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Tuesday, May 14, 2019

The Little Teashop on Main by Jodi Thomas

Release Date - May 7, 2019

Three friends form a life-long friendship before they even start school. It all begins when Zoe's mom invites other girls from her class to a tea party. That forms a tight bond between bubbly Zoe, who dreams of a life in acting; Emily who is a writer at heart but battling mental illness as she gets older; and Shannon, a girl abandoned by her mother but raised under the loving guidance of a military dad and grandmother.

After high school, the girls head off on their own, but their reunion tea parties never stop. They've returned once more to deal with one of the biggest tragedies they'll ever face.

I loved The Little Teashop on Main. This story is packed with romances that come and go, some that stand the test of time, and plenty of angst and drama that tests them along the path of adulthood. The writing is so engaging, I struggled to put it down for those things like work and household chores that must get done.

The story starts with a male's viewpoint as he looks back on the women he's grown up with and loves with all of his heart. Each woman faces her own challenges, and it's not always an easy read, but it's such an emotional one that is hard to forget. Even a week later, I find myself thinking back to things they did and said. It was amazing.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

The Wish by Patricia Davids

Release Date - April 30, 2019

After her husband dies, Laura Beth Yoder is ready to pack up and move to Ohio. Her home in Cedar Grove is seriously lacking when it comes to single men her age. She wants nothing more than to have a child of her very own, and she'll move if that's what's needed to make her dearest wish come true.

After serving his time for a theft he didn't realize he was committing, Joshua King learns his ex-wife had his son. Her dying wish is for him to bring the infant to her parents, parents she hasn't spoken to since she abandoned her Amish home. On the way to them, Josh's car is swept up in a flood. That's how he meets Laura Beth.

Laura Beth cannot believe she's found a man and his infant, Caleb, about to get swept away. She takes them into her home and focuses her attention on Caleb. She knows they'll leave eventually, but she's hoping something will happen that will change Josh's mind. She doesn't want to give up this infant. She can't become involved with a non-Amish man, but she believes there is a way to make Caleb hers forever.

I usually enjoy Amish romances, but I found The Wish to be a hard read. This is due to my dislike of Laura Beth. I grew tired of her pushing Josh all the time. Despite his misgivings about raising a son when he had no job, no home, no anything, she kept pushing. She ignored her sister's warnings about taking in an unmarried man. She even does something that she knows Josh will not want her doing, but she is so focused on Caleb that she does it anyway. It bugged me.

I read the full story and appreciated the ending. In the end, however, it was other characters in the story that will leave far more of an impression. The old guy who fishes every day and offers advice to Josh was one of the best characters in the book. I adored him.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Swimming for Sunlight by Allie Larkin

Release Date - April 23, 2019

One thing Katie Ellis won't part with in her divorce is her dog. She'll let her husband cheat and leave her for his mistress, but Bark is hers. Once her lawyer fights to ensure she has custody of Bark, she packs up most of her items and heads to Florida to start over.

Florida holds horrible memories for her, but she also was welcomed into her grandmother's fold of close friends. There, Katie joins in on their plan to go back to their pasts when they were part of a troupe of performing mermaids. She'll do the costume, even if them being in the water is terrifying to her. It may be just what she needs to come to terms with her past and build a worthwhile future.

I loved Nan's friends. They were a riot. Katie is definitely an anxiety-ridden person, and it takes her time to come to terms with everything. One thing remains clear in this book, life is what you make of it and, sometimes, you have to be bold! Read Swimming for Sunlight. It's a lot of fun.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Hot Texas Sunrise by Delores Fossen

Release Date - March 26, 2019

Cleo Delaney misses her close friend, and she will keep her promise. She will do whatever it takes to raise her friend's three boys. The problem is, Cleo has an arrest record and owns a bar, and that makes her a poor choice in social service's eyes. Her friend failed to complete a will before she passed away from cancer.

