Featured New Release Of The Week: This Place Of Wonder by Barbara O’Neal

For the fifth straight year, Barbara O’Neal‘s annual release is the Featured New Release on this blog. This tradition began in 2018 with The Art Of Inheriting Secrets, which was the very *first* FNR post, and continues this week with This Place Of Wonder.

Here’s what I had to say on Goodreads:

O’Neal Delivers Yet Another Solid Family Drama. O’Neal’s solid 2018 book The Art of Inheriting Secrets was the very first Featured New Release on my blog, and I have kept up that tradition every year since – and 2022 is no exception there. Her 2019 book When We Believed In Mermaids continues to be one of my most “liked” reviews on Goodreads to this day, and continues to garner attention seemingly every few days.

All that to note that I have a rich if recent history with O’Neal’s work, and this is yet another truly solid and sensual tale of family secrets and drama. In this particular work, we get four women struggling with the sudden death of one man that all were connected to – his ex-wife and mom of his step-daughter and step-mother to his daughter, his most recent girlfriend, and both of the daughters in question, though we only “hear” from the two elder ladies + his biological daughter.

While this tale “hits” a few solid blows emotionally, it doesn’t really land the haymakers that Mermaids did – this is more in line with most of her other books, including Secrets, on that level. This noted, it is ultimately a very satisfying tale that has several great moments not always seen in novels, including the daughter’s actions in the prologue and the elder ladies’ blend of pragmatism and romanticism. Several issues from alcoholism to rape to child abuse are touched on, so be prepared for that if one needs to be. Overall truly an excellent tale, and yet another wonderful read from O’Neal. Very much recommended.

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”

#TwelveDaysOfRomance #BlogTour: His Road To Redemption by Lisa Jordan

For this next entry in the Twelve Days of Romance blog tour series, we’re looking at a solid romance in its own right that seems to be the conclusion, and likely significant payoff in various ways, of a four book The Waltons type saga where each book focuses on a different brother. For this blog tour, we’re looking at His Road To Redemption by Lisa Jordan.

Conclusion Of Modern Day Waltons Saga. If you’re a fan of the old-school Waltons or Little House on the Prairie or the newer shows like Heartland, this book is absolutely right up your alley. These IPs show that the market for this kind of tale is strong, so it is actually great to find a book that fits in fairly perfectly with them. Just be warned that although this isn’t (currently?) marked as Book 4 of a series, it actually *is* Book 4, following Season of Hope (Book 1), A Love Redeemed (Book 2), and The Father He Deserves (Book 3), and seems to serve as a finale for this series. Thus, all three brothers from the first three books show up, as Micah (our hero here) seems to have been at least introduced in Book 1 and is now being brought forth to claim his destiny as a romance hero in his own right here. Having not read the other three books, it clearly seems as though there are significant payoffs for potentially series-running plot threads here – I just don’t know. So the long and short of this review is that while this book is a strong Waltons-type romance in its own right, featuring newer, more modern plotlines (including animals-as-therapy and group homes for homeless veterans)… I actually do recommend reading the first three books of this series before reading this one, which isn’t something I usually say about such tales but truly is fairly critical here. And I’m sure that by the time you’ve finished those other three, you’re going to want this one anyway. Very much recommended.

After the jump, an excerpt followed by the “publisher details” – book description, author bio, and social media and buy links.
Continue reading “#TwelveDaysOfRomance #BlogTour: His Road To Redemption by Lisa Jordan”

#BookReview: The Magic Of Found Objects by Maddie Dawson

Another Maddie Miracle. When I read my first Maddie Dawson book last year as an ARC, I knew I had found an author that will be able to give me a satisfying tale in a way I might not think at first is satisfying, but who can make it work and make it be truly magical. Thus, I was waiting for her 2021 release to hit my ARC channels… when suddenly it showed up out of the blue as a Kindle First Read instead. So I didn’t even look at the others, I automatically picked up this book. Then when Amazon began their Kindle Summer Rewards beta program and included me in it, it turned out I needed to read an actual book – rather than my “normal” (these days) ARCs, which come into the Kindle as “personal documents” – and thus I automatically turned to this book to read.

And again, Dawson crafts a quirky, off beat tale unlike any I’ve ever encountered, essentially a coming-of-age tale… at damn near the time most people are beginning to have their mid-life crises. Not quite a true dual-timeline book, and with quite a bit of time elapsing “off screen” both in the remembered history of our main character and in her current life we’re following, this book manages to explain where she is right now emotionally and how she got there. For those readers, like me, who often straddle the line between two worlds, Dawson does an excellent job of showing at least one version of how our lives look and the dichotomies we face, and she does it remarkably well. The finale, featuring our primary character despairingly trying to resolve both halves of herself, is something we all face at some point, and Dawson plays it with the sincerity, sweetness, and cathartic laughter that such moments tend to so desperately need. Yes, this tale is absolutely off-beat, and yes, it may arguably be better presented as women’s fiction rather than romance, but it *does* serve well to highlight the real-world romantic realities of being single in your mid-30s (not that I’ve experienced this directly) and does quite well in showing both how jaded it can make you… and how oblivious. Very much recommended.

This review of The Magic Of Found Objects by Maddie Dawson was originally written on July 23, 2021.

Featured New Release Of The Week: What’s Done In Darkness by Laura McHugh

This week we’re looking at a book whose greatest strength is just how eerily plausible its story really is. This week we’re looking at What’s Done In Darkness by Laura McHugh.

As always, the Goodreads review:

All Too Real. This is one of those books that apparently I can speak to in a way no other reviewer on Goodreads has so far – from the conservative evangelical American Christian side. Growing up on the exurbs of Atlanta, I knew lands not dissimilar from what McHugh describes in this text in the Ozarks. Very rural lands where even by car the nearest single stop sign town can be an hour away. Farmlands with houses tucked into the trees or far out in the fields. And while I never exactly imagined these kinds of events taking place in them, I’m also familiar enough with the very strains of extremely conservative evangelical Christian culture that McHugh plays off of here. And yes, a lot of the attitudes McHugh describes are all too real – and fairly common, within those circles. Even the ultimate actions here are close enough to things I’ve personally seen as to be plausible, including the actual endgame and reasoning – which would be a spoiler to even discuss glancingly. An excellent creepy thrill ride, this is one of those books that could damn near be a news article. Which would make it a perfect candidate for a screen near you. 😉 Very much recommended.