Book Review: Ex Appeal (Ponto Beach Reunion Book 3) by Cathy Yardley

Ex Appeal (Ponto Beach Reunion Book 3) by Cathy Yardley

A Romance published by Montlake (11/01/22)

Summary:

Vinh is on the fast track to make it big, until suddenly one of his accounts loses millions and the only one to blame is him. Or is he being set up? Locked out of the company and the accounts, Vinh will have no choice but to turn to the one person he trusts to hack the hacker, retrieve the money, and clear his name. Will she still be mad at him for breaking up with her ten years ago when her life was suddenly turned upside down or can he convince her to help him?

Emily was on track to graduate college, get a great job, and put her tech skills to use. But that was ten years ago, before her dad died, she dropped out of college to support her mother, and set aside her dreams. Now she works a tech support job, lives at home, and is barely making ends meet. When Vinh comes to her with a proposal, she wants to turn him down, but she could really use the money. She’s kept up with her hacking skills but is still angry with Vinh for the way he broke up with her all those years ago.

Keywords:

Romance, Friendship, Contemporary, Second Chance Romance, Exes, Hacker, Forced Proximity, Dual POV, Popularity, Heartbreak, Career Focused, Tech Support, Finances

My Review:

Another great Ponto Beach Reunion book! I absolutely loved the deep dive into both Vinh and Emily. They have real problems and are still not over each other. Emily is angry at Vinh for what he did. Vinh is still in love with her. The forced situation and forced proximity are the perfect setup to let this romance simmer and stew. The author is an expert at setting up situations between the main characters. 

Both Emily and Vinh are relatable and full of personality. I loved every time they were together and all the time they spent apart. I was rooting for them from the very beginning, even before I learned more about their previous breakup. 

From previous novels, I didn’t like Vinh. He seemed cold and distant and completely career-oriented and nothing more. That all changed when I read the chapters from his POV. The author truly brings him alive. 

I love capable characters who find themselves in bad situations. Emily is an excellent hacker with skills she hasn’t let get too rusty. She just got stuck living paycheck to paycheck to support her mom and their living-beyond-their-means big house that their dad mortgaged into debt to afford. There is a believable reason for all the choices Emily has made in the last ten years but as a whole the current situation she’s in is so sad. As a strong, capable, intelligent person she is stuck. She’s not just stuck in her situation; she’s stuck in her head. There are both internal and external factors holding her back and she grows so much during the course of this story. You’ll be rooting for her and for Vinh the whole time. 

This novel was published by Montlake on 11/01/2022 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 5.0

Links for more information:

Goodreads

Cathy Yardley’s Website

Book Review: Bloodless Ties (The Marionettes #3) by Katie Wismer

Bloodless Ties (The Marionettes #3) by Katie Wismer

A Dark Urban Fantasy Novel published by Ahimsa Press (11/15/22)

Summary:

Valerie’s blood deal with James Westcott to free herself from the wendigo curse has trapped her in other ways. She’s far from home and everyone she loves thinks she’s dead, including Reid. With Westcott hiding more secrets, can Valerie figure out a way around the blood deal to get home without getting more involved?

Keywords:

Urban Fantasy, Vampires, Witches, Paranormal, Romance, Sacrifice, Blood, Attack, Mystery, Friendship, Family, Love, Gothic Fiction, New Adult

My Review:

In this third book of the series, we really get to see more of Valerie outside of the sphere of the Marionettes and the estate. The book focuses on her grief and how stuck she is within the blood deal she made at the end of the last book. She is hopeless but spirited. We really get to see her fighting inner strength and spirit laced with her grief. While reading the book, it feels like a lot of emotions are happening and you get caught up in Valerie’s feelings. After finishing this book, I realized that not a lot happened plot wise in this novel. I didn’t mind that though because I enjoyed getting more into Valerie’s head and I always enjoy the way the author writes descriptions and builds up this world of the Marionettes.

My favorite part about the Marionettes’ series is the character development and the writing style of the author. I loved getting more of Valerie as well as Connor and some of the new characters that were introduced, like Cam. I really, really like how well the author writes broody characters. I also quite enjoyed the way the author writes about werewolves. My favorite parts of the book were in their camp.

