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Saturday, April 21, 2018

The Runaway Wife by Dee MacDonald

Setting: Great Britain
Genre: Women's Fiction
Publisher: Bookouture
Author: Dee MacDonald
Release Date: April 24, 2018

Connie is 66. She and her husband have settled into a mundane existence. He goes to his golf club all day and calls her to drive him back home after a day of golf and drinking. Her adult children are always calling her up to babysit her grandkids. Connie's tired of giving but never getting.

In a rather rushed decision, Connie decides to pack up some things and go find herself. She sets off in her older car on a journey around the U.K. Where she's going and how long she'll be gone is up to her. She knows she won't tell anyone of her plans. She's going to leave notes and leave.

She heads off on her adventure. The farther she goes, the more she starts to wonder if she really wants to return to her former life. Is it time for a major change?

I think any woman, or even man, who has spent decades caring for a spouse/significant other and children will get Connie's story. If you've been the sole caretaker for years, you can see parts of yourself in Connie. I can't imagine taking off around the country with just over $1,100. It wouldn't go far, so Connie does have to get creative when it comes to meals and lodging.

She was also pretty brave at times. Picking up hitchhikers or having meals with strangers. Not sure I would do that. I loved the changes it lead to along the way, however.

I want to say that the twist in The Runaway Wife reminded of a show I just finished binge-watching. The thing is that if I name the show, I'll give away a spoiler. It definitely had that feel and made me love the book even more than I already did. It also makes me think that Connie's story could continue in future novels.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Sweet Matchmaker by Jean Oram

Setting: North Carolina
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Oram Productions
Author: Jean Oram
Release Date: May 23, 2017

Ginger McGinty is in a tough spot. As a bridal shop owner, she's great at matchmaking, but she's lousy at finding her own true love. She's in North Carolina on business, but the event she wants to get into is for couples only. To promote her business, she needs to find a fiance fast.

Logan Stone is a spy, but he cannot let it slip to anyone. When he bumps into Ginger, he's instantly taken by her beauty and personality. Better, she needs a fiance to get into the same event he needs access to. It seems like the perfect match.

Soon, Logan realizes that he's falling hard for Ginger. He can't tell her why he's really in town. He also doesn't want to let on that he is the primary caregiver for a teen sister who has down syndrome. His future could ride on how well he completes this latest mission, but Ginger is making it harder each and every second.

Sweet Matchmaker is short and satisfying. I've been in a dreary mood no thanks to the weather. Winter doesn't want to go away, and it's evident by the repeat days of snow and ice. Jean Oram's book let me at least experience some warm weather, even if it was for a couple hours in a fictional story.

I liked the characters and loved the setting. While the story is short, it left me hoping I'll get to see far more of Ginger and Logan in the future. This is part of a series that is building up Jean Oram's Veils and Vows romance series. I hope I'll get to see more of them then!

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The New Neighbors by Simon Lelic

Setting: London
Genre: Suspense/Thriller
Publisher: Berkley
Author: Simon Lelic
Release Date: April 10, 2018

It seems a little unreal. Jack and Syd have been trying to find a house in London. Those that they do find don't meet their must-haves or are way out of their price range. When they find a detached home that's filled with the previous owner's belongings, they know they will never land it. Syd is in love with it, however, so they make the offer. Surprisingly, they're selected out of all the offers.

After moving in, they start sorting through the items. They're starting to turn the house into a home, but Jack's a little unsettled after two items he finds up in the attic. He opts not to tell Syd. Soon, she befriend's a girl from next door. She bonds with the girl in a surprising way, but she doesn't want to tell Jack why. 

It isn't long before both of their lies are bound to catch up. When a body is found behind their home, it puts them under police suspicion. Proving they're innocent may be harder than they could imagine.

The New Neighbors has a twist that you may or may not see coming. I was pleasantly surprised that I didn't catch on until later. Had I paid attention to the book's genre classification or read the blurb very closely, I may not have been as surprised. I'm glad I wasn't. I like that "oooh" moment.

What I really loved about Simon Lelic's novel is the way it's written. It's a journal. Jack and Syd share their stories in alternating chapters. Their personalities shine through, plus they're able to play off what their partner wrote previously. It was a unique way to tell their story.

