Tuesday, March 21, 2023

I Will Find You Again by Sarah Lyu

I Will Find You AgainI Will Find You Again by Sarah Lyu
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This story will mesmerize readers from start to finish.

Chase Ohara has been driven to excel her entire life. Her dream is to attend Stanford University, and now, in her senior year of high school, that dream is almost within reach if she can improve her less-than-stellar SAT scores when she retakes the test in December. But if the pressure isn't already enough, she and her girlfriend, Lia, broke up at the end of junior year, and Chase is still grieving the loss of her best friend, confidant, and love. Not only that, Lia has a new girlfriend, and Chase is witness to her newfound happiness at school every day.

Chase and Lia had grown up living across from each other in the exclusive Meadowlark area and had been best friends before their relationship progressed to the next level. Their breakup had been devastating, and the incident of the split itself had been particularly brutal, with each girl knowing exactly how to hurt the other the most. To cope with all that was going on, Chase had turned to the little pink pills hidden in an Altoid's tin. In fact, she was relying on the drug so much that even her supplier questioned her usage. Then came the text from Lia's mom, Jo; Lia was missing. Chase's life, already teetering on the edge, was about to go completely off the rails.

I Will Find You Again by author Sarah Lyu is a brilliant contemporary young adult novel that will mesmerize readers from start to finish. What starts out as a well-told tale of the stresses and rigors of the senior year of high school, deciding a path for the future and nailing down final details, is revealed to be so much more. It was like watching a duck paddling on a pond, calm on top but a flurry of motion under the water.

Chase is a driven soul, trying to live up and surpass her parents' expectations, and doesn't understand her friend Lia's attitude toward life, her future, or her family. She sees what Lia has and thinks she's got it made. It seems that resentment and envy have been bubbling below the surface of their relationship from the start. When Lia goes missing, readers watch as Chase tries to find out what happened to her friend, not realizing that Part One of the book isn't the beginning of the story. That's when suspicions about Chase's involvement in Lia's disappearance take a big left turn.

The writing is smooth, and every aspect of the story is realistic. I liked that the girls' relationship felt accepted. This isn't about their love being challenged, picked apart, or the girls being ostracized. Finally. Excellent descriptions, natural dialogue, and clever twists and turns move the story forward in one direction, only for the reader to realize that wasn't where things were headed after all. The tension in the story is there from the beginning and builds with every turn of the page. I couldn't put the book down, and I was completely invested.

With its engaging, sympathetic main characters and riveting plot, I recommend I WILL FIND YOU AGAIN to readers who enjoy contemporary young adult fiction with an LGBTQ+ storyline.

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author or publisher through TBR and Beyond Book Tours.

View all my reviews

Monday, March 20, 2023

Virtual Book Tour & Giveaway: Moon Life by Marlene Fabian Stiles & Hank Fabian

Marlene Fabian Stiles and Hank Fabian

Science Fiction
Publication Date: July 8, 2021
Page count: 398 pages



It is the year 2051 and the International Space Institute has just sent two rival astrobiologists to search for extraterrestrial life on Europa, the mysterious ice moon of Jupiter. What they encounter could not only revolutionize science, it might make one of them the most famous person on Earth. Or does the Universe have other plans?



Charlie found himself drifting on a cosmic wind toward a mound of skulls that looked curiously familiar. His pain had vanished, but he felt disoriented. The skulls appeared to be gigantic but he couldn’t be sure if they were large or if he had become exceedingly small. A swift, turbulent wind carried him into one of the skulls, through the orbit of an eye then its optic canal. 

A dazzling light appeared before him, gradually fading into an aerial view of Sleeping Woman Mountain. Now he discovered he was a mere speck riding between what he perceived to be two enormous insect eyes. He immediately thought of the Ngala totem and concluded these were the eyes of a dragonfly. 

Rainforest shadows parted below him to reveal the ruins of his former camp filled with soldiers lounging casually near the bloodstone, the site of Gnesh’s murder. Their arrogance fueled Charlie’s rage. 

On his command, thousands of wasps flew out of the forest and descended on the soldiers. 

The men screamed as the insects stung them. They swatted at the horde, firing their weapons uselessly. Desperate to escape the swarm, they dived into the river where they met a pack of hungry crocodiles. The waters ran red with blood. 

