Author: tamaramorning

Book Review: Broken, by John Rector

Image belongs to Thomas & Mercer.

Title: Broken
Author:  John Rector   
Genre: Fiction, thriller
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Welcome to Beaumont Cove, a slowly decaying tourist town at the edge of the world, and the place where Maggie James’s worst fears for her estranged twin sister, Lilly, have come true.

Lilly is dead, and Maggie has arrived to identify her body.

Lilly’s husband, Mike, is in custody for her murder. With his long history of abuse, no one in town is surprised at the inevitable end to their stormy marriage, least of all Maggie. All she wants is to clean up her sister’s affairs, see Mike punished, and get out of Beaumont Cove.

With the help of the local sheriff, a retired private investigator, and a strange but friendly carnival psychic, Maggie begins to uncover the truth about what really happened to her sister. But the truth comes at a price, and soon Maggie finds herself walking a dark path toward the same deadly trap that killed Lilly.

The more Maggie discovers about her sister’s final days, the more she realizes that nothing is as it appears in this strange boardwalk town.

This novel is technically sound:  solid writing, unique characters, an interesting setting. But there was nothing unexpected here. I found it basically predictable—yes, even the carnival psychic—with just a tiny bit of creepy due to the setting (empty tourist town).

Maggie was not a likable character to me at all. Hateful, judgmental, and a liar, to boot. (Yes, I know what Mike was a horrible person to her sister, but still, what she did to him was Wrong.) I ended up feeling little to no sympathy for her, and that made the whole book just “meh.”

John Rector lives in Nebraska. Broken is his newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Thomas & Mercer in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Anxious People, by Fredrik Backman

Image belongs to Atria Books.

Title: Anxious People
Author:   Fredrik Backman  
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 5 out of 5

Looking at real estate isn’t usually a life-or-death situation, but an apartment open house becomes just that when a failed bank robber bursts in and takes a group of strangers hostage. The captives include a recently retired couple who relentlessly hunt down fixer-uppers to avoid the painful truth that they can’t fix their own marriage. There’s a wealthy bank director who has been too busy to care about anyone else and a young couple who are about to have their first child but can’t seem to agree on anything, from where they want to live to how they met in the first place. Add to the mix an eighty-seven-year-old woman who has lived long enough not to be afraid of someone waving a gun in her face, a flustered but still-ready-to-make-a-deal real estate agent, and a mystery man who has locked himself in the apartment’s only bathroom, and you’ve got the worst group of hostages in the world.

Each of them carries a lifetime of grievances, hurts, secrets, and passions that are ready to boil over. None of them is entirely who they appear to be. And all of them—the bank robber included—desperately crave some sort of rescue. As the authorities and the media surround the premises these reluctant allies will reveal surprising truths about themselves and set in motion a chain of events so unexpected that even they can hardly explain what happens next.

I guess I should say that I’m a big fan of Backman’s voice and style. A BIG fan. I read My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry last month and now it’s in my top five favorite books ever. The voice in this one is phenomenal as well. Examples:

“This story is about a lot of things, but mostly about idiots.” 

“Hand on heart, which of us hasn’t wanted to pull a gun after talking to a twenty-year-old?”

“The policeman clenches his teeth so hard that he looks like he’s trying to breathe through his toenails.”

Lines like that are priceless, am I right? I laughed a lot while reading this—straight through in one sitting, by the way—and I thoroughly enjoyed all the different characters and the vignettes we saw of their lives and personalities. This was not what you’d expect from a novel about a bank robbery and a hostage situation, but it is what you’d expect from Fredrik Backman: pure delight.

Fredrik Backman is a bestselling author. Anxious People is his newest novel.

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

Book Review: Finding Balance, by Kati Gardner

finding balance
Image belongs to North Star Editions/Flux.

Title:  Finding Balance
AuthorKati Gardner
Genre:  YA
Rating:  4.2 out of 5

Jase Ellison doesn’t remember having Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia when he was three years old. His cancer diagnosis only enters his mind twice a year. Once at his yearly checkup at the oncology clinic and when he attends Camp Chemo in the summer. No one in his “real” life knows about his past, especially his friends at Atlanta West Prep.

Mari Manos has never been able to hide her cancer survivorship. She wakes every morning, grabs her pink forearm clip crutches, and starts her day. Mari loves Camp Chemo—where she’s developed a healthy crush on fellow camper Jase. At Camp, she knows that she’ll never get “the look” or have to explain her amputation to anyone.

