Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Review & Giveaway: Talulah's Back in Town by Brenda Novak


Talulah's Back in Town (Coyote Canyon #1) by Brenda Novak
Publication Date: August 22nd 2023 by MIRA
Pages: 400
Source: Publisher 
Rating: ½

My Thoughts:
Talulah’s back in her hometown to sort through her great-aunt’s house, getting it ready for sale after her death. She hadn’t been looking forward to coming back after she left her fiancé at the alter fourteen years ago shattering one of her best friendships and becoming the talk of the town.

I don’t think I’ve ever read a “runaway bride” romance, didn’t really think it would appeal to me. I’ve wondered how someone could let it get to that point, knowing they had cold feet and doubts, but for Talulah it boiled down to trying to please everyone. Hoping her feelings would change or deepen enough before the wedding so she wouldn’t have to disappoint anyone. Unfortunately, by the time she broke it off it caused more damage than if she would’ve done it right when she started having doubts, but she didn’t trust her gut instincts.

Now Talulah makes it clear up front to any potential love interests that she’s commitment phobic. She’d like to be able to fall in love, settle down and have a family, but the thought of commitment gives her hives! That is until she returns home and circumstances lead her to falling in with Brant Elway, the best friend of her ex-fiancé. Yep, it’s messy and normally I’d be running the other way from a story like this, but it was sooo good!  Talulah and Brant had off-the-charts chemistry (this was hot stuff!) and deepening emotional bond. I just loved how naturally they fit as a couple! They just had to figure out the details.

I’m fairly new to Brenda Novak’s writing, having only read two of her stories in the past, both more on the women’s fiction side with a bit of romance and suspense. This is my first full on romance by her and I loved it! I was mesmerized by the story from page one!

4.5 Stars

Book Description:

Sometimes the past we leave behind leads us right where we belong.

Talulah Barclay doesn’t like complications. Unfortunately, they seem to love her. Fourteen years after leaving her fiancé at the altar, Talulah returns to her hometown of Coyote Canyon, Montana, to settle her great-aunt’s estate. As she’d feared, her “runaway bride” reputation is waiting right where she left it, and her ex’s best friend, Brant, isn’t about to let her slip by unnoticed.

Brant has always been a loyal friend, but Talulah’s decision to run isn’t the only thing he hasn’t forgotten. He remembers more about Talulah than he cares to admit. Vividly. And it’s increasingly difficult to ignore her now, especially when they find themselves in close quarters. Talulah has no plans to stay in town after she fixes up her aunt’s Victorian farmhouse, even if the unbridled sparks with Brant give her a good reason to linger. Besides, bailing on relationships is kind of her thing. But a lot has changed since Talulah last turned tail—maybe her heart has changed, too?

I went to the book launch/signing event for Talulah's Back in Town at Ruby's Bookstore in Folsom, California last week and bought an extra signed copy to giveaway to one lucky reader! The giveaway is open to US Residents only. Fill out the rafflecopter for a chance to win. Good luck!

The mini-version of the macaron tower from the book cover at the signing.

Photo credit: Rudy Meyers Photography

About the author:

New York Times bestselling author Brenda Novak has written over 60 novels. An eight-time Rita nominee, she's won The National Reader's Choice, The Bookseller's Best and other awards. She runs Brenda Novak for the Cure, a charity that has raised more than $2.5 million for diabetes research (her youngest son has this disease). She considers herself lucky to be a mother of five and married to the love of her life. Visit Brenda at

Connect with Brenda Novak:

Monday, August 28, 2023

Review: Mixed Signals by B.K. Borison


Mixed Signals (Lovelight #3) by B.K. Borison
Publication Date: August 1st 2023 by Berkley & Dreamscape Media
Pages: 336
Audio Book Length: 10 hrs 16 mins
Narrators: Pippa Jayne & Julio Maxwell
Source: Publisher & Library lend (audio)
Rating: ¼
Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Audible | Kobo | Goodreads

My Thoughts:
Layla has had to watch as her two good friends, Stella and Beckett have found love, and while she’s happy for them, she’d like her chance to find someone special, someone who will cherish her. However, her dating history has left a lot to be desired! Things are about to change when she runs into Caleb Alvarez after a date-gone-bad and he takes her home.

