Starting Now by Debbie Macomber

starting now

  • Title:  Starting Now – A Blossom Street Novel
  • Author:  Debbie Macomber
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Published:  April 2013 – Ballantine
  • Source:  Publisher via NetGalley

Synopsis (publisher):  For years, Libby Morgan dreamed only of making partner in her high-pressure law firm. She sacrificed everything for her career – friends, marriage, her chance of a family. So nothing can prepare her for the shocking news that she’s been let go and must rebuild her entire life . . . starting now. With no job in sight, she spends her afternoons at A Good Yarn, the local knitting store. There, she forms a close bond with Lydia, the sweet-natured shop owner, Lydia’s spirited daughter, Casey, and Ava, a shy yet troubled teenager. As A Good Yarn becomes a second home – and the women a new kind of family – Libby relishes the different person she’s become. She even finds time for romance with a handsome doctor … But just as everything is coming together, Libby must make a choice that could forever change the life she holds so dear.

My take:  I’ve read a lot of Debbie Macomber’s books but only one from the Blossom Street series (#7, Hannah’s List). Starting Now is #9 but I didn’t feel lost or frustrated by that fact. Macomber tells a good story and she does a good job of catching readers up on characters from previous books. 

Speaking of characters, I enjoyed the ones in this book – particularly Libby and Phillip. This is not a case of “opposites attract”. These two are more alike than different which ended up helping them understand each other for the most part. Meeting Phillip was just one of the positive things that happened to Libby after she was let go from her law firm. Libby started to see the possibilities that lay before her. She got back to knitting – something she’d stopped as a teen when her mother died. She saw a lot of herself in a girl she met at the yarn shop and became a mentor to her. That connection would lead to big changes for Libby.

The pace of Starting Now was perfect as a few surprises in the plot were revealed. I enjoyed this story of people learning to appreciate  what’s really important in life. It’s a quick read that didn’t disappoint. Macomber’s books might be considered predictable but I suspect her fans (me included) like it that way. There’s always a relatable situation and interesting characters, a little romance and an uplifting ending. This would be a good one to toss in the beach bag or do what I did – read it over a weekend and in your favorite chair.

Sunday Post

Book arrivals:

sweet salt air  measure of love  the good woman  the great gatsby (audio)

Last week on Bookfan:

Books I read last week:

  • Starting Now by Debbie Macomber
  • The Secret Life of Lady Julia by Lecia Cornwall


A little sign of spring appeared near the roots of our tree

Happy reading!

Treadmill reads: Life From Scratch by Melissa Ford

life from scratch

Synopsis:  Divorced, heartbroken and living in a lonely New York apartment with a tiny kitchen, Rachel Goldman realizes she doesn’t even know how to cook the simplest meal for herself. Can learning to fry an egg help her understand where her life went wrong? She dives into the culinary basics. Then she launches a blog to vent her misery about love, life and her goal of an unburnt casserole.To her amazement, the blog’s a hit. She becomes a minor celebrity. Next, a sexy Spaniard enters her life. Will her souffles stop falling? Will she finally forget about the husband she still loves? And how can she explain to her readers that she still hasn’t learned how to cook up a happy life from scratch?

My take:  This novel about a thirty-something foodie blogger trying to figure out life after divorce was a fun, breezy read. As a blogger it was easy to understand the technical blogging aspects of the story and as a woman it was easy to relate to some of Rachel’s issues.

Melissa Ford wrote a heroine who’s easy to sympathize with and cheer for – until I scratched my head near the end of the novel and wondered how she wound up in her situation. I mean, she comes across as a smart, modern, and savvy woman but really dropped the ball a few years earlier where her relationship was concerned. I suppose her life since showed a path of growth so her story could be considered a cautionary tale.

Anyway, I still cheered for Rachel at the book’s end and would definitely read more from Melissa Ford. I liked her writing style and secondary characters – which made me hope for a sequel.

  • Title:  Life From Scratch: a novel
  • Author:  Melissa Ford
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Published:  July 2010 – Belle Books
  • Source:  I bought it

The Humanity Project by Jean Thompson

the humanity project

  • Title:  The Humanity Project
  • Author:  Jean Thompson
  • Genre:  Fiction
  • Published:  April 2013 – Blue Rider Press
  • Source:  Publisher via NetGalley

Synopsis (publisher):  After surviving a shooting at her high school, Linnea is packed off to live with her estranged father, Art, who doesn’t quite understand how he has suddenly become responsible for raising a sullen adolescent girl. Art’s neighbor, Christie, is a nurse distracted by an eccentric patient, Mrs. Foster, who has given Christie the reins to her Humanity Project, a bizarre and well-endowed charity fund. Just as mysteriously, no one seems to know where Conner, the Fosters’ handyman, goes after work, but he has become the one person Linnea can confide in, perhaps because his own home life is a war zone: his father has suffered an injury and become addicted to painkillers. As these characters and many more hurtle toward their fates, the Humanity Project is born: Can you indeed pay someone to be good? At what price?

