Blog Tour: True Blend by Joanne DeMaio

true blend

  • Title:  True Blend
  • Author:  Joanne DeMaio
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Published:  March 2014 – CreateSpace
  • Source:  Author

Synopsis:  New York Times bestselling author Joanne DeMaio returns to small-town New England in this compelling love story where truth is veiled by secrets.

Vintage bridal shop owner Amy Trewist thinks she’ll never recover her quiet life at her beloved farmhouse on an old country road. Not after her two-year-old daughter Grace is kidnapped in an elaborate crime. On one clear morning, in mere minutes, Grace is gone and Amy’s world spins into a heartbreaking new place.

George Carbone often spends easy time with his brother. Whether at a ballgame or taking a day trip, it’s how they connect. Until one sunny day when the trip is to a bank parking lot and George is drawn into a crime he never sees coming. And into a stricken mother’s life he cannot ignore.

In a summer that simmers with the unsolved crime, George is haunted by a bankroll hidden behind kitchen tiles, by a brother who dragged him into this, and by a father who instilled in him a conscience. A conscience challenged when a young child and beautiful woman crossed paths with him and unexpectedly took hold of his heart.

Set among the red barns, lush cornfields and sparkling wishing fountain of Addison, Connecticut, True Blend is a captivating novel that steals your heart and does not let go. Because like the lace wedding gowns hanging on Amy’s clothesline, waltzing in the summer breeze, love and secrets twist and spin together in their own mesmerizing dance. (publisher)

My take:  True Blend is a bit of a departure from what I’ve come to expect from Joanne DeMaio. Yes, the setting is the small New England town I’d like to visit one day and the characters are likable and believable as usual. What’s different in this novel is the drama that occurs in the opening pages that just wouldn’t let go of me!

Amy, a widow of less than a year, and her two-year-old daughter are running errands when their life suddenly takes a turn in a different direction. Life will never be the same.  George, the man who runs the butcher shop in town, thinks he’s heading to the casino for the day with his brother. That brother has different plans and won’t take no for an answer.

George spends the following weeks doing everything he can to make Amy and Grace feel safe again. Amy’s flashbacks and Grace’s inability to speak seem insurmountable but George does his best to help them. What he didn’t expect was that his feelings for Amy would grow to love. Will she feel the same? And what will happen if she ever finds out the truth about George. What will become of George’s relationship with his only brother?

The pace of the novel is good and kept me turning the pages. I didn’t know how things would end until DeMaio skillfully pulled it all together in the final chapters. I really liked True Blend and recommend it to fans of the author and contemporary fiction.

_____

Joanne
Author Bio:
Joanne DeMaio is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of contemporary fiction. She enjoys writing about friendship, family, love and choices, while setting her stories in New England towns or by the sea. Her fourth novel True Blend was recently published. Currently at work on her next book, Joanne resides with her family in Connecticut. To learn more about the author, visit Joannedemaio.com. She also enjoys hearing from readers on her Facebook Page.
_____
You can purchase True Blend at Amazon and Barnes & Noble
true blend

Still Life with Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen

Vine- Still Life With Bread Crumbs

  • Title:  Still Life with Bread Crumbs
  • Author:  Anna Quindlen
  • Genre:  Fiction
  • Published:  January 2014 – Random House
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis:  Still Life with Bread Crumbs begins with an imagined gunshot and ends with a new tin roof. Between the two is a wry and knowing portrait of Rebecca Winter, a photographer whose work made her an unlikely heroine for many women. Her career is now descendent, her bank balance shaky, and she has fled the city for the middle of nowhere. There she discovers, in a tree stand with a roofer named Jim Bates, that what she sees through a camera lens is not all there is to life.

My take:  Rebecca Winter, famous for a serendipitous photo series years earlier, recently won a prize for her photography that generally means she’s “old news” in the art world. She now rents out her New York City apartment and lives in a tiny and dilapidated cottage in the woods so that she can afford to pay her father’s rent, her mother’s nursing home bills and occasionally send her son a check.

Rebecca hears animals in her roof above her bed every night and one day meets Jim Bates, a roofer several years her junior. He takes care of the animal issue and eventually becomes a friend. They are charmingly awkward around each other.

As Rebecca hikes the woods she discovers what look like memorials – the kind you’d see along the highway. These are white crosses with mementos of a girl’s youth. Rebecca photographs them not knowing their actual meaning and origins – and the result is a new photography show. What will happen when she learns the truth behind the photos?

I loved this book and I loved Rebecca. She needed to step away from her life to find out if that was the life she wanted to define her – to find out if there might be more in store for her. The first half of the novel quietly built up to the point where I couldn’t stop reading. The characters are beautifully developed and achingly true. I know I’ll be thinking about Tad and Sarah and Jim and Rebecca for a while.

