The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 5-13-18

Sunday Post

Today’s edition of The Sunday Post brought to you by “Round Tuit”, otherwise known as the hurrieder I go, the behindeder I get. Weekends are just not long enough.

You might have noticed that King of Ashes by Raymond Feist was listed as “Coming Next Week” on last week’s Sunday Post, and that it is repeating itself here. I didn’t have quite enough time this past week, but I finished it this morning and it is awesome. Review tomorrow.

And speaking of getting ’round to things, the May I Suggest Giveaway Hop ends on Tuesday, just as the Life’s A Beach Giveaway Hop begins.

And a Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there, whether your children have two feet or four feet, skin, fur, feathers or scales! Freddie and Lucifer are firmly convinced that they don’t need to give me anything for Mothers’ Day except their sweet selves – and they’re right!

Current Giveaways:

$10 Gift Card or $10 Book in the May I Suggest Giveaway Hop (ends TUESDAY!)

Blog Recap:

A- Review: Obscura by Joe Hart
B+ Review: Two Steps Forward by Graeme Simsion and Anne Buist
B+ Review: Hell Squad: Manu by Anna Hackett
B+ Review: The Other Lady Vanishes by Amanda Quick
B+ Review: Sin and Tonic by Rhys Ford
Stacking the Shelves (287)

Coming Next Week:

King of Ashes by Raymond Feist (review)
Life’s a Beach Giveaway Hop
By Fire Above by Robyn Bennis (review)
The Fall of Angels by Barbara Cleverly (review)
The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer (review)

Stacking the Shelves (287)

Stacking the Shelves

This seems to be the season for long STS lists. Quite a few of these won’t be out until October, so it feels like there ought to be a ten-yard penalty for rushing the season imposed by someone, somewhere. It’s just barely summer, even here, but the fall books are already raining down!

For Review:
Born to Be Wilde (Wildes of Ludlow Castle #3) by Eloisa James
An Elderly Lady is Up to No Good by Helene Tursten
Her Rocky Mountain Defender (Rocky Mountain Justice #2) by Jennifer D. Bokal
The High Season by Judy Blundell
The Kill Chain (Jamie Sinclair #6) by Nichole Christoff
The Little Shop of Found Things by Paula Brackston
The Memory Tree (Carson Chronicles #2) by John A. Heldt
Not Quite Over You (Happily Inc. #4) by Susan Mallery
Shattered Silence (Echo Falls #3) by Marta Perry
Trial by Treason (Enchanter General #2) by Dave Duncan
Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver
Welcome to Lagos by Chibundu Onuzo
When We Found Home by Susan Mallery
Whiskey Sharp: Torn (Whiskey Sharp #3) by Lauren Dane
Why Not Tonight (Happily Inc. #3) by Susan Mallery

Review: Sin and Tonic by Rhys Ford

Review: Sin and Tonic by Rhys FordSin and Tonic (Sinners, #6) by Rhys Ford
Format: eARC
Source: author
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: M/M romance, romantic suspense
Series: Sinners #6
Pages: 270
Published by Dreamspinner Press on May 15, 2018
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKobo

Miki St. John believed happy endings only existed in fairy tales until his life took a few unexpected turns… and now he’s found his own.

His best friend, Damien, is back from the dead, and their new band, Crossroads Gin, is soaring up the charts. Miki’s got a solid, loving partner named Kane Morgan—an Inspector with SFPD whose enormous Irish family has embraced him as one of their own—and his dog, Dude, at his side.

It’s a pity someone’s trying to kill him.

Old loyalties and even older grudges emerge from Chinatown’s murky, mysterious past, and Miki struggles to deal with his dead mother’s abandonment, her secrets, and her brutal murder while he’s hunted by an enigmatic killer who may have ties to her.

The case lands in Kane’s lap, and he and Miki are caught in a deadly game of cat-and-mouse. When Miki is forced to face his personal demons and the horrors of his childhood, only one thing is certain: the rock star and his cop are determined to fight for their future and survive the evils lurking in Miki’s past.

My Review:

If you are a fan of this series, this finale is going to seriously cut you up emotionally. And if you’re not a fan, or at least not yet, I suggest starting with the first book, Sinner’s Gin. Be prepared for one hell of a ride.

This is also a giant hint that Sin and Tonic is not the place to start reading the Sinners series. This is where it ends, and the emotional resonance of that ending will be completely lost if you start here. This one packs a hell of an emotional wallop, along with the solutions to all the mysteries that stand at the heart of Miki St. John, but only if you go back to where it all began in Sinner’s Gin.

