ARC Review: Killin’ Generals

  • Publisher: Kensington Books
  • Publication Date: April 25, 2023
  • Author: Dwayne Epstein
  • Genre: Arts & Photography | Entertainment | Non Fiction (Adult)
  • Page Count: 272

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Review

I’ve probably watched The Dirty Dozen at least several times and I never realized the time and effort it took to create and produce such a classic.

The novel is slow in at least the first 21% of the book. It’s basically a rehashing of the movie, but it is an integral part of the narrative. I thought that I would have appreciated the novel a lot more if I re-watched the move first. However, now that I’ve read the book, I’m looking forward to watching the movie with an enlightened perspective.

Once I got past the 21% point, the novel just took off. It got so much more interesting. Especially the selection process, the history, and status of the actors featured in the movie. I didn’t realize that there was so much drama behind the scenes and that the movie was over budget, and past it’s timeline to production. Little did I know that Lee Marvin was awarded the purple heart and that as a result of PTSD (a term unknown at that time,) Lee suffered from chronic alcoholism. And who would have thought that Charles Bronson, Telly Savalas, and Donald Sutherland got their iconic careers by way of The Dirty Dozen movie?

Watch the movie, read the book, and I’m sure you’ll be just as impressed as I was. Five amazing stars.

I received a digital ARC from Kensington Books through NetGalley. The review herein is completely my own and contains my honest thoughts and opinions.


ARC Review: The House on Mulberry Street

  • Publisher: Forever (GCP)
  • Publication Date: March 7, 2023
  • Author: Jeannie Chin
  • Genre: Romance
  • Page Count: 384

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Review

The House on Mulberry Street is the third book in the Blue Cedar Falls series. And I think it is just as good or better than the previous novel, Return to Cherry Blossom Way.

Though it is possible to read the novel as a standalone, I highly recommend that the series be read in order, beginning with The Inn on Sweetbriar Lane.

Elizabeth Wu is the youngest of the Wu sisters and the most unconventional. Her two older sisters have established and sucessful careers, while she is still trying to find her place in the universe. Known as the rebel without a cause, Elizabeth has bucked the system for most of her life. She even got arrested with her best friend, Graham Lewis. A minor infraction, but still…

Both Elizabeth and Graham have been best friends since grade school. They have kept their relationship platonic for over a decade, and have been roommates for a number of years. But unlike Elizabeth, Graham has wanted more. And as Graham’s fondness for Elizabeth goes unrequited, he purchases a house on Mulberry Street so that both he and Elizabeth can go on with their respective lives. But doing so only makes Graham want more. And Elizabeth starts to realize that maybe she has more feelings for Graham than she thought.

The House on Mulberry Street was by far my favorite book in the series. I loved the main characters of Elizabeth and Graham. Their personalities shine through in this novel — quirky, impulsive and artsy Elizabeth, and geeky and predictable Graham. And if you read the prior novels, the whole picture of the town and the townsfolk are on full display.

As you can guess, the plot follows the friends to lovers trope. But this novel blends in family relationships in a beautiful way. It is more than a romance novel in that Chin deftly inserts the family dynamics from all angles. The sisterhood angle really shines here.

Jeannie Chin is sure to become your next favorite romance author. Five oustanding stars.

I received a digital ARC from Forever (GCP) through NetGalley. The review herein is completely my own and contains my honest thoughts and opinions.


ARC Review: What Have We Done

  • Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
  • Publication Date: March 7, 2023
  • Author: Alex Finlay
  • Genre: Mystery & Thrillers
  • Page Count: 368

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Review

Having read and loved the author’s two previous novels, I was so excited to read his latest offering, What Have We Done. I wasn’t thrilled with it and was somewhat disappointed.

Thrust into a group home, five teens forged a friendship that allowed them to survive the abuse and bullying that regularly occurred. That was twenty-five years ago.

Since that time, Jenna, Donnie, Nico, Ben and Artemis have all become successful adults. Fulfilling their dreams. But they all shared a terrible secret. A secret that would come back to haunt each and everyone of them. Unless they banded together to fight the sinister force.

What Have We Done is not like any of the author’s previous works. But there is still the stable elements of character development. There are quite a few characters but they are distinguishable from one another.

The story unfolds from multiple points of view. Alternating between the main characters, across two timelines. The point of view transitions were clear. But the timelines were a bit blurred.

If there were any plot twists, I missed them. Or it could have been that I expected them.

In any event, What Have We Done isn’t Finlay’s best work and if it weren’t for the assassin gimmick, I would have enjoyed the novel a lot more. Two okay stars.

I received a digital ARC from St. Martin’s Press through NetGalley. The review herein is completely my own and contains my honest thoughts and opinions.


ARC Review: Missing Clarissa

  • Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
  • Publication Date: March 7, 2023
  • Author: Ripley Jones
  • Genre: Mystery & Thrillers | Teens & YA
  • Page Count: 256

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Review

Clarissa Campbell disappeared without a trace twenty years ago. Her disappearance was sensationalized in the news, television, and magazines. Back then, it was unheard of for a teen to go missing in the small town of Oreville.

With Clarissa’s disappearance still unsolved twenty years later, it became a journalism project for classmates and best friends, Cameron and Blair to uncover clues that may lead to solving the mystery.

Through a series of interviews with Clarissa’s classmates, friends, and teachers, Blair and Cameron slowly uncover hidden truths and secrets. Truths and secrets that laid dormant for many years and are now coming back to haunt the people that hid them

Missing Clarissa was an engaging read from the get-go. The story unfolds through multiple points of view with flashbacks to the past. There are a number of plot twists that kept me guessing until the end. But in the grand scheme of things, it wasn’t that surprising.

