Thursday, July 12, 2018

Creepy, Compelling Our House Chills Me Right to the Bone

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Fiona "Fi" Lawson has had enough of her husband's infidelity.  Bram's latest betrayal has thrown her life into a tailspin, but she refuses to let it completely uproot those of their two young sons.  Even she can admit that while Bram has failed as a spouse, he's an engaged, loving father.  He deserves to be in the boys' lives.  In order to provide the kids as much stability as possible, Fi and Bram agree to a "bird's nest" custody arrangement.  The children will remain in the family home, while the parents take turns living there with them.  

It's an unusual situation, but one that works surprisingly well—until the day Fi comes home from a trip to find strangers moving into her home.  With Bram and the boys nowhere in sight, Fi's sure she's the victim of some grand prank.  As the hours drag on with no answers, however, she begins to realize just how thoroughly, how shockingly, how viciously, she's been betrayed.

As a mystery/thriller nut, I've read about all kinds of mind-boggling terrors being enacted on ordinary, unsuspecting people.  Some are too fantastical to be believed, while others are so simple, so plausible, that they chill me right to the bone.  Such is the case with Our House by English author Louise Candlish (available in the U.S. August 7, 2018).  Its premise hooked me as soon as I read it because, really, what could be more horrifying than having your beautiful, safe, valuable home yanked right out from under you?  It's a disturbing thought, one that fuels this compelling novel, causing the reader to burn through its pages trying to figure out what happened and why.  The answers aren't as complex or twisty as I wanted them to be, but I still found the hunt for them engrossing and entertaining.  Despite a depressing end for characters who aren't all that likable in the first place, overall, I enjoyed Our House.  It's convincing and creepy in a way that had me questioning my husband about who actually owns our houses ...

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


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for strong language, violence, and sexual content

To the FTC, with love:  I received an ARC of Our House from the generous folks at Penguin Random House.  Thank you!

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Moose is Back and Better Than Ever in Newest Alcatraz Adventure

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Note:  Although this review will not contain spoilers for Al Capone Throws Me a Curve, it may inadvertently reveal plot surprises from earlier Alcatraz novels.  As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order.

While Moose Flanagan's friends believe his living situation on Alcatraz is the coolest thing ever, Moose just thinks of it as home.  The Island might house an inescapable prison, where some of the country's most notorious criminals are locked up, but it's not like he rubs shoulders with them in the chow line.  As unique a hometown as Alcatraz might be for a kid, it's still just a community with the same kind of mundane problems that plague any other place.  Of course, not every boy gets a helping hand now and then from the likes of Al Capone, but still ... Moose is just an ordinary kid.

It's the summer of 1936 and Moose has only one thing on his mind—baseball.  He desperately wants to make the high school team.  When his batting skills fail to impress the team's captain, Moose is offered a deal.  If he can bring the captain an impressive souvenir from the Rock, Moose is in.  It's an impossible task, but Moose has to try.  

Moose's big plans are thwarted by his usual nemeses, Natalie and Piper.  Although Natalie is four years older than Moose, her "special" condition means she can't be left alone.  The last thing on earth Moose wants to do is drag her to the mainland baseball diamond every day, but he's left with little choice.  He can't keep her out of trouble if he can't see her.  Unbelievably, the warden has asked him to keep an eye on his daughter as well.  Although Piper's pretty, she's also a mischievous, danger-loving whirlwind who's not afraid to sell out anyone who gets in the way of her scheming.  

All Moose wants to do is play baseball, but he's got two troublesome girls to watch over, a souvenir to procure, and a possible prison riot to worry about.  Before he knows it, he's up to his chin in problems.  When Natalie disappears at the worst possible time into the worst possible place, Moose is terrified—not just for his high school baseball career but for his very life ...

It's been five years since Gennifer Choldenko published an Al Capone book and man, have I missed Moose Flanagan!  He's an ordinary kid, yes, but one who possesses a heart of gold.  If you haven't gotten to know this understated but unforgettable character, you need to go back and read the three books that come before Al Capone Throws Me a Curve.  They're all atmospheric, entertaining, and exciting.  As is the newest installment in this excellent series.  Al Capone Throws Me a Curve brings back all the characters I fell in love with in the previous books and throws them into a new adventure that's even riskier than those that have come before.  With an intriguing setting, sympathetic characters, and lots of action, this book will keep readers young and old entertained from beginning to end.  I can't recommend the series highly enough.  I adore it.

