September to Remember Giveaway Hop

Welcome to the September to Remember Giveaway Hop, hosted by The Kids Did It! &  The Mommy Island

Last year this hop was before Labor Day, but this year it’s after the holiday. Looking back at last year’s hop post, it seemed like the strange times we were living in were never going to end. From today’s perspective, it just seems like things are getting stranger and stranger instead of better and better. We’ll see what next year brings.

Meanwhile, it’s 2021, Labor Day was yesterday and summer is unofficially over, even if it doesn’t end in the climatological sense until the equinox on September 22. The weather here is starting to cool down, but some of that is a result of the tail end of the most recent hurricane.

Still, it’s lovely to see autumn coming in. Soon the leaves will be turning, and falling, and needing to be raked up. Why was I looking forward to the change of seasons?

Whether you’re still mowing the lawn, starting to rake the leaves or already worrying about shoveling the driveway, I have a giveaway for you, as do all the other stops on this hop. I’m giving away the usual Reading Reality prize, the winner’s choice of either a $10 Amazon Gift Card or $10 in books. This giveaway is open everywhere the Book Depository ships.

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For more terrific prizes, be sure to visit the other stops on this hop!

The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 9-5-21

I just discovered that, while I certainly prepped yesterday’s Stacking the Shelves post, I neglected to actually post it. My bad. Apologies. I knew I was a bit dain-bramaged that afternoon, but I didn’t know it was quite THAT bad.

I may have been a bit out of it, but here’s a picture of George just being a cute little man. He  was obviously much more “with-it” than I was that day!

Current Giveaways:

Write My Name across the Sky by Barbara O’Neal
$10 Gift Card or $10 Book in the Glam and Glitz Giveaway Hop

Winner Announcements:

The winner of the Old School Giveaway Hop is Carl

Blog Recap:

A- Review: Write My Name Across the Sky by Barbara O’Neal + Giveaway
B Review: The Inheritance by JoAnn Ross
Glam and Glitz Giveaway Hop
A- Review: Unnatural Habits by Kerry Greenwood
B+ Review: Never Saw Me Coming by Vera Kurian
Stacking the Shelves (460)

Coming This Week:

September to Remember Giveaway Hop
Forgotten in Death by J.D. Robb (review)
King of Eon by Anna Hackett
Jekyll & Hyde Inc. by Simon R. Green

Stacking the Shelves (460)

For those in the U.S., Labor Day is on Monday and for many people it’s a 3-day weekend. That’s always worth a YAY, especially since I prep these posts on FriYAY. Here at Chez Reading Reality, it makes for a nice long weekend to read a bunch of books, write up a bunch of stuff, and generally sit in places where the cats can use one or both of us as mattresses for their mid-morning and mid-afternoon naps!

I’ll be spending at least a bit of time looking for safe places to store my new walking shoes. I like my shoes to fit, and George likes to eat shoelaces. Our goals are not aligned! So, my nearby bookshelves are serving double-duty as bookcases and safe shoe racks. Wish me luck!

For Review:
Age of Ash (Kithamar Trilogy #1) by Daniel Abraham
All the Horses of Iceland by Sarah Tolmie
The Brightest Star in Paris by Diana Biller
Duke, Actually by Jenny Holiday
Fevered Star (Between Earth and Sky #2) by Rebecca Roanhorse
A Game of Fear (Inspector Ian Rutledge #24) by Charles Todd
The Haunting of Leigh Harker by Darcy Coates
The Ice Coven by Max Seeck
The Killing Hills by Chris Offutt
King of Eon (Eon Warriors #9) by Anna Hackett
The Seamstress of New Orleans by Diane C. McPhail
Sherlock Holmes & the Singular Affair by M.K. Wiseman
Sisters of the Forsaken Stars (Sisters of St. Rita #2) by Lina Rather
A Swift and Savage Tide (Kit Brightling #2) by Chloe Neill
Witch, Please (Fix-It Witches #1) by Ann Aguirre (audio)

Purchased from Amazon/Audible:
Sisters of the Vast Black (Sisters of St. Rita #1) by Lina Rather

Borrowed from the Library:
Pack Up the Moon by Kristan Higgins


If you want to find out more about Stacking The Shelves, please visit the official launch page

Please link your STS post in the linky below:


