Friday, February 23, 2024

Blog Tour Review: Chasing the Horizon by Mary Connealy

 

Chasing the Horizon (A Western Light #1) by Mary Connealy
Publication Date: February 13th 2024 by Bethany House Publishers
Pages: 304
Source: Publisher 
Rating: ½

My Thoughts:
Ever since her mother was wrongly committed to an insane asylum by her awful father, Beth Rutledge has been carefully planning a way to get her out. She needs to get them both away from his cruel domination. Heading west on a wagon train isn’t something her father would ever expect, so they pose as sisters and settle into the long journey ahead. Hopefully, they can stay under the radar, because Beth knows her father will never stop looking for them.

Jake Hoult is one of the wagon scouts helping the train make the journey out west. A trip he’s done many times over. He suspects there’s more to Beth’s story. It seems these women are running from danger, so he keeps alert and observant.

As the days and months pass by, Jake and Beth become close, discussing hopes, dreams and the things needed to make their plans successful. Their sweet romance filled me with joy!
 
It chills me not so long ago, a woman could be committed easily by her husband or father on their word alone. Often for flimsy excuses. The treatments sounded brutal and sadistic, and my heart broke for Beth’s mother and what she endured. Thankfully, the recollections were a small part of the story.

Chasing the Horizon was an exciting, suspenseful adventure! I find stories about the wagon trains making their way out west fascinating! What an undertaking it would’ve been! I was thoroughly engrossed in Beth and her mother’s journey. Beth’s father was an awful man, and I was on edge over his continued pursuit, but his nasty character didn’t go unnoticed. I was pleased with how it all turned out and I’m looking forward to the next in the series featuring Kat and Sebastian in Toward the Dawn!

4.5 Stars


Book Description:

Her only chance at freedom waits across the horizon

Upon uncovering her tyrannical father's malevolent plot to commit her to an asylum, Beth Rutledge fabricates a plan of her own. She will rescue her mother, who had already been sent to the asylum, and escape together on a wagon train heading west. Posing as sisters, Beth and her mother travel with the pioneers in hopes of making it to Idaho before the others start asking too many questions.

Wagon-train scout Jake Holt senses that the mysterious women in his caravan are running from something. When rumors begin to spread of Pinkerton agents searching relentlessly for wanted criminals who match the description of those on his wagon train, including Beth, she begins to open up to him, and he learns something more sinister is at hand. Can they risk trusting each other with their lives--and their hearts--when danger threatens their every step?


 



AUTHOR BIO

Mary Connealy writes romantic comedies with cowboys. She is independently publishing a contemporary romantic suspense series called Garrison’s Law, book one is Loving the Texas Lawman. Her new historical series, High Sierra Sweethearts begins with The Accidental Guardian. She is also the author of these series: Kincaid Brides, Trouble in Texas, Wild at Heart, Cimarron Legacy, Lassoed in Texas, Montana Marriages, and Sophie's daughters, and has many other books.


She is a two-time Carol Award winner and has been a finalist for the Rita and Christy Awards. She’s a lifelong Nebraskan and lives with her very own romantic cowboy hero. She’s got four grown daughters and four spectacular grandchildren.


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Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Review: The Framed Women of Ardemore House by Brandy Schillace

 

The Framed Women of Ardmore House by Brandy Schillace
Publication Date: February 13th 2024 by Hanover Square Press
Pages: 336
Source: Publisher
Rating: ★★★★
Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble |Books-a-Million Bookshop.org | Goodreads

My Thoughts:
Jo Jones inherits an estate, Ardemore House, in England. While she’s never seen it, Jo’s happy to leave the US behind after losing her job and divorcing. She’s eager for a new start. However, the estate is run-down, and Sid, the “caretaker” isn’t keen on moving on, but she doesn't trust him. Soon after he leaves, Jo discovers a painting is missing and they have a very public argument in the local pub.

Sid is murdered at the cottage on her estate, and while Jo is part of the suspect pool, there’s more than a few with better motives for killing Sid. Besides the murder, there’s a mystery surrounding the identity of the girl in the painting, one of Jo’s distant relatives.

The story is told from the POV of Jo and also DCI James MacAdams, the detective investigating Sid’s murder.  I really warmed to Jo and was rooting for her to thrive in her new circumstances! Being neurodivergent and hyperlexic she didn’t always pick up on social cues, but she excelled in picking up things that not everyone else noticed.

