Monday, August 29, 2022

Review: Scandalized by Ivy Owens

 


A one-night stand between two old childhood friends turns into something more, but when a scandal threatens to tear them apart, they must decide how hard to fight for love—a steamy romance debut perfect for fans of Tessa Bailey and Kennedy Ryan​.

Exhausted and on deadline with a story that could make or break her career, investigative journalist Georgia Ross is on the verge of a meltdown when a cancelled flight leaves her stuck in the airport overnight. But when a familiar face appears—the older brother of her childhood friend—and offers help, Gigi seems to have caught a break.

Alec Kim is handsome, humble, and kind—exactly the sort of man that Gigi has forgotten existed after her own painful heartbreaks. An evening of reconnection followed by a night of no-strings-attached passion with Alec feels like a gift—that is, until Gigi finally realizes that their childhood connection isn’t the only reason he seems so familiar to her.

Alec is determined to prove to Gigi that he is truly the man she thinks he is, even if it means coming clean about his fame—and his family’s connection to the story Gigi’s been working so hard to break. But as their feelings for each other grow deeper, Gigi and Alec must navigate a new reality…one where both of their hard-won careers are put directly in the path of an international scandal.
 

 Buy Links

Amazon   | Barnes & Noble | Google Play | Apple Books | Kobo

Simon & Schuster 

Add to Goodreads

What I thought about Scandalized

A chance meeting leads to more in Scandalized, a childhood friends to lovers story that also has a good dash of mystery and plenty of hot, steamy scenes for readers to enjoy.

Gigi Ross is a career oriented investigative journalist who meets up with a childhood friend when faced with an airline layover.  One thing leads to another and there's a whole lot of coupling going on.

As things progress, Gigi falls into insta-love with her best friend's brother who just happens to have a secret all his own.  It's a bit interesting that the investigative reporter doesn't figure this out until later? Also, she's working on sexual assault story so be aware if that's triggering.  But do they have chemistry in the bedroom -- you betcha.

If you like your romance with plenty of steamy sex and don't mind the insta-love aspects, you might enjoy this story.  It's fast paced and a bit predictable, but it's a fun ride if you're in the mood for something physical rather than emotional.



About the Author

  Ivy Owens has been writing for fun her entire life. Scandalized was a labor of love written in the wild paradox of boredom and inspiration during the pandemic. She lives in California with her husband, two kids, and two dogs, and is rarely seen without a book in hand. You can find her on Instagram at @HelloIvyOwens.

Saturday, August 27, 2022

Blog Tour Excerpt & Review: The Witches of Moonshyne Manor by Bianca Marais


 
 The Witches of Moonshyne Manor
Bianca Marais

On Sale Date: August 23, 2022

9780778386995
, 0778386996
Trade Paperback

$16.99 USD, $24.99 CAD

Fiction / Magical Realism

400 pages
 

About the Book:

A coven of modern-day witches. A magical heist-gone-wrong. A looming threat.

Five octogenarian witches gather as an angry mob threatens to demolish Moonshyne Manor. All eyes turn to the witch in charge, Queenie, who confesses they’ve fallen far behind on their mortgage payments. Still, there’s hope, since the imminent return of Ruby—one of the sisterhood who’s been gone for thirty-three years—will surely be their salvation.

But the mob is only the start of their troubles. One man is hellbent on avenging his family for the theft of a legacy he claims was rightfully his. In an act of desperation, Queenie makes a bargain with an evil far more powerful than anything they’ve ever faced. Then things take a turn for the worse when Ruby’s homecoming reveals a seemingly insurmountable obstacle instead of the solution to all their problems.

The witches are determined to save their home and themselves, but their aging powers are no match for increasingly malicious threats. Thankfully, they get a bit of help from Persephone, a feisty TikToker eager to smash the patriarchy. As the deadline to save the manor approaches, fractures among the sisterhood are revealed, and long-held secrets are exposed, culminating in a fiery confrontation with their enemies.

