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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.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Keep You Safe by Melissa Hill

Setting: Ireland
Genre: Women's Fiction
Publisher: MIRA
Release Date: August 22, 2017

Melissa Hill paints an emotional tale of the anti vaccs vs. pro vaccs stance. It's a topic that draws very strong opinions, including my own. I know someone who suffers from an immunodeficiency, her life could be jeopardized by children and adults who carry contagious diseases. She stays locked up in her home the majority of the time, as she finds it safer than going out into a world where many kids are no longer vaccinated against things like polio, measles, etc. That's essentially what you have at play in Keep You Safe.

Kate O'Hara never expected to reach this point. Her husband died unexpectedly leaving her a single mom to a lively five-year-old. Kate dotes on Rosie, as the first round of vaccinations in Rosie's infancy found Rosie to be one of the handful of children with a severe allergy to gelatin. Rosie simply could not have her remaining childhood immunizations without risking a fatal allergic reaction. For Kate, not vaccinating her child was not a choice but a situation mandated by a health issue. All she can do is hope herd immunity is enough to keep Rosie safe.

Popular mommy blogger Madeleine Cooper didn't vaccinate her daughter, Clara, because she didn't believe the pharmaceutical companies or the government. Even after the autism risk was debunked and the doctor who wrote the study admitted it was faked, Madeleine opted to believe autism is a risk anyway. If her daughter becomes ill, Madeleine hopes she'll get over whatever it is without issue.

Tragedy starts to set in when Madeleine makes the choice to send Clara to school sick. It turns out Clara has the measles and passes it to Rosie. While Clara gets over her disease, Rosie isn't as lucky. Rosie ends up in the hospital fighting for her life. Kate's left to sit by her daughter's bedside. It creates a rift that will affect both families and many community members on a very deep, personal level.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Drawn by the plot, I was eager to see how things would work out. I felt deeply for Kate. She had no choice but to not have her daughter vaccinated against diseases that were, at one time, no longer a childhood threat. I felt for her struggles financially and emotionally.

I never liked Madeleine. All of her, "I'm losing blog readers" and "they're turning against me," annoyed me. While realistic, it definitely made it hard to sympathize with her on any level. I hated her husband even more. His pompous attitude made him very unlikable.

The author definitely did a great job at developing her characters, whether you loved or hated them.

The story's ending bothered me. I didn't enjoy the surprise twist. Part of this is likely based on the fact that I wanted Madeleine's family to pay for their snobby attitudes. Even when Madeleine makes an effort to redeem herself, I no longer cared.

I'd love to return to the story and see it from the child's point of view. I have a family member who is not vaccinated. Now that this teen is almost an adult, he does talk to my kids about the fact that after years of being homeschooled, he's not sure he'll ever be able to experience a public college, other than online classes, because laws prevent him from doing so. He feels limited by the choice his parents made. Is that right?

The strongest aspect of this book, beyond the author's steady writing pace that kept me hooked, was the lure into the subject matter. It posed the issue and really made you think. I doubt it will convince any person who is anti vacc to reconsider their stance, but I hope it at least makes them think.

RTR's Bottom Line

This is reading group fodder. Keep You Safe is the perfect book to launch some very lively discussions. I'm not sure there is a right or wrong viewpoint, but I do love how the author posed it from both angles and presented the consequences that many make based solely on a fraudulent report.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Man I Thought You Were by Leah Mercer

Setting: England
Genre: Women's Fiction
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Release Date - August 30, 2017

Released for the Kindle last month, readers looking for the paperback version of The Man I Thought You Were only have a couple weeks to go.

Anna and her husband, Mark, have everything. They're madly in love, both have steady jobs, and they're ready to start their family. Mark's excellent with their young niece, and Anna knows he'll be an awesome dad. He comes home from work, tells her he's leaving, and vanishes. He doesn't take his car, any of his clothes, or cell phone.

Anna is stunned. She's certain he'll return home in a day or two. When he doesn't, she comes across a couple secrets he was hiding. Those secrets have the power to shatter her world.

