Book Review and Blog Tour: A Love Hate Thing, by Whitney D. Grandison

alht
Image belongs to Harlequin TEEN/Inkyard Press. 

Title: A Love Hate Thing
Author: Whitney D. Grandison
Genre: YA
Rating: 4 out of 5

Tyson Trice is from the hood. He lived his whole life in Lindenwood—until six months ago, when his father killed his mom, shot Tyler, then killed himself. Now Tyler’s staying with the Smith family in a Pacific Hills, a wealthy coastal community, and he knows he doesn’t belong. But he’s leaving as soon as he turns 18, so he only has six more months to kill.

Nandy Smith remembers Tyson from when they were children—and friends—but she’s spent ten years building up her walls and working to keep herself on top of the social scene in Pacific Hills and having a thug from the hood in her house is not going to ruin her summer. But soon she realizes there’s more to Trice than meets the eye—and the hate between them may be a disguise for something else.

I loved the voice in A Love Hate Thing. The contrast between Nandy and Trice seems so startling, but they are more alike than either wants to admit. Nandy’s switch from despising Trice to being sympathetic/nice to him and apologizing was pretty abrupt to me, and there were a lot of teenagers-partying scenes, but I thoroughly enjoyed these characters and this read.

Whitney D. Grandison loved Korean dramas, John Hughes, and horror moves. A Love Hate Thing is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Harlequin TEEN/Inkyard Press in exchange for an honest review.)

What I Read in December (2019)

I feel like I should say:  the last book I finished this year—and therefore this decade—was my all-time favorite book, Gone with the Wind.

Books Read in December:  15

Books Read for the Year: 225/175

Topical Books/Monthly Goal Books:

I changed it up a bit this month.

Take the Day Off, by Robert Morris (spiritual). This has so much truth in it!

Higher Power has a Name, by James Cavanaugh (spiritual). This was quite the interesting read, Christianity from a Millennial point-of-view.

Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell (classic). This is my all-time favorite book, and I used to read it every December, but it’s been a couple of years. Scarlett is such a not self-aware person that it’s mind-boggling. And Rhett, well, he’s Rhett. I still love this book, and I still cry every single time…and I’ve probably read it 20 times at least. And Ashley? No, thank you.

For Review:

Cast in Wisdom, by Michelle Sagara (review forthcoming). I LOVE this series. Enough said.

trace of evil

Trace of Evil, by Alice Blanchard. Why on earth did no adults think it even the tiniest bit odd that every single teenager was in a coven? Seriously? I never figured out who the killer was, either.

the weight of a soul

The Weight of a Soul by Elizabeth Tammi. I really love Vikings and Norse mythology, so I thought I’d love this, but the MC was so unlikable that it seriously detracted from my enjoyment of the setting.

all that's bright and gone

All That’s Bright and Gone, by Eliza Nellums. I’ve never read an murder investigation by a six-year-old, so this was an interesting read.

the dating charade

The Dating Charade, by Melissa Ferguson. This was a sweet, fun romance about two people who are hiding a big secret from each other:  the sudden arrival of three children in their life.

starborn

Starborn, by Katie MacAlister. The second book in the Born Prophecy series. while I enjoyed the snark, this felt a bit rushed to me.

husband material

Husband Material, by Emily Belden. I enjoyed this surprisingly-lighthearted tale of a young widow—who practically no one knows was even married—and how she deals when the ashes of her dead husband show up at her door.

shamus dust

Shamus Dust, by Janet Roger. I prefer my detective noir stories in movie form, but this was a solid, atmospheric read.

smoke screen

Smoke Screen, by Terri Blackstock. Fourteen years ago, Nate and Brenna were teenagers in love when his father was convicted of killing her father. Now she’s fighting a nasty custody battle and he’s recovering from burns when questions arise from the murder so many years ago. They must work together to uncover the truth. A solid, enjoyable read.

the heart of the rebellion

The Heart of the Rebellion, by Sian Ann Bessey. Thoroughly enjoyed this historical fiction set during the Welsh rebellion against English rule. And the cover is gorgeous!

good girls lie

Good Girls Lie, by J.T. Ellison.  I’m still not sure who the bad guy was in this book. Seriously. Was it the one girl…or the other girl?

just don't mention it

Just Don’t Mention It, by Estelle Maskame.  This is the first book in the Did I Mention I Love You trilogy…told from Tyler’s POV, which was an interesting switch.

Book Review: Just Don’t Mention It, by Estelle Maskame

just don't mention it
Image belongs to Black & White Publishing.

