Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Forbidden Lovers by Kimberley Troutte

Release Date: August 1, 2018

Forbidden Lovers appears to be the first in a series. My assumption is that each sibling will have his or her own romance, I haven't gone to the author's website to confirm this. There is the chance that the series will keep going with cousins and even area visitors over time.

Julia Espinoza fell madly in love with Matt Harper when they were both teens. He abrupt departure always shook her and left her with a broken heart. When Matt left for the military, he felt as though he had no choice. He was heartbroken when Julia married shortly after his departure.

Years have passed. Matt's back in town and wants to get answers to this and another pressing question. Why has his domineering, miserable father suddenly reached out to Matt and his siblings? What on earth could that man want with kids he raised with an iron fist?

Julia is aware that the new stranger in town seems very familiar. When she realizes it's Matt, she's not sure what to do. She's just as drawn to him as she ever was, but he broke her heart once. She's not sure she can take it again.

There were a few things that I really enjoyed with Kimberley Troutte's Harlequin Desire novel. First, it gets right to the action. There are no wishy-washy attitudes at play. Matt wants another chance. Julia wants to believe him and trust in him like she used to. Matt's siblings are introduced and clearly will be getting their own novels. I also found myself wondering how the mystery will play out over time. Mostly, I want to see the town come to life with changes that are in store for everyone.

I love passing time with a quick, powerful romance and that's what Forbidden Lovers offers. It's not a long book, but the story is mostly complete. There is a continuing mystery that will play out over the series. For that reason, I'll keep reading.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Vox by Christina Dalcher

Release Date - August 21

Image a world where women are limited to 100 words. If they exceed it, they get slammed with an electrical charge from a wristband they're forced to wear. That's Jean's life now. She and her five-year-old daughter are both limited to 100 words. Women can't work. They're subservient and meant only to serve the men in their lives. Cooking, cleaning, and raising the kids is Jean's life now. It's the life all women in the U.S. face. It's one they cannot stand but seem powerless to end. 100 words isn't much, certainly not enough for 24 hours.


That above paragraph is exactly 100 words. Can you imagine your day's thoughts, fears, hopes, and dreams being limited to that each day? Vox terrified me. With the current administration, I could see parts of this novel becoming true. I could see some of the men in office thinking a world like that would be ideal. It's frightening and great fodder for book clubs. Read it and be scared right along with me.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Smothered by Autumn Chiklis

Release Date - August 7, 2018

She's graduating summa cum laude from Columbia University. You'd think that Eloise "Lou" Hansen is ready to start a new chapter in her life. Before that can happen, there are a few things she needs, and she has the list to get her started.

Lou has yet to find a job. She's returning to California to live with her mom and dad. She doesn't want to be here long, but her list of getting up early each morning, getting in shape, and landing her dream job isn't going well. Meanwhile, her mom is ready to tackle the summer - one store, salon appointment, and spin class at a time. And, she'll make sure Lou is involved each step of the way. That means helping Lou find herself, even if Lou doesn't really want the help.

Smothered is part romance, part young adult, part new adult, and a whole lot of humor. This is Autumn Chiklis's debut. If the name seems familiar, it's because her dad is actor Michael Chiklis of The Shield and she also appeared on the show with him.

I did snicker a bit while reading the book, but it was also a little bittersweet. My son just got married. My daughter is in her final year of college. As a result, I really sympathized with Lou's mom. Throughout much of the book, Lou is hiding the fact that she's had a boyfriend for quite some time. Why hide him? Her mom spots them out and asks Lou who the serial killer was.

That sets the stage for the struggle Lou has with her mom over most anything. She loves her parents dearly and doesn't want to disappoint, but she also wants to make herself happy. I liked Smothered. It is a speedy read and one that I found hard to put down.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

The Other Woman by Sandie Jones

Release Date: August 21, 2018

Emily is head over heels in love with Adam. From their first meeting, she senses he's the one. She's had her heart broken in the past, and this time it feels reel. There's only one problem: his mother.

Pammie is controlling, manipulative, and determined to keep them apart. Emily begins to wonder how far Pammie will go to keep her son tied to her apron strings. When she makes comments like "over my dead body," does she really plan to take things that far?

I have one major issue with this book. Don't get me wrong, I was hooked and loved every second of the roller coaster ride, but I just can't believe Emily stayed. From the point of the second meeting with Pammie, that would have been it. I would have walked away and let that woman win. No way would I have stayed and I can't believe Emily put up with as much as she did.

