Tag: family

Book Review: Scandalous Secrets, by Synithia Williams

scandalous secrets
Image belongs to Harlequin/HQN.

Title: Scandalous Secrets
Author: Synithia Williams
Genre: Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5

Senatorial candidate Byron Robidoux always does the right thing. And, after years of focus and dedication, his life and campaign are going exactly to plan—until a blackmailer jeopardizes everything. No one is supposed to know that thirteen years ago, Byron told a lie to protect a college friend. And now that lie could destroy his career…and threaten the woman he never stopped loving.

Zoe Hammond hardly recognizes the refined and handsome politician Byron has become. The last time she saw him, he was the friend who saved her life by claiming to be the father of her unborn baby. For that, she’d do anything for him. Except Byron’s world of wealth, reputation and deceit isn’t a place where Zoe or her daughter belong. But when a menace from the past comes calling again, staying with Byron is best for them all. And, as the searing attraction between them builds, they soon realize some things are worth fighting for…especially love.

This was a solid read. Zoe was a strong character, although she took her independence a little too far at times, and she always thought Byron was at fault in everything, without waiting to hear his side of things (like his campaign manager releasing their photos, and Zoe had already decided Byron was the guilty culprit). This made her come across as pretty judge-y and a bit close-minded.

I loved the dynamics with the Robidoux family, although their father was a bit much. Byron himself was conflicted and contradictory. He was perfectly willing to marry someone who was the “right” choice—even though he didn’t love her—and years ago, he’d wanted to marry Zoe, even when his family thought she was wrong for him.

Synithia Williams has loved romance novels since she was 13. Scandalous Secrets is her newest novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: Here to Stay, by Adriana Herrera

here to stay
Image belongs to Carina Press.

Title: Here to Stay
Author:   Adriana Herrera  
Genre:  Romance
Rating:  4 out of 5

Starting over is more about who you’re with than where you live…

Julia del Mar Ortiz is not having the best year.

She moved to Dallas with her boyfriend, who ended up ditching her and running back to New York after only a few weeks. Left with a massive—by NYC standards, anyway—apartment and a car lease in the scorching Texas heat, Julia is struggling…except that’s not completely true. Running the charitable foundation of one of the most iconic high fashion department stores in the world is serious #lifegoals.

It’s more than enough to make her want to stick it out down South.

The only monkey wrench in Julia’s plans is the blue-eyed, smart-mouthed consultant the store hired to take them public. Fellow New Yorker Rocco Quinn’s first order of business? Putting Julia’s job on the chopping block.

When Julia is tasked with making sure Rocco sees how valuable the programs she runs are, she’s caught between a rock and a very hard set of abs. Because Rocco Quinn is almost impossible to hate—and even harder to resist.

I really enjoyed the diversity in this novel—and the food descriptions alone were enough to make me drool. This was a fairly straightforward read, with no unexpected surprises. Being in Julia’s viewpoint was a lot of fun, and Rocco was a genuinely nice guy, although his personality changed from sweet, polite, and nice anytime he and Julia were intimate, and the abrupt switch seemed forced and inauthentic.

The secondary characters were all fun and vibrant, but came across more as clichés than anything else, which was disappointing to me. Still, this was a solid, easy read.

Adriana Herrera was born and raised in the Caribbean. Here to Stay is her new novel.

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

Book Review: Cry of Metal & Bone, by L. Penelope

cry of metal & bone
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title: Cry of Metal & Bone
Author:  L. Penelope   
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Six weeks after the fall of the Mantle, centuries-old enemies Elsira and Lagrimar struggle to unite. The will of the goddess is that the two nations become one, but while the war may be over, peace is still elusive. As desperate Lagrimari flee their barren land for a chance at a better life in Elsira, a dangerous faction opposed to the unification rises.

