October Book Reviews (Part Two)

Can you believe all the new releases this autumn? I feel like they’ve been coming out daily. My October reviews have included a lot of new and entertaining reads.

Thank you again to everyone who’s supported me on my book tour with your visits and comments. It’s been such a blast chatting with you. Five more tour stops to go, and I’m done. More time for Nanowrimo!

October’s (part two) reviews include my 4 and 5-star reads of prehistoric fiction, a coming-of-age novel, two romance/suspense/ contemporary western mash-ups (one with a paranormal bent), a poetry book about birds, and a children’s Halloween book.

Click on the covers for Amazon global links.

*****

New Release:

Natural Selection (Dawn of Humanity, Book 3) by Jacqui Murray

The final book of the Dawn of Humanity series ends on a positive note though I suspect that Lucy’s story of survival in the prehistoric world will continue to be riddled with danger and challenges. As the title suggests, not all the branches of primitive mankind will survive and those who do will depend on their ability to develop new skills and think strategically.

The plot is straightforward with two main threads. The first is Lucy and her group’s continuing search for a sustainable homebase. The second is their plan to rescue past members of her tribe from Man-who-preys before they become so weak from hunger that they’re killed. Lucy is the main character, but not the only point of view, and other characters are frequently brought to the forefront. These include her two-legged group members as well as those with four.

Murray’s research continues to add depth and realism to the read, and I found it as fascinating as I did in the first book. Our ancestors had it tough, and their lives were intricately entwined with the world around them. I appreciated that Murray didn’t spare our modern sensibilities. Grooming bugs from each other’s skin, eating rotten meat, and “fear poop” aren’t very glamorous, but they added to the authenticity of the story. Her word choices—to describe the harsh environment, its rhythms and wild creatures, and the nature and skill of each member of her diverse group—bring life on Earth 1.8 million years ago into vivid relief.

For readers who enjoy a meticulously researched primitive world and the remarkable challenges faced by our evolutionary ancestors, I highly recommend this series. It’s fascinating. (Kindle Unlimited)

*****

New Release:

Letting Go (The Defiant Sisters, Book 1) by Jacquie Biggar

My favorite books from this author are the ones that dive into complex relationships, especially those between family members. This book checks all the boxes as a group of characters navigate the trauma, losses, and sacrifices they’ve made in their lives.

Renee fled her family after witnessing her father’s suicide. Her teenage sister Izzy, left behind with a family falling apart, had to hold it all together for their younger brother Benjamin. Simon, the boyfriend Renee abandoned without a goodbye is getting married, but he’s never forgotten her. Then Renee returns home when her mother dies, and all the difficult feelings bubble to the surface.

One major strength of the story is the way it had me rooting for every character. They’re richly drawn with authentic emotional lives, full of accomplishments as well as mistakes. There aren’t any villains beyond the unfairness of life, and it was easy to empathize with the protagonists’ anger, hurt, and love. Renee, Izzy, and Simon carry the three alternating POVs, all in first person.

The focus on human dynamics doesn’t slow down the story one bit. It moves at a good clip and I had a hard time putting it down. I read it in two sittings only because I needed to sleep in between. The action is compelling and toward the end, it’s riveting. It wrapped up well but with a sense of more to come in Book Two. It will be worth the wait. Highly Recommended! (Kindle Unlimited)

*****

New Release:

Saddled Hearts by Jan Sikes

What romance reader doesn’t love a cowboy who rescues and rehabilitates horses? That’s like, “You had me at hello.” When a stranger shows up at Colt Layne’s horse sanctuary, claiming that he won the ranch years ago in a card game with Colt’s deceased grandfather, Colt needs some answers. He visits long-time widow Sage Coventry, a medium with the ability to receive messages from the dead.

The attraction is immediate, but the couple takes their time getting to know each other, and there are problems worrying Colt. First a pasture fire, and then the stranger ends up dead and Colt is framed for murder. Cut fences and sick horses add to his suspicions that someone’s out to destroy him, and he needs to figure out who it is before he ends up in prison.

Romance and murder-mystery share the pages in equal proportion. There’s plenty of lusty attraction, including a steamy sex scene, and I think romance readers will find everything in here that they love about the genre.

The parallel mystery plot is also well done with some red herrings tossed into a mix of paranormal impressions, family secrets, old journals, and a mysterious key. There’s also an underlying theme dealing with choices, forgiveness, and redemption. Though this book can be read as a stand-alone, I highly recommend the entire series for fans of romance-paranormal-mystery mashups.