True Life with Bread Crumbs would be a wonderful selection for book groups.

Waking Kate by Sarah Addison Allen

waking kate

  • Title:  Waking Kate
  • Author:  Sarah Addison Allen
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction; Short Story
  • Published:  December 2013 – St. Martin’s Press
  • Source:  Free download

Synopsis:  From the beloved author of Garden Spells, comes Waking Kate, a story about a woman who soon will face an unforseen change in her life. One sticky summer day as Kate is waiting for her husband to come home from his bicycle shop, she spots her distinguished neighbor returning from his last day of work after eighty-six years at Atlanta’s oldest men’s clothing store. Over a cup of butter coffee, he tells Kate a story of love and heartbreak that makes her remember her past, question her present, and wonder what the future will bring.

My take:  This short story from Sarah Addison Allen (one of my favorite authors) serves to whet the appetite for her forthcoming novel Lost Lake. And that it did! There is something about her writing that mesmerizes me. Her descriptions of setting and characters draw me in completely. I can’t wait to find out what happens next to Kate and her daughter in Lost Lake. I won’t have to wait long because it publishes in a few weeks. 

The Supreme Macaroni Company by Adriana Trigiani

The Supreme Macaroni Company audio

  • Title:  The Supreme Macaroni Company (#3 Valentine series)
  • Author:  Adriana Trigiani
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Narrator:  Cassandra Campbell
  • Published:  November 2013 – Harper; Harper Audio
  • Sources:  Publisher (print copy); I purchased the audio

Synopsis:  For over a hundred years, the Angelini Shoe Company in Greenwich Village has relied on the leather produced by Vechiarelli & Son in Tuscany. This historic business partnership provides the twist of fate for Valentine Roncalli, the school teacher turned shoemaker, to fall in love with Gianluca Vechiarelli, a tanner with a complex past . . . and a secret. 
A piece of surprising news is revealed at The Feast of the Seven Fishes when Valentine and Gianluca join her extended family on a fateful Christmas Eve. Now faced with life altering choices, Valentine remembers the wise words that inspired her in the early days of her beloved Angelini Shoe Company: “A person who can build a pair of shoes can do just about anything.” The proud, passionate Valentine is going to fight for everything she wants and savor all she deserves-the bitter and the sweetness of life itself.
Romantic and poignant, told with humor and warmth, and bursting with a cast of endearing characters, The Supreme Macaroni Company is a sumptuous feast of delights: a portrait of a woman and the man she loves, her passion for craftsmanship, and the sacrifices it takes to build and sustain a family business while keeping love and laughter at the center of everything.  (publisher)

My take:  The Supreme Macaroni Company is the final installment of the Valentine series. I’ve been a fan since I first met Valentine Roncalli in Very Valentine. She’s a modern, sometimes confident, usually headstrong woman who is intent on keeping her family’s shoe company in business.

Val knows what she wants and one of those wants is Gianluca – the love of her life. Where Val is modern, American and in her 30s, Gianluca is a traditional Italian and in his 50s. These two don’t always see eye to eye but they never lose sight of their love for one another. When they marry Valentine must learn to compromise – easier said than done. Gianluca wants to take care of her and sometimes makes decisions without consulting Val. This causes some rocky times in the early days of their marriage.

What Val learns is that a willingness to sacrifice and compromise from a place of love will be a blessing to them both. Adriana Trigiani’s story is emotional and at times had me in tears so have some tissues handy. I’m going to miss the Roncallis and all the rest – maybe in five or ten years we can convince the author to let us know what’s going on in their lives.

Audio:  Cassandra Campbell’s narration is first rate. Her performance of Valentine and the other characters enhanced my enjoyment of the book.

Redesigning Rose by Lydia Laceby

redesigning rose

  • Title:  Redesigning Rose
  • Author:  Lydia Laceby
  • Genre:  Contemporary Women’s Fiction; Chick Lit
  • Published:  June 2013 – Lydia Laceby
  • Source:  Author

Synopsis:  Rose Parker’s husband has been lying. About everything.

When a conversation with her husband triggers questions, Rose Parker uncovers alarming answers that shatter her perfect life. But it is only when she shoves her belongings in her SUV and drives off that Rose realizes just how far from perfect her life actually was. She has nowhere to turn.

While debating between distressing sleeping arrangements-her mother’s house full of questions or a hotel room with too much solitude-Rose bumps into an acquaintance from her gardening class and allows bubbly, exuberant Becky to indulge her in a wild night full of whiskey, weeping, and whispered confidences. Suddenly, Rose has a new friend, a roof over her head, and two gorgeous men moving her out of her marital home.

