Guest Post: Dreams Really Do Come True by Barbara Hinson

Good morning everyone, I have a special treat today! Author Barbara Hinske has a fabulous guest post about her novella and how it’s about to premiere on the Hallmark Channel on November 27. I adore Christmas movies and can’t wait to watch this, here is some more information on the movie and below is more information about the book and the post from the author.

Blurb:

Verna Lind expects Christmas of 1952 to be the best holiday she’s had since the war ended. But as she’s leaving the bank, a frigid wind off Lake Erie catches her hard-earned Christmas club savings, whisking the bills into the busy streets of downtown Cleveland and devastating her plans. Strangers come to her aid, though no one anticipates the power of their chance encounter or the seeds of happiness Verna’s lost money will sow. 

From Barbara Hinske, best-selling author of the Rosemont series, comes this heartwarming Christmas tale celebrating the generosity of the human spirit and the irresistible pull of love — an instant holiday classic for admirers of It’s a Wonderful Life and The Gift of the Magi. 

Dreams Really do Come True

 

The Christmas Club – my Christmas novella – is one of the Hallmark Channel’s 2019 Christmas movies! If that sounds like an author’s dream come true, it is!

 

I’m a women’s fiction author who also writes mystery/thriller/suspense novels – all of them with a touch of romance. I planned to publish an anthology of Christmas novellas with a group of other similar authors. It seemed like a smart marketing opportunity and I set to work. What would I write about?

 

A homily from a sermon I’d heard thirty years earlier had made a big impression on me at the time and had stuck with me all these years later. The point of the pastor’s story was to do kind things in nice ways. We all like to be recognized when we do something kind for someone else. I certainly like a pat on the back! But sometimes the recipient of our generosity feels demeaned – or is made to feel “less than” – by acknowledging our gift. The pastor told the story of a woman whose money blows out of her hands. A young man races off to chase after it, returning to her with the money. She gratefully acknowledges his efforts at finding it. What he doesn’t tell her is that the money was long gone; he’d restored it to her from his own wallet. She isn’t made to feel like a charity case.

 

I expanded on this idea by placing characters at Christmas (in 1952) and having the lost money be Christmas Club savings. If anyone has saved all year long in a Christmas Club account at the bank, they know how precious that money is and how devastating it would be to lose it. In my story, however, that lost money carries blessings with it all around.

 

As it turned out, I was the only author who actually wrote their novella. I published it as a stand-alone work in October of 2016 and the rest, as they say, is history. The Christmas Club was greeted with enthusiastic reviews – many of them opining that it would make a great Hallmark movie and that they would re-read the story every Christmas.

 

Crown Media purchased the screen rights and Julie Sherman Wolfe made a lovely screenplay out of it. She changed the setting from 1952 to current day and added a twist that I wished I’d thought of. In my humble opinion, I think both the book and the movie are holiday classics and should be on everyone’s “to do” list for the holiday – now and in the years to come.

 

My goal in writing The Christmas Club was to uplift, encourage, and entertain. I’m more than pleased with the pleasure and happiness it’s bringing into the world.

Spotlight: Six Goodbyes We Never Said by Candace Ganger

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Goodreads

Amazon

Release date: September 24, 2019

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Genre: YA

Blurb: 

Two teens meet after tragedy and learn about love, loss, and letting go

Naima Rodriguez doesn’t want your patronizing sympathy as she grieves her father, her hero—a fallen Marine. She’ll hate you forever if you ask her to open up and remember him “as he was,” though that’s all her loving family wants her to do in order to manage her complex OCD and GAD. She’d rather everyone back the-eff off while she separates her Lucky Charms marshmallows into six, always six, Ziploc bags, while she avoids friends and people and living the life her father so desperately wanted for her.

Dew respectfully requests a little more time to process the sudden loss of his parents. It’s causing an avalanche of secret anxieties, so he counts on his trusty voice recorder to convey the things he can’t otherwise say aloud. He could really use a friend to navigate a life swimming with pain and loss and all the lovely moments in between. And then he meets Naima and everything’s changed—just not in the way he, or she, expects.

