The Coincidence of Coconut Cake by Amy E. Reichert

  • the coincidence of coconut cake (July21)Title:  The Coincidence of Coconut Cake
  • Author:  Amy E. Reichert
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Published:  July 2015 – Gallery Books
  • Source:  Publisher

My take:  What happens when the chef of a small restaurant is scathingly reviewed by the local newspaper’s food critic on one of the worst days of her life? And then what happens when the two meet after that but don’t know who the other is?

I found The Coincidence of Coconut Cake to be a charming story that fans of chick lit and foodie fiction will probably enjoy as much as I did. Being from Wisconsin I also enjoyed the Milwaukee spots that Amy E. Reichert described in detail. Yes, I’m a fan of squeaky cheese :)

Reichert’s characters are relatable and I bought the misunderstanding between the two principal characters. Their relationship developed slowly and I was invested in their story. There are interesting and sweet supporting characters that added to the emotional aspect of the novel.

I’m craving all kinds of comfort food after reading this novel. It began with the luscious cake on the cover and progressed from there. Recommended.


 

 

Review/US Giveaway: Lawyer For The Dog by Lee Robinson

  • Lawyer for the Dog (7:7)Title:  Lawyer For The Dog: A Novel
  • Author:  Lee Robinson
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Published:  July 2015 – Thomas Dunne Books
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis:  One of the sharpest attorneys in Charleston, S.C., Sally Baynard isn’t your typical southern belle. She’s certainly not what her mother hoped she’d grow up to be, especially since she divorced her husband, Family Court Judge Joe Baynard, and his historic family with their historic wealth and historic houses. Maybe Sally was never going to be a proper society lady, but her success as a public defender and family lawyer have been enough for her. She’s represented murderers, burglars, drug dealers and lately has taken on some of the thorniest divorces, all cases closed with her Sally Bright Baynard wit, charm and brains.

Or have they? One case she’s never successfully closed is her marriage. And when Judge Joe assigns her to one of his divorce cases by appointing her as the Lawyer for the Dog — Sherman, a miniature schnauzer– she’s forced into close quarters with him again. Juggling the needs of the dog, the angry owners, her amorous but uncommunicative ex-husband, her aging, Alzheimer’s-ridden mother, and the expectations of the court is more than Sally could have imagined. And as rascally Sherman digs his way into Sally’s heart, he brings along his charming vet Tony, a man who makes Sally question her views on love and marriage.  (publisher)

My take:  Lawyer Sally Baynard is up to her ears in life: her mother has Alzheimer’s and lives with her; the clients she represents lately are trying her patience; and her ex-husband/Family Court judge has just made her ad litem for a dog.

This was such an enjoyable book. I mean, sure there are the serious issues of Alzheimer’s, divorce, and family dynamics, but Lee Robinson handled them all in such a way that it was easy to relate to most of the characters. She inserted humor and empathy in just the right places. I loved being in Sally’s head while she navigated through her days. It was difficult not to laugh much of the time.

I recommend Lawyer For The Dog to fans of contemporary/women’s fiction and anyone looking for a delightful novel. I hope Robinson continues to write novels in this genre because I think she got it just right.


Robinson,Lee_ (c) Jeffrey TruittAbout the author:  LEE ROBINSON practiced law for over 20 years in Charleston, S.C., where she served as executive director of a legal services agency and later worked in private practice, concentrating on family law. She was elected the first female president of the Charleston Bar Association and received the Bar Association’s award for her work in public interest law. She lives on a small ranch in the Texas hill country.


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Blog Tour: A Week at the Lake by Wendy Wax

  • A Week at the Lake (Berkley - Schulhafer) 6:23Title:  A Week at the Lake
  • Author:  Wendy Wax
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Published:  June 2015 – Berkley
  • Source:  Publisher

My take:  Longtime friends Emma, Serena and Mackenzie haven’t seen each other in five years but plan to meet for a week at Emma’s lake home to catch up. Emma has her own reasons for inviting her friends. She just hopes their bond remain intact once those reasons are known. But on the day they are to meet in NYC for the drive upstate to the lake one of them is in a terrible accident that changes their plans.

Wendy Wax is back with a novel about three friends and how events, secrets and lies can change lives even when done with the best of intentions. I thought the main characters were interesting and, on some level, relatable. Each of the three friends has made choices in life that are beginning to show less than desirable results. They’ll find out if it’s too late to change course.

I loved the lake house setting and the mostly relaxed feeling I had when reading those scenes. What resonated most for me was the theme of forgiveness and all that comes with it. A Week at the Lake is a perfect summer read – or one to make you feel like it’s summer! Recommended to fans of the author and women’s fiction.

Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave

  • eight hundred grapesTitle:  Eight Hundred Grapes
  • Author:  Laura Dave
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Published:  April 2015 – Simon & Schuster
  • Source:  Publisher – Vine program

Synopsis:  Growing up on her family’s Sonoma vineyard, Georgia Ford learned some important secrets. The secret number of grapes it takes to make a bottle of wine: eight hundred. The secret ingredient in her mother’s lasagna: chocolate. The secret behind ending a fight: hold hands.

But just a week before her wedding, thirty-year-old Georgia discovers her beloved fiancé has been keeping a secret so explosive, it will change their lives forever.

Georgia does what she’s always done: she returns to the family vineyard, expecting the comfort of her long-married parents, and her brothers, and everything familiar. But it turns out her fiancé is not the only one who’s been keeping secrets….  (publisher) 

My take:  This is the story of Georgia Ford, a young woman who can fix everyone else’s problems but her own it would seem. Georgia has a big problem – whether to marry her fiancé in a few days as planned or call the whole thing off. She’ll have to figure it out herself because none of her family is willing to tell her what to do. That may be because they all have big problems of their own.

Eight Hundred Grapes is about family dynamics and issues. I found all of the characters engaging. I loved how Laura Dave’s story developed and concluded and I turned the last page smiling and wishing for more.

Highly recommended to fans of the author and contemporary fiction.


 

The Cake Therapist by Judith Fertig – PLUS a two book US Giveaway

  • the cake therapist (6:2 Berkley)Title:  The Cake Therapist: A novel
  • Author:  Judith Fertig
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction; Magical Realism
  • Published:  June 2015 – Berkley Trade
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis:  Claire “Neely” O’Neill is an extraordinarily talented pastry chef.  But at a time when her life outside her kitchen seems to be falling apart, Neely moves back to her small Midwestern hometown from NYC to open a bakery and work through the heartache that caused her to flee her life in New York. The bakery, Rainbow Cake, named after her signature ROYGBIV confection, is perfect, intimate, and just what she’s always dreamed of. 

But Neely has a special gift beyond making the perfect Rainbow Cake: while every great chef can taste shimmering, elusive flavors that most of us miss, Neely can “taste” feelings—cinnamon makes you remember; plum is pleased with itself; orange is a wake-up call. When flavor and feeling give Neely a glimpse of someone’s inner self, she can customize her creations to help that person celebrate love, overcome fear, even mourn a devastating loss.
 

As she meets her new customers, Neely has a sense of secrets, some dark, some perhaps with tempting possibilities. A recurring flavor of alarming intensity signals to her perfect palate a long-ago story that must be told.  As she tastes her way through others’ mysterious pasts, she largely ignores the pain and uncertainty in her own.  Neely has always been able to help everyone else, but getting to the end of this story may be just what she needs to help herself.   (publisher)


My take:  If you enjoy what I like to call foodie fiction I think you’ll like The Cake Therapist. Judith Fertig combined characters, settings and problems of everyday people all resulting in a delicious novel. And she added a dash of magical realism that made for an even tastier story.
I loved the quietness of the novel – even in times of big, life-changing events. It seemed as though one of the characters (Sr. Agnes) was reading to me. Some pretty awful things happened but the tone of Fertig’s writing always kept me turning the pages. Sometimes when that happens in a novel I have to put the book down for a while. That didn’t happen once in The Cake Therapist.
My favorite character was Neely. She had such a positive, upbeat attitude that she made the people around her even better – as well as her baked goods. The Cake Therapist has two storylines that eventually come together, thanks to Neely. The possibility of finding closure and a new beginning made this novel a satisfying read. Recommended.

About the author:

Cookbook author Judith Fertig grew up in the Midwest, went to La Varenne Ecole de Cuisine in Paris and The Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and now lives in Kansas City. Described by Saveur Magazine as a “heartland cookbook icon,” Fertig writes cookbooks that reflect her love of bread, baking, barbecue, and the fabulous foods of the Heartland.

Fertig’s food and lifestyle writing has appeared in more than a dozen publications, including Bon Appetit, Saveur and The New York Times. You can read some of her cookbooks like novels–the fabulously photographed Heartland, the award-winning and James Beard Awards-nominated Prairie Home Cooking (a “tour de force,” says Saveur), the encylopedic All-American Desserts, and Prairie Home Breads. Her IACP Cookbook Award-winning The Back in the Swing Cookbook (with Barbara C.Unell) takes you on a delicious daily journey to get you back in the swing after breast cancer.


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The Idea of Love by Patti Callahan Henry

  • the idea of love (6:23) St.MartinsPressTitle:  The Idea of Love
  • Author:  Patti Callahan Henry
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Pub. date:  June 23, 2015 – St. Martin’s Press
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis:  As we like to say in the south, “Don’t let the truth get in the way of a good story.”

