Monday, April 23, 2018

Review: Swimming Between Worlds

Swimming Between Worlds by Elaine Neil Orr

Publication Date: 04/03/2018
Publisher: Berkley Publishing Group
Imprint: Berkley
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: 416
ISBN-13978-0425282731

(Received for an honest review from Berkley via Netgalley)

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound

Elaine Neil Orr on the WEB: WebsiteTwitter, Facebook, Goodreads

Excerpt from Swimming Between Worlds, courtesy of Amazon's Look Inside feature

Synopsis:

From the critically acclaimed writer of A Different Sun, a Southern coming-of-age novel that sets three very different young people against the tumultuous years of the American civil rights movement...

Tacker Hart left his home in North Carolina as a local high school football hero, but returns in disgrace after being fired from a prestigious architectural assignment in West Africa. Yet the culture and people he grew to admire have left their mark on him. Adrift, he manages his father's grocery store and becomes reacquainted with a girl he barely knew growing up.

Kate Monroe's parents have died, leaving her the family home and the right connections in her Southern town. But a trove of disturbing letters sends her searching for the truth behind the comfortable life she's been bequeathed.

On the same morning but at different moments, Tacker and Kate encounter a young African-American, Gaines Townson, and their stories converge with his. As Winston-Salem is pulled into the tumultuous 1960s, these three Americans find themselves at the center of the civil rights struggle, coming to terms with the legacies of their pasts as they search for an ennobling future.


Thoughts:

Author Elaine Neil Orr brings readers a novel set during the turbulent civil rights movement of the 1960's. Swimming Between Worlds is part romance, part political drama. Racial tensions and segregation were at an all time high when three young people from different walks of life, come together in a way that will change their lives forever. Swimming Between Worlds is a compelling novel that will draw readers back in time and make them consider the question of race and how it relates to us today, in a whole new way. A necessary novel!

What I liked:

Ok, i'll be the first to admit that most of the books I review do not generally have such an emotional and deep subject. Racial tension in America is still high and people view it through very different lenses. I grew up in the South and most likely see it  differently than someone who is from say, New York, or even overseas. A book like this one by Elaine Neil Orr shines a light not only on what the country was going through during the height of the civil rights movement, but what we are still going through today. Things have certainly changed, but in someways remain the same. And that in my opinion is a sad fact. Swimming Between Worlds is a more complicated book than the usual fare here, but it is definitely one I won't soon forget.

Tacker was a high school star, prepared for greatness. He was poised to become a great architect until things go awry during an assignment in Nigeria. He comes home in a bit of disgrace and ends up managing his families local grocery store, but while he was abroad he became enmeshed with the Nigerian people and their culture. His return to the South makes him start to question the laws and the lack of rights of African American's in his own community. Tacker's character is basically starting to see his world in a way he is unused to and it has a profound affect on him. Orr basically creates a coming of age story but it's not about becoming a man it's more about becoming a human, if that makes sense. It's about finding your own truth in the midst of a world that is telling you something entirely different. Tacker's character to me, was like the person who has been blind to something, seeing it for the first time. Extremely, well drawn characters are one of Elaine Neil Orr's strengths in this novel.

The other two young people in the novel Kate and Gaines are also very well drawn and will strike cords within the reader as well. Kate is recovering from the loss of her parents and seeing her find out things she never knew about them through old letters is both emotional and stirring to the core. Kate is essentially adrift in her life and when she is left the family home and it's contents she begins to turn a corner of her own. One where she finds out what is most important in life. Her relationship with Tacker creates the love story in the book, but it certainly takes a back seat to the political arena and the tumultuous setting of the book.

Gaines a young black man, who pushes the boundaries of the Jim Crow laws. He knows that change will never come if no one takes a stand. He is the type of character we all wish we could be in some ways. We see something wrong and we fix it. But obviously, life is often not like that. It takes a special person to carry out the difficult things. To put their life in jeopardy to make life better for the next generation. I had great respect for this character and people like him. Orr does such an amazing job of bringing her characters to life. By the end of the book readers will feel like they know them. That their stories are somehow intertwined with their own. Such amazing writing!

What I didn't Like:

There isn't much I didn't like here. There were parts of it that certainly bothered me. There were parts that were eye opening and challenging. The deep stuff often makes us uncomfortable. I laughed in parts, cried in others and felt generally overwhelmed at times reading it. There was love between Tacker and Kate and great friendship and understanding with Gaines. I don't think there is much to dislike about this novel except our own stupid behavior. 