I liked the characters in the novel. They were descript and so real. Each character had a unique personality and I really loved how the author managed to transition from teen characterss to adult characters.

Missing Clarissa is author Ripley Jones’ debut novel. And what a novel it turned out to be! Five amazing stars.

I received a digital ARC from St. Martin’s Press through NetGalley. The review herein is completely my own and contains my honest thoughts and opinions.


Book Review: The Man Without Shelter

  • Publisher: Indrajit Garai
  • Publication Date: September 5, 2022
  • Author: Indrajit Garai
  • Genre: General Fiction (Adult)
  • Page Count: 119

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Review:

Arnault spent the best years of his life behind bars. Arnault was convicted of murder and was sentenced to spend his life in prison, even though he claimed innocence.

Due to a technicality, Arnault is released and sent into the streets of France in the middle of the night. No I.D., no halfway house to shelter him, and no job. Arnault is cast out to fend for himself and navigate the homeless world that he was thrust upon.

The Man Without Shelter is not what I expected. I didn’t enjoy it as much as the author’s previous novel, The Eye Opener. I can’t pinpoint the exact reason for not enjoying it, but part of it has to do with vocabulary and a somewhat disjointed storytelling. I found myself backtracking to previous passages to get the drift of the narrative.

The main characters aren’t that memorable. The just seemed pretty vanilla and the only difference was that they were male and female.

I almost gave up on this novel as it got really depressing. And not understanding the French regulations didn’t help the cause. But I forged on to finish the novel only to be disappointed at the somewhat open ended finale. Two stars.

I received a digital copy of the novel from the author’s agent. The review herein is completely my own and contains my honest thoughts and opinions.


ARC Review: The Angel Maker

  • Publisher: Celadon Books
  • Publication Date: February 28, 2023
  • Author: Alex North
  • Genre: General Fiction (Adult) | Mystery & Thrillers
  • Page Count: 336

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Blurb

A dark, suspenseful new thriller about the mysteries of fate, the unbreakable bond of siblings, and a notorious serial killer who was said to know the future.

Growing up in a beautiful house in the English countryside, Katie Shaw lived a charmed life. At the cusp of graduation, she had big dreams, a devoted boyfriend, and a little brother she protected fiercely. Until the day a violent stranger changed the fate of her family forever.

Years later, still unable to live down the guilt surrounding what happened to her brother, Chris, and now with a child of her own to protect, Katie struggles to separate the real threats from the imagined. Then she gets the phone call: Chris has gone missing and needs his big sister once more.

Meanwhile, Detective Laurence Page is facing a particularly gruesome crime. A distinguished professor of fate and free will has been brutally murdered just hours after firing his staff. All the leads point back to two old cases: the gruesome attack on teenager Christopher Shaw, and the despicable crimes of a notorious serial killer who, legend had it, could see the future.

My Thoughts & Opinions

So as not to give away the story, I’m not going to give my rendition of the narrative. The story is much too complex for that.

I was about to throw in the towel at 69% into the book, but something made me skim a few chapters which piqued my interest. So I decided to forge on. And voila! I managed to finish the book. It was a little rough going, however.

Some readers have expressed a lot of confusion with the plot, timelines, and characters. I don’t blame them. I had similar problems. I had to backtrack a number of times and then ended up taking a boatload of notes which really helped in navigating the storyline and characters.

The story is very involved and I really needed to concentrate and pay close attention to the narrative and timelines. A couple of slips here and there cost me dearly in retracing my steps.

I didn’t quite enjoy the novel as others, but finishing it was a victory for me. I still have a ton of unanswered questions and perhaps the answers are somewhere in the novel. But I’m not going to attempt searching for them right now. Maybe one day…

I don’t think I’ll be reading any future novels by North anytime soon. Whisperman wasn’t that great and The Angel Maker wasn’t a game changer, either. So for now, The Angel Maker stands at an okay two star read for me.

I received a physical ARC from Celadon Books through the BookishFirst raffle. The review herein is completely my own and contains my honest thoughts and opinions.


ARC Review: Lovely Girls

  • Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
  • Publication Date: March 1, 2023
  • Author: Margot Hunt
  • Genre: General Fiction (Adult) | Mystery & Thrillers
  • Page Count: 302

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Blurb

After the sudden death of her husband, Kate Turner is looking for a fresh start for herself and her teenage daughter, Alex. They relocate to the beachside town of Shoreham, Florida, where all is not as sunny as it seems.

Although Kate makes fast friends with a trio of fellow moms, their daughters take an instant dislike to Alex, who attempts to document their bullying in her video diary. Kate brushes off Alex’s concerns—until she receives a series of chilling warnings about the clique of moms from other parents and neighbors. As it becomes harder for her to ignore the malicious undercurrent she senses among her new friends, Kate grows increasingly unsure of who to believe—and who to trust.

As small-town gossip weaves a harrowing web of jealousy, deceit, and betrayal, Kate and Alex discover that whether you’re in or out, the status quo can turn on you deadly fast.

My Thoughts & Opinions

Lovely Girls is my first Margot Hunt novel and I’ll be sure to read more of her works. The story unfolds from mother and daughter points of view across two timelines. This method of storytelling really works for this particular novel in that the reader is immersed in the different perspectives.

