A MONSTER LIKE ME by Pamela Sparkman

Heart of Darkness series #2

HELLO STRANGER by Lisa Kleypas

The Ravenels series #4

THE BUTTERFLY PROJECT by Emma Scott

Companion to the Full Tilt series

PLAYING FOR KEEPS by Jill Shalvis

Heartbreaker Bay series #7

UNWRITTEN by Jen Frederick

Woodlands series #5

Cross My Heart by L.H. Cosway

Hearts series #5.75

MOONSHADOW by Thea Harrison

Moonshadow series #1

Monday, August 19, 2019

Review: The First Girl Child by Amy Harmon


From ​the New York Times bestselling author comes a breathtaking fantasy of a cursed kingdom, warring clans, and unexpected salvation.



THE FIRST GIRL CHILD by AMY HARMON
Publisher: 47North
Publication date: August 20, 2019
Genre: fantasy

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SYNOPSIS

Bayr of Saylok, bastard son of a powerful and jealous chieftain, is haunted by the curse once leveled by his dying mother. Bartered, abandoned, and rarely loved, she plagued the land with her words: From this day forward, there will be no daughters in Saylok.

Raised among the Keepers at Temple Hill, Bayr is gifted with inhuman strength. But he’s also blessed with an all-too-human heart that beats with one purpose: to protect Alba, the first girl child born in nearly two decades and the salvation for a country at risk.

Now the fate of Saylok lies with Alba and Bayr, whose bond grows deeper with every whisper of coming chaos. Charged with battling the enemies of their people, both within and without, Bayr is fueled further by the love of a girl who has defied the scourge of Saylok.

What Bayr and Alba don’t know is that they each threaten the king, a greedy man who built his throne on lies, murder, and betrayal. There is only one way to defend their land from the corruption that has overtaken it. By breaking the curse, they could defeat the king…but they could also destroy themselves.


Purchase Here: Amazon 

Praise for The First Girl Child:

“By far, my favorite book of 2019. Addictive, engrossing, completely unputdownable. Amy Harmon’s The First Girl Child needs to be at the top of everyone’s reading list.” —Penny Reid, New York Times bestselling author

“The First Girl Child is a unique and lovely read set in a world that is both familiar and strange. Rich, fast-paced, and romantic, this book will thoroughly satisfy fantasy readers craving a story with meat on its bones. It’s going on my shelf next to Robin Hobb and Patricia McKillip.” —Jared Garrett, bestselling author of Lakhoni

“Utterly brilliant. A sprawling tale of love and magic, of leadership and the sacrifice that comes with it. I cannot recommend this book enough.” —bestselling author Staci Hart



ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Amy Harmon is a Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and New York Times Bestselling author. Amy knew at an early age that writing was something she wanted to do, and she divided her time between writing songs and stories as she grew. Having grown up in the middle of wheat fields without a television, with only her books and her siblings to entertain her, she developed a strong sense of what made a good story. Her books are now being published in eighteen languages, truly a dream come true for a little country girl from Levan, Utah.

Amy Harmon has written fourteen novels including the USA Today Bestsellers, Making Faces and Running Barefoot, as well as The Law of Moses, Infinity + One and the New York Times Bestseller, A Different Blue. Her fantasy novel, The Bird and the Sword, was a Goodreads Book of the Year finalist.

FOLLOW HER:  Website | Instagram | Goodreads | Twitter | Facebook


REVIEW

The First Girl ChildThe First Girl Child by Amy Harmon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars









Fair warning, I'm going to have to gush over this book a little. There's just no getting around it when you fall in love with a story this completely. I've been reading Amy Harmon's books for four years now and although I haven't caught up on her entire backlist, The First Girl Child is now a front runner for all-time favorite. And yes, it's landing on my shortlist for best books of the year as well. All it took was a few pages into the prologue and I was a goner. This beautiful, heart-wrenching, poignant story is worth every second spent between the pages. It's a fantasy with such fathomless depths, you fall so deeply you don't want to get out again. It's a story of revenge, overcoming impossible odds, courage in the face of tyranny and evil, unbreakable bonds of family, and forbidden love.

The Kingdom of Saylok is made up of six clans: Adyar, Berne, Dolphys, Ebba, Joran, and Leok. Each clan has a Chieftan who leads it, and the King has absolute power, even over these leaders. Many hope to ascend to the throne, but few will have the opportunity in their lifetime. Banruud of Berne is hungry for power and has no qualms about harming anyone who stands in his way. One woman seeks revenge for a horrible betrayal at his hands that will curse all of Saylok, until her son is ready to remove the scourge upon the land.