Funny, tender and uplifting, the novel explores the formidable power that can be discovered in aging, found family and unlikely friendships. Marais’ clever prose offers as much laughter as insight, delving deeply into feminism, identity and power dynamics while stirring up intrigue and drama through secrets, lies and sex. Heartbreaking and heart-mending, it will make you grateful for the amazing women in your life.

 
 
 
 
Excerpt

Saturday, October 23rd

Morning

Half an hour before the alarm will be sounded for the first time in decades—drawing four frantic old women and a ge­riatric crow from all corners of the sprawling manor—Ursula is awoken by insistent knocking, like giant knuckles rapping against glass. It’s an ominous sign, to be sure. The first of many.

Trying to rid herself of the sticky cobwebs of sleep, Ursula throws back the covers, groaning as her joints loudly voice their displeasure. She’s slept in the buff, as is her usual habit, and as she pads across the room, she’s more naked than the day she was born (being, as she is, one of those rare babies who came into the world fully encased in a caul).

Upon reaching the window, the cause of the ruckus is im­mediately obvious to Ursula; one of the Angel Oak’s sturdy branches is thumping against her third-floor window. Strong winds whip through the tree, making it shimmy and shake, giving the impression that it’s espousing the old adage to dance like no one’s watching, a quality that rather has to be admired in a tree. Either that, or it’s trembling uncontrollably with fear.

The forest, encroaching at the garden’s boundary, looks disquieted. It hangs its head low, bowing to a master who’s ordered it to bend the knee. As the charcoal sky churns, not a bird to be seen, the trees in the wood whisper incessantly. Whether they’re secrets or warnings, Ursula can’t tell, which only unsettles her further.

That infernal billboard that the city recently erected across from the manor property—with its aggressive gigantic let­tering shouting, ‘Critchley Hackle Mega Complex Coming Soon!’—snaps in the wind, issuing small cracks of thunder. A storm is on its way, that much is clear. You don’t need to have Ivy’s particular powers to know as much.

Turning her back on the ominous view, Ursula heads for the calendar to mark off another mostly sleepless night. It seems impossible that after so many of them—night upon night, strung up after each other seemingly endlessly—only two remain until Ruby’s return, upon which Ursula will dis­cover her fate.

Either Ruby knows or she doesn’t.

And if she does know, there’s the chance that she’ll want nothing more to do with Ursula. The thought makes her breath hitch, the accompanying stab of pain almost too much to bear. The best she can hope for under the circumstances is that Ruby will forgive her, releasing Ursula from the invis­ible prison her guilt has sentenced her to.

Too preoccupied with thoughts of Ruby to remember to don her robe, Ursula takes a seat at her mahogany escritoire. She lights a cone of mugwort and sweet laurel incense, watch­ing as the tendril of smoke unfurls, inscribing itself upon the air. Inhaling the sweet scent, she picks up a purple silk pouch and unties it, spilling the contents onto her palm.

The tarot cards are all frayed around the edges, worn down from countless hours spent jostling through Ursula’s hands. Despite their shabbiness, they crackle with electricity, sparks flying as she shuffles them. After cutting the deck in three, Ursula begins laying the cards down, one after the other, on top of the heptagram she carved into the writing desk’s sur­face almost eighty years ago.

The first card, placed in the center, is The Tower. Unfortu­nate souls tumble from the top of a fortress that’s been struck by lightning, flames engulfing it. Ursula experiences a jolt of alarm at the sight of it for The Tower has to signify the manor; and anything threatening their home, threatens them all.

The second card, placed above the first at the one o’clock position, can only represent Tabitha. It’s the Ten of Swords, depicting a person lying face down with ten swords buried in their back. The last time Ursula saw the card, she’d made a mental note to make an appointment with her acupunctur­ist, but now, following so soon after The Tower, it makes her shift nervously.

The third, fourth and fifth cards, placed at the three o’clock, four-thirty and six o’clock positions, depict a person (who must be Queenie) struggling under too heavy a load; a heart pierced by swords (signifying Ursula); and a horned beast towering above a man and woman who are shackled together (obvi­ously Jezebel). Ursula whimpers to see so many dreaded cards clustered together.

