Author: tamaramorning

Book Review:  Same Time Next Summer, by Annabel Monaghan  

Image belongs to Penguin Group Putnam.

Title: Same Time Next Summer
Author: Annabel Monaghan
Genre: Romance    
Rating:  5 out of 5

Beach Rules:

Do take long walks on the sand.

Do put an umbrella in every cocktail.

Do NOT run into your first love.

Sam’s life is on track. She has the perfect doctor fiancé, Jack (his strict routines are a good thing, really), a great job in Manhattan (unless they fire her), and is about to tour a wedding venue near her family’s Long Island beach house. Everything should go to plan, yet the minute she arrives, Sam senses something is off. Wyatt is here. Her Wyatt. But there’s no reason for a thirty-year-old engaged woman to feel panicked around the guy who broke her heart when she was seventeen. Right?

Yet being back at this beach, hearing notes from Wyatt’s guitar float across the night air from next door as if no time has passed–Sam’s memories come flooding back: the feel of Wyatt’s skin on hers, their nights in the treehouse, and the truth behind their split. Sam remembers who she used to be, and as Wyatt reenters her life their connection is as undeniable as it always was. She will have to make a choice.

This book. Y’all…I was up until midnight reading this straight through because I could NOT put it down! Sam’s family is delightfully quirky and entertaining, and I loved them. I also loved seeing Sam and Wyatt’s relationship in the past—and watching as Sam rediscovered who she really is, not the person she’s been pretending to be. This would have been so much easier if Jack was a jerk, but he’s not (usually). Sam spends a lot of the book in denial, but her journey was absolutely wonderful to read. I cannot recommend this highly enough.

Annabel Monaghan lives in New York. Same Time Next Summer is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Penguin Group Putnam in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review and Blog Tour:  The Little Italian Hotel, by Phaedra Patrick  

Image belongs to Harlequin/Park Row.

Title: The Little Italian Hotel    
Author: Phaedra Patrick   
Genre:  Fiction   
Rating:  4 out of 5

Ginny Splinter, acclaimed radio host and advice expert, prides herself on knowing what’s best for others. So she’s sure her husband, Adrian, will love the special trip to Italy she’s planned for their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. But when Ginny presents the gift to Adrian, he surprises her with his own very different plan—a divorce.

Beside herself with heartache, Ginny impulsively invites four heartbroken listeners to join her in Italy instead while live on air. From hiking the hills of Bologna to riding a gondola in Venice to sharing stories around the dining table of the little Italian hotel, Ginny and her newfound company embark on a vacation of healing.

However, when Adrian starts to rethink their relationship, Ginny must decide whether to commit to her marriage or start afresh, alone. And an unexpected stranger may hold the key to a very different future… Sunny, tender and brimming with charm, The Little Italian Hotel explores marriage, identity and reclaiming the present moment—even if it means leaving the past behind.

Not going to lie:  Ginny really got on my nerves at first. She was completely passive, lived in denial, and just let life happen to her. I started to enjoy the novel when Ginny got her wakeup call and started to make choices for herself, instead of letting everyone else decide things for her. Adrian got on my last nerve, so I was happy to see Ginny go to Italy and start enjoying life. This was a solid read, although I felt like the ending was a bit of a let down.

Phaedra Patrick is a bestselling author. The Little Italian Hotel is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/Park Row in exchange for an honest review.)

Sundays Are for Writing #228

This was a very challenging week. I wrote one book review, Painted Devils, by Margaret Owen, my May reading post, and my best books I read in May post. I also worked 50+ hours at work, and I am tired. I didn’t get much reading done during the week. I’m really hoping this next week is a bit easier.

Happy writing!

The Best Books I Read in May (2023)

In May, I read 14 books, bringing my total for the year to 84. Three of those were re-reads of beloved classics: Pride and Prejudice, The Return of the King, and All Creatures Great and Small. All excellent reads, of course. Some of the new-to-me reads were also excellent:

The Secret Book of Flora Lea, by Patti Callahan Henry. This book was a lovely read! I was enchanted from the very first page—with both timelines.

Emma of 83rd Street, by Audrey Bellezza and Emily Harding. I was on the fence with the first, frivolous scene of this book, but I ended up enjoying it very much!

Painted Devils, by Margaret Owen. This was the second book of a series, and I enjoyed this from the very beginning. Love the characters, the setting, and everything.

