Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers by Sara Ackerman

Setting: Hawaii
Genre: Historical Women's Fiction
Publisher: MIRA
Release Date: February 13, 2018

There were times Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers really saddened me. I wish we could learn from past mistakes. Some people seem oblivious, however.

Since her husband's disappearance a year ago, Violet Iverson does all she can to keep a roof over their heads. Her daughter's struggling and seems to truly be lost without her father. Young Ella is nervous, prone to anxiety, and clingy. Violet isn't sure if the attack on Pearl Harbor is to blame or if Ella knows something about her dad's disappearance.

When Violet's friend's brother brings some U.S. military men into their lives, Violet is cautious. She soon finds herself drawn to one of the men. She's also hesitant because no one really knows if her husband is alive or dead. Soon, Violet and her friends are selling homemade pies to the soldiers, getting caught up in gossip, and facing the cruel realities of the war.

I've read the accounts of Japanese-Americans getting rounded up and put in internment camps. Suspicions ran deep and anyone of Japanese heritage became a suspicious figure. It disgusts me. What bothers me more is that I see people on Facebook saying how it needs to happen again. Anyone of Middle Eastern descent is a terrorist and we should round them up. I'm saddened for the characters in the book who dealt with this type of fear and suspicion. It may be a fictional story, but there's still a lot of truth to how people react today.

The story moved slowly. I wasn't at first sure I'd like it, but I felt like part of the group. I could smell the pies baking, feel their fear, and understand their frustration as they watch Japanese-American friends get taken into custody for no apparent reason.

Soon, I couldn't put Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers down. I was caught up in the mystery, though I did figure out what happened before it's revealed. I wanted to see Ella and her mother find their way. I was delighted with the story and wouldn't mind a sequel.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

As Bright as Heaven by Susan Meissner

Setting: Philadelphia, PA
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Berkley
Author: Susan Meissner
Release Date: February 6, 2018

I loved this book. As Bright as Heaven is not my usual genre, but I was drawn to the cover art and plot. I'm so glad I picked it.

With an offer to learn his uncle's trade and work side by side with him in a funeral home, Thomas Bright talks his wife into moving from their rural community to the bustling city of Philadelphia. After the death of their infant son, the family is ready for a change.

Thomas and Pauline pack up their daughters and make the move. It's a big change for teenage Evie, pre-teen Maggie, and young Willa. Things go well at first. Evie is busy learning all she can as she dreams of going to med school. Maggie is fascinated by the work her mom is doing to prepare the deceased's hair and make-up. Willa is busy making friends and trying to figure out why she's not allowed in the "Elm Bonning" room.

It isn't long before trouble arises. The Spanish Influenza is claiming so many victims around the world and in their Philadelphia neighborhood. It brings an infant into their lives. The boy's mother is dead and police cannot find another living relative. The Brights are asked to raise this child as their own. Through suffering and grief, an infant may be exactly what this family needs.

I hated history class. That said, I never knew that we'd faced a major outbreak like the Spanish Influenza. I learned a lot reading up on that true aspect of the story.

I loved the characters and enjoyed spending almost a decade with them. This wasn't just a quick few years. You see the girls grow up and find their way in the world. There are some romantic aspects, but the focus is on the world they're growing up in.

Read As Bright as Heaven. I keep hearing about it on some of the book groups. It's definitely worth the praise.

Friday, January 26, 2018

The Budget-Savvy Wedding Planner & Organizer by Jessica Bishop

Genre: Reference
Publisher: Temescal Press
Release Date: February 6, 2018

I'd like to start by thanking Calisto Publisher's Club and Temescal Press for a free copy of this wedding planner.

According to The Knot's annual survey, the average cost of a wedding in 2016 was $35,329. That's an outrageous amount of money for many couples. Jessica Bishop's The Budget-Savvy Wedding Planner and Organizer can help you plan a fantastic wedding on any budget.