My take:  Filled with colorful characters and of-the-moment circumstances and events, The Humanity Project reminded me of a Cat’s Cradle string game. Everyone is connected and their lives seem to be an intricately woven mess. Humanity, right?

Most of the characters have been marginalized by family or society. From a young teen who witnessed a school shooting to the down-on-his-luck divorced father who just can’t seem to catch a break to the wealthy widow whose children seem to be waiting for her to die so they can gain their inheritance – they and several other remarkable characters share the spotlight. Remarkable maybe, but not all that likable.

Can a foundation such as The Humanity Project help those in need? Or will it encourage greed on different levels? And where did that money come from in the first place? Do some people even want to be helped? I had my own little book club discussion in my head as I read. I appreciated the epilogue from one character’s perspective that let me in on what happened to some of the other characters. I wanted some sort of resolution and that was close enough.


Sunday Post

Book arrivals: (all review books)

Rose Harbor in Bloom how to lose a bride in one night the secret life of lady julia my notorious gentleman

  • Rose Harbor in Bloom by Debbie Macomber
  • How to Lose a Bride in One Night by Sophie Jordan
  • The Secret Life of Lady Julia by Lecia Cornwall
  • My Notorious Gentleman by Gaelen Foley

Last week on Bookfan:

Books I read last week:

  • Life From Scratch by Melissa Ford
  • Changing Lanes by Kathleen Long


This is the river about 200 yards my home. We’ve had rain every day for the past week. No sun. Little break from the steady rain. Our pump has been working overtime. It wasn’t raining on Friday morning so I bundled up (it was 35°) and went for a walk. I like my treadmill but it was nice to get some fresh air for a change. I was surprised by how much the river had grown over the past week. As you can see Spring is taking her time getting to the upper midwest. The buds on the trees are an encouraging sight.

Happy reading!

Treadmill Reads: The Hitwoman Gets Lucky by JB Lynn

the hitwoman gets lucky

Synopsis (publisher):

Maggie Lee’s a lot of things:

The daughter of a mom in a mental institution and a dad serving time;
The niece of three meddling aunts;
The aunt (and now legal guardian) of her beloved niece, Katie;
The friend of a snarky lizard, a dyslexic Doberman, and a semi-psychic co-worker;
A contract killer.

But one thing she’d never thought she’d be is a thief.

That’s about to change as she heads to the casinos of Atlantic City to
help her sexy murder mentor, Patrick Mulligan, steal something from a professional thief.

Maggie’s never been lucky in love or money. Will this gamble pay off or will she lose her shirt, her heart or even her life?

My take:  The Hitwoman Gets Lucky is a fun novella to tide fans of the Slightly Neurotic Hitwoman series over until the next novel in the series is published (soon, I hope).

Maggie trusts her mentor, Patrick Mulligan, so she doesn’t think twice when he asks her to help him with a job in Atlantic City. It just so happens that she has tickets to a Barry Manilow concert and was planning to go anyway. So she and her good friend Armani (who is unaware of Mulligan’s job) head off to AC with Maggie’s lizard along for the ride because he really didn’t want to stay home alone. It’s always a fun time for the reader when Godzilla (or god as he likes to be called) makes an appearance. He finds himself making quite an unexpected appearance during the job. That’s all I’ll say about that or the rest of the plot 🙂 You’ll have to read to find out. It’s a quick, fun read that made my time on the treadmill go by in a flash.

This novella is #2.5 in the series. Although it can be a stand alone I recommend you start with the first book (Confessions of a Slightly Neurotic Hitwoman) because you don’t want to miss learning how Maggie became a hitwoman.

  • Title:  The Hitwoman Gets Lucky – Slightly Neurotic Hitwoman series, #2.5
  • Author:  JB Lynn
  • Genre:  Romantic Suspense; Humor
  • Published:  March 2013 – Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Source:  I bought it

Five Days by Douglas Kennedy

five days

  • Title:  Five Days
  • Author:  Douglas Kennedy
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Published:  April 2013 – Atria Books
  • Source:  Publisher via NetGalley

Synopsis (publisher):  Laura works in a small hospital on the Maine coast, scanning and x-raying many a scared patient. In a job where finding nothing is always the best result, she is well versed in the random unfairness of life, a truism that has started to affect her personally. Her husband Dan has become a stranger since losing his job. With a son in college and a daughter set to leave home, she wonders how the upcoming empty nest will affect the disconnected state of her marriage.