Caleb’s dating history has also been less than stellar, so he suggests they date each other. He’s been crushing on Layla from afar, but somehow his suggestion is taken as an experiment in dating rather than the truth that Caleb has always wanted a chance with Layla.

I’ve really enjoyed all three Lovelight romances, but Mixed Signals is my favorite to date in the series! There was just something so lovely about this couple and the drama was minimal. Layla and Caleb’s chemistry was palpable. Theirs dates fun and hilarious!

As with the first two books, B.K. Borison’s writing was beautiful and gave the story a dreamy quality! I felt like I absorbed every sight, sound, and scent! I was happy to catch up with Stella and Luca and Beckett and Evie. I love how they were so ready to jump in and help or slash a tire (a task Stella was all too eager for, lol) if needed! I’m so in love with Beckett’s utter failure to resist adopting any animal in need!

I alternately read and listened to an audio copy. Pippa Jayne’s voice is soft and rich, perfect for this series! Julio Maxwell was wonderful as Caleb. I listened at 1.75x normal speed. A definite recommend!

4.25 Stars

Book Description:

A small-town baker learns to raise her expectations for love with some help from a handsome local teacher in this sunny romantic comedy.

Layla Dupree has given up on love. She’s waded through all the fish in the sea, each one more disappointing than the last. Apparently, owning the bakery at Inglewild’s most romantic destination does not help one’s love life—despite Layla’s best efforts. All she wants is a partner who gives her butterflies, not someone who ghosts her at dinner and leaves her with the check.

Good thing Caleb Alvarez has the perfect solution. After saving Layla from another date gone bad, he has a simple one month of no-strings dating. He’ll do his best to renew her faith in men while she rates his romantic game. It’s a win-win situation. All the benefits of dating without the added pressure of feelings and unmet expectations.

But there’s one ingredient they haven’t considered. The chemistry between them is red-hot, and the urge to take things to the next level is more tempting than Layla’s mocha fudge brownies.

Saturday, August 26, 2023

Sunday Post #219


The Sunday Post is hosted by Kimberly @ Caffeinated reviewer book blog, and is a post to recap my bookish and non-bookish things from the last week. I'm also linking up to The Sunday Salon hosted by Deb Nance @Readerbuzz.

I had a nice week! Went to a book party/signing on Tuesday for Brenda Novak's newest release: Talulah's Back in Town in historic downtown Folsom at Ruby's Books. The bookstore and town were super cute and I had a great time! Brenda is a wonderful speaker! I'm excited for her new three book romance series set in Montana! I'm about 30% down with Talulah and I would've thought it too messy, too angsty for my tastes but it's soooo good! I'll be giving away a signed copy with my review this coming week, so be on the lookout! 

It's been an eventful week because we left early the next morning (Wednesday) to travel down to Southern California to visit my son, DIL and our newest grandson, who is now 8 months. He's so happy and cute! He had a lot of colic and was super fussy, and didn't sleep well. I'm so happy he's done a complete turn around for the sanity of my son and DIL! It's so stressful when you can't soothe your baby and they're in pain! Also, trying to get by on minimal sleep can make you crazy! I remember those days and I'm so happy they're out of the woods. We drove back yesterday and it was a long drive! Both my husband and I were exhausted, but happy to be home. We listened to the newest Sandra Brown which made our drive a lot more bearable!

(Click on cover for Goodreads link)

I had a great reading week! Kind of an eclectic mix of reads but all were wonderful! Just finished Mixed Signals today and I think it's my favorite of the Lovelight series. Out of Nowhere was another solid romantic suspense from Sandra Brown. She's an auto read for me even though I don't get approval from the publisher anymore. Not sure what's up with that, but I got a library audio and now I don't have to write a review. It was a page-turner for sure and it made our drive enjoyable! Vampires of El Norte isn't my usual kind of read, but it was surprisingly addictive! Moving Forward was a heartwarming double romance.

Received/Purchased/Library Lend:

This is a lot. I had to commit to some blog tours offered and downloaded widgets offered a while ago when they sent a print copy. I need to get reading! I listed one library audio lend. I'm sure there's more library lends I just am too lazy to add here.