The book is divided up into critical sections and includes worksheets you can fill out or copy if you don't want to mark up the book. Those sections are:

  • The Vision
  • The Budget
  • The Guest List
  • The Venue
  • The Invites
  • The Wedding-Day Look
  • The Wedding Party
  • Photography, Music, Food, Cake, and More
  • Decor, Rentals, Flowers, and Favors
  • The Other Parties
  • Accommodations, Transportation, and More
  • The Big Day
  • Onto the Honeymoon
  • Contract and Negotiation Tips
  • Important Names and Numbers (You fill it out)
  • Resources

At the end is an index to make it find exactly what you need. What I will say is that the resources is going to be a page you rely on a lot. I didn't have the opportunity to shop online. As I help my son and his fiancee plan a wedding, online resources are a tremendous help! The author has thought of everything and includes a clear and organized fashion to help you plan everything for the budget you set.

I agree with so many of the tips and picked up a few I hadn't thought of. There are also a few points I would add. For destination weddings, my brother did it that way. I wanted the best for him, but I do admit that not being able to go to the wedding did sting a bit. That's something to keep in mind if you go that route. He eased it by doing a big party when they returned.

Also, when picking a cake and icing, consider your venue/location. I made a cake for a relative once. She'd asked for a tiramisu layer cake with marsala buttercream. It was a spectacular cake of seven layers that resembled a church and was topped with a steeple and glittery bells. I loved that cake. However, the bride's asked for the heat in the room to be set to 80 due to her elderly relatives. The frosting started to melt within minutes of guests arriving and adding body heat to the mix. The venue had to bring in dozens of fans and point them at the cake to keep it from melting completely.

The Budget-Savvy Wedding Planner & Organizer is packed with helpful advice. When I got married almost 30 years ago, we tossed aside notions of an expensive wedding and got married in my parents' backyard. My mom made our cake. Family members prepared dishes to eliminate the cost of a caterer. Our expenses were the tent and chairs, the keg of beer and bottles of champagne, plastic glasses, and the plates and cutlery. Having a smaller backyard wedding may seem skimpy, but it was perfect for us and helped us avoid the financial strain I watched many friends face.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Woman Last Seen in Her Thirties by Camille Pagan

Setting: U.S. and Italy
Genre: Women's Fiction
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Author: Camille Pagan
Release Date: February 27, 2018

In what should have been time spent enjoying a new life as empty nesters, Maggie Harris is stunned when her husband announces he's leaving her for a younger woman. She's simply floored by his decision to toss decades of marriage aside.

Maggie has put everything into raising their kids, keeping up with household management, and working as a bookkeeper. Somewhere along the way, she realizes she lost herself.

After a few weeks of being miserable, Maggie takes the tickets she and her husband purchased to go to Italy and goes off on a solo vacation. What happens there changes her life and gives her the chance to explore what she really wants to do now.

I hate to say, but there were times I saw a bit of myself in Maggie. I gave up a position as the administrative assistant to a company CEO to raise my kids. I don't regret it, but now that they're leaving the nest, it's funny how the world looks at you. I'd always planned to return to the workforce outside the home. Instead, my mom has Alzheimer's, so I will continue to run my home business and bring in a part-time income while being there to care for her.

Given that I felt a strong bond with Maggie, it's no surprise that I loved every page of this book. While I may not have always agreed with her choices, I certainly understood why she made the choices she did.

I loved how the story flowed smoothly without feeling rushed and never feeling too slow. I liked the characters, especially Maggie's very shrewd daughter. I loved Maggie's mother-in-law, who happened to be at about the same place my mom is with her Alzheimer's progression.

Bottom line, Woman Last Seen in Her Thirties is a feel-good novel with likable characters. It's lighthearted at times and poignant at others. I definitely recommend this one.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Dreaming in Chocolate by Susan Bishop Crispell

Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Author: Susan Bishop Crispell
Release Date: February 6, 2018

No magic in the world has been able to save her daughter from a terminal illness. Penelope Dalton would do anything she can for young Ella, but the diagnosis is grim. Rather than live out the rest of her life in fear and sadness, Ella creates a to-do list of things she wants to do before her life ends. Of the many things on her list, dying her hair a bold color, getting a kitten, and finding her dad are all near the top.

Penelope knows Ella's dad is back in town, but she can't stand more heartbreak. Noah Gregory broke her heart when he left their small town years ago, and she's sure once his brother's leg heals, Noah will leave again. She's not about to let Noah break their daughter's heart. And, that means she can't let Noah find out that Ella is his daughter.

