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Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Worth Fighting For by Wendy Qualls

Release Date - August 14, 2018

Worth Fighting For is another entry in the Heart of the South series. Homeschooled for many years. Sterling Harper entered college without feeling anything for women. In a one-night trial to see if he really does like women at all, he gets his best friend pregnant. He's clearly gay, but now he's 18 and a dad. He marries his friend in an effort to do the right thing.

Ten years later, Sterling's wife is dead. He's raising his transgender daughter on his own. His in-laws are firmly against the transition and refuse to call "Louis" by her new chosen name Alexa. Sterling is not about to cave to their pressure, and it's clear they are not the right people to watch Alexa all summer long. He tires a nanny to watch her. Jericho is a confident gay man with a degree in special ed. He's perfect.

Soon Sterling finds that Jericho is perfect in more ways than one. For years, Sterling has hidden his sexual orientation from almost everyone he knows. Jericho makes him want to throw caution to the wind and fall head over heels in love. If he does, however, he could lose Alexa forever.

Alexa is my favorite character in Worth Fighting For. She's facing a tough road, but she does it with humor, a bit of sadness, and so much strength for her age. Jericho is the perfect role model. I love when he takes her to meet a transgender woman who is ideal for answering questions and helping her find her new self.

Sterling needed to grow a set. I get he hadn't come out of the closet with most. He was scared. As the dad he was supposed to be, I found his encouragement of Alexa to be a bit hard to swallow given his own fear of revealing his true self.

I liked the romance that builds between Jericho and Sterling. I think they were a bit naive thinking that they could have a relationship under the same roof without Alexa knowing, therefore (at first) reinforcing the idea that your true sexuality must be hidden behind a locked door. Finally, I wish the ending hadn't seemed so rushed. The conflict that's mentioned in the publisher's summary of a custody battle comes quickly and goes just as quickly. I expected that to be a key part of the story and it wasn't.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

RTR's Review of Good Luck With That by Kristan Higgins

Release Date - August 7, 2018

The bond that Emerson, Georgia, and Marley formed at a camp for overweight girls never eased. Fifteen years later, a tragedy brings them back together. Emerson's death is the unexpected blow, but it's her request to Georgia and Marley that sets things into action. She wants them to take their list of things they want to do and make it come true.

With a list full of tasks like be part of a photo shoot and get a guy to buy your drink, Marley and Georgia feel the list is a little outdated, but they will do anything to honor Emerson's memory.

As they tackle the list, they also face their pasts. Marley has never moved past her young twin sister's death. Georgia's never gotten past the pain she felt growing up with a controlling mother, verbally abusive sibling, and absentee father. For both, the past has done nothing to help them move past poor self-esteem and major mistakes when it comes to relationships. This list might be what it takes to truly make a change.

This book had me snickering, cheering them on, and crying. I got it. I also got mad with it. Emerson clearly is never able to come to terms with her weight. It affects her health. I get it. I hated that no one had looked into the reason she was overweight from the beginning. How parents missed that is beyond me and rather disgusting.

Georgia's mother. I couldn't stand her. I didn't like the brother at all either. She would have been so much better "divorcing" her mother and brother long ago. As a lawyer, she could have kept records of her brother's treatment of her nephew and gone for custody. She should have, too.

Marley was in a very supportive, food fixes everything kind of family. I liked her interactions with her family best, but I hated how blind she was to other things. When she finally catches on, I felt it had been dragging on forever.

I ended up having a love/hate relationship with Good Luck With That. I'm glad things played out as they did, but some characters got away with things I wish they'd been called out on. In the end, my heart broke for Emerson. She had the most poignant of the stories and deserved better.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

RTR's Book Review of Not Her Daughter by Rea Frey

Release Date - August 21, 2018

Not Her Daughter is Rea Frey's debut fictional novel. It's a gripping story, and the film rights have been acquired by Argent Pictures. It could well end up on the big screen.

Sarah Walker's essentially alone. Her mom left her when she was young. Her dad raised her into the strong young business owner she is today. A chance encounter in an airport leaves her reeling.

Emma Townsend's mother doesn't seem to love her. Emma is a beautiful, precocious child, but her mom has nothing but hateful words and bruises to leave their mark.

Amy Townsend knows she should love her daughter, but something keeps her from being the perfect mom. She struggles with her daughter's beauty and independence.

