Haze by Rebecca Crunden

Hello Kittens! For the first time in the short life of this blog, I’m recommending an independently published title for you. It’s promoted as a paranormal mystery romance, so it hits several genres in one go. It’s pretty short but it packs a lot of story into those pages. It’s different from most of what I’ve read lately and I really liked that about it. For some reason I’ve been on a YA fantasy kick and while I love those books, I just needed something different. This was the kind of story that made me wonder why I don’t seek out more Indie author titles. There are so many great stories out there that don’t go through “traditional” publishing channels. Give it a try if you’re looking for something different!

Title: HazeHaze

Author: Rebecca Crunden

Author website: https://rebeccacrunden.com/

Publisher: Independently Published

Publish date: August 6, 2018

ISBN: 9781985364288

Buy the Book: Amazon


This book opens with 2 young boys named Erik and Miles attempting a magical ritual in Latin so that Erik can try to talk to his recently deceased mother. They are both disappointed, but not necessarily surprised, when it doesn’t work. Little do these boys know, this seemingly innocent act will change their adult lives forever.

When we flash forward in time to nine years later we learn that Erik has fallen in love with a girl named Eliza and they are planning to get married. Shortly after they make these plans, Eliza gets a strange phone call from a girl named Paige who claims to be Erik’s ex-girlfriend and says she has something important to tell Eliza in person. The only problem? Erik tells Eliza that Paige committed suicide years ago. So who is calling and what message are they trying to give Eliza?

This story is a pretty wild ride from there. It’s a relatively short novel that I finished in a day, but the pacing is fast. We make a couple of leaps in time that help with that, first going 9 years into the future, then 5 years later, and so on. You get a good picture of Erik, Eliza, and Miles’ lives at each stage. The characters aren’t always likeable (except for Miles, who is excellent comedic relief throughout), but their stories are complex and they have emotional depth.

Why I liked it:

The story kept me guessing and for a lot of the book I wasn’t sure how heavily the paranormal was going to influence the outcome. I really like a story that keeps me on my toes. Also, I really loved Eliza and Erik’s romance. It was sweet and felt very real and I felt invested in what happened to them.

I also loved that the paranormal was introduced without a ton of backdrop world building. There’s a time and a place for that, but this story didn’t need it. When paranormal elements were introduced, I just accepted them and moved on. I liked that I didn’t have to get some intense history lesson of magic to understand what was going on.

What I would like to change:

Several people on Goodreads listed this story as a mystery. I’m going to have to agree to disagree with them on this. As a mystery, it isn’t as strong, but if you think of it as a romance with paranormal elements: we’ve got a winner.

When I thought it was a mystery I was expecting the traditional elements of mystery, but once I changed my thinking to view this as a romance, it was fantastic. It had everything that I was looking for in a romance. The characters had difficult backstories and impediments to their love, but their feelings for each other remained strong throughout. The characters were flawed but a good match for each other.

There needs to be a follow up that is just Miles. Seriously. That character is gold.

Disclaimer: I received an electronic copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

My library rating: From a library perspective, I would say you would need to know your audience for this one before recommending it. The book includes past self-harm, a fair amount of cursing, and frequent drug use. Any of those things alone might have made this a 2 glasses of lemonade book, but because it’s got so many potentially tricky elements, I had to put it at:

1 glass of lemonade= a book that can only be recommended to someone whose reading taste you know well, like a best friend.  There may be a fair amount of curse words, spicy sex scenes, or potentially morally repugnant behavior.  This does not mean that the book is bad, just that the audience might be a little more limited.

My personal preference rating: I gave this title 3.5 stars (I round down on Goodreads). It took me about 30% of the book to get really invested in the characters, but I really liked the ending and I liked the book overall.

Get A Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert

Hello Kittens! Are you in the part of the country getting a weird cold snap right now? Me too! But no worries, because this next book out to warm you right up. Definitely steamy! I’ve been making a concerted effort to add more fiction featuring diverse characters and by diverse authors into my book diet and this book checks off both of those boxes. This book came out back in November, but the next title in the series is coming out in June (assuming no publishing delays), so it’s a great time to pick this one up. The writing is modern and funny and you’ll be rooting for these characters all the way.