Candace Ganger’s Six Goodbyes We Never Said is no love story. If you ask Naima, it’s not even a like story. But it is a story about love and fear and how sometimes you need a little help to be brave enough to say goodbye.

#Fallintomybacklist

Hey guys, I hope everyone is having a good weekend! I wanted to check in and tell you all about something fun I have planned with my friend Sarah at ReallyIntoThis We’re hosting a backlist reading challenge over on Instagram and we wanted to make sure we invited y’all to join in too. Tomorrow we’re having a stack challenge where we want to see a pile of older books that you would like to read before the end of the year. Then, from October through December we will be focusing mainly on backlist books. We would love to have anyone who wants to join us by using #fallintomybacklist anytime you post about an older book! We have some exciting stuff planned and both of us are really looking forward to reading some books we’ve had on our shelves for far too long. You can find us both on Instagram me and Sarah.

Since I’m going to be so focused on the challenge I’m not sure I’ll be posting quite as much on here for the next few months. I’ll be tracking my reading on Goodreads and Instagram still but probably won’t be posting as much here, I will be back though but just wanted to give everyone a heads up if things seem quiet.

Spotlight: The Desire Card by Lee Matthew Goldberg

Amazon

Release date: February 19, 2019

Publisher: Fahrenheit

Genre: Thriller

Blurb:

Any wish fulfilled for the right price. That’s the promise the Desire Card gives to its elite clients. But if the Card doesn’t feel like they’ve been justly compensated, the “price” will be more menacing than the clients could ever imagine.  

 

Harrison Stockton learns this lesson all too well. Harrison has lived an adult life of privilege and excess: a high-powered job on Wall Street along with a fondness for alcohol and pills, and a family he adores, yet has no time for. All of this comes crashing to a halt when he loses his executive job and discovers he has liver cirrhosis with mere months left to live.

 

After finding himself far down on the donor list, Harrison takes matters into his own hands. This decision sparks a gritty and gripping quest that takes him to the slums of Mumbai in search of a black market organ and forces him under the Desire Card’s thumb. When his moral descent threatens his wife and children, Harrison must decide whether to save himself at any cost, or do what’s right and put a stop to the Card.

 

THE DESIRE CARD is a taut international thriller that explores what a man will do to survive when money isn’talways enough to get everything he desires. It’s the first book in a series followed by PREY NO MORE that focuses on other people indebted to this sinister organization, where the actual price is the cost of one’s soul.

 Excerpt:

HARRISON STUMBLED INTO CENTRAL PARK CLUTCHING THE SILVER BRIEFCASE, HIS BODY SHAKING FROM BEING HUNTED. Clouds clogged the sky. The trees seemed like creatures towering over him. He turned around to see the man in the Humphrey Bogart mask running toward the entrance, a gun bulging from the guy’s inside pocket. The man’s cold eyes scanned the park, zeroing in. Harrison took off down a dirt path until he was alone with only the wind ringing in his ears. 

He wanted to collapse; he begged himself to just give in. Nature would destroy him soon anyway, and his shins were starting to feel like they’d been repeatedly stabbed. He coughed up an excess of blood and mucus that spilled down a rock. Now he’d gone so far down the trail that he couldn’t see where he entered. The sound of footsteps came from all directions. A distorted laugh caused all the nearby pigeons to shoot toward the sky. The laugh was followed by an eerie whistle that became louder and louder as he spun around expecting to see his pursuer. 

A shadow passed behind a tree, bigger than any animal. He propped himself up against a rock, too exhausted to move any farther, closing his eyes and waiting to die. He could see tomorrow’s headlines declaring his death as a mugging gone wrong. 

“Gracie,” he cried, trembling. “Brent, my boy…oh God.”

He had pissed himself now, the urine hot and sticky as it trickled down his pants leg. He still held the silver briefcase close to his chest, resolving not to let it go without a fight.

The man in the Bogart mask emerged from behind a tree holding a gun.