Once Sarah encounters Emma, she can't seem to let her go. The decision is made to kidnap the young girl. As Sarah and Emma bond during a trip across the U.S., Amy is at home waiting for news on whether her daughter is alive or dead. Public opinion weighs heavily on what Amy might have done to her child. Police continue to investigate. No one knows how it all will play out.

I loved almost everything about Not Her Daughter. I'm not certain I agree with the ending, however. I can't give spoilers, but the ending was a little hard to swallow for me. I see the story from both points, but somehow Emma's father gets forgotten. That's where I had the big issue.

You will sympathize with both Amy and Sarah. Amy is a little tougher to take, but you start to get her issues as you read more. When all is said and done, I liked the book, but the ending just didn't hit the right mark with me.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

RTR's Book Review of Sold on a Monday by Kristina McMorris

Release Date: August 28, 2018

Sold On a Monday all starts with a real photograph from the Depression era. A mother is so desperate that she puts her children up for sale.

The story takes this real photograph and spins a story about the lives of those affected by the sale. Reporter Ellis Reed never meant for the photo to get attention. He's seen the pain the Depression and a loss of a child has brought to his family.

Lillian Palmer spots Ellis's photo and slips it to her boss. When that photo leads to Ellis' big break, she's happy for him, but the results of showing that photo to the world are not something she considered. It puts her own secrets at risk of spilling out.

Now that things are spiraling, Lillian and Ellis opt to work together to unravel what exactly became of the children affected most by the photo.

I had a rough time getting into Sold On a Monday. I liked the characters' roles in the story and the premise, but the actual heart of the story doesn't start until several chapters have passed. I felt a bit lost as to the plot until that turn when the story really kicked off. I never bonded with the characters as I'd expected I would. In the end, I stuck with it, but I already know it won't be a story I remember months or years from now. It's good, but it's not memorable.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

RTR's Book Review for Our House by Louise Standish

Release Date - August 7, 2018

If you're looking for a book with a lead character you will despise, Our House is an excellent choice. I wanted to reach into the book and strangle Bram. At the very least, I would have loved to be able to tell him to grow a set.

Fiona adores her children and loves their father, though his past indiscretions weigh heavily. It's led to them being separated. To ease any strain on their children, they're doing a co-parenting deal where they take turn living in their home. When it's Bram's time with the boys, Fi goes to a flat they're sharing. When it's her turn, she moves back home and Bram heads to the flat.

Things go beyond the usual, however, when she returns from a trip early to find strangers moving into her home. Her boys are also missing. The new owners have proof that Bram sold them the house for $2 million. It's up to Fi to figure out if Bram is in danger, where are her boys, and how her house could have been sold right out from under her.

There's the premise. I will say the mystery of the boys is one that is resolved quickly. It's not really that integral to the story, though it is for a brief flash. The bigger mystery is what Bram did and why. It's told through alternating chapters of his past, his present, Fi's past, and Fi's present.

I hated Bram. It's that simple. Louise Standish does a great job at building a character it's impossible to like. I never felt pity for him as some might. Had he manned up, this story wouldn't have existed sure, but it would have been the decent thing to do. Read it and you'll know exactly what I'm saying.

For me, the bottom line is clear. Despite my hatred of Bram, I was hooked. I had to see how things ended.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Book Review for The Cheerleaders By Kara Thomas

Release Date: July 31, 2018

Kara Thomas impressed me with her teen mystery The Cheerleaders. Do I think there was some  shoddy police work at play? Yes. Could I put the book down? No. If you were a fan of Veronica Mars, this is a book to read.

It's been five years since five cheerleaders died tragically. Two died in a horrific car crash. Two died in a shocking murder. One allegedly killed herself. Monica still struggles with her sister's suicide. Jen just wasn't the type. When she finds her sister's cell phone hidden in her stepdad's desk drawer, along with yearly notes telling him to connect the dots, she's convinced there is more to the five deaths than police suspected.

Monica starts with the last number her sister called. It puts her in touch with a mystery person telling her not to trust her stepdad. Wanting to know the truth, Monica starts going back to the people in Jen's life and asking questions. They're questions not everyone wants to answer, but Monica is determined to learn the truth about her sister's alleged suicide and the other girls' deaths.