Jase wants to move on, to never reveal his past. But when Mari transfers to his school, he knows she could blow his cover. That’s the last thing he wants, but he also cannot ignore his attraction to her. For Mari, she only wants to be looked at like a girl, a person, and not only known for her disability. But how do you move on from cancer when the world won’t let you

 

This book deals with some really tough subjects. Bad things happen sometimes—and sometimes children are the one who have to deal with it. Jase and Mari survived childhood cancer, but years later they’re still dealing with the fallout. Mari is so unbelievably strong—and I love how she doesn’t just put up with Jase’s b.s. She calls him out on it and lets him know it’s not okay.

I felt really sorry for Jase. How can anyone think it’s okay to bully someone who had cancer? I can’t imagine being the victim there, on top of having cancer! Strength in the midst of pain runs through this novel, and it was so good!

Kati Gardner calls herself a recovering actor. She lives in North Carolina and had an amputation as the result of childhood cancer. Finding Balance is her newest novel, the second book in the Brave Enough series.

(Galley courtesy of North Star Editions/Flux in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: In Case You Missed It, by Lindsey Kelk

Image belongs to HarperCollins.

Title: In Case You Missed It
Author: Lindsey Kelk    
Genre: Women’s fiction
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

When Ros steps off a plane after four years away she’s in need of a job, a flat and a phone that actually works. And, possibly, her old life back. Because everyone at home has moved on, her parents have reignited their sex life, she’s sleeping in a converted shed and she’s got a bad case of nostalgia for the way things were.

Then her new phone begins to ping with messages from people she thought were deleted for good. Including one number she knows off by heart: her ex’s.

Sometimes we’d all like the chance to see what we’ve been missing…

I don’t think I’ve read any of this author’s work before, but judging from this, she’s a solid, capable writer. I laughed a few times, I enjoyed the description of life in London, and it was a quick read. Ros’s mother’s wardrobe malfunctions were the funniest parts to me.

Ros herself was a disaster, and it’s hard for me to sympathize with a character who keeps doing stupid stuff and ignoring things. Like the behavior of her ex—who is her ex for a reason—or the fact that she looks at everything through rose-colored glasses. She’s clueless and selfish, and while I enjoyed her friend group, Ros acted like a spoiled teenager and the plot was predictable all along.

Lindsey Kelk was born in England and Lives in L.A. In Case You Missed It is her newest novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: Chance of a Lifetime, by Jude Deveraux and Tara Sheets

Image belongs to Harlequin/MIRA.

Title: Chance of a Lifetime
Author: Jude Deveraux and Tara Sheets    
Genre: Romance
Rating: 3.5  out of 5

In one century she loved him madly, and in another she wants nothing to do with him

In 1844 Ireland, Liam O’Connor, a rogue and a thief, fell madly in love with a squire’s daughter and unwittingly altered the future. Shy and naive Cora McLeod thought Liam was the answer to her prayers. But the angels disagreed and they’ve been waiting for the right moment in time to step in.

Now Liam finds himself reunited with his beloved Cora in Providence Falls, North Carolina. The angels have given Liam a task. He must make sure Cora falls in love with another man—the one she was supposed to marry before Liam interfered. But this Cora is very different from the innocent girl who fell for Liam in the past. She’s a cop and has a confidence and independence he wasn’t expecting. She doesn’t remember Liam or their past lives, nor is she impressed with his attempts to guide her in any way.

Liam wants Cora for himself, but with his soul hanging in the balance, he must choose between a stolen moment in time or an eternity of damnation.

This just didn’t work for me. There was too much that didn’t make sense. The blurb says Cora has confidence and independence, but she comes across as more of someone interested in only superficial things and pretty clueless than a tough, observant cop. And Liam, he didn’t work for me, either.

The premise and set-up didn’t really work, either. It was too erratic. The angels gave Liam knowledge of how the world works and he can use a cell phone and drive a car…but he can’t use a computer? And there didn’t seem to be a reason why he couldn’t. It didn’t make a difference to the plot. He was given law enforcement knowledge…but he still thought it was a good idea to hide the fact he was in a relationship with a murder victim’s wife? The whole idea was too clunky to make sense.

Jude Devereaux and Tara Sheets are award-winning authors. Chance of a Lifetime is the first book in the Providence Falls series.

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

Book Review: Little Bookshop of Murder, by Maggie Blackburn

Image belongs to Crooked Lane Books.

Title: Little Bookshop of Murder
Author: Maggie Blackburn    
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Summer Merriweather’s career as a Shakespeare professor hangs by a bookbinder’s thread. Academic life at her Virginia university is a viper’s pit, so Summer spends her summer in England, researching a scholarly paper that, with any luck, will finally get her published, impress the Dean, and save her job. But her English idyll ends when her mother, Hildy, shuffles off her mortal coil from an apparent heart attack.