Title:  Just Don’t Mention It
AuthorEstelle Maskame
Genre:  YA
Rating:  4 out of 5

Tyler Bruce has it all:  a hot girlfriend, a fancy car, and no party is complete without him. Tyler has the attitude to go with his reputation and he doesn’t care what people say about him. But the attitude—and the walls he puts up—are all a façade, covering the hurt he’s lived with for years…since his father started physically abusing him years before. His dad is in prison now, but Tyler still has to live with the scars every day. And he doesn’t want anyone to know.

Until his stepsister Eden comes to stay for the summer and Tyler realizes she sees the real him, not the façade. His walls won’t work with Eden, but Tyler’s not sure he wants to give them up. There’s a vast difference between the Tyler Bruce everyone thinks he is and who he really is—but there’s no way for Tyler and Eden to be together.

I read the DMILY trilogy and enjoyed them, although the world of wealth they’re set in isn’t something I’m familiar with. Seeing the first of the story from Tyler’s eyes was interesting. He was largely unlikable here—although I do realize he had reasons for being how he was. But…just because someone hurt you, even horrifically, doesn’t give you permission to mistreat everyone around you. Sorry, but it doesn’t. And Tyler’s mom lets him get away with everything, which is incomprehensible to me, even though I’m sure her guilt was the reason why. I did enjoy reading this, and I know Tyler’s story throughout the original trilogy saw him become a likable person, but he just wasn’t that likeable here.

Estelle Maskame is a bestselling author who has been writing since she was thirteen. Just Don’t Mention It is a re-telling of the first book in her series Did I Mention I Love You from Tyler’s point-of-view.

(Galley courtesy of Black & White Publishing in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review and Blog Tour: Good Girls Lie, by J.T. Ellison

good girls lie
Image belongs to Harlequin/MIRA.

Title:  Good Girls Lie
AuthorJ.T. Ellison
Genre:  Thriller
Rating:  4 out of 5

The Goode School, known as a Silent Ivy, is a prestigious boarding school that accepts only the brightest young women—especially daughters of the rich and powerful. The Good School is known for its traditions, like the secret societies and the honor code—lying will get you expelled. But a new girl has come to The Goode School. And she has a secret.

No one at the school bats an eye when the hazing begins—it’s tradition, after all—it’s just girls being girls and the girls would never do things they aren’t supposed to. No matter how cruel or vicious the reality is, the teachers and the head of the school turn a blind eye—until a girl ends up dead and all the secrets of the school are on the verge of being revealed. Secrets have a way of coming to the light.

I finished reading Good Girls Lie…and I’m still not sure who the bad guy is. The author does an excellent job of getting the reader into the characters’ heads—while casting suspicion on basically everyone, which kept me completely off-balance. The creepy boarding school setting is so well-detected I could practically smell the old buildings. If you need a tidy resolution to make you a happy reader, this might be the best choice for you, but it was absolutely a compelling, engrossing read.

J.T. Ellison is a New York Times- and USA Today-bestselling author. Good Girls Lie is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: The Heart of the Rebellion, by Sian Ann Bessey

the heart of the rebellion
Image belongs to Covenant Communications.

Title:  The Heart of the Rebellion
AuthorSian Ann Bessey   
Genre:  Historical, romance
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

With the English King Richard II dead, Rhys ap Tudor and his brother Gwilym are free to return home after three years’ service to the king. Home to North Wales, where their younger brother has been taking care of their family and lands in their absence. But the new king, Henry IV, is demanding more taxes from people already beset by poverty, and the land is ripe for rebellion.

Lady Catrin Buckley is daughter of an English lord and a Welsh mother. Catrin misses her mother so much, it’s hard for her to embrace her mother’s heritage, but when she is betrothed to a man she’s never met, a man intent on erasing every bit of the Welsh from Catrin herself, she is drawn to the Welsh people—and Rhys ap Tudor—at the heart of the rebellion against English rule.

I enjoyed The Heart of the Rebellion. It’s set against the backdrop of a larger conflict, but the close involvement with a handful of characters makes the struggle personal. Catrin’s growth from a girl occupied by her own sorrows to a woman immersed in the lives and cares of those around her is wonderful to read, and I enjoyed every page.

Sian Ann Bessey was born in England, grew up in Wales, and attended college in the U.S. The Heart of the Rebellion is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Covenant Communications via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Sundays are for Writing #52

I had another solid writing week. I had three planned writing sessions, and I got them all in without a problem. Started on the second timeline in the King Arthur story, so that’s taken a bit of mental adjustment.

I’m also working through Holly Lisle’s How to Write a Novel lessons for the new planned project. I love Holly’s classes—and I’m hoping this will help me straighten some things out before I start writing.

I’ve found this weekly update post to be super-motivating for me:  I think there were only three weeks this year that I didn’t do any writing! And that is such a huge improvement from the past few years, I’ll definitely keep doing these update posts next year!