As Rose struggles to settle into her new life, she remains determined to comprehend her past. And with time and distance and especially wine, comes knowledge. Frank wasn’t the only one lying to her. Rose was lying to herself. (author)

My take:  It was easy to sympathize with Rose and her new situation. She found out her husband was not the man she thought – perhaps something she’d known all along. With some distance between them she realized she had become a different person since marrying him. With that awareness Rose started on a path to rediscover her true self.

I loved the new people in Rose’s life beginning with Becky, the acquaintance who takes her in, as well as Becky’s brother, other friends, and Rose’s mother. They all had a hand in helping Rose move forward. It wasn’t an easy path. She moved backward a couple of times but eventually learned to listen to and trust her instincts again.

Redesigning Rose is Lydia Laceby’s debut novel. I thoroughly enjoyed it. The story and characters charmed me and I couldn’t help thinking as I read that it would make a good movie. Recommended to fans of Chick Lit.

Audio: While We Were Watching Downton Abbey by Wendy Wax


while we were watching downton abbey

  • Title:  While We Were Watching Downton Abbey
  • Author:  Wendy Wax
  • Narrator:  Orlagh Cassidy
  • Published:  April 2013 – Penguin Audio
  • Source:  I purchased the audiobook

My take:  Wendy Wax had me at Downton Abbey :)  HOWEVER, you don’t need to have watched the series to enjoy this novel.

When the British concierge of the Alexander, an upscale Atlanta apartment building, alerts residents of weekly screenings of Downton Abbey in one of the common rooms no one is sure what to expect. Certainly unexpected is the resulting friendship of three women who’d not met until the first screening.

Samantha is a wealthy woman in her forties who seems to live an easy life. She’s very good at putting on a good face for all who know her but below the surface there’s family drama and turmoil.

Brooke is a divorced mom of two young daughters. After working hard to put her ex-husband through medical school and setting up his office he decided he didn’t want to be married to her anymore. Now his girlfriend is pregnant and wearing a huge diamond ring.

Clare, an author, is a divorced empty-nester. With her daughter away at college Clare has given herself a year to concentrate on her writing – no day job. Trouble is, she has writer’s block.

Edward, the concierge, is a warm and intuitive man who does his best to make sure the residents enjoy the weekly screenings. He also befriends the three women. Edward has a bit of a story himself but would never divulge it to anyone in the building.

When the unthinkable happens their friendship is put to the test. As usual, Wendy Wax’s story completely entertained me. Orlagh Cassidy did a good job voicing each character. I really liked her performance. She kept me walking or knitting – always signs of a good audiobook.

If you like women’s fiction I think you’ll enjoy While We Were Watching Downton Abbey.

Finding Colin Firth by Mia March

finding colin firth

  • Title:  Finding Colin Firth
  • Author:  Mia March
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Published:  July 2013 – Gallery Books
  • Source:  Publisher

My take:  Start with three unsettled women, add an attractive coastal Maine setting, throw in a possibility of meeting Colin Firth while he’s in town making a movie – what you’ve got is a sweet and tasty novel. Oh, there’s pie too!

Gemma is young woman, in town for a girls’ weekend, who’s just found out she’s pregnant. She’s not sure how to feel about that and is reluctant to share the news with her husband. She just lost her job at a New York newspaper and feels adrift. He thinks its the perfect time to start a family and move to the suburbs. When offered the chance to write a story for the local paper she grabs it and extends her stay in Boothbay Harbor. The topic of the story is the 50th Anniversary of Hope Home, a local home for pregnant teens.

Bea is a twenty-two year old from Boston. She received a letter from her deceased mother a year after her death telling Bea that she was adopted. Shocking news, to be sure. Being out of a job and an apartment, the timing is good for Bea to go to the town listed on her actual birth certificate – Boothbay Harbor.  Her birth mother left information with the adoption agency should Bea ever try to find her. Not sure what she’ll find, she heads to Maine.

Veronica, in her late thirties, works at a diner in Boothbay Harbor. She also makes amazing pies that usually have a desired effect on those who believe. She’s travelled the country and has only been back in her hometown for a year, ready to face her past. She’d always hoped, but didn’t expect, her daughter would find her. When she does, she’s not sure what to do.

As the three women navigate their changing situations they learn to give themselves time and space. The three are fairly confident in wanting to do what’s right for themselves and those close to them. I liked how each eventually asserted herself in finding the right way (for her) to handle things.

Finding Colin Firth is an entertaining novel. It’s light enough in tone yet has plenty of substance, and hey, there’s pie :) Do they find Colin Firth? You’ll have to read to find out!

