Saturday, November 30, 2019

Warm and Sweet, Bookshop Rom-Com Makes for Fun Reading

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Just when it seems nothing else can go wrong for Zoe O'Connell—a single mom struggling to keep up with her expensive, stressful life in London—something does.  A "reappraisal" on her crummy flat is the proverbial straw that breaks the camel's back.  Knowing she'll get no help from her absent mum nor her charming, but always penniless ex, Zoe's at her wit's end.  She wants something better for her non-verbal 4-year-old, Hari, but how can she improve their situation when she has no money, no support system, and no hope that things will ever get better?

Enter Surinder, Hari's aunt.  A friend of Nina Redmond (heroine of The Bookshop on the Corner), who's looking for help with her bookmobile business, Surinder sets Zoe up with two jobs in a tiny town in the Scottish Highlands.  Zoe will help Nina out while also working as a nanny at the local "big house."  Desperate, Zoe has little choice but to accept.  Soon, she's doing her best to keep her three rowdy charges in line, help their father engage with his children, and keep a pregnant Nina from overworking herself.  Hari seems content in Kirrinfief, so Zoe's determined to make it work despite all the challenges she's facing.  Can she make a home for herself and her son out of a backward Scottish village?  When push comes to shove, will she stay or go?

Jenny Colgan is a new find for me.  I read The Bookshop on the Corner in 2017 and loved it, so I was eager to pick up its companion novel, The Bookshop on the Shore.  While the latter is not a sequel per se, it does feature the same town as well as some of the same characters from the former.  I loved dropping in on these old friends and being introduced to new ones.  Like its predecessor, The Bookshop on the Shore is warm, sweet, and funny.  I adored everything about it, from the setting to the writing to the characters, both new and familiar.  As much as I enjoyed The Bookshop on the Corner, I liked this one even better as it has more depth to it.  Colgan writes such fun books.  I definitely plan to keep exploring her backlist while eagerly awaiting her newest offerings.


Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for language (a half dozen or so F-bombs, plus milder expletives) and innuendo

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

Friday, November 29, 2019

Another Compelling, But Totally Depressing Domestic Drama? Ugh.

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Neither Nora Holliday nor Josh Landon is happy in their long-term marriages, but that doesn't mean either one of them is the type to start an illicit affair.  But that's just what happens when they run into each other at a hotel in a different city.  A one-time mistake blossoms into something more as they continue to see each other secretly after returning to their small hometown.  Despite the risks to their reputations, their marriages, and their families, Nora and Josh find that their relationship provides the affection and fulfillment they haven't felt with their spouses in years.

When Abby Landon—a college junior who's home recovering from a shattering breakup—sees her father kissing a woman who's not her mother, she vows to get revenge on the pretty homewrecker.  As she plots against her father and his lover, Abby unknowingly sets into motion a plan that will end in the brutal murder of her mother.  Gwen Landon had plenty of enemies, but who actually killed her?

The Last Affair by Margot Hunt is another compelling, but depressing psychological thriller.  It's engrossing, even though it's populated with a cast of selfish, immature people with whom it's very hard to sympathize.  I felt sorry for the kids caught in the middle of their parents' drama, but that's about it.  The Last Affair is enough of a page-turner that I kept reading to the end; overall, though, I didn't find it a very enjoyable or satisfying read.  Mostly, it's just a big downer.  It convinced me that it's time to give this genre a break for a while ...

(Readalikes:  Reminds me a little of Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for language, sexual content, violence, and blood/gore

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-ARC of The Last Affair from the generous folks at Harlequin.  Thank you!

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Intriguing Premise Leads to Twisty, Compelling Psychological Thriller

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

After years of struggling with infertility, both 38-year-old Lana Stone and her boyfriend, Tyler Jones, are at their wit's end.  The difference is Lana's willing to continue, while her faithful partner is done—with Lana's baby obsession, with all the stress and financial burden it places on them, and with their whole relationship, which has become tense and angry.  When Tyler moves out, Lana's stung.  Then, she gets miraculous news—she's finally pregnant.  Tyler might be out of the picture, but Lana's determined to have their baby anyway.  