The Other Woman is very gripping. You can't believe what happens happens. When I reached the end, I was blown away. Riveting and shocking come to mind. I've heard from other readers they had the ending pegged. This time I didn't. I'm glad I didn't. I appreciated that moment of surprise. It made the book stand out.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Maybe For You: A Whiskey and Weddings Novel by Nicole McLaughlin

Release Date - August 28, 2018

I've really enjoyed Nicole McLaughlin's prior novels. Maybe For You missed the mark for me. It was a book that I kept reading hoping there might be more of a hook, but I never really got into the characters or storyline.

After her fiance was killed shortly before their wedding, Alexis Parker's spent a year in Italy working through her grief and trying to move on. She's back in town where she'll help her brother at his whiskey distillery before moving on to a new job with the CIA.

Jake Cooper has been the one person to keep her grounded. He's been her sounding board. When the chance comes up to join Jake on a national tour to promote their whiskey, she takes it. His reputation as a playboy is causing issues within the company, and Alex could be the one to keep him in line. She never expects to find herself falling for him.

Jake's promised his business partner, who happens to be Alex's brother, that he'll take good care of her. While that's in the back of his mind, he can't help but be drawn to her on this trip. No matter what he does, he's about to make someone mad. He agrees with Alex to have a quick fling and keep it hidden from her brother. When they return, it will be like nothing happened. Only, they return and Jake's not ready to give her up.

Can Jake convince everyone that his playboy days are truly behind him and that he wants to make Alex a permanent fixture in his life?

Some of the characters appeared in prior novels, but I hadn't read them. Maybe For You stands alone, but I often found myself wishing I was reading Charlotte and Dean's story instead. Alex is still grieving and I'm not sure she is in the right place to be in a relationship. Right to the end, some of her statements and attitudes frustrated me. I wanted her to grow up, but I just didn't see it happening.

Jake was a solid character, but the tension between him and Alex's brother grew tiring. Dean takes his big brother role to the max and needed to shut up and listen from time to time. In the end, this book ended up being a book I think I would have been fine not finishing, which is never a good sign. I did finish it, but even with the ending, I'm not convinced there relationship is more than a fleeting thing.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

A Curve in the Road by Julianne MacLean

Release Date - August 14, 2018

Driving home from her mom's house, Abbie MacIntyre's SUV is hit from behind. She spins out of control and ends up in a ravine. Her dog is thrown out the window. Jaws of life are needed to extract her.

She learns the driver of the other car was drunk. Surrounded by her co-workers, she has to get checked out, treated for injuries, and hope her dog is found and is okay. She also must tell her son of the accident that will change their lives. Somehow, she must put her life back together and turn a tragic evening into a chance to start anew.

As the publisher's blurb doesn't reveal one of the very first revelations, I'm leaving it out of my summary, but it does play a big part so that makes the review tough. In essence, this story turns into one of how do you forgive someone who has destroyed everything you know?

A Curve in the Road is short and doesn't slow in terms of pace. I started it and finished it in just a couple of hours. It's less than 300 pages and moves swiftly, which makes it an ideal beach or backyard lounge chair reading.

Pick up a copy. It's going to have you tearing up, but it's well worth the tissues you'll need.

Rust & Stardust by T. Greenwood

Release Date - August 7, 2018

In 1948, 11-year-old Sally Horner is trying to fit in with a group of girls at school. The mission seems easy enough, she must accompany them to Woolworth's and shoplift an item. If she does that, she's in. Things go horribly wrong. She's caught by a man claiming to be an FBI agent. He tells her he must take her to a nearby city to appear in front of a judge. She goes along fearing she could go to jail.

Sally has no idea that Frank LaSalle is actually just out of prison after serving time for kidnapping and raping another young girl. One that he forced into becoming his wife to avoid charges.

Months and years go by. Sally's widowed mother starts to lose hope that she'll ever see her daughter again. Sally fears she'll never escape the torture Frank puts her through. All they can hope for is a miracle.

Rust & Stardust: A Novel is based on the true story of Sally Horner. Her story was the inspiration behind the novel Lolita. It's also the premise of this novel. The author states the novel is fictional, but there's enough truth to the story that it often feels like a true crime novel.

I'd never heard of the case, and it's heartbreaking. I can't imagine all that young girl endured. It's simply tragic. I kept reading, afraid to stop until I knew what happened to her. I'd even missed that it was based on a true story until the end, that just made me even sadder.

If you are a fan of true crime or real mystery books and shows, don't miss this one. It had me hooked.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

The Complete Slow Cooking for Two: A Perfectly Portioned Slow Cooker Cookbook by Linda Larsen

Release Date - September 2015

The Complete Slow Cooking for Two: A Perfectly Portioned Slow Cooker Cookbook breaks recipes down into 11 chapters. Enjoy guides into converting standard recipes to slow cooker recipes and tips for making the most of your slow cooker. There are also appendixes to help you with cleaning tips, conversions, and a guide into the fruits and vegetables that are found to have the highest and lowest levels of pesticides and other contaminants before they're washed.