Still, Laura jumps at the opportunity to attend a conference in Boston where she meets a man as grey and uninspired as her drab hotel. His name is Richard. He’s a fifty-something salesman, also from Maine, also in Boston for the weekend. When a chance meeting brings them together again, Laura begins to discover a far more complex and thoughtful man behind the flat façade. Like herself, Richard ponders his own life and wonders if the time has come to choose desire over obligation.

My take:  Five Days is really Laura’s story about what happens when she unexpectedly has a chance to find some joy in her life. She’s given that chance when she meets Richard, a man who has bowed to demands and expectations his entire life. He’s in a loveless marriage and his only son is incarcerated in the psychiatric wing of the state prison. Laura’s choices made previously in her life ultimately led to her current situation: married to an out-of-work and angry man who seems to delight in belittling her and then immediately shows regret yet remains remote. Her college age son is recovering from a breakdown and her high school senior daughter loves the superficial things in life. Even Laura’s job is getting to her.

So we have two stressed-out and lonely people who find in each other a shared love of words and books and a need to be unconditionally loved. Boston is worlds away from their real lives and they grab the chance for connection in the few days they have there. They even go so far as to consider the possibility of a future together. About midway through the novel I didn’t like where things were going and couldn’t shake a sense of dread.

I went from not really liking Laura (as well as most of the other characters) to feeling hopeful for her. That said, the book was just ok for me. I thought the writing was fine but I had a hard time with the depressing tone of the story, most of the characters, and the infidelity theme.

Sunday Post

Book arrivals:

benediction starting now Mr. Churchill's Secretary changing lanes

  • I bought: Benediction by Kent Haruf (audio)
  • From NetGalley: Starting Now by Debbie Macomber
  • Giveaway win:  Mr. Churchill’s Secretary by Susan Elia MacNeal (thanks Leah!)
  • Review eBook:  Changing Lanes by  Kathleen Long

Last week on Bookfan:

  • Review:  Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
  • Review:  A Year at 32 September Way by Mary Ylisela

Books I read last week:

  • The Humanity Project by Jean Thompson
  • Lucky Bastard by Deborah Coonts

Happy Reading!

Treadmill Reads: A Year at 32 September Way by Mary Ylisela

32 September

Synopsis (publisher):  What happens when five people from three different countries move to the same apartment building in Italy for one year? One thing’s for sure–their lives will never be the same. Meet Carlisle, Nicolette, Josh, Charles, Eva and their landlord Senor Benedetto as they spend a year at 32 September Way. Whether they hope to find something in Verona or wish to leave something behind, the City of Love manages to change each one of them in ways they never expected.

My take:  I read this novel with a group of online friends. It’s a fast read and I enjoyed it. The author developed the characters just enough to make them interesting and somewhat relatable. 

The setting was great. 32 September Way is a charming 4-apartment house in Verona, Italy. Mary Ylisela’s detailed descriptions of the house and surrounding neighborhood really brought the novel to life. I found it easy to visualize it all.

As I read, I wondered if I could ever live in another country for a year without knowing anyone (no family, no friends) before I arrived. My favorite character did just that which made her and the book that much more interesting. I liked how the author brought each one  of the characters through their challenges and ended on a hopeful note. After I finished reading the book I found out there’s a sequel. I will definitely read it!

  • Title:  A Year at 32 September Way
  • Author:  Mary Ylisela
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Published:  November 2012 – CreateSpace; Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Source:  I bought it.

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

me before you

  • Title:  Me Before You
  • Author:  Jojo Moyes
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Published:  December 2012 – Pamela Dorman Books
  • Source:  Publisher via NetGalley

Synopsis (publisher):  Louisa Clark is an ordinary girl living an exceedingly ordinary life—steady boyfriend, close family—who has never been farther afield than their tiny village. She takes a badly needed job working for ex–Master of the Universe Will Traynor, who is wheelchair bound after an accident. Will has always lived a huge life—big deals, extreme sports, worldwide travel—and now he’s pretty sure he cannot live the way he is.

Will is acerbic, moody, bossy—but Lou refuses to treat him with kid gloves, and soon his happiness means more to her than she expected. When she learns that Will has shocking plans of his own, she sets out to show him that life is still worth living.

A Love Story for this generation, Me Before You brings to life two people who couldn’t have less in common—a heartbreakingly romantic novel that asks, What do you do when making the person you love happy also means breaking your own heart?