(Readalikes:  Other books in the Alcatraz series, including Al Capone Does My Shirts; Al Capone Shines My Shoes; and Al Capone Does My Homework.  It also reminds me of The Warden's Daughter by Jerry Spinelli.)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for violence, scenes of peril, and brief, mild language (no F-bombs)

To the FTC, with love:  I received an ARC of Al Capone Throws Me a Curve from the generous folks at Penguin Random House.  Thank you!

Saturday, July 07, 2018

Propulsive Secret City Thriller Engrossing and Compelling

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Although Casey Duncan's seen plenty of crime in her two years as a homicide detective, it's the murder she committed while in college that haunts her the most.  As deserving as the victim may have been, he was still the son of a powerful mobster.  While Casey was never charged for the killing, a recent attack reminds her that she will never be truly safe.    

Diana Berry, Casey's best friend, has finally separated from her abusive ex-husband.  When he shows up unexpectedly, leaving Diana bruised and beaten, Casey decides enough is enough.  For both her and her BFF.  Diana knows of a place for people like them, people who need to disappear.  It's not easy to get into Rockton—a secret, off-the-grid town in the middle of nowhere—but Casey knows how to investigate a murder and Rockton's just experienced its first one.  The town needs Casey almost as desperately as she and Diana need it.  

It's only when Casey arrives in the Yukon that she realizes just how cut off Rockton is from the rest of the world.  In a town of 200 people, all hiding from something ("The women are mostly running from bad choices in men.  The men are mostly running from bad choices in life" [175].), Casey and Diana could be in a whole different kind of trouble.  Between the women's enigmatic new neighbors, their local murderer, and the extreme, punishing climate in which they suddenly find themselves, there are myriad ways they could disappear—never to be seen again.  The more Casey investigates Rockton's first murder, the more secrets she uncovers about the town, its residents, and her place in this strange new world from which there is no escape ...

I picked up City of the Lost, the first book in the Rockton series by Kelley Armstrong, on a whim.  Locked-room type mysteries always intrigue me, especially when they feature isolated locations in inhospitable climates.  This novel fit the bill, with the added bonuses of sharp prose, a propulsive plot, and flawed, complex characters whom I soon grew to care about.  Although it's dark and gory, City of the Lost is also engrossing and enjoyable.  It reminds me of the t.v. show Lost (sans the supernatural elements), if it were set in a snowy wilderness instead of on a tropical island.  Needless to say, I rushed right out to grab the next two books in the series.  I simply have to know what happens next in the very intriguing town of Rockton.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of Lost and of the other books in the Rockton series, including A Darkness Absolute and This Fallen Prey)


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

Friday, July 06, 2018

Compelling Memory-Loss Thriller Still Only a Ho-Hum Read

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It's been two years since the car crash that killed David Hall and erased Jane Norton's memory.  A traumatic brain injury, leading to amnesia, has stolen the last three years from the 17-year-old.  Although Jane can recall events from childhood, she can't remember high school, her father's death, or the "accident" that killed David, her best friend's boyfriend.  The police have what appears to be a suicide note, written in Jane's handwriting, but she can't fathom why she would have been in a car with David, let alone with the intention of ending their lives together.  It makes no sense.  Nothing does for Jane, who desperately wants to remember the one event no one will let her forget. 

When anonymous threats start appearing on social media and at David's grave site, Jane thinks it must be a sick joke.  Someone calling themselves "Liv Danger" claims to know what happened that night.  They also warn that "All will pay."  When idle threats turn into sinister action, Jane knows only she can stop Liv Danger from going any further.  Wracking her shattered brain for clues, the teenager becomes more and more confused.  What really happened the night of the accident?  Jane knows the answers that could stop the violence and maybe even clear her name are hiding somewhere in her head.  Can Jane force them out before it's too late?  Or will Liv Danger get the revenge they're so desperately seeking?

I enjoy a psychological suspense novel that leaves me feeling off-kilter and keeps me guessing what is real and what is not.  Blame by Jeff Abbott does that, which is why I kept reading the novel despite its flat, unlikable characters and its increasing nosedive toward the far-fetched and melodramatic.  Whatever else it might not be, Blame is certainly compelling.  I definitely wanted to know what was going to happen.  Still, the novel's disappointing, eye roll-worthy finale bugged and overall, the story just did not feel very satisfying.  Although Blame has gotten lots of positive buzz, for me, it ended up being only a ho-hum read.  

