#BookReview: The Broken Hearts Club by Susan Bishop Crispell

Interesting Take On High School Love Angles. This book is quirky enough to make everything work, and yet has a lot of things about it that will throw various groups off – often having some element that may be popular with one group, yet having another element that will be off-putting to that same group. For example, you’ve got the aura-reading ability where our main character sees emotions as colors and you’ve got the nonbinary side character – and yet the book’s very premise is that our main character is openly catfishing, gets caught doing so, and yet things somehow still work out for her. You’ve got some good, hard work ethic going with both our main character and her best friend, and yet the best friend openly chooses the boy over her best friend. You’ve got the seemingly rural small town North Carolina vibe going on – and you’ve got the aforementioned nonbinary character that seems mostly tacked in just to have an excuse to go off on “small minded Republicans” and to be able to promote that the book has a queer character. It could be argued that doing this character in this manner isn’t inclusive, but exploitive – and off putting to at least some potential readers anyway. And yet, despite all of its contradictions and issues… the book truly does work. If you’re into young adult/ high school romance at all, this book is going to scratch most every itch you have there, and it does in fact have the interesting wrinkles of the auras and how to *use* that ability to set it apart from the field naturally, without needing all of the other aspects. In the end, despite coming close to seeming to try too hard, this really is a mostly benign and fairly interesting tale within its genre, and a very easy and mostly inoffensive summer/ beach read that won’t get the pulse pounding too much, but will instead be a more charming and breezy read while sitting poolside or oceanside soaking up some sun. Recommended.

PS: There is no such thing as a love triangle without at least two of the three people involved being bisexual. Thus, while some describe this book as featuring a love “triangle”, as all three involved are never described as bisexual, it is most accurately described as a love “angle”, with three points and two line segments, the segments meeting at a common point. But this could well be the former math teacher and Autistic in me coming out. I admittedly tend to be a bit pedantic on this particular point. ๐Ÿ™‚

This review of The Broken Hearts Club by Susan Bishop Crispell was originally written on May 26, 2023.

#BlogTour: The Cuban Daughter by Soraya Lane

For this blog tour, we’re looking at a second book in a very loosley connected series that proves to be even more powerful than the first. For this blog tour, we’re looking at The Cuban Daughter by Soraya Lane.

Here’s what I said on Goodreads:

Second Verse More Powerful Than The First. This was the second book in this new trilogy where Lane combines both sides of her writing to phenomenal success. As Soraya M Lane, Lane generally writes compelling and seemingly realistic historical fiction. As Soraya Lane, Lane generally writes more contemporary romance, with all that said genre entails. With this series, Lane manages to execute on Digimon Frontier’s Susanoomon ultimate combined evolution and combine both sides of herself into one truly powerful writer. Both sides of this work just as well as any fan of either side of her writing would expect, and combine to breathtaking and heartbreaking result. Cuba comes alive in this tale in ways few American media really allow it to do, both in the historical side and in the contemporary side – which may be helped by the fact that Lane lives in New Zealand and this particular series is published by a British imprint? ๐Ÿ™‚ Truly an excellent book, and one loosely coupled enough from its predecessor (who is only briefly alluded to near the beginning of this tale) that anyone can pick up either book in either order and not really miss anything or be spoiled of any details from the other book. Very much recommended.

After the jump, the “publisher details” – book description, author bio, social media, and buy links.
Continue reading “#BlogTour: The Cuban Daughter by Soraya Lane”

#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: Moonlight On The Lido Deck by Violet Howe

Solid Blend Of Several Elements. This book, despite its 230 ish page length, has quite a bit going on. You’ve got a women’s fiction type tale of a woman losing everything and having to discover anew just who she is and what she wants out of life. You’ve got the good looking adventurous dude with a shady history. You’ve got a fake relationship between the two… set up by the sister of the woman/ gay best friend of the guy. And you’ve got all of this set in bustling NYC, sandy Cocoa Beach, FL, and the wonders of the Caribbean on a beautiful cruise ship. And yes, the titular moonlight on Lido deck… can truly be life-changing (noted from near-personal experience – it is almost always magical, at minimum). Overall truly a solid tale that combines all of these elements and makes them enhance each other into a fun, and short-ish, story. Very much recommended.