Review: Never Saw Me Coming by Vera Kurian

Review: Never Saw Me Coming by Vera KurianNever Saw Me Coming by Vera Kurian
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, ebook, audiobook
Genres: psychological thriller, suspense, thriller
Pages: 400
Published by Park Row on September 7, 2021
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

Meet Chloe Sevre. She’s a freshman honor student, a leggings-wearing hot girl next door, who also happens to be a psychopath. Her hobbies include yogalates, frat parties, and plotting to kill Will Bachman, a childhood friend who grievously wronged her.
Chloe is one of seven students at her DC-based college who are part of an unusual clinical study for psychopaths—students like herself who lack empathy and can’t comprehend emotions like fear or guilt. The study, led by a renowned psychologist, requires them to wear smart watches that track their moods and movements.
When one of the students in the study is found murdered in the psychology building, a dangerous game of cat and mouse begins, and Chloe goes from hunter to prey. As she races to identify the killer and put her own plan into action, she’ll be forced to decide if she can trust any of her fellow psychopaths—and everybody knows you should never trust a psychopath.
Never Saw Me Coming is a compulsive, voice-driven thriller by an exciting new voice in fiction, that will keep you pinned to the page and rooting for a would-be killer.

My Review:

The collective noun for a group of psychopaths is a sling. It’s a necessary bit of trivia for this story, because the fictional DC-based John Adams University has given full-ride scholarships to seven students who have been officially diagnosed as psychopaths.

In other words, there’s a sling of psychopaths at John Adams, and it looks like one of them is bent on killing the other six. Because, after all, that’s what psychopaths are best known for in the popular imagination – being serial killers. So just as the saying goes that it takes a thief to catch a thief, it seems as if it takes a psychopath to knock off a sling of psychopaths.

But just as psychopaths are lacking empathy for others, it would seem like a story about one psychopath killing several others would not contain many, well, empathetic characters. So it’s more than a bit of a surprise for the reader to find themselves not just following the point of view of several members of the group, but feeling for them, more than they feel for each other, if not for themselves.

That is part of why they are there, or at least why they got those full-rides. They are part of a study, conducted by a respected psychologist who studies, naturally, psychopaths, to see if there are ways that psychopaths can work their way around their lack of empathy, compassion and even conscience in order to live relatively normal lives.

Something that obviously won’t happen if one of their number bumps off the rest in this multidimensional cat and mouse game where ALL the participants believe that they are the cats – only to discover they were the mice after all.

Escape Rating B+: This book, like Local Woman Missing a few months ago, is a book I picked up because it was recommended by someone in my reading group. I don’t read a ton of thrillers and this sounded interesting.

I’ll admit to having a strange reaction to this one as compared to Local Woman Missing, in that I liked this book more even though I recognize that Local Woman Missing was a better book of this type. There was just a bit too much domestic in that domestic thriller to really wow me, even though I’m pretty certain that domestic thriller readers – who are legion – will probably adore it.

What made this work for me is that in spite of all the main characters being psychopaths, they still turned out to be sympathetic characters in their own slightly twisted ways.

We follow three of the students in the study, Andre, Charles and Chloe. They are all unreliable narrators, some of which is down to their diagnoses, but quite a bit of which is simply because they are young and still a bit naïve and filled with a bit too much bravado. While it’s possible that time will fix some of those issues and turn them into more successful psychopaths, at the moment they are still young and still have some seriously dumb moments in spite of their intelligence.

It probably helps that the only murder we see committed by the three students we are following is Chloe’s murder of the guy who raped her when she was 12, while his friend recorded the rape on his cellphone. She wants the cellphone, and she wants her rapist dead. She knows she’ll get no justice any other way. And even if the reader decries her methods, it’s hard to dispute that the dude earned some serious punishments. (After all, there are a lot of books where delivering just this kind of justice to a rapist would be the entire book.)

As meticulous as Chloe’s plan is to get her revenge, she gets thrown more than a bit off the tracks when first one student and then a second one in their tiny group of seven are murdered. That’s when Andre, Charles and Chloe form their little circle of untrusting trust. Because they know that people like them lie like they’re breathing. They can’t trust each other.

So they maneuver, and lie, and scheme. Whatever they tell each other, they’re always holding something back. And even when they do reveal some of the truth, it’s filtered through their flawed ability to read and empathize with other people.