Mark wants to shelter Anna from his past and future. Doing so may hurt her, but he's convinced it will hurt her less than if he stayed. He just doesn't imagine where his journey will really lead him. Meanwhile, Anna's determined to get to the bottom of things, even if it means getting hurt.

Strengths and Weaknesses

The opening page of The Man I Thought You Were pulled me in. It doesn't start slow. Mark comes in, says he's leaving her, and that's that. It's so immediate that you can't help but feel Anna's shock. From there, I was as desperate as Anna to figure out what spurred Mark's decision.

I had a hard time liking Mark. Even knowing all I did, I remained angry at him. I can't imagine making his choices, especially when you learn part of why he does. His judgment to me seemed skewed, especially after a decade with Anna. I didn't like how easily he walked away. Despite this, I adored Anna and kept reading to see how things would turn out for her.

RTR's Bottom Line

This isn't as much a romance as it is a look into the devastation some decisions have on people's lives. It's a book that will bring tears to the eyes. If you're looking for a touching, very emotional story, you'll find what you desire in The Man I Thought You Were.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Finding My Badass Self: A Year of Truth and Dares by Sherry Stanfa-Stanley

Genre: Non-Fiction/Humor
Publisher: She Writes Press
Release Date: August 22, 2017

I connected immediately with the author of Finding My Badass Self. Maybe the truths and dares she tried weren't always something I would have bothered with, but it never mattered. I connected with her hopes, fears, and frame of mind. I got her.

For 52 weeks, author Sherry Stanfa-Stanley pushed herself to try or do something completely out of character. From eating bugs to going to a nude beach, Stanfa-Stanley pushed herself. She was brazen and just went for it. Finding My Badass Self chronicles her experiences.

What made this book stand out so much to me? That's pretty easy. I get where she's coming from. I've been married for 26 years, thankfully we're happy together still. My kids are both in college now, though my son has moved into his own apartment at this point. I'm at that crossroads where I wonder what's next. I've been the stay-at-home mom for two decades. I get how she feels. I get the urge to do something unexpected.

In her case, her divorced triggered things. That was the one part I can't say I've experienced. I'd just gotten back into the work force - what a nightmare it is finding a job when you've been a stay-at-home mom for two decades! I wasn't sure my new job was something I wanted to do forever, but my dad's stroke and subsequent death and my mom's advancing Alzheimer's led me to quit. I'm back at that point where I need to figure things out. That's why Finding My Badass Self registered so strongly.

This book is funny, emotional, and keeps you wondering what comes next. I can't see myself going up in a hot air balloon or taking a mystery trip (Alzheimer's care and finances make that impossible), but I can live vicariously through the author. She took me away for a few hours, and I adore her for that.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Motor Mix Series of Books by Emily Snape and Rilla Alexander

Genre: Board Book
Publisher: Chronicle Kids
Release Date: August 15, 2017

There are two books in the newly released Motor Mix series. These board books have pages that are divided into three sections that allow the reader to mix up the different vehicles and create unique inventions. The first, Flight, takes things like rockets, airplanes, helicopters, and hot air balloons. Mix them up to create a rock-copter or air-loon.

The second book in the series, Emergency, showcases fire trucks, planes, plows, tow trucks, ambulances, and more. Create fire-lances, snow-planes, and others.

Each vehicle comes with text that describes its noise and where it is used. This ensures the child also has vocabulary to learn. With the creative nature and the narrative, these two books are a solid choice for a creative child.

Monday, August 14, 2017

If the Creek Don't Rise by Leah Weiss

Setting: Baines Creek, North Carolina
Genre: General Fiction
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Release Date: August 22, 2017

There was a lot I loved in If the Creek Don't Rise. This work of fiction takes place in Baines Creek, a rural Appalachian community where few are educated and life revolves around mountain living and, sometimes, just surviving the day. The setting really came through. The education and wisdom each character had shaped them into either very likable characters or others you couldn't help but despise.

Sadie Blue is the lead in this story. She's young, naive, and ends up pregnant and married to an abusive moonshiner. Her days involve keeping out of Roy's way and avoiding the next beating. She's only been married for two weeks, and this is not the life she imagined or hoped for. Her grandmother feels helpless, as only her granddaughter can decide what to do with her life. Sadie's Aunt Marris seems to be the person in the best position to convince Sadie to open her eyes and think only of herself and her baby.

