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Wednesday, October 17, 2018

The Season of Silver Linings by Christine Nolfi

Release Date - July 17, 2018

I'd held off reading The Season of Silver Linings because I prefer reading holiday novels closer to the holidays. The third novel in the Sweet Lake series has been out for a few months, but it's still available in paperback or e-book.

Jada and her two friends have turned Wayfair Inn into a thriving business. As a pastry chef, Jada is plenty busy, but Linnie's upcoming wedding has everyone feeling a bit stressed. Linnie is weeks from her big day, but she still can't find a dress. Cat is newly married and focused more on her new husband. Jada's tackling an awful lot in these weeks before the wedding.

Her hands are full trying to convince her long-time friend's little girl that dress-up costumes are not suitable attire for a flower girl. She's battling her feelings for Philip, the girl's dad, and the guilt she can't shake off after Philip's wife's death. A stranger coming to the inn and asking all kinds of personal questions is a little too much.

Jada is pretty sure that stranger knows Philip's late wife, but she's not sure how they connect. She's certain to get to the bottom of it. She's falling hard for Philip and his little girl, and she won't let them get hurt.

I had not read the other Sweet Lake novels, so this was my introduction to all of the characters. I think I needed to read the other two. For much of the novel, I struggled to find a reason to bond with the characters.

The relationship between Jada and Fancy is endearing. I loved their interactions. I also liked the romance that slowly formed between Philip and Jada. The rest seemed like a big distraction. There's already enough conflict with Jada worrying about becoming a bigger part of Fancy's life and hiding a secret about the death of Fancy's mom. It just seems that everything else was unnecessary. 

I would have loved The Season of Silver Linings had it been all about Jada, Fancy, Philip, and the mystery guest. Adding Linnie's bridal panic and Cat's desire to be with her husband rather than holding up her end of the business felt unnecessary to me.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Dear Santa by Nancy Naigle

Release Date - October 16, 2018

For three generations, Heart of Christmas has sold unique items to the residents and visitors of Pleasant Sands, North Carolina. This year, Angela Carson is struggling to keep her grandmother's store open. A large competitor opened up and is threatening to put her out of business. Out of desperation, Angela listens to her young niece and asks Santa for help.

To make matters worse, the good-looking guy Angela bumps into is her competition. Geoff Paisley and his mom own the Christmas Galore chain. He's in town to make sure his newest location thrives. If it knocks out the competition, that's just an unfortunate side of retail.

When Geoff's mom is hospitalized, he has to take over the new Dear Santa app. Some letters get an automated response, but others get a personalized answer. He finds himself charmed by one letter and keeps talking to the mysterious woman. Little does he know that letter writer is the same angry store owner who blames him for her store being on the verge of closing down.

When the truth is revealed, can Angela and Geoff come up with a way to get past business and continue a relationship that seems too good to give up?

There were so many characters I just didn't like. Angela's sister was miserable. She simply had no supportive qualities at all. Angela loves her shop, but she's so stuck on griping about the competition that she never really takes time to consider other ways to make the shop competitive. Given her interest and knowledge of history, from the beginning, I wondered she didn't convert her business into a history museum. I had a hard time getting past that aspect.

Geoff was a bit of a pompous jerk. I didn't like his "I'm here to dominate the market and if it puts another in financial ruin, so be it" attitude. Good looking or not, as is mentioned a lot, he was a jerk.

I'd love to say that something in the book sparked my interest, but it just never did. I never formed a bond with characters that made me interested in what happened to them. As a result, Dear Santa turned out to be a miss for me. 

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Love in Catalina Cove by Brenda Jackson

Release Date: October 30, 2018

I'll start by saying that Love in Catalina Cove has cover art that caught my eye. I love the beach scene painted on the cover. I also found myself immediately liking Vashti's character. She's tough, but she's not so tough it makes her cold and distant. I liked Sawyer, too. As a couple, I really enjoyed them.

Vashti left Catalina Cove, Louisiana, years ago. When she refused to name the father of her unborn child, the entire town turned against her. That child died soon after childbirth, and Vashti left, made a name for herself, and vowed never to return. The only reason she's back now is to sell the inn her aunt left to her. Once that sale is complete, she won't return.

Sawyer and his teen daughter, Jade, have made Catalina Cove their home after Sawyer's wife and Jade's mom died. He's the town's beloved sheriff. He never expects to find himself truly drawn to a woman he pulls over for speeding.