Rose Harbor in Bloom by Debbie Macomber

Rose Harbor in Bloom

  • Title:  Rose Harbor in Bloom  (Rose Harbor, #2)
  • Author:  Debbie Macomber
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Published:  August 2013 – Ballantine Books
  • Source:  Publisher

My take:  Jo Marie Rose purchased the Rose Harbor Inn after the death of her husband.  She dreamed that he told her it would be a place of healing – for her as well as guests.

In the second book of the Rose Harbor Inn series Jo Marie continues to deal with her grief. She also knows that she must go on so she tries her best to put one foot in front of the other. Her days are filled with greeting her guests:  a young event planner trying to forget her two-timing ex-fiancé by planning a party for her grandparents; the grandparents who bicker more than one would expect for a couple celebrating their 50th anniversary; and a quiet woman who is appears to be dealing with illness.

In addition to having a full house for the weekend, Jo Marie is readying the Inn for an open house the following week. As if she wasn’t feeling flustered enough with all the preparations, her abrasive handyman Mark injures himself in a fall and won’t have the rose garden ready for the event. Jo Marie has figured out how to deal with Mark’s rough demeanor: give it right back to him. It was fun to watch the two fall into a rhythm of verbal give and take. I wonder what the author has in store for these two!

I’m finding Jo Marie’s journey through grief to be emotional and relatable. I could identify with her feelings and think anyone who has suffered the loss of a loved one will do the same. I love the way Debbie Macomber tells a story and this is another winner. I can’t wait for the next book in the series.

The Last Original Wife by Dorothea Benton Frank

the last original wife

  • Title: The Last Original Wife
  • Author: Dorothea Benton Frank
  • Genre: Contemporary Fiction
  • Narrator: Robin Miles
  • Published: June 2013 – HarperAudio
  • Source: Purchased

My take:  When Leslie falls into an unmarked manhole while following her husband, his best friend and his new wife (who happens to be half Leslie’s age) down a street in Edinburgh and they all fail to notice – that is the first sign that she is no longer cherished. The second sign is when her husband leaves her hospital room to play his planned round of golf at the Old Course.

When Leslie and Wesley (no, really) return to Atlanta she decides to put some space between them and accepts her brother’s offer to stay at his Charleston home while he’s in Italy. While away from her family Les does a lot of thinking about her relationship with her husband of 30 years and whether she wants to stay in the marriage. She also considers her two grown children and how they take her for granted as much as their father. What Les needs most is the courage to put herself first for once.

I laughed a lot but Dorothea Benton Frank addressed some serious issues as well. I can’t say I related to Les and Wes’s marriage problems but I’m about the same age as Les and think that’s what made me like her all the more! It’s the first of Frank’s books I’ve read so I’m happy to see she has a nice back list.

Narration: After reading a few reviews on Audible I understand some southerners took issue with the narrator’s accent. I’m not from the south so I couldn’t tell you if the narration is correct in accent or not but Robin Miles’ performance kept me listening and walking (and often laughing). I was thoroughly entertained.

The Lemon Orchard by Luanne Rice

the lemon orchard

  • Title:  The Lemon Orchard
  • Author:  Luanne Rice
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Published:  July 2013 – Pamela Dorman Books
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis:  In the five years since Julia last visited her aunt and uncle’s home in Malibu, her life has been turned upside down by her daughter’s death. She expects to find nothing more than peace and solitude as she house-sits with only her dog, Bonnie, for company. But she finds herself drawn to the handsome man who oversees the lemon orchard. Roberto expertly tends the trees, using the money to support his extended Mexican family. What connection could these two people share? The answer comes as Roberto reveals the heartbreaking story of his own loss—a pain Julia knows all too well, but for one striking difference: Roberto’s daughter was lost but never found. And despite the odds he cannot bear to give up hope. (publisher)

My take:  The Lemon Orchard is an emotional tale about two people drawn together by fate. We learn their stories through numerous characters’ voices. From Julia and Roberto to their relatives and friends to people they meet along the way, the details of their sad circumstances are revealed at an even pace.

Luanne Rice’s vivid descriptions of the Connecticut, California, Mexico, and Arizona settings made it easy to visualize the various scenes of the novel.

Like I mentioned, this is an emotional story. Roberto lost everything when trying to make things better for his family by coming to a new country. Julia needed to put some space between herself and the place where she blames herself for the loss of her family. When she meets Roberto she finds a way to gain a sort of redemption by helping him. Falling in love was never their intention. The love story of Julia and Roberto unfolded in such a way that I became invested in their future happiness.

I liked this romantic novel and recommend it to fans of the author and women’s fiction.