Surprisingly good! Love that the beautiful cover is taken from the story!

How was your week?

Friday, August 25, 2023

Review: Moving Forward by Shelley Shepard Gray


Moving Forward (Woodland Park Firefighters #2) by Shelley Shepard Gray
Publication Date: August 22nd 2023 by Berkley 
Pages: 304
Source: Publisher 
Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Goodreads

My Thoughts:
Greg, a former Army Captain and now firefighter, hasn’t felt a serious attraction for someone until he encounters a feisty woman while putting out the fire at her garden center. He can’t help but check in on her while she’s at the hospital, and it seems their attraction is mutual.

Kristen knows she is better to be safe and get checked out after the fire but resists as she’s tired of doctors and hospital visits. When Greg shows up at her hospital room and declares an interest, Kristen is hesitant to take a risk even if he is gorgeous and sweet. Her last relationship ended after her fiancé found out the extent of her health issues and she’s not keen on another rejection. However, Greg isn’t easily discouraged.

Greg has his own struggles dealing with PTSD and doesn’t want to reveal just how bad it can be for him. Both Kristen and Greg had reasons they didn’t feel good enough, and Kristen was skittish on top of that because of her failed engagement, but their attraction made it impossible to stay just friends. Their romance was a gradual, sweet and touching!

There’s also a secondary romance between Jen, Kristen’s employee at her garden center, a recent high school graduate, and Ryan one of the more popular kids in high school. Jen had a crush on Ryan while in school but figured he never noticed her since they moved in very different social circles. Jen had also been dealing with the death of her father and her mother’s depression.

Despite some of the issues the characters face, this was an easy-going, small-town romance that’ll warm your heart! I love how both couples were supportive and accepting of each other! I loved the close-knit community of Woodland Park! They were ready to offer a helping hand, a listening ear, or some sage advice.

Moving Forward was the second in the Woodland Park Firefighters series but can be read as a standalone.

4 Stars

Book Description:

Romance blossoms in the Colorado foothills in this sweet romance by New York Times bestselling author Shelley Shepard Gray

Former Army captain Greg Tebo loves his new life in Woodland Park. In the two years since he joined the WPFD, he’s gained a reputation as a fearless firefighter, and after being stationed all around the country and overseas, he can’t wait to settle down with a wife and kids.

When a call comes in about a possible heart attack at the scene of a fire at the Garden Center, Greg assumes they’re going to be helping an elderly customer—not the beautiful, feisty proprietor in her late twenties. Kristen Werner has been determined to pretend everything is fine. She refuses to leave the company she’s carefully nurtured and move home to her loving but meddling family in Houston. Since her devastating diagnosis caused her fiancé to dump her, she’s given up on love and thrown herself into cultivating her blooming business instead—even if the hard work further weakens her heart.
Greg is drawn to Kristen’s vibrant, independent spirit and hopes romance will flower. But she’s had enough trouble with her heart to last a lifetime, and can’t trust Greg not to break it—especially if he finds out she can never give him the houseful of children he longs for....

Thursday, August 24, 2023

Audiobook Review: Vampires of El Norte by Isabel Cañas

Vampires of El Norte by Isabel Cañas
Publication Date: August 15th 2023 by Penguin Audio
Pages: 371
Audio Book Length: 12hrs 2min
Narrator: Jose Nateras & Krysta Gonzales
Source: Publisher
Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Audible | Goodreads

My Thoughts:
Nena and Néstor were inseparable as children, much to the dismay of Nena’s parents, the ranch owners. With Néstor being the son of one of their vaqueros there’s a clear class distinction. But Nena and Néstor snuck off together as often as they could, each feeling nothing could separate them until Nena is attacked. Thinking Nena dead and facing the wrath of Nena’s parents, Néstor takes off and makes a life of his own, working from ranch to ranch saving money. All the while never able to forget Nena.