During her return, Vashti is determined to make sure Sawyer is nothing more than a brief fling. She's been in love twice, and both times her heart got badly burned. Three times is not in her future. Meanwhile, her return to town leads to a discovery that she's been lied to for 16 years. These lies have her questioning who she really can trust.

The romance was steamy. The characters, well most of them, were truly enjoyable. Generally, I'd say this was a solid 4-star romance. I have one major issue with it. Without giving away spoilers, things became so coincidental at one point that I had a hard time with the story from there. Read it and you should know what I'm getting at.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Mistletoe Miracles by Jodi Thomas

Release Date: September 25, 2018

Mistletoe Miracles is really three stories in one. It's written with the same warmth Jodi Thomas is so good at. I loved it, though I do wish it hadn't ended. I wasn't ready to say goodbye to the characters.

His family's ranch is in danger of bankruptcy. Griffin Holloway doesn't want to lose Maverick Ranch to debt, but there's little hope. The only way out that he can see is to find a bride with lots of money. But, what woman would want to marry a man just to bail out his ranch?

Jamie Johnson loves her home and job in Crossroads, but the advances of a married co-worker are less than enjoyable. She tells everyone in town that she's married as a cover. She's shocked when she returns from a school trip to find a very sexy "Mr. Johnson" in her shower.

Jaxon O'Grady has been living the life of a hermit ever since an accident left him with physical and emotional scars. He sees a car accident and finds an injured dog after the ambulance leaves. He can't help but find himself involved in both the dog's care and the dog's owner's situation.

Each story is so touching. The three romances blend seamlessly into the story. While they're separate, they work well together and bring more of Crossroads' community members to life. I love that town and the people in it. So far, this is my favorite holiday romance this season.

Donald and the Golden Crayon by P. Shauers

Release Date - September 28, 2018

Donald and the Golden Crayon turned a gloomy, rainy afternoon into a joyous one. I snickered several times and even chuckled out loud while reading it. This parody of the current presidency is also a fun spin on the very popular kid's book Harold and the Purple Crayon. It joins other kid's books written by Stephen Colbert and John Oliver on my keeper shelf.

In this humorous parody, Donald has a golden crayon. With it, he'll make his dreams come true. He'll draw his expansive golf course and a wall to keep those who aren't perfect like him out. He'll tweet his late-night messages, even if they make sense to no one but him. Covfefe, anyone?

Enjoy this parody that is certain to make the non-MAGA crowd laugh. Nothing is made up. It's all based on things that have been said or done within the current presidency. It even uses the BEST words. I loved it.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Nell and Lady by Ashley Farley

Release Date: September 18, 2018

Willa Bellemore was shocked when her close friend and employee died. Knowing that May May had no family, Willa steps up and adopts May May's teen daughter Nell. Willa's daughter, Lady, and Nell grew up together anyway and are already as close as sisters.

At the age of 16, something happened that tore them apart. Willa never understood what happened. The girls never talked about it. Nell left for college and shut Willa and Lady out.

Many decades have passed. Both Lady and Willa are moms of teens. Willa is diagnosed with cancer and is convinced she's dying. Before her final breath, she wants to reunite with Nell and bring her family back together. Doing so will make all of the women go back to the events that changed them.

A lot of the story in Nell and Lady involves racism. There are parts that may make you think of the current #metoo movement. As time progresses, abuse, alcoholism, and anxiety/panic attacks are added to the mix. It all came across as very genuine and while these issues were not always handled well, they were not ignored.

I really enjoyed this story. It did bounce back and forth in time, something I don't always love, but it worked in this situation. I loved the relationships and story.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The Found Child by Jo Crow

Release Date - August 31, 2018

Years earlier, Elaine suffered the worst pain a mother could endure. Her infant son vanished. He's returned to her and his kidnappers are jailed. Seven years later, Elaine must face a new pain. Her son is diagnosed with leukemia. Worse, blood tests reveal he is not their son at all.

Despite her love for her son, she cannot help but wonder. If this isn't Jakob, whose child does she have? What happened to his parents, and why is her husband hiding stuff from her?

It's clear there is a bit of a complex mystery in The Found Child. I found myself torn, however. I wanted to buy that Elaine was a doting mom, but she did a lot of things that had me questioning her. She takes off while her son is undergoing cancer treatments. She's gone for hours at a time, if not a full day, and never really seems to be too torn apart that she's left him in the hospital with the husband she's suspicious of and a sister who seems to hate her.