The story had me hooked. Even as potential suspects were revealed, I was still quite involved trying to figure it all out. It can be a dark story at times, but the case and characters have you involved. Are people lying? Are secrets still being hidden five years later? As Monica and her new friend work through the facts of the case through old newspaper stories and interviews, it becomes clear that this isn't an easy case to solve.

I ended up making this a one-sitting book. I didn't want to stop until I knew. It was that good.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Set the Night on Fire by Laura Trentham

Release Date - July 31, 2018

Ella and Mack have a turn at romance in Set the Night on Fire. If you haven't read the other stores, you really don't need to. I do, however, recommend the entire series.

Since buying out Ford Abbott's stake in a family garage, Ella has not had a warm welcome. What was first an investment became a setting for some of her best memories of her brother. She doesn't want to give up the garage and hopes she can win Mack Abbott over with her marketing skills.

Mack is furious that his brother sold a share of the family business. It's supposed to stay in the family. Despite his growing attraction to Ella, he must get her share back. To do so, he'll really push her buttons. He never expects her to stand up to her tests, however. He starts to wonder if his desire to buy Ford's share back is really worth it.

I loved the chemistry between Ella and Mack in the previous entry in the A Cottonbloom Novel series. This book is not disappointing. Plus, there's another potential character introduced and I'd like to see her get her own story.

I do have to say that I was a bit let down with the resolution with Ella and her ex-husband. It didn't seem to fit with the character he had been. It's a minor part in the story, however, so it was easy to move past that.

Over all, Set the Night on Fire was another great addition to this very romantic, character-driven series.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Book Review for Zoje Stage's Baby Teeth

Release Date: July 17, 2018

A child should be a wondrous event. Suzette Jensen suffers from Crohn's Disease. For her, having a child is a risk. She loves her husband, however, and knows he wants a family. With a beautiful baby girl adding to their family, the pair of them are not prepared for parenthood.

At first, Hanna appeared to be an average child. As she grew, she never spoke. Years pass and Hanna still doesn't speak. Thinking she just needs to socialize more, Suzette and Alex enroll Hanna in school. She is kicked out of one school and then the next. Alex blames the school for not understanding Hanna. Suzette thinks there is more going on. She's convinced her daughter is evil.

Little Hanna is as creepy as they come. This child was one of the scariest characters I've encountered in a while. The interactions between Alex and Suzette also add to the story. You have Alex who works long hours so that Suzette can stay home to raise their daughter. He doesn't pick up on subtle cues that the reader does. There's Suzette who is battling her own disease and depression and undeniable love for Alex. She wants to keep her marriage together, but Hanna is equally determined to tear them apart.

I couldn't put Baby Teeth down. It's creepy, gripping, and could continue into future books if the author chose to go that way. I loved it.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Every Time You Go Away by Beth Harbison

Release Date - July 24, 2018

I've finished Every Time You Go Away and I'm still not sure what I think. I'm not convinced I loved this book. I get the point, but I think it comes down to how much you believe about ghosts.

Time stopped when Willa learned her husband had died of an unknown heart condition. Now a widow, the now 30-something has practically ignored her son as he grew from boy to teen. It's hard to be a parent when grief consumes you.

Over the years, the one thing Willa couldn't do was return to the family beach house in Maryland. It's where her husband died unexpectedly. She's dreaded returning there, but the time has come that she must return to get the house emptied and put it on the market.

Willa arrives as ready as she can be to clear the home and ready it for a sale. Other than her dog, she's alone. When she spies a young boy on the beach all by himself, Willa's nerves are shaken. He looked just like her son and husband did at that age. Inside the beach house isn't any better. Her dog is acting up. Before long, her deceased husband appears to her.

Could it just be memories and her mind playing tricks or is Ben really there? Willa does the only thing she can and starts talking back. Still not convinced she's sane, Willa does what everyone needs to get past the grief. She gets her son, her best friend, and her best friend's daughter to come to the beach home to ready it for one last goodbye.

I believe in ghosts. I really do. I don't believe in ghosts that easily appear and hold full conversations. I had a hard time with that part of the book. Ghosts are there to be sensed. There may be a scent or a cold spot, but a ghost you can see, talk to, and even go outside with was a little odd to me. It had me wondering if there would be a moment in the book when you'd learn it was all a dream. You have to read to find out the truth.

