The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 1-31-21

Sunday Post

First and foremost, here is this week’s cat picture. It rather looks like George is powering up his bite to sink his teeth into Freddie. That’s not quite what happened. This was actually a mutual grooming session that turned into a kitty rumble ON MY LAP! And, although it is not obvious in this picture, George is now bigger than Freddie. It seemed to happen overnight, like one night there was a growth spurt and BOOM – very big kitty. His tail is so long it needs at least two zip codes. Seriously, it’s still in the room for almost a minute after he’s left.

Speaking of things with more power, this has been an excellent week. After last weekend’s incredibly long Zoom meeting, it was great to just get back to reading, and I finished all sorts of interesting and lovely books, which you’ll see in the weeks to come!

Winner Announcements:

The winner of the MLK Giveaway Hop is Mahak G.

Blog Recap:

Spotlight + Excerpt: The Vineyard at Painted Moon by Susan Mallery
A- Review: Storm of Eon by Anna Hackett
A Review: Raider by M.L. Buchman
B Review: The Girl from the Channel Islands by jenny Lecoat
A- Review: The Golden Gryphon and the Bear Prince by Jeffe Kennedy
Stacking the Shelves (429)

Coming This Week:

Heart 2 Heart Giveaway Hop
The Narrowboat Summer by Anne Youngson (review)
A History of What Comes Next by Sylvain Neuvel
Ladies of the House by Lauren Edmondson (review)
The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune (review)

Stacking the Shelves (429)

Stacking the Shelves

The stacks seem to be growing exponentially as publishing ramps up for the year and Audible having a sale certainly doesn’t help the situation. It’s a good thing that these aren’t print books, otherwise my office floor would fall right into the basement, which would be bad. Very, very bad.

But more fascinating new books is very, very good. Always!

For Review:
Arsenic and Adobo (Tita Rosie’s Kitchen #1) by Mia P. Manansala
Before She Disappeared by Lisa Gardner
Big Bad Wolf (Third Shift #1) by Suleikha Snyder
Confessions from the Quilting Circle by Maisey Yates
Her Heart for a Compass by Sarah Ferguson
Impostor Syndrome by Kathy Wang
The Last Mona Lisa by Jonathan Santlofer
One Two Three by Laurie Frankel
A Radical Act of Free Magic (Shadow Histories #2) by H.G. Parry
Three Words for Goodbye by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb
The View Was Exhausting by Mikaella Clements & Onjuli Datta
When the Reckoning Comes by LaTanya McQueen
Wildwood Whispers by Willa Reece
The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels by India Holton

Purchased from Amazon/Audible:
Clockwork Boys (Clocktaur War #1) by T. Kingfisher (audio)
Moonflower Murders by Anthony Horowitz (audio)
The Wonder Engine (Clocktaur War #2) by T. Kingfisher (audio)

Review: The Golden Gryphon and the Bear Prince by Jeffe Kennedy

Review: The Golden Gryphon and the Bear Prince by Jeffe KennedyThe Golden Gryphon and the Bear Prince by Jeffe Kennedy
Format: eARC
Source: author
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: epic fantasy, fantasy, fantasy romance
Series: Heirs of Magic #1
Pages: 384
Published by Brightlynx Publishing on January 25, 2021
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazonBarnes &

A Legacy of Honor

Crown Prince Astar has only ever wanted to do the right thing: be a credit to his late-father’s legacy, live up to his duties as heir to the High Throne of the Thirteen Kingdoms, and cleave to the principles of honor and integrity that give his life structure—and that contain the ferocious grizzly bear inside. Nowhere in those guiding principles is there room for the fierce-hearted, wildly free-spirited, and dizzyingly beautiful shapeshifter, Zephyr. Still, even though they’ve been friends most of their lives, Astar is able to keep Zephyr safely at arm’s length. He’s already received a list of potential princess brides who will make a suitable queen, and Zephyr is not on it.

A Longtime Obsession

Zeph has wanted the gorgeous, charming, and too-good-for-his-own-good Astar for as long as she can remember. Not that her longing for him—and his perfectly sculpted and muscular body—has stopped her from enjoying any number of lovers. Astar might be honorably (and foolishly) intent on remaining chaste until marriage, but Zeph is Tala and they have no such rules. Still, she loves Astar—as a friend—and she wants him to at least taste life before he chains himself to a wife he didn’t choose. There’s no harm in him having a bit of fun with her. But the man remains stubbornly elusive, staving off all of her advances with infuriatingly noble refusals.

A Quest to Save the World

But things change when a new terror threatens the Thirteen Kingdoms. Following prophecy, Astar and Zeph—along with a mismatched group of shapeshifter, warrior, and sorceress friends—go on a quest to stop a magic rift before it grows beyond anyone’s ability to stop. Thrust together with Zephyr, Astar finds himself increasingly unable to resist her seductive invitations. And, in the face of life and death battles with lethal monsters, he begins to lose sight of why having her, just once, is such a terrible idea…

My Review:

Once upon a time, there was a marvelous epic fantasy romance series that is both epic fantasy and contains a romance in each story, titled The Twelve Kingdoms. It begins with The Mark of the Tala, and if you love fantasy romance, or if you love epic fantasy and don’t mind if romance happens within it, start there and be prepared for an utterly marvelous reading binge.