At the moment, those boys are in their grandmother's care, and that violent alcoholic is a horrible choice. Cleo's last hope is to get a former friend and lover, Deputy Judd Laramie, to step up and agree to become the boys' foster. The problem is Judd is battling his own demons and isn't sure he needs that kind of complication in his life.

It was a gorgeous spring day yesterday and I was in the mood for a light, happy read. Hot Texas Sunrise didn't disappoint. The passion between Cleo and Judd is still strong. I loved that the only conflict in this book would be Cleo's friend's mom. There was nothing else added, which I appreciate because conflict in a romance can often seem forced to me and a little hard to believe. That was never the case here.

Was this book a perfect read? Not really. There were things with the social worker that bugged me. The ending also seemed to come together way too fast and easy. That said, the romance never disappointed and left me with the warm fuzzies I was looking for.

This is a second book in a series, but I don't feel like I missed a thing.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

The Invited: A Novel by Jennifer McMahon

Release Date - April 30, 2019

I love a book set in my home state. I like to see if an author gets the details right. I like the familiarity. The Invited is a ghost story. Helen and Nate escape their Connecticut life to build a home on the Breckenridge bog.

Legend has it that the ghost of Hattie Breckenridge haunts the bog after being hung for witchcraft. Helen becomes fascinated by the stories and opts to research them. It isn't long before it's clear to her that someone, perhaps Hattie's ghost, wants nothing to do with people building on her land.

As Helen digs deeper into the history, she starts adding pieces of the past to the house they're building. Each piece puts them more in danger than before.

I never found The Invited to be creepy. Coming from multiple generations of Vermonters and hearing some of the stories of my own family's past, the stories of Hattie and her family come off as tragic more than scary. I found it to be a very atmospheric tale of the past and present colliding, but I wasn't ever spooked.

I did find this book hard to put down. The story is told from the viewpoints of Helen and Olive (a teen Helen befriends). As more history is revealed, you might find chapters from characters in the past, too. All add depth to the story that culminates in the truth about Olive's mom's disappearance. It was a quick and engaging story.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Saving Meghan by D.J. Palmer

Release Date - April 9, 2019

By most standards, Becky Gerard is the perfect mother. She is always there for her daughter, Meghan. Meghan's spent years plagued by a mysterious illness that seems to be worsening. Doctors can't find anything wrong, but Meghan's physical pain, dizziness, and lack of energy are worrisome.

After Meghan passes out again, some start to question if there's really anything wrong with Meghan at all. Some believe Becky is causing the symptoms and Munchausen's is what's really going on. Becky will do anything she can think of to save her daughter. How far is she willing to go?

It's been a while since a book threw a twist that I didn't see coming. Saving Meghan was delightful because I was kept guessing.

The basic premise that keeps you guessing is that Becky's own mother forced her daughters to lie in order to scam the government out of disability funds. Becky having Munchausen's makes sense. As you keep reading, her sincerity makes it hard to tell if you're really right or if there's more going on.

I bounced from thinking Becky was guilty to wondering about Meghan herself and Meghan's father. The more I read, the more I wondered what was going on. If you like books where there are so many potential suspects and reasons behind their actions, Saving Meghan is a great choice.

Friday, April 12, 2019

The Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth

Release Date - April 23, 2019

I've been on a horrible reading slump. Nothing has been intriguing to me. I can't seem to get more than a few pages in before I'm ready to give up. Enter Sally Hepworth's The Mother-in-Law. This book blew me away.

Lucy is sure of one thing. She adores her new beau. Her mother died when she was young, so she's hoping she'll find a connection with Ollie's mom. Unfortunately, his mom is very curt and abrasive. It's clear that Lucy and Diana are not going to get along.

Years pass. Lucy spies police in her driveway and learns that Diana is dead from an apparent suicide. She's stunned, yet there's also a sense of peace that comes with it. She and Diana have never seen eye to eye. Lucy is also on her own as the whole world seemed to dote on Diana's every move.