Ella’s life has been completely upended. She’s young, beautiful, and deeply in love–until her husband dies in a tragic sailing accident while trying save her. Or so she’ll have everyone believe. Screenwriter Hunter needs a hit, but crippling writers’ block and a serious lack of motivation are getting him nowhere. He’s on the look-out for a love story. It doesn’t matter who it belongs to. 

When Hunter and Ella meet in Watersend, South Carolina it feels like the perfect match, something close to fate. In Ella, Hunter finds the perfect love story, full of longing and sacrifice. It’s the stuff of epic films. In Hunter, Ella finds possibility. It’s an opportunity to live out a fantasy – the life she wishes she had because hers is too painful. And more real. Besides. what’s a little white lie between strangers? 

But one lie leads to another, and soon Hunter and Ella find themselves caught in a web of deceit. As they try to untangle their lies and reclaim their own lives, they feel something stronger is keeping them together. And so they wonder: can two people come together for all the wrong reasons and still make it right?  (publisher)

My take: Ella and Hunter have not had success in the love department.  So what can happen if they embellish the truth when they meet? They won’t see each other again so what’s the harm in telling a few fibs?

Patti Callahan Henry’s novel explores reality vs. the way we think love should be. I felt kind of sorry for Ella. She’s been left by the people she loved. Her mother died in a horrible way and her husband found the love of his life (not Ella, apparently). And then her boss does some shady things. I’d have been surprised if Ella didn’t go a little crazy.

Hunter’s last few films have been critical flops. He needs to write a winning script or he’ll be done in Hollywood. When he ends up in Ella’s town looking for ideas he can’t believe his luck when he meets her. Unable to resist Ella’s story, he takes the facts of her sad tale and writes a script. He’s lied to her about his identity and job so she’ll never find out what he’s done with her story.

My favorite character was the woman who lived below Ella’s (temporary) apartment. Mimi was colorful and imparted wisdom like a fairy godmother. She quietly forced Ella to get out of her own head and start asking herself the important questions.

Confused yet? I wasn’t. I liked the novel even though I thought the end a bit too Hollywood. There would be a few things for book groups to discuss – most importantly the idea of love and how one might be tempted to try to make it reality.


Patti Callahan Henry is a New York Times bestselling storyteller of eleven books, including The Stories We TellBetween the Tides, and Driftwood Summer. Patti lives in Mountain Brook, Alabama with her husband and three children, where she is crafting her next story.


 

Beach Town by Mary Kay Andrews

  • BeachTownTitle:  Beach Town
  • Author:  Mary Kay Andrews
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Published:  May 2015 – St. Martin’s Press
  • Source:  Publisher

My take:  Greer Hennessy is a movie location scout who needs to find an old school Florida beach town. What she’s found so far are planned beach communities that look far too sanitized and Disney-fied. Then she comes upon Cypress Key – a small seaside town that time seems to have forgotten. She also finds the mayor of Cypress Key who makes her heart skip a beat.

Eben Thibadeaux is a jack-of-all-trades as well as the mayor of Cypress Key. He is willing to work with the Hollywood group but wants to save a historical building that the director would like to blow up for the shoot. And that’s just a small part of the difficulties that arise during the production. He also has family issues to take care of.

Greer is forced to face her past when her estranged father contacts her. He happens to live an hour away from Cypress Key. Is everything she’d been told about him the truth? How far will she open her heart to new possibilities? Mary Kay Andrews’ heroine had me equally frustrated and sympathetic throughout the novel but, in typical MKA style, I was satisfied with her growth by the end of the book.

Beach Town is an entertaining novel. It has drama, romance, conflict and a Florida beach town setting. For me, it hit all the marks of a fun beach read.

The Guest Cottage by Nancy Thayer

  • the guest cottage (5:12) ballantineTitle:  The Guest Cottage
  • Author:  Nancy Thayer
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Published:  May 2015 – Ballantine Books
  • Source:  Publisher

My take:  When Sophie Anderson discovers her husband of sixteen years plans to ask for a divorce she takes up a friend’s offer for her and the two kids to rent a rambling Nantucket cottage for the summer. So she’s completely caught off guard when Trevor Black and his young son arrive at the same time to rent the same cottage. They decide to make the best of the situation and the two families form an unexpected bond. The Guest Cottage is a perfect beach book. It’s about family and love (on a few levels), finding new freedom and moving forward. Nancy Thayer’s descriptive prose made me feel like I was relaxing on one of the Nantucket beaches enjoying a wonderful holiday. Toss this book in the beach bag this summer. You’ll be glad you did!

Second Chance Friends by Jennifer Scott

  • second chance friends (5:5 NAL)Title:  Second Chance Friends: A novel
  • Author:  Jennifer Scott
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Published:  May 5, 2015 – NAL Accent
  • Source:  Publisher

My take:  On an early September morning four women witness or are part of a terrible traffic accident. That experience brings together the women whose paths otherwise would not have crossed.