The book's message of love, loss, and the stages of grief was very true. In the end, I read every page, but I can't say I loved the book. I really only ever liked it.

The Art of Inheriting Secrets by Barbara O'Neal

Release Date - July 17, 2018

After her mother's death, Olivia Shaw is still deeply mourning the loss. She finds herself in England after uncovering a mystery. Her mother owns an English estate and Olivia holds the title of Lady Olivia. She went to England to settle the estate and sell the land and buildings. What she finds is that she's falling in love with the estate and many of the townspeople.

Rosemere holds a lot of secrets, however. In order to get help restoring all the buildings, Olivia must unravel the truth her mother and grandmother spent decades hiding.

The lush setting and descriptions of foods in The Art of Inheriting Secrets had me hooked. I could smell the dampness overtaking the mansion. I could taste the rich spices of the many Indian dishes Olivia eats during her time in England. I loved the romance between Olivia and a man who many say is beneath her newly discovered title.

That said, there were aspects I felt were left open. I don't know if that means a sequel will follow. I hope so. I feared there would be a big revelation into the truth about Olivia's father. I also wanted to know if Olivia would turn things around financially. That didn't get as much attention.

Hopefully, Barbara O'Neal has a sequel in store. If there is to be one, I'll be one of the first in line to buy it.

Monday, July 16, 2018

The Space Between by Dete Meserve

Release Date - July 24, 2018

When I read Dete Meserve's novel A Good Sam, I knew she was an author to watch. The Space Between is just as gripping and emotional.

Sarah Mayfield returns back from her trip to NASA where she and her team presented proof of an amazing discovery. She's riding the high of their success and what it means for her field. Her teen son is home, but her husband, a wealthy restaurateur, is nowhere to be found.

Things look bad when Sarah finds the security camera footage was scrubbed. There's a gun in their bedroom. He deposited a million dollars in a bank account they haven't touched in years.

Soon, Sarah's life is unraveling. While it first appears that Ben may have been taken by people he was suing, it starts to look much, much worse. Ben's blood is found in his abandoned car. A life insurance policy is discovered. Detectives start to wonder if Sarah killed him to get the money he possessed. If Sarah wants to uncover the truth, she's going to need to trust her instincts and dig through the clues.

This is a one-sitting book. I was so glad I had a couple hours dedicated to reading. I was able to get through most of Sarah's story. I had part of it pegged. I found the mystery wasn't so baffling. It was more the why that kept me guessing.

If you haven't picked up a book from Dete Meserve, you should. The Space Between is a great way to discover her work. Once you've finished it, you'll want to check out her other works of fiction.

Friday, July 13, 2018

The Boy at the Door by Alex Dahl

Release Date - July 24, 2018

Caring for her two daughters is challenging with her husband often gone on business. Cecilia Wilborg makes it work. After all, her husband loves her, her daughters are perfect, and they have a home in a wealthier area in Norway.

While taking her daughters to the community pool, Cecilia runs into the one thing that could tear her perfect life apart. Someone left their young son at the pool. Cecilia's asked to run him home. She never imagines that the boy's parents will not be there. She and her husband agree to take him in until his parents are found.

Annika Lucasson knows Cecilia's secret. She may not be more than a junkie, but the secret she knows could be her claim to wealth. To keep her world intact, Cecilia must deal with her past and maintain a calm facade as Annika intrudes more and more on her life.

Some of the secrets and mysteries within The Boy at the Door are apparent. I wasn't shocked by some revelations. I was more surprised that Cecilia opted to keep some of her secrets hidden. They weren't that big a deal in the scheme of things.

The story is told through Cecilia's, Annika's, and the boy's eyes. You get to see a clear picture of how their stories come together slowly over time. I actually loved the breaks and getting to know each character so closely.

By the end, I was thoroughly hooked. I can't say I loved Cecilia. She makes foolish mistakes that never needed to be made. She's pretty stuck on herself and that made her hard to like. The rest of the characters drew me in, however, and I was definitely intrigued and wanted to know more with each page.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Somebody's Daughter by David Bell

Release Date: July 10, 2018

Somebody's Daughter will have your thoughts going all over the place. You may think you've got it all figured out, but you don't. I did eventually catch on, but it took a lot longer than usual.