That son is Bayr. Unnaturally strong and believed to have been gifted by the gods, he becomes somewhat of a legend for his incredible feats growing up. It would be easy for someone to become proud or boastful, but living at Temple Hill with his Uncle has made him a humble man who only cares for the well being of others. Bayr and his Uncle Dagmar's relationship as he grows up in his care touched my heart so much. Dagmar wasn't prepared to take on a fatherly role in his lifetime after committing himself as a Keeper. At first he was flustered and floundering with newborn Beyr, then gradually more confident as he lovingly guided Bayr towards the future he knew he was destined to fulfill. Even knowing someday they must part, he willingly sacrificed his own wishes for the salvation of Saylok. Injustice, pain, and suffering were endured by many. Lives would be changed irrevocably the day that Bayr came into his care, and he's determined to set things right no matter what it takes.

    "There might come a time, when you are no longer a boy, when Saylok will need you to lead her. There might be a day when you will be called on to rule, and you must prepare yourself for that day.”

If I could only use one word to describe Bayr it would be protector. That makes up every part of him down to his soul. After meeting princess Alba, he's enraptured by this child of hope. The first female child to be born during a long drought that has plagued the land for years. He immediately pledges to watch over her and shield her from all harm, never asking for anything in return. His feelings for her were pure and innocent, blossoming into a special friendship as they matured. Bayr and Alba are from two totally different worlds: one from royalty and the other a humble Temple boy without a penny to his name. But their devotion to each other is absolute, even if it must be from a distance at times. They way they changed and evolved took longer than I was expecting, but it was more than worth it by the end. It was like watching a seed being nurtured over time, weathering every storm, and growing into a towering tree with roots so deep they can't ever be unearthed. You feel their rightness down to your bones and want nothing more than the simplicity of them being. Without conflict or conspiracies to tear them apart.

    “Bayr’s birth marked the beginning of the drought. What if his death marks the end?”

Ghost plays an integral role in the story. Sold into slavery, then reviled and feared for being born with albinism, she's been mistreated her whole life. People fear what they don't understand, and her unusual appearance draws prejudice from ignorant people. Fate brings her into Bayr's life and though he's disconcerted at first, he always treats her with open acceptance, as does Dagmar. Love and acceptance seems like a simple thing to some, but to others it's everything. Ghost broke me at times. She was so used to rejection and harm that a simple human kindness couldn't be trusted.


Ghost finally finds a home where she has some semblance of safety. She relies on the anonymity her solitary lives affords, and finds much more than she bargained for in her simple life.

The final part of this book was action packed, tense, thrilling, devastating, healing, and leaves you awed at how it all ties together. My emotions were everywhere on the map, leaving me wrung out and wrecked at the end. It broke me just a little bit, but I can't imagine anything happening any differently. How the balance of power was righted, and the oppressed were finally freed. It was such a thing of beauty that brought tears to my eyes. Amy Harmon has created a story that's often brutal, but never fails to show us the power of love in the bleakest of times. Thankfully I had a friend on standby after finishing this incredible story that I could rant and weep and soak up all of my favorite words with. It was extremely hard to part with these characters so I can only hope that we are gifted with more novels in this extraordinary world!! This is one of her best yet, and I recommend it to any fantasy lover searching for their next five star read.


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Feature: The Empty Nesters by Carolyn Brown


The worst of times calls for the best of friends in this sassy novel about starting over, from New York Times bestselling author Carolyn Brown.


THE EMPTY NESTERS by CAROLYN BROWN
Series: Standalone
Publication date: August 20, 2019
Published by: Montlake Romance
Genre: women's fiction

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SYNOPSIS

Dear friends and army wives Diana, Carmen, and Joanie have been through war, rumors of war, marital problems, motherhood, fears, joy, and heartache. But none of the women are prepared when their daughters decide to enlist in the army together. Facing an empty nest won’t be easy. Especially for Carmen. With emotions already high, she suffers an even greater blow: divorce papers. Diana understands the fury and tears. She’s been there.

With nothing to lose and no one at home, the girlfriends impulsively accept an unexpected offer from their elderly neighbor. The recently widowed Tootsie has an RV, a handsome nephew at the wheel, and an aim for tiny Scrap, Texas, to embrace memories of her late husband. Still grieving, she can use the company as a balm for her broken heart. So can the empty nesters.

Embarking on a journey of hope, romance, and healing, Diana, Carmen, and Joanie are at a turning point in their lives. And with the open road ahead of them, it’s just the beginning.

Purchase your copy now!
Amazon | B&N 


Feature: Jump Into Author Carolyn Brown’s Empty Nest    

Good morning, and thank you for inviting me to stop by to talk about my new book, The Empty Nesters. I’ll be giving all y’all a few of my favorite scenes and a little commentary during the time we get to spend together.

As Ma used to say on Golden Girls, imagine this—Carmen, Joanie and Diana have just dropped their daughters off at the recruiter’s office. They’ve managed to keep the tears at bay and put up a brave front, but now it’s time to let the tears loose.