The ending felt like it was written at a different time than the rest of the book as the tone seems to change slightly, and it does feel a tad rushed. Get ready for more unanswered questions at the end because there is another book coming!

This novel was published by Ahimsa Press 11/15/22 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 4.25

Links for more information:

Katie Wismer’s Website

Goodreads

Türkiye Trip October 2022

 

Hotel Locations in Turkey: $2426 for 13 nights and we spent an extra 2 nights locally in my partner’s mom’s custom-built apartment in Istanbul

• $1117 for 4 nights ($279/night) = Rixos Pera Hotel Istanbul
· 5-star hotel
· The hotel had a useful concierge service that helped get us reservations at the rooftop bar/restaurant, a hookah lounge to watch the soccer game on Sunday night, and a ride to the airport early in the morning when we left
· The bathroom smelled like old pipes/sewer

• $468 for 2 nights ($234/night) = Kapadokya hill hotel and spa
· 5-star hotel
· The room had no windows as we stayed underground in a cave room
· We were able to check in early and use their spa/hamam that same day
· We utilized their concierge service to book the hot air balloon experience and the VIP tour we took
· Our bathroom had a spa tub


• $472 for 3 nights ($157/night) = Ecclesia hotel Ölüdeniz
· 5-star hotel
· Spa tub in the room (not in the bathroom)
· I accidentally let the cat in the room when I left the door open for two minutes
· It rained hard one night and we lost our AC for the night


• $131 for 1 night = Doubletree Istanbul hotel
· 5-star hotel
· Walkable to the soccer stadium for the game


• $81 for 1 night = Gaziantep Şirehan hotel
· 5-star hotel
· The “non-smoking hotel” where people smoked in the rooms and it traveled into our room
· We left after one night because the smoke was overwhelming, the AC didn’t work well, and the Wi-Fi kept disconnecting to the point where it wasn’t functional


• $157 for 2 nights ($79/night) = Hilton Gaziantep
· 3-star hotel
· The best AC of them all!

 

Travel and Transportation!

~30 hours in planes (12-hour trip to Istanbul) – $1283 with seats selected in advance for the international flight + $375 for the three domestic flights
We took the bus, the subway, taxis, and Uber, as well as plenty of walking!
My favorite mode of transportation: the subway because it was comfortable and we could sit but also Taxis/Uber because we didn’t have to walk uphill!

20.15 TL/ Liter is $4.09/gallon

 

 

The food
• My favorite savory – Içli Köfte (Turkish Stuffed Meatball) that is either fried (shown below) or boiled


• Best desserts – katmer from Katmerci Zekeriya Usta and baklava from Baklavaci Zeki İnal


• Food to try: Lahmacun (Turkish pizza)


• Popular street food: simit (priced at 5 Turkish Lira = $0.27) and is sold from street carts. Simit used to be priced around 2 – 3 TL before inflation


• Another Favorite Savory: paçanga böreği = deep fried mix roll from the Hill Hotel Restaurant in kapadokya


• Another Favorite Savory – hotel buffet Syrnike (Russian pancake I think and not even Turkish food)


• And Another Favorite food item – Tavuk Göğsü from Sütiş Restaurant = Turkish milk pudding made with shredded chicken breast

Eating/Restaurants
• Ayran (yogurt drink) is popular, especially with meat dishes/kabobs, and is sometimes made in-house by blending up yogurt, water, and salt


• You finish your meal at most restaurants with a free cup of tea (sugar optional)
• You get a hand wipe post-meal at most restaurants as well


• A lot of restaurants use beautiful and intricately patterned copper as their dishware

• Bayramoğlu Döner – popular and best Döner with a line waiting at the door for a table

 

 

Experiences


• Fenerbaçe game – The security confiscated my chapstick. Nearly everyone was smoking (especially since it was such a tight game). The tickets for our section (what few of them were left when we were buying) were $40/each. We were not able to purchase the seats right next to each other but we were able to sit next to each other regardless as people often move around a little bit within their section.

