Tag: books

Book Review: Pretty Guilty Women, by Gina LaManna

pretty guilty women
Image belongs to Sourcebooks Landmark.

Title:  Pretty Guilty Women
Author:    Gina LaManna
Genre:  Mystery, thriller
Rating:  4 out of 5

At the exclusive spa where the Banks wedding is about to take place, the luxurious surroundings promise a peaceful, posh vacation where old friends can catch up and relaxation is key. Until a man ends up dead—and four different women claim they murdered him.

Kate is used to excess and luxury—but not to being dumped at the front desk by her wealthy boyfriend. She’s used to being envied, but she is the one feeling jealous on this trip as she meets up with her college roommates and sees the lives they have.

Ginger has just about had it with the chaos of family life. Her kids won’t listen, her husband is oblivious, and everyone depends on mom to hold things together. Ginger just wishes she were a bit more carefree—like her college days before her best friend betrayed her.

Emily just wants the pain to stop. She’ll eventually drown it in a bottle, like always, but seeing her old friends dredges up secrets she’d prefer to keep hidden.

Lulu’s used to love being easy-come, easy-go, but she really loves her fifth husband. Now he’s hiding something, and she’s determined to find out the truth—or else.

This book was well-written and engrossing from the first page. All these women are fascinating, and I was drawn into their stories immediately. I love how the story is told in bits and pieces from each of their viewpoints, while drawing out the mystery of what really happened. Entirely binge-worthy, this is a book that will keep you hooked as you race to find out what really happened.

Gina LaManna lives near the beach. Pretty Guilty Women is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Sourcebooks Landmark via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

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Book Review: A Wedding in December, by Sarah Morgan

a wedding in december
Image belongs to harlequin/HQN.

Title:  A Wedding in December
Author:   Sarah Morgan
Genre:  Romance
Rating:  4 out of 5

Maggie White is looking forward to a family Christmas at home. Decorating, cooking—it’s her favorite time of year. Of course, this year she’ll have to tell her daughters she and their dad are getting divorced. Until a middle-of-the-night phone call reveals her younger daughter, Rosie, is getting married. Now the family is headed to Aspen for the ceremony, and Maggie and Nick agree to pretend to still be in love, for the sake of their daughter’s wedding. Will the pretense turn to reality?

Katie, Rosie’s older sister, just knows Rosie is making a mistake. Her sister is impulsive and changes her mind all the time, so how can she know this guy’s “the one” when she’s only known him a few months? Katie’s determined to stop her sister from making a huge mistake—getting married—but the best man, Jordan, keeps getting in her way. And her thoughts.

Rosie is getting married. She knows she loves her fiancé, but is she really sure? With her sister interfering and her parents acting embarrassingly in love, Rosie’s just not sure anymore, but she knows she has to figure out what her heart wants.

I loved the White family, and that this was really three romances in one. I fall somewhere between Rosie and Katie, so I could relate to both of them. The switches in viewpoint were seamless, and every character’s journey was absorbing. An excellent read!

Sarah Morgan is a bestselling author. A Wedding in December is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: The Immortal City, by Amy Kuivalainen

the immortal city
Image belongs to BHC Press.

Title:  The Immortal City
Author:    Amy Kuivalainen
Genre:  Fantasy
Rating:  3 out of 5

Dr. Penelope Bryne has been shunned and ridiculed by the scientific community for her theories about Atlantis. Until a woman is sacrificed in Venice, and an ancient script is found at the murder site and the police need Penelope’s help.

Alexis Donato has spent the last few years trying to destroy Penelope’s career from afar, so she doesn’t discover the truth about Atlantis:  it did exist, and seven of its magicians escaped its destruction.

With Carnivale erupting around them, Penelope and Alexis will have to work together to keep dark magic from pulling Venice into the sea—just like Atlantis.

I love the tales of Atlantis and I love archeology, so this book sounded exactly suited for me. However…this felt more like a rough draft than a polished novel. Some of the relationships (like Penelope’s friendship with the detective) escalated too quickly to be believable, and there were a few too many instances of things conveniently/coincidentally working out for me to be fully invested in and believing the story. At this point, I wasn’t satisfied enough with the writing to want to read more of the series, as fascinating as the premise was.

