Luck, Love & Lemon Pie by Amy E. Reichert

As MJ Boudreaux sits anxiously waiting for her very late husband to meet her to celebrate their anniversary at a restaurant to which she has brought a lemon pie, lovingly made by someone other than herself, a pie which at one time during their long relationship had been a symbol of their love and affection for each other many years ago, she begins to realize they are no longer those two people.

Yes, work, children and life have taken its toll on them, always having to put other’s needs before their own. Especially MJ who not only works, but takes care of the house, children, husband and dog. Her husband Chris seems no worse for the wear as he appears content to work and play poker, something he enjoys so much that he is late for their lunch! So as MJ sits waiting, she decides things need to change in their marriage. They are drifting away from each other. She can feel it. They must try and have more in common, go on date nights, anything to rekindle the spark they use to have.

It’s then she realizes poker may be the glue she needs to hold this relationship together! She will learn and play so they can go together. Not a novice to the game, she worked at a bar during college, where she met Chris, and her mother owned a bar when she was a child which use to hold poker games. She did use to watch them play. At first Chris is wary of MJ’s plan, especially when they have a friendly game at home which does not go so well, but Chris agrees spending more time together, even if it is at at casino might be enjoyable.

After her first poker experience at the casino, MJ decides she needs some practice. She discovers she may actually have a knack for cards and reading opponents. She begins going separate from Chris to hone her skills, so much so that she decides to enter a poker tournament whose prize is a trip to Las Vegas and lessons from the top poker player who also is a handsome bachelor.

Chris seems supportive at first, but when MJ begins to neglect not only him, but their children in order to spend time practicing at the casino, the rejection hits him hard. And when MJ wins the tournament he decides not to go to Las Vegas with her.

An idea which was suppose to bring them together, now seems to have separated them even further. With MJ going to Las Vegas and Chris staying home with the kids, the situation goes from bad to worse. What happens in Vegas is suppose to stay in Vegas right? But not in this case! Will MJ be able to repair her marriage before it is irrevocably broken? This may not be as easy as a simple slice of lemon pie!

Reichert, author of the Coincidence of Coconut Cake has once again mastered the telling of a love story with characters who are a bit flawed and yet she is able to teach us all lessons in life and love.

Welcome to the United States of Anxiety by Jen Lancaster

I have been reading Jen Lancaster’s books since I happened on her book of essays called Bitter is the New Black while shopping at BJ’s many, many years ago. I have always enjoyed her snarky wit and her boldness in the midst of social awkwardness.

Welcome to the United States of Anxiety is her new book of essays which sometimes reads more like a dissertation, but correctly points out the chaos and confusion of the new norms while trying to navigate social media which sometimes (well, most times) consumes our lives. Social media can take time away from your real life, although it feels like real life, it can also impede our daily life and cause anxiousness, even depression.

She rightfully explains how years prior to any type of social media one could make a mistake, dress improperly, have a disagreement with a friend and it would be over so quickly, you would forget whatever happened. Now, with social media, not only can a small incident turn into a major war, it can last for eternity where it can be brought up again and again.

Lancaster’s biting humor and sarcasm are still visible in these new essays, but she also backs up all her information with statistics which, given the age we live in now, seems extremely appropriate.

Her essay on The State of Our Stressed-Out Union, explains how social media has opened up a new world to people who grew up in an era where most things were private, where no one outside of the family had access to secret information and those who did would take it to the grave. Her parents, as most during that time of innocence, allowed their children to never wear seatbelts, never lock the doors, make no calls after 10 o’clock p.m., (way too expensive) or even… we have a prowler? Oh, probably a boy from the high school worries! Everyone seemed to be of the same easygoing mindset.

Now, with social media, one can be influenced into what to eat, think, wear, feel or even which “influencer” that’s a thing too now, should influence YOU. Lancaster tells the story of being on Facebook and connecting with an old friend, only to find their beliefs might not exactly be the same and stressing out as to whether to block the person or just never go on Facebook again. Now this is a stress no one ever saw coming back in the 80’s or 90’s!

A powerful essay is how she had to distance herself from her mother, a relationship which was complicated to begin with, and how the power of social media actually became a tool her mother was able to use against her.

Welcome to the United States of Anxiety is a funny, sadly very true story of where we were, how far we have come and where we are trending. Now I need to go check twitter to see if anyone liked the last tweet!

Thank you #NetGalley #LittleA #WelcometotheUnitedStatesof Anxiety #JenLancaster for the advanced copy.

First Date by Sue Watson

First Date is an intense psychological thriller on steroids with one shocking revelation after another culminating into an explosive ending!

All Hannah wants in life is to fall in love and settle down with someone. She wants her happily ever after. Unfortunately, most of her relationships end badly with some such as her last being very bitter.

Through her best friend’s prodding, she decides to join a dating app and seems to strike gold on her first pick. Alex, her date, is a lawyer, wants the same number of children, even the same type of dog! His work compliments her work as a social worker. They both had somewhat bad childhoods and can relate to one another on so many levels.

They have an immediate connection and he invites her over to his house for dinner. During dinner, although still smitten, Hannah sees perhaps a few tiny cracks, but chalks them up to getting to know someone new.

On the other hand, Hannah’s friends and workmates seem to feel she is jumping into this relationship too quickly. Perhaps she should slow down. But Hannah truly believes he is the one. It doesn’t matter that he possibly has hidden a few issues from his past relationship from her. She herself thinks her ex-boyfriend could be stalking her so she somewhat understands. Hannah chalks it up to being in a new relationship and not wanting to mess things up. Or maybe he is just trying too hard.

But then Hannah begins to run out of excuses for Alex’s very odd behavior. She finally admits to herself, something her best friend has been constantly telling her, that she could be dating someone who is a bit crazy. And now not only are her friends concerned, but she is as well!

When strange this begin to happen to Hannah she becomes convinced that not only is Alex not her dream boyfriend, but possibly a sociopathic stalking nightmare! It seems he wants her all to himself and will go to any length to have her. What has she gotten herself into?? How on earth does she get herself out?

As First Date races to its highly unanticipated, jaw-dropping conclusion, we can only hope Hannah will come out of this experience with better intuition as to who her next boyfriend should be.

Thank you so much #NetGalley #Bookouture #FirstDate #SueWatson for the advanced copy.