I thought I had the story's outcome pegged. I was wrong. Jo Crow gets high marks for pulling a twist I didn't see coming. I love being surprised and this one did just that.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

The Christmas Wishing Tree by Emily March

Release Date - September 25, 2018

This isn't my first time in Eternity Springs, but this one had me crying the hardest. I think it hit the fears the "mom" in me would experience in Jenna's shoes. The Christmas Wishing Tree is a strong, addicting contemporary romance, but it does have aspects of romantic suspense, too.

Devin Murphy's family is all in Eternity Springs. He adores them and visits as often as possible. It's not easy when he's half a world away in Australia. During a Christmas visit, his phone gets a call from a young boy who wants to talk to Santa. Devin connects with the boy and continues to take his calls. All the boy wants is a dad for Christmas.

Jenna Stockton does everything she can to keep her adopted son safe. She's gained the unwanted attention of a stalker and it needs to end, but she's powerless to stop it. The attacks are stepping up. From slashed tires to dozens of pizzas showing up at her house, she's having a hard time. When her house is raided and her son is knocked over and his arm is broken, Jenna packs him up and moves him. Police can't find her stalker, and she feels helpless.

When she learns her son has been making calls to "Santa," she wants to end it. The Santa on the other end of the phone convinces her to let her son continue to call until he has to return to his home in Australia from Eternity Springs. The calls come to an end when she's forced to move after her son's arm is broken.

In a new state, the same thing happens. She's been the victim of swatting twice now. She hopes a trip to Eternity Springs, the place that "Santa" made sound so peaceful, may help her son get past the fear of simply living.

When Devin learns the attractive single mom he meets is the stranger he'd talked to on the phone, he befriends her and her son. With the help of his friends, he's determined to help Jenna catch her stalker for once and for all. When he's done, he'll return to Australia for good. He never expects to fall in love.

Jenna knows Devin has a business to run in Australia. While she's equally smitten, she can't give her heart to a man who plans to leave.

The swatting sequences in The Christmas Wishing Tree broke my heart. Reilly's fear is so real. I couldn't read the book with dry eyes for that reason. I also had to read the book in one sitting. I'm so glad I did. It was enchanting and the best book I've read this month.

Monday, September 17, 2018

The Christmas Sisters by Sarah Morgan

Release Date - September 25, 2018

Many years ago, Suzanne became a guardian to three young girls. She's wanted nothing more than to keep those girls from experiencing heartbreak again. With the help of her Scottish beau, they raised three smart women, but the past has a way of staying on the mind. This Christmas, Suzanne wants to get the family together for a Scottish Highlands Christmas no one will forget.

Beth is a devoted mom, but she longs for something more. Her two daughters wear her out. When an old boss offers her the job of a lifetime, she expects her husband to be thrilled. He's not. Upset and uncertain she and her husband have the same dreams, she takes off for Scotland to have time to herself before the family gathers for Christmas.

Hannah is a successful businesswoman who has no time for love. Her boyfriend of six months seems perfect, but Hannah doesn't believe in happily ever after. She can't handle a surprising revelation, so she flees to Scotland to attend a family Christmas. She hasn't been to one in a couple years, and she knows she can't avoid this one.

Posy never left the family's lodge. She helps her mom run the cafe and assists in mountain rescues. Their current guest, a bestselling author, has Posy wondering if she's missing out.

The three sisters are bonded by tragedy, but it's that same tragedy that's shaped them into the women they are today. If Suzanne's wishes come true, this will be a holiday gathering that will help them form the bond that's been missing.

The Christmas Sisters was a little slow to start. Beth and Hannah's characters were hard for me to like at first. They couldn't see the things that were good in their lives and focused only on the negative. Once they were all in Scotland together, I was completely hooked. I fell in love with the family and couldn't put the story down.

I laughed and cried with this one. I wouldn't mind seeing them return in future novels just to see how things are going!

Thursday, September 13, 2018

I Do Not Trust You by Laura J. Burns and Melinda Metz

Release Date - September 11, 2018

Laura J. Burns and Melinda Metz have a book that caught my eye. The cover design is eye-catching and drew me in. The story is okay, but it's not as gripping as I hoped. I didn't feel an urge to keep reading at any moment in the book.

Since her father's death, Memphis "M" Engel has dealt with her new life. She has guardians who have moved in and taken over her home. She's not thrilled with them. When Ashwin "Ash" Sood shows up, a mystery man that proves irritating yet intriguing, she can't help but insist she join him on a quest.

Ash has proof her father is alive and being held captive. A dangerous sect wants the information on a map M possesses. Only her knowledge of ancient languages and symbols can help find the relic some desire to possess. M has no idea if she can really trust Ash, but she must save her father and Ash is the only one who can lead her to him.

