Review: Well Traveled by Jen DeLuca

Goodreads

Release date: December 6, 2022

Publisher: Berkley Romance

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Synopsis:

The Renaissance Faire is on the move, and Lulu and Dex are along for the ride, in the next utterly charming rom-com from Jen DeLuca.

A high-powered attorney from a success-oriented family, Louisa “Lulu” Malone lives to work, and everything seems to be going right, until the day she realizes it’s all wrong. Lulu’s cousin Mitch introduced her to the world of Renaissance Faires, and when she spies one at a time just when she needs an escape, she leaps into the welcoming environment of turkey legs, taverns, and tarot readers. The only drawback? Dex MacLean: a guitarist with a killer smile, the Casanova of the Faire… and her traveling companion for the summer.

Dex has never had to work for much in his life, and why should he? Touring with his brothers as The Dueling Kilts is going great, and he always finds a woman at every Faire. But when Lulu proves indifferent to his many plaid charms and a shake-up threatens the fate of the band, Dex must confront something he never has before: his future.

Forced to spend days and nights together on the road, Lulu’s interest in the kilted bad boy grows as he shows her a side of himself no one else has seen. The stresses of her old lifestyle fade away as she learns to trust her intuition and follow her heart instead of her head. But when her time on the road is over, will Lulu go with her gut, or are she and Dex destined for separate paths?

Review:

I have been a little up and down with this series but I’ve stuck with it because there is something so charming about the Ren Faire setting that keeps pulling me back in. As much as I can still see why this is labeled a romance because it is, it has a very heavy womens fiction feel to it for a large portion of the book. The romance between Lulu and Dex is a super slow burn and the beginning is mostly about Lulu starting over and figuring out what next steps she wants to take in her life. As much as it’s about her personal journey you do get to see a deeper side of Dex too and if you’ve read the previous books and have been curious if there’s more to him than just a one dimensional bad boy the answer is yes. That’s one of my favorite things about this series actually, revisiting previous characters and seeing secondary characters make the transition to lead characters. Overall I really liked this one, I think it’s probably my second fave in the series so far. First for me is Well Met if you’re curious.

Overall rating: 4/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: On the Savage Side by Tiffany McDaniel

Goodreads

Release date: February 23, 2023

Publisher: Knopf

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Synopsis:

Six womenmothers, daughters, sisters–gone missing. When the first is found floating dead in the river, it reveals the disturbing truth of a small Ohio town. Inspired by the unsolved murders of the Chillicothe Six, this harrowing and haunting novel tells the story of two sisters, both of whom could be the next victims, from the internationally-bestselling author of Betty.



Arcade and Daffodil are twin sisters born one minute apart. With their fiery red hair and thirst for an escape, they forge an unbreakable bond nurtured by both their grandmother’s stories and their imaginations. Together, they create a world where a patch of grass reveals an archaeologist’s dig, the smoke emerging from the local paper mill becomes the dust rising from wild horses galloping on the ground, and an abandoned 1950s convertible transforms into a time machine that can take them anywhere.



But the two sisters can’t escape the generational chaos that grips their family. Growing up in the shadow of the town, the sisters cling tight to one another. As an adult, Arcade wrestles with these memories of her life, just as a local woman is discovered drowned in the river. Soon, more bodies are found. While her friends disappear around her, Arcade is forced to reckon with the past while the killer circles ever closer. Arcade’s promise to keep herself and her sister safe becomes increasingly desperate while the powerful riptide of the savage side becomes more difficult to resist.

Drawing from the true story of women killed in her native Ohio, acclaimed novelist and poet Tiffany McDaniel has written a powerful literary testament and fearless elegy for missing women everywhere.

