book review, New Book

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

The Hunger Games is a comfort read/watch for me. I really loved the apocalyptic setup author Suzanne Collins created. So when The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes came out, I snagged my copy right away.

Overall Rating: 4/6 Glass Slippers

Coriolanus Snow was born in the Capital of Panem to an old Capital family. He had the name and the prestigious penthouse to ensure all doors were open for him. But his parents are dead, leaving him and his elder cousin Tigress to care for their ailing grandmother and make sure no one knows how impoverished the once noble Snows have become.

As the 10th annual Hunger Games draw bear Coriolanus and his classmates are giving the chance to mentor a tribute. He’s given the girl from District 12, a slight against him, as it’s the poorest and weakest district. But his tribute Lucy Gray Baird is a born performer, and soon captures the heart of the capital.

While preparing for the games, Coriolanus and Lucy Gray find they have more in common than they knew, and soon they’re falling fast. From snake bites to escape plans, Coriolanus must decide if he should take of the mantle of the Capital or throw it all away in the search for love.

When I first heard about this book, I was skeptical. We know Coriolanus Snow as a villain, a sickly, evil poison or without a good bone in his body. Collins promised us a new look at the president, one that would make us think differently. I found myself reading, looking for fault in the unsure, charismatic boy who worked day and night to keep the snow family in line with the rest of the capitals elite. I was even rooting for him to come out on top, some thing I didn’t think I would do.

I was completely ready to adore this book, even though some parts were slower than I would’ve liked. But the ending made it difficult for me to love it. It was sharp and sudden, leaving so many unanswered questions that made me close the book with frustration. I know not every book is tied up in a neat bow at the end, but I have to say that I was truly disappointed.

One thing that didn’t disappoint, was the look at the formation of the capital, the way the districts interacted, and the lives of every day citizens. Before, we only knew what Katniss, an uneducated girl from District 12 knew. But Coriolanus was the son of a war hero, a scholar, someone who had an idea of how the larger world worked. Getting the extra locks into peace keepers and what led to the formation of the Hunger Games and beyond was really exciting.

Overall, I liked the book, but didn’t completely love it. Although, if Collins comes out with a new story set in Panam, I will be the first one in line to buy it.

book review, history, New Book

The House on the Hill

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of Irina Shapiro. From the first page, I know there will be heartbreak, betrayal, and a story that will twist through time. So today, I’d like to introduce you to The House on the Hill.

  • Genre: Historical Fiction and Contemporary and Historical Romance
  • Heat Level: ❤️❤️
  • Overall Rating: 6/6 Glass Slippers

In the modern day, Laura has recently been widowed, having lost her husband in Iraq. She leaves their apartment in the heart of Boston for a summer of healing in an old house on the shores of Cape Cod. She’s hoping to leave her ghosts behind and perhaps find new inspiration for a book. But a ghostly visitor shows her there’s something different about the Holland House.

In the 1700s, Sophie is on the cusp of adulthood, counting the days until she can marry Teddy, a boy she’s loved for years. Her book maker father has his sights set on a man with a title or some money, and forbids his only daughter from following her heart. When her hand is forced and she must make a decision to save herself, her life begins to unravel.

While Laura works to learn more about her ghostly visitor and sort out her feelings about the handsome vet she met in town, Sophie’s charmed world shatters. Both women are trapped in webs of lies and grief woven hundreds of years apart, but inexplicably tied.

Every time I read something by Shapiro, I’m instantly on edge. I know terrible things will happen, but I savor the slight feeling of apprehension. Wondering who will be the one to stab the man character in the back is something I’ve come to expect and thoroughly enjoy.

My historical specialty is European-based, so having American history tidbits was very welcome. I live on the East Coast and admittedly don’t know a lot about colonial life other than what’s taught in basic classes. I always like how Shapiro brings in facts to give her books a level of realism that inspires me to explore the themes more on my own.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and recommend it to all lovers of historical fiction and romantic suspense.

book review

After Anna

I love horror and thrillers. Something about zombies and midnight murders really pull me into stories. But nothing gets to me quite like books with realistic bases. Nothing’s scarier to me than what people can to do to each other. I recently read After Anna by Alex Lake and I have a lot to say.