Kate's new to town. She's come to teach the children in the area. Teachers have failed in this mission, but Kate's determined to succeed. Her arrival may be the turning point Sadie Blue and many of the children in the community need.

Eli, the community's preacher, is taken by Kate. For the first time, he's wondering if romance is something he shouldn't be turning his back on. Meanwhile, his sister is just as determined to get this woman she is happy to label as a heathen out of their community.

Finally, there's Birdie, a mountain woman who seems smarter than them all. Birdie's experiences and knowledge make her a trusted resource as Kate tries to fit into a community that doesn't seem to want her here.

The different characters tell the story, so you get a feel for the community in a very involved way. Each character has a unique dialect and way of speaking, so it takes a little of time adapting to the vocabulary.

The biggest reason I can't say I loved this story. It felt so unfinished. I have to wonder if this is the first in a series. While some of the story was resolved, other aspects went ignored. I was disappointed by the rushed ending and wonder what happened. Maybe this is the first in a series and I just don't know it. I hope that's the case anyway.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Big Skye Littleton by Elisa Lorello

Setting: Rhode Island and Montana
Genre: Contemporary Romance/Women's Fiction
Publisher: Lake Union
Release Date: August 22, 2017

Skye Littleton's in love. She never imagined, after so many years of waiting for Mr. Right, that she'd find him online. After Vance arranges to meet her on the East Coast, Skye knows he's the one. She sells her car, quits her job, packs everything, and takes his offer to move to Montana.

She's not even in Montana when she gets her first hint that all may not be perfect. The guy sitting next to her, Harvey Wright, lives in Billings and knows Vance. He apologizes and tells her that Vance is nothing but a shady character. Skye doesn't want to believe it's true until she arrives at the airport and gets stood up.

With no friends in town, no housing, and very little money to her name, Skye needs to decide. Does she decide to give Littleton a chance or return home to a family who told her she was being ridiculous? With Harvey's help, Skye may be able to reinvent herself and finally be comfortable with who she is. But, to do so means she'd have to trust another man she barely knows.

Big Skye Littleton is more a mix of coming of age and romance. Skye may be a 30-something heroine, but she's one who has struggled to figure out what she wants from life. To that extent, the story was very much a coming-of-age theme. I enjoyed seeing her grow comfortable with herself.

I just came back from Narraganset and Block Island, so Skye's hometown was very familiar and enjoyable. I've been to Montana but was to young to remember it. The descriptions in this book made me want to go. I can't imagine a more freeing experience than dropping everything to find oneself in a new town.

It's an enjoyable story and held my interest from start to finish. If you're looking for a breezy romance with great settings, you can't go wrong. Pick up Big Skye Littleton on August 22nd.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Are You Sleeping by Kathleen Barber

Genre: Mystery/Suspense
Publisher: Gallery Books
Release Date: August 1, 2017

I both love and hate when a book keeps me up all night. I'm tired, but I'm so glad I didn't stop. I needed to know how this story played out. I hated some characters, but I really loved others. When it comes to a suspenseful mystery, Kathleen Barber nailed it in Are You Sleeping.

Josie Buhrman keeps her past locked deep in the past. Not even her boyfriend knows the truth, though she's always wanted to find a way to tell him. It's just really hard.

The truth is Josie's father was murdered. A neighbor was arrested. After the murder, Josie's mother walked away on her twin daughters leaving Josie and Lanie to be raised by their aunt. Lanie's rebellion after the murder drove the sisters apart. It's all in the past, however.

Then a rather intrusive journalist decides to take a close look at the murder in a weekly podcast. The podcast goes viral, and the entire nation wants to get to the truth. When Josie learns her mother died, she's forced to return to her hometown and face her sister for the first time in years.

The last thing Josie needs is to start listening to the podcast, but it's what she does. The more she listens, the more she questions everything she remembers.