I admit that I was hooked from Jack's opening chapter. There were times I wondered if there was a ghostly element to the story. Other times, I cringed at some of the things I read. One thing was clear. I was emotionally invested in seeing how the two accounts would play out.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Flying at Night by Rebecca Brown

Genre: General Fiction/Women's Fiction
Publisher: Berkley
Author: Rebecca L. Brown
Release Date: April 10, 2018

Lance Whitcomb, known as the Silver Eagle after a heroic landing, was a truly different man at home. He was verbally and emotionally to his wife and children. They lived in fear of his outbursts.

Decades later, Piper is happily married and raising a son. Fred is an unusual child who develops short-lived obsessions on certain things. When he enters into a craze, he must learn everything there is to learn.

Things start to unravel for Piper when her father has a heart attack. He was without oxygen until someone found him. Doctor's don't think he'll live, but he makes it through and has months of rehab and healing ahead.

Piper's mother walks away. She plans to leave her husband in a nursing home. Piper takes one look at the nursing home and doesn't have the heart to leave him there. Instead, she brings him home at the worst time possible. Her son is diagnosed with autism and her father needs care.

What seems like it will be overly stressful starts to turn into a time for a family to heal and form tight bonds. It's a time of learning and reevaluation. Perhaps best of all is that in her father, Piper's son is able to connect in a way Piper never expected.

Flying at Night was sad, touching, and uplifting all at once. Lance stole my heart. While his traumatic brain injury was due to the oxygen deprivation after a heart attack, many of his actions reminded me of someone with Alzheimer's. My mom has Alzheimer's and it's heartbreaking seeing someone decline to almost a toddler-like state when the brain is injured.

I don't have personal experience with autism, but I have seen younger children on the spectrum. I felt that Fred's behavior and interactions with those around him were genuine. As a family caregiver and mom, I could definitely get where Piper was coming from. Raising a child is hard enough, but if you add a parent into the equation, it's often even harder.

I saw this book classified as psychological suspense. I really don't feel that's true. It's more of a cross of general fiction and women's fiction to me. It's not got twists or shocking revelations at any point. It is a very emotional, touching story of a dysfunctional family finding hope at the worst of times.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

After Anna by Lisa Scottoline

Genre: Suspense/Mystery
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Author: Lisa Scottoline
Release Date: April 10, 2018

After Anna tells the story of Dr. Noah Alderman. He's a single dad. After meeting his soulmate, Maggie, he remarries. His young son is thriving under his stepmother's attention. They're an incredibly strong family unit.

As happy as she is, Maggie can't help but want to know her daughter. After postpartum psychosis, Maggie had to walk away. Maggie went through therapy and is fine, but she was never a part of her daughter's life. Anna is now 17. Maggie is delighted when Anna reaches out.

Soon, Anna moves into their home. She becomes another piece of their family unit. Noah begins to see things, but Maggie's love has her blinded to the truth. Their strong family unit is now being torn apart. Things take a tragic turn when Anna is murdered and Noah becomes the prime suspect.

I wanted to like Maggie. I really did. She was such a great mother to Noah's son. Yet, when Anna came into the story, Maggie's weakness started to shine. I get loving your kid, but the things she put up with drove me nuts. I also hated how quickly Anna came into their lives and no one questioned it. As Anna started wrapping people around her fingers, I was angry. I didn't want to read anymore. I also didn't want to stop reading.

The story is partially a courtroom drama. A lot of the story takes place in the courtroom with Noah on trial for Anna's murder. The past chapters build up the relationships between the characters. That's how the story goes. There is Before Anna and After Anna. Before Anna delves into the events that led up to the trial. The "after" part includes the trial and aftermath. It's in the "after," where I was on the edge of my seat.

This isn't a happy story. It's quite maddening, sad, and frustrating. The truth is that it's also incredibly addicting. You cannot stop reading because you need to know what happens. As mad as it made me, I also couldn't put it down.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

The Gift of Our Wounds by Arno Michaelis and Pardeep Singh Kaleka

Genre: Non-Fiction/Discrimination/Racism
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Authors: Arno Michaelis and Pardeep Singh Kaleka
Release Date: April 10, 2018

From time to time, there's a book that excites and saddens me at the same time. The Gift of Our Wounds is that book. It's hard to put blinders on in today's political and cultural times. I want to, however. There's my problem. I want to pretend I live in a society where people simply accept each other. Where there is no racism, intolerance, and rabid hatred towards others.

