Note to Readers

Roundtable Reviews receives many galley and ARC copies for review. Please understand that the finished copy may differ from the copies we have reviewed.

I have not received any compensation for writing this post other than a free digital or galley copy of the book. I have no material connection to the publisher, agent, or author whose book/s I am reviewing. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Thanks to Netgalley and the publishers for providing many of the books you see reviewed here.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

As the Light Fades by Catherine West

Release Date - September 10, 2019

The right cover art can lure me to read a book. That's what happened with As the Light Fades. The tranquility of the sand and surf caught my eye. The story ended up being a touching romance.

Liz Carlisle is back in Nantucket after suffering tremendous abuse at the hands of her boyfriend. The lawyer isn't sure what she wants to do next. Her family's beachfront estate is under renovations, so she needs to find a job and a place to live while she starts the next chapter of her life.

While she's out walking the family dogs, she sees an erratic driver take out a neighbor's fence, prized rose garden, and tree. The rebellious teen girl that gets out of the vehicle raises Liz's anger. Little does she know that that girl will end up changing her life.

Matthew Stone is dealing as best he can with his niece. She's miserable on Nantucket and money's tight. When Liz calls him about a carriage house he has for rent, he thinks he may finally have some help with both money and his niece. He'll lower his rent in exchange for Liz being there to help his niece while he works nights.

The last thing Liz wants is to deal with an impossible teen, but she needs to be able to afford rent, and Matt's offer fits the bill. The more she spends with the girl, the more she realizes that they both have secrets that bond them.

I was unaware that this book is a sequel of sorts. I never would have known that. As the Light Fades doesn't require you to have read the prior novel The Things We Knew. I don't feel that I missed anything.

Aspects of As the Light Fades broke my heart. It was a little too real. Alzheimer's is a devastating disease. Liz's father's chapters are told very well. He sounded very much like my mom at times. Going home but not knowing where home is, struggling to find the right words, and not remembering his children all sounded like things I've heard my mom repeat.

I loved the interactions between Liz, Matt, and his niece. They were touching. Sometimes they felt a little rushed, but they were cautious with each other and that had a realism given what each had been through.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

A Girl Named Anna by Lizzy Barber

Release Date - September 3, 2019

Rosie's family was never the same after her sister vanished at Astroland, a theme park in the U.S. While 15 years have passed, the family hasn't given up all hope. The anniversary also brings a lot of media attention to the girl's disappearance during a vacation in the U.S. The problem is that after 15 years, the fund keeping the search going is about to be shut down for good. It's tearing Rosie's family apart.

Anna has grown up under the care of a domineering, highly protective mom. The older she gets, the more she thinks there are things her mom keeps from her. On her 18th birthday, a mysterious letter arrives calling her by another name, and that has her questioning everything about her past.

So begins a suspense novel that really isn't that shocking, but it does offer insight into both Anna's and Rosie's struggles to figure out what happened and how to move on in a world full of uncertainty.

Chapters fluidly shift from Rosie to Anna and back. It never feels jarring and the plot moves swiftly. There's a creepiness as certain characters are introduced, and it definitely has that "ripped from the headlines" feel to it. Overall, this is an excellent debut from Lizzy Barber. I'm eager to see what she comes up with next.

Thanks to MIRA for allowing me to be part of MIRA's blog tour for Lizzy Barber's A Girl Named Anna. It's not a book packed with surprises, but it certainly does its part keeping you hooked on Anna's situation.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Rival's Break by Carla Neggers

Release Date - August 27, 2019

I've been a fan of Carla Neggers for so many years. I haven't been following the Sharpe & Donovan series. Picking up Rival's Break and trying to jump in now was a mistake. I didn't feel a strong connection to the characters and struggled with the "who's who" aspect.

Emma Sharpe hasn't seen her husband Colin Donovan in a while as he's been off doing his thing. Both are FBI agents with busy lives and caseloads. Colin's brother is getting married, so they're at their home in Maine to reconnect and for the wedding.

Things go awry when passengers aboard a private yacht are poisoned. Georgina, the chef, is devastated that she may be responsible for poisoning so many people including her father. Colin opts to help the marine patrol officer look into the poisonings.

When it's found a painting by a friend of both Colin and Emma's disappeared from the yacht, the investigation takes a personal turn. Lives are at stake and Colin and Emma must act fast.