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of other psychological thrillers featuring main characters with memory loss, like Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson; The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins; In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware; Elizabeth Is Missing by Emma Healey; The First Wife by Erica Spindler; and Remember Mia by Alexandra Burt


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (no F-bombs), violence, sexual innuendo, depictions of underage drinking/partying, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find.

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Alaskan Romantic Suspense Novel a Better-Than-Expected Read

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A decade ago, Bailey Craig left tiny Yancey, Alaska, behind forever.  With a hard-earned reputation for being rebellious and easy, she had to flee in order to start over.  Now known as religious and serious, the 28-year-old college professor still has no intention of ever returning.  It's only when her beloved aunt dies in a plane crash that Bailey even considers it. As she reluctantly boards a plane bound for The Last Frontier, she vows to stay not one second longer than is absolutely necessary. 

It's been over ten years since Bailey broke Cole McKenna's heart, but he's never forgotten her.  When fate (divine intervention?) brings her back into his life, he's more than a little intrigued.  It's obvious Bailey is not the girl he used to know.  And the woman she appears to have become?  More than a little enticing.  Does Cole dare take the risk of trying to get to know the new Bailey?  Or is that just a sure-fire way to get his heart stomped all over once again?  

When Bailey and Cole are enlisted to help investigate the suspicious deaths of two deep-sea divers, their battered hearts will get a second chance to find healing in the last place they expected to find it ...

Romantic suspense really is not my thing, but in looking for a book set in Alaska for the Literary Escapes Challenge, I came across Submerged by Christian fiction author Dani Pettrey.  With an intriguing premise and lots of positive reviews on Amazon, the novel seemed worth a peek.  And you know what?  It turned out to be a better read than I expected.  Pettrey's prose doesn't exactly sparkle, but it's capable enough.  Her characters are likable, even though there are too many to keep track of and none of them are all that developed or original.  The mystery at the novel's core isn't overly exciting, but it kept me reading.  Yes, the plot got clumsy and far-fetched, but all in all, Submerged is not a bad read.  I especially appreciate its clean content as well as its uplifting messages about forgiveness, faith, and a person's ability to change despite past troubles.  While I probably won't continue with this series, I did end up enjoying Submerged overall.  

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


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for violence and scenes of peril

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

Friday, June 29, 2018

Intriguing New Mystery Series Opens With a Smasher

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New York City, 1910—Jane Prescott excels at fading into the wallpaper.  Serving without being seen is practically part of her job description as a lady's maid for the wealthy Benchley family.  That ability comes in handy when Norrie Newsome, a notorious playboy who's engaged to one of Jane's charges, is brutally murdered at a house party.  No one is more strategically placed to look into the killing than Jane, a woman who is always around but never really noticed.

Callous, spoiled and often cruel, Norrie's public admirers abhorred him in private.  Any number of people, then, could have decided to kill the obdurate young man.  Who did end his life?  Was it his spurned lover?  The humiliated victim of one of Norrie's pranks?  Or a stranger outraged by a devastating tragedy at a mine owned by the Newsomes?  With so many suspects, finding the real murderer won't be easy.  With the help of Michael Behan, a handsome tabloid reporter, no-nonsense Jane will solve the case.  Even if she has to risk everything—her job, her reputation, even her own safety—to do it.

I always enjoy an intriguing murder mystery, especially when it's set against a colorful historical backdrop, and narrated by a tenacious sleuth.  A Death of No Importance, a debut adult novel by YA author Mariah Fredericks, is no exception.  While most of the story's characters are unlikable, Jane and Michael are both complex and engaging, adjectives that also describe the mystery they're attempting to solve.  All of these elements combine to produce an entertaining novel that I quite enjoyed.  I'm excited for the next installment (Death of a New American, April 2019) in this alluring new series.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly and of Jennifer Ashley's Below Stairs Mysteries [Death Below Stairs; and Scandal Above Stairs])


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

(possibly R)

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

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of A Death of No Importance from the generous folks at St. Martin's Press.  Thank you!

