Sunday, April 25, 2021

Slingshot: A Novel by Mercedes Helnwein

Release Date - April 27, 2021


Slingshot: A Novel is a coming-of-age story that looks at 15-year-old Grace Welles first encounters with romance. Her dad has another family and they really don't know her. She's in a boarding school where she doesn't feel she fits in. That is until the day she shoots one of the jocks in the face with her slingshot while he's beating up a new kid. Why defend a stranger? No real reason except that the teacher she's in love with has a fiancee and she's not happy with his blatant disregard for her feelings.

As Grace starts spending more and more time with Wade, who happens to be crushing on her hard, her circle of new friends begins to grow. Soon, she's exploring friendship, love, romance, and sex.

Slingshot doesn't hold its punches. Grace isn't always a likable teen, but it's realistic. Teens can be annoying, loving, and incredibly confused. Peer pressure can play a part in all of that, but it's not always the only factor. That realism shines in this book.

The other characters in the book are just as endearing. I think Beth was my favorite. Especially when it came to matters of sex. She has some pretty adult insight about the first time, but she's also a teen and makes some mistakes along the way. I loved that honest take on growing up and having errors in judgment.

Saturday, April 24, 2021

The Drowning Kind by Jennifer McMahon

 Release Date - April 6, 2021


Outside of a few years growing up in Cupertino, California, I've spent the majority of my life in Vermont. I've waded in the river in Barnet find concretions and know Chittenden County like the back of my hand. I love reading books set in Vermont as there is that familiarity that always makes me feel like I've been there and know what the characters are experiencing. That said, Brunswick Spring's story that's portrayed in The Drowning Kind was new to me and fascinating. 

Jax has built a life for herself far away from her Grandmother's estate. It meant cutting off her sister, and the two were once extremely close. Lexie's manic nature and fascination with the creepy spring-fed pool on the estate that their grandmother left to Lexie has a lot to do with it. One night, Jax gets the call that Lexie is dead. She's another of the pool's victims. She immediately feels guilty as Lexie had left a lot of messages that Jax ignored.

In Vermont, Jax learns her sister was investigating the pool's and estate's history. Something in their family history may have been what led to Lexie's death. Part of it involves going back to the 1920s when newlywed Ethel Monroe decided she would do anything for a baby, including a trip to a local spring that has the power to give you your dearest wish.

The Drowning Kind flips seamlessly between the late-1920s, Lexie and Jax's childhood, and the current day with the story told from both Jax's and Ethel's points of view. The story is that bit creepy without being so scary you'll wind up with nightmares. I was hooked.

As I read it, it reminded me a bit of the novels I've read by a writer who lived close to my childhood home. If you haven't read Joe Citro, I recommend his fiction novels, providing you can find copies. In the meantime, go back and read Jennifer McMahon's other novels as each one has impressed me.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

A Cowboy Kind of Love by Donna Grant

 Release Date - April 27, 2021

For several years, Taryn Hillman has been living a life of danger. She's at the end of her rope and desperately wants to rescue her sister. Everyone she turns to for help turns her away. She's got one more option for getting the help she needs. To do so, she has to trust in the man whose heart she broke.

Jace Wilder can't believe Taryn is back. She left him without a word and disappeared. Now that she's back, the chemistry between the two is just as hot as ever. She's back and he's determined to keep her in his life. When he learns why she left and what she's up against, he and his friends may have one of their toughest challenges yet.

I've loved all of this series. The fiery chemistry between Jace and Taryn is clear from the start. Her situation is dire. And, Jace and his friends are actually up against something that's going to really test their skills. I loved the action and intrigue.

There are parts of A Cowboy Kind of Love that I didn't love as much. There's a new character introduced and I found it hard to like him. I also found my opinion of another character changed a bit as the story went on. When the big scene hit, I found myself almost angry that it took that route. It get it, but I definitely didn't like it. Read it and you'll see what I mean.


Monday, April 19, 2021

The Perfect Daughter - D.J. Palmer

 Release Date - April 20, 2021


Grace Francone returns home to find her daughter's gone and took the family car. While it's unusual that she didn't text her mom where she was going, it's the arrival of police that sets off alarms. Penny's in jail and accused of murdering her birth mother.