*****

Secrets in the Blood by Unity Hayes

(This book just got a new cover and pen name, so don’t be confused by the Amazon info. It’s the same book.)

Family secrets, murder, paranoia, romance, redemption. Cassidy Tanner works in a reproduction western town called The Watering Hole. It’s set up to give tourists a true old-time experience including gun fights and train robberies. Her grandfather owns the place and her brother-in-law Kenton is the sheriff. She’s in charge of hiring, and one day, Shane Weston comes looking for a job.

“West” is quiet and respectful, and he has secrets, including the scars crisscrossing his chest and back. He’s running from someone and looking for a safe place. Where better than the town where his brother Kenton lives? But is Kenton ready to accept the brother he’s always believed was paranoid? When people start dying, can West run and leave the woman he’s come to love?

This debut novel gripped my attention, and I read it in one day. Secrets added a lot of mystery, and at times, I questioned what was true and false. The characters were all richly developed. I connected with West and felt for his situation, but what was he hiding? I enjoyed Cassie’s no-nonsense strength, and though, most of the time, Kenton drove me nuts, he had good reason to question his brother’s stability.

The pace moved along quickly, full of action and suspense between interludes of romance. The town was cleverly realized, and the plot was intriguing with a few twists along the way. The story is told through multiple perspectives with some mid-scene POV changes that occasionally popped me out of the story. Even so, I highly recommend this novel to readers who enjoy mystery-thriller-romance mashups.

*****

Avian Friends: Encouraging Poems Inspired by Backyard Birds by Yvette Prior, Ph.D.

Avian friends starts with the author’s foreword on how the book came to be – the result of newly planted trees and journaling about the influx of winged visitors. The book is a collection of 45 free-form, lightly rhyming poems inspired by birds, and is appropriate for both adults and children.

The poetry is divided into five sections: Musings, Mixed Enjoyment, Life and Death, Seasons, and Faith. After each poem is a half-page “Behind the Poem,” which shares the author’s inspiration. I didn’t read all of the explanations, but for my favorite poems, it was delightful to get a glimpse into the avian happenings that inspired the verse.
A few favorite poems:
“Thought Whirls” – a peaceful and whimsical flight of the imagination.
“Connecting” – a lovely memory of the author’s grandmother leaving threads on her clothesline for birds to build their nests.
“New Life” – the sweetness of discovering a nest of baby birds.
“Fall Crunch” – a walk in the autumn leaves and spying a cardinal.

Fall Crunch (an excerpt)

Crunching leaves
beneath my feet
ice cracklin’ below
red, freezing nose
shivering
hoodie pulled close
waiting for the dog to get relief
looked up
what did I see?
bright red cardinal
looking at me –
(continued)

A lovely glimpse into the author’s thoughts as she observes the birds in her yard. Recommended to fans of birds and readers who enjoy free-form poetry with a light rhyme. Only available in paperback.

*****

New Release for Kids:

Haunted Halloween Holiday by Robbie and Michael Cheadle

Count Sugular and his family are going to a Haunted House Halloween Party that promises to be great fun. Why not turn it into a weekend getaway? This delightful children’s book introduces many of its spooky characters with limericks. There’s Baby Howler, Skelly the Skeleton, Jiggle Jelly the pet sea monster, and a pair of trolls, to name a few.

The book is illustrated with fondant (frosting) characters, and though they’re spooky, they are generally happy and kind and enjoy time with their friends and family. This is a lovely read for parents and their young children who are just starting to discover the spookiness of Halloween. Only available in paperback.

*****

Happy Reading!

The Necromancer’s Daughter Book Tour: Day 23

Welcome to Day 23 of The Necromancer’s Daughter’s Book Tour!

I hope you enjoy:

~ My favorite book from my host’s list, along with my review.

~ Something from or about The Necromancer’s Daughter (follow the link below).

~ Leave a comment on my hosts’ sites, and your name will be entered in a drawing for a $50 Amazon gift certificate. The more tour sites, the more entries!

Day 23, here we go!

acflory’s Blog: Meeka’s Mind

Andrea’s forte is science fiction, so her blog includes cool science and technology articles, but that’s not all by any means. She also shares progress on her writing, book reviews, music she loves (often to write by), and commentary on some of the wise and less-than-wise human endeavors that are happening around the world. She has one of those inquisitive minds and shares what she finds.

I’ve read all of Andrea’s books, including her novels and her collection of short stories. I’ve been bugging her for another book from her alien Vokhtah series, which she’s diligently working on. It’s a story written entirely from an alien POV, which intrigues me no end.