With the threat of Anglos coming in and overtaking, Nena’s brother sends a request to Néstor to help defend the ranch. He accepts and gets the shock of his life when he sees that Nena isn’t dead and that she’s angry with him for him deserting her, not knowing the full details.
While there are vampires in this, I would label this more historical romance/fiction than horror. It wasn’t scary (to me), but it was an engrossing story for sure. At the heart is Nena and Néstor’s story. Will they be able to overcome the expectations Nena’s parents have for her, marrying a rich, prominent rancher to strengthen their family or will she follow her heart? Will all of that even matter with the Anglos going after their land and the Mexican American war brewing? That’s not counting the strange creatures lurking in the shadows. I rooted for Nena and Néstor to overcome all these obstacles and find a way!

Isabel Cañas’ writing was beautiful, bringing the characters to life: their longing, fear, hope, and dreams!  I felt like I could smell the creosote, feel the heat, and soak in the beauty of the land.
I listened to an audio copy which enhanced this captivating tale! Jose Nateras and Krysta Gonzales alternated performing Néstor and Nena’s chapters and I thought they did a wonderful job! Their pronunciation and accents gave an authentic feel to the story. I listened at 1.5-1.75x normal speed.

4 Stars

Book Description:

Vampires and vaqueros face off on the Texas-Mexico border in this supernatural western from the author of The Hacienda.

As the daughter of a rancher in 1840s Mexico, Nena knows a thing or two about monsters—her home has long been threatened by tensions with Anglo settlers from the north. But something more sinister lurks near the ranch at night, something that drains men of their blood and leaves them for dead.

Something that once attacked Nena nine years ago.

Believing Nena dead, Néstor has been on the run from his grief ever since, moving from ranch to ranch working as a vaquero. But no amount of drink can dispel the night terrors of sharp teeth; no woman can erase his childhood sweetheart from his mind.

When the United States attacks Mexico in 1846, the two are brought abruptly together on the road to war: Nena as a curandera, a healer striving to prove her worth to her father so that he does not marry her off to a stranger, and Néstor as a member of the auxiliary cavalry of ranchers and vaqueros. But the shock of their reunion—and Nena’s rage at Néstor for seemingly abandoning her long ago—is quickly overshadowed by the appearance of a nightmare made flesh.

And unless Nena and Néstor work through their past and face the future together, neither will survive to see the dawn.

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Audiobook Review: The Honeymoon Crashers by Christina Lauren


The Honeymoon Crashers (Unhoneymooners #1.5) by Christina Lauren
Publication Date: August 1st 2023 by Simon & Schuster Audio
Audio Book Length: 4hrs 47min
Narrator: Jessica Marie Garcia, Harry Shum Jr & full cast
Source: Publisher
Links:  Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Audible | Goodreads

My Thoughts:
When Ami’s twin sister Olive announces she and Ethan are eloping on the island of Maui, Ami scrambles to throw together the perfect wedding. A day that will include family and friends. A day that she hopes breaks the Torres family wedding curse. Ami had her own disaster of a wedding where everyone was sick from food poisoning and her marriage ended a few short days later after Ami discovered her husband was cheating.

Much to Ami’s dismay, Olive and Ethan have assigned Brody, Ethan’s best man, to help put it all together. He comes off as a surfer guy, all laid back, so she doesn’t take him seriously. However, Brody knows everyone on the island, charms them all, therefore a huge asset in the arrangements.

Ethan asked Brody to help plan the wedding to help lighten Ami’s burden, but more to make sure she has fun while doing it. Ethan and Olive love Ami and know what she went through still hurts. Brody for his part seems like a carefree, fun-loving guy, but there’s more to him than meets the eye.

The Honeymoon Crashers was a lot of fun with Brody convincing Ami to let loose and enjoy making choices. I wanted to be there for the cake tasting and for the flower farm! It was a pleasure to see the slow burn of attraction ignite and turn into something deeper and important for them.

I really enjoyed Jessica Marie Garcia and Harry Shum Jr.’s performance as Ami and Brody, but also the full cast of characters with sound effects that made the story come alive. I listened at my usual 1.5x normal speed.  

4 Stars

Book Description:

A perfectionist maid of honor and a carefree, surfer-bro best man team up to plan a wedding and end up finding a spark of their own in the first audio original from author duo Christina Lauren, a full-cast sequel to their New York Times bestseller The Unhoneymooners.

