Thursday, February 2, 2023

A Guide to Being Just Friends - Sophie Sullivan

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Release Date: January 17, 2023

After a painful break-up, all Hailey Sharp wants is a fresh start and for her new salad cafe to become a success. Business is slow, however, and she needs something to change and fast. Enter Wes Jansen, the last thing Hailey needs distracting her is a handsome guy, but that's exactly what happens. She's determined to be friends with Wes and nothing more.

That suits Wes fine. He's not the marrying type and never will be. Yet, there's something about Hailey that he cannot move past. He doesn't want to be more than friends, but he doesn't just want to be friends either.

The chemistry between the two is undeniable from the start. But, for some reason, I really struggled to get into the characters. I never felt a fondness for them as I did with previous Jansen brother romances. I didn't dislike the story, but it didn't draw me in either. 

I think I never truly liked Hailey. For someone who was all about "I'm not changing for you," there were times she seemed to demand Wes change to suit her needs. It came off as unfair to him. He deserved better. As the two finally realize that it's okay to fall in love, everything came off as so incredibly rushed that I just never fully believed they had a romance that could span the ages.

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

So Long, Chester Wheeler by Catherine Ryan Hyde

 Genre: General Fiction

Release Date: December 6, 2023

Walmart doesn't have this title available, but So Long, Chester Wheeler: A Novel is so beautiful and touching that I want to make sure there's a link to the Amazon page. I may not get a commission this way, but I really don't care. I just want readers to get to know Chester.

So Long, Chester Wheeler just about broke my heart, and I mean that in the nicest way. Many, many years ago, I became so incredibly hooked in another Catherine Ryan Hyde novel and I said she's been an author to watch. I was definitely right, and many years later, she has topped Pay It Forward.

Chester is a grumpy, homophobic jerk. He's also dying. That's why his daughter is so desperate to find a caregiver who won't give in to his attitude and quit within a week.

Enter his neighbor, Lewis Madigan, a gay software engineer who is expecting the first sizable raise in his new career only he gets a pink slip. Not only that, but Lewis's boyfriend leaves him and takes their entire savings at the same time. Lewis needs money badly enough that he agrees to be Chester's caregiver until Chester's daughter is able to find someone else.

Chester has never had a nice word for Lewis, but Lewis is made of tougher material than past caregivers. He lets Chester's attitude and insults roll off him. When Chester demands that Lewis drive him from New York to Arizona in Chester's old Winnebago, so that Chester can settle a few things with the ex-wife he hasn't seen in over three decades. Lewis has no intention on saying yes, yet that's exactly what he ends up doing.

I loved this book. In a lot of ways, Chester's grumpiness reminded me a lot of my mom when she was dying. My mom wasn't like Chester in terms of bigotry, but the hurtful things she could say as Alzheimer's destroyed her brain. They were really hard to let roll off, so I get how strong Lewis was.

Watching the men develop a friendship, of sorts, made this book seem very genuine. I was hooked and sat up late at night to see how it would all play out. I wasn't disappointed.

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Begin Again by Emma Lord

 Release Date - January 24, 2023

After pulling off a minor miracle, Andie Rose has managed to transfer from her local community college to her boyfriend's competitive college, Blue Ridge State. Only, once there, she learns he transferred to her college to be closer to her. Now, they're apart again, but Andie's mother (deceased) and her father went to Blue Ridge, so she wants to stay, even though it's far more challenging than expected.

As she acclimates, she starts to make great friends and her reputation as The Fixer is helping her fit in, but it's not helping her studies. She needs to to fix herself before she can fix others.

Begin Again is kind of a coming-of-age story that adds a lot of humor, a touch of romance, and plenty of real experiences that the reader can relate to. While the plot didn't seem that complex, I found myself enjoying how laid back the characters were (for the most part) and how it really just focused on finding yourself before you can do much else in life. It was enjoyable for that reason. It was honest with likable characters.

Monday, January 16, 2023

The Cabinet of Dr. Leng by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child

Genre: Time Travel and Mystery/Detectives

Release Date: January 17, 2023

One thing always stands out to me when I'm reading a Preston & Child novel. The imagery is mesmerizing. The last time I felt so absorbed in the gritty, filthy street in the past, I was playing a video game as Sherlock Holmes or Watson, depending on the section of story.

As Constance scoured the NYC streets with her helpers, I couldn't feel like I was part of the group, smelling the smells, feeling the drafts and damp. I was hooked.

