Book Review: Archangel’s War, Guild Hunter- Book #12

Author: Nalini Singh
Book Name: Archangel’s War
Release Date: September 24, 2019
Series: Guild Hunter
Order: #12
Genre: Fantasy/Urban/Romance
Overall SPA: 3.5 Stars
3.5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Wings of silver. Wings of blue. Mortal heart. Broken dreams. Shatter. Shatter. Shatter. A sundering. A grave. I see the end. I see. . . .

The world is in chaos as the power surge of the Cascade rises to a devastating crescendo. In furiously resisting its attempts to turn Elena into a vessel for Raphael’s power, Elena and her archangel are irrevocably changed. . .far beyond the prophecy of a cursed Ancient.

At the same time, violent and eerie events around the world threaten to wipe out entire populations. And in the Archangel Lijuan’s former territory, an unnatural fog weaves through the land, leaving only a bone-chilling silence in its wake. Soon it becomes clear that even the archangels are not immune to this deadly evil. This time, even the combined power of the Cadre may not be enough. . . .

This war could end them all.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 3.5/5 Stars
Series Continuity/Expectations: 4/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 3.5/5 Stars

Was this entertaining? Did I enjoy it? Did this keep me invested in the story? Yes. Yes. And Yes. But… (there always seems to be a but) it also kind of felt a lot like reading a book I’ve already read.

From the Elena and Raphael perspective, we’ve already done this dance before. Sure some of the specific details are a little different, but the bigger picture is still the same. Scramble to understand the newest change thrown at them from a power perspective. Have a raging archangel battle over New York. These are big pieces that are seen in nearly every Guild Hunter book that features them and you see them all again in this book, so it really does feel like reading the same thing again.

It also makes it feel like they spend so much time scrambling to deal with those constant changes, that they don’t get the opportunity to really grow as characters. You would think that by book 12 they wouldn’t have to still be doing that scrambling to catch up. That there would have been some maturing to how they handled situations, but you see the same Rafael and Elena that I feel like you’ve seen in the last couple of books they were the focus characters.

I did still enjoy this, but it felt more like revisiting an old favorite rather than picking up a new release.

Book Review: The Missing Years – Lexie Elliot

Author: Lexie Elliot
Book Name: The Missing Years
Release Date: April 23, 2019
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Mystery/Suspense
Overall SPA: 4 Stars
4 Stars

 

 

Blurb: An eerie, old Scottish manor in the middle of nowhere that’s now hers.

Ailsa Calder has inherited half of a house. The other half belongs to a man who disappeared without a trace twenty-seven years ago—her father.

Leaving London behind to settle the inheritance from her mother’s estate, Ailsa returns to her childhood home, nestled amongst the craggy peaks of the Scottish Highlands, joined by the half-sister who’s almost a stranger to her.

Ailsa can’t escape the claustrophobic feeling that the house itself is watching her—as if her past hungers to consume her. She also can’t ignore how the neighbourhood animals refuse to set one foot within the gates of the garden.

When the first nighttime intruder shows up, Ailsa fears that the manor’s careless rugged beauty could cost her everything.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 4/5 Stars
Believability: 3.5/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 4/5 Stars

This had a really nice balance between being suspenseful and creepy without being outright terrifying, making this a great choice for an October read.

It took me a little bit before I could get into this, but once I did, I sort of just sunk into it. I liked the fact that you aren’t certain which characters are bad guys, or if you even really have one, because no one is really overtly awful or in your face. They all seem to be mostly decent people, even if they each have interesting quirks.

I liked the fact that this rides a paranormal edge even though it really isn’t a paranormal book. The way that thread was woven through this made it fun to at least wonder about how far it would go in that direction.

The little bits about Ailsa’s father in between chapters were a bit confusing for a while, but they ended up being another interesting piece of the story.

The specifics of the ending left me with a “Dang! That is messed up!” kind of reaction, but it was done really well. Overall, I really enjoyed this.

 

An Unexpected Turn On BookSirens

An Unexpected Turn is now available for free to reviewers on BookSirens.

If you aren’t aware of BookSirens, it is a site similar to NetGalley, but not nearly as large. It also focuses on both the reviewers and the books. From what I’ve been able to see so far (and I’m REALLY new at it), most of the books offered are indie or small press.

For book bloggers/reviewers, once you establish an account, you can get review copies to read for free. It also allows you to see a stats breakdown for what you’ve read and where you fall in your reading habits if you tie into your Goodreads account. These stats and the info you put into your profile also helps authors/publishers find you to invite you to read books you might like. You can see mine here for an example.

For authors or publishers, you can list your book for a small fee and it becomes available to potential reviewers to download. This is a paid service in that you pay that initial listing fee and then another small fee per download, but the reviewers themselves are not paid. You also have complete control over the total amount of downloads when you set your book up (and can change once it is there) allowing you to control the total amount you are willing to spend. Your book is then available for a 3 month period (at least at the time of this posting) for those potential reviewers. Oh, BTW… you don’t pay for the downloads per reader when you have a reader you’ve invited to review your book download it through the link BookSirens provides the author.

Since my book has JUST gone live, I don’t have any feedback either way on how successful this is as a promotional investment, but I will be writing a follow up when this is all said and done. In comparison to other options I’ve looked at, this seems to be very reasonably priced for this type of service, so I’m hopeful.

 

Another Nudge: An Unexpected Turn On Kindle Unlimited

Just posting a little reminder, or an “In Case You Didn’t Know”… my book, An Unexpected turn, is available for free to Kindle Unlimited users. A paperback version is also available for those that need a physical book in their hands.