Each woman is living her own personal drama that is close to boiling over. When they are drawn back to the diner near the scene of the crash they form an unusual friendship that will become stronger with each meeting. Each will feel support from the others and ultimately learn the meaning of true friendship.

I enjoyed Jennifer Scott’s story even when I was frustrated with one or two of the characters’ actions. Each time that happened Scott managed to bring me back to the supportive friends theme which I really liked. I appreciated the epilogue that answered all of my questions and wrapped the novel up perfectly. Recommended to fans of the author and novels about women’s friendship.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jennifer Scott is a national bestselling, award-winning author who made her debut in women’s fiction with The Sister Season. She also writes critically acclaimed young adult fiction under the name Jennifer Brown. Her debut YA novel, HATE LIST (Little, Brown book for Young Readers, 2009) was selected as an ALA Best Book for Young Adults, a VOYA Perfect Ten, and a School Library Journal Best Book of the Year. Jennifer lives in Liberty, Missouri area, with her husband and three children.
 
Please visit Jennifer Scott online at www.JenniferScottAuthor.com
Facebook: JenniferScottAuthor
Twitter: JenniferBrownYA

The Daddy Diaries by Joshua Braff

the daddy diaries (May5) pic2

  • Title:  The Daddy Diaries: A novel
  • Author:  Joshua Braff
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Published:  May 5, 2015 – Prince Street Press
  • Source:  Tandem Literary

My take:  Jay and his wife Jackie recently moved their family to Florida from California for her job. Jay will stay home with the kids while she brings home the paycheck. He reflects on that occasionally but, overall, he embraces his role in the family.

Jay’s kids (13-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter) take to their new location quite differently. His son is sullen and removed while his daughter has a new best friend and busy social life. My heart went out to Jay as he tried so hard to help his son who seemed to be very unhappy. Having raised a son I wondered if it was depression or the onset of puberty – not an easy time either way.

Through his diary notes we see Jay navigate a variety of activities and incidents in his new location. The acerbic and witty (and sometimes stereotypical) observations had me either cringing or laughing. I found his perspective on the way adult males embrace their situations as fathers (or not) interesting. Jay never quits trying to do the right thing – and he’s seen plenty of examples of how not to act.

The Daddy Diaries is a very quick and easy read about the importance of fathers and family in all its modern versions. Recommended to fans of contemporary family fiction.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Joshua Braff grew up in South Orange, New Jersey, and graduated from Columbia High School and NYU. He earned an MFA in creative writing/fiction from St. Mary’s College of California. Josh’s first novel The Unthinkable Thoughts of Jacob Green (Algonquin Books, 2004), about a dysfunctional, Jewish family in late ‘70s was chosen as a Barnes & Noble Discover pick. Peep Show (Algonquin Books, 2010), his second book, was about a 17-year-old boy forced to choose between his Orthodox mother’s life and his father’s career in the porn industry. People Magazine raved, “Braff skillfully illuminates the failures and charms of a broken family. That teen longing for adults to act their age haunts long after the final page.” Josh lives in California with his wife of almost 20 years and their two kids. He is an avid baseball fan and an accomplished painter who plays guitar and drums. The Daddy Diaries is his third novel.

For more information please visit the author’s website

Inside the O’Briens: A Novel by Lisa Genova

  • Inside the O'Briens (Apr7)Title:  Inside the O’Briens: A Novel
  • Author:  Lisa Genova
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Published:  April 2015 – Gallery Books
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis: Joe O’Brien is a forty-four-year-old police officer from the Irish Catholic neighborhood of Charlestown, Massachusetts. A devoted husband, proud father of four children in their twenties, and respected officer, Joe begins experiencing bouts of disorganized thinking, uncharacteristic temper outbursts, and strange, involuntary movements. He initially attributes these episodes to the stress of his job, but as these symptoms worsen, he agrees to see a neurologist and is handed a diagnosis that will change his and his family’s lives forever: Huntington’s Disease.

Huntington’s is a lethal neurodegenerative disease with no treatment and no cure. Each of Joe’s four children has a 50 percent chance of inheriting their father’s disease, and a simple blood test can reveal their genetic fate. While watching her potential future in her father’s escalating symptoms, twenty-one-year-old daughter Katie struggles with the questions this test imposes on her young adult life. Does she want to know? What if she’s gene positive? Can she live with the constant anxiety of not knowing?

As Joe’s symptoms worsen and he’s eventually stripped of his badge and more, Joe struggles to maintain hope and a sense of purpose, while Katie and her siblings must find the courage to either live a life “at risk” or learn their fate.  (from the publisher’s synopsis)

My take:   Inside the O’Briens is the third of Lisa Genova’s four novels I’ve read. Each has a medical condition as its focus. With Inside the O’Briens she addresses Huntington’s Disease, an inherited neurological condition that has no cure.

