The Tuscan Child

by Rhys Bowen
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

(4.15 stars – Goodreads rating)

Published February 20, 2018, by Lake Union Publishing

Genre: Fiction / Historical Fiction

Format: Kindle

Page Count: 329 pgs (Kindle version)

TuscanI felt incredibly free, as if I was a butterfly just released from my cocoon.

Historical novels usually have to be very good in order to capture and hold my attention, and this one fit the bill. In this story, we travel with Joanna Langley from Surrey, England in the early 1970s into the lush, rolling hills of Tuscany and the little village of San Salvatore as she searches for clues about her recently deceased father’s past. Along the way, we are also treated to her father’s story of survival and romance at the end of German occupation of Italy during WWII.

The story was well-written and compelling. The dual timelines were not distracting, but instead lent even more drama and build-up to the story as a whole. Both perspectives were given equal attention and were very well represented by the author. Bowen’s writing was crisp and colorful without being muddled in unnecessary details. I especially enjoyed the descriptions of the Tuscan landscape and the delicious food – it made me long to visit Italy.

Fans of historical fiction will appreciate this novel for its skilled placement in two distinctly different eras of history. Lovers of romantic fiction will also appreciate the tender love stories that develop as well.

**Many thanks to NetGalley, Lake Union Publishing, and the author for the opportunity for me to read and review this book.


About the Author

Rhys BowenWebsite

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Rhys Bowen is the New York TimesBestselling Author of the Royal Spyness Series, Molly Murphy Mysteries, and Constable Evans. She has won the Agatha Best Novel Award and has been nominated for the Edgar Best Novel. Rhys’s titles have received rave reviews around the globe.

 


 

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Bad Man

by Dathan Auerbach
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

(3.94 stars – Goodreads rating)

To Be Published August 7, 2018, by Doubleday

Genre: Fiction / Horror (ish) / Mystery / Suspense

Format: Kindle

Page Count: 320 pgs (Kindle version)

badmanThey’d seen flyers for Eric here and there over the years… they never really looked. No one ever does.

When I think about what makes a good horror story, one of the most important components is the atmosphere. Auerbach sets us up in a small Floridian town and then strips us of all sense of security and comfort. He surrounds his characters with grief, poverty, and suspicion, and therefore creates a perfect setting for this creepy tale that weaves real-life horror with a little something extra.

Eric has been missing for five years and no one has any answers as to what could have happened to him. His big brother, Ben, was the last one to see him and seems to be the only one committed to still searching for him. When Ben takes a job at the same store where Eric went missing, strange things begin to occur that convince him that someone does know what happened to Eric and they’re trying to reach out to him. But is it to help him or to stop him from asking questions?

The Bad Man will leave you guessing. The unreliable narrator, the creepy store setting, and Ben’s shady coworkers and friends all manage to introduce more questions as you read than they answer. I found the book to be quite engrossing; however, the ending was wholly unsatisfying in that there were several strings left hanging that made even the epilogue seem incomplete.

I would recommend this book to lovers of horror and mystery that don’t mind a story that leaves you with lots of questions at the end. This one isn’t tied up with a neat little bow. And if you don’t mind filling in the blanks for yourself, this is definitely the book for you.

**Many thanks to NetGalley, Doubleday Books, and the author for providing this ARC for me to read a review.**


About the Author

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Dathan Auerbach was born in the southern United States and has lived there for most of his life. He is the author of Penpal.

(Biography taken from Bad Man)


 

The Bluegrass Files: Down the Rabbit Hole (Book 1)

by F J Messina
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

To Be Published April 1, 2018, by Blair/Brooke Publishing

Genre: Mystery / Romance

Format: Kindle Edition

#TheBluegrassFiles:DownTheRabbitHole  #NetGalley

bluegrassfilesYou get what you can get when you can get it. That’s how it goes in this business.

Down the Rabbit Hole is FJ Messina’s first novel and the first in a planned series of mysteries featuring private investigator Sonia Vitale and her business partner Jet. The Bluegrass Files series will follow the adventures of the women of Bluegrass Confidential Investigations as they solve big cases in their small town.

