Everything is Just Beginning

Author: Erin Bartels

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: January 17, 2023

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Bartels delivers yet another unparalleled story about friendship, conflict, and healing.

On New Years Eve of 1989, the world is changing and possibilities seem endless.  But for Michael Sullivan, its just another reminder of how his life is turning out.  After being kicked out of his band and apartment, he ends up sharing a room in his uncle’s trailer across the road from a sprawling mansion of a talented music artist and producer.  His uncle shares his name and goes by Mike, so when Michael stumbles on an invitation to a New  Year’s Eve party at the mansion and his uncle on an extended road trip in Vegas, Michael decides to test fate and go see how the other half lives.  While at the party, he meets Natalie, daughter to the music legends who live in the mansion.  Through this chance encounter, he learns more about music, more about this family, and more about himself than he could ever bargain for.

I love that Erin Bartels usually releases her novels around the start of the year because she sets the bar for what I expect of the year!   Each book is so different from the rest that you can’t help but be pulled into each new story.  Michael and Natalie’s story is just so good that you’ll want to read it again and again.  Set in the suburbs of Detroit, Michigan in 1990 brings back so many memories of life and music during that time, I just loved it.

As with most of her novels, the emotion is raw and laid out bare for all readers to see.  It deals with some heavy things that people deal with today, not just 30 years ago.  It is so easy to connect with her characters and have them draw you into their story so that you feel more like a participant than an outsider.  This will easily be one of my favorite books of 2023!

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Treasure State

Author: C.J. Box

Series: Cassie Dewell Novel #6

Publisher: Minotaur Books

Release Date: September 27, 2022

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Took a little bit to get going, but once the story picked up steam, it never slowed down!

Cassie Dewell has been working as a private investigator and loves what she does. Her newest case has her on the hunt for a missing private investigator and a con man who could be behind his disappearance as well as stealing fortunes from several women. As she is looking into this case. she is contacted by a man claiming to be the mastermind behind a treasure hunt that has already cost five people their lives. Cassie finds herself in Anaconda, Montana with clues to who could be behind all she is investigating. Each clue brings about another strange twist in the case and Cassie finds herself in danger before all is solved hoping she can make it home and help find a treasure.

I didn’t realize this was the sixth book in the Cassie Dewell series when I started it. Even though I hadn’t read the others, I was still able to really enjoy this story. The start of the book was a little slow but once it got going, I couldn’t put it down. The story was fun and intriguing with the double mystery Cassie was investigating. I loved how all the pieces came together by the end, it all played out just perfectly and left me feeling great about the story and the way Box set it all up. Now that I’ve read this one, I am eager to go back and read the others in the series. Cassie is a great protagonist with a set of skills that helps her in solving her cases, she has enough flaws to make her a believable character though. This was a fun mystery without the fluff or other aspects that can make a book boring and hard to get through. I recommend this one to readers that enjoy suspense, mysteries, and a great fun setting.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

The Lost Melody

Author: Joanna Davidson Politano

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: October 4, 2022

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Surprisingly entertaining with a dark premise that kept me glued to the pages.

Vivienne Mourdant’s father has just passed away and to her surprise he leaves her in the care of an adult ward she never knew about. Vivienne is a concert pianist and her life changes with this new revelation. The Hurstwell Asylum is where she is headed to see about the woman to whom she is now in charge.  The picture she sees is very familiar to her from dreams she had as a young child. Not sure what is real and what is actually a dream from her younger years, she starts to think maybe she is the one in need of the asylum.

Of all the historical romance novels I’ve read lately, this one is one of the best with the added mystery and suspense. For some this might be a hard topic dealing with history and asylums and the hardships that were imposed during that time. The way that Politano brought about this hard topic and used faith at such hard points was perfectly written. Vivienne is not only dealing with the death of her father but also the news of what she is now in charge of and how she is going to be able to deal with that. Not only would that be tough now but being set in the time it is for a woman to deal with all of that is even more difficult. Politano wrote all of this in such a way that the reader will not want to take a moment’s break to put the book down until finished.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Beyond the Wand

Author: Tom Felton

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Release Date: October 18, 2022

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Best known for his portrayal as Draco Malfoy in the Harry Potter movies, Tom Felton shares his life’s lessons so far!