My take:  This will be brief. I loved this book. It’s a story that made me laugh out loud and brought me to tears. Louisa is a character who lights up the page and I couldn’t help but cheer for her as she started to put herself before the needs of everyone else. That wasn’t an easy thing for her to do because she’d put herself last most of her life. I’d love to read her story about ten years from where the book leaves off.

As sad as this book was it was also quite uplifting. The point to live in the moment and appreciate each moment was a theme throughout the novel. There’s also a highly debatable topic that I’m certain would invite lively discussion for book groups. I’ve only touched the surface here. It’s a wonderful novel that I’m still thinking about weeks after turning the last page.

I highly recommend Me Before You – it’s on my 2013 Favorites list. Now I need to track down Jojo Moyes’ backlist. If you’ve read any of her previous books do you have a recommendation?

A Week In Winter by Maeve Binchy

a week in winter

Synopsis (publisher):  Stoneybridge is a small town on the west coast of Ireland where all the families know one another. When Chicky Starr decides to take an old, decaying mansion set high on the cliffs overlooking the windswept Atlantic Ocean and turn it into a restful place for a holiday by the sea, everyone thinks she is crazy. Helped by Rigger (a bad boy turned good who is handy around the house) and Orla, her niece (a whiz at business), Chicky is finally ready to welcome the first guests to Stone House’s big warm kitchen, log fires, and understated elegant bedrooms. John, the American movie star, thinks he has arrived incognito; Winnie and Lillian are forced into taking a holiday together; Nicola and Henry, husband and wife, have been shaken by seeing too much death practicing medicine; Anders hates his father’s business, but has a real talent for music; Miss Nell Howe, a retired schoolteacher, criticizes everything and leaves a day early, much to everyone’s relief; the Walls are disappointed to have won this second-prize holiday in a contest where first prize was Paris; and Freda, the librarian, is afraid of her own psychic visions.

My take:  As it happens, I read Maeve Binchy’s final novel during a week in winter while on vacation. My parents’ home in sunny, warm Arizona was a great place to relax and read the book but I wouldn’t have minded reading it at a quaint inn on the west coast of Ireland!

A Week in Winter is about the people who are the first visitors to stay at Chicky Starr’s inn: Stone House. Binchy laid out the setting telling the reader how Chicky ended up rehabbing an old home into a lovely inn. Each chapter is about a different guest or couple who come to spend a week. So the novel is more a collection of connected stories that wraps up neatly at the end.

The characters are similar in tone to most of Binchy’s throughout her novels. I appreciated that. While I’m more a fan of her earlier novels over the recent ones I’d still recommend reading A Week in Winter. Binchy passed away shortly after finishing the book. It was a lovely final gift to her readers.

  • Title:  A Week in Winter
  • Author:  Maeve Binchy
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Published:  February 2013 (US) – Knopf
  • Source:  I bought it.

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

Life After Life

  • Title:  Life After Life
  • Author:  Kate Atkinson
  • Genre:  Fiction
  • Published:  April 2013 – Reagan Arthur Books (544 pages)
  • Source:  Review copy from the publisher

Synopsis (publisher):  What if you could live again and again, until you got it right? 

On a cold and snowy night in 1910, Ursula Todd is born to an English banker and his wife. She dies before she can draw her first breath. On that same cold and snowy night, Ursula Todd is born, lets out a lusty wail, and embarks upon a life that will be, to say the least, unusual. For as she grows, she also dies, repeatedly, in a variety of ways, while the young century marches on towards its second cataclysmic world war. 

Does Ursula’s apparently infinite number of lives give her the power to save the world from its inevitable destiny? And if she can — will she?

My take:  What a unique story! It’s the first of Kate Atkinson’s novels I’ve read and after a bit of a sluggish start I really liked it. Sluggish because I started reading and then life got busy for me. It took me about a week to read the first 200 pages. So I recommend reading this book in as few chunks of time as possible. I think that would have helped me get into the rhythm of the story more quickly.

I really don’t want to say much about the plot because the synopsis tells enough. Kate Atkinson’s writing is lovely. With each lifetime another layer of Ursula’s story was added. And with each lifetime I cared more about Ursula. There were a couple of times in the second half of the book that I found myself in tears quite unexpectedly. That just doesn’t happen to me very often.

Atkinson brings to life London during the blitz as well as Germany in the time leading up to WWII. We see it all through Ursula’s eyes and feel the powerful emotions felt by many characters.

So, if you’re up for a memorable novel I think you might like Life After Life. It’s filled with good characters, settings, and a compelling era. It would be a fabulous book club selection. There are definite philosophical points to discuss. I know that Ursula, Hugh, Teddy and all the others will stay with me for a long time.

My thanks to Reagan Arthur for sending me the book.