That series, with its sequelae and spin offs that spun back in, tells a story of the fall and rise of kingdoms, the creation of an empire, a war between magic and sorcery, and the triumph of good over evil.

But what happens after their richly deserved happily ever after? That’s the story that began with the novella The Long Night of the Crystalline Moon, in the Under a Winter Sky collection.

And the book we have here, The Golden Gryphon and the Bear Prince, picks up right where the cliffhanger at the end of Long Night left us. Welcome to The Twelve Kingdoms: The Next Generation.

I am so here for this!

This is a story about the heirs to the kingdoms that were established in the earlier series. And it’s so different but every bit as fascinating.

Part of what makes it so different is that it is the next generation. (Sorry to keep punning on that, but it’s just so true!) In the original series, all of the protagonists, but especially the three princesses of the Twelve Kingdoms, had all been raised in constant strife. Not with each other, but with their father the king.

Because the late King Uorsin was insane, driven mad by grief and sorcery. Growing up in his household was like growing up in an armed camp, always at war or at least on the verge of it. It made his daughters grow up hard and early, and their maturity for their ages was reflected in their stories and how they saw their world.

The time preceding this new story, however, was a time of peace and prosperity. Not that High Queen Ursula and her allies haven’t always been keeping a weather eye on the world around them, but there hasn’t been a war since their last enemy was defeated.

Also Queen Ursula is quite sane. That helps a lot – especially in comparison.

But as the story picks up, her heir and all of his generation have known nothing but peace during their lifetimes. Even though all of them seem to be 20 or thereabouts and considered adults, they’ve been allowed to BE children, to be foolish and more than a bit irresponsible, for most of their lives.

A situation that has just changed. Dramatically, drastically and unpredictably.

The children are sent out as ambassadors, envoys and spies in order to discover what has gone wrong in the northern reaches of the empire and see if they can fix it or at least figure it out before it overwhelms the land they will one day inherit.

They have an important and potentially terrible job to do. But the first thing they ALL need to do will be the most difficult task of all.

They have to grow up. A task that will turn out to be every bit as hard and fast as it was for their parents. If they survive it.

Escape Rating A-: First of all, let me just say that this entire series, from its beginning with The Mark of the Tala, through all of its various subseries, right on through the conclusion of the entire original series in The Lost Princess Returns, is absolutely, completely, utterly, awesomesauce, wonderful and epic.

It’s also a lot for new readers to get into. But if you love fantasy romance or epic fantasy with romance it is so worth it. While you wouldn’t need to read every single story to get up to speed for Golden Gryphon, you would need to read the main arcs of The Twelve Kingdoms and The Uncharted Realms for this story to have the resonance it should.

That being said, the story we have in this one combines, on the one hand, two themes into a single whole, while setting up the rest of the series. On the other hand, this is also the first of the four romances that are going to provide the individual happy for now stories that power each individual book.

Let me explain.

This is, first of all, a coming of age story, for all of the protagonists. They are all technically adults, but one thing that peacetime allows that the warfare their parents grew up under does not is the ability for children to not just have an actual childhood but for some of the irresponsibility of that childhood to extend into early adulthood.

Up until this crisis, two of Prince Astar’s companions and friends, Zephyr and Rhyllian, could both be seen as “failures to launch” into adulthood. By culture, by nurture, by inclination, both of them live very much in the “now” and let tomorrow worry about itself, if at all. Their irresponsibility and naivete reminded me a lot of Princess Ami in her original series entry The Tears of the Rose. I have to say that the new kids are, for the most part maturing quicker than Ami seemed to do, and that’s an excellent thing.

Both Zephyr and Rhy are in love, not with each other – because that would be hilarious and awful at the same time – but with people who are their opposites. People who are responsible, have responsibilities, take those responsibilities seriously, and worry about the present and the future ALL THE TIME.

So Zephyr (the Golden Gryphon)  is in hot pursuit of Prince Astar (the Bear Prince), a pursuit that he has resisted at every turn. At least so far. His approach to responsibility and authority is the direct opposite to hers. Also he knows himself better than she knows herself at the beginning of the story.

He knows if they have an affair that he’ll never want to let her go. And he knows that she is not suitable High Queen material because of her unwillingness to act responsibly or take much of anything seriously.

And of course in the face of the impending crisis all of their plans go completely pear-shaped.

A part of me wants to say that there’s a disturbance in the Force, because it does have that air to it. What is happening is a disturbance to magic that is causing parallel worlds to invade each other with disastrous results. As the story kicks off, the list of things that might go wrong is long and growing and potentially catastrophic.

And general panic-inducing if it becomes common knowledge.

So this group of heirs and friends are sent out to look like a bunch of spoiled noble youngsters in order to see if they can figure out what’s going on, or going wrong, and how to stop it – without alerting the people they’re visiting and observing that there is a serious purpose behind the visits.

No pressure.

This is a journey that is just beginning. A beginning that uncovers big problems, makes big changes, but is only the start. A fantastic one.

