Tag: blog tour

Book Review and Blog Tour: At the Edge of the Haight, by Katherine Seligman

Image belongs to Algonquin Books.

Title:  At the Edge of the Haight
Author:  Katherine Seligman
Genre:  Fiction
Rating:  4 out of 5

Maddy Donaldo, homeless at twenty, has made a family of sorts in the dangerous spaces of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. She knows whom to trust, where to eat, when to move locations, and how to take care of her dog. It’s the only home she has. When she unwittingly witnesses the murder of a young homeless boy and is seen by the perpetrator, her relatively stable life is upended. Suddenly, everyone from the police to the dead boys’ parents want to talk to Maddy about what she saw. As adults pressure her to give up her secrets and reunite with her own family before she meets a similar fate, Maddy must decide whether she wants to stay lost or be found. Against the backdrop of a radically changing San Francisco, a city which embraces a booming tech economy while struggling to maintain its culture of tolerance, At the Edge of the Haight follows the lives of those who depend on makeshift homes and communities.

Things I wish I’d known before reading this (as I might have chosen to not read it): the murder victim is not a “young” homeless boy, but a guy around Maddy’s age; and the main plot of this story is Maddy herself, not her struggle to stay safe from the perpetrator (because that’s an aside at best). This is also a new adult book, not a young adult book, as I’ve seen it called in some reviews.

Maddy herself is a fascinating character and the reader is very much involved in her life. However, this is a very slow read without a lot of character growth. Some of Maddy’s friends are homeless by choice—they have families and places to go but choose not to—some are not, and their family unit struggles together. This isn’t a fun or uplifting read, so if that’s what you’re expecting, it’s probably best to give this a pass.

Katherine Seligman is a journalist and author. At the Edge of the Haight is her newest novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: Aftershock, by Judy Melinek and T.J. Mitchell

Image belongs to Harlequin/Hanover Square Press.

Title:  Aftershock
Author:  Judy Melinek and T.J. Mitchell
Genre:  Mystery
Rating:  4 out of 5

There’s a body crushed under a load of pipes on a San Francisco construction site, and medical examiner Dr. Jessie Teska is on call. So it’s her job to figure out who it is—and her headache when the autopsy reveals that the death is a homicide staged as an accident.

Jessie is hot on the murderer’s trail, then an earthquake sends her and her whole city reeling. When the dust clears, her case has fallen apart and an innocent man is being framed. Jessie knows she’s the only one who can prove it, and she races to piece together the truth—before it gets buried and brings her down in the rubble.

I enjoyed this second entry into the Dr. Jessie Teska Mystery series, although I have to say, for a smart person, Jessie does some really stupid stuff. Although I don’t understand some of her choices, she’s a vivid character and one I enjoy reading. There are a lot of quirky things that make this series unique and enjoyable, from where Jessie lives to her background and family. This is a solid mystery read.

Judy Melinek and T.J. Mitchell are New York Times bestselling authors. Aftershock is their newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/Hanover Square Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review and Blog Tour: Marion Lane and the Midnight Murder, by T.A. Willberg

Image belongs to Harlequin/Park Row.

Title:  Marion Lane and the Midnight Murder
Author:  T.A. Willberg
Genre:  Fiction
Rating:  3.5 out of 5

Marion Lane and the Midnight Murder plunges readers into the heart of London, to the secret tunnels that exist far beneath the city streets. There, a mysterious group of detectives recruited for Miss Brickett’s Investigations & Inquiries use their cunning and gadgets to solve crimes that have stumped Scotland Yard.

Late one night in April 1958, a filing assistant for Miss Brickett’s named Michelle White receives a letter warning her that a heinous act is about to occur. She goes to investigate but finds the room empty. At the stroke of midnight, she is murdered by a killer she can’t see—her death the only sign she wasn’t alone. It becomes chillingly clear that the person responsible must also work for Miss Brickett’s, making everyone a suspect.

Almost unwillingly, Marion Lane, a first-year Inquirer-in-training, finds herself being drawn ever deeper into the investigation. When her friend and mentor is framed for the crime, to clear his name she must sort through the hidden alliances at Miss Brickett’s and secrets dating back to WWII.

The premise of this novel was very intriguing—a mysterious group of hidden detectives? And they have a secret headquarters, like the wizards in Harry Potter? That sounded very cool and definitely caught my attention.