Title: Get a Life, Chloe BrownGet a Life, Chloe Brown (The Brown Sisters, #1)

Author: Talia Hibbert

Author website: https://www.taliahibbert.com/

Publisher: Avon

Publish date: November 5th, 2019

ISBN: 9781643854786

Buy the Book: Amazon, Barnes and Noble


After a near-death experience, Chloe Brown begins rethinking her life’s accomplishments, or lack thereof. She decides that maybe her family has the right idea in encouraging her to, “get a life”. So what’s a girl in this situation to do? Create a get-a-life list, of course! Chloe’s list includes enjoying a drunken night out, riding a motorcycle, going camping, and having, “meaningless but thoroughly enjoyable sex”, among other things. You know, the average. But first, she needs to move out of her family’s house and get her own place.

That part actually turns out to be pretty easy, but once she moves to her new apartment complex, she runs into the prickly building manager, Redford. Chloe finds his presence thoroughly unpleasant and doesn’t understand why no one else in her life can see how utterly annoying he is.

For his part “Red” isn’t exactly enamored with the new diva living in the complex either. She treats him as decidedly less-than in all of their interactions, and every time he turns around he seems to be running into her. And what’s more, he’s pretty sure he caught her spying on him while he was painting in his apartment. As Red’s annoyance builds, so does his attraction to Chloe. Maybe she’s not as bad as he first thought, but she’s definitely peculiar and he doesn’t need that kind of energy in his life. Red’s just beginning to put his life together after a really bad break-up and he does not need a complicated woman like Chloe in his life…but he can’t seem to stay away.

Chloe was definitely watching him paint. After all, what kind of guy paints in his apartment shirtless with the blinds open. Plus, this fulfills the “do something bad” portion of her get-a-life list. Red is a harmless distraction, but not a friend and definitely not boyfriend material. Chloe tried the boyfriend thing before and it went horribly wrong. Chloe has enough to deal with in her life without adding a complication like Redford. Red however, is persistent in changing her opinion of him…and he might just be worth re-writing her list for.

Why I liked the book:

I really like how the author handled the interracial relationship aspect of the story. I also appreciated reading a story where the main character is suffering from chronic illness. The story emphasizes how Chloe’s fibromyalgia impacts her life from pre-diagnosis to now. Hibbert spends a decent amount of time talking about how a diagnosis of a chronic illness that is difficult to manage even with medication can take a toll on the sufferer’s personal relationships. Despite all of the hardship, Chloe is still a lovable character with a strong will. I think readers are going to love her and her sisters.

Red comes across as an imperfect, but still really good guy. He is the kind of guy that most girls would drool over, but he’s got baggage from a prior relationship and he’s drifting in his life right now. Above all, I appreciate that as a character, he didn’t struggle with the caregiver nature of the situation. He presents as understanding of Chloe’s limits without pushing her unnecessarily. Both characters have something to learn about themselves and each other.

What I would like to see changed:

Chloe’s sisters come across a little shallow, even though they are also very compassionate about her life. I’m looking forward to seeing Hibbert explore deeper parts of their characters in the rest of the series.

Also, can we just get a book about their grandmother? Because she sounds like someone readers would enjoy getting to know.

Disclaimer: No disclaimer needed. I chose this title for my Book of the Month selection back in November and finally got around to reading it.

My library rating: There are a few pretty spicy sex scenes in this one. It’s a romance after all! But between those, a some indiscriminate curse words sprinkled throughout the book, I’d have to be cautious about recommending this one at work. I would maybe give it a shot for people who tell me they enjoyed The Kiss Quotient or The Rosie Project. Interestingly enough for my rating system, one of my best friends recommended this title to me.

1 glass of lemonade. A book that can only be recommended to someone whose reading taste you know well, like a best friend. There may be a fair amount of curse words, spicy sex scenes, or potentially morally repugnant behavior. This does not mean that the book is bad, just that the audience might be a little more limited.

My personal preference rating: I gave this title 4 stars. It’s sweet and sexy and features diverse characters, so what’s not to love?

Reading Group Guide and Read-a-Like suggestions.

What You Wish For by Katherine Center

Hello Kittens! My read-a-palooza continues with a women’s fiction title this time. I came across Katherine Center’s work a couple of years ago and was blown away by it. I have a confession to make though…I picked out the first book because it had a stunning cover. Center had already published several novels at that time, but How to Walk Away had a unique cover style that has carried through with her last couple of publications. This title won’t be coming out for a few more months, but that gives you time to catch up on Center’s other titles. I admit that this wasn’t my favorite of her books, but it was still very good and I think that people will enjoy escaping into these types of novels right now.