And that’s just as true of Andre as it is of Chloe and Charles, even though Andre faked his diagnosis to keep the scholarship. Because he’s maintaining that lie at all costs. Which may make his diagnosis as true as either of theirs.

The other thing that made this story work is that the reader can empathize with the characters without necessarily liking them. Because they’re not all that likeable. Andre is gaming the system, Chloe reads as if she’s likely to become a version of Harley Quinn, and Charles is on his way to becoming the kind of amoral conservative politician that we see all too often these days.

(Would it surprise anyone if entirely too many politicians were secretly psychopaths? Really?)

In the end, they’re all scared and young and dumb, because they all believed they were smarter than the hunter they thought they were hunting, and because none of them could get past the lies they told themselves to uncover the killer they never did see coming – even if the reader does. Watching the trap tighten around them all makes for one hell of a thrill-ride of a story.

Review: Unnatural Habits by Kerry Greenwood

Review: Unnatural Habits by Kerry GreenwoodUnnatural Habits (Phryne Fisher, #19) by Kerry Greenwood
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: historical fiction, historical mystery, mystery
Series: Phryne Fisher #19
Pages: 348
Published by Poisoned Pen Press on October 1, 2012
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

The decidedly raven-haired Miss Phryne Fisher returns to delve deep into the dark side of Melbourne, Australia.

It's 1929, and girls are going missing. Little, pretty golden-haired girls. And they're not just pretty. Three of them are pregnant, poor girls from the harsh confines of the Magdalene Laundry. People are getting nervous.

Polly Kettle, a pushy, self-important girl reporter with ambition and no sense of self preservation, decides to investigate and promptly goes missing herself.

It's time for Phryne and Dot to put a stop to this and find Polly Kettle before something quite irreparable happens to all of the missing girls. It's all piracy and dark cellars, convents and plots, murder and mystery...and Phryne finally finds out if it's true that blondes have more fun.

My Review:

I was looking for a book where I would sorta/kinda know what I was in for, and one in which I could sink without a trace for a few hours. I realized that I hadn’t looked in on Phryne for a while (my goodness it’s been over a year!) so I took myself off and into the next book in the series and I most definitely got exactly what I was hoping for.

The mystery, actually the multiple mysteries, in Unnatural Habits take Phryne to dark corners of Melbourne where a lesser woman would fear to tread – if she could bring herself to even acknowledge that she knew about most of them.

But Phryne doesn’t care what other people think about much of anything, including, most especially herself. So when she sees a young woman about to be beaten up by a brace of thugs in one of the less salubrious parts of town, Phryne does not hesitate even a moment to weigh up the possible consequences.

After all, she knows that her lover, Lin Chung, has assigned several of his men to keep watch over her when she travels into parts of town where angels and demons alike would fear to tread. So Phryne rescues the young woman, Lin Chung’s men “explain” to the bullyboys the error of their ways and Phryne finds herself in the middle of a case that begins with missing pregnant women not even the police are investing much effort in searching for.

When the tally of the missing grows to include actresses looking for a break, very young – and blonde – daughters of the middle class, and even the young woman Phryne rescued – who turns out to be a newspaper reporter hunting for her first big scoop – Phryne calls on her friends in some very low places indeed. Where she manages to air the dirty laundry of the princes of the church, laundry that seems to be wrapped around the mangles of the church-sponsored workhouse known as the Magdalene Laundry.

In the end, Phryne commits piracy – with more than a bit of help from Bert and Ces – in order to bring justice in a case that no one is willing to admit needed to be solved.

Escape Rating A-: Phryne Fisher is a fascinating character because her conscience is explicitly NOT the voice of society, her parents, other people or any kind of powers-that-be telling her what she SHOULD or should not be doing because she’s a woman. Or for any other reason whatsoever. Phryne does what she pleases, however she pleases, because she can. She’s been rich and she’s been poor and she’s very much aware that being rich is not only better but that it gives her license to do the necessary without worrying about anyone’s approval.

And that’s important to this case because the missing women she is looking for are so-called “fallen” women. The Magdalene Laundry was a real place, and like so many of the charitable institutions operated by the Catholic Church in many places, it was horrifically abusive. The women sent there were unwed mothers who were expected to work under slave labor conditions until they got close to their due dates, when they were shipped off to rural “lying in” homes that could be just as abusive until they gave birth. Their babies were taken away without the women’s consent and put up for adoption.  Or they were if they survived the cruel treatment inflicted upon their mothers.