I admit that I was lost for a lot of the book. There's the personal aspect of their lives as well as the mystery. There were so many characters and, being new to the series, I had very little background to go on to help me out.

Carla Neggers has a way of bringing a location to life. I felt that Maine ocean breeze and smelled the salt in the air. I wished I was there.

If you're new to the Sharpe & Donovan series, don't read this one without catching up first. I wish I had.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

All the Lovely Pieces by J.M. Winchester

Release Date - August 6, 2019

J.M. Winchester's All the Lovely Pieces didn't have any twists that left me reeling. It is gripping and packed with chilling details, but it never surprised me.

Drew Baker ran from her psychotic, abusive husband nine years ago. With her young son, she's tried to find that one place to live in peace. She can't let anyone too close as she fears they'll be caught.

Her past may be catching up with her, however. In their latest home, one of many over the years, townspeople are friendly and take her in as one of their own. She can't let them know what she's done, but for the first time in more than a decade, she's happy and doesn't want to leave a place that's feeling like home.

All the Lovely Pieces is told from several points of view. You have Drew, who is the main character and tells her side of the story from both the present day and the past. There's another female character, Catherine, whose anger towards Drew is so clear. Finally, you have Michael, Drew's son, who adds his perspective as a child.

The book is creepy. I give it that, but I was never surprised. That made what could have been an exceptional book a very good book. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

The Perfect Son by Lauren North

Release Date - August 13, 2019

Tess Clarke wakes up in the hospital. She's been stabbed and her son is missing. As she tries to recall the days leading up to her stabbing, she fears police are not doing all that they can to find young Jamie. To rescue her son, she needs to recall everything that happened before and on the day of Jamie's 8th birthday.

I did have my suspicions regarding the big mystery of where Jamie was, and that proved to be a correct assumption. Meanwhile, the situation with Tess's brother-in-law and her grief counselor were so creepy. As those storylines progressed, I was thoroughly creeped out and angry with and even for Tess.

The tension in The Perfect Son does have you on the edge of your seat. I hated being interrupted. I just wanted to sit and read it in one sitting, but that proved difficult when there were chores to do and meals to cook. I recommend having time set aside where you can read and keep reading for hours. It's a gripping novel!

Monday, August 19, 2019

Because You're Mine by Rea Frey

Release Date - August 6, 2019

I remember a year ago or so, I read Rea Frey's Not Her Daughter and was left with mixed feelings. I liked the kidnapper a lot. I promised myself that this author was not one I would miss in the future. Because You're Mine did one thing very well. Despite my having a feeling part of what happened, I found myself mildly shocked when I read the final page. Kudos to Rea Frey for leaving me feeling pleasantly surprised that she managed to slip something by me.

Lee is a single mom to a seven-year-old son who is on the spectrum. Her best friend, Grace, seems to have a much better bond with Mason than she does, and that often leaves her feeling sad and uncertain. When she's offered a chance to get away with the rest of the moms, she hesitantly accepts. After all, Mason's tutor, Noah, agrees he'll stay with Mason while she's away.

Before the weekend is over, someone will be dead and several in the community are reeling. Many questions arise and the reader is left with a trip between past and present to learn the truth.

I have never been a fan of books that do a lot of quick flips from past to present. It worked in Because You're Mine. In fact, it ended up being essential. The story starts at a slow, yet realistic pace, but when it takes off, it flew. It rushed to the ending and had me on the edge of my seat for most of the chapters.

Here's the thing. I never really liked any of the characters. I had parts of the "mystery" figured out. Yet, there is that one moment where something happens that I wasn't expecting and I loved that aspect. It left me incredibly happy that I became part of the characters' lives for a few hours. It was a quick read that left me delighted I'd picked it.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

On the Corner of Love and Hate by Nina Bocci

Release Date - August 20, 2019

For more than two decades, Emma Peroni and Cooper Endicott have been friends. Emma's mayor dad and Cooper's governor mom, and the small-town closeness all of the residents of Hope Lake, Pennsylvania enjoy, have meant they've always been tied at the hip.

Emma's dad is ready to retire, and he wants Cooper to continue the work he's done as Hope Lake's mayor. While Cooper is interested, his reputation needs a bit of polishing. He's a bit of a lady's man, and it's gotten him in trouble in the past. Emma's asked to help with Cooper's campaign.

