Review + Giveaway: The Secret Sister


Welcome to my stop for The Secret Sister by Brenda Novak. This is the first book in her Fairham Island series. It is a women’s fiction novel that releases July 28th. The tour runs July 27- Aug. 7 with mostly reviews and a few interviews and guest posts. I’m just one of the many stops for the tour, so be sure to check out the tour page.

The-Secret-Secret-Cover-202x300Title: The Secret Sister
Author: Brenda Novak
Publisher: Mira
Release Date: July 2015
Length: 400 pages
Series?: Fairham Island #1
Genre: Women’s Fiction

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

Did she once have a sister? Has her mother lied all these years? Why?

After a painful divorce, Maisey Lazarow returns to Fairham, the small island off the North Carolina coast where she grew up. She goes there to heal—and to help her brother, Keith, a deeply troubled man who’s asked her to come home. But she refuses to stay in the family house. The last person she wants to see is the wealthy, controlling mother she escaped years ago.

Instead, she finds herself living next door to someone else she’d prefer to avoid—Rafe Romero, the wild, reckless boy to whom she lost her virginity at sixteen. He’s back on the island, and to her surprise, he’s raising a young daughter alone. Maisey’s still attracted to him, but her heart’s too broken to risk…

Then something even more disturbing happens. She discovers a box of photographs that evoke distant memories of a little girl, a child Keith remembers, too. Maisey believes the girl must’ve been their sister, but their mother claims there was no sister.

Maisey’s convinced that child existed. So where is she now?


***** Review *****

The Skinny

Maisey returns home to Fairham Island to lick her wounds after her divorce. She also comes to help her troubled brother, Keith, keep it together. But she makes a grievous mistake by not staying with her elitist mother at Coldiron House and suffers through the wrath of her mother and added strain with her brother. Instead, she stays in the one place on the island where she feels a connection to her father, Smuggler’s Cove. The nine bungalows will be her inheritance, and they are in serious need of repair after a recent hurricane. Only problem is Rafe Romero now owns one and is constantly around. As Rafe repairs the bungalows, he finds a metal box filled with photos that rock Maisey’s world. Has there been a lie hidden in Coldiron House all these years? Who could help her uncover the truth that her mother and brother don’t want her to find?

The Players

Maisey Lazarow – daughter of Josephine Coldiron and Malcolm Lazarow, younger sister of Keith, famous children’s book author and illustrator, retreating to start over after the failure of her marriage, she is strong and a very private person

Keith took advantage of people and then moved on. It wasn’t intention as much as it was a matter of convenience. He’d never had to try very hard to get what he wanted, so it never meant a lot to him. He took the generosity of others for granted – and expected anyone he tossed aside to still be there if he decided to return.

Keith Lazarow -Maisey’s older brother, has always had problems, uses and abuses people for his own gain, has always been protective of Maisey

Josephine had always been a harsh disciplinarian, extremely self-centered and absolutely convinced that her opinion was the only one that mattered. She demanded absolute control of everyone and everything around her.

Josephine Lazarow – mother of Keith and Maisey, she is haughty and cold, used to getting her way, has had multiple husbands, owns nearly all of Fairham Island

Other than his five-o’clock shadow, his skin was smooth and clear and almost as golden as his eyes. He’d also added quite a bit of muscle, mainly in the arms and shoulders, which made him look powerful. His dark hair, although shorter, retained a bit of curl at the ends, and thick black lashes framed his eyes.

Rafe Romero – single father, moved back to the island to run his contracting business and care for his mother, reformed local bad boy, he is helpful and caring, wants a woman who wants him and his daughter,

Laney Romero – a delightful and inquisitive girl of five and three-quarters, Rafe’s only child, she requires special care and stays with her grandmother during the day

I can definitely see the realism in Josephine’s relationships with her children, and how it can manifest into Keith’s less-than-stellar choices and Maisey’s need to be away and alone. Rafe was an interesting character, like bad-boy turned modest husband. Laney, though, was my favorite character. She is incredibly cute and knows how to work her dad in the sweetest and most unspoiled of ways.

First Impressions

What Maisey needed most was her father, she realized as she stood at the railing, peering through the passengers crowding the gangway. Breathing in the island air, smelling the salty ocean and wet wood of the wharf, it all reminded her of him.

The novel opens with Maisey returning to Fairham Island to rest, recoup and regroup. It holds the best memories of her life with her father, and the worst with her mother. I foresaw some really ugly scenes between the two Lazarow women.