Bottom Line:

I thought Elaine Neil Orr did such an amazing job of comparing and contrasting what Tacker was seeing both in Nigeria and in North Carolina. Her storytelling is vivid and captivating and it honestly made me want to visit Nigeria for myself. Her descriptions of the culture and rituals were exceptional. But she also made me really think about how we as a country were treating other human beings and how we are still treating them. There were parts of this book that made me cringe, that made me ashamed and made me wish things were different. I wanted to be like Gaines, but sitting here reading a book or writing a blog post isn't important is it? But what if it were. What if using my own small platform could make a difference in some small way... Maybe that's what this book is really about. 

Don't miss this one, guys. It's one of those books that matter.

Swimming Between Worlds is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.  

I'm giving this one 5 out of 5 apples from my book bag!




About the Author:

Elaine Neil Orr is professor of English at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, where she teaches world literature and creative writing. She also serves on the faculty of the low-residency MFA in Writing program at Spalding University in Louisville. Author of A Different Sun, two scholarly books, and the memoir Gods of Noonday: A White Girl's African Life, she has been a featured speaker and writer-in-residence at numerous universities and conferences and is a frequent fellow at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. She grew up in Nigeria.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Review: A Nantucket Wedding

A Nantucket Wedding by Nancy Thayer

Publication Date: 04/03/2018
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Imprint: Ballantine Books
Genre: Women's Fiction, Romance
Pages: 320
ISBN-13978-1101967102

(Received for an honest review from Ballantine via Netgalley)

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, itunes

Nancy Thayer on the WEB: Website, Blog, Twitter (Not updated), Facebook, Goodreads

Excerpt from A Nantucket Wedding, courtesy of Amazon's Look Inside feature

Synopsis:

Wedding bells are ringing, a family is reunited, and new love is blooming—for better or worse—in this captivating novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Island House and Secrets in Summer.

A few years after losing her beloved husband, Alison is doing something she never thought she would do again: getting married. While placing the finishing touches on her summer nuptials, Alison is anxious to introduce her fiancé, David, to her grown daughters: Felicity, a worried married mother of two, and Jane, also married but focused on her career. The sisters have a somewhat distant relationship and Alison hopes that the wedding and the weeks leading up to the ceremony will give the siblings a chance to reconnect, as well as meet and get to know David’s grown children.

As the summer progresses, it is anything but smooth sailing. Felicity stumbles upon a terrible secret that could shatter her carefully cultivated world. Jane finds herself under the spell of her soon-to-be stepbrother, Ethan, who is as charming as he is mysterious. And even Alison is surprised (and slightly alarmed) by her new blended family. Revelations, intrigue, resentments—as the Big Day approaches, will the promise of bliss be a bust?
     
Against the gorgeous backdrop of the sunswept island of Nantucket, Nancy Thayer sets the stage for a walk down the aisle no one will ever forget.


Thoughts:

Nancy Thayer doesn't disappoint with her latest book, A Nantucket Wedding. This is the story of a blended family and all of the challenges that go with it. There's nothing like a wedding to bring a family together, for better or for worse. Thayer's smooth style and wonderful descriptions of Nantucket Island make this one a perfect beach read. Readers looking for a book that delves into family relationships and bonds will truly enjoy this one!

What I liked:

Nancy Thayer's books always make me want to visit the area she is writing about. Nantucket seems like a such a picturesque place. Sometimes the setting of the book can take on the semblance of an actual character in the story and I think that happens in this one. Could the same tale have taken place somewhere else? Sure. But Thayer's attention to detail and her vivid descriptions are so captivating and engaging. It just makes the story that much more poignant.

Alison is my kind of lady. She has suffered loss in her life but she doesn't let that keep her down. When she opens her heart to love again, she finds it with David. I thought their relationship was just wonderful. There are certainly challenges when it comes to blended families and after reading this one i'm not sure it's better if the children are already grown or not lol... Alison always seems to keep a level head and try to be the peace maker of the group. I liked that she believed her wedding would bring everyone together in more ways than one and in the end it really did.

The relationship that begins to develop between sisters, Jane and Felicity was honestly my favorite part of the book. When the story starts they are quite distant from each other, but as it goes on they start to see each other in a different light. They begin to appreciate the struggles that each one of them is having and they relate to each other in unexpected ways. Sisters should be close. But that's often a very difficult road. I loved the fact that Thayer is able to show the situations and challenges of life with this one and how family can help.