There's a bigger issue as far as Emma is concerned. For all their bickering, she's falling for Cooper. The last thing she needs is to enter into any kind of relationship with him, but it's hard to ignore her feelings as she spends more time working closely with him.

This was a fun romance. On the Corner of Love and Hate is packed with chemistry between Cooper and Emma. Minor characters are equally appealing, and even the brewery made me want to be part of the action. I could easily see myself sitting down to an IPA with Emma.

They may have been a bit blind to their attraction at times, but it kept the intrigue going. One character was not my favorite. You'll get to know Whitney, and I'm still not sure I enjoyed her segments at all. She had little in the way of redeeming qualities.

I was still hooked and had to see if Cooper would win the election and if they'd figure it out. It turned out to be a great choice for a breezy summer day outside. 

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center

Release Date - August 13, 2019

Cassie Hanwell should be over the moon. Her entire life has been dedicated to helping others. As a Texan paramedic and firefighter, her heroic moments have led to this very moment. She's about to be awarded in a big way, but one action during that event leads to her having a choice of apologizing or being fired.
Now she's in Massachusetts caring for a mom she hasn't seen in ages and working for a small station where the men insist on treating her like a woman and not a fellow firefighter. It's driving her mad. Worse, after years of being a tomboy and avoiding any relationships, she can't help but feel a strong attraction to the newbie. The last thing she needs is to fall for a fellow firefighter.

I adored Things You Save in a Fire. It was emotional, paced perfectly, and filled with so many characters I grew to love. I was kind of sad when the novel ended. I would have appreciated spending far more time with the guys.

This was the first novel I've read by Katherine Center. I have been missing out. I laughed, I cried, and I didn't want to let go.

Tangled Threat by Heather Graham

Release Date - August 20, 2019

When you need a short, gripping read, Harlequin Intrigue books often fit the bill. Tangled Threat is one from bestselling author Heather Graham. It's got a lot of characters, but there's a guide to them in the opening.

Twelve years ago, Maura Antrim was with the group that spied the body of a resort worker hanging from the resort's mysterious History Tree. The tree had a spooky history and was one of the main draws for guests of the resort.

That tragic event found Maura and the young man she thought she loved parting ways when he was arrested for the dead woman's murder. Her parents pulled her away and never looked back. She went off to college and he ended up being cleared and going on his own path.

More than a decade has passed. Maura is helping film the resort's, specifically the tree's, haunted past. She bumps into Brock McGovern who is now a talented FBI agent investigating two recent disappearances in that area. There are plenty of suspects and a possible link between things that happened 12 years ago. Brock wants nothing more than to keep Maura safe and uncover the truth.

I struggled a bit with this Heather Graham novel. I usually love her characters, but I never really felt any connection to them this time around. I loved the tree's history. I loved the mystery aspect, but the pacing seemed off. I ended up struggling to finish it, as nothing had me feeling an urge to keep going.

I think part of the problem was that it took a while before there seemed to be any real connection with Maura and Brock. The romance felt secondary to the mystery, and it never quite clicked for me as really having that romantic connection that draws me to romantic suspense. It was okay, but Heather Graham has had stronger romantic suspense novels that I'd recommend reading first.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

He Will Find You by Charlie Gallagher

Release Date - July 19, 2019

I don't know if it's because I jumped into the Detective Maddie Ives series midway or what, but I really struggled with He Will Find You. I couldn't connect to the characters, other than the child who doesn't really appear that much in the book. My heart broke for that poor boy.

Detective Maddie Ives is called to the scene of what appears to be a crime. A young boy steps into the city center covered in blood. He won't speak a word. Maddie arrives to try to get any information from him. He's not bleeding, but someone out there must be seriously injured. As the others on the scene find, he simply will not speak.

While Maddie and her co-workers struggled to identify the boy, a body is found in the road. The man appears to have been tied to the back of a vehicle and dragged until he died. With two mysteries to solve, Maddie has her hands full.

It took me two weeks to finish this book. I should have given up as it's clear it wasn't a book that was working for me, but I hate quitting. Now that I'm finally done, I am happy to see how things turned out for the boy, but I do feel like I wasted a lot of time. I didn't love the characters, the switches from one point of view to another grew tiresome, and I found myself impatiently waiting to get back to the boy's story. The problem was the interactions with the boy were limited and required a lot of other chapters first.

