Thursday, August 31, 2017

All the Little Children by Jo Furniss

Setting: Shropshire, England
Genre: Apocalyptic Suspense
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Author: Jo Furniss
Release Date: September 1, 2017

Marlene and her sister-in-law, Joni, head into the wilderness with their kids. Getting away seems like the perfect activity to keep Marlene's children from watching their father walk away. Joni joins her for a weekend of bonding and fresh air.

On their first day, one of Marlene's sons spots smoke in the distance. After a night of getting no cell service, despite having a cell tower nearby, the families opt to head into town to pick up supplies. What they find there is shocking. Everyone they find is dead and seems to have just dropped dead in the middle of whatever they were doing.

Soon, Marlene and Joni find they're not the only survivors of whatever happened. Joni finds one "lost boy" and takes him under her wing. They learn there are others. Marlene fears that if they save others, they'll put their own families at risk. Food supplies are limited and in this uncertain every-man-for-himself environment, they must think of themselves.

Strengths and Weaknesses

From the start, All the Little Children had an Earth Abides meets Lord of the Flies vibe. I loved how quickly the story drew me in. It definitely had some gritty, gruesome scenes, but in an apocalyptic setting, things aren't always going to be pretty. I'm thrilled the author stayed true to realities.

There were things I struggled with a bit. There are a lot of kids to keep track of. I ended up having to jot down a family tree of sorts to make sure I knew who was who and what age they were. Once I did that, the characters were easier to follow.

RTR's Bottom Line

If you read All the Little Children, be prepared that this is the first in a series. You're going to find some aspects of the story line are not neatly wrapped up in a tidy bow. I'm hearing buzz that some readers were upset by that. I think if you're okay with investing your time into a series, you'll love this book.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Something Like Happy by Eva Woods

Setting: London
Genre: Women's Fiction
Publisher: Harlequin
Release Date: September 5, 2017

After tragic events tear her world apart, Annie Hebden is in a rut. Between a job she hates, visits to the hospital, and a dreary flat shared with a young Greek man, she's simply miserable and doesn't care. After all she's been through, she doesn't really believe in happiness.

Polly Leonard has her own problems. When she meets Annie, she makes it her goal to turn this woman's life around. Polly's plan - 100 days of doing something that brings you happiness - is nothing Annie wants, but she ends up letting Polly twist her arm.

As the days progress, Annie finds herself gaining a valued friend and a new outlook on life. The problem is that true happiness can't last forever; can it?

Strengths and Weaknesses

Part tearjerker, part uplifting fiction, Something Like Happy hooked me from the start. You get insight into the events that change Annie's world. As sections of the book moved to the hospital and Annie's mom, I really felt for her. I won't go into spoilers, but this book covered two diseases that I've had personal dealings with this year with my mom and dad. It sucks. I get how bad it sucks for Annie.

The more I read, the more I became convinced that this is what I need to get out of my own rut. It may not change much, but 100 days of focusing on something that makes me happy each day. I'm in! Thanks to author Eva Woods for planting that idea.

RTR's Bottom Line

In many ways, Annie could be me. I've been through so many of her experiences in different times of my life. The loss, the uncertainty, having a job you hate, but needing that job to pay the bills. I felt a strong bond with Annie.

Because I did bond with many of the characters, I couldn't stop reading Something Like Happy. It became a late night as I continued on Annie's journey. Was it worth being tired? You bet!

Monday, August 28, 2017

Monster in the Closet by Karen Rose

Setting: Baltimore
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Publisher: Berkley
Author: Karen Rose
Release Date: August 29, 2017

Taylor Dawson grew up believing her birth father was an abusive, dangerous man. After her mother confesses that she lied for all of those years, Taylor isn't sure what to think. She accepts an internship at a therapeutic horse farm in order to learn more about her birth father.

Her internship involves working with children affected by violence. Using horses, it's the goal of the ranch to help the children start to overcome their fears and learn to live again. Two of the girls she's working with saw their mother's badly beaten body. The older girl, Jasmine, refuses to talk to anyone, but she's warming up to Taylor. Taylor may be the only way investigators can get Jasmine to reveal all she knows.

Clay Maynard has been searching for his daughter for two decades. Now that he's found her, he's not thrilled that she's embroiled in a murder case. He wants nothing more than to keep her safe.

Meanwhile, Taylor finds herself falling for her boss's son, Ford. Ford understands Taylor in ways she never would have imagined. His own damaged past helps him know what it's like to be scared. Ford's just as determined as Clay to keep Taylor safe.