• Paragliding – Babadag Mountain is one of the highest commercial launch sites in the world for paragliding! The take-off site for paragliding over Oludeniz Beach starts at a height of about 6,500 feet, The standard weight limit for Paragliding in Oludeniz is 110kg ( 242.5lbs


• Hot air balloon ride – 250 euros each. The average cost of a shared hot air balloon ride in Seattle, Washington, is $300. Our concierge was able to make a reservation the day before after calling 10 different agencies and he told us that there are over 100 different companies. Each balloon accommodates up to 20 passengers and our balloon had a mix of people from Colombia, Brazil, Sudan, and a few other countries. The ride lasts around 40-60 minutes. The balloon can only go up and down and directionally is pushed by the wind. The takeoff point will change depending on the wind and we were not airborne by sunrise partially due to the last-minute takeoff location confirmation. We landed on the road – after being dragged by rope out of an area with trees because again there is no steering.

 
• Rooftop bar with infinity pool and sitting pool – one of the loveliest rooftop bars I’ve been up to even though it was only the third story of the hotel

• Hamam as well as spa/massage

We visited The Cağaloğlu hamam which was constructed in 1741 and is the last hamam to be built after a long period during the Ottoman Empire. There is a women’s section and a men’s section (which is where you walk into upon entering the hamam). We visited the hamam in the Hill Hotel and Spa twice and had a ‘couples’ hamam. We also tried out the hamam spa at the Ecclesia hotel Ölüdeniz – the most ‘touristy’ version of hamam and though my partner and I both went at the same time, there was only one attendant so we were in the same room while the other was getting bathed.

We spent $86 for the “After Work” package for two and $81 for the “Best of Asia” package for two at the Hill Hotel and Spa. We spent $100 for the classic hamam that included a massage for two at the Ecclesia hotel Ölüdeniz. We spent $194.81 each for the “Sultan Mahmud The First” package at the Cağaloğlu hamam

 

Cultural sites


• Gaziantep – castle


• VIP local tour – underground city kaymakli

• VIP local tour – pottery demo at kapadokya ceramic

• VIP local tour – göreme open-air museum

• VIP local tour – fairy chimney lookout point

• VIP local tour – imagination lookout – devrent vadisi


• Grand Bazaar Istanbul


• Hagia Sophia (we didn’t go inside because the line was too long)


• Galata Tower


• Basilica Cistern

 

 

Museums

• 25 December Gaziantep Defense Heroism Panorama and Museum


• Gaziantep Zeugma Museum of Culture and Congress Center – remains of zeugma with lots of mosaics


• Madam Tussauds


• Miniaturk (I thought this was mini golf)

 

 

Misc


• Turkey is known for their street cats!


• There are also street dogs

 

Book Review: Wildseed Witch by Marti Dumas

Wildseed Witch by Marti Dumas

A Middle-Grade Fantasy Novel published by Amulet Books (05/10/22)

Summary:

Hasani is all about growing her makeup YouTube channel this summer and getting to 100 followers. When an emotional outburst sets a bridge covered in vines, she’ll have to change her summer plans. She’s offered a scholarship to a charm school for witches. And Hasani is a wildseed witch. It’s a whirlwind for her as they get her ready to go to this school and her arrival at Les Belles Demoiselles is just as chaotic. Hasani just learned she was a witch and doesn’t know how to control her powers, while most of the other girls have known they were witches their whole lives.

Keywords:

Magic, Witches, School, Charm School, Old-Money, Control, YouTube, Influencer, Makeup, Power, Influence, Family, Friendship, Bullying

My Review:

After arriving at the charm school, this book continually challenged my assumptions of what magic can be. Just like Hasani, I had to learn what magic looks like and how it can be controlled at Les Belles Demoiselles. And just like Hasani and her mother, I did not know how to pronounce this charm school. We both had a lot to learn! The author keeps the reader in the dark as much as Hasani is in the dark about what to do, where to go, how to behave, what’s right, what’s wrong, and most everything else! I felt her frustration and confusion. And she didn’t even know where the bathroom was. Hasani is clueless. The other girls think her ignorant and wild. The teachers are reserving judgment, mostly. I would be crying myself to sleep every night in this situation.