Returning to Brigid’s Island, NC, for the funeral, Summer is impatient to settle the estate, sell her mom’s embarrassingly romance-themed bookstore, Beach Reads, and go home. But as she drops by Beach Reads, Summer finds threatening notes addressed to Hildy: “Sell the bookstore or die.”

Clearly, something is rotten on Brigid’s Island. What method is behind the madness? Was Hildy murdered? The police insist there’s not enough evidence to launch a murder investigation. Instead, Summer and her Aunt Agatha screw their courage to the sticking place and start sleuthing, with the help of Hildy’s beloved book club. But there are more suspects on Brigid’s Island than are dreamt of in the Bard’s darkest philosophizing. And if Summer can’t find the villain, the town will be littered with a Shakespearean tragedy’s worth of corpses–including her own.

This sounded like the perfect book for me:  I love the beach, books, and bookstores, and I enjoy reading Shakespeare. But it didn’t quite hit the mark. I figured out who the killer was early on, so none of the red herrings really worked.

There were entirely too many similar female characters—some even had similar names—so I didn’t have much luck keeping them sorted out. Summer was a bit of a wash for me, too:  the whole premise of why her career was on the line was ridiculous and she kept doing things that just didn’t make sense:  I’m pretty sure if my mother had just been murdered and someone had lit my house on fire while I was asleep inside it, I would not have been running all over town by myself—and I certainly wouldn’t have been walking anywhere alone.

Maggie Blackburn also writes under the name Mollie Cox Bryan. Little Bookshop of Murder is the first book in her new series.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: The Orphan of Cemetery Hill, by Hester Fox

Image belongs to Harlequin/Graydon House.

Title: The Orphan of Cemetery Hill
Author:  Hester Fox
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5

Boston, 1844.

Tabby has a peculiar gift: she can communicate with the recently departed. It makes her special, but it also makes her dangerous.

As an orphaned child, she fled with her sister, Alice, from their charlatan aunt Bellefonte, who wanted only to exploit Tabby’s gift so she could profit from the recent craze for seances.

Now a young woman and tragically separated from Alice, Tabby works with her adopted father, Eli, the kind caretaker of a large Boston cemetery. When a series of macabre grave robberies begins to plague the city, Tabby is ensnared in a deadly plot by the perpetrators, known only as the “Resurrection Men.”

In the end, Tabby’s gift will either save both her and the cemetery—or bring about her own destruction.

I really enjoyed this read. It had a little bit of a creepiness factor, some mystery, romance, and great characters to tie it all together. Caleb wasn’t my favorite, but at least he did show a bit of character growth.

Tabby has been through a lot—but she keeps trying to help those around her. I cannot imagine spending the night in a cemetery—as a child, no less—and not totally freaking out over the smallest sound. This is a very atmospheric novel and a solid historical read.

Hester Fox lives outside Boston. The Orphan of Cemetery Hill is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/Graydon House in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: All Stirred Up, by Brianne Moore

Image belongs to Crooked Lane Books.

Title: All Stirred Up
Author: Brianne Moore    
Genre: Women’s fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5

Susan Napier’s family once lived on the success of the high-end restaurants founded by her late grandfather. But bad luck and worse management has brought the business to the edge of financial ruin. Now it’s up to Susan to save the last remaining restaurant: Elliot’s, the flagship in Edinburgh.

But what awaits Susan in the charming city of Auld Reekie is more than she bargained for. Chris Baker, her grandfather’s former protégé–and her ex-boyfriend–is also heading to the Scottish capital. After finding fame in New York as a chef and judge of a popular TV cooking competition, Chris is returning to his native Scotland to open his own restaurant. Although the storms have cleared after their intense and rocky breakup, Susan and Chris are re-drawn into each other’s orbit–and their simmering attraction inevitably boils over.

As Chris’s restaurant opens to great acclaim and Susan tries to haul Elliot’s back from the brink, the future brims with new promise. But darkness looms as they find themselves in the crosshairs of a gossip blogger eager for a juicy story–and willing to do anything to get it. Can Susan and Chris reclaim their lost love, or will the tangled past ruin their last hope for happiness?

This was a fun read. Susan’s family was awful, though, as was all the obsession with social media/appearances. That did make sense, though, as two characters are actors and a third is a famous chef.

The history between Susan and Chris was pretty bleak—and dark for more than one reason, one of which came totally out of nowhere, so it was a bit less than believable for me. But the chemistry between these two characters—not to mention the food descriptions—made this very enjoyable.

Brianne Moore was born and raised in Pennsylvania but now lives in Scotland. All Stirred Up is her newest novel.

Sundays are for Writing #88

This has been a rather hectic writing week, as I crammed everything into four days instead of five. But: five book reviews, finished up the last four lessons in the Maggie Stiefvater class, and a bit on the Chasing Shadows revision, so I’m happy.