Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Book Review: A Little Bit of Grace by Phoebe Fox

A Little Bit of Grace

by Phoebe Fox

Amazon  / B&N / GP/ Apple 

Family is everything—Grace McAdams’s mom must have said it to her a thousand times before she died. Before Grace’s dad ran off with an aspiring actress half his age. Before only-child Grace found out she was unable to have children of her own. Before Brian—her childhood best friend, business partner, and finally her husband—dropped a “bombshell” on her in the form of her stunning new replacement.

Which means Grace now has…nothing.

Until a letter from a woman claiming to be a relative Grace never knew she had sends her on a journey—from the childhood home she had to move back into (three doors down from the happy couple) to a tropical paradise island to meet a total stranger who claims to be family. And Grace starts to uncover answers about the eccentric woman her family never mentioned: an octogenarian who writes a viral relationship-advice blog, a compulsive (and highly successful) matchmaker…and the keeper of an unimaginable family secret held for more than fifty years.

A heartfelt, funny story about family and forgiveness, starting over when the happy ending ends, and handling it all with a little bit of grace.

My Rating:

Favorite Quotes:

‘Because I told Mandy she could have Grandmother’s chair over my dead body, and I’m nothing if not a woman of my word.’  Mrs. Fielding had taken that vow to the extreme, I reflected, breathing through my mouth as I looked at where her body sat slumped in that same chair, thinking that new upholstery might not be enough to get the smell of her decomposing body out of the antique for Ms. Yeager.

I wish I understood young people’s obsession with their own genitalia and capturing it for posterity… Honey, there’s not one thing you can do about a man who lacks any class and the sense God gave him and insists on foisting his frank and beans onto your phone screen.

Gracie, you’re a beautiful young woman… But you’re a peacock dressing like a pigeon.

“First time stripping the taco? … The lady portal. The bizniz. Sweeping the stairway to heaven.”  I stared. “Come on, you know—waxing Madame Bovary. First time you got the full monty?”  She made a diamond of her hands around her groin area.

Sugar, when the day comes that someone has to live here with me and wipe my helpless bottom, I assure you he will be far younger, well-muscled, and more macho than you are.

“Don’t you know our state mottoes?  ‘Florida: home of the newly wed and nearly dead.’ ‘Death’s doorstep.’  ‘Where America goes to die.’ There is a lot of fertile ground here for estate planning.”

My Review:

I tumbled right into this engaging, cleverly written, and delightful tale that was packed with all the feels. I reveled in Ms. Fox’s witty descriptions and clever use of humor while navigating the painfully insightful inner musings of the endearing and lovable character of Grace. Grace was struggling to come to grips with a series of devastating losses and unpleasant surprises. The final straw that proved too much for the normally mild and placid woman to withstand had her boiling over with a level of emotion that shocked her, as much as her impulsive yet clever act of retribution had appalled and dismayed her – she quickly fled town under the cover of darkness for a much-needed vacation. 

 Phoebe Fox has a smooth and sneaky way of implanting me behind her characters’ eyes. I was right there feeling all of Grace’s feels, my chest was tight when she was devastated, I fist-pumped when she finally got mad, and my eyes burned and lower lip quivered as she sweetly detailed incidents of her childhood with her mother to her long lost aunt. I think I may have even walked funny after Grace had her first waxing experience. Most of us have known a Grace at some point during our sojourn on earth; Grace was the ultimate small-town “good girl,” sweet, kind, considerate, trustworthy, admirable, unassuming, smart, overlooked, plainly dressed, prepared, making do, and patiently waiting. Full disclosure - I have never been a Grace.

The storyline was superbly crafted and unfailingly entertaining while the writing was witty and wryly amusing yet also thoughtful, emotive, poignant, and keenly insightful. The narrative was vividly detailed with humorous and colorful observations that often had me smirking. I adore Ms. Fox’s endearingly flawed, lovable, and relatable characters; even her secondary characters continually enticed and plucked at my curiosity and had me wanting to know more about them. I adored the ebullient and feisty Aunt Millie, whose inner beauty and indefatigable kindness despite her family’s long-standing history of rejection stung my eyes and made my heart hurt. Literally ;)

About Phoebe Fox

Twitter  / Amazon

Phoebe Fox has been a contributor and regular columnist for a number of national, regional, and local publications--currently for the Huffington Post as a relationship writer. She's been a movie, theater, and book reviewer; a screenwriter; and has even been known to help with homework revisions for nieces and nephews. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and two excellent dogs.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Book Review: The Sea Gate by Jane Johnson

The Sea Gate 

by Jane Johnson

One house, two women, a lifetime of secrets...

