Books

Books

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

NEWS! Purrfectly Bookish Book Reviews are MOVING!

 


I have decided to merge my book reviews with my lifestyle blog and YouTube channel, Finding Harmony. In an effort to "find harmony", I am trying to simplify things. Posting to only TWO blogs (I still have my piano studio blog) instead of THREE is one step in that direction. New book reviews will still post on Tuesdays on the new site and will be categorized to make them easy to find. For the foreseeable future (I have a lot of old book reviews, y'all), old book reviews will be added to the new site every Friday so they can all eventually be found in one place. 

Thank you for following my book reviews all these years! I really hope you will choose to make the jump and continue to follow along at my new site. There, you can also sign up to be notified of new blog posts each week! 

To jump straight to the blog on my new site, click here.

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Witches, Spiders, and Schemes (Destiny Falls Mystery & Magic, #4) by Elizabeth Pantley

Witches, Spiders, and Schemes (Destiny Falls Mystery & Magic #4) by Elizabeth Pantley

Publisher: Better Beginnings, Inc.

Publication date: November 10th 2021

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars


The link above is an affiliate link. If you make a purchase through it, I will receive a small amount of the sale, at no cost to you. It helps me make a little money to support my book reviewing hobby. Thank you! 


Publisher's description:


A magic mirror to an enchanted world... A mysterious ghost... A hilarious, perpetually annoyed witch... A brave, sassy cat... Two unexplained deaths and a mysterious community filled with secrets... Can Hayden and the people of Destiny Falls solve the mystery and return the community to its peaceful, enchanted existence? Hayden’s adventures in Destiny Falls continue in book four of the Destiny Falls Mystery & Magic series. Starting with a strange old woman at a cave and her father’s mysterious ferry journey, there are secrets to be unwound. The enchantments in Destiny Falls are showing cracks, and Hayden suspects that it is tied directly to her family, which has a history that’s more complex than she realized. When two bodies are found floating in the bay it’s clear that the mysteries surrounding Gladstone and the ferry are more dangerous than people realize. And then . . . those spiders. Luckily, Hayden and her sassy sidekick, Latifa have developed a group of family and friends in this enchanted place who are all ready and willing to help solve the mystery, and release Destiny Falls to resume its normal, amazing, enchanted existence. Hayden’s many adventures in Destiny Falls will keep you guessing with each book in this intriguing series.


My review:


I received a free copy of the ebook from the author in exchange for my review. All opinions shared are 100% my own.


More answers AND YET... more questions. Another installment in a fun, cozy mystery series. I usually read series that are already out so I don't have to wait between books! I do not like waiting! I want to know what happens next!!! I love how this one is building and building on itself. I would say these books can't be read stand-alone very well or, probably, shouldn't be read stand-alone. But that's okay... you'll want to read them all if you are a fan of cozies with elements of magic. I appreciate the level of intrigue and peril in these books... not too much. And balanced with a message of family and community. I honestly look forward to each book being published and it jumps to the head of my long to-read list when a new one is released.

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Cookie Dough or Die by Virginia Lowell




Cookie Dough or Die (Cookie Cutter Shop Mystery #1) by Virginia Lowell

Publisher: Berkley Books

Publication date: April 5th 2011

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars


The link above is an affiliate link. If you make a purchase through it, I will receive a small amount of the sale, at no cost to you. It helps me make a little money to support my book reviewing hobby. Thank you! 


Publisher's description:


My review:


This book is the October pick from the Cozy Escape Book Club. This choice was a bit different for me since I prefer cozy mysteries with either a paranormal element or with cats... bonus points if it has both. This book does have a cute, little dog though!


It was a fun read, though it took some time to really get into it. Sometimes the dialogue between the two main characters was a struggle to figure who was saying what line. This did become a bit easier as you got to know the two characters better. As with many first-in-a-series, the world-building was a bit clunky at times and trying to do too much all at once. In particular, I felt like the main character Olivia could have been better developed. There were hints at her personality, but I never felt like there was a full picture of her created. Her business partner and best friend, Maddie, and her quirky mother, Ellie, were well-developed and delightful characters.