The idea of walking into Coldiron House – named after Josephine’s father, Henry Coldiron, who’d owned most of the island before Josephine inherited it – brought back a hint of her old defiance.

Second Thoughts

The relationship between Maisey and her brother runs so deep. It is a relationship I understand well, and it has its own complexities that are sometimes unknown to both Maisey and Keith. Maisey has always been Keith’s support when he’s been at his lowest, and even his ugliest. She has faith in him when everyone else has turned their backs on him and given up, but it is hard to continue to provide support and love when it is such a hard and draining relationship.

He seemed to forget his own mistakes almost as soon as he made them, seemed to expect everyone else to disregard the damage he caused. Because of that, and all his other problems, it was impossible to know how to be a good sister to him.

Keith is an interesting character. He has his own set of problems that he has carried with him his entire life, and he is harder to deal with than Josephine sometimes because of his unpredictability. It makes it really hard and puts even more strain on Maisey during her retreat to a safe haven.

She couldn’t even admit how close to despair she really was. She had to stand tall and lead the way, set an example for him. 

At least with Josephine it is easy to predict her motivations and reactions. Maisey has nothing to worry about there until she finds the metal box filled with pictures. Then it’s an entirely different ball game and Maisey isn’t sure of anything anymore. She’s left reeling.

How could she tell anyone the dark suspicions that were creeping to the forefront of her brain? Or that she couldn’t shake various memories of the terrible beatings her brother had received? She could’t say any of that. What she feared was too vile. She’d been shaking on the inside since she’d pried the lid off that metal box.

In all the madness with Josephine and Keith, Maisey is also trying unsuccessfully to avoid Rafe and any of the help he offers her. It comes as a shock to discover he is raising his daughter alone, and he’s doing a pretty good job of it. Rafe is the last person Maisey wants to deal with, besides her mother, but she came to Fairham for a safe haven, and he’s providing it.

Rafe’s relationship with his daughter, Laney, brings all the good things out in him. Laney is a very special little girl, and she requires more care than most, but she is so full of warmth and love that it is impossible not to fall in love with her. She adores her dad and grandma, and takes an immediate liking to Maisey.

Although Josephine and Keith try to put a stop to Maisey’s meddling in the past, afraid of what it might reveal, what she finds is nothing like what they expected.

I loved the relationships of each of the characters with the others, especially at the end of the novel. Laney is the sweetest little girl that captures more than one heart. Rafe is a man who’s made something of his life and is ready to share it with someone special. Keith is at the breaking point in his life and has nothing else to lose. Josephine has a heart under her pristine and collected image. Maisey finds the answers she’s needed to know all along.

I highly recommend this book because of the complexity of the relationships and the story that brings them all together. Since this is the first in a new series, I will definitely be continuing to read about Fairham Island and its goings on.

***** About the Author *****

Novak_Brenda_12_col-300x300New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author Brenda Novak has penned over 45 novels. A two-time Rita nominee, she’s won The National Reader’s Choice, The Bookseller’s Best, The Bookbuyer’s Best and many other awards. She runs an annual online auction for diabetes research every May at To date, she’s raised over $2 million. Brenda considers herself lucky to be a mother of five and married to the love of her life.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

***** Giveaway *****

Five (5) copies of The Secret Sister by Brenda Novak
Ends Aug. 12th

Click here to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway!


New Edition to the Family!

I come from a big family. My mother is the third child of six. The youngest two siblings are twins. Between five of the them there are a total of 18 1/3 grandchildren. I say 1/3 because my aunt volunteered to be as surrogate carrier for her friend, who cannot carry to term. She will find out on the 29th if the pregnancy took. She already has three boys, the youngest two who are twins. My mother also had twins as her last pregnancy, but lost them.

Back on track! We grandchildren now have secret bets as to who will have the twins. I am the sixth grandchild, and all of my older cousins (two of whom are now deceased) have their own children. The cousin two down from me had his baby earlier in the year. None of which are twins. So the bet is still on!

Between my five older cousins and the younger one, there are eight great-grandchildren. This week we welcomed a ninth great-grandchild, Layla. She is my oldest cousin’s third child. I expect her younger sister, who has two, will be forthcoming in announcing her own third pregnancy in the coming months. Funny how that works, eh?

10491968_302025896666049_608379821193668143_nThere she is with her grump on. She weighed in as the biggest baby yet at 9 lbs, 11 oz and measured 20 inches.

Here is a picture of big brother and big sister, who both became very emotionally attached to mom during the pregnancy, and are quite pleased with a younger sibling.