Following the death of her mother, Becky begins the sad task of sorting through her empty flat. Starting with the letters piling up on the doormat, she finds an envelope post-marked from Cornwall. In it is a letter that will change her life forever. A desperate plea from her mother's elderly cousin, Olivia, to help save her beloved home.

Becky arrives at Chynalls to find the beautiful old house crumbling into the ground, and Olivia stuck in hospital with no hope of being discharged until her home is made habitable.

Though daunted by the enormity of the task, Becky sets to work. But as she peels back the layers of paint, plaster, and grime, she uncovers secrets buried for more than seventy years. Secrets from a time when Olivia was young, the Second World War was raging, and danger and romance lurked around every corner...

The Sea Gate is a sweeping, spellbinding novel about the lives of two very different women, and the secrets that bind them together.

My Rating:

Favorite Quotes:

Estelle swore in vehement French, which Olivia mentally noted down for future use. 

She still did not believe there had ever been a Mr. Ogden. And if there had been he was probably, judging by his offspring, a hobgoblin.   

The long mirror on the inside of the wardrobe door throws my image at me. There is little worse in life than being caught unawares by your reflection, before you’ve made the small adjustments all women make – I have avoided mirrors for so long that I have forgotten to look out for them – and there I am, thin and white and strangely shaped…   

Olivia hated Sundays. Who on earth thought it was a good idea to have a day of rest and then make you get up early to go to church?   

I feel nothing. Not regret, or hatred or even repulsion. Nothing at all. All my emotions appear to have burst out of me in that one punch. I imagine them flowing down my arm like Popeye’s spinach, pumping up the muscles, exiting in a cartoon-bubble POW!    

My Review:

I adored this brilliantly crafted tale! The storylines were highly engaging, emotively written, colorfully and effusively detailed, insightfully observant, staggeringly eventful, and cleverly paced while hitting all the feels with a powerful punch and taunting my curiosity with a constant itch. The cast of characters was vastly diverse and well-drawn with despicable villains and endearingly flawed protagonists, but my favorite was the highly astute and humorously profane parrot. This was an epic tale that intrigued, squeezed my heart, amused me, and kept me well entertained and actively engaged while reading. This sly missive was my introduction to the wily Jane Johnson and has me greedy for more.

About the Author



Jane Johnson is a British novelist and publisher. She is the UK editor for George R.R. Martin, Robin Hobb, and Dean Koontz and was for many years publisher of the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. Married to a Berber chef she met while researching The Tenth Gift, she lives in Cornwall and Morocco.

Follow Head of Zeus:


Twitter: @HoZ_Books

Facebook: @headofzeus

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Book Review: First Shot by John Ryder  

 First Shot 
by John Ryder  

Amazon / B&N 

When girls go missing here, no one says a word…

Twenty-four-year-old Lila has disappeared without trace. It’s the kind of case that ex-military loner Grant Fletcher would normally be happy to take on—he will always seek justice if someone has the money to pay him. But this one he’s doing for free. This one’s personal.

Because Fletcher owes his life to Lila’s father. And Fletcher knows that returning Lila safe and sound is the only thing that matters to his wheelchair-bound friend.

She last called her father from a small town in rural Georgia. Arriving there, Fletcher’s feet barely touch the ground before he finds trouble. He also discovers that his friend’s daughter wasn’t the first girl to go missing there. Not the first by far.

Then the last person to have seen Lila before she disappeared is murdered. As an outsider, Fletcher becomes the local deputy’s only suspect, leaving him no choice but to go on the run. Because Fletcher knows someone’s abducting girls in this town. And he also knows he’s the only person who can find them…

Fans of high-octane action and unforgettable heroes like Lee Child’s Jack Reacher, Robert Ludlum’s Jason Bourne and David Baldacci’s Amos Decker will love First Shot.