I’m already on tenterhooks for the next book in the series, The Sorceress Queen and the Pirate Rogue, coming in mid-April.

Review: The Girl from the Channel Islands by Jenny Lecoat

Review: The Girl from the Channel Islands by Jenny LecoatThe Girl from the Channel Islands by Jenny Lecoat
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, large print, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: historical fiction, historical romance, World War II
Pages: 304
Published by Graydon House on February 2, 2021
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes &

An extraordinary story of triumph against impossible odds
The year is 1940, and the world is torn apart by war. In June of that year, Hitler’s army captures the Channel Islands—the only part of Great Britain occupied by German forces. Abandoned by Mr. Churchill, forgotten by the Allies and cut off from all help, the Islands’ situation is increasingly desperate.
Hedy Bercu is a young Jewish girl who fled Vienna for the island of Jersey two years earlier during the Anschluss, only to find herself trapped by the Nazis once more—this time with no escape. Her only hope is to make herself invaluable to the Germans by working as a translator, hiding in plain sight with the help of her friends and community—and a sympathetic German officer. But as the war intensifies, rations dwindle and neighbors are increasingly suspicious of one another. Hedy’s life is in greater danger every day. It will take a definitive, daring act to save her from certain deportation to the concentration camps.
A sweeping tale of bravery and love under impossible circumstances, Hedy’s remarkable story reminds us that it’s often up to ordinary people to be quiet heroes in the face of injustice.

My Review:

The Girl from the Channel Islands is a fairly big story to come out of such a tiny place. After all, the totality of the Channel Islands is only 76 square miles, while the Island of Jersey is just a tad over half that, at 45.6 square miles.

Another way of looking at it is that this is a very complicated story, particularly for its relatively short 304 pages. A lot happens, a lot of conflicting things happen, a lot of terrible things happen, in a relatively small space and short time, not just in the pages but in the history that happens between them, the occupation of the Channel Islands during World War II, the part of Great Britain occupied by German forces.

This is a story that is further complicated by the knowledge that the bones of this story are based in history. Not just that the occupation happened, but that the main characters of this story were real people who are documented to have done at least the outlines of the events that happened in the book even if some of the details have been fictionalized.

And therein lies the biggest complication of all.

From one perspective, and a perspective that continues throughout the story, this is a “war is hell” story. Even further, war is hell and these people are all living through it, all of them to various degrees forced into the place and position that they are in during it.

It’s also a story about female friendship, the strength and saving grace of it, even in the darkest and most brutal of times. Whatever the exact daily details, Dorothea Weber really did hide her friend, the Jewish woman Hedy Bercu, from repeated German attempts to round up all of the Jews on the islands and ship them to concentration camps. Doro saved Hedy’s life multiple times over the course of the occupation, and has been honored for her actions at Yad Vashem.

Then there’s that third part of this story, and this is the part that didn’t sit too well with me, and that other readers may also find disturbing. That’s the romance between Hedy Bercu and the German officer Kurt Neumann. By saying that it didn’t sit well with me, I mean to the point that if this story weren’t based in fact the reveal of the romance would have turned this story into a wallbanger. Because it feels so wrong, even though, as is frequently stated and explicated and talked about in the book, Kurt is explicitly not a Nazi. He’s an engineer who was conscripted and doesn’t believe that part of the Nazi propaganda.

Even though he is naïve enough to believe that the Jews who were carted away from all of the German – and Austrian – cities were taken to farms and put to work.

But there’s still something squicky about their romance, and I desperately wish it had not been centered in this story, even though it had to be there in some form. Because after the war, after Kurt served as a POW in Britain, Hedy followed him to Britain and they got married. Post-war.

And that redeemed the idea of a romance in this story, because it really happened in real life (although the real-life person was named Kurt Rummele instead of Neumann), as unlikely as it seems. This feels like one of those cases where the truth stretches credulity, but is still the truth.

That being said, the romance in the story reads like insta-love with a whole lot of insta-lust thrown in. And it felt like it was treated a bit too romantically for a relationship that begins when he has the power to have her killed if she doesn’t go along. We discover later that he wouldn’t and won’t, but at the beginning she doesn’t know that yet and in the story it doesn’t feel like that gives her near enough pause.

I’d have enjoyed reading this a lot more if the friendship between Dorothea and Hedy had been the centerpiece instead of the romance.

That being said, the story of survival against increasingly desperate odds is stark and harrowing, even more so than The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society which is looking back at the occupation after the war is over. The Girl from the Channel Islands has an immediacy that isn’t present in the other story, and it’s certainly interesting to see the occupation from a different perspective.

Escape Rating B: This was obviously a mixed feelings review. The story of the occupation and the desperation of the inhabitants was absolutely harrowing. The development of the friendship between Dorothea and Hedy and the lengths that they go to in order to keep Hedy safe-ish and on the island, the deprivations they survive to keep each other going – that part is wonderful. I personally still find the treatment of the romance troublesome but ultimately not a turnoff because it really happened.

Your reading mileage, your taste for the different parts of this soup, may definitely vary.