Ami is determined to break the Torres family wedding curse. Her own disaster of a reception ended with all the guests getting food poisoning, and she left her cheating husband soon after. But even though she’s still processing her own divorce, Ami won’t let her twin sister Olive’s day be anything but perfect. Olive may think she wants a private ceremony in Maui, where she and her fiancé Ethan first fell in love, but Ami knows better and secretly flies the whole Torres family out to surprise the couple. Now she and her meticulously organized binder have less than two weeks to get everything together for the big day, thousands of miles from home.

Enter Brody, Ethan’s best man, who happens to be living in Maui and insists on helping with the preparations. His playfully elaborate schemes and happy-go-lucky attitude are the last thing Ami needs. When sparks start to fly, could it derail all her carefully laid plans?

Equal parts hilarious and swoon-worthy, this full-cast production is your ticket to the ultimate destination wedding, bringing to life both a captivating couple and an unforgettable family. The Honeymoon Crashers is Christina Lauren at their charming, hilarious best.

Saturday, August 19, 2023

Sunday Post #218


The Sunday Post is hosted by Kimberly @ Caffeinated reviewer book blog, and is a post to recap my bookish and non-bookish things from the last week. I'm also linking up to The Sunday Salon hosted by Deb Nance @Readerbuzz.

It's been a busy week. The usual, but also I flew down south with my husband to tag along while he called in on his account and then we met old friends/business acquaintances at the historic bar Joe Jost's in Orange County. We flew down and back in one day. When we got back home I was so tired I just washed my face and went to bed. 

I got up early to beat the heat and jogged three miles. I gathered up a few pears and some wild blackberries along my trail and made homemade blackberry scones. They were delicious! 

Morning meadow

Pears from trail

Garden Zinneas

We're finally getting some cooler days as in low 80s instead of high 90s this next week and there's a chance of rain on Monday from the huge storm Hilary. We'll be getting the tail end of it with most of the impact hitting Southern California. 

(Click on cover for Goodreads link)

I've been on a mystery/thriller kick but I did manage to read *listen* to one romance. 

Received/Purchased/Library Lend:

Fourth Wing is an audio library lend. I hope it's the updated version. I'm a little hesitant with all the hype.


A 5 star read set against a 5 star view. The book was set in the Montana wilderness and the background photo is from one of my trips there. 

How was your week?

Friday, August 18, 2023

Review: Beneath Dark Waters by Karen Rose


Beneath Dark Waters (New Orleans #2) by Karen Rose
Publication Date: August 15th 2023 by Berkley Romance
Pages: 592
Source: Publisher
Rating: ½
Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo Audible | Goodreads

My Thoughts:
Prosecutor Kaj Jean-Pierre Cardoza and his son ten-year-old son Elijah are new to the New Orleans area, only being there six months. Kaj knows there is corruption in the police department and the Prosecutor’s office has had their hands full cleaning up a past ADA’s shady dealings. Kaj has been assigned two high profile cases, one where a movie star was allegedly raped by the director and one where a drug dealer beat his son’s oncologist to death when he failed to save him. Unfortunately, both put him and his son in danger. When Elijah narrowly escapes an attempted kidnapping, Kaj doesn’t trust the police to guard them and instead hires Broussard Investigations to keep them safe.

Val Sorenson, an ex-marine, is leading the protection duty and it’s not long before Kaj and Elijah dig out a special place in her heart. Little does Val know though that she’s got a personal connection to the thugs gunning for Elijiah and Kaj. It’ll take all of Broussard Investigations to head off these determined villains!

Beneath Dark Waters was action packed with danger at every turn, but also a character driven story with Val, Kaj, Elijah, and others forming close bonds. They all had some painful past baggage and found solace in each other. Val and Kaj were immediately attracted, having met through mutual friends, and being thrown together just faned those flames.

My heart ached for the innocent here because these bad guys were awful! I didn’t want anyone landing in their hands at all! My heart pounded as the events unfolded! Thankfully, Val and Kaj were smart and didn’t take unnecessary risks. Still…

This has a high page count, but the story really flew by! There are a few repeat characters and I think the group is growing into an extended close family as Broussard operatives form relationships, both romantic and platonic. We’re getting the personality and feel of the group as the series goes on, so I do recommend starting from the beginning (book one of the New Orleans series) but you could read this as a stand-alone and still enjoy the story because it’s focused on Kaj, Val, Elijah and Jace, and the mystery/conflict wraps up here. I’m looking forward to the next one and wonder if it’ll feature Phin. What was revealed about him hints at an interesting backstory!