I Do Not Trust You kind of says it all in the title. Ash is not a trustworthy character. M knows it and tries to stay a few steps ahead of him, but the race for the relics is the key to getting her dad back. M will do anything to rescue her dad, even if that means working with the enemy.

The pacing had moments where it dragged. In France, I found the "you must party with this guy first" to be a bit dull. It dragged on and I really didn't care. M seemed older than she was, which threw me off several times. She often seems more adult than teen.

While I didn't hate this book, I never loved it. It was just okay. I stuck with it to see how it ended. I'm glad I did. It took a bit of a turn into horror and I loved that. In the end, that was what saved the book for me. It went from "meh" to "awesome," if only for a moment.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Lies by T.M. Logan

Release Date - September 11, 2018

Love, love, love the premise to Lies, T. M. Logan's debut novel. "What if your whole life was based on lies?" 

That said, I also find that that line alone was one of the reasons I so easily guessed what was going on in this novel. I was prepared for shocking twists, but I had the mystery pegged very early into the story. That was a bit of a letdown.

Joe Lynch and his wife, Mel, have what seems to be the perfect marriage. While driving their son back to the house, young Wills spots his mom's car. They decide to surprise her and follow her to a hotel where they spy her having an argument with Mel's friend's husband. 

When Mel rushes off without acknowledging Joe, he's baffled. He goes to talk to Ben to see what the argument was about. He ends up pushing Ben, who falls and hits his head. Wills has an asthma attack in the process and the inhaler is missing. Joe must choose between getting Wills the help he needs or helping Ben. He opts to save Wills.

After Wills has his asthma treatment, Joe returns to the parking garage where Ben fell. Ben's missing. Joe assumes he was okay. Later, he learns Ben has disappeared.

It isn't long before Joe gets the first of many threatening messages. Ben's being set up and he seems to be helpless to stop it. He doesn't know who to trust, and Mel's told a few lies that could tear the family apart. The life Joe knows is unraveling and he doesn't know how to stop it.

Lies has the potential to be a chilling psychological suspense. It could have been had I not figured it all out. When my Kindle showed I was 11 percent of the way through the book, I'd figured it out. That was disappointing. I hoped I was wrong, but as the story continued, I knew I had it solved.

Joe is kind of a meek character. I wish he'd been a little savvier at picking up the subtle clues around him. He's also a little naive and does things you may find yourself getting annoyed by. Other characters are stronger and had you either loving or hating them. You'll see what I mean as you read the book.

This was a good read, but it was predictable to me. That keeps me from being able to give it a four over three stars.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Why Not Tonight by Susan Mallery

Release Date - September 18, 2018

As a jilted bride, Natalie Kaleta has put her heart and soul into the gallery where she works. Her job has her heading up the mountain to check on Ronan Mitchell. He is a reclusive glass artist. The truth is that Natalie finds him almost scary. It's her job though, and she needs the income to pay off the wedding expenses her groom walked away from.

When a storm causes a mudslide, Natalie's stuck in Ronan's fascinating home. She can't help but admit that there's more to the reclusive man than she expected. In fact, she finds him downright appealing.

Ronan is nursing his own level of hurt. It's a key reason he prefers to be alone. He's not about to make a guest miserable, however. He opens up his home and a bit of his personality to Natalie. It isn't long before he finds himself wishing his attraction to her could be something more. It certainly can't happen though, no matter how much he finds himself wanting to be close to her.

Once Natalie is back in her own home and far from Ronan's, he has plans. He isn't interested in a commitment, but he can't get Natalie out of his mind. She's in agreement that true love doesn't exist, but a little fun never hurt anyone, right?

I loved Why Not Tonight. It's light, humorous at times, and packed with romance. It was a nice change of pace from the string of mysteries and psychological suspense novels I had been reading.

Susan Mallery never fails to create towns that I want to be part of. I could see myself befriending many of the characters. Ronan is probably the most obnoxious, but even he starts to come around and make himself more appealing. I enjoyed every minute of this novel. If you're looking for a warm, comforting novel, this is one to savor.

Monday, September 10, 2018

When the Lights Go Out by Mary Kubica

Release Date: September 4, 2018

Mary Kubica and Jojo Moynes are two authors I will not miss. If they have a new release coming out, I know I will read it. Mary Kubica just released When the Lights Go Out, and it sounded just as intriguing as her other novels. I was ready to go.

Jessie Sloane's mom is in the final stages of a battle against cancer. Jessie is exhausted. She put her life on hold to care for her mom. She can't imagine not wanting to be there.