The characters are developed enough for a YA/teen novel. And Hunt manages to deftly capture the bullying nature of the “lovely girls” clique of Daphne, Callie, and Shae. So much so that I really despised each and everyone of them, including their parents. On the flip side, there are the victims Alex and her mother Kate. I didn’t quite care for them either due to their laid back nature. I just wanted to reach into the novel and give them a good shake! But that just means Hunt did an excellent job in Alex and Kate’s character building.

The plot is fairly straightforward, but there are some twists that were mildly surprising. But the ending was as expected.

Overall, Lovely Girls was an impressive read for a new to me author. Four glowing stars.

I received a digital ARC from Thomas & Mercer through NetGalley. The review herein is completely my own and contains my honest thoughts and opinions.


Book Review: Return to Cherry Blossom Way

  • Publisher: Forever (GCP)
  • Publication Date: August 23, 2022
  • Author: Jeannie Chin
  • Genre: Romance
  • Page Count: 335

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Review

May Wu desperately needed to leave hicktown Blue Cedar Falls to pursue greener pastures in New York. In doing so, May left behind the love of her life, Han Leung

Han had dreams of following May, but those dreams were dashed when his father passed leaving Han to run the family restaurant.

Thirteen years later, both May and Han have each forged new lives. Han is the co-operator of a Chinese take out and May is a successful travel writer who has pretty much shunned her hometown. But May is forced to return to Blue Cedar Falls for research on a blooming story that has potential to be a cover feature on the magazine she writes for. That’s when May runs into Han and the sparks re-ignite the embers hidden in their hearts.

Return to Cherry Blossom Way is the second book in the Blue Cedar Falls series. Though is is possible to read as a standalone novel, I would recommend that the first novel, Inn at Sweetbriar Lane, be read in advance as a lot of the narrative in Return to Cherry Blossom Way refers to the past histories of many of the characters in the first novel.

The story follows a second chance at romance between former sweethearts in a small town. But it is much more than a romance since family relationships come into play. The Wu family and the Leung family dynamics are on display and their interractions to me were so relatable.

The characters are well developed and I liked each and everyone of them. I especially like Han as he still had his dry humor, but he also shows his softer side in this novel. I had to warm up to the other main character, May since she had that New York chip on her shoulder in the beginning. I did enjoy the minor character of Elizabeth the youngest of the Wu sisters as she still retained that quirky style of hers from the previous novel. And as fate would have it, the third book in the Blue Cedar Falls series will showcase Elizabeth. I can’t wait.

Overall, Return to Cherry Blossom Way was a very enjoyable and entertaining read. It is the perfect and must read novel for second chance romance fans and own voices readers. Five stars.

I received a finished paperback copy of the novel from Forever (GCP.) The review herein is completely my own and contains my honest thoughts and opinions.


ARC Review: Device Free Weekend

  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • Publication Date: February 28, 2023
  • Author: Sean Doolittle
  • Genre: General Fiction (Adult) | Mystery & Thrillers
  • Page Count: 288

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Review

Self-made billionaire, Ryan Cloverhill invites his six closest classmates for a weekend retreat on his private island. The purpose was to have fun and reconnect with his friends that he hasn’t seen in years. It’s a very welcome surprise for Ryan’s friends. Six of them got an invitation for an all expense paid and all inclusive stay at the island.

Upon arrival on the island, the invitees are given a grand tour of the campus and facilities. Everyone is awestruck until they are asked to relinquish all of their electronic devices. There is to be no contact with the outside world — no streaming videos, no pics, no social media posts, and no phone calls. It’s a pretty bold request, but everyone complies.

Unbeknownst to Ryan’s friends, Ryan has a sinister agenda. A plan that has been in the making for several years. A plan that will surely affect the island’s guests, inhabitants and potentially Ryan’s empire around the world.

Device Free Weekend started out as a taut suspense novel. But as the story unfolded, the narrative became increasingly unbelievable, where it bordered on science fiction. There is a lot of action that takes place. However, what overshadows the action is whether any of it could occur.

The characters weren’t that noteworthy and none of them stood out as likable or unlikeable. Though I’m leaning toward all of them as being unlikeable given the fact that they were all leaches — preying on the generosity of their estranged but successful classmate.

There are a number of potential scenarios that could have played out in this locked room mystery, but the existing scenario leaves a lot to be desired. Two and a half stars satisfactory stars, rounded up.

I received a digital ARC from Grand Central Publishing through NetGalley. The review herein is completely my own and contains my honest thoughts and opinions.


Book Review: Georgie, All Along

  • Publisher: Kensington Books
  • Publication Date: January 24, 2023
  • Author: Kate Clayborn
  • Genre: Romance
  • Page Count: 352

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Review

Georgie Mulcahy had a hectic lifestyle as a personal assistant in Hollywood. That is until her boss decided to change her life. Although Georgie could have exactly the same job at the drop of a hat, Georgie decides against it and moves back home to the small town of Darentville.

Enroute to her parents’ house, Georgie stops at her best friend Bel’s new home. Georgie was supposed to help with organizing the unpacking and setup of the household furnishings. In the process, Georgie finds their old notebook from grade school. A notebook filled with Georgie and Bel’s hopes, dreams and aspirations. A notebook Georgie decides to read, reminice, and maybe fulfill.

But like everything else in Georgie’s life, things don’t always do as planned. Especially since there’s an unexpected guest at her parents’ home — Levi Fanning. Bad boy and brother of her high school crush, Evan Fanning.

Georgie, All Along is more than a romance novel. It is a novel of finding one’s self through acting on hopes and dreams that weren’t fulfilled. It is also a novel about the importance of family in the shaping of our lives. And how choices made determine the outcome of one’s life.

