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Review: THE BROMANCE BOOK CLUB by Lyssa Kay Adams

Review:  THE BROMANCE BOOK CLUB by Lyssa Kay AdamsThe Bromance Book Club by Lyssa Kay Adams
four-half-stars
Series: Bromance Book Club #1
Published by BERKLEY on November 5, 2019
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Romance
Pages: 320
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE BROMANCE BOOK CLUB Review

 

I knew I wanted to read Lyssa Kay Adams’ new novel, The Bromance Book Club, as soon as I read the synopsis and realized it has three of my favorite things:  a sports theme, a second chance romance, and a book club. And not only does it have a book club, it’s a secret romance book club whose members are professional baseball players.  Their goal:  to use romance novels as a way to better understand women so as to improve their relationships with their wives. That just sounded like a recipe for a hilarious read so I was thrilled when Berkley approved my review request.

Let me start by saying yes, this is an absolutely hilarious read! I lost count of how many times I laughed out loud while I was reading and I just loved everything about the idea of the book club.  The group of guys that are in the book club are just so much fun together and I just loved all of their scenes.  The focus of their attention in this book is Gavin, a fellow teammate who is separated from his wife, Thea, but desperately wants to try to save his marriage.  At each of their meetings, the guys gently rib Gavin over some of the dumb things he has done in his marriage, but at the same time, their hearts are ultimately in the right place and they do whatever they can to coach him to make better choices when it comes to Thea.

While the promise of humor is what initially drew me to The Bromance Book Club, the heart of the story is what really won me over. I just truly adored Gavin and Thea.  Gavin is such a sweetheart, and Thea is too so it just broke my heart to see them at odds with each other.  I became invested in them immediately and was desperate for them to work through what had gone wrong between them.  I also loved how authentic their relationship issues felt, particularly when it came to issues with communication.  I think many readers will relate to the sad truth that a few heartfelt talks along the way could have kept Gavin and Thea from the breaking point we find them at when the novel opens.

The Bromance Book Club was everything I hoped it would be and more. It’s delightfully funny, heartwarming, and oh yes, a little hot and steamy too!  It’s also one of those books that I was immediately picturing as a film and casting the various characters in my head as I was reading, which made it even more of a fun read.  If you’re interested in a fresh take on the second chance romance trope, you definitely need to add The Bromance Book Club to your reading list.

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

The first rule of book club:

You don’t talk about book club.

Nashville Legends second baseman Gavin Scott’s marriage is in major league trouble. He’s recently discovered a humiliating secret: his wife Thea has always faked the Big O. When he loses his cool at the revelation, it’s the final straw on their already strained relationship. Thea asks for a divorce, and Gavin realizes he’s let his pride and fear get the better of him.

Welcome to the Bromance Book Club.

Distraught and desperate, Gavin finds help from an unlikely source: a secret romance book club made up of Nashville’s top alpha men. With the help of their current read, a steamy Regency titled Courting the Countess, the guys coach Gavin on saving his marriage. But it’ll take a lot more than flowery words and grand gestures for this hapless Romeo to find his inner hero and win back the trust of his wife.

four-half-stars

About Lyssa Kay Adams

Lyssa Kay Adams is the pen name of an award-winning journalist who gave up the world of telling true stories to pen emotional romances. She’s also a diehard Detroit Tigers fan who will occasionally cheer for the Red Sox because her husband is from Boston.

Lyssa lives in Michigan with her family and an anxiety-ridden Maltese who steals food and buries it around the house and who will undoubtedly be a character in a future book.

Things Lyssa loves: Baseball pants, mashed potatoes, and that little clicking sound that scissors make on the cutting table at fabric stores.

Things she doesn’t love: Mean people, melting ice cream cones, and finding food in her underwear drawer.

Keep up with Lyssa on Twitter at @LyssaKayAdams. Please note: She mostly tweets about baseball pants and mashed potatoes.

Review: TWICE IN A BLUE MOON by Christina Lauren

Review:  TWICE IN A BLUE MOON by Christina LaurenTwice in a Blue Moon by Christina Lauren
Also by this author: My Favorite Half-Night Stand
three-half-stars
Published by Gallery Books on October 22, 2019
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Romance
Pages: 368
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TWICE IN A BLUE MOON Review

 

Tate Jones has a secret.  Her name is not actually Tate Jones; it’s Tate Butler and she is the long-lost daughter of legendary actor, Ian Butler.  After she got tired of Ian’s cheating ways, Tate’s mother filed for divorce, changed hers and Tate’s last names, and relocated to a remote community.  From those moments up until her eighteenth birthday, Tate has lived a completely sheltered life and, for her mother’s sake, has done her best to keep her true identity hidden.  When her Nana takes her on a two-week trip to London, it’s a much-needed taste of freedom for Tate and she decides to make the most of it.  She meets a handsome young man named Sam Brandis and over the course of those two weeks, she falls hard for him, so hard in fact that she confesses to Sam who she really is.  Imagine her surprise when Sam and his family abruptly checks out of the hotel without saying goodbye.  Then imagine her even bigger surprise when the paparazzi unexpectedly descends on her.  Tate unfortunately learns the hard way that her trust in Sam was misplaced.  Her world is irrevocably turned upside down.

Fast forward nearly fifteen years and Tate has followed in her father’s footsteps, becoming a successful actress in her own right.  She has signed on to play the lead role in a film that is so incredible on paper that she’s sure it will land her an Oscar nomination if she does her best work.  When she arrives on set, however, who does she come face to face with?  Sam Brandis, the young man who broke her heart and her trust all those years ago.  And even worse, he’s the writer who penned the script for her movie.  How does Tate confront Sam after all of these years?  Can she forgive him? Does he even deserve to be forgiven? And how is all of this awkwardness going to impact her work on this potentially career-making film?

 

*****

 

Christina Lauren’s latest novel Twice in a Blue Moon is a slight departure from the other books I’ve read from this amazing writing duo.  My prior experiences have been of the lively rom-com variety, filled with laugh-out-loud funny moments, while Twice in a Blue Moon comes across as a much more serious story.