A chance encounter on a New York City subway brings Lana face-to-face with a woman she's never met, but with whom she shares an intimate connection.  Katya Dimitrova is the 21-year-old college student whose donated eggs are making Lana's dreams of motherhood a reality.  Lana knows she should not, under any circumstances, follow Katya off the subway, but she does it anyway, an impulsive action that leads to an unlikely friendship between the two women.  It's not long, however, before fun-loving Katya disappears under suspicious circumstances.  Suddenly, Lana finds herself the prime suspect in a missing persons investigation.  In a desperate attempt to exonerate herself, she digs into Katya's past, which brings some very disturbing information to light ...

Her Daughter's Mother, a debut novel by Daniela Petrova, is a compelling psychological thriller built on an intriguing premise.  The characters are complex and authentic, although not very likable.  Still, the propulsive plot kept me reading, needing to know what was going to happen next.  Although the novel is depressing and I didn't end up loving it, it definitely kept me turning pages.  I liked it enough that I'll keep an eye out for Petrova's sophomore attempt.   

(Readalikes:  Hm, nothing's coming to mind.  Help!)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for language, violence, sexual content, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

TTT: An Attitude of Gratitude



All over the U.S., families will be gathering this week to celebrate Thanksgiving.  This underrated holiday is one of my favorites—not because I love to pig out on turkey and pie, but because it's not really about gluttony at all.  Thanksgiving revolves around gratitude, being thankful for the blessings in our lives.  Even when life is dark and gloomy, if we just look around a little bit, we can always find something to be grateful for.  Like the quote says, it's a choice.  We can actively decide to cultivate an attitude of gratitude, which will make us happier, healthier, and more pleasant to be around!  This Thanksgiving, I'm thankful for so many things—family, friends, a nice house, food on the table, the miracle of modern medicine, cool weather (a REAL blessing in hot, dry Arizona), and so much more.  To all my U.S. readers, Happy Thanksgiving!  A belated one to all you Canadians as well.  

Not surprisingly, today's Top Ten Tuesday topic is a gratitude freebie.  Before I jump into the spin I decided to take, I want to encourage you to join in the TTT fun.  It's easy.  Simply click on over to That Artsy Reader Girl, read a few instructions, make your own list, then spend some happy hours surfing the book blogosphere checking out everyone's lists.  Easy as ... pie!  See what I did there?? 

Today, I decided to celebrate my favorite aspect of blogging—interacting with you, my readers.  To be quite honest, I would probably blog even if no one ever saw my reviews, just because I find it enjoyable, but the fact that people actually want to read what I write is both surprising and wonderful.  I love reading your comments, crafting responses, and just interacting with so many good, like-minded folks.  I appreciate you coming by, even if you're a shy lurker, but I'm especially thankful for those who comment regularly here at BBB.  You make this hobby so much fun!  So, I'm going to publicly thank my most frequent visitors with a TTT list titled Top Ten Twelve Commenters On BBB Who Deserve My Eternal Gratitude.  I hope you will show these good people some love by visiting their blogs, commenting, and taking their always on-point reading recommendations to heart.  Thank you, my friends, for all you do for me and my little blog :)

Top Ten Twelve Commenters on BBB Who Deserve My Eternal Gratitude

1.  Annette @Annette's Book Spot
2.  Carla @Carla Loves to Read
3.  Cath @Read_Warbler
4.  Helen @Helen's Book Blog 
5.  Joy @Joyous Reads  
9.  Mystica @Musings From Sri Lanka
10.  Sam @Book Chase
11.  Sam @We Live and Breathe Books     

And a special shout out to Grace, formerly of Rebel Mommy Book Blog.  Sadly, Grace passed away from cancer a few months ago.  She was a wife and a mother as well as a talented writer, reviewer, and blogger.  I miss all the bright book and life chatter I always found at her blog as well as her thoughtful comments here on BBB.  You can read a sweet tribute to her here and find out how to leave messages of love and support for her family.  Rest in peace, Grace.