Had I read the other books and had more insight into Maddie and Harry's backgrounds and experiences as detectives, I may have found this novel easier to read. Therefore, I suggest you start with the first book and work your way to this one.

Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson

Release Date - July 30, 2019

It's tough to give a fair review of a book when you're only given a sneak peek. Essentially, all I have to base my thoughts on is the first chapter. That said, this book had me hooked.

Amy Whey is a diving instructor, step-mom, and mother of an infant. Her best friend in the world hosts a regular book club in Amy's basement, which is the perfect opportunity to have some wine, relax with friends and neighbors, and discuss the latest read.

When a newcomer joins them, things go awry when Roux takes over the group and dares them to play an adult form of Never Have I Ever. Soon Amy realizes that Roux knows one of her deepest, darkest secrets and will stop at nothing to make sure Amy pays.

That's the premise. I was left with such a big revelation that leads to what I'm sure is going to be an addicting cat and mouse suspense. From just these few pages, I am dying to know what Amy's secret is and also see Roux get her comeuppance, even if she has a valid issue, because she was just an unlikeable person.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Gretchen by Shannon Kirk

Release Date - July 23, 2019

I'm still not quite sure how I feel about Gretchen Kirk's Shannon. It started out in a way that had me thinking coming of age and suspense. It ended up taking a dark turn that was all psychological thriller. At that point, I really had tired of the characters and didn't care. Many were making foolish decisions and avoiding the best place to start once things got weird.

For as long as she can remember, Lucy and her mother have been on the run. Whenever anyone gets too close or suggests they recognize one of them, they pack up and disappear again. Now 15, Lucy is growing tired of constantly leaving and having to start all over. Leaving behind her friend on this last move was rough.

Now in New Hampshire, their potential new landlord has a daughter who is the same age as Lucy. This is an incredible chance for her to actually have a friend nearby. Though her mom isn't certain the rental home is right for them, she convinces her mom it is.

While Lucy and her mom have their own secrets, so do Gretchen and her dad. Gretchen starts showing her unusual side each time they get together, and it's starting to worry Lucy. Is it too late to change her mind?

I liked the opening chapters. A mom and daughter on the run. Someone else seeking someone and you can't tell if they're good or evil. I loved that part. Once Gretchen and her dad came into the story, it became almost apparent where this new storyline was heading and I grew to dislike it. So many things stopped making sense to me. The characters started making unrealistic choices and decisions that left me baffled. Some of the actions didn't fit with their characters at all.

As more plots were added, I started to lose interest. I had to struggle to finish reading it, and I found myself far too eager to flip through certain chapters because they seemed unnecessary. It ended up being a disappointment once that happened. It's a shame because I really had loved the opening.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Layover by David Bell

Release Date - July 2, 2019

While waiting on his flight, Joshua Fields comes across an attractive woman. They share a passionate kiss and he's hooked. She disappears as quickly as she arrived. He makes an uncharacteristic decision to abandon his flight and get on hers instead. Once they've taken off, he goes to find her and she denies knowing him or being who he says she is.

Later, he's in the airport and sees a news alert that the mystery woman is missing. Rather than continue on his business trip, he opts to go to the town she says she's from and do some digging. He wants to find her and find out why she's been reported missing.

I've read several of David Bell's novels. I've found each one to be enjoyable. I liked Layover, but I never loved it. Part of that is that Joshua's behavior seemed out of character. He's been in a relationship that feels safe but doesn't feel permanent to him. He's been doing the same job for years with his dad mentoring him every step of the way. He's used to routines, but he throws it all away for a stranger he kisses once and then denies she knows him?

It seemed odd to me. His insistence on finding her was unusual to me. She made it clear she didn't want him around, he knows something is wrong, but he keeps pushing on no matter what happens, even going against police orders if it comes to it. Without giving away any spoilers, the one thing I did love was the ending. That was exactly how I needed it to end.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Goodnight Stranger: A Novel by Miciah Bay Gault

Release Date - July 30, 2019

When I learn there's a book by a Vermont author, I do make every effort to read it. Miciah Bay Gault lives in the state's capital city, but her story is mostly set in Massachusetts on a fictional island off Cape Cod.

Lydia Moore has been responsible for her brother since her mom's death. She and Lucas are more than brother-sister, they're two of a set of triplets. Their infant brother died tragically when he was just weeks old.

