Thursday, August 17, 2017

Beyond the Books: Cleo Madison Shirt Review

Although I review mostly books, I actually receive a fair amount of requests from retailers offering up products to try.  I decline most of them,  but when it comes to clothes, well ... I have a hard time resisting!  So, when Liz—the owner of Cleo Madison, an online boutique specializing in modest clothing—offered to let me try an item from her store in exchange for a review, I jumped at the chance.

As you've probably discerned already, I chose the Betty Floral Baseball Tee pictured above (shown on a model, who's about 1000% more photogenic than I am).  I'm plus-sized, so I got an x-large, which fit just right—not too tight, not too loose.  The length, especially, is perfect.  I love the grey t-shirt fabric that makes up the sleeves and back of the shirt.  It's soft, stretchy, and super comfy.  I'm not as wild about the floral panel in front.  It's fairly sheer (I wear a cami underneath because I'm self-conscious like that) and the material is a little scratchy.  It has a tendency to bunch around the chest area, so I find myself tugging it down a lot.  Irritating, but not a huge, huge deal.  Overall, I like this shirt because of the soft t-shirt fabric (love it!), the fun print (a nice change from my usual plain Jane tops), and the length (perfect).  Despite a few annoying details, it's a piece I enjoy wearing.

Owner Liz Morgan created her shop in an effort to provide women with a convenient place to find clothes that are modest, conservative and trendy.  Cleo Madison definitely delivers.  While the Betty Floral Baseball Tee is unfortunately sold out, the store still has plenty of tops, dresses/skirts, shoes, and swimwear from which to choose.  The prices are reasonable, shipping is free in the U.S., products arrive quickly—what's not to love?  Be sure to check Cleo Madison out on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and its website.  For fun posts on fashion, food, travel, modesty, etc., don't miss Liz's blog.

To the FCC, with love:  I received a free product in exchange for an honest review.  Many thanks to Liz at Cleo Madison for her generosity!

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Casey's YA Mysteries Just As Compelling As Her Adult Books

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Most people would be ecstatic about spending their summer holiday at the seashore.  Not 16-year-old Jess Tennant.  She doesn't have anything against the beach, it's just the odd circumstances under which she's being taken there.  Her mother—who has always been tight-lipped about her past—has suddenly decided to whisk Jess away from London to tiny Port Sentinel, the seaside town where she was reared.  They'll be staying for months with an aunt and cousins Jess has never met.  Talk about awkward.

Even more awkward is the reaction Jess receives while walking around town.  People gawp at her like they're seeing a ghost.  Which they are, kind of.  Turns out, Jess bears a remarkable resemblance to her cousin Freya, who recently died in a fall off a steep cliff.  The death has been ruled a suicide, but not everyone is convinced.  The more Jess learns about her late cousin, the more she suspects Freya didn't die by choice.  Jess wants answers, but her questions only provoke stern warnings and unsettling threats.  What really happened to Freya Leonard?  Jess is determined to find out.

I'm a big fan of Irish crime writer Jane Casey's adult novels, so I was eager to give her YA series a go.  I ended up liking it quite a bit, even more than her other books in some ways.  How to Fall, the first installment in the trilogy, introduces the intrepid Jess Tennant.  Our heroine is tenacious, brave, and independent.  With a funny, self-deprecating voice, she's easy to both like and admire.  There's plenty going on in How to Fall to keep readers engaged.  In fact, it's a fast, exciting page turner that can easily be read in one sitting.  The story takes some dark turns and the teen characters often act a lot older than they're supposed to be, but overall, I enjoyed How to Fall.  It took less than a chapter to convince me to put the next two books in the series on hold at my library.  I've already devoured them because, well, they're just that compelling.  Enough said.