There you have it, a baker's dozen of bloggers for whom I am very thankful!  Who and what are you thankful for this holiday season?  I'd love to know.  Leave a comment on this post and I will gladly return the favor.


Happy TTT! 

Monday, November 25, 2019

New YA Dystopian Novel Fast-Paced and Exciting

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Dr. Doomsday knew the apocalypse was coming. Until the massive cyberterrorism attacks actually happened, though, his obsession with the end of the world just looked like paranoid delusion.  His constant prepping and drilling, not to mention the ranting and raving, led to the soiling of his reputation, the end of his marriage, and estrangement from his children.  Now that the country is in chaos, the world as she's known it crumbling to dust, his 17-year-old daughter, Susan "Jinx" Marshall, is asking (along with the rest of the nation), "Did Dr. Doomsday want the apocalypse to happen so badly that he caused it himself?"

The authorities seem to think the man behind the attacks is not Jinx's father, Dr. Max Marshall (aka Dr. Doomsday), but her stepdad, Jay Novac, who works in security at one of the banks that was targeted.  When a particularly menacing cop takes both Jay and Jinx's mother into custody, Jinx's mom urges her to run and find her father.  This isn't an easy task on a normal day.  It's even tougher with the police hot on her trail and two siblings—one a young diabetic, the other a know-it-all stepsister—in tow.  Channeling all the prepper rules her father drilled into her, Jinx must use every skill in her arsenal, no matter how desperate, to ensure the survival of herself, her family, and the world at large.

Day Zero by Kelly deVos, is an exciting, fast-moving dystopian novel that will delight fans of the genre.  Although it doesn't really bring anything new to the table, it still entertains with a twisty plot, interesting characters, and strong, active prose.  It starts with a bang (literally) and keeps moving at a frantic pace that will keep readers flying through its pages.  Since the book is set in Arizona, it was especially fun to read about familiar places, although I was a little sad when the characters' plan to head for Snowflake was abandoned since that's my family's zombie apocalypse getaway destination!  The book's get-in-trouble-then-get-rescued cycle does get a bit redundant, but overall, I enjoyed this compelling novel.  While Day Zero's ending is satisfying, it also left me wanting to know what happens next—needless to say, I'm looking forward to the book's sequel, Day One, which comes out in 2020.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of After the Lights Go Out by Lili Wilkinson and other YA post-apocalyptic/dystopian novels)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for language (a handful of F-bombs, plus milder expletives), violence, and blood/gore

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-ARC of Day Zero from the generous folks at Inkyard Press (an imprint of Harlequin) in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you!

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Kate Morton-ish Castle Novel the Engaging Finale to a Promising Trilogy

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

(Note:  The Painted Castle is the third installment in a trilogy of interrelated books.  While they are not sequels exactly, characters from the first and second books have cameos in the third.  The books can be read as standalones, but if you want to avoid even minor spoilers, I recommend reading them in order.)

Art historian Keira Foley is still reeling from a job and a resulting relationship that turned sour, leading to both professional and personal disgrace in New York City.  She's back in her native Ireland licking her wounds.  When a cocky American bloke struts into her family's pub, taking a keen interest in Keira, her protective brother threatens to have him forcibly removed.  Keira's not interested in the bloke until he dangles a mysterious job offer in a crumbling English castle called Parham Hill in front of her nose ...

Amelia Woods had been married to Arthur—the viscount of Huxley and owner of Parham Hill—barely a year when he was killed in a mission while serving as an RAF pilot.  Four years later, the English countryside is still under threat of attack, especially since an airfield lies just over the hill from the estate.  Amelia is protective of her husband's ancestral home with its precious memories and priceless art, but it's the children boarding inside whose safety is her first priority.  When a group of American military officers becomes her unwitting roommates, Amelia must protect all of Parham Hill's hidden treasures.  Especially her heart.