Now frantic, Grace calls the only attorney she knows. He happened to bump into her car a while ago and left his business card. He's got the experience Grace needs to help win her daughter's case. There's a lot that could cause problems in Penny's case. Penny has multiple personalities, but it's a mental health issue that few believe truly exists. Is Penny faking it, or does she have several personalities trapped inside?

The Perfect Daughter is the rare novel that kept me guessing from start to finish. Penny's different personalities shine and range from the abrasive Eve to the British Ruby. They all add layers to Penny that keep you on your toes. Each time I thought I'd figured out the murder, I was thrown a curveball and wondered if I was missing something. The ending caught me by surprise.

I loved that I didn't see the outcome until it's revealed. That doesn't often happen, so when it does, it's a treat. The Perfect Daughter is a psychological suspense that I recommend to anyone looking for a twisted story.


Maggie Finds Her Muse: A Novel by Dee Ernst

 Release Date - April 20, 2021


With the deadline on her latest novel looming, writer's block is not helping Maggie Bliss at all. She hasn't even gotten started. Her assistant decides it's time to shake up her routine. He offers her the chance to travel with him to Paris. Paris seems to be exactly what she needs. The art, the food, the atmosphere, and even a charming Frenchman all help spark her creativity. 

There's one problem. Her ex-husband is also in Paris and seems to want to give their relationship another try. Between her host's charming son and her ex-husband, Maggie may have found more than she bargains for.

I loved so much about this debut. It may be Dee Ernst's first novel, but it was so full of warmth, passion, and fantastic detail. I found myself yearning to be in a city that's never appealed to me before.

I was overjoyed to spend time with Maggie as she decided what she wants for a change. I related to her and almost wished I was in the book in her place. It was simply heartwarming!

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Just My Luck by Adele Parks

 Release Date - April 6, 2021


Every week, Lexi, Jake, and their children gather with their close friends for meals, drinks, and socializing. During that gathering, they always chip in to buy a lottery ticket. For 15 years they've played the same numbers, but one evening brings an end to all of that when the other couples tell Lexi and Jake that they're done contributing.

Lexi buys a ticket with the same numbers and ends up winning millions. Now that she and Jake are multi-millionaires, the other couples are back in the picture and want their share. They deny ever backing out. And, they'll do anything to get their hands on the money.

It's so hard to like the couples in this book. Once the money comes into the picture, they all start crawling out of the woodwork. I didn't love Jake's character either. His immediate spending habits led to half the couple's issues.

The story is immediately aggravating and then it takes a turn that leads to it becoming even darker than first expected. It became a twisted read that was hard to put down.




Friday, April 9, 2021

The Good Sister by Sally Hepworth

 Release Date - April 13, 2021


Twin sisters Fern and Rose do everything together. It's always been that way. Even as adults, they have dinner together several nights a week. When they're not together, which is rare, Fern is busy with her work at a local library and Rose is busy with her married life. It has to be this way. A tragic event from their childhood helped them form a tight bond.

When Fern learns her sister is suffering with infertility issues, she decides to become pregnant and let her sister adopt the baby. This one mission leads to Fern readdressing their past, and some of the secrets that come to the surface are nothing less than shocking.

It's not hard to tell where this story is going. Rose comes off as controlling, while Fern is definitely a victim to her sensory issues. It's easy to like Fern and the man she meets as she starts to come into herself. It's also easy to dislike Rose and her need to keep Fern under a close eye. Why she does this, you learn along the way.

If you're looking for a twisted psychological suspense, this is a great read. If you're looking to be left guessing to the very end, that really didn't happen for me. I had it figured out early on.  Still, it never stopped being engrossing.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

One Summer in Paris by Sarah Morgan

 Release Date - April 9, 2019


On the evening of their 25th wedding anniversary, Grace presents her husband with a romantic trip to Paris. At the same time, he surprises her with news that he's fallen in love with their daughter's old babysitter and wants a divorce. Grace is stunned. Not sure what to do, she decides to head to Paris on her own.