While the way the crime was solved was clever, I'm not sure how an entire series can be built on cookie cutters. Some of the choices the characters made in pursuit of answers seemed even more sketchy than usual for cozy mystery heroines. As is my usual practice, I will read the second book in the series at some point to see how it continues to build. I always like to read at least the first two books before I make a final decision on continuing a series. However, I didn't like it well enough to pick up the second book immediately. I'm pretty hit or miss on culinary cozies so I can't say if my "meh" status on this book is the genre or this particular book. I'll let you know later once I get back around to the second book.




Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Knifed In Nice (Travel P.I. Book 1) by Zara Keane




Knifed In Nice (Travel P.I. Book 1) by Zara Keane
Publisher: Beaverstone Press
Publication date: October 5th 2021
My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

The link above is an affiliate link. If you make a purchase through it, I will receive a small amount of the sale, at no cost to you. It helps me make a little money to support my book reviewing hobby. Thank you! 

Publisher's description: 

“I hadn’t planned on a trip to the French Riviera, but then, I hadn’t planned on shooting a London crime lord in his well-padded derrière.”

Meet Angel Doyle, a semi-reformed thief, and accidental P.I.

During an unfortunate incident at her first legit job in years, Angel fires a ketamine dart into one of London’s most notorious gangsters. Now she’s in disguise and on the run. With a bunch of thugs on her tail, she embarks on a mad chase across France, determined to stay one step ahead of the villains.

At least, that was the plan.

The moment out-of-work actor Sidney Foggington-Smythe sits next to her on the train to Paris, Angel has no idea she’s just met the second half of their crime-solving duo. How can a fashion-obsessed posh boy be anything but a hindrance? When fate forces the two twenty-somethings into the same stolen Mercedes, Angel is hampered by an unwanted sidekick, a kidnapped cat, and a corpse with a tendency to pull a Houdini. Now Angel and Sidney are in a race against time to reach Nice, find the killer, and clear their names before their next destination is the morgue. 

My review:

I received a free copy of the ebook from Netgalley in exchange for my review. All opinions shared are 100% my own.

Angel has had a bad, bad day and it just keeps getting worse. Fortunately, she at least doesn't have to go through it all alone when Sidney Foggington-Smythe befriends her on her get-away train and tags along for a whirlwind weekend adventure with a high body count of bad guys, a catnapped exotic pet, a feckless relative, and more. 

Angel and Sidney are delightful and their chemistry with one another is fantastic. The book is a wild, wild ride of adventure and coincidences. I couldn't put it down. It definitely had far more dead bodies than I'm used to in a cozy mystery (and with the punny title and cover - it definitely looks like it is trying to fit itself into the cozy category). It had lots of "aha" moments and many "Oooooooohhhhh" ones as well. Loved it and I can't wait to continue on with Angel and Sidney's adventures in the next in the series.

Author's Website


Tuesday, October 19, 2021

By Familiar Means (Witch's Cat Mystery #2) by Delia James


By Familiar Means (Witch's Cat Mystery #2) by Delia James

Publisher: Berkley

Publication date: September 20th 2016

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars


The link above is an affiliate link. If you make a purchase through it, I will receive a small amount of the sale, at no cost to you. It helps me make a little money to support my book reviewing hobby. Thank you! 


Publisher's description:


In the latest from the author of A Familiar Tail, a witch and her familiar find trouble brewing at a coffee house. After discovering her mystical heritage—and being adopted by furry feline familiar Alistair—artist Annabelle Britton has decided to make picturesque Portsmouth, New Hampshire, her new home. Now, she can take the time to figure out her new abilities and welcome her grandmother, who is visiting Portsmouth, and her old coven, for the first time in thirty years. But being a witch doesn’t magically put money in the bank. When she’s hired to paint the murals for a new coffee house, it seems like a wish come true. But then a series of spooky sounds and strange happenings convince the owners that their new shop is haunted. They want Anna and her coven to evict the restless spirit before the grand opening. Annabelle is certain the haunted happenings at the shop are just hocus pocus. But when her search reveals hidden smugglers’ tunnels beneath the shop—and a dead body—Annabelle, Alastair, and the coven suddenly find themselves in a cat and mouse game with a killer...