Despite a suicide note hidden in a drawer, the autopsy reveals Diana was suffocated. When she told her family she had breast cancer, it was all a lie. Someone killed her, and Lucy is the only person to have never gotten along with her.

This is a very emotional read. It's told in the past and present with both Lucy and Diana sharing their stories. It took no time to find a bond with both characters. I've been in Lucy's shoes, but as a new mother-in-law myself, I could also get where Diana was coming from. I became eager to have the truth revealed. It was a tearjerker that kept me on the edge of my seat.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner

Release Date - March 19, 2019

While I loved The Last Year of the War, I also hated that people don't seem to learn from the past. This book takes the reader back to WWII and the atrocities many U.S citizens faced simply because their ancestors were in Germany or Japan.

Elise Sontag only knows Iowa as her home. Her parents became U.S. citizens 20 years earlier, long before she was born. Her father's job as a chemistry teacher is part of what makes the U.S. government decide he's a threat. The family is whisked off to an internment camp in Texas.

Mariko Inoue is in a similar position. Her family lives in Los Angeles, but that doesn't stop the U.S. government from deciding their Japanese heritage makes them a threat. That family is also sent off to the Texas internment camp where Elise and Mariko become friends.

It isn't too long before Elise and Mariko are both sent back to their ancestral countries with their families. Elise, her parents, and her brother will be traded for U.S. soldiers. She and Mariko promise that when the war is over, they'll meet up again. In countries foreign to them, they'll have to first survive the atrocities of war and human nature.

The Last Year of the War broke my heart. I know it happened. I see similar behaviors happening today and it maddens and saddens me. As humans, we are supposed to learn from the past, yet we just don't.

The story moves between past and present. Much of it takes place in the 1940s, but you also see Elise today as she tries to find Mariko before it's too late. Elise has just been diagnosed with Alzheimer's, so time is running out. She needs to find her friend before her memories of past and present disappear.

I loved this story, but it isn't an easy read. It's painful at times. It's also full of hope. If you enjoy historical women's fiction, this book needs to be on your must-read list.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Murder From Scratch by Leslie Karst

Release Date - April 9, 2019

I'm a sucker for culinary mysteries. I never caught wind of Leslie Karst's first Sally Solari Mystery, but that didn't keep me from indulging in Murder From Scratch. Sally's busy running her newly inherited restaurant. Despite a somewhat moody chef and impending partnership deal, she finds herself taking in her distant cousin.

Evelyn's mom died of a drug overdose. Evelyn is blind and found the body when stumbling over her. She's devastated, but there's no family who can take her in except for Sally's dad and he's allergic to dogs. Sally agrees and quickly learns that her cousin is fun, very independent, and an excellent cook.

Soon, the pair realize that Evelyn's mom did not accidentally overdose or commit suicide. She has to have been poisoned intentionally. Police detectives aren't quite as convinced. Sally and her cousin decide it's worth finding what is needed to get the police to open a murder investigation. Doing so might put them in harm's way.

From the beginning, I was hooked. Evelyn is incredibly likable and her insight as a blind person added to the intrigue. Sally had moments where I couldn't believe she was missing obvious things, but that often happens. The mystery keeps you guessing, but it's not impossible to solve either.

As a bonus, there are several recipes at the end. Including one for Evelyn's hand-rolled pasta. I cannot wait to try it!

Monday, March 18, 2019

Beautiful Bad by Annie Ward

Release Date - March 5, 2019

I'd heard so many people say that the ending to Beautiful Bad was truly shocking. I saw it coming, so that ended up being a bit of a letdown.

The story focuses heavily on three people. Maddie and Jo were best friends, joined into a friendship during their years in the Balkan Peninsula. The dangers they faced there drew them together. It's also there that Maddie was introduced to a British security officer, Ian. Their relationship grew fast but rocky.

In Kansas, Maddie and Ian are happily married with a young son Charlie. There's been a horrific crime and the police need to unravel what happened.