Her Innerscape series is complete, and it’s riveting. Here’s a review:

Miira (Innerscape Book One) by acflory

My Review: What a beautifully written book. Innerscape is a science fiction story about a middle-aged woman Miira whose disease-ravaged body is dying. She decides to enter Innercape where her body will be pared down to her essential components and preserved while she lives out her life in a virtual world as a younger, healthy version of herself.

The first book in the series covers two aspects of her immersion in Innerscape – first, the preparation of her new body and the tests to prepare for her transition, and second, the transition into the VR world and her orientation. As a series, the story continues beyond the initial book, and Flory hooks the reader with the introduction of several challenging characters, corporate compromises, questionable ethics, and love.

The science is detailed and utterly entrancing, as well as completely understandable to the layperson. The premise and technology also seem entirely plausible, if not now, then in the not-so-distant future. Flory’s writing is meticulous and detailed, and the world she’s created held my fascination throughout.

And all that wasn’t even the best part! Set against the scientific backdrop, is an engrossing human story. Miira is reserved, sensitive, inquisitive, and vulnerable, a beautifully rendered human being undergoing a process that requires complete trust and a step into the unknown. The story is told primarily from her point of view and the immersion in her experience is complete. The Innerscape staff that supports her are multidimensional and believably flawed characters.

The pace is steady and yet I flew through the book because I could NOT put it down. Exquisite writing, gorgeous descriptions, high-tech science, and human pathos that grab the reader. I’m a fan and gladly recommend this book to readers of science fiction and anyone who enjoys an unusual human story.

***

If you have a chance, head on over to join The Necromancer’s Daughter tour at Andrea’s blog: Meeka’s Mind.

The Necromancer’s Daughter Book Tour: Day 22

Welcome to Day 22 of The Necromancer’s Daughter’s Book Tour!

I hope you enjoy:

~ My favorite book from my host’s list, along with my review.

~ Something from or about The Necromancer’s Daughter (follow the link below).

~ Leave a comment on my hosts’ sites, and your name will be entered in a drawing for a $50 Amazon gift certificate. The more tour sites, the more entries!

Day 22, here we go!

Miriam Hurdle’s Blog: Showers of Blessings

Miriam is one of the nicest bloggers around. She always has a kind word for her visitors and is happy to engage. She shares tidbits about her family and her latest projects – including raising endangered Monarch butterflies. How cool is that! Her posts are eclectic as she partakes in a number of writing challenges including poetry and flash fiction, and shares her photography and book reviews. She’s always willing to lend a hand when it’s time for a release.

Miriam is an eclectic writer too and has three published books: A poetry collection, a children’s book, and her just-released memoir about her battle with cancer, titled The Winding Road: A Journey of Survival.

The Winding Road: A Journey of Survival by Miriam Hurdle

My Review: I read this short book in an afternoon, the same day I picked up my husband after his cancer surgery. It struck a chord, and the author’s journey, though intensely personal, resonated.

Hurdle kept a diary from the time of her hysterectomy and the discovery of cancer, through her treatment, and onward to her recovery. Her cancer wasn’t only extremely rare, but her prognosis was bleak. She relates the events of her journey with a great deal of honesty and courage.

One of the important lessons I noted from reading her story is the need for patients (and their families) to advocate for themselves and their loved ones. For example, Hurdle describes long waits for information and finally driving to her physician’s office and refusing to leave the waiting room until she received the help she needed.

She also shares the kindness and competence of her treatment team, as well as the huge difference her church and community made in supporting her with rides, meals, and prayers. The love of her family and friends and her strong faith were important contributors to her emotional strength when her physical body was being devastated by the disease and treatment (intense chemo, radiation, and multiple surgeries).

This book is a worthwhile read for anyone supporting a cancer patient. And I highly recommend it to those brave souls who are facing their own diagnoses and are seeking strength and wisdom through another survivor’s story.

***

If you have a chance, head on over to join The Necromancer’s Daughter tour at Miriam’s blog: Showers of Blessings.

The Necromancer’s Daughter Book Tour: Day 21

Welcome to Day 21 of The Necromancer’s Daughter’s Book Tour!

I hope you enjoy:

~ My favorite book from my host’s list, along with my review.

~ Something from or about The Necromancer’s Daughter (follow the link below).

~ Leave a comment on my hosts’ sites, and your name will be entered in a drawing for a $50 Amazon gift certificate. The more tour sites, the more entries!

Day 21, here we go!