The O’Briens are an Irish Catholic family who all live in a triple-decker in Charlestown, MA. Joe and his wife Rosie are parents to 4 adult children in their twenties (2 boys and 2 girls) and a daughter-in-law. Joe begins exhibiting symptoms that soon result in a diagnosis of Huntington’s Disease (HD). When he and Rosie break the news to the kids they have to explain that each of them has a 50/50 chance of being gene positive, meaning, if positive, they will get HD in ten to twenty years.

Genova’s excellent story-telling skills shine as she takes the reader inside the minds of the main characters. There were times I had to stop reading because the emotions I was feeling were so intense. And then I’d spend a lot of time just thinking about what I would do in their situation. I learned a lot about HD, the genetics involved in a diagnosis, and much more regarding therapy and other treatments for symptoms of the disease.

I would recommend Inside the O’Briens to fans of the author and contemporary fiction with a medical focus. It would be a great selection for book groups.

Audiobook review: Stardust Summer by Lauren Clark

  • stardust summer (audio - jukeboxaudio)Title:  Stardust Summer
  • Author:  Lauren Clark
  • Narrator:  Erin Mallon
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Published:  2013 – Camellia Press
  • Source:  Publisher/Audio Jukebox

Synopsis:  Single mom Grace Mason doesn’t believe in miracles, magic, or love at first sight. She likes the quiet life, complete with her eight-year-old son, their tiny house, and her teaching job. For Grace, happiness means that nothing much ever changes in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. 

Then, one thousand miles away, tragedy strikes. A massive heart attack leaves Grace’s estranged father comatose in an Upstate New York hospital. While a team of doctors fight to keep Henry Mason alive, Grace and Evan rush to his bedside to say their final goodbyes. 

Henry’s passing brings little closure for Grace, but she finds herself inexplicably drawn to her new surroundings. What begins as a short trip results in an entire summer spent with Henry’s second wife, Kathleen, and her next-door neighbor, Ryan Gordon, the town doctor. When a series of unlikely events lead to Evan’s disappearance, Grace must face her worst fears to find her son and bring him back home. 

Stardust Summer explores the complexities of forgiveness, what it means to be a family, and the fabulous possibility of falling in love again.  (publisher)

My take:  Grace has no intention of going to see her father and step-mother when she receives a formal invitation to a library function at the college where her father works. They’ve been estranged for a long time and she’s just fine with her quiet life in Mississippi. Her plans change when her father has a heart attack. She and her son Evan hurry to New York hoping to arrive before it’s too late. Their plan is to stay for a week or so but their visit becomes much longer for various reasons. In that time Grace will discover information about her past that could change the way she views her future. Will she be able to change her feelings with the new information? And is she willing to make a fresh start?

Dr. Ryan Gordon, Grace’s stepmother’s neighbor and friend, is at a place in his life where he finally understands the need for a life outside his practice. He shares Grace’s grief and would like to be more than a friend to her. He knows what it’s like to lose someone important so he understands, on some level, what Grace is going through. He also appreciates what is really important in life – family and good friends. Will Grace let him in and take a chance on love?

I liked this book but had to wonder about how Kathleen navigated her grief. I paused at some of the things she did in the week following her husband’s funeral. That could be just me, though. At any rate, I found Grace and Ryan’s story interesting. Lauren Clark’s novel is one I’d recommend to fans of contemporary fiction. I loved the setting – and the cover.

Narrator: I enjoyed Erin Mallon’s narration. From older Kathleen to younger Grace and Ryan to eight-year-old Evan, I thought she voiced the characters perfectly and would definitely listen to more of her performances.

Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan

  • Little Beach Street Bakery (3:31:15)Title:  Little Beach Street Bakery
  • Author:  Jenny Colgan
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Published:  March 2015 – William Morrow
  • Source:  Publisher

My take:  When 30-something Polly’s life leads her to the day where the men from the bank take over her (and her boyfriend’s) house, and their business is dissolved, she is forced to start over – without the boyfriend. She finds herself living in a wreck of a flat over a vacant bakery in a tiny seaside village an hour from where her old life went wrong. There’s nowhere to go but up. Polly survives on her optimism and willingness to change. She’s a character you can’t help but cheer on as she takes her hobby of baking bread to the next level and eventually has more takers for her bread than she ever dreamed.

It’s not all easy street for Polly though. Gillian, the woman who used to be the only bakery owner on the tidal island is not pleased with her competition. She uses intimidation on Polly but to no avail. Can the two co-exist? And what about the intriguing fisherman, Tarnie. Polly is surprised by her attraction as he’s so different from her last boyfriend. Can she even look at him in that way? But there’s more – Huckle, the American beekeeper is a bit of a mystery that she would like to solve. Huckle’s friend Reuben and Kerensa, Polly’s best friend, add an over-the-top and highly entertaining aspect to the plot.