That three of these women managed to escape before their babies were born isn’t a surprise. That no one seriously wants to look for them is unfortunately even less of one. The theories for their disappearance – as ludicrous as most of those theories are – cause Phryne to search among the demimonde of Melbourne to make sure that they’re not in a brothel – and equally that none of the brothels or other private houses of pleasure will be blamed for their disappearance – because both are all too possible. Likewise, no one is looking for the missing actresses, because actresses are assumed to be prostitutes whether they are or not.

That Phryne is not just acquainted with Melbourne’s fleshpots but likes the people who work in these establishments considerably more than most people of so-called “polite” parts of society is not a surprise for Phryne but certainly would be for anyone in the upper or middle classes. Part of what makes Phryne so refreshing is that her internal voice – and frequently her external one – is not just clever and witty but is unequivocally pragmatic and remarkably free of prejudice in regards to race, religion or sexual orientation. For the most part she takes people as she finds them. Her most scathing commentaries are saved for hypocrites, pretenders and fakers and I love her all the more for it.

I’m probably belaboring this point by now, but if you come to the Phryne Fisher books in the hopes of seeing more of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, you’re probably going to be disappointed. But if you’re looking at the books for a sparkling, witty historical mystery with a take-charge female protagonist who strides through her world doing her best to make it better by ignoring social norms, taking no prisoners and puncturing as many of the pomposities of the powers-that-be as she possibly can, then Phryne is still very much your cuppa.

She certainly is mine. So I’ll be back the next time I’m searching for Phryne’s particular brand of derring-do with Murder and Mendelssohn. There’s only one more book in the series (so far) after that, so I’ll be stretching this little pleasure out as far as I can stand!

Glam and Glitz Giveaway Hop

Welcome to the Glam and Glitz Giveaway Hop, hosted by Mama the Fox!

I kept reading the name of this hop as “Glam and Gifts”, which also works. It’s all about the glam and the winner will get a gift!

But seriously, or semi-seriously, the idea of either glam or glitz is a lot of fun to daydream, but this past year and a half has been way more about comfort than glam – except between the pages of a good book, of course.

It’s been so long since I’ve thought much about either glam or glitz or even dressing up much. What about you? When you think of glam, or even glitz, what image does that conjure in your head? Answer in the rafflecopter for your chance at the usual Reading Reality prize, the choice between a $10 Amazon Gift Card and $10 in books.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

For more glamourous and glitzy prizes, be sure to visit the other stops on this hop!

MamatheFox and all participating blogs are not held responsible for sponsors who fail to fulfill their prize obligations.

Review: The Inheritance by JoAnn Ross

Review: The Inheritance by JoAnn RossThe Inheritance by JoAnn Ross
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: hardcover, large print, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: Chick Lit, contemporary romance, historical fiction, relationship fiction, women's fiction, World War II
Pages: 384
Published by HQN Books on September 7, 2021
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

With a dramatic WWII love story woven throughout, JoAnn Ross's women’s fiction debut is a generational saga full of sisterly affection and rivalry, perfect for fans of Susan Wiggs, Mary Alice Monroe and Lisa Wingate.
When conflict photographer Jackson Swann dies, he leaves behind a conflict of his own making when his three daughters, each born to a different mother, discover that they’re now responsible for the family’s Oregon vineyard—and for a family they didn’t ask for.
After a successful career as a child TV star, Tess is, for the first time in her life, suffering from a serious identity crisis, and renewed resentment around losing her father all over again.
Charlotte, brought up to be a proper Southern wife, gave up her own career to support her husband's political ambitions. On the worst day of her life, she discovers her beloved father has died, she has two sisters she never knew about, and her husband has fallen in love with another woman.
Natalie, daughter of Jack’s longtime mistress, has always known about her half sisters. And she can’t help feeling that when Tess and Charlotte find out, they’ll resent her for being the daughter their father kept.
As the sisters reluctantly gather at the Maison de Madeleine to deal with their father's final wishes, they become enchanted by the legacy they've inherited, and by their grandmother’s rich stories of life in WWII France and the wounded American soldier who would ultimately influence all their lives.

My Review:

When Pulitzer Prize winning conflict photographer Jackson Swann died, the most important thing that he left to his three daughters was not the award-winning Oregon winery that had been handed down in his family for generations, but each other.