This review of Moonlight On The Lido Deck by Violet Howe was originally written on March 12, 2023.

#BookReview: Lost At Sea by Patricia Sands

Solid Women’s Fiction, Too Reliant On COVID, Unnecessary Element In Epilogue. This is the penultimate entry in the Sail Away “series” where several authors have come together to craft their own unique stories all centered around cruising, with each taking a different bent to it. The cruise Sands uses here is more of a luxury yacht / WindStar type ship sailing the Mediterranean, and the cruising elements here are absolutely breathtaking – particularly for anyone who is even remotely familiar (even from other pop culture sources/ YouTube) with the waters and coasts of the region, from Spain to France to Italy.

Something like a solid 70% of this tale is more women’s fiction based, with a woman trying to rediscover her passion after years of COVID burnout, and through this section, it absolutely works as a women’s fiction tale. The star deduction is because it *is* so heavily focused on COVID and related topics, and any such talk for me is an automatic star deduction because I DO NOT WANT TO READ ABOUT COVID. (This noted, it *is* in the description that this will be discussed to some extent or another, but in my defense here… I pre-ordered this entire series months before publication, just on the strength of the authors and my love of cruising generally.)

The romance here, such as it is, feels a bit tacked on and rushed, even in a shorter sub-200 page novel/ longer novella. It works within the story being told to that point, just don’t expect the entire tale here to be the romance. ๐Ÿ™‚ Note that no other element of this tale feels so rushed as this particular element.

And the epilogue. It works. It is what one would expect from a women’s fiction/ romance. But why oh why does seemingly every romance author out there (not *all* of them, but *many*) feel the need to tack in a baby/ pregnancy in these epilogues? Completely unnecessary, and leaves a bitter aftertaste to the tale for those who are childfree (such as myself) or childless (others I know). Yes, there is a difference between the two – childfree largely are happy not having children, childless want them and don’t have them. (A touch of a simplification, but one that works for purposes of *brief* explanation.) Something to look at for authors who may not be aware that these particular groups exist – and thus the inclusion of the pregnancy here in the epilogue wasn’t star-deduction worthy so much as discussion-within-the-review worthy.

Still, overall this book really was quite good, and a solid entry into a fun series. Very much recommended.

This review of Lost At Sea by Patricia Sands was originally written on February 24, 2023.

#BookReview: A Not So Distant Shore by Ev Bishop

Fun, Short, Delightfully Quirky. This is one of those romance novellas that is exactly what I said in the title – fun, short, and delightfully quirky. Great for a short break from reality, both in its brevity and in its fun relatability. A few scenes are almost literally laugh out loud funny (including the first pool scene), certain characters in particular are charmingly quirky (and all too ubiquitous on actual cruises), and again, the length here is just right for reading… on a cruise yourself, perhaps. Or maybe while the kids are splashing away at the local splash pad or running themselves ragged on the local playground as you daydream of stepping away from your current actual reality. There is a touch of seriousness here in that our lead has divorced her husband, who knocked up and married someone else, but the drama here never even really rises to Hallmarkie level. Instead, this is near pure romance with a healthy dose of comedy, mostly set during a cruise through the Mexican Riviera (which is one area I’ve yet to get to in my own cruising, but Puerto Vallarta in particular I know a good chef, should anyone need any recommendations there). Overall truly a fun book and a quick one. Very much recommended.

This review of A Not So Distant Shore by Ev Bishop was originally written on February 9, 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 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: Small Town Girl by Sarah Banks

Small Town Shenanigans. This is a great example of one of those small town tales where everyone has secrets, and, to quote Tony Stark in The Avengers: their “secrets have secrets”. So when a murder happens as our hero here is trying to rebuild her life and save her career… of *course* she has to investigate it herself. Because, you know, secrets. But along the way we really do see the inner workings of very small towns quite well, and Banks also manages to keep enough of the romance there to balance out just how dark and creepy this town can feel at times. A definite break from this author’s norm (she is working under a new pseudonym here), but a solid effort in this particular type of space and one that manages to up the creepy factor while adding in quite a bit of tension and apprehension not generally found in her other works. Very much recommended.

This review of Small Town Girl by Sarah Banks was originally written on January 4, 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.