My review:


Anna is in the thick of it again when her "Vibe" helps her uncover a body under suspicious circumstances. Alistair is still my favorite character, but Grandma BB is coming in at a close second. I love that she is on the scene now. Her return to Portsmouth brings old hard feelings back to the surface and creates an interesting side plot to the main story.


I love that Portsmouth is a real city so I can look up photos to help me build a mental picture of the town. It is adorably quaint and Ms. James's descriptions of it make you want to visit it. Too bad there isn't really an out-of-the-way "secret" coffee shop filled with hippies (or is there?!).


There were times when there seemed to be too many threads to the murder plot and it got challenging to juggle them midway through the book. Ultimately, the ending wasn't super surprising though it still had a couple entertaining twists. There is one more book in the series, which I plan to read (since it seems to focus MORE on cats - I do love cat cozies), but it is the last in the series. The third book was written in 2017 so I am guessing there won't be more to the series after that, unfortunately. 


As usual, a magic + cat cozy is high on my enjoyable meter.  I'm predictable in that regard... unrepentantly.  




 

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Mango, Mambo, and Murder by Raquel V. Reyes



Mango, Mambo, and Murder: A Caribbean Kitchen Mystery by Raquel V. Reyes

Publisher: Crooked Lane Books

Publication date: 12 Oct 2021

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars


The link above is an affiliate link. If you make a purchase through it, I will receive a small amount of the sale, at no cost to you. It helps me make a little money to support my book reviewing hobby. Thank you! 


Publisher's description:

Cuban-American cooking show star Miriam Quiñones-Smith becomes a seasoned sleuth in Raquel V. Reyes's Caribbean Kitchen Mystery debut, a savory treat for fans of Joanne Fluke and Jenn McKinlay.


Food anthropologist Miriam Quiñones-Smith's move from New York to Coral Shores, Miami, puts her academic career on hold to stay at home with her young son. Adding to her funk is an opinionated mother-in-law and a husband rekindling a friendship with his ex. Gracias to her best friend, Alma, she gets a short-term job as a Caribbean cooking expert on a Spanish-language morning TV show. But when the newly minted star attends a Women's Club luncheon, a socialite sitting at her table suddenly falls face-first into the chicken salad, never to nibble again.


When a second woman dies soon after, suspicions coalesce around a controversial Cuban herbalist, Dr. Fuentes--especially after the morning show's host collapses while interviewing him. Detective Pullman is not happy to find Miriam at every turn. After he catches her breaking into the doctor's apothecary, he enlists her help as eyes and ears to the places he can't access, namely the Spanish-speaking community and the tawny Coral Shores social scene.


As the ingredients to the deadly scheme begin blending together, Miriam is on the verge of learning how and why the women died. But her snooping may turn out to be a recipe for her own murder.


My review:


I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for my review. All opinions shared are 100% my own.


What a delightful cozy! I can’t wait to read more. It is very different than many cozies I have read, but it also hits many of the main points of “coziness” that I love and keeps me coming back to the genre. I liked the Spanish dialogue. I took four years in high school and college and have played around on keeping up my Spanish on Duolingo but I am nowhere near fluent. I was able to keep up with the Spanish dialogue fairly well though and the author provided enough contextual clues to figure out any of the more complex bits. 


The main character, Miriam, and her best friend, Alma, were wonderful. Miriam is so sweet and very real. There are so many likable characters… and, of course, a nemesis or two, though thankfully, one of those got their comeuppance in this first book in the series (I will NOT miss that character going forward). AND, there’s a cat… and kittens… so you know that always adds bonus points in my book. I learned a lot about Cuban cuisine as well. I had to look up so many things and… YUM! 


First installments often have clunky world-building but Ms. Reyes did a fantastic job of building all the various worlds in which Miriam finds herself. I am definitely looking forward to the next book in this series. 


Fun stuff: 


Sign up for the author’s newsletter here: http://rvreyes.com/newsletter/  She promises there will be recipes! 


About the author:


Raquel V. Reyes writes stories with Latina characters. Her Cuban-American heritage, Miami, and the Caribbean feature prominently in her work. Raquel is a co-chair for SleuthFest. Her short story “A Star Goes Dark” is in the 15th Malice Domestic anthology.


Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Love People, Use Things: Because the Opposite Never Works by Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus




Love People, Use Things: Because the Opposite Never Works by Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus

Publisher: Celadon Books

Publication date: July 13th 2021

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars


The link above is an affiliate link. If you make a purchase through it, I will receive a small amount of the sale, at no cost to you. It helps me make a little money to support my book reviewing hobby. Thank you! 


Publisher's description:

How might your life be better with less? Imagine a life with less: less stuff, less clutter, less stress, and debt and discontent—a life with fewer distractions. Now, imagine a life with more: more time, more meaningful relationships, more growth, and contribution and contentment—a life of passion, unencumbered by the trappings of the chaotic world around you. What you’re imagining is an intentional life. And to get there, you’ll have to let go of some clutter that’s in the way. In Love People Use Things, Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus move past simple decluttering to show how minimalism makes room to reevaluate and heal the seven essential relationships in our lives: stuff, truth, self, money, values, creativity, and people. They use their own experiences—and those of the people they have met along the minimalist journey—to provide a template for how to live a fuller, more meaningful life. Because once you have less, you can make room for the right kind of more.


My review:


I received a free copy of the ebook from Netgalley in exchange for my review. All opinions shared are 100% my own.


This is the most comprehensive book on minimalism and intentional living I have ever read. This book is NOT about getting rid of physical clutter (though there is some of that in there). It's about being a better person to yourself, to your loved ones, to society. It's about living intentionally, creatively, fiscally responsibly. And it puts you to work. After Joshua Fields Milburn educates, Ryan Nicodemus sets you to action items to bring yourself into alignment with a more intentional life. Love! Love! Love! 

Grab a journal or a binder and some loose-leaf paper. Find your favorite pen. Schedule time to read and absorb this book and work through the tasks presented. There is so much to process and learn here.

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

A Hat Full of Sky (Discworld #32; Tiffany Aching #2) by Terry Pratchett

A Hat Full of Sky book cover


A Hat Full of Sky (Discworld #32; Tiffany Aching #2) by Terry Pratchett

Publisher: Corgi Childrens

Publication date: April 29th 2004

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars


The link above is an affiliate link. If you make a purchase through it, I will receive a small amount of the sale, at no cost to you. It helps me make a little money to support my book reviewing hobby. Thank you! 


Publisher's description: WE SEE YOU. NOW WE ARE YOU. No real witch would casually step out of their body, leaving it empty. Tiffany Aching does. And there’s something just waiting for a handy body to take over. Something ancient and horrible, which can’t die. To deal with it, Tiffany has to go to the very heart of what makes her a witch . . .


My review:


I checked this book out from my library via the Libby app. All opinions shared are 100% my own.


I forget just how much I enjoy Terry Pratchett's humor. And the Mac Nac Feegle are super entertaining... especially trying to read their accents in your mind. I am a huge Douglas Adams fan but, honestly, I'm always reminded after a Pratchett read that I probably like Pratchett better as fantasy fiction is more my bag than scifi. In any case, this was a fun, enjoyable fantasy fiction read in Pratchett's signature style of puns, parodies, allusions, cultural references, sidebars, tangents, and a wild ride of silliness. I haven't read one of his books yet that I wouldn't heartily recommend for an adventurous tale that will have your giggling to yourself.



Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Give Away and Pre-Order Discount: The Tacos and Chocolate Diet by Drew Myers

The Tacos and Chocolate Diet: How to Live A Bold, Adventurous, And Intentional Life

I want you to find joy. I want you to live the best life you can live. Most of all, I want to help you accomplish both of these. In The Tacos and Chocolate Diet it’s my goal to generate hope, inspire action, and remind you to start making the important things important - starting with YOU. Everything you're looking for can be attained with the action plan inside these pages. Everything comes down to you. I wrote this book to help people start living a bold, adventurous, and intentional life. That’s what we all want, right? We want to live on purpose. We want to make a small change that helps us start living the life we want. Let's get started living life to its fullest. Don’t be confused by the title. This is not a book to help you lose weight. The Tacos and Chocolate Diet is about taking action to live your best life. And I'll be there, right along with you.

