#BookReview: The Sound Of The Sea by Jessie Newton

Old. Not Dead. This is one of those nice women’s fiction/ romance blends where instead of one or the other or both friends going on similar journeys, we get one friend going on one journey and the other going on the other – which is a nice divergence from the norm. That Newton manages to pack so much into so few pages is a mark of a strong storyteller, and that she manages to break the norms means she is a storyteller I’ll be coming back to – as this was the first book I’d actually read from her (despite owning books under all of her names, in some cases for *years*). On the theming, this is more large luxury yacht maybe a *very* small cruise ship (such as the real-world WindStar cruise line) than a traditional cruise ship, but it works for the tale told here – and gives the author the timing she needed within story, as larger ships/ lines are not often at sea for this length of time (15 days at sea, iirc). The romance works well here, the women’s fiction side – dealing with a more recent widow and how she has coped – works so well it almost jumps off the page in its realism. Overall simply a great – and short – tale, one perfect as a quick getaway whether you’re at sea yourself or not. Very much recommended.

This review of The Sound Of The Sea by Jessie Newton was originally written on January 30, 2023.

#BookReview: The Winning Tickets by Judith Keim

Solid Romance – On A Cruise. For those unfamiliar with Keim’s various romance series, this is a great – and short, at roughly 150 pages – introduction to her style of beach/ coastal romance. A solid entry in this genre, you have some mild drama both with the titular contest/ winning tickets and later with one character in particular, but the focus really is on the friends (both old and new) and the pair of romances (one primary, one secondary in that it gets slightly less attention). As with every book in this series I’ve read so far, Keim manages to pack quite a bit into the short length here, including a full cruise and a decent amount of story before and after the cruise. Overall truly a solid tale, and one that makes me glad I’ll be able to see the forts at Old San Juan myself in just a few days (as I am getting on my own cruise tomorrow as I write this!). Very much recommended.

This review of The Winning Tickets by Judith Keim was originally written on January 14, 2023.

#BookReview: Uncharted Waters by Tammy L. Grace

Alaskan Gold. This is a tale of a teacher dealing with the first few months of retirement after a 30+ yr career who goes on the cruise she was gifted by her former colleagues and who meets a man dealing with his own issues as well. Other than the age issue specifically, I’ve actually witnessed similar “relation-*ships*” develop over my 15 years of cruising. Even in this novella, Grace manages to pack in a great deal of both drama and Alaskan Cruise details – even including the seemingly ubiquitous photographers. And yes, because this *is* a tale from Grace… there are dogs. ๐Ÿ™‚

On a series structure side, know that each of these Sail Away novellas are a “series” only in that they all share a general common theme – in this case, that they mostly take place on cruises. Thus, any book in this “series” can be read in any order, and in fact I’ve now already read a couple of them “out of order” with no harm.

Ultimately yet again a tale with more drama than I’ve ever personally experienced on a cruise, but which has elements that I *have* observed with friends on cruises. Very much recommended.

This review of Uncharted Waters by Tammy L. Grace was originally written on January 2, 2023.

#BookReview: Caroline, Adrift by Kay Bratt

Another Strong Family Tale From Bratt. This is yet another tale where Bratt uses elements of her own life and where she is in life to craft a fiction tale that explores deep issues in a serious yet also light-ish manner. Here yet again she shows great love for her youngest daughter’s adopted home of Hawaii and shows that having family thousands of miles away can still result in close bonds – if efforts are made. But the main story is of a woman facing the all-too-real scenario faced by so many women nearing or above Senior Citizen Discount age: what happens when you lose your partner of decades? This is the main thrust of the story, and Bratt does a tremendous job of exploring this scenario, particularly as it also relates to having adult children with their own lives, through the course of this sub-150 page novella. Packing quite a bit here, it is often forgettable just how short this story is – while it reads quick due to its actual length, Bratt manages to have *so much happen* that it “feels” like it could have had an extra 50-100 pages. In other words, don’t let the short actual page count fool you – this is a complete tale, just one without the filler and perhaps extra drama of an actually longer tale. And for those familiar with Bratt’s real-life work rescuing dogs and particularly Yorkies… yes, a Yorkie also appears here. ๐Ÿ˜€ Ultimately a strong tale filled with great topical exploration… and more drama than ever happens on any of *my* cruises. ๐Ÿ˜€ Very much recommended.

This review of Caroline, Adrift by Kay Bratt was originally written on January 2, 2023.

#BookReview: Welcome Aboard by Jessie Newton, Tammy L. Grace, Ev Bishop, Kay Bratt, Violet Howe, Judith Keim, Patricia Sands, and Elizabeth Bromke

Solid Series Introduction. This is an introductory book to a very loosely coupled set of tales of middle aged women going on cruises for various reasons, written by a swath of women’s fiction authors. Here, we get the prologue – essentially the “inciting incident”, to use technical terms – for each of the eight actual tales in the series. And each one completely works, in its own ways. I truly want to see how each of these stories play out, and I’m glad that they’ll all release within a couple of months of each other, essentially one every couple of weeks or so, as that makes it quite easy indeed to finish one right as the next one releases. ๐Ÿ˜€ I’ve read a few of these authors before (Bratt, Keim, Bromke) and *know* how good storytellers these ladies are. I’m trusting that the company they keep is equally strong, and based on the prologues in this collection I’m expecting that my trust is well placed indeed. And yet the loosely coupled nature of this collection means that if you read this particular book and find that one or another tale doesn’t quite strike you… you lose nothing in skipping that particular book. So get this one, read it – and get ready for some great tales on the high seas. Very much recommended.