There are parts of Are You Sleeping that drove me batty. The podcast journalist, just ick. I know that investigative reporters can be slimy. Kathleen Barber did such a good job making this woman unlikable. She's pushy, arrogant, and was so easy to hate.

The story itself keeps you reading with almost an urgent sense. I couldn't wait to get to the next podcast, no matter how much I loathed that fictional reporter. I wanted to see what would be revealed and try to figure out the murder along with everyone. I was truly engaged from start to finish.

It's been a while since I've pulled an almost all-nighter reading a book. I'm glad I did! It was worth it.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The People at Number 9 by Felicity Everett

Setting: England
Genre: Women's Fiction
Publisher: HarperCollins
Release Date: August 8, 2017

When Gavin and Lou move into their neighborhood, Sara finds herself wishing she was more like them. Their somewhat bohemian ways really appeal to Sara. She longs for more excitement in her life. Gavin and Lou just moved back to England after years in Spain. They have great careers as artists.

Soon Sara and her husband, Nic, form a solid friendship with the couple. Sara's helping out with their kids, joining Gavin on morning walks to the school, and both couples gather regularly for wine and dinner. That friendship, however, may not end up being everything Sara imagined. Soon, she realizes that some friendships aren't always ideal.

Mixed feelings came into play with The People at Number 9. I wanted to like Sara, but the more involved she became with Lou and Gavin, the more I questioned how she couldn't see the truth right there in front of her face.

I never liked Lou or Gavin and that made it equally hard. From the start, I had a good sense of them and what they were going to be like. They're not my, as the saying goes, cup of tea.

The writing was solid, the setting reminded me a lot of my mom's hometown in England, but I never warmed up to the characters. In the end, I'd figured out how things would turn out long before the story ended and that made it an okay read but nothing that truly wowed me.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Working Fire by Emily Bleeker

Setting: Broadlands, Illinois
Genre: General Fiction
Publisher: Lake Union
Release Date: August 29, 2017

Ellie Brown left her hometown for med school, but she has to return when her father, a respected fire chief, has a stroke. She and her sister, Amelia, split his care. When she's not caring for her dad, Ellie works as a paramedic in a town she wants to escape.

Ellie's world is shattered when she and her partner are called to the scene of a shooting. Ellie knows the address. It's her sister's house. Both her sister and her brother-in-law have been shot. Ellie now must do everything she can to save her sister's life. At the same time, Ellie wants to get to the bottom of what really happened.

It's no secret that I love to support Lake Union Publishing. Short of a couple of books, everything this publisher releases has been outstanding reads. Working Fire is emotionally charged from the start. It's clear that there's more to Amelia's story than meets the eye, but it's presented in a natural way. You find out clues as Ellie stumbles across them or Amelia reveals things in the weeks leading up to the shooting.

Most of Working Fire is best categorized as general fiction, but there clearly is the mystery involved in who shot Amelia and her husband. When that's revealed, I felt the same shock as Ellie. I liked being that drawn into the story.

The fast pace and enjoyable characters kept me hooked. I won't say that every chapter thrilled me. There were a few aspects that I didn't like, but, Emily Bleeker's story still had me hooked.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker

Setting: Connecticut and Maine
Genre: Psychological Suspense
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Release Date: August 8, 2017

Three years ago, Emma and her younger sister Cass vanished into the night. All that was found was Emma's abandoned car. Detectives are unable to find any trace of the girls.

Three years later, Cass returns begging detectives to find Emma. She tells forensic psychiatrist Abby Winter that she and Emma were held on a remote island off the coast of Maine. Her details check out, but something about her story doesn't add up. Abby's determined to unravel the truth. And, in this dysfunctional family, getting to the truth is more difficult than one might imagine.

Emma in the Night is told from Cass's viewpoint and Abby's. Readers are privy to clues that the detectives don't know, but it's still quite a mystery to unravel. I loved trying to decide what was real and what wasn't. I had parts of the mystery solved early on, but other aspects baffled me. When Abby figured it out, I was just as surprised.

This is great read with one of the most twisted families I've come across. My teen years were spent reading the Flower in the Attic series, so I've read about disturbed families many times over the decades. Cass's family top the list as one of the worst!