John Howell’s Blog: Fiction Favorites

John is a prolific blogger with almost daily posts. He’s also a contributor over at Story Empire where he shares his writing knowledge and experience. He posts daily on his personal blog, sticking to a set schedule including stream-of-consciousness and photo prompts, a visit to the goings-on in his neck of the woods, hilarious top ten lists, good news from around the world, and my favorite… conversations between his dogs, Lucy and Twiggy. They’re adorable.

Somehow, between all that blogging, John writes great books, including thrillers, paranormal suspense, and paranormal stories about life after death. I’ve read all of his fiction, and now my husband is hooked too. Here’s the book that kicked it all off:

My GRL by John W. Howell

My Review: John Cannon is on a sabbatical from his high-powered attorney job and decides to spend a year on Mustang Island off the coast of Texas working on his used 65’ boat. Then his friend ends up shot, and the sheriff suspects that he’s keeping secrets. Add to that, it turns out that terrorists want his boat.

This book moves along at a fast clip as John deals with the sheriff and then gets embroiled in the terrorists’ plot. He’s a dynamic character, and for me, he brought the book to life. He’s kind of an average guy, but he’s smart and resourceful (for the most part), and he has some attitude. I had a great time watching him deal with all the problems while completely out of his element.

The story didn’t bog down with description or backstory, and it had just the right amount of shipboard detail to lend authenticity to the setting, John’s capabilities, and the story’s resolution. I will definitely read more of this character and author. Though a thriller, the book was also a lot of fun. Highly recommended for readers of action novels and thrillers, and book-lovers who enjoy great characters.

***

If you have a chance, head on over to join The Necromancer’s Daughter tour at John’s blog: Fiction Favorites.

The Necromancer’s Daughter Book Tour: Day 20

Welcome to Day 20 of The Necromancer’s Daughter’s Book Tour!

I hope you enjoy:

~ My favorite book from my host’s list, along with my review.

~ Something from or about The Necromancer’s Daughter (follow the link below).

~ Leave a comment on my hosts’ sites, and your name will be entered in a drawing for a $50 Amazon gift certificate. The more tour sites, the more entries!

Day 20, here we go!

Shehanne Moore’s Blog: Smexy Historical Romance

Lady Furry

Shey is a delightful blogger, brimming with enthusiasm, and always willing to chat and laugh. On top of that, she’s a wonderful writer of regency romances. Her blog is a great place to learn about her books. It’s also a place to find The Dudes, a collection of hamsters (and a mouse) who have opinions on just about everything and don’t mind sharing them. They conduct interviews, share book reviews, and handle promotions. They frequently steal the show.

For fun, I made an image of Lady Furry (a hamster version of the title character in the book below). Head to Shey’s site to meet the rest of the rodents.

I’ve read a bunch of Shey’s books, and I get such a kick out of them. Her main characters are witty and vibrant, and they get into wild situations that just beg for humor. Here’s one of my reviews:

The Unraveling of Lady Fury by Shehanne Moore

My Review: This book was a hoot. Imagine a romance where the characters are blackmailing each other and yet contractually agree to produce an heir.

Lady Fury needs an heir if she hopes to keep the estate of her dead husband, who, by the way, is in a box in the cellar and starting to stink. Captain Flint Blackmoore is an old flame from years past, a privateer who dumped Fury on the docks and later lost his ship. He knows about the body in the cellar, and she knows his real identity. They’re stuck with each other.

The numerous clinical “rules” Fury imposes on Flint regarding the act of reproduction generate some one-upmanship, negotiation, and plenty of outrage. How exactly does one have sex without touching or removing one’s clothes? For the characters, the act of sex becomes an act of war. For the reader, it’s hysterical. And heaven forbid they fall in love.

Time is of the essence because of the decomposing body, and Fury demands repeat performances for as long as it takes. With all the wrangling and finagling, the initial installment of the contract takes the first 25% of the book, and it’s all entertaining as heck.

I loved the tight POV that allowed me to experience Fury’s running commentary up close and personal. Both she and Flint are sympathetic characters even when driving each other nearly insane with frustration. The pace whips along, the characters motivated, the flush of emotions rampant. Highly recommended to readers of romance, and readers who enjoy the fireworks when great characters are thrown together in a madcap plot.

***

If you have a chance, head on over to join The Necromancer’s Daughter tour at Shey’s blog: Smexy Historical Romance.

October Book Reviews (Part One)

Somehow, while in the midst of my marathon book tour, I also managed to read some books, many of them new releases. What a busy autumn. I thought I’d better share some reviews now before they pile up.