(Readalikes:  the other two books in the trilogy, Bet Your Life and Hide and Seek)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for language (no F-bombs), violence, sexual innuendo, and depictions of underage drinking

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Love at First Note Strikes Just the Right Chord

(Image from Deseret Book)

Violinist Emma Hill knows that moving back to Asheville, North Carolina, will mean taking a step backward in her flourishing music career.  Since the South is not exactly overrun with eligible Mormon bachelors, the 25-year-old's dating life will likely take a hit as well.  Family's worth it, though, and Emma's is struggling.  The effects of her mother's MS are taking a toll on her parents, while her younger sister—also a talented violinist—is threatening to quit music altogether.  Emma wants to be there to help, even if her folks insist they're fine.

http://www.blogginboutbooks.com/p/lds-authors.htmlTo Emma's surprise, Asheville is not as RM deficient as she thought it would be.  In fact, a very good-looking specimen has just moved into the apartment next door.  Not only is Elliott Hart hot, but he's also humble and kind.  And a musician to boot.  With a large YouTube following, the 26-year-old pianist is a minor celebrity—minus the inflated ego.  In fact, he could not be more perfect.  With all she and Elliott have in common, Emma expects their hearts to fall into perfect harmony.  

Except, they don't.

Why is Elliott rebuffing Emma's every (admittedly clumsy) move?  How can she convince him she's serious Eternal Companion material and not just another star struck fan?  Will the two ever make beautiful music together?  Or has Emma struck too many wrong notes with the man she's coming to love most desperately?

www.whitneyawards.comI don't read a lot of them, but I do love me a fun, swoony rom com.  It has to be done right, though, and Love at First Note by Jenny Proctor definitely struck a chord.  Yes, it skims on plot.  Still, the novel is light, sweet, and humorous, just as it should be.  As a bonus, the characters have depth to them; the story is engaging; and the tone is upbeat.  It's a cute, clean romance.  Easy to read, easy to love.  Which I did.  This is the first book I've read by Proctor, but Love at First Note convinced me that it won't be the last.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of LDS romances by Melanie Jacobson and Brittany Larsen)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for mild sexual innuendo

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-copy of Love at First Note from the generous folks at Covenant via those on the Whitney Awards Committee for contest judging purposes.  Thank you!

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Cancun Rom Com Just ... Ridiculous

(Image from Amazon)

http://www.blogginboutbooks.com/p/lds-authors.htmlSeven years ago, the man of Belle Lind's dreams married her college roommate.  So what if Marco Dawson barely knew Belle existed?  She knows the two of them are meant to be together.  When Belle learns that Marco is now divorced and vacationing with his family at a posh Cancun resort, it seems like fate.  The 25-year-old fashion designer isn't afraid to take this chance to finally make Marco hers.  And what more romantic setting could there possibly be than sultry Cancun?

Enter Flynn Dawson, Marco's identical twin.  Flynn's determined to help Marco glue his marriage back together.  And he's not about to let Belle stand in the estranged couple's way.  'Course, Belle has no idea Marco even has a twin brother ... Cue chaos, confusion, and canoodling on a Cancun beach that's getting hotter by the second.  

http://whitneyawards.com/http://www.blogginboutbooks.com/p/arizona-authors.htmlI'm not a big romance reader as you well know, but I don't mind the occasional rom com—as long as it's more cute than silly.  Sadly, How I Met Your Brother by Janette Rallison is just plain ole ridiculous.  I hate to rag on Rallison, as she is a wonderful, generous person who has written some novels that I've really loved (check out her very fun My Fair Godmother series), but this novel is definitely not up to par.  It is a clean, lighthearted, easy read that will not tax your brain (like, at all), so there's that.  On the other hand, we have a childish, manipulative, fickle heroine; shallow, one-dimensional minor characters; a plot that gets more absurd as it goes; and dull, tell-y prose.  So, yeah.  If it hadn't been required reading for the Whitney category I was judging, I wouldn't have made it past the novel's first page.  At least it was a quick read.

(Readalikes: The book has been promoted as Sabrina meets While You Were Sleeping, which I guess I can kinda sorta see ...)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for sexual innuendo

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-copy of How I Met Your Brother from the Whitney Awards Committee for judging purposes.  Thank you! 

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Sweet, Small-Town Romance an Entertaining, Inspiring Read

(Image from Barnes & Noble)


Noah Mitchell never believed in love at first sight—until he met Josephine Dupree.  Despite the rumors swirling about the beautiful new girl in town, Noah is immediately smitten.  Josie is kind, beautiful, tenacious, and fun.  So she doesn't talk much about her past.  So he's only known her for a few months.  So what?  When it's right, it's right.  Noah can't wait to make her his bride.

http://tlcbooktours.com/Fast forward two years.  After a stinging betrayal, Noah and Josephine are divorced and pursuing separate lives in little Copper Creek, Georgia.  Noah lives on a remote ranch, preferring solitude to ever seeing his ex-wife again.  Josie sees plenty of men at the barbershop she owns, but she vows she'll never make the mistake of giving away her heart again.