Book Review: Smoke Screen, by Terri Blackstock

smoke screen
Image belongs to Thomas Nelson.

Title:  Smoke Screen
AuthorTerri Blackstock
Genre:  Suspense
Rating:  4 out of 5

Nate Beckett is a smoke jumper. He’s always busy fighting wildfires, and he certainly doesn’t have time to come home to the town that believed the worst of him. Fourteen years before, Nate’s father and the preacher got in a very loud, very public argument, and when the preacher was murdered that night, everyone believed Nate’s dad killed him. When the church burned to the ground, everyone believed Nate did it—and rather than stay and fight, he just left.

Fourteen years ago, Nate and the preacher’s daughter, Brenna Strickland were in love—until the night his father was accused of killing her father. After that night, Brenna thought things couldn’t get worse, but now she’s fighting an ugly custody battle with her ex-husband and his younger trophy wife—and his daddy’s money and influence. Brenna turns to alcohol to cope, but when the custody battle grows heated and new information about the murder years before comes to light, Brenna and Nate must work together to find out the truth.

I thoroughly enjoyed Smoke Screen. The things Brenna struggles with are enough to drive anyone to drink—even the preacher’s daughter. Her ex-husband and his daddy were enough to make me want a drink sometimes. The growth of her character through this novel was inspiring. Nate, too, grows a lot in this book. Being the son of a convicted murderer cannot be easy, but he handles himself with class and strength through it all.

Terri Blackstock is a USA Today– and New York Times-bestselling author. Smoke Screen is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Thomas Nelson via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Shamus Dust, by Janet Roger

 

shamus dust
Image belongs to author and publisher.

Title:  Shamus Dust
AuthorJanet Roger
Genre:  Mystery
Rating:  4 out of 5

Newman is an American PI living in London just after World War II. The city is still a bombed-out wreck—and the people are worse. Early on Christmas morning, Newman receives a call from City Councilor Drake, who tells him to meet an investigator at the murder scene of Raymond Jarrett. The investigator isn’t there, so Newman stars asking questions. Jarrett was a blackmailer and a pimp, so there are a lot of people who might have wanted him dead—but who went through with it?

With the bodies piling up and his own life in danger, Newman is determined to find the killer. But as the suspects keep turning up dead and more questions keep stacking up, Newman realizes the truth has links all over the financial district—and the wealthy have more money and less scruples than he thought.

I’ll say straight away that detective noir stories are not my usual fair. They don’t normally hold my interest. This one did. The setting is incredibly well-realized and realistic—not to mention depressing—and the characters are…quite the character(s). I prefer more connection with the main characters I read, so the distance from Newman was a problem for me, but I realize that’s personal preference. This was well-written and very gritty, and I didn’t figure out who the killer was.

Janet Roger is an award-winning author. Shamus Dust is her debut novel.

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

Book Review: Husband Material, by Emily Belden

husband material
Image belongs to Harlequin/Graydon House.

Title:  Husband Material
AuthorEmily Belden
Genre:  Women’s fiction
Rating:  4 out of 5

Charlotte Rosen is 29, has a great job at an up-and-coming company, a data-driven mind, a cute dog, and a secret that not even her roommate for years knows:  she’s a widow. Since the day her world crumpled to pieces, Charlotte has done her best to move forward. Now she’s intent on going on enough dates—and gathering enough data—to find her perfect man.

What Charlotte wasn’t expecting was her late husband’s ashes to show up at her doorstep, a twist of fate that leaves her reeling—and reaching out. Now she’s determined to make sense of things, even if it means dealing with her formidable mother-in-law…or her late husband’s best friend. Then she discovers a secret so shocking it turns her memory of her husband on its head—and her search for answers leads her places she never would have imagined just days ago.

I liked Charlotte, with all her insecurities and neurotic tendencies. I can’t even imagine trying to keep something like a marriage and a husband a secret—although the way he died hit a little close to home for me. Charlotte has never really dealt with her loss and her guilt, but when those ashes show up at her door, she has no choice. The only thing that niggled at me during this read was how quickly her mother-in-law did an about-face…although I can kind of see it.

Emily Belden was a guest on The Today Show after she tiled her bedroom floor in over 60,000 pennies. Husband Material is her newest novel.

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

Sundays are for Writing #51

Well…writing didn’t go quite so well this week. I only got in two writing sessions. No book reviews written (because I haven’t finished reading anything this week.). But…I DID finish one of the timelines in my King Arthur story, so there’s that.

To be fair…writing got pushed to the side in order to facilitate me finishing up a big personal goal that I’ve put off for basically eight or nine months. But the really time-consuming part is behind me, and I should finish it this week, so yay!