Review:

Wow. That was my initial reaction upon finishing this book, just WOW. I’ve sat with my thoughts for awhile, it’s been several days since I finished this one and I needed some time to process my feelings. I almost didn’t have a choice in the matter, the way that these characters and this story got under my skin and in my heart and head is unmatched and unlike any other experience I’ve had with a book before. It’s the kind of story you cannot escape. I took my time reading it too, and there were many reasons for that as well. The story the author tells is harrowing and uncomfortable to read about so as a reader you will need to take a breather occasionally. But it is important and necessary and I don’t think it is the type of book you’re meant to read in just a few sittings. You’ll need time to sit with the beauty of the writing. You’ll need time to process the horrors you just read about. You’ll need time to think about all of the women who live lives like this. You’ll just need time, but the time invested is so very worthwhile.

I don’t think it’s necessary for me to get very far into the plot itself because there is a special kind of magic in the way this story unfolds. I will talk about the characters and the way the author humanizes the victims of the River Man because it gave a voice to women everywhere. Arc and Daffy are followed throughout several years, through life and death. Through addiction and prostitution. Through loss and more tragic loss. If there is an issue that anyone could find triggering it is in here at some point, but again it is important. I can’t even begin to describe how phenomenal the authors writing is, she’s on a level all of her own and it’s incredible. It’s haunting and devastatingly beautiful and the kind of poetry that speaks to my soul. It was an honor to read this one, I won’t soon forget it and I’m glad I won’t.

Overall rating: 5/5

Thanks to the author for my review copy.

Review: Two Wrongs Make a Right by Chloe Liese

Goodreads

Release date: November 22, 2022

Publisher: Berkley Romance

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Synopsis:

Opposites become allies to fool their matchmaking friends in this swoony reimagining of Shakespeare’s beloved comedy, Much Ado About Nothing.

Jamie Westenberg and Bea Wilmot have nothing in common except a meet-disaster and the mutual understanding that they couldn’t be more wrong for each other. But when the people closest to them play Cupid and trick them into going on a date, Jamie and Bea realize they have something else in common after all—an undeniable need for revenge.

Soon their plan is in place: Fake date obnoxiously and convince the meddlers they’re madly in love. Then, break up spectacularly and dash their hopes, putting an end to the matchmaking madness once and for all.

To convince everyone that they’ve fallen for each other, Jamie and Bea will have to nail the performance of their lives. But as their final act nears and playing lovers becomes easier than not, they begin to wonder, what if Cupid’s arrow wasn’t so off the mark? And what if two wrongs do make a right?

Review:

This was such a sweet and deeply romantic romance. That statement may seem kinda silly, it is a romance novel after all but the way Bea and Jamie handle their relationship is so gentle and tender. They do start out as enemies, but soon enough they decide to scheme against their meddling friends and family to fake date which is one of my fave tropes. These two were just so adorable together and per usual the author shone a light on neurodiverse characters in the most sensitive and authentic way. Besides the cutest romance developing between Bea and Jamie you have a cast of secondary characters that were so incredibly likable and fun. I’m hoping this isn’t the last we see of these characters, it definitely has series potential! Overall a lovely and well rounded romance.

Overall rating: 4/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Hidden Scars by Angela Marsons @WriteAngie @bookouture

Goodreads

Amazon

Release date: November 9, 2022

Publisher: Bookouture

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Synopsis:

While Jamie’s cold, lifeless body lay in the morgue, Detective Kim Stone stared at the empty board in the incident room and felt her anger boil. Why were there no photos, details, or lines of enquiry?

When a nineteen-year-old boy, Jamie Mills, is found hanging from a tree in a local park, his death is ruled a suicide. Detective Kim Stone’s instincts tell her something isn’t right – but it’s not her investigation and her temporary replacement is too busy waiting for the next big case to be asking the right questions.

Why would a seemingly healthy boy choose to end his life?
Why does his mother show no sign of emotional distress at the loss of her son?

Still mending her broken mind and body from her last harrowing case, Kim is supposed to be easing back into work gently. But then she finds a crucial, overlooked detail: Jamie had a recent injury that would have made it impossible for him to climb the tree. He must have been murdered.