While it wasn’t the light and funny story that I was expecting going in, Twice was still an entertaining and engaging read that features one of my favorite romantic tropes, the second chance romance.  After reading about Tate and Sam’s adventures in London as young adults and watching Tate fall in love for the first time only to have her heart broken, I was fully invested in seeing what happened when Tate and Sam met again and whether or not Sam could do anything to redeem himself and get Tate to forgive his betrayal.

I also just really liked Tate and felt tremendous sympathy for her. I can’t even imagine living a childhood where I had to hide who I was from everyone.  And then to finally confess your secret to someone, only to have them sell you out to the highest bidder?   All of that has got to take a psychological and emotional toll on a person and I thought Christina Lauren did a fantastic job of letting us into Tate’s headspace to experience all of her conflicting emotions, both of the moment of Sam’s initial betrayal and then again when they come face to face after so many years.  Sam was a great character too and so complex.  I loved that he was so genuinely likeable in those early London scenes that his betrayal came out of left field and had me anxiously flipping pages waiting for him to turn back up and give me a darn good reason for why he did what he did.

The one area of the book that didn’t work quite as well for me as I would have hoped was the filming of the movie.  Acting doesn’t really interest me so I got a little bored reading those scenes and the pages of script that were included.  The high point of the movie scenes were actually the secondary characters who were working on the film.  They were a lot of fun and I would have loved more time with them.  I’m sure the issue with the acting scenes is just a me thing though and even with that issue, I still really enjoyed the story overall.

While not my favorite book from Christina Lauren (that honor still goes to Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating), Twice in a Blue Moon is still a lovely read that fans of second chance romance are sure to enjoy.

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS: 

Sam Brandis was Tate Jones’s first: Her first love. Her first everything. Including her first heartbreak.

During a whirlwind two-week vacation abroad, Sam and Tate fell for each other in only the way that first loves do: sharing all of their hopes, dreams, and deepest secrets along the way. Sam was the first, and only, person that Tate—the long-lost daughter of one of the world’s biggest film stars—ever revealed her identity to. So when it became clear her trust was misplaced, her world shattered for good.

Fourteen years later, Tate, now an up-and-coming actress, only thinks about her first love every once in a blue moon. When she steps onto the set of her first big break, he’s the last person she expects to see. Yet here Sam is, the same charming, confident man she knew, but even more alluring than she remembered. Forced to confront the man who betrayed her, Tate must ask herself if it’s possible to do the wrong thing for the right reason… and whether “once in a lifetime” can come around twice.

With Christina Lauren’s signature “beautifully written and remarkably compelling” (Sarah J. Maas, New York Times bestselling author) prose and perfect for fans of Emily Giffin and Jennifer Weiner, Twice in a Blue Moon is an unforgettable and moving novel of young love and second chances.

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Unhoneymooners and the “delectable, moving” (Entertainment WeeklyMy Favorite Half-Night Stand comes a modern love story about what happens when your first love reenters your life when you least expect it…

three-half-stars

About Christina Lauren

Christina Lauren is the combined pen name of long-time writing partners and best friends Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings. The #1 international bestselling coauthor duo writes both Young Adult and Adult Fiction, and together has produced fourteen New York Times bestselling novels. They are published in over 30 languages, have received starred reviews from Kirkus Reviews, Library Journal and Publishers Weekly, won both the Seal of Excellence and Book of the Year from RT Magazine, named Amazon and Audible Romance of the Year, a Lambda Literary Award finalist and been nominated for several Goodreads Choice Awards. They have been featured in publications such as Forbes, The Washington Post, Time, Entertainment Weekly, People, O Magazine and more. Their third YA novel, Autoboyography was released in 2017 to critical acclaim, followed by Roomies, Love and Other Words, Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating, and the Publisher’s Weekly starred My Favorite Half-Night Stand, out in December.

Review: FIREBORNE by Rosaria Munda

Review:  FIREBORNE by Rosaria MundaFireborne by Rosaria Munda
four-stars
Series: The Aurelian Cycle #1
Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers on October 15, 2019
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction
Pages: 448
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
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FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FIREBORNE Review

 

Rosaria Munda’s debut novel Fireborne has everything I love in a fantasy: complex characters, exquisite world building, political intrigue, and most importantly, dragons!  Fireborne follows two main characters, Annie and Lee, both of whom were orphaned during a brutal revolution that took place when they were just young children.  Lee’s family was part of the aristocracy and was therefore murdered by the revolutionaries when they launched their attack, while prior to that, Lee’s father executed Annie’s whole lowborn family to make an example out of them for their fellow villagers.  Both Annie and Lee were spared execution themselves only so that they could serve as witnesses to what had happened and report back to their people.  Lee’s true identity is hidden for his own protection, and he and Annie eventually end up in the same orphanage together and immediately become friends.

When we first meet Lee and Annie, they are young adults and they are also Dragonriders, which is truly every bit as cool as it sounds.  The characters really do ride dragons, which gave me a combination Game of Thrones/How to Train Your Dragon vibe that I loved.  Lee and Annie are still the best of friends, but they are also both excellent Dragonriders and so are also friendly rivals for the title of Firstrider, a title that all Dragonriders aspire to.

Their world changes, however, when it is learned that there are survivors from the old regime and they’ve decided they want their city back.  This puts Lee in an almost impossible situation – he must decide whether to fight for or against his birth family. Will he and Annie end up on opposite sides of this war that is threatening their way of life? And If Lee chooses to fight for his birth family, does Annie have what it takes to fight against her best friend?

It took me a couple of chapters to really get into Fireborne but then I was just glued to it and finished it in less than two days.  Annie and Lee are both such likeable characters.  I was sympathetic to them both because of what they had gone through as children but also loved watching them achieve success and literally soar as Dragonriders.  I also loved watching their relationship evolve – they’re friends, they’re family, and at times, even felt like possibly a little more than that.  Lee was an especially fascinating character to me because of the complication of his hidden identity and what a wildcard he is when it comes to the old regime trying to return to power.  There’s plenty of gut-wrenching, emotional moments as Lee considers the choice he has to make.