“Just hand it over, Mr. Stockton,” the man said. The voice box attached to his mouth made him sound robotic, weirdly calm. “You don’t want this to get any more complicated than it already has.”

The man made a grab for the briefcase, but Harrison held on tight.

“You’ll kill me anyway,” Harrison yelled, spooking any pigeons that hadn’t already flown away.

“Only if you force me to do so.” 

The man kicked Harrison in the shin, causing him to nearly buckle over. Harrison was thrown to the ground, the man pinning him down. He still managed to hold onto the briefcase as if it was fused to his hand. 

“The Boss doesn’t know about what you’ve done yet,” the man said, hitting Harrison’s head against the hard dirt. “Do you understand what that means? That means you can still live. And he’ll never find out as long as we get what we’re owed.”

“Why would you do that for me?” he asked, seeing four masked men spinning around.

The man stepped back and pointed the gun between Harrison’s eyes.

“The Boss doesn’t like when things don’t go according to plan. I could be in as much trouble as you for letting this slip-up happen. So let’s make this easy for both of us.”

Harrison got on one elbow and hoisted himself up.

“Do I have your word?”

The man nodded.

“And my family? My wife…my kids? I wouldn’t have to worry about them being hurt?”

“As much as you might think that you are our sole concern, we have an entire organization to run beyond your pithy life. Now I will count to ten and if you don’t hand over the briefcase, I’ll put a bullet between your eyes.”  

Harrison thought about what his life had really amounted to. All the hours he’d slaved at Sanford & Co., making rich people boatloads richer. Getting into the office before dawn and often heading home in the middle of the night. Sacrificing his family, his youth, his sanity. How it had made him into a drinker, a serial gorger of all vices, just so he could forget about what he was losing. After all of that, what did he have left to show? 

“…8…9…10,” the man said, about to pull the trigger. 

“All right, all right.” 

Harrison handed over the briefcase. The man opened it up and appeared to be satisfied, a smirking grin visible through his mask. 

“I’ll leave you with this nugget of wisdom,” he said, without putting the gun away. “If what you did manages to compromise us in any way, if there are any rippling after-effects, be prepared to come across the Boss. He’s known to wear a Clark Gable mask.” The man’s smirk had disappeared. “He only appears when he’s ready to bloody his hands. Good day, Mr. Stockton.”

“Who are you people? Under the masks…who are you really?”

The man raised the gun over Harrison’s head.

“I doubt you’ll ever find out,” he said, and struck Harrison on the forehead with the handle. 

A trickle of blood spilled down Harrison’s nose and felt cold on his tongue. He slunk down and rested his cheek against the dirt, watching the man in the mask take off through the trees, the silver briefcase shining like a beam of light snaking through the leaves. And then the man finally disappeared—as if he was nothing more than a nightmare brought to life and extinguished once the fitful dreamer finally woke.

Harrison pressed against his rib cage and felt for his engorged liver. Cursed at it. Wanted to tear it from his stomach. He’d been poisoned from within for too long, his unending punishment for all of his crimes. Blood zigzagged into his eyes as the wound on his forehead opened up even more. With his other hand he reached into his pocket and removed his wallet. A thin metallic card fell from out of a sleeve and sat in a puddle of blood that had collected in the dirt. 

He crumpled it up in his fist since it was responsible for letting these psychopaths into his life. He knew he’d never feel completely settled again, always worried that they might come after him and his family. The Desire Card had caused him to seek out gruesome and despicable wishes. From the instant this devil’s temptation had been placed in his hands, his moral compass never stood a chance. So he chucked it into the air and watched it sail over the rocks for some other fool to find. 

“I’m sorry, Helene,” he mumbled to the wind. He knew he’d have to come clean about everything. His head throbbed, and he recalled a memory from twenty-five years ago. Spying her in the quad at Chilton College drinking a cherry Coke, tan and shapely from field hockey, the entire campus becoming muted except for her. He took a chance by flirting miserably and changing the course of their lives. 

