Perfectly Within Expectations. Susan Mallery has a type of tale, at least over these last few years at minimum. It isn’t quite “Hallmarkie” in that it generally features a group of female leads that share the spotlight, but those who enjoy the Hallmarkie type will likely also enjoy this type of book – particularly the women it is clearly catered for. Yes, the male characters can be a bit wooden and one dimensional, but again, Mallery knows her target audience well, is clearly very popular within it, and clearly these benign affronts work within this space for this author – and aren’t ever really “offensive” to anyone. They’re simply too cardboard to have any real agency or motivations of their own, and mostly exist to affirm whatever the women in their lives are doing in the moment / serve whatever emotional or physical needs the woman they are paired with may have. Again, perfectly in line with what Mallery’s audience clearly expects, and a perfectly fine tale within these confines. If this type of casual, non-preachy, female friendship type of tale is what you’re after, you’ve found a great book within that space. If you’re looking for something *more*, no matter how you define “more”… you need to look somewhere else. This is one of those books that isn’t really going to challenge anyone or anything, it is more of a comfort read. I won’t necessarily say “vacation” read and I despise the term “beach read” because not everyone reads any given type of book at the beach and whatever book you may be reading at the beach is by definition a “beach read”, and at 400+ pages it would need to be a decently long vacation for anyone to read this book while on vacation. Still, it is that same kind of relaxing type of read that many ascribe to those scenarios, so perhaps for some it will truly be a “beach read”. Very much recommended.
Complex, Interwoven Thriller With Numerous Characters And Flashbacks. Hell, the one thing to knock this book on is just how sudden the flashbacks and returns can be. Other than that, this is one of those twisty, complex, interwoven tales more about the people that find themselves at a particular hostel at a particular moment than any titular “vacation” – though, as you’ll come to see, every single one of them is truly on a “vacation” of sorts, so the title *does* work. I simply think the original title of “Welcome To Wherever You Are” may have actually been a more apt title for the tale.
If you want a single, simple plotline with a one or two true main characters and maybe a supporting cast… this isn’t that kind of tale. If you want a tale where there are definitive answers and everything is black and white… this isn’t that kind of tale. If you want an absolute mind fuck of a tale that makes you question your sense of reality… this isn’t that kind of tale, either.
Instead, this truly is one of those more interesting in between tales that shows a more accurate depiction of humanity and how we’re all flawed and we all have our own stories both before and after any given encounter, this simply happens to be the tales of those people who wind up being in the same Los Angeles area hostel at the same moment in time at the particular moment of the story here. If you’re looking for *that* kind of tale… congratulations. You’ve found one of the better examples of it I’ve ever come across in my own reading.
Very much 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: The Vacation by John Marrs”
Solid Sarah Morgan Christmas Tale. For long time fans of Morgan or those who have never heard of her, know that this particular tale is *exactly* the type of tale she always tells for Christmas, at least in my few years’ experience reading her books. In this particular case, it is long time friends – each with their own secrets they’ve been hiding from the others – reuniting for Christmas at a small town bed and breakfast… that happens to have some needs of its own that these three friends just so happen to be particularly well suited to help with. You’ve got the Hallmarkie charm and at least one romance thread, you’ve got the female friends bonding even more, you’ve got the small Northeastern town at Christmas, complete with all the decorations and snow. You’ve got the slight flair for the dramatic, just to spice things up a bit. And overall you’ve got the great “cozy-read-by-the-fireplace-in-the-evening” feel that Morgan so often brings to the table so well. Again, nothing truly earth shattering here… but sometimes “not earth shattering” is exactly the kind of book you’re looking for. Very much 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: The Book Club Hotel by Sarah Morgan”
Hunter and Hunted – But Who Is Who? This is one of those books that seems like it wants to take on Big Ideas, but in its brevity… eh, those Big Ideas are more sacrificed to telling a more compelling and less potentially divisive story, while still hitting some of the high points of the Big Ideas. Ultimately, this is a book whose main characters are very finely drawn and nuanced… and whose lesser players are almost cardboard caricatures. Still, Heard here uses the main characters, their varying histories, and the island setting (through at least half the book) quite well indeed to craft a suspenseful tale that will keep you on the edge of your beach or pool lounger just enough to keep your feet in the water… without giving you a heart attack before you can finish the book and dive in. A couple of bits in particular are more mind-bending than others, though those are quickly moved on from and the more cat and mouse nature of the book again reasserts itself. Overall a solid, mildly pulse pounding book that will be quite enjoyable as a vacation read and one that should be able to be devoured almost no matter how little reading time one may have on a summer break or vacation. Very much recommended.
More Mystery Than Romance. This is apparently Novak’s 75 book, and while I’ve only read a handful of those prior books – mostly a few of her most recent ones – this seems to be a bit of a departure from her usual style. At least in my own experience with her, she tends to write more women’s fiction/ romance blends… and this is pretty far from that. This is more of a Catherine McKenzie / Kimberly Belle / Leah Mercer style mystery that also includes a romance than the more usual Novak style, though still set in an idyllic small town island. It is specifically because the title and cover don’t really match the overall tone and substance of the tale told here that it lost a star for me, and admittedly this is something that can easily be corrected in the nearly five months between when I write this review and the book’s actual publication date.
For what it actually is, this story is pretty solid and well told – if you like your mysteries to also include a romance, you’re going to love this book. If you enjoy a tale that meets all known RWA criteria for being a “romance book” but the story is more about the mystery than the romance, you’re going to enjoy this book. But if you’re looking for more of a “classic Novak” women’s fiction/ drama on an island… eh, read this book and see what you think. I personally think it is a bit darker than her usual and thus is a fairly significant departure, but again, I’ve only read her last few books. For all I know this is where she built her fan base and is *returning* to this rather than this being an entirely new thing for her. Again, what she does do here, she does in fact do quite well indeed, so there is that at least.
