Book Review: One S’More Summer by Beth Merlin


Title: One S’more Summer
Series: The Campfire Series #1

Author: Beth Merlin
Publisher: Ink Monster LLC
Publication Date: May 30, 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction


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Coming June 27th

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One S’more Summer
The Campfire Series #1
Beth Merlin
Ink Monster LLC, May 2017
ISBN 9781943858200

From the publisher—

For twenty long years, Gigi Goldstein has been pining away for her best friend’s guy. She knows it’s wrong and it has to stop, but she hasn’t been able to let go ever since they all met on the bus to summer camp back when they were 7 years old. The same week that her best friends finally announce their wedding date, Gigi loses her high-profile design job. With all of her dreams unravelling, she runs to the last place she remembers being happy.

Taking the Head Counselor position at Camp Chinooka, Gigi hopes to reclaim the joy she felt as a camper, but the job isn’t all campfire songs and toasting marshmallows. Gigi’s girls are determined to make her look bad in front of the boys’ Head Counselor—the sexy but infuriating Perry—and every scrap of the campground is laced with memories.

When Gigi finally realizes she can’t escape the present by returning to her past, she’s forced to reexamine her life and find the true meaning of love. But will she be able to mend fences and forgive herself before she loses her one real shot at happiness?

I admit it, my head was turned by a book cover. When I saw this, I couldn’t help flashing back to all the years my family went tent camping, not to mention my Girl Scout years and all the summers I went to one camp or another. I didn’t need any other incentive to read this.

(I also have a strange compulsion to watch movies set at camps.  Hmm….)

Gigi’s first day as head counselor really brought back memories of the camp I went to as a thirteen-year-old except for one thing: Gigi makes it sound like getting rid of head counselors was every campers dream, every year. I never experienced anything like that; rather, all the hostilities and machinations were directed at other campers. Oh, well, this is chick-lit at it’s core so I just ignored the things that didn’t really matter to the central story.

Gigi is frustrated with her life and that made her a little frustrating to me because she is a bit of a whiner but I totally understood her. When you get right down to it, Gigi is running away and hopes to find solace in the place that was the beginning of her friendships with two very important people. Jordana and Jamie are memorable characters (in a good way) but the developing relationship between Gigi and Perry is what it’s all about and Perry is a delight. It was fun to see these two work their way through their pasts so they can maybe find the future.

I love the way Beth Merlin never quite tells it all so I kept wondering when I would find out more. That’s a great way to hold my attention and adds a touch of chick-lit style suspense. You could almost call this a mystery. Nah, not really, but…. I also appreciated that romance is certainly present but it isn’t the be-all end-all. Instead, Gigi coming to terms with herself and her life is what’s really important. Overall, I enjoyed this book quite a lot.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, June 2017.

About the Author

Beth Merlin has a BA from The George Washington University where she minored in Creative Writing and a JD from New York Law School. She’s a native New Yorker who loves anything Broadway, rom-coms, her daughter Hadley, and a good maxi dress. She was introduced to her husband through a friend she met at sleepaway camp and considers the eight summers she spent there to be some of the most formative of her life. One S’more Summer is Beth’s debut novel.

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Book Review: Uninvited by Leah Spiegel and Meg Summers


Title: Uninvited
Series: South Hills Sidekicks #1
Authors: Leah Spiegel and Meg Summers
Publication date: February 11th 2012
Genre: Humorous YA Chick-Lit


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South Hills Sidekicks #1
Leah Spiegel and Meg Summers
Leah Spiegel and Megan Summers, February 2012
ISBN 978-1469995984
Trade Paperback

From the authors—

When Alley started her senior year at Upper East High in the South Hills area, it was supposed to be the usual drag of hanging out with people who spent more on one outfit than Alley did on her entire wardrobe. That was until Kirsten, a girl in their clique, suddenly goes missing and the only people who seem to care are her friends. All evidence leads to the new comer Shane, a cocky and self-pretentious person in Alley’s opinion, but the police seem uninterested so she and the rest of the girls start a little investigation of their own. But they are nowhere closer to finding Kirsten than when they started and now they had the police’s attention; just not in the way they expected. The girls have to start over and discover that maybe it wasn’t an outsider who took Kirsten, but someone within their own clique who has something to hide; a secret that just might have gotten Kirsten killed.

Looking for a fun way to spend a day or two or three? Look no further, Uninvited is the perfect fluffy entertainment and you won’t be sorry you decided to hang out with Alley and her pals.

One of the oddities (to me) that I’ve noticed in contemporary young adult fiction is the repetition of certain stereotypical behaviors, most notably that the popular girls must also be mean girls. I’m happy to say that Ms. Spiegel and Ms. Summers have avoided that trap and these four are actually pretty nice to their classmates. They might very well be one of the top cliques in school, they’re attractive and three of the four have more money than any teenager needs but they’re also amusing, intelligent and, in the case of Val, refreshingly uncoordinated. Val reminds me of a dear friend from the past who was strikingly attractive and yet likely to fall flat on her rear or her face at any moment.