Forever, Interrupted by Taylor Jenkins Reid

forever, interrupted

  • Title:  Forever, Interrupted
  • Author:  Taylor Jenkins Reid
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Published:  July 2013 – Washington Square Press
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis:  Elsie Porter is an average twentysomething and yet what happens to her is anything but ordinary. On a rainy New Year’s Day, she heads out to pick up a pizza for one. She isn’t expecting to see anyone else in the shop, much less the adorable and charming Ben Ross. Their chemistry is instant and electric. Ben cannot even wait twenty-four hours before asking to see her again. Within weeks, the two are head over heels in love. By May, they’ve eloped.

Only nine days later, Ben is out riding his bike when he is hit by a truck and killed on impact. Elsie hears the sirens outside her apartment, but by the time she gets downstairs, he has already been whisked off to the emergency room. At the hospital, she must face Susan, the mother-in-law she has never met—and who doesn’t even know Elsie exists.

Interweaving Elsie and Ben’s charmed romance with Elsie and Susan’s healing process, Forever, Interrupted will remind you that there’s more than one way to find a happy ending. (publisher)

My take:  This novel is a study of grief – the grief of a young woman when her husband dies suddenly and that of the young man’s mother, a widow herself. 

Elsie narrates the novel. She tells the story by shifting from six months earlier, where we learn how she fell in love with Ben, to the time after his death. It was impossible for me to read this novel without that pain in the chest one gets when feeling really sad. And this is a sad story. It’s also funny, charming and believable.

I don’t want you to get the impression that this novel is a big downer – it’s not. Case in point: Elsie is a librarian. There’s an elderly man who comes into the library every day. He and Elsie go from casual acquaintances to emotional confidants – their scenes were among my favorites in the novel. Truly touching.

I think Taylor Jenkins Reid was spot on in conveying the grief of Elsie and Susan. If you need a good cry, read this book. If you want to read a novel that leaves you uplifted and with a sense of hope, you should read Forever, Interrupted. 

More Than You Know by Nan Rossiter

more than you know - rossiter

  • Title:  More Than You Know
  • Author:  Nan Rossiter
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Published:  April 2013 – Kensington
  • Source:  Review copy from the author

Synopsis:  Losing her father on the night she was born could have torn Beryl Graham’s family apart. Instead, it knitted them together. Under their mother’s steady guidance, Beryl and her older sisters, Isak and Rumer, shared a childhood filled with happiness. But now Mia Graham has passed away after battling Alzheimer’s, and her three daughters return to their New Hampshire home to say goodbye.
Swept up in memories and funeral preparations, the sisters catch up on each other’s lives. Rumer and Isak have both known recent heartache, while Beryl has given up hope of marriage. But surprising revelations abound, especially when they uncover Mia’s handwritten memoir. In it are secrets they never guessed at–clandestine romance, passionate dreams, joy and guilt. And as Beryl, Rumer, and Isak face a future without her, they realize it’s never too late to heed a mother’s lessons–about taking chances, keeping faith, and loving in spite of the risks… (back cover)

My take:  When the three Graham sisters come together to prepare for their mother’s funeral they find out things they never new about her – shocking things. She left a memoir that told them everything and gave them a new perspective of her life. She raised her three daughters alone after a car crash took the life of her husband on the night of their 5th anniversary. They thought she never remarried because she couldn’t imagine loving anyone else but their father. Her memoir tells them the real story.

Though dismayed by what they’ve learned, they take to heart the lesson to never take life for granted and to appreciate especially the mundane events of everyday life. Timely advice because all three are at crossroads in their personal lives.

More Than You Know is a novel of faith and family that will resonate with many readers. I enjoyed it.

*Note:  At the end of the novel Nan Rossiter shared a couple of recipes made by the Graham sisters. I’ve made copies and plan to try both!

The Widow Waltz by Sally Koslow

the widow waltz

  • Title:  The Widow Waltz
  • Author:  Sally Koslow
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Published:  June 2013 – Viking
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis:  Ben Silver had it all—a successful law practice, a New York apartment overlooking Central Park, a beach house, fine art, club memberships. Yet when a massive coronary fells him while training for the New York City Marathon, it’s revealed that his life was a lie. He’s left his wife, Georgia Waltz, and their two daughters almost penniless.
Georgia must now rally to support her family while mourning a husband whose private enigmas keep surfacing. To her surprise, she also discovers that it may even be possible to find new love in the land of Spanx and wrinkles. Meanwhile, her daughters must face the responsibilities of adulthood that they have avoided and put their hidden talents to work.

My take:  When golden boy Ben Silver dies his wife and daughters find out he wasn’t quite the man they thought he was. Their lives have changed overnight and they’re left to solve a mystery – why did he leave them without the expected inheritance but instead needing to sell off possessions in order to live? 