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Life-Affirming Medical Memoir a Powerful, Inspirational Read

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As a healthy woman who had experienced a normal pregnancy only a year and a half ago, Carol J. Decker had no reason to expect that anything would be different with her second.  Despite having some flu-like symptoms, she entered the hospital on June 10, 2008, expecting nothing out of the ordinary.  Instead, she was rushed to the ER, where an emergency C-section was performed.  Even then, Carol could not have imagined how profoundly and irrevocably her life was about to change.

The 33-year-old mother had contracted an infection which turned into sepsis.  As toxins invaded every part of her body, Carol fought desperately for survival.  Although she ultimately won the war, she endured months of excruciating pain, humiliating helplessness, and overwhelming feelings of hopelessness and despair.  Left with permanent blindness, painful skin grafts, and three amputated limbs, Carol couldn't imagine how she could possibly go on.  How could she fulfill her roles as wife, mother, and productive citizen without sight?  Without legs?  Without an arm?  Wouldn't it have been better if she had just died on the operating table? 

In Unshattered, Carol J. Decker describes not just the agony of fighting sepsis but also the victory of choosing to live a life of beauty and joy, even in the face of unspeakable tragedy.  As a narrator, she eschews sentimentality and banal platitudes, employing a raw candor that smacks of honesty and hard-won wisdom.  While Decker doesn't pull any punches, she does focus on the greatest lesson she learned from her experience:

"I began to weigh the thought of tragedy versus destiny.  I could not control the tragedy that befell my life, but I could control my destiny.  It was mine to determine by the choices I made.  I chose to believe I could lead a purposeful life." (quote from page 156 of an uncorrected proof)

An inspiring, life-affirming book about hope, faith, and triumphing over challenges, Unshattered is a short but powerful read.  I highly recommend it for anyone who needs a reminder that, no matter what might befall us, living one's best life is about choice, not chance.

For a touching teaser, click below:

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


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for descriptions of medical procedures that might be too graphic/scary for young readers

To the FTC, with love:  I received an ARC of Unshattered from the generous folks at Shadow Mountain.  Thank you! 

Friday, June 15, 2018

Newest Karen White Novel As Atmospheric and Warm-Hearted as the Rest

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After being humiliated as an 18-year-old, Larkin Lanier fled her Lowcountry home for New York City, vowing never to look back.  Although the women who raised her have kept in touch, their pleas for her return have fallen on deaf ears.  When Larkin receives news that her mother—a free-spirited painter—has gone missing, however, she knows it's time to go back to Georgetown, South Carolina.  At 27, Larkin is a slim, successful businesswoman, not the awkward, overlooked girl she once was, but she's still leery about returning.  She'll stay in the South only long enough to do what needs to be done, then return as soon as possible to her lonely life in the Big Apple.

When Ivy Lanier is found in the ruins of her family's burned-out plantation home, injured and unconscious, Larkin fears the worst for her mother.  As she lingers in the hospital, unresponsive, Larkin can't help but wonder what the older woman was doing at Carrowmore.  Ivy seemed to have been looking for something, but what could she possibly need from the crumbling shell of her former home?  When Larkin questions Ceecee—the 77-year-old woman who raised both Ivy and Larkin—the old lady acts cagey and suspicious.  What is Ceecee keeping from her?  Ivy was trying to tell Larkin something before her accident, something about the past.  Only Ceecee and Bitty, her grandmother's childhood friends, know the truth and it just might be the truth that finally sets Ivy free.  Desperate to wake her mother up, Larkin will stop at nothing until she uncovers the truth about a trio of friends and the secrets that have bound them together for the last fifty years.

I'm always up for a Southern family secrets novel and no one defines the genre quite like Karen White.  Although I like some of her books more than others, I appreciate her atmospheric, warm-hearted stories, and always look forward to a new one.  Dreams of Falling takes place in a typical Lowcountry setting populated by quirky folk who value family, friendship, and foiling nosy attempts to sniff out the skeletons in their closets.  The tale oscillates between narrators and time periods, which makes both the plot and the cast a bit confusing at times.  While I loved Ceecee, Bitty, and some of the other fringe characters, the three women at the novel's core didn't appeal to me at all.  The Darlingtons (Margaret, Ivy, and Larkin) are a selfish, fickle, unlikable lot, which made it tough for me to care what happened to them.  Despite my reservations, though, I found Dreams of Falling compelling and, overall, enjoyable.  It's not my favorite of White's many novels, but it definitely kept me reading.