When the two discover their divorce was never finalized, they're both shocked and angry.  Thrown together in an effort to end their marriage once and for all, Noah and Josie find themselves trapped at Noah's ranch in the middle of a freak Spring snowstorm.  As circumstances get more and more dire, the couple must learn to trust and rely on each other once again.  With the secrets of Josie's past finally coming to light, there's a new honesty between them.  Will it be enough to bring the embittered pair back together?  Or will it tear them further apart?

Sweetbriar Cottage, a Christian romance by Denise Hunter, is a light, compelling novel about family, forgiveness, and faith.  Although the leading characters are not all that unique or memorable, it's easy to care about them.  While I didn't find Josie super convincing, I did like that the rekindling of her romance with Noah felt realistic.  There was definitely a slow-burning chemistry between them that kept things interesting.  I generally find Christian fiction too preachy for me, but Sweetbriar Cottage had just the right amount of religion sprinkled throughout the story.  It's nice to read about a normal, everyday Christian character who's faithful without being a raving fanatic.  Overall, then, I enjoyed this fast, romantic read turned survival story.  It's entertaining and inspiring without being over-the-top.

(Readalikes:  Hm, I can't really think of anything.  Can you?)

Grade:

If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for disturbing subject matter (not overly graphic, but enough to merit a caution)

To the FTC, with love:  I received an ARC of Sweetbriar Cottage from the generous folks at Thomas Nelson via those at TLC Book Tours.  Thank you!

Friday, July 28, 2017

YA Racism Novel About as Subtle as a Sledgehammer

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

1920—Will Tillman is a white teenager selling record players at his father's shop in Tulsa.  Black customers aren't allowed to make purchases, but sometimes the elder Tillman allows some off-the-record sales.  When Will agrees to do business with a young black man, he unknowingly makes a decision that will put the lives of three people in danger.  In a time and place boiling over with racial tension, it's a decision that will prove fatal for one of them.

http://www.blogginboutbooks.com/p/baby-steps-to-understanding.htmlPresent Day—When the Chase Family decides to have the ancient slave quarters behind their old Tulsa home converted into a modern guest cottage, the last thing they expect to get out of the renovation project is a corpse.  But that's exactly what the construction crew digs up.  The only clue to the skeleton's identity is the dusty wallet Rowan Chase pinches from its pocket when no one is looking.  Intrigued by what she finds inside, the 17-year-old launches a secret investigation into the identity of the body.  Her detecting points her to an old Victrola shop and the infamous race riot of 1921.  How is the body on Rowan's property connected to that event?  What, if anything, did her own family have to do with its demise?  

Although she's a bi-racial woman living in Tulsa, Rowan has never thought much about what happened in her town over 100 years ago.  Now, though, she's obsessed. She thought things had changed a whole lot since then, but the more she learns about Will Tillman and a black man named Joseph Goodhope, the more she wonders if anything has changed at all.

Dreamland Burning, a YA novel by Jennifer Latham, brings to life a tragic historical event that I knew nothing about.  Latham uses the riot as a backdrop for an intriguing tale about friendship, hope, and race.  The story is compelling, although its messages are about as subtle as a sledgehammer.  It's peopled with diverse characters who push against established stereotypes, which I appreciate, but again, some details (James' sexuality, for instance) seem tacked on just to up the book's diversity quotient.  Overall, I found Dreamland Burning intriguing.  Certain elements annoyed me, though, which turned the novel into a just okay read for me.

(Readalikes:  Hm, I can't think of anything.  Can you?)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:



for violence, language (no F-bombs), blood/gore, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  I bought a copy of Dreamland Burning from Amazon with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Likable Heroine + Compelling Plot = Another Winning Maeve Kerrigan Mystery

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

(Note:  While this review will not contain spoilers for After the Fire, it may inadvertently reveal plot surprises from earlier Maeve Kerrigan mysteries.  As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order.)

