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Wednesday, August 23, 2017

At Wave's End by Patricia Perry Donovan

Setting: New Jersey
Genre: Women's Fiction
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Release Date: August 15, 2017

When Hurricane Irene hit Vermont in 2011, the storm left many areas in tatters. You can still see signs of the hurricane's damages when you're driving on some roads and in some towns. Situations were just as bad, if not worse, along much of the East Coast during Hurricane Sandy. At Wave's End: A Novel is based on Hurricane Sandy.

Rising chef Faith Sterling loves her work in an up-and-coming Manhattan restaurant. Her boss may have borrowed money from her to get it off the ground, but the restaurant's starting to thrive. Hurricane Nadine floods the restaurant and leaves her boss figuring out what to do next.

Meanwhile, Faith's headed to Wave's End, New Jersey, to talk some sense into her mom. Her mom wrote an essay and won a bed and breakfast on the Jersey Shore. The same hurricane pummels the area where the bed and breakfast is located. Faith uses her unplanned break from work to pitch in and help out after many residents are stranded and have no place to live.

As Faith dives in, she starts to see her mom in a new light. Secrets are revealed, and Faith finds herself enjoying this beach town but questioning all she's known. Faith's always wanted more. Now that she feels like she's part of a community, she learns that nothing may be as it seems and that the inn's future may be in jeopardy. She's never really believed in her mom's whims. Is this bed and breakfast even worth fighting for?

Strengths and Weaknesses

Faith's not my favorite character and that made it tough to love this book. She's a bit obnoxious honestly. My annoyance with her started quickly with her complaints about her friend's pregnancy and having to find a new apartment. From there, it was "my mom's an idiot" and "great now I have to go save my mom from horrible business decisions." Her attitude bugged me from the start.

With that in mind, why did I keep reading it? I l loved some of the minor characters. Connie, Faith's mom, is a strong woman. I also liked the original owner, Maeve. She may not have been as business savvy as the others, but when it came to an emotional connection, she won me over. I also loved the single mom who moves into the bed and breakfast along with her troubled teen. I felt a connection to all of them and wanted to see how things played out.

RTR's Bottom Line

I've been an advocate for most of the Lake Union Publishing novels to reach my desk. This one is another strong contender. Even with my annoyance with Faith, the setting, minor characters, and the community had me hooked. It's a sweet, easy read that leaves you feeling content.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Art of Keeping Secrets by Rachael Johns

Setting: Australia and NYC
Genre: Women's Fiction
Publisher: MIRA
Release Date: August 29, 2017

Emma, Flick, and Neve developed a tight friendship when their children all started high school. A trip to NYC is about to change all of their lives.

Emma, a divorced mom of three, deals with her ex and his much younger new wife more often than she likes. She struggles to make ends meet, while her ex, Max, buys their kids everything they want, including a vacation in Hawaii. All of the stress and headaches Emma's been dealing with are too much. When her friends drag her off to NYC, she's more than eager to go. She just doesn't know how much this trip is going to change her future.

Neve's a single mom. Her son wants to know more about his dad, and Neve realizes she's hidden the truth for too long. It's been so long that she doesn't know how to share the truth with her friends or her son.

Flick is happily married. Her marriage is the thing that her friends wish they could have. Flick's also hiding a secret, and it's a secret that has her at a loss over what to do.

As secrets are revealed, their friendship may or may not survive. The Art of Keeping Secrets takes a close look at friendships, secrets, and the changes that both can bring to a person's life.

Strengths and Weaknesses

I grew to like every character in The Art of Keeping Secrets and was sad to see the story end. It felt a little abrupt. I wouldn't mind seeing them reunite. The abrupt feeling to the ending was the only real downfall.

The writing moves quickly. One of the secrets took me by surprise, but the other two didn't. They did, however, draw me in. I felt for each woman and wanted to see how things turned out.

RTR's Bottom Line

There's a bit of a Rosamund Pilcher feel to The Art of Keeping Secrets. It's not quite like her writing, but the relationships and multiple layers make me think of her books. If you like books with multiple characters, multiple plots, and the tie of friendship keeping it all linked, you'll love this one.

Monday, August 21, 2017

All Things New by Lauren Miller

Setting: California and Colorado
Genre: Teen Fiction
Publisher: Three Saints Press
Release Date: August 1, 2017

At 17, Jessa Gray's had enough experience with panic attacks and anxiety disorder that she could write a book. She's lost a number of friends due to it. Her boyfriend was the only solid in her life, but she overhears him cheating on her and her world falls apart.

If that's not enough for this teen to handle, on the drive home, in the middle of a panic attack, an SUV runs a red light and crashes into her. She's left with many broken bones, brain swelling, and lots of scars. She's also left with a condition where she's unable to form pictures in her head, and everyone she encounters has scars and burns across their face that aren't really there. When her dad asks if she'd like to move to Colorado to live with him for a while, she jumps at the chance.

In Colorado, she's befriended by twin siblings, Hannah and Marshall. Hannah's very serious and dedicated to her music, while Marshall is her polar opposite. Marshall is a little goofy, very charming, and living life to the fullest despite having a hole in his heart. He's also exactly what Jessa seems to need to spur her into facing her issues.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Oh, how I sympathized with Jessa. I was older when my first panic attack hit, but my son wasn't. He was about her age. I saw pieces of both of us in her character. If you don't understand panic attacks and/or anxiety disorder, read All Things New. Lauren Miller paints a very genuine, very real look into anxiety.

When I first read the description, I had an idea of where things would go. I was pleasantly surprised. It took a few twists that I didn't see. Some of the situations were easy to predict, but others were not. I ended up enthusiastically watching Jessa grow and learn with each hurdle she faced.

RTR's Bottom Line

With a touch of romance and a very emotional look at mental illness, All Things New caught my interest and held it from start to finish. If you're looking for a strong heroine who never sees herself as strong, don't miss this book.