#BlogTour: Woman Last Seen by Adele Parks

For this blog tour, we’re looking at a book I haven’t had a chance to read yet (see below), but which sounds very promising. For this blog tour, we’re looking at Woman Last Seen by Adele Parks.

I DO NOT WANT TO READ ABOUT COVID IN FICTION!!!!! I think I might have to start waging a similar war on this as I do with ‘prooftexting’ in Christian nonfiction – an automatic star deduction every time I see it, which is the case here. Granted, it wasn’t *as* prevalent as I’ve seen other books (as this book takes place in the days just before England initiated its lockdown), but I personally do not want to see it AT. ALL.

Outside of the COVID elements (which were really more tangential to the story anyway and could have been easily eliminated, which makes it even more infuriating that they were included), this book has a slow build through the first third or so… and then it begins picking up steam. (Both bedroom and motion.) Parks does a pretty solid job of tossing in believable suspects, to the level that I personally was completely wrong about a couple of characters, and I didn’t peg the ultimate person responsible basically until Parks made it very blatant as to who it was.

Overall a solid work of suspense/ mystery hampered by the unnecessary inclusion of COVID. Recommended, if you don’t mind reading about COVID.

After the jump, an excerpt from the book followed by the “publisher details” – book description, author bio, and social and buy links.
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#BookReview: Alaska Dreams by Jennifer Snow

When Dreams Turn To Nightmares, Create Your Own Reality. This was another solid entry into the Wild River series, one that can be read as standalone if you don’t mind knowing that other couples from previous romance books wound up together. While the focus is on our primary couple here and their struggles both personally and as a couple, most of the rest of couples from previous books make appearances, with some of them playing key support roles. Overall an excellent depiction of this side of Snow’s writing, this one is great for the Hallmarkie type crowd that needs at least some elements of drama without going *too* deep, but which also likes several laughs along the way. Another fun book that manages to showcase Alaska – but also Seattle and Los Angeles. Very much recommended.

This review of Alaska Dreams by Jennifer Snow was originally written on January 27, 2022.

Featured New Release Of The Week: The Overnight Guest by Heather Gudenkauf

For this week’s Featured New Release we’re looking at a tale of suspense set in three different timelines – present, years ago, and unknown – that all merge into a masterclass of suspense of a finale. This week we’re looking at The Overnight Guest by Heather Gudenkauf.

Here’s what I had to say on Goodreads:

Master Class In Suspense. Up front, this tale is told in three different timelines from three different perspectives – so if you’re a reader that struggles with that… well, this is an excellent read and you should still try it, but I get it. 🙂 That noted, what makes this tale so strong is that each of the three threads – present day, years ago, and unknown – could be separate books and still be equally compelling, and yet here Gudenkauf weaves them together so masterfully that they play off each other even better and produce an overall much tighter grip on the reader’s mind. Yes, they all ultimately come together – and when they do, the finale is ultimately some of the best suspense of the entire book. Which is saying quite a bit, given just how good the parts before that are. This is another one that uses its setting in winter well, as well as its setting in the US central plains arguably even better than its winter placement of the present day timeline. Truly a remarkable work, and very much recommended.

After the jump, an excerpt from the book followed by the “publisher details” – book description, author bio, and social and buy links.
Continue reading “Featured New Release Of The Week: The Overnight Guest by Heather Gudenkauf”

#BlogTour: Light Years From Home by Mike Chen

For this blog tour we’re looking at a strong tale remiscenent of both the X-Files and ET: The Extra Terrestrial where scifi is used more as setup for women’s fiction level family drama, but which is still strong enough to comfortably classify the book within the bounds of scifi as well. For this blog tour we’re looking at Light Years From Home by Mike Chen.

Space Opera Scifi For The Women’s Fiction Crowd. This is one of those books where you go into it expecting a lot of scifi… something. Drama, action, maybe comedy, whatever. Instead you get scifi as setup for more women’s fiction type family drama. Which is actually an interesting spin, but which will leave both crowds a bit perplexed. Overall though, Chen actually serves both crowds quite well, with enough of an off-screen hint of a backstory that he could come back to this world and give it the full-on Richard Phillips’ Rho Agenda-style trilogy of trilogies exploring just the stuff he left *off* the page in this book – and yet what he *does* put on the page is truly solid women’s fiction where brother and father’s disappearances set in motion chains of events that mother nor either daughter could have ever dreamed of. Most of the actual tale here is more about the two sisters and how their lives have changed since that moment 15 years ago – and how they can move forward. The climax, with the FBI hot on the siblings’ tails as they race toward brother’s ultimate redemption, is as taught as anything in scifi and is reminiscent of both X-Files (the author’s stated inspiration) and even ET: The Extra Terrestrial. Truly an excellent tale strongly told, and very much recommended.

