Saturday, February 27, 2021

Float Plan by Trish Doller

 Release Date - March 2, 2021

Following her fiance's suicide, Anna is struggling. Grief consumes her and she barely makes it through the days doing anything meaningful. On the day they were supposed to sail to the Caribbean together, Anna decides in the spur of the moment that she'll do it alone. She buys what she thinks she needs and puts her novice sailing skills to the test.

After crossing from Florida to the Bahamas, she realizes she's in over her head and advertises for an experienced sailor to help her. That's how she meets Keane, a man with his own painful story. They soon find themselves becoming good friends with the hint of something more, if they can learn to let go of the past and move towards a future.

Float Plan was lovely. I can't think of a better word to describe how this book made me feel. It had its tear-jerking moments, but it also had me laughing, grinning, and feeling so uplifted. The story moves along at a steady pace without ever rushing to something. The characters find their footing and figure things out at their pace. May romance novels rush the characters into a relationship. This one takes its time and makes it thoroughly enjoyable when the pair decides that maybe there is something better for each of them.

This is exactly what I needed as winter storms hit and temperatures dipped from the warmer than normal we'd been having to a true taste of what winter is. I often found myself wishing I was the one exploring Caribbean islands, towns, and beaches. It's a story that I won't soon forget.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Little Creeping Things by Chelsea Ichaso

 Release Date - June 2, 2020

Cassidy Pratt's been known as the "Fire Girl" since childhood when a playhouse tea party turned deadly. It's Melody that makes her life the most torturous form of hell. When the teen overhears someone with Melody in the woods and realizes she may have overheard Melody's murder, she doesn't know who to turn to.

If she tells the police everything, she's a suspect. But, she's not comfortable with the threatening messages she's getting either. Her best friend wouldn't understand why Cassidy is keeping some of the truth a secret. Cassidy certainly can't trust anyone at school. If she wants to clear her name, she needs to figure out what happened to Melody.

The build-up of the mystery does have you filled with tension and ready for the big reveal. I loved the setting and some of the characters, but the issue I ended up having is that the truth wasn't that hard to figure out. If you're paying attention, you'll know who the antagonist is from very early on. I wasn't shocked when the case started to quickly unravel. If anything, I was surprised it took Cassidy so long to figure it out.

Despite knowing who it was and why, I was still intrigued and hooked in the story. If anything, I wanted to see the antagonist get what was coming. 

Monday, February 22, 2021

Forget Me Not by Brenda Jackson

 Release Date - March 26, 2019

Ashley Ryan and her husband Devon have had their ups and downs, but everything is starting to look up. He's been growing his business, and she's been growing hers, but once he returns from his latest business trip, they're going to start the next stage of their marriage and have children.

When Devon drives off a bridge and dies, Ashley's world shatters. Several years later, her friends send her on a vacation to Catalina Cove, Louisiana, to help her start her life again. No one knows that Devon is alive and well and living in Louisiana as Ray Sullivan.

Ray Sullivan awoke in a hospital bed with no idea of who he was or where he came from. He had no identifying paperwork or a wallet. Amnesia left him with no memories of his past. Eventually, his doctor arranged for him to live and work in Louisiana. 

When Ashley sees Devon, she's stunned. He has no memory of her though and she's told it's best if she doesn't remind him. It seems impossible, but if it's better for Devon, she'll do whatever it takes to try to recover what they had.

I tried and started Forget Me Not so many times in the past two years. I gave it one more shot and was able to get through it. I love the Catalina Cove series, but I'm afraid the amnesia romance and TV craze of the 1980s and 1990s turned me off amnesia plots. I hoped this one would be more appealing as I love the setting, but I still struggled.

It's a pleasing romance with plenty of sparks between the two, but there's that part of me who struggles to believe that people could keep lying to someone and not expecting there to be fallout when the truth is revealed, and that always ends up being the romantic tension in these books. I wish I could get past it, but clearly, I never will.