Quickly taking back charge of her team and the case, Kim visits Jamie’s parents and is shocked to hear that they had sent him to a clinic to ‘cure’ him of his sexuality. According to his mother, Jamie was introverted and prone to mood swings. Yet his friend speaks of a vibrant, outgoing boy.

The clues to smashing open this disturbing case lie behind the old Victorian walls of the clinic, run by the Gardner family. They claim that patients come of their own accord and are free to leave at any time. But why are those that attended the clinic so afraid to speak of what happens there? And where did the faded restraint marks identified on Jamie’s wrists come from?

Then the body of a young woman is found dead by suffocation and Kim makes two chilling discoveries. The victim spent time at the clinic too, and her death was also staged to look like a suicide.

Scarred from an ordeal that nearly took her life, is Kim strong enough to stop a terrifying killer from silencing the clinic’s previous patients one by one?

Review:

If you’re a fan of this series you know the previous book, Six Graves was an emotional rollercoaster leaving Kim in a dark place. I won’t say more just in case you haven’t read it, but IYKYK. So I wasn’t sure what to expect as far as Kim and her team are concerned but things were definitely off and it was unsettling. Just another layer added to the multitudes the author already has laid out for us readers and somehow she’s always able to tug at my emotions while reading a thriller, which is not an easy task. She does it with a deft hand too, I never feel toyed with and I trust her process and know that everything is well thought out and handled meticulously. All of that to say, it’s a rocky beginning for the team when this book begins but soon enough you’re thrust straight into the action per usual.

The author usually explores two different cases in each book and this was no exception. This is such a clever tactic because there is never a dull moment and it always adds even more tension and suspense to the story. This time Kim and company are investigating murders staged as suicides and it takes them inside the world of conversion camps. I knew very little about these horrific camps or clinics beforehand but as always Marsons took great care and an empathetic hand when exploring them. On the lighter side I always enjoy my time with Kim, Bryant, Penn and Stace and I devour any new information revealed about who they are and what makes them tick. The final chapter answered the long awaited question of Bryant’s name and I loved that it ended on a lighter note. Overall another fabulous read in an excellent series, if you’re a thriller fan and you’re not reading this series are you even a thriller fan?! 😉

Overall rating. 5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Blog Tour: Between the Ocean and the Stars by M. M. Cochran

Goodreads

Release date: October 18, 2022

Publisher: Ingram Elliott

Genre: YA

Synopsis:

If he could be her tragedy, I could be a better one.

As a newcomer on Ophelia Island, Florida, Sam Carter is distraught about moving away from his life in West Virginia. But the moment he lays eyes on the mysterious diner girl, Georgia Gabehart, he can’t help but surrender to her bewitching allure.

Sam is mesmerized by Georgia even as she steals sailboats at night and breaks into lighthouses-the master of playing with knives and not getting cut. Until she’s trapped in the tight grip of her boyfriend with a dark side.

When a dangerous hurricane sweeps Sam into a police investigation and Georgia is nowhere to be found, Sam gives himself only one option: love, even if loving might end in tragedy.

This dazzling coming of age debut novel from award-winning fiction writer M.M. Cochran will take your breath away.

I’ve been in the mood for YA books lately and this certainly fit what I’ve been looking for. I’m not quite done with this one yet but I’m enjoying it! Sam is the sole point of view and getting insight from a teenaged boy is unique and interesting. This skirts the lines of a few different genres, there’s romance and some mystery so a little something for everyone.

Review: Better Than Fiction by Alexa Martin

Goodreads

Release date: November 8, 2022

Publisher: Berkley Romance

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Synopsis:

As a self-proclaimed book hater and a firm believer that the movie is always better, Drew Young didn’t anticipate inheriting her grandma’s bookstore, the Book Nook. She’s in way over her head even before the shop’s resident book club, comprising seven of the naughtiest old ladies ever, begin to do what they do best–meddle.