What I Read in May (2023)

Books Read in May: 14
Books Read for the Year:  84/225

Topical Books/Monthly Goal Books:

The Echo of Old Books, by Barbara Davis (TBR, audio). This was…incredibly sad and infuriating to me.

Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen (re-read). Love.

The Return of the King, by J.R.R. Tolkien (re-read). LOVE.

All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot (re-read). So good!

Move On, by Vicki Courtney (spiritual).

Deadly Little Scandals, by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (TBR). Couldn’t pi this down.

For Review:

Warrior Girl Unearthed, by Angeline Boulley. I loved this author’s previous book, Firekeeper’s Daughter, and this was a great read, too, with some ties to that first novel.

The Secret Book of Flora Lea, by Patti Callahan Henry. I loved this! It engrossed me from the very first page, and the both storylines were wonderful.

Famous for a Living, by Melissa Ferguson. I ended up liking the social-media-obsessed MC way more than I imagined, but I still found that part very frustrating.

The Last One to Fall, by Gabriella Lepore. I enjoyed this YA murder mystery, and I was never quite sure who did it.

Emma of 83rd Street, by Audrey Bellezza and Emily Harding. The first part of this was touch and go, as Mr. Woodhouse’s preoccupation with the calorie count/health consciousness of got on my last nerve, and Emma’s obsession with clothing and labels was a lot, but I hung in there, and this ended up being a really cute read! I loved the character growth—and these authors even made NYC appealing, which is no mean feat.

The Viscount Who Vexed Me, by Julia London. This was a cute read. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a male lead in a romance be quite so reticent and unsure of himself, but I enjoyed the read.

The Dueling Duchess, by Minerva Spencer. I liked that Cecile was so capable and sure of her self (except for that one inexplicable scene where some random guy grabs her and she screams and forgets she’s carrying a gun and is NOT a helpless female). Guy was so over-the-top that he made me laugh.

Painted Devils, by Margaret Owen. I enjoyed this second novel in a series very much, and I felt like it got interesting immediately, unlike my reaction to the first book.

Left Unfinished:

The Collected Regrets of Clover, by Mikki Brammer. Yeah, the first 5% of this just did not catch my attention. At all.

Adrift, by Lisa Brideau. I didn’t feel the slightest connection with this character, so I had no interest.

Rubi Ramos’s Recipe for Success, by Jessica Para. This had some unexpected content that I don’t choose to subject myself to.

Hard Dough Homicide, by Olivia Matthews. I read about a third of this, and while I enjoyed reading more about the culture, the bakery, and the family, I could not get past Lyndsay’s irrational anger at the police for investigating a murder that took place AT her family’s restaurant—while four of her family members cooked and served the meal for the murder victim….WHO. WAS. POISONED. Um, hello? Why would the cops NOT investigate her family?

The Blighted Stars, by Megan E. O’Keefe. I think this was really just a case of the wrong book at this time for me. I was not in a scifi mood, and I think that’s why it didn’t hold my attention.

The Paris Deception, by Bryn Turnbull. I read 10% of this, but it was both slow and boring, because I didn’t like the characters.

A Crown of Ivy and Glass, by Claire Legrand. I wanted to like this, but Gemma just comes across as selfish and self-absorbed, and I had no interest in reading more about her.

Seven Rules for Breaking Hearts, Kristyn J. Miller. I didn’t make it very far into this. Margo was acting like a sullen little kid with a chip on her shoulder, and I choose not to waste my time reading about jerks like that.

Book Review: Painted Devils, by Margaret Owen   

Image belongs to Macmillan Children’s/Henry Holt and Co.

Title:  Painted Devils      
Author:  Margaret Owen   
Genre:  Fantasy, YA
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 

When misfortune strikes, the “reformed” jewel thief Vanja manipulates a remote village for help and in turn, accidentally starts a cult around a Low God, the Scarlet Maiden. Soon after, her nemesis-turned-suitor Emeric and a supervising prefect arrive to investigate the claim of godhood, and she realizes how in over her head she must be. But the Scarlet Maiden does reveal herself . . . only to claim Emeric as her virgin sacrifice. Desperate to save the only man she’s ever cared for, Vanja decides to seek an alternative: bring the Scarlet Maiden a drop of blood from each of seven brothers for the midsummer feast.