The interactions between the adult children of Alison and the adult children of David, get a little complicated. Poppy, David's daughter is poised to take over his company and she and Alison don't exactly see eye to eye. Ethan, David's son is quite a flirt and his interactions with Jane were interesting and filled with uncertainty. Jane is struggling with her desire to have a child and her husband is not budging. Felicity's worries involve her workaholic husband. There are just so many things going on. I loved the whole dynamic of this blended bunch.

What I didn't like:

There is generally one character that doesn't make a reader warm and fuzzy. In this case, the husbands of both Jane and Felicity, might get under the readers skin. It will have nothing to do with Thayer's writing, it's just the circumstances of the story. But conflict must come from somewhere if you want a good read. P.S. one of these guys I still didn't like by the end. *wink*

Bottom Line:

This a great beach read. Or even on a day when you just don't want to venture out into the wide world. Snuggle up with a blanket, a good cup of Joe and devour this one. I loved the relationships that developed throughout the book and as usual Thayer stuns with her captivating characters and wonderful descriptive writing. A must read for Thayer fans and everybody else.

A Nantucket Wedding is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 5 out of 5 apples from my book bag!




About the Author:

Nancy Thayer is the New York Times bestselling author of A Nantucket Wedding, Secrets in Summer, The Island House, The Guest Cottage, An Island Christmas, Nantucket Sisters, A Nantucket Christmas, Island Girls, Summer Breeze, Heat Wave, Beachcombers, Summer House, Moon Shell Beach, and The Hot Flash Club. She lives on Nantucket.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Review: Sit, Stay, Love

Sit, Stay, Love (Rescue Me - Book 2) by Debbie Burns

Publication Date: 04/03/2018
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Imprint: Casablanca
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 416
ISBN-13978-1492650867

(Received for an honest review from Sourcebooks Casablanca via Netgalley)

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, itunes

Debbie Burns on the WEB: WebsiteTwitter, Facebook, Goodreads

Books in the series:

Rescue Me

1. A New Leash on Love
2. Sit, Stay, Love

Coverart: Click the image for a larger, clearer view of the covers in this series.



Excerpt from Sit, Stay, Love, courtesy of Amazon's Look Inside feature

Synopsis:

These dogs aren't the only ones in need of rescue
For devoted no-kill shelter worker Kelsey Sutton, rehabbing a group of rescue dogs is a welcome challenge. Working with a sexy ex-military dog handler who needs some TLC himself? That's a different story.
Kurt Crawford keeps his heart locked away from everyone. Well, everyone except the dogs who need his help...and always have his back. But as Kurt gets to know the compassionate, beautiful woman he's been assigned to work with, he can't help but feel a little puppy love...

Thoughts:

Debbie Burns returns with the second book in the Rescue Me series, Sit, Stay, Love. Readers who are also dog lovers will find this one particularly appealing. With a house full of fighting dogs, a former military dog handler with PTSD, and a very invested neighbor, Kelsey has her hands full. You'll love her sweet and saucy personality as she navigates love and rescue dogs. Burn gives us, a slow build romance that gets to the heart of what the saying, 'opposites attract' really means. This one is a keeper!

What I liked:

To start with I really liked the whole idea of this series. As an avid reader I read a lot of books about a lot of things and I always find myself drawn to books about rescue animals. Main character Kelsey works for a no-kill animal shelter, which I think is amazing. There needs to be tons more of these kinds of shelters and I think books like this show awareness to the issues. It also shines a light on the rigors and taking care of animals that have been abused and need special care. This aspect of the book was really Burns' fortay.

A lot of the book was focused on the animals and the mansion that has been donated as a shelter. A dog fighting ring is busted and Kelsey finds herself moving in with a bunch of dogs that have seen better days. From injuries to abuse. I loved the fact that she took on such a huge challenge. She comes across as a character that is almost too sweet at times, but the reader will have no problem seeing her love for her work and these animals. She is driven and optimistic and I felt like that was what was needed in the main character of a book like this. Burns did an amazing job of making Kelsey someone readers would believe was so invested.