Friday, August 4, 2017

A Dad for Charlie by Anna J. Stewart

Setting: Butterfly Harbor, California
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Harlequin Heartwarming
Release Date: August 1, 2017

A Dad for Charlie is part of the Butterfly Harbor series. Paige Cooper does everything she can to stay one step ahead of her past. She's determined to keep her daughter, Charlie, safe, too. Deputy Sheriff Fletch Bradley is the father figure Charlie needs, but Paige cannot fall for him. He's the last person she needs in her life.

Fletch is deeply attracted to Paige and wants to break through the walls she puts up. A string of vandalisms and break-ins lead to Paige and Fletch having to work together. Is this going to be the chance she needs to reveal her secrets?

I needed something light and emotional to pick up my spirits. A Dad for Charlie was exactly what I needed. Charlie is precocious and likable. Fletch and Paige are both wounded and formed the perfect pair, if only they could see it.

I haven't read the other books in the series. There's some backstory with other characters that I'd like to catch up on. The town itself was very appealing and made me wish I lived there. I loved the setting, the characters, and am so glad I came across this book. It's sweet and very enjoyable.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

I Know a Secret: A Rizzoli & Isles Novel by Tess Gerritsen

Setting: Boston, Mass
Genre: Mystery/Police Procedural
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Release Date: April 15, 2017

Rizzoli & Isles is a show I binge watched last fall. My husband and I were hooked and watched every season in the span of two months. I Know a Secret is the latest title in the book series about Detective Jane Rizzoli and medical examiner Dr. Maura Isles.

The novel starts with a woman who realizes acquaintances from her childhood are dropping dead. While their deaths are accidental, the woman questions this. That's all an aside for a bit. Jane's called in to investigate the death of a young movie producer. Another case a few days later has Jane taking a closer look. No cause of death is found in either case, but both victims had alcohol in their stomach and mild doses of a date rape drug. Those doses are not high enough to have killed them.

As the team gets to work trying to figure out the how and why, Maura's also struggling on a personal front. Her birth mother, a serial killer, wants to see her and may be connected to this case. Meanwhile, Jane's trying to make sense of her parents' dysfunctional marriage.

I had to shake off a few things. The TV versions of Jane and Maura are very different. Jane's married with a child (weird!), while Maura's birth mother was a serial killer and not a respected forensic pathologist. Maura's mobster father doesn't exist in the books. Detective Frost (his departure from the show and the actor's suicide in real life broke my heart) is nothing like his TV character. Even Jane's siblings are different.

Once I'd adjusted to the differences, I loved this story. I was pulled in. I wanted to figure it out but couldn't get my finger on the killer's identity until the last handful of chapters. Now that I've finished and felt very satisfied with the entire ride, I need to go back and read every book in this series. I miss the show, but I could get to know the characters all over again in the books!

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Holding by Graham Norton

Setting: Duneen, Ireland
Genre: Mystery
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Release Date: July 18, 2017

Sergeant P.J. Collins has his hands full with one of the biggest cases he's seen. The quiet town never has much going on, so his days tend to be limited to tickets and squabbles. When a body's found on a local farm, he has the first real case of his career.

Decades earlier Tommy Burke disappeared. He was engaged to one woman and romantically involved with another. After the two women fought in the street, rumor has it Tommy took off. No one ever saw or heard from him again. Questions quickly arise. Could this be Tommy's body?

To solve the case, P.J. has to delve into town gossip and long-hidden secrets. It's not an easy case, but it's his first and he's determined to figure out whose body is on the farm and how that person's life came to a tragic end.

I'm a fan of Graham Norton's, so I was eager to read his first novel. His interviews always get me laughing, so I hoped that humor and emotion would carry through to his novel. It did.

Duneen is a charming town filled with a few odd characters. I instantly fell for P.J. He's flawed. He isn't full of self-esteem, which makes him very likable.

The murderer, to me, wasn't really hard to figure out. I had it pegged almost from the start. That's not a bad thing, however. I was so drawn into the setting and fascinated by the characters that I couldn't put the story down.