Title: What You Wish ForWhat You Wish For

Author: Katherine Center

Author website: http://katherinecenter.com/

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Publish date: July 14th, 2020

ISBN: 9781250219367

Buy the Book: Amazon, Barnes and Noble

Katherine Center’s newest novel, What You Wish For, focuses on a young Librarian named Samantha who is working at a private school. When her boss, who is also a mentor and friend, passes away unexpectedly, Sam’s life is thrown for a loop. She’s barely recovered from the funeral when she gets the news that the replacement principal for her school is a man that she had a major crush on several years back. As in, a crush that was so bad that she fled the state to get over him. She remembers him as a goofy and lovable guy who was a great teacher, but she worries that once she sees him again, all of the old feelings are going to come rushing back.

As Sam struggles to adjust to so many changes in her life, Duncan (her former heartthrob and current boss) settles into his new position. This Duncan, however, is nothing like the person Sam remembers. This Duncan is hyper-focused on school security, increasing the school’s security measures at the expense of everything else. As Sam realizes that the school she loves and her mentor’s legacy is in danger of being destroyed by Duncan, she prepares to fight the battle of her life. She works to forget the man that she once knew so that she can stand up to the “new Duncan” and convince him that his efforts are misguided when it comes to this school. She’s ready to fight for her students and her colleagues, but when she discovers some things in Duncan’s past that help explain his demeanor now, she’ll have to fight just as hard to save the person he once was before he’s gone forever.

This book covers a lot of ground in a relatively short period of time. It’s a quick read with a lot of emotional depth. The characters are all dealing with grief in different forms and both Samantha and Duncan have experience major transformations over the course of the story. The setting is a big part of the story, since most of the action takes place within the private school, but descriptions of the school and its history do not bog down the narrative. There’s even a lovable canine for readers who like that kind of thing.

Center’s books tend to focus on emotional development and characters who survive and thrive when the deck is stacked against them. The main character, Samantha, has epilepsy, and I appreciated how her emotional responses to how people treated her as a result of her epilepsy were just as important to the story as the disorder itself was. At the same time, the story only narrowly focuses on that plot line and thankfully doesn’t try to deeply educate the reader on the medical aspects of epilepsy (there’s a time and a place for that kind of reading.)

I’ve read Katherine Center’s last two books, How to Walk Away and Things You Save in a Fire, so I had an idea of what I was in for. This book doesn’t rank as high for me as her previous two did. Samantha’s story did still pull at my heart strings, and I made it almost all the way through the story before I was reduced to tears (a feat that happened much earlier in the previous novels). Ultimately, I felt that we spent too long being primed to hate Duncan in this book. He is portrayed and cold and isolated for more than half of the book and it made it hard for me as a reader to want to root for him in the end. This was partially due to how the passage of time was utilized in the book because the first half of the book took place over the course of a few weeks while the second half of the book, especially the parts regarding the efforts to rehabilitate the old Duncan, felt like we were fast-forwarding through weeks and months to reach the conclusion. I also really liked the drama that Tina and Kent’s characters added to the story, but I felt like their conclusions were rushed as well. It seemed unlikely that Tina would have such a significant change of heart regarding Samantha.

Honestly though, those issues are minor. This was a great read that is an easy recommendation to patrons. Center’s backlist constitutes solid recommendations as well and I fully expect that Katherine Center will remain an author whose releases are go-tos for me.

Disclaimer: I received an electronic galley of this title from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

My rating:

lemonade_iconlemonade_iconlemonade_iconlemonade_iconlemonade_icon5 glasses of lemonade= you could recommend this book to anyone.  There is nothing in here that is going to upset anyone and you could start handing it out on street corners.  (This kind of book is a Librarian’s dream.  As much as we love good literature, suggesting a book for someone can be nerve-wracking work that can backfire BIG TIME.)

While there is a brief discussion of school violence here, I don’t think it is graphic enough to put off the majority of readers. I think this title is recommendable on a grand scale. The romance isn’t overwhelming and the story is sweet.

