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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.




Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Marriage Pact: A Novel by Michelle Redmond

Setting: San Francisco
Genre: Suspense/Thriller
Publisher: Random House
Release Date: July 25, 2017



Where to begin? I was mesmerized and horrified by The Marriage Pact. I hated it, loved it, and was terrified by it all at the same time. It's been a very, very long time since a book has pulled my emotions in so many directions. Kudos to Michelle Redmond for that.

Alice and Jake were friends first and married feeling it was the natural step to take. Alice, a rock star turned lawyer, and Jake, a psychologist, have a laid back, dream wedding and are ready to start this new chapter of their life together. A mysterious wedding gift has them both curious to learn more.

The Pact is a program designed to make a marriage last forever. The couple are instantly taken up in the thought of being in an exclusive group where everyone strive to remain happily married for life. They love the ideas of giving surprise gifts monthly and taking two vacations together each year. What they don't realize is that the program will take extreme measures to ensure success. There's a dark side to The Pact that will have them both questioning their involvement and if there's any possible way they can make it out alive.

The Marriage Pact is not predictable. It starts off making sense and then gets terrifying. I could see exactly how a couple would fall for the program's charms, sign the contract, and then find themselves in a living nightmare. That made me want to fling the book against the wall out of sheer frustration for Alice and Jake, yet I had to keep reading to see if they could escape their situation. It's a clear edge-of-your-seat story.

I had to read the book in one sitting and am glad I did. It's a chilling read for these hot summer days.




Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Professional Crocodile by Giovanna Zoboli and Mariachiara Di Giorgio

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



To start each day, Mr. Crocodile gets out of bed, goes to the bathroom, grooms himself, has breakfast, and goes off to work. Watch as he navigates the city and gets to the subway. Where is he going? What kind of work does he do?

Professional Crocodile is a picture book. There are no words. Instead, children tell their own story by looking at the pictures. Multiple pictures fill each set of pages, so there's a lot to explore and narrate on your own.

The ending was quirky and not what I expected. I like that it led to a relatively big surprise. While there are no reading skills to build, your child will get to explore his or her storytelling skills, and that's a huge plus. Look for Professional Crocodile on August 1st.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Coach Broyles' Playbook for Alzheimer's Caregivers

Genre: Self-help
Publisher: Alzheimer's Association
Release Date: 2006



After my aunt died, my mom had an argument with me one day that was a little frightening. She insisted that no one had told her that my aunt had hemochromatosis. My own mom had told me a few years earlier. I wrote it off to the grief.

That was the first true sign I saw that made me question. Over time, she was often asking the same question dozens of times a day. Telling me she hadn't talked to me in ages when we'd just talked an hour earlier. She even started giving me clothing that she swore was my aunts, but I knew we'd bought it together when our shopping just a week earlier. I urged my dad to take my mom to a specialist and the diagnosis was Mild Cognitive Impairment. Every few months, he'd tell me he'd taken my mom for another check and she was find.

When my dad died, I quickly found out that MCI was the initial diagnosis, but it had progressed to Alzheimer's in 2014. We were suddenly fighting the truth. She is in the moderate stages and needs care. While dealing with grief, we were also dealing with sharing caregiver duties. It wasn't long before we were burning out and desperate for help.

I was handed a copy of Coach Frank Broyle's Playbook for Alzheimer's Caregivers. If you're a caregiver to someone with dementia. This book is a must! It lays out what to expect and how to best offer care in each stages. It also focuses on something that we'd shoved aside, and that's to care for ourselves too.

I keep a copy next to me and have made many notes in it while talking to doctors and assisted living specialists. It's a fantastic guide to what to expect, what to do, and how to care for yourself while caring for someone else.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Under the Silver Moon: Lullabies, Night Songs & Poems

Genre: Children's Picture Book
Publisher: Chronicle Kids
Release Date: July 11, 2017



Under the Silver Moon: Lullabies, Night Songs & Poems is a collection of well known songs and poems about the night.They're paired with illustrations by Pamela Dalton. It's the illustrations that really caught my attention. Each page reminds me a little of a tapestry.

Within the book are songs like "All the Pretty Little Ponies." There is the Robert Louse Stevenson poem "My Bed is a Boat." How about "Diddle, Diddle Dumpling?" These are just a few of the many songs and poems you'll find within Under the Silver Moon.

This is an adorable picture book that is ideal for bedtime. It comes out July 11th, so don't miss out!

Saturday, July 8, 2017

The Lying Game by Ruth Ware

Setting: England
Genre: Mystery/Suspense
Publisher: Gallery Books
Release Date: July 25, 2017



They met at a boarding school. The four young girls formed a fast friendship that's never faded. Now that they're adults living their own lives, Thea, Fatima, and Isa all make the trip back to Salten when their friend Kate sends the message "I need you."

A dog's found a human bone in a tidal estuary. That bone threatens to reveal everything the four woman have hidden for so very long. It's the one thing that could destroy the lives they've established.

