#BookReview: Let’s Pretend This Will Work by Maddie Dawson

Messy Magical Maddie Dawson Book. One of the reasons I so love Dawson’s writing is because even her main characters are usually *far* from perfect – but manage to live their lives and largely achieve their goals anyway, even as we come to love them for their flaws. This book is no different, with the dose of magical realism at play here being a brief visit to a psychic that sets in play several of the decisions our main character ultimately makes. Obviously, if you’re looking for some pure paragon of whatever ideal you may have… Dawson’s books aren’t the place to find those kind of characters, and this being a Dawson book, well, like I said already… not the kind of characters you’re going to find here.

But I really do love that Dawson always manages to bring it around to a happy ending… even when it isn’t the ending the character thought they would get at the beginning of the book (hello, character growth! story arc! etc :D) and perhaps isn’t the ending the reader saw for that character, but still ultimately works within the story told to that point.

If you like quirky /funky / off beat / off the wall / decent amount of WTF moment kind of tales, you’re going to enjoy this book. If you’re more a tried and true straight arrow type, eh, *I* still enjoyed this book, but you may not.

Overall a fun book and another solid entry in Dawson’s catalog. Very much recommended.

This review of Let’s Pretend This Will Work by Maddie Dawson was originally written on May 8, 2024.

#BlogTour: The Summer Swap by Sarah Morgan

For this blog tour, we’re looking at . For this blog tour, we’re looking at The Summer Swap by Sarah Morgan.

First, the review I posted to the book sites (Hardcover.app / BookHype.com / BookBub.com / TheStoryGraph.com / Goodreads.com):

Slow, Character Driven Coastal Tale Featuring Flawed Yet Understandable Characters. Yes, to an extent if you’ve read one Sarah Morgan non-Christmas tale, you’ve read every Sarah Morgan non-Christmas tale. (And her Christmas tales are simply a variant on the non-Christmas ones, featuring some extra Christmas emphasis of some form.) This noted, what Sarah Morgan does, she does solidly and has clearly built a fan base for a reason, and this is yet another example of why her formula works so well.

Here, yet again, we get three generations of female leads, with the guys mostly playing romantic foils of some form or another, and each of our female leads has her own dramas and insecurities and, yes, mistakes. Of course, in typical Sarah Morgan fashion… well, let’s not give away her endings in this review, shall we? Let’s instead say that the Hallmarkie type crowd will generally enjoy these books, even though the Sarah Morgan formula is at least *slightly* different than that one.

Overall a solid tale solidly written, and a perfectly fine, inoffensive, casual “summer” / “beach” read (that, to be clear, can truly be enjoyed any time). Very much recommended.

After the jump, an excerpt from the book followed by the “publisher details” – book info, description, author bio, social links, and buy links.
Continue reading “#BlogTour: The Summer Swap by Sarah Morgan”

#BookReview: No Place Like Home by Barbara O’Neal

Twenty Year Old Book Holds Up Well. First off, to be clear: This new (2024) edition is an updated and revised (with apparently *some* new content) version of a book originally released over 20 years ago. So some of you may have already own/ have read this, and I know there are at least some out there who “only read new releases”. But for everyone *else*… this is still a damn good story, 20 years later.

In at least some ways, it is actually a callback to a different era, the era of RENT when friends dying of AIDS was still a major zeitgeist moment and a reality for many, particularly many in urban areas. (I say this because growing up in the exurbs of Atlanta in the era the book was originally published, this just wasn’t a reality that was seen much in my area.) This plotline provides both some of the gravitas of the book – addiction being the primary other source – and the meetcute – the male lead is the brother of the friend dying of AIDS.

The romance side of the book is also well done, granted with a lot of lust and pent up sexual frustration as its start and with quite a bit of bedroom action (not always in the bedroom) throughout – once things get going there. Which, again, will be a turn off for some and a selling point for others.

Ultimately, this is a story of a lot of flawed individuals making their way through life as best they can in the situations they find themselves, and this is where the story particularly shines.

Very much recommended.

This review of No Place Like Home by Barbara O’Neal was originally written on April 13, 2024.

#BookReview: The Berlin Sisters by Soraya M. Lane

Soraya Lane Goes *There*. Particularly in the current era of American politics, with “both” sides (rightfully, in certain aspects) comparing each other to the Third Reich, I don’t think you’re going to find an American author with the balls to take a high ranking Nazi official’s family – in Joseph Goebbel’s inner circle, no less! – and make them a sympathetic and even heroic unit.