Aside from Annie and Lee, I also really liked the rest of the Dragonriders fleet, especially Duck, who is just a sweetheart.  Power, another rider and rival of Lee’s, is kind of an ass at times, but I still found him very entertaining.  The best part of the Dragonriders though were the actual dragons.  I was fascinated by the way everything worked, from the way the dragons chose their riders, to how the tournaments worked to decide who would ultimately be first rider.  I thought the author did a fantastic job with her attention to detail here – from the rules of the tournament with its full heat kill shots versus glancing penalty shots, and especially with the fire suits with built-in coolants that the riders wore. It felt like she thought of everything and it really brought the contests to life.  Between the glorious images of dragons flying through the air and the exciting contests between the riders, I found myself flying through the pages to see who would come out on top.  I loved everything about this aspect of the fantasy world in Fireborne.

I’m also a big fan of political intrigue, so seeing what’s going on behind the scenes as the Dragonriders prep for possible war was a big selling point for me too. I’m always drawn to those scenes where alliances are formed while other alliances are called into question and tested.  In the case of Fireborne, this led to a question that ultimately left me with food for thought:  If the new regime starts doing the same things that the old regime was doing, are you any better off now than you were then?

Even with everything I’ve written, I’ve still barely scratched the surface of the many layers of Rosaria Munda’s Fireborne.  It’s an emotional novel about revolution, rivalry, and family that is sure to captivate you.

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

Game of Thrones meets Red Rising in a debut young adult fantasy that’s full of rivalry, romance… and dragons.

Annie and Lee were just children when a brutal revolution changed their world, giving everyone—even the lowborn—a chance to test into the governing class of dragonriders.

Now they are both rising stars in the new regime, despite backgrounds that couldn’t be more different. Annie’s lowborn family was executed by dragonfire, while Lee’s aristocratic family was murdered by revolutionaries. Growing up in the same orphanage forged their friendship, and seven years of training have made them rivals for the top position in the dragonriding fleet.

But everything changes when survivors from the old regime surface, bent on reclaiming the city.

With war on the horizon and his relationship with Annie changing fast, Lee must choose to kill the only family he has left or to betray everything he’s come to believe in. And Annie must decide whether to protect the boy she loves . . . or step up to be the champion her city needs.

From debut author Rosaria Munda comes a gripping adventure that calls into question which matters most: the family you were born into, or the one you’ve chosen.

four-stars

About Rosaria Munda

Rosaria grew up in rural North Carolina, where she climbed trees, read Harry Potter fanfiction, and taught herself Latin. She studied political theory at Princeton and lives in Chicago with her husband and cat. Fireborne (G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2019) is her debut novel.

Review: THE BODIES IN THE LIBRARY by Marty Wingate

Review:  THE BODIES IN THE LIBRARY by Marty WingateThe Bodies in the Library by Marty Wingate
four-stars
Series: First Edition Library Mystery #1
Published by Berkley/Penguin Random House on October 8, 2019
Genres: Mystery, Cozy Mystery
Pages: 336
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE BODIES IN THE LIBRARY Review

 

Marty Wingate’s latest novel The Bodies in the Library is the first installment in her new cozy mystery series entitled First Edition Library Mystery and boy, is it a gem of a book!  Set in the wonderful city of Bath, England, The Bodies in the Library follows Hayley Blake, who is the new curator of Lady Georgiana Fowling’s First Edition library.

I, quite frankly, was sold on this cozy mystery as soon as I realized it was set in a library, but my enjoyment of the book only grew as I got to know Hayley and her coworker, Glynis Woolgar.  Hayley is a delightful character and it’s fun to watch her determination as she strives to make a go of her new job, with a major goal being to modernize the library and make it more relevant and vital to Bath’s society.  Glynis is not a big fan of change and so pretty much fights her every step of the way.  Glynis is especially not a fan of the writer’s group Hayley invites to use the library’s space for their weekly meetings.  Hayley thinks it’s a perfect fit because the library is known for its collection of first editions written by famous mystery writers like Agatha Christie, and this particular writer’s group specializes in writing fanfiction based on Christie’s novels.  When one of the writers turns up dead in the library, however, Hayley starts to think that maybe Glynis was right and when the police don’t move fast enough to suit her, she takes matters into her own hands to see if she can catch a killer.  After all, her library’s reputation is at stake here!

Okay, I really don’t want to say much else since it’s a mystery and I don’t want to spoil it, but seriously, how can you resist a cozy mystery set in a library with a bunch of fanfiction writers as possible murder suspects?  The Bodies in the Library is a fun read with plenty of plot twists to keep you thoroughly entertained and guessing who the murderer is until the very end.  If you like libraries, feisty protagonists, and cozy mysteries, The Bodies in the Library needs to be on your reading list!

 

 

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

Hayley Burke’s fresh start as the curator of The First Edition Society’s library in Bath, England, is about to take a rotten turn in this charming new mystery series from USA Today bestselling author Marty Wingate.

Hayley Burke has landed a dream job. She is the new curator of Lady Georgiana Fowling’s First Edition library. The library is kept at Middlebank House, a lovely Georgian home in Bath, England. Hayley lives on the premises and works with the finicky Glynis Woolgar, Lady Fowling’s former secretary.

Mrs. Woolgar does not like Hayley’s ideas to modernize The First Edition Society and bring in fresh blood. And she is not even aware of the fact that Hayley does not know the first thing about the Golden Age of Mysteries. Hayley is faking it till she makes it, and one of her plans to breathe new life into the Society is actually taking flight–an Agatha Christie fan fiction writers group is paying dues to meet up at Middlebank House.