I’m also going to offer up the ebook version to any book bloggers that might be interested in a review copy. Just send me a message and I’ll get it to you.

For those of you that have already taken the time to read this and rate or review it, THANK YOU! It warms this neurotic little introvert’s heart that you took the time to share your thoughts. Every single star and word makes a difference to a book’s success. This is exponentially more important for indie authors.

If you haven’t seen it, the blurb is below.


Blurb:

“When I take a good look at my reflection, I’m surprised that the face looking back at me in the mirror doesn’t look different than the one I’ve seen staring back at me for the last 27 years. I see the same brown hair and brown eyes, the same heart-shaped face, the same upturned nose. I feel like I should look different. That my face should show the upheaval and the weight of the last day, that it should somehow show how much has happened, how the course of my life has changed, but everything is still the same.”

Life is rarely ever predictable. It is rarely even kind. But… sometimes… just sometimes, those unexpected turns that throw you into the chaos and upheaval of loss lead you to the exact place you need to be.

This is a story about love, but it isn’t a romance. It is about holding on when it would be easier to let go, about fighting for those that can’t fight for themselves. It is about finding and creating family through the unpredictable, beautiful mess that is life.

Book Review: Things You Save In A Fire – Katherine Center

Author: Katherine Center
Book Name: Things You Save In A Fire
Release Date: August 13, 2019
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Romance/Family Life
Overall SPA: 4 Stars
4 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Cassie Hanwell was born for emergencies. As one of the only female firefighters in her Texas firehouse, she’s seen her fair share of them, and she’s a total pro at other people’s tragedies. But when her estranged and ailing mother asks her to give up her whole life and move to Boston, Cassie suddenly has an emergency of her own.

The tough, old-school Boston firehouse is as different from Cassie’s old job as it could possibly be. Hazing, a lack of funding, and poor facilities mean that the firemen aren’t exactly thrilled to have a “lady” on the crew—even one as competent and smart as Cassie. Except for the infatuation-inspiring rookie, who doesn’t seem to mind having Cassie around. But she can’t think about that. Because love is girly, and it’s not her thing. And don’t forget the advice her old captain gave her: Never date firefighters. Cassie can feel her resolve slipping…and it means risking it all—the only job she’s ever loved, and the hero she’s worked like hell to become.

Katherine Center’s Things You Save in a Fire is a heartfelt and healing tour-de-force about the strength of vulnerability, the nourishing magic of forgiveness, and the life-changing power of defining courage, at last, for yourself.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 4/5 Stars
Believability: 3.5/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 4/5 Stars

I think I picked this one up at the perfect time for me, because it was exactly what I needed.

Cassie’s character is really interesting. There were times that I felt she was riding the edge of coming across as too perfect and too capable of pretty much anything, but that was balanced out by the places she was also far from either of those things.

The focus of this story for me seems to be more about Cassie’s personal emotional growth than the romance because most of that development happens off the page. What you do get on the page is sweet and warm.

Normally I struggle hard with books that have a heavy emphasis on betrayals and forgiveness, but I think this handled those issues pretty well for the most part and is a big part of why I did end up enjoying this.

This takes some dings in a couple of areas, though. Almost all of those are towards the end and the wrap up because it pushes this just over the line into the too perfect and everything gets wrapped up in a pretty bow range. It narrowly escaped falling off the believability cliff in one area (not saying which to avoid spoiling anything), but it flirted heavily with it for a while.

Overall, this is a warm, sweet, feel good kind of read.

 

Book Review: Take Me Home, Finding Home – Book #1

Author: Rachel Branton
Book Name: Take Me Home
Release Date: September 17, 2017
Series: Finding Home
Order: #1
Genre: Romance/Family Life
Overall SPA: 3.5 Stars
3.5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: What if everything you ever thought was true about your past, wasn’t true at all?

Liana Winn has always felt like an outsider in her family. As a child she was adopted by relatives after her parents’ plane accident in India, but now that she is as an adult, her disjointed memories—and nightmares—of the past continue to make it impossible for her to bridge the wide gulf she still feels with her adoptive family. She is plagued by questions about her parents’ deaths and wonders if that event is the reason for her inability to form deep personal relationships. Although her adoptive brother Christian has become her greatest friend and supporter, she even has difficulty bonding with him. Needing someone means love, and losing those you love hurts too much.

When Liana meets successful businessman, Austin Walker, who has risen above his own difficult childhood on a Wyoming farm, she’s certain their business will not extend to friendship. Yet she cannot deny their powerful connection and the feeling of hope he offers for romance.

But the ghosts of the past will not rest for Liana, and while searching for answers, she makes a shocking discovery that just might mean the end of everything she’s ever believed.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 3/5 Stars
Believability: 3.5/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 3.5/5 Stars

This has all the critical pieces of a heartfelt, emotional story. I was intrigued by Liana’s backstory and wanted to know why she held herself at a distance from people. I did struggle a bit to understand her coldness and forced distance toward her adopted family, mostly because of her age when she was adopted by them didn’t quite seem to fit with that kind of an extreme emotional reaction. As you move through the story, you see a bit more behind the why, but for me it never quite felt like a solid fit.

While this is classified as a romance, it isn’t the main focus of the story. That part is sweet, if a little light and fast in the founding of that relationship.

