#BlogTour: The Book Club Hotel by Sarah Morgan

For this blog tour, we’re looking at another Hallmarkie type Christmas tale done exactly as fans of such tales expect. For this blog tour, we’re looking at The Book Club Hotel by Sarah Morgan.

Here’s what I had to say on the review sites (Goodreads, Hardcover.app, TheStoryGraph, BookHype):

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.
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#BookReview: Enchanted To Meet You by Meg Cabot

Cozy Paranormal Small Town Apocalyptic Romantic Mystery. Holy shit, what a combination of genres we have here. This is absolutely one of those “cozy” mysteries you keep hearing about – there aren’t any bodies or even any particularly dark secrets here, and the focus is more on the lighter, almost Hallmarkie, side of things. But there is active witchcraft involved in this small town… and possibly (absolutely) a few other paranormal elements, but that gets into spoiler territory. And the mystery involves an almost Buffy the Vampire Slayer type Apocalypse… but *only* for this particular small town. Yes, it may face annihilation but the world as a whole will be perfectly fine. And of course we have the requisite “Angel” type character for our more grown-up “Buffy”, the dark and mysterious dude with serious connection issues yet who manages to “randomly” connect with our female lead. But hey, it all works, it all has a more relaxed yet serious vibe, there’s quite a bit of humor and heart here. I mean, really… what more do you actually want? Bodies? Erotica? World wide catastrophe? Well, if you want those last three… as I’ve alluded to or outright said earlier in the review, this book aint that. But if you’re looking for a more relaxed read by the fireplace or while the kids are at yet another practice or some such… this is a great book for that. Very much recommended.

This review of Enchanted To Meet You by Meg Cabot was originally written on September 2, 2023.

#BookReview: Nobody Told Me by Kay Bratt

Controversial Real Life Bleeds Into Story. I fully cop to the title of this review being clickbait, but it is also 100% true. Yet again Bratt brings elements of real-world cases and her real-world life into this particular series, and in this particular case the most obvious direct real world connection is also one of the more controversial things Bratt has ever done in her actual life since I’ve been reading her books since 2018 or so. But revealing exactly where that moment is in the book and what the direct connection is to her real life would be a spoiler… so read this book and see if you can spot where it might be, then follow Bratt on her social media channels to see if you were right. Yes, I’m plugging both the book and the author here, because to be quite honest both are equally great – even if I personally 100% disagree with the choice made both in the book and in real life – but Bratt manages to tell both stories quite compellingly, and it is her books and her life. ๐Ÿ˜€

One word of caution though: This *is* Book 6 in a series, and in this case you really do need to read the prior books first to really have any real understanding of exactly where we are in this tale. Some more words of caution about the actual content: There is stalking, possible gaslighting, bullying, and a touch of animal neglect here (all on the part of the bad guys, to be sure), but Bratt manages to show these as exactly that – actions not to be condoned. Still, if those are absolute no-go issues for you for whatever reason, know that they’re here.

Overall though, this was yet another compelling entry in a series that manages to combine both police procedural and family drama elements quite well, all while showing off the merits and perils of both policing and small town life – which is something few other books I’ve ever read have done quite so well. Very much recommended.

This review of Nobody Told Me by Kay Bratt was originally written on August 10, 2023.

#BookReview: Play To Win by Jodie Slaughter

Extreme And Pervasive Racism Mars Otherwise Spectacular Second Chance Romance. Ok, white dude claiming racism on a book that features few white characters – none of whom are portrayed kindly, fwiw. So let me explain up front: My standard for detecting bigotry is to flip the demographics. If it would then be considered bigotry, then it is bigotry in the original form as well. Here, we have several characters both primary and secondary openly inquiring if a particular local small business is “black owned” or not, all throughout the text. Now, if a book that barely had any black characters had a bunch of white characters asking if a particular local small business was “white owned” or “straight white man” owned… there would be HELL to pay in certain segments of society. Thus, by the standard I stated above, the racism here is quite clear. As it happens frequently throughout the text – including the aforementioned extremely few white characters being portrayed as racist caricatures – it is also pervasive, though you’ll either have to read the book yourself or take my word for that.

