Monday, August 29, 2022

The Girl Made of Clay by Nicole Meier

 Release Date - September 25, 2018

TR Harlow is badly burned, and it's a call his daughter, Sara, never expected or even wanted to receive. She hasn't seen him in years, not after he abandoned his family for fame in the art world. Yet, now all of these years later, he needs a carer and Sara's the only one on his list.

Despite her hesitation, Sara takes him in. It's adding strain to her marriage, but her son is bonding with his grandfather, and that makes her wonder if it's time to forgive old hurts and move on with the years that are left.

The Girl Made of Clay is a very emotional, touching story. It tugs at the heartstrings and keeps you engaged from the start. Sara's lack of connection with her dad is apparent, and I felt it also fed a lot into the distance between her and her husband. She simply had a tough time connecting with men in her life. Her son, Sam, was a joy and made the book.

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Lucy Checks In by Dee Ernst

 Release Date - August 16, 2022

Lucy's built a grand career in hotel management and rebranding and was nearing the retirement she dreamed of, but it all fell apart when her boyfriend/hotel mogul took off with every penny of the retirement and pension funds and hotel savings. Two years later, she's been cleared of the crime, but suspicions remain high that she knew what he was doing. She cannot get a job in the industry in the U.S., but she's offered the chance to help a French inn and takes it.

In a quaint French city, Lucy learns the job is far more hands-on than she realized. The inn needs serious upgrading if it's going to draw visitors, and there are several live-ins who don't want to lose their private lifestyles to the hustle and bustle of a hotel. But, Lucy doesn't have many other options, so she dives in and soon finds herself enamored with the different lifestyle. The question remains though - does she have what it takes to fully restore a rundown estate and turn it into a thriving French inn.

As I'm around Lucy's age, I find the thought of starting over in a French village very appealing. For that reason, I was rooting for her from the start. Imagine getting to move to a location where the food, people, and atmosphere are so very different to what we're experiencing in the U.S. Part of me wishes I could be her.

The story has touches of romance, but there is a lot more to it than that. There are the relationships the characters build as they learn to trust this American who comes in with grand plans to uproot everything they're accustomed to. There's also Lucy's vision and shifts as she realizes her way may not always be the right way. 

It was a charming women's fiction that made me want to be part of Rennes. I loved the setting and most of the characters, though there is one character that really bugged me and I never was happy with how that character's life played out, but I'll keep those details to myself and let the readers experience it and decide what they think.

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Thoughts & Prayers by Bryan Bliss

 Release Date - September 28, 2021

When Bryan Bliss wrote Thoughts & Prayers in 2020, he hoped for change. We all, well most of us, want to see change. Then Uvalde happened, the shooting at a busy grocery store in Buffalo happened, the 4th of July parade shooting happened. There have been shootings at a busy fun park, a Chattanooga night club, a NYC subway, and that's just a small portion of the list. 

I've been the parent on the other end of the phone hearing a child say, "We're in lock down. We don't know much other than there's a guy in the parking lot and police are here. Just in case, we love you." That ended peacefully. I cannot imagine being the parent where it doesn't end peacefully. It breaks my heart.

Thoughts & Prayers is a story told from three perspectives. Claire, Eleanor, and Brezzen were all hiding together under a stairwell while a shooter killed several of their peers. All three lives were changed that day, and they can never go back and un-see the events of that day. They cannot forget.

Claire's brother packed her up and moved her to Minnesota to start over far away from her live in North Carolina. Eleanor stayed, but she's become a bit of a target for her stance on guns, one that she didn't even mean to go viral. Brezzen hides in a world of an adventure game, Wizards & Warriors. All three teens is doing all they can to keep going when there's no chance of forgetting.

This book broke my heart. It's very detailed and the mom in me wanted to take each of these teens and hold them close. It's also hitting very close to home as so many of these mass shootings are in the press for a short while and then the world moves on. People don't necessarily forget, but they don't exactly remember more than the basics either. Sometimes, you actually do forget, too. There were 24 school shootings in 2021, can you remember the details of each one? You can be certain that the children and their families haven't forgotten.

Like many, I'm tired of the "thoughts and prayers" sentiment while no action is taken. Thoughts and prayers won't keep children from dying. When I was in high school, the random bomb threat - usually called in by Cliff and Sean to avoid an exam - were the only thing we encountered. Shortly before that point, Reagan stripped away much of the funding Carter's Mental Health Systems Act had granted. Do I have the answers? No, but I do know that the mental health system is messed up, and the easy access to guns that no one outside of a war needs isn't the solution. It's long-passed time for change and I'm right with the characters in this book, and the teens and their families i real-life who keep saying this very thing.

Monday, August 15, 2022

Bend Toward the Sun by Jen Devon

 Release Date - August 9, 2022

This setting drew me in, even before the characters did. It's set on a vineyard in Pennsylvania, and features the Brady family. Harry Brady's left behind his painful past in Los Angeles while he decides whether his medical career is worth returning to, but for now the break is important to him. He needs time to heal and determine what's next.

Rowan McKinnon is reeling from heartbreak and has a chance to help the Brady family turn their new vineyard into something magical. Her PhD in botany gives her the insight needed to help the long-neglected vines. Her attraction to Harry stands in the way. She's fine with one night stands, but she's around him too much for that to be the case.

As Harry and Rowan work with the family to restore the vineyards and turn it into a thriving B&B, they can't help but develop feelings for each other. But, how can two people who don't have any plans to fall in love again keep exactly that from happening?

This book is warm, romantic, and drew me in. I loved the setting and it made me realize the dreams I had as a teen to run my own B&B are still very much there. I also loved the family's interactions. The Brady family has strengths, weaknesses, joys, and sorrows that help shape them into people you can relate to. I loved that.

The more I read, the more I didn't want Bend Toward the Sun to end. It was magical.

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Lies, Lies, Lies by Adele Parks

 Release Date - August 2020

Daisy and Simon are parents of a lovely, talented young daughter and seem to be in a happy marriage, but outside appearances aren't always what they seem. Simon desperately wants another child, but in their 40s now, they've already been through one fertility struggle and Daisy's not sure she can do it again at this age. Plus, Simon's drinking seems to be worsening.

Everything goes horribly wrong when Simon drinks too much at a party. Their world is thrown into chaos, and Daisy struggles to figure out the next steps in keeping her family whole.

How did I feel about Lies, Lies, Lies? It's clearly taken me time to even finish the book. I struggled with it and should have quit, but I wanted to keep going and get this one checked off my list. The basis of this story comes down to the secrets people keep from each other and how they have the power to destroy everything. As a result, I didn't like Simon or Daisy, and it's hard to root for the lead characters when you don't like them.

As things play out, there's another character that I didn't like, and this circles back to Daisy. I was so frustrated with her because of it. By the time, truths started getting revealed, I simply no longer cared for anyone other than the poor little girl. It was just a so-so read that appealed to me at times but thoroughly frustrated me the rest of the time.

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...