Once again, I want to thank all those bloggers and readers who’ve supported me on my tour with your wonderful visits and comments. I’m sure you’re getting sick of me, but I’m on the home stretch now. I also hope you’ve enjoyed meeting other bloggers and learning about their books.

October’s (part one) reviews include my 4 and 5-star reads of a fiction anthology, two crime thrillers, two coming-of-age women’s lit novels, a western contemporary romance, and an urban fantasy.

Click on the covers for Amazon global links.

*****

Distant Flickers: Stories of Identity and Loss (An Anthology)

Usually, when I read an anthology, it’s easy to pick out my favorite stories. Those are the memorable ones that I acknowledge in a review—exquisitely written, emotionally stirring, and resonant as I recall them hours after closing the book. What am I to do when every story fits that description?

Each story in this anthology is unique, and yet they are built around the theme of identity and loss, often involving a pivotal decision, a step into the unknown, or acknowledging a hard truth. In some ways, they’re character studies, richly crafted glimpses into human lives and the circumstances that shape them.

Now I’ll do what I said I couldn’t do. There are a handful of stories that have stuck with me since I closed the book a couple of days ago: “Where Secrets Go to Hide” by Keith Madsen, “The Coveting” by Carol LaHines, “Diary Omissions” by Elizabeth Gauffreau, and “A Spoonful of Soup” by Rita Baker. This collection of ten tales by eight authors isn’t a long book, and I read it in a couple of hours. Highly recommended to readers who love character-driven and beautifully written human stories.

*****

Ghost of a Chance by Jaye Marie

David Snow fails his fitness test after getting shot with a crossbow. As a result, he loses the detective job he loved. But that’s not the only thing in his life falling apart. His wife, Jane, is having a torrid and dangerous affair, and his attempt to work as a private investigator is ticking off Alan, a rival who seems determined to make him suffer. The only good thing happening in his life is Laurie, a college student with a couple of mysteries to solve. She becomes his sidekick, affectionately known as Nancy Drew.

The story unfolds in four POVs (for the aforementioned characters). David tells his story in 1st person and the other three in 3rd person. The pace moves along quickly with plenty of action and just the right amount of reference to previous books in the series. I had no trouble following and polished off the book in a single day.

The characters were complex and multifaceted. Laurie is a ray of sunshine, and it was a toss-up as to whether I liked her or David the best. Jane and Alan are much more troubled and less likable, particularly Alan who falls deeply into a villainous role.

The read seems to work well as a stand-alone, but two major plot threads are left open for a future book: 1) a creepy paranormal/possession case that David is investigating. And 2) an unexpected murder that points in a few different directions. For readers who don’t mind a couple of loose ends, both are reasons to look forward to the next book. Highly recommended to fans of crime novels and thrillers who enjoy a paranormal twist.

*****

Just Before Sunrise by Carol Balawyder

Nadine has her sights on her wealthy husband Logan’s life insurance, and the quickest way to cash in is to murder the older man. An affair with Charlie, Logan’s stepson from a previous marriage, guarantees her an accomplice. When photos show up of the man’s drowning, Nadine and Charlie start planning a second murder, but this time, they need someone to take the fall. Enter Maya, a sixteen-year-old trying to get off the streets and turn her life around. Charlie plays Maya, entrances her, and Maya is completely taken in.

The pace of this suspenseful read moves along quickly right from the start. I held my breath as I could see Maya making one mistake after another and falling in love with a man who was manipulating her and setting her up. Fortunately, at age sixteen, she has some allies looking out for her, but the heart wants what the heart wants.

The story is free of graphic sex and violence. It unfolds in multiple POVs, all third person except for Maya, whose chapters are in first person. I liked Maya as a character. Despite her naivete, she’s a believable teen with a full backstory and range of emotions. Nadine and Charlie were utterly devious, and I enjoyed their scenes, eager for them to fail. A subplot between two secondary characters threads through the main story. A fast-paced, suspenseful read that I highly recommend to fans of coming-of-age thrillers.

*****

Chocolate for Breakfast by Martha Reynolds

In 1979, Bernadette is on her way to spend her junior year abroad in Zurich. She plans to study and travel, but her initial goal is to lose her virginity. The future is wide open and life is still an adventure. She accomplishes her goal but also ends up pregnant. Her worries, her choices, and the outcome are covered in the first 75% of the read.

Even though the decision is hers, and she has wonderful support from those around her, the final outcome isn’t certain, and I was completely immersed in the story. Bernie’s every choice involves sacrifice, and the book made me think about the thousands of women faced with the same dilemma, many with fewer resources. Bernie is a well-rounded and thoroughly believable character as are all secondary characters from top to bottom.