Now Charlie saw Prime Minister Jahuara’s distinctive helicopter appear, hovering above the carnage. Charlie directed his dragonfly into the cockpit. The insect buzzed up to the head of the prime minister sitting at the helicopter’s controls, repeatedly biting the tyrant’s eyes with its great mandibles. Jahuara tried to swat it away but the dragonfly was too quick. He shrieked in pain as blood flowed from his sockets. 

Flying blind, he lost control and the helicopter plummeted into the trees. Charlie and the dragonfly escaped the craft in time to watch it explode in a mass of flames. 

Charlie found himself drifting above the forest canopy. He turned his gaze toward the black sky shimmering with starlight. One by one, stars fell from the night like droplets of a celestial mist. The Pleiades constellation was the last to fall. Merope lingered for a moment, then disappeared into the darkness. A feeling of immense tranquility settled over him as he relished the embrace of this sacred void. 

The world was back in balance. He closed his eyes…and succumbed to peace.

5 stars!

With its fascinating dual storylines and engaging characters, this science fiction story mixes in mystery, adventure, and intrigue.

Moon Life is an exciting and entertaining Sci-Fi novel by authors Hank Fabian and Marlene Fabian Stiles, a brother-sister writing team. With its easy-to-read delivery, engaging group of space-traveling characters, and intriguing plot, it is easily one of the best stories I’ve read this year. This science fiction tale will appeal to a wide range of readers, even those who think they don’t care for the genre.
The book has an interesting dual storyline: one, the scientific mission to Europa and the other set within a primitive tribe in Papua New Guinea, and both kept me completely drawn in and turning pages to find out what would happen next. The story opens in Papua New Guinea and hits the ground running with an attack by an unknown force of armed men. People are killed, and Dr. Charlie Adamson, the main character, is wounded. When his partner, who is leading their study, is murdered and the same men destroy their field station, Charlie finds himself on the path to becoming a reluctant astronaut.
The long preparation and eventual journeys force the small crew of the Merope into close proximity for many months at a time. Inevitably, Charlie’s professional nemesis on the mission ends up on the same spacecraft and multiplies the stress for everyone. I liked that the characters all got together for their meals and devised different ways to bond and pass the time, including some in-depth conversations regarding life, death, the existence of God, and an afterlife. I liked that the crew members weren’t in complete agreement with each other but displayed a range of opinions and reactions. Naturally, there are opposing views, which is particularly significant because, in their world, there is a powerful Earth First or Firster movement who are adamant that Earth is the only planet with life in the universe.
The writing flows well, and the action starts early and maintains a fast pace. As a science fiction book, technical topics are broached throughout the story. However, the authors do a fabulous job of working in explanations as needed, and a handy and useful guide or glossary is included at the end of the book. It even lists the bird species Charlie mentions that he associates with all the characters he encounters. There is enough tech talk to satisfy those who enjoy it but not too much to confound those that do not. Descriptions of the surroundings are vivid, and I clearly visualized the various settings on land or space. This was just a darn good adventure story. 

With its fascinating dual storylines and engaging collection of interesting characters, I recommend MOON LIFE to readers who enjoy science fiction mixed with mystery, adventure, and intrigue.


The family that writes together stays together, so siblings Marlene Fabian Stiles and Hank Fabian co-authored a science fiction adventure that explores Jupiter’s moon Europa as two rival astrobiologists race to be the first to find extraterrestrial life. This discovery should ensure the winner fame and fortune, but the Universe has other plans.

Hank Fabian -

Hank is the guy walking around with a long lens camera and binoculars, a tourist of the world fascinated by every creature that moves and every plant that grows. He teaches biology and helped devise a college genetics program. As a scientist he likes to work with facts, so there's a possibility that the creatures he’s created actually exist!

- Marlene Fabian Stile 

Marlene is the president of a nonprofit, The I Will Projects, dedicated to advancing educational venues that include a middle school aquaponics program in partnership with the Boys and Girls Club which received a NASA grant. She writes in multiple genres and also has published “Elderchild,” an Alzheimer’s narrative written in the first person. She shares Hank’s love of the natural world and is dazzled by the interconnectivity of all living things.


One randomly-drawn winner will receive a $25 Amazon/BN Gift Card.