You might need one – or more – of the drinks that all the titles are based on before you finish.

In the end, this entire series is the story of one man learning over and over again to become strong in all of his many, many broken places. And that in order for that to happen, he needs to let people (and a dog named Dude) into his life and his heart.

In this series finale, Miki thinks he has everything he needs to step into his future, when his past blasts into his life and tries to end it, once and for all. And nearly succeeds, Again. But with the help of his lover, his new-found family and finally his old-found family, Miki is the one left standing.

After one hell of a lot of tragedy, there’s finally triumph. And a happy ending.

Escape Rating B+: As much as loved Sin and Tonic, and in fact the entire Sinners series, I also have to admit that the first 2/3 of this book wasn’t as absorbing as some of the other books in the series, and I think that has to do with its length and what it took to make it as long as it was.

And it feels long. I have an eARC in my kindle app, and at 5156 kindle locations, this book is considerably longer than the 270 pages that Goodreads and Amazon claim that it is. I’d estimate that it is closer to 400 pages if not more. And as much as I hate to admit this, too much of those extra 130 or so pages is sex. While I enjoy a good sex scene as much as the next romance reader, for me at least there is a limit to how much of other people’s sex lives I find interesting. I was completely invested in solving the riddle of Miki’s origins and all of the truly awful things that have happened to him, and the sheer volume of sex scenes got in my way.

It’s not that each individual scene isn’t well written, because they are. But there were so many that they got in the way of the story. At least for me. Your mileage, and certainly Miki and Kane’s mileage, definitely may vary.

However, and in this case it’s a great big however, once past that ⅔ mark, the story kicks into high gear with a series of gut-wrenching revelations and a hail of bullets. More than one hail.

From the point where Miki finally learns the truth about his own origin story until the end, the story races in high gear from one crisis to the next, and the hits just keep on coming until the hitter is finally taken out.

That last third leaves the reader reeling, as all the secrets that have been powering this book, and in fact the entire series, are revealed and shot away, one after another. And that ending is glorious.

There is a tour for this book, and even though I’m not part of the tour, I loved this series so much that I can’t resist linking to it. I really want to share the love for this awesome series. So if you want to learn more about the book and the series, check out the tour. Rhys Ford’s site has all the details.

Review: The Other Lady Vanishes by Amanda Quick

Review: The Other Lady Vanishes by Amanda QuickThe Other Lady Vanishes by Amanda Quick, Jayne Ann Krentz
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, large print, ebook, audiobook
Genres: historical romance, romantic suspense
Series: Burning Cove #2
Pages: 368
Published by Berkley on May 8, 2018
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository

The New York Times bestselling author of The Girl Who Knew Too Much sweeps readers back to 1930s California--where the most dazzling of illusions can't hide the darkest secrets...

After escaping from a private sanitarium, Adelaide Blake arrives in Burning Cove, California, desperate to start over.

Working at an herbal tea shop puts her on the radar of those who frequent the seaside resort town: Hollywood movers and shakers always in need of hangover cures and tonics. One such customer is Jake Truett, a recently widowed businessman in town for a therapeutic rest. But unbeknownst to Adelaide, his exhaustion is just a cover.

In Burning Cove, no one is who they seem. Behind facades of glamour and power hide drug dealers, gangsters, and grifters. Into this make-believe world comes psychic to the stars Madame Zolanda. Adelaide and Jake know better than to fall for her kind of con. But when the medium becomes a victim of her own dire prediction and is killed, they'll be drawn into a murky world of duplicity and misdirection.

Neither Adelaide or Jake can predict that in the shadowy underground they'll find connections to the woman Adelaide used to be--and uncover the specter of a killer who's been real all along...

My Review:

Now that I’ve finished the second book in the Burning Cove series, after last year’s terrific The Girl Who Knew Too Much, I still want to know if Burning Cove is just down the road from Scargill Cove.

While this series does not have the same paranormal elements that the author’s Arcane Society series(s) do, it still has a lot of the same feel. In the case of The Other Lady Vanishes, that feeling includes a surprising touch of the Gothic, particularly for a book set in the 1920s and not the Victorian Era.

The Gothic influence is provided by remote Rushbrook Sanitarium, designed as a creepy Gothic Victorian castle, but situated in a small town in California. And the awful things that happen there are enough to give anyone nightmares.

We meet Adelaide Blake on the night of her desperate escape from Rushbrook. Adelaide is pretty sure she knows exactly why she’s in Rushbrook, and it’s not because she’s crazy. And not in the way that people in asylums say they’re not crazy when they really are.

