Recommended Reads From April

Looks like April was fantasy book month for me based on this list of 4 and 5 star reads. I really don’t find it the least bit surprising that I’d be looking for something that takes away from reality right now. There are a few that are more contemporary, but they were spread out over the month.

 

Grave Concerns
Grave Concerns
Author: Gwen Hunter
Book Name: Grave Concerns
Release Date: March 11, 2014 (First pub: 1/1/04)
Series: Rhea Lynch
Order: 4
Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Medical
Overall SPA: 5
Reviewed: No
Heart of Ice
Heart of Ice

Heart of Stone
Heart of Stone
Author: Lisa Edmonds
Book Name: Heart of Ice & Heart of Stone
Release Date: October 9, 2017 & June 18, 2019
Series: Alice Worth
Order: 3 & 4
Genre: Urban/Fantasy
Overall SPA: 4 Stars
Reviewed: No & No

Never Dead
Never Dead
Author: M.L. Bullock
Book Name: Never Dead
Release Date: April 2, 2020
Series: Welcome to Dead House
Order: 1
Genre: Paranormal
Overall SPA: 4
Reviewed: No

Killing Mind
Killing Mind
Author: Angela Marsons
Book Name: Killing Mind
Release Date: May 13, 2020
Series: D.I. Kim Stone
Order: 12
Genre: Suspense/Mystery/Police/Crime
Overall SPA: 5
Reviewed: Yes (will post May 2nd – Envie!’s May Review)

Shadow Valley
Shadow Valley
Author: Gwen Hunter
Book Name: Shadow Valley
Release Date: March 4, 2015
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Romance
Overall SPA: 5
Reviewed: Yes

Broken Loyalty
Broken Loyalty
Author: Kristen Banet
Book Name: Broken Loyalty
Release Date: April 15, 2020
Series: Jacky Leon
Order: 3
Genre: Urban/Fantasy/Romance
Overall SPA: 5
Reviewed: No

The Gladiator's Downfall
The Gladiator’s Downfall
Author: Kristen Banet
Book Name: *
Release Date: *
Series: Age of Andinna
Order: #1 – 4 (First 4 of the series)
Genre: Fantasy/Romance/Reverse Harem
Overall SPA: 5
Reviewed: Yes

Battle Bond
Battle Bond
Author: Lindsay Buroker
Book Name: Battle Bond
Release Date: March 14, 2020
Series: Death Before Dragons
Order: 2
Genre: Fantasy/Urban
Overall SPA: 4
Reviewed: No

Semi-Psychic Life
Semi-Psychic Life
Author: Elizabeth Hunter
Book Name: Semi-Psychic Life
Release Date: April 21, 2020
Series: Glimmer Lake
Order: 2
Genre: Paranormal/Urban/Family Life
Overall SPA: 4.5
Reviewed: No

Book Review: Shadow Valley – Gwen Hunter

Author: Gwen Hunter
Book Name: Shadow Valley
Release Date: March 4, 2015
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Romance
Overall SPA: 5 Stars
5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Mackenzie Morgan thinks she’s doing the right thing by taking her teenaged daughter, Bella, into the Appalachians on a photography shoot. Fleeing a crumbling marriage, Mac needs time to bond with her daughter and escape the betrayal that still leaves her numb. But when a drifter abducts Bella and carries her deep into the steep mountain woods, Mac must draw on her deepest reserves to fight for her daughter’s safe return.

When her soon-to-be ex-husband arrives, old wounds flare, and Mac turns to Caleb Howell, a local tracker, who helps keep her focused on the most important task: finding Bella. Then astonishing evidence comes to light that reveals the abduction was not as random as they first believed. As hours turn into days, Mac struggles to keep her hope—and her terrified daughter—alive.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

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

This was an intense, action packed read that I really did not want to put down once I picked it up. For those that love stories about how far a mother will go for her child, this is a great one to grab. While I’m kind of stuck on the short and sweet side of this review, that so isn’t what this book is. It was just a really great read that is worth the time to pick up.

Book Review: Rules for Moving – Nancy Star

Author: Nancy Star
Book Name: Rules for Moving
Release Date: May 19, 2020
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Women’s Fiction/Family Life
Overall SPA: 3 Stars
3 Stars

 

 

Blurb: To the outside world, beloved advice columnist Lane Meckler has all the answers. What no one knows is that she also has a secret: her life is a disaster, and it’s just gotten worse. Her husband, whom she was planning to leave, has died in a freak accident. Her six-year-old son, Henry, has stopped speaking to everyone but her. Lane’s solution? Move. Growing up, that was what her family did best.

