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Staying Off Sugar by Taylor Stevens

 

It’s been said that sugar is harder to quit than cocaine. I don’t know anything about cocaine, but I do know more than I should about trying—and failing—to quit that empty calorie metabolic-disrupting, appetite-triggering, energy-rollercoaster-producing but oh so delicious drug known as sugar. There are, I hear, people quite capable of handling sugar in moderation. The, “well, maybe I’ll have just one,” types. Me, I’ve always been more on the “I’ll just have just one bag,” end of the spectrum. Sugar withdrawal has, on occasion, sent me seeking salad dressings or barbeque sauces when more legitimate options weren’t available and I’m pretty sure that alone disqualifies me from any attempt at claiming to be a recreational user.

All those empty calories combined with the outsized number of hours I spend sitting each day, plus some otherwise poor eating habits came with a weighty price that culminated in a moment of desperation earlier this year. That was it, I said. I’d had enough. I was quitting all sugar starting right that very second. Not that I hadn’t made that exact same decision at least once a month for the past three years and failed spectacularly each time.

But this was desperation-desperation. And also really bad timing. This was Easter, the only time of year that Starburst jellybeans, god among jellybeans and most favorite of chewy sweet things, are readily available.

Not only did I have several bags of this fruity goodness in my secret candy stash, one of those bags was already opened, half-gone, and screaming to be finished before any drastic decisions were made. I couldn’t bring myself to throw them away. Instead, I rolled that open bag closed tight and before the urge to reopen it for “just a few more” changed my mind, I posted a video update to Patreon and an explanation in the Facebook Fan Club Group announcing that I was going off sugar and carbs completely for a month. I figured the humiliation of having to publicly admit I couldn’t even make thirty days might get me through what willpower alone couldn’t. Sheer lunacy is what that was.

But, pride, it turns out, is a powerful motivator.

It’s been seven glorious mostly sugar-free months now.

The need for sugar has subsided drastically, but I still crave it. That’s the thing about addiction, I suppose: I’ll always crave it. As an ode to moderation and realizing I’m probably going to have to do this for the rest of my life, I’ve started allowing a little treat here, another there. I’ve also slipped a few times with not-so-little treats in-between, but I haven’t gone back to old habits. I know it because that opened bag of jellybeans, my touchstone, is still there on that shelf. As long as I’m able to leave it wrapped tight and untasted no matter how loudly it calls for attention I know I’ve still got this.

             

 

Featured Selections
for January

Liar’s Paradox
by Taylor Stevens

Something Worth Saving
by Sandi Ward

Steamed Open
by Barbara Ross

Warrior of The World
by Jeffe Kennedy

 

 

Don’t Miss These
Great Reads!

Safe And Sound
by Fern Michaels

Home to Wind River
by Lindsay Mckenna

Demon’s Mercy
by Rebecca Zanetti

           

A Romance for
Every Reader

The Girl With The
Sweetest Secret
by Betina Krahn

The Rancher
by Kate Pearce

I’ll Always Love You
by Ella Quinn

Tempting Fate
by Stacy Finz

His Dark Magic
by Pat Esden

Boundless
by Lynne Connolly

           

Mysteries You
Can’t Miss

The Whispered Word
by Ellery Adams

Let The Dead Keep
Their Secrets
by Rosemary Simpson

How To Knit A Murder
by Sally Goldenbaum

The Coloring Crook
by Krista Davis

Slay In Character
by Lynn Cahoon

A Midwinter’s Tail
by Bethany Blake

           

 

Books We Can’t Wait to Share
         
         
     

 

Reviewed by Tara

The first line in HOME TO WIND RIVER totally captured my attention. The sentence was created in fearless Maud Whitcomb’s mind, and I wondered: ‘Maud worried? Jake Murdoch must be some kind of awesome. (The sentence is: How was Jake Murdoch, her foreman, going to react to the news?”). Jake had the nickname, ‘Bear’—as in grizzly bear. And Maud was right to be concerned. She had to inform him that his mother, one of her dear friends, had broken her thigh bone and needed full time care. Maud wanted to install his Mom in his house, with a full-time, live-in nurse. Jake enjoyed living alone, and he had to give up his solitude for two women…a nightmare, in Jake’s mind.

Jake loved his mom, but he wasn’t so sure about living with her nurse. Lily Thompson was gentle and tender, characteristics the powerful retired Marine feared. He’d locked away his emotions, and certainly didn’t want them to be opened up by a vulnerable woman.

But, as in all Lindsay McKenna books, Jake does respond to Lily’s gentle wooing, and love blooms for the two.

I so enjoyed HOME TO WIND RIVER… The book has all of Lindsay McKenna’s beloved hallmarks. Readers are sure to enjoy this wonderful romance, and re-visit the Wyoming community they have come to call WIND RIVER VALLEY.

(And P.S.—the puppies are adorable!!!)