Monday, February 15, 2021

Amelia Unabridged by Ashley Schumacher

 Release Date - February 16, 2021

Amelia Griffin is about to graduate high school with her best friend. They bonded over books and have been devoted readers of N. E. Endsley's Orman Chronicles series. Jenna's home life was never great, so she was happy to be absorbed into Jenna's family.

When Jenna scores tickets and surprises Amelia with a graduation present that includes a trip to attend a book festival where N. E. Endsley is the guest, they both have a hard time containing their excitement. Only the book festival is a flop and leads to a huge fight. That trip of a lifetime kicks off a summer of grief when Jenna is killed in a car crash leaving Amelia alone and the fill-in-daughter for Jenna's grieving parents.

Shortly after Jenna's death, a package arrives for Amelia. Inside of it is a rare edition of one of N. E. Endsley's books. Convinced Jenna somehow had it sent, Amelia takes off on a trip to Michigan where she's taken in by the bookstore owner and ends up meeting the elusive N. E. Endsley in person. She's determined to figure out what Jenna was up to. This trip could be exactly what it takes for Amelia to realize she's not as alone as she thinks she is.

Amelia Unabridged is part coming-of-age, part romance, and very atmospheric. I fell for the lakeside town in Michigan and its residents. Other things stood out for me. Jenna's death hits suddenly and left me feeling the same shock that Amelia experienced. This book did such a good job of drawing me in and holding me emotionally captive.

I am so happy I picked it up and let Amelia's story take me away for a bit. While it has sad moments, I ended up feeling very uplifted and so glad I read it.

Friday, February 12, 2021

Good Neighbors by Sarah Langan

 Release Date - February 2, 2021

With neighbors like this, I'd move. I am trying to find any redeeming qualities in any of the neighbors in Good Neighbors by Sarah Langan, and I just can't. This book had my stomach in a knot the more I read. Maybe it's just a little too close to reality as we come from a world where so many listened to the words of one man and acted accordingly.

Maple Street is a charming street in a family-friendly area of Long Island. All is not as it seems, however. On the day a massive sinkhole appears, one family had been deliberately snubbed and were not invited to a neighborhood barbecue. What they did wrong is anyone's guess.

Arlo, an aging rock star; his wife Gertie, a pregnant mom who doesn't act or dress like the other moms; and their two children are not treated warmly. It's professor Rhea Schroeder who befriends Gertie and becomes a family friend. When things are said one night, Rhea turns on her new friend. 

When Rhea's daughter falls into the sinkhole and is presumed dead, Rhea accuses Arlo of something horrific. It's now a battle of one mother against the other and neighbors against neighbors that will leave no family the same.

This book is just sad. From start to finish, nothing in it was happy or uplifting. It's simply sad and kept getting sadder. The writing was fluid and descriptive, but the subject matter and situations were too depressing for me to find enjoyment in it.

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Make Up Break Up: A Novel by Lily Menon

 Release Date - February 2, 2021

Annika Dev is so proud of the company she's built and the app she and her best friend are creating. It's going to be a relationship translator designed to help couples understand what each partner is saying. Think "Google Translate for relationships." Once it's ready, Make Up will be a life-changing relationship app.

The problem is that Annika is running short on money in the process. Pitching her app at EPIC is her last-ditch attempt at getting that last boost of funding she needs.

Enter Hudson Craft and his very successful company Break Up. It's an app that dispatches a messenger to deliver a "kind" break up message. Hudson and Annika met in Las Vegas and had a one-night stand, so there is history there. Annika is furious that Hudson has stolen her idea and making millions by breaking people's hearts. She's also angry that he already has money and is her main competition at EPIC. She's determined to beat him if it's the last thing she does.

Hudson's just as enamored with Annika as he was in Las Vegas. He's determined to show her that he's not a bad guy. He just needs her to listen.