When her mom finally succumbs to the cancer that's ravaged her, Jessie must finally live her life. She's able to find an apartment she can afford. She's ready to go to college. The college, however, informs her that her SSN is invalid. Jessie doesn't exist.

What begins is her quest to figure out who she is. If she's not really Jessie Sloane, what could it mean? As exhausted as she is, Jessie cannot take time to sleep. She must figure out where she came from and why her mother lied to her for all of these years.

I've already heard a lot of people talking about When the Lights Go Out. I know that the ending has infuriated many. Here's my take. I get it. I also pegged it way too early. That's my main reason for not loving this book. I had it figured out way too early.

Do this mean I hated the book? No. I was absorbed in the women's stories. I wanted to see how it would all come together in the end.

Is it the best of Kubica's novels? Also no. I have loved her writing, but this one wasn't as fascinating to me as the others. I liked it, but it's not a book I'd consider a keeper. 

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Sadie by Courtney Summers

Release Date - September 4, 2018

Sadie Hunter disappeared not too long after her younger sister's body was found. The case captures the attention of radio producer West McCray when he comes to Cold Creek, Colorado, to record his "Forgotten Towns" segment. He has mixed feelings about investigating a girl's murder and another girl's disappearance, but he's also drawn to the case. He wants to know what became of 19-year-old Sadie.

Growing up, Sadie was more a mother figure to her sister than anything else. Sadie saw it as her job to protect, nurture, and love Mattie. When 13-year-old Mattie died, Sadie's world fell apart. Her grandmother couldn't do anything to help. Sadie developed one clear goal. The police may not have done a great job, but that won't stop Sadie from uncovering the truth. Armed only with a knife and cash, Sadie takes off.

West hears of the family's story at a gas station. He's intrigued and opts to take a closer look after talking to the grandmother. It's a long, dark journey, but when Sadie's car is found empty and abandoned with no sign of her, West can't help but push harder to uncover the truth.

Told from two viewpoints, Sadie changes between West McCray and Sadie. West's broadcast involves interviews with the girls' grandmother, as well as some of the people who know something about them or the case. Sadie's story is told as she travels thousands of miles in search of a killer.

I couldn't put the book down. I was hooked from the start and appreciated the story's structure. West's part reads like a podcast with the different speakers during interviews. The changes in format made it an incredibly quick, powerful read. It's just as gripping to an adult as it would be to a teen. I became engrossed from the first page and didn't put it down till I was done. It's gritty, terrifying, and sad all at once. It's also very, very real. While it's not a true story, it certainly feels like it could be.

There's plenty of buzz about this book already. That buzz is deserved. Read Sadie and see why.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Dare You to Lie by Amber Lynn Natusch

Release Date - September 4, 2018

Dare You to Lie is a book with which I'll have a love-hate relationship. First, it's clearly the start of a new series. I wasn't prepared to walk away with almost more questions than I had at the start. That's the "hate" aspect of this review. No. Sorry. I just don't want to wait to find out what happens next. Am I eager for the next release, you bet. I feel like I'm in one of those cliffhanger endings to a favorite TV show and now have to wait months or even a year to get some resolution.

With much of her hometown turned against her, Kylene Danners is back. She's at her old high school. The same football team that made her life hell are still ready to make her life hell. This time, it's harder. Her father, a former FBI agent, is in prison for a crime Kylene knows he didn't commit. Proving it isn't easy.

For now, Kylene needs to settle into her new home with her grandfather, get through school, and see if she can solve another mystery from her past. While she's trying to do that, someone is just as determined to keep her quiet. Even with new friends on her side and old ones returning to support her, Kylene learns the true depths people will go to keep the truth hidden.

I started Dare You to Lie this morning. I fully expected to follow my usual writing routine. Make coffee, see husband off at 6, read news with coffee in hand, shower at 7, walk the dog, start writing articles by 8. This book threw me off that routine. It was more read until I had finished the last page until 8. My dog couldn't figure out what was going on. The book was too good to put down. It reminded me a lot of Veronica Mars.

I felt rage for Kylene. I wanted to strangle some characters. I cheered her on when she pulled out her martial arts moves. My heart broke for her when she went into the prison to see her dad. I wanted to hug her and her friends many, many times. I was so taken with the characters that the mom in me wanted to be there for them.

As the mystery progresses, you are left wondering who Kylene can trust and who she cannot. Some aspects are resolved, but there's a lot left open for the next book. I just hope I don't have to wait long!