Categories in the slow cooker cookbook include:

  • Broths, Stocks, and Condiments
  • Soups, Stews, and Chili
  • Beef, Lamb, and Pork
  • Poultry 
  • Seafood
  • Meatless Meals
  • Beans and Grains
  • Vegetables and Sides
  • Breakfasts
  • Desserts

I love that it includes spice rubs. Spices are essential for flavor, but the right rub can also hold in moisture. The All-American Dry Rub was fantastic with slow cooker pulled pork. My second find was the slow cooker recipes for chicken and beef stock. I like to make my own stocks, and the chicken stock recipe was simple to follow and tasted amazing

There are recipes that I need to find time to try. The homemade slow cooker Bolognese sounds fantastic. I am also interested in making Vietnamese Beef and Noodle Soup in the slow cooker.

I'm in the process of building a cooking website full of recipes that my mom loves. She has Alzheimer's, so meals have to be nutritionally sound, full of flavor, quick to make, and ample enough that there are leftovers for her when I'm not there. The recipe for Cuban Pork and Black Beans caught my eye. She loves beans and the tomato, garlic, and beans will add nutrition.

Recipes are marked when they're nut-free, gluten-free, or soy-free. The nutritional facts are included. To me, that makes this cookbook extremely handy. I plan to start putting more of the recipes to the test as soon as the hot weather subsides. It's a win.

Thanks to the publisher and Callisto's Publishers Club for providing a download copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Worth Fighting For by Wendy Qualls

Release Date - August 14, 2018

Worth Fighting For is another entry in the Heart of the South series. Homeschooled for many years. Sterling Harper entered college without feeling anything for women. In a one-night trial to see if he really does like women at all, he gets his best friend pregnant. He's clearly gay, but now he's 18 and a dad. He marries his friend in an effort to do the right thing.

Ten years later, Sterling's wife is dead. He's raising his transgender daughter on his own. His in-laws are firmly against the transition and refuse to call "Louis" by her new chosen name Alexa. Sterling is not about to cave to their pressure, and it's clear they are not the right people to watch Alexa all summer long. He tires a nanny to watch her. Jericho is a confident gay man with a degree in special ed. He's perfect.

Soon Sterling finds that Jericho is perfect in more ways than one. For years, Sterling has hidden his sexual orientation from almost everyone he knows. Jericho makes him want to throw caution to the wind and fall head over heels in love. If he does, however, he could lose Alexa forever.

Alexa is my favorite character in Worth Fighting For. She's facing a tough road, but she does it with humor, a bit of sadness, and so much strength for her age. Jericho is the perfect role model. I love when he takes her to meet a transgender woman who is ideal for answering questions and helping her find her new self.

Sterling needed to grow a set. I get he hadn't come out of the closet with most. He was scared. As the dad he was supposed to be, I found his encouragement of Alexa to be a bit hard to swallow given his own fear of revealing his true self.

I liked the romance that builds between Jericho and Sterling. I think they were a bit naive thinking that they could have a relationship under the same roof without Alexa knowing, therefore (at first) reinforcing the idea that your true sexuality must be hidden behind a locked door. Finally, I wish the ending hadn't seemed so rushed. The conflict that's mentioned in the publisher's summary of a custody battle comes quickly and goes just as quickly. I expected that to be a key part of the story and it wasn't.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

RTR's Review of Good Luck With That by Kristan Higgins

Release Date - August 7, 2018

The bond that Emerson, Georgia, and Marley formed at a camp for overweight girls never eased. Fifteen years later, a tragedy brings them back together. Emerson's death is the unexpected blow, but it's her request to Georgia and Marley that sets things into action. She wants them to take their list of things they want to do and make it come true.

With a list full of tasks like be part of a photo shoot and get a guy to buy your drink, Marley and Georgia feel the list is a little outdated, but they will do anything to honor Emerson's memory.

As they tackle the list, they also face their pasts. Marley has never moved past her young twin sister's death. Georgia's never gotten past the pain she felt growing up with a controlling mother, verbally abusive sibling, and absentee father. For both, the past has done nothing to help them move past poor self-esteem and major mistakes when it comes to relationships. This list might be what it takes to truly make a change.

This book had me snickering, cheering them on, and crying. I got it. I also got mad with it. Emerson clearly is never able to come to terms with her weight. It affects her health. I get it. I hated that no one had looked into the reason she was overweight from the beginning. How parents missed that is beyond me and rather disgusting.