One day, a stranger comes to the island. Lydia can't help but feel drawn to him. It's Lucas, however, that is convinced this stranger is their deceased brother who has somehow returned. The man, Cole, knows too many things about their home and their mother for it to be a coincidence.

Lydia must uncover the truth. To do so, she has to leave the island, and that poses problems. She's been on the island so long that leaving it triggers anxiety. She knows something is wrong, but unless she can find out who Cole truly is, she'll never be able to convince her brother that the man he has become attached to is hiding something.

I really enjoyed Goodnight Stranger. I loved the setting. There's a story told by Cole that is a local legend and Emily's Bridge does exist, though the town listed in Goodnight Stranger is fictional. Having that level of familiarity always draws me into a story.

I will admit that the ending made me both happy and sad. No spoilers here, here I wish one aspect had been finalized a little more, but I can see why the author chose to leave it as she did.

All in all, Goodnight Stranger kept me hooked long into the night. As soon as I got up this morning, I had to finish it before starting my day. It was that good.

Monday, July 15, 2019

A Stranger on the Beach by Michelle Campbell

Release Date - July 23, 2019

I would have really loved this novel so much more had I not had it pegged from the start. The author builds suspense well. The situations are almost creepy at times. But, I had the "twist" figured out before I was too far into the story.

Empty nester Caroline Stark is delighted that her gorgeous, albeit expensive, waterfront home is ready. When her husband announces he won't be back from his business trip in time to be there for the housewarming party, she's heartbroken. Worse, she catches him in a lie. He claims to be in another state, but she tracks his phone and learns he's in a hotel in the city.

With her marriage in shambles and a mysterious stranger watching her house from the beach, Caroline finds her world is falling apart. That stranger, Aidan, ends up being the man she turns to for a one-night stand when she learns her husband has been with another woman. Little does she know that Aiden's dark history and unusual behavior will be far more than she ever could have imagined.

A Stranger on the Beach is very much a psychological suspense novel with the mystery involving the lies Caroline's husband hides and Aidan's infatuation with her. Everything does tie together at some point, but I never found the final revelation to be shocking. I liked A Stranger on the Beach, but it never shocked me. If anything, I found it to be a bit predictable.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Crashing the A-List by Summer Heacock

Release Date - July 9, 2019

One thing I was totally ready for was a heroine who didn't take things in stride. Crashing the A-List finds Clara Montgomery unemployed and desperate. She was at the top of her game in the publishing industry, but a merger led to many book editors being tossed onto the streets at the same time and finding a new job has proven to be more than difficult.

Rather than return home to a very passive-aggressive mother, Clara moves in with her brother and his fiancee. She's given up her plush bed for a lumpy sofa. She just needs that one break. The only one she currently has is a temporary job cleaning abandoned storage units.

Many of those abandoned units are packed with things that smell of beets or are of a questionable nature with things she cannot and doesn't want to imagine what they once were. It's the discovery of a locker filled with paperwork that seems most tedious and changes her life. That locker is packed floor-to-ceiling with paperwork from a former escort service.

With the help of her friend, she discovers a very popular actor among the list of escorts. One drunken call to him leads to a very embarrassing situation where he believes she was going to blackmail him and turns the tables by requiring her to become his "girlfriend" until his red carpet premiere. At that point, he'll stage a very public break up.

The dislike for each other is apparent, but that doesn't keep Clara from doing what she feels she needs to do to avoid jail. Meanwhile, getting through the next few weeks is proving to be harder than ever, and at any moment, the walls of Clara and Caspian's ruse could come crashing down.

So much about Caspian was completely unlikable. Like Clara, I found his pompous attitude to be very hard to take. I wasn't sure I would ever like him. In fact, I'm still not sure I really did become fond of him.

Yet, the story had me hooked. Clara is charming, witty, and exactly the type of friend I'd be proud to have. Her best friend is even better. What a pair they'd be to have over for drinks!

Crashing the A-List turned into a fantastic beach read. I started it and just couldn't stop. I may have spent a bit too much time reading rather than enjoying the beauty of Popham Beach that sunny day, but it was worth every minute. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

The One Who Stays by Toni Blake

Release Date - July 30, 2019

This first book in the Summer Island series hooked me from the start. Unlike many romances, I wasn't always sure who Meg would choose. It's nice not knowing until the end.