Beautiful Bad takes place in past, recent past, and present. You get to know Maddie's story when she lived in Bosnia and frequently went to Macedonia to see Jo, as well as her life in New York City and Kansas. Ian's story is told as he is in Iraq. There is also the police officer who responds to the 911 call and hears young Charlie's cries asking why someone hurt him.

The real-time account from the officer drew me into the story. As the story started flipping around from past to present, I started finding myself wishing for more of the current investigation. After a few chapters, I felt that the frequent flips back and forth were slowing the part of the plot that intrigued me. I started to grow tired of Jo and Maddie's story. When I started having to force myself to keep reading, I knew I was in trouble.

There is plenty of suspense in Beautiful Bad, and it started off so strong. I'm sad that it reached a point where it became exactly what I was expecting. I had the ending pegged too soon for this to be a keeper.

Friday, March 15, 2019

House on Fire by Bonnie Kistler

Release Date - March 12, 2019

Imagine if Greg Brady from The Brady Bunch had driven Jan Brady and caused a crash that led to Jan's death. That's the premise behind Bonnie Kistler's House on Fire.

Leigh is a divorce lawyer, so she knows the statistics on how many marriages don't last. She's been through it. When she met builder Pete Conely, she was stunned by how well her twin sons and daughter got along with Pete's son and daughter. Their fifth year anniversary has arrived, so they decide to leave 14-year-old Chrissy at home with her 17-year-old step-brother.

Neither expects the call that will change their lives. Kip's been arrested for DUI with Chrissy in the truck when it goes off the road. Within 12 hours, a traumatic brain injury ends Chrissy's life and Kip is now facing manslaughter charges.

Leigh and Pete are now pitted against each other. Kip swears he didn't do it and that Chrissy was driving because he was drunk. Leigh cannot believe her daughter would ever do such a thing and not tell her. Kip swears there is a witness, though no one has been able to find him. One thing is certain, these events threaten to tear two families apart and end their marriage.

Here's a book that had me hooked from the start. Could I see both Pete and Leigh's desperation and points of view? Sure. Could I side with either? I have to say both made errors that annoyed me at times. I certainly had issues with Leigh's twin boys, though I get them too. Despite these niggles, House on Fire is a book I couldn't put down. I was up early to read on and stayed up far later than normal trying to fit both this book and my nightly binge of an Agatha Raisin show.

I'd been in a bit of a rut since last week. House on Fire cured it. I'm so glad I picked it up.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Convergence by Ginny Yttrup

Release Date - March 1, 2019

Years ago, a stalker tore Denilyn Rossi's life apart. Though he's in jail, recent events convince her that she's being stalked again and all signs point to her original stalker. As a psychology professor and former victim, she has the experience and knowledge to handle what's thrown her way, but when it's you, it's personal and hard to manage.

Adelia Sanchez is a fan of Rossi's work. She has a life to live and things to prove to herself. When she and Deni cross paths, it will lead to unimaginable consequences.

It's been a few years since I've picked up one of Yttrup's novels, but Convergence really intrigued me. It sounded like it was going to be an incredibly creepy ride. 

Sadly, even though chapters were clearly represented as to who was speaking and when it was, I couldn't get past the jumps from one character to the next and past to present. I felt incredibly bogged down by these changes. I was having to really work to keep track and pay attention to the top line of every chapter, and that was a turn off for me. Reading for pleasure shouldn't feel like work. The choppy flow due to the switches made it hard to stay focused and while I wanted to get what was going on, I could never get past that feeling that it felt like I was working to keep up.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Me For You by Lolly Winston

Release Date - March 12, 2019

You know, I'd heard so many things about Lolly Winston's prior novels that I was dying to see what the buzz is about. I've heard Good Grief is an exceptional book. Maybe I need to try that one. Me For You fell really flat for me and I struggled to finish it.

He's 54 and madly in love with his wife of many years. Rudy wakes up with big plans for a day together. He never suspects that his still sleeping wife is actually dead. Ten months later, he's still uncertain how to move on.