Georgia's mother. I couldn't stand her. I didn't like the brother at all either. She would have been so much better "divorcing" her mother and brother long ago. As a lawyer, she could have kept records of her brother's treatment of her nephew and gone for custody. She should have, too.

Marley was in a very supportive, food fixes everything kind of family. I liked her interactions with her family best, but I hated how blind she was to other things. When she finally catches on, I felt it had been dragging on forever.

I ended up having a love/hate relationship with Good Luck With That. I'm glad things played out as they did, but some characters got away with things I wish they'd been called out on. In the end, my heart broke for Emerson. She had the most poignant of the stories and deserved better.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

RTR's Book Review of Not Her Daughter by Rea Frey

Release Date - August 21, 2018

Not Her Daughter is Rea Frey's debut fictional novel. It's a gripping story, and the film rights have been acquired by Argent Pictures. It could well end up on the big screen.

Sarah Walker's essentially alone. Her mom left her when she was young. Her dad raised her into the strong young business owner she is today. A chance encounter in an airport leaves her reeling.

Emma Townsend's mother doesn't seem to love her. Emma is a beautiful, precocious child, but her mom has nothing but hateful words and bruises to leave their mark.

Amy Townsend knows she should love her daughter, but something keeps her from being the perfect mom. She struggles with her daughter's beauty and independence.

Once Sarah encounters Emma, she can't seem to let her go. The decision is made to kidnap the young girl. As Sarah and Emma bond during a trip across the U.S., Amy is at home waiting for news on whether her daughter is alive or dead. Public opinion weighs heavily on what Amy might have done to her child. Police continue to investigate. No one knows how it all will play out.

I loved almost everything about Not Her Daughter. I'm not certain I agree with the ending, however. I can't give spoilers, but the ending was a little hard to swallow for me. I see the story from both points, but somehow Emma's father gets forgotten. That's where I had the big issue.

You will sympathize with both Amy and Sarah. Amy is a little tougher to take, but you start to get her issues as you read more. When all is said and done, I liked the book, but the ending just didn't hit the right mark with me.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

RTR's Book Review of Sold on a Monday by Kristina McMorris

Release Date: August 28, 2018

Sold On a Monday all starts with a real photograph from the Depression era. A mother is so desperate that she puts her children up for sale.

The story takes this real photograph and spins a story about the lives of those affected by the sale. Reporter Ellis Reed never meant for the photo to get attention. He's seen the pain the Depression and a loss of a child has brought to his family.

Lillian Palmer spots Ellis's photo and slips it to her boss. When that photo leads to Ellis' big break, she's happy for him, but the results of showing that photo to the world are not something she considered. It puts her own secrets at risk of spilling out.

Now that things are spiraling, Lillian and Ellis opt to work together to unravel what exactly became of the children affected most by the photo.

I had a rough time getting into Sold On a Monday. I liked the characters' roles in the story and the premise, but the actual heart of the story doesn't start until several chapters have passed. I felt a bit lost as to the plot until that turn when the story really kicked off. I never bonded with the characters as I'd expected I would. In the end, I stuck with it, but I already know it won't be a story I remember months or years from now. It's good, but it's not memorable.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

RTR's Book Review for Our House by Louise Standish

Release Date - August 7, 2018

If you're looking for a book with a lead character you will despise, Our House is an excellent choice. I wanted to reach into the book and strangle Bram. At the very least, I would have loved to be able to tell him to grow a set.

Fiona adores her children and loves their father, though his past indiscretions weigh heavily. It's led to them being separated. To ease any strain on their children, they're doing a co-parenting deal where they take turn living in their home. When it's Bram's time with the boys, Fi goes to a flat they're sharing. When it's her turn, she moves back home and Bram heads to the flat.

Things go beyond the usual, however, when she returns from a trip early to find strangers moving into her home. Her boys are also missing. The new owners have proof that Bram sold them the house for $2 million. It's up to Fi to figure out if Bram is in danger, where are her boys, and how her house could have been sold right out from under her.

There's the premise. I will say the mystery of the boys is one that is resolved quickly. It's not really that integral to the story, though it is for a brief flash. The bigger mystery is what Bram did and why. It's told through alternating chapters of his past, his present, Fi's past, and Fi's present.

I hated Bram. It's that simple. Louise Standish does a great job at building a character it's impossible to like. I never felt pity for him as some might. Had he manned up, this story wouldn't have existed sure, but it would have been the decent thing to do. Read it and you'll know exactly what I'm saying.

For me, the bottom line is clear. Despite my hatred of Bram, I was hooked. I had to see how things ended.

The Road to Christmas: A Sweet Holiday Romance Novel by Sheila Roberts

Release Date - September 20, 2022  Sit down and explore the holiday season through four sets of eyes in Sheila Roberts' latest holiday...