Wednesday, May 25, 2022

When She Returned by Lucinda Barry

 Release Date - October 15, 2019

Eleven years ago. Kate Bennett vanished without a trace. Her car, purse, cellphone, and personal belongings were found in a store parking lot. Kate's never been seen again, and so many people have searched for her. Her husband always held hope that shed's return, but he has since remarried.

Suddenly, several states away, Kate shows up in Montana carrying an infant and begging for help. She's been badly beaten and detectives believe she'd been held captive by a cult she'd interviewed for the paper where she worked.

After 11 years, several family members are shocked. Meredith, wife number two, knew this could always happen, but now she's trying to hold onto her marriage as it's clear her husband has never gotten over his feelings for his first wife. Abbi was five when her mom disappeared, and she has few memories of her mom. She needs to make up for the lost time. Scott is doing everything possible to find out what happened to the woman he loved. Worse, if she did escape a cult as the investigation shows, are they in danger?

I loved the start of When She Returned. Then the middle of the story hit and I realized something. I pegged exactly where the story was heading and I wasn't happy with that. It was too predictable for me.

It took me a while to get all the way through this book. It's well-written, especially the build-up with where Kate's been. You get to see her experience then and now as she adjusts to the reunion with her husband. After that though, my dislike for some of the characters had me over it. It became a rush to the end to see if my guess was correct, and it was.

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Adult Assembly Required by Abbi Waxman

 Release Date - May 17, 2022

After moving to Los Angeles, the last thing Laura Costello expects is for her apartment building to go up in flames. While she'll eventually be able to move back in, the smoke and water damage have destroyed a lot of her belongings, and she has nowhere to live for now. She doesn't want to go back home to her disappointed parents, but her options are running low. That's how she ends up in the middle of an independent bookstore in full tears and dripping wet clothing.

Lucky for Laura, one of the bookstore workers brings her to the home she shares and convinces the landlord to let Laura stay in the currently vacant bedroom. Laura has no idea how this random act of kindness is about to change her life. 

Adult Assembly Required is the ideal summer read. As Laura explored the rose and flower gardens carefully cared for by one of the other residents, "Handsome" Bob, I could almost smell the roses right along with her. Though in my case, it was more the lilacs surrounding my deck, still, a gorgeous scent is a gorgeous scent.

While there is plenty of romance in Abbi Waxman's novel, it's more of a coming-of-age sort of book. Laura left the East Coast for the West Coast, much to her overprotective parents' dismay. She has to find her way, stand up to her pushy parents, and find her place doing what she loves rather than what they want her to love. Her passion and determination led to so many feel-good moments. It was just the book I needed to curl up with. It's delightful.

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Head Over Heels by Hannah Orenstein

 Release Date - June 23, 2020

I've recently learned that my adblocking software makes it impossible for me to see the book covers in my posts. If you do not see the book cover, that's why. I can see them if I go into incognito, so I know they're there, but it is frustrating. My apologies.

Head Over Heels is a book I overlooked two years ago and it's a great, very timely story. Avery Abrams missed her dream of making it to the Olympics after a tragic injury. She's spent the past seven years living with her pro-football-playing boyfriend and is happy on the other side of the coast. That is until he dumps her. 

With no choice but to return to her parents' house, Avery heads back to Massachusetts. There, she accepts a job helping coach a young girl with strong potential for making it to the Olympics, she just needs someone with the insight into what's needed for a routine that catches attention and pushes the limits. 

Being back in the athletic world is tough as Avery's injury ended more than her career, it also ended her friendship with Jasmine, another Olympic hopeful who went on to marry their coach. Avery throws herself into her new job, but a scandal breaks that leaves everyone shattered, and it forces Avery to look at all she's endured in the past and what she can do to really make a change.

While a lot of this book focuses on the training of the Olympic hopeful, there's also a romance building between Avery and Ryan, the trainer who hires her to help him out. I liked the balance of romance, humor, and drama. It created a great story that drew me in and had me cheering them on right to the final page.

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Mayflies by Andrew O'Hagan

 Release Date - June 3, 2021

It's been a while with many start and stop attempts to finish Mayflies. I finally finished it, but I'm not sure it was a book that I clicked with, and that makes it hard to review. I loved the '80s and knew many of the bands and songs mentioned in the book, but I never connected with the characters. 

At the heart of the story is James. He and Tully are best mates who end up going to a punk rock music festival together as teens, doing some of the things teens at that point did. There's plenty of drinking, some drugs, and a passion for music.

That's the part of the book I didn't connect with. The next half, however, is emotional and sad. Thirty years pass, Tully calls James out of the blue with news that impacts James' life forever.

I don't want to give away one of the major turning points as other reviewers have done. James has to make a decision and it's not an easy one to make. From the moment the book switches to this part of the story, I was far more engaged, though it often brought a tear to my eyes.

Did I love Mayflies? I loved parts of it, but I can't see it going onto my keeper shelf. I do think that others may be able to connect more with James and Tully as youth. Had I been able to appreciate them more, it may have been easier to read.

Monday, May 9, 2022

The Evening Hero by Marie Myung-Ok Lee

 Release Date - May 2022

I've been hitting a lot of books that have me struggling lately. I was absorbed with the beginning of The Evening Hero, and then Dr. Yungman Kwak was fired as the hospital shut down. From there, he ends up taking a job with his son's start-up that's not doing as well as hoped. It's not what he'd want, but the realities of how he came to this country from Korea are hidden and he doesn't want to reveal the truth, though he may have no choice when his past catches up with him.

I wanted to love The Evening Hero, but I ended up having a hard time with it. There's a bit of insight into the corporate nature of medicine today. It's hard to ignore how horrible it is, and I'm thankful we have the insurance we do, but even then, I've watched hospital facilities shut down to preserve a CEO's high pay, so nothing surprises me. 

As the story headed into Korea's past, I was saddened. You'll learn some of Korea's history and end up rooting that Kwak will find a new place in the world with the happiness he deserves.

Enough Already by Valerie Bertinelli

 Release Date - January 18, 2022

I grew up watching Valerie Bertinelli on One Day at a Time. She was one of the first celebrities to send me an autographed picture, back when you could mail a letter and get an autographed picture in return without delay. I've always admired her. She had Wolfie not long before I had my first child, so I continued to admire her as a very hands-on parent.

Like Bertinelli, I've also battled weight much of my life. Her Enough Already had me in tears while also having me laughing up a storm. 

Essentially, Bertinelli's book contains a few recipes but details a lot about her passion for food, her long-time relationship with Eddie Van Halen, her family life, and her grief. I lost my dad to a sudden stroke/brain cancer five years ago. I lost my mom this December to Alzheimer's. I'd lost 60 pounds during the pandemic, and now I'm struggling to avoid stress eating and the bad habits that got me there. 

I get Bertinelli's frustration, and I definitely agree with the "Enough Already" approach. I haven't been completely happy in a long time, certainly not with myself. Caring for parents and watching them decline does that to a person. Add in the stress of making your parents' medical decisions and having your own life. It gets to be a lot. 

For that reason, I find myself latching on to Bertinelli's new goals in life. I like them and think it's exactly what I need to do. If Valerie ever happens to ever see this, thank you for providing me with laughter and a lot of the advice I think I needed to hear.

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...