(Readalikes:  other novels by Karen White as well as those by Dorothea Benton Frank, Joshilyn Jackson, and Anne Rivers Siddons)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for violence, innuendo, and (non-graphic) references to sex and prostitution

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of Dreams of Falling from the generous folks at Penguin Random House in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you!

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Cheap Ending Earns Dallas' Newest a Meh From Me

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Ellen's using scraps of heirloom fabric to create a wedding quilt for her granddaughter June when the bride-to-be shows up on her porch declaring the upcoming nuptials have been called off.  With her fiancĂ© shipping off soon for Korea, June's nervous and uncertain about their future.  In an effort to soothe the young woman's worries, Ellen tells her a story about a lady who ran away from marriage three times ...

At the end of the 19th Century, a 22-year-old schoolteacher named Nell strikes out for the New Mexico Territory.  She craves adventure and she longs for love.  Nell finds both at the Rockin' A, a rustic cattle ranch where she becomes a biscuit shooter.  When she falls for a charming cowboy, Nell's over the moon with happiness.  Then Buddy breaks her heart.  Devastated, Nell runs away, vowing never to be so foolish again.  As her traitorous heart starts beating for another, she can't shake off her lingering anxiety.  Can she trust any man's declarations of love?  How will she know if a suitor's sincere and loyal enough to marry?  More importantly, will she ever find true love, the kind that leads to the happy contentment for which she longs?  Nell will have to learn some difficult lessons about life and love before she even comes close to her happily ever after.

Can Nell's hard-won wisdom help June make the most important decision of her life?

With a vivid Old West setting and a story line that's entertaining if not all that engrossing, The Patchwork Bride is the newest historical romance from genre staple Sandra Dallas.  Although the novel's short on plot, it does have a certain charm.  I didn't feel any real connection with its heroine, however, since Nell strikes me as selfish, easy, and fickle.  While the story moves along in a predictable manner, the "surprise" ending feels cheap and sneaky.  In fact, the finale soured the whole tale for me.  The Patchwork Bride just didn't feel like a satisfying read after that!  I wanted to love this one, but in the end, my only feeling is ... meh.  

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


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (no F-bombs) and violence

To the FTC, with love:  I received an ARC of The Patchwork Bride from the generous folks at St. Martin's Press.  Thank you!

Saturday, June 09, 2018

Moody Broody Mystery a Not Very Satisfying Read

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Blackmore isn't the kind of place that takes kindly to a stranger nosing around asking uncomfortable questions.  The 2500 people still surviving in the gritty, down-on-its luck mining town are as rough and hopeless as their dying village.  As a newcomer, Clare O'Day sticks out like the proverbial sore thumb.  She doesn't look like a cop, but her inquiries into the recent disappearance of Shayna Fowles—a local junkie—make her suspect.  What is Clare doing in Blackmore?  Why is she asking about Shayna?

Clare has her own issues, although she's not about to unload them on anyone in Blackmore.  Her job is to observe, ask questions, find Shayna, and leave.  It soon becomes clear, however, that her task will not be as easy as it sounds.  No one in Blackmore trusts Clare and vice versa, but to solve her own problems, Clare must find Shayna.  What happened to the woman?  Did someone harm her?  If so, who?  With a town chock-full of menacing suspects, Clare hardly knows where to start.  One thing, however, is becoming painfully clear—Clare's in more danger every day she stays in Blackmore.  Can she discover the truth behind Shayna's disappearance?  Or will Clare become the next young woman to vanish from the sinister, dead-end town?

Still Mine, a debut novel by Canadian author Amy Stuart, is a moody, broody thriller that's unsettling and just ... weird.  It's atmospheric, with an eerie vibe that sets the stage for a mystery that could go in any direction.  The characters are a rugged, violent lot who are almost wholly unlikable.  Plotwise, Still Mine is compelling, but its premise is unconvincing and its ending just made the whole novel feel pointless and depressing.  While Stuart's prose is solid, I found almost everything else about this novel unappealing.  I finished it, but overall, Still Mine just wasn't a very satisfying read for me.  Bummer.