“For the first time ever, Natalie and I won’t decorate the house for Halloween together. Nine months of carrying them, then we basically raised them on our own while our husbands were deployed or got sent someplace to train other officers. And now they’re gone, and we won’t see them for Halloween or Thanksgiving. And who even knows about Christmas? It’s not fair.” 

It’s always amazing what comes to mind during a sad time, isn’t it? Things pop into our heads that seem trivial in the face of the event, and yet, at the time, the good memories are what keep us sane.

Tootsie, their elderly neighbor, has just lost her husband, after they’d bought the huge RV and planned a trip to northeast Texas. She’s trying to convince the women that they need to get away from their empty nest for a while.

“You need to get away for a little while and get some perspective,” Tootsie said.

“Let’s pool our money and blow it all on a trip to Paris. We can shop and have lattes in little bistros,” Diana suggested. 

Joanie sighed. “That’s a pipe dream. We probably don’t have enough money to even get to Paris, Texas, between the three of us.” 

The three of them have known the support of each other through the past thirteen years, and just because they’re now alone in their homes, they have no doubt that the love is still there between them—and that it’s even stronger than blood sisters.

“We’re only half a block and a phone call away. If any of us feel the world dropping out from under our feet, we can get back together in less than five minutes.” 

I was amazed at how supportive all of them, including Tootsie, were of each other. They might disagree, but Lord help the person that tried to come between them, or who had the nerve to say an ugly word about one of them.

Everything happens for a reason and in the time that it should happen. I believe that with my whole heart. Diana had gotten her divorce years before the book opens, but she remembers the pain and anger of it all. Then she focused all her energy and time on raising her daughter. But now it’s her time to find a new love, and a new life—maybe with a younger man.

“That many trips into town on those roads would shake the hell out of their Caddy. And believe me, Aunt Tootsie treats that car like family.” Luke chuckled. “Age, on a truck or on a person, makes no difference. It’s how well they’re maintained that matters.” 

Why, oh, why, couldn’t he have smooth pickup lines like other men? Luke asked himself. What he’d just said could be taken as an insult. She might think that he thought she looked like an old pickup truck at her age, when in reality she was downright gorgeous. He wouldn’t be a bit surprised if she still got carded at bars when she ordered a drink. 

Thank you again, for inviting me into your world, and letting me talk about the amazing ladies (and Luke of course), from The Empty Nesters. Happy reading to each and every one of you!

GIVEAWAY

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Carolyn Brown is a New York Times, USA Today, Publisher’s Weekly, and Wall Street Journal bestselling author and a RITA finalist with more than ninety published books. Her genres include romance, history, cowboys and country music, and contemporary mass-market paperbacks. She and her husband live in the small town of Davis, Oklahoma, where everyone knows everyone else, knows what they are doing and when . . . and reads the local newspaper every Wednesday to see who got caught. They have three grown children and enough grandchildren to keep them young. Visit Carolyn at www.carolynbrownbooks.com.

You can find her on:

Monday, August 12, 2019

Review: House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig


Get swept away in Erin A. Craig's mesmerizing House of Salt and Sorrows. As one by one her beautiful sisters mysteriously die on their isolated island estate, Annaleigh must unravel the curse that haunts her family. Be careful who you dance with. . . 


HOUSE OF SALT AND SORROWS by ERIN A. CRAIG
Series: Standalone
Publication date: August 6, 2019
Published by: Delacorte Press
Genre: young adult fantasy, fairy tale retelling

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SYNOPSIS

Four of Annaleigh Thaumas's eleven sisters have returned to the Salt, the brackish water that surrounds their lonely island home, their lives cut short, each more tragically than the last. Whispers throughout the Highmoor estate say the girls have been cursed by the gods.

When Annaleigh finds out that her sisters have been sneaking out to attend glittering midnight balls and dance until dawn, she's not sure whether to stop them--or join them. And when she begins to see a series of horrific, ghostly visions and more sisters die, she realizes she must solve the mystery--with the help of Cassius, a sea captain who knows much more about her than he should--and unravel the Thaumas curse before she descends into madness or . . . it claims her next.

Purchase your copy now!
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Praise for House of Salt and Sorrows:

“Step inside a fairy tale.”—Stephanie Garber, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Caraval

“An eerie, lovely Twelve Dancing Princesses retelling full of ghosts and gods and a fascinating waterfront world and I’m reading it from behind my fingers.”—Melissa Albert, New York Times bestselling author of The Hazel Wood

“Chilling and atmospheric.”–Laura E. Weymouth, author of The Light Between Worlds

Evocative details and lyrical, moody prose  . . . a richly conceived story that blends mythic and Gothic storytelling.”–PW

“The novel’s vivid, evocative atmosphere will please fans of the gothic . . . chills aplenty.”–The Bulletin

“Equal parts gothic fairy tale and romance . . . compulsively readable.”—SLJ

“This moody maritime retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses blends elements of suspense and horror for a gothic twist on a familiar tale. A memorably built world populated with a hauntingly doomed family.”–Booklist

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Erin A. Craig has always loved telling stories.

