Sunday, May 5, 2019

Catching up with lots and lots of book reviews

When I started this blog, my goal was to write something about my reading experiences at least once a month. I did really well at first. Then the seasons changed and my Mom got sick and I got very involved with assignments for the Children's Literature Association of Utah. I have been reading (lots of YA) and have had many ARCs that have been neglected on my Kindle. Finally, I've caught up and feel like I want to share what I've been reading, clean the slate and move forward. So here is a review dump of a variety of romance, paranormal and urban fantasy that have kept me busy.
I'll be posting some YA reviews soon as well as some new books as soon as they are published.

One Thing I Know by Kara Isaac

Rachel Somers is America’s best loved advice columnist but no one knows. While Rachel writes the books, her aunt is the public face of “Dr. Donna.” Working together has met many needs for both of them and they have put a great deal of effort into maintaining the charade. However, burnout has raised its ugly head and the muse has fled. Rachel and Donna embark on a grueling publicity tour that requires working closely with late night radio host Lucas Grant. For some reason, women love to call Lucas’s sports program and ask for relationship advice. As Rachel and Lucas work together, she fears he might discover her secrets. And Lucas has secrets of his own that might ruin their budding romance.
This was a cute, breezy contemporary romance that focused more on the characters and situations and less on intimate scenes. I liked Rachel and Lucas but found them both at times quite frustrating. And the secrets that they were hiding didn’t seem worth all the angst they generated. Maybe I was frustrated because the characters, like real people, could have made their lives so much easier if they just dealt with their issues.
The novel was enjoyable even if the pace and plotting seemed a bit off towards the end.  When we finally got there, the resolution seemed a bit rushed without giving the characters enough time to really process feelings and situations. Even so, a solid read and I would recommend it. 3.5 stars.
I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Highland Crown by May McGoldrick

Isabella Drummond is a rare woman -- beautiful, intelligent and a trained physician. She is wanted by both the government and the Scottish rebels. Her only hope lies in hiding in the highlands until she can get passage to Canada.
Cinaed Mackintosh was rejected by his family as a child and has made his reputation and fortune at sea. When bad weather and injury casts him ashore, Isabella saves his life and entwins their fate.
Now a race in on to hide Isabella and Cinaed will do anything to protect her, including returning to Dalmigavie Castle and the Mackintosh kin who cast him off as a child.
Highland Crown is an exciting historical novel. The highlands of Scotland are always a big draw for readers and an intelligent female physician is a compelling element. Throw in a handsome, mysterious and dangerous Scot and you’ve got the makings of a great read.
The story mostly delivers. After an awkward prologue in the form of a letter from Robert Burns, Isabella’s story begins to unfold. The beginning action is dark and exciting. As Cinaed and Isabella travel and try to find sanctuary there is plenty of drama and tension. The last third of the novel falters a little bit. Some of the plotting seems unrealistic and the rapidness that endangered Isabella develops trust is not believable.
The story was bit long but I was cheering for a happily ever after and it was quite the surprise to discover there was a sequel. The story felt a little unfinished to me.
Overall, Highland Crown was an enjoyable read and is sure to appeal to fans of Scottish historical romances and the  Outlander series by Gaboldon.. A solid story I would recommend. 4 Stars.
I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Middlegame by Seanan McGuire

Dark, complex, complicated and engrossing. Middlegame by Seanan McGuire is a brilliantly constructed and deeply engaging novel.
Roger is a genius with words. He lives in Boston. His twin Dodger is mathematically brilliant and lives in California. Separated at birth, they manage to reach out and find each other over and over again.
Roger and Dodger have been created by a brilliant, powerful and extremely scary alchemist James Reed. He has plans for his creations unless they can figure out their destiny and seize control of it first.
For fans of Seanan McGuire, Middlegame is longer, complex, stand-alone novel.  The story took a little bit of patience. Told out of sequence, the reader is carried along for the ride as our main characters learn to understand themselves. I love a novel that forces me to pay attention and pick up clues along the way. Roger and Dodger were oddly likeable characters and I enjoyed watching each of them relate to each other and the world around them. Despite some very gruesome and heartbreaking scenes, I was very invested in the story and anxious for the conclusion.
I really enjoyed this novel and highly recommend it. I can’t wait to suggest it to my library patrons. 5 stars.
I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Bride Test by Helen Hoang