In Dreaming in Chocolate, there's a bit of a paranormal aspect I wasn't expecting. Penelope and her mother own a chocolate shop that has a mysterious table that reveals secret recipes for chocolates that can help people see their future. I wasn't expecting that. It added a bit of a paranormal touch to some of the story.

I loved Ella's precocious character. This kid is adorable and very honest. I love how she kept pushing her mother, even if it meant the occasionally broken rule. Irritating for Penelope, sure, but integral to the developing relationship.

Penelope is pretty headstrong too, and you can see where her daughter gets that trait from. I liked how they were supportive of each other, yet also kept pushing to form solid relationships within the family and within the town. It was a very involving read where I ended up wanting to be part of the close-knit town.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Twist of Faith by Ellen J. Green

Setting: Montreal, Quebec
Genre: Mystery
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Author: Ellen J. Green
Release Date: February 1, 2018

Following her adoptive mother's death, Ava Saunders finds a photo of a house with her baby things. She soon learns that a double murder took place in that home. Unsure how the home is connected to her or what the cryptic message "Destiny calls us" means, Ava enlists the help of her friends to unravel this decade's old mystery.

Before the investigation even takes off, Ava's detective friend is injured by a hit and run driver. She's soon certain that someone wants the secrets of the past to remain secrets. Learning the truth about her origins may put them all in danger.

Twist of Faith requires close reading. There are a lot of characters involved in the narration of the different chapters. I had a hard time keeping up at times. I'm never thrilled when I have to get out pen and paper and make charts to keep up with the who' who.

I stuck with it though, and I'm glad I did. I did find myself becoming engrossed. By the time I reached the final page, I'm just not sure what to think. The twists and turns and final outcome took me by surprise several times and left me uncertain. I think this is just the beginning, but I'm really not sure.

I don't know. I can't see myself remembering this novel a month or year from now. It was good, but the different narrators and twists lead to a loss of interest that I simply couldn't get past. It's a shame. I loved the setting and the plot, but the storytelling ended up being my downfall.

Monday, January 22, 2018

When the Stars Come Out by Laura Trentham

Setting: Cottonbloom, Mississippi and Louisiana
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks
Author: Laura Trentham
Release Date: January 30, 2018

When the Stars Come Out is the fifth book in Laura Trentham's "A Cottonbloom Novel" series. I haven't read any of that series until now. This book stands alone, so you don't have to worry if you've missed the other books.

Willa Brown ran from a troubled past. She's appreciated the job she was given with the Abbott family. Fixing cars comes naturally to Willa, and the under-the-table pay has been essential to keeping her past from finding her. Even if that means ignoring the feelings she's had for Jackson Abbott.

When one of the Abbott brothers decides he wants to sell his share, Willa's safety may be at risk. The brothers want her to cough up her SSN with the start of a new year. Doing so could put her and those she loves at risk. She's just not sure she wants to reveal the truth and potentially put the man she's falling in love with in danger.

Willa and Jackson's relationship builds slowly. There's a bit of focus on the work they do together at the garage. I liked that it was broken up by Willa's past, her developing friendship with Sutton (Leave the Light On), and the stray Willa finds. When her secrets are revealed, I did feel they were a little disappointing and could have been navigated without running away, but I'd have to go back in time and see the exact situation to see why she was so fearful. Plus, running away is what put her in Jackson's life, so there is that.

When the Stars Come Out  does work well as a stand-alone novel, but I do wish I'd read the other stories just to see how those couples got together. I find myself excited for the next release - Mack Abbott's story. I am dying to see how he and their new business partner get along.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Yours Truly by K. J. Pierce

Genre: Cozy Mystery
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Author: K. J. Pierce
Release Date: March 2017

Her boyfriend may be gorgeous, but he's a bit stuck on himself. Kicking him out may be the best thing Izzie Greene has done. Izzie's a caterer and her latest job involves providing the food for the cast and crew of a hit TV show. It probably helps that the show's star, one hunky Scot named Cardwell Bennett, has her thoughts in overdrive.

On the side, Izzie writes a blog about the show. She keeps that part of her life hidden from all but her best friend. She has to ask Delly for help as one piece of fan mail is a word puzzle that Delly is able to translate. Izzie's policy of never answering mail is being tested once she reads what it says.