I listened to Donald Trump scream "throw 'em out into the cold" when he spoke in my town. If anyone questioned him, the response was to toss them out, sometimes without coats in winter's brutal cold. I feared what was going to happen. I've seen people comment on social media that immigrants need to be tossed out. That Black Lives Matter protestors need to go away. I even saw people post that young adults who were protesting racism at their college get "run over." It all saddens me. Keep in mind that situations like that were running madly through my mind as I read The Gift of Our Wounds.

Arno Michaelis was a white supremacist. He's changed, but at times it was hard to look past some of the things he did. Beating gay men, people of different races... that was all part of his belief that anyone who wasn't white needed to be removed from a country founded on being a melting pot.

Pardeep Singh Kaleka, oh how my heart broke for him. His father was one of several men and women murdered at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin. Murdered simply for being a "different color." I remember when that happened. I remember being saddened that people never seem to learn that the U.S. is a melting pot of different cultures.

In The Gift of Our Wounds, you hear both men's stories. You learn how they came to meet and how they strive to change attitudes. It's a story that will touch your heart and bring tears to the eyes.

I've heard people say "the media blows it out of proportion" or "there's not that much discrimination out there." I have an answer to those naysayers. Over the holiday season, we had a Japanese-born, British citizen stay with us for a month. His mother is Burmese.

As he calls himself, he's "brown skinned." I was slightly horrified he felt the need to label himself, but I learned that it's hard to ignore. He went into a grocery store with me - a store in my community where I know the staff and some of the shoppers. I was disgusted and angered when a woman walking past us grabbed her six-year-old by the arm and pulled her away saying she wasn't to look at "that bad man." "Bad" simply for being a Muslim. This was one of the dozens of similar situations.

That "bad man" as that woman called him was cooking dinner as thanks for hosting him. He was helping with household chores without being asked. He was polite, friendly to all, and was a paying tourist. People were happy to take his money, but as soon as he turned his back, the dirty looks and comments started. I'm ashamed people are like this and have a hard time turning a blind eye to that kind of behavior. As a nation, we're all better than that.

The Gift of Our Wounds reminded me that despite all I see, maybe future generations will get it. I can only hope that the authors' message of love and respect for your fellow man are what this world needs most. Read this book. Take away something from it.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

School for Psychics by K.C. Archer

Setting: San Francisco, CA
Genre: Paranormal
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Author: K.C. Archer
Release Date: April 3, 2018

Generally, this isn't a book I would have picked up. I tend to grab books where the cover design catches my eye. I'm so glad I gave it a chance. School for Psychics is a fun, intriguing story that struck me as a little bit Heroes meets Chuck meets Dark Angel.

Teddy Cannon has gotten herself in over her head. She owns a Russian mobster a bit of money, which leads her to take thousands from her father's retirement account. Her skills at reading people have her banned from every casino in Las Vegas, but she's desperate. Wearing a disguise she hopes gets her in the door, she's at the Bellagio in order to win some of the cash she needs to pay off some of her debt.

Things don't go as planned. Instead, she's whisked away by a guy offering her a chance she doesn't trust but also can't refuse. He's a representative for a school for psychics. The school will pay off her debts if she becomes one of their students. She'll learn how to use the psychic skills she didn't even know she had. In exchange for a free education, she will eventually work for a government agency helping to protect the country.

Teddy takes this chance to make something of herself. She actually starts to enjoy herself at the mysterious school. She also stumbles onto mysteries involving disappearing students, her long-since deceased birth parents, thefts, and break-ins. All Teddy wants to do is succeed, but she's drawn into these cases to see how they connect to her.

This is the first book in a new series, so not everything is resolved, and I'm happy for that. I was so drawn into the story that I am eager to learn more about the characters, Teddy's past and future, and the school itself. The book is touted as a paranormal thriller. I think adults will enjoy it, but the age of the majority of the characters may also have it appealing to the teen fiction and new adult fiction crowd.