But when one of the group is found dead in the venerable stacks of the library, Hayley has to catch the killer to save the Society and her new job.

four-stars

About Marty Wingate

USA Today best-selling author Marty Wingate writes three mystery series set in England. The Potting Shed books (Alibi) feature Pru Parke, a middle-aged American gardener transplanted from Texas to England, and the Birds of a Feather series (Alibi) follows Julia Lanchester, bird lover, who runs a tourist office in a Suffolk village. Marty’s newest series—The First Edition Library (Berkley)—presents Hayley Burke, the curator of a collection of books from the Golden Age of Mystery. The Bodies in the Library, book one, will be released October 1, 2019.

Marty prefers on-the-ground research whenever possible, and so she and her husband regularly travel to England and Scotland, where she can be found tracing the steps of her characters, stopping for tea and a slice of Victoria sponge in a café, or enjoying a swift half in a pub.

Review: THE GRACE YEAR by Kim Liggett

Review:  THE GRACE YEAR by Kim LiggettThe Grace Year by Kim Liggett
four-stars
Published by Wednesday Books on October 8, 2019
Genres: Science Fiction, Dystopian
Pages: 416
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE GRACE YEAR Review

 

Kim Liggett’s The Grace Year is a dystopian novel that focuses on what happens when a group of sixteen-year-old girls are banished to a remote camp and forced to fend for themselves for a year.  Why? Because the society they live in believes that they all possess dangerous magic and must be purified before they are suitable to take their rightful place in society.  Sounds crazy and a little creepy, right?  Well, buckle up because that’s just the beginning of all of the craziness and creepiness that is to come if you pick up a copy of The Grace Year.

I want to start by talking about the world the story is set in.  The world of Granger County grabbed my attention right away. It’s a very dark place and has an almost Puritanical vibe to it.  The men are clearly in charge, while the women have no rights whatsoever.  This element of the story has a very Handmaid’s Tale feel to it.  The women’s role is to grow up, become wives, and bear children. Or if that isn’t an option, to go and work as laborers.  Females are also believed to possess a very dangerous and seductive kind of magic.  The men of the town believe that this magic must be driven from women of marriageable age before they can be suitable wives.  To accomplish this, the town has a ritual where all girls take part in a “grace year” when they turn sixteen.  They are all sent away to a remote camp where they must fend for themselves for an entire year.  The belief is that this is some kind of a purification ritual and the girls who survive it will come home ready to submit to their husbands or to a life of labor if that is their destiny.

Sounds like a fun place to live, right?  Yeah, the protagonist of the story, sixteen year old Tierney James, doesn’t think so either. The bulk of the story focuses on Tierney and how she thinks this whole patriarchal society is b.s. and has no interest whatsoever in becoming a wife or mother.  I loved Tierney right away, especially because her views about everything put her at odds with most of the people in Granger, including most of her fellow grace year girls.  A survival story always has its fair share of tension anyway, but the author ratchets it up a notch here by putting Tierney in the underdog role against all of these other girls that she is locked in with.

The author also effectively builds tension and suspense by having one of the rules of the ritual be that no one who makes it home from the camp is allowed to talk about what happened there.  Tierney and her fellow grace year girls have no idea what they’re walking into and I don’t want to say much about it either, so I’m going to leave it at this:  I’ve seen write-ups comparing The Grace Year to not only The Handmaid’s Tale, but also to Lord of the Flies and The Hunger Games and I’m here to tell you that those comparisons are spot on!  What happened in there had me flying through the pages and wondering who, if anyone, was going to actually make it back home.

I’ve already mentioned that this is a dark world, as is to be expected in a dystopian read.  I just also want to quickly point out that I think the book is best geared towards older YA readers.  While there are some hopeful moments sprinkled throughout as I found myself cheering Tierney on to be one of the survivors, by and large, this is a violent, even gory, read and it tackles dark themes such as mental and physical abuse, suicide, and many others.  It’s not a read for the faint of heart.

Kim Liggett’s The Grace Year is one of those books that had me wanting to scream “Down with the Patriarchy!” the entire time I was reading it. If a dark but powerful tale of survival and resistance sounds like your cup of tea, you should give The Grace Year a try.

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

No one speaks of the grace year. It’s forbidden.

Girls are told they have the power to lure grown men from their beds, drive women mad with jealousy. They believe their very skin emits a powerful aphrodisiac, the potent essence of youth, of a girl on the edge of womanhood. That’s why they’re banished for their sixteenth year, to release their magic into the wild so they can return purified and ready for marriage. But not all of them will make it home alive.

Sixteen-year-old Tierney James dreams of a better life—a society that doesn’t pit friend against friend or woman against woman, but as her own grace year draws near, she quickly realizes that it’s not just the brutal elements they must fear. It’s not even the poachers in the woods, men who are waiting for their chance to grab one of the girls in order to make their fortune on the black market. Their greatest threat may very well be each other.

four-stars

About Kim Liggett

Kim Liggett, originally from the rural midwest, moved to New York City to pursue a career in the arts. She’s the author of Blood and Salt, Heart of Ash, The Last Harvest (Bram Stoker Award Winner), The Unfortunates, and The Grace Year. Kim spends her free time studying tarot and scouring Manhattan for rare vials of perfume and the perfect egg white cocktail.

Review: THE SHAPE OF NIGHT by Tess Gerritsen

Review:  THE SHAPE OF NIGHT by Tess GerritsenThe Shape of Night by Tess Gerritsen
three-half-stars
Published by Ballantine Books on October 1, 2019
Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller, Paranormal
Pages: 288
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE SHAPE OF NIGHT Review

 

I’ve been a fan of Tess Gerritsen’s novels for years, especially her Rizzoli and Isles thriller series, so when I saw she had a new novel coming out, The Shape of Night, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy.