When Elizabeth Meade was just a child, she witnessed her father's callous murder on the streets of London.  A glimpse of a cloaked man with unusual eyes gave her an idea of the killer's identity—and the germ of a revenge plot.  Now engaged to the very man—the viscount of Huxley—Elizabeth is playing a dangerous long game to avenge her beloved parent.  She soon comes to realize that secrets abound at Parham Hill and its owner may not be what he seems ...

If you're a rabid Kate Morton fan like I am, you'll definitely want to check out the Lost Castle series by Kristy Cambron.  I haven't read the first two books in the trilogy since I thought The Painted Castle was a standalone, but I've already put both on reserve at my library.  That should give you a clue as to how much I enjoyed the final installment!  It's a triple timeline novel featuring three women in different eras.  All of the leading ladies are strong, intelligent, independent sorts who find themselves, in some way, through their association with Parham Hill.  They solve mysteries, endure hardship and loss, find love, and make important discoveries about the castle and themselves, all of which makes for an engrossing novel.  Add in vivid prose, excellent pacing, and a few twists to keep things interesting, and you've got yourself an engaging read.  Even better, Cambron keeps things squeaky clean so that this book (and the whole series, presumably) can be handed to any reader, from tween to senior citizen.  Although Cambron writes Christian fiction, The Painted Castle makes only occasional reference to God and never in a way that is preachy or disruptive.  For all these reasons and more, I found myself completely immersed in this engaging, Morton-ish delight.  As I have said, I enjoyed it immensely and am excited to read the rest of the series as well as anything else Cambron has written.  It's always fun to find a new author who writes clean, compelling books.  I know I'm going to relish getting to know Cambron and her work better.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of books by Kate Morton and Susan Meissner)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for violence and scenes of peril

To the FTC, with love:  I received an ARC of The Painted Castle from the generous folks at Thomas Nelson via those at TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you!

--

Want more opinions on The Painted Castle?  Follow along on the book's blog tour by clicking on the links below:

Instagram tour:

Monday, October 14th: @nurse_bookie
Monday, October 14th: @novelgossip
Tuesday, October 15th: @one_more_paige
Wednesday, October 16th: @crystals_library
Thursday, October 17th: @giuliland
Friday, October 18th: @babygotbooks13
Friday, October 18th: @thebooksellersdaughter
Saturday, October 19th: @bluntscissorsreviews
Sunday, October 20th: @sarahs_reads 

Review tour:

Monday, October 21st: Blunt Scissors Book Reviews
Tuesday, October 22nd: Reading Reality
Tuesday, October 22nd: Lori’s Reading Corner – guest post
Wednesday, October 23rd: Bewitched Bookworms
Thursday, October 24th: Openly Bookish
Friday, October 25th: Literary Quicksand
Monday, October 28th: Living My Best Book Life and @livingmybestbooklife
Tuesday, October 29th: Kritter’s Ramblings
Wednesday, October 30th: Cheryl’s Book Nook
Monday, November 4th: @amanda.the.bookish
Tuesday, November 5th: Read Eat Repeat
Wednesday, November 6th: Christian Chick’s Thoughts
Thursday, November 7th: @beritaudiokilledthebookmark
Friday, November 8th: The Lit Bitch
Monday, November 11th: Nurse Bookie
Monday, November 11th: What is That Book About
Wednesday, November 13th: Just One More Chapter
Friday, November 15th: Sincerely Karen Jo
Friday, November 15th: Jathan & Heather
Monday, November 18th: Broken Teepee
Tuesday, November 19th: Let Them Read Books
Wednesday, November 20th: Bloggin’ ‘Bout Books         



Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Beloved Author's Final Novel Not Up to Par