After getting her B.F.A. from the University of Michigan, in Theatre Design and Production, she stage managed tragic operas with hunchbacks, séances, and murderous clowns, then decided she wanted to write books that were just as spooky.

An avid reader, a decent quilter, rabid basketball fan, and collector of typewriters, Erin makes her home in Memphis, TN with her husband and daughter.

You can find her on:
Goodreads | Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram



REVIEW

House of Salt and SorrowsHouse of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The author has taken a pretty innocent Brothers Grimm short story and turned it into something quite a bit darker and twistier. The foreboding atmosphere is layered throughout the entire story, gaining momentum and intensity as you near the conclusion. This is a gothic mystery about a girl named Annaleigh who must solve the suspicious deaths of her sisters before she or any of the other surviving girls fall victim too. There are ghostly apparitions, unexplainable events, and almost everyone at her father's estate Highmoor comes under suspicion at some point. Is the Thaumas curse legitimately wiping the family out, one by one as the townspeople are whispering behind their hands? Or is something more sinister at play that's worse than anyone could ever imagine?

    Had we somehow angered the gods? Had a darkness branded itself on our family, taking us out one by one? Or was it simply a series of terrible and unlucky coincidences?

Annaleigh starts to become suspicious that all is not as it seems. She sets out to investigate the circumstances of the most recent death of her sister Eulalie. I have to admit, I found the sisters to be quite immature, a little callous in their lack of grieving, and at times spoiled. I was taken aback at how quickly they would brush off tragic deaths, often witnessed firsthand, and giggle and squeal over dancing and meeting potential suitors. Annaleigh was really the only sister who consistently wanted to ask questions about discrepancies, and cared more about the fate of her family than having fun. She even struggled to gain her father's attention with her concerns as he was putting all of his focus on his new wife. It seemed everyone just wanted to forget and move on past the gloom and melancholy days that had been stretching on endlessly since the loss of their mother.

You do get a little romance intertwined between the threads of the overall mystery. Cassius is a mysterious newcomer to town who immediately gets a twinkle in his eye for Annaleigh. Their romance is a subtle undertone to the story, with just light flirting and long glances, that kind of thing. But he's very obviously hiding things from the very enamored Annaleigh, the question is whether or not his secrets are harmless or deadly. There is another boy who has his eye on her, but thankfully it wasn't a love triangle. I was so relieved that my suspicions were squashed almost immediately because I'm not a big fan of that trope.

I felt that the pace of the book really affected my enjoyment. This could have easily been a five star read, but there were stretches in the story where I felt it was progressing as slow as molasses. The writing style was lovely, very rich and descriptive and I thoroughly enjoyed how the author transports you into each and every scene. If I were judging on the last 25% alone, it would be an enthusiastic five stars. I needed a little bit more to hold my attention, as much as I loved the ominous mood that stretches through this surprisingly blood-stained tale. I wasn't expecting the amount of death that occurred, and it got pretty grisly toward the end.

    When the people you love die … like my father, your mother and sisters … the thought that they could be trapped here … it’s unbearable, isn’t it? I can’t imagine a worse fate. Unseen, unheard. Surrounded by people who remember you a little less each day. I would go out of my mind, wouldn’t you?”

This was a wildly imaginative retelling of a classic fairy tale, and very impressive for a debut novel! I would definitely read more from Erin Craig in the future. She has a lot to offer the genre and I'll be excited to see what she comes up with next.


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Monday, August 5, 2019

Review: The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai


Alisha Rai returns with the first book in her sizzling new Modern Love series, in which two rival dating app creators find themselves at odds in the boardroom but in sync in the bedroom.


THE RIGHT SWIPE by ALISHA RAI
Series: Modern Love #1
Publication date: August 6, 2019
Published by: Avon
Genre: romance

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SYNOPSIS

Rhiannon Hunter may have revolutionized romance in the digital world, but in real life she only swipes right on her career—and the occasional hookup. The cynical dating app creator controls her love life with a few key rules: 

- Nude pics are by invitation only 

- If someone stands you up, block them with extreme prejudice 

- Protect your heart 

Only there aren't any rules to govern her attraction to her newest match, former pro-football player Samson Lima. The sexy and seemingly sweet hunk woos her one magical night... and disappears. 