Ahhh, Kurt. What a great character. Not only an ADHD sufferer but also dealing with PTSD on top of that. I have a soft spot for military men and Kurt was no exception. I liked the fact that Burns shows him as very clinical in some ways but also very efficient and very loving with the animals. His relationship with Kelsey showed such vulnerability and trust once it got going. This one is a slow build, but that's perfect for the type of book it is. This one doesn't have bombs going off or kidnappings or all that crazy stuff. It's more about an everyday kind of life and love and that was such a nice break from books that need too much action to move the plot.

What I didn't like:

Kelsey is a real sweetie pie and that could come off as a bit saccharine to some readers. You know those overly perky chicks at the drive through window at 6:00 am... Oh yeah the ones you wanna just slap. She could come off like that in the beginning, so give her character a chance to marinate a bit. She gets better. I liked her chatty optimism but not everyone would. 

Kurt needs some help. A counselor, a therapist, a good friend to talk to. I don't know but I felt like he had some issues that were addressed but not really solved here. I wanted to see him get some relief from some of the things that were weighing so heavy on him. My only real gripe.

Bottom Line:

If you love dogs and rescue stories, this one is just a really good read. The romance is a slow builder and it when it gets steamy, it fits perfectly. I loved the mansion and the story behind it and the eclectic secondary characters like Ida. Lots of good stuff here. Plenty for the reader to sink their teeth in (see what I did there lol...) 

Sit, Stay, Love is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 4 out of 5 apples from my book bag!



About the Author:

Debbie Burns debut novel, A New Leash on Love, book one of the Rescue Me series, debuts July 4, 2017. Debbie's writing commendations include first place awards for short stories, flash fiction, and longer selections, and her romances have finaled in multiple RWA chapter contests. She resides in St. Louis, Missouri. You can find her on Twitter @_debbieburns and at authordebbieburns.com.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Review: Hard Line

Hard Line (Woodbury Boys - Book 2) by Sidney Bell

Publication Date: 04/01/2018
Publisher: Harlequin
Imprint: Carina Press
Genre: M/M Contemporary Romance
Pages: 480
ASINB0789L6J2S

(Received for an honest review from Carina Press via Netgalley)

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, itunes

Sidney Bell on the WEB: Website, Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads

Books in the series:

The Woodbury Boys

1. Loose Cannon
2. Hard Line

Coverart: Click the image for a larger, clearer view of the covers in this series.




Excerpt from Hard Line, courtesy of Amazon's Look Inside feature

Synopsis:

“Bell writes a meaty romance that you can’t put down, and it’s a worthy addition to the M/M contemporary romance genre.” —RT Book Reviews on Loose Cannon (Woodbury Boys #1)

Premed student Tobias Benton is making amends for his past. He keeps his head down, mouth shut and colors within the lines. But when his close friend Ghost goes missing, Tobias will do whatever it takes to get answers—including using blackmail to enlist some help. The last thing he’s looking for is romance.

Private investigator Sullivan Tate isn’t above a little breaking and entering to solve a case, but when Tobias catches him in the act, it’s almost game over. Their uneasy alliance only gets more complicated when Sullivan learns that Tobias shares his interest in kink. Mixing sex and work could kill Sullivan’s career, but Tobias’s acceptance of Sullivan’s darkest urges is nearly impossible to resist.

Side by side, Tobias and Sullivan spend their days searching for the truth and their nights fulfilling their respective fantasies. But the answers they seek are far more dangerous than they realize, and soon they find themselves fighting for more than just each other.


Thoughts:

Sidney Bell is a new author for me and quite a surprise. Her latest book, Hard Line, is the second book in the Woodbury Boys series. This book is a M/M contemporary romance that will leave readers feeling both excited and satisfied. Hard Line is equal parts steamy and suspenseful. One minute you're on the edge of your seat, the next minute you want to dive into your own inner inhibitions. I wasn't expecting the very emotional angle this book brings out. An exceptional foray into the lighter side of BDSM!

First let me say, sometimes I hesitate to review books that I know may make some of my readers squirm. This is an M/M romance. If you have an issue with that it's best not to read further. Also, if you have issues with BDSM or kink, time to go for the day.

What I liked:

I haven't read the first book in this series, but I probably will. It's not necessary to this book, but I can tell that I would enjoy Church's story. Tobias, Church and Ghost meet in a bit of an unorthodox way in a rehabilitation center, Woodbury and the series follows their journeys. Hard Line is Tobias' story. I didn't really know what to expect from Sidney Bell because she was new to me, but I will say I'm very impressed. From the first description of Tobias on the first page of the book, I was hooked. I was so drawn to this young man who seems to want nothing more than to please the people around him.