The Shape of Night is set in a remote coastal town in Maine where the protagonist, food writer Ava Collette, has rented a house, in hopes of escaping her troubles so that she can focus on finishing her latest cookbook, which is way overdue to her publishers.  The home, Brodie’s Watch, is named after its original owner Captain Jeremiah Brodie, who died at sea over 150 years ago. When Ava firsts arrives at Brodie’s Watch, the outside does not look at all like the quiet, peaceful spot she was hoping for.  Instead, it actually looks quite menacing and unwelcoming.  Once inside, however, it’s exactly what Ava was hoping for and so she settles in quickly, feeling at peace with the place.

That is, until she starts feeling like she’s being watched.  And not only that, she also starts hearing strange noises and seeing things at night that have her questioning her own sanity.  When she also starts to find random personal items that clearly belonged to the prior tenant, Ava contacts her realtor to see about forwarding the items to the prior tenant and to try to get some answers about the house.  The realtor gives her the runaround at first but then finally admits that the prior tenant left very abruptly and without explanation. Unsatisfied with the answers she is given, Ava starts to do some digging to learn as much as she can about the house and its prior owners.  What she finds regarding the prior owners is not only incredibly disturbing, but it could actually end up costing Ava her life.

While The Shape of Night is quite different from those Rizzoli and Isles novels I love so much because it features a paranormal element, it still kept me on the edge of my seat with the riveting mystery of what is going on at Brodie’s Watch.  I was very engrossed in the mystery of the house and whether or not it was actually haunted, and so found Ava’s investigation very entertaining.  I was also very invested in the character of Ava and wanted to know more about what had happened in her personal life to have her fleeing to such a remote location and avoiding phone calls from her friends and family.

I also loved the creepy, atmospheric, almost Gothic feel that Brodie’s Watch has at night and all of the supernatural touches that Gerritsen has added.  Ava’s paranoia about what she was experiencing was also quite contagious and had me looking over my own shoulder to make sure no one was watching me!

All in all, this was a gripping read that I was able to fly through in just a couple of sittings.  My only real issue with the book was that there were some sexual scenes in the book that I could have done without. They didn’t really add anything to the storyline and were a little more graphic than necessary, veering into BDSM territory.  Even with that issue though, it was definitely still a very solid read for me.

If you’re into mysteries and/or paranormal stories, Tess Gerritsen’s The Shape of Night may be exactly the book you’re looking for.  It’s a perfect read for fall!

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

A woman trying to outrun her past is drawn to a quiet coastal town in Maine–and to a string of unsolved murders–in this haunting tale of romantic suspense from New York Times bestselling author Tess Gerritsen.

Ava Collette is punishing herself for an unspeakable tragedy. So she flees Boston and rents an old home named Brodie’s Watch on a remote coastal peninsula of Maine, hoping to work on a cookbook inspired by New England cuisine that she’s been trying to finish for months. She immediately feels at peace in the isolated house–until she starts to hear strange noises.

Rumor has it that a sea captain named Brodie has haunted the house for decades. Then, one night, Ava is awakened to find herself face to face with an apparition who looks–and feels–all too real. Meanwhile, there’s been a series of accidental deaths nearby that don’t add up. And as Ava starts to check into the previous renter’s mysterious disappearance, she starts to realize that there’s a disturbing secret some in town are desperate to keep hidden.

Soon all of Ava’s waking hours are consumed by her investigation, and her nights are ignited by Captain Brodie’s ghostly visits. But even as she questions her own sanity, she knows she must uncover the truth before a killer strikes again.

three-half-stars

About Tess Gerritsen

Internationally bestselling author Tess Gerritsen took an unusual route to a writing career. A graduate of Stanford University, Tess went on to medical school at the University of California, San Francisco, where she was awarded her M.D.

While on maternity leave from her work as a physician, she began to write fiction. In 1987, her first novel was published. Call After Midnight, a romantic thriller, was followed by eight more romantic suspense novels. She also wrote a screenplay, “Adrift”, which aired as a 1993 CBS Movie of the Week starring Kate Jackson.

Tess’s first medical thriller, Harvest, was released in hardcover in 1996, and it marked her debut on the New York Times bestseller list. Her suspense novels since then have been: Life Support (1997), Bloodstream (1998), Gravity (1999), The Surgeon (2001), The Apprentice (2002), The Sinner (2003), Body Double (2004), Vanish (2005), The Mephisto Club (2006), and The Bone Garden (2007). Her books have been translated into 31 languages, and more than 15 million copies have been sold around the world.

As well as being a New York Times bestselling author, she has also been a #1 bestseller in both Germany and the UK. She has won both the Nero Wolfe Award (for Vanish) and the Rita Award (for The Surgeon.) Critics around the world have praised her novels as “Pulse-pounding fun” (Philadelphia Inquirer), “Scary and brilliant” (Toronto Globe and Mail), and “Polished, riveting prose” (Chicago Tribune). Publisher Weekly has dubbed her the “medical suspense queen”.

Now retired from medicine, she writes full time. She lives in Maine.

Review: 29 SECONDS by T.M. Logan

Review:  29 SECONDS by T.M. Logan29 Seconds by T.M. Logan
Also by this author: Lies
four-stars
Published by St. Martin's Press on September 10, 2019
Genres: Thriller, Fiction
Pages: 368
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

 

 

 

 

 

 

29 SECONDS Review

 

Wow, what a book! T.M. Logan’s latest novel 29 Seconds follows Dr. Sarah Haywood, who is a contracted member of a university faculty.  Sarah is a shining star in her department, but one person stands in the way of her getting the permanent position with the university she so desperately desires…her boss.  Alan Hawthorne, an esteemed professor and a TV host to boot, is a pig. He’s so awful that the women who work with him have an established set of rules as to how to interact with him, with the number one rule being to never, ever be alone with him.  He dangles promotions in exchange for sexual favors or threatens to ruin careers if a woman chooses not to participate in such acts.

When the novel opens, Sarah is clearly in Hawthorne’s crosshairs and he is making her life a living hell every day with endless uncomfortable encounters and veiled threats.  The workplace is completely toxic but any woman who leaves the staff finds herself black-listed in the academic world, also courtesy of Hawthorne.  The author does a wonderful job of making Sarah a sympathetic character.  She’s clearly the underdog in an impossible situation and I was immediately rooting for her to find a way to beat this monster and get that promotion.