Rhi thought she'd buried her hurt over Samson ghosting her, until he suddenly surfaces months later, still big, still beautiful—and in league with a business rival. He says he won't fumble their second chance, but she's wary. A temporary physical partnership is one thing, but a merger of hearts? Surely that’s too high a risk…

Purchase your copy now!
Amazon | Google | iBooks  | B&N | Kobo 



Praise for The Right Swipe:

“Alisha Rai delivers compelling emotion, fascinating characters and edgy romance in a razor-sharp, thoroughly modern voice that readers will adore. I sure did!”
- Jayne Ann Krentz

“I absolutely loved it… volcano-hot sex and cackle-worthy dialogue…I highly recommend this!”
- Sally Thorne, USA Today bestselling author of The Hating Game and 99 Percent Mine

“Rising romance star Rai brings a perfect relationship to life in this luscious contemporary series launch... As the onetime lovers are drawn into closer proximity, their chemistry sizzles on the page. Both Rhi and Samson are learning how to enjoy life and balance each other beautifully as they face realistic conflicts and tantalizing romance and sensuality. This winning novel will enhance any romance reader’s collection.”
- Publishers Weekly starred review

“The Right Swipe is everything you want in a Summer read: fun, clever, and so, so sexy.”
- Popsugar

“Top-notch romance.”
- New York Times Book Review on The Right Swipe

“Rai turns up the heat and finds the funny in modern dating, from almost-dick pics to glitter grams and ghosting. But it’s not all steamy, as the characters have issues with trust and love, making them vulnerable both to each other and the public. Taking the dating app business to another level, with a dose of girl power, sexual politics, and one eccentric red-headed aunt, Rai scores a touchdown.”
- Booklist

“Rai addresses heavy issues without sacrificing passionate sensuality or emotional connection... a high-tech romance that proves respect is the most potent love drug.
- Kirkus Reviews

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alisha Rai writes award-winning emotionally complex contemporary romance novels and is frequently sought as a speaker on a range of topics covering romance and media.

She is the first author to have an indie-published book appear on Washington Post’s annual Best Books list. Her books have also been named Best Books of the Year by NPR, Vulture, Entertainment Weekly, Amazon, Kirkus, Bustle, and Cosmopolitan Magazine and her novels have won the RT Reviewer’s Choice Award for erotic and contemporary romance. When she’s not writing, Alisha is traveling and tweeting.

You can find her on:
Goodreads | Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram



REVIEW

The Right Swipe (Modern Love, #1)The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I wanted to love this book. No one can say that I didn't give it every opportunity to swing me away from apathy or frustration. I probably should have just accepted defeat, but I gave it the benefit of the doubt until the very end. Probably the biggest red mark against The Right Swipe for me is the heroine. She isn't the easiest to warm up to in the beginning, but I can't say I started out disliking her. I knew there was some difficulty in her past that was causing her issues, so I could have very well jumped on her team later on and started loving her when I had all of the facts. Unfortunately, my opinion of her ended up plummeting to rock bottom by the end.

The heroine had some positive traits: she's independent, driven, disciplined, and does show a soft and protective side for the few she includes in her inner circle. But she's also a major commitment-phobe, allergic to trust and romance, and puts her career goals at a higher priority than people. Which is perfectly fine based on her past, and I'm all for a character showing growth through the story. The problem is that I failed to see that. Listen, if the roles were reversed and Rhiannon was the hero doing these things, I would feel completely annoyed as well. I don't enjoy reading about commitment phobic people whether they're male or female. Forcing a set of rules on another person, making them agree to nothing more than an impersonal relationship to keep emotions at a safe distance is cowardly.

I was expecting more of an enemies to lovers book with some lighthearted romance threaded in and that's not what this story was. The heroine is a hardened cynic whose entire living is based off of modern dating apps. You couldn't make her take on dating any more depressing. Dating was dollar signs to her and nothing more. After being burned by love, she's given up on it completely and has a glaring lack of empathy for anyone but herself. Her ex was emotionally abusive and controlling, so it has motivated her to take back her power which is a good thing. The bad thing is that she holds onto it with an iron fist and hides behind his actions rather than treating people fairly who deserve her respect.

One thing that bothered me to no end was his supposed ghosting of her in their past. Technically he did this to her, breaking her already fragile trust. In REALITY it was unintentional, and he has a valid excuse for his actions. I could understand her cutting him off and feeling angry towards him before she learned the circumstances. But even after she got proof that he did nothing wrong, only put his dying family member first above a hookup...she still didn't want to listen to him. She still threw it in his face, and used it to her advantage in order to manipulate him into helping her win business favor with his aunt. Meanwhile, he struggles to find footing with her, debating over the smallest form of affection towards her because he's scared that a compliment or cuddle could scare her off.

    “You can kiss me, by the way. I’ll allow it.” His smile was slow and real. This woman was tough and blunt and made no sense, but she was also super adorable.

While she's calling all of the shots, he's relegated to the person in the equation who gets no say in their relationship. And let me assure you, this sweet man is a huge teddy bear who was down for more from the start. Somehow, someway, he finds her personality adorable and sweet. I do not understand how he came to this conclusion, but he even blames himself for her treatment and that bothered me too.