Bell's character development with Tobias and then Sullivan was amazing. I felt I knew these two characters intimately after reading their stories and that doesn't happen often. I read a lot of books and when characters stick with me after the fact they were very well drawn. I like characters that don't fit the mold. Tobias is a quiet, gentle sort but he really comes alive as he starts to explore his desires with Sullivan. And Sullivan is such a unique person. I loved getting to know them both and their chemistry was off the chart. It wasn't the BDSM aspect that made it that way either. They just worked.

BDSM is one of those topics that is generally a bit taboo. You might be interested but you don't want people to know you are. You might have some inner desires that you don't even know how to express that get brought out when you read books like this one. BDSM doesn't have to be this big scary thing. Bell shows that in this book. It is just something that works for some people. And it works for these characters in a big way. It brings so much out of them. I loved the way Bell portrays this part of the book and felt it was very realistic. 

The suspenseful part of the book was well written and engaging. I wanted desperately to know what in the world Ghost had gotten himself mixed up in. I loved the relationship that Bell brings out between Ghost and Tobias. I related to them so hard. I have a friendship that is exactly like this one. It's very intimate in a friend kinda way lol... I really enjoyed the fact that Bell choose to bring Sullivan into Tobias' life in this way. Sullivan needs to do well on this case and Tobias needs to find Ghost. The bad guys were bad and the good guys were good. But there were some actions and situations that made for a gray area or two. Ghost you little manipulator you!

What I didn't like:

This was a very good book. I wanted a little more out of Ghost. He was kind of jerk here and there, but that's just a personal preference thing. Bell's writing was spot on. Not a bad thing to say about it. 

Bottom Line:

At the risk of bothering some readers... Love is Love. This book will be too much for some because it's an LGBTQ romance. In my humble opinion you are really missing out if that's all that's holding you back from reading this one. Bell is an excellent writer. Her powers of description are simply put, amazing. I loved how she seemed to get to the heart of these characters and help me as reader to understand them. I want to get to know these guys for real, and that's big. The BDSM aspect of the book was not overwhelming or scary and I think might open the eyes of many readers. The suspense and action was well done, but I think the romance was what put it over the top. 

Hard Line is available NOW from your favorite e-book provider and in print on April 28th. 

I'm giving this one 5 out of 5 apples from my book bag!





About the Author:


Sidney Bell lives in the drizzly Pacific Northwest with her amazingly supportive husband. She received her MFA degree in Creative Writing in 2010, considered aiming for the Great American Novel, and then promptly started writing fanfiction instead. More realistic grown-ups eventually convinced her to try writing something more fiscally responsible, though, which is how we ended up here. When she’s not writing, she’s playing violent video games, yelling at the television during hockey games, or supporting her local library by turning books in late.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Review: Joanna's Highlander

Joanna's Highlander (Highland Protectors - Book 2) by Maeve Greyson

Publication Date: 04/10/2018
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Imprint: Loveswept
Genre: Historical Romance
Pages: 208
ASINB073YSNSLQ

(Received for an honest review from Loveswept via Netgalley)

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, itunes

Maeve Greyson on the WEB: Website, Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads

Books in the series:

1. Sadie's Highlander
2. Joanna's Highlander

Coverart: Click the image for a larger, clearer view of the covers in this series.



Excerpt from Joanna's Highlander, courtesy of Amazon's Look Inside Feature

Synopsis:

Present-day North Carolina sings with the passions of the Scottish Highlands as a fiery, time-traveling Celtic warrior takes a stubborn tour guide for a wild ride.

Haunted by lost love, Grant MacDara still dreams of tenth-century Scotland. Nothing can soothe his aching heart—until a sharp-tongued, redheaded beauty leads a tour of senior citizens through his family’s North Carolina theme park, Highland Life and Legends. Though she’s the polar opposite of the lass he left behind, Joanna Martin is the most irresistible woman Grant has ever met. But when he decides that she’s worth the risk of loving again, he tries so hard to hold her close that she nearly slips through his fingers.

Forced out of her job as a pharmaceutical sales rep by a conniving ex, Joanna is trying to make the best of her quiet new life. But one glimpse of Grant—who wields an ancient hammer like it’s just another appendage of his chiseled body—convinces Joanna not to give up on love. The one thing she can’t do is outrun her past as a loser magnet. And although Grant seems to be the last honorable man left on earth, this mouthwatering stud needs a crash course in twenty-first-century women before Joanna can trust him with her heart.