She is a bit paranoid. But then again, they really are out to get her.

Her parents, a botanist and a chemist, created a hallucinogenic drug that they called “Daydream”, even though its effects turn out to be more of a nightmare. And anyone it is administered too certainly sees nightmares. But while under the influence of Daydream people not only experience terrible hallucinations, but are also highly suggestible – and incapable of lying.

Adelaide was kidnapped and locked up in Rushbrook so that someone could get hold of the fortune she inherited, and so that no one would look too carefully at her parents’ deaths in a lab accident. And so that the unscrupulous people who stole their research would have a guinea pig on whom to test the drug and who would not be missed.

Her escape screws up everything – at least for everyone involved except Adelaide. She may be on the run, nervous and rightfully afraid, but she’s also free. At least as long as she avoids detection by her pursuers. And her paranoia is certainly justified, because she is being pursued.

She’s made a good life for herself, and made friends, in the small town of Burning Cove, where Hollywood stars come to play at the resort and casino. Adelaide has even become a minor local celebrity, developing medicinal tea blends not just for the stars but also for the residents.

And businessman Jake Truett, supposedly in Burning Cove to calm his shattered nerves, comes to her tea room every day for a cup of calming green tea and the opportunity to watch the beautiful waitress with the shadows in her eyes.

When their first date results in the two of them being lured to the scene of a grisly murder, they discover that there’s something rotten in Burning Cove – and that whoever is behind it wants to add both of them to the list of victims.

Escape Rating B+: The Other Lady Vanishes has a much darker tone than The Girl Who Knew Too Much – even though they both begin with fairly grisly death scenes and feature heroines on the run for their lives.

Rushbrook is a very dark place. It sounds like it would make a marvelous setting for a horror movie, one that I personally would not want to watch. Everything that happens there, and not just to Adelaide, is terrible beyond description – even at the beginning where we don’t know the half of it.

The circumstances that placed Adelaide in Rushbrook have left her with a great many doubts about herself and her own judgment. At the beginning of the story, she constantly second guesses herself about her own sanity. And she rightfully fears that if she attempts to contact anyone to investigate her claims, or worse, if she is located by her pursuers, that no one will believe her because she was a patient in a mental institution. And she’s right to worry.

But it makes for a bit of rough reading at the beginning.

It’s only when Jake enters the picture that Adelaide really starts reclaiming her authentic self. But in order for them to have any kind of relationship, even the partnership necessary to investigate all the deadly chaos that surrounds them, they will have to accept each other’s truths.

For Adelaide to reveal her true story feels fraught with as much peril as her pursuers are attempting to drive her into. And it turns out that Jake is in Burning Cove under multiple false pretenses, not just about who he is, but also about why he’s there and what he’s after.

He’s pursuing a blackmailer – she’s running from a conman who locked her up to control her fortune. Those two cases do not seem to be connected – until they are. And while I didn’t totally buy the romance in this one, I certainly enjoyed the way that they worked together to wrap up everything that had gone wrong – for both of them.

At every turn, Adelaide and Jake are confronted by one twist after another. Just when they think they’ve figured everything out, they discover that they haven’t. Just when they, and the reader, think it’s over – it isn’t.

Those twists and turns will keep you turning pages until the very last word.

Review: Hell Squad: Manu by Anna Hackett

Review: Hell Squad: Manu by Anna HackettManu (Hell Squad #16) by Anna Hackett
Format: eARC
Source: author
Formats available: ebook
Genres: science fiction romance
Series: Hell Squad #16
Pages: 220
Published by Anna Hackett on May 6th 2018
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazon

As the battle against the invading aliens intensifies, a group of bad boy bikers and mercenaries will stand and fight for humanity’s survival…

When former berserker Manu Rahia lost his leg on a mission, he was forced to leave his squad. He knows his new role as head of the Enclave’s firing range and armory is important, but hates that he isn’t still out there fighting face to face against the aliens and protecting his brothers’ backs. But then one woman catches his eye. A no-nonsense woman dedicated to her job as head of security. A woman who seems cool on the surface, but who Manu is convinced is hiding more under her business-like exterior.

Captain Kate Scott dedicated her life to her career in the Army. Now she works hard taking care of security for the Enclave and its residents. She learned a long time ago that she isn’t a passionate woman, and that she’s better off sticking to her work. But seeing one big, bronze-skinned, muscled man at the range every day has her hormones going into overdrive. She’s never felt like this and she’s determined to get herself under control.