    This coolness, this toughness, had been missing then. A stab of regret went through him. A broken piece to spackle. So he’d take this time to spackle over some of the damage he’d done. Temporary or not, he could shower her with reliability and kindness.

Samson is going through his own personal struggle with the recent passing of his uncle. This is barely skimmed over in comparison to the heroine's career goals and past. As an ex-football player whose father and Uncle were both in the profession, Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) wreaked havoc on his family. When he gets the test results back about the condition of his uncle's brain at the time of his death, he's noticeably shaken. Does Rhiannon take five minutes to show concern or care for him? Absolutely not. She brushes it off and paints herself as the victim instead of talking to him, actually doing something extremely hurtful towards him.

This is the point where I felt so completely done, but I wanted to see if she would apologize and grovel. Negative. Her past is finally completely uncovered, and we're now led to believe that she gets a free pass to mistreat people because she has a traumatic history. She's forgiven before she even gives her offhand apology text. But it was the resolution that proved in the very last pages that it wasn't much of a resolution at all. No growth on her part, and we are supposed to be okay with that. Make up sex first, (her decision) immediately followed by a question about business (which he finds cute) and then she offers to clear up their personal problem and talk. What does that tell me? That she places their "relationship" on the lowest rung of the priority ladder. At 98%, he's telling her he can be patient with her trust issues and says he'll take her as she is. Baggage and all. This is where I throw my hands up in the air and try to hold in my violent feelings.

I didn't care for this heroine, and I think that's an obvious understatement after venting my frustrations with this story. Cracking through her tough exterior was like trying to chisel through granite with a butter knife. I wasn't rooting for this couple at any point in the book, and felt that Samson could have done so much better. That's a big issue when I'm reading a book categorized as a romance. I'm sad to say this book was a complete loss for this reader.


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Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Blog Tour with Excerpt: Life and Other Inconveniences by Kristan Higgins


From the New York Times bestselling author of Good Luck with That comes a new novel about a blue-blood grandmother and her black-sheep granddaughter who discover they are truly two sides of the same coin.


LIFE AND OTHER INCONVENIENCES 
by KRISTAN HIGGINS

Series: Standalone
Publication Date: July 31th 
Genre: Contemporary Romance 
Publisher: Berkley

Purchase:
 



Synopsis

Emma London never thought she had anything in common with her grandmother Genevieve London. The regal old woman came from wealthy and bluest-blood New England stock, but that didn’t protect her from life’s cruelest blows: the disappearance of Genevieve’s young son, followed by the premature death of her husband. But Genevieve rose from those ashes of grief and built a fashion empire that was respected the world over, even when it meant neglecting her other son.

When Emma’s own mother died, her father abandoned her on his mother’s doorstep. Genevieve took Emma in and reluctantly raised her–until Emma got pregnant her senior year of high school. Genevieve kicked her out with nothing but the clothes on her back…but Emma took with her the most important London possession: the strength not just to survive but to thrive. And indeed, Emma has built a wonderful life for herself and her teenage daughter, Riley.

So what is Emma to do when Genevieve does the one thing Emma never expected of her and, after not speaking to her for nearly two decades, calls and asks for help?


Praise for Life and Other Inconveniences:

“Higgins writes with uncommon grace and empathy.”—Publishers Weekly

“Higgins explores another set of deeply affecting topics using engaging characters and a full spectrum of realistic emotions: humor, anger, anguish, and pride, among others, but above all, hope.Funny, heart-wrenching, insightful, and lovely.”—Kirkus

“Deeply touching, real and raw, but infused with the love and hope that make life possible, despite everything.”—Abbi Waxman, author of The Bookish Life of Nina Hill

“Master storyteller Kristan Higgins deftly balances humor and heart in this latest tale of a young woman navigating her relationship with a dying grandmother who long-ago abandoned her when she needed her most…another must-read from Higgins, who has long been an auto-buy for me.”—Colleen Oakley, author of Before I Go and Close Enough to Touch

“Higgins is a mastermind of family dynamics in this poignant novel about two different generations of women struggling to find common ground. I couldn’t put it down!”—Emily Liebert, author of Some Women

“Readers will be riveted as the well-drawn characters uncover one another’s hidden depths and heal old wounds. This rich and memorable story will instantly win readers over.”—Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

“A shining star, Higgins writes with heart, humor, and honesty about women’s real lives.”—Susan Elizabeth Phillips, #1 New York Times bestselling author of First Star I See Tonight


“Kristan Higgins’s New Book Life and Other Inconveniences Already Has Us Hooked.”—PopSugar

     
Excerpt 

Life and Other Inconveniences
Chapter 7

When I called Genevieve back and told her we were coming—including Pop, who would be staying elsewhere—there’d been a long pause. “Thank you,” she finally said.

