Thursday, June 27, 2019

The Favorite Daughter by Patti Callahan Henry

Release Date - June 4, 2019

I spent a lot of time tearing up as I read The Favorite Daughter. If you have a parent or loved one with Alzheimer's, this book is going to hit home.

Ten years ago, Colleen "Lena" Donohue walked away from her family after suffering the worst kind of betrayal. On her wedding day, Lena found her husband-to-be passionately kissing her sister. She's spent a decade touring the world and writing articles about her adventures. Her visits home have been limited since that day.

When Lena's brother calls with news that their dad has Alzheimer's, Lena has to return home. No matter what her sister did, her dad is and always will be the one family member she could never turn her back on.

As their dad's memories slip farther away, Lena, her brother, and her sister work together to take old family photographs and create a book that tells each photo's story. Along the way, Lena learns more about herself than she could ever imagine.

I wasn't shocked by the surprise that their dad was hiding. I had that figured out long before it was revealed. That said, the details into Alzheimer's and its progression were spot on. My mom has Alzheimer's and I really felt the situations they faced were very true.

There were also times I was extremely jealous of these fictional characters. When my dad died, we sat down with a social worker. No one gave us a folder filled with paperwork and forms that could help us navigate our mom's care. We found just how much our dad had been hiding as he cared for our mom. We had no idea how progressed her Alzheimer's really was. Instead, we bounced from lawyers to social workers to assisted care homes to nurses and memory care doctors who didn't once have answers for us. We had to do the research and talk to countless programs and agencies on our own.

The symptoms of Alzheimer's hit everyone differently. Our mom is a lot like the Donohue's dad, so it hit home. It hit hard. The agitation, anger, flip-flopping of topics, denial, and confusion are all things we've watched her deal with. I don't want to give away any spoilers, but even the ending struck me as very realistic giving things I've heard my mom say.

Is The Favorite Daughter an easy read? It wasn't for me. It really hit hard emotionally, but it was so, so good. 

Sunday, June 23, 2019

The Summer We Lost Her by Tish Cohen

Release Date - June 4, 2019

Much of her life has been spent being the very best. With a chance to compete in the Olympics, Elise Sorenson knows her husband won't be as delighted as she is. It's made worse when she must leave her scheduled flight to go calm her agitated horse, which makes her break a promise to her eight-year-old daughter.

Matt Sorenson is once again let down that his wife has let them down. He's both mom and dad to their daughter Gracie, and now he has the chance to become a partner in the law firm where he works. It's a chance he doesn't want to miss, but money is tight. The only way to afford his dream is to sell his late grandfather's lakefront property.

The couple head to Lake Placid, New York, to fix up and clean up the lakefront home and prepare it to sell. Two things happen that can change their relationship and their lives. Matt reunites with his former girlfriend and starts to wonder "what if?" This throws Elise for a loop as Matt's attraction to his old girlfriend is still very apparent. Before they can even talk about whether or not they have a future together, Gracie disappears.

I both loved and hated The Summer We Lost Her. Elise is not a great mom most of the time. Her horse and career clearly come first. Matt is better for Gracie, but he's also a very dislikable man. I suppose given his grandfather, it's not surprising that he grew up to be a jerk. When Gracie goes missing, I had my guess and I was right. It was too predictable for me.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

The Woman in Our House by Andrew Hart

Release Date - June 18, 2019

Anna Klein thinks she's ready to return to work. To do so, she and her husband Josh opt to hire a nanny. Hiring a live-in nanny is a little worrisome, but they've talked to others who say the arrangement works beautifully. They're recommended a Mormon agency based in Utah.

When Oaklynn Durst arrives, she's better than Anna and Josh could have imagined. Not only is she delightfully warm and caring, but she's eager to show the family just how hard she's willing to work. She's soon cooking their meals, catering their parties, and doing far more than imagined.

When their girls start ending up with unexplained illnesses and experiencing "accidents" that require hospitalizations, Anna begins to worry that Oaklynn is not the Mary Poppins-like nanny they've imagined. She starts to fear that Oaklynn has a very dark side that is putting her family in danger.