Beyond the racism though, this is truly a *spectacular* second chance tale. One that many, no matter their demographics, will deeply understand – particularly those who grew up in the lower echelons of wealth and/ or in the small town rural South, as I did. The motivations for all of our characters here… well, many of us have seen similar shit within our own families, if not directly within our own lives. So truly, kudos, Ms. Slaughter, for staying so *real* and yet also providing a few hours of solid escapism.

While others may claim that the motivations for the separation were “unclear”… no, they weren’t. You just may never have been close to a similar point in your own life, and may not have felt just how close you yourself could have been to making such a boneheaded decision. Even in my professional adult life – not just my initial years in the trailer park – … I’ve been closer to this than most ever realized, and I remember *that* as much as I do my trailer park years, really moreso.

Now, a word for the “sweet” and/ or “clean” crowd that wants anything beyond a peck on the cheek to be completely off screen or at least “behind closed doors”… yeah… apparently Ms. Slaughter doesn’t know how to write that kind of tale, at least not based on the now two books (after Bet On It) I’ve read from her. Instead, as with Bet On It, this is active, in your face (literally, in the case of the characters’ faces ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) damn near erotica level sex. So if Ron White / Wanda Sykes type comedy isn’t your thing… you might want to avoid this one, as this gets *so much worse*.

Another thing to like here, and that I mentioned in Bet On It as well, is just how *normal* Ms. Slaughter shows modern Southern living to be, here including even up to casual acceptance of GSM (Gay and Sexual Minorities, a truly inclusive term that doesn’t need constant modifications ever few years) / “LGBT+” people and even couples. While so many tales try to show some level of hostility or animus to such people or any other divergence from lily white WASPy types, Ms. Slaughter’s small town embrace of these characters of some of their own shows the modern South I too grew up in quite realistically and quite well, and for that she is to be commended.

Finally, again, if you can get past the blatant and pervasive racism (or perhaps if you even agree with it), and if you don’t mind the damn near erotica level sex scenes… this really is quite a strong tale and quite well told, given the above caveats. Very much recommended.

This review of Play To Win by Jodie Slaughter was originally written on July 9, 2023.

#BlogTour: Two Little Souls by B.R. Spangler

For this blog tour, we’re looking at an explosive tale that is an immediate sequel to the events of the book before it. For this blog tour, we’re looking at Two Little Souls by B.R. Spangler.

Here’s what I had to say on Goodreads:

Explosive Tale But Make Sure You Read Book 8, Their Resting Place, First. Without revealing any actual details, all I’m going to say here is that this book picks up immediately after the prior book in this series – and because of that, you really need to make it a point to read that book first.

Here, our team has several problems to work through – both professionally and personally. The case they find themselves involved in is even more time sensitive than most of their prior cases, and yet the team’s personal priorities are also in a state of flux. Spangler manages both sides of the police procedural format masterfully here, combining both to excellent effect to create quite possibly one of the best complete books of this series to date.

Overall truly a compelling tale that won’t quite leave you with that “I NEED THE NEXT BOOK RIGHT THIS SECOND” feeling from the prior book, but will still leave you satisfied and waiting anxiously for the next book to come out anyway, as you want to learn what happens next in the lives of our investigators. Very much recommended.

After the jump, the “publisher details”, including book description, author bio, and social media and buy links.
Continue reading “#BlogTour: Two Little Souls by B.R. Spangler”

#BookReview: Little Girl Vanished by Denise Grover Swank

Bad Detective? Bad Private Investigator? This is absolutely one of those tales that brings the “Bad Teacher” / “Bad Judge” trope into criminal investigations, and it also uses a seemingly currently common approach (I literally read two different books using it back to back) of having the investigator have a similar unresolved crime in their past as a “hook”. And yes, it actually all does combine quite well. Even for those who are, like me, more prone to protest police shootings than support them, this tale actually shows a bit of a human side to police who shoot people. Though in this case, even the way *that* is portrayed is perhaps the most singular unrealistic thing about this book. Still, Swank uses even that to help build her overall lore here, as in any series starter building in hints of a bigger lore is absolutely essential in keeping readers wanting the next book. So overall, the book does both of its jobs quite well – it both establishes the character and world, and provides readers enough motivation to come back for Book 2. Very much recommended.