Strengths and Weaknesses

So many characters muddle this story. I know it's part of a series. I also know that not having read the other books was my downfall. I had such a hard time keeping up with the different characters that the suspense got overshadowed. I needed to have read all the books in the series I think. Monster in the Closet does not work as a stand-alone novel.

Monster in the Closet had very suspenseful moments. The plot moves steadily, and even knowing the killer's identity didn't dissuade me from seeing the girls get justice. I wanted to see the killer get taken down!

While Clay and Taylor reuniting seemed to be the main part of the plot given the book blurb, I didn't really feel it was. The main story is the murder of the two girls' mom. That is the driving force in this book. The other characters just seemed to get in the way of things to me.

RTR's Bottom Line

Have you read the other books in The Baltimore Series? If so, you'll probably love catching up with the array of characters from this series. I hadn't, and I felt so totally lost trying to keep up with the who's who aspect. For that reason, I wish I'd held off and read Monster in the Closet after reading the series in order.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Best Day Ever by Kaira Rouda

Genre: Suspense/Psychological Thriller
Pubilsher: Graydon House
Release Date: September 19, 2017

Paul Strom seems to have it all. He has the dream job in advertising, a loving wife and two sons, a nice house near his childhood home, and a lake house. A trip to the lake house is where he plans to make sure his wife has the best day ever. He's the man of the house. The one who provides a steady household income, makes sure his family has everything they need, and it's time to treat his wife to a romantic weekend alone.

Creating the best day ever is all he can think about, even if things get off to a rocky start.

Strengths and Weaknesses

The definition of an unreliable narrator is a narrator who you cannot trust. That's what you have here. It's clear from the start that something's up. The story is told in the first person, and everything is from Paul's perspective. It didn't take long before I knew there was something seriously weird about this guy. He's easy to dislike.

A lot of the story takes place on the car ride out to the lake house. The tension between Mia and Paul is clear. As each chapter progresses, you get a little more insight into why there's tension between them. You start to wonder what this romantic getaway is really about. I knew what was coming, but I wasn't sure who would initiate things. As it continued, I began to realize it was going to be pretty predictable. That's where the story lost me, nothing was surprising anymore.

RTR's Bottom Line

The pacing in Best Day Ever proved too distracting for me. I knew what was coming and nothing seemed hurried or rushed to get to the key action. By the time I was at 62 percent on my Kindle, I wanted to skip to the final chapters. I kept reading, but I think had I skipped, I wouldn't have missed much. I knew what was coming too early on. Without giving spoilers, I kind of wish this novel had the Agatha Christie type of twist that I hoped was coming. Had that happened, my feelings on the book would have been completely different.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

I Know Numbers by Taro Gomi

Genre: Children's Picture Book
Publisher: Chronicle Kids
Release Date: September 5, 2017

Help your child learn all about the numbers in his or her life. Numbers can tell you the day it is, the time of the day, how much you weigh, or the price of things in the store. I Know Numbers focuses on the numbers you encounter every day.

Taro Gomi's books always appeal to me. I love the illustrations that are bright and cheery. The vocabulary is easy to read without being too easy. Children who are learning to read will find the book just hard enough without causing frustration. Some of the more challenging vocabulary in this book include: carriers, temperature, and weight. The focus, however, remains on all the ways numbers matter in life.

I Know Numbers is another excellent addition to Taro Gomi's catalog. Look for it starting September 5th.

Friday, August 25, 2017

The Art of Hiding by Amanda Prowse

Setting: England
Genre: Women's Fiction
Publisher: Lake Union
Release Date: August 22, 2017

Nina McCarrick has it all. Her house is magazine perfect. Her husband loves her and her sons. Her world comes crashing down when Finn's killed in a car accident. She learns Finn had a huge secret. His company's bust, he owes millions, and everything they own is being taken to pay off the large amounts of debt he accrued.

Left with no home, no car, and a community that's turned on them, Nina and her sons pick up and move to Nina's hometown. She only has enough cash for two months of rent. As a stay-at-home mom, Nina must struggle to find a job, help her boys adjust to the sudden move, and make a home in a small, shabby flat. It's not going to be easy, but they have no choice.

Strengths and Weaknesses

While my situation isn't exactly like Nina's, I do get part of it. I always said I'd return to the workforce after raising my two. When I did, I learned that employers frown upon stay-at-home moms and consider them to have no skills. Nina's struggle in that aspect was real. Even though I'd written blogs for several companies over the years, done plenty of volunteering, and worked for years as a travel agent before leaving to raise my children, it didn't matter. Nina runs into that same situation, and I really felt for her and found myself enthusiastically reading every page of The Art of Hiding.