While the thief and prefect-in-training still have feelings for one another, Emeric must determine whether Vanja has committed fraud as his final test for prefect-hood. And as they travel the Haarzlands, a harsh land far from the rules of the city, the past that Vanja barely remembers comes into full view and she fears a future that does not require her to keep running.

The amount of snark in this novel is genius-level. I was snickering within two minutes after I started reading. Unlike the previous book, I was invested from the very beginning, and each obstacle the characters met only drew me further into the story. This is a gritty fantasy, not a sweetness-and-light one, but the characters and the world have so much depth that you feel everything they experience. I highly recommend this read and this author.

Margaret Owen lives in Seattle. Painted Devils is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Macmillan Children’s/Henry Holt and Co. in exchange for an honest review.)

Sundays Are for Writing #227

This was a decent writing week: I wrote two book reviews, The Viscount Who Vexed Me, by Julia London and The Dueling Duchess, by Minerva Spencer. I also did a little bit of work on my story idea. I need to make some decisions on setting and culture, so I can push through my inertia there.

Happy writing!

Book Review:  The Dueling Duchess, by Minerva Spencer  

Image belongs to Kensington Books.

Title: The Dueling Duchess    
Author:  Minerva Spencer   
Genre: Romance     
Rating:  4 out 5

When Cecile Tremblay lost everyone and everything in the French Revolution, she never imagined that she’d earn her living as a markswoman in a London circus. But Farnham’s Fantastical Female Fayre has become her home, her family, and her future. Another thing Cecile never imagined was becoming entangled with the man gossip columns call The Darling of the Ton . But mere weeks after her rejection of his insulting carte blanche—and his infuriating engagement to an heiress—Darlington is back, this time to beg Cecile for help. And help him she will, by teaching him about honest work—and the right way to treat a woman.

Gaius Darlington has always led a charmed life. Until now. Suddenly, a long-lost heir has appeared to claim his title, possessions, and property, Not only that, but Guy’s fiancée has jilted him to marry the usurper! Yet there is a silver it’s no longer Guy’s duty to marry an heiress to save the dukedom. He’s free to wed the woman he loves—if only he can earn her forgiveness.

They say hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. But fury is just a step away from passion, and Guy knows just how to arouse Cecile’s. . .

This was a cute read. Nothing unexpected, although I found Cecile’s secret fascination with the ton gossip rags kind of funny. She’s very sure and capable, but when a guy grabs her out of a dark alley, she immediately becomes a helpless female, and that didn’t quite add up for me. Guy’s over-the-top swagger was entertaining, but I bet it’d be infuriating in person.

Minerva Spencer lives in New Mexico. The Dueling Duchess is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Kensington Books in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review and Blog Tour: The Viscount Who Vexed Me, by Julia London    

Image belongs to Harlequin/Canary Street Press.

Title: The Viscount Who Vexed Me     
Author: Julia London    
Genre:  Romance   
Rating:  4 out of 5

Daring. Darling. Determined.

Next to the Season’s newest diamond, Harriet (Hattie) Woodchurch feels like a plain Jane. But that’s of no consequence, since Hattie’s plan for her future is to earn enough to live far, far away from her embarrassing family.

That is until Mateo Vincente, Duke of Santiava and newly minted Viscount Abbott, arrives in London. While the shy European’s spoken English is impeccable, his writing is less fluent. The ton is eager to meet the handsome bachelor, and so many invitations flood in that Mateo needs a correspondence secretary.

With her perfect penmanship and way with words, Hattie is recommended, and the two bond over books and the ton’s eligible ladies. But when Hattie’s friend Flora becomes smitten with the viscount, things get complicated. Flora is tongue-tied in his presence. To help, Hattie feeds her information about Mateo’s interests. Soon things turn around and Flora appears on track to become his duchess. Yet for Mateo, something’s not quite right. Conversation with Flora isn’t as scintillating as it is with Hattie…

This was a cute read! Hattie’s family is an absolute nightmare and made my skin crawl. I think I would have lived on the street before putting up with them any longer. They were just so horrible to her. Mateo was an interesting dashing hero, with his reticence and reluctance to be around people (same), but I really liked how their growing relationship changed them both.

Julia London is a bestselling author. The Viscount Who Vexed Me is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/Canary Street Press in exchange for an honest review.)