But when the aliens launch a viscous new attack, right on the Enclave’s doorstep, Kate and Manu must join forces to stop the raptors before more people get hurt. Kate will fight fiercely to protect her team and the base, as well as her heart. But Manu Rahia is a man who knows what he wants, will walk through fire to get it, and what he wants is Kate.

My Review:

It was a hell of a lot of fun to return to the world of the Hell Squad, even if – or especially because – their post-alien-invasion apocalyptic world would absolutely not be a great place to visit and as the situation currently stands I wouldn’t want to live there either.

When last we left our heroes, back in book 15, Levi, it was obvious that the alien Gizzida were working on yet another superweapon in their ongoing attempts to wipe out the remaining resistance fighters – our heroes – and cement their control of our planet – so they can strip the rest of it bare and move on.

We don’t get to see the weapon, whatever it is, in Manu’s story. Instead, we get to follow along as the plucky survivors of the Enclave deal with the Gizzida’s new and always deadly distraction tactics, as they do their level best – or is that their absolute worst – to keep the fighters penned into the Enclave so they can test their superweapons someplace else.

Not that those tactics don’t become readily apparent pretty early on. The survivors in the Enclave wouldn’t have survived this long if they weren’t really, really smart as well as very, very brave.

So unlike many of the stories in this series, Manu sticks fairly close to home. And that gives us a chance to see more of Manu, who was a member of the Berserker Squad along with his brothers Tane and Hemi.

(Hemi has already had his own book, and gotten his own HFN. It’s been pretty obvious for a while that Tane has his eye on his own, but he’s not ready. Or she’s not. Or both. Yet. Even if all the readers certainly are!)

Manu is no longer a member of the Berserkers because the Gizzidas ate his leg. Well, they certainly took his leg and they probably ate it. His former squadmates went out – against orders – and stole a high-tech prosthetic for him, and he gets around the Enclave just fine. He’s now the head of their armory, and seems to have adjusted to his new life – sort of. He’s certainly good at his job, but there’s no denying that he misses being out with his squad and his brothers.

Being stuck in the Enclave has one advantage. He gets to see a whole lot more of Kate Scott, the head of Enclave security. And he likes everything that he sees – even if Kate isn’t willing to acknowledge the chemistry between them.

When they are forced to work together when the Gizzidas latest threat strikes much too close to home, it’s impossible for them to deny what’s happening between them. But they are both too independent or make that too stubborn and too battle-scarred, to let themselves lean on anyone else – even if that’s the only way to not merely survive – but to really live.

Escape Rating B+: I always have a good time with any of the author’s stories, and Manu was certainly no exception. I’m not sure whether this was just the right story for the right time, or whether it had been long enough since the previous book in the series (Levi) to make the established patterns pleasantly familiar rather than merely predictable.

One of the things that this author does very well in all of her series is that her heroines are always every bit as strong as her heroes, whether that is the same type of strength as it is here, or whether they are in completely different fields with completely different sets of strengths and weaknesses.

In this particular case, they are also both the same kind of stubborn. Kate is the kind of strong, driven woman that a lot of men, especially weak ones, want to tear down so that they can feel big. And she’s had enough of that. She’s old enough and experienced enough to know herself, and that she is who she is and that the core parts of her personality are not going to change. She’s never been able to lean on anyone, because too many people, especially men, will see that as a sign of weakness, and she’s never been able to afford to be weak.

I liked Kate a lot.

At the same time, Manu is still mourning the loss of his leg and the forced changes in his life, while trying to pretend that he’s completely adjusted. He’s used to being strong and can’t even stand the thought of being seen as weak. But when he wants Kate to lean on him when she needs to, she rightfully calls him on his BS. It has to go both ways, and that’s a hard adjustment for him. But definitely, definitely worth it.

Earlier, I referred to Manu’s brother Hemi getting his HFN in his book. For this reader, it feels as if HFN is the only option available for any couple in the series. Not because they don’t want to stay together or are not likely to stay together. None of these people are going to change their minds about their partners. It’s that the situation they are in is so fraught with deadly danger that HFN is all that’s available because “ever after” is far from assured.

Not that I don’t want to see it, because I really, really do. I’m still hoping for an Independence Day kind of ending (the original movie, not that horrible sequel) where the human resistance kicks the invading Gizzida off our planet in an explosive stand-up-and-cheer ending. And I hope that ending isn’t too many books in the future.