The last 25% of the book jumps ahead twenty-three years to 2002. Bernie is 43 years old and still struggling with her past decision, her life in shambles. A death in her family opens a shocking door to understanding and forgiveness and another choice—whether to walk through. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and highly recommend it to readers of women’s lit, family sagas, and coming-of-age stories. (Kindle Unlimited>)

*****

Secret Santa’s Rundown Sleigh by Mary J. McCoy-Dressel

Terra and her daughter Kylee are on their way to visit family for Christmas when their car breaks down. Stuck in a small town, with every hotel booked solid for the holiday and a winter storm on the way, Terra is desperate. A kindly waitress at the local diner offers them a place to stay – at her brother’s home.

Jude Overton, a widower with a young daughter Kylee’s age, isn’t happy about the unexpected visitors. As the storm sets in, Jude, the town’s Secret Santa, is stuck without “elves.” He needs Terra’s help delivering presents, and they pack the girls into his rundown sleigh. All does not go well … at first.

This hour-long read is a light-hearted romance with all the trimmings for the holiday. The characters are likable and genuine. Terra and Jude share the POV, the pace speeds along, and the plot is cute. I loved the two girls. They were delightful, funny, and heartwarming. A highly recommended Christmas romance for readers looking for a dose of good cheer. (Kindle Unlimited.)

*****

The Midnight Rambler (The Hat series, #6) by C. C. Boyack

I’ve read a few of Boyack’s books from the Hat series. They’re wild paranormal adventures that move at a mind-boggling pace and are full of clever asides and fun banter. I read this one in a single sitting, the same day I purchased it.

Lizzie and the Hat have a new friend, Ray, who desperately needs a magical medicine to stay alive, and the witch who knows how to make it has disappeared. But that isn’t their only problem. The Midnight Rambler is back, a living scarecrow and old enemy of the Hat. With his pumpkinhead army, he’s hell-bent on killing the Hat and doesn’t care who gets in the way.

Between all the madcap violence and humor there are also moments of tenderness as Ray and Lizzie begin a relationship. Their intimacy and Ray’s impending death raise the stakes as does the Rambler’s killing spree. I enjoyed seeing this new side of Lizzie.

Characters from past books have cameos throughout this one, and there are references to previous stories. It isn’t necessary to have read the books in order, though I recommend it, simply as a way to become familiar with the colorful cast of characters as they enter the series. “The Hat” is definitely the place to start. I highly recommend this series to readers looking for an entertaining jaunt through Boyack’s imagination. (Kindle Unlimited.)

*****

Three Years of Her Life by C. E. Robinson

At the opening of Robinson’s debut novel, Elizabeth is on her way to nursing school. It’s 1957, and she stops by to visit her stern grandmother, a woman of German descent, who gives her a locket that belonged to Elizabeth’s deceased grandfather. Inside the locket is the picture of a woman, and her grandmother wants Elizabeth to find out who the woman was.

But Elizabeth gets distracted with nursing school and a romance with Erik, a Jewish doctor and all-around great guy. When she eventually learns the truth of the locket’s portrait—that the woman is her true great-grandmother, and that she was Jewish—her extended family erupts with some hateful antisemitism.

Though her family’s reaction is painful, and Erik’s Jewish mother is resentful of Elizabeth’s relationship with her son, Elizabeth and Erik are generally secure in their relationship, and at its heart, this is a romance with some ups and downs, most of them brought on by Elizabeth’s childhood trauma at her grandmother’s hands.

Elizabeth’s love of music (something she inherited from her grandfather) plays a large role in the story, and her infatuation with her guitar teacher creates some relationship tension. Erik is a sweetheart throughout, and he was my favorite character, along with Marlene, Elizabeth’s no-nonsense friend.

The pace is moderate with a fair amount of exposition in the beginning, which gets Elizabeth through nursing school. Once she and Erik fall in love, there are numerous vignettes showing the development of their relationship as well as her growing musical talent. A significant change happens in the last 15% of the story when Erik travels to Germany as the Berlin Wall reshapes Europe, finishing up the love story with plenty of suspense. This is a lovely debut romance novel for readers who enjoy a bit of historical fiction, family saga, and suspense added into the mix.

*****

Happy Reading!

The Necromancer’s Daughter Book Tour: Day 19

Welcome to Day 19 of The Necromancer’s Daughter’s Book Tour!

I hope you enjoy:

~ My favorite book from my host’s list, along with my review.

~ Something short and different from The Necromancer’s Daughter (follow the link below).

