Reviewed: “Killer Content” by Olivia Blacke

This book was such good fun!!! Yes, it included a murder but… watching Louisiana girl Odessa Dean try to fit in with the hipster crowd in Williamsburg, Brooklyn while trying to solve the murder of a co-worker/sorta friend was pure fun! Odessa is funny, witty, charming, and utterly self-effacing. She goofs and she’s not afraid to goof or admit that she goofed. She’s just herself, and that’s so much fun to see.

I suppose KILLER CONTENT could be classed as a cozy mystery, except Olivia Blacke has put a twist on the idea of ‘cozy’ and while it’s set in a bookshop, the bookshop doesn’t double as a coffee shop or a bakery as most cozy mysteries do. It doubles as a hipster cafe and hub for microbreweries. That makes everything a bit more edgy and modern, compared to the usual formula for cozy mysteries. The best subtle part of the comparison is that Odessa’s tiny hometown in Louisiana is probably exactly where a normal cozy mystery would be set.

A third thing that’s special and different about KILLER CONTENT is that Odessa is not looking for love and she does not find it. No falling for vegan, gluten-free hipster or sexy cops. Just Odessa being Odessa, and figuring out that it’s just fine to be Odessa. It’s so sweet when she gets excited that people like her for her, when she makes true friends when she felt so cut off.

This is book one in a series and I cannot wait for book two!

Thanks to NetGalley, Berkley, and the author for a chance to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Reviewed: “Fairy Godmothers, Inc.” by Saranna DeWylde

“Fairy Godmothers, Inc.” isn’t the sort of book I usually reach for but sometimes, especially in 2020, you just need some fluffy romance and all the funny shenanigans associated with sweet, meddling magical godmothers. And this hit the spot very well.

All of your favorite fairy tale characters live in Ever After, Missouri… even the mice who sewed for Cinderella. The classics are supporting characters to the fairy godmothers – Bluebonnet, Jonquil, and Petunia – who want to revitalize Ever After and concoct a scheme for their godchildren Lucky Fujiki (who is not lucky) and Ransom Payne (never did quite figure out the meaning behind his name) to get fake-married in a prince and princess-themed wedding.

Lucky (who begins the story knowing nothing about her magical world) and Ransom’s would-be love story is fine, though it does slow down to a crawl in places, but the shining stars of the story are the supporting cast. From Bronx, the cardinal (bird, not Catholic prelate) who talks like he might’ve learned to speak on Don Corleone’s shoulder, to Philip the frog (i.e. grumpy Prince Charming still waiting for his kiss… maybe from one of the godmothers), to Brittany and Steven (totally human children of Lucky’s best friend and maybe technically her godchildren)… Lucky and Ransom would be fine without them but they are far, far better with them.

And I think that sets up the next book in the series very well, Ever After can focus on a new pet project and the old gang can get back together to see it through.

I don’t laugh often at books, I don’t know why, but I absolutely laughed out loud at this book. The page and a half of the godmothers mortifying Ransom with euphemisms for sex was worth re-reading an extra time or two! I really liked it a lot and a lot of people, who are more into fairy tale re-tellings and magical things than me, will absolutely adore it!

(Thanks to BookishFirst, Saranna DeWylde, and the publisher for a chance to read this book early in exchange for an honest review.)

“Mad Miss Mimic” by Sarah Henstra

I freakin’ love this book! And I am so sad it only took me two days to read it! I’m going to read it again, no doubt about it.

But onto the details first…

Sarah Henstra’s MAD MISS MIMIC is about one Leonora Sommerville who lives in Hastings House with her sister and her doctor brother-in-law in Victorian era London. Leo, as she prefers to be called is seventeen and her older sister is desperately trying to marry her off despite the facts that she suffers from selective mutism, stuttering, and outbursts of mimicry. Naturally, Dr. and Mrs. Dewhurst decide the bad doctor’s business partner, the future Lord Rosbury, is the perfect match for the unmarried sister – he needs a pretty wife who won’t say much, after all.

This does not work out, for anyone.

As you might expect.

Dr. Dewhurst is perfecting the art of morphine, on the poor of London who suffer terribly at his hands, while keeping his wife dosed up on laudanum. The future Lord Rosbury is arguing for a ban on opium after getting very rich already on importing opium into England. Leo figures she really ought to get married to someone who doesn’t mind her speech problems, of which her sister is absolutely horrible about, so she resigns herself to a life as Lady Rosbury.