This novel is set primarily in Lexington, KY with attention given to Lexington Castle, the sprawling farms, and of course, the bourbon! It is in this small-town setting that Sonia takes on a case to catch a man cheating on his girlfriend and winds up uncovering much, much more than infidelity. At the same time, she attracts the attention of more than one man – both of whom may end up being instrumental in solving her case, ending her recent romantic drought, and saving her life. 

Messina’s debut novel has the potential to grow into a well-loved series. Readers who fall in love with Sonia and Jet will forgive the sometimes clunky flashbacks and their weepiness and will revel in the constant action: car chases, shoot-outs, and clandestine night stakeouts.  Plus, there are plenty of clever traps set for “bad guys” which don’t work out just as often as they do.

I would recommend Down the Rabbit Hole to fans of complicated love triangles who don’t mind a little I Love Lucy-type humor with their mysteries. At times the main character comes off as a bit fragile and indecisive, and that can be annoying for those who appreciate a more assertive lead character. However, the author may have been trying to portray her as a more believable personality.

Messina’s second and third books in this series, The Bluegrass Files: Twisted Dreams and The Bluegrass Files: The Bourbon Brotherhood, are already in the works and planned for 2018 releases.

I gave the book 3 generous stars mainly because I believe in rewarding a genuinely good first effort.

*Many thanks to NetGalley and Blair Brooke Publishing for the opportunity to read and review the ARC of this book.


About the Author

Portrait of Frank MessinaWebsite

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Messina was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of a German-immigrant mother and a first-generation Italian-American father, neither of whom could speak English until they entered public school. It wasn’t until early high school that Frank found his life-long passion─music.

Messina really didn’t begin writing fiction novels until the summer of 2015 when he and his wife used the beautiful backdrop of Asheville, NC to lay the foundations of what would eventually become the novel, Down the Rabbit Hole.

(Bio fragments from author’s own website)

The Little Cottage on the Hill

by Emma Davies
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

(4.05 stars – Goodreads rating)

To Be Published February 19, 2018, by Bookouture

Genre: Fiction / Romance

Format: Kindle Edition

Page Count: 242

#TheLittleCottageOnTheHill  #NetGalley

littlecottageSo much for first impressions.

A charming, instantly familiar “city vs. country” trope featuring designer-chic Maddie who thinks a new job in the English countryside will become her redemption from a recent London scandal.

But when redevelopment of homey Joy’s Acre doesn’t end up being her dream job, Maddie has to determine if her fabulous designs for starting over again were just an illusion.

Davies writes a slow-burning storyline where romance takes a back seat to big secrets, family drama, wardrobe changes, and more than you ever really wanted to know about roof thatching.

It’s an earnest and sincere tale about two people not falling into bed with each other, but genuinely learning to respect and – later, much later – falling in love.

Many thanks to NetGalley and Bookouture for the opportunity to read and review this book.


About the Author

Website

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Emma Davies & Bookouture

 

Emma Davies once applied for her dream job in the following manner:

‘I am a bestselling novelist currently masquerading as a thirty-something mother of three.’ Well, she’s now a forty-something mother of three and is working on the rest.

By day she’s a finance manager and looks at numbers a lot of the time, but by night she gets to use actual words and practices putting them together into sentences. Her twitter bio says she loves her family, her job, reading, writing, singing loudly in the car, and Pringles, so that must be true then.

Davies is the author of several romance novels, including Letting in Light and Turn Towards the Sun.

(Bio courtesy of Goodreads)

The Missing Hours

by Emma Kavanagh
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

(3.74 stars – Goodreads rating)

To Be Re-Published February 27, 2018, by Kensington Books

Genre: Fiction / Crime Fiction / Mystery

Format: EBook

Page Count: 320

#themissinghours #netgalley

missing hoursWe rarely know the people around us, only what they show us of themselves.

When Dr. Selena Cole mysteriously vanishes from a playground leaving her daughters stranded, DC Leah Mackay takes the case but struggles to find any clues to help solve it. Twenty hours later, Selena is found alive but has no memory of where she was or how she got back home.

…whatever filled in those missing hours, at the end of them is a mother kissing her cildren. And so everything is well. Right?

That same day, Leah’s brother, DS Finley Hale, is assigned the murder case of an associate who has been dumped unceremoniously on a mountain lane. Finn, too, finds any clues hard to come by.