“McKenna’s latest knowledgeable tale of military veterans coming to terms with civilian life is moving and real. Impossible to put down.” –Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW for WIND RIVER RANCHER

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Reviewed by Martin

Romance as a single genre can be tough to define, given the countless subgenres (and sub-subgenres) that abound. Often an author will grow successful within a single one of these subgenres before branching out—if they ever do. No one can be faulted for sticking with the genre that they and their audience feel is their trademark, but an author also deserves to be celebrated for taking a chance on something new. Marie Force has written across the board when it comes to contemporary romance, from sweet to sexy, suspenseful to erotic. But she’s never published a historical romance—until now.

Duchess by Deception is not only the first book in the new Gilded series, it’s Marie’s very first historical romance! It can prove a daunting task, but I can assure you that Marie was more than up to the challenge. In Duchess by Deception you’ll find the things you always love and look for in historical romance—dashing dukes, enticing settings, and of course a compelling romance and plenty of drama. But Marie also isn’t afraid to subvert some of these familiar plot elements, to add to them and infuse her characters with a real world sensibility that makes them feel incredibly true.

We all feel the pressures placed upon us by society (or in the case of the Gilded Age, Society), to live and present ourselves a certain way—the “acceptable” way. As demonstrated in Duchess by Deception, the challenge is to live our lives to match our unique routes to happiness, in spite of, not because of, the expectations of others. It’s amazing how this struggle has endured over the decades, whether told through the lens of the aristocracy in the Gilded Age or any one of us living our own lives in 2019. So I encourage you to take the trip back in time along with Marie Force, to discover things you might not know about the Gilded Age, but also to experience that personal human connection that all great fiction inspires. Those moments we experience when reading a good book where we escape into someone else’s life but also recognize our own.

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Reviewed by Samantha

From the title to the final page, I was hooked on WINE AND PUNISHMENT. Afterall, it combines two of my favorite things—wine and literature! Sarah has a knack for creating loveable characters with just the right amount of sass and Sadie Coleman is no exception. Whether she’s dealing with her ex’s shenanigans or in a battle of wits with the charmingly broody Grayson Blake, Sadie takes on anything that comes her way with a bit of humor and a whole lot of tenacity. After losing her job and breaking up with her boyfriend Eric, Sadie relocates to Shady Creek, Vermont where she transforms and old grist mill into a literary pub called the Inkwell complete with book-inspired cocktails (my favorite is the Malt in Our Stars). Just as she settles into her new life, Eric swoops in ready to stir everything up only to turn up dead outside of the pub. Sadie and the Inkwell inhabitants must catch a killer before their town ends up on the rocks. With fantastic twists that will keep you guessing who the killer is and loveable characters, the first in Sarah Fox’s new Literary Pub Series is by far one of my favorite cozy mysteries!

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Reviewed by Larissa

Dogs are amazing creatures, and it is always so interesting to read about how a dog can be trained to utilize the power of their nose to save the day, which is one of the reasons why Sara Driscoll’s third FBI K-9 Novel STORM RISING is so fantastic. Special Agent Meg Jennings and her search-and-rescue Labrador, Hawk, are members of the FBI’s Human Scent Evidence Team, and they are deployed to Virginia Beach after a devastating hurricane for a search-and-rescue operation. Driscoll immediately pulls you into the story as the hurricane is already making its destructive path up the coast of North Carolina—and you can really feel the tense anticipation of the aftermath. But the hurricane leaves more than just debris—the team discovers the victims of a human trafficking ring, one with ties to prominent figures in Virginia. As Agent Jennings and her trusty Hawk work to bring down those involved in the trafficking ring, Meg’s investigation leads her to danger. Dark, dramatic, and realistic, if you have an interest in dogs, or want to know what it looks like behind-the-scenes with search and rescue operations, STORM RISING is a must for your TBR pile!

 

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Reviewed by Alex

I’ll start by saying that I just adore Stacy Finz’s books. The Nugget series became a must-read for me after I read the first book, GOING HOME, back in 2014. So, it was with no small amount of excitement that I dove into TEMPTING FATE, the first new full-length book in the series in nearly two years! It did not disappoint. This book will tug at your heartstrings, make you smile, catch you up with your favorite California mountain town’s residents, and let you share in the redemption of villain-turned-heroine Raylene Rosser. That’s right…you fans of the series will recognize that name. It sounds like a tall order—give Raylene her happily ever after (and have her DESERVE it)—after she was basically the most disliked character of the entire series to this point. Well, not only will you be rooting for Raylene, you might just find yourself angry at some of those other favorite characters as you start turning those first pages!

For those of you who don’t know her, Raylene Rosser is the daughter of a cattle baron who committed some serious crimes (including being a party to murder) and died in prison. Being raised under his roof was no picnic, and Raylene has the mental scars to prove it. She married the man her father hand-picked for her…and he was just as domineering and abusive. Stacy Finz takes us deeper into Raylene’s background and the motivations behind some of the terrible things she’s done in her past (including setting up her former flame for the murder mentioned above), and as a reader, you can’t help but feel for her. She’s come home to Nugget for the wedding of her brother Logan (hero of Falling Hard), and she’s got to face down all the demons of her past and the townsfolk who are holding some serious grudges for her past actions. When ex-SEAL Gabe Moretti is enlisted by Logan to keep a lookout on Raylene, sparks fly, and he can’t reconcile the woman he’s coming to know with the terrible things he knows she’s done in her past.