Meg Sloan returned to Summer Island for unhappy reasons, but she's come to love her grandmother's island. After her grandmother passes away, she's remained on the island running her grandmother's inn. It's a roof over her head and a steady income, but she isn't sure it's all she wants from life.

Part of that lies in the part-time romance she has going with a local fisherman. He comes and goes as he wants, and she's tired of watching him go away for weeks at a time and waiting for his return. She wonders if Zack will ever want to be part of a committed relationship.

As spring arrives, Meg finds herself hiring a newcomer to the island. Seth Darden is only around for a few months, but he needs the money and agrees to be the Summerbrook Inn's handyman. He is really at the inn for another reason, but he hopes never to reveal the truth.

Meg finds herself torn between two men. She's definitely intrigued by Seth, even if he is younger. Meanwhile, Zack seems to be changing. He's talking more about how much he loves Meg. Is his sudden claim that he loves her enough?

To add to her confusion, Seth stumbles across an old diary hidden in the floorboards. It's her grandmother's diary. In it is a confession that Meg never sees coming. Her grandmother may be offering the best advice from the pages of her diary, but it's up to Meg to decide what her heart wants.

There were several things I found felt right at home. I, too, live for the scent of lilacs in the spring. My back deck is surrounded on three sides (minus the stairs) so that I can sit on the covered back deck and inhale that scent as I work. I related to Meg for that reason. Like her, I also have roses, but they're just not the same.

Now, I've never been to Michigan's islands, but as I read this book, I was thinking of Block Island. I fell in love with Block Island two years ago and would love to live there. I managed to avoid the island in peak tourist season, which is my preferred time to get to know an area. There is a charm to being on an island in the off-season as the summer crowds just start to return. While Meg was busying talking about the reasons she'd like to leave, I was thinking that they were the reasons I'd want to stay.

Spoilers are something I work hard to avoid. What I do want to say is that the man who loses out in this first book in the series will hopefully get to tell his own story in the future. I really want to learn more about what happens to him! Write as fast as you can Ms. Blake. I am eager for the next chapter in this island's tale.

Monday, July 1, 2019

The Escape Room by Megan Goldin

Release Date - July 30, 2019

It's a team building exercise they believe. They're ruthless on Wall Street, but it's bonus time and somethings may not be as well as they'd hope. When Sam, Sylvie, Jules, and Vincent get an email that they are to meet up at a specific location, they jump. They're used to jumping, even if it means messing up plans with wives, boyfriends, and just about anyone else they know.

The escape room challenge seems easy enough. Solve the puzzles and get out of the elevator. Some of them soon learn that they may not make it out alive.

Here's a situation where I spent a lot of time rooting for the person I was sure was behind the creation of the escape room. This book is twisted and dark, but I never felt sorry for the four trying to escape the elevator. In fact, I was cheering every time they struggled to solve the next clue. I had them solved and knew what would happen next. There were no surprises. It was just an entertaining read from the first page to the last.

Sam, Sylvie, Jules, and Vincent are just not likable people. They're ruthless and enjoy stomping on others to get to the top. That makes them easy to hate. I liked the puzzles, loved the plot, and was very satisfied when it all reached the final page.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

The Favorite Daughter by Patti Callahan Henry

Release Date - June 4, 2019

I spent a lot of time tearing up as I read The Favorite Daughter. If you have a parent or loved one with Alzheimer's, this book is going to hit home.

Ten years ago, Colleen "Lena" Donohue walked away from her family after suffering the worst kind of betrayal. On her wedding day, Lena found her husband-to-be passionately kissing her sister. She's spent a decade touring the world and writing articles about her adventures. Her visits home have been limited since that day.

When Lena's brother calls with news that their dad has Alzheimer's, Lena has to return home. No matter what her sister did, her dad is and always will be the one family member she could never turn her back on.

As their dad's memories slip farther away, Lena, her brother, and her sister work together to take old family photographs and create a book that tells each photo's story. Along the way, Lena learns more about herself than she could ever imagine.

I wasn't shocked by the surprise that their dad was hiding. I had that figured out long before it was revealed. That said, the details into Alzheimer's and its progression were spot on. My mom has Alzheimer's and I really felt the situations they faced were very true.