I didn’t quite like the characters of Levi and Georgie in the novel. They were a little depressing to me in that their childhood was anything but happy or rewarding. But I guess not everyone’s life is like a bed of roses. Aside from their childhood struggles, both Levi and Georgie managed to become successful on their own terms, i.e. Bad Boy and Bad Girl make good…

The pacing of the novel was slower than I liked. I almost gave up reading at the halfway point. But perseverance rewarded me with a heartfelt ending that redeemed the entirety of the novel. Four stars.

I received a digital ARC through NetGalley from Kensington Books who also sent me a physical copy. The review herein is completely my own and contains my honest thoughts and opinions.


ARC Review: Storm in a D Cup

  • Publisher: Head of Zeus
  • Publication Date: January 19, 2023
  • Author: Nancy Barone
  • Genre: General Fiction (Adult) | Romance | Women’s Fiction
  • Page Count: 323

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Review

Erica Cantelli has been married seven years to successful author and former baseball player, Julian Foxham. It was rough going in the beginning — moving to Tuscany, starting a bed and breakfast, and launching Julian’s writing career. Now that the bed and breakfast as well as Julian’s writing career are flourishing, Erica can finally relax and enjoy life.

But Erica’s bliss maybe short-lived with the impending arrival of Julian’s former girlfriend, Genie Stacie — a successful model and actress. Already feeling inadequate due to her weight gain, Erica must fight to preserve not only her marriage, but her family as well.

Storm in a D Cup was a fun read. It is the last novel in The Husband Diet series. And while it can be read as a standalone, I highly recommend reading the previous novel, My Big Fat Italian Breakup. It will help navigate the context of the narrative.

Most of the characters are carryovers from the prior novels but there are some new ones that added a lot more drama to the story. Especially since Erica’s children have grown up and have a lot more opinions on the family dynamic.

Because the story unfolds through Erica’s point of view, we get to see first hand her insecurities of being a plus sized woman and how she and Julian manage the hills and valleys of their relationship.

Storm in a D Cup is more that a seven year itch romance novel since the family element is at the forefront. I must say that although the novel wasn’t that hilarious to me, I did find Erica’s snarkiness funny and entertaining. If only Erica had the confidence, security, and comfort of being in her own skin… Four stars.

I received a digital ARC from Head of Zeus through NetGalley. The review herein is completely my own and contains my hones thoughts and opinions.


Book Review: The Inn on Sweetbriar Lane

  • Publisher: Forever (GCP)
  • Publication Date: September 28, 2021
  • Author: Jeannie Chin
  • Genre: Romance
  • Page Count: 356

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Review

The Sweetbriar Inn used to be a successful operation until the freeway got built. June Wu knew that much. With dwindling customers, the Inn is struggling. And with her mom’s recent stroke along with the mounting medical bills, the Inn is on the precipice of bankruptcy.

Ex soldier Clay Hawthorne just moved to Blue Cedar Falls to fulfill his late best friend’s dream of opening a bar. Armed with a chip on his shoulder, Clay vows to get the bar opened and running no matter the cost or consequences. But the townsfolk and neighbor June don’t quite agree with Clay’s plans. Until June realizes that perhaps a warm and cozy bar would be just the ticket to draw customers to her Inn and increase the Inn’s revenue. A win-win as far as she was concerned. So June devises a plan and sets in motion a series of tactical manuevers to influence Clay on the bar’s design and theme. But along the way, June is finding that Clay isn’t the ruff and gruff man he projects himself to be. June also discovers that she’s feeling that familiar flutter of excitement whenever Clay is near.

The Inn on Sweetbriar Lane is a contemporary romance with a little bit of steam. It is the first novel in the Blue Cedar Falls series. And it was an enjoyable read.

There are just a handful of characters so I didn’t get lost in the who’s who. For the most part, I enjoyed the minor players the best. I liked Han and Elizabeth. Han for his dead pan humor and Elizabeth for her quirky style. I really didn’t care too much for the main characters primarily because of their attitudes — Clay was a bit rough around the edges and June just had the elitist attitude — my way or the highway demeanor.

I enjoyed the opposites attract theme, but for some reason I didn’t think that Clay or June would ever see eye to eye on anything. But in the grand scheme of things, a happy ending with two happy people is the best one could hope for. Four solid stars.

I received a finished copy of the book from Forever (GCP.) The review herein is completely my own and contains my honest thoughts and opinions.


ARC Review: Lunar Love

  • Publisher: Forever (GCP)
  • Publication Date: January 10, 2023
  • Author: Lauren Kung Jessen
  • Genre: Romance
  • Page Count: 336

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Review

Olivia (Liv) Huang Christenson is about to take over her grandmother’s matchmaking business. To celebrate, Liv is tasked to make a pastry run for her grandmother at their favorite bakery. Liv just needed to get her grandmother’s favorite pastry — a cocktail bun. Just as Liv was about to grab the last cocktail bun, another pair of tongs swiftly snatches it away. Surprised and annoyed by the stranger’s bold move, Liv confronts the “Bakery Guy” and tests his will and negotiation skills. Liv ultimately prevails but she can’t get over the butterflies that she feels being in close proximity to him. Little does Liv know that the “Bakery Guy” will be her competition in the Chinese zodiac matchmaking business.