Moving faster now, she lays out the sixth, seventh and eighth cards at the seven-thirty, nine and eleven o’ clock po­sitions. Ursula gasps as she studies the man crying in his bed, nine swords hovering above him (which can only denote Ur­sula’s guilt as it pertains to Ruby); the armored skeleton on horseback (representing the town of Critchley Hackle); and the two bedraggled souls trudging barefoot through the snow (definitely Ivy). Taking in all eight sinister cards makes Ursula tremble much like the Angel Oak.

Based on the spread, Ursula absolutely should sound the alarm immediately, but she’s made mistakes in the past—lapses in judgment that resulted in terrible consequences—and so she wants to be a hundred percent certain first.

She shuffles the cards again, laying them down more de­liberately this time, only to see the exact same shocking for­mation, the impending threat even more vivid than before. It couldn’t be any clearer if the Goddess herself had sent a hom­ing pigeon with a memo bearing the message: Calamity is on its way! It’s knocking at the window, just waiting to be let in!

And yet, Ursula still doesn’t sound the alarm, because that’s what doubt does; it slips through the chinks in our defenses, eroding all sense of self until the only voice that should mat­ter becomes the one that we don’t recognize anymore, the one we trust the least.

As a result of this estrangement from herself, Ursula has de­veloped something of a compulsion, needing to triple check the signs before she calls attention to them, and so she stands and grabs her wand. She makes her way down the hallway past Ruby’s and Jezebel’s bedrooms at a bit of a clip before descending the west wing stairs.

It’s just before she reaches Ivy’s glass conservatory that Ur­sula breaks out into a panicked run.

Excerpted from The Witches of Moonshyne Manor @ 2022 by Bianca Marais, used with permission by MIRA Books.


 
 What I thought about
The Witches of Moonshyne Manor
 
In The Witches of Moonshybe Manor, five women, also witches, must deal with a delinquent mortgage payment that threatens their home.  When the town's men want to build a male-oriented theme park, they find Moonshyne Manor to be the perfect spot, so they attempt to relieve the five octogenarians from home their home.  They've got another thing coming, if they think these women are going to give up their home easily. 
 
They do get some help from a young woman from town, and there's a long held secret from one of the "sisters" that will need to be resolved. I don't want to give up too much here but, it's a cute story.  
 
I do like stories where "family" is defined by the people you love, not by bloodline, so I really liked that about this book.  I've seen this book described as Practical Magic meets Golden Girls -- I'd add a dash of X-men in there because of the way these ladies came together. 

Moonshyne Manor is a timely patriarchy v matriarchy feminist story that's more light-hearted than serious. There's plenty of humor and sarcasm to flavor the story and conflicts are resolved without too much drama.  If I had to describe the book in two words, it would be "sisterhood rocks".  There's also positive LGBTQ+ and gender fluidity representation, along with octogenarian sex which made me smile a little reading older women still enjoying that part of life.

This was my first book by this author. In all honesty, third person present tense isn't really my preference when reading this type of book, so it took me a while for my brain to adjust to this present tense writing.  The first twenty-five percent of the book delivers up a lot of backstory.

The Witches of Moonshyne Manor is standard magic and witchy stuff, with a good dash of humor and a little mystery involved.  A fun read. 

 
About the Author:
 

Bianca Marais cohosts the popular podcast The Sh*t No One Tells You About Writing, aimed at emerging writers. She was named the winner of the Excellence in Teaching Award for Creative Writing at the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies in 2021. She is the author of two novels, Hum If You Don’t Know the Words and If You Want to Make God Laugh, as well as the Audible Original The Prynne Viper. She lives in Toronto with her husband and fur babies.

Social Links:

Author website: https://www.biancamarais.com/

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/biancam_author/

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

Release Day Review: The Five Year Lie by Sarina Bowen

Bestselling romance author Sarina Bowen’s debut thriller, about one woman’s search for the truth after receiving a text from her deceased ex...