Mystery · Romance

Review: The Cracked Spine

The Cracked Spine

Title: The Cracked Spine
Author: Paige Shelton
Pages: 304
Publication: 2017
Series: Scottish Bookshop Mystery #1

[Amazon | IndieBound | BN | Local LIbrary]

(Other reviews: Kirkus, Publisher’s Weekly)

I’ve been on a cozy mystery kick as of late–who am I kidding? I’m always in a mood for cozy mysteries. Set in a foreign local, especially in Scotland, is a cat nip. I was also attracted to this book as the lead is an archivist which is one of my degrees.

There is a lot wrong with the book:

  • The lead answers an ad she finds for this used bookshop in Edinburgh and is hired on the spot. Is there qualified people in Scotland?
  • It took nearly a hundred pages before the murder occured; far too slow
  • She immediately befriends the cabbie who takes her to the bookshop on her first day and he and his wife happen to have a spare cottage for her to move into.
  • Of course she meets a hot Scot who wears a kilt unironically.
  • She’s in Scotland two days and she’s already a detective for people she doesn’t know.
  • The whole puzzle of random torn up sheets of paper scattered around the murdered person’s apartment that Delany happens to find is really implausible.

Overall, it’s just a hodge podge of elements that the author was told would make a great cozy mystery dumped into a cosmopolitan city. The strange this is this is not Shelton’s first time at the rodeo as she has other cozy mystery series under her belt.

I’m not sure what’s going on. I found myself picking up and putting down the book numerous times before settling in to finish it. It’s not that I would not recommend it–it’s got a lot of five star reviews on Goodreads–but I’m not going to continue on with the series.

 

 

 

Paranormal · Romance

Review: Soulless

Title: Soulless
Author: Gail Carriger
Pages: 416
Publication date: October 2009
Series: Parasol Protectorate Book 1

[Amazon | Indie Bound | BN | Find it at your local library]

(Other reviews: Publisher’s Weekly (starred review), Tor)

Steph and I were talking about books the other day, as one does, and I mentioned I was looking for new genres. Knowing that I also have a taste for most things Victorian/steampunk/gaslamp, she recommended Soulless, the first book in the Parasol Protectorate series.

Now, I read a lot but I also have a habit of starting books and never finishing them. I read by what I’m interested in the moment. I may be going through a cozy mystery period but I could really go for romcom. Or I could really dig into a biography or a book from 100 years ago. My mood changes quickly so the book really has to capture me to keep me going longer than a few chapters.

With all of that being said, Steph knowing this about me, recommended Soulless to me as a fun and funny read. So I checked the ebook out and discover that I’m 31% through already.

INTERESTING!

No idea why I returned it before finishing it because it was fun, witty, a tad bit sexy, and funny. I love Alexia Tarabotti and her Pride and Prejudice barbs with with Conall, Lord Maccon. Lord Akeldama who speaks in emphasis my tulip is a joy to behold. The story of mad scientists gone awry was fun and a bit of a dazzle to follow.

And while it has preternaturals, supernaturals, and people with terrible fashion sense (Ivy!), at its heart, it’s a mystery. Who is kidnapping the werewolfs, vampires, and ghost and what exactly is happening to them and why? Does Alexia’s background have anything to do with this (she’s is not only a ghastly spinster but also an Italian to boot)? Does her dead father figure into this somehow?

Miss Gail has created a delightful world to romp and play in. The language  can get a bit strained at times but quickly recovers. The naming scheme she’s come up with (Ivy Hisselpenny (her best friend) and Loonwilts (her family)) are fabulous with a bit of a fan tip to the nose.

It’s difficult to say anything wrong with this book. I know steampunk/gaslamp books can be a bit heavy handed on the gadgets and gewgaws as well as the underlying sense of trying to be different enough but Miss Gail does it so effortlessly and easily that her writing should be a masterclass.

tl;dr: If you’re in the mood for steampunk romcom mystery with sexy banter and fun word play, Soulless is your book.

Romance

Review: A Certain Appeal

Title: A Certain Appeal
Author: Vanessa King
Page Count: 352
Publication: November 2021

[Amazon | Indie Bound | BN | Find it at your local library]

(Other reviews: Kirkus, Publisher’s Weekly (starred review))

Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice  retellings are a crapshoot. They can either be really good or really terrible (hello Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) and you really don’t know until you get into the story.