And lastly, this one. It was just too cute not to share.

10404392_10152773812555915_1100983348962668260_nThis is Layla’s two year old cousin, named after his deceased uncle. See that face? He was planning on stealing the baby. This is HIS cousin!


Author Interview: Camille Picott

Camille Author Pic
Camille Picot


Welcome to my stop on the tour for The Warrior & the Flower by Camille Picott.  This is an adult high fantasy, and to celebrate Chinese New Year the tour is running Jan. 27th-31st with mostly reviews and only a few interviews and spotlight posts.  Be sure to check out the tour page with additional info and list of tour stops.

Today the lovely author Camille Picott is in the spotlight! The blog tour is highlighting her recent novel The Warrior & The Flower. Check out my review of it here.

The Warrior & The Flower – Synopsis

Yi, a retired soldier, has lost everything he loves — his wife, his daughter, and his home. He seeks refuge from his heartache by plunging into a secret mission for the World Emperor. The assignment takes him to the doorstep of a brothel, where he witnesses the madam beating a young girl. Drawn by the child’s striking resemblance to his lost daughter, Yi rushes to her defense and negotiates for her purchase — after all, how hard can it be to care for one little girl? But between the child’s inquisitive nature and the dangerous secret she carries, he gets more than he bargained for.

Find the book: Website | Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble 

Thank you for your interview. Can you tell readers a little about yourself?

I’m a mom and wife who writes Asian-inspired speculative fiction. I work full time for a California winery doing purchasing, planning, and new packaging development. I write at night and on the weekends. I’m a passionate trail runner and health food freak.

What inspired you to become a writer?

When I was a little kid, I always told stories to my stuffed animals at night before falling asleep. As I got older, the natural progression was taking the stories in my head and typing them out on the computer. I was twelve years old when I started getting up early before school to write. I kept that going for many years, although now I prefer writing at night.

18194896Could you tell us a little about your main character, Yi?

Yi is many things. First and foremost, he is a loyal soldier and a father. He takes both duties seriously. When his wife and daughter are murdered, part of him dies. It’s not until he adopts Tulip that he finds a reason to live.

Who are a few of your favorite authors? What are a few of your favorite books?

Susan Ee, Lois McMaster Bujold, Suzanne Collins, Octavia Butler, Jacqueline Carey, Molly Harper, Diana Rowland, Markus Zusak, Cassandra Clare, Rhiannon Frater, Brandon Sanderson . . . wow, this list is getting long! There are so many writers I love!

Instead of favorite books, I’ll list a few of my favorite series . . . The Hunger Games, Mistborn, Kushiel’s Legacy, The Mortal Instruments, As The World Dies, White Trash Zombie.

Where do you like to write?

I write all over the house. I like to spend time with my family, so I tend to write wherever they are. Right now I am sitting in the kitchen with my daughter. She’s watching Tinker Bell while I write. At night I usually write on the bed while my husband watches television. My husband also made a desk for my treadmill, so I can run and write at the same time.

Do you have any other books in the works?

I’ve always got at least two things in the works! I like to keep busy. I’m writing a series of non-fiction articles called Writer’s Toolbox. These are articles aimed and helping science fiction and fantasy writers improve their craft. I’m also working on the second book in my Sulan series.

What are your future goals as a writer?

My immediate goals are to finish my Writer’s Toolbox collection and the second Sulan novel. Long term goals are to complete the Sulan series (3-4 books total + 3 novellas) and the 3 Kingdom series (3-4 books total). I’ve got ideas for another series I want to write, but I’ve promised myself not to start any other series until I finish these two!

What do you want readers to take away from The Warrior & The Flower?

Being a mother is something that’s very important to me. One of my goals with this novel was to write a story that explored a parent-child relationship. I wanted the relationship between the Yi and Tulip to be one of the driving points of plot and character development.

It’s something I haven’t encountered in other speculative fiction books I’ve read. If there is a parent-child relationship, it exists as a side sub-plot. More often, children are often left at home while the parents ride off into adventure, or else, if it’s YA, the kids are the ones off on adventures.

About the Author

Camille Picott is a fifth-generation Chinese American. She writes science fiction and fantasy books with Asian characters and/or Asian settings. Camille grew up reading speculative fiction stories largely devoid of Asian characters and culture. This, coupled with a passion for her heritage, is the reason she strives to bring some aspect of Eastern myth, legend, culture, and ethnicity to all of her writings.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads


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This tour was organized and put together by CBB Book Promotions.