ONLY $.99 during pre-order and release week!

Buy on Amazon Buy everywhere else

Enter to win the TACOS AND CHOCOLATE GIVEAWAY

5 Winners!! e-Book Signed Hardcover “Be Bold” T-Shirt Audiobook Neurographic Art Postcards Live on Purpose Challenge Coin “Be Bold” Coffee Mug $100 donation to a non-profit of their choice How to enter – Fill out the form below. Must be 18+ Continental US address to win.

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Never Saw You Coming by Erin Hahn


Never Saw You Coming by Erin Hahn

Publisher: St. Martin's Press

Publication date: 07 Sep 2021  

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars


The link above is an affiliate link. If you make a purchase through it, I will receive a small amount of the sale, at no cost to you. It helps me make a little money to support my book reviewing hobby. Thank you! 


Publisher's description: Raised by conservative parents, 18-year-old Meg Hennessey just found out her entire childhood was a lie. Instead of taking a gap year before college to find herself, she ends up traveling north to meet what’s left of the family she never knew existed.


While there, she meets Micah Allen, a former pastor’s kid whose dad ended up in prison, leaving Micah with his own complicated relationship about the church. The clock is ticking on Pastor Allen’s probation hearing and Micah, now 19, feels the pressure to forgive - even when he can’t possibly forget.


As Meg and Micah grow closer, they are confronted with the heavy flutterings of first love and all the complications it brings. Together, they must navigate the sometimes-painful process of cutting ties with childhood beliefs as they build toward something truer and straight from the heart.


My review:

I received a free copy of the ebook from Netgalley in exchange for my review. All opinions shared are 100% my own.


“I can’t pretend to understand this compulsion you guys have to hide your humanity at the risk of appearing human.”


 I spent 15 years of my youth in the Deep South - the Bible Belt. I grew up in a pretty progressive Catholic church in a family of very strong women so I didn’t personally experience crazy pressure to be the perfect, little church girl growing up. I went to high school with a lot of girls who did though. It was absolutely ludicrous how much pressure was put on the girls to be pure and how boys were just being boys. This book addresses this issue from a Christian author. I would actually recommend reading the Author’s Note first. It came at the end of my ebook copy so I read it last. I had enjoyed the book, but I loved the book even more after reading the author’s raw emotions in her story of how she came to write the book and the trouble she had finding a publisher because of her forthright questioning of how the church treats girls. I thought the author did a brilliant job with her story of the real struggles of youth caught between being human and being “church pure”.


This was an odd choice for me to pick up as I’m a Unitarian Universalist now and served as a professional youth advisor in my faith for five years. Let’s just say how UUs treat their youth and how fundamentalist Christians treat their youth are VERY different. (The UU Church offers comprehensive sexuality education, called Our Whole Lives. It is literally life-saving). It breaks my heart to think of all the girls who are made to feel that their god doesn’t love them because of their very humanity. The author states that her book isn’t quite secular but is definitely not inspirational. I would argue it is very inspirational. I wish my friends back in high school all those years ago and every “good little church girl” out there now would have had a voice like Ms. Hahn’s to let them know that their god’s grace covers them no matter what. 


Fun stuff:

Book Club Discussion Questions


About the author: 


ERIN HAHN is the author of You'd Be Mine, More Than Maybe, and Never Saw You Coming. She married her very own YA love interest, who she met on her first day of college, and has two kids who are much, much cooler than she ever was at their age. She lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan, a.k.a. the greenest place on earth, and has a cat named Gus who plays fetch and a dog named June who doesn’t.


Tuesday, August 3, 2021

If the Shoe Fits by Julie Murphy


 If the Shoe Fits (Meant To Be #1) by Julie Murphy 

Publisher: Hyperion Avenue

Publication date: 03 Aug 2021

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars


The link above is an affiliate link. If you make a purchase through it, I will receive a small amount of the sale, at no cost to you. It helps me make a little money to support my book reviewing hobby. Thank you! 


Publisher's description:

After having just graduated with a degree in shoe design, and trying to get her feet on the ground, Cindy is working for her stepmother, who happens to be the executive producer of America's favorite reality show, Before Midnight. When a spot on the show needs filling ASAP, Cindy volunteers, hoping it might help jump-start her fashion career, or at least give her something to do while her peers land jobs in the world of high fashion.