I was not a fan of Karyn’s character earlier in the book as she felt much, much younger and much more immature than her presented 20 year age, not to mention incredibly self centered. Even if I take into consideration the historical time frame of the mid/late 60s, that level of immaturity didn’t seem to make sense and it didn’t do much to garner any sympathy. Even some of the entries from later in her life, while a bit better, didn’t improve my opinion of her.

Between that and how cold and almost aggressively distant Liana’s character came across early on, the overall emotional impact of the story was brought down a bit for me. Overall, this was a good and interesting story, but it felt as though there were places that were missing tiny pieces that would smooth it all together.

 

*I received a copy of this book from the Author. Opinions stated are honest and my own.

 

Book Review: If Only I Could Tell You – Hannah Beckerman

Author: Hannah Beckerman
Book Name: If Only I Could Tell You
Release Date: October 15, 2019
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Women’s Fiction/Family Life
Overall SPA: 2.5
2.5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Audrey knows that life is filled with ups and downs, but she can’t help feeling like she’s been dealt more than her fair share as she’s watched her family come undone over the years. Her dream as a mother had been for her daughters, Jess and Lily, to be as close as only sisters can be. But now as adults, they no longer speak to each other, and Audrey’s two teenage granddaughters have never met. Even more upsetting is the fact that Audrey has no idea how to fix her family as she wonders if they will ever be whole again.

If only Audrey had known three decades ago that a secret could have the power to split her family in two, but ironically, also keep them linked. And when hostilities threaten to spiral out of control, a devastating choice that was made so many years ago is about to be revealed, testing once and for all Audrey and those she loves.

Is it too late for one broken family to heal and find their way back to each other…?

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 2.5/5 Stars
Believability: 3/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 2.5/5 Stars

This was a pretty heavy read. I wasn’t a huge fan of how heavy and how much focus was spent on the more negative aspects of how people can break apart when faced with grief. While plausible from the perspective that everyone deals with grief differently, I’m struck that I’ve found yet another book in which none of the characters deal with that grief in even remotely healthy ways. I struggled to care about the characters because of that. There is very little in the way of uplifting through this because of that focus.

The story is very well written and can wrench some strong emotions from a reader with some of the subject matter that gets presented here. It just leans too heavily on the negative side of the emotional spectrum for me.

 

*I received a copy of this book from NetGalley. Opinions stated are honest and my own.

 

Book Review: Brave The Tempest, Cassandra Palmer – Book #9

Author: Karen Chance
Book Name: Brave The Tempest
Release Date: July 30, 2019
Series: Cassandra Palmer
Order: #9
Genre: Fantasy/Urban/Romance
Overall SPA: 4 Stars
4 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Cassie Palmer has been chief seer of the supernatural world for a little over four months. In that time, she’s battled two gods, fallen in love with two men, and confronted the two sides of her own nature, both god and human. So it’s not surprising that she currently finds herself facing two adversaries, although they have a single purpose: to wipe out the supernatural community’s newest fighting force, leaving it vulnerable to enemies in this world and beyond.

To prevent catastrophe, the vamps, mages, and demons will have to do the one thing they’ve never managed before and come together as allies. Cassie has the difficult task of keeping the uneasy coalition intact, and of persuading her own two opposing forces, a powerful mage with a secret and a master vampire with a growing obsession, to fight at her side. She just hopes they can do it without tearing each other apart

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 4.5/5 Stars
Series Continuity/Expectations: 4/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 3.5/5 Stars

This book showed me that I still love this world. There is so much to enjoy about it and it is incredibly well built. The common theme seen in previous books, the one where Cassie is constantly knocked down and isn’t even back on her feet to take a breath before she gets knocked right back down again, is, thankfully, not as prevalent throughout this book.

Sadly, in it’s place is a massive amount of rehashing the events in all the previous books. It isn’t all at once, more sprinkled throughout the book, but it is way more than was probably needed for the majority of readers since you simply cannot read these as standalone and not be utterly lost. Mentioning a previous event in another book is one thing, going into a lot of those details made this feel bloated.

For the first half of this book (maybe a little less), you spend a lot of time with Cassie either “remembering” some of those events or doing an awful lot of navel gazing. On one hand, this is a bit refreshing because the reader isn’t being constantly batted around by the events, but at the same time, it doesn’t feel like you are actually getting anywhere.

If you look back at Cassie from the first books in the series and compare them to the Cassie in this book and you don’t see much growth or change. Granted, all 9 of these books happen over an incredibly short period of time, but SO MUCH has happened, you think that how she reacts to all the stuff thrown at her would have progressed at least a little. That lack of growth has become really frustrating for me.

There is a point, later in this book, where you think this is finally getting addressed and you are going to get to see some progress with it. Then, in classic Cassie Palmer style, things start to get knock down, attempt to stand, but get knocked down again before you can get your balance and you lose that forward progress.

As I mentioned before, I still really love this world. I enjoy most of the characters, but the overall progress in the last few books feels like running in place a bit and it is frustrating. Yes, there is some change, but it feels sort of like a lateral move rather than a forward one.

 

Other areas of note (not included in the SPA rating):

Cover: 2/5 Stars

Why does it feel like the covers for these books have regressed the age of Cassie with each new release? I get that she might be on the young side (mid 20’s maybe?), but she isn’t a teenager. Please don’t make her look like one. This one seems to be the least fitting cover in the series.

 

Book Review: Fast Women – Jennifer Crusie

Author: Jennifer Crusie
Book Name: Fast Women
Release Date: May 1, 2001
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Romance/Mystery/Humor
Overall SPA: 3.5 Stars
3.5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: When a down-on-her-luck divorcée meets a determined-to-dominate detective, they find out that falling in love can be murder. . . .