Enter New Zealander Soraya M. Lane.

Lane, whose last WWII historical novel – The Secret Midwife – tackled the horrors of Auschwitz directly, now takes an entirely different tack and places us in the political intrigue of 1944 Berlin, when the only Jews left in the city were in hiding and SS officials – along with their Fuhrer – were becoming ever more suspicious of everyone. When the White Rose was openly defying the Reich and Sophie Scholl and others paid the ultimate price for this defiance – an event that is discussed among our characters here. When other resisters inside Germany were actively looking for – and ultimately attempting an ill-fated attempt at – a way to assassinate the very Fuhrer in question and attempt to restore some degree of sanity to their government. An event that plays directly into the story here.

The story here, with the real world knowledge of what was going on and what was to come, is so tense you would need a space laser to cut through it – and Lane manages to ratchet the tension up so high that you’re going to be afraid of giving yourself a heart attack reading this tale.

Yet ultimately this *is* a tale of hope and survival. That even in the darkest, most desperate times, when survival for anyone is in doubt and the smallest misstep could get you and everyone you know or who knows of you at all killed, there are still those willing to take those risks to do what is right. That no matter how evil a group may be, this does not mean that every single member of that group is equally evil. That no matter how vile you think someone is because of some aspect you’ve been taught to believe about what you think they believe, there are still those within that out group that are truly *noble* and truly trying to do the right thing, even in the most difficult of circumstances.

Indeed, with all of the fighting in America today noted at the top of this review, this may be one of the more interesting and essential fictional tales for Americans to read leading into the 2024 Presidential election that will be in a period of less activity when this book releases in mid May.

Truly one of Lane’s strongest works to date, and very much recommended.

This review of The Berlin Sisters by Soraya M. Lane was originally written on March 9, 2024.

#BlogTour: The Sapphire Daughter by Soraya Lane

For this blog tour, we’re looking at an interesting and intriguing series continuation with great foreshadowing for a future story in the series. For this blog tour, we’re looking at The Sapphire Daughter by Soraya Lane.

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

Solid And Interesting Series Continuation. This is one of the more interesting entries in this loosely coupled series (that can mostly be read as standalone, but characters from prior books are showing up with more frequency in each book along with at least some spoilers about their own stories) in that unlike so many romance novels out there – even within this series – our lead female here truly doesn’t actually need *anything* from the man who is about to rock her world. There is zero discussion of kids in this particular romance (yay for the child free! :D), so even that motivation for “needing a man” isn’t actually in the text at hand. Her job in particular is rare enough to be intriguing, even as someone who has some knowledge of that field.

Instead, this tale yet again combines both of Lane’s contemporary romance and historical fiction worlds (and yes, as such has a dual timeline), though the emphasis in this particular tale does lean more towards the contemporary romance rather than the historical one.

One of the more intriguing bits here is the continued foreshadowing of the tale that started the entire series – will Lane wait to *end* the series with that particular tale as well, or will we get it at some point in between? For now, only Lane knows. For the rest of us, it will be interesting seeing just where Lane takes this series next.

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 Sapphire Daughter by Soraya Lane”

#BlogTour: The Last Day In Paris by Suzanne Kelman

For this blog tour, we’re looking at one of those WWII Paris tales that is familiar in that it has been done so often before, yet also very tense and very real because this particular entry into that space is done so well. For this blog tour, we’re looking at The Last Day In Paris by Suzanne Kelman.

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

Tense Yet All Too Real. “Book 0” of this series, The Paris Orphans, does a much better job of setting up the overall series than this particular book does – and yet this particular book actually does a far better job of showing what we’re in for with the rest of the series. Here, we get an all too real world in both WWII era Paris and 2010s era England. Yes, this is a dual timeline, and yes there are the usual linkages there. There are also multiple character perspectives, but both timelines and perspectives are switched well. The tension throughout both timelines, though wildly divergent (and appropriate for the given timeline) is done quite well, with brief moments of reprieve sprinkled throughout the story before the tension is ratcheted up even higher. The setup for Book 2 is sprinkled in later in the text here, but the Epilogue is essentially a stinger to make you want to pre-order Book 2 immediately. (Which I don’t even think is possible as I write this review on release day.)