My Rating: 

Favorite Quotes:

Tall Boy eyed him as if he was a circus freak from bygone days. ‘You’s talkin’ with the tongue outta your shoe… C’mon, let’s get outta here ’fore we catch arthritis from this old coot.’

Daversville was a town that time hadn’t ever known about, let alone forgot. The clothes worn by the townspeople weren’t so much outdated fashion as never having been fashionable. Each item was clean and well presented, but they were clearly worn as an alternative to nudity rather than make the wearer feel or look good.

Fellers wasn’t a bar for tourists, it was a spit and sawdust kind of place with genuine sawdust and extra spit.

With the pace of an arthritic sloth, Fletcher took a few gentle steps forward.

My Review: 

I rarely read books of this genre but I would routinely add them to my routine if I could find a bevy of them as easy to fall into and difficult to let go of as First Shot proved to be. Mr. Ryder’s engaging writing was taut with tension, surprisingly emotive, and well packaged with glints of humor and refreshingly clear descriptive details where each perfected honed word packed a powerful punch while also being smartly strung together in clever arrangements that pulled sharp visuals and defined step-by-step planning and eventful fight scenes that ran like a movie reel behind my eyes. I definitely wanted to give the caustic and surly FBI agent an attitude adjusting whack to the back of her head, although the bad guys eventually did that for me. 

I was already duly impressed before I noticed First Shot was the only book listed for this author – could it actually be his first?!? I have just made a new addition to my list of authors to watch for as I now have a taste for an action hero named Grant Fletcher.

About The Author

John Ryder is a former farmworker and joiner. He’s turned his hand to many skills to put food on the table and clothes on his back. A life-long bibliophile, he eventually summoned the courage to try writing himself, and his Grant Fletcher novels have drawn inspiration from authors such as Lee Child, Tom Cain, Zoe Sharp, and Matt Hilton. When it comes to future novels, he says he has more ideas than time to write them.

When not writing, John enjoys spending time with his son, reading, and socializing with friends. A fanatic supporter of his local football team, he can often be found shouting encouragement to men much younger and fitter than he is.



Sunday, June 7, 2020

Book Review: The Fallen Girls by Kathryn Casey

The Fallen Girls
 by Kathryn Casey 

She didn’t notice the corn stalks shiver a few feet to her right. By the time she looked up, the man towered above her. In a single movement he wrapped one thick hand around her waist, the other he clamped over her mouth, muffling her screams.

Detective Clara Jefferies has spent years running from her childhood in Alber, Utah. But when she hears that her baby sister Delilah has disappeared, she knows that the peaceful community will be shattered, her family vulnerable, and that she must face up to her past and go home.

Clara returns to find that her mother, Ardeth, has isolated her family by moving to the edge of town, in the shadow of the mountains. Ardeth refuses to talk to the police and won’t let Clara through the front door, believing she and her sister-wives can protect their own. But Clara knows better than anyone that her mother isn’t always capable of protecting her children.

When Clara finds out that two more girls have disappeared, all last seen around the cornfields near her family’s home, she realizes it’s not just Delilah who’s in danger. And then she gets a call that a body has been found…

Clara will have to dig deep into the town’s secrets if she’s going to find Delilah. But that will mean confronting the reason she left. And as she gets closer to Delilah, she might be putting her more at risk…

Gripping and spine-chilling, readers will love Detective Clara Jefferies, reading The Fallen Girls deep into the night. Fans of Kendra Elliot, Lisa Regan and Melinda Leigh won’t stop turning the pages of this unforgettable new series from bestselling and award-winning author Kathryn Casey.

My Rating:

Favorite Quotes:

Guns don’t mix well with stupid. Guns and stupid are even more dangerous when paired with crazy drunk.

For the most part, I was in good shape, and I was too young for aches and pains. I considered the fine wrinkles webbing my eyes. One of my fellow detectives described them as laugh lines, but then noted that he’d never actually seen me crack a smile.