One final thought, there’s a quote at the end from the Irish soldier that Dorothea marries after the war that has stuck with me. He doesn’t harbor any resentment or prejudice against the soldiers he fought against, no matter their country of origin, because, as he says, “I came across a ton of different nationalities fighting on both sides. Only thing they had in common was not one bugger actually wanted to be there.”

After all, “War is Hell”.

Review: Raider by M.L. Buchman

Review: Raider by M.L. BuchmanRaider Format: eARC
Source: author
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: espionage, technothriller, thriller
Series: Miranda Chase NTSB #5
Pages: 360
Published by Buchman Bookworks on January 26, 2021
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazonBarnes &

Miranda Chase—the heroine you didn’t expect. Fighting the battles no one else could win.
The US Army’s brand-new S-97 Raider reconnaissance helicopter goes down during final acceptance testing — hard. Cause: a failure, or the latest in a series of cyberattacks by Turkey.
Miranda Chase, an autistic air-crash genius, and her team of NTSB investigators tackle the challenge. They must find the flaw, save the Vice President, and stop the US being forced into the next war in the Middle East. And they have to do it now!

My Review:

There are several ways to approach Raider and the entire Miranda Chase series – and they all work because the series is just so damn good.

Miranda Chase is a savant when it comes to figuring out the cause of aircraft crashes, no matter how often the only way to solve the puzzle is to start from the old Sherlock Holmes aphorism that goes, “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”

So many of Miranda and her team’s solutions veer into the airspace of very improbable indeed, right up to the point where they prove, yet again, that improbability happens – and that they are the best team in the world at figuring it out.

And speaking of the team, another way of approaching this series is as a brilliant exercise in “competence porn”. Miranda and her team are the very best at what they do. Not just Miranda with her bone-deep desire to prevent the kind of crash that killed her parents, combined with the extreme focus on the task accompanied by a complete lack of ability to deal with social cues that is part of her autism spectrum disorder.

But it’s also about the team that she has gathered around her, because they are ALL the best at what they do, even if, as happens to both long-term team member and human factors specialist Mike and newcomer and helicopter specialist Andi, more than occasionally individual team members wonder what it is that they, personally are bringing to Miranda’s table.

Even the best of the best get slapped with impostor syndrome now and again.

Last but not least, for those who experience an occasional sense of nostalgia for the big, meaty, complicated spy games and government con games of the late Tom Clancy , the Miranda Chase series will definitely remind such readers of the internecine government warfare that was at the heart of so many of Clancy’s best – without the heft. (His later books did get kind of doorstoppy.)

Because this adventure, like ALL of Miranda’s adventures, combines plane crashes, government skullduggery, political one-upmanship (also one-upwomanship), brinkmanship that almost but not quite flies over that brink, with spy games and digital warfare on each and every side.

And it’s a thrill-a-minute ride every step of the way.

Escape Rating A: The Miranda Chase series just keeps getting better and better. I’m not the only reviewer saying it, but it bears repeating, so I’m repeating it. The series began in late 2019 with Drone and it has been just the perfect antidote to everything that went wrong in 2020. It features fascinating people solving convoluted problems with the occasional help and just as frequent stonewalling by a government that seems torn between getting shit done and turning on itself.

But competence and capability always triumph in this series, no matter what the odds or who is stacking them up.

This entry in the series ups the ante both in the solution to the series of crashes they are investigating and in their hair-raising escape from the results of that investigation – when it turns out they desperately need to escape a possibly hostile country with the Vice-President, the top-secret parts of Air Force Two, 60-something nuclear warheads and themselves intact while someone back in DC hacks that same country’s cyber warfare capability. It’s all in a day’s work – actually several almost totally sleepless days’ work – for Miranda and Co.

The other fascinating part of this entry in the series, in addition to the usual air crashes and spy games, is that the team has finally become a five-man band with the introduction of Captain Andrea (Andi) Wu, a helicopter pilot and not-fully-trained NTSB agent who was honorably discharged from the Night Stalkers with PTSD after her copilot took a grenade and saved her life and her helicopter. A helicopter that has just gone down in a mysterious crash.

Andi needs a purpose. Miranda and her team need an expert in all things helicopter, as well as someone who can speak fluent “soldier” when their investigation takes them to military bases, as it frequently does.

As this story winds its way from Denali to Groom Lake to Incirlik Air Base, Andi has to pull herself together, make a place for herself on the already tight-knit team, and help solve the puzzle of what happened to the experimental helicopter that she and her partner used to fly in a crash that shouldn’t have happened but absolutely did.

Raider is a spy story. And a military story. A puzzle-solving mystery. It’s Andi’s story. And especially and always it’s Miranda’s story – even if she never sees herself at the center of anything except an investigation.

This series is always exciting, nail-biting, and utterly marvelous. It can be read in any order but it’s especially wonderful if you start at the very beginning with Drone. Be prepared for Miranda and her team to take you on one wild ride after another.

Buckle up! Miranda Chase will be back in March in Chinook.