(Readalikes:  Blackmore reminds me of Acker's Gap, West Virginia, the setting for the Bell Elkins series by Julia Keller)  


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (no F-bombs), violence, depictions of illegal drug use, and disturbing subject matter

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

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Eden Delivers Another Warm, Witty Regency Romance

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Note:  Loving Lieutenant Lancaster is a companion novel to Seeking Persephone; Courting Miss Lancaster; and Romancing Daphne.  It also concerns members of the Jonquil Family from Kiss of a Stranger; Friends & Foes; Drops of Gold; As You Are; A Fine Gentleman; and For Love or Honor.  While the books are not technically sequels, reading them out of sequence may result in plot spoilers.  As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order. 

An orphan raised by her unfeeling aunt and uncle, Arabella Hampton dreams of being part of a big, loving family.  The Jonquils have always represented the ideal; long has she dreamed of being one of them.  When Lady Lampton, the aging matriarch of the Jonquil Family, approaches Arabella's guardians about hiring their charge as a lady's companion, 23-year-old Arabella can't believe her luck.  Finally, she'll get to live at Lampton Park, residing among the kind-hearted Jonquils.  Arabella hasn't been in her new position long, though, before she realizes she's a charity hire, not really needed at all.  As neither a servant nor a family member, she finds herself feeling useless and out of place.  She finally sees her hopes of being a real Jonquil for what they are—foolish and naive. 

Recently retired from the Royal Navy, 24-year-old Linus Lancaster is finding himself hopelessly bored with his new-found life of leisure.  Lonely and craving a diversion of almost any kind, he agrees to attend an extended house party at the Jonquils' estate in Nottinghamshire.  Cavorting with his siblings, their spouses, and their in-laws should make for an entertaining two weeks.  While Linus expects fireworks (especially between the surly Duke of Kielder and foppish Lord Lampton), he's shocked when a mysterious woman hiding in the shadows unwittingly ignites his passions.  Mesmerized by the lovely Miss Hampton, Linus vows to bring the reluctant young woman out of obscurity—and into his arms. 

Although of differing stations and backgrounds, Arabella and Linus are nevertheless drawn to each other.  Can they find the purpose and belonging they both long for in each other?  Or will their haunted pasts drive them apart forever?

Sarah M. Eden has become known for her warm, witty romances.  They're clean, they're fun, they're sweet, and they're enjoyable.  Her newest, Loving Lieutenant Lancaster, is no exception.  Featuring likable characters, a warm, upbeat tone, and capable prose, it's as entertaining as its fellows.  Because this novel brings together the casts of two of Eden's Regency series, there are a lot of characters in Loving Lieutenant Lancaster.  Those who have read the previous novels will no doubt delight in seeing what's become of their favorites; those who are not acquainted with all the Lancasters and Jonquils will likely be confused.  I, for one, had trouble keeping them all straight.  While their antics kept me reading, this novel definitely started to feel overly long.  Admittedly, I'm not a big romance reader.  When I do indulge, I prefer my love stories to be short and sweet, especially if there aren't any subplots to keep me interested.  Despite those things, I still enjoyed this fun Regency romance.

(Readalikes:  Other books in the Jonquil and Lancaster series [titles listed in Note above] by Sarah M. Eden)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for mild innuendo

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of Loving Lieutenant Lancaster from Covenant in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you!


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Friday, June 01, 2018

Grief Novel Poignant and Engaging

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Maddy Starling may have left her family, but she can't quite leave them alone.  Even as a ghost, she worries about her workaholic husband and their grief-stricken 16-year-old daughter, Eve.  Without Maddy there to bridge the gap, to keep the household running and manage everyone's emotions, what will become of her fractured family?  The least she can do is find a replacement for herself, someone who can be a companion to Brady and a loving mentor for Eve.  She thinks she may have found the perfect woman in Rory Murray, an elementary school teacher who's tutoring Eve.  Is Rory, who comes with her own baggage, really a suitable stand-in?  Can Maddy somehow "push" her and Brady together?

In the meantime, Brady and Eve have to learn how to cope without the wife and mother who's always held them together.  Neither one can quite grasp the fact that Maddy—the most put together woman either of them has ever known—committed suicide, purposely leaving them behind.  It makes no sense.  Reading Maddy's diary brings some answers, but also more questions.  Why would someone like Maddy jump off a building, ending what seemed like a perfect life?  In order to rebuild their shattered lives, Brady and Eve must come to terms with what happened on that rooftop and learn to forge a new future for themselves.  Can they find their way, even as Maddy's influence grows more and more difficult to assert?  Can Maddy, Brady, and Eve figure out how to move on, even when all they want is to go back to the way things were?  