A chance encounter with another powerful and dangerous man presents her with the unexpected opportunity to make one person disappear.  It’s the answer to Sarah’s prayers, but can she really bring herself to do it?  This moral dilemma that Sarah faces is the most compelling element of the story for me, and it’s what makes the novel so suspenseful.  Will she or won’t she?  How far can Hawthorne push and threaten her before she snaps?

I loved reading Sarah’s internal thoughts as she struggled with her decision.  She’s so tempted but she’s also flat out horrified at herself for even considering it.  I can’t even imagine working for such a monster that such a thing would be a temptation, but at the same time, the whole situation had me a little surprised and horrified at myself because I found myself kind of hoping she would just go for it.  It really gave me something to think about and I love it when a book can do that.

T.M. Logan’s 29 Seconds is a wild ride! I devoured it in less than 24 hours. Filled with suspense and exciting twists and turns, it’s a book I simply could not put down until I knew how it was going to end.  And what an ending it is! I totally did not see it coming, which for me, is the hallmark of a great thriller.

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

Give me one name. One person. And I will make them disappear . . .

When Sarah rescues a young girl in trouble, she expects nothing in return. But her act of bravery puts a powerful and dangerous man in her debt. He lives by his own brutal code, and all debts must be repaid – in the only way he knows how.

He offers Sarah a way to solve a desperate situation with her intolerable boss. A once-in-a-lifetime deal that will make all her problems disappear.

No consequences. No comeback. No chance of being found out.

All it takes is a 29 second phone call.

Because everyone has a name to give. Don’t they?

four-stars

About T.M. Logan

Tim was born in Berkshire and studied at Queen Mary and Cardiff universities before becoming a national newspaper journalist. He currently writes full-time and lives in Nottinghamshire with his wife and two children. LIES is his first novel – published by Bonnier Zaffre in January 2017. His next thriller, 29 SECONDS, comes out in January 2018 and is currently available to pre-order. For exclusive writing and new releases from TM Logan, sign up to the Readers’ Club: www.bit.ly/TMLogan.

Review: AKIN by Emma Donoghue

Review:  AKIN by Emma DonoghueAkin by Emma Donoghue
Also by this author: Room
four-half-stars
on September 10, 2019
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary Fiction
Pages: 352
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AKIN Review

 

Emma Donoghue is an auto-buy author for me. I fell in love with the way she crafts her stories when I read her best-known novel, Room, and have immensely enjoyed every book of hers I’ve read since.  It was therefore a given that I would request a review copy of Akin, her latest novel.  I was a little nervous since I always hype her books up in my head and then worry they won’t live up to my expectations, but my worries were alleviated as soon as I read the first page and was immediately drawn into the life of the quirky protagonist, Noah Selvaggio.

Noah is a seventy-nine year old retired professor who is about to embark on a trip to the South of France, where he was born.  It’s a trip he has been meaning to take for years, but now that he’s a widower and nearing 80, he knows his time is running out.  While getting his affairs in order for the trip, he is contacted unexpectedly by a representative from Child Services, informing him that his 11 year old great nephew is in danger of being separated from his family if he doesn’t have a relative that he can move in with immediately.  Michael’s mother is in prison, his father is deceased, and no other relatives are able or willing to take him at this time.  Noah has never had any contact with Michael – they are strangers to each other – but after much consideration, he agrees to take him in on a temporary basis.  When he finally meets Michael, he is immediately faced with a mouthy pre-teen who curses like a sailor and who does everything he can to be as uncooperative as possible.  Noah is resigned to the situation though and so this unlikely duo sets off for Nice, France together.

Much of Akin explores the evolving relationship between Noah and Michael, and I just loved every minute of this.  Donoghue has the entire story unfold from Noah’s perspective so we’re in his head as he, who never had children of his own, tries to navigate the minefield of parenthood while dealing with a child who is clearly lashing out because he is in a situation that isn’t of his own making.  Noah is practically walking a tightrope trying to gently parent the child, but without overstepping his boundaries, and it’s very challenging every step of the way.  I really loved watching this pair get to know each other, and I thought Donoghue did a brilliant job of authentically depicting the relationship, with all of its inevitable ups and downs.  They have their fair share of tender moments and frustrating moments, but there are also plenty of laugh out loud moments along the way.

While that relationship is the driving force behind the novel, Donoghue adds a fabulous subplot that I thought just really took the book to another level.  While Noah is preparing for his trip to France, he comes across a packet of old photos in some of his mother’s belongings.  They’re unusual photos that don’t make sense to Noah, but he can see they were taken in France during the 1940’s, so he decides to bring them along to see if the opportunity to learn more about them presents itself.  Noah doesn’t know where to even begin, but his technologically savvy great nephew comes in very handy and helps him identify a hotel in one of the photos.  The hotel, as it turns out, was a headquarters of sorts for the Nazis during WWII.  It was where they brought Jews and other prisoners before shipping them off to Drancy and then to Auschwitz.  I’m a huge fan of historical fiction, especially WWII fiction, so this angle of the story just sucked me right in, especially as it became clear that Noah’s mother had played an active role in the war.  What wasn’t so clear, however, was what side she was on, Resistance or Nazi collaborator.  Noah becomes obsessed with trying to figure out what his mother’s role was because he’s starting to feel as if he never really knew his mother at all. Michael is equally curious since this woman would have been his great grandmother, and so the two of them work as a team to learn the truth.

Emma Donoghue’s Akin is just such a wonderful read on so many levels.  The mystery regarding Noah’s mother is riveting, but it’s that relationship between Noah and Michael that gives this story such heart.  As its title suggests, Akin is ultimately a beautiful story about what it means to be family.  I’d highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys stories that focus on family, to fans of both contemporary and historical fiction, and of course to Emma Donoghue fans, who are sure to love this gem. I think it’s my favorite Donoghue book yet!