The problem, the one that he left to his lawyer and his winery manager, was to get them to accept. Not just the winery – although certainly that, too – but mostly each other.

Tess Swann, Charlotte Aldredge and Natalie Seurat are all adults, all have – or have at least the shreds of – artistic careers of their own. But they’ve never met. They haven’t necessarily known that the others even existed.

These three women have been gathered together, not so much to celebrate the life of the man who links them, but rather to pick up the pieces of their own.

Tess, after a successful career as a child actress, a spectacular failure as a pop singer, and another successful career as a best-selling novelist, is looking for a third act in a life that has already seen plenty. She comes to the winery to recharge and search for a story idea that will get her past her writer’s block.

Her career sacrificed to her controlling husband’s political ambitions, her supposedly perfect marriage in tatters, Charlotte comes to the winery in search of respite and a place to call home – because her soon-to-be-ex-husband’s over-gilded and over-decorated faux antebellum McMansion certainly wasn’t it.

While Natalie returns to the winery to mourn the father that she knew best of all the sisters, and to make sure that her beloved, 96-year-old grandmother is doing as well as she can in the wake of her only son’s death.

Whether they will find what they are each looking for, or something more, or merely closure, they have one growing season at the winery to figure it all out together – or to tear themselves apart.

Escape Rating B: Like yesterday’s book (and a fair number of books in the chick lit/women’s fiction/relationship fiction genre), this is a story about three women, all of whom, coincidentally or otherwise, are at a crossroads in their lives or that face a crossroads because of the events of the story that bring them together.

In this case, the death of their larger-than-life father, no matter how much (Natalie) or how little (Tess) he participated in their lives. Jack Swann, who never seemed to quite know what to do with any of them when he could, manipulates them all after his death in a way that could have been horrible, but isn’t.

He provided an opportunity for all of them that he couldn’t have managed in life, for them to meet, be obligated to spend time together, get to know the grandmother that only Natalie was allowed to know about, and discover the legacy of the family they share.

The story of The Inheritance is, in a word, charming. Just as Jack Swann himself was, even if he couldn’t ever manage to stick around. The sisters are different enough from each other to stand as individuals, while at the same time sharing just enough characteristics to seem like they might make their initially tenuous connection work.

Their father turns out not to be the glue that ultimately binds them. That position is reserved for their grandmother Madeleine, who tells them the story of how she met and married their grandfather in France fighting for the Resistance in WW2. A story which inspires Tess’s writing, Charlotte’s realization that the life she has is not the one she wants or needs, and Natalie throwing caution to the winds in order to pursue the man she’s loved all her life.

I was charmed by this story, and thought that the way that the lives of the sisters finally mingled was lovely even if it was a bit contrived in the service of the story. There were a couple of bits that niggled at me.

Tess never met her father. That he didn’t raise her was one thing, but they never seem to have met at all in her conscious memory, and we never do find out why. As many family secrets as get revealed – and there are PLENTY – that omission felt like it just…dangled. Even after his marriage to Charlotte’s mother fell apart he was still a real if occasional presence in her life. But not Tess.

Second, there’s the show/tell repetition of Madeleine’s fascinating story about meeting, falling for and marrying her American pilot, Robert Swann. It’s a lovely and romantic story, and it serves as inspiration to all three sisters even though Tess is the one who plans to turn it into a novel. But we read Madeleine’s account as she remembers it and then it is repeated as she tells it to her granddaughters. While it’s normally better to show instead of tell, by the way the story works the telling feels like the better option. But one or the other would have been sufficient.

So I enjoyed reading The Inheritance, but it didn’t quite hit the spot as well as yesterday’s book. That’s possibly because this one reminded me a bit of Rhys Bowen’s World War II books, particularly In Farleigh Field, one of the subplots in Pardonable Lies, part of  the Maisie Dobbs series and a third book I can’t put my finger on and it’s driving me bananas. It could be just because it’s a bit too similar to yesterday’s book and would have been a better read not quite so close.

But if you’re looking for a charming read that touches on a few dark places but doesn’t go too deeply, includes not one but four happy endings, and tells a lovely story of a surprising sisterhood, The Inheritance is a great way to while away some cozy reading hours.