  • Genre: Thriller
  • Overall Rating 6/6 Glass slippers

Julia’s life isn’t perfect. She and her husband are separating, her mother-in-law hates her, and her meetings at work often run late. The one shining spot is her five year old daughter Anna. But one day, another meeting runs late and she doesn’t get to the school in time to pick Anna up. When she arrives, the school is empty and Anna is gone.

A week later, Anna returns. Julia thinks the nightmare is over, but maybe it’s only just begun.

What follows is the harrowing reality for Julia that she has become part of an international news story, the kind she used to read with her morning coffee and think, that would never happen to me. I wouldn’t be so negligent. I wouldn’t make the same mistake as those parents. I would find my daughter.

I have a five year old daughter, so this book hit particularly close to home for me. It mirrored some of my own fears about raising a child in a world so large, it’s scarily easy to disappear. The author did a fantastic job of bringing those feelings to the page in an uncomfortable, winding way that made my skin crawl.

Another element that was particularly jarring was the glimpses into the kidnapper. They had a plan, they were too smart for police, they would never get caught. They were so sure that everything would go just as they hoped, failure was not an option. This little peeks into their thoughts were just enough to drive home how deranged this person was, and how meticulous they were.

Overall, I really enjoyed the chilling tale, even if it had predictable moments. They really caught the terror one small mistake can ultimately bring.

book review, New Book

The Fae King’s Curse

I’m back to chat about The Fae King’s Curse, the second book in the Between Dawn and Dusk series. If you remember, I actually read and reviewed Between Dawn and Dusk already and it got my fantasy romance seal of approval!

  • Genre: Fantasy Romance
  • Heat Level: ❤️❤️❤️❤️
  • Overall Rating: 6/6 Glass Slippers

The firstborn children of all Fae king are blind and can only regain their sight when they meets their fated mate, or soul mate. If they do much as kiss someone else, they will remain blind forever. Kirian, the prince of the Night Realm is no exception. Though he wishes he were as soon as he meets Quinn, a human girl who saves his life when he’s just a child.

Quinn is twelve when she meets Kirian, an odd boy she fishes out of the water. He promises to come back through the timed portal and see her the next day, but a day in the human world is a year for a Fae and she nearly doesn’t recognize him. This continues for years of daily meetings for her and centuries of yearly meetings for him until Quinn is eighteen.

Quinn’s loved him since childhood and fears one day he won’t appear in the woods near her house and he’ll be off with his true fated mate. Before she’s set to leave for college, she tells him she can’t meet him anymore. Loving him and knowing he will one day leave her forever kills her. Then, Kirian does the worst thing possible…he kisses her.

With one kiss, the pair is woven into a tapestry of curses, stardust, and fate.

This is what I was missing in Between Dawn and Dusk. I adore first meetings and Schlosser gave me a good one when a lavender eyed Fae prince and a small town girl in overalls met beside the river and felt sparks. The slow burn was perfect.

I love, love, loved this book and I’m not a huge fantasy romance fan, usually steering more towards the JRR Tolkien vein of elves and dwarves. But the way Quinn and Kirian’s relationship developed and the small quirks they each have had me swooning. I literally read it it one siting with a single break to make whipped coffee and turn on a light. It was funny and heartwarming, but steamy and dark all at the same time.

Congrats, Jamie Schlosser, you just created a fantasy romance fan.

history, Podcast

My Fav Podcasts

With the quarantines and social distancing , we’re all looking for ways to escape a bit. While I love reading and writing, I always adore a good podcast. I’ve compiled a list of shows I really enjoy, so while you’re working out, taking walks, driving, cleaning, whatever, you can immerse yourselves in some awesome stories. I listen strictly on the Apple Podcast app, but these shows are usually available on all podcast platforms.