There were also times I was extremely jealous of these fictional characters. When my dad died, we sat down with a social worker. No one gave us a folder filled with paperwork and forms that could help us navigate our mom's care. We found just how much our dad had been hiding as he cared for our mom. We had no idea how progressed her Alzheimer's really was. Instead, we bounced from lawyers to social workers to assisted care homes to nurses and memory care doctors who didn't once have answers for us. We had to do the research and talk to countless programs and agencies on our own.

The symptoms of Alzheimer's hit everyone differently. Our mom is a lot like the Donohue's dad, so it hit home. It hit hard. The agitation, anger, flip-flopping of topics, denial, and confusion are all things we've watched her deal with. I don't want to give away any spoilers, but even the ending struck me as very realistic giving things I've heard my mom say.

Is The Favorite Daughter an easy read? It wasn't for me. It really hit hard emotionally, but it was so, so good. 

Sunday, June 23, 2019

The Summer We Lost Her by Tish Cohen

Release Date - June 4, 2019

Much of her life has been spent being the very best. With a chance to compete in the Olympics, Elise Sorenson knows her husband won't be as delighted as she is. It's made worse when she must leave her scheduled flight to go calm her agitated horse, which makes her break a promise to her eight-year-old daughter.

Matt Sorenson is once again let down that his wife has let them down. He's both mom and dad to their daughter Gracie, and now he has the chance to become a partner in the law firm where he works. It's a chance he doesn't want to miss, but money is tight. The only way to afford his dream is to sell his late grandfather's lakefront property.

The couple head to Lake Placid, New York, to fix up and clean up the lakefront home and prepare it to sell. Two things happen that can change their relationship and their lives. Matt reunites with his former girlfriend and starts to wonder "what if?" This throws Elise for a loop as Matt's attraction to his old girlfriend is still very apparent. Before they can even talk about whether or not they have a future together, Gracie disappears.

I both loved and hated The Summer We Lost Her. Elise is not a great mom most of the time. Her horse and career clearly come first. Matt is better for Gracie, but he's also a very dislikable man. I suppose given his grandfather, it's not surprising that he grew up to be a jerk. When Gracie goes missing, I had my guess and I was right. It was too predictable for me.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

The Woman in Our House by Andrew Hart

Release Date - June 18, 2019

Anna Klein thinks she's ready to return to work. To do so, she and her husband Josh opt to hire a nanny. Hiring a live-in nanny is a little worrisome, but they've talked to others who say the arrangement works beautifully. They're recommended a Mormon agency based in Utah.

When Oaklynn Durst arrives, she's better than Anna and Josh could have imagined. Not only is she delightfully warm and caring, but she's eager to show the family just how hard she's willing to work. She's soon cooking their meals, catering their parties, and doing far more than imagined.

When their girls start ending up with unexplained illnesses and experiencing "accidents" that require hospitalizations, Anna begins to worry that Oaklynn is not the Mary Poppins-like nanny they've imagined. She starts to fear that Oaklynn has a very dark side that is putting her family in danger.

The Woman in Our House started out strong. As the story progressed, there were things I couldn't decide why they were included. Anna's a bit hard to like. I get wanting to jump back into her career, but I also wondered why a live-in nanny was really necessary given the time she spent out of her home office checking on the girls or joining the nanny and girls in activities. A babysitter a few days a week would have sufficed.

I had real issues with the neighbor. She's not likable, and honestly, her role in the story was minimally important at best. I could have done without her. Certain parts of the story were never explained. I don't want to give away any plot, but there were things that happen that when everything came to the climax, I still found myself asking "why did that part back there happen, then?"

In the end, I liked this story. It had great potential, but some of it fell flat and then the ending was easy to predict. For that reason, it wouldn't make my keeper list.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Sisters of Summer's End by Lori Foster

Release Date - June 11, 2019

Joy Lee left her family behind after her husband made it clear he wanted nothing to do with becoming a dad. Joy's family also turned their backs on her. She moved to an RV resort where she has a great job, a home, plenty of friends, and is a great mom to her precocious son.

Maris Kennedy is the closest thing to a sister that Joy's ever had. When Maris urges Joy to live it up a bit and accept the advances of the new owner of the area drive-in, Joy decides to take Maris's advice. Meanwhile, she also convinces Maris to let loose a bit and accept the advances of the summer resort's maintenance guy.