There are some big lessons to learn from reading this book about controlling emotions and learning restraint, making friends, etc. The lessons feel very intertwined with the story and the main character’s growth.

I loved the details about the setting. The book takes place in New Orleans and carries with it the historical weight of the area.

This novel was published by Amulet Books on 05/10/2022 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 4.5

Links for more information:

Goodreads

Marti Dumas’ Website

Book Review: The Beauty of Perhaps by Eryn Scott

The Beauty of Perhaps by Eryn Scott

A Romance Novel published by Kristopherson Press (05/02/17)

Summary:

Molly has her life together… Same dinner dates every week. Same boyfriend. Same job. Smooth and predictable. Until her boyfriend breaks up with her because she’s boring. No boyfriend, no job, and nothing holding her back from trying out some impulsivity in her life. She gets accepted for a teaching job on the remote Scottish island Lilliebrae. Will she defy her predictable-loving nature or learn to accept some adventure and newness in her life?

Keywords:

Chick Lit, Romance, Contemporary, Love at First Sight, Friendship, Scotland, Travel, Painting, Parents, Baggage

My Review:

This book felt like a coming of age for a middle-twenties protagonist – which I absolutely loved! Like a quarter-life crisis that happens post-college. It was so rewarding to watch Molly’s growth as she changed throughout this book. There was as much self-growth for Molly as there was romance, which I appreciated. It wasn’t just Molly going through growth, but also her romantic partner Gates. I was pleasantly surprised that both Molly and Gates were fleshed out and given depth as characters. They were each compelling and flawed in their own way.

I absolutely loved the setting. I was instantly transported to the island of Lilliebrae. I could see it in the picturesque views and feel it in the tone of the place and the way the local townsfolk talked and acted. At times the local brogue was a bit difficult to parse and it took me out of the story as I tried to interpret what the characters were saying.

I really enjoyed how unique each of the other minor characters was, especially all the children! This really added to the meatiness of the novel. Solid contemporary read.

This novel was published by Kristopherson Press on 05/02/2017 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 4.25

Links for more information:

Goodreads

Eryn Scott’s Website

Book Review: Daughter of Magic (The Daughter of Magic Trilogy Book 1) by Karen Eisenbrey

Daughter of Magic (The Daughter of Magic Trilogy Book 1) by Karen Eisenbrey

A YA Fantasy Novel published by Immortal Works (05/22/18)

Summary:

Luskell doesn’t think she has magic, even though her parents are both powerful wizards. They leave her behind in Deep River as they go to the city for their annual work trip as interpreters. Luskell has had strange dreams at night and during the day she starts to get into the small town feel of the place. She participates in gossip, makes new friends, and even names a new horse. Meanwhile, there’s something strange and concerning going on in the capital, but neither of Luskell’s parents can pin down what’s really going on. And then the strangest thing happens to Luskell and she decides to take action.

Keywords:

Coming of age, action, magic, wizards, transfiguration, spells, power, leader, small town, gossip, friendship, chores, sneaking out

My Review:

This fantasy is full of the YA feels. Luskell is your typical teenager. She rolls her eyes at her parents, argues with her mom, sneaks out, and speaks her mind. She is such a rebellious teenager who is headstrong, stubborn, acts before thinking, is competitive with others, and is impatient with herself. As soon as she thinks of an idea, she acts on it. On the other hand, she is brave and loyal and doesn’t pause to consider the potential danger and harm to herself if someone she loves is in danger. She is a YA main character to the max and I really enjoyed how well she is written and how much of a filled-out personality she has. Because Luskell (and other characters) are fully sketched out, I would enjoy reading more of this series.

I would also continue reading the next book in this trilogy because this first book has a hook beyond the in-depth characters. It has a plot that has action and intrigue. It has an arc that has a satisfying ending but also the potential to continue expanding the storyline and world through more books.

Though this book was a bit more difficult to get into at the beginning due to rapid character POV changes with almost every chapter, the writing style is easy to read and the world-building is slowly fleshed out. I had a hard time keeping the characters straight for a number of chapters but as the story slowly developed I became more and more engrossed and the characters and their relationships started to make more sense. Some of the characters shared names or name structures and most of them are introduced in the beginning.