Review: Storm of Eon by Anna Hackett

Review: Storm of Eon by Anna HackettStorm Of Eon (Eon Warriors #7) by Anna Hackett
Format: eARC
Source: author
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: science fiction romance
Series: Eon Warriors #7
Pages: 256
Published by Anna Hackett on January 15, 2021
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazon

When a Terran weapons scientist finds herself the target of deadly alien assassins, only one fierce alien warrior can keep her safe.
Weapons scientist Dr. Finley Delgado wants to get her new laser defense weapon operational to protect Earth from the insectoid Kantos invasion. She has to make this work. She’s failed in the past and people paid with their lives, and she won’t fail again. What she doesn’t need is a big, brawny warrior that Space Corps orders her to work with getting in her way. Finley wants her solitude, not a massive distraction in the shape of a tall, hard Eon warrior.
Security Commander Sabin Solann-Ath is a warrior through and through, like his entire family before him. He’s disciplined, dedicated, and hiding a dark secret he’d prefer to keep buried. He won’t allow anyone or anything to disrupt his control. When he’s ordered to Earth to help with a secret weapon, he vows to do everything he can to help their allies, even work with a statuesque, prickly scientist. He and Finley get off to a rocky start…but when the Kantos send a team of assassins after Finley, Sabin will do anything to protect her.
Sent to a secret facility deep in the Australian desert, Finely and Sabin are drawn closer and closer. She sees beyond the warrior to the man, and he uncovers a passionate woman. But Finley threatens everything Sabin has fought hard to control, and as they fight off the devious Kantos, they both will face the demons of their pasts.
**Each book in this action-packed science fiction romance series can be read as a standalone.

My Review:

There’s a very old Terran saying about not judging a book by its cover. But that’s just what Dr. Finley Delgado does when the Eon Warriors come to her research station to “help” her with the defense grid/weapon that she is developing for Earth.

Finley is just sure that the big, brawny Eon Warriors are only going to get in the way of her finishing the project. Even under the best of circumstances, Finley works better alone. Other people, even other scientists and engineers, just can’t keep up with her. Attempting to get them up to speed only slows her down.

And time is of the essence as this seventh entry in the terrific Eon Warriors series begins. The dreaded Kantos are on their way to Earth to strip it like a plague of intergalactic locusts before Finley’s weapon is operational.

Before the Terrans can get fully up to speed on assisting the Eon Empire with wiping the Kantos out of the galaxy.

But the Eon Warriors are all big, brawny and distracting. Finley is absolutely certain that anyone with that much brawn can’t possibly have all that much brain. And she really doesn’t need the compelling distraction from her work that Security Commander Sabin Solann-Ath is going to be.

It’s only after the Kantos send assassins into her highly secured facility with specific orders to eliminate Finley that she is forced to admit that, as much of a distraction as Sabin oh-so-definitely is, he’s also exactly who and what she needs to keep her alive AND help her finish the weapon in time.

The only problem is that Sabin isn’t just a distraction for Finley. She’s every bit as much a distraction for him, no matter how dangerous their situation or how very little time they have left.

Escape Rating A-: I love the Eon Warriors. Honestly, I at least like all of this author’s work, but her space opera-type science fiction romances have a special place in my heart, and Storm of Eon is no exception.

This series started off with the edge-of-the-seat SFR action/adventure romance of Edge of Eon, and the world developed for this series just gets more fascinating as it goes. (It is possible to read the series in any order, but it’s more fun if you start at the beginning!)

One of the fun things about this series is that there’s just this tiny element of the “Mars needs women” trope that works really well. Not that the Eons are Martians, and not that they actually NEED Earth.

The Eons have been exploring the galaxy for centuries, they don’t need any technological advances from us. But we provide them with a couple of things that their own society seems to have lost along the way.

In the fight with the Kantos, the humans are the plucky underdogs. The Eons have been on top for so long that they don’t really know how to come from behind. Humans have been on the back foot in fighting the Kantos from the very beginning, and we just keep coming up with weird, wacky and desperate ways to stay one step ahead – even if we have to come from behind.

The Terrans, out of desperate necessity, think outside of a box that the Eons have been contentedly ensconced in for, probably, eons. Their society is a bit on the rigid and stratified side.

That rigid stratification has led to an unfortunate side effect. Eons are only naturally fertile with their fated mates. They’re having an increasingly difficult time finding them – or they were until they met us – so they’ve been making do with test tubes – so to speak. The intermarriages between the Eons and the Terrans, starting at the very top of their society, are changing both worlds.

But this story, like many of this author’s romances, features a desperate fight for survival and a couple of the people fighting for that survival who are also battling an unexpected and initially unwelcome attraction for each other.

Both Finley and Sabin are convinced that they are not worthy of being loved, for reasons that make perfect sense in their respective societies but totally collapse when they meet each other.

It’s easy to understand why Finley has little belief that any man could actually want her. Unfortunately, not just for her but for all of us. Beauty standards for women seem to get narrower all the time, and Finley isn’t petite and willowy and is never going to be. She’s tall and strong and beautifully proportioned for the body that she has. It’s just not the kind of body that is considered to be beautiful

In addition, Finley has the personality of a velociraptor. (Not quite, but close.) The character she seriously reminds me of is Rodney McKay from Stargate: Atlantis. They’re both certified geniuses in multiple fields, neither of them works well with others, they suffer fools not at all, they make their minions cry on a regular basis and they are arrogant and abrasive to the max because they both know that they are the only person who can possibly save the day. Because they have before and will again.

