Category: books

Book Review: Once Upon a Mail Order Bride, by Linda Broday

Image belongs to Sourcebooks Casablanca.

Title: Once Upon a Mail Order Bride
Author: Linda Broday
Genre: Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5

Accused of crimes he didn’t commit, ex-preacher Ridge Steele is forced to give up everything he knew and make his home with outlaws. Desperate for someone to confide in, he strikes up correspondence with mail-order bride Adeline Jancy, finding in her the open heart he’s been searching for. Upon her arrival, Ridge discovers Addie only communicates through the written word, but he knows a little of what trauma can do to a person and vows to stand by her side.

Addie is eager to start a new life with the kind ex-preacher and the little boy she’s stolen away from her father–a zealot priest of a terrorized flock. As her small family settles into life at Hope’s Crossing, she even begins to find the voice, and confidence, she’d lost so long ago.

But danger is not far behind, and her father will not be denied. While Addie desperately fights the man who destroyed her childhood, a determined Ridge races to the rescue. The star-crossed lovers will need more than prayers to survive this final challenge…and find their way back to each other again.

This is the fourth installment in the Mail Order Brides series. I haven’t read the others, but it’s a standalone, so that’s no big deal. I thought this was a solid read, a standard HEA-romance. I enjoyed the setting, and I’d probably read the other books in this series if I had time, as I enjoy linked standalones and getting glimpses of characters’ lives after I finish reading their story. Addie and Ridge are both interesting characters, and I enjoyed reading their journey as they struggle to overcome the scars of their past.

Linda Broday is a bestselling author. Once Upon a Mail Order Bride is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: Claiming the Rancher’s Heir, by Maisey Yates

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Title: Claiming the Rancher’s Heir
Author: Maisey Yates
Genre: Romance
Rating: 3.0 out of 5.0

Wren Maxfield hates Creed Cooper, but now she’s working with the wealthy rancher over the holidays! Those strong feelings hide undeniable chemistry…and one wild night results in pregnancy. Now Creed vows to claim his heir. That means proposing a marriage in name only. But as desire takes over, is that a deal they can keep?

This was a quick read, but that’s about the only truly redeeming quality I found. There wasn’t any explanation for the Hatfields-and-Mccoys style feud/hatred the Coopers and the Maxfields had for each other. Wren’s main personality trait seemed to be confusion/being erratic, and Creed’s was being an alpha male. Everything here seemed strictly superficial, without getting close to the characters or examining why they did things.

Maisey Yates is a bestselling author. Claiming the Rancher’s Heir is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: Defending the Galaxy, by Maria V. Snyder

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Title: Defending the Galaxy
Author: Maria V. Snyder
Genre: YA, sci-fi
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Junior Officer Ara Lawrence here, reporting for duty. Again. It’s situation critical for the security team and everyone in the base – including my parents – with a new attack from the looters imminent, a possible galaxy-wide crime conspiracy and an unstoppable alien threat. But this all pales in the face of my mind-blowing discovery about the Q-net. Of course, no one believes me. I’m not sure I believe me. It could just be a stress-induced delusion. That’s what my parents seem to believe…

Their concern for me is hampering my ability to do my job. I know they love me, but with the Q-net in my corner, I’m the only one who can help the security team beat the shadowy aliens from the pits we discovered. We’re holding them at bay, for now, but the entire Milky Way Galaxy is in danger of being overrun.

With battles on too many fronts, it’s looking dire. But one thing I’ve learned is when people I love are in jeopardy, I’ll never give up trying to save them. Not until my dying breath. Which could very well be today…

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the Sentinels of the Galaxy series! Maria V. Snyder’s writing is fantastic, as always, and this universe is nicely done and intriguing. I’d never considered the effects faster-than-light travel would have on families and friendships, so that was an intriguing detail.

Ara is a lot of fun to read—smart, determined, and with enough snark to make me laugh. She trying to save the universe here, but she’s also concerned with typical teenage things like her boyfriend and what’s going on with him. Lots of action, high stakes, and characters I care about made this a riveting read!

Maria V. Snyder is a bestselling author. Defending the Galaxy is the final book in the Sentinels of the Galaxy series.

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

Book Review: One of Our Own, by Jane Haddam

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title: One of Our Own
Author: Jane Haddam
Genre: Mystery
Rating: 4 out of 5

Gregor Demarkian, former FBI agent and police consultant, returns for his final case—a surprising murder and an attempted murder, which threaten the safety of his Philadelphia neighborhood.

A mysterious black van is spotted by several people at various times in the area around Cavanaugh Street, Philadelphia’s Armenian-American enclave. Presumed by some to be related to the increasing ICE raids around the area, the mystery deepens one night when a body falls out of the back of the van when speeding through the neighborhood.

So…I’ve actually never read any of the previous 29 books in this series. I know. Despite that, I didn’t have any problems stepping into this story. The mixture of cultures in this story was fascinating, and I would definitely read the other books in this series.

I had no idea what was really going on here, but to me the novel was about the characters anyway, not so much the mystery aspect—and what was really going on was pretty cool. Vivid characters, solid writing, I’d say this series is worth checking out.