Read more at Excessively Diverting.

Own Voices · Romance

Review: If the Shoe Fits

Title: If the Shoe Fits
Author: Julie Murphy
Page Count: 304
Publication: August 2021
Series: Meant to Be #1

[Amazon | Indie Bound | BN | Find it at your local library]

(Other reviews: Publishers Weekly, bookreporter, School Library Journal)

Retellings are a tricky thing. Either you can get it it on point or you can totally screw it up. Retellings are either a bountiful source of material or can be a hack job (I’m looking at you Pride and Prejudice and Zombies).

This is all to say I went in to If the Shoe Fits with zero expectations.

And I’m glad I did or else I wouldn’t have probably found the book so delightful!

I’m not sure how I heard about this book (probably social media somehow) and Julie Murphy was not a name known to me (she’s also the author of the young adult book Dumplin’ which was turned into a Netflix movie). But here we are!

There are several things that appealed to me about If the Shoe Fits:

  • The heroine is plus sized
  • The heroine is confident in herself
  • The ending was delightful with a HEA
  • It tapped into my love for trashy reality TV

The book was also well plotted and the interactions between the heroine and hero felt natural and very, very sexy. There was no fetishization of Cindy just because she was fat which is always a relief. I think that because Murphy herself is zaftig and writes with such authenticity about the dating world. This is not my first book with a fat heroine who is on point and I’m thrilled by this. There needs to be more like this.

This is the first book in the Meant to Be series, which I’m assuming will be written by Murphy. I cannot wait to see what else she writes.

tl;dr A delightful retelling of Cinderella with a plus size heroine set in the trashy reality TV world. Cindy follows her dream AND gets the man. Five stars.

(P.S. Dumplin’ is available free to read via Amazon Prime.)

Romance

Review: Meet Me in the Margins

Meet Me in the Margins Title: Meet Me in the Margins
Author: Melissa Ferguson
Page Count: 320
Publication: February 2022

[Amazon | IndieBound | BN | Find it at your local library]

(Other reviews: Publisher’s Weekly)

Thank you to Netgalley for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

I picked this book up the other night as I wanted something to read that didn’t require a lot of thought process. Meet Me in the Margins fits the bill.

(Dear TK, I hope you were able to get the editing requests done before final publication.)

The book was fun and a delight to read. A fast book, one that I’m always fond of, I started it before bed the other night and finished it the following day. Some odd bits were the stress on Savannah’s shortness and her propensity to wear tall heels when that didn’t get picked up again later in the story so the mentioning of her shortness, at barely five feet, seemed a bit odd, however, it helped propel her meet cute with Will.

I wish there was more development between Will and Sav which seems to have started out as a slow burn and not enough fire to keep it going. The ending just kind of happened. Sav’s relationship with her ex-boyfriend now potential brother in law was too close for comfort. I know the family motto was loyalty for family and to buck up and keep your chin up but there should have been more angst and pain rather than “Oh, he brought me flowers. How kind.” situation going on. Her sister, Olivia, is a nightmare and I’m glad she got taken down a peg or two.

The mix-up with Sam and his lady friend was sweet. While I was not so crazy about how Ferguson treated Sav with her family, I did love the loyalty she had for her friend Layla the soon to be country music queen and the lengths she would go to support her. Also, Layla sounds like good fun. More of her please.

tl;dr I feel like this is not an original story but I can’t quite place why. I feel like the setup is not new but I do like Ferguson’s version of the story quite a bit. The book was well written and except for a few nit picks, the execution was good. There is enough here to investigate reading more of Ferguson’s works. Would recommend.

 

Romance

Review: One Way or Another

One Way or AnotherTitle: One Way or Another
Author: Portia Macintosh
Page Count: eBook
Publication: February 2014
Series: Nicole Wild .5

[Amazon | IndieBound | BN | Find it at your local library]

(Other reviews: )

Well. This was…interesting.

I was so enthralled with No Ex Before Marriage that I went looking for Macintosh’s other books. Because her books are released mainly digital, libraries are less likely to buy them, especially when they are platform dependent (Amazon and BN in this case). I coughed up the .99 cents and bought this, Will They Won’t They?, and checked out Life’s a Beach on Prime.