The thing is, all of those characteristics are considered what a genius is due when they are in a male package, but get criticized and beaten down at every turn when a female displays the exact same behavior.

And Finley isn’t willing to be anyone’s pity fuck, no matter how much she’d like Sabin to do her in pretty much every way possible.

Sabin’s problem is a bit different. He’s as handsome – and arrogant and sometimes overbearing – as any of his brethren, but he holds a secret that makes him afraid of any emotional involvement.

His physiological responses to stimuli, to pain and especially pleasure, are too sensitive – and even more so when enhanced by the symbiont that is part of all of the Eon Warriors. It means that Sabin has the equivalent of an addictive personality – just ramped up to the max. He can get lost in any kind of pleasure, whether that’s delicious food, intoxicating drink or drugs, or sex and the endorphins that come from love.

His father became an addict to those sensations, and Sabin is afraid that he’ll go down the same path if he lets himself get involved with Finley.

They are afraid of each other, afraid for each other, and deathly – and correctly – afraid that if they can’t keep their shit together their distraction is going to get a whole lot of people killed. And that even if they succeed in powering up the weapon their careers are going to wrench them apart.

But Finley’s job is to save at least this day for Earth. Even if she has no hope that tomorrow will take care of itself. That Sabin and Finley find a way to each other past their fears makes the romance of this entry in the series every bit as pulse-pounding as the impending Kantos invasion. But a whole lot more fun!

Spotlight + Excerpt: The Vineyard at Painted Moon by Susan Mallery

Spotlight + Excerpt: The Vineyard at Painted Moon by Susan MalleryThe Vineyard at Painted Moon by Susan Mallery
Formats available: hardcover, ebook, audiobook
Genres: Chick Lit, contemporary romance, women's fiction
Pages: 400
Published by HQN Books on February 9, 2021
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes &

Step into the vineyard with Susan Mallery’s most irresistible novel yet, as one woman searches for the perfect blend of love, family and wine.
Mackenzie Dienes seems to have it all—a beautiful home, close friends and a successful career as an elite winemaker with the family winery. There’s just one problem—it’s not her family, it’s her husband’s. In fact, everything in her life is tied to him—his mother is the closest thing to a mom that she’s ever had, their home is on the family compound, his sister is her best friend. So when she and her husband admit their marriage is over, her pain goes beyond heartbreak. She’s on the brink of losing everything. Her job, her home, her friends and, worst of all, her family.
Staying is an option. She can continue to work at the winery, be friends with her mother-in-law, hug her nieces and nephews—but as an employee, nothing more. Or she can surrender every piece of her heart in order to build a legacy of her own. If she can dare to let go of the life she thought she wanted, she might discover something even more beautiful waiting for her beneath a painted moon.

Welcome to the Excerpt tour for The Vineyard at Painted Moon by Susan Mallery. She writes lovely and wonderful books that sweep me up, take me away, and put me right into the heart of relationships that manage to be both heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time. I’m looking forward to reading and reviewing The Vineyard at Painted Moon in the weeks ahead, so here’s a teaser to whet all of our reading appetites!

Excerpt from The Vineyard at Painted Moon by Susan Mallery (continued from Friday’s Excerpt at Jathan & Heather)

The song ended and Rhys led her back to Giorgio, who was chatting with several guests. As Barbara walked over to the bar to get a glass of wine, her youngest joined her.

 “Barbara,” Catherine said pleasantly. “Wonderful party.” 

Barbara did her best not to bristle. At the beginning of high school, Catherine had insisted on changing her name to Four, of all things. As in the fourth child. Barbara had refused to accommodate her, so Catherine had started calling her by her first name, to be annoying.

 Barbara simply didn’t understand where things had gone wrong. She’d been loving but fair, had limited TV and made all her children eat plenty of greens. Sometimes parenting was such a crapshoot. 

She motioned to her daughter’s dress. “One of your own creations?” 

Catherine spun in a circle. “It is. Don’t you love it?”

 “With all my heart.”

 Catherine grinned. “Sarcasm? Really?”

 “What did you want me to say?”

 Catherine’s good humor never faded. “What you said is perfect.” 

As her daughter drifted away, Barbara moved closer to Giorgio. He put his arm around her waist, the pressure against her back both comforting and familiar. She nodded as he talked, not really listening to the conversation. Whatever he was saying would be charming. He was like that—well-spoken, always dressed correctly for the occasion. He had an enviable way with people and a natural charm she’d never possessed. She supposed that was what she’d first noticed—how easy he made everything when he was around. 

This night, she thought with contentment. It was exactly right. Her children and grandchildren were around her. Giorgio was here. The vines were healthy and strong and come September there would be another harvest.

 She spotted Avery, her oldest grandchild, talking to her father, Stephanie’s ex. Kyle was too smooth by far, Barbara reminded herself. Their marriage had been a disaster from the beginning, but Stephanie had been pregnant, so there had been no way to avoid the entanglement or the subsequent divorce. 