Overall this was an excellent tale that was told well – it just doesn’t match its title (which has only the most tangential of connections to the tale) or cover imagery. Very much recommended.
Here’s what I had to say on Goodreads:
Disaster Movie That Spins On Its Head To Leave You Breathless. This tale starts like a disaster movie – people living their normal, complicated lives. Slowly the tension builds, with small weird or disturbing events that seem off but not particularly dangerous. Marsh eventually elevates the danger, and this is when the more suspense/ thriller part kicks in. In the end, the reader is left breathless and yet still questioning of certain things… which this particular reader always enjoys. An excellent tale excellently crafted and told. Very much recommended.
After the jump, the “publisher details” – book description, author bio, and social media and buy links.
Continue reading “#BlogTour: The Ex Between Us by Nicola Marsh”
Epic Angst Filled Romance. This is one of those more divisive romances where you’re either going to see it as truly epic and one of the best ever for just everything that the couple has to overcome… or you’re going to hate it because most of the issues could have been resolved in about two seconds if one or both halves of the couple had simply let go of their pride for a few minutes and had an open and vulnerable conversation with their partner. Obviously, I learn more towards the former than the latter. I also really appreciated the flashbacks to “then”, when the couple first began dating through when they first got engaged. This is where the real romance of the story was, particularly as they were both being so stubborn and angsty in the current timeline, and it worked quite well with most chapters ending in this time period before coming back to the current timeline to start the next chapter. Even the ending grand gesture was excellent and called back to a part of both then and current, with a dose of solving a major issue between the couple thrown in. Overall an excellent book and very much recommended.
For this blog tour, we’re looking at a fun, quick thriller that shows the range of the author without going into her horror alter-ego territory. For this blog tour, we’re looking at 214 Palmer Street by Karen McQuestion.
Fun, Quick Thriller That Could Have Used Better Editing. This was a book that starts slow – nowhere near as slow as The Great Gatsby, but definitely on that end of the speed spectrum. But like Gatsby, the writing and pacing eventually get much stronger and towards the back of this already shortish (280 ish page) book, the pace very much picks up into a quick sprint to the finish, followed by perhaps too much epilogue after the climax – but any runner will tell you that cool down is important, and such an extended epilogue does that well and likely reduces any book hangover here. Indeed, the only real complaint I have here is that particularly early, the transitions between character perspectives could use a LOT more clarity – one of the things that helps the back parts of the book is that these become more clear by that point, and it is much easier to see who we are following along with at any given moment in these later sections. Still, not enough of a problem for me to drop a star, though I could see others doing so and it is at minimum worthy of mentioning. Overall still a good book that provides a nice brief escape from reality, perfect for those times when you need something to occupy 3-4 hours or so. Such as maybe when a kid or spouse is at some sports practice or some such? Very much recommended.
Below the jump, the media pack including book description, author bio, and a buy link 🙂
Continue reading “#BlogTour: 214 Palmer Street by Karen McQuestion”
This week we’re looking at a sequel of sorts that takes its original’s much more imminent question of actual physical survival and turns it around to ask questions of survival after less life threatening, but similarly life shattering, trauma. This week we’re looking at Moment In Time by Suzanne Redfearn.
Here’s what I had to say about it on Goodreads:
Interesting Sequel Of Sorts. This book takes as two of its primary characters some of the characters from her 2020 hit In An Instant – and pretty majorly spoils that book almost from the get-go. For those who don’t mind such spoilers (particularly such major ones), this one *can* be read first. But based on reading other GR reviews where the reader hadn’t read In An Instant first… I’d say go back and read that one first. There are also two other key characters introduced later in the story from Redfearn’s 2021 book Hadley and Grace, though their characters are developed enough here and without any truly overt ties (that I remember, hundreds of books later) to that one that it isn’t *as* essential to read it first to understand them. Overall I do think In An Instant hits harder, but I think this one shows a more “everyday” survival that far more people face than the truly life threatening scenario in In An Instant. Both books do great jobs of showing how even seemingly minor choices can have major impacts on how major events play out, and indeed this one seemed all too realistic. Furthermore, Redfearn does a tremendous job of showing the aftereffects of rape on both the victim and those around her – *without* showing the rape itself on screen (which, let’s face it, is difficult at best to read even for those who *haven’t* been through that trauma). Overall a solid and compelling book, and very much recommended.
This week we’re looking at a book that is a solid cross between Mark Twain and the 2014 comedy The Other Woman that also does a great job of showing a wide swath of Southern US culture. This week we’re looking at Deconstructed by Liz Talley.
More Amusing Than Timing A Centipede Across The Kitchen. Yes, the title here is actually a play on a line from the book. So sit down, grab some popcorn (Michael Jackson meme style), and get ready for a funny yet poignant cross between Mark Twain (as another Goodreads reviewer noted, which I found appropriate) and the 2014 movie The Other Woman (the one with Cameron Diaz, Leslie Bibb, and Kate Upton’s boobs). This book has a solid look at “well, maybe the grass *aint* so greener on the other side” as we see two women from different sides of the tracks – one an ex-con, the other a respected banker’s wife who owns her own antique shop – realize that they actually have quite a bit in common and quite a lot to offer each other as they develop a solid friendship. And this is a world that feels like this particular book does a good job setting up… and which could be fun to come back to in a loosely coupled series that maybe looks at some of the other characters introduced here while having many of the primary characters “drop by” in those future stories. Who knows, I’ve suggested similar in reviews before and the author later ran with it, so maybe Talley will too. 😀 Overall truly a fun book, and a solidly relatable dose of humor set in the Southern US, but relatable to most anyone. Very much recommended.