Crime Junkies

Crime Junkies is a true crime series hosted by a pair of best friends who lay out the facts about murders, kidnappings, and missing people in a way that really pulls you in. While they cover the big stories, they also dive into the lesser known cases that might be new for you. It’s great for true crime lovers who aren’t looking to be bogged down with too much back story. The hosts are also really good at connecting with their fans and have active blogs and Facebook pages so you can double down. You can listen on any podcast platform HERE.

Tumanbay

This podcast was inspired by the Mamluk Slave Dynasty of ancient Egypt and pulls historical themes and all new elements in to build a sweeping story. It follows the intertwining lives of several people, including the nephew of a Sultan, a king turned slave, a slave trader’s daughter, and a mysterious queen with a vast network of spies. It really feels like you’re listening to an episode of Game of Thrones without the dragons. Really, the narration and the background noises are insanely good. From BBC Radio, it’s available HERE or wherever you listen to your podcasts.

History Extra Podcast

A podcast that follows the stories published in BBC History Magazine, it delivers bite sized facts for any history lover. From war to food to famous figures, there are dozens of episodes that cover a multitude of themes and periods. History fans really shouldn’t miss this informative show, which has taught me quite a few lesser-known tales from bygone ages. You can begin listening HERE.

Dateline

This one is exactly what you think…Dateline shows turned podcast episodes. Watching Dateline was never my thing, but I really like true crime and enjoy how each Dateline episode is folded into a neat story. It’s edited in such a way that not seeing the evidence and photos doesn’t complicate things. You can start listening now HERE.

Noble Blood

Noble Blood is a new favorite of mine. It lays out the darker stories of the kings, queens, and other blue bloods who had less than picture perfect lives…or ends. It’s sparked more than a few midnight Google searches, which is basically what we all need right now. History and royalty lovers will adore listening to tales of poison, jilted lovers, and missing gems. Dive in HERE.

The White Vault

A fictional found footage drama, each season follows a new cast as they explore and unearth ancient secrets that are more dangerous than they could ever imagine. The cast is amazing and the storyline is detailed, but easy enough to follow, even if you’re multi-tasking. Fans of horror and sci-fi will probably really enjoy following the repair team to an arctic outpost or a team of archeologists as they explore hidden caves. Start listening on any platform HERE.

Stuff you Missed in History Class

This show is a lighter look at some of the stranger pieces of history, like the Victorian Orchid craze or the haunted Flannan Islands. Of course they cover some of the basic historical themes like World War II, but from new angles that are great for old fans of specific eras or newbies interested in learning some fun facts. It’s a nice way to learn a fun fact or two incase Jeopardy ever calls. They’re on all platforms, so start listening HERE.

We’re Alive

Set in the backdrop of a zombie apocalypse, it follows a ragtag military team as they try to contain an outbreak and pick up civilians along the way. Each character has their own voice actor and the stories, while deep, are easy to follow. The story continues for decades with the cast aging, dying, having kids, and exploring new ways of finding out how to rebuild in a post-undead world. Horror and sci-fi fans will declare this one a hit. Start listening HERE.

Blackout

Rami Malek is the star host of this apocalyptic drama where he plays a small town radio DJ who watches as the world goes dark. As his teenage son and his friends try to make their way home from a camping trip, Rami’s character tries to stick to the facts on his radio show as things around him fall apart. Part thriller, part drama, it’s a must for lost who enjoy heart racing stories. Begin episode one HERE.


I’m always on the lookout for something new. If you have a podcast to share, please let me know! And Sarah and I both hope that you and your families stay safe, happy, and healthy in this difficult time.

book review

The Betrayed

Every time Irina Shapiro releases a new book, I wonder if it’ll have a happy ending. Will the couple who left only bones behind actually end up together? Will Quinn unlock her own past, which seems more unlikely with each page? In a collection of books that never get old, I’m always left with questions that never have easy answers.