Michael Frazier and his wife have a relaxed evening planned. After years of dealing with infertility issues, it's a good night to have a romantic dinner and try for the baby they both desperately want. Things take a very dark, ominous turn when Michael's ex-wife Erika shows up. Her daughter vanished and Michael must help her. She reveals Michael is the nine-year-old girl's father. He never knew.

The last thing Michael's wife expects is for Michael to agree to leave with Erica. Angela is stunned. Worse, when the police come to interview her, she learns Michael has been hiding things. Did he know he has a daughter? Is the girl really even his daughter?

As the hours pass, Angela starts to hear more and more about Erika's past and her concern grows. Something isn't right. When a mystery man appears with connections to Erika and an equally avid interest in discovering the truth, Angela agrees to team up. She's hesitant to trust a stranger, but she needs to know what is happening to her quiet marriage.

This story took so many twists. I kept trying to predict things and failed miserably each time. I love not being able to guess an ending so easily. It took a good portion of the book before I'd figured it out. I did have one complaint. One story that develops along the way really just gets glossed over. I needed to know how that turns out. Maybe it will be told in future novels. Who knows. Either way, I'm delighted I read this book.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Broken Promise by Tara Thomas

Release Date: June 26, 2018

I loved the first entry in the Sons of Broad series. I wasn't as taken with Broken Promises. It was okay, but it was nothing I rushed to read in one sitting.

Officer Alyssa Adams has never forgotten her sister's murder. Maybe that's why the disappearance of Kipling Benedict's long-lost sister has her riled. She leaves the force in an agreement to help the Benedict brothers find their sister and end the madness the Gentleman has created.

Kipling may have been arrested by Alyssa, but he's not going to blame her for doing her job. In fact, he finds her quite appealing. He cannot let his attraction get in the way of finding his sister, however. Jade's safety is most important to Kipling and his brothers. He's ready to end the Gentleman once and for all.

The Gentleman is a creepy, sadistic man who has been putting the brothers through hell for multiple books. I was glad to see this is the final entry. I didn't find it as gripping as Darkest Night.

As the story progresses, you learn that Jade and Alyssa have an unknown tie. I liked that aspect. It made me tear up a bit. But, I never found Alyssa and Kipling to be that interesting a couple. Their entire relationship seemed rushed and there simply to be there. I didn't buy into a smoldering attraction.

In the end, I'm glad I read the first book in this series. I'm glad I've learned the conclusions to the secrets. I just wish I'd like the romance in this book more than I did.

Monday, July 2, 2018

The Complete Air Fryer Cookbook by LInda Larsen

Released in July 2016

Forget any other air fryer cookbook. This is the book you need. I have an air fryer. I also hate it. I've tried making fries. They were limp. I tried making fried fish. It was lousy. I put it away after that.

The Complete Air Fryer Cookbook had me pulling it back out. A recipe for healthier scotch eggs caught my eye. I love scotch eggs. With the ingredients in hand, eggs boiled, and air fryer ready to go, I gave the recipe a shot. These were the greatest scotch eggs. They were crispy, moist, and delicious.

There's a good guide to get you started with an air fryer. I used the Power Air Fryer XL while testing these recipes. Recipes and information are divided into these categories:

  • Fast Food or Good Health
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Appetizers
  • Fish and Seafood
  • Poultry
  • Meat
  • Vegetables and Sides
  • Desserts

I had temperatures of 95 F at my house yesterday. The heat index reached 125 F. I was a little worried about using the air fryer, but it didn't heat up the kitchen at all. The oven would have. I liked the air fryer for that reason.

After making scotch eggs, I tried a few more recipes. Arancini worked wonders with some of the short-grain rice I'd cooked a few days ago and set aside for making California rolls this week. The Roasted Potato Salad was also great.

I'm not sure the air fryer will get constant use, but The Complete Air Fryer Cookbook has shown me that the machine is better than I thought. The recipes in the product guides were lousy. These are worth the cost of the book. It's a win. Thanks to Callisto Publisher's Club for pointing it out.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

All That's Left of Me by Janis Thomas

Release Date - June 12, 2018

If you knew that your wish would come true, what would you wish for? Emma Davies is tired. Caring for a son with cerebral palsy is already tiring, but a full-time job on top of it is hard to take. Her husband is working on his book, so his income is minimal. It's her job that keeps them afloat. The last thing she needs is to hear her neighbor's dog bark at all hours. She wishes the dog away and is stunned to find the dog missing the next day.