Amy Kuivalainen likes to combine fantasy, mythology, and magic in her writing. The Immortal City is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of BHC Press via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Coming Home for Christmas, by RaeAnne Thayne

coming home for christmas
Image belongs to Harlequin/HQN.

Title:  Coming Home for Christmas
Author:    RaeAnne Thayne
Genre:  Romance
Rating:  4 out of 5

Seven years ago, when Luke Hamilton woke up one morning, his wife, Elizabeth, was gone. She’d struggled with postpartum depression after the births of their two children and the loss of her parents, and she’d never found her way out of that darkness. Luke thought she was dead when she disappeared. Until a few months ago, when his sister’s fiancée tracked her down, living in a different state under a different name. Now Luke is about to be charged with her murder, so he goes to get her, knowing she is the only one who can prevent it.

Depression and grief weighed down Elizabeth’s very soul, then a car accident stole her memories and who she was. It took years for her to remember her children and her husband. Now she wants to mend those fences, but she’s been gone so long and done so much damage she’s not sure she can ever repair the damage.

I’ve only read one of the other Haven Point books, but these are linked standalone novels, so that’s no problem. Elizabeth has been through horrible difficulties, and this book explores what postpartum depression can look like and feel like. I enjoyed seeing things through her eyes and through Luke’s eyes, and the strength of both characters was a joy to read.

RaeAnne Thayne is the author of the Haven Point series. Coming Home for Christmas is her newest novel.

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

Blog Tour: Six Goodbyes We Never Said, by Candace Ganger

Six Goodbyes We Never Said_FC
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:  Six Goodbyes We Never Said
Author:    Candace Ganger
Genre:  YA
Rating:  4.2 out of 5

Naima Rodriguez is aware she’s not like other people:  between her OCD, her GAD, and her PTSD, she’s juggling the entire alphabet of things that make it hard for her to interact with other people. Especially without her dad, a fallen Marine, around to be her buffer and understand all her little quirks, like separating the marshmallows from her Lucky Charms into six—and only six—bags. Her dad understood her, but no one else does, and Naima doesn’t really care.

Dew hasn’t really death with the deaths of his parents and his anxiety—both social and not—makes it hard for him to interact with others, so he uses his trusty voice recorder to filter his observations. But when he finally meets Naima, he understands that helping someone else might end up being the very thing he needs to heal himself.

Six Goodbyes We Never Said wasn’t an easy book to read. Both Naima and Dew have things going on that make their lives harder and sharper than other people’s. They’ve both experienced unthinkable loss, and they feel broken. But sometimes only another broken person can truly understand. The characters are vibrant, although Naima’s jagged edges make her a difficult character to sympathize with at times. She knows she’s hurting other people, but she does it anyway, and that’s not easy to read.

Candace Ganger is an author, a contributing writer to HelloGiggles, and a marathoner.  Six Goodbyes We Never Said is her new novel.

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

Book Review: What Happened that Night, by Deanna Cameron

what happened that night
Image belongs to Wattpad Books.

Title:  What Happened that Night
Author:    Deanna Cameron
Genre:  YA
Rating: 
4 out of 5

Clara Porterfield had a crush on Griffin Tomlin as long as she could remember, but he was always just the boy across the street, never anything else. Until that night:  the night that he showed her who he really was and made her realize that people are not always what they seem.

Four months ago, Griffin was found dead and Clara’s sister, Emily, was arrested for his murder. Emily isn’t saying a word, but she wants Clara to. Clara doesn’t know what to think. Did Emily murder Griffin for what he did to Clara—or is there even more to this story than Clara can imagine? Finding out the truth might set her free from her guilt, but what else will it drag into the light?

What Happened that Night was not what I expected. At all. I liked Clara. She’s been through some horrific things, but she’s struggling to be strong and find out the truth—even if the truth will change the way she sees the world forever. I wasn’t a fan of her dad, but her mom and the other supporting characters were great, especially Anniston, who lives in pink and wants to be a journalist.