Saturday, March 18, 2023

Murder's Legacy (Tori Winters, #2) by Anita Dickason

Murder's Legacy: (A Tori Winters Mystery Book 2)Murder's Legacy: by Anita Dickason
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The delightful heroine, Tori Winters, returns, and it is non-stop excitement from the start.

As Tori Winters and her close-knit group of women friends forge ahead with their plans to turn the old Leichter mansion into the upscale Red Door Inn B&B, they are surprised to learn that not everyone in the small Texas town of Granbury is thrilled with their decision. They knew going in that local developer Judd Swanson and his wannabee Queen-Bee wife, Myra, opposed their plans; they had wanted the land themselves to build an exclusive housing development. But when they are met with unprecedented roadblocks at city hall and rumors fly that the property is unsafe and needs to be condemned, they realize someone is lurking in the shadows wanting them to fail. And when a skeleton is uncovered when a wall in the tunnel between the house and the old guesthouse suffers a collapse, Tori knows that there are still secrets yet to be revealed, and someone is prepared to kill to keep those secrets hidden.

Murder's Legacy is the second book in author Anita Dickason's super Tori Winters Mystery series, and it is an exciting follow-up to the debut, Deadly Keepsakes. With its engaging main character and her growing group of friends and "found" family, I had been looking forward to her continued adventures since the last page of the previous book; I was not disappointed.

Tori Winters, although hailing from Missouri originally, is a bit of a steel magnolia. Her early life and career, first as a nurse in an ER setting and later in hospice, have perfectly honed those tendencies. When she gets her dander up, get out of her way or suffer the tongue-lashing you will most certainly have deserved.

I've really enjoyed her home renovations with the descriptions of the old and the upgrades, and I liked how she defers decisions to the friends who have thrown in with her to make the Red Door Inn a success and their future. Her relationships have grown immensely over the two books of the series, not only with her women friends and partners but with David as well.

The fictional characters of the very real town of Granbury run the gamut of personalities, and much like any small town, they all know each other and their business. Mia is the one to go to for critical information and to understand the historically pivotal relationships; she's got her finger on the town's pulse, not to mention being completely in tune with Tori herself. They have developed a great partnership, and the five women together are a great team.

The story's action starts immediately and never lets up. Once again, the house yields another long-held secret that drives the story's events. Recurring characters and new keep things moving ahead, and I never knew who was behind what was happening. I liked that the plot incorporates some of the realities of getting a new business up and running, along with permitting and working with a city. Hopefully, the actual Granbury isn't anything like what Tori is dealing with. Surely not. Myra continued to try to stir up ill will, and I laughed about the mayor's wife's visit and her failure to buy in to Myra's negativity. In the end, I was very happy with the outcome and am, again, left waiting with great anticipation for the next chapter in Tori's continuing story.

With its delightful heroine, great small-town supporting characters, and exciting non-stop plot, I recommend MURDER'S LEGACY to cozy mystery readers who like strong female protagonists, storylines tied to factual events, and fans of the author's previous work, especially the previous novel in this series.

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author through Lone Star Book Blog Tours.

View all my reviews

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Virtual Book Tour & Giveaway: Candy, Cigarettes, and Murder (Chocolate Martini Sisters Mystery, #1) by Brenda Whiteside and Joyce Proell


Candy, Cigarettes, and Murder
Chocolate Martini Sisters Mystery, #1
Brenda Whiteside and Joyce Proell

Cozy Mystery
1st in Series
Setting – Wyatt, Arizona
Publisher: Independently Published
Publication Date: March 7, 2023
Page count: ‎ 266 pages
Digital ASIN: B0BN96RS4G


About Candy, Cigarettes, and Murder

It’s a birthday weekend with the gift of murder.

Recently widowed, Emma Banefield looks forward to a getaway birthday weekend with her free-wheeling sister, Nicole Earp, sipping chocolate martinis at the peaceful, historic Dulce Inn. When a rude stranger, a nasty food critic, and a madhouse of temperamental artists greet them, all hope for a tranquil weekend evaporates faster than dew on a hot desert morning.

Overlooking the riotous atmosphere is doubly hard after Em discovers the body of a hotel guest, and a second murder affects Nic personally. Now, entrenched in a caper that pits them against a surly detective, they cozy up to a hotel staff hiding dangerous secrets to uncover clues to the killer.