Will Raylene be redeemed? Will she manage to win Nugget over? Can an honorable veteran find true love with Nugget’s public enemy #1? You’ll have to find out for yourself…and definitely keep some tissues nearby for the thrilling ending!

 

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Reviewed by Ann

A social media mogul uses his substantial technological know-how and endless supply of money to turn the world upside down….. If that has a strangely familiar resonance to you, it should! But in the new thriller by Brigadier General Anthony Tata, the protagonist of this scarily prescient plotline doesn’t go to Capitol Hill to defensively apologize for his misdeeds. Here, the man whose social platform is more powerful than Google, Amazon and Facebook combined has gone to the dark side. His diabolical leanings and subversive dark web powers have set the global superpowers into deadly disarray. A nuclear bomb has been dropped on Tokyo. North Korea has just steamrolled through the fortressed DMZ. Iran is plowing through Syria. The Russians have crossed the border into Belarus. The entire world believes the Americans are behind the high-level assassination of North Korea’s Supreme Leader. One man is behind it all – and another, six-foot ex-Marines hero, Jake Mahegan, is the one guy on Earth who can track him down and outwit him at his own horrible game. Author Tony Tata is an expert in all aspects of military engagement, from commanding troops (which he did in Afghanistan, earning a Combat Action medal and a Bronze Star) to cyberwarfare and hand-to-hand combat to fighter jets and sleeper cells. DARK WINTER has it all – including the tug between the duties of war and the stirrings of the heart.

When DARK WINTER is made into a movie (it’s only a matter of time, Hollywood!) Jake Mahegan will be played by Adam Driver, who was an actual Marine. And the world’s most evil man, Ian Gorham, has got to be Ezra Miller. Now that I’ve done the casting for you, you need to delve into this plot!

 

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Reviewed by Shannon

ALL THE PRETTY BRIDES is the third installment in Marian Lanouette’s Jake Carrington thrillers and it’s definitely my favorite. The book starts with a strong opening premise: every year for the past five years, a bride has gone missing right before her wedding. This year though? This year they find a body. Jake is convinced the killer is a disgruntled man whose own wedding didn’t pan out. Yes! This is exactly what I want in my serial killer thrillers. A twisted motive. Tragic victims. And of course, we get to tag along with Jake and his partner, Louie, and solve the crime with them as they go. Lanouette offers an array of intriguing potential suspects, delving us into a world of truly deplorable men, but just because they’re horrible, it doesn’t mean they’re guilty.

I think what Lanouette does well in her books is that she offers real stakes—there are consequences to the violence Jake and his companions face. The realization that our characters can die, be severely injured, or traumatized by what they confront makes her action scenes all the more anxiety inducing. I dare you to get to the climax of this book without fearing for the characters, especially Jake!

 

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Reviewed by Michaela

I’d like to introduce you to Dan Morgan, the protagonist of Leo J. Maloney’s espionage thriller series.  Morgan is a loving husband, a devoted dad, a classic car buff . . . and a trained assassin. As a former CIA operative, he knows all the tricks of the spy trade.  Now a member of the clandestine Zeta organization, he continues to carry out missions vital to American interests and security.


Now meet Morgan’s daughter, Alex. Following in her father’s footsteps, Alex is Zeta’s newest recruit – and its deadliest sniper. While working undercover, she infiltrates a conspiracy that could lead America to devastation. But the farther she follows the trail, the more her life is in danger.  This job is too big for either Morgan or his daughter to handle alone. But together, they are unstoppable.


I’ve been Leo Maloney’s editor throughout the Dan Morgan series, and there’s been a lot of excitement along the way.  But I’m especially excited to see how Dan Morgan and his daughter, Alex, are developing as an engaging and dynamic father/daughter team of operatives.  Jump into this series if you like fast-paced action with a fresh voice, written by an acclaimed thriller master.

 

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Reviewed by Elizabeth

Are you looking for a haunting, sexy read? Welcome to the world of witches and magic in Burlington, Vermont—the perfect place for a coven to fly (no pun intended!) under the radar amongst a menagerie of colorful locals. With lush, atmospheric writing, Pat Esden pulled me into a thrilling story with a satisfying conclusion.

Chloe Winslow, born into a family of powerful witches, longs for a fresh start at the University of Vermont. And an invitation from the exclusive Northern Circle coven is an unexpected surprise that she can’t pass up – an opportunity to join a community of passionate and like-minded young witches, and a chance to repair the tragic mistake she’s agonized over for the last five years.  Chloe is enthralled by the coven’s noble mission, not to mention its mesmerizingly handsome high priest, Devlin. But when the coven’s magic turns darker than anything Chloe’s seen before, she must decide who to trust, and how to stop the coven from changing the very existence of the magical community (and the world!) as they know it.

This is the first in a new series, and I for one am excited to read the second installment and continue with the Northern Circle coven’s adventures. The book features a great cast of characters who you want to root for, electric sexual tension between the leads, and stunning, detailed magical descriptions. Curl up with a blanket and a warm drink this December and get lost in Pat Esden’s beautifully rendered world of edgy magic.

 

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