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Over the last fifteen years, four women have made it an annual tradition to gather at the beach for a week of R&R.  Dubbing themselves "The Girls of August," they have bonded over everything—from the woes of being doctors' wives to the trials of motherhood (and infertility) to the pains of aging.  When one of the women dies tragically, the group starts to drift apart, halting their cherished girls' weekends for years.  Then, the dead woman's widower remarries and his young bride insists on resurrecting the tradition in an attempt to become a "Girl" herself.  Reluctantly, the group gathers at a remote South Carolina island for a week's vacation.  Along with their beach umbrellas and bathing suits, the women have brought secrets, desperation, grief, and anger—ingredients that will make for a dramatic and unforgettable Girls of August reunion.

I've read and enjoyed a fair number of Anne Rivers Siddons books over the years and it makes me a little sad that the author will never write another (she died in 2019 at 83 years old).  So, when I saw Siddons' most recent book, The Girls of August (2014), in the bargain bin at Barnes & Noble, I snatched it up.  Written when she was in her 70s, the tale is definitely not on par with those she penned in her earlier years.  Still, the novel bears evidence of Siddons' trademark warmth and wit.  The "Girls" are a likable lot, even if they're not fleshed out enough to feel like real people.  As far as plot goes, there's not much here, which makes the book a little dull.  In the past, I've found Siddons' novels sumptuous and immersive—this one isn't that way, although it worked for an easy, breezy summer read.  Although there's nothing memorable or outstanding about it, The Girls of August is an okay novel.  Far from Siddon's best, it is, sadly, her last.  

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of novels by Karen White, Dorothea Benton Frank, and Patti Callahan Henry)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for language and violence

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

Monday, November 18, 2019

Deliciously Spooky Murder Mystery Enthralls and Entertains

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

For the last five years, 45-year-old Clare Cassidy has been teaching English at a West Sussex high school.  One of the perks of the job is access to the historical home of R.M. Holland, a Victorian writer best known for a chilling story called "The Stranger."  An expert on the author, Clare is working on a biography of Holland in between teaching teenagers as well as an adult creative writing class.  

Everything is going along swimmingly until Clare's colleagues start dying in brutal ways that seem to echo "The Stranger."  It becomes clear that the victims were killed by someone who knew them and someone with a passion for R.M. Holland.  Desperate to figure out what is going on before she finds herself in prison for crimes she didn't commit, Clare decides to make notes about the murders in the diary she writes in regularly ... which is when she notices a message in her journal in penmanship that is decidedly not hers.  "Hello Clare," the note begins.  "You don't know me."  Spooked beyond measure, she now knows what she had only suspected before—"The Stranger" is happening right here, right now.  If Clare can't get to the bottom of the situation, hers may be the next corpse to show up in R.M. Holland's possibly (probably) haunted house ...

I enjoy Elly Griffiths' Ruth Galloway series, so I was excited to pick up the author's newest book, The Stranger Diaries.  Although the novel has been billed as a standalone, it appears it's actually the first in a new series featuring DS Harbinder Kauer.  Sections of The Stranger Diaries are indeed narrated by Kauer, who's investigating the murders, while alternating chapters are captained by Clare and her 15-year-old daughter, Georgia.  The women are all complex and interesting, the plot is compelling, and the vibe is deliciously spooky.  Griffiths throws in twists that kept me guessing throughout, leaving me surprised by the killer's identity.  That doesn't always happen when you read as many mystery/thrillers as I do, so I'm inordinately pleased when it does!  All in all, then, I greatly enjoyed The Stranger Diaries, which kept me totally enthralled.  You better believe I'm looking forward to the next book, The Postscript Murders, which comes out next year.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me a little of The Widow of Pale Harbor by Hester Fox)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


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

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Christian Romantic Suspense "Perfect Storm" Just Not For Me

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Fourteen years ago, the secret relationship between a preacher's daughter and the son of the town drunk was discovered, setting off a conflict that ended with one father killing the other.  Although Roy Beckett insisted he was innocent, he was sent to prison for the murder of "Brother" Strickland.  A decade and a half later, Roy is pardoned and set free, to the horror of the victim's family.  