I don’t want to spoil by telling more but suffice to say that Little Beach Street Bakery could end up on my 2015 Favorite Books list. It’s the first of Jenny Colgan’s books I’ve read and I can’t wait to read another.

Blog Tour: Never Too Late by Robyn Carr

  • Never Too Late (Mar31)Title:  Never Too Late: A Novel
  • Author:  Robyn Carr
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Published:  March 2015 – Mira
  • Source:  Publisher/Little Bird Publicity

My take:  The McCarthy sisters are about to face big changes in their lives. Clare caught her husband of sixteen years cheating (again) and it’s the last straw. Maggie’s daughters are presenting the usual challenges that come with young teens. She’s also wondering why her husband doesn’t seem to find her attractive anymore. That has to be why their love life is lacking, right? In the years following their mother’s death, youngest McCarthy sister Sarah has become an almost reclusive artist  spending every waking moment at her studio. When will she find the courage to jump back into life?

When Clare flees the scene of her husband’s latest incident she’s involved in a terrible accident. Her recovery will take months and she’ll rely on her family like never before. There are a couple of male friends who will try to be part of her healing. Maggie can only hope there’s time to get her oldest daughter back on track. Sarah completes a self-makeover with interesting results. It’s not just Clare who’ll need the support of her sisters. All three will prove their love for each other through strength that only sisters can show.

I enjoyed Robyn Carr’s updated rerelease of Never Too Late. I didn’t have a chance to read it the first time around. There are moments with the mothers and their children that most mothers will relate to and I know many readers with sisters will find much that resonates. I’d recommend this book to fans of the author and contemporary women’s fiction.

Blog Tour/Review: The Traveling Tea Shop by Belinda Jones

  • the traveling tea shop (Mar3)Title:  The Traveling Tea Shop
  • Author:  Belinda Jones
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Published:  March 2015 – Berkley
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis:  Laurie Davis has always followed her passion. After escaping family drama to start a new life in New York City, she’s up for whatever challenges life brings. So when an opportunity arises for her to use her travel industry expertise and serve as an assistant and tour guide for her idol, Pamela Lambert-Leigh, star of television’s Tea-Time with Pamela, she jumps at the chance.

But Laurie’s exciting adventure ends up entailing a lot more than scouting locations for the cake queen’s new cookbook when Pamela’s sassy mother and sulky, rebellious daughter tag along for the trip. As they cruise around bakeries in New England trading local delights like Red Velvet Cake and Whoopie Pies for British specialties such as Victoria Sponge and Bakewell Tarts, more secrets than recipes are revealed.

Now, in between rediscovering romance, learning to forgive family, and finding the best dessert on the East Coast, Laurie, Pamela, and the gang might find there’s nothing a nice cup of tea, a sweet treat, and a little bit of friendship can’t heal… (publisher)

My take:  Laurie couldn’t wait to set off on the tour with Pamela and her mother, Gracie and daughter, Ravenna. Almost immediately, though, she saw that things between the three women were tense. As the days go on Laurie learned the reasons for the strained relationships. She becomes involved in a secret that she’s not pleased to know and hopes it will be out in the open very soon. The other principals have their own thoughts on how the secret should be revealed.

I think my favorite characters of the book were Laurie, Gracie, Charles and Harvey. They seemed so genuine and honorable. You’ll have to read the novel to know about Charles and Harvey.

If you’ve ever wanted to go on a road trip in New England, and you like cake, this novel could be a guide. I’ve made note of a few places I’d like to visit. Belinda Jones’ story is about family, friendship, secrets, apologies and forgiveness. And food – dessert, to be precise. I enjoyed it and recommend it to fans of contemporary fiction and foodie fiction.

Blog Tour: New Uses for Old Boyfriends by Beth Kendrick

  • new uses for old boyfriends (Feb26)Title:  New Uses for Old Boyfriends
  • Author:  Beth Kendrick
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction; Chick Lit
  • Published:  February 2015 – NAL Trade
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis:  After growing up in privilege and marrying into money, Lila Alders has gotten used to the good life. But when her happily-ever-after implodes, Lila must return to Black Dog Bay, the tiny seaside town where she grew up. She’s desperate for a safe haven, but everything has changed over the past ten years. Her family’s fortune is gone—and her mother is in total denial. It’s up to Lila to take care of everything…but she can barely take care of herself.