Thoughts:

Maeve Greyson's time-traveling Scots are always a joy to read about. Joanna's Highlander is the second book in the Highland Protector's series and continues the saga of the MacDara family, protectors of the Heartstone. Readers who want a good time travel romance will love this one. When a transplanted tenth century Celtic warrior falls for a fiery red headed tour guide, sparks are sure to fly. Greyson's trademark quirky humor and her attention to detail shine.

What I liked:

Maeve Greyson is a favorite of mine of late. She has a way with a kilted man lol... I love the fact that she chooses to transplant her Scots to the future instead of taking a present day person and transplanting them in the past. It gives the story a whole new dimension. I mean tenth century Scotland is amazing to read about, but sometimes you need a good twist to get the readers attention and I think Greyson does that with this reversal of sorts. There are so many interesting things a hero might get into when it comes to figuring out how to live in today's world and in the south no less...

The overall arc of the book follows the story of the MacDara family, protectors of the heartstone. They have been sent forward in time to present day North Carolina where they operate a Highland themed amusement park. I was a little skeptical at first with this series because it seems so far fetched that a warrior family would be running a theme park lol... but it works. It just seems to make sense once you start reading it. It's quite an interesting idea and take on what professions a time traveler might take up in the future. 

Grant was an exceptional hero. You know it's gonna be a good one when his weapon of choice is a war hammer. *swoon* He was not only a strong man, but he was a wounded man. He lost his wife and child in the battle that sent the MacDara family into the future and the reader will be able to feel his pain. He isn't a brooding hero, just one who has been hurt deeply. I loved seeing him start to open up again and rethink the possibility of giving his heart to another. Greyson did such an amazing job with that aspect of the story. 

Joanna was my kind of girl. Sassy and smart. She's seen some hard times in life and in love and it makes her skeptical of Grant and his intentions. It's not just the Goddesses Grant has to worry about with this one. She's a real firecracker. Their chemistry together was fun and filled with humor and banter. They played so well off each other. Greyson was able to use her skills at those wonderful laugh out loud moments with this character. She was a joy!

What I didn't like:

As I said before a warrior family taking up the profession of theme park owners might be a little too much for some readers. Also the fact that Joanna might just not choose Grant seems unthinkable. But it all plays out in such a fun way. I think readers can suspend their ideas of the believable for some unbelievably hot romance.

Bottom Line:

This was a really fun book. I loved the characters and I want to know so much more about this world that Greyson has created with the MacDara family. The underlying arc of the series, is quite interesting and the love between Joanna and Grant sizzled on the page. I often wonder what it takes to write a good steamy romantic scene. This one has plenty and Greyson is a master at it. 

Joanna's Highlander is available NOW from your favorite E-book sellers. 

I'm giving this one 4 out of 5 apples from my book bag!



About the Author:

"No one has the power to shatter your dreams unless you give it to them." That's Maeve Greyson's mantra. She and her hubby of nearly thirty-eight years traveled around the world while in the U.S. Air Force before returning to their five-acre wood in rural Kentucky where she writes about her beloved Highlanders and the sassy women who tame them.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Review: Flying at Night

Flying at Night by Rebecca L. Brown

Publication Date: 04/10/2018
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Imprint: Berkley Books
Genre: Women's Fiction
Pages: 336
ISBN-13978-0399585999

(Received for an honest review from Berkley via Netgalley)

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, itunes

Rebecca L. Brown on the WEB: WebsiteTwitter, Facebook, Goodreads

Excerpt from Flying at Night, courtesy of Amazon's Look Inside feature

Synopsis:

An emotionally charged debut novel of a family on the brink--an autistic child, his determined mother, and her distant father--who learn that when your world changes, you find out who you really are. . . .

While she was growing up, Piper's father, Lance "the Silver Eagle" Whitman, became a national hero piloting a plane through an emergency landing. But at home, he was a controlling and overbearing presence in her life, raining emotional and verbal abuse upon the entire family.

It's no surprise, then, that as an adult, Piper has poured all of her energy into creating a warm and loving home for her own family, while catering to her son Fred's ever-growing idiosyncrasies.

Then Lance has a heart attack, leaving him with a brain injury--and dependent upon Piper for his care--just before tests confirm Piper's suspicions that Fred is on the autism spectrum.