Mother methodically inspected me, looking at my face and hair, my clothes, and my dust-covered shoes. She examined me as if I were a specimen on a glass slide.

What this trip has taught me is that you can leave home, but you can’t ever truly leave it behind. No matter where you end up, where you started haunts you.

In the margins she’d drawn playful caricatures of our family. My tension eased enough that I chuckled at one of my mother. It bore a striking resemblance to the wicked witch in The Wizard of Oz.

They looked as tense as I felt. Even my teeth were nervous.

My Review: 

While perusing this craftily written tale, I was well aware that I over-identified with the protagonist of Clara. Although I did not grow up in a cult, my parents were weirdly and stridently religious. Even as a child I knew it was strange and deeply resented the vile coercion, bombastic oratory, and blatant hypocrisy. I rarely read books with a religious theme as I find most religious dogma and rhetoric deeply annoying and tiresome with the essence of most being that everything is a sin that will be severely punished and anyone who does not follow their faith is doomed to an eternity of teeth gnashing. I’d rather be an altruistic, kind, and nonjudgmental person; believe as I please, and be proactive by obtaining dental implants.

Ms. Casey’s writing was emotive and atmospheric yet easy to follow and her storylines were well-plotted, shrewdly paced, taut with tension, maddeningly intriguing, loathsomely realistic, and sneakily unpredictable. I remain deeply curious about the details of Clara’s personal escape eight years prior. The Mormon sect that Clara’s family adhered to is a prime example of the idiocy of the devout who blindly follow teachings that allow and condone child abuse. Deplorable cretins such as this cause me to grind my teeth in the here and now, making those planned dental implants a probable need. 

About The Author

A novelist and award-winning journalist, Kathryn Casey is the author of eleven highly acclaimed true crime books and the creator of the Sarah Armstrong mystery series. Library Journal picked THE KILLING STORM as one of the best mysteries of 2010. Her latest true crime, IN PLAIN SIGHT, investigates the Kaufman County prosecutor murders, a case that made worldwide headlines. Casey has appeared on Oprah, 20/20, the Today Show, Good Morning America, the Biography Channel, Reelz, The Travel Network, Investigation Discovery, and many other venues. Ann Rule called Casey “one of the best in the true-crime genre.” 

Friday, June 5, 2020

Book Review: Fortuity (Transcend, #3) by Jewel E. Ann


Fortuity (Transcend, #3)
by Jewel E. Ann

Fortuity, an all-new inspirational and moving standalone contemporary romance from Wall Street Journal bestselling author Jewel E. Ann, is available now! 

Fortuity-Amazon (1)

Forty-something Gracelyn Glock is living the dream. No husband. No retirement plan. And since her self-imposed man-ban—no need to shave above her knees.

After a tragic accident, Gracelyn inherits her ten-year-old nephew. She signs a lease on a San Diego beach house and learns their neighbors for the summer are a sexy anatomy professor and his young daughter.

Professor Nathaniel Hunt has spent the last decade being a single dad . . . and not having sex.

So when he discovers Gracelyn has a peculiar outdoor stripping ritual, a million inappropriate thoughts fill his responsible mind.

When kisses are stolen, man-bans are broken, and summer comes to an end, will hearts stay in one piece and hope stay alive? Or will saying goodbye destroy everything?

Download your copy today or read for FREE on Kindle Unlimited! 

My Rating:

Favorite Quotes:

I’m retired from men. A series of unfortunate events forced me into early retirement. Death. Cheating. Houdini at the altar. I’m lucky like that.

“I’ve never had a boyfriend. And you haven’t had a girlfriend since Mom. It would be nice to practice a little before I start school this fall.” “Practice?” I tilt my head to the side. “Yes. If I get a boyfriend in school, I don’t want him to think I don’t know what I’m doing.” Kill. Me. Now… “It’s like when you try to get me to try something new to eat and I say I don’t like it. You say I can’t know that until I taste it. Well … I need a taste of a boyfriend.”