Bestselling author Jasper Williams is a hopeless romantic. When he meets Drew at his Book Nook signing event, he becomes determined to show her the beauty of reading. He curates a book bucket list in exchange for her help exploring the local Denver scene for his current manuscript. From river rafting to local restaurants, Drew begins to connect with Jasper in a way she only thought happened in fiction.

When messy family ties jeopardize the future of the Book Nook, Drew is caught between a bookshelf and a hard place. She’s reminded that real life isn’t always big dreams and sweeping romance. But Jasper is the plot twist she never saw coming and he’s writing a happily ever after just for them.

Review:

I’ve read plenty of books where the main character is a book store owner and usually it’s because they love to read but this was my first time reading a book about a bookstore owner who hated reading. So I wasn’t sure what to think about that aspect but it ended up being surprisingly fun actually. I was utterly charmed by this one, between the super swoony Jasper, the gorgeous Colorado setting and the hilarious dirty birds every aspect of this was enjoyable. I also really liked the fact that Jasper was a male romance author and his while he was lovable he wasn’t written in a cheesy way. I think this was an ideal fall romance, so delightful and funny and sexy! I could even see it becoming a series because I would love to see a book about Drew’s sister, Daisy 🤞🏻

Overall rating: 5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: A Small Affair by Flora Collins

Goodreads

Release date: December 27, 2022

Publisher: MIRA

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Synopsis:

A young woman’s life is torn apart when her wealthy ex-lover is found dead—along with his wife.

Vera is ruthlessly ambitious, beautiful, and knows how to get exactly what she wants—no matter who stands in the way. When she meets a wealthy older man on an exclusive dating app, she thinks nothing of the wife he tells her he’s separated from. But days later, when the man and his wife are found dead in their home, Vera is immediately blamed for their deaths and branded as good as a murderer.

A year later, she emerges from a cocoon of self-pity and tries to reenter the world, but the specter of scandal still clings to her. Then she’s invited to a memorial for the wife of her former lover. As she learns more about the family, and about the couple and their friends, she begins to suspect there was more to the story than an affair gone wrong. In a quest for redemption, Vera uncovers layers of lies and close-kept secrets held by an inner circle of filthy rich tech millionaires who will go to any lengths to protect their reputations.

Review:

I’m usually not a huge fan of a slow burn mystery but there was something incredibly intoxicating about this one that held my attention. I think a big part of the reason was that I was captivated by the authors writing style, she managed to write a story full of unlikable characters and somehow I was still invested in them? The way the story slowly unraveled revealing so many layers of deception, obsession and betrayal was hypnotic and really had a hold on me. This one went dark too, super dark in unexpected ways. Definitely many moments were I felt uncomfortable and unsettled but I’m telling you, this one got under my skin! If you like slow burn stories full of women’s rage this was good.

Overall rating: 4/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: Astrid Parker Doesn’t Fail by Ashley Herring Blake

Goodreads

Release date: November 22, 2022

Publisher: Berkley Romance

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Synopsis:

For Astrid Parker, failure is unacceptable. Ever since she broke up with her fiancé a year ago, she’s been focused on her career–her friends might say she’s obsessed, but she knows she’s just driven. When Pru Everwood asks her to be the designer for the Everwood Inn’s renovation, which will be featured on a popular HGTV show, Innside America, Astrid is thrilled. Not only will the project distract her from her failed engagement and help her struggling business, but her perpetually displeased mother might finally give her a nod of approval.

However, Astrid never planned on Jordan Everwood, Pru’s granddaughter and the lead carpenter for the renovation, who despises every modern design decision Astrid makes. Jordan is determined to preserve the history of her family’s inn, particularly as the rest of her life is in shambles. When that determination turns into some light sabotage to ruffle Astrid’s perfect little feathers, the showrunners ask them to play up the tension. But somewhere along the way, their dislike for each other evolves into something quite different, and Astrid must decide what success truly means. Is she going to pursue the life that she’s expected to lead or the one that she wants?