As mother and daughters slowly get their bearings they begin to move forward in directions they’d never anticipated. Georgia Waltz is witty and sometimes snarky. At first she grated on me but I soon understood her defense mechanisms and enjoyed her take on her new life. I especially appreciated that Koslow addressed dating in middle age realistically and with humor. I think there are a lot of readers our there who would love more novels with strong 50-something women dealing with life-changing events.

Filled with colorful characters The Widow Waltz is an entertaining novel that could be read in a few hours. The Widow Waltz is about acceptance and forgiveness and what being a family means – and sometimes it’s not what you’d expect.

Spotlight on: Sweet Salt Air by Barbara Delinsky

Sweet Salt Air will be available tomorrow, June 18. I’ll read it  later this summer but today I want to spotlight it. I think it sounds great!

sweet salt airOn Quinnipeague, hearts open under the summer stars and secrets float in the Sweet Salt Air

Charlotte and Nicole were once the best of friends, spending summers together in Nicole’s coastal island house off of Maine. But many years, and many secrets, have kept the women apart. A successful travel writer, single Charlotte lives on the road, while Nicole, a food blogger, keeps house in Philadelphia with her surgeon-husband, Julian. When Nicole is commissioned to write a book about island food, she invites her old friend Charlotte back to Quinnipeague, for a final summer, to help. Outgoing and passionate, Charlotte has a gift for talking to people and making friends, and Nicole could use her expertise for interviews with locals. Missing a genuine connection, Charlotte agrees.

But what both women don’t know is that they are each holding something back that may change their lives forever. For Nicole, what comes to light could destroy her marriage, but it could also save her husband. For Charlotte, the truth could cost her Nicole’s friendship, but could also free her to love again. And her chance may lie with a reclusive local man, with a heart to soothe and troubles of his own. Bestselling author and master storyteller Barbara Delinsky invites you come away to Quinnipeague…

* * *

About the author:  BARBARA DELINSKY has been published in twenty-eight languages worldwide. A lifelong New Barbara DelinskyEnglander, Delinsky earned a B.A. in psychology at Tufts University and an M.A. in sociology at Boston College. Delinsky enjoys knitting, photography, and cats. She lives in Needham, Massachusetts.

Heart Like Mine by Amy Hatvany

heart like mine

  • Title:  Heart Like Mine
  • Author:  Amy Hatvany
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Published:  March 2013 – Washington Square Press
  • Source:  Review copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley

Synopsis:  When a young mother dies under mysterious circumstances, those she leaves behind begin looking for answers in the past—and find a long-buried secret they could have never imagined.

Thirty-six-year-old Grace McAllister never longed for children. But when she meets Victor Hansen, a handsome, charismatic divorced restaurateur who is father to Max and Ava, Grace decides that, for the right man, she could learn to be an excellent part-time stepmom. After all, the kids live with their mother, Kelli. How hard could it be?

At thirteen, Ava Hansen is mature beyond her years. Since her parents’ divorce, she has been the one taking care of her emotionally unstable mother and her little brother—she pays the bills, does the laundry, and never complains because she loves her mama more than anyone. And while her father’s new girlfriend is nice enough, Ava still holds out hope that her parents will get back together and that they’ll be a family again.

But only days after Victor and Grace get engaged, Kelli dies suddenly under mysterious circumstances—and soon, Grace and Ava discover there was much more to Kelli’s life than either ever knew.

Narrated by Grace and Ava in the present with flashbacks into Kelli’s troubled past, Heart Like Mine is a poignant and hopeful portrait about womanhood, love, and the challenges of family life. (Publisher)

My take:  Heart Like Mine is a compelling novel about a family that has gone through divorce and what happens when the mother dies. Amy Hatvany’s characters are completely believable and that made the book an emotional read. The children carry the grief from the loss of their mother as they move in with their father, Victor, and his fiancé, Grace. 

Victor and Grace had just become engaged and then Kelli, his ex-wife, died. They were hardly prepared to be parents – in fact they’d agreed they didn’t want to have children together. Victor didn’t want to add to his family and Grace had never wanted to be a mother. That all changed when Kelli died. It was easy to feel the tension between all four of the main characters. Life hadn’t been easy before Kelli died and now it was difficult to move forward. But Grace does her best because she feels badly for the children and she loves Victor. The challenges seemed to stack up as both kids began to act out. That’s when it got really believable and I wondered if Victor and Grace’s relationship would survive.

Heart Like Mine is a story about a family overcoming tragedy to become even stronger moving forward. I liked it. A readers club guide is included at the end.