I really enjoyed The Framed Women of Ardemore House! It was an engrossing mystery/police procedural with interesting, multi-layered characters I’d like to get to know better! I liked the interactions between MacAdams and Jo. There were hints of a possible romance, maybe? I’d be on board for that. While the murder was solved, there were some loose strings that lead me to think there will be another story coming. If so, count me in!

 
4 Stars


Book Summary:

An abandoned English manor. A peculiar missing portrait. A cozy, deviously clever murder mystery, perfect for fans of Richard Osman and Anthony Horowitz.

Jo Jones has always had a little trouble fitting in. As a neurodivergent, hyperlexic book editor and divorced New Yorker transplanted into the English countryside, Jo doesn’t know what stands out more: her Americanisms or her autism.

After losing her job, her mother, and her marriage all in one year, she couldn’t be happier to take possession of a possibly haunted (and clearly unwanted) family estate in North Yorkshire. But when the body of the moody town groundskeeper turns up on her rug with three bullets in his back, Jo finds herself in potential danger—and she’s also a potential suspect. At the same time, a peculiar family portrait vanishes from a secret room in the manor, bearing a strange connection to both the dead body and Jo’s mysterious family history.

With the aid of a Welsh antiques dealer, the morose local detective, and the Irish innkeeper’s wife, Jo embarks on a mission to clear herself of blame and find the missing painting, unearthing a slew of secrets about the town—and herself—along the way. And she’ll have to do it all before the killer strikes again…




Author Bio: 


Brandy Schillace, PhD,  is a historian of medicine and the critically acclaimed author of Death's Summer Coat: What Death and Dying Teach Us About Life and Living and Clockwork Futures: The Science of Steampunk. The editor-in-chief of the journal Medical Humanities, she previously worked as a professor of literature and in research and public engagement at the Dittrick Medical History Center and Museum. Brandy also hosts the Peculiar Book Club Podcast, a twice-monthly show.

The Framed Women of Ardemore House, featuring an autistic protagonist caught at the center of a murder mystery, is her fiction debut. Brandy is also autistic, though has not (to her knowledge) been a suspect in a murder investigation. Find her at https://brandyschillace.com/ 


Social links:





Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Review: The Boy Who Cried Bear by Kelley Armstrong

 

The Boy Who Cried Bear (Haven's Rock #2) by Kelley Armstrong
Publication Date: February 20st 2024 by Macmillan Audio & Minotaur Books
Pages: 352
Audio Book Length: 10hrs 19min
Narrator: Thérèse Plummer
Source: Publishers
Rating: 
Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble Kobo Audible | Libro.fm | Goodreads

My Thoughts:
The Boy Who Cried Bear is book two in the Rockton spinoff, where Casey and Eric have started their own refuge town, Haven's Rock, after Rockton was dissolved. The series is best read in order as there’s a lot of history even though each book has a separate mystery that’s solved by the end.

I have loved the Rockton series from the start! A town off-the-grid, hidden, a shelter for someone when conventional justice has failed, such as a victim of stalking, an abusive partner, wrongfully accused, etc., While Rockton supposedly vetted the people before granting sanctuary, only allowing the innocent, non-violent in, we found out that wasn’t always the case.
 
In this installment, there are several candidates that Emily has sent their way, and unlike Rockton, there are couples and even families in the mix. One family is Dana and her two sons, thirteen-year-old Carson, and ten-year-old, Max. Dana was shot, and their father was murdered. On one of their hikes, Max spots a “bear man” stalking their party. This is the second time Max has seen this and the first time there was little evidence to corroborate his account and so he’s hesitant to even say anything, but another in their group, Gunnar, also spots something. Is there a bear stalking the residents or is something more dangerous afoot?
 
There’s a personal issue that comes up for Casey and Eric, but they must put that on the backburner while they have such a serious, time-sensitive situation.
 
This was a disturbing case that had me on the edge of my seat! As usual, Casey and Eric filter the nonsense out and get to the heart of the matter. I love that Casey and Eric work so well together, mostly a step ahead of nasty people. The revelations about their location set up a potentially dangerous situation as they try and make Haven’s Rock a refuge for the vulnerable! I absolutely love this series and I’m eager to find out what happens next!
 
I alternately listened to and read Murder at Haven’s Rock and recommend either version! Thérèse Plummer narrates the audio version, as with the previous books, and she performs all voices, male and female wonderfully! She’s one of my all-time favorite narrators and her performance here is perfection! I listened at my usual 1.5x normal speed.

4.5 Stars


Book Description:

In The Boy Who Cried Bear, New York Times bestselling author Kelley Armstrong keeps readers on the edge of their seats while detective Casey Duncan tries to locate the threat before it’s too late. . .