Monday, September 3, 2018

In Cold Chocolate by Dorothy St. James

Release Date - September 21, 2018

I've been a fan of cozy mysteries since my mom handed me a Diane Mott Davidson novel. In Cold Chocolate was clearly not the first in the series, but I caught up easily enough. It also wasn't long before my mouth was watering for salted chocolate turtles, spicy truffles, and more. I can't wait to test out the two recipes in the back of the novel.

This is the third book in the series. Charity Penn is finding her place in the small beach town of Camellia Beach, South Carolina. Her handsome neighbor and his son are still becoming good friends, much to the dismay of the man's ex/boy's mother. Jody Dalton makes it clear that she dislikes Charity. Jody also seems to be very gleeful when announcing that Charity's lie is going to have her losing everything. Charity has no idea what she's talking about.

It's time for the turtles to hatch on the beach. Charity is invited to tag along and watch. She ends up stumbling onto another murder and getting grazed by a bullet at the same time. Jody is arrested for the murder of her lover, Cassidy Jones. When Jody's son asks Charity to prove his mom didn't do it, Charity agrees.

It's peak tourism season and the chocolate shop's business is booming. Between the murder, business at the shop, and whatever is going on with this "lie" Charity supposedly told, she has her hands full.

I liked the characters. I loved the descriptions of the town and the chocolates. I am kind of bummed that I pegged the murderer's identity way too early. The moment the police came to the crime scene to investigate the murder, I had the killer pegged. It was a bit predictable to me.

In the end, I would have loved In Cold Chocolate far more if I'd had a harder time solving the crime. It was a good read, but the bottom line was I knew the outcome long before I think I should have.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Feared by Lisa Scottoline

Release Date - August 14, 2018

I haven't read any of the novels in the Rosato & DiNunzio series until now. I'm sad I've been missing out. Feared was a gripping read.

Mary DiNunzio has plenty on her plate. She and her partner Bennie Rosato have a big case coming up. Mary's in the final trimester of pregnancy, too. The last thing they need is to be hit with a lawsuit. It's a discrimination lawsuit at that. Three men have come forward and said they were not hired by the firm because they're male.

Nick Machiavelli is leading the suit against them. He lost to Mary once and doesn't plan to lose again. He's ruthless. When the one male employee at Rosato & DiNunzio admits he's felt out of place as the only male in the firm and then quits, the case looks hopeless. When he turns up dead, things spiral out of control.

Mary's friend is the prime suspect. If she can't clear the firm of any wrongdoing and clear her friend of the murder, she could lose everything.

This mystery had me hooked from the start. I couldn't even predict how it would all play out, which is a really good thing. I was guessing right up to the final chapters.

I need to go back and read the other books in this series. I loved the characters and the swift pace. I can easily see myself getting hooked in every one of these novels.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Forbidden Lovers by Kimberley Troutte

Release Date: August 1, 2018

Forbidden Lovers appears to be the first in a series. My assumption is that each sibling will have his or her own romance, I haven't gone to the author's website to confirm this. There is the chance that the series will keep going with cousins and even area visitors over time.

Julia Espinoza fell madly in love with Matt Harper when they were both teens. He abrupt departure always shook her and left her with a broken heart. When Matt left for the military, he felt as though he had no choice. He was heartbroken when Julia married shortly after his departure.

Years have passed. Matt's back in town and wants to get answers to this and another pressing question. Why has his domineering, miserable father suddenly reached out to Matt and his siblings? What on earth could that man want with kids he raised with an iron fist?

Julia is aware that the new stranger in town seems very familiar. When she realizes it's Matt, she's not sure what to do. She's just as drawn to him as she ever was, but he broke her heart once. She's not sure she can take it again.

There were a few things that I really enjoyed with Kimberley Troutte's Harlequin Desire novel. First, it gets right to the action. There are no wishy-washy attitudes at play. Matt wants another chance. Julia wants to believe him and trust in him like she used to. Matt's siblings are introduced and clearly will be getting their own novels. I also found myself wondering how the mystery will play out over time. Mostly, I want to see the town come to life with changes that are in store for everyone.

I love passing time with a quick, powerful romance and that's what Forbidden Lovers offers. It's not a long book, but the story is mostly complete. There is a continuing mystery that will play out over the series. For that reason, I'll keep reading.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Vox by Christina Dalcher

Release Date - August 21

Image a world where women are limited to 100 words. If they exceed it, they get slammed with an electrical charge from a wristband they're forced to wear. That's Jean's life now. She and her five-year-old daughter are both limited to 100 words. Women can't work. They're subservient and meant only to serve the men in their lives. Cooking, cleaning, and raising the kids is Jean's life now. It's the life all women in the U.S. face. It's one they cannot stand but seem powerless to end. 100 words isn't much, certainly not enough for 24 hours.