I did read that the book series has been optioned for a new TV series for CW. From the start, I saw this story as having great potential for film or television. I'm glad I wasn't the only one. With a husband who is hooked on shows like Jessica Jones, Nikita, and past shows like Dark Angel, Alias, Chuck, and Heroes, I can see this being a show we'll definitely watch.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Welcome to Moonlight Harbor by Sheila Roberts

Setting: Moonlight Harbor
Genre: Women's Fiction
Publisher: MIRA
Author: Sheila Roberts
Release Date: April 17, 2018

For her 40th birthday, Jenna Jones is going to kick things off as a divorcee. Her husband left her for a younger woman. Worse, Jenna has to pay him alimony since he's essentially a starving artist type.

Things take a turn when Jenna's elderly aunt asks her to move to Moonlight Harbor and help turn The Driftwood Inn into a thriving business again. In exchange for some hard work, Jenna will have a place to live and eventually own the inn. Despite her very moody, snit-prone teen daughter's opinion, Jenna can't see passing up this opportunity to start anew.

Upon arriving in Moonlight Harbor, Jenna realizes that her widowed aunt has needed help for a long time. The roof is shot. The rooms are a mildewy, outdated mess. With some hard work, her aunt is convinced Jenna can turn it all around. Jenna has nowhere to go, so she needs this to work out. She's just not sure she'll be able to.

There are touches of romance in Welcome to Moonlight Harbor, and it's clear this is just the start. You'll get to meet the vacation town's key players, the businesses that add to the home-away-from-home feel, and the main characters in this story. I felt right and home and wished I was there with them.

The story moves slowly, yet steadily, to the end, but it's really not an end. It ends up being more of a beginning, which left me eager to read the next book in this series. The setting is appealing, the characters are likable, and the story left me wanting more. I was happy to spend another snowy day ignoring Mother Nature's refusal to arrive and get lost in Welcome to Moonlight Harbor.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Love and Other Words by Christina Lauren

Setting: California
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Gallery Books
Author: Christina Lauren
Release Date: April 10, 2018

I never expected Love and Other Words to be a tearjerker that would leave me scrambling for Kleenex. Sure enough, this book is a very emotional, touching, amazing read that I kind of wish had never come to an end. I wouldn't have minded spending more time with several of the characters.

Eleven years ago, events led Macy Sorensen to walk away from the boy she'd come to love. In that time, she's become a doctor. Her days in pediatrics keep her extremely busy. She's happy, but she's never truly forgotten Elliot Petropolous.

She and Elliot were best friends for years. Elliot's the reason Macy was able to finally move on following her mother's death. He's also the first boy to break her heart.

The unbelievable happens one day when she's in a coffee shop with her best friend. She spies Elliot in the same shop. Before she knows it, he's spotted her, too. Their 11-year silence comes to an end in a hurry that leaves Macy feeling vulnerable, hopeful, and maybe even over-the-moon happy for the first time in a long time.

For anything to happen, however, Macy and Elliot need to discuss the past and decide if there is a place for Elliot to be in Macy's present or future.

Love and Other Words is told in the present day and back in the years when Macy's mom died and she met Elliot. As they meet and spend time together, you see the relationship grow and you watch both of them turn from children into young adults. I loved having their history played out slowly but steadily.

As things are revealed, I did find myself tearing up. Suddenly, things made sense. Up until the big revelation, I'd gotten it all wrong. I completely got Macy at that point and didn't want her story to end. I loved it and am so glad I read their story. It was perfect.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Before I Let You Go by Kelly Rimmer

Genre: Women's Fiction
Publisher: Graydon House
Author: Kelly Rimmer
Release Date: April 3, 2018

Two publishers come to mind when I name favorites. Lake Union Publishing is one, but Graydon House has quickly found its way to the top of my list. The publisher's selection of women's fiction novels continues to impress. Before I Let You Go broke my heart over and over again. Kelly Rimmer is an author you need to discover.

Lexie has achieved a level of success despite her past. After her father's death, her family life spiraled. She moved on 20 years ago. She's now a successful doctor and is engaged to the man of her dreams, who also happens to be a doctor. When she left home at 16, she had to leave her younger sister behind. Her sister has always been a part of her life.