Jane Haddam was a mystery writer. One of Our Own is her last novel, the final book in the Gregor Demarkian Novels series.

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

Book Review: Glimmer As You Can, by Danielle Martin

Image belongs to Alcove Press.

Title: Glimmer As You Can
Author: Danielle Martin
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Welcome to the Starlite. Let your true self shine.

1962. In the middle of Brooklyn Heights sits the Starlite: boutique dress shop by day, underground women’s club by night. Started by the shop’s proprietor after her marriage crumbled, Madeline’s social club soon becomes a safe haven for women from all walks of life looking for a respite from their troubled relationships and professional frustrations. These after-hour soirées soon bring two very different women into Madeline’s life–Elaine, a British ex-pat struggling to save her relationship, and Lisa, a young stewardess whose plans for the future are suddenly upended–irrevocably changing all three women’s lives in ways no one could have predicted.

But when Madeline’s ne’er-do-well ex-husband shows up again, the luster of Starlite quickly dampens. As the sisterhood rallies around Madeline, tension begins to eat at the club. When an unspeakable tragedy befalls their sorority, one woman must decide whether to hide the truth from the group or jeopardize her own hopes and dreams.

This is a hard time period to read about:  women’s rights are still a pipe dream and getting married and having a family should be all every woman wants. Except it’s not. The three main characters are very different, yet all three struggle with some of the same issues. The women’s club community was both fun to read about and also seemed a bit random.

I found this book to be disjointed in a lot of places. I can see what the author was trying to do, butthis fell a bit short. I felt disconnected from these characters, and while I cared what happened, my connection to them was erratic enough that I wasn’t deeply invested in the read.

Danielle Martin is a teacher. Glimmer As You Can is her debut novel.

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

Blog Tour and Book Review: The Forgotten Sister, by Nicola Cornick

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Title: The Forgotten Sister
Author: Nicola Cornick
Genre: Historical Fiction/fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5

1560: Amy Robsart is trapped in a loveless marriage to Robert Dudley, a member of the court of Queen Elizabeth I. Surrounded by enemies and with nowhere left to turn, Amy hatches a desperate scheme to escape—one with devastating consequences that will echo through the centuries…

Present Day: When Lizzie Kingdom is forced to withdraw from the public eye in a blaze of scandal, it seems her life is over. But she’s about to encounter a young man, Johnny Robsart, whose fate will interlace with hers in the most unexpected of ways. For Johnny is certain that Lizzie is linked to a terrible secret dating back to Tudor times. If Lizzie is brave enough to go in search of the truth, then what she discovers will change the course of their lives forever.

I initially didn’t like Lizzie at all, but she slowly grew on me a bit—as she showed great character growth and change through the course of the novel. She actually held it together way better than I would have, considering everything she was dealing with and experiencing.

I really enjoyed the Amy timeline. She also grew and changed as a character, and I enjoyed that, although I cannot imagine putting up with all the nonsense she put up with. Excellent writing and clearly the author did a lot of research to bring the historical details—though fictionalized—to life.

Nicola Cornick is a bestselling author. The Forgotten Sister is her newest novel.

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

Blog Tour and Book Review: Tsarina, by Ellen Alpsten

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Amazon:   https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08472B34D/ref=x_gr_w_glide_sin?caller=Goodreads&callerLink=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.goodreads.com%2Fbook%2Fshow%2F48764258-tsarina&tag=x_gr_w_glide_sin-20

Title: Tsarina
Author: Ellen Alpsten
Genre: Historical
Rating: 4 out of 5

St. Petersburg, 1725. Peter the Great lies dying in his magnificent Winter Palace. The weakness and treachery of his only son has driven his father to an appalling act of cruelty and left the empire without an heir. Russia risks falling into chaos. Into the void steps the woman who has been by his side for decades: his second wife, Catherine Alexeyevna, as ambitious, ruthless and passionate as Peter himself.

Born into devastating poverty, Catherine used her extraordinary beauty and shrewd intelligence to ingratiate herself with Peter’s powerful generals, finally seducing the Tsar himself. But even amongst the splendor and opulence of her new life—the lavish feasts, glittering jewels, and candle-lit hours in Peter’s bedchamber—she knows the peril of her position. Peter’s attentions are fickle and his rages powerful; his first wife is condemned to a prison cell, her lover impaled alive in Red Square. And now Catherine faces the ultimate test: can she keep the Tsar’s death a secret as she plays a lethal game to destroy her enemies and take the Crown for herself?

From the sensuous pleasures of a decadent aristocracy, to the incense-filled rites of the Orthodox Church and the terror of Peter’s torture chambers, the intoxicating and dangerous world of Imperial Russia is brought to vivid life. Tsarina is the story of one remarkable woman whose bid for power would transform the Russian Empire.

This was a solid read, and the characters and setting were well-done and believable, but…these people were horrible. Seriously. Catherine rose from nothing to be the most powerful woman in the country, but the things these people do to each other and their ideas of entertainment are horrible. Believable, sadly, but horrible.

