#BookReview: The Last Port of Call by Elizabeth Bromke

Solid Tale Of Parent/ Child Issues Later In Life. This is one of those tales I’m starting to see more of, and we admittedly probably need more of in general – that of older people (in this case, the mom is near 80 and the daughter near 50) and their own struggles and issues. Here, Bromke plays it with both humor and heart, and in the end pulls out a tale most anyone of any age can relate to at some level. Yes, there is some romance here and it does in fact technically meet every RWA rule I am aware of, but this one is more about both of these women finding themselves again and finding each other again in the process, after decades of things left unsaid. The Alaskan Cruise elements are great, including a couple of scenes that will get the blood pumping in different ways. Overall a truly solid tale that works quite well. Very much recommended.

This review of The Last Port Of Call by Elizabeth Bromke was originally written on March 19, 2023.

#BookReview: In My Life by Kay Bratt

When Art Imitates Life. This deep in this particular series, you really need to read the first two books in the series – which are both excellent, btw – in order to fully understand all that is going on here… and to avoid major spoilers from each of those two books. Once you’ve read those books, you’re going to want this one on hand anyway, as it picks up shortly after the events of Book 2. Once again, the crime being investigated is one Bratt had heard a similar tale of in her real life, and once again (as is so often in Bratt’s writing), those who have paid attention to her for in some cases not long at all will notice other details of her life making their way onto the page. In a glancing reference here, we get a reference to a child currently living on Maui, as Bratt’s own youngest daughter currently does. But much more interestingly, there is a minor plot point here – that helps build into something that could become much larger – that those familiar with Bratt’s postings on social media from just a few months ago will be all too familiar with. To be clear, while the character here pursues the more criminal method that Bratt was *tempted* to do in real life, in real life Bratt did in fact pursue numerous *legal* methods of achieving the same result. Her socials are worth perusing for that story alone, for those that also come to enjoy her fictional work. ๐Ÿ™‚ Overall another solid tale that expands the world while also keeping the “freak of the week” episodic nature of the series intact. Very much recommended.

This review of In My Life by Kay Bratt was originally written on March 13, 2023.

#BookReview: Lucy In The Sky by Kay Bratt

Diamonds Aren’t Always What They Seem. Once again, Bratt – in a bit of a departure from her “normal” books, at least the later ones before this series I am most familiar with – manages to craft a compelling tale of a broken family in small town rural Georgia (among other places) and make it seem all too real. In this particular case, we get two different yet linked stories here, as the titular Lucy deals with the fallout of her actions from her introduction in Book 1 of this series while big sis Taylor, the lead in Book 1, continues to unravel the deep family secret she uncovered in the first book. Yet again. Bratt is perhaps too comfortable with modern police tactics for some… but yet again, Bratt *does* manage to *also* highlight at least some of the problems with modern US policing and even brings in the real-world Innocence Project here and cites some of their real-world figures regarding the number of convictions they’ve helped overturn in the last 30+ years. In both plotlines, “reality” as each sister knows it begins unravelling more and more the deeper the sister looks, and each sister has to find out just how far down the particular rabbit hole they find themselves in they’re willing to go. And with the conclusion of this particular tale… you’re going to want Book 3 (In My Life, currently slated for release one month from now on March 14, 2023) pretty well immediately. Very much recommended.

This review of Lucy In The Sky by Kay Bratt was originally written on February 14, 2023.

#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 Retreat by Nicola Marsh

More Dual-Timeline Suspense Than Hotel California. For whatever reason, I went into this book thinking it would be some level of Hotel California type story. Maybe the whole “bed and breakfast where people seem to wind up dead” thing? Just to clarify for anyone who may be getting that vibe as well… this is not that, not really. Instead it is more of a dual timeline suspense with secrets and connections both obvious and not. A lot of people are tossing around the word “gothic”, but I’m not quite sure I personally picked up on that. But maybe I’m just not as certain of what a “gothic” story is supposed to be? Regardless, this was truly a well written and well told story, one that is both compelling and creepy enough to keep the reader engaged without being so over the top as to compel the reader to throw the book out the nearest window (which is even rougher on Kindles than it is on paper books, just sayin’). As I’ve noted with at least a couple of other authors who normally do romance books (as Marsh is more known for) but who open themselves up to more suspense/ thriller/ etc… Marsh does a truly excellent job in both spaces, and seeing her expand her stories into these new (to her) spaces is quite interesting and a mark of a strong storyteller regardless of chosen genre. Very much recommended.

This review of The Retreat by Nicola Marsh was originally written on January 13, 2023.

#BlogTour: His Secret Daughter by Melissa Wiesner

For this blog tour, we’re looking at one of the most realistic domestic mystery/ thrillers I’ve ever encountered. For this blog tour, we’re looking at His Secret Daughter by Melissa Wiesner.