Soon, Emma realizes anything she wishes for will come true. She can wish away her daughter's obnoxious boyfriend. She can wish away her boss, a man whose picture should be paired with the definition of sexual harassment, and anything else she wants.

Emma may have the power to change her life, but those changes may come at a cost. As she continues making changes, what is she giving up?

How many times have you thought it would be nice to make all your troubles go away? That's the heart of All That's Left of Me. I wasn't sure what I'd think at first. I loved the premise, but I was struggling with the characters.

The introduction to Emma's boss left me feeling so cold and disgusted. Part of me didn't like her wish in regards to him. I thought it was too easy. I feared the rest of the book would make me feel that it was just too easy. Thankfully, that never happened. As she made her choices, I often agreed and, like her, never thought of the effect that her wishes would have in the long run.

This isn't my usual read, but it was a very satisfying one. It's a great read for a lazy summer day when you just want to be taken away for a few hours.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

The Widow's Watcher by Eliza Maxwell

Release Date: May 29, 2018

After a tragedy rips her husband and children from her, Jenna Shaw is ready to join them. Leaving her dog with neighbors, Jenna sets off from Texas to find the perfect spot to end her life. She finds it at a rural Minnesota lake.

Lars Jorgensen has lived with tragedy and loss for decades. He's never had the resolution he desperately needs. When he spies a woman walking onto the frozen lake near his home, he is not about to let her do what he knows she intends. Much to her annoyance, he stops her. He's also forced to take her into his home when her car won't start.

Jenna wants nothing to do with Lars, but she has no choice. Lars' son has ordered the part needed to fix her car. In the meantime, Lars is the only person with space for a stranger. As she gets to know him, she realizes the gruff man has an incredible heart. He'll ask her for help in a way no one has, and it may be what Jenna needs to move past her grief and give life another try.

The Widow's Watcher frequently had me in tears. The pain that Lars and Jenna both feel is very present throughout the story. As they delve into the past and try to see a future, I was hooked. I felt compelled to read as quickly as possible. I wanted to see them both find the happiness they deserved.

Suicide is the opening theme, but it doesn't last. The story is more about hope, forgiveness, and determination. I loved it. It's no secret that I've come to trust in Lake Union for outstanding releases. This is no different. It was fantastic.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Little Big Love by Katy Regan

Release Date - June 12, 2018

Katy Regan's Little Big Love is part coming of age and part women's fiction. Obesity is one of the themes you'll run into. Bullying, family dysfunction, alcoholism, emotion binge-eating, and parenting in today's world are others. Starting with the setting, which I loved, this story takes place on the North Sea coast in England. The main city is just below Hull, so it's an area I have been to several times as I have family in Bridlington.

Zac Hutchinson is 10 and considered obese. He's reached an age where he really wants to know his father. Mostly, he wants his mother to be happy. One night after a bit of wine, she blurts out that the only man she'll ever love was his father. Zac decides he's going to reunite them, even if his father's name seems to be forbidden.

While Zac and his best friend try to find where Liam is now, his mom and grandfather each take a look back in time to the events that led to Liam walking away. For Zac to find Liam, they'll all have to face painful events from the past. For Juliet, it involves the lies she's told Zac about his father. For Mick, it involves his role and the things none of his family knows.

Little Big Love is told from Zac, Juliet, and Mick's viewpoints. All of the secrets are revealed slowly and definitely impact each character. Everything did get settled, but there were aspects of the story that I feel were settled a little too easily.

Mostly, my heart broke for Zac. That poor kid. His bullies were deplorable little cretins. I was rooting for him the entire time, and I'm glad his coming-of-age story was treated to the ending that takes place. He had me in tears, but it was well worth it.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

How Hard Can It Be? by Allison Pearson

Release Date - June 5, 2018

In so many ways, Kate Reddy is me. There were moments in the book that I didn't know if I should laugh or cry. From writing or editing your teen's English essay to the "crime scene period," I've totally been there.

Kate Reddy is nearing 50. Her husband's packed in a paying career to become a bike-riding, healthy living, therapist who earns little to no money. Her teens are in the state most teens are where life is never fair and social media can be torture. With mounting bills, in-laws who need more help than they're getting, and a needy mother, Kate's trying to balance it all while getting a job outside the home for the first time in years.