Review: Two Steps Forward by Graeme Simsion and Anne Buist

Review: Two Steps Forward by Graeme Simsion and Anne BuistTwo Steps Forward by Graeme Simsion, Anne Buist
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, large print, ebook, audiobook
Genres: contemporary romance, travel
Pages: 384
Published by William Morrow Paperbacks on May 1, 2018
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Rosie Project comes a story of taking chances and learning to love again as two people, one mourning her husband and the other recovering from divorce, cross paths on the centuries-old Camino pilgrimage from France to Spain.

“The Chemin will change you. It changes everyone…”

The Chemin, also known as the Camino de Santiago, is a centuries-old pilgrim route that ends in Santiago de Compostela in northwest Spain. Every year, thousands of walkers—some devout, many not—follow the route that wends through quaint small villages and along busy highways alike, a journey unlike any other.

Zoe, an artist from California who’s still reeling from her husband’s sudden death, has impulsively decided to walk the Camino, hoping to find solace and direction. Martin, an engineer from England, is road-testing a cart of his own design…and recovering from a messy divorce. They begin in the same French town, each uncertain of what the future holds. Zoe has anticipated the physical difficulties of her trek, but she is less prepared for other challenges, as strangers and circumstances force her to confront not just recent loss, but long-held beliefs. For Martin, the pilgrimage is a test of his skills and endurance but also, as he and Zoe grow closer, of his willingness to trust others—and himself—again.

Smart and funny, insightful and romantic, Two Steps Forward reveals that the most important journeys we make aren’t measured in miles, but in the strength, wisdom, and love found along the way. Fans of The Rosie Project will recognize Graeme Simsion’s uniquely quirky and charming writing style.


My Review:

Two Steps Forward, which begins as kind of the ultimate road trip journey of self-discovery and ends with a romance between two mature adults is absolutely charming from its beginning in Cluny, France to its ending in Santiago, Spain. It will remind readers of Eat, Pray, Love, but with a bit less self-indulgence.

And so are all of the places, and most of the people, that Zoe and Martin meet along the way, whether they are travelling separately, together, or a bit of both.

Their separate roads to that self-discovery, as well as their journey along the pilgrim’s path variously known as the Carmino de Santiago, the Chemin, or simply the Way, is definitely a story of two steps forward and one step back – and sometimes the other way around.

Both Zoe and Martin are at very loose ends in their mid-lives. It would be a cliche to say that either of them is having a mid-life crisis, and that’s not really the case. They are both in crises that have been thrust upon them. The story of Two Steps Forward is about coming to terms with those crises, the effects on their lives and hearts, and figuring out how to move forward.

They say that the Chemin changes everyone. That, at least, is Zoe’s purpose for taking her first ill-prepared steps along the Way. She is in her mid-40s, and has unexpectedly been widowed. Her daughters are adults, and don’t seem to need her much anymore. And after two marriages, one ending in divorce and one ending in death, she’s not quite sure who she is anymore. Only that the identities that she has crafted for herself – or compromised herself into – no longer fit.

So she walks.

Martin, on the other hand, is flat broke after a messy divorce, and an ill-considered dare. His ex had an affair with his boss, so he’s also out of a job. As he puts it, he’s 52 and skint. And British.

He’s not traveling the Chemin to find himself. Instead, he’s an engineer testing a prototype for a rolling cart that hikers could possibly use to travel the Chemin without either carrying a backpack, the traditional mode, or hiring the service that portages one’s bag(s) from one stop to another. Of course, the purists consider that to be cheating.

But just because he isn’t looking to find himself or resolve any of the many, many issues he’s running, well, walking, away from, doesn’t mean that those issues don’t follow him along the road. And it equally does not mean that he does not, after all, learn the lessons that the Chemin needs to teach him.

Along the way, they keep running into each other. And occasionally from each other. And it is absolutely charming, every step of the way.

Escape Rating B+: Your feet will hurt after reading this book, or at least mine did. In sympathy with their incredible journey. It’s a 2,000 kilometer walk, in other words, over 1,200 miles. On foot. Walking.

The description of the route, the places they stop or pass, and just the effects of the sheer volume of time, distance and effort, are lyrical, and they feel real, as they should. The authors of Two Steps Forward have themselves walked the Chemin, including the particular route taken by Martin in this book, and have traveled other trails along this pilgrim’s path in the years since.

The blisters in particular sound downright painful.

But as fascinating as the sheer volume of the mechanics of the journey are, what makes this story so charming are the characters of Zoe, Martin and everyone they meet along the way.

