Wednesday, February 27, 2019

The Promise by Teresa Driscoll

Release Date - February 7, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, February 22, 2019

Two Missing Person Novels From Karen Ellis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, February 21, 2019

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

Release Date - March 5, 2019 (Paperback)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

My Favorite Cowboy by Donna Grant

Release Date - February 26, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, February 18, 2019

The Last Letter by Rebecca Yarros

Release Date - February 26, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, February 16, 2019

The Military Wife by Laura Trentham

Release Date - February 5, 2019

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

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

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

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

Friday, February 15, 2019

The Amish Bachelor's Baby by Jo Ann Brown

Release Date - March 1, 2019

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

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

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

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

Thursday, February 14, 2019

The Stranger Inside by Laura Benedict

Release Date - February 9, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, February 8, 2019

The Girls of 17 Swann Street by Yara Zgheib

Release Date - February 5, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Forget You Know Me by Jessica Strawser

Release Date - February 5, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, February 4, 2019

I Stop Somewhere by T.E. Carter

Release Date (Paperback) - April 2019

The Kindle and hardcover formats for I Stop Somewhere are already out. If you missed this book in 2018, it's one you should pick up.

Ellie Frias lives in a town where foreclosures are rampant. Many empty homes are wasting away. Her dad struggles to keep a roof over their head in their quiet New York community, but he does as best he can.

When Ellie must move from the private school she'd been attending on a scholarship and join the public high school, she simply wants to be able to get through the experience with a new look and hopes of at least staying out of the typical cruelness of high school. When one of the town's poster boys turns an eye to her, Ellie realizes she may have a chance at being the center of attention. Sometimes, however, it's better to be invisible than not existing at all.

Here's the bottom line. If you cannot tolerate a story about today's rape culture, don't read this book. If you're ready to hear a very brutal, emotionally painful story that seems a little too real at times, I Stop Somewhere is an amazing read.

I'm going to delve a bit into the dealings many actresses and even actors are facing. They speak up about being raped and are, for lack of a kinder word, "slut shamed." Look at so many of them telling their stories and being called liars, told they were willing participants by people who were never even there, etc. That's really what happens in this book, but Ellie's perspective is a little more jarring for one reason that I won't divulge.

My heart broke reading this story. It took me bad to a girl just like Ellie who was invisible in a way. I knew her from quick "hellos" each morning as she passed me to get to her locker. She ended up just like Ellie, and I still wish I'd taken the time to say more than hello. As a mom now, I cannot imagine what Paulette and her entire family went through. People are the worst kind of horrible, and this vividly captures just how horrible some can be.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Second Chance With the Single Dad by Kandy Shepherd

Release Date - February 1, 2019

Kandy Shepherd's Second Chance With the Single Dad is a light, quick, very satisfying contemporary romance. It's set in Australia and is the perfect read on another very cold, icy morning. It didn't take me long at all to devour each page of this romance.

Georgia Lang hasn't seen her former best friend in years. Wil is just as charming and handsome as ever, but he needs her help. He's just learned his ex-wife died in a car crash. He's also a father. He has to go pick up his seven-month-old daughter and bring her home, but babies are new to him. As Georgia's a school teacher, he hopes she can help him with the transition. To help Wil, Georgia has to reconcile the past hurts and see what the future has in store.

Wil is the Prince Charming type that women long for. He's done well for himself, despite his fragile past, but his wealth hasn't made him obnoxious. Georgia is clearly going to tread carefully, but she's not the type to hold grudges, which was refreshing. It allows the story to move along at a rapid, enjoyable pace.

Second Chance With the Single Dad is short, but it's worthwhile. If you're looking for a pick-me-up, this one is a winner.

Friday, February 1, 2019

I Owe You One by Sophie Kinsella

Release Date - February 5, 2019

Fixie Farr can't let something go without trying to fix it. It's why her family calls her Fixie. The problem is, she seems so intent on fixing everyone else that she never stops to think about herself. It made me dislike her.

Things begin on the day Fixie's mom is having a party. Fixie stops at a coffee shop where a stranger asks her to watch his computer for a second. She ends up saving that computer when a section of the store's roof collapses. With that, the stranger named Seb says he owes her one and hands her his business card.

When Fixie's mom decides it's time to take a break, she joins her sister up on a somewhat lengthy trip to Spain. This leaves her children - Fixie, Nicole, and Jake - in charge of the family-owned kitchen shop. Her siblings have grandiose plans on how to make the already successful store even better. Fixie is great at fixing things, but she sucks at putting her foot down.

The other thing creating issues for Fixie is her brother's long-time friend. Ryan's back in town and Fixie always falls for his charms. When he announces his job in Hollywood is over and he can't find a job, she goes to the stranger in the coffee shop and cashes in the IOU. When Seb fires Ryan unexpectedly, Fixie decides she must fix it. What she learns may be what she needs to decide what she really wants from life.

I adore other Sophie Kinsella books. This time, I have mixed feelings. I liked some of the staff at the kitchen shop. I despised Nicole and Jake. Ryan reminded me a lot of a guy I knew growing up. If fact, if he was based on Dave, I wouldn't be surprised. Dave was also good at using people. It's hard to find anything appealing about Ryan. The key character, though, was the biggest disappointment. Fixie was weak, very weak, which made it hard to feel pity for her. When she finally develops a backbone, I no longer cared.

Did I finish I Owe You One? Yes. I needed to see if Fixie would ever do anything to make me cheer. She does, but it came so late. I wish there had been more focus on her kicking others' behinds and less on how annoying the others could be.

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...