British Audrey has spent her life living under the same roof with an alcoholic mother. Her mom seems happy right now with a new husband, but she can't help but worry that at any minute she'll get the call that she's needed back home. She's in Paris to start a new life when she meets Grace. The pair hit it off. Grace is determined to help Audrey learn French, while Audrey is just as determined to help Grace learn how to live independently.

One Summer in Paris is all about starting over and living the life you dream about. I loved Audrey's bold, take-charge attitude where it came to helping Grace move on. I loved Grace's need to mother Audrey in a way that Audrey was not used to. Seeing the two grow as they both learned how to truly be independent was touching.

Each of the women meets someone new. You have to keep reading to see if they'll embrace a new romance while also yearning for freedom and independence. I loved the honesty as these aspects came into play. There's part of the story that was a little more rushed than I'd like it to be, but it was still a satisfying story.


Monday, April 5, 2021

The Bookstore on the Beach by Brenda Novak

 Release Date - April 6, 2021


Autumn Divac and her two teens have been feeling lost since her husband (their father) disappeared 18 months earlier. He left on a business trip and hasn't been in touch with anyone since. Autumn's spent a lot of money on a private detective, but there's since the initial sighting after he arrived in the Ukraine, he's never been seen again.

For a change of scenery, Autumn brings her teens to her mom's house in her beachside hometown. It's a summer they can spend enjoying the ocean, helping out at her mom's bookstore, and moving on. It's also going to be a summer of changes for the three women. 

Autumn reunites with a high school crush, who is back in town and single for the first time in decades. Can she move on when no one knows if her husband is alive or dead? Autumn's mom has hidden a secret for most of Autumn's life, and her past may soon catch up with her. Autumn's daughter has a secret of her own that can change her future.

I loved most of The Bookstore on the Beach. Treading carefully without giving spoilers, there are aspects that annoyed me and felt completely unnecessary. I'll leave it there. Read it and you'll know what bothered me.

The town and its residents were delightful. I wanted to be in the local restaurant, the cozy bookshop, and the beach. I dream of living in a town like that. I loved watching the three women come to terms with their life path and figure out what they wanted now and in the future. Now that it's over, I do have hopes that one character will be revisited. It seems only fair at this point.


Thursday, April 1, 2021

The Truth and Other Hidden Things by Lea Geller

 Release Date - April 6, 2021


Some women will truly get Bells Walker and others may not be there yet. I got her and felt every ounce of frustration, pain, hurt, and joy she felt. For that reason, this book was amazing and it had me laughing and crying.

In The Truth and Other Hidden Things, Bells Walker is in for a shock when she learns the joke's on her when her almost foolproof IUD has resulted in a close to mid-life pregnancy. She's about to turn 43 and pregnancy at this age is not on her to-do list. Pair that news with her husband's announcement that he's denied tenure again.

Not only is Bells pregnant, but her teens are about to be uprooted as they're all moving to Pigkill, New York, where Harry is able to land a job at Duchess College. Life in Pigkill is nothing like life in New York City. In a town where hipsters flock, a 40-something mom-to-be doesn't fit in. Kombucha, pickled vegetables, and CBD coffee are not her thing and probably never will be.

As she lost her newspaper job in the move, Bells decides to try her hand at something new. She takes all of her experiences in this new town and turns them into a humorous column that reveals all the dirt of Hudson Valley life under the guise of the mysterious "Dutchess." Revealing the secrets of her new community can't be bad when it's making so many online readers love her, right?

Ask any mom about some of the other "moms" in their community and you will get all the dirt. Is a public column the best place to reveal it? Maybe not, but I certainly got where Bells was coming from. There have been times I'd love to reveal the truth about some of the classroom "moms" of classmates my own now-adult kids exposed me to. Suffice it to say for a small country town that prides itself on being neighborly, it's not always the case.

I loved this book and ended up staying up too late to try to finish it. That didn't work, so I got up early, grabbed my coffee (Brio, of course, because the pandemic has led to my passion for #BrioCoffeeWorksRocks coffees and nothing else will do!), and read until I'd finished the final sentence. I loved it and am sure may other readers will too.

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...