Turns out being the only plus-size woman on a reality dating competition makes a splash, and soon Cindy becomes a body positivity icon for women everywhere. What she doesn't expect? That she may just find inspiration - and love - in the process. Ultimately, Cindy learns that if the shoe doesn't fit, maybe it's time to design your own. 


My review:


I received a free copy of the ebook from Netgalley in exchange for my review. All opinions shared are 100% my own.


I just love Julie Murphy’s books. Her protagonists are funny, charming, vulnerable, and oh so real. Cindy does not disappoint. This delightful twist on the classic fairytale is just too perfect. I was pleasantly surprised by the “twist”... you all know there has to be one and I was legitimately dreading what I thought it would be. I was wrong! And it all worked so well for the story. I really loved that “Cinderella” was very close to her step-sisters and step-mother. There is some great LGBTQ representation in the book, including modeling good pronoun use. It’s (naturally) full of body positivity and authentic discussions of size and size discrimination (because, hello? - JULIE MURPHY!).  I love this author and this book did not disappoint. There were definite tears - of several varieties - throughout my reading. I want to see this movie! And I don’t even really watch movies. Henry Cavill as Henry?  I mean… he already has the right first name and everything. (Is that a coincidence or on purpose, Ms. Murphy?).

This is a delightful rom-com with a fun look into the behind-the-scenes nonsense of reality television. I don’t watch reality TV either but still enjoyed the book very much. It features good representation, addresses very real societal issues in very honest ways, and is just fun to read. 


About the author:

Julie Murphy lives in North Texas with her husband who loves her, her dog who adores her, and her cats who tolerate her. After several wonderful years in the library world, Julie now writes full-time. 


When she’s not writing or reliving her reference desk glory days, she can be found watching made-for-TV movies, hunting for the perfect slice of cheese pizza, and planning her next great travel adventure. 


She is also the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the young adult novels Dumplin’ (now a film on Netflix), Puddin’, Ramona Blue, and Side Effects May Vary. Dear Sweet Pea is her debut middle-grade novel.


Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Dogged by Death (A Furry Friends Mystery #1) by Laura Scott

 


Dogged by Death (A Furry Friends Mystery #1) by Laura Scott

Publisher: Crooked Lane Books

Publication date: July 13th, 2021

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

The link above is an affiliate link. If you make a purchase through it, I will receive a small amount of the sale, at no cost to you. It helps me make a little money to support my book reviewing hobby. Thank you! 

Publisher's description:

In Laura Scott's Furry Friends series debut, veterinarian Ally Winter must collar the killer of a shifty lawyer. Does the dead man's dog know who committed the arf-ul crime?

Ally Winter is going through a ruff patch. The thirty-something veterinarian lost her fiance, her clinic, and her savings in rapid succession. So when Ally's grandfather undergoes hip replacement surgery, she moves back to Willow Bluff, Wisconsin, to care for him. She arrives home, tail between her legs, only to find sleazy lawyer Marty Shawlin murdered in his home office. And the only witness was Marty's faithful boxer, Roxy.

Quick as a greyhound, Noah Jorgensen is on the case. The good news is, he's the best detective around. The bad news, at least the way Ally sees it, is that Noah is still just as fetching as he was back in high school. He also just happens to have witnessed every embarrassing incident that befell accident-prone Ally--including the fire-ant attack that set tongues wagging and won her the unshakable nickname Hot Pants.

Meanwhile, true-crime aficionado Gramps fancies himself a sleuth, and he is doggedly determined to sniff out the culprit himself...with Ally's reluctant help, of course. Ally has no choice but to team up with Noah--and the irrepressible Roxy--to solve the case while keeping Gramps on a short leash.

Ally had better learn some new tricks, lickety-split. Because if she can't bring the killer to heel, she won't just be playing dead.

My review:

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for my review. All opinions shared are 100% my own.