This is an engaging mystery that does make me wonder if it will continue. I realize it couldn't be exactly the same, but I'm not done spending time with P.J. I'd like to see his character in more books.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Awkward Path to Getting Lucky by Summer Heacock

Genre: Women's Fiction
Publisher: MIRA
Release Date: July 25, 2017

In just about a month, Kat Carmichael will celebrate an anniversary of sorts. It's not a typical anniversary. In exactly 34 days, it will mark the two-year anniversary of when she and her boyfriend last had sex. It's been two years since her "special" shut down and refused to allow Ryan to enter. It's been two years of no sex, no intimacy, and certainly no orgasms. Kat's had enough.

She tells Ryan she wants to take a break from each other and really get herself back in working order. Her bakery is thriving and her friends/bakery co-owners are more than happy to lend emotional support, as well as buy her a few toys, as she sets off on a quest to fix what's broken.

What Kat never expects is to find one of their frequent customers becoming her advisor in this quest. He's a physical therapist and very good looking to boot. If he can't be the one to get her personal business back in order, Kat's no sure anyone can.

The Awkward Path to Getting Lucky is blunt, humorous, and pretty magical. Ben, the sexy customer, is such a good guy. Every women's fiction novel needs a Ben in it! Kat's a little clueless at times, but she's certainly enjoyable to get to know. Her friends and all their wackiness had me laughing a number of times.

This is a feel-good story. It may get personal and delve into topics that make some readers squeamish for whatever reasons, but that's a good thing. I'd never heard of vaginismus and didn't know anything like that existed. In addition to just having a fun time reading the book, I also learned something. There's nothing wrong with that!

Friday, July 21, 2017

Everything We Left Behind by Kerry Lonsdale

Setting: Various locations that include Mexico, California, and Hawaii
Genre: Women's Fiction
Publisher: Lake Union
Release Date: July 4, 2017

I loved the first book in this series. Everything We Keep was emotionally charged and eloquently written. I found myself rooting for Aimee and truly felt for her.

Everything We Left Behind is the sequel. This time, readers see things from James' point of view. I wanted to love it, but I simply disliked James too much for that to happen.

Now that James' memories have returned, he's stuck being father to two sons he doesn't know and lost the woman he loves, Aimee. Worse, his brother, the reason he's in this predicament, is about to be released from prison. James witnessed something that could land Phil back in prison, so his safety is also on the line.

To really knows what he's facing, James needs to remember who he was both before and after the events that led to his fugue state. To do that, he turns to his sister-in-law, Natalya, who is perhaps the only person he can now trust.

As soon as James remembered James and seemingly forgot his life as Carlos, his attitude towards his sons changed. I didn't like that at all. They were innocent and didn't deserve having him treat them like strangers at the start. It made me dislike him.

Things do progress, but it was hard getting past my initial opinions. The pacing and switch between past and present also proved hard to handle. I found it far too easy to put down Everything We Left Behind. As a result, it took me over a week to read the story. Usually, I can read a book a day if there's time.

In the end, I just never connected with the story or the character. It was missing the emotional pull the first story offered. It never made it past the "meh" opinion with me.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Breakdown by B.A. Paris

Setting: England
Genre: Suspense/Thriller
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Release Date: July 18, 2017

Cass is already having a hard time. Her mom, who had early-onset dementia, died of pneumonia. She's still grieving. Driving home from a gathering with her co-workers, her husband tells her to go the long way around due to a storm, but Cass takes the short cut anyway. She spies a woman sitting in her car. While her first thought is to stop and see if the woman's okay, Cass heads home instead and then forgets to call police for a welfare check.

When she learns the woman had been murdered, Cass panics. Worse, she knew the woman. They'd just met and were becoming good friends. Guilt sets in, and Cass fears the murderer may have seen her. She starts getting strange calls. She's forgetting important details. She even orders a baby carriage, yet never remembers doing so and has no reason to have done so.

Soon, Cass's husband is convinced she's having a breakdown. Cass is equally convinced she's being stalked by the killer. Could Cass be right or is she suffering from early-onset dementia like her mother did?