Review: Write My Name Across the Sky by Barbara O’Neal + Giveaway

Review: Write My Name Across the Sky by Barbara O’Neal + GiveawayWrite My Name Across the Sky by Barbara O'Neal
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: Chick Lit, relationship fiction, women's fiction
Pages: 366
Published by Lake Union Publishing on August 10, 2021
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleBook Depository
Goodreads

The USA Today bestselling author of When We Believed in Mermaids returns with a tale of two generations of women reconciling family secrets and past regrets.
Life’s beautiful for seventysomething influencer Gloria Rose, in her Upper West Side loft with rooftop garden and scores of Instagram followers—until she gets word that her old flame has been arrested for art theft and forgery. Knowing her own involvement in his misdeeds decades earlier, Gloria realizes she could be the next arrest and must flee. But first, she needs to make sure her nieces are protected from any fallout.
The sisters, though in their thirties, are still constantly at odds with each other. Willow, struggling to live up to their mother’s fame as a singer-songwriter, is recovering from a failed album and yet another heartbreak, while Sam is desperate to revive her floundering video game company.
When circumstances out of their control bring the three women back together, they will each have to reckon with and reconcile their interwoven traumas, past loves, and the looming consequences that could either destroy their futures or bring them closer than ever.

My Review:

This is the story of two pairs of sisters all of whom were, in their own ways, trailblazers. Sam and Willow are in their late 30s when this story opens. Sam was one of the first women to head her own gaming company, and one of the first to design action/adventure games specifically intended to appeal to girls. While her company was an “overnight” success 20 years ago, in internet time, 20 years is a century, and her company is floundering.

Her sister Willow is a musician, a violinist who’s most recent solo album tanked. Sank without a trace, taking her boyfriend, her current home and pretty much everything she owned down with it. Willow is a folk/electronica violinist with a unique sound who just hasn’t found the right audience. But at 35, her time couch-surfing and hoping for a big break is running out.

Gloria and her sister Billie came of age in the so-called “Swinging 60s”. Gloria was a stewardess for TWA, back in the days of Coffee, Tea or Me, when stewardesses were expected to tolerate getting groped on every flight in return for the opportunity to visit exotic places for multi-day layovers back when international travel was an expensive novelty and not an every-hour-on-the-hour occurrence.

Bille was a rock musician in the 1960s and 70s, said to be a combination of Joan Jett and Janis Joplin. Unfortunately Billie followed Janis’ trajectory all the way down to an early death, leaving her sister Gloria to raise the daughters she left behind – not that she was all that present when she was alive.

And Billie’s ghost still haunts them all when this story begins. And not just because Gloria is still living in the luxury New York apartment that Billie bought with the royalties from her first album, the place where Gloria raised her girls to adulthood and left them with a yearning to blaze their own trails.

But they’re both failing when this story begins, while Gloria is faced with the sudden failure of the facade she has been maintaining for over 50 years. The man she has loved for all of those years has finally been caught. By Interpol. Suddenly, the biggest of her youthful sins looks like it’s either going to send her on the run or land her in jail for the rest of her life.

Escape Rating A-: Let me get this out of the way first, because it drove me crazy. If the title of the book is giving you an earworm you can’t quite place, it’s because it IS a line in a song, just not the title and not exactly word for word. In the 1971 song by the Stylistics, it went “Write YOUR name across the sky…” but Billie Thorne turned it around because she’d learned from both her mother and her sister not to let anyone else define or restrict her life. Which didn’t stop the world from doing it anyway.

Like the two previous books by this author that I have read, The Art of Inheriting Secrets and When We Believed in Mermaids, this is a story about the past crashing headlong into the present, pushing all of the characters to remember people and events that they have forced into the background of their minds and hearts, until their memories crash into the same heartbreaking epiphany and they’re all finally able to move forward.

I liked this one just a tiny bit better than the previous books, although I certainly liked both of them quite a lot. But the difference in this one was the character of Gloria, who represents a different generation and an entirely different perspective on the people and events that shaped all of their lives. Because through Gloria’s memories we’re allowed to see the late Billie Thorne as she was, through the eyes of someone who was an adult at the time, and not just through the memories of the childhoods that she scarred.

This is also explicitly not a romance, although there are romances in it, and that includes 74-year-old Gloria. For both Gloria and Sam, it’s a second chance at romance, while Willow puts herself and her music first, and finds love as the reward.