Haven’s Rock is a well-hidden town surrounded by forest. And it’s supposed to be, being that it’s a refuge for those who need to disappear. Detective Casey Duncan and her husband, Sheriff Eric Dalton already feel at home in their new town, which reminds them of where they first met in Rockton. And while they know how to navigate the woods and its various dangers, other residents don’t. Which is why people aren't allowed to wander off alone.

When Max, the town’s youngest resident—taught to track animals by Eric—fears a bear is stalking a hiking party, alarms are raised. Even stranger, the ten-year-old swears the bear had human eyes. Casey and Eric know the dangers a bear can present, so they’re taking it seriously. But odd occurrences are happening all around them, and when a dead body turns up, they’re not sure what they’re up against.



Friday, February 16, 2024

Audiobook Review: Lone Wolf by Gregg Hurwitz

 


Lone Wolf (Orphan X #9) by Gregg Hurwitz
Publication Date: February 13th 2024 by Macmillan Audio
Pages: 400
Audio Book Length: 13hrs 13min
Narrators: Scott Brick
Source: Publisher 
Rating: 
Links: Amazon Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Libro.fmAudible | Goodreads

My Thoughts:
Lone Wolf is the 9th in the Orphan X series, and I’ve loved every installment! It’s a series best read in order, so if you haven’t started the series, go grab book one and prepare for an amazing, exciting ride!

Evan Smoak was taken from his foster home and trained as an elite assassin for a covert government operation and then left the program when his conscience demanded it. Now Evan operates as The Nowhere Man helping the helpless when they have nowhere else to turn.

In Lone Wolf Evan is at a low point personally, but he must quickly shake off his gloom when a young girl calls the hotline and asks for help finding her lost dog. Evan reluctantly agrees and “the case of the lost dog” quickly turns into sooo much more! Parts are extremely concerning as it mirrors real-life with AI and it’s chilling! As usual, Evan has his ever-growing collection of friends at his back, Joey, Tommy, and Melinda assist with the investigation.

I’ve said this before, but I think one of the reasons I love this series so much is because justice usually wins out. The baddies get retribution, something I long to see in real life, but doesn’t always happen. And Evan’s just so badass! Even when you think he’s cornered into a situation he can’t possibly get out of, he somehow prevails! Although, there was a comedy of errors when he gets his own line “Look at me closely. And ask yourself: Do I look scared?” back from nine-seven-year-old lady! It was a good lesson for him! Also, so many laughs over Evan having to endure looking through the many, many photos and videos of Sofia’s beloved, ugly dog!!!

The main conflict is resolved, but boy, that surprise at the end could change things! As usual, I’m eagerly anticipating the next installment!

I listened to the audiobook version, the way I’ve “read” the entire series. Scott Brick is a fantastic narrator, bringing Evan to life. He IS Evan Smoak to me even now. His female voices and accents are spot on, and his comedic timing is wonderful! I listen at my normal 1.5x-1.75x normal speed.

5 Stars


Book Description:
Once a black book government assassin known as Orphan X, Evan Smoak left the program, went deep underground, and reinvented himself as someone who will go anywhere, and risk everything to help the truly desperate who have nowhere else to turn. Since then, Evan has fought international crime syndicates and drug cartels, faced down the most powerful men in the world and even brought down a President. Struggling with an unexpected personal crisis, Evan goes back to the very basics of his mission - and this time, the truly desperate is a little girl who wants him to find her missing dog.

Not his usual mission, and not one Evan embraces with enthusiasm, but this unlikely, tiny job quickly explodes into his biggest mission yet. one that finds him battered between twisted AI technocrat billionaires, a mysterious female assassin who seems a mirror of himself, and personal stakes so gut-wrenching he can scarcely make sense of them .

Evan's mission pushes him to his limit - he must find and take down the assassin known only as the Wolf, before she succeeds in completing her mission and killing the people who can identify her - a teenaged daughter of her last target, and Evan himself. Matched skill for skill, instinct for instinct, Evan must outwit an opponent who will literally stop at nothing if he is to survive.


Blog Tour Spotlight: The Framed Women of Ardemore House by Brandy Schillace

 I meant to have this read and reviewed for the tour but I'm so behind. I will say that I'm currently reading The Framed Women of Ardemore House by Brandy Schillace and enjoying it immensely! I'm rooting for Jo and want to get to the bottom of this mystery! At any rate, I have book details and an excerpt to share below!


