Tuesday, March 21, 2023

You Wouldn't Dare - Samantha Markum

Release Date - March 28, 2023

Genre - Young Adult Fiction

Juniper Abreheart's life has hit some turbulence, and she's not sure she appreciates it. After kissing one of her closest friends (Graham) and being part of turmoil in his life, she's not sure she can regain what she lost. Plus, Junie's mom seems to be happily moving on with her romance with a local doctor, and that doctor's daughter is little more than a pain in Junie's backside. This is not how her senior year was supposed to go.

While she tries to fix the damage she's caused in several areas of her daily routine, it's her relationship with Graham that may take the most work. But, she really wants things to go back to normal, even if it means stepping outside of her comfort zone.

You Wouldn't Dare is set in Florida. It's one of the few states I've never been to, so I can't delve into the setting this time. It seemed nice enough, though Florida isn't a state that's on my radar as a place I need to see, so I am slightly biased for that reason. I did snicker a little as Florida has been heavy in the news for book banning lately, and this is the perfect fodder as it has underage drinking, smoking, swearing, affairs, etc. 

The characters are where this book lost me. I can't imagine Junie's mom thinking her daughter would instantly be an BFF to her boyfriend's daughter or that moving in the families together would go flawlessly. Even expecting it to go over well seemed unrealistic to me. Junie was often little more than a bully. She was hard to like, especially when trying to get others to do what she wanted. It took awhile before I could see any redeeming qualities in her.

In the end, it was just an okay read. It didn't make me feel like I urgently needed to sit down and finish it in one sitting, but it was appealing enough that I at least wanted to see how it all played out.

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Off the Map by Trish Doller

 Release Date - March 21, 2023

Genre - Contemporary Romance

I don't often want to give a book five stars, as five stars means perfection and very little is perfect. This is pretty close to perfect so five stars it is.

Carla Black's mom walked away when she was little, and her dad died everything to be the best dad possible. Together, the pair explored the U.S. in her dad's Jeep, fixing it when necessary. But, he has dementia and is ready to slow down and move in with his significant other. He has one wish. Carla is to keep exploring.

It's with that nature that she happens to be in Ireland for her best friend's wedding. The groom's brother is tasked with picking her up at the airport and driving her to the town where the wedding is taking place. But, Carla's adventurous spirit appeals to Eamon, so the pair make quite a few detours on the way. It's during those details that they start to fall for each other, but Carla is not the settling-down type, so she cannot possible have a future with a guy, especially one who lives on the other side of the pond.

I have been battling COVID for the first time and struggling to do much of anything. Enter a sunny, warmish day and a comfy seat set up on our front deck. Kudos to my husband for digging out the lawn chairs a little early.

I sat outside enjoying the warmth of the sun and completely got lost in Trish Doller's Off the Map. This book was everything I needed. There was humor, gorgeous scenery, likable characters (I mean who doesn't want an Eamon in their life???), and such an amazingly enjoyable couple of hours spent mentally roaming Ireland's scenery.

Now, there is another aspect of this story that I feel needs mentioning. Carla's dad has Alzheimer's. I have taken that journey through my mom's eyes and it's not easy. Carla's dad had me crying frequently as it was so well-written and personal to me. I say this. It's not a failure to walk away and live your life. 

Parts of me wishes I had done more for myself rather than spend most weekends balancing my time between my parents, my kids, and my spouse. When my dad died and my mom needed more care than we could manage, I was still the one getting the midnight calls that she was unruly and I needed to drive to the assisted living community to calm her down. It's exhausting.

As a side note to the author and anyone else helping a parent with dementia, the beer topic that came up. Carla's dad used to join her for a beer and conversation. Here's a tip. You don't have to let Alzheimer's and other meds stop that. I found with my mom that she was fooled by Lagunitas Hoppy Water. She tasted the hops, felt it was a beer, and I could serve it in a colored pint glass so she never knew the difference and she could have as many as she wanted. Many other companies are jumping on the hop seltzer bandwagon, and I highly recommend this as a substitute for beer.

Monday, March 13, 2023

No More Secrets by Kerry Lonsdale

 Release Date - March 14, 2023

This is the third part of a series about siblings with a horrific upbringing. This time, it's Lucas Carson's time. He's on the run and has created a quiet life for himself in the desert. He's not seen his sister Lucy since she ran away as a teen, though he knows she's become a popular animator. He's never forgiven himself for not helping her more.

When Luc finds a runaway in the store where he works, he can't help but feel it's his chance to save someone like Lucy. Shiloh Bloom is on the run and escaping her own horrific upbringing. She's not about to trust Luc, but she finds herself in a situation where she has no choice, and he does seem to be keeping every promise he made when he took her in.

Good things never last. Shiloh's convinced her mother and her mother's boyfriend are hot on her heels, and Luc's past threatens to catch up with him at any moment. When they do, it could put Luc in prison for life and Shiloh doesn't want to think about what waits for her back home.

Like the other two books, No More Secrets is a gripping, often sad look at dysfunctional families, addiction, and homelessness. It ties in well with the other two in the series and delivers the closure I'd wanted. It has romantic touches along the way, but most of the story falls into a drama/suspense with a strong message of families don't have to be the traditional mom and dad. The best families are made up of those who have your back and love you unconditionally.

Sunday, March 12, 2023

The New Person - Loretta Nyhan

Genre - Women's Fiction

Release Date - November 29, 2022

Like many single mom's, Roxy Novak works hard to balance work and her son's needs. She holds two jobs in order to be able to afford their small apartment. She never expects her ex to take her to court for custody. Worse, she lacks the money to afford a lawyer. 

This is how Roxy makes the decision to become a surrogate. Nora and Owen Finnegan have everything they could imagine, except for a child of their own. After their latest surrogate miscarries, Nora is devastated, but there's one more chance. Roxy could be the person to finally make their dreams of being parents come true.

But, as is true in life, nothing comes easy. Each three has their own reason for being where they are today, and it's going to take an incredible bond to lead them on this journey of realizing what family is.

The New Person wasn't my normal read. It was filled with characters I didn't like, and a few that I really did. There was the underlying story of family strife, but there was also the story of hope and new relationships. It had me on an emotional ride that seemed to deflate as it neared the final chapters. 

Unfortunately, as much as I wanted to love it, Nora never clicked with me. I just never liked her and that made it an okay book but nothing I'd want to read again.

Friday, February 17, 2023

A Light in the Forest by Melissa Payne

Release Date - December 12, 2022

Genre - General Fiction, Women's Fiction

What a completely touching, emotional story. Melissa Payne's story begins with Vega at her home in Colorado. She's a new mom and has breakfast all ready to go for her boyfriend, but he's disgusted that she overcooked his bacon and assaults her. She's still healing from her c-section and her late mom's voice rings clear - RUN.

Vega spent many years helping her mom assist battered women, so she knows what to take and what to do next. She has no where to go and no friends to turn to, so she does the only thing she can and follows a postcard for a small town in Ohio that her mom always held onto. It's there that Vega hopes to start anew.

Heff, the town's deputy, and Eve, a transgender farmer and store owner, who's been a victim of abuse and rose from the ashes, take Vega under their wing. Eve provides Vega with an apartment and repair work at her farm, Heff keeps a close eye over her. He's seen her bruises, so he knows something's up. With time and patience, they're hoping Vega will be the breath of fresh air their town needs.

I loved this story and the characters. Now, I've seen reviews stating the book has too many LGBTQIA+ characters and could have done without. They bother me as just yesterday I was reading about a 15-year-old transgender who was murdered by her peers. The rage and hatred is still very present, and that makes this story timely to me.

I'm a little sad that the story is over. I do hope that Melissa Payne will consider returning to Eve, Heff, Vega, and the many other residents in the town and share more stories as they continue to help others.

Thursday, February 16, 2023

The Greenway by Jane Adams

Release Date - March 11, 2019

Genre - Mystery

Here's a book I'd tried to get into and failed, but I've circled back and it's actually a great mystery, though not too challenging to solve once the clues are in place.

It's a hot summer's day in 1975, and Suzie and her cousin Cassie are late getting home. They opt to take the shortcut across the Greenway, a path with a mystical legend. Cassie somehow becomes unconscious and wakes to find her cousin missing.

Twenty years later, Cassie has finally mustered the courage to return to the town where her life changed forever. All seems to be going okay until she wandered out to the Greenway and later learns another girl has disappeared. Townspeople are suspicious of the timing between this new disappearance and Cassie's return.

The detective who investigated Suzie's disappearance offers to help Detective Mike Croft investigate both disappearances and see if they're related. Could Cassie have killed her cousin or is there something true to the legends of the Greenway?

The Greenway is a psychological thriller with plenty of twists, though once something is revealed, I wasn't too challenged to figure out what happened. That said, I was still hooked and wanted to keep reading to see it all play out. 

I loved the setting and wished I was the one visiting the small town, even if there did seem to be something evil at play. As this is the first Detective Croft mystery, I'm eager to explore the others.

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

End of Story by Kylie Scott

 Release Date - February 14, 2023

Genre - Contemporary Romance

I don't know what to say about this romance. It really doesn't seem to be for me is I guess the best place to start. My recommendation before you even get started is to read the prequel if it's included in your copy of the book. It helps a bit.

After Susie Bowen's aunt dies and leaves Susie her run-down home, Susie gets to work clearing the clutter. While moving boxes, she finds a lot of water damage that requires the help of a professional. She doesn't expect her contractor to send Lars.

Susie and Lars have history. They were best friends until Susie's boyfriend (Lars' best friend) dumped her in a very public, humiliating way. She hasn't seen Lars since and isn't particularly happy to see him right now, but her house needs repairs and Lars is there.

The pair are shocked when Lars pulls out water-damaged sheetrock and finds some hidden divorce papers. They're divorce papers for Lars and Susie and are dated a decade into the future. Lars is convinced Susie planted them, and she's equally convinced Lars must have faked them, but document experts are baffled as the papers are authentic and the lawyer who drafted them and appears on the letterhead is a newer attorney who has yet to make partner.

How the papers got there or even who managed to create them is a puzzle, but Lars and Susie are determined to unravel the truth.

End of Story is mostly a romance, and a steamy one at that. That's where I struggled. I don't know if it's just this book or if I'm growing out of romance novels after 30 years of reading them. In this case, it was the language used. There were times I felt like the author was trying to educate to the correct terms rather than the common terms we use nowadays, such as prophylactic vs. condom or very detailed terminology for certain body parts/features. It was too much for me and had me skipping some scenes.

My other issue came down to the mystery. I was curious and thought I had it pegged, but the reality was rushed and didn't seem that essential to the story. I also hated having the ex-boyfriend appear in the story with the means of being no more than the scum he was in the prequel. I would have been happy to have him left out, and Lars mother's attitude towards Susie is no better and also made me dislike her. If I think about it, I didn't really enjoy many characters, short of Susie's best friend and Lars' brother. They were great.

While the setting and some aspects of the home renovation delighted me, the romance just never grabbed me as I expect it should have. 

You Wouldn't Dare - Samantha Markum

Release Date - March 28, 2023 Genre - Young Adult Fiction Juniper Abreheart's life has hit some turbulence, and she's not sure she a...