Lunar Love was such as pleasure to read. The characters are wholesome and wonderfully developed. I thoroughly enjoyed the main characters of Liv and Bennett (Bakery Guy.) Liv is a traditionalist with strong feelings that love develops through complementary traits. Bennett on the other hand is tech savvy and modern. He firmly believes that opposites attract and that two opposites balance each other out. Sparks fly when these two diametrically opposed matchmakers confront each other in a competition to win a publicity spot that could ultimately make or break either one of them. It was the banter between Liv and Bennett that I found so entertaining and often humorous. It was fun to be a part of their banter and eventual attraction.

There isn’t any steam to Lunar Love and I loved that it was a clean and chaste romance. Though I suspect that some readers would want that steam at least somewhere in the novel. But for me, it was perfect. Add in the family drama and you have a wholesome Hallmark movie-like romance like no other. Five wonderful stars.

I received a digital ARC via NetGalley from Forever (GCP) as well as a physical ARC directly from Forever (GCP.) The review herein is completely my own and contains my honest thoughts and opinions.


ARC Review: Locust Lane

  • Publisher: Celadon Books
  • Publication Date: January 17, 2023
  • Author: Stephen Amidon
  • Genre: Mystery & Thrillers
  • Page Count: 320

**SPOILER ALERT**

Rating: 4 out of 5.

REVIEW

A young girl, Eden Perry, is found dead in the posh neighborhood of Emerson Heights. Cause of death: Blunt force trauma to the head. From available evidence, she was murdered. The suspects are three teenagers — Jack Parrish, Hannah Holt, and Christopher Mahoun.

It didn’t seem possible that any of the suspected teenagers could commit such a horrendous crime, but someone did. And being in a wealthy neighborhood, each of them had everything to lose.

Locust Lane is a suspenseful whodunnit mystery that unfolds through multiple points of view. There are quite a number of characters, but the core group consists of the parents of the teens involved in the murder investigation.

Because of the posh locale where the murder took place, I got the sense that money and power played a pivotal role in how the investigation was conducted and how the authorities might have been unduly influenced.

There are a number of plot twists, but I still managed to determine who the murderer was. Not surprising as that person had the most to lose. Too bad that there wasn’t any real closure in the story as justice wasn’t served, and the rich literally got away with murder.

Locust Lane would have garnered five stars had it not been for the unfufilling finale. Four stars.

I received a digital ARC from Celedon Books through NetGalley. The review herein is completely my own and contains my honest thoughts and opinions.


ARC Review: Witchful Thinking

  • Publisher: Forever (GCP)
  • Publication Date: September 27, 2022
  • Author: Celestine Martin
  • Genre: Romance
  • Page Count: 352

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Review

After another yearly alumni reunion announcement, high school history teacher Lucy Caraway has come to realize that her life is BORING. She isn’t married, hasn’t done much with her life and it has been that way for the last several years. So this year, Lucy was going to do something about it.

Together with her sisters and cousin, they divise a plan to each cast a wish spell. A spell that could alter the course of her life and possibly allow Lucy to find her soulmate. A soulmate that may have gotten away many years ago but has since returned to Freya Grove — a merman by the name of Alex Dwyer.

Witchful Thinking is a slightly steamy romance that follows the friends to lovers trope. But it is much more than a romance novel. There are elements of family connections as well a community ties.

Set in a small town, we have the opportunity to get to know Lucy, her sisters Sirena, and Callie as well as Alex and the rest of the family members. All of them are warm and inviting. A nice touch for a fall/holiday read.

Though I’m not quite a fan of hot/steamy romance novels, there’s bound to be a number of readers that will appreciate the hot romance aspect in this book.

Overall, a Witchful Thinking is a well thought out romance that blends family and love into a nice package. Witchful Thinking is sure to bring a contented smile to fans of the contemporary romance genre. Four and a half stars rounded up.

I received a digital ARC from Forever (GCP) through NetGalley. The review herein is completely my own and contains my honest thoughts and opinions.


ARC Review: The Wrong Kind of Weird

  • Publisher: Inkyard Press
  • Publication Date: January 3, 2023
  • Author: James Ramos
  • Genre: Teens & YA
  • Page Count: 320

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Review

Senior high schooler Cameron is a member of the Geeks And Nerds United (G.A.N.U) club whose focus is on anything manga and anime related. Together with his other nerd buddies and classmates D’Anthony, Mackenzie, and Jocelyn, G.A.N.U is their go to social club — a safe place for them to be what they want to be without being ridiculed as weird.

On the other end of the spectrum, there is a group of seniors known as the Caravan — a group consisting of the most popular kids on campus, whose social and economic status border on elite. It so happens Cameron’s crush, Karla is a part of that group. Not wanting rumors and whispers, Karla and Cameron conduct secret liaisons, hiding their attraction to each other from the public eye. But is this how a relationship (if any) is supposed to be?

The Wrong Kind of Weird is a humorous, light and highly entertaining novel. Although geared toward the Teen and Young Adult crowd, I still found the novel to be very enjoyable.

The story unfolds from a first person’s point of view. In this case, it happens to be Cameron which was a nice change to have a guy’s perspective rather than a girl’s perspective.

Character development is excellent. Author Ramos has managed to capture the diverse flavors of the main characters. It was as though he was describing his own classmates and the issues they all faced.

The plot is realistic and relatable enough as I’m sure at one point or another, we each have faced that nerd vs cool kids situation in our own lives. And we have probably gone through that awkwardness of concealing friendships and love interests with the “enemy.”

Though I found The Wrong Kind of Weird to be fun and entertaining, I did feel that the continual manga and anime references were a little over the top. Four and a half solid stars rounded up.