At least Avery and Carson hadn’t been scarred by the breakup. Barbara couldn’t believe Avery was already sixteen. She was going to have to remind Stephanie to keep a close eye on her daughter when it came to boys and dating. If she didn’t, there was going to be a second generation with an unplanned pregnancy, and no one wanted that.

 She often told people that children and vineyards meant constant worry. Just when you were ready to relax, a new season started with new challenges. 

Stephanie walked over to her. “Mom, it’s about time for the toast, if you’re ready.” 

“I am.”

 Barbara excused herself to follow her daughter toward the DJ and the small platform by the dance floor. She took the microphone the young man offered and stared out at the crowd. Stephanie called for quiet and it took only a few seconds for the party to go silent.

 “Thank you so much for joining me and my family at our tenth annual Summer Solstice Party,” Barbara said, pausing for applause, then holding up her glass of chardonnay. 

“To my children—may the next year be one of happiness for each of you. To my grandchildren—know that you are loved by all of us.” She turned and found her daughter-in-law, then smiled at her. “To my special daughter of the heart—the day you came into our lives was a magnificent blessing.” 

There was more applause. 

Barbara looked at Giorgio and smiled. They’d discussed whether or not she should mention him, and he’d asked her not to. After all, he was just the boyfriend and he’d said tonight was about family—yet another reason she loved him. The man understood her and wasn’t that amazing.

Author Info:

#1 NYT bestselling author Susan Mallery writes heartwarming, humorous novels about the relationships that define our lives-family, friendship, romance. She’s known for putting nuanced characters in emotional situations that surprise readers to laughter. Beloved by millions, her books have been translated into 28 languages.Susan lives in Washington with her husband, two cats, and a small poodle with delusions of grandeur. Visit her at

Website | Facebook | TwitterInstagram

This post is part of a TLC book tour. Click on the logo for more reviews and features.

The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 1-24-21

Sunday Post

This was the weekend we were supposed to have been in Indianapolis for the American Library Association Midwinter Conference. I can’t say I was all that enthused about going to Indy in January. It’s BRRRR cold there in January. (Next year’s conference is scheduled for San Antonio and the year after New Orleans, which are much better winter venues.) Howsomever, I’m on a committee that usually meets for two 8-hour plus days at Midwinter to determine the winners of the ALA Reading List Awards for adult genre fiction, and that work still has to happen this weekend.

So, instead of those two, long, eight-hour in person meetings, we’re having four five-hour Zoom meetings. Technically we’re meeting on Webex, but you get the idea. One of my colleagues has mailed treats to all of us to help us get through the deliberations, and I think we’re all looking forward to meeting each other’s pets.

And in the spirit of that, as well as of the general idea that two – or more – heads are better than one, hence why we’re meeting in the first place, I have a cat picture. (Of course I have a cat picture!) Here are Lucifer and George to remind me that two heads are much better than one, especially when it comes to naps!

Current Giveaways:

$10 Gift Card or $10 Book in the MLK Giveaway Hop (ENDS TOMORROW!!!!!)

Blog Recap:

MLK Giveaway Hop
A Review: Remote Control by Nnedi Okorafor
A+ Review: The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson
A Review: Conjure Women by Afia Atakora
B- Review: When No One is Watching by Alyssa Cole
Stacking the Shelves (428)

Coming This Week:

Spotlight + Excerpt: The Vineyard at Painted Moon by Susan Mallery (blog tour event)
Storm of Eon by Anna Hackett (review)
The Golden Gryphon and the Bear Prince by Jeffe Kennedy (review)
The Girl from the Channel Islands by Jenny Lecoat (blog tour review)
Raider by M.L. Buchman (review)

Stacking the Shelves (428)

Stacking the Shelves

I’m so happy I almost can’t stand it. I’m also equal amounts of tired. It feels like a weight has lifted and now I can relax. Once I get several naps in.

But I have books. Oodles and oodles of books. Life is good!

For Review:
Chinook (Miranda Chase #6) by M.L. Buchman
Danger in Numbers by Heather Graham
The Drowning Kind by Jennifer McMahon
Gone for Good (Detective Annalisa Vega #1) by Joanna Schaffhausen
How to Mars by David Ebenbach
How to Train Your Earl (First Comes Love #3) by Amelia Grey
The Jigsaw Man (Inspector Anjelica Henley #1) by Nadine Matheson
Just Get Home by Bridget Foley
Letters Across the Sea by Genevieve Graham
Lost Immunity by Daniel Kalla
Meant to Be by Jude Deveraux
Raider (Miranda Chase #5) by M.L. Buchman
The Road Trip by Beth O’Leary
Such a Quiet Place by Megan Miranda
Tell No Lies (Quinn & Costa #2) by Allison Brennan
To Catch a Dream (Wish #2) by Audrey Carlan
To Love and To Loathe (Regency Vows #2) by Martha Waters

Purchased from Amazon/Audible:
Behind the Throne (Indranan War #1) by K.B. Wagers (audio)