Using their smarts and love of all-things mystery, will the Chocolate Martini Sisters solve the crime ahead of the obstinate Chief Detective or find themselves trapped in the middle of a third murder?

5 stars!

A planned sisters’ spa weekend at an upscale hotel results in murder instead.

Candy, Cigarettes, and Murder is the debut novel in authors Joyce Proell’s and Brenda Whiteside’s new Chocolate Martini Sisters Mystery cozy mystery series. I was hooked from the start. The engaging sisters, mature women of ‘a certain age,’ are the titular sleuths with an affinity for the chocolate martinis served up by a particular bartender at the Dulce Hotel’s Azul Restaurant and Bar, and they are a delightful pair of opposites.

I liked the sisters’ tradition of spending a spa-filled, chocolate martini-drenched weekend together at the local Dulce Hotel, catching up and celebrating each other’s birthdays. Emma, a recent widow, is more conservative, reserved, and introverted, while Nicole is a twice-divorced extrovert with a more colorful and outgoing temperament. The sisters are quite relatable. It is not a completely stress-free weekend for the pair. Em is finding it hard to relax; this is her first birthday without her spouse, and since her loss, she worries more about something happening to her son, Liam, who is on a hiking trip with friends. Nic has her own issues to deal with as well. Her ex-husband and the father of her only child is staying at the same hotel with his latest young girlfriend. The normally tranquil hotel is overrun with artists participating in the local arts festival the same weekend, with a juried competition in the lobby. Not to mention, the sisters keep discovering murder victims to add to the chaos.

The murders are simply done, yet stymie both the police and the sisters. The women, as frequent visitors and long-time guests at the hotel, boldly question anyone and everyone for information. There are numerous suspects, and the sisters build plausible scenarios and possible motives for each one before doggedly pursuing their hypotheses and crossing them off their list while the police conduct their official investigation. And although the two detectives are likable guys, I rooted for Em and Nic to solve the case first.
With its fun opening premise, likable and engaging characters, attractive hotel setting, and puzzling murder mystery, I recommend CANDY, CIGARETTES, AND MURDER to cozy mystery readers who enjoy a more mature, relatable set of sleuths and a small-town Arizona setting.

About the Authors

Joyce Proell is the award-winning author of Amaryllis, Eliza and the Cady Delafield mysteries: A Deadly Truth, A Burning Truth and A Wicked Truth. Along with her husband and little dog, Nellie, she lives in Minnesota in her very own little house on the prairie. 

She loves to hear from readers. Visit her website at: www.joyceproell.com.

Brenda Whiteside is the award-winning author of romantic suspense, romance, and cozy mystery. After living in six states and two countries—so far—she and her husband have settled in Central Arizona. They admit to being gypsies at heart and won't discount the possibility of another move. They share their home with a rescue dog named Amigo. While FDW fishes, Brenda writes. 


March 15 – Ascroft, eh? – CHARACTER INTERVIEW
March 16 – Guatemala Paula Loves to Read - REVIEW
March 16 – Sapphyria's Book Reviews – SPOTLIGHT
March 17 – I'm Into Books – AUTHOR GUEST POST
March 18 – Ruff Drafts – AUTHOR INTERVIEW
March 18 – Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book – SPOTLIGHT
March 19 – Elizabeth McKenna - Author – SPOTLIGHT
March 20 – Novels Alive – REVIEW – SPOTLIGHT
March 20 – StoreyBook Reviews – REVIEW
March 21 – #BRVL Book Review Virginia Lee – SPOTLIGHT
March 22 – Christy's Cozy Corners – CHARACTER GUEST POST
March 22 – Literary Gold – REVIEW
March 23 – Socrates Book Reviews – SPOTLIGHT
March 24 – Celticlady's Reviews – SPOTLIGHT WITH EXCERPT
March 25 – Maureen's Musings – SPOTLIGHT
March 26 – The Mystery Section – SPOTLIGHT WITH EXCERPT
March 27 – Baroness Book Trove – SPOTLIGHT
March 28 – Books a Plenty Book Reviews – REVIEW, AUTHOR GUEST POST


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Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Book Review Tour & Giveaway: A Cop's Necklace by Norm Meech

A Cop's Necklace
Norm Meech

Thriller / Mystery
Publisher: Tellwell Talent
Publication Date: December 20, 2022
Page Count: 238 pages



It has been nearly a year since the murder and kidnapping happened at the McPherson mansion. Everything has returned to being quiet and normal around the mansion until a package is delivered to Alex McNeil.