4.5 Stars

Book Description:

Deadly secrets lie beneath the murky waters of the Louisiana bayou in this pulse-pounding new romantic suspense novel from New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Karen Rose.

There's no safe place for a child to hide when danger comes from every direction.

Public prosecutor J.P. "Kaj" Cardozo has only lived in New Orleans for six months, and he's already working on a high-profile celebrity sexual assault case that's made headlines all over the country. But when his son becomes the target of a kidnapping attempt as a threat to Kaj, he is desperate to keep him safe and turns to a private investigative firm famous for their protection services.

A veteran Marine, Val Sorensen is glad to have found a new career with Broussard Investigations. Her latest assignment as the bodyguard to ten-year-old Elijah Cardozo reminds her why--Val is a kick ass guardian with a tender heart. Through her duties, Val grows fond of the boy--and his handsome father.

But when the high-stakes investigation reveals an explosive network of crime through a revived drug gang, lingering deep-seated corruption in the NOPD, and a group of murderers-for-hire targeting Kaj, Elijah, and his star client, they're all left scrambling for safety...

Thursday, August 17, 2023

Review: Dead Man's Wake by Paul Doiron


Dead Man's Wake (Mike Boditch #14) by Paul Doiron
Publication Date: June 27th 2023 by Minotaur Books & Macmillan Audio
Pages: 320
Audio Book Length: 9hrs 26min
Narrator: Henry Leyva
Source: Publisher & Library Audio Copy

My Thoughts:
Mike and his fiancée Stacey Stevens are at his stepfather’s lake house for their engagement party when they hear a boat crash. As a Game Warden for the Maine Warden Service and with no one else available Mike set out to find out what happened with his future father-in-law, Charley, a retired Game Warden, in tow. They find gruesome remains and evidence of two deaths.

Mike investigates with the State Police Detectives. It’s very much a crime procedural with Mike interviewing witnesses and traveling around the small islands to gather evidence. I enjoy Mike’s interactions with his mentor/friend/future father-in-law Charley. He’s such a rascal, but a big help in solving the case. Even Stacey helps a lot with being able to fly and just being a sounding board helping Mike puzzle through the clues. I was happy that Mike seems to be maturing and thinking things through more before acting. A conscious decision on his part to do better and think of the other people in his life. I did miss Shadow, his part wolf dog in this installment.

The coast of Maine and the little islands are a big part of the story, Mr. Doiron brings the area to life with his lovely writing. Yes, it’s a fast-paced plot, but I like how he takes a moment to feature nature’s beauty all around.

This is book fourteen in the Mike Bowditch series, but I’ve skipped around and read out of order. I think you could read this as a stand-alone, but you’d miss some of the character backstory. The ending brought a smile to my face!

I alternately read and listened to a library audio copy. I’ll still keep working my way through the previous mysteries. The audios are great with Henry Leyva narrating the series. He has a great easy-going voice, that I now picture as Mike, and he does the Maine/Boston accents well. I listened at my usual 1.5x normal speed.

4 Stars

Book Description:

Game Warden Mike Bowditch's engagement party is interrupted by the discovery of a gruesome double murder in Dead Man's Wake, a new thriller from Edgar Award-winning author Paul Doiron.

On the evening of their engagement party, Maine Game Warden Investigator Mike Bowditch and Stacey Stevens witness what seems to be a hit-and-run speedboat crash on a darkened lake. When they arrive at the scene, their spotlight reveals a gruesome sight: a severed arm beneath the surface. As day breaks, the warden dive team recovers not one but two naked corpses: the dismembered man and the married woman with whom he was having an affair. Mike begins to suspect the swimmers' deaths were not a senseless accident but a coldly calculated murder. Alone among his fellow officers, Mike begins to sense the involvement of a trained professional, smarter and more dangerous than any enemy he has faced. As Mike and Stacey get closer to identifying the killer, their own lives are suddenly put on the line, leading to a confrontation designed to silence them forever.