Nell Dysart’s in trouble. Weighed down by an inexplicable divorce and a loss of appetite for everything, Nell is sleepwalking through life until her best friend finagles a job for her with a shabby little detective agency that has lots of potential and a boss who looks easy to manage.

Gabe McKenna isn’t doing too well, either. His detective agency is wasting time on a blackmail case, his partner has decided he hates watching cheating spouses for money, and his ex-wife has just dumped him . . . again. The only thing that’s going his way is that his new secretary looks efficient, boring, and biddable.

But looks can be deceiving, and soon Nell and Gabe are squaring off over embezzlement, business cards, vandalism, dognapping, blackmail, Chinese food, unprofessional sex, and really ugly office furniture, all of which turn out to be the least of their problems. Because soon, there are murders. And shortly after that, Nell and Gabe start falling in love. . . .

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 3/5 Stars
Believability: 3.5/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 3.5/5 Stars

I picked this one up based on a recommendation for something on the funny side of things (thank you nananoyez!). The first 1/3 or so of this absolutely did it’s job with that and was exactly what I was looking for. Nell’s breakdown was just absolutely epic and I loved every second of it.

After that point, things start to level out and you get less of that humor and a bit more serious as the story begins to focus more on the relationships and the background mystery. I wasn’t a huge fan of how Nell and Gabe treated each other for the bulk of the story, so the romance part of this fell a little flat for me. There is a whole lot of toxic going on there and with every relationship in this book, but since this is more than just a romance, I was able to look past that enough to still enjoy the rest of the story.

The mystery part was decent if a little over the top. I’m not certain if I missed pieces or there just weren’t any hidden indications for the reader to be able to figure it out along the way, but the end and wrap up was a bit of a surprise.

The time frame of this story is around the early 2000s, so just a heads up to anyone that hasn’t read this that there are a few points with some dated references that tripped me up a few times because for some reason I expected this to be set in the current decade. It didn’t impact how I felt about the story, it just threw me a bit.

In all, the humor threaded throughout this story is what makes the book in my opinion. Since that was exactly what I was looking for, this hit the spot.

 

 

Book Review: One Night Gone – Tara Laskowski

Author: Tara Laskowski
Book Name: One Night Gone
Release Date: October 1, 2019
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Mystery/Supsense
Overall SPA: 2.5 Stars
2.5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: It was the perfect place to disappear…

One sultry summer, Maureen Haddaway arrives in the wealthy town of Opal Beach to start her life anew—to achieve her destiny. There, she finds herself lured by the promise of friendship, love, starry skies, and wild parties. But Maureen’s new life just might be too good to be true, and before the summer is up, she vanishes.

Decades later, when Allison Simpson is offered the opportunity to house-sit in Opal Beach during the off-season, it seems like the perfect chance to begin fresh after a messy divorce. But when she becomes drawn into the mysterious disappearance of a girl thirty years before, Allison realizes the gorgeous homes of Opal Beach hide dark secrets. And the truth of that long-ago summer is not even the most shocking part of all…

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 2.5/5 Stars
Blurb: 2.5/5 Stars
Peeve Factor: 2/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 2.5/5 Stars

While this was an ARC for me, I was kind of floored by the extreme problems I ran into with the formatting in my Kindle copy. It was so bad at times, I very nearly could not read it and came close to not finishing it because of this issue. Being continually ripped away from the story by the distraction of that problematic formatting made it difficult for me to really get into the story and it has colored, to some degree, my perception of the book because of that inability.

Looking past that, I didn’t feel like this was a good fit for me.

The blurb for this, while technically representative, I felt was a bit misleading as it makes you think you are in for a really suspense filled story. Instead you get a lot of daily minutiae from the perspectives of the two main characters that doesn’t do anything to add to the suspense of the story. This made parts of this feel as if they were dragging.

I didn’t feel as though Maureen’s character came across as sympathetic. If anything, she was opportunistic and cold, making it hard to care about her story. While Allison’s character comes across as more sympathetic, she continually made frustratingly obvious bad choices with regards to believing what she was told. For a character coming off a betrayal, you’d think she wouldn’t have been quite so immediately or blindly trusting with people she didn’t know.

The piece that dropped my opinion of this the most was how this ended. You do get an interesting twist, but it was twisted and then revealed in a way that annoys me when it comes to the mystery genre (the Scooby Doo reveal). This is absolutely a personal taste thing, so I can see how others would really enjoy how this wraps up.

Overall, the writing was good, but I struggled with the relatability of the characters and the overly dramatic ending that happens all at once after a slow development of the story. I just don’t think this was a good story fit for me.

*I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

Book Review: Hellion, 415 Ink- Book #3

Author: Rhys Ford
Book Name: Hellion
Release Date: September 17, 2019
Series: 415 Ink
Order: #3
Genre: Romance/LGBTQIA
Overall SPA: 4 Stars
4 Stars

 

 

Blurb: From the moment SFPD Detective Ruan Nicholls meets Ivo Rogers, he knew the tattoo artist was going to bring chaos to his neat orderly life. A hellion down to the bone, Ivo is someone Ruan not only doesn’t understand but isn’t even sure he needs to. Everything about Ivo is vibrant, brash, cocky and arrogant and Ruan wants no part of him.

Or at least that’s the lie he tells himself when he damps down his desire for the social wild child life tosses into his path.