What Happened that Night is the new book by Deanna Cameron.

(Galley courtesy of Wattpad Books via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Stranger Inside, by Lisa Unger

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Image belongs to Harlequin/Park Row.

Title:  The Stranger Inside
Author:  Lisa Unger
Genre:   Thriller
Rating:   4 out of 5

When Rain Winter was 12, she barely escaped the clutches of a murderous madman with her life. Her two best friends, Hank and Tessa, were not so lucky. Hank was forever scarred by his experiences that day, and Tessa never came home. When the killer was released, Rain lived in fear—until someone killed him.

Now Rain is a stay-at-home mom who does her best not to think about those dark days, although she misses her time as an investigative journalist. Then another man who got away with murder ends up dead, and Rain starts to wonder if there’s any connection between this case—and the one from her own past.

The Stranger Inside had quite the twist I never saw coming. Rain is a nuanced character, both longing for her journalist days and yearning to give herself completely to motherhood. I found Hank fascinating—and likable—despite his issues, and I enjoyed the twining of past and present to show the reader the rest of the story.

Lisa Unger is a bestselling author. The Stranger Inside is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Harlequin/Park Row in exchange for an honest review.)

Blog Tour: The Widow of Pale Harbor, by Hester Fox

Today I’m pleased to be a part of the blog tour for Hester Fox’s The Widow of Pale Harbor.

 

widow of pale harbor
Image belongs to Harlequin/Graydon House.

Title:  The Widow of Pale Harbor
Author:    Hester Fox
Genre:  Gothic, romance
Rating:  4 out of 5

Gabriel Stone is still mourning the loss of his wife, so he takes a job as minister in the small Maine village of Pale Harbor. Never mind that he’s not a minister, or that he doesn’t even know what his own beliefs are; he’s just glad to move out of Boston, haunted by memories of his wife.

Pale Harbor is not the sleepy village he expects. His very first day, he finds what appears to be an animal sacrifice, and hears tale of the widow who keeps to herself and  the castle on the edge of town, the widow who almost certainly killed her husband years ago. As the violence escalates, Gabriel gets to know Sophronia Carver, and soon realizes she’s the target of a deranged madman who’s obsessed with the works of the wildly popular new author, Edgar Allen Poe.

Can Gabriel figure out who’s behind the chilling and macabre acts before it’s too late?

I enjoyed Fox’s first novel, The Witch of Willow Hall, immensely, so I looked forward to reading this. This tale is dark and atmospheric—a fitting tribute to Poe’s works. Sophy is haunted by her regrets, but her loyalty tethers her even when it shouldn’t. Gabriel is loyal to his dead wife, but fascinated by Sophy, and soon realizes he’s the only one in the village who believes in her innocence.

Hester Fox has a background in museum work and historical archaeology. She is the author of The Witch of Willow Hall. Her newest novel is The Widow of Pale Harbor.

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

Excerpt from “The Widow of Pale Harbor” by Hester Fox

As part of the blog tour for Hester Fox’s The Widow of Pale Harbor, I’m pleased to present an excerpt for you to read today. This atmospheric read releases tomorrow, and I’ll have a review up then. For now, here’s an excerpt.

Widow of Pale Harbor Excerpt

Excerpt, THE WIDOW OF PALE HARBOR  by Hester Fox

Fanny put a plate piled high with buttered bread, sausage, and potatoes in front of Gabriel. “There we are, a proper meal. You haven’t been eating enough, Mr. Stone,” she said with a censorious frown. He gave her the most of a smile he could muster. “I’m lucky to have you to take care of me.”

This made her blush and duck her head. “It’s only sausage and potatoes, the easiest thing in the world to make.” That might have been the case, but good, homecooked food that was made with love, that was made for him, never ceased being something of a novelty.

She made up a plate for herself and joined him. Reaching for one of the magazines that Fanny kept in a stack on the rough wood table, Gabriel began to flick through it as he ate.

It was a copy of a Carver’s Monthly. Fanny had told him that Mrs. Carver always gave her the old issues to take home and read. She caught him looking at it and nodded toward the table of contents. “Mrs. Carver gave me this one because it’s got a Poe story in it. Have you ever read anything by him? He writes so beautifully, so full of pain and heartbreak. His stories are romantic beyond anything.”

“One or two, I think,” he said. They were a little overly sensational for Gabriel’s taste—he preferred adventure stories about men conquering mountains, or sketches of life in tiny tribal villages on the other side of the world—but they were entertaining and had a particular kind of dark appeal.

“Oh, well, you would like this one,” she said excitedly. “Mrs. Carver told me that Mr. Carver was proud beyond anything to get it in his magazine. It’s about a man who has a black cat and he kills it. First he gauges out the cat’s eye because it won’t stop staring at him. But then he can’t stand the guilt he feels and he kills it. Takes a rope and strangles it, he does. He—”

“Wait, what did you say?”

Frowning, Fanny pushed the paper closer toward him, tapping her finger at the illustration of a bedraggled, one-eyed cat. “The cat. The man hangs it from a tree.”

Gabriel stopped chewing, sausage curdling in his mouth. Reaching for the magazine, he hurriedly scanned the lines of the story. There it was, the scene he’d witnessed not an hour before, sketched out neatly in black and white.

When he looked up, he found Fanny studying him, her brow furrowed in puzzlement. “What is it?”

He hesitated. Should he tell her about what he’d seen that morning? It wasn’t exactly the kind of thing one shared with young ladies, even if the young lady in question seemed to be morbidly fascinated by ghoulish stories. But she would hear about it eventually, whether he told her or not. Pale Harbor was small and word traveled fast.

“There was a dummy of a cat found near the center of town today. Just like this one, with one eye and a rope around its neck.”

Her green eyes widened as she absorbed the significance of this. “What, just like in the story?”

“Just like in the story.”

She considered this. Then her face suddenly brightened. “Do you think any newspaper men will come to write about it? Just think of it, a Poe story come to life!”

Gabriel frowned. He hadn’t thought of that. “I’m not sure. I suppose if word gets around they might.”

“Wouldn’t that be something? It could put Pale Harbor on the map. Why, they might even print our names! Maybe Mrs. Carver can ask someone from the magazine to come up from Portland and write a piece on it.”

Gabriel wasn’t sure what was more disturbing: the crudely constructed cat, its eerie similarity to the story, or Fanny’s excitement at the press it might generate.

If you’d like to read the Edgar Allen Poe story mentioned in the excerpt, here’s a link.

Book Review: Echoes of War, by Cheryl Campbell

echoes of war
Image belongs to SparkPress.

Title:  Echoes of War
Author:    Cheryl Campbell
Genre: Dystopian, YA
Rating:  3.0 out of 5

Dani is a Brigand:  living on the fringes of society and scavenging to survive. The Wardens, an alien race, came to Earth centuries ago and lived disguised as humans until they were discovered. Now they’ve destroyed much of humanity—and are trying to destroy the rest. Then Dani’s brother reveals she’s an Echo—one of the near-immortal alien race who reset back to a younger age when they die, but not militant like the Wardens.

Soon Dani is trying to convince the other Brigands they need to work with the military so they can defeat the Wardens. But Dani will have to learn from her mistakes if she’s to help them succeed.

Okay…it was really hard for me to write this summary, which tells me a bit about this book’s issues:  it’s a little too undefined to be completely coherent. Frankly, Dani was kind of childish, and while this is partially explained due to her nature, she never seems to learn from her mistakes and is just hell-bent on doing things her way—no matter the repercussions to other people. I did not find her very likable. And this book felt more like an unpolished manuscript to me:  sometimes there are no explanations/motivations for characters’ actions—I can’t relate to people if I don’t have the slightest idea why they’re doing things. And there are several places lacking transitions, where time passes—four months, in one case—with zero transition at all, which felt very abrupt and threw me out of the story.

Cheryl Campbell lives in Maine when she’s not being a nomad. Echoes of war is her newest novel.

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