But when she and Henry pack up and leave, Lane realizes that their next home is no better, and she finally begins to ask herself some hard questions. What made her family move so often? Why has she always felt like an outsider? How can she get Henry to speak?

On a journey to help her son find his voice, Lane discovers that somewhere along the way she lost her own. If she wants to help him, she’ll need to find the courage to face the past and to speak the truth she’s been hiding from for years.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 3.5/5 Stars
Believability: 3/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 2.5/5 Stars

From a rather broad perspective, this is a pretty good story, but there were several things that bothered me and made it difficult for me to really like it. I kept hoping to see those things turn around or wrap up in a way that felt satisfying, but in the end, never really did.

One issue is the multiple layers of storylines going on through this. Normally, I really enjoy this level of complex storytelling, as long as all of those separate but intertwined pieces are fully fleshed out. Here you have the story of Lane and her husband and the background behind their marital problems, Lane’s relationship with her son who won’t speak to anyone but Lane, her relationship with her parents and sister which is deeply intertwined with whatever is going on with her uncle and his daughter and whatever history that shapes all of that, and finally the side story about her relationship with Nathan.

Of all of those different lines and pieces, you only get resolutions that are on the slightly murky side for nearly all of them. The only clear resolution you get is why Nathan chose not to speak. You never get any indication what so ever about why Lane’s family is so incredibly odd and dismissive. The situation with the uncle forces the reader to make some huge guesses and assumptions, but is never given any real understanding.

The bigger historical revelation kind of isn’t one and really doesn’t do much to address all the various different pieces in a way that is satisfying as a resolution and the wrap up with Lane’s husband fell completely flat with me. I felt like it was a “what was the point” kind of thing that did nothing for the rest of the story and definitely didn’t give any kind of clarity.

There were lots of parts of Lane’s character that grated on me, especially in her role as a mother. There were too many incidents with Henry where her reaction didn’t exactly mesh with the concept of being the deeply invested, mama bear type of parent. While I’m sure it was supposed to be due to whatever dysfunctional upbringing she went through and the scars that left, those two parts didn’t work well together for me.

Outside of Henry, I don’t think I really liked any of the other characters. Lane’s parents and sister were absolutely horrible and you never get any believable justification for why. The fact that they would behave the way they did, knowing what Lane thought about that historical reveal, is so unbelievable it was impossible to swallow.

Many of the overall concepts in this were intriguing, but I just wasn’t a fan of how they all played out and the number of unexplained threads left hanging by the end.

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

 

 

 

A Little Squee Moment

I saw this last night and just about had my mind blown. Until I offered up my book, An Unexpected Turn, for free on Kindle, I hadn’t had any sales or reads through any marketplace outside of the US. I’ve now had enough to end up in a top 100 ranked list on Amazon in the UK. This is in the top 100 free books in my Family Life genre.

It may be a tiny little genre and I may not stay there for long (my ranking has already dropped a bit), but… I’ve made a list. That isn’t a milestone I ever really expected to hit, so I’m a little speechless over the whole thing.

Oh and… I’m only about 50 spots away from hitting 100 in the US in that same genre, so… yeah. I’m a happy girl today.

Feel free to see if you can help improve any of those rankings by grabbing yourself a copy! Or… you know… post a review. Or tell someone else.

Major thanks to everyone who has grabbed a copy already and helped to make this possible! Talk about an anniversary celebration!

One Year Book Anniversary: An Unexpected Turn – Free Offering

One year ago, I clicked the publish button on my book, An Unexpected Turn. To celebrate, I’m offering up the Kindle version for free from 3/27 through 3/31.

Considering I never even planned to write a book in the first place, seeing that I’m celebrating the one year anniversary of it’s release, is kind of mind blowing. If you enjoy emotional stories about found families, feel free to grab this while it lasts. If that’s not your thing, then please pass it along to someone that might enjoy it as a way to help me celebrate this shocking milestone.

 

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.

Tiny Bit of Self Promotion: An Unexpected Turn

I haven’t mentioned anything about my book in a while and thought I’d put this out there just in case any of you hadn’t seen it yet. Or… if any of you felt nice enough to push it on share it with your reader friends. Or even just say nice things about it to other people. That’d be awesome!