Before long, everything in Izzie's life turns upside down. When Cardwell's car goes into the shop, he asks her for a ride to work. She's happy to agree, but it's hard staying in control when your celebrity crush is sitting next to you. When paparazzi catch the two in the car together, Izzie becomes the focus of a gossip rag writer. He won't stop, even when people get hurt. It's clear that someone wants Izzie hurt.

To make matters worse, her ex is now part of the cast. He and the female star seem intent on making Izzie's life hell. Izzie is going to have to keep her head up and avoid the gossip and backstabbing if she's going to do her job and stay out of trouble.

I wasn't sure what to expect of Yours Truly, but it wasn't long before I was hooked. There are a few mysteries at play, and none are overly baffling. The possible romance between Izzie and Cardwell were part of the draw. The lighthearted narrative and dialogue and sass from a few of the characters turned it into a story I loved.

If you like cozy mysteries, you'll have a great time reading Izzie's story. It's a great mix of comedy, mystery, and romance. It fits well into any of those categories and left me feeling warm and cozy, like a really good book should. I hope that's not it for Izzie. I wouldn't mind spending more time with her, Cardwell, and several other characters. They were that enjoyable.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Surprise Me: A Novel by Sophie Kinsella

Genre: Women's Fiction
Publisher: The Dial Press
Author: Sophie Kinsella
Release Date: February 13, 2018

I've read so many Sophie Kinsella books over the years. They never fail to make me laugh. I ended up feeling a little let down with Surprise Me. It was okay, but I didn't laugh as much as usual. I found myself feeling sorry for the main character.

When Sylvie and Dan's are told they can expect more than 60 more years together, both are taken by surprise. Sure they're happy now, but can truly stay happy when you're with the same person day in and day out for decade after decade?

To make sure their marriage stays fresh, they decide to start surprising each other on a regular basis. What Sylvie finds hidden in Dan's locked desk drawer is definitely surprising. It's a secret that could just shatter their marriage.

I liked Sylvie. I liked Dan. I really liked Sylvie's quirky, single friend. What never worked for me was watching what was a really happy marriage start crumbling to secrets. I felt sorry for them. When the big twist is revealed, I really started to dislike many people around Sylvie. It made it hard to finish the novel. That said, I did like seeing Sylvie kick into high gear.

My bottom line is that Surprise Me was good but never great. It didn't have the same humor I've come to expect from a Kinsella novel. Her other books have had laugh-out-loud moments. This one didn't. I liked it, but I never loved it or felt it was a book for my keeper shelf.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Here We Lie by Paula Treick DeBoard

Setting: East Coast
Genre: Women's Fiction/Mystery
Publisher: Park Row
Release Date: January 30, 2018

Megan Mazeros dreams of going to college and getting out of her small Kansas town. Her father's illness keeps her from achieving those dreams. That is until mesothelioma ends his life and she and her mother learn he'd taken out a large life insurance policy when he suspected he was sick. With the money in hand, Megan heads off to Connecticut where she starts her journey in a private women's college.

As the daughter of an esteemed senator, Lauren Mabrey seems unable to do anything right. She's involved in a relationship with a bad boy that goes wrong. After that, her mom has her sent off to a private woman's college in hopes that Lauren will straighten up. It's there that Lauren discovers a passion for photography, something her mom does not approve of.

Surprisingly, Lauren and Megan hit it off and become close friends. On one summer break, Lauren invites Megan to join the family at their remote island home off the coast of Maine. It's there that horrific circumstances tear the young women apart forever. Many years will pass before Megan decides to speak up and reveal the things she never told Lauren or others.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Here We Lie features two girls with very different upbringings. Despite that, both have a certain naivety that made me feel for them. Lauren's been brought up in a prominent family where every action is scrutinized. Later, I found myself really just hating her parents. Read the book and you'll get why.

Megan's situation is completely different. She's been hurt, hurt others, and is haunted by some of her actions. She was hard not to like, even when you knew she was making poor choices for the right reasons.

With such strong heroines leading the story, I did want to get to the point where all of the story comes together. It starts in the present, goes back into the past, and bounces back and forth from there. Don't let the shifts throw you off, keep reading and you'll get how it all ties together.