Murchison House, one of the concrete high-rises that makes up London's seedy Maudling Estate housing project, is no stranger to police activity.  The place is a magnet for every kind of criminal activity possible.  This time, a savage—and suspicious—fire has ravaged through the building, leaving many residents displaced and desperate.  Four people are dead, one of them an outspoken politician well known for his racist rantings.  What was a man like him doing in a dive like Murchison House?  

As DC Maeve Kerrigan and the rest of the murder squad look into the incident, it becomes crystal clear that the fire was no accident.  Neither was the politician's death.  Plenty of people had reason to loathe Geoff Armstrong, but who actually killed him?  Everyone connected with Murchison House has something to hide, including Mr. Armstrong.  The more Maeve discovers, the more risky her job becomes.  Murchison House has always been a dangerous place—will it be a deadly one for the intrepid DC Kerrigan?  As if she doesn't have enough to worry about, Maeve is still dodging the skin-crawling attention of her stalker; dealing with a condition that could put her job at risk; and trying to sort out her feelings for one DI Josh Derwent.  One thing is clear—she's in for a wild ride.

You've probably realized by now that I'm a raving Maeve Kerrigan fan.  Jane Casey's heroine is brave, tenacious, and, above all, human.  She's unfailingly likable, an always compelling narrator whom I happen to adore.  The series also boasts intriguing minor characters and taut, engrossing plots.  After the Fire, the sixth installment, is no exception.  With a number of didn't-see-that-coming twists, the story kept me riveted.  As always, I'm intrigued to see where Casey takes Maeve next.  Wherever it is, I'll definitely be along for the ride!

(Readalikes: Other books in the Maeve Kerrigan series, including Left for Dead [novella]; The Burning; The Reckoning; The Last Girl; The Stranger You Know; The Kill; and Let the Dead Speak; also reminds me of books by Sharon Bolton and Tana French)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for strong language, violence, blood/gore, sexual content, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Lyrical Southern Novel Atmospheric and Powerfully Rendered

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Adelaide Lyle doesn't go inside the church anymore.  The only reason she comes anywhere near the building is for the children.  Kids should not be anywhere close to the River Road Church of Christ in Signs Following or its dangerous pastor.  It's up to the 81-year-old midwife to steer them away, to keep them safe.  Their parents might believe in Pastor Chambliss' poison-drinking, snake-handling brand of faith, but that doesn't mean the children should be in harm's way.

Despite Adelaide's watchful eye, a mute, autistic teenager dies during church services.  Although the pastor claims the boy's death was an accident, Adelaide doesn't believe it.  Not for a minute.  Strange, sinister things follow Carson Chambliss wherever he goes.  What really happened inside the church?  Why is an innocent boy dead?  

A Land More Kind Than Home, a debut novel by Wiley Cash, tells the story of a tragic death and the ways in which it rocks a small North Carolina town.  Atmospheric and powerfully rendered, it hits on important subjects—faith vs. fanaticism, revenge vs. redemption, and remorse vs. regret.  It's an undeniably sad novel, but a compelling one nonetheless. The story has stuck with me, even though it's been months since I read it.  If you enjoy rich, thought-provoking Southern fiction, you won't want to miss this one.

(Readalikes: Reminded me a little of The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for language (1 F-bomb, plus milder expletives), violence, blood/gore, and mild sexual content

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Fifth Maeve Kerrigan Mystery Leaves Me Hankering for the Sixth ... and Seventh ... and Eighth ... and ...

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

(Note: While this review will not contain spoilers for The Kill, it may inadvertently reveal plot surprises from earlier Maeve Kerrigan mysteries. As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order.)

DC Maeve Kerrigan is looking forward to attending the wedding of a colleague in the peaceful English countryside.  She could use a break from the grimness of her job as a London murder detective.  A brutal cop killing in the city cuts her holiday short, however, and it's not long before she and her mercurial partner, DI Josh Derwent, are headed back to the mean streets of London.  So much for the vacation Maeve so desperately needs.

Puzzled by the cold reaction of the policeman's widow, Maeve and Derwent must sort out the truth behind the murder.  What led to Sergeant Hammond's untimely demise?  Everyone involved in the crime seems to be hiding explosive secrets, including Maeve's boss.  Can Maeve filter out the facts in time to catch a killer?  Torn between loyalty to her mentor, her desire to put a murderer behind bars, and her blossoming attraction to her partner, Maeve's got plenty on her plate.  And things are about to go from bad to a whole lot worse ...