His job playing piano for the shoppers at Nordstrom's helps. It also helps that he's slightly smitten with Sasha, a Hungarian woman who suffers her own secret loss. As she and Rudy get to know each other, they form a friendship that may be what they both need to get through their grief.

Rudy's world explodes when the police come with shocking news. His wife may not have died of natural causes after all. She may have been poisoned. The investigation threatens to turn Rudy's world upside down.

I had a really hard time with this book. I loved Rudy's character. His grief seemed authentic when it came to the effect it has on mental health. I thought Sasha's story ended up being stronger to me. I liked reading about her situation more. Despite the strength of their characters, I always felt like I was muddling through a book that had too much going on and not enough real depth to inspire me to keep reading.

Friday, March 1, 2019

I Am Yours by Reema Zaman

Release Date - February 5, 2019

I Am Yours is haunting, maddening, sad, and heartwarming in one. Really, the memoir begins before Reema Zaman is even born. Her mother is in college when she enters an arranged marriage. Reema is her firstborn. As she grows up, she questions the role of women in this world. She sees her mother trapped in an unhappy marriage. Her own dabbles in relationships lead to a range of outcomes. It ends up being a powerful look at relationships between men and women, families, and humans in general. It's not always pretty, but it's painfully honest.

I've seen some of the meanness that exists. I housed a Muslim college student for a month. The comments made when people thought we couldn't hear - maybe they just didn't care - stunned me. I watched a mother tell her young daughter that "men with brown skin" are dangerous. I watched three older men follow us around the store while saying he must be up to no good. This was essentially how a grown Muslim man was treated.

I cannot begin to imagine what it's like when you're actually the one in those shoes. The things Reema experiences run from being a strong player in the #metoo movement to emotional and verbal abuse from a family member. It's sad that people judge, bully, and harass and think it's okay. As I read each chapter, I became eager to read to the end.

Is I Am Yours an easy read? Not a chance. I had to adjust to her writing style to start with. Once I did, I was heartbroken at times and it made for tough reading. It's so worthwhile though. If you like memoirs, it's a must.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

The Promise by Teresa Driscoll

Release Date - February 7, 2019

Teresa Driscoll's latest, The Promise, focuses on three women. As young teens, they were thrown together in a boarding school dorm. It wasn't long before they'd become best friends. When something happens, they vow to keep it secret.

Fast forward several years. The last time they gathered was for Carol's 30th birthday. A decade has passed, and it's clear Carol wants nothing to do with them. When they get a letter that their old school will soon be demolished, it becomes urgent that they find her. Beth and Sally have tried to put the past behind them and move on with their lives, but this news brings up old memories that they can't ignore. Beth decides to hire a private investigator to find Carol.

He isn't sure why the women are so desperate to locate her. After all, she's made it a point to disappear from their lives. He realizes there must be more to the story than he's being told. But, he's being paid to find this woman, so he'll do it. When threats start pouring in, he starts to wonder what are these women hiding?

The Promise bounces around a bit. You have Beth and Sally, you have the P.I., and you have Beth. They're all telling their stories as best they can. The story also bounces from past to present. While it's easy to tell who is speaking and what time frame you're in, the changes back and forth grew tiring to me. As the big secret was revealed, I really wasn't that surprised, and I really didn't care. That's never a good sign.

I was on the edge of my seat for I Am Watching You. This book never grabbed me with the same intensity. It was okay, but nothing I felt passionately about.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Two Missing Person Novels From Karen Ellis

Release Date for A Map of the Dark - January 2, 2018
Release Date for Last Night - February 26, 2019

This review is going to be a little different. I received two books in a newer series. The Searchers takes you to New York City where Detective Lex Cole investigates missing persons cases. He receives a helping hand from FBI agent Elsa Myers.

Elsa's has a lot on her plate right now. Her father is dying. Demons from her childhood won't leave her alone. When she's asked to help Detective Lex Cole investigate a case involving a missing teen girl, she has a hard time saying no. It's the last thing she needs to be doing, but there is a teen missing, and she can't turn her back on a missing girl.