As a fan of mysteries, I thoroughly enjoyed watching Alley and the others turn into modern-day Nancy Drews when their friend goes missing and their attempts at sleuthing had me smiling all the way. I was actually pretty sorry to come to the end because I was having such a good time but, happily, there are two more books in the trilogy so Alley, Val, Kayla and Libby can draw me back into their adventures. I’m off to find Confiscated and Compromised right now.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2013.

About the Author

Leah Spiegel and Meg SummersAlthough we moved down to North Carolina several years ago, we’re originally from the Pittsburgh area. (That’s why a lot of our characters either live in the Burgh or reference our hometown football team, The Pittsburgh Steelers.) And yes, we even have the Southern accents to show for it now. Although Megan’s is considerable thicker, Leah still can’t understand the locals.

We are known as ‘the sisters’ among our neighborhood; when actually we’re probably really known as ‘the sisters with the Yorkies’. Our pups, Skippy Jon Jones and Captain Jack Sparrow, were given long names to compensate for their small size but not their large personalities.

If Leah’s not glued to her electronic devices, AKA her Kindle Fire and various laptops, you can find her training ‘the attack dogs’, running on the treadmill while conceiving the next great book idea with the Dave Matthews Band, Muse, Florence and the Machine, The Lumineers, and Pink (just to name a few) blaring out of her earphones.

If Megan’s not glued to her electronic devices AKA her iPad and Nook Color, you can find her teaching fourth graders, swimming marathon style at the pool, or cuddling with ‘the attack dogs’ as she watches Duck Dynasty, Gold Rush, Scandal, Person of Interest, Morning Joe, etc.

Leah graduated from Edinboro University with a BA in Art Education. Megan received her teaching degree from Edinboro University and Masters in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in Technology from Grand Canyon University.

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Book Review: Lucky in Love by Deborah Coonts

Lucky in Love
Deborah Coonts
Forge, January 2012
ISBN 978-1-4668-0548-4
ebook exclusive

Lucky O’Toole, Head of Customer Relations at The Babylon on the Vegas Strip, has a full plate every day but this time she might have taken on a little too much. A reality TV show, “The Forever Game”, will be televising the final competition of the show live at The Babylon with four couples vying for the grand prize of a lavish Las Vegas wedding. It sounds simple enough but Lucky had no idea just how smarmy the host, Trey Gold, is or how dysfunctional the couples would be. That’s all well and good—after all, how hard can it be to make sure the show goes on without a major hitch?

Then, the first couple disappears and everything spirals down from there. Lucky races from one crisis to another including a trip to Miss Minnie’s Magical Massage Parlor to rescue Trey from the clutches of Miss Minnie and her employees because he’s too cheap to pay for the last, er, service and another trip to the home of a playboy swinger to extract a pair of guests trapped by the paparazzi. A jewel-encrusted battery-operated “boyfriend” becomes a weapon and, well, this reality show is becoming way too real.

In the meantime, Lucky has to deal with the mother from hell who is a former Madam and a friend/lover with his own agenda. Life in Vegas may be perpetually interesting but it sure isn’t easy.

Lucky in Love is a novella, an entertaining “in-between” for current readers of the romantic mystery series and an introduction for potential fans. There is no mystery here but humor abounds along with a little romance and a bit of risque activity, all in great fun, and I recommend it to anyone looking for a light, funny read.

Sidenote: There have been comparisons between the Lucky O’Toole series and the Jack Daniels series by J.A. Konrath. The only real similarity is that both have a good deal of humor; the Konrath series is far more violent and graphic. A better comparison to Lucky O’Toole is the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich (but Lucky is much smarter!)

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, March 2012.

Book Review: A Slot Machine Ate My Midlife Crisis by Irene Woodbury

A Slot Machine Ate My Midlife Crisis
Irene Woodbury
SynergEbooks, August 2011

My review policy: I am not a professional reviewer; I don’t get paid to review books.

This book came to me via a gifted Kindle download, but accepting the book in no way obligated me to give a good review. I try to be fair in all of my reviews and reveal up front how I review.

Using the Amazon five star rating as a guide, I lop off a point of a star for each typo, misspelling, and grammatical error I encounter. Five points gone, one star lost. This star can be regained by a fascinating plot, memorable characters, stellar writing, and, in the end, the story leaves me wanting more from the author. All that said, here is my review of A Slot Machine Ate My Midlife Crisis. (THREE STARS)

First off, we usually expect Chick Lit (which this book is touted as) to introduce us to a character who, through her trials and tribulations, takes us on a fun and interesting trip with her, culminating in a satisfying end result. Unfortunately, this book doesn’t do that, mainly because of the protagonist, Wendy.

Wendy seems to have it all. Although currently unemployed, she has major credentials in fashion retail, she just married the man of her dreams (her first marriage, by the way, at forty-five), and a new colonial mansion in Houston she has carte blanche to renovate. But Wendy, who is possibly the most self-centered, unlikable character I’ve encountered in many a book, isn’t happy. And rather than, say, get a new job, put up with her husband’s (whom she professes to be mad about) bosses’ society wives (how dare them accept her into their social circles and try to include her in all of their activities?) she runs off to Vegas. And stays.

I won’t give away too much more of the plot, but if you want a tour guide of restaurants and clubs in Las Vegas, and have a big fat wallet to blow on them, this a good book for you.

Reviewed by guest reviewer Jinx Schwartz, November 2011.