That above paragraph is exactly 100 words. Can you imagine your day's thoughts, fears, hopes, and dreams being limited to that each day? Vox terrified me. With the current administration, I could see parts of this novel becoming true. I could see some of the men in office thinking a world like that would be ideal. It's frightening and great fodder for book clubs. Read it and be scared right along with me.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Smothered by Autumn Chiklis

Release Date - August 7, 2018

She's graduating summa cum laude from Columbia University. You'd think that Eloise "Lou" Hansen is ready to start a new chapter in her life. Before that can happen, there are a few things she needs, and she has the list to get her started.

Lou has yet to find a job. She's returning to California to live with her mom and dad. She doesn't want to be here long, but her list of getting up early each morning, getting in shape, and landing her dream job isn't going well. Meanwhile, her mom is ready to tackle the summer - one store, salon appointment, and spin class at a time. And, she'll make sure Lou is involved each step of the way. That means helping Lou find herself, even if Lou doesn't really want the help.

Smothered is part romance, part young adult, part new adult, and a whole lot of humor. This is Autumn Chiklis's debut. If the name seems familiar, it's because her dad is actor Michael Chiklis of The Shield and she also appeared on the show with him.

I did snicker a bit while reading the book, but it was also a little bittersweet. My son just got married. My daughter is in her final year of college. As a result, I really sympathized with Lou's mom. Throughout much of the book, Lou is hiding the fact that she's had a boyfriend for quite some time. Why hide him? Her mom spots them out and asks Lou who the serial killer was.

That sets the stage for the struggle Lou has with her mom over most anything. She loves her parents dearly and doesn't want to disappoint, but she also wants to make herself happy. I liked Smothered. It is a speedy read and one that I found hard to put down.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

The Other Woman by Sandie Jones

Release Date: August 21, 2018

Emily is head over heels in love with Adam. From their first meeting, she senses he's the one. She's had her heart broken in the past, and this time it feels reel. There's only one problem: his mother.

Pammie is controlling, manipulative, and determined to keep them apart. Emily begins to wonder how far Pammie will go to keep her son tied to her apron strings. When she makes comments like "over my dead body," does she really plan to take things that far?

I have one major issue with this book. Don't get me wrong, I was hooked and loved every second of the roller coaster ride, but I just can't believe Emily stayed. From the point of the second meeting with Pammie, that would have been it. I would have walked away and let that woman win. No way would I have stayed and I can't believe Emily put up with as much as she did.

The Other Woman is very gripping. You can't believe what happens happens. When I reached the end, I was blown away. Riveting and shocking come to mind. I've heard from other readers they had the ending pegged. This time I didn't. I'm glad I didn't. I appreciated that moment of surprise. It made the book stand out.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Maybe For You: A Whiskey and Weddings Novel by Nicole McLaughlin

Release Date - August 28, 2018

I've really enjoyed Nicole McLaughlin's prior novels. Maybe For You missed the mark for me. It was a book that I kept reading hoping there might be more of a hook, but I never really got into the characters or storyline.

After her fiance was killed shortly before their wedding, Alexis Parker's spent a year in Italy working through her grief and trying to move on. She's back in town where she'll help her brother at his whiskey distillery before moving on to a new job with the CIA.

Jake Cooper has been the one person to keep her grounded. He's been her sounding board. When the chance comes up to join Jake on a national tour to promote their whiskey, she takes it. His reputation as a playboy is causing issues within the company, and Alex could be the one to keep him in line. She never expects to find herself falling for him.

Jake's promised his business partner, who happens to be Alex's brother, that he'll take good care of her. While that's in the back of his mind, he can't help but be drawn to her on this trip. No matter what he does, he's about to make someone mad. He agrees with Alex to have a quick fling and keep it hidden from her brother. When they return, it will be like nothing happened. Only, they return and Jake's not ready to give her up.

Can Jake convince everyone that his playboy days are truly behind him and that he wants to make Alex a permanent fixture in his life?

Some of the characters appeared in prior novels, but I hadn't read them. Maybe For You stands alone, but I often found myself wishing I was reading Charlotte and Dean's story instead. Alex is still grieving and I'm not sure she is in the right place to be in a relationship. Right to the end, some of her statements and attitudes frustrated me. I wanted her to grow up, but I just didn't see it happening.