Inside the carefully wrapped package, Alex finds an expensive-looking antique necklace. There is also a note inside the package that reads, "Mr. McNeil, you have exhibited the ability of being a good investigator. Find out who stole the necklace, and you will find out who murdered her."

Investigation determines that the necklace belonged to missing Bisson City police sergeant Jennifer Thomson, who was presumed to have been kidnapped and murdered 10 years ago. Alex takes a leave of absence from the McPherson mansion, and is hired by the Bisson City police force on a short-term-employment contract. Alex teams up with his old police partner Stephanie Foster, and they renew their close friendship while investigating what happened to their missing colleague, Sergeant Thomson.


Rocco said over the years he always wanted to know what happened to Jennifer, then one day another associate, who couldn't pay a gambling debit offered him the necklace as payment. He said that he had immediately recognized the necklace from the media pictures. It was Jennifer Thomson's necklace. He didn't know what to do, until he was diagnosed with terminal cancer a few months ago. He said that he wanted closure for Jennifer, and he wanted the investigation opened again.


4 stars!

Entertaining Canadian police procedural featuring retired police staff sergeant Alex McNeil.

 A Cop's Necklace is the third book in author Norm Meech's entertaining Alex McNeil series and is a surprising and shocking new case. Set in Bisson City in one of Canada's provinces, it gives readers an inside look at a police cold-case investigation of a missing police sergeant. The story becomes even more interesting when the original investigator on the case (Alex McNeil) is brought back out of retirement to help with the investigation when new evidence suddenly appears.

Alex McNeil is an interesting man. He is quite content with his life, retired from the Bisson City Police Department but pursuing a second career in security, working for the multi-billionaire Gordon McPherson and safeguarding the life of Mia McPherson. However, he jumps at the chance to return to police work when a necklace belonging to the missing officer is mailed to him with a cryptic note. Alex is happily married to Karen, but when reunited with his old partner, Stephanie Foster, he daydreams about what it would be like to act on their flirtations. The bottom line, though, is together, he and Stephanie are a great team.

The plot begins simply enough, but as the investigation follows the new clues, it splinters into additional lines of inquiry and starts to look like those responsible for Sgt. Jennifer Thomson's disappearance may be closer to the investigation than anyone would have ever dreamed. Although I sussed out the culprit from the author's clues, the entire story was a complete and utter surprise. My only beef with the book is that the author does an immense amount of telling rather than showing, and the work reads like a very long and complex police report. This is the third book featuring Alex McNeil, and although readers would enjoy it more if they read the previous two novels, it is enjoyable as a standalone.

With an intriguing plot that gets even more fascinating as the detectives do their job, I recommend A COP'S NECKLACE to mystery readers who enjoy police procedurals, missing person cold cases, and fans of the previous books in the series.


Norm Meech retired from the Barrie Police Service on December 31, 2021, and he believes that, besides his family, one of his greatest's accomplishments was to be employed as a police officer for over 44 years.

Metropolitan Toronto Police Cadet: October 1976 to September 1978

Canadian National Railroad Police Constable: December 3, 1979 to June 6, 1997

Barrie Police Service: Constable/Staff Sergeant June 9, 1997 to December 31, 2021

Norm is enjoying retirement. and fitness is a part of his life. He is gaining more knowledge and experience as an author, and he plans on publishing more fiction books in the future.


Norm Meech will be awarding a $10 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

Monday, March 13, 2023

Book Review Tour & Giveaway: So Close to Heaven by Annette Oppenlander

So Close to Heaven
Annette Oppenlander

Historical Fiction
Publication Date: January 6, 2023
Page count: 209 pages



A harrowing tale of a single woman's fight to preserve her beloved abbey, a tale of courage and perserverance - based on a true story.

South Tirol, Sabiona Abbey, 1796: Magdalena, a Benedictine nun, lives with her fellow sisters at Sabiona Abbey, a secluded monastery atop a cliff high above the Eisack valley and only reachable by a strenuous climb. In this simple life of work, prayer and reading, Magdalena feels safe from the world, assured that her secret will remain hidden forever.