Introducing The Betrayed, Echoes From the Past book seven by Irina Shapiro.

As always, I will try to avoid spoilers, but since this is the 7th book in the series, some things will slip through the cracks. Want to avoid that? Start with book one today, The Lovers. Trust me.

  • Heat Level: ❤️❤️
  • Genre: Historical and Contemporary Fiction
  • Overall Rating: 6/6 Glass Slippers

In 2005, Dr. Quinn Allenby unearthed a crucified skeleton in Ireland. Among the bones and dirt is a hamsa charm, a protective amulet often often used by Muslims. She can’t figure out how a Muslim would have found his way to Ireland and what led to the crucifixion.

In 1588, the Spanish Armada ship Rafael de Silva was sailing on crashes on the rocky coasts of Ireland. With limited English, a hidden hamsa, and wounded comrades, he’s trapped in hostile territory with no way home. And as the Protestant English forces progress into Catholic Ireland, protecting his identity becomes more vital than ever.

While trying to learn more about Rafael, Quinn is mired in mysteries in the present day as well. Her long lost sister isn’t lost anymore, not physically at least. But as Quinn pushes to get closer to Jo, Jo begins to run before her own past catches up to her. The secrets never end for poor Quinn, although she’ll do anything to set things right.

As always, I need a breather after each of Shapiro’s books. Not since Outlander has a series so completely set the bar for what a good book is. Each installment is so deliciously dark, but still makes you hope for just once, things won’t be as bad as Quinn’s skeletons make them out to be.

Quinn is completely lovable. Kind, selfless, and always eager to see the best in people, she’s never prepared for those close to her to betray her. Every book, I root for things in her life to go east on her, just once, and things always seem to just fall apart in both the past and present.

Overall, I suggest this book in ebook and audio format to all book lovers.

book review

Falling for Cowboys

It’s getting chilly in New Jersey, so soon I’ll be sticking inside and starting on my massive TBR list. Today, I’d like to share seven cowboy romances so you can add to your lists too!

Coming Home to the Cowboy by Megan RyderChampion bull rider Chase has a background that’s kept him constantly pushing people away. With his dude ranch failing, he’ll have to do the one thing he hates the most…ask for help. Accountant and small business advisor Hailey can turn any business into a gold mine. But when she’s called to fix the ranch of the one man she can’t stand to see, her job will get more difficult than she ever imagined.

Midnight Ride by Kat Johnson

Ranch hand Tyler isn’t a one woman kind of guy. Young, single, and ready to mingle, he’s only looking for a good time. Widowed rancher Janie is ready to get back into the dating scene, but none of the men she meets ignites a spark within her. When the younger ranch hand next door crosses her path, she’ll have to re-evaluate what kind of guy she needs.

Reckless in Texas by Keri Lynn Dell

Rodeo owner Violet is trying to run her family business, co-parent her son, and keep her life in order. Bullfighter Joe didn’t mean to get in trouble or end up in his old small town. In front of a crowd, they put on one hell of the show, but behind closed doors, things are much more complicated.

Corralled by Lorelei James

Sports therapist Lainie has seen and heard it all as she travels the rodeo circuit. She’s immune to cowboy charm until two different men make her reconsider her rules against riders. Both Hank and Kyle want to be her one and only, so she’ll have to choose fast before she loses them both forever.

Second Chance Cowboy by A.J. Pine

Jack is back home on the family land after ten years. He thinks it’s only for his father’s funeral, but now he has to take charge of his inheritance. Ava has a secret she’s been holding on to for ten years, one Jack has a right to know. When Jack comes back into town, old wounds will reopen.

Trouble in Texas by Katie Lane

Librarian Elizabeth is the last person suited to owning the local “house of ill repute,” but an inheritance and a group of women who like working at Hattie’s Henhouse means Elizabeth can’t sell. Cowboy Brant came into town to investigate a cold case and ends up handcuffed to a bed. Opposites attract and lines are crossed at Hattie’s Henhouse.

