I’d like to give a bit of explanation for my ratings in the reviews I write. I probably should have done this when I started rating reviews…but it seemed self-explanatory. Except my ratings are more nuanced than five stars=a spectacular book. I read a lot. Like, a lot. But just because I loved a book, doesn’t mean you will. And just because something bothered me in a book, doesn’t mean it will bother a single other person on the planet. A review is an opinion, and we all know what they say about opinions.

It’s highly unlikely you’ll ever see a one- or two-star rating on a review here. Because if I think the writing is that bad, or I dislike the content that much, I won’t finish reading the book. (It took me years—most of my life—to embrace the freedom of not finishing a book that was a bad choice for me.) Writing is hard work, and I refuse to give a bad review to a book just because I don’t like it a bit. That’s disrespectful to the author and the work that went into creating the book. And, just because I don’t care for the book, doesn’t mean you won’t, either.

So, as a general guideline:
-5 stars means I loved the book. It might have a few issues, but I loved it anyway.
-4 stars means I liked the book, possibly loved parts of it. A solid read.
-3 stars means I thought it was good enough to finish—but there was something I
didn’t really care for (could have been a writing issued, could have been a character
I found annoying). The writing might have been superb—which I’ll mention—but if
the MC is whiny and annoying, that detracts enough that it knocked the rating
down.
-anything with a decimal number means it leaned towards the next number up (So,
the character was annoying, but not that annoying.).

Again, my reviews are my opinions. We don’t all have the same tastes or pet peeves or preferences. That’s what makes us individuals. If you think my 3-star rating is wrong on a book, please tell me why. Maybe your insight into the character I disliked will change my mind. Anything is possible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review:   Bloomsbury Girls, by Natalie Jenner

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title: Bloomsbury Girls
AuthorNatalie Jenner
Genre:  Fiction
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

Bloomsbury Books is an old-fashioned new and rare book store that has persisted and resisted change for a hundred years, run by men and guided by the general manager’s unbreakable fifty-one rules. But in 1950, the world is changing, especially the world of books and publishing, and at Bloomsbury Books, the girls in the shop have plans:

Vivien Lowry: Single since her aristocratic fiance was killed in action during World War II, the brilliant and stylish Vivien has a long list of grievances – most of them well justified and the biggest of which is Alec McDonough, the Head of Fiction.

Grace Perkins: Married with two sons, she’s been working to support the family following her husband’s breakdown in the aftermath of the war. Torn between duty to her family and dreams of her own.

Evie Stone: In the first class of female students from Cambridge permitted to earn a degree, Evie was denied an academic position in favor of her less accomplished male rival. Now she’s working at Bloomsbury Books while she plans to remake her own future.

As they interact with various literary figures of the time – Daphne Du Maurier, Ellen Doubleday, Sonia Blair (widow of George Orwell), Samuel Beckett, Peggy Guggenheim, and others – these three women with their complex web of relationships, goals and dreams are all working to plot out a future that is richer and more rewarding than anything society will allow.

I think this got off to a little bit of a slow start, but it ended up being very good. I loved The Jane Austen Society, and it was so much fun seeing some of those characters again. I loved all three of the main female characters, and I was fully invested in their stories. It was lovely to see famous literary characters come to life, as well as the secondary characters in the bookstore itself.

Natalie Jenner is a bestselling author. The Bloomsbury Girls is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review and Blog Tour:   The Honeymoon Cottage, by Lori Foster

Image belongs to Harlequin.

Title:    The Honeymoon Cottage
Author:    Lori Foster
Genre:    Romance
Rating:  3.5 out of 5

She was fine arranging other people’s weddings… But life had other plans.

When it comes to creating the perfect happily-ever-after, Yardley Belanger is a bona fide miracle worker. From bridal bouquets to matching cowboy boots, the quirky wedding planner’s country-chic affairs have caused quite a stir in the small town of Cemetery. But when it comes to her own love life? She’s clueless.

Completely clueless.

Perhaps it’s for the best. The thirty-one-year-old has poured her heart and soul into her business and doesn’t have time for anything—or anyone—else. And that’s something not even the gorgeous older brother of her newest client can change…right?

All Travis Long wanted was to give his little sister, Sheena, the wedding of her dreams. Ever since the tragic death of their parents, he’s done everything he can to make her feel loved and give her everything she needs. Still…a country wedding? In a place called Cemetery? But Yardley seems to know exactly what to do and how to do it—and Travis finds himself falling for her a little more each day.