Here’s what I had to say about it on Goodreads:

What Would You Do? Wiesner does a tremendous job here of making a realistic, grounded mystery from a tragic yet all too real setup. Everything else flows fairly naturally here, and all of the character motivations are again all too real. (Particularly as someone who has experienced some version of some of the things that would be a spoiler to reveal, even these sections are, sadly, all too common.) And yes, the ending, while not something everyone will *want* to happen… is again, very, very realistic given the story to that point. Ultimately this really is one of the most realistic domestic mystery/ suspense books I’ve ever encountered – and I don’t know if that is an indictment on the genre or a praise of Wiesner. ๐Ÿ˜€ Truly a great read, and very much recommended.

After the jump, the “publisher details” – book description, author bio, and social media and sales links.
Continue reading “#BlogTour: His Secret Daughter by Melissa Wiesner”

#BookReview: No More Secrets by Kerry Lonsdale

Satisfying Conclusion. Let’s be clear up front: This is absolutely one of those trilogies where you need to read the books in order to both avoid spoilers and to understand all that is going on. So go read No More Words and No More Lies before you read this book – and then be glad you bought all three of them at once, because unlike certain apparently masochistic advance reader copy readers, you had the wisdom to wait until the entire trilogy was available to read this book. Because this entire trilogy is one where you’re going to want the next book *now*, and at least with this concluding chapter, all is revealed – finally – and everything comes to a satisfying conclusion for all characters. Not that I’m going to reveal what those conclusions were for anyone in this review, but Lonsdale does do a solid job of wrapping up the trilogy.

In this particular tale, we finally find out what has been motivating Lucas all along, where he ran off to and why, and yet again we also get a satisfying “solo adventure” before the siblings from the first two books intersect with the tale once again. Truly a compelling series, and truly a compelling “solo” tale here. Very well executed, with near perfect pacing throughout. With this latest trilogy complete, and with it a bit of a break from the types of tales Lonsdale was telling quite a bit before this, it will be interesting to see where Lonsdale goes from here – she has proven quite conclusively that she doesn’t need the “crutch” her previous stories were almost beginning to seem like they were leaning on, and now that she has the sky is truly the limit. This book, this trilogy, and this author are all very much recommended.

This review of No More Secrets by Kerry Lonsdale was originally written on January 3, 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: The Paris Daughter by Kristin Harmel

Grief And Madness. One of the things I like about this particular book, and the way it parallels my own family’s life, is in showing how events during WWII can have generational impacts via creating madness – the older term for insanity, yet which feels like it applies more appropriately here – in some of the survivors of that war. Here, we see it even in two people who were far from soldiers, far from the front lines. They were simply mothers who had daughters at nearly the same time in the same city who happened to become friends… and then had that friendship tested in pretty horrific ways. But the varying types of madness we see here do a great job in showing how the war impacted different people differently, even people as connected as these two mothers were. Without giving too much away, we even see the horrors of the Holocaust a bit – and there again, we see survivors trying to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives.

All told this was one of those books where the gut punches land heavy – but early. The “big reveal” is, in fact, rather obvious *much* earlier than the explicit reveal, and yet the way this is done works within the story being told of the varying madnesses and how these survivors are trying to cope in any way they can. So while I can’t personally fault Harmel for this, I can see where other more stringent reviewers might. Even the near 400 page length works well here, never feeling bloated or too slow and instead simply packing in a *ton* of rich detail and events, many – even among the seemingly more insignificant in this tale – based on real world events and seemingly quite accurate. (The author’s note in the end reveals how one particular incident within the last few pages of the book is actually the author inserting her characters into that particular moment, but otherwise being pretty close to an actual nonfiction report on the incident in question.)

Overall a truly well done, beautifully layered tale of two beautifully broken women and the impacts their choices have across decades. Very much recommended.

This review of The Paris Daughter by Kristin Harmel was originally written on December 19, 2022.

#BlogTour: A Small Affair by Flora Collins

For this blog tour, we’re looking at a tale that seems to describe New York City (at least its yuppie Upper West Side types) to a T. For this blog tour, we’re looking at A Small Affair by Flora Collins.

Here’s what I had to say about it on Goodreads:

NYC To A T. I’ve been trying to think about what to say about this book for four days and I’ve got… nothing. There isn’t anything overly technically wrong here (the time and perspective jumps can be jarring at times, maybe, but that’s about it), and it is in fact a mostly engaging story – you’re going to want to know what happened, and then you’re going to want to know how and why it happened. On both of these points, Collins gets rather explosive. Overall though this book just has the feel of an utterly pretentious New York… witch… who can’t see beyond her Upper West Side aspirations. Certainly for the characters, and maybe Collins herself was simply being a solid conduit of these characters. If you like tales of that particular yuppie New York world, eh, you’re probably going to LOVE this book. And again, even if that isn’t overly your thing, this is still a good book. But if you’re more of a Southern Suburbanite/ hillbilly type who remembers with fondness the old Pace Salsa commercials with their “*NEW YORK CITY?!?!?!?!?* tagline… this is NYC to a T from that perspective. So know that going in. Recommended.

After the jump, an excerpt from the book followed by the “publisher details” – book description, author bio, and social media and buy links.
Continue reading “#BlogTour: A Small Affair by Flora Collins”