I really loved the characters. Gramps (Oscar) is, well, a real character  -- a Vietnam veteran who watches too much Dateline and reads too many true crime books and fancies himself an amateur detective. His granddaughter, Dr. Ally Winter, is a veterinarian (yes, a vet & a vet) who returned to her small hometown after her ex-husband steals their money and runs off with the vet tech from their joint veterinary practice in the big city. She winds up getting dragged into a murder investigation in an attempt to keep her meddlesome grandfather safe. Ally, Gramps, and Noah, the ACTUAL detective in charge of the case, are all likable characters. Of course, Roxy the boxer is the best character and she ultimately helps solve the case. 

This definitely smacks of “first in a series”. I find that a lot of cozies (and probably other series but I don’t read many other serial works in other genres) suffer from the same first in the series tropes. It always seems like the characters make some of the most outlandish of choices in these first forays. Ally and her grandfather both keep digging and digging and poking their noses in places even after some pretty dangerous and threatening things have happened. The motive for murder also seemed weak to me. While the world-building and character development were good, I think the basic murder mystery plot left a bit to be desired. However, I liked the characters enough to read more when the next book is released. I am quite certain that the balancing necessary for the first book in a series is a tough one so I try not to judge too harshly on the first books. 

All in all, it has the potential to be a fun cozy mystery with a lot of animals involved since the main character is a veterinarian. There was a definite hint to some romance with the detective. I really hope the teensy tiny hint to another possible love interest doesn’t go anywhere since I am definitely not a fan of love triangles. Time will tell on that front. I didn’t realize until I read the author’s bio that she is considered a Christian fiction author. Nothing in the book seemed overtly Christian to me. It was a pleasant, clean cozy mystery with the potential for a lot of intriguing adventures in the future. 

About the author:

From the bio page on her website: I'm often asked when I started writing and I have to be honest, I can't remember when I wasn't writing. I loved books as a kid and like many authors, I ran out of stories that I liked to read so I began to make up my own. I wrote my first teen novel when I was thirteen and my first romance when I was seventeen. Of course, neither manuscript was very good, but I never gave up and after I finished Graduate school I decided to take some time for myself and get back to my writing. I'm so glad I did!

I grew up reading faith-based books by Grace Livingston Hill so writing for Love Inspired Suspense is a dream come true. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy writing them.

I currently live in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with my husband of thirty-three years. My daughter Nicole is married to a wonderful man named Mike and my son Jonathan is a Registered Nurse at the same hospital where I work. I'm so blessed to have such a wonderful family. 

I'm a dog lover and had to put my Westie named Mac down a year or so ago. I still miss him but now have a chance to dog sit for my sisters and brother. I try to incorporate pets in my stories as much as possible

In May of 2017, I was the humble recipient of the Wisconsin Romance Writers Lifetime Achievement Award. I'm blessed to be a member of such an amazing group!


Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Chasing The Taillights by Kate Larkindale



Chasing The Taillights by Kate Larkindale

Publisher: Evernight Teen

Publication date: 26 Feb 21

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars


The link above is an affiliate link. If you make a purchase through it, I will receive a small amount of the sale, at no cost to you. It helps me make a little money to support my book reviewing hobby. Thank you! 


Publisher's description:

Lucy and Tony share nothing except genes. Tony’s the champion diver destined for greatness. Lucy’s biggest concern is getting Cute Guy from the burger joint to ask her out.


After an accident kills their parents, the siblings are forced to rely on one another—and decide whether to reveal their secrets.


Lucy can’t tell Tony what she knows about the accident for fear of destroying the tentative bond between them. If she doesn’t confess, she might lose her mind. If she does, she might lose the only person she has left who loves her.


Tony has problems too. Between diving practice, classes, and concealing the crush he has on his best friend Jake, Tony needs to find room in his life for his sister, but his own stability dwindles with every passing day.


As the siblings struggle to overcome a lifetime of past conflicts and jealousies, they discover they might have more in common than a love of rock music


My review:

I received a free copy of the ebook from the author in exchange for my review. All opinions shared are 100% my own.


What a heartbreaking and compelling story. As a mom, I just wanted to scoop both of these kids up and hug them and just BE there for them. I also wanted to yell “You need counseling!!!” so many times. Who leaves a couple of children to not only fend for themselves physically but also emotionally and mentally, after both of their parents die?! Their lousy uncles, that’s who? 