The story is told from alternating points of view, with one chapter seen from Martin’s perspective, and the other from Zoe’s. While we do read what they think and feel about each other, it’s more important that we also get to look at what brought them on this journey, what they discover about themselves along the way – and just what baggage they leave behind.

That they also find each other gives the story its happy ending, but this is one where the journey, and its fellow travelers, are infinitely more fascinating, may I even say moving, than the destination.

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

Review: Obscura by Joe Hart

Review: Obscura by Joe HartObscura by Joe Hart
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: science fiction
Pages: 340
Published by Thomas & Mercer on May 8, 2018
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleBook Depository

She’s felt it before…the fear of losing control. And it’s happening again.

In the near future, an aggressive and terrifying new form of dementia is affecting victims of all ages. The cause is unknown, and the symptoms are disturbing. Dr. Gillian Ryan is on the cutting edge of research and desperately determined to find a cure. She’s already lost her husband to the disease, and now her young daughter is slowly succumbing as well. After losing her funding, she is given the unique opportunity to expand her research. She will travel with a NASA team to a space station where the crew has been stricken with symptoms of a similar inexplicable psychosis—memory loss, trances, and violent, uncontrollable impulses.

Crippled by a secret addiction and suffering from creeping paranoia, Gillian finds her journey becoming a nightmare as unexplainable and violent events plague the mission. With her grip weakening on reality, she starts to doubt her own innocence. And she’s beginning to question so much more—like the true nature of the mission, the motivations of the crew, and every deadly new secret space has to offer.

Merging thrilling science-fiction adventure with mind-bending psychological suspense, Wall Street Journal bestselling author Joe Hart explores both the vast mysteries of outer space and the even darker unknown that lies within ourselves.

My Review:

Obscura was, in the end, unexpectedly marvelous.

At first, the book reminded me of Lock In by John Scalzi. There’s a disease that seems to have come out of nowhere, but is rising in incidence throughout the population, and so far, there’s no cure. Losian’s Syndrome in its way is even scarier than Hadens – because Hadens preserves the person while leaving the body behind (sorta/kinda) while Losian’s resembles Alzheimer’s in that it preserves the body while stealing away the person by separating them from the memories that make them who they are.

Unlike the scenario in Lock In, however, Losian’s is not yet widespread enough to force governments to inject massive amounts of research funding. Dr. Gillian Ryan is all alone, with only her lab assistant for company, as she studies the disease that took her husband and is now taking her daughter. As the story begins, she feels as if she is on the threshold of a breakthrough, but her funding has been eliminated.

She feels like she has nowhere to turn, except to the opioids that she is addicted to, when an old frenemy contacts her seemingly out of the blue. NASA needs her help, and they are willing to give her unlimited funding to study Losian’s – in exchange for six months of her life aboard the space station.

This is not, of course, out of the goodness of their hearts. If they have any. NASA has a problem, and Gillian is the only researcher who is working on anything that might possibly offer a solution.

Of course, all is not as it seems. The disease may be, but nothing that surrounds NASA’s offer to Gillian bears a whole lot of resemblance to the truth – or even has a nodding acquaintance with it.

In the end, this is a story about secrets. NASA lies to Gillian, Gillian lies to NASA, and everyone is lying to everyone else. And while Gillian’s research into the cure for Losian’s bears fruit, it is not remotely related to the problem that NASA hired her to solve.

Not because she’s not a good scientist, but because NASA doesn’t know what the problem really is. Once Gillian finally sees the truth for herself, she realizes that she is, after all, NASA’s best hope of solving it – not because of her scientific strengths, but because of her human weaknesses.

Escape Rating A-: The beginning of the story moves a bit slowly. There is a lot of set-up involved before the story gets off the ground, both literally and figuratively.

This is one of the other points where the story reminds me of Lock In, as in Obscura the author needs to take some time and a fair number of pages to introduce the world as it is in this near-future, as well as the issue of Losian’s and Gillian’s reasons for attempting to cure it as well as her setbacks in working on that cure.

Lock In solved this problem by introducing Hadens in the prequel, Unlocked. It meant that Lock In could start rolling immediately, but that readers who had not picked up Unlocked first could be, and often were, lost.

Part of what kept me going at the beginning of Obscura was just how many stories it reminded me of. When we finally hear a truth about what has gone wrong at the space station, it sounded a lot like two interlinked Star Trek episodes, the Original Series episode The Naked Time, and the Next Generation episode The Naked Now. In those stories a virus runs rampant through the crew, causing people to lose all their inhibitions, expose their innermost selves, and, if left unchecked, eventually results in death by extreme stupidity.