I received a digital ARC from Inkyard Press through NetGalley as well as a physical book through Bookish First. The review herein is completely my own and contains my honest thoughts and opinions.


ARC Review: The Cabinet of Dr. Leng

  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • Publication Date: January 17, 2023
  • Author(s): Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child
  • Genre: Mystery & Thrillers
  • Page Count: 416

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Spoiler Alert

Review

Certainly better than the authors’ previous novel, Bloodlust. Though I must admit that Bloodlust was a little strange for me with the introduction of a parallel universe. But The Cabinet of Dr. Leng just brought everything together. It was a wonderful page turner.

Constance Greene is gone. She left the present to pursue rescuing her siblings in the past. A venture not without hazards and it could also prove fatal.

Agent Pendergast is devastated at the loss of Constance. Their bond has withstood the tests of time. And Pendergast has grown fond of Constance due to her intelligence and worldly wise. So this escape by Constance to another space in time causes alarm. Especially since Pendergast is more than aware of the evil that awaits Constance in the form of Dr. Enoch Leng.

Well, generally I don’t like cliffhangers. But this one was thoughtfully done with an afterword from the authors that explains the cliffhanger ending. I understand their reasoning since The Cabinet of Dr. Leng was in an of itself 416 pages long. To extend that novel would be overwhelming. I personally don’t like any novel creeping into the 800+ pages realm so the decision to publish a separate conclusion was a smart move.

The characters have been established for a while. That being said, The Cabinet of Dr. Leng cannot be read as a standalone. If anything, a new reader could start with The Cabinet of Curiosities to get a feel for the characters and the basic narrative.

The plot was complex with multiple storylines that intersect. Though I didn’t quite get one of the plot lines in this novel, I suspect that it will all be revealed in the conclusion.

Overall, The Cabinet of Dr. Leng ranks high on my list of one of the better novels these authors have produced. Five outstanding stars. I can’t wait for the conclusion. Hurry, please!!

I received a digital ARC from Grand Central Publishing through NetGalley. The review herein is completely my own and contains my honest thoughts and opinions.


ARC Review: The Villa

  • Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
  • Publication Date: January 3, 2023
  • Author: Rachel Hawkins
  • Genre: General Fiction (Adult) | Mystery & Thrillers
  • Page Count: 288

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Review

Established cozy mystery author, Emily (Em) Sheridan has hit the proverbial writing wall. In the throes of a nasty divorce, Em has lost all focus on her latest manuscript and is again facing a missed deadline.

Unlike Em’s best friend and self help author, Chess Chandler, Em is struggling for a spot in the same limelight as Chess. If only Em could regain her confidence and concentration. And if only Em’s cozy characters were unlike her soon to be ex-husband.

As if on cue, her best friend Chess makes contact with Em on the premise of reconnecting. A welcome surprise for Em and a much needed distraction. Even more so, it’s an invitation for Em to join Chess for a summer stay at a villa in Italy — all expenses paid with the exception of Em’s airfare. It’s just the right remedy for Em. But is it really? The villa now known as Villa Aestas had a sinister past and was home to a gruesome murder. The Murder House they called it…

The Villa is the second novel that I’ve read from author Hawkins and I thought it was better than her previous work, Reckless Girls.

There are just a handful of characters. Each character had distinguishing features and personalities. I liked the main characters of Mari and Em because of their steadfastness. Though at times I felt that their determination was a little misguided. I had a love-hate relationship with Em’s best friend, Chess. Chess came across as a woman with alterior motives, but yet she also had some sage advice. The men in this novel were just plain cads and thought of themselves as god’s gift to women. Puleese!

The story unfolds between two timelines — past (hippie era) and present. For the most part, the transitions were clear due to the chapter headings. Occasionally, however, there were a few spots that I had to read into the chapter to determine the time period.

The plot is complex due to the different timelines. But everything converges neatly toward the end for a surprising finale. Four awesome stars.

I received a digital ARC from St. Martin’s Press through NetGalley. The review herein is completely my own and contains my honest thoughts and opinions.


ARC Review: Misfire

  • Publisher: Oceanview Publishing
  • Publication Date: January 3, 2023
  • Author: Tammy Euliano
  • Genre: Mystery & Thrillers
  • Page Count: 368

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Review

After a series of misfires from the Automatic Implantable Cardioverter Defribulators (AICDs) in several patients, Dr. Kate Downey becomes suspicious of the event frequency and begins to investigate the source of the occurrences. Especially since her Aunt Irm has the same device implanted to monitor and treat her heart rate.

As Kate digs deeper into the source of the misfires, she becomes increasingly aware that the misfires are actually purposeful attacks through software programming. Who or what could be causing the attacks and for what purpose?

Misfire is the author’s second book in a series. Though the book’s description indicates that each book can be read as a standalone, I didn’t find that to be the case. Instead, I felt I was missing some background on the characters and the prior events that were referred to repeatedly.

I didn’t like any of the characters for some reason. Perhaps it’s because I thought they were all “busy bodies.” I didn’t quite get a sense that they were fully developed enough. To me, they were shallow and one dimensional. It could be that the characters were developed and fleshed out in the first novel, so to repeat that would be redundant.

The story seemed a bit disjointed. There were just too many things and events going on which made for a sometimes confusing read. Add the far fetched motive of the perpetrator and it was somewhat of a hot mess.

For some reason, the author’s writing style didn’t appeal to me. It felt “jumpy,” and didn’t have those smooth transitions from one event to the other. Well, maybe there were too many events to accomplish that.