Big Bad Cowboy by Carly Bloom

Travis doesn’t want to return to his hometown, but his nephew needs him. He wants to sell the family ranch and leave town as soon as possible. He and Maggie have a past, one that left her hating him. But when they’re forced together, they might just have to learn to make it work.


Are there any cowboy romances you adore? Let me know!

book review, New Book

Once Upon a Highland Glen

It’s no secret I’ve been a fan of Suzan Tisdale for years. Before Outlander, she was my introduction to the world of hot Scots. And now she’s launched her own publishing house called Glenfinnan Publishing and launched her new endeavor with a historical, romantic anthology, Once Upon a Highland Glen.

Since there are six stories, I’ll have six sections in this review, with my thoughts italicized for easier reading.

  • Heat Level: the stories range from wholesome to steamy.
  • Genre: Historical Romance
  • Overall Rating: 5/6 Glass Slippers

The Legend by Violetta Rand

Laird Bron Kieth was not a kind man, and one night when we went out in search of his prized ram. He was set upon by his enemies and drug himself to the safety of a glen. A mysterious woman gives him one wish and he asks for a second chance at life, so he can be a better man.

This short introduction set the scene for the rest of the stories.

Wager of the Heart by Suzan Tisdale

Graham Kieth is the descendant of Bron, but has yet to learn the same lesson. A directionless cad, he drunklenly stumbles into a glen after a game of cards, where he laments his loneliness and wishes he had a family to care for him. When he awakes to find his wish comes true, he’s less than thrilled with his new reality. But when he must decide what kind of man he wants to be, more than one future will depend on him.

I thought this story was cute and could have easily been a full length book on its own. Graham and Leelah weren’t a match made in heaven, and he’s certainly no match for her stubbornness. It’s hard to tell who needs who more by the end of this story.

Clouds Across the Moon by Kathryn Lynn Davis

Braida is only sixteen when her daughter is born. Her husband Bran is twenty-two, the tutor for the laird’s children, and not an overly kind man. He feels detached from his daughter and longs for his wife to be the carefree, moldable teen he once met.

I have to admit I wasn’t a huge fan of this tale. A husband being basically disgusted by his child bride’s changed body and her devotion to their baby made me uncomfortable. There wasn’t the romance I expected.

Highland Heart’s Desire by Victoria Zak

The fairy Breena was enchanted by the forbidden human world. While she’s not very good with magic yet, she does what she can to keep the animals in her forest safe. When a hunter is injured, she breaks the fae laws to tend to him. Robert Keith thinks he imagined the beautiful woman that day, but five years later, he’ll question everything he ever knew.

This story was sweet and charming with a lot of heart. Breena was adorable and Robert was a gem. Watching their romance span the years was lovely.

The Lost Soul by Ceci Giltenan

Spoiled Margaret Grant is sent to live with her betrothed, Logan Carr’s clan in an attempt to make her come to peace with her betrothal. After a fall, she finds herself in a glen where she makes a wish to prove she can be a better person. But before she can go back to her pampered life, she must walk in the shoes of another.

This story was a bit on the humorous side, without losing the message that’s been carried through the anthology. It also held a nice amount of detail that really set the tone.

Whispers to the Soul by Kate Robbins

Kenzie is on the run from a vile clan guardsman when she’s rescued by the handsome Gaelin. But she soon learns she is no simple kitchen maid as she and Gaelin go on a journey to find safety and the truth.

This was my favorite story in the anthology, so I believe Robbins has found a new fan in me! Witty and steamy, Kenzie was a heroine in her own right and I would have lived to read a full book focused on her tale.

The Courageous Highlander by Lily Baldwin.

Laird Owen MacArthur rules over a secluded clan where every year the laird must hunt alone to bring prosperity to the people. On one of these hunts, he finds the beautiful Gwynn help captive in a strange glen. He’s struck by her beauty and promises to free her, but at what cost?