 When a shadowy group with ties to the Elsiran government takes responsibility for a fatal attack and promises more, an unlikely crew is assembled to investigate. Among them are Lizvette Nirall, a disgraced socialite seeking redemption for past mistakes, and Tai Summerhawk, a foreign smuggler determined to keep a promise he made to a dead man. Powerful Earthsinger Darvyn ol-Tahlyro is sent with a secret assignment, one that Queen Jasminda can’t know about. And in a prison far away, Kyara ul-Lagrimar searches for a way to escape her captors and save a family long thought dead.

 It’s a race against time in this world of deadly magic, secret agendas and court intrigue to discover those responsible for the bombing before the next attack. And in another land a new enemy awakens—one that will strike terror into the hearts of gods and men.

I’ve enjoyed all the Earthsinger Chronicles books, and this one is no exception. The characters are the best part of this series, all of them being diverse and vividly realized. No cookie cutter characters here. Tai was probably my favorite character in this, although Lizvette was great, too.

The cultures in this series are very distinct, and I enjoy reading about them and feeling like I’m exploring the lands themselves. All the settings are detailed enough to get lost in, but not so overly detailed that there’s no room for the reader’s imagination to fill in the blanks. I love the continuing saga of these characters.

Leslye Penelope lives in Maryland. Cry of Metal & Bone is the third book in the Earthsinger Chronicles.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: The Last Story of Mina Lee, by Nancy Jooyoun Kim

mina lee
Image belongs to Harlequin/Park Row.

Title: The Last Story of Mina Lee
Author:     Nancy Jooyoun Kim
Genre: Fiction
Rating:4 out of 5

Margot Lee’s mother, Mina, isn’t returning her calls. It’s a mystery to twenty-six-year-old Margot, until she visits her childhood apartment in Koreatown, LA, and finds that her mother has suspiciously died. The discovery sends Margot digging through the past, unraveling the tenuous invisible strings that held together her single mother’s life as a Korean War orphan and an undocumented immigrant, only to realize how little she truly knew about her mother.

Interwoven with Margot’s present-day search is Mina’s story of her first year in Los Angeles as she navigates the promises and perils of the American myth of reinvention. While she’s barely earning a living by stocking shelves at a Korean grocery store, the last thing Mina ever expects is to fall in love. But that love story sets in motion a series of events that have consequences for years to come, leading up to the truth of what happened the night of her death.

The writing and description in this novel were compelling enough to keep me reading, despite the leisurely pace and Margot’s personality, which I didn’t care for at all. She was so hateful to her mother in her memories. Granted, Mina Lee wasn’t the most loving person, but she did manage to provide for her ungrateful daughter.

Being immersed in the culture of Koreatown was fascinating and complex, and I really enjoyed all the details. I felt so sorry for Mina Lee and everything she experienced, but Margot really made me dislike her, so it was hard to feel any sympathy for her.

Nancy Jooyoun Kim is from Los Angeles. The Last Story of Mina Lee is her debut novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: The Dazzling Truth, by Helen Cullen

the dazzling truth
Image belongs to Harlequin/Graydon House.

Title: The Dazzling Truth
Author: Helen Cullen   
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5

In the courtyards of Trinity College, Dublin, in 1978, aspiring actress Maeve meets pottery student Murtagh Moone. As their relationship progresses, marriage and motherhood come in quick succession, but for Maeve, with the joy of children also comes the struggle to hold on to the truest parts of herself.

Decades later, on a small Irish island, the Moone family are poised for celebration but instead are struck by tragedy. Each family member must find solace in their own separate way, until one dazzling truth brings them back together. But as the Moone family confront the past, they also journey toward a future that none of them could have predicted. Except perhaps Maeve herself.

This book…is slow, atmospheric, and yes, dazzling. It’s a small family/personal story, yet it draws the reader into Maeve’s and Murtagh’s lives from the very beginning and keeps them entranced by the simple island life and experiences of the Moone family. The characters are vivid and so realistic I feel like I knew them personally. The story is engrossing, sad, magical…all at the same time, and I definitely recommend reading it.