While I do enjoy medical mysteries (Coma, Bloodstream, Harvest, etc.) Misfire just didn’t hit the right notes for me. Two okay stars.

I received a digital ARC from Oceanview Publishing through NetGalley. The review herein is completely my own and contains my honest thoughts and opinions.


ARC Review: They’re Watching You

  • Publisher: SOURCEBOOKS Fire
  • Publication Date: January 3, 2023
  • Author: Chelsea Ichaso
  • Genre: Mystery & Thrillers | Teens & YA
  • Page Count: 352

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Review

When Maren Montgomery’s roommate suddenly disappears, Maren is sure that something sinister happened. And Maren’s suspicions are heightened when she discovers an invitation from the Gamemaster’s Society among her roommate’s things. Maren only heard vague rumors about the existence of a secrety society. But the invitation in front of her served as confirmation that a secret society existed at her school. Perhaps the society was the reason for her roommate’s disappearance.

Driven by curiosity and the need to locate her best friend and roommate Polly, Maren sets out to secure her own invitation to the Gamemaster’s Society. It was Maren’s hope that she would be able to uncover the truth about Polly from within the Society’s membership. A membership that could prove deadly.

They’re Watching You was an adrenaline packed read. The novel hooked me from the start and I could not put it down. I finished the book in two sittings. A first for me.

The characters are fleshed out and well developed. There’s quite a number of them, but it wasn’t too difficult to distinguish one from the other. Author Ichaso managed to capture the essence of private high school teens — the ones that have money and power, and the ones that don’t. I found Ichaso’s depiction of those high schoolers so real.

I loved the plot. There were a number of twists that kept me guessing all the way till they end. Add in some riddles to the equation and you have one heck of a novel that really tested my puzzling skills.

They’re Watching You is a definite must read if you’re a fan of Diana Urban, Cate Holahan, and Jennifer Mathieu. Five outstanding stars.

I received a digital ARC from SOURCEBOOKS Fire through NetGalley. The review herein is completely my own and contains my honest thoughts and opinions.


ARC Review: The Nightmare Man

  • Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
  • Publication Date: January 10, 2023
  • Author: J. H. Markert
  • Genre: General Fiction (Adult) | Horror
  • Page Count: 336

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Review

Benjamin Bookman has become a sensational horror fiction writer. As a popular author, Ben is always on tour for his books. At a recent book signing event, a customer walks up to Ben and mutters, “You stole my nightmare…This is on you…” The customer then pulls out his gun aims the barrel under his chin and shoots himself in the head. And so begins the terrifying tale of The Nightmare Man. Well, not so terrifying…

The Nightmare Man starts out with a bang and a hook to match. But the story really fails to launch. I was hoping for an unputdownable, horrifying read that would keep me up all night. Unfortunately, it just ended up as a lukewarm read that could have used more “oomph.”

The story unfolds between past and present. However, I didn’t quite see the point of using some of the past narratives as it didn’t make much sense within the whole scheme of things. I kept wondering why they were included in the first place, as it just made for a disjointed read.

The premise of a fictional horror story becoming real has promise. It’s just that the execution didn’t quite make it. I seem to think that the narrative would have played out better if the science fiction and fantasy elements were left out. The focus could have been centralized on the gruesome murders and the sick perpetrators that executed them — tying them to an evil doctor that somehow brainwashed them into the monsters that they’ve become.

There were a number of characters. But in the horror genre, they don’t need to be well developed as much. It’s the slash factor that counts. However, I did find that the interchange in character names did get a bit confusing.

Not the best horror novel that I’ve read, but the author has promise being that I managed to finish the book. I look forward to reading more of this author’s work as his horror prowess grows. Two promising stars.

I received a digital ARC from Crooked Lane Books through NetGalley. The review herein is completely my own and contains my honest thoughts and opinions.


ARC Review: Empire of Ice and Stone

  • Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
  • Publication Date: December 6, 2022
  • Author: Buddy Levy
  • Genre: History | Non Fiction (Adult)
  • Page Count: 432

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Review

Empire of Ice and Stone is the true story of the disastrous Arctic expedition aboard the sail-and-steamship Karluk. It is my first time learning of the Karluk, expedition leader Vilhjalmun Stefansson, Captain Bob Bartlett, and how Stefansson’s and Bartlett’s decisions determined the fate of the ship and all of its passengers.

It began with an aggressive timeline and an ill thought of plan to explore the Artic ocean. Unprepared for the worst that could happen, the Karluk became ice bound capturing with it the entire crew and scientists aboard. Eventually, the Karluk succumbed to the pressure from the ice floes, thus marooning all of the passengers in the middle of nowhere.

Under the guise of a caribou hunting trip, expedition leader Stefansson leaves the stranded crew and scientists with a handful of men, never to be seen or heard from again. Left behind were 22 men, Captain Bartlett, 1 woman, and 2 children. Most of the men would perish from sickness and injuries. And in the end, only 9 persons survived and were rescued. And it was due to Bartlett’s heroic effort of traversing 700+/- miles to civilization.

Author Levy has done an excellent job in capturing the essence of the desperation, and survivalist nature of the persons left behind to fight the perils of nature. With references from the crew members’ diaries, Levy has compiled a harrowing account of the dangerous environment hazards the remaining survivors had to face.

Empire of Ice and Stone is a tour de force novel. It is riveting, emotional, and unforgettable. Five masterful stars.

I received a digital ARC from St. Martin’s Press through NetGalley. The review herein is completely my own and contains my honest thoughts and opinions.