Until one-hundred-seventy Tirolian soldiers demand entry, Napoleon’s army is almost upon them. As the world, Magdalena has so carefully built, crumbles, she must make a choice: leave the abbey to join her sisters at the bishop’s summer residence or fight to save it—even if it may cost her everything.


Sabiona Abbey, South Tirol, July 1796

I am sorting through my collection of tomato and pepper seeds in the greenhouse when Sister Adelheid rushes through the door. Her round face – everything on her is round, even her hands – is flushed as she cries, “Sister Magdalena, come quick. The Abbess needs you.”

I tuck my beloved seeds back into their box and follow Sister Adelheid uphill. She is huffing for air because the slope to the main house is steep. I am lucky to be used to it from my daily ministrations in the garden.

“What happened?” I ask, but Adelheid just raises her arms, and the wind, which is brisk most times up here, makes her habit flutter and reminds me of the wings of a crow. She is quiet, even for a nun, and I quit pressuring. Even now, after all these years, the sin of impatience is difficult to master.

Abbess Mayrin already waits in the entrance to the main house along with the hulking figure of Chaplain Father Schweiggl. We may be a Benedictine abbey of nuns, but Father Schweiggl serves as our confessor. He dismisses Adelheid with a nod and waves me and Abbess Mayrin along.

“We must pray, Sister Magdalena, for strength and wisdom.” Abbess Mayrin’s usually calm voice is strained and I recognize distress between her scrunched brows. They are thick and dark with speckles of gray like those of a man, but vanity is not something we subscribe to at the abbey.

Father Schweiggl remains silent, only flings up his hood to cover his shaven head.

Voices rear from beyond the walls, a lot of voices—the voices of men. How could I not have heard them earlier?

5 stars!

Riveting historical fiction set in northern Italy during the Napoleonic Wars.

So Close to Heaven is author Annette Oppenlander’s fascinating fictional account of Sabiona Abbey and the Benedictine nun that saved it from complete destruction during the approximately 20-year span of the Napoleonic Wars. The abbey, located on a strategic mountainside in the south Tirol area of northern Italy, was attractive as a highly defendable site by the military on both sides of the conflict and changed hands a couple of times during the action. During each takeover, the Benedictine nuns who called the abbey home were threatened or completely displaced, except for one: Sister Magdalena.

Sister Magdalena (and all the nuns who stayed behind at the abbey during the various occupations) was a strong-willed and dedicated woman, as evidenced by her escapade dressed as a French soldier to reinstate the Sabiona Abbey as a religious entity. The story has many tense and exciting moments as the women face their French attackers and even their own countrymen bent on taking advantage of the situation for personal gain.

Although not much is known about Mariele Told’s (Sister Magdalena as she was known after joining the order) reasons for initially coming to Sabiona Abbey, the author has created a tragically plausible origin story here. But what starts as an often-heard tale re-enacted thousands of times, a woman seeking asylum to avoid an unwanted arranged marriage, turns out to have a surprise twist. The story becomes one of forgiveness.

The author’s writing put me right in the story with the women of the Benedictine community of Sabiona Abbey, and at just over 200 pages in length, the book was a perfect one-sitting read. With its engaging heroine and exciting plot based on true events, I recommend SO CLOSE TO HEAVEN to readers who enjoy historical fiction, especially stories with strong female protagonists or set during the Napoleonic Wars in Italy or within a religious community.


Annette Oppenlander is an award-winning writer, literary coach and educator. As a bestselling historical novelist, Oppenlander is known for her authentic characters and stories based on true events, coming alive in well-researched settings. Having lived in Germany the first half of her life and the second half in various parts in the U.S., Oppenlander inspires readers by illuminating story questions as relevant today as they were in the past.

Oppenlander’s bestselling true WWII story, Surviving the Fatherland, received multiple nominations/awards. The recently translated German version received the silver Skoutz Award 2020. Uniquely, Oppenlander weaves actual historical figures and events into her plots, giving readers a flavor of true history while enjoying a good story.

Oppenlander shares her knowledge through writing workshops at colleges, libraries, festivals and schools. She also offers vivid presentations and author visits. The mother of fraternal twins and a son, she now lives with her husband and dog Zelda in Germany. Annette Oppenlander can be reached via email at annette.oppenlander@yahoo.com.