~ Leave a comment on my hosts’ sites, and your name will be entered in a drawing for a $50 Amazon gift certificate. The more tour sites, the more entries!

Day 19, here we go!

Shagun Shukla’s Author Blog

Shagun is multi-talented. She has three blogs that are all worth visiting. Her main blog, Shagun Shukla, is a place to find links to the other two. It’s also a place to browse her poetry, books, and publication information. The Life in Pictures is a lovely blog where she shares her photography and image-inspired poetry. And finally, for those who enjoy beautiful writing and reflections on life, I recommend stopping by Twisted Fabric. You won’t be disappointed.

Shagun’s poetry appears in a two-volume anthology FRIENDS & FRIENDSHIP of The Poet, which includes 248 contributions from 175 poets in 46 countries on the topic of friendship. She also co-wrote a romantic thriller with nine other authors. I was intrigued! 

Altitudinis – Seekers, Sinners & Secrets (10-author collaboration)

My Review: Altitudinis is a serum under development that promises exceptional endurance at high altitudes. It will benefit India’s military as well as its businesses whose employees work in the mountains. But it hasn’t been tested on humans, and unwitting adventurers are targeted for trials. And there are unscrupulous thieves who would like to steal the research and sell it as their own.

Those are only two plot threads that run through this suspense/romance/family drama written by ten authors. The complexity of such a writing collaboration intrigued me, and it may be one reason why there was so much going on in the book with the plots and subplots. Overall, it was surprisingly cohesive and consistent, as if written by one author. That’s quite a feat.

The pace moves quickly. One of the challenges with so much plot-related action, as well as the number of main characters, is that there wasn’t much time to get deeply into the characters’ psyches, emotions, or backstories. Nikhil and Nirali were the exceptions with some time given to their relationship and romance. Because I got to know them personally, they were my favorites.

With the addition of an omniscient POV, this book struck me as a broad versus deep story. Readers looking for a character-driven book may find themselves wanting more depth and focus, but readers who enjoy action-driven stories that don’t get bogged down in messy emotions, description, and backstory, may have found just the thing to fill an afternoon of reading.

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If you have a chance, head on over to join The Necromancer’s Daughter tour at Shagun’s blog: Twisted Fabric.

The Necromancer’s Daughter Book Tour: Day 18

Welcome to Day 18 of The Necromancer’s Daughter’s Book Tour!

I hope you enjoy:

~ My favorite book from my host’s list, along with my review.

~ Something from or about The Necromancer’s Daughter (follow the link below).

~ Leave a comment on my hosts’ sites, and your name will be entered in a drawing for a $50 Amazon gift certificate. The more tour sites, the more entries!

Day 18, here we go!

Suzanne Craig-Whytock’s Blog: My Dang Blog

Do you need a laugh this morning? Head over to Suzanne’s blog. She’s one of those naturally funny people who can find humor in every aspect of daily life. Twice a week, her blog is a source of laughs, and I rarely miss a post. She buys used furniture, clocks, and other things, which she refurbishes and sells, but her humor runs the gamut. No opportunity for a laugh is overlooked, and for fans of tongue-in-cheek sarcasm… well you can’t go wrong at Suzanne’s.

You might think that Suzanne writes humor since her blog is hilarious, but she writes science fiction and horror. Some of her books aren’t available on kindle, but the one below is, and if you enjoy a lot of variety when reading dark and creepy short stories, well… this collection is great. (And I just heard that there’s a new collection coming out in December!)

Feasting Upon the Bones

My Review: This speculative fiction anthology of short stories by Suzanne Craig-Whytock is loaded with gems. I read it in one sitting late into the night, saying to myself, “Just one more,” until the book ran out of pages.

The stories are broken into three sections: Be Careful What You Wish For, What Goes Around, and The Price of Love is Loss. I had a bunch of favorites in each section but found every story entertaining and well “executed.”

Some of the stories were creepy like “The Grandmother Tree” and the “Human Match.” Some were dark and twisted like the title story “Feasting Upon the Bones” and “Brotherly Love.” A few fell into the realm of dark humor and had me chuckling such as “Mr. Death Comes To Call” and “As the Crow Flies.” And believe it or not, there were a few heartwarming tales of kindness and love like “Little Soldier” and “Perfect Food.”

The collection of stories is impressive. Highly recommended to readers of short stories who love dark speculative fiction.

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If you have a chance, head on over to join The Necromancer’s Daughter tour at Suzanne’s blog: My Dang Blog.