You might think that Tom Felton is your typical childhood actor that enjoyed fame and fortune after the Harry Potter films, but it’s not all that you might imagine.  Tom is the youngest of four boys who kept him extremely grounded throughout this early acting journey.  His upbringing was a bit different being in England than of America and he found out at an early age that just because you’ve done film or commercials, literally no one cares.  Fortunately for Tom, out of the four main actors for Harry Potter, he was the one that was able to lead a somewhat normal life.  But that can take different forms when you want to fit in versus being unable to fit in.  There is a lot of wisdom this young man has had to learn the hard way and it is worth sharing.

I love reading memoirs and autobiographies in general because it gives me a look inside of what people have done in their lives.  Sure, I know Tom Felton from his on screen films, but I have no idea what he is like as a person.  His personal trajectory shows a lot of “character growth” as he first meets the other actors/actresses for Harry Potter and his initial behavior compared to his behavior after having been around some distinguished actors who share their wisdoms.  I think the most interesting part was discovering that he is almost opposite the Draco Malfoy character and how in tune with Emma Watson he is.  You think you know a guy, but until you learn about them, you have no idea!

Blood of the Sons

Author: Vincent B. Davis II

Series: Consentino Crime Saga #2

Publisher: Thirteenth Press

Release Date: August 30, 2022

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Picking up where Sins of the Father left off, Davis gives readers the ending they wanted, but not expected!

Sonny Consentino and his brothers want nothing more than to avenge their father.  Trouble is, they have no idea who killed him.  Now tied up with an Italian crime boss, they work to hold their territory while capturing others throughout New York. 

So, I really want to give more of a synopsis of this book, but it would just give it all away if I did.  I think this book is equally divided between Sonny and his brother-in-law Buster.  While the first book was Sonny’s origin story, this one was Buster’s but with a continuation of the first book mixed together.  There are some significant twists in this book that is likely to blow readers minds, especially at the end.  What a great work.  I highly recommend reading the first book before you jump on to this one!

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Anything But Plain

Author: Suzanne Woods Fisher

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: October 4, 2022

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Amish fiction that fans of Suzanne Woods Fisher will not want to miss!

Lydle Stolzful is the bishop’s daughter, and no matter how hard she tries, she is not like the other Amish girls. She doesn’t want to leave her family or the church, but she doesn’t feel like she can stay either. While between jobs, she works with the local doctor at the front desk. Taking the job gives her time before getting ready to leave and say the hard goodbye to those close to her. Nathan Yoder has told Lydle he loves her, but she and his father tell him she is not good enough for him. That along with other reasons are why she feels the need to leave.

Amish fiction is a unique genre that is not for everyone. It takes a little different frame of mind, especially if you prefer more suspense and high paced action in your novels.  However, every so often, there is an author who can craft a story set within Amish parameters that makes it read more like a straight contemporary novel. Without action based suspense, Fisher makes the story more suspenseful in other ways. While this isn’t my typical go-to type of novel, I have found that Fisher is one of the best at writing these books and finds ways of making the story and the characters interesting in such different ways than I am used to in the other novels I read. I did find myself smiling by the end of the novel as all the pieces came together and the story wrapped up just perfectly.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

The Rose and the Thistle

Author: Laura Frantz

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: January 3, 2023

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A historical romance that will hit all the right buttons for fans of the genre.

In 1715, an English heiress with a powerful family runs off to the Scottish Lowlands to avoid the enemy. While there, she finds herself thrown into temptation and pulled by her heartstrings in unimaginable ways. When difficult circumstances throw Lady Blythe into hardships unexpectedly, things get interesting very quickly.

Historical romance is a genre that can hit the heartstrings of readers and this one did a good job of living up to my expectations. These books take a little longer for me to read because I enjoy researching the time periods to see how much research the author did as well. As usual, Frantz does an amazing job of portraying the period accurately as I’ve come to expect in all of her books!  The romance arc was nice and well written where I was able to see the characters act in a way that was believable and kept the story moving along. I would recommend this to readers that enjoy historical romance; however, if it’s not what you enjoy this won’t be the book for you.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

All the Lost Places

Author: Amanda Dykes

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: December 13, 2022

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Readers will enjoy not one, but two amazing stories surrounding the history of Venice, Italy.