Everything stems from a game they used to play, a game known as The Lying Game. The rules were easy: tell everyone whatever lie you conjure up but never lie to each other. It's been years since these women have returned to Salten, and now they're back and it's time to face what really happened back then.

Expect a lot of twists in this book. There's a creepy factor as clues are revealed and threatening messages are revealed. The reader knows something happened and that it goes back to their days at school, but it's not quite clear how it all ties together. There's a body, but you don't know whose. There's the lies they told and the effect some of those lies had on the townspeople. As you keep reading, it's clear that this is going to be a hard mystery to solve.

It's a habit I have. I must solve the mystery before the author reveals the truth. In this case, I was kept guessing. I'd think I had it solved, but I'd find I was wrong again. I loved that. Being surprised by an ending is a treat.

Ruth Ware's The Lying Game may not have had characters I loved. I found the girls to be irritating. I did like them much better as grown women. When it comes to the setting and the mystery, this story was fantastic.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Scot on the Run by Janice Maynard

Setting: Portree, Scotland
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Lyrical Shine
Release Date: July 25, 2017



Bella is in Scotland for a few weeks while her brother and his new bride take their honeymoon. Hoping to have time to focus on her writing, Bella is stunned when a sexy stranger shows up and asks her to let him in.

After a phone call, Bella is able to confirm that the stranger is one of Britain's most desirable bachelors. He's also a friend of her brothers and was offered a place to hide out and dodge the press. What was supposed to be a quiet Scottish vacation is now very different as Bella has to deal with her feelings for this irritating, sexy man.

Scot on the Run is apparently the follow-up to Bella's brother's novel and one of the Kilted Heroes series by Janice Maynard. The chemistry between the characters is definitely all there and very heated at times.

As the fourth novel in this series, I did have worries that I would feel as though I was jumping into something halfway through. Scot on the Run stands alone. I didn't have to worry at all. The only part where it became clear I'd stumbled into a series was when The Outlanders series popped up randomly. It's at that point that I wondered why those books and TV shows were being mentioned. After a little research, I figured it out. That never did detract from the book, however.

This is simply a sweet contemporary romance set in a place where I'd love to be right now!

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Bring Her Home by David Bell

Genre: Mystery/Suspense
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: July 11, 2017



Bring Her Home offers a chilling tale about two teens who are found near dead in a local park. When widower Bill Price gets the call that his missing 15-year-old daughter was found beaten to near death and that her best friend was found dead, he's despondent and rushes to hold vigil. His daughter is unrecognizable and may suffer permanent brain injury due to the beating she took.

As time passes, Bill starts to uncover startling truths that make him doubt what he really knows about his daughter. As the case progresses, more is revealed leading Bill and investigators to really wonder just what is going on and who can really be trusted.

There are parts of Bring Her Home that I found very easy to solve. Usually, I'd find that to be a bit of a letdown, but that's not the case here. Even though I'd solved some of the mystery, I was still intrigued. The plot progresses with twists and turns hitting regularly. The more I figured I'd solved, the more I found myself having a hard time putting the book down. I had to know if my instincts were right and I needed to get to the truth.

At heart, Bring Her Home focuses on the murdered teen, the teen that's barely alive, and then there's a missing teen. The cases appear to be linked, but the more you read, the more you start to wonder. That makes for time well spent on this chilling summer read.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

The Orphan's Tale by Pam Jenoff

Setting: WWII France/Germany
Genre: Historic Fiction
Publisher: MIRA
Release Date: February 21, 2017



There is a little bit of a "Like Water for Elephants" feel to The Orphan's Tale. Pam Jenoff's story is so much more, however. The setting is Europe during WWII. The story actually begins with an elderly woman in France searching desperately for something hidden in a circus car at a museum. It then goes back in time to tell a very bittersweet story of two women, the situations they face, and the events of WWII.

After 17-year-old Noa has an affair with a Nazi soldier, she ends up pregnant. Her father orders her to leave them and never return. Her blonde hair and blue eyes are her saving grace. She ends up in a home for unwed mothers where she'll give birth to her child and give that child up for adoption.

Heartbroken and childless, Noa ends up in a train station where she is given a job cleaning. One day, she finds piles of infants in one of the train cars. One infant looks just like her son, so she snatches the infant and flees into the snowy woods. She's discovered by a traveling German circus show. That's how she meets Jewish Astrid.

After marrying a German and leaving her family's circus, Astrid ends up getting cast out by her husband when soldiers are all told to divorce spouses who are Jewish. Astrid's family has vanished, so she goes to her family's neighbor, a rival circus owner who takes her in. Astrid is given the responsibility of turning Noa into a trapeze artist. This helps the women form a strong friendship, even if it starts out on tenuous grounds.

The Orphan's Tale continues from there showcasing the women's struggles, joys, and fears. It's a poignant tale that also shares a lot of the daily life in a circus. I loved it and was sad when the story came to an end. At that point, I'm not sure I was ready for everything to be over.