I like that the boys' struggles were not ignored. You have 15-year-old Connor who's spent more than a decade in prep school. Public school is a harsh change. The same is true of 10-year-old Declan, who is a little more adaptable at his age, but even he misses things from the life he knew. I liked their inclusion and insight into the situation.

RTR's Bottom Line

I've seen a few reviews where people say they can't believe she wouldn't have a clue into their finances. It happens. I've seen it happen to friends and family. All it takes is one spouse or significant other insisting that they don't want to burden the other and love can be blinding. The Art of Hiding should be a reminder as to why it's important to be involved. It's an emotional story where you can take away so many lessons. I loved it.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Holiday in the Hamptons by Sarah Morgan

Setting: Long Island, NY
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publisher: HQN Books
Release Date: August 29, 2017

Felicity Knight's defied her father's cruelness and has made something of her life. She and her twin sister own a professional dog walking company in New York City. The one thing Felicity never succeeded at was romance. The love of her life broke her heart 10 years ago, and she's not pleased when he suddenly shows up in Manhattan.

In order to get away from him, Felicity poses as her twin and heads back to the Hamptons to care for her grandmother, who fell and needs a caregiver for a couple of weeks. Felicity's plan doesn't go well as Seth Carlyle happens to return to the Hamptons shortly after she settles in.

Seth feels there is a lot left unsaid between them. He wants to get Felicity to talk to him, though he is fully aware she's dodging him by pretending to be her twin. It's his goal to get Felicity to see she's the only woman he has ever loved. She's the only woman he will ever love. Convincing her may be harder than he thought.

Holiday in the Hamptons is the latest in the Manhattan With Love series. I've read others in the series and have loved them all. The settings and characters draw me in. In this case, the bulk of the romance takes place outside of Manhattan. I've been to Long Island years ago and loved it. I'm a sucker for a beach setting, perhaps that's the Pisces in me.

This is a feel-good romance where you can't help but rooting for Seth to get through to Felicity. I also wanted to see her sister find true love, and I am delighted that Harriet is next. I can't wait!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

At Wave's End by Patricia Perry Donovan

Setting: New Jersey
Genre: Women's Fiction
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Release Date: August 15, 2017

When Hurricane Irene hit Vermont in 2011, the storm left many areas in tatters. You can still see signs of the hurricane's damages when you're driving on some roads and in some towns. Situations were just as bad, if not worse, along much of the East Coast during Hurricane Sandy. At Wave's End: A Novel is based on Hurricane Sandy.

Rising chef Faith Sterling loves her work in an up-and-coming Manhattan restaurant. Her boss may have borrowed money from her to get it off the ground, but the restaurant's starting to thrive. Hurricane Nadine floods the restaurant and leaves her boss figuring out what to do next.

Meanwhile, Faith's headed to Wave's End, New Jersey, to talk some sense into her mom. Her mom wrote an essay and won a bed and breakfast on the Jersey Shore. The same hurricane pummels the area where the bed and breakfast is located. Faith uses her unplanned break from work to pitch in and help out after many residents are stranded and have no place to live.

As Faith dives in, she starts to see her mom in a new light. Secrets are revealed, and Faith finds herself enjoying this beach town but questioning all she's known. Faith's always wanted more. Now that she feels like she's part of a community, she learns that nothing may be as it seems and that the inn's future may be in jeopardy. She's never really believed in her mom's whims. Is this bed and breakfast even worth fighting for?

Strengths and Weaknesses

Faith's not my favorite character and that made it tough to love this book. She's a bit obnoxious honestly. My annoyance with her started quickly with her complaints about her friend's pregnancy and having to find a new apartment. From there, it was "my mom's an idiot" and "great now I have to go save my mom from horrible business decisions." Her attitude bugged me from the start.

With that in mind, why did I keep reading it? I l loved some of the minor characters. Connie, Faith's mom, is a strong woman. I also liked the original owner, Maeve. She may not have been as business savvy as the others, but when it came to an emotional connection, she won me over. I also loved the single mom who moves into the bed and breakfast along with her troubled teen. I felt a connection to all of them and wanted to see how things played out.

RTR's Bottom Line

I've been an advocate for most of the Lake Union Publishing novels to reach my desk. This one is another strong contender. Even with my annoyance with Faith, the setting, minor characters, and the community had me hooked. It's a sweet, easy read that leaves you feeling content.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Art of Keeping Secrets by Rachael Johns

Setting: Australia and NYC
Genre: Women's Fiction
Publisher: MIRA
Release Date: August 29, 2017

Emma, Flick, and Neve developed a tight friendship when their children all started high school. A trip to NYC is about to change all of their lives.