Review:

I absolutely loved the first book in this series, Delilah Green Doesn’t Care early this year so I definitely had high expectations going into this one. While I still enjoyed this one I didn’t like it quite as much as it’s predecessor, I think it was missing some of the magic book one had for me. BUT. Still lots to like here, I’ve been curious about Astrid and it was nice to get her perspective, you also get Jordan’s POV too and in a romance especially I’m all for seeing both sides. I was into the home renovation aspect of the story as well, design talk is interesting to me and it was a cute and fun backdrop for a romance. I felt like both Astrid and Jordan were well drawn too, it’s hard to put my finger on exactly why this wasn’t the five star read I assumed it would be. I’m still going with four stars, I loved the representation, checking in on Claire and Delilah and the authentic characters. I think maybe it felt a little long and drawn out for me in the end, maybe? But if you like queer romances that are super steamy and witty try this.

Overall rating: 4/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: The Rewind by Allison Winn Scotch

Goodreads

Release date: November 1, 2022

Publisher: Berkley Romance

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Synopsis:

When college sweethearts Frankie and Ezra broke up before graduationthey vowed to never speak to each other again. Ten years later, on the eve of the new millennium, they find themselves back on their snowy, picturesque New England campus together for the first time for the wedding of mutual friends. Frankie’s on the rise as a music manager for the hottest bands of the late ’90s, and Ezra’s ready to propose to his girlfriend after the wedding. Everything is going to plan–they just have to avoid the chasm of emotions brought up when they inevitably come face to face.

But when they wake up in bed next to each other the following morning with Ezra’s grandmother’s diamond on Frankie’s finger, they have zero memory of how they got there–or about any of the events that transpired the night before. Now Frankie and Ezra have to put aside old grievances in order to figure out what happened, what didn’t happen…and to ask themselves the most troubling question of all: what if they both got it wrong the first time around?

Review:

I struggled with this one so I’ll just keep this fairly brief. I went into it thinking it was gonna be this fun nostalgic romance and really it was more fiction, not a lot of romance and missing the nostalgia I was hoping for. I found both Frankie and Ezra to be frustrating and frankly, annoying characters so I wasn’t able to connect to them or care about them. The story also dragged for me and it felt like it was an endless cycle of trying to piece together the night before and I just didn’t care eventually. I have enjoyed the authors past books but this was just a miss for me.

Overall rating: 2.5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: A Quiet Retreat by Kiersten Modglin

Goodreads

Release date: October 31, 2022

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Synopsis:

You are cordially invited to visit the new Black Hills Manor Writing Retreat.

That’s how it all begins—with a simple invitation.

For five authors, it’s meant to be the start of a restful week, filled with free food, drinks, and likeminded company.
But shortly after their arrival, things take an unsettling turn.

Broken property, missing items, and strange noises are just some of the odd occurrences that have each member questioning their companions. As suspicions mount, the authors are pitted against each other.

Whom can they trust in a house full of strangers?

With tensions rising, the writers find themselves in the middle of their own mystery. Death, terror, and despair are common elements in their books, but at Black Hills Manor, the murders being plotted are their own.

Review:

KMod books are always tricky to review because I don’t want to give too much away, but I also want to make sure y’all know how much I enjoy her books. You never quite know what to expect when you start one of her books, her last release was super emotional but still tense and this one felt more like her usual style. It definitely gave me the same vibes as Just Married so if you’ve read and liked that one this one was even creepier for me.

I love reading books with an author as a character and this one has five so that was fun! You have the present day timeline with Blakely at the writers retreat and then “before” chapters mixed in from an unrelated character. I had no idea how she would fit in or how anything would come together but in true KMod fashion when things merged I was totally surprised. This one had some super dark moments and I loved how you knew that Blakely had something mysterious and sinister in her past, but you don’t know exactly what it is until late in the game. Kept me on my toes for sure. If you liked locked room style stories with lots of suspense, a creepy atmosphere and a strong ending try this.

Overall rating: 4.5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.