This was a particularly heartbreaking story to me because I see my own two kids’ distance from one another as similar to Tony and Lucy. My kids are also four years apart, older brother/younger sister. It just makes me so sad when they argue and push each other away. Your sibling relationship will be the longest relationship you have in your life! It should be cherished. My sister and I - ten years apart in age - have always been there for one another. It gets better as they get older, right? 

While many questionable choices were made by different characters, all in all, the story of navigating grief, learning about love and family, and finding yourself shines through. It does feature some triggering situations (parental death, car accident, homophobia, alcoholism, deteriorating mental health) so I don’t think this book is for everyone, but it is a well-written and respectful handling of complex issues. 


Fun stuff:

Author’s blog: http://katelarkindale.blogspot.com/ 


About the author:

From the author’s blog: Author of CHASING THE TAILLIGHTS, AN UNSTILL LIFE, STUMPED and THE SIDEWALK'S REGRETS, I am a writer, marketing executive for a national film agency, film reviewer, and mother to two boys. As you can imagine, with all that going on, I don't sleep much.


Thursday, June 10, 2021

GIVEAWAY: A Blueberry Bay Giveaway from Whiskered Mysteries


Another super cute giveaway from Whiskered Mysteries. Enter today to win a a paw-some prize pack inspired by Blueberry Bay including a blueberry muffin-scented candle, an animal lover's mug, a muffin-in-a-mug kit, a plush Puffin, and a $10 Amazon gift card!

 

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Never Say Never by Justine Manzano

 


Never Say Never by Justine Manzano

Publisher: Sword and Silk Books

Publication date: 15 Jun 2021 

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars


The link above is an affiliate link. If you make a purchase through it, I will receive a small amount of the sale, at no cost to you. It helps me make a little money to support my book reviewing hobby. Thank you! 


Publisher's description:


Brynn Stark is NEVER going to fall in love.


After she walks in on her mom doing the horizontal mambo with a man that's decidedly not her dad, Brynn Stark swears to never fall in love. One of her friends—Val— reveals her true identity—Aphrodite, goddess of love, and promises to show Brynn why she shouldn't lose faith.


But when Brynn realizes she's beginning to fall for Adam, Aphrodite's boyfriend, Brynn's forced to decide if she'll choose her goddess-given fate, or risk it all for the wrong-but-right guy.


One thing's for sure. Love sucks. And it's all about to blow up in their faces.


My review:


I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for my review. All opinions shared are 100% my own.


What happens when you find out your best friend’s foster sister is actually the Greek goddess, Aphrodite? And you’re falling in love with her boyfriend? That’s where Brynn finds herself during her senior year of high school. The more she tries to deny her feelings, the more circumstances keep putting her on a path with Adam and in conflict with Val/Aphrodite. 


It definitely takes some willful suspension of disbelief to buy into an ancient Greek goddess hanging out in high school, but overall, it’s a cute story about friendship, family, and the power of love. There are some tense moments (particularly when a certain high-powered “Dad” gets involved). It’s a fun ride though with a sweet ever-after ending. There is a lot of typical, high school drama that is all dealt with in mature, positive ways. A few potentially upsetting themes are parental divorce, a parent committing adultery, an asthma attack, and people being caught outside in a lightning storm. 


Fun stuff:


The author shares some fun extras, like a character interview and social media graphics on her website here: https://justinemanzano.com/never-say-never-extras/ 

About the author:


Justine Manzano is a YA author who prides herself on her ability to juggle motherhood, writing, editing, and the very serious businesses of fangirling and multiple forms of geekery. When she’s not flailing about her favorite characters and actors, she struggles to create her own characters with the hopes someone will flail about them one day. Her debut novel, The Order of the Key, a Young Adult Urban Fantasy, is available everywhere books are sold from Black Rose Writing. Reviews have called it “Season 5 of Buffy meets the X-Men,” and Justine will likely live happily off of that description alone for the rest of her days. It was a finalist in the 2020 IndiesToday Awards. 


Her sophomore release, Never Say Never, a Young Adult Contemporary Romance with Fantasy Elements, will be released on June 15, 2021.