Make Up Break Up was a bit of a challenging read as I just didn't like Hudson. I wasn't particularly fond of Annika either. I found her to be a bit immature, especially as she got the bank's final warnings and continued to turn away offers from her dad and friend to help. I get wanting to do something on your own. She could have turned their offers into loans until the app took off and held onto her principles without putting everything in jeopardy.

Hudson comes off as very pompous when he's around her. Even when his big reveal is made, I still didn't get his character. Some of his actions, even after he's telling her that he adores her, come off as very shady and cruel.

In the end, my lack of enthusiasm for the main characters made it hard to enjoy the novel. I would have been happier had the minor characters been the focus. I genuinely liked them.

Friday, February 5, 2021

Possession by Katie Lowe

 Release Date - February 9, 2021

One decade earlier, Hannah found her husband's body. She couldn't remember the events of the night before. Her focus at that point is her young daughter. When police arrest a man for her husband's murder, she thinks things have settled.

Ten years have passed. She's moved to a new location with her daughter and started a new life. A podcast about people charged with crimes they didn't commit picks up her husband's story. Suspicions are that the killer was framed. Hannah has to relieve those events once again. Her family's history comes to light. Her memory loss from that night her husband was murdered adds fuel to the fire. Her addictions and her warnings at work only create more issues.

Hannah isn't sure who to trust. She isn't even sure what to make of the events from a decade earlier. It's all spiraling out of control, and Hannah only has one person she can confide in, but even then Hannah can't reveal all of her thoughts to her former colleague.

It's hard for the reader to figure out if Hannah is trustworthy or not. She's a fantastic unreliable narrator. Her actions keep you on the edge of your seat. That was the book's strong point.

The story bounces around a lot. That ended up being my biggest problem with Possession. I spent so much time thinking, "Can we move this along?" that I'd get bored and need to put it down. That was the downfall. With so many characters, the main plot, and side plots, I struggled to keep up with it. As a result, I never felt compelled to stick to a read-in-one sitting pace.

Monday, February 1, 2021

The Vineyard at Painted Moon by Susan Mallery

 Release Date - February 9, 2021

I've loved so many of Susan Mallery's novels over the years. That leaves me with very mixed feelings about The Vineyard at Painted Moon

For 16 years, Mackenzie Dienes has spent her days working tirelessly in her husband's family vineyards. She creates exceptional wines that sell well for high prices. The problem is that it's his family's winery and vineyards. It's his sisters and mother. Mackenzie married into it, but it's not truly hers. Her mother-in-law made it clear that spouses will never be part owners at Bel Apres. When her husband asks for a divorce, she's not shocked, but she's incredibly sad to find herself starting anew.

When her mother-in-law (a women she felt close to) fires her on the spot and tries to have her evicted from her home, Mackenzie has no choice but to start over. She wants to keep doing what she loves on the lands she knows so well, but it's time to fight for herself and the life she feels she deserves.

My problem with The Vineyard at Painted Moon comes down to certain characters. There is absolutely no redeeming qualities with Rhys, Mackenzie's husband; his mother, Barbara, who makes Snow White's Evil Stepmother look like Mother Teresa; and Rhys' youngest sister Lori. I couldn't stomach any of them.

A good first half of the story is focused on the family relations and Mackenzie's friendships with her other two sisters-in-law (Four and Stephanie). After the divorce becomes clear, the book chances to Mackenzie's mother-in-law becoming as evil as possible doing all she can to destroy Mackenzie's chance for a future, even destroying her own daughters' psyche and self-esteem along the way. It became tough to read as even with the horrid treatment, they all continued to try to be nice to Barbara when it was the last thing she deserved. I got tired of them taking her verbal abuse and not doing much to stand up to her.

I couldn't put the book down, I give it that. But I felt cheated that the true happiness and Mackenzie figuring things out came so late into the story that my irritation level had already spiked. I wish there'd been a little more lightheartedness and fun added to overcome the dark shadow Barbara cast on the story.

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...