The Framed Women of Ardmore House by Brandy Schillace
Publication Date: February 13th 2024 by Hanover Square Press
Pages: 336
Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble |Books-a-Million Bookshop.org | Goodreads


Excerpt:



Ardemore House artwork credit: Brandy Schillace

Interior Artwork inside Ardemore House-artwork credit Brandy Schillace




Book Summary:

An abandoned English manor. A peculiar missing portrait. A cozy, deviously clever murder mystery, perfect for fans of Richard Osman and Anthony Horowitz.

Jo Jones has always had a little trouble fitting in. As a neurodivergent, hyperlexic book editor and divorced New Yorker transplanted into the English countryside, Jo doesn’t know what stands out more: her Americanisms or her autism.

After losing her job, her mother, and her marriage all in one year, she couldn’t be happier to take possession of a possibly haunted (and clearly unwanted) family estate in North Yorkshire. But when the body of the moody town groundskeeper turns up on her rug with three bullets in his back, Jo finds herself in potential danger—and she’s also a potential suspect. At the same time, a peculiar family portrait vanishes from a secret room in the manor, bearing a strange connection to both the dead body and Jo’s mysterious family history.

With the aid of a Welsh antiques dealer, the morose local detective, and the Irish innkeeper’s wife, Jo embarks on a mission to clear herself of blame and find the missing painting, unearthing a slew of secrets about the town—and herself—along the way. And she’ll have to do it all before the killer strikes again…




Author Bio: 


Brandy Schillace, PhD,  is a historian of medicine and the critically acclaimed author of Death's Summer Coat: What Death and Dying Teach Us About Life and Living and Clockwork Futures: The Science of Steampunk. The editor-in-chief of the journal Medical Humanities, she previously worked as a professor of literature and in research and public engagement at the Dittrick Medical History Center and Museum. Brandy also hosts the Peculiar Book Club Podcast, a twice-monthly show.

The Framed Women of Ardemore House, featuring an autistic protagonist caught at the center of a murder mystery, is her fiction debut. Brandy is also autistic, though has not (to her knowledge) been a suspect in a murder investigation. Find her at https://brandyschillace.com/ 


Social links:












Thursday, February 15, 2024

Review: Fish Out of Water by Katie Ruggle

 

Fish Out of Water by Katie Ruggle
Publication Date: February 13th 2024 by Sourcebooks Casablanca
Pages: 336
Source: Publisher
Rating: 

My Thoughts:
Dahlia’s sister Rose is her best friend, the one person in her family she can count on.  So, when she receives a “911” text from her Dahlia drops everything and flies out to Colorado, her sister’s last known location.

I admired Dahlia’s determination to find her sister, flying in blind after receiving her SOS signal, not knowing what she was up against. Dahlia was perky, silly, and fun, the quintessential “sunshine” to Winston’s “grumpy”. Winston wasn’t all that grumpy, though with a big, mushy, protective heart under a gruff exterior.

Loved all the backpacking/survival bits! The challenging weather and terrain lent a bit of excitement, and the forced proximity made acting on their attraction inevitable! There were some deliciously sexy times!

I enjoyed Katie Ruggle’s romantic suspense, so I was looking forward to Fish Out of Water, described as a "murdery rom-com". Some parts were a little a beyond belief, like how Winston just agreed to help Dahlia in her search right after meeting her, but I was okay to go along and enjoy the ride. It was a lot of fun, and a lot silly, with a little bit of suspense and danger mixed in.

4 Stars


Book Description:

Why date a mountain man? Because he knows how to pitch a tent.

When Dahlia Weathersby's sister disappears on what should have been a simple day hike, Dahlia immediately heads deep into the Colorado Rockies to find her. Knowing she'll never survive the mountains alone, she convinces the local hermit—adorably grouchy survival expert Winston Dane—to be her guide. All it takes is a good helping of Dahlia's charm…and just the teeniest bit of blackmail…before she's got all six-foot-something of him wrapped around her finger. But even with her very own mountain man in tow, things aren't going to be easy. There are:

Long hikes through gorgeous wilderness? Check.
Bears? Check.
A single shared sleeping bag? Check.
Enough sparks to set the Rockies ablaze? Check, check, check.

With everything the wilderness has to throw at them, it'll take more than charm and some city girl ingenuity to make this trek anything but a disaster waiting to happen…and an adventure she'll never forget.


Tuesday, February 13, 2024

New Release: Puffin in Bloom's Jane Austen Classics!

 I love Jane Austen's Classics so I'm excited to feature Puffin in Bloom's Jane Austen Classics reimagined with Dreamy Designs by Rifle Paper Co.'s Anna Bond! They're so pretty I've already ordered a set for me and one for my daughter! 