A powerful and extraordinary novel, Flying at Night gives voice to Fred, trying to find his place in a world that doesn't quite understand him; to Lance, who's lost what made him the man he was, for better and worse; and to Piper, who, while desperately trying to navigate the shifting landscape around her, watches as her son and father start to connect--in the most miraculous ways. . . .


Thoughts:

Flying at Night is the debut novel by Rebecca L. Brown. It is a heartbreakingly beautiful story of an autistic boy, his mother and an unlikely companion. Brown will take readers into the everyday life of a mother on the edge. Faced with a difficult diagnosis and an ailing father, Piper is anything but calm. This book is about change, resilience, and redemption. Readers who are looking for a poignant tale that will pull at the heartstrings and remind them the family dynamic can change in an instant, will find this one authentic and real. 

What I liked:

This was an incredibly emotional book. I have a nephew that falls on the autistic spectrum and I was wondering if this book would be able to capture the innocence and sense of wonder that most autistic children possess. When I found out that the author, Rebecca L. Brown has an autistic child of her own it was easy to see that this was more than research. This was real life experience. Fred was such an amazing character. He is so focused and so inquisitive. I loved his sense of wonder and his ability to see right to the heart of things, including his brain damaged grandfather. I thought Brown did a very good job of showing the reader that life with an autistic child is obviously challenging but it also extremely rewarding. 

She is also able to describe Piper's struggles, with such clarity and understanding. Piper spends a great deal of time with her son Fred but she still doesn't see the signs that he is different than most kids. I really felt for her as a parent, because we always want our children to be okay in every sense of the word. I understood the incredible guilt she must have felt when Fred was diagnosed. She is a character that can possibly rub some readers the wrong way, because she has so much emotional baggage, but in the end is also very understandable. 

Who wouldn't be angry, resentful and even a little disappointed when faced with so much chaos in her life. Her son is on the autism spectrum, her father is brain damaged due to a severe heart attack, her mother just up and leaves and husband is constantly gone due to work concerns. That's not an easy place to be in and Brown does a wonderful job of showing the reader a flawed, yet relatable character in Piper. 

Brown not only gives readers a chance to see into everyday life with this family, but she also shows them in the throws of change. Each situation seems to be fraught with more turmoil than the last. But the beautiful relationship that begins to emerge between Lance the ailing grandfather and Fred is everything. Lance is not the same man he was before and it makes all the difference. With the innocence of a child he relates to Fred in a way no other character really can. And in seeing his change, Piper is able to find some redemption in him for his past as an emotionally abusive parent. 

What I didn't like:

I had my issues with Piper. Some of the things she said and did were not the ways in which I think I would have responded, but I'm not in her shoes. As a parent I want to think I would take things in stride and make the best life for both my child and my father, but honestly we don't know how we would react to such devastating news and circumstances. 

I kind of understood Piper's mom running off. I understood her brothers lack of concern. But I still felt a bit of real disconnect from the characters. Even when you have an emotionally abusive parent, they are still your parent. I was glad that despite Piper's previous relationship with her father she was still able to see that he needed her. She was still able to see him as her father, where I felt like the rest of the family just wrote him off in his time of need. 

Disclaimer, there is a bit of rough language in this one, but it's nothing that most people can't relate to. Sometimes gosh darn it, just doesn't cover it. But it may be offensive to some. Just keep it in mind. 

Bottom Line:

I liked this book. I thought that Brown gave a very realistic point of view to all three of the characters who shared the point of views in this book. I loved Fred. I loved hearing his thoughts and seeing his process. He was a great character and very authentic. Piper was a bit harder for me to like, but I was able to relate to her struggles. The old Lance and the new Lance were so different. It was amazing to see the amount of change in this character. It's kind of sad that brain damage had to happen to turn him into a pretty good guy. This one is emotional folks, be prepared, but it's well worth your time.

Flying at Night is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 4 out of 5 apples from my book bag. 