This review of Welcome Aboard by Jessie Newton, Tammy L. Grace, Ev Bishop, Kay Bratt, Violet Howe, Judith Keim, Patricia Sands, and Elizabeth Bromke was originally written on December 11, 2022.

#BookReview: Water Memory by Daniel Pyne

One Of The More Inventive Kill Shots I’ve Seen. It was the final fight, killing the final bad guy, so I can’t really go into details here because spoilers, but man, that one was fun. As to the rest of the tale, I don’t get all the hate on Goodreads for this book. I’ve read a lot of books across a lot of genres, and I’ve never seen anything quite like this one. Hell, the only thing that confused me about it is because I thought (from months old memories) that according to the description, I was jumping into a woman waking up on a cargo ship under attack with no memory of who she was or how she got there, but that turned out to be exactly the kind of badass that can – and does – save the day. Instead, while we still got the badass that can and does save the day, we also got a much more nuanced bad ass, with a lot of elements here – hello, sudden lesbian shower sex scene, child kidnapping, stay-at-home-dad, and assassin-with-kids, among others – not usually seen in these types of action tales. The setting, once the book got outside the US around the quarter or so mark, was mostly “Third World Sh*thole” ala most any Far Cry video game, and it actually worked quite well. I for one am very much looking forward to seeing where this series goes, and I’ll be starting Book 2 soon (as an ARC). Very much recommended.

This review of Water Memory by Daniel Pyne was originally written on October 31, 2021.

#BookReview: Up Ship Creek by Abigail Kade

Stormy Cruise. This was probably the fastest read of the entire Valentine’s Inc Cruises series, and one of the shortest in terms of page count. Very fun, mostly light, with a couple of solidly steamy scenes. And I really liked that it tackled seasickness and having named storms (tropical storm or higher) affect a cruise, as both do in fact happen from time to time. Yet again my first from an author involved in this project, and yet again won’t be my last. Very much recommended.

This review of Up Ship Creek by Abigail Kade was originally written on September 12, 2019.

#BookReview: Shipping The Captain by Nora Phoenix

Precise Shipping. This is the first book I’ve seen in the Valentine’s Inc Cruises series to take on the actual staff, and it does an excellent job of showing the lives of the officers at least – at least the lives of two certain officers. ๐Ÿ™‚ Precise in details most normally miss (cruise ships don’t actually use actual anchors much if ever any more) and plays with details when needed for the story (debarkation from one cruise is followed within minutes by embarkation of the next cruise, not the next day as shown here). But ultimately both the precision and the license are used very effectvely to tell a great story, and that is what matters the most. The brief descriptions of San Juan and St Thomas in particular are spot on in my experience in both ports, and even better is how well they serve the budding romance between these two. The scene where each realizes who the other is – after a relatively anonymous night together – is worth the price of the book alone, and Phoenix spins an amazing romance tale throughout the entirety of the book. As a romantic drama, one of the strongest in a truly excellent series, and very much recommended.

This review of Shipping the Captain by Nora Phoenix was originally written on September 9, 2019.

#BookReview: Shipping Our Loves by Sammi Cee

Brand New Characters Feel Ultra Deep. (And not always in a sexual way.) This is a MMM romance that is brand new yet feels like it is a continuation of a very deep series – and is very intriguing because of it. The dynamics of the setup of the story work well, then the rest of it falls into place in a very well paced shortish novella. My first from this author (somehow), will not be my last. Very much recommended.

This review of Shipping Our Loves by Sammi Cee was originally written on September 6, 2019.

#BookReview: Ship Happens by Pandora Pine

Light And Fun – Mostly. In this installment of the Valentine’s Inc Cruises MM romance series, we get paranormal author Pandora Pine’s effort, and it is indicative of her stylings while only tangentially being related to her overall world. If you’re like me and have been on many cruises, there’s a lot here that will bring back your best memories – including Stingray City in Grand Cayman and the Magic Chair at Mahogany Bay. If you’ve never been on a cruise before, this is a good introduction to what ship life can be. If you’ve been curious about Pine but are a bit leery of paranormal stories, this is an excellent way to see how she tells a story while only having the barest mention of her normal schtick. (And btw, her paranormal stories are awesome, so you should try them anyway.) This is a somewhat standard ish romantic comedy in that there is obviously the fight right before the happily ever after, but really that is the only time this book really veers away from being as light and airy as a cruise is supposed to be. Excellent work, and I’m looking forward to more from both this series and Pine.

This review of Ship Happens by Pandora Pine was originally written on August 9, 2019.