Emma, a divorced mom of three, deals with her ex and his much younger new wife more often than she likes. She struggles to make ends meet, while her ex, Max, buys their kids everything they want, including a vacation in Hawaii. All of the stress and headaches Emma's been dealing with are too much. When her friends drag her off to NYC, she's more than eager to go. She just doesn't know how much this trip is going to change her future.

Neve's a single mom. Her son wants to know more about his dad, and Neve realizes she's hidden the truth for too long. It's been so long that she doesn't know how to share the truth with her friends or her son.

Flick is happily married. Her marriage is the thing that her friends wish they could have. Flick's also hiding a secret, and it's a secret that has her at a loss over what to do.

As secrets are revealed, their friendship may or may not survive. The Art of Keeping Secrets takes a close look at friendships, secrets, and the changes that both can bring to a person's life.

Strengths and Weaknesses

I grew to like every character in The Art of Keeping Secrets and was sad to see the story end. It felt a little abrupt. I wouldn't mind seeing them reunite. The abrupt feeling to the ending was the only real downfall.

The writing moves quickly. One of the secrets took me by surprise, but the other two didn't. They did, however, draw me in. I felt for each woman and wanted to see how things turned out.

RTR's Bottom Line

There's a bit of a Rosamund Pilcher feel to The Art of Keeping Secrets. It's not quite like her writing, but the relationships and multiple layers make me think of her books. If you like books with multiple characters, multiple plots, and the tie of friendship keeping it all linked, you'll love this one.

Monday, August 21, 2017

All Things New by Lauren Miller

Setting: California and Colorado
Genre: Teen Fiction
Publisher: Three Saints Press
Release Date: August 1, 2017

At 17, Jessa Gray's had enough experience with panic attacks and anxiety disorder that she could write a book. She's lost a number of friends due to it. Her boyfriend was the only solid in her life, but she overhears him cheating on her and her world falls apart.

If that's not enough for this teen to handle, on the drive home, in the middle of a panic attack, an SUV runs a red light and crashes into her. She's left with many broken bones, brain swelling, and lots of scars. She's also left with a condition where she's unable to form pictures in her head, and everyone she encounters has scars and burns across their face that aren't really there. When her dad asks if she'd like to move to Colorado to live with him for a while, she jumps at the chance.

In Colorado, she's befriended by twin siblings, Hannah and Marshall. Hannah's very serious and dedicated to her music, while Marshall is her polar opposite. Marshall is a little goofy, very charming, and living life to the fullest despite having a hole in his heart. He's also exactly what Jessa seems to need to spur her into facing her issues.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Oh, how I sympathized with Jessa. I was older when my first panic attack hit, but my son wasn't. He was about her age. I saw pieces of both of us in her character. If you don't understand panic attacks and/or anxiety disorder, read All Things New. Lauren Miller paints a very genuine, very real look into anxiety.

When I first read the description, I had an idea of where things would go. I was pleasantly surprised. It took a few twists that I didn't see. Some of the situations were easy to predict, but others were not. I ended up enthusiastically watching Jessa grow and learn with each hurdle she faced.

RTR's Bottom Line

With a touch of romance and a very emotional look at mental illness, All Things New caught my interest and held it from start to finish. If you're looking for a strong heroine who never sees herself as strong, don't miss this book.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Keep You Safe by Melissa Hill

Setting: Ireland
Genre: Women's Fiction
Publisher: MIRA
Release Date: August 22, 2017

Melissa Hill paints an emotional tale of the anti vaccs vs. pro vaccs stance. It's a topic that draws very strong opinions, including my own. I know someone who suffers from an immunodeficiency, her life could be jeopardized by children and adults who carry contagious diseases. She stays locked up in her home the majority of the time, as she finds it safer than going out into a world where many kids are no longer vaccinated against things like polio, measles, etc. That's essentially what you have at play in Keep You Safe.

Kate O'Hara never expected to reach this point. Her husband died unexpectedly leaving her a single mom to a lively five-year-old. Kate dotes on Rosie, as the first round of vaccinations in Rosie's infancy found Rosie to be one of the handful of children with a severe allergy to gelatin. Rosie simply could not have her remaining childhood immunizations without risking a fatal allergic reaction. For Kate, not vaccinating her child was not a choice but a situation mandated by a health issue. All she can do is hope herd immunity is enough to keep Rosie safe.