The Bromance Book Club by Lyssa Kay Adams

Update 5/14/20: The Bromance Book Club has been optioned by Netflix, according to the author: https://twitter.com/lyssakayadams/status/1255857707405529088

Hello Kittens! Quarantine is weird y’all. The one positive is that I am catching up on some long overdue reading. I was granted access to our next book several months back on NetGalley and it ended up languishing on my E-reader for the next few months. In fact, by the time I got around to it, the second book in this series had already come out, but better late than never. This book combined something that I love: baseball, with something that I don’t read a lot of: romance. While the book is light on the baseball and heavy on the romance, it was still a refreshing change in my reading game, and I’ll be picking up the next book in the series whenever my library re-opens. It’s a strange sensation for a librarian to be without a library for so long.

Title: The Bromance Book ClubThe Bromance Book Club (Bromance Book Club, #1)

Author: Lyssa Kay Adams

Author website: http://www.lyssakayadams.com/

Publisher: Berkley

Publish date: November 5, 2019

ISBN: 9781984806092

Buy the Book: Amazon, Barnes and Noble

Gavin Scott has screwed up his marriage. He’s not sure how, but he has, and now his wife wants him out of the house. We meet him as he overindulges in drink at the hotel where he now resides. A group of his professional baseball teammates and few as yet unknown-to-him extras tag along and offer him a chance to get his wife, Thea, back. He doesn’t believe that is really possible at that point, but he’s willing to try anything. He truly loves Thea and he doesn’t want to lose his two beautiful twin daughters either. His friends let him in on a secret club that’s been operating right under his nose: a book club for men that exclusively reads romance novels. These guys have discovered the shocking truth of romance novels: that they are written for women and contain nuggets of wisdom that might be useful to men in terms of understanding what women want. At first Gavin is hostile and skeptical of the idea, but he wants Thea back, and he’s willing to give it a try.

Thea has put up with a lot since marrying Gavin. Being a professional baseball players wife comes with significant social expectations, and Thea really doesn’t fit it. Fed up with the way that the other wives and girlfriends have treated her and frustrated with Gavin’s absences, both physically and emotionally, she has drawn her line in the sand. Thea is ready to move on from that life and embrace the dreams that she put on hold when she met Gavin. With the support of her sister, Thea agrees to an ultimatum with Gavin that will get him out of her life for good.

This story was both humorous and extremely sexy. There’s a lot of description of what goes on in the bedroom, especially since that is a central conflict in the story. There’s also a story within the story, which is the romance novel that Gavin is reading while trying to remedy the situation with Thea. In addition to the romance storyline, we also get to know Thea as she embraces her new life and comes to terms with the past that made her so hesitant to live out a fairytale. Of the two main characters, I definitely preferred reading about what was going on with her embracing her own power as opposed to Gavin getting over his ego to understand that he neglected her. It’s always nice to see a romance novel tackle the bigger issues in relationships, and complacency in marriage, while not unique, is certainly important.

I loved the concept of men treating romance novels as though they were textbooks. To a certain extent, it’s a realistic option for men who are trying to figure out how to communicate with women. I like that Adams is addressing the problems that arise when women think relationships are going to turn out like romance novels and then are disappointed in reality. By the time I got around to reading this galley, the second book in the series had just released, and according to Amazon, there’s going to be a third addition to the series releasing in October. Adams definitely isn’t wasting any time, and it looks like the second book in the series extrapolates a romance that was hinted at in the first book.

All in all, I think romance readers are going to enjoy this addition to the canon. The book got great reviews when it came out and has topped several recommended romance reading lists since then.

Disclaimer: I received an electronic copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

My rating:

1 glass of lemonade= a book that can only be recommended to someone whose reading taste you know well, like a best friend.  There may be a fair amount of curse words, spicy sex scenes, or potentially morally repugnant behavior.  This does not mean that the book is bad, just that the audience might be a little more limited.

It was a good read, but there are sex scenes every few chapters, so you need to really know what someone is looking for in a book before you recommend this one. Also be aware that there is a little bit of emotional abuse from one of the character’s childhoods.