Review: When No One is Watching by Alyssa Cole

Review: When No One is Watching by Alyssa ColeWhen No One is Watching by Alyssa Cole
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: mystery, suspense, thriller
Pages: 352
Published by William Morrow Paperbacks on September 1, 2020
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes &

The gentrification of a Brooklyn neighborhood takes on a sinister new meaning…
Sydney Green is Brooklyn born and raised, but her beloved neighborhood seems to change every time she blinks. Condos are sprouting like weeds, FOR SALE signs are popping up overnight, and the neighbors she’s known all her life are disappearing. To hold onto her community’s past and present, Sydney channels her frustration into a walking tour and finds an unlikely and unwanted assistant in one of the new arrivals to the block—her neighbor Theo.
But Sydney and Theo’s deep dive into history quickly becomes a dizzying descent into paranoia and fear. Their neighbors may not have moved to the suburbs after all, and the push to revitalize the community may be more deadly than advertised.
When does coincidence become conspiracy? Where do people go when gentrification pushes them out? Can Sydney and Theo trust each other—or themselves—long enough to find out before they too disappear?

My Review:

This is a bit of a three-legged race of a book. There are three threads to this story, all heading towards an ending, but one is going slow like a Model T, one is speeding along like it’s racing for NASCAR, and one is tootling along in a clown car.

Except that none of this story is funny.

But seriously, there are three separate plot threads to this story. While they are all heading towards the same finish, they are not racing at the same pace or with nearly the same amount of success.

When the story begins it looks kind of like we’re at the beginning of a (very) slow burn romance between Sydney and Theo, when Theo and his about-to-be-ex-girlfriend move in across the street from Sydney in the Brooklyn neighborhood where she grew up.

Both of their lives are in turmoil. Theo because of the impending breakup, but Sydney because well, shit has happened to her and it just keeps happening. Her marriage failed, her ex was emotionally abusive and wrecked her self-esteem, she’s unemployed, her mother was scammed out of her house and Sydney’s trying to get it back AND she’s trying to pay off back taxes and huge medical bills for both of them.

In the middle of their intersecting and imploding lives – drops the second thread about the consequences of gentrification for the people who live in the area being gentrified. A euphemism that usually means moving the brown people and the marginalized people OUT by fair means or foul, mostly foul, so that the white people can move IN.

Sydney is creating a walking tour of the neighborhood for an upcoming holiday celebration, and Theo gets recruited as her research assistant. The history that they uncover is well and truly appalling and it’s hard not to see it happening all around them as they are watching and researching, because Theo’s soon-to-be-ex is right in the thick of it.

But then there’s the depth of the evil that is behind this particular wave of gentrification, and is hinted at having been behind many if not most of the previous waves. And there’s the clown car rolling in.

Not that they aren’t truly evil, because they are. But because once Sydney and Theo find their way to the center of this particular tentacle of the long-running conspiracy it seems to be run by folks who learned how to be evil from comic book villains.

They’ve been successful not because they’re intelligent, but because so many people are complicit and so few seem to have chosen to stand and fight. They represent both the mediocrity of evil and and a perfect example of the old adage about the only thing required for evil to flourish is for good people to do nothing.

Which may make this book the perfect thing to encapsulate recent events in the U.S. but caused it to fall a bit flat at the end.

Escape Rating B-: The history that underpins this story is absolutely fascinating. And it was great to see a book that managed to give the evils of gentrification not just a human face, but to make it comprehensible without becoming either a history text, an info dump, or just a boring lecture.

The way that the gentrification subplot wove into both of the other parts of the story was the best part of this book.

The romance, on the other hand, was a slow burn that didn’t really need to burn at all. I’m not sure I bought the chemistry between Sydney and Theo, and both of them were rebounding from such shitty relationships – and somewhat the same kind of shitty – that I wasn’t left with any real hope of even much of a happy for now.

And both of them were such unreliable narrators of their own lives that I’m left wondering if there really was anything there but sex and desperation – and whether or not there should have been. The first 100 pages of the book are a complete downer as both of their lives just seem to be spiraling towards the drain at an increasing rate of speed.

The thriller part of this story, discovering that this particular act of replacement, removal and rebuilding, or break and build as the book puts it, was a mixed bag. On the one hand, once that part of the story finally gets going it really gets going. The final 50+ pages move along like gangbusters.

Or like a first-person shooter type of video game. The pace is fast, the bodies are falling, the discoveries are horrific and the heroes barely manage to survive the boss battle at the end.

The problem was that the bosses we saw, the people behind it all, read like comic book villains. It felt like they succeeded in spite of their incompetence and not because of their competence. They succeeded up until that point because “the system” is set up for them to succeed.

Which may be the most evil thing of all. But it didn’t make for the best story, which was a disappointment because this was a book I really wanted to love and just didn’t.

Reviewer’s Note: I think I read the books in the wrong order this week. Because the “happy, happy, joy, joy” reaction I’m having post-Inauguration makes it difficult to get into a thriller that gets pretty dark but doesn’t get there half as successfully as I expected. It’s definitely making me wonder how books written during the mess of the last four years and especially during the pandemic are going to fare once we get further down the road to normal.

Although that journey feels like it’s already begun, leading to my fit of exuberance.