The Cabinet of Dr. Leng starts in the past with Constance Greene having time traveled to save her brother and sister and stop the notorious killer Dr. Leng. Doing so puts her own life at risk. Meanwhile, Special Agent Pendergast is stuck in present time trying to figure out how he can rescue Constance when they're centuries apart. If he's unsuccessful, Constance may never come back to his time.

In the past few years, I've become hooked on Sherlock novels, and something about this one gave me that same feeling while reading it. But, it's more like take Agents Scully and Mulder in terms of expecting the unexpected, add the wit and charm of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, and scramble them together into a mesmerizing time travel mystery.

 I should use more caution when picking up books that are part of an established series. While I easily caught up to the gist of things, I wish I'd read the books in order and not just a few here and there. My recommendation is to read the series in order.

Sunday, January 15, 2023

The House In The Pines by Ana Reyes

Genre: Mystery/Suspense

Release Date: January 3, 2023

The House in the Pines is both a Reese Witherspoon pick and a very twisting, turning suspense/mystery.

When she was a high school senior, soon to be college student, Maya met the somewhat older, very intriguing Frank. Frank cared for his aging father while building his own home in the woods behind his dad's house. Maya fell hard. She believed she was in love, until something happened and her best friend ended up dead under mysterious circumstances.

Fast-forward several years later. Maya lives in Boston and is in a happy relationship. One day, she catches a viral video of a young woman dying suddenly on camera, with no one touching her, in the middle of a diner. The man with that young woman is none other than Frank. Two suspicious deaths with the same man is too much of a coincidence with Maya. She returns to her hometown to get to the bottom of it.

The story also delves into the past with Maya's father, he died before she was born, but he was writing a novel at the time of his death. His story shadows Maya's life in more ways than she'd ever thing possible.

This is one of the first books I've read in a long time where I was clueless as to what was happening. When it's all revealed, it ended up getting my creepy-as F rating as it made sense and also gave me chills. It's no wonder this was the monthly pick for Reese's Book Club. It's creepy, twisted, and so delightful.

While reading Anna Reyes novel, I was happy sipping a cup of 802 Coffee Roasters. Monarch Blend is my favorite so far and highly recommend. Plus, every bag purchased helps save the monarch butterfly, so it's a win-win situation when you stock up.

Sunday, January 8, 2023

The Night She Went Missing by Kristen Bird

 Release Date - February 8, 2022

For years Amazon hasn't offered any commissions to me because of where I live. For that reason, I've decided to shift from their site and become a Walmart affiliate. Please feel free to purchase this book from whomever you choose, however. I honestly prefer people support their local bookseller or buy directly from the author if that's an option.

In The Night She Went Missing, Catherine's daughter vanishes after leaving a party. While her car is found, there's no trace of her. Morgan's son, Alex, is the last one seen with her, and he's been accused of rape in the past. As much as Catherine wants to believe her friend's son could have nothing to do with it, she can't help but wonder about the past accusations.

Leslie wants to be the town's darling, something Catherine was handed when she married into the town's wealthy family. To gain favor, Leslie sets up the search parties, but nothing has helped. The girl is no where to be found. 

Months later, she reappears, but she's in a coma and no one knows where she's been. Catherine and the entire town wants answers, even if it means digging into many family's dark pasts.

Kristen Bird's book is gripping, though the whodunnit part didn't surprise me. I thought it was pretty easy to figure out, especially if you're paying attention. That never kept me from wanting to read to the end. I enjoyed Catherine's role, she's flawed, but she's genuine through those flaws. It was a fun read and one I'm glad I gave a second chance to.

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

New Year: New Reviews

 It's a new year, and that means new reviews. This year, I'm going to be adding more than book reviews from time to time. Every now and then, I get a product that stands out as a must-own. I think they deserve praise, too, especially when I use them all of the time while I'm reading. 

Coffee is one of the biggies. I always start my morning with a cup of coffee and the book I'm currently reading. News is first and then I dive into a book. I have been experimenting with roasting my own coffee lately. I buy green coffee beans and roast them to my preferred darkness at home. This roaster took a few days of getting used to how to roast beans perfectly, but now that I know the first crack, second crack rule, I'm having great success!

Sit down with your tea or coffee (or whatever else appeals) and enjoy hopefully a less stressful year of reading, writing, and fun.

You Wouldn't Dare - Samantha Markum

Release Date - March 28, 2023 Genre - Young Adult Fiction Juniper Abreheart's life has hit some turbulence, and she's not sure she a...