Author website
Facebook Page
Twitter

Can’t Stop Believing by Jodi Thomas

can't stop believing

  • Title:  Can’t Stop Believing  - Harmony series, #6
  • Author:

    Jodi Thomas

  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction, Series
  • Published:  June 2013 – Berkley

  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis:  

Cord McDowell gave up his freedom at eighteen when he went to jail for a crime he didn’t commit. Now, ten years later, he’s about to give it up again for a piece of land. Nevada Britain, his neighbor, has just made him an offer he can’t refuse: If he’ll marry her, she’ll sign over a section of property that their families have been fighting over for a hundred years. Nevada refuses to explain why, but Cord knows the bargain is in his favor. He just has one condition—she has to sleep in his bed every night for as long as their doomed marriage lasts. Nevada only wants to maintain her family’s legacy—and redeem herself for a wrong she did Cord years ago. But as she spends more time with her husband by necessity, she discovers something unexpected—a love so deep it takes her breath away.

My take:  I wasn’t sure what to expect when I read the synopsis of the newest book in the Harmony series. Not to worry though. This story of two broken people coming together in hopes of gaining what they thought was all they’d need in life is just what I’ve come to expect from Jodi Thomas – a book I didn’t want to put down.

There’s heartbreak, drama, mystery, humor, and a sweet love story. I should point out that reading the series from the first book is highly recommended but, if that’s not possible, Can’t Stop Believing can stand on its own. That said, we do catch up on characters from previous books in the series. Those story lines made the book even more enjoyable.

I loved the theme of the possibility of second chances that ran through the novel. From Cord and Nevada to Ronny and Marty to  innkeeper Martha Q and a new man in town – they all found that second chances were within reach if they were willing to take a chance and never stop believing.

If you’re a fan of the Harmony series or any of Jodi Thomas’s books I think you’ll love Can’t Stop Believing. And if you haven’t read a Jodi Thomas book I suggest you start with the first in this series – Welcome to Harmony – and enjoy getting to know the people of Harmony, Texas.

Looking For Me by Beth Hoffman

looking for me

  • Title:  Looking For Me
  • Author:  Beth Hoffman
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Published:  May 28, 2013 – Pamela Dorman Books
  • Source:  Review copy from the author

Synopsis (publisher):  Teddi Overman found her life’s passion for furniture in a broken-down chair left on the side of the road in rural Kentucky. She learns to turn other people’s castoffs into beautifully restored antiques, and eventually finds a way to open her own shop in Charleston. There, Teddi builds a life for herself as unexpected and quirky as the customers who visit her shop.  Though Teddi is surrounded by remarkable friends and finds love in the most surprising way, nothing can alleviate the haunting uncertainty she’s felt in the years since her brother Josh’s mysterious disappearance. When signs emerge that Josh might still be alive, Teddi is drawn home to Kentucky.  It’s a journey that could help her come to terms with her shattered family—and to find herself at last. But first she must decide what to let go of and what to keep.

My take:  Looking for Me is the story of Teddi Overman, a woman who found her talent for restoring furniture as a young teen and made it her life’s work. With love and great care she gives cast aside pieces a second chance.  That theme repeats in the lives of a few characters – most notably Teddi’s best friend, her brother Josh and a man who reminds her of Josh, Gabe. Whether furniture, old books, or animals, they repair the broken down for another chance at life. The novel is filled with great characters – Teddi’s coworkers, friends, and relatives. I enjoyed each one.

What I loved most about Teddi was her kindness and compassion for pretty much anything or anyone. She had such a pure heart and optimistic spirit and saw the good in everyone. And yet she was human – she had her limits when people pushed her. I’d want to be her friend. The goodness she sent out to people in her world came back to her time and again.

I had such a good feeling while reading Looking For Me that I didn’t want to say goodbye to Teddi and her world. It’s a story filled with heartbreak, friendship, love, mystery and so much more. It is one of those books I know I’ll read again and I rarely do that. I hope you’ll read it soon.

Spotlight on: Elizabeth The First Wife by Lian Dolan

Elizabeth the 1st wife

  • Title:  Elizabeth The First Wife
  • Author:  Lian Dolan
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Published:  May 2013 – Prospect Park Books

About Elizabeth the First Wife:  Elizabeth Lancaster, an English professor at Pasadena City College, finds her perfectly dull but perfectly orchestrated life upended one summer by three men: her movie-star ex-husband, a charming political operative, and William Shakespeare. Until now, she’d been content living in the shadow of her high-profile and highly accomplished family. Then her college boyfriend and one-time husband of seventeen months, A-list action star FX Fahey, shows up with a job offer that she can’t resist, and Elizabeth’s life suddenly gets a whole lot more interesting. She’s off to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival for the summer to make sure FX doesn’t humiliate himself in an avant-garde production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Meanwhile, Elizabeth’s house sitter back in Pasadena is her Congressman brother-in-law’s dreamy chief of staff, whose calls regarding how to work the washing machine and stovetop slowly cross the line into much more personal territory.