It's no secret that I love me some Maeve Kerrigan.  She's the perfect heroine—brave, devoted, and likable.  Her narrative voice is so compelling that I would literally follow it anywhere!  That's not tough, though, when Jane Casey writes such engrossing stories.  The Kill, the fifth installment in her popular series, is no exception.  Although I guessed the identity of the murderer early on in this one, the novel still held enough surprises to keep me turning pages late into the night.  I'm especially enjoying the growing relationship between Maeve and Josh, the latter of whom gets some much needed humanizing in The Kill.  The ending of this one made me sad, but it also left me hankering for the next book (and the next and the next ...).

(Readalikes:  other books in the Maeve Kerrigan series, including Left For Dead [novella]; The Burning; The Reckoning; The Last Girl; The Stranger You Know; After the Fire; and Let the Dead Speak; also reminds me of books by Tana French and Sharon Bolton)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for strong language, violence, blood/gore, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Debut Psychological Thriller Odd But Compelling

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

When Nora Lawrence hops on a train from London to Oxfordshire, she's expecting to spend a peaceful weekend in the country with her older sister.  She's shocked to her core when she finds Rachel stabbed to death in her home, her murdered dog nearby.  A nurse practitioner who kept to herself, 31-year-old Rachel was hardly the type to attract enemies.  Who could have committed such a brutal act against the woman and her canine companion?

As the police flounder around looking for suspects, Nora inserts herself into the investigation.  While managing to offend nearly everyone in town, she comes to realize how little she really knew about her sister's life in this far-flung hamlet.  Still, she wonders if Rachel's murder had anything to do with an unsolved assault Rachel suffered as a teen.  Did her attacker come back to finish the job?  Or did the killer have a more current motive?  Nora's determined to find out, even if it means putting her own neck on the line.

Under the Harrow, a psychological thriller by debut author Flynn Berry, has earned the expected comparisons to books like Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train.  And it is similar—in some ways.  It's moody, atmospheric, and depressing.  It's also just ... odd.  With a sluggish plot and characters who just aren't that likable (both Nora and Rachel come off as cold, unfeeling, and weird), Under the Harrow is not exactly a page turner.  It's compelling enough, though, that I wanted to know whodunit.  I also found myself surprised by the murderer, so there's that.  In the end, though, Under the Harrow was just an okay read for me. 

(Readalikes:  Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn; The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins; and similar psychological thrillers)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for language (a dozen or so F-bombs, plus milder expletives), violence, and blood/gore

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Reichs' Standalone Thriller Twisty and Compelling

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Need no one.  Feel nothing.


That's the mantra Sunday "Sunnie" Night has lived by ever since her forced retirement from the Charleston Police Department.  Living on isolated Goat Island, she keeps her distance even from her few neighbors.  It's only when her foster father, Perry "Beau" Beaumonde, asks a favor that Sunnie even contemplates breaking her strict code of not caring about anyone but herself.  A retired cop, Beau urges Sunnie to at least meet with a wealthy grandmother who's willing to pay big for information about her 15-year-old granddaughter, who's been missing ever since the Hebrew school bombing that killed her mother and brother. 

Sunnie can't help but identify with the teenage victim, who's described as moody, resentful, and unhappy.  Those are emotions with which Sunnie is all too familiar.  The fact that Stella Bright may have been kidnapped by members of a dangerous cult also piques Sunnie's interest.  Having narrowly escaped that life herself, she knows something about what Stella may be facing.  

Determined to find out what happened to the girl, Sunnie enlists the help of her twin brother, Gus.  Together, they chase leads across the country, risking their own lives to solve an increasingly puzzling mystery.  With danger lurking around every corner, will the two Nights survive their perilous assignment?

Two Nights, a standalone thriller by Kathy Reichs, author of the popular Temperance Brennan series (on which the t.v. series Bones is based), is a fast-paced, exciting story.  With lots of action and plenty of twists, it's a difficult-to-put-down page turner.  Sunnie is Tempe's opposite; she's tough, unyielding, and flinty.  Although she's not as warm or funny as Tempe (a character I happen to adore), Sunnie's a sympathetic character who's easy to like and admire.  While Two Nights didn't capture me as much as Reichs' other books have, I still enjoyed this engrossing mystery.

