Monday, June 29, 2020

What Unbreakable Looks Like by Kate McLaughlin

Release Date - June 23, 2020

Lex's mother was happier to drain a bottle of booze than she was spending time with her daughter. For that reason, she never notices the attention Lex is getting from a family friend. Lex ends up part of a trafficking ring where she's drugged and becomes part of a ring of girls who are used and abused. As Poppy, she's happy she has the drugs to numb her to the rest of her daily existence. When police raid the hotel where she and other girls are being held, she's given the chance to start anew. The problem is she knows what she was, and she's not sure anyone can love her. Her mother sure didn't.

Her aunt and uncle are desperate to help Lex experience the life she was meant to live. They take her in and hope their efforts can get through to the teen. When some of the boys at her new school assault her, Lex has to summon every inch of strength she has to fight for herself and to learn to trust again.

I know that trafficking exists. I know there are hundreds of girls with similar stories and not always the chances that Lex is given. It breaks my heart. I found Lex to be a strong character who also has the moments of weakness that make her genuine.

What Unbreakable Looks Like is raw and emotional. It's powerful and often sad. You'll read it and be angry and sad. It's very good, but it's a tough topic and often had tears running down my face.

Monday, June 22, 2020

She's Faking It by Kristin Rockaway

Release Date - June 30, 2020

She's Faking It drew me in from the start. Bree Bozeman is in a tight spot. Her slacker boyfriend took off to find himself. In the process he left her stuck with the rent. When her car dies in the middle of her job as a food delivery person, her five-star rating and job as a GrubGetter vanish.

It's her sister who urges her to read a guide from a self-help life coach. Bree is desperate, so she's eager to try anything that might help her find out who she is and what she wants from life. The problem is that even after reading the book, she's not certain she knows. For now, she opts to take the guru's advice and "fake it until you make it."

Faking it could be the solution to Bree's problems. She's starting to get freebies from companies who spot her Instagram account. She's gaining followers. Best of all, she may have found the man of her dreams. Can you really build a life for yourself when it's based on a lie?

This book was a delightful read. While I could see all of the mistakes Bree was making, I liked seeing her grow as she gained confidence and realized what she didn't want from life. By the end, I was rooting for her, her sister, and her best friend. I'd also fallen for surfer Trey Cantu, the man of Bree's dreams. It's not a book where you can tell how things will end up. You have hopes, but it's a little more realistic. The only way to really know if Bree finds happiness and if a man is what it takes to be happy is by reading this gem.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Stranger in the Lake by Kimberly Belle

Release Date - June 9, 2020

Marrying an older widower has not made Charlotte's life easy. Despite the fact that she is madly in love with him, gossip is that she married him for his wealth. There's another problem. His first wife, an expert swimmer, drowned mysteriously. When a second body is found in the lake, right under Charlotte and Paul's dock, fingers are pointed at Paul.

What's worse is that Charlotte saw Paul talking to the mystery woman the day before. Is the husband she loves a killer? When he abruptly takes off with his camping and survival gear and tells her he'll be out of touch for a few days, Charlotte becomes convinced that all is not right in her marriage and that her husband is clearly hiding things from her. Can she stay in a marriage that's potentially built on lies?

Stranger in the Lake starts with a bang. It's set in a remote lake town in North Carolina. Charlotte grew up in a house filled with liars, and she raised her brother when it became clear her druggie mom wasn't going to fill the role. Her strength has the reader rooting for her from start to finish.

I didn't find the killer's identity to be shocking. I had it pegged early into the story. It didn't ruin the story for me. It just had me curious to see how long until Charlotte figured it out. For that reason, I found this to be an enjoyable, engaging suspense/mystery novel.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Saving Ruby King by Catherine Adel West

Release Date - June 16, 2020

Life's hard enough. When Ruby King's mom is murdered in their Chicago home, it's not taken overly seriously given the violence in the South Side. For Ruby, it leaves her alone with an abusive father and longing for her mom.

Her friend Layla knows of the household violence Ruby and her mother experienced. She wants desperately to help, but her dad, the church's pastor, tells her to stay out of it. Desperate to help her friend, Layla ignores her dad, which brings up secrets that both families have been hiding.

This book couldn't be more fitting given the times. It's tragic that the story fits so well to all that's going on today. Even though the Black Lives Matter movement is strong and getting the attention that must happen for change to begin, the story never preaches. What I did struggle with was the opening chapters. It took a bit of time to get into it as the voices change each chapter. A flood of characters kicked things off and it took time to get to know the different characters and their roles.

I was ready to stop reading. I had a lot of start and stop in the first few chapters. I'm glad I stuck with it. It's an emotionally-charged story that's well worth it.

Monday, June 8, 2020

A Family for Beginners by Sarah Morgan

Release Date - May 5, 2020

Flora Donovan is happy with her job as a florist, but she's not as happy in other areas. Her apartment is the pits. Her mother also died when she was young, and she was raised by an aunt who really had no interest in becoming an "instant mom." When she meets Jack Parker, a widower, she enters into a relationship cautiously. She knows that his daughters have to come before her as they're grieving the loss of their mom.

When a burst pipe destroys Flora's apartment, Jack asks Flora to stay with them until she can find something safer than where she was. She's hesitant, but he and his younger daughter insist. It's the teen daughter that is going to prove to be harder to befriend. Soon, Flora's invited to join the family on their yearly trip to the Lake District in the U.K., and that's where she will have to decide if she can be part of this family or if walking away would be best for these girls.

A Family for Beginners was a delightful story. I teared up a lot, laughed quite a bit, and had to read everything. The story opens with Jack's late wife's best friend deciding if she needs to destroy a letter or not. The opening plays a part later in the story. It may seem out of place once the story switches to Flora, but it will make sense later.

I loved that each character had flaws and didn't hide them. They all struggled to find their place and fit in. They didn't throw in the towel and give up. It's clear where the story will go but getting there is a treat.

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...