not Good Enough. Silence calls for me to join in her pity party. As tempting as it can be to dive head first into the Silence’s negativity, I’m working to stay out of it.

That pity party offers nothing for me. It doesn’t invite me to write or create. It places a spotlight on every flaw and mistake and reminds me that those moments are defining.

But they aren’t.

Silence is a liar. Her pity party is a drag and a bore, and it is not one I ever want to RSVP to (though there are times I do attend despite my better judgement).

When Silence creeps in, I like to drown her out with music or audiobooks. If I fill my ears and mind with words and music, Silence can’t get a work in edgewise. Her voice is muted. Her negativity stifled.

It is in those moments that I remember I have the power and the control, not Silence.

Winter in Paradise & What Happens in Paradise, Elin Hilderbrand



I won’t lie, I missed Nantucket, but I adored the Caribbean island setting in Winter in Paradise. The cast of characters was compelling and intriguing. I do wish each got more time as there was a lot of unpack with each character. The twists and turns were fun and kept propelling me forward.

As much as I enjoyed Winter in Paradise, What Happens in Paradise topped it. I fell a bit more in love with the island and it’s dysfunctional cast of characters. My favorite part was getting more of Rosie’s story.

I am a tad disappointed that I have to wait a whole year for the next book in this series.