Another insomnia purchase, I was really looking forward to this quick novella.

Well. I was disappointed. The writing was choppy and sometimes incoherent. Macintosh’s well developed writing skills and  humour in No Ex Before Marriage lead me to believe her other books would be as thought out and as well written.

I was sorely wrong.

The plot is thin on the ground and kind of laughable. A 23 year old rock star journalist (this is the believable part; I’ve read works by rock star journalists younger than this) whose best friend is the lead singer of a band and who happens to be the drug taking lothario whose wild night escapades leads him from a hotel to a tattoo parlor and comes across a few sex workers on the way. Nicole Wilde (of course) also meets a true love whom she shags that she has time to shag while chasing Dylan around town.

This is the precursor to other Nicole Wilde books and hoo boy, I don’t think I’ll be running out any time soon to read these.

BUT! The book was released seven years ago, I’ll read her later work for sure.

tl;dr Only read this if you have read the other Nicole Wilde books and want to read a precursor but if not, skip it. Read Macintosh’s later books.

Romance

Review: No Ex Before Marriage

No Ex Before MarriageTitle: No Ex Before Marriage
Author: Portia Macintosh
Page Count: eBook
Publication: January 2022

[Amazon | IndieBound | BN | Find it at your local library]

(Other reviews: )

Thank you to Boldwood Books and NetGalley for this ARC in exchange for an honest review!

A charming in one sitting read, I plowed through this book in a short amount of time. This is the first book I’ve read of Macintosh’s and I have snapped up a few of her other romances which I’ll review later.

There is a lot to recommend of this book. It’s well written, there is humour galore between the Poppy, her friends both old and new, and her divorced (maybe) husband Zac, and of course there is the romance between Poppy and a few of her beaus as she tries to move on from Zac.

But she can’t move on, not really, and that is made ever so clear when she flees to Scotland with her new bestie, Kat. She has a few scant days to get Zac to sign the divorce papers, the ones she thought they had signed six years prior but surprise! The paperwork was never filed because her mom thought they would get back together so why do it?

This book intertwines a few different plots and does it well: Poppy and her “Wife Club” old friends, Poppy and her dad and her dad’s decision to start dating after her mother has passed, and Poppy and Zac. It’s hard to write well and juggle one main plot and a few sub plots and Macintosh really excels at this. She also gives a lot of depth to the characters which is something that can also be difficult to do. Macintosh has numerous books under her belt and all were well received so practice does make perfect.

tl;dr If you want a sexy romcom with laugh out moments and an in-depth look at old friends and new-old romances, this is it.

Romance

Review: If the Fates Allow

If the Fates AllowTitle: If the Fates Allow
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Page Count: eBook
Publication: November 2021

[Amazon | IndieBound | BN | Find it at your local library]

(Other reviews:)

Rowell is one of those authors I fell in love with after my first introduction to her, and in this case it was Eleanor & Park. I thought, “Self, you should read more Rowell” and self agreed. Except, time has gone on since I read Eleanor & Park. When I had insomnia the other night, I was perusing Amazon Prime books (did you know you can download free eBooks with your Prime account?!) when this popped up as a Kindle Single holiday romance.

Works for me!

What brought this true to heart was Rowell wrote this as holiday romance taking place in Christmas 2020 including the fact that Covid is a thing. Covid is in fact is a central plot of the story and not some abstract idea of a pandemic and not completely glossed over but here we are at 6′ apart, wearing masks, and begging for people to get vaccinated story.

We know people like Reagan’s sister, Caitlin:

“I mean,” Caitlin texted, “Mom’s right. We haven’t seen each other in nine months, and none of us have had Covid. So that’s nine months we could have seen it each other.”

Regan wanted to say, “Maybe that’s why we haven’t had Covid.”

And also people like Reagan’s brother:

But she wasn’t even sure that no one in her family had had Covid. They wouldn’t ell her if they had. Half of them didn’t wear masks – half of Nebraska wouldn’t wear a mask. Her brother kept posting conspiracy theories on Facebook, and Reagan was the only one arguing with him.