I found the execution to be slow and languid, and not equal to the promise of the story idea. Reading about a murder investigation in a secret organization of detectives, I expected a certain level of tension and intrigue, but that isn’t what I got. There was a lot of gossiping, secrets, a fair amount of drinking, and really no curiosity about who the murderer was—or why Michelle White was even killed.

T.A. Willberg is from South Africa. Marion Lane and the Midnight Murder is her debut novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: Wrong Alibi, by Christina Dodd

Image belongs to Harlequin.

Title: Wrong Alibi
Author: Christina Dodd
Genre: Mystery/thriller
Rating: 3 out of 5

WRONG JOB
Eighteen-year-old Evelyn Jones lands a job in small-town Alaska, working for a man in his isolated mountain home. But her bright hopes for the future are shattered when Donald White disappears, leaving her to face charges of theft, embezzlement—and a brutal double murder. Her protestations of innocence count for nothing. Convicted, she faces life in prison…until fate sends her on the run.

WRONG NAME
Evie’s escape leaves her scarred and in hiding, isolated from her family, working under an alias at a wilderness camp. Bent on justice, intent on recovering her life, she searches for the killer who slaughters without remorse.

WRONG ALIBI
At last, the day comes. Donald White has returned. Evie emerges from hiding; the fugitive becomes the hunter. But in her mind, she hears the whisper of other forces at work. Now Evelyn must untangle the threads of evidence before she’s once again found with blood on her hands: the blood of her own family…

Dodd is a good writer. The writing in this is solid and never detracted from the story. I was always firmly rooted in what was happening and the vividly realized setting. But…see that blurb up there? Does it say anything about romance? Nope. Not a hint.

If I read most of a book with the idea it’s a thriller and there’s no hint of “romance” until about 75% of the way through the book and then suddenly, there’s what I’ll charitably call a love interest—by which I mean the MC hops randomly into bed with a guy she just met who thought she murdered his family until about five seconds ago, with no logical transition from him thinking she’s a murderer to him realizing she isn’t and that he actually likes her—then I lose all faith in the author. All faith.

If I can’t trust you to drop hints throughout the book that there’s romance in here somewhere, what else can I not trust you with? Well, as it turns out, I also can’t trust you on several other things, including a believable conspiracy ten years ago when your MC was framed for murder. And several other things that made the last 75% of this book completely illogical and not connected to the rest of it. Sorry, but I doubt I’ll be reading anything else from this author in the future. I have to be able to trust the authors I read.

Christina Dodd is a bestselling author.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: The Last to See Her, by Courtney Evan Tate

Image belongs to Harlequin/MIRA.

Title: The Last to See Her
Author: Courtney Evan Tate
Genre: Thriller
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

A woman disappears into the dark city night…

Gen is on the verge of a divorce from her cheating husband. When her sister, Meg, has a convention to attend in the Big Apple, she invites Gen along to celebrate her newly found freedom. But the perfect sisters’ getaway quickly goes awry when a tipsy Gen defiantly throws her wedding ring off the hotel room’s balcony. Then, wanting some fresh air, she decides to take a late-evening walk alone and vanishes without a trace.

The investigation that follows uncovers secrets—and betrayals—between sisters and spouses that will twist the truth in on itself until nothing is clear.

What really happened to Gen and who, besides Meg, was the last to see her?

This had potential. But I didn’t really care for any of the characters—except the detective—so that definitely detracted. I’m not a fan of unreliable narrators, and I felt like both Gen and Meg were unreliable. Even when I finished the book, I didn’t have a clear picture of what happened, especially in the sisters’ individual marriages. Good writing and details, but the characters made this not a good fit for me.

Courtney Evan Tate lives in Florida. The Last to See Her is her newest novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: The Last Christmas Cowboy, by Maisey Yates

Image belongs to Harlequin.

Title: The Last Christmas Cowboy
Author: Maisey Yates
Genre: Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5

This Christmas, cowgirl Rose Daniels is determined to play matchmaker to ensure her beloved sister will meet someone under the mistletoe. She enlists the reluctant help of family friend Logan Heath, but his insistence that she doesn’t understand chemistry is exasperating. Until they share one electrifying moment that shows her exactly what chemistry is all about, and it becomes outrageously, irresistibly intriguing…

Logan hates the holidays. They are a painful reminder of the family he lost and a time of year he always wants to spend on his own. But Rose refuses to let him. Logan’s worked for years to keep his attraction to her under wraps—she’s his best friend’s youngest sister and she couldn’t be more off-limits. He’s the last cowboy that innocent Rose should ever kiss, but this Christmas, will Logan become the only cowboy she’ll ever want?