The workforce isn't accepting of middle-aged women. Kate soon learns that to land a job, some creative marketing is necessary. She lies about her age and happens to land a job in the same financial firm she left so many years ago. The staff is all new, but it's a job Kate knows how to do, even if she's surrounded by ageist jerks. With the support and guidance of her friends, Kate's convinced she'll make it work.

I seriously did relate to Kate in so many ways. After my kids headed off to college, I went back to work. A 40-something who's been a stay-home-mom for close to two decades is not well received. Even though I've worked from home for 15 years as a virtual assistant, certifications in online marketing, and have references galore, I had men tell me that I had no marketable skills. I was turned away by a grocery store of all ridiculous places because they "weren't sure an older person used to sitting behind a desk could handle eight hours of being on her feet."

People who haven't deal with perimenopause won't get the realism in portions of the narrative. Her conference meeting perimenopausal period. I have been there. In her case, she snuck off. She's lucky. I was serving food samples, felt that Niagara Falls flow, created the crime scene bathroom (so yeah, I get that too), cleaned up, and wadded up as many paper towels as I could fit. I talked to my boss - a very uncomfortable situation - and was told she couldn't let me go home and to get back to work. She went on to say that "black's a good color for that reason, the blood won't show up." I quit shortly after that. I couldn't help but laugh at the descriptions that Allison Pearson created. They were spot on.

Kate faces many situations in this book. My mom has Alzheimer's, so I've been there. Thankfully, my daughter never took "belfies," but she had classmates that did that and worse and went through the same experience as Kate's daughter. I get the longing for the babies that are now far from babies. I related to the character in so many ways that it did at times feel like she was living my life.

There were times I wanted the pace to speed up. I was hooked on Kate's interactions at work, her relationship with her family, and her final decisions on where things would go from here. I was happy to cheer her on.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Imperfect Delight by Andrea de Carlo

Release Date: June 5, 2018

Imperfect Delight is a good I truly get. I don't always agree with the characters' methods, but I get it. The best I description I can muster is: Think Chocolat but edgier.

To Milena, gelato is everything. Tourist season may be over, but her passion for creating unique flavors that speak to the nuances of the ingredients is everything. The end of tourist season doesn't mean she'll shut down or even slow down, despite what her girlfriend believes should happen. Her girlfriend's eyes are on having a baby together. They've met with the doctor and are days from starting treatments. Milena's going along with it, but she's not sure her heart's truly into the arduous process.

Nick Cruickshank, lead singer of the immensely popular rock band the Bebonkers, is preparing for a major show at a nearby airfield. He's also days away from his wedding to Aileen. His estate is a storm of activity. He's playing host to his band members and their significant others, media who get to do a tell-all for the wedding, caterers, and more. He's tired of this lifestyle, but it's also led to him having all he has. He just wishes he had space to himself.

A power outage causes havoc in Nick and Milena's little French town. Their worlds collide when Milena gets a call asking for a huge rush gelato order. She was just in a panic of losing everything to the power outage. She agrees and delivers to the estate where she meets Nick. Sparks fly and the pair finds themselves drawn to one another, no matter how bad the timing.

I loved Chocolat. I loved the romance, the impossibility of having a lasting relationship, and the struggle to figure it all out. On many levels, Imperfect Delight was all of that and more. It had steamy moments, but it was focused more on the characters. There were the simple joys Nick and Milena craved and the more demanding ones of those around them. It complicated things and made it all so clear what you wanted to happen.

I won't say how things played out, but every page led to an ending that both satisfied me and left me wanting more. I would love to return to the town and see what's next for those in it.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier

Release Date: June 12, 2018

I admit the cover art is the reason I stopped to take a closer look at Jar of Hearts. I loved the cover. It's not the cover that got me hooked though.

Georgina "Geo" Shaw's best friend was murdered when they were both 16. Geo should know. She was there. Her role in the events that evening were kept hidden for 14 years. Angela's body is found and the truth starts to come out. Geo receives a plea deal and goes to prison for five years in order to testify against a notorious serial killer, Calvin James, a man Geo once loved.

After prison, Geo is ready to start her life over. She'll never be the power executive she was, but she doesn't feel she deserves it either. The problem is that Geo's ex-boyfriend escaped years ago. He's never been caught. Bodies are piling up and all seem to be sending a message to Geo. Calvin's not going to stop.