What an exciting read! I loved every minute of it. I did have part of the mystery solved, but I didn't care. I was so involved that I had to know how it played out. B.A. Paris did not disappoint. I found myself almost laughing by the end in a complete satisfaction. It's been a while since I've loved an ending so much!

The Breakdown is part mystery, very suspenseful, and puts a shiver up your spine. I got mad, I laughed, and I wanted to cry for Cass at times. I felt so involved in the story that I had to keep reading. If you like the current trend of Gone Girl type novels, do not miss this one!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Secrets of the Tulip Sisters by Susan Mallery

Setting: Tulpen Crossing, Washington
Genre: Women's Fiction/Romance
Publisher: HQN Books
Release Date: July 11, 2017

Secrets of the Tulip Sisters revolves around Kelly and Olivia Murphy. Their mom walked away from the family when they were young, and it has shaped the non-existent relationship. Kelly works hard at her father's tulip farm, while Olivia hasn't been back in 15 years.

Olivia suddenly returns with the goal of proving her place in Tulpen Crossing. She's not the only person returning. The boy who broke Kelly's heart is back, too, and he's all man. He only has eyes for Kelly, and she's not sure she trusts him.

Within the pages of Secrets of the Tulip Sisters, readers get to meet the Murphy family and experience a family reunion, along with three developing romances, that warm the heart.

Part of me thinks there was so much thrown into Susan Mallery's latest novel that I almost would have preferred it as a trilogy. You have Kelly and Griffith's relationship. Then, Olivia returns and has her own relationship, on top of her trying to get back into her sister's good graces. Finally, there's the patriarch of the whole family who's trying to keep everyone from fighting, while also exploring if it's time to move on.

I found myself enjoying each romance equally. That's why I think I would have almost preferred a trilogy. There were times I felt a little gypped as the focus bounced back and forth. Yet, I also couldn't stop reading. I had to know how everything played out!

If you like Susan Mallery's novels, this one is another inviting romance that tugs at the heart. Once again, she creates a community that I simply want to become part of.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Beneath the Surface by Sibel Hodge

Genre: Suspense
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Release Date: July 27, 2017

After losing her job at a popular magazine, Holly returns to her hometown. There, she finds her school friend's son murdered both of his parents before taking his own life. Holly's shocked. The gentle boy she knew did not seem capable of hating his parents that much.

Holly can't have the story at her new employer, but she's determined to get to the bottom of things on her own time. The more questions she asks, the more danger she gets into. Someone doesn't want answers revealed. Holly could be putting her very own life on the line.

Beneath the Surface is a work of fiction, but there were aspects of the story that did seem very real. In fact, something similar happened just up the road from me. It was horrifying and I'm still not sure how I feel about the entire case. That made Sibel Hodge's story very real and very frightening.

This isn't an easy read. A lot happens and some of it does seem so senseless, which makes it all the more real. The plot continues to advance and spiral, and while some of it was predictable to me - mainly because as I mentioned a very similar case happened nearby - I still felt compelled to keep reading.

If you're ready to get outraged, saddened, and engrossed in a book, Beneath the Surface is a great choice.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Watch Me Disappear by Janelle Brown

Setting: California
Genre: Suspense
Publisher: Spiegel & Grau
Release Date: July 11, 2017

Billie Flanagan never returns after heading out hiking. This leaves her teen daughter and loving husband to wait for her body to be recovered. All that's ever found is one hiking boot and her cell phone.

A year passes. Jonathan is trying to keep money coming in, mostly by writing a memoir about her. His daughter, Olive, deeply misses her mother. When Olive starts to have visions that Billie is still alive, Jonathan is, at first, worried that his daughter has a brain tumor. That is until Jonathan begins to learn little things that prove Billie was keeping secrets.

Watch Me Disappear is a gorgeous piece of writing. The descriptions are so vivid, and I loved most of the characters. I felt their pain, their hope, and their uncertainty. The story winds and weaves painting this incredible tale of pain, joy, and the effort to move on with your life.