Jake was a solid character, but the tension between him and Alex's brother grew tiring. Dean takes his big brother role to the max and needed to shut up and listen from time to time. In the end, this book ended up being a book I think I would have been fine not finishing, which is never a good sign. I did finish it, but even with the ending, I'm not convinced there relationship is more than a fleeting thing.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

A Curve in the Road by Julianne MacLean

Release Date - August 14, 2018

Driving home from her mom's house, Abbie MacIntyre's SUV is hit from behind. She spins out of control and ends up in a ravine. Her dog is thrown out the window. Jaws of life are needed to extract her.

She learns the driver of the other car was drunk. Surrounded by her co-workers, she has to get checked out, treated for injuries, and hope her dog is found and is okay. She also must tell her son of the accident that will change their lives. Somehow, she must put her life back together and turn a tragic evening into a chance to start anew.

As the publisher's blurb doesn't reveal one of the very first revelations, I'm leaving it out of my summary, but it does play a big part so that makes the review tough. In essence, this story turns into one of how do you forgive someone who has destroyed everything you know?

A Curve in the Road is short and doesn't slow in terms of pace. I started it and finished it in just a couple of hours. It's less than 300 pages and moves swiftly, which makes it an ideal beach or backyard lounge chair reading.

Pick up a copy. It's going to have you tearing up, but it's well worth the tissues you'll need.

Rust & Stardust by T. Greenwood

Release Date - August 7, 2018

In 1948, 11-year-old Sally Horner is trying to fit in with a group of girls at school. The mission seems easy enough, she must accompany them to Woolworth's and shoplift an item. If she does that, she's in. Things go horribly wrong. She's caught by a man claiming to be an FBI agent. He tells her he must take her to a nearby city to appear in front of a judge. She goes along fearing she could go to jail.

Sally has no idea that Frank LaSalle is actually just out of prison after serving time for kidnapping and raping another young girl. One that he forced into becoming his wife to avoid charges.

Months and years go by. Sally's widowed mother starts to lose hope that she'll ever see her daughter again. Sally fears she'll never escape the torture Frank puts her through. All they can hope for is a miracle.

Rust & Stardust: A Novel is based on the true story of Sally Horner. Her story was the inspiration behind the novel Lolita. It's also the premise of this novel. The author states the novel is fictional, but there's enough truth to the story that it often feels like a true crime novel.

I'd never heard of the case, and it's heartbreaking. I can't imagine all that young girl endured. It's simply tragic. I kept reading, afraid to stop until I knew what happened to her. I'd even missed that it was based on a true story until the end, that just made me even sadder.

If you are a fan of true crime or real mystery books and shows, don't miss this one. It had me hooked.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

The Complete Slow Cooking for Two: A Perfectly Portioned Slow Cooker Cookbook by Linda Larsen

Release Date - September 2015

The Complete Slow Cooking for Two: A Perfectly Portioned Slow Cooker Cookbook breaks recipes down into 11 chapters. Enjoy guides into converting standard recipes to slow cooker recipes and tips for making the most of your slow cooker. There are also appendixes to help you with cleaning tips, conversions, and a guide into the fruits and vegetables that are found to have the highest and lowest levels of pesticides and other contaminants before they're washed.

Categories in the slow cooker cookbook include:

  • Broths, Stocks, and Condiments
  • Soups, Stews, and Chili
  • Beef, Lamb, and Pork
  • Poultry 
  • Seafood
  • Meatless Meals
  • Beans and Grains
  • Vegetables and Sides
  • Breakfasts
  • Desserts

I love that it includes spice rubs. Spices are essential for flavor, but the right rub can also hold in moisture. The All-American Dry Rub was fantastic with slow cooker pulled pork. My second find was the slow cooker recipes for chicken and beef stock. I like to make my own stocks, and the chicken stock recipe was simple to follow and tasted amazing

There are recipes that I need to find time to try. The homemade slow cooker Bolognese sounds fantastic. I am also interested in making Vietnamese Beef and Noodle Soup in the slow cooker.

I'm in the process of building a cooking website full of recipes that my mom loves. She has Alzheimer's, so meals have to be nutritionally sound, full of flavor, quick to make, and ample enough that there are leftovers for her when I'm not there. The recipe for Cuban Pork and Black Beans caught my eye. She loves beans and the tomato, garlic, and beans will add nutrition.

Recipes are marked when they're nut-free, gluten-free, or soy-free. The nutritional facts are included. To me, that makes this cookbook extremely handy. I plan to start putting more of the recipes to the test as soon as the hot weather subsides. It's a win.

Thanks to the publisher and Callisto's Publishers Club for providing a download copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.