Friday, July 31, 2020

Someone We Know by Shari Lapena

Release Date - July 30, 2019

Olivia Sharpe is shocked when she spies a text message on her son's phone that says "Did you break in last night?" Her son has broken into two neighborhood homes. Worse, while inside, he hacked into their computers. She'd want to know, so she sends anonymous letters to the owners of the two homes. That's just the the start of the whispers and gossip.

When a woman in their neighborhood vanishes, police say it sounds like she was having an affair adn left on her own. When her body is found, the neighborhood explodes with gossip and secrets start to come out. Husbands and wives throughout the neighborhood all have things to hide and someone will do anything to keep those secrets from being revealed.

Expect plenty of twists in Someone We Know. The book focuses closely on Olivia, her husband, and her son; their best friends; a married empty nester; the missing woman's husband; a new single neighbor; and several others who are all part of the neighborhood book club. Everyone is hiding something, and it's clear that one of them is the killer. You just can't be sure until the very end.

I loved the twists, suspicions, and revelations. This book had me hooked from the start.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

A Sweet Mess by Jayci Lee

Release Date - July 14, 2020

Aubrey Choi loves her bakery and creating whatever her customers desire. That's what causes her to make a rich chocolate bundt cake filled with peanut butter cream cheese frosting and gummy worms. What a six-year-old girl desires is her goal, but the cake ends up in the wrong hands. The food critic that gets it leaves a less than pleasing review and it threatens to ruin Aubrey's business. Worse, she had a one-night stand with him.

Landon Kim never goes back on his reviews. The gummy worms in the cake were hideous, and he won't give Comfort Zone a second chance. Not even if the owner is a woman he found himself falling for. What he can do is make it up to her by getting her to appear on his best friend's cooking show. He's the producer, and he hopes the exposure is all that's needed to save her bakery.

Working side by side with a woman who is not at the top of his list is hard enough. Realizing he's falling head over heels for her is worse. If they go public with a relationship at this point, her business and his reputation are doomed.

Sometimes, I read a romance and wonder what the characters are thinking. So much of this story could have been fixed by just a moment of honesty with readers. Those who chose to think otherwise could simply be ignored. For that reason, Landon's insistence on ignoring his feelings and doing what he thought the public would expect of him drove me nuts.

I loved the food descriptions. The blurb says "Delicious Dessert Recipes Included." I did have one recipe in my advanced copy from Netgalley, but it was for Bulgogi and not a dessert. I wish there had been a recipe for the chocolate bundt cake and peanut butter cream cheese frosting as it sounded amazing.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

The Kindness Method by Shahroo Izadi

Release Date - July 9, 2019

The past few years have been far from easy or enjoyable. First, there was my dad's death. Second, I learned how much my mom's Alzheimer's had progressed and how much he was hiding from us regarding her behaviors. Finally, people in my community and across the nation have taken to bashing people who do not think exactly like they do. It's disheartening.

I'd struggled to read The Kindness Method: Change Your Habits for Good Using Self-Compassion and Understanding when it came out last year. I found myself eager to try again, but I still struggled some. I get what the author is trying to do to change her life. The introduction was so long that I found myself skipping pages to get to what I'd call the "meat" of the self-help book. When I got there, I'd lost interest unfortunately.

The book's main focus is about creating a custom plan or map. I guess that was where I was lost. I'd love to have a plan and be kinder to myself, but it's hard when you have a parent with Alzheimer's who is constantly telling you she wishes you would go away and never return. (I get it's the disease and not personal, but man it feels personal.) I think that's what it came down to. I am the one making decisions regarding my mom's care. All of her caregivers take a verbal bashing, including myself, and it's hard to be kind to yourself when you're just so exhausted.

I'll have to return to The Kindness Method when things are different. Right now, I struggled so much to even come up with where to start when creating a custom plan that I have a hard time getting through the guide.

Monday, July 27, 2020

The Mall by Megan McCafferty

Release Date - July 28, 2020

The Mall is a bit of a step back in time. It takes place in 1991, which is when I would have been getting married. In the few years before that, I spent hours with friends in the mall. We would bounce from the mall's two record stores, the arcade, the Ben and Jerry's scoop shop, Papa Ginos, and clothing retailers like Benneton or Nuevo Wavo. Malls are not what they were back then.

Cassie Worthy is back in action after weeks of mono knocking her down. Her reunion with her boyfriend goes horribly wrong when she's attacked by her boyfriends's new girlfriend. Worse, she's being fired because the new couple cannot bear to think of her working with them, too.

Crushed, she goes into Sam Goody's where a store clerk treats her horribly. She ends up bumping into an old friend's mom. She's offered a job in their family's upscale clothing shop. It's better than being unemployed shortly before college begins, so Cassie takes it. She has no idea that this job and working with her former best friend may take her on the adventure of a lifetime.

The Mall was a delight. I loved reminiscing about my own malls. Like Cassie, I adored the more alternative artists like 10,000 Maniacs, The Cure, Echo and the Bunnymen, etc. I do not miss the backstabbing and gossip that came with high school. I felt bad as she dealt with it all. It's something no one misses when they leave high school.

Today's teens may not quite get the atmosphere and excitement malls back then offered. It doesn't matter though. The story and writing are engaging, and it's hard not to root for Cassie as she tackles her post-high school life.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

The Kids Are Gonna Ask by Gretchen Anthony

Release Date - July 28, 2020

Thomas and Savannah McClair haven't had a horrible childhood, but it's not been the best either. Raised by their single mom and her parents, they've been loved. Their mother's death has always weighed heavily, however. Now, they're almost 18 and questions arise as to who their father was.

Not even their grandmother knows his identity, but she's willing to let them dig into their mom's past. It's turned into a podcast that's fully sponsored. Unfortunately, the public's mixed reaction to their digging has them feeling the pains of public scrutiny. Is it invasive or understandable to seek out your birth parent?

While I liked the characters in The Kids Are Gonna Ask, some of the adults infuriated me. You'll see what I mean. The plot moves along at a great pace and keeps your interest from the very first page. I didn't find any shocking plot twists in it, and it didn't go into the direction I thought it might at first. It was simply an absorbing, entertaining story about sudden stardom, families, and public opinion.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

The Bright Lands by John Fram

Release Date - July 7, 2020

Bentley, Texas, loves football and its conservative ways. It's the latter part of that passion that found Joel Whitley leaving his hometown for New York City. Being a gay man in a conservative Texas town wasn't easy or enjoyable.

Years later, a message from his younger brother brings Joel back to Bentley. When his brother disappears, he knows something is wrong. The messages he's getting from his brother are clearly being sent by someone else. His worst fears are confirmed when Dylan's body is discovered.

He's not about to let police brush this crime off. His former girlfriend is now a sheriff's deputy and her own brother vanished under mysterious circumstances. While she may harbor ill feelings towards Joel, she wants to know what's happening in her town. It's clear many students and adults are hiding something, and it's up to the two of them to figure out if their town is harboring a murderer.

I loved the premise in The Bright Lands. I was eager to get to the horror aspect. When I did, it was a let down. The writing was never gripping enough to engage me. I felt for Joel. His former classmates and adults weren't great people. That was clear and I've heard people say that some of the more conservative towns in the south can be like that.

That may have been part of my issue. I see so much of the hatred towards people of other colors, races, etc. that I get tired of reading about it in my fiction, too. I know it exists. I read as a form of escape, and the story within The Bright Lands started feeling more like a news documentary than fiction novel. Many characters are featured and I found myself struggling to keep up. I would have preferred if the story had stayed Joel's and never delved into the others getting to tell their stories through their eyes.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

He Started It by Samantha Downing

Release Date - July 21, 2020

He Started It started starts with a simple statement. "You want a heroine." Most stories do have a heroine. This book stands apart as the family within the pages is so flawed and unlikable that by the final page I wondered what the hell I'd done. It was a few hours of my life that I can't get back. I read every page, sure, but I never liked anything I read.

Eddie, Beth, and Portia were just 14, 12, and 6 when their grandfather took them on a road trip across the U.S. Two decades later, the trio find themselves hitting the road again. Their grandfather died and wants his ashes spread on the other side of the country. If they want to inherit his millions to split equally, they must recreate the road trip they all went on together. The last road trip wasn't a fun family vacation due to situations and circumstances revealed along the way. This one could prove to be even worse.

Eddie, Beth, Portia, their parents, and their grandfather put the DYSFUNCTIONAL in dysfunctional family. I cannot think of anything redeeming about any of them. Their actions then and now are just screwed up. The ending, I won't give away, but it was truly a WTF moment. I wanted to love this book, and I can say it had me read to the ending, but now that I have, I wish I hadn't.

Friday, July 17, 2020

The Cottages on Silver Beach by Raeann Thayne

Release Date - June 2018

Here's an older romance you may have overlooked that needs to be on your TBR pile. The Cottages on Silver Beach feature FBI agent Elliot Bailey. He's back in town for his sister's wedding reception and books one of Megan Hamilton's lakefront cottages. There's one big problem. She hates him and doesn't see he's the one who make the online reservation until it's paid in full. She can't turn him away.

Megan is an up-and-coming photographer and inn owner. She's spent years helping her brother raise his kids after his wife vanished. The town suspects he murdered her, but her body's never been found. Elliot is one of those who turned his back on his former best friend, and Megan's not about to forgive or forget.

Back in Haven Point, Elliot is forced to realize that he's never going to get over Megan, but she's guarded and can't return his feelings knowing he still feels her brother is guilty.

I'm not sure why I struggled to review The Cottages on Silver Beach when it came out. I'm glad I gave it the second chance, even if it is two years after the release. It was an intriguing mix of romance and mystery. There's a follow-up, too, that may offer more insight into Luke's missing wife. I'm eager to read that one.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Really? At Your Age? by Jacqueline Diamond

Thanks to author Jacqueline Diamond for providing an advanced copy of her latest romance novel.

Release Date - July 16, 2020

Cody's a widow with frozen embryos available. The kicker is she's 52 now. The clock is ticking and an earthquake has her thinking she's waited far long enough. There's another issue. Her long-time crush and co-worker Ben's daughter offers to be the surrogate to her child. Whether she says yes or no, someone's going to get hurt.

As I started reading the book, I found it so hard to imagine being my age and wanting a child. As a result, I wasn't sure I'd be able to sympathize with Cody. I have my hands full with a parent with Alzheimer's, and her tantrums and agitation are worse than my children's tantrums ever were. I'm exhausted all of the time and just couldn't imagine starting with newborns at this age. I entered into Really? At Your Age? wondering if I'd be able to connect with the characters or not.

What happened was I found myself connecting with Cody's sister. Her sister seemed to have the same questions I did. As I connected with her, I found myself cheering Cody on. Her decisions may be different to me, but they were valid and I got it.

Really? At Your Age? is a unique romance. These are not your typical 20-something characters. The A Better Late Than Never romance series will target a new audience and is certain to be appealing with it's older characters and thought-provoking story lines.

Monday, July 6, 2020

What You Wish For by Katherine Center

Release Date - July 14, 2020

Samantha Casey loves her job as a school librarian. She's found incredible joy at inspiring the kids in the school to get lost in books and embrace the joy in life. She hasn't always been happy. She has epilepsy and that made her own childhood miserable.

When her beloved principal and pseudo-father passes away unexpectedly, Sam never expects Duncan Carpenter to be chosen to replace him. She left Duncan years ago and never thought she'd see him again. She hopes it's a different Duncan Carpenter, but it's not. He's back in her life and nothing like she remembers.

The careful, colorful Duncan is now a by-the-book leader whose non-stop rules make him more dictator than vibrant gym teacher. She's not sure she can tolerate the new Duncan and plans to drive him out with the help of her co-workers.

What You Wish For is an entertaining novel. I liked Sam and had Duncan pegged from the start. While it is a romance, it's so much more. It's a solid look at fears, growth, and learning to think from other angles. I had a hard time putting it down.

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...