“On one condition, Genevieve,” I said. “You do not mention money or inheritance to Riley. Not a whisper, not a hint. I don’t want you dangling your bank accounts in front of my daughter and snatching them away if she uses the wrong fork.”

“By which I assume you’re referring to the fact that I didn’t fund your teenage folly.”

“Teenage folly? You mean your great-granddaughter? Yes. This summer isn’t about the money. It’s us giving you a chance to make amends, and you making me Hope’s guardian.”

“How very gracious you are, my dear,” she said, and I heard a slurp. Five o’clock somewhere.

But she agreed, and here we were.

My clients, the ones I saw in person, were fine with me leaving for two months. I’d TheraTalk with most of them; two were about done anyway, and said they’d call me if they needed me. I’d had to give up my office space, though; luckily, a classmate from my PhD program had sublet it. Once I got back, I’d have to find another space, but I’d deal with that later.

Pop had found himself a little apartment over an antiques shop on Water Street. I was unspeakably grateful that he’d be nearby. He’d always hated Genevieve, who had viewed my mother as insufficient wife material for her wretched son.

Then again, she had a point. My mother had taken her own life. Maybe Genevieve had sensed something, even back then. She was many things, but she wasn’t stupid.

We crossed the Connecticut River, then the Thames. “There’s the Coast Guard Academy, Pop,” I said, pointing. He was an Air Force man himself, but he nodded. We went through Mystic, and I remembered going to the aquarium with Jason on a date. Or a field trip, maybe, but we’d held hands. Kissed in the dim light of the myriad fish tanks, and it had felt like the most romantic thing in the world.

He knew we were coming, of course. He was excited, he’d said on the phone. Talked about being separated, wasn’t sure where things were headed there. The boys couldn’t wait to meet Riley in person, though they knew her from Skype and phone calls.

My heart leaped into overdrive when, just before we hit Rhode Island, Charles exited the highway and entered the land of stone walls and gracious houses, tall oaks and two-hundred-year-old farms. The woods and fields gave way to narrower streets, and we went over the bridge that led to the borough.

Welcome to Stoningham, the sign said.

I found that I was holding my grandfather’s thumb, same as I had when I was little, back before my mother died, when seeing my grandparents was the happiest thing ever. He gave my hand a squeeze.

“Oh, my gosh, this town is so cute!” Riley said.

And it was. The sky was Maxfield Parrish blue, the lights of the Colonials that lined the streets glowing in what seemed to be a welcome. People were out, walking their dogs. At the library green, some kids tossed a football. As we came onto Water Street, Riley exclaimed over the little shops and restaurants. “There’s a café, Mom! Hooray! Oh, and an ice cream place! Even better!”

I smiled, but my stomach cramped again. It felt like I had never left.

The town hadn’t changed much. Still adorable with its colorful buildings and crooked streets. I caught glimpses of Long Island Sound as we drove, smelled garlic and seafood. Would Genevieve have dinner for us? Would she hug me? I swore if she made Riley feel one iota of shame, we’d be out of Connecticut forever.

Charles turned onto Bleak Point Road, where the most expensive houses in town sat like grand old ladies, weathered and gracious. All had names, which Riley read aloud as we passed.

“Thrush Hill. Summerly. Wisteria Cottage. Cliff View. Pop, we have to name our house when we get back!”

“Name it what? Crabgrass?” Pop asked.

“That’s kind of perfect, actually,” I murmured, having gone to war many times with weeds in our small yard.

“Oh, Sheerwater! We’re here!”

The iron gates (yes, gates) opened, and we turned onto the crushed shell drive. Sheerwater had ten acres of land, the very tip of Bleak Point, and it looked like a park, with beautifully gnarled dogwood trees on either side of the driveway, their intertwined branches making a tunnel of white blossoms. Spring was late this year.

We rounded the gentle curve, and my hands were sweating now.

“Holy guacamole,” my daughter breathed. “It’s even prettier than the pictures!” In the rearview mirror, I saw Charles smile. Beside me, Pop stiffened. He’d never been here, of course.

There it was—my grandmother’s twenty-room cottage, pristine and gracious and lit up like the fires of hell.


About the Author

     Kristan Higgins is the New York Times and internationally bestselling author of more than a dozen novels. Her books have been honored with dozens of awards and accolades, including starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, Library Journal, the New York Journal of Books and Romantic Times. She is a two-time winner of the RITA award from Romance Writers of America and a five-time nominee for the Kirkus Prize for best work of fiction. She is happily married to a heroic firefighter and the mother of two fine children.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Review: The Merciful Crow by Margaret Owen


One way or another, we always feed the crows.