(Readalikes:  Um, nothing specific is coming to mind.  You?)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:



for strong language, violence, and blood/gore

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-ARC of Two Nights from the generous folks at Penguin Random House via those at Netgalley.  Thank you!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Always Thrilling Crime Series Never Disappoints



(Note: Although this review will not contain spoilers for The Stranger You Know, it may inadvertently reveal plot surprises from earlier Maeve Kerrigan mysteries.  As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order.)

London murder detective Maeve Kerrigan is at a loss.  Someone is strangling women in their homes, leaving no evidence behind.  Without DNA, footprints, or any other clue to guide them, Maeve and her team can't figure out how to proceed.  Who is this guy and how is he covering his trail so completely?


When evidence finally does start trickling in, it points in a disturbing direction—DCI Josh Derwent.  Maeve's partner is long on personality flaws and short on charm, but he's a driven, highly-skilled copper.  He can't be a murderer.  Can he?  Derwent has never been exactly forthcoming (except when Maeve really, really wishes he wouldn't be) about his personal life; truthfully, she doesn't know that much about him.  Could the misogynistic Derwent really be behind the brutal killings?  Maeve doesn't think so, but the more she learns about his dark past, the more uncertain she becomes.  Derwent has been accused of murder before.  Was he guilty then?  Is he guilty now?  Maeve has to know.

I've been a big Maeve Kerrigan fan ever since her debut in The Burning.  Irish crime writer Jane Casey has created an understated heroine who shines because of her humanity.  Maeve is tough and smart, compassionate and brave, but also fallible and self-deprecating.  I love her.  Casey also crafts tense, exciting plots filled with lots of twists as well as colorful characters.  The Stranger You Know, the fourth book in the series, is no exception.  It's a surprise-filled, action-packed, can't-put-it-down thriller that kept me totally engrossed.  Fair warning: Casey's books are not for the faint of heart.  They're disturbing and gory.  If you can handle that kind of thing, then I'd recommend Jane Casey's mystery/thrillers.  Her police procedurals are always top-notch—complex, well-written, and engaging.  If you're a British/U.K. crime fiction fan and haven't given Casey a go yet, you're missing out.

(Readalikes:  Other books in the Maeve Kerrigan series, including Left For Dead [novella]; The Burning; The Reckoning; The Last Girl; The Kill; After the Fire; and Let the Dead Speak.  Also reminds me of the Dublin Murder Squad series by Tana French and mystery/thrillers by Sharon Bolton)

Grade:

 

If this were a movie, it would be rated:


To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Highly Implausible Plot Line? Who Cares When It's So Totally Entertaining?

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Note:  While this review will not contain spoilers for Mormon Girl: Incognito, it may inadvertently reveal plot surprises from its predecessor, A Date With Danger.  As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order.

http://www.blogginboutbooks.com/p/lds-authors.htmlEight months ago, Jacklyn "Jack" Wyatt was just your average college co-ed.  Then, she got involved in an FBI sting operation, fell in love with special agent Damon Wade, and almost died during the rescue of a kidnapping victim.  Jack's undercover FBI gig ended in flames (literally) and now she's back to her boring old mall job.  On the plus side, Damon's a thoughtful, devoted boyfriend who makes Jack's heart skip several beats every time she sees him.  On the not-so plus side, he's evasive about his job, his family, his membership in the Church, and about his true feelings for his very patient girlfriend.  
When Damon travels to Las Vegas on business, Jack comes up with a brilliant plan to reignite their romance.  Unfortunately, her surprise visit to the Strip doesn't quite go according to plan.  Instead, she finds herself in the middle of another FBI operation, this time posing as a ruthless gunrunner.  Determined to protect Damon and his team by playing her part to perfection, Jack must trip her way (on stilettos, no less) through a world so unfamiliar it might as well be Mars.  To convince a crew of hardened thugs that she's a fearsome international arms dealers, Jack will have to fake her way through casino games, weapons demonstrations, and dangerous negotiations with the highest rollers in Vegas.  A tall order for a Utah native who's never played poker or held a gun and thinks bluffing is pretty much a mortal sin.  What's a good little Mormon girl to do?  