Annette Oppenlander will be awarding a $15 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

Saturday, March 11, 2023

Royal Blood (Royal Blood, #1) by Aimée Carter

Royal Blood (Royal Blood, #1)Royal Blood by Aimee Carter
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A stellar start to this new contemporary young adult trilogy!

When Evangeline Bright was eleven years old, she was finally told the truth about the father she had never known. He was actually the King of England and a married man at that, and Evan had a half-sister born the same day as she was. Her mother had had an affair with the young prince who was destined to sit on the throne one day, but his father, the current monarch, was still a young man and expected to reign for years to come. However, when he suddenly passed away, Alexander was rushed home to take up his royal duties and position, leaving Laura Bright, an American commoner and an unsuitable marital prospect back in the states.

Heartbroken, Alexander had married appropriately, hoping love would follow. But a few years later, while visiting the U.S., Alexander and Laura rekindled their romance despite his marriage to Queen Helene: the result being Evangeline. As time went on, Laura began to suffer from schizophrenia, requiring treatment, and Evan was raised by her grandmother. But when her grandmother died, her father, now king and father to Evan’s half-sister, Maisie, stepped in and sent her to what would become a series of stateside boarding schools. Unhappy to be separated from her mother, Evan diligently devised ways to be expelled from each school in the hope of being sent home for good.

Accidentally causing a fire at her latest school, Evan is arrested for arson. The king’s personal assistant, Jenkins, however, shows up at the police station, gains her release, and rather than Evan getting her wish, whisks her to Windsor Castle to become part of her father’s household. Unfortunately, in acting so quickly, he hadn’t cleared his plan with the king, and before he has the chance to break the news, Evan comes face to face with the father she’s never met.

Royal Blood is the first book in author Aimée Carter’s new contemporary young adult series of the same name. The book is exciting and full of intrigue, and definitely not the typical fairy tale or rags to riches story; it addresses some very serious topics. Evangeline, or Evan as she is called, is a wonderful heroine with a quick wit and a kind heart and carries some heavy issues on her young shoulders. I was rooting for this unique and engagingly sympathetic underdog from the first page.

Evan is surprisingly resilient and very understanding of the Queen’s and her half-sister’s feelings, even as they treat her horribly. So much information about her past, including her parents’ history with each other, had been kept from her, and it is no wonder that misunderstandings occurred. With the death of her grandmother, her mother’s mental illness, and her absentee father, she has way more hanging over her head than a child should ever have to handle alone. She deals with her situation the only way she thinks will be successful; she purposely acts out and gets expelled. Other than her having to change schools, though, her actions have no consequences.

Once ensconced at Windsor Castle and among the family and their coterie of relatives and friends, Evan is targeted by the media and attracts all manner of abuse from the press and their followers. But the intrigue starts immediately and although, Maisie, Gia, and Rosie start out as typical ‘mean girls,’ they eventually start to relent, especially when Evan holds the key to keeping their princess out of serious trouble. However, she finally has something she’s not had in the past: a friend her age.

The story includes an incident of drugging, attempted date rape, and death, and the author presents the events from Evan’s point of view without excuses from the perpetrator. As the tragedy unfolds, readers will recognize and relate to how easily the awful events happened.

Each chapter starts with either a text message exchange between characters, a news story, or a media interview related to what is happening in the story. These add some fun insight or extra needed information in an interesting way. Each chapter ends on a small cliffhanger that worked like magic on me to keep reading! The story completely hooked me from the start, and those teasers had me reading page after page until done. I am looking forward to the next book of the trilogy with great anticipation.

With its exciting plot, family intrigue, and great characters, I recommend ROYAL BLOOD to readers who enjoy contemporary young adult fiction, especially those who like a secret baby or fish out of water theme.

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author or publisher through TBR and Beyond Book Tours.

View all my reviews

Pop-Up Blog-Hop & Giveaway: Sweet Comfort (Comfort and Joy Trilogy, #1) by Kimberly Fish

Comfort and Joy Trilogy, #1

Women's Fiction / Later-In-Life Romance
Second-Chance Romance / Cozy Mystery
Publisher: Fish Tales
Page Count: 359 pages
Publication Date: January 21, 2023

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Welcome to the hometown everyone wants to call their own.