Helen Cullen is from Ireland and lives in London. The Dazzling Truth is her newest novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: The Hero of Hope Springs, by Maisey Yates

the hero of hope springs
Image belongs to Harlequin/HQN.

Title: The Hero of Hope Springs
Author:   Maisey Yates  
Genre: Romance
Rating:  3.5 out of 5

For as long as brooding cowboy Ryder Daniels has known Sammy Marshall, she has been his sunshine. Her free spirit and bright smile saved him after the devastating loss of his parents and gave him the strength to care for his orphaned family. Only Ryder knows how vulnerable Sammy is, so he’s kept his attraction for his best friend under wraps for years. But what Sammy’s asking for now might be a step too far…

Something has been missing from Sammy’s life, and she thinks she knows what it is. Deciding she wants a baby is easy; realizing she wants her best friend to be the father is…complicated. Especially when a new heat between them sparks to life! When Sammy discovers she’s pregnant, Ryder makes it clear he wants it all. But having suffered the fallout of her parents’ disastrous relationship, Sammy is wary of letting Ryder too close. This cowboy will have to prove he’s proposing out of more than just honor…

I haven’t read any of the Gold Valley series, but these are all stand-alones, so that was no problem. Solid writing here and vivid scenes, but the characters didn’t keep me engaged. Sammy is a very selfish person. She really doesn’t care how her behavior affects other people or if it affects them. She just wants to do and say what she wants and expects other people to just know that’s her free spirit. I didn’t care for her or her excuses and willful obliviousness at all.

Ryder was a lot more likable, but he’s just about as clueless as Sammy when it comes to a lot of things. Pretty rigid and inflexible when it comes to a lot of things, but he does try, so there’s that.

Maisey Yates is a bestselling author. The Hero of Hope Springs is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: A Walk Along the Beach, by Debbie Macomber

a walk along the beach
Image belongs to Random House/Ballantine.

TitleA Walk Along the Beach
AuthorDebbie Macomber
Genre:  Romance
Rating:  5 out of 5

The Lakey sisters are perfect opposites. After their mother died and their father was lost in grief, Willa had no choice but to raise her sister, Harper, and their brother, Lucas. Then, as an adult, she put her own life on hold to nurse Harper through a terrifying illness. Now that Harper is better and the sisters are living as roommates, Willa has realized her dream of running her own bakery and coffee shop, bringing her special brand of caretaking to the whole Oceanside community.

Harper, on the other hand, is always on the go. Overcoming a terrible illness has given her a new lease on life, and she does not intend to waste it. When Harper announces her plan to summit Mount Rainier, Willa fears she may be pushing herself too far. Harper, for her part, urges Willa to stop worrying and do something outside of her comfort zone—like taking a chance on love with a handsome new customer.

Sean O’Malley is as charming as he is intriguing—a freelance photographer whose assignments take him to the ends of the earth. Soon Willa’s falling for him in a way that is both exciting and terrifying. But life has taught Willa to hedge her bets, and she wonders whether the potential heartache is worth the risk.

Life has more challenges in store for them all. But both sisters will discover that even in the darkest moments, family is everything.

I love everything Debbie Macomber writes, and this was no exception. This was such a good book—although at times I wanted to slap some sense into Sean. The sisters’ relationship is so wonderful, and I enjoyed reading it immensely. Be prepared to laugh and cry while reading this!

Debbie Macomber is a bestselling author. A Walk Along the Beach is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: Girl, Serpent, Thorn, by Melissa Bashardoust

girl, serpent, thorn
Image belongs to Flatiron Books.

Title:   Girl, Serpent, Thorn
Author Melissa Bashardoust
Genre:   Fantasy, YA
Rating:   4 out of 5

There was and there was not, as all stories begin, a princess cursed to be poisonous to the touch. But for Soraya, who has lived her life hidden away, apart from her family, safe only in her gardens, it’s not just a story.