One evening, a baby boy floating in a basket is discovered by a guildsman in the canals of Venice.  Only a few meters away from fate turning him over to an orphanage, young Sebastian is raised by five artisans.  As he grows up, he fears he will never discover who he truly is until a chance encounter on an island changes his life forever.

Many years later, Daniel Goodman is given the opportunity to turn his life around after some bad choices give him a prison sentence.  Now a free man, but saddled with personal guilt that keeps him paying penance to those he hurt, he is tasked to go to Venice, Italy to discover the full translation of the Book of Waters as well as sketch many of the historical artifacts for a man’s vision to bring part of Venice to California.  Upon his arrival in Venice, he meets Vittoria, the local bookkeeper, who assist him in both his personal and professional journey. 

This is the first book that I have read by Amanda Dykes and she amazed me from the beginning of the book to the end.  I couldn’t decide which story I loved more, that of Sebastian or Daniel.  And once the stories collided, it simply took off.  I love to read about well-known places that I’ve never been or expect to visit except through my mind’s eye.  My favorite character by far was Vittoria.  She was such a gust of wind that I wasn’t sure if I would be able to keep up with her, but soon discovered we were kindred spirits.  I love it when a book has that ability.  I recommend this to readers who enjoy Italian history and just an overall great story!

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Critical Threat

Author: Lynette Eason

Series: Extreme Measures #3

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: January 3, 2023

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The third installment in the Extreme Measures series is another romantic suspense that will give readers exactly what they have come to expect from this genre.

Grace Billingsley works as a psychiatrist and behavioral analyst to help track down serial killers. When a new killer shows up with the same MO as a serial killer that’s been behind bars for years, prison psychiatrist Sam Monroe is pulled in to help with the case. Sam is the son of famed serial killer Peter Ramanos and is the one that turned his father into the authorities when he found evidence of him being a killer. Sam and Grace end up working together and quickly make a connection. Sam doesn’t want to get involved with anyone because of his father and tries to keep his feelings for Grace from growing. The more they investigate the case, the harder it is to stay away from each other and the more danger they find themselves in.

Lynette Eason has continued to craft a great series in book three as Critical Threat. I have been a fan of her writing for a long time and know I’m going to get a great story. For me though I was slightly disappointed with this one; right when it seemed the action was getting good and tension was going to be at its highest things just fizzled out. I had so much hope for how it was going to go, and it just didn’t reach it for me. I had a harder time connecting with the characters as quickly as I normally do with her books, but I just felt a little let down with this one. That’s not going to turn me off her books though; I will still quickly grab up the next one that comes out looking for edge of my seat suspense and hope that this one was just a fluke that it didn’t hit the mark with me. I recommend to readers looking for a light romantic suspense that will be a quick read not requiring much thinking.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Her Heart’s Desire

Author: Shelley Shepard Gray

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: January 3, 2023

Rating: 4 out of 5.

What a fun story to kick off the New Year!

Mary Margaret Miller has always had trouble connecting with people, especially in her small Amish community.  So, she decides that she needs to get away and selects a bed in breakfast in Pinecraft, Florida, which will be much more pleasant than her snowy Ohio home.  On the bus ride, she meets two other girls that she begins to connect with.  When bad weather delays the trip in Georgia, they share a motel room, and their friendship deepens as they even stay at the same bed and breakfast in Pinecraft.  While there, they encounter two Amish men and a romance ensues, but appearances do always hold the truth as Mary Margaret will soon discover.

Amish fiction is not my usual go to genre, but this one was a good read.  With chance encounters and romance, it took the edge off some cold weather while I read (especially being set in Florida).  While an enjoyable read, it also featured some valuable lessons concerning forgiveness, especially when it is difficult to do so after you’ve been hurt. 

I recommend this book to people who like Amish fiction, contemporary romance, and an overall good story.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.