For Ivo Rogers, his life revolves around two things; his family and 415 Ink, the tattoo shop he co-owns with his four brothers. His family might be stitched together by their battle scars from growing up in foster care but their brotherhood was tight—and strong enough to hold Ivo together during the times when he fell apart.

Now Ivo faces a new challenge when he falls for a cop with an old-school mentality on what a man looks and acts like. Ruan is the promise of a life Ivo thought he’d never have but their thunderous clashes threaten any chance of a relationship. Being the family’s hellion makes it easy to be misunderstood yet Ivo has faith Ruan will not only embrace who he is but love him as well.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 4/5 Stars
Believability: 4/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 4/5 Stars

From the beginning of this series, I have thought that Ivo was going to be the most interesting character to read about. Now that I’ve read this, I still think he is probably my favorite (at least so far), but he is still very much on par with all the other great characters in this series so that is only by a narrow margin.

Ivo broke my heart in a couple of places through this. I counted probably a half dozen lines that poked really hard at some of my soft, raw spots. Especially the concept of feeling as though it was so easy to be thrown away.

Even with all that, I don’t think this was my favorite of the series because I think I expected or wanted something a bit more from his book. It’s probably just that I wanted more overall and I’m not quite ready to see less of Ivo yet.

Book Review: The End of Echoes, Dawn Hosmer

Author: Dawn Hosmer
Book Name: The End of Echoes
Release Date: August 16, 2019
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Suspense/Family Drama
Overall SPA: 3.5
3.5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Two families, forever linked by tragedy.

Ruby Dunkin is in an abusive marriage. Her best efforts aren’t enough to shield her two children from an abusive father whose cruelty knows no bounds. Their volatile situation ends in tragedy when Ruby’s eldest son, Billy is torn away from everything he loves. Consumed by hatred and self-loathing Billy becomes the thing he hates the most—his father.

Chelsea Wyatt, a senior in high school, goes missing after work one night, never to return. Her parents are devastated, only knowing this kind of tragedy from the news. Crimes like this are unheard of in their quiet, midwestern town. Consumed by the tragic fate of their friend, family member and neighbor, their lives and futures are forever altered.

For over eighteen years, no one knows the connection between Ruby Dunkin and Chelsea Wyatt. A journey through time reveals the common thread stitching their heartbreak together. Yesterday echoes throughout each character’s life as they decide how, and if, they will break the chains of the past.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 3.5/5 Stars
Believability: 3.5/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 3.5/5 Stars

I am so torn on rating this one! It was really well written and it is absolutely going to grab your emotions and drag them along for the ride. While this packs an emotional wallop, it does so heavily and not always in a way I enjoyed.

This is the kind of story that gives you a glimpse into this small, ugly slice of life in the form of a massively traumatic event and how that kind of trauma can spider out, changing all the people it touches. Everyone deals with and reacts to traumatic events in different ways, but it felt like all of the characters in the book reacted in some of the most negative ways possible. I struggled with the fact that not a single character was presented as dealing with this trauma in more positive and healthy ways. It is an unrealistic expectation to believe they all would have handled it well, but it is also unrealistic to believe they all went in the extreme other direction but that is how they felt to me.

That lack makes this an unrelentingly heavy read. There really isn’t much of anything with any kind of uplifting feel to it. Yes, it brought me to tears a time or two, but it did so because of how tragic the whole thing is. I struggled with character connections because of it. The one character I expected to have the utmost sympathy for, the mother, I had the absolute least. It bothered me how much I disliked her. I honestly almost felt more towards the bad guy and I really didn’t like that either.

I wasn’t a fan of how dark and heavy this was, because I really prefer to have a brighter edge to what I read, something that doesn’t make me feel like there isn’t much hope for any kind of good in humanity. If you don’t have that kind of a preference and just want an intense read, then I would absolutely recommend picking this up as it is a really engaging story.

 

Book Review: Good Girls, Amanda Brookfield

Author: Amanda Brookfield
Book Name: Good Girls
Release Date: October 8, 2019
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Overall SPA: 2 Stars
2 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Everyone that meets Kat Keating is mesmerised. Beautiful, smart and charming, she is everything a good girl should be.

Her sister Eleanor, on the other hand, knows she can’t compete with Kat. On the awkward side of tall, clever enough to be bullied, and full of the responsibilities only an older sibling can understand, Eleanor grows up knowing she’s not a good girl.

This is the story of the Keating sisters – through a childhood fraught with secrets, adolescent rivalries, and on into adulthood with all its complexities and misunderstandings.  Until a terrible truth brings the sisters crashing together and finally Eleanor begins to uncover just how good Kat really was.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 2/5 Stars
Blurb: 2/5 Stars

Believability: 3/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 2/5 Stars

I struggled to get through this one. The blurb on this simply does not match the story at all, giving you the sense at least that Kat is something of a perfect favorite and there would end up being some sort of intrigue or suspense surrounding that. It isn’t.

Instead you get an incredibly slow and drawn out story about a variety of people living miserable lives and being kind of horrible to each other while they do it. There wasn’t a character in the entire book that was appealing to me. For the most part I was either bored or trudging through some rather depressing material with no real sense of things improving. I spent most of the book waiting for something interesting to happen or for the overall mood of the book to lift and it never really did, unless you consider the last maybe 10% of the book as a lift. I didn’t, so I really was not a fan of this one.

*I received a copy of this book from NetGalley. Opinions stated are honest and my own.

