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.

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

 Release Date - March 2021

I've been wanting to read Where the Crawdads Sing for awhile, but I finally decided to buy a copy as I realized my daughter also wanted to read it. I am well aware of the backlash against the author, but I'm not the judge or jury, so it's not my place to decide to blacklist a book based on what the media says.

Where the Crawdads Sing was an atmospheric, delightful read. At the heart of the story is Kya Clark, aka "Marsh Girl." Her mother walked away from her at the age of six. Her sibings all left shortly after leaving young Kya along with her alcoholic father. She spent more time fending for herself than she did being parented, or even loved, and the one attempt she made to go to school ended with her being horribly bullied by her peers.

Instead, she's learned to read with the help of one of her brother's friends, and she's made a name for herself writing and illustrating guides to the birds and shells in the marshlands of North Carolina. She also fells head over heels for the town's Golden Boy, Chase Andrews, a handsome former high school football star. When Chase is found dead, Kya becomes the primary suspect and she's arrested for the crime, even though there's no clear evidence. 

Where the Crawdads Sing is a coming of age and mystery in one. It had the same atmosphere to me that To Kill a Mockingbird always evoked. You have the sleepy south, pretty judgmental townspeople, and an innocence that's hard to ignore. I loved this book and am eager to see how the movie gets it wrong. (Maybe they do well, but I've never seen a movie capture a book without messing something up.)

Monday, July 18, 2022

They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera

 Release Date - December 18, 2018

Mateo and Rufus are strangers who meet under the most unpleasant of circumstances. You see, they live in a time when a midnight call from Death-Cast means you're in the last 24 hours of your life. You don't know when your life will end, just that it will end at some point that day. 

When Mateo gets the call, he's already dealing with so much. His father is in the hospital in a coma having suffered a stroke. Rufus is wanted by police for assaulting the abusive boyfriend of one of his friends. With death hot on their heels, they both head to a dating-style app that's for Deckers (people who get the call). The pair meet up and decide to spend the rest of their lives together, pushing each other to step out of their comfort zone and have the most fun they can before their time is up.

This story is sad, humorous, and joyful at the same time. There's no secret. The title says it all. They Both Die at the End. There are no mistakes. Death-Cast doesn't get anything wrong. Instead, you read the book to cheer them on and hope they're able to make the most of it and have a blast.

Sunday, July 17, 2022

Going Home, At Your Age? by Jacqueline Diamond

 Release Date - August 1, 2022

It's probably been 25 years since I read my first Jacqueline Diamond romance. She's never failed to draw me into her worlds and want to become part of that community. More recently, she's done something so many authors haven't done. Her characters in the A Better Late Than Never series have grown up, like me, and are now 50-somethings with changing perspectives on relationships, family, and life in general. I'm very thankful for this as the so-called "bodice rippers" I read in my 20s just don't appeal to me anymore. As I grew older, my tastes shifted to suspense, mystery, and especially psychological thrillers.

Going Home, At Your Age? features Sara. She's back in her hometown, carrying the weight of a secret she's kept for decades. She had a child and gave that child up for adoption, sending a scathing letter to all who she felt turned their backs on her. Now, her baby is about to have a baby of her own, and Sara's not sure how she feels. 

Only one person ever knew her secret, as he helped deliver her baby. Nate's still in town and just as hard to ignore. Sara became the town's pariah when she left as many felt she broke Dr. Nate's heart when she left.  As the truth is revealed, Sara finds herself having to right old wrongs and decide what happens next.

This is a quick read, but it's an engaging one. I was drawn in to the community and enjoyed watching Sara reveal her secret and seeing how her friends and family reacted. After that happens in the first couple of chapters, it's easy to get absorbed in the California town and want to be part of it.

Sunday, July 10, 2022

Tell No One by Barbara Taylor Sissel

Release Date - May 2019

Her dad walked away from her when she was young, and that's the main reason Caroline Corbett never made an effort to keep in touch with him. She didn't care about his other family. But, her dying aunt wants to see him one more time, so Caroline agrees to find him. It may be a good distraction from her husband's deception.

When his mom remarried at the age of eight, Harris Fenton had a father figure he could look up to. Everything changed one day, and Harris found himself fatherless once more. It's always haunted him, and it's impacting his own relationships with his sons.

As Caroline gets closer to the truth, Harris finds his life unraveling in major ways. Neither of them will be the same when the truth is revealed.

I've always loved Lake Union books. They partner with fantastic authors, and Barbara Taylor Sissel is one of my favorites. For me, it was harder to like Harris than it was Caroline. You'll understand why as you read more into his story. I do wish the ending hadn't been as rushed. It all came together faster than I wanted, but it was still a solid read.

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...