She would’ve been better off if they had never met. In such a short amount of time, he’d fallen so far. Now because of him people had been sliced up, left for dead, and soon he’d follow them to his own grave. As he drifted off into unconsciousness, he remembered that it all began to spiral out of control on his last day at Sanford & Co. over a month ago, this treacherous path he embarked on, his dark and dried-up destiny.  

Review: Torment by Mark Tilbury @MTilburyAuthor

Goodreads|Amazon

Release date: August 5, 2019

Publisher: Bloodhound

Genre: Psychological Thriller

Blurb:

Who can you really trust?

Beth couldn’t be happier. She is eight weeks pregnant and married to the man of her dreams. But after returning home from a celebratory meal, she finds a wreath from her sister’s grave hanging above the bed and a kitchen knife embedded in her pillow. There are no signs of a forced entry. Nothing is stolen. And no one other than the cleaner has a key to the house.

Then a campaign of terror begins. Beth becomes increasingly paranoid as it becomes clear that someone close to the family is behind these disturbing events.

But who would want Beth dead?

Does the past hold the clue?

And can Beth find the answer before it’s too late?

Torment is a story of misplaced loyalty, revenge and sacrifice. 

Review:

When I’m in the mood for a fast paced, dark and twisted thriller I know I can always count on a Mark Tilbury book to deliver and this was no exception. I swear his books are all unputdownable, once I start I’m instantly sucked in and I have a hard time stopping for anything!

One of my favorite things about this one was that it was nonstop action, even in the more sedate parts of the story there was always a feel that something more was about to happen, there was a sense of menace and danger always lurking around the corner. Or the next page haha but seriously it was such an unsettling read, Beth was basically on pins and needles throughout which also made me anxious, a sure sign of a good psychological thriller.

This was definitely both twisted and twisty, Tilbury never shies away from exploring the dark and depraved depths of humanity, if you like very bold and dark crime reads you have to try his books. While I did predict a couple of the smaller twists, I definitely didn’t have everything worked out in the end, which was both clever and a bit shocking. Definitely recommended by me, but again it’s dark, don’t read this late at night.

Torment in three words: Menacing, Twisted and Dark

Overall rating: 4/5

Thanks to the author for my review copy.

Review: The Escape Room by Megan Goldin

Goodreads|Amazon

Release date: July 30, 2019

Publisher: St. Martin’s

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Blurb:

Vincent, Jules, Sylvie, and Sam are ruthlessly ambitious high-flyers working in the lucrative world of Wall Street finance where deception and intimidation thrive. Getting rich is all that matters, and they’ll do anything to reach the top.

When they are ordered to participate in a corporate team-building exercise that requires them to escape from a locked elevator, dark secrets of their team begin to be laid bare.

The biggest mystery to solve in this lethal game: What happened to Sara Hall? Once a young shining star—”now gone but not forgotten”.

This is no longer a game. 
They’re fighting for their lives.

Review:

I love a locked room mystery, there’s something old school about them for me, but this one had a cool, modern twist. I don’t know anyone would really likes elevators, but the thought of being trapped inside one is enough to make me anxious just imagining it! Throw in a group of pretty despicable people who all have secrets and I’m all in.

This flips back and forth between the elevator and the elusive Sara Hall as she begins her professional career. I found this to be a nice balance between the tense, claustrophobic atmosphere in the elevator and the more calm, sedate pace of Sara’s story. I was equally interested in both timelines, there was plenty going on and I was dying to know what could have possibly lead up to them all being trapped in an elevator together under such strange circumstances. There was so much hostility and intense anger swirling around the coworkers that you just knew some crazy shit must’ve went down in the past and I was SO here for that.

Was this plausible? Nope, but for a super fun summer thriller, it’s great! If you can suspend your disbelief and just go along for the ride this is really fun and makes for quite the page turner.

The Escape Room in three words: Entertaining, Suspenseful and Creative

Overall rating: 4/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy

July Wrap Up

The Ingredients of Us: Delectable, Fresh and Emotional

The Surfside Sisters: Breezy, Carefree and Charming

Unfortunately False Step just didn’t work for me at all.