As much as the story’s focus is on Sam and Willow, it was Gloria’s story that held my attention. As much as all three women are at crisis points in their lives, it was Gloria’s that brought me the most “feels”, probably because I’m closer to her age than to either of her nieces. I loved that Gloria is happy with the career she had, and has found a second act through her plants and her friends and her instagram feed and followers, because I know how that goes. At the same time, while she doesn’t handle the crisis she is faced with terribly well for most of the story, it was all too easy to slip inside her feelings of desperation, her desire to protect the ones she loves, and her acknowledgement that the long ago events that brought her to this pass were of her own making.

I certainly liked the way that all three of these women’s stories resolved themselves. Gloria faced the demons of her past. Sam found a way to silence the demons inside her head, or at least learned to stop letting them spill out of her mouth. And Willow, in learning from the stories of her mother AND her sister, played her way to the top of the world. A feel good ending all around that I hope will bring as big a smile to other readers’ faces as it did mine.

~~~~~~ GIVEAWAY ~~~~~~

I’m very happy to say that I’m giving away a copy of Write My Name Across the Sky to one lucky US commenter on this tour. But some of you will hate me because the question in the rafflecopter is about songs that give you earworms and how you get rid of them, which will probably implant the song you least want stuck in your head in your brain. “It’s a Small World After All” anyone?

a Rafflecopter giveaway

TLC
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 8-29-21

This was, actually, kind of an A- week, and not just in the book reviews. This weekend is kind of the calm between multiple storms, or rather between multiple assignments with hard deadlines. It’s good to have a bit of time to take a breather.

Today’s picture of feline adorableness is not exactly taking a breather. Here’s Hecate peeking through the bars of, not a prison, but a chairback. That window seat has the best view in the house for backyard kitty television and she likes to nap there. At the moment this picture was taken, however, she was clearly fascinated with something her humans are doing. I’ve also noticed just how round a kittyball she makes. She looks like a large tribble with eyes. It’s hard to believe that when she first came to us she weighed less than half a pound!

Current Giveaways:

$10 Gift Card or $10 Book in the Old School Giveaway Hop (ENDS TUESDAY!!!)

Blog Recap:

A- Review: Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire
A Review: For the Love of April French by Penny Aimes + Excerpt
A Review: The Scavenger Door by Suzanne Palmer
A- Review: The Madness of Crowds by Louise Penny
A- Review: The Heart Principle by Helen Hoang
Stacking the Shelves (459)

Coming This Week:

Write My Name Across the Sky by Barbara O’Neal (blog tour review)
The Inheritance by JoAnn Ross (blog tour review)
Glam and Gifts Giveaway Hop
Unnatural Habits by Kerry Greenwood (review)
Never Saw Me Coming by Vera Kurian (blog tour review)

Stacking the Shelves (459)

First of all, the lists are getting shorter. It’s that time of year, which probably sounds strange. But not a lot comes out in December and January, and that’s affecting what’s available in NetGalley and Edelweiss. I have some eARCs as far out as May, but that’s so far out they don’t have covers yet!

There’s one book on here that I’ve already read/listened to. I got an AudioARC for The Heart Principle earlier this week, started it in audio, got hooked, and switched to the ebook, as yesterday’s review will attest. There’s one book in here that I did not expect at all but am really happy to see, that’s The Misfit Soldier by Michael Mammay. I’ve enjoyed his Planetside series because I love the voice of the main character. This isn’t a part of that series, but I’m hoping that the voice of the protagonist in this one will be just as good.

For Review:
The Best of World SF: Volume 1 edited by Lavie Tidhar
Cyber Mage by Saad Z. Hossain
Goliath by Tochi Onyebuchi
The Good Girl’s Guide to Rakes (Last Chance Scoundrels #1) by Eva Leigh
The Heart Principle (Kiss Quotient #3) by Helen Hoang (audio)
How to Kill Your Best Friend by Lexie Elliott
The Misfit Soldier by Michael Mammay
No Gods, No Monsters (Convergence Saga #1) by Cadwell Turnbull (audio)
Once More Upon a Time by Roshani Chokshi
Woman on Fire by Lisa Barr

Purchased from Amazon/Audible:
The Gentleman and the Thief (Dread Penny Society #2) by Sarah M. Eden
The Lady and the Highwayman (Dread Penny Society #1) by Sarah M. Eden


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