That resemblance turns out to be a red herring, but it kept me going for quite a while. And it may be a pink herring. The results are very similar to the virus in Trek, but the cause turns out to be something different all together.

There are also elements of both The Martian and The Retrieval Artist series. Just as in The Martian, Gillian spends an incredible amount of time completely isolated. The circumstances are not dissimilar in a number of ways. She is, in the end, equally as productive as the hero of Andy Weir’s book – but her reaction also feels more human in that she keeps focus in some directions but loses it in others – going more than a bit crazy and hitting absolute bottom – while still continuing to work.

The Retrieval Artist series is a detective series set on in a lunar colony, and in the end, Gillian is accused of a crime she did not commit and is forced to become a detective in order to set herself free.

But in spite of, or in some cases, because of the resemblances, the second half of this book kept me on the edge of my seat. I had to see what happened next, and whether Gillian managed to get herself out of the huge mess she found herself in. The actual ending contained both a surprise and a delight as well as a dose of reality.

One final thought – as a Star Trek fan, I couldn’t help but be struck by one revelation of the story – Bones was right.

The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 5-6-18

Sunday Post

After most of a week away, it’s good to be home. The cats certainly missed us. And have needed to tell us so – all night long. But we love them anyway – or perhaps because. And Freddie forgot to pull up the rest of the kitchen floor, so it’s all good.

On a much brighter and slightly less destructive note, this is the first week, I think EVAR, where I had two A+ books. If you’re looking for a meaty and weighty fantasy to really sink your reading teeth into, I highly recommend both The Queens of Innis Lear AND The Poppy War. Choosing which book to highlight in this post was like picking a favorite child. I loved them both so, so much. So I’m featuring both of them!

Current Giveaways:

$10 Gift Card or $10 Book in the May I Suggest Giveaway Hop

Winner Announcements:

The winner of the $10 Amazon Gift Card in the Full Bloom Giveaway Hop is Michelle.

Blog Recap:

A+ Review: The Queens of Innis Lear by Tessa Gratton
May I Suggest Giveaway Hop
A+ Review: The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang
B Review: Lowcountry Book Club by Susan M. Boyer
B Review: Path of Love: Cinque Terre, Italy by M.L. Buchman
Stacking the Shelves (286)

Coming Next Week:

Obscura by Joe Hart (review)
Two Steps Forward by Graeme Simsion and Anne Buist (blog tour review)
Hell Squad: Manu by Anna Hackett (review)
The Other Lady Vanishes by Amanda Quick (review)
King of Ashes by Raymond Feist (review)

Stacking the Shelves (286)

Stacking the Shelves

Welcome to the “When Worlds Collide” edition of Stacking the Shelves. Macmillan Publishing, including Tor, dumped their Fall 2018 ARCs into Edelweiss this week, and that always makes my stack explode. The book awards committee that I am on for ALA has also kicked into high gear. I won’t say which books those are (or will be, because there are more to come!) but grabbing the eARCs for the committee selections certainly does add appreciably to the height of the stack!

For Review:
The Air You Breathe by Frances de Pontes Peebles
An American Quilt by Rachel May
Black Chamber (Black Chamber #1) by S.M. Stirling
Chased (Chase Brothers #1) by Lauren Dane
Company of One by Paul Jarvis
The Fated Sky (Lady Astronaut #2) by Mary Robinette Kowal
The Girl Who Smiled Beads by Clemantine Wamariya and Elizabeth Weil
Gone So Long by Andre Dubus III
Hell Squad: Manu (Hell Squad #16) by Anna Hackett
Heroine’s Journey (Heroine Complex #3) by Sarah Kuhn
Kill the Queen (Crown of Shards #1) by Jennifer Estep
Ohio by Stephen Markley
Ordinary People by Diana Evans
Pandora’s Boy (Flavia Albia #6) by Lindsey Davis
Patriot Number One by Lauren Hilgers
The Queen of Crows (Sacred Throne #2) by Myke Cole
The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs by Steve Brusatte
They Promised Me the Gun Wasn’t Loaded by James Alan Gardner
Through Darkest Europe by Harry Turtledove
Virgil Wander by Leif Enger

Purchased from Amazon:
Heart of the Cotswolds: England (Love Abroad B&B #1) by M.L. Buchman

Review: Path of Love: Cinque Terre, Italy by M.L. Buchman

Review: Path of Love: Cinque Terre, Italy by M.L. BuchmanPath of Love: Cinque Terre, Italy Format: eARC
Source: author
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: contemporary romance
Series: Love Abroad B&B #2
Pages: 282
Published by Buchman Bookworks on April 19, 2018
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository

-a Love Abroad B&B romance-

Welcome to the Cinque Terre, the jewel of the Italian Coast. In shades of warm gold, apricot, and peach, these remote stone villages face the Mediterranean. Their narrow cobbled streets are car-free. Instead they’re filled with soft sunlight and hope.