About the Author:


Rebecca L. Brown lives with her husband and three sons. Flying at Night is her first novel, and she is currently at work on her next one.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Review: Wedding Cake Crumble

Wedding Cake Crumble (Cupcake Bakery Mystery - Book 10) by Jenn McKinlay

Publication Date: 04/03/2018
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Imprint: Berkley Prime Crime
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Pages: 288
ISBN-13978-0399583834

(Received for an honest review from Berkley Prime Crime)

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, itunes

Jenn McKinlay on the WEB: WebsiteTwitter, Facebook, Goodreads

Books in the series:

  1. Sprinkle with Murder
  2. Buttercream Bump Off
  3. Death by the Dozen
  4. Red Velvet Revenge
  5. Going, Going Ganache
  6. Sugar and Iced
  7. Dark Chocolate Demise
  8. Vanilla Beaned
  9. Caramel Crush
10. Wedding Cake Crumble

Coverart: Click the image for a larger, clearer view of the covers in this series.



Excerpt from Wedding Cake Crumble, courtesy of Barnes and Noble

Synopsis:

For the Fairy Tale Cupcake crew, wedding bells turn to death knells in this latest mystery in the New York Times bestselling series.

With Angie and Tate's wedding just around the corner, it's a happy time for Melanie Cooper and the bakery crew. Not only are they finessing the last minute details of the big day, but their bakery, Fairy Tale Cupcakes, has just been hired to bake cupcakes for the blockbuster book signing of a controversial author who wrote a steamy bestseller filled with juicy local gossip.

But one by one, the people Angie has hired to work at the wedding begin turning up dead. As the body count rises, the bestselling author is the next to bite the dust. Mel quickly realizes she needs to figure out how the murders are connected and why--before the killer brings the entire cupcake crew crumbling down. After all, Angie and Tate deserve their sweet happily ever after.


Thoughts:

Jenn McKinlay knows cupcakes... and murder! Readers will get a taste for it too in the tenth book in the Cupcake Bakery series, Wedding Cake Crumble. Long time readers of the series will be excited about the upcoming nuptials of Angie and Tate. But all is not well at Fairy Tale Cupcakes, when the wedding purveyors start ending up dead. McKinlay really puts it all on the line with tons of murders in this one. It's one big cozy mess and readers will love it!

What I liked: 

This is one of those books that has so much going for it. I love a good cozy mystery with lots of red herrings and twists and turns that make you scratch your head, but this one is in a league by itself. You don't just one murder tied up with a bow in this. How about five or six, and one wicked killer. McKinlay is just full of surprises. You'd think ten books into the series, things would be slowing down a little bit, not so with this author. It's full steam ahead! I liked the fact that she really catches the reader off guard. I mean six murders, really? That's impressive. 

I always wonder if Jenn McKinlay is a cupcake maker herself. I mean the way she describes cupcakes in her books is just mouth watering. One of my favorite parts is always that little section at the back of the book with recipes in it. But just the general reading of the book, let's the reader know that this author has done some research and what better thing to learn about than cupcakes. Description, description, description. This book is a sensory feast for readers who like the overall theme of the series. Cupcakes. 

Angie and Tate are long time favorites of mine. I've always enjoyed their relationship and how they interact with the heroine of the series, Mel. When the photographer, the chauffeur and the baker are among the dead, the reader has to wonder, who in the world the happy couple ticked off. My first thoughts were, that someone was out to stop the wedding. Then a local inflammatory author is in the mix of dead. How does the author tie into the wedding? Oh what a tangled web we weave and readers will love trying to figure it all out before the end. 

What I didn't like:

I wouldn't say I didn't like this, but it is something to consider. How do you fit all that murder into one book? There would have to be a murder every other chapter. Some readers might not like that and think that it takes away from the overall arc of the story. How can the characters interact and move the series forward with all this going on?  But in my opinion it was pretty daring and I think it worked. It could be a little much for some readers though, so keep it in mind. 

Bottom Line:

There's a lot, lot, lot going on in this book. Readers get some real bang for their buck when it comes to murder in this book. The cupcake descriptions are out of this world as usual and McKinlay's general humor and sense of the macabre is on point. If you're looking for a book that packs a punch this is it. Cozy mysteries can often seem a little predictable. I think you can throw that assumption out the window with this one. And Angie and Tate are so cute together. Ahh wedded bliss with a murderous twist. So good!

Wedding Cake Crumble is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 5 out of 5 apples from my book bag!




About the Author:

Jenn McKinlay is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of several mystery series, including the Good Buy Girls series and the Decoupage Mystery series, which she wrote under the pseudonyms Josie Belle and Lucy Lawrence. A former librarian, she studied English literature and library science at Southern Connecticut State University before moving to Arizona, where she lives in a house that is overrun with kids, pets, and her husband's guitars. For more information, visit her at www.jennmckinlay.com.