I'm known for writing honest reviews, but Jenny over at Alternate Readality takes the art to a whole new (and often hilarious) level, so when she raves about a book, I pay attention.  She recently recommended I Liked My Life, a debut novel by Abby Fabiaschi, which I also ended up enjoying.  While I didn't love the book quite as much as Jenny did, I agree that it features solid writing, intriguing characters, and a plot that kept me turning pages.  The story feels raw and real, but it's also funny and hopeful.  All of the main characters are complex, sympathetic, and interesting, which makes it easy to root for their happiness.  Fabiaschi even throws in some plot twists to keep things interesting.  All in all, then, I Liked My Life makes for an engaging, thought-provoking read that I thoroughly enjoyed.  

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


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for strong language, violence, mild sexual content, and depictions of underage drinking

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Close to Home Intriguing Start to Promising New Series

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

DI Adam Fawley knows that most domestic crimes are committed by people the victim knows, often those with whom he or she lives.  So, when 8-year-old Daisy Mason goes missing after a costume party at her Oxford home, he focuses first on her family.  With an obsessive, appearance-obsessed mum, a cold, distant dad, and a strange, moody older brother, Daisy's family certainly seems off, if not flat-out guilty.  One thing is for sure—they're all hiding something.  Did one of them kill the little girl?  Fawley is determined to find out.

While Fawley's got his own problems to deal with, rifling through the Masons' dirty laundry is bringing all kinds of disturbing secrets to light.  Questioning neighbors and acquaintances isn't helping make the Masons look any more innocent.  Still, the evidence isn't coming together quite enough to convince Fawley that he's found his killer.  What really happened to Daisy Mason?  If a family member didn't kill her, who did?  As puzzling as the mystery has become, it's going to get a lot twistier before the case is closed ... 

Close to Home is a debut novel by English mystery writer Cara Hunter and the first in her series featuring DI Adam Fawley.  Although it's not exactly pulse-pounding, the novel is tense, well-plotted, and suspenseful.  The Masons and their associates are almost wholly unlikable, but Fawley is sympathetic if not super original or exciting.  While I figured everything was not quite as it seems, the "unexpected" twist at the end of the book caught me at least a little bit by surprise. I enjoy a mystery that keeps me guessing; overall, this one did that.  I'm not exactly chomping at the bit to get my hands on In the Dark, the next installment (which comes out in July), but I'll definitely read it.  If the books get better as they go, I'm all in for this promising new author and series.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of British domestic thrillers by Gilly Macmillan, Erin Kelly, etc.)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for strong language, violence, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  I bought a copy of Close to Home at Barnes & Noble with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Never That Far Tells a Poignant, Powerful Story of Loss and Love

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

I usually craft my own plot summaries, but Never That Far, Carol Lynch Williams' newest, isn't the easiest novel to describe.  The publisher's version says everything that needs to be said in one succinct paragraph, so I'm going to go with it:

After her grampa dies, the last place Libby expects to see him is sitting on the edge of her bed.  But that's what happens the night after his funeral.  Even more surprising is that Grampa has three important things to tell her: first, that she isn't alone or forgotten—"The dead ain't never that far from the living," he says; second, that she has "the Sight"—the ability to see family members who have died; and third, that there is something special just for her in the lake.  Something that could help her and her father—if she can find it.  Libby and Grampa try to help her father heal from his grief, but it will take all of Libby's courage and her gift of Sight to convince her father that the dead are never truly gone.  

Set against a lush central Florida backdrop, Never That Far tells a poignant, powerful story about loss and love.  Libby's heartbreak and yearning are so palpable that it's impossible not to root for her happiness.  Her actions and reactions feel authentic, making her a very real character.  This, plus an atmospheric setting; a rich, mystical vibe; and some important messages about faith, family, and friendship, make Never That Far a compelling read.  I enjoyed it.

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


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for difficult subject matter and scenes of peril

To the FTC, with love:  I received an ARC of Never That Far from the generous folks at Shadow Mountain.  Thank you!

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