I will say that you're going to find a strong theme of abuse in Jar of Hearts. It's hard to imagine ever feeling for Geo, but as you go into the past and experience what she experienced, it becomes clear why she did some of the things she did. Do I agree with her? No, but then I've never been in an abusive relationship. I have had friends who were and it's frightening the lies they will tell themselves.

This book was sad, frightening, and a little too real. I enjoyed every minute of it. Despite a few cringe-worthy moments.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

The Summer List by Amy Mason Doan

Release Date: June 26, 2018

For many years, Laura and Casey spent every possible hour together. Casey's mom, Alex, was a breath of fresh air to Laura. Laura's own mom was highly religious and believed her daughter needed to be the same way. She and the other church women disapproved of Alex and made it very clear.

As time went on, Laura and Casey spent summers with their peers doing Alex's next treasure hunt. Those treasure hunts would change the girls and also lead to the end of a friendship.

It's been 17 years. Laura gets a note from Casey asking her to return for one more adventure. Laura's hesitant, but something pulls her back to her hometown. Now as women, Laura and Casey will be forced to look back at their past and towards an uncertain future.

The Summer List is a coming of age and women's fiction in one. The story switches back and forth between past and present. Pay attention to the dates at the beginning of the chapter and it's easy to keep up with the changes.

This is the type of light, breezy story I love for a summer's day. I curled up on the back deck and read the book in one sitting. A lot goes on, but it was engaging and kept me hooked. I didn't find the big revelation to be too shocking. I had it pegged early and think most readers will. It didn't distract from the story at any point.

I really enjoyed the setting and characters. While I didn't ever feel the secrets were that shocking, they definitely impacted the characters and outcome. It was a warm, satisfying read that would be ideal for the beach.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Bring Me Back by B. A. Paris

Release Date: June 19, 2018

B. A. Paris is back with another excellent suspense/mystery. Bring Me Back kept me guessing and doubting myself.

On the return from a ski trip, Finn and his girlfriend Layla stop for a bathroom break. Finn is startled when he returns from the men's room to find Layla missing. She's nowhere to be found. What police don't know is that he didn't tell them the entire story.

Years have passed. Layla's never returned. Finn is now engaged to her sister, Ellen. Layla's disappearance drew them together. It's all about to go horribly wrong.

It starts with a phone call from one of the detectives Finn knows. One of Finn and Layla's former neighbors are certain he saw Layla. Before Finn and Ellen know what's happening, additional clues that Layla's alive are popping up.

Items from Ellen and Layla's childhood are popping up everywhere. Finn's getting emails that raise suspicions. Finn doesn't know who to trust. One thing is certain, he needs to get to the bottom of things if he wants to keep Ellen.

Here's the thing with Bring Me Back, it's so hard to guess what's going on. I thought I had solved the mystery, but one more chapter in and I'd question my deduction. I'd read another chapter and think I had it again, only to find myself thinking I was wrong again. I've never had a book take me on such a twisted journey. In the end, my initial gut feeling was right, and I really loved the journey the author took me on.

I could see this being a stunning movie. I kind of hope someone does pick it up. I'd love to see it play out on the big screen.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata

Release Date: June 12, 2018

Since childhood, Keiko Furukura has been different. She thinks differently. She can be blunt. It's what causes her parents to worry that she'll never fit in with the normal world. When she takes a job at a convenience store while in college, they're happy enough. They're not as happy that she's now in her 30s and still working for that store.

Keiko is actually quite happy. She has a routine. There's a precise order to the things she must do each day. When a new employee comes in and starts to question why things must be so precise, he starts to make Keiko wonder if she's really where she should be.

I wasn't sure what I'd think of Convenience Store Woman. It was addicting. I was instantly drawn into Keiko's world. I loved the descriptions of her job and her life. She may not be your average person, but that's what made her so much fun.

The convenience store itself was appealing. What I wouldn't give to be able to get so many Japanese foods in my convenience store. I found my mouth watering with some of the descriptions. Others, like chocolate and mango together, not so much. I could easily envision all of these goodies, however. The narrative was so descriptive and engaging.

Convenience Store Woman is a real treat. I'm glad I read it. It's not very long, but it keeps you reading until you find out what Keiko will decide.