It's not long before several wrong turns lead Lex and Elsa onto a chilling discovery. Elsa becomes more determined than ever to find this girl. Doing so will bring up childhood memories that may be best left buried.

A teen boy with a promising future vanishes and his mom turns to Detective Lex Cole to find him. Titus "Crisp" Crespo has grown up with his Russian mother. His black father has never been part of his life. Shortly after being arrested and subsequently released for trumped-up charges that seem to be solely made because of his skin color, Crisp disappears with a rich girl named Glynnie.

The two decide to visit Glynnie's dealer. As it's in his dad's old neighborhood, Crisp is a little intrigued. Yet, once there, events spiral out of control leading these to the Crisp's disappearance.

I will say that A Map of the Dark had me hooked from the first page. I read this book in one sitting. The pacing, depth of the characters, and tension of the suspense made it impossible to put down. I felt compelled to keep reading until I knew the truth and had learned more about Elsa's background.

Based on the first novel in The Searchers series, I needed to begin Last Night immediately. Here's where a bit of a sophomore slump hit. I didn't connect with the characters. Elsa is a far stronger lead than Lex. I never felt a bond with Crisp. I really didn't care where he was after a several chapters. I hoped it would change after a while, but while I wanted to see what happened, it seemed to drag and I never truly felt a connection that made me want to read it in one sitting.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

If You Go Down to the Woods: A Novel by Seth C. Adams

Release Date - March 5, 2019 (Paperback)

Since hearing about this book, I can't stop Teddy Bear's Picnic from playing in my head. My mom sang that to me a lot when I was little.

If You Go Down to the Woods Today is the debut novel by Seth C. Adams. I think describing it as a creepy take on Stephen King's novella The Body is pretty apt.

"If you go down to the woods today, you're sure of a big surprise." That's how the children's song goes and it fits this book perfectly.

Joey is 13 and thrust into a brand new town when his family moves to Payne, Arizona, for his dad's new job. His first introductions to people in the town bring a mix of reactions. The local bullies are not pleased that Joey interrupted their bullying session. Bobby, aka Fat Bobby, is delighted to have someone stand up for him. Soon, Joey, Fat Bobby, and two others form the Outsider's Club.

The four of them are about to stumble across something in the woods that they never should have found - a car, bundles and bundles of cash, and a body. And, there's the "Collector" out there who knows what they found and is about to become a sinister and potentially deadly force to be reckoned with.

I caught and loved a few things straight off. First, the narrative is first-person and usually not to my liking, but Joey does such a great job at drawing the reader into his world. Second, there is very little dialogue starting out. I found I loved not having all the talk and that the author let the descriptions build a lot of suspense.

There were characters I hated. There were characters I loved. The mystery is kind of apparent, but the action keeps you on your toes. I was hooked from the start.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

My Favorite Cowboy by Donna Grant

Release Date - February 26, 2019

My Favorite Cowboy is the third book in the Heart of Texas series. I read the first book, so I was well versed in Abby and Clayton's lives. This time, it's Caleb's turn.

Audrey Martinez keeps busy working for two big ranches and helping out time a horse is in need of a charitable veterinarian. When four horses at the auction house become ill, Audrey is desperate to find out what is happening. It isn't long before she realizes the horses are being poisoned.

Caleb and his brothers are called in to help set up cameras at the auction house. Very little time passes between their arrival and an attack on the horses. They realize this criminal activity is personal and it's all pointed at Audrey. Caleb's falling for her, so they team up to do everything in their power to keep her safe and figure out what's going on.

I liked My Favorite Cowboy, but I never loved the story. I thought the mystery was a little easy to figure out. As characters are introduced, it was clear to me who was harming the horses and why it was happening. That was disappointing.

I liked the chemistry between Audrey and Caleb, but I never really felt they had what it would take to last. I never loved Audrey for Caleb. That was also disappointing.

In the end, this is a book I enjoyed but know it won't stick with me. It was a good way to spend a few hours, but I can't say it's a keeper.