The Woman in Our House started out strong. As the story progressed, there were things I couldn't decide why they were included. Anna's a bit hard to like. I get wanting to jump back into her career, but I also wondered why a live-in nanny was really necessary given the time she spent out of her home office checking on the girls or joining the nanny and girls in activities. A babysitter a few days a week would have sufficed.

I had real issues with the neighbor. She's not likable, and honestly, her role in the story was minimally important at best. I could have done without her. Certain parts of the story were never explained. I don't want to give away any plot, but there were things that happen that when everything came to the climax, I still found myself asking "why did that part back there happen, then?"

In the end, I liked this story. It had great potential, but some of it fell flat and then the ending was easy to predict. For that reason, it wouldn't make my keeper list.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Sisters of Summer's End by Lori Foster

Release Date - June 11, 2019

Joy Lee left her family behind after her husband made it clear he wanted nothing to do with becoming a dad. Joy's family also turned their backs on her. She moved to an RV resort where she has a great job, a home, plenty of friends, and is a great mom to her precocious son.

Maris Kennedy is the closest thing to a sister that Joy's ever had. When Maris urges Joy to live it up a bit and accept the advances of the new owner of the area drive-in, Joy decides to take Maris's advice. Meanwhile, she also convinces Maris to let loose a bit and accept the advances of the summer resort's maintenance guy.

These two women are forging a new friendship and leaning heavily on each other as they navigate the world of dating. Trusting in each other seems to be far easier than trusting in men, but it's getting harder to deny that having someone in their lives may be exactly what they need.

If you are looking for a warm, cozy romance, you get a two-for-one in Sisters of Summer's End. While there are two romances, Joy's takes center stage. I loved that it was so uplifting and romantic. I also loved having the very tough, tomboy-ish Maris realize she needed a man just as much as her friend did.

I am hoping this is a new series in the making. I really loved the setting and would like to see what Maris and Joy are up to in the future.

Call Your Daughter Home by Deb Spera

Release Date - June 11, 2019

Call Your Daughter is bittersweet to me. It took me a bit to get into the story due to the switching back and forth between the three characters. You have Gertrude, an abused wife trying to keep her four children alive. There's Annie, the matriarch of the Cole Family, who's been distanced from her own children for years. Finally, there's Retta, a freed slave who works for Annie.

The women become linked forever when Gertrude finally has the chance to escape her abusive husband by working for Annie's clothing factory. Gertrude's daughter is horribly sick and Retta is one of the only people with the skill to help save her life. Meanwhile, Annie is now Gertrude's boss. When Annie discovers a long-hidden family secret, her will to live may be shattered forever.

All of this story takes place during the Great Depression. Times are hard and the author does a great job bringing poverty and fear of survival into the story. There are times that the Depression feels like it's a character in the story rather than just the setting.

I'm not always a fan of historical novels, but this one really tugged at my heart. I've read stories from past generations in my family and know just how accurate some of this is. It's powerful but sad.

Before and Again by Barbara Delinsky

Release Date - June 26, 2018

She took her eyes off the road for the briefest of seconds. She never saw the vehicle barreling towards her at twice the speed limit. It doesn't matter for Mackenzie Cooper. That her young daughter died and she lived is torture enough. That the world saw her as an unfit mother who was too busy looking at her dash, which led to new laws about dash displays, that's also torture.

Mackenzie, now Maggie, is starting anew in Vermont. She has friends, a solid job doing makeup at a local spa, and a quiet existence where no one knows about her past. Her ex-husband, brother, mother, and former friends are all in her past where she needs them to be.

It's all threatening to fall apart when her ex-husband shows up after purchasing the inn where she works. Worse, her best friend's son is accused of hacking, which is putting Mackenzie at risk of the media recognizing her.

Before and Again is a touching story. In essence, there's a series in the making with other people in this quiet town hiding from their own troubled pasts. I wouldn't mind returning.