The Necromancer’s Daughter Book Tour: Day 17

Welcome to Day 17 of The Necromancer’s Daughter’s Book Tour!

I hope you enjoy:

~ My favorite book from my host’s list, along with my review.

~ Something from or about The Necromancer’s Daughter (follow the link below).

~ Leave a comment on my hosts’ sites, and your name will be entered in a drawing for a $50 Amazon gift certificate. The more tour sites, the more entries!

Day 17, here we go!

Ritu Bhathal’s Blog: But I Smile Anyway

I’ve been following Ritu for a long time. Her blog is a place where she shares her writing journey, reflections on process and writing tips (these alone would be worth a visit), promotions, and glimpses into the non-writing parts of her life.

I’ve read both of Ritu’s books, starting with her poetry collection a number of years ago. Her more recent efforts have been in cultural heritage fiction with her very popular Rishtay series, a romantic jaunt set in India. Book 2 will be out next summer, and you can bet I’ll be reading it.

Here’s my review of Book One:

Marriage Unarranged by Ritu Bhathal

My Review: This is a light, romantic jaunt from England to India and back again. When Aashi finds a used condom in her fiancé’s bathroom, the wedding is suddenly off. Her family is angry and embarrassed, but they support her decision. A trip to India, originally to purchase a wedding gown, becomes a vacation for Aashi and a chance to unwind and heal. Her two brothers and her best friend Karin go along.

The romantic story is fairly straightforward, and it unfolds at a leisurely pace. What held my attention the most was the story’s immersion in India’s rich culture and setting, specifically the bustling city of Delhi. The main characters are England born and raised, so the influences of their dual cultures were interesting to see played out, and the details of life in India were fascinating. Bhathal clearly incorporated a wealth of personal experience into the narrative.

The characters are all likable, except for the cheating fiancé, though I felt a twinge of sympathy for him by the end. All in all, this story is about family, culture, self-esteem and independence, love and friendship. Highly recommended to readers who enjoy romance, women’s lit, and a fun jaunt to India.

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If you have a chance, head on over to join The Necromancer’s Daughter tour at Ritu’s blog: But I Smile Anyway.

I found this one on Ritu’s blog

The Necromancer’s Daughter Book Tour: Day 16

Welcome to Day 16 of The Necromancer’s Daughter’s Book Tour!

I hope you enjoy:

~ A lovely community of bloggers and a review of a favorite book from my host’s list.

~ Something from or about The Necromancer’s Daughter (follow the link below).

~ Leave a comment on my hosts’ sites, and your name will be entered in a drawing for a $50 Amazon gift certificate. The more tour sites, the more entries!

Day 16, here we go!

Sandra Cox’s Blog: Sandra’s Place

Sandra’s blog is an eclectic mix of book reviews, new releases, author interviews, and her thoughts on writing. She includes a healthy assortment of posts sharing humorous memes, random facts, and glimpses into her daily life including lovely photos.

Above all, Sandra is a prolific writer! I’ve read a lot of her books and have only scratched the surface. The genres are diverse, including fantasy, a non-fiction book about gardening, and a series of novellas about cats, but she’s best known for her romances, specifically her western romance/action mashups, some with a paranormal element. I’m reading them as fast as she writes them.

Now for a review of Sandra’s new release, this one with a time-travel twist:

Geller’s Find by Sandra Cox

My Review: Luke Geller is a college professor planning to enjoy the last few weeks of his summer digging for potsherds in Nevada. In Cox’s western-romance-paranormal mash-ups, I just knew Luke was in for an unexpected ride through time. He finds himself in 1882, oddly dressed and, for all intents and purposes, homeless. He also finds himself in the company of Lily, the young owner of a ranch who’s struggling to hold onto her place. Stryker, a man of questionable character, wants to buy her out, and Luke is curious as to why. And then there’s the shooter who’s taking aim at Lily and her household.

I’ve come to expect great characters from Cox—independent women, handsome and endearing men, and strong-willed antagonists. Luke, Lily, and Stryker fit the bill, but there are some great secondary characters in this book as well, particularly the flirtatious Saffron, shy and vision-impaired Taffy, and Luke’s mom, a character that had me laughing out loud toward the end.

The plot holds together well with some red herrings tossed in, and I liked the two-way time travel in this book, which added a fun twist. The romance isn’t steamy or gushy, which I really appreciated. And the pace is lickety-split. I polished off the book in half a day. Highly recommended to fans of western romance with a bit of time travel and a lot of great characters.

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If you have a chance, head on over to join The Necromancer’s Daughter tour at Sandra’s blog: Sandra’s Place.