“It was the third strike. Three men have crushed me. I’ve officially retired from dating. I call it a man ban… How many strikes do you have?” I drum my fingers on the table. His lips corkscrew for a few seconds. “Two.” “See.”I point a finger at him. “You have one more chance. Don’t let it go to waste.” “Mmm …if that’s the case, I think I’ll save my third chance for the nursing home… Why not? A younger woman of course. Some hottie in her late eighties with her own teeth and who still wears red lipstick.” My smile threatens to crack my face. “Not me. If I had my last chance to use in the nursing home, I’d seduce a male nurse. We’d be the topic of all the gossip, and the other old biddies would hate me…”

Before I had the chance to fall in love. I dreamed of you. You didn’t have a face or a name. Your voice was simply a medley of my favorite love songs, the whisper in my head when reading my favorite poems about love. You were the reason I woke up two hours before school to do my hair and makeup in hopes that some boy would give me a second glance. It was you … the idea of you. The dream of you. The promise from my adoring mother that someday I would find my Romeo.

My Review: 

I cherished and reveled in every perfectly chosen word of this beguiling and engaging tale. I adored these characters to the nth degree, all of them. I adored them as much as I admire and covet their creator’s full listing. I haven’t read them all but she has never failed to delight or hold my interest with her crafty wit, and unique and indescribably stellar storytelling skills. Fortuity hit all the feels and while the characters’ personal histories were tragic and heart-squeezing, the overall emotional balance tipped more heavily toward the side of smirk filled levity, wistful smiles, and well-pleased sighs. This was crazy good writing and although I haven’t read the first two books in the series and didn’t need to, it is now a deep desire to come full circle with the total experience. Jewel E. Ann is da bomb!
About Jewel

Jewel is a free-spirited romance junkie with a quirky sense of humor.

With 10 years of flossing lectures under her belt, she took early retirement from her dental hygiene career to stay home with her three awesome boys and manage the family business. 

After her best friend of nearly 30 years suggested a few books from the Contemporary Romance genre, Jewel was hooked. Devouring two and three books a week but still craving more, she decided to practice sustainable reading, AKA writing. 

When she’s not donning her cape and saving the planet one tree at a time, she enjoys yoga with friends, good food with family, rock climbing with her kids, watching How I Met Your Mother reruns, and of course…heart-wrenching, tear-jerking, panty-scorching novels.

Connect with Jewel





Stay up to date with Jewel by joining her mailing list: 


Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Book Review: The Staycation by Michele Gorman

Staycation - BT banner

The Staycation, an all-new laugh-out-loud story of fun and a holiday escape close to home by USA Today bestselling author Michele Gorman is out now!

9781409190110 (3) (1)

Two families. One canceled flight. And a last-minute house swap...

Things get desperate for strangers Harriet and Sophie when they become stranded with their families in Heathrow's Terminal 5. Each woman has her own reason for really really really needing the family holiday they've anticipated for months. But Iceland's volcano has other plans for them. When their flights are cancelled, the families swap houses and discover that sometimes the best things in life happen close to home.

This ash cloud has a silver lining, even if no one can quite see it yet.

Staycation - AN

Download your copy today! 


Apple Books: 

Amazon Worldwide:



Google Play:

Add THE STAYCATION to Goodreads:

My Rating:

Favorite Quotes:

Dogs smelled, and they sniffed crotches and licked their bits and breathed their bitty breath into your face. She didn’t actually know what kind of dog it was, but she was sure it did all of those things.


Your crown is crooked, drama queen…


There were enough scented candles to light a Roman Catholic Mass, but not one had been lit anywhere in the house. Someone was either romantically optimistic or had a friend who thought their house could use the extra fragrance.


How wonderful to be a bird, she thought. Except for catching live rodents and tearing them up into little pieces for dinner and living on top of the whole family in a cramped nest. Still, the flying would be nice.


‘I loved having babies, the way they’re so warm and snuggly. I craved the feeling, the smell.’ ‘That’s just the hormones your body makes so you don’t eat your baby,’ Harriet said.


My Review:

Michele Gorman is a wickedly clever, highly observant, and insightful lexicographer. I adore her wry humor and perceptive storytelling, she weaves quite an amusing tale with red herrings and unexpected tricks thrown in for added kicks. I cringed, gnashed my teeth, and giggle-snorted my way through this engaging story featuring vastly different women.