It poses some good questions. Today's cars have dashboard computers that are used for so many things. It's the same as in the past with radio controls. The equipment is there, and it's dangerous if you do use it, yet it is still there. I think many people fall into the guilty column having changed a station (unless you have steering wheel controls). You have GPS maps built into cars to help you get to your destination, but those systems are equally dangerous.

With a strong setting, characters that you do feel for, and very emotional writing. This book ended up being one that I can't believe I struggled to get into before now. I'm glad I didn't give up on it.

Friday, June 7, 2019

The Last House Guest by Megan Miranda

Release Date: June 18, 2019

Most people are aware that I adore Maine. The cover art and picturesque setting in The Last House Guest were reasons I felt compelled to read this book. It's set in a fictional town of Littleport, Maine. Littleport, like many coastal Maine towns, has an entirely different population in the summer months.

Avery Greer has grown up in Littleport. She sees the summer residents come and go. Her friendship with one of them, Sadie Loman, is unusual at best. For years, they've been best friends. It all ends when Sadie is found dead from a suspected suicide. Avery has always believed that determination to be suspicious.

One year after Sadie's death, odd happenings make Avery more convinced than ever before that Sadie's death was no accident. She's convinced that someone is setting it up to make it look like she committed murder, and she'll do whatever it takes to uncover the truth.

There are so many twists in The Last House Guest. I found myself making a few incorrect assumptions along the way. I was thrown when the truth is revealed. That makes this book a win! It's not often that I can't figure out the mystery.

As I read the story and got involved in the town, I couldn't help but feel like I was in a version of Ogunquit or Kennebunkport, but with rockier beaches. I loved that familiar feel. It almost came off like a cross between Ogunquit and Bailey Island, two of my favorite places. If Littleport existed, I could see myself wanting to stay.

Monday, June 3, 2019

The Last Thing She Remembers by J.S. Monroe

Release Date - May 28, 2019

She's not sure what brings her to a specific house in a quiet village. She remembers getting off a plane and losing her purse and everything that could tell her who she is. She cannot remember a thing, but something draws her to this house.

Laura and Tony have no idea who the woman is at their door, but her familiarity with the house is alarming. After taking her to the local doctor, they only know she's suffering from some kind of amnesia. As townspeople start to try to figure out who she is and why she's here, it will cause relationships to fray and suspicions to grow.

I loved the twists in this book. Part of it was a bit easy to guess after a certain point. By that point, I didn't care. I felt compelled to keep reading to see how things would work out for the amnesiac, Laura, and Tony.

This was one of the better psychological suspense novels I've picked up this year. I highly recommend it.

Jackson: Eternity Springs (The McBrides of Texas) by Emily March

Release Date - June 25, 2019

Jackson is a spin-off from Emily March's Eternity Springs romances. It's the first in the new The McBrides of Texas series. Clearly, it's setting up a lot of stories and catching up readers on other characters. For that reason, there's an awful lot going on. It took a bit for me to settle in and really start to enjoy the story.

Jackson has lost so much. His ex-wife has him in a bitter tug-of-war over their daughter. Plus, while he wrote her songs, she was the star and since these events, he's been unable to do any songwriting. News that he and his cousins have inherited a gorgeous paradise in Texas may be just what he needs for a fresh start.

Caroline Carruthers never expected to become a widow at her age. She married an older man, but she loved him dearly. When he's diagnosed with early-onset dementia, they're both devastated. She moves to Redemption, Texas, to open a book store that's aptly named The Next Chapter. She's ready to start the next chapter of her life.

Both Caroline and Jackson are cautious about starting over, but they can't ignore the attraction they have. Rumors are that Redemption is a place for new chances. Can they really give love a second chance?

Once I'd gotten past all the building up the town and reintroducing certain characters from past books, I settled in and enjoyed a charming romance with plenty of passion, likable characters, and a great location. It's hard not to want to be part of this town. I'm intrigued and can't wait to see what happens next.

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...