ARC Review: The Blue Bar

  • Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
  • Publication Date: January 1, 2023
  • Author: Damyanti Biswas
  • Genre: Mystery & Thrillers | General Fiction (Adult)
  • Page Count: 396

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Review

After the discovery of several human remains, each bearing the same markers of disposal, Inspector Arnav Rajput was convinced that there was a serial killer on the loose. And Arnav was determined to capture the perpetrator.

Set in the tropical region of Mumbai, The Blue Bar is a suspenseful tale of a police inspector following a trail that could lead to the arrest of a suspected serial killer and the uncovering of corruption in the department hierarchy.

For me, The Blue Bar was a slow read. I got tangled up with the Hindi words and phrases as well as the names of the numerous characters. It took me a while to get with the flow as all of the names seemed so similar to me. Outside of Arnav Rajput, it was not until close to the end that I finally managed to distinguish one character from the other.

The story unfolds through multiple points of view and I liked that even the unsub’s point of view was given. It sure made it easier to determine the motive for all of the murders.

There were several plot twists that made the story engaging and suspenseful. A lot of the plot twists were not expected and some of them, surprising.

There were a number of characters and although I got confused with the names, they all were developed and fleshed out enough to get a feel for each of their moral compasses.

Overall, I found The Blue Bar to be an enjoyable novel worth of four stars.

I received a digital ARC from Thomas & Mercer via the author, through NetGalley. The review herein is completely my own and contains my honest thoughts and opinions.


Book Review: The Nurse

  • Publisher: Podium Publishing
  • Publication Date: October 10, 2022
  • Author: Kristian Corfixen
  • Genre: True Crime
  • Page Count: 290

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Review

Medical Ward M130 treats the hospital’s most seriously ill patients. On that ward, Cristina Aistrup Hansen is the lead nurse. Cristina gained a reputation as a take charge person and was often portrayed as the Nurse Nightingale of that floor. However, statistics would prove othewise.

In 2010, Cristina would complete her first year working in Ward M130. That year, 87 patients were declared dead. An unusually high number. In 2011, a startling 95 patients were declared dead. As the death toll climbed, Cristina’s colleagues became increasingly wary of the sinister statistics, which lead to Cristina being accused of poisoning her patients in 2012.

Though only three deaths and an attempted murder were linked to Cristina, speculation was that there were dozens more. But there wasn’t enough evidence to link the dozens of more deaths to Cristina. Even the four that were linked were circumstantial. But with the evidence on hand, Cristina was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison for the murder of three people and the attempted murder on one person.

Cristina appealed and based on updated evidence, Cristina’s sentence got reduced to 12 years with credit for time served. Cristina is slated for parole in March 2023.

The Nurse is a mild true crime novel as it doesn’t contain a lot of gory details. There’s a lot of facts and figures that can get overwhelming, but I found it interesting. Some of the terminology can be a speed bump in the reading flow, but there are footnotes and references to help along the way.

I enjoyed the bulk of the novel and found Corfixen’s details highly interesting. Added to her details is the fact that Corfixen manages to include the updates on Cristina’s appeal and parole status. What didn’t appeal to me is the tangential narrative about Health Care Serial Killers. It didn’t add much and I just found it a distraction to the true crime story at hand.

Overall, The Nurse is an engaging read if you enjoy the true crime genre. It would be interesting to learn what other true crime novels Corfixen has in store for us. Four stars.

I received a digital copy of the book from Podium Publishing through NetGalley. The review herein is completely my own and contains my honest thoughts and opinions.


ARC Review: The Wedding Ranch

  • Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
  • Publication Date: December 6, 2022
  • Author: Nancy Naigle
  • Genre: Romance
  • Page Count: 352

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Review

For Lorri Walker, married bliss was a myth. Lorri wasn’t miserable in her marriage, but it wasn’t fun and games either. Her marriage to Craig was bordering on mundane. Until one day Craig brings home a mastiff puppy as an offer to repair their relationship. It worked for a while until Craig leaves Lorri for their puppy trainer.

Hoping to start anew, Lorri moves from bustling Raleigh to farm country, Dalton Mill. It was a stark contrast to what Lorri was used to. But it was what Lorri felt she needed — a new home on five acres for her pet mastiff, Mister, to run around in.

It didn’t take Lorri that long to enjoy what country style living had to offer. Friendly neighbors, farm fresh produce, and quiet. Lorri still needed to experience the county fair, though. And she vowed to experience it after her neighbor, Tinsley invited her.

Lorri mapped out her plan of attack at the fair. She wanted to experience everything that the fair had to offer — from the 4H competitions, craft and baking booths, and even cotton candy. Lorri was so engrossed in the activities around her that she failed to realize that a steer got loose and was headed straight for her. Luckily, Lorri was tackled to safety by her savior Ryder Bolt. And that tackle would be the best thing that ever happened to her.

The Wedding Ranch is a wholesome romance novel that is so refreshing. It’s faith based so it doesn’t have any steam or heat that would make it borderline erotic.

The narrative unfolds in the third person point of view and it’s fitting for the storyline. I loved how each character is revealed as the narrative progresses. Granted Lorri and Ryder were my favorite characters, but the minor players were just as good.

The plot is a strangers to lovers romance and like any good romance novel, there is the element of suspense — when will the two subjects realize they were MFEO, and what will it take for them to realize that? The Wedding Ranch is deserving of five outstanding stars.

I received a digital ARC from St. Martin’s Press through NetGalley. The review herein is completely my own and contains my honest thoughts and opinions.