Popular mommy blogger Madeleine Cooper didn't vaccinate her daughter, Clara, because she didn't believe the pharmaceutical companies or the government. Even after the autism risk was debunked and the doctor who wrote the study admitted it was faked, Madeleine opted to believe autism is a risk anyway. If her daughter becomes ill, Madeleine hopes she'll get over whatever it is without issue.

Tragedy starts to set in when Madeleine makes the choice to send Clara to school sick. It turns out Clara has the measles and passes it to Rosie. While Clara gets over her disease, Rosie isn't as lucky. Rosie ends up in the hospital fighting for her life. Kate's left to sit by her daughter's bedside. It creates a rift that will affect both families and many community members on a very deep, personal level.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Drawn by the plot, I was eager to see how things would work out. I felt deeply for Kate. She had no choice but to not have her daughter vaccinated against diseases that were, at one time, no longer a childhood threat. I felt for her struggles financially and emotionally.

I never liked Madeleine. All of her, "I'm losing blog readers" and "they're turning against me," annoyed me. While realistic, it definitely made it hard to sympathize with her on any level. I hated her husband even more. His pompous attitude made him very unlikable.

The author definitely did a great job at developing her characters, whether you loved or hated them.

The story's ending bothered me. I didn't enjoy the surprise twist. Part of this is likely based on the fact that I wanted Madeleine's family to pay for their snobby attitudes. Even when Madeleine makes an effort to redeem herself, I no longer cared.

I'd love to return to the story and see it from the child's point of view. I have a family member who is not vaccinated. Now that this teen is almost an adult, he does talk to my kids about the fact that after years of being homeschooled, he's not sure he'll ever be able to experience a public college, other than online classes, because laws prevent him from doing so. He feels limited by the choice his parents made. Is that right?

The strongest aspect of this book, beyond the author's steady writing pace that kept me hooked, was the lure into the subject matter. It posed the issue and really made you think. I doubt it will convince any person who is anti vacc to reconsider their stance, but I hope it at least makes them think.

RTR's Bottom Line

This is reading group fodder. Keep You Safe is the perfect book to launch some very lively discussions. I'm not sure there is a right or wrong viewpoint, but I do love how the author posed it from both angles and presented the consequences that many make based solely on a fraudulent report.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Man I Thought You Were by Leah Mercer

Setting: England
Genre: Women's Fiction
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Release Date - August 30, 2017

Released for the Kindle last month, readers looking for the paperback version of The Man I Thought You Were only have a couple weeks to go.

Anna and her husband, Mark, have everything. They're madly in love, both have steady jobs, and they're ready to start their family. Mark's excellent with their young niece, and Anna knows he'll be an awesome dad. He comes home from work, tells her he's leaving, and vanishes. He doesn't take his car, any of his clothes, or cell phone.

Anna is stunned. She's certain he'll return home in a day or two. When he doesn't, she comes across a couple secrets he was hiding. Those secrets have the power to shatter her world.

Mark wants to shelter Anna from his past and future. Doing so may hurt her, but he's convinced it will hurt her less than if he stayed. He just doesn't imagine where his journey will really lead him. Meanwhile, Anna's determined to get to the bottom of things, even if it means getting hurt.

Strengths and Weaknesses

The opening page of The Man I Thought You Were pulled me in. It doesn't start slow. Mark comes in, says he's leaving her, and that's that. It's so immediate that you can't help but feel Anna's shock. From there, I was as desperate as Anna to figure out what spurred Mark's decision.

I had a hard time liking Mark. Even knowing all I did, I remained angry at him. I can't imagine making his choices, especially when you learn part of why he does. His judgment to me seemed skewed, especially after a decade with Anna. I didn't like how easily he walked away. Despite this, I adored Anna and kept reading to see how things would turn out for her.

RTR's Bottom Line

This isn't as much a romance as it is a look into the devastation some decisions have on people's lives. It's a book that will bring tears to the eyes. If you're looking for a touching, very emotional story, you'll find what you desire in The Man I Thought You Were.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Finding My Badass Self: A Year of Truth and Dares by Sherry Stanfa-Stanley

Genre: Non-Fiction/Humor
Publisher: She Writes Press
Release Date: August 22, 2017

I connected immediately with the author of Finding My Badass Self. Maybe the truths and dares she tried weren't always something I would have bothered with, but it never mattered. I connected with her hopes, fears, and frame of mind. I got her.