Soon Yardley and Travis find themselves being nudged together by well-meaning locals who want to see the town’s favorite wedding planner get her own happy ending.

This wasn’t a bad read. Yardley’s family was horrible, though. It was just…pointless meanness, selfishness, and bad behavior. I liked the small-town feel of the setting, but I probably wouldn’t read anything else in this series.

Lori Foster is a bestselling author. The Honeymoon Cottage is her newest novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour:   The Sweetest Thing, by Sasha Summers

Image belongs to Harlequin.

Title:    The Sweetest Thing
Author:    Sasha Summers
Genre:    Romance
Rating:  DNF

A stolen family recipe has all the ingredients to turn a rivalry into romance…

For Tansy Hill, nothing is sweeter than honey from her farm—except maybe revenge on the man who broke her heart and humiliated her all those years ago. Dane “The Viking” Knudson has been Tansy’s rival since childhood, and though he’s grown into a frustratingly handsome charmer, he’s also standing between her and the best honey award at the Honey Bee Festival, which Honey Hill Farms desperately needs to stay afloat.

Fanning the sparks that have forever flown between them, the competition is on. Sure, Tansy and Dane have plenty in common—more than they’ll admit—but Dane’s plans to expand Viking Honey are also on the line. When buried family secrets come to light, they’ll have to decide whether taking a chance on each other is worth risking the happiness they’ve been longing for.

I read 15% of this before putting it down. Enemies-to-lovers is one of my favorite tropes, but when the characters involved are petty, hateful, and just rude and unpleasant, it’s a hard no for me. I don’t actually care if they fall in love because I can’t stand reading about them.

Sasha Summers lives in Texas. The Sweetest Thing is her newest novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour:   An Affair at Stonecliffe, by Candace Camp

Image belongs to Harlequin.

Title:    An Affair at Stonecliffe
AuthorCandace Camp  
Genre:    Romance
Rating:  4 out of 5

Noelle Rutherford will never be accepted by the London ton. Her late husband, Adam—a free-spirited aristocrat with bohemian tendencies—married her for love, much to the dismay of his well-heeled family.

In the wake of Adam’s death, Noelle is approached by Carlisle Thorne, who was raised as a brother to Adam. Noelle is horrified when the severe, irascible Carlisle offers her money in exchange for taking her young son, Gil, to be raised at the Rutherford estate, Stonecliffe.

Convinced that Carlisle will use any means necessary to take Gil from her, Noelle flees, hiding from Carlisle and the Rutherfords for five long years. But Carlisle never stopped looking for them.

When he finally catches up, it’s clear that each has made wrongful assumptions about the other, and grudging mutual respect gives way to a close bond that is both lively and tender.

And when Noelle and Gil find themselves in danger from someone after Gil’s inheritance, she and Carlisle must work together to protect what matters most—even if it means losing their hearts.

I really liked Noelle, and I enjoyed this read. I liked the mystery running through it, and all the supporting characters were well-done and intriguing. The characterization, as Noelle and Carlisle go from being enemies to lovers was fun to read, and this was a sweet story with a vein of strength and attitude through it.

Candace Camp is a bestselling author. An Affair at Stonecliffe is her newest novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour:   Sweet Home Alaska, by Jennifer Snow

Image belongs to Harlequin.

Title:   Sweet Home Alaska
Author Jennifer Snow  
Genre:    Romance
Rating:  3.5 out of 5

Skylar Beaumont never wanted to return to Alaska. Still, when duty calls, she can’t refuse. And, as a third-generation “Coastie” and the only female captain in the local coast guard, she has too much to prove. Being stationed in her hometown of Port Serenity isn’t ideal—but she’ll tough it out until her transfer goes through and she can move on to warmer waters. That’s the plan, at least, until she crashes into Dex Wakefield. Again.

Shocked to see his secret high school sweetheart after all this time, Dex can’t help but wonder if he should finally come clean. Skylar deserves to know the real reason why he abandoned the dream they’d shared—and broke her heart. But this small tourist town is home to one big grudge where their families are concerned… And leaving the past behind might be the only way Dex and Skylar will finally realize that their first love deserves a sweet second chance.

Usually, I enjoy linked standalone romance series, especially in a small-town setting, but this one was just alright. I didn’t hate it, but maybe it just wasn’t a good fit for me. There was too much of the no communication thing, when everything would have been easily solved with a few words, and that just gets on my nerves. And…what about the loose thread of the mythical sea snake? It’s probably a series thread, but some sort of resolution with these characters would have been good, instead of just dropping the thread and ignoring it.