Most of the book tells Catherine’s story from the time she left her family, her struggles amidst the horrors of war, how she met Peter and their relationship. The blurb makes it sound like most of the book is about Catherine’s struggle to take the crown, but that’s only a very small portion. She’s a fascinating woman, but the cruelty of her and her world made this a tough book to read.

Ellen Alpsten was born in Kenya Tsarina is her debut novel.

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

Book Review: Miss Benson’s Beetle, by Rachel Joyce

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Title: Miss Benson’s Beetle
Author: Rachel Joyce
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 4.0 out of 5

It is 1950. In a devastating moment of clarity, Margery Benson abandons her dead-end job and advertises for an assistant to accompany her on an expedition. She is going to travel to the other side of the world to search for a beetle that may or may not exist.

Enid Pretty, in her unlikely pink travel suit, is not the companion Margery had in mind. And yet together they will be drawn into an adventure that will exceed every expectation. They will risk everything, break all the rules, and at the top of a red mountain, discover their best selves.

This is a story that is less about what can be found than the belief it might be found; it is an intoxicating adventure story but it is also about what it means to be a woman and a tender exploration of a friendship that defies all boundaries.

This was an interesting read, and not what I expected at all. Margery is clearly a woman who has never felt comfortable or at home in the world, so it was wonderful to see her grow and change through this novel, stepping into who she wanted to be and owning her identity.

Enid was quite entertaining. I enjoyed her growth as well, and she was a perfect foil for Margery and her straightlaced ways. A solid, entertaining read.

Rachel Joyce is a bestselling author. Miss Benson’s Beetle is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: The Garden of Promises and Lies, by Paula Brackston

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title: The Garden of Promises and Lies
Author: Paula Brackston
Genre: Fiction, historical
Rating: 5.0 out of 5

As the bustle of the winter holidays in the Little Shop of Found Things gives way to spring, Xanthe is left to reflect on the strange events of the past year. While she’s tried to keep her time-traveling talents a secret from those close to her, she is forced to take responsibility for having inadvertently transported the dangerous Benedict Fairfax to her own time. Xanthe comes to see that she must use her skills as a spinner if she and Flora are ever to be safe, and turns to the Spinners book for help.

It is then that a beautiful antique wedding dress sings to her. Realizing the dress and her adversary are connected in some way, she answers the call. She finds herself in Bradford-on-Avon in 1815, as if she has stepped into a Jane Austen story.

Now in Xanthe’s time, Fairfax is threatening Xanthe into helping him with his evil doings, and demonstrates all too clearly how much damage he is capable of causing. With Fairfax growing ever more powerful, Xanthe enlists the help of her boyfriend Liam, taking him back in time with her. It is a decision that might just ensure she prevails over her foe, but only by putting her life—and his—on the line.

I think I’ve read the first book in this series—The Little Shop of Found Things—but I’m not positive, and I know I haven’t read the second book. Honestly, that didn’t detract from reading this at all. Sure, it would have added some depth, but a reader coming into this series at book three would be totally lost and unable to figure out what was going on.

I love the quirky characters—Harley especially—and find the whole basic premise fascinating, twining the past and present together like pieces of a puzzle. Brackston is an excellent writer, bringing both modern day and historical settings to vivid life and I’m now going back to read (or maybe re-read) the first two books in this series.

Paula Brackston lives in Wales. The Garden of Promises and Lies is her newest novel, the third book in the Found Things series.

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

Book Review: Goblin King, by Kara Barbieri

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press/Wednesday Books.

Title: Goblin King
Author: Kara Barbieri
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 5.0 out of 5

Against all odds, Janneke has survived the Hunt for the Stag–but all good things come with a cost. Lydian might be dead, but he took the Stag with him. Janneke now holds the mantle, while Soren, now her equal in every way, has become the new Erlking. Janneke’s powers as the new Stag bring along haunting visions of a world thrown into chaos and the ghost of Lydian taunts her with the riddles he spoke of when he was alive.

When Janneke discovers the truth of Lydian and his madness, she’s forced to see her tormentor in a different light for the first time. The world they know is dying and Lydian may hold the key to saving it.

Torn between her feelings and her duty as the Stag, Janneke must bring her tormentor back to life if she has hopes of keeping her world alive. But the journey is long and hard and this time she won’t have Soren for company.

Lydian might be able to stop the worlds from crumbling, but reviving him may cost Janneke the life with Soren she’s tried to hard to build. After all, there can only be one King….

I loved the first book in the Permafrost series, White Stag, and Goblin King was just as good. Sometimes the second book in a series isn’t, so I was very pleased that did not hold true here. I find the setting and mythology compelling and vivid, and the characters, while brutal, are well-developed and believable.

Janneke has so many issues she’s dealing with it stresses me out! It’s a shame she had to learn the hard way not to keep secrets from people she cares about…I love even the secondary characters in this series! They’ve distinct and unique enough to keep my attention, even if I prefer reading about Janneke and Soren. Highly recommended!

Kara Barbieri likes adding mythology to her stories. Goblin King is her newest novel.

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