A magic tale, Baldwin’s addition was action packed with a touch of mystery. It was a wonderful addition.


Overall, I enjoyed most of the anthology with a few standing out as deserving a full length novels. I recommended this collection to all historical romance fans.

book review, New Book

Goode Over Evil

Today, I’d like to introduce you to a debut novel by new author Leslie Marshman, Goode Over Evil.

  • Genre: Crime/Romance
  • Heat Level:❤️❤️❤️
  • Overall Rating: 6/6 Glass Slippers

Texas Ranger Samantha Goode is no stranger to the dark sides of life. Drug busts and danger are just part of her job, and she knows she can handle anything…except going back to her small hometown where the ghosts from her past are much more dangerous than the criminals she meets at work. When her grandmother dies, she has no choice but to go back to Crystal Creek and face her demons, and the man she left behind.

Clay Barnett wants a simple life on the ranch, where he can take care of his little brother and be free from his father’s control. But his life is nothing but simple and things only get worse when the woman who walked out on him more than a decade ago comes back to town and a body is found floating in the water.

For a debut novel, this book was beautifully done. Marshman created a realistic world where relatable characters struggle to solve a murder while figuring out their feelings. Everything was fleshed out really well without taking away from the fast paced storyline.

Sam was a killer leading lady. Sarcastic, strong, and focused, she gives us a fantastic heroine to root for. And although this book has romance and steam, Sam doesn’t need a man to save her, or propel the book. She’s enough all by herself.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Goode Over Evil and look forward to seeing what’s next for my new favorite crime fighter.

New Book, Writing

Tule Birthday Bash

Tule Publishing is celebrating their 6th birthday! That means party favors for you! From Friday September 6th until Sunday the 8th, all ebooks are 50% off with the code TULE6 at checkout in their online bookstore HERE.

You can snag books about sweet cowboys, mobsters on the run, romantic pirates, and holiday escapades. We’ve reviewed several Tule books on this blog and haven’t read one we didn’t love. Sweet or steamy, it’s all there in the bookstore. Cick HERE to start shopping.

BTW if you haven’t read Kelsey’s contemporary romance series set in Scotland, the first two books are in the Tule book shop, ready to be read! Catch up with all the hot Scots before book 3 comes out this winter.

Match made in heaven or maid of dishonor?

Tight-laced Rose Henselarrives in Scotland for her best friend’s wedding with a plan—to be the greatest maid of honor ever, let loose for the first time in years, and find out what Scottish guys really wear under their kilts. After meeting the best man, she thinks she found the man who checks all the boxes for a no-strings-attached romp among the heather.

Lachlan Calder-Mackinnon knows how to show a girl a good time. Gourmet dinners in castle ruins, picnics among rolling hills, and a seaside escape create some unforgettable dates. But as the fling begins to morph into something more, an unexpected wedding guest threatens to ruin Rose and Lachlan’s new romance.

With a plane ticket in one hand and her broken heart in the other, Rose prepares to head home to reality. However, she’s about to learn that what happens in the Highlands don’t always stay there.

Order your copy in the Tule store HERE

Can she stop her past from ruining her future?

Sorcha Mackinnon isn’t your typical tortured artist. She is also a party girl, a vintage shopper, and the heiress to a whisky fortune. But when inspiration suddenly flies out the window, she’s left with an empty whisky glass and a blank canvas…until a childhood friend waltzes back into her life.

She’s known Danny Gordon since birth, but they lost touch as their careers took them in different directions. He offers to show her the parts of Scotland he swears will spark life back into her brushes. And as they tour the sights on the back of his motorcycle, Sorcha realizes that under the tattoos and smart mouth, Danny may inspire more in her than just a new painting.

But as a good time begins to morph into an ever after, Sorcha is reminded of old wounds that just won’t heal. Danny tries to open her heart, but her self-imposed isolation makes things harder than ever. Now she must decide what to do, because what happens in the ruins doesn’t always stay there.

Order your copy from the Tule store HERE