The former golden girl of Black Dog Bay struggles to reinvent herself by opening a vintage clothing boutique. But even as Lila finds new purpose for outdated dresses and tries to reunite with her ex, she realizes that sometimes it’s too late for old dreams. She’s lost everything she thought she needed but found something—someone—she desperately wants. A boy she hardly noticed has grown up into a man she can’t forget…and a second chance has never felt so much like first love.  (publisher)

My take:  Lila Alders may have lived a sheltered life once upon a not so distant time ago but now she has to be the one in charge. She’ll have to be the one to get her life back on track. She recently came through a divorce that left her with a big SUV (or FUV as she refers to it) and her clothes. After pawning her wedding rings she heads to her hometown, Black Dog Bay, Delaware. That’s where she finds her recently widowed mother, Daphne, in complete denial about her finances. It seems Lila’s father left her with a lot of debt. The house needs to be sold to pay a mountain of bills.

The mother-daughter dynamic made for interesting scenes. Outspoken Daphne is not afraid to say anything about anything to her daughter. Lila is compelled to stand up to her mother and lead the way out of their money problems. The fashion fates smile on Lila and Daphne and they begin to crawl out from under their seemingly insurmountable challenges. There’s more than just furniture and memories under the roof of their gorgeous beachfront home and the two will find a way to make a go of a new venture.

This is a small town and most of the people will do anything for each other. They also gossip and stick their noses into other people’s business. That makes for comic relief and lots of interesting secondary characters. I liked the second chance relationship for Lila. Malcolm was perfect for her. Their repartee was fun as they got to know each other once again.

New Uses for Old Boyfriends is the perfect read for anyone who has the midwinter blahs. I enjoyed it and it made me long for a beach vacation. If you’re a fan of chick lit or contemporary fiction I recommend it!

Hearth Stone by Lois Greiman

  • Hearth Stone (Feb24)Title:  Hearth Stone
  • Author:  Lois Greiman
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Published:  February 24, 2015 – Kensington
  • Source:  Publisher

My take:  Hearth Stone is the story of a young woman whose life takes a turn in a new direction, much to her distress. Sydney was raised in privilege by a rigid father, a cold grandmother, and several nannies. When an injury changes everything she’s forced to rethink her future. She sets off on a journey to finding new meaning in her life. What she doesn’t expect is to find that her old life was based on lies.

Sydney arrives in South Dakota at her newly purchased ranch. She immediately starts to rehab the barn and house and then finds an injured horse that most would put out of its misery. She insists on trying to save it – much like the ranch is saving her.

Helping her with the work on the ranch and the injured horse is Hunter. He’s a mysterious man but she soon realizes he’s one of the good guys. Another person who shows up one day to work is Vura and her young daughter Lily. Vura is a talented carpenter with secrets of her own. Hunter, Vura and Lily are all instrumental in Sydney finding her true calling.

I had a bit of trouble with the way Sydney spoke at first. Her conversation seemed so affected but it became clear that it was a coping mechanism when speaking to Hunter (and a couple of other minor characters). As they got to know each other she loosened up.

Overall I enjoyed this novel and recommend it to fans of Contemporary/Women’s Fiction.  It’s an uplifting story and I look forward to reading more from Lois Greiman.

The Wednesday Group by Sylvia True

  • The Wednesday Group (March3)Title:  The Wednesday Group
  • Author:  Sylvia True
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Published:  March 3, 2015 – St. Martin’s Griffin
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis:  Gail. Hannah. Bridget. Lizzy. Flavia. Each of them has a shameful secret, and each is about to find out that she is not alone… Gail, a prominent Boston judge, keeps receiving letters from her husband’s latest girlfriend, while her husband, a theology professor, claims he’s nine-months sober from sex with grad students. Hannah, a homemaker, catches her husband having sex with a male prostitute in a public restroom. Bridget, a psychiatric nurse at a state hospital, is sure she has a loving, doting spouse, until she learns that he is addicted to chat rooms and match-making websites. Lizzy, a high school teacher, is married to a porn addict, who is withdrawn and uninterested in sex with her. Flavia was working at the Boston Public library when someone brought her an article that stated her husband had been arrested for groping a teenage girl on the subway. He must face court, and Flavia must decide if she wants to stay with him. Finally, Kathryn, the young psychologist running the group, has as much at stake as all of the others. 

As the women share never-before-uttered secrets and bond over painful truths, they work on coming to terms with their husbands’ addictions and developing healthy boundaries for themselves. Meanwhile, their outside lives become more and more intertwined, until, finally, a series of events forces each woman to face her own denial, betrayal and uncertain future head-on.  (publisher)

My take:  I was first drawn to this novel by the synopsis. I’ve never read anything that dealt with sex addiction and was curious about how it would be handled in the form of a novel.

Sylvia True’s characters run the gamut of different types of women. That said, they had one thing in common – their husbands were all sex addicts and in some kind of therapy. One way or another each woman found her way to a support group for partners of sex addicts – The Wednesday Group. The group was run by a graduate student intent on impressing her supervising professor (who was intent on becoming the next president of the university).