Brenna Strickland Hertzog is having a hard enough time dealing with a nasty custody battle between her and her powerful ex-husband.  The last thing she needs right now is to deal with the shocking release of her father's killer.  Brenna's drinking too much as it is—how is she going to cope with this new development in her already stressful life?  Then Roy's son, Nate Beckett, shows up on her doorstep for the first time in 14 years, rekindling all the feelings she had for him when they were kids.  Their innocent, but clandestine teenage romance led to her father's death; renewing it now could be even more dangerous ...

Forced to take a break from his job as a smokejumper after he sustains second degree burns over 20% of his body, Nate returns home to recover and see his father.  Nate has always believed in Roy's guilt, but when his father begs him to find Brother Strickland's true killer, he feels obligated to dig into the murder.  A major complication comes in the form of beautiful, broken Brenna who needs him now more than ever.  What will Nate's sleuthing uncover?  Can Brenna ever forgive, let alone love, the son of her father's alleged murderer?

I have to say upfront that romantic suspense is really not my genre.  Add in Christian elements and it often leads to a perfect storm of cheesy, far-fetched, overwritten drama.  No, thanks.  Still, something about the premise of Smoke Screen by Terri Blackstock made me agree to read and review it.  Did it change my mind about this genre?  Um, no.  While I appreciate that the novel's clean and faith-affirming, its flat characters, dull prose, and melodramatic plotline made me a little crazy.  While Brenna's a sympathetic character, she's not a super likable one.  I couldn't understand Nate's interest.  Their resulting romance, therefore, seems forced and sparkless.  As far as the suspense portion, there's not a lot as the plot focuses mainly on Brenna's personal problems.  The lackluster mystery at the heart of the story is thin and implausible, especially since the "twists" are obvious from miles away.  Overall Smoke Screen is definitely not the worst Christian romantic suspense novel I've ever read, but for me, it was a so-so read at best.  To be fair, this is how I feel about most books in this genre.  Still, I would have liked for Smoke Screen to change my mind; unfortunately, that just didn't happen.  Bummer.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of other Christian romantic suspense novels, but no specific titles are coming to mind.  You?)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for violence

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-ARC of Smoke Screen from the generous folks at Thomas Nelson via those at Celebrate Lit in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you!

-- 


Would you like more opinions on Smoke Screen?  Follow along on the book's blog tour by clicking on the links below:

As He Leads is Joy, November 9
Sara Jane Jacobs, November 9
CarpeDiem, November 9
Fiction Aficionado, November 10
KarenSueHadley, November 10
Quiet quilter, November 10
Among the Reads, November 11
Genesis 5020, November 11
A Reader’s Brain, November 11
Robin’s Nest, November 12
All-of-a-kind Mom, November 12
Bigreadersite , November 12
Blogging With Carol , November 12
Betti Mace, November 13
Spoken from the Heart, November 13
D’S QUILTS & BOOKS, November 13
Emily Yager, November 13
By The Book, November 14
For Him and My Family, November 14
Splashes of Joy , November 14
Andrea Christenson, November 15
Just the Write Escape, November 16
Mary Hake, November 16
Remembrancy, November 17
Simple Harvest Reads, November 17 (Guest Review from Mindy Houng)
EmpowerMoms, November 17
Blessed & Bookish, November 18
Older & Smarter, November 18
Inklings and notions, November 18
amandainpa , November 19
Pause for Tales, November 19
Hallie Reads, November 20
Cathe Swanson, November 21
All 4 and About Books, November 21
Batya’s Bits, November 22
Livin’ Lit, November 22
Texas Book-aholic, November 22
janicesbookreviews, November 22
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