 

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

A retired New York professor’s life is thrown into chaos when he takes a young great-nephew to the French Riviera, in hopes of uncovering his own mother’s wartime secrets in the next masterpiece from New York Times bestselling author Emma Donoghue.

Noah Selvaggio is a retired chemistry professor and widower living on the Upper West Side, but born in the South of France. He is days away from his first visit back to Nice since he was a child, bringing with him a handful of puzzling photos he’s discovered from his mother’s wartime years. But he receives a call from social services: Noah is the closest available relative of an eleven-year-old great-nephew he’s never met, who urgently needs someone to look after him. Out of a feeling of obligation, Noah agrees to take Michael along on his trip.

Much has changed in this famously charming seaside mecca, still haunted by memories of the Nazi occupation. The unlikely duo, suffering from jet lag and culture shock, bicker about everything from steak frites to screen time. But Noah gradually comes to appreciate the boy’s truculent wit, and Michael’s ease with tech and sharp eye help Noah unearth troubling details about their family’s past. Both come to grasp the risks people in all eras have run for their loved ones, and find they are more akin than they knew.

Written with all the tenderness and psychological intensity that made Room an international bestseller, Akin is a funny, heart-wrenching tale of an old man and a boy, born two generations apart, who unpick their painful story and start to write a new one together.

four-half-stars

About Emma Donoghue

emma donoghue

Emma is the youngest of eight children of Frances and Denis Donoghue. She attended Catholic convent schools in Dublin, apart from one year in New York at the age of ten. In 1990 she earned a first-class honours BA in English and French from University College Dublin, and in 1997 a PhD (on the concept of friendship between men and women in eighteenth-century English fiction) from the University of Cambridge. Since the age of 23, Donoghue has earned her living as a full-time writer. After years of commuting between England, Ireland, and Canada, in 1998 she settled in London, Ontario, where she lives with her partner and their son and daughter.

Review: WELL MET by Jen DeLuca

Review:  WELL MET by Jen DeLucaWell Met by Jen DeLuca
four-half-stars
Published by BERKLEY on September 3, 2019
Genres: Romance, Contemporary Fiction
Pages: 319
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

 

 

 

 

 

 

WELL MET Review

Jen DeLuca’s Well Met is one of the most adorable books I’ve read in a while.  It follows a young woman named Emily, who is going through a rough patch when we first meet her.  She has dropped out of college, lost her job, and her long-term, live-in boyfriend wants to end things, which has also left her basically homeless.

When her sister is severely injured in a car accident and needs someone to help care for her, Emily agrees to move to her sister’s place in the tiny town of Willow Creek, Maryland for the summer.  While Emily knew she would also be helping out with her teenage niece, Caitlyn, driving her around, etc, what she didn’t realize was that she would find herself roped into volunteering at the local Renaissance Faire all summer too.  Even though she’s completely dreading having to take part in the Faire, especially after encountering Simon, the horribly gruff Faire coordinator, whom she immediately dubs the “RenFaire Killjoy,” Emily has no idea that this whole experience could end up being exactly the thing she needs to get her life back on track.

I honestly loved everything about this book.  Emily was such a fantastic character, one of those messy, complicated characters that I love so much because she just seems so authentic.  She could easily be me or any one of my friends.  I loved getting inside of her head as she dreads the whole Faire experience but then gradually starts to warm up to it as she gets into the groove and starts making friends.  I also loved that even though she and her sister have never been close, she was truly willing to put her entire life on hold to come and help out.  I think that says a lot about her.

Speaking of which, I also loved the family vibe of the book.  Yes, I think the book is primarily meant to be a romance, but it also has this wonderful dynamic between Emily and her sister, and of course, between Emily and her niece.  It’s really sweet watching them all bond as a family as they spend more and more time together.  And again, speaking to Emily’s character, I thought it was wonderful that she agreed to participate in the Faire, just because it was so important to her niece.

As much as I adored Emily, I actually think Simon, aka the RenFaire Killjoy, was my favorite character.  Yes, he’s grouchy and pretty awful to Emily when she first joins the Faire, but once we learn more of his story and how heartbreaking it truly is, I just wanted to give Simon a hug.  I thought the author did a wonderful job of peeling back the layers of this character each time Emily encounters him, letting her and us really get to see the real Simon and what a caring person he is. The more I got to know Simon, the more I wanted him and Emily to move forward together.

I also adored the charming small town setting and the whole atmosphere of the Renaissance Faire.  It provided such a fun backdrop to offset some of the more emotional scenes between Simon and Emily.  I loved the jousting, the hand binding ceremonies, the tavern atmosphere, and especially the laugh out loud moments that frequently took place between Faire castmates who were all about having a good time and making the most of their Faire experience. I’ve been to my share of Faires and DeLuca captures the whole atmosphere perfectly and really makes you feel like you’re there.

Well Met is truly a delightful novel about family, love, and finding your place in the world. It made me laugh, it made me shed a tear or two, and it was just all around a wonderful reading experience.  I highly recommend it to everyone!

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

All’s faire in love and war for two sworn enemies who indulge in a harmless flirtation in a laugh-out-loud rom-com from debut author, Jen DeLuca.

Emily knew there would be strings attached when she relocated to the small town of Willow Creek, Maryland, for the summer to help her sister recover from an accident, but who could anticipate getting roped into volunteering for the local Renaissance Faire alongside her teenaged niece? Or that the irritating and inscrutable schoolteacher in charge of the volunteers would be so annoying that she finds it impossible to stop thinking about him?

The faire is Simon’s family legacy and from the start he makes clear he doesn’t have time for Emily’s lighthearted approach to life, her oddball Shakespeare conspiracy theories, or her endless suggestions for new acts to shake things up. Yet on the faire grounds he becomes a different person, flirting freely with Emily when she’s in her revealing wench’s costume. But is this attraction real, or just part of the characters they’re portraying?