One thing I did love is, and here's where it's tricky to review, the ending. I had my feelings on where things would end up and am so glad the author chose to do things as she did and not as I imagined. I almost wouldn't mind if she decided to return to the story when Olive's older and have the teen look back with an adult point of view. That would be a fantastic way to return to characters I loved.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

What's Life Without the Sprinkles? by Misty Simon

Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Release Date: March 2015

Claudia's a single mom and talented cake maker. Her partnership in Decadence, a one-stop wedding shop, pays the bills and keeps her happy. Her dating life isn't quite as promising.

Things happen all at once when Claudia learns her son's absentee father is coming back into town, plus the guy Claudia's been dating informs her that when they marry he wants her to give up her company. What's perhaps more baffling is that Claudia finds herself suddenly attracted to her long-time friend, Nate, who happens to be the guy who's always been her son's father figure.

Nate isn't sure what to make of Claudia's sudden flirtations. He's promised to always be there for her, but he's perplexed by her sudden attention. Is she really ready to become more than friends?

What's Life Without the Sprinkles? is fun, pretty steamy at times, and doesn't take long to read. It's a quick fix when you're in the mood for a romance but are short on time. At just 238 pages, I had the book finished in just over an hour, which is the perfect fit for my down time after dinner and before bed.

If you enjoy Harlequin romances, What's Life Without the Sprinkles? is a perfect choice. It has enjoyable characters. I do want to see Claudia's sister, Zoe, get her own story. Who knows? Maybe someday it will happen!

Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Innkeeper's Sister by Linda Goodnight

Setting: Honey Ridge, Tennessee
Genre: Contemporary Romance With a Historic Twist
Publisher: HQN
Release Date: July 25, 2017

The Innkeeper's Sister continues where The Memory House left off. Julia, her new husband, and her stepson are off to a great start as a new family unit. Valery, Julie's sister, owns Peach Orchard Inn with her sister. While her sister's great love is being an innkeeper, Valery's first love has always been dance. Her past, however, makes sure the demons stay hot on her case. Valery is certain that happiness is not in the cards. Not only that, but Valery doesn't feel she deserves to find happiness outside of the bourbon she drinks all too regularly.

Grayson remembers Valery from his years as a nerdy teen. He's always found her attractive. He'd like nothing more than to get to know her. When he learns his brother's purchased the remains of the old grist mill, Grayson finds himself staying across the street at Peach Orchard Inn. This puts him close to Valery for the first time in years. He'd love to see if there's something more there, but Valery is determined to push him away before they ever have a chance to find out.

As was true in the last novel, readers get treated to the current romance, but there's a mystery to solve too. Secrets that have been long hidden resurface and lead Grayson on a quest to uncover the truth behind what's found in his grist mill and the haunting sheet music he finds in the inn.

This is another beautifully written, very atmospheric romance from Linda Goodnight. I love the seamless blend of past and present. I'm never huge on historical romance, but if she released one in this setting, I'd be first in line.

My feelings towards The Innkeeper's Sister are a little bittersweet. I get the impression this is it for the sisters, but I'm not ready to say goodbye. I want more. While the author hints she may return to their stories in the future, I want more now. I was that addicted to both stories. I loved the characters, loved the setting, and really don't want that chapter, so to speak, to come to an end.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Nothing Rhymes With Orange by Adam Rex

Genre: Children's Picture Book
Publisher: Chronicle Kids
Release Date: August 1, 2017

Poor Mr. Orange. All around him, he sees rhymes. He's upset that nothing rhymes with orange. Banana has cabana. Grapes have capes. A fig is big, and a kiwi is a peewee. While all these cute fruit have rhymes, Mr. Orange is the odd man out. Is there a rhyme out there for Mr. Orange? Any word at all?

Nothing Rhymes With Orange is brilliant on many levels. First, it explores rhymes in a whimsical fashion. Second, it teaches children many of the different types of fruit. Illustrations are a mix of real photos and drawings, so even that draws your attention.

Everything about Nothing Rhymes With Orange delighted me. It's filled with humor. The interjections from Mr. Orange made him a very sympathizable character. Eventually, things take a turn and you realize that everyone has issues, and there are always solutions to the things that bother you. It's a great, creative way to get that message across to kids. Look for it on August 1st.