As the day of her twin brother’s wedding approaches, Soraya must decide if she’s willing to step outside of the shadows for the first time. Below in the dungeon is a demon who holds knowledge that she craves, the answer to her freedom. And above is a young man who isn’t afraid of her, whose eyes linger not with fear, but with an understanding of who she is beneath the poison.

Soraya thought she knew her place in the world, but when her choices lead to consequences she never imagined, she begins to question who she is and who she is becoming…human or demon. Princess or monster.

I liked the premise of this:  a princess who has never had human contact because her skin is poisonous makes a terrible mistake, endangering her family and her kingdom and putting them at the mercy of evil…but a sort of charming evil.

It was cool to see a fantasy culture like this—I thought it was very well-done—and I enjoyed the layers of details, like the stories from the past and the legends from Soraya family. Deception and secrets are threads running throughout the entire novel, and sometimes the reader is deceived just as much as Soraya is.

Melissa Bashardoust lives in California. Girl, Serpent, Thorn is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: What We Do for Truth, by C.L. Mannarino

what we do for truth
Image belongs to C.L. Mannarino

Title:   What We Do for Truth
Author:   C.L. Mannarino
Genre:   Fantasy
Rating:   3.5 out of 5

In Northam, Massachusetts, the world is falling apart. 17-year-old Zara de Jaager’s lost one of her moms to a vampire. The other is struggling to make things seem as normal as possible. And Scott Whitney, the only person who knows the truth about her mom’s death, has gone missing.

Zara’s read the notes. She’s studied the lore. She’s even made a connection between Scott’s story and a job her mom was working on. Except no one wants to talk about it. And when she finds out that there might even be an entire village of vampires existing under their noses, her family shuts her down. So Zara pushes back, hard. But when she realizes what’s at stake, she’s left wondering:  is taking up her mom’s job really worth it?

It’s been a while since I’ve read in this world, so it took me a bit to get up to speed. Honestly, Zara and her attitude were a stumbling block for me. I understand she’s grieving in the beginning and trying to find an explanation, but she was pretty hateful to everyone around her, and that made it very difficult for me to continue reading about her.

Lots of secrets in this book. Secrets are a given in books like this—well, a requirement, if the supernatural isn’t an open fact—so that wasn’t a problem. As I said, Zara was a stumbling block to me, and I think my mood/outlook on society when I was reading this really affected how I felt about the book.

C.L. Mannarino has been writing books since high school. What We Do for Truth is the third book in the Almost Human series.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: That Summer in Maine, by Brianna Wolfson

She's Faking It Blog Tour

that summer in maine
Image belongs to Harlequin/MIRA.

Title:   That Summer in Maine
Author:   Brianna Wolfson
Genre:   YA
Rating:   3 out of 5

Years ago, during a certain summer in Maine, two young women, unaware of each other, met a charismatic man at a craft fair and each had a brief affair with him. For Jane it was a chance to bury her recent pain in raw passion and redirect her life. For Susie it was a fling that gave her troubled marriage a way forward.

Now, sixteen years later, the family lives these women have made are suddenly upended when their teenage girls meet as strangers on social media. They concoct a plan to spend the summer in Maine with the man who is their biological father. Their determination puts them on a collision course with their mothers, who must finally meet and acknowledge their shared past and join forces as they risk losing their only daughters to a man they barely know.

This novel is a case of me just not liking the characters. Any of the characters. Well, Hazel was alright. I can’t imagine how she feels, struggling to find her place with her mom, stepdad, and new brothers and feeling adrift and ignored—and then she gets a message out of the blue she has a sister. And Eve, well, I definitely didn’t like her in the slightest. Lying, manipulative, selfish, superficial…Just no.

Frankly, both the girls’ mothers were annoying as well. And I have a bit of trouble believing they’d let their daughters go off to spend time in Maine with a father who never even acknowledged their existence…and who they don’t really know. To a place with no cell phone service. Really? How likely is that? Between that and the unlikable characters, well, I would have been better off passing on this one, despite the enjoyable writing style.

Brianna Wolfson lives in San Francisco. That Summer in Maine is her newest novel.

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