 

Book Review: Single, Single Dads- Book #1

Author: RJ Scott
Book Name: Single
Release Date: June 12, 2019
Series: Single Dads
Order: #1
Genre: Romance/LGBTQIA
Overall SPA: 4 Stars
4 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Ash wants a family, and is determined to continue with a surrogacy he’d begun with his ex. Bringing baby Mia home, he vows that he will be the best father he can be. Nothing in this world matters more to him than caring for his daughter, not even accidentally falling in lust with the doctor next door. Challenged by his growing attraction to Sean, and confronted by painful memories of his family, Ash has to learn that love is all that matters.

When ER doctor Sean moves in with his friends next door to sexy single father Ash, he falls so quickly it takes his breath away. The sex they have is hot, but Ash is adamant his heart is too full with love for his daughter to let anyone else in. Why is Sean the only one who sees how scared Ash is, and how can he prove to his new lover that he desperately wants the three of them to become a family?

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 3.5/5 Stars
Believability: 4.5/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 4/5 Stars

This was a really great blend of incredibly sweet and slightly steamy, without going too far over in either direction. I will always be a sucker for stories with kids and babies, especially when you throw in the struggling, but loving single dad.

If I have much of anything to say beyond that, it is that I really would have liked just a little bit more. A little bit more time with both Sean and Ash to get a better feel for them and their connection. It is absolutely there and I loved it, but it was kind of this soft touch of them and then their story ends a little too quickly.

In all, though, I really liked this and it was exactly what I needed to lighten my reading for a bit.

 

Sharing Debbie’s Review: An Unexpected Turn — Just Busy Reading

An Unexpected Turn by T. J. Fox Published by TJ Fox on March 26, 2019 Genres: Contemporary, General Fiction, Women’s Fiction Pages: 194 Format: eBook Source: Kindle Unlimited “When I take a good look at my reflection, I’m surprised that the face looking back at me in the mirror doesn’t look different than the one…

via Review: An Unexpected Turn — Just Busy Reading

Book Review: Bone Music, The Burning Girl – Book #1

Author: Christopher Rice
Book Name: Bone Music
Release Date: March 1, 2018
Series: The Burning Girl
Order: #1
Genre: Suspense/Thriller/SciFi
Overall SPA: 3.5 Stars
3.5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Charlotte Rowe spent the first seven years of her life in the hands of the only parents she knew—a pair of serial killers who murdered her mother and tried to shape Charlotte in their own twisted image. If only the nightmare had ended when she was rescued. Instead, her real father exploited her tabloid-ready story for fame and profit—until Charlotte finally broke free from her ghoulish past and fled. Just when she thinks she has buried her personal hell forever, Charlotte is swept into a frightening new ordeal. Secretly dosed with an experimental drug, she’s endowed with a shocking new power—but pursued by a treacherous corporation desperate to control her.

Except from now on, if anybody is going to control Charlotte, it’s going to be Charlotte herself. She’s determined to use the extraordinary ability she now possesses to fight the kind of evil that shattered her life—by drawing a serial killer out from the shadows to face the righteous fury of a victim turned avenger.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 3.5/5 Stars
Believability: 3.5/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 4/5 Stars

I was skeptical about picking this one up , so I’m a little bit surprised at how much I ended up enjoying this. I think I kind of expected something that leaned a little heavier towards the gore or horror side, so the fact that it didn’t was a big positive for me.

Even though I’m not normally a big science fiction fan, this one really only kind of touches on that genre (doesn’t even show as being in it in most locations), so that also added another little bonus for me because that touch is interesting.

The base nature of the story annihilates the believability boundaries, but what you are given is presented in a way that all the parts surrounding it work well even outside those boundaries. I liked how the drug in this is presented because it has a different kind of impact than what I’ve seen in stories based on that “exposure to something toxic or experimental” trope in the past. It brings it back into the realm of possibility.

I think I kind of expected to not like this because it isn’t exactly my norm, but I really did. I’ll be grabbing the next book in the series to see if it can live up to the first.

 

Book Review: The Oysterville Sewing Circle – Susan Wiggs

Author: Susan Wiggs
Book Name: The Oystervill Sewing Circle
Release Date: August 13, 2019
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Women’s Fiction/Romance
Overall SPA: 2.5 Stars
2.5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: At the break of dawn, Caroline Shelby rolls into Oysterville, Washington, a tiny hamlet at the edge of the raging Pacific.

She’s come home.

Home to a place she thought she’d left forever, home of her heart and memories, but not her future. Ten years ago, Caroline launched a career in the glamorous fashion world of Manhattan. But her success in New York imploded on a wave of scandal and tragedy, forcing her to flee to the only safe place she knows.

And in the backseat of Caroline’s car are two children who were orphaned in a single chilling moment—five-year-old Addie and six-year-old Flick. She’s now their legal guardian—a role she’s not sure she’s ready for.

But the Oysterville she left behind has changed. Her siblings have their own complicated lives and her aging parents are hoping to pass on their thriving seafood restaurant to the next generation. And there’s Will Jensen, a decorated Navy SEAL who’s also returned home after being wounded overseas. Will and Caroline were forever friends as children, with the promise of something more . . . until he fell in love with Sierra, Caroline’s best friend and the most beautiful girl in town. With her modeling jobs drying up, Sierra, too, is on the cusp of reinventing herself.

Caroline returns to her favorite place: the sewing shop owned by Mrs. Lindy Bloom, the woman who inspired her and taught her to sew. There she discovers that even in an idyllic beach town, there are women living with the deepest of secrets. Thus begins the Oysterville Sewing Circle—where women can join forces to support each other through the troubles they keep hidden.