Each woman in the group is at a different stage of dealing with her partner’s addiction and it’s effect on her life. It was interesting to watch the group sessions play out. One woman was in complete denial about her relationship with her husband, another was too timid to take control of her situation, one was too busy keeping up appearances of a perfect life, and another, newly pregnant, was so angry she constantly acted like an out-of-control child having a tantrum. There was another woman who left the group when her husband decided to return to Greece for a job and a second chance with his wife.

There were times when I felt almost voyeuristic while reading about the different couples. I could understand why they reacted to their situations the way they did but after a while I wondered why a couple of the women didn’t divorce their husbands. Sex addiction has to be almost insurmountable, I would think. It’s a terrible breach of trust and attacks the partner’s self-esteem. I thought the author really brought that point to the forefront.

There are a lot of things book groups could discuss about The Wednesday Group. I found True’s book to be an almost addictive read. That said, it’s not a feel-good novel but it is one that will make you think.

Girl Before a Mirror by Liza Palmer

  • Girl Before a Mirror (Jan27)VineTitle:  Girl Before a Mirror
  • Author:  Liza Palmer
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Published:  January 27, 2015 – William Morrow
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis:  An account executive in a Mad Men world, Anna Wyatt is at a crossroads. Recently divorced, she’s done a lot of emotional housecleaning, including a self-imposed dating sabbatical. But now that she’s turned forty, she’s struggling to figure out what her life needs. Brainstorming to win over an important new client, she discovers a self-help book–Be the Heroine, Find Your Hero–that offers her unexpected insights and leads her to a most unlikely place: a romance writers’ conference. If she can sign the Romance Cover Model of the Year Pageant winner for her campaign–and meet the author who has inspired her to take control of her life–she’ll win the account. 

For Anna, taking control means taking chances, including getting to know Sasha, her pretty young colleague on the project, and indulging in a steamy elevator ride with Lincoln Mallory, a dashing financial consultant she meets in the hotel. When the conference ends, Anna and Lincoln must decide if their intense connection is strong enough to survive outside the romantic fantasy they’ve created. Yet Lincoln is only one of Anna’s dilemmas. Now that her campaign is off the ground, others in the office want to steal her success, and her alcoholic brother, Ferdie, is spiraling out of control. 

To have the life she wants-to be happy without guilt, to be accepted for herself, to love and to be loved, to just be–she has to put herself first, accept her imperfections, embrace her passions, and finally be the heroine of her own story.  (publisher)

My take:  I so enjoyed this novel about a woman’s journey to accepting herself for who she really is – not the person she thought she should strive to be in order to be accepted by others (her parents, professors, boss, etc.). Liza Palmer’s story is funny, heartbreaking, poignant, and ultimately uplifting. I think many women will relate to some aspect of Anna’s personal life or career issues. I found her likable and sympathized with her struggles.

I love the way Palmer tells a story and she didn’t disappoint with Girl Before a Mirror. I liked it all. From Anna’s cheerful colleague, Sasha, to Lincoln, the dashing hero, to Helen, the encouraging and inspiring mentor – they all combined to help Anna figure things out. It’s an entertaining novel that I’ll recommend to friends.

First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen

  • First Frost (1:20:15)Title:  First Frost
  • Series:  Waverly family #2
  • Author:  Sarah Addison Allen
  • Genre:  Magical Realism; Contemporary Fiction
  • Pub. Date:  Jan. 20, 2015 – St. Martin’s Press
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis:  From the New York Times bestselling author of GARDEN SPELLS comes a story of the Waverley family, in a novel as sparkling as the first dusting of frost on new-fallen leaves…

It’s October in Bascom, North Carolina, and autumn will not go quietly.  As temperatures drop and leaves begin to turn, the Waverley women are made restless by the whims of their mischievous apple tree… and all the magic that swirls around it. But this year, first frost has much more in store.  (partial synopsis from the publisher)

My take:  First Frost picks up ten years after we left the Waverly family in Garden Spells. Once again Sarah Addison Allen enchanted me with her characters, setting, and story.

Claire has a successful candy business but longs for something more. She’s just not sure what that might be.

Sydney also has a longing. She wants to have a baby with her husband. All attempts have failed and she’s not sure what to do. Also on her mind is daughter Bay, now a high school student. Sydney worries that Bay will repeat mistakes from her own past and wonders if she can prevent that from happening.

One day a stranger arrives in town bringing with him the goal of changing things for a certain Waverly. Will he be successful? No spoilers here!

As usual, I was charmed by Sarah Addison Allen’s storytelling. It’s a tale about allowing yourself to be who you know you are and not what others say you should be. I loved it all and hope for another Waverly story someday soon.

Note:  If you haven’t had the pleasure of reading Garden Spells I recommend you do so before First Frost. You’ll meet the Waverlys and discover their secrets and gifts from the beginning.