Luskell is a main character who discovers her magic midway through the book and with a short training montage is able to quickly master several spells without issue. She is a main character who seems like she might be the most powerful wizard and it’s not that difficult (one afternoon of intense training) for her to learn to use her magic (to learn to use less power at one time). Since I was already invested in Luskell and the story and the dire situation, I looked past this trope but still noticed that it was happening. At this point in the book, I already loved the three teens and wanted them to succeed.

There is a hint of a romance and a potential love triangle, but this element is not given nearly as much attention as Luskell coming into her magic and her desire to use it immediately to help the ones she loves. Perhaps in further books, this romance will be more developed. Since the characters were my favorite part of the book, I would love to see where this romantic development goes.

This novel was published by Not a Pipe Publishing on 05/22/2018 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 4.25

Links for more information:

Goodreads

Karen Eisenbrey’s Website

Book Review: Strange Gods by Alison Kimble

Strange Gods by Alison Kimble

A YA Fantasy Novel published by Immortal Works (07/20/21)

Summary:

Spooky is at a summer camp for troubled teens. She’s waiting for The Change – a big moment that starts the rest of her life. Maybe sneaking out for her first kiss will be The Change. Instead, she gets pulled into another dimension and confronted with a trickster God. Either she tells him stories for the rest of her life or she finds a way to appease him and supply him with endless stories. After a few hours, she’s already hoarse. Can she talk her way out of her predicament?

Keywords:

Weird Mythology, Portal, Lessons Learned, Summer Camp, Troubled Teens, Bargain, Travel, Journey, Strange Gods

My Review:

What an extraordinary out-of-the-ordinary book that I didn’t even know I needed in my life! I absolutely adore well-written strange and creative books and this one is no exception. The characters – especially Spooky – were given depth, personality, and realism. I wanted to know what made Spooky tick. The fact that she’s at a camp that exploits the campers’ biggest fears added another dimension. What motivates Spooky to conform to her parent’s expectations? Why is everyone else in this camp? This camp is both a terrible place and a terribly fascinating place (to those not currently stuck there that is). The world-building drew me in immediately and the way the author slowly unraveled the mystery of this camp and some of the other campers’ backstories was expertly done.

 

It’s hard to believe this is a debut novel because it’s so well written and well edited. It’s fast-paced and has a definitive story arc. There are setbacks and obstacles. The main character has to learn her lesson along the journey. There are high stakes. Though the main plot is highly fantastical, the logic and the journey are very realistically written. The characters eat and never forget their bruises or their snark.

 

If you enjoy a book that isn’t totally mainstream but a little creepy and strange, you’ll love this YA novel.

 

This novel was published by Immortal Works on 07/20/2021 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 5.0

Links for more information:

Goodreads

Allison Kimble’s Website

Book Review: In Her Way by Eryn Scott

In Her Way by Eryn Scott

A Romantic Suspense Novel published by Kristopherson Press (09/08/15)

Summary:

Julep is in the midst of launching her first business – a dentist’s office. Everything is going to plan until it isn’t.

Keywords:

Chick Lit, Romance, Mystery, Contemporary, Love at First Sight, Dentist, Friendship

My Review:

The characters were not that interesting. I didn’t feel very invested in them or the outcome of their relationships. I did not relate to them or care what happened to them. They felt flat and with very little depth. The main character’s thoughts were too surface level and there was too much inner monologuing and speaking directly to the reader.
I wanted more action and less telling. Even with what little was going on (there was a definitive beginning, middle, and end) I just didn’t feel engaged in the story. There didn’t seem to be much going on in the beginning half of the story and by the time the main plot was revealed, I just didn’t care. It was cliche, not very well thought out, and not very well written. It didn’t feel like there were any stakes in the first half and by the time there were stakes, they didn’t feel believable.
Kaylee and the way she was written annoyed me the most. She didn’t feel realistic. It seemed like she was the glue holding the plot together amidst this laughable romance between Andrew and Julep. I wouldn’t have finished if I wasn’t reading a physical book.
I loved the premise of the book but the execution fell far short.