But then…

Somebody keeps blowing things up in London and killing people, all related to the potential opium ban. And Leo begins to suspect that Dr. Dewhurst and her future husband isn’t all it seems on the surface. So, with the help of Tom – the lockpick, pickpocket, mechanical genius who is working against the partnership already, she begins to investigate.

And the twist there? Tom loves Leo and Leo loves Tom.

All the wrong social circles, though, of course.

But there is drama, there is suspense, there is medicine, there is mystery, there is history, there is romance, there is angst, there is love… and everybody should read this book!

(I received a copy of MAD MISS MIMIC through NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest and original review. All thoughts are my own.)

Reviewed: “The Visitant: A Venetian Ghost Story” by Megan Chance

24982850.jpgGhost stories are not generally the genre I go for. Historical fiction is my go-to genre. I don’t usually like stories that involve exorcisms, because they are so often used for the shock factor. But exorcisms in the context of actual history… I like that.

All this makes Megan Chance’s THE VISITANT a perfect book for me.

Set in the latest years of the 1800s, in Venice no less, it is the story of Elena, an American woman seeking redemption for a mistake that cost her father his job by nursing an ex-pat back to health in Venice so he can be married to a proper lady. The twist, because it’s hard to say what else you can call it, that Samuel the ex-pat is epileptic is not something I’d expect in a historical fiction romance ghost story. Chance brilliantly weaves the then-modern thinking on epilepsy into the story, making it a forbidden, hidden thing that everything is done to hide when it is the only son of a powerful family. This only raises the pressure on Elena, facing her own unhappy future, and she is stubborn in her determination to heal-slash-hide Samuel’s condition so she can have some chance of happiness.

She isn’t so self-centered as to not see the truth of Samuel’s reality, though, as she lets him tease her into reading erotic novels and falls in love with his best friend, Nero, whose house they are both staying at. Elena, though, is her own harshest critic and she considers admitting defeat many times. It is always Samuel who pulls her back.

Even as she becomes convinced that she loves the aptly named Nero, if you know anything about ancient Roman history, she senses something is wrong. And that something involves the ghost who makes Samuel’s condition worse, and yet different, as s/he tries to tell the story of his/her death.

There are many unexpected twists and turns in Chance’s novel. The three main characters (and it can’t really be considered a love triangle for reasons that fast become obvious) – Elena, Samuel, and Nero – are vivid in their personalities and their motivations. The supporting characters – servants and ghosts and family – are just as vivid and intriguing. I would have read a book about any one of them. It really is the characters who make the story, and the story is incredibly well made.

(I received a copy of THE VISITANT from NetGalley and Lake Union Publishing in exchange for an honest & original review. All thoughts are my own.)

Spotlight: “Someone Like You” by T.L. Reese

Someone Like YouI can think of no better way than to usher in the Spotlight section of my humble book review blog than to feature a novella called “Someone Like You” by the lovely T.L. Reese – who, for clarity’s sake I should say, is friend of mine and graciously allowed me to read early copies of her first, self-published work. So without further ado…

A review of “Someone Like You”

Jamison Kingston was named after the drink that helped create just the right setting to bring her into the world. An inauspicious name doesn’t lead to an inauspicious life for her, though, as she creates a solid, steady life for herself. With her best friend Margo as her guide to living a life a little more in line with her name, Jamison manages what we all want – to live the best of every world.

This is never more true than when she, the BFF we all need in our lives, powers through illness to see a concert with and for Margo. The old proverb that an apple a doctor keeps the doctor away is twisted when illness brings Jamison directly and very literally into the arms of Santiago Vasquez, the performer and the reason for her attendance at the concert. The thing I love most about “Someone Like You” is that Jamison could be me. I see myself in her. She’s complicated enough that she’s a strong character, one you want to keep getting to know better, but she’s written in a way that makes her entirely relatable. Reading about her, about how she fell, literally – the word bears repeating, into the arms of a sexy singer who swept her off her feet, makes me want to live that life. For lack of being able to live it, just now anyway, I’m more than happy to live it vicariously through Jamison. I recommend you spend a buck and escape with Jamison and Santiago for a little while – “Someone Like You” on Amazon.

An interview with T.L. Reese

  • “Someone Like You” makes the locations; New York and Miami, very real parts of the story, almost like… tourist fiction. Do you write from experience in those cities or do you want to see the places Jamison does in the book?

I grew up right across the river in Jersey so I have definitely had my fair share of New York living. I went to Miami once a few years back but I didn’t get to see the places I outlined in Jamison’s story. I hope to follow in her footsteps really soon.

  • Is there any particular event in the story that’s borrowed from your life?

I would say the concert setting itself minus the fainting and meeting the incredibly hot guy 😉 but it sure was hot that that!

  • Everyone always asks if an author puts herself in her characters so… did you? How are you different from Jamison?

I can say without a doubt Jamison has a lot of my key characteristics right down to the ability to poke fun at herself but we are different in the sense that I would have been a lot more aggressive with Santiago. I like to be all in when in love.

  • If “Someone Like You” were being made into a movie, do you have a dream cast that would fill the roles or is it best left vague on the page?

I would love to see Enrique Iglesias as Santiago in fact he may have been a little of my inspiration while writing as for the rest of the cast I have no clue but I’m sure given time I could come up with a few names.

  • What’s one thing that would surprise people about you?

Surprisingly that I write, there were so many people I know who were shocked when I self published.

  • How do you get in the “zone” to write? Candles, music, a certain chair, fluffy slippers?

It depends but music is a very strong motivation, I slip in my ear buds put on a certain album with the tv on for added effect and just get busy.

  • Playlists – everybody talks about them when it comes to books so who and what did you listen to while you plotted, planned, and wrote?

For this particular story I didn’t really have a play list it all came to me while listening to a coworker on the phone with a client. The story just snowballed from there.

  • Do you have a favorite book or favorite author? Anything you’re absolutely sure you’ll never stop re-reading?

OMG, the list is endless but Tammara Webbers Easy and Breakable have been re-read so many times since I brought them. Her book hero is my certified book boyfriend or at least he was until I wrote Santiago 🙂

Reviewed: “Cover Your Eyes” by Mary Burton

Cover Your EyesAs I typed the title for this blog post, it occurred to me that I have no idea why Mary Burton titled this book “Cover Your Eyes.” I’ve never really focused on cover art in judging a book either, but this cover is confusing and not really related to the story of honky-tonk Nashville being beset by a tire iron wielding murder thirty years ago and today.

The murders are mostly the central focus of the story. Burton sometimes seems torn between laying out the reasons for the them, reasons that turn out to be interesting and believable when they’re mentioned in detail, and focus on a budding romance between Detective Deke Morgan and do-gooder lawyer Rachel Wainwright.

Deke and Rachel aren’t what you’d think of when you think of a couple that clicks, but it’s what could make them interesting. I wish the story had been longer, even, so I could have read more about Deke and Rachel and why Baby and Mother were murdering pretty honky-tonk singers every chance they got.

It seems like a lot of missed opportunities for a really great story.

I didn’t like the ending. It was abrupt and unsatisfying. There was so much more that could have branched off from what Burton declared the ending. And I wanted it to branch off. I wanted to read more of it.

I won’t go into too many details because I know that someone else will love this book and I hope they do. It’s just not for me. Very unsatisfying.

“Cover Your Eyes” is available for purchase.

(I received a copy of “Cover Your Eyes” through NetGalley in exchange for an honest & original review. This review will be posted at NetGalley, Goodreads, and on my blog.)

Reviewed: “Batter Up” by Robin Neeley

Batter UpWho doesn’t love cupcakes?

Truth be told, I don’t. They’re alright. The frosting part, mostly.

But I do love what Robin Neeley’s done with cupcakes in BATTER UP. It’s a bit sweet, a bit witch-ish, and a bit adorable.

Emma and Abby are cousins who inherited their grandmother’s special (magical) match-making ability and it involves… cupcakes!

The twist, one I think is kind of genius, is that Emma and Abby don’t really deal with women – who you’d imagine would flock to a matchmaking bakery. They deal with men. They, or rather their batter, tell the bachelors which woman in town they should man up and date.

Buttermilk Falls, though, isn’t a place that makes national news very often so Emma and Abby are suspicious when reporters from Miami and Los Angeles show up and want to know more about their matchmaking abilities.

Cute, funny, and kind of adorable hijinks ensue as the secret is kept.

And in the end, just as you might expect, Emma and Abby get their matches.

It’s a quick, sweet, fun read I’m very glad I got to read.

BATTER UP is available now for purchase.

(I received a copy of BATTER UP through NetGalley in return for an honest and original review. All thoughts are my own. This review will be posted on NetGalley, Goodreads, and my blog.)

Reviewed: “Only With You” by Lauren Layne

Only With YouLauren Layne’s ONLY WITH YOU is an absolutely adorable, completely addictive, infinitely enjoyable book.

That is truly the long and the short of it.

This contemporary romance is the story of Sophie Dalton, a cocktail waitress mistaken for a hooker on a bachelorette weekend in Vegas, and Grayson Wyatt, the uber-rich CEO who mistakes Sophie for a hooker on a bachelorette weekend in Vegas. Naturally, the story of Sophie and Gray doesn’t end in the elevator when he promises he’s not interested in paying for sex with her.

The plot could be stale and hokey; given the number of times it’s been done.

It isn’t.

The plot is fresh, engaging, and very much likable.

Sophie isn’t a clueless cocktail waitress who falls fast and hard for Gray, being almost entirely defined by her attraction to him. She’s a law school dropout who, while seeming very much sure of herself, experiences the self-doubt that any woman feels about her path in life. She’s got many layers to her and that makes her relatable.

Gray may wear mostly gray suits and designer jeans when he absolutely has to be casual but he isn’t gray. He’s got as many layers as Sophie does. He wants to be liked, he wants to be loved… he doesn’t quite know quite know how to do either thing. More than that, he doesn’t always believe that people might want to like or love him. The moments when he shows true vulnerabilities and weaknesses are some of the best in the story.

It would be easy to have a story just about Sophie and Gray – and I would read that book. The supporting characters in Layne’s story, who will be featured in the next book in the series, are Sophie’s by-the-book-sister Brynn and her platonic, ladies’ man best friend Will. Brynn and Will define the idea of a love-hate relationship and the taste of it in ONLY WITH YOU made sure that I will read the next book.

But I’ll come back to this one, there’s no doubt about that.

ONLY WITH YOU is available now for purchase as an ebook.

(I received a copy of ONLY WITH YOU from NetGalley in return for an honest, original review. This review will be cross-posted on my blog, NetGalley, and on Goodreads.)

Reviewed: “The Lion’s Lady” by Julie Garwood

The Lion's LadyI feel like Julie Garwood and I are old friends. We’re not, but I feel like we are.

I think I was in junior high school when I got my first Julie Garwood book. I think I have most of her “historical” romance books now. I’m going to make a list and see what I’m missing and get them. Why? Because no matter how many times I re-read Garwood’s books, I feel like it’s for the first time. I feel like I’m friends with the characters she created. I’ve always loved history and fictionalized accounts of history, but I think my love grew by a lot when I let myself get lost in the worlds she creates. She makes me want to write like her.

This is why I feel like we’re old friends. I hope Ms. Garwood doesn’t mind me saying it, but it’s true.

Before I ramble on too long, I’ll get to the review of THE LION’S LADY – a book I’ve read at least four times and one that I love.

The first thing that catches my eye about this particular book is that it bridges two cultures. Christina Bennett is a white girl raised by the Dakota tribe in America. The Marquis of Lyonwood, a man with a temperament that earns him the nickname Lyon – is the knighted head of a prominent family in the British aristocracy. Both Christina and Lyon have secrets they’d rather the other never find out and they both know it would be easier if they took very separate paths during her time in England.

This being a historical romance, that’s unlikely.

With her mother’s diary to guide her, Christina sets out on a course to both save herself and to avenge her mother’s death all while keeping in mind the final goal of returning to her Dakota family. Lyon has other plans as he finds himself falling head over heels in love with the most confusing, intriguing, and beautiful woman he’s ever met. The point of it all is that neither can exist without they other and they must come to some common ground to find what they need in life.

I’ve read it before and I’ll read it again. And again.

The romance is sweet, the sex is hot, and the plot will pull me in every time.

Thanks Julie Garwood, for writing books that become my old friends.