Gloria Bachman, a retired bank executive, has eight weeks to flip a location on Comfort’s High Street into a boutique chocolate shop. Defying expectations for “women of a certain age,” Gloria rediscovers talents and a sharpening of skills. If only she could read people as well as she does a spreadsheet. Even with the renovation in good hands, the subsequent struggle to name the shop brings Gloria and her business partner into conflict with a shady citizen. While Gloria is capable of remaining in her retirement rut while opening a business, two competing social groups try to lure her into their networks, causing Gloria to wonder if she ever knew Comfort at all. A murder rocks the community and revives investigative instincts honed by years in the banking industry.

Mason Lassiter, a disgraced CEO, has his own dramas to escape and the offbeat town seems the perfect place to recover his self-esteem. What was to be a quick reversal of fortunes becomes a quest to right a deeply felt injustice. Fascinated by the women driving the energy of Comfort, he extends his stay to find out why the small town is the backdrop to their best tales. Tangling with his neighbor Gloria becomes his favorite pastime and the key to unlocking the mystery of his past—if he can convince her to trust him.

Chocolate and joy become the glue bringing an unlikely cast together, which just might change Gloria’s and Mason’s course for the better. With characters familiar from previous Comfort novels and introducing fresh names, Sweet Comfort will entertain those who like their stories seasoned with coziness and sweet, second chances.

5 stars!

Came for the chocolate, stayed for the relationships. 

Sweet Comfort is the first book in author Kimberly Fish’s spin-off series, Comfort and Joy, and I can’t think of a more descriptive or appropriate moniker for the series. While I was initially attracted to the book because of the promise of gourmet chocolate, it was the characters’ relationships that pulled me deep into the story. This is one of the best buildups of the community of characters for a series that I think I’ve ever encountered.

The main character Gloria Bachman is a woman of a certain age and well-regarded in her adopted hometown of Comfort, Texas. She’s suffered some hard knocks in her life and career, but she’s a survivor. To her chagrin, perhaps, her younger women friends have seemed to have placed her on a pedestal, and she certainly doesn’t view herself in that light. They hold her in high esteem and aspire to emulate her take-charge and take-no-prisoners demeanor that got her to where she ended up: a bank president. I liked seeing her opening this new chapter in her life and trying something entirely different with her friend and business partner, Kali. Then it was also good to see an older woman exhibiting realistic attitudes toward a possible romantic partner and relationship.
Besides the second chance storyline, there is the chocolate business to drool over. And while I enjoyed every virtual morsel, I also liked all the details about renovating the old building slated to house the new shop. I appreciate all the research the author must have done before putting pen to paper. There is even a mention of the traffic snafu caused by the crane that was needed for some of the work! True to life. And there was still so much more that had me turning pages: the mysterious death of the estranged wife of the successful Dallas businessman, the murder of a local contractor, and of course, learning everyone in Comfort’s business. As always, it was fun to have a fictional story set in the very real town of Comfort, Texas.

The author’s writing style is easy to read yet compelling. I was immediately drawn into Gloria Bachman’s life and soon felt like I knew her and her many friends and acquaintances. The dialogue sparkled, with some real laugh-out-loud moments and situations that were Pure D entertainment. (Yes, we say that in Texas.)

Although this is the first book in this series, there are hints that certain characters or couples have backstories featured in the author’s previous works. However, I didn’t need to have read those to become immediately invested in this current tale. The bonus is that there is backstory gold just waiting to be discovered.

I recommend SWEET COMFORT to readers who enjoy women’s fiction, later-in-life and second-chance romances, cozy mysteries, chocolate themes, stories set in Texas, especially the Hill Country, and fans of the author’s previous novels.

Kimberly Fish has been a professional writer in marketing and media for over thirty years, with regular contributions to area newspapers and magazines. As an accidental historian, she wrote two novels, The Big Inch and Harmon General, both based on factual events in Longview, Texas that changed world history. Kimberly also offers a set of contemporary women’s fiction novels and novellas, based in the Texas Hill Country, that reveal her fascination with characters discovering their grit and sweet, second chances; all four of the novels have won distinguished awards. Sweet Comfort is her latest novel, the first book in the Comfort and Joy Trilogy.