Breath In, Cash Out: Smart, Sharp and Witty.

Girls Like Us was a great summer thriller!

Nina Hill: Quirky, Adorable and Wry

Child’s Play: Thrilling, Complex and Pacey

Last Summer: Compulsive, Sexy and Tense

Tell Me Everything was a solid mystery

Crashing the A List: Hilarious, Entertaining and Sparkling

The Floating Feldman’s: Sardonic, Enjoyable and Dysfunctional

Two Lila Bennett’s: Compulsive, Dynamic and Unexpected

The Helpline: Quirky, Endearing and Hopeful

A Stranger on the Beach was a fun beachy thriller that I had some minor issues with

Good Girl, Bad Girl: Multilayered, Unexpected and Absorbing

Please Send Help was super fun and told in a unique format.

How to Hack a Heartbreak: Fresh, Hip and Fun

That’s What Frenemies Are For: Snarky, Fun and Sharp

The Closer I Get: Unsettling, Obsessive and Engrossing

Someone We Know read like a classic whodunnit with a modern twist

Review: The Closer I Get by Paul Burston @orendabooks @PaulBurston #TheCloserIGet

Goodreads|Amazon

Release date: May 11, 2019

Publisher: Orenda

Genre: Thriller

Blurb:

Tom is a successful author, but he’s struggling to finish his novel. His main distraction is an online admirer, Evie, who simply won’t leave him alone.
Evie is smart, well read and unstable; she lives with her father and her social-media friendships are not only her escape, but everything she has.
When she’s hit with a restraining order, her world is turned upside down, and Tom is free to live his life again, to concentrate on writing.
But things aren’t really adding up. For Tom is distracted but also addicted to his online relationships, and when they take a darker, more menacing turn, he feels powerless to change things. Because maybe he needs Evie more than he’s letting on.
A compulsive, disturbingly relevant, twisty and powerful psychological thriller, The Closer I Get is also a searing commentary on the fragility and insincerity of online relationships, and the danger that can lurk just one ‘like’ away…

Review:

Talk about a book that gets right under your skin! Social media has become firmly ingrained in all of lives and this book takes a hard look at the dark side and is a truly thought provoking read, full of paranoia, dread and just an overall feeling of uneasiness.

You hear from both Evie and Tom as this flips back and forth between them both in alternating chapters and I questioned how reliable they both were the entire way through, it kept me on my toes for sure. At times they both come across as slightly unhinged and desperate and as the details of their relationship are slowly and methodically revealed it’s unclear who is victim and who is villain, maybe both of them? As I said earlier, this one makes you think, not only was I thinking about the characters use of social media and how deeply this effected their lives, you can’t help but think about how your own behaviors online as well.

This was a very timely read and made all the more unsettling because it’s something that could easily happen and already does I’m sure. Totally recommended by me, this was an excellent and dark read that consumed me.

The Closer I Get in three words: Unsettling, Obsessive, and Engrossing

Overall rating: 4/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: Last Summer by Kerry Lonsdale

Goodreads|Amazon

Release date: July 9, 2019

Publisher: Lake Union

Blurb:

Lifestyle journalist Ella Skye remembers every celebrity she interviewed, every politician she charmed between the sheets, and every socialite who eyed her with envy. The chance meeting with her husband, Damien; their rapid free fall into love; and their low-key, intimate wedding are all locked in her memory. But what she can’t remember is the tragic car accident that ripped her unborn child from her. Ella can’t even recall being pregnant.

Hoping to find the memories of a lost pregnancy that’s left her husband devastated and their home empty, Ella begins delving into her past when she’s assigned an exclusive story about Nathan Donovan, a retired celebrity adventurer who seems to know more about her than she does him. To unravel the mystery of her selective memory loss, Ella follows Nathan from the snowcapped Sierra Nevada to the frozen slopes of southeast Alaska. There she discovers the people she trusts most aren’t the only ones keeping secrets from her—she’s hiding them from herself. Ella quickly learns that some truths are best left forgotten.