This novel was published by Emlin Press on 09/08/2015 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 2.50

Links for more information:

Goodreads

Eryn Scott’s Website

Book Review: The Kraken of Cape Madre (Lorestalker #2) by J.P. Barnett

The Kraken of Cape Madre (Lorestalker #2) by J.P. Barnett

A Thriller/Suspense Novel published by Evolved Publishing LLC (06/03/19)

Summary:

Spring Break should be a time for relaxing and having fun, but it’s not long before Miriam saves another spring breaker from some mysterious water monster. The town doesn’t want to panic but soon teenagers start disappearing and it seems this unknown Kraken may be the cause. Can Miriam, trained as a monster hunter, crack this case or will it be the death of her?

Keywords:

Summer Vacation, Sea, Ship, Boat, Suspense, Thriller, Victims, Blood, Monster, Monster Hunter, Fishermen, Small Town, Police, Murder, Disappearances

My Review:

I really liked the fast, tight pacing of this book. I also really enjoyed the descriptions of the sea creature and the way she attacked her victims. This monster felt so real and lifelike and somehow utterly realistic. For those who enjoy swimming in the ocean, you might think twice after reading this novel.

I love the gorgeous cover. The fonts, colors, and art style seem perfect.

It does seem like the novel straddles YA and Middle Grade. Some things are simplified and surface level while other times the tone is darker. Miriam felt older at times and younger at other times. I couldn’t quite seem to gauge her age.

I was rubbed the wrong way when an explanation for something was based on females vs. males and the implicit and accepted idea that there are only two genders. This may be just a simplified explanation for this beginning book of the series and maybe the author will go into more depth later but it seemed like a throwaway explanation. I’m tired of the “It’s because (s)he’s a (wo)man” explanation in books and movies. It’s also a surface-level explanation that’s an easy guess for the reader/viewer and a letdown moment for the climax/resolution.

This book was like Jaws meets Stranger Things, entertaining and easy to read.

This novel was published by Emlin Press on 06/03/2019 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 3.75

Links for more information:

Goodreads

J.P. Barnett’s Website

Book Review: Kissing Games (Kinloch Series, #3) by Evie Alexander

Kissing Games (Kinloch Series, #3) by Evie Alexander

A Comedic Romance Novel published by Emlin Press (09/22/22)

Summary:

Valentina has worked her whole life as an actress – taking small parts and demoralizing roles alike – so she will have enough money set aside for her dream. Charlie is a bodyguard fed up with almost everyone, especially the nitwits he sometimes works for. He takes a job to protect Kinloch from the crazy Hollywood crew, meeting Valentina on the way. Opposites attract, but will that be enough to overcome Hollywood and disaster?

Keywords:

Romance, Contemporary, Standalone, HEA, Scotland, Castle, Sweet, Sex Scenes, Humor, Opposites Attract, Hollywood

My Review:

I was pleasantly surprised that this third book in the series is almost a companion novel to the second book, Hollywood Games, and some of the plot points match up between the books. I absolutely love seeing some scenes and characters and action from this new book and a new point of view. Even getting to know the main characters and side characters from book two through Valentina and Charlie in book three was delightful!

This third book doesn’t let up with the fast-paced plot and steamy scenes. The idea and main plot, just like the previous books in the series, was well-executed, simple, and clean yet there’s always something going on.

I am very drawn to the romance, the writing style, and the intriguing plot of the Kinloch Series.

If you love over-the-top dreamy protagonists – even flawed they seem so unattainable in their perfection – you will absolutely enjoy this book and this series.

This novel was published by Emlin Press on 09/22/2022 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 4.75

Author Bio:

Evie Alexander is the award-winning author of best-selling sexy romantic comedies with a very British sense of humor. She takes a method approach to her work, believing her capacity to repeatedly fail at life and love is what has given her such a rich supply of material for her writing.

Her interests include reading, eating, saving the world, and fantasizing about people who only exist between the pages of her books. She lives in the West country with her family.

Links for more information: