Tag: reading

Book Review and Blog Tour:  Her Hometown Hero, by Jacquelin Thomas

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Title:   Her Hometown Hero
Author Jacquelin Thomas
Genre:   Romance
Rating:  3.0 out of 5

Can a wounded hero let go of the past?

 Wounded marine Trey Rothchild has returned to Polk Island. People call him a hero, but will he ever feel that way after losing his team? Reuniting with high school crush Gia Harris buoys his spirits. Though she’s focused on making her physical therapy clinic a success—and avoiding romance with patients—Gia can’t bear watching the former athlete sit on the sidelines of life. Could helping Trey recover include loving him fearlessly? 

I enjoyed the family bonds in this novel but found the rest to be mostly a dud. I know Trey experienced something horrific, but he came across as a whiny brat who just wanted to sit around and feel sorry for himself and not actually do anything about his issues. He leaped to wild conclusions with no reason, and then was surprised when Gia got mad. And Gia seemed to be a head-in-the-sand person who was always surprised when her problems followed her. I felt like the characters were just talking heads, too. Maybe this just wasn’t a good fit for me.

Jacquelin Thomas is a bestselling author. Her Hometown Hero is her newest novel.

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

Book Review:  The Storyteller, by Kathryn Williams

Image belongs to HarperCollins/HarperTeen.

Title:   The Storyteller
Author:   Kathryn Williams
Genre:   Historical fiction, YA, mystery/thriller
Rating:  4.2 out of 5

It’s not every day you discover you might be related to Anastasia…or that the tragic princess actually survived her assassination attempt and has been living as the woman you know as Aunt Anna.

 For Jess Morgan, who is growing tired of living her life to please everyone else, discovering her late aunt’s diaries shows her she’s not the only one struggling to hide who she really is. But was her aunt truly a Romanov princess? Or is this some elaborate hoax?

 With the help of a supremely dorky, but undeniably cute, local college student named Evan, Jess digs into the century-old mystery.

 But soon Jess realizes there’s another, bigger truth waiting to be revealed: Jess Morgan. Because if she’s learned anything from Aunt Anna, it’s that only you can write your own story.

I enjoyed this read! It was sweet and fun and I was completely engrossed in the mystery—and both Jess’s story and Aunt Anna’s kept me intrigued. I liked Jess’s friends…but I couldn’t stand her boyfriend. Evan was a lot more relatable and fun. This makes a good weekend binge-read.

Kathryn Williams lives in Maine. The Storyteller is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of HarperCollins Children’s Books, HarperTeen in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review:  Anatomy: A Love Story, by Dana Schwartz

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:   Anatomy: A Love Story
Author Dana Schwartz
Genre:   Fantasy, YA
Rating:  3.5 out of 5

Edinburgh, 1817.

 Hazel Sinnett is a lady who wants to be a surgeon more than she wants to marry.

 Jack Currer is a resurrection man who’s just trying to survive in a city where it’s too easy to die.

 When the two of them have a chance encounter outside the Edinburgh Anatomist’s Society, Hazel thinks nothing of it at first. But after she gets kicked out of renowned surgeon Dr. Beecham’s lectures for being the wrong gender, she realizes that her new acquaintance might be more helpful than she first thought. Because Hazel has made a deal with Dr. Beecham: if she can pass the medical examination on her own, the university will allow her to enroll. Without official lessons, though, Hazel will need more than just her books – she’ll need bodies to study, corpses to dissect.

 Lucky that she’s made the acquaintance of someone who digs them up for a living, then.

 But Jack has his own problems: strange men have been seen skulking around cemeteries, his friends are disappearing off the streets. Hazel and Jack work together to uncover the secrets buried not just in unmarked graves, but in the very heart of Edinburgh society.

I was a little bit disappointed in the last section of this (not just the ending). For the entire novel, Hazel is determined to do the right thing for people and in the end she just sort of slowly caves? Eh. That was disappointing. For most of the book, I really enjoyed her determination, but then she just kind of chickened out, which was disappointing.

Dana Schwartz lives in L.A. Anatomy:  A Love Story is her new novel.

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

Book Review:  Bad Luck Bridesmaid, by Alison Rose Greenberg

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:   Bad Luck Bridesmaid
Author:   Alison Rose Greenberg
Genre:   Fiction
Rating:  3.5

It’s official: Zoey Marks is the cursed bridesmaid that no engagement can survive. Ten years, three empire waist dresses, and ZERO brides have walked down the aisle.

 After strike three, Zoey is left wondering if her own ambivalence towards marriage has rubbed off on those she loves. And when her building distrust of matrimony culminates in turning down a proposal from her perfect All-American boyfriend, Rylan Harper III, she and Rylan are both left heartbroken, leaving Zoey to wonder: what is it exactly about tying the knot that makes her want to run in the opposite direction?

 Enter Hannah Green: Zoey’s best friend, who announces that she’s marrying a guy she just met (cue eye roll). At a castle. In gorgeous, romantic Ireland, where Rylan will be in attendance, and Zoey will be a bridesmaid. It’ll be fine.

 Okay, the woman definition of fine (NOT FINE).

 Determined to turn her luck around, Zoey accepts her role and vows to get Hannah down the aisle—all the while praying her best friend’s wedded bliss will allow her to embrace marriage and get Rylan back.

 But as the weekend goes on, Zoey is plagued with more questions than answers. Can you be a free spirit, yet still want a certain future? Can you have love and be loved on your terms? And how DO you wrangle a bossy falcon into doing your bidding?

This read was a tiny step above “meh” for me. Solid writing, and parts of it were funny, but Zoey was pretty awful. She was very selfish, and she didn’t care who she hurt as long as she got what she wanted. She came across as childish to boot, and that didn’t make for a read that made me want to sing its praises. I’d read this author again, because I think the writing was well-worth it, but I just didn’t care for Zoey.

Alison Rose Greenberg lives in Atlanta. Bad Luck Bridesmaid is her debut novel.

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

Book Review:  The Last House on the Street, by Diane Chamberlain

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:   The Last House on the Street
Author:   Diane Chamberlain
Genre:   Mystery/thriller
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

When Kayla Carter’s husband dies in an accident while building their dream house, she knows she has to stay strong for their four-year-old daughter. But the trophy home in Shadow Ridge Estates, a new development in sleepy Round Hill, North Carolina, will always hold tragic memories. But when she is confronted by an odd, older woman telling her not to move in, she almost agrees. It’s clear this woman has some kind of connection to the area…and a connection to Kayla herself. Kayla’s elderly new neighbor, Ellie Hockley, is more welcoming, but it’s clear she, too, has secrets that stretch back almost fifty years. Is Ellie on a quest to right the wrongs of the past? And does the house at the end of the street hold the key?

This book….almost broke me. When I finished reading it, I felt like I’d been stabbed in the heart. It’s told in multiple timelines:  the present with Kayla and fifty years ago, with Ellie. I enjoyed both, but Ellie’s story was by far my favorite.

Reading about Ellie’s struggles during the civil rights movement and the things she experienced was hard but compelling. I loved how it was all tied in to what Kayla was facing at her new house, and I was unprepared for the real story that came out at last. I highly recommend this read! It’s a mystery/thriller wrapped with historical fiction, and I was unable to put it down.

Diane Chamberlain is a bestselling author. The Last House on the Street is her newest novel.

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

Book Review:  Cold the Night, Fast the Wolves, by Meg Long

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:   Cold the Night, Fast the Wolves
Author:   Meg Long
Genre:   YA, scifi
Rating:  4.0 out of 5.0

After angering a local gangster, seventeen-year-old Sena Korhosen must flee with her prize fighting wolf, Iska, in tow. A team of scientists offer to pay her way off her frozen planet on one condition: she gets them to the finish line of the planet’s infamous sled race. Though Sena always swore she’d never race after it claimed both her mothers’ lives, it’s now her only option.

But the tundra is a treacherous place, and as the race unfolds and their lives are threatened at every turn, Sena starts to question her own abilities. She must discover whether she’s strong enough to survive the wild – whether she and Iska together are strong enough to get them all out alive.

It’s been a while since I’ve read any scifi, and I enjoyed this foray back into it. It’s not hardcore scifi, but the cultures and peoples of the planet make for a fascinating setting—a planet run by gangsters and a hidden society who are against the corporate-driven greed that infuse the planet—with plenty of room for interesting diversions. The writing was solid, and I enjoyed the buildup to the race itself, but I feel like there were a few issues left unresolved by the ending. This is a solid debut, though, and I’d be interested in reading more from this author.

Meg Long wanted to be a spy when she grew up. Instead she became a writer. Cold the Night, Fast the Wolves is her debut novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour:  The Sorority Murder, by Allison Brennan

Image belongs to Harlequin Trade Publishing.

Title:   The Sorority Murder
Author:   Allison Brennan
Genre:   Fiction
Rating:  4.0 out of 5.0

Lucas Vega is obsessed with the death of Candace Swain, who left a sorority party one night and never came back. Her body was found after two weeks, but the case has grown cold. Three years later while interning at the medical examiner’s, Lucas discovers new information, but the police are not interested.

 Lucas knows he has several credible pieces of the puzzle. He just isn’t sure how they fit together. So he creates a podcast to revisit Candace’s last hours. Then he encourages listeners to crowdsource what they remember and invites guest lecturer Regan Merritt, a former US marshal, to come on and share her expertise.

 New tips come in that convince Lucas and Regan they are onto something. Then shockingly one of the podcast callers turns up dead. Another hints at Candace’s secret life, a much darker picture than Lucas imagined—and one that implicates other sorority sisters. Regan uses her own resources to bolster their theory and learns that Lucas is hiding his own secret. The pressure is on to solve the murder, but first Lucas must come clean about his real motives in pursuing this podcast—before the killer silences him forever.

I enjoyed this read. I wouldn’t say the killer’s identity was well-hidden, but I still enjoyed finding out all the details of Candace’s murder—and the other things it’s connected to. I liked Regan’s point-of-view more than I did Lucas’s, and I’d enjoy reading more things about her. This was a solid read!

Allison Brennan is a bestselling author. The Sorority Murder is her newest novel.

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

Book Review:  Reckless Girls, by Rachel Hawkins

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:   Reckless Girls
Author:   Rachel Hawkins
Genre:   Mystery/thriller
Rating:  3.5 out of 5

 When Lux McAllister and her boyfriend, Nico, are hired to sail two women to a remote island in the South Pacific, it seems like the opportunity of a lifetime. Stuck in a dead-end job in Hawaii, and longing to travel the world after a family tragedy, Lux is eager to climb on board The Susannah and set out on an adventure. She’s also quick to bond with their passengers, college best friends Brittany and Amma. The two women say they want to travel off the beaten path. But like Lux, they may have other reasons to be seeking an escape.

 Shimmering on the horizon after days at sea, Meroe Island is every bit the paradise the foursome expects, despite a mysterious history of shipwrecks, cannibalism, and even rumors of murder. But what they don’t expect is to discover another boat already anchored off Meroe’s sandy beaches. The owners of the Azure Sky, Jake and Eliza, are a true golden couple: gorgeous, laidback, and if their sleek catamaran and well-stocked bar are any indication, rich. Now a party of six, the new friends settle in to experience life on an exotic island, and the serenity of being completely off the grid. Lux hasn’t felt like she truly belonged anywhere in years, yet here on Meroe, with these fellow free spirits, she finally has a sense of peace.

 But with the arrival of a skeevy stranger sailing alone in pursuit of a darker kind of good time, the balance of the group is disrupted. Soon, cracks begin to emerge: it seems that Brittany and Amma haven’t been completely honest with Lux about their pasts––and perhaps not even with each other. And though Jake and Eliza seem like the perfect pair, the rocky history of their relationship begins to resurface, and their reasons for sailing to Meroe might not be as innocent as they first appeared.

 When it becomes clear that the group is even more cut off from civilization than they initially thought, it starts to feel like the island itself is closing in on them. And when one person goes missing, and another turns up dead, Lux begins to wonder if any of them are going to make it off the island alive.

So, yeah, when every character is a crappy person, it’s a huge turnoff for me. I wasn’t sure about Lux until about 2/3 of the way through the book, so I kept reading, but…I wish I hadn’t. Brittany and Amma were nice on the surface, and so were Jake and Eliza, but you could tell something was off. And who in their right mind would stay in the literal middle of nowhere with no way to contact a soul, with people they don’t know? That’s leaving out the skeevy guy who showed up—and he just served to reveal everyone’s true colors.

Rachel Hawkins is a bestselling author. Reckless Girls is her newest novel.

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

Book Review:  At the End of Everything, by Marieke Nijkamp

Image belongs to Sourcebooks Fire.

Title:   At the End of Everything
Author:   Marieke Nijkamp
Genre:   YA
Rating:  4 out of 5

The Hope Juvenile Treatment Center is ironically named. No one has hope for the delinquent teenagers who have been exiled there; the world barely acknowledges that they exist.

 Then the guards at Hope start acting strange. And one day…they don’t show up. But when the teens band together to make a break from the facility, they encounter soldiers outside the gates. There’s a rapidly spreading infectious disease outside, and no one can leave their houses or travel without a permit. Which means that they’re stuck at Hope. And this time, no one is watching out for them at all.

As supplies quickly dwindle and a deadly plague tears through their ranks, the group has to decide whom among them they can trust and figure out how they can survive in a world that has never wanted them in the first place.

I enjoyed this kind of dark, kind of hopeful read. Some of the teenagers have done some truly awful things, some have just done thing the adults don’t understand, but they’re all there in need of rehabilitation. When the plague starts, they’re abandoned and left to fend for themselves.

The story is told in three main viewpoints, which gives a much more well-rounded perspective than a single main character would have done. There were moments of fear, panic, and pain mixed with the hope and determination, and this was a solid, entertaining read.

Marieke Nijkamp is a bestselling author. At the End of Everything is her newest novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour:  Love at First Spite, by Anna E. Collins 

Image belongs to Harlequin Trade Publishing/Graydon House.

Title:   Love at First Spite
Author:   Anna E. Collins
Genre:   Romance
Rating:  4 out of 5

They say living well is the best revenge. But sometimes, spreading the misery seems a whole lot more satisfying. That’s interior designer Dani Porter’s justification for buying the vacant lot next to her ex-fiancé’s house…the house they were supposed to live in together, before he cheated on her with their Realtor. Dani plans to build a vacation rental that will a) mess with his view and his peace of mind and b) prove that Dani is not someone to be stepped on. Welcome to project Spite House.

 That plan quickly becomes complicated when Dani is forced to team up with Wyatt Montego, the handsome, haughty architect at her firm, and the only person available to draw up blueprints. Wyatt is terse and stern, the kind of man who eats his sandwich with a knife and fork. But as they spend time together on- and off-site, Dani glimpses something deeper beneath that hard veneer, something surprising, vulnerable, and real. And the closer she gets to her goal, the more she wonders if winning revenge could mean losing something infinitely sweeter…

This was a breezy, fun read. I liked Wyatt way more than I liked Dani. She was way too focused on revenge and being petty and spiteful for me to truly like her—and she was very oblivious to all her faults and how hurtful she was to those around her. I’ve never cared for people who try to justify their own bad behavior.

Wyatt was a great character, though, and his struggles with his health issues made him very relatable. I enjoyed the secondary characters, too, and found the setting to add charm to the story (loved the gnomes and the dogs!). This was a quick, fun read.

Anna E. Collins is from the Seattle area. Love at First Spite is her newest novel.

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