I’m about a month shy of the one year anniversary of this release, so I’m hoping it sees a little love.

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.

 

It is still available on Kindle, Kindle Unlimited and paperback.
An Unexpected Turn on Amazon

If any of you are on BookSirens and want to get a review copy: An Unexpected Turn on BookSirens

 

Best of 2019: Books

I don’t tend to set reading goals as I already probably spend too much time with my nose buried in a book. Maybe. It’s debatable. I have no desire to ever again hit or even get close to my highest book count in a year, because that 508 was nuts. I can say that based on the numbers below, I can probably still hang onto my my “picky, moody reader” label.

Books read in 2019

258 New to me; 28 Rereads; 14 DNF
5 Stars: 12
4.5 Stars: 7
4 Stars: 91
3.5 Stars: 34
3 Stars: 80
2.5 Stars: 13
2 Stars: 21
Below 2 Stars: 0

*I didn’t start recording half stars until I changed my rating system in May. I also fully plan on adding at least one or two more books to this before we reach “one” on the countdown clock.

Of those twelve 5 stars I handed out, it isn’t a bit of a surprise that most of them came from authors at the top of my favorites list. Faith Hunter, Anne Bishop and Michelle Sagara (West).

Firstborn
War
War
Circle of the Moon
Circle of the Moon
Wild Country
Wild Country

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A couple of others were standouts even among those few that managed 5 stars and are worth mentioning again.

 

Kimberly Belle’s Dear WifeDear Wife

 

And G.A. Aiken’s The Blacksmith QueenThe Blacksmith Queen

 

One of the other things that I wanted to do as a final wrap up to my 2019 reading is to mention my top Indie Author reads for the year. Keep in mind that these are books that I KNOW are indie books. There are probably dozens of indies on my read list for the year, but not all authors are upfront and it isn’t always easy to tell. If I wasn’t 100% certain, I didn’t notate that a book was an indie.

These are the best indie reads for me this year.

 

Stephen Paronlini’s Beautiful Sky Beautiful Sky (4 Stars)Beautiful Sky Beautiful Sky

 

Kameo Monson’s I Not David (4.5 Stars)I NOT David

 

I highly recommend any of the books I’ve listed here. If you haven’t read one of them yet, you really should add it to your 2020 TBR.

*click on any thumbnail to go to the review for that book*

Book Review: I Not David, Finding Me – Book #1

Author: Kameo Monson
Book Name: I Not David
Release Date: November 20, 2019
Series: Finding Me
Order: #1
Genre: Women’s Fiction/Family Life
Overall SPA: 4.5 Stars
4.5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: When three-year-old Joey is diagnosed with autism, Kat’s heart sinks. With a single phone number and a few suggested therapies, she and her husband Derek are left to wade through the unknown abyss of ASD. Derek assures Kat their son will grow out of it, but she has done enough research. That never happens. Still, Joey can improve, and Kat vows to make his life better any way she can.

Jumping feet first into the depths of therapies and developmental preschool, Kat gives it her all. Everything should get easier. But Derek still can’t handle Joey’s meltdowns, and now he only wants to spend time with her. What happens if his attitude doesn’t change?

As Kat’s world continues to crumble around her, she finds something in herself that she didn’t know was missing.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

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

This book ticked most of my boxes for what makes a really good, emotional book. It is a small snapshot of life as a mother learns to parent her autistic child and all the struggles that entails, including the strain it can put on a marriage.

The first couple of chapters felt a little choppy with a lot of events happening quickly and jumping to the next, but it smoothed out after a few chapters and I was able to sink into Kat’s story. As a mother that only ever barely brushed up against a tiny fragment of the issues presented in this book, it was easy for me to relate to and sympathize with her struggles from that mother’s perspective and to understand her willingness to do anything and everything to give her child every opportunity for a good life. The story touches on a lot of typical parental fears for their children and magnifies them through the lens of autism.

Having no background knowledge of autism, I wasn’t sure how accurate the experiences and scenarios regarding diagnosis and treatment were throughout the book, but they felt authentic. Something that stood out for me and had me questioning the reality a bit was the lack of support or suggestion of counseling for the parents or available resources to support them and help them learn to raise an autistic child. There is plenty addressed with regards to support and treatments for Joey, but there wasn’t any mention of any resources to help the parents with such a drastic change in the way they would need to parent him and how those changes could impact them as a family. There aren’t even mentions of support groups. After finishing the book and reading the author’s comments about the background of the story and her personal history, I’m a little floored that this is apparently reality, or was at the time of her experiences (at least not as something that is ever mentioned in the book).