About the author:  Lian Dolan is a writer, producer, talk show host, podcast pioneer and social media consultant. She writes Author Photo_Lian Dolanthe blog and produces the weekly podcast “The Chaos Chronicles,” a humorous look at modern motherhood. She writes for Oprah.com as a parenting expert. A decade ago, Lian created Satellite Sisters, an award-winning talk show, blog and website, with her four real sisters. Her writing has appeared in many national magazines, including regular columns in O, The Oprah Magazine and Working Mother and essays in such anthologies as Chicken Soup for the Sister’s Soul. TV appearances have included The Today Show, CBS Sunday Morning, and The Oprah Winfrey Show. She is a popular speaker for groups and corporations, always using humor as hook.  Her previous books include Helen of Pasadena and The Satellite Sisters’ Uncommon Senses.

Treadmill Reads: Conversations With the Fat Girl by Liza Palmer

Conversations with the fat girl

Synopsis (Goodreads) Everyone seems to be getting on with their lives except Maggie. At 27, she’s still working at the local coffee house while her friends are getting married, having babies, and building careers. Even Olivia, Maggie’s best friend from childhood, is getting married to her doctor boyfriend. Maggie, on the other hand, lives with her dog Solo and has no romantic prospects save for the torch she carries for Domenic, the busboy. Though Maggie and Olivia have been best friends since their fattie grade school years, Olivia’s since gone the gastric-bypass surgery route in hopes of obtaining the elusive size two, the holy grail for fat girls everywhere. So now Olivia’s thin, blond, and betrothed, and Maggie’s the fat bridesmaid. Ain’t life grand? In this inspiring debut novel, Maggie speaks to women everywhere who wish for just once that they could forget about their weight.

My take:   Maggie is every young woman who ever fought the weight battle – every young woman who has never felt comfortable with her body. I understood Maggie and I cheered for her as she started to figure things out with her best friend, her love life, and her job situation.

Conversations With the Fat Girl is filled with interesting characters. From Maggie’s family to her co-workers it was easy to find comparable characters in my own life. I liked most and understood the reason for them all. This is a novel begging to be on the small or large screen. Thank you Liza Palmer for writing Maggie’s story. Once upon a time I was in her shoes.

There’s a reader’s guide included and you can find more information about the author here. I’m looking forward to reading Ms. Palmer’s other books.

  • Title:  Conversations With the Fat Girl
  • Author:  Liza Palmer
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Published:  September 2005 – 5 Spot
  • Source:  I bought it

The Lost Husband by Katherine Center

the lost husband

  • Title:  The Lost Husband
  • Author:  Katherine Center
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Published:  May 2013 – Ballantine Books
  • Source:  Publisher via Edelweiss

Synopsis (publisher):  After the sudden loss of her husband in a car crash, Libby Moran falls on hard times – so hard, in fact, that she’s forced to move in with her hyper-critical mother. There, sleeping on the pull-out sofa so her two children can share the guest room, she can’t stop longing for the life she had. So when a letter arrives from Libby’s estranged aunt offering her a job and a place to live on her goat farm, Libby jumps at the opportunity. But starting over is never easy. With an aunt who is nothing like she imagined, a shaggy farm manager with a tragic past, a psychic at the feed store who claims to be able to contact the dead, and a bully at her daughter’s school, country life isn’t at all what Libby expected. But it also offers her what no other place can: A chance to define the good life for herself. A chance to piece together the mysteries of her own past. A chance, even, at love. And, finally, a chance to bring herself, and her family, back to life.

My take:  I love Katherine Center’s novels. They are wonderfully relatable, funny and heartstring tuggers. Her latest, The Lost Husband, is no exception. When it comes down to it, Libby is every woman. Like I said, relatable. Life hasn’t turned out the way she expected yet, despite that fact, she keeps trying her darnedest to keep her family moving forward.

The offer to move to her aunt’s goat farm comes at the right time. She knows she can’t keep living with her domineering mother if she has any hope of a life. A fresh start in new surroundings is just what she and her two young children need. And a new life is exactly what they get.

From her eccentric and loving aunt, to the nice yet mysterious farm manager, to the interesting young woman at the feed store, Libby’s new life is populated with strange but caring people. And they’re all doing their best to move forward as well.

Center is a gifted storyteller and I loved this one. It’s a story of hope and never giving up – trying your hardest even in the darkest moments. Because when all is said and done – it’s worth it. Loved it. Highly recommended.