Annie comes and goes from Lexie's world when it suits her. For Lexie, Annie's 2 a.m. cry for help is just another sign that Annie's once again trying to cause havoc. She wants to ignore her, but Annie says she's pregnant and not thriving. If she goes to the hospital, she faces jail for her addiction. If she doesn't go to the hospital, the baby is at risk. Annie really wants to do what's best for her unborn child.

Once again, Lexie gets dragged into Annie's world of addiction. This time, there are others at stake. There's a baby to think of and Lexie's fiance who is not accustomed to Annie's attitude and behavior. Annie and Lexie both have to delve into their past if they're to find any hope in the future.

The aspect of addiction is not glossed over in Before I Let You Go. It's written with incredible detail and emotion. I teared up so many times as both women talked about their past, their hopes for the future, and what needed to be done right now. This story has you on a roller coaster that just doesn't stop.

While I've had no experience with drug addiction, I have seen family members deal with alcoholism. Addiction isn't pretty. It's brutal and challenging on the best day. Kelly Rimmer captures that perfectly. She also spends a lot of time examining laws that treat pregnant addicts like the lowest of the low. I'd never thought of that angle.

This story is truly a book that reading groups need to read. It covers so many things from abuse to addiction and pregnancy to opiod-addicted infants. I cried, I cried some more, and I ended up refusing to stop reading. I had to know how it all turned out in the end and wasn't about to wait till morning. It's a powerful and very poignant book.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Wedding Cake Crumble by Jenn McKinlay

Genre: Cozy Mystery
Publisher: Berkley
Author: Jenn McKinlay
Release Date: April 3, 2018

I fell in love with culinary mysteries while pregnant with my daughter. I picked up a Diane Mott Davidson novel at my parents' house and was hooked. I'd soon caught up with that series and moved to authors like Joanne Fluke.

Wedding Cake Crumble is a culinary mystery with some fantastic recipes included at the back of the book. I've tucked them away to use when I make the cupcakes for my son's wedding this summer. The bourbon cupcakes are one that really interests me.

Mel Cooper and her bakery are busy preparing for different events. Most importantly is Mel's best friend and business partner's upcoming wedding. Angie and Tate are days from their big day and hope everything goes perfectly.

Things take a turn south when the people hired to work on their wedding start turning up dead. Their photographer and limo driver are just the beginning. Angie's beside herself, but they're given a last-minute job for a book signing. The caterer for that event is also dead. Mel and Angie need to get to the bottom of another crime. Why is someone killing of people who are all tied to Angie's wedding?

This is the 10th book in the Cupcake Bakery Mystery series. I haven't read any of the previous novels. It became clear that to form a bond with the characters, I really should have. The book does stand alone, but I didn't find myself really connecting with anyone.

I liked the story. It takes a few spins and keeps you guessing as to who the killer is. I also liked seeing Mel and Joe together. I loved their chemistry.

In the end, Wedding Cake Crumble made me wish I'd read the books in order. As I get time, that's my goal.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

The Baby Switch by Melissa Senate

Setting: Wyoming
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Harlequin Special Edition
Release Date: April 1, 2018

Six months ago, Liam Mercer learned a past girlfriend was expecting his child. When she died in childbirth, he became a single dad in a hurry. It's a role he's cherished. Meanwhile, Shelby Ingalls has been a single mom when her baby's father left her for another woman. She dotes on her young son.

The pair winds up being closer than imagined. On that fateful night, a storm knocked the power out as a tree fell on a hospital wing. In the resulting chaos, a nurse accidentally put the wrong bracelet on each newborn boy. The boy Liam loves is Shelby's son, and it's vice versa for Shelby. 

Both want to be an active part in their natural child's life, but they can't give up the child they've raised for six months. Liam comes up with what seems like the perfect solution. They'll marry, adopt the children, and raise them as a family. It's a marriage of convenience with no passion needed, but they soon realize they're in over their heads.

The Baby Switch kicks off the Wyoming Multiplies series. It was a great start to a series that's set in a charming town with characters I wouldn't mind meeting in real life. I am a sucker for the single dad, and Liam was one of the best. His fierce devotion to his son was clear. The same is true of Shelby. She adores her son, but the maternal pull to her blood is equally apparent.

It's clear where things will end up from the start. That's okay. What's more gripping is the ties between Liam and his dad. There's a secondary plot with them that had me reading. I sat down and had to read the book in one sitting. It was that satisfying.