This book only covers a small span of time and leaves several threads open at the end (most likely because this will be part of a series). There aren’t any cliffhangers, but there are some larger pieces that do not get resolved by the end.

Overall, I really enjoyed this story and the very real glimpse it gives you into life with a young, autistic child.

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

Peyton Hammond’s Review For An Unexpected Turn

Peyton is one of the book bloggers I approached to review An Unexpected Turn and she most graciously agreed. She tends to read a wide variety of books and does so all while going to school, so I’m impressed with all she accomplishes. I cannot thank her enough for taking time out of her busy schedule to read for me. I’m even more excited by the fact that she enjoyed it. This is just a glimpse of her 4 star thoughts:

The writing was fantastic and the storytelling was very smooth. I enjoyed it immensely. I love when writing keeps you in love with a story.

You can find the full review here. Be sure to check out all the rest of the books and reviews she’s posted. There is so much to choose from!

On My TBR – December 2019 Edition

Looking at last month’s TBR, I realize that I didn’t end up reading half of my list. One ended up as a DNF, but the others… I just really wasn’t in the mood for them. I still read a ton of books, but none that were on my TBR and very few of those did I put in the effort to write a review for. I have desperately needed the lighter, more fun, and heart warming reads lately without the pressure to evaluate them for a review. For that reason, I’m not really putting together a TBR this month.

I do have one indie book I’ve committed to on my list:

I NOT David
I NOT David

I NOT David
Genre: Family Life

 

 

 

Other than that one book, I’m not committing to any specific reads this month. In part because of moods and in part because this is going to be an insane month for me. With all the dance Christmas programs for BG, MC doing his scholarship stuff, and other holiday events, I need to keep this month low key on other fronts. I’ll still be reading and, when I feel inspired, posting reviews. But I’m just going to do my best to sit back and try and find some joy this month.

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: 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.

 

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: 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.

 

 

Book Review: Anna – Patricia Dixon

Author: Patricia Dixon
Book Name: Anna
Release Date: June 4, 2019
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Romance/Women’s Fiction/Family Life
Overall SPA: 3 Stars
3 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Against the odds, can you learn to trust and love again? 

Set on the coast of Portsmouth and the beautiful Loire Valley, this is the story of Anna. A married mother of three, the unremarkable rock of her family is content with her life until she discovers that Matthew, her husband of 22 years, is having an affair.

Consumed by hurt and tainted memories, Anna’s life is turned upside down by first betrayal and then loss. Her confidence totally destroyed, she is tormented by the spectre of Matthew’s unknown lover. Whilst keeping the secret of his affair from her family, Anna must find her way through the pain alone.

With one son on the other side of the world, another about to enter a war zone and her daughter off to university, Anna’s life gradually begins to crumble until someone from her past appears.

Can Anna find peace and learn to love again?

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 3/5 Stars
Believability: 3.5/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 2.5/5 Stars

Trying to rate a book like this is incredibly difficult. There are parts I really enjoyed and parts that I really didn’t and it is kind of difficult to separate them in the end because they are all tangled together.

If I look at the basic story line and the realistic nature of the characters, I can say that for the most part, I really enjoyed those pieces. There are points where the emotions are really drawn out and these points sucked me in and I was anxious about how it was going to move on. But if I look at the execution and how most of that was presented, there were a lot of times where I struggled with my own personal reaction to some of the situations and this frustrated me and  made me not like certain aspects of Anna’s character.

Those really good parts were also like bright spots in a very long and very drawn out story. According to Goodreads, the page count for this book is 470 pages, which is way too long for a story like this. There are so many parts that are deeply detailed that could have so easily been removed and you still would have had a really good story.

This gets exacerbated by the number of times the reader is subjected to Anna having to rehash what she knows about Matthew’s affair. After about the third time, I was done with it and the emotions surrounding it all, but we get it again. And again. And… it was too much and started to lose the emotional impact and just slowed things down.

I kept thinking I’d hit a point where it looked like the story was winding down and wrapping up only to look down and I was only at 50% or 70% or still not even close to being done. When that happened yet again, I suddenly hit a point marked “Book 2”. I think it is an epilogue or something, but it really isn’t an actual break in the story, just a continuation of the exact same story so I was really frustrated and confused by the entire point of that break. And the fact that it wasn’t actually the end of the story yet.

Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t dislike this story. I think the basis and the bones were really good, but the sheer length of this with all of these little pieces and oddly arranged timeline bounces of looking back when you really didn’t have a purpose to do so in probably 90% of the instances made this drag. It is the kind of book that I really wish someone would have just stepped in and said “all these bits here really don’t add anything to the overall story, you should consider cutting them”. It would have kept the emotional flow going, uninterrupted, and allow the story to move forward without distracting the reader. By the time I got to the actual epilogue, I kind of no longer cared and only skimmed it.

 

 

And Another! Beautiful Sky Beautiful Sky – Release Day!

I apparently missed ANOTHER release day book. This one only because it was just announced today. Sorry for all the posts today, but… Please add this one to your TBR. I had the privilege to hear a little about this one while it was being worked on and I’m really excited to dig into it. I absolutely LOVE this cover!

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.

Beautiful Sky Beautiful Sky by Stephen Parolini

Amazing Review of An Unexpected Turn: Writing Community Newsletter

I wanted to take a moment to do a little squeal and brag, because this came in my email today. The Writing Community Newsletter is a group committed to helping the writing community and indie authors. Both through providing wonderful articles as well as resources, author interviews, promotion and book reviews. They do this through Twitter posts and through their monthly newsletter. This month, my book, An Unexpected Turn, got reviewed and mentioned in the newsletter. And it got a full 5 stars from them. I am so thrilled and excited and all squishy over what they had to say.

A casual date with Teri’s new beau takes the most unfathomable, UNEXPECTED TURN, when events beyond Teri’s wildest imagination catch her off guard.

TJ Fox packs an emotional tsunami within the pages of this novel. The power of friendship, trust, and healing is tested by every single character when asked to take on the unimaginable.

Life hands us gifts, some come ‘wrapped in grief and pain, in tears and thorns, but it’s a gift that can’t be refused’. When it seems like all choices have been taken away, there is still the option to accept the hidden gifts. The ones meant to be cherished from the beginning.

Sometimes those friendships turn into, “Our rock, our safe spot in the storm, our home. You never let go.”

An Unexpected Turn is a novel of unquestionable depth and layers that will leave you with ‘absolute sunshine’. The kind that follows the darkest of times.

If you are an indie author, you really need to follow this group on Twitter and subscribe to their newsletter. I’d even say that any readers that are looking for new reads and authors, this is a great place to look because they not only post reviews of books every month, but they have a list of books that are new releases within the indie community.

On My TBR – September 2019 Edition

When I did the first one of these a few months ago, I thought for sure I wouldn’t end up being a fan and dropping it. Mostly because I am very much a mood reader and I didn’t think I’d ever really get through all the books on a TBR list. Oh, I’d read that number of books and then some, but not necessarily those specific books.

Now that I’m getting ARCs and requests from indie authors, this has actually been kind of helpful in keeping me focused a bit to ensure I meet my obligations. That and it has been kind of fun. So, I’m sticking with it.

There was only one book on last month’s TBR that I didn’t end up reading beyond the first couple of pages (really was not a fan of the writing and dropped it), otherwise, I had no problem getting to them all. I also only really put the books on this list that I currently have available to read or I’m expecting to release and pick up in that month, so it isn’t an excessively long list.

 

Anna
Anna

Anna
Genre: Women’s Fiction, Family Life

 

 

 

 

 

 

Evvie Drake Starts Over
Evvie Drake Starts Over

Evvie Drake Starts Over
Genre: Romance

 

 

 

 

 

 

September’s Anxiously Awaiting Release:

Archangel's War
Archangel’s War

Archangel’s War – Guild Hunter Book #12
Genre: Romance, Urban, Fantasy
Release Date: September 24, 2019

 

 

 

 

 

On Hold At The Library (should be in for this month’s TBR):

Brave the Tempest
Brave the Tempest

Brave the Tempest – Cassandra Palmer Book #9
Genre: Urban, Fantasy

 

 

 

 

 

 

NetGalley ARCs:

Good Girls
Good Girls

Good Girls
Genre: Women’s Fiction, Family Life
Release Date: October 8, 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

Traces of Her
Traces of Her

Traces of Her
Genre: Mystery, Suspense
Release Date: October 25, 2019
*Putting this on the list because I have it approved, but may wait until closer to the release date to actually read.