Jennifer Snow is an award-winning author. Sweet Home Alaska is her newest novel.

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

Book Review:   Kagen the Damned, by Jonathan Maberry

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:    Kagen the Damned
Author:    Jonathan Maberry
Genre:    Fantasy
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

Sworn by Oath

Kagen Vale is the trusted and feared captain of the palace guard, charged with protection the royal children of the Silver Empire. But one night, Kagen is drugged and the entire imperial family is killed, leaving the empire in ruins.

Abandoned by the Gods

Haunted and broken, Kagen is abandoned by his gods and damned forever. He becomes a wanderer, trying to take down as many of this enemies as possible while plotting to assassinate the usurper–the deadly Witch-king of Hakkia. While all around him magic–long banished from the world—returns in strange and terrifying ways.

Fueled by Rage

To find the royal children and exact his vengeance, Kagen must venture into strange lands, battle bizarre and terrifying creatures, and gather allies for a suicide mission into the heart of the Witch-king’s empire.

Kings and gods will fear him.

This book took me a long time to read. Like, two entire weeks. The different cultures were so vivid and realistic, and I very much enjoyed that part of the story. The first third or so seemed to drag on a bit, although I liked Kagen enough to keep reading. I liked Tuke and his colorful language the most, though. Kagen spent a solid amount of time drinking himself into oblivion and feeling sorry for himself, so he kind of got on my nerves at times. I’d definitely keep reading this series though, just to find out how it all plays out.

Jonathan Maberry is a bestselling author. Kaen the Damned is his newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review:   Herrick’s End, by T. M. Blanchet

Image belongs to Tiny Fox Press.

TitleHerrick’s End  
Author:  T. M. Blanchet  
Genre:    Fantasy
Rating:  4 out of 5

You did nothing. You were nothing. And so, you shall remain here, until the end of your days. As nothing.

Ollie’s only friend disappeared a few days ago, and now, he’s frantic to find her. But he doesn’t have much to go on until a mysterious note arrives which reads: “Still looking for your friend? I know where she is.” Unfortunately for Ollie, the trail leads to the last place he’d ever expect.

Somewhere dark.

Somewhere deep.

The kind of place where magic spills like blood, vengeance is merciless, and escape seems all but impossible.

Worse still, it soon becomes clear that someone-or something-was expecting him.

Now, time is running out.

If Ollie has any hope of ever seeing home again, he’s going to have to summon every last scrap of courage, smarts, and tenacity he can find. And none of it will matter if he can’t get some help. Fast.

Because Ollie might not know much about the vast underworld that’s ensnared him, but he does know this: He’ll never make it out alone.

I enjoyed this read. I found it creative and unique, if a little dark. I liked Ollie a lot, and I was fully invested in everything he went through. I thought the setting was great, and I’d definitely be interested in reading more set in this world—especially with Ollie.

T. M. Blanchet is a former reporter, editor, and columnist. Herrick’s End is her debut novel.

(Galley courtesy of Tiny Fox Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review:   It Could Be Anyone, by Jaime Lynn Hendricks

Image belongs to Penzler Publishers.

Title It Could Be Anyone  
AuthorJaime Lynn Hendricks  
Genre:    Thriller
Rating:  3.0

To anyone on their flight out of New York, they appear to be five best friends excited for a destination wedding in Miami. No one would guess that each of them has a reason to want the groom dead.

Trevor Vaughn, the groom in question, wooed his bride-to-be by first becoming close with her friends—which is to say that he learned all of the five’s darkest, most dangerous secrets and blackmailed them into convincing Fiona to say “I do.” The friends were forced to convince a doubting Fiona to go through with the wedding, no matter what, and now the charade is set to continue all the way to the altar.

Trevor has his own reasons for wanting to marry into Fiona’s family, and he’ll stop at nothing to make his plan a reality. But when he dies of an apparent allergic reaction at the wedding, surrounded by such close enemies, the possibility of murder isn’t far behind. And for the authorities investigating the case, anyone present could be a suspect…

To be honest, the only reason I finished reading this was because it was a quick read. None of this group of friends were likable people—they’d all done horrible, selfish things in the past—and present—and frankly, they made my skin crawl. Trevor is also a horrible person, so I didn’t feel too bad knowing he ended up dead. The writing was solid, but the blurb is a bit misleading, considering the “investigation” into Trevor’s murder was barely mentioned at all in the actual book.

Jaime Lynn Hendricks lives in New Jersey. It Could Be Anyone is her newest novel.

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