Overall a solid tale of its type, with an intriguing twist of the idea of having s linked series of sisters and their tales during the war (along with, presumably, a post-war dual timeline of some form). 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 Last Day In Paris by Suzanne Kelman”

#BookReview: The Messy Life Of Jane Tanner by Brenda Novak

Solid Series Continuation. This is one of those books where you thought the author was doing a trilogy… and yet with the story herein, perhaps the author plans to continue coming back to this rural small western town. Both female leads from the first two books, as well as the male lead from the first book, play prominent roles in this tale as we learn of the mess one of their friends has truly gotten herself in. The ending is perhaps a bit rushed and maybe even, arguably, “tacked on” feeling, as though perhaps Novak had a page target, realized she still needed to wrap up the tale, and squeezed into that target. Still, the tale to that point is solid, and even the mad dash to wrap up the book mostly works within the story told here. Note that for those wishing to avoid all versions of pregnancy tales, this is absolutely one of those – and it absolutely works for the character as portrayed within this tale. Overall a solid tale of its type, but absolutely read the first two books in this series first. Then speculate along with me whether Novak plans to continue this series or not. Very much recommended.

This review of The Messy Life Of Jane Tanner by Brenda Novak was originally written on February 23, 2024.

#BookReview: The Summer Book Club by Susan Mallery

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.

This review of The Summer Book Club by Susan Mallery was originally written on February 23, 2024.

#BookReview: Where Butterflies Wander by Suzanne Redfearn

My Scars Remind Me That The Past Is Real. Wait. Sexton. You’re quoting *Papa Roach* to title your review of an emotional women’s fiction tale? I mean, you’ve done some crazy shit in your reviews over the years, but come on, dude. Really??

Yes, really, because ultimately this is a tale of scars and the beauty and pain of healing from them – and of allowing them to get you stuck in the first place. Pretty well everyone in this tale has lost loved ones. For many of the perspectives we live in through this tale – a family who recently lost one of their youngest members – the scars are on the inside, and are eating them alive in various forms. For another of the perspectives we live inside in this tale, the scars are much more open and visible, though even these hide just as many internal scars.

And yet, with her usual skill, Redfearn once again turns in an excellent story of healing and hope, even in some of the darkest times unfortunately far too many face. Hopefully, you, the reader of my review, won’t actually have these *exact* scars and thus the exact particulars here won’t resonate *as* much with you. Read this book anyway, as it could well provide at least a touch of catharsis and magic for even your own scars, no matter what they may be.

And if you *are* one of those who happens to have some remarkably identical scars to our characters here… you have my sympathies and condolences. Read this book anyway as well, and perhaps find at least a modicum of healing and hope in these fictional words. Hell, maybe even learn a lesson from our family here and use this tale as a catalyst to talk to others about your pain and perhaps heal even more from that.

No rooms ever got particularly dusty while I was reading this tale, but I’m also not one who has suffered these particular kinds of scars. Still, the overall quality of the tale and the writing of it is Redfearn’s usual excellence, and ultimately the story is truly quite good on so many levels. Very much recommended.

This review of Where Butterflies Wander by Suzanne Redfearn was originally written on February 10, 2024.

#BlogTour: The Uncharted Flight Of Olivia West by Sara Ackerman

For this blog tour, we’re looking at . For this blog tour, we’re looking at The Uncharted Flight of Olivia West by Sara Ackerman.

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

Solid Dual Timeline Tale Featuring Unique And Unexplored Moment In History. This particular tale was inspired by and set within a real world event in the early days of human flight, back in the years before intercontinental air travel had become trivial and long before the era of GPS. A time when doing something as routine – in 2024 – as flying from SFO (San Francisco, California) to HNL (Honolulu, Hawaii) was so fraught with danger that not everyone made it, for a variety of reasons. A time when women had only recently won the right to vote in the United States and were still searching for any modicum of equality in the work force. A time when Hawaii itself was still a US territory governed by the US military more as a forward operating base than as an actual place to live. Within this world, we find a female who will do whatever it takes to become a pilot, and not just any pilot – the *best* pilot anywhere near her, in the capacities she can fly in at all. Here we get much of the excitement and wonder of the book.

Decades later, in the other timeline, her exploits have long been forgotten – indeed, her own contributions were never actually known, thus forming the core mystery of the book. Stumbling into the mystery we get another much more modern woman, currently quite down on her luck. Taking a last ditch *now routine* flight from California to Hawaii, she discovers a land she had forgotten and a particular piece of it she had never known – and within that piece, the mystery begins. Will this modern woman find her peace? Did the earlier woman ever find hers? What has happened to the earlier woman? What will happen to the newer woman?

All this and so much more… in this pulse pounding emotional rollercoaster of a tale.

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 Uncharted Flight Of Olivia West by Sara Ackerman”