Monday, February 18, 2019

The Last Letter by Rebecca Yarros

Release Date - February 26, 2019

Can I describe how I feel about The Last Letter in just a few words? Piece of cake. It broke my heart.

At 18, Ella found herself married and expecting twins. The same impetuous man she married isn't ready for fatherhood and abandons her. Skip forward several years, she's now a single mom and owner of her grandmother's resort. In her downtime, which is minimal, she writes to a military team member at the request of her brother, Ryan.

When Ryan is killed in action, his final letter is to his pal Beckett. He wants Beckett to get out and do everything possible to be there for Ella and her twins. Ryan's death isn't the only bad news Ella gets and she needs support now more than ever. Beckett will do anything for the woman he's gotten to know via regular letters and the children he's come to love through those same letters. He also will do anything for the friend he's lost.

The Last Letter is heartbreaking, touching, and endearing all at once. I'd just finished one military man asked to be there for his family member book and couldn't imagine it would get better. Rebecca Yarros' book broke my heart but also uplifted me at the same time. Not sure how she pulled that off.

Here's the thing. You can't read this book and have dry eyes. It's just not going to happen. This book is going to drag your emotions all over the place. You're going to laugh, cry, want to hit something, and start all over again. Having finished it, I feel drained. At the same time, I know it's a book I'll read again and again, it's just that damn good.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

The Military Wife by Laura Trentham

Release Date - February 5, 2019

Harper Lee Wilcox has done a great job raising her son alone after her husband, Noah, dies overseas. She's with her best friend, Allison, trying to help Allison deal with the stress of having a military husband and shaky marriage when she learns the cash reward she got after Noah's death is for an award that doesn't exist. That money is important though. It could be a way for Harper to give military women the chance to have jobs and something to invest their time in while their husbands serve overseas.

To get the answers she needs about Noah's death and this cash sum, she has to turn to one of the more reclusive former SEAL members Bennett Caldwell. Harper's been grieving for five years, but after just a little time with Bennett, she realizes she may have a second chance at love.

The Military Wife was such a touching story. There were a few things I absolutely loved. Top of that list is that there was never the cliched conflict so many romances have. This book is all about learning to let go of the past, learn from it, and move on towards a new future.

I loved the characters. Young Ben is a bit precocious and helps push his mom into realizing he's okay if a new man enters her life. There's Allison and her family who have their own struggles. Harper's mom is a hoot. I loved reading about her adventures in nude painting. They made me feel at ease as I sat back to read Bennett and Harper's romance. It was exactly what I needed.

Friday, February 15, 2019

The Amish Bachelor's Baby by Jo Ann Brown

Release Date - March 1, 2019

Annie Wagler wants nothing more than to see her twin sister happy. Caleb Hartz falls into that plan. she's convinced the two were meant to be together. When Caleb approaches Annie asking if she'd work with him in the bakery he is about to open, she can't help but say yes. She still thinks her twin would be a better match, but Annie is full of ideas and loves to bake.

When the two find a teen and baby in the closed bakery, they immediately help her. The teen is Caleb's cousin. She's run away and needs a home and help raising a child. Caleb and Annie plan to help and get the bakery open on time, but working closely together may also help form a spark that neither of them can ignore.

The Amish Bachelor's Baby takes place in Vermont, which always intrigues me. Having Amish families living in Southern Vermont seemed odd. I've heard of Amish and Mennonite families in the Northeast Kingdom, but I hadn't heard they also lived in the southern part of the state. I'm wrong. I don't live in either area, so it's not surprising that I have only encountered the Amish a couple of times. In this book, an Amish man and woman open a bakery together, and that's definitely something I haven't heard of. I did a little checking and there is a bakery stand run by an Amish family in the Northeast Kingdom.