This is the second book in the Gold Valley series I’ve read. This was much better than The Hero of Hope Springs because I found the characters much less annoying and selfish. Rose seemed a lot younger than 23—not entirely surprising, considering how she grew up—but almost too naïve to be believable. I liked Logan, too, although his perceptions of what people were going to say or do were a bit unbelievable.

What bothered me:  the double standard for the men and women in the Daniels family. Rose is 23 and never even been kissed. Her sister Pansy was a virgin until her love interest swept into town, then she fell right into bed with him. Their older sister, Iris, has never been on a date. Yet, their brother, Ryder, and Logan, his best friend, have no problems with sleeping with whoever catches their eye and are definitely not okay with the sisters even thinking about sex. I am not okay with the message this sends. If it’s not okay for the women, it’s not okay for the men, either.

Maisy Yates is a bestselling author. The Last Christmas Cowboy is her newest novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: Happily This Christmas, by Susan Mallery

Image belongs to Harlequin.

Title: Happily This Christmas
Author: Susan Mallery
Genre: Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5

Wynn Beauchene has a thriving business, a great kid and a mildly embarrassing crush on the guy next door—local cop Garrick McCabe. She’s a strong, independent woman who can’t help dreaming what-if about a man she barely knows. Until he needs her help…

Garrick’s pregnant daughter will be home for Christmas, and his house needs a woman’s touch. Garrick and his little girl were tight once and he’s hoping a small-town Christmas will bring her back to him. But thawing his daughter’s frosty attitude will take more than a few twinkle lights. Maybe sharing the holiday with Wynn and her son will remind her of the joy of family.

As the season works its magic on these wounded souls, Wynn realizes it’s time to stop punishing herself for a painful secret, while Garrick remains haunted by the ghosts of past mistakes. Will he allow Wynn to open the only gift she truly wants—his heart?

I haven’t read any of the previous books in the Happily Inc series, but that isn’t an issue with these standalones. I enjoyed this read a lot! Wynn’s snark made me laugh and Garrick—usually so capable—is totally useless when it comes to dealing with his pregnant daughter. Who is, frankly, awful to everyone. I really disliked her until the last third of the book. This is a solid read with great characters, and I recommend it.

Susan Mallery is a bestselling author. Happily This Christmas is her newest novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: A Princess by Christmas, by Julia London

Image belongs to Harlequin.

Title: A Princess by Christmas
Author: Julia London
Genre: Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5

After three years of mourning—and turning her dear deceased husband’s gazette into the ton’s sauciest source of fashion and gossip—Hollis Honeycutt feels her life has been strangely bereft of late… Her sister is living abroad, and her best friend moved to the country. What must a young widow of rank and reputation do? Why, transform her society gossip sheets into serious investigative news, starting with a rumored coup…and the rather dashing, mysterious gentleman whom Hollis suspects might be the villain of her first real story, and she is the only one who can write it.

Marek Brendan is investigating terrible rumors of treachery and treason that threaten his home country of Wesloria, but he must proceed with caution. No one can discover the truth. After all, who would ever believe he is Wesloria’s lost crown prince? Only Hollis Honeycutt’s cerulean-blue eyes seem to know more than she’s letting on—and worse, Marek can’t seem to resist her curious charms. But even as betrayal threatens a nation and a throne, nothing is quite so dangerous as the lovely young widow who’s determined to find the truth…and a prince of her own.

I enjoy reading linked standalones, so this was a fun return to old characters. I feel like the blurb is a little misleading, because Hollis is not looking for a prince of her own—or any man. She just wants people to take her writing seriously.  

Hollis is fun and saucy—why are the women in this serious so wildly unconventional? You cannot tell me royalty would be able to overlook some of the stunts they pull. Royal protocol wouldn’t allow it.—and she’s struggling with how her life and the people in it are changing. Marek just wants to keep to himself, but Hollis won’t let him. She’s like being hit by a truck. This was a quick, fun read.

Julia London is a bestselling author. A Princess by Christmas is her newest novel.

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

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

Image belongs to Harlequin/Graydon House.

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.)