With Damon by her side, Jack knows she'll be safe.  Ish.  But when he reveals some shocking secrets about his past, she no longer knows whom to trust.  If she gets out of Vegas alive, the pair's going to have some serious DTR'ing to do ...

So, you know how LDS romantic suspense really isn't my jam?  While that hasn't changed, I have become a fan of Kari Iroz who happens to write ... wait for it ... LDS romantic suspense.  I know!  Whodathunkit?  The thing that I like about her books, A Date With Danger and its sequel, Mormon Girl: Incognito, is that they don't take themselves too seriously.  They're rom-coms more than anything else.  Our heroine, Jack Wyatt, is hilarious.  She's a funny, vulnerable, self-deprecating Everywoman who's impossible not to like.  Damon has less personality, but he's got hidden depths that I hope will be explored more in further novels (I'm keeping my fingers crossed for many more installments in this series).  Even more so than A Date With Danger, the happenings in Mormon Girl: Incognito are highly implausible; even still, they're totally entertaining.  I very willingly suspended my disbelief so I could follow along on Jack's misadventures in Vegas and, you know what?  No regrets.  I had a great time tearing through this fun, lighthearted novel.  Sure, it's far-fetched, but who cares when it's such an enjoyable read?  If you dig clean romantic comedy/suspense with a light sprinkling of LDS doctrine/culture, then you really ought to check out Jack Wyatt.  She's a gem.  

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of A Date With Danger by Kari Iroz and of the movie Miss Congeniality)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for mild sexual innuendo, scenes of peril, and references to illegal activities 

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of Mormon Girl: Incognito from the generous folks at Covenant.  Thank you!

--


Want more opinions on Mormon Girl: Incognito?  Check out the other stops on its blog tour:

*June 23rd: http://minreadsandreviews.blogspot.com/http://www.singinglibrarianbooks.com/http://literarytimeout.blogspot.com/http://booksaresanity.blogspot.com/http://www.blogginboutbooks.com/  

Please note:  My review was posted late.  Also, the giveaway associated with this blog tour has ended.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Need a Shivery, Chilling Tale For a Hot Summer Night? I've Got One For You ...

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Clare Martin and her husband, Jess, are desperately in need of a change.  When they're hired to be the caretakers of Riven House, a crumbling Hudson River Valley estate belonging to a beloved college professor, they're ecstatic.  Not only do they get to spend time with the man who mentored them both, but the peaceful setting couldn't be more perfect for two writers seeking inspiration.  Clare's praying the change of scenery will light a fire under Jess, who hasn't even started his second novel, the advance for which has already been spent. She's also hoping to restock their dwindling bank account while rekindling their dying marriage.  A tall order, but the bucolic setting seems capable of delivering everything Clare has ever wanted.

It's not long, though, before strange things start to happen.  Clare hears invisible babies crying in the night, sees wispy figures in the fog, and stumbles on creepy features in a house with a very disturbing history.  Either Clare is going crazy or Riven House is haunted.  The longer she stays, the more she suspects the former.  As the dream Clare embraced so thoroughly evolves into a terrifying nightmare, she'll discover shocking truths about Riven House's heartbreaking past, its current occupants, and her own upbringing.  With all its sinister secrets revealed, only one question remains: is Riven House possessed or is Clare?

I've enjoyed several of Carol Goodman's eerie mysteries, but her newest—The Widow's House—is my favorite so far.  Atmospheric and eerie, it's a spooky Gothic tale that gets creepier as its moves forward.  Although the plot builds slowly, the increasing intensity makes the novel impossible to put down.  Against my better judgment, I stayed up well past midnight to finish it and, yes, nightmares did ensue.  The Widow's House tells a depressing story, to be true, but it's also a compelling page turner that you won't be able to put down.  If you need a shivery tale to send chills down your spine on a scorching summer night, you can't go wrong with this one.

(Readalikes: Reminded me of other books by Carol Goodman as well as of Black Rabbit Hall by Eve Chase)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for language (a dozen or so F-bombs, plus milder expletives), violence, blood/gore, depictions of illegal drug use, and mild sexual content

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find
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