RTR's Bottom Line

I've read another Paula Treick DeBoard novels and both have grabbed my attention and held me riveted to every page. The secret in Here We Lie wasn't too difficult to guess, though I had one part of it wrong. Even knowing what was going to happen, I was still hooked. If you're looking for a women's fiction that has a touch of mystery, this book is a good choice.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Crash by Keith Houghton

Setting: New York City
Genre: Suspense/Mystery
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Author: Keith Houghton
Release Date: January 18, 2018

Crash makes me ask two questions. Do I simply read too many suspense/mystery/thriller novels or did I miss my calling as an investigator? In what could have been a puzzling mystery, I ended up finding a book where I predicted the outcome way too early.

Jed Allen "wakes up" in his office. He can't remember anything of his past. A note and items in his office are all he has to guide him on his way.

It turns out Jed suffers from intermittent amnesia. Usually, the spells last minutes, maybe hours, but this time is different. One hour stretches into two. All he can find to help him is the name of his girlfriend, Cassie, but she's nowhere to be found.

Jed sets off to unravel the truth. There's a killer at large in the city. When he finds a dress covered in blood hiding in his trunk, he suspects he could be the killer. With Cassie missing and grim evidence mounting against him, Jed needs to know what's going on.

That's the premise in this psychological thriller. I admit the novel starts out with a bang. I was instantly intrigued by Jed and Cassie's mystery. As I spent more time viewing Jed's life from his point of view, I found myself slightly disgusted by his actions. He does things that make him unlikable. I found myself cheering on detectives and hoping they'd put him into jail. Probably not a great reaction to have with the hero of a book.

There's another character in the book who adds to the mystery. This guy seems almost homeless and is on a mission of his own. I figured out who he was long before I think I was supposed to know.

Crash lost me when I pinpointed the killer's identity. It seemed too early to know who the killer was. It also came off, to me at least, as a little predictable. At that point, I lost interest and couldn't regain it. That led to a struggle to finish the novel.

The novel had promise, but in the end, it was something I liked but never loved. It's not a book I'd read again.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Pretty Girls Dancing by Kylie Brant

Genre: Psychological Suspense
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Author: Kylie Brant
Release Date: January 1, 2018

It's been close to a decade since Kelsey Willard disappeared. While the police and media seem to have long forgotten, Kelsey's mother, sister, and father have remained trapped in their own cycles of hell. They wonder what happened to the teen. They hope she's still alive, but there's never been any trace of her since the night she rode off on her bike.

When another young teen vanishes, the previous case comes back to the limelight. The Willard family find themselves dealing with memories of the past. Whitney's family is just as pained as they wait for some word on whether or not their daughter is the victim of the serial killer believed to be responsible for Kelsey's disappearance. Two girls from one town are missing. Police are desperate to find them. Meanwhile, Whitney is alive but just as desperate to escape, and somewhere in the midst of it all are the answers everyone needs.

Pretty Girls Dancing is told from several viewpoints. You have Kelsey's sister, Janie, who deals with social anxiety and misses her sister desperately. She's often the subject of one mean girl's gossip at school, which makes it hard to get through the day. You have Kelsey's mom, who comes off as helpless since losing her oldest child and hides a secret. You have Kelsey's dad who is also hiding a secret.

On the other side, you have Whitney. Her story is told from her viewpoint as she's being held captive and frequently tortured by her kidnapper. Whether she lives or dies is a big reason as to why you never want to put the book down. There's also Special Agent Mark Foster who is trying to find the link between the cases and figure out who the kidnapper is and what happened to both Whitney and Kelsey.

The pacing of the book isn't always the fastest. Sometimes, I found myself rushing to get back to the specific part of the story that seemed most pressing to you. I loved Whitney's account. She may be young, but she's a tough kid and I was really rooting for her.

I ended up being very happy I read it. It did have slower moments, but I ended up unable to put it down.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Killer Choice by Tom Hunt

Genre: Psychological Suspense
Publisher: Berkley
Author: Tom Hunt
Release Date: January 30, 2018

It's early in the year, but I already know that Killer Choice is going to be on the top of my list for must-read novels. This is a debut, and it's a stellar debut at that.

Gary Foster has it all. His wife is pregnant with their son. His sporting goods business is doing relatively well. His brother is his business partner, and the two have never been closer.