Erica Barnett always dreamed of visiting Italy. But she never planned to arrive alone and devastated. Putting her life back together ranks as a distant second to the priority of fixing her heart.

Ridley Claremont III, wealthy son of a Californian vintner and his trophy wife, discovers the shallowness of his life when his parents are killed in a car wreck. Seeking forgetfulness on a motorcycle driving the European backroads, he stumbles into the tiny cliffside town of Corniglia. Vibrant life greets him around every corner: food and flowers, gelato and friendship. And the wine, most especially the wine.

A man who never faced himself and a woman who finally has, meet in the only place they can. Along the Via dell’Amore, the Path of Love, in Cinque Terre, Italy.

My Review:

I was still looking for light and fluffy after those two epic grimdarks earlier this week, and while M.L. Buchman’s military romances don’t quite qualify as “light and fluffy”, with their HEAs they are still lighter and fluffier than my week began. And this isn’t a military romance, it’s a contemporary. I’ve only read one of his contemporary romances (so far) and that was a real treat. It was Off the Leash if you are in the mood for a light and fluffy romance with just a hint of suspense.

Today’s little gem, in spite of its absolute mouthful of a title, is indeed a light and fluffy little treat, with just a tiny bit of serious mixed in to give it just the right hint of bittersweet to make the HEA feel earned. And it ends with a teensy bit of Brigadoon-type magic.

The story here is about two lost people finding themselves on the Via dell’Amore (that’s Path of Love in English)  in the area of Italy known as Cinque Terre. The Cinque Terre is a rugged stretch of the Italian Riviera. In other words, the places named in this book really exist, except for one, the little Bed and Breakfast and attached bar called Il Cane, named for a dog named Snoop. Not Snoopy, just Snoop.

Erica Barnett and Ridley Claremont III are both on voyages of discovery – even if neither of them thinks of their Italian peregrinations quite that way. Erica is fleeing the loss of her job and the breakup of her relationship with her boss. Her married boss. Ridley is running away from his grief over the unexpected death of his much-beloved mother. Both of them are convinced that they are running away, and it’s only after their separate journeys collide in the tiny village of Corniglia that they both stop running long enough to figure out that maybe all that running away has put them in the place where they belong.

Whether they belong there separately or together is just another part of that journey – the part that will be either the most heartbreaking, or the most rewarding, or even a little bit of both.

Escape Rating B: I was looking for light and fluffy, and I certainly found it, along with loving descriptions of the Cinque Terre region that made me want to book a vacation there immediamente!

Both Erica and Ridley ran away to Italy to lose themselves, although for much different reasons. Erica is at loose ends in so many ways. To a significant extent, she is angry with herself. She’s always seen herself as a smart and capable person, but she let herself be used and now she’s second guessing herself and trying to figure out where she missed the signs. She’s letting her doubts and her fears control her life, and she’s mad at herself for letting it happen and the self-doubt cycle is pretty vicious. Then she wrecks her rental car, gets stuck in Corniglia and runs right into Ridley Claremont III pretending to be a badass.

But Erica is the only person who seems to recognize it as a pretense. Not that Ridley doesn’t have bad-boy playboy written all over him, but the act doesn’t seem to reflect the man she keeps running into. He keeps telling himself that he’s the love ‘em and leave ‘em type, but can’t manage to leave either Erica or the welcoming little town. And can’t even think to himself that he might have found a love, or loves worth staying for.

But while Ridley flounders around emotionally, Erica gets over the self-defeat that brought her to Corniglia and emerges from her shell. Part of that emergence is due to her love affair with Ridley, but Ridley is the catalyst and not the real reason for the change.

So even when Ridley can’t admit to himself what they are to each other, and makes emotional hash out of both of them, Erica picks up the pieces and moves on with the life she’s figured out she wants.

It takes Ridley a lot of heartache as well as a significant amount of backbreaking labor to finally get on the same page. But it’s lovely when they reach it. Together.

If you’re interested in my little hint about Brigadoon, you’ll need to get the book for yourself. Or reach back to the first book in this series, Heart of the Cotswolds. That’s certainly my plan for the next time I need a bit of fluff!