Khai Diep has never been like anyone else. He is ruthlessly controlled and seemingly without emotions. His life is organized to avoid entanglements of all kinds and he especially avoids romantic relationships. His family knows he is caring and that being on the Autism Spectrum means he processes emotions differently. Frustrated by Khai’s refusal to date, his meddling mother takes matters into her own hands and brings home a bride from Viet Nam for him.
Esme Tran is smart and hard working. But as a mixed-race girl living in Ho Chi Min, it is hard to rise above her circumstances and better her life and that of her family. When an opportunity to travel to America is presented, how can she refuse the chance? Seducing Khai is complicated and she falls for his kind, caring self. But can she convince Khai he does have feelings for her?
This was a sweet, story and made more enjoyable because it was obviously an important story for the author herself. It was interesting to read a romance novel that was told as much from the hero’s point of view as the heroines. I liked Esme – it was hard not to root for her. But Khai was a little bit of a tough nut to crack. I felt his emotional distance. Watching both characters conquer their demons was satisfying but I felt the ending was rushed and some story elements --Esme’s father and introducing her daughter for example-- were wrapped up too quickly. Living with an OCD spouse, I know that people with mental health challenges can overcome and change deeply ingrained behavior patterns. However, I also know that it takes a great deal of time and patience. The pace of storytelling in romance novels is compressed and that compressed pace made the resolution of the story feel a bit too rushed to seem realistic.
At the end of a day, I want a romance novel to leave me feeling happy. Despite some issues at the conclusion, The Bride Test was a fun read and I finished with a smile on my face. A solid read I would recommend. 4 stars.
I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Storm Cursed by Patricia Briggs

When Mercy Thompson declared that the Columbia Basin Pack would take care of the citizens within its borders, she changed the balance of the supernatural community. Now, politicians and Grey Lords are coming to their safe zone to make deals. And other less desirable folk have come to town with no intention of honoring the peace.
Storm Cursed is book #11 in the long running Mercy Thompson series. As a reader, I’m always glad to visit the world and reconnect with the characters. However, once a series reaches this length, there are usually some stories that are good and some stories that are great. Storm Cursed is one of the great ones, causing me to read from cover to cover in one sitting and finish at 2:00 am.
What I really enjoyed about this installment was the way elements from Burn Bright were woven into the novel. It makes sense since it is the same world, but the interaction of the goblins, Grey Lords and witches made for an engrossing read. I enjoyed the revelations, was saddened by the trauma and was genuinely tense during the climax of the story. Zee and Tad as a fighting team was amazing. And the miniature zombie goats were fantastic!
A must read for fans of the series. Very enjoyable and highly recommended. 5 stars.
I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Printed Letter Bookshop by Katherine Reay

Madeline has it all. A high-powered career as an attorney in Chicago, a chance to make partner and a beautiful condo full of gorgeous antiques. But then her estranged aunt dies and she inherits her book shop along with its debt. It's the beginning of a series of events that will upend her life and force her resolve long standing personal issues with herself and her relationships with others.
Told in three alternating voices, that of Madeline and the bookshop's two employees Janet and Claire, the novel weaves through the women's lives and loves.

This was a sweet, gentle story and while the plot and resolution were somewhat predictable, the journey was enjoyable and emotionally satisfying. Initially, having three narrators was a bit overwhelming and it took some time to sort out the different voices and stories. Having the action take place primarily in the small town of Eagle Valley and the Printed Letter Bookshop was delightful and created a yearning for small town life. And watching the characters grow and change by reading the personal booklists left for them by Maddie was a treat. In the end, the novel was uplifting and a very pleasant read. Anyone who loves books, and libraries and bookstores will enjoy this novel. And, the list of books referenced in the novel is a gem for any reader.

I will definitely recommend this title to my library patrons. 4 stars

I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Say You’re Sorry by Karen Rose

If you like romantic suspense that is heavy on the thrills and suspense and light on the romance, Say You’re Sorry might be the novel for you.

Daisy Dawson is a sweet, creative recovering alcoholic who is trying to get her life back together. She has returned to Sacramento and some family friends, the Sokolovs, are helping her to get on her feet. She is working, attending AA meetings and making friends.

Until she is attacked and her life is turned upside down. Her friend, Rafe Sokolov, is a police detective and introduces her to FBI agent Gideon Reynolds who becomes interested in her case because it links to his own past. Daisy is now a target and her life becomes more harrowing and dangerous with each passing day. Gideon is instantly drawn to her and becomes her protector.

This novel suffered a bit from too many plot elements. Recovering alcoholic with a service animal and a father with PTSD who hides his family at a ranch to protect them. FBI agent who escaped from an abusive cult and desperately wants to find the group who ruined his life and killed his mother. Loving Russian family who wants to help everyone. Every current topic from pet adoption to service animals to LGBTQ characters to cheating spouses made for a tale with diluted focus.

But, the most difficult aspect of the book was the serial killer plot. There were so many murders. Getting to see inside the killer’s head, getting to know his victims and as the story advanced watching him indiscriminately kill so many people was just disturbing and upsetting. I almost didn’t finish. The action and pace, not just the killing, picked up towards the ending and the second half of the novel was a bit better.

Admittedly, I thought this was romantic suspense and so was unprepared for a thriller. For fans of that genre, I think this would be a solid read. I would have enjoyed this one more if it had more focus on the relationship and less focus on the killer. 2.5 stars.

I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Catching up with lots and lots of book reviews

When I started this blog, my goal was to write something about my reading experiences at least once a month. I did really well at first. The...