It all comes crashing down when he gets a call that his wife has collapsed and had a seizure. Her doctors find an aggressive brain tumor. There's little hope for survival unless the couple can raise $200,000 for an experimental treatment in Germany.

Media appearances and fundraisers don't come close to raising the money they need. It's when things are looking bleakest that Gary gets a call with the potential to change their lives.

Gary can save his wife's life if he accepts one task. He needs to kill a bad man. He can trade the life of a scum for his wife's. Can he kill another to save someone he loves?

I could not put Killer Choice down. I had to know what Gary would do. Once I knew that, I had to see how he would live with the choice he made. It was compelling and great fodder for book club discussions.

This is a book that will get people talking. If you had to kill someone to save your child, significant other, or someone else you love dearly, would you do it?

Thursday, January 11, 2018

The Promise Between Us by Barbara Claypole White

Setting: North Carolina
Genre: Women's Fiction
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Author: Barbara Claypole White
Release Date: January 16, 2018

New mom Katie Mack is plagued by constant fears that she's going to harm her daughter. The fears get worse with every passing day. Things culminate and Katie flees. She feels her daughter is safer without her.

Almost a decade passes. Katie is now a talented metal artist. She never expects a school presentation to bring her daughter back into her life. Worse, she sees things in her daughter that mean trouble. She believes her daughter also has the same mental illness that runs in Katie's family.

Katie swore she'd stay out of her daughter's life. She also knows she's in the best position to help her daughter adjust to all the changes that are about to enter her life. Can Katie save her daughter before it's too late?

There were times when I wanted to pace of The Promise Between Us to speed up a little. I was intrigued by Katie Mack. I felt for her daughter. I even felt for Katie's ex-husband and new wife. I liked all of the characters and wanted to see things turn out well.

The story also taught me a bit about OCD. I have OCD. In my case, it tends to be more of a washing hands repeatedly deal. I also need things to go a specific way (I don't do well with the unexpected). I never thought of the other ways OCD can manifest. For that reason, it ended up being a bit educational too.

This is a touching story where you want things to turn out. I liked that the author handled the story realistically. Not everything goes as the characters expect. The twists kept me hooked. It's a solid women's fiction that I would read again.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Before I Let Go by Marieke Nijkamp

Setting: Lost Creek, Alaska
Genre: Teen Fiction
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Author: Marieke Nijkamp
Release Date: January 2, 2018

I loved Marieke Nijkamp's past novel. That one tugged at my heart and had me thinking about the plot for months. I was very eager to read Before I Let Go. Sadly, I only found it to be okay. It wasn't something I'll remember in a month or two.

Corey and Kyra were two peas in a pod. Best friends for years, the two were inseparable in their small, remote Alaskan community. When Corey, her mother, and her brother left the village so that Corey could attend a boarding school, the pair counted the days until they would reunite.

Days before Corey is scheduled to visit Lost Creek, she gets a call that Kyra is dead. She was found frozen in the village's lake. Corey heads to Lost Creek to attend the funeral and uncover why Kyra was in a lake that should have been frozen over. There, she's treated like an outsider and made to feel very unwelcome by a community she was once a big part of.

Corey refuses to leave, as much as they want her to, until she has answers. Townspeople say Kyra killed herself. Corey needs to know why.

The setting in the book is detailed and made me feel like I was there. It's the town that turned me off. Their treatment of Corey was appalling. I couldn't like them. It made me not care about anything they had to say. I just wanted Corey to get out and go to her new life.

My other issue was the use of past and present. I found it hard to keep up with where the story was in terms of a timeline. You jump from present to past, but the jumps to the past are often told through Krya's letters. You could be weeks before her death or months. It grew tiring keeping up.

In the end, Before I Let Go ended up being a miss for me. It's an honest look at mental illness, but it never grabbed me as I'd hoped it would.

Monday, January 8, 2018

My Last Love Story by Falguni Kothari

Setting: California
Genre: Women's Fiction
Publisher: Harlequin
Release Date: January 23, 2018

Simeen Desai's husband, Nirvaan, is dying. He's battled non-Hodgkin's lymphoma for years and now there's a tumor in his brain. He wants to give up all treatments. She wants him to fight. To convince him to go another round against the disease, she agrees to have a baby and reunite with his best friend, the former love of her life. Tragic events tore Simi and Zayaan apart, and Nirvaan wants to see them reunited.