It's a gentle romance that moves at a steady pace. I liked the couple, but I did have issues with Annie being more than a little blind. It was clear from the start that Caleb was perfect for her, yet she kept pushing him into situations hoping to get her sister a new beau. That aspect grew tiresome. I still enjoyed the book, but I started to grow impatient with Annie's lack of insight into her own heart's demands.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

The Stranger Inside by Laura Benedict

Release Date - February 9, 2019

After a short vacation, Kimber Hannon returns to her house, but her keys don't work. None of her keys on any doors work. Her older neighbor comes out and is surprised to see her. She informs Kimber that a man moved in days ago, and he has the signed lease to prove it. While police look over the paperwork, he whispers: "I saw what you did."

Whoever this stranger is, he's out to make Kimber's life a living hell. She senses he is familiar, but she can't figure out why. Not only that, but she's not sure what he saw.

The Stranger Inside starts off at a fast pace. It's clear Kimber has made some really bad choices in her life. Which of them the stranger supposedly saw is the question. It comes down to the secrets everyone keeps.

Kimber isn't always likable, but you have to keep reading. I wasn't shocked at the end, but it did paint a better picture of Kimber and the struggles she faced because of this stranger. I simply cannot imagine being in her shoes.

Laura Benedict's latest checked off a lot of what makes a story so suspenseful. I got emotional, mainly I was angry that people would do things like this to each other. It kept me turning the pages. It took plenty of twists, even if I knew some of them were obvious. It still had me hooked.

Friday, February 8, 2019

The Girls of 17 Swann Street by Yara Zgheib

Release Date - February 5, 2019

Her happy marriage is not enough to keep Anna Roux from letting her obsessions with food take over her life. The former dancer followed her new husband from Paris to Minnesota. She's left alone to let her thoughts of turn to the things she just wasn't good enough to achieve, the loneliness she feels in this new community, and her frustration with her weight.

Soon, Anna is under 90 pounds and still hoping to take off more weight. Her diet is no more than an apple and maybe a handful of plain, air-popped popcorn, and nothing more. Desperate to save his wife, Anna's husband convinces her to go to 17 Swann Street. There, experts work with the girls residing within the charming home to overcome their eating disorders that threaten to end their lives.

As Anna joins the others, she struggles to get used to the daily routines that include counseling sessions, six meals a day, and the power of friendship.

The Girls of 17 Swann Street is beautifully written. My heart broke for Anna, but despite the sad situation, the power each of the women in 17 Swann is so clearly portrayed. It's a sad topic, yet it wasn't made to be depressing. It's uplifting and I hope it really helps someone.

It took me back to high school when we had a guest speaker. She was the mother of a girl who had anorexia. The stories that woman told haunt me. I saw a lot of her daughter in Anna. It made me feel hopeful that somewhere that girl found her own 17 Swann.

Read this book. You won't be disappointed by Anna's journey.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Forget You Know Me by Jessica Strawser

Release Date - February 5, 2019

Molly and Liza have been close for as long as they can remember. Molly eventually marries and has kids. Liza has not settled down because she's still searching for Mr. Right.

On one of those nights where they set aside time to video chat, Molly hears a child cry out. Excusing herself for a few minutes, she leaves her laptop open. Liza watches as a masked intruder comes in the backdoor and closes the computer when Liza calls out a warning.

Calling police isn't enough to ease her fears. She calls the police. It's not enough for her, however. She drives to Cincinnati and back to make sure Molly really is okay. When Molly dismisses her without even letting her in the house, she's stunned. She's definitely not prepared for what she finds when she returns to her own home in the city

I expected a suspense novel, but Forget You Know Me was more women's fiction with suspenseful moments. It definitely had creepy moments, but it was more about each woman coming to terms with changes in lifestyles, relationships, and events going back to that evening of the call.

When the story changes to focus more on romantic relationships than the events of that night, I found myself less intrigued. The pace seemed to slow. The mystery of the intruder seemed to become secondary to evolving relationships. I ended up finding it easier to put the book down. It lost the compelling edge that drew me into the story originally. It's still a good read, but I'd say it leans more towards women's fiction than suspense.