For 52 weeks, author Sherry Stanfa-Stanley pushed herself to try or do something completely out of character. From eating bugs to going to a nude beach, Stanfa-Stanley pushed herself. She was brazen and just went for it. Finding My Badass Self chronicles her experiences.

What made this book stand out so much to me? That's pretty easy. I get where she's coming from. I've been married for 26 years, thankfully we're happy together still. My kids are both in college now, though my son has moved into his own apartment at this point. I'm at that crossroads where I wonder what's next. I've been the stay-at-home mom for two decades. I get how she feels. I get the urge to do something unexpected.

In her case, her divorced triggered things. That was the one part I can't say I've experienced. I'd just gotten back into the work force - what a nightmare it is finding a job when you've been a stay-at-home mom for two decades! I wasn't sure my new job was something I wanted to do forever, but my dad's stroke and subsequent death and my mom's advancing Alzheimer's led me to quit. I'm back at that point where I need to figure things out. That's why Finding My Badass Self registered so strongly.

This book is funny, emotional, and keeps you wondering what comes next. I can't see myself going up in a hot air balloon or taking a mystery trip (Alzheimer's care and finances make that impossible), but I can live vicariously through the author. She took me away for a few hours, and I adore her for that.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Motor Mix Series of Books by Emily Snape and Rilla Alexander

Genre: Board Book
Publisher: Chronicle Kids
Release Date: August 15, 2017

There are two books in the newly released Motor Mix series. These board books have pages that are divided into three sections that allow the reader to mix up the different vehicles and create unique inventions. The first, Flight, takes things like rockets, airplanes, helicopters, and hot air balloons. Mix them up to create a rock-copter or air-loon.

The second book in the series, Emergency, showcases fire trucks, planes, plows, tow trucks, ambulances, and more. Create fire-lances, snow-planes, and others.

Each vehicle comes with text that describes its noise and where it is used. This ensures the child also has vocabulary to learn. With the creative nature and the narrative, these two books are a solid choice for a creative child.

Monday, August 14, 2017

If the Creek Don't Rise by Leah Weiss

Setting: Baines Creek, North Carolina
Genre: General Fiction
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Release Date: August 22, 2017

There was a lot I loved in If the Creek Don't Rise. This work of fiction takes place in Baines Creek, a rural Appalachian community where few are educated and life revolves around mountain living and, sometimes, just surviving the day. The setting really came through. The education and wisdom each character had shaped them into either very likable characters or others you couldn't help but despise.

Sadie Blue is the lead in this story. She's young, naive, and ends up pregnant and married to an abusive moonshiner. Her days involve keeping out of Roy's way and avoiding the next beating. She's only been married for two weeks, and this is not the life she imagined or hoped for. Her grandmother feels helpless, as only her granddaughter can decide what to do with her life. Sadie's Aunt Marris seems to be the person in the best position to convince Sadie to open her eyes and think only of herself and her baby.

Kate's new to town. She's come to teach the children in the area. Teachers have failed in this mission, but Kate's determined to succeed. Her arrival may be the turning point Sadie Blue and many of the children in the community need.

Eli, the community's preacher, is taken by Kate. For the first time, he's wondering if romance is something he shouldn't be turning his back on. Meanwhile, his sister is just as determined to get this woman she is happy to label as a heathen out of their community.

Finally, there's Birdie, a mountain woman who seems smarter than them all. Birdie's experiences and knowledge make her a trusted resource as Kate tries to fit into a community that doesn't seem to want her here.

The different characters tell the story, so you get a feel for the community in a very involved way. Each character has a unique dialect and way of speaking, so it takes a little of time adapting to the vocabulary.

The biggest reason I can't say I loved this story. It felt so unfinished. I have to wonder if this is the first in a series. While some of the story was resolved, other aspects went ignored. I was disappointed by the rushed ending and wonder what happened. Maybe this is the first in a series and I just don't know it. I hope that's the case anyway.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Big Skye Littleton by Elisa Lorello

Setting: Rhode Island and Montana
Genre: Contemporary Romance/Women's Fiction
Publisher: Lake Union
Release Date: August 22, 2017

Skye Littleton's in love. She never imagined, after so many years of waiting for Mr. Right, that she'd find him online. After Vance arranges to meet her on the East Coast, Skye knows he's the one. She sells her car, quits her job, packs everything, and takes his offer to move to Montana.

She's not even in Montana when she gets her first hint that all may not be perfect. The guy sitting next to her, Harvey Wright, lives in Billings and knows Vance. He apologizes and tells her that Vance is nothing but a shady character. Skye doesn't want to believe it's true until she arrives at the airport and gets stood up.