This review of Little Girl Vanished by Denise Grover Swank was originally written on June 26, 2023.

#BlogTour: Famous In A Small Town by Viola Shipman

For this blog tour, we’re looking at a tale that will make nearly anyone want to jump in their car and drive to Michigan. For this blog tour, we’re looking at Famous In A Small Town by Viola Shipman.

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

All Michigan Tourism Boards Should Hire “Ms. Shipman”. Seriously, this book in particular is basically one giant love letter to rural Michigan, in prose form for around 350 pages. The history – for better and worse. The current – for better and worse. The land. The culture. The lakes you can never get far from.

And the cherries. Always the cherries.

Oh yes, there are humans here too. And some mysticism/ “magical realism”. And their story is both linked and compelling, as they always are in a Viola Shipman book.

But really, you’re reading this book to feel like you’re travelling to Michigan – and that is not a bad thing at all. It really is described so beautifully that even this hardened Southerner who has been north of the Mason-Dixon just three times in his lifetime… want to consider going to Michigan at some point. Maybe.

Very much recommended.

After the jump, the “publisher details” – including an excerpt from the book, the book description, author bio, and social media and buy links.
Continue reading “#BlogTour: Famous In A Small Town by Viola Shipman”

#BookReview: And Then There Was You by Nancy Naigle

Slow Burn Hallmarkie Southern Romance. This is another of those books that almost seems destined for the small screen on the Hallmark Channel or one of its newer competitors. But here, the romance is *very* slow burn, taking nearly all of this books 350 or so pages to finally get the couple together – and even then, they barely kiss, much less anything else. So this is definetly more for the “sweet” and/ or “clean” crowd than the crowd that wants damn near erotica level sex in the first chapter. (You know what I mean, and you know who you are.) Cursing is next to non-existent here, and may even be completely non-existent – I certainly don’t remember any. Prayers, church attendance, mentions of God and Jesus… those are far more plentiful – and just as accurate to the Southern small mountain town setting as the broken families, abuse, and alcoholism that are also discussed, but which take place long before this book and are only discussed – not shown “on screen”.

Indeed, the bulk of the tale is a woman being conned… and then trying to re-establish her life after very nearly everything other than her breath is taken from her. Here, the book truly shines as the reader feels quite viscerally everything our lead is going through, as well as just how much the investigator assigned to her case wants to solve it for her. Naigle uses this structure to first get our lead to the point of being willing to move – and then to show the small town that will serve as the basis for the rest of this series (more on that momentarily) as an outsider would see it, for all its wonders and faults.

Really the only thing quite obviously missing here is an obvious second book, as this is listed as “number one” in a new series. As the series name is the same as the town name, clearly the town itself will be central to this series, and thus its establishment here is quite solid indeed. There’s just no real obvious “oh, this is who we’re tracking in the next book” set up. Or maybe I just missed it?

Overall a solid tale of its type, one that some will absolutely adore and others will find… the nearest window to throw it out of. Still, for what it is, truly a good tale, well told. Very much recommended.

This review of And Then There Was You by Nancy Naigle was originally written on June 8, 2023.

#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.

#BookReview: Instant Karma by Kay Bratt

Excellent Mid-Series Wrap Up And Soft Reboot. This book is exactly what the title says – an excellent epilogue to the series as it has been, and a soft reboot for what is to come. The story to this point, as much as it has been about Hart’s Ridge, has also been about the one family, and here we see (most) of their initial travails handled and handled well. Meanwhile, a dark secret emerges that will seemingly drive at least the next book and, depending on how Bratt chooses to play this, could well drive the back half of this planned eight book series. This is also one of the creepiest, and yet even more real because of it, books, with the crime here not being rape or murder or torture or some such, but scams and elder abuse – another facet of life that is seemingly all too common these days in the “real” world, and one which Bratt manages to work into her town and series quite well indeed. And as a bonus, as a “soft reboot” of the series… this is actually a decent entry point for those who have not read the prior books and yet don’t mind events from them being discussed within this book. Overall a well told story in a well developed small town in real-enough North Georgia Mountain country, and I’m very much looking forward to seeing where Bratt takes this next. Very much recommended.

This review of Instant Karma by Kay Bratt was originally written on May 26, 2023.