This summer was only ever supposed to be a pit stop on the way to somewhere else for Emily, but soon she can’t seem to shake the fantasy of establishing something more with Simon, or a permanent home of her own in Willow Creek.

four-half-stars

About Jen DeLuca

Jen DeLuca was born and raised near Richmond, Virginia, but now lives in Central Florida with her husband and a houseful of rescue pets. She loves latte-flavored lattes, Hokies football, and the Oxford comma. Well Met is her first novel, inspired by her time volunteering as a pub wench with her local Renaissance Faire.

Review: THE LADY ROGUE by Jenn Bennett

Review:  THE LADY ROGUE by Jenn BennettThe Lady Rogue by Jenn Bennett
Also by this author: Starry Eyes
four-stars
Published by Simon Pulse on September 3, 2019
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Young Adult Fiction
Pages: 384
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE LADY ROGUE Review

 

I’ve been a fan of Jenn Bennett’s YA contemporary novels for a while now but had yet to try one of her fantasy series.  When I saw that her latest novel, The Lady Rogue, was a fantasy novel with a historical twist, set in Romania, I couldn’t resist requesting it.

Jenn Bennett is one of my favorite authors because she does such a great job of creating characters that I immediately fall in love with and she did not let me down when it came to the main characters of The Lady Rogue.  I adored teens Theodora (or Theo as she is called) and Huck from the moment I met them.  Theo is sassy, whip-smart, and is addicted to cryptology and crossword puzzles.  She is also incredibly annoyed with her father when we first meet her.  She’s angry because he has dumped her in Istanbul with a babysitter while he’s off on a treasure hunting expedition in the mountains of Turkey.  When the babysitter gets tired of Theo’s antic and bails, taking all of Theo’s traveler’s checks with her as severance pay, Theo changes her tune.  She is now stranded until her father finally returns from his expedition.

Where Theo is all sass and brains, Huck is more of a lovable goofball but with a heartbreaking past.  His parents died in a car accident when he was younger, and he ended up living with Theo and her dad.  He practically became part of their family, until something happened between him and Theo that made everything awkward and ended with Theo’s dad finally telling him to move out and to have no further contact with Theo.

When Huck shows up at Theo’s hotel to retrieve her instead of her father, and with her father’s journal in hand, Theo is shocked and just knows something terrible has happened. She hasn’t seen Huck in over a year and assumed her father hadn’t either based on how they parted ways.  Her father’s instruction to Huck were quite simple:  give the journal to Theo, keep her safe, and get her home.  Or else…

Chaos and adventure ensue when Theo wants no parts of going home and decides she needs to find her father no matter what.  Huck reluctantly agrees to disobey his orders and help Theo find him.  Their adventure takes them on the Orient Express to Romania because apparently Theo’s father’s misadventures involve a supposedly cursed ring that once belonged to the legendary Vlad the Impaler, or as we more famously know him, Dracula.  As Theo and Huck quickly learn, Theo’s dad is not the only one looking for the ring. Some unsavory characters are also in pursuit of it and seem to think Dad’s journal would be a valuable resource, so Theo and Huck find themselves in the middle of a dangerous game of cat and mouse.

The Lady Rogue is one of those books that has something for everyone.  If I was going to compare it to another novel, I’d say it has a Hunting Prince Dracula/Stalking Jack the Ripper vibe.  I loved the sense of adventure and suspense that Bennett builds as we follow Theo and Huck as they try to find Theo’s dad while evading their own pursuers.  I also thought Bennett did a beautiful job of capturing the Gothic feel of the Romanian villages and that creepy atmospheric vibe of knowing that’s Vlad the Impaler’s old stomping grounds.  In addition to the adventure and the mystery that surrounds the cursed ring and the disappearance of Theo’s father, I also really enjoyed the added tension from the personal storyline between Huck and Theo as they eventually have to talk about what happened the night when Huck was forced to move out.

Jenn Bennett continues to impress me with her writing and her storytelling abilities with The Lady Rogue.  If you enjoy reading fantasy and/or historical fiction that features lovable characters, magical or cursed objects, and an atmospheric Gothic-like setting, The Lady Rogue needs to go on your reading list.

 

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

The Last Magician meets A Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue in this thrilling tale filled with magic and set in the mysterious Carpathian Mountains where a girl must hunt down Vlad the Impaler’s cursed ring in order to save her father.

Some legends never die…

Traveling with her treasure-hunting father has always been a dream for Theodora. She’s read every book in his library, has an impressive knowledge of the world’s most sought-after relics, and has all the ambition in the world. What she doesn’t have is her father’s permission. That honor goes to her father’s nineteen-year-old protégé—and once-upon-a-time love of Theodora’s life—Huck Gallagher, while Theodora is left to sit alone in her hotel in Istanbul.

Until Huck arrives from an expedition without her father and enlists Theodora’s help in rescuing him. Armed with her father’s travel journal, the reluctant duo learns that her father had been digging up information on a legendary and magical ring that once belonged to Vlad the Impaler—more widely known as Dracula—and that it just might be the key to finding him.

Journeying into Romania, Theodora and Huck embark on a captivating adventure through Gothic villages and dark castles in the misty Carpathian Mountains to recover the notorious ring. But they aren’t the only ones who are searching for it. A secretive and dangerous occult society with a powerful link to Vlad the Impaler himself is hunting for it, too. And they will go to any lengths—including murder—to possess it.

four-stars

About Jenn Bennett

Jenn Bennett is an award-winning author of young adult contemporary romance books, including: Alex, Approximately; The Anatomical Shape of a Heart; and Starry Eyes. She also writes romance and urban fantasy for adults (the Roaring Twenties and Arcadia Bell series). Her books have earned multiple starred reviews, won the Romance Writers of America’s prestigious RITA® Award, garnered two Reviewers’ Choice awards and a Seal of Excellence from RT Book Reviews, and been included on Publishers Weekly Best Books annual list. She lives near Atlanta with one husband and two dogs.