Harriet and Sophie were polar opposites in most ways, although they were both going through a similar period of adjustment and significant marital concerns while away from home during a much-needed vacation. Harriet was controlling, rigid, uptight, impatient, selfish, thoughtlessly insensitive and blunt, painfully and obnoxiously OCD and mostly likely also a high functioning Aspergers. Sophie was easy-going, loosely organized, and eager to please. I enjoyed the dichotomy although Harriet was difficult for me to appreciate as well as being uncomfortably familiar as she was a judgmental cold fish with limited social skills and not someone I would choose to spend time with as I had already suffered this unfortunate fate during my first eighteen years of life. Yet Ms. Gorman tricked me into caring for and about her, which is a testament to her mad skills.

Meet Michele Gorman:

Michele writes comedies packed with lots of heart, best friends, and girl power. She is both a Sunday Times and a USA Today bestselling author, raised in the US, and living with her husband in London. Michele also writes cozy comedies under the pen-name, Lilly Bartlett. Lilly’s books are full of warmth, quirky characters, and guaranteed happily-ever-afters.

Connect with Michele: 







Monday, June 1, 2020

Book Review: Sister Dear by Hannah Mary McKinnon

Sister Dear 
by Hannah Mary McKinnon

In Hannah Mary McKinnon’s psychological thriller, SISTER DEAR (MIRA Trade; May 26, 2020; $17.99), the obsession of Single White Female meets the insidiousness of You, in a twisted fable about the ease of letting in those who wish us harm, and that mistake’s dire consequences.

The day he dies, Eleanor Hardwicke discovers her father – the only person who has ever loved her – is not her father. Instead, her biological father is a wealthy Portland businessman who wants nothing to do with her and to continue his life as if she doesn’t exist. That isn’t going to work for Eleanor.

Eleanor decides to settle the score. So, she befriends his daughter Victoria, her perfect, beautiful, carefree half-sister who has gotten all of life’s advantages while Eleanor has gotten none.

As she grows closer to Victoria, Eleanor’s obsession begins to deepen. Maybe she can have the life she wants, Victoria’s life, if only she can get close enough.

My Rating:

Favorite Quotes:


Her glacial tone would freeze hell over when she left this world. No way would she go anywhere but south when she did.


Today, all of those choices seemed as appealing as a bowl of hair soup.


Penelope had unearthed my cheekbones with the skill of a veteran archeologist.


I wasn’t just up shit creek without a paddle, I’d fallen out of the boat.


Malcolm looked as if he’d time-traveled from Wall Street circa 1985. Pin-striped suit, slicked-back hair— revealing a widow’s peak Dracula would’ve run through sunlight for— and a chunky monogrammed ring.


…if still waters ran deep, he was the human equivalent of the Mariana Trench.


My Review:


 I have been on a lucky streak lately and seem to be discovering a new favorite author every few days. I appear to be as fickle as an eighth-grade girl but it bares shouting that the clever Hannah Mary McKinnon is a wily minx.  This twisty thriller kept me taut with tension, nibbling on my cuticles, and feeling on edge due to the mousy main protagonist's out of character behaviors putting her at constant risk of discovery.  Eleanor was a binge eater who ate her emotions, something I well understand, and given the treatment she had received from her horrid harridan of a mother, Eleanor had a lot of them to swallow.  The storylines were oozing with apprehension, heartbreak, indecision, bad choices, inner conflicts, guilt, resentment, bitterness, indignation, triumphs, empowerment, duplicity, and an awe-inspiring and shocking conclusion that left me addled with the taste of ashes in my mouth while my gaping lips flapped like a goldfish who had jumped the tank– it was outstanding! 

About The Author

Author Website 

Twitter: @HannahMMcKinnon 

Instagram: @hannahmarymckinnon 

Facebook: @HannahMaryMcKinnon 


Hannah Mary McKinnon was born in the UK, grew up in Switzerland and moved to Canada in 2010. After a successful career in recruitment, she quit the corporate world in favor of writing, and is now the author of The Neighbors and Her Secret Son. She lives in Oakville, Ontario, with her husband and three sons, and is delighted by her twenty-second commute.