Details about the new release as well as a brief synopsis of each book and a bit about Jane Austen below.


On February 13, 2024, Puffin in Bloom will sweep readers off their feet with redesigned books from iconic author, Jane Austen

Pride and Prejudice, Emma, and Sense and Sensibility are enveloped by whimsical and charming new covers by Rifle Paper Co.’s co-founder and chief creative officer, Anna Bond, that invoke Austen’s blooming characters and relationships.

Anna Bond said, "I loved being part of this special project illustrating three beloved Jane Austen classic novels. As a continuation of the Puffin In Bloom series, I hand-painted the cover artwork with gouache paint while incorporating details and themes from each story. These beautiful books are wonderful display-worthy keepsakes and I look forward to having them in my home for myself and my children."

Dana Leydig, Executive Editor & Associate Director of Publishing adds, “Anna’s timeless aesthetic and romantic palette are a perfect pairing for the works of beloved regency novelist Jane Austen. We’re delighted to collaborate again with Anna on this exciting extension to the Puffin in Bloom collection- a gorgeous set of books that readers (myself included!) will cherish and gift year round.”

Fans of the Puffin in Bloom series or Bond’s designs can add these stunning new editions to their shelves, while new readers can discover Austen’s engaging and romantic coming-of-age stories for the first time.



Emma (ISBN: 9780593622476; $17.00): Beautiful, clever, rich—and single—Emma Woodhouse is perfectly content with her life and sees no need for either love or marriage. Nothing, however, delights her more than interfering in the romantic lives of others. But when she ignores the warnings of her good friend Mr. Knightley and attempts to arrange a suitable match for her protégée, Harriet Smith, her carefully laid plans soon unravel and have consequences that she never expected. With its imperfect but charming heroine and its witty and subtle exploration of relationships, Emma is often seen as Jane Austen’s most flawless work.




Pride & Prejudice (ISBN: 9780593622452; $17.00): Mr. and Mrs. Bennet live with their five daughters. Jane, the eldest daughter, falls in love with Charles Bingley, a rich bachelor who moves into a house nearby with his two sisters and friend, Fitzwilliam Darcy. Darcy is attracted to the second daughter, Elizabeth, but she finds him arrogant and self-centered. When Darcy proposes to Elizabeth, she refuses. But perhaps there is more to Darcy than meets the eye.




Sense & Sensibility (ISBN: 9780593622469; $17.00): Marianne Dashwood wears her heart on her sleeve, and when she falls in love with the dashing but unsuitable John Willoughby, she ignores her sister Elinor's warning that her impulsive behavior leaves her open to gossip and innuendo. Meanwhile, Elinor, always sensitive to social convention, is struggling to conceal her own romantic disappointment, even from those closest to her. Through their parallel experience of love-- and its threatened loss--the sisters learn that sense must mix with sensibility if they are to find personal happiness in a society where status and money govern the rules of love.

Jane Austen was born on December 16, 1775, at Steventon near Basingstoke, the seventh child of the rector of the parish. She lived with her family at Steventon until they moved to Bath when her father retired in 1801. After his death in 1805, she moved around with her mother; in 1809, they settled in Chawton, near Alton, Hampshire. Here she remained, except for a few visits to London, until May 1817, when she moved to Winchester to be near her doctor. There she died on July 18, 1817.

Anna Bond is an artist, designer, and entrepreneur best known for being the co-founder and chief creative officer of Rifle Paper Co., an international stationery, accessories, and home brand based in Winter Park, Florida, and SoHo, New York. Founded in 2009 with her husband Nathan, the couple organically grew the brand from an apartment-based business to a multi-million dollar brand carried in thousands of stores around the world. Beyond Rifle Paper Co., Anna enjoys illustration, interior design, and, most of all, trying to keep up with her five young children.

Penguin Random House, the world’s largest trade book publisher, is dedicated to its mission of nourishing a universal passion for reading by connecting authors and their writing with readers everywhere. The company, which employs more than 10,000 people globally, was formed on July 1, 2013, by Bertelsmann and Pearson, who own 75 percent and 25 percent, respectively. With nearly 275 imprints and brands on six continents, Penguin Random House comprises adult and children’s fiction and nonfiction print and digital English- and Spanish-language trade book publishing businesses in more than 20 countries worldwide. With over 15,000 new titles, and more than 600 million print, audio and eBooks sold annually, Penguin Random House’s publishing lists include more than 80 Nobel Prize laureates and hundreds of the world’s most widely read authors.