Yet just as Caroline regains her creativity and fighting spirit, and the children begin to heal from their loss, an unexpected challenge tests her courage and her heart. This time, though, Caroline is not going to run away. She’s going to stand and fight for everything—and everyone—she loves.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 3/5 Stars
Believability: 3/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 2/5 Stars

I had a really hard time trying to rate this as I went into it expecting to love it, but I really didn’t.

There were three very distinct pieces to this book. The piece of the story that inspired the title and is the support group that Caroline creates. The piece that is Caroline’s relationship with Will. And the piece that is Will’s relationship with Sierra. Each piece, when completely separated from the other pieces are all really compelling and emotional stories that I would have probably been in love with if they had stood on their own.

I would have loved this emotional story about a group of women getting together and working through their struggles with abuse. I would have even really enjoyed it if this had been layered in with even one other portion of this book.

Will and Sierra’s story, on its own could have been this amazing story about a loving, married couple coping with life and all the changes that brings even when those changes mean that the marriage isn’t working anymore. It also could have been really compelling to see where they both ended up after things fell apart.

But, for me at least, the way all three of these pieces tied together really didn’t work for me. The support group piece kind of gets lost in the background behind the other two pieces. The final piece, Will and Caroline’s story, feels tainted by Will and Sierra’s story. It puts Caroline in this sort of ugly position of being the second choice, second place, runner up kind of person and I just really didn’t enjoy that. Especially when you add in the piece that, through it all, Caroline and Sierra were best friends. None of those pieces play well together. I’m not normally a huge fan of the old flame trope in the first place (some work for me, many don’t), but the whole, “the guy falls in love with the best friend but the odd girl out maintains that crush for years and years when a simple conversation could have made things entirely different” are even less appealing to me.

None of these things are made any better by the time jumps back to when the three were teenagers. If anything, it made me just not like any of the characters all that much. I could have done without almost all of those parts of the book. On the flip side of that, most of the opportunities to develop a relationship between Caroline and Will organically later in the story never actually happens on the page. They are glossed over through huge time gaps forcing the reader to just make big assumptions about what has and hasn’t happened.

I’m going to skip over the whole kids part of this as it is a massive peeve of mine, but I will mention it was another, smaller piece that made it hard to enjoy this one. I really loved the different pieces for what they could have been, but I just didn’t like how they were all woven together. It really did kind of feel like 3 different stories all at different levels of being complete were tied together in an attempt to create a whole, but there are big gaps left in all of them and the ties are weak and distort the shapes of what should have been.

 

Book Review: No One’s Home – D.M. Pulley

Author: D.M. Pulley
Book Name: No One’s Home
Release Date: September 1, 2019
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Suspense/Thriller/Ghosts
Overall SPA: 3.5 Stars
3.5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Margot and Myron Spielman move to a new town, looking for a fresh start and an escape from the long shadow of their past. But soon after they buy Rawlingswood, a foreclosed mansion rumored to be haunted, they realize they’re in for more of the same…or worse.

After a renovation fraught with injuries and setbacks, the Spielmans move in to the century-old house, and their problems quickly escalate. The home’s beautiful facade begins to crumble around them when their teenage son uncovers disturbing details of Rawlingswood’s history—a history of murder, betrayal, and financial ruin. The Spielmans’ own shameful secrets and lies become harder to hide as someone or something inside the house watches their every move.

As tensions build between the family members, the home’s dark history threatens to repeat itself. Margot and Myron must confront their own ghosts and Rawlingswood’s buried past before the house becomes their undoing.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 4/5 Stars
Believability: 3.5/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 3.5/5 Stars

This definitely has a creepy vibe, but it wasn’t quite what I was expecting.

This spends a lot of time bouncing between time periods and the families that owned the house during those periods. While you get those ghostly elements throughout, the focus is more on the family dynamics of all of these really dysfunctional people and how ugly humans can be to each other and themselves.

If you are like me and need to find connections to characters, you may find this difficult because there really weren’t too many that were very appealing. That said, you aren’t exactly supposed to like most of them for this story anyway.

I think this was pretty well written and lovers of the creepy, sort of scary types of stories may get more out of this than I did.

 

Book Review: Evvie Drake Stars Over – Linda Holmes

Author: Linda Holmes
Book Name: Evvie Drake Stars Over
Release Date: June 25, 2019
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Romance
Overall SPA: 3.5 Stars
3 Stars

 

 

Blurb: In a small town in Maine, recently widowed Eveleth “Evvie” Drake rarely leaves her house. Everyone in town, including her best friend, Andy, thinks grief keeps her locked inside, and she doesn’t correct them. In New York, Dean Tenney, former major-league pitcher and Andy’s childhood friend, is struggling with a case of the “yips”: he can’t throw straight anymore, and he can’t figure out why. An invitation from Andy to stay in Maine for a few months seems like the perfect chance to hit the reset button.

When Dean moves into an apartment at the back of Evvie’s house, the two make a deal: Dean won’t ask about Evvie’s late husband, and Evvie won’t ask about Dean’s baseball career. Rules, though, have a funny way of being broken–and what starts as an unexpected friendship soon turns into something more. But before they can find out what might lie ahead, they’ll have to wrestle a few demons: the bonds they’ve broken, the plans they’ve changed, and the secrets they’ve kept. They’ll need a lot of help, but in life, as in baseball, there’s always a chance–right up until the last out.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 3/5 Stars
Believability: 4/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 3/5 Stars

After having read a few reviews of this book, I think I was expecting a much lighter read than what this is. While there are definitely moments of humor and fun, they almost all happen at a time when they are trying to cover up much heavier emotions in the characters. This isn’t a bad thing, just not quite what I’d expected.