Review:

I’ve been a huge fan of KL’s books since her debut and this book is such a big departure from her books, but in a really awesome way! Her other books have been solidly Women’s Fiction and this was much edgier and much sexier than her previous books and I loved every single page.

This was basically the definition of a binge read for me, I was supposed to be buddy reading it with my friends Chelsea and Jamie and ended up tearing through it because I seriously could NOT put it down! It was such a fast and well paced read, full of shocks and surprises that I finished it on record time because I was just as eager to learn what happened last summer as Ella was.

Memory loss is nothing new in books but KL manages to put her own unique spin on it that was totally unexpected and incredibly fascinating. Besides that angle, you have this surprisingly steamy side that I wasn’t expecting at all, but I really loved it and felt like it gave the whole thing a really cool edge. I’m always impressed when authors try something new from their usual style and I’m so impressed by what KL did here. This was a highly entertaining and wildly addictive read that is perfect for summer!

Last Summer in three words: Compulsive, Sexy and Tense

Overall rating: 4/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: Child’s Play by Angela Marsons @bookouture @writeangie

Goodreads|Amazon

Release date: July 11, 2019

Publisher: Bookouture

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Blurb:

Finally we’re playing a game. A game that I have chosen. I give one last push of the roundabout and stand back. ‘You really should have played with me,’ I tell her again although I know she can no longer hear.

Late one summer evening, Detective Kim Stone arrives at Haden Hill Park to the scene of a horrific crime: a woman in her sixties tied to a swing with barbed wire and an X carved into the back of her neck. 

The victim, Belinda Evans, was a retired college Professor of Child Psychology. As Kim and her team search her home, they find an overnight bag packed and begin to unravel a complex relationship between Belinda and her sister Veronica.

Then two more bodies are found bearing the same distinctive markings, and Kim knows she is on the hunt for a ritualistic serial killer. Linking the victims, Kim discovers they were involved in annual tournaments for gifted children and were on their way to the next event. 

With DS Penn immersed in the murder case of a young man, Kim and her team are already stretched and up against one of the most ruthless killers they’ve ever encountered. The clues lie in investigating every child who attended the tournaments, dating back decades.

Faced with hundreds of potential leads and a bereaved sister who is refusing to talk, can Kim get inside the mind of a killer and stop another murder before it’s too late?

The addictive new crime thriller from multi-million copy, number one bestseller Angela Marsons explores the dark side of child prodigies and will have you absolutely hooked.

Review:

If over the years my raving and gushing over this superb series hasn’t somehow already convinced you to read them, let me try and persuade you one more time. This is the eleventh book in the incomparable Kim Stone series, and yes you could technically read any of them as standalones, but I don’t recommend doing so because every single dang book is phenomenal. This is quite the feat because usually after only a handful of books a series can get boring but there is absolutely none of that here. Each installment raises the bar somehow and just solidified Marsons spot as one of my favorite crime writers on the planet.

As usual Kim and her team have several things going on at all once. Of course they have the main investigation where someone is killing people linked to child prodigies which is a subject that I found endlessly fascinating and was obviously well researched by the author. All of the members of the team has separate personal issues cropping up as well, Penn is called back to his old team during a trial leaving Kim and crew a man down, Stacey is having some sort of issue at home but is keeping quiet, Bryant is just good old Bryant, driving Kim and his wife crazy, and then a new temporary member joins the team just to keep things interesting. It may sound like a lot, and it is, for sure, but it’s not too much. In fact, it’s the perfect balance between personal and professional life that makes these characters feel like my own dear friends.

Marsons is one of the few crime writers left who always, without fail, manages to surprise me. I never work out what direction the case will take, much less who the actual killer is and the excitement and action is nonstop. You cannot put one of her books down once you get started and this was no exception, another highly impressive addition to a fantastic series that I cannot recommend highly enough!

Child’s Play in three words: Thrilling, Complex, and Pacey

Overall rating: 5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.