What follows is a procedural whodunit with ping-ponging points of view between the brother and sister detectives who learn that more than one of the suspects in each case have crisscrossing ties to each other.

What at first appears to be just a creepy missing-persons case ends up dragging us into the shadowy world of kidnapping for ransom with each character becoming a suspect in crimes that are as much of a mystery as the perpetrators.

There are always cases that speak to you, pulling themselves out of the pile and grabbing hold of your consciousness.

Kavanagh does a great job of revealing the truth in bite-sized morsels as we read along – totally caught up in the secrets of each person we meet. However, at times it was hard to follow the characters’ awkward trains of thought as they shifted from past to present and back again in the same unbroken paragraph.

However, as any novel reader will tell you (especially connoisseurs of mysteries and thrillers), if your pulse starts to quicken as the action begins to climax, then you’ve got to give the author kudos for that. And mine did (Hint: Great “chase” scene!).

I enjoyed this book and did not find it predictable or overly familiar. Kavanagh’s placement of the Cole Group’s case files helped with that. The individual kidnapping cases kept us wondering about their relevance and about a possible next victim. The ending felt a bit unsatisfyingly abrupt – even after the surprising resolution, but it did not take away from my overall appreciation of this well-written crime fiction novel.

Many thanks to NetGalley and Kensington Books for the opportunity to read and review this book.

Get it here: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, Half Price Books


About the Author

Emma KavanaghGoodreads

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Emma K. & Kensington Books

Emma Kavanagh is the acclaimed UK bestselling author of Falling and Hidden. Born and raised in South Wales, she is a former police and military psychologist. After completing her PhD, Emma began her own consultancy business, providing training to police and military across the UK and Europe. She taught police officers and NATO personnel about the psychology of critical incidents, terrorism, body recovery and hostage negotiation. She has run around muddy fields taking part in tactical exercises, has designed live fire training events, has been a VIP under bodyguard protection and has fired more than her fair share of weapons. She is married with two small sons and considers herself incredibly privileged to get to make up stories for a living.

(Bio from Kensington Publishing Corp.)

 

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New or Old – That Smell is Incredible

Welcome to my book review blog. Thanks for dropping in!

The only important thing in a book is the meaning that it has for you.

–W. Somerset Maugham

Whenever I get a new book, or mooch an old book, or borrow a book from the library, for that matter, I bring it close to my nose… and inhale.

Sometimes the smell is crisp and warm, almost woodsy. Other times it’s ancient and musky, like well-worn furniture. Either way, it’s a great smell. Remember that episode of Gilmore Girls where Rory is showing Anna (future Yale student) around the library and she picks up a book and smells it? Yes, just like that: #bibliosmia.

So now you know I read old books and new – and I love them both equally. So if you’re here to just see reviews on all the hot new releases that everyone else is reading and blogging about, then you’re not in the right place. Sorry.

I do read selective New Releases, but I also have a lot of “Dusty Bookshelf” reads that I am committed to getting through in this upcoming year (I said that last year too), and a lot of books that people have recommended to me that I will finally get around to. The books I read/review won’t always be current, but they’ll always be interesting.

I prefer reading hardcovers or trade-sized paperbacks (there’s nothing like the feel of a book in your hands), but I also read several e-books and listen to a few audiobooks each month, so you’ll likely see reviews for publications in those formats as well.

Occasionally, when she lets me, my daughter and I will read her books together. She’s in 5th grade and has a bookcase full of chapter books that we work our way through whenever she’s not bogged down with school-assigned stories. When our read-along books are especially good, I’ll review those too.

I’ll also occasionally be featuring my favorite authors, book events in Georgia, upcoming new releases, links to free e-book deals, and throwback looks at my favorite childhood reads.

I’m a Goodreads member and belong to several groups there. The book cover pics I post will most often come from Goodreads along with mentions of their overall rating of each book. However, I do not – I repeat, NOT – allow the rating from “the masses” influence my personal opinion of any book I read. Reviews are my own individual thoughts and I am absolutely not receiving any compensation for anything I post here.

As you may have guessed, this is my first foray into blogging so I’m sure I have some kinks to work out. If something isn’t working or posting correctly, just bear with me and I’ll get it worked out. Eventually. ♥

Enjoy!

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