I also had a hard time connecting with Evvie’s character. It took a really long time to figure out that the lack of emotion from her had a purpose. By the time I was able to really get into that and understand it, I was already pretty deep into the book. I absolutely got it then, but it just took me too long to get there. I think this lessened the emotional impact for me, even though I could very easily have stood in similar shoes in my own experiences.

I also wasn’t a huge fan of the ending as it is a bit too much like a typical cookie cutter romance ending. This was still a good book, but it fell a little short for my tastes.

Book Review: The Secrets of Lost Stones – Melissa Payne

Author: Melissa Payne
Book Name: The Secrets of Lost Stones
Release Date: September 1, 2019
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Women’s Fiction/Suspense/Paranormal
Overall SPA: 4 Stars
4 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Thirty-two-year-old Jess Abbot has lost everything: her job, her apartment, and—most heart-wrenching—her eight-year-old son, Chance, to a tragic accident. Haunted by memories and grief, Jess packs what’s left and heads for the small mountain town of Pine Lake, where she takes a position as caregiver to an eccentric old woman.

A rumored clairvoyant, Lucy is strange but welcoming and immediately intuits Jess as a “loose end” in need of closure. But Jess isn’t the only guest in Lucy’s large Victorian home. There’s also Star, a teenage runaway with a secret too painful to share. And the little boy with heart-shaped stones, who comes with a hope for reconciliation—and a warning.

Soon Jess learns that she’s not the only lost soul running from the ghosts of the past. She and Star have been brought together for a reason: to be saved by the very thing that destroyed them.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 4/5 Stars
Believability: 3.5/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 4/5 Stars

This is a book with a lot of real life issues and emotions, but it is also threaded through with this sense of paranormal. I really enjoyed that balance between the two. At one point, I was a little worried that this was going to have a much darker ending than I prefer, but I was pleasantly surprised it didn’t go that direction.

I was surprised that I liked the majority of the characters in this book, because that is kind of rare for me. They were all really well written and well balanced with the layers they were supposed to have. I loved Lucy’s character and I would have loved to have gotten more of her history because she is so interesting.

This is just a really good, solid story all the way through. Because of the ghostly paranormal vibe, this would be a great book for a fall/Halloween read without being over the top scary.

*I received a copy of this book from NetGalley. Opinions stated are honest and my own.

 

Book Review: Beautiful Sky Beautiful Sky – Stephen Parolini

Author: Stephen Parolini
Book Name: Beautiful Sky Beautiful Sky
Release Date: September 3, 2019
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Family Life/Coming of Age/Historical
Overall SPA: 4 Stars
4 Stars

 

 

Blurb: High school senior David Tinker is a failed former second-string linebacker, a wannabe rock star, a pothead, a writer, and a bit of a jerk. It’s his final semester at North High and he’s beyond ready to be done with school. Wendy, his once-compliant girlfriend, expects too much of him. His ever-shrinking circle of friends is testing his patience. And his insult-slinging father is increasingly impossible to endure. And then there’s the choir director, Mr. Halston, who wields the power of graduation and isn’t above a little blackmail. When David’s world suddenly spins out of control, he finds himself searching for the one thing he didn’t know he was missing: hope.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 3.5/5 Stars
Believability: 4.5/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 4/5 Stars

This is the kind of story that is heavily layered, the kind that takes a little time for those layers to start building and before they become visible.

There were pieces here and there early on that I found running along some really offensive lines, but I had to stop and take in the fact that this is very much an honestly representative piece for the time it was set in. As someone that grew up in the 70’s and 80’s, sometimes it isn’t pleasant to confront the ideas and attitudes and prejudices of that time and how easily they slipped off the tongue or into the mind back then. There are many times where you come face to face with those less than stellar aspects of that era in this book. It is an incredible look from that aspect of things to see how far we have come as a society and how far we have yet to go. As a child of that time, it makes me look at myself and how I’ve managed to grow since then.

Because this is set in 1980, you also get this amazing flood of music and cultural references to balance out some of the ugly. It is kind of this trip down memory lane for the senses of your mind in that respect. I’m not often tempted to listen to music while reading, but I almost wish this had a playlist at the beginning just so I could do that along the way. All of the songs referenced do this amazing job of setting the tone for many different scenes in the book and plays a huge part to the overall story. Because music tends to be so tied into emotions, it was a bit of a minefield for me, but I loved it.

One scene in particular sort of reached inside and ripped me apart because it could have been written based on my own personal history. Having already been primed with the setting and all the musical and cultural references, it was like hearing the words for myself all over again. This was an incredibly hard bit to read, but it was so much a product of this time period and attitudes, especially towards girls and women. So, yes, I absolutely connected with a certain character in particular.

If I had to pick an overall tone for this story, I’d say it is very heavy. The overall subject matter throughout is on the harsh, ugly side of things, but it has that tiny thread running through it to give it a little light. It is layered and complex. I can easily see this being the kind of book that people spend lots of time talking about and picking apart to analyze on a deeper level. I don’t often enjoy books like that, but this one is definitely going to be one that sticks with me for a long while.

I will note that there are some potentially sensitive subjects dealt with and discussed in this book, many only a mention, but they are still there. Things like racial stereotypes, homophobia, depression, suicide, drug use and sexual assault.