These two women are forging a new friendship and leaning heavily on each other as they navigate the world of dating. Trusting in each other seems to be far easier than trusting in men, but it's getting harder to deny that having someone in their lives may be exactly what they need.

If you are looking for a warm, cozy romance, you get a two-for-one in Sisters of Summer's End. While there are two romances, Joy's takes center stage. I loved that it was so uplifting and romantic. I also loved having the very tough, tomboy-ish Maris realize she needed a man just as much as her friend did.

I am hoping this is a new series in the making. I really loved the setting and would like to see what Maris and Joy are up to in the future.

Call Your Daughter Home by Deb Spera

Release Date - June 11, 2019

Call Your Daughter is bittersweet to me. It took me a bit to get into the story due to the switching back and forth between the three characters. You have Gertrude, an abused wife trying to keep her four children alive. There's Annie, the matriarch of the Cole Family, who's been distanced from her own children for years. Finally, there's Retta, a freed slave who works for Annie.

The women become linked forever when Gertrude finally has the chance to escape her abusive husband by working for Annie's clothing factory. Gertrude's daughter is horribly sick and Retta is one of the only people with the skill to help save her life. Meanwhile, Annie is now Gertrude's boss. When Annie discovers a long-hidden family secret, her will to live may be shattered forever.

All of this story takes place during the Great Depression. Times are hard and the author does a great job bringing poverty and fear of survival into the story. There are times that the Depression feels like it's a character in the story rather than just the setting.

I'm not always a fan of historical novels, but this one really tugged at my heart. I've read stories from past generations in my family and know just how accurate some of this is. It's powerful but sad.

Before and Again by Barbara Delinsky

Release Date - June 26, 2018

She took her eyes off the road for the briefest of seconds. She never saw the vehicle barreling towards her at twice the speed limit. It doesn't matter for Mackenzie Cooper. That her young daughter died and she lived is torture enough. That the world saw her as an unfit mother who was too busy looking at her dash, which led to new laws about dash displays, that's also torture.

Mackenzie, now Maggie, is starting anew in Vermont. She has friends, a solid job doing makeup at a local spa, and a quiet existence where no one knows about her past. Her ex-husband, brother, mother, and former friends are all in her past where she needs them to be.

It's all threatening to fall apart when her ex-husband shows up after purchasing the inn where she works. Worse, her best friend's son is accused of hacking, which is putting Mackenzie at risk of the media recognizing her.

Before and Again is a touching story. In essence, there's a series in the making with other people in this quiet town hiding from their own troubled pasts. I wouldn't mind returning.

It poses some good questions. Today's cars have dashboard computers that are used for so many things. It's the same as in the past with radio controls. The equipment is there, and it's dangerous if you do use it, yet it is still there. I think many people fall into the guilty column having changed a station (unless you have steering wheel controls). You have GPS maps built into cars to help you get to your destination, but those systems are equally dangerous.

With a strong setting, characters that you do feel for, and very emotional writing. This book ended up being one that I can't believe I struggled to get into before now. I'm glad I didn't give up on it.

Friday, June 7, 2019

The Last House Guest by Megan Miranda

Release Date: June 18, 2019

Most people are aware that I adore Maine. The cover art and picturesque setting in The Last House Guest were reasons I felt compelled to read this book. It's set in a fictional town of Littleport, Maine. Littleport, like many coastal Maine towns, has an entirely different population in the summer months.

Avery Greer has grown up in Littleport. She sees the summer residents come and go. Her friendship with one of them, Sadie Loman, is unusual at best. For years, they've been best friends. It all ends when Sadie is found dead from a suspected suicide. Avery has always believed that determination to be suspicious.

One year after Sadie's death, odd happenings make Avery more convinced than ever before that Sadie's death was no accident. She's convinced that someone is setting it up to make it look like she committed murder, and she'll do whatever it takes to uncover the truth.

There are so many twists in The Last House Guest. I found myself making a few incorrect assumptions along the way. I was thrown when the truth is revealed. That makes this book a win! It's not often that I can't figure out the mystery.

As I read the story and got involved in the town, I couldn't help but feel like I was in a version of Ogunquit or Kennebunkport, but with rockier beaches. I loved that familiar feel. It almost came off like a cross between Ogunquit and Bailey Island, two of my favorite places. If Littleport existed, I could see myself wanting to stay.