Together the trio set off to tackle Nirvaan's bucket list over the summer. It's on these adventures that Simi learns life without her husband may be okay and that love will go on.

Strengths and Weaknesses

The bulk of the story revolves around the love triangle formed between Nirvaan, Zayaan, and Simi. You know that Simi and Zayaan have a past, but the full details of what happened to end things comes later in the story. I found that that's the point where I was really drawn into the story. Until then, I wondered why everyone seemed so set on pushing Simi to get into another relationship while her husband is dying.

It took me a bit to form a connection with the characters. I think that was the biggest hurdle for me. Simi hides a lot and struggled to tell her husband the truth. Her husband, though he was dying, seemed to be pushing too hard to take big risks and push his wife and best friend together. Zayaan was probably the most likable, but even then it took a while before I truly liked him too. My struggle with the characters was my biggest hurdle.

RTR's Bottom Line

Confession time. I chose to read My Last Love Story because it was touted as being a great choice for fans of Jojo Moyes. I'm a huge fan of Moyes books, so I was looking forward to this one.

I never found it had the same emotional pull for me as most of Moyes books do, but it was still a great read. My heart broke for Simi when her secret was revealed. From that point on, I wanted her to have it all. I do recommend this touching story.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Two Girls Down by Louisa Luna

Setting: Pennsylvania
Genre: Suspense/Mystery
Publisher: Doubleday
Author: Louisa Luna
Release Date: January 9, 2018

When sisters go missing from a store parking lot in a rural Pennsylvanian town, Alice Vega is called in to find them. The bounty hunter has had a lot of success in finding missing kids. She doesn't get a warm welcome by the local police, so she asks for help from a local private investigator who was once part of the local police force. Max Caplan just wants to live his life and avoid things from his past, but Alice is hard to turn away.

Teaming up, the pair starts unraveling a series of secrets and lies that plague the town. With the clock ticking, potential suspects vanishing, and a mother who is desperate to find her daughters, it's anyone's guess as to what happened to these girls.

Two Girls Down was very strong from the start. I was drawn to all the characters. Alice is tough and does things her way. She's got a touch of a rebel nature, but that made me like her more. Max is a single dad who just wants to live his life. I liked his daughter, too.

Eventually, the mystery behind their disappearance started to unravel. I wish it hadn't taken that turn. While the book had been unique up until that point, it turned into a book I've read in the headlines and in fictional offerings time and time again.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Still Me: A Novel by Jojo Moyes

Setting: NYC
Genre: Women's Fiction
Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books
Author: Jojo Moyes
Release Date: January 30, 2018

I can't come up with a better way than to celebrate the arrival of 2018 with a look at Jojo Moyes' third book in the Louisa Clark collection. Quirky Louisa has loved, lost, triumphed, had her heart broken, and keeps trying to live her life as Will wanted her to.

In Still Me: A Novel, Louisa's taken a job in New York City. She's the new assistant to Agnes Gopniks. This second wife of a prominent businessman is European and treated with disdain by most. She's the cliched much-younger replacement, and it seems to make her miserable. Louisa's determined to embrace her new job, but her new co-workers aren't as welcoming as she hoped.

Meanwhile, Louisa's also trying to balance her new relationship with her new career. Ambulance Sam is on a whole other continent and has a new EMT partner who seems to have set her sights on him. If that's not enough to make things difficult, Louisa meets a man who reminds her far too much of the past that brought her a lot of pain and joy. With her heart being pulled in different directions, Louisa must really decide what she wants most.

I have laughed, cried, sighed, and cried some more with each of the Louisa Clark books.This is the book where I really started to see her come into herself. I loved it.

In Still Me: A Novel, there is focus on romance, but it's more on Louisa and what she wants from her life. It's a book that's really all about Louisa this time. I adored most of the characters. Even those you think you cannot stand come into their own and become easy to like.

I don't know if this is the end of Louisa's journey or not. I can say I hope it isn't. I've grown too fond of her and her journey. Start off 2018 with a copy of Jojo Moyes' latest novel. It's an outstanding addition to your library.

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