Sisters by Choice by Susan Mallery

Hello Kittens! I hope everyone is adjusting to life under quarantine as best as they can. I have to admit that I am starting to go a little stir crazy. As much as I love reading, eye-strain is real, so even I have to take a break every now and again. Things are so off-balance for me that I did something that I have not done in a really long time…two things actually. I accepted a book recommendation from someone who’s tastes I know are different from mine and I started a book that was in a series without knowing anything about the series or having read any of the previous books. It turned out to be a great move. Readers, I stayed up all night to finish this book. I literally read the whole thing in a 12 hour span with a few breaks in between. I was up until 4am because I couldn’t make myself put it down (although it probably didn’t hurt that I knew I didn’t have to worry about going to work that morning). This one came out a little over two months ago now and it wasn’t really on my radar, but it is a sweet and simple read that I think is just the ticket for these stressful times. Pick it up if you get the chance.

Title: Sisters by ChoiceSisters by Choice (Blackberry Island, #4)

Author: Susan Mallery

Author website: https://www.susanmallery.com/

Publisher: Mira (imprint of Harlequin)

Publish date: February 11, 2020

ISBN: 9780778310020

Buy the Book: Amazon, Barnes and Noble

I should start off by revealing that I am not a Susan Mallery fan. I don’t have anything against her, I just tend to prefer a grittier kind of writing and I’m not a huge romance reader. That being said, i’ll be giving her releases a little more of my attention in the future. I don’t know why, but I had pegged her in my mind as more of a Danielle Steel-type writer. This book actually reads more like a Jenny Colgan novel, so if you like her work, definitely give this one a try. Also, if the world is just all too much right now, this is a great escape.

We start off by meeting Sophie Lane, a type-A personality who is on an unimaginative and fairly uninteresting second date. Then she gets a phone call that changes her entire life. The business that she has built from the ground up has just gone up in flames. No one was hurt, but she’s going to have to start all over again, and to make matters worse, when she relocates to a new factory to get started, none of her former employees are willing to go with her. Fortunately for Sophie, the new location is in her hometown, a sweet little coastal area of Blackberry Island, Washington. Who needs loyal employees when she’s got family, right?

Kristine Fielding is Sophie’s cousin and long-time Blackberry Island resident. She is married with three young sons and seemingly has the perfect home life. She also has a small successful baking business on the side that she runs out of her home kitchen. She does it all… but her boys are growing up and she’s starting to want more. When a local property that’s perfect for a bakery storefront comes on the market, she desperately wants to expand her baking dream. She does the research and prepares to discuss the plan with her husband. She’s supported his dreams for their entire marriage, so he’ll be happy to help her build hers, right?

Amber Sitterly is Sophie’s cousin. Amber and her daughter, Heather, begin working for Sophie once she gets her factory up and running, but just because they’re family doesn’t mean all is right in paradise. Amber has a victim mentality about all aspects of her life, nothing is good enough for her, she deserves more than she gets, and she shouldn’t have to work hard for any of it. Heather supports her mother, depleting her savings to give her mother what she wants, but Heather has bigger dreams. She wants to get away from her mother and her negative influence and make something more of her life. Heather works hard and sees working for Sophie as an amazing learning opportunity, as long as Amber doesn’t screw it up for both of them. Amber wouldn’t do anything to undermine Heather or hurt Sophie’s business, right?

And then there’s Dugan. He’s a sexy tai chi instructor who might be just the relaxing no-strings man that Sophie needs. He’s simple and good in bed and seems to be willing to keep their relationship in the “with benefits but no emotional attachments” category. At the same time, he seems to know a lot about her business, and he’s always butting in with advice that she didn’t ask for. When it turns out that Dugan’s more than a pretty face, Sophie has trouble fighting the urge to cut her losses and move on.

This is book 4 in the Blackberry Island novels, and despite having not read any of the other novels, I was able to follow the story line without confusion. Actually, this book was so engaging that I may be picking up the other books in the series the next time that I get a chance. My one issue, if you can call it that, is that these characters are prone to making the same mistakes over and over again, which stretches the believability aspect a little. But that was it. If you are looking for a good escapist novel over the next few weeks, this one would be a good option.

Disclaimer: None needed this time. I picked up this title from the library pre-quarantine.

My rating:

lemonade_iconlemonade_icon2 glasses of lemonade= a book that you could probably recommend to family and close friends.  They may not like everything that’s in it, but they’re not going to start sending you cards with holy scripture written in them as messages to get you back on the path of righteousness after reading them either.

This was a great book but it definitely has a few steamy scenes. Unless you know the person, I would be cautious about a recommendation without a heads up about the steam-factor.