After the jump, an excerpt from the book followed by the “publisher details” – book description, author bio, and social and buy links.
Continue reading “#BlogTour: Light Years From Home by Mike Chen”

Featured New Release Of The Week: The Ex-Husband by Karen Hamilton

This week we’re looking at a tale of karmic suspense that takes place at least in part at sea and shows the commonalities and differences between cruising and yachting quite well. This week we’re looking at The Ex-Husband by Karen Hamilton.

Karmic Suspense At Sea. This book is a mystery/ suspense set partly in the UK and partly (or pretty well fully, in its back half) at sea mostly in the Caribbean and even one Alaska season. The dual timeline approach is used here to show the suspense of someone stalking our narrator with information she doesn’t want known and which they shouldn’t have in the present timeline, with the second timeline being “18 months ago” when her world came crashing down. Except that the 18 months ago timeline is filled at least as much with the entire backstory of how she got to that point as well. This tale is an interesting blend of both cruising and yachting, which are very different experiences. Even though the largest megayachts (such as the Azzam) and the smaller cruise ships (such as Windstar Cruise Lines’ Wind Surf) are roughly the same size, with cruising you’re usually with a few hundred (at least, it can be closer to 5,000+) strangers + up to 2,000 or so crew members whereas with yachting you’re usually with no more than a few dozen people you’re at least tangentially associated with – even if only through a common acquaintance – and no more than a hundred or so staff. Also, the onboard experience of a cruise tends to be more akin to a perma-mall/ theme park on a cruise vs a much more exclusive, bespoke experience on a yacht. (Think of the difference of going to say Disney World vs what happens on Bravo’s Below Deck shows, for example.) Still, Hamilton actually does a good job showing how similar yet different each of these are, even as she weaves a tale of con artistry and karmic suspense through both facets of sea-travel experience. Very much recommended.

After the jump, an excerpt from the book followed by the “publisher details” – book description, author bio, and social and buy links.
Continue reading “Featured New Release Of The Week: The Ex-Husband by Karen Hamilton”

BookReview: The Last House On The Street by Diane Chamberlain

Solid Exposition Of The End Of An Era. This is one of those that as a Son of the South – and of a region in particular that literally still bears the scars of that war criminal terrorist b*stard William Tecumseh Sherman – I find myself leery about going into… but which was actually respectful while not condoning any of the mistakes of prior eras.

Now, I *have* reached out to an aunt who actually lived in a similar region to the one depicted here in 1963 (specifically, in the countryside outside of Atlanta vs the countryside outside of Raleigh) and was of a similar age as Ellie at the time for her thoughts on the book as well. But for me and my experiences as a Southern White Male who grew up more in Kayla’s era (turned 30 in 2013, so a couple of years younger than Kayla)… this rings fairly true. Yes, there were absolutely horrors and tragedies in those prior eras, but as the recent Ahmaud Arbery case in my native Georgia shows… that isn’t the South anymore. And Chamberlain shows that as well here. Having had a good political friend (former Governor of Georgia candidate John Monds, the first Libertarian Party candidate ever to receive over 1 million votes) actually attend Morehouse and growing up with Hosea Williams Feed The Hungry being one of the most well known food drive campaigns in Atlanta, the scenes with Morehouse and Williams were particularly interesting to me.

Thus, for me the book works well in both timelines, and I truly found both timelines quite compelling – though for very different reasons. Ellie’s timeline was absolutely fascinating as almost a coming-of-age tale where a young woman learns what is important to her and why, and has to fight for her new beliefs against staggering odds. Kayla’s timeline is more of a light-ish domestic suspense, with a widowed mother alone in the woods facing an ominous threat. Very much recommended.

This review of The Last House On The Street by Diane Chamberlain was originally written on January 17, 2021.

#BookReview: Not The Romantic Kind by Nicola Marsh

Solid Tomboy Romance. And because it *is* a romance… yes, a wedding is mentioned late in the book, and because this is set in Australia it is a “spring” wedding… in October. Which feels weird to this reader who has never been South of the Equator – nor even within 1,000 miles of it. 😀 Otherwise a fun take on the tomboy / enemies to lovers idea where he is a corporate tycoon out to build mansions on the property that meant so much to her as a kid but which her mother recently sold off. This is something I personally identified with a bit, having grown up with a small 3 acre lake outside of Atlanta being owned by my grandfather’s family before my mother’s cousins sold it off in my early 20s after both my grandfather and his twin brother died. So seeing Gemma be able to fight to save any piece of “her spot” was pretty awesome for me. Overall a fun book and on the quick/ short side at right around 200 pages, this one is a solid introduction to Marsh’s romance books for those who are new to her while also being a satisfying one for long time fans. Very much recommended.

This review of Not The Romantic Kind by Nicola Marsh was originally written on January 14, 2022.

#BookReview: Bad Luck Bridesmaid by Alison Rose Greenberg

Rampant Misandry Mars Otherwise Interesting And Compelling Debut. Up front: If you’re looking at this as a potential romance book… it isn’t that. It is more of a women’s fiction book, with an interesting take on the genre and in particular the well-travelled bridesmaid trope. My biggest problem here is the truly rampant misandry – the main character here is *constantly* being so utterly bigoted towards men, to the level that if even a female author had flipped this and done the same thing with a male character towards females, every single review would lead off with how misogynistic the character was. Which is my own standard for bigotry: ok for me, but not for thee. If you can flip the demographics from the targeted to the targetter without issue, awesome. But if you would have a problem if that happened… then there is a problem, period. But again, fun and unconventional story outside of the blatant and rampant misandry, and thus one that truly is worthy of consideration. Just, again, do NOT go into this expecting a romance. More of a train wreck, really. Just a particularly entertaining one. Recommended.

This review of Bad Luck Bridesmaid by Allison Rose Greenberg was originally written on January 12, 2022.

Featured New Release Of The Week: Under A Sky Of Memories by Soraya M Lane

This week we’re looking at a visceral and harrowing fictionalized version of a real-world WWII event that even with my intense fascination with that period, I’d never heard of before reading this book. This week we’re looking at Under A Sky Of Memories by Soraya M. Lane.

Visceral, Harrowing, And Heartbreaking. Yet again Lane manages to take an event out of WWII, fictionalize a story into it, and show just how real and relatable it must have been to have been the real people involved here. The motivations for our three primary women here are distinct but relatable, and their journeys through the tale are seemingly all too real – so many times, you’re going to find yourself dreading that the worst is about to happen. In the end, you will likely shed tears of both happiness and heartbreak – and particularly when joined with the resources in the Author’s Note, you’ll likely learn a few things too. As in, despite both mine and my father’s life long “obsession” with WWII (in his case due to how it shaped his father and in mine due to how it shaped *both* of my grandfathers in dramatically different ways), even I had never heard of this particular event that Lane bases the story around here. Once again a very fine piece of researched fiction from Lane, and very much recommended.

#BookReview: The Starless Crown by James Rollins

Solid Storytelling. Nearly Deceptive Description. Let me be explicitly clear: THIS IS A FANTASY BOOK. It is NOT a Sigma Force style science-bending military technothriller. Given Rollins’ rise to fame on the back of his Sigma Force books, as well as the fact that he has *another* pseudonym for his pre-Sigma Force fantasy novels, the fact that the description of this book does not make clear that THIS IS A FANTASY BOOK is dang near deceptive marketing. If you enjoy fantasy tales, this one is going to be perfectly in line with what you enjoy and more power to you. But despite having a *far* wider range in my own reading than most readers, fantasy books are one of *few* genres that just make for dang good naps every time I try to read them – and this one was no different, despite LOVING Rollins’ Sigma Force work and at times reading it in a single sitting. This noted, Rollins’ abilities to craft a tale are just as strong here, and for what it is the story is compelling. Truly my only complaint is that it should have been made explicitly clear that THIS IS A FANTASY BOOK, and I would never have touched it at all. Recommended.

This review of The Starless Crown by James Rollins was originally written on January 8, 2022.