THE MERCIFUL CROW by MARGARET OWEN
Series: Frozen Sun Saga #1
Publication date: July 30, 2019
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Genre: YA fantasy

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SYNOPSIS

A future chieftain

Fie abides by one rule: look after your own. Her Crow caste of undertakers and mercy-killers takes more abuse than coin, but when they’re called to collect royal dead, she’s hoping they’ll find the payout of a lifetime.

A fugitive prince

When Crown Prince Jasimir turns out to have faked his death, Fie’s ready to cut her losses—and perhaps his throat. But he offers a wager that she can’t refuse: protect him from a ruthless queen, and he’ll protect the Crows when he reigns.

A too-cunning bodyguard

Hawk warrior Tavin has always put Jas’s life before his, magically assuming the prince’s appearance and shadowing his every step. But what happens when Tavin begins to want something to call his own?

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Praise for The Merciful Crow:

"Packed to the teeth with fresh worldbuilding and righteous fury...It's a ride that is wildly fun."—Emily A. Duncan, New York Times-bestselling author of Wicked Saints

"Rich, harrowing, and unafraid to tackle discrimination—perfect for fans of Leigh Bardugo and Tomi Adeyemi."—Kirkus, Starred Review 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Born and raised at the end of the Oregon Trail, Margaret Owen spent her childhood haunting the halls of Powell’s Books. After earning her degree in Japanese, her love of espresso called her north to Seattle, where she worked in everything from thrift stores to presidential campaigns. The common thread between every job can be summed up as: lessons were learned.

She now spends her days wrestling disgruntled characters onto the page, and negotiating a long-term hostage situation with her two monstrous cats. (There is surprisingly little difference between the two.)
You can find her on:
Twitter | Instagram | Tumblr | Website | Goodreads


REVIEW

The Merciful Crow (The Merciful Crow, #1)The Merciful Crow by Margaret Owen
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

It took me five days to get through this book. Four days for the first half, and then I crammed the entire second half into one night so I could write this review by publication day. To be honest, I considered giving up several times because finishing felt like a chore. I tried. I really tried to like this book, holding on to the bitter end but I found it difficult to connect to these characters or their LONG journey. The world was not adequately explained and you're just thrown into the world, fictitious words, and magic system with pieces of information liberally offered.

The various castes, their origin, the Covenant and their religious beliefs could have used a lot more detailing. The Covenant was a large component of the worldbuilding, yet it didn't seem to be very consistent among other things. Being told that the Covenant was struck by the thousand gods, and it brought death, judgement, free will, and rebirth into the world isn't sufficient. That doesn't exactly tell me what it is, and I spent a lot of the book trying to make it work. Scummers/scum/scummed was used in so many different ways I still am not entirely sure of the true definition. I was continually having to re-read things to figure things out by context.

The crows were an oppressed line of people in this world of bird castes created by the gods. Prejudice and classism were the central themes, where a supremacist-like group called the Oleander Gentry hunted them, and they lived every day in fear for their lives. You couldn't help but make an obvious comparison when this group of white dusted, white robed people came for the unarmed and powerless crows during the night to murder and terrorize. The crows are despised for their lack of magic birthright, and blamed for the spread of the Sinner's Plague because they remain untouched by it. The finger must be pointed somewhere, and where else than those where hate can easily be swayed?

The heroine Fie and her people are seen as a necessary evil. They're mercy killers, called on to finish off the barely living, plague infected in order to appease the gods and save the rest of the city. If they are not killed, the entire population will be wiped out in days. Fie's father is the chief in charge of these killings, and one day Fie will step into his bloody shoes. She's dreading the day that happens, often wishing she could escape her fate, but bound to do her duty for her people. They live by loyalty for their own, because all they have in their cruel world is each other. I have to admit her thoughts on this became repetitive through the book. When, not if. That was her internal dialogue every time she saw something she would be responsible for in the future she didn't want to do.

The journey with Fie, Prince Jasimir, and Tavin seemed never-ending rather than an exciting adventure. They were hunted by a group, they hid with invisibility, big fiery explosion to escape, bickering amongst themselves over the social injustice, they're discovered again, and repeat. Jasimir was not likable at all based on his privilege and blindness to the Crow's true plight. Even after donning the crow life and spending weeks in their reality, he stubbornly lacked any empathy for much of the book. Fie was prickly and angry, and rightfully so after being dehumanized and hated her whole life. But her bitterness was a hard pill to swallow, jagged and unpleasant on the palate. I actually did enjoy Tavin, the Hawk protector and body double for the prince. He was the peacemaker between Fie and Jasimir, he had a great sense of humor, and he truly wanted change for the crows.

There were things that I thought were original such as the bone magic used by the dead's teeth, the gruesome plague scenes, and the mammoth warriors. As a whole though there was too much that didn't work for me. The pace, the repetition, and the lack of clarity on important things made for quite a dragging read. I see many others enjoying this one, so you may not feel the same.


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