A Covid love story seems a bit on the on the downer side of things but take heart! You find yourself warming up to Regan’s prickliness and Mason’s geeky warmth. They bond over green Jell-O salad, the staple of Midwest holiday meals everywhere, while standing multi-feet apart on their respective back decks. They bond over their families ridiculousness and also, their own loneliness. Covid is no joke, we know this, but the ability to find someone gets you, likes you, and would do anything for a kiss and a hug is sweet.

tl;dr: A quick read at a scant 39 pages, you’ll enjoy this very appropriate holiday romance. And even more so if you’ve Rowell’s Landline.

 

Romance

Review: Half-baked Holidays

Title: Half-baked Holidays
Author: Kat Bastion
Page Count: 300
Publication: November 2021

[Amazon | IndieBound | BN | Find it at your local library]

(Other reviews: )

Before I begin my review, I need to acknowledge that it is a lot of work to write a novel. Now, I haven’t written a fiction book, but I have written enough words that I turned into two books. Writing fiction has a lot of moving parts from writing the plot, character, and structure plus the creativity it takes.

Which means I always feel a bit guilty when I review a book and it’s terrible.

Half-baked Holidays is terrible. I would dare to go so far as to say awful. I read the first story and thought, “What the hell did I just read?”

A collection of romcom holiday themed short stories styled as being “multicultural” which piqued my interest. As I said in a previous review, I’ve been in the mood for holiday themed romcoms. Multicultural? Even better.

The first story, not so much. There is something off about the romance and the detail on the physical attributes or cultural background to denote that the book is “multicultural.”I kinda feel like the author is probably white trying to cash in on demand for multicultural books, especially romances.

The couple’s relationship, supposedly two old high school crushes, was severely lacking in chemistry. The premise is that the heroine is coming home to see her father and his new family (which turns out to be a menagerie of adopted kids from all over the world. I guess this multicultural?) and she is standing in front of their house at 6am when a crush from high school magically shows up and introduces her to his family who live across the street, of course, and there is hand  holding and “this is the one” by the time lunch rolls around. I’m not opposed to fast romances but this one is a bit beyond.

I found very little on Kat Bastion online other than her website, Twitter, and her author’s FB page which was notably absent of any personal interaction with her fans and the only likes on her post were hers. Various places in her social sphere note she writes with her husband Stone. I did find her personal FB page with her full name so the name isn’t made up (I guess). Yet, there is very little about who she is as a person or an author on her website so I don’t get the gist of who she is to help feel the curiosity of a reader to an author. (I cannot be the only one who stalks authors while reading their books. But it is much easier now!) I couldn’t find much engagement with her/their fans which left me a bit surprised. Don’t you want to build an audience? Don’t you want to meet and greet with the people who read you? Several close friends of mine are indie authors and they cultivate their online life a much as they do their writing and it pays off.

tl;dr: Do not pay money for a book where the author clearly needs a writing class or ten.

Paranormal · Romance

Review: Werewolves Prefer Shortbread

Werewolves Prefer Shortbread

Title: Werewolves Prefer Shortbread
Author: Dakota Isaacs
Page Count: N/A
Publication: October 2021
Series: Christmas Cookies

[Amazon | IndieBound | BN | Find it at your local library]

(Other reviews: )

This book is terrible.

An ARC from Netgalley, which is how I get most of my books these days, I picked up this one because it sounded cute and I’ve been in the mood for holiday romances as of late.

I regret this decision.

Where to begin? We’re given a muddled background that Callum McAllister is from Scotland but he had to leave to his place in the US for some reason why bringing thee werewolf pups with him that he rescued from an orphanage. He has the hots for the local bakeshop owners who has done amazing things and yet is only 23! There is also the plot line of a McAllister kicking out the baker’s grandmother from the cottage on his property and that plot line was immediately forgotten.

This is all in the first few pages mind.

The book is short, thank god, but the action is so haphazard and the explanation of why things are the way they are leaves one wanting. There is no chemistry between the protagonists and no conflict.

I don’t get how people are giving this five stars. It’s totally a masterclass in how not to write.

Isaacs does not have a social media presence that I could fine. There is a Dakota Isaacs whose VP or something or another but their Twitter doesn’t mention any of the Dakota Isaacs the author books. Oh yes readers, Isaacs has gifted us all with more stories. Thank god they digital because they are not worthy of the paper they would be printed on.

Totally, absolutely, do not recommend.