With no friends in town, no housing, and very little money to her name, Skye needs to decide. Does she decide to give Littleton a chance or return home to a family who told her she was being ridiculous? With Harvey's help, Skye may be able to reinvent herself and finally be comfortable with who she is. But, to do so means she'd have to trust another man she barely knows.

Big Skye Littleton is more a mix of coming of age and romance. Skye may be a 30-something heroine, but she's one who has struggled to figure out what she wants from life. To that extent, the story was very much a coming-of-age theme. I enjoyed seeing her grow comfortable with herself.

I just came back from Narraganset and Block Island, so Skye's hometown was very familiar and enjoyable. I've been to Montana but was to young to remember it. The descriptions in this book made me want to go. I can't imagine a more freeing experience than dropping everything to find oneself in a new town.

It's an enjoyable story and held my interest from start to finish. If you're looking for a breezy romance with great settings, you can't go wrong. Pick up Big Skye Littleton on August 22nd.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Are You Sleeping by Kathleen Barber

Genre: Mystery/Suspense
Publisher: Gallery Books
Release Date: August 1, 2017

I both love and hate when a book keeps me up all night. I'm tired, but I'm so glad I didn't stop. I needed to know how this story played out. I hated some characters, but I really loved others. When it comes to a suspenseful mystery, Kathleen Barber nailed it in Are You Sleeping.

Josie Buhrman keeps her past locked deep in the past. Not even her boyfriend knows the truth, though she's always wanted to find a way to tell him. It's just really hard.

The truth is Josie's father was murdered. A neighbor was arrested. After the murder, Josie's mother walked away on her twin daughters leaving Josie and Lanie to be raised by their aunt. Lanie's rebellion after the murder drove the sisters apart. It's all in the past, however.

Then a rather intrusive journalist decides to take a close look at the murder in a weekly podcast. The podcast goes viral, and the entire nation wants to get to the truth. When Josie learns her mother died, she's forced to return to her hometown and face her sister for the first time in years.

The last thing Josie needs is to start listening to the podcast, but it's what she does. The more she listens, the more she questions everything she remembers.

There are parts of Are You Sleeping that drove me batty. The podcast journalist, just ick. I know that investigative reporters can be slimy. Kathleen Barber did such a good job making this woman unlikable. She's pushy, arrogant, and was so easy to hate.

The story itself keeps you reading with almost an urgent sense. I couldn't wait to get to the next podcast, no matter how much I loathed that fictional reporter. I wanted to see what would be revealed and try to figure out the murder along with everyone. I was truly engaged from start to finish.

It's been a while since I've pulled an almost all-nighter reading a book. I'm glad I did! It was worth it.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The People at Number 9 by Felicity Everett

Setting: England
Genre: Women's Fiction
Publisher: HarperCollins
Release Date: August 8, 2017

When Gavin and Lou move into their neighborhood, Sara finds herself wishing she was more like them. Their somewhat bohemian ways really appeal to Sara. She longs for more excitement in her life. Gavin and Lou just moved back to England after years in Spain. They have great careers as artists.

Soon Sara and her husband, Nic, form a solid friendship with the couple. Sara's helping out with their kids, joining Gavin on morning walks to the school, and both couples gather regularly for wine and dinner. That friendship, however, may not end up being everything Sara imagined. Soon, she realizes that some friendships aren't always ideal.

Mixed feelings came into play with The People at Number 9. I wanted to like Sara, but the more involved she became with Lou and Gavin, the more I questioned how she couldn't see the truth right there in front of her face.

I never liked Lou or Gavin and that made it equally hard. From the start, I had a good sense of them and what they were going to be like. They're not my, as the saying goes, cup of tea.

The writing was solid, the setting reminded me a lot of my mom's hometown in England, but I never warmed up to the characters. In the end, I'd figured out how things would turn out long before the story ended and that made it an okay read but nothing that truly wowed me.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Working Fire by Emily Bleeker

Setting: Broadlands, Illinois
Genre: General Fiction
Publisher: Lake Union
Release Date: August 29, 2017

Ellie Brown left her hometown for med school, but she has to return when her father, a respected fire chief, has a stroke. She and her sister, Amelia, split his care. When she's not caring for her dad, Ellie works as a paramedic in a town she wants to escape.

Ellie's world is shattered when she and her partner are called to the scene of a shooting. Ellie knows the address. It's her sister's house. Both her sister and her brother-in-law have been shot. Ellie now must do everything she can to save her sister's life. At the same time, Ellie wants to get to the bottom of what really happened.

It's no secret that I love to support Lake Union Publishing. Short of a couple of books, everything this publisher releases has been outstanding reads. Working Fire is emotionally charged from the start. It's clear that there's more to Amelia's story than meets the eye, but it's presented in a natural way. You find out clues as Ellie stumbles across them or Amelia reveals things in the weeks leading up to the shooting.

Most of Working Fire is best categorized as general fiction, but there clearly is the mystery involved in who shot Amelia and her husband. When that's revealed, I felt the same shock as Ellie. I liked being that drawn into the story.

The fast pace and enjoyable characters kept me hooked. I won't say that every chapter thrilled me. There were a few aspects that I didn't like, but, Emily Bleeker's story still had me hooked.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker

Setting: Connecticut and Maine
Genre: Psychological Suspense
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Release Date: August 8, 2017

Three years ago, Emma and her younger sister Cass vanished into the night. All that was found was Emma's abandoned car. Detectives are unable to find any trace of the girls.

Three years later, Cass returns begging detectives to find Emma. She tells forensic psychiatrist Abby Winter that she and Emma were held on a remote island off the coast of Maine. Her details check out, but something about her story doesn't add up. Abby's determined to unravel the truth. And, in this dysfunctional family, getting to the truth is more difficult than one might imagine.

Emma in the Night is told from Cass's viewpoint and Abby's. Readers are privy to clues that the detectives don't know, but it's still quite a mystery to unravel. I loved trying to decide what was real and what wasn't. I had parts of the mystery solved early on, but other aspects baffled me. When Abby figured it out, I was just as surprised.

This is great read with one of the most twisted families I've come across. My teen years were spent reading the Flower in the Attic series, so I've read about disturbed families many times over the decades. Cass's family top the list as one of the worst!

Friday, August 4, 2017

A Dad for Charlie by Anna J. Stewart

Setting: Butterfly Harbor, California
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Harlequin Heartwarming
Release Date: August 1, 2017

A Dad for Charlie is part of the Butterfly Harbor series. Paige Cooper does everything she can to stay one step ahead of her past. She's determined to keep her daughter, Charlie, safe, too. Deputy Sheriff Fletch Bradley is the father figure Charlie needs, but Paige cannot fall for him. He's the last person she needs in her life.

Fletch is deeply attracted to Paige and wants to break through the walls she puts up. A string of vandalisms and break-ins lead to Paige and Fletch having to work together. Is this going to be the chance she needs to reveal her secrets?

I needed something light and emotional to pick up my spirits. A Dad for Charlie was exactly what I needed. Charlie is precocious and likable. Fletch and Paige are both wounded and formed the perfect pair, if only they could see it.

I haven't read the other books in the series. There's some backstory with other characters that I'd like to catch up on. The town itself was very appealing and made me wish I lived there. I loved the setting, the characters, and am so glad I came across this book. It's sweet and very enjoyable.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

I Know a Secret: A Rizzoli & Isles Novel by Tess Gerritsen

Setting: Boston, Mass
Genre: Mystery/Police Procedural
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Release Date: April 15, 2017

Rizzoli & Isles is a show I binge watched last fall. My husband and I were hooked and watched every season in the span of two months. I Know a Secret is the latest title in the book series about Detective Jane Rizzoli and medical examiner Dr. Maura Isles.

The novel starts with a woman who realizes acquaintances from her childhood are dropping dead. While their deaths are accidental, the woman questions this. That's all an aside for a bit. Jane's called in to investigate the death of a young movie producer. Another case a few days later has Jane taking a closer look. No cause of death is found in either case, but both victims had alcohol in their stomach and mild doses of a date rape drug. Those doses are not high enough to have killed them.

As the team gets to work trying to figure out the how and why, Maura's also struggling on a personal front. Her birth mother, a serial killer, wants to see her and may be connected to this case. Meanwhile, Jane's trying to make sense of her parents' dysfunctional marriage.

I had to shake off a few things. The TV versions of Jane and Maura are very different. Jane's married with a child (weird!), while Maura's birth mother was a serial killer and not a respected forensic pathologist. Maura's mobster father doesn't exist in the books. Detective Frost (his departure from the show and the actor's suicide in real life broke my heart) is nothing like his TV character. Even Jane's siblings are different.

Once I'd adjusted to the differences, I loved this story. I was pulled in. I wanted to figure it out but couldn't get my finger on the killer's identity until the